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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Dishonoring the Dead; Helping Haiti's Newborns; What's Next for Haiti's Kids?; Decoding the State of the Union; Stimulus Battle over Napa Wine Train
Aired January 28, 2010 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, again, from Port-au- Prince where if you believe this country is finished, if you believe that people here have given up take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(HAITIANS SINGING AND DANCING)
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COOPER: Just a few moments ago the street behind us came alive with Haitians singing, dancing, sending a message to anyone who may be listening, we're alive. Haiti is alive. There is faith here, there is hope and yes, sometimes there is even joy.
However, there are also new scenes of what still is not working in Haiti. We're going to show you the Haitian government's first attempted food distribution and how it went badly wrong.
Also tonight, the Haitian government flatly denies that what you're seeing is even happening. They deny the bodies of quake victims are being dump into a giant human landfill outside Port-au- Prince. But you are seeing it. And we have seen it with our own eyes and we've been trying to find out why.
Today we tracked down Haitian officials and asked them, "Keeping Them Honest".
Also tonight President Obama gave his first "State of the Union" address but what did he really say? We'll have a closer look at how his words and agenda will affect your life and bottom line.
And that moment when the president called out the Supreme Court and Justice Samuel Alito shot him a look and mouthed the words "not true". Our "360 Insider" Jeffrey Toobin has the history behind that, including how Justice Alito dissed the president once before.
But first up tonight, a sign the Haitian government is trying to help its people; trying but not necessarily succeeding. Today they attempted their first large-scale food handout. Take a look. It turned into a free for all when people started shoving. Crowd control, what little there was, broke down. Nine trucks, 2,000 rations of rice, beans and oil but thousands of hungry people and very few police or troops.
Said one woman caught up in it, the way they're distributing aid is no good. They're making people suffer. Haitian people, she says, are always suffering.
Others, though, are surviving against almost all odds. There's Darlene Etienne, 16 years old, French crews rescued her after 15 days in the rubble trapped in her bathroom so she apparently had water. She wasn't crushed, simply entombed alive. She's now recovering on board a French medical ship.
Gary Tuchman has an update. He joins us along with 360 MD Sanjay. How is she doing, Gary?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She's doing exceptionally well. I mean, that's the amazing thing we were at the site yesterday. And she was in the bathroom of a house that her cousin owned. But she was the only one in the house. After two days her mother thought she was dead they said they gave up. The whole block had been flattened.
Yesterday at the scene some neighbors heard a sound. They went to the French hospital and they said, we hear a sound and ask them to come out there. And they come on out and they heard her, too. So within 45 minutes they saw her in the bathroom. They saw her head. They pulled her out.
She was dehydrated, she had very low blood pressure. But she didn't have any obvious injuries. She was taken to a ship -- a French ship -- and now they say she's in stable condition and they say officially there's a 90 percent chance she'll survive. But she's eating...
COOPER: And there's no way that she crawled into the rubble after the earthquake and something fell on her and she got trapped when she was there?
TUCHMAN: That's the important point to bring up, that we get these e-mails. Sometimes they're rumors. There are no one trapped at the time -- people have got in somehow afterwards.
But no, I checked. It was a little hole which they pulled her out of. And head of -- there was no way to fit into that hole until they took tools and made it bigger and brought her out. And she -- those houses were gone for 15 days.
COOPER: Sanjay, how is this possible? I mean, how can the human body do that? I mean, is -- the fact that she may have had access to water that's clearly why she would have lived. You can't live without water.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, that's absolutely the key. And you know, there's nothing, as sort of big study of these types of survivors because they are so rare. So it's hard to say across the board they all have to have x, y or z. But in fact we don't even know how long someone can truly survive without water. I mean, how would you do that study?
GUPTA: You'd have to withhold water from people.
So there have been some extraordinary stories throughout time. You know in the Philippines there was someone who survived for about 15 days, in South Korea 16 days. But you're right, water after about anywhere between five and eight days you pretty much have to assume that there was water involved.
Air, obviously, the first ingredient, you can only survive a few -- a little bit of time obviously without that. But water you have to have it.
COOPER: Also the fact that if you're younger, if you're in relatively good health before, that maybe if you have ventilation, all that increases your odds.
GUPTA: Yes, no question. There are some people who are more resilient for sure. And when it comes to even longer term survival, if you're someone who can break down your own body fat, break down your own body muscle, that can be a source of energy as well for people who have water but they have no food. So there are all sorts of different factors that go into that.
COOPER: And we've seen -- I mean, little Monley, the little boy -- 5 years old after eight days his uncles say he found him -- I mean, we have seen just some extraordinary rescues.
TUCHMAN: I mean, it's incredible. We've been here now for over two weeks. And who would have thought we'd still be talking about recent rescues?
TUCHMAN: And what makes me very sad is how many rescues that could have happened never did happen.
COOPER: Yes, and of course, the reality is there are 4,500 to 5,000 Americans still missing here in Haiti. Untold numbers of Haitians and other nationals. There's, you know, this gives hope to a lot of people but we don't want to give false hope because the reality is this is largely a recovery operation right now.
