Return to Transcripts main page

ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

President Obama Meets With Republican Lawmakers; Scott Roeder Found Guilty of Murdering Abortion Doctor; The Orphans of Haiti

Aired January 29, 2010 - 22:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien, sitting in for Anderson Cooper tonight.

If you think there is no hope to be found in the Haiti story, don't move an inch. Topping the hour tonight the beginning of a new life for some of the orphans. You're going to meet the American mother who's about to welcome her adoptive son into his new home.

When you hear what she and so many adoptive parents have gone through, you might find yourself wondering, why can't more be done faster?

Also tonight, want to see if President Obama and Republican lawmakers are living up to the president's call to end the partisan fighting in Washington, D.C.? They got together today, cameras rolling, questions flying. You can decide for yourself if they're walking the walk.

And, later, he barely blinked when the jury convicted him of first-degree murder. Scott Roeder had plenty to say about why he walked up to an abortion provider in church, put a gun to his head, and then pulled the trigger. You will hear it. And we will talk with the doctor who is now picking up the victim's practice.

First, though, tonight, what is shaping up to be one of the few bits of joy to come out of Haiti these days, a flight leaving Port-au- Prince with more than 120 orphans on board, including, we believe, a little boy whose name is Jhonsley. Jhonsley is heading for a new home. He is being reunited with his cousins. He's beginning a new life.

But when we did the report you're about to see, his future wasn't so certain. We met him at an orphanage that we visited many times when we were in Haiti. There are many more like it and many more girls and boys just like Jhonsley. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN (voice-over): These babies are still living in the back of a truck in the heat with the flies, with an uncertain food supply and a less certain future.

They are orphans at Maison Des Enfants de Dieu, the House of God's Children, some of the 1,100 Haitian children in the process of being adopted by U.S. parents. But like hundreds of other orphans, they have lived in limbo since the earthquake hit. Their orphanages struggle to care for them, and their future American parents have not been cleared to take them home.

KIM HARMON, PRESIDENT, FOR HIS GLORY ADOPTION OUTREACH: And it's kind of discouraging and frustrating, because, as on adoptive parent, I have been in the adoption process and I know the length of time that it takes. And, in that process, it changes.

O'BRIEN: Kim Harmon has been trying for more than four years to adopt Jhonsley, an 11-year-old cousin of her other adopted children.

The State Department says it has already allowed 1,480 children to leave Haiti and complete their adoptions in the United States, far more than were adopted from Haiti in all of 2009. Officials shook off criticisms that the process is too slow.

P.J. CROWLEY, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS: It will be as rapid as it can be, but we want to make sure that, ultimately, you know, the -- our paramount importance is making sure that the children are properly cared for, and that the process works to put them in -- in the right homes, and so they can enjoy a brighter future.

O'BRIEN: U.S. parents are eager to get their children out. Twice, this orphanage has taken frail children to the U.S. Embassy on overheated buses, hoping to push through their adoptions. The House of God's Children had 135 orphans at the time of the earthquake.

Today, there are only about two dozen left, and the U.S. Embassy promises that some might get out tonight.

HARMON: I guess our child is in that group, right?

O'BRIEN: Kim Harmon got the news in the middle of our interview that Jhonsley may be one of them.

HARMON: Now, I will have to check with my people on the ground in Haiti and send them over to the embassy, because now they will be able to start handing out those humanitarian paroles, and then we will start transporting them to the airport and getting them here. So, wow.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Back at the House of God's Children, little will change. The director told us that, for every child that gets to leave, another will soon take its place.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Kim Harmon joins us now, along with our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, who has been following efforts to expedite the adoption process for some of the kids.

Thanks for being with us.

Let's start with you, Kim.

I know you're in Miami. You're waiting to see if in fact your adoptive son is on the plane. How hard is this wait? What have they been telling you?

HARMON: Well, I know that he's here. I have talked to our ground team that was in Haiti, and they have spoken to him, so I know that he's here.

He -- they will be processed through and taken to accommodations tonight where they will have beds and food and be well taken care of. And, so, we, as parents, will be able to meet with them tomorrow and finish our process on this side.

O'BRIEN: Jill, for a lot of adoptive parents, as you well know, there's a sense that it's taking a really, really long time. Is it, in fact?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: You know, you would have to say -- I have talked with adoption people who said that it was always very complex to adopt from Haiti and, in some cases, it could take up to two years or even more.

So, they would say that it actually is not taking as long as you might expect. Some of the kids who were already, let's say, at the point of being adopted, that process has been sped up. Most of those children have come out.

