Return to Transcripts main page


Conservatives Pushing Myths About Obama?; Do Republicans Fear Palin Presidential Run?

Aired November 4, 2010 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And thanks for watching.

Tonight: the $200 million myth, made-up claims that President Obama's trip to Asia is costing taxpayers $200 million a day, more than the daily cost of the war in Afghanistan. Who's spreading such a false story? Well, it's not just right-wing radio talkers. At least one U.S. congresswoman is pressing it pretty hard. Tonight, we're "Keeping Them Honest."

Also tonight, "Keeping Them Honest" on their promises. You have heard all the politicians promising spending cuts without raising taxes or touching most of the budget, but can they spell out what they would cut? See for yourself tonight.

And later, a picture on Twitter: a preacher's sign calling Obama a Taliban Muslim. Sarah Palin sees it and lists it as a favorite. Now she's reportedly calling it an accident. She says she's never purposefully favored -- favorited anything. So, how does she explain all the favorites taken down from her page? We will examine that tonight.

But we begin tonight, as we do every night, "Keeping Them Honest."

Tonight: a made-up story about the president of the United States and the politicians and pundits who are spreading it. Now, let me start by saying it's not our job to defend the president of the United States. We don't take political sides on this program. We're not liberal. We're not conservative. We try to hold all politicians accountable on facts, on truth.

And there's a lot of reasons to oppose this president. And there's a lot of ways our government wastes money. No one needs to make up any -- any stuff or spread false stories about waste. But that is exactly what's happening right now.

Perhaps you have heard the story that President Obama's trip to Asia starting tomorrow is going to cost taxpayers, you, $200 million a day, about $2 billion for the entire trip. Perhaps you have heard or read online that 34 Navy ships are going to be diverted for the trip. It sounds outrageous, a multibillion-dollar boondoggle, a slap in the face to recession-weary Americans, an clear example of an imperial presidency and wasteful government, as Congresswoman Michele Bachmann said last night on this very program. She was on to talk about budget cuts and balancing the budget. And my first question was about Medicare, but she clearly didn't want to talk about that and went right to the president's alleged $200- million-a-day trip.


COOPER: Republican Paul Ryan has suggested sharp cuts in Medicare and Social Security. Are you willing to make cuts there?

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Well, I think we know that, just within a day or so, the president of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day. He's taking 2,000 people with him.

He will be renting out over 870 rooms in India. And these are five-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending. It's a very small example.


COOPER: Well, I challenged her on the numbers. I told her the White House says they're wildly inflated. She didn't back down, though, saying -- quote -- "These are the numbers that are coming out in the press."

Now, it sort of sounds legitimate, right? The press. Newspapers, networks, they check facts, they have multiple sources. But it turns out the only press on which this story was coming out was an Indian press report. And that $200-million-a-day figure, where did that come from? Well, that was in a quote by an alleged Indian provincial official reported by India's Press Trust, their equivalent of our AP or Reuters.

I say alleged provincial official because we have no idea who this person is. No name was given. It was an anonymous quote, the kind of that Sarah Palin has recently been railing against.

Some reporter in India wrote this article with this figure in it. No proof was given, no follow-up reporting done. Now, you would think if a member of Congress was going to use this figure as a fact, she would want to be pretty darn sure it was accurate, right?

But there hasn't been any follow-up reporting on this Indian story. The Indian article was picked up by The Drudge Report and other sites online and it quickly made its way into conservative talk radio.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: ... two days now be in India, at $200 million a day.


(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) GLENN BECK, HOST, "GLENN BECK": Have you ever seen the president, ever seen the president go over for a vacation where you needed 34 warships, $2 billion, $2 billion, 34 warships? We are sending -- he's traveling with 3,000 people.



LIMBAUGH: But the idea that you're going to take 3,000 people and you're booking over 500 rooms in a hotel, and you're taking 40 airplanes.



DON IMUS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Two hundred million dollars.


IMUS: Two hundred million?




LIMBAUGH: No president has ever anywhere close to 40 airplanes, 3,000 people, 500 rooms in one hotel. And that's just one hotel for a 100-day trip, $200 million a day. It's never been done before.



MICHAEL SAVAGE, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Two hundred million dollars. Two hundred million dollars each day on security and other aspects of this incredible royalist visit, 3,000 people, including Secret Service agents.



LIMBAUGH: So, do you take this many people, this many airplanes, the question is, are you coming back?


COOPER: Again, no one really seemed to care to check the facts.

For security reasons, the White House doesn't comment on logistics of presidential trips, but they have made an exception this time to say the $200-million-a-day figure is wildly inflated. This morning, Robert Gibbs was asked about it at the White House.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have set the record straight with you guys. I -- I -- I am not going to go into how much it costs to protect the president. It's a -- costs are comparable to when President Clinton and when President Bush traveled abroad. This trip doesn't cost $200 million a day.


COOPER: Even the Pentagon weighed in, knocking down the idea that so many Navy ships were being redeployed.


GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON SPOKESPERSON: I will take the liberty this time of dismissing as absolutely absurd this notion that somehow we're deploying 10 percent of the Navy, some 34 ships and an aircraft carrier in support of the president's trip to Asia. That's just comical. Nothing close to that is -- is -- being done.


