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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Pizza-Bomber Suspects; Iraq: Reality Check; Tracking War Money; Ex-Surgeon General Censored; McCain Campaign Shakeup; Political Sex Scandals

Aired July 10, 2007 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
Dramatic developments tonight in one of the strangest and creepiest murder mysteries anyone has ever seen -- the pizza deliveryman with a bomb locked around his neck.

Tonight, breaking news in a case once thought to have gone cold.

Also ahead in the hour, you'll hear the nation's former top doctor, a former surgeon general under President Bush, who says that political pressure from the Bush White House trumped medical and scientific fact about issues that affect millions of our lives on everything from stem cell research to sex education.

And we're "Keeping them Honest" on the cost of Iraq and Afghanistan, $12 billion a month being spent. The question is, where is the money going and how much of it has been wasted?

(BEGIN BREAKING NEWS)

COOPER: We start with breaking news tonight. The major development in one of the strangest murder cases we have reported on. We have been following the story for nearly four years. For all this time, it has never been clear if the man at the center of it was a victim or a criminal. He was turned into a ticking human time bomb, an explosive device literally locked around his neck. All this time, nobody has known why.

Tonight, the beginning of some answers.

CNN's Jason Carroll reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a frightening moment, one that became a mystery lasting nearly four years. This pizza deliveryman, Brian Wells, handcuffed, minutes away from death, police unsure if he's a victim or a bank robber; Wells telling them a bizarre story, saying, armed gunmen forced him to rob a bank and attached a so-called collar bomb around his neck. And time was running out.

Why is no one coming to get this thing off me? I don't have a lot of time. But no one knew how much time. Minutes earlier, surveillance video had captured Wells as he walked into this PNC Bank in Erie, Pennsylvania. He had a gun shaped like a cane in his hand, a lollipop in his mouth, and, as you're about to hear in this 911 call, a strange object around his neck.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy just walked out with -- I don't know how much cash in a bag. He has a bomb or something -- or something wrapped around his neck.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

CARROLL: With police finally caught up with Wells, he told them they had the wrong man. Listen as he tried telling them the story about the gunman who he says put the bomb around his neck.

BRIAN WELLS, KILLED IN BOMB EXPLOSION: He pulled a key out and started a timer. I heard the thing ticking when he did it. It's going to go off.

CARROLL: Minutes passed. A bomb squad raced to the scene. They didn't make it in time.

We cannot show you what happened next. Wells was killed in the explosion. His family called him a victim, proclaiming his innocence on a Web site.

JOHN WELLS, BROTHER OF BRIAN WELLS: My brother told them it was a group of strangers that accosted him at gunpoint, shot at him when he tried to run away.

CARROLL: Now, finally, almost four years later, a break in the case. A knowledgeable source tells CNN investigators are expected to charge Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong and Kenneth Barnes with conspiracy to commit bank robbery.

It's not clear at this point if they knew Wells. Diehl-Armstrong is already in prison, serving time for the murder of her ex-boyfriend, James Roden. Barnes is behind bars as well in Erie County Prison, being held on a drug charge.

(on camera): Wells' family wants authorities to vindicate him completely. But investigators have not said whether they believe Wells was a victim or a co-conspirator.

Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Clearly, there's a lot of questions still unanswered.

Jen Mobilia is a reporter at WSEE-TV in Erie, Pennsylvania. This case has been a big local story for her. She joins me now.

It has been almost four years without any indictment. Why now? What's changed in the case?

JEN MOBILIA, WSEE REPORTER (on the phone): Well, Anderson, the federal grand jury is set to expire at the end of the month. This case has already been granted its one six-month extension.

So, come the end of July, the federal grand jury expires, and there will be no more extensions. So, you know, obviously, we believe that the FBI and federal investigators are just taking what they have, and, you know, trying to piece all of this together.

COOPER: Do we know what they have? I mean, is there any connection between this woman, Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, and Kenneth Barnes, and Brian Wells?

MOBILIA: Well, we do know of a connection between Marjorie and Kenneth. The two of them were fishing buddies. And she later accused Barnes of stealing thousands of dollars from her home.

Then the case gets stranger. Just last month, a known prostitute tells the federal grand jury that her and Brian Wells used to visit Kenneth Barnes quite often at his home, and she would purchase drugs off of him. So, there's -- we're not really sure if Kenneth Barnes and Marjorie -- or if Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong and Brian Wells knew each other, but we do know that Kenneth Barnes did know Brian Wells.

COOPER: OK. Just for viewers, who may be confused, Brian Wells is the man who had the bomb strapped around his neck.

You're saying that a prostitute told a grand jury that she and Brian Wells, the man who ended up blowing up, used to buy drugs from Kenneth Barnes?

