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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Gunman Opens Fire at Florida School Board Meeting; Birthers Return?
Aired December 14, 2010 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And thanks for watching.
Tonight, breaking news: a stunning tape. We have to warn you first, it's graphic, disturbing to watch -- a gunman charging into a Florida school board meeting, ordering all the visitors out of the room, and then opening fire point-blank at board members. We are going to tell you what happened to them, to him, and we will talk with a school superintendent who somehow escaped with his life.
We begin, though, as always, "Keeping Them Honest" with the birthers coming back. Today, a birther Army officer goes on trial, and we uncover a bill in Congress requiring presidential candidates to prove they were born here.
But is that really just a birther bill? We will see what happened when we tried to ask the bill's backers if they believe the president is a citizen.
First, the court: martial. Army Lieutenant Colonel Terrence Lakin, who refused deployment to Afghanistan, today pleaded guilty to one of two charges. He is a birther, the colonel is. He doubts the president's legitimacy -- legitimacy and the fact, the well- established fact, that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.
Now, in research the story, we also uncovered a bill in the House, HR-1503, requiring a presidential candidate to submit a candidate's original birth certificate. Congressman Bill Posey, Republican of Florida, sponsored it, with 11 co-sponsors, all Republican.
Posey says the legislation is not aimed specifically at President Obama, but "Keeping Them Honest," we wanted to know whether in fact there I a bit of birther in their bill. Here's what Congressman Posey told "The Orlando Sentinel" about President Obama's citizenship -- quote -- "I haven't looked at the evidence. It's not up to me to look at the evidence. I can't swear on a stack of Bibles whether he is or isn't."
Later, talking about the bill on a radio show, here's what he said.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. BILL POSEY (R), FLORIDA: The only people I know that are afraid to take drug tests are people that use drugs. (END AUDIO CLIP)
COOPER: So, was he insinuating that the president has something to hide with that? You can decide for yourself.
His co-sponsor, Congressman Ted Poe of Texas, has doubts about the documentation of his birth. He takes issue with this Hawaii certification of live birth, which he says is not a birth certificate.
Now, like all other such documents in the state, it's a computer copy. The state went to electronic records a few years ago. It's been verified by the government and the director of the health department in Hawaii. It's got the correct stamps and a raised seal and was checked in person by the nonpartisan FactCheck.org.
But Congressman Poe says -- quote -- "It's a legal document, not the birth certificate."
Co-sponsor Randy Neugebauer also has his doubts.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "THE CHAD HASTY RADIO SHOW")
CHAD HASTY, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: So, you believe the president is a U.S. citizen?
REP. RANDY NEUGEBAUER (R), TEXAS: You know, I don't know. I have never seen him produce documents that would say one way or the other.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, here's another co-sponsor, Congressman John Campbell, trying to avoid the question entirely..
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS")
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, "HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS": Do you have any doubts, Congressman, about the authentic native birth in this country of our president? Do you have any doubts?
REP. JOHN CAMPBELL (R), CALIFORNIA: Chris, Chris, my -- it doesn't matter whether I have doubts or not.
MATTHEWS: Do you have any doubts?
CAMPBELL: It doesn't matter.
MATTHEWS: Oh, you won't answer the simple question.
MATTHEWS: See, that feeds this...
(CROSSTALK) CAMPBELL: Chris, he's president of the United States.
MATTHEWS: No, no, you are feeding the wacko wing of your party.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that Barack Obama is a legitimate native-born American or not?
CAMPBELL: That is not what this bill is about, Chris.
MATTHEWS: No, what do you believe?
CAMPBELL: As far as I know, yes. OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, several other -- several other of the bill's sponsors say they believe President Obama was born here.
Dan Burton says the bill would merely spare exposing presidents to needless conspiracy theories. Louie Gohmert says the same. Burton, by the way, is famous for pushing a conspiracy theory about the death of Vince Foster during the Clinton administration. Mr. Gohmert, who's been on this program, is pushing a conspiracy theory about what we're calling terror babies.
Now, we asked all the bill's sponsors to come on the program. All of them declined.
Here's what happened when we asked Joe Johns to take a camera crew and try to bring our questions to them.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hey. Joe Johns with CNN. How are you all doing?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sorry. He's not here right now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He must have stepped out for lunch.
JOHNS: OK. Can I leave him a message?
Joe Johns with CNN. Is Mr. Carter or the press secretary around?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're in a meeting right now.
JOHNS: OK. OK. Can I leave a message?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure.
JOHNS: Hey, how you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Great.
JOHNS: Joe Johns with CNN.
Do you know what -- what's happening to the amendment?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I haven't heard him talk about it once.
JOHNS: You haven't? Really? He's -- what, he's a co-sponsor?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't even know the answer to that question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman John Carter's office. This is Brad. How can I help you?
JOHNS: Hi, Brad. It's Joe Johns with CNN.
Is John Stone, the press secretary, in, please?
Is the press secretary in?
Is (INAUDIBLE) in?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, he's actually not in at the moment. Would you like me to take a message?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir?
JOHNS: Yes, ma'am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He wasn't picking up. Would you like his voice-mail?
JOHNS: Yes, please.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. One moment.
COOPER: So, no answers there. No one seems to want to talk about this.
