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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
H1N1: More Children Killed; Afghan Election Mess; Walmart Scuffle or Racism?; Love & Marriage & the Obamas
Aired October 30, 2009 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: Tonight, the swine flu is moving fast. Now widespread in all but two states and it is targeting our children. 360 MD Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports from the front lines, a busy Children's Hospital. He's also got the facts you need to know to keep your family safe.
Also, "Crime and Punishment," wildly excessive punishment to some who say reason is race. You'll see how a preacher's daughter who was arrested after allegedly cutting in line at a Walmart could be facing 15 years in prison.
And later, "Uncovering America," the First Couple: a never before seen view of married life as President and First Lady.
First up, though tonight, news about the swine flu that is striking fear into the hearts of parents: word from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that 19 more children have died of the H1N1 virus. That's the biggest jump since the pandemic began.
So far the death toll among kids is at least 114; more deaths than an entire season's worth from the regular flu. What's happening? What's being done about it? And what can you do?
360 MD Dr. Sanjay Gupta is here to answer your questions. But first Sanjay, today's report put the pediatric death into context. Is that an indication this virus is much deadlier than initially thought?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You would think so, John. But I think the answer is actually the opposite. I think it doesn't mean that this virus is necessarily deadly or -- when you're simply doing the math here, John, looking at the number of deaths and putting that over the number of infections overall, the overall death rate, if you will, or the mortality rate or lethality rate or whatever you want to call it, is probably actually lower than what we thought.
There was a concern as you know, John, back in May. It is a very particularly deadly virus. How -- what was that death rate going to be? Some are telling me now, John but this might even be less deadly than seasonal flu overall which may in fact be good news.
A couple things stay the same with regards to kids in particular about two-thirds of the children who have died did have some sort of underlying medical illness. About a third did not. But almost all of those kids had a viral infection -- H1N1 infection and then on top of that developed a bacterial pneumonia. That seems to be the big culprit here -- John.
KING: And still, Sanjay, a lot of frustration over the shortage of the H1N1 vaccine across the country. Is that situation getting any better?
GUPTA: It's better than it was. But not as good as anybody really thought it was going to be. By the end of the month, which is essentially now, they thought they'd have about 40 million doses available around the country. That number is closer to 26. We just checked the numbers before the show. And, you know, so obviously about 14, 13 to 14 million doses short but still 10 million more than last week.
What I hat heard, John, that there was going to be 40 million by the end of October and then 10 million a week after that. So we may sort of be on that track of getting 10 million a week. But, you know this was a short fall and very frustrating I think for a lot of people.
KING: Very frustrating. And this one fallout -- hospitals and clinics, are they being overwhelmed by people seeking the vaccine who are not in the high risk groups?
GUPTA: Yes. And if you go to ERs, they say they're about 150 percent if you had to put a number to it, busier than they were about this time last year. It's different in different hospitals. And I really wanted to get an idea of what one of the busiest hospitals might look like. Children's Hospital in Boston is sort of at the epicenter of what could possibly come.
Here's what I found.
GUPTA (on camera): Here I have on the gown, the mask. And there's still obviously a lot of concern here. And we don't know exactly for sure if this is H1N1.
(voice-over): Children's Hospital Boston -- because of the H1N1 virus, this hospital is as busy as it's ever been. And many of the kids look like Nate.
(on camera): The child has symptoms of -- seems like all kids get.
DR. ANNE STACK, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL BOSTON: That's right. All kids get. And the reason specifically that this child came to the Emergency Department is because -- was because he was dehydrated.
STACK: Significantly dehydrated. And his name is Nate.
GUPTA: Nate. All right.
STACK: Dad. Hi. GUPTA: Hey, Nate. How are you feeling?
So when someone like Nate comes here, what do you do? What are you thinking of as a doctor?
STACK: So our first thoughts are to make him feel better, obviously. Make him comfortable. Give him something to control his fever if he has high fever.
And in his case, he wasn't able to take anything orally. So we were able to give him some rectal Tylenol to make him feel better.
GUPTA (voice-over): Nate has been diagnosed with H1N1 but is sent home just a few hours later. There is little the hospital can do for him than advise rest and to stay hydrated.
(on camera): Make no mistake, there is a worst case scenario in all of this; patients, kids, can get very sick and even die which is why we're here in the Intensive Care Unit.
Take a look at this x-ray over here. This is really where it gets bad. I mean this area in here is the lungs. They should be black representing normal air. But instead they're all white, sort of filled with inflammatory fluid that makes it hard for a child to breathe, makes it hard for a child to get enough oxygen to ventilate well. That is a real problem. And that's when they might end up on a machine like this, a sort of state-of-the art ventilator, giving 900 breathes per minute.
