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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

New Details on Attack against Americans in Libya; Romney Strategy Shift

Aired September 19, 2012 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, thanks. Good evening, everyone.

We begin tonight with breaking news. Reporting you'll see only right here.

Today a hearse bore the body of a Navy SEAL Glenn Doherty passed his child at home, just outside Boston. Tonight 360 has obtained exclusive new details about the security climate leading up to his murder and the murder of three others last week, including -- in Libya including the American ambassador there, Christopher Stevens.

360 has learned exclusively the concerns that the ambassador had, the threat he foresaw and the signal he gave to at least one person we know about about what he was seeing. Today some in the administration closely conceding what many observers already suspected that the killings, though they happened during a wave of protests over that anti-Muslim YouTube video, were not committed just by protesters.

Listen to the administration's National counterterrorism Center director today at a Senate Homeland Security hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEW OLSEN, NATIONAL COUNTERTERRORISM CENTER DIRECTOR: I would say, yes, they were killed in the course of a terrorist attack an our embassy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Mr. Olsen went on to say that investigators lacked specific intelligence concerning, in his words, significant advanced planning coordination. He said they are looking to connections to al Qaeda and local al Qaeda affiliates.

Now you're looking at the scene, just outside the consulate in Benghazi, as a pro-American crowd tried to rush in Ambassador Stevens who is wounded, still alive, to the hospital. Tonight, as we said, 360 has obtained exclusive information about the climate that led up to all of this.

A source familiar with Ambassador Stevens' thinking says that in the months before his death, he talked about being worried about what he called the never-ending security threats specifically in Benghazi. This source telling us that the ambassador specifically mentioned the rise in Islamic extremism, the growing al Qaeda presence in Libya, and said he was on an al Qaeda hit list.

In addition, our source tells us he e-mailed a journalist in the wake of the bombing near the consulate in June. He wrote, and I quote, "Maybe you should head east to Benghazi to check out the situation there which appears to be heating up."

What we don't yet know is why, given all that Ambassador Stevens thought, why he traveled with such an apparently light security detail, why he was allowed to? Did he want it that way despite the risk or did his warnings go unheeded and that he and his people died because of it? At this point we simply don't know.

Senator John McCain supported President Obama's action to oust Moammar Gadhafi. He's also criticized some of the steps taken since then. And is sharply skeptical of the administration's account so far of what happened in Benghazi to the ambassador and the three others.

I spoke to Senator McCain earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Senator McCain, a source familiar with the Ambassador Stevens' thinking told us that in the months before his death he talked about being worried about the never-ending security threats that he was facing in Benghazi and specifically about the rise in Islamic extremism and growing al Qaeda presence. He also mentioned being on an al Qaeda hit list.

And in June he wrote in an e-mail to a journalist, and I quote, "Maybe you should head east to Benghazi to check out the situation there which appears to be heating up."

Given all of that, given that what we are now learning about concerns that he had, does it make any sense to you the level of or the small level of security he apparently had with him?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It doesn't make any sense. And I'll tell you what else doesn't make any sense is the White House spokesman, the secretary of state, and our ambassador to the U.N. stating categorically that it was not a terrorist attack when obviously it had all the earmarks of a terrorist attack including rocket-propelled grenades and heavy weapons and a very well-carried out military operations.

So why they would want to tell the American people that -- in the face of the facts, because I don't know. There are also other reports that there had been other threats made and there's also report that there is basically an al Qaeda extremist outfit militia there right there in Benghazi.

COOPER: Fran Townsend who worked in the Bush administration told us she was visiting Libya recently, about a month or so, before this attack, actually met with Ambassador Stevens at a hotel in Tripoli and, though he arrived in an armored vehicle with a driver, when he entered the hotel he had no security with him at all, and that surprised her at the time.

I mean it seems -- I have never seen an ambassador who doesn't have -- in a warzone and in a place like Libya with threats who doesn't have a larger entourage of security. Is this an intelligence failure? Is this a -- I mean what do you attribute this to?

MCCAIN: I attributed partially to the courage of Chris Stevens who was a very brave man, as you know. He lived in a hotel in Benghazi during the fighting. But also I think it's pretty clear that the security people should have given him more security particularly in Benghazi. As you know that country is divided very badly. And there's significant competition. There's far more Islamic influence in that part of Libya than in Tripoli.

