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President Bush Pushes Back Against Iraq War Critics; Pentagon Looks to Retool Iraq War Strategy

Aired May 23, 2007 - 22:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everyone.
Tonight, we will tell you about a new plan for Iraq, an admission, in so many words, that the current one is failing, and that the Iraqi government is no longer worth backing exclusively or unconditionally. It also calls for troops in big numbers well into 2009.

Also tonight, what was she thinking? The new mother of twins, her oldest kids are 29 and 33. She's 60.

Plus: allegations of hardball politics where politics is against the law. A former Justice Department aide speaks out about her bosses, including the attorney general of the United States.

And one of the richest men on the planet in one of the coldest spots on earth, cold, but vital. Richard Branson sleds across the Arctic, and 360 goes with him.

We begin, though, with Iraq. President Bush today upped his own ante, calling a defeat there a victory for al Qaeda and the stakes there higher than they were in Vietnam.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The enemy in Vietnam had neither the intent nor the capability to strike our homeland. The enemy in Iraq does.

Al Qaeda knows that our presence in Iraq is a direct threat to their existence in Iraq. Our security depends on helping the Iraqis succeed and defeating Iraq -- al Qaeda in Iraq.



KING: The president there speaking today at the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut. But, even as he did, details were emerging of a new plan, or at least a restructured plan, that treats the war not primarily as a battle against al Qaeda, but as a civil war.

Details now from CNN's Jamie McIntyre.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What military and civilian planners hammering out a new strategy for Iraq have come up with is a shift, from fighting a classic counterinsurgency, which supports one side against the other, to a new strategy designed to end sectarian violence by brokering a series of power-sharing agreements and local cease-fires to create pockets of stability that hopefully would slowly spread across Iraq.

The overhaul is a tacit admission the current strategy of unconditionally backing the government of Nouri al-Maliki is flawed and has failed.

TOM CASEY, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESMAN: The problem in applying that strategy to an ethnic and sectarian civil war is, it throws gasoline on the fire. It makes things worse, rather than better.

MCINTYRE: The course correction is called The Joint Campaign Redesign Plan, and aims to foster political reconciliation with a series of manageable small-scale efforts.

The essential element of the revamped strategy is to engage what's been dubbed reconcilables -- insurgents who can be reasoned -- with while continuing to eliminate irreconcilables -- terrorists who cannot be negotiated with.

A U.S. official close to the planning told CNN -- quote -- "We have been focused too long on defeating the enemy. We need to bring them to the table."

It's something Steven Biddle, an outside expert who helped with some preliminary planning, advocated forcefully in a CNN interview last year.

STEPHEN BIDDLE, SENIOR FELLOW IN DEFENSE POLICY, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Iraq amounts to a race between the pace at which we can get the power-sharing deal between the parties and the pace at which the sectarian body count draws down the reservoir of goodwill among the parties, and makes them unwilling to trust one another.

MCINTYRE (on camera): There are several implications of the new strategy.

One, it makes clear the main problem in Iraq is civil war, something the Pentagon has long denied. Two, it means the troop buildup, the so-called surge, will likely be needed into March of next year. And, three, even bigger cuts, on the order of tens of thousands of troops, are not envisioned until January of 2009.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.


KING: Some perspective now from CNN military analyst and retired Brigadier General James "Spider" Marks. General Marks, you just listened to Jamie's report, the Pentagon acknowledging Iraq is a civil war now. How significant is that? And how will it implicate and impact the troop escalation now under way?

BRIGADIER GENERAL JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think the significance is that, all along, the government has been calling this troop increase, or what I would call a change of mission, really, a surge.

And a surge connotes that you're going in, and then you're going to go out. I don't think there was ever the intent that there would be the out piece, that the increase needed to stabilize and achieve a certain level of normalcy to go after exactly what Jamie talked about, which is to achieve pockets of stability, with a specific concentration on Baghdad.

So, I think the significance is, this isn't, again, a change of strategy. Campaigns make up strategies. But, really, this is an effort to acknowledge that the Maliki government needs to stand up. It needs to be more inclusive. There are bad guys that you always have had to make deals with. And there are a lot of bad guys that still need to be killed.

KING: But, General Marks, if you are a general on the ground in Iraq, or, more importantly, maybe if you're a sergeant on the ground in Iraq, and you're on your third tour in Iraq, and you heard the president four years ago say the Allawi government was the right government, it was going to improve security and get the troops home eventually; then you heard him the al-Jaafari was the right government; it was going to improve the security situation, that it had his full trust; then he said the al-Maliki government had his full trust, and it would improve the security situation; what are you thinking, if you're a young American getting shot at, or worried, every time you get in a convoy and drive around the corner, there's an IED waiting?

MARKS: Well, really two things.

First of all, the change of government is -- kind of describes our electoral process, quite frankly. So, I don't think Sergeant Marks would be too concerned about that. He's got a mission to accomplish.