And you can see its being done on a mannequin here. But this is the kind of technology that's happening at Boston Children's Hospital preparing for the sickest patients of all.
(voice-over): So ICUs are ramping up technology. But back in the emergency room, what they need, simply more beds.
(on camera): It's sort of interesting. What we're looking at here is what might happen if there's an overload situation. The hospital's over here, but patients might actually be shuffled across to this office building to go into a conference room, an alternate care site if the hospital starts to get overloaded.
It's fascinating. But they would actually flip this room over within a day or two to make room for extra kids. They simply get overloaded.
KING: Sanjay, we're getting a lot of questions from people out there who don't know the right answers.
This is from Lisa in Philadelphia. She wrote in on the blog, "I heard on the radio that people should go to the emergency room for flu-like symptoms unless they have a high fever and a hard cough. How do you make sure you don't wait too long?"
GUPTA: Yes, it's a good question. I think there's been a lot of -- a lot of information out there but not as much knowledge. For the vast majority of people, they're going to be fine staying home. A couple things to sort of watch out for, if the fever goes away and then comes back, John, that goes back to what I was talking about earlier with regard bacterial pneumonia.
So get your viral infection. You sort of recover from that, but you've got this bacterial pneumonia. That's sort of an indication that the fever comes back, that could be a problem. If you're having trouble breathing and you know this seems to be a virus that attacks the lungs. That can be another issue.
For kids, for example, if they're not making enough urine, that could indicate that they're dehydrated. Those are the things.
But really the same things that you would have gone to the ER for, for flu last year, take H1N1 out of the equation. If you would have gone to the ER for flu last year, then you might go this year as well.
We also talked a lot about the vaccine, John. Because, you know, the issue that comes up as far as who should get this overall. There are these specific groups, pregnant women, for example. We talked about that. Six months to 24 years old. That is also one of the high risk categories; people who live with children under six months old, health care workers as well and people as we have mentioned a few times who have some sort of chronic disease or some sort of immune system problem -- John.
KING: And here's another good one, Sanjay. Georganna from San Antonio writes in, "Is it really true that all the healthy are dying? It's seems like a way to scare everyone. I just don't buy it."
GUPTA: Yes, we're going to a myth on that one for sure. What is interesting and I think maybe where that came from is right at the beginning of this, back in May, there was this concern that people who were healthy were actually going to suffer the most serious ramifications from this. Why? It was believed that it was actually the immune system's response to the virus that was the problem.
So if you had a really healthy immune system, you would create all this inflammation in your lungs and that would cause potential deaths here. What we found out is that actually is not the case. It's just bacterial pneumonia; it's all the other things that we've been talking about. With regards to kids, about two-thirds of them who have died did have some sort of underlying problems.
KING: No one better to separate fact from fiction, 360 MD Sanjay Gupta. Thanks so much Sanjay.
GUPTA: Thanks John.
KING: And one other note, something to think about, word tonight from the Pentagon that inmates at Guantanamo Bay "Gitmo" will be offered swine flu shots. Let us know what you think of that? Join the live chat now underway at AC360.com.
One democratic law maker is weighing in against it. We'll also ask Republican Congressman Mike Pence about it and focus too on the roller coaster economy, new administration claims on jobs and the stimulus and why Congressman Pence opposed that spending in the first place. We've got the "Raw Politics."
And later, "Up Close" from date nights to state dinners: perhaps, the most revealing portrait of the first couple yet.
KING: If you're keeping track of your finances, looking for a job or trying to figure out how well President Obama is doing his, it's hard to know what to think lately.
Just 24 hours after a massive rally on Wall Street on news the economy is finally growing again, stocks gave it all back today and then some. The DOW losing nearly 250, investors worrying that weak consumer spending would undermine the recovery.
Also today, the administration claimed the stimulus program has created or saved 650,000 jobs. Critics including many Republicans immediately took issues, saying the numbers are impossible to verify, especially the jobs saved figure.
One Republican governor though, had this to say about thousands of teaching jobs in his state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, (R) CALIFORNIA: This teachers would have been gone if it wouldn't have been for the federal stimulus money. I just wanted to make sure you understand that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger out in California today. Not sure if his fellow Republican Indiana Congressman Mike Pence agrees with the governor.
He joins us now and Congressman before we get to the stimulus program and health care, I want to get your reaction to the announcement tonight that the Pentagon will offer the H1N1 vaccination to detainees at Guantanamo Bay who want it. A good decision?
REP. MIKE PENCE, (R) INDIANA: Well, no. I think it's a terrible decision, John. And I, you know, I don't know if -- if detainees at Gitmo should never be given the H1N1 vaccine. But certainly at a time of such acute shortages, again, involving American citizens and the heartbreaking stories you just led with, I think the administration should immediately suspend the plan to deploy H1N1 vaccines to terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay until such time that sufficient vaccinations are made available to the American public.
