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Will McCain's Stance on Iraq War Hurt Presidential Bid?; Handicapping '08; President Bush Meets With Members of Iraq Study Group

Aired November 13, 2006 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
A very big name takes one step closer to running for president.

And another possible candidate drops a bombshell about Iraq. Don't bring the troops home, he says. Send more.


ANNOUNCER: Forget pullout. Try buildup.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I believe that there are a lot of things that we can do to salvage this, but they all require the presence of additional troops.

ANNOUNCER: With Iraq falling apart, could more troops hold it together?

And with most Americans bitterly opposed, is sending their sons and daughters to die political suicide for 2008?

He was America's mayor on 9/11. Now Rudy Giuliani takes his first step toward the White House. Could he make it? And what will voters make of a pro-choice, gay-rights, tough-talking kid from New York?

Also, you have heard the number 21,000 wounded. Is the real number thousands higher? And is the Pentagon keeping you in the dark about it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They basically decided it was a bad news story, And they just weren't going to put it out.

ANNOUNCER: We're "Keeping Them Honest."


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

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

COOPER: Thanks for joining us. We want to welcome our viewers in America and watching around the world tonight. We begin with Iraq and politics and two harsh realities. First, there is no easy way out. And, second, whether you're in Baghdad or Washington, it is only getting tougher -- so, all the angles on yet another horrible 48 hour in Baghdad, and, even worse, growing signs that the government simply cannot hack it -- a look, as well, at how few good options President Bush now has for dealing with Iraq. He met today with his Iraqi Study panel, one of three groups currently rethinking strategy, this as Democrats are deciding on a majority leader, trying to figure out their position.

Also, we have Republican John McCain's curveball, saying more troops may be necessary, something the vast majority of Americans oppose.

We will start things off on the Democratic side, agreement on bringing the troops on, disagreement on how soon.

Here's CNN's Dana Bash.


DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Democrats are already trying to use their new political power to do something they couldn't with Republicans in charge of Congress, force the president to start bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: We should pressure the White House to commence the phased redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq in four to six months.

BASH: The Senate's top Democrat on military matters says the voters' election message to change course in Iraq needs to be heard, not just at the White House, but in Baghdad. The only way to make Iraqis self-sufficient, Democrats say, is if Congress makes crystal clear, with a resolution, that U.S. troops should start leaving soon.

LEVIN: But it is up to them, not us, not our brave and not our valiant troops. It's up to the Iraqi leadership. Do they want a civil war, or do they want a nation?

BASH: Even with the new reins of power, congressional Democrats are limited in how much they can change U.S. policy in Iraq, since the president is commander in chief. Congress could force troops to come home by cutting off funding, but Democrats say that's off the table, a political nonstarter which would harm service men and women.

A Democratic resolution to start pulling troops out would only be symbolic, and its strength depends on convincing Republicans to sign on. That may not be easy. For example, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham admits Iraq is in chaos, but quickly rejected the Democrats' proposal. "To start withdrawing troops would be equivalent to surrendering in the central battle front in the war on terror," Graham said. "A misguided proposal such as this should hit a wall in the Senate."

The Democratic leader defended their plan, called it necessary and responsible.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: Does this mean pulling all the troops out now? Of course it doesn't. But it does say we must start redeploying troops as soon as possible.

BASH: A power struggle in the House is another signal of the party's direction on Iraq. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threw her support behind John Murtha, who said troops should come out to be her number two, not Steny Hoyer, in line for the job, but opposed for immediate withdrawal.

Though her personal friendship with him is a key factor, Pelosi said she's backing Murtha because his outspoken opposition to the war changed the political debate and helped Democrats win the majority.

(on camera): Democrats don't actually take power here for about two months. And, by then, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group will have already given its recommendations to the president, and a shift in strategy in Iraq may already be under way.

Dana Bash, CNN, Capitol Hill.


COOPER: Well, now Senator John McCain's call for increasing the number of G.I.s in Iraq and expanding the military to do it -- it's practically conventional wisdom among Republicans and Democrats alike that when -- we went into Iraq with too few troops to win the peace.

But that was back in 2003. What about today? And how big a role is 2008, as in election 2008, playing in Senator McCain's position?

More on all of the above from CNN's Candy Crowley.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): '06 was the anti-war election, but every sitting lawmaker thinking about running for president in '08 voted yes on the Iraq war. Still, there is yes, and then there is John McCain.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I have always said we needed more troops in Iraq.

CROWLEY: Putting more troops in Iraq does not seem like the kind of platform that could sell in '08. In exit polls this year, only 17 percent of voters said they wanted to send more troops. Twenty-one percent wanted to hold at current levels. Fifty-five percent wanted to withdraw some or all U.S. troops from Iraq.

He is unmoved by the numbers.

