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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Former Vice President Dick Cheney Hospitalized; Saving Haiti's Orphans; Fire Teachers for Failing School?; White House Unveils New Health Care Bill
Aired February 22, 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, everyone. Breaking news tonight: former Vice President Dick Cheney in the hospital being treated for chest pains. Some live picture there of George Washington University Hospital in Washington's Foggy-Bottom neighborhood. Mr. Cheney has been here many times before. He has a very long medical history including a major heart attack while he was still in his 30s.
Several more since, as well as pacemakers, stents and other heart treatments; Mr. Cheney, as you know is 69.
So let's start with some insider perspective from 360 MD Sanjay Gupta. Also joining us senior political analyst, Gloria Borger and joining us on the phone, Candy Crowley, host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION".
Sanjay, we know the former vice president was brought to the hospital with chest pains. How common is that for someone with his heart history?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's certainly the first thing that you think of, no question about it in somebody certainly of his age, who's had this heart history. That first heart attack, incidentally Anderson, when he was 37 years old and he's had four heart attacks really in total.
You could take a look at his sort of history of his heart, his medical problems, including the heart attacks, including quadruple bypass surgery. And then Anderson, a couple of years ago he had a pacemaker put in, that was about eight/nine years ago. He then he actually had his heart shocked back to a normal rhythm a couple of years ago back in 2007.
So this is far and away I'm sure the first thing doctors are looking at most concerned about, certainly problems with the lungs, problems with the esophagus. Those can also cause chest pain. But this is, you know, very, very high on the list.
COOPER: So if you're a doctor. You're in an emergency room and he's brought in, someone with those conditions brought in, what happens first? GUPTA: Well, you know, it's a very logical process. You try and figure out what's going on. And you want to -- in medicine you want to rule out the bad things first so to speak. So in his case they're going to certainly be focusing in on the heart.
But two things are probably going to be done in terms of medications being given. Because of the chest pain they often give a medication, a nitroglycerin medication which just opens up the blood vessels to some extent and that allows more blood flow to the heart. And that probably would take care of some of his pain.
Also Aspirin which acts as a blood thinner; if a clot, for example, is the problem, that's a medication that's given. But again, take a look at the list there, Anderson. This is pretty standard really for anybody even without heart history, who has chest pain.
EKG, they do a cardiac enzyme test which actually can tell if someone's had a heart attack. The muscle starts to break down. And those enzymes can be measured in the blood and they can know within a short period of time; was this a heart attack or was this just more and what's called angina, just chest pain, not necessarily a heart attack?
COOPER: What kind of treatment does he undergo, do we know, on a normal basis? Or what kind of medication would somebody take who has that history?
GUPTA: Well, you know, if you look at all the things that cause heart disease, certainly. And that -- medications to lower cholesterol, blood-thinning medications for potential clots. He may be on blood pressure medications although he's been taking various medications in that arena over the years.
But those are sort of the standard day-to-day activities. But keep in mind he's gotten world-class cardiac care for many, many years. I mean, this is something he's been dealing with for a long time. So, you know, he may be getting routine tests by his doctors to sort of check up on him, check his EKG. They probably monitor this implantable defibrillator that he had to make sure that's working ok.
So I think it's pretty -- pretty regular heart testing and heart medications -- Anderson.
COOPER: Candy, it's pretty interesting. Because we've heard more from the former vice president, not just in the last couple days but really in the last couple of weeks and months than we did certainly toward the end of the Bush administration it almost seems like.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION" (via telephone): We did. I mean, this is a man who I think felt freed up after the administration was over. And we have not heard word one from former President Bush, but it has been former vice president who has been out there in defense of the Bush administration when it comes obviously to national security. We saw him as recently as last Thursday. I saw him when I was over at the CPAC, the conservative conference that they had in Washington and his daughter, Liz, had given a speech. She's becoming quite of a spokesperson and very much along her father's lines in terms of her views.
And when she was done he came out, said a few -- big standing ovation for him. And he ended up -- that was when he made his famous statement that, in fact, he believes that President Obama will be a one-term president.
And so he's been very, very active and I think actually that's what's interesting right now.
CROWLEY: Is his daughter and the vice president at CPAC this last Thursday looking, as you can see, fairly healthy there.
COOPER: Candy, I want to -- I just got a note from CNN's John King reporting a second source close to former Vice President Cheney confirming he's going to overnight at the hospital. The source says he's up and in touch with his family and his friends and that additional tests and updated statement are expected in the morning.
Just Sanjay, I want to bring you back in. That certainly seems like, you know, it's not an emergency situation at this point. Is it?
GUPTA: Yes, if he's up and walking around and talking to friends and he's not -- that probably means he's not in the Intensive Care Unit. They're not doing active procedures on his heart. He's not on a breathing machine or anything like that. No one ever said that he was.
But it's obviously a good sign. If they already said that he's probably going to go home tomorrow that's also a good sign as well.