I think this is exactly the kind of misadministration of health care, this and other aspects of the way this government is responding to the H1N1 virus that ought to give the American people great pause about this massive government-run insurance plan that's been unveiled this week by House Democrats.
KING: Well, we'll come back to health care in a second. But I want to focus on the economy right now. Because you were one of the conservatives who at the beginning said, no, the country can't afford $787 billion in stimulus right now.
KING: And you didn't think it would create jobs. You know the administration's numbers today, 650,000, they say. I want you to listen to Vice President Biden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yesterday the GDP was announced, it grew. It grew by 3.5 percent. It hasn't grown that much since 2007. Over two years ago. The economic forecasters have attributed -- and by the way, left right and center -- they've attributed the vast bulk of this growth to the Economic Recovery Act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: He says you were wrong, sir.
PENCE: Well, you know, I -- I don't mean to parse the vice president's words. But, you know, I, number one, I welcome growth in the economy. I think every American welcomes the growth in the Gross Domestic Product.
But, John, it's hard to believe that borrowing a $700 billion from the Chinese and spreading it around in the economy wouldn't have some effect.
But what's not happening is we're not seeing jobs created. You know, when the stimulus bill was passed, unemployment in this country was at 7.5 percent. The administration, including the vice president, said that unless we borrow $700 billion from future generations of Americans that unemployment would go over eight percent. It's now 9.8 percent. And it may get worse a week from today.
It's -- if we're in a recovery and I hope we are, it's a jobless recovery. And until we start seeing jobs created and still we start seeing unemployment go down, the American people are not going to be satisfied. And I think they're going to continue to clamor for the kind of stimulus in the form of across the board tax relief for small business owners and individual working families that will really get the economy moving again.
KING: Now, let me just follow up on that point. Your home Department of Transportation, the Indiana Department of Transportation said 2,400 jobs have been created with stimulus funds in your state. Do you dispute those figures or is it you don't think that you think those jobs just cost too much?
PENCE: Well, I remember reading an account in the Evansville paper that had that number. And we talked to some people at the Department of Transportation and in Indianapolis. And it was hard to figure out exactly where that number came from.
But, look, I -- I have no doubt that what Governor Schwarzenegger said was right. I think there are some public employees that have been kept in place because of the money that we borrowed from future generations. I have no doubt that some of these road and infrastructure projects have helped.
But, John, bottom line is unemployment is at 9.8 percent. God forbid it may well go over 10 percent before we get through these difficult times. And the American people know we can't borrow and spend and bail our way back to a growing economy. What we got to do is have fiscal discipline in Washington, D.C., and give the American people more of their hard-earned dollars to get the economy growing again.
KING: Let's close on health care. The Speaker put out the Democratic bill this week; it's 1,990 pages. It includes a public option. It includes what she says is a plan that would ultimately reduce the deficit.
And I got a bunch of press releases today from some of your colleagues listing seven or eight bills Republicans supported, trying to refute the argument. When Democrats say you're the party of no and you don't have a plan.
But many have said, if you want to get your footing in this fight, Congressman, the Republicans need a comprehensive plan; maybe not 1,990 pages but a comprehensive plan to go up against the Democrats. Will that be coming?
PENCE: Well, stay tuned, John. I'll tell you what, the American people want health care reform that will lower the cost of health insurance and lower the cost of health care. But the American people don't want a government takeover of health care. And what the Democrats unveiled this week is literally a freight train of big government, loaded with taxes and mandates on individuals, taxes on businesses during these difficult economic times.
The word "shall" which is mandatory language in the law, the word "shall" actually appears 3,425 times in the Democrat bill. This is a government takeover of health care. The American people don't want it. But Republicans are going to be raising the curtain in the coming days on proposals that we believe will resonate with the majority of the American people.
But we got to stop the government takeover first and then we can move to some items that will be modest and will address the issue of lowering cost without exploding the deficit or growing government.
KING: We're reading the 1,990 pages. And Congressman, when the Republican plan is out, we'll read those too and we'll have you back. I appreciate your time on a Friday night.
PENCE: Thank you, John.
KING: Up next, a new complication as President Obama decides what to do about Afghanistan. There may not be an election there any time soon. We've got exclusive inside details and analysis from David Gergen and Michael Ware and Dan Senor.
And text us your questions to AC360 or 22360 about the case of a woman arrested at a Walmart after allegedly cutting in line, now facing a possible 15-year prison sentence. Did race play a part? Did this preacher's daughter lose control? Let us know what you'd like us to ask our legal panel. Again that's 22360. And we must remind you, standard rates apply.