MCCAIN: I believe that there are a lot of things that we can do to salvage this, but they all require the presence of additional troops. CROWLEY: Given the mood of the country, McCain's position would hurt him if the presidential election was in two months. But it's not.

BAY BUCHANAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What the people two years from now are going to be looking at is what's happening in Iraq then and what his position is at that time. So, I don't know that that hurts him.

CROWLEY: McCain intends to begin the paperwork for his '08 presidential bid some time next week. There is no indication he will rewrite his talking points.

MCCAIN: We have just one choice in Iraq, and that is to see our mission there through to victory.

CROWLEY: The truth is, for McCain to back off now, in light of the verdict of 2006, would probably hurt him and his reputation.

DAN SCHNUR, FORMER MCCAIN ADVISER: McCain has two great advantages in this debate. Number one is his own military record and his own history as a prisoner of war. Second, as a senator and as a politician, is his reputation as a straight-shooter, as a straight- talker. That means that voters are going to give him more of a hearing on his position.

CROWLEY: Perhaps his war stance will hurt in '08. Perhaps the war will no longer be the main issue. It's too early to know, but, regardless, McCain has not only stuck with his position. He is stuck with it.


COOPER: Well, Candy, will McCain have to change a position -- his position as the situation in Iraq changes?

CROWLEY: If the situation in Iraq changes, let's say two years from now, when the election is under way, well under way, obviously, McCain will be able to, not change his position, but say, look, here's what I thought all along.

He's definitely not going to back off from where he was about putting more troops. And he has said that from the get-go, that there wasn't enough force put in there in the first place. And he's argued for more troops all along.

So, what may happen is the we will see a situation on the ground that changes, in which case he can say, listen, right now, here's what I think ought to be happening. No one that I talked to today thought that we would be in this situation in a year or even a year-and-a-half from now.

Most people believe that troops will start coming out in some manner before then. So, this -- then, McCain's position becomes less of an issue for 2008.

COOPER: Interesting.

Candy will stick around. We will talk more a little bit later on, also with John King.

So, with the policy struggle just beginning really to play out in Washington, as we're seeing, we turn to the fighting and the dying in Iraq. Would more troops matter? And can the Iraqis get their act together?

CNN's Michael Ware is here with us tonight, early morning, in Baghdad.

Michael, thanks for being -- for being with us.

General John Abizaid, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, was there, sternly warning the Iraqi prime minister, al-Maliki, that he's got to disband Shia militias. Why haven't they disbanded thus far?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I mean, this is a call from the U.S. administration that the Iraqi government has heard time and time and time again.

I mean, the disbandment of the militias, from the American point of view, with this government is the thin end of the wedge. It's the center of American demands, or American expectations, of the government. Yet, little, if anything, has happened, apart from a few changes on the surface.

The reason why is that the militias remain the fundamental building blocks of this parliament and of this government. Nouri al- Maliki only has a limited degree of power. In fact, America is looking at him to be the vehicle to tackle these militias. Yet, he doesn't have what it takes to stand up against them.

Indeed, one of the sources of his power is one of the most powerful Shia militias in the country in the first place -- Anderson.

COOPER: So, don't -- you say he doesn't have the power to -- to stand up to the militia. What, he doesn't have the troops, the numbers, or are the troops themselves, the police themselves, divided among these militias?

WARE: Well, certainly, the police, particularly, are heavy dominated and infiltrated by these militias. So, it's very hard for the prime minister to use them to flex any kind of muscle.

Within the army itself, the -- the control of the militias is much more diluted. Yet, the situation there is much more complex as well. There's so many issues about the prime minister, as commander in chief, truly directing his army forces on the ground.

I mean, really, he's got no tools that he can use. I mean, the great irony is that Nouri al-Maliki, as prime minister, he's the only man in the country who does not have a militia, where the currency of political power is still men at arms -- Anderson. COOPER: Michael ware, thanks from Baghdad tonight.

For all the debate, the -- the troop count has actually fallen in Iraq. Here's the "Raw Data." At the beginning of the war, there were some 269,000 U.S. forces deployed there. By last September, that number fell to about 192,000. Currently, an estimated 144,000 troops are serving in Iraq.

When they will come home, that's a question that's taken on new urgency, in the wake of midterm elections. Coming up, our political roundtable dissects the politics of bringing the troops home. What have the last few days revealed about what may lie ahead?

Plus, the race for president has begun -- Rudy Giuliani showing his cards today. We will look at how he stacks up against John McCain.

And their sense of duty is inspiring, their bravery humbling, veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan coming home and the new challenges they face -- in our second hour of 360, a special report, "Coming Home."



TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The campaign is over. But Democrats now have to put meat on the bones. And, so, all I'm saying, David, is that, if there is a proposal that would succeed in laying out the proper ways of an Iraq that can sustain, govern and defend itself, but the president has also said...


