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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
What About Jobs?; Military Leaders Speak Out on Don't Ask, Don't Tell
Aired December 3, 2010 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for watching. I'm Randi Kaye. Anderson Cooper has the night off.
Tonight: With unemployment rising and jobless benefits expiring, what are your elected representatives doing about it? One is saying that working with Republicans is almost like negotiating with terrorists. Another is calling a Democratic bill paltry poop. Yet another is pushing legislation for online gaming. Yes, there sure are a lot of people not doing any work these days.
We're keeping the ones in Washington honest.
Also tonight: a different take on repealing don't ask, don't tell, some of the military service chiefs raising concerns, all of them saying they will make the change if the Senate acts. One big- name Republican skeptic changing his views on lifting the law.
And later: the town that Disney built, white picket fences and now yellow crime scene tape -- why there is no celebration in Celebration, Florida, tonight.
We begin, as always, "Keeping Them Honest."
Tonight: politicians on both sides of the aisle fighting over extending tax cuts for the wealthy, some say playing games over it, while Americans pound the pavement looking for a paycheck, a whole lot of Americans. New numbers: the jobless rate climbing tonight actually from 9.6 percent in October to 9.8 percent in November, the economy adding just 39,000 jobs last month. That's down from 172,000 in October.
In all, more than 15 million Americans are unemployed. More than six million have been unemployed for more than six months. So, what are the people you sent to Washington doing about it?
Well, Democrats and Republicans appear mainly to be bickering over taxes, whether to extend the Bush tax cuts to everyone, or everyone but the wealthy, this while a bill to extend unemployment benefits is stalled.
Democratic Senator Tom Harkin today slamming Republicans for obstructing the bill, but also taking a shot at President Obama for not doing more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA: Have the Republicans lost all sense of what's right and wrong? I mean, they can fight for the -- for their tax breaks for the wealthy and stuff. Fine. That's what they're fighting for. I -- I understand that.
But to say that we cannot extend unemployment benefits for people out of work because we haven't yet given the tax breaks to the wealthy, I -- I -- that's a moral outrage.
And I ask, where is our outrage at something like this? Where's the president's outrage at this? The president ought to be out there saying, this is morally outrageous, that we're going to deny unemployment benefits to people, during this time of the year especially.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: President Obama was in Afghanistan talking to troops, which presidents traditionally do around the holidays, and sometimes when the domestic picture gets just too grim.
But getting to Senator Harkin's point about jobless benefits being held hostage, according to the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, in the last 40 years, Congress has never failed to extend emergency benefits when the jobless rate was above 7.2 percent -- four decades of bipartisan agreement.
That's what voters say they want and what top Democrats and Republicans seemed to commit themselves to this week at the White House, to working better together and reaching across the aisle. Yet, just a day later, every Senate Republican signed a letter vowing to block any and all legislation until the tax cut issue is settled. This provoked Democratic outrage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN: But the Senate Republican Caucus is willing to put all of that in jeopardy, hold hostage tax cuts needed by people, working people, middle-class families, small businesses, if they can't get a bonus tax cut for millionaires and billionaires.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: Then, House Democrats passed a tax cut extension for all income below a quarter-million dollars, and that provoked Republican outrage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I'm trying to catch my breath, so I don't refer to this -- this maneuver going on today as -- as chicken crap, all right?
BOEHNER: But this is nonsense.
BOEHNER: All right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: Republicans charging game-playing, Democrats charging obstructionism.
And never mind the barnyard waste. How do you like these chickens?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: It's almost like the question of, do you negotiate with terrorists?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: Democratic Senator Robert Menendez accusing Senate Republicans of holding everything hostage to tax cuts -- an aide later saying he was talking about the negotiations, not Republicans personally.
Still, whatever you think of the outcome of those negotiations, it's hard to argue that anyone of any political stripe likes what's going on in Washington. In poll after poll, Americans rank Congress right down there with, well, what Congressman Boehner said.
Oh, and if you thought lawmakers are only wasting their time bickering over taxes while Americans lose their jobs, and the START treaty is waiting to be ratified, and don't ask, don't tell is on the table, get this. Senator Harry Reid is also using the lame-duck session to push legislation supporting the online poker industry. Yes, go figure.
Joining us now from the left and right, respectively, political analyst Roland Martin and political contributor Erick Erickson, editor in chief of RedState.com.
Erick, let's start with you.
You heard Senator Tom Harkin a moment ago basically saying, look, how can Republicans be focused on extending tax cuts for roughly the wealthiest 2 percent of the country when you have got unemployment benefits for millions of Americans set to expire?