And getting back to Colonel Lakin, not many answers there either. The last time we tried to take to Colonel Lakin, it was before the trial. He only said a few words, letting his lawyer speak for him. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Colonel, you say you're -- you're refusing your orders because -- quote -- "There is significant evidence or unanswered speculation that Mr. Obama is not eligible to be president."
You said that in a -- in a note to General Casey.
Now, ignoring the idea that you actually cited speculation as a justification for your decision, but to say there's significant evidence that the president was not born in America is just false.
I mean, you're -- you're an honorable guy. You've served your country incredibly well. You're a doctor. Do you honestly believe President Obama was not born in Hawaii?
PAUL JENSEN, ATTORNEY FOR LIEUTENANT COLONEL TERRENCE LAKIN: Well, Anderson, let me answer as his lawyer. You know...
COOPER: Well, no, no, no.
COOPER: Excuse me.
COOPER: Wait. This is a doctor...
COOPER: Wait. Excuse me. This is a doctor. This is a man who served his country for 18 years. I think he can answer a question by himself.
JENSEN: I think that the lawyer should protect the client from incriminating himself.
You say it's false. You're not prosecuting this case.
COOPER: OK, Lieutenant Colonel, if you call up the state of Hawaii and you ask for a birth certificate, you're sent a certificate of live birth. That is the official document.
And the president has...
JENSEN: That is not correct.
COOPER: And the president ...
JENSEN: That is absolutely not correct.
COOPER: And the president has released -- and the -- the president has released that certificate of live birth -- there it is.
Two newspapers, in 1961, had birth announcements provided by the state of Hawaii Health Department. The Republican governor of Hawaii sent someone to personally view the birth certificate at the Department of Health, and says it's there.
JENSEN: You know, that's not...
COOPER: Again, can the colonel not talk for himself? The guy's an adult.
JENSEN: You said that that's a birth certificate, Mr. Cooper. Now, you want to tell the truth to your viewers.
COOPER: According to the state of Hawaii...
JENSEN: That's not a birth certificate.
JENSEN: That's an abstract, a computer-generated abstract.
According to the state of Hawaii, the certificate of live birth -- and I'm quoting from the State of Hawaii Health Department -- the certificate of live birth is the standard form acceptable by federal agencies.
So, are you saying, Colonel -- but you're not actually saying anything, but I would appreciate it if you actually would, and not hide behind your attorney -- are you actually saying that all soldiers who currently serve who are from Hawaii should be suspect, because that's what they provide?
LT. COL. TERRENCE LAKIN, CHALLENGES OBAMA'S BIRTH CERTIFICATE: This is a -- this is a constitutional matter. And the truth matters. And...
COOPER: Well, and answers matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now, I should point out that, since that interview, Colonel Lakin has actually gotten a new attorney.
Joining me now is criminal defense attorney and former military judge advocate general officer Thomas Kenniff, also senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Jeff, does it surprise you that, I mean, the lieutenant colonel has gone to such great lengths to defy presidential orders, but he's now pled guilty to -- to -- to one count?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, his acts are so irrational, that it's hard to sort of follow the logic.
But, you know, one of the reasons we admire the military is that they give up rights that we take for granted. If you and I defy orders from our bosses, we can get fired. In the military, if you defy orders, you go to prison. That's what this guy is doing. He's defying orders based on this wacky conspiracy theory, and he's paying the consequences...
COOPER: Tom, you know the legal military system very well, and it's different than -- than the other military system. What -- what is it -- I mean, why has he pled guilty now, because it basically seems like the judge made a ruling early on that kind of eliminated his whole argument?
THOMAS KENNIFF, FORMER ARMY JAG OFFICE ATTORNEY: It's different and it's similar. I think that -- that this would have broke very much in the same fashion, actually, had it been tried in a civilian criminal court.
What sealed Colonel Lakin's fate was this pretrial order from the judge. And what the order said was, this whole issue of the legitimacy of the order, the legitimacy of the president, where he was born and so forth, that's not a factual issue for the jury. That's a question of law for the court to decide before we even get to trial.
Remember, judges decide issues of law. Juries decide issues of fact. That being said, it took this military judge about 15 seconds to rule that, you know, whether or not the president was born in Hawaii or is a natural-born citizen or what have you is not relevant. What is relevant is that he was a duly elected president of the United States, he was sworn in, in January 2009 as commander in chief.
You are an officer in the military. Thus, you're obliged to follow his orders. And -- and the only thing the jury is going to decide in this case is whether there was a lawful order -- we know that there was -- and whether you disobeyed it. We know that he did.
That's really what hastened the guilty plea, because, once he realized that that issue was not going to be heard by the jury, he had no defense, not that he really had one to begin with.
COOPER: The other issue is that he only raised these objections once he was being sent or redeployed to Afghanistan. I mean, if he had had these objections, he could have raised them here stateside before this deployment.
KENNIFF: Sure. And on the one hand, you almost feel sympathetic to this guy, because here's a high-ranking medical officer...
KENNIFF: ... 18 years of service, a couple of years away from his pension.
COOPER: That's what I don't get. He's not some young guy who was sort of influenced by some group.
KENNIFF: Absolutely not. But it appears that he allowed himself to become a pawn in this sort of, you know, fringe political movement.
You know, whether -- whether you think that this birther movement has merit or not is really aside from the fact. He's an officer in the military. He takes an oath, and he's sworn to abide by that oath. Now, the thing that makes him, you know, suspicious is, here he is. He's -- he's serving under President Obama, who we all know was inaugurated in 2009.
