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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Economic Stimulus Plan Nearing Passage?; Cheney Criticizes Obama Administration
Aired February 4, 2009 - 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: Tonight, we begin with breaking news in the battle over your money.
On the same day that President Obama took action to curb Wall Street pay and protect your tax dollars from bailout abuse, he also turned up the heat on Congress, telling lawmakers if they don't act now to pass the stimulus plan, the result will be catastrophe.
Tonight, we have late word that the president believes he will have the votes he needs to pass the Senate stimulus bill by the end of this week.
Ed Henry has been working his sources, joins us now with the breaking news from the White House -- Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Anderson.
Today, the president had a series of Oval Office meetings with key senators who will decide the fate of this stimulus package. We're learning from senators, as well as senior administration officials familiar with these meetings, that the president was very blunt in these meetings in telling the senators that he believes that he's on the verge of getting enough votes to pass the stimulus bill, that he's making progress in his meetings with lawmakers, and that he believes he's getting closer to a compromise where some more spending will be cut out of this package to bring along at least some conservative Democrats, some moderate Republicans as well.
This is all about the president stepping up his own involvement in trying to sell this package. He's had a rough couple of days. He's been playing defense with the Daschle nomination, for example. Tonight, he's trying to go back on offense.
HENRY (voice-over): After some mixups, the president tried to seize back the bully pulpit, issuing dire warnings about the economy...
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A failure to act, and act now, will turn crisis into a catastrophe and guarantee a longer recession, a less robust recovery, and a more uncertain future.
HENRY: ... and targeting Wall Street with a salary cap of $500,000 for officials at companies who get bailout funds. OBAMA: We all need to take responsibility. And this includes executives at major financial firms who turned to the American people, hat in hand, when they were in trouble, even as they paid themselves customary lavish bonuses.
HENRY: Never mind there is no real enforcement mechanism. This is a wildly popular move that's easy. Now comes the hard work of selling the stimulus.
The president is getting more hands-on with his lobbying, delivering a tough closed-door speech to every Senate Democrat. One lawmaker compared it to a bucket of cold water.
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: I think the message was, lean forward, get on offense. There has been an attempt to undermine this recovery plan by focusing on little, tiny things, little-bitty, tiny things.
HENRY: But those little-bitty, tiny spending projects matter to senators in both parties who are on the fence. Three of them were summoned to the White House for one-on-ones with the president.
Without these moderates on board, the president cannot get 60 votes to break a filibuster.
SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA: He realizes that some of the pieces of this package need to come out for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is, it will take that sort of scrubbing to bring some of the votes on board to -- to pass the -- the package.
HENRY: The president also reached out by phone to his former rival, but John McCain is holding strong on his demand for more spending cuts.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We just lost an election, and I will take the responsibility for that. One of the reasons why Republicans lost the last election is because the -- our base, who are concerned about our stewardship of their tax dollars, believed that we got on a spending spree.
HENRY: Mr. Obama is anxious to get a deal, but is signaling he will not give in to Republicans who want to gut huge chunks of spending in favor of more tax cuts.
OBAMA: I reject those theories. And so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change.
HENRY: A not-so-subtle reminder: I am in charge here, sort of.
COOPER: So, Ed, you're saying he believes that -- or -- or you're hearing that he believes he has enough votes by the end of the week, or will have enough votes? HENRY: That he's making progress, and he was telling these senators behind closed doors that he's pretty dug in on where his tax cuts are. There may be a little bit of tweaks in the Senate to the tax cuts, but that is largely going to remain the same, but that he's willing to compromise more in eliminating some of these spending projects that moderate Republicans, moderate Democrats have been complaining so much about, and that, also, he is suggesting in these meetings that he's willing to lean a little bit more on Democratic leaders on the Hill -- that's been a big open question, how much pressure he would put on them -- to eliminate more of the spending, deal with a small part of the bill that's received so much criticism, so he can push forward on the rest.
And, so, what he's saying behind closed doors is, he thinks that, by the end of the week, he will have the votes to move this forward. Then it will go into a conference committee between the House and the Senate, work out their differences. And the president is saying, behind closed doors, he believes he is still on track to get this signed into law by Presidents Day.
But the clock is ticking, but, tonight, he's -- he feels optimistic he is going to get this deal done -- Anderson.
COOPER: So, there is still room and -- and time, I guess, before this vote, or -- and they're -- they still anticipate changing this bill in some way before the vote is actually taken?
HENRY: Absolutely, because the -- the big vote that we're talking about is going to be on final passage in the Senate, but this president knows he's going to have dozens of votes on key amendments in the Senate over the next few days to try to pull things out, put other things in.
But the bottom line is that, after all of that back-and-forth, this president is saying behind closed doors that he feels he's finally making progress, he's finally getting somewhere. And, clearly, this is not over yet, by any stretch of the imagination, but he's starting to feel that these meetings, some of this lobbying, is pushing it forward, and that he's making progress.
He's still got a long road to go, though, Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Ed, thanks for the breaking news from the White House.
It is easy to get lost in all the details and the politics and the back-and-forth over the stimulus bill. The bottom line, though, we're talking about your money, your future.
Chief business correspondent Ali Velshi joins me now.
