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Gadhafi Regime Tossing Out Journalists; Government Shutdown?

Aired April 6, 2011 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news -- good evening, everyone -- from the White House, where an emergency budget meeting is going on right now between President Obama, Vice President Biden, House Speaker John Boehner, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

They have been trying to come up with an agreement that will keep the government running. We're watching a live shot location where microphones have set up. We believe the participants, including maybe even the president, might speak after this meeting.

Without a budget deal, parts of the federal government will shut down about 50 hours from now. The meeting started about 45 minutes ago. As I said, we anticipate hearing from some of the players tonight, maybe even the president , we're told. We're watching those microphones very carefully.

Senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash joins us live from Capitol Hill.

Dana, what is the likelihood of an actual deal coming out of this tonight?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Going into this, I was told by sources in both parties, Anderson, that it is not -- don't look for it, that it is not that likely.

We should say miracles do happen. They have been in this room now, as you said, for about 50 minutes and I was just told by sources I was e-mailing with that the meeting is still going on. There was we were told some progress made here on Capitol Hill with Democratic and Republican leadership aides, who were trying to find -- come closer to an agreement on really the key issues we're talking about here, which is how much spending to cut, where to cut from, and some very big differences over policy, social policy and economic policy.

They have to figure out how to bring all of that together and they have to do it in the next two days. So they needed the president, they needed these leaders to sit down around a table face to face to try to get closer together on it. But we're told probably not going to be a deal tonight. We could be surprised.

COOPER: We will be watching very closely. Dana, we will have more with you and others coming up. We will have a lot more on the budget showdown in the program tonight and the possible shutdown.

But we have more breaking news tonight, this out of Libya. Apparently, upset with some of the media coverage the Gadhafi regime is getting, they are now planning on expelling a number of reporters from Tripoli. Initially, 27 were identified by Gadhafi officials. They were told -- those 27 were told they would have to leave Tripoli, leave the country. Then that number was apparently cut to eight.

We're not yet certain who the eight are, nor is it clear why 27 suddenly became eight or why those eight were chosen. The regime obviously not transparent and never has been. Another sign of that, former GOP Congressman Curt Weldon is still waiting to meet with Gadhafi in Tripoli.

That's him on the right of your screen. He was invited to meet with Gadhafi. He said he came to urge him to give up power. Now, after waiting all day to speak with him, he's been offered a meeting tomorrow with the Libyan prime minister, but not with Gadhafi.

Mr. Weldon, by the way, has met Gadhafi a number of times, was part of a congressional delegation the Libya in 2004.

As for Gadhafi himself, he sent a letter today to President Obama. It is rambling, barely coherent, and shot through with typos which we're showing for you now on the screen.

"We endeavor and hope," he writes, "that you will gain victory in the new election campaigne." That's with an E at the end of campaign.

Quote: "You are a man who have enough courage to annul a wrong and mistaken action." He goes on, "Our dear son, Excellency, Baraka Hussein Abu oumama, your intervention is the name of the U.S." -- sorry -- yes, "Your intervention is the name of the U.S. is a must, so that NATO would withdraw finally from the Libyan affair."

Apparently, no one has the guts to proofread or fact-check the Libyan dictator.

As we said, a happening, a lot of moving parts to the story tonight.

Joining us now, Nic Robertson in Tripoli, here in New York, Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN's "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS," and Princeton University's Anne-Marie Slaughter. Until recently, she served as director of policy planning at the State Department.

Nic, what is the latest, first of all, with former Congressman Weldon? The meeting didn't happen. He flew all the way thinking he was going to meet with Gadhafi. Is he just sitting, cooling his heels?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think cooling his heels is perhaps all he can do at the moment.

Certainly understand that he's frustrated that he didn't get this meeting, invited here, meeting with the government chief of staff, or at least Moammar Gadhafi's chief of staff, a very senior government official here, but it hasn't translated into that meeting he was expecting. And it puts him in a very, very awkward position. There's some sense that maybe the op-ed that he wrote in "The New York Times" before he arrived here could have put the leader's back up a little bit, coming out, getting ahead of the they, if you will.

But this is Moammar Gadhafi, perhaps the way that many people remember him here, completely unpredictable and Mr. Weldon isn't the first person that this leader has kept waiting -- Anderson.

COOPER: Anne-Marie Slaughter, are Congressman Weldon's proposals even plausible? How likely is it something actually would come out of this?


There are different positions coming out of different people. The Gadhafi regime itself presented positions both through Saif and then the deputy foreign minister has been in Athens and in Ankara. Their starting position is essentially that Gadhafi and Saif will preside over a democratic transition.

Now, the details of the proposal that Congressman Weldon has actually says, no, maybe Saif would be part of some kind of council, but really it would be the rebels who would be in charge of leading to elections and there would be U.N. involvement.

I think you have to see both of these as opening bids in a negotiation that has not yet actually kind of gotten going.