COOPER: Previously as you mentioned, people from the Obama administration had said that they thought this wasn't a planned attack, it was kind of an off shoot of this video. But the director of the National Counterterrorism Center said at a hearing today that the attack in Benghazi was, in fact, and I quote, "a terrorist attack." He didn't specify if it was pre-planned or not, but if definitely goes far beyond what we've heard before. How significant do you think that is?

MCCAIN: I think it's significant that the president's spokesperson, the secretary of state and the ambassador to the United National would go on all of our networks and tell people things that are absolutely false. And by the way, fly in the face of the facts. So I think it's -- I think maybe the American people are owed an apology.

But the most important thing is that we have to understand that this video was not the cause of it. The cause of it was Islamists who use these videos in order to inflame these people in order to attack America.

I mean, Anderson, I am confident right now, there are people making videos just as a French cartoonist just made some cartoon, are making the videos right now. We should be standing up for freedom of speech and that we will defend people's right to speak out and express their views rather than condemn, quote, "hateful -- videos" which are the vehicle, not the cause. The cause is radical Islamists.

COOPER: Do you think there needs to be some sort of an investigation about what happened, about the security situation at the consulate in Benghazi, perhaps even elsewhere?

MCCAIN: Well, there has to be. There has to be. But I also want to emphasize, one, that Libya is very weak, as you know. Their borders are porous, there's -- radical Islamist elements throughout the country, but still it is the obligation of the host country to protect our consulates, our embassies and our personnel. And it's partially ours, but we have to depend on the host country and we have to then sort out and rethink what presence we are going to have and what relationship we are going to have with these countries.

COOPER: You're campaigning for Governor Romney in New Hampshire on Monday. Now according to reports, you really hit President Obama hard for everything from economic policy to the recent attacks in Libya. And according to some reports, you said you don't believe the president has the, quote, "strength or the ability to lead this nation." You said recent events have shown how weak he is.

Are you in any way saying that President Obama is responsible for the attacks in Benghazi?

MCCAIN: No, but I am saying that he's responsible for our failure in Afghanistan and our failure in Iraq. We left Iraq and it's now disintegrating. Al Qaeda is coming back. We didn't leave a residual force which we should have. In Afghanistan, the whole -- he overruled his military advisers on several occasions including 30,000 -- 40,000 for the surge, accelerating withdrawal dates. And now, we have this situation where the Taliban and our enemies know that we are leaving.

And the whole premise was to train Afghans in order that we could turn over these responsibilities to them and leave. Now how can we train work with these people if so many of them are killing Americans that we can't even train and operate with them? So that -- that policy has been an abject failure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: We're going to talk more with Senator McCain about domestic issues including Mitt Romney's now famous 47 percent remarks a bit later on in the program.

First though, former CIA officer Bob Baer and former Homeland Security adviser, Fran Townsend. Fran, as we often mention, serves as a member of the CIA External Advisory Comment. And as I mentioned to Senator McCain, last month she visited Libya with her employer MacAndrews & Forbes.

As I said, I mean you met with Ambassador Stevens. He had told another source that he was on the al Qaeda hit list, that -- there were security concerns.

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: You know we had a long conversation especially about Darna, which is to the east of Benghazi. And he was well aware of the growing extremist threat. And we talked about their increasing in numbers and their access to weapons. And so he was aware of it but I will tell you, you know, consistent with what you've heard, Anderson, he suggested that I go to Benghazi.

When I was -- it was August 29th, so it was less than two weeks before he was killed. He understood it was heating up but because of my background what I would really have an appreciate of it.

The other thing worth mentioning, as Senator McCain said to you, you know, Chris Stevens had been in Benghazi before Gadhafi fell. He was with the rebels and so my take on the security situation was that it was very fragile and it was very chaotic. I was worried about the militias. And Chris' -- Chris Stevens' perspective was that it was certainly not as bad as it had been during the height of the fighting.

COOPER: Right.

TOWNSEND: And so I -- really it was -- we were looking at the same facts. It just shocking to me, his lack of security, the lack of sort of security forces and their organization and training. And so I'm not sure he wasn't incredibly comfortable there especially with this familiarity with those in Benghazi.

COOPER: I mean the other thing which we have -- we don't know -- we don't have the information on yet is whether those concerns that he had, that he had expressed to at least one source that we talked to were passed up the chain of command, whether he had -- whether other folks knew about it.

Bob, you were pretty upset about it. You're saying Ambassador Stevens shouldn't have even been in Libya if he was on an al Qaeda hit list.

