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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Search Continues for Missing Pregnant Woman; Target America?; Leading Role; Gaza Meltdown; Hurricane Eye Failing

Aired June 18, 2007 - 23:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching the only live newscast on cable right now. Breaking developments in the search for Jessie Davis, missing and nine months pregnant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATTY PORTER, JESSIE DAVIS'S MOTHER: We need help at 8686 Essex.

911 DISPATCHER: 8686 what street?

PORTER: Essex

911 DISPATCHER: What's the problem?

PORTER: My, my daughter's gone, she's due in two weeks and my grandson's alone and this whole house has been ransacked.

911 DISPATCHER: How old is your...

PORTER: My grandson's two.

911 DISPATCHER: And he's gone?

PORTER: He's here alone.

911 DISPATCHER: How old is the child that was left alone?

PORTER: She didn't leave him alone, my God, something's wrong, she's due in two weeks and she's just missing. Her car's here, her purse, her house is trashed and she's not here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That was Jessie's mother, Patty Porter, calling 911 last Friday after discovering Jessie's home in North Canton, Ohio, was trashed.

That and a toddler, Patty's grandson, soiled and hungry saying, again and again, Mommy is in the carpet.

Now, even though police say they have no suspects, their attention seems to be shifting to one of their own, Officer Bobby Cutts Jr., father of both the boy and Jessie's unborn child.

For the latest, we turn again tonight to CNN's Jim Acosta in Canton, Ohio. Jim, what's been going on tonight?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's been going on is that local investigators, along with FBI agents, did search that house of Bobby Cutts, the Canton police officer, who is also the father of 2-year-old Blake. That is the son of 26-year-old Jessie Davis, and also possibly from what we understand, the father of this unborn child belonging to Jessie Davis. She is that 26-year-old woman who is nine months pregnant.

Police and FBI agents searched the home. We're not sure what, if anything, they found. We did talk to an attorney who represents the Davis family. He had no reaction. He doesn't know what to make of it at this point.

But this may just be police leaving no stone unturned and basically, you know, looking where they should be looking, at this part of the investigation -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jim, what do we know about the relationship between Davis and Bobby Cutts? I know there's a lot we don't know. I mean, he's estranged from his wife. Was he dating Jessie while he was married, do we know?

ACOSTA: You know, we just don't know. And that's what's remarkable about this case so far is that the police aren't commenting on this unusual dynamic that was going on. And the family of Jessie Davis is not commenting on this.

One thing that has been talked about somewhat, and you mentioned it earlier, is what this 2-year-old saw. He is the child of both Bobby Cutts and Jessie Davis and apparently this 2-year-old was in the home when his mother disappeared, according to police and the family.

And ever since his mother disappeared he's been saying over and over, as you mentioned, Mommy's in the rug, Mommy's in the rug.

One of our local affiliates was in the area talking to Patty Porter, the mother of Jessie Davis, and during that conversation, the child then piped up with that same refrain. We have a bit of that sound if you want to play it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PORTER: The smell was really strong in the house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE CHILD: Mommy in the rug.

PORTER: Mommy's in the rug, he keeps saying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: And so there it is, and police don't know what to make of that. Patty Porter has -- excuse me, not Patty -- Patty Porter has said that she believes that what her grandson was referring to is not a rug, but actually a comforter that police say is missing from the Davis home.

COOPER: And, Jim, what's so creepy about this is that, when Patty arrived to look for her daughter and she went up to the bedroom, after discovering her grandson soiled and saying this about Mommy's in the rug, she went upstairs. The comforter was gone, the cell phone was gone, the bed was in disarray, a table was knocked over and there was bleach poured all over the floor. Are investigators saying anything about that?

ACOSTA: No. And we tried several times to ask what that was all about. And they simply had nothing to say about this. And they've been very tight lipped. They've stopped short of calling this an abduction.

If you ask Patty Porter what she thinks, she will say this is an abduction that occurred and she believes that a stranger -- at this point that's who she feels is responsible -- went in there, basically rolled Jessie up inside this comforter and pulled her out of this house.

COOPER: Well, the bleach is certainly an ominous development, you know. We'll obviously figure out what it means coming down the pike.

Jim Acosta in Canton, I appreciate you reporting for us tonight.

I spoke earlier at length with Patty Porter. Now, Patty is Jessie's mom. She is the one who discovered Jessie missing at the house last Friday.

There have been searches on Saturday, searches yesterday as well. Jessie's sister, Whitney Davis, also joined us. We talked earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Whitney, when did you realize something was wrong? When did you get involved?

WHITNEY DAVIS, JESSIE'S SISTER: My sister called me Friday morning while she was at Jessie's house. I was in Texas. She -- I was, you know, stepping out of the door on my way to go to work and she called me. I couldn't even breathe, it was so surreal. She called me and then right away I got a plane ticket and I got here Saturday afternoon.

COOPER: Have you been taking part in the searches?