But the real thing is, is that every government has to acknowledge, what are the conditions on the ground, how can they shape those, how can they embrace those that can help make a difference? This is an acknowledgement that there is a required political solution that needs to be addressed. And, all along, there has never been a sole focus on the military. That has been the story. That has been the sacrifice.

DOD and CIA, primarily, have been really carrying the load. There is a greater solution in Iraq. And that includes a whole different form of governance. And the Maliki government needs to embrace all of those, with the assistance of the U.S. government. KING: But, if the Maliki government is failing that test -- and, by this plan and by most accounts, it is failing that test -- are you concerned now, though? If you have these power-sharing agreements you heard Jamie talk of and these local cease-fires, is there a heightened risk of getting troops involved in brokering the peace, in doing the work that should be done by the politicians?

MARKS: Well, the implementation of peace is always going to have an element of a sergeant and some great young soldiers and Marines on the ground to implement.

So, they will always be a part of that. They're a part of the landscape. But you're exactly right. The government, with authority and with a power to implement, has to direct what takes place on the ground.

But local stability is the name of the game, and to deliver on that local stability day after day.

KING: Engaging reconcilables, continuing to go after irreconcilables, is this something new, or is this the military, with the help of the White House, coming around to something that many said a long time ago; you have to make the tough choices?

MARKS: John, very good point, and that -- and that's exactly the case.

This is not new. I mean, forever, wherever we have been, wherever I have been, you have always had to deal with bad guys. You have got to bring those guys into your camp, and you have to deal with them, in order to achieve some tactical victories.

They give something up; you gain something. An irreconcilable today might be a reconcilable later tonight, once we strike a deal. So, it's not new, but it's something that has probably been taking place in multiple locations already. It just hasn't gotten the acknowledgement as an underpinning pillar of this new plan.

KING: And, General Marks, quickly, if you're going back to the drawing board, or at least revising your plan here, U.S. troops are going to be in Iraq how long at the 170,000 level?

MARKS: We're -- we're going to have a presence in Iraq for quite some time.

This number of troops must be on -- on the ground at least through the end of this year. There will be an assessment, certainly, in September, but I can tell you that those commanders assess on a routine basis. They're assessing every day.

But there's going to be a declared assessment in September. There needs to be a presence, in order to achieve this stability, through at least the end of this year.

KING: General Spider Marks, as always, thank you very much.

MARKS: Thanks, John.

KING: Take care, sir.

Well, while the scramble for a plan emerges, a game of political chicken seems to be ending.

Democrats in Congress, who say they were elected to bring the troops home, don't have the votes to do it. So, they're backing down now from sending the president a war funding bill with deadlines for pulling out.

But, as CNN's Candy Crowley reports, their retreat hasn't been pretty. And the question now is, did their stand against the war backfire?


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You want to see what pressure looks like? Go ask Hillary Clinton if she will vote for the Iraq spending bill, which does not include deadlines to withdraw the troops?

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, today, we're talking about this very important immigration issue. There will be time to talk about that later.

CROWLEY: A teensy bit testy in the hallway later, Clinton told reporters, "When I have something to say, I will say it, gentlemen."

Ditto Barack Obama on the same question. "I actually want to read the provisions before making a statement on it," he said, "all right?"

It is a rock and a hard place for Democrats, especially the '08'ers. They're worried they will look anti-troop if they don't support the timetable-free spending bill. But they fear their anti- war base -- read that people most likely to vote -- will hold it against them if they do. And it will.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Democrats were elected by the people of this country to get us the hell out of that country. And they failed us, miserably.

CROWLEY: From the streets of San Francisco to New York, they're watching as Congress prepares to vote.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm still -- I'm still in support of Hillary, actually. But I don't know. I -- I guess we will have to see how it plays out.

CROWLEY: At, pivotal to the anti-war movement, they're out in force, handing out flyers, threatening to run ads against anyone who votes for this bill.

More to the point, with all of the House and a third of the Senate up for grabs in the next election, anti-war groups are talking about finding candidates to challenge Democrats in the primary season.

ELI PARISER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MOVEON.ORG: Yes, I think people may look back at this moment and say, you know, this was a moment when we determined who was serious about ending the war and who was not.

CROWLEY: Clinton and Obama, who said previously they were against cutting off troop funds, are also being pressed by John Edwards. Running third in the Democratic field, he is looking for some steam from the left.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's a capitulation. Every member of Congress should -- every member of Congress should stand their ground on this issue and do everything in their power to block this bill.

CROWLEY: In the end, Democrats thought they would score points for trying to force deadlines on the president, even if they failed and had to drop them. Instead, they are now accused of caving.

(on camera): Democrats, who won the majority in Congress in large part because voters thought they could end the war, are now on the verge of handing George Bush more money to carry it on.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.


