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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Interview With Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan; Will Democrats Settle Florida and Michigan?

Aired May 30, 2008 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, lobbying down to the wire: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama about to have the issue of Florida and Michigan settled, perhaps once and for all. We have got the "Raw Politics" on that tonight.
But we begin with former White House spokesman Scott McClellan, an interview with him like none you have seen before -- McClellan responding to a new wave of more direct and detailed attacks from the White House today and its supporters, attacks that he says are just spin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: When Americans you at the podium or Dana Perino or anybody speaking from the White House podium, should they believe what they say? Do you believe what the White House spokesperson says?

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I don't think you make a -- put a blanket over everything and say that, you know, all of it is that way.

COOPER: Should people look at everything that comes out of the White House podium with a grain of salt?

MCCLELLAN: Well, unfortunately, I think too many people today do look at Washington and say, you know, all they are giving us is spin and manipulation, and they're not working together to get things done.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Because I have got to say, after reading your book -- and I have read the whole book -- it makes me not only triple-, double-think, but doubt everything that is being said from any politician or any spokesman...

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLELLAN: Which is your job anyway.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Well, yes. And, frankly, I always have.

But, if I'm a citizen, I suddenly think, these people are just lying.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: McClellan is practically -- practically number enemy number one tonight to members of the Bush administration and the Republican Party.

He's been taking fire ever since details of his book, "What Happened," became public.

First, former colleagues said they were puzzled. Today, it got rougher. Bob Dole, one of the most venerated names in the GOP, called McClellan -- and I quote -- "a miserable creature." And, at the White House, a new line emerged: McClellan simply does know not what happened, doesn't have his facts right. That's why they're saying.

Tonight, in our in-depth interview, we're checking those facts, "Keeping Them Honest."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Today, the White House seems to have a new talking point out about you. For days, it's just been kind of, we're puzzled. We're scratching our heads. It's not the Scott we knew.

Today, White House Dana Perino spokesperson had something else to say. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: And our central objection to the book is that it is not based in fact.

And I think that one of the reasons we're puzzled and surprised and disappointed and saddened -- saddened by it is because the charge, the loaded charge in the book is that the president and his senior advisers purposefully misled people into war, and that we sent our young men and women into war, knowing something that -- that we weren't telling the American people. That is not true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: How do you know that it is true?

MCCLELLAN: First of all, I have a lot of fondness for Dana Perino. I actually hired her and brought her on the staff before she -- when she was deputy press secretary.

But, in terms of the comments she -- she made today, they were -- the White House is now suggesting that I'm saying that they deliberately misled the American people. And that's actually not what I say in the book.

COOPER: Right.

MCCLELLAN: I say that it was not deliberate or conscious.

COOPER: So, they're actually attacking you for something you haven't actually said in the book?

MCCLELLAN: That's right. And she hasn't even had -- I think she said today she has not read the book. And I would encourage her to read the book to see where I'm coming from.

I think she knows me very well and knows that what I say is sincere.

COOPER: You do talk a lot about deception in the book, though. You don't say that they out-and-out lied. What is the difference?

MCCLELLAN: Well, there may not be a lot of difference, in terms of both are very problematic in the end in their own right.

COOPER: So, why not say that the White House lied?

MCCLELLAN: Well, here's why. Because what happens in Washington, D.C., today is, you have a lot of good people that come there for the right reasons, to make a difference, but they get caught up in this permanent campaign culture, where it's all about manipulating the narrative to their advantage, because we went and sold, oversold, the case to the American people on the war.

And not only that, but the emphasis was more on the weapons of mass destruction than it was on really the driving motivation behind the decision to go to war, which was the president's desire to transform the Middle East through the spread of democracy, an idealistic vision, a vision that I clinged to when I was press secretary, something that was hopeful.

COOPER: You said that that is the president's real motivation, that -- this desire to spread democracy in the Middle East. How do you actually know that?

MCCLELLAN: Because I -- even before I became press secretary, I started to sense that.

But, when I sat in meetings with him...

COOPER: What do you mean sense it?

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLELLAN: ... meetings -- well, from his own comments, when he would speak before the Republican Governors Association in private and talked about -- he talks about it very passionately. It's sincere. It's authentic. He really believes that he -- that this -- that Iraq could be the lynchpin for transforming the Middle East and spreading democracy.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: So, you're saying that's what in his mind, that's what in his heart, but they have to sell it a different way?

(CROSSTALK) MCCLELLAN: Well, yes. And I think Paul Wolfowitz even said that. And I reference his comments in the book, when he told a reporter that what everybody decided on that the chief rationale should be was the weapons of mass destruction case.

And what happened was, we took -- we took intelligence of high confidence, intelligence of medium conference -- confidence and low confidence, packaged it all together, and then made it sound more urgent, more grave, and more threatening than it really was in the end.

COOPER: Here's what you said in 2006, just a few weeks before you stepped down at press secretary. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, APRIL 7, 2006)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There were people that were out there making irresponsible accusations that intelligence was manipulated or that intelligence was misused. There's been no evidence to back that up whatsoever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Now, here's what you say in the book.

You write that the Bush administration tried to -- and I quote -- "make the WMD threat and the Iraqi connection to terrorism appear just a little more certain using any window and implication to encourage Americans to believe as fact some things that were unclear or possibly false."

That sounds like intelligence being manipulated and being misused, no?

MCCLELLAN: Well, upon reflection, I was wrong.