DAVIS: Yes. I actually -- I started the search yesterday. You know we made sure everything was OK with the local law enforcement that we're working with. They said to go ahead and do that.

I called radio stations and reporters, anybody I could find, friends and family. You know, we put posters up. I just -- I tried to get everybody together as soon as possible to go look for my sister. COOPER: Patty, I understand the police are still considering this a disappearance. They suspect foul play, but officially it's still a disappearance. Is that frustrating to you?

PATTY PORTER, JESSIE DAVIS'S MOTHER: It's not a disappearance. Somebody's taken her.

COOPER: You know -- you're convinced of that?

PORTER: I know that.

COOPER: How is it that you know that?

PORTER: Because I know my daughter. We -- we're -- my daughter is my best friend. We talk on the phone all the time. It's just not in her character. She would have never, ever left my grandson alone unless somebody had either threatened him or she was just not able to do anything.

COOPER: Why do you think the police are still calling it a disappearance?

PORTER: I -- I really don't know. I -- I don't know that.

COOPER: What kind of a relationship did Jessie have with Bobby Cutts, the father of her 2-year-old son and her unborn child?

DAVIS: Right now we're actually -- we're not commenting on that. We just -- we don't want to do anything that would make, you know, cast a shadow on anybody. We're not trying to speculate at all. And just as of right now, we're not commenting on her relationship.

You know, he's not considered a suspect as of now, so we don't want to comment on that at all.

COOPER: In your gut, what do you think -- I mean, do you have a sense of what you think happened? I mean...

PORTER: I think somebody came in and took her. I think somebody came in and took my daughter.

COOPER: Do you think it was somebody she knew?

DAVIS: We don't -- we don't know...

(CROSSTALK)

PORTER: We don't know that. I just...

DAVIS: It's hard to imagine that anybody that you've ever met would be capable of doing this to Jessie. You know, everybody that ever met Jessie loved her. And it's hard to imagine that anybody that she's ever come in contact with would have done anything to her, you know. It would be easier to believe that it was a stranger, honestly.

COOPER: Patty, what has this been like for you? How are you holding up?

PORTER: I just -- I'm a Christian and my faith is what gets me through. But it's a moment by moment experience. And I -- I don't allow myself to think because in this kind of situation your mind always goes to the very worst of things. So I don't even think. I just pretty much do what my family tells me right now and -- that's about it.

COOPER: Well, Patty and Whitney, stay strong. We appreciate you talking and hopefully, you know, somebody may see this and it may jar a memory or somebody may have seen something. We appreciate you being with us. And stay strong.

DAVIS: Thank you, Anderson.

PORTER: We appreciate all the help. Thank you so much.

DAVIS: Thank you.

COOPER: You take care.

DAVIS: Thank you.

PORTER: Thank you.

DAVIS: Bye.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: With no suspects, at least none that they're talking about, police may turn to experts like my next guest for help. Kris Mohandie is a forensic psychologist and who worked for the Los Angeles Police Department.

He joins me now from L.A.

Kris, what do you make of this? In your experience, what are the likely scenarios that might explain Jessie Davis's disappearance?

KRIS MOHANDIE, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST: There are a number of different scenarios that are possible here. The first is that she voluntarily went missing. There can be a variety of reasons why people do such things, but that's one possibility.

Another is...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: And her mom says pointblank, no way, you know, she's due July 3rd, it's unlike her.

MOHANDIE: There are certainly some factors that argue against it. Particularly the circumstances. Particularly some of the character traits that they've described, the fact that she left a 2- year-old behind.

Nonetheless we do see that happening occasionally and it's something that needs to be investigated. It needs to be ruled out.

A second scenario is an accident of some sort. Certainly again, the circumstances argue against that.

And then, of course, there's always the very remote possibility that there's a suicide, that the person has staged their disappearance in order to perpetrate that. Again, the circumstances tend to argue against that very strongly.

And then you're left basically with foul play of some sort, either by a known or unknown individual. And that unfortunately is what this seems to be pointing towards.

COOPER: Why at this point would it still be classified as a disappearance? Police say there are indications of foul play, but they're not willing to go any farther than that? Is that just typical of an investigation?

MOHANDIE: A good investigation is conducted as it sounds like they're conducting it, with an open mind, not ruling out any other possible scenarios.

And it's when we rule out certain things prematurely that we close our minds to information that could be important to really understanding what truly happened. And that's what they're trying to get to the bottom of here is the truth.

Hopefully finding her alive. But if some other scenario plays out, they need to be able to have a full, thorough investigation to get to the bottom of this.

COOPER: The notion that there was bleach poured over the -- the mom said it was like a whole bottle of bleach had been poured on the bedroom floor. That's -- that's ominous.

MOHANDIE: That could be ominous. It certainly is consistent with somebody who is evidence conscious, who is trying to get rid of evidence. Doing things that maybe they've seen on the big screen. Or it could simply be an accident and a spill. Unfortunately, it has a more ominous connotation along the lines of somebody who is evidence conscious in trying to cover things up.

