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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Medicare Minefield; Wisconsin Up for Grabs

Aired August 16, 2012 - 20:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Ash.

We begin tonight with Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan taking the offensive on Medicare and, "Keeping Them Honest," how they gotten at same page on that issue.

Democrats accuse them of performing verbal back flips and rewriting history to do it. You can decide for yourself if that's the case. Here's the line of attack that they settled on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president's plan cuts Medicare -- excuse me. Well, let's see. I got to -- there we go. By $716 billion. Cut. In addition, the Trustees of Medicare estimate approximately four million people will lose their coverage under Medicare advantage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That's Mitt Romney today in South Carolina. Paul Ryan said the same thing last night in Ohio. And surrogates have been repeating that for several days now.

"Keeping Them Honest," though, as we and many other reporters, fact-checking organizations, have been pointing out, Paul Ryan's House Republican budget actually adopted that same $716 billion in savings and Mitt Romney endorsed it.

I asked a key Romney surrogate about that endorsement just the other day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: But isn't the Ryan plan the Romney plan? I mean here's what Mitt Romney --

JOHN SUNUNU: No, it isn't.

O'BRIEN: Well, let me just read you a quote. Hang on.

SUNUNU: But it isn't.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Well, let me just read to you --

SUNUNU: You guys keep wanting to say it, and I'm telling you it's not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That's been Mr. Romney's line as well, downplaying his prior endorsement of the Ryan budget plan. But last night on Wisconsin local television, he seemed to try to do two things at once, both back away from the Ryan plan, while also suggesting that there's nothing to back away from. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your senior campaign adviser said Sunday if the Ryan budget would have come to your desk, you would have signed it. In a January debate, you called it a proposal that was absolutely right on. So I guess why now are you distancing yourself at least from the Medicare portion of the Ryan budget?

ROMNEY: Actually, Paul Ryan and my plan for Medicare I think is the same. If not identical, it's probably close to identical.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: And a short time later, Mr. Romney then went even further.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: We speak with exactly the same policy today. He and I have exactly the same policy. To the place that there's a big difference is between myself and Paul Ryan and the president. The president has a very different plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So notices that he said today they have exactly the same policy, which is precisely what you would expect between running mates. But that's after nearly a week of the candidate underscoring the difference between his Medicare policy and Congressman Ryan's Medicare policy.

And that followed months of the candidate endorsing Congressman Ryan's policies including those Medicare cuts.

So joining us now, GOP strategist and former Romney campaign consultant Alex Castellanos is with us.

Nice to see you, Alex.

And also, Democratic consultant, Hilary Rosen is with us as well.

Hilary, nice to see you.

Alex, we're going to start with you if we can. You heard about the discrepancy that I was just pointing out between what Mitt Romney said last night, what John Sununu, who told me just the other day. Why is it that the campaign has seemed to be -- I think the word that's fair is unprepared to answer specifics about how -- how they differ in their policies? Does that surprise you?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, GOP STRATEGIST: No, not especially. I think, you know, a lot of times it's I guess our job in the news media to find conflict where not that much exists. Romney's running for president, not Paul Ryan. Romney's the one who's putting something on the table that he is proposing as policy for the voters now.

It doesn't have the $716 billion in cuts that either was in the Ryan budget and that the president of the United States, by the way, actually implemented. So that's what I think is under consideration.

You know the way Congress works, Soledad, you put something on the table and you start the race at the starting line, not the finish line. When you put something up in Congress, it's the beginning of a negotiation.

O'BRIEN: You're right. But --

CASTELLANOS: It's the beginning of the process.

(CROSSTALK)

CASTELLANOS: So to hold someone accountable for saying, hey, that's a good place to start. Of course. You're not going to -- you're not going to throw all your cards on the table at the beginning.

O'BRIEN: No, but I would think in terms of just a message, to have -- to have contradictions over a week in your message and having a spokesperson who cannot articulate balanced budget, which is a similar question to what was asked of Paul Ryan the day before, I would just think that would be strategically unwise and just kind of messy frankly, right?

CASTELLANOS: Well, I'm not so sure that I heard the same conflicts you did. I heard Mitt Romney say pretty clearly that the president's already cut Medicare for current seniors. I've heard Mitt Romney say he's not going to do that. I've heard Mitt Romney say, in fact, he's going to repeal Obamacare and restore those $716 billion in cuts. I've heard Mitt Romney say Paul Ryan supports that. That the Ryan budget is not what is on the table. It's the Romney budget. So I think that's pretty clear. And I'm not so sure what's entirely confusing about that.

