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Sarah Palin's Political Future?; Who Will Run for GOP's Next Presidential Nominee?; Comedian Chelsea Handler Weighs in on Entertainment Scene

Aired April 13, 2010 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, "Keeping Them Honest": Oklahoma Tea Party leaders reportedly thinking about a call to arms. They say the federal government is overreaching, and are exploring the idea of forming some sort of militia. A state senator who is running for governor has said he believes they have a right to form a state guard.

But, in a state that has paid a steep price for extremism, is this a dangerous move? We will talk with the state senator at the center of a firestorm.

Also tonight, "Raw Politics": Sarah Palin may be the most talked-about Republican these days, but in a new poll just released today, she is not the top pick. What does that say about her political future?

Also, later, the "Big 360 Interview": Chelsea Handler, the wickedly funny comedian, talk show host, and bestselling author, joins me. Who knows where the conversation will go?

First up tonight, though, "Keeping Them Honest": Tea Party leaders in Oklahoma are exploring the possibility of creating a new volunteer armed militia because they say the federal government is overstepping its powers.

According to Associated Press, Al Gerhart, who heads a group called the Oklahoma Constitutional Alliance, supports the idea, saying -- and I quote -- "Is it scary? It sure is. But when do the states stop rolling over for the federal government?"

An Oklahoma state senator, Randy Brogdon, a Republican, who also happens to be running for governor, told the AP he was approached about the idea and believes a state guard would be authorized by the Second Amendment. Now, in case you're wondering, the Second Amendment says, "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

Now, critics of the idea are asking what exactly would an armed state guard do? How would they fight against the federal government overstepping its powers? This notion has set off a firestorm of controversy, as you can imagine, today. Next week, of course, is the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.

And a number of other Republican politicians in the state have criticized the idea of an armed militia.

Here is what Republican State Senator Steve Russell said.


STEVE RUSSELL (R), OKLAHOMA STATE SENATOR: I cannot imagine any scenario where the formulation of a militia or ideas along these lines would be a good thing.


COOPER: State Senator Brogdon says he never called for the creation of a militia, but his statements have not exactly been clear. Listen.


RANDY BROGDON (R), OKLAHOMA STATE SENATOR: I'm talking protecting ourselves. As the governor of this state, I will do everything in my constitutional authority to keep Congress within their constitutional authority.

Congress is so far overreaching into state's business, it's crippling our economy, the bailouts, the stimulus, Obamacare.


COOPER: So, the question tonight: Does he support forming an armed state guard? And, if so, what would it actually do to curtail the powers of the federal government?

State Senator Randy Brogdon joins me now.

Sir, thanks very much for being with us.

I know you feel the government has overstepped its powers. And, certainly, a lot of people around the country feel that way. And you have not called for an armed state guard. But you've also made statements today that make it sound like you do support such a volunteer force.

So, just for the record, do you?

BROGDON: Well, I certainly support our National Guard. We certainly have that. And, on the state statute, Section 44 of the Oklahoma Constitution, we already have a state guard. It's just not activated. It's never been organized. I don't really have the historical knowledge of that. But that's something that we do have available to us.

COOPER: But you, earlier today, said that the National Guard was federalized and, therefore, really wasn't available for some state issues.

BROGDON: Yes. COOPER: And you -- again, I mean, it sounds like you are saying -- you are saying the state guard exists in the statute. Would you support the idea of raising a volunteer state guard?

BROGDON: Well, let me -- Anderson, let me frame the debate and make sure your viewers understand what I have said.

I made a very benign statement yesterday that was picked up on The Drudge Report simply reaffirming our Second Amendment rights. We -- here in Oklahoma, we appreciate those Second Amendment rights. And I understand that, without the Second Amendment, our Constitution would be in dire trouble.

The Second Amendment gives us the right to keep and bear arms. That is unquestionable. It's undeniable. And most citizens here in this state appreciate that. And, so, that's...

COOPER: But -- right.

BROGDON: ... that's the story that I was making.

COOPER: But, in the AP article, you had said that you were approached by Tea Party groups about the possibility of some sort of state guard, in the article called a militia, but I know you don't support the idea of a militia, so some sort of volunteer armed force.

And it seems -- I mean, your critics say you are trying to have it both ways, on the one hand saying, you know, it's allowed for, but without really setting your own position. So, again, I have got to ask you, I mean, would you support some sort of volunteer force, call it a state guard, if it's already on the books? Would you support that idea?

BROGDON: Well, here -- here is my position.

And my position is, I would like to see a quiet revolution. I want to see the restoration of our founding principles. I still believe in limited government. I still believe in personal responsibility, and I still believe in the expansion of freedom.

And all of those things are protected in our Constitution. That's my goal as governor, to protect the citizens of this state, standing on constitutional principles, and using my authority as governor to protect the citizens of this state. That's my position on this issue.

COOPER: OK. But pardon my ignorance, but I -- and I have just got to re-ask the question, though. Do you support, one way or the other, yes or no, the idea of some sort of armed state guard?

BROGDON: I certainly support our state guard that's already in the Oklahoma Constitution. That's unquestionable, just like I support our military, just like I support the National Guard.

