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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Romney Doubles Down on Controversial Remarks; Interview With Senator John McCain

Aired September 19, 2012 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.

We begin with breaking news, reporting you will see only right here.

Today, a hearse bore the body of former Navy SEAL Glen Doherty past his childhood home just outside his Boston home. Tonight, 360 has obtained exclusive new details about the security climate leading up to his murder of the murder and three others last week in Libya, including the American ambassador there, Christopher Stevens.

We have learned exclusively the concerns the ambassador had, the threat he foresaw and the signal he gave to at least one person we know of about what he was seeing. Today, some in the administration inched closer the conceding what many observers already suspected that the killings though they happened during a wave of protests over that anti-Muslim YouTube video were not committed just by protesters.

Listen to the National Counterterrorism Center director today at a Senate Homeland Security hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEW OLSEN, NATIONAL COUNTERTERRORISM DIRECTOR: I would say yes, they were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Mr. Olsen went on to say that investigators lacked specific intelligence concerning significant advanced planning or coordination.

He said they are looking into connections to al Qaeda and local al Qaeda affiliates. Now, you are looking at the scene just outside the consulate in Benghazi as a pro-American crowd tried to rush Ambassador Stevens, who was wounded, still alive, to the hospital. Tonight, 360 obtains exclusive information about the climate that led up to all of this.

A source familiar with Ambassador Stevens' thinking said in the months before his death, he talked about being worried what he called the never-ending security threats, specifically Benghazi. The source telling us that the ambassador specifically mentioned the rise in Islamic extremism, the growing al Qaeda presence in Libya, and said that he was on an al Qaeda hit list.

In addition, our source tells us he e-mailed a journalist in the wake of a bombing near the consulate in June. He wrote, and I quote, "Maybe you should head east to Benghazi to check out the situation there which appears to be heating up."

What we don't yet know is why, given all that Ambassador Stevens thought, why he traveled with such an apparently light security detail, why he was allowed to. Did he want it that way, despite the risk, or did his warnings go unheeded and did he and his people die because of it?

At this point, we simply don't know. Senator John McCain supported President Obama's action to oust Moammar Gadhafi. He has also criticized some of the steps taken since then and is sharply skeptical of the administration's account so far of what happened in Benghazi to the ambassador and three others.

I spoke to Senator McCain earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Senator McCain, a source told us with Ambassador Stevens' thinking told us that in the months before his death, he talked about being worried about the never-ending security threats that he was facing in Benghazi and specifically about the rise in Islamic extremism and the growing al Qaeda presence and he also mentioned being on an al Qaeda hit list.

In June, he wrote in an e-mail to a journalist -- and I quote -- "Maybe you should head east to Benghazi to check out the situation there which appears to be heating up."

Given all of that, given what we are now learning about concerns that he had, does it make any sense to you the level of or the small level of security he apparently had with him?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It doesn't make any sense.

And I will tell you what else doesn't make any sense, is the White House spokesman, the secretary of state and ambassador to the U.N. stating categorically that it was not a terrorist attack, when obviously it had all of the earmarks of a terrorist attack, including rocket-propelled grenades and heavy weapons and a very well-carried- out military operation.

So why they want to tell the American people that and face the facts, I don't know. There are also other reports that there had been other threats made and there's also reports that there's basically an al Qaeda extremist outfit militia right there in Benghazi.

COOPER: Fran Townsend, who worked in the Bush administration, told us she was visiting Libya recently, about a month or so before this attack, actually met with Ambassador Stevens at a hotel in Tripoli, and though he arrived in an armored vehicle with a driver, when he entered the hotel, he had no security with him at all. And that surprised her at the time. I mean, it seems -- I have never seen an ambassador in a war zone and in a place like Libya with threats who doesn't have a larger entourage of security. Is this an intelligence failure? What do you attribute this to?

MCCAIN: I attribute it partially to the courage of Chris Stevens, who was a very brave man.

As you know, he lived in a hotel in Benghazi during the fighting. But also I think it's pretty clear that the security people should have given him more security, particularly in Benghazi. As you know, that country is divided very badly. There is significant competition and there's far more Islamic influence in that part of Libya than in Tripoli.

COOPER: Previously, as you mentioned, people from the Obama administration said they felt this wasn't a planned attack, that it was kind of an offshoot of this video. But the director of the National Counterterrorism Center said at a hearing today that the attack in Benghazi was in fact -- and I quote -- "a terrorist attack."

