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President Obama Offering Big Perks to Big Donors?; U.S. Taxpayer Money Misused in American Samoa?

Aired October 28, 2009 - 22:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: He promised to be different, to break the connection between money and politics in Washington -- tonight, money and politics in Washington, big donors getting White House access. Decide for yourself. Did President Obama break campaign promises, or are critics just playing gotcha? We have got the "Raw Politics."

Also, adding insult to injury -- a piece of American territory gets hammered by nature -- now signs your tax dollars that should be helping people are being wasted. And it gets worse. Turns out they're wasting your money, disaster or not, year in, year out, to the tune of billions of dollars. We're "Keeping Them Honest."

And later, "Crime & Punishment": demanding answers. How could a young woman be brutalized for hours, and nobody stop it? Where were the cops? Where were the cameras? Where was someone -- anyone -- to do the right thing?

First up tonight, though, presidential promises and accountability -- big Democratic donors, many of them friends of President Obama, reportedly getting access to the administration, for golf outings with the president, birthday visits, movie screenings at the White House, even use of the White House bowling alley. Maybe it's news to you the White House has a bowling alley.

Of course, the idea that money buys access in Washington is nothing -- nothing -- new, except, Barack Obama, when running for president, promised to be different, not perfect, but different.

Decide for yourself if President Obama is falling short.

Joe Johns is "Keeping Them Honest" tonight -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: John, you know, for any other recent administration, you might chalk this up to -- as business as usual. Bush did it, for example. Clinton did it. A lot of presidents do it.

But Mr. Obama did promise, as you say, to clean up the muddy waters of Washington. And now "The Washington Times" says people who gave big money to the Democratic Party got some very special access and special treatment from the White House.

The White House is not denying it. We're talking about big parties, allowing VIPs, as you said, to watch movies in the White House movie theater, a pretty good deal. One fund-raiser went golfing with the president in Martha's Vineyard. There are actually pictures of that, I think.

One top donor and his family got to use the bowling alley in the Executive Office Building. And, to be clear, it wasn't all just social stuff either. A top White House official actually flew out to the West Coast to give personal briefings to big donors -- John.

KING: And, so, talk about the money for a minute. How much money are we talking about? How much do you have to give to get access? And where is that money going?

JOHNS: Well, we don't know all of that. We don't know what those people gave, for example, but we do know there are levels of giving to get access.

"The Washington Times" posted online copies of DNC documents that sort of describe their elite donor clubs and the type of activities the donors get access to. To join, for example, you would have to get $30,400 for an individual. That could buy you weekend retreats, private dinners and receptions -- don't know who with -- or $300,000, if that person is a fund-raiser.

And, you know, we're talking about money raised by Democrats as we move into the midterm congressional cycle. We talked to the DNC tonight. They did put out a statement. It says, routinely -- they "routinely identify appropriate opportunities for party supporters to meet their leaders in the administration and the Democratic congressional majority. This is true for donors, grassroots activists and others who are engaged and active on behalf of the party."

So, you try to translate all that political talk there, they're saying, in their view, this is no big deal.

KING: No big deal, say the Democrats, but, Joe, the Republicans see it a little differently, don't they?

JOHNS: That's right, John.

The Republican National Committee chairman, Michael Steele, has sort of jumped all over it, even calling for an investigation. But you have got to be clear here. There's no wrongdoing alleged whatsoever, clearly no claim whatsoever that the administration was, for example, making policy decisions based on donations.

There's one Democrat we talked to who said, look, it's all about image and how it looks for a president who was supposed to clean this town up.

KING: Joe Johns tonight for us "Keeping Them Honest" -- thanks, Joe.

And the "Raw Politics" now and a reminder that, even though Mr. Obama set a pretty high bar for himself, he didn't promise perfection, or, if you're a cynic, he left himself an out. During the campaign, he told reporters he's not pristine, because everyone is swimming in the same muddy waters. The distinction, he said, was that he knows it's muddy and he wants to clean it up. So, how is he doing? I asked from the left and right respectively CNN political contributors Paul Begala and Ed Rollins.


KING: Ed, if you listened to Republicans today, they're voicing all this outrage. People who gave money to the president are getting invited to the White House. They get to go to the Oval Office. They get to use the bowling alley.

Some Democrats would say, duh. This has been going on since the beginning of time.

Ed Rollins, why the outrage?

ED ROLLINS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think the only outrage is, this president promised he would be different, and, obviously, he's not different. This stuff has been going on a long time. It doesn't make it right.

And I think, to a certain extent, President Obama, with the best of intentions, I think, said he would clean it up. I think someone has to be watching out for his image long-term. As -- as Paul will attest to the fund-raisers at the DNC or whatever, or the RNC, will take advantage of any -- to raise money. But someone has to be saying, the president is overdoing it or not overdoing it, whichever the case may be.