COOPER: Let's remember, the war in Afghanistan costs, according to the Congressional Budget Office, about $190 million a day. So, the idea that a president's trip might cost more than the war in Afghanistan, that just doesn't make any sense.

I want to bring you over to the data wall now, because even though we don't know the -- the final number for how much this trip is going to cost, we do have some hard facts to go on. And, by the way, these facts could have easily been checked by anyone who is spreading this story.

Take a look. President Clinton made a trip to Africa in 1998 that gives some sense of what presidential trips cost. Now, Clinton's trip was to six countries in Africa. He crisscrossed the continent over 11 days. It involved 1,300 people. And, according to the GAO -- GAO, the cost of it, adjusted for inflation, was about $5.2 million every day. So, that's what that trip costs, $5.2 million every day.

Now, let's look at comparison. President Obama's trip will be going to four countries in nine days, fewer days, fewer countries than President Clinton. We don't know the number of travelers. We don't know the final price tag, but there's no reason to believe it's even close to $200 million a day.

The guy from the Pentagon you saw earlier, he said, this is comical. Well, it would be comical if it wasn't being used by a powerful congresswoman and powerful pundits. There are plenty of reasons to oppose the president, plenty of things to point to as government waste and overspending. You don't have to make stuff up.

Joining us now, Democratic strategist James Carville, also former Bush White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card.

Andy Card, let's start off with you. You have been a former chief of staff. You have been on these trips. Even the remote possibility of it costing $200 million a day, I mean, does that even pass the smell test to you?

ANDREW CARD, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: It doesn't to me, but I think the White House is appropriate in saying they don't talk about what it costs for the president to travel.

Look it, we want our president to be safe wherever he goes. I can't imagine it would cost $200 million a day. If it costs anywhere close to that number, the president should be asking tough questions of the Defense Department and the Secret Service and the State Department.

But he should also be paying attention to keeping his entourage as small as credibly possible and still do the job that he has to do for the country as he travels around the country.

COOPER: Well, apparently, a number of CEOs and businesspeople are going with him on this trip to try to push American businesses in Asia.

By the way, Mr. Card, has anyone, like, from the talk radio world or Congresswoman Bachmann's office called you for -- to confirm any of these or check any of these numbers?



CARD: I have not heard from any of the so-called pundits or personalities in the media, including you, Anderson. I didn't hear from you as to what the numbers might be. But...


COOPER: Well, you're here tonight, so you did hear from us.



CARD: Well, at any rate, you know, there are lots of exaggerations in the political world. I think this is an exaggeration. I don't think that you should be hyping it as much as you are, because it's not as big a deal as you're making it out.

But, yes, people are worried about the government spending too much money.


COOPER: See, the reason I do mention it is because Michelle...


CARD: Republicans do care about spending money.

COOPER: Right.

COOPER: The reason I have mentioned it is because Michele -- Michele Bachmann used up our airtime last night, rather than answering questions about Medicare, to talk about this.

CARD: It's not your airtime, Anderson. It's not your airtime.

COOPER: Well, it's...


CARD: OK. She was invited on.


COOPER: ... the hour I have on the show. And she chose...

CARD: Well...

COOPER: ... to -- to spread a story which is blatantly false. And I think we...

CARD: And you're flogging the heck out of it. And I think that's not very responsible either. There are bigger issues to talk about.


COOPER: I have no doubt about it, but she brought it up. So, I want to check the -- I want to check the records and check the facts.

CARD: And you're bringing it up again. You did it again.

And, you know, let's talk about the government spending too much money.

COOPER: Right.

CARD: The government is spending too much money.

COOPER: Sir, we're -- we're -- we're going to talk about that, actually, right in the next segment. But this is how we're starting off.


COOPER: James?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You're a big enough guy to defend yourself, but I might point out to Mr. Card you asked about Medicare cuts and Medicare costs, and that's what she responded to.

COOPER: Right.

CARVILLE: I'm sure that Mr. Card would agree that Medicare spending is a big issue and obviously a big cost.

But I have a conflict, because I endorsed Ms. Bachmann on "Good Morning America."


COOPER: Oh, is that right?


CARVILLE: Yes. I said I would...


COOPER: I'm sure you did a lot of help for her.


CARVILLE: I did a lot of help -- a lot of help for her, but I think she would be great out there.

COOPER: I want to play -- Mr. Card, I want to play you something that John Boehner has said about the -- the -- the key priority for him moving forward in the next two years. Let's play that.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: There's a lot of tricks up our sleeves in terms of how we can dent this, kick it, slow it down to make sure it never happens. And, trust me, I'm going to make sure this health care bill never, ever, ever is implemented.


COOPER: I also want to play for our viewers something that Senator Mitch McConnell said, a goal of the GOP is to basically get the president out of office.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL: If our primary legislative goals are to repeal and replace the health spending bill, to end the bailouts, cut spending, and shrink the size and scope of government, the only way to do all of those things is to put someone in the White House who won't veto any of these things.


COOPER: And, finally, I want to play something that President Obama said at his press conference yesterday about bipartisanship.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I told John Boehner and Mitch McConnell last night, I am very eager to sit down with members of both parties and figure out how we can move forward together.

I'm not suggesting this will be easy. And I won't pretend that we'll be able to bridge every difference or solve every disagreement.


COOPER: Now, a lot of liberals are using all of these quotes and saying, well, look, this is a sign that the president is reaching out, but conservatives aren't.

