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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

President Obama Pushes Stimulus Bill; Obama's Message to Muslim World Received?

Aired January 27, 2009 - 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: We're just hours away from a vote on a plan to rescue the economy, arm-twisting going late into the late at the White House, and President Obama today on the Hill trying again to bring Republicans on board.

Tonight: what he's offering, what he's not giving up, and what it means to your money and your future.

Also ahead in this hour, did the president's message to the Muslim world get through? Late reaction in the Middle East to Mr. Obama's interview on Arab television, his first as president.

Also tonight, eight is enough, more than enough -- a birth that will take your breath away, six boys, two girls, 46 doctors to deliver them, one mother, octuplets. See what it takes to concede and bring that many babies into the world at once.

And new developments in the alleged plot to extort money from the Travolta tragedy in the wake of their tragedy. Will John Travolta now have to take the witness stand? The details ahead.

We begin, though, with late-night lobbying at the White House and President Obama on the Hill this morning stumping for Republican votes he probably doesn't need to pass his economic plan tomorrow.

However, they are votes during the campaign that he promised to seek. He promised to move the country beyond old-style partisan politics. The stakes, he says, are simply too high, another day of big-name companies cutting jobs. So, for a second time since Friday, he sat down with members of the GOP leadership, in part to play let's make a deal, but also a bit of Texas hold 'em.

The "Raw Politics" tonight from Ed Henry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Obama headed to Capitol Hill, taking the fight for his stimulus plan to Republicans on their turf to prove he's reaching out to them.

And everyone emerged congratulating each other.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a wonderful exchange of ideas. And I continue to be optimistic about our ability to get this recovery package done. REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I think our members enjoyed the conversation. I think the president enjoyed the conversation.

REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS (R), WASHINGTON: We are inspired and challenged to work harder.

HENRY: Despite all the kumbaya, however, Congress was not actually inspired enough to make progress on solving the crisis. And the president didn't appear to move any Republicans to support his plan.

But, then again, some of the Republican leaders privately urged colleagues to vote against the bill before the president even arrived to start lobbying. And they didn't sound too optimistic after meeting with him.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: So much of the spending that is in the bill, frankly, although may be laudable in and of itself, has no place in the stimulus bill.

HENRY: Sources inside first meeting say House Republicans pressed Mr. Obama not to give tax cuts to people who make too little money to pay income taxes. But the president would not budge, saying, "Feel free to whack me over the head because I probably will not compromise on that part."

Nevertheless, on his way to meet with Senate Republicans, the president suggested he was ready to work with the other side.

OBAMA: I don't expect 100 percent agreement from my Republican colleagues, but I do hope that we can all put politics aside and do the American people's business right now.

HENRY: The first test comes Wednesday, when the House votes on Mr. Obama's plan. And, at this point, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs is hedging on whether the president will even get a dozen Republican votes.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We will take what we can get tomorrow. I think the most important thing about tomorrow is keeping this process going.

HENRY: In a strange twist, there's a provision that would prevent any money given to Illinois from being handled by Governor Rod Blagojevich, whose impeachment trial is playing out this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")

GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), ILLINOIS: This is a political witch- hunt that is happening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: Apparently, there's at least one part of the stimulus bill that unites the president and Republicans after all. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Ed, we're hearing about late-night meetings at the White House, last-minute concessions to get it passed. What do you know?

HENRY: Well, Anderson, there was a late-night meeting this evening here at the White House with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, trying to twist some arms among Republican lawmakers -- no signs it changed any minds, however.

And in terms of the last-minute wheeling and dealing, my colleague Dana Bash is reporting on Capitol Hill that in fact Democrats have now dropped this controversial provision, $200 million for new sod on the National Mall. Republicans had been picking away at that, second night in a row the Democrats drop a controversial provision.

But, in the end, it's most likely that this will pass tomorrow in the House with mostly Democratic votes, very few Republican votes. But then Barack Obama will hit the lobbying again later in the week and hope that when it gets to the Senate, he can get more Republicans on board. They want this to be bipartisan. Right now, it's not -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Ed Henry, thanks.

Promises or not on the president's part, it sure sounds like the usual partisan divide over spending and taxes. What gets lost in the rhetoric sometimes is what actually may work, what delivers more economic bang for the buck, and, vitally, how quickly.

Tonight, let's put politics aside and look at the facts.

Ali Velshi joins us now live.

Ali, a new CNN poll says most Americans think tax cuts will help the economy. Republicans say they want more tax cuts. How much do tax cuts figure into this overall plan?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, of the overall plan, $825 billion, about a third of it is tax cuts. About two-thirds is spending.

Many of those tax cuts go to business to encourage hiring, to allow businesses to write off more expenses. But a very small portion of it actually goes to individuals. Let's talk about that. Let's talk about the tax cuts.