And then, for the children who were, you know, kind of beginning the process, and they had identified families, they have given what's called humanitarian parole. And that allows those children to come out. And, in other words, the parents could finish up the paperwork in the United States, so they would be out of Haiti and it would be done faster.

But it is frustrating, certainly, but I think, in fairness, it seems to be done quite quickly under the circumstances that exist.

O'BRIEN: Well, we're going to take a short break.

And, then, Kim, on the other side of this break, I want to ask you about this process. You say you're -- have got to finish up that paperwork. Exactly how much farther do you have to go?

But, ladies, I'm going to ask you both to stick around for us while we take a short break.

And, then, a little bit later, Anderson is going to profile one of the true heroes of Haiti, both before and after the earthquake. He's giving his all to kids. And, trust us, they're literally getting a kick out of it.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: We will tell you about that straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Three hundred and eighty thousand orphans in Haiti, that was before the earthquake, and now countless thousands more ever since.

Eleven hundred children are now in the process of being adopted by American parents, fewer, though, than 500 allowed to leave since the earthquake. That's a tiny number, really, when you compare it to the need, the number of children who so badly need loving families.

There is, of course, a process, procedures to follow, and concerns to be addressed whenever it involves uprooting children and sending them out of their home country. So, the question tonight is, does it take too long?

We're back with Kim Harmon, whose adoptive son Jhonsley arrived tonight. Also, our foreign correspondent, Jill Dougherty, is with us as well.

So, Kim, you were telling us about -- I mean, you're in Miami, but you say that, in fact, you may not be able to take your son home tonight. Why is that?

HARMON: Because they are processing his paperwork into this country. I know there's been a lot of talk about children being brought illegally into this country.

But we're talking about children who have applied for humanitarian parole and who have received humanitarian parole. And, so, they're coming into the government -- into this country legally. And, so, we're just going through that legal process right now.

O'BRIEN: And how long do you thank that that process is going to take?

HARMON: I expect that we will see them in the morning, because I have been told they're going to be processing all night, paperwork.

O'BRIEN: Oh, got it.

So, Jill, let me ask you a question. We mentioned there are these 1,100 children who were in Haiti who are already in the process of being adopted out. The State Department tells us that 480 have already been allowed into the United States. So, my math says 500- plus more to go. What happens to them?

DOUGHERTY: The kids who get out?

O'BRIEN: Yes, or the kids...

DOUGHERTY: Well, the kids who get out, if they are in the process of, you know, going through the end stages of being adopted, they go to the parents.

If they are not, and they have identified parents, in most cases, they could go to the parents, but they have to complete that paperwork. You know, I think it's really important, as I have been talking with the people at the State Department, and also people in adoption agencies, some of the things that we -- you have been hearing about, the concern about trafficking, the concern about pedophiles, these are legitimate concerns.

They may not happen all the time, but, just today, the State Department spokesman was talking about two cases, a couple of cases where they did have concerns that pedophiles were giving the impression, I guess, that they were able to adopt.

These are legitimate worries, and they do have to protect the children. There have been some people who just wanted to fly in to Haiti and fly people -- fly the children out, but that can't be done, and it's not good for the children.

O'BRIEN: Kim, let me...

DOUGHERTY: Ultimately, you have to protect their -- their rights and their security.

O'BRIEN: Right. And, of course, any parent would agree with that, certainly.

You're talking, Kim, ultimately, about 1,000 kids, right, I mean, roughly 1,000-plus kids. And when you see the amount of need in Haiti, which I know that you have seen many times, maybe 300,000 orphans, sometimes, that count is put, really, is adoption the solution for fixing what is a giant underlying problem in Haiti?

HARMON: I think it is part of a solution. I think there's a lot more to it than just adoption, because not everybody feels the calling to adopt. I really believe that's a calling.

And I agree with this -- the person that's speaking that we do have to be careful and we do have to protect our children. And, as adoptive parents, that's what we want, too. We want the same thing.

So, I have appreciated everything that the State Department and our U.S. government has been doing to expedite this process.

O'BRIEN: There are lots of kids, Kim, and Jill, too, that are not in the adoption process, this huge number, who are probably in some cases that I have seen even more desperately in need, frankly, because they don't have an American arm that's sending diapers in the wake of a disaster, and sending bags of rice, et cetera.

What do you do about them?

DOUGHERTY: That's right.

HARMON: Well, we will be taking in more children. Our orphanage still has work to do. There are still children that need to be cared for. And, so, that's what we will turn around and be doing once we can open our doors again and be able to bring new children in.