COOPER: So at this point, where does an investigation go? I mean, they've now searched this officer's home. There are people out -- volunteers out, large numbers on Saturday, also on Sunday, searching for Jessie.

MOHANDIE: Right.

COOPER: What are police doing? What are police looking for?

MOHANDIE: The police are going to be turning over every stone. It sounds like they've been doing, which would consist of looking at likely suspects, or people who may have knowledge about her whereabouts. It would include finding out about her character, her psychology, if she had any problems, any kind of enemies that she may have, people that she was close to that may have a secret about things that were going on in her life that other people may not be aware of.

So, people that know her, people that are in her circle of life, will obviously be an important part of providing information. This is an information-seeking process at this point.

In addition, they will be open to receiving information of people who may be viewing this right now, who might have seen something, heard something, heard somebody talking about something, and get information that way.

We know that there are certain scenarios that play themselves out somewhat rarely where, for example, a female -- another female may have done some sort of abduction. We've seen that in other situations because they want the child, for example.

And again, somebody may be watching this that knows somebody that all of a sudden is turning up with a newborn child that you know wasn't pregnant, for example.

So information is what the police need. As crazy or outlandish as it may seem, somebody out there may have something that could prove helpful and could be a turning point for this investigation.

COOPER: But very briefly, of course, in order to have executed a search warrant on the officer's house and actually execute the search, I mean they either had to have his permission or they had to have some sort of a court order. What would it have taken -- we don't know if they had his permission -- what would it have taken to have a court order?

MOHANDIE: Well, again, we don't know if he just didn't do a consensual search. I would imagine he probably did. A court order would have to have some sort of probable cause. That's the usual threshold, that they would go to a judge to obtain that. But I would think a more likely scenario was a consensual search of some sort, given the fact that he is a law enforcement officer.

COOPER: Chris Mohandie, we appreciate your expertise. Thank you very much.

MOHANDIE: Thank you.

COOPER: Now to a tape that could be nothing more than propaganda. It definitely is propaganda, no doubt about it, but it might be more. It might be our first warning that the enemy in Afghanistan is trying to take the battle to us. The question is, could they be successful?

The tape was reportedly shot on the 9th of this month by a Pakistani journalist at a Taliban al Qaeda training camp somewhere in either Afghanistan or Pakistan. It shows fighters -- some of them speaking English -- dressed for a kind of graduation ceremony, pledging to kill and die in Germany, in Canada, as well as here in America.

One counterterrorism official called it consistent with the sophisticated propaganda effort, but also admitted that there is genuine concern whenever threats are aimed to the West.

Some perspective now from CNN Terrorism Analyst Peter Bergen.

How seriously should you take this? I mean, if only a few of these guys speak English, are they a real threat to coming into the United States, coming into Canada, to Germany?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: I mean, I think the short answer is no, because, you know, the people who did the 9/11 plot, the people, particularly the leaders of the 9/11 plot, spoke pretty good English, were quite educated.

The kinds of recruits that we're seeing in this videotape, these are Pashtun, local peasants, basically. That fits the profile of a lot of suicide bombings we've seen in Afghanistan, Anderson.

So, I mean, what this is probably more about is more suicide attacks in Afghanistan, particularly directed at Afghan police officers that we just had a massive attack in the last 24 hours, killing something like 24 police officers in a suicide attack. Also against American, Canadian, British and NATO forces inside Afghanistan. Those are the more likely targets of this group of suicide bombers graduating in the videotape.

COOPER: In the tape we're seeing they -- the graduates or the so-called graduates -- wave white flags instead of applauding. White flags -- that's the flag of the Taliban, correct?

BERGEN: Basically, it's a -- yes, it's a flag that the Taliban adopted when they were in power. And they continue to use this as a symbol of sort of their military, I guess, their military desires.

COOPER: And some of these people in this tape are, I mean, incredibly young. They look like 12-year-old boys.

BERGEN: Yes. Well, that's not uncommon, Anderson. We have seen other Taliban videotapes. We've got kids shooting rifles and shooting, you know, light weaponry, much like the same age as this kid in this picture. That's really not unusual, unfortunately.

COOPER: It's also interesting to me, if this is really a tape of people who are allegedly being sent to the West. You'd think they wouldn't want to show any of their faces. And yet in the tape we see people's faces.

BERGEN: Yes, that's -- that's weird. I mean, some of these tapes, the picture that -- the guy who we're seeing here is Mullah Dadullah -- sorry, the brother of Mullah Dadullah, who is now the Taliban military commander.

You know, I've seen tapes where they've disguised people. I've seen tapes where they haven't disguised people. You know, certainly if these guys were going to the West, it seems improbable that they'd be showing their faces in these tapes.