Doesn't that seem, at least on the surface, fundamentally unfair?
ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, not at all, because they're going to pass. This is all political theater on the floor of the Senate.
The unemployment benefits are going to be extended, I have got no doubt. Whether or not they should is an entirely separate question. But let's keep in mind that the job creators in this country come from that 2 percent that the tax cuts are going to be expanded to. And -- and those are going to be expanded as well. The Democrats know this. They're going to cave just as quickly as the Republicans will on unemployment benefits.
KAYE: Roland, does Erick have a valid point? I mean, it might not seem to be in the holiday spirit, but is it just a fiscal reality that the jobless benefits have to be allowed to expire?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, I won't call it a fiscal reality. I mean, it could very well not be extended, especially if you have one side or the other draw a line in the sand.
Here's the fundamental problem, Randi, that -- that I see with this. And that is, we don't have to have the political theater. The letter Republicans sent out wasn't necessary. When you look at the comments of Menendez, not necessary.
But when you have two people, in terms of two parties, actually, Republicans and Democrats, who actually say, yes, we can find compromise, then you could see two sides coming together. But, as long as one side says, we're not going to do anything until these two things are dealt with, then it makes no sense whatsoever.
And so that, to me, what -- what is crazy about this -- and when you have nearly four million Americans who are going to lose unemployment benefits, that is a serious fundamental issue. And the people who have jobs, they seem not to really care.
ERICKSON: You know...
KAYE: Erick, you want to respond?
I think the issue is, if the government's not going to stay open for business, there's going to be no one to print the checks anyway, so we have got to come up with some way to keep the government going. This idea of continuing to pass continuing resolutions all along, we probably need to go for an automatic continuing resolution, so we're not having this fight, tying the rest of those issues up.
MARTIN: But it -- but it's not just the issue of the continuing resolution.
Again, what you have here is that -- and, look, when I hear the argument that can we give 95 percent of folks who are middle-class, those making under $250,000, allowing the tax cut to continue, it's not like that is somehow a foreign or crazy argument.
But I do think it is nuts to say we're going to hold up everything unless that is dealt with first. That, to me, makes no sense.
KAYE: All right, so...
ERICKSON: Well, actually, I think it makes a tremendous amount of sense, because, if these tax cuts aren't extended by December 15, we're going to see the bottom fall out of the market, because so many stock options come up for renewal that day. You are going to have investors, small businessmen, large businessmen, individual Americans, having to sell stock based on the uncertainty.
So, they need to get that resolved first. Otherwise, on December 15, we are going to see very bad things happen.
KAYE: All right, let me jump in here.
What about the argument by conservatives, Roland,, that if you don't extend the tax breaks to small business owners who make more than $250,000, you're never going to see the kind of job creation necessary to get the economy back on track?
MARTIN: Well, first of all, that -- that is a nonsensical argument, because it's not as those are the only individuals who are out there also creating jobs.
Also, when you look at the people out there who own small businesses, many of them don't have revenues in terms of their companies that even exceed $250,000, OK?
Also, the people who make more -- people who earn more than $250,000 are in the top 2 percent in terms of earners in this country. And so, when you also have people who make less than that, you're dealing with people who are likely families, kids in college, those who are also spending.
They're the ones who need those cuts more than anybody else. And, again, that's 98 percent of the people who earn money in the country under $250,000 -- 98 percent -- 2 percent above that.
ERICKSON: Yes, but, Roland, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, more than 60 percent of small business people would be affected by this 2 percent cut. Those are the people in that 2 percent. Let's -- let's not pretend that it's some anomaly of people up there.
There are a great deal of people up there who don't -- don't necessarily need the tax cut, but 60 percent of small business people in the country, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, are in there and would be impacted.
MARTIN: But I'm saying don't...
ERICKSON: And we can't pick and choose those people.
MARTIN: Don't try to make -- but don't try to make the argument that -- that all the people who are in the $250,000-and-above category are small business owners. They are not.
ERICKSON: No, they're not, but 60 percent of small business owners are. So, if we're going to punish them all, and not give it to them, we're also going to be affecting their ability to provide capital to create jobs in this country.
MARTIN: And, also...
ERICKSON: I mean, the bigger issue is, we have been pursuing these Democratic strategies now for more than a year, and they haven't improved unemployment. So, maybe we should.
MARTIN: Actually, but, you know -- but here's the other -- here's the point there, Randi.
When you talk about haven't improved unemployment, I do recall, in March of 2009, we -- every time Ali Velshi came on CNN, he was doom and gloom when it came to the stock market when it went down to 9000. People were talking about their 401(k)s and their pensions.