Do you think, A, that's fair? And -- and, if it's not, do you think there is room to actually work together?

CARD: Well, first of all, the quote from Mitch McConnell was a little bit old, wasn't really contemporaneous to what happened on Tuesday.

And Republicans do want to bring more discipline to government. They do want to repeal and replace the health care package that the president put in that jammed through Congress. I think that the president is obligated to make significant steps toward cooperation with Republicans now that the American people have spoken so loudly, and I think that's what can happen.

COOPER: By the way, the...


CARD: Clearly, it's going to be very, very tough.

And, if -- if President Obama wants to be part of the solution, he's got to take the steps to be part of the solution. If he doesn't want to be part of the solution, the Republicans will put things on his desk. And I don't know whether he would veto them or not.

But he should be part of solution. And he should be working with the Republicans, as he promised to do when he first took office, and he did not do.

COOPER: By the way -- by the way, the -- the sound bite from McConnell was from this morning at the Heritage Foundation.


CARVILLE: Yes. Look, I don't -- I thought what Mitch McConnell said actually is -- is speaking the truth, is that, if you want to do nothing on climate change, if you want tax cuts for the rich, if you want more deficits, if you want to do all of these things, yes, you need a Republican president to do that.

And I didn't really -- if he would have said something else, I would have thought he was being kind of phony about it, honestly. (LAUGHTER)

CARVILLE: I thought he was being truthful.

But, you know, the Democrats -- one of the things that we tend to forget here, is, before it gets to the president's desk, as I understand it, it has to go through the Senate. And there still is a Democratic majority in the Senate. So, it's -- all this that John Boehner has the House, but I think, if you're a constitutionalist, of which these Republicans claim they are, I think the Senate has some say-so in this.

COOPER: Andy, do you want to respond to that?

CARD: Well, I -- the Republicans in the House will have to work with the Senate.

I want government to work. The American people say: We're frustrated.

We're -- we're doubly frustrated. We are frustrated with President Obama. We're frustrated with Democrats. We're frustrated with Republicans. We want the government to work. Perfection will be introduced into every debate in Congress. I pray that perfectly good is the result.

So I want the Republicans and Democrats to find a way to work together, so that government can work, and I want the president to be a leader in that effort. If the president is not a leader, it's not likely to happen.

But I know how the Constitution works, and I know speaker-to-be Boehner understands the role of the House. He also respects the role of the Senate. And I have every reason to believe that he will try to be constructive as we move forward.

But he's going to stand on principles. And the Republicans that were elected on Election Day are standing very tall right now on some very solid principles.

COOPER: James, stick around.

Mr. Card, stick around.

A lot of promises have been made about cutting spending, cutting taxes, cutting the deficit. But where are the specifics? We're "Keeping Them Honest" and our guests will be able to join in on that.

A reminder: The live chat is up and running at If you would like to, weigh in.

And later: Sarah Palin's taste in tweets. She called this one her favorite, then took down all the favorites from her site. Now she's telling ABC News she never purposely favorited anything, that it was an accident. As you will see, there were plenty of other accidents on her page. We will discuss the story that just occurred a short time ago.


COOPER: There have been a lot of promises made on the campaign trail about cutting, cutting -- cutting taxes, cutting spending, cutting the budget, a lot of promises, but few painful specifics. Take a look.


BOEHNER: To help our economy get back on track, we have to stop all of the coming tax hikes and cut spending.



NARRATOR: Cut spending to limit government control over our lives and to make America stronger.



REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: We need to cut spending now.

SEN. GEORGE LEMIEUX (R), FLORIDA: We can't say we're going to just freeze spending. We have to cut spending.

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Cut spending. Don't just simply slow down a spending spree.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We have to obviously cut spending.


COOPER: Well, for starters, continuing the Bush tax cuts, as John Boehner said there, would add $700 billion to the deficit. That's according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Supporters argue it's going to spur growth, make up the difference. A lot of economists say there's no guarantees on that. Many of the people calling for cuts don't seem willing at this point to -- to call for specific cuts in expensive items like defense or Social Security and Medicare spending, which leaves only about a 15 percent chunk left over to make cuts to, nowhere near enough to really make a serious dent in the more-than-$1 trillion deficit.

So what specifically would some of these lawmakers who promised to cut the budget actually cut? That's what I asked Michele Bachmann last night. Here's more of that interview, just trying to get an answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: In terms, though, of actually cutting the deficit and, you know, cutting spending, you're going to have to make very specific -- you're going to have to come up with some specifics.

BACHMANN: Where we need to begin, quite frankly, is with the general budget.

And we saw a huge expansion. President Obama increased spending at the federal level almost 25 percent. That's an amazing expansion by the government.

COOPER: OK. So you're not willing to say whether you would cut Medicare or -- or Social Security? You're not willing to say whether you would entertain that?

BACHMANN: Well, what -- what we need -- what we need to do is reform the system, because, this year, we're spending more on Social Security than what we're taking in, six years ahead of the projections on when that would occur.

COOPER: So, you are willing to look at cuts in Medicare, cuts in Social Security?

BACHMANN: Well, for cuts, we need to begin with the general budget.


COOPER: Later in the interview, she did say that she would look at saving money by looking at eligibility. She didn't say whether it was for Social Security or Medicare.