There's a provision here that the administration says will affect 95 percent of working Americans. You will remember that from the campaign. That's an expression they like to use. So, we don't know what the cutoff is, but they say 95 percent of working Americans will get either $500 for an individual or $1,000 for a family.

That's not really a traditional tax cut, because it's not a reduction in the percentage you pay. It's not over time. It feels more like a stimulus, like those checks from last year. So, that's what -- that's the personal side of the tax cuts in this stimulus bill. Still, that's a lot of money -- Anderson.

COOPER: So, in addition to $275 billion in tax cuts, the plan also included an expansion of programs like food stamps, unemployment. Is that really expected to stimulate the economy, or is that just helping people get by?

VELSHI: Well, let's take a look at a mix of things that will go into sort of the spending part of it, or you might think it's putting cash into -- into working families' pockets. That's how the administration likes to talk about it.

There's a $450 increase immediately in emergency Social Security benefits for the disabled, for the elderly, and people like that. There's an increase of $25 a week in unemployment benefits, and an extension of COBRA eligibility, an extension of emergency unemployment until December 2009.

There's a child tax credit extension. It will allow the families of 16 million more children to benefit from the child tax credit. We talked about the 95 percent of Americans that the administration says will benefit from the $500 to $1,000 tax cut. And there is a food stamp extension for 30 million Americans.

Now, you're right, Anderson, that food stamps, unemployment benefits, when you're dealing with that kind of thing, when you're getting unemployment money or food stamps, it doesn't tend to be stimulative to give people more of that. That's more to do with the number of people we have talked about who are unemployed, out of their homes, things like that. That's just to help them get along.

So, some of these things will be stimulative, meaning will people have that money, they will consider it extra money, and they might spend it, stimulating the economy. Some of it is just because of the number of people in this country who are suffering as much as they are -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, a lot of people suffering tonight.

Ali Velshi, thanks.

We're talking dollars and strategy with our pane next. Ed Rollins, David Gergen, and Roland Martin join us.

You can join the live chat happening now at AC360.com and check out our Webcasts during the breaks.

Also ahead in this hour, just when you thought Sarah Palin was gone away to Alaska, she's back, and she might be asking you for some money. We will tell you why and what it means for her ambitions in 2012.

Later, Governor Rod Blagojevich, he refuses to do his Nixon impersonation, but wait until you hear him on those secret tape recordings. They were played in his impeachment trial today. You can hear them tonight.

And developments, as we mentioned, in the alleged extortion plot against the Travolta family. It could land John Travolta on the witness stand -- that and more ahead on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: But the key right now is to make sure that we keep politics to a minimum. There are some legitimate philosophical differences with parts of my plan that the Republicans have and I respect that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Those differences likely to be sharper tomorrow when the House votes on a stimulus package, on the Senate side, not quite so partisan, nearly a dozen Republican senators coming from states that went for Mr. Obama in the election. About the same number of Democrats represent red states.

Let's talk strategy with GOP strategist Ed Rollins, and political analyst David Gergen, and Roland Martin as well.

David, the president has already met with congressional Republicans last week at the White House. What does it tell you that, not only did he meet with them again today, but that he actually went up to the hill?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It says, Anderson, he's doing today what he did last night with that Arab television interview.

And that is, he is trying to set a new tone in Washington and in the way Washington deals with the world. I think it was very smart. Clearly, this White House is disappointed that it's not attracting more Republican votes. They had hoped to get 80 votes in total in the Senate, two dozen Republicans or so. They are going to come nowhere close to that.

But I do think they are building up some goodwill and taking some of the toxicity out of the dialogue in Washington, so that it's calmer. I think it will be reassuring to the country and create more confidence.

I don't think he is going to get many votes out of this, but I do think it helps to change the tone.

COOPER: Ed, do you agree with that?

(CROSSTALK)

ED ROLLINS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I would agree totally. I mean, I think the dialogue very important. There are very big philosophical differences. And this bill was drafted really by the -- not by the White House or by the Treasury Department. It was really drafted by the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, who is a Democrat. And he locked the Republicans out of the process.

I think the president has made a big effort here. But, at the end of the day, there's big philosophical differences. And I think he doesn't need the votes in the end. He's not going to get them. And they're not going to vote just -- you know, Biden never voted for anything for Reagan or Bush. And I think, to a certain extent, Obama over the last several years never voted for anything for Bush.

It's not something that is brand-new. I think the tone-down on the rhetoric, which is important, is positive,

COOPER: Roland, it's interesting to see him going to the Hill talking to Republicans, twice House Republicans. You compare that to George Bush, who clearly did not have as good a relationship with Capitol Hill from the get-go, and I'm wondering if this is the fact that President Obama comes from the Senate, as opposed to being a governor of a state.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, Anderson, President Bush wouldn't even talk to the members of his own party, if you really think about it. They often complained that he was running roughshod.