MOBILIA: That's correct. And they -- she was actually with Brian Wells the night before he was killed, and he drove her to Kenneth Barnes' home for the last time to try and make a drug purchase.

COOPER: But, in terms of why they would pick him, why a bomb was strapped on him, whether he had any role in this, that, at this point, is not known, is that correct?

MOBILIA: That's correct.

COOPER: Earlier this week, Diehl-Armstrong's lawyer, who is a public defender, asked a judge to issue a gag order, which would prevent a public news conference on this. What happened with that?

MOBILIA: That request was denied. We did learn about that, later this afternoon around 4:30, the federal judge denied that request.

COOPER: And what was his argument for trying to get a gag order?

MOBILIA: Oh, just that the publicity could -- could just cause -- she wouldn't be able to get a fair trial with all the publicity. But... COOPER: Now, the -- and the FBI said that Brian Wells' demeanor in the bank, when he was sucking on a lollipop, they say, quote, "depicts a man who did not know he would soon die as a result of an explosive device that was strapped to his body."

Still, though, at this point, it's not known whether he was a co- conspirator or simply a victim in all this, right?

MOBILIA: That's correct.

And, you know, to be quite honest, we may never know that. I think the only person that truly knows is dead.

COOPER: Do -- now, these two were already in custody. So, how long had these two been suspects for?

MOBILIA: They have suspects from the very -- well, Marjorie has been one of the cast of characters that has been a suspect for a very long time.

Kenneth Barnes has just emerged as a suspect, I would say, within the last two or three years.

COOPER: Is it known where they got the device or -- or how they made the device?

MOBILIA: It appears both the cane gun and the collar bomb are both homemade. There's speculation that another person of interest, Bill Rothstein, may have made that. He was known as a handyman, very -- very good at making things.

But he died in, I believe it was 2004 of cancer.

COOPER: So, at this point, these two people are already in custody. What's the next step? Is there a press conference tomorrow?

MOBILIA: Yes. Tomorrow, at 1:30, there's a press conference, where we all hope to learn much more about these charges.

COOPER: Such a bizarre case that's been going on now for four years.

Jen Mobilia, appreciate your reporting.

We will continue to follow this tomorrow.

(END BREAKING NEWS)

COOPER: Now Iraq. The war in Iraq, which, as you will see in a moment, is costing us all $10 billion a month -- $10 billion. CNN has learned that the Pentagon's report card on Iraq will arrive Thursday on Capitol Hill. We now expect it will say that out of 18 political and military benchmarks, the Baghdad government has met only one, one out of 18.

Despite that, President Bush today stood behind the troop surge and the top American commander, General David Petraeus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We just started. He got all the troops there a couple of weeks ago. He asked for, you know, 20,000 troops, and I said, if that's what you need, Commander, that's what you got. And they just showed up. And they're now beginning -- beginning operations in full.

And in Washington, you have got people saying, stop.

But I believe that it's in this nation's interests to give the commander a chance to fully implement his operations, and I believe Congress ought to wait for General Petraeus to come back and give his assessment of the strategy that he's putting in place before they make any decisions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And that would be September.

A reality check now from CNN's Michael Ware in Baghdad and Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.

Jamie, of the 18 benchmarks, which is seen as the most important one?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I think it's clear that one benchmark is the -- stands out among all of them. And that is reducing the level of violence. And, by the way, it's a benchmark that clearly hasn't been met. The level of violence in recent months has been pretty much the same as was before the surge. There have been periods where certain areas go up and down, sectarian violence or attacks on civilians.

But, when you measure it overall, the level of violence is just as bad as it has been for the past year.

COOPER: And, Michael, the whole idea of reducing the level of violence is to allow for a political system, a political solution, to form among Iraqi politicians. Is that any closer to actually happening? I mean, are these guys highly motivated?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No. Not at all. In fact, quite the opposite, Anderson.

There's many of -- or -- or some of the very key political factions, some of the major power brokers within this so-called government, don't share this American agenda. For some of them, it's just not in their interests to see the situation settle down, as D.C. would like to see.

So, no, this is not something that can be done certainly before September. The concept of the surge being an opportunity to give this government breathing room to achieve some of the political gains that D.C. is insisting upon, whilst noble, is not going to happen. COOPER: Jamie, what's the thinking at the Pentagon about why the Iraqi forces don't seem ready to take over the security of their own country? I mean, obviously, that is one of the benchmarks, trying to get -- increasing the number of Iraqi security forces, but are they just not motivated?

Why -- why -- I mean, this has been allegedly priority number one for the last four or five years.

MCINTYRE: Yes, we have certainly heard that.

And the U.S. has spent $19 billion trying to get the Iraqis up to speed, and we still hear from commanders in the field that the reason the so-called surge force can't leave is that the Iraqis still are not able to operate independently. And that was the other key part of the strategy that President Bush laid out back in January, that the U.S. wasn't going to be doing the heavy lifting. It was going to be helping the Iraqis.