He's getting the high-level pay that -- that a senior-ranking medical officer gets, the retirement points, all the perks and privileges that go with being an officer in the military, and doesn't really have any problem with serving under him as commander in chief, until he gets his deployment orders to go into harm's way into Afghanistan. Then, all of a sudden, he wants to stand on I guess what he thinks is his principles.
But it's hard to really -- you know, to -- to get where this guy was really coming from.
TOOBIN: But think about the implications if he was allowed to even raise this issue.
The -- the military operates under a system of discipline, of orders. If every military officer or enlisted person who got an order could question whether the president was really the president, discipline would disappear overnight.
You have to have a system of -- a -- a system of discipline. And that is -- just simply can't be a question that's on the table that military officials or officers are allowed to raise.
KENNIFF: Absolutely. And that's why the judge's ruling was dead-on. I mean, he said, look, you're not going to get to parade this issue. We're not going to have this proxy trial in front of a military jury as to whether the president is legitimate or not.
COOPER: In fact, no courts have really taken this up at all. I mean, a lot of these so-called birthers were looking to the Supreme Court to kind of take up this issue. They had the opportunity to. They passed on it just recently.
TOOBIN: Well, I mean, just because a bunch of crazy people raise an issue, that doesn't mean the Supreme Court has to -- has to do it -- I mean, has to address it.
You know, this is not a fight between Democrats and Republicans. This is a fight between the sane and the insane.
TOOBIN: And that is not something that the courts really have to address. This is not a legitimate controversy.
COOPER: I -- I wouldn't go so far as saying insane, but, I mean, it is interesting that -- that people who seem rational have latched on to this issue in a way that defies rational explanation.
I mean, I have had a number of them on this program, and, when you confront them with fact after fact after fact, it's -- it's -- it still has no impact.
TOOBIN: Insane sounds right no me, but you're a nicer guy than I am, I guess.
COOPER: We will leave it there.
Jeff Toobin, Tom Kenniff, appreciate it.
KENNIFF: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: Thank you very much.
Tell us what you think, the live chat right now up and running at AC360.com.
Just ahead; the breaking news, the near massacre caught on an Internet video feed during a school board meeting. The video is really just stunning. We are going to show it to you really frame by frame. It is graphic and disturbing. Want to give you that warning, the school's superintendent pleading with the gunman to put his weapon down. We will talk to that superintendent about what it was like minute by minute in just a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM HUSFELT, SUPERINTENDENT, BAY COUNTY SCHOOLS, FLORIDA: Please don't. Please don't. Please.
CLAY DUKE, GUNMAN: I'm going to kill you.
DUKE: Don't you understand?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: We're following -- following breaking news right now out of Florida. We have details about what exactly happened during a school board meeting that nearly ended in a bloodbath just hours ago.
The meeting was carried live on an Internet video feed. People watched in horror as it all played out. What they saw was a disgruntled gunman fire repeatedly at point-blank range at school board members who were seated right in front of him on a platform.
Tom Foreman joins us now with the latest, and we want to warn you the video we're about to show you is disturbing to watch -- Tom.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, Anderson, you're absolutely right this.
This started just after 2:00 this afternoon as the school board meeting was winding down.
And let me repeat that warning. You're going to see someone get shot here. Witnesses say Clay Duke stood up, began talking about how his wife lost her job, then spray-painted a big V. on the wall with a circle around it, like that graphic novel "V For Vendetta." Then he pulled out a handgun and said someone was going to die.
Just watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DUKE: Somebody in this room (AUDIO GAP) behind that counter, hit the road. Leave. You may leave. You may leave.
DUKE: You can leave. Six men, stay. Everyone else leaves.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's -- he's talking.
John, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (OFF-MIKE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The school board didn't have anything to do...
DUKE: No. No. (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ginger, no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: You saw right there how one of the school board members, Ginger Littleton, actually left, tried to knock the gun away with her purse. It doesn't work. Still, he lets her and many other people there leave. Some of this video, by the way, is from WJHG, a TV crew that was there at the same time. But now listen to what happens next. As the superintendent, Bill Husfelt, confronts him about this alleged firing of his wife, telling him to let everyone else go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUSFELT: I mean, they don't sign the papers. I'm the only one that signs them.
Will you let them go? I mean, but you're obviously upset with me. So, why are they here?
DUKE: They're part of it.
HUSFELT: Part of what?
DUKE: The scandal.
HUSFELT: Sir, I don't know what you were in...
DUKE: This is to stop the taxes, OK? You said we don't need no taxes.
HUSFELT: No, that's not what...
DUKE: There's plenty of money. Then, as soon as you gutted the school system, then you turned around and said, oh, now we need this half-cent sales tax again.
HUSFELT: I said we needed a half-cent sales tax from the very beginning. I -- I campaigned on that.
HUSFELT: Oh, yes, I did.
DUKE: No, you didn't.
HUSFELT: You can find -- you can look on the material. I said from the beginning the half-cent sales tax was the most equitable way, because everybody pays it, not just property owners.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: And this guy, the superintendent, is facing a guy with a gun, and he's trying to talk him down about this.
About that time, the gunman starts looking around, walking a bit, and now comes the tough part. Just watch what happens next.
