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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

California Supreme Court Gives Ruling on Gay Marriage; Planet in Peril - The Decline of Salmon Fisheries; President Bush Attacks Barack Obama; The Death Toll Rises in China's Earthquake

Aired May 15, 2008 - 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: In a 4-3 decision, filling 120 pages, the California Supreme Court struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage, calling it unconstitutional and making California the second state after Massachusetts to allow gay couples to marry. By this afternoon, gay and lesbian couples had already started lining up at San Francisco City Hall to make appointments to get marriage licenses but the battle is not over.
Plans to undo today's landmark decision are under way in California and nationwide. We'll get to all of that shortly.

But first, the history that was made today. Here's Ted Rowlands.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: People cheered outside the San Francisco courthouse, jubilant over the 4-3 decision that paves the way for same-sex marriage in California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're so excited.

KATE KENDELL, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL CENTER FOR LESBIAN RIGHTS: We won! We won! And there is not a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person in this country that is not better off because we won.

ROWLANDS: The state Supreme Court rocked the national debate over same-sex marriage, calling it a "basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite sex couples." The ruling's sweeping reach surprised many as the court went well beyond the immediate question of mere limited civil union.

And not everyone is celebrating. Same-sex marriage opponents are vowing to change the state's constitution; in effect, overturning the court's ruling.

RANDY THOMASSON, PRESIDENT, CAMPAIGN FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES: This is what the California Supreme Court has said: "Children, you have a new role model. Homosexual marriage, aspire to it." This is a disaster.

ROWLANDS: Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has opposed same-sex marriage but today he said in a statement - quote "I respect the court's decision and as governor I will uphold its ruling. Also, as I have said in the past, I will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn the state Supreme Court ruling."

The ruling instructs state officials to take action and the mayors of Los Angeles and San Francisco say they are more than ready.

ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, MAYOR OF LOS ANGELES: Individual freedom and liberty defines us, who we are as Californians and Americans. And today that fundamental right has been extended to hundreds of thousands of gay and lesbian Californians.

GAVIN NEWSOM, MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO: As California goes, so goes the rest of the nation. It's inevitable. This door is wide open now. It's going to happen. Whether you like it or not, this is the future and it's now.

ROWLANDS: A celebration for some, a call to arms for others, with many predicting a new debate over an issue that has already deeply divided the nation.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

COOPER: That was Mayor Gavin Newsom from San Francisco. He'll be on the program in just a minute.

Ted joins us now. Can same-sex couples start getting married tomorrow? I mean, when does it take effect? Is it 30 days? I've also heard 90 days.

ROWLANDS: This ruling goes into effect in 30 days. There are people in San Francisco already lined up trying to get an application for it. Apparently, Gavin Newsom, you can ask him yourself, he has extended an invitation to an 87 and 84-year-old couple that have been together for 55 years and asking them if they would like to go first. 30 days and then right away people start getting married.

COOPER: And this is different from Massachusetts because in Massachusetts, it's only couples who have residence in that state. This applies to anyone from the United States can go to California and get married.

ROWLANDS: Right but it wouldn't be recognized in the state of their residency per se but they're welcome to come here to California to tie the knot.

COOPER: Ted Rowlands reporting.

California's highest court went much further than many legal observers thought it would, as Ted mentioned, considering that six of the seven judges who ruled are Republican appointees.

Joining me now to talk about the implications of today's ruling is San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom who set the case in motion four years ago when his city began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. And also joining me now is CNN's senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Mayor Newsom, when you first heard the news, what went through your mind?

NEWSOM: I was ecstatic, exhilarated. Candidly, I didn't know which way it would go. As you said, just a moment ago, six out of seven of these justices were appointed by rather conservative California Republican governors.

So we really didn't know. We knew it was going to be close, a 4- 3 decision was predicted. We didn't know which side of the ledger we would end up on. So it was an extraordinary moment and to see the people outside cheering, hugging, feeling their lives affirmed. It was a very remarkable time.

COOPER: Jeffrey, legally speaking, how significant is this?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This is a major day in American history. This is of course our biggest state, 38 million people live here. Plus, every gay American in the United States can now go to California and get married.

It is not clear how that will be recognized in their home state. Some states may recognize it, many will not. But it's a complete change in the legal landscape about gay marriage.

COOPER: Mayor Newsom, one of the dissents judging said the issue should be left up to voters. In 2000, Californians voted against this. Is this overruling the will of the people?

NEWSOM: I think it's rather sad that that was suggested. The whole idea of subjecting the minority to the whim of the majority is why we have a constitution and that's to protect the minority.

The fact is it was in 1948 when the California Supreme Court did the right thing and stood on principle against the will of 90 percent of Americans at the time as it related to the ban on interracial marriage.