She's not the only one long on promises, though, but -- but short on specifics.


DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Can you be specific? What in the government, what programs, what agencies, are you going to cut to get back to those levels?

BOEHNER: Well, it's not rocket science. Let's start with all of the TARP funds. Let's get the TARP money back and use it to pay down our debt. Now, let's bring all the unspent stimulus back.

BASH: I mean, you're talking about unspent money, but there is money that has been spent. And, you know, look, you talk about the rebellion out there. Part of what those rebellious voters want to know is, they want you to be specific.



DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": Name a painful choice that Republicans are prepared to say we have to make. REP. PETE SESSIONS (R), TEXAS: Well, first of all, we need to make sure that, as we look at all that we're spending in Washington, D.C., with not only the entitlement spending, but also the bigger government, we cannot afford anymore. We have to empower the free enterprise system. See, this is where...

GREGORY: Congressman, these are not specifics.

SESSIONS: Oh, they are.

GREGORY: And voters get -- get tired of that.



CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": Why not make a single proposal that cuts Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid?

BOEHNER: Chris, this is what happens here in Washington. And when you start down that path, you just invite all kinds of problems. I know. I have been there.



GREGORY: What painful choices to really deal with the deficit? Is Social Security on the table? What will Republicans do?

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: The president has a debt commission that reports December the 1st, and I think we would all like to see what they come back with. And my hope is, they will come back with a bipartisan solution to the debt and particularly entitlement reform, as you have mentioned. But I...

GREGORY: But wait a minute. Conservatives need a -- a Democratic president's debt commission to figure out what it is they would want to cut?


COOPER: Back now with our panel, James Carville, Andy Card.

Mr. Card, have Republicans, to your mind, been specific enough about what they would cut, what specific programs they would cut?

CARD: I think they have been just as specific as the Democrats that were calling for cuts.

The process will work in the following way. Republicans just had a big victory. They will caucus and they will come up with their own plans. They will write them as a body and then present them.

I think it's too early for any Republican to say -- speak for all of the Republicans or all of Congress in terms of what would happen. I do think it's appropriate to wait for the wisdom that might come from this debt commission. They're going to have to make some tough recommendations and see how the president reacts.

I think it's much too early to be talking about specific program cuts that are only designed to inflame the debate, rather than be constructive and really bringing discipline to the government.

The president is the one that will have to propose a budget. Congress will have to react to it.

COOPER: Why would specific cuts, naming them, inflame the debate? Why is that, do you think, designed to inflame the debate?


CARD: Well, I -- did you hear any Democrats offering very specific cuts that they would make in the budget? A lot of Democrats were calling for them.


COOPER: Well, no, but that doesn't make -- make...


COOPER: My question to you was, are you satisfied that -- with Republicans -- are you satisfied with any specific cuts that people are calling for? Clearly, you don't seem to be, or -- or not answering the question.

CARD: No, no. Tell me what cuts you are recommending, Anderson, and I will give you a reaction to it.

COOPER: Well, I'm -- it's not my -- I'm not -- I'm not recommending cuts.


COOPER: James?

CARVILLE: Well, I...


CARD: You don't recommend any cuts? I think that's part of the problem.

CARVILLE: Again, we do...

COOPER: Well, actually, I'm just a reporter. I'm supposed to ask questions. I'm not like a pundit who takes positions and tries to shove them down viewers' throats.


CARVILLE: Well, we do have some guidance from the Republicans in the Pledge to America, which was a campaign document, of which they pledged to cut $100 billion out of the $477 billion in discretionary spending. That comes out of health research, environmental programs, education, parks, drug enforcement, law enforcement, and things like that.

So, I don't think it's asking too much for them to say, this is the pledge that you made to people. What -- what cuts are you going to make?


COOPER: Well, what about -- James, what about -- Boehner has suggested the idea of -- of returning spending just to 2008 level. What about that?

CARVILLE: Then vote on it. I mean, that would be pretty substantial. I don't know how you would fund some things. But they ought to bring it to a vote that can pass the House. I mean, take these things, and they have the votes in the House to pass it. Once the legislation gets to the Senate, they can say, look, we did this, and the Democrats stopped it.

But they have pledged by $100 billion -- like 20 percent...

CARD: Twenty percent.

COOPER: Right. And is that asking too much for them to specify those cuts, or is that too volatile in the political discourse to say, this is the 20 percent we're going to cut?

CARD: I think it's appropriate for them to set out their objectives.


CARD: They have been pretty specific about what their overall macro-objectives are.


CARD: Getting there is going to be hard. It will be hard within the Republican Caucus to get there. But they have the will to do it.

CARVILLE: But they have pledged...

CARD: We haven't found the will in Washington to do that for a very long time.

CARVILLE: But they -- but they have pledged to do it. So, I'm just saying, isn't it fair, Andy, to just be honest that you said you were going to do this, OK, how are you going to do it? You have the power now.


CARD: They just got the power yesterday. CARVILLE: OK. All right. Let's give them two months. I agree. Let's give them a couple months.



COOPER: What sort of timetable, Andy, do you -- do you think is appropriate?

CARD: Well, first of all, they haven't even caucused to determine their leadership. They will have to determine their leadership, get committee assignments.

The Democrats will have to do the same. They will have to assign offices that will -- there's a lot of work that has to be done to get to the point that you can start to work.