But because of the very financial solutions we're talking about, we have seen the stock market stabilize. We have seen those very same people, firefighters, teachers and others with pensions and 401(k)s, they're -- they're actually stabilized there. And so that is one segment -- segment of the economy that has gotten better.
So, Erick, don't try to sit here and act as if nothing actually...
ERICKSON: But, Roland, that is all going to crash if those tax cuts are not extended by December 15.
MARTIN: No, no, no, no, Erick, Erick, Erick -- allow me to finish, Erick. Allow me to finish.
Don't try to make the argument that nothing worked. In fact, it did work. We also have seen 1.2 million private sector jobs created. Do we need more than that? Absolutely. But don't act as if nothing happened.
ERICKSON: I think 9.8 percent unemployment speaks for itself.
MARTIN: Yes, it does, but -- but you -- but, even with the unemployment numbers today, you still saw an increase of private sector jobs.
ERICKSON: Thirty-one thousand really isn't an exciting number.
MARTIN: No, no, no, no.
KAYE: Erick, final word. Then we have got to go. MARTIN: When you were losing half-a-million under Bush, I say an increase of 31,000 is better than a loss of 500,000.
KAYE: All right, Roland -- Roland, give Erick the final word.
ERICKSON: You know what? We have got to create 400,000 a year that -- we have got to create 400,000 a quarter to be able to put these jobs back, and we're not doing it.
And the bigger picture is...
MARTIN: I agree.
ERICKSON: ... all those firefighters and people who have been benefited from the stock market inching back up, they're going to be devastated on December 15 when these Bush tax cuts are not extended, because the market will crash when people try to take their capital gains at 15 percent, instead of 20 percent.
KAYE: All right, guys, we have got to leave it there.
Roland Martin, Erick Erickson, thank you so much for joining us on this Friday night.
KAYE: Let us know what you think. Join the live chat now under way at AC360.com.
Up next: the top military brass and their concerns about lifting don't ask, don't tell. Here what they said, why they don't all agree. We will tell you which skeptic is changing -- of changing the law changed his mind after reading the Pentagon study on the issue. And hear from one of the study's authors.
Later: President Obama's trip to Afghanistan and the dire picture those WikiLeaks State Department cables paint of America's dysfunctional, corrupt Afghan partners.
KAYE: "Raw Politics" and the latest battle lines in the fight over letting gay and lesbian troops serve openly in the military.
Today, before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain got a chance to underscore his charge that, while the top military and civilian leadership supports lifting the law, the military service chiefs do not.
In fact, that's only partly true.
As expected, the Marine Corps commandant, James Amos, taking the toughest line:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEN. JAMES AMOS, MARINE CORPS COMMANDANT: I cannot reconcile, nor turn my back on the negative perceptions held by our Marines who are most engaged in the hard work of day-to-day operations in Afghanistan.
We asked for their opinions, and they gave them to us. Their message is that the potential exists for disruption to the successful execution of our current combat mission should be -- should repeal be implemented at this time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: He concluded, though, that the Marines could make it work and would make it work, but recommended repeal be delayed.
So did Air Force Chief Norton Schwartz, who recommended delaying it until 2012. He, like Army Chief of George Casey, taking exception to the conclusion of the Pentagon study on gays in the military, namely, that the risk to military effectiveness of repealing don't ask, don't tell would be low.
The chief of naval operations calling the risk to his men and women low, with the exception of special forces.
General Casey called the risk moderate, but:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. GEORGE CASEY, ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: That said, if repeal is directed, the implementation principles in the report constitute a solid basis upon which to develop plans that will mitigate the risks that I just described.
Properly implemented, I do not envision that the repeal of don't ask, don't tell would keep us from accomplishing our worldwide missions, including combat operations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: Committee Chairman Carl Levin amplifying General Casey's point about implementation specified in the language of the bill to repeal it now before the Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: If we repeal don't ask, don't tell, as I believe we should, the legislation stipulates that repeal will not take effect unless and until there is a certification by the president, secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs that they have adopted the necessary implementation steps to assure that we maintain our standards of military readiness and effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KAYE: That seemed to be enough for Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown, a previous opponent of ending the policy. He released a statement saying -- quote -- "I accept the findings of the report and support repeal, based on the secretary's recommendations that repeal will be implemented only when the battle effectiveness of the forces is assured and proper preparations have been completed."
This would seem to put him at odds with John McCain, ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, who has had many reasons for keeping don't ask, don't tell, and today came up with a new one.
