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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Target: Dick Cheney?; America's Crushing Credit Card Debt
Aired March 7, 2007 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. Thank you all for joining us.
Out in the open tonight: Now that the verdict of his -- on his chief is in, a lot of people want to go after Dick Cheney himself.
And, with many Americans in debt up to their eyeballs, the credit card companies say they're not to blame. So, who is?
Plus, this fine, upstanding city manager just happens to want a sex change, and his town council can't fire him fast enough.
Out in the open first: a man who has always wielded enormous power behind the scenes. Tonight, there are a lot of troubling questions about how Vice President Dick Cheney uses his power and whether he's misusing it.
The questions, of course, come after the conviction of his former right-hand man, Scooter Libby, for perjury and obstruction of justice.
Just look at some of today's screaming headlines and editorials. "The New York Daily News" calls Scooter Libby "Cheney's Fall Guy."
"The Denver Post": "It exposed Cheney as a behind-the-scenes operator who dictated strategy."
"The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch": "If Dick Cheney had a shred of honor, he would resign."
As senior national correspondent John Roberts reports, there is a very harsh spotlight tonight shining on the vice president.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was Libby who was convicted of lying. But, when it comes to the issue of who orchestrated White House leaks of prewar intelligence, even the jury felt Libby took the hit for higher-ups.
DENIS COLLINS, LIBBY TRIAL JUROR: There was a tremendous amount of sympathy for Mr Libby. We're not saying that we didn't think Mr. Libby was guilty of the things we found him guilty of, but that it seemed like he was -- to put it in Mr. Wells' point of view, he was the fall guy.
ROBERTS: Who was he the fall guy for? According to Libby's grand jury testimony, Dick Cheney. It was the vice president, Libby says, who ordered the declassification and leak of a national intelligence estimate to beat back claims from former Ambassador Joe Wilson that the president had lied about Iraq trying to buy uranium from Niger.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
LEWIS "SCOOTER" LIBBY, FORMER CHENEY CHIEF OF STAFF: He gave me instructions as to what I should say to reporters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: And though Libby never said so, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald even suggested Cheney may have been behind the disclosure that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA.
Wilson still has a civil suit pending against Cheney and other White House officials.
JOSEPH WILSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR: It's very clear that he's a powerful figure within the White House. And it's also very clear that -- that he was intimately involved in this. He was obsessed with this. He was writing talking points on the -- on my article after it appeared. And, again, rather than deal with the facts, he was concerned about his own image.
ROBERTS: The trial only reinforced the perception of Cheney as the all-seeing vice president, the director of an elaborate Kabuki theater to defend the White House against its critics.
Jim VandeHei has covered Cheney for years.
JIM VANDEHEI, "THE POLITICO": He likes to do things behind the curtain. And he obviously is -- is quite a micromanager and likes to pull the strings when he knows that the vice presidency or the presidency could be in trouble.
ROBERTS: No question, Cheney is the most powerful vice president in recent memory, perhaps ever, intimately involved in policy development, national security. He has repeatedly frustrated Democratic attempts to peel back the veil of secrecy that surrounds his office.
Will the Libby verdict force him to change his ways? Not likely, says VandeHei.
VANDEHEI: Dick Cheney is Dick Cheney. He's certainly not going to change. And I -- I don't think that his critics will ever force him into changing. I mean, he has a modus operandi that's well established. He does things behind the scenes. He works with the president very closely. He's the president's right-hand man. There's no way that, suddenly, he's going to become a lovable, huggable figure on the public stage.
ROBERTS: One Republican adviser told me, this is bad for Cheney and the administration, one more log on the fire of missteps and corruption that have plagued the Republican Party, so, many demons, that they are desperately in need of an exorcism.
John Roberts, CNN, Washington.
ZAHN: On another note, editorials in today's "New York Post" and "Wall Street Journal" are calling on President Bush to pardon Scooter Libby.
But White House Press Secretary Tony Snow says that hasn't even come up for discussion yet.
Now onto the night's "Out in the Open" panel, Darrell Ankarlo, radio talk show host at KTAR-FM in Phoenix, defense attorney Lauren Lake, and Keith Boykin, who was a Clinton White House aide and now hosts the BET show "My Two Cents."
Welcome back to all of you.
I want to start off tonight by looking at some of the latest poll numbers on the vice president. Check these numbers out. Thirty-seven percent -- just 37 percent -- have a favorable opinion of Dick Cheney, 58 percent unfavorable.
So, how much of a liability is he to the Republican Party going into the 2008 election? Or is he, Lauren Lake?
LAUREN LAKE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I think, right now, there's a problem. I mean...
LAKE: ... hey, Vice President Cheney, you are amongst where we smell the rat.
And I think that's problematic. And I don't know how the Republican Party is going to hold up its end of the bargain, in terms of being this, you know, out in the open, ready to go forward, with a liability like that hanging from it. They're going to have to clear this mess up. And I don't really know how they're going to do it.
DARRELL ANKARLO, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: There's no clearing up the mess. The vice president was voted in, as well as our president. And they came in as a team. They will remain a team.