He didn't specify it was preplanned or not. But it definitely goes far beyond what we have heard before. How significant do you think that is?

MCCAIN: I think it's significant that the president's spokesperson, secretary of state and ambassador to the United Nations would go on all of our networks and tell people things that are absolutely false and by the way fly in the face of the facts.

I think maybe the American people are owed an apology. But the most important thing is that we have to understand that this video was not the cause of it. The cause of it was Islamists who use these videos in order to inflame these people, in order to attack America.

I mean, Anderson, I'm confident right now, there are people making videos, just as a French cartoonist just made some cartoons, and they're making videos right now. We should be standing up for freedom of speech and that we will defend people's right to speak out and express their views rather than condemn "hateful videos" which are the vehicle, not the cause. The cause is radical Islamists.

COOPER: Do you think there needs to be some sort of investigation about what happened, about the security situation at the consulate in Benghazi and perhaps even elsewhere?

MCCAIN: There has to be. There has to be.

But I also want to emphasize, one, that Libya is very weak as you know. Their borders are porous, and there are some radical Islamist elements throughout the country. But, still, it is the obligation of the host country to protect our consulates, our embassies and our personnel, and it's partially ours, but we have to depend on the host country.

And we have to then sort out and rethink what presence we're going to have and what relationship we are going to have with these countries.

COOPER: You were campaigning for Governor Romney in New Hampshire on Monday. Now, according to reports, you really hit President Obama hard for everything from economic policy to the recent attacks in Libya, and according to some reports, you said you don't believe the president has the "strength or ability to lead this nation."

You said recent events have shown how weak he is. Are you in any way saying that President Obama is responsible for the attacks in Benghazi?

MCCAIN: No, but I'm saying that he's responsible for our failure in Afghanistan and our failure in Iraq. We left Iraq and it's now disintegrating, al Qaeda is coming back.

We didn't leave a residual force, which we should have. In Afghanistan, he overruled his military advisers on several occasions, including 30,000 instead of 40,000 for the surge, accelerating withdrawal dates. And now we have this situation where the Taliban and our enemies know that we are leaving, and the whole premise was to train Afghans in order that we could turn over these responsibilities to them, and leave.

Now how can we train and work with these people if so many them are killing Americans that we can't even train and operate with them? That policy has been an abject failure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: We will talk more with Senator McCain about domestic issues, including Mitt Romney's now famous 47 percent remarks, a bit later in the program.

First, though, former CIA officer Bob Baer and former homeland security adviser Fran Townsend. Fran, as we often mention, serves as a member of the CIA External Advisory Committee, and as I mentioned to Senator McCain last month she visited Libya with her employer, MacAndrews & Forbes.

As I said, you met with Ambassador Stevens. He had told another source that he was on an al Qaeda hit list, that there were security concerns.

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: We had a long conversation, especially about Darna, which is to the east of Benghazi, and he was well aware of the growing extremist threat. We talked about they were increasing in numbers and their access to weapons.

He was aware of it. But I will tell you consistent with what you heard, Anderson, he suggested I go to Benghazi. It was August 29, so it was less than two weeks before he was killed. He understood it was heating up, but because of my background, thought I would really have an appreciation of it. The other thing worth mentioning, as Senator McCain said to you, you know, Chris Stevens had been in Benghazi before Gadhafi fell, was with the rebels. My take on the security situation was it was very fragile, very chaotic. I was worried about the militias, and Chris Stevens' perspective was that it was certainly not as bad as it had been during the height of the fighting.

And so I really was -- as we were looking at the same facts, it was just shocking to me his lack of security, the lack of sort of security forces and their organization and training. And so I'm not sure he was not incredibly comfortable there, especially with his familiarity with those in Benghazi.

COOPER: The other thing which we don't know, we don't have the information on yet, is whether those concerns that he had, that he had expressed to at least one source we talked to were passed up the chain of command, whether other folks knew about it.

Bob, you're pretty upset about this. You say Ambassador Stevens shouldn't even have been in Libya if he was on an al Qaeda hit list.

BOB BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Anderson, I ended up on two lists, and I'm not even sure I was really on the list.

But in each case, the CIA pulled me out of the country I was in. It was very weak information, and they said, look, there is a possibility of an assassination, get out. One time I left in the morning at 2:00 with my wife. The second time I was evacuated the next morning, brought out with security.