KING: And, to that point, Paul, you have been around a president. You've been inside a White House. And Bill Clinton, who you worked for, of course, was skewered for this kind of stuff, the Lincoln Bedroom, the White House coffees.

What is the police force, if you will, inside the White House that says, you know, no, what are we doing here?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's really hard, actually. It really is.

Ed's right. It's been going on since time immemorial. And -- but so, you say, well -- look, this president said, without -- it's never been done before -- my party and his campaign won't take any money from lobbyists or PACs. Well, that, you can look. They have to register with the Federal Election Commission, so you can look it up on the computer. Is Jane Doe a lobbyist? If so, no, she can't give money.

Getting into the White House, I mean, 400,000 people have visited the White House so far this year, and a whole bunch of them gave to Barack Obama. And where do you draw the line? I have given money to Barack Obama. I go down there and have lunch with my friends.

But I'm not a lobbyist. I don't represent any special interests or any of that nonsense. So, it's hard to draw the line. As long as it's this kind of social stuff, though, if they're bowling or playing on Sasha and Malia's swing set, or something, I don't think voters care.

I think what crosses the line is if you start to find quid pro quos on the policy level.


KING: We will continue the conversation next.

And, later, "Keeping Them Honest," see what's happening to your money, maybe that is supposed to be helping disaster survivors on a piece of American territory. It turns out it's the same as what is happening to much of the money you send, disaster or not. We will confront the people accused of wasting it year after year after year.

Also tonight, your money, not to mention your sons and daughters, going to prop up Afghanistan's president, would you feel differently if you knew his brother is an alleged drug lord and on the CIA payroll?

Text us your thoughts and questions for our panel to AC360 or 22360. And, remember, as always, standard rates apply.


KING: We're back with the "Raw Politics" of a campaign promise.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's what I will do in bringing all parties together, not negotiating behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together, and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN, so that the American people can see what the choices are.


KING: Remember that debate? That was Senator Obama during a Democratic debate back in January 2008.

Today, he's under fire because big Democratic donors are reportedly getting inside access to his White House to socialize, watch movies, even bowl. And the biggest donors were promised periodic schmooze sessions with Cabinet members and other top administration policy-makers.

Critics say it's a slippery slope, it looks bad, and, to some, it falls well short of the president's promise to change the way things work in Washington.

Plenty to talk about with our panel, CNN political contributors Paul Begala and Ed Rollins.


KING: Let's listen to something Robert Gibbs said today when pressed about all this. He continued to insist that this is the most transparent administration in history.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Hundreds of thousands of people have visited this White House since the president came in. And I think the president has returned to a stance of transparency and ethics that -- that hasn't been matched by any other White House.


KING: Now, Ed, there's no question most of the watchdogs groups have given them a huge amount of credit for the ethics rules they have put in place on White House employees, but on the issue of transparency, they say they will release the names of everyone who has visited the White House -- will -- but it still has not been released. And they're releasing them after being sued. They -- four different groups went to court and sued them.


ROLLINS: Well, you know, there's a lot more vehicles to do transparency today. You have got the Internet. And if you really want to get things out, you can get them out.

I think it's very important that someone protect this president's image long-term, because, it's not that they get bought. They don't get bought for $30,000 contributions. But you create an impression that they can be bought.

And I think that where Paul started to go, which I totally agree, I don't like the idea that you can come in and talk policy with senior staff people at the White House. You know, going into the president, the president is going to make up his own mind, but basically sitting down with someone who is the policy director or the chief of staff or what have you because you gave $30,000, I think that's an access that you shouldn't have.

KING: And, Paul, to that point, is this president being held to a different standard because he set a different standard?


KING: In the campaign, he said: I'm a sinner, too. I raise money. I don't like it, but I have to do it.

But he said he would drain the swamp. He said he would un-muddy the waters, if you will. And, yet, if you're a big donor to the Democratic National Committee, you still get invited to these policy salons, where the Treasury secretary comes or another Cabinet secretary comes or top White House officials come, and they give you a briefing, and they bring you in.

So, has he failed his own test?

BEGALA: I don't know if he has failed. I think Ed makes a good point. He set the bar high. He's going to have to reach to meet it. I think Ed's right about transparency. By the way, I would like it across the government. I want to know who is visiting the Supreme Court. I do. I want to know who is visiting the Congress. It shouldn't just be the executive branch.

You know, I have worked in the White House. I have also worked on Capitol Hill. There are a lot of people peddling influence at all levels of government. And I think they ought to disclose all of it.


ROLLINS: The other part that I would make is, I think it's important to not do it in government buildings. I think coming to the White House -- you can have a briefing outside. You can go to a hotel. A lot of these groups come to Washington. The treasury secretary can go over and say, here is what I would say to the Chamber of Commerce.