You will recall, first, he wanted to hear from the military leadership, then said the president, defense secretary and Joint Chiefs chairman weren't good enough. Then he wanted to wait for this study. Then he wanted to hear from the service heads, who, as you saw, expressed concerns, but perhaps more nuanced concerns than Senator McCain might have expected.
In any case, the senator has a new reason to put off consideration of repealing don't ask, don't tell. It's not just the war, as he has said many times before; it is also the economy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I will not agree to have this bill go forward, and neither will I believe that 41 of my colleagues will either, because our economy is in the tank.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: So, will a vote go forward during the lame-duck session? That's a political question.
For more on the policy, I spoke earlier with Pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson, who co-authored this week's report on gays in the military.
KAYE: Mr. Johnson, thank you so much for being with us.
Let me first ask you, both the Marine Corps commandant and the Air Force chief of staff telling Congress today there actually is some risk to troops in the field if the ban is repealed right now.
Now, that -- that is half the service chiefs with big concerns about repeal. Is the data in your report strong enough to counter that criticism?
JEH JOHNSON, CO-CHAIRMAN, DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL STUDY: Well, first of all, everyone should understand that the chiefs -- it would not be a surprise that, on this complex issue, you have differing points of view.
Our analysis over a 10-month period involved conversations with tens and tens of thousands of service members. It was one of the largest surveys ever, 115,000 respondents. And it was the judgment and is the judgment of General Ham and myself that the overall risk to military effectiveness of repeal is low.
Now, a large part of that assessment encompassed the war-fighting units, which General Amos, General Casey, General Schwartz were they concerned about.
And what we saw is that, while the predictions for negative consequences in war-fighting units were higher than the overall force, one has to remember that predictions are reflective of attitudes, and predictions are very often a poor indicator of future actual behavior.
KAYE: Let's get to Senator John McCain's comments. He had a few problems with your report yesterday. I'm interested in hearing what you thought of his biggest critique. So, let's listen, and we will get your response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: What I want to know and what it is the Congress' duty to determine is not, can our armed forces implement a repeal of this law, but whether the law should be repealed. Unfortunately, that key issue was not the focus of this study.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: And he's been saying that for a few months now.
Is that fair criticism? Why didn't the report examine that direct question: Should this be repealed?
JOHNSON: Well, it was not our task to determine whether the law should be repealed. That is a matter for the Congress and the president.
What we, in effect, looked at is whether we can accept repeal in the military right now. And we determined that we could.
KAYE: Some people have said -- and I know that you have heard this before -- look, the president, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, they all backed repeal heading into this. Months before the results came in, the House actually even voted for repeal.
So, how do you convince people that politics didn't actually play a role in this, and this was an unbiased study?
JOHNSON: Well, first of all, I guarantee you that, in the course of talking to tens of thousands of service members, we heard a wide range of views.
People were very, very candid. Virtually everyone has an opinion in the military about don't ask, don't tell. And we heard across the board there was no indication to us that the views of the president or the chairman or the secretary in any way infected or slanted the views we -- we -- we heard. And I was, frankly, surprised and pleased that we got such candor in the course of our review.
KAYE: I know, in carrying out this study, you went on dozens of trips to military bases. You held what you might call town halls, soliciting opinions from the troops. I wonder, heading into this, did the idea of those meetings make you nervous at all?
JOHNSON: Well, as a matter of fact, it did.
I thought that having such large group sessions, with between 100 and 300 service members each, was going to look something like what we saw last year with large town hall meetings involving the health care discussion.
And I was -- I was pleasantly surprised at the professionalism and the civility of our discussions on what is in fact a very emotional topic. We heard frank discussion, but it was very professional, very civil. And we got -- we got candid views.
But, at the end of those meetings, everyone felt very good about the fact that they had an opportunity to talk about it and appreciated that we came to their base to discuss the issue with them.
KAYE: Was there any one response that stood out for you in this study? Anything really surprise you from one service member?
JOHNSON: I remember, at Norfolk Naval Base, a submariner who was a senior enlisted officer who had been in the Navy for years and years and years. I will never forget what he said.
We were expecting a lot of concern about gays serving on subs because of the close quarters there. And I remember this submariner said, "Sir, you can put -- you can put gays on my submarine, you can put women on my submarine, but just don't take away my cigarettes."
KAYE: Very memorable.
All right. Jeh Johnson, we appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
KAYE: And just ahead: President Obama promised again today to support the troops in Afghanistan. The question is, what kind of support can America expect from the Afghan government? Revelations of corruption on a massive scale, words like quagmire, money pit, total mess. We will talk to Peter Bergen and one expert who says America needs to totally rethink the way it does business in Afghanistan.