O'BRIEN: All right. Well, let's turn to Hilary Rosen. When everybody's talking about voter priorities, what they're talking about, Hilary, is jobs, job, jobs. And I have to imagine for the Obama campaign to talk about Medicare, maybe that's better than talking about jobs. But are voters going to be fine with that, you know, sort of taking a departure down this road?

HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, yes, you know, I don't -- I don't think that there's any attempt to kind of distract from jobs. I think what happened is that Mitt Romney, when he chose Paul Ryan, knew that there was a vulnerability around the Ryan budget. That there were a number of programs that Paul Ryan had proposed cutting, including Medicare, turning that to a voucher system, including student loans, including, you know, child care, a whole series of things.

And what they tried to do strategically was to start talking about it so that they could spin the Medicare issue their way. Because they're worried about senior voters. And I think that -- what -- despite what Alex just said, you know, on Sunday we heard Romney say we're not going to deal with the Ryan budget. The Ryan plan. You know, I don't care about his plan. This was going to be the Romney plan.

And yesterday we heard Governor Romney say, well, you know, my plan and the Ryan plan are pretty similar. And then today he said something yet a third time. So I think that it would have been helpful for them if they actually, you know, scripted themselves earlier about this problem that they knew existed, and stopped trying to sort of spin it around to get the voters to think that what they're not trying to do is actually up-end the Medicare system.

O'BRIEN: So, Alex, let me ask you a question. Today Congressman Ryan who was talking to reporters said that he actually opposed the Medicare cuts or savings, obviously there's been a new debate about that terminology, even though they ended up in his own House Republican budget twice.

I'm going to play a little clip of what he said and then we'll talk about it on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, those are in the baseline. He put those cuts in. Second of all, we voted to repeal Obamacare repeatedly. Including those cuts. I voted that way before the budget. I voted that way after the budget. So when you repeal all of Obamacare, what you end up doing is that repeals that as well. In our budget, we've restored a lot of that. It gets a little wonky but it was already in the baseline.

We voted to repeal the whole bill. I just don't think the president is going to be able to get out of the fact that he took $716 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So, he's right, it does get a little wonky. But that's a really complicated thing that he's saying there. Didn't his House budget include those very cuts or savings? I recall they are in his House budget and House Republicans voted on that budget in March of 2011 and March of 2012. Those very same numbers, correct?

CASTELLANOS: Well, I think his explanation is complicated. I think his position is complicated. He has been -- you know, he had had two different positions on those. Certainly in the Ryan budget, they did have those cuts that the president frankly including in his budget and implemented.

But, again, in Congress, we know how this works. You -- when you put something on the table, you don't -- you don't give everything away. You keep something for negotiating room. That the Republicans had I think a pretty -- a good opening hand there. But Ryan is correctly noting that when he voted to repeal Obamacare that would have repealed in its entirety and restored those cuts.

So maybe he evolved on that position. But we know where he is now. He is supporting the Romney policy.

ROSEN: You know --

CASTELLANOS: That's what's on the ballot.

O'BRIEN: Go ahead, Hilary.

ROSEN: No, I think that the voters over the next couple of months are going to be subjected to, you know, millions and millions of dollars of ads from both sides saying that the other side is trying to hurt Medicare, right? So what it's really going to come down to for voters I think is answering this question about who you trust on this issue.

Like -- and I think that the thing that the Ryan budget and the Romney plan have in common is that both of those plans take money away from the middle class. Whether it's student loans, whether it's health care, whether it's child care, whether it's education, whether -- and whether it's middle class, earned income tax credits. All to pay. And this is key to the Ryan plan and the Romney plan. All to pay for additional tax cutes for the wealthy.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: So -- but it sounds like that, Hilary --

ROSEN: And I think that that's -- his Medicare narrative because people are going to say -- I don't know who's telling the truth. I've just going to have to go with my gut about who's been there for me before.

O'BRIEN: Well, let me ask you -- let me ask you both a final question.

Hilary, it sounds like you're saying what has been a Medicare debate and I mean wonky is a really good term for going through these numbers with a fine-tooth comb. Is going to, now, turn into a conversation about a bigger budget. A balanced budget. Where cuts coming from the budget and also you think it's then going to turn into conversation about taxes?

CASTELLANOS: If you're asking Hilary --

ROSEN: I guess -- (CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Go ahead, Alex. Hang on -- Alex --

ROSEN: This is what they're -- OK.