But here is the problem. The National Guard, when they are deployed, they are federalized. The governor has no authority over the National Guard. And when we send so many members out of this state overseas to fight a war, the state of Oklahoma, oftentimes, is left very vulnerable.

And we may have ice storms, we may have tornadoes. Where the National Guard is normally called out to help protect the citizens, they are gone. So, would I support a state guard to help the National Guard? Of course.


COOPER: But, earlier, you seemed to be framing it as something to curtail the powers of the federal government, of an overreaching federal government. How would an armed state guard of volunteers, I suppose, prevent federal laws from infringing on what you believe are states' rights?


My -- my comments on the overreaching of state government, I believe that with all of my heart. I believe Congress is so out of control now, Congress is so reaching into the state of Oklahoma, causing economic havoc havoc -- with the bailouts, the stimulus schemes, Obamacare, cap and trade.

All of these things have caused a devastating effect on the citizens of this state economically. And, so, those things can be corrected utilizing the rule of law, standing on constitutional principles. The problem is, we have had a lack of leadership in this state.


BROGDON: And, as governor, my -- my sworn duty will be to protect the citizens of this state and hold Congress at bay with the Constitution.

COOPER: So, just...

BROGDON: The military is -- is -- is used to fight wars. You know, I...

COOPER: Just so I'm clear, though, on your position, because, earlier in the day, there was a lot of concern about comments you made or may -- that may have been misinterpreted. And that's why we wanted to have you on tonight.

So, just so I am clear, you would not support -- if a group of Tea Party activists wanted to arm and form some sort of a state guard, that they called it a state guard or whatever they called it, with some idea of somehow curtailing the powers of the federal government, you would not support that notion?

BROGDON: If you are talking having a state guard to march on Washington, D.C., of course not.

I -- you know, this has worked for 234 years. Our nation has been secured and blessed with freedom for all of this time. Right now, we are in trouble in our country, because the tenets, the values and the principles of our Constitution is being abused by Washington, D.C.

And I believe in states' rights. I believe, when the governors around this nation get a clue of what their responsibility is, and stand in the stead, stand in the gap between the federal government and the citizens of their state, we can once again return some civility to the state of Oklahoma.


BROGDON: We can reclaim what is rightfully ours. And that's freedom and liberty.

COOPER: So, was the article correct in that you were approached by some Tea Party supporters about this idea? And, if so, what did you -- what did you tell them? Did you tell them, "I would not support the idea of an armed group"?

BROGDON: No, if you read the article on The Drudge Report, the AP article, I had one small quote in that.

And here is the -- here is the problem. I am running for governor of the state of Oklahoma. And I'm a constitutional conservative. As a matter of fact, I happen to be the most conservative legislator in the entire state of Oklahoma.

And I'm -- I have a target on my back because of that. There are a lot of people that do not appreciate my constitutional conservative values. Now, the people around this state appreciate that a lot.

COOPER: But...

BROGDON: It's some of the politicians that don't.

COOPER: But -- but did you have members of a Tea Party umbrella group -- this gentleman who was quoted, Al Gerhart, did he approach you about this idea? And, if so, what did you tell him?

BROGDON: No. We -- did he approach me?

It's been reported that we have had meetings on this subject. Absolutely not true.


BROGDON: I have had conversations on a plethora of items and issues for the last year, since I have been running for governor, as you would well expect.

But my ideas and my goal of good government is -- as governor, is just to protect the citizens, standing on the rule of law. And that's my goal.

(CROSSTALK) BROGDON: No, I don't have the clandestine idea of supporting some wild-eyed militia or something like that.

My goal is to protect the citizens, standing on constitutional principles. And that -- that will be pretty solid ground to stand on.

COOPER: Senator Randy Brogdon, appreciate your time tonight, sir. Thank you very much.

BROGDON: You bet, Anderson.

COOPER: Appreciate it.

BROGDON: Thank -- thank you.

COOPER: Our political panel will weigh in on this after a commercial break.

You can join the live chat. Let us know what you think,

You can also text your name and questions for our panel to AC360, or 22360. Standard rates apply.

One piece of "Raw Politics" on the table tonight: Sarah Palin's speaking contracts getting a lot of attention, full provisions spelling out what she requires when she shows up for speaking engagements.

Plus, this:


CHELSEA HANDLER, HOST, "CHELSEA LATELY": First of all, you tweeted me. You said: "I knew we had a thing tomorrow. Pick you up at 7:00. Ha, ha, ha, ha."


HANDLER: Why you got to put a "ha, ha, ha, ha" at the end?



COOPER: Comedian and late-night talk show Chelsea Handler is the "Big 360 Interview" later tonight.


COOPER: Now to the "Raw Politics" of the Tea Party movement.

On March 20th, near the end other bitter health care debate, Representatives John Lewis, Andre Carson, Emanuel Cleaver say that some demonstrators, many of them Tea Party activists, yelled the N- word as the congressmen walked from House office buildings to the Capitol.

Conservative and Tea Party activists insist it never happened. And one of them has been offered big money if anyone can prove it.


ANDREW BREITBART, WEB ENTREPRENEUR: I offered $100,000 to anyone that can show video that the N-word was hurled once.


COOPER: That was Andrew Breitbart, the conservative blogger who released the video of ACORN workers counseling actors posing as a pimp and a prostitute.