SNOW: And I will reiterate. It -- it's an idea that still doesn't have any detail in it. It isn't fleshed out.


COOPER: That was White House spokesman Tony Snow, rhetorically raining on the Democrats' call for a phased pullout from Iraq -- not that the administration has a firm direction either.

The sad fact is that none of this is simple or easy. And all of it involves risk and, of course, politics.

Joining me again, CNN's senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, along with John King, our chief national correspondent, and "Newsweek" editor -- senior editor, I should point out -- Marcus Mabry.

Thank you all for being with us.

Candy, Senator McCain, all the rhetoric aside, he's already begun to run to the president, hasn't he?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely, and began some time ago.

Look, something could come along, I suppose, health matters, or a family member throwing themselves across the road saying, no. But John McCain is running there, and as are several of them at this point.

COOPER: And -- and, John King, I mean, how big a risk, politically, is call for more troops, especially right now?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's certainly, as he might put it, spitting into the political wind at the moment, if you believe that this election was about, the president's plan in Iraq is wrong, and the Democrats won because they said it's time to start bringing the troops home.

But, as Candy pointed out earlier, number one, McCain has said that, from the beginning, you need more troops. And, number two, he's a man who sometimes feel comfortable being the maverick, taking a contrarian position. So, he is being consistent here.

Is it risky? Sure, it's risky, because most Americans think the war is a mistake and wants to troops to come home. But, as Candy noted, let's have this conversation six months from now. By then, the president will have made some fundamental decisions about Iraq policy. And it, most likely, most likely, will be a moot point by the time we get around to 2008 debates.

COOPER: Marcus...


COOPER: Go ahead.


I think McCain is incredibly smart. He's not running the election we just had. He's running the election we're going to have in 2008. And the question in 2008, because we all know it -- we all know there will be a drawdown by that time. Whether or not we will be fully out of Iraq, there will be significantly fewer American troops on the ground there.

The -- the -- the question that McCain knows we're all going to be posing in 2008 is, who lost Iraq? And McCain will be able to say, when everyone was saying, cut and run, pull out, the president wanted to reduce troops, we're waiting for this Iraq Study Group, I said we need more American troops in there.

We will have lost Iraq by 2008. And McCain is going to be well- positioned to say, I said we shouldn't leave.

COOPER: Marcus, there was this "Newsweek" poll. Seventy-eight percent, I think, of the people were worried that the Democrats were going to pull out of Iraq too quickly. And -- and, yet, today, you know, Senator Levin is talking about this phased withdrawal. I mean, do the Democrats run the risk of -- of basically being the guys who, as you just said, you know, lost Iraq?

MABRY: There's no question, Anderson.

It's really interesting in the "Newsweek" poll that we took over the weekend. There's -- Americans are happy that the Democrats won the House and the Senate. Americans are in agreement -- are in agreement with the Democrats on lots and lots of issues, everything from minimum wage increases to prescription drugs, direct negotiation by the government. All these things, Americans are with the Democrats.

However, Americans -- there are two vulnerabilities the Democrats have. Number one, Americans are concerned they will not give the president the power he needs to fight in war -- the war on terror. And, number two, they're concerned that they will pull out of Iraq too quickly. So, it's already a sense of buyer's remorse on the part of the American voters.

COOPER: Well, John, I mean, do the Democrats already have Iraq on their shoulders, to some degree?

KING: Well, they certainly will come January, when they are the governing party in Congress, Anderson.

What the Democrats are hoping, though, is that the president makes these decisions for them , under pressure not only from Secretary of State Baker and the Iraq Study Group group, but under pressure from other Republicans, as well, and then, by the time they take power, two months from now, the president will have set the country on a dramatically different course in Iraq.

If that is not the case, most of all, the Democrats believe this is and will always be this president's war, but they do get a share of the responsibility, once they take power in January, no question about it.

COOPER: Well, Candy, I mean, if this "Newsweek" poll is right, 78 percent of Americans are concerned the Democrats are going to, you know, pull troops out, or pull too many troops out too quickly, what do the Democrats have to do to, you know, to -- to tell Americans that either they have an idea or that they're responsible on what's going on in Iraq?

CROWLEY: Well, one of the things we're seeing them do is talking about a resolution. You know, we can -- we will pass this resolution that has absolutely no force of law. But they can say, here's how we feel about Iraq, and -- and basically try to reflect where the American people are.

But, as that "Newsweek" poll points out, and as Marcus said, the -- the election was not about get out of there right now. It was more about, what's the plan here? We need to start getting out. We need to know what success is.

So, there is this fine line between, you know, get out now and get out responsibly. Now, who's going to define that? The American people are going to define that. What they don't want is to have America pull out and then watch this bloodbath on the streets of Iraq.

COOPER: Candy, John, Marcus, appreciate it. Thank you.