ROBERT BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Anderson, you know, I ended up on two lists. I'm not even sure I was really on a list. But in each case the CIA pulled me out of the country I was in. It was -- you know, it was very weak information. They said, look, there's a possibility of assassination, get out.

One time I left in the morning at 2:00 with my wife. The second time I was evacuated the next morning, brought out with security. And this is standard protocol for State Department. When there is a threat especially to an ambassador, who's much more important than a CIA case officer. They're pulled out, moved or a security -- heavy security is sent in, and I mean somebody like the SEALs. The chain of command in this broke down and there needs to be an investigation. Somewhere in the State Department let our ambassador down.

COOPER: I should point out that CNN has been talking to our sources who monitor al Qaeda Web sites, they haven't come across a specific threat against Ambassador Stevens, though that obviously does not mean there wasn't one. But I mean, I know a lot of diplomats bristle against the tight security that they're required to have in the post -- you know, the post 9/11 era, saying it gets in the way of them being able to, you know, interact which the host country. Nationals get out there on the streets which they feel they need to do. Is that any explanation for his apparently light security?

BAER: The ambassador was a -- he was a consummate, you know, diplomat, and he was out there. He was a brave man. He was doing exactly what I would have done in that case. But on the other hand, it's the -- you know, it's the higher ups in Washington and you've just got to put no to it.

And he knows those people, he understood them, he was a good writer, he was doing his job, and he died doing this job. But the point is someone has got to step in and protect our diplomats especially in the Middle East that is circling the drain. And it is. And more and more this is going to happen, we're going to have to take more precautions and yes, it is going to put a distance between us and the locals which is very unfortunate.

COOPER: Fran, do you agree that if the ambassador was on the hit list that he should have been pulled out?

TOWNSEND: I do. And he certainly should have had a much heavier presence. As I mentioned to you, Anderson, you know, when he arrived at the hotel to have breakfast, you said it to McCain, he arrived with a car and a driver, and he walked in, and there was not anyone with him. I was quite surprised. I had waited in the -- in the lobby to greet him and walk him to breakfast. And I was really surprised. It seemed very unusual to me in those circumstances.

I will say, Anderson, in fairness now, because we had an extensive conversation about Islamic radicals and the -- growing extremism problem in Libya, I find it remarkable, if he was really concerned or thought he was on a hit list, this was the kind of conversation where he would have shared that with me. We had worked together for a number of years. This was my third trip to Libya. The prior two on behalf of the government. And so it -- and I knew him. And so I -- I'm surprised that he wouldn't have mentioned it to me.

But, you know, as Bob said, he was the kind of guy who it probably wouldn't have intimidated because he really felt like he needed to be without in order to do his job.

COOPER: Yes. We feel very confident of the source, obviously I can't say who the source is but -- and the information that we've been given.

Bob, wouldn't anyone in that job be on an al Qaeda hit list, I mean, wouldn't they -- wouldn't anyone on that job be an al Qaeda target? I mean, say he was pulled out, wouldn't al Qaeda go after whoever replaced him?

BAER: Absolutely. I mean remember that there's -- the drones have killed a lot of Libyans in Afghanistan. And this is a tribe al society which takes revenge irrespective of religion. We are the number one target in Libya. And the fact that there are so many arms, heavy arms included, the ambassador was a natural target and there is only one way to protect these people and that's complete mobility. The SEALs provide a security team. But the ambassador would have never been allowed to just wander on hotels and meet with Fran, which is -- you know, she is absolutely right. This is -- this is a surprise to me that he was wandering on that country without security.

COOPER: And, Fran, you agree with Bob that there needs to be an investigation? Just so this doesn't.

TOWNSEND: That's right. Absolutely. And even if it was the ambassador's preference, not to have a heavy footprint.

COOPER: Right.

TOWNSEND: You have a government interest. You have -- he's a national asset.

COOPER: Right.

TOWNSEND: And so absolutely. We need to understand it so we protect others better.

COOPER: Yes.

Fran Townsend, Bob Baer, appreciate your expertise. Thank you.

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook, follow me on Twitter. I'm tweeting about this already tonight.

Also, more from John McCain on Mitt Romney's effort to restate some of his remarks. Restate, I guess, is the word on that hidden camera video in a more appealing way, you might say. However, as Mr. Romney tries to refocus and move on, his campaign seems to be dragging the whole thing back into the spotlight. The question is, are they also bending the facts. We're "Keeping Them Honest," next ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest" now what happens when the tape rolls and campaign operatives spin. We're talking, of course, about Mitt Romney's hidden camera remarks to campaign donors this May in Florida, including this question and answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the past three years, all anybody's been told is don't worry, we'll take care of it. How are you going to do it? Two months before the election to convince everybody you've got to take of yourself?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, there are 47 percent of the people who will vote for President Obama no matter what. All right. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they're entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it, but that's -- that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Now remember, shortly after the liberal "Mother Jones" magazine first put out that clip and several others including one where Governor Romney talked about Israel, Mr. Romney called a late- night news conference and asked for the whole tape to be released, which it was the very next day, minus about two minutes. According to "Mother Jones" the gap is there because the camera person accidentally stopped recording.

Keep that in mind, we're going to get back to that shortly. Fast forward to what happened today as Mr. Romney was trying to reshape that message about the 47 percent, standing by it, but articulating it in a way that's probably less likely to offend anyone. As that was happening, as he was trying to tamp down the uproar, his campaign staff seemed to be doing the opposite, picking a fight without the facts to win it. This afternoon a response to an Obama attack on Mr. Romney's Israel remarks, Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams sent an e-mail saying this, quote, "Today Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt attacked Mitt Romney based on a debunked 'Mother Jones' tape."

"A debunked Mother Jones tape." Remember that. He is referring to the Obama's spokesman Ben LaBolt calling out Governor Romney for saying this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you think that the Palestinian problem can be solved? What are you going to do about it?

ROMNEY: I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these are thorny issues, thorny issues, and I say, there's just no way. And so what you do is you say, you move things along the best way you can, you hope for some degree of stability but you recognize it's going to remain an unsolved problem.

We live with that in China and Taiwan. All right? We have -- we have a potentially volatile situation but we sort of live with it, and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately somehow something will happen and resolve it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, this afternoon Ryan Williams, the Romney spokesman complained that "Mother Jones" deliberately truncated that clip to leave out the part where Mitt Romney talked about how with American strength the Palestinians might come around.

He writes, quote, "This morning, Politico reported that the Mother Jones video was selectively edited to give a false impression about Mitt Romney's views."

"Keeping Them Honest," that clip was followed later yesterday by the entire tape and nothing truncated about it at all.

Well, late today "Mother Jones'" David Corn who broke the tape story wrote, quote, "This is getting ridiculous. This was not a case of selective editing. The point was to show what was newsworthy. Romney breaking with current policy and stating views that he has not stated publicly."

And about the allegation from the Romney campaign that Politico's Dylan Byers debunked the tape? Buyers himself said he did no such thing.

He joins us now, along with CNN chief national correspondent John King and chief political analyst Gloria Borger. So, Dylan, so when Romney campaign points to the video saying it was debunked, and basically debunked by you in your column, is that true?

DYLAN BYERS, POLITICO MEDIA REPORTER: No, it's not. It's -- it is true that there were parts of the film that were -- or parts of Romney's remark that were left out. Those parts that were left out don't necessarily debunk the rest of the film.

COOPER: And does it seem strange to you that -- I mean the Romney campaign would be talking up parts of the video, saying the governor stands by what he was trying to say while at the same time saying it's been debunked?

BYERS: Yes, it is strange. And I think what it reflects is that the campaign is in a little bit of a crisis mode right now. They're scrambling to try and offset some of the negative press that they've got because of the release of this video. And so what they are trying to do is they're simultaneously trying to claim that it's somehow not legitimate and at the same time you have Romney out there giving press conferences where he's doubling down on remarks elsewhere in the film.

They then put out this press release that says somehow the video has been debunked. Whether they're referring to this specific clip about his Mideast remarks in the entire video hardly matters. The film is either legitimate or it isn't.

COOPER: John, does it surprise the Romney would, as Dylan said, double down? I mean they keep drawing attention back to it rather than away from it.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a few things, Anderson. Number one, you may be trying to apply logic to politics. I would advise you not to try to do that.

(LAUGHTER)

Number two, you know, Governor Romney, Mrs. Romney and Paul Ryan have all given somewhat different explanations of just what Governor Romney was saying or meant to say in that tape about the 47 percent. About the Israel part, look, we're at a point in the campaign, 48 days out, where everything is raw. The Romney campaign especially the staff has had a rough week to 10 days. And sometimes you're taught in politics, don't return every punch, sometimes you're taught to return every punch.

So does this make a lot of sense? Not always. One of the things, though, they are trying to do, they say the left-leaning "Mother Jones" and they say dunked then they try to stir up dust. If voters get confused about all this, if they think it's just politics, they might be ready to turn the page as opposed to be saying Governor Romney is in hot water about something.

COOPER: Well, it's interesting, Gloria, because we got our first glimpse today at how are voters reacting to this controversy. According to Gallup, a slim majority said it wouldn't make any difference at all of the rest.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

COOPER: Two and three said it would make them less likely to back Mitt Romney. One in three said it would make them more likely. Are these tapes going to make a difference now the Romney campaign moves going forward?

BORGER: Well, it's -- you know, it's very hard to say because what you may end up doing is preaching to the choir and particularly as you look at those -- at those numbers. I think what you see in the Romney campaign is kind of a recalibration, because you can't put the genie back in the bottle this late in the campaign. So you might as well make the best of it.

So now they are talking about redistribution of wealth, the 1998 audio from President Obama trying to make this an issue of who's for a big bloated government that would be President Obama versus who's for a government that can lift everybody up, that would be Mitt Romney.

But in the end, there's a lot of confusion about this. It's going to be hard to tell exactly how this is going to impact the race. Except, Anderson, if it comes up in the presidential debates. And I bet it will. And then both Mitt Romney and President Obama can explain their position.

COOPER: It -- I mean, John, it does feel like this team has been jumping from strategy to strategy. I mean does this kind of move just give ammunition to what some Republican critics have said about the campaign really from the beginning, especially since that Politico story this week and that this campaign still functions as though it's not quite ready for primetime?

KING: In a word yes, it does fuel those stories and that speculation and that unhappiness among a lot of Republicans both in Washington and around the country. I'm in Michigan today. Met with the county chairwoman here. She wants Mitt Romney back here. She would like a consistent message.

There are a lot of Republicans, Anderson, who say that, you know, Mitt Romney should not be talking about Israel, he should not be talking about redistribution. He should be saying, President Obama is a nice guy but look at the last three years, where's proof he can create jobs? That's what they think Romney should focus on every day, every hour.

However, I will say this. And this is my seventh presidential campaign. I cannot think of one campaign that has not had a rough patch like this, including then Senator Obama's campaign back in 2008. So we have 48 day to go. When you talk to a lot of Republicans they're very nervous. They are very nervous. Not only about the Romney-Ryan ticket. But about some collateral damage to other Republicans down ballot.

And here's what they think. And inside the Romney campaign, they would agree with this part of the assessment, that he's got to get back on the economic message and he has to get there by that first week of October where you have the first presidential debate and then 48 hours later a very big unemployment report.

Anybody who thinks the Romney campaign is in trouble thinks that's the pivot point that they have to execute this perfectly.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Dylan, I mean, how -- what are you hearing from Republicans in terms of having the (INAUDIBLE)? Because seeing Republican senators, some candidates particularly those with tough races on their hands distancing themselves from the Romney remarks.

BYERS: You do see that distancing going on. You saw it with Scott Brown. You saw it with some other candidates. I think the greatest sign that Republicans are nervous has to do with just how much they're scrambling to try and diffuse some of this energy. I do think John's point is well taken, though, when he says that the debate, the first debate in October, October 3rd in Denver is really going to be the moment when Republicans are going to look to Romney to reassert himself.

COOPER: And Gloria, the -- I mean, it's interesting because this whole controversy, and I guess the reason it has perhaps had the legs that it's had --

BORGER: Sure.

COOPER: -- is that it kind of reinforces a narrative that's been around -- that's haunted the Romney campaign from the beginning, or a narrative soon that the Obama administration --

BORGER: Well --

COOPER: -- were trying to push.

BORGER: And that's -- and that's the real crux of the problem for Mitt Romney. I mean, Anderson, if you look at a new poll that was out today, by Pew Research, it shows that -- they ask the question, which candidate connects with order Americans? This has been Mitt Romney's problem.

And if you look at the numbers, Barack Obama, you see there, 66 percent, Mitt Romney, 23 percent. That's almost a 3-1 margin. So if you're Mitt Romney and you're talking about people who depend on the government, people who see themselves as victims, who believe they're entitled to get government money, this is not what you want to do because you're talking to, of course, veterans and senior citizens, and people who pay payroll taxes.

COOPER: Right.

BORGER: And so it's exactly the opposite message from the one you want to convey, particularly if you're an independent voter who hasn't quite made up your mind yet.

COOPER: Yes. Gloria, thanks.

John King, Dylan Byers, good to have you on the show. Thanks very much.

Senator John McCain ran against Barack Obama, obviously, four years ago. Tonight he speaks out for the first time about the Romney tape. Part two of my interview with Senator McCain next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Amanda Knox's ex-boyfriend speaks out about their murder conviction and prison nightmare in Italy, his biggest from the order and whether he still talks to Amanda Knox. My one-on-one conversation with him next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Raw politics tonight, more of my conversation with Senator John McCain. It is safe to say, when you are talking to the last guy to run against Barack Obama.

And the big story is how well or how badly the current guy is running his campaign. There's plenty to ask about starting with his reaction to that tape.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Governor Romney, obviously, you've seen the secret tape that was made of him talking to donors. What do you make of it? I mean, his critics say, look, he is dismissing a wide swath of voters 47 percent of the country. Many who are elderly veterans who might actually vote for Mitt Romney? It sounds like he is discounting them.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I didn't see his remarks in its entirety. You assume and know that Mitt Romney is not interested in receiving the support and votes of any American. And he is seeking them actively and he wants the vote of any American.

I think what his concern is and it's the concern of a lot of us, is the rise because of the economy of Americans who have to rely on subsistence to basically stay alive and live descent lives.

So it is the Obama economic policies that have caused this problem and he wants to go to having business creates jobs rather than government subsistence and government creating jobs.

COOPER: I mean, do you agree with Governor Romney when he said that 47 percent of the people view themselves as victims? That they don't take -- want to take responsibility for their lives?

MCCAIN: I don't think that is what he meant anymore than Barack Obama meant when he said that people cling to guns and bibles. There are things that people say (inaudible) statements every day.

I don't know if you remember when I said the fundamentals of our economy are strong even they we are in a fiscal crisis, my gosh and so I am confident that Mitt Romney cares about every American. He is obviously concerned about the growth of the welfare state. Many of us are.

COOPER: How concerned are you about the Romney campaign? Peggy Noonan recently made a comment that's getting a lot of attention and she said that she wrote a pre-withering critique of Romney's comments.

It's really his entire candidacy. I know you don't like being second guess when you were a candidate, but she called Romney too fatalistic, called on him to be more like Reagan and invited everyone to join him. She calls for a Republican intervention saying his campaign is incompetent. Do you agree with that?

MCCAIN: I never saw Peggy Noonan's name on the ballot, but the fact is that campaigns have ups and downs. These are a lot of back and forth. There is still I think a very close race. I might remind you in 2007 I was given up for dead politically.

There was nobody who thought we could get the nomination and I can't tell you the number of critics and second guessers that I had. And they were astonished when we came back from the dead.

So you're always going to have those people when a campaign hits a bump in the road who will be quick to jump on it. But frankly, I'm not sure Republicans help Republicans by making these kinds of comments to be honest with you.

COOPER: The newest line of attack for Mitt Romney, it should sound pretty familiar to you. You yourself talk about Senator Obama as intent on redistributing wealth. I think you called him the redistributionist in chief. The message didn't seem to take off then. Do you think it can work for Governor Romney now?

MCCAIN: I think that we get back really, Anderson, again to jobs and the economy, jobs and the economy. Jobs and the economy and what we want to do is ask people if they are better off now than they were four years ago.

But also we want to ask him or do you think you are going to be better off four years from now. A lot of these issues are important to certain segments like I'm glad and I believe you maybe that foreign policy has finally emerged as at least an issue to be discussed in this campaign. But it is really going to come down to jobs and the economy.

COOPER: Senator McCain, appreciate your time. Thank you.

MCCAIN: Thanks for having me on.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: There's obviously a lot more we're following tonight. Isha's here with the "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, 14 employees of the ATF and Justice Department are cited for possible disciplinary action for their role in the botched "Fast And Furious" gun trafficking operation in Mexico.

That is the recommendation in the Justice Department inspector general's report released today. Though two of those employees have now resigned. The report also found Attorney General Eric Holder had no knowledge of the operation until 2011 when a U.S. border agent was killed with one of the guns.

Chicago public school students returned to the classroom today after the teacher's union voted to suspend its strike.

A different type of labor dispute for American Airlines, pilots are calling in sick as they fight new contract rules. More than 300 flights have been cancelled since Sunday and more will be ax through October.

Anderson, a historic flight across the south, the space shuttle "Endeavour" bids farewell to Florida's Kennedy Space Center and begins a three-day journey to L.A. with a piggy back ride from a Jumbo 747.

It will dip to 1,500 feet at times offering great views to spectators on the ground. "Endeavour" will go on display at the California Science Museum and -- yes, it is so cool. People are getting really emotional.

COOPER: Yes, I was there for the last one. It was the first time I've seen it launched. It was just extraordinary. I feel so blessed to have seen it actually launching.

SESAY: You are so lucky.

COOPER: I am lucky.

SESAY: Yes, you are.

COOPER: And I'm lucky I work with you. Thank you very much, Isha. I'll talk to you in a bit.

Coming up, Amanda Knox's ex-boyfriend speaks out about the ordeal they both went through together in prison in Italy for murder. They spent six months in solitary confinement before they won their appeal and were finally released last year.

Raffaele Sollecito tells me how he got through it all, whether he and Amanda Knox are still in touch. My conversation with him ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Flames and fury, a battle between a fire and a tornado. A film scout captured all with his camera. Take a look at that. That's extraordinary. More of the video ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. In "Crime and Punishment" tonight, Amanda Knox's ex-boyfriend and co-defendant in a murder trial is talking for the first time about the case that made headlines around the world. Knox, of course, is the American student who was convicted in the stabbing death of her roommate in Italy in 2009. Rafael who had just started dating Amanda Knox was also convicted of the murder. His time in prison included six months in solitary confinement.

Both he and Knox were set free on appeal last year. Well, now Raffaele Sollecito is out with a new memoire that deals with the day that Meredith Kircher was found dead and with his time in prison and his relationship with Amanda Knox.

The book is called "Honor Bound, My Journey To Hell And Back With Amanda Knox." I spoke to him earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: When you were first called into the police, you and Amanda, you went in without an attorney. Everybody else who was called in brought an attorney. Did you not realize that you might be a suspect?

RAFFAELE SOLLECITO, AUTHOR, "HONOR BOUND": No, no one told us that we were suspected. At that time, we were completely -- so, we didn't know anything. I realized it too late.

I was just in the last questioning, and after two hours and three days, they were so aggressive and so overwhelming of me, I started to realize something was totally bad and wrong. But it was too late.

COOPER: One of the things when Amanda was questioned by police she ended up saying things, which kind of implicated her and implicated you. I mean, it sound as if maybe she had been there when Meredith Kurcher was killed. Explain to somebody who hasn't been through an interrogation how that can happen.

SOLLECITO: There are ten investigators who are aggressive and they push you saying you are a liar. You were just to me, saying you are stupid and you are covering for her. She will be back and you will never see her again. You fell in love, with a whore and they were aggressive.

And this is a detail, but it lasted almost ten hours in this way. After you are exhausted and you don't sleep, they threaten you saying you will -- you will be in jail for the rest of your life, you will never see your parents again and you give them whatever they want.

COOPER: When you were found guilty, I mean, did you really think this is it? Was there a moment where you kind of thought the appeals aren't going to work, I'm going to spend the rest of my life in jail?

SOLLECITO: No, I was almost hopeless but, I would never say that nothing would work. I also had the hope just I just told the truth after me. And say I have nothing. I have lost everything. The truth is more important than my life now because in any way my life is not worth of living without the truth.

COOPER: And that is why you wanted to write this book. Because Meredith Kircher's family was against the idea of the book being written, but for you why was it important for you to tell your story?

SOLLECITO: All the people understand follow the case to make people realize and understand the truth.

COOPER: We have a digital dashboard question from one of our viewers on Facebook. They wanted to know how much contact you had with Amanda's roommate, with Meredith Kircher? Did you know her well? Did you see her much?

SOLLECITO: Well, not so much because we just dated for eight days or nine days.

COOPER: I think that is one of the things a lot of people were surprised about. They kind of assumed you guys had been together for a long time and it was great love affair. You had only been together for eight or nine days with Amanda.

SOLLECITO: Yes, it sounds crazy but it is.

COOPER: You are still in touch with Amanda Knox?

SOLLECITO: Yes. We Skyped yesterday actually.

COOPER: You Skyped yesterday. What is that connection? What is that conversation like? I mean, you have been through something that nobody really else can imagine.

SOLLECITO: Our conversation we talk about family, relationship with friends. About movies, books, music, CD's anything. I mean, friends like we are good friends. We are now almost -- yes, we are almost a brother and sister. We have passed through a lot together.

COOPER: She is seeing somebody else you are not involved romantically.

SOLLECITO: No, she has a boyfriend now. I'm moving on with my life separately.

COOPER: Prosecutors in Italy have said that they want to continue forward with the case though. That they want to try to overturn the verdict, are you concerned about that?

SOLLECITO: I will defend myself until the end.

COOPER: Raffaele, I appreciate it. Thank you.

SOLLECITO: Thank you so much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: The book again is called, "Honor Bound". Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, today wrapped up their nine-day South East Asia tour as word broke that yet another magazine has published topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge sunbathing in a private villa. We've got new development ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Let's get another check in with Isha in the "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

SESAY: Anderson, Colorado prosecutors have filed a motion to add ten new charges in the case against James Holmes who's accused of killing 12 people in a movie theatre and wounding dozens more. The additional charges would bring the total count Holmes is facing to 152.

France is stepping up security at some of its embassies in Muslim countries after a French magazine known to outrageous satire today published obscene cartoons of a figure depicting the Prophet Mohammed.

The magazine's director said the images were meant to comment on the anti-Islam film that's ignited deadly protests in at least 20 countries.

Those topless photographs of Kate Middleton sunbathing are still getting a lot of exposure despite the royal family's legal actions. Now a Swedish celebrity gossip magazine has published the photos and a magazine in Denmark plans to do the same by week's end.

Anderson, fire meet tornado. A location scout shot this amazing video in Australia. He was filming a small fire when the tornado touched down on the blaze.

COOPER: That is crazy.

SESAY: Isn't that crazy?

COOPER: Yes, I have never seen anything like that. It's amazing.

SESAY: It's like something out of an Indiana Jones movie.

COOPER: It is, yes. All right, Isha, thanks.

Time now for the shot, it's the story of a little kid named Easton who was losing his first tooth on his first day of first grade. We've all been there. So his parents tied some dental floss to it as parents will do and take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I saw it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: That is kind of gross.

COOPER: Why? You didn't do that kind of stuff?

SESAY: No, not in England.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is it?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: My tooth fell out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you serious? It is OK. Let me look.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Did you not do that kind of stuff?

SESAY: No, I didn't tie -- no, nothing to doorknobs or motorized cars. No.

COOPER: You lived a sheltered childhood. Playing with the tooth until it finally came out. We have to go. We'll see you tomorrow.

Coming up, the competition is fierce at the goldfish beauty pageant. You have to see this. The "Ridiculist" is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." Tonight, we would like to introduce you to the concept of the goldfish beauty pageant. I'm not kidding. This is a real thing. China has hosted the first ever international goldfish championship drawing 3,000 fish from 14 different countries.

Yes, it's basically a giant warehouse full of fishbowls. Now you might wondering what exactly are the components of a goldfish beauty pageant? Well, the most important part I supposed would be the not floating belly up to the top of the bowl part.

But it's actually quite a meticulous judging process. Now if you don't believe me just ask the guy with the most job title, goldfish beauty pageant judge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We judge goldfish mainly by five criteria, breed, body shape, swimming gesture, color, which is very important and overall impression.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Yes, the all important pageant criteria of body shape. I for one think it is high time that goldfish develops some body image issues just like everybody else. Frankly, they've been getting by in their personalities for far too long.

Some of them are just letting themselves go. Take a look at this pageant fish. That thing weighs almost 4 pounds. Not a standard goldfish you win by throwing ping pong balls at a carnival. The judge says in the 40 or 50 years he has been raising goldfish, well, I guess, that is one way to spend your time.

It is the biggest one he has ever seen. There are, of course, few problems inherent to the goldfish beauty pageant, the obvious ones. The fins get in the way of their tiny sashes. There is no good way to keep the tiaras from falling off.

Also the high heels present something of a challenge, but the main problem is there is no interview portion. As we all remember from the 2007 Miss Teen USA pageant, yes, I'm going to show that again. The interview portion is when the really amazing and wonderful stuff happens.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some of the people in our nation don't have that, I believe that our education such as South Africa and Iraq and everywhere such as and our education over here in the U.S. should help South Africa and Iraq and Asian countries so that we will be able to build up our future for our children.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Yes, I know she's moving on, but I haven't. So who won the goldfish beauty pageant? Who cares? I don't actually know. There were bunch of categories. It's not like one fish did the tearful slow wave with a bunch of roses or anything.

Anyway, as far as we're concerned, they're really all winners. That does it for us. We'll see you again one hour from now, another edition of 360 at 10 p.m. Eastern. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts now.