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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

World Mourns Death of Crocodile Hunter; President Bush Links Iraq to War on Terror

Aired September 5, 2006 - 22:00   ET

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


LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Right now, it's time to turn things over to Anderson Cooper. He stands by in New York to host A.C. 360 -- Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, thanks very much.

You've been talking about the remarkable life and tragic death of Steve Irwin. Tonight, the latest developments -- what we now know about his death, and new questions about the risks he took in life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Also: He loved the world around him and all the creatures in it, but did he get too close? And was the crocodile hunter always a natural disaster waiting to happen?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The road ahead is going to be difficult, and it will require more sacrifice.

ANNOUNCER: Comparing the enemy to Hitler and Lenin, but is the war on terror really the same as World War II or the Cold War? And what does Iraq have to do with it? The president has a new war plan. Americans have questions.

Nearly five years after we won in Afghanistan, new signs that victory could be slipping away.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Across the country and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.

Reporting from the CNN studios in New York, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: Hey, thanks for joining us.

We begin tonight with a global outpouring. There's really no other way to describe it. In his hometown of Beerwah, these were the images, people leaving flowers at a makeshift memorial, lines of people all day long.

In cities all over Australia and all around the world, people tonight mourning the loss of that friendly guy who couldn't wait to tell you about snakes, and apes, and, yes, crocodiles, too. Steve Irwin, the crocodile hunter on TV, died yesterday, as you know by now, killed by a stingray along Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Today, his body came home. He died doing what he loved and what we loved watching him to do.

Several reports tonight -- the first report from CNN's John Vause.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEVE IRWIN, CROCODILE HUNTER: That means the crocodile has come up here just moments before I got here.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the end, Steve Irwin, it seems, just got too close, not to the jaws of a crocodile or one of the world's most deadliest snakes, but to a stingray. Normally considered placid, unless it feels threatened, the triangular-shaped venomous fish lashed out with its swordlike tail, according to witnesses, piercing Irwin's heart.

JOHN STAINTON, BUSINESS MANAGER OF STEVE IRWIN: He came over the top of a stingray, and a barb -- the -- the stingray's barb went up, and went into a chest, and put a hole into his heart.

VAUSE: Marine experts suspect it was the trauma of the wound, combined with the release of toxins, that was fatal. The man best- known and best-loved for his passion for Australian wildlife had spent a week on the Great Barrier Reef, filming a documentary called "The Ocean's Deadliest," with Philippe Cousteau, grandson of the famous Jacques Cousteau.

But bad weather had kept Irwin inside. So, instead, he headed to shallow waters to film a segment for a kid's TV show featuring his 8- year-old daughter, Bindi. She wasn't there at the time of the attack, but those who were say Steve Irwin never regained consciousness.

STAINTON: And I don't think -- I hope he never felt any pain.

Irwin's support crew made a desperate 30-minute dash by boat to a nearby island and a waiting medical chopper. But, in the end, there was nothing that could save the Crocodile Hunter. Despite a lifetime seemingly so close to the edge of death, Irwin's passing was met with stunned disbelief across Australia and around the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His life was so amazing. I can't believe that it has ended so tragically.

VAUSE: Irwin's American wife, Terri, was on a hiking trip in Tasmania when she received word, but has now returned with their two children to their home at Australia Zoo, where flowers have been left by fans. And such was Steve Irwin's appeal. Tributes have come from ordinary Australians and from the country's prime minister as well.

JOHN HOWARD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: He was a one-off character, and he wasn't just a character for Australians. He was a character for lots of people around the worried.

VAUSE: With this thick Australian drawl, broad smile, and endless enthusiasm, he taught his audience about the creatures around us in life, and now in death as well.

IRWIN: Hey, you're the stars now.

VAUSE: John Vause, CNN, Brisbane, Australia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, Irwin was definitely best known probably for his crazy antics on the popular television shows that he broadcast from in his larger-than-life persona. But there was a lot more to him. What he really wanted to be known for was his love of wildlife.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEVE IRWIN, CROCODILE HUNTER: Come this way. Come this way. Where's my boy? Come on.

COOPER (voice-over): He was called the crocodile hunter, but Steve Irwin said his mission was hardly about hunting. It was about protecting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")

IRWIN: I'm a -- a wildlife warrior, you know, like my -- a warrior is someone who is trained or engaged in battle. My battle is conservation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: If his cause was conservation, his antics were sometimes controversial, like in this now famous moment when he stood close to the jaws of a hungry crocodile, a chicken carcass in one hand, his month-old baby boy, Bob, in the other.

IRWIN: Crikey, mate.

COOPER: His wild actions and thick Aussie Down Under accent made for great TV, as he lured crocs on to the shore, wrestled with snakes, cuddled baby tigers. But, his fans know, he also fought for the environment, battling to save endangered species and to rescue his beloved reptiles.

ANNIE HOWELL, SPOKESWOMAN, DISCOVERY NETWORKS: He was passionate about what he did. And that, You know, came through to millions of people around the world. He brought education and knowledge about the -- the natural world to so many people who never had access to that kind of information. And he did it in a very entertaining and fun way. But he absolutely was an expert in what he was doing.