KING: So, was it the Democrats' Dunkirk, an orderly retreat? Or did they back into a political buzz saw?

Joining us now, presidential adviser David Gergen.

David, good to see you.


KING: Democratic Senator Russ Feingold says this is a situation for the collapse of the Democrats. Liberal blogs are calling the Democrats traitors and turncoats. Is this something that will hurt the party in the long term?

GERGEN: Yes, I think it -- this is the same thing you're now seeing on the right.

You know, this country is so splintered into different interest groups, whether it's on the war in Iraq or on immigration, that it's very hard to put together a coalition. It's very hard for anybody to lead.

And this is the price that you pay for a position of -- in the United States Senate, if you want to run for president. And why so many senators, as you well know, have not made it to the White House is, you have to take hard positions in very tough times.

And they're getting -- the person who is winning in all of this on the Democratic side is Al Gore. It's, to some extent, John Edwards. But, which is -- wants -- it's threatened to scald anybody who votes now for this bill, you know, their favorite candidate is clearly Al Gore.

KING: Well, what happens to the Senate candidates running for president? You heard in Candy's piece there Senator Clinton and Senator Obama are a bit testy, getting asked this question.

I'm having little flashbacks of being for it before they were against it.

GERGEN: Right.


KING: How do they vote on this issue? If they -- of course, if they vote against it, they look anti-troops, which could hurt them in a general election.

GERGEN: I think that's right.

Listen, ultimately, in this kind of situation, you have to do what's fundamentally right, and you have to support the troops. And, if they simply politically posture now, and say, bring the -- we're not going to vote for this bill, that may be nice for the primaries. It may help them just a tiny bit. But I actually think it loses voters in the end, because people think, listen, you're not -- are you really seriously -- serious about international affairs, or are you not?

The fact is, the Democrats didn't have the votes. This is what happens when you have a party that has got -- it does have a majority, but it's only got 51/49, as you well know. And you have got Joe Lieberman is one of those -- is one of those 51 who is going to vote with the Republicans. That leaves them in a situation where they can't govern yet.

What the Democrats need to do, if they really want to be a governing party, is to hold together on this. They got to -- they got to support the troops. They have got to take the White House back. And then they have got to get up to much closer to 60 votes in the Senate, so they can truly govern.

Until that happens, they're going to be caught in these crossfires, where their own people are shooting at them, just as they're getting hit from the other side. And that leaves them in a very uncomfortable position.


KING: And are they getting shot at, David, by their own people on their own side because of the decisions made by their leaders?

Their leaders have known for weeks they don't have the votes, and, yet, they scheduled these tactical votes, send a troop deadline down to the president, knowing he would veto it, try to get the White House to agree to another one, give the president the waiver authority, knowing the White House would reject it.

They said they needed to do that to prove to their base that they were serious, that they would hold out until the 11th hour. In the end, of course, they are, in the eyes of many, blinking.

Should they have just been honest with their own people and said, we don't have the votes; we're giving this to the president?

GERGEN: Well, I -- that's a really interesting question.

I -- I -- I think they had to send a signal to their troops that they were -- or their base -- that they were serious about trying to get out.

But what you find here is, because they don't have the White House, they don't have a -- they -- they don't have the capacity to have strategy that covers the whole party. You know, if you have the presidency, you have got people who can -- like a Karl Rove type on the Democratic side who can really be a strategist for the whole party.

And this isn't -- when you're in the Congress, you tend to go in 14 different ways. There's no Mr. Democrat or no Mrs. Democrat right now, or Ms. Democrat, who can stand up and carry the flag, and everybody else follows. And this means you have got a -- you have got a party that seems unruly.

I must say -- tell you that what it underscores is a sense that, even though the Democrats have got a good chance of taking the White House back in 2008, it's not clear yet that they have really turned themselves into a party that can govern well. And that's -- I think that's what really is most troublesome about this.

It's not clear either party can govern and can get immigration bills through, can conduct this war in a serious, sustained fashion, and get us a real strategy.

And our politics has become really splintered, not just between left and right, but between left and moderate left, between right and moderate right. And that's a -- and, you know, there's nobody who -- there's no leadership to really bring people together in a coherent coalition to really figure this out.

KING: And, so, in that context, the president gets a bill. It doesn't include a troop timeline.

GERGEN: Right.

KING: He won't have to surrender his war authority.

So, a victory, it would be characterized by the White House, at least in the short term. But how quickly, then, will we turn to, well, there are reporting guidelines in this legislation; there are benchmarks for the Iraqi government; and the Democrats in Congress will be looking, I think, to turn the table, if you will, and start immediately pressing the administration for answers? Is it a win for Mr. Bush?


GERGEN: I think it's a -- I think it's a very short-term, Pyrrhic victory for Mr. Bush.

I think, yes, he can get a few headlines out of this. But the country is very much against this war, still. He's still got to turn it around on the ground.