COOPER: But in terms of if you view this as a propaganda weapon, it's just part and parcel of what we have seen before from them. I mean, there is -- even the Taliban who, you know, can easily be derided as guys living in caves. They have a sophisticated propaganda effort.

BERGEN: Indeed. I mean, the great irony here of course is the Taliban ban television when they were in power and they banned the filming of human beings. And so now they're exploiting this to the hilt.

One interesting thing, Anderson, is the fact that they specifically mentioned Germany as a place where they'd send suicide attackers. The Taliban are not stupid. They realize that Germany's pretty unhappy about having -- a lot of Germans are unhappy about having their troops in harm's way in Afghanistan. And basically I think their strategy is to find the weakest links in the NATO alliance who are in Afghanistan and attack those soldiers and get them to have public pressure at home to pull out their troops. So it shows some sophistication.

COOPER: The German troops, just though for accuracy, they're not that much in harm's way. They're up north, and under German rules and NATO, they actually don't even go to the fighting. It's British troops and American forces who are bearing the brunt.

BERGEN: Well -- well, that's absolutely right. But the Taliban recently did a suicide attack in the north of Afghanistan directed specifically at the German presence there.

So I think that part of their strategy is to look at these countries that are -- that are sitting on the fence about their presence in Afghanistan or actually mostly opposed to being there and trying to get those countries to pull out in order to break apart the NATO alliance.

COOPER: A good point, Peter. Thank you, Peter Bergen.

Up next, presidential politics. New poll numbers. Some surprises. The race for the White House heating up as much as anything can be heating up that's 500 and so days away. It's heating up, though, thanks to a politician who's not even an official candidate -- at least not yet.

Also tonight, these stories:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER (voice-over): It's supposed to help track hurricanes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going down the road without a spare tire.

COOPER: And it's in danger of failing with no backup.

With you and your family at risk when the next hurricane happens, how could this happen? We're keeping them honest, when 360 continues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER (on camera): New polling done by "USA Today" now shows Fred Thompson second in a field of Republican candidates that he still hasn't officially joined.

When it comes to the actor and former Senator, we haven't seen this kind of buildup since the Olson twins turned 18 -- badumpa, thank you. Be here all week. Try the veal.

As CNN's Candy Crowley reports, just like the Olsons, build up isn't everything.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He is as eagerly awaited as a summer blockbuster. Fred Thompson.

FRED THOMPSON: Thank you very much.

CROWLEY: Lauded as Reaganesque, the answer to discontent within the Republican Party, running second in some polls, first in others. The previews alone could doom him.

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Thompson has a very high bar now, because of the expectations, especially from the conservative wing of the Republican Party. And it's a bar that he's going to have to meet very quickly. So not only is the bar high, but the curve is steep.

CROWLEY: But it is more than just great expectations. There is the great scrutiny that will follow Thompson into the race, putting his record under the lights.

WILLIAM BENNETT, HOST, "MORNING IN AMERICA": He was here for 10 years as a Senator. Does anybody remember that? And what did he do as a Senator in 10 years? That, I think, will be examined pretty closely.

CROWLEY: And do you think the answer may come up, not much?

BENNETT: I think the answer will come up, probably not too much.

CROWLEY: And some of the record that's there shows that he can be both with and against party orthodoxy. In questionnaires and newspaper interviews in the early 90s, Thompson said he opposed criminalization of abortion, opposed a constitutional amendment protecting the sanctity of life.

In a 1994 interview with a Tennessee newspaper, Thompson said he was pro-life, but not willing to support laws that prohibit early term abortions.

Nevertheless, his voting record in the Senate was solidly antiabortion, giving comfort to conservatives. TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: I think he's going to have to reassure people that his record is more reflective of where he stands on this issue than past statements.

CROWLEY: Thompson has already said that the sonogram of his now 3-year-old daughter has put the issue in his heart as well as his head.

What appears to most trouble the right is the issue of McCain Feingold. Campaign finance reform conservatives hate because they believe it infringes on their rights to free speech. Thompson was instrumental in getting it passed, but here, too, he has shifted rightward.

PERKINS: I think, in -- since that has passed and he's looked at the impact that that's had on the ability of citizens to participate in the political process, I believe he has said that it goes too far with the blackout periods preceding elections.

CROWLEY: As a whole, conservatives, the base of the Republican Party, seem ready to view Thompson as one of their own.

BENNETT: The conversations are very short. That's Fred. I like Fred. Fred's my guy. Well, what about his position on campaign? What about the old position? I like Fred. I think Fred's the guy.

CROWLEY: The stage has been set, said one conservative. Now, let's see if he can sing the high notes.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: He'll have to sing those high notes first in New Hampshire and Iowa where Mitt Romney seems to be doing very well in the polls.

I spoke about this earlier on with Mike Murphy. We'll talk to him in a moment. "AMERICAN MORNING's" John Roberts caught up with Romney in the Hawkeye state.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How are you? Nice to see you.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Mitt Romney's Iowa campaign stops, they're adding chairs to accommodate the crowds.