There are still -- there are still going to be kids who are hungry and need medical attention and have no families. And they will still be -- need to be taken care of.

O'BRIEN: Before I let you ladies go, Kim, I want to show you something. And I think you have a monitor there, because I know you haven't had a chance to see Jhonsley. But we have a picture of him boarding the plane.

So, take a look. This kid has a megawatt smile that you can recognize. It's about one second of videotape, but he's there in that red shirt.

How's he look to you?

HARMON: He looks very good.

(LAUGHTER)

HARMON: And he's probably asking -- he's probably asking everyone: "Do you know my mom? Her name's Kim Harmon."

O'BRIEN: That was the first thing he said to me when I met him at the orphanage. "Do you know my mom? Her name is Kim."

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: "Have you met my mom?" he said in perfect English. So, I bet he's very excited to see it.

I want to thank you both for talking about us -- talking to us tonight about adoptions, of course, an interesting topic that I know is something we're going to keep talking about as the crisis in Haiti goes on.

Jill and Kim, thanks a lot.

Now, you may not be Kim Harmon. There are plenty of other ways, health care to help the people of Haiti. As she said, adoption can be a calling. You can go to AC360.com if you want to find out how you can make a difference. Take a look at the Impact Your World entry, where you will find a long list of organizations that truly need your support. Check them out.

Just ahead tonight: The decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed just blocks away from ground zero caused an uproar across the country, and most recently in New York. Some called it making New York a target once again. Others said moving the trial would be caving in to al Qaeda. Up next, we will tell you what the Justice Department may have decided to do on that front.

And, then, later: a leading Republican thinks President Obama's face-off today with Republican lawmakers on their own turf, with cameras rolling -- we will find out what he says.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Keeping an eye now on how Washington is spending your money. That's what we're doing all week, every day. We're talking about $862 billion in stimulus funds, cash that the government says will fix the economy. That's the promise, but we need more than words to find out if it's working.

Tom Foreman joins us at our stimulus desk digging for facts, making sure the plan is, in fact, doing what it's supposed to be doing -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Soledad, we have plenty of words. You can see I'm sitting next to the great wall of stimulus here, which is about 15,000 pages.

We have been talking about this all week. I want to let you look at something here, because this is what we have been looking at. And it has really been quite tedious, pages and pages and pages like this. This is what's inside these books, endless -- about 15,000 -- pages of tiny projects telling you how much they spent, and, theoretically, what they're going to do.

There are all sort of projects. And I want to show you something over here, Soledad, what we have been looking at, at this hour. Specifically, we were attracted to money that's going to Antarctica for studies down there, something you might not be thinking of. But there's a lot of money going down here, a lot going it through Colorado, is what we were looking at right now, $18.5 million going to Raytheon to do a big study of polar services down there. They're doing some -- some support for polar services down in that area.

Other money going for weather balloon work that might be going on there, other things, to refurbish areas down there. The big question is, how many jobs do you actually get out of something like that in Antarctica, where there's really nobody except for researchers? We will tell you more about that when we come back in a little bit.

Another program, though, that we have been looking at that we have actually found very exciting to talk about is this one right here. If we spread this out, this is a program in Washington, D.C., and this program is all about this, helping young people, getting them ready for jobs, getting them ready for moving ahead.

The president has leaned into this hard. And this is a program that, of all the ones we have looked at, is really quite exciting to talk about. We have looked at how much money is being spent on this program, $1.1 million. We will tell you about what this is doing and why many taxpayers may say, yes, this is something the stimulus can actually help with and will help with, all of that coming up a little bit later on -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right. Excellent. We will see how many jobs are being created there. Thanks, Tom.

FOREMAN: Just ahead tonight, he was a CNN hero in Haiti, helping thousands of children. That was three years ago. Now he's saving even more people. We will have his story coming up next.

First, though, we're covering some other important stories.

And Randi Kaye joins us with a 360 bulletin.

Hello.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's good to see you, Soledad.

The Justice Department is looking at other locations for the trial of 9/11 suspects. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four accomplices faces terror charges in a Lower Manhattan courtroom just a few hundred yards from ground zero.

But police say 2,000 checkpoints need to be installed in Lower Manhattan to provide safety. The trial is also expected to cost the city more than $200 million a year.

Congressman Steve Buyer of Indiana today announced his retirement from Congress, saying he wants to be with his ill life. The Republican lawmaker recently faced questions about his private scholarship foundation. It has raised more than $880,000, without awarding a single scholarship.

And texting while driving does not reduce traffic accidents. That's according to a new study that looked at insurance claims in Washington, D.C., and three states that all have cell phone bans.

