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Stimulus Senate Vote this Week; Cheney Criticizes Obama Administration; Michelle Obama Finding her Focus

Aired February 4, 2009 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, we begin with breaking news in the battle over your money.

On the same day President Obama took action to curb Wall Street pay and protect your tax dollars from bailout abuse he also turned up the heat on Congress telling lawmakers if they don't act now to pass the stimulus plan the result will be catastrophe.

Tonight, we have late word that the president believes he will have the votes he needs to pass the senate stimulus bill by the end of this week.

Ed Henry has been working his sources and joins us now with the breaking news from the White House -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Anderson, today the president had a series of Oval Office meetings with key Senators who will decide the fate of the stimulus package.

We're learning from senators as well as senior administration officials familiar with these meetings that the president was very blunt in these meetings in telling the Senators that he believes that he's on the verge of getting enough votes to pass this stimulus bill. That he's making progress in his meetings with lawmakers, and that he believes he's getting closer to a compromise where some more spending will be cut out of this package to bring along at least some conservative Democrats, some moderate Republicans, as well.

This is all about the president stepping up his own involvement in trying to sell this package. He's had a rough couple of days. He's been playing defense with the Daschle nomination, for example. Tonight he's trying to go back on offense.


HENRY: After some missteps the president tried to seize back the bully pulpit issuing dire warnings about the economy.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A failure to act and act now will turn crisis into a catastrophe. And guarantee a longer recession, a less robust recovery, and a more uncertain future.

HENRY: And targeting Wall Street with a salary cap of $500,000 for officials at companies who get bailout funds. OBAMA: We all need to take responsibility. And this includes executives at major financial firms who turned to the American people hat in hand when they were in trouble even as they paid themselves customary lavish bonuses.

HENRY: Never mind there is no real enforcement mechanism. This is a wildly popular move that's easy. Now comes the hard work of selling the stimulus.

The president is getting more hands-on with his lobbying, delivering a tough, closed-door speech to every Senate Democrat. One lawmaker compared it to a bucket of cold water.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: I think the message was, lean forward. Get on offense. There has been an attempt to undermine this recovery plan by focusing on little, tiny things. Little, bitty, tiny things.

HENRY: But those little bitty tiny spending projects matter to Senators in both parties who are on the fence. Three of them were summoned to the White House for one-on-ones with the president.

Without these moderates onboard the president, cannot get 60 votes to break a filibuster.

SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA: He realizes that some of the pieces of this package need to come out for a variety of reasons not the least of which is it'll take that sort of scrubbing to bring some of the votes onboard to pass the package.

HENRY: The president also reached out by phone to his former rival but John McCain is holding strong on his demand for more spending cuts.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We just lost an election and I'll take the responsibility for that. One of the reasons why Republicans lost the last election is because our base, who are concerned about our stewardship of their tax dollars, believed that we got on a spending spree.

HENRY: Mr. Obama is anxious to get a deal but is signaling he will not give in to Republicans who want to gut huge chunks of spending in favor of more tax cuts.

OBAMA: I reject those theories. And so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change.

HENRY: A not-so-subtle reminder, "I am in charge here," sort of.


COOPER: So Ed, you're saying he believes or you're hearing that he believes he has enough votes by the end of the week or will have enough votes? HENRY: That he's making progress and he was telling these senators behind closed doors that he's pretty dug in on where his tax cuts are. There may be a little bit of tweaks in the Senate to the tax cuts but that's largely going to remain the same.

But that he's willing to compromise more in eliminating some of the spending projects that moderate Republicans, moderate Democrats have been complaining so much about. And that also he is suggesting in these meetings that he's willing to lean a little bit more on Democratic leaders on the Hill.

That's been a big, open question, and how much pressure he put on them to eliminate more of the spending, deal with a small part of the bill that's received so much criticism so he can push forward on the rest.

And so what he's saying behind closed doors is he thinks that by the end of the week he'll have the votes to move this forward. Then he'll go into conference committee between the House and the Senate, work out their differences and the president is saying behind closed doors he believes he's still on track to get this signed into law by President's Day.

So the clock is ticking but tonight he feels optimistic he's going to get this deal done -- Anderson.

COOPER: So there is still room and time I guess before this vote and they still anticipate changing this bill in some way before the vote is actually taken?

HENRY: Absolutely. Because the big vote that we're talking about is going to be on final passage in the Senate but this president knows he's going to have dozens of votes on key amendments in the Senate over the next few days to try to pull things out, put other things in.

But the bottom line is that after all of that back and forth as the president is saying behind closed doors; that he feels he's finally making progress. He's finally getting somewhere and, clearly, this is not over yet by any stretch of the imagination but he's starting to feel that these meetings, some of this lobbying is pushing it forward and that he's making progress. Still got a long road to go, though -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right Ed, thanks for the breaking news from the White House.

It is easy to get lost in all the details and the politics and the back and forth over the stimulus bill. The bottom line though, we're talking about "Your Money, Your Future."