The only thing that changes this picture -- not impeachment, not removing him, not special prosecutors -- it would be a blood clot or a heart aneurysm, something that's going to take him off physically, and then you usher somebody else in, like a Condi Rice, which would be a perfect move. I don't know if that will -- it will happen.
ZAHN: As you know, though, there are plenty of calls tonight for either his resignation or his impeachment. I want to share with our audience now something that former Democratic Senator George McGovern had to say after Libby's conviction.
He said: "What we have learned about how he has conducted himself leaves no doubt that he should be out of office. If he had any respect for the Constitution or the country, he would resign."
Are there any chances he will resign?
KEITH BOYKIN, HOST, "MY TWO CENTS": No, there's...
ZAHN: Or even should he?
BOYKIN: There's no chance that Dick Cheney will resign. And he should not resign. He's the best thing that ever happened to the Democrats.
BOYKIN: As long as he -- as long as he stays in office, the Democrats are happy, because he gives us a whipping boy. We can always attack Dick Cheney.
You know, this is the guy who gave us Halliburton, who that said that the Iraqis were in their last throes of the insurgency, the guy who shot his hunting partner. He's a huge liability for the president. And the Democrats love this. The Republicans can defend him, at their peril, but the Democrats are eating this up.
ANKARLO: Not just the Democrats, though -- the media. This is the spin cycle. This is when you have got a slow news day.
ZAHN: Spin cycle?
ANKARLO: Yes. When you have got a...
ZAHN: You call this a slow news day, after...
ANKARLO: Oh, absolutely.
ZAHN: ... his chief of staff is convicted on four of five counts?
ANKARLO: Yes, but let's -- yes, but let's walk through it, Paula.
ZAHN: That doesn't look good, Darrell.
ANKARLO: Yes, but let's walk through it.
ZAHN: Perjury, you think that's a good thing?
ANKARLO: No, no, but let's walk through it. Libby, responsible for four or five counts of perjury, we have got that. But what Libby -- what Libby did was, he tried to keep his own job. He tried to make sure he was protecting himself. That's why he didn't reveal, or he revealed...
ZAHN: At whose behest, which is the question.
ANKARLO: You know...
ZAHN: What was his motivation?
ANKARLO: ... yes. And everybody keeps saying that.
But, if Dick Cheney said, hey, wait a minute, there's a relationship, Plame is in charge of WMDs with CIA; oh, by the way, her husband wants to go on a junket, I would write a note, hey, you think maybe the two are working together?
I would do that, too, sure.
LAKE: Why are we -- why are we always so afraid in this country to say when we smell cover-up, when something is fishy? It's like, if you talk about the war, you're not patriotic. If you say you smell a cover-up, then, all of a sudden, oh, no, you're attacking the wrong person.
There is a...
ANKARLO: What's the cover-up?
BOYKIN: The cover-up is at the very core of the administration.
ANKARLO: What is it, though?
BOYKIN: Well, the weapons -- the whole fact that we started a war -- this -- this -- this case is about the war in Iraq...
BOYKIN: ... plain and simple.
We started a war with no evidence. And Dick Cheney was at the heart of the conspiracy to cover it up. That's what this conviction says. And the American people know it.
ZAHN: All right.
Let's -- I'm going to close with a quick quote...
ZAHN: ... from "Gentlemen's Quarterly," which -- which is this writer calling for the impeachment of the vice president. He writes: "Richard B. Cheney has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as vice president and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of justice, and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Cheney, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense, warranting removal from office."
Do you see Democrats really pushing for this?
LAKE: I wish they would. I wish, finally, people...
ZAHN: Well, you make it sound like they should be glowing.
LAKE: I wish they would, just to stand up for -- we always have a lot of rhetoric in this country, but we don't ever make the movement to do it.
If that's what they believe should happen, then move forward into it. Whether it's going to happen, I don't think so.
ZAHN: Quick closing thought.
BOYKIN: Politically, I don't think it's a good idea, because it will put some -- it could potentially put somebody else in the vice presidency who could be more of a threat to the Democrats. I think we're betting off keeping Cheney in and making him a liability.
ZAHN: Darrell Ankarlo, Lauren Lake, Keith Boykin, stay right there -- a lot more to discuss tonight.
If you would like to join in our conversation, please send us an e-mail right now at NOW@CNN.com. Giving you lots of warning. We have got about 20 minutes before we start getting to them. Our panelists will read some of them a little bit later on, on the air.
Also out in the open tonight: America's staggering amount of credit card debt. Today, top executives from the credit card companies said they're not to blame. So, who is?
And a city manager who does his job just fine -- so, should he be fired because he wants to become a woman? Hear his story when we come back.
ZAHN: Another story that's out in the open tonight: a hidden secret that many couples are reluctant, even ashamed to reveal -- in a little bit, why infertility is considered so embarrassing to some? Out in the open tonight: a controversy that has torn a Florida community apart. Leaders of the city of Largo are trying to fire their city manager because he wants to become a she. That's right. He's getting a sex-change operation.
So, is this about being able to trust public officials, as his opponents say, or is it just intolerance out in the open?
Carol Costello has the story for us tonight.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Steven Stanton's life got very ugly very fast.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Terminate Mr. Stanton.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ethics bothers me a lot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And everybody in the city of Largo is just supposed to roll over and accept that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is wrong.