KING: Coming up, a scuffle at Walmart that could cost a young woman 15 years in prison. Is it a blatant case of racism or did the young woman lose control? We'll tell you the facts and let you decide who to believe.
First, some other important stories; Erica Hill joins us with a "360 News and Business Bulletin."
ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, nine people are missing and feared dead after a midair collision off the California coast. A Coast Guard plane on a rescue mission collided last night with a Marine helicopter on a training mission. Now a large debris field has been located. Investigators are looking into how the aircrews failed to see each other.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is quitting the 2010 governor's race. In a statement issued today he said his young family and responsibilities at City Hall prevent him from devoting the time needed to run an effective campaign. Now, Newsom has trailed Attorney General Jerry Brown in the polls and fund-raising even though Brown hasn't officially announced his candidacy.
President Obama today, saying he'll lift the 22-year-old travel ban against people infected with HIV. The United States has been one of about a dozen countries that bar entries to travelers based on their HIV status. That ban will be lifted just after the New Year.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation took over nine more banks today in Arizona, California, Illinois, and Texas; the estimated combined cost of those failures, $2.5 billion. 115 banks have failed since January. That is roughly four times the total in all of 2008.
And some good news: no trick here. It is an absolute treat for you late Saturday night and early Sunday morning as long as you remember to turn your clocks back. You're going to get an extra hour of sleep. That's right Daylight Saving Time ends on Sunday. John, you may need it to recover from Halloween or just to get an extra hour of sleep before your show on Sunday morning.
KING: I will see you a bit later Erica.
And still ahead, the election mess in Afghanistan: things took a turn for the worst today. We'll tell you what happened. And our panel will explain what it means for the White House and U.S. troops on the ground there.
And later, the first couple gets candid about their marriage on the record. The reporter who got the inside story talks to us just ahead.
KING: President Obama met for 90 minutes today with the Joint Chiefs of Staff; it was his seventh meeting so far in Afghanistan and what comes next for U.S. troops there. At least one more meeting set for next week.
Meantime, the political situation in Afghanistan has taken a turn for the worse. A source tells CNN the talks between the Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his presidential opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, have broken down and Abdullah's threatening to boycott that run-off election scheduled one week from now.
It took massive pressure from the United States to get Karzai to agree to that runoff in the first place. Karzai claimed victory in August. But the vote was widely seen as corrupt, leaving the White House in the lurch as it faces the key decision on troop levels.
Here's what the White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told me recently on "STATE OF THE UNION."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAHM EMANUEL, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The question does not come how many troops you send, but do you have the credible Afghan partner for this process that can provide the security and the type of services the Afghan people need?
It would be reckless to make a decision on U.S. troop level if in fact you haven't done a thorough analysis of whether, in fact, there is an Afghan partner ready to fill that space.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Let's "Dig Deeper" with our panel: joining me CNN senior political analyst David Gergen and Michael Ware and Dan Senor, he's with the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of "Start-up Nation: The story of Israel's Economic Miracle." He also advised the Bush administration on foreign policy.
David, let's start with the dilemma here. If the White House has said, as you just heard Rahm Emanuel, we need to know who our partner is, if these negotiations break down and there's a boycott of the runoff, what does that mean for the White House and the decision?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALSYST: It's very bad news for the White House and for the NATO alliance. The whole effort here by the U.S. in Afghanistan has been premised, as Rahm Emanuel said, upon having a partnership of the credible government. If there's no -- if there's no runoff election and Karzai remains in power based on a fraudulent first election with a brother we've now learned, a drug lord and on the CIA payroll, the American public is going to turn hugely against this.
There will be a huge resistance to sending in more troops at the very moment that a U.S. general on the ground says he needs a lot more troops, at least 40,000.
So I think this is a cruel dilemma for the president. It's been a bad week on foreign policy. The Iranian story has been grim. Other things -- and Hillary Clinton ran into a lot of resistance in Pakistan. This is getting very tough on the foreign policy front.
KING: And Michael, based on your experience in Afghanistan, already some people are saying the administration was too linking the military decisions to the political situation. What does this do?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean the bottom line is wars do not wait for elections. And President Obama as commander-in-chief is currently waging war. And if he wants to pin his decision on whether to send more troops or not on the results of an Afghan election which is going to be shaky at best, which is never going to deliver you Rahm Emanuel's credible partner. I mean I can't remember when there was a credible partner in Afghanistan.
Then, you know, it smacks of political game playing and time-wasting to me rather than actual effective strategic decision making. You can't hang everything off having a viable Afghan government.
And whether it's going to be Karzai, whether it's going to be his opponent Abdullah Abdullah or whether it's going to be a government of national unity, it doesn't really matter. In the broad scheme of the U.S. mission, as long as the Afghan people buy it and essentially you are going to be trading one bunch of Afghan crooks and warlords for another.