Ali, President Obama now selling -- saying he will have enough votes for the stimulus bill to pass by the end of the week. How -- how do you expect markets to react?
ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It all depends on what bill we're talking about.
We will talk about this in a minute, but there are about three versions going on, maybe even four, depending on how you count it right now. And some of them have a lot more tax breaks. Some of them have a lot more spending. Wall Street is more likely to respond positively to those ones that have more tax breaks than spending. Doesn't mean that's the right thing. It just means that is what Wall Street and investors might like more of.
I should tell you something. There is something very important about this week. Anderson, you remember, last week, we were reporting on job losses, tens and -- tens of thousands every day in some case, 70,000 last Monday.
We have a very serious problem. On Friday, we're going to get the first jobs report, the first employment report for 2009, the January employment report. We are going to see a loss of probably more than 500,000 jobs. And that is going to add urgency to this whole issue of what needs to be done for the stimulus.
So, again, two days is a long way to go. It really all depends on what is in the stimulus bill that President Obama says he's got the votes to get passed in the Senate -- Anderson.
COOPER: Let's talk about the other big story today, the -- the move to limit executive pay to $500,000 on these bailed-out companies. How would that actually work?
VELSHI: Well, let's talk about what got us here in the first place. Because it's the beginning of 2009, we haven't got the full numbers of how much everybody earned in 2008.
But, for 2007, these are just some of the examples of CEOs and chairmen of major companies that got money from the bailout, that got money from the government. So, the rule now is that, if you get a lot of money, not just any money, but a lot of money, from the government going forward -- now we're talking about the second $350,000 -- $350 billion of TARP -- if you get money from that group of -- of funds, executives, not just CEOs, but senior executives, can't take home more than $500,000 a year in salary.
Now, it's not that they can't get more money than that, Anderson, but the bonus would have to be paid in stock that cannot be cashed until after the government has been repaid with interest. So, it's a carrot and a stick. The idea is that the -- I mean, look at this.
We're talking about $70 million, $28 million, $27 million, $24 million, $22 million, $20 million -- $500,000. But the idea is, if you can turn your company around, pay the government back, with interest, you can get a bonus after that in the stock of the company -- Anderson.
COOPER: So, this -- this isn't just that no one, say, at J.P. Morgan make more than $500,000. You're only talking about senior executives. VELSHI: The senior executives. We don't know how many senior executives. There are some provisions of the administration's new guidelines today that apply to, let's say, the top 20 executives.
It doesn't really apply to the rank-and-file. And, as you know, there are thousands of people in these major companies, Bank of America, Citigroup, and -- and companies like that who earn more than $500,000 in a year. So, we're not talking about rank-and-file here. We're talking about executives.
COOPER: The flip side of this, though, is there -- there are a lot of people who say, look, this is unchartered waters. This is government, you know, setting salaries, and this could be a bad thing.
VELSHI: Yes. And a lot of companies are saying that we cannot attract the people who we need now at this very important time in order to actually change the way these companies are run, in order to get them back on track.
The other argument to that, though, Anderson, is, exactly where are these people going to go to earn the kind of money that they have been earning? We have seen massive job losses in the financial sector, more than 250,000 jobs lost in 2008, 150,000 at the end of 2007.
So, ultimately, there is great demand for jobs, and not that much demand for workers. So, I don't know if retaining people is going to be the problem that we might have thought it was a year ago.
Ultimately, this is a political issue, and the president has seen fit to act to quell the outrage that is out there in the public about how much these people are getting.
COOPER: Although retaining some of these top, top talent may be a little more difficult. We will see.
VELSHI: You know, the one hope we have, Anderson, is, it really separates -- separates the cream from everything else. And people come in and say, I'm prepared. I have made a lot of money in my life. I'm prepared to work for this $500,000 and the reward that will come when I actually turn this company around and get the government and the people of America paid back.
There is something to be said for that. It could be a little bit ingenious.
COOPER: Well, let's hope they think that way.
COOPER: Ali, thanks.
Let -- let us know what you think about this cap on CEO salaries, if you think it's a good idea or not. Join the live chat happening now at AC360.com. And check out Erica Hill's live Webcasts during the break. Just ahead, David Gergen, Ed Rollins, Jamal Simmons weigh in as well on the breaking news.
Also ahead tonight, Dick Cheney is back in a startling interview, attacking the Obama administration, warning of new terror attacks, and justifying just about everything he did. Hear it for yourself ahead.
Also, Michelle Obama assembles a high-powered team and has already begun pursuing her agenda as first lady. We will show you how.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dude, I'm not even fighting you. I'm not even fighting you.
Help! This guy is beating me!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A truly bizarre 911 car made during an arrest, calling the cops on the cops. We will tell you how that worked out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIMOTHY GEITHNER, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: The executive compensation policies we are announcing today are designed to strengthen the public trust that our financial recovery programs will get credit flowing again and get job creation moving once more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner earlier today talking about new rules for companies getting bailouts.
Now, the crackdown on CEO salaries is an easy sell in this climate. Selling the stimulus plan, as you know, has been a lot harder. Tonight, though, breaking news on that front -- sources telling CNN -- in case you missed Ed Henry's report earlier on -- that President Obama is now confident he will have the Senate votes he needs to pass the bill by this week.