COSTELLO: Stanton was city manager of Largo, Florida, for 14 years. He recently got a raise for doing a good job. He was a devoted husband, a loving father, a great citizen.
But it all fell apart when the local press revealed his secret. This 48-year-old man was planning to become a woman. So, Steven Stanton suddenly found himself holding a news conference, telling total strangers his wife couldn't understand why he wanted a sex change.
STEVE STANTON, LARGO, FLORIDA, CITY MANAGER: Not pleased. She's very upset, you can imagine. This is probably a wife's worst nightmare.
COSTELLO: He hadn't yet told his 13-year-old son.
STANTON: Hopefully, he's not watching television.
COSTELLO: And almost as fast, the town of Largo held a public meeting. The commissioners who had rewarded him now abandoned him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know longer can trust his adjustment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do not feel that he has the integrity.
COSTELLO: And, despite those 14 years of service, seven of the nine commissioners voted to fire him.
STANTON: Seven days ago, I was a good guy. And now I have -- I have no integrity. I have no trust. I have no confidence.
COSTELLO (on camera): Did you expect you were going to be fired once this information became public?
STANTON: Not at all.
COSTELLO: You didn't expect you were going to be fired?
STANTON: Not at all.
COSTELLO (voice-over): Steven Stanton has been a winner all of his life. But, even as a little boy, he was haunted by a secret.
STANTON: What you feel when -- when -- when you're growing up with this condition is, you feel that the outside doesn't match the -- the inside in a very -- in a very real way.
COSTELLO: On his wedding day, he hoped the confusion would end.
(on camera): As you look at this young face, what was this young man thinking?
STANTON: That young man was thinking, like many other transgender people do, that, if I get married, if I settle down and find love, I can outrun this thing.
COSTELLO (voice-over): But he couldn't outrun it. So, after 48 years of pretending, Steven Stanton told his boss, Largo Mayor Pat Gerard, that he was planning to have a sex change.
(on camera): Once he told you, what was your response?
PATRICIA GERARD, MAYOR OF LARGO, FLORIDA: Well, when I was able to speak again...
GERARD: I think I -- I said, "You know, did you ever doubt that I would support you in this?" and, you know, just let him know that I would support him through that process.
COSTELLO: The mayor did fight for Stanton, but so far with no success.
GERARD: We're making a decision here about whether we're going to be an inclusive and compassionate community or are we going to be small-minded and bigoted.
COSTELLO: By law, there has to be one last hearing before the firing becomes final.
STANTON: I'm still extremely confident. I'm not willing to concede that something I passionately invested in that many years of my life is going to have to change because of something going on with me.
COSTELLO: Stanton says, at least he takes comfort in this. For now, his wife and son have decided to stand by him.
Carol Costello, CNN, Largo, Florida.
ZAHN: Back now to our "Out in the Open" panel, Darrell Ankarlo, Lauren Lake, Keith Boykin.
Let's look at a local poll that was taken by readers of "The Saint Petersburg Times" about their attitudes about whether this man has a right to keep his job after a sex-change operation. Sixty-eight percent agree yes. Seventeen percent disagree. Fifteen percent simply don't know.
So, if most of the residents of this community think this man shouldn't be fired, how do you explain the vote of the county commissioners?
BOYKIN: I'm really surprised by the poll numbers. I grew up in that area, in Largo-Clearwater area in Saint Pete. And I know that community. And it's surprising to me that so many people are so supportive. It shows that there are some changes going on.
The city council members are politically afraid to make the right decision. That's the problem. The issue here, though -- two things -- first, it shows how much discrimination there is against people who are LGBT, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered.
And, second, it shows that there's no protection for those people. Even if they do come out and they decide to do things like this, there's no law to protect these people. And most people don't realize that.
ZAHN: I thought it was very profound to hear Mr. Stanton say: Look, seven days ago, just seven days ago, I was a trustworthy man. I was a good guy. You know, I had integrity.
ANKARLO: Don't you feel sorry...
ZAHN: Here I am a week later.
ANKARLO: Yes. Don't you feel sorry for the wife and the son in this case? It breaks my heart to think that, all of a sudden, in two seconds, that whole family is flipped upside down.
Should he keep the job? He's proven himself, what, for 17 years.
ANKARLO: He should keep the job. Come on.
And look at the courage it took for him to go to the mayor and say, hey, I have been wrestling with something, and I need to do something about it. And, then, to get that in return, just to get the people you have worked with for years and years and years, just, "Well, you're out of here," I think that that really shows -- it -- it -- it shows the intolerance that still exists in this country.
I'm so glad that we talk about this, because people want to act like it's going away. But it's not. It just merely shifts into different forms.
ZAHN: All right.
LAKE: And this is another one.
ZAHN: We -- we heard the mayor talk. And, obviously, she's haunted by this, but it seemed pretty clear these commissioners have thought a lot about this as well, and they said, it comes down to a trust issue. This isn't the same guy we thought he was a week ago.
ANKARLO: Yes, but it's a good question. It is a really good question.