COOPER: Fareed, when you look at sort of this big picture, this rambling letter that he sent to President Obama, what do you make of what's going on in Libya? Where do you see this going now?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: My sense, Anderson, is the big picture is Gadhafi is feeling the pressure. There is no way -- think about the alternative. There's no way if he felt that the military balance was moving in his favor or was strengthening, that he would be making any of these overtures. The letter to the president, the invitation to Weldon, the overtures that they have made, even the conversation about what kind of post-Gadhafi era would happen, none of this would be happening.

COOPER: You don't think this could just be gamesmanship, playing for time?

ZAKARIA: No, no, I don't think that, because there is no point. Time is not on his side in that sense. Clearly the sense -- one of the things that's happened here is it really is an international effort. So the noose is tightening. They're running out of funds. Of course, they have lots of money, but at the end of the day there's only so many places you can buy elicit weaponry from. There are only so many places you can sell oil to.

All those things are closing in on them and they're trying to find ways to come up with a workable exit. Now, the plans they have are pretty good for the Gadhafi family. So it's understandable that they're trying to make the best of it. I think Congressman Weldon is making a huge mistake. He should not be engaged in this.


COOPER: You think he's in over his head?

ZAKARIA: He's in over his head, frankly. It's not -- there are elements of the U.S. law he might be violating.

This should be conducted by the U.S. government. This should be done with appointed emissaries of the president and the White House. It is not appropriate for him to be there. The most important thing, however, is clearly the Libyan regime is feeling the pressure. It is all the more reason why the White House should just stay the course, not do much more than they're doing, not do much less than they're doing.

COOPER: Anne-Marie, do you agree with that, that they are feeling the pressure?

SLAUGHTER: I completely agree with Fareed's analysis that he's feeling the pressure, absolutely.

What you saw initially was, you know, they -- we stopped him. NATO stopped him militarily. You have got the military situation to a place where now the diplomacy can really kick in and absolutely he's feeling the pressure.

But I'm not sure I agree that Congressman Weldon being there is such a bad thing. We have sent an official emissary. The U.S. government has sent an official emissary to the rebels. That's good. You now have somebody there talking to them.

But, overall, if the White House were to send an official envoy to Gadhafi, then you undercut the efforts that the Turks are making, that maybe the Greeks are making. The White House position all along has been we want other nations involved. Even the Indonesians have been making noises.

So I'm not sure it hurts to get some firsthand sense of what Gadhafi is thinking, if indeed he gets the meeting. If the White House wanted to call off this meeting or undercut it, they could certainly say so and we haven't heard anything from them.

COOPER: Fareed?

ZAKARIA: Well, I think -- I don't dispute -- look, this is a kind of complication negotiation minuet. What is the best strategy?

What strikes me actually that is more significant, and I would love to hear from Anne-Marie, because she is by training an international lawyer, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court came out with a very tough statement about Gadhafi, mainly because of the kind of images that have come out... (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Right. Shooting of protesters, they said that was a deliberate -- they had evidence that that was a deliberate policy.

ZAKARIA: Precisely.

Now, if that's the case, they rarely come out with these kind of statements when they are not preparing to indict, when they do not have a criminal case that they're going to make, a case for war crimes against Gadhafi.

If that's the case, it complicates our negotiations, because it means there isn't an easy exit for Gadhafi, there isn't a quiet retirement home in Mali that he can go to or some other African country. It means he's going to be pursued by the Criminal Court. And so there isn't a plea bargain strategy here. And if that's the case, in a strange way it actually makes it more difficult to dislodge him from power or at least that's my initial hypothesis.

COOPER: Anne-Marie, do you agree with that?

SLAUGHTER: This is the absolute paradox or dilemma of peace vs. justice. You can't have peace without justice. Clearly the rebels are saying, much of the world is saying look what this guy has done. You can't let him off the hook. That's why we have an International Criminal Court.

At the same time, what is most important right now is to get the fighting ended, so the Libyans can start rebuilding their country. And for that, Fareed's right, this makes things more difficult. There are ways out if he goes to an African company that won't extradite him or is not subject to the jurisdiction of the court. Then you can bring the indictment, but he's effectively then prisoner in that country. But there's a little bit of wiggle room, but it's a straightforward conflict between the demands of peace and justice.

COOPER: Nic, what do we know about the reporters who are going to be expelled; have some already left; have some already been expelled?

ROBERTSON: It won't happen for another few hours, and then it will perhaps become clear who actually has to leave, who may be able to get a stay of execution, if you will, and stay on a little longer.

It's a very much a sort of a looking glass operation here. One person, one government official will tell you one thing, another will tell you another thing. You think you have been able to extend with one person, yet somebody else will call you up -- as many journalists who have been forced out of the country over the past few weeks will tell you, you get a call in the middle of the night and you have to leave. However I saw one journalist here today who was forced out with a phone call, I think it was Sunday night into Monday morning, back in the hotel here again, forced out by one official and allowed back in by another one. It's really -- it's a looking glass situation here, Anderson. COOPER: It's fascinating.