CASTELLANOS: Yes. I agree with Hilary that, Soledad, that I think you're right, it's going to turn into a debate about who do you trust, but also who's done what to whom so far and where are we going. I think the challenge for both Republicans and Democrats is to explain what this means to not only the private sector but the public sector.

The president's attack here is you're going to get less from government. I think that's what Hilary just said. I think what Republicans are challenged to do now is say no, no, if you vote for those guys, Obama and Biden, you're going to get less from the private sector. We're going to have a smaller economy with fewer jobs. And that's going to produce less revenue. And with less revenue, we can't save Social Security and Medicare.

O'BRIEN: Which means --

CASTELLANOS: So --

O'BRIEN: Which means we'll be talking about --

CASTELLANOS: So two different approaches.

O'BRIEN: -- this until the very end is what you're telling me.

Alex Castellanos and Hilary Rosen --

ROSEN: Right.

O'BRIEN: Nice to see both of you. We're out of time. Hilary, we'll continue obviously to have this conversation I'm guessing almost every single night.

Tell us what you think. We're on Facebook or you could follow us on Twitter @ac360.

And "Raw Politics" tonight, Mitt Romney talks taxes, his taxes. And new signs that Wisconsin, which went for President Obama by double digits last time around, could be in play this time around.

Is Paul Ryan the reason? John King is going to join us to crunch the numbers. David Gergen, too. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: "Raw Politics" now. New evidence that a reliable blue state may now be in play, Wisconsin. There's new CNN polling that shows it's close and new signs on the grounds that the Obama campaign has started taking the possibility of losing Paul Ryan's home state a lot more seriously. First, though, the news Mitt Romney made today about his taxes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I did go back and look at my taxes and over the past 10 years, I never paid less than 13 percent. The most recent year is 13.6 percent or something like that. So I've paid taxes every single year. Harry Reid's charge is totally false. I'm sure waiting for Harry to put up who it was that told him what he says they told him. I don't believe it for a minute, by the way. But every year, I've paid at least 13 percent. And if you add in addition the amount that goes to charity, why, the number gets well above 20 percent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: As you know, Mr. Romney says he is not going to release any more than two years of tax returns as Democrats and a number of prominent Republicans have called on him to do.

Now to the tightening race in Wisconsin. John King's been crunching the numbers for us. He also spent time on the ground there recently.

John, let's start with what the momentum could be in Wisconsin over just the last couple of years. You know there's been an election of a conservative governor who survived, as we all know, that recall election. There's been the selection of a senator from the Tea Party ranks. All of that I would guess would, you know, mean good news for the GOP, good news for Mitt Romney.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good news in the sense of an energized Republican base from last few years, Soledad. And I think the Paul Ryan pick will add to it. So what' s that mean. Here's what we did today. Wisconsin was lean Obama. It's 10 electoral votes that would lean Obama. We switched it to a toss-up state, which gives you a closer race for the electoral college.

We'll come back to that in a minute but let's go to that dynamic you're talking about. This is the 2008 map but if you look at Wisconsin, you think, come on, no way, right, President Obama wins it by about 13 points. Look at all that blue in the middle of the state. So how could even the Paul Ryan pick hurt him play now to the points you made, the Ryan pick gives you a point or maybe more the Obama campaign concedes. There's a lot of Republican energy on the ground.

That's 2008. But, Soledad, if we go to 2010, this is the Senate race. Ron Johnson beats an incumbent liberal Democrat, Russ Feingold. Look at all the red filling in here. Let's look at the governor's race. Scott Walker not only wins 52-47 in 2010 but just survived that recall election a few months ago.

That is why, Soledad, if you take our poll, our reporting on the ground, you talk to both campaigns, and you go to that state and you sense the Republican energy, that's why we saw it's a toss-up.

O'BRIEN: And so if it's a toss-up and it wasn't four years ago, that means the Obama campaign's going to have to spend some money. I have to imagine the GOP looks at that as a very good thing. KING: Absolutely. The Obama campaign has spent no money on television as yet in the state but we saw the organizing on the ground. I'm told there'll be more field people. They're making phone calls to voters. And if they have to spend money, Wisconsin is not the most expensive state in the country. But you probably have to buy in Minneapolis, over in Minnesota to get people in this part of the state.

You buy down here in Milwaukee and Madison. You buy up in the Green Bay market. Again it's not one of the most expensive states but, Soledad, if you're doing all of that, any money that going into here -- I want to switch to the presidential map. Any money going into here is money in the end, if it's very close, you might think, boy, I wish we had that for Tampa or Orlando, boy, I wish we had that for Cleveland or Columbus.