COOPER: But many experts say, no matter how compelling the pictures and how great his expertise, wild animals are driven by instinct. And there was always an element of danger.

JACK HANNA, DIRECTOR EMERITUS, COLUMBUS ZOO: Ninety-nine percent of the time that someone is hurt by an animal, it's your -- it's -- it's your fault. The times I have been hurt, it has been my fault. And you just have to be careful of that.

You have to know what your limits are, what that animal is, because they are wild animals. They have their -- their -- their defenses. You know, people use the word "dangerous." And that sometimes is a -- is a word that is not fair to that animal, because that animal always -- has been given the defenses that -- that God gave it. So, you have to understand what all that involves. And if you understand that, like I have for many, many years, then, hopefully, nothing will happen.

COOPER: And that is a lesson Steve Irwin, who died the way he lived, face-to-face with a wild animal, knew only too well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")

IRWIN: When you work around big cats or crocs or snakes, mate, you have got to understand that they have the power and capacity to kill or maim, and -- and -- and, if you make a mistake, they will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, joining me now from Anchorage, Alaska, is another well-known conservation -- conservationist, Jeff Corwin, who hosts two programs on Animal Planet.

Jeff, good to see you. I'm sorry it's under -- under these circumstances.

You know, Steve Irwin, did -- did he push things too far?

JEFF CORWIN, HOST, "THE JEFF CORWIN EXPERIENCE": Anderson, I think that was his style. That was his way.

I mean, this guy had an electric character. He was like a volcano. And he took all that lava, and he focused it into his passion, which was to tell the story of these creatures.

And, you know, as you know, if you become sort of a well-known person, a celebrity, you sit in the middle of a seesaw. And one side are the people that like you, and the other side are the people that don't. So, you have to kind of look within yourself and feel like you're happy with your mission.

And I'm confident that Steve Irwin, towards this point in his life, could say that. Beyond the way he physically worked with animals is his conservation work, and his work as -- as an educator. And, ultimately, he found a way to put entertainment through and into his interest, which is what made him successful.

COOPER: And -- and do you think that's important today? I mean, do you have to do that to sort of get people watching, to -- to get people to pay attention to the conservation message?

CORWIN: (AUDIO GAP) Whether it's a news broadcast or whether it's a natural history program, you have to have some way to engage the viewer. You have to build an umbilicus that brings them in. And that was his style.

You know, Steve and myself, we're both on the same network. We both have a same mission. We have our unique ways of doing what we do. He has his way and I have my way. And it is kind of hard to say which one is right and which one is wrong. But, ultimately, we share the same vision, which is to build a bridge that takes information and then brings conservation on board.

COOPER: It certainly interests millions of people in -- in probably a message or -- or information that they wouldn't otherwise be getting. How do you personally -- I mean, I know your style is very different. How do you personally sort of find that balance between, you know, entertainment, but also safety? I mean, how do you stay safe in the field?

CORWIN: My (AUDIO GAP) personally, whenever I enter the field, is safety, for me and for the crew.

You know, watching some of this footage and seeing his young daughter, knowing that she's going to live the rest of her life, and his son, and -- and Terri, without their husband and father, to me, is just such a huge loss.

(AUDIO GAP) have a daughter. And I have a family. And I (AUDIO GAP) So, we take all those precautions. But the reality is (AUDIO GAP) no matter how hard you try, there is always a risk, because creatures can be powerful. If they feel threatened, they will defend themselves.

And, you know, personally, I just try to make sure my life isn't in danger. But, sometimes, you find yourself in a precarious situation. Oddly, it's not usually with animals. It's usually being in an airplane that -- that is leaking fluid, or being in the middle of a coup d'etat.

I just was flying in a C-130 with the U.S. Coast Guard (AUDIO GAP) because we lost Hydraulic Fluid. And I asked the pilot, and I'm like, is this a big deal? And he sort of said, well, it's kind of like you lost your blood. So, you know, things like that...

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Great.

CORWIN: ... to me are more -- yes -- are more precarious than wildlife, because that was my world.

And the thing about Steve, this was his world. This was his passion. He had been doing this since he was 6. So, he has been doing it for well over 30 years.

COOPER: Well, he certainly will be missed. And -- and, I mean, of course, our thoughts go out to his family, I mean, those -- those poor kids, who -- who will grow up without him. Jeff, it's...

(CROSSTALK)

CORWIN: Absolutely.

COOPER: It's always good to talk to you. I hope we talk under better circumstances next time. Thank you.

CORWIN: Thanks, Anderson.

Irwin's death has been described by a lot of wildlife experts as, really, a freak accident. I mean, stingrays are not known for being aggressive. They're defensive animals. Their -- their -- the stinger is really a defensive weapon. Their attacks don't usually lead to death.

Mark Faulkner, a marine biologist, is the -- is -- is the husbandry curator for the Monterey Bay Aquarium. He joins me now from Monterey, California.