But, in fact, the U.S. is doing the heavy lifting. And the problem with Iraqis is, they're infiltrated in some case -- cases, by sectarian militias. There's a loyalty question. There's -- there -- there's equipment problems. There's leadership problems, getting really good Iraqi leaders.

The -- the bottom line, though, is, the Iraqi army and police are just not ready to step up to the job. And that's another reason the policy's not working so far.

COOPER: Michael Ware, though, it seems like the insurgents don't have a problem with training or with -- with motivation or with, you know -- basically motivation.

Why is it that, of all the forces, the Iraqi forces, the ones which seem unable to operate are the ones that are actually in the military, whereas the insurgents seem more than capable of operating?

WARE: Well, you touch upon something that's obviously important. That's the matter of commitment.

Now, clearly, anyone who takes up arms within the insurgency, and who stays with it, is -- is, as you say, a very committed individual. However, in the Iraqi security forces, there's hundreds of thousands of men at arms now in the police and in the army. Obviously, most of them are simply doing it for a pay packet, because unemployment here is appalling, and people need to make do.

Obviously, there are Iraqis who are motivated by a belief in or a hope for a better future. Nonetheless, the Iraqi security forces remain, indisputably, a coalition of militia forces in uniform, as opposed to their militia buddies, who are out of uniform. So, it's very hard to get all of those guys pulling in the same direction, when many of their interests directly conflict with each other and the American mission.

COOPER: Michael, I want to play something that Senator Lieberman said about the war in Iraq. Let's -- let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: The war is not lost in Iraq. In fact, now American Iraqi security forces are winning. The enemy is on the run in Iraq. But, here in -- in Congress, in Washington, we seem to be, or some -- some members seem to be on the run, chased, I fear, by public opinion polls.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Is the enemy on the run in Iraq, Michael?

WARE: No, certainly not.

And I think we need to be aware that it's enemies. I mean, America doesn't face just one opponent in this country, but a whole multitude, many of whom are becoming stronger, the longer the U.S. occupation here, or presence here, in Iraq continues. So, unfortunately, I'm afraid that Senator Lieberman has taken an excursion into fantasy.

Now, I know, elsewhere, that Senator Lieberman told the Senate or reminded the Senate of its greater responsibility to rise above its frustrations and the opinion polls. Now, never a truer word has been said. That's, indeed, what America needs right now, some political maturity.

But -- but that message was diluted by this fantastic notion...

COOPER: Michael Ware...

WARE: ... that America is winning.

COOPER: Michael Ware, appreciate the reporting in Baghdad.

Jamie McIntyre, at the Pentagon, thank you very much.

As -- as pressure builds in Congress for a pullout in Iraq, or some sort of new strategy from Republicans calling for that, there are new numbers to report on just how much the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are costing, more than a quarter-trillion dollars and climbing.

Even if you support the war, that is a lot of money. And, if you don't, it's a lot of money that could be spent on other things.

We wanted to find out how that quarter-trillion is being spent, and how it might be.

CNN's Tom Foreman tonight "Keeping them Honest."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The cost of America's international war on terror is a whopper. You are spending $10 billion a month in Iraq alone. It goes up another $2 billion, to $12 billion a month, if you add in Afghanistan and all the other international anti-terror efforts.

The total tab for all of that so far is $758 billion and counting.

Democrats say, it's getting out of control.

SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: The surge is not working. No matter how many different ways you explain it, it hasn't worked -- six months, 600 dead Americans, $60 billion.

FOREMAN: That $60 billion is money Congress gave the president for the surge.

As for the president, he says, get used to it.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We just started. He got all the troops there a couple of weeks ago. He asked for, you know, 20,000 troops, and I said, if that's what you need, Commander, that's what you got.

And they just showed up. And they're now beginning to -- they're beginning operations in full.

FOREMAN: Translation? As long as the generals say they need the troops, the surge in spending will continue.

The Congressional Research Service report is the most comprehensive accounting to date of what has been an accountant's nightmare. It tracks costs from the start of the Iraq war right through today.

So, "Keeping them Honest," we decided to look at how else we might use that $10 billion a month. A state-of-the-art high school like this one being built in Seattle, Washington, can cost $75 million; $10 billion dollars would buy 133 of them.

Let's say a local public hospital isn't keeping but with growth. A major expansion and upgrade can cost over $100 million; $10 billion dollars would get you 100 of those.

Or take the new prescription drug benefit for the nation's elderly, estimated to cost $70 billion a year. Getting that passed into law was a huge fight. With $10 billion a month, we could almost double that benefit.