So at the end of the day, you're never going to have a squeaky clean partner. Let's not hold our breaths for this John.
KING: So Dan, following on Michael there, this will only complicate a debate we're already having here in the United States with some saying the president should make his decision. Rahm Emanuel saying we need to wait.
You know the former Vice President Dick Cheney quite well. I want you to -- want to play you something that the current Vice President Joe Biden told our Ed Henry today when Ed asked about the Cheney criticism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dick Cheney is saying -- your predecessor is obviously saying -- that the president is failing that test because he says he's dithering and that you and the president are dragging your feet on this decision.
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I like Dick Cheney personally. But I really don't care what Dick Cheney thinks. And I'm not sure a lot of Americans do.
Look at the policy they left us. Look at the policy of neglect they left us in Afghanistan. Look at the policy we inherited in terms of their foreign policy. Look, I think the president is doing exactly what any president should do. And by the way, the military thinks that, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: So, Dan, you see there Joe Biden in the White House saying this is smart deliberation. Vice president Cheney says it is dithering.
DAN SENOR, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: It's not just Vice President Cheney, it is General Anthony Zinni, retired General Zinni, who is no supporter of the last administration who was supportive of this administration. I do think, John, that there is this consensus among the senior officer corps and the joint staff that the president should move forward.
The reasons he's coming up for delaying the decision don't seem terribly credible. When Rahm Emanuel said we have to wait on an Afghan government, keep in mind, on August 17th, just, you know, seven, eight, ten weeks ago, President Obama in a speech before the VFW said this was a war of necessity.
At the time that was three days before the Afghan election when we knew -- the NSC knew the election would be full of corruption. This election on November 7th, there will also be more corruption.
To Michael's point, no matter what the outcome of this election, whether or not Abdullah Abdullah participates, there will be fraud. If he doesn't participate, it will be a nonevent. It's not going to have a meaningful impact. I don't think it's something upon which to hang whether or not we should make a troop decision.
KING: So, David, everybody here has been very sober about this. And we already know -- the most recent CNN poll shows a majority of Americans oppose sending more troops. How much of a consideration should public opinion be for the president right now?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Actually I'm very sympathetic to Michael's point of view about that you have to fight a war and you got to be either in or out and you can't throw your pinch (ph) on elections.
But John, we've learned in Vietnam, we learned in Iraq, you have got to have the country behind you as commander in chief when you put a lot of Americans in harm's way. It's not irrelevant what public opinion says. You have to pay attention to that if you want to be able to sustain it.
The Congress won't provide the funds. They'll pull the rug out from under you right in the middle of this thing unless you get the country committed up front. So this makes it a lot harder if they don't have an election.
Yes, there will be fraud. But I'm just telling you, you -- if John Kerry is -- it's not just Rahm Emanuel -- John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a very powerful voice said you can't do it without some sort of credible partner. The whole -- McChrystal says you have to have a credible partner. You have to get this resolved. And it's extremely important to get this resolved in the next few days.
SENOR: John, let me just say one thing. First of all, David is right. You do need a credible partner. But if you don't have security, nothing else matters.
We can have all the credible partners in the world. If we don't provide basic security, we never have a shot in the improvement in governance, first of all.
Second of all, since President Obama's been president, he's only given two major speeches on Afghanistan. Democrat and Republican going back 60 years, whenever our country has been in a major conflict abroad, the president is constantly informing the public, educating the public on why this is important. The president needs to take ownership of this, assuming he goes forward with McChrystal's plan or a fraction of it and explain constantly to the American public why this is important.
It's going to be a distraction from this domestic agenda which is why I think there is resistance to it. But there is no way public opinion is going to move on this without a constant education by the commander-in-chief.
GERGEN: I have to agree with that.
KING: Dan Senor, Michael Ware, David Gergen. Gentlemen, thank you all so much. That's the way you want for the president and not going to go away any time soon. Thank you all so much.
Coming up, a he said-she said story that's led to charges of racism: a preacher's daughter who says police roughed her up at Walmart. The officers say she assaulted them. Now she's facing a possible 15-year prison sentence.
What do you want to know about this controversial case? Text your questions to AC360 or 22360; remember as always, standard rates apply.
And later: inside the Obama's marriage. What is the favorite date night? What about their rockiest stretch? The reporter they dish to dishes with us ahead.
KING: In "Crime & Punishment" tonight, the case that began as a scuffle at Walmart almost 3 years ago is now heading to trial with the NAACP and others rallying behind the defendant. Twenty-four-year-old Heather Ellis, a preacher's daughter, was arrested in January 2007 after allegedly cutting in line at a Walmart in Kennett, Missouri. What happened before and after police were called to the store depends on who you're talking to. Was Ellis the victim of racism and police brutality or did she lose control and assault an officer?