Bill and Melinda Gates today announced a record donation that could save nine million lives. The former Microsoft chief and his wife promised $10 billion to focus on vaccines against AIDS, tuberculosis, and some other illnesses as well.

O'BRIEN: All right. That is some good news there.

KAYE: Mm-hmm.

O'BRIEN: Great.

Thanks, Randi.

O'BRIEN: Back to Haiti now and the individual acts of heroism that are helping to rescue a nation that is now in ruins. Anderson met with a former soccer star in the country's largest slum, and his efforts to get kids off the street earned him the title CNN Hero back in 2007.

Well, now, after the earthquake, this hero is helping even more people.

Here's Anderson's report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): More than two weeks after the earthquake, Boby Duval is overwhelmed. This soccer field he built for kids is now a home for hundreds.

BOBY DUVAL, CNN HERO: It's really something. I mean, where are we going to start? Where are we going to start now? I mean, you know, it's just like, we were already in a hole. Now we are deep, a much deeper hole now.

COOPER: Duval was a CNN Hero in 2007. He founded a soccer training center called Athletics of Haiti, giving kids from some of the poorest neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince an opportunity to get off the streets, play a sport, and get a meal.

DUVAL: Some of these kids have witnessed the worst atrocities. They live in the mud and no running water.

COOPER: Before the earthquake, his program served 1,300 kids a day. It was a safe place, where kids could play and work on their skills.

DUVAL: The kids never miss practice. And they are disciplined enough to keep focused on something positive. It's basically an after-school program.

COOPER: That after-school program is now a lifesaver. Many families of the children who played soccer for Boby have now moved on to the field, with nowhere else to go.

DUVAL: What we're just trying to do it just keep it clean, give them a little bit of -- you know, set up some bathrooms, set up some water, and -- and give them care, that's all, understanding. So, they are safe here.

COOPER: Safe and sheltered. Duval provided what tents he had. Those without them have gotten more creative.

(on camera): Are these goalposts, too?

DUVAL: Goalposts, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Someone has made a little home out of goalposts.

DUVAL: Right. That's it.

COOPER: Wow.

(voice-over): Some kids still pay soccer to pass the time. Families are making due the best they can. They cook on makeshift grills, wash clothes in discarded tubs. Duval says this is going to be the way of life here for a long time to come.

DUVAL: Save and serve, yes.

COOPER: Save and serve?

DUVAL: Save and serve.

COOPER: And that is what is essential right now, save as many as you can? DUVAL: Save as many as you can and serve as much as you can. That's -- that's it.

COOPER (voice-over): Anderson Cooper, CNN, Port-au-Prince.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: The strength of the survivors and the hope for the people. You can witness Boby Duval's kindness and many other acts of heroism on a special edition of A.C. 360 this weekend, "CNN Heroes: Saving Haiti." That's this Saturday and Sunday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Next tonight on 360: the verdict for killing at abortion provider. We will have the jury's decision. We will also hear chilling testimony from the defendant and a doctor who worked alongside the victim.

Then, later, the former senator and the videotape -- John Edwards isn't talking, but his mistress is, and she wants it back -- the latest ahead on 360. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: In "Crime & Punishment" tonight: a verdict in the abortion doctor killing. Defendant Scott Roeder said he was saving lives. A jury in Kansas today convicted him of taking a life.

Roeder was found guilty of murdering Dr. George Tiller, a late- term abortion provider. The deliberations lasted just 37 minutes. And he's going to be sentenced to life in prison, but with the possibility of parole.

Dr. Tiller was shot to death last year in his church. And Roeder confessed to the killing.

And, yesterday, on the witness stand, he offered chilling testimony of the planned execution. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On May 31, 2009, did you go to the Reformation Lutheran Church and shoot and kill George Tiller?

SCOTT ROEDER, DEFENDANT: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, what are your feelings on the practice of abortion?

ROEDER: From conception forward, it is murder. It is not man's job to take life, only in cases of self-defense or defense of others.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you kill him?

ROEDER: The lives of those children were in imminent danger. If someone did not stop George Tiller, he was going to continue, as he had done for 36 years prior to that time. If someone did not stop him, they were going to continue to die. The babies were going to continue to die.

My honest belief was that, if he did -- if he did not stop that -- at that time, when I had the window of opportunity, they would have continued to die. Twenty-two hours later, he had appointments scheduled. That's what he did for a living. There was no -- no belief to understand that he was going to change his mind and stop the next day.