The midterm elections gave new momentum to the Iraq debate, certainly. Last week's elections were also the first unofficial primary of '08. Coming up: Rudy Giuliani now one step closer to race for the White House. Do the -- does the future bode well for his possible presidential run? We will take a look at that.

And what about the rest of the field, John McCain, in particular, and some of the Democrats?

Also, the troop injuries that you aren't hearing about from Iraq and Afghanistan -- thousands of injuries, many -- many of them severe, life-changing. So, why doesn't the public hear more about them? We're "Keeping Them Honest" -- when 360 continues.


COOPER: The midterm elections are over, and now the race for the White House begins -- looking ahead to '08 and Rudy Giuliani's possible bid for the presidency, next on 360.


COOPER: Well, the end of the congressional midterm elections traditionally kicks off the presidential campaign season. And, today, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said he has taken the first step toward a possible White House run by forming a presidential exploratory committee.

Over the weekend, on "Meet the Press," Republican John McCain said he is doing the same. And both men say they haven't yet made a final decision about running. But the possible field for '08 has already begun to take shape.

Here's CNN's Bill Schneider.



WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Last week's midterm was the first primary of 2008. And it showed a big market for outsiders who can promise change. That's good news for Rudy Giuliani, who took the first step toward a presidential bid. It's good news for any Republican who can speak the language of bipartisanship.

Here's one. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Are we doing the things, organizationally and legally, that need to be done to prepare for it? Yes.

SCHNEIDER: His strong national security credentials are no small thing, after a midterm where Iraq was a big issue.

Neither Giuliani nor McCain is particularly trusted by conservatives -- Giuliani especially, because his positions are more out of line with those of conservatives, abortion rights, gun control and gay rights.

Do conservatives have a strong contender for 2008? Auditions are open.

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: Thank you, sir.

SCHNEIDER: Senators George Allen and Rick Santorum were once talked about as hot prospects -- no more. Bill Frist was badly tarnished, as well, after Republicans loss the Senate. Newt Gingrich is also mulling a bid. He's been out of the game enough that he gets to say: I told you so.

Mitt Romney's lieutenant governor lost the race to succeed him as governor. But not doing well in Massachusetts could be a plus to Republicans.

On the Democratic side, several potential contenders can claim foreign policy expertise, Wesley Clark, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden. And John Kerry? The 2006 campaign was not so good for him. The anti- war message was powerful this year. Is there a candidate to carry that banner for 2008? Not this one.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: I never reached the point where I really wanted to run for president.

SCHNEIDER: Which could clear the way for Al Gore, the Democrats' Mr. I Told You So.

Economic populism had a lot of resonance this year. That's John Edwards' message. But two Democratic senators were the clearest winners. Hillary Clinton coasted to reelection in New York.

Next question:

QUESTION: When will you address the question of whether you will be running?

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: You know, I am going to relish this victory.

SCHNEIDER: Barack Obama is the Democrats' new star -- less political baggage than Senator Clinton, outsider image.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: Nothing would happen -- that happened tonight would discourage me from -- from making that race.

SCHNEIDER: His limited experience a problem? Not if the market for change stays strong.


COOPER: CNN's Bill Schneider joins me now, and former presidential adviser David Gergen as well.

Gentlemen, thanks.

You know, Bill, Rudy Giuliani favorability rating, it's like 60 percent among registered Republicans. I think we have got -- got one of these polls up there. He's the top of the pick. I think he's two points ahead of John McCain. Is that -- he can't maintain that once a race actually begins?

SCHNEIDER: No, he cannot.

COOPER: Right.

SCHNEIDER: He's going to become a politician if he runs for president.

And, once he becomes a politician, he makes enemies. He has to do things to get the Republicans to vote for him. He may have to shift some of his positions. He's suddenly going to discover that he's no longer above politics. He's right in the thick of it.

COOPER: And -- and, David, certainly, among conservatives and -- and -- and the religious right -- I mean, this guy is pro-choice. He supports equal rights for gay citizens. That's got to hurt, maybe not on Election Day, but -- but come -- you know, if there's a primary.


But we do start with the proposition that he has engraved himself on everybody's hearts for his leadership on 9/11. I mean, that was an extraordinary day and -- in the follow-up. People, you know, called him Churchill with a baseball cap.

And I think that that made him sort of a sentimental favorite among many Americans. And he will -- he will ride that a long way. I think -- but, beyond that, the question is, what is the rationale for him being president beyond 9/11? I don't think you can run simply on the past.

You have to offer some vision about the future. And he has not, you know, articulated a visionary or, indeed, a set of coherent policies that would represent a Giuliani presidency. And, in that sense, I think he's -- he's behind McCain. I think he's behind Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney has -- has -- if anyone, has made enormous and surprising progress. I think Mitt Romney has done better than anybody in either field in joining the first tier, coming from way back -- way back in the field to be right up there in the first tier right now on the Republican side.