So the fact is if we subjected it to the whim of the majority, the reality was we probably wouldn't. Even today, I would go so far as to suggest this, perhaps not even have interracial marriage in this country. So I just reject that out of hand.

COOPER: Jeff, what was the court in fact saying? They were saying that gay people not only have a constitutional right to be married but it is better for children of gay couples if the couples are married.

TOOBIN: That's right. They said that marriage is such an important part of American life; it is such an important legal right that it is impermissible under California law to deprive an entire group of people of that set of rights. So they kind of turned the argument against gay marriage on its head.

COOPER: Proponents say marriage is so important; it's an incredibly important part of society. The judges said, yes, you're right.

TOOBIN: Exactly. And we're not going to take it away from a substantial chunk of people.

COOPER: They also said in the ruling that I read that basically being raised by a gay couple was not any worse than being raised by anybody else.

NEWSOM: That's right.

COOPER: They're saying it's equal.

TOOBIN: And they said that is one reason why you can't wall off these people. You can't wall off gay people as if they are less than equal citizens. Important to emphasize this only applies in California. Other states have their own constitutions and this is not something the Supreme Court will -- the United States Supreme Court will get involved in. This is just California.

COOPER: Mayor Newsom, do you think a new ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage is going to be successful in California?

NEWSOM: No, I don't, for the same reason George Bush tried and failed to do it nationally. You had the courage of leaders like Senator John McCain that recognized the perversity of it. The whole idea that the constitution of the United States would be used to advance a political agenda is absurd.

Take a look at how many times our constitution has been amended, and for what reasons; to abolish slavery, to allow women the right to vote. The reality is the constitution has been amended usually to advance rights, not to deny or reject people's rights. So I think it will be appropriately rejected in the state of California this November.

TOOBIN: But we should point out that every time gay marriage has been on the ballot, the voters have rejected it. So Gavin's and company have their work cut out for them if in fact --

COOPER: Mayor Newsom, we saw in that piece, you said as California goes, so goes the nation. Some folks around the country, when they hear that, are going to be worried. They're going to be concerned by what's happening in California. What do you say to those folks tonight?

NEWSOM: And I respect the differences. Look, I have differences of opinion within my own family, Irish Catholic family. So I do respect those that disagree.

But at the end of the day, look, the sky didn't fall in. The world didn't come to an end in Massachusetts. Marriage as an institution has not ended there either. It's not going to end in California.

The reality is, take a look around. The people that are serving you gas, the people that are in your restaurants serving you, the firefighters, police officers, members of the gay and lesbian community. They're members of a broader community. The fact is, we're all affirmed when their rights and opportunity to live their life out loud is affirmed.

So I think eventually people will come to grips with this and then they'll move on to things that matter more in their lives; health care, education, all of those things that the presidential candidates should be focused on, not this issue yet again.

COOPER: Mayor Gavin Newsom, we appreciate your time tonight. Jeffrey Toobin thanks for explaining to us.

The blogs are overflowing with comments tonight. As always, I'm online throughout the hour. You can join the conversation. Go to cnn.com/360.

Up next, two different views of this ruling. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and columnist Dan Savage, who is gay, married and raising a child will join us.

And later, if you think domestic politics stops at the water's edge, well think again. George Bush goes to Israel and plays the Nazi card apparently against Barack Obama. We've got the "Raw Politics" and the Democratic response.

Also you're going to meet a man who is part bird, part plane and clearly on a high. That is a guy with his invention that allows him to fly. It's one of the coolest inventions we've seen in a long time; bringing the promise to flight to us all.

All that ahead on "360."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: An emotional day in California, as supporters of same- sex marriage celebrated a hard-fought and historic victory.

But, as we have said, not everyone was cheering today's groundbreaking ruling, certainly.

The issue is one of the most deeply divisive in our country, which makes today's news a perfect fit for our new "Nation Divided" segment.

Joining me now is Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, and author of "Personal Faith, Public Policy." He's a staunch opponent of gay marriage. Also joining us, Dan Savage, who's among those celebrating today. He's an author and columnist and is married to his same-sex partner, with whom he's raising an adopted son in Seattle. They were married, by the way, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2005.

Dan, what did today mean for you and your family

DAN SAVAGE, AUTHOR/COLUMNIST: It brought us as a nation one step closer to the full enfranchisement of gay and lesbian citizens towards full equality.

And I'm confident that voters in California will not undo marriages that have been solemnized by the state, civil marriages, not religious marriage -- this is about civil marriage -- come November.