HUSFELT: Just listen to for me a minute. I don't want anybody to get hurt. And I have got a feeling is what you want is the cops to come in and kill you because you're -- you're mad, because you said you're going to die today.
DUKE: I am going to die today.
HUSFELT: But why? This isn't -- this isn't worth it. This is a problem...
Please don't. Please don't. Please.
DUKE: I'm going to kill you.
DUKE: Don't you understand?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Tom, I mean, the video, he's clearly shot by -- by someone off the camera to the left. That was the security guard, right?
FOREMAN: Yes, that was the security officer for the schools, Mike Jones. He's a retired police detective. There were seven shots in that piece of video.
And I want you to look again in slow motion at what happens here. The first shot seems to go right at the superintendent. You see the papers fly up in front of him there when the shot goes up. And he looks like he's hit. He goes down, but then watch. As a shot goes into the floor, his head pops up for a moment. Then the shot comes from the left.
He gets hit. Another shot comes. He's hit again, two shots fired back, then one more shot. And then he goes down, as the officer shoots him there and puts him down on the ground. Just unbelievable.
And I want you to look at one tighter angle we have here, Anderson, as well. This is the gunman himself. You can see his face, if we move in a little bit closer, if you can give us that shot. Now you see him, same moment. He starts shooting. And we're going to stop it. But listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DUKE: I'm going to kill you.
DUKE: Don't you understand?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Now, you see at end there -- we just played the audio. We didn't want you to see that up close, what was happening there. But you could hear that hail of fires -- of fire from the officer closing in on him.
And you can hear him. I don't know if it was clear to you there, saying, "Quit moving," you know, a very standard police thing. This guy's got a gun. He's on the ground. What we're told is, he ultimately shot himself in the head when he was on the ground there.
And, right afterwards, Anderson, just amazing, you can actually hear the school board member saying, "Well, maybe he was shooting blanks," because they can't believe that nobody in the room was hit...
FOREMAN: ... by this guy firing that gun around. And it really is quite amazing.
FOREMAN: ... but they were real bullets.
COOPER: Thankfully, it doesn't seem like he was a good shot. I mean, everyone in the room looks so calm. That's the thing. I mean, they sat there and tried to -- to, you know, rationalize with the guy.
FOREMAN: Oh, my gosh. This is -- I have -- I have seen a lot of moments like this in my career, and I have rarely seen people handle it as well as they did.
You saw the one school board member who tried to confront him with her purse, try to stop -- her. Another school board member who you don't see here talks to him before all this, was right in front of him, and he said, look, tell us who your wife is. We don't know who you're talking about. Tell us how she lost her job. Let us try to help you.
And then you hear the superintendent just speaking to him so plainly, nobody seemingly panicking. The handling of the officer over here -- again, I have covered a lot of these things, Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. FOREMAN: That's pretty much by the book.
FOREMAN: Just amazing how all these people maintained their composure in this position. As you said, that could have been a bloodbath.
COOPER: Yes, clearly a deranged guy. Tom, thanks.
You just saw William Husfelt, the superintendent of Bay County Schools, speaking calmly to the shooter, never losing his head, as we were talking about with Tom. He tried to convince the gunman to let the others go.
And, I mean, we all think he showed remarkable composure. I talked with him just a few moments ago about that very close call today.
COOPER: Superintendent Husfelt, I cannot imagine what it must have been like for you, I mean, facing off against this guy. Can you kind of walk us through what happened?
HUSFELT: Well, we were having a board meeting.
We have two a month. And this was just a regular board meeting. And we had just finished talking about policy changes. I mean, one of them was about head lice, and the other one was about some technology things we want to do.
And then, all of a sudden, we finished that, and we had the segment where we hear from the public. And so anyone can come up and talk to us about anything they want to address. And he -- he came up. I didn't even notice him in the audience because there's only a handful of people that are from the public there. And he came up and he started spray-painting on the wall.
And then he turned around and had a gun in his hand, and it was downhill from there.
COOPER: When -- when you saw him spray-painting on the wall, he spray-painted a -- a circle with the letter V. Is that correct?
HUSFELT: Yes, that is correct. That is correct.
COOPER: Do you know -- that's also, I guess, on his Facebook page. There are some who are saying this is a V. from the movie "Vendetta" -- "V For Vendetta." Is -- do you know, have any sense of what that means? I mean, that your sense, too, that it's from that movie?
HUSFELT: That's what I have been told. I have got other people who have told me that. I don't have a Facebook account, but -- but I have been -- that that's what -- that's what it stood for. Somebody else told me that earlier today.
COOPER: So, when you see him spray-painting, did you realize he had the gun right away?
HUSFELT: No, in fact, until he turned around.
Anderson, to be very candid with you, I thought, man, he's really upset about our technology plan. I mean, I really did think that. I thought, well, he doesn't like us, that we're getting ready to spend some money on technology. And it never even occurred to me that he was going to be violent or anything.
I mean, he didn't look happy, but it just never occurred that it was going to be the kind of situation it ended up being.
COOPER: And, obviously -- and we see him now spray-painting. I mean, when you see him spray-painting, clearly, you know, OK, wait a minute, this is not the regular course of events. This is -- this guy is doing something already he shouldn't be doing.
Somebody went to -- when he started that, somebody went to go get our security officer, I think. I saw a couple people leave the room. And it was obvious he was upset about something. But, you know, like I said, I did not know how upset he was.