ZAHN: I mean, I'm not saying that. That's what they...
ANKARLO: No, no, no. It's a good question, as far as trust, as far as judgment is concerned here.
And, if you stop and think about it, you said it took bravery to come out. And, indeed, it did. And I think the guy should keep his job.
But isn't it a little bit selfish, if you think about it? Well, this is all about me, so I'm going to screw up my wife, screw up my son, screw up the city council, screw up the chamber, screw it all up.
BOYKIN: You have got it backwards.
BOYKIN: The problem was, he got into this relationship, apparently, from the first place, without even realizing that he was going to cause all this harm.
It's the societal prejudice that led him into a relationship he never needed to be in, in the first place that caused the problem. That's the reason why he got into this.
ANKARLO: I hear you, but don't you think, somewhere along the line, he thought, you know, when I tell my wife of all these years, like, I want to be a woman, you don't think he thought it's going to freak her out a little bit? (CROSSTALK)
BOYKIN: Sure, he did, but do you continue lying to her? Would you rather have...
ANKARLO: Therein lies the question. Was it a selfish decision?
LAKE: I think it's sickly ironic to say that his honesty, his courage is now interpreted as weakness...
LAKE: ... as lack of trustworthiness, when, really, what he did was put himself out there for all to know and to see: I have an issue, and I'm trying to resolve it.
I find that kind of sickly ironic.
ANKARLO: It's a weird story, no question about it.
ZAHN: I want to read a couple letters now -- or parts of letters from readers of "The Tampa Tribune."
One says: "It is also a bad example to our youth, who look up to public officials as examples of moral Americans who espouse traditional values. Stanton should go sell bras at the local lingerie store, instead of trying to adjust..."
ZAHN: "... his sex during city council meetings."
BOYKIN: Well, see, that's -- that's a reflection of, I think, just the disconnect that's out there.
You have 68 percent of the people in the community who think it's OK for him to do this, to keep his job. But, on the other hand, you have people out there who are saying some really vicious, anti- transgender things.
So, I mean, he's dealt with a lot. And the fact that he was able to come out in that context shows a lot about his courage and his ability to take on that challenge, in spite of the fact he knew there were going to be severe consequences.
ZAHN: All right.
ZAHN: Got to leave it there.
We have a lot more to discuss with all three of you coming up. And, once again, we want you to join in our conversation. Send us some e-mails in now, NOW@CNN.com. Our panel will read some of them and give you their reactions a little bit later on.
Out in the open next: Americans owe nearly $1 trillion in credit card debt. How much of that is yours? And how much is your bank to -- oh, Keith Boykin is raising his hand.
ZAHN: You're going to admit it?
BOYKIN: A little.
ZAHN: How much? How much of that?
ZAHN: Come on.
ZAHN: Too much. All right.
ZAHN: Also, do you know a childless couple? Out in the open a little bit later on: why some people think infertility is humiliating, and they want to keep it secret.
ZAHN: Out in the open tonight, something no one likes talking about, because it's so painful, so humiliating, the enormous amount of credit card debt we Americans owe, $876 billion of it.
And, today, three top executives of major credit card companies defended themselves on Capitol Hill, because Congress is investigating the late fees, the bounced-check fees, the sky-high invest rates that have a stranglehold on so many of us.
Deborah Feyerick was in Washington for the hearing. She's just filed this report for us.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you have ever paid down a credit card debt, then this will sound familiar.
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: I look at the amount of money she's paid over the years, and it is just mind-boggling.
FEYERICK: Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill telling a packed room how hard it was for her own mom, who wound up buried by fees and interest rates. MCCASKILL: In many instances, they are completely taking advantage of people that don't understand what it is they're being subjected to, in terms of all those monthly fees and penalties.
FEYERICK: A fluke? Not likely.
(on camera): If you knew then what you know now, would you ever have charged your wedding on that credit card?
WES WANNAMACHER, STRUGGLING WITH CREDIT CARD DEBT: No, no, not at all.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Wes Wannamacher's $3,200 wedding debt ballooned to more than $10,000 in added interest and penalties. Why? Chase Bank hit him 47 times with extra fees for going over his spending limit.
WANNAMACHER: You know, it just -- it just really seemed like there was no end in sight.
FEYERICK: According to the Government Accountability Office, 48 percent of credit card holders in 2005 were hit with a late fee or a fee for going over their credit limit, even those who paid on time.
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: I believe it's wrong for people to pay interest on debt which they pay on time.
FEYERICK: Credit card companies make the rules, with no oversight and no regulation. If you pay a bill late, even when it's unrelated, you may get hit with higher interest rates. And the burden of figuring it all out rests on you.
ALYS COHEN, STAFF ATTORNEY, NATIONAL CONSUMER UNION LAW CENTER: If there were poisonous food or medication put on the shelves, no one would say, read this and learn that it's poison. Learn not to buy it. They would be taken off the shelves. And we want the same thing for credit.
FEYERICK: The credit card companies defended their practices, which are technically all legal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... about the profitability
FEYERICK: Executives from Chase, Bank of America, and Citigroup saying credit cards give credit to people who otherwise would be shut out. They all left without comment immediately after the hearing.