No state that has enacted civil unions or same-sex marriage has repealed that after its -- after the marriages have been approved, because once people see that the demagoguery of organizations like the Family Research Council, once they see IT what it is, and that gay couples are not a threat, and we're not coming for your wedding albums, and we're not coming to pee in the batter of your wedding cake, it's harder for groups like the Family Research Council to paint gay marriage as a threat.

It is not a threat to same-sex marriage -- to opposite-sex marriage.

COOPER: Tony, your group -- Tony, your group today said -- and I quote -- "This decision puts marriage at risk all across the nation."

How do you think it does that?

TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: What it does -- as you were talking earlier in the legal panel, unlike Massachusetts, what this -- what California does, it does not have a residency requirement. So, couples can come from other parts of the country, marry in California, go back to their home states, and challenge their state to recognize their same-sex marriage.

And, even if they have a state constitutional amendment, which 27 states have constitutional amendments defining marriage -- about 12 others have statutory definitions -- eventually, this is going to fast-track -- or it's going to fast-track A challenge to the Federal Defense of Marriage Act in four states.

COOPER: But how does two guys or two women getting married to each other, how does that threaten a heterosexual marriage?

PERKINS: Well, Anderson, it's a good question, because just about three weeks ago, a report came out of the U.K. that says that marriage has reached a 150-year low. And the reason is because of the redefinition of marriage through the same-sex unions that have been created there.

And it's the same thing in other parts of Europe, where we have seen same-sex marriage advance. It has devalued the institution of marriage. And, therefore, people have put off marriage.

And the same thing when the benefits are doled out in other ways besides simply to married couples. So, it does have an effect upon the currency of marriage. And it's the social currency which makes the community work.

COOPER: Dan, what do you say to that? California already had a strong domestic partnership law that gives gay couples almost all the benefits of marriage. Why -- why wasn't that enough?

SAVAGE: Mr. Perkins is half right.

When you create parallel institutions, like a domestic partner, when you create marriage-lite (ph), to be fair, you have to also allow heterosexuals to enter into these marriage-lite arrangements, which has happened in Europe.

So, in Europe, to accommodate gay and lesbian couples, who exist and need to be accommodated in the law, or relationships need to be respected, a lot of countries, because they're afraid of fully enfranchising their gay citizens, unlike Spain, unlike the Netherlands, the U.K. has civil partnership pacts.

And those do create an alternative to full marriage. It's the much more conservative position to make full legal marriage open to couples who are gay and couples who are straight and not to create parallel institutions that have to be open to all, so that marriage still is the high bar that you have to clear. It's still a serious commitment, something you have to think about. And there isn't sort of a marriage-lite on the books for everyone.

I agree with Mr. Perkins there, that marriage-lite is bad. And the way to avoid marriage-lite and destabilizing marriage and its seriousness is to make full marriage rights available to all, so we're not creating these parallel institutions to accommodate gay couples.

COOPER: Tony -- Tony, back in 1948, interracial marriage was illegal in California. I just read a Gallup poll. Something like 94 percent of Americans were opposed to interracial marriage. They didn't believe that blacks and whites should be able to marry each other.

This same court in California in 1948 said, that's wrong. People talk about activist judges. Isn't the role of the court to protect all of us from unfair and unequal laws?

PERKINS: Well, yes, absolutely. And there is a history of that within the courts.

But, you see, this is different. It's very different between interracial marriage, because interracial marriage did not redefine marriage. Marriage was still between a man and a woman. This redefines marriage.

COOPER: Wouldn't folks back then that it did redefine marriage?

PERKINS: No. No. I mean, it does not re...

SAVAGE: We have been redefining marriage for 5,000 years. The problem with the comments on same-sex marriage is that straight people have redefined marriage to an extent now that it no longer makes any logical sense to exclude same-sex couples from the benefits.

PERKINS: It's still between a man and a woman.

You have to ask, if a court can redefine the gender of those who can marry, they can take the next step and redefine the number of people that can marry. So, the next knock -- the next group knocking at the door will be the polygamists.

SAVAGE: Which should be debated on its merits.

PERKINS: Well, and so should this. It should be debated through the legislative process. This is an egregious example of judicial activism, where the court...

SAVAGE: The California court legislature has twice...

COOPER: Let him finish his point. And then I will give you a chance to respond.

PERKINS: Yes, but, look, the legislature, it's a whole process. This has to go all the way through. The governor has to sign it. That hasn't happened.

At least in Massachusetts, which was a bad decision there as well, but they forced the legislature at least into being a participant in this process.

COOPER: So, Tony, you're saying the will of the people is against this, and you're going to prove it in a ballot initiative?

PERKINS: Well, in 2000, in the presidential election, 61 percent of voters said they want to define marriage between a man and woman. They just gathered over 1.1 million signatures to put this on the ballot.