Sanjay, appreciate it; Gary Tuchman as well.
I want to move on to a story now that's really -- it's hard to believe and it's tough to watch, but it's vital to get answers to. You know we've seen it almost since day one here. Quake victims' bodies (AUDIO GAP) being dumped outside of town; mass graves.
Now, we thought -- and we saw the mass graves two weeks ago. We thought that at least by now it be cleared up, right? They haven't been. There are still just bodies left out, exposed after all this time. No effort made to actually put them into graves which are opened there and could be filled.
There's no identification, no attempt to locate the next of kin. Not even photographs taken so loved ones at least know what happened to their loved one whether they're a Haitian citizen or American citizen.
Other governments in other disasters have done better under very similar circumstances. So the question is, why is this happening? We've been trying to get the Haitian government on the record.
Yesterday one of our producers heard back from the Haitian Ambassador to the United States. This is him, Raymond Joseph -- Raymond Joseph, I have a transcript here of the conversation that our producer had with the ambassador.
As I read, I just want to show you some other pictures of the Ambassador and they were taken last night at the State of the Union address. The ambassador is seated there right behind the First Lady.
Anyway, in his call to us, Ambassador Joseph says, and I quote, "I saw the piece he reported last night," meaning me. "I saw that he accused me of not wanting to talk to him. I think he should understand and you should understand I'm in Washington, D.C., not in Haiti."
Again, the Ambassador then went on to say how can I comment on things on the ground? If he needs something here in the United States, which is my jurisdiction, I will comment. He went on to say he is not God.
Our producer said we'll have you spoke with anyone from the government in Haiti since your last conversation with the producer from the show? The ambassador said, "I have no more to tell you. I'm answering no more questions." Our producer then asked another question if he had spoken with anyone from his government then the Ambassador hung up on our producer. So no answers there.
We then, today, headed over to the government's temporary command center out by the airport and managed to get a hold of the Minister of Information. Take a look.
COOPER (on camera): The bodies are just being dumped on the ground.
MARIE LAURENCE LASSEQUE, HAITIAN MINISTER OF INFORMATION: Which bodies?
COOPER: The dead people.
LASSEQUE: No, no, no.
LASSEQUE: Yes? COOPER: We were at the - there's a mass grave.
LASSEQUE: No, generally we collect the bodies because what's happened, we asked the people to put the dead bodies near a cemetery or near a church and every day, twice a day we go to collect them.
COOPER: Well, you collect them but the company that is collecting them is dumping the bodies and not burying them.
LASSEQUE: No, no, no.
COOPER: Yes, I've seen it with my own eyes.
LASSEQUE: We put them -- because we ask to the mayors to dig somewhere in other cemeteries in Port-au-Prince, in...
COOPER: Yes, I've been out to...
LASSEQUE: Maybe it's -- I'm going -- you give me the -- I'm going to see. But generally it's not like that.
COOPER: Who's responsible for CNE, the company that dumps the bodies?
LASSEQUE: Jude Celestine (ph), Mr. Celestine. He did a good job because now they are collecting the dead bodies. They are -- because don't forget we were not expecting that kind of, wow.
COOPER: Right, but I mean, you say he's doing a good job. But he could very easily -- it is not -- I mean, he's gone to the effort to bring the bodies out there to a very remote location. Why not just complete the job and put them in the grave?
LASSEQUE: That -- that's what we did. That's what I told you.
COOPER: Yes but it's not happening.
LASSEQUE: No, maybe what you see is an exception. You know, there is always exception in the rules but generally and other...
COOPER: But how do we know that? Because the only places we...
LASSEQUE: I agree, I agree with you and I'm going, no -- I agree with you and I'm going to see what's happened.
COOPER: Well, we'll see if anything changes. As for CNE, which is the state-run company which is handling the bodies, they have the pickup trucks and the bulldozers. They are the ones dumping these bodies and not even burying them.
We tried to contact the man responsible -- the man who runs this company for the state, his name is Jude Celestine. No one answered his phone and his voicemail was full so we couldn't even leave a message. We'd like to interview him if we could. Just ahead tonight, Dr. Gupta investigates what is being done for the smallest victims of the quake; the babies and babies who are about to be born. So many kids have been born since the quake. What's going to happen to them?
And later, decoding the State of the Union: translating what the president said to what it really means for all of us.
We'll be right back.
COOPER: Right now there are thousands of pregnant women in New York City and thousands of pregnant women here in Port-au-Prince. The difference between the worst care imaginable in New York and the best care here is staggering.
Once again, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
GUPTA (voice-over): If you think it's tough being here in Haiti, imagine the challenges for a fragile newborn.
(on camera): So we're here in this makeshift maternity ward, literally this tent, there are a lot of babies here. They have numbers. Not names. Baby 12 over here. Over here is baby 11 in this crib and if you keep going. All these numbers, they're not named yet because doctors and parents aren't sure these babies are all going to survive. This here is baby 20.
(voice-over): He is seven weeks premature and under the best possible circumstances he is high risk.
(on camera): You think -- you see a baby like this, you think baby would be in an incubator, be getting antibiotics, maybe even in an ICU depending on how sick they were.