Well, let's -- let's talk strategy with our panel, senior political analyst and former presidential adviser David Gergen, Republican strategist and contributor Ed Rollins, and Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons.
So, David, you heard Ed's report. What do you make of it? I mean, it sounds like all that talk about, well, you know, we will still hear good -- good ideas from Republicans and good ideas from Democrats, is that all out the window? Is this all just now about just getting this passed? DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's all about getting this thing passed, getting to 60 votes, Anderson, so they can shut off any possibility of a filibuster.
Now, I -- look, I think, when this unemployment report comes out on Friday showing a big loss of jobs, well over 500,000 jobs -- 500,000 jobs lost, it's going to be almost impossible for Republicans to launch a filibuster and try to bring this thing down.
What the president does want to do is get to a margin of safety, a margin of comfort, have a few Republicans. It's clear that he's going to be well shy of the 80 votes that he really wanted, and he may -- he's going to be much closer to 60, it looks like, based on the negotiations tonight.
And it doesn't look like, Anderson, there are going to be dramatic changes in the bill from the one that the House passed. There will be some changes, but they don't sound dramatic, based on what we have heard so far.
COOPER: Ed, is that a mistake?
ED ROLLINS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it's a mistake, because it's still a junk bill. He's not fixed the bill, and he -- and, a month from now, when the unemployment figures are still high, it's his -- it's -- now it's his game. He's taken total ownership of this, with no guarantee that the banks are going to put the money out, no guarantees that the mortgage crisis, which is how this thing started -- and, at the end of the day, he has not sold it to the American public.
Day by day, the American public, when you look at public opinion polls, is having more serious doubts. And Republicans are doing better by standing up to it.
COOPER: Jamal, what about all that talk about, you know, holding Democrats' feet to the fire, getting them to try to cut back on a lot of these things that they put in that weren't necessarily about immediate stimulus or immediate job creation?
JAMAL SIMMONS, ADVISER, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: You know, Ed said something that was very -- that was right just a second ago.
He said, Barack Obama is going to bear the ultimate price for whatever happens, up or down. So, he ought to be able to get the bill that it is that he wants. We had an election in November. And that election was to choose Barack Obama as the person who's going to help guide the nation to handle these problems. And that's what he's trying to do with this bill.
Now, there are going to be some -- some changes, I imagine, as they go and actually get the bill through the process, maybe not major, as we're hearing tonight. But there is going to be something that -- that has to happen in order to get there.
What's interesting to me is that Barack Obama has been flirting and dancing with Republicans ever since he got elected and all the way through the transition, and now the first two weeks of his -- of his administration. The Republicans have got to decide, are they going to just say no to all this flirting that has been going on, or are they actually going to get together with Barack Obama and actually do something that is going to help the country?
COOPER: David, had Barack Obama, though -- had the president gone about this differently, and from the -- day one and get-go, got them both -- and maybe I'm naive -- but gotten Republicans on the Hill and Democrats on the Hill together, and been equally tough with both of them, saying, you know, to Democrats, especially, look, this is not a free-for-all for spending for these programs that you -- you haven't been able to get the last couple years, wouldn't this be a different story today?
GERGEN: I think, looking back -- you know, and we have the benefit of hindsight here -- that, had they brought the Republicans in on the House side, and had more of a bipartisan bill coming out of the House from the -- to begin with, and the president had forced that through, he would be in a stronger position with the country now. He would have a bill that would enjoy wider spread support than he now faces.
But they made the initial decision to go with the House Democrats and to try to get that unanimous vote, which they came up with. But having shut the Republicans out of the process, now they're having a hard time getting back to the center with a bill that Republicans can stand up and salute.
And I think -- I think there is a growing gap between -- there's great continuing popularity with the -- for the president and for the idea of a stimulus package, but eroding support for the contents of this particular bill. And that gap seems to be opening wider and wider day by day. And the president does not seem to have control at this stage.
He needs to -- he needs to get the bill through the Senate this week. He has got -- he is under a time pressure. He can't keep negotiating. He has got to get a bill done this week, if he hopes to have the whole thing done, out of conference, and voted by both chambers by the end of next week.
SIMMONS: Anderson, Anderson...
COOPER: Go ahead.
SIMMONS: Remember -- remember that Barack Obama went up to Capitol Hill. He went to the Republican caucus -- conference. When was the last time that we ever saw George Bush go up to Capitol Hill and speak in front of the Democratic conference? We hadn't -- we hadn't seen that. He's had them over to the White House for the Super Bowl. He has had them over for various other functions.
He has really been reaching out to Republicans. So, for them to slap his hand back and say no, after all the courting he has been doing, I think, would start the country to think that these Republicans really don't want to do anything...
ROLLINS: Two Republicans being invited to the Super Bowl party, with 20 Democrats, isn't exactly a fair game.
But the bottom line here is, you're right. The president did win. The president didn't talk about a trillion-dollar stimulus bill anywhere in the course of his campaign. And he's not gone to the country and sold this.