And where does the money come from? The short answer is, we're borrowing it. The national debt is now creeping on $9 trillion. Some say it's a war we can't afford to fight. And others say it's a war we can't afford to lose.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Certainly, a massive amount of money for the war ends up in a black hole. Here's the "Raw Data."

Pentagon auditors have uncovered more than $10 billion in what they call unsupported or questionable military costs. Those auditors also say more than $2.7 billion in unaccounted-for funds went to Halliburton, and more than $90 million in questioned costs went to Parsons, another military contractor.

When we come back, the former surgeon general who says, under this White House, the nation's top doctor isn't free to speak his mind. Now he and we are "Keeping them Honest."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): He says the truth came second; politics came first.

DR. RICHARD CARMONA, FORMER SURGEON GENERAL: The job of the surgeon general is to be the doctor of the nation, not the doctor of a political party.

COOPER: But that's what he says he turned out to be. Now he's talking, saying the White House kept him muzzled on health issues affecting millions of Americans.

John McCain stumbles -- money trouble, poll trouble, and now his top two guys gone.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: John McCain is a fighter.

COOPER: Easy for him to say. He's out in front. The question now, can McCain fight back, or will he be the first big casualty of campaign '08?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER (on camera): Well, chances are, you're not familiar with Dr. Richard Carmona.

But you might know one of his predecessors as Surgeon General C. Everett Koop. He was the surgeon general during the Reagan administration who put deeply personal beliefs about contraception and abstinence aside to help promote safer sex. He told the truth about a subject that the Reagan White House wasn't yet comfortable even mentioning, and he may have saved a lot of lives.

Well, today, Dr. Koop and Dr. Carmona sat side by side before a House committee, speaking out against political interference with their work. Dr. Carmona was surgeon general until last year.

Today, he unloaded on the Bush administration for what he said was putting politics above your health.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. RICHARD CARMONA, FORMER SURGEON GENERAL: The reality is that the nation's doctor has been marginalized and relegated to a position with no independent budget and with supervisors who are political appointees with partisan agendas.

Anything that doesn't fit into the political appointees' ideological, theological, or political agenda is often ignored, marginalized or simply buried.

The problem with this approach is that, in public health, as in a democracy, there is nothing worse than ignoring science or marginalizing the voice of science for reasons driven by changing political winds. The job of the surgeon general is to be the doctor of the nation, not the doctor of a political party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Dr. Carmona had a lot more to say. We spoke earlier tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Can you give some specific example about how politicians in the administration that you were working for tried to muzzle you?

CARMONA: Well, there -- let me put it this way.

There were various issues that have come up, both in my tenure, as well as David Satcher's and "Chick" Koop's, and the other surgeon generals, where, on sexual health issues, like abstinence, issues like condom use, issues like needle-exchange programs, all of which had very strong scientific evidence base to support the use of certain policies, procedures, based on the science, and that information was never allowed to be discussed adequately.

Often, the American public, we found, did not have the right information to make decisions, and so we see this thread continually...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: So, you were told -- you were told to emphasize abstinence-only, not other alternatives?

CARMONA: The message from this administration, of course, was that abstinence-only was the -- was the issue.

It was a struggle because we knew, scientifically, that abstinence-only was not a scientifically-based policy. It was one that was based more on ideology. Science clearly said that we needed to have a more comprehensive approach, which is what I advocated from the beginning.

COOPER: Embryonic stem cell research.

CARMONA: Yes. COOPER: How controversial was that when you were there? How did the administration's message on it differ from what you wanted to say?

CARMONA: Well, I think the issue really was not allowing the surgeon general to really speak out before policy was made and help to educate the American public, which, largely, didn't understand this whole issue of stem cells.

The fact was, a policy came to be. The surgeon general had nothing to do with that policy.

COOPER: What do you think was behind the -- the efforts to control what you were saying, the editing of your speeches? Was it theological concerns? Was it political concerns? Was it a combination of the two?

CARMONA: Anderson, I think it was a combination of both.

And, if you look at Surgeon General Satcher and Surgeon General Koop's testimony, as well as information I know from Surgeon General Elders and going back to Juli (ph) Richmond in the '70s, the fact is, is that there's always been attempt to control the messaging of the surgeon general, because, generally, there are preconceived notions, based on ideology, theology or politics, that have driven a policy. And, often, they conflict with the scientific information.

COOPER: I think it would come as a big surprise to a lot of people listening tonight that the surgeon general can't do that, that you can't just, as a medical professional, as the leading doctor in the country, say what you feel is in the best interests of the health and welfare of the American people. I mean, that's pretty shocking, that you couldn't, and that other surgeon generals say they couldn't either.

CARMONA: Well, I think that, Anderson, if you listened to the testimony of the three surgeon generals today, and you talked to any of our colleagues before, every one of those surgeon generals has courageously stepped forward to address issues that were controversial, issues that were sometimes quite polarizing.