DR. WINSTON PRICE, U.S. PEDIATRICIAN, VOLUNTEER: Well, absolutely.
GUPTA: Instead they're here in this tent...
PRICE: That's right.
GUPTA: ...literally with flies flying all around.
PRICE: In this post quake period working here it's very frustrating knowing that the ability to take care of infants like this exists in the 21st century. And that those resources have not poured in to Haiti to the degree that we would all expect.
GUPTA: The other day we were here and two babies died within an hour. Is that common? Is that something that you're seeing a lot?
PRICE: Well, you know, the infant mortality here in Haiti even before the earthquake is still very high. But it's been increased here because of the conditions.
These tents are very hot. The control of the flies and the cross-infections is not something that we can do very easily in this environment.
GUPTA: And if all that wasn't bad enough there is something else as well, something invisible. And it has to do with simply with the way that women and their children are treated here and how that's gotten even worse after the earthquake.
(voice-over): You see baby 20 is at risk and is completely dependent on his mother. But his mother, Mary Claude, is also at risk. From the moment they leave this makeshift maternity ward they are especially vulnerable.
(on camera): Your organization writes specifically that there is a real concern that women be exploited, they could be trafficked and they could be abused.
DR. JEMILAH MAHMOOD, CHIEF OF UNFPA'S HUMANITARIAN DIVISION: Yes. Women are subject to that. And in Haiti, in fact, it was a pre- existing problem before the earthquake. If, for example, you know, they are weak, they're helpless at the moment or they are confused and they've lost their whole family and they may be taken away and trafficked.
GUPTA (voice-over): What's going on here? And how could all of this affect baby 20? I went straight to the minister of health's office to discuss some of these issues.
(on camera): So they get protected here on the compound even by women, military.
DR. ALIX LASSEGUE, EXEC. DIR. STATE UNIV. HOSPITAL: Yes.
GUPTA: But what happens after they leave?
LASSEGUE: In this kind of situation there could be -- there could have assault, there could be rapes. And there are some steps that have been already done to try to cope with this problem.
GUPTA (voice-over): But for the time being, things are getting better for Haitian women and their infants. For Mary Claude and yes, for baby 20, who incidentally is one of 7,000 babies expected to be born in Port-au-Prince this month alone, born in a tent and he's considered lucky.
(on camera): It's hard to answer this. But given everything you know, what are the chances baby 20 is going to survive? Going to make it?
PRICE: This baby seems to be strong and doing quite well in the last few hours and we're going to do everything possible to give him the support that he needs.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: There is real concern about the safety of these kids; this whole new generation not only of orphans but of newborn kids.
GUPTA: Yes and you know they sort of have two strikes going against them. First of all, that kid that you just met, one of the lucky ones obviously born in that sort of situation. But so many births are really going to take place unattended on the streets because of what's happening right now. I mean, its 63,000 pregnant women. That's a large number.
The other thing which was sort of surprising to me is that they are at such risk for exploitation, for trafficking and just for abuse as well.
I really tried to get an answer about that from the U.N. folks, from the people at the health minister's office. And you know, they acknowledge it. And they're not being secretive about it. And I think what's tough to sort of figure out is what to do about it.
COOPER: And also just the needs of a newborn in terms of the kind of food they eat, you know, all the medical attention they need. I mean, in this circumstance where food is being handed out, is there the thought given to, like, well, we need to hand out food that's appropriate for infants? Probably not.
GUPTA: I'm not seeing that. I mean, you know, that newborn, seven weeks premature, would probably be in an incubator, probably be in an ICU getting antibiotics and getting a very special diet that's specific for that baby. But, you know, they don't have the luxury, I guess, at this point of thinking about that.
COOPER: All right, Sanjay, appreciate it.
Coming up, we're going to have the latest on the adoption efforts. Is adoption even the best thing for kids here? We're going to talk to an adoption expert ahead.
We'll also have an update on 5-year-old Monley, a survivor whose aunt says she wants to bring him to the United States. But he also has got two brothers. So we'll talk about that.
Also later, the State of the Union scowl from a Supreme Court Justice to the president. We'll tell you what was actually behind that scowl and behind the exchange that you had. Jeffrey Toobin, for our "360 Insider Briefing".
COOPER: Tonight the uncertain future for Haiti's orphan kids. There are so many -- frankly nobody knows how many at this point -- who lost their parents in the earthquake or who are in desperate need of help and homes.
Among them, this little boy, Monley, a child we've been following for days. He was pulled from the rubble eight days after the earthquake by his uncle. This is video taken just today of Monley. He's 5 years old. His parents perished in the earthquake. His aunt in Florida says she wants to adopt him but the process is complicated. She's not really sure how to do it.
As for Monley and so many other kids there's obviously a huge emotional toll that goes along with this.
We're pleased to have Dr. Jane Aronson with us, a pediatrician. She's also an international adoption specialist with the Worldwide Orphans Foundation and she joins me now.
Obviously people around the world see these pictures of kids and want to adopt them. Is adoption the best answer right now?