Again, Anderson, you and I just talked about this with respect to former President Clinton and having stents placed and being in the hospital overnight or a couple nights even for something like that. So we may get more information even over the next few hours. But overall I think you're right, a good sign.
COOPER: Gloria, it doesn't seem like he spent or spends a lot of time with former President Bush. And they've taken a very different approach to life after the White House. Do we know much about their relationship now?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALSYT: We know that they speak occasionally, Anderson. And we know that they won't talk about what they say to each other. But you know, it's very clear that Dick Cheney has decided, and maybe it's because he's got his memoirs coming out and he wants to create some buzz for that, but it's clear that he's decided that he's not a former president, he's just a former vice president and that he wanted to give voice to frustrations on the conservative wing of the party about Barack Obama, not necessarily on domestic policy even, but particularly regarding the war on terror.
And so he has given voice to that.
What we've also seen and he's hinted at that publicly, is that there were disagreements that he had with former President Bush on their terror policy, in their administration and we're going to probably see him write about that in his book. That's quite tantalizing, not only to us journalists but to lots of Republicans who want to hear more about the divisions within the Bush administration, particularly in the last term of the Bush administration when it seems that Dick Cheney felt in certain areas that George W. Bush was going soft.
COOPER: We're going to have to leave it there. Gloria Borger. Candy Crowley. Thanks for calling in and Dr. Sanjay Gupta as well.
Just a reminder, a live chat is up and running at AC360.com.
Up next: Dick Cheney, Glenn Beck, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Colin Powell all making news tonight. We'll tell you what they said and what was it at the CPAC Convention this weekend that made James Carville say this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think there's a message in here. I think it says something about the conservative movement of the United States.
COOPER: What do you think it says?
CARVILLE: I really do.
COOPER: What do you think it says, James?
CARVILLE: I think they got a lot of nutty people in it. That's what I think.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: We'll find out who he was talking about in a moment and what Bill Bennett says in response.
And later: new aftershocks in Haiti and the growing aftereffects on kids of those missionaries who tried to take 33 kids out of the country. How their case now seems to be making legitimate adoptions of real orphans harder.
We'll be right back.
COOPER: Updating the breaking news. Former Vice President Cheney in the hospital tonight for observation, treatment of chest pains. Just a few days ago, he seemed at the top of his game making a surprise appearance at the CPAC Convention, the Conservative Political Action Committee Convention in Washington. He got a standing ovation there. You see him with his daughter, Liz.
In a moment, James Carville and Bill Bennett are going to square off about this.
But I just want to point out some serious pushback that Cheney got on Sunday from fellow Republican Colin Powell. The former Secretary of State took issue with Cheney's repeated claims that President Obama has made the country less safe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: My bottom-line answer is the nation is still at risk. Terrorists are out there. They are trying to get through. But to suggest that somehow we have become much less safer because of the actions of the administration, I don't think are borne out by the facts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Another comment by another Republican got a fair amount of attention. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger pushing back not at Cheney but at the Republican Party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENNEGER (R), CALIFORNIA: They have to do everything they can in order to win in November. So they're going to say no to everything, they're going to say it is not good what Obama is doing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So they're the party of no?
SCHWARZENNEGER: They're the party of no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: This weekend the conservative convention came to a close with a rousing speech by radio and talk show host Glenn Beck. Whether you agree with him or not he's always captivating and he's certainly wowed the crowd at CPAC. He took shots at both the Republican and Democratic parties.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, CONSERVATIVE FOX NEWS HOST: I'm a recovering alcoholic and I screwed up my life six ways to Sunday and I believe in redemption. But the first step to getting redemption is you've got to admit you've got a problem.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amen.
BECK: I have not heard people in the Republican Party yet admit that they have a problem. And when they do say they have a problem, I don't know if I believe them. I haven't seen the come-to-Jesus moment of the Republican Party yet.
I voted Republican almost every time and every time I've gone. I don't know what they even stand for anymore and they've got to recognize that they have a problem.
"Hello. My name is the Republican Party. And I got a problem. I'm addicted to spending and big government."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Republican Bill Bennett took issue with what he said, hitting back on the "National Review's" Web site. He's a CNN political contributor, radio talk show host and author of "A Century Turns: New Hopes, New Fears."
I spoke with him earlier, also with political contributor and Democratic strategist James Carville.
COOPER: So Bill, do you agree with Beck? I mean, he's saying essentially that the -- that he doesn't see much of a difference between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party and that the Republican Party has troubles owning up to their own failings.
WILLIAM BENNETT, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Lord, no. I mean, I -- if there's one thing that's clear in Washington right now, it's that there's a huge difference between the parties. Look, I think the Republican Party lost its way, at least in some areas during the Bush administration, in the spending particularly.
But they've done their mea culpa. So this is the thing that all of these Republican leaders, conservatives talk about. And if you don't think there's a difference take a look at the votes on the stimulus bill, on health care, on cap and trade; on virtually everything.