What -- what is it -- what happens? I mean, when someone gets stung by a stingray, what does that mean?

MARK FAULKNER, HUSBANDRY CURATOR, MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM: Well, the stingrays have a very sharp spine, located, depending on the species, on the tail, somewhere towards the base, or towards the end, depending on the species.

And, in defense, they will lash the tail. And the spine can penetrate the skin, and, one, cause mechanical damage through the penetration, and, two, it can envenomate as well. And the stingrays have pretty -- pretty powerful -- pretty powerful venom in these spines.

COOPER: Do you have an example of -- of the stinger?

FAULKNER: I have an example of a -- a -- a spine from a -- I'm not sure what species this is. This was found washed up on a beach in Mexico.

COOPER: So, what is that we're looking at? What is the curly part and what is -- the straight part is the -- the sting...

FAULKNER: The curly part is actually the -- the -- the tail. This is a dried specimen. This is the tail. And then the -- the white part is the spine.

COOPER: So, how -- how tall -- I mean, how long do those get?

FAULKNER: Once again, it depends on the species. Some of the larger species, they can be 12 to 15 inches -- so, significant spines.

COOPER: And, then, some of them have barbs on them, I'm told.

FAULKNER: They have what? I'm sorry. COOPER: A barb on them; is that correct?

FAULKNER: Oh, they -- they do. This -- this has barbs. If you -- if you can get close, it -- it's like a -- kind of a double-bladed knife. And, then, on either side, there are barbs that point backwards. So, the -- the spine goes in really easily, but is really hard to pull out.

COOPER: So, essentially, it's -- it's not only the -- the blade, the spine itself, but these barbs, which, as you say, go backwards. So, if someone gets pierced by that, actually pulling it out causes an enormous amount of damage as well.

FAULKNER: Yes, it would, but not -- not as much as it going in and the envenomation, though.

COOPER: How strong is this venom?

FAULKNER: It's hard to say. It's -- it's not lethal if it doesn't pierce a -- a -- a major organ.

It's extremely painful. I have heard people that have been stung by a stingray to say it's probably the worse pain they have ever felt in their life. So, it's -- it's...

COOPER: And what are you -- what are you supposed to do if you get stung by it?

FAULKNER: Well, the -- the first thing you should do is -- is -- say, if you get stung in the foot, is in -- is, put your foot in the hottest water that you can find. And heat denatures the toxins in the -- in the venom of the spine. So, that will bring immediate relief. And you have to kind of keep it submerged for 30 to 90 minutes, depending on how bad you're envenomated, for it to really denature everything.

COOPER: And -- and, you know, a lot of tourists, as you know, go out to -- to shallow areas where there are stingrays, and kind of swim with them, walk amongst them.

FAULKNER: Mmm-hmm.

COOPER: If you are walking, and there are stingrays around, is there anything you can do to sort of avoid scaring them?

FAULKNER: Certainly. Certainly.

The -- the biggest precaution that you can take is to not step. You shuffle your feet, you slide your feet along, as you move through the shallows, and -- and, hopefully, you will -- you will cause the -- the ray to -- to -- to jump, to swim away, prior to you stepping on it, which it -- it will do 99 percent of the times.

But, if you were to step directly on it, then, chances are, it will whip its tail around, and it will probably sting you in the ankle, or top of the foot. COOPER: But, I mean, if you're snorkeling and you see a stingray, should you be scared?

FAULKNER: No. They're really docile animals. And that's why this whole -- this whole accident was -- is such a -- a freak thing. They -- they -- they aren't aggressive. They -- their -- their mechanisms are that, purely defense. And it's -- it's -- it's pretty amazing that this happened, and very surprising.

COOPER: Yes, and -- and just terrible.

Mark, appreciate your expertise. Thank you, Mark Faulkner. Appreciate it very much.

FAULKNER: My pleasure.

COOPER: A strange thing.

We will have more on this in the second hour of 360.

But, right now: President Bush today raised the stakes in the war on terror. In another fiery speech, he again linked the war in Iraq to the fight against al Qaeda and the war on terror. What do you think about that? You think they are linked? Most Americans -- we will -- we will see what most Americans think in a recent CNN poll. We will have that ahead.

Plus, the war on terror began, of course, well, after 9/11, in Afghanistan. It once touted as a success. Now it is heating up again. The Taliban, the numbers are growing. The opium crops are growing. Coming up, we will have the latest on the setbacks there and a live report from Kabul.

And the November elections are looming. The polls show voters angry about a lot of stuff. How worried should the Republicans be?

All that ahead on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, President Bush today called the war on terror the great struggle of the 21st century. He compared the world now to a time when Hitler threatened the globe and communism was on the march.

With American troops under fire, and his policies under scrutiny, and an election coming up, the president today did what this president likes to do. He raised the stakes. The question is, do Americans really see it that way? Hitler? Or is this really the politics of fear we're talking about? We will look at who thinks what and how they plan to vote in a moment.

