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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Sleaze in the Senate; President Obama Considers New Economic Recovery Plan
Aired October 6, 2009 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight: sleaze in the Senate.
Senator John Ensign, he's admitted an affair with a former campaign staffer. But now it's what he allegedly did to help his former mistress' husband after the affair was over that is raising red flags. Senator Ensign has been silent. Tonight, we track him down.
Also tonight, "Raw Politics": President Obama's new stimulus plan. The White House won't call it that, but they're trying to figure out how to create new jobs and help the unemployed before the midterm elections. Is this an admission the first stimulus failed? James Carville and Ari Fleischer square off.
And, later, "Crime & Punishment": a child caught in the crossfire on Chicago's bloody streets, now partially paralyzed. Plenty of people seem to know who did it, so how come his shooter is still at large? The fear of being labeled a snitch stopping justice in its tracks.
First up tonight, new developments in the sex scandal that shattered the image Nevada Senator and social conservative John Ensign once depended on. In June, the two-term Republican admitted he had a long-term affair with a woman on his staff, Cynthia Hampton. She's the wife of Ensign's former chief of staff, Douglas Hampton. Both families have been friends for years.
We also learned months ago how it took an intervention by several conservative lawmakers to force Ensign to end the affair. And Ensign's parents gave the Hamptons nearly $100,000 as a tax-free gift after the affair ended.
So, sleazy, yes, hypocritical, yes, but now there are allegations of payoffs and a massive cover-up. Just days ago, "The New York Times" reported the senator helped his mistress' husband, this man, Douglas Hampton, find a lobbying job in Nevada and also lined up clients for him. Hampton then lobbied Ensign on behalf of those clients.
All of this, according to "the Times," happened immediately after leaving the senator's staff. And that's where it could get dicey for the senator, because congressional ethics rules bar former aides from lobbying a former boss for one year after leaving their posts.
So, the question, did Senator Ensign breach those rules? He has not talked publicly about these explosive allegations until today. Dana Bash spent the day keeping him honest. She tracked down the senator, spoke to him exclusively. She joins me now, along with Joe Johns and Melanie Sloan from Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
So, Dana, let's start with you.
The senator has been able to keep a pretty low profile since all this started swirling around, right?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually, in the past several weeks, Anderson, he has started to publicly engage more, taking a more active role, for example in, the health care debate.
But when that explosive "New York Times" article came out, the senator was nowhere to be found. Well, we did find him today coming right out of his office. And we asked him that key question, whether he tried to cover up his affair and contain the damage. And, when he did, did he break the rules or even the law?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R), NEVADA: You can just see our statements on that. I think -- I think it's pretty clear.
I said in the past, I recommended him for jobs, just like I have recommended a lot of people. But we absolutely did nothing except for comply exactly with what the ethics laws and the ethics rules of the Senate state. We were very careful in everything that we did, and you can see our statements on that.
BASH: Do you have any indication that the Justice Department is going to investigate?
ENSIGN: We only plan on -- we are going to cooperate with any official inquiries. But as you all know, you can't comment on any of this stuff, on any of those kinds of things.
BASH: Well, you can tell us if you've gotten any calls from the Justice Department or your lawyer has.
ENSIGN: Let me state this very carefully. We will cooperate with any official inquiry. OK?
BASH: Senator, why was it so important to get Doug Hampton those jobs?
ENSIGN: Just look at our statements. Just look at our statements. It's very clear on that. OK?
BASH: Is there any chance -- is there any chance that you -- are you considering resigning?
ENSIGN: I am focused on doing my work. And I'm going to continue to focus on doing my work. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Melanie, how serious are these allegations, in terms of lobbying, against the senator?
MELANIE SLOAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: These are very serious allegations.
In 2006, former Congressman Bob Ney from Ohio pleaded guilty to exactly this kind of offense, conspiring with a former chief of staff then, Neil Volz, to violate the lobbying laws. And this is exactly the kind of thing that could send Senator Ensign to jail.
COOPER: Joe, you have actually got, what, some e-mails between Hampton and the senator? What do you have?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, this is a fascinating paper trail actually provided to us by "The New York Times."
"The New York Times" got a bunch of documents, including an e- mail he wrote last July to Ensign complaining about the way things were going. This is Doug Hampton to Senator Ensign.
And he wrote: "At your request and design, I left your organization to save your reputation and career. And mine has been ruined. I have kindly and without question accepted your decision- making in this process, and you have not held up any part of your responsibility. What clients are you working on currently to get my income back to where I was when I was asked to leave by you?"
JOHNS: ... that -- that gives you some sense of this man who left the office of the senator apparently because the senator wanted him out due to the fact that he had had an affair with this man's wife.
And then he's out there in the middle of the picture saying, you haven't done enough for me. There's also some money that changed hands, Anderson. You know about that, a $96,000 check that was apparently written by the parents of the senator.
COOPER: That's the actual check right there?
JOHNS: Right. There it is. That's it right there.
COOPER: So, now, why would his parents -- I mean, a senator's parents give $96,000 to a former employee of the senator, if it was -- if it's not some sort of payoff, or keep-quiet money?
JOHNS: Well, the family -- certainly a dispute there, Anderson. The family calls it a gift to the Hampton family, out of concern for a longtime family friend during a difficult time. The congressional watchdogs, of course, have questioned -- or apparently are looking into whether, given the senator's position, that check was appropriate.
