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Disturbance on United Flight 663; Confederate History Controversy; RNC Leader Under Fire; Nike Airs New Tiger Ad Featuring Woods' Deceased Father

Aired April 7, 2010 - 23:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, breaking news now at the top of the hour. If you're just joining us, a major scare aboard an airliner tonight that literally smelled like a terror attempt but thankfully it was not. It happened aboard the United Airline's jet we're about to show you on the runway at Denver International Airport.

A man coming out of a lavatory, apparently when he was asked what he was doing for so long in there he reportedly said that -- he made some sort of a reference to lighting his shoe on fire -- his shoes on fire. The man, reportedly a mid-level Qatari diplomat was subdued. Fighter jets were scrambled to escort the flight in. The diplomat is now in custody, no explosives found in his shoes as far as we know.

Joining us is national security analyst, Peter Bergen on the phone and Fran Townsend, our national security contributor and former White House Homeland Security advisor. Also Clark Kent Irvin, former Homeland Security Inspector General.

Peter Bergen, as you heard from a source, even if this -- this man had tried to do something, he is a diplomat so he would have had diplomatic immunity, correct?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST (via telephone): Indeed, although there have been cases in the past where diplomatic immunity has not worked. There was a case in Washington where -- I believe a diplomat from Georgia killed a young girl in a traffic accident some years back and his -- you know, the country involved allowed his diplomatic immunity to be revoked so that he could stand charges.

So diplomatic immunity is not -- it doesn't excuse you from everything. And obviously in this case, it seems that this was just a misunderstanding. He may face some charges of creating some sort of public nuisance or I'm not sure what the charges would be. But if it was a serious crime, diplomatic immunity can be revoked.

COOPER: In the last hour, you were talking about sort of past history in Qatar and a person from -- who lived there, who was one of the planners of 9/11, but the government of Qatar has friendly relationships with the United States.

BERGEN: Yes, absolutely. I mean, they also fund al-Jazeera, which is not necessarily the most friendly television network in the world, but basically speaking this is -- like most of the Gulf of Emirate states are quite pro-American, has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world because it has enormous oil reserves, not a hotbed of Islam radicalism but Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the leader of the 9/11 operation, the operational commander did live there under some sort of government protection in the 1996 time frame.

COOPER: And -- and Fran, have you -- I know you've been talking to your sources a lot in these last hour, so we got word of this story. Just bring us up to date on what you have heard from all the folks you have talked to.

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR (via telephone): Sure, Anderson. I mean, what -- what we're hearing is very much (INAUDIBLE) what I heard from senior law enforcement officials that was very much consistent with what Peter has said. And that is -- there was this disturbance after a certain period of time this diplomat was in the lavatory as he comes out. They had reason to believe that he may have tried to set his shoes on fire. After the plane lands, law enforcement met the plane.

And did an -- an initial examination of the shoes and we are told, were satisfied from that initial examination that there was no explosive. You know, this -- it does -- here's the good news to all this, while this was an (INAUDIBLE) if he made some statement that he was trying to set his shoes on fire, there'll be a problem.

And as -- as Peter was saying, likely what happened here is he probably, because he's in diplomatic status he is not ultimately charged with a crime, assuming that he is not (INAUDIBLE) some sort of terrorist attack. But if his country will recall him, he'll be removed from the United States. And that's the most likely informal way of resolving it.

The good news in all this, though, is look how quickly the entire law enforcement community came together both in the national and local level. Information flowed, people were reacting, sharing information including the locals there in Denver. NORAD did scramble fighters and did accompany the jet in for safe landing.

The plane was met as it should have been by the FBI and the Transportation Security Administration. So in some sense, if there's any good news to this sort of story is that the system this time worked as you would have expected it to work in response to an incident. And so -- I mean, at least we have that to the breaking (ph) story.

COOPER: And how does that compare to the underwear incident and certainly the Richard Reid incident? Can you make comparisons, in terms of response time?

TOWNSEND: Well, it's a little bit hard. I mean, it seems to me that -- let's talk, let's compare it to the Christmas Day incident. The initial information was better and more accurate from the very beginning. I mean, after all as Peter noted earlier, the initial report on Christmas Day was that it's a firecracker and it had turned out to be something much more serious.

What we knew here is that there was a disturbance, that they were going to get to the bottom of it and they very quickly looked at it and were able to make an assessment that it was not serious and they got that accurate information both disseminated along -- across the federal and local governments but also as to the public.

And I think that is it -- that is an improvement over what we've sometimes seen in the past. The thing you can't really tell is -- is did the detection and the prevention piece of this, did that work? I don't really know. I mean, they didn't prevent the Christmas Day bomber from getting on with a bomb. This wasn't one. This was not a bomb and so we don't know if this thing really did -- would have worked to preventing such an attack.