And -- and David and I have been involved in -- where no Democrats voted for Reagan's bills or a lot of Bush's stuff, but you still have to go to the country and build support. And if you think, for four years, you are going to basically get by, by saying, we won the election, this is what the election was about, you're going to -- you're going to see your numbers erode very quickly.
COOPER: It sounds like politics as usual.
David, I saw you shaking your head. I know you want to get in. Then we have got to go -- David.
GERGEN: Well, briefly, yes, briefly, Jamal, listen, it was great music, great reach-out, but there has not been compromise on the contents, philosophically.
And that's -- you know, both Democrats and Republicans are going to have to give way, not just Republicans, in order to get a compromise.
COOPER: We are going to have to leave it there.
Jamal Simmons, Ed Rollins, David Gergen, thanks. Good discussion.
The simple fact is, new rules for companies getting bailouts will not wipe out all the excesses on Wall Street. We all know that. Just ahead: the government loop hole that lets companies spend your tax dollars on huge bonuses, and you can't get a dime of it back. How did that loophole get missed? We will try to find out. We're "Keeping Them Honest."
Plus, that's right. This guy, Joe the plumber -- he's not really a plumber, and his name is not really Joe -- he is back in the news talking about his political future. He is no longer a war correspondent. Will he run for office? Should we care? Find out what he thinks of you. You might be surprised.
And an urgent warning for disaster victims in Kentucky and Alabama: FEMA's emergency food kits sent to areas slammed by ice and snow storms, they may be contaminated with salmonella-tainted peanut butter -- details coming up.
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OBAMA: We don't disparage wealth. We don't begrudge anybody for achieving success. And we certainly believe that success should be rewarded.
But what gets people upset -- and rightfully so -- are executives being rewarded for failure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: President Obama today, after announcing his plan to limit executive pay to $500,000 at companies receiving bailouts.
We want to update you on our breaking news on the stimulus package, sources telling us that the president is confident the financial rescue bill working its way through the Senate will be passed by the end of the week.
Now, a lot of people, of course, have been outraged by the big bonuses that Wall Street firms have continued to pay, even though they have been failing and had to be bailed out. You would think the government would have made it possible, when they gave the money, to take it back if the money was being misspent, right?
But, as you're about to learn, that didn't happen.
Randi Kaye is "Keeping Them Honest."
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Despite what you might think, bonuses on Wall Street are still alive and well. New York financial firms paid out $18.4 billion in bonuses in 2008, an average of $109,000 per employee, this as the government pumps hundreds of billions of your money into many of these companies to save them.
STEVE ELLIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF PROGRAMS, TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE: There has been a fundamental failure, both at the executive level, the legislative level, and certainly in the private sector level, to manage these TARP funds appropriately.
KAYE: There's been a lot of anger about this. Congress gives failing companies lots of your money, and then the companies give big bonuses to themselves. So, a lot of people are asking, why can't Congress demand that bonus money be returned?
STANLEY BRAND, ATTORNEY: Legally, I think they're on relatively weak footing, because I don't believe the TARP legislation provides explicit authority to do that.
KAYE (on camera): He's right.
The provision is known as clawbacks, and it allows the government to get back, or claw back, your money. But clawbacks are not in the legislation. The Treasury Department told us, though, it has specific agreements with the bailed-out companies that allow it to take back bonuses paid to the top five executives only in cases of fraud.
BRAND: Congress was faced with a situation where the secretary of the treasury ran in and said the sky was falling; you have to do this right away. They paid insufficient attention to the fine print and giving themselves the right to impose conditions on the receipt of this money.
KAYE (voice-over): We know what happened next. In December, for example, even though Merrill Lynch was failing, it paid an estimated $4 billion in bonuses just before it was taken over by Bank of America, which was already getting a big taxpayer bailout, the same Bank of America that just threw a big Super Bowl party outside the stadium.
The bank won't say how much it spent on the event, but insists it was part of a contract with the NFL and was -- quote -- "a business proposition."
Morgan Stanley also received federal bailout money, $10 billion of it. It threw a three-day bash for clients at a five-star resort in Palm Beach the week before the Super Bowl.
TOM SCHATZ, PRESIDENT, CITIZENS AGAINST GOVERNMENT WASTE: If the money is not Being used to advance the purposes of restoring faith in the economy and lending money, these banks should be paying it back.
KAYE: As for clawing back bonuses, few think taking Wall Street to court for past extravaganzas would do the government much good. It may just mean a long legal battle, with little payoff.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: Randi Kaye "Keeping Them Honest."
Next, Dick Cheney has words for President Obama. Did you hear this interview? He says the new president's policies could lead to another attack on America. And some of what he accuses the Obama administration of is, frankly, stunning. You will hear Cheney's charges. And national security analyst Peter Bergen, and David Gergen, respond.
Then, what really caused that U.S. Airways flight to land in the Hudson? A new report out today.
And Michael Phelps speaking out for the first time since being caught smoking pot -- how is he taking the heat? And will he be charged with a crime? -- when 360 continues.
COOPER: I have noticed you don't use the term "war on terror," I think I read an article that you've only used it once since the inauguration. Is that conscious? Is there something about that term you find objectionable or not useful?