This is standard protocol for State Department when there is a threat, especial to an ambassador. It's much more important than a CIA case officer. They're pulled out, moved, or security, heavy security is sent in, and I mean somebody like the SEALs.

The chain of command in this broke down and there needs to be an investigation. Somewhere in the State Department let our ambassador down.

COOPER: I should point out that CNN has been talked to our sources that monitor al Qaeda Web sites and they haven't come across a specific threat against Ambassador Stevens, though that obviously doesn't mean there wasn't one.

But I know a lot of diplomats bristle against the tight security that they're required to have in the post in the post-9/11 era, saying it gets in the way of them being able to interact with the host country nationals, get out there in the streets, which they feel they need to do. Is that any explanation for his apparently light security?

BAER: The ambassador was a consummate diplomat. He was out there, he was a brave man, doing exactly what I would have done in that case.

But on the other hand, it's the higher-ups in Washington who just got to put a no to it. He knows the people, understood them. He was a good writer, he was doing his job. And he died doing his job. But the point is, someone has to step in, protect our diplomats, especially in the Middle East that is circling the drain. And it is.

More and more this will happen and we will have to take more precautions and, yes, it will put distance between us and the locals, which is very unfortunate.

COOPER: Fran, do you agree if the ambassador was on a hit list, he should have been pulled out?

TOWNSEND: I do. He certainly should have had a much heavier presence.

As I mentioned to you, Anderson, when he arrived at the hotel to have breakfast, you said it to McCain, he arrived with a car and driver and walked in, and there was not anyone with him. I was quite surprised. I had waited in the lobby to greet him, walk him to breakfast and I was really surprised. It seemed very unusual to me in those circumstances.

I will say, in fairness, now, because we had an extensive conversation about Islamic radicals and the growing extremism problem in Libya, I find it remarkable, if he was really concerned or thought he was on a hit list, this was the kind of conversation where he would have shared that with me.

We had worked together for a number of years, this was my third trip to Libya. The prior two were on behalf of the government. And I knew him. So I'm surprised that he wouldn't have mentioned it to me. But, you know, as Bob says, he was the kind of guy who it probably wouldn't have intimidated, because he really felt like he needed to be without that in order to do his job.

COOPER: We feel very confident in the source. I obviously can't say who the source is, and the information we have been given.

Bob, wouldn't anyone in that job be on an al Qaeda hit list? Wouldn't anyone in that job be an al Qaeda target? Say he was pulled out. Wouldn't al Qaeda go after whomever replaced him?

BAER: Oh, absolutely.

Remember that there is -- the drones have killed a lot of Libyans in Afghanistan and this is a tribal society which takes revenge, irrespective of religion. We're the number one target in Libya.

And the fact that there are so many arms, heavy arms included, the ambassador was a natural target, and there's only one way to protect these people, and that's complete mobility. The SEALs provide a security team, but the ambassador would never have been allowed to just wander around hotels and met with Fran. She's absolutely right. This is a surprise to me that he was wandering around that country without security.

COOPER: Fran, you agree with Bob there needs to be an investigation?

(CROSSTALK)

TOWNSEND: Absolutely. And even if it was the ambassador's preference not to have a heavy footprint, you have a government to protect. He's a national asset and so absolutely we need to understand it so we protect others better.

COOPER: Fran Townsend, Bob Baer, appreciate your expertise. Thank you.

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter. I'm tweeting about this already tonight.

Also, more from John McCain's Mitt Romney's effort to restate some of his remarks. Restate I guess is the word on that hidden camera video in a more appealing way, you might say. However, as Mr. Romney tries to refocus and move on, his campaign seems to be dragging the whole thing back into the spotlight. The question is are they also bending the facts? We're "Keeping Them Honest," next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest" now what happens when the tape rolls and campaign operatives spin. We're talking about Mitt Romney's hidden camera remarks to campaign donors this May in Florida, including this question and answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: For the past three years, all everybody's been told is, "don't worry, we'll take care of you." How are you going to do it, in two months before the elections to convince everybody "you've got to take care of yourself"?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what.

All right, there are 47 percent who are with him who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has the responsibility to care for them, who believe that they're entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.

But that's -- that's an entitlement, and that the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Now remember, shortly after the liberal "Mother Jones" magazine first put out that clip, and several others, including one where Governor Romney talked about Israel, Mr. Romney called a light- night news conference and asked for the whole tape to be released, which it was the very next day, minus about two minutes. According to "Mother Jones," the gap is there because the cameraperson accidentally stopped recording. Keep that in mind. We're going to get back to that shortly.