First, though, he speech and CNN's Ed Henry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nearly five years after vowing he would get Osama bin Laden, dead or alive, President Bush acknowledged, al Qaeda remains a major threat to the United States, taking the extraordinary step of quoting bin Laden's own words to associates to again try to make the case that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He calls it a war of destiny between infidelity and Islam. He says the whole world is watching this war, and that it will end in victory and glory, or misery and humiliation. For al Qaeda, Iraq is not a distraction from their war on America. It is the central battlefield where the outcome of this struggle will be decided.

HENRY: This is a page ripped right out of the Karl Rove playbook that helped Republicans win in 2002 and 2004: Play on Americans' fears of another terror attack.

BUSH: Bin Laden and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as Lenin and Hitler before them. The question is, will we listen? Will we pay attention to what these evil men say? We are on the offensive. We will not rest. We will not retreat. And we will not withdraw from the fight, until this threat to civilization has been removed.

HENRY: But, this time, the president may be playing right into the hands of Democrats, who contend his policies have made the country less safe.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: They have run this play one too many times. It is the same speeches that they have given before. And all the speeches in the world do not change what's going on, on the ground in Iraq. And, as we have heard here, the ground in Iraq is not a pleasant place.

HENRY: In fact, a new CNN/Opinion Research poll suggests, the public is no longer buying the president's claim that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. Only 45 percent of Americans say Iraq is part of the war on terror, while 53 percent say it's not.

Undaunted, the president pushed forward, to also link Iran to the threat from al Qaeda, in making the case the international community cannot let Tehran get a nuclear weapon.

BUSH: Like al Qaeda and the Sunni extremists, the Iranian regime has clear aims. They want to drive America out of the region, to destroy Israel, and to dominate the broader Middle East. To achieve these aims, they are funding and arming terrorist groups like Hezbollah, which allow them to attack Israel and America by proxy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: You know, Ed, a few years ago, the president was not even mentioning bin Laden by name. They were saying he, you know, wasn't that important. Today, bin Laden is the focus of his speech. He's even being quoted by this president. Why this change now?

HENRY: It shows how defensive the president is right now, a defensive posture, heading into these midterm elections.

You're right. A couple of years ago, the White House reason was, they said, this war on terror is not about any one person. That's why the president is not mentioning Osama bin Laden in his public speeches.

All of a sudden, it's the focus of this speech. And it's a clear sign that, heading into these elections, this president is finding that a lot of his other arguments haven't worked. So, he's trying all kinds of other things.

Tomorrow, he will take another crack at it, part three in this -- this new series of speeches, this one focused on Guantanamo Bay, the detainees there. He's going to have some legislation he's sending to the Hill.

The bottom line is, at the beginning of this latest series of speeches, the president said, this is not going to be political. This is not going to get wrapped up in the midterms. But here's yet another politically explosive issue he's bringing up tomorrow. And with this sharpening rhetoric today, it is clear this is getting wrapped in politics -- Anderson.

COOPER: Hard to ignore that. Ed Henry, thanks.

President Bush makes no secret of his admiration for Winston Churchill, and how his words rallied Great Britain during the Second World War. The president's speeches, fair to say, aim for Churchill's tone. The question is, do they fit the times or the facts of today? And what do Americans now make of it?

In the latest edition of "TIME" magazine, columnist Joe Klein offers an alternative of his own for the president's speech. It's an interesting article. You should read it.

Luckily, Joe joins us now.

This is political, yes?

JOE KLEIN, COLUMNIST, "TIME": Yes, I think so. And it is also quite dangerous. I mean, the president is raising the stakes enormously. And...

COOPER: How is he doing that?

KLEIN: Well, I mean, when the enemy is Hitler and communism, as opposed to, you know, Islamic -- you know, Islamic extremists, you know, you really -- the public -- the public expects, and the military especially expects, that the president will have a -- an analogous response.

So, people in the military, an active-duty colonel who has served time in -- in Iraq said to me, if this -- this is so big, why hasn't he raised the size of the army; why hasn't he raised taxes to pay for it, which is we have done in every other war? Why...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: If this is a war equivalent against fascism, then...

KLEIN: Yes. Right.

(CROSSTALK)

KLEIN: If we're fighting Hitler, why hasn't he mobilized the nation? Why aren't there -- you know, there bonds drives and all the rest?

It isn't. You know, it is a very, very serious situation. And he's right when he says that this is now very integral to the war on terror, because, if we leave Iraq, there will chaos there, and it may be a free zone for the -- for al Qaeda to operate.

COOPER: But -- but do we really know what would happen if the U.S. pulled...

KLEIN: No, we don't.

COOPER: ... out of Iraq?

I mean, back in -- in the Vietnam days, there was the domino theory. And -- and, you know, all these allegedly very smart people got it all wrong. So, I mean, there is an argument to be said that we, frankly -- you know, we're not very good at predicting future events.

KLEIN: Well, you know, all I can go on is my own reporting.

And, when I talk to diplomats from the region, from the Sunni countries especially, they are very, very concerned about what would happen if we left. They're concerned that there would be a genocide of the Sunnis by the dominant Shia parties. They're very concerned that Iran has assumed a major role in the region now, mostly through our doing.