Chief business correspondent Ali Velshi joins me now.

Ali, President Obama now saying he'll have enough votes for the stimulus bill to pass by the end of the week. How do you expect markets to react? ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It all depends on what bill we're talking about. We'll talk about this in a minute but there are about three versions going on, maybe even four depending on how you count it right now. And some of them have a lot more tax breaks; some of them have a lot more spending.

Wall Street is more likely to respond positively to those ones that have more tax breaks than spending. It doesn't mean that's the right thing it just means that's what Wall Street investors might like more of.

I should tell you something, there is something very important about this week. Anderson, you remember last week we are reporting about job losses; tens of thousands every day, in some cases 70,000 last Monday.

We have a very serious problem. On Friday we're going to get the first jobs report, the first employment report for 2009; the January employment report. We are going to see a loss of probably more than 500,000 jobs and that is going to add urgency to this whole issue of what needs to be done for the stimulus.

So again, two days is a long way to go. It really all depends on what is in the stimulus bill that President Obama says he's got the votes to get passed in the Senate -- Anderson.

COOPER: Let's talk about the other big story today: the move to limit executive pay to $500,000 on these bailed out companies. How would that actually work?

VELSHI: Well, let's talk about what got us here in the first place. Because at the beginning of 2009 we haven't got the full numbers of how much everybody earned in 2008 but for 2007 these are just some of the examples of CEOs and chairmen of major companies that got money from the bailout; that got money from the government.

So the rule now is that if you get a lot of money and not just any money but a lot of money from the government going forward, now we're talking about the second $350 billion of TARP. If you get money from that group of funds, executives not just CEOs but senior executives can't take home more than $500,000 a year in salary.

That's not that they can't get more money than that Anderson, but the bonus would have to be paid in stock that cannot be cashed until after the government has been repaid with interest.

So it's a carrot and a stick. The idea is that the -- I mean, look at this, we're talking about $70 million, $28 million, $27, $24, $22, $20 -- $500,000. But the idea is if you can turn your company around, pay the government back with interest, you can get a bonus after that in the stock of the company -- Anderson.

COOPER: So this isn't just that no one who's, say, at J.P. Morgan can make more than $500,000. You're only talking about senior executives. VELSHI: Senior executives. We don't know how many senior executives. There are some provisions of the administration's new guidelines today that apply to let's say the top 20 executives. It doesn't really apply to the rank and file.

And as you know there are thousands of people in these major companies, Bank of America, Citigroup and companies like that, who earn more than $500,000 in a year. So we're not talking about rank and file here; we're talking about executives.

COOPER: The flipside of this, though, is there are a lot of people who say, "Look, this is unchartered waters. This is government setting salaries and this could be a bad thing."

VELSHI: Yes and a lot of companies are saying that we cannot attract the people who we need now at this very important time in order to actually change the way these companies are run, in order to get them back on track.

The other argument to that, though, Anderson, is exactly where are these people going to go to earn the kind of money that they've been earning? We've seen massive job losses in the financial sector, more than 250,000 jobs lost in 2008; 150,000 at the end of 2007.

So ultimately there is a great demand for jobs and not that much demand for workers. So I don't know if retaining people is going to be the problem that we might have thought it was a year ago.

Ultimately this is a political issue and the president has seen fit to act to quell the outrage that's out there in the public about how much these people are getting.

COOPER: Although retaining some of this top, top talent may be a little bit more difficult. We'll see.

VELSHI: One hope we have, Anderson, is it really separates the cream from everything else. And people come in and say I'm prepared. I've made a lot of money in my life. I'm prepared to work for this $500,000 and the reward that will come when I actually turn this company around and get the government and people of America paid back.

There is something to be said for that. It could be a little bit ingenious.

COOPER: Let's hope they think that way.


COOPER: Ali, thanks.

Let us know what you think about this cap on CEO salaries. If you think it's a good idea or not, join the live chat happening now at And check out Erica Hill's live Web cast during the break.

And just ahead, David Gergen, Ed Rollins and Jamal Simmons weigh in as well on the breaking news. Also ahead tonight, Dick Cheney is back in a startling interview, attacking the Obama administration, warning of new terror attacks and justifying just about everything he did. Hear it for yourself ahead.

Also, Michelle Obama assembles a high-powered team that has already begun pursuing her agenda as first lady. We'll show you how.

Plus this.


KEVIN ALLEN, 911 CALLER: Dude, I'm not even fighting you. I'm not even fighting you.

Help. Help.

This guy's beating me.


COOPER: Truly bizarre 911 call made during an arrest calling the cops on the cops. We'll tell you how that worked out.



TIMOTHY GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY: The executive compensation policies we are announcing today are designed to strengthen the public trust that our financial recovery programs will get credit flowing again and get job creation moving once more.


COOPER: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner earlier today talking about new rules for companies getting bailouts.