I mean, the intelligence -- there's a couple of issues here. The Senate Intelligence Committee and others have gone in and looked at how the intelligence was used by policy-makers, or whether or not the intelligence -- there was pressure on the intelligence analysts and so forth to change the intelligence.

What they have not done -- or at least not released a report yet -- is gone in and looked at how the policy-makers used that intelligence to sell war to the American people. And there is a distinction here.

COOPER: You say, though, upon reflection, you realized you were wrong. But I mean, that was three years into your term. That was right before you almost left. You already had a lot of doubts.

How can you sell it so forcefully, almost angrily, when, in truth, according to your book, you were having doubts?

MCCLELLAN: Well, I was having doubts about the buildup to the war. Then, after the war, I clung to the hope that we could transform the Middle East, that Iraq would become this free democracy. And maybe, some day, it will. But the point is, you get caught up in that White House bubble and some of the larger perspective is obscured. You don't see those larger...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: What does that mean? You say you get caught up in a White House bubble. It's not a bunker. You have got Internet access. You have got newspapers.

MCCLELLAN: Well, there is a little bit of a bunker mentality, because you're there. You have this great affection for the person you're working for -- and it's hard to step back from all that and really reflect. I mean, you're -- you're -- you have got a bunch of people around you that you're working with, and...

COOPER: But you're the press secretary. I mean, you read newspapers every day. It's not like -- in the book, you write about how President Bush turns off televisions because he doesn't want to see the news.

But it was your job to see what everyone was writing. You were interacting with the press all day. It's not as if you didn't have access to different points of view.

MCCLELLAN: That's right.

COOPER: How could you not -- just completely discount them?

MCCLELLAN: Well, and during that time period that you reference, that -- the last 10 months of my time as press secretary, that -- I talk about how in the book how I was becoming increasingly disillusioned during that time period, because -- when I found out I had been knowingly lied to by Karl Rove and Scooter Libby in the Valerie Plame leak episode and passed along false information based on their assurances, two years prior to that, saying that they weren't involved. So, it was all that.

COOPER: But what does it say about you that you only get disillusioned when they lie to you, but when they're lying to everybody else, and you're a part of it, that's OK?

MCCLELLAN: Well, and, again, I mean, that's the whole atmosphere.

I mean, we're there. We're there. We're caught up in this whole Washington game of trying to advocate and defend for the president, trying to shape the narrative to our advantage.

And, you know, it is inherently deceptive. Most of it is incidental or harmless, but when it gets transferred into these issues of war and peace, then it becomes more troubling.

Here's what Ari Fleischer said to me two days ago. Take a look. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The fact is, Scott was deputy press secretary at the time, 2002. His jurisdiction was over Health and Human Services, the Justice Department. He wouldn't have been in a position to hear some of the sensitive things that he's now writing about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: He's talking about the run-up to the war.

Now, a specific example, page 144, you write: "Colin Powell was apparently the only adviser who even tried to raise doubts about the wisdom of war. The rest of the foreign policy team seemed to be preoccupied with regime change or, in the case of Condi Rice, seemingly more interested in accommodating the president's instincts and ideas than in questioning them or educating him."

It's a lot of "apparentlies" and "seems." Do you know this from firsthand experience?

MCCLELLAN: Well, yes. I was working around those individuals. And I actually -- Ari kind of tries to paint it in black-and-white terms. When I was deputy press secretary...

COOPER: He is a former spokesman. He's spinning. So...

MCCLELLAN: That's right.

And that's what happens too much in Washington, D.C., which is part of my point. But, when I was deputy press secretary, I would fill in for Ari from time to time. In fact, I spent...

COOPER: So you say you were in some of these meetings?

MCCLELLAN: Yes, I was. I participated in the White House Iraq Group meetings when he was gone. He was gone for 10 days on his wedding. There were other times I filled in for him, traveled with the president, or participated in world leader meetings.

And, so, I was there. The White House Iraq Group, for your viewers, they might want to know, is -- it's something I talk about. It was this group set up specifically for the marketing or selling of the war to the American people. And that was the sole objective.

COOPER: So, WMD, that was about marketing and manipulation?

MCCLELLAN: Well, yes.

Now, the overall strategy for that was developed over the course of the summer, leading into the fall. And I wasn't involved in those meetings. But I did become involved in meetings as that group continued, as we accelerated the buildup to the war.

(CROSSTALK) COOPER: You're not saying they didn't believed there were WMD? They believed, you believed there were WMD, but the decision to focus on it, the decision to sell that as the reason to go to war, that's what you're saying was manipulated?

MCCLELLAN: Yes. My point is that we weren't as open and forthright as we should have been.

We should have embraced a high level of openness and forthrightness, in addition to that, and then the expectations wouldn't have gotten so out of whack, and we wouldn't have been in the problem we were -- we came to later when the president's credibility just started really falling, because we weren't open and forthright.

COOPER: Do you think you own an apology to -- to the American people?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Does he owe an apology to the American people?

Scott McClellan's answer when we come back.

As always, I'm blogging tonight. The discussion is already under way. You can join in at CNN.com/360.

Also coming up, McClellan responds to Bob Dole, who today called him a "miserable creature." McClellan also takes us backstage with the floodwaters in New Orleans rising. Did President Bush really mean it when he said this to FEMA director Mike Brown?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Again, I want to thank you all for -- and, Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Later, a look ahead at tomorrow's Democratic showdown over Florida and Michigan that could finally put the primary battle to rest.