So any time and money, and even candidate time that's goes into Wisconsin now has got to come out of somewhere.

O'BRIEN: All those things are kind of a zero sum game, right? You have a limited amount and you've got to figure out how to spread it around.

Let's bring in David Gergen. He's a senior political analyst for us.

David, nice to see you. You know, we say over and over again Wisconsin has not voted Republican since 1984. If you look at other statistics the unemployment rate is well below the national average at 7 percent. Why exactly is Wisconsin in play and how much is Ryan a part of that?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, CNN moved Wisconsin into the toss-up category from lean to Obama after Ryan was picked. So clearly Paul Ryan on the ticket has made a difference, Soledad. But I think what we're seeing here with Ryan is two things. One is an ideological appeal. But also he's a Midwesterner. And as John would tell you, there are several states in the Midwest now. Michigan, CNN still calls as lean Obama. Others have it as a toss-up. Ohio, of course, is in a toss-up category. And that's pivotal, Iowa.

So there are a number of states there that where -- Paul Ryan can identify more as a Midwesterner as well as a conservative.

But I think the polls don't go to or don't measure something that's, right now, very intangible, and that is the excitement level on both sides and what that does to a convention. And what I would tell you is that while Romney is not getting a big national bounce out of Ryan, it's about half the size of the normal bounce for a vice presidential candidate, it has energized his party on the eve of the convention. And that could make a big difference in the convention in Tampa which is not very far away. Which is just 10 days away.

O'BRIEN: So, John, if you look at the map that shows three tossups in the Midwest, now including Wisconsin, all of it, it's kind of a -- Congressman Ryan's stomping ground area, what does that mean for strategy?

KING: A couple of ways to look at it. And David and Soledad, you make an excellent point. Again, I want to pull out to the national map. This is the 2008 race for president. And this is not rocket science here. Let's turn this on. Look at this. Look at this. President Obama, huge part of his coalition was right here in the industrial Midwest. That is the race for president. But again a lot has changed.

Now a midterm election 2010 Democrats in Washington is going to say is not the same as a presidential election. But look at what happened in this region in 2010. These are the Senate races. These are the governors' races. Only Illinois did the Democrats hold the governorship. So you see all that red. That's why Mitt Romney is more confident.

Now so then you go to the electoral map and you say, how's that play up? Here's where we are today. If -- and this is a hypothetical. But if Governor Romney can get Ohio, get Wisconsin and get Iowa, look at that, that puts him in a tie slightly ahead of the president. Everyone believes he has to win Florida. If he can win Florida as well, that gets him on the doorstep of being elected the next president of the United States.

David Gergen mentions Michigan. They're going to try really harder. They might try in Pennsylvania. But if you look at the area, Soledad, I just came to, when I was in Iowa, this week, Terry Branstad, the Republican governor, said look, Obama's from Illinois but now we've got him surrounded.

O'BRIEN: So David, we see Professor Mitt Romney with the whiteboard out, you know, kind of erasing things on it. Former adviser -- George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove argued today in "The Wall Street Journal" that Republicans are now in the advantage talking about Medicare and their quote was this time it's different.

Is it true? Because if it's not different, you're going to scare a lot of old people and then you're going to lose.

GERGEN: That's what gives suspense to this campaign, Soledad. By any conventional measure. Candidate goes in and wants to reform Medicare in a way that could take it away from him. Take the full benefits away from a younger crowd. He's going to pay a price and there are some polls coming out of Florida now suggesting Obama has been helped by the Ryan selection.

But what I also found interesting in the CNN poll in Wisconsin is that among 65 and older, Romney has a substantial lead over President Obama. But with the crowd from 50 to 64, it's Obama who has a substantial lead. There's a 14-point swing from the 65-year-old types. And it's the 50 to 64-year-old folks who could be affected by Medicare reform.

O'BRIEN: Right.

GERGEN: People who already have it are not going to be affected. But if you're 50, you've got to be -- you've got to be really asking the question, what does it do for me? We'll wait and see.

O'BRIEN: Because that's going to be very problematic as they crunch all those numbers.

David Gergen, John King, as always, thanks, appreciate it.

And there's lots more we're following tonight. Randi Kaye is going to join us with a 360 bulletin.

Hey, Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Soledad.

Ecuador has granted political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a decision that's escalated tensions with Britain. Assange has been holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London since June. He's trying to avoid extradition to Sweden where he faces sexual assault charges. Britain has vowed to extradite Assange despite Ecuador's move.