Now, the crackdown on CEO salaries is an easy sell in this climate, selling the stimulus plan as you know has been a lot harder.

Tonight though, breaking news on that front, sources telling CNN, in case you missed Ed Henry's report earlier on, that President Obama is now confident he'll have the Senate votes he needs to pass the bill by this week.

But let's talk strategy with our panel: senior political analyst and former presidential adviser David Gergen; Republican strategist and contributor Ed Rollins; and Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons.

So David, you heard Ed's report. What do you make of it? I mean, it sounds like all that talk about we'll still hear good ideas from Republicans and good ideas from Democrats, is that all out the window? Is this all just now about getting this passed?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's all about getting this thing passed, getting the 60 votes, Anderson, so they can shut off any possibility of a filibuster.

Now, look, I think when this unemployment report comes out on Friday showing big loss of jobs, probably well over 500,000 jobs lost, it's going to be almost impossible for Republicans to launch a filibuster and try to bring this thing down.

What the president does want though is to get to a margin of safety and get a margin of comfort, have a few Republicans. It's clear that he's going to be well shy of the 80 votes that he really wanted and he's going to be much closer to 60 it looks like based on the negotiations tonight.

And it doesn't look like, Anderson, there are going to be dramatic changes in the bill from the one that the House passed. There will be some changes but they don't sound dramatic based on what we've heard so far.

COOPER: Ed, is that a mistake?

ED ROLLINS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it's a mistake. Because it's still a junk bill, I mean, he's not fixed the bill and a month from now when the unemployment figures are still high, now it's his game.

He's taken total ownership of this with no guarantee that banks are going to put money out, no guarantees that the mortgage crisis which is how this thing started.

And at the end of the day -- he has not sold it to the American public. Day by day the American public when you look at public opinion polls is having more serious doubts and the Republicans are doing better by standing up to it.

COOPER: Jamal, what about all that talk about holding Democrats' feet to the fire, getting them to cut back on a lot of these things that they put in that weren't necessarily about immediate stimulus or immediate job creation?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Ed said something that was right a second ago. He said Barack Obama is going to bear the ultimate price for whatever happens up or down.

So he ought to be able to get the bill that he wants. We had an election in November. And that election was to choose Barack Obama as the person who's going to help guide the nation to handle these problems. And that's what he's trying to do with this bill.

Now, there are going to be some changes, I imagine, as they go and actually get the bill through the process. But maybe not major as we're hearing tonight but there is going to be something that has to happen in order to get there.

What's interesting to me is that Barack Obama has been flirting and dancing with Republicans ever since he got elected and all the way through the transition and now the first two weeks of his administration. The Republicans have to decide, are they going to just say no to all these flirting that's been going on or are they actually going to get together with Barack Obama and actually do something that's going to help the country?

COOPER: David, had Barack Obama, though, had the president gone about this differently and from day one, and get go got them both you know, maybe I'm naive but gotten Republicans on the Hill and Democrats on the Hill together and then equally tough with both of them saying to Democrats especially, look. This is not a free for all for spending for these programs that you haven't been able to get the last couple years. Wouldn't this be a different story today?

GERGEN: I think looking back, and you know, we have the benefit of hindsight here, had they brought the Republicans in on the House side and had more of a bipartisan bill coming out of the House to begin with and the president had forced that through, he'd be in a stronger position with the country now.

He'd have a bill that would enjoy wider spread support than he now faces. But they made the initial decision to go with the House Democrats and to try to get that unanimous vote, which they came up with but I mean, shut the Republicans out of the process.

Now they're having a hard time getting back to the center with a bill that Republicans can stand up and salute. And I think there is a growing gap between the great, continuing popularity for the president and for the idea of a stimulus package but eroding support for the contents of this particular bill.

And that gap seems to be opening wider and wider, day by day, and the president does not seem to have control at this stage. He needs to get the bill through the Senate this week. He is under a time pressure.

They can't keep negotiating. He has to get a bill done this week if he hopes to have the whole thing done, out of conference, and voted by both chambers by the end of next week.

COOPER: I was -- go ahead.

SIMMONS: You remember that Barack Obama went up to Capitol Hill, he went to the Republican caucus, conference. When was the last time that we ever saw George Bush go up to Capitol Hill and speak in front of the Democratic conference? We hadn't seen that.

He's had them over to the White House and Super Bowl. He's had them over for various other functions. He's really been reaching out to Republicans.

So for them to slap his hand back and say no after all the courting he has been doing I think would start the country to think that these Republicans really don't want to do anything.

ROLLINS: Two Republicans being invited to the Super Bowl party with 20 Democrats is not exactly a fair game. But the bottom line here is you're right.

The president did win, the president didn't talk about a trillion dollar stimulus bill anywhere in the course of his campaign and he's not gone to the country and sold this. And David and I have been involved in, where no Democrats voted for Reagan's bills or a lot of Bush's stuff but you still have to go to the country and build support.