So for Glenn, who's a great talent and has great influence, to say, what's the difference between these parties? Or he put it in a rather more graphic way. There's very little difference is the way I'd put it, describing what he said. It's just wrong.
COOPER: James, do you -- to you is there also a big difference between the parties?
CARVILLE: I think there's a difference, but there are a lot of people that do agree with Glenn Beck.
I mean, we report, our Democracy Corps, the focus group report, people -- conservatives view him with adulation. That's the word that best fits the way he is viewed. He's a guy -- he's probably the most popular conservative there is. And you look at the reaction that he got there. Look -- and I have said on any number occasions I think the guy is loonier than a toon. I really do. And that's my -- my personal view. But that's not the view of -- of a vast majority of people in the conservative movement in the United States.
COOPER: I think I know a bunch of folks who say that about you, James, though.
CARVILLE: OK. Right. I know. Look it, and I understand. And I understand. I'm not -- I'm just saying, my own -- but my view is not shared by a vast number of conservatives.
COOPER: Bill, I want to ask you what you think it says about conservatism in America that Beck is so embraced. I want to play just for our viewers a little bit more...
COOPER: ... from his speech this weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BECK: People are losing a fundamental belief that it's going to be better tomorrow. And let me tell you now. It is still morning in America. It just happens to be kind of a head-pounding, hung-over, vomiting for four hours kind of morning in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: You take issue that to that, Bill.
BENNETT: Yes, well, I'm little sensitive to the phrase, you know, it's the name of my show. And Ronald Reagan liked that phrase. And I think he's got it wrong at least from the point of view of conservatives and the Republicans. I think it's a pretty good morning. I don't think it's a hung-over vomitus (ph) morning as he said later on. I disagree.
I don't think he's loony as a toon. But if he is he's loony as a tune toon he's no loonier than Ed Schultz or Keith Olbermann. But he's just got 30 times their audience.
But he's popular because he's entertaining. He's got some very good things to say. I usually agree with him. I didn't agree with him on Saturday because he's saying there's basically not a dime's worth of difference.
COOPER: It's interesting, though, Bill, when you look at the straw poll Ron Paul captures 31 percent of the straw poll to a pretty sizable amount of booing. But did that surprise you? Mitt Romney, who, you know, is considered frontrunner I guess for 2012 at this point got just 22 percent on the vote.
BENNETT: That was the big news for me that Romney did so well and Palin was at six percent or seven percent. That, I think, is a lot more interesting. Ron Paul, a ton of young kids there, Ron Paul's kids. Ron Paul will not be the nominee of this party. I'll take odds on that. I'll do straight up, whatever you want. But that's what that was about.
But Romney was very strong. And I found that very interesting.
CARVILLE: He got 22 percent. So I mean, maybe my math is a little off. And I think it's interesting that you have the dominant most respected gathering of conservatives in the United States --
BENNETT: Oh, I don't think that's it.
CARVILLE: ... and Glenn Beck is the keynote -- he's the keynote speaker and Ron Paul wins a straw vote. I think there's a message in here. I think it says something about the conservative movement of the United States.
COOPER: What do you think it says?
CARVILLE: I really do.
COOPER: What do you think it says, James?
CARVILLE: I think they got a lot of nutty people in it. That's what I think.
BENNETT: Well, you know, we've got to take a look at Virginia, we've got to take a look at New Jersey, we've got to take a look at Massachusetts with these conservatives, these TEA partiers. It looks like there's a pretty mainstream movement. I put Family Research Council by the way as the more prominent meeting of conservatives.
COOPER: Bill, what do you make of this poll that came out of CPAC about -- basically that sort of young people's priorities and in the conservative movement and way down at the bottom are things like stopping gay marriage or promoting traditional values.
COOPER: Even health care is way down at the bottom. The most important ones are reducing size of federal government, reducing government spending, the war on terrorism. Did that surprise you that social issues are so far down among young conservatives?
BENNETT: Well, these are young people. And they are talking about the things that most of the country is talking about. There was some speaker apparently, who made some anti-gay remarks and was booed off the stage which you know, it's fine. I think that's perfectly appropriate for those young people to do.
Look, there's a shift in American culture. And young people are not particularly interested in the social issues. Often they are not.
Look, there's one huge dominating issue in America right now. And that is the deficits and the economy and that's got everybody's attention, properly so.
COOPER: Bill Bennett, James Carville, thank you.
COOPER: Still ahead, the latest from Haiti and a new road block for kids whose adoptions are by the book; the arrest of American missionaries raising a lot of suspicions on the ground. Tonight, six kids are in limbo. Three women who came to escort them to new families in America are questioned for hours at a police station. We'll have their story ahead.