And new developments tonight in the polygamy child custody case -- the judge refusing to sign the order sending all the kids back to the compound. Find out why and what happens now -- tonight on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUSH: One of these days, he and I will are going to be rocking on chairs in Texas, talking about the good old days, his time as the press secretary. And I can assure you, I will feel the same way then that I feel now, that I can say to Scott, job well done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, I don't think he will feel the same way. George Bush, that was, and Scott McClellan back in April of 2006.

We learned today, according to "The Salt Lake Tribune," that President Bush told a gathering in Utah last night that he will work to forgive McClellan for what he wrote.

I asked McClellan if he think he needs forgiveness from the president or if perhaps he needs to apologize to the American people.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Do you think you owe an apology to the American people, I mean, for getting on to that podium...

MCCLELLAN: Well...

COOPER: I mean, the American people, the press, the people watch you on that podium, and think you're telling the truth, and think your job is to inform people.

But everything you're writing is -- it doesn't sound like that was your -- the way you saw your job.

MCCLELLAN: Well, I said -- like I said, I...

COOPER: In fact, it seemed like disinformation.

MCCLELLAN: Yes. No, I was sincere at the time.

Now, looking back and reflecting on that, I have a different perspective on it...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But you weren't -- but, no -- but is that really true? Because, on some of the Hurricane Katrina stuff, you write about that your job was to not focus -- you know, not allow criticism to hit the White House or the federal government, but to redirect it to local and state.

I mean, that wasn't sincere. That was a desire to just deflect, deflect, deflect, when you knew the White House...

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLELLAN: Yes, I don't know that I said it exactly like that. But there was a breakdown at all levels of government. I said that from the podium when I was there. But when I...

COOPER: So, but that -- but those comments were not sincere?

MCCLELLAN: That there's a breakdown of all levels of government? That's sincere.

When -- and I said that at the time, that all levels of government failed in their responsibility. COOPER: But you didn't...

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLELLAN: But the federal government should have taken more responsibility, because, to the American people, I think, the federal government is the failsafe backstop to all that.

And when people are overwhelmed at the local and state level, it's important for the federal government to be able to come in quickly and assert their responsibility. And we didn't.

COOPER: I want to play just one Hurricane Katrina bite from your time on the podium. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: You're deflecting all specifics to the FEMA briefing.

MCCLELLAN: No, I'm not. I have given you some updates. But they are the ones who are in charge of operational aspects on the ground. And Department of Homeland Security is in charge of the operational aspects from Washington, D.C.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: There, you're trying to get people talk to FEMA.

But elsewhere in the book, you write about your job -- seeing your job as deflecting blame from the White House on Katrina.

MCCLELLAN: Well, I mean, that's what happens in the whole atmosphere of the Washington game. Sometimes, you do try to deflect blame and responsibility.

COOPER: But is that -- but that is not sincere?

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLELLAN: Well, I think that, I mean, I'm not saying everybody that goes out and does that in Washington, D.C., isn't sincere. I mean, that implies that they're sinister or deliberately doing this.

I think they just get caught up in this whole Washington game, and that's what happens. And that's why I'm saying we need to change this. We need to move Washington beyond this. And that's why I hope my book, in some small way, will contribute to doing that.

COOPER: See, isn't that a cop-out, though, to say that, oh, I just caught up in this Washington game?

There are folks who stand up and resign on principle and folks who say, you know what, this is not right.

I mean, all of us -- every day, in my job, I think, am I doing -- is what I'm doing fair? Is the way I'm portraying things accurate? Am I showing any bias? Or are the people around me showing bias? And these are daily considerations.

Did you not have those daily considerations? Did you not daily reflect on -- did you not read through the transcripts of stuff you said and said, you know what, I'm actually just deflecting became onto the local and state government, who do deserve plenty of blame, God knows, in Hurricane Katrina, but, you know what, we deserve some of the blame, too?

MCCLELLAN: Right. And we did. We did accept some responsibility at the time. I think we probably deserve more -- should have accepted more responsibility.

But, no, I would disagree with you, to an extent, in what you're saying, because it's just the way -- we all are idealistic. And we go to Washington. And we think we're there to make a positive difference. But then what happens is, you get caught up in the spin and manipulation, and you lose sight of the larger perspective on things.

COOPER: So, you can -- in your mind, when you're there, when you're in that bubble, which is -- or bunker, as you said...

MCCLELLAN: Right.

COOPER: ... you can justify everything you're doing, because you believe your position is right and you're fighting off this Washington -- everyone else is playing partisan politics, but, when you're in the bubble, you believe what you're doing is really right?

MCCLELLAN: No. You're engaged in that partisan -- you have your partisan hat on. I mean, that's the problem. I mean, that's the problem, is that we're all focused on trying to manipulate the narrative to our advantage. And we lose sight of the importance of how we can work together through deliberation and compromise.

COOPER: Because I think that will shock people, because, I mean, you're actually a civil servant. When you're...

MCCLELLAN: That's right.

COOPER: You're a spokesperson in the White House, you're a civil servant. You're not supposed to be a political partisan.

MCCLELLAN: Well, I mean, we are -- the elected leaders are -- represents their parties, to some extent, too much these days is one of the points I make, is that it's too much about party and too little about the country. And we need to put the country first and put the party much lower.

COOPER: When Americans see you at the podium or Dana Perino or anybody speaking from the White House podium, should they believe what they say? Do you believe what the White House spokesperson says?