And so it is a smart move on his part. Look, what he is doing, he is pushing Congress into a corner. He is forcing the Republicans to say what you're for and what you're against. We always knew from the get-go there are philosophical differences between President Obama and the Republican counterparts.

What he is saying is, I am going to talk to you. I will sit down with you. And where we agree, we agree. You got a better idea, bring it to me. But he's telling the American people, I'm trying to do my part. They also must play ball with me.

COOPER: Ed, how is it going to play out, though, in a couple days? There's the House vote, then the Senate vote.

ROLLINS: There's a House vote. And, obviously, there will be differences in the two bills, and they will go to conference. And then there will be a conference report that they will vote on. So, there's probably three or four votes to go here.

At the end of the day, he will have sufficient votes to get it passed. The problem with this bill is, it's very vague. And it's sort of, give me a check for $850 billions, and let me fill in the details later. And I think that's what some of the -- they have knocked a couple of the items that are more outrageous out the last couple days, but there will be a lot more outrageous items put in later on by members.

The president has promised there won't be any earmarks. At the end of the day, the appropriators and these guys are going to basically go fight for some of this money in their districts.

COOPER: David, how much of the Republicans in the House are just concerned about election two years from now and their constituents who are upset?

GERGEN: Well, many of these Republicans who are against this are from conservative districts, where there is unhappiness about -- with the bill, how much spending there is.

But I think Ed Rollins is right. There are deep philosophical differences which, in some cases, are non-negotiable. So, you have got people on both sides.

But I can't tell you, Anderson, how different this is from what we have seen in recent years, when there has been so much polarization. If you can create an atmosphere in which people actually sit down together, if this is not just a one-off, it's not a symbolic trip to the Hill, but you actually start sitting down and talking, on foreign policy, there will be areas where they can strike a more bipartisan foreign policy.

That would enormously strengthen American foreign policy overseas. So, there are dividends if they continue to pursue this, even if they don't get the votes this time out.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Anderson, I -- I -- Anderson, I think House Democrats also should be mindful of what's going on here.

They gave the Republicans an opportunity to attack this bill. They need to operate better as -- in terms of handling the people's money. And, so, it's ridiculous, the whole issue with the sod. I don't care what you say. You can tear that apart.

They need to act like grownups and recognize that, if you're going to talk about spending money properly, do it in the right way. Don't give your counterparts an easy way to attack you. It makes no sense. Anybody could have saw that coming.

COOPER: Well, how do they basically, I mean, just throw in as much as they can -- whatever they could find, I mean, the sod thing, the...

(CROSSTALK)

ROLLINS: I mean, that's -- the bottom line is, there's no magic formula here. It's just get money out the door.

And I think the positive thing of the president going up there is, for two hours, he heard questions and answers from the Republicans. He can walk out. And he now knows what their viewpoints are. It's not being translated by Rahm Emanuel or anybody else. He had a good dialogue.

He basically opened himself up to dialogue. So, he knows where the line is drawn. It's not going to move, but, at the end of the day, it's a positive thing...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: David, is there really any, though, guarantee that this -- there is going to be more oversight, there is going to be more transparency, that we're going to know where the money is being spent? What has happened up to now seems pretty atrocious.

GERGEN: I agree with that, absolutely, Anderson.

And I think the White House response has not been adequate in this area. What Barack Obama very much needs now is a Jack Welch-type figure to come in and to run this stimulus program, especially to oversee the spending side, to be tough-minded, to get a strong manager there.

A lot of very good people in this administration -- he does not have a lot of managers. He especially doesn't have someone to manage this stimulus bill, so we don't get a mess we had with the TARP bill, to oversee every project, get the pork out of it, and make sure we don't have a lot of scandals. And he needs a Jack Welch figure to do that.

MARTIN: Wait a minute. Do we need another czar? I mean, my God, I mean, we have more czars, more Cabinet members.

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: Who is going to oversee this, Roland? Who is going to oversee it? Who is going to oversee it and make sure it works?

MARTIN: OK. But what is the purpose of a Cabinet member to hire staff? I mean, to have another czar, I mean, come on. What's their job?

GERGEN: That's -- FDR had to do this on a regular basis in the New Deal, in these public works programs. You need somebody to run these things, and run them well. That's what Harry Hopkins. That's what -- it's what these people around the president do.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Are they talking about having someone like that, David?

GERGEN: I have not heard anything like that, Anderson.

But the symbolic nature of when these things go off the tracks, you need tough players around the president to do it. FDR surrounded himself with two or three people. Harold Ickes' father...

COOPER: Yes.

GERGEN: ... you know, was one of those in the New Deal who was -- who was famous for that.

You need some -- they don't have a lot of people from the business community. I think we're going to get some -- a new commerce secretary tomorrow from the business community. But they need somebody to manage these public works projects.

COOPER: Well...

ROLLINS: It's an $800 billion kitty. The Cabinet officers are going to try and grab pieces of it.