CARVILLE: I think -- I think he makes an eminently fair point. So, January the 4th, two months, when they come back, let them specify the $100 billion cuts out of $477 billion. I think that's an eminently reasonable proposal that Mr. Card has made. And I think we ought to come back on this show on January the 4th and see where they are.


COOPER: He's not making...



COOPER: He's not giving that day. And he's saying, look, even once they get in office, there's still a lot of work.


CARVILLE: Give them a couple -- give them three months, if you want to. Do it February 4, by the Super Bowl. That's fine.

COOPER: Do you think they -- do you -- you -- do you think that they will? I mean, do...

CARVILLE: Of course not.

COOPER: Because?

CARVILLE: Because you can't do it. There's not -- you can't cut $100 billion from $477 billion of some of the most essential parts of the federal government. But they have pledged to do it, so let's see if they can do it.

CARD: I think they can -- I think they can make a lot of progress to bringing discipline to the government. And the president should be working very hard to help them accomplish that objective, because the American people spoke so loudly.

If this had been a parliamentary form of government, there would be a new government getting sworn in, in a matter of weeks. But we're not a parliamentary system.

CARVILLE: Yes. If we were a parliamentary government, the government would have failed after Katrina. But we're not a parliamentary government. We're a constitutional government.

COOPER: Mr. Card, James Carville, stick around.

We will have more from in just a moment.

Up next: the tweet that Sarah Palin listed as a favorite, a picture of a preacher's sign calling the president a Taliban Muslim -- Sarah Palin saying this was an accident, implied the media is even lame for talking about it.

The question is, is there more to the story? We will try to figure that out. I, frankly, don't know. We will talk to the guy who actually took the picture and sent the original tweet to Ann Coulter.

We will also talk to the Politico reporter who wrote the story quoting GOP insiders saying they hope to block a Palin 2012 presidential run.

And we will talk to Andy Card and James Carville about that -- ahead..


COOPER: So this next story just bubbled up tonight, and frankly, I'm not sure what to make of it. Supporters of Sarah Palin will say it's lame and much ado about nothing. Sarah Palin has just said as much. Her detractors, however, will maybe sense a conspiracy of some sort or at the very least say it's a black mark against Palin. You can judge for yourself.

Here's what happened. Sarah Palin is obviously a big user of Twitter. Tonight, she's caused a stir with a tweet sent to her that she favorited.

Here's Palin's Twitter page. She has no favorite tweets listed. That's because it's been wiped clean. This is what her page looked like last week, and then she did have a number of favorites cited.

The top tweet on her favorites list was one by Ann Coulter. Coulter's tweet says, "My new church. Standing in front of Pastor Manning's church. Look at this sign" with an exclamation point at the end of that word.

This is the sign she's referring to that was posted outside the Atlah World Missionary Church in Harlem, New York. The message reads, "The blood of Jesus against Obama. History made 4 November, 2008. A Taliban Muslim illegally elected, President USA Hussein." The head of the church has got a pastor named James David Manning. In the past, he's called candidate Obama a liar, a pimp and trash.

Palin's favoriting of the tweet has been picked up by a number of news organizations. And we reached out to her office tonight, but nobody responded. However, Palin told ABC News that she never purposely favorited any tweet, that it was obviously an accidental favoriting and that she has had to check her BlackBerry to see if the favoriting function was even possible.

But then, the question is, how does she explain all those other favorites that used to be on her Twitter page? An October "Vanity Fair" article about Palin referred to Rebecca Mansour, a staffer at Sarah PAC, who insisted to a reporter that anything that goes out on Twitter under Palin's name is, in fact, from Palin.

So let's talk to the man who started all this, Marc Lamont Hill, a professor of Columbia University, who took the photo of that sign and tweeted it to Ann Coulter. You did this basically as a joke, I guess you have, what, some running thing with Ann Coulter?

MARC LAMONT HILL, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Yes, there's one thing in the world that Ann Coulter and I agree on, and that's that Pastor Manning is nuts. And one of the things we do is we make jokes about Pastor Manning.

And so I happened to be walking through Harlem, and I took a picture of the church and sent it to her, because the sign was obviously absurd. It was obviously xenophobic. There were all these bad things about it. And I sent it to Ann, and we were both laughing about how absurd the church is and how absurd the sign was.

And lo and behold, Sarah Palin favorites it. Sarah Palin, however, wasn't in on the joke.

COOPER: She retweeted, basically, the picture saying this was her new favorite church. Did she say this was her new favorite church, or did you say that?

HILL: Ann Coulter said...


HILL: ... "This is my new favorite church" as part of the joke. As part of the joke.

COOPER: So she's obviously saying that tongue in cheek. I mean, she says a lot of outrageous things, but she does have a sense of humor, and clearly, there's a sense of humor in that tweet.

HILL: Right.

COOPER: Then it gets on Sarah Palin's favorite list. We don't know if it was put on that list because of Sarah Palin thought it was funny or somebody in Sarah Palin's group thought it was funny or didn't get the joke. I mean, just to be completely fair, we have no idea why it was put on there.

HILL: Right. We don't know what Sarah Palin was thinking. I mean, do we ever know what Sarah Palin is thinking? But it's safe to say she wasn't in on the joke, because I had no communication with Sarah Palin about the joke.