Fast forward to what happened today as Mr. Romney tried to reshape that message about the 47 percent, standing by it, but articulating it in a way that is probably less likely to offend anyone. As that was happening, as he was trying to tamp down the uproar, his campaign staff seemed to be doing the opposite, picking a fight without the facts to win it.

This afternoon in response to an Obama attack on Mr. Romney's Israel remarks, Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams sent an e-mail saying this -- quote -- "Today, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt attack Mitt Romney based on a debunked 'Mother Jones' tape."

"A debunked 'Mother Jones' tape," remember that. He is referring to the Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt calling him Governor Romney for saying this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you think that the Palestinian problem can be solved? And what are you going to do about it?

ROMNEY: I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace in any way for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there's just no way.

And so what you do is, you say, you move things along the best way you can. You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize this is going to remain an unsolved problem. We live with that in China and Taiwan. All right, we have a potentially volatile situation, but we sort of live with it, and we kick the ball down the field and hope that, ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, this afternoon Ryan Williams, the Romney spokesman, complained that "Mother Jones" deliberately truncated that clip to leave out a part where Mitt Romney talked about how, with American strength, the Palestinians might come around.

He writes: "This morning, Politico reported that the 'Mother Jones' video was selectively edited to give a false impression about Mitt Romney's views.'

"Keeping Them Honest," that clip was followed later yesterday by the entire tape and nothing truncated about it at all. Late today, "Mother Jones"' David Corn who broke the tape story wrote -- quote -- "This is getting ridiculous. This was not a case of selective editing. The point was to show what was newsworthy, Mitt Romney breaking with current policy and stating views that he has not stated publicly." And about the allegation from the Romney campaign that Politico's Dylan Byers debunked the tape, Byers himself said he did no such thing.

He joins us now, along with CNN chief national correspondent John King and chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

Dylan, when the Romney points to the video saying it was debunked, and basically debunked by you in your column, is that true?

DYLAN BYERS, POLITICO: No, it is not. It is true that there were parts of the film parts of Romney's remarks that were left out. Those parts that were left out don't necessarily debunk the rest of the film.

COOPER: Does it seem strange to you that the Romney campaign would be talking up parts of the video, saying that the governor stands by what he was trying to say, while at the same time saying it has been debunked?

BYERS: Yes. It is strange.

I think what it reflects is the campaign is in a little bit of a crisis mode right now, and they're scrambling to try and offset some of the negative press they got because of the release of this video. And so what they are trying to do is they're simultaneously trying to claim that it's somehow not legitimate and at the same time have you Romney out there doing press conferences where he's doubling down on remarks elsewhere in the film.

They then put out this press release that says somehow the video has been debunked. Whether they are referring to the specifically clip about his Mideast remarks or the entire video hardly matters. The film is either legitimate or it isn't.

COOPER: John, does it surprise you the Romney campaign would, as Dylan said, double down? They keep drawing attention back to it, rather than away from it.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a few things.

Number one, you may be trying to apply logic to politics. I would advise you not to try to do that.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Number two, Governor Romney, Mrs. Romney and Paul Ryan have all given somewhat different explanations of just what Governor Romney was saying or meant to say in that tape about the 47 percent.

About the Israel part, we're at a point in the campaign, 48 days out, where everything is wrong. The Romney campaign, especially the staff, has had a rough week to 10 days. Sometimes you are taught in politics don't return every punch, sometimes you're taught to return every punch. Does this make a lot of sense? Not always. One of the things they are trying to do, they say the left- leaning "Mother Jones" and they say debunked. Then they try to stir up dust. If voters get confused about all this and think it's just politics, they might be ready to turn the page, as opposed to say Governor Romney is in hot water about something.

COOPER: It's interesting, Gloria, because we got our first glimpse today of how voters are reacting to this controversy.

According to Gallup, a slim majority said it wouldn't make any difference at all. Of the rest, two in three said it would make them less likely to make to back Romney, and one in three said it would make them more likely.

Are these tapes going to make a difference in how the Romney campaign moves going forward?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's very hard to say. Because what you may end up doing is preaching to the choir, particularly as you look at those numbers.