Fareed Zakaria, thank you. Professor Slaughter, thanks as well.

Nic, stay with us. I know you have got more to report.

Nic Robertson sat down today with Eman al-Obeidy. The regime actually allowed that interview to take place, then apparently didn't like what she was saying. Things got pretty heated in the room. I'm going to talk to Nic about that interview live after the break.

Also, as we wait for the White House budget talks to wrap up, more on the showdown. Again, we're carefully watching that live shot position outside the White House and why this had to go down to the wire at all. A lot of people accusing both sides of being more interested in scoring political points than taking care of your dollars and cents. Details ahead.


COOPER: Tonight, more on what the Gadhafi regime is up to right now in Tripoli.

As we mentioned earlier in the program, it allowed an interview today with Nic Robertson and Eman al-Obeidy, the woman whose allegations of gang rape against Gadhafi's fighters got her hauled off and her life repeatedly threatened. That's a photo from the interview today. We will talk with Nic about it in a moment.

Eman al-Obeidy has been repeatedly smeared on Libyan state television, called a traitor, a prostitute. And just yesterday when we spoke with her and her mother, she told us about this.


EMAN AL-OBEIDY, ALLEGED RAPE VICTIM (through translator): Today, I went to the court. And one of the employees in the court pulled his on gun me and said he was going to kill me. The people came and started pulling him. The reports on our brigades...

AISHA AHMAD, MOTHER OF EMAN (through translator): Who is going to kill you? Who?

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): An employee in the court, an employee in the court. I can't go out to the street.

AHMAD (through translator): If you didn't leave, they would have been able to get you, Eman.

AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Mom, they won't let me leave to Tobruk. I can't. I can't stay here anymore.

AHMAD (through translator): Think. Think. Think. Think with your sister to find a solution and bring you back before they kill you. AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Mom, I am scared. I can't. Even at night, when the lights are closed, I dream all the people are screaming, all the people with him are dying. I dream of them trying to kill me.

AHMAD (through translator): No, do not be scared. Do not be scared.


COOPER: Eman al-Obeidy talking to her mother yesterday.

Nic Robertson joins us once again, along with Reza Sayah in opposition-controlled Tobruk, where Eman's family lives.

So, Nic, you were able to talk with her today. What happened? How was she?


She showed me the remains of the scars and the bruising on her wrists, which is still there after almost two weeks after she was tied up and gang repeatedly raped. She said that physically she is beginning to recover, but her experiences here in Tripoli, she's harassed still whenever she goes out of her house.

This is a very, very strong lady who I saw stand up to government officials, stand up to say what she wanted to say. This is a lady who clearly has a lot of fire inside her, a lady who really wants to get her story, the true, accurate story of what happened to her out.

And she said she wanted to thank all the people who supported her over this time, including CNN, but everyone she said, the thousands of people outside of the country who supported her. But she seemed more composed than we have seen her and heard her in recent days. This, again, I have to say she came across as a very strong and courageous lady, Anderson.

COOPER: Nic, we have been getting so many tweets and e-mails from people asking is there any way for her to get out of Tripoli? So I just pass that question to you.

ROBERTSON: It's a very good question.

I mean, it seemed to be that there might be, this might be the logical thing for the government to do. And the impression that we get is that there is still some people here who would like to see that happen. But it may take more time than some people would wish.

Again, as I think I said this to you a little earlier, this is a very looking glass world here. And one gets contradictory information almost by the hour. I certainly believe that there are some influential people here who will be pushing for her to be allowed to leave. But I think there's a lot of people in this country who see what's happened to her as an internal issue and will want her to stay. But I do understand that there are influential people who will try to get her out of the country, but there's no -- indeed we don't know for sure that they will win out on this by any stretch of the imagination, Anderson.

COOPER: Reza, you were with Eman's family today in Eastern Libya. I just want to watch some of the interview that you did with Eman's mom.


REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You finally spoke to your daughter Eman. What was that like?

AHMAD (through translator): It was a feeling any mother would have after talking to her daughter after a very long time.

SAYAH: Did it make you feel better or worse?

AHMAD (through translator): Of course, I felt worse.

SAYAH: Why did it make you feel worse?

AHMAD (through translator): Because she was crying. I couldn't understand a word because she was crying. She even made me cry.


COOPER: Are Eman's parents aware of how much attention her story is getting around the world?

SAYAH: I think they know it's getting attention, Anderson, but I don't think they know that it's getting the type of attention that it is getting.

But this is a very conservative family, a modest family. They're not wealthy. They're uncomfortable with the attention. But it's very interesting. It's clear that they are aware, that without this attention from the international media, international community, they may not have a chance of getting their daughter back home, seeing their daughter return home safely.