COOPER: But she might have been in on the joke, because it was from Ann Coulter, and clearly, Ann Coulter is saying, "This is my new favorite church." You know, you can be interpreted as a funny comment to those who like Ann Coulter and, you know, just think it's funny.

HILL: Right. It's also within the realm of possibility to an outsider that Ann Coulter could have believed it, because she's known for saying outrageous things.

COOPER: Right. If you want to assume -- you're -- I know you're not a fan of Sarah Palin's. I don't want to assume, for complete fairness sake, what was in the mind of whoever posted that on Sarah Palin's page. They could have been in on the joke. They could have not been in on the joke, right?

HILL: That's it. But the thing is -- agreed. We don't know what Sarah Palin was thinking. However, Sarah Palin insists that everything that comes through Facebook, everything that comes through Twitter is directly through her and from her, not from a handler. So at the very least, we know she's the one who did it, based on her own words.

COOPER: And they've clearly now taken that off the page, so clearly, somebody who controls that page has a sense that we should just take this off. It's not a good idea.

HILL: That's exactly right. And in all fairness, she would probably say even if she was in on the joke and even if she had no ill intent, because it's caused so much trouble, it's better to just take it off. But I suspect that, you know, Sarah Palin probably just thought it was funny because -- because it was addressed at President Obama.

You know, Sarah Palin's made so much -- developed so much power, rather, by playing to the xenophobic wing of the Republican Party, by playing to the Tea Party membership, which has a xenophobic sector in it. So it would make sense for her to do this, not just as an inside joke but as a way of stirring up her base and staying in touch with the base that preys upon people who are seen as outsiders.

COOPER: All right. I've got to, you know, rein you in, though, a little bit on that. I mean, we have no idea, again this would have been put on. She could have been totally in on the joke. And she has not made comments like this about President Obama, you know, as radical as the statements on that billboard are.

HILL: No, that's exactly right. Again, I don't necessarily believe that Sarah Palin thinks it's true...

COOPER: OK. HILL: ... but again, I think part of how she stays with her base is to play on these narratives. That's what I'm saying. I don't -- I would doubt Sarah Palin believes that he's a Taliban Muslim.


HILL: Well, if it gets Sarah Palin in trouble, I might tweet it even more.

COOPER: All right. Marc Lamont Hill. Appreciate your time. We're trying to clear this thing up.

Earlier this week, posted an article in which anonymous Republican sources said that after the midterms were over, the goal of the GOP establishment is to derail a Palin candidacy in 2012.

Sarah Palin criticized the article. Jim VandeHei co-authored the article. I spoke with him a short time ago.


COOPER: So Jim, there's obviously the possibility that Sarah Palin herself didn't mark that tweet as a favorite, but her aides in the past have tried to make clear that Sarah Palin is responsible for everything on that Twitter page.

In October's issue of "Vanity Fair," a Palin staffer named Rebecca Mansour was quoted as saying "anything that goes out under Palin's name is hers."

JIM VANDEHEI, POLITICO.COM: I'm skeptical that everything that goes out is hers, but if they're taking credit for it, they're taking credit for it.

But the truth is, Anderson, this is why the establishment in Washington is so nervous about her actually running for president. And trust me: they think she is going to run for president and that she could win the nomination. And that scares the Republican establishment.

Not one or two members. Virtually every single person I talk to in Washington is fearful that she'll run, because they think that she would be an unmitigated disaster for the Republican Party, because they don't think that she could control herself or that she could win the nomination.

COOPER: You authored the article in Politico recently which Palin herself objected to and, you know, citing all these anonymous sources.


COOPER: But the people you talked to, I mean, were mainstream Republicans...


COOPER: ... in the establishment, high-profile people.

VANDEHEI: Right. And it's the worst-kept secret in Washington. There's nobody in the establishment that I've talked to on background that wants her to run for president. I think that she knows...

COOPER: No one?

VANDEHEI: Nobody. And almost every person you talk to knows that. And I think it's a reason she went on FOX Business News the day after she was critical of that story and basically said, "Yes, the establishment doesn't want me to run," because she knows it's sort of her against the establishment. That's her appeal.

There's no doubt she's a force in Republican politics. She can turn out a crowd like no other. She can generate news and controversy like no other. If she did run, she would be formidable.

But the establishment doesn't want her to run because they feel, you know what? She can't win the middle. She could not win the country. She might win the primary, but she would give Obama the presidency. That's why they're nervous.

COOPER: And Marc Lamont Hill apparently tweeted this photo originally as a joke to Ann Coulter, who retweeted it. There's no -- we don't know whether Sarah Palin was in on the joke and saying that this was her favorite or not. Do you think this tweeting story is just much ado about nothing? Do you think it will blow over very quickly?

VANDEHEI: The truth is I don't know the specifics about what she did with this tweet. What I do know is that she's often on Twitter. She's often sending out things and stirring up controversy. She's come after Politico twice in the last week on Twitter in very specific and direct ways. That's the way she operates.

And her -- her supporters love it. They love it when she's attacking the quote, unquote, "lame stream media." It's her against the establishment. It's her against Washington. That's her appeal.

COOPER: We've obviously reached out to the Palin camp for comment on this whole Twitter retweeting the picture thing as her favorite. No comment yet from them, although I'm sure maybe she'll say something on Twitter about it down the road.