But when you come to the White House, you come into the secretary's office, whatever, it changes the whole image. And, of course, that's what the donor wants. He wants to basically go back home and say, you know, when I was there talking with the treasury secretary, this is what I told him, or when I was in talking to the president in the Oval Office.

But, at the end of the day, the public has a right, I think, to sort of have some separation there.

KING: And, again, to each of you -- and we will go to you, Paul, first on this one -- to the bigger picture, the central promise of the campaign -- let's just put the particulars of this aside -- the central promise of the campaign was: I'm going to change Washington. We're going to be grownups. We're going to get along. It's going to be more ethical. It's going to be transparent. It's going to be less partisan.

Now you hear, you know, well, you said you would let the C-SPAN cameras into the health care negotiations. That, of course, as it always is, is being done behind closed doors. You had the drug companies and the doctors down at the White House and you cut a deal with them on health care. That was done in private.

Yet, you're the same people who said Dick Cheney, what about the private energy task force?

So, did he set a bar for himself in the campaign as an idealist that may be harder to keep as you govern now?

BEGALA: Yes, absolutely. That's a perfectly fair point.

And I have to say, most voters, most citizens are a lot more interested in results than in process. It's not that we don't want reform -- and I strongly support reform. I have written about it for years and years. But what we really want, what citizens really want are the results. He did, though, ask them to judge him on all this process stuff. And so I think it makes a perfectly legitimate news story. I guess that's why we're talking about it tonight.

ROLLINS: It reminds me of Gary Hart, who said to "The New York Times": I'm not going to cheat on my wife. Come follow me.

And, three weeks later, they caught him.


ROLLINS: I think, to a certain extent, you set your own bar. This president obviously set a high bar in the course of the campaign.

I don't know what you did, Paul, but we -- we had a campaign book. We had every promise the president made in the -- Ronald Reagan. And we basically tracked that baby. You know, we -- we felt we didn't get to do it all, but we sure as heck tried, and we kept everybody very conscious of it.

KING: Paul Begala, Ed Rollins...


BEGALA: We did the exact same thing, yes.


BEGALA: Thanks.

KING: Paul and Ed, thanks so much.

ROLLINS: Thank you.


KING: Still to come: A young woman was brutalized here, and nobody tried to stop it. Tonight, parents speak out. And we ask Jeffrey Toobin and Lisa Bloom why the law has nothing -- nothing -- to say about all the bystanders who didn't try to help.

Also, Levi Johnston is not just taking it all off. See why his former future mother-in-law, Sarah Palin, might have reason to worry about what he says next.


KING: Coming up: new developments and disturbing questions in the homecoming nightmare that put a 15-year-old girl in the hospital after she was brutalized for hours.

First, though, other important stories. Erica Hill joins with a 360 news and business bulletin.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, high winds are complicating efforts to repair the Bay Bridge linking San Francisco and Oakland. That's after 5,000 pounds of metal fell into rush hour traffic on Tuesday, injuring one, damaging three cars. Those high winds also caused the problem.

The crossbeam and rods, which were installed as part of emergency repairs over Labor Day, just couldn't hold up to the force. So, federal engineers are now investigating why they failed, as the 280,000 people who use that bridge every day are of course figuring out alternative routes.

The Commerce Department reporting sales of new homes fell nearly 4 percent in September, after rising for five straight months. Economists had expected another increase.

After multiple delays, a successful launch for NASA's newest rocket -- the Ares I-X blasting off from the Kennedy Space Center this morning. It's the first flight test for the Constellation Program, which replaces the shuttle program.

And Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's spokesman calls it a weird coincidence. A few others, though, are crying foul. Take a look at this letter on the governor's Web site. Now, what you're looking at there -- and we have highlighted it to make it easier -- he's explaining his veto of a bill which would have helped finance the Port of San Francisco.

But, when you focus on the first letters in that left-hand margin there, it spells out an obscene comment. The first word begins with an F. The second word is "you." There you go.

I don't know, John, coincidence? Not?

KING: "Erica."


KING: "Erica," right down the scripts.

HILL: That was not a coincidence. That was planned, the "Erica," yes.

KING: Ay yi yi.

Thank you, Erica.

Still ahead, a 360 investigation -- tsunami victims left to rebuild on their own in American Samoa -- why your tax dollars, millions of them, aren't reaching the people they're intended to help. We're "Keeping Them Honest."

And, later, the stakes couldn't be higher in Afghanistan, and the politics couldn't be more complicated. What if the CIA really is paying the Afghan president's brother, who is a reputed drug lord? Would that matter to you? Text us your thoughts and questions about Afghanistan for our panel to AC360 or 22360.

