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New Terror Threat; President Obama Unveils Jobs Plan

Aired September 8, 2011 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It is 10:00 on the East Coast.

And we have breaking news on two fronts tonight, jobs and the specter of a terror attack on this country, intelligence officials saying they have credible, specific, but unconfirmed information on a threat on or around the 9/11 anniversary, potentially against Washington, D.C., and New York.

Just moments ago, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke to reporters.


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: The threat at this moment has not been corroborated. I want to stress that. It is credible, but it has not been corroborated.

But we do live in a world where we must take these threats seriously and we certainly will. The NYPD is deploying additional resources around the city and taking other steps to keep our city safe, some of which you may notice and some of which you will not notice.


COOPER: New York's Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

A bit more on what we know, though. We should mention that early reports almost end up changing as new information comes in. So we want to be very careful in what we tell you tonight.

With that in mind, a senior intelligence official tells us the plot was believed to involve three individuals, one of them an American citizen. The official saying that the threat involved a vehicle bomb, but going on to say the intelligence picture is not fully formed and that not enough is known about the potential operatives and their plotting.

Some earlier reports which actually cited some stolen vehicles have kind of been knocked down, one reporter -- one source telling our Susan Candiotti that those reports were false.

Former White House Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend joins us now. Susan Candiotti is back with us and national security analyst Peter Bergen, who have been working their sources, joining us now. Peter is on the phone. He's the author of "The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda."

So, Fran, what's the latest you're hearing from sources on the threat?

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Anderson, you know, it's interesting, because as they begin to pull this thread, the more and more you hear is sort of words of caution.

It is unconfirmed. The answer is they're looking for corroboration. They're clearly reaching out to our allies around the world, as well as looking inside existing databases to try and understand, is this really credible? Somebody said to me, you know, it's a plausible threat, but I'm not prepared yet to say, the s source said to me, that it's actually credible, that we need to act on it. We take them all seriously, but we really need more information, more corroboration.

COOPER: Jessica, how seriously is the White House taking the threat? I talked to Jay Carney earlier.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They're taking it quite seriously, Anderson.

The president was briefed by his chief counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, this morning and then again throughout the day. He is not in the West Wing now, but of course has access at any time should he need an update. The White House we're told has asked the intelligence community and the administration to remain vigilant and do whatever is necessary to protect the homeland.

But I should also point out that in anticipation of 9/11, he chaired a meeting of his team here to make sure that the team is doing everything necessary to step up security measures around the country because they anticipated that there could be extra concerns because of the anniversary on Sunday -- Anderson.

COOPER: Peter, I want to play just another piece of sound from the New York press conference. This is the FBI New York field office assistant director in charge.


JANICE FEDARCYK, NEW YORK FBI: As we know from the intelligence gathered following the Osama bin Laden raid, al Qaeda has shown an interest in important dates and anniversaries such as 9/11.

In this instance, the instance that we're all here tonight to speak about, it's accurate that there is specific, credible, but unconfirmed threat information. As we always do before important dates like the anniversary of 9/11, we will undoubtedly get more reporting in the coming days.

Peter, your sources are saying tonight that the raid on bin Laden's compound has something to do with it. PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Yes. I mean, the sources that we have been talking to say the previous analysis was that, you know, al Qaeda didn't really care about anniversaries. They kind of attacked when they had the plan together.

Bin Laden had an intense interest, according to the documents recovered in his compound, of an attack around the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Since the raid against bin Laden and his killing, the White House has had meetings once every two weeks at the deputies level, including one today, 10 meetings since that event, to discuss, basically review the vulnerabilities, aviation, surface transport, and in the last four or five days, something changed.

There was the usual chatter, but now there's something which is described as more tangible. I don't have any more details other than that. And certainly there seems to be a much higher level of concern about the anniversary, potential anniversary attack.

There is also some discussion in the government which I have heard from a number of people about publicly releasing some of the compound documents that were found in bin Laden's compound, some of the millions of pages of Arabic language documents that have been translated, amongst which is documents demonstrating bin Laden's interest in attacking on the 10th anniversary -- Anderson.

COOPER: What would be the point in releasing those documents?

BERGEN: You know, there is a kind of feeling that several -- first of all, it would be kind of further amplification that we did actually kill bin Laden. These are his internal documents.

Secondly, some of the documents reveal real tensions within al Qaeda, tensions between people like bin Laden, who wanted to continue focus on attacking the United States and tensions among others who wanted to focus more on attacking, say, the Egyptian government. It's an old tension in al Qaeda, but these documents reveal that it's continued, that it was still active, and the government sees some upside in, you know, making these kinds of debates public.