Later: why a toy you might buy a little girl for Christmas could be used as a tool for pedophiles -- what the FBI is saying about Video Barbie.
KAYE: A lot happening tonight.
Joe Johns is here with the latest in this 360 bulletin -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Randi.
A federal advisory panel has endorsed approving lap-band obesity surgery for patients who are less than severely obese. The vote could pave the way for doubling the number of Americans who qualify for weight loss surgery. Allergan, a company that makes the device used in the procedures, proposed relaxing the restrictions.
In Mexico, a 14-year-old boy has been detained on suspicion of working as a drug cartel hit man. That's right, hit man. A local paper reports that soldiers detained the teenager and two of his sisters at an airport in Central Mexico.
Mattel's new Barbie Video Girl doll has triggered an FBI alert. The agency is warning police that pedophiles could use the doll, which has a digital video camera in its chest, to make child pornography. So far, the FBI says there are no reported incidents.
And take a look at "Us" magazine's exclusive first look at a double dose of reality star drama. In an upcoming episode of her new show, Sarah Palin, who often calls herself a mama grizzly, takes reality star Kate Gosselin and her eight kids camping.
And I want to know, are they going to cross paths with a real grizzly bear?
JOHNS: They have wolves up there, too.
KAYE: They sure do. But, you know, but mama grizzly, she will take it down.
JOHNS: You bet.
KAYE: She will handle that situation like nobody's business.
KAYE: All right, Joe, you're going to love this.
We have our new corporate cousin Coco, Conan O'Brien, to thank for tonight's "Shot," specifically his love of jeggings. Do you know what jeggings, are, Joe?
JOHNS: Unfortunately, yes.
JOHNS: Do you have any, Randi?
KAYE: We don't -- we're not going to touch that.
JOHNS: OK. We're not going to go there.
KAYE: Imagine if jeans and leggings had a love child. That's what jeggings are. Well, Conan...
KAYE: ... recently declared his love for them, and told Tim Gunn he would wear them while hosting a future show.
It wasn't just crazy talk. Coco made good on his promise. Take a look.
JOHNS: I want to see this.
KAYE: And brace yourself here. Conan upped the ante.
JOHNS: Oh, no.
KAYE: He chose acid-washed light blue jeggings, a tough look for anyone to pull off.
JOHNS: That's brutal.
KAYE: The audience, as you can hear, went wild.
We have got to salute Conan and his willingness to embrace his inner fashion victim, of course.
KAYE: But doing his monologue in those man jeggings was pretty tough. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "CONAN")
CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "CONAN": Yes, the Obama administration...
O'BRIEN: I'm going to try some jokes.
O'BRIEN: ... recently set aside over 120 million acres of...
(LAUGHTER) O'BRIEN: What the hell?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: Oh, no. Hideous. Hideous. He looks like a giant elf.
KAYE: You're absolutely right. He looks like a character elf. You're absolutely right. But we've got to get you some man Jeggings.
JOHN: I don't think so. No, probably not. In another life.
KAYE: I might surprise you. Check your mail. All right, Joe. Thanks.
Serious stuff up next on 360, a dramatic new perspective of the war in Afghanistan. WikiLeaks cables telling a grim story of massive corruption at every level of the Afghan government. What does that mean for the multi-billion-dollar war? We are Keeping Them Honest.
And later another death in that Disney-designed community five miles south of the Magic Kingdom. SWAT teams, a suicide and the first murder in 14 years. What in the world is going on in the town they call Celebration?
KAYE: As we've mentioned, President Obama today dropped in on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, thanking them for their service. During the surprise visit to nearly 3,900 troops at Bagram Airfield, he promised continued support in the war there.
That promise came on the same day that hundreds of U.S. diplomatic cables about Afghanistan came to light via WikiLeaks, telling a dramatic and, frankly, dire story of what's really happening in Afghanistan. It is not -- I repeat, not -- a pretty picture.
So "Keeping Them Honest," knowing what we know now after reading the cables, what exactly are we doing over there?
We're roughly three to $400 billion into this war so far, and the cables make clear there's pretty much no one we can trust in Afghanistan. Let me repeat that. Communication between U.S. diplomats shows we do not have a reliable partner in Afghanistan. No one.
The cables describe Afghan President Hamid Karzai as paranoid and weak, and according to "The New York Times," show pervasive corruption in his government.
In one cable a senior Afghan official told the U.S. embassy that of the $200 million collected in trucking fees, just 30 million actually got where it was supposed to go. That's $170 million. Poof. Vanished.