I think what you see in the Romney campaign is a recalibration, because you can't put the genie back in the bottle this late in the campaign. You might as well make the best of it. So now they are talking about redistribution of wealth, the 1998 audio from President Obama, trying to make this an issue of who is for a big, bloated government.

That would be President Obama -- vs. who is for a government that can lift everybody up. That would be Mitt Romney. But in the end, there is a lot of confusion about this. It will be hard to tell exactly how this is going to impact the race, except, Anderson, if it comes up in the presidential debates. And I bet it will. And then both Mitt Romney and President Obama can explain their positions.

COOPER: John, it does feel like this team has been jumping from strategy to strategy. I mean, does this kind of move just give ammunition to what some Republican critics have said about the campaign really from the beginning, especially since that Politico story this weekend, that this campaign still functions as though it's not quite ready for prime time?

KING: In a word, yes. It does fuel those stories and that speculation and that unhappiness among a lot of Republicans both in Washington and around the country.

I'm in Michigan today, met with the county chairwoman here, and she wants Mitt Romney back here, and she would like a consistent message. There are a lot of Republicans who say Mitt Romney shouldn't be talking about Israel, about redistribution. He should be saying President Obama is a nice guy, but look at the last three years, where is proof that he can create jobs?

That's what they think Mitt Romney should focus on every day, every hour. However, I will say this. This is my seventh presidential campaign. I cannot think of one campaign that has not had a rough patch like this, including then Senator Obama's campaign back in 2008. We have 48 days to go. When you talk to a lot of Republicans, they are very nervous not only about the Romney-Ryan ticket, but about some collateral damage to other Republicans down ballot.

Here is what they think. Inside the Romney campaign they would agree with this part of the assessment, that he has to get back on the economic message and has to get there by the first week of October, where you have the first presidential debate and then 48 hours later, a very big unemployment report. Anybody who thinks the Romney campaign is in trouble thinks that's the pivot point that they have to execute just perfectly.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Dylan, what are you hearing from Republicans in terms of how nervous they are? Because we are seeing Republican senators and some candidates, particularly those with tough races on their hands, distancing themselves from the Romney remarks.

BYERS: You do see that distancing going on. You saw it with Scott Brown, you saw it with some other candidates.

I think the greatest sign that Republicans are nervous has to do with just how much they are scrambling to try and defuse some of this energy. I do John's point is well taken though when he says that the debate, the first debate in October, October 3 in Denver is really going to be the moment when Republicans are going to look to Romney to reassert himself.

COOPER: Gloria, I mean, it's interesting because this whole controversy, and I guess the reason it has perhaps had the legs it's had is that it kind of reinforces a narrative that has been around that has haunted the Romney campaign from the beginning, or a narrative certainly that the Obama administration was trying to push.

BORGER: That's the real crux of the problem for Mitt Romney.

Anderson, if you look at a new poll out today by Pew Research, it shows -- they ask the question, which candidate connects with ordinary Americans? This has been Mitt Romney's problem. If you look at the numbers, Barack Obama, you see there 66 percent, Mitt Romney 23 percent, and that's almost a 3-1 margin.

So if you are Mitt Romney and you're talking about people who depend on the government, people who see themselves as victims, who believe they are entitled to get government money, this is not what you want to do, because are you talking to, of course, veterans, senior citizens and people who pay payroll taxes and so it's exactly the opposite message from the one you want to convey, particularly if you are an independent voter who hasn't quite made up your mind yet.

COOPER: Gloria, thanks. John King, Dylan Byers, good to have you on the show. Thanks very much.

Senator John McCain ran against Barack Obama obviously four years ago. And tonight, he speaks out for the first time about the Romney tape -- part two of my interview with Senator McCain next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Amanda Knox's ex-boyfriend speaks out about the murder conviction and prison nightmare in Italy. His biggest lesson from the ordeal, and whether he still talks to Amanda Knox. My one-on-one conversation with him next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: "Raw Politics" tonight, more of my conversation with Senator John McCain. It's safe to say, when you're talking to the last guy to run against Barack Obama and the big story is how well or how badly the current guy is running his campaign, there's plenty to ask about, starting with his reaction to that tape.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Governor Romney, obviously, have you seen the secret tape that was made of him talking to donors. What do you make of it? His critics say, look, he is dismissing a wide swath of voters, 47 percent of the country, many of whom people -- elderly, veterans, who might actually vote for Mitt Romney, and he's saying -- it sounds like he's discounting them.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, first of all, I didn't see all of his remarks in its entirety, but certainly you -- you assume and know that Mitt Romney is not -- not interested in receiving the support and votes of any American, and he is seeking them actively, and he wants the vote of every American.