MCCLELLAN: Well, I don't think you can make a -- put a blanket over everything and say that all of it is that way. But you do have to look through -- I mean, you have done a good job of it in the past and continue to do a good job with "Keeping Them Honest," when you look at some of these issues.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Now you're just trying to butter me up.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLELLAN: Actually, I say it in the book, too, so -- not you specifically, but I mention it as one of the areas where the media is doing a good job. And I mention some of the changes we need to look at to improve the situation...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But should -- but should people look at everything that comes out of the White House podium with a grain of salt?

MCCLELLAN: Well, unfortunately, I think too many people today do look at Washington and say, all they're giving us is spin and manipulation, and they're not working together to get things done.

COOPER: Because I have got to say, after reading your book -- and I have read the whole book -- it makes me not only triple-, double-think, but doubt everything that is being said from any politician or any spokesman...

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLELLAN: Which is your job anyway.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Well, yes. And, frankly, I always have.

But, if I'm a citizen, I suddenly think, these people are just lying.

MCCLELLAN: Well, that's why we need to move beyond this.

And that's why I offer ways to do that, by talking about embracing candor and honesty at a high level, by appointing a deputy chief of staff for governing in the White House. No one can do to do more to set the right tone than the president. He has the biggest bully pulpit. And if the president is committed to embracing a high level of openness and honesty, then we can move Washington beyond this partisan warfare that has been so destructive.

COOPER: There's irony in the way that the White House is attacking you. It's got to be painful irony for you. But it's exactly the way that you attacked others who wrote books.

When Richard Clarke came out with his book very critical of the White House, here's what you said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MARCH 22, 2004)

MCCLELLAN: Why, all of a sudden, if he had all these grave concerns, did he not raise these -- sooner? This is one-and-a-half years after he left the administration. And now, all of a sudden, he's raising these grave concerns that he claims he had.

And I think you have to look at some of the facts. One, he is bringing this up in the heat of a presidential campaign. He has written a book. And he certainly wants to go out there and promote that book.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The exact same could be said about you word for word.

MCCLELLAN: And it has been said about me by the White House.

COOPER: Not quite as eloquently, though.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLELLAN: Well, thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCLELLAN: Those were the talking points at the time.

And, like I said, I was caught up in that game.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLELLAN: I actually -- I actually -- I actually saw Dick Clarke last night here in New York City. And we had a brief conversation. And I expressed my regret for what I did back then.

You know, I -- a lot of people out there at the White House, and allies, former colleagues are talking about my motivations and talking about the content, and they haven't even read the book themselves.

Now, you have. You had a chance to do that. But others haven't had a chance to do that. And I think, when people look through the book and read it, they're going to see my sincerity in the book, based on my upbringing and based my commitment to public service and making a positive difference.

COOPER: When -- Politico.com is reporting that Bob Dole sent you an e-mail. And I know you got the e-mail.

Part of the e-mail reads: "There are miserable creatures like you in every administration, who don't have the guts to speak up or quit if there are disagreements with the boss or colleagues. No, your type soaks up the benefits of power, revels in the limelight for years, then quits, and, spurred on by greed, cashes in with a scathing critique." Tough words.

MCCLELLAN: They are. And I have great respect for Senator Dole. He's a good public servant, and someone who has served in the military as well, and someone who actually did try to work across the aisle with Democratic leaders at times, back before things got so bitterly partisan in Washington, D.C.

But, you know, I would encourage him to see what I say in the book before he makes those comments.

COOPER: Why didn't you quit on principle?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: He will answer that question next.

Also, Scott McClellan reveals the inside story behind that incredible statement, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

And the intense lobbying to sway a bunch of Democratic bigwigs who could give Hillary Clinton one last shot at the nomination or put it totally out of reach. We have the "Raw Politics" ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: That's the picture of President Bush flying over New Orleans. To an awful lot of people, the picture spoke volumes.

Scott McClellan says he warned against a flyover, warned against that picture. He blames Karl Rove for rejecting that advice.

As you will see, that's not all he says about the botched federal response to Hurricane Katrina. And, as you have been seeing, that's not all he disagreed with.

So, the question is -- and, in fairness, it's not just coming from Republican spinners -- why stick around, spewing out talking points, for nearly three years? Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Why didn't you quit on principle? Why didn't you go into your -- to Ari Fleischer, when he was your boss, and express doubts?

MCCLELLAN: Well, first of all, at that time period, like I said, I was giving the administration the benefit of the doubt in terms of the buildup to the Iraq war and the decision to go to war, like a lot of Americans were.

We were -- I was concerned about the rush to war, whether or not we needed to be doing -- I was concerned about the necessity, to some extent -- to some extent, because I'm a person, from a moral standpoint, that believes we should not be going to war unless it's absolutely necessary. But when I really started to become disillusioned with things was when I found out that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, basically right before media reports were going to show it, that they had knowingly misled me.

COOPER: Here's another line that's used being against you right now, hints that maybe you didn't write this book or that some clever editor tweaked it and that you're just kind of going along with it.

Here's what Ari Fleischer said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I talked to Scott yesterday. And I asked Scott if he had a ghostwriter. He said, no, and then he added, but his editor did, in Scott's word, tweak a lot of his words, particularly as the book came much closer to publication deadlines this spring.

Now, Scott has got his name on it. And he has to stand by it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Did you write the book? Did an editor tweak it?

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLELLAN: Yes, I wrote it. Ari has still got his spin hat on right now.

It's not accurate, what he was saying, in terms of our conversation. That was before any reports of the book had come out. He had just touched base with me. I considered Ari a friend. And we had a conversation.