And if you think for four years you're going to basically get by, by saying we won the election. This is what the election was about. You're going to see your numbers erode very quickly.

COOPER: It sounds like politics as usual.


COOPER: David, I saw you shaking your head. I know you want to get in and then we've got to go, David.

GERGEN: Well, just briefly, yes briefly. Jamal, listen. With great music, great reach out but there has not been compromise on the content philosophically and that's -- both Democrats and Republicans are going to have to give way not just Republicans in order to get a compromise.

COOPER: We're going to have to leave it there. Jamal Simmons, Ed Rollins and David Gergen, thanks, a good discussion.

The simple fact is new rules for companies getting bailouts will not wipe out all the excesses on Wall Street. We all know that.

And just ahead, the government loophole that lets companies spend your tax dollars on huge bonuses and you can't get a dime back. How did that loophole get missed? We'll try to find out. "Keeping them Honest."

Plus, that's right, this guy, Joe the Plumber, not really a plumber, the name not really Joe, he's back in the news talking about his political future. He is no longer a war correspondent. Will he run for Office? Should we care? Find out what he thinks of you. You might be surprised.

And an urgent warning for disaster victims in Kentucky and Alabama, FEMA's emergency food kits sent to areas slammed by ice and snow storms; they may be contaminated with salmonella tainted peanut butter. Details coming up.



OBAMA: We don't disparage wealth. We don't begrudge anybody for achieving success. And we certainly believe that success should be rewarded. But what gets people upset, and rightfully so, are executives being rewarded for failure.


COOPER: President Obama today after announcing his plan to limit executive pay to $500,000 for companies receiving bailouts.

We want to update you on the breaking news on the stimulus package. Sources telling us the president is confident the financial rescue bill working its way through the Senate will be passed by the end of the week.

Now, a lot of people of course, have been outraged by the big bonuses that Wall Street firms have continued to pay even though they've been failing and had to be bailed out. You'd think the government would have made it possible when they gave that money to take it back if the money was being misspent. Right?

But as you're about to learn that didn't happen. Randi Kaye is "Keeping them Honest."


RANDI KAYE, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Despite what you might think, bonuses on Wall Street are still alive and well. New York financial firms paid out $18.4 billion in bonuses in 2008, an average of $109,000 per employee.

This as the government pumped hundreds of billions of your money into many of these companies to save them.

STEVE ELLIS, TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE: There has been a fundamental failure both at the executive level, the legislative level and certainly the private sector level to manage these TARP funds appropriately.

KAYE: There's been a lot of anger about this. Congress gives failing companies lots of your money and then the companies give big bonuses to themselves. So a lot of people are asking, why can't Congress demand that bonus money be returned?

STANLEY BRAND, FMR. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES GENERAL COUNSEL: Legally I think they're on relatively weak footing because I don't believe the TARP legislation provides explicit authority to do that.

KAYE: He's right. The provision is known as callbacks and it allows the government to get back or call back your money, but callbacks are not in the legislation.

The Treasury Department told us, though, it has specific agreements with the bailed-out companies that allow it to take back bonuses paid to the top five executives only in cases of fraud.

BRAND: Congress was faced with a situation where the secretary of the treasury ran in and said the sky was falling. You have to do this right away. They paid insufficient attention to the fine print and giving themselves the right to impose some conditions on the receipt of this money. KAYE: We know what happened next. In December, for example, even though Merrill Lynch was failing it paid an estimated $4 billion in bonuses just before it was taken over by Bank of America which was already getting a big taxpayer bailout.

The same Bank of America that just threw a big Super Bowl party outside the stadium. The bank won't say how much it spent on the event but insists it was part of a contract with the NFL and was, quote, "a business proposition."

Morgan Stanley also received federal bailout money, $10 billion of it. It threw a three-day bash for clients at a five-star resort in Palm Beach the week before the Super Bowl.

TOM SCHATZ, CITIZENS AGAINST GOVERNMENT WASTE: If the money is not used to advance the purposes of restoring faith in the economy and lending money, these banks should be paying it back.

KAYE: As for calling back bonuses few think taking Wall Street to court for past extravaganzas would do the government much good. It may just mean a long legal battle with little payoff.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Randi Kaye, "Keeping them Honest."

Next, Dick Cheney has words for President Obama. Did you hear this interview?

He says the new president's policies could lead to another attack on America and some of what he accuses the Obama administration of is frankly stunning. You'll hear Cheney's charges. And national security analyst Peter Bergen and David Gergen, respond.

Then, what really caused that US Airways flight to land in the Hudson. A new report out today.

And Michael Phelps speaking out for the first time since being caught smoking pot. How is he taking the heat? And will he be charged with a crime? When 360 continues.



COOPER: I've noticed you don't use the term "war on terror," I think I read an article that you've only used it once since inauguration. Is that conscious -- is there something about that term you find objectionable or not useful?