It's also important to note that there is a clear allegation here that Hampton, in fact, asked originally in some type of a negotiation for something like $8 million. And what we're told is, the senator pretty much rejected that outright.
COOPER: Melanie, how tough is it to prove that -- that lobbying laws have been violated?
SLOAN: I think there's a lot of evidence in this case.
First, Doug Hampton confessed to "The New York Times." He said, first: I didn't register as a lobbyist, even though I know I was supposed to. And, yes, John Ensign and I knew, both, that we were violating the lobbying laws. But we went ahead and did it anyway. We deliberately ignored them.
John Ensign helped John -- helped Doug Hampton solicit clients. He brought in Allegiant Air and Nevada Energy. And then he arranged to sit down and have meetings with those companies. And even further than that, he then called federal officials. And he arranged other meetings for those companies with them.
So, he was constantly engaged in exactly the kind of activities that are prohibited by the lobbying ban. And John Ensign was integral to that. And that's exactly the kind of conduct that's going to get John Ensign charged with conspiracy to violate the lobbying ban.
COOPER: So, Dana, are other GOP senators, I mean, are they rallying around him, or are they kind of freezing him out? I know he -- he resigned from a leadership position.
BASH: They're not calling for his resignation yet, Anderson. But they're not defending him either. I think that they would probably add to what Melanie was saying, is that -- that there should be an allegedly in those statements. They're still waiting for the facts.
But, you know, the reality is that we have been working the halls of the Capitol. We have talked about just -- talked to just about every senator in the Republican leadership about this. And we get one answer: No comment. That's what we get, because the strategy right now inside the Republican leadership is to use the fact that the Senate Ethics Committee is investigating as cover.
And, so, to a person, Republicans Senate leaders told us today that the Ethics Committee should do its work. And that's all they're going to say.
COOPER: All right.
JOHNS: Anderson, one more point...
JOHNS: ... just to make.
The senator has said that any calls he made on behalf of Hampton to help him find a job were recommendation calls. I think it is also make -- important to make that clear, because all the facts aren't out here yet. And who knows how it's going to turn out?
COOPER: And he says: I make recommendation calls for many people. Hampton is just one of them.
Joe Johns, Dana Bash, Melanie Sloan, appreciate your time. Thanks.
So, what do you think about these new allegations and Senator Ensign's response? Join the live chat right now at AC360.com. I'm going to log on in just a moment and read your responses.
Also tonight, is the White House planning a second stimulus? They're not going to call it that, but is that what it is? And is that an acknowledgment that the first stimulus failed? Ari Fleischer and James Carville square off.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you can call it whatever you want. I don't care what they call it, but they're going to have to do something to humanely deal with these people who -- you know, whose jobs have been lost and been lost for a long period of time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And, later, don't ask/don't tell, President Obama has done nothing to fulfill his campaign promise to repeal it, but a new report in a top military journal says the policy does not work and actually hurts the military. We will talk with Dan Choi, a West Point graduate being forced out because he's gay, and Elaine Donnelly, who says gays shouldn't be allowed to serve at all.
COOPER: President Obama and his economic team are facing a serious speed bump on the road to economic recovery, job losses still rising, with unemployment now at a 26-year high and some key unemployment benefits about to expire.
Mr. Obama met yesterday with his economic team to talk about possible solutions. The question is, are they going to have a second stimulus? Now, they're not going to call it that, but is that, in fact, what it is? , if it is, is that an admission the first stimulus failed?
Ari Fleischer and James Carville square off in a second, but, first, Ed Henry has the latest from the White House.
Ed, what do we know about these conversations behind closed doors?
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, my sources are telling me tonight that the White House, led by the president's top economic adviser, Larry Summers, they're putting together a new economic package that they hope will finally jump-start the economy.
What's significant and -- and why it matters is that it will include new unemployment benefits for people who are seeing their benefits run out. It also will include an extension of health benefits for people who have lost their jobs.
And another thing they're talking about behind closed doors is extending the tax credit of $8,000 for first-time homebuyers to try to help clean up the foreclosure mess. Now, the backstory is that top Democrats are telling me that they're not going to call it a second stimulus package, because, mostly, they realize that they're worried about the price tag.
They know the American people have sort of bailout fatigue. They're tired of the government spending a lot of money. The first stimulus package was $787 billion. This one has to be a lot smaller, number one.
And, number two, they're worried, if they were to roll out a second stimulus and call it that, Republicans will immediately charge that shows the first one didn't work. So, they're rushing out a second one -- Anderson.
COOPER: So, is this about the economy, or is this about politics and the midterm elections?
HENRY: I think it's a little bit of both. I mean, the bottom line is that the unemployment rate is now up to 9.8 percent. A lot of people are predicting it's going to go over 10 percent soon.
And the Democrats are looking at the fact that the midterm elections next November could very well be a case where the American people want to take it out on the party in power. And, so, the White House keeps saying, look, we pulled the nation back from the brink of a depression earlier this year.
And that may be true, but the bottom line is, the president promised more than a defensive move. He promised that the first package would actually save or create three million new jobs. It's nowhere near close to that. So, what I'm hearing on the timing of all this is that they're first going to deal with the new Afghanistan policy. That will be announced by the president some time late October or early November.
And then they will officially roll out these new economic proposals. They don't want to rush it, because they realize they only have so many cracks at this. They did one in February, now maybe a second economic package. They can't keep rolling them out. They have got to space them out, and they have got to get it right -- Anderson.