GERGEN: Absolutely.

ROLLINS: Members of Congress are going to try and grab pieces of it. So, someone basically...

COOPER: It's the nature of the beast.

ROLLINS: It's -- disaster's a grab bag.

COOPER: That's the way government works.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Ed Rollins, David Gergen, Roland Martin, thanks for coming on. Appreciate it.

MARTIN: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up: What are these millionaire CEOs thinking? After getting billions in bailout money, why would Citibank plan on picking up a brand-new mega-million-dollar jet? See what happened after a few phone calls from Washington.

Also ahead, a new and revealing interview with former televangelist Ted Haggard. He's talking, but so is a former church volunteer who now claims he had a sexual relationship with Haggard when Haggard was still preaching.

And, later, it has happened before. Look at this. Could you handle octuplets? We will introduce you to the doctor who helped a new mom with a surprise delivery -- when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The very fact that this crisis is largely of our own making means that it is not beyond our ability to solve. Our problems are rooted in past mistakes, not our capacity for future greatness. It will take time, perhaps many years, but we can rebuild that lost trust and confidence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: President Obama at the swearing-in of his new treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner -- that was last night -- the man now in charge of overseeing the $700 financial bailout program funded by, of course, your tax dollars, and facing a growing backlash.

Given the brazen behavior of banks that messed up big-time, but just do not seem to get it, the outrage is not surprising. And it did not help when word got out yesterday that Citigroup, which received $45 billion in bailout money, is planning to spend $45 million on a new corporate jet.

Today, we learned the Treasury Department called Citigroup, gave them a blunt reality check. It seems -- seems to have worked. It's not the only signal coming from Treasury.

Tom Foreman tonight is "Keeping Them Honest."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Citigroup, recipient of 45 billion bailout dollars, now says it will not accept delivery of a new corporate jet, that after the Obama administration called it unacceptable, with taxpayers propping up Citi's finances.

And Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is raising the heat on other firms, too.

TIMOTHY GEITHNER, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Treasury has to be and Treasury will be a source of bold initiative.

FOREMAN: Geithner has unveiled new restrictions for releasing the second half of the $700 billion bailout program called TARP, among them, safeguards to prevent lobbyists influencing the program, no steering of the payments to particular companies by political bosses, and more transparency about where all that money is going and why.

It all comes in the wake of sharp criticism that the previous treasury secretary let too much money out with too few restrictions.

NEIL WEINBERG, "FORBES": And, if we do not have standards of accountability here, we don't have any idea whether that's happening or not. And our money could just as well be wasted as being -- going to a good, useful purpose.

FOREMAN (on camera): If Washington lacked the political will to tighten the reins a few months ago, a new survey by the Associated Press may increase public pressure on Congress and the administration to get tough now.

(voice-over): The AP found, in nine out of 10 banks receiving bailout money, the same executives are in charge who were running the show in 2006, when the troubles began, even though more than 100,000 of their employees have lost their jobs since then.

PATRICIA MURPHY, EDITOR, CITIZENJANEPOLITICS.COM: I think there is the political will and really the political requirement to put strings on any TARP money that goes out the door again, because the American people are sick of it. They are sick of not knowing where all this money went.

FOREMAN: Maybe the Obama team's new plans will help.

But, "Keeping Them Honest," it will be tough. The AP also found, when many banks received their first payout, the first thing they did was increase their lobbying efforts for more.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And, of course, we're paying for those lobbying efforts.

Coming up: Rod Blagojevich in his own words -- what the governor said in wiretapped phone calls played today at his impeachment trial, recordings that prosecutors are calling a smoking gun. We will let you decide.

Also, a clear signal that Sarah Palin has big plans for 2012, or is it? What Sarah Palin is doing now that has a lot of people asking those questions.

And new developments in the alleged extortion case involving actor John Travolta. He was the alleged victim. Now he could be a key witness in court -- details coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "NO BIAS, NO BULL")

GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), ILLINOIS: I want to have every taped conversation of the wiretapped phone involved heard in that process. I am in many ways the anti-Richard Nixon, who worked very hard during Watergate to keep those tapes from being heard. I want every one of them heard, so that the full story could come out.

And I'd like to do it sooner, rather than later, so I can begin the process of clearing my name, because I did not engage in criminal wrongdoing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich continued his media blitz today, on day two of his impeachment trial. While he was talking on TV, Illinois lawmakers were listening to FBI recordings of the governor's wiretapped phone calls.

We will have more on that from Tom Foreman. He joins us again, this time with a 360 news and business bulletin -- Tom.

FOREMAN: Hi, Anderson.

That's right. Governor Blagojevich was absent again, as his Senate impeachment trial continued today. Four snippets of phone calls were played on day two. The prosecutors say the recordings show the governor tried to raise campaign contributions in exchange for signing a horseracing bill, even though no money is actually mentioned. Listen for yourself.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BLAGOJEVICH: If you want me to call him directly, I will, whatever is the best thing. It's -- I'm just a little bit...