COOPER: Susan, even before the threat, obviously New York was not taking this anniversary lightly at all. Do we know much about additional precautions? We heard the mayor saying, some you will see, some you won't?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly they already were planning to have heightened security at so many landmarks here around the city. They'd be looking into bags people carrying into the subways and now they're talking about extra precautions not only at landmarks, but, for example, at synagogues and other public buildings.

And also an additional bit of information I picked up is that one thing that might make it harder for them to track down the specificity of this threat is that, according to a U.S. government official, the names of the three people that may be involved that are being talked about are rather common names, according to this U.S. government official. So that's another element certainly to consider.

But already this is a city that's on edge and certainly even more so. But they're taking precautions, as they should.


Fran, I interviewed Congressman Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, earlier about this threat. I just want to play some of that.


REP. PETER KING (R-NY), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Anderson, what I can tell you is that the threat is very specific, it's credible, but it's not confirmed.


COOPER: What does that mean?

KING: Well, it means that they have information which is specific, there's reason to believe it could be true. But we cannot confirm it's true.

And that's what's being done right now, attempting to find out if it is true, running down all leads, and taking whatever action has to be taken.


COOPER: Fran, if they know that three people are involved in this or is that -- those are just early reports, I mean, they either did fly here or they didn't. I'm not sure -- is that aspect not confirmed or do we know the details of what's not confirmed?

TOWNSEND: Well, as Susan says, if they don't have names or the names are very common, it's a very time-consuming process to go through customs and immigration records to try and identify who they are.

That's going to take some time. There's no doubt there's computer power to help them with that, but it really does depend on, do they have the names? Do they have the right names? Or are they aliases? Are they common? Do they have any idea what port of entry they would have come through?

These are a lot of details that they will try to collect to narrow the scope very quickly to try and identify them, because even if you identify them from the customs forms, then you have got to find them. You know, this is where your terror finance, your ability to track money and credit cards and hotel bills and all of that will come into play.

But first you need that first good lead about the names.

COOPER: Peter, since bin Laden's death, how many successes have there been against al Qaeda? The drumbeat -- the Predator drone strikes continue. So do special forces strikes.

BERGEN: Yes. Somebody who wasn't a household name, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, who became the number two in al Qaeda after bin Laden's death, one of the revelations of the materials in the compound is this guy Rahman, who is a Libya, was essentially the hub of all al Qaeda activity, much more important to al Qaeda than Ayman al-Zawahiri, the guy who has now taken over al Qaeda.

This was the person who was communicating with al Qaeda's affiliates. This was the person who was dealing with al Qaeda senior leadership and was basically bin Laden's conduit to the outside world. Well, now, on August 22, he was killed in a drone strike, and last Friday we had a relatively senior al Qaeda leader arrested in a city in Pakistan, a joint Pakistani/U.S. operation. So these guys aren't replaceable.

Atiyah Rahman is described as somebody who's basically irreplaceable. He was doing so many things for the organization, somebody who had fought in Iraq, somebody who had long links with African militant groups, somebody who kind of had been basically bin Laden's conduit to the outside world for many years.

And there is nobody on -- the bench has been decimated, Anderson. At a certain point, you just can't replace these people. And that's why you're hearing Leon Panetta and David Petraeus and John Brennan saying things like al Qaeda is on the ropes or facing strategic defeat because at a certain point you just cannot get the people with the kind of experience and knowledge to kind of step up to what is now -- which has long been the world's most dangerous job, being the number two and number three in al Qaeda.

And there are just fewer and fewer takers or people who are able to fill these positions.

COOPER: And what about al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in Yemen and is led by this American cleric?

BERGEN: Well, actually, the American cleric is not the leader. He's the most well-known person in the English-speaking world because he speaks English, he's an American, he's the sort of public face.


BERGEN: But it's still led Arabs. In fact, one of the -- another revelation from the documents in the compound that Bin Laden was living in was that there was some discussion about making the American cleric the leader of this group in Yemen.

And bin Laden essentially nixed the proposal, saying, hey, I'm used to the people who are in charge. I don't want this American cleric to become the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen.

But certainly for U.S. government counterterrorism officials, their concerns are al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, to some degree, the much-decimated al Qaeda central. And the other thing they're concerned about are lone wolves with no connection to any network who may take the 9/11 anniversary as an opportunity to make a statement. And these are people without e-mail trails or cell phone trails, very hard to detect.

COOPER: Peter Bergen, I appreciate the reporting, Fran Townsend as well, Jessica Yellin, Susan Candiotti. Appreciate it all.

We will be following this throughout the hour and the night.

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper.

Our political panel joins us next after the break. We will look at President Obama's jobs speech to Congress tonight and the country, laying out his job creation plan.