And what you have just reported, you know, people on the ground in Iraq are looking now for plan B. Plan B doesn't seem much more promising than plan A, the surge. And, so, it's -- come July, August, and especially in September, I think the pressure is going to be back on the White House to show that it's made real progress out of this.

And the president is still in a deep, deep hole. This is a -- yes, it's -- it's an inside-the-beltway kind of victory, but I don't think it makes much difference in the country at large.

What I do think it illustrates, again, is that we don't have strong leadership on this war. We don't have a united country. We're -- we're -- you know, and I think the opposition, you know, and especially al Qaeda, is probably looking at us, and say, we just have to wait these guys out. They don't have a plan. They don't have a strategy they can stick to.

KING: A sober note to end on.

GERGEN: It sure is. I'm sorry.

KING: David Gergen, thank you, as always.

GERGEN: OK. Thanks.

KING: Thank you, David.

And more ahead tonight, including the immigration bill the White House is pushing for, but that the top Republican in Congress is calling it a piece of -- well, not a piece of work, not exactly.

Also tonight: these stories.


KING (voice-over): She says she played politics with the law.


KING: She says the boss made her uncomfortable.

GOODLING: I just did not know if it was a conversation that we should be having. KING: The boss is the country's top lawman, and she's the star witness in the scandal surrounding him. What did she tell Congress today about one of the president's men?

Also, she's old enough to be their grandmother, but she's the 60- year-old mother of twins. How did she do it? Why did she do it? And why does her daughter think she's lost it? -- ahead on 360.



KING: In less than two weeks, the presidential candidates from both parties face off again, this time in New Hampshire. CNN is sponsoring both debates, the Democrats on June 3, and the Republicans on June 5. We sure hope you will join us.

Meantime, in Washington, debate over a new immigration is raging.

That's where "Raw Politics" begins, brought to you tonight by CNN's Tom Foreman.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John, supporters of the immigration deal may have to build a border fence around their offices. This bill is under siege, even drawing some raw comments from a ranking Republican.

The deal would let millions of illegal immigrants earn citizenship, but supporters are fighting off a wave of proposed changes, which could break their fragile bipartisan coalition of votes.

Publicly, the leader of the House Republicans, Ohio's John Boehner, says it's an important measure. But, privately, "The National Journal" says, he met with Republican operatives and called it a "piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED) bill."

Now Boehner's office calls that an off-the-cuff joke, but he still has concerns.

Off the charts -- John McCain had a bad start in fund-raising for his presidential bid, but now he's in the midst of a grueling schedule of money-raising events, one in Texas, two in D.C. just today. He better keep at it. Republicans normally raise much more money than Democrats, but, this year, they are running even.

Look at this. Compared to the last presidential vote, Republican donations are down 21 percent, the Dems up 126 percent.

John Edwards could be up millions of dollars. Remember that half-billion worth of pirate booty found in a sunken ship last week? Turns out Edwards is an investor in the company that discovered the vessel. So, he will likely get a share of it. Arrr, that's a lot of haircuts. And the federal government has launched its annual seat belt awareness campaign. And guess who didn't get the memo? President Bush was caught on video riding around his ranch with no seat belt on. Texas law says that's OK. It's private property. But, last month, the governor of New Jersey was not wearing his belt, and was nearly killed in an accident. So, it doesn't look good.

Officially, the White House says, we encourage everyone to wear seat belts.

And, by everyone, we presume they mean all of us little people, who are governed by the law of physics, not the laws of "Raw Politics" -- John.


KING: Tom Foreman -- Tom Foreman, well-strapped into that chair there.

And don't miss "Raw Politics" and the days headlines with the new 360 daily podcast. You don't need an iPod. You can watch it on your computer at, or get it from the iTunes store, where it is a top download.

Erica Hill of Headline News joins us now with a 360 bulletin.

Hi, Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: John, Iraqi police have turned over a body to U.S. authorities that they found in the Euphrates River south of Baghdad. And the U.S. military will now try to determine if it is the body of one of those three U.S. soldiers who have been missing now for nearly two weeks, after they were ambushed south of Baghdad. An Iraqi official says it appears the victim was wearing a U.S. military uniform.

In Moscow, new video surfacing of poisoned Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko -- it was recorded in 1998. Now, on that video, Litvinenko and a group of his Russian secret service colleagues talk about high-profile assassination plots, plots the Kremlin denies. But, to Litvinenko's family, the accusations led to his murder. He was poisoned to death back in February. Britain says a former KGB agent is responsible, but Russia will not extradite the suspect.

Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne, grandparents again, their daughter delivering an 8 pound, 6 ounce baby boy this morning at a Washington hospital. This is the first child for Mary Cheney and her partner, Heather.

So, congratulations to them.

And then we move on now to -- John, our new segment is, "What Were They Thinking?"