Another revelation? Last year, the then-vice president was caught by customs carrying $52 million in cash into the United Arab Emirates.
And in August 2009 American embassy report complained that Karzai pardoned five Border Police officers who were caught with more than 250 pounds of heroin.
NATO's supreme commander said last week that he sees gradual steady progress and says one of the keys is the transition, turning security over to the Afghans themselves.
But if you believe the diplomatic cables, the United States doesn't trust anyone in the Afghan government. So how is that transfer actually supposed to happen?
What's more, our Peter Bergen is learning tonight from both Afghan and U.S. military sources that the much-talked-about 2011 troop draw down will be at best a token effort, that our force strength will remain pretty much intact.
So bottom line, we're there, we're staying, but things are clearly not working.
CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen joins us live from Kabul, Afghanistan, and in Boston, Matthew Hoh, director of Afghanistan Study Group and a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy.
Peter, how much of a fallout is there from the revelations in these WikiLeaks cables? Because American frustration with corruption in the Afghan government is nothing new, right?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, you know, multiple officials that I've spoken to over the last couple of days were bracing for these revelations. They're obviously very concerned about what these cables would contain and what would be publicized.
You know, in the big picture, none of this is enormously surprising. We've heard before U.S. official cables describing Karzai as not a sufficient strategic partner. The corruption of the Afghan government is no secret, but of course seeing it laid out in such detail is, you know, quite disappointing to all concerned.
KAYE: And, Matthew, since 2001 the U.S. has thrown roughly $52 billion or so in aid at Afghanistan. So how much is the U.S. really to blame here? We are, in many ways, fueling the corruption with the funds that we're providing, aren't we?
MATTHEW HOH, CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL POLICY: Absolutely. And that corruption pushes people to support the insurgency. If you understand that a lot of the insurgency, a lot of the fighting in Afghanistan is really very localized. It's almost like a Hatfield and McCoy type situation. Well, not only are we propping up and backing the Hatfields against the McCoys; we're also making the Hatfields rich. And the McCoys don't see any value in all that money we're spending there.
So all that money actually pushes people to support insurgency, because it's the reason why the government is there -- provides the ability for the government to be so corrupt, and it really creates a real rift between the haves and the have-nots in that society. And it's based on top of the 30, 35 years of warfare there.
KAYE: And Peter, you're there. You've spent a lot of time there. How much progress are we actually seeing being made from what you can tell? Because the Taliban still seem to have a pretty firm foothold there. I mean, are we making progress commensurate with the amount of money that the U.S. is spending?
BERGEN: Randi, I think that's a very fair question. I think, you know, obviously, the administration is in the middle of a big review. It's going to -- some sort of public statement will be made in the middle of this month, according to U.S. officials I've spoken to.
They will try and present some form of progress. I think in Kandahar in the south there's clearly been some reasonably successful military operations against the Taliban.
But, you know, is it all worth it in terms of the amount of money and effort? That's a very good question. American taxpayers have every right to be outraged. You know, this money is, some of it is being diverted.
U.S. officials I've spoken to here on the ground talk about criminalized patronage networks, talk about corruption, corruption being a -- the fatal flaw that can undo the Afghan state. No one is trying to sort of sugar coat the reality of all this.
This is a major problem, as Matthew -- Matthew and I have had our disagreements about Afghanistan, but he's absolutely right. This -- the corruption fuels the Taliban, helps them with their narrative against the government. It creates splinters in the society. It's an enormous problem. We have to get a handle on it.
There is a plan: better vendor vetting for the contracts to go out, smaller contracts so that there's less opportunity for skimming. The U.S. military is enormously conscious of the fact that, you know, the money that we're putting into the system is part of the problem. And that is something that General Petraeus has put out, you know, a two-page memo to his soldiers. Essentially, we're going to redo the way we do the contracting, because this is a big problem.
KAYE: Right. And Peter, I have to ask you, though, I mean, you have said that, although it's been widely reported that combat operations will continue until 2014, the implications of the shift really haven't been fully understood. How so?
BERGEN: Well, I think, you know, we've -- it's been reported, but I don't think -- I mean, I think this is a seismic shift in American policy. We -- in July 2011 there was going to be a drawdown, but it's going to be, I think, extremely -- relatively small. This 2014 sends a very important signal to the Afghan government, to the regional players like Pakistan, which is the United States is not heading for the exits. We're going to -- and also, NATO has suggested that it will be here past the 2014 date.
And so, you know, the longer the commitment that we have here, the less likely the people are going to be skimming off the top, you know, getting the money they can, milking the Afghan cow because they think we're leaving.