As always, standard rates apply. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: At the end of September, a tsunami struck American Samoa, a U.S. territory in the South Pacific. The tiny island was devastated. Thirty-four people died.

Last night, we told you about the multimillion-dollar warning system that could have saved them, but was never built, even though it was paid for with your tax dollars.

Tonight, part two of our report. A month after the tsunami, the victims are still waiting for their government to step in and help.

"Keeping Them Honest," we sent Drew Griffin and producer David Fitzpatrick of the CNN Special Investigations Unit to find out why.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In village after village, recovery in American Samoa is a do-it-yourself operation.


On this day, a church group has come to hand out water. Workers at a fish cannery are clearing debris. College students clean clogged streams. For most of those devastated by the tsunami waves, like this boy picking through rubble in search of furniture, the cleanup and recovery will be purely self-help.

The government of this island of just 65,000 people seems to be absent.

WILLIE TANU, RESIDENT OF AMERICAN SAMOA: I don't know what happened to the government. They said they're going to be here pretty soon, but not even coming.

GRIFFIN (on camera): It's been a couple of weeks.

TANU: Yes.

GRIFFIN: And they haven't showed up?


GRIFFIN (voice-over): Why should you care? Take a look around. The United States taxpayer has spent $2 billion in money to American Samoa since 1995, more than $200 million every year in direct grants to the government here. Yet, three weeks after the tsunami, destruction is everywhere, and any signs of help from the local government hard to find.

HEINRICH TAVAI, LOFATONOA PENTECOSTAL CHURCH: The government gets a lot of money from the U.S. federal government. Every year, they get millions and millions of dollars. As you see, we look like a Third World country, when we should be looking more like a U.S. territory.

GRIFFIN: The tsunami, much like the hurricane that hit New Orleans, has unleashed long-simmering complaints about government money being misspent, government grants going nowhere.

AE AE PULU, PAGO PAGO VILLAGE CHIEF: This is my whole village.

GRIFFIN: Ae Ae Pulu is a former lawmaker here. He points to an area where a federal grant was to build a gym.

(on camera): Where's that?

AE AE PULU: Nothing.

GRIFFIN: It's not here.

AE AE PULU: Not here.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): A creek that had a $2.9 million grant for upgrades, it never happened.

The money, he says, just seems to vanish. Remember, Samoa is an American territory. So, we're talking about your money. And while there have been some federal investigations, many government agencies that send money here, he says, don't seem to care.

AE AE PULU: They need to come down and look, make sure they follow the report.


GRIFFIN (on camera): This is you -- you were a member of this government.


GRIFFIN: You are telling the federal government, you need to come here and look at where you're throwing money.

AE AE PULU: Exactly right.

GRIFFIN: Because it sounds like you're telling me they're throwing it away.

AE AE PULU: Well, that's what I'm saying.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): The one person who should know where the money is going is the person who takes much of the credit for getting it here, the Web site of Samoa's longtime congressional delegate, Eni Faleomavaega, is filled with notices of government grants he has won for this tiny island.

But, in a satellite interview, he told us his responsibility doesn't include making sure that money is spent correctly.

ENI FALEOMAVAEGA, AMERICAN SAMOAN DELEGATE TO CONGRESS: I'm very much aware of the fact that, yes, we do have a lot of federal funds that come here in the territory. And I'm -- I make no excuses. This is the American taxpayers' money. The public is entitled to know how this money should have been spent, or should be spending.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Is there, in your mind, any responsibility on the American Samoa government, which the Department of Homeland Security says is at high risk for corruption and misuse of these funds? And that's why many of these funds were indeed frozen.

HILL: If the local administering authority is not in compliance with the federal requirements on how that grant is supposed to be spent, then, by all means, they should be noted, and grants should not be given.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Federal investigative sources in Washington tell CNN, American Samoa is simply too hard to keep track of, too far to send investigators, too much trouble to find out if taxpayer dollars are being spent correctly.

And, in the meantime, you are about to send even more, $24 million in emergency housing funds just announced, and, yes, even stimulus money for an island of just 65,000 people.

(on camera): Among the $68 million in stimulus funds heading to this island, $7.4 million from the Department of Energy to develop, among other things, solar power on an island that receives 200 inches of rainfall a year.


KING: Drew, is it just the distance, the remoteness, or are there other reasons that make it so difficult to pinpoint precisely where all this money is going?

GRIFFIN: The distance is a problem, but, according to our sources, this is what's happening.

All of this money kind of gets thrown into a big pot. The local government there taps it, and actually hands out the money in forms of these government jobs. You know, they have got 6,000 government workers on this island? Government jobs are a big priority for the economy. But what we saw was just not a lot of government work.

KING: Drew Griffin for us tonight "Keeping Them Honest."

Drew, great work. And we will keep watching where that money goes. Thank you so much.