So I think it's clear that they're using this international attention, much like their daughter Eman did, to get their daughter back home. But they're aware that it's going around the world. They're not very comfortable with it. They're exhausted, but they're aware of it.

COOPER: Nic, at this point, I mean, are there still strikes going on in Tripoli?

ROBERTSON: There was a huge amount of anti-aircraft gunfire this evening at one point not long after we finished meeting with Eman al- Obeidy.

What that gunfire was shooting at, we don't know, but that was the loudest and most sustained anti-aircraft gunfire from multiple positions around the city that we have heard for perhaps almost two weeks here. But we didn't hear any bombs or missiles falling here and we really haven't heard any in this city right here for about six days I would say.

Again, going back to the interview with Eman al-Obeidy, this was an interview where I describe this lady as strong and courageous for standing up for her views, but it was also I would say calm, controlled, dignified. It didn't get out of hand, if you will, with the officials who were present there.

She portrayed and came across here as a very dignified person, somebody who wants to be seen and understood as a serious person. As Reza says, I said to her how would you like the world to understand you? And she said, well, I'm a Muslim. I'm a Libyan. I'm from a conservative family. I'm not crazy like the government says.

She really feels passionately that all the officials here that she comes in contact with should help clear her name. That's something that frustrates her. She needs the government here. She needs officials to help clear her name at this time. But she was doing this in a dignified but passionate way, and this is a lady much more in control of herself, obviously overcoming some of the mental torture of having gone through that multiple rape, Anderson.

COOPER: Nic Robertson, appreciate it today, Reza as well. Thanks.

A program note: a special hour this Friday featuring an exclusive interview with four "New York Times" journalists held captive for six days in Libya. We played parts of the interview last week, but we really talked for a good hour. You will hear them describe their ordeal in really horrifying detail at the hands of pro-Gadhafi forces, you will also hear what their families went through. We talked to two of their spouses. They waited to hear word of their loved ones' fate for days. That's Friday at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, a special edition of 360, and of course the regular edition of 360 at 10:00 p.m. with the day's news.

Still ahead, the breaking news out of Washington tonight, an emergency meeting over the budget impasse under way right now at the White House with the clock running.. Both sides say they want to hammer out a deal. We could hear from the parties involved, including possibly the president, at any moment. We will bring that to you live when it happens.

A lot head.


COOPER: OK, more on the breaking news out of Washington tonight. Right now, President Obama, Vice President Biden, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are in an emergency meeting over the budget impasse that could shut down the federal government in about 50 hours. We're waiting to hear from them, from some of them or all them. We're not sure which -- at that live shot location outside the White House. The meeting started about an hour ago. How did we get here? Let's look at that. Two days away from the deadline with not agreement. Congressional Republicans and Democrats insist they want an agreement. President Obama says he wants an agreement, too.

So "Keeping Them Honest," what's going on here? Well, two words, hot air. With a little theater thrown in for good measure. Take a look.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When government shuts down, it means that that small business owner who's waiting to get a loan, suddenly nobody's there to process it. He may not get that loan and that business may not open.

REP. THADDEUS MCCOTTER (R), MICHIGAN: The majority, the vast majority of Americans don't want to see the government partially shut down because the two parties can't agree. I think Speaker Boehner is right about that. In a very chaotic time for our country, they would like to see the institutions functioning.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: So we clearly do not want a shutdown. We take leaders of the Congress, speaker of the House, and the Senate minority leader at their word that they do not want a shutdown.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: If you shut the government down, it will end up costing more than you save, because you interrupt contracts. There are a lot of problems with the idea of shutting the government down. It is not the goal.


COOPER: Well, it sure seems like lawmakers don't want a shutdown. And most Americans don't want a shutdown either. The latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll 59 percent said it would be bad for the country if the federal government shut down even for a few days. So what's being done to prevent the shutdown that nobody wants? With a deadline of midnight Friday looming large, there are meetings. There's tonight's meeting at the White House and countless meetings between budget negotiators and both sides behind closed doors. But you know what they say about meetings. When all is said and done, much is said and little is done.

That's certainly been the case up to this point, a lot of talking on both sides about how it's the other guy who holding up the process by playing politics.


REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: If liberals in the Senate would rather play political games and shut down the government, instead of making a small down payment on fiscal discipline and reform, I say, shut it down.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: It's between Republicans and Republicans. So the speaker has a choice to make, and not much time to make it. He can either do what the Tea Party wants or what the country needs.

REP. PAUL BROUN (R), GEORGIA: I think they're doing this for political purposes. I think that back during the lame-duck session they started trying to figure out how to get Nancy Pelosi the speaker of the House again, to give Harry Reid a big majority in the Senate and reelect Obama next year; they believe in a socialistic Washington controlled government that tells everybody in this country what to do, what kind of health care we can have, what kind of lightbulbs we can have.