Now, that's the irony of this. When the president says that this is a central front in the war on terror, he made it so. Our invasion of Iraq made it so.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: And, yet, the majority of Americans, if you believe this poll, don't really believe that it is linked to the war on terror.

KLEIN: Well, I -- I think that they're wrong.

COOPER: The -- the counterargument, I mean, that they would argue, is, look, perhaps a lot of this insurgency is based on -- on occupation, and, if the U.S. pulled out, a lot of that fervor for the insurgency might go away. You say now...

KLEIN: Well...

COOPER: ... that is no longer the case.

KLEIN: Well, you know, you -- he -- the president said today that al Qaeda and Shiite extremism were two sides of the same coin. Well, those two sides of the same coin are fighting each other right now in the streets Baghdad.

There is every expectation that, unlike Vietnam, this thing will spread.

COOPER: Do you think -- the president, a lot of the speeches he's making now -- this is really the third time around, the third go trying to sell this message -- they're -- they're, literally, in some cases, word for word, the way they were a year or so ago. Do you think people are listening? Do you think people buying it?

KLEIN: I think he's doing a real disservice to his office and to the American people.

There are really serious things we have to talk about right now, which is the diplomatic -- diplomatic effort, which is to -- to start talking to Iran, the political effort, which is to build a -- a real coalition government in Iraq, which I'm told Ambassador Khalilzad now says is a dead end, and also the -- the military effort, where we have -- we're still under-supporting our troops and the Iraqi troops in Baghdad.

COOPER: It was interesting. I -- and we don't have time to talk about it -- but interesting today that the president talking about Iran in the same breath that he is talking about al Qaeda, saying that they are -- are two different sides of the -- the same threat. Maybe we will talk about that next time.

Joe, good to have you. Thanks.

KLEIN: Good to be here.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Joe will also be back in our next hour, talking more about this.

The question is, will those who are against the war in Iraq take their anger to the polls? Just ahead, CNN's Candy Crowley joins us with a close look at the congressional elections and how worried or confident each party should be.

Also, we have been waiting for months to get a peek. Coming up tonight, well, we will. We will reveal that picture -- our first look at Tom Cruise's baby.

Apparently -- apparently, some people have been waiting for months. I don't think Joe or I have. But you never know.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: When 360 continues. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: An unpopular war, high gas prices, and low poll numbers for the president -- will congressional Republicans take the fall? The final stretch of the campaign -- next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, the president today forcefully restated a very ambitious strategy for the war on terror. That said, it is a speech made under quite a bit of political fire -- Americans no longer buying -- or many Americans no longer buying the president's view of the war and his claim that Iraq is a central front in that war.

As CNN's Candy Crowley reports now, it is having a political impact, even in traditional Republican strongholds.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Want to know how much trouble Republicans are in? Go deep into the Heartland, to ruby-red Indiana, to a Republican-leaning district, and you can hear this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were always Republican. And there's so many things going on now, I'm just kind of backing off, and not knowing, more or less going independent.

CROWLEY: Welcome to the 2nd District of Indiana, represented by two-term Republican Chris Chocola.

REP. CHRIS CHOCOLA (R), INDIANA: I think it's much like the rest of the country. There's a challenging environment for Republicans.

CROWLEY: Uh, yeah. Begin with this: the latest numbers from CNN and Opinion Research Corporation. An unpopular president, an unpopular war, and $3-a-gallon gas is a trifecta.

Democrats are looking for a big payoff, and Republicans are looking at a big problem.

Depending on who you talk to, nationwide there are about 46 competitive House seats, 36 of which are now held by Republicans. With 62 days until the election, there's no time to pretty this up.

The Republican Congressional Committee called it "a desperate situation nationwide." Appealing for money, the committee warned, "Our candidates in targeted districts are in very serious danger of losing."

The Senate worries Republicans less, but it is worrisome enough. To be in charge of the Senate, Democrats need to hold onto what they've got and pick up six seats. As it happens, six Republican seats look vulnerable. The truth is Democrats had little to do with their catbird seat. Nationally, the new poll shows most people don't approve of either party.

JENNIFER DUFFY, "THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT": In this cycle, voters don't like either party. They just dislike Democrats a little less.

CROWLEY: Which is to say Democrats' biggest asset is they're not Republicans.

JOE DONNELLY (D), INDIANA HOUSE CANDIDATE: Out here in the middle west, some of the things we see in Washington are almost incomprehensible to us.

CROWLEY: Back in Indiana, too, Democrat Joe Donnelly wants Chocola's job.

DONNELLY: People feel that, instead of standing up for them, the government has stood up for the special interests. They want new representation. They want change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to see you.

DONNELLY: With voters clearly soured on the status quo and Democrats selling change, what's a Republican to do?

AMY WALTER, "THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT": Say to voters essentially, here's your choice. I know you're mad at me. I know you don't like what's going on in Washington, but do you want to elect this person? Can you trust this person?