But doctors don't always have the ability to deliver good news. They have to deliver any news, whether it's individually to a patient or to the biggest practice in the world, 300 million people.

COOPER: Former surgeon generals have said that this administration put greater restraints on surgeon generals than any time in the past. Do you think that's true?

CARMONA: This is the most partisan we have ever seen government, and it's the most marginalization we have seen pushed on a surgeon general in the history of this nation.

And that's not my opinion. That's coming collectively from my predecessors who watched my tenure.

COOPER: Dr. Richard Carmona, appreciate your comments. Thank you, sir.

CARMONA: Thank you, Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Strong words. Now here's Kiran Chetry with what's coming up tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING" -- Kiran.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIRAN CHETRY, CO-HOST, "AMERICAN MORNING": Thanks, Anderson.

Tomorrow, we will bring you the most news in the morning, including the battle of the network stars, Bob Barker vs. Lassie and her people -- both sides lining up for and against a law in California that would require pet owners to spay or neuter their cats and dogs. It's sparked a huge outcry even beyond California. We're going to show you what is behind it.

So, wake up to the most news in the morning, beginning at 6:00 a.m., Eastern, right here on CNN -- Anderson, back to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Lassie and her people. Hmm.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Up next on 360: another one of your picks for our campaign song.

Also ahead, Louisiana Senator David Vitter isn't the only one who is sorry he got mixed up with the alleged D.C. madam. How his "sin" is affecting the presidential race, next in "Raw Politics."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

COOPER: "Land of Confusion" by Genesis, one of the thousands of suggestions in our contest for the 360 political theme song.

We were hoping to let you start voting on the final three tonight. There's some legal issues we're still trying to work out. Should be settled soon. Until then, keep sending us songs at CNN.com/360.

As for "Raw Politics" tonight, we have the president fighting back, a senator in hot water, and a comic-turned-candidate raking in the cash.

CNN's Tom Foreman has the "Raw Politics."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Anderson, the president's approval rating is looking terribly anemic these days. But that did not keep him from taking a healthy swing at the Democrats over health care.

(voice-over): Democratic candidates are falling all over each other to explain their competing plans for universal health care, and to point out how private business has failed to provide enough of it.

But the president is calling for -- surprise -- more free market- based incentives to help employers offer insurance, reduce medical lawsuits, and keep the government out of it.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll take care of the poor, and we'll help the elderly. But we believe health care is best run in the private sector, not by the government.

FOREMAN: Sex and violins. Louisiana Senator David Vitter says he's sorry for a very serious sin, after his phone number showed up in the records of the alleged D.C. Madam.

But his political bedfellow is squirming, too. Vitter is a big supporter for Rudy Giuliani. Last month, another big political pal was indicted on drug charges. Is the team having troubles?

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sure, some of them had issues, some of them had problems. The vast majority of them are outstanding people.

FOREMAN: More heat. A big firefighter's union is launching a campaign saying Rudy's reputation as a 9/11 hero is a fabrication.

AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm just a comedian.

FOREMAN: Reaping what you sow. Remember how liberal commentator Al Franken is running for the Senate on Minnesota's Democratic farm labor ticket?

Well, he harvested $2 million in donations last quarter, more than the incumbent Republican, more than his Democratic challenger.

And you think someone ought to crack the candidate's coconuts. Go ahead. Whackapol is the latest and best online way we found yet to smack down your political peeves.

(on camera): Yes! Now that's satisfying.

And that's "Raw Politics" -- Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Tom, thanks.

July 23 is the CNN/YouTube debate. All of the Democratic candidates answering your questions. The submissions continue to pour in. Here's one of them. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, Democratic candidates. I'm James Katecki (ph), and this question is for anybody who wants it.

I'm standing here in my office with a big map of the state of Louisiana. The company I work for does a lot of post-Katrina reconstruction work, and I know that the recovery process, both here in New Orleans and across the affected region is going to take years and maybe even over a decade.

America was definitely not prepared for Hurricane Katrina. So what will you do as president to prepare us for the next major disaster?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's a good question, James. Here's another one. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, my name is Emily Madison (ph) and I'm from Medford, New Jersey.

And I was wondering, what, if elected president, what could you do to improve our educational system? I'm going into high school next year and I want to see a visible result.

I know George Bush has the No Child Left Behind Act, but I don't see any visible results. So what could you do if you were elected president that could help everyone, every child in America see a visible result in the educational system?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: All you've got to do is keep the questions under 30 seconds. Keep sending us the questions. We'll play some of them here on 360.

Presidential candidates are going to have to answer a lot of those questions at the CNN/YouTube debates, as I said. July 23, that's the Democratic one.