And so the fact that we're signaling more of a long-term commitment, I think, is good on multiple levels. And it's certainly very disappointing for the Taliban, who have been telling their guys, "Hey, just wait out the clock until July 2011. These guys are leaving."
Now they have to explain to their folks, "Well, actually it's going to be another four years." And that's a long time with the amount of pressure that is being put on the Taliban now.
KAYE: And Matthew, just very quickly, will this new deadline of 2014 make things better or worse in Afghanistan?
HOH: It will make things worse, because the longer that we continue to prop up the Karzai government as well as make them rich, means the less likely that they're going to negotiate with their opponents, that they're going to negotiate the -- finally negotiate the settlement to end 30, 35 years of war.
And as far as the Taliban, I don't think they're going to wait us out. They'll keep fighting us hard this year. They'll keep fighting us as hard as they did this year, the next year and the next year. But they're not -- they're not waiting us out. They're going to continue to gauge us and surge on their own and try and kick us out before then, unfortunately.
KAYE: All right. Matthew Hoh, Peter Bergen, interesting discussion. Thank you both.
And still ahead, a terrifying week for a town that for 14 years has billed itself as the perfect place to live, a place where murder wasn't supposed to happen. All those illusions now shattered.
And later, the weather outside is frightful in some states, and so is a snowman in Idaho that looks like a Ku Klux Klansman. Note to the man who built it: you're on tonight's RidicuList.
KAYE: Tonight in "Crime & Punishment," fear and disbelief in a town that was developed and marketed literally as the perfect place to live.
Celebration, Florida, was designed 14 years ago as a return to a similar and safer time, a planned community just five miles south of Disney world, built by the Walt Disney company itself.
But this week the idyllic community was rocked by violence: its first murder. And in a separate incident just today, a dramatic standoff between a SWAT team and a troubled man. According to a local paper, his estranged wife called police to say he was armed and threatening to kill himself. They tried everything to defuse the situation: from tear gas to sending a robot inside the house to locate the man.
Tom Foreman has new details.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After a 14-hour standoff in which police say Craig Foushee fired several shots their way, they stormed his home and found he had killed himself. Police say Foushee, whose Facebook status went from "married" to "single" earlier this year, was having troubles, confirmed by a neighbor who did not want to be seen on TV.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He, like, got laid off and stuff. So we knew they were having marital problems.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a town in Florida where the sun shines warm.
FOREMAN: In any community the armed standoff would be news, but here it is something more, coming just days after the first murder in the 14-year history of this picture-perfect Pleasantville designed by Disney to evoke the postwar 1940s. Complete with piped-in music, front porches, fake snow and a real sense of security.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Celebration, Florida. You've got to see this place.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone knows everyone. It's just a small town feel. And we're very, very upset.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems like a really neat, clean, nice place.
FOREMAN: Police are still looking into the death of Matteo Giovanditto. His body was discovered in his home after the long Thanksgiving weekend. They aren't saying much, only that the 58-year- old retired teacher's car was found at an apartment complex less than a half hour away and residents should not be afraid.
TWIS H. LIZASUAIN, OSCEOLA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: We don't believe that there's an individual out there that would be targeting other individuals in Celebration.
FOREMAN: Police say the two deaths are not connected, but coming so quickly in a place so sculpted to seem, well, perfect, they've rattled some of the town's 9,000 residents.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is very surprising. I walk around here a lot, and I walk around at night. I've always felt very safe. So I'm surprised that something like this has happened.
FOREMAN: For now, Celebration is pressing ahead with its usual cheerful holiday events while police here press on in their unusual search for a killer.
Tom Foreman, CNN.
KAYE: It will be 30 years next week, 30 years, since John Lennon was murdered in front of his home here in New York, shot at point blank range in front of his wife, Yoko Ono. His killer, Mark David Chapman, had stalked Lennon for months.
CNN has been working on a remarkable documentary that airs this weekend that traces exactly what happened to the lead up to that horrible day. Here's a quick preview.
GRAPHIC: Fall 1980, six weeks before the shooting. Back in New York City...
JOHN LENNON, MUSICIAN: "Double Fantasy," this is our first album. I feel like nothing happened before today.
(MUSIC: "Starting Over")
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Near the end of October 1980, "Starting Over," the first single off John Lennon's comeback album "Double Fantasy," was released in the United States.
LENNON: The album is about a man and woman's relationship together.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He sounds stronger and clearer than ever before in his life.
LENNON: Photographer Bob Gruen chronicled those final recording sessions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He really seemed to have understood what it was like to grow up, to become an adult and to take responsibility for your life.