CROWLEY: Well, exactly.

REP. CHRIS CHOCOLA (R), INDIANA: Elections are about a choice between two individuals. And the people in the Second District don't really know my opponent very well yet, and they will. And I think that they'll send me back to keep doing my job.

CROWLEY: It's not over, but the prospects are dire enough that even Republicans don't talk about gaining seats, but about holding onto enough of them to keep control of Congress.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: The elections aren't only about power. It has a lot to do with money. Here with a quick look at the raw data. We're going to talk to Candy in just a moment.

For the entire House, more than $500,000 in campaign contributions have been raised for the 2006 election in the Senate. The amount is roughly $350 million. Those numbers pale in comparison to the estimated $3.9 billion raised during the 2004 presidential and congressional elections.

Candy, thanks for being with us. Are the Republicans -- that woman who you had in your piece, she's got to be the Republicans' biggest nightmare.

CROWLEY: Absolutely.

COOPER: Are they afraid that she's going to vote Democrat?

CROWLEY: No. They're afraid she's not going to show up.

COOPER: She's not going to come out.

CROWLEY: That's the problem. I mean, part of what you're seeing with George Bush, his audience isn't the nation as a whole. It's his base. He's saying, "Look, come home. You've got to get out. The stakes here are important."

He's never going to convince the Democrats who don't like him personally, who hate this war. They're looking to bring out Republicans.

COOPER: And I guess there's some Democrats kind of licking their lips thinking this is going to be for the Republicans what it was like for the Democrats back in '94, when a whole bunch of Democrats were swept out. Is that possible?

CROWLEY: It's possible, but there are -- there are real differences here. One is Republicans have redistricted in the last 10 years.

COOPER: I heard something about that.

CROWLEY: Yes. So, they've made areas a little more Republican. So, they've guarded some of those people.

And then, too, when -- when '94 came along, a lot of the Democrats that got swept out were freshman Democrats. They really didn't get a chance to, you know, become a big deal in their district.

The Republicans that are under fire are old bulls, mostly. They have been there; this is not their first rodeo. They know how to do it. Then, too, '94 was a surprise. Republicans have known since the beginning of this year, and they've been told over and over again, you're in trouble.

COOPER: And the Democrat strategy is make this about the president. The Republicans want to do what?

CROWLEY: They want to make it about their opponent. You know, they want a mano a mano thing. From District 3 in Indiana to, you know, District 2 in California. They want to just talk about their candidate.

COOPER: Candy, thanks. We'll have more with you in the second hour.

Of course, we don't know yet how those elections are going to play out. That's going to be some of the interesting things to watch over the next 60 days.

Tonight, we do have a better idea on how people will likely vote, at least right now. We'll crunch the numbers in brand new polls just ahead. See how you fit in with many other people in the United States.

Plus, the photo I guess a lot of people were waiting for. I don't know about Candy. Joe Conyers wasn't waiting for it. Anyway, it's blurred, but shortly it will be crystal clear, and you get to see the first shot of Tomkat's baby, Suri Cruise.

Is it Suri or Suri? Do you know, Candy?

CROWLEY: You are asking the wrong person.

COOPER: Maybe we'll find out when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, in one way or another tonight, we've been looking at what Americans think and how they feel five years into war and two months from congressional elections. Bearing in mind that polls are not elections, are really only a snapshot of right now. The picture shows a growing number of people angry about the economy and divided over Iraq.

CNN's Bill Schneider has been crunching the numbers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Remember the angry voters of the early 1990s? They gave us term limits, Ross Perot. They threw out a Republican president. Then they threw out a Democratic Congress.

Well, guess what? Angry voters are back. Three quarters of the public say they're angry about something. What are they angry about? Different things. The war in Iraq is one; the economy is another. The economy?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By the way, the unemployment rate is 4.7 percent. That's a good sign if you're somebody looking for a job.

SCHNEIDER: There's plenty of anger over gas prices and the housing slump. And while the economy has been growing, working people had not seen many gains.

Iraq is the top issue for Democrats this year. They argue the war in Iraq is a dangerous distraction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want the focus to be on terrorism, not on being involved in a civil war in Iraq.

SCHNEIDER: The Democrats' argument is, if Iraq is a local conflict between Shiites and Sunnis, it does not threaten us. It distracts us.

For Republicans, terrorism is the top issue. They see Iraq as part of the war on terror.

BUSH: For al Qaeda, Iraq is not a distraction. From their war on America; it is the central battlefield where the outcome of this struggle will be decided.

SCHNEIDER: The election could turn on what issues voters care most about. Right now, that's the economy and the war in Iraq. Voters concerned about both of them are voting overwhelmingly Democratic. Voters who say terrorism is the top priority give Republicans a wide lead.

Angry voters want change, and more voters see Democrats than Republicans as the party of change, which is why Democrats are 10 points ahead among people likely to vote for Congress this year.