LON MONK, LOBBYIST: I think it's better if you do it.

BLAGOJEVICH: OK.

MONK: It's better if you do it, just from a pressure point of view.

BLAGOJEVICH: Yes. Good. I will call him.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Consumer confidence has fallen to an all-time low. Economists at the Conference Board were expecting the index to rise to 39 this month. Instead, it fell to 37.7, the lowest since it was created in 1967.

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has started a political action committee, which will allow her to raise money for and donate cash to candidates for office, including herself, presumably. It's called SarahPAC. And many see it as a sign of a likely 2012 presidential bid.

And author John Updike died today after battling lung cancer. He was regarded as the one of the greatest and most prolific modern American writers, the winner of two Pulitzer Prizes and almost every other literary award that exists. Updike was 76 years old -- Anderson.

COOPER: Sad loss.

Time for our "Beat 360" winners, our daily challenge to viewers to come up with a caption better than one that we can think of for a picture that we put on our blog every today.

Tonight's picture: President Obama after meeting with House Republicans today for two hours, trying to build support for his massive stimulus bill.

Our staff winner tonight is Cate. Her caption: "Anyone who is still not behind my stimulus plan, let's take it out on the court right now."

(BANGING)

COOPER: What was that?

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Our viewer winner is Steve from San Diego. His caption: "You like this tie? Vote for my bailout plan, and it's yours."

Steve, congratulations. Your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way.

Just ahead: President Obama's groundbreaking interview with an Arab news channel -- we played it for you last night almost in its entirety -- a clear move to send a new message to Muslims.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Coming up: what else Mr. Obama said to the Arab world and what people in the Middle East are saying about the interview tonight.

Also ahead: two parents, 46 doctors and nurses, and a supersized surprise in the delivery room. They were expecting a lot of babies, but not eight.

And fallen televangelist Ted Haggard, on the road to redemption, plugging his new documentary, trying to remake his image, but he's not the only one talking. A former church volunteer who claims he had a sexual relationship with Haggard is also speaking out. You will hear from him -- just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can have legitimate disagreements but still be respectful. I cannot respect terrorist organizations that would kill innocent individuals, and we will hunt them down. But to the broader Muslim world, what we are going to be offering is a hand in friendship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: President Obama yesterday in his interview with the Arab news channel, Al Arabiya, his first television interview since taking office. There's no mystery why he chose Al Arabiya. It is a major broadcaster in the Middle East, a chance for Mr. Obama to speak directly to the Muslim world.

He even mentioned his Muslim relatives in Kenya, another first, of course, for U.S. president.

The interview aired as newly-appointed special envoy, George Mitchell, began an eight-day trip in the Middle East. And Mr. Obama used the moment to try to signal a shift in thinking in the White House.

Tonight, we wanted to see how that message is being received. Nic Robertson has that 360 dispatch. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OBAMA: And so what we want to do is to listen.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Listening to the new president, you know he's been listening, too, to Muslims.

OBAMA: I do think that it is impossible for us to think only in terms of the Palestinian Israel conflict and not think in terms of what's happening with Syria or Iran or Lebanon.

ROBERTSON: Why? Because he's responding exactly to what they've been saying. This Saudi prince, a powerful and respected diplomat, I interviewed just days before Obama's interview.

PRINCE TURKI AL FAISAL, FORMER SAUDI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: You have to solve the Palestinian issue as a means of solving other issues, that they're all connected together.

ROBERTSON: Listening could prove one of Obama's biggest assets in the Arab world. This headline in a Dubai newspaper: "The U.S. is not your enemy."

In Saudi Arabia, as in other Muslim nations, his predecessor, George Bush's reputation is for ignoring Muslims.

This couple, typical of young educated Saudis, Obama's Muslim ancestry important to them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obama is a good president and we hope to...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For Americans, Obama, you know, he's an African-American and he has a Muslim, grandfather, I think. It's a new history.

ROBERTSON: It's the potential for changing history, ending 60 years of Palestinian-Israeli conflict, that Arabs are most listening for in Obama's words.

AL FAISAL: I've been encouraged since President Obama's appointment of Senator George Mitchell as his representative in the Middle East. Mitchell comes with a track record of success.

ROBERTSON: In his Al Arabiya interview, Obama played his trump card, listening, again and again. It's his advice for Mitchell, too.

OBAMA: What I told him is start by listening, because all too often, the United States starts by dictating.

ROBERTSON: And it's by listening Obama got himself into this interview with the Saudi news channel in the first place.