OBAMA: Well, I -- you know, I -- I think it is very important for us to recognize that we have a battle or a war against some terrorist organizations, but that those organizations aren't representative of a broader Arab community, Muslim community.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I don't think Dick Cheney is going to like that answer from my interview yesterday with President Obama, who doesn't like to use the term war on terror.
Dick Cheney does. Tonight, two weeks after leaving office, the former vice president has unleashed a chilling warning for the country and the commander in chief. Cheney says there is a high probability that al Qaeda will attempt a catastrophic attack against the U.S., one far greater than 9/11.
He also defends Guantanamo Bay, domestic spying, water-boarding, just about everything else he sanctioned for the last eight years.
Tom Foreman has the interview right now.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even in the bare- knuckled world of Washington, this was a remarkably sharp attack by the former vice president -- the plan to close the prison camp at Guantanamo amid complaints about human rights a clear sore point in his interview with Politico.com.
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RICHARD B. CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When we get people who are more concerned about the let me think the -- let me think carefully how I describe this -- more concerned with reading the rights to an al Qaeda terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do everything they can to kill Americans, then I worry.
Whether or not they can pull it off depends in part upon us and what kind of policies we put in place and whether or not we're prepared to do what we need to do.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Even before President Obama took office, Cheney defended the treatment of terror suspects under President Bush, and now, with Obama condemning torture and reversing many Bush policies, Cheney is insisting.
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CHENEY: If it hadn't been for what we did with respect to terrorist surveillance program or enhanced interrogation techniques for high-value detainees, and the Patriot Act and so forth, that we would have been attacked again.
FOREMAN: Not only that; he says time will prove it.
JOHN HARRIS, EDITOR IN CHIEF, POLITICO.COM: He says, once the files are opened, people will be able to see the Bush administration policies, policies that he is closely linked with, that those policies averted attacks.
FOREMAN (on camera): Still, the attack Washington is buzzing about right now is this one. Top former officials rarely have such harsh words for a new president, and almost never so soon.
(voice-over): But Dick Cheney made it clear long ago the opinions of others don't bother him much. And the Obama administration has not responded.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Let's dig deeper with national security analyst Peter Bergen and CNN political analyst David Gergen who joins us again.
David, is this just bad form for this vice president to do this?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, by the way, Anderson, before we start, on your AC 360 blog site tonight, the opinions were running 99-1, I would say, in favor of the president cracking down on executive pay.
On Dick Cheney, listen. It is unusual. Some will call it bad form. But I think Dick Cheney sees that he's had some sharp elbows to the ribs here in the last couple weeks from the Obama administration, who have been castigating the policies of the Bush administration.
He almost sees this in Churchillian terms that he's happy to be the lone voice taking all this criticism if he in effect saves the country from what he thinks is a terrible U-turn in American policy on Guantanamo and torture.
He does -- he does think, bottom line, that those policies, condemn them if you will, have also spared us from an attack. So there is at base here, you know, there's a lot of talk in Washington today about the sharpness of the attacks on both sides, but there are deep philosophical differences between these two parties.
COOPER: It's interesting, though, Peter. Some of the things that he says, I mean, he said at one point that people in the Obama administration, you know, feel that it's OK to just talk nice to terrorists and they'll go away. I mean, I don't think I know of anyone in the Obama administration who actually believes that.
What do you make of his justifications of, you know, the terror surveillance program, enhanced interrogation techniques as he called them -- others would call them torture. Water boarding, among other things, the Patriot Act. Are these valid assertions, that this kept America safe?
PETER BERGEN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: I think elements of the Patriot Act, for instance, bringing down the wall between law enforcement and intelligence gatherers was very useful. Setting up the National Counterterrorism Center at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, which was after all, something the Bush administration fought for a year not to have, that's a place where there is a fusion of all the different elements of government going after terrorists.
But I think it's a -- very much an open question whether coercive interrogations made us safer. I mean, former Vice President Cheney is essentially saying, "Trust us. You know, whenever these files will be opened, you'll finally realize how you were kept safe."
I am naturally skeptical of those sorts of claims.
COOPER: Is there also any figure on how many terrorists or potential terrorists were created by the war in Iraq?
BERGEN: That's an interesting question. I mean, a study I did with a colleague at New York University, we found that after the Iraq war for the first three years after the invasion, that the actual number of jihadist terrorist attacks around the world went up sevenfold. And even if you took away Iraq and Afghanistan from that equation, you still had a 33 percent rise.
We weren't making the case that the Iraq war had caused all these terrorist attacks, but certainly, it is the case that the Iraq war tended to create more terrorists.
COOPER: David, I want to play just for our viewers another clip from this interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: I think there's a challenge there for the Obama administration. Whether or not they take the time to understand what we did and why we did it and how we did it before they run off and start taking down programs that I think are essential to the security of the nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It is fascinating hearing him. I mean, there is a certain level of arrogance that if somebody doesn't agree with him it's that they're not smart or they don't understand the argument.
GERGEN: Yes, there is. And I think this is exactly the point that Peter was making. You know, when you're outside the national security net and you don't have access, and people on the inside say, "Well, basically, if you knew what I knew, you'd know how right I was." And you know, there's no way you can really argue with that.