COOPER: Do you think you can overturn it in California?

PERKINS: Oh, I think it is going to pass. Polling data suggests, in California today, that the vast majority of Californians do not believe marriage should be redefined.

COOPER: OK.

Dan, your point is that the legislature in California has twice said same-sex marriage should be legal. The governor has vetoed it.

SAVAGE: Twice legalized it.

Now the Supreme Court has legalized it. The governor has said he will not support the initiative to repeal it.

And the reason why groups like the Family Research Council want to lock in anti-same-sex couple animus into state constitutions is because they're losing this battle. Polling data shows now that California is tied, that gay -- support for gay marriage is a little above anti-support.

PERKINS: No, it's over 60 percent.

SAVAGE: It was over 60 percent eight years ago. There's been a lot of change culturally in eight years.

PERKINS: Kids need a mom and a dad.

Look, I can give you 9.5 million reasons why traditional marriage should be defended. And it's the 9.5 million children living in California. Kids need a mom and a dad. And the social science shows that.

SAVAGE: What about the children who have moms and moms and dads and dads? There are couples who are gay and lesbian who are raising children.

PERKINS: There are some. I give you that.

SAVAGE: ... as deserving of the protections of marriage as anyone else's children.

You're saying that my child should be punished, so that straight people straighten up and fly right.

PERKINS: No.

COOPER: I want to give each of you a final thought, because we're out of time, so I want to just to be fair to give each of you a final thought.

Tony?

PERKINS: I would say we don't make public policy based upon individual cases. You make it on what is best for the whole of society. And social science is very clear on this, that children do best with a mom and a dad.

COOPER: OK.

Dan?

SAVAGE: That's simply not true. And anyone can spend five seconds on Google and learn that all objective, scientifically valid studies of same-sex couples show that children being raised by same- sex couples are no more disadvantaged than children raised by opposite-sex couples.

Our children do just as well. They're just as well-adjusted socially as children raised -- what matters is having two loving parents or a qualified loving single parent in the home, not having opposite-sex parents.

PERKINS: That's worthy of another debate.

SAVAGE: And that's just an uncomfortable fact.

COOPER: I have got to go there.

Tony Perkins, Dan Savage, appreciate both of your comments on this. It was a good discussion. Thank you very much.

PERKINS: Thank you.

COOPER: Up next, "Planet in Peril," where are all the salmon going? There's a lot more than dinner riding on the answer. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: There are plenty of fish in the sea, that's how the saying goes. The reality though, in our "Planet in Peril," is different. Today Congress lawmakers began hearings on the decline of salmon fisheries. Tonight a look at the impact on everything from the Pacific eco-system to the men and women whose livelihoods depend on it.

More from CNN's Dan Simon.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The future of salmon begins right here at what you might call a fish factory. Most wild salmon are born in man-made hatcheries like this one. In California, they were built in the 1950s to offset the creation of dams.

Today, the role they play is more vital than ever, for an entire species and an industry that depends on it. For the first time ever, salmon fishing has been outlawed off the west coast this year and probably next year too.

RUSS OTT, COMMERCIAL FISHERMAN: We don't have an 8:00 to 5:00 job. We have to work for our money. And when you take that away from working people, man, you've stabbed us in the heart.

SIMON: The government tracks the number of salmon by counting how many come back to their native fresh waters to spawn, or reproduce. In 2002, about 800,000 salmon returned to California rivers; a banner year. But last year, officials say the number dropped to only 90,000.

DICK POOL, SPORT FISHING REPRESENTATIVE: It's almost a total collapse of a fish that's been a mainstay for decades.

SIMON: There is universal agreement the numbers are dangerously low. And most fishermen will tell you they agree with canceling the season. But what caused the salmon to decline, well, that has sparked an angry debate.

Fishermen say it's a pumping problem. Too much water in recent years taken out of California rivers for drinking water and farm irrigation. But government officials say poor ocean conditions, including pollution, are to blame.

Everyone is hoping the fish hatcheries will succeed in bringing the salmon back. In the meantime, some fishermen are headed north.

OTT: I just got to move on to the next fishing hole that's open, which is in Alaska.

SIMON: But others who don't want to be away from their families are headed to the dock, to look for other jobs.

Dan Simon, CNN, San Francisco.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

COOPER: Still ahead: President Bush attacks somebody. And it sure sounded like he was talking about Barack Obama, even suggesting he would have negotiated with Hitler.

Obama and top Democrats fired back, didn't hold back. We have got all the "Raw Politics."

Also ahead: John McCain's presidential plan for Iraq sounded to some like a timeline for troop withdrawal to some. But was it? We're "Keeping Them Honest" next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, Barack Obama got a clear message today of what to expect if he's going to be his party's choice for president. And it was delivered halfway around the world from the current commander-in- chief.