OBAMA: I think it is very important for us to recognize that we have a battle or a war against some terrorist organizations. But that those organizations aren't representative of a broader Arab community, Muslim community. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: I don't think Dick Cheney is going to like that answer. From my interview yesterday with President Obama who doesn't like to use the term "war on terror."

Dick Cheney does. Tonight, two weeks after leaving office the former vice president has unleashed a chilling warning for the country and the commander-in-chief.

Cheney says there is a high probability that al Qaeda will attempt a catastrophic attack against the U.S., one far greater than 9/11. He also defends Guantanamo Bay, domestic spying, water boarding, and just about everything else he sanctioned for the last eight years.

Tom Foreman has the interview right now.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Even in the bare-knuckled world of Washington this was a remarkably sharp attack by the former vice president. The plan to close the prison camp at Guantanamo amid complaints about human rights a clear sore point in his interview with

DICK CHENEY, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When we get people who are more concerned about the -- let me think carefully how I describe this -- but more concerned with reading the rights to an Al Qaeda terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do everything they can to kill Americans, then I worry.

Whether or not they can pull it off depends in part upon us and what kind of policies we put in place and whether or not we're prepared to do what we need to do.

FOREMAN: Even before President Obama took office, Cheney defended the treatment of terror suspects under President Bush. And now with Obama condemning torture and reversing many Bush policies, Cheney is insisting --

CHENEY: If it hadn't been for what we did with respect to terrorist surveillance program or enhanced interrogation techniques for high value detainees and the Patriot Act and so forth, then we would have been attacked again.

FOREMAN: Not only that, he says, time will prove it.

JOHN HARRIS, POLITICO: He says that once the files are opened people will be able to see the Bush administration policies, policies that he is closely linked with, those policies averted attacks.

FOREMAN (on camera): Still, the attack Washington is buzzing about right now is this one. Top former officials rarely have such harsh words for a new president and almost never so soon. (voice-over) But Dick Cheney made it clear long ago the opinions of others don't bother him much and the Obama administration has not responded.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Let's dig deeper with national security analyst Peter Bergen and senior political analyst David Gergen who joins us again.

David, is this just bad form for this vice president to do this?

GERGEN: Well, by the way, Anderson, before we start, on your AC360 blog site tonight the opinions are running 99-1 I would say in favor of the president cracking down on executive pay.

On Dick Cheney, listen. It is unusual. Some will call it bad form. But I think Dick Cheney sees that -- look, he's had some sharp elbows to the ribs here in the last couple of weeks from the Obama administration, who have been castigating the policies of the Bush administration.

He almost sees this in Churchillian terms that he's happy to be the lone voice taking all this criticism if he in effect saves the country from what he thinks is a terrible U-turn in American policy in Guantanamo and torture. He does think, bottom line that, those policies -- condemn them if you will -- have also spared us from attack.

So at base here, you know, there's a lot of talk in Washington about the sharpness of the attacks on both sides but there are deep philosophical differences between these two parties.

COOPER: It's interesting though, Peter. I mean, some of the things that he says, he said at one point that people in the Obama administration, you know, feel that it's okay to just talk nice to terrorists and they'll go away. I don't think I know of anyone in the Obama administration who actually believes that.

What do you make of his justifications of the terror surveillance program, enhanced interrogation techniques as he called them; others would call them torture, water boarding, among others, the Patriot Act. Are these valid assertions that this kept America safe?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think elements of the Patriot Act for instance bringing down the wall between law enforcement and intelligence gatherers was very useful. Setting up the National Counterterrorism Center with the recommendation of the 9/11 commission which was, after all, something the Bush administration fought for a year not to have. That's a place where there is a fusion of all the different elements of government going after terrorists.

But I think it is very much an open question whether coercive interrogations made us safer. Former Vice President Cheney is essentially saying trust us. You know, whatever these files will be opened you'll finally realize how you were kept safe. I am naturally skeptical of those sorts of claims.

COOPER: Is there also any figure on how many terrorists or potential terrorists were created by the war in Iraq?

BERGEN: That's an interesting question. I mean, a study that I did with a colleague at New York University, we found that after the Iraq war for the first three years after the invasion that the actual number of jihadist terrorist attacks around the world went up sevenfold. And even if you took away Iraq and Afghanistan from that equation you still had a 33 percent rise.

We weren't making the case that the Iraq war had caused all the terrorist attacks but certainly it is the case that the Iraq war tended to create more terrorists.

COOPER: David, I want to play just for our viewers another clip from this interview.


CHENEY: I think there's a challenge there for the Obama administration. Whether or not they take the time to understand what we did and why we did it and how we did it before they run off and start taking down programs that I think are essential to the security of the nation.


COOPER: It is fascinating hearing him. I mean, there is a certain level of arrogance that if somebody doesn't agree with him it's that they're not smart or they don't understand the argument.

COOPER: Yes, there is. I think this is exactly the point Peter was making. When you're outside the national security net and you don't have access. People on the inside say basically if you knew what I knew you'd know how right I was. You know, there's no way you can really argue with that.