I got up at that moment and followed him out and into the foyer area. And I -- I did what I thought was needed to be done to protect the children. I -- I shot him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: "Digging Deeper" tonight: abortion rights supporters praised the verdict, but many fear the violence will continue.

And that's something my next guest is acutely aware of.

Dr. LeRoy Carhart was a friend and colleague of Dr. Tiller. He worked, in fact, at Tiller's Kansas practice. Dr. Carhart performs abortions, including late-term abortions, at his Nebraska clinic, which has become ground zero in this divisive issue.

And, earlier tonight, I spoke with Dr. Carhart.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Dr. Carhart, Dr. Tiller was a close friend of yours. How hard is it for you to hear that testimony of -- of really how the killing happened?

DR. LEROY CARHART, PRACTITIONER OF LATE-TERM ABORTIONS: Well, it's an image that I've lived with, I mean, every day since his murder. We all knew exactly what happened, what did it and how it was done.

It's been a -- you know, it's been a horrible year for me and I'm sure for his family and his children, his wife, children and grandchildren, it's been even worse. This was a needless, worthless murder of a very religious, very moral, very practiced physician.

O'BRIEN: I know you were pleased by the conviction. Is there a greater message? The conviction took just minutes, really.

CARHART: I think the conviction really doesn't do anything for us. What is important was the judge not allowing the necessary -- necessity defense or the voluntary manslaughter defense. I think either of those would have sort of put targets on the back of every abortion provider out there.

And then I read on one of the comments to the news story earlier on the media today, then does this mean that the doctors and the pro- choice -- I'm sorry, yes, the people that believe in abortion, should be murdering anti-choice protesters? Because they're going to murder doctors? It just becomes a stupid, vicious circle. There was absolutely no other option. And I think the guilty verdict was what he deserved. I just have to worry about what the sentence is going to be, because I know if he ever gets out he'll have the same reason to kill again.

O'BRIEN: You're one of a small number of doctors who do late- term abortions. In the wake of the death of Dr. Tiller have you struggled to find other doctors to train or to take his position?

CARHART: Actually, you know, not really. Since -- with Dr. Tiller's death there were three of us working in Wichita with him. And now I am working in Omaha, and the other two doctors are working in the west. So really, I mean, we have increased the number of clinics providing the later abortions.

So I think in that, you know, that was Dr. Tiller's goal. He had brought me there, saying that he needed to have people trained in case anything happened to him. And I just -- I just know that, in the back of his mind -- and I know we talked about this frequently, that all of us -- all of us working there and others providers in the country, all the abortion providers today have targets on their back and you never...

O'BRIEN: That's how you feel?

CARHART: That's how I think -- that's how we've all felt for -- ever since the murder of Dr. Gunn back in 1993.

O'BRIEN: So you're very open, talking about how you provide late-term abortions. You're -- you give interviews. People have had the opportunity who are reporters to visit your clinic. How concerned are you? I mean, what do you do about that fear, then?

CARHART: I don't think fear is a really good word. I think we try to take -- and Dr. Tiller also tried to take the necessary steps that he could to protect his security. We, I think, have all agreed that, even the president, if somebody wants to kill him bad enough, then it's a possible -- a possibility it will happen, and I think we know that.

For ourselves, we can't afford the security that the presidents and other heads of states do, yet we see in the press all the time in different parts of the world where people are being murdered.

So, you know, you only have a short time on earth to begin with, and I think that Dr. Tiller's mission was to provide and train people the best that he could while he was here. And to that purpose I think he did an excellent job. The senseless, needless waste is the murder of the father, the husband, the grandfather, the friend. That's what is so sad.

O'BRIEN: The judge in the case said he did not want the trial to become about abortion. Do you think in the end the trial really did become about abortion?

CARHART: I think Mr. Roeder tried to use his testimony to nullify the jury and have them give an innocent verdict. But I don't think it ever did. In the minds of the jury, at least, I don't think the trial was ever about abortion. I think in the mind of the jury, the trial was about the murder of a pillar of the community of Wichita.

O'BRIEN: Dr. Leroy Carhart joining us tonight. Thanks for being with us. We appreciate your time.

CARHART: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

Coming up next on 360, an invitation with the president. The face-to-face and raw showdown with the Republicans. It was on camera, got pretty heated, and now some in the GOP are claiming they were ambushed.

Then later, turtle trouble. The government says protecting them helps the economy. How exactly? Our Keeping Them Honest report is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: I think it's fair to describe it as political theater that had everybody talking today. President Barack Obama vowed to step back from the partisan brink in his State of the Union speech. Today, he took that pledge to Baltimore to address the House Republican retreat.