And we were talking -- he had written a book. And he was wanting to know how things went and what it might say. And I kind of gave him -- I said, it's a tough book, but I believe I have gotten to the truth, from my perspective.

COOPER: George Tenet wrote a book, got a $4 million advance. How much of an advance did you get?

MCCLELLAN: Well, there was an actually an article in "The New York Times" today that talked about PublicAffairs, my publisher.

COOPER: And they said they don't give advances more than six figures.

MCCLELLAN: That's an accurate account of...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: So, you didn't get more than six figures?

MCCLELLAN: Well, I'm not going to get specifically into it. But when people say that, "He's out there to make a profit," one, they don't know me or my upbringing and my reason -- they haven't had a chance to read the book. And, two, they don't know PublicAffairs and the kind of publisher that they are.

COOPER: In the book, by your own admission, you say you didn't have all the facts. And, yet, it seemed like you had no problem acting as if you had all the facts.

MCCLELLAN: Well, I trusted the team that was around the president, and believed that, at times, you have to believe the information you're given is true. And I think, from their standpoint, that they do sincerely believe it. But I think some of their thinking is misplaced.

COOPER: When President Bush said, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job," did he believe it?

MCCLELLAN: Well, we actually talked about that right after that.

What happened was, we go down to -- let's see. That was Alabama, I guess, when -- our first stop on the way to New Orleans that very -- that first Friday, I believe. And it had been arranged for the president to go and meet with some of the Coast Guard people that were doing an outstanding job, as you know, a remarkable job, saving lives.

And then the president was going to say a few words to the cameras. And Mike Brown happened to be there and walked right up next to him. After that happened, the president kind of looked at us, and, you know: If you don't want me to say something, then don't -- I have got to pump morale up. And you put him right next to me.

And, so, the president was kind of, from his viewpoint, he had to say it. He was standing right now next to him. He was trying to keep his morale up. And, in retrospect, it was probably not a good thing to do.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Are you still a Republican?

MCCLELLAN: Well, you know, there are things I like about the Republicans -- or Republican ideas. And there are Democratic ideas I like.

I haven't thought too far down the road. What I'm most focused on right now is looking at ways we can move beyond this partisan atmosphere and change Washington.

COOPER: The president told a crowd last night that he was going to work to forgive you.

Is there something you need to be forgiven of?

MCCLELLAN: No, there isn't, because I have never felt like I have seen things more clearly in my entire life than I have now, after going through this very long and rigorous process to try to get to the truth and understand the larger truths, from my perspective.

This is a White House that doesn't like to look back. The president doesn't like to spend time reflecting. And that's understandable, to some extent. But our elected leaders need to have more reflection in order to be able to learn from their mistakes.

And I think, in many ways, he's learned from his mistakes. He says, knowing what he knows today, he would still make the same decision to go into Iraq. I don't -- I think he believes that. He's convinced himself to believe that, but I don't think it's true.

I know him. And I know he's politically savvy enough to know that he would never make that same decision, if he could have a crystal ball...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: You think, if he -- to look back on it, he wouldn't do the same things again? He would not go into Iraq?

MCCLELLAN: I think, from a practical standpoint, he couldn't have done the same thing. And I think he recognizes that. But, at the same time...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: You think he would have gone into Iraq in a different way, or just not gone into Iraq at all?

MCCLELLAN: Well, I think he would have had to have approached it in a different way, certainly.

I think it was smart to confront Saddam Hussein. But our options were either, Saddam comes clean or we go to war. There was no flexibility there. And there are other ways we could have addressed that.

COOPER: Let me put that question to you, then. If you had to do it all over again, how -- would you -- would you become the spokesman? If so, what would you do differently?

MCCLELLAN: I don't know.

I struggled. I -- and I spend a chapter on this. I struggled with whether or not I should move forward with becoming press secretary, because of the secrecy and compartmentalization that exists in this White House.

I have learned an awful lot. This whole -- the whole time there was a political education for me. And then going back and reflecting on it, I have learned an awful lot more.

COOPER: I'm sure you have a lot of tough days ahead, but thanks for being with us.

MCCLELLAN: Thanks, Anderson. Glad to be here. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: You can see the interview on our podcast and read the transcripts on our Web site. Find them both at CNN.com/360.

Still to come: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama dueling for delegates. Decision day on Florida and Michigan just hours away. We have got the "Raw Politics."

First, another deadly crane collapse here in New York.

Erica Hill has the latest on the accident in a 360 bulletin -- coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We're just hours away from a possible decision on the Michigan and Florida problem in the Democratic race for the White House -- the "Raw Politics" on that coming up.

But, first, Erica Hill joins us with a 360 bulletin on some other headlines tonight -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, deadly deja vu here in New York City this morning. For the second time in less three months, a massive crane collapsed. Two people were killed when the crane smashed into an apartment building.

It was right around 8:00 this morning. Tonight, the city suspended all crane activity in the city through Monday. Today's accident, by the way, happened just one day after an inspector lifted a partial stop-work order at that site.

In the Honduran capital, a deadly landing. Three people killed when a plane overshot a runway, broke into pieces and skidded to a stop on a city street, after crushing three vehicles. The pilot, a passenger and a taxi driver on the road were killed in that crash.

And a Brazilian tribe on the defensive. Bow and arrows in hand in the remote corner of the Amazon rainforest. It is thought they've never had contact with outsiders. The government agency posted the photos today part of their plan to bring attention to illegal logging which threatens the tribe land.

It's just wild, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I find that hard to believe.

HILL: That they've never had any contact.

COOPER: Yes, I do.