Randi Kaye joins me now. Randi, help us understand what exactly happened here and what's at stake for this woman.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John this woman is facing 15 years in prison for something that started at the checkout counter. On the surface, it looks like a classic case of he-said/she-said. But if you look a little deeper, there is much more to it including strong allegations of racism.
Now neither the prosecutor nor police would speak with us. But according to the police report that we have, this whole thing began with an incident at a Walmart checkout in Kennett, Missouri, a community known for racial tension.
Police say Heather Ellis, who is African-American, cut the line and got, quote, "belligerent" with the cashier. Ellis was at Walmart with her cousin and her family says she got in line with him. The white officers say they were called to the store because Ellis was, quote, "yelling and cursing". Officers say she told them, quote "I ain't going nowhere until I get my (BLEEP) change back".
KING: So then, what happened when Ellis and the police all finally left the store?
KAYE: Ellis' lawyers wouldn't release the store surveillance video to us. But a representative from ACLU who has viewed it told me it's, quote, "inconclusive". That's what he said. He says there is only one angle of the tape from outside. And it just shows a mass of people moving toward the police car after the initial confrontation which isn't caught on tape.
But according to police, the officer's tried to keep Ellis calm. They warned her she could be arrested. And that's when police say Ellis threatened, quote, "to beat the officer's ass" if they touched her.
From there, police say she became, quote, "combative and began fighting." Police described her as completely out of control. They say that she, quote, "resisted arrest, kicked her feet and stiffened her body" when they tried to put her in that police car.
KING: So I imagine we're going to trial because Heather Ellis tells a very different story.
KAYE: Very different. She did not speak with us directly but the ACLU has been in touch with her family on this case. And the ACLU told me that Heather Ellis said as she came out of the store the white officers followed her, quote, "with a series of racial remarks that included the N word and everything can you imagine." The ACLU says Ellis did not provoke the officers and denies cursing at them.
According to the ACLU, Ellis was, quote, "lifted off the ground by police and wasn't in control of her body". She sold the ACLU that police, quote, "were forcing her to flail around" that she did what she did to diffuse the situation but it kept escalating.
KING: Kept escalating and in the end what are the specific charges?
KAYE: Heather Ellis has been charged with assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest, and disturbing the peace. She has pleaded not guilty.
But, again John, here's the thing. If she is found guilty, she could get up to 15 years in prison -- 15 years. And I do want to point out here, Ellis has never been in trouble with the law before. She wants to be a doctor but has put that off while she waits for her trial to start next month.
So these days she is working as a teacher in Louisiana and engaged to be married to a state trooper.
KING: Randi Kaye breaking down the case for us tonight. Randi thanks so much.
Competing stories and lots of questions; let's "dig deeper" with CNN legal analyst Lisa Bloom and former federal prosecutor Sunny Hostin.
Sunny you've read the files in this case. Do you see a clear cut case of racial discrimination by the police as Ellis and her family say?
SUNNY HOSTIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I don't see a clear cut case, I have to say, John. This case is diametrically opposed on both sides. Miss Ellis is saying one thing. The police officers are saying another.
When you read the probable cause affidavit here, quite frankly, it does sound like she's out of control. There are five police officers. They're all saying the same thing. There are at least four other witnesses within the Walmart store. They're all saying the same thing.
They're saying that she was belligerent. They're saying that she was cursing. They're saying that she was angry. I have to say that is classic disturbance of the peace.
And so when you, you know, I think time will tell if we get to see that videotape. We'll be able to learn a lot more about it. But at this point, it is very unclear as to whether or not this was a racially motivated arrest.
KING: Lisa, I want to go to our text 360 question. It's from a good sleuth. It comes from Jolene (ph) in Texas. She writes, "Walmart is usually a very busy store. Aside from video surveillance, are there witnesses to back either story?"
LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, there are three witnesses who are cited in the police report. And, of course, there's Heather herself and an aunt who apparently witnessed the arrest.
Look, the question is why was she angry? I'm sure she was angry. She has a completely different version of the facts. She says that the Walmart cashier asked her for ID even though she was paying in cash. Refused to give her, her change and clearly they called the police because she was angry in the store.
I didn't know that being angry in Walmart was against the law. If using profanity and raising your voice gives rise to disturbing the peace, I think about 75 percent of New York City could be arrested.
She feels that she was treated differently; it was on account of her race. It's in a racially charged community. And these charges are blown out of proportion so she's facing 15 years behind bars for an incident that began with cutting in line allegedly in Walmart and ended with her being arrested outside because she was yelling, walking away and the police didn't like it and they cuffed her.