COOPER: Bill, what has Mitt Romney done so well?

SCHNEIDER: Well, for one thing, he gave up the governorship of Massachusetts. He moved to the right. He started making fun of Massachusetts, which Republicans really like. His lieutenant governor didn't get elected to succeed him. But that's OK. Republicans don't expect to do well in Massachusetts.

That helps allay some of the suspicion that, if Romney was governor of Massachusetts, can he be a real Republican?

COOPER: And -- and, David, how has Giuliani -- I mean, I know he's been on the road an awful lot. He's been going to, you know, all the states, talking to Republican groups.

GERGEN: Right.

COOPER: Has he been reaching out to more conservative elements within the party, or even more of sort of religious elements within the party?


You had a picture of him just a moment ago up there in Georgia with Ralph Reed, before Reed went down in -- for that lieutenant governor's race. But Ralph Reed is most prominently known for his role in Christian politics.

And -- and -- and Rudy Giuliani has gone around the country. He is -- I have -- I have been with him at two or three events, where he's been extremely well-received. He has wonderfully inspiring stories to tell about 9/11. It's when you move beyond 9/11 that -- that he is -- you know, he's -- he has still not filled out the scorecard about what...

COOPER: But couldn't he...

GERGEN: ... it would be.

COOPER: Wouldn't he be running sort of as the fiscal conservative, the basic -- I mean, there are a lot of conservatives who say, look, this -- this -- the -- you know, the Bush administration has been spending money left and right, hand over fist. This guy could run as sort of Bloomberg, "I'm a competent manager" kind of guy.

GERGEN: He could, although, if -- if anybody is going to run a Bloomberg campaign, it's going to be Mayor Bloomberg. And he might run as an independent.

I think Rudy Giuliani would really run as a guy who can -- who can win the war on terror. And that would be his first and foremost claim on American hearts and -- and minds. And he has -- he has big credentials there. But, when it comes to the other questions about, how do you deal with Iran or Syria, or how do you find a way out of Iraq, or how do -- indeed, do you deal with the health care problems in the country, or climate change, he -- we -- he's sort of an unknown on those questions.

He is a very, very good speaker. I think one of the things that distinguishes Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani is, they're very effective on the stump. And -- and charisma matters at this stage in the campaign. It's one of the reasons Barack Obama is so hot on the Democratic side.

There's a certain charismatic quality. There's a certain authenticity about Rudy Giuliani that people are searching for. They want somebody who is real. And, boy, he is real.

COOPER: You know, Bill, it's interesting. There's another CNN poll which shows Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani relatively close, in -- in terms of the way they're viewed in this race.

And, when you look at their -- on -- them on social issues, they don't seem at all that far apart. I mean, what are the big differences between them?

SCHNEIDER: Well, one thing that Giuliani has going for him is, he's an outsider. He's -- he has been in Washington, at the Justice Department, but he has the image of someone who is not part of the Washington scene. He's not a part of Congress. He's -- he's just apart from the whole thing. That's very big this year.

Hillary Clinton comes, as we know, with a lot of political baggage. Now the Democrats did very well this year, and that is pumping up her popularity. Because you want change, you vote for a Democrat. Giuliani looks like a Republican who would bring a big change from that Republican Congress.

COOPER: Bill Schneider, David Gergen, always good to have you on. Thanks, guys.

SCHNEIDER: Known as 43 and 41, the rare father-son duo, George Bush Senior always says he doesn't meddle in son's administration. So why, then does the new cast of characters showing up at the White House look awfully familiar?

And does this look awfully familiar?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking Japanese)


SCHNEIDER: That's right. It looks like cable news. It's not one of MSNBC's new shows. It's a show from Japan. We'll explain all, ahead. It's "The Shot of the Day", coming up.


COOPER: More and more these days it seems President Bush is going back to the future when it comes to political advisers and high level cabinet nominees, frequently relying on those who served under his father.

How much advice the former president, George Herbert Walker Bush, actually gives his son is up for debate, but in terms of new advisors, many political observers are wondering, is 41 now bailing 43 out?

CNN's chief national correspondent, John King, reports.


JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Does a father/son relationship destined for the history books and at the center of a present day political mystery?

RON KAUFMAN, FORMER BUSH 41 POLITICAL DIRECTOR: They talk a lot. A lot of good conversations. But anyone who claims that they know what they talk about is misleading you.

KING: It's an issue because the world's of the 43rd president and his father, the 41st, seem suddenly to be in closer orbit.

James Baker heads the Iraq Study Group. Robert Gates is in line to be defense secretary. Fresh eyes for this Bush administration's troubled Iraq policy who just happen to be old hands from an earlier chapter in Bush presidential history. Which, of course, begs the fingerprints question.

MARY MATALIN, ADVISOR TO BUSH 41 AND 43: This is one of those questions that has been asked about a million times and has been answered how many times? Zero. Nobody knows.