HILL: I think it's kind of interesting. And that oh, we just sort of came in, no problem, and took a picture.

COOPER: Well, it's on the website of a group which is advocating for the protection of indigenous tribes and certainly -- you know, they're certainly indigenous tribes that need protection. The Amazon and there may be ones that haven't had two contact. I don't know, just two guys painted red and the guy holding -- I don't know, not sure about it.

HILL: Not buying it.

COOPER: Hey, what do I know? Time for the folks at home to "Beat 360." Here's the photo. Former President Bill Clinton and Former Prime Minister Tony Blair in New York today at the launch of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. So here's the caption from our staff winner, Gabe.

GABE: Tony Blair? No, this is Bony Flair, a superdelegate from Michigan. And he supports my wife.

You think you can do better? We want to hear from you. So far our viewer captions are a little weak. You could win it still.

HILL: Last week it was the staff, now it's the viewer.

COOPER: Our captions are a little weak today. Go to cnn.com/360. Send us your entry and we'll announce the winner at the end of the program.

HILL: If there is one.

COOPER: Exactly.

HILL: If all are terrible.

COOPER: That's right. Still to come, "Raw Politics." Down to the wire. Clinton-Obama, forces doing battle just hours from now for more delegates in any contests and weeks. You won't find a single voter taking part. We'll explain.

Later, the children of polygamy. Late details and last minute hitches in their court order return to their parents. Why a judge refused to sign the order returning all the kids home. That and more when "360" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: So those are the latest numbers in the Democratic race. Senator Obama, 1,984 delegates. Senator Clinton, 1,782. 2,026 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. A fluid situation to say the least.

Senator Obama picked up three superdelegates just today, boosting his lead to 202. And the math is likely to change again tomorrow. That's D-day essentially when Democratic Party officials meet in Washington to decide how many, if any, delegates to seat from Florida and Michigan. The meeting is just hours away now.

CNN's Candy Crowley has the "Raw Politics."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The 2000 election was a remember the Alamo moment in politics. Enshrining let every vote count into the Democrat's lexicon.

PROTESTORS: Count our votes! Count our votes!

CROWLEY: A potent battle cry Hillary Clinton now uses to stir up supporters as she makes her case to count the results of the unsanctioned Michigan and Florida primaries.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe the Democratic Party must count these votes. They should count them exactly as they were cast. Democracy demands no less.

CROWLEY: It is a case her reps will make Saturday in a day-long process Democrats everywhere pray will end the nightmare that has become Florida and Michigan. The meeting opens with a few can't we all just get along words from Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean.

The task, find a way to punish Michigan and Florida delegations for holding primaries in violation of party rules in a solution that pleases party officials, Michigan and Florida officials, the Obama campaign and the Clinton campaign. All will have a chance to argue their cases, followed by lunch. Then discussions and votes on proposed solutions. Majority rules.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What does Florida want?

PROTESTORS: Count our votes!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When?

PROTESTORS: Now!

CROWLEY: Expect the action outside the meeting. Clinton supporters want thousands to show up. Inside, suffice it to say, meetings of the 30-member rules and bylaws committee do not play to sell-out crowds, except for tomorrow. 500 tickets snapped up online in minutes. Still, chances are this may not live up to the hype.

Even if the committee gives Clinton everything she wants, all delegates seated reflecting her victories in both states, the bottom line Saturday night will be Obama still leading in pledged delegates. Even the ever optimistic Clinton campaign accepts the equation.

VOICE OF HOWARD WOLFSON, CLINTON COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: We understand of the road ahead of us. And we understand that Senator Obama has a lead in delegates.

CROWLEY: Still, legitimizing the results in Michigan and Florida, however it's done, will add to Clinton's popular vote total. A key figure she says superdelegates should consider.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How's it going Tampa? CROWLEY: The Obama campaign no longer insists on a 50-50 split of Michigan and Florida. They will agrees to a compromise where she will get more of the delegates. They can afford to be generous. He is less than 50 delegations. He holds the cards. They both know that.

CLINTON: I feel really good about going through the weekend to see what the rules and bylaws the committee does in Michigan and Florida. See what happens in Puerto Rico, Montana and South Dakota. Then we'll see where we are.

CROWLEY: She has promised to take this all the way to the last state of the primary season, Wednesday. There will be no place left to go. Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: It's going to be interesting, tomorrow. Programming note, tomorrow on CNN and cnn.com, we're going to have live coverage of decision day beginning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

Tomorrow's decision could give Hillary Clinton one last shot at the nomination. And Bill Clinton isn't showing any signs of giving up the fight. He's on the trail defending his wife and lashing out at people he says are standing in her way. We'll take you up close on that.

COOPER: Also ahead tonight, a new twist in the polygamy custody case. Why a judge refused to sign the order to send all the kids home today, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I have loved campaigning throughout Puerto Rico, because I believe that this is Puerto Rico's time. That you have waited long enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Hillary Clinton on the trail tonight. Her husband, Bill, is also on the island campaigning. He's been drawing crowds and controversy along the campaign trail. Appearing at rallies trailing across the country. Lately, he's been on fire passionately defending the candidate while launching stinging attacks against the media and unnamed enemies. Tonight, "Up Close," Bill unplugged.

Here's CNN's Jessica Yellin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's still got it. Walking through old San Juan this week, Bill Clinton was treated like a rock star. And living up to his reputation as a political master. BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You will never have a chance like this again to send a message to the mainland about what the people of Puerto Rico care about. You will never have a chance to vote for someone who cares more, who has done more, and who will do more as president.