He's pledged to donate $100,000 to the United Negro College Fund if anyone provides proof of the epithets.

Joining us now with more on this and a lot of "Raw Politics," CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, chief correspondent political and host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," Candy Crowley, host of "JOHN KING, USA," John King, CNN political contributor and Republican strategist Ed Rollins, and CNN political analyst Roland Martin.

Roland, what about that? I mean, if -- if this happened, you would think there would be video by now. Does that, the fact that it's still being discussed, is that a win for the Tea Party?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No. I think it's -- I think it's dumb on the Tea Party's part to be focusing on this.

I mean, if you are trying to create an actual movement, this is the last thing you want to continue talking about. You want to be talking about policy. You want to be getting folks involved. You don't want to be constantly remind people at the possibility that the N-word was used, because all you're simply doing is having a self- fulfilling prophecy

I mean, it just makes no sense if you are trying to create an actual movement.

COOPER: David Gergen, I don't know if you were listening into the discuss we were having before the break about Oklahoma, and talking to the state senator. What do you make of that?

I mean, earlier in the day, a lot of liberal groups were certainly raising red flags, saying, you know, Tea Party groups are wanting to raise some sort of militia. The state senator made some comments that raised a lot of concern. Now he clearly seems to be saying he's not for some armed group of activists.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don't know if he laid it to rest or not, Anderson, but he certainly was suggesting there's more smoke here than fire.

And I -- until there's proof to the contrary -- and there may be proof -- I would sort of take him on his word -- at his word and move on.

I do want to disagree with Roland about the point about -- about Tea Party and the question of Congressman John Lewis walking across that street. That was an important moment. The accusation that had been called the N-word and spit upon was a searing moment during the health care debate.

And many of us took it as sort of like, that's what happened. Now, if it didn't happen, I think it's important to know that, because -- or if somebody was an impostor. Now we will have to -- maybe we will never know.

But I think it -- and the tea parties have every right to sort of say, hey, wait a minute, or Andrew Breitbart to say, wait a minute, if it didn't happen, let's get that clarified, because it did turn off an awful lot of Americans.

MARTIN: Well, first off, I'm making the point because we have had the previous accusations of the kind of these crazy posters being there.

I remember debating Mark Williams, one of Tea Party leaders, on Anderson's show, and I said, hey, if somebody had a racist sign, would you tell them to take it down? And he said, no, I don't want to infringe upon their First Amendment rights.

The point I'm making is, if you are trying to get folks elected, you don't continue to continue to -- coming back to that kind of story. You can try to disprove it all you want to, but the point is, you want people focusing on why you have a movement. You want them focusing on issues, not this, because as long -- if this is the conversation, that's the last thing you want, because you are never going to get people involved in your movement.

COOPER: But, John, I mean, this conversation is only going to continue. You also now have this liberal group called Crash the Party that says it's going to send people to the protest, the Tea Party protest, to try to blend in and basically do things as outrageous as they can to cast a bad light on -- on the Tea Party activists.

JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING, USA": And, so, you see yet another example of the fracture in our politics right now.

And to the point both Roland and David, I think, would agree on, is the challenge for the Tea Party is, are you a protest movement or a political movement?

MARTIN: That's right.

KING: And if you have people now trying to crash their party, if you will, then you see what's happening. You see that they have incited the left, which, in an odd way, is a good thing, if it means political activism. It's a bad thing if it means political stunts.

We are going to test this out. We are going to test this out through the primary season in a number of parts of the country. I know we will test it out come November. Are -- are -- is the Tea Party movement going to mature as a political movement?

What happens if their preferred candidates lose in the primaries? Do they become Republicans and conservatives, which is where most of their energy -- not all of it, but most of their energy -- is right now? Or do they protest, thinking they somehow got the short end of the stick?

That is one of the many questions in this very volatile year, where there are tensions on both the right and the left? It's not just on the right. There's tensions on the right and the left.


KING: How do these fractured pieces come together?

COOPER: Candy, House Majority leader Steny Hoyer said today that the Tea Party is already having an impact on Democratic chances this year.

He said: "Do I think that negative atmosphere that's being created by the Tea Party and by others certainly goes into the thinking of members? I think it does. I think you honestly have to point out that it does."

How much of a factor do you think they are for Democrats in swing districts and certainly in conservative districts?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, certainly, at the polls, they are going to be a factor, and certainly in so far as they drive the debate.

I mean, we have heard a couple of the people that have decided to leave and to retire say that the atmospherics are just so bad, that it's not fun anymore. It's particularly not that much fun, actually, for Republicans, because being in the minority is not that much fun.

So, there certainly is kind of a heightened, hostile atmosphere here that no doubt weighs on the minds. If you are a congressman, and you have been there for 20 years, this may not be that much fun or worth it to you anymore.

I think he's probably just stating the obvious, but I think it's also true that a lot of these people have faced tough races before, and they certainly have survived. And it's in the Democrats' interests to look at the Tea Party and continue to frame the Tea Party and Republicans as sort of crazy people, because, if they can put the Republican Party on the fringe and say, well, you know, this hostile atmosphere is so terrible, we are just leaving, if they can do that, it's helpful.

So, there are politics being played on both sides of this.