And what do you think about your tax dollars going to waste? Join the live chat happening right now at

Next: homecoming horror. How did a terrible crime take place at a homecoming dance, and who could have stopped it? Tonight, parents are demanding answers, and so are we.

And new swine flu fears -- experts now saying the virus could even infect the Internet. What does that mean? We will tell you ahead.


KING: New developments tonight in that attack on a 15-year-old girl after a homecoming dance in a high school in Richmond, California. As many as 20 people were involved in or stood by and watched, doing nothing to stop it.

Five suspects, though, are now in custody. Police say four of them are charged and could spend the rest of their lives in prison. Tough questions tonight at a community safety forum and raw emotion from a friend of the victim.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am friends with the girl. When I started here, I felt extremely unsafe and so did she, due to the lack of police officers and security officers.

My previous school's dance I went there for a year and a half, three semesters. There, there were three police cars on campus. That's six police officers daily. And there is seven security officers for only half of the students here. There is 900 students to 1,200 at Dienza (ph). Here there are 1,600. That is greatly unappreciated.

At the dance, there were four officers, none of them patrolling the area. I looked outside of the gym, and I saw 12 to 15 guys sitting there with no I.D.s. The officers, not only did they not check the I.D.s of those students or men sitting outside of our campus, but the security officers who are employed here did no job checking either. The assistant principal looked outside and actually saw those men and did nothing about it.


KING: If that's true, it only increases your anger.

We trust the mob that attacked her friend will be held accountable. But what about the onlookers who never called the police? Should they be brought to justice. Also, school officials, where were they?

Let's bring in our legal analysts, Jeffrey Toobin and Lisa Bloom.

Jeff, let's start with this. If she were 14 years old, there's a law in the books in California that say you have to report the crime if you see it. But because the victim is 15 years old...

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: There is -- that law does not apply. But you know what? That law is technically on the books, but as far as I've been able to tell, it's never actually been used. And any kind of law that imposed affirmative duties on people to report crimes, to go to the police, they have never been very effective. That is something the legal system has struggled with since the early '60s. The famous Kitty Genovese case in Queens, where a dozen people listened and didn't call the police as a woman was screaming for help. This is something the legal system has just failed to come to grips with.

KING: So Lisa, does the legal system have any options? Jeff says failed to come to grips. We can be outraged that people watched this and did nothing, but do the police, prosecutors, do they have any options?

LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: There are absolutely options. We don't have to start and end with the law that requires the reporting of a crime against kids under the age of 14.

There are kids in this situation who are alleged to have photographed or videotaped the incident. If that's true, they could be charged with child pornography, because the victim here was only 15 years old. And I'm talking about anybody who has a picture of this rape on their video camera, anybody who distributed it by way of e- mail or other means, anybody who continues to possess it could be charged under federal and state law.

In addition, they could be charged with aiding and abetting under California law, which says that anyone who advises or encourages someone to commit a crime is guilty as a principal of that crime. Advises or encourages. Now, the reports that we've heard so far, John, are that kids were standing around in a circle, laughing and cheering. I would consider that advising and encouraging, so those kids could be charged, as well.

KING: Here's one that makes your head snap as a parent. You put a bunch of kids in a school dance. You know as a parent, and you must know as a teacher, as a school administrator, as a security officer, if there are kids in the gym, there are kids outside. If there are kids at a football game, there are kids just outside. Can they be held liable for not properly policing the grounds, the school officials, whoever the security people are inside, the local police department?

TOOBIN: Civil litigation, civil remedies are a possibility here. Failure to supervise, failure to do the job that they're expected of.

You know, one -- one area where the law has changed is good Samaritan laws, where it says if you go to the assistance of someone who is a victim of a crime, you can't be held liable if something bad happens.

Unfortunately here, no one seems to have gone to this poor girl's help. But certainly there does seem to be the possibility of suing for money damages.

But in the issue of criminal litigation, I'm less confident than Lisa is that anything could be done about these kids who watched.

KING: And what about the school, Lisa? What about the principal of the school, whoever was in charge of the dance, any security on the scene? If you're watching a dance inside, are you not at all responsible for the conduct just outside the walls?

BLOOM: Schools are absolutely responsible for the safety of their children that they are inviting onto their premises for a school activity. This is a 15-year-old girl who was at the beginning of her sophomore year, who goes to a school event and then calls her dad and goes to the place where Dad is going to pick her up. If she's not safe there, if the school can't guarantee her safety there, then they've got a big problem.

And listen to the testimony of that girl that you just played, who said the security officers were actually watching and aware that there was a group of guys and did nothing. I mean, if that's true, we're talking about very substantial damages against the school, absolutely.

And by the way, on the point about the child pornography, kids have been arrested for sexting, for sending pictures of voluntary sexual activity between kids. They've been arrested and charged with child pornography. I would certainly think that, when a 15-year-old girl is being raped and someone is taking a picture of it or videotape of it, that would constitute child pornography, as well.