I do -- I do think that where I think the vice president was unfair to President Obama was in essentially leveling a charge that he's closing down Guantanamo willy-nilly and not taking time to understand this.
In fact, what President Obama has done is said, "We're going to close down Guantanamo, but we're going to take up to a year to figure how -- to figure out how to do this safely and protect ourselves from terrorism."
COOPER: Well, he also says -- the thing about Guantanamo -- that it's the hard core people. It's the same thing that, you know, these last 200 are the hard core. Frankly, that's what they said about, you know, the hundreds who were there before that, and many of them turned out to be not so hard core.
He also, Peter, uses figures on recidivism rates from Guantanamo. He says it's 11 or 12 percent. Secretary Gates last week, I think, put the figure at 4 to 5 percent. Whose numbers are accurate?
BERGEN: Well, I mean, the numbers that former Vice President Cheney is using is the number of 61 that returned to the battlefield which is a Department of Defense number.
But when you actually pass those numbers, only 36 percent of them are suspected to have returned to the battlefield, returning to the battlefield could be involved, meaning getting involved in propaganda activities against the United States rather than actual terrorism.
I think the Department of Defense needs to do a better job of explaining who the people they really determined who have returned to the battlefield so we have better numbers.
Right now that 11 percent number, I think, is highly debatable. The number that I would be comfortable with would be more like 4 or 5 percent. But Anderson, you know, the news that the Saudis have announced that 11 people who were at Guantanamo have gone through their re-education program and are now being released and gone to terror to conduct terrorist activities in other countries, potentially, I think is a problem for the Obama administration going forward on this issue, because it seems that the Saudi program, which was sort of the gold standard here has been a little leaky -- more leaky than the Saudis initially said.
COOPER: And that's certainly terrifying indeed. We're going to have to leave it there. Peter Bergen, David Gergen, as well, thanks very much.
Next, guess who might want a career in politics? That's right. Joe the plumber. Apparently, being a correspondent wasn't that much fun. So, yes. We're going to tell you what he has said. I'm not sure why we're going to tell you. I'm not sure why we're even still putting him on TV, but it's sort of, you know. I don't know. Why not?
Later, Michelle Obama's inner circle. We'll tell you who she has assembled around her and what her top priorities are as first lady.
And caught on tape, this man angry at cops, so who does he call? You'll want to see this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN ALLEN, PULLED OVER BY POLICE: I'm being dragged out of my car. This is ridiculous. I'm being assaulted. He's yelling at me and grabbing me. And he has maced me once, OK? This is not cool.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: In addition to meeting you all here at these agencies, I'm taking time out, as well as Barack, to get to know the community that we're in. We're going to be visiting schools and neighborhoods throughout this area, because Barack and I always believed that investing in the community that you live in first and foremost is critical.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Michelle Obama making the rounds in Washington. Tonight an up close look at the team helping the first lady shape her agenda.
But first Erica Hill joins us with the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Erica.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Confirmation today that a bird strike did force that U.S. Airways flight to make an emergency landing in the New York Hudson River last month. The National Transportation Safety Board found bird remains in both engines.
All 155 onboard, of course, did survive.
FEMA tonight warning emergency food kits recently distributed may include peanut butter contaminated with salmonella. Those meals were sent to Kentucky and Alabama in the wake of the severe snow and ice storms there. No word yet on whether or not anyone has become sick from eating those peanut butter packets.
Michael Phelps making his first public comment today about the now infamous photo of him smoking a marijuana pipe. The Olympic champion, speaking outside the pool where he trains, telling the A.P., quote, "It's something I'm going to have to live with and something I'll have to grow from."
And Samuel Wurzelbacher, also known as Joe the plumber, back from his war reporting, now moving onto discussing his political future after he spent some time on Capitol Hill giving advice to Republicans. Oh, yes.
And as for whether he'll run for office, he says not until his sons grow up adding, quote, "I don't know if the American public deserves me."
COOPER: That's quite a quote there.
HILL: It is.
COOPER: From a guy who may be running for office.
HILL: It's amazing that the 15 minutes aren't up. Somehow I thought they'd run out long ago.
COOPER: They were up long ago. Yes. It's like a train wreck. I don't think he knows, sort of, you just, slow down and watch a little bit. Yes. Anyway, yes. What do you do?
HILL: We move on.
COOPER: We do. Yes we do.
All right. A lot ahead.
Time for our "Beat 360" winners, our daily challenge to viewers, a chance to show up our staffers by coming up with a better caption for the picture we post on our blog every day.
So tonight's picture: a tourist pauses to look at monkeys in the road in a national park in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Our staff winner tonight, Ed Henry. Ed Henry won. Who -- the caption: "Pakistani officials continue to insist the checkpoints along the Afghan-Pakistan border are under intense, 24-hour surveillance."
(SOUND EFFECT: MONKEY SHRIEKING)
HILL: Oh, yes.
COOPER: Good one.
Our viewer winner is Sandra from Decatur, Alabama. Her caption: "The search for bin Laden continues as specially trained undercover CIA operatives search vehicles in Pakistan."
(SOUND EFFECT: DRUM BEAT)
COOPER: Sandra, your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way. Kind of similar ones.
HILL: Clearly, there is -- there is a theme here.