But when he turned around with that gun, you could see in his eyes that, you know, he had -- he just had that look. And I'm not an expert in psychology or criminology, but you knew that he -- he had something in mind he was going to do, and it was not going to end well.
COOPER: So, he turns around. You see the gun. Then what happened?
HUSFELT: He told everyone to leave the room, but the -- the male -- males at the front. I can't remember exactly how he said it, but he told the women to leave the room and, all the audience, get out of here.
The two secretaries that sit up at the front, the -- one of the -- we have one female board member. Told her to leave. And then everybody else left the room. And he came up over towards the backside of us and -- and started saying, somebody's going to die in here, you know, that I'm upset, I'm mad. You fired my wife. My wife lost her job, my family -- he was just rambling. We didn't know what he was talking about.
COOPER: I mean, when he said you fired his wife, did that ring any bells with you, or...
HUSFELT: No. I have never seen him before. When he told us what his name was, I don't even remember what he said. But we -- we didn't know who he was talking about. In fact, we -- we still think that he was just very confused. I'm -- and I'm looking forward to finding out in the investigation of this whole thing, because I -- I don't think that he understood what he was talking about.
It was obvious that -- that he was not all there. And -- and it's sad for his family. I really feel bad for his family, because nobody -- nobody wants anything like this. This is a -- a tragedy on many, many levels.
COOPER: And at one point in the video, we see a woman who comes up with her bag, basically tries to knock the gun out of his hand, and then he kind of knocks her to the ground.
HUSFELT: Right. That was -- that was the board member, the female board member, that -- that was told to leave the room. And he just shuns her off.
And -- and then someone else helped her to get out of there. And we were just thankful -- like I said, at that time, we were just thankful he didn't start shooting. You know, it was -- it was -- it was very surreal.
COOPER: At one point, you say to him, "This is between you and me."
Did -- did -- I mean, but you didn't know him. Were you just...
COOPER: Were you just saying that hoping he would let other people go?
HUSFELT: Well, and -- and -- and I told him that I'm the one that's responsible for hiring and firing. I'm the superintendent. I'm the one that makes the final decisions. I sign the forms, or they're stamped with my name on them.
I had no idea what he was talking about, but I'm telling you, if you looked in his eyes, you knew somebody was going to die. And just -- Anderson, just to be very candid with you, I -- I don't have a death wish, but I know, if I were to die today, I know where I'm going. And I was -- I was fine with that, but I did not want everybody in that room killed.
I mean, it -- that would have just been a waste and a tragedy. And -- and I knew he wanted to die. He said that a couple times. He was paying attention to the windows, what was going on outside, even though the blinds were closed. You could see the lights flicker out there. It -- it -- it was almost like he wanted somebody to come rushing in, so he would have a reason to start shooting.
COOPER: Earlier, I heard you say that -- that he almost had a smile on his face.
HUSFELT: Yes, he had that comfortable look, like: I'm going to do this and I'm glad I'm going to do it.
I mean, it -- it just -- you know, and, again, it's sad. I feel sorry for his family. But, I mean, there was no doubt in my mind this was going to happen. Somebody was going to get shot.
COOPER: You know, one never knows how one's going to react in a situation like this, when -- when -- I mean, somebody pointing a gun at you will get your attention faster than just about anything.
And I was amazed at how calm you remained. And you were talking to him. And I -- I believe it -- it was you who was saying -- I mean, he -- he was pointing the gun. And I believe -- was it you who was saying, please don't do that; please don't do that?
HUSFELT: I believe I was saying that.
I was -- I was trying to calm him down and get him to just talk with us. And he said he didn't want to talk, but we talked. And, you know, I -- I was trying everything I could just because I knew the police were on their way. And I -- I knew that he was going to start shooting eventually.
I mean, he did not -- first of all, he didn't want to talk. And as he came around to the front of us, you -- I'm telling you, you could see the look in his eyes. He was going to shoot. And -- and so we were trying to get him to calm down and just -- you know, just to -- to talk with us a little bit.
And -- and to -- to be -- just tell you flat-out, I was just trying to delay him from doing what I thought he was going to do.
COOPER: Also, I mean, everyone's kind of sitting there, and he starts -- he shoots. I was amazed that you all didn't immediately run. Did you hear -- did you feel that first shot coming by? I mean, because he was shooting at you, right, with that first shot?
HUSFELT: That first shot, he was about eight feet -- eight, 10 feet in front of me. And I -- and, Anderson, I'm just telling you, the good lord was standing in front of me, that -- because, I mean, there's two bullet holes back behind where I sat. And -- and that's the only reason they didn't hit me.
And -- and I'm just being very honest with you. But we -- it's a desk type thing. We're up. It's -- they're podium-like, and we're -- we have got seats there. And so we all just immediately, when he started shooting, just hit the ground.
Mike Jones, who is the real hero in all this, is our safety security officer. When he heard that first shot, he came running in. Now, he's a retired detective with our local police department. He -- they started exchanging gunfire. And there was 15 to 20 shots gone off in there. I mean, this was -- this was -- this wasn't a game. This was the real thing.
COOPER: And -- and you did bring him down. How -- how long did all of this happen? I mean, did this happen in, like, a few seconds? It's hard to tell from the video.