ROMNEY: I think my message is connecting. I think people recognize that the country has some real challenges.

ROBERTS: Including the war in Iraq. Something he's challenged on at every event.

ROMNEY: ... talking about Iraq, Iraq, Iraq.

ROBERTS: Romney, himself, has no significant foreign policy experience, and never served in the military.

(on camera): You have five sons. None of them have ever been in the military. Might that become an issue?

ROMNEY: Each of my five sons gave two years of their life to the service of their church and I consider that service to be laudable. But I very highly value those who serve in the military. But it is a volunteer military. And I hope we keep it that way.

ROBERTS (voice-over): Some recent polls put Romney in the lead in Iowa, and a new CNN/WMUR survey also has him ahead in New Hampshire.

He's the first Republican to run a major ad campaign in the Hawkeye state, selling his business success story.

How did you make your fortune?

ROMNEY: I began by starting a business, a small business, and then it became a large business. And it was a venture capital company and private equity, which meant that we either started companies or we bought companies that we thought we could acquire at a good value.

ROBERTS: Investing in companies like Staples and Domino's Pizza, Romney is now worth at least $200 million. That combined with his movie star looks...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks so much.

ROMNEY: Great. Thank you.

ROBERTS: ... smooth style, blonde wife and picture perfect family, leads voters to an obvious question.

(on camera): You've been described sometimes -- and people says this in a joking way -- as governor perfect. And in response to that, you have said I have plenty of weaknesses, plenty of failings. What are they?

ROMNEY: Well, tons. I'm not as organized as I'd like to be. I make mistakes when I speak. I oftentimes say things not exactly the way I meant to say them and I get in trouble for that.

ROBERTS: Your father, when he was running back in 1968, kind of tripped up with that line about, you know, when he came back from Vietnam, when they changed the support for the war to opposition for the war and he said that he had been brainwashed.

ROMNEY: Right.

ROBERTS: Did that teach you -- what did that teach you?

ROMNEY: Well, I think that, plus my Olympic experience, plus being governor, taught me you've got to be careful in your choice of words.

ROBERTS (voice-over): And in his first national campaign, the former Massachusetts governor is under a new level of scrutiny.

(on camera): Is there a real pressure for you to be so guarded that you almost have to be on all the time?

ROMNEY: Well, I think we are all on all the time. I think you're always recognized -- and the people are there with video cameras, YouTube, cell phones, you're always being recorded. There's really no off moment. Not if you're running for president.

ROBERTS (voice-over): John Roberts, CNN, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: You can see more of John's reporting throughout the campaign on "AMERICAN MORNING" every weekday at 6:00 a.m., Eastern.

It is a changing race for the Republican candidates. Certainly, a lot to talk about here. We'll do that in just a moment with Republican Strategist Mike Murphy, as I mentioned.

Plus, the hurricane season is here. And it might be rough. But a key tool that forecasters use to warn people about the storms is well beyond its warranty and there is no sign of replacement. How could that be? We're keeping them honest, ahead on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: You heard from Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson before the break.

Now Mike Murphy, who knows what life is like on a rising presidential campaign with the media spotlight growing. He's a Republican political strategist, a top adviser in John McCain's 2000 run for the White House, as well as a former adviser to Mitt Romney.

I spoke to him earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So what is Mitt Romney doing right in Iowa and New Hampshire that he's going up in the polls?

MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: He's spending time there and he's spending a ton of money on advertising. Television is kind of the magic laser gun light saber of politics. It moves numbers quick.

And so Romney, very shrewdly, I think, has focused his campaign on the states that matter, the early states. So he's pouring money in like a fire hose with television and he's a good candidate.

So you add TV power to a good candidate and you move numbers. But it's early. You know, it's kind of like if you were the 7-Up king of Arizona and Coca-Cola hasn't come in the market yet. So I'd caution everybody that in the voter world, this race really hasn't started yet, but the early signs for Romney are pretty good.

COOPER: Obviously, you know, a lot of people, especially in the media, were talking about his religion. Has he put those concerns to rest?

MURPHY: Well, I think he'll endlessly deal with that, because the media likes to pound on kind of the obvious handle. So, it will die down for a while, and then should he start winning primaries in January, it will all start again. And then should he be the Republican nominee, he'll go through it one more time. So I think he'll be hearing the word "Mormon" all the way through the race.

Now, my view is if he does a good job and is the nominee, it will be a much smaller issue than the media thinks, but he has to go prove that by winning some primaries. And that's still a long time away.

COOPER: He's been accused of flip-flopping, particularly by John McCain. Obviously embryonic stem cell research was the latest thing. There was also commitment to gun control questions, stance on abortion, gays in the military. Are those attacks having any effect?

MURPHY: It doesn't appear so, but it's very, very early. And we're just at the point now where the elbows are starting to get thrown a little bit.