The president didn't mince words, saying that working together to solve national problems would be tough. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fact of the matter is, is that many of you, if you voted with the administration on something, are politically vulnerable in your own base, in your own party. You've given yourselves very little room to work in a bipartisan fashion, because what you've been telling your constituents is "This guy's doing all kinds of crazy stuff that's going to destroy America."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: CNN political contributor and former Republican strategist Ed Rowlands is with us with the "Raw Politics."

You watched this. And winners, losers?

ED ROWLANDS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: The president is a winner. You know...

O'BRIEN: Clearly a winner.

ROWLANDS: Clearly a winner. And I think to a certain extent, he came in and dominated the Republican show. This is our meetings we were supposed to have to lay out our strategy. And I think to a certain extent, you know, he plays it so well.

The good news is I hope everyone there realizes he is a very formidable candidate. And the fact that we have gotten a little overconfident over our victories of late we have to go out and win them. And he's going to be a very -- he's not going to go away. He's going to articulate his message and we have to make sure we're putting the microscope on that and making sure that the country knows what we believe in and why we believe.

O'BRIEN: Was the mistake the invitation? Or was the mistake the cameras or a little bit of both?

ROWLANDS: I would not have made the invitation. I think it's too close to the State of the Union. I think this was a very important meeting for Republicans to get behind doors and figure out their own strategy: what they're going to be for, what they're going to be against.

There's several things before. What never got discussed today, the president cannot get his war policy through without Republican support. There's not enough Democrats going to support him on Afghanistan. There's no dialogue about that today. And clearly, we have to play a very heavy role.

We could also play a role in reducing taxes on small business and those kinds of things.

But this became his forum. He's now ended his week on a good note, and I think he's energized his Democrat base, who basically said the president is tough enough to stand up to Republicans.

O'BRIEN: The strategy sessions generally are really -- as a viewer, can be very, very dull. And this was really entertaining television. I mean, some of it was just out and out funny. I'm going to play a little chunk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Mike.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Tom Price from Georgia, and then we'll have one more after that if your time permits, Mr. President.

OBAMA: You know, I'm having fun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

OBAMA: This is great.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So are we.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: It was funny, I mean, back and forth. Does it bode well for getting together? Which is what the president mentioned in his State of the Union? ROWLANDS: You know, they're not going to get together, because they are so...

O'BRIEN: On the things you mentioned, like Afghanistan where he needs Republican support.

ROWLANDS: On those, obviously, they're going to get together. The way you get together is you -- you begin the process. You don't do it at the end of the process. You can't force Republicans to vote for things they don't believe in: big spending or big taxes or any of those kinds of things. So you have to find common ground. And if you can't find common ground and consistency the Republicans have done in the past, then you can bring them together.

Nancy Pelosi has had sufficient numbers in her own party, but she can push things forward and not worry about House Republicans. And they've done that. House Republicans have been empowered by putting the microscope on this and saying they're misspending your money. They're doing this stuff without transparency.

And I think that -- I think at the end of the day we've lost over 50 seats in the last two elections. We have an opportunity this time to go win 20, 25, maybe more. But we're only going to do it by basically doing it right. That's going out with good candidates across the country, taking our message to the people.

O'BRIEN: You talked at one point as something sort of characterized as a plot. I'm going to play that chunk to you, and then I want to ask you about, you know, who's the audience? Who's he really talking to? It's way more than the Republicans in the room, obviously. That's what the TV cameras are for. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: But if you were to listen to the debate and, frankly, how some of you went after this bill, you'd think that this thing was some Bolshevik plot. I mean, that's how you guys -- that's how you guys presented it. And I would just say that we have to think about tone.

It's not just on your side, by the way. It's on our side, as well. This is part of what's happened in our politics, where we demonize the other side so much that, when it comes to actually getting things done, it becomes tough to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: He's talking about the health-care bill, uses the word "Bolshevik plot." Gets a little scattered applause there for a little bit. Who's the audience? Is it really independents? The whole ending of "it's our fault and your fault"?

ROWLANDS: Equally important, the president has a real problem, not with Republicans. He has a real problem with Democrats. The House bill can't pass the Senate. The Senate bill can't -- he chastised the Senate the other night. He's got to make them move forward. They've got enough votes that they can get just about anything they want by themselves.

But this clearly was to tell them, "I'm going to go fight for you. Quit being nervous about the election. We can still hold our ground."

The Republicans obviously have got to figure out what it is that we're going to articulate other than Obama. You know, I think they do believe he's an ideologue, and I think that term has to be defined. What does that mean to ordinary people? Words -- words do matter, and names really matter. And I think the key thing here is action matters.