And a lot of people wonder what were they thinking on today's episode of "The View," when things got a little crazy. In case you didn't see it, here's the verbal smackdown, if you will, between Rosie O'Donnell and Elisabeth Hasselbeck.


ROSIE O'DONNELL, CO-HOST: Let me tell you why I don't want to do it.

JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST: Let me do it.

O'DONNELL: Because here's how it gets spun in the media.

Rosie, big, sad, lesbian, loud Rosie attacks innocent, pure, Christian Elisabeth Hasselbeck. And I'm not doing it.

Do you believe I think our troops are terrorists, Elisabeth, yes or no?

ELISABETH HASSELBECK, CO-HOST: I don't think that you...


O'DONNELL: Do you believe that, yes or no?

HASSELBECK: Excuse me. Let me speak.

O'DONNELL: You're going to doublespeak.


O'DONNELL: It's just a yes or a no.


HASSELBECK: I'm not a double-speaker. And I don't suggest -- I don't put suggestions out there that lead people to think things and then not answer my own question.

O'DONNELL: And you would not even look me in the face, Elisabeth, and say...

HASSELBECK: What are you talking about?

O'DONNELL: ... no, Rosie?


O'DONNELL: I can understand how people might have thought that. Why don't you take this opportunity?

Like I'm 6.

HASSELBECK: Because you're an adult, and I am certainly...

O'DONNELL: So are you.

HASSELBECK: ... not going to be the person to explain your thoughts. They're your thoughts. Defend your own insinuations. O'DONNELL: Right, but, every time I defend them, Elisabeth, it's poor little Elisabeth that I'm picking on.

HASSELBECK: You know what? Poor little Elisabeth is not poor little Elisabeth.

O'DONNELL: That's right. That's why I'm not going to do it.


HASSELBECK: It's much easier to fight someone like Donald Trump, isn't it, because he's obnoxious?


HILL: Now, in case you're wondering, by the way, John, they have come out today and said -- later today -- in fact, I think it was "People" magazine that Elisabeth told. She said: Hey, you know what? We're still friends.

KING: They should follow our example, and get along in a civil setting like this.

I bet the Donald, though, sides with Elisabeth. And also I think those two ladies need an intervention.

HILL: They might. They just may. Maybe they just need to sit down with a nice cup of chamomile tea.


KING: Erica Hill, thank you very much.

HILL: See you later.

KING: Up next on 360: A former aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales admits she crossed the line -- what she knows about the firings of federal prosecutors and the conversation with the attorney general that made her uncomfortable.

Also ahead: She's 60 -- 60 -- and just gave birth to twins. Is she crazy? Hear why she says she did it -- just ahead on 360.


KING: A dramatic day on Capitol Hill -- former Justice Department official Monica Goodling was grilled about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys last year.

The House Judiciary Committee hearing was packed. And Goodling, a key witness in the investigation, came armed with a shield, a promise of immunity.

What she said during questioning could, though, mean more trouble for her former boss, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

More details now from CNN's Joe Johns.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At today's hearing, a clear admission that politics was taken into account at the Justice Department in hiring career employees.

MONICA GOODLING, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT WHITE HOUSE LIAISON: I do acknowledge that I may have gone too far in asking political questions of applicants for career positions, and I may have taken inappropriate political considerations into account on some occasions. And I regret those mistakes.

JOHNS: Civil service laws are supposed to keep politics out of hiring for career positions. But, when asked if she broke the law, Goodling stopped just short.

REP. ROBERT C. SCOTT (D), VIRGINIA: Was that legal?

GOODLING: Sir, I'm not able to answer that question. I know I crossed the line.

JOHNS: Monica Goodling was senior counsel and White House liaison at Justice. She testified under a limited grant of immunity, which shields her from legal action in the case.

Goodling also described an awkward conversation with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. When she went to ask about transferring out of his office, she said the attorney general started describing his version of the process regarding the replacement of U.S. attorneys that's gotten Gonzales into so much hot water.

GOODLING: I remember thinking at that point that this was something that we were all going to have to talk about, and I didn't know that it was -- I just -- I didn't know that it was maybe appropriate for us to talk about that at that point, and so I just didn't. As far as I can remember, I just didn't respond.

JOHNS: The question is whether this was just idle chatter or something else.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think, Ms. Goodling, the attorney general was trying to shape your recollection?

GOODLING: No. I think he was just asking if I had any different...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it made you uncomfortable?

GOODLING: I just did not know if it was a conversation that we should be having, and so I just -- just didn't say anything.

JOHNS: If that conversation happened, it seems to flatly contradict something Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee April 19. ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I haven't talked to witnesses because of the fact that I haven't wanted to interfere with this investigation and department investigations.

JOHNS: The contradiction led Senate Democrats instantly to ask whether Gonzales misled Congress in his testimony. In a statement, the Justice Department said that suggestion is flat wrong.