Last week, the Saudi King threatened to pull his Mideast peace plan off the table. A few days later, I sat down with Prince Turki. He wanted Obama to know the United States' special relationship with Saudi is in very real danger. AL FAISAL: President Bush, I think, callously and unforgivably, gave Israel the green light to do everything that they wanted to do, without restraint.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON: So the Saudis got what they wanted, that is to be listened to. Their quiet, behind-the-scenes diplomacy hadn't worked so these really public statements got them on Friday last week, President Obama, a phone call to King Abdullah. And then -- then -- then, of course, the interview, Anderson.

COOPER: Nic, what's been the reaction in Israel so far, to the interview?

ROBERTSON: It's interesting, because it's not really getting a lot of play. If you look at the newspapers, they're -- it's -- they're reporting more what Senate -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had to say at her first press conference. They seem to be far more interested that she has said that Israel has the right to defend itself.

And indeed, one newspaper did actually quote what she said about what Barack Obama had said in the interview, saying that this gives an opportunity for Iran to engage in a meaningful way with the international community.

But by and large, they really seem to have ignored -- ignored this very, very important, at least for the Arab world, very important interview, Anderson.

COOPER: Interesting reaction. Nic Robertson, thanks.

Let's dig deeper with national security analyst Peter Bergen and Middle East expert Reza Aslan. He's also the author of "No God But God."

Reza, symbolically, the interview is certainly important. Did Obama, thought, really lay out anything new, any new policy?

REZA ASLAN, AUTHOR, "NO GOD BUT GOD": No. But I don't think he was trying to do so. Actually, with regard to substance, if you really think about it, there was little that Obama said that was different from the kinds of things that George Bush said.

Except for this one thing. When Bush spoke directly to the Arab or Muslim people, which he did often, he did so in very American- centric terms. He talked about freedom and liberty and democracy and those kinds of things, which are all very important and which are all meaningful to that region but which don't really speak to their immediate needs.

If you listen to Obama, what he said when he spoke directly to the people was about poverty and about education. Are your children better than they were before? Are they better under Hamas? And that, I think, is going to resonate much more clearly to the Arab street than the flowery democracy rhetoric of George Bush.

COOPER: Peter, it was interesting, also, to hear Obama speak about al Qaeda in the interview. And I just want to play what he had to say about -- about bin Laden and also Ayman al Zawahiri. Let's play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: You know, I think that, when you look at the rhetoric that they've been using against me, before I even took office...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know, I know.

OBAMA: ... what that tells me is that their ideas are bankrupt. There's no actions that they've taken that say a child in the Muslim world is getting a better education because of them, or has better health care because of them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: It's interesting to hear the president use that language. How is al Qaeda kind of recalibrating itself to deal with President Obama?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM EXPERT: Well, al Qaeda's had a sort of bipartisan disdain for, you know, both sides of the aisle. They used to use pictures of President Clinton for target practice. So it's no surprise that they've also been critiquing for President Obama, even before he was elected president.

COOPER: He sort of presents a unique challenge. I mean, he has Muslim family, as he says in this interview, and he lived in a Muslim country.

BERGEN: Yes, I mean, that is a challenge. But I mean, you know, the hatred for any American politician is such that they're not going to make a really large distinction. I mean, after all, this is a group that wants the, you know, destruction of the state of Israel, to reformulate every aspect of American foreign policy around the Muslim world.

And there's a great deal of bipartisan agreement in the American establishment about support for Israel, presence in Iraq, presence in Afghanistan. A lot of -- there's going to be a lot of continuity between an Obama administration and the Bush administration on a lot of foreign policy issues that al Qaeda holds dear.

COOPER: Reza, what did you think of the language he used to describe al Qaeda's reaction to him?

ASLAN: The thing about al Qaeda is it's only as strong as it is relevant. And I think in this case, over the last, certainly, seven years or so, its strength has come from the fact that it represents the aspiration, the desires of the Arab and Muslim people, who feel under siege by American foreign policy or, in the case of the Palestinians, by Israel. In this particular case, I think what Obama is trying to do is essentially say that al Qaeda is approaching a level of irrelevance and that if we, in the western world can address, immediately, directly, the needs of the Arab people, then they'll stop thinking of al Qaeda as sort of representative of their needs and their desires and aspirations.

COOPER: I just want to play one other bite that we have where he talks about his Muslim roots.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: My job is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world, that the language we use has to be language of respect. I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The largest one.

OBAMA: The largest one, Indonesia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Peter, you and I have spent a fair amount of time in Afghanistan together. How does his message resonate in Afghanistan, especially his talk of sending in more troops?

BERGEN: Well, I was in Afghanistan when Obama was running and did an informal poll of Afghans. And you know, 95 percent of Afghans are enormously happy about Obama, because they think that Obama is going do be tough on Pakistan.

You may remember during the election campaign, President-elect Obama made a number of quite strong statements about taking the war to Pakistan. So as far as Afghans are concerned, they're very happy.

Now, you know, the more troops in Afghanistan, you know, the support for the international presence is weakening, but it's still somewhat there. So I would imagine that Afghans are keeping an open mind for the moment.