President Bush used his historic address before the Israeli parliament to launch a thinly-veiled attack against Obama, suggesting he would negotiate with terrorists and radicals.

It was blunt and just the beginning of what is now a growing war of words between the White House and the Obama campaign.

We have the "Raw Politics" from Suzanne Malveaux.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It was an extraordinary moment: President Bush in Israel before their parliament, suggesting Barack Obama and some of his fellow Democrats favor appeasing terrorists, rather than fight them.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals.

MALVEAUX: Then going one step further by comparing them to Western leaders who had once appeased Hitler.

BUSH: We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided." We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.

MALVEAUX: White House Press Secretary Dana Perino adamantly denied the president was talking about Obama. But White House aides privately acknowledged to CNN, Mr. Bush's remarks were, in part, aimed at the presidential candidate.

Obama's communications director, Robert Gibbs, immediately fired back. (BEGIN AUDIOCLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Obviously this is an unprecedented political attack on foreign soil. It's quite frankly sad and astonishing that the president of the United States would politicize the 60th anniversary of Israel with a false political attack.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: In a statement released by his campaign, Obama said: "George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists."

Obama's allies were a bit more blunt.

(BEGIN AUDIOCLIP)

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: This is bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED). This is malarkey. This is outrageous.

(END AUDIOCLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It's beneath the dignity of the office of president.

MALVEAUX: And this from his rival, Hillary Clinton.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Bush's comparison of any Democrat to Nazi appeasers is both offensive and outrageous.

MALVEAUX: Behind all the heated rhetoric is a red-hot political debate over which candidate's approach to national security would make America safer.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them -- which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration -- is ridiculous.

MALVEAUX: Obama has said, unlike Mr. Bush, Hillary Clinton or John McCain, he would be willing to sit down and talk to the leaders of Iran, Syria and North Korea, without preconditions, to help ease hostilities with those nations.

Some Jewish-Americans are concerned Obama would also meet with the terrorist group Hamas, which Obama has flatly denied.

OBAMA: We should not meet with them until they recognize Israel, until they cease terrorist activities.

MALVEAUX: Nevertheless, the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain, charged recently, Obama was Hamas' favorite candidate.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's just a fact that Hamas, apparently the North American spokesperson is endorsing Senator Obama.

MALVEAUX: And, today, while McCain wouldn't go so far as calling Obama someone who appeases terrorists, he did accuse him of being inexperienced and naive for being open to meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

MCCAIN: ... an individual who leads a country that says -- and says that Israel is a stinking corpse, that is dedicated to the extinction of the state of Israel. My question is, what does he want to talk about?

MALVEAUX: Obama says he wants to engage in tough, principled, and direct diplomacy to pressure Iran and Syria into engaging in peace.

Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, Chicago.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

COOPER: Well, the dustup between President Bush and Barack Obama certainly stole some thunder from John McCain today.

In what was billed as one of his most important speeches yet, McCain imagined he was president already, looking back on his first term in office. He talked about Iraq, the U.S. military, and Osama bin Laden. And, in doing so, he may have given us the best idea of his plans if elected.

"Keeping Them Honest," here's CNN's Dana Bash.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's 2013. John McCain is finishing his first term in the White House. It's an imaginary time warp the Republican candidate used to lay out sweeping domestic and foreign policy goals, for the first time suggesting a date that troops in Iraq should come home.

MCCAIN: By January 2013, America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom. The Iraq War has been won. Iraq is a functioning democracy.

BASH: That clearly intended as a political antidote to this sound bite already in a Democratic ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... are staying in Iraq for 50 years.

MCCAIN: Maybe 100.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that -- is that...

MCCAIN: We've been in South Korea and Japan for 60 years. BASH: But "Keeping Them Honest," a timeline for withdrawal is a stunning departure for McCain, who slams Democrats for wanting to prematurely surrender and used this same tactic against then- Republican rival Mitt Romney in the primaries.

MCCAIN: He said that he wanted a timetable for withdrawal. That would have meant disaster.

BASH: Aboard his bus, we joined other reporters in pressing McCain about the withdrawal date. He repeatedly insisted he is not following Democrats in setting an arbitrary timetable.

MCCAIN: It could be next month; it could be next year; it could be three years from now; it could be. But I'm confident we will have victory.

BASH: Democrats quickly jumped on McCain's benchmark to win in Iraq in four years, equating it to the president's infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech.

But that kind of optimistic yet politically risky prediction about first-term achievements wasn't limited to Iraq.

By 2013, McCain also said he envisioned Osama bin Laden captured or killed; Iran and North Korea's nuclear programs abandoned. And on the domestic front, economic prosperity and a streamlined tax code.