Quote, "The attorney general has never attempted to influence or shape the testimony or public statements of any witness in this matter, including Ms. Goodling. The statements made by the attorney general during this meeting were intended only to comfort her in a very difficult period of her life."

Besides this, the House hearing was as much about who Monica Goodling is as what she knew or did. She's a graduate of Regent University Law School in Virginia, a Christian school founded by televangelist Pat Robertson.

Regent ranks low among U.S. law schools but is doing pretty well by other measures. The university on its web site claims that 150 of its alumni have served in the Bush administration.

Eight years after graduating, she was senior counselor and White House liaison at justice. So how does a prosecutor with such little experience find herself with such a huge role in the hiring of federal prosecutors?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before you joined the executive office for the U.S. attorneys in the spring of 2005, did you have any experience in making personnel decisions involving the hiring or the firing of employees?

GOODLING: At the Republican National Committee, I was the deputy director there of research and strategic planning and we had...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You did hiring and firing?

GOODLING: I did some in the research department that I...

JOHNS: The insinuation, that she was not up to the job, put there for her I ideological purity, not her skill or experience.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


KING: So how potentially damaging was Goodling's testimony to everyone involved for that? We turn to CNN's senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeff, you just heard Joe Johns' piece. Monica Goodling admits to, quote, "crossing the line of civil service rules." Did she cross any legal lines in these hirings?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the good news for her is if she did, she's got immunity, so there's nothing anybody can do about it.

You know, John, I was a lawyer in the Department of Justice. And I worked with what I thought were some of the best lawyers in the United States, who could have -- who could have gotten -- made a lot more money elsewhere.

And to think that those great lawyers work for a fifth rate lawyer like Monica -- like Monica Goodling, you know, with her seventh rate law school education, I mean, it's just appalling to think how much power a woman like that has.

KING: She also testified about a conversation she had with the attorney general. And the stakes for him are a lot higher than they are for her. A conversation that she -- right before she took a leave of absence. Let's listen to a little bit of what she said about that.


GOODLING: He then proceeded to say, let me tell you what I can remember. And he kind of -- he laid out for me his general recollection of...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Recollection of what, Ms. Goodling?

GOODLING: Of some of the process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of the process regarding what?

GOODLING: Some of the process regarding the replacement of the U.S. attorneys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leading the witness, perhaps?

TOOBIN: Well, it certainly sounds like that the attorney general was trying to figure out what her version was, and they were perhaps lining up their stories, which is why Monica Goodling had the good sense to feel uncomfortable about the whole conversation. And she said she didn't say anything.

But, you know, President Bush has made it clear that Alberto Gonzales is going to be attorney general unless and until he's carted out of there in handcuffs. And that's certainly not going to happen. I don't see any evidence that he's committed any crimes.

So, you know, as bad as this is and as bad as all the other things are about Alberto Gonzales, you know, he's there and he's there to stay.

KING: And Jeff, as you know, the Democrats have been trying to find the crumbs, if you will, the trail to take them into the White House to show that White House counsel Harriet Miers or presidential counselor and political adviser Karl Rove, the deputy chief of staff, were involved in this controversy, the hiring and the firing of the U.S. attorneys.

Anything from Monica Goodling today? She says she had no such conversations or can't recall them, anyway.

TOOBIN: You know, this is the immaculate conception of firings. Nobody fired these people, apparently. Nobody remembers who made the decision. Nobody remembers why they were fired. Alberto Gonzales doesn't remember. Kyle Simpson, the chief of staff, he doesn't remember. Monica Goodling doesn't remember why they were fired or who made the decision. We haven't heard from Karl Rove or Harriet Miers.

You know, the scandal has been going on for several months, and I can see why people are sort of impatient with it. But the most basic question, which is who fired these people and why, remains unanswered. And she shed virtually no light on it. She said she was just following orders.

KING: I suspect the Democrats will keep looking for that answer.

TOOBIN: I think so.

KING: Our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. Jeffrey, thanks for joining us tonight.

TOOBIN: Take care.

KING: Straight ahead tonight, you live long enough, you see everything. And everything now includes older women having kids, much older women.


KING (voice-over): She's old enough to be their grandmother, but she's the 60-year-old mother of twins. How did she do it? Why did she do it? And why does her daughter think she's lost it?

Also, billionaire Richard Branson goes to the dogs.

RICHARD BRANSON, BILLIONAIRE: We do a lot of running after the sled.

KING: And we go with him across the Arctic to help save a "Planet in Peril". 360 tonight.


KING: Mother's Day arrived a little late for Frieda Birnbaum. At 60 years old, she gave birth to twin boys in a New Jersey hospital.

CNN's Randi Kaye now with more on this age-defying delivery.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These newborn twins are too young to understand why our cameras are taking their picture.

FRIEDA BIRNBAUM, MOTHER OF TWINS: I didn't know who to look at first.