A 360 follow now a jury has awarded a former University of Michigan student body president $4.5 million in his lawsuit against a former Michigan assistant attorney general who posted about him in an anti-gay blog. Chris Armstrong, who is gay, accused Andrew Shirvell of defamation and causing him emotional distress. Shirvell was fired back in 2010.

Milwaukee Police made a startling discovery inside a Southside home. A five-foot long, 70-pound alligator. They confiscated the gator. It is said to be resting comfortably at an animal control shelter. His owners are reportedly trying to get him back.

And, Soledad, I can't imagine having that thing as a roommate.

O'BRIEN: Yes -- no, seriously. All right, Randi, thank you.

More serious news to tell you about. A week of protests at a mine in South Africa turned into a bloodbath today. Police opened fire on striking workers who were reportedly armed with guns and machetes and sticks. We'll tell you what eyewitnesses saw just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Wildfires raging across 13 western states. The flames in Washington consuming more than 60 homes in 22,000 acres. We're going to bring you the latest in a live report straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: In South Africa, a deadly confrontation at the world's largest -- third largest platinum mine. We need to warn you that this video is extremely graphic. You're going to see police opening fire on striking workers.

It's believed the miners who are demanding better pay were armed with guns, machetes and sticks. They charged police and then there was this.

It's not clear just how many people died in that firestorm. One reporter counted 18 bodies. Police, though, haven't released a death toll yet.

CNN's Nkepile Mabuse joins us this evening with more.

Nkepile, let me ask you about the start of the violence. It was -- began really about a dispute over wages, but how did it devolve into that?

NKEPILE MABUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, Soledad, this country has witnessed its fair share of violence but even here people are shocked. At least 18 people dead. And that's according to a media reports the police have yet to release official numbers.

We're hoping that the national commissioner of police would be releasing those figures in a couple of hours' time. The mine was very quick to distance itself from this incident saying that this was a public order issue and not a labor relations matter.

But that's how it began. Last week, Friday, these miners went on strike, demanding more pay. We've seen, between last week, Friday, and today, 10 people dead. Killed in the most gruesome manner before at least 18 we're told -- Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: So the South African police, Nkepile, released a statement that said, in part, this, the South African police service was viciously attacked by the group using a variety of weapons including firearms.

The police, in order to protect their own lives and in self- defense, were forced to engage the group with force. After reading that statement, I want to play the video for you one more time.

How believable is that? I know there have been different reports about who started shooting first. What have you learned about that?

MABUSE: That's the police's side of the story. We'll get more details from the national police commissioner. We will be able to question her.

Because as far as I know, people who I have spoken to say the scene was so chaotic, it was impossible for them to determine who started firing who. The police insisting that these miners were armed.

I was here on Wednesday. They are armed, armed with very dangerous weapons, machetes, traditional weapons. The police believe guns as well. Police are actually saying that they retrieved some of these guns from the men who were killed in those very violent pictures you showed the viewers today.

So that's their side of the story. We'll have a chance to question the national police commission better that version of events when she holds her press conference -- Soledad. O'BRIEN: Nkepile, what happens next? Is the dispute nowhere close to being resolved?

MABUSE: You know, Soledad, the mine had actually issued its final ultimatum to these striking miners who, as I said, have been striking since last week Friday.

The mine missing six days of work with these workers saying they're not going back until these demands are met. They had said, go back to work on Friday or you will be fired.

Now this turn of events, we don't know what the unions are going to be doing. We don't know what the government is going to be doing, but there has to be serious intervention for the killing to stop -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, Nkepile, thank you for that report. Appreciate it.

Back here at home, there is no end in sight to the battle against at least 70 wildfires that are burning in 13 western states. We got the very latest on the damage that's just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: A Michigan man is dead, shot dead, in a hail of bullets by police. There's growing anger in the community over the incident, which was captured on amateur video. We're going to play for the first time here on 360. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Tonight, some sobering context from national fire officials. Wildfires have already destroyed more land than last year at this time. Right now, 70 fires are raging across 13 western states.

The battle to contain them is being fought around the clock and in grueling conditions. Imagine looking out your window at that. More than 900 firefighters have been batting this fire in Cle Elum, which is in Washington.

Early today the blaze was 25 percent contained, scorching heat, dry weather and high winds have made a daunting job that much worse for firefighters.

Here's Dan Simon with the very latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just the worst nightmare I can possibly imagine.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Elaine Wise lived by herself on her 14 acres of property in Ellensburg, Washington. A retired caregiver to the elderly and foster children, she had a small farm to help pay the bills.