Also, breaking news out West as well, a huge mess, traffic lights out, flights delayed after a massive power outage. If you are in Southern California and can actually see this picture right now, well, consider yourself lucky.


COOPER: Our other breaking news tonight, the president's address on jobs to Congress and the nation -- 14 million American are looking for work right now. Millions more have already given up looking.

The economy at best, well, it is stuck in neutral. Tonight the president laid out proposals that he says will get it moving again. Everything in the run-up to this moment has been contentious, right down to the scheduling of it. And chances are everything in the aftermath will be just as loaded with conflict and partisanship.

Yet, that sort of point-scoring and game-playing is precisely what the president tonight called on for both parties to set aside as they consider his collection of tax cuts, hiring incentives and infrastructure spending.

Tonight, we will look at whether that is a realistic hope and more importantly what is in the president's plan and his promises up to this point, "Keeping Them Honest."

First, the president himself.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am sending this Congress a plan that you should pass right away. It's called the American Jobs Act. There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation. Everything in here is the kind of proposal that's been supported by both Democrats and Republicans, including many who sit here tonight, and everything in this bill will be paid for, everything.

The American Jobs Act will not add to the deficit. It will be paid for. And here's how.


OBAMA: The agreement we passed in July will cut government spending by about $1 trillion over the next 10 years. It also charges this Congress to come up with an additional $1.5 trillion in savings by Christmas. Tonight, I'm asking you to increase that amount so that it covers the full cost of the American Jobs Act. And a week from Monday, I will be releasing a more ambitious deficit plan, a plan that will not only cover the cost of this jobs bill, but stabilize our debt in the long run.

Here's the truth: Millions of Americans rely on Medicare in their retirement. And millions more will do so in the future. They pay for this benefit during their working years; they earn it.

But with an aging population and rising health care costs, we are spending too fast to sustain the program.

I don't pretend that this plan will solve all our problems. It should not be -- nor will it be -- the last plan of action we propose. What's guided us from the start of this crisis hasn't been the search for a silver bullet. It's been a commitment to stay at it, to be persistent, to keep trying every new idea that works and listen to every good proposal, no matter which party comes up with it.

Regardless of the arguments we've had in the past, regardless of the arguments we'll have in the future, this plan is the right thing to do right now. You should pass it. And I intend to take that message to every corner of this country.


COOPER: Well, let's bring in our political panel, John King, host of "JOHN KING, USA," Erin Burnett, anchor of the upcoming "OUTFRONT," Democratic strategist Paul Begala, chief political analyst Gloria Borger, Erick Erickson, editor in chief of, Obama 2008 pollster and Democratic Cornell Belcher, and David Frum, speechwriter for George W. Bush and founder of

Erick, I noticed a tweet you posted just a few minutes ago. You wrote -- quote -- "Instead of yelling, you lied, I wish they'd loudly laugh at this farce. This speech is a rehash joke."

Tough words. Why do you think it's a joke?

ERICK ERICKSON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, REDSTATE. COM: Well, you know, I heard this speech before. I heard it in January of 2011, I heard it in January of 2010, and I heard it in February of 2009.

And you know, we wouldn't have had this speech tonight had those last three speeches done anything, particularly those first two when the Democrats controlled Congress and the White House.

COOPER: Cornell, is this a joke?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No, but that sort of partisan talk is part of the reason why we're in this problem. Look, you know, I will go back with you on this, Erick. And the truth of the matter is what the president -- the president's actions that he took when we were in a complete nosedive and losing jobs, you know, each month pulled us out of a nosedive. But clearly we need now -- we need now something a little -- a little boost here. And what he's asking for is, look, most of these plans, a balanced approach to this and most of this stuff quite frankly should have bipartisan support for because a lot of this stuff quite frankly Republicans have supported in the past.

There's nothing insane or crazy about the idea that we have to build our roads, we have to improve our infrastructure, and we have to put our teachers back to work at the same time that China and India are hiring more teachers, we're laying off teachers. There's nothing crazy about that as an ideal. It's a solid idea.

COOPER: David Frum, what about that, though? Because for a lot of Republicans when they hear about investment or infrastructure, they think that's basically using other terms for stimulus?

DAVID FRUM, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Look, this speech was very effective. And we can already see it beginning to have its effect. Eric Cantor and John Boehner were saying to reporters for "Politico" that they will pass some of the elements that the president is proposing. Whether that ultimately happens or not, we don't know.

But they have been put to a situation where they understand they can't afford to look as uncooperative as they did during the debt ceiling battle. So the president has achieved something there.