KAYE: But not their mom.

BIRNBAUM: I was thinking to myself, "Oh, my god, I'm 60."

KAYE: You heard her right. New Jersey psychologist Frieda Birnbaum is 60 years old, not the oldest woman to ever give birth, but the hospital says she may be the oldest in the U.S. to deliver twins.

(on camera) What makes this the right time in your life to have more babies?

BIRNBAUM: Financially, I'm more comfortable. Mentally, I'm more together than ever in my life. And I haven't fallen apart yet.

KAYE (voice-over): Frieda and her husband Ken have been married 38 years. They have two older children in their 20s and 30s and a 6- year-old son. The newest family members, both boys, were delivered by cesarean section yesterday. This was the first time Frieda had actually held her babies.

BIRNBAUM: It feels -- I'm ecstatic. If you ask me any more, I'm going to cry.

KAYE: For now, they are known simply as baby "A" and baby "B."

The decision to have them came easier than naming them. Frieda wanted a play mate for the couple's youngest child and at the same time reduce the stigma attached to older women giving birth.

BIRNBAUM: What a gift that I get to do this. And really, it makes you feel different when you're holding babies. You just feel more at peace.

KAYE (on camera): Feel younger?

BIRNBAUM: I feel whole.

KAYE (voice-over): Frieda's ob/gyn, Dr. Abdulla al-Khan, specializes in high-risk pregnancies.

(on camera) Is it a good idea for someone her age to be having a baby, or two, in this case?

DR. ABDULLA AL-KHAN, OB/GYN: People are living longer. People are very health conscious. They're taking care of themselves. And the 60-year-old patient is no longer looking like 60. She's looking like 50 or 40, perhaps, or 45.

Do we at the age of 60 just say, you know, we're just old and we should just be, you know -- be in the category of the geriatric population?

KAYE (voice-over): Frieda underwent in vitro fertilization. U.S. clinics refused to treat her because of her age, so she found a clinic in South Africa that caters to older women. She won't say if she used her own eggs, which had been frozen years earlier, or a donor's. Regardless, her 29-year-old daughter is appalled.

BIRNBAUM: Her take is I should be enjoying my life. She's worried that I'm not going to enjoy my life now, that I'm giving it away again.

KAYE (on camera): She flat-out says you're too old.

BIRNBAUM: She says that I'm crazy, really, more or less.

KAYE (voice-over): Crazy or not, her doctor says she is healthy enough to care for these little guys.

(on camera) What do you want other women to know, women who are getting up there in their age, about possibly having kids later in life?

BIRNBAUM: Don't get a dog. Get a baby instead.

KAYE (voice-over): Advice from a mother old enough to be her babies' grandmother.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Hackensack, New Jersey.


KING: Don't get a dog, get a baby instead. That one's going to light up the blog.

For many new moms, age is, of course, just a number. Here's the raw data. In 2004, the number of births for women between 40 and 44 was more than 103,000.

Nearly 6,000 births were reported for mothers aged 45 to 49.

For women 50 and up, the number of births was -- for 2004 was 374, way up from 144 back in 1997.

Still ahead, what Congress is doing to help make sure you don't get gouged at the gas pump.

But first, billionaire Richard Branson trades in his jets for a dog sled. His trek through the Arctic to help save our "Planet in Peril", 360 next.


KING: How about that: a dog sled expedition across the frozen Arctic? It's the latest journey in our "Planet in Peril" series that Anderson has been reporting on for 360.

Leading the team, one of the richest people on earth, Sir Richard Branson. The mission: to document the melting away of the top of the world, not in maps and measurements but, as Anderson found out, in real time.


R. BRANSON: Well, we're on our way. We've been traveling for the first few hours. A beautiful day. And these are our dogs over there. And it looks like I'm off.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Virgin Atlantic CEO Richard Branson and his 21-year-old son Sam join part of a 1,200-mile expedition across Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic.

R. BRANSON: We're privileged enough to enjoy the Arctic in its sheer beauty and also to record the Arctic in its sheer beauty so that future generations will be able to see what there used to be and what was lost.

COOPER: Branson is known for his environmentalism. He's trying to make his airline more energy efficient than others. He's here to film a documentary with the group Global Warming 101 to offer a firsthand account of climate changes.

R. BRANSON: We've been very lucky with the weather and woke up to this gorgeous day. And obviously, the problem about good weather is that, you know -- is the effect it's having on the environment around us. We've got these beautiful glaciers which you can see in the distance, but they're being depleted quite fast.

COOPER: Along the way Branson and his group saw polar ice caps and glaciers, once mighty, now melting.

R. BRANSON: We saw the Brans (ph) ice cap, which very few people have seen. It's absolutely utterly magnificent, and it must be about 100 miles long and about 50 miles wide. And it goes right back to the Ice Age.