HUSFELT: It was several minutes because of the way he was positioning himself, from sort of beside us, and then walked around, and -- and he walked around for a couple minutes.
So, I mean, you know, it seemed like an eternity, obviously. But, you know, I never wanted to take my eyes off of him because I -- I just knew -- you knew he was going to pull that trigger eventually, and -- and you knew he had a death wish. I mean, he said in there -- I mean, he said several times he was going to die and so were we or something to that effect. I mean, that's what he was talking about.
And the sad thing is, Anderson, he just was mixed up. He did not know what he was talking about and, you know, it's just a tragedy that 30 minutes before this, maybe 45 minutes before this, that boardroom was full. We had students and patients rents in there, we were having a recognition ceremony for a lot of our students. And it was a good time, a good, fun meeting, all the neat stuff you want to do to recognize students. And then we had a little break and we came back for the regular meeting. We're just very thankful the students and those parents weren't in there.
COOPER: Well, I mean, I've -- it's just incredible and I'm so happy that, you know -- I'm sorry there was a loss of life here, but I'm so happy, it could have been much worse. And you all responded remarkably. And I'm glad you're with your family tonight, and I appreciate you talking with us.
HUSFELT: Thank you. And you know, I feel sorry for his family. Like I said earlier. But the bravery that our police department and Mike Jones showed was just, it's beyond commendable. They saved lives today, I'm telling you.
COOPER: Yes. No doubt about that. The video shows it. Superintendent Husfelt, sir, thank you.
HUSFELT: Thank you.
COOPER: Also incredibly brave, Ginger, that woman who snuck up behind him and tried to knock the gun out of her -- out of his hand with the bag.
Just ahead tonight, "Keeping Them Honest" on the massive new spending plan out of Washington, all the earmarks in it, $8 billion of your money. John McCain spoke out against the bill. He refuses to ask for earmarks, as he always has. What about his colleagues, Democratic and Republican? "Keeping Them Honest."
And it's like a scene out of the movies. A guy steals more than $1 million in casino chips, speeds away on a motorcycle. We'll tell you which big Vegas casino got hit, coming up.
COOPER: Following a lot more tonight, Joe Johns joins us with a "360 Bulletin."
Joe, what do you got?
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, police in New York say they may be dealing with a serial killer after finding four bodies near a Long Island beach. The bodies were discovered during a search for a missing prostitute who was seen -- last seen in May. She reportedly had arranged to meet a client about a mile from where the bodies were found.
A Virginia man who allegedly threatened to blow up targets, including Washington, D.C.'s metro system has been arrested and is undergoing a mental evaluation. Federal court documents say the threats came during an online chat with an acquaintance on Facebook.
The search is on for a man who stole $1.5 million in casino chips from the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas. The suspect pulled out a gun at a craps table early in the morning, then rode away on a motorcycle.
And Hugh Jackman tried to make an entrance on a zip line during the Oprah show, ended up crashing into a row of lights. There you see it. The taping stopped while paramedics checked him out. Jackman's eye was injured but not so badly...
JOHNS: ... that the taping could not resume. That's the kind of thing you leave up to a stuntman, I would think.
COOPER: Although he's a cool guy, it was an amazing entrance. Anyway, hope he feels better.
In tonight's "Shot," our corporate cousin, Conan O'Brien, actually taking aim at me last night, but it's all in good fun. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, TBS'S "CONAN": Here's Anderson Cooper announced that the name of his new talk show is "Anderson." I think I speak for everyone here on the staff of "Conan" when I say, "God, what an ego on that guy." You'd think people around him would tell him how bad that looks.
ANDY RICHTER, ANNOUNCER, "CONAN": A lot of times people don't say stuff to guys like that.
O'BRIEN: Well, I'm moving on.
COOPER: Yes. There you go. He's talking about a new syndicated show I'm going to be doing during the daytime and it is going to be called "Anderson." so fair enough. Up next, it's your money, $8 billion we're talking about, going to lawmakers' pet projects, earmarks. We're going to let you know who's taking the money and who's not giving it back, even though they promised not to ask for earmarks anymore.
And later, more than just a snowstorm. Imagine hitting the road and being stuck in your car in the snow for hour after hour -- get this-- for 24 hours stuck in a snow drift. We'll bring you the latest on the rescue effort.
COOPER: So 8 billion new reasons for "Keeping Them Honest" tonight, $8 billion of your money for pet projects and a new $1.1 trillion budget deal that Senate Democrats unveiled today.
Earmarks from Democrats who pledged to cut back on them and some Republicans, some of whom promised to eliminate them entirely. Eight billion dollars. That's less than 1 percent of the budget and less than -- less than last year. But it's a lot more than zero.
Some of the spending is transparent. Some of it is not. Over on the house side, they're no dummies. They know these earmarks have quickly become the third rail for politicians. So they've got a budget that claims to have no earmarks at all, but it does have what they're calling congressionally-directed spending.
Listen close. I'll say it again, congressionally-directed spending. If you hear that, it sounds an awful lot like earmarks under a new name. Republican Senator John McCain certainly thought so. Watch what he said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R) ARIZONA: And I thought that the message was pretty clear. That the American people said enough with the spending. Enough with the pork-barrel earmark spending.