DR. JANE ARONSON, PEDIATRICIAN: No. I think adoption is great for those families who already are in the queue, who've got the papers all lined-up and they meet the requirements that have been created by the State Department on January 18th.
But I think there's a bigger picture here. And since I've been here over the last three days I've seen that the teams need to be put together NGOs, government organizations, to make their best effort to organize the way in which we manage children so they can be protected.
COOPER: Because at this point, frankly, we don't even know how many -- we don't know the scope of the problem.
ARONSON: No clue, no clue.
COOPER: It could be tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands.
ARONSON: Right, it could turn out to be small numbers. It could turn out to be that many families in the communities have absorbed the children. They're in the refugee camps. The most important thing we need to do is make sure that the children are protected and safe and if they are obviously fed and they get food and water and clothes.
And then the second step which we're moving into gradually in the next few months is their mental health.
COOPER: And that's a real concern obviously?
ARONSON: Very concern -- I mean, the main thing that you see, we were in an orphanage today earlier. And we see that the kids are really very loved by the nannies, very cared for. And yet you see that there's a real fear and anxiety and withdrawal that they experience because they are frightened. They're without their families and then on top of this they experience a terrible disaster, which they don't understand.
COOPER: And you have these aftershocks so it continues. I mean, there's justifiable reasons for this.
ARONSON: In fact the kids don't want to be inside anymore.
ARONSON: When we were at the orphanage today they all want to camp outside in their tents. They're now interested in this sort of outside life. Even the church is doing masses outside.
COOPER: For a lot of folks who want to adopt internationally right now I mean they could also help with stabilizing kids here.
COOPER: I mean, kids here can have a productive life if they're raised in the right way.
ARONSON: Thank you for saying that. I mean, that's the work; the other part of my work is where I work in other countries, Worldwide Orphans Foundation has programs in many countries all around the world to help orphans reach their potential -- good medical care, education, sports, arts, whatever it is. Kids can have a fantastic life in their own countries if there are proper services.
But if you want to go back to the fact that if people want to do something good for kids here in Haiti, I think there are many organizations they can contribute to, many.
COOPER: What would you recommend?
ARONSON: Well, I recommend a whole smorgasbord. Partners in Health and Save the Children, UNICEF, International Medical Corps, Red Cross, the list is endless.
COOPER: You didn't say your own group. Don't you need funds?
ARONSON: We're not in Haiti...
ARONSON: ...and so we're not raising funds.
What I came here to do and I'm really excited to say that, is I came here to be a credible character. I came to find out what was going on here, to be able to go home, speak to people in the United States about what is going on so people get educated and so no one's confused about adoption.
COOPER: So the bottom line you say kids who are in the pipeline now should go for international adoptions. That should be allowed to proceed. But for the kids who are here now it's too confusing a situation and a lot can be done for them here now immediately.
ARONSON: Absolutely. And we have -- and let me say, I went to the U.N. compound yesterday. I met with the UNICEF folks and all kinds of other NGOs. They are incredibly organized. It's impressive. And we just hope that people will continue with the momentum of being committed to that hard work. That work is years.
COOPER: It's only just begun. ARONSON: It's only just begun.
COOPER: I mean, yes, let's hope the focus continues. Jane, appreciate it.
COOPER: Jane Aronson, nobody knows this issue better.
COOPER: Thank you very much.
You can Jane's online journal; find it at AC360.com. We put your journal on our blog.
ARONSON: Thank you.
COOPER: Where we've also provided a link to the Worldwide Orphans Foundation.
Also be sure to watch tomorrow night 11:00 Eastern for an "AC360" special focusing on the heroes that we've met here including CNN Heroes you've already honored. Our past CNN Heroes from 2007, 2008, 2009, who are here in Haiti making an extra effort.
Here's a quick preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOBBY DUVAL, CNN HERO 2007: It's really something. I mean, where are we going to start? Where are we going to start now? I mean, you know, just like we were already in a hole, now we are in much deeper hole now.
The issue is that this is the first thing -- this is the bottom line. You've got to serve and you've got to save. That's it. Now the rest is all bureaucracy and all the rest is, like, stupidity as far as I'm concerned.
COOPER: And that's your motto. You've got to serve and you've got to save.
DUVAL: That's it. Serve and save. That's it. That's what we've got to do now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Serve and save. That's Bobby Duval a CNN Hero from 2007. He's doing good work here on the ground. "Saving Haiti" a 360 special, CNN Heroes tomorrow night 11:00 p.m. Eastern.
Coming up though, tonight, pitch black in Port-au-Prince. No power, no lights. Workers are trying to rebuild, bring electricity back to the people. We'll show you that effort. And later, objection: the State of the Union showdown between a Supreme Court justice -- a fascinating moment last night -- and the President of the United States. What was Samuel Alito annoyed about? We'll tell you the back story. Our Jeffrey Toobin has tonight's "Insider Briefing".
COOPER: Well, spending your money to save the economy, President Obama swears it makes sense. That was his message today at a town hall meeting in Tampa. Now, he insists that the $862 billion to get the country on the right track, again, is working.