I do think that where I think the vice president was unfair to President Obama was in essentially leveling a charge that he's closing down Guantanamo willy-nilly and not taking time to understand this. In fact what President Obama has done is said, "We're going to close down Guantanamo but we're going to take up to a year to figure out how to do this safely and protect ourselves from terrorism."

COOPER: He also says that the thing about Guantanamo -- that it's the hard-core people -- it's the same thing that these last 200 are the hard core. Frankly that's what they said about the hundreds who were there before that and many of them turned out to be not so hard core.

He also, Peter, uses figures on recidivism rate from Guantanamo and says it's 11 percent or 12 percent. Secretary Gates last week I think put the figure at four percent to five percent. Whose numbers are accurate?

BERGEN: Well, the numbers that former Vice President Cheney is using is the number of 61 that have returned to the battlefield, which is a Department of Defense number. But when you actually pass those numbers, only 36 percent of them are suspected to have returned to the battlefield. Returning to the battlefield could be involved meaning getting involved in propaganda activities against the United States rather than actual terrorism.

I think the Department of Defense needs to do a better job of explaining who the people they really determined who have returned to the battlefield so we have better numbers. Right now that 11 percent number I think is highly debatable. The number that I would be comfortable with would be more like four percent or five percent.

But, Anderson, the news that the Saudis have announced that 11 people were in Guantanamo have gone through their re-education program and are now released and now conduct terrorist activities in other countries potentially is a potential problem for the Obama administration going forward on this issue because it seems that the Saudi program which was sort of the gold standard here has been a little more leaky than the Saudis had initially said.

COOPER: And that's certainly terrifying, indeed. We're going to have to leave it there. Peter Bergen, David Gergen as well thanks very much.

Guess who wanted a career in politics? That's right, Joe the Plumber. Apparently being a correspondent wasn't that much fun. We're going to tell you what he had said. I'm not sure why we're going to tell you. I'm not sure why we're even still putting him on TV but it's sort of -- I don't know. Why not?

Later, Michelle Obama's inner circle. We'll tell you who she has assembled around her and what her top priorities are as first lady.

Caught on tape: this man angry at cops. Who does he call? You'll want to see this.


ALLEN: I'm being dragged out of my car. This is ridiculous. I'm being assaulted.

He's yelling at me and grabbing me. And he has maced me once, OK?

This is not cool.




MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: In addition to meeting you all here at these agencies, I'm taking time out as well as Barack to get to know the community that we're in. We're going to be visiting schools and neighborhoods throughout this area because Barack and I always believed that investing in the community that you live in first and foremost is critical.


COOPER: Michelle Obama making the rounds in Washington. Tonight, an up close look at the team helping the first lady shape her agenda.

But first Erica Hill joins us with the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, confirmation today that a bird strike did force that US Airways flight to make an emergency landing in New York's Hudson River last month. The National Transportation Safety Board found bird remains in both engines. All 155 onboard of course did survive.

FEMA tonight warning emergency food kits recently distributed may include peanut butter contaminated with salmonella. Those meals were sent to Kentucky and Alabama in the wake of the severe snow and ice storms there. No word yet on whether or not anyone has become sick from eating the peanut butter packets.

Michael Phelps making his first public comments today about the now infamous photo of him smoking a marijuana pipe. The Olympic champion speaking outside the pool where he trains, telling the AP, quote, "It's something I'm going to have to live with and something I'll have to grow from."

And Samuel Wurzelbacher, also known as "Joe the Plumber" back from his war reporting, now moving on to discussing his political future after he spent some time on Capitol Hill giving advice to Republicans. Oh, yes. And as for whether he'll run for office he says not until his sons grow up adding, quote, "I don't know if the American public deserves me."


HILL: Yes.

COOPER: That's quite a quote there.

HILL: It is.

COOPER: For a guy who may be running for office.

HILL: It's amazing that the 15 minutes aren't up. Somehow I thought they'd run out long ago.

COOPER: I thought they were up long ago, yes. Like a train wreck. Sort of, you just, slow down and watch a little bit. Anyway, yes. What do you do? What are you going to do?

HILL: We move on, that's what we do.

COOPER: We do. Yes we do.

All right. A lot ahead.

Time now for our "Beat 360" winners, our daily challenge to viewers, a chance to show up our staffers by coming up with a better caption for the picture we post on our blog every day. Tonight's picture: A tourist pauses to look at monkeys in the road by a national park in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Our staff winner tonight, Ed Henry. Ed Henry won. The caption, "Pakistani officials continue to insist the checkpoints along the Afghan-Pakistan border are under intense, 24-hour surveillance."

Wow. Good one.

HILL: Oh, yes.

COOPER: Our viewer winner is Sandra from Decatur, Alabama. Her caption: "The search for Bin Laden continues as especially trained undercover CIA operatives search vehicles in Pakistan." Sandra, your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way. Kind of similar ones but --

HILL: Clearly there was a theme here.