COOPER: Yes, a lot of money being spent.
I know Ari Fleischer and James Carville are champing at the bit to get in on this.
Before we go to them, let's look at the "Raw Data" on the economy.
Chief business correspondent Ali Velshi joins me.
So, Ali, is it good news or bad news? What's the picture?
ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, let's look at this.
This is a consumer economy. And while the consumer feels besieged, the bottom line is, there are three things that are going to make this consumer feel better and reengage and get this economy on track. The first one is the stock market.
Take a look at this. The -- the stimulus package that we had was passed on February 17. Shortly after that, the market -- major markets -- we're looking at the Dow right now, but it's the same thing on the S&P 500.
Let's go back. Oh, we can't go back to that. Bottom line is, that bottomed on March 9 and charged up until -- here we go. We're back -- bottomed on March 9. And see where this market has gone. It's up more than 43 percent since then.
So, if you are looking at markets, the value of your investments going up, as one leg of economic prosperity, you're doing well. Let's take a look at housing, the second leg of this.
Back in February, the average -- the median price of a single- family home was $164,000. Look at how that's gone up. It was down a little bit in August. But the bottom line is, home prices have gone up. Why? Because we have got very low mortgage rates, right now, 4.94 percent for a 30-year fixed mortgage, $8,000 if you're a first- time homebuyer.
Second leg of the economy doing well. Let's look at the final leg. And this one is the most important. It is jobs. Take a look at job losses since the stimulus package was passed. Back in January, 741,000 jobs were lost. That was tremendous.
It's been lessening generally since then. June, we had a bit of an anomaly. Then we started to lose fewer jobs. Now, in September, we have just had reports that there were more jobs lost than expected.
This is where the administration has a problem. This is a consumer economy. The way you feel strong is if you have a job and an income. This is the challenge that the administration still has to meet -- Anderson.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Let's talk about the "Raw Politics" with CNN contributor and Democratic strategist James Carville, and Ari Fleischer, a former press secretary for President George W. Bush.
James, what about this? The administration is characterizing these as safety measures. They're not saying it's a second stimulus. But isn't this really a second stimulus?
CARVILLE: Well, look it, if unemployment stay this high, they're going to have to do something. They are going to have to extend unemployment compensation benefits. They're going to have to do something for these state governments.
I mean, you can call -- I don't know what you call it -- what you're going to call it. Maybe you don't want to call it stimulus. Maybe want ought to call it something else. But you're not going to have a million people run out of unemployment benefits. I don't think that you are. And I don't think it would be a very smart thing to do.
COOPER: Ari, they're not calling it a second stimulus, but, I mean, isn't that what it is?
ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, they're not even going to be able to call the first one a stimulus, if it doesn't stimulate anything, which it hasn't.
The second one is just more spending. And that's what it ought to be called. But the one thing that ought to be done, though, Anderson, it is -- it is the right move. It is the compassionate move, with unemployment at 9.8 percent, to extend unemployment benefits for additional time.
The jobs are not there to be had. And, so, you cannot ask people just to cut off from unemployment. But the real issue is, how do you generate jobs? And what we're finding out is, President Obama's spending programs did not generate jobs.
FLEISCHER: So, why do more of what didn't work in the first place?
CARVILLE: Well, if I might jump in here and remind Ari that, under the last month of the Bush presidency, we were losing about 632,000 jobs a month.
We're down now to about 200-and-something-thousand a month. And, you know, I think that anybody would -- anybody that does math would say that that's pretty good. I think, under the administration of George W. Bush, we lost more jobs than probably any president in modern American history. So, we don't really need lectures on jobs from Republicans.
What we need is to continue with a policy that at least is slowing this down and is compassionate. And we have got to -- we have got to get this stimulus -- and we have got to -- we have got to get this stimulus money -- we have got to get the money out there to these people that are unemployed. And we have got to do something about these state governments.
COOPER: Ari, I want you to respond in a second, but I have got to take a quick break. We will be right back.
COOPER: Also tonight, after that discussion, another young victim of Chicago violence, a 6-year-old boy, now partially paralyzed, plenty of people seem to know who shot this young man. So, how come no one is talking?
And, later, Mel Gibson gets his record clear. Remember the DUI with the anti-Semitic rant? Well, now his conviction has been erased. Is that fair? Is that normal? Well, we will find out tonight.
COOPER: We're talking about what measures may be on the table to stimulate the economy, as job losses mount. President Obama and his economic team are being careful to not call it a second stimulus package, but whatever measures they eventually take will most certainly be attacked by critics as proof that the $787 billion stimulus plan was a bust.
Joining me again is CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist James Carville, and Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for -- former press secretary for President George W. Bush.
Ari, James, before the break, was saying, look, Democrats don't need lectures from Republicans because of the record of the last administration.
FLEISCHER: Well, you notice that somebody is in trouble facing the future when all they want to do is throw stones at the past, and especially a past that is now increasingly long gone.
Look, the job of people who are in office is to solve problems. And I think the biggest problem we have is, President Obama's economic policies have made things worse and left us with such a huge, massive debt, a huge growing deficit, that we're creating even deeper problems down the road. We're not solving problems.
The other factor I have to remind you about is, all the president's estimates when he came into office said the stimulus would lead to a situation where unemployment would not cross 8.0 percent. We're at 9.8 percent. And we're probably going to cross 10 percent.
The very things they bragged that the stimulus would do didn't work. And it shouldn't be a stimulus. The very things they bragged that all the spending would do are just contributing to the public saying, stop it, Washington. Stop bankrupting our country.
COOPER: James, has the stimulus worked?
CARVILLE: Well, certainly it has.
I mean, again, if you look at 630,000 jobs we were losing when he took office, we're down to like, what, 253,000, which is -- which is high, but it's a lot better than that -- you look at every measure from economic growth to stock market performance to everything else, things are starting to get better.
As we know, jobs are sort of a lagging indicator. No one is satisfied with this. But it's a far better record than the last administration had. And, by the way, when you are making progress, we don't go back to the exact same policies of not regulating these banks, of -- of giving tax cuts to wealthy, of having unfunded entitlements, like Medicare Part D, that's not funded, or starting wars that are not funded, for tax cuts that are not funded.
I'm glad to see people are on this deficit bandwagon and remembering that the last -- when we had a $4.5 trillion surplus under the last Democratic president. So, yes, we -- we -- we can do some things.
And -- but we have got to -- and I agree with Ari. We have definitely got to do something about these unemployment compensation benefits.
FLEISCHER: If James wants to call progress 9.8 percent unemployment, $1.2 trillion deficits, and no end to them in sight, then I don't think any Democratic candidate is going to ask James to do their race in 2010.
FLEISCHER: That is the exact opposite of progress. And that's the problem.
We're not -- what was advertising that would work, Joe Biden said just two weeks ago that it has worked beyond his wildest dreams. These dreams are turning into a nightmare for this country.
COOPER: If the first stimulus worked, why not call this, all these new things, a second stimulus?
CARVILLE: Well, you can call it whatever you want.
COOPER: Well, it's not being...
COOPER: Well, it's not me. I don't get to determine this kind of stuff.
CARVILLE: But they have to do something.
The name of it is not -- I think they call it the American Recovery Act or some -- or some euphemism like that. But they can -- it might be the Unemployment Compensation Act. I don't care what they call it, but they're going to have to do something to humanely deal with these people who -- you know, whose jobs have been lost and been lost for a long period of time.
And most of the jobs that are lost were lost -- were not lost under this president's administration.
COOPER: Ari, politically, are the Republicans salivating at the possibility of what might be a de facto stimulus package? I mean, wouldn't that energize the base even further?
FLEISCHER: Well, first of all, I would call the previous one the let's go broke and get there quickly act.
The issue still is salivating over a second stimulus. One day, the economy will recover, and probably it's going to be because the business cycle has finally, at long last turned, after an excessively long recession. This has been a much longer recession than the historical average. So, it will -- inevitably, it will end and jobs will get created.
But I don't think anybody will be able to attribute that to Barack Obama's stimulus policies, which are increasingly becoming old news and unsuccessful news. So, if jobs do start getting created some time in the second half of next year, what makes anybody think that an act of law that, at that point, will be one-and-a-half years old had anything to do with it?
There's a business cycle in this country. And thank goodness the private sector is still a little bit bigger than the government. And the private sector...
COOPER: So, wait. So, Ari, you're blaming him for -- for a loss of jobs, but any recovery, you won't give him credit for?
FLEISCHER: No, I think the loss of jobs started under George Bush's watch and it continued and accelerated under President Obama's watch. And I think that's partially because of the business cycle, partially because of government policies.
CARVILLE: How did the loss of jobs accelerate, if it went from 632,000 to 253,000? Maybe my math is off.
(CROSSTALK) CARVILLE: But I don't think it's accelerated.
CARVILLE: I think my math is off.
CARVILLE: Where I come from, going from 632,000 to 253,000 is less. But let me go further. Let me go further.
CARVILLE: I let you...
COOPER: Let James finish.
FLEISCHER: Where I come from, going from 7 percent unemployment to 9.8 percent unemployment is worse.
CARVILLE: All right. You know what?
Let me -- let me put it to you bluntly. The chief economist of Goldman Sachs said the stimulus is probably worth about 3 percent of GDP. And, as more and more of this kicks in, and as people receive unemployment compensation benefits, I'm sure there is nothing that would stimulate the Republican base like seeing people who are out of work as for no fault of their own not have this.
COOPER: We are going to have to leave it there.
James Carville, Ari Fleischer, thanks.
CARVILLE: Thank you.
COOPER: Well, if you're curious where all the stimulus money has gone, we're keeping track of it
Go to AC360.com for the breakdown.
Tonight: A bombshell study by a top military journalist says don't ask/don't tell don't work and gays and lesbians should serve openly. We are going to talk with a gay soldier, a West Point graduate, being forced out, and someone who says he never should have served in the first place.
Plus, caught in the crossfire, a 6-year-old victim of the bloodshed in Chicago, the gunman still on the loose. People know who he is, apparently, but no one is talking -- "Crime & Punishment" tonight.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Ahead tonight: Chicago's bloody streets, kids getting shot just walking to school, no witnesses coming forward. How can we break the silence? "Crime & Punishment" coming up.
But, first, Randi Kaye has a 360 news and business bulletin -- Randi.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, President Obama met today with congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle to discuss the war in Afghanistan. The president is weighing whether or not to send up to 40,000 additional troops.
According to participants, the exchanges were at times vociferous and dramatic.
Meanwhile, four American soldiers killed during Saturday's attack on a remote outpost in Afghanistan have come home. The bodies arrived today at Delaware's Dover Air Force Base. Eight U.S. soldiers died in the Taliban assault, the most Americans killed in a single day since July of last year.
The Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on bloggers who endorse products on sites like Facebook and Twitter. As of December 1, anyone -- now, celebrities included here -- blogging about a product must reveal if they are paid to do so, or face up to an $11,000 fine.
The list is out of the best and worst countries to live in, courtesy of this year's United Nations human development report -- first, the worst, Niger, Afghanistan, and Sierra Leone -- the best, Norway, Australia, and Iceland.
And if you're wondering where America falls? Lucky number 13.
COOPER: Hmm. All right. Join the chat happening right now at AC360.com.
Coming up next, repealing "don't ask, don't tell." The issue is being taken up right now on the House floor. We'll hear both sides of the debate and let you decide if you think the ban should be overturned.
And Mel Gibson's record is being wiped clean, his 2006 DUI charge erased today. So is that special treatment or just business as usual? Find out ahead.
COOPER: Tonight, rethinking "don't ask, don't tell," the 16- year-old ban on gays serving openly in the military. A new article in the Pentagon's own top scholarly journal, "Joint Force Quarterly," written for the joint chiefs of staff by an Air Force colonel, has concluded that, quote, "there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that unit cohesion will be negatively affected if homosexuals serve openly in the U.S. military." In fact, the author concludes that forcing gays and lesbians to serve in secret actually hurts unit cohesion, and gays serving openly has had no negative impact on the military forces in Britain, Israel, Canada and Australia.
Tonight, U.S. Representative Patrick Murphy, an Iraqi war vet, is making his case to appeal the ban. Here he is just a few moments ago on the House floor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PATRICK MURPHY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: We have kicked out over 13,000 troops since we enacted this law 16 years ago. We have kicked out over 400 troops just this year in 2009. When our commanders on the ground are desperate for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, now is not the time to throw them out. Not for any type of sexual misconduct, but just because they're gay.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: President Obama said he wants to repeal the ban sooner rather than later. But so far, the administration has done nothing.
Let's dig deeper now. From Salt Lake City, First Lieutenant Dan Choi is a West Point graduate, an Arab linguist, and a six-year veteran of the Army National Guard. He's now facing discharge for saying he's gay.
And in Detroit, Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, a group which has no affiliation with the armed forces but which opposes gays serving openly.
Elaine, why shouldn't Dan Choi be allowed to serve this country?
ELAINE DONNELLY, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR MILITARY READINESS: The law says that homosexuals are not eligible to serve in the military. You know, there is no civil right. There is no obligation for anyone who wants to be in the military, if they apply, that they should be admitted. Lots of people are not eligible, including myself.
COOPER: But I mean, he's an Arab linguist.
DONNELLY: But what about...
COOPER: OK. But he's an Arab linguist.
COOPER: And a West Point graduate. What harm he is doing to the military?
DONNELLY: It's the harm happens because the Department of Defense has not -- not explained to people in general or potential recruits exactly what the law says and why. "Don't ask, don't tell" is not the law, Anderson. It is an administrative policy.
COOPER: Again, right, but you're not answering -- sorry. You're not answering the question.
DONNELLY: I am answering the question. COOPER: What harm specifically is he doing to the military by serving?
1ST LIEUTENANT DAN CHOI, U.S. NATIONAL GUARD: Well, Anderson, let me tell you about...
COOPER: Let her answer.
DONNELLY: The law -- the law is about good order, discipline and morale.
COOPER: You cannot tell me specifically.
DONNELLY: I'm reading to you -- I'm relating to you exactly what the law says.
DONNELLY: The says that it would be harmful to good order, discipline, and morale if the -- if we have open homosexuals in the military, and I'll tell you why. It would be tantamount to saying that military men would be living with military women constantly, with little or no privacy, in conditions of what the law describes as forced intimacy.
COOPER: OK, Dan.
DONNELLY: Now that is not conducive to discipline.
CHOI: It's not the same thing as sexual orientation. And I think that somebody as smart as you, Elaine, you should know that.
But let me tell you about the harm.
DONNELLY: It's called conduct.
CHOI: The harm is that 13,000 soldiers, in a time of war, more than a division of soldiers, are getting kicked out. I'm just talking about more than half a billion dollars now is being spent just kicking soldiers out. Not just any soldiers. But people who are honest about who they are. Arabic linguists, doctors, medical professionals. You'd think you'd need some of the people.
DONNELLY: You know...
CHOI: But the greatest harm -- the greatest harm is actually a human toll that's taken. Imagine, Elaine, if your husband was killed in Afghanistan last night, and you didn't get any of the notification until the media wanted to do a newspaper article on it. That's the harm, that we're not even supporting the families of these gay and lesbian soldiers.
DONNELLY: Dan -- Dan, I see little concern for the people who would be forced out of the military if this law passed.
COOPER: Who'd be forced out. DONNELLY: You see, there would be zero tolerance if anyone disagrees, if the new lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender, what we call Murphy's LGBT Law, passes.
COOPER: Wait, wait. I'm sorry. Wait, Elaine, who would be forced -- Elaine? Elaine?
DONNELLY: ... discharges has come up twice now.
COOPER: Elaine, please let me ask you a question. Elaine.
Who would actually be forced out of the military? I've never heard this before.
DONNELLY: Because -- well, no one ever denies it. Zero tolerance of anyone who disagrees is a corollary policy that comes if you treat an issue as a civil rights issue.
COOPER: I know, but Elaine, that's -- it's zero tolerance of anybody -- plenty of people disagree with other people in the military. It's just a question of whether you respect and serve with them.
DONNELLY: On this issue -- on this issue, anyone who disagrees would be forced out. They would be denied promotions.
COOPER: Anybody who acted on disagreement.
DONNELLY: In the military, that ends your career, if you are denied promotion. But let's talk about some discharges. The military...
CHOI: Let me stop you right there, because that's absolutely wrong.
DONNELLY: The number is miniscule.
CHOI: You say some of the same things that people were talking about before the bans are lifted in Israel, in Canada.
DONNELLY: You know, actually...
COOPER: One at a time. Dan...
COOPER: Guys, wait a minute. Time out. Time out. It really does nobody any good to talk over each other. It's really actually rather irritating. And the audience just turns you off. You both have important points to make. Just let you each complete your thought.
Dan, please complete your thought.
CHOI: Well, I think the harm is you really hurt the soldiers that are having to get deployed now without effective, capable soldiers. It's a matter of capabilities.
Now I'm an Arabic linguist. And when I get kicked out, it's not that I'm the victim. It's the soldiers in my unit that aren't able to communicate. So the question is to you, Elaine, I have to ask you, (SPEAKING ARABIC)?
See, you're not being able to answer that. If you can't answer that, that's a problem.
DONNELLY: A gays in the military campaign does not work.
COOPER: OK. Elaine...
CHOI: If you can't answer that question, that's not a problem. If the soldiers can't answer that, it's very devastating.
DONNELLY: There are many ways that we could get more Arabic translators, including in a city near where we're sitting -- where I'm sitting right now.
CHOI: Well, why don't you?
DONNELLY: We -- because of security clearances.
CHOI: You should go out there and volunteer to sign up and go to war in Iraq. But you've never actually worn the uniform. You're not willing to do that.
DONNELLY: Dan, you asked me about missing soldiers. What about the ones in the mid level, the 10- to 14-year race, the ones who have already said, if this law is repealed, they are not going to stay. They're going to leave the volunteer force. And this would be in addition to those who would be forced out, because they don't want to put up with the...
CHOI: The same arguments we used for racial integration.
COOPER: OK, Elaine, what you're essentially saying, though, is that service members are too narrow-minded to be able to -- to serve with somebody they may disagree with. I mean, you're in fact -- it seems like you're insulting service members, no?
DONNELLY: Far from it. Would you expect women to live with men in conditions of little or no privacy?
COOPER: They do. I was just in Afghanistan on a small military base in the middle of nowhere, and I've got to tell you, they do.
DONNELLY: To the greatest degree possible.
COOPER: Elaine, have you actually been to Afghanistan, or -- recently?
DONNELLY: I would like to finish my sentence, please.
COOPER: I know, but have you been in the military? Have you served or have you spent time, a lot, on military bases?
DONNELLY: I respect those who do, including more than 1,000...
CHOI: Then why do you insult those that are having to serve?
DONNELLY: More than 1,000 general officers retired...
CHOI: In their 70s and 80s, who haven't lived under "don't ask, don't tell" and who have...
DONNELLY: ... 51 over four stars, who have signed a statement.
CHOI: You can go to senior citizens center all the time and collect all the signatures you want, but they are so detached from reality. Those soldiers that are on the ground right now, they know people that are gay in their units.
DONNELLY: More than 1,000 flag and general officers, Mr. Choi? I mean, that's quite a statement to make. You know, you do...
CHOI: You can spend all the time that you want getting these petitions. But there are gay and lesbian soldiers that are serving right now. They don't have time to collect petitions like you do. And they are serving so they can protect your freedoms, so you can actually say the things that you're doing.
DONNELLY: These are formal statements -- formal statements signed by more than 1,000 flag and general officers. And they...
CHOI: Who never served under "don't ask, don't tell."
DONNELLY: Including retention and readiness would be harmed. That's the three "R's" that support the all-volunteer force.
COOPER: So Elaine, this new...
DONNELLY: Why would we want to have...
COOPER: ... this new report in "The Journal" that says that there's no scientific evidence that backed up that statement whatsoever from a guy serving on the staff as secretary of defense, you don't buy that?
DONNELLY: There is no other -- there is no other military in the world that is implementing the extreme plan that you are advocating, Dan Choi.
CHOI: Extreme? I don't understand. Extreme is kicking out soldiers in a time of war. And it's befitting that you have never served in the military.
DONNELLY: ... less than one percent.
COOPER: We've got -- we've got to leave it there.
CHOI: I want to thank you for -- I want to thank you for speaking up. But the gay and lesbian soldiers that are fighting to protect your rights of free speech give you that ability to even be on TV today.
DONNELLY: By the way, the essay in the magazine was a contest. That's all. It was just a contest winner. That's why the article was published. It really is of no great consequence.
COOPER: OK. OK. Dan Choi, Elaine Donnelly, appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much.
CHOI: Thanks, Elaine.
DONNELLY: Thank you.
COOPER: Come up, her young son shot in Chicago, where 40 kids have been cut down since last September. Tonight, a family's courage under fire and a child's incredible recovery. But how come no one has come forward who may have witnessed this crime?
Also tonight, will Roman Polanski go free? Today, a Swiss court rules on whether the fugitive filmmaker will stay behind bars and face possible extradition to the United States. We'll tell you what they decided, ahead.
COOPER: Tomorrow night we'll be live in Chicago with new reports on the surging violence that's claimed 40 public-school kids since last September. Forty. Why are these kids being killed? What's being done to stop it? We've been following this story for too long, frankly, and trying to get the answers from police, politicians, people in power.
The recent beating death of 16-year-old Darrien Albert got the nation's attention. His beating was videotaped. People were stunned that -- we were stunned to learn that, although a lot of people took part in the fight and witnessed him getting killed, no one so far has come forward to speak to the police.
Tomorrow the secretary of education, Arne Duncan, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will be in Chicago to address the crisis, and so will we.
Tonight, we want to put a face to this American tragedy. A personal story from the family of a child hit by a bullet last year. This little boy's strength since the shooting is remarkable. And the message from his mom is something we all need to hear.
Gary Tuchman reports.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This 6-year-old was shot and almost killed. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Martrell?
MARTRELL STEVENS, GUNSHOT VICTIM: Butterfly.
TUCHMAN: Martrell Stevens is partially paralyzed. His mother learned the hard way there is no minimum age for being a gunshot victim in this neighborhood on Chicago's South Side.
LAKEESHA RUCKER, MARTRELL'S MOTHER: He was hit in the side and the exit out his back. Missed his heart by one inch. Missed his (UNINTELLIGIBLE) by one inch and punctured a hole through his lungs.
TUCHMAN: Martrell was shot in May 2008 while sleeping in the backseat of his mother's car. The gunman's target was someone near the car. He is still on the loose.
(on camera) Do you think people know who it was?
TUCHMAN: You sure about that?
TUCHMAN: No one's talking?
RUCKER: No one.
TUCHMAN: No one wants to snitch?
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Even more stunning, Martrell's mother says she regularly sees the man and is scared of him.
(on camera) You ride past the man who you believe shot your little baby?
RUCKER: Every day.
TUCHMAN: That's incredible.
RUCKER: Yes. It hurts.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): But what kept this mom happy is her son's progress. Martrell describes himself as a fast wheelchair rider, and he can get around himself with his walker. He's now in first grade at a public school that specializes in special-needs children.
(on camera) Tell me what happened.
STEVENS: It's a secret.
TUCHMAN: What's a secret? How come it's a secret?
STEVENS: Because. TUCHMAN: Can you whisper to me what happened?
STEVENS: I got shot.
TUCHMAN: You got shot? Did you go to the hospital? OK. But how do you feel today?
(voice-over) A highlight for Martrell and his family: when he graduated from kindergarten and got what his mom hopes is the first of many diplomas.
Tekita Gordan is Martrell's first-grade teacher.
TEKITA GORDAN, MARTRELL'S TEACHER: Everybody has their different niche. But he is definitely one, "I don't want your help, I got it. I got it, I got it."
TUCHMAN: His mom dreams he will have a bright future.
RUCKER: I know my son is going to be able to walk again. The doctors are -- they're not telling me anything. They're unable to tell what's going to happen in the long run.
TUCHMAN (on camera): But you're pretty confident about that?
RUCKER: Very confident.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): But she worries every day about the safety of all three of her children. She's a janitor and has another dream, about the day she can afford to move her family into a safer neighborhood.
Gary Tuchman, CNN, Chicago.
COOPER: Little boy is so strong. CNN education contributor and school principal Steve Perry joins me now.
You know, there are people who say, look, that the government, the city of Chicago needs to give a safe passage to these kids to and from school. Jesse Jackson said that today in an op-ed. And there are those who say the -- moving kids from other neighborhoods into the neighborhoods is part of the problem. It creates turf wars. Do you buy that?
STEVE PERRY, CNN EDUCATION CONTRIBUTOR: No, I don't. This is not a government issue. The government didn't come and shoot that child. That's somebody from the community. That's somebody's child who grew up to shoot somebody else's child.
The community has to begin to take full responsibility for the circumstances that are taking place within the community. We have to see what we can do as a community to move ourselves forward, empower ourselves. This is about preachers and teachers. This is about parents taking responsibility for the fact that these conditions are killing our children.
COOPER: It's also stunning that she talks about driving by the man who shot her child every single day. She knows. She's scared to come forward. Others -- others may have witnessed this. No one's coming forward. No one is willing to kind of break that code of silence.
And that whole thing of being labeled a snitch. I mean, a snitch used to be another criminal who was involved in a criminal act ratting out his fellow or her fellow criminal. Now it's -- that horrible term incorporates anybody who witnessed a crime and comes forward.
PERRY: It's unconscionable. And what we've created in our communities are -- and when I say communities, I'm talking about urban centers where education is at all-time low -- is a loss of hope. When people feel like there's no hope for the future, and they don't have the capacity to move forward through education or other reasonable means, they begin to check out. They begin to become disengaged. And they don't care what happens. As long as it's not them that it's happening to, they begin to pull back.
I'm saying that we as a community, and the community extends beyond the black community. But the community extends to the community of people who care. If we don't begin to hold people's feet to the fire, the adults who created these circumstances, then this -- the blood will run through the streets.
Because I'll tell you this: if the child who had been beaten to death, whose skull had been crushed just a couple days ago, had been shot or killed by a white person, blood would run through the streets.