An industry spokesman explaining to consumers why it is the way it is:
KEN CLAYTON, AMERICAN BANKERS ASSOCIATION: I think it's important for them to understand that this is a loan. It's an unsecured loan to millions of people every day, only based on the promise...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the first things that tipped us off was, we started getting phone calls.
FEYERICK: Filmmaker James Scurlock traveled the country, talking to people about credit card debt.
JAMES SCURLOCK, FILMMAKER: A lot of people said, look, you would think $50,000, $100,000 of credit card debt, there would be a Ferrari in my driveway, or a Porsche, or something. But they go back to the statements. It's groceries, you know, medical bills, just everyday things, necessities.
FEYERICK: When Chase Bank found out Wes Wannamacher was testifying, they dropped the more than $4,000 he still owed, blaming it on human error.
SEN. NORM COLEMAN (R), MINNESOTA: They -- they're charging for things that you wouldn't have any idea that you're being charged for. I think that is abusive. I think that is -- is predatory. I think that has to change.
FEYERICK (on camera): Would you go so far as to say it's a little bit criminal?
COLEMAN: No, I'm going to stop...
COLEMAN: I'm going to stop short of it...
COLEMAN: ... because, in fact, if you -- if you plow through and you read all the stuff in that little contract that you signed, it's there.
COLEMAN: But, on the other hand, if you don't have three college degrees, you probably wouldn't find it.
(voice-over): Deborah Feyerick, CNN, Washington.
ZAHN: With me now, a journalist who has written an awful lot about how you can beat credit card debt -- that's if you listen to her -- Jean Chatzky, author of the bestseller "Make Money, Not Excuses: Wake Up, Take Charge, Overcome Your Financial Fears Forever." She also hosts her own show on XM Radio.
Glad to have you with us tonight.
JEAN CHATZKY, AUTHOR, "MAKE MONEY, NOT EXCUSES: WAKE UP, TAKE CHARGE, AND OVERCOME YOUR FINANCIAL FEARS FOREVER": Nice to see you.
ZAHN: Thank you.
So, you know, we know that millions of Americans are maxing out on their credit cards. And I -- and I wanted to share with our audience now part of a television commercial, a very popular one for LendingTree...
ZAHN: ... that pokes fun at this trend. Meet Stanley Johnson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, LENDINGTREE AD)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Like my car? It's new. I even belong to the local golf club.
How do I do it? I'm in debt up to by my eyeballs. I can barely pay my finance charges.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: All right. We laugh when we see that commercial.
CHATZKY: We do.
ZAHN: But how many Stanley Johnsons are out there?
CHATZKY: There are too many, unfortunately. What happened...
ZAHN: Is it millions of Americans?
CHATZKY: It is millions.
And what happened over the last five, 10 years, where we have had historically low interest rates, is about half of America have used those wisely. They completely revamped their balance sheets. They paid down debt. They upped their savings.
But the other half got in trouble. They spent more than they earned. They charged an awful lot of debt. They have got interest that's now ratcheting up. And they have to figure out a way to deal with it.
ZAHN: And, when you talk about interesting -- or interest ratcheting up, we heard in this piece from Senator Norm Coleman, you know, these lending companies under -- under fire for some very cute charges.
CHATZKY: Curious charges.
ZAHN: Buyer, beware.
Walk us through these curious -- is that -- is that a more accurate way of describing? Cute? Curious?
CHATZKY: You know, I -- Cute. Curious.
I think a lot of these charges -- people are on the hook to really read the fine print.
And -- and, quite frankly, many of us don't. And the fine print is too difficult to understand. So, when we look at these charges, the one that's probably most under fire today was the universal default rate, which is when a credit card company increases your interest rate when you're late or when you go over limit on a different credit card.
And, so, you're -- you're on the hook for a credit card that you're not necessarily late on. And that doesn't quite seem fair. It's one that even the credit card companies have had a lot of trouble defending.
Trailing interest has come under fire, also. That's when you pay your bill on time, you think, but you still get hit with interest. And this policy of a lowest interest rate first, you know, when people change balance -- change their balances, switch balances, a lot of other fees are attached.
And, often, your balance transfer comes under a different rate than your new purchases, which is under a different rate than your cash advances. And you have to be careful which one is getting charged the highest interest rate.
ZAHN: So you just have to look at your statement clearly and understand that you could face some of these surcharges?
CHATZKY: You know what people really need to understand is how much they are charging on their credit cards. And I know that that sounds like a lot of common sense, but really we have no idea these days, many people, how much we have coming in, how much we have going out, how much we're spending, and where it's going. And that's the first step. That's the first step to taking financial responsibility for your own life.
ZAHN: So who are you madder at, us or the bank?
CHATZKY: No. You know what? I think that there are a lot of parties responsible here. But when you come right down to it, if you use your credit cards wisely, then they're a useful tool. It's when you tart to get ahead of yourself, then these fees start to layer on, that you get in trouble.
So we need to pay more attention, the banks clearly need to get clearer about the different fees that they are imposing on people. Make it easier for people to understand. And hopefully we'll all come out a little bit better in the end.