And if anybody in Washington or Austin or anywhere across the interplanetary system tells you that they know the frequency or the substance of the conversation between the father and the son, they are making it up. Nobody knows.

KING: Father to the rescue is just one way of looking that this rather delicate moment. Son to the wood shed, a far less flattering take.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, this is not -- this is not bringing in people willy-nilly from his president's administration, quote, "to save him." Wrong.

KING: It is not that this president has shunned veterans of his father's administration. Vice President Cheney, secretaries of state Powell and Rice, national security adviser Hadley, chiefs of staff Card and now Bolton, trade rep Portman, all current administration big wigs who also served back in 41's day.

But there is one place where the 41 crowd says it was largely shut out, Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon. The former President Bush and Rumsfeld are rivals back to their Ford administration days, and some viewed this relationship as a declaration of independence.

KAUFMAN: One is a product of Greenwich, Connecticut, and a little bit of west Texas. The other one is a product of a lot of a lot of west Texas. So they're two different men.

KING: Secretary Baker is described as no Rumsfeld fan. In fact, sources tell CNN he sought and received a White House promise early on that Rumsfeld would be told to cooperate with the Iraq Study Group's review.

Gates also is described by friends as sour on Rumsfeld, and sources tell CNN he did call the former President Bush to discuss the pros and cons of taking over the Pentagon at such a difficult time.

But did the former president suggest the Gates for Rumsfeld swap in the first place?

MATALIN: There's lots of evidence to the contrary, that the father does not insert himself into the son's presidency.

KING: Of course, he would know.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I talked to my dad. He called me Sunday morning.

KING: Sorry, that was three years ago, just after Saddam Hussein was captured.


KING: This was just last month on CNN's "LARRY KING".

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: So I'm on the sidelines, his turn. He's the one that has to do this.

KING: With a little help, it seems, from his friends.


COOPER: It is such a fascinating relationship. And this Iraq Study Group early on has taken on, especially since the election, such major importance. What do we know about, you know, how often they're meeting, what they're discussing, and when they're actually going to come out with their plan?

KING: We take them in reverse order. They're supposed to come out with their plan, Anderson, by next month. One of the reasons they don't have a firm date is that we are told by several members of this commission they're equally split Democrats and Republicans. They're having a hard time coming up with a consensus.

And there's some pressure now from the Democrats from their friends in Congress to be even more aggressive in pushing for change out of this panel. So this has taken on such importance.

Now, many say, "Aha, Jim Baker is involved. Therefore this is 41 coming to the aid of 43."

But remember, the president did not ask for this panel. Congress mandated this panel. And only when he had to go through with it did the president reach out to Jim Baker, someone he knows and someone he trusts, to lead it.

But the recommendations are being awaited by both parties in Congress. You have Secretary Baker on it, a new defense secretary, Mr. Gates, defense secretary to be, was on that commission. He had to step down because of his new planned job in the administration.

Larry Eagleburger, who goes back to the 41 administration, is on it. Guess who else? Rudy Giuliani, he's trying to learn more about Iraq and what he might do as a presidential candidate. He's getting a pretty good lesson right now.

COOPER: Just fascinating times. John, appreciate it. Thanks.

Coming up next, a man who was wounded serving his country, but he may never get a Purple Heart. First came the injury, then the insult, for him and for other troops who say that their suffering is being ignored by the Pentagon. We'll have their story. We're "Keeping Them Honest", ahead.

And in the next hour, coming home, a special look at the new battles awaiting our veterans here on the home front.


COOPER: Seven hundred and 67 U.S. troops were wounded in action in Iraq last month. So far the number for November stands at 87.

But does that number actually understate the case? And is the Pentagon using a technicality to keep us in the dark about many more Americans coming home with life-changing injuries?

Tonight, CNN's Joe Johns is "Keeping Them Honest".


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): January 2005 on the flight deck of the "USS Kitty Hawk", on the way to the Gulf of Arabia, electrician Robert Roder loses one of his legs in a freak accident.

ROBERT RODER, IRAQ VET: It was just getting dark. We were doing some combat flight operations. There was four resting wires, and that's actually what catches the airplanes when they land on top of the carrier. And they hold 400,000 pounds worth of pressure, and one of those were snapped at full tension.

JOHNS: The massive snap severs his leg, but because the Kitty Hawk is outside a designated combat zone, Roder is listed as a non- combat injury. That designation, combat or non-combat, is important, as we'll show you in a moment.

Today Roder walks with an artificial leg. He's proud of his service but not happy that he's been designated as ineligible for the Purple Heart reserved for combat injuries.

RODER: We're in a current conflict. I would imagine that, you know, everyone would be considered combat related just because everyone is training up to the point where they're going to be in Iraq.