Plus, if you have a child in public education here in America you're going to want to hear this. Should 74 teachers in one of Rhode Island's lowest-performing schools all be fired? They're making more than $70,000 a year, but less than half of their students even graduate. School officials could vote tomorrow to fire them all. Is that fair? Two sides square off tonight.
COOPER: Well, it's been almost six weeks since Haiti's massive quake and the aftershocks keep coming if you can believe it or not. A magnitude 4.7 aftershock shook Haiti before dawn today, just hours after Haiti's president said the death toll from the January quake could now reach 300,000.
And tonight, new fallout of another kind, the arrest of ten American missionaries has made it harder -- probably even harder than ever for even the legitimate adoptions to go forward in Haiti. Those missionaries, as you know, were detained after they tried to take 33 Haitian kids out of the country without proper paperwork. Two of them are still in custody; the group's leader and her assistant are in jail tonight.
Their case has put authorities and ordinary citizens on the alert and over the weekend three Americans learned that the hard way. Here's Gary Tuchman.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Six tiny boys now in custody of the Haitian government only minutes before they were to get on the plane to start new lives in the United States. Haitian officials suspicious of these three women.
(on camera): Is there any chance that the papers are not legitimate?
SARAH THACKER, DETAINED BY POLICE: No.
TUCHMAN: Sarah Thacker is from Minnesota and was about to take this 2-year-old named Reese home as her son. But now serious allegations against her and against this woman, who works in a Haitian orphanage and who has raised Reese most of his life, and this woman, a volunteer who came to Haiti to help; all three were going to escort Reese and the five other orphans to new families waiting for them in the U.S.
STEPHANIE ANDERSON, DETAINED BY POLICE: I can understand paranoia, absolutely. And I can understand that there was just a story where people were illegally taking children out of the country. However, I don't think that fear justifies actions.
TUCHMAN: Here's what we know. The three women showed up at the Port-au-Prince Airport for a flight with the orphans to Florida. A large group of Haitian civilians surrounded the women and children.
THACKER: They were -- started screaming at us that they're Haitian children and who do we think they are taking their kids from their country? And that these missionaries can't be stealing kids and started swearing and yelling at us.
TUCHMAN: Are you a missionary?
MARIA O'DONOVAN, DETAINED BY POLICE: I was scared. It is my job to protect those children and I did not feel like I could protect them on the street when we were being harassed.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Haitian police tell us they arrived and took the group to a police station. They spent hours in custody, a U.S. Embassy representative was with them to help. The police interviewed the women who told them the Haitian Prime Minister signed the papers allowing the children to leave.
THACKER: We came back and they said, "We don't believe this is the Prime Minister's signature."
TUCHMAN: Ultimately they were told they would not be arrested but the children would at least temporarily be taken away. And now here they are, at a different orphanage than the one where they had spent most of their lives. The women are allowed to visit.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Reese, smile for the camera.
TUCHMAN: This is Reese, the boy Sarah Thacker is adopting. But she did not visit because she believes it could confuse him when she'd have to leave him after visiting hours. As for the Prime Minister's signature, I called his cell phone to ask him about it.
(on camera): Prime Minister Bellerive, this is Gary Tuchman from CNN.
(voice-over): I got his voicemail and as of now have not heard back. The senior senator from Sarah Thacker's home state of Minnesota says this is an overreaction to the arrest of those ten American missionaries.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: They have filled out all the paperwork. This is a legitimate orphanage that has brought other children to America. And I feel like these little babies are just caught up in this international dispute and it's just not fair. TUCHMAN (on camera): If all went according to plan these children would now be with their new parents in the United States. Instead they stay in this tent, their status in limbo.
(voice-over): So for now these little boys will get cared for by people they just met. As government officials they've never met decide what happens to them.
COOPER: Well, Gary, I mean, it seems like if the Prime Minister says this is his signature, if he calls you back or if he calls, you know, the people who are -- who are going to be making this decision back, that would be a way this gets resolved. Any last-minute developments at this point?
TUCHMAN: Well, that certainly seems like the easiest way to figure out what's going on here. What the three women tell us, I just talked to them minutes ago. They say that U.S. Embassy officials did meet with low-level Haitian officials but there's no resolution.
So the children are sleeping in the tent tonight. And you're right.
When it comes to the Prime Minister if he said, "Yes, I signed it," it's over. If he says, "No, I didn't sign it," it's probably over, too. But right now it appears that the Prime Minister is laying low. No one's heard from him about this.
COOPER: All right, Gary, we'll continue to follow it. I appreciate the reporting. Gary thanks.
Dr. Jane Aronson is an expert in international adoption. She's a pediatrician who specializes in adoption medicine. She's also the founder and CEO of Worldwide Adoptions. We talked when we were both recently in Haiti. She joins me again tonight.
What do you make of a situation like this? I mean it's understandable people would be paranoid given what happened with those other American missionaries.