But clearly, she recognizes something is amiss, because they've now wiped clean that page.

Jim VandeHei, good to have you on.

VANDEHEI: Take care, Anderson.


COOPER: And since we taped that, Sarah Palin still hasn't responded to CNN's request for comment, but she did tell ABC News that she never purposely favorited any tweet. She didn't even know she could do it. She added it was an obvious accidental favoriting.

So let's move on. Jim VandeHei there, talking about unnamed Republicans concerned about a Palin presidential run. Could she actually win? A new CNN poll sheds light on her chances.

Plus John King is at the magic wall, crunching the numbers on another question. How close a race would it be if Palin went head to head with President Obama in 2012? James Carville and Andy Card weigh in.


COOPER: Let's put Sarah Palin's Twitter incident aside and look ahead to the 2012 presidential race, which a lot of people believe Palin is eyeing.

In the latest CNN/Opinion Research poll, Republicans were asked to name their top choice for their party's nominee in 2012. Mike Huckabee came out on top with 21 percent. Mitt Romney had 20 percent. Palin in third place, 14 percent. Newt Gingrich, fourth with 12 percent.

2012 obviously still a long way off. Anything could happen. A lot will happen over the next two years. So the poll also looked at a hypothetical match-up between Palin and President Obama. John King has those results.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Anderson, we put that hypothetical match-up, Palin versus Obama, in our latest poll, and the president comes out ahead right now, 52 percent to 44 percent.

It won't surprise you, especially when you look at this map and how red it became after the 2010 elections. Sarah Palin campaigned across the country. Her highest favorability ratings, among conservatives. Where she struggles is with moderate and independent voters.

Now we're looking here at the 2010 map. Let's go back to 2008 and look at the presidential campaign and dig a little deeper into this match-up. The red states, John McCain, the blue states, Barack Obama. What about a Palin/Obama match-up?

Let's look first in the northeast. You see all that blue? This was Obama country. So 55 percent for the president, 42 percent for Sarah Palin in the northeast. Big Democratic edge there.

What about out here in the mountain west? You see some blue. Obama did OK out here, but John McCain won a lot in the west. So how's it look? Wow, look at that. A big lead, almost 20 points for the president out in the west over Sarah Palin. That's good news for the president. How about the Midwest? We know that Obama did very well, especially in the big industrial states in '08, but the Democrats struggled big-time in those very same states in 2010. What about 2012, Palin-Obama? Pretty much a dead heat, the president with a little edge in the Midwest, in the huge presidential battlegrounds, 50 to 47 percent.

And how about the south? The south is usually Republican country in a presidential election. Would it be for Sarah Palin? Look at that. Now that's the biggest surprise in this poll, a dead heat in the south: 48 percent for the president, 47 percent for Sarah Palin.

But it is worth noting we're talking here about the entire electorate, a general election match-up. The short-term question for Sarah Palin, does she want to run in the Republican primaries? We do know there, she has a very strong and very loyal base -- Anderson.

COOPER: John, thanks very much.

Obviously, a lot can happen in two years. It all seems kind of premature, but we're joined again by James Carville and Andy Card.

James, in those numbers, though, I mean, if you're Sarah Palin, what do you -- how do you take away from those numbers and what do you take away if you're President Obama?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, if I were Sarah Palin, there was nothing that would discourage me from running. I mean, A, she's in the hunt (ph) for the Republican nomination. She's at 14. The front-runner is at 21. The map favors her. Iowa, I think, would be a good state for her.

And you know, six points behind, eight points -- eight points behind in the presidential match-up, that wouldn't -- that wouldn't deter me from running. It's all kind of meaningless, but there's nothing I see in that poll, if I were Sarah Palin's political adviser, that I'd say, "Governor, we shouldn't go for this." That poll gives me more of a green light than anything.

COOPER: Andy Card, your former boss, President Bush, is going to be on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" next Tuesday. I just want to play some of what he has to say about Sarah Palin on "Oprah."


OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: Your brother, Jeb, was recently asked by CNN if he would support Sarah Palin for president. And he responded, "You betcha." Do you think that Sarah Palin is the one for the Republican Party in 2012?

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, I -- I am not a political pundit. I'm really not. And secondly, a lot is going to happen between now and the nominating process. I have no clue.

WINFREY: I'm not asking you to pundit. BUSH: Yes, you are.

WINFREY: I'm just asking your opinion.

BUSH: You're asking me to wade back into the swamp.

WINFREY: Come on in. Come on in.


COOPER: Very well said. Wise not to answer that question.

What does Sarah Palin do next in your opinion, Andy Card? I mean, A, does she -- does she have a problem with Republican establishment that she needs to make inroads on, or is that an asset for her?

ANDY CARD, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I don't think her problems with the so-called Republican establishment are any different than Ronald Reagans problems were when he first ran for president.

I think it's much too early to start counting people out. The real -- the real big question is who is going to look to come in? And there's a long list of people that are also thinking about jumping into the race for president. So I think it's very, very early.

Sarah Palin is clearly a dominant player within the Republican primary process. And she owes it to her people and to herself to take a serious look at it.

But I think it's much too early to make a definitive answer as to whether or not you're going to run for president. I think instead you want to have lots of people kind of testing the water.

COOPER: Right.