Do you think it's working? All this week we've been "Digging Deeper" and giving you the facts on the "Stimulus Project" so that you can get a sense of where the money is going and if it's actually helping.
Tom Foreman tonight is at the "CNN Stimulus Desk" has been poring over the latest information. Tom, what have you learned?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Anderson, I've learned it's a big, big task. That's for one thing. Look at this; we stacked this up so you could see this. This is all of the projects that are in the stimulus plan right now. We've got roughly 15,000 pages of projects here. That's considerably longer than "War and Peace" as you might notice.
And all week long our folks on the "Stimulus Desk" here have been poring through these projects trying to see what they're worth, whether you're really getting what you want from your tax money.
And tonight we're turning your attention on two really important ones: one very big, one not so big but worth talking about.
One is this notion of a high-speed rail system throughout the country. The president announced today $8 billion worth of stimulus money to put high-speed rail systems connecting all of these communities.
You can see that all over the country there. $8 billion plus $5 billion more in just general federal spending, not part of the stimulus to help make all of this happen.
We've been looking into the feasibility of whether or not this could actually happen, what $8 billion would do. And I'll give you one hint to think about here.
That's the ACELA, it was started back in the 1990s and there were very significant issues about how much it cost, how soon it could work and whether or not it would work. And in many ways people have always said it underperformed all of the predictions in many ways.
The second story we've been looking at tonight, Anderson, is this one. Columbus, Ohio, about a year ago had a real problem; tremendous budget shortfalls. Twenty-five young cadets, people who are joining their police force, were about to be let go because the city simply could not afford them. The stimulus stepped in, in the form of President Obama and said, "No, keep these people on the job." But what happened to them since, Anderson, is very interesting.
We will have more on these two big stimulus projects later on in the show and, again, the whole goal as we've had all week with the stimulus desk is to let people decide for themselves if your tax dollars are being spent the way you think they should be by going through these 15,000 pages of projects -- Anderson.
COOPER: Tom, we'll check in with you later.
Decoding the State of the Union address coming up.
But first, let's get the latest. Some other important stories we're following. Randi Kaye has a "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Randi.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, dramatic testimony today in the murder trial of anti-abortion activist, Scott Roeder. Roeder testified that he killed George Tiller, a Wichita doctor last May because the legal system wasn't doing anything to stop him from performing abortions. Roeder also said he does not regret what he did.
At a security summit in London, Afghan President Hamid Karzai described his plan to reintegrate Taliban fighters into a law-abiding society if they promise to renounce violence. The idea is to lure them back to civilian life with jobs and housing. Karzai secured $140 million in pledges to fund this effort which was endorsed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others.
The Senate today confirming Ben Bernanke for a second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve but by one of the smallest margins of all time: the vote 70-30.
The author of "Catcher in the Rye" J.D. Salinger has died. The book was his only novel and has sold more than 60 million copies since its publication back in 1951. Salinger was equally well known as a recluse who shunned publicity. He was 91 -- Anderson.
COOPER: Sad news with that. Randi, thank you.
Coming up, salesman-in-chief: reaction to the State of the Union address preaching to the base but did he win over independents?
Also supreme showdown between Justice Alito and the president: a fascinating moment. What was behind the scowl, though? Why the nasty look?
We'll get an insider's briefing from Jeffrey Toobin who knows the Supreme Court better than anyone.
We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Well, if you didn't watch President Obama's State of the Union address you missed an extraordinary moment; something almost unheard of, historic. We're going to play it for you -- play the sound bite and the withering glare triggered in just a moment.
All together the president spoke for 78 minutes last night, 45 million people watched as Mr. Obama's first State of the Union address coming just a week, of course, after a Republican won Ted Kennedy's old senate seat and healthcare reform hit a major speed bump. In other words the president had a lot of selling and a lot of explaining to do.
Let's get the "Raw Politics with John Avlon, columnist for thedailybeast.com and author of "Wing Nuts: How the lunatic fringe is hijacking America".
John do you think independents heard what they needed to from the president last night?
JOHN AVLON, COLUMNIST, THEDAILYBEAST.COM: They started hearing the same thing. Independents would have liked to have heard that speech a year ago. But it was a step in the right direction.
And the president has got a lot of bridge building to do. Independents voted for him by eight points in 2008 but they started to break with him last spring over the overspending coming out of Congress and the stimulus bill. It's really been downhill since there and it's not a group he can afford to alienate. Independents are the largest and fastest growing segment of the electorate.
So the old days of play to the base politics are over whether or not Washington wants to recognize it or not.
COOPER: And I mean -- all this talk now about freezing spending and cutting back, is it too little too late? I mean has the image of President Obama as somebody who is spending a lot, is that frozen in people's minds, independents' minds?
AVLON: Well, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. And president Obama campaigned on a return to fiscal responsibility, remember. That was an important part of how he was able to connect with independents who are overall fiscally conservative but socially liberal or libertarian.
So you know, the big spending ended up driving a real wedge. He has a lot of trust to earn back. He's got a credibility gap when it comes to spending. These gestures are a step in the right direction but they do not solve the problem, not by a long shot.