ZAHN: Meantime, you want Stanley Johnson to grow up. CHATZKY: I would like Stanley Johnson to grow up. I enjoy the commercial, but, yes, a little bit of growing up would be good.
ZAHN: All right. Jean Chatzky, thank you so much.
Appreciate your advice.
Millions of Americans are fighting infertility. Tonight, "Out in the Open" next, why are they so afraid to talk about it?
And a little bit later on, the amazing story of a boy who could pass as either black or white. So which race did he choose?
ZAHN: Coming up in this half hour, a man who could pass as either black or white. He chose one race as a boy, but changed his mind when he grew up. We're going to bring you his amazing story "Out in the Open" tonight.
Then coming up that top of the hour on "LARRY KING LIVE," child safety activist Mark Lunsford on today's conviction of the man who kidnapped and killed his daughter.
On to another subject now.
Two million couples in America struggle with the pain and heartbreak of infertility. Many of them suffer in silence, so ashamed that they keep it a secret. But why do they keep it to themselves?
We're about to bring that "Out in the Open" tonight through the story of one couple in Seattle.
Here's Ted Rowlands with tonight's "Vital Signs."
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): They seem to have a perfect life. Nat and Karissa Taylor, they're happily married, they own a house, and both have good jobs in Seattle.
KARISSA TAYLOR, SUFFERED A MISCARRIAGE: A lot of people who have young kids say you should be -- you should feel totally blessed. Look at all of the time and money you have. You guys get to live the crazy life. You get to go skiing. You get to go to the movies.
ROWLANDS: But the reality is, Karissa and Matt desperately want children. And they've been through four years of gut-wrenching heartache trying to start a family.
TAYLOR: And we got pregnant right away and thought, this is great, we're going to have our three kids.
ROWLANDS: Karissa was 29 and pregnant with a girl that they named Sarah (ph). TAYLOR: We actually kind of felt like we got to know her, because once we found out something was wrong, there was a month there when she was still alive and we did all these ultrasounds to kind of check on her. So we saw her moving around, and she was a very active little girl.
ROWLANDS: Sarah (ph) died in the fifth month of pregnancy from a genetic anomaly. Eventually, Karissa says, they decided to get pregnant again, but this time they couldn't.
TAYLOR: In the next two and a half years, we went through rounds of infertility. I was on drugs, I had weekly ultrasounds and weekly blood draws. I had surgery to correct some conditions they thought might be wrong with me.
ROWLANDS: Finally, almost three years after losing Sarah (ph), Karissa was pregnant again.
TAYLOR: In the fourth month of that pregnancy, found out that the exact same genetic anomaly was present.
ROWLANDS: After they lost their second child, their doctor advised Karissa and Nat to stop trying.
TAYLOR: The emotional and psychological grieving process over losing two children, and then now it's realizing I'll never get pregnant, I'll never give birth. I'll never -- there will never be a little Nat and I running around. That part has been extraordinarily difficult.
NAT TAYLOR, COPING WITH INFERTILITY: To see someone you love, you know, sit there and suffer on top of your own suffering, it's -- you know, I don't wish that upon anyone.
ROWLANDS: The National Center for Health Statistics reports that more than nine million women in the United States use infertility services, and more than two million couples are infertile.
Dr. Guy Ringler of the American Fertility Association says thousands of couples are struggling, many silently, with infertility.
DR. GUY RINGLER, CALIFORNIA FERTILITY PARTNERS: There's a tremendous biological desire to reproduce, and if something is putting a barrier towards that, you know, it can cause a lot of emotional distress.
K. TAYLOR: We believe the defendant is a danger to society and needs to be held more accountable.
ROWLANDS: Karissa, who's now 33, is a criminal prosecutor with a tough exterior. She says most people have no idea how much pain she's going through.
K. TAYLOR: I feel very much like I'm a mom without a baby. Like, once I got pregnant, the first time, like, I felt like my whole life just shifted. Because I knew what that was like to be pregnant and to anticipate having a child, and I saw that baby alive on the ultrasound, and that was what I wanted so much. And so I've felt this, like, unrequited longing for four years now.
ROWLANDS: Nat and Karissa have started the adoption process. They hope that eventually, after all they've been through, they will be able to have a child.
Ted Rowlands, CNN, Seattle.
ZAHN: Here is another thing to add. Fertility experts we talked with say it's helpful and healthy for couples dealing with fertility problems to be able to talk about it openly with at least their close friends to help relieve some of the stress all infertile couples feel.
"Out in the Open" next, a man who had a choice almost no one gets. He could pass for either being black or white. Coming up, he'll tell me why he made the choices he did. He's made a couple of choices along the way.
And it isn't too late to send an e-mail in to our "Out in the Open" panel. They're going to read some time on the air in a little bit. See them reading through them?
Are they any good tonight, Darrell? Thumbs up, thumbs down?
Yes, they're fabulous.
Keep them coming. The address is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ZAHN: We have a stunning story to bring out in to the open tonight, revealing a unique point of view and a secret life.
David Matthews was born to a black father and a white Israeli mother. With his fair skin, David could choose to live as either white or black. In his new book, "Ace of Spades," Matthews talks about living on both sides of the racial divide in America, and some of the things he did probably will shock you.