In what is likely to reignite skepticism among conservatives, McCain called for a guest worker program for illegal immigrants. Aides say that dovetails with what McCain calls his core campaign promise: the end of hyper-partisanship.

MCCAIN: This mindless, paralyzing rancor must come to an end.

BASH: And McCain gave some specifics: promising to put Democrats in his administration and offering to go to Congress for British-style sessions of questions and criticism.

McCain is trying to make the case that Barack Obama may talk about change, but he's the first to offer details on how to achieve it.

Dana Bash, CNN, Columbus, Ohio.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

COOPER: Coming up, we'll dig deeper on McCain's predictions. And a post-Nazi bombshell, some are calling it. Plenty to talk about with our political panel ahead.

And stunning video from the epicenter of China's earthquake where the struggle to save victims is heart-wrenching.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL NEELY, ITV CORRESPONDENT: The only thing in this city that is as it was is its name. Every single building here has been toppled, and the whole place will simply have to be demolished. This city is history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I think that Barack Obama needs to explain why he wants to sit down and talk with a man who's the head of a government that's a state sponsor of terror, that is responsible for the killing of brave young Americans, that wants to wipe Israel off the map and denies the Holocaust. That's what I think that Senator Obama ought to explain to the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: John McCain after being asked if Barack Obama is an appeaser. McCain says he wants to know why Obama would use diplomacy with Iran, a country whose president wants to see Israel destroyed. You can expect to hear plenty more of this argument in the general election. We're digging deeper tonight on McCain's comments and the president's.

Joining me are CNN senior political analyst David Gergen; former Civil Rights Commission chair in the Clinton administration, Mary Frances Berry; and Republican strategist Ed Rollins.

Mary, Obama seems eager to fight McCain on this issue of diplomacy and discussions with enemies. Does McCain risk linking himself too closely with President Bush on this?

MARY FRANCES BERRY, FORMER CHAIR, CIVIL RIGHTS COMMISSION: Well, today was a great day for political theater, Anderson, but it didn't shed much light on anything at all. All three of the people -- McCain, Obama, and Bush -- were plain wrong.

We know that Bush already negotiates with terrorists: Iran, North Korea, Sudan. If McCain ever becomes president, he's going to have to negotiate with Iran, if we're ever going to get out of Iraq, because of the mess they've created.

Obama said that he would meet with the Iranian president without preconditions. He said today that, in fact, he has never engaged with terrorists or wanted to engage with terrorists. That's not really true, because the Iranian president is a terrorist, according to what we define. And also, if he's president, he's got to negotiate.

I think McCain is not so much tying himself to Bush. He's his own man, and he's got his own problems with Iraq and with foreign policy. And no one should want to be with Bush, with his approval ratings down so low. We can all kick him around.

COOPER: Ed, is this all just political theater? And if so, who does it benefit and who does it hurt? ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think it is political theater. The president is not necessarily a help to John McCain. And I think when you use words like "Nazi" and "appeaser," or what have you, I think to a certain extent, it diminishes.

I think there's a very legitimate debate that you can have about what kind of foreign policy Barack Obama will have, what kind of foreign policy and experience John McCain will have. That's very legitimate.

I think that the president ought to basically be out trying to still fix this -- fix this economy in the few months he has remaining, have a better relationship with Congress, if at all possible, and raise as much money as he can for the Republican Party.

COOPER: David, does it surprise you -- I mean, how unusual is it for a sitting president to go overseas and, in a foreign setting, take a domestic political shot?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I can't remember as brazen a political shot by a president overseas and a political race back home. And especially going to Israel and talking about Hitler, that had a poignance that I think made it an especially jagged kind of criticism.

Overall, I must say, Anderson, I think that what Bush did today and what John McCain did today was a gift to Barack Obama. Because Barack Obama has wanted to pivot out of this long struggle with Hillary Clinton and to get over to the issue -- the issue differences with John McCain, including national security. And not let John McCain do as well as he's been doing on his record of valor and his long experience in national security, as Ed Rollins just pointed out, but to actually engage him on the issues.

And on this issue of talking to other countries, I think for goodness sakes, the Bush administration, after not talking a long time, claims as one of its proudest accomplishments that it got Qadhafi and Libya to give up its nuclear aspirations, its nuclear ambitions. How did they do that? They did that through diplomacy.

This was a terrorist state that sponsored -- you know, that brought down airplanes. You know, they eventually decided to negotiate with North Korea after the North Koreans began building up nuclear capabilities.

You know, so there's -- Barack Obama, as long as he's careful about this, as long as he's -- you know, as long as he's much more precise than he was during the early stages of the campaign, I think actually has a very good set of arguments to make here.