You can learn more about the debates and how to submit your questions. Just go to the YouTube home page, YouTube.com, or YouTube -- what is it -- YouTube.com/debates. Just go to the YouTube home page, it's easier.

Just ahead on 360, a tough question tonight for presidential contender John McCain. Can he get his groove back before it's too late?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER (voice-over): John McCain stumbles. Money trouble, poll trouble and now his top two guys gone.

GIULIANI: John McCain is a fighter. COOPER: Easy for him to say, he's out in front. The question now, can McCain fight back or will he be the first big casualty of campaign '08?

Plus, a conservative congressman admits he misbehaved. Politics, scandal and sin. We'll look at why voters forgive and why they don't, ahead on 360.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER (on camera): In the Senate today, as John McCain urged his fellow lawmakers to give the mission in Iraq more time, much of Washington was wondering how much longer McCain, the presidential candidate, can last.

Four of his campaign aides resigned today, including his top two advisers. In public everyone involved put a polite face on what was clearly a massive housecleaning. The question tonight, can John McCain remake himself as a comeback kid? We'll talk about that in a moment.

First the news and the back story. Here's CNN's Candy Crowley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A major implosion in the presidential campaign of John McCain. His top two people, the campaign manager and the chief political guru, are out.

TODD HARRIS, FORMER MCCAIN 2000 CAMPAIGN ADVISER: There were a lot of people on the outside of this campaign who were demanding change, and they were in charge. I think that it was important for the campaign to send some kind of signal that things are going to be different.

CROWLEY: The departures are the result of a series of events that have turned the once presumed front-runner into an underdog, but the trigger point was money. Camp McCain spends too much and raises too little.

Last week, almost half the staff was laid off. Of the $24 million raised since the beginning of the year, about $2 million is left. Said one source, McCain went nuts about the overspending.

Not much in the campaign of John McCain has added up the way they thought it would.

MCCAIN: Thank you, my dear friends.

CROWLEY: In his 2000 presidential bid, he was a media fave and a maverick who shook up George Bush and the presidential race.

This year, his campaign hauled out the Straight Talk Express, the symbol of 2000, and took off. But '08 pales by comparison. Critics say McCain looks like yesterday's news. He is now more mainstream than maverick and a man buffeted by his political tenets.

He is an unbending supporter of the war and thus no longer appeals to the Independents who won New Hampshire for him in 2000. He was the father of campaign finance reform and a prominent backer of the now failed immigration bill, all infuriating conservatives.

He's run fourth in some polls, and his job now is to convince voters that the staff changes signal a campaign on the mend, not a campaign on its last legs.

LYNN SWEET, BUREAU CHIEF, "CHICAGO SUN TIMES": People who are big donors, who want to help you raise money, don't necessarily get up the enthusiasm to do it, if they think it's a campaign in trouble.

CROWLEY: The shakeup reignites persistent talk that McCain will abandon his bid. Certainly not, McCain says, and there is support from a rival.

GIULIANI: This is way too early for anybody to be, you know, written off. John McCain is a fighter.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Candy Crowley joins us now along with former presidential adviser David Gergen.

Candy, McCain, as you mentioned in your piece, despite the shakeup, his campaign is going well. What does he feel is actually going well?

CROWLEY (on camera): Well, you know, I'm not sure we need to take him quite literally at this point. I mean, obviously, things are wrong in this campaign. It's very difficult for a candidate to come out and say, listen, things are really terrible. This doesn't help, as you saw, with the donors.

So the fact of the matter is that McCain's really big problem right now is he really does have to convince people that things are going well. Otherwise, he's not going to get the money to keep him going -- $2 million, which is what he has on hand.

And we don't know what his debts are, but $2 million is nothing to be going into this third quarter with. So this is going to be a very rough ride for Senator McCain.

COOPER: David, what is it that has gone wrong? I mean, obviously, you know, and most immediately it's a lack of money and he hasn't been able to raise the money he needs. But behind that, is it just, it's not the same John McCain that people liked back in 2000?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: You know, the lack of money or fundraising is a reflection, not a cause of what's going on here. And it's a reflection basically of the war, plus tying himself to immigration. He has been a man of courage, but in this case, a profile in courage -- of courage is actually backfiring on him.

And it's -- it's sad to see, Anderson, because he is a man of such character.

But I think that there's a widespread perception now that he is in a death spiral and that only -- only a Lazarus could recover. John McCain may be that, but not many people are.

COOPER: How do you go about recovery?

GERGEN: I don't think you go about it by arguing that it's going better than it looks. I mean, there's too much of a parallel to what's actually going on with Iraq right now. Everybody is arguing in the Bush administration that it's better than it looks, and nobody believes it.