DAVID MATTHEWS, AUTHOR "ACE OF SPADES": Most people assume I'm Middle Eastern or maybe Italian or maybe Hispanic.
ZAHN (voice over): Growing up in the '70s in a mostly black Baltimore neighborhood, Matthews rembers one particular day when he was 9 years old, when he suddenly started to realize the stark differences between black and white.
MATTHEWS: And that first day at elementary school, I could tell that there was a difference in the way teachers, in the way policemen, in the way shopkeepers treated the black kids in the neighborhood, as opposed to the white kids. It was a subconscious but really quick determination of, this looks like the winning team.
ZAHN (on camera): The white team?
MATTHEWS: Yes. I thought, that's the side to be on if I'm going to be on a side. And I just thought white equals two cars, fully- stocked refrigerators, summers abroad. Black equals all of these other neighborhoods surrounding it that I'm scared to walk through.
ZAHN (voice over): So young David made the choice to live as a white boy.
(on camera): How much did you fear that you were going to be outed as you so successfully passed yourself off as being white?
MATTHEWS: Almost made me feel like that movie "Donnie Brasco," where you're undercover and you're worried that at any minute someone is going to say, "I know you. You don't belong here."
ZAHN: In a very poignant part of the book, you describe what many would see as the ultimate betrayal of your race, when you and a friend lighted a cross. What provoked you to do that, and what signal were you trying to send?
MATTHEWS: At that time, the pocketful of white kids -- at least the disturbed really fearful ones that I gravitated toward, felt like prey in Baltimore. And when you're sort of mentally deranged and 11 years old, you come up with the most -- the extreme act that you think, well, this can't be topped, and this is a way to take back some power.
I was burning away my blackness. I was saying this is the ultimate thing that I can do to become -- you know, I was an apostate. I was giving -- I was turning over everything that had to do with being black and actually lighting it. And I never brought it up until I wrote the book, because I thought, wow, what a cancerous act of self-negation to light a cross, not knowing that my family had been, like, instrumental in many civil rights struggles and built their lives, essentially, on this fight for sort of black empowerment.
ZAHN (voice over): As he grew older, Matthews, who was born in the black world but chose to live in the white world, was beginning to question that decision.
MATTHEWS: It's very much like the Eddie Murphy skit on "Saturday Night Live" from 20 years ago, where he puts himself in white face and he goes out on the town and he gets on a city bus. And as soon as the last black person leaves, a disco ball comes down and there's a party and they're handing out canapes.
And that's sort of this -- that's what I assumed being white was like, that there was this secret party that people of color in the world were not invited to. It was mistaken. There was a party going on, it just wasn't that great.
ZAHN (on camera): David, how do you see yourself today? As black or what? MATTHEWS: Realistically, I see myself as black only because from a cultural standpoint, that's what I know as the African-American experience, and that's my history. And all those things that I grew up listening to and hearing about, and the environment that surrounded me, those first 10 years, those are really the ones that make you, I think.
And in that crucible, I wound up being, whether I wanted to or not, you know, a young black male. And that's sort of the person that's inside of me and most comfortable in some ways now.
I think I have a perspective on race in America that very few people will ever have. I mean, I've been in the person in the room where white America, from hillbillies to progressive liberals, have said exactly what they think not knowing a personal of color was in the room. And I think that kind of perspective is really valuable.
ZAHN: David also had another interesting thing to tell me about, his decision to stop living as a white man. And when that came, it happened during a trip to Europe, where he discurved that people didn't view him as black or white, and he finally felt comfortable in his own skin.
Moving up on to top of the four, "LARRY KING LIVE" will be hosting the show you've all become so familiar with just about 15 minutes from now.
Hi, Larry. How are you doing tonight?
LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE" Hey, Paula. Doing fine.
Coming up, a verdict today on an unspeakable crime, and Jessica Lunsford's father, Mark, on his daughter's killing being found guilty.
Plus, "American Idol," nudity and racism. Finalists weigh in on the show's latest controversy. It's always something happening with that show.
It's all at the top of the hour -- Paula.
ZAHN: I wish there were something happening on that show outside of your timeslot and mine.
KING: You're not kidding. It's unbelievable.
ZAHN: America loves that show.
Coming back to that verdict, I've got to tell you, that Lunsford case is still in my mind one of the most sickening murders that I think you and I have been exposed to.
KING: And do you remember when that child was first missing, everyone thought about the father because he was kind of hippie looking with the long hair, and so he became, like, the suspect. Another travesty, I think.
ZAHN: Yes. I mean, so often the parents are immediately considered a suspect in these kinds of killings. But I think you're right. There probably was unfortunately a presumption of guilt in that case, in some people's minds.
Larry, see you at the top of the hour. Thanks.
KING: You got it, Paula.
ZAHN: We're going to change our focus right now to business.
ZAHN: Coming up next, it's your turn to join in on our conversation. Our panelists have been busy checking out your e-mails. Look at them. They have not taking their eyes off the computer screens.
Their favorites "Out in the Open" next.
Stay with us.
ZAHN: Welcome back.
Now it's time to hear what you're saying about -- we're on the air now.