There weren't any monkeys guarding the Oval Office yesterday, right?


HILL: Like that was all very high-tech security.

COOPER: All very high-tech security. Security seemed very, very tight. Yes.

HILL: Any inside details?

COOPER: You know, it was cool. I'd never been inside the Oval Office like that.

HILL: Never? Really?

COOPER: No and everything -- the White House is a lot smaller than I anticipated although the press area is like a little --

HILL: Like a closet?

COOPER: Yes. It's a little like a rabbit warren of little offices. And the immediate area right outside the Oval Office, not where the assistants sit but sort of outside that where kind of waiting area -- I have to say it's a little worn. It could use like a new carpet.

HILL: It needs an update? Really?

COOPER: Yes. I remember reading Barack Obama's account of the first time he went to the White House.

HILL: Right.

COOPER: When he was in the Senate. And it rings very true. I think he said it was sort of well-worn and it definitely --

HILL: Yes he wrote about that in his book. It's funny because my impression of the White House is everything I've seen on "The West Wing."


HILL: So I imagine that it's going to look exactly like "The West Wing."

COOPER: It's not that crisp and sharp, not at all.

HILL: Interesting. Not the same as "24" either then.


Up next, the first lady assembles her team.

You can hear more on my blog, I blogged about it.

The latest from Michelle Obama's mission: We'll take you behind the scenes and introduce you to her inner circle.

And later, a 911 call to remember: A motorist gets into a scuffle with a state trooper. You won't believe who he calls for help.



M. OBAMA: Trying to visit all the agencies here to say a few things. One, to say hello. I want to learn, listen, know what's going on from you.


COOPER: Michelle Obama continuing her tour of Washington. While the first lady has suggested in the past what some of her priorities might be, working to support military families for example, a lot of her public platform is still coming into focus.

Tonight though, we know more about the team working with her. Erica Hill has an up close look on how the first lady is finding her focus.


HILL (voice-over): Michelle Obama is on day three of her first full-fledged tour as first lady. Today's stop: the Department of Housing and Urban Development. For all the talk of her husband's rock-star status, Mrs. Obama can also pack a room.

M. OBAMA: Barack and I always believed that investing in the community that you live in first and foremost is critical. And for the people here in this agency, we are now your neighbors.

HILL: Some 600 HUD employees jamming into the auditorium today to hear that message, cell phone cameras at the ready.

STACY CORDERY, NATIONAL FIRST LADIES LIBRARY: I think jumping in right away, putting her staff together, these things signal to us as Americans that she's interested, that she cares. And that she will be a viable presence in the White House.

HILL: And that the first lady's office tells CNN is the goal of the agency tour, which was Mrs. Obama's idea.

M. OBAMA: My task here is to say, "Thank you and roll up your sleeves because we have a lot of work to do."

HILL: Helping to make that happen, a staff of 20, many with lengthy political resumes, considered to be public policy experts.

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: What a first lady says and does can have political consequences. So you want people with good antenna, who understand what a first lady should do and maybe also what she shouldn't do to be in charge.

HILL: Chief of staff Jackie Norris was instrumental in President Obama's Iowa caucus win and also worked in Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack 1998 gubernatorial campaign.

Jocelyn Frey comes to the East Wing from the National Partnership for Women and Families where she focused on employment and gender discrimination. Just last Thursday, in one of her first official White House events, Mrs. Obama celebrated the new equal pay law.

M. OBAMA: She knew unfairness when she saw it and was willing to do something about it.

HILL: While most experts agree it is far too soon to compare Mrs. Obama to other first ladies, they do see some similarities.

CORDERY: One of the first things Mrs. Roosevelt did was to say to Americans, "Why don't you write me? Tell me all your problems. Let us know what, how we can help you." And Mrs. Obama seems to be doing the same thing.

HILL: And despite her mentioning the stimulus package --

M. OBAMA: The Department of Housing and Urban Development is going to play a critical role in implementing elements of the economic recovery and reinvestment plan.

HILL: The first lady's office tells CNN her focus is simply getting to know the community.


COOPER: Is she being used as a surrogate at all, though?


I specifically asked. I said, "Look, she mentioned the stimulus package on Monday. She mentioned it today. Is she a surrogate?" And the answer was she is not a surrogate. It just happens to be the center of conversation this week.

COOPER: It's interesting. As we show that video again of her speaking at HUD the guy standing behind her to the left is Sean Donovan. I actually went to high school with him and he spoke for me when I ran for vice president in tenth grade.

HILL: I understand he may have been instrumental in your win.

COOPER: Yes, I won as vice president.

HILL: Maybe they should be happy they have him.

COOPER: He won. He was a senior and I was a sophomore, and I won. That was the end of my political career, one term.

HILL: Really? That was it?

COOPER: Yes, it didn't go any further.

HILL: Because he graduated and he couldn't help you?