O'BRIEN: No more invitations for the president for a little while.

ROWLANDS: I wouldn't.

O'BRIEN: Ed Rowlands, nice to see you as always.

ROWLANDS: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Appreciate it.

A lot more give and take. Got some more to talk about right now. That is why at the top of the hour we're going to bring you a special hour that highlights some of the best moments of that Q&A session. It's really incredibly entertaining, actually. Extended cuts, I guess, we're calling it, so you can see for yourself and decide how you think the president and House Republicans did.

"Raw Politics," a special 360 hour, just ahead tonight.

Coming up next, though, the turtle tunnel, literally, that is what it's called. It is part of a plan to jump-start the economy. You need to know what it's about, because guess what? You're paying for it.

Our "Keeping Them Honest" report is ahead.

Then later, all the anger in button-down Britain against a politician, Tony Blair, who's not even prime minister anymore. We'll tell you why. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: The stimulus plan, is it working or not? You have a right to know. After all it is your money. Let's take a closer look at two stimulus projects.

Tom Foreman joins us once again with the facts, along with some surprising information on both projects -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Soledad, we mentioned this Antarctic project earlier on. Look at this.

Raytheon got $18.5 million to help install South Pole traverse equipment and to replace the heat system at the -- the heat tray system at the McMurdo station in Antarctica. They also did some air field work down there. For $18.5 million. No jobs created.

Plus, there was $750,000 that went to another firm out of Colorado. This one called Northwest Research Associates. They were being paid to employ a sophisticated meteor research radar system down from a Brazilian Antarctic station.

Plus, there was another half million dollars to the University of Colorado to build weather balloons used by the French to look into what's going on down there.

Here's the deal. We looked at Colorado alone. There's more than $20 million going to firms in Colorado for work in Antarctica. And overall, that's yielding about six jobs in the state, Soledad. Yes, this may be very important work, but you know critics of the stimulus are going to say, important work or not, that's not really the point. The point was to create jobs here.

So that's one of the examples we found this week that makes you sort of arch your eyebrows and say not sure what that really means.

O'BRIEN: Six jobs.

FOREMAN: Yes.

O'BRIEN: That's just hard to sell as big success. I know you're looking at another project, though, where it actually seems to be making a big difference.

FOREMAN: Yes, this is the kind of project I think a lot of voters out there can get very excited about. Let me just fan these pictures out here and show you what we're talking about here.

This is a project in -- whoa, I just about lost them there. They may come back in a moment. This was a project in Washington, D.C. And if I can grab it I'll pull it right back down here. This is a project in Washington, D.C., to help people find jobs and take care of things for themselves there.

It was called -- the group is the Sasha Bruce Youth Work Group in Washington, D.C., $1.1 million. They've only received about $700,000 so far in this. They provide help for disadvantaged young people. They believe they're going to help people get their GEDs, get jobs, really move along in really significant ways. Looks like a terrific program.

They've saved six jobs -- excuse me, seven jobs so far, but they think the residual effect of this, helping many people get jobs and hold them in years to come, is really going to be there. And they think once all this money goes out, the $1.1 million, this will be one of the programs that people look at and say, "That's really where we should have been spending our money, because it really helped everyone" -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: That's good to hear. Thanks, Tom. We found one stimulus project in Florida where taxpayer dollars are being spent to protect turtles. It's true. How exactly does that create jobs? We sent Randi Kaye south for some answers. She's "Keeping Them Honest." People, that is. Not the turtles. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what brought us to Tallahassee. We had to see for ourselves why the state of Florida is under fire for spending nearly $3.5 million of your money. Is it really about saving turtles?

We did find construction crews hard at work, building what they call an ecopassage, a fancy word for a turtle tunnel, so the turtles and other wildlife can get to the other side of this busy highway without being smooshed.

(on camera) We're driving along Highway 27 in Tallahassee. And this stretch of road has been dubbed a mile-long killing zone by a biologist who has studied wildlife in this area for years.

With about 25,000 cars barreling down this area daily, he told CNN that 9,000 turtles have died trying to cross this road in just the last three years. What happens is they stumble onto the pavement in search of water. And once they do that, they're doomed.

So here's the problem. About 80 years ago they built this highway right through Lake Jackson, cutting it in two. And then about 50 years ago they widened it, making it a four-lane highway. So with the area so wide and so close to the lake, it's simply impossible for the wildlife, including the turtles, to co-exist with all the oncoming traffic.