We have already identified approximately 6,488 earmarks totaling nearly $8.3 billion. Eight point three billion dollars.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, Senator McCain does not request earmarks. Senate Majority -- Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged earlier this year not to request earmarks, right? And he spoke out against the spending bill today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (D), WATER: I am actively working to defeat it. There are many members of the Senate who have provisions in it for their states, who are also actively working to defeat it. This bill should not go forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Notice, he said, members of the Senate who have provisions in it. Senators including Kentucky's Mitch McConnell. Even though he's opposing the bill; even though he took a pledge not to take earmarks, he's got a bunch he put in before he took the pledge. Eighteen million to upgrade the rail head at Ft. Knox. Three million dollars to widen a road in Ft. Campbell, both in the estate. Two and a half million dollars for health facilities at western Kentucky University.
More than $100 million in all.
Earmarks he did not withdraw after taking the no earmark pledge. What you heard a moment ago was part of his explanation why not. Here's the rest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: And regardless of whether members had some input in the bill much earlier in the year when the bills could have been moved to the floor by bill by bill, it is completely and totally inappropriate to wrap all of this up into a 2,000-page bill and try to pass it the week before Christmas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now other Republicans certainly have earmarks in the bill. Some are expected to vote for it, Democrats, as well. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he expects the bill to pass with their support. Now, he's not opposed to earmarks. He's made that clear and he's got plenty. Nearly half a billion dollars worth, in fact, 15 pages of projects, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense. Military spending, food banks, highway projects, biometric sensor research, high-speed rails. Look, all of this might be worthy stuff, but that's in the eye of the beholder. The fact is, it's in the face of a sea of red ink.
We talked about it earlier with Democratic strategist Paul Begala and Erick RedState.com editor in chief, Erick Erickson.
COOPER: Paul, Representative Obey has said the omnibus bill doesn't include earmarks. There is, though, plenty of new funding in there for pet projects, especially ones favored by Democrats and the administration. I mean, is he getting just a little too creative with the definition of earmarks?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think any congressionally- directed spending is an earmark. Now I don't think all earmarks are bad at all, as long as they're transparent, disclosed, subject to debate. I think that's what the Founding Fathers intended. That's why they gave Congress the power of the purse.
But look, the problem here is hypocrisy, and hypocrisy is mostly with my friends in the Republican Party, who have campaigned against earmarks. And you know, Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, he's against this bill but he's put earmarks into the bill. He's the guy who's carried so much pork he's probably got trick nose is by now and it's the hypocrisy people get fed up by.
McConnell does have earmarks in this bill himself, so do a lot of other Republicans.
Oh, absolutely. You know, in fact I completely agree with Paul on this issue. The Republicans in the Senate in particular, they've pounded on their chests they weren't going to have an earmark ban until Jim DeMint and Senator Coburn from Oklahoma got enough votes with the new guys coming in to force the issue.
So they said, okay, okay, okay, we'll lead on this and ban earmarks from the Republican conference, wink-wink, nod-nod, we'll go to our Democratic friends and ask them to put it in for us. That's exactly what's happening. Look at the guys from Mississippi, both of whom not fans of the earmarks ban, have loaded up Mississippi with earmarks.
COOPER: Paul, I mean, I get why Democrats in the House would push for this money now while they still can Earmarks are technically a drop in the bucket, but I mean, what kind of a message does this send about the Democratic Party's fiscal discipline?
BEGALA: Well, the Democratic Party is the party that balanced the budget the last time it was balanced. The Republicans know as much about balancing a budget as my dog does about Sunday mass.
ERICKSON: Wait, wait, wait. The Republicans were in charge when the budget was balanced.
BEGALA: Obviously, it was the Clinton budget. It could have never been balanced. The Republican (ph) has to say in the White House that he destroyed all of our fiscal discipline. And I think that's part of the problem here.
But somebody who's really wigged out about earmarks, I have to say, is an unserious person. If all of the $8 billion, $8 billion of earmarks in this bill, if they're eliminated, instead of a deficit of one trillion 30 hundred billion, we'll have a deficit of one trillion two hundred and nine billion. And at that pace, we will pay off the deficit in 163 years. So it's just not -- I mean, if the deficit is Cancer and I think it is, then earmarks are a hangnail.
ERICKSON: Paul, I would disagree with that assertion. No. Because when you look at how earmarks are used more often than not in Congress, yes, they themselves are a small portion of the budget but they're attached to larger pieces of legislation that aren't quite as popular and they get those unpopular pieces of legislation passed. It happens with the Republicans and Democrats.
The Republicans would have never passed no child left behind or the Medicare prescription drug benefit without loading up enough earmarks to buy the votes of members of Congress. Same with the Democrats, frankly, on their health care accountability -- or affordability act. The Nebraska deal, the Louisiana deal, the Florida deal, those got votes for the bigger pieces of legislation. That's how earmarks are used.
COOPER: It does sound, though, Erick, that even some Republicans now are sort of maybe trying to play with the definition of what an earmark is so that they can say, "Well, look, there are no more earmarks but there's still, I don't know, congressionally-directed spending."
ERICKSON: Yes. Very much so. I mean, you have situations where Michele Bachmann are now -- and others Jim Inhofe are saying, well, what about transportation?
COOPER: You're saying, for a bridge or a road, it's important...
ERICKSON: Whether or not they can drink communion and drink the wine. Will they become an alcoholic again. You've got to -- you've got to go free. You can't take any of these earmarks. And frankly, the big issue is they don't need these earmarks. We're arguing not over who should spend this stuff but whether or not they should spend it.