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Perhaps, if this were the rules that the Republicans had to follow, it's a much thinner book and it rhymes, maybe you'd get it right.

REP. JEB HENSARLING (R), TEXAS: The president of the United States has just said the least we can do is pass a budget, and then went to Pennsylvania apparently to work on his campaign budget.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: The Tea Party just continues to pull senator Speaker Boehner further back and back and back. They're the people who say they don't want compromise. They're the people who say they relish a shutdown.


COOPER: Well, the fact is, both Republicans and Democrats share plenty of blame here. Let's start with the Democrats. President Obama first proposed a budget for the 2011 fiscal year on February 1, 2010. That's more than a year ago. Five months after that, the House passed a few appropriations bills, but they didn't get through the Senate. That's the big question: why? At the time, Democrats controlled the House and the Senate, and this could have been settled before they lost that chance.

Now here we are, six short term spending measures later, still no agreement.

President Obama has been mostly MIA on this issue until very recently. He met with Boehner and other congressional leaders at the White House yesterday, which didn't yield an agreement but did yield some very grownup lecturing after he was asked about what the American people want from him as a leader.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think what they're looking for from me is the same they're looking for from Speaker Boehner and Harry Reid and everybody else, and that is that we act like grownups.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Boehner responded to that with this statement, released today. Quote, "If he wants to have an adult conversation about solving our fiscal challenges, he needs to lead instead of sitting on the sidelines."

Republicans aren't off the hook here, not by a long shot. Under pressure from the Tea Party, Republicans have proposed $61 billion in spending cuts. Democrats have problems with a lot of the proposal in the name of coming to an agreement. They say that they'd go along with more than 50 percent of what the Republicans want. Sounds like a compromise, right? Well, the Republicans say they aren't going for it. Boehner says that's just smoke and mirrors from the Democrats.

Americans say time and time again they want to see compromise in Washington. They want Washington to get something done. And time and time again politicians promise they're going to give it to them. But tonight, 430 days after the fiscal year budget was first proposed, time is wasting.

Joining us now is CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger and back with us, senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash. I also want to bring in White House correspondent Dan Lothian.

Dan, we're watching that live shot location. Any sense of how long this meeting might go on for at the White House?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No sense at all. I just heard from a White House official who told me that that meeting is still going on, more than an hour and 15 minutes or so, and we have no information as to when this will end.

But certainly, you know, there is a lot of concern here at the White House, because earlier in the day, there was some optimism that there was some good progress that was being made. And that's why when the president wanted to meet with these congressional leaders earlier this morning, he was told that there was no need for the president to be involved.

The White House had been monitoring the situation throughout the day, and then late into the evening it became clear to aides here t the White House, the president himself, that not enough progress was being made. And so that's why the president called this -- this meeting tonight. No -- we don't have any idea whether or not they'll be able to reach any agreement, but certainly, that's what they're shooting for.

COOPER: David, both sides now are accusing the other of playing politics with this. And both say they don't want a shut down. They can't both be right, can they?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, yes they can. Both sides are playing politics with this, Anderson. It's classic. But I do think there is some indications that, as they get closer to a cliff, that both sides are a little weary of taking us over it. And so I think there's some signs tonight that both sides do want a deal. The Tea Party is more ready to accept a deal than it was, I think partly because Paul Ryan came forward with that blockbuster plan yesterday about long-term spending cuts. That gives them some -- some confidence that this is not going to be the end of the game, if they vote for a compromise now.

And of course, the country, and the economists are saying -- Goldman Sachs has said, look, shut down the government for a week. It costs you $8 billion a week in government spending in terms of the kind of support you have for the economy. Over time, that can cost you a heck of a lot of jobs.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, Anderson, here's John Boehner's dilemma. He was around for the 1995 shutdown, and he knows personally how much it hurt the new Republican majority in the House.

But he's got a new caucus, 87 new members, 34 of whom have never even held elective office before. Tea Party, no Tea Party, they're just new, and they came to Congress promising to do business differently, promising to start cutting the budget, cutting the deficit, and this is kind of the first big vote they have.

Lots of Republicans I talked to say, you know, you want to make your point, make it on lifting -- raising the debt ceiling or make it in this next big budget round with Congressman Ryan's budget. Take your stand there.

But these new members are saying, "You know what? This is what we promised to do, and we're going to do it. And if it means shutting down the government," they don't have any memory of what it was like the last time for Republicans.

COOPER: Dana, what would it mean for a shutdown of the government? You hear that. Initially, for the first couple of days, I know that, like, the Smithsonian Institution would shut down, so tourists in Washington would notice. But right away would a lot of people really notice around the country?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: People would notice who would be affected and people, like for example, people in the military. We heard from a senior administration official who tried to walk -- walk reporters through this, that -- that checks would not go out to troops in the field. I mean, it just wouldn't happen. They certainly would be getting paid, but they wouldn't be getting their checks.