Along with losing her home, she also lost most of her animals, dozens of pigs and dogs. Their burned carcasses could be seen everywhere.

(on camera): What's the hardest thing?

ELAINE WISE, FIRE VICTIM: The animals. I mean, the home, you know, that's gone and I can get another home, but they had to have suffered.

SIMON (voice-over): Some of the pigs survived. Elaine's family is trying to take care of them. As well as combing through the rubble to see what can be found.

WISE: What I feel like saying is the end of my life. I mean, I'm alive, but -- that's what it feels like.

SIMON: The fire, about 90 miles east of Seattle, has so far destroyed at least 60 homes and forced hundreds tough evacuate. Fire officials blame dry terrain and wind for the quick moving fire. Many victims broke down in tears as they relieved the terror of the flames approaching their homes.

JACK CUSHING, FIRE VICTIM: I've been here for 25 years. We moved over from Bellevue and it hurts.

SIMON: Jack and Margot Cushing left with virtually nothing.

MARGOT CUSHING, FIRE VICTIM: We took a few clothes and photographs and that was about it.

SIMON: Authorities say the fire is completely man made. That it broke out from a bridge construction project.

REX REED, INCIDENT COMMANDER: We do not know the specific cause yet. We just know it came from that site. Investigators are very actively involved in that.

SIMON: The flames advance so quickly that people like Elaine Wise had no warning.

WISE: They said, I'm sorry, ma'am, but you can't stay.

SIMON (on camera): So you weren't able to gather up anything?

WISE: No, nothing. Just the clothes on my back.

SIMON (voice-over): She'd come back from a shopping trip on Monday when fire crews refused to let her go inside.

WISE: They had nothing to start a home or -- absolutely nothing now.

SIMON (on camera): No insurance or anything like that?

WISE: No, no.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: My goodness, that's such a heartbreaking story. Dan Simon is in Cle Elum, Washington for us. So how much progress are the firefighters making, Dan?

SIMON: -- now says they're looking at 33 percent --

O'BRIEN: Dan, I'm going to have to stop you there. Let me stop you because we had some audio problems and I couldn't hear you talking the first part of my question. I'm going to re-ask that. Explain for me again what's the progress that firefighters are making?

SIMON: Well, they feel like they're turning a corner. That is a huge relief for the people who live here. They're now looking at somewhere around 33 percent containment for this blaze. That's up a little bit from yesterday when it was at 25 percent.

They think it will go up in the morning. Today, they got some help from the elements. There wasn't a whole lot wind today. So that helped assist in putting down the blaze.

They also deployed one of those jumbo DC-10s with fire retardant and so that made a difference. So they feel like they're getting the upper hand in this blaze.

But by no means are we through with this thing. They think that some areas could see flare-ups so they're watching it very closely. They got 900 firefighters on the ground so they're attacking this very aggressively -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: It's good to hear that they're really aggressive on it. Dan Simon for us tonight. Thank you, Dan. Appreciate that.

Time to get check back in with Randi Kaye. She's got another "360 Bulletin." Hi, Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, disturbing news about suicide in the U.S. Army. Pentagon officials reported today that 38 soldiers killed themselves in July, the highest monthly count since the army began keeping detailed statistics. So far in 2012 the Army has confirmed 120 suicides.

Two Louisiana sheriff deputies were shot to death this morning in two related shooting incidents. A local sheriff said a shooting at a steel plant led investigators to a trailer park where they were ambushed. Two other officers were wounded in the violence.

And a frightening scene today in New York City, right outside CNN studios, a carriage horse collided with a car. The horse got spooked and broke away from its carriage, which flipped over, injuring two passengers. "The New York Times" reports the horse ran about four blocks before being caught.

O'BRIEN: I saw that. I watched that happen outside my window. It was the craziest thing. I saw this white horse galloping right through, you know, the corner of Central Park through Columbus Circle at a full on gallop.

I thought, my goodness and it broke right in half and the horse took off at a gallop right down the streets of Manhattan. It was kind of crazy.

KAYE: Yes, I hope that horse is OK.

O'BRIEN: Yes, I know. They tranq him and he seemed like he was all right. Randi, thank you for the update. Appreciate that.

So angry residents of one Michigan community want answers from police over the shooting death of a man by officers. The incident was caught on amateur video, which we're going to show for the first time here on 360. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Anger and impatience growing tonight in Saginaw, Michigan, over the fatal shooting of a man by police officers. The shooting was caught on amateur video. We're going to play it for you.