JOHNS: It's an important point, because injuries like Roder's aren't included in the government's total number of combat injured. The number you hear most is more than 21,000.

Instead, Roder and many others with injuries got lumped into a category called medical evacuations for non-hostile injuries. And how many are in that category? Nearly 8,000. Government figures indicate 7,848 to be precise, for Iraq and Afghanistan.

So including the non-hostile injuries, we're up to nearly 30,000 wounded during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

There are still other military personnel who have medical problems but who are not listed as either combat injured or non- hostile injured. These are the service members who were evacuated due to illness. They number more than 21,000.

So keeping them honest, we decided to combine all these numbers to come up with a better indicator of the true level of sacrifice of our servicemen and women. If you add all the hostile and non-hostile war injured together, plus the illnesses, the total number of Americans who got hurt or sick while serving their country during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is closer to 50,000.

It's hard to know how many of them were evacuated for illnesses they could have caught, whether they'd been in Iraq or not. But many critics believe the public is simply in the dark about the true impact of this war.

JOHN PIKE, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG: The Defense Department is the source of it, and I think they basically decided it was a bad news story, that it would undermine support for the war. And they just weren't going to put it out.

JOHNS: A spokesman for the Army, which has the greatest number of medical evacuations about the services, categorically denied that assertion and called it gibberish.

And Army Lieutenant Brant Hilford (ph) said the Army is, quote, "shockingly transparent on its casualty counts. We're more interested in winning the war than spinning the war," he said.

Whatever the numbers, it's a question of whether the American public really understands the impact of this war on the lives of those now coming home.

Neurosurgeon Gene Bolles treated hundreds of Iraq casualties. He says the wounds from both combat and non-combat were horrific.

DR. GENE BOLLES, NEUROSURGEON: I don't think the people in the United States that don't experience that live have a true feeling of what -- of what war is and how it affects people.

JOHNS: As for Robert Roder, who lost his leg on the Kitty Hawk, he's doing great and hopeful that one day the Pentagon may agree he deserves that Purple Heart.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Well, from "Keeping Them Honest" to keeping them alive to keeping them coming home. The medics on the front lines and what they call the golden hour they have to work in that could make the difference between life and death, when 360 continues.


COOPER: In the next hour on 360, we're going to show you the rarely told stories of American servicemen and women coming home. They've left the war zone but sometimes find that new battles they have to fight once they've come back.

One of the reasons so many veterans are facing new challenges here at home is that more Americans are coming home with serious injuries, and that's because medics are better than ever before at saving their lives.

Three sixty M.D. Dr. Sanjay Gupta spent time in combat medic training to see how.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A combat medic treats a wounded soldier, airway secured, shaky hands, an IV inserted. Location coordinates radio to a medevac chopper. A lifetime is now measured in seconds.


GUPTA (on camera): I want to give you a sense of what's happening now. They're actually moved this patient to an evacuation area. One of the hallmarks of that evacuation is actually setting up a perimeter. This is a potentially dangerous area.

They're continuing to survey the patient, but they really need to get him out of here.

(voice-over) To save the wounded, it's no longer be as fast as possible. Now medics have a precise time frame, 60 minutes. Precisely 3,600 seconds. They call it the golden hour.

CAPT. BRIAN KRUSTCHINSKY, U.S. ARMY COMBAT MEDIC TRAINING: Objective on the battlefield is to get the soldier from point of injury to definitive surgical care in one hour.

GUPTA: The military is investing unprecedented amounts of money in training, new gear and research, all focused on buying more time. They actually want to extend that golden hour.

COL. JOHN HOLCOMB, M.D., U.S. ARMY INSTITUTE OF MEDICAL RESEARCH: Wars always cause improvements in trauma care. And that goes back thousands of years.

GUPTA: Scientists at Massachusetts General are working on suspended animation, actually cooling a casualty's body down and slowing the body processes.

At the Wake Forest School of Medicine, amazingly, they're working to regenerate body tissue like skin or fingers. It is for the battlefield but ultimately, of course, for civilian medicine. Millions of military dollars to add time to treat an injury.

GUPTA (on camera): What do you think has been the biggest -- some of the biggest changes in military medicine?

HOLCOMB: I think the emphasis on training. Training is all important. You can have all the best devices and products in the world but if you don't train folks at all levels, medics, nurses and docs, level one through level five how to use the products and concepts, it's all nor naught.

GUPTA: And the Army trains medics more rigorously than ever before. They learn to treat patients under extreme conditions, blindfolded, in little to no light, under simulated gunfire.

(on camera) Coming under fire. Lots of dust blowing around. See how they hang onto each other. They don't actually put their hands inside the vehicle, and they get those bodies out as quickly as possible.

(voice-over) The equipment is efficient. Wound dressings that can actually clot blood. Tourniquets that a medic can apply with one hand. Simple and standard issue with these packs.