Everything from that to the IRS. If you are filing your tax return by paper, you can't do that. Electronically, you can.

So there are going to be effects, there's no question, across the board. People will feel it, but more importantly, I think politically they'll also see it.

The images of the Statue of Liberty closed, not being able to go to national parks, not being able to come here to Washington because the Cherry Blossom -- to go to the Cherry Blossom parade because it will be canceled. Those images, as Gloria was just alluding to, are politically horrible. For both parties, but Republicans certainly have it seared in their memories, the ones who were here, that it really was -- they were the ones who got the blame.

COOPER: David, I mean, as you mentioned, you have Paul Ryan, the Republican who has come out with -- with a vision of budget cuts down the road. Is it now -- I mean, where has President Obama been on this? Because he had a bipartisan commission which was much-heralded long ago, which seems to have kind of put out this report which had some, you know, controversial proposals. He doesn't seem to have really embraced his own report very much.

GERGEN: He has not. And Anderson, what we're seeing, I think, in President Obama now is a different kind of leadership. And it's very troubling to many of us. We'd like to see our president out front. Let's see him carrying the banner: follow me.

But he leads in a different way. He likes to, you know, let others sort of take -- take the -- take the lead from him and then step in at the last minute or put a little gentle touch on it, as he's doing with this. He's intervened at the last minute in these budget negotiations.

But I do think now -- look, we've had a bipartisan commission he appointed coming in with a dramatic proposal for $4 trillion worth of reductions in deficits. We've got a group of six senators who are working on -- who are working on their plan to come out of the Senate. We now have the House Republican budget leader coming out with a plan for $6 trillion in cuts. All of that -- who's the silent player in that? It's the president.

I think there's a growing pressure on the White House now, where is your plan? What would you like to see done, Mr. President? How would you shape this? Paul Ryan has given you an invitation to come in. You know, for a long time people in the White House said, "Well, we don't want to go first. Let the Republicans go first." Well, now the Republicans have played their card. Where is the White House on this?

BORGER: And you know, in many ways, whether the White House wants it or not, it's going to define the domestic policy debate for the next presidential election.

So President Obama is now being forced to deal with this one way or another, whether he wants to or not. So he's going to have to put some cards on the table at some point.

It's kind of ironic that he says, "We've got to get rid of this small budget deal so we can get to the bigger issues." That's true. But he hasn't put anything on the table yet, and people are waiting.

COOPER: And Dana, any word from the White House on when -- if he is going to come up with any -- any plan?

BASH: That's the multi-trillion-dollar question, Anderson. They're waiting to see that here, both from the Democratic and Republican side.

COOPER: What about congressional Democrats, Dana? Are they going to come up -- is there a Paul Ryan on the Democratic side who's going to come up with some plan?

BASH: There will be.

COOPER: They have been -- to David's point, they have been pointing fingers now at Republicans...

BASH: Absolutely.

COOPER: ... for a very long time, saying, "You're not giving us any specifics." There's now some very, you know, clear specifics. You can agree with them or not, but at least they're out there.

BASH: There's no question about it. This -- this plan that Paul Ryan put forward for next year's budget, it will be voted on in the House of Representatives next week.

And along with that, with the vote on the Republican plan, we will see a vote on a Democratic alternative, we are told. We haven't seen it yet, but we do expect to get one.

And you know what? Look, we do expect it to go right along the philosophical lines from the Democrats, as we saw Paul Ryan's budget on the Republican -- on the Republican side.

For example, Paul Ryan does -- certainly, it's beyond what we have seen before in terms of changing programs like Medicare and Medicaid. But he also keeps taxes low. It's not a surprise. It's a Republican credo. He could have maybe helped with the deficit and the debt more by not doing that.

It's hard to believe the Democrats won't do from their perspective what they think is the best to do, which is not necessarily dismantle those programs and to -- to deal with the tax rate in a different way.

COOPER: Yes. We've got to leave it there. David Gergen, Gloria Borger, Dana Bash, Dan Lothian, thank you.

Again, we're waiting for principals to come out and talk. We're going to bring it to you if they do and when they do. That's another vantage point. We've got two different podiums we're watching.

Also coming up, Glenn Beck's days at FOX News are coming to a close. A statement today said he's going to, quote, "transition off his television program." We'll talk to "Washington Post" media critic Howard Kurtz about that.

And also Isha Sesay is following some other stories for us tonight -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a pilot lands a small plane on a New York City beach. He says he got the idea from a reality TV show. Tonight, I have the details and the recording of his conversation with air traffic control. That's coming up.


COOPER: And breaking news. We just received word President Obama is about to speak at the White House. He has been meeting for about an hour or so with John Boehner, Congressman Boehner, as well as Senate -- Senator Harry Reid.

And here comes the president right now, as well as Vice President Biden.

Let's listen in.

OBAMA: Good evening, everybody. I'm just going to have a few quick remarks.