COOPER: And now he's on this road trip with kind of an economic focus. Is that just basically, you know, PR? Do people really buy this?
AVLON: Well, you know, he's getting out among the folks outside Washington and that's almost never a bad thing. I mean, Washington is the only town in the country where the most important thing about you is what party you belong to.
Most Americans, whether in Florida or elsewhere, realize hyper- partisanship doesn't represent their interest at all. Of course it's a sales job. For my money, getting outside the Beltway is probably a good thing for reconnecting with the American people.
COOPER: Will it help at all with this enthusiasm gap? Because there's a huge kind of enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans; the liberal base just isn't showing the same intensity as members of the GOP right now.
AVLON: Yes. Well, it's easier to be against something than for it. Right now liberals have been turning on the president as well. He's taking heat from both extremes.
And I think, to some extent, to be a president in America you need to lead from the center. So you need to make peace with the fact you're never going to please everybody and you'd be a fool to try. There are going to be extremes on either side who don't like what you do. That's not the important thing.
The important thing is moving the nation not left or right but forward. That's what every successful president has done. And no matter all their -- you know ideological allies say play to the base. They try to make this argument that Americans love nothing more than a high-pitched ideological battle.
What independents are saying is stop, that's not true. It's irrelevant to the way we live our lives. Balance the budget, try to solve problems. Independents are ideological problem solvers. They're sick and tired of this partisan food fight from Washington. They have been for a long time.
That's the message they were sending with Scott Brown. It's why they kicked Republicans out of Congress in '06 and it's why they're leaning against Democrats right now.
COOPER: Fascinating. John, John Avlon, appreciate it. Thanks a lot, John.
AVLON: Thank you.
COOPER: The most talked about moment probably from the State of the Union address may have been the look from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito directed at President Obama, of course. And it happened as the president was slamming the conservative wing of the court for its latest decision. Watch Alito's reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the flood gates for special interests including foreign corporations to spend without limit in our election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That looks like a grimace or shake of his head? Alito seemed to be saying something, "it's not true." Was this confrontation personal?
Senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin knows the court inside and out. Has a great book on the subject "The Nine" is a bestseller. It's a really good read. He joins us now for a "360 Insider Briefing".
Jeffrey, what is the back story here? What is the history between the president and Alito?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You know the great thing about this moment is it reminds us that these Supreme Court justices, not to mention these presidents, are human beings. And there is a real history between Alito and Obama.
Obama was a senator when Alito was nominated to be Supreme Court justice. He voted against Alito. So that wasn't a promising start to their relationship.
But the really interesting part of their relationship was January 14th of last year, right before President Obama was inaugurated. He and Joe Biden went on a courtesy call to the Supreme Court and all the court was there with one exception. I think we have a photograph of it. Eight of the justices came to welcome Obama and Biden.
COOPER: Wait a minute, Alito didn't show up?
TOOBIN: Alito not only didn't show up, the court gave no explanation of why he wasn't there. The only inference we all drew was Alito didn't want to be there.
But that -- it doesn't end there. President Obama, the first bill he signed as president was something called the Lilly Ledbetter act and it was in honor of a woman ...
TOOBIN: ... named Lilly Ledbetter who filed a lawsuit for pay discrimination and lost. The Supreme Court said you filed it too late. Well, a lot of people were outraged by that decision. Congress passed an entire law. There you see the bill signing, to overrule that decision and who was the author of that decision? Samuel Alito. So there's a lot of history there.
COOPER: So -- is what the president said, was it factually correct? He said about foreign corporations being able to basically, you know, give untold sums to affect elections.
TOOBIN: What he said was he said special interests and that's when Alito started shaking his head and foreign corporations have unlimited -- have carte blanche to affect our elections. What is true is certainly that corporations and labor unions and other special interests have carte blanche. The issue of foreign corporations is a little more ambiguous because the court didn't say -- didn't reach a decision on that issue. In fact, specifically said we're not addressing foreign corporations.
So Obama legitimately said, this is the logical extension of what the court did, but Alito was right in shaking his head saying, no, we didn't say that exactly either. So -- I have to give you a legalistic answer on that one.
COOPER: Yes. Like a lawyer. I would anticipate that.
Jeff Toobin, thank you very much. Again, "The Nine" is really a fascinating read. Even if you don't think the Supreme Court can be intriguing, fascinating, it really is recommended.
Coming up, remember the bridge to nowhere? Now there's a train through wine country that some top Republicans call a tremendous waste of taxpayer money. Is it? We're "Keeping Them Honest" tonight.
And later, the next step for Haiti and its people. Karl Penhaul and Ivan Watson join me live for their thoughts. That's ahead.
COOPER: Rebuilding the economy, not resting until it happens. That's President Obama's new promise to you. We need to see the proof.
That's why we're taking a close look at those stimulus projects that he says are going to create jobs and remember, they're funded, of course, by your tax paying dollars.
Will it work? Let's see what Tom Foreman has uncovered. He joins us with the important information on two of the projects he's been looking at. Tom, what have you learned?