I think what his concern is, and it's the concern of a lot of us, is the rise, because of the economy, of Americans who have to rely on subsistence to basically stay alive and live decent lives. So it is the Obama economic policies that have caused this problem, and he wants to go to having business create jobs, rather than government -- government subsistence and government creating jobs.

COOPER: Do you agree with Governor Romney when he said that 47 percent of the people view themselves as victims, that they don't take -- want to take responsibility for their lives?

MCCAIN: I don't think that's what he meant any more than -- than Barack Obama meant when he said that people cling to guns and bibles. There's things that people say of millions of statements every day. I don't if you remember when I said the fundamentals of our economy are strong, even though we're in a fiscal crisis. Oh, my God!

So I am confident that Mitt Romney cares about every American and is obviously concerned about the growth of the welfare state. Many of us are.

COOPER: How concerned are you about the Romney campaign? Peggy Noonan recently made a comment that's getting a lot of attention. And she said that -- a withering critique of Romney's campaign, really, his entire candidacy. I know you don't like being second guessed when you were a candidate. But she called Romney too fatalistic, called on him to be more like Reagan, and invited everyone to join in -- she called for a Republican intervention, saying his campaign is incompetent. Do you agree with that?

MCCAIN: Well, I never saw Peggy Noonan's name on the ballot. But the fact is that campaigns have ups and downs. And these are a lot of back and forth. They're still, I think, a very close race.

I might remind you in 2007, I was given up for dead politically. There was nobody who thought we could get the nomination. And I can't tell you the number of critics and second guessers that I had, and they were astonished when we came back from the dead.

So you're always going to have those people, when a campaign hits a bump in the road, who will be quick to jump on it, but frankly, I'm not sure Republicans help Republicans by making these kinds of comments, to be honest with you.

COOPER: The newest line of attack of Mitt Romney should sound pretty familiar to you. You yourself talked about Senator Obama intent on redistributing wealth. In fact, I think you called him the redistributionist in chief. The message didn't seem to take off then. Do you think it could work for Governor Romney now?

MCCAIN: I think that we get back really, Anderson, again, to jobs and the economy, jobs and the economy, jobs and the economy. And what we want to do is ask people if they're better off now than they were four years ago. But also we want to ask them, do you think you're going to be better off four years from now?

A lot of these issues are -- are important to certain segments like I'm glad, and I believe you may be, that foreign policy has finally emerged as at least an issue to be discussed in this campaign. But it really is going to come down to jobs and the economy.

COOPER: Senator McCain, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

MCCAIN: Thanks for having me on.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: There's a lot more we're following tonight. Isha is here with a "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

SESAY: Anderson, 14 employees of the ATF and Justice Department are cited for possible disciplinary action for their role in the botched Fast and Furious gun-trafficking operation in Mexico. That's the recommendation in the Justice Department's inspector general's report released today, though two of those employees have now resigned.

The report also found Attorney General Eric Holder had no knowledge of the operation until 2011, when a U.S. border agent was killed with one of the guns.

Chicago public school students returned to the classroom today after the teachers' union voted to suspend its strike.

A different type of labor dispute at American Airlines. Pilots are calling in sick as they fight new contract rules. More than 300 flights have been canceled since Sunday, and more will be axed through October.

And Anderson, a historic flight across the south. The Space Shuttle Endeavour bids farewell to Florida's Kennedy Space Center and begins a three-day journey to L.A. with a piggyback ride from a jumbo 747. It will dip to 1,500 feet at times, offering great views to spectators on the ground. Endeavour will go on display at the California Science Museum.

Some people -- yes, it's so cool. And people are getting really emotional.

COOPER: Yes, I there was for the last one, and it was the first time I'd seen it launched. And it was just extraordinary. So blessed to have seen it actually launching. Just the sound.

SESAY: You're so lucky.

COOPER: I am lucky.

SESAY: Yes, you are.

COOPER: And I'm lucky I work with you. Thank you very much, Isha.

SESAY: Aww.

COOPER: I'll talk to you in a bit.