Congress? That's something else voters are angry about. Want to know how many Americans are satisfied with what Congress has accomplished this year? How's this for a rating? Twelve percent.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: That is remarkable, 12 percent. You know, clearly, both sides have an argument on Iraq. What do you think the debate boils down to?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I think the core debate is going to be this. The Republicans, President Bush today argued that if the United States leaves Iraq, it will create a base for terrorists who can then threaten the United States. He warned about the dangers of walking out prematurely.

But the Democrats argue, well, what if we stay in Iraq? That will just increase resentment of the United States and make it more likely that the terrorist and the radicals will recruit more members based on anti-Americanism.

You know, Americans understand both those arguments, but that's going to be at the core of the debate between the two sides.

COOPER: Bill Schneider, appreciate it.

The "Shot of the Day" is next. The picture a lot of people, I guess, have been waiting for, a little baby named Suri. First Erica Hill from Headline News has an update from Headline News has a "360 Bulletin".

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: Democrats on Capitol Hill are planning a new offensive against Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Democratic senators will try to offer a no confidence measure on Rumsfeld to the full Senate on Thursday.

Democrats in the House are also expected to offer a similar proposal. They're hoping to get Republicans to go on the record and cast a vote of confidence in Rumsfeld before mid-term elections in November. It is unlikely, though, that bill will even get to a vote.

Also in Washington, President Bush has nominated Mary Peters to be the new secretary of transportation. Peters has much experience in the field. She's the former head of the highway administration and also the former director of the Arizona Department of Transportation. If confirmed by the Senate, Peters will replace Norman Mineta, who resigned in July.

Polygamist Warren Jeffs is in purgatory tonight, as in the Purgatory Correctional Facility in Hurricane, Utah. He was transferred there today from Las Vegas. Jeffs will make his first appearance in a Utah court tomorrow, where he faces two counts of rape as an accomplice.

And in Dearborn, Michigan, Ford is out at Ford. Bill Ford, the great-grandson of company founder, Henry ford, has stepped down as CEO of the struggling automaker. He will stay on as chairman while senior Boeing executive Alan Mulally becomes Ford's new CEO and president -- Anderson.

COOPER: Erica, thanks.

A couple major baby stories to tell you about tonight. The first one out of Tokyo, Japan, where we're hearing it is a boy. The country's imperial household agency says that Japan's Princess Kiko has given birth to a baby boy, the first male heir to be born into the ancient royal family in more than four decades. No pressure there.

The baby is now third in line for the throne, and his birth will likely derail an effort to let women inherit imperial power.

The other baby news, well, it's today's shot. After much speculation about where she's been or whether she even exists, we have the first glimpse of Suri Cruise. She and her mom and pop, Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise, appear on the cover of the latest edition of "Vanity Fair", set to hit newsstands tomorrow.

Baby Suri, who is already sporting a full head of hair, was born with much fanfare back in April. Maybe you've heard about it. As you know, she never once appeared before the public eye. Now she has.

Whew! Glad to get that over with. Can we move on now? I think we will.

The war on terror and new trouble in a country that once seemed like a sure victory. Tonight the problems in Afghanistan and what is next for that troubled country.

Plus, we'll speak with CNN's terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen, who's right now in Afghanistan. He met Osama bin Laden face to face. He'll tell us how al Qaeda could be fueling the violence there, violence that is increasing rapidly, when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, the war on terror, such as it is, begun almost five years ago, not in Iraq but in Afghanistan after 9/11. U.S. troops and their allies drove the Taliban out quickly, and for a while it looked as if life there was improving for many Afghans. That, however, did not last long, and in many areas, the Taliban has regained control.

Earlier this summer, NATO groups took over responsibility for security in Southern Afghanistan. Today the head of NATO toured the region, where war is raging, once again.

CNN's Jamie McIntyre investigates.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Once dubbed the forgotten war, because fighting was sporadic and progress seemed steady, Afghanistan has burst back into the headlines, as newly arrived NATO forces are locked in deadly combat with resurgent Taliban militants.

The "New York Times" calls an area of southern Afghanistan, once touted as a symbol for change, a symbol of failure. Noting with the rising violence, statistically it is now nearly as dangerous to serve as an American soldier in Afghanistan as it is in Iraq.

And, now, increasingly more dangerous for NATO troops, who just this summer took the lead in the south. They're taking the heavy casualties, as NATO secretary-general noted, as he toured the country Tuesday.

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: It is a dramatic price we have to pay, and NATO is paying and the NATO member states.

MCINTYRE: On Monday a Canadian soldier, former Olympic sprinter Mark Graham, was killed when U.S. A-10 warplanes mistakenly strafed his position. Canada has lost 25 troops in the south since fighting began this summer.

British casualties are up, too. Fourteen troops died in a plane crash Sunday, bringing the British death toll to 16 this week, 32 in a month.

While the casualties may erode support at home, NATO's chief insists the alliance will honor its commitment to stay and fight.

SCHEFFER: We all know there is considerable resistance, as I said, there is combat going on. Is NATO up to the job? Yes, NATO is up to the job. Definitely.