I think what he has to do is hope that Giuliani sinks, which he might, because Rudy Giuliani right now has a pretty strong lead. But there's a widespread fear among the pundits that it's artificial. Smart money now is increasingly moving to Mitt Romney.

And I think what John McCain has to do is, if Giuliani fades, that people take a look at Romney, take a look at Fred Thompson and come back to him. And in order to -- what he has to do is sustain himself.

And he doesn't have much money in the bank. He has less money, we found out yesterday, than Ron Paul, for goodness sakes. But he has to sustain himself financially and then see if, over time, people come back to him and say, you know, I want to take a second look at John McCain.

COOPER: Candy, is there fear among McCain staffers and people watching this thing closely that he is just so tied to the war in Iraq and the immigration issue that this is beyond -- I mean, that unless he changes position on that, and even that would come with major, you know, would be seen as major flip-flop.

CROWLEY: If he was going to change, he would have changed before this, because immigration really hurt him in fundraising in the second quarter of this year and, indeed, into the first.

So look, you can't -- the one thing you cannot change in this campaign is the candidate, and especially this candidate. As David points out, he's been pretty courageous in taking these stands that he knows full well have not helped him politically.

They had always banked on John McCain's reputation. They'd always thought that John McCain could talk to voters and even have them disagree with him, but they would still say, well, at least he's standing up for what he believes in. It hasn't worked.

And at the same time, I agree with David. It's not how much money they've been raising, but they really -- the money was the tipping point of this because they have been spending money like they actually had it. And they didn't. And that's what sort of flipped McCain at this point, when he looked and realized that he just doesn't have enough money to really continue in the way they've been running this campaign.

I also agree with David that right now what he has to do is hang on and hope that the folks in front of him trip up.

COOPER: Who does, David, the -- if there's an implosion in the McCain campaign, who is that benefiting? Is it Giuliani? Fred Thompson? Is it all the Republicans?

GERGEN: I don't think so far it has given much momentum to Rudy Giuliani, although he has had this lead.

What I do think is that people, as they look at it and are sorting it out and think, you know, given Rudy Giuliani's stance on the issues and how liberal he is compared to the Republican base, that the signs then point to the possibility of Mitt Romney may be able to come up on the inside, in effect.

Fred Thompson, who hasn't yet declared, is already starting to run in some headwinds the last few days with the press. I think the press is going to be a lot tougher on Fred Thompson than perhaps some of his supporters realized or thought two or three weeks ago.

That's why I say I think it's a very fluid race, but I cannot -- I don't think we can overstate just how important this, these departures are to John McCain.

These were not just hired hands in his campaign. You know, a couple of these fellows went back a long, long way with John McCain.

That they left under less than amicable circumstances, as we're learning, suggests some very deep problems in the campaign.

COOPER: And you know, bear in mind, everyone watching, this is so early days. There's so much can happen between now and the time that it matters.

David Gergen, Candy Crowley, thanks.

A campaign reshuffle is one thing. Being rocked by a political sex scandal could be a whole lot worse, and there's a big one happening right now. We'll tell you why and who's involved, just ahead.

Plus, horror from the sky. A plane crashes down, two homes in flames. Tonight, NASCAR is among those mourning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: For some politicians, 2007 is shaping up to be the year of living dangerously. A few are getting caught up in some pretty compromising positions.

Political sex scandals are hardly new. But even with embarrassing episodes of infidelity, lawmakers, including the one we told you about earlier tonight, are hoping to get a break from voters. And it seems like they may be getting it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Louisiana Senator David Vitter, an outspoken family values conservative, a law and order crusader.

SEN. DAVID VITTER (R), LOUISIANA: We are a nation that believes in upholding the rule of law.

COOPER: And tonight, a remorseful husband. His telephone number appeared on the phone records of the prostitution ring run by the so- called D.C. Madam.

In a statement, the morality preaching lawmaker said he "asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife."

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UVA CENTER FOR POLITICS: It's wonderful that God has forgiven him. It's terrific that his wife has forgiven him, but there are probably many, many thousands of voters in Louisiana who won't be quite as forgiving.

COOPER: Vitter is not the only politician looking for forgiveness these days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mayor, do you deny any of these affairs?

COOPER: In Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is hounded by questions about his relationship with a Telemundo newscaster. The married father of four owned up to the affair last week.

Up north in San Francisco, another mayor, another confession.

MAYOR GAVIN NEWSOM, SAN FRANCISCO: Everything you've heard and read is true.

COOPER: Rising Democratic star Mayor Gavin Newsom copped to having an affair with his campaign manager's wife.

NEWSOM: I am deeply sorry.

COOPER: These kinds of sex scandals were once politically fatal. Just ask Gary Hart, whose liaison with Donna Rice cost him a run for the White House in 1988.

These days, however, things are different, and it may be all because of Bill.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did not have sexual relations with that woman.