FOREMAN: Yes Anderson. Earlier today the president announced this notion of $8 billion to put high-speed rail corridors all over the country connecting all these communities. Won't that just be grand because a lot of people will have places to go? It's wonderful.
Here is the problem with this. I'm going to zoom in to the northeast here and take a look at this little corridor up here. This is where the Acela runs. This is the Acela; it's a high-speed train, started in the 1990s.
Simply to upgrade this system, Vice President Biden announced earlier this year will be more than a billion dollars. Now, if we widen out the map, again, you can see what the problem is. If it takes more than $1 billion to upgrade a system with trains and tracks and stations, how much do you get for $8 billion? Well, you sure don't get all this.
You may, in fact, create a lot of jobs but you will come nowhere near completing any of this. In fact, it's probably a fair bet that there won't be a single train running anywhere as a result of that $8 billion.
In fact, out here in California this little section right here, this is projected at costing $34 billion, alone. So this may, in fact, create jobs, but before it will create this infrastructure, which many people have talked about as part of the payoff for the stimulus two, you're going to talk about many, many years and many, many, many, many billions more dollars. So think about that as you consider your tax payoff on this.
The other story, Anderson that we looked at was this. Columbus, Ohio, late last year, they had 25 police cadets that they were going to have to let go. This is early last year. They were going to have to let go of them because their city was in so much trouble.
The president stepped in. Part of what he said is let's take some stimulus money here. We'll take one -- I'm going to change my color here -- going to take $1.3 million and let's keep these young people on the force.
Well, guess what, that $1.3 million did the trick to the end of the year and then the city passed an increase in the local income tax and they were able to cover their salaries from then on out.
So that's just some of what we've been finding as we've looked through these 15,000 pages of the stimulus plans that are out there, all of these different projects. We're going to keep looking through them here at our stimulus desk, working all day and into the night, Anderson.
And here's our total over here of all the projects we've checked so far, over $8.2 billion worth of your tax dollars. We've been checking out where they're going on the stimulus desk. We're going to keep doing that trying to let you know if these projects, as we just described, are really what you think you wanted to get for your tax dollars -- Anderson.
COOPER: Tom, thanks very much.
There's another stimulus project that Senators John McCain and Tom Coburn call a waste of money. At first glance it sounds like the senators could be on to something. After all, how could a train ride along California's vineyards improve the country?
But then we did some digging and found out the spending may be more about safety than chardonnay. Randi Kaye tonight, "Keeping Them Honest".
KAYE (voice-over): Our search for stimulus money leads to, of all places, the Napa Valley and the wine train. It's lunchtime. Chef Kelly McDonald is hustling, 30 minutes to whip up about 120 meals.
KELLY MCDONALD, CHEF: I have a medium beef coming.
KAYE: Passengers pay about $100 for a four-course meal and choose from 100 different wines.
(on camera): And this is your whole work space here?
MCDONALD: That's one of three kitchens but this is the muscle kitchen on the wine train.
KAYE (voice-over): It is a three-hour journey winding through the beautiful Napa Valley. But we climbed aboard because the wine train has a prominent place on a list of stimulus projects labeled as wasteful or silly, leading some to call it the "Stimulus Waste Express".
MELODIE HILTON, NAPA VALLEY WINE TRAIN: Who said that?
KAYE: Melodie Hilton handles PR for the wine train and can thank Republican senators John McCain and Tom Coburn for the negative publicity. In their checkup report from December, the senators questioned 100 projects, the Napa wine train ranks number 11.
(on camera): So when the report came out putting your wine train on the list, how did you feel?
HILTON: Oh, well, it's never fun to wake up and find that you're an object of national scorn. I mean it was shocking.
KAYE: It's easy to see why this may look at those precious stimulus dollars are being spent on wealthy tourists. After all lunch on the wine train is pretty fancy. There's a steak with a Brazilian lobster cake on top, a glass of cabernet and a glass of sparkling. But in fact, not a single stimulus dollar is spent on the wine train.
(voice-over): In fact, the stimulus money is really for a massive flood control project for the valley. The wine train's track happened to be in the way, so they have to elevate the tracks and move them 33 feet. It's that simple, but not cheap; 54 million stimulus dollars are being used.
HILTON: The person who did the research for the senators didn't do a thorough job. And I think if they had done a thorough job we wouldn't have been on the list at all.
KAYE: "Keeping Them Honest", we called the senators to ask them why this project made their list.
Senator Coburn's spokesman told us the whole project is a, quote, "misplaced priority".
Barry Martin is with the Napa River Flood Control project. He's called the Senators' report, quote, "deliberate deception."
(on camera): Is this a frivolous project?
BARRY MARTIN, NAPA RIVER FLOOD CONTROL PROJECT: Not at all.
KAYE: Is this a waste of stimulus dollars?
MARTIN: Absolutely not.
This is perfectly fitting into what stimulus was intended do. As you can see and hear, people are on the job working today who might not be otherwise.
KAYE: Here in Napa, supporters of the project say the stimulus funds will create at least 600 jobs, and those jobs are expected to last two to three years until the project is done.