MCINTYRE: But an international think tank offers a bleak assessment, concluding the U.S.-led international community has failed Afghanistan. Among the reports' findings: in the five years since military operations began, Afghanistan's security situation has deteriorated significantly; the country remains ravaged by severe poverty and spreading starvation; and that misguided and badly formulated drug policy has effectively hijacked the nation building efforts, as the opium crop reaches record levels. (on camera) U.S. and NATO commanders insist they're getting the upper hand against the Taliban, claiming to have killed between 50 and 60 in the latest fighting. Since the NATO offensive began, more than 200 Taliban had been flushed out, but as U.S. commanders learned in Vietnam and again in Iraq, body counts are not the most accurate measure of success.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Coming up, we're going to talk with a man who knows an awful lot about what is going on in Afghanistan. CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen is there right now. He'll give us his perspective on the troubles there.

And more on the sudden death of Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin. He pushed the limits of TV and certainly many others doing the same. Tonight we ask, have they gone too far? A closer look when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: More now on the reality of what's happening in Afghanistan and with the Taliban. CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen has reported extensively on Osama bin Laden. He's met the guy and has ties to the country. Peter joins me now from Kabul.

Peter, thanks for being with us. It seems almost as if the Taliban is learning and has learned an awful lot from al Qaeda. And I read something you said today, that they're, in fact, copycatting al Qaeda. How so?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, by the Taliban's own account they're consulting with al Qaeda by U.S. military sources here. Al Qaeda's providing logistics and advice to the Taliban and, certainly, they've adopted al Qaeda techniques, beheading people and the use of explosive devices, and rising number of suicide attacks in Afghanistan.

We just had one here in Kabul a couple days ago which killed five people, including one British soldier. And while the situation here is -- is certainly deteriorating from a security point of view, as Jamie McIntyre pointed out in his piece, it's certainly not Iraq. You know, the suicide attacks are nothing on the scale. They're less effective. They're not killing as many people.

The Taliban, yes, they're back, but they're also taking some pretty heavy casualties. And half the country in the north really isn't seeing any of this any of this violence just yet, Anderson.

COOPER: How is it possible that the Taliban has made such a resurgence? I mean, there were a couple of years ago where the number of fighters they had, I think it was -- I think they said like 1,000 or so. And now it's several thousand they're claiming.

How is that possible? How have they made such a resurgence? Who's paying for them?

BERGEN: Well, Anderson, I think it's sort of multiple reasons. One part of it is Pakistan. We have the president of Pakistan is visiting Kabul today to talk to Karzai, the Afghan president. There is multiple U.S. military sources, and other coalition sources tell me that Pakistan is really part of the problem.

The Taliban leadership is headquartered in Pakistan. The Pakistani government has proven either unwilling or unable to go after the Taliban. And there are other factors. You know, it's no coincidence that the drug trade has gone off the charts at the same time the Taliban is resurging.

Certainly, there's some relationship between drug prophets and the Taliban. Also, a certain amount of dissatisfaction. But the Karzai government may be feeling -- feeding into the Taliban resurgency.

All those things adding up to a situation which is very different from it was, let's say two or three years ago, Anderson.

COOPER: I read in the "New York Times", I guess it was this weekend, that the opium crop is up some 50 percent over last year, that it's the biggest opium crop in the history of Afghanistan and that is saying an awful lot.

BERGEN: Yes, I think it's arguably the biggest crop in history. It's more than 30 percent of the entire needs of the heron economy around the world. So it's 130 percent (ph) of what people might actually want is being produced here.

And 92 percent of the world's heroin is produced here. It's 50 percent of the economy. Obviously, that makes it -- you know, somebody's profiting from that. It's not clear exactly who. But certainly, the view here amongst U.S. military sources that the Taliban is benefiting.

You know, the Taliban is able to pay its fighters something like $100 a month, whereas an Afghan policeman is receiving about $70 a month. And so the Taliban is able to actually pay people more than the Afghan government in terms of just being an average policeman.

COOPER: Unbelievable.

Peter Bergen, appreciate it. Thanks, Peter, from Kabul. Stay safe.

We're going to have more with Peter in the next hour.

Straight ahead tonight, some of the original casualties of 9/11, only they didn't know it at the time. Now years later they are living with the health effects of all that dust and all that debris, all that poison. We're going to meet some heroes who saved lives back then, who are fighting for their lives today.

And it's a wild kingdom out there, but are the animal programs we all love to watch getting too close to those animals for safety? We'll look at that and the latest details on the life and death of Steve Irwin when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Sounding the battle cry in the war the president says could last for generations to come. Iraq, al Qaeda, Hezbollah and more. With growing doubts about his strategy, President Bush puts it all together and compares the war on terror to World War II.

ANNOUNCER: Linking the war in Iraq with the fight against al Qaeda.

BUSH: For al Qaeda, Iraq is not a distraction from their war on America; it is the central battlefield where the outcome of this struggle will be decided.

ANNOUNCER: Not long ago the president said al Qaeda was bruised and battered. So what's changed, other than the upcoming elections?

They rushed to Ground Zero to help.

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