McCain, who's, you know, got a strong pro-life record, is going after Romney, trying to get some traction there. I think you're going to see Rudy Giuliani start it. And then if Fred Thompson gets in, he's going to be fresh meat because he's been hovering above the whole thing.

But my view is the truth is everybody in politics flip-flops somewhat. It's called growth. Otherwise you could train a chimp to be president if you wanted to lock in some of these opinions and never have them rethink them.

George W. -- excuse me, George Herbert Walker Bush, Ronald Reagan both evolved. John McCain, my good friend, he's evolved on some issues. The question is, does it become uniquely so with Romney to the point that that over everything else defines Romney and it becomes a character issue of trust? And I think it's going to be up to Romney to defend how he's changed his mind and give a reason for it to avoid having that happen. It's certainly a danger for him, but I think ultimately if he does a good job, people will see that he's a thoughtful guy and as you grow in life, you get new experiences and you change.

COOPER: Let's talk about the Fred Thompson -- the enigma of Fred Thompson. You have this latest "USA Today"/Gallup Poll. Giuliani in the lead with 28 percent. Fred Thompson, undeclared at this point, is in second with 19 percent. What does it say about all the rest of the Republican candidates out there, that a guy who's not even in the race and nobody really knows much about, is running number two?

MURPHY: Well, I think because Fred's pretty famous from Hollywood and the movies that he does have an advantage in these early polls. All it tells me -- that if Jay Leno got in tomorrow, he might be in second and Fred is in third.

I always caution everybody and I know, Anderson, you've heard it from me, too. Don't trust any national polls until after the first voting caucus or primary. It's way too early. They're driven on name ID. So, I think it does show -- to give Fred some credit -- Fred is well-liked in the Republican Party. People don't know him very well yet. You know, he'll get into the grind if he's a candidate and start taking some hits, but he's well positioned to be a major force in the race if he does jump in because he's famous and well regarded.

COOPER: Mike Murphy, appreciate it. Thanks, Mike.

MURPHY: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Earlier in the program I mentioned that the German troops are not really so much in the line of fire in Afghanistan. I said it was Britain and the United States which were bearing the brunt of the attacks. I should also point out Canadian forces are fighting very vigorously in the south. They've borne a large number of casualties and their services are respected by many in the field. We've been getting a lot of e-mails from Canadian viewers point that out and rightly so. Thank you.

Ahead on 360, a meltdown in a part of the world that could have a big impact on the U.S. We'll have the latest on that.

Plus, with the hurricane season here, forecasters have been relying heavily on an old satellite to warn people. The question is, why is there no replacement in sight? What happens when that satellite goes out? We're keeping them honest, next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Hamas fighters overtook the presidential compound in Gaza City on Friday, leaving everything in ruins, even stomping on the pictures of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Yesterday, Abbas responded by installing a new government that excludes the Hamas militants who have taken over Gaza. Today, he got a show of support from U.S. and European Union leaders who restored direct aid to the Palestinians.

Abbas, in turn, told President Bush that it was time to restart Mid-East peace talks.

Now, few people know the challenges of the Mid-East peacemaking better than former Ambassador Dennis Ross. For more than 12 years he played a leading role in shaping U.S. involvement in the Middle East peace process and dealing directly with the parties in negotiations. His new book is called "Statecraft and How to Restore America's Standing in the World."

I talked to him earlier about the new developments in the Middle East.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: President Bush says he's open to the idea of restarting, you know, talks on the future of the Middle East. You say, though, that -- talking about the politics of it, the larger political concerns, might be actually counterproductive right now. Why?

DENNIS ROSS, AUTHOR, "STATECRAFT": Yes. I think that's the case. Well, I think the reason is, right now the whole image we've had of a two-state solution has been thrown out the window.

COOPER: By Hamas and Fatah?

ROSS: Absolutely. Because what you're dealing with today is not a single territorial unit which was always the term of art that we used in the context of the negotiations, meaning the West Bank and Gaza couldn't be separated. Physically they might be, but you had to have a link.

Now what we have is the potential for a West Bank-led regime by Fatah and a Hamas-led Gaza regime. Well, now you're talking about not a two-state solution. Are we talking about a three-state solution?

So, first things first, let's think through what our concepts ought to be before we rush off and decide let's pursue a political horizon that we can't achieve.

This administration doesn't need one more transformational objective that has proven to be hollow very quickly.

COOPER: So you're saying focus on the inner conflict, focus on the battle between Hamas and Fatah, trying to bolster Fatah as much as possible? Or what -- or -- I mean, the problem, as we all know, is the corruption which is drawing people to Hamas.

ROSS: Absolutely. Look, I would focus on a couple of different objectives right now.

Number one, I would support Fatah with the idea of showing that they can create a successful model. But I wouldn't do it in the way we have in the past. I wouldn't just give money to (UNINTELLIGIBLE). If you just do that, they're going to do everything they've done before. And Palestinians will say, well, we know who's getting the money.