COOPER: Ed, can they play a spoiler role in some of these races? There was this Quinnipiac poll that showed that, in just a generic ballot, Republicans would come out ahead, but, in races where there's a Tea Party candidate in the mix, it might affect things, like it did in New York...


ED ROLLINS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: First of all, historically, elections are about the incumbent, whether it's a Democrat or Republican.

And if the people aren't satisfied with the incumbent, they look for an alternative. In this election, most people aren't very happy with some of the Democrats, so they're looking to the Republican for an alternative.

If there's a third ballot there that they can go to -- and, certainly, this is the strategy of Harry Reid in Nevada -- he's -- they have been talking about this for months and months, to get a Tea Party, to get a third -- a couple of third candidates in there, so he doesn't have to win 50 percent of the vote in order to win. He can win a plurality.

So, I -- any time you get a group like this, and there's no organized leadership here, unlike the Perot movement, anything can happen. And there's no guarantees that these people won't be mad as at some Republicans. There's six months to go to this election. And they can turn on Republicans as quickly as they can -- the decision they have made is, they don't like what's going on in Washington, D.C., and they are going to do something about it.

MARTIN: I think this organizing point is critical.

I mean, at the end of the day, you have to have some kind of centralized operation going, because, if you're trying to create a movement, you have to move folks in a certain direction. You simply can't have all of these different parts and people just calling themselves Tea Party activists, if you don't have some kind of centralized way of doing it.

The Reform Party was able to do that.

COOPER: We're going to have more with our panel coming up, including a -- a new poll looking ahead to 2012. Which GOP candidate has the edge with Republican voters right, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin? What do you think? We will let you know in a second.

And our panel is going to answer your questions. You can text them to AC360, or 22360.

Also tonight, comedian Chelsea Handler joins us.


HANDLER: The list of what I don't like is getting longer and longer.


HANDLER: That's right. You heard me, tofu bacon and the professional bowling tour.


HANDLER: What I will always love and has become the foundation of my career are little people.




COOPER: The queen of comedy, tonight's "Big 360 Interview," Chelsea Handler -- ahead.


COOPER: Well, she may be the most talked-about potential Republican candidate, but Sarah Palin comes in third in a hypothetical horse race for the 2012 GOP nomination. According to a new CNN poll, 24 percent of Republicans say they would support former Arkansas Governor and 2008 candidate Mike Huckabee.

Twenty percent chose Mitt Romney, who, of course, also ran in 20 -- in 2008. Sarah Palin was third with 15 percent, followed by Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.

Let's talk more "Raw Politics" now behind the poll in what is already shaping up to be an interesting midterm election race and eventual presidential race. I'm joined again by David Gergen, Candy Crowley, John King, Ed Rollins, and Roland Martin.

So, John, I mean, it is -- it's obviously a crowded field at this point, and that poll is just kind of a silly snapshot two years out from a presidential race.

What do you think take away from it, though? Clearly, there's no single front-runner.

KING: And that's the thing you take away from it. The Republican Party has no single national leader at the moment.

This -- whether this will have any impact on 2012 is way down the road. Let's get through the 2010 midterms. How successful the Republicans are this November will say a lot about what the party is looking for heading into the next cycle.

But it tells you that George W. Bush is gone, Dick Cheney is gone, John McCain is back in the Senate, and you have a handful of Republicans who are in the 20 percent ballpark, most of them people who have been on the national stage recently, Newt Gingrich, the former speaker, Sarah Palin, Romney and Huckabee all involved in the last campaign, no singular presence right now.

Now, many in the party -- and this would be a good question for Ed -- think that's a good thing, because it allows a debate about ideas and a philosophy and emphasis. And then you figure it out by this November, and then you go into the next cycle.

ROLLINS: Well, more than November. I mean, Mike Huckabee was sitting at 1 percent three years ago right today. And, obviously, the course of the debates and the Iowa -- winning the Iowa caucuses mattered and obviously gave him the -- the front-runner status.

COOPER: I remember going out with Mike Huckabee. I think it was right after Iowa. I mean, he had basically a driver. It was a driver and him. He had this, like, young guy driving him around.

ROLLINS: He had a driver and a bunch of young kids...


ROLLINS: ... who asked me one time, what was it like in the old days? And I said, like, what, before BlackBerrys? And they said, oh, no, I mean, we don't -- we don't want to go back that far.


COOPER: Yikes.

ROLLINS: We don't have a front-runner. For the first time in my lifetime or David's lifetime -- been around Republican politics for a long time -- there is no -- there is no front-runner.

Romney is getting organized. He knows how to win or buy straw polls. He was out there with his evangelicals. For Mitt, he wasn't there. But, you know, he's got to turn it in to, can he win some caucuses at some conventions and some delegates and then some states?

COOPER: Is he running differently this time than he did...

ROLLINS: Yes, he's definitely running differently this time. You know, I think, to a certain extent, he won't flip-flop as much as he did last time. And he will try and basically be more compatible with the other candidates.

COOPER: I mean, before, he -- in 2008, he was basically running as a, you know, consistent conservative, to borrow J.D. Hayworth's phrase.

ROLLINS: Well, he -- he thought he was going to be the conservative candidate. You've got to remember, the guy who was leading all the polls last time was Rudy Giuliani, who was, right up...