KING: I was listening earlier. I believe it was Mark Geragos on "LARRY KING LIVE," saying if he were defending one of these people charged in this, he would want to get all the information: was this some sort of a gang initiation> Could it have been, quote unquote, consensual? Does that matter here? This is a 15-year-old girl.

TOOBIN: Well, that seems like an awfully far-fetched hypothesis, I mean, given the facts as we know them that this could be. Sure, it is a defense to rape if it is consensual, assuming she is of age to consent.

But given the facts as we know them, the idea that this is consensual seems really just absurd. So a defense lawyer should always get all the facts, but I wouldn't put a lot of stock in that defense.

BLOOM: Yes, and John, I was going to say that the charges have just come down, and they're being accused of raping her with a foreign object. She was hospitalized for four days. She just got out of the hospital. This certainly doesn't sound like a consensual act.

There's also a charge of assault with a deadly weapon. So at least one weapon was used. I mean, even if she was under the influence of something, even if it did start out consensually, which I haven't heard anyone allege. But even if that's true, after 2 1/2 hours after her being beaten to the point where she was admitted to the hospital in critical condition, I don't think anyone can really claim this was a consensual act.

KING: Lisa Bloom, Jeff Toobin, thank you.

I do want to say something to our viewers. This is a horrible story, and we do not enjoy covering it. But there are responsibility and accountability questions here that we think need to be answered. It's not the first time witnesses did nothing while the crime was being committed. Psychologists call it the bystander effect. You can read it about it at

And still ahead, the mess in Afghanistan getting messier by the minute. A report that a drug lord also happens to be the Afghan president's brother is one of America's allies. Is it true, and if it is, does it matter? Text us your thoughts and questions for our panel: AC360 or 22360. As always, remember can it raise a thought (ph)?

And later, family feud. Sarah Palin and the father of her grandson take their battle public. It's getting more than a little nasty. Will it hurt her political future?


KING: In Pakistan, a car bomb ripped through a busy market in Peshawar, killing at least 100 people. It was the deadliest attack in two years, and it happened just hours after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in the country.

Across the border in Afghanistan, the Taliban claiming responsibility for an attack that killed five United Nations workers this morning. The U.N. is helping with the runoff presidential election ten days from now.

Meantime, new questions about the Afghan president's brother, a reputed drug war. "The New York Times" is reporting he's received regular payments from the CIA for years. Should we be surprised?

Bob Baer is an intelligence analyst at and a former CIA agent. He wrote about this today, and he joins me today, along with Michael Ware and CNN political analyst David Gergen.

So David, to you first, the president's brother, a reputed drug lord, that part's not new. It's always been a source of controversy. Perhaps on the CIA payroll. How much does this complicate things at this very incredibly delicate moment?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It sure doesn't help President Obama, does it? You know, there are going to be a lot of Americans, John, I think, who are going to say, after reading that, why in the devil should we spend one more American life saving the Karzai brothers, brothers in corruption? Why should we do that? Let's just -- let's screw it, the hell with it.

But, you know, so the president, I think, cannot take that view. I think there are a lot of people, but I'm sure Michael would say, why are we surprised? Of course we're paying out people.

MICHAEL WARE: I would be more shocked if we weren't paying Karzai's brother.

GERGEN: I mean, to a considerable extent in a lot of these wars, we pay -- we try to pay our way out, rather than spending American lives.

KING: But American taxpayer dollars, CIA money going to pay off a guy who's not only the president's brother, but he was a drug warlord. Isn't he somehow killing Americans, young Americans with heroin?

WARE: Do you think he's the first drug lord in Afghanistan who's been on the U.S. government payroll? I mean, there's one -- there's one of them in jail here in New York, the head of the Norzoi (ph) tribe, which is much bigger than the Afghan president's tribe in Kandahar. He cut a deal with the CIA back in January 2002. When that went -- failed, they busted him for drugs. He's now in a federal prison.

GERGEN: But John, I think the point the president and the White House has to come back to is they've got to come -- and they've got to come away from their tentativeness and get off this thing and come out very squarely what they want to do.

But the point is, we're not there to save the Karzais. They're there to prevent terrorism here in the United States. And what we do know is that most of the big terror plots that have been broken here in the last few years have their roots back in al Qaeda, and they have many of the roots back in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That's been true here, and it's been true in Europe.

KING: Bob, come into the conversation. As you do, address this Text 360 question. It's from Jane here in New York. She wrote, "How bad is this for President Karzai? Can't be good news for a man who's struggling to maintain his family's independence from the United States since he took office."