ROBERTS: Thousands of miles from New York City, Mark Chapman read about the resurgence of the man he once loved and now had grown to hate. A sense of rage was growing inside of him.
JIM GAINES, WRITER: The little people were talking to him, very avidly.
ROBERTS: Chapman told writer Jim Gaines that a war was raging in his mind between the good, or big people as he called them, and the evil little people. GAINES: He was in the house, sitting naked in front of his stereo, listening to really loud Beatles music and invoking Satan to help him have the power to kill John Lennon.
ROBERTS: Chapman's plan involved a trip to New York. At the end of October he quit his job as a condominium security guard and signed out for the last time. On the line where he typically wrote, "Chappy," this time he wrote something very different.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He signed out as John Lennon.
ROBERTS: Condominium president Don Blum says no one noticed the change in signature. Nor did they notice a change in Chapman's mood.
DON BLUM, CONDOMINIUM PRESIDENT: Nobody really talked about Mark. He was just there, cautious, did his job, did nothing out of the ordinary that would attract attention to him.
ROBERTS: On October 29, Chapman flew to New York City, armed with thousands of dollars and a five-shot .38 caliber. Ironically, the dealer who sold it to him was named Ono.
KAYE: It is a fascinating report. "Losing Lennon: Countdown to Murder" airs this Saturday and Sunday at 8 and 11 p.m. Eastern.
Up next, a snowman is spreading holiday hate around a town in Idaho. See what makes it so controversial that it landed the man who made it on our RidicuList.
And everyone hates getting junk mail. Well, this man may be responsible for one out of every three pieces of spam clogging your inbox. Details on the case ahead.
KAYE: Ahead, why building a snowman landed one man on our RidicuList. A hint: Frosty would not approve of this snow creation.
First, Joe Johns is back with the "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Joe.
JOHNS: Randi, a Russian man the FBI says is responsible for one- third of the spam in your inbox pleaded not guilty in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin, courtroom today. The 23-year-old is charged under the 2003 CAN-SPAM Act. The FBI says he could send 10 billion spam e-mail messages a day, everything from fake Rolex watches to counterfeit Viagra. If convicted, he could face up to three years in prison.
A Texas man got all bloody when he says his cell phone exploded while he was using it. Aaron Embry says he needed stitches after the incident with his new Motorola Droid 2 phone. Motorola says they're not aware of this ever happening, but safety is a top priority, and they say they will investigate thoroughly. All new vehicles would be required to have rear-view backup cameras by 2014 under a proposal announced today by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Currently, most luxury cars have the technology. The agency says the cameras could save lives by showing drivers who's in their blind spot.
And cashing in on the national anthem. A first-edition copy of the "Star-Spangled Banner" sold at auction today for more than half a million dollars. You've got to wonder how much Francis Scott Key got when he wrote it.
KAYE: Not that much.
JOHNS: That's for sure.
KAYE: All right, Joe. Thank you.
And time now for the RidicuList, our nightly journey into the valley of the ridiculous. And tonight, we have a new addition. His name is Mark. He is from Idaho. And he built a ten-foot-tall snowman that looks like a Ku Klux Klansman in his yard. That's right. Instead of a corn-cob pipe and a button nose, this guy thought it would be a good idea to give his snowman a noose and a hood that looks disturbingly like a white hood.
OK snow is white. He couldn't help that part. But the point? Who makes a pointy snowball?
Neighbors say Mark took the noose away before the local news station got there.
As you might imagine, the snowman is getting a chilly reception in the neighborhood. And when a reporter confronted Mark he was, well, downright frosty.
But was he really dreaming of a white separatist Christmas? He says no way. Let's see if you buy this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARKUS ELISEUSON, BUILT SNOWMAN: It's a snowman. I mean, it's not -- there's nothing hateful about it that I could see.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you think people are offended?
ELISEUSON: Hell if I know. They want to cause trouble.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: I have to say, the Confederate flag flying over his shoulder didn't do much to support his "hell if I know" defense.
KXLY reports that back in July he also had an Aryan Nations flag and an S.S. flag in his yard.
The good news is, unlike the flags, this latest controversy will eventually just melt away. As the columnist Earl Wilson once said, snow and adolescence are the only problems that disappear if you ignore them long enough.
But the cold fact remains, Mark from Idaho with the offensive snowman in your yard, you just landed yourself a spot on the RidicuList.
Perhaps another RidicuList candidate at the top of the hour: all the lawmakers who are bickering and back-biting while Americans lose their jobs.