There weren't any monkeys guarding the Oval Office yesterday. Right? Like that was all very high-tech security.
COOPER: No. All very high-tech security. The security seemed very, very tight. Yes.
HILL: Any inside details you want to share?
COOPER: It was cool. I'd never been inside the Oval Office like that.
HILL: Never? Really?
COOPER: Everything -- and the White House is a lot smaller than I anticipated. All the press area is like a little...
HILL: Like a closet?
COOPER: Yes. It's a little like a rabbit warren, of little offices. And the immediate area right outside the Oval Office, not where the assistant sits, but sort of outside that where you -- kind of the waiting area...
COOPER: ... I've got to say it's a little warm. Could use like a new carpet.
HILL: It needs an update? Really?
COOPER: Yes. And I remember reading Barack Obama's account of the first time he went to the White House...
COOPER: ... when he was in the Senate. And it rings very true. I think he said it was sort of well worn. And it definitely...
HILL: He wrote about that in his book. It's funny, because my impression of the White House is everything I've seen on "The West Wing."
HILL: So I imagine that it will look exactly like "The West Wing."
COOPER: Yes. It's not that crisp and sharp. Not at all.
HILL: Interesting. Not the same as "24" either, then.
COOPER: No. Up next, the first lady assembles her team. You can hear more on my blog. There's interesting stuff on the blog about it. The latest, Michelle Obama's mission. We'll take you behind the scenes and introduce you to her inner circle.
And later, a 911 call to remember. A motorist gets into a scuffle with a state trooper, and you won't believe who he calls for help.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
M. OBAMA: Visiting, trying to visit all the agencies here to say a few things. One, to say hello.
I want to learn, listen, know what's going on from you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Michelle Obama continuing her tour of Washington. While the first lady has suggested in the past what some of her priorities might be -- working to support military families, for example -- a lot of her public platform is still kind of coming into focus. Tonight, though, we know more about the team working with her.
Erica Hill has an up-close look on how the first lady is finding her focus.
HILL (voice-over): Michelle Obama is on day three of her first full-fledged tour as first lady. Today's stop: the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
With all the talk of her husband's rock-star status, Mrs. Obama can also pack a room.
M. OBAMA: Barack and I always believed that investing in the community that you live in, first and foremost, is critical, and for the people here in this agency, we are now your neighbors.
HILL: Some 600 HUD employees jamming into the auditorium today to hear that message, cell phone cameras at the ready.
STACY CORDERY, NATIONAL FIRST LADIES LIBRARY: I think jumping in right away, putting her staff together, these things signal to us as Americans that she's interested, that she cares. And that she will be a viable presence in the White House.
HILL: And that, the first lady's office tells CNN, is the goal of this agency tour, which was Mrs. Obama's idea.
M. OBAMA: My task here is to say, "Thank you and roll up your sleeves, because we have a lot of work to do."
HILL: Helping to make that happen, a staff of 20, many with lengthy political resumes, considered to be public policy experts.
LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: What a first lady says and does can have political consequences. So you want people with good antenna who understand what a first lady should do and maybe also what she shouldn't do to be in charge.
HILL: Chief of staff Jackie Norris was instrumental in President Obama's Iowa caucus win and also worked with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in 1998's gubernatorial campaign. Jocelyn Frey comes to the East Wing from the National Partnership for Women and Families, where she focused on employment and gender discrimination.
Just last Thursday, in one of her first official White House events, Mrs. Obama celebrated the new equal pay law.
M. OBAMA: She knew unfairness when she saw it and was willing to do something about it.
HILL: While most experts agree it is far too soon to compare Mrs. Obama to other first ladies, they do see some similarities.
CORDERY: One of the first things Mrs. Roosevelt did was to say to Americans, "Why don't you write me? Tell me all your problems. Let us know what -- how we can help you." And Mrs. Obama seems to be doing the same thing.
HILL: And despite her mentioning the stimulus package...
M. OBAMA: The Department of Housing and Urban Development is going to play a critical role in implementing elements of the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.
HILL: ... the first lady's office tells CNN her focus is simply getting to know the community.
COOPER: It she being used as a surrogate at all, though?
HILL: No, I specifically asked. I said, look, she mentioned the stimulus package on Monday. She mentioned it today. Is she a surrogate? And the answer was she is not a surrogate. It just happens to be the center of conversation this week.
COOPER: It's interesting. As we show that video again of her speaking at the -- at HUD, the guy standing behind her to the left is Sean Donovan. I actually went to high school for him, and he spoke for me when I ran for vice president in tenth grade.
HILL: I understand he may have been instrumental in your win.
HILL: So they -- maybe they should be happy they have him.
COOPER: Yes. I won. He was the senior, and I was the sophomore, and I won.
HILL: And then...
COOPER: So that was the end of my political career: one term.
HILL: Really? That's it? Since he graduated, he couldn't help you? COOPER: David Gold beat me for president.
HILL: And where is David Gold now?
COOPER: I don't know. I'm sure he's...
HILL: Maybe he's watching.
COOPER: He's gone on to bigger and better things.
Up next a bizarre 911 call. A guy stopped by police for speeding calls the police for help. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: I'm not even fighting you. I'm not even fighting you. Ow! Help! This guy's beating me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: How this all ended up, coming up.