The Republicans will then resent that even more. Of course this speech is political. The president is framing an argument. But it is a political -- it's a political maneuver that is working. It will produce a counter effect because Republicans will resent it.

It could also have some beneficial effect on the economy and that really is the most important thing of all. That payroll tax cut is a good idea. It should have been bigger, it should have been done earlier. And infrastructure spending, it works, that's what the economists tell us.

COOPER: Erin, how do you think the business world is going to look at this?

ERIN BURNETT, ANCHOR, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT": They're going to like the payroll tax cut. And I think it's interesting politically. I mean Eric Cantor has voted for that before, said he would again. It's also really well structured. You know it's not going to the big companies. It's going to small companies and on the employer side but every working American gets that tax cut.

That would seem like that's something a lot of people can agree on. Obviously the extending unemployment benefits, that's an area where a lot of debate. Medicare and Medicaid, I mean you could see all the areas. But the payroll tax cut, yes, it would seem business is going to like that. That's going to go through.

But I think John McCain really had it right. Housing is the root of all the problems here. We still don't have a solution for that. So this could just continue being another band-aid.

COOPER: And, John King, how political of a speech was this? Because there have been some Republicans who's said look, they don't want to be used as a backdrop. Was this a political speech?

JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING, USA": It was a hugely political speech but it's a relatively modest proposal. It was a political -- you know I'm going to say this and people are going to say, well, it's a joke. But the president really said, you know, one of the bridges we need to rebuild is between Ohio and Kentucky. Speaker Boehner, Leader McConnell, the two top Republicans in Congress.

The president right there was saying this is a political speech. However, some of these proposals the Republicans don't like. they have been clear about that. David Frum just made a very important point. The statement from Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor after the speech was, we can do some of this, we're going to work with the president.

It was not dead on arrival. A lot of other Republicans are saying stimulus two, same old failed policies but the leaders that matter most are saying we will do some of this. Why? Because the president did repackage a lot of things. So we don't pass on a bottle of wine just because it's old, we want to know if it's any good.

Some of these proposals Republicans like. And so they will pass some of them. The president won't get it all. The bigger question is what will the president have to give to get some of this from the Republicans? How will they pay for this? The Republicans won't agree to how the president wants to pay for it.

And then the bigger question is, will it have an impact on the economy in those 14 months, as the president noted, between now and the next election. Most Republicans, Anderson, believe they can agree with the president on much, if not most of this because, A, philosophically they do agree with it and, B, politically they don't think it will have such a big job creation oomph that it helps the president in his reelection campaign.

COOPER: Gloria, I want to play just a little bit more of the president's speech.


OBAMA: Regardless of the arguments we've had in the past, regardless of the arguments we will have in the future, this plan is the right thing to do right now. You should pass it, and I intend to take that message to every corner of this country.


OBAMA: And I ask -- I ask every American who agrees to lift your voice. Tell the people who are gathered here tonight that you want action now.


COOPER: Gloria, the president clearly appealing to the public to rally behind him. I'm getting a lot of tweets from Democrats saying they haven't seen the president this fired up in quite a while.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Fired up and ready to go, remember that? This is -- this is game on, Anderson. And what -- the president tonight was really trying to appeal, not to Erick Erickson, you know? He's trying to appeal to independent voters, and he's trying to come across as the reasonable leader.

And don't forget, his leadership numbers have suffered lately, particularly after the debt ceiling. And one way he can do that is to challenge Republicans, lay down a very clear plan and say you should pass it, you should pass it, this makes a lot of sense to me, and hope that it makes a lot of sense to the independent voters out there who will then put pressure on Republicans in Congress.

The missing part here, which I want to see, is when the president is going to talk on September 19th about how he intends to pay for it and what he's going to say to that joint committee. And how he's going to pay for this $450 billion or whatever it turns out to be. That's something the American people need to hear also.

But for tonight, he was very concise, very clear, told them he's going to send up legislation, which is something we also haven't seen from this president, and say here's what I want. Now you go do it. So game on.

COOPER: Paul, what did you think of the speech? Do you think it's something that the American people or at least, you know, his base will rally behind him on?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think definitely. And in fact, as you know, I advise liberal PAC that's pro Obama. We're independent of the party or the president's campaign, but our PAC actually did some focus groups tonight in Richmond, Virginia, in Eric Cantor's district with swing voters. Not with the president's base but with swing voters. People who are disaffected, who have fallen out of favor with President Obama. They don't like him anymore and our pollster just e-mailed me and he said that it went over very well. That he showed a lot of strength, they liked him personally. Most interesting to me on the issue front, what they liked -- not the best, but what they especially liked is when he paired up ending tax breaks for the wealthiest with funding education.