COOPER: Which shows you how important polls are...

MARTIN: Precisely.


COOPER: ... at this -- at this stage of the race. (CROSSTALK)

ROLLINS: A lot of it is name I.D.

MARTIN: You know, it's interesting. We were talking Mike Huckabee. I really thought Huckabee would be further along.

I remember, after the campaign, Ed and I were talking about how Huckabee had a strategy where he wanted to -- had the opportunity to really be this leader of the social conservative movement. And that really hasn't transpired.

ROLLINS: Mike -- Mike has never had money. He got an opportunity to have a TV show. He has now moved to Florida. And he -- he's building a house down there. He's told me he does not want to run in 2012. He's going to wait until after the 2010. But there's no efforts being made to get ready for another election.

COOPER: David -- David, we have got a text 360 question I want to put to you.

Jeffrey Haas (ph) in Bloomington, Indiana, wants to know, "Is there any room for moderates and moderation in politics anymore.?

I mean, We were talking Republicans and the tea parties earlier. They're getting closer.


COOPER: I mean, does a moderate Republican candidate stand a chance in the 2012 primary?

GERGEN: It's going to be hard. But there are some moderate candidates coming along, and in several states.

I'm here in Massachusetts. A fellow named Charlie Baker is running for the -- for the governorship. He's very moderate. He's sort of the Northeastern kind of voice. You see more Charlie Bakers around the country. And he's doing very well, by the way.

But I want to come back to the Sarah Palin point. She's red-hot out on the speaking circuit. She's got a fierce following. But what these polls suggest...

COOPER: She's made $12 million so far this year.


GERGEN: Yes. And -- and it's going to go higher. I think she's probably made over $20 million since she left the governorship.

But these polls suggest that there's a ceiling. What's striking here is that, nationally, 69 percent of the people in this poll said she was not qualified to be president. Only 30 percent said she was -- was qualified. Her ratings on that number are lower than the tea parties. And it's -- so, it's -- I think it's -- I think John and -- and Ed are both right that there's no front-runner. But it's also clear that she's not going to become a front-runner. And I'm among those who don't think she's going to run.

MARTIN: Yes. I don't think she's going to run.


ROLLINS: Let me just -- let me just give the counterpoint.

As long as we still start in Iowa, and we go to New Hampshire, and we go to South Carolina -- we don't run a national election -- we run state-by-state -- she can walk in there, when everybody else is getting 50 people, 25 people doing coffee klatches, she walks in on day one and she has got 5,000, 10,000 people anywhere in Iowa.

She can attract a big audience. There's a great -- a great fascination. She has got two years to basically do some homework and get to be more substantive. And it's not winning a national election at this point in time. It's winning a state, winning a caucus.

So, if she wants to run, she will have the money. She doesn't have any operatives. She doesn't want any operatives.

GERGEN: Yes. But, Ed -- but, Ed, she's not a new...

ROLLINS: But I think -- I think you're foolish to underestimate her.

GERGEN: She -- I -- well, I agree with that, but I -- I -- yes, I think you are right about Iowa. But wouldn't you also agree that she's pretty well-known now; a lot of people have made up their minds about her, one way or the other, as a candidate?

ROLLINS: Sure. She's -- she's -- sure. But you and I both worked for a guy by the name of Richard Nixon who was dead and gone so many times. And, as they said, he had a -- he had the hard-assed poker, sit there and wait your cards.


ROLLINS: And I think, to a certain extent -- I don't think Palin is Nixon, obviously. But I do think there's a silent majority out there that loves her. I think she speaks to them. And we will see.

COOPER: Candy -- Candy, do you think she has that -- that fire in the belly?

GERGEN: Not a majority.

CROWLEY: You know, I -- I'm kind of with -- look, who knows.


ROLLINS: Who knows. CROWLEY: It's a long time between now and when they start to declare.

I'm kind of with David. I think that she is -- somebody -- when I down was at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, somebody said to me, I think she wants to be a kingmaker, not the king.

I think she likes to drive the debate. I think she likes to, you know, she is up there in the face of the president. They love that. I don't -- she's also making bank. I mean, she is making a lot of money.


CROWLEY: And I think she's enjoying the role she's got.

COOPER: Yes. A speaking contract, which I guess the details of it were fished out of a Dumpster. Who did that, I have no idea. But apparently, private jets to the speaking engagements, you know, obviously, nice hotel rooms, and bendable straws. I'm not sure what that's about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's the Kanye West light (ph).

COOPER: Yes. John King, do you think -- do you think she has the desire to be president?

KING: I can't answer that question unless you send me a bendable straw.

Look, she -- there were some things about the last campaign she loved, which was she proved herself a big draw. As Ed said, she brings a great crowd. She brought energy to the McCain campaign.

She loved being out on the road. She loved that energy. Most good politicians do. They thrive on the energy of campaigning, and they grow, and they get energy from it.

She didn't like the media. She didn't like the way she was treated by the McCain campaign staff. So she came out of that with some pluses and some minuses.

At the moment, if you look at the numbers, at the moment, she's a weak candidate against President Obama, and she's not the strongest candidate in the Republican field. But again, we are talking six months from a midterm election. If the Republicans win big, the dynamic will change. She has plenty of time to make that decision. She can raise money. She would have a grassroots organization. Among all the people considering running -- Romney is already out there running. But those with the infrastructure and those with the grassroots support can wait the longest. And she is one of them.