COOPER: All right. We're going to have to leave it there. Peter Bergen, Reza Aslan, always good to have you on. Thanks.

Up next, an up-close look, octuplets born, eight babies, in a matter of minutes. We'll bring you an update on them.

They aren't the first octuplets. We actually followed these kids. They were born ten years ago. Tonight, what lies ahead for the new octuplet family.

And later, the Travolta alleged extortion plot. An arrest, a politician resigns. Now, will John Travolta have to take the stand? The latest details, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. KAREN MAPLES, KAISER PERMANENTE MEDICAL GROUP: All babies were delivered vigorous, crying, kicking. Everybody was very excited and, as I say, very prepared for this delivery.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Prepared, yes, not exactly planning on octuplets, though. The eight babies born to a woman in California are just over a day old tonight. The arrival was extremely rare, very risky, truly remarkable. And for mom and dad, a multitude of reasons to smile.

With an up-close look, here's Joe Johns.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. JALIL RIAZI, KAISER PERMANENTE BELLFLOWER MEDICAL CENTER: Her question was, "Really, an eighth baby? How did we miss that baby?"

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The surprise of a lifetime for proud parents of famous and, for now, nameless octuplets, born at a Southern California hospital Monday morning.

The six boys and two girls came into the world after 30 1/2 weeks in the womb, weighing from 1 pound 8 ounces to 3 pounds 4 ounces. From the first to the last, the entire delivery lasted just about five minutes, but it took the care of 46 doctors and nurses over the last seven weeks to get the job done.

DR. HAROLD HENRY, KAISER PERMANENTE BELLFLOWER MEDICAL CENTER: Each nurse approached the delivery table and would indicate her designation. The baby was then handed off and validated, that this was baby A, B, et cetera. And the baby was ultimately taken to the bassinet.

JOHNS: The unidentified mother and father are said to be doing well, and so are the babies, off ventilators and kept in incubators. They could stay in the maternity ward for months. And like other newborns, they're said to be kicking and screaming.

DR. MANDHIR GUPTA, KAISER PERMANENTE BELLFLOWER MEDICAL CENTER: Then we expect anything in multiples, even twins, we expect them to do a lot worse than these babies are doing.

JOHNS: So how rare is this wonder? It's been more than a decade since octuplets entered the world. Back in 1998, a Houston couple had eight babies. One died shortly after birth.

Hospital officials aren't saying if the couple used in vitro fertilization or fertility drugs, but one expert thinks modern science played a role.

DR. BRUCE K. YOUNG, PROFESSOR OF OB/GYN, NYU MEDICAL CENTER: It's very unlikely that this would be a naturally-occurring birth of octuplets, because the chance of that would be about one in 10 billion.

JOHNS: As for the risks to the octuplets in the future, this doctor says we can only wait and see.

YOUNG: When you have a lot of them inside one uterus, they tend to have what's called growth restriction, and that growth restriction makes it harder for them to survive.

JOHNS: Back to the beginning, and one big question: how could they miss that eighth baby? Here's the answer.

MAPLES: Despite the fact that our patient had multiple ultrasounds, we did only detect seven babies. And it's just a matter of positioning. The space is rather limited.

JOHNS: Joe Johns, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Yes. Space is limited to say the least. Unbelievable.

Next on 360, new allegations about Ted Haggard, the one-time evangelical superstar. An interview with a former church member who says he was paid hush money to keep quiet about advances -- advances Haggard made. His words, his story ahead.

Also tonight, the Travolta tragedy. The alleged extortion plot and word that the actor may be called to testify.

And later, "The Shot." Former President Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush like you have never seen them before.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I saw one of the ugliest and angriest women I have ever seen in my entire life. Boy, she was really bad. And -- and she charged my car with a sign.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Can you imagine what they would do to me if I told that joke he told up here?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TED HAGGARD, FORMER EVANGELICAL MINISTER: I am who I am. I'm an evangelical, and I have struggled and continue, from time to time, to struggle with same-sex attraction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Ted Haggard, one time superstar evangelist, trying to describe himself today in a fascinating HBO documentary. It airs Thursday night. The former pastor and father of five talks about his job searches, his betrayals to his followers and his attraction to men.

Haggard will sit down with Oprah Winfrey tomorrow. He'll be Larry King's guest on Thursday.

He's not the only one talking, though. Now, a former church volunteer has come forward and claims he had a sexual relationship with Haggard when he was still a pastor. He also was paid by Haggard's church to keep quiet. We've just gotten the interview in. CNN will play the full interview tomorrow. Here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRANT HAAS, TED HAGGARD'S LATEST ACCUSER: He really thought he was invincible. Because he used to say to me, "You know what, Grant? You can become a man of God, and you can have a little bit of fun on the side."