What I would do is you have a new Prime Minister Salam Fayad. I would create a set of criteria and conditions. I would focus on how the money's going to go to the grassroots and grassroots organization, grassroots to deliver services. Fatah needs to remake itself. It knees to rebrand itself. It needs to be seen as an organization, a movement, a faction, a party that is geared towards the needs of the Palestinians and not towards the needs of its senior officials.

COOPER: But, I mean, senior officials are the ones who have the power.

ROSS: They do, but I'll tell you I just came back from the area. I met with over 30 Palestinians. I met with all the young guard, the third generation, the fourth generation of Fatah. What I heard was -- and this was a few weeks ago. This was before Gaza had collapsed, but not before you could see the writing on the wall. What I heard was a wake-up call. What I heard was an understanding if Fatah doesn't get its act together in the West Bank, Hamas will do in the West Bank what it's done in Gaza.

COOPER: I want to play something that Secretary Rice said just today.

Let's play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: Through its actions, Hamas sought to divide the Palestinian nation. We reject that. It is the position of the United States that there is one Palestinian people, and there should be one Palestinian state.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Obviously, the leadership is divided right now. Is talk of one Palestinian state still -- does it make sense at this point?

ROSS: Well, most Palestinians still will pursue that as their national aspiration. Right now they understand it's not something they can achieve anytime soon. It is a good thing to sort of hold it up as an objective. It is not a good thing to try to create a political horizon, which at this point isn't even within the realm of imagination.

COOPER: If you're Israel, what do you do? I mean, who do you try to -- is it even -- is it pointless to try to negotiate with anyone at this point?

ROSS: Israel has a stake also in this competition.

Let's bear in mind -- let's take a step back. What's the real issue today? The real issue is what is the identity of the Palestinians going to be? Are they going to be characterized by a national movement or by a religious movement?

The competition between Hamas and Fatah is all about determining what their identity is going to be. The Israelis have a strong state in a -- strong stake in having Fatah emerge as the dominant force among Palestinians. So they have an interest in helping Fatah be effective in the West Bank.

COOPER: The book is "Statecraft and How to Restore America's Standing in the World."

Dennis Ross, thanks for being with us.

ROSS: A pleasure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: The U.S. government considers Hamas a terrorist organization. Here's why in tonight's Raw Data.

According to Council on Foreign Relations, Hamas has carried out more than 350 terrorist attacks since 1993, killing more than 500 people. Hamas gives between $3,000 and $5,000 to the families of each suicide bomber. Financial support reportedly originates from different sources, including Iran, which may give Hamas up to $30 million a year.

Just ahead on the program tonight, a key satellite used to track hurricanes. It's getting older, with no replacement. So why doesn't the government seem all that concerned? We're keeping them honest.

Plus, a family event goes horribly wrong and it was caught on tape, when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: That is Gainesville, Texas, under all that water.

The "Associated Press" is now reporting at least five people dead tonight, hundreds homeless from massive flooding. Among the dead, a 5-year-old girl and her grandmother.

Another granddaughter is missing. Their mobile home was swept away in the floodwaters.

The trouble started after torrential rains hit north Texas last night. Hundreds of survivors had to be rescued from their rooftops today.

Those Rooftops bring, of course, back memories of Katrina. With hurricane season upon us, you'd expect forecasters have the tools that they need to predict when and where a big storm's going to hit. But a satellite they rely on could fail at any moment. And get this, there is no backup for it.

That's why people are asking, how could the federal government let this happen?

CNN's John Zarrella, tonight, keeping them honest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): August 2004, Category 4 Hurricane Charley suddenly shifts course, slamming into Charlotte County, Florida, killing four people. Tragic to be sure.

But, Emergency Manager Wayne Sallade says it would have been much worse if Charlotte County hadn't been in the emergency warning area. It was right on the very edge and county officials were prepared.

(on camera): What do you think would have happened if you had not been in the warning area?

WAYNE SALLADE, CHARLOTTE COUNTY, FLORIDA, EMERGENCY MANAGER: I'm really concerned that our loss of life would have been significantly higher than the four that we had perish.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): Sallade worries next time he may not get similar warnings. The reason, a satellite called QuikSCAT. It's used by forecasters to help predict the path and intensity of storms. Designed to last three years, QuikSCAT is now in its eighth, working with a backup data transmitter. And no replacement satellite planned until 2016.

BILL PROENZA, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: It's going down the road without a spare tire.

ZARRELLA: Bill Proenza is director of the National Hurricane Center. If QuikSCAT fails, he warns it will be considerably harder to accurately predict a storm's path.

PROENZA: Bottom line is the protection of life. We're able to protect life so much better. QuikSCAT has essentially revolutionized the amount of data that we can work with.

ZARRELLA:: Take a look at this satellite view of the Pacific. Just off the coast of Mexico, images taken without QuikSCAT during Tropical Storm Barbara a couple weeks ago.