COOPER: Better leave it there. John King, Candy Crowley, David Gergen, Roland Martin, Ed Rollins, thanks very much. Good discussion.

You can find an interactive guide to potential Republican candidates for 2010 and learn more about each of them on the Web site at

Still ahead tonight, a major earthquake hits China. Latest developments on that coming up.

Also, a rare happy ending to a missing child case: where an 11- year-old was found after vanishing five days ago.


COOPER: All right. Let's get the most important stories we're following today. Randi Kaye has a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Randi.


A 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit Northwest China early Wednesday. The U.S. Geological Survey says the quake hit at 7:49 a.m. local time and was followed by several aftershocks. According to China's state- run news agency, at least one person is dead, many others buried under debris.

First lady Michelle Obama made an unannounced stop in Haiti today. Along with her, Jill Biden. They took a helicopter tour of earthquake-shattered Port-au-Prince and met with the Haitian president and his wife. Mrs. Obama then headed to Mexico for her first official solo trip as first lady.

Toyota says it will temporarily stop selling the Lexus GX460 after "Consumer Reports" issued a safety warning. The magazine gave the SUV a rare "don't buy" rating. It says its test runs revealed a problem that could cause it to roll over during sharp turns.

And two Chinese singers have become the first in the country to be fined under laws banning lip synching. Yes, it's true. The singers were fined what amounts to about $7,000. The law was introduced after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Anderson, when a girl lip- synched to vocals performed by another child who, in fact, wasn't deemed pretty enough to appear for the opening ceremony.

COOPER: Oh, I didn't realize they passed a law banning lip synching.

KAYE: Can you believe that? A law against lip synching.

COOPER: It would, like, stop all our artists from performing in this country.

KAYE: There you go.

COOPER: All right. Time for the "Beat 360" winners, our daily challenge, of course, to viewers to show up our staffers by coming up with a better caption for the photo that we put on the blog every day. Pretty simple.

Tonight's photo is President Barack Obama welcoming German chancellor at the start of the nuclear security summit in Washington yesterday.

We have two staff winners tonight. Frankly, I couldn't pick. First, Gabe. His caption: "Ich bin ein bad haircut."

And our other winner is Joey with the caption: "Release the Kraken!"


COOPER: It's funnier if you saw a close-up shot.

KAYE: Not a very attractive shot.

COOPER: Not a great picture, no.

Our viewer winner is T.A. from Detroit, Michigan. His caption: "Whew! As long as it's you and not Biden talking here. F-bombs and nukes don't mix."


COOPER: T.A., you're right about that. A "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way. Congratulations.

Maybe we should show the pictures up closer. I can't really see them.

All right. Join the live chat right now at Let us know what you think about the picture controversy.

Up next, the one and only Chelsea Handler.


CHELSEA HANDLER, COMEDIAN/TALK SHOW HOST: This is the first census where gays can officially acknowledge their life partners. I think that's fantastic. But what about all those sad women who also have cats?


COOPER: The wickedly funny comedian and talk show host joins us for the big 360 interview, coming up.

And later, found alive. The incredible story of a Florida girl who vanished from her home. Missing for days, today, she was rescued. We'll tell you where she was when we continue.



COOPER: She is funny and fearless and brutally honest, whether she's cracking jokes about celebrities or her personal life. It's certainly true with her latest book, "Chelsea, Chelsea Bang-Bang," the best seller from the author and comedian. She's also a late-night star, the host of "Chelsea Lately" on the E! network. Tonight, she celebrates her 500th episode. Congratulations.

Chelsea Handler joins me now for the big 360 interview.

Chelsea, first of all, did you bring your dog Chunk with you?

HANDLER: My dog Chunk's in the car.

COOPER: Did you at least roll down the windows?

HANDLER: No. No. But don't tell PETA.

COOPER: So what do you make of Conan...

HANDLER: He's not in...

COOPER: Sorry. Go ahead.

HANDLER: He's not in the car. He's not in the car. I mean, he is, but I don't want it to go on national television that he is.

COOPER: OK. We'll edit that part out.

What do you make of Conan O'Brien signing with TBS?

HANDLER: It's a surprise. I mean, I'm surprised. Are you?

COOPER: Totally. I had no idea TBS was even in the running.

HANDLER: Me neither. I guess they made him a really sweet deal, you know? And -- and it will be a big boon to George Lopez and his show. So it's great. Conan is a really great guy. You know? So the more people in the 11 p.m. time slot the better, I guess.

COOPER: Do you have any hints for working in basic cable?

HANDLER: It doesn't get a lot worse than this, so just enjoy the road to the middle.

COOPER: Do you like doing a nightly show?

HANDLER: I love it. I mean, I never -- like I became a comedian because I thought I would only have to work on the weekends. And it turns out I'm working a lot more than I had anticipated. But I love it. I love coming to work and getting to see a show on the air that night. It's pretty gratifying. I mean, I don't really watch my show at night, but it's nice to know that it is on air at night.

COOPER: You don't watch -- do you ever watch yourself?