YELLIN: That's the Bill Clinton who was supposed to hit the trail and deliver the nomination for his wife. Charming, passionate, tireless. The world's best campaigner. But instead, the country saw this.

B. CLINTON: And what they care about is not going to be in the news coverage tonight, because you don't care about it. What you care about is this, and the Obama people know that. So they just spin you up on this and you happily go along.

YELLIN: An often angry campaign partner, sometimes painfully off message.

B. CLINTON: Jesse Jackson went to South Carolina twice in 1984 and 1988 and he ran a good campaign. And Senator Obama is running a good campaign here.

YELLIN: This side of Bill Clinton surprised many but not those who covered him during his White House years.

JOHN HARRIS, POLITICO: When he has grievances and resentments, he's not somebody that holds that in very well. If you listen to him long enough, you're going to hear that his real thoughts kind of come spewing out almost like a volcano.

YELLIN: Bill Clinton is also not used to losing presidential elections. And he seems to be taking the possible loss of this once seemingly inevitable nomination particularly hard.

B. CLINTON: I've never seen anything like it. I've never seen a candidate treated so disrespectfully just for running.

YELLIN: But could he be feeling disrespected as well? He's fighting the perception that he lost his political mightiest touch.

HARRIS: But the idea that he is the most successful Democrat, that he is the person that somehow cracked the code and knows how to make Democrats electable, I think we recognize that now. That's a myth.

YELLIN: And maybe that's why Bill Clinton, more than anyone else, doesn't want to let this one go, insisting Hillary still has a shot if she wins the popular vote.

B. CLINTON: It will simply prove that she's the popular choice of the Democrats. That's what it will be.

YELLIN: And to this day, campaigning for hours at events like these in small towns across America, promoting the Clintons, both of them. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Jessica, what are the polls showing right now in Puerto Rico?

YELLIN: Well, Anderson, the latest poll shows that Senator Clinton is ahead 55 percent to 42 percent. Obama is at 42 percent. That sounds like a good lead that any politician would want, but for Clinton to hit that essential marker that she wants -- she wants to be able to say after Puerto Rico, she has the popular vote total across the nation. To get that she has to win here in Puerto Rico by 65 percent and 2 million people have to turn out.

That's almost half of the island's population. Right now it seems unlikely she's going to hit either marker but that's not holding the Clinton's back. She just flew back into town tonight.

COOPER: All right. Jessica Yellin from San Juan. Thanks, Jessica.

Up next, a judge rules the kids seized in the raid on the FLDS ranch in Texas. Should return home to the polygamist families, but it's not over.

And did she or didn't she? Conflicting reports about Angelina Jolie giving birth to twins.

And did you see this? Mariah Carey throwing a baseball, kind of. Yes. It's our "Shot of the Day," coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: In limbo, just hours ago, a Texas judge refused to sign an order returning the more than 300 children taken from the polygamous compound in El Dorado. Still we're told the journey home could begin Monday morning. Tonight, most of the children are in 16 shelters throughout Texas. Some hundreds of miles away from the Yearning for Zion polygamist ranch in El Dorado where they were removed in early April.

Both sides are busy working out the details to bring possibly the largest and strangest custody case in American history to a close. Let's go the latest from CNN's David Mattingly live in San Angelo, Texas.

David, when do the kids return home?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, there was actually a proposal on the table today that would have sent all of the kids home next week starting on Monday. But that proposal really didn't get off the ground after several revisions. There was no agreement reached. Everyone went home without an answer to that question about when the children will be going home.

We heard a very clear mandate from the Supreme Court these kids have got to go home. And some attorneys were saying if this court can't reach an agreement, if they can't get the job done, they may have to take it to a higher court. So still very much in a wait and see posture here in San Angelo.

COOPER: And the FLDS is expected to make some changes in this county where they live. What's that about?

MATTINGLY: It's been no secret how they feel about how they say they've been wronged by their government. So they're planning to make some changes and they're going to do this the old fashioned way. They're going to vote.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY (voice-over): If anyone in Schleicher County, Texas thought they had heard the last of the secluded polygamist from the Yearning for Zion ranch, they were wrong.

WILLIE JESSOP, FLDS SPOKESMAN: The only chance that we have that's been given to us by our founding fathers is to vote.

MATTINGLY: It's a promise of a voting booth showdown. November payback aimed at one of the leaders of the April raid, Sheriff David Doran.

DAVID DORAN, SCHLEICHER COUNTY, TEXAS: If we had a mass registration out of retaliation purposes or what have you -- yes, you know, that concerns me that there could be a different factor coming in messing with the election.

MATTINGLY: Doran was the leading vote getter four years ago with just 903 votes. There are less than 1,900 registered voters in the whole county. A flood of angry FLDS voters means change could be on the way.

(on camera): And this is where it begins. This little stone building next to the county courthouse. We've learned that representatives of the FLDS have already been here, looking for hundreds of voter registration forms. Now, imagine the surprise to county officials who rarely see more than two or three new voters signed up in a single month.

(voice-over): It's already the lunchtime topic of conversation at Rosa's Restaurant, where I find that residents here are worried about what's to come.

JO KUTSCH, RESIDENT: If they have so many people out there, they could overpower the people that vote here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think this is just the beginning. And I think we've closed our eyes to it for so many years.

MATTINGLY: FLDS spokesman Willie Jessop predicts the sect will eventually register 500 to 600 new voters. That means no county candidate would be safe. Most on the November ballot are unopposed. But hundreds of write-ins could change any race.