DR. JANE ARONSON, PEDIATRICIAN: Maybe it'll be difficult for me to, you know, really summarize this, but I'm going to say simply this. And that is that I think what needs to happen at this point is the State Department, United States' State Department and the Haitian government have to get together and make a plan going forward because at this point the problem is just what happened here. The individuals who take children out through adoption are not protected.
This is what I see. And in fact, looking at it really helped me tremendously. I don't think international adoptions really should go this route any longer, where people come in and escort children out through private jets and so forth. I think at this point that needs to be normalized.
So that American Airlines is now back running commercial flights --
ARONSON: -- parents need to come back down and take their kids just as they did beforehand before the earthquake and we need to normalize the process so that the citizens of Haiti don't feel upset and angry. I think we owe it to everybody to normalize the process.
COOPER: Former President Bill Clinton was saying that there's still a great need for adopting Haitian kids who are unquestionably orphaned. But that he's worried that people will be discouraged giving what happened to the missionaries. I mean, is that a real concern?
ARONSON: No, I don't think people are going to be discouraged by what happened with the missionaries. I think that what I want to also say is that these kinds of experiences occur all over the world in international adoption.
I've been doing international adoption medicine for 20 years and I could give you a long list of the countries where things have gone awry, there've been irregularities, people not following the rules.
Investigations by both sides, whether it's the in-country government or the United States State Department. It's necessary to investigate things that may go the wrong way because you need to have a transparent process.
So I don't see this as anything different and I don't think it's going to discourage people from adopting. I do think we need to do some damage control. I think definitely the ten people who took the 33 children did set a sort of large -- a moment in the media where clearly everyone is questioning what their motivations were.
I don't know if we'll ever understand all of that. I really don't. But I think the most important piece to look at is that they didn't follow the rules.
ARONSON: And what we need to do is just separate. There's rules to be followed and they must be followed. And everything has to be transparent.
COOPER: And at this point are there new rules in place for new adoptions going forward? Or is that still in limbo?
ARONSON: No, there were some extra rules that were sort of made to give the system a little bit of flexibility and that occurred on January 18th. The State Department clearly set up a system that where there was a parole involved where kids could now -- could leave without a complete process.
But with everything in line just as we always have it. And I think that probably should continue just the way that was.
COOPER: All right, Jane Aronson, I appreciate you being with us. Thanks.
ARONSON: You're welcome.
COOPER: Always good to have you.
Still ahead, a terror suspect who was caught on tape allegedly buying bomb-making materials at a beauty supply store. Well, today he pleaded guilty to plotting a massive attack on New York's subway system. We have details on that ahead.
Plus more than six dozen teachers in one of Rhode Island's worst- performing schools all making more than $70,000 a year, but they balked at reforms that involved longer hours. Now officials are threatening to fire them all. Does that sound fair to you?
Two sides square off.
COOPER: Tonight the search for a missing actor intensifies. Family of a former "Growing Pains" star says he may have been suffering from depression. That story's ahead.
But first some of the latest on some of the other important stories we're following. Brianna Keilar joins us with the "360 Bulletin" -- Brianna.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a former Denver Airport shuttle driver pleaded guilty today to plotting to bomb New York subways on the anniversary of 9/11 last year. Najibullah Zazi pleaded guilty to three counts in a federal courtroom in New York. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
A "360 Follow": Texas authorities have identified the two men killed last week when a plane crashed into an office building in Austin. One of the victims was the plane's pilot, Joseph Stack, who authorities say targeted the building after posting an anti-government manifesto online. Sixty-eight-year-old Vernon Hunter, one of nearly 200 IRS employees who worked in the building, also died.
Retired New Jersey Jets star Jayson Williams faces up to five years in prison in his sentencing tomorrow for the fatal shooting of his limousine driver eight years ago. Williams pleaded guilty to aggravated assault telling the judge he was reckless in handling a shotgun he was showing off to friends.
And Anderson, meet Giant George, he is the world's tallest dog, according to the folks at Guinness World Records. He stands 3 feet 7 inches from paw to shoulder. That's three quarters of an inch taller than Titan, his closest rival. Both of them are Great Danes. And Anderson, this dog has a Facebook page and a Twitter feed and I'm kind of embarrassed to say that his Twitter feed is more interesting than mine.
COOPER: It's probably more interesting than mine. Funny.
COOPER: Brianna thanks.
Join the live -- you can join the live chat right now at ac360.com. Good discussions going on there right now.
Coming up, fixing a school by firing all of its teachers? Is that really the solution? Nearly 80 faculty members may lose their jobs. An extreme measure to help struggling kids, says the school's superintendent. But is it the right measure? We're going to hear from both sides of the issue and let you decide.
COOPER: Really interesting story out of Rhode Island. There are 74 full-time teachers at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island. But by June all of them could be out of work; fired for failing to turn around one of the lowest performing schools in the state. Less than half the kids graduate. Only 7 percent are proficient in math. Almost all of the kids live in poverty.