HANDLER: I used to when I lived with my boyfriend. He would force me to watch my own show when I got home. But that ended a couple months ago.

COOPER: I'm sorry about that.

HANDLER: That's OK. It's a good thing. COOPER: It's good. Why -- why are you the only woman who has a show on cable at night?

HANDLER: I don't know. I mean, I think Joan Rivers had a show. But then she had a bunch of surgeries she needed to get. So I...

COOPER: It got in the way of her show?

HANDLER: Sure. That probably got in the way of her whole, you know, day.

But I -- I don't know. I think a lot more women are getting more attention for comedy, so to speak, at this time right now. There are so many people out there that are doing their thing and getting recognition for it. So it's just -- I guess it was timing. It was good timing on my part, and you know -- and the network's part. And it's a fun -- it's a really, really stupid show, and we're aware of that. So I think people know that we don't take ourselves too seriously.

COOPER: Do you have a hard time booking people, ever?

HANDLER: We did initially. We had a hard time booking people. But, you know, with a show like ours that's on "E!," you know, our audience kind of wants the -- you know, they want the spectrum of the reality show stars all the way to the big movie stars and the big TV stars.

So we're fortunate enough that, you know, when it is hard to book, you know, A-list celebrities, our audience is pretty excited about seeing somebody, you know, from "Dancing with the Stars" or from, you know, I love whatever that "Rock of Love Bus" show is.

So it's good to kind of dabble in both ends of the spectrum, so to speak. It's fun for me, you know. It's fun to be excited about an interview or it's fun to kind of be like, "Oh, no, here we go again with this person."

But, I try, no matter what, to have -- have a really good time while I'm doing it.

COOPER: Are you referring to Brett Michaels' "Rock of Love"? Correct?

HANDLER: Oh, are you a fan?

COOPER: I must say, I've watched a couple. I liked it when he would hand out the passes to the backstage. That was his sign that -- that you could stay on for another week. And you -- you know, had done your -- you know, stuck your tongue down his throat enough that you could actually be voted on to the next week.

HANDLER: I know. And after -- after he sticks his tongue down your throat, like what would possibly be the next logical step? It's something that I definitely don't want to find out about.

COOPER: Well, I also don't really want to know what's underneath his bandana which covers the bulk of his head.

HANDLER: I took it off once. He was on my show, and I took it off.

COOPER: Did you really?

HANDLER: Yes, and I can't tell you what it is.

COOPER: I imagine it was two, like, giant hair plugs that came, like, flopping forward. That's how -- in my mind, that's what it's like.

HANDLER: It could have been. I'm not familiar with hair plugs as much as I should be, given I'm a woman. But it was definitely not on the up and up, let's just say that.


COOPER: These hair plugs. Coming up -- not really.

Coming up next on 360, we'll talk more with Chelsea Handler. I put her through a lightning round of really important questions. More of the big 360 interview, ahead.

Plus, new developments in the case of the Tennessee family who returned a boy they adopted from Russia. Are they actually ready to talk to investigators? They weren't yesterday. We'll have the latest tonight.



COOPER: Politicians, public figures and the paparazzi-hounded celebrities are all fair game for Chelsea Handler. She's an equal opportunity comedian, and as we're seeing tonight, everyone can become a punch line. Chelsea Handler joins us again for more of tonight's big 360 interview.

So I just want to throw some ridiculous questions at you, get some quick answers. Kind of a lightning round, a hodge podge, potpourri, whatever you want to call it. Is that all right?

HANDLER: Yes. Go for it.

COOPER: All right. How could Dr. Phil help you?

HANDLER: Dr. Phil could help me by not doing his show anymore and not giving anybody ridiculous advice. If I wanted a therapist who yelled at me, then that would be the place to go.

COOPER: Finish the sentence: A day without vodka is...

HANDLER: Not a real day.

COOPER: Sarah Palin, 2012. Your thoughts? HANDLER: 2012? Seriously? Is that what we're talking about? It's not going to be pretty. That's when my contract expires at "E!", so if she runs for president, I'm going to make a promise to the American people that I will also make a bid for president.

COOPER: Really? You will go -- I was going to say mano a mano, but it wouldn't be that. It would be like, I don't know Manolo Blahnik versus Nine West against her.

HANDLER: Yes. I'm hoping that you're talking about her when you're referring to Nine West?

COOPER: It's open for interpretation. I leave it for viewers to decide. HANDLER: I don't think they have Manolos in Alaska.

COOPER: Right. If someone offered you, say, a million dollars to spend a week on a desert island with Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt, would you do it?

HANDLER: I make a fair amount of money that I wouldn't do it. But thank you for the offer. Would you do that?

COOPER: A million dollars? I -- I think they're both absurd, and I've never actually seen them for more than, like, a little bit on "The Soup." But I -- yes, for a million dollars, I probably -- maybe. I don't know.

HANDLER: No, you wouldn't, Anderson.


HANDLER: You wouldn't do it for a million dollars.

COOPER: I find them -- they're repugnant.

HANDLER: For $500,000. No, you can't do that. That would -- no. You are a quasi-respected journalist. You might want to try to keep it that way.

COOPER: I appreciate that you gave me the quasi. You know, that you threw me that bone.

Favorite rapper?