Now it always hurts Democrats when Republicans say we're big spenders, it's true. But it always hurts Republicans when we say they coddle the rich. So the president I think has linked those two up in a very effective way. At least from the swing voters that my group tested, they loved it.

COOPER: Everyone, stick around. We're going to be coming back to you throughout the evening. Up next, a payroll tax holiday, infrastructure spending, unemployment benefits. Is the White House proposing just more of the same as some Republicans are saying?

Why should Americans believe it's going to make a difference this time around? White House Press Secretary Jay Carney joins me just ahead. We'll talk about the terror threat as well.

Plus presidential candidate Michele Bachmann had to share the stage at last night's Republican debate. Tonight, she's holding a news conference to respond to President Obama's speech, what she said, plus our panel weighing in.


COOPER: The jobs plan that President Obama proposed tonight is expected to cost almost $450 billion. The 2009 stimulus package cost $789 billion. When Mr. Obama signed that bill, he promised it would save or create as many as four million jobs and said he would hold himself accountable if it didn't.


OBAMA: The single most important part of this economic recovery and reinvestment plan is the fact that it will save or create up to 4 million jobs.

It's a plan that will save or create 3 to 4 million jobs.

We've already begun to implement the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a plan that will save and create over 3.5 million jobs over the next two years.

The goal here is that we're going to create or save 600,000 jobs over the next 100 days.

We have made steady progress on these fronts, but we're not making progress fast enough. And what I continue to believe is that ultimately the buck stops with me. I'm going to be accountable.

If I don't have this done in three years, then there's going to be a one-term proposition.


COOPER: Now, according to some estimates, the White House may actually have come close to creating or saving 4 million jobs as promised, but here's the problem. As it turned out, the economy lost more than 8 million jobs during the recession, more than anyone predicted. And by that measure, the fist stimulus plan turned out to be a Band-Aid and not a cure.

So how will the White House convince Congress his new plan is the right medicine? White House press secretary Jay Carney joins me now.

Thanks very much for being with us. Payroll tax holiday, infrastructure pending, unemployment benefits extension, it's all familiar. Is there a danger that this comes across as just more of the same, that it's basically stimulus spending, in other words?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, two things, Anderson. First of all, what the president -- what he said tonight and what he will deliver to Congress early next week is the American Jobs Act. And as you said, that is a series of proposals that we absolutely believe will create jobs, spark the economy, get the private sector hiring again. And not -- and don't just take our word for it, because we're confident that outside economic analysts will make that judgment, too.

There is simply -- the way the economists look at this, when you cut the payroll tax in half, and you also extend it to employers, you have a very positive and direct impact on the economy. It causes the economy to expand, and it causes the private sector to begin hiring more.

And that's certainly true when you get to infrastructure spending. You have a very positive effect. When you put construction workers back to work, they spend that money that they're earning. That helps other businesses, and you have what is a virtuous cycle.

COOPER: Is there a -- a ban -- some Republicans are saying there's a ban of the use of the word "stimulus" from this White House. Is that -- is that true?

CARNEY: Look, whatever you want to call this, two things are important. It is designed and will be judged by outside economists to grow the economy and to help create jobs. No doubt about it.

Secondly, it will be paid for. As the president said tonight, he will put forward in this legislation mechanisms to pay for it and so not that one dime is added to the deficit or the debt. That's important to him. It should be important to Congress, and it's important to the American people.

We need to do things right now to get the economy growing faster and to get the economy creating jobs faster. And I think that anybody who was out there listening understands that out in the real world, if you will.

What Americans are really tired of is the kind of circus they witnessed in Washington this summer. You know, Americans are generally used to gridlock and obstructionism in Washington, maybe some partisan posturing. They find it annoying. This summer, is they found out it was dangerous and harmful.

The circus that we witnessed, where one faction of Congress decided that, in the name of ideological purity, they would hold the American economy hostage, maybe even the global economy hostage, that had a direct negative impact on the American economy and on the American worker. Now, we didn't let that happen.

COOPER: Erick Cantor... CARNEY: The Congress was sent to Washington to work for their constituents. They're going to have to listen to them to pass this jobs act now.

COOPER: Erick Cantor tweeted that the president just outlined, quote, "Some goals that we can work with him on," and that Congress could, quote, "should work quickly to pass the areas where we agree."

It did seem tonight like the president was challenging Republicans, almost daring them to appear partisan, but their leaders are sounding, at least for now, at least some of them, kind of a cooperative tone. Are you encouraged?

CARNEY: Well, we are, and we welcome the tone. And we look forward to working with members of Congress of both parties to pass these very common-sense, very bipartisan proposals. I mean, as the president mentioned, the payroll tax cut extended to the employees and employers is a proposal that was included and sponsored by 50 of the most conservative House Republicans just last year.