I have to warn you, it's very graphic. We're going to show this video because it reveals how police has handled what has become a controversial case and a major issue in Saginaw.

Some residents are disturbed by how the man was killed. At least 30 shots were fired at him. They're also demanding to know why the investigation is taking so long.

The incident happened back on July 1st and again, I have to warn you, the video you're about to see is very graphic. Here's Jason Carroll.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This amateur video purchased by CNN and not made public until now captured the confrontation between six Saginaw police officers and Milton Hall.

A 49-year-old man who, his family says, suffered from serious mental health issues. Hall, seen in the middle of your screen, police say, had just had a run-in with a convenience store clerk. He was in a standoff with police and holding some sort of knife. A female officer is heard shouting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Put the knife down.

HALL: (Inaudible). I ain't putting -- down.

CARROLL: If you listen carefully, Hall is then heard continuing to yell at police.

HALL: My name is Milton Hall. I just called 911. My name is Milton and I am pissed off! CARROLL: Hall seems agitated, but not intimidated by a police dog.

HALL: Let him go. Let him go. Let the -- dog go.

CARROLL: Heard on the tape, a witness describes what he sees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About to go ham on him.

CARROLL: Then as Hall appears to take a few steps, everything comes to a head. Local media report 46 shots were fired. CNN counted the sounds of at least 30 shots on the videotape. Anthony Baber witnessed the shooting.

ANTHONY BABER, EYEWITNESS: All of a sudden pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow and he drops. You know, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow and he drops. I was about where that blue van is. I was parked.

CARROLL: Tabitha Perry saw it too.

TABITHA PERRY, EYEWITNESS: I heard one of the officers say something to the fact where -- put the knife down or I let the dog go.

CARROLL (on camera): Do you believe the officers were justified in what they did?

PERRY: No, I don't. No, I don't. Because what they did, there was a better way to do it. I think their judgment was off.

CARROLL (voice-over): Perry is not alone. Hall's mother says Saginaw police overreacted.

JEWEL HALL, MOTHER OF MILTON HALL: Emotionally, I have a lot of pain and I'm stunned that six human beings were standing in front of one human being and fired 46 shots. I just don't understand that.

CARROLL: On the day of the shooting, July 1st, the Saginaw police chief defended his officers' actions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is someone that, from our understanding, he has a long history. Not only with police from our department, but with the county, known to be an assaultive person.

CARROLL: Over the last month, members of the community have voiced outrage about the Hall shooting. Not satisfied with the police investigation into the officers' response. We showed the video of the shooting to City Councilman Norman Braddock.

NORMAN BRADDOCK, SAGINAW, MICHIGAN CITY COUNCIL: I can see why people are traumatized looking at something like that and we need answers.

CARROLL: Braddock has been critical of what he calls the slow pace of the shooting investigation.

(on camera): Could it be that investigators are just trying to make sure they're doing a thorough job and that's why the investigation is --

BRADDOCK: I'm sure that has something to do with it, but at the same time, it should be a top priority.

CARROLL: -- where you are in terms of the investigation?

(voice-over): The Michigan State Police lead investigation would not discuss the case instead referring us to the Saginaw County prosecutor.

Who told us, I can't tell you when the case is going to be completed. The matter is being thoroughly investigated by an independent police agency, the Michigan State Police along with the Michigan Attorney General's office.

Hall's mother already feels she knows the answer to the question of whether police used too much force.

HALL: It appeared to be a firing squad dressed in police uniforms and there was another way. They did not have to kill him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Jason Carroll joins us from Saginaw tonight. Jason, in the piece you mentioned the community's outrage, but this is I think the first time that many people are even seeing the videotape. So where's the outrage coming from.

CARROLL: Well, it's twofold. First of all, Soledad, when that incident took place out here, there were so many people surrounding Hall and police. It's a small community so word spread very quickly that many shots were fired.

This man seemed unarmed with nothing but a knife. So there was outrage from that point of view. The other point of view has to do with the length of time it's taking to complete the investigation. Many people in the community feel it's simply just taking too long.

O'BRIEN: Jason Carroll, thanks for that report. Honestly, devastating.

All right, let's turn to Lou Palumbo. He is the director of the Elite Group, a security firm. He is a former police officer as well. We're going to play this videotape again because I think it's disturbing.

I want to show people just how police responded to what was happening. Let's play it.

Why would police have to shoot a suspect 46 times? He's clearly got a knife in his hands. You can see the distance is not two feet, it's a reasonable distance. Why shoot him 46 times?