I think there's good reason to think there are some racial allegations here.
HOSTIN: But Lisa wouldn't you agree that classic definition of disturbing the peace is offensive language directed at the face of another? That's a classic charge. And I think really the take away here is you never can win this sort of altercation with the police officer. I always advise my family members, I advise my clients...
BLOOM: Well, I think that's great and that's true...
HOSTIN: ... make close encounters short and sweet. Make them short and sweet. And we wouldn't be here.
BLOOM: That's true and that's very easy to say. But if that were me and a police officer is using the N word and I was treated badly in the way that she claims, I don't know if I wouldn't lose my temper as well. She's a human being. Everybody cracks at some point.
HOSTIN: That's true.
BLOOM: She admits she made mistakes or her representatives admit she made mistakes. But in the context of this case, I think charging her with crimes that get her 15 years behind bars and letting this thing drag out for three years all over, what, a woman who got angry at Walmart? That seems preposterous. It's just a huge waste of resources.
HOSTIN: I think we can agree on that.
KING: All right. Let me ask you this one here. She says no prior record of arrest. She's a college student at the time. She wanted to go to med school. She's a preacher's daughter. Does that matter when you get into the courtroom?
Sunny, to you first.
HOSTIN: Sure, it's going to matter. I think that if she testifies, and most certainly she will, the jury is going to hear that. They're going to hear that this was someone that, hopefully, typically, didn't lose her temper. This is a preacher's daughter, an educated person, an educated woman. I think that is going to certainly take -- be a large part of this trial.
But let's face it: she's going to be in front of a jury of her peers but a jury in this same town; people that have read about this case. And so can she get a fair shake in front of that type of jury? I'm not so sure. KING: Can she, Lisa?
BLOOM: Look, that's going to come in at sentencing if she's convicted; all of her prior lack of history and all of that.
There is another very important issue here. And that is that the police gave her a card from the KKK at one point, because there was going to be a protest march. And the police said they passed this KKK card on to her to let her know, let her family know that there was a security issue.
She sees that as a threat. I agree with her. I think that was inappropriate on the part of the police.
KING: Fascinating case. Sunny Hostin, Lisa Bloom, thank you so much.
And up next, we go inside the Obamas' marriage. A new interview with the first couple reveals details on everything from their date night to what they call a rocky period in their marriage.
Also ahead, a new twist in the investigation into the death of Anna Nicole Smith: her boyfriend and two of her doctors are headed to trial. Details coming up.
KING: They have a weekly date night and enjoy taking their daughters to school, things that would seem normal if they weren't the president and the first lady of the United States.
The Obamas' marriage is the subject of an in-depth article in the "New York Times" magazine. Jodi Kantor, Washington correspondent for "The Times," interviewed the first couple for that article, and she wrote it. She joins us now, along with CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley for tonight's "Uncovering America" segment.
So, Jodi, it's a fascinating article. And I'm going through it. And you're trying to find out what makes this marriage tick. And "we were in the Oval Office," you write, "nearly 40 minutes into a conversation about the subject of their marriage."
Isn't that in part your answer as to how the presidency has impacted their marriage? You're in the Oval Office surrounded by three aides?
JODI KANTOR, CORRESPONDENT, "NEW YORK TIMES": Yes. The interview became sort of a metaphor for the subject, because we were in the room that most symbolizes state power and, yet, we were talking about date night.
KING: Talking about date night. And go through what's the biggest con of being president and first lady and trying to be a happy couple, and what's the biggest pro in their view?
KANTOR: Well, the president launched into this very poignant soliloquy about what has happened to the date nights he's long held with his wife, especially this one date night which we all remember last spring in New York when they came here to New York to see a Broadway show.
And, you know, they looked to us like they were having a perfectly nice time. But afterwards, the president said he grew very annoyed -- that's the word he used -- that he was criticized for using federal money for his own entertainment. And he said, "I was simply trying to take my wife out on a date."
And then he said something that hung in my mind as I wrote the article at my desk. He said, "Everything becomes political."
Now what they said that they enjoyed is being back together. What's amazing and easy to forget about the Obamas is that they have not lived in the same house full time since 1996, which is two years before Malia was born. And it was only really last November when he won that they were finally reunited.
KING: That's an interesting point.
And Candy, you were there with the ride with then-Senator Obama, candidate Obama, for much of the campaign. Talk about Michelle Obama's imprint on the campaign. And do you see it as different now?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, early on in the campaign, she was largely absent, and we were always told that she was home with the kids and that's part of the deal. She wants to be there to keep their life stable.