Coming up, Amanda Knox's ex-boyfriend speaks out about the ordeal they both went through together in prison in Italy for murder. He spent six months in solitary confinement before they won their appeal and were finally released last year. Raffaele Sollecito tells me how he got through it all and whether he and Amanda Knox are still in touch. My conversation with him ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Flames and furry, a battle between a fire and a tornado. A film scout captured all of this. Take a look at that. That's extraordinary. More of the video, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back, in "Crime & Punishment" tonight, Amanda Knox's ex-boyfriend and co-defendant in her murder trial is talking about for the first time about the case that made headlines around the world.

Knox, of course, is the American student convicted in the stabbing death of her roommate in Italy in 2009. Raffaele Sollecito, who had just started dating Amanda Knox, was also convicted of the murder. His time in prison included six months in solitary confinement. Both he and Knox were set free on appeal last year.

Now, Raffaele Sollecito is out with a new memoir that deals with the day that Meredith Kercher was found dead and with his time in prison and his relationship with Amanda Knox. The book is called "Honor Bound: My Journey to Hell and Back with Amanda Knox." I spoke to him earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: When you were first called into the police, you and Amanda, you went without an attorney. Everybody else who was called in brought an attorney. Did you not realize that you might be a suspect?

RAFFAELE SOLLECITO, WRONGLY CONVICTED OF MURDER: No. No one told us that we were suspected. At that time, we were completely -- we -- we didn't know anything. I realized that too late. I mean, I was just in the last questioning and after two hours and three, they were so aggressive. And so overwhelming with me, I started to realize that something was really bad and wrong. But it was too late.

COOPER: One of the things, when Amanda was questioned by police, she ended up kind of saying things which kind of implicated her and implicated you. Made it sound as if maybe she had been there when Meredith Kercher had been killed. Explain to somebody who hasn't been through an interrogation how that can happen?

SOLLECITO: Well, there are maybe ten -- ten investigators, who are really aggressive, and they push you, saying you are -- you are a liar. You are just to me saying, "You are stupid. You are covering for this girl, a whore, this naughty girl. She will be back in Seattle, and you will never see her again. You fell in love with -- with a whore."

And they were aggressive. And this is the thing. It lasts almost ten hours, always in this way. And after you are exhausted and you don't sleep, they -- they threaten you, saying you will -- you will be in jail for the rest of your life. You will never see your parents again. And you give them whatever they want.

COOPER: When you were found guilty, I mean, did you really think, this is it. It's not going to -- was there a moment where you kind of thought, "The appeals aren't going to work. I'm going to spend the rest of my life in jail"?

SOLLECITO: No. I was almost hopeless. But I would never say that nothing would work. I also had the hope that just -- I just was telling the truth and said I have nothing. I have lost everything. The truth is more important than my life now, because in any way, my life is not worth living without the truth.

COOPER: And that's why you wanted to write this book. Because Meredith Kercher's family was against a book, but for you, why was it important to you, to tell your story?

SOLLECITO: To make people understand, the people that fold the case, make people realize and understand the truth.

COOPER: There's -- we've got a digital dashboard question from one of our viewers, on Facebook, a person named Terry. And they wanted to know how much contact you had with Amanda's roommate, with Meredith Kercher? Did you know her well? Did you -- had you seen her much?

SOLLECITO: Well, not so much. Because we just dated for eight days, nine days.

COOPER: I think that's one of the things a lot of people are surprised about. They kind of assume you guys had been together for a long time, and it was this great love affair. You had only been together for eight or nine days with Amanda.

SOLLECITO: Yes, and -- yes, it's surprising. It seems to be crazy, but it is.

COOPER: You're still in touch with Amanda?

SOLLECITO: Yes. We Skyped yesterday, actually.

COOPER: You Skyped yesterday. What is the -- what is that connection? What is that conversation like? You've been through something that nobody really else can imagine?

SOLLECITO: Our conversation, we talk about our family, about relationships with friends, about movies, books, music, CDs, anything. Like friends. We are very good friends. We are now almost -- we're almost brother and sister. We passed through a lot together.

COOPER: She's seeing somebody else. You're not involved romantically?

SOLLECITO: No, no. She has a boyfriend now. And I'm moving on with my life, separately.

COOPER: Prosecutors in Italy have said that they want to continue forward with the case, that they want to try to overturn the verdict. Are you concerned about that?

SOLLECITO: I will do -- in any way, I will defend myself until the end.

COOPER: Raffaele, I appreciate it. Thank you.

SOLLECITO: Thank you so much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: The book, again, is called "Honor Bound."

Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, today wrapped up their nine-day Southeast Asian tour as word broke that yet another magazine has published topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge sun bathing in a private villa. That new development ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESAY: Anderson, you were talking about it earlier. Mitt Romney's hidden camera video, that 47 percent remark. Well, he's in Miami tonight, stumping for Latino votes, trying to get past the controversy.

At a Q&A session this evening, Mr. Romney told Univision's Jorge Ramos (ph) and Maria Elena Salinas (ph) that he has demonstrated his capacity to help the 100 percent. He also promised to fix the immigration mess but said little about how specifically he'd do it.

France is stepping up security at some of its embassies in Muslim countries after a French magazine known for outrageous satire today published obscene cartoons of a figure depicting the Prophet Muhammad. The magazine's director said the images were meant to comment on the anti-Islam film that's ignited deadly protests in at least 20 countries.

Those topless photographs of Kate Middleton sun bathing are getting a lot of exposure, despite the royal family's legal action. Now a Swedish celebrity gossip magazine has published the photos, and its sister publication in Denmark plans to do the same by week's end.

And fire meet tornado. A location scout shot this amazing video in Australia. He was filming a small fire when the tornado touched down on the blaze -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Isha, thanks.

Time now for "The Shot." It's the story of a little kid named Easton, who was losing his first tooth on his first day of first grade. We've all been there. So his parents tied some dental floss to it, as parents will do, and take a look.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On your mark, get set, go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Aww.

SESAY: OK. That -- that's kind of gross.

COOPER: What? You didn't do that kind of stuff?

SESAY: No, not in England.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tooth fell out. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you serious? Look. It's OK. Let me look. Smile.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Don't you -- did you not do that kind of stuff?

SESAY: No, I didn't tie my tooth...

COOPER: Really?

SESAY: No, nothing to doorknobs or to motorized cars. No.

COOPER: You lived a sheltered childhood.

SESAY: I did. That's why I'm so delicate now.

COOPER: It was so great, tying things on the doorknob, slamming the door, doing all sorts of things like playing with the tooth until it finally came out.

SESAY: Like Tom Sawyer. I mean...

COOPER: All right. Isha, we've got to go.

SESAY: Good-bye.

COOPER: Coming up, the competition is fierce at the goldfish beauty pageant. You've got to see this. "The RidicuList" is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Time now for "The RidicuList." And tonight, we'd like to introduce you to the concept of the goldfish beauty pageant. I'm not kidding. This is a real thing.

China has hosted the first ever international goldfish championship, drawing 3,000 fish from 14 different countries. Yes, it's basically a giant warehouse full of fish bowls.

Now, you might be wondering what exactly are the components of a goldfish beauty pageant? Well, the most important part, I suppose, would be the not floating belly up to the top of the bowl part. But it's actually quite a meticulous judging process. Now, if you don't believe me, just ask the guy with the most esoteric job title ever, goldfish beauty pageant judge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We judge goldfish mainly by five criteria. Breed, body shape, swimming gesture, color, which is very important, and overall impression.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Ah, yes. The all-important pageant criteria of body shape. I, for one, think it's high time that goldfish developed some body image issues just like everybody else. Frankly, they've been getting by on their personalities for far too long.

Some of them are just letting themselves go. Take a look at this pageant fish. That thing weighs almost four pounds. Not a standard goldfish you win by throwing Ping-Pong balls at a carnival.

The judge says in the 40 or 50 years he's been raising goldfish -- and well, I guess, that's one way to spend your time -- it is the biggest one he's ever seen.

There are, of course, a few problems inherent to the goldfish beauty pageant. The obvious ones: the fins get in the way of the tiny sashes. There's really no good way to keep the tiaras from falling off. Also, the high heels present something of a challenge.

But the main problem is, there's no interview portion. And as we all remember from the 2007 Miss Teen USA pageant -- oh, yes, I'm going to show that again -- the interview portion is when the really amazing and wonderful stuff happens.

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CAITLIN UPTON, MISS SOUTH CAROLINA 2007: Some people out there in our nation don't have maps, and I believe that our education, such as in South Africa and the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should -- our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S. -- or should help South Africa and should help Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Yes, I know she's moved on, but I haven't.

So who won the goldfish beauty pageant? Who cares? No, I don't actually know. There were a bunch of categories. It's not like one fish did a tearful slow wave with a bunch of roses or anything. And anyway, as far as we're concerned, they're really all winners.

That's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts next.