We just had a productive meeting with Speaker Boehner, as well as Majority Leader Reid. We discussed the impasse that we're firmly at with respect to the budget. And I thought the meetings were frank. They were constructive, and what they did was narrow the issues and clarify the issues that are still outstanding.

I remain confident that, if we're serious about getting something done, we should be able to complete a deal and get it passed and avert a shutdown. But it's going to require a sufficient sense of urgency from all parties involved. It means that people have to recognize that a government shutdown has real consequences for real people.

There was an interview that was done tonight on one of the nightly news networks. A man from Kentucky named J.T. Henderson, he said he's counting on his tax rebate, because his family has been scraping by. And he might not get it if the government shuts down. So J.T. said, if you can speak directly to all of us in Washington, he'd tell us that all of this political grandstanding has effects, as it trickles down to normal, everyday Americans.

I could not have said it better myself. A shutdown could have real effects on everyday Americans. It means that small business owners who are counting on that loan to open their business, to make payroll, to expand, suddenly they can't do it. It means folks who are potentially processing a mortgage, they may not be able to get it. It means that hundreds of thousands of workers across the country suddenly are without a paycheck. Their families are counting on them being able to go to work and do a good job.

There are ramifications all across this economy. And at a time when the economy is still coming out of an extraordinarily deep recession, it would be inexcusable, given the relatively narrow differences, when it comes to numbers between the two parties, that we can't get this done.

So my expectation is that folks are going to work through the night. In the morning, I will check in with the respective staffs of the speaker and the majority leader, as well as my team here. If we haven't made progress, we're going to go back at it again. And we're going to keep on pounding away at this thing, because I'm absolutely convinced that we can get this done.

There is no reason why we should not be able to complete a deal. There's no reason why we should have a government shutdown. Unless we've made a decision that politics is more important than folks like J.T. Henderson. That's not why we were elected. That's not why we were sent here. And I want to meet the expectations of the American people in terms of delivering for them. All right?

Thank you very much, everybody.

COOPER: You just heard President Obama after meeting with Vice President Biden, House Speaker John Boehner, as well as Senator Harry Reid.

Let's go back to our senior -- CNN senior political analyst, David Gergen, also Gloria Borger, senior political analyst. And senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash is with us, as well.

David, what do you make of the president's statement, saying it would be inexcusable if they were not able to come up with some sort of a deal, not able to avoid a shutdown.

GERGEN: Well, we didn't get the breakthrough that we were hoping for, Anderson. That's clear. And I continue to think we're likely to get it here in the next day or two. They're very close.

What's -- what's so unusual about this, the president is keeping some heat on through the bully pulpit. But ordinarily in these kinds of negotiations, the White House is in the room, helping to drive the negotiations.

And in this case, as he did in the health-care bill, the president is leaving a lot more responsibility to leaders of Congress to cut the deal than he is coming in with, "Here's our view. Let's drive it. Let's keep going."

COOPER: He's done that, David, though, and Gloria. I mean, he's done that pretty much his entire time in office and on many issues, leaving it up to Congress. It -- as David said earlier, it is a very different style of leadership.

And by the way, we may be getting John Boehner and Harry Reid coming up to a microphone. So we'll jump in if they do.

BORGER: OK. Yes. He did it that way in health care, although I must say talking to White House aides this week, they say they were specifically disinvited to meetings on the Hill, that the budget director, Jack Lu, asked to go to the budget meetings on the Hill and that the House speaker said, you know, "No, we want to -- we want to do this ourselves on the Hill."

House Speaker's office said, "No, no, we didn't disinvite them." So there is some, you know, disagreement there, this being the 9th grade and all, about who was invited to the meeting and who wasn't.

But now, I think -- I think the White House is actually trying to sort of be portrayed -- and you saw the president just now be the grownup here, who wants to get the kids to the table to finally do their homework. And so if his own White House is at that table, it's not as easy for him to kind of sail above it, right?

COOPER: Dana, just -- just for those who aren't following this as closely as everyone in Washington and everyone in the media is following this, I mean, the president has said that there are relatively narrow differences right now between both sides. How relatively narrow are these differences? What are we talking about here?

BASH: Well, let me just tell you, just to give you a little context. On Sunday and Monday, I was told by sources who were negotiating that they were about $8 or $10 billion apart. We're talking about the whole budget. Looking ahead to next year, we're looking at trillions of dollars. Eight to 10 billion dollars is not that much.

That's not so much the issue. It's what are they going to cut? What programs, what agencies are they going to cut? And that is where you see the philosophical divide. You played some of the sound bites before, and it is very true. Republicans say the Democrats really want to cut smoke and mirrors and not -- not real cuts from the budget.

And Democrats say, well, Republicans are cutting too deep, and it's too harsh, the kinds of spending that they're cutting, whether it is for education programs or housing, things like that. So there are those philosophical differences.