But what happened, I think, was really interesting, because the marriage is what the campaign used, and it was already there. So I don't mean anything cynical about this. But the campaign used the marriage as a way of saying, "This man, who is the product of a single mother, who grew up in Hawaii, who was raised largely by his grandparents, who has a funny last name and spent some time in Indonesia growing up, actually is just like you."
I think that still is true to a certain extent. But it certainly changes once you're in office. Because what first ladies do, as you well know, John, is they fill in their husband's weaknesses.
When George Bush, for instance, became so unpopular and he still had policies to sell, who did they send out? Laura Bush. Because first ladies, historically, are quite popular as long as they don't get into anything too controversial.
And we now see Michelle coming out, talking about health care and health care for women.
KING: She is getting more involved in the policy.
And Jodi, to the very question Candy was talking about. Is the political use, sometimes -- and again, not to be cynical -- of this relationship. I want to read a sentence from your article I found striking.
"Their marriage is more vulnerable than ever to the corrosions of politics. Partisan attacks, disappointments of failed initiatives, a temptation to market what was once wholly private."
Even them agreeing to sit down and cooperate with you on this look behind the scenes into their marriage, did you think at all why are they doing this? Do they have something -- do they think they have something to gain from this?
KANTOR: Well, I asked them -- I asked them a slightly narrower question, which is why they had chosen to speak up about the difficulties in their marriage. Because in the years after their kids were born, as they have discussed before, they experienced a time of real tension and strain.
And what Mrs. Obama said is that basically if she feels that, by speaking up and being honest about her marriage, by saying it's not perfect -- she doesn't want anyone to think it's perfect -- if that can help younger couples, then she is happy to do it.
So, you know, her answer was basically, "I see myself as a role model, and I think it's important for us to be really honest about the hard work that marriage entails."
That said, I do think it goes back to what Candy talked about in terms of relatability because in the White House, everything is so perfect. It's like Disneyland. Everything is buffed to a very high sheen. And so there's something very powerful about sitting there in the Oval Office and saying, "No, in fact, things are not perfect here. We have struggled in our marriage."
KING: I'd like to ask both of you in closing, Candy to you first, help the guy in the conversation here in the sense that you have this strong, smart woman who is successful professionally, who has had to put her career aside and has, as you noted, Candy, slowly started to take more of a policy role. But as we project forward, now as we watch this relationship develop, whither Michelle Obama, if you will, in the relationship going forward? Will she be more assertive on a policy standpoint now or do you think that maybe she's waiting until after his life in politics to step back out?
CROWLEY: I think only she knows that. But let me just venture a guess. I think that Michelle Obama still knows she has young girls. I do think that has always been her priority as being a mom-in-chief, as she used to say. But I also think that they will use her when they need her.
KANTOR: I do think the situation is new for her personally, though because she has something she never had before, which is political capital. Her approval rating is higher than the president's. And everybody in the White House is acutely aware of it.
There is constant joking about how much higher her approval rating is than his. And so the question is, how is she going to choose to spend that capital and when?
KING: It's a fascinating question, and it's a fascinating article. Jodi Kantor, "The New York Times," our Candy Crowley, thank you both so much. CROWLEY: Sure.
KING: Next, serious allegations against Anna Nicole Smith's former boyfriend and doctors. They will stand trial. We'll tell you why.
KING: Erica Hill is keeping track of tonight's headlines. She joins us again with a "360 Bulletin."
ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, another teenager under arrest tonight in connection with the gang rape of a 15-year-old girl in Northern California. Eighteen-year-old Jose Carlos Montano is charged with felony rape, rape in concert with force, and rape with a foreign object. Police say he and as many as nine other people took part in the 2 1/2 hour assault outside the girl's high school while as many as ten others watched.
A judge in Los Angeles has ordered Anna Nicole Smith's boyfriend, Howard K. Stern, and two doctors to stand trial on charges of illegally providing prescription drugs to the former "Playboy" model. Now, the ruling follows a three-week preliminary hearing to determine if there was enough evidence to try them. All three pleaded not guilty to the charges.
And a couple of fun "360 Follows" on a Friday: a woman mistakenly tipped $29,000 by the University of Notre Dame in her catering paycheck. Turns out she's going to return half the money. Under a court settlement, she'll pay $50 a month over the next 28 years.
And you may remember the guy who was arrested for driving his motorized La-Z-Boy drunk? Well, John King, you are in luck because now this chair can be yours. Police are putting it up for auction on eBay. But there is a catch. The new owner must promise to keep it off the streets.
KING: That takes all the fun out of it. What's the point? I guess you could build a racetrack.
HILL: Find yourself a nice cul-de-sac, you'll be all set.
KING: Build a little La-Z-Boy track.
This does it for this edition of "360." Thanks for watching.
"LARRY KING" starts right now.