COOPER: People in that community and elsewhere...
PERRY: They would come together. Churches would come together. Religious orders, individuals from all throughout the community, parents and the like, would find a way to galvanize.
We've marched the soles out of our shoes. I'm so sick and tired of civil rights workers -- I mean, civil rights activists talking about what we need the government to do. Enough with the doggone government. This is about us. These are our communities. We've created the circumstances. Let's undo them now.
COOPER: I want to read something that a Chicago radio talk show host, Charles Butler, said. He referred to gang members as urban terrorists, and he said this about the violence.
He said, "If this type of carnage were going on in a suburb of Chicago, we would have the National Guard, Blackwater and armed vigilantes lining the streets to protect these young people."
It does seem like, because it's in an urban setting, in an inner city community, that people outside of the -- even of that community kind of expect this to happen. And this -- I mean, this is not something that is normal. It should not be considered normal.
PERRY: Well, what happens is at some point we begin to accept the worst of our circumstances. It's not just in this country but all over the world. People find a way to live in Fallujah. They find a way to live in the battle zones of the world. And at some point, people begin to give up hope.
And I'm saying that we know what works. We know when children have access to quality schools. They become happy. Go to -- go to a good school. Children are smiling, and they're talking about things that we would want children to talk about.
Send them to schools like some of Chicago's public schools that have a 50 and 70 percent dropout rate, schools in which 80, 90 percent of children are performing below level. And then you begin to see that, if we don't do something now within the places where we can make an impact, which are in our public schools, like having discussions about vouchers and going to different communities and having access to quality schools, we will not see the end of this.
COOPER: Violence will continue.
PERRY: Violence will continue.
COOPER: All right. We're going to be in Chicago tomorrow, Steve. We'll talk you to then.
PERRY: Thank you so much, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. As we mentioned, we're going to be live in Chicago tomorrow night for the program. We'll be in the city, taking a close look at the violence that's killed 40 public school kids since last September. So why is it happening? What's being done to stop it? A city in crisis. We're "Keeping Them Honest." Report from Chicago tomorrow night at 10 p.m. Eastern.
Coming up next, Roman Polanski rejected. Swiss authorities denied the director's request today. What was it? And where is Polanski now? We have the latest.
And Elizabeth Taylor undergoing a heart procedure. How serious is that? We'll let you know, ahead.
COOPER: All right. Let's get caught up on some of the other stories we're following. Randi Kaye again with the "360 Bulletin" -- Randi.
KAYE: Anderson, the Swiss courts have rejected Roman Polanski's plea to be released from prison. The Academy-Award-winning director is trying to avoid extradition to California, where he faces charges for having had sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.
A judge has granted Mel Gibson's request to have his 2006 drunk- driving conviction expunged. The ruling came after Gibson completed three years of probation with no violations. He has repeatedly apologized for derogatory comments made about Jews and women during his Malibu arrest.
Elizabeth Taylor says she will undergo a procedure to repair a leaky heart valve. The 77-year-old actress made the announcement on her Twitter page.
Leafy greens, such as spinach and lettuce, top a new list of the ten riskiest foods. Also on that list by the Center for Science in the Public interest: eggs, tuna, oysters, potatoes, cheese, ice cream, tomatoes, sprouts, and berries.
According to the center, these ten foods are linked to 50,000 reported illnesses, ranging from minor stomach aches to death over the last 20 years.
Food producers, Anderson, are criticizing the report, saying the list doesn't serve consumers by scaring people away from some of the healthiest foods on the planet.
COOPER: I can now use this as an excuse not to eat Brussel sprouts.
KAYE: I already know you don't eat your vegetables.
COOPER: I use this, though, as an excuse. I haven't really had a good excuse up until now. For now this will be my excuse.
KAYE: That works.
COOPER: All right. Tonight's "Shot," meet the next YouTube star. His name is Josh Sacco (ph), just 5 years old. He recites a monologue from his favorite movie. The film is called "Miracle." It's about the U.S. hockey team's amazing upset to the Russians in 1980. We put together clips of Josh and Kurt Russell, who plays the coach in the film. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH SACCO, YOUTUBE VIDEO STAR: We are the greatest hockey team in the world. We were born to be hockey players. Everyone here. And you are meant to be here tonight. This is your time. Their time...
KURT RUSSELL, ACTOR: ... is done. It's over. I'm sick and tired of hearing about what a great hockey team the Soviets have.
SACCO: Screw' em! This is your time! Now go out there and kick it!
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Bravo, bravo. Josh is getting called from the CAA at any moment now. I haven't seen the film "Miracle" before. But I feel like I have seen the movie now.
KAYE: Yes. I've actually seen it. Something is going on back there.
COOPER: Something just fell.
KAYE: A hockey game over there in the studio.
Did you notice they were dressed alike? He was wearing the same tan blazer and then you look at Kurt Russell. He's wearing -- he actually looks like a young Kurt Russell.
COOPER: I think he's going to run for office if he doesn't appear in movies soon. Congratulations.
You can see all the most recent "Shots" -- "Screw them!" I like it when he said that. All the most recent "Shots" on the Web site, AC360 -- am I allowed to say that? I don't think so.
Coming up at the top of the hour, the serious stuff. Christiane Amanpour's rare joint interview with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. A candid, exclusive discussion about the most pressing global challenges facing the country. We'll see you tomorrow from Chicago.