And I really think he believed that philosophy, that he can do whatever he wants, as long as he's praying and fasting on the side. You know, as long as he was doing God's work, he can have a little bit of fun on the side.

In the church, Ted Haggard was, I mean, God to these people. I really believe a lot of them thought Ted was, you know, the right hand of God and was hearing directly from God. And it was just anything but.

You know, he was the president of the National Evangelical Association. He would talk to reporters. He was on CNN. He was on FOX News. He was just so in the public spotlight. He was talking to President Bush.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The full interview, more on Haggard tomorrow.

Tomorrow -- new developments in the alleged extortion plot against the Travolta family. Tonight, a key figure in the alleged plot. Well, tomorrow a key figure in the alleged plot is going to appear in court for a bail hearing.

With the latest in tonight's "Crime & Punishment" report, here's David Mattingly.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Travolta's efforts to keep private his grief over the death of his son, Jett, may soon falter. E! News reports Travolta may be called to testify in the shocking extortion case unfolding in the Bahamas.

If he is chosen as a witness, the actor could be asked to describe what happened the night the 16-year-old died of a seizure and identify who allegedly tried to profit from the sudden heartbreaking loss. Phone calls may be a key part of the evidence.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, TRU TV: The attorneys for the Travoltas went ahead and played a part of negotiator and secretly wiretapped and taped the conversations that they had with the alleged perpetrators. Oftentimes, it's your own words that will hang you worst.

MATTINGLY: Named in the alleged scheme, this paramedic, who was quoted in the media giving details of the tragedy. He pleaded not guilty to charges of attempting to extort John Travolta and wife Kelly Preston out of millions.

Also charged, a politician in the Bahamas, a former senator whose picture we obtained from the Bahamian Progressive Liberal Party's Web site. She resigned from office but said she would be vindicated when the full story comes out.

How the alleged scheme was supposed to work is still not clear.

BANFIELD: There is some kind of document that could have either publicly embarrassed the Travoltas with regard to, perhaps, what their response was to their son's medical condition at the time of this incident. But you know, people are being very tight-lipped.

MATTINGLY: The "Nassau Guardian" newspaper quotes an assistant police commissioner, Marvin Daines (ph), who says the document is a refusal for emergency medical transport.

(on camera) But Daines (ph) said he did not know if the document was authentic or how it would have possibly been valuable as leverage against the Travoltas in an alleged $25 million extortion plot.

(voice-over) CNN's attempts to contact Bahamian authorities and a Travolta lawyer were not successful. But last week, in a Florida newspaper, the attorney called the alleged plot regrettable in a time of such terrible grief.

David Mattingly, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, we'll let you know what happens tomorrow in court.

Coming up, President Clinton and Bush 41 like you've never seen them before. See what Clinton and Bush 41 said that everyone cracked up about. It's our "Shot," next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I saw one of the ugliest and angriest women I have ever seen in my entire life. Boy, she was really bad. And -- and she charged my car with a sign.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Can you imagine what they would do to me if I told that joke he told up here?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And at the top of the hour, President Obama on Capitol Hill, meeting Republican lawmakers pushing hard for the economic stimulus package. Will he get what he wants tomorrow for the vote? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: All right, Tom. I know you're going to enjoy tonight's "Shot," so let's get to it.

From New Orleans yesterday, I give you the comic stylings of two former presidents making jokes, revealing close encounters with citizens and having some fun. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: One time, we thought we'd outsmarted the crowd. We sent a decoy limousine off in one direction while I snuck out -- in the back entrance. And as we rounded the corner -- I'll never forget it -- I saw one of the ugliest and angriest women I have ever seen in my entire life. Boy, she was really bad. And she charged my car with a sign.

I don't see why the Secret Service let her up that close, right next to the window. "Stay out of my womb."

"No problem, lady."

And -- these things...

CLINTON: You know, he tells jokes that I just couldn't get away with telling. Can you imagine what they would do to me if I told that joke he told up here? Some people can do things other people can't.

Reminds me, you know, of the story of the two dogs who watched kids break-dancing. And one dog said to the other, "You know, if we did that, they'd worm us."

I mean, some guys got it, some guys don't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: He's probably right about that one. We heard the duo of Bush and Clinton will be appearing at the Laugh Shack in Albany. Two shows a night. So...

FOREMAN: yes. Don't forget to tip your waiter.

COOPER: Exactly. Tom, thanks for pitching in tonight.

You can see all the most recent "Shots" on our Web site: AC360.com.

Coming up at the top of the hour, arm twisting, Obama style, on the Hill and late tonight at the White House. Details of the push for Republican votes on tomorrow's stimulus bill.

Also, new details: more massive job cuts ahead on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We're just hours away from a vote on a plan to rescue the economy. The arm-twisting going late into the night as the White House and President Obama today on the Hill, trying again to bring Republicans on board.

Tonight, what he's offering, what he's not giving up, and what it means to your money and your future.