And to get George W. Bush into the middle of his campaign, from his point of view, is a gift.

BERRY: I think, too, Anderson, that -- I agree with David that Obama chose to pick this fight with Bush over what he said. Since Bush didn't mention him, he chose to say, "I want to go mano-a-mano with Bush on this, because I'm the nominee now. I've decided that the campaign for the nomination is over, and I'm going to go head to head with him on this."

But I think where he ended up, though, with his statement about he would never engage with terrorists, that's just wrong. Any administration has to engage, not with the president doing it, but with the people, they have to engage to get us out of these messes.

COOPER: It's interesting. Back -- a lot's being made about alleged hypocrisy of President Bush, that you have the -- Defense Secretary Gates back in 2004, in a paper, talks about the importance of relations with Iran. He said, "The United States' long lack of contact with and presence in Iran drastically impedes its understanding of domestic, as well as regional, dynamics. In turn, this reduces Washington's influence across the Middle East. Dialogue between the United States and Iran need not await absolute harmony between the two governments -- between the two governments."

That was back in 2004. He says the situation has changed, Ed. Ahmadinejad is now in power, and it's a different situation. But is there a little hypocrisy?

ROLLINS: The major part that's changed is he was president of Texas A&M, I think, when he made that statement. Now he's Secretary of Defense. So that changes it.

I don't think -- I don't think anybody should tie their hands when they're basically -- through a campaign, arguing about what they should do with foreign policy.

We're in a very complicated world today, and I think to a certain extent McCain obviously has the experience. He has some very smart people around him. He needs to argue what he can do, sort of laying out a timetable of how to get troops out of there and win this battle by the end of a term.

Obviously, to contrast that with Barack's inexperience and the team -- of lack of team around him. I think that's -- but to tie your hands and say, "I will never do this," as we've often found, "no new taxes," these kinds of promises that you make in the course of a campaign, sometimes come back to haunt you.

GERGEN: Yes. Anderson, let me make one other point. John McCain, I think, did not do himself any favors today on Iraq. But overall, that was an admirable speech. It really was one of the few times we've had a presidential candidate early in a campaign try to draw together the main strands of what his presidency would be like and try to weave it together.

And he -- you know, he had given these preceding speeches on the environment and the like. And this time he brought it all together.

And if you look at it overall, I have to say I think it was a commendable effort to lay out a vision. There are elements of it that are going to give Democrats a chance to pounce. But we need a speech with as much precision from Barack Obama, sooner rather than later. BERRY: And to give him his due, McCain didn't say that the troops would be there until 2013 or they would come out that year. He said by the end of that time they would come out of Iraq. That's what he said.

COOPER: We're going to have to leave it there. Mary Frances Berry, always good to have you on. David Gergen, Ed Rollins, as well, thank you. Good conversation.

A lot of conversation about this on our blog, as well: cnn.com/360. That's the address to join in.

Coming up tonight, a 360 dispatch from that school in China where today a heartbreaking rescue operation entered a sad new chapter. This is a report you will not want to miss.

And later, a teenager's suicide and the alleged connection to a grown-up neighbor and MySpace. New developments tonight: charges in the case, criminal charges, when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: The images out of China are simply staggering. The Chinese government now predicts the death toll from Monday's quake could rise to 50,000. More than 4 million homes have been destroyed or damaged; four million.

China's president flew into the area today, promising more help as incoming roads finally became clear enough for aid convoys to travel. But the simple and terrible fact that became very clear today is that thousands and thousands of people buried in the rubble are now beyond help.

ITV's Bill Neely filed this 360 dispatch from what was once a school in the quake zone. When we watched it in the office today, we were speechless. We should warn you the images are tough to take and will be difficult to forget.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

NEELY: If there is a worst place in the world today, then, this is it. A school where the children can still be seen in their classrooms. But they are all, hundreds of them, dead. Half dug out, trapped in masonry, twisted, crushed.

The workers lift what rubble they can. But the teenagers are almost fixed in the broken concrete.

Just behind me here, there are seven bodies, uncovered in quite a confined space that used to be a classroom. Two are adults. One seems almost to be trying to protect the child, and the second one seems almost to be trying to carry the child away from danger.

It's a terrible scene. This whole place is absolutely ghastly. And this is one of more than 50 classrooms in this school. It was the newest building in the city, but its cheap materials broke the law on earthquake safety. With hundreds of children dead, the penalty for the builders may be execution.

A few miles from so much death, life is pulled from the earth. Trapped for three days, a woman is lifted free. They clean her, and ask her, "Are there any more people inside?"

"Yes, two," she says.

"Are they alive?"