COOPER: These earmarks didn't REALLY exist, I mean, not too long ago.
BEGALA: They always have. This is, again, I think this is what the founding fathers intended. They gave Congress the power of the purse.
If you -- and I've worked in the Congress and I've worked in the White House. I've seen it from both sides.
If there were no earmarks, of there were no congressionally- directed spending, all you would do is, you wouldn't cut the spending. What you would do is empower some bureaucrat at the Department of Transportation to decide where that road or bridge. Often that bureaucrat might be wiser but often she might not be. Maybe the congressman knows better in his own district where the highway bypass ought to be.
So for me, my own view, as long as it's disclosed, debated -- I mean, Erick brings very good points about how this is often done in secret and by committee and bypassing the normal order. I think that's all wrong. That's always a process. But as long as it's debated and open and people know about, Congress should decide where the money goes. That's what the Constitution says.
COOPER: All right. Erick, appreciate it. Erick Erickson, Paul Begala. Thanks, guys. Good discussion.
Earmarks will probably come up in 2012 in the presidential election. The presidential race, we're pleased to announce that CNN is joining with WMUR-TV and the "New Hampshire Union Leader" to bring you the latest -- or the first, I should say, Republican presidential debate of the campaign. It's going to take place June 7, 2011. You can see it right here on CNN. I know it's a little far in advance, but you know, mark your calendars. Still ahead, the late on the severe winter weather battling -- battering the northeastern U.S. and also Canada. Hundreds of people were stranded on a highway. It's an unbelievable picture, as the latest rescue -- on the rescue efforts ahead.
Plus, you know, men are always told they should show more emotion. Well, so how come with John Boehner shedding a few tears, the ladies at "The View" were all over the guy? We're crying foul and putting them on tonight's RidicuList.
COOPER: All right. Before we get to the RidicuList, let's get caught up with some other stories tonight. Joe Johns has a "360 Bulletin" -- Joe.
JOHNS: Anderson, Marine Corps Commandant General James Amos says if "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" goes away, it could be deadly on the battlefield in Afghanistan. At a roundtable discussion with journalists at the Pentagon, Amos said today he doesn't want to lose any Marines to a distraction.
WikiLeaks founder Julian a Assange was granted bail in London today, but he's not out of jail yet. Swedish prosecutors who are pursuing him over alleged sex crimes immediately filed an appeal on the bail issue. Assange will stay in jail until the next hearing, which should be within the next two days.
And amazing video from Ontario, Canada. A brutal snowstorm that left people stuck in their cars for more than 24 hours. Canadian media reports say police and military teams worked today to free more than 200 people who'd been stranded. A local official says it's the worst storm to hit the area in 25 years.
Looks like staying in your car is the thing that kept those folks alive.
COOPER: Yes. One person was trapped in their car for 24 hours. Incredible.
All right. Time now for the latest addition to the RidicuList. Our honor goes tonight to "The View" ladies, who let me make clear, I'm a big fan of, but I was surprised and disappointed to learn that they apparently don't like to see a grown man cry, or at least not a grown Republican politician cry.
The co-hosts were talking about soon-to-be House Speaker John Boehner's propensity to get kind of choked up, most recently on "60 Minutes." Here he is talking about school kids.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER ELECT: Making sure that these kids have a shot at the American dream like I did.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: All right. So he got emotional, a little teary. I think maybe I even heard a snort in there. But aren't people always saying they want politicians to be more real? And aren't men always being told now that we're supposed to be more sensitive, more vulnerable, willing to show emotions?
Well, check out the reaction Boehner's bawling got on "The View."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARBARA WALTERS, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": This guy has an emotional problem. Every time he talks about anything that's not raising taxes, he cries.
JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": He cries only when he talks about how sad his life was. he had to sweep floors. He was a janitor, and he pursued the American dream. And yet he has very little empathy for people who are in that position now.
ELISABETH HASSELBECK, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": Kids may not have opportunity...
WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": I'm sorry, I just need to go. I just have to go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: For crying out loud, let the guy cry out loud. Where's the harm in that? Since when did the ladies on "The View" turn into Dr. Evil from "Austin Powers"?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE MEYERS, ACTOR: Are you going to cry? Are you going to cry in huh? You going to cry? Huh? Huh? Are you going to squirt some? Are you going to cry? See? You're going to cry. You're a big man now, huh? Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Joy Behar dubbed John Boehner Weeper of the House. Barbara Walters said if Nancy Pelosi cried so much, she'd be called weak, which is probably true actually. Pelosi has said she doesn't cry about politics because you have to be a professional.
But can you be professional and sentimental at the same time? I'm one of the most uptight people around, believe me, but I've been known to shed a tear from time to time. Sure, I, you know, try to keep it limited to a darkened theater while watching "Bambi."
But let's give John Boehner a break and let's not perpetuate a double standard. Ladies of "The View," just let the man cry already. And if you want to shed a tear because you're on tonight's RidicuList, go right ahead. We'll love you all the more for it.
A lot more at the top of the hour, including perhaps the most compelling images we've seen all year, compelling but terrifying. Again, a warning: look away if you feel you need to. A gunman opening fire at point blank range until he himself is gunned down at a school board meeting. We'll tell you how it all ended. We'll speak with one of the gunman's would-be victims.