HANDLER: Oh, my God. I have so many. Probably Snoop Dogg.

COOPER: Kicking it old -- kicking it old school, OK.

Favorite breakfast food?

HANDLER: I have oatmeal with protein powder. It's not my favorite. But I guess an Egg McMuffin would probably be my favorite if I could just eat whatever I wanted.

COOPER: By the way, did you see when Snoop Dogg and Larry King rode in that car together?

HANDLER: Oh, my gosh. No. I heard about it, though.

COOPER: YouTube it.

HANDLER: I love that.

COOPER: Yes, it was quite something.

Was it me or was teen superstar Justin Bieber flirting with you during your interview with him the other night?

HANDLER: He was definitely flirting, but it was a little forced. It was forced -- it was a forced entry. I don't think that -- I think that's his move. I think he flirts with women. And I was subjected to it. And luckily, I want to stay out of prison, so I didn't act on my hunch.

COOPER: And was it me or was Ed Asner doing the same thing?

HANDLER: Ed Asner was definitely flirting with me, and he licked my face. And it was -- it was very -- it was very entertaining. But it was also a little uncomfortable, because he reminds me so much of my dad, that when he was talking to me -- it was -- my dad is like a little bit of a pervert, too. So talking to him was like, "Oh, this is really a bad -- this is eerily reminiscent of my childhood."

COOPER: Last thing you do before going to bed at night?

HANDLER: I set my alarm on my BlackBerry.

COOPER: OK. Guiltiest pleasure?

HANDLER: Guiltiest pleasure? Um -- oh, gosh. Twitter.

COOPER: Really? You tweet a lot?

HANDLER: Yes. I tweet. My dog has a tweet, too, Chunk Handler.

COOPER: "Jersey Shore"...

HANDLER: He does. He's got a lot of followers.

COOPER: I'll bet he does. Probably more than me. "Jersey Shore," boon or bane for the Garden State?

HANDLER: I mean, it's a pretty accurate description. So it's -- it's a boon. I mean, you know, people love it. And people didn't love New Jersey before. So if it's going to bring more people, even if it's not quality people, I mean, anything is better than nothing.

COOPER: Tiger Woods, family man, oxymoron?

HANDLER: No. That's ridiculous. He's -- that's oxymoron, and he should have not -- that woman should run screaming. Take some money and start a whole new life with another man. COOPER: What do you think about all these women, though, who came forward, though, with Gloria Allred as their attorney, saying that, you know -- crying and saying Tiger had done terrible things?

HANDLER: Well, fine then. But then you know what? He probably did. And Gloria Allred does terrible things. She -- Gloria Allred, Dr. Phil and Heidi and Spencer Montag should just go live on an island together and scream at each other.

COOPER: Chelsea Handler, I enjoy watching your show. Thanks so much for being on.

HANDLER: Thanks, Anderson Cooper 360.


COOPER: Go to AC360 to read Chelsea's blog and find out who she is keeping honest.

Coming up next, a little girl missing for five days found alive today. We'll tell you what happened to her.

A rare and newsworthy face-off in the animal kingdom. Dog bites shadow. "The Shot" is ahead.


COOPER: Let's get you updated on a number of stories. Randi Kaye has a "360 Bulletin" -- Randi.

KAYE: Anderson, a Tennessee district attorney wants to talk with the adoptive family of a 7-year-old Russian boy who was sent back to Moscow alone last week, because they claim he's violent and psychotic. The D.A. says investigators also must speak with the boy, and efforts are already underway to make that happen.

Due to this case, Russia has threatened to suspend all adoptions by Americans.

An Oregon jury says the Boy Scouts of America is negligent and must pay at least $1.4 million to a man who was repeatedly sexually abused by an assistant scout master in the early 1980s. The jury also says the Scouts organization is liable for punitive damages, which will be decided in a separate phase of the trial. The Scouts deny the allegations.

And in Florida, some good news. A girl who vanished on Friday was found alive today in a swampy forest about a half mile from her home. Authorities say 11-year-old Nadia Bloom was shoeless, dehydrated and covered in bug bites, but otherwise in good condition.

And Michelle McGee has a message for Sandra Bullock. The alleged mistress of Bullock's husband, Jesse James, says she's story. The apology came on an Australia TV show. She says she's sorry, of course, but then she went on to read all the text messages that she allegedly got. COOPER: Hey, keep it classy, San Diego.

For tonight's "Shot," I give you the latest battle in the epic war between dogs -- I'm sorry, I haven't been following that story. So I don't know what else to say.

Between dogs and their shadows. Watch and enjoy.




COOPER: Found this on The poor dog keeps trying to attack his shadow. Something tells me it's -- he's probably still going at it now if it hasn't been dosed with Prozac or whatever. Yes. He'll get it one day. He'll get it one day. Just keep going.

KAYE: Looks like he's biting his shadow.

COOPER: I know. It's kind of sad.

It's like when Whitney Houston performed at that concert, remember that? And she saw her shadow and she was like, "Whoa, what was that?" Remember that? Am I crazy? Does anybody remember that?

KAYE: It was something.

COOPER: It was like -- anyway, all right. We're got to go. Maybe that will be "The Shot" tomorrow.

More news at the top of the hour. We'll be right back.