BOB BAER, INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Oh, it's terrible news. I -- one, I think it's true that he is on the CIA payroll. This has been out there for a while. "The New York Times" reported it for the first time yesterday.

But what it does is it identifies Karzai, essentially, as an American agent, which is about the worst thing that can happen to him now. Even if he wins the runoff, he's going to be tainted by this. And the chance he's going to pick up any energy or direction in the next couple of years is virtually impossible. We have nobody to fall back on in that country.

KING: And let's broaden the conversation a bit. The president today signed a defense spending bill, the authorization bill, gives the money to the Pentagon. In there, there's money, Michael, that could be possibly used like it was in Iraq. There's Taliban who want to come back over. Essentially, you buy off the enemy a little bit. It was done with the awakening in Iraq. Is it apples and apples?

WARE: None of that's new. None of that's new. There's been a reconciliation program for the Taliban under way for some time. And on the ground, you go to the reconciliation officers. They've got no money, no staff. It's an absolute, laudable joke. What isn't such a joke and where that money may become more useful is not so much buying off Taliban, card carrying, per se, but buying off the tribes. You turn the Sunni insurgents against al Qaeda in Iraq. You put 103,000 men who were killing Americans on the U.S. government payroll. The insurgency stopped, al Qaeda died.

You can do the same in Afghanistan. Much more complicated and much more plotted minefield to tread. Nonetheless, Karzai's brother is already running the pilot program with these tribes down in Kandahar. They're calling it the local national protectors program.

GERGEN: I don't think there's any doubt -- doubt that both these brothers are corrupt. I think that's clear cut.

I think what's important to understand is when we went in the first time back in 2001, the U.S. military thought, "We don't want to keep a whole lot of troops here." And so they eventually pulled back, kept the numbers very small. And in order to keep -- keep the thing in good hands. They paid off a lot of people. They started buying off. That's when Karzai went on the payroll of the CIA, because they were buying off a lot of people.

It's been a standard American practice. When we can, we want to buy our way out of a problem than fight our way out of a problem.

WARE: You think the Pakistanis, the Iranians, the Chinese, everyone else isn't doing the same thing?

GERGEN: Absolutely. It is part of the dark underbelly of international politics.

BAER: You can't buy off the Afghans. This isn't Iraq. I mean, the Soviets tried it for eight years. And we bought off more of them than they bought off of communists in that country. And it's not going to work. This is not Iraq; it's not going to work.

We are facing a war of national liberation, and we don't have many cards in our hand.

KING: Let's talk -- let's end our conversation on this point. Because we're waiting to see how many more troops, if more troops, the president will give General McChrystal. He has wanted to adopt this different strategy, to you know, come out of the mountains and protect the cities, essentially protect the Afghan people. Don't go out there looking and searching for insurgents and Taliban.

Is that the right approach?

WARE: Well, we were discussing this just earlier. I mean you know, so technically, you're surrendering the villages, so to speak, and taking the cities. Well, what are you really giving up?

You don't control the countryside. You've barely got a, you know -- you're hanging on by your fingernails as it is. You don't have enough troops. You don't have enough friends. You don't have enough allies. You haven't got the support of the local people, who are so disenchanted with everything, that really, what would you be giving up?

GERGEN: I think it's very important whether you also protect the highways and the cities, and you also protect some of the agriculture areas. If you only go into the cities, and keep people in their barracks, we learned in Iraq, that's not going to work. And we would be conceding large parts of Afghanistan to terrorists.

And I think a lot of people in Pakistan would be demoralized by that. Because we've been encouraging them to go after the Taliban in Pakistan, and we can see from today's explosions, this is getting very rough.

KING: And connect, though...

BAER: The problem is, we're running a risk of going to war with the Pashtuns. Because right now, Pakistan's at war with the Pashtuns in South Waziristan. We're against the war with Pashtun in Zabul and other provinces on the border. And we're going to get a big mess if we don't change course, and it's got to be more than just protecting the cities. We have to really change the politics.

KING: Bob Baer, Michael Ware, David Gergen, thanks so much. We'll keep on top of this one. Big decisions for the president. It's obviously a messy and delicate time. Gentlemen, thank you so much.

Coming up, we're going to change the subject: Sarah Palin's wild ride. A hefty book advance, mixed poll numbers and a Levi Johnston who, well, he just won't shut up. Where do things stand for the rogue Republican? We'll tell you, just ahead.

And still no charges in the balloon boy saga, but talk today the sheriff leading the investigation could be in trouble. For what? The details when 360 continues.


KING: Up close tonight, Sarah Palin. She's making news on two fronts. There's a new poll on her chances in '12. And there's her very public feud with Levi Johnston, which is getting ugly and personal. But will it hurt her political future?

Candy Crowley reports.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sarah Palin and Levi Johnston, father of her grandson, are at it again. It's like the Hatfields and the McCoys without the stolen pig.