COOPER: When do the details, though, come out, though? Next week?

CARNEY: I'm sorry?

COOPER: I mean, the devil's in the details. When do the details really come out?

CARNEY: We will put forward legislative language, a bill, in writing, to Congress early next week. It will include everything about the American Jobs Act, all the provisions within it and the specifics on how the president proposes paying for it.

He will then, a week from Monday, as he said tonight, put forward a comprehensive, detailed set of proposals for long-term deficit and debt reduction. You know he's committed to that. He worked awfully hard this summer, hoping for something sweeping and substantial, a balanced package to deal with our deficits and debt with the speaker of the House. That didn't happen. That was unfortunate. We saw the impact of the fact that didn't happen.

He's committed to trying again, and he will show we can do this in a balanced way that doesn't ask too much of any segment of society in America. And we can get this done and put our economy on the right footing.

COOPER: And finally, on another subject, on this terror threat, what's the president so far -- what kind of meetings has he had? What he's done about it?

CARNEY: Well, Anderson, the president chaired a meeting just two days ago of his senior homeland security team, reviewing the precautions and all the steps being taken for our homeland security around the ten-year anniversary of 9/11.

Ever since the raid in Abbottabad that eliminated Osama bin Laden, brought him to justice, we have known that al Qaeda, not surprisingly, is interested in significant dates. Nine-eleven anniversary is obviously one of those.

As for today's reporting, I can tell you that the president has been briefed regularly by his homeland security team and that, overall, his team is taking all the necessary precautions that you would expect in a situation like this.

COOPER: Jay Carney, appreciate your time tonight. Thanks.

Ahead, Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann comes out swinging tonight at the president's plan. Perhaps no surprise there. The question is, did she land any punches? The political panel weighs in.


COOPER: Back now with the members of our political panel: Paul Begala, David Frum and Erin Burnett; also Steven Moore, senior economy writer at the "Wall Street Journal."

Paul, to critics who say, "Hey, the stimulus didn't work the first time around. How can this one succeed?" what's your response?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Liberals say it did; conservatives, like Steve Moore in a minute, say it didn't. So go to the neutral observer, and that's the Congressional Budget Office. It's a bunch of propeller heads. They'll bore you to death at a cocktail party. But they're smart people, and they looked at this.

And just in the last few weeks, they released a report, and they said, in fact, the dreaded stimulus bill produced within 1 and 2.9 million jobs, and it increased GDP, the CBO said, by between 0.8 percent and 2.5 full points.

So it worked, but it didn't work well enough, because it was an $800 million plug in a $2 trillion hole. The hole was much bigger than we realized at the time. But it's unfair to say it didn't work because at least the propeller heads at the Congressional Budget Office say that it did. It just didn't do enough, which is why I think it's sensible to come back and do more.

COOPER: David, did it work? And I think you say about this new plan, is that it's short term solutions don't really fix long-term problems.

STEVEN MOORE, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Yes, look, I don't think it worked at all. I think if you look at these numbers, I mean, let's just put this in perspective.

Over the last three years, Anderson, we have borrowed $4 trillion. That is more money over three years than at any time since World War II. So we've thrown every kind of Keynesian demand-side government program at this recession that liberals could possibly think of. And the idea that somehow a $400 billion more of borrowing is going to repair this economy, it just makes my -- me scratch my head and wonder, wait a minute, what kind of theory says that more debt and borrowing and leverage is going to repair an economy, by the way, that almost all economists agree right, Anderson, now the No. 1 problem with this economy is that there's so much debt out there? Adding $400 billion of debt I don't think is going to solve these problems.

COOPER: What do you think, Erin?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Steve, I mean, gosh, you and I have talked about this for years, right?

MOORE: Sure.

BURNETT: I don't think that -- he's going to try to say, right, that it's not going to be borrowing, that he's going to make up for it in part through increasing taxes on people like Warren Buffett. Right? He'll make the case there's a combination of tax increases and spending cuts. He's not going to have to borrow money.

MOORE: Yes, but you know, Erin, this is the biggest problem I have of all of the plan. I mean, on the one hand the president is saying, we're going to provide all these tax cuts for businesses. On the other hand, he's telling businesses -- because let's face it. The people in the highest income tax bracket, as you know, Erin, those are small business owners and operators. And you're telling them, "We're going to raise your taxes in 2013."

Businesses don't make decisions on the basis of one year.


MOORE: They make decisions on the basis of three years, five years, ten years. The idea of a big tax increase in 2013, I think, is bearish for the markets and bearish for the economy.