CARD: And this is exactly the right time for the Republican candidates that think they could be president to testing the water. And you've got some superstars in our party out there, and many of them are not known by the broad Republican audience.

COOPER: Yes. And a very deep bench as we saw just the other night. You have Marco Rubio now. You have a lot of new people, a lot of new names that people are just learning about and impressed by.

Sarah Palin's PAC did release this new Web video. I just want to play some of it.


SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: I'm confident, and I am hopeful because this is our movement. This is our moment. This is our morning in America.


COOPER: James, these are very well-produced commercials she's putting out.

CARVILLE: They looked pretty good.

COOPER: They -- it looks like she's running on those -- if you look at those things.

CARVILLE: You know, in one sense it's early, but in another sense, I want to say President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton had already announced by February of 2007, all right?

So I think they're going to -- I think this thing -- I think the gun's going to go off on this thing and -- right after the first of the year, and people are going to start announcing. And they'll all sort of jump in. There's not -- we're not...

COOPER: It's not that far away.

CARVILLE: She's entitled to that. It's early, but it's later than you think.

CARD: Well, it's interesting to see how many candidates are already scheduling trips to Iowa and New Hampshire. Rick Santorum has already announced that he's going up to New Hampshire. So I think it's going to be a lot of fun, and it's a great time to be a Republican this morning on -- after the results of an election, the day after an election.

COOPER: Yes. No doubt about that.

CARD: It was a great time for the Republican Party, and there should be a lot of excitement about people who are thinking about running for president.

COOPER: Andy Card, appreciate you being on the program. James Carville, as well.

CARD: Thanks.

COOPER: Still ahead, breaking news: a plane carrying at least 68 people crashes in Cuba. We're just getting the details in. We'll have the latest.

Also a possible new disaster in Haiti. Tropical Storm Tomas dumping rain on the already devastated country, forcing thousands of people who have been living in camps since the quake to search for higher ground. Details ahead.


COOPER: Got a number of other stories we're following, Joe Johns has a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, there's breaking news in Cuba. Reuters is reporting that a plane carrying 68 people has crashed in the country's central region. There are no initial reports of survivors. Airport sources said the plane was an ATR twin turboprop aircraft that belonged to Cuba's state-owned Aerocaribbean airline.

Meanwhile, Qantas Airways has grounded its entire A-380 fleet. The decision comes after part of an engine cover fell off one of its new super jumbo jets in flight today. No one was injured in that incident.

Haiti is bracing for a possible new disaster, as heavy rain from Tropical Storm Tomas pounds the country tonight. The big fear is flooding and mudslides with up to 15 inches of rain predicted in some areas. Thousands of people living in tents after January's earthquake are being moved to shelters.

The Connecticut man convicted of killing this mother and her two daughters in a home invasion would suffer more if sentenced to life in prison than put to death. That is what Steven Hayes' attorney told a jury during closing arguments in the penalty phase of the trial today. The jury will begin deliberating Hayes' sentence tomorrow.

In Utah, a federal appeals court has halted the trial of a man accused of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart in 2002. The court is reviewing a request by defense attorneys for Brian David Mitchell. They want the case moved outside the state, claiming pretrial publicity tainted the jury pool.

And former teen idol David Cassidy is out of jail tonight. The "Partridge Family" star was arrested on a drunken driving charge in Florida.

COOPER: Strange mug shot there.

JOHNS: It sure is.

COOPER: All right, Joe, for tonight's "Shot," the man many people will be cheering during the New York City marathon this weekend. His name is Edison Pena. He's one of the Chilean miners rescued last month after being underground for 69 days. He kept in shape, apparently, by jogging in one of the mine's tunnels, winning him the nickname "The Runner."

He's also a huge Elvis fan. Apparently, sang Elvis tunes to keep the other miners upbeat.

In New York today, he talked to reporters. He was invited to attend the marathon as a spectator but decided to actually try and run in the race. Pena doesn't speak much English, but he knows most of the words to Elvis classic, and he sang "Return to Sender" for reporters. Take a look.




JOHNS: I think there's a career for this guy. COOPER: I wish him luck in the marathon. If he -- if he hasn't been training, though, I don't know. It's going to be hard. I've got a bunch of friends running this weekend.

JOHNS: Absolutely.

COOPER: And they've been training really hard.

JOHNS: I've run a couple marathons, and I've got to tell you...

COOPER: Really?

JOHNS: Yes, I have. And it's no joke. Twenty-six miles, 385 yards, and the last two or three are pretty tough.

COOPER: Yes. I run like three miles every day, and that pretty much kills me.

Joe, time for our "Beat 360" winners, a daily challenge to viewers to show up our staffers, coming up with a better caption than -- for the photo that we put on the blog every day.

Tonight's photo, Secretary of State Clinton speaking to the media at a news conference in New Zealand.

Staff winner, Joe. His caption: "I can see clearly now the reign is gone." R-E-I-G-N.

JOHNS: Oh, Joe.

COOPER: Yes. Our viewer winner is Roseanne. Her caption: "Are there any Democrats here? Yes, I see that one hand way in the back."


COOPER: Congratulations. Your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way.

A lot more ahead at the top of the hour, starting with Michele Bachmann and a whole lot of others claim President Obama's upcoming Asian trip is going to cost us all $200 million a day. The question is: do they have any facts to back that up? The answer is no. "Keeping Them Honest."