PROENZA: Here we have one ship report, a second ship report and a third ship report, that's it.

ZARRELLA: Now, the image following a QuikSCAT pass. An 1,100- mile wide swathe filled with data -- intensity, direction, the wind field.

PROENZA: All of a sudden the whole ocean is filled with data around Tropical Storm Barbara.

ZARRELLA: But Proenza's bosses aren't happy he's going public with his concerns. Friday, he was sent a three-page letter of reprimand.

PROENZA: They wanted me to be quiet about it.

ZARRELLA: Muzzle you?

PROENZA: Essentially.

ZARRELLA: On top of that, the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA don't seem very concerned about QuikSCAT.

MARY GLACKIN, ACTING DIRECTOR, NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE: We're beyond the warranty here, but there's no reason to think that we're not going to get good service out of this spacecraft.

ZARRELLA: Mary Glackin says if QuikSCAT fails, forecasters have other tools -- satellites, hurricane hunter aircraft and weather buoys.

GLACKIN: So the idea of something flying blind -- I can't tell you -- we're so far from flying blind here. We have this covered.

ZARRELLA: But this recent study published by -- you guessed it -- NOAA itself, tells a very different story. Quote, "When QuikSCAT is gone, it will be like going back seven years in tropical cyclone analysis." End quote.

Senator Bill Nelson of Florida charges NOAA just doesn't want to pressure the White House budget office for the $400 million a new satellite would cost.

SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: I just hope and pray we don't have to go through a major hurricane strike and damage as a result of lessons, predictability in order to get the money for this new satellite.

ZARRELLA: If QuikSCAT fails, Charlotte County Emergency Manager Wayne Sallade says he'd be forced to protectively move more people sooner and sometimes unnecessarily.

SALLADE: Over warning by the hurricane center, over evacuation by state and local authorities, leading down the road to an ambivalence by a population that will say, been there, done that, didn't happen, not going.

ZARRELLA: In a period where all the experts are predicting more major hurricanes, a jaded population that won't evacuate, is a frightening proposition.

John Zarrella, CNN, Ponta Gorda, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Wow.

Sometimes tragedies happen without warning. That was the case of this past weekend during a family event.

Erica Hill has the story and the day's other headlines, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Some breaking news out of Charleston, South Carolina. The pictures coming from our CNN Affiliate WCIV. Some dramatic images there. A furniture super store in the West Ashley section of town fully engulfed. Flames were first spotted around 7:00 tonight. Charleston's Mayor Joe Riley says a number of firefighters are actually missing. He also said it is not certain whether this is a case of arson.

We'll, of course, bring you any late developments as they come in.

Now, Erica Hill has a 360 bulletin.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, U.S. and Iraqi forces have launched a major push against insurgent forces. The U.S. military releasing video of an air strike against insurgents outside Baghdad. Four people were killed, at least 20 others killed in a similar air raid in Iraq today.

An international team of investigators have busted up a global pedophile ring and they rescued 31 children.

British officials who led the effort said today more than 700 suspects have been investigated in the 10-month probe. U.S. agents involved in the sting declined to comment on it because their investigation is ongoing in at least 12 states.

In Tennessee investigators say it's going to take some time to figure out just what sent a dragster out of control into a crowd of spectators. It happened over the weekend at a parade and a car show. The racer was doing a burnout when something went wrong. The car skidded off the road, ran into the crowd. Six people were killed.

You know how you reboot your Windows and then suddenly everything is OK again? It turns out that's also how it works on the International Space Station. Not sure if it's exactly control-alt- delete, but today a big thumbs up for the rebooted Russian computers from the waltz on the ground. They were working just fine after going down last week. Meaning, the shuttle "Atlantis" now has the green light to head home. It will undock tomorrow, Anderson, for a scheduled landing on Thursday.

COOPER: Erica, thanks.

Don't miss the day's headlines with the 360 daily podcast. You don't need an iPod. You can watch it on your computer. CNN.com/AC360podcast or go to the iTunes or just iTunes. It's not really the iTunes.

Let's move on, shall we?

We'll have more of 360 after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Now here's John Roberts with what's coming up tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING."

ROBERTS: Anderson, once a teacher, always a teacher. We're talking with the middle school principal, busted for dealing drugs right out of his office at the school. The bust caught on tape. He threw his career away for $20 worth of crack cocaine, or so you might think. He says his educating days are not over. We'll talk with him tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING," beginning at 6:00 a.m., Eastern.

Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Unbelievable. Selling crack from his room in the school.

John, thanks.

Be sure to catch a special edition of 360 Wednesday. I speak one on one with Actress and Activist Angelina Jolie about millions of people forced out of their homes, living as refugees from Iraq to Myanmar to Darfur. It's a 360 special, "Without a Home: Refugees in Crisis," this Wednesday. I hope you join us.

For our international viewers, "CNN TODAY" is next.

Here in America, "LARRY KING" is coming up.

See you tomorrow.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com

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