BURNETT: Anderson, I wonder, though, you know, and he's trying to get someone to agree on the payroll tax cut. Maybe he doesn't get the tax increases he wants on the wealthy, but maybe he does get some of those corporate loopholes taken away.

COOPER: Right.

BURNETT: You're actually opening the door here for compromise on things where there hasn't been compromise in a long time.

COOPER: David Frum, where do you see the opportunities for compromise? Possibly?

DAVID FRUM, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPEECHWRITER: The United States can borrow for two years basically for free. It can borrow for ten years for under 2 percent. When -- the markets are clearly not so worried about America's debt. If someone were offering to lend me money for free, I'd probably take it. I think I could find -- find things to do with it. Right now the biggest problem is jobs. It is an urgent crisis and has to be addressed.

Here's what I think went wrong most of all in 2009. President Obama and the Democrats produced an extremely sloppy fiscal stimulus bill. I mean, they larded it up with only about one in 8 dollars of that went to infrastructure, the thing that actually economists tell you deliver the most bang.

They put in a tax rebate, a one-time tax giveaway that people used to pay down debt, which is a rational act for those individuals, simply moves the debt from one column to another. That has no economic effect. And that was done to keep an obsolete campaign promise left over from 2008.

Increases in Pell Grants, helping states' Medicaid bills, not completely crazy or worthless things to you but not stimulus.

This new project sounds more rational, more targeted. And that's the benefit of having not one-party control of Congress. The president this time is not abdicating to Congress the way he did last time. And I think there is some possibility to work here and borrow money very, very cheaply to remedy the jobs crisis, which is crisis one.

MOORE: For the last ten years -- I mean, I just did analysis for the "Wall Street Journal" on this -- all we've been doing for the last ten years is building infrastructure. We have doubled transportation and energy spending, public works spending. All you have to do is travel around the streets of New York City or Washington, D.C., where I live, and you see all the streets are being torn up and rebuilt.

I mean, we are doing infrastructure already. That's what the whole idea of shovel-ready projects has been all about.

BURNETT: Steve, have you been to New York? I drive down the street and I get a -- I get a flat tire.

COOPER: We've got to leave it there. Everyone, appreciate you guys sticking with us. Thanks very much.

Coming you, Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann just wrapped up a news conference on Capitol Hill had, reacting to the president's address. We'll hear some of what she said. Our panel will weigh in next.

Also, the breaking news, a massive power outage in Southern California stretching to Arizona and Mexico. More than 1 million people without power right now. We'll have the latest on why.


COOPER: Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann just wrapped up a news conference reacting to the president's speech. Bachmann has been obviously outspoken in her criticisms of President Obama. Here's some of what she said a short time ago from Capitol Hill.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I stand here tonight to say to the president, not only should Congress not pass his plan, I say, Mr. President, stop. Your last plan hasn't worked, and it's hurting the American economy. Instead of temporary fixes, do what has worked in the past: permanent, pro-growth policies that are driven by the free market.


COOPER: Bachmann's reaction today echoed the sentiments from last night's Republican presidential debate. She and the other candidates hit the president hard on his performance on everything from the economy to health care to the military. Take a look.


BACHMANN: Devastating as our economy is, with the policies of Barack Obama, I think that he has actually weakened us militarily and with the United States' presence globally.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a president so committed to class warfare and so committed bureaucratic socialism that he can't possibly be effective in jobs.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: On day one, as the president of the United States, that executive order will be signed, and Obama care will be wiped out as much as it can be.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: On day one, if I'm elected president, is direct my secretary of health and human services to put out an executive order granting a waiver from Obama care to all 50 states. It is bad law. It will not work.

JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Once Obama care is repealed -- and it will be -- the question will then be, what do we do now?

BACHMANN: Obama care is killing jobs.

ROMNEY: This country has a bright future. Our president doesn't understand how the economy works.

BACHMANN: Don't forget, the day that President Obama took office, gasoline was $1.79 a gallon.


COOPER: With us again, John King, host of "JOHN KING USA"; chief political analyst Gloria Borger; Democratic strategist Paul Begala; and Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of

So John, we heard Bachmann there, her response to the president. She said she wasn't there to answer question about the campaign, that she was there as a member of Congress. Do you buy that?

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Sure. It serves -- I buy that it serves her purposes tonight. She doesn't want to answer questions about a staff shake-up. She doesn't want to answer questions about whether she was overshadowed in the debate last night. She wants to take direct aim at the president of the United States and hope that she gets some attention for that. And the fact that we're talking about it maybe says she succeeded.