(voice-over): But that's for the whole flood project. The contractor expects the track work will employ some 200 people. Once complete, it should mean Napa won't flood every few years. In 1986 flood damage cost $100 million; a 2005 flood, $115 million.
HILTON: You all look pretty good.
KAYE: Back on the train Melodie tells us no one from the Napa Valley Wine Train ever received a call from the senators' offices asking for information, so she wrote this letter to Senator McCain.
"Since you have thrown down the gauntlet and made accusations, learn what is really going on. It's your right and your responsibility."
HILTON: We all have the same goal. Nobody -- nobody appreciates waste, and if he came out and explored this, I'm not sure we would have been on that list.
KAYE: And maybe then nobody would be whining about how Napa Valley is wasting your money.
KAYE: And one more look now at how your money is being spent. $54 million will be used on the train track portion of the project to move the track and add a flood wall at the depot among some other things. That money is expected to create about 200 jobs. And to those people, Anderson, that money is well spent.
COOPER: Randi Kaye "Keeping Them Honest". Randi thank you.
Still ahead a food delivery becomes a free-for-all when the crowd control breaks down. Haiti's government was in charge. What went wrong and what needs to happen going forward on Haiti's road to recovery next on 360.
COOPER: Until today large hand outs of food here in Haiti were being done pretty much exclusively by relief workers. But today the Haitian government tried to carry out its first large scale food handout. The results were mixed as we showed you earlier.
Here's the video again. It turned into a free-for-all where people started shoving and crowd control, the little there was broke down. So it goes as Haiti tries to move forward. The road to recovery no doubt is going to be a long one.
Karl Penhaul, Ivan Watson join me now.
Karl, when food is handed out, I mean I talked to the Red Cross. They don't use security at all, but they go in advance with the communities, they work with like kind of leaders in the communities and they haven't had trouble. I guess, you know, the Haitian government just kind of went in and went about it the wrong way.
KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I mean, what happened today was an absolute disaster. I mean, you see aid workers or the Haitian government workers rather standing on top of those trucks tossing food supplies into the crowd with no more regard to human beings than if they were animals. Aid cannot be done that way.
Yesterday or the day before we also saw Brazilian peacekeepers spraying pepper spray onto the crowd. It's an indication that Haitians are hungry. They are on the brink and they have to keep their dignity along with the help of the aid workers. They have to figure out a way of giving hungry people aid so that it doesn't spill over into violence.
COOPER: And yet Ivan we've seen food hand-outs that go very well. You were there at that golf course, the U.S. handing out food, it all went well.
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It seems to depend on the situation. I saw Argentinean peacekeepers actually run away after a food distribution got out of control last Sunday.
What was really striking was seeing hundreds and hundreds of Haitians running after them for more than a mile not knowing if they'd ever stop this convoy that just kind of sped away when it couldn't control the situation.
COOPER: Ivan, you've also been looking at the electrical needs of the city. Most people do not have electricity. We're going off a generator right now.
WATSON: Actually, we take it for granted really that most of the city for more than two weeks now, after sunset people are relying on candles, matches, the glow of a cell phone.
And we did look into the efforts to restart the power grid. There are crews out there. They're trying to put up power lines. They're trying to restart the substations the distribution stations. But it's really important to point out that the electric power grid here was already terrible before the earthquake. On the average a neighborhood could maybe get eight hours of electricity a day.
We've talked to the U.S. government, USAID and the Military. They don't -- have no idea when they can start the power again.
COOPER: And like these cables which are draped all over the place, they're falling down. It fell the other night. I was on another street today, it almost seemed like it was buckling and was going to fall on our car. We quickly drove off.
WATSON: And what we saw was that one of the main power stations, a big problem clearly was not the earthquake damage but before that, neglect of the generators. Half of them weren't running.
COOPER: Karl you've been going out still with French search and rescue teams. I was surprised that you told me they're still out there searching for people. They found someone yesterday, this 16- year-old girl.
PENHAUL: Exactly they found a 16-year-old girl yesterday. Today we saw them in a ravine there. They've been called by people who thought they heard one of their neighbors crying from beneath the ruins.
And it's an eerie scene. You see the ravine there, houses just falling into the ravine and bits of rubble and this smoke and fire coming out of the ravine. The French are just standing there. They continue looking. They're searching against time, against all the odds. They still believe in the impossible.
We talked to one of the French doctors, and he says I've got an 11-year-old daughter back in France. He says when I bring a 16-year- old out of the ruins yesterday, he says, there's nothing else I can do. I have to go on.
Talked to another of the French guys there, and he says, you know, when we pull somebody out, we all hug one another. We celebrate and then we cry. He says the one thing we're not going to give up is give up. He's pointing to the fact that in Pakistan I believe he said, there was a woman that was found after 65 days in very different circumstances.
COOPER: Yes, she had access to food and water. She was trapped in her kitchen I think right after the quake.
PENHAUL: Exactly. But this is the kind of thing that they're saying to everybody, hey, we're not going to give up. We have to keep going.
COOPER: Karl Penhaul, Ivan Watson, guys thank you very much.
Hey that's it for 360. Thanks for watching.
"LARRY KING" starts now.