"Yes," she says, "they're still talking."

We find another survivor, an old man, scarcely able to believe he's alive. But we find scores of dead along the road, many here crushed by the giant boulders of a landslide.

The ruins of Beichuan are still smoking. And people are still crying out for relatives. And the question here is: how do you find anybody alive in all this?

You call for quiet, and you shout into the rubble, "Knock if you can hear us." Deep down, someone knocks.

He could be 10 feet, 20 feet down. It's a very subtle but consistent sound when he knocks.

Nearby, there's a shrouded body in the rubble. But there are at least 8,000 buried underneath it.

The only thing in this city that is as it was is its name. Every single building here has been toppled, and the whole place will simply have to be demolished. This city is history.

After such terror, few want to come back. They fled to a stadium in another city, 10,000 already. And in the grounds, the women weep. Grief and guilt over the dead children they've left behind. This is the worst thing that's happened to China in 30 years, a national tragedy and 100,000 personal traumas.

Bill Neely, ITV news, Beichuan.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

COOPER: All those children are simply gone.

Up next on 360, a major new development in this case that some have dubbed the MySpace suicide that could send the woman at the center of it all to prison. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Still ahead, "The Shot." If you've ever dreamed of flying, this may be as close as any human has ever gotten. A really cool new invention, I must say. I want to try it. But first, Erica Hill joins us with a "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, charges today in the so-called MySpace suicide. In 2006, 13-year-old Megan Meier hanged herself after an online love interest allegedly told her the world would be better off without her. That teenage boy, though, never existed.

Well, today Lori Drew, who is the woman accused of creating this fictitious teen, was indicted on four counts for her alleged role in that hoax.

An emergency measure to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan failed in the House today, over Republican objections to tax add-ons. Although both parties did agree on the new GI bill, which would give college scholarships to veterans.

Rising gas prices could have one upside: fewer people on the roads this Memorial Day weekend. AAA estimates this will be the first decline for the holiday travel since 2002. Last Memorial Day, by the way, a gallon of gas was about 68 cents less than today's average of $3.78.

COOPER: Wow. All right.

Time now for the "Beat 360" competition. Every day we post a picture on our blog, we challenge you to come up with a caption that beats our 360 staff. We play this cheesy music.

Tonight's picture, Republican presidential candidate John McCain seen touring the Ohio waste recycling plant with Guy Wolfenbarger, in case you're wondering. Our staff winner, Joey, who quipped, "I think your bearings are in that box over there, Senator."

Tonight's viewer winner is Bud, who chimed in with the caption, "Yes, Senator, I'm glad to help. We keep these" -- oh. "Yes, Senator, I'm glad to help. We keep those old recycled ideas over here."

Timing, timing, it's all about the timing.

As always, you can check out our captions from your fellow viewers by going to cnn.com/360 and clicking on our blog.

"The Shot" is next. Chuck Yeager may have had the right stuff. This guy has the right wings. We'll show you more on his historic flight when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Time now for tonight's "Shot." Who needs Iron Man, Erica, when you have a real-life rocket man? How cool is this video?

This is a Swiss pilot with a jet engine strapped to his wings. He drops out of a plane, like a Cessna. HILL: Wild.

COOPER: The wings come out, and he starts to fly. He's 48 years old. He invented this whole thing. He flies 180 miles per hour. He's now planning on flying over the English Channel. And then basically, he just, like, retracts the wings, and a parachute pops out and he lands safely.

HILL: He's got an actual engine on his back? Like, "instead of a backpack, I've got an engine and some wings."

COOPER: Yes. And he doesn't have to, like, steer or anything. He just kind of, like...

HILL: He goes with the winds?

COOPER: He just, like, moves his shoulder like, as you would imagine what it would be like if you had wings.

HILL: You just have to think about where you're going and it goes.

COOPER: It's one of those -- it's like one of those new-fangled toys the kids play with, the "Y-E." What are those things called?

HILL: The Wii?

COOPER: Wii, exactly. I don't know.

HILL: It does have two "i's." It's not the "I-I."

COOPER: I don't know -- I don't know. I don't know from the video games.

HILL: ... before.

COOPER: The kids all love the Wii, the "Y." Not sure.

All right. You can see all the most recent "Shots" on our Web site, cnn.com/360. You can also see other segments from the program. You can play video games there like the...

HILL: Like on the "Y"?

COOPER: The "Y"? Is it the "Y"?

HILL: No, it's the Wii.

COOPER: OK, sorry. CNN...

HILL: I don't think they have them at the "Y."

COOPER: I'm going to start my own thing called the Wii.

For our international viewers, "CNN Today" is next. Here in America, Larry King is coming up. Thanks for watching. I'll see you tomorrow night.