LOU PALUMBO, DIRECTOR, ELITE GROUP LTD.: That's a good question. I mean, as you know, Soledad, this is a perceptive nightmare for a law enforcement agency. Tragically enough, it could clearly be a lapse in training.

That is a very good question. Why it would require 46 shots from a group of law enforcement agents to neutralize one individual armed with a knife. This wasn't a scenario where he was discharging a weapon in their direction.

O'BRIEN: So what's the training? I mean, someone's at 10 feet, I'm guessing at the distance there or something like that and they're waving a knife. Is the training to shoot him in the leg or shoot him so that they collapse and they fall and they can't come up and stab you with the knife?

PALUMBO: Well, actually, what the training is specifically is to shoot you in your thoracic cavity to neutralize you immediately.

O'BRIEN: Killing you?

PALUMBO: Well, I use the term cease hostility.

O'BRIEN: Where's your thoracic cavity?

PALUMBO: That's up around your chest.

O'BRIEN: Right, probably going to kill you.

PALUMBO: More than likely result in you dying. There are a couple of separate issues here. One is if the shooting is justifiable and they may find out the shooting was justifiable.

The second issue is the amount of rounds that were fired at him. You know, one of the things the public has to understand an individual wielding knife at you at about 20 feet can be on top of you in a split second.

The public doesn't know this because they don't do this for a living. The other issue is the number of rounds that were fired. Every time you discharge your weapon as a law enforcement agent, you have projectiles floating through the air you have to account for and potentially innocent people being struck by them.

There's probably a little bit of a training issue here on touch the fact that they have to investigate and speak to every single individual who was a witness to this including every police officer to determine what exactly transpired.

O'BRIEN: Clearly, the investigation is under way. Lou Palumbo, nice to see you as always. Thank you, appreciate it.

We're going to be back next with "The Ridiculist." Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: "Ridiculist" crime week continues. Here's Anderson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." Tonight, we're adding the barbecue chip bandits. They allegedly struck in Canada last month. The local news was all over, and I do mean all over, the case at the time.

It's only now going viral in the U.S. and I should warn you the depth of reporting on this story is rivaled only by Woodward and Bernstein. So we should probably start at the beginning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this quiet neighborhood, people like their chips.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All kinds. We like those lime, the lime flavored ones, potato chips, taco chips, cheesies.

COOPER: Yes, the cheesies. It only gets better from there because it wasn't just the local news that got involved.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are very specific and hard to obtain barbecue chips.

COOPER: That's right, police officers responded to an emergency call from a resident who, to be fair, likely thought something sinister was afoot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Apparently, she lives alone and was awoken by her growling Chihuahua.

COOPER: Look, I have said it before, nothing gets by a Chihuahua. By the way, it turns out it wasn't a dangerous intruder but, wait for it, two drunk college girls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The women were walking home from a night of drinking when something caught their eye, an open garage just like this one. What did they see inside, Zeller's brand barbecue potato chips.

COOPER: Wait, what's the big deal about Zeller's brand chips? Actually, you know what, forget it. Surely the reporter has better things to do than explain that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can find them at Zeller's, but only for a limited time. Its in-house potato chip brand truly could become harder to find. Perhaps making it somewhat of a hot commodity.

COOPER: Sounds like a lot of speculation. Can we check in with the officer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I haven't tried these for myself, but my understanding that particular brand of barbecue is quite tasty.

COOPER: Quite tasty. OK, then I stand corrected. Wait, what is that? I'm told we're getting more information on what the bandits did inside the garage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It appears that the effervescent chip package in the open garage just appeared too yummy to pass up for two highly intoxicated young ladies.

COOPER: You had me at effervescent. I'm now fully committed to this story. I just wish the reporter could give us a better look at what happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They took the chips and started walking, but they didn't get far. The barbecued bandits were busted by the homeowner.

COOPER: I love the eating demonstration. But look, I'll be honest. This is getting a little too tense for me. I'm afraid to ask how it turned out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Apparently, the chips have been accessed. There have been some illicit chip tastings.

COOPER: Damn you, chip bandits. What in the name of Zeller's store brand are we going to do with you? Should we really cut you some slack?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are first-time chip offenders.

COOPER: Glad he has a sense of humor about it because frankly, my nerves are fried. So consider yourselves on notice barbecue chip bandits. For now, the trail of crumbs leads right to "The Ridiculist."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: And that does it for this edition of 360. We'll see you again one hour from now at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts now.