COOPER: But he did, and he lied about it. That was then; this is now. He's more popular than ever, his wife's biggest asset. So what's going on?

SABATO: I think the rule is that if Bill Clinton could get away with the things that he did while sitting in the Oval Office as president, then it's very, very difficult to force other politicians out of a campaign or out of office when they also fall victim to sexual indiscretions.

COOPER: Public opinion is clear on the issue. In a recent Gallup poll, 91 percent of Americans said cheating on your spouse is morally wrong. But does it really matter to voters?

John McCain and Rudy Giuliani had their own marital problems, and both are leading presidential candidates in '08.

SABATO: What people say and how they vote are often two different things. No doubt, most people believe that extramarital affairs are immoral, but it's also true that they have very low expectations of most politicians. So they'll accept a lot from politics, because they've had a lot of experience with politicians.

COOPER: They may not forget, but at least these days, voters seem more willing to forgive.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (on camera): Senator Vitter says his wife has forgiven him.

But back in 2000, Wendy Vitter told Newhouse News Service that she could not be as forgiving as Hillary Clinton or other political wives if her husband were unfaithful. She said back then, quote, "I'm a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary. If he does something like that, I'm walking away with one thing, and it's not alimony, trust me."

Up next, our CNN hero. He's a soldier who served in Iraq and continued to be a hero when he came home, when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Throughout this year CNN has been introducing people who take that extra step to make a big difference in their communities and maybe even the world. We call them CNN heroes.

The person you're about to meet is a hero two times over. He first became one by risking his life as a soldier in Iraq. What he did next went well beyond the call of duty, however.

Scott Southworth is tonight's CNN hero.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCOTT SOUTHWORTH, CNN HERO: No soldier goes to war with the expectation of coming home and adopting an orphan from the war zone.

My name is Major Scott Harold Southworth. I'm a member of the Wisconsin Army National Guard and the proud father of an Iraqi orphan by the name of Ala'a.

(BEGIN GRAPHIC) There are tens of thousands of orphans in Iraq.

Ala'a has cerebral palsy and was found abandoned on the streets of Baghdad by Iraqi police when he was about three years old.

Source: UNICEF

(END GRAPHIC)

SOUTHWORTH: My soldiers and I volunteered at the Mother Theresa Orphanage in Baghdad, Iraq. I did not choose Ala'a, Ala'a chose me.

When the sisters informed me that they were going to have to move him to the government orphanage, I instantly told them I would adopt him.

There were a number of obstacles to bring him to the United States. Not having enough money, not having a stable enough career, not having a wife.

But I could not, as a Christian man, walk away from that little boy. It really was a step of faith for me to just put that in action.

He's my little boy.

ALA'A: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

SOUTHWORTH: No, I know you are. OK.

It's been about two and a half years since I picked Ala'a up in Baghdad.

He's learning how to walk. He's doing addition and subtraction. He's learning to read the English language. He's just a brilliant little boy.

He's limited by some of the things he can do physically. But I never treat Ala'a as though he's disabled.

ALA'A: I love you, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

SOUTHWORTH: I love you too, my buddy.

(BEGIN GRAPHIC)

On June 4, 2007, Scott was granted legal adoption of Ala'a and the two officially became father and son.

(END GRAPHIC)

SOUTHWORTH: Ala'a is so much more a blessing to me than I am to him.

I felt a ton of sympathy for Ala'a when I was in Iraq, but Ala'a didn't need my sympathy. What he needed was some action.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: A remarkable man. Logon to CNN.com/heroes to learn more about Scott Southworth or to nominate someone you think is a hero and deserves special recognition.

Still to come tonight, your thoughts on the Iraq war, in particular the troop buildup and whether you think it's working. We'll read some of your comments when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: "On the Radar" tonight, we asked you whether you think the troop buildup in Iraq is working. Here are some of your responses:

Lorie Ann in Buellton, California, writes: I think it's not up to us to play arm chair quarterback. If the surge fails or succeeds, it will be on the word of the commanders on the ground that I will honor.

Jason in Houston, Texas, counters that, saying: Why are we saying that it's up to the generals and commanders to dictate when to withdraw troops? It was the politicians who started this war. They should be the ones to call off this war.

T. Balin in Atlanta, writes: Is the surge working? When you land in quicksand you're either sucked under or you have to be pulled out. We're now up to our necks.

And Robert from the Caribbean writes: If you want U.S. troops out of Iraq so badly, why don't you call for troops to come home from Germany and South Korea as well, they have a stable democracy. So it's about body bags. It's OK to stay in other countries as long as no one dies.

As always, we welcome your comments. Logon to CNN.com/360blog.

For our international viewers, "CNN TODAY" is coming up next. Here in America, "LARRY KING" is next.

See you tomorrow.

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