COOPER: David Gold was president.

HILL: Where is David Gold now?

COOPER: I don't know. I'm sure he's somewhere.

HILL: Maybe he's watching.

COOPER: I'm sure he's gone on to bigger and better things.

Erica, thanks.

Up next, a bizarre 911 call: A guy stopped by police for speeding, calls the police for help. Listen.


ALLEN: Dude, I'm not even fighting you. I'm not even fighting you.

Help. Help. This guy is beating me.


COOPER: How this all ended up, coming up.

Also tonight, the latest twist on the Christian Bale scream fest, it's now something you can dance to. We put our floor crew to the test.

And at the top of the hour, breaking news: Sources saying President Obama expects the stimulus bill will get Senate approval by the end of this week. Details ahead.



ALLEN: I'm going to hold the phone as long as I can.

Dude, I'm not even fighting you. I'm not even fighting you.

911 DISPATCHER: OK, sir, you need to listen to what the trooper's saying.


COOPER: Just a taste of the strange 911 call between the police and a guy fighting with the police. Wait until you hear what else he had to say. This happened on Saturday in Florida. The encounter was with a state trooper. And lucky for us it was recorded on tape. Jeanne Moos has the story.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So there you are waving your arms around, being wrestled to the ground by a highway patrol officer. Who are you going to call?

ALLEN: This is crazy. This is insane.

MOOS: Kevin Allen called the police on the police.

ALLEN: I'm being dragged out of my car. This is ridiculous. I'm being assaulted.

He's yelling at me and grabbing me. And he has maced me once, OK? This is not cool.

MOOS: After being stopped for speeding on a 55-mile-per-hour interstate, Allen pulled his cell phone on a Florida highway patrolman and dialed 911.

ALLEN: Get Channel 2, Channel 5, Fox 35, all of them down here.

MOOS (on camera): Police say that Allen passed a marked police car, that he was doing 72 miles an hour. That when they pulled him over, he refused to hand over his license and registration.

SGT. KIM MILLER, FLORIDA HIGHWAY PATROL: He told the troopers afterwards that it was a matter of principle. That he felt he did nothing wrong. And therefore he decided to break the law and batter a law enforcement officer.

MOOS (voice-over): Allen thought the officer was battering him.

ALLEN: I'm going to hold the phone as long as I can.

Dude, I'm not even fighting you. I'm not even fighting you.

911 DISPATCHER: OK, sir, you need to listen to what the trooper's saying.

MOOS: Hey, now we're all listening, thanks to Allen's cell phone --

ALLEN: Help. Help. This guy's beating me.

MOOS: Allen was charged with resisting arrest and battery on an officer. He was released on $2,700 bail.

(on camera): Now there is something odder calling the police on the police. That's when police call police on themselves.

(voice-over): Current TV made an animated cartoon out of this classic 911 call from a few years back. A Dearborn, Michigan policeman called for help saying he and his wife had overdosed.

911 DISPATCHER: Overdosed on what?


MOOS: Remember, this is a real 911 call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please come. I think we're dying.

911 DISPATCHER: OK, we're on our way. How much did you guys have?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know, we made brownies and I think we're dead. I really do.

MOOS: He didn't die but his career as a police officer did when he resigned.

We may be in the age of the cell phone but that won't necessarily keep you out of a cell.

ALLEN: Get off of me!

MOOS: The question remains -- when you get busted.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Amazing.

Up next, our shot, Batman goes berserk, volume three. The latest twist on Christian Bale's rant. It's now a dance remix and it's quite catchy. This, I guess, is why they invented YouTube.



COOPER: Time for "The Shot." Tonight, the latest incarnation of the Christian Bale rant. First came the audio of his on set meltdown. That was followed logically by an infectious dance remix put together on YouTube by a smart music producer who calls himself "Revolution".

Now it's happened with that Beyonce song. People are putting themselves on YouTube dancing to the Ballistic Bale Boogie.

Take a look.




COOPER: We can't really play much of it because it's all kind of bleeped out but you get the idea.

HILL: You're really kind of dancing to the bleep there in a way.


I don't know if you could hear it but there was a special guest in the remix, Barbra Streisand is mixed in, some of her bleeped out breakdown was in there, as well.

HILL: Babs making a cameo.

COOPER: That's how that person danced to it. Let's see how the 360 floor crew would deal with it. Let's take a look.

HILL: Oh, yes. I think Mr. YouTube is feeling like maybe he didn't show his best stuff now that he sees our boys.

COOPER: Yes. All right. It's sweeping the Web.

You can see all the most recent shots at our Web site -- you don't need to bleep me.

HILL: I think they need --

COOPER: You don't need to bleep me.

You think they need to what?

HILL: They should go on tour.

COOPER: The 360 floor crew. But then, how would we put the show on?

HILL: That's an excellent point.


That does it for 360. Thanks for watching. I'll see you tomorrow night.

"LARRY KING" starts right now.