Last week the dozens of teachers who earn at least $72,000 a year received letters recommending their termination. They were sent by the school's superintendent. The board of trustees votes on the measure tomorrow. It's not against the law. The fact is it's one of six options mandated by the federal government to fix struggling schools.
The superintendent says the decision came after the Teachers Union balked at other options that would have required faculty to spend more time with students. The move sparked both outrage and support.
Joining us, two sides: Randi Weingarten, is the president of American Federation of Teachers which represents the teachers at Central Falls High School; and Steve Perry, our education contributor. Appreciate both of you being with us.
Steve, many teachers already put in a lot of time helping students both in and out of the classroom. What's wrong with asking for a little more money by the teachers for all that extra time?
STEVE PERRY, CNN EDUCATION CONTRIBUTOR: Nothing if the community had it. The community doesn't have any money. They're paying $72,000 a year for these individuals to be in a school in which they're graduating just 50 percent of the students.
And as you said, 93 percent of the children are not performing at proficient at math. They're asking for more money? They can't stay after for 25 minutes? It takes you ten minutes to get your coat on.
COOPER: Randi, the teachers rejected the school's original plan which would have saved all their jobs because they wanted more money for this extra time that they would have had to spend with students. You know, critics like Steve are saying they're basically putting their salaries ahead of the needs of kids. RANDI WEINGARTEN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: Well actually, Steve, from what my understanding is the story is a bit different than that. And I know the teachers would very much like to negotiate this and I know that some of the officials in Rhode Island have called for mediation. We want to keep that school open. We want to keep that school open for kids.
We agree with you and we agree with Steve. Seven percent math proficiency is totally unacceptable but so is the amount of poverty in that school. What we need to do is we need to make sure we create a place where all kids can achieve in some ways like the place that Mr. Perry has created in Capital Prep.
COOPER: What does that mean?
PERRY: Right. Thank you. One of the things that...
COOPER: Steve, go ahead.
WEINGARTEN: Can I finish? Sorry.
COOPER: Steve, go ahead.
PERRY: One of the -- one of the things that's important, if poverty is this immovable object for that faculty we understand that maybe it's not their group of students that they can educate. Let's free the students.
Why would we keep a school open that has already proven that it simply cannot educate the children in the circumstances within which they're in? We operate a school in a poor community. There are thousands of educators all over the country who have the capacity to educate children where they are. We don't need to change poverty. We need to change who's teaching children in poverty.
WEINGARTEN: Well what we actually need to do is we need to do both.
But look, we have thousands of schools, as Mr. Perry said, that work. Let's look at what it is that makes them work. We have...
COOPER: But doesn't accountability work? Holding teachers accountable?
WEINGARTEN: Accountability is one aspect of it, but what I'm talking about, Anderson, is think about the schools that work across the country. Think about the schools that parents sometimes spend thousands of dollars to put their kids in.
They have well-prepared teachers. They have smaller classes. They have rich curriculum. What we're saying about here Central Falls where there's been five principals in the last six years, where there is one high school in the whole -- in the whole little city which has become the focus point of the community, where hundreds of people last week were there supporting the kids and the teachers.
Let's turn that school around like we have in so many other places.
PERRY: Right. And so here's what's important to note. She's right. Attorney Weingarten is right. That we do need better teachers and the only thing standing in way of that are the teachers unions and seniority rules that won't allow us to bring people in who are the most qualified and willing to teach in those schools.
If those folks in that one school cannot do it, then let's free the children. Let's let charter schools come in. Let's let individuals who want to participate in the process come in. If the interest is the needs of the children, let's do it.
She's also right, let's give the children what the children would receive in these private schools, the same things that the superintendent was asking for. Stay after school a little while longer. Come to school a little while earlier. Eat with the children once a week.
Are we really giving up our jobs because they're asking us to eat with children once a week? And finally, over $30 -- $30 additional dollars. The community has double-digit poverty. There's no more money.
It's unreasonable and irresponsible to ask a community that's already given to the teeth for more money, especially when the product that they're receiving is below standard. At some point we have to acknowledge that the children are more important than the adults who have degrees, certification, and 401(k)s. We have to focus on the children.
COOPER: Randi, I want you to be able to respond.
WEINGARTEN: Look, the children are more important, and as I said to you I talked to the superintendent of schools last Thursday and I said, let's restart these negotiations, let's not close the only high school in Central Falls.
I have worked across the country and have seen high-poverty schools including, Mr. Perry, the two charter schools that I started in New York City, turned things around for kids. What we need to do is have strategic common sense reforms that I know my members can do for kids in Central Falls. We need a chance to do that.
COOPER: Randi, your critics will say -- what is essential is the ability for a superintendent or principal to fire teachers. You seem -- teachers' unions obviously are opposed to that notion of being able to fire teachers.
WEINGARTEN: Look, Anderson, we're not opposed to the notion of if somebody is not performing to do what management has to do.
COOPER: But it's incredibly hard to fire a teacher.
PERRY: They only make it harder. I mean it takes at least a year to fire a teacher, at least a year. That's 120 students in a class, under a teacher's responsibility. It takes them at least a year. If Ms. Weingarten is saying that she's in favor --
WEINGARTEN: Mr. Perry, can I -- get a word in..
COOPER: Let him finish, then I'll let you finish.
PERRY: If what she's saying is she's in favor of children, if you're in favor of children then your members have to move out of the way. I'd be willing to bet that some 40 percent of the teachers in that school don't agree with the union leadership. In fact, I bet if they were given the opportunity they would return without any cause. They wouldn't even require anymore --
COOPER: Randi, I want you respond then we have to go.
WEINGARTEN: As I said, the teachers want to negotiate. We have been shut out of that by the superintendent. We're willing 24/7 to do it.
The bottom line is this. It's not union contracts. Look at the best state achievement in the United States. Maryland -- wall to wall union contracts. The issue is, how do we make sure we get the well- prepared teachers to have the smaller class sizes, the safe environment that kids need so we help every single child in Central Falls?
COOPER: Ok. Randi Weingarten, appreciate your time; Steve Perry as well.
Coming up next on the program -- good discussion there -- the president's new push to overhaul the health care system. Not backing down, the president has a new proposal. But can he get even his new party to say yes to it or is the time already past?
Later: getting down with the Vatican's official newspaper which is putting out its own list of best rock albums. That's right. Apparently "Thriller" made the cut. You won't believe what other songs did as well. We'll have them for you coming up.
COOPER: We're talking about "Broken Government" all week. But tonight, a quick example of the government getting things done.
The Senate tonight voted to push forward a $15 billion job creation bill; critics call it a spending bill. Unlike other big legislation, however, including the much bigger stimulus program, this one has the support of five Republicans.
President Obama meantime putting his own health-care reform plan on the table today after a year of watching Republicans block reform and Democrats in Congress failing to unify around their own plan. The White House version would extend coverage to about 31 million uninsured Americans. It phases out the coverage gap that seniors now have to pay out of pocket for prescription drugs, the so-called donut hole. In light of recent rate hikes, the plan also sets up a federal panel to oversee what insurance companies charge. No public option, despite a recent call by about 20 Senate Democrats to revive it. The cost, about $950 billion over 10 years according to the White House.
Missing from that proposal, that big earmark for Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson that drew so much criticism. It's that kind of wheeling and dealing to win votes that really sours people on government. The same, of course, goes for lawmakers voting against legislation but still grabbing for the goodies.
Ali Velshi is looking at four Congress people who tried to do just that -- Ali.
ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, we're here at the earmarks desk at CNN. This is what we're doing this week. We're looking at the more than 9,500 pieces of legislation that are included in other legislation; sometimes -- sometimes unrelated legislation and sometimes under the shroud of secrecy.
I want to show you four congressmen. All four congressmen voted against the health-care legislation. We've taken three projects by Representative Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania -- Republican of Pennsylvania -- three projects worth $1.6 million, all designed to reduce health-care costs. Extend clinic hours at a particular clinic where doctors work, and transfer records into electronic records, a goal that the administration has shared. There's one.
Number two, Dennis Kucinich -- you've heard of him -- he ran for president, Democrat of Ohio. We took three projects of his. Three earmarks, worth $3.45 million. The stated goal, in his words, reduce health-care costs, serve more patients and reduce hospitalizations.
Let's take a third one. Representative Chris Lee, a Republican of New York. We've got two projects worth $880,000. His stated goal for these earmarks, improve the quality of health care and more care for the underserved.
And finally, Representative Harry Teague of New Mexico, a Democrat: three projects, three earmarks worth $2.19 million -- we just chose these randomly -- to deal with electronic medical records, helping the mentality ill and purchasing -- purchasing equipment.
All four of these men voted against health-care reform. Doesn't mean they're against health-care reform in general. They voted against the bill, but they took money in to help their own constituents -- Anderson.
COOPER: So I mean critics will say, look, this is a prime example of hypocrisy that so many Americans think is coming out of Washington.
VELSHI: Right. Now these people will argue that these are targeted plans. They're more affordable than the whole health-care plan, now about $1 trillion. That's their argument.
But the bottom line is, these are examples of things people will do under a bit of a shroud of secrecy. It doesn't get done in the wide open light that is shone on them when they're doing something like the health-care bill -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Ali, thanks.
I want to bring in "Time" magazine's senior writer, columnist and blogger Joe Klein. Is President Obama's health-care plan now -- I mean, is it going to make much of a difference? I mean, does this thing still have traction?
JOE KLEIN, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, I think we've gotten to the end game now maybe, finally. The president, you know, sanded down some of the rough edges of the differences between the House and the Senate bill. He's going to have this health-care summit on Thursday night with the Republicans.
This is kind of -- the administration describes it as his opening bid, if they were actually in negotiation. But since this is broken government we know that there are no negotiations.
COOPER: And to you, I mean, is this -- what's happened with health-care reform the prime example of a broken government?
KLEIN: This is exhibit A. This is the world's -- the world's best example of why things are not working.
COOPER: How so?
KLEIN: First of all, health care; you have every special interest known to humankind pushing and pulling one way or another on this bill.
No. 2, you have the fierce hyper-partisanship. The Republicans have been absolutely unwilling to negotiate with the Democrats, even though many aspects of the Democratic bill were -- you know, I supported this in 1994 when it was the Republican bill.
KLEIN: So you have fierce hyper-partisanship.
The third thing that makes government broken now and difficult to get big things done is how complicated this is.
KLEIN: This, you know, health care, is a really messed-up, complicated system. The issues at stake are very complicated, hard for us to explain in the media.
And -- and the fourth thing is that it's hard for people to understand. And I think that that's an overlooked aspect of why government is broken. We had this great 60-year run after World War II of peace and prosperity. And during that time we lost the habits of citizenship. We didn't...
COOPER: We've lost the habits of citizenship?
KLEIN: We didn't have to pay as close attention to issues.
KLEIN: And now, things aren't so good anymore. The issues are tremendously complicated. And the public really isn't there paying attention. They're easily misled with -- you know, with smoke screen, camouflage issues like death panels, which were never even in the bill.
COOPER: What do you think President Obama did wrong? Was it wrong to kind of put this on Congress and let them come up with a plan? Was it -- what was his mistake? You just interviewed him.
KLEIN: Yes. I think that it might be a mistake to think that we could do anything this ambitious in this kind of environment. He said to me that this took much longer than he ever expected. I mean, they underestimated the amount of time -- this issue hijacked his government in the first year.
And so you could argue that maybe what he should have done would have been to break it up into bite-sized bits, which is the way Bill Clinton tried to get it done. And in fact, Clinton said to me at the end of his administration that, if he had to do it all over again, that's how he'd do it.
COOPER: It's interesting, though, because I mean, President Obama vocally said he didn't want to repeat the mistakes that President Clinton made.
KLEIN: And he made the, you know, he made the exact same mistake that Bill Clinton made, which was to try and get this thing through in one gulp and at the beginning of his administration.
Democrats have a big problem when they come into office. They actually believe in government. They want to get tough things done as opposed to, like, tax cuts. And what they have to do to build the public trust is to start slowly, to show that they can make some things work, that they can get some things passed.
When they come in with a giant program like this, it's hard for the public, you know, it's very easy for the public to be misled and for people to think, "God, here come those Democrats. They want to spend a gazillion dollars again."
COOPER: Interesting. Joe Klein, appreciate you being on. Thanks, Joe.
KLEIN: My pleasure.
COOPER: Up next the search for a former "Growing Pains" actor who vanished.
Plus Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" just one of the albums on the Vatican's newspaper's list of best rock albums. Yes, we said the Vatican. Who knew? We'll be right back.
COOPER: We're following several other important stories. Brianna Keilar joins us again with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Anderson, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has apologized for an air strike yesterday that killed 27 civilians and wounded 14 others. NATO forces thought the convoy they hit was a group of insurgents.
Toyota says it's been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors here in the U.S. who want documents relating to the automaker's acceleration and brake problems. Meanwhile, Toyota officials are scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill tomorrow and Wednesday.
Actor Andrew Koenig is missing. He is perhaps best known for this role as Boner in the 1980s sitcom "Growing Pains". He's also the son of Walter Koenig, who played Chekov on "Star Trek". Koenig was last seen on February 14 in Vancouver, British Columbia. His family says he was despondent and suffering from depression when he vanished.
And the Vatican's official newspaper trying to change its image a little bit; the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Oasis, Michael Jackson, U-2, all of them on its list of best rock albums of all time, Anderson. And also making the cut here: Fleetwood Mac, Donald Fagen, Carlos Santana, Paul Simon and David Crosby.
And Anderson, there's a lot of controversy over these picks and a whole lot of people on the 360 blog who've been trying to guess what your favorite album is. So what is it?
COOPER: Favorite rock album. Wow. Kicking it old school. I'd go for Elvis Costello, "Armed Forces". What do you think?
KEILAR: That's -- that's nice. And you know, wow, right on cue.
COOPER: Yes. I told people in the office this earlier in the day.
KEILAR: Because some of the people on the blog thought that maybe you were a Motley Crue fan or an Abba man.
COOPER: Yes. No. How about you?
KEILAR: I like Smashing Pumpkins.
COOPER: Smashing Pumpkins.
KEILAR: "Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness."
KEILAR: Love that. Love that.
COOPER: Very emo.
COOPER: All right. Thanks very much, Brianna.
Hey that's it for 360. Thanks for watching.
"LARRY KING" starts now.