(voice-over) That doesn't seem to matter to Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. At a cost of $3.4 million taxpayer dollars, the turtle tunnel ranks No. 5 on Coburn's list of the top 100 wasteful stimulus projects.

Leon County Commissioner Cliff Thaell says Senator Coburn might reconsider if he drove this highway. Thaell says he could run into a turtle as big as a manhole cover.

CLIFF THAELL, LEON COUNTY COMMISSIONER: Between '03 and '08 there were 55 crashes on that section of road. And certainly, a large percentage of them were from people who had swerved to miss an animal such as a turtle or stopped to pick up a turtle to move it and were rear- ended.

PACE ALLEN, TALLAHASSEE RESIDENT: I've never seen a turtle...

KAYE: Tallahassee resident Pace Allen who last summer held a turtle tunnel tea-party protest, calls this whole thing excessive and a waste of your money.

ALLEN: I'm pretty certain that it is not about public safety. No. Turtles are not flipping up and going through windshields.

KAYE: Commissioner Thaell argues this is really about public safety. This tunnel, built 50 years ago, is collapsing, along with the roadway on top of it.

THAELL: We would use our own local and state funds to do the same job in a few years. So it was a windfall for us.

KAYE (on camera): Let me show you what they're doing here. Construction crews are building a four-foot high retaining wall for about a mile or so. And this way the turtles and the wildlife won't be able to cross the highway.

What this retaining wall will do is funnel them to two tunnels that they're also building. One of them is under construction right there. This way, the turtles and the wildlife will use that tunnel to actually cross under the highway safely.

(voice-over) The project was shovel ready and has kept nearly two dozen workers on the job.

(on camera) These guys happy to be working I bet?

HENRY MAYFIELD, CONTRACTOR: Absolutely.

KAYE (voice-over): Contractor Henry Mayfield says it's a fight every day to keep his men employed. He's already laid off about 25 workers.

MAYFIELD: It's kept three crews, probably 15, 20 guys, our employed guys working. So it's been a big help.

KAYE: A big help or a big waste? You decide.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE: And one more look at the numbers now might help you decide what to think of this project. The turtle tunnel is costing taxpayers $3.4 million. It is creating about 22 jobs. Those jobs are expected to last just shy of a year if the project stays on schedule. So a few jobs there for a lot of money.

O'BRIEN: It sounds like maybe preventing some traffic accidents.

KAYE: Yes. That's what they're saying in Tallahassee.

O'BRIEN: All right. Thanks. Go to AC360.com if you want to see if the stimulus projects in your state are actually creating jobs.

And we have more on the jobs front coming up tonight. President Obama's new push to get Americans back to work and how it could affect you and your family.

Plus, the mistress and the video. Why one-time presidential candidate John Edwards' former aide is now facing a legal battle over it. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Let's get caught up on some of the night's more important stories. Randi Kaye joins us again with a "360 News & Business Bulletin."

Good evening, again.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, again, Soledad.

President Obama today called on Congress to approve a bill that would provide $33 billion in tax breaks for small businesses that hire new workers and give pay raises. The pitch came as Mr. Obama visited an industrial equipment company in Baltimore before meeting with Republican lawmakers at the retreat we told you about a little bit ago.

Meantime, a boost for the economy. It grew faster than expected: 5.7 percent in the last quarter, the fastest pace in six years.

To London now, where today former British prime minister, Tony Blair, defended his decision to support the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Mr. Blair, appearing tense and defiant at times, testified before a British panel looking into the war. He said that, following the 9/11 attacks, they could not ignore the threat of weapons of mass destruction.

No WMDs were ever found in Iraq.

Outside the hearing, about 150 protesters chanted "Blair lied, thousands died" and "Jail Tony."

In North Carolina Rielle Hunter, mistress of former presidential candidate John Edward, wants, quote, a very private and personal videotape back from a former Edwards aide. Hunter was granted a temporary restraining order against the ex-aide, Andrew Young. It seeks the return of photos and video that Young says were found in a box of trash that Hunter left behind at a home he rented for her. That story is not going away.

O'BRIEN: That's going to be a big legal battle, isn't it?

KAYE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: And a bunch of people are going to want to get their hands on that video.

KAYE: I'm sure.

O'BRIEN: That's my prediction.

KAYE: You're probably right.

O'BRIEN: Coming up at the top of the hour, you can call it the president in the lion's den. President Obama taking some tough questions from leading Republicans. And talking pretty tough himself. We're bringing you the highlights of this historic throw-down. You can decide for yourself just how well the president did and how well Republicans did in meeting his State of the Union challenge to change the tone.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)