ZAHN: We're bringing "Out in the Open"...
ANKARLO: I'm reading.
ZAHN: He's reading your e-mails.
With me again, Darrell Ankarlo, Lauren Lake and Keith Boykin.
We start off with that e-mail that Darrell was studying and reading into from Forest, who happens to be from Kansas.
He writes, "Cheney should go... period! What gets me is the Republican Party went after Clinton like sharks in a meat-filled tank because of his ordeal with Monica Lewinsky and the Whitewater scandal to impeach him. Now, the shoe is on the other foot and they are wanting to pardon Libby. Why is the right now adult enough to fess up and admit to their wrongdoing?"
ANKARLO: I guess I get to answer that. Do I get to answer that? I am the -- I'm the token conservative.
LAKE: Go ahead.
ANKARLO: Let's just hit this from two points. First of all, President Clinton lied and he was impeached for it. We have not found that President Bush has lied about anything.
BOYKIN: Excuse me?
ANKARLO: No. Now, hang on. He has delivered information to us, information that he says he thought was credible, but we have not been able to prove one time that he lied about anything.
BOYKIN: That's what this whole case was about. Somebody lied. Somebody orchestrated a lie.
ANKARLO: What case?
BOYKIN: The case of Scooter Libby. It's not just about lying to the federal prosecutors and the FBI. It's about lying to get us into a war that we should never have gotten into in the first place. We cannot make that clear enough.
The American people are upset about the war. The American people don't want us in this war. And the reason why is they're distrustful of an administration that continues to lie to us
ANKARLO: And because they keep getting beaten up by the media to believe what you just said.
LAKE: No, we can't go to the media on this. Let's talk about the lies here. Let's talk about the lies.
ANKARLO: What lies? Tell me about the lies.
LAKE: Now, you -- no, I want to tell you about the fact that when Clinton supposedly did his lying, they wanted him impeached, they wanted him out of there.
ANKARLO: He was impeached.
LAKE: Even Hillary Clinton to this day -- everybody worries her. "She's not being honest, she's not being up front about her position on the war."
Well, be up front about this obvious cover-up that's going -- the obvious chain of command that everybody can see, and everybody is acting like this is a big elephant in the room that no one else can see. Cheney wreaks.
BOYKIN: Be consistent.
BOYKIN: Be consistent.
LAKE: We smell a rat. ANKARLO: Yes, be consistent. But Libby -- let me tell you. If he did and he was convicted, he should go to jail for it. He will receive a pardon. It will be the last thing that's done.
ZAHN: All right. Let's move on to a letter from Don from Rocky Hill, Connecticut. He writes, "Democrats should get real or get a life. Many Democrats voted for the war in Iraq."
Lauren was just talking about Hillary's vote to go to war.
"Much of the intelligence was a carryover from the Clinton administration. All this Cheney impeachment talk is simply mob psychology of Dems with expert 20/20 hindsight."
BOYKIN: You can't -- you know, sometimes the Republicans really surprise me. They want to blame Bill Clinton for everything.
I mean, take responsibility. I thought the Republicans were the party of responsibility. Take responsibility.
You screwed this up. The Republican Party screwed this up. It was a Republican president, a Republican vice president, a Republican secretary of defense who led us into war.
It wasn't the Democratic Party. The Democrats were a minority in the Congress. They were not in the White House at all. They had no control over the government. Don't try to blame anybody else.
ANKARLO: You don't believe that?
ZAHN: I've got to close with a transgender question.
ZAHN: This is a story that elicited a lot of response tonight.
Harlan (ph) from Wisconsin writes, "If the city manager was in the process of getting a divorce, would he be in such hot water with the city council? If he was in the process of marrying an African- American, would his job be on the line? If he was in the process of converting to Catholicism, would he no longer be morally upright and respectable?"
"This man should be afforded the same basic employment rights as any other human being. No one, especially not the bigoted and small- minded members of the city council, should be allowed to disrespect and disparage him."
ANKARLO: I think we all agree on that. We all agree.
BOYKIN: Let's go back to Libby for a minute.
ZAHN: You know what? Whose business is it? What is at the root of his sexuality and how he views himself, what does that have to do with this job anyway?
ANKARLO: Yes, but I guess the point is you've been there working all this time, and you actually filled in an application saying, this is my background, this is my future, et cetera. And he turns around and he says, oh, by the way, I want to change everything on you.
I can understand why people would be upset about it.
LAKE: Upset about it, but for him to lose his job?
ANKARLO: He's not going to lose...
LAKE: He's upset. Being confused and not understanding is one thing. His job's another.
ZAHN: All right, team. We've got to go.
We're going to take a short break. We'll be right back.
Darrell, Lauren, Keith, thanks.
ZAHN: And that wraps it up for all of us here tonight. Thanks so much for joining us.
Tomorrow night, a mentally disabled black man severely beaten, left for dead. Why isn't his town outraged?
That story coming up tomorrow night.
And tonight at 10:00 Eastern, an "ANDERSON COOPER 360" special on the minds of child predators, "The Monsters Next Door: Can They be Stopped?"
Again, appreciate your dropping by.
That's it for us. Have a great night.
See you tomorrow night.
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