COOPER: The natives who have lived in the Arctic for hundreds of years, called Inuits, told Branson they once could see this ice cap from their village but no longer.

R. BRANSON: Another sign of global warming.

COOPER: For a man used to traveling in big, fast jets, a journey by dog sled presents a challenge.

R. BRANSON: Well, Anderson, we do a lot of running after the sled.

COOPER: The terrain is difficult, even for the dogs.

R. BRANSON: We finished going down the most beautiful field you can imagine, and then we crossed what must have been a sort of magical ice river. And the dogs have to struggle and fight their way across. One of the dogs didn't make it across, and the Inuit cut the rope and let him go. Hopefully, he'll turn back up in the camp later on tonight.

COOPER: Sleeping here is tough, with almost 24 hours of sunlight this time of year. But at one point, Sam has a dream. SAM BRANSON, SON OF RICHARD R. BRANSON: And then I dreamt that I was having a dinner with friends in a tent and then got attacked by a polar bear. So I think there's definitely relations to real things in dreams.

COOPER: A dream or a premonition? A few nights later...

S. BRANSON: We heard the dogs barking in a really irregular way and one of the guys shouting "polar bear!" You don't really joke about that out here, so we all came running out of our tents. And sure enough, there was a polar bear about 100 feet from camp.

COOPER: Sam is told it's not such an unusual sight anymore.

S. BRANSON: The sea ice has retreated back. Instead of being 50 miles, you know, freezing, it's about ten miles. And so there's more polar bears in this more confined space. So that's why they're being sighted more.

COOPER: In the end after hundreds of miles, Branson says he leaves with a better appreciation for the beauty that is at risk of disappearing.

R. BRANSON: Take a look at the Arctic as it is today, as it still is today, and let's hope it remains like this.


KING: And if you're wondering where Anderson is tonight, he's on the way to Greenland right now. We'll see him live from there tomorrow night.

Still ahead, something you need to know before you brush your teeth tonight.

Plus, an ape escapes and causes chaos at a crowded zoo. It's our "Shot of the Day" next.


KING: At the top of the hour, "Dispatches from the Edge", a 360 special anchored by Anderson cooper.

And coming up here, the "Shot of the Day". Some scary moments at a zoo when an ape escapes. We'll show you what happened.

First, though, Erica Hill from Headline News joins us again with a "360 News and Business Bulletin".

Hi, Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: John, with gas prices hitting an all-time high, the House has narrowly approved a measure that mandates big penalties for anyone found guilty of price gouging.

Under the plan individuals or companies that take, quote, "unfair advantage" or charge unconscionably excessive prices will be penalized. Opponents say the wording, though, is too vague, and the Federal Trade Commission can't enforce it. They also say it leads to price control.

The FDA is going to test all toothpaste imports from China for a deadly chemical. Now, they don't believe any of it actually made it to the U.S., but they plan to run those tests just to be sure. This after reports of contaminated toothpaste in other countries.

And it, of course, follows the concern over pet food, also from China, which contained another toxic chemical.

In Atlanta, two former Coca-Cola employees headed to federal prison for conspiring to steal trade secrets and sell them to rival Pepsi. One is facing eight years behind bars, the other five years. Another will be sentenced later.

And in California, the efforts to save two wayward whales in the Sacramento River aren't going as well as expected. Scientists say the mother whale and her calf have been wildly slapping their tails in the water, which is a possible sign of distress.

Both of them have visible cuts, likely from a boat propeller, and their injuries, we're told, appear to be getting worse. Biologists are trying to get the whales back to the ocean, but John, they're still 70 miles away from San Francisco Bay. So tough road ahead.

KING: It's been tough following that one. Let us wish them the best.

And Erica, stay right there now. Time for "The Shot". And it is beyond wild.

An orangutan, the one you see right there, escaped from his cage at a zoo in Taiwan. Panicked onlookers watched and ran -- get a look at that -- as the orangutan lopes through a restaurant doing pretty much what it pleased, getting along pretty good there. Cute at a distance, perhaps, but dangerous, very, very dangerous up close.

The orangutan was eventually subdued with, what else, a tranquilizer dart. Nobody was injured. That's our "Shot" for tonight.

Erica, what do you think of that?

HILL: That's just wild. You know, wasn't it -- was it earlier this week or late last week there was the gorilla -- I think it was in the Netherlands -- that got loose. I mean, something's going on here. Something's going on in the animal kingdom, John.

KING: The animals are, let's say they're restless, perhaps.

HILL: Might be.

KING: A great "Shot" there. And we want to send us your "Shot" ideas. If you see some amazing video, tell us about it at We'll put some of your best clips right on the air.

Up next, new details about the evolving U.S. strategy in Iraq.

Then a 360 special hosted by Anderson Cooper. It's a journey to the front lines and behind the scenes of some of the biggest stories of our time. "Dispatches from the Edge", 360 next.



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