That really has been the major stumbling block, not so much $8 or $10 billion. And I can tell you, I was also told that Harry Reid and John Boehner are expected at the microphones together.

This is going to be a first. This is really telling that we are going to see these two men standing together. I was -- I've been told, in private negotiations, that they actually have been getting along quite well, despite the public rhetoric, that they actually respect each other, believe it or not, that they actually have been somewhat -- they trusted each other in these negotiations. And it has broken down recently, but the fact that they're coming out together, I think, depending on what they say, it almost doesn't matter. It speaks volumes to image.

COOPER: And David -- go ahead, Gloria.

BORGER: It's just so interesting to me, because I actually covered the government shutdown in 1995. And nothing's changed. It's the same kind of ideological...

COOPER: Here they are, Gloria. Let's listen.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) We've narrowed the issues significantly, and we're going to continue working. Our staffs are going to work through the night. The speaker and I will get back together tomorrow morning and see how they did and continue.

I have confidence that we can get this done. We're not there yet, but hope lies eternal.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We did have a productive conversation this evening. We do have some honest differences, but I do think we've made some progress.

But I want to reiterate there's no agreement on a number, and there's no agreement on the policy part of it. But there's an intent on both sides to continue to work together to try to resolve this. No one wants the government to shut down. We're going to continue to work throughout the night and tomorrow.

Thank you.

COOPER: Again, just reiterating what the president said about their staffs working through the night.

Dana, was that the monumental joint appearance you kind of thought?

BASH: I know, I know. My expectations were a little bit warped here.

COOPER: Hope springs eternal.

BASH: But what I was trying to say, and I do think it is important, is the image of those two men together. It really -- it speaks volumes.


BASH: It really does. And the fact that they both came out and said that they're working together instead of what we saw, you know, all day today, which is each of them launching public grenades across the Capitol Rotunda at one another to make political points.

COOPER: So David, if -- as Dana said, look, these are philosophical differences. This goes on. You know, this crisis is averted, say the shutdown doesn't occur.

But I mean, there are real philosophical differences. And you also have, you know, differences within the Republican Party. You have the -- a lot of -- this new blood in the Republican Party, Tea Party groups, who have come, who you know, front and center are talking about cutting deficits, you know, getting more fiscal responsibility. So where does this battle go, even if this -- even if the shutdown doesn't occur?

GERGEN: Well, Anderson, I do think Dana was right about one thing and that is the two of them coming out together is the most reassuring signal we've had that agreement will be reached before the shutdown deadline and things will go on. Having said that, the big battles obviously, the gigantic battles are still ahead. We're actually -- we're talking about a tiny piece of the budget that's at stake here. The big battle is going to be over next year, the 2012 budget. With Paul Ryan throwing down the gauntlet this week, saying, "We want to go big. We want to go deep."

That's going to -- there's an enormous rift between what the Republicans are putting down there and what the Democrats believe. And you know, it's good news. I think what we just saw tonight, but let's not -- let's not mistake: we've got huge, huge challenges to overcome.

Even the Paul Ryan budget, as big as it is, as controversial as it is, it doesn't balance the budget until 2040. So we're talking about huge sums of money compared to the trivial amounts of money that are at stake in the current battle.

COOPER: And you've also got this battle, Gloria, looming with the election looming.

BORGER: I'm sorry. With what?

COOPER: The election.

BORGER: The election? Oh, of course. Yes. And I think that Paul Ryan has actually set the agenda. Because nobody can run for president right now without talking about what was in the Paul Ryan budget.

So if you want to have vouchers for Medicare in the future, or you don't, you're going to have to discuss it. And if you're Barack Obama, you're going to have to put out an alternative. And as Dana mentioned earlier, clearly on the tax side, you're going to say let's get rid of the tax cuts for the wealthy. You're going to do it in a different way.

But you are going to have to engage. I think the hope of a lot of Democrats was that they wouldn't have to directly engage on this before 2012. But I think now the entitlement fight is going to be there, and it's going to be a large part of the campaign.

COOPER: We've got to leave it there. Gloria Borger, appreciate it. Dana Bash, David Gergen, as well.

Still ahead, the latest from Japan, including the discovery of a second American body in the tsunami rubble. Some good news about the amount of radiation leaking from the Fukushima plant. We'll have that.

And a small plane making an emergency landing on a New York City beach. You have to hear it to believe it. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Let's get the latest from Isha Sesay with a "360 News & Business Bulletin." Late word that the body of a second American has been found in Japan. Twenty-six-year-old Monty Dixon was an English teacher from Alaska.

A senior government official says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to Japan next week. No details yet on the visit.

Today, the confirmed death toll from the quake and tsunami climbed to 12,554. More than 15,000 people are still missing.

Meantime, radiation levels are falling in the seawater around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. That's according to TEPCO, the plant's owner. TEPCO said workers yesterday finally stopped a leak at reactor No. 2 that was gushing highly radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean.