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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Shooting in Ohio School; Presidential Race Heating Up; Santorum College Remarks Draw Criticism; New Constitution in Syria Called Cynical Move; Journalist's Body Still in Syria
Aired February 27, 2012 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: It's 10:00 p.m. here on the East Coast.
And we begin tonight with one student dead, four others wounded, a school and town traumatized and breaking news, reports that the student who allegedly opened fire at Chardon High School just outside of Cleveland will be in court tomorrow.
An eyewitness tells CNN the shooter's name is T.J. Lane. This is one of several pictures from T.J. Lane's Facebook page.
CNN's Cleveland affiliate, WJW, reporting that he is scheduled for a first appearance at 3:30 tomorrow afternoon in county juvenile court.
In December, posting on Facebook, Lane wrote, "In a quaint lonely town sits a man with a frown who longed for only one thing. The world to bow at his feet."
Was that lonely man T.J. Lane? And if so, did that lonely man shoot and kill Daniel Parmertor and wound four others including Nate Mueller who you're going to hear from shortly.
Here's what Nate said to me -- quote -- "I almost hope to wake up tomorrow and it's Monday again, a different Monday, a better Monday," anything but the Monday he witnessed today and we're all trying to understand tonight.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): It was early morning and classes at Chardon High School hadn't even begun yet. Kids were gathering in the cafeteria.
CHIEF TIM MCKENNA, CHARDON, OHIO POLICE: At 0738 this morning, our first 911 call came into our station, shots fired at Chardon High School.
O'BRIEN: Another student pulled out a gun.
NATE MUELLER, VICTIM: He took one shot. He didn't say anything the entire time. He took one shot. And then that's when we looked to see what was happening. It sounded like a firecracker almost.
O'BRIEN: Nate Mueller, police said, was grazed in the ear by one of the shots. MUELLER: I saw him shoot and hit one of my other friends that was sitting at the table with us. And then as I was turning around, that's when he hit me.
O'BRIEN: In the first chaotic moments, authorities had no idea what was happening.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have three students down in the cafeteria. At this time, we still don't know where the shooter is.
Attention Chardon Rescue, we have an active shooter at the high school. Repeat, active gunshots at the high school.
O'BRIEN: Anxious parents quickly circled the high school, cell phones to their ears to see and hear what had happened. Almost immediately, kids began tweeting, school in a lockdown, kid with a gun, read one tweet reported by "The Daily Beast." Saw the cops, that's a relief. Thank god, said another tweet.
One student was killed, four were injured. The dead student identified as 16-year-old Daniel Parmertor. In a statement, his parents said, "We are shocked by the senseless tragedy. Danny was a bright young boy who had a bright future ahead of him. The family is torn by this loss."
Witnesses told CNN that the shooter was a high school student named T.J. Lane. He attended an alternative high school called Lake Academy. And police tonight are saying things could have been much worse if authorities hadn't acted as quickly as they did.
DANIEL MCCLELLAND, GEAUGA COUNTY, OHIO, SHERIFF: Law enforcement was quickly placed inside the school upon arrival. And we believe that that helped lessen the tragedy that occurred.
O'BRIEN: Classes tomorrow at Chardon High School have been canceled. Grief counselors will be standing by.
O'BRIEN: And CNN's Martin Savidge has spent the day on and around the campus. He joins us now from the scene in Chardon, Ohio.
Martin, I know you've been focused on the alleged shooter, T.J. Lane. What are you learning about him?
MARIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, let me preface all of that by first saying I grew up in northeast Ohio. I have family that is inside Chardon High School today when all of this occurred. So immediately I began to wonder, who was this kid, T.J. Lane, and how and why did he get to the point where he pulled out a gun as has been alleged and carry out what he did.
You talked to people and it's almost cliche. Here's the notes I wrote down. He was described as a loner, kept to himself. Looked different. Wore the skinny jeans, had the skater hair, kind of Goth- like. He came from a broken home, raised by his grandparents, older brother now in prison.
On and on and on, you hear a background of a child that was different. And I had a very interesting conversation with a young girl by the name of Tori Lacasse.
She is a rarity in Chardon because she actually befriended T.J. And here's what she describes in our conversation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TORILYN LACASSE, FRIEND OF T.J. LANE: I just gravitated towards him. He just seemed like my type of person. And I noticed that all the kids made fun of him and I thought I just wanted to give him a chance, you know, so I went and got to know him and he turned out to be a really great person.
I think that it has a lot to do with his home life and what he had to go through as a child being raised by only his grandparents and not having either parent in his life, you know, from what I understood, and you know, he had to go through with his older brother, you know, and everything that, you know, his older went through.
And, I mean, family life plays a lot with your personality and who you become. And though, yes, he was a sweet person, but I think that what he went through as a child definitely, you know, changed him and affected him greatly. And you know.
SAVIDGE: What makes you say that? From the conversations and the way you interacted as a friend. What gives you that feeling?
LACASSE: Just that I could tell that he was sad a lot of the times. And he never -- he never once would want to talk about a personal situation or his life at home, you know. He never talked -- he never want to talk about it or when he'd go visit his dad, he'd never want to talk about his dad. And just from, like, those times I have seen sadness and for really not knowing why, you know. You can just tell that there's something personal going on at home.
I had to personally go up to him and break through the wall that he put up towards people, and, you know, so it took a lot of time to get to know him and for him to even start opening up to me.
SAVIDGE: You said he was picked on. Did you see this? Do you personally know this?
LACASSE: Yes, I personally know this. Kids would make fun of him all the time. You know, and in class, in the halls, he'd be made fun of for his hair, for the way he dressed, for being so quiet. He would -- just -- kids would just pick on him so much. And I always defended him, no matter what, you know.
SAVIDGE: How would he take that?
LACASSE: He would just be quiet or, you know, he wouldn't say anything, he'd just look at the ground or he'd just kind of take it and kind of laugh about it, but I could tell that, you know, you can laugh about it but it still hurts.
SAVIDGE: Did he ever talk of revenge, ever get angry, say he wanted to do something?
LACASSE: No. Not once, you know. He would just, just take it and, you know, sometimes I could see that it really affected him. I feel like when they see what happened on the TV, they're going to instantly think that he's this monster and that he's this killer. And I just want people to know that he actually was and is a good person, but through all the things that he had to go through, through all his life, through his childhood, through the bullying and people making fun of him and just through all of his situation, that it led to what he did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: So, Marty, how --
SAVIDGE: I have to point out to you -- sorry, I just wanted to say, Soledad, she is not defending or condoning in any way what T.J. Lane is accused of doing. She is merely a window into his world. She is horrified by what has happened.
O'BRIEN: Yes. And providing a ton of insight into his background.
So, Marty, talk about the community. How is everybody who's living there doing?
SAVIDGE: You know, this is one of those communities where people come to Chardon because they think they get away from the kind of problems they're now dealing with today. That's one of the great ironies of what is happening here.
A lot of communicating going on. Young people today, as you already know, connected electronically. There are candlelight vigils that are planned. There are prayer meetings that are planned. This is a community that today had its heart absolutely broken and tonight is trying to begin, trying to begin the process of healing.
Many of these students just don't know what it's going to be like to go back into a classroom when it eventually happens. They know that day will come and with the help of community, they'll face it -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: All right, Marty Savidge for us. Marty, thank you.
And as you heard just a moment ago, Nate Mueller was slightly wounded in the attack. A bullet grazed his ear. He knew T.J. Lane. He knew the other victims as well. He was close friends with at least one of them. He and I spoke earlier tonight by phone.
O'BRIEN: I want you to start from the very beginning. Describe for me what happened while you were in the cafeteria. MUELLER: Well, we walked into the cafeteria and I had gone over and talked to some of my friends. And we -- they had gone to class, so we went back over to our normal table that we sit at every day. And me and a couple of my other friends were waiting to get on a bus to transfer us to a different school had just been talking, like a normal day.
And all of a sudden, we heard a loud bang, almost like a firework, and we turned around and I saw T.J. standing at the table behind us with his gun pointed and firing.
O'BRIEN: And he was pointing at you?
MUELLER: He was pointing in our direction. He wasn't pointed right at me.
O'BRIEN: He hit you, the bullet hit you, right? I mean, grazed your ear.
MUELLER: Yes. His third shot hit me. His first shot made me look. His second shot I watched him take which hit somebody behind me. And his third shot hit me as I was turning away.
O'BRIEN: What did you do?
MUELLER: At that point, I had started running out of the cafeteria and jumped over my friend, Nick Walczak, who was injured after I left. And I made my way out of the school and called the police.
O'BRIEN: Did you understand what was happening? Did he say anything?
MUELLER: He was silent the entire time. There was no whining or anything. He just opened fire.
O'BRIEN: You know him well from school?
MUELLER: I know him from years before when we used to be friends before he kind of distanced himself from us.
O'BRIEN: Tell me a little bit about him.
MUELLER: He -- he's a quiet kid. In the past like few years, but back in middle school, he was always really nice and funny. And he was like one of us, one of the guys. And he was just a normal kid, and we all liked him. Nobody really had a problem with us. He was never one to start altercations or get into drama that was being thrown around him. He just kind of went on with his own business.
O'BRIEN: So when you say he was standing there and not saying a word, what did he seem like? What did he look like? Did he look angry? Did he look calm?
MUELLER: His face was expressionless. It was -- I can't even explain it. It looked like he was on a mission and he knew that he was about to do it and he was -- I think he was a little distant from himself.
O'BRIEN: Any indication of a motivation for the shooting at this point that you know of or you'd guess at?
MUELLER: No. I still don't believe there was a motive that I could think of. I think that he just might have snapped from being distant for so long.
O'BRIEN: There were some reports that I heard that talked about an ex-girlfriend potentially as motivation for him maybe being angry or maybe, you know, feeling somehow that he had lost out on something. Do you know about that?
MUELLER: I do not. I know that there was somebody that he was dating but that's just what I have heard.
O'BRIEN: So what was the scene like in the cafeteria? You obviously got out and ran. Did it erupt in chaos when the shots started or what happened?
MUELLER: Once everybody realized after the first shot what was happening and everybody could see that he was shooting, everybody take a direction and ran. There was no order in the first 30 seconds of it. Everybody just tried to do what was best for them.
O'BRIEN: Coming up, we're going to have more of my interview with Nate Mueller including what he told me about the heroic acts of the teacher in the middle of the shooting chaos. That's coming up next.
Also ahead tonight, Rick Santorum calls President Obama a snob, says the president wants everybody to go to college and that college makes people lose their religion. Lots to chew on there. But is any of it actually based in fact? We're "Keeping Them Honest" tonight.
And later, the effort to bring home the body of journalist Marie Colvin, who was killed in Syria last week. We'll talk to Marie Colvin's mother, who tells me she's not giving up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSEMARIE COLVIN, MOTHER OF MARIE COLVIN: We're going to do it no matter how difficult it is or no matter how long it takes, I want my daughter home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Our breaking news tonight, reports that T.J. Lane, the alleged Chardon, Ohio, high school gunman will appear tomorrow afternoon in local juvenile court. Before the break, you heard from Nate Mueller. He was slightly wounded in the attack. He told me about the moments of terror, the look on T.J. Lane's face, and what he thought had become of the sweet natured kid he used to know. He also spoke about the quick response from heroic teachers and the police as well.
Here's the second part of our conversation.
O'BRIEN: I was listening to the superintendent talking about sort of how safety procedures had worked. Did it feel to you like there was an organized system after, let's say, the first 30 seconds had passed, that the school -- that you felt like, you know, people in charge clamped down and started taking control of the situation?
MUELLER: I do.
O'BRIEN: What happened?
MUELLER: I have heard two teachers, one, Mr. Hall, who had chased the student out and I know for a fact our teacher, Mr. Richie (ph), had already been prepared with a bulletproof vest in his classroom, which he had put on and dragged Nick Walczak into his room while also getting other students into the room as well. But I think everybody knew what they had to get done and did it as fast as they could.
O'BRIEN: Did the police arrive quickly on the scene? It sounds like your teachers behaved heroically.
MUELLER: The police were there within 45 seconds after I got off the line with the dispatcher. So they were there immediately. They didn't go into the school right away, but they had started their plan of action as soon as they got there.
O'BRIEN: Do you feel like your teachers saved other students from being injured or maybe killed?
MUELLER: I do feel that way. I feel they did the best that they could. And that was good enough for this situation.
O'BRIEN: I understand that eventually, they were able to capture the young man and he's in custody. How long did that take and what was the tone like at the school while it was locked down?
MUELLER: I was actually away from the majority of the classmates that were sent to another school to be held. I was with a smaller group that was sent to the middle school, so I have no idea what the tone was like in the actual high school, so I can't answer that. I just know that in our small group, we were concerned and at a loss almost, trying to figure out what was going on through text and Facebook and all that nonsense. But there was no facts given to us.
O'BRIEN: Tell me a little bit, if you know more, about T.J. and his background. I mean, is he -- you know, is he a kid who comes from a stable family? A kid who's got a challenging family situation, do you know?
MUELLER: I never met his actual family. I knew his older brother had some drug problems, but I never met his parents or anything else like that.
O'BRIEN: I know that there were a hand full of students injured and one young man is dead in the wake of the shooting. Can you tell me a little bit about those students?
MUELLER: They were innocent victims. My friend Danny, that was the first death was -- and I think I speak for everybody when I say there is not one person on this earth that deserved it less than Danny did because he's the nicest, most polite kid on earth.
O'BRIEN: What a terrible situation for you. What have they told you at school? Obviously, I think, classes are canceled for tomorrow. And how are you feeling? Do you feel like this has just been, you know, unreal?
MUELLER: it does feel unrealistic. I almost hope I wake up tomorrow and it's Monday again, and we could go back. And that's how unreal it feels.
O'BRIEN: What does happen tomorrow? You obviously won't go to school. What will you do?
MUELLER: I will just -- I guess I will just try and get on with my day. I'm not really sure what tomorrow is going to bring, but just keeping the head high, going on with my business. Trying to keep everybody else happy. Probably go to the hospital and check in on my friends and see how everybody's keeping up.
O'BRIEN: Do you look now and think, you know, why? I guess, from our vantage point, we always sort of say well, why would a young man do this? Are you -- you know, is this something that's running through your mind, trying to figure out what would cause this kid to do this at your school?
MUELLER: I try not to focus on why he did it as much as what we can do to fix what has been done, to make sure the people that have been injured and the families that have been devastated by it get the care and support that they need from us and our community.
O'BRIEN: Wow, well, thank you for talking with us. I know you've got a lot on your plate. We really appreciate your time.
This is Nate Mueller, who was injured. He says his ear was grazed by the shooter's bullet.
Thank you, Nate. We appreciate it.
MUELLER: Thank you, too. Thanks for having me.
O'BRIEN: And of course, we'll be covering the story into the night and bring you any fresh developments that happen tomorrow morning on "EARLY START." And, also, I will see you for "STARTING POINT" tomorrow morning as well.
Still ahead tonight, on the eve of two big primaries, the claims that Rick Santorum is making about college to try to secure the vote of blue-collar Republicans. We're "Keeping Them Honest" tonight. Also ahead, the family of fallen journalist, Marie Colvin, describes their fight to try to bring her body home from Syria -- straight ahead.
O'BRIEN: We're "Keeping Them Honest" tonight on the campaign trail with tomorrow's two races in Arizona and Michigan as tight as they come. We're going to be looking at how one of these four men -- Rick Santorum -- is trying to gain the edge with blue-collar Republicans. Simply speaking he's making claims about college and President Obama's position on kids going to college that simply aren't true, and they also don't stand up to a basic fact check.
We're going to count the ways in just a second. But first some late polling. A new ARG survey shows a one-point Santorum lead in Mitt Romney's native state. A one-point gap but a four-point margin of error so essentially it's a tie. And it's just as close in the state of Arizona, every vote matters. So tonight, "Keeping Them Honest," we're focusing on something that Rick Santorum said over the weekend in Michigan in search of those votes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SANTORUM: There are good decent men and women go out and work hard every day and put their skills to task that aren't taught by some liberal college professor and trying to indoctrinate them.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
SANTORUM: Oh, I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Now, taken one way, that is kind of flattering. President Obama wants kids to become president, just like him. But it is hard to imagine that that's exactly how Senator Santorum meant it.
A day later on ABC's "This Week," he went further, saying that going to college turns people of faith into nonbelievers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANTORUM: You know, the statistic that at least I was familiar with from a few years ago, I don't know if it still holds true, but I suspect it may even be worse, that 62 percent of kids who enter college with some sort of faith commitment leave without it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: OK, so two factual statements. President Obama wants everyone to go to college, where they will be remade by their liberal professors in his own image, and then also going to college obliterates your faith in God.
"Keeping Them Honest," neither one of those things stands up. Here's what the president actually said three years ago about higher education.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. It can be a community college or four-year school. Vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It's not just quitting on yourself, it's quitting on your country and this country needs and values the talents of every American.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: OK. So that was President Obama calling on young Americans to keep learning but not saying, as Senator Santorum was suggesting, that college is for everyone.
As for his other claim that 62 percent of students who enter college with some kind of faith commitment leave without it, he didn't specify the study. We got no answers from the campaign today. However, we found others, found two studies that he might have been referring to here.
One comes from the Social Science Research Council, it's called "How Corrosive is College to Religious Faith and Practice." And it concludes this. Sixty-four percent of those currently enrolled in a traditional four-year institution have curbed their attendance habits. Now, curbed, church or mosques or synagogue attendance, not eliminated their faith commitment as Senator Santorum claims. In addition, the authors found that the decline was even steeper in young adults who didn't go to college.
Now the senator may have instead or in addition to been referring to a Harvard University survey. That one does have a 62 percent figure in it, but 62 percent of college Republicans saying -- quote -- "Religion is losing its influence on American life."
No one is saying either that their faith or anybody's faith is being destroyed by college. The survey also found that one in four students said they actually have become more spiritual since entering college, compared to only 7 percent who are saying the opposite.
But as they say, there's more. Rick Santorum appears to be mocking higher education when he's on the stump, appealing to non-college- educated voters. But listen to what he said this weekend about what is right for his own children. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: Do you encourage your kids to go to college?
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I encourage my kids to get higher education, absolutely, and in fact, if college is the best place for them, absolutely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: OK. Well, Senator Santorum went on to say that trade school is OK, too, which as you just heard for yourself a minute ago is exactly what President Obama said three years ago.
But any way you slice it, a four-year college degree is even a better key to success, especially in a shaky economy. The jobless rate for college graduates age 25 and older is less than 5 percent.
And take a look at this. This is a 2011 study from the Brookings Institution, charting income over a typical working life. The blue line is high-school graduates. The red line is college graduates. The bottom line is pretty clear.
And it's not like Rick Santorum hasn't championed like higher education or even federal aid to higher education in the past. His 2006 Web page boasts of his, quote, "commitment to higher education" and takes credit for getting 47 percent more funding for the federal Pell Grant program which helps make college more affordable.
"Raw Politics" now with our panel. Ralph Reed is the founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition; also GOP strategist Rich Galen; and chief political analyst Gloria Borger.
We spoke earlier, and my first question was about new numbers in the Gallup tracking poll that show Mitt Romney regaining a very slim lead nationwide over Rick Santorum, making up ground, as you can see there, from a week ago.
O'BRIEN: So, Ralph, let's start with you. The poll numbers show that the Santorum surge actually seems to be going back to the Romney lead, if you will. Is that because the social message that Rick Santorum is focusing on is working against him now? That it was a mistake?
RALPH REED, FOUNDER/CHAIRMAN, FAITH AND FREEDOM COALITION: No, I don't think so, Soledad. I mean, look, you're looking at a candidate in Rick Santorum who came into this race as an asterisk in the polls, somebody who was way behind in the money race, way behind in the name I.D. race. He won Iowa; he's won four of the nine contests. He's made the final four. He may be emerging as the conservative alternative to Romney. And none of that would have happened without the vitality and the energy that he's generated among social conservatives.
Remember that, if you look at the '08 exit polls, Soledad, 40 percent of all the voters who went to the polls four years ago were evangelicals in the Republican primaries. That number is going to be higher now.
Now, look, if he wants to win the nomination, Rick has clearly got to broaden that message to talking about the economy. The message he had the night he won the Iowa caucuses where he talked about growing up as the grandson of a coal miner, who believed in the American dream. A family of immigrants who believes that America's great days are still ahead of it.
O'BRIEN: But he's moved off that message a little bit, right? Over the weekend, he was saying this: "President Obama once said he wants everyone in America to go to college. What a snob." And then he goes on to say, "Oh, I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image."
Some people are saying that kind of message at a time when high unemployment numbers are actually lower for people of college degrees is kind of a wrong message.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think -- look, I think it's caused him a lot of trouble, because I think he's trying to be the populist in this race. But in trying to do that, he's turning off a lot of fiscal conservatives who say, "You know what? Going to college is a pretty good idea."
He also, by the way, with the anti-JFK message, the separation between church and state, I mean, that could work with evangelicals. I think Ralph is right on that. But there are a lot of Catholic voters who actually believe that that speech was completely appropriate and who idolize JFK. And that could hurt him with Catholic voters. And by the way, Santorum is a Catholic.
O'BRIEN: So Rich Galen, let me ask you a question about Mitt Romney. Because what we saw was Mitt Romney, who was sort of going into the social realm briefly, has moved out of it, and is back attacking Rick Santorum, but on the economy and jobs.
RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes. I think they've decided that they -- it's probably a really good inside the Romney campaign fight between the social guys and economic guys.
But I think what they found -- what happened was, the -- I think in Colorado, the social conservatives over-performed dramatically, because it was right after the contraception -- the contraception decision by the Department of Health and Human Services. It boiled up over the weekend.
The Santorum people said, "Well, if we can energize our base, we can overcome the economic message from Romney, and we can't afford to -- we can't afford to drive that message."
Romney, on the other hand, can afford to drive that message. He understands, I think, in the longer poll, that it is the economy. Let's see what happens overseas. But for right now the economy is the big deal. And you don't have to win all the votes. You don't have to get 100 percent. You just have to get one more than the guy that's right behind you.
REED: I think the other think that this sort of underscores, the importance of organization and financial advantage and having a plan to go along.
I mean, the fact of the matter is that Rick Santorum has really come out of nowhere and has posed an unbelievable threat to the aura of inevitability that surrounded Romney at the beginning of this.
But to Romney's credit, he built a strong early vote program in Michigan, just as he did in Florida. It may end up proving decisive.
I think all of this, Soledad, ends up working to the advantage of the party, and I'll tell you why. The biggest challenge facing Romney going into this process was to be able to address and wrestle with these Tea Party and evangelical voters. He's been forced to do that. Whether it was Huckabee doing that with McCain in '08 or Santorum and Gingrich doing it now with Romney, this is all to the good of uniting the party once this is over.
O'BRIEN: As you know, there is sort of the opposite theory on that, which is actually -- and there are many Republicans who subscribe to the theory that says people ripping each other apart is bad for the party, that the voters are turned off, that it's damaging to the party and, at the end of the day, you're only helping President Obama.
BORGER: I would have to tell you that -- that you look at Romney's numbers with independent voters since November. They've taken a nose dive to the tune of more than 20 points.
So I don't see how this really benefits Romney in the long term if he becomes the nominee of the party.
GALEN: One of the things we know -- one of the things we do know is that this is the most fickle electorate in any of our lifetimes. I mean...
O'BRIEN: That might be the understatement of the year. It's only February.
GALEN: If you go back -- if you go back four years, Soledad, remember that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama duked it out all the way to June. We're still in February.
REED: And by the way -- by the way...
GALEN: Guess who got to take the oath of office?
REED: By the way, Obama's numbers suffered among white women for a long time during that primary, but they ultimately came home. And the fact is, elections aren't won in February; they're won in November. There's plenty of time for this party to unite and get its act together.
And I think it would be a huge mistake to look at a muscular, contentious, hard-fought primary and conclude that that's a weakness. Whoever this nominee ends up being, they're going to be smarter, they're going to be tougher, they're going to be disciplined, they're going to be much more ready for Barack Obama in the fall.
O'BRIEN: Well, we're going to be watching the numbers, of course.
I appreciate your time, guys. Thank you very much.
REED: You bet.
O'BRIEN: And a reminder: you want to stay with CNN for complete coverage of the Arizona and Michigan primaries. I'm going to take a look at the candidates' chances tomorrow on my program, "STARTING POINT." We start at 7 a.m. Eastern.
Also tomorrow night, you can join Anderson, Wolf Blitzer, and John King, and Candy Crowley and more for all the results. That starts at 7 p.m. Eastern.
Coming up, "Keeping Them Honest," Syrian's government says it's taking an major step towards reform, but all the opposition sees is more dead bodies. Well more than 100 just today.
Meanwhile, aid workers are trying to retrieve the body of journalist Marie Colvin, who was killed in shelling last week. I'll speak with Marie Colvin's mother, who has a message for the Assad regime.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSEMARIE COLVIN, MARIE COLVIN'S MOTHER: Be the best that's in them. Be what all our faiths teach us and -- and not do this. Not continue with the killing and let these people go and give my daughter the dignity of her life to come home to us.
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O'BRIEN: Our emotional interview is coming up. First, though, here is Isha Sesay.
ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Soledad.
A story we're following closely on "360," the trial of the man who allegedly used a Web cam to spy on Tyler Clementi. That's the Rutgers University student who killed himself days later. A key witness on the stand today. We'll have the latest when "360" continues.
O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Tonight, another "Keeping Them Honest" report on Syria. There have been many on this program as the Syrian government insists time and time again that there is no armed conflict going on and that the Syrian regime is not murdering its own citizens.
Now, perhaps the most blatant example of just how far the Syrian's government spin is a complete sham and diametrically opposed to what is actually happening inside that country.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
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O'BRIEN: A new constitution has been approved in Syria that would theoretically open the country to other political parties. The Syrian regime calls it a move towards reform and is congratulating Syrians on taking part in the democratic process, a so-called democratic process as citizens die in shellings and shootings and stabbings.
Now, this videotape supposedly shows random shelling on civilians, but CNN cannot independently confirm what's happening in these videos. As you well know, the Syrian government has severely restricted foreign journalists' access.
But on the same day that the Assad government announced overwhelming support for the new constitution, at least 144 people were killed in Syria. That's according to the opposition. That includes at least 64 people dead in what opposition activists call a horrifying massacre that happened at a checkpoint in Homs.
One hundred and forty-four people dead in one day, a day Syria's interior minister announced that nearly 90 percent of voters approved the draft constitution and that just over 57 percent of eligible voters cast ballots. Here is what the interior minister said today.
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MAJOR GENERAL MOHAMMAD IBRAHIM AL-SHAAR, SYRIAN MINISTER OF INTERIOR (through translator): We'd like to say congratulations to Syria and to the Syrian people, who express their legitimate right, whose insistence and order for the reforms and also for the democracy which we are observing and to Mr. Bashar al-Assad.
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O'BRIEN: Offering congratulations to Syria, to democracy and to Bashar al-Assad.
"Keeping Them Honest," that supposed to show -- that supposed show of democracy and the new constitution all being called a total farce, a superficial move to try to placate Bashar al-Assad's critics. This is from the State Department.
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VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: We dismiss it as absolutely cynical. It is -- you know, essentially what he's done here is put a piece of paper that he controls to a vote that he controls so that he can try to maintain control. There is no way to evaluate whether the vote that happened represented anything like a referendum, even on the ridiculous proposal that he put forward, when the guns and the tanks and the artillery are now -- are still firing into Homs and Hama (ph) cities all over the country. So how could you possibly have any kind of a democratic process in conditions like that?
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O'BRIEN: And in an interview with CBS News, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Assad's supporters to refuse to take part in the attacks. As for the vote, Clinton had this to say. Quote, "It is a phony referendum, and it's going to be used by Assad to justify what he's doing to other Syrian citizens."
The Red Cross says some aid workers have been able to get in to drop off food and blankets and medical supplies and aid workings have also been trying to retrieve the body of journalist Marie Colvin, who was killed in shelling in Homs last week along with the French journalist, Remi Ochlik.
So far, the workers have not been able to get those bodies out of the country for a final trip home.
Earlier, I spoke with Marie's mother, Rosemarie, and her sister, Cat, and brother, Michael.
O'BRIEN: Mrs. Colvin and Cat and Michael, I appreciate you talking us to and again, our sympathies go to you. I know it's a terrible time for your family. What are you being told about the ability to retrieve Marie's body from Syria?
R. COLVIN: Well, they've been trying. Today, they tried twice and told us they will try again tomorrow morning. It was too dangerous and they couldn't complete it, complete getting them out although they tried twice. That was the latest news we had.
O'BRIEN: I have to imagine as a mother, to get that body back has to be really important and really critical for you. How likely do you think that they are eventually going to be able to do that, to accomplish that mission?
R. COLVIN: We're going to do it, no matter how difficult it is or no matter how long it takes. I want my daughter home. We also want the other people out, the injured people, the people who were from other countries who are in there. They need to come out, too.
O'BRIEN: If you had an opportunity to address the Assad regime and say, "Listen, we want you to understand how we're feeling and what we need," what would you say?
R. COLVIN: I don't want to get into the politics of the conflict, though it's wrong. I'd like to get into humanity and asking them to -- to be the best that's in them, be what all our faiths teach us and not do this, not continue with the killing. And let these people go and give my daughter the dignity of her life to come home to us.
O'BRIEN: Cat, there's been some reporting that your sister was targeted because she was a western journalist and giving out information, obviously, about the conflict. Do you think that that is true?
CAT COLVIN, SISTER OF MARIE COLVIN: You know, it's impossible to know in this particular situation. It's just becoming such a dangerous profession. And she knew that and went in because she felt so strongly the truth had to come out. And if no one's there to see it, if no one's there to report on it, none of us know. And we just are so extremely proud of her. It's painful.
O'BRIEN: You join a lot of her colleagues, who are proud of her, as well. One of her last reports is right here on this show when she was telling this story. It was a horrific story of a little baby who she watched die. And I want to play a little piece of that and then, Michael, I'm going to ask you a question on the other side of it. Listen.
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MARIE COLVIN, "TIMES OF LONDON": The baby's death was just heartbreaking. The doctor said, "There's nothing we could do." And we just watched this little boy, you know, his little tummy heaving and heaving as he tried to breathe. It was horrific. Just -- I mean, my heart broke.
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O'BRIEN: My goodness, it was such an awful thing to watch the report on that.
Michael, how -- you said, though, your sister never became sort of cold to the reporting. You know, I think sometimes war reporters can become very numb and lose their humanity in some way. How do you think she managed not to do that?
MICHAEL COLVIN, BROTHER OF MARIE COLVIN: She mentioned to me once or twice that, you know, the two words she hates most are "collateral damage." And when we're here sitting here in the United States and we hear those two words, we think, "Oh, a bridge went down. Oh, a building got blown up."
But Marie made it clear that collateral damage is people and not just people who are fighting but innocent people and journalists and people that are trying to report the story.
O'BRIEN: Mrs. Colvin, I was surprised, right after Marie was announced dead, that your family was talking, because I thought that might be a time when you would, frankly, lock yourselves in your home and just not take questions. Why did you want to, you know, answer questions about her life so quickly after we got word that she had died?
R. COLVIN: The two worst words Marie would like to hear about her life would be "no comment." And in addition to that, I wanted to bring the story out, to tell people what she stood for, what she was doing, what her life was about. It was an important committed life, and she lived it to the fullest. And I wanted to honor -- I just wanted to honor that memory of hers.
That's why I decided to talk to the press and keep the story alive, in the hopes that we could do some good in Syria and for the people that are still there and for the wounded.
O'BRIEN: I know you're also going to keep her memory alive by setting up this humanitarian fund. Cat, can you tell me a little bit about that?
C. COLVIN: Yes. We -- we set up a fund in Marie's memory. There's a Web site with more information. It's MarieColvin.org. And the donations will go to those causes that Marie felt so strongly about, like, human rights, humanitarian aid, education and, of course, journalism.
O'BRIEN: Well, Mrs. Colvin and Michael and Cat, we appreciate your time again. I'm very grateful that you're talking to us about your sister and your daughter. We wish you the best of luck in getting her body recovered from Syria. Thank you for talking with me.
R. COLVIN: Thank you, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: And still ahead tonight, new violence, apparently in response to the burning of Qurans by NATO troops last week.
And also ahead, key testimony in the trial that centers on what happened days before Tyler Clementi killed himself. His former roommate at Rutgers University is accused of spying on him with a Web cam.
SESAY: I'm Isha Sesay with a "360 Bulletin."
In Afghanistan, at least nine people were dead and 12 wounded when a suicide bomber struck a military airfield. It's part of a backlash ignited by the burning of Qurans by NATO troops last week. So far, at least 39 people have died, including four American soldiers.
In new Jersey, key testimony against Dhahran Ravi, a former Rutgers student accused of using a Web cam to spy on his roommate, Tyler Clementi. Clementi killed himself just days after Ravi and another student watched him kissing a man.
Today, that other student, Molly Wei, said Ravi was shocked by what he saw but he never said anything about hating his gay roommate or wanting to intimidate him. She also testified that Ravi texted her while police were questioning her about the alleged spying.
And the federal trial to determine civil liability in the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been delayed. It was supposed to start today. It was put off for a week. The defendants include BP, the well operator, and the rig owner. They're being sued by business owners and Gulf Coast residents.
We'll be right back.
O'BRIEN: And that does it for this edition of 360. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.