Also tonight, the latest twist on the Christian Bale screamfest. It's now something you can dance to. We put our floor crew to the test.
And at the top of the hour, breaking news. Sources saying President Obama expects the stimulus bill will get Senate approval by the end of this week. Details ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: I'm going to hold the phone as long as I can. Dude, I'm not even fighting you! I'm not even fighting you! What do you want?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, sir. You need to listen to what the trooper is saying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Just as taste of a strange 911 call between the police and a guy fighting with the police. Wait until you hear what else he had to say. This happened on Saturday in Florida. The encounter was with a state trooper, and lucky for us it was recorded on tape.
Jeanne Moos has the story.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So there you are waving your arms around, being wrestled to the ground by a highway patrol officer. Who are you going to call? ALLEN: This is crazy. This is insane.
MOOS: Kevin Allen called the police on the police.
ALLEN: I'm being dragged out of my car. This is ridiculous. I'm being assaulted. He's yelling at me and grabbing me, and he has maced me once. OK? This is not cool.
MOOS: After being stopped for speeding on a 55-mile-per-hour interstate, Allen pulled his cell phone on a Florida highway patrolman and dialed 911.
ALLEN: Get Channel 2, Channel 5, FOX 35, all of them down here.
MOOS (on camera): Police say that Allen passed the marked police car, that he was going 72 miles an hour, that when they pulled him over, he refused to hand over his license and registration.
SGT. KIM MILLER, FLORIDA HIGHWAY PATROL: He told the troopers afterwards it was a matter of principle, that he felt he did nothing wrong and, therefore, he decided to break the law and batter a law enforcement officer.
MOOS (voice-over): Allen thought the officer was battering him.
ALLEN: I'll hold the phone as long as I can.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir.
ALLEN: I'm not even fighting you! I'm not even fighting you! What do you want?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, sir. You need to listen to what the trooper says.
MOOS: Hey, now we're all listening, thanks to Allen's cell phone.
ALLEN: Help! This guy's beating me.
MOOS: Allen was charged with resisting arrest and battery on an officer. He was released on $2,700 bail.
(on camera) Now there is something odd in calling the police on the police. That's when police called police on themselves.
(voice-over) Current TV made an animated cartoon out of this classic 911 call from a few years back. A Dearborn, Michigan, policeman called for help, saying he and his wife had overdosed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Overdose of what?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Marijuana.
MOOS: remember, this is a real 911 call.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please come. I think we're dying.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. We're on our way. How much did you guys have?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. We made brownies. And I think we're dead. I really do.
MOOS: He didn't die, but his career as a police officer did when he resigned.
We may be in the age of the cell phone, but that won't necessarily keep you out of a cell.
ALLEN: Get off of me!
MOOS: The question remains...
RAY PARKER, SINGER (singing): There's something strange in the neighborhood. Who you gonna call?
MOOS (on camera): ... when you get busted.
(voice-over) Jeanne Moos, CNN. New York.
Up next our "Shot." Batman goes berserk, volume three. The latest twist on Christian Bale's rant. It's now a dance remix, and it's quite catchy. This, I guess, is why they invented YouTube.
And at the top of the hour breaking news on the economic stimulus package. Ed Henry joins us from the White House with the latest details.
COOPER: All right, time for "The Shot," tonight the latest incarnation of the Christian Bale rant.
First came the audio of his onset meltdown. That was followed logically by an infectious dance remix, put together on YouTube by a smart music producer who calls himself Revolucian.
Now, as happened with that Beyonce song, people are putting clips of themselves on YouTube, dancing to the "Ballistic Bale Boogie." Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: We can't really play much of it because it's all kind of beeped out. But you get the idea.
HILL: You're really kind of dancing to bleeps there, in a way.
COOPER: Yes. I don't know if you could hear it, but there was also a special guest in the remix. Barbara Streisand has mixed in. Some of her bleeped out breakdown was in there, as well.
HILL: It's like a cameo.
COOPER: So we saw that person dance to it. Let's see how the 360 floor crew would do with it. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: Oh, yes. I think Mr. YouTube is feeling like maybe he didn't show his best stuff now that he sees our boys.
COOPER: Yes. All right. You can see -- it's sweeping the Web. You can see all the "Shots" at our Web site.
HILL: I think we need to go on tour.
COOPER: You don't need to bleep me. You don't need to bleep me. What?
HILL: Let's go on tour.
COOPER: Let's go on tour. But then how would we put the show on?
HILL: That's an excellent point.
Coming up at the top of the hour, breaking news in the battle over the economic stimulus plan. Word tonight that President Obama is confident the Senate is going to pass his bill before the end of the week. Details ahead.
COOPER: We begin with breaking news in the battle over your money. On the same day that President Obama took action to curb Wall Street pay and protect your tax dollars from bailout abuse, he also turned up the heat on Congress, telling lawmakers if they don't act now to pass a stimulus plan the result will be catastrophe.
Tonight we have late word that the president believes he will have the votes he needs to pass the Senate stimulus bill by the end of this week.
Ed Henry has been working his sources, joins us now with the breaking news from the White House -- Ed.