In our latest episode, Johnston stops by "The CBS Early Show," dropping this about Palin and her son, Trig, who has Down syndrome.

LEVI JOHNSTON, FATHER OF BRISTOL PALIN'S BABY: She's coming home from work, and she's like, "Where is my retarded baby?" all this. And it just wasn't right. I mean, I would never say anything to her, but at the same time, we were all just kind of like... CROWLEY: Palin issued a statement, calling it all lies and leveling Johnston with a broadside aimed at his upcoming nude photo shoot for "Playgirl." "Those who would sell their body for money," she said, "reflect a desperate need for attention and are likely to say and do anything for even more attention."

Good grief.

DAVID FRUM, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: To get into this kind of slagging match with him, I mean, it's luridly entertaining for everybody else. It can't be good for her family. It can't be good for her grandchild, and it isn't good for her political career.

CROWLEY: Not that she has one right now. A year after the defeat of the McCain/Palin ticket, three months after she quit as governor of Alaska, only 29 percent of Americans think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president; 71 percent say she is not. Fewer than half believe she is a strong leader, shares their values, or agrees with them on issues.

Still, in some ways, Americans view Palin positively.

SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: You bet you. It's drill, baby, drill.

CROWLEY: Sixty-four percent consider her a good role model for women. Fifty-six percent say she cares about people. Fifty-five percent call her honest and trustworthy. They just don't think she's qualified to be in the Oval Office.

Conservative columnist David Frum thinks she's making all the wrong moves, if that's where she's headed.

FRUM: The danger for her is she may have moved out of the political leader box into the celebrity box. And once you become a celebrity, you are very, very famous, but Americans tend not to elect celebrity.

CROWLEY: Meanwhile, back at the ranch, there's that nude photo shoot pending, and there's this.

JOHNSTON: I mean, I have things that could, you know -- that would get her in trouble and could hurt her, will hurt her, but I'm not going to go that far.

CROWLEY: Also promising for those interested in the next episode, Palin's book is out next month. She got a $1.25 million advance. For that kind of cash, you have to say something.

It's already No. 2 on the Amazon best-seller list. Celebrities may not get elected often, but they almost always make more money.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.


KING: Interesting take there.

Tomorrow on 360, Wanda Sykes, smart, sharp and very funny. The comedian stops by to take on the issues as only she can. That's tomorrow right here on 360.

A lot more happening tonight. Erica Hill joins us again with a "360 Bulletin."

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: John, we begin in Washington. President Obama today making it a federal crime to assault someone because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. The newly-expanded federal hate crimes measure added to the $680 billion defense authorization bill.

New concerns over the H1N1 or swine flu, as the virus spreads and more Americans stay home sick. A federal report this morning, all of those folks logging onto the Web from home could actually overload your network. And then, boy, of course, it makes it difficult to keep the economy running, to keep Americans informed during a possible pandemic. Boy, the outlook gets better and better.

Wal-Mart, meantime, the world's largest retailer, wants your business when you die. It's now selling caskets and urns on its Web site for less than many funeral homes charge. Prices start just under $1,000.

A new twist in the balloon boy story. A special prosecutor has been appointed to investigations the Larimar County sheriff violated privacy laws by disclosing that child welfare workers are involved in the case.

Now, meantime, prosecutors are still trying to decide whether to file criminal charges against Richard and Mayumi Heene.

And the House today passing a resolution to mark last month's 2,560th birthday of the Chinese philosopher Confucius. The vote was not unanimous. In fact, 47 were against it. As Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz put it, he wants to use his time in Washington to help solve the nation's woes, not vote on absurd resolutions.

KING: Confucius say, Congress has more important things to do.

HILL: I was waiting for the "Confucius say" part. The good stuff.

Also good stuff, tonight's "Shot." It's the newest iPhone, or maybe in some ways it's the ultimate app.

The idea for Rico Rivera and John Savio's labor of love, as you see here, John, was actually hatched a couple of years ago. Can't just brew this baby overnight. The 2009 edition comes fully equipped: 42-inch LCD TV and software that allows them to display images on the screen.

You know, the only down side to that, though, it's not really all that portable at a Halloween party. KING: There's this ping pong game you can play on an iPhone.

HILL: You know what else there is on an iPhone? The fantastic CNN application.

KING: It's a fantastic CNN...

HILL: It is actually very cool.

KING: It is. It's the coolest.

HILL: If you don't have it, you should get it.

KING: I have it.

HILL: It's a great deal, too. I don't have an iPhone, but my husband does. There you go.

KING: See? Right here.

HILL: Fancy John King. How about that?

KING: All righty.

Coming up at the top of the hour, President Obama promised to break the connection between money and politics in Washington. So what do you call reports that big money donors got big-time White House access? That's next.