Each medic is expected to be as good as a doctor or a nurse at treating battlefield wounds. All of that with just 16 weeks of training.

(on camera) This is an example of the training that we're talking about. There are 13 casualties, supposedly from a convoy bombing, a suicide bomber. There are eight medics that have come in here trying to stabilize these patients as quickly as possible.

It is dark. There's a lot of noise. And sometimes they can't tell exactly what the injuries are. A lot of communication back and forth to try and figure out how to best take care of these patients.

(voice-over) Yes, it's fake blood and simulated situations. But the pressures are urgently realistic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You walked away from a guy that still had a heartbeat.

GUPTA (on camera): If you look at civilian society, to learn as much as they're learning in 16 weeks would typically take how long, do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something like this probably at least a year. They think they know a lot. They just haven't figured out how to process it all at one time. And this -- they leave here, they feel bad about themselves. That group walking out of here, they're going to go outside and cry.

GUPTA (voice-over): Though the medic boot camp is intense, it's working. The killed in action rate today is almost half that of the Vietnam War.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really pretty amazing when you consider the wounding agents are exactly the same. The U.S. military has the time and the effort and the -- really, the time to focus on these casualties and improve our system.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Brook Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas.


COOPER: Let's get you updated on some of the other top stories today. Randi Kaye joins us with a 360 news and business bulletin -- Randi.


Thousands gathered in Washington today for the ground breaking ceremony for Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. The monument to honor the murdered civil rights leader will occupy a four-acre plot across from the Jefferson Memorial. It is the first memorial for an African- American leader on the National Mall. It's slated to open in the spring of 2008.

A Florida voter may have unwittingly missed a chance to get a lot of cash by using a rare postage stamp to mail an absentee ballot in last week's election. A 1918 "Inverted Jenny" stamp with an image of a biplane accidentally printed upside-down was found on the envelope of a Ft. Lauderdale ballot.

Only 100 of the stamps have ever been found. Four of them sold for almost $3 million last year. Officials say the stamp cannot be returned, because there was no return address. And the ballot wasn't counted, because there was no clues to the identity of the voter.

The FDA has decided to change the warning label for Tamiflu to advise users that abnormal behavior could be a possible side effect of the flu drug. The decision comes after more than 100 cases of hallucinations and delirium for Tamiflu users, mostly children in Japan.

The maker of Tamiflu agreed to the label change but says there's no evidence the drug is responsible for the problems.

On Wall Street, a good start to the week. The Dow gained 23. The NASDAQ rose 16 points. And the S&P added almost four points -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Randy, time for "The Shot" today. And we have an unusual newscast out of Japan. We spotted this, of course, on YouTube. You know, they say TV news is so easy even a trained monkey could do it? Well, in this case, it's a chimpanzee. Take a look.

KAYE: Oh, my.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking Japanese)


COOPER: That's right. It's Chimpanzee News Channel or CNC. It's from Japan. It's a newscast for animals by animals. The anchor is a chimp. His co-anchor is a camel named Pierre Rodriguez, which makes sense. Japanese celebrities come on the show.

A Japanese comedian, of course, is the voice for the chimp. And I just hope the idea doesn't catch on here. Actually, I heard, and I don't know if this is true, Randy. I heard MSNBC is experimenting with this format.

KAYE: Oh, really? Because you know we would never do that here. It's got to be across the street.

COOPER: Yes. Well, you know, they're constantly looking for new programming. So that's what they're onto now.

KAYE: Very nice. I'll leave it there.

COOPER: Probably best.

Straight ahead, serious stuff, a special 360 hour on what the men and women who serve in Iraq so bravely face when their tour of duty is over. Coming Home", a special 360. That's next.


COOPER: Thanks for joining us.

They survived combat. Now they're coming home, where for some, new battles await.


ANNOUNCER: War changed them forever. Now cutting edge technology is giving them new lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not going to be seeing that material (ph) all my life.

ANNOUNCER: Treatment for posttraumatic stress also goes high tech, technology that recreates the terror of war, so convincing it left 360 M.D. Dr. Sanjay Gupta shaking. GUPTA: Totally helpless and really, really scary.

ANNOUNCER: One family's sacrifice, bigger than most.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you crying because it was so hard when they were away?

ANNOUNCER: Her parents went off to war at the same time and, as hard as it was, why they're willing to do it again.

He almost died in Iraq, but the battles at home have been even tougher.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At that point I gave up. I simply gave up.

ANNOUNCER: Jobless and homeless after serving his country, but tonight, new reason for hope.

Across the country around and the world, this is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "Coming Home".

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


COOPER: How many of us remember what it was like when U.S. troops came home from Vietnam. We've all heard the stories of brave men who served their country and found themselves blamed for an unpopular war.

Thankfully, that is not how it is today. Even those who oppose the war in Iraq are quick to say they support the troops, respect and honor their sacrifices.


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