But what is most interesting about it is one would expect the candidates running against President Obama to draw sharp contrast on just about everything. But Michele Bachmann, who is often out of step with her own Republican leadership, listen to what she said. She said, not only should we not act on it, you know, that all of the president's policies are awful.

This at the very same, essentially, that her leadership, the Republican majority speaker the Republican majority leader are saying, "There's a lot in the president's plan, actually, that we like, and there's some of it we can probably pass. Let's try to work with the president before we say dead on arrival."

So that to me is quite striking. She's running for president. The speaker and the majority leader realize they need to defend their majority.

ERICK ERICKSON, REDSTATE.COM: There's -- there's something of a little lecture here, as well. For example, the payroll tax holiday, which I think they'll probably be able to come up with and the unemployment extension. I think Michele Bachmann has voted for this payroll tax cut in the past. So...


ERICKSON: Is she saying she's not going to vote for the payroll tax cut in the future, as well?

COOPER: Cornell?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: She's -- look, she's in a Republican primary right now.

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: ... as a political strategist, trying to understand at some point she's got to pivot and get in front or at least catch up to the people who have now passed her. Everyone on the stage is attacking President Obama. It makes -- I completely understand it politically.

But at some point she has to say, "Why me, Tea Party, as opposed to Perry?" And she's not doing that right now. She's flailing.

I was initially bullish on her, because I thought she was going to speak to the Tea Party. But she's clearly had a rough couple of weeks. She's not -- she's no longer the darling of the Tea Party. Rick Perry has begun to move into that space. And as a strategist, at some point her campaign has got to pivot and say, "Why me and not Rick Perry?" And less about President Obama right now, because we get it. She doesn't like President Obama.

BORGER: It's interesting to me, because I think President Obama is the one who actually pivoted tonight. The language that we heard from Barack Obama, the direct kind of speech, the common sense. Pass this bill. We want people in South Korea to be driving Chevys. I want to give the economy a jolt. You people have voted for this before. We need to do what the public wants us to do.

It was Barack Obama, although he was addressing a joint session of Congress. It was Barack Obama, the candidate, I think that we heard tonight, talking to independent voters, putting Republicans on notice that he's going to go to the country and run against them, as Harry Truman ran against the do-nothing Congress.

And by comparison tonight, Michele Bachmann seemed a little kind of sticking to her talking points as a Republican presidential candidate who has to win a Republican primary.

COOPER: Yes. I've got to -- got to jump in, because we've got to go to a quick break. John King, Gloria Borger, Cornell Belcher, Erick Erickson, thanks.

A late update. More information coming in on the potential threat of a terror attack.

Also, more breaking news: a massive power outage in Southern California, Arizona and New Mexico. Millions of people left in the dark. We'll have the latest.

Plus, more than 70,000 people forced to evacuate in Pennsylvania due to flooding, Remnants of Tropical Storm Lee are being blamed. Details ahead.


SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Susan Hendricks. Breaking news tonight.

Hi, there. Susan Hendricks with the "360 News & Business Bulletin."

Breaking news tonight. U.S. officials say there is information about a possible threat against the United States coinciding with the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The threat is being described as specific and credible but unconfirmed, possibly involving three people and a vehicle with explosives. New York and Washington are being cited as possible targets.

Tonight, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said additional police are being deployed and other precautions are also being taken but that there's no reason for anyone to change their daily routines. That is the advice. Just a short time ago, Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray had this to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR VINCENT GRAY, WASHINGTON, D.C.: I want to urge all of our citizens -- and I can't say this strongly enough -- to remain calm and let our law enforcement professionals do their job. At the same time, we ask people to remain vigilant. If essence, and we've said it so many times, if you see something, say something. If something looks questionable, call 311.


HENDRICKS: Also, more breaking news. A huge blackout is causing gridlock on the streets of Southern California. Mover than a million people are without power. The blackout stretches into Arizona, also Mexico. A spokeswoman for the San Diego Police Department says a power line break on a feeder line in Arizona caused that massive power outage. Look at the traffic there. The police department is working on generator power.

Tropical Storm Lee has left at least three people dead in Pennsylvania and caused near-historic flooding in the northeastern part of the state. Tens of thousands of people have evacuated their homes near the Susquehanna River, which is expected to crest tomorrow morning.

And a wildfire near Austin, Texas, has now destroyed nearly 1,400 homes and burned 34,000 acres. At least two people have been killed in this fire. The Texas forest service has responded to 176 fires in the past week alone, 20 new fires just yesterday. And a new estimate about the cost of the damage to homeowners. The Insurance Council of Texas says it could be more than $100 million, a record for that state.

Now back to Anderson.

COOPER: That's it for us. Thanks for watching. If you missed President Obama's address earlier tonight, you can see it in its entirety, next.