COOPER: Yes, Fran Townsend, I appreciate you working your sources over this last hour. It could have been a lot worse, thankfully it was not. Fran, I appreciate you being with us. Peter Bergen as well and Clark Kent Irvin and all the others at CNN who have been working their sources to bring us the correct information.

We're going to continue our programming, a lot of controversy out of the State of Virginia, a proclamation naming April as Confederate History Month. No mention of slavery, though, in the proclamation by the governor. The governor now backtracked on that. We'll have the debate ahead.


COOPER: First up tonight, "Keeping Them Honest"; Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia making April Confederate history month but not mentioning anything about slavery. Now, this is the proclamation which has caused a firestorm of controversy today and results in the Governor just a few hours ago reversing himself.

I want to go over the wall and show you in detail what the proclamation actually said. It was issued on Friday by the newly- elected Republican Governor of Virginia. This is him.

Now, here's -- here is the actual proclamation. I want to make it very big here so you can -- kind of see it.

It starts off saying, "Whereas April is the month in which the people of Virginia joined the Confederate States of America," and look at this, he goes on to -- "join the Confederate States of America in a four year war between the states for independence." We are talking about the Civil War there, the war against the United States.

Now, you skip ahead to Clause 3 and it says, "It is important for all Virginians right here to reflect upon our Commonwealth sharing history to understand the sacrifices of confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War."

So do you notice anything missing there? He's saying that in the month of April, all the people now in the State of Virginia, black and white, should understand and effectively pay homage to the quote, "Sacrifices of confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens". It makes no mention of slavery, nothing about the sacrifices the half million enslaved people in Virginia were forced to make.

Now, you can scroll through the proclamation and never see the word "slavery". And that was issued on Friday. Then on Tuesday when asked about it, the governor didn't say -- "That was an oversight, I forgot about slavery." He actually suggested that "slavery was insignificant in Virginia", telling the "Washington Post" -- look at this when we blow this up telling the "Washington Post". "There were any number of aspects to that conflict between the states, obviously it involved slavery, it involved other issues but I focused on the ones I thought were most significant for Virginia."

Now, a few hours ago, after increasing criticism, the governor called the slavery omission a mistake and inserted this into the new proclamation. This is the new paragraph he put in. He says, "Whereas it's important for all Virginians to understand that the institution of slavery led to this war and was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights and all Virginians are thankful to its permanent eradication from our borders and the study of this time period should reflect upon and learn from this painful part of our history."

All right now, so "Keeping Them Honest", it seems pretty hard to argue that this was just an oversight by the governor. Because as we showed you as late as yesterday, he was defending and excluding any mention of slavery. Now, the other explanation, of course, is that it was a calculated effort to appeal to his base.

Governor McDonnell was lobbied to make the proclamation by the Virginia Division of a group called "The Sons of Confederate Veterans". They call the civil war the "Second American Revolution" and say, "The citizen soldiers who fought for the confederacy personify the best qualities of Americans." That's their quote.

Joining me now, is Brag Bowling, the commander of the Virginia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans; also political contributor, Roland Martin.


COOPER: Roland, what do you make of this? Was the governor just trying to appeal to his base? Was this just a mistake?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, first of all, he clearly was trying to appeal to his base. It was an idiotic mistake for him to sit here and proclaim this. I mean, the bottom line is, the confederacy was based upon this issue of slavery. And so it was hurtful, it was degrading, it was an oppressive system.

And so I don't even see how he can even come up with this whole notion that it really wasn't significant enough to mention it and that it's really no big deal. Let's celebrate the confederates.

That makes no sense, that's like someone sitting here and saying, "Let's celebrate Nazi soldiers for simply doing their job." Ridiculous.

COOPER: Brag, your group, the Sons of Confederate Veterans lobbied the governor to make this proclamation. Was it a mistake?

BRAG BOWLING, SONS OF THE CONFEDERATE VETERANS: Not at all. I applaud the governor for his courage and his insight. And I completely disagree with Mr. Martin. The -- there were a whole lot of issues other than slavery involved in that war. And actually, he's given a good reason why there should be confederate history month because he knows only one reason. And that's slavery.

COOPER: But -- but --

BOWLING: And there were a whole lot more.

MARTIN: That was the dominant reason.

COOPER: But do you think it was a mistake for the governor not to mention slavery in his proclamation?

BOWLING: The governor -- it was an omission. And the Sons of Confederate Veterans has always wanted a true and accurate history of the war. And that includes slavery, so we are not at all opposed to the insertion of that clause, no sane person in the 21st century supports slavery.

COOPER: But -- but on your --

BOWLING: It was 150 years ago and there are people that act like it's 1865 right now.

COOPER: Right, on your Website, though, on your home page, you don't mention anything about slavery, you say that the Civil War which you call the Second American Revolution was about the preservation of liberty and freedom, that that was the motivating factor.

BOWLING: It was -- there's no doubt about it.

COOPER: But you make no mention of slavery here.

BOWLING: We are an organization of confederate descendants. And so, we're naturally going to support the honor and good name of the confederate soldier. He wasn't a politician, he was a soldier.

MARTIN: But wait -- but wait a minute. Here's the reality. The fact of the matter is, Virginia did not want the federal government telling them what to do, it was dealing with the issue of slavery. Now you sitting here and talk about freedom. Well, guess what? People who looked like me, they were not free. They were oppressed by the people who will fight to the system --

BOWLING: I hate to give you a history lesson, sir --

COOPER: Let him finish. And then, I'll let you answer.

MARTIN: No, no, again, though, again, though, that is the reality. And so when you sit here and say well, we will celebrate the confederate veterans, these folks committed treason by taking up arms against the United States. You celebrate that? They were domestic terrorists.

BOWLING: Can I speak?

COOPER: Yes. Go ahead.

BOWLING: Ok. He's incorrect, especially when it comes to Virginia. Slavery had absolutely nothing to do with Virginia leaving the union. As of --

MARTIN: Oh, come on.

BOWLING: -- as of Fort Sumter, Virginia was firmly pro union. It was when Abraham Lincoln called up 75,000 troops to invade the lower south that Virginia seceded and the Governor of Virginia John Letcher (ph) said that no Virginian would be allowed to fight against fellow Americans and be coerced into staying in the union, Virginia wouldn't do that. It had nothing to do with slavery.

MARTIN: Then why did they do it? Slavery. They did, Fort -- look, South Carolina, it's all slavery. You can dance around it, you can spin it, you can dress it up, but that is the reality.

And the problem here is, the governor, look, you had two previous Democratic governors who would not issue this particular proclamation. Then you have a couple Republican governors before then who did so.

But even Governor Jim Gilmore saw the need to call slavery what it was. This governor made an egregious mistake. And it is insulting sir for you to sit here say what -- it was simply an omission. And if you can't even recognize what's on your own Web site, that is insulting.

BOWLING: You wouldn't have -- you wouldn't have supported the Confederate History Month proclamation even if he did put the reference in. You wouldn't because this is political.

MARTIN: I don't support the celebrating of terrorists. I don't support the celebrating of terrorist.

BOWLING: This is political, Mr. Martin.

MARTIN: I don't support somebody -- I don't support if somebody is celebrating Nazi soldiers by simply saying, well, they were only doing their job. I equate the two the same.

BOWLING: I hate to tell you but the confederate soldier was hardly a Nazi. He's been the main fighting force for the United States in every war we've ever fought as a southerner.

COOPER: So Brag, do you then disagree -- Brag, do you disagree with what the governor has now done because in his --

BOWLING: No. COOPER: -- new statement, in the new proclamation, he seems to disagree with you, that slavery -- you say slavery had nothing to do with Virginia and the war.

BOWLING: Well, I disagree with the fact that he said that it was the reason and it wasn't. But he's been pushed into this --

MARTIN: Oh come on.

BOWLING: -- by people like Mr. Martin. This is a political opposition of Robert McDonnell, is basically what he's hearing from.

MARTIN: It's called history, these same confederate veterans -- they didn't want people who looked like me to read and this is why, because we also understand the real history. But you can -- again, you can sit here and create a secondary history. It can be revisionist. But that is the reality. And so there is a whole body of work that lays it out.

But when the people sit here and say, oh, it was state's rights, not telling us what to do, because they wanted to keep the way of life, which was to keep people like me in chains, beating them, oppressing them and denying them the rights they richly deserved, those are facts.

BOWLING: The United States was -- the United States was the only country in the Western hemisphere that ended slavery through war. And that was --

MARTIN: What was the first state --

BOWLING: -- a policy of the union government.

MARTIN: -- what was the first state to legalize slavery? Virginia. What was the -- who had more slaves than any other state? Virginia. Every single president that came from Virginia was a slaveholder. You can -- you can sit here and say that's not true but they are simply facts.

COOPER: Brag, when you -- why do you call the Civil War the Second American Revolution? I mean, it --


BOWLING: Well, we're seeing the same issues --

COOPER: -- this was a war to destroy the United States.

BOWLING: Mr. Cooper, we're seeing many of the same issues today that the confederacy fought for 150 years ago: smaller government --

MARTIN: Like what?

BOWLING: -- lower taxation, less imperialistic government, too. So --

COOPER: So are you -- are you saying that -- that the current efforts by Republicans are similar to efforts by confederate soldiers?

BOWLING: No, I'm not. I'm just saying that the issues, many of the issues, which were -- which were part of the confederacy in 1860, you still see today.


COOPER: Right, but those issues were pretty much resolved by the Civil War. Go ahead, Roland.

BOWLING: No. Secession --

MARTIN: Right.

BOWLING: -- was resolved by the Civil War. That was the only issue that was truly resolved.

MARTIN: And they seceded primarily because of the whole issue of slavery. And look Anderson, these are the same folks who would proudly use state's rights. The two biggest reasons they use the Tenth Amendment have been because of slavery and when it came to education.

And so in a position, all those particular positions, the same voices, the same people are saying oh, no, the confederates, the way of life, this is how the southern way of life. That should be rejected absolutely. And so he wants to talk about taxes and things along those lines, nonsense. Those are secondary issues, slavery was the primary issue.


COOPER: We're going to continue this conversation after a quick break. Also more on the breaking news out of Denver: a disturbance on United Airline's Flight 663 from Washington, apparently a misunderstanding. Details on that.

And later, Sarah Palin versus Republican Party Chairman, Michael Steele, which one really speaks for the GOP? We have the "Raw Politics".


COOPER: Hey, we're back talking about Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's proclamation, making April a Confederate history month, the initial wording of it not mentioning slavery at all; the proclamation update and late today to add a clause about slavery. The controversy though, is certainly not dying down.

More now on my conversation with CNN analyst, Roland Martin and Brag Bowling of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which lobbied the governor to make the proclamation in the first place.


COOPER: But there are those who say look, this is inherently offensive to African-American citizens in the State of Virginia who are being asked in this original proclamation to understand the sacrifices made by confederate leaders, by confederate soldiers and by citizens. It says nothing about sacrifices which are forced upon enslaved formerly Africans, enslaved black people.

BOWLING: Right. This is -- this is supposed to be a resolution, a proclamation sought for by our organization, honoring the sacrifices of confederates --


COOPER: But -- but why -- why should black citizens -- right, but why should black citizen in the State of Virginia today be told that this is a month in which they should understand the sacrifices made by confederate leaders and confederate soldiers. You can understand why -- some black residents in the State of Virginia especially would say, what are you talking about?

BOWLING: Let me ask you something.

MARTIN: Thank you.

BOWLING: If -- if we don't -- and I'm sure this is the way my opponent here feels. Should -- should we not study confederate history, which is an important part of American history because if we don't then we'll be treating it like Russia?

That's the way the Soviet Union did with history they didn't like.

MARTIN: And let --

COOPER: Ok, let me just give you my answer and then let Roland give his answer. My answer is I have relatives who were confederate soldiers. I have relatives who were union soldiers. I have relatives buried in the confederate cemeteries in the state of Mississippi. I go and visit their graves.

But that doesn't mean you know, that -- that you whitewash what the history was, what the cause was, and I think your critics are saying that that's what you're trying to do.


BOWLING: I think Governor McDonnell was writing a proclamation for our organization. And that's the approach he took. And he's changed it now because of the vitriolic opposition of people like Roland.

COOPER: Roland I want you to be able to respond.

MARTIN: No -- and here's the problem. Your organization does not represent all Virginians. He is the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia; that means whites, African-Americans, Hispanic, Asians, men, women, people who support confederate veterans and those who oppose them. When the governor makes this kind of decision, he has to make it for all the people in that particular state. That is what is so offensive. No one, any right thinking person, especially any African- American would not sit here and support the praise and celebration of a group of people who wanted to oppress their ancestors.

So when you talk about your ancestors, trust me, mine were in chains, they were beaten, they were oppressed, they were degraded, families were broken up. And for you to say, well, they had to sacrifice. Well, guess what? People with my skin color paid a significant sacrifice by dealing with the folks who you are supporting.

BOWLING: Well, I can say this. Is that -- I don't think that -- that you represent the feelings of all black people either.

MARTIN: I didn't say all black people. But I can tell you this here, Virginia had more slaves than anybody else. It was a state that was deeply embedded with the culture of slavery. And you can deny it, you can dress it up. But that was the -- that was the whole point of the Civil War. And it is shameful that you cannot recognize the mistake that this governor has made by not even mentioning it and then following up by saying, it was not significant enough to mention it by saying there were other issues that he wanted to focus on.

And then to put tourism into it --

BOWLING: But there were plenty of other issues.

MARTIN: Oh give me a break.

But what was the dominant issue? That's like Tiger Woods' wife saying I'm going leaving you because we can't communicate. No, you're leaving because he cheated. So stop trying to sit here and say there's other stuff. The dominant issue that cast a cloud over everything was slavery.

COOPER: Mr. Bowling I want to give you the final thought and then we've got to go.

BOWLING: No, I just -- I totally disagree. I think there's a place to honor veterans, all veterans. And the confederate veteran is a recognized American veteran by Congress and he deserves full honor for the sacrifice he made.

COOPER: I guess, though, the critics say well, why not then, have the month where confederate -- you know, everyone who fought in the Civil War is recognized, where confederate veterans, union veterans --

BOWLING: Well, that's -- that's an easy one because the Union Army invaded the south. And the Union Army killed thousands and thousands of Virginians.

COOPER: Right. But there were plenty of Virginians who actually -- (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: -- there are plenty of Virginians who actually supported the union and actually formed the State of West Virginia and there is -- you know, to say that they invaded Virginia, there are those who would argue with you it's part of the United States.

BOWLING: I think that's the prime motivating factor of the confederate soldier, is the fact that they were invaded and they had to defend their homes and their families and some of the things that the union armies --

MARTIN: Right.

BOWLING: -- did when they were in Virginia by completely destroying the Shenandoah Valley, burning people's homes and stealing things --

MARTIN: Sir, how dare you --

BOWLING: This is the way --

MARTIN: How --

BOWLING: -- this is the way the Union Army behaved in every southern state from the march to the sea all the way through South Carolina.

MARTIN: So what -- were you --

BOWLING: And it was shameful and degrading.

MARTIN: So -- so were you offended when they destroyed Africans? Were you ashamed when they destroyed the families? When they killed them? When they tortured them, when they murdered them? You sit here and talk about what the Union Army did --

BOWLING: The Union Army?

MARTIN: When the people -- you sir, but no. The people you're supporting, they tortured and killed Africans who were slaves. And you're sitting here by saying well, they invaded. Come on, do you not even see and do you feel and hear how you sound?

BOWLING: I think I sound perfectly rational. I'm giving you what happened.

MARTIN: No, I think, no I think you sound delirious when you can't even recognize how they destroyed human beings. This was a --

BOWLING: You're giving a perfect reason why this whole era needs a full study.

COOPER: But -- but -- but Mr. Bowling you're not -- you're not --


COOPER: I just want to give you an opportunity to respond to what Mr. Martin said, I mean, you do recognize that, you know, slavery was inherently evil and Africans who were --

BOWLING: I do. I do.

COOPER: -- brought over here were treated terribly.

BOWLING: I make no -- I make no defense of slavery. But we live in 2010. We don't live in 1860, where slavery was a world-wide institution. It's a completely different place now.

MARTIN: And it was wrong then -- and it was wrong then. And in the governor's statement, he even said we need to recognize the times people lived in. I'm sorry, sir, I reject evil then and I reject it now.

COOPER: We're going to have to leave it there. Brag Bowling, I appreciate your perspective and being honest, being on the program with us and Roland Martin as well. Thank you.


COOPER: Coming up next, Sarah Palin speaking out today. What she is saying about the TEA Party and what our political panel has to say about her political future and the future of Michael Steele who is supposed to be leading the GOP.

Also we'll update the breaking news, the terrorism scare that's now looking like something else -- it seems like some sort of misunderstanding or act of stupidity on the part of a passenger.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: We continue following breaking news throughout the hour, terrorism scare aboard a United Airlines flight from Washington to Denver. A Qatari diplomat is in custody after reportedly joking about lighting his shoes on fire. More as we get it throughout the hour.

In the meantime Lisa Bloom has the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Lisa.


A federal official says rescue crews may be able to enter a West Virginia mine to search for four missing miners sometime tonight. Dangerous gases have kept them from going inside the Upper Big Branch Coal Mine but those levels have been dropping.

25 miners died in Monday's explosion, the deadliest mining disaster in 25 years.

The former Soviet republic Kyrgyzstan erupted today with waves of protesters storming government buildings and apparently driving the president from office. At least 40 people were killed. A former foreign minister claims to be in control of the interim government.

Alan Greenspan acknowledged today that he did make mistakes during his 21-year tenure as chairman of the Federal Reserve. He said he was wrong about 30 percent of the time. But he also said that his policy of keeping interest rates low did not inflate the housing bubble. He was testifying at a hearing on the causes of the financial crisis.

In less than 24 hours, Tiger Woods tees off at the Masters. Today Billy Payne, the chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club didn't cut him any slack, saying Woods disappointed everyone with his sex scandal. This, as Nike released a new ad featuring Woods and the voice of his late father.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tiger, I am more prone to be inquisitive, to promote discussion. I want to find out what your thinking was, I want to find out what your feelings are, and did you learn anything?


COOPER: I don't know what to make of that. It's -- the same way you know, critics say he used his kids to kind of promote his image and now he's sort of using his father to kind of be sympathetic and make us see things through his dad's eyes. I don't know. I'm not sure what to make of it. What about you?

BLOOM: I can't think of any other situation where a large company like Nike would bring on their celebrity endorser and publicly spank him. And when you add to that, using the recorded voice of his deceased father obviously recorded in another context. COOPER: Yes.

BLOOM: It is eerie. Maybe Nike is trying to transition into having more positive ads for Tiger and they felt they had to do this.

COOPER: I think also the use of the term spanking is probably not the best verb to use in all this.

BLOOM: Oh, boy. Oh, boy.

COOPER: Yes. Probably not.

BLOOM: You had to go there.

This ad's only running for a day and a half and on a couple of sports network, basic cable. That's it.

COOPER: Yes. It's going to get picked up everywhere. It is fast. I mean it's very compelling people will want to talk about it so they probably don't need a big ad buy.

BLOOM: Not that there's anything wrong with basic cable. COOPER: Hey, you know, not at all. It comes with the package.

Lisa thanks.

"Raw Politics" now and who's really in charge of the Republican Party. The question tonight, are you looking at them? That's Sarah Palin today with Congresswoman Michele Bachmann at an event in Minneapolis. The pair outshining certainly state Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty, used to be considered the top presidential contender -- or a top presidential contender -- probably still is and giving a big shout-out to the Tea party movement today -- they did.


SARAH PALIN, AUTHOR, "GOING ROGUE": Now backstage, Michele and I were talking about the Tea party movement. We were catching up a little bit and I was wondering, do we have some Tea party Americans here today?

Well, I thank you then. I think you for being part of this beautiful grassroots movement that's really sweeping across our country. And it is full of common sense conservatives who are ready to take our country back. I thank you for being a part of this.


COOPER: No shout-out for this guy, GOP's chairman, Michael Steele. Well, there really wasn't any reason to give him a shout-out.

CNN contributor, GOP advisor Alex Castellanos saying the party needed to, quote, "change direction because Chairman Steele has lost the trust of any party's lifeblood major donors". He was talking about the latest gaffe on Steele's watch, the RNC money spent at a West Hollywood bondage-themed strip club called Voyeurs, which I guess calls itself an art club.

There have been a number of other missteps since Steele became chairman. Let's talk "Raw Politics" now with GOP strategist and CNN contributor, Ed Rollins and former Bush speechwriter David Frum.


COOPER: Ed, should Michael Steele step down?

ED ROLLINS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think for the good of the party, he should step aside. I don't think he can be effective in the six months we have for a very, very important election. And his job is to raise money or to be the voice of reason, neither of which I think he can do at this point in time.

COOPER: Has he become too much of a distraction?

ROLLINS: Yes. He's absolutely a distraction. We've spent the last two weeks discussing things that shouldn't be relevant to the American public. What should be relevant is the President signing a -- not a very good treaty, I think, with the Russians, the health-care debate which still needs to go on.

And I think we're talking about sex clubs. And I think that goes against our base. I think any donor today who thinks about giving money to the RNC is going to think about jets and wasted money, as opposed to money that's going to be spent well on a candidate.

COOPER: David, do you agree? Do you think he should step down?

DAVID FRUM, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: I do not agree. You led the show, Anderson, with the story of the proclamation in Virginia. I don't think Governor Bob McDonnell had any ill intent, I think actually he was trying to avoid controversy, not make controversy.

But he couldn't see that situation with any eyes but the eyes he happened to have, and the eyes around him are also very similar kind of eyes. We need some different perspectives inside the Republican Party and at the highest levels, levels that no American history from other points of view, not just from a book. And that is something very precious that Michael Steele brings.

Michael Steele is also a little bit the victim here of the difficulty of breaking a media narrative. Look, on my Web site we broke a story that the Democratic National Committee spent not $1,900 but $6,000 at a D.C. strip club called Josephine's. Now, we've been putting it all over our front page and that doesn't get as much traction.

And yet, are there calls for the head of the DNC to step down?

Michael Steele didn't make that strip club decision. It was made by somebody who's been since disciplined. It was a big mistake. There are a lot of problems inside the RNC. But Michael Steele should not be made the victim and fall guy for everything that goes wrong.

COOPER: I had no idea -- I mean, David, Ed, did you know that -- is so much money always traditionally spent at strip clubs by Republicans or Democrats?


ROLLINS: No -- first of all and I have great respect for David. He was a great speechwriter for President Bush. I oversaw it when I was the White House political director of the RNC. The man at the top has total control of that place. We've had about four or five scandals in the fundraising today. But we're turning donors off.

The role of the Republican National Committee is to raise money, and it's not doing a very effective job.

Haley Barbour, one of our great governors, former chairman, was a greet chairman, is saying don't give to them. Give to the RGA. The head of the congressional committee is saying don't waste your money there. Give to us.

And the truth of the matter is, how are you effective in six months in an election in which we can win? The party is about electing people. It's the elected officials that are the party; it's not people that they just want running around with hats every four years at conventions.

COOPER: What about to David's point, though, about needing different voices, needing different complexions?

ROLLINS: We need to go out and (INAUDIBLE) elect people. Michael Steele hopefully will go run again someday for office. But at this point in time, everyday it's about him. And it's not a good reflection. And he himself making his comments about race being involved in this I thought was a very real insult to Republicans.

And I think at the end of the day, our job is to go take safe Republican seats, which we have about 180 of them, find good candidates, who may also be African-American or Hispanic and elect them and that, basically, would help to long-term broaden. It won't be David and I talking about why you should be a good Republican. It's going to be people like those elected who can do that.

COOPER: David, could -- could anybody in the Republican Party even ask Michael Steele to step down at this point because of his race? It certainly would not -- you know, that would become an issue, wouldn't it?

FRUM: I get the feeling quite a lot of people are asking him to step down including Ed Rollins. And so I don't think race buys you any immunity, nor should it. We just should value, I think, some of the insights that Michael Steele brings. And it is -- it's sobering to consider what would the party's national image look like?

COOPER: Would you give money to the RNC or would you give it to another group right now?

FRUM: I would give money to the RNC, because I'm a small-dollar donor I'm afraid, I apologize to say. And the small dollar donors have historically gravitated to the RNC. The big dollar donors sometimes go elsewhere.

But what would the party look like? Who would be the face of the party but for Michael Steele? It would be -- the media collaborates in this too. We wouldn't hear so much from Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty, but we hear a lot from Sarah Palin and from the faces at Fox News. And that's not enough of a face to turn to the country.

COOPER: Are you concerned by the attention that Sarah Palin gets, Michelle Bachmann gets? Are they the face the Republican Party wants out there right now?

ROLLINS: They're a very important part of the Republican Party. I think, first of all, the party is big enough -- I go back to the point. I think the party is to elect people to office. I think the office holders are the ones that vote every day. And the rest it is all, on the surface, part of the organization.

The more people you can have, the more diversified you can have, the better. Sarah Palin was our vice-presidential candidate. She energized a political part of this campaign that nobody else could, including John McCain. She's a very important long-term part of this.

If she ever walked away from our party -- Michael Steele can go away. If Sarah Palin decided she wanted to go be part of to the Tea Party and run as an independent candidate, she would do so much damage to this party. We need her. We need more like her. And I think at the end of the day, she's a very effective communicator.

COOPER: David, do you think that the Republican Party needs her now?

FRUM: Well, she is a little bit like plutonium. And Ed Rollins is right, if she decided to run as a third-party candidate, the head of the Tea Party, she would do a lot of damage to the Republican Party. And if she decided to run inside the Republican primary, she'd do a lot of damage to the Republican Party.

Pretty much wherever she goes, she's going to do a lot of damage to the Republican Party because despite the intense devotion of her relatively small band of followers, she's very off putting.

You -- CNN has done a poll that found an interesting number. Half of Republican women think that Sarah Palin is unqualified to be president. She has a huge reverse gender gap. That is, her own gender is more suspicious of her than the male gender is.

ROLLINS: She energized a very large segment of this party, though. And if she wanted to be a player, she could be a very significant player.

COOPER: Ed Rollins, David Frum, appreciate you guys being on tonight. Thank you very much.


COOPER: Well, we continue following the breaking news out of Denver. We have updates ahead. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Updating the breaking news out of Denver, United Flight 663, on the ground safely after some kind of disturbance on the way from Reagan National Airport in Washington.

Fran Townsend is reporting a passenger, a Qatari diplomat is in custody. Reports are he may have been smoking in the bathroom and when asked, he apparently joked about trying to light his shoes on fire. Again these reports are sketchy now, just based on one or two sources.

CNN's Jim Spellman joins us live from Denver International Airport with the latest. Jim, what are you hearing?

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, like you said, details are really sketchy. Sources here are telling us it's very early in their investigation. I just spoke with a passenger who was on the plane, who coincidentally, is the spokesman for NORAD in Colorado Springs. He said amazingly, even though two NORAD F-16s had been scrambled to accompany the plane, passengers weren't even aware anything was going on.

They landed, they stayed for about two hours on the plane and they were sort of row by row taken off of the plane and questioned by the FBI in a remote location. He said he knew nothing and had no information to give them; didn't even see the gentleman in question being taken off.

Now they're on their way back here to the terminal now to go about their business. Honestly, Anderson, it's like business as usual here. You would have no idea that anything of this magnitude of investigation was going on -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right.

Let's bring in national security contributor, Fran Townsend. She's on the phone, been talking to a lot of sources over the last hour, hour and a half or so.

Fran -- the best -- what have you heard from your sources so far?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR (via telephone): Anderson, what they're telling us is after the plane landed, law enforcement officials examined this guy's shoes because, of course, initial reports had suggested that he had tried to light his shoes on fire, concerning potentially that had been a shoe bomb similar to Richard Reid in 2001.

They did an initial examination, there was no indication that there was any explosives involved and that frankly led over the course of time to disbelief now that it appears that there has been some sort of misunderstanding that led to this whole thing.

COOPER: And this man is a Qatari diplomat, has diplomatic immunity. So even in -- I mean no matter what, there's nothing in terms of prosecution would take place, even if he had done something.

TOWNSEND: I think that's probably right Anderson. You know there have been instances where countries waive diplomatic immunity to permit somebody to be prosecuted here. But if this is indeed as we expect it now to be just a misunderstanding, more likely that this is a case where he will not be prosecuted and frankly, if it was handled in sort of informal diplomatic channels, he may be recalled back to Qatar and returned to his country of nationality.

COOPER: Also on the phone, Jeanne Meserve, our homeland security correspondent. Jeanne, what are you hearing from your sources?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, I'm told that they're still finishing up the investigation here. They're still questioning all of the people who are on that flight. They're going over the aircraft, they're being extra careful that in fact nothing of significance has occurred here.

But in the meantime, I think what I'm hearing is largely what the others have heard, that this individual was in a restroom. He took a long time. A federal air marshal became curious about what he was doing, interrupted him to find out what was going on. And this man is -- I'm told by a U.S. official made an unfortunate remark about possibly having a shoe bomb.

And that is what led to this incredible series of event this is afternoon as they try to ferret out exactly what was going on.

I can tell you, having traveled with the federal air marshals one time, one of the things they very much keep their eye on is what's happening with the restrooms, because there's always been fear that someone could hide something in there. And someone on board the flight could be retrieving it. There's also been concerns that something could be assembled in a restroom.

They monitor quite carefully the traffic in and out, and how long someone lingers when they're there -- Anderson.

COOPER: And Fran, it's certainly an indication of -- at least on this flight, the fact that there were air marshals assigned that the program is in place. And in this case, at least, you know, they were on the front line right there.

TOWNSEND: Absolutely, Anderson. And furthermore, there's an indication the plane was clearly communicating back to the tower on the ground in Denver. There were TSA and FBI officials requesting to meet the plane. They were there. NORAD was notified. They did scramble two F-16 fighter jets, as you heard.

And so the system works where there was a disturbance on the plane that wasn't fully understood until after it landed. The systems worked; the notifications, the information flow and response were (INAUDIBLE). In that sense, that's a positive development from the story.

COOPER: Fran Townsend, I appreciate you working your sources to this late hour, covering this breaking story, Jeanne Meserve as well, homeland security correspondent.

We're going to, of course, continue to follow the story throughout the night and tomorrow in "AMERICAN MORNING".

Up next, "One Simple Thing": see how some college students are turning trash into cash.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: Students at one university are not just preparing for exams, they're protecting the environment. It's a campus-wide effort that's now being recognized across the country with the money and for the message that they're trying to send. It's tonight's "One Simple Thing". Here's Jim Spellman.


SPELLMAN: At the University of Colorado, Boulder even the trash has gone green.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Kat and I'm a compost (INAUDIBLE). I tell people what is and isn't compostable. And that's how you do it.

SPELLMAN: The campus is so focused on the environment, that the school has topped the Sierra Club's Cool Schools ranking. Football games are now zero waste; everything is either recycled or composted. Bicycles rule on campus, there's 10,000 of them; one for every three students.

Campus buses run on bio-diesel and the school chancellor tools around campus in a plug-in electric hybrid plus solar power heats this university-provided home. Solar panels help power the campus and water bottle refill stations cut down on waste.

DAVE NEWPORT, DIRECTOR, CAMPUS ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER: As you can see, this one, just since January has refilled 24,000 times. So that's 24,000 16-ounce plastic water bottles that we are not sending to the landfill.

SPELLMAN: How long has the environmental center been around?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 40 years on Earth day.

SPELLMAN: Dave Newport runs the campus environmental center.

NEWPORT: The center is governed by students and funded by students 100 percent. So the students here have voted with their wallets for 40 years.

SPELLMAN: The recycling effort has actually turned into a profit center for the university. It's turning trash into cash.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's about a $15 per ton net benefit. So this particular model is working really well for us.

SPELLMAN: And the students aren't afraid to do the dirty work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the end of the day, I feel like I've done something by recycling this paper. This is like a symbol of how we could create an impact in the world.

SPELLMAN: Behind all these efforts, there's one simple thing. Create students whose impact on the planet will grow after they graduate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And when they leave, I believe that they're going to be the leaders of the next generation, from the stand point of preserving this environment. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not only when I leave here, this college, I think that when I leave this shift, I'm going to take what I learned away with me, outside into wherever I'm at right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it boils down to personal behavioral choices. How you see the needs that you have, how you pursue them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not only something for those (INAUDIBLE) hippies in Boulder, but it's really something that should just be a part of everyday life, and you don't even think twice about it.

SPELLMAN: Students with a lesson for us all.

Jim Spellman, CNN, Boulder, Colorado.


COOPER: Well, that's it for 360. Thanks for watching.

"LARRY KING" starts now.

I'll see you tomorrow night.

LARRY KING, CNN HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Special edition of "LARRY KING LIVE". They are hanging to a shred of hope in West Virginia tonight as workers continue to vent those deadly gases from the mine. A press conference is underway.

Let's get the latest from CNN's Brooke Baldwin on the scene in Nayoma (ph) -- Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Larry, huge announcement as we were just listening to that news conference. It was Kevin Strickland with MSHA, the federal mining -- basically the governing body. It's the first time that we heard anyone here actually talk about the next phase of this rescue mission which is when they would send in these 30 guys.

He mentioned six teams going in under the mine and try to get to that rescue chamber. You know, this massive, long, painstaking process is taking what seems like, I'm sure, an eternity for all these families who are here in West Virginia --