Will there be somebody from that ranch in public office in November?

JESSOP: We're not ruling out any possibilities.

MATTINGLY (on camera): The candidate who should be most concerned is the county commissioner who represents that sparsely populated area where you find the compound. So few people vote there that all it takes is just 200 write-in votes for an FLDS candidate to land on the county commission.

(voice-over): And there is plenty of time for residents of the YFZ ranch to beat the October registration deadline. And make their displeasure known to the government they once tried so hard to avoid.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: And that voter registration drive expected to kick off in earnest when all the families come back with their children and they will be motivated and they will be angry.

Anderson?

COOPER: That will be a fascinating development. David Mattingly, thanks.

Erica Hill joins us again with a "360 Bulletin."

Erica?

HILL: Anderson, the 1989 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland is part of negotiations now underway between the United States and Libya. Officials from both countries meeting for a second day to start those talks which could result in compensation for past acts of state sponsored terrorism by Libya.

Long Island, New York. Multi-million dollar home at the center of a bitter dispute between the rapper 50 cent and the mother of his son destroyed by fire. And authorities are calling the blaze suspicious. 50 cent's ex-girlfriend, his son and four others were treated for smoke inhalation.

And conflicting reports in the latest Bradgelina drama. "Entertainment Tonight" says actress, Angelina Jolie, gave birth in France to twins. But in a statement on "People" magazine's website, Jolie's rep says -- huh huh, didn't happen. Jolie and her companion actor Brad Pitt are, though, reportedly expecting twins. That was confirmed.

COOPER: We wish them well, whatever happens.

HILL: We do.

COOPER: Erica, time for our "Beat 360" winners. If you don't know the drill, it simple. We post a picture on our blog every day and give viewers a chance to one-up our staff by coming up with a better caption. Tonight's picture, Former President Bill Clinton and Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in New York launching Tony Blair Faith Foundation. Tonight's staff winner, Gabe. Here's his caption.

GABE: Tony Blair? No, this is Bony Flair, a superdelegate from Michigan and he supports my wife.

COOPER: Our viewer winner is Clay. Here is his caption.

"If we could seat delegates from England, Hillary would sure have the nomination!"

And we appreciate the trying. You can check out the competition ahead her blog.

HILL: I like that. Keep them coming, people. We really do appreciate it.

COOPER: We do.

HILL: My kidding. I don't even enter them. I'm so lame.

COOPER: I'm lame. Cnn.com/360. That's where you enter.

Still ahead, all the way from Japan. Proof that Mariah Carey might want to stick to her day job.

HILL: Really?

COOPER: Whatever her day might actually be. Plus, my in-depth interview with Scott McClellan like no other you've seen before. He's under attack, spinning his side of the story. "Keeping Them Honest," checking the facts tonight, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: All right. Our time for the shot. We all know Mariah Carey is a singing sensation. She is a huge star in Japan of course. But while she may have great pitch when it comes to music, when it comes to pitching the baseball, check it out for yourself.

She had the honor of throwing out a ceremonial pitch in a baseball game in Tokyo. Let's listen to the announcer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING JAPANESE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Really? I mean, I have no coordination and I really -- and terrible, of course, but come on.

COOPER: Yes. Yes.

HILL: What are those shoes, by the way?

COOPER: The whole thing. I don't know what the whole outfit is about. HILL: I don't know it either. She's an incredibly talented singer, though. I can say that.

COOPER: Sure. And I don't know who those guys are.

HILL: I don't know, but she probably needs them to help her walk on those shoes in a baseball field. I recall that you had a sports moment recently.

COOPER: Oh, I'm very good to sports. Yes, I like all the sports.

HILL: Yes, showing off your prowess on the soccer field.

COOPER: Me and David Beckham.

HILL: Yes. Just you and Beck, hanging out.

COOPER: (INAUDIBLE) like an idiot.

HILL: Nice. You came close there, I think.

COOPER: Oh, very close. Yes, there we go. There's the roll. There we go. OK, thank you for that.

HILL: Yes. A fine showing. If this TV thing doesn't work out, maybe --

COOPER: Yes. You can see all the most recent shots in our website at cnn.com/360. And hopefully not that one.

Coming up at the top of the hour. My in-depth interview with Scott McClellan, including a look behind the scenes in how he says the White House got the wrong in Katrina if truth speaks to history, probably never heard before. "Keeping Them Honest," next on "360."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Tonight, lobbying down to the wire. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama about to have the issue of Florida and Michigan settled, perhaps once and for all. We got the "Raw Politics" on that tonight. But we begin with former White House spokesman Scott McClellan, an interview with him like none you've seen before.

McClellan responding to a new wave of more direct and detailed attacks from the White House today and its supporters, attacks that he says are just spin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: When Americans see you at the podium or Dana Perino or anybody speaking from the White House podium, should they believe what they say. Do you believe what the White House spokesperson says? SCOTT MCCLELLAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPOKESPERSON: Well, I don't think you can put a blanket over everything and say, you know, all of it is that way.

COOPER: Should people look at everything that comes out of the White House podium with a grain of salt?

MCCLELLAN: Unfortunately, I think too many people today do look at Washington and say all they're giving us is spin and manipulation. And they're not working together to get things done.

COOPER: I got it after reading the book. It makes me, I mean, not only triple or double think, but doubt everything that it is being said from any politician or any spokesman whatsoever.

Well, yes. I'm think I always have. But if I'm a citizen I suddenly think these people are just lying.