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Interview With Trent Lott; Fiscal Cliff Compromise?

Aired December 5, 2012 - 22:00   ET


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

And we begin tonight with breaking news on the looming fiscal cliff and signs of a potential, potential thaw. For the past few nights, we have been telling you about the frustrating lack of progress toward a deal to avert a deal on automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that kick in less than four weeks from now.

Poll after poll shows the American people want compromise but there weren't many signs that was going to happen, nothing was getting done. In a CNN/ORC poll taken a few weeks ago, 67 percent said Washington officials would behave like spoiled children in the fiscal cliff discussions. Only 28 percent said they would behave like adults.

Well, tonight there are signs that maybe, just maybe, some adult behavior might be prevail and that a compromise might actually be reached.

Joining me now is senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash, chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin, and CNN senior political analyst David Gergen.

Jessica Yellin, what's the latest? What are you hearing?


They are a long way from a deal, but late today Speaker Boehner and President Obama did speak to one another on the phone. Now, this is an important development because it's the first time they have talked in a week about the fiscal cliff. I am told, though, that there was no real progress in negotiations.

In this sense, there was no breakthrough on that central point of tax rates. As you know, President Obama insists there is no deal unless the GOP agrees to raise rates on the top 2 percent of earners. The GOP says that's a nonstarter and the two men have not moved from that basic position.

Now, all of this comes at the same time that Treasury Secretary Geithner also said for the first time the administration would be willing to go over the fiscal cliff if the GOP does not agree to raise those rates. This was Treasury Secretary Geithner earlier today on CNBC. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Is the administration prepared today go over the fiscal cliff?

TIMOTHY GEITHNER, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Oh, absolutely. Again, there is no prospects for an agreement that doesn't involve those rates going up on the top 2 percent of the wealthiest Americans. Remember, it's only 2 percent. And remember all those Americans too get a tax cut under that framework on the first $250,000 of their income. So, in some sense, it's a tax cut for all Americans.


YELLIN: Bottom line, Anderson, we're talking today, but we're still at stalemate.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, it's a sign, Jessica and Dana, of just how lack -- how little progress there's been that a phone call is big news between these two.

Dana, we're also hearing some hints of some movement among Senate Republicans, Tom Coburn, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe. What are you hearing? How significant is it?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's significant for a couple reasons.

One is, you're right, that these all together three Republicans in different ways suggested they would be OK with what most Republicans are saying that they're not OK with, which is raising tax rates for the wealthiest.

Tom Coburn is probably the most conservative, because he's the most fiscally -- or conservative in general, not just fiscally, the fact he broke with his party. The others have sort of gone along with this in some way, shape or form in the past. But I think it's significant because the way these things kind of tend to go is that there is a little bit of a crack and then that tends to send other cracks into what is now a solid opposition of Republicans to raising rates on the wealthy.

We will see how that goes. However, I think it's really important to underscore we're talking about Senate Republicans. And the key thing we have to watch is House Republicans because if something can't get through the House, which still has a very big majority of Republicans, then it can't get through Congress. Those are the class of Republicans we really need to watch.

COOPER: David Gergen, what do you make of this situation? Do you think we're any closer to a deal?


I think, listen, the political theater of all of this certainly suggests we're a long, long way from there. When Erskine Bowles says there's only a one in three chance we will be successful at avoiding the fiscal cliff, you have to pay attention.

When Geithner and other Democrats are saying, we're willing to go over the cliff and that's a growing sentiment within the party, you have to think, wow, this is really going to happen. But if you look at the underlying conversation between them on the substance of it, here we have a Republican Party that for 22 years has uniformly opposed tax increases.

Now John Boehner has said not only we're putting $800 billion on the table, but we're going to aim it at the rich. The rich are the ones that will pay. That's what he said today. Yesterday, President Obama said something that was very, very important. He offered the outlines of a deal that might work with Republicans. And that's something we talked about on your show a couple nights ago, Anderson.

That is raise the rates now and then engage in conversations next year on tax discussions and loopholes and that's called sort of -- that's called base broadening. And base broadening in the past has been attached to lowering the rates, lowering the rates. That's what happened in 1986 with tax reform.

What the president is saying, there is a way possibly we could raise the rates temporarily, but through further reform that you guys say you're interested in, we could lower them back down again next year.

COOPER: David, you have been pretty critical of the president and fellow Democrats. Do you still think they're overplaying their hand here?

GERGEN: I think that there are people around the president who are more interested or at least have a strong interest in using this as a way to humiliate Republicans, as a way to really push them to the brink, as opposed to negotiating.

I think we will have to wait to see how it plays out. I do think what we have seen with second-term presidents in the past, and the great scholar Richard Neustadt wrote about this a long time ago -- there is a danger in second terms of hubris, of excessive pride in the White House. I think we're some seeing hints of that, but I think it's unfair to totally label it that way.

Let's see this play out a little more. I believe they have enough to go into private negotiations right now. If both sides continue to refuse, I do think it is the president's responsibility. He is the leader of all the people. I think the country is getting tired of watching two sides say, you go first, no, no, you go first. It's sort of Alphonse and Gaston. They need to get off that, sit down and get something worked out.

COOPER: Jessica, from the White House's perspective, though, I guess they feel they were burned before and they're trying a different strategy this time, is that right? YELLIN: True. You remember last summer during the debt talks the president was accused of negotiating, putting his compromise position on the table first, of selling out Democrats, of negotiating against himself, and so he's doing the opposite this time, doing exactly what he was criticized for not doing last time and he's being slammed for it as well.

White House officials shrug their shoulders every time we go to them asking if they're engaging in overreach. One of the reasons they say they're not negotiating with the Republicans on the rest of the issues, why won't they put this question of tax rates aside and then discuss everything else and come back to tax rates, they say it's because everything else is easy.

They have gone through all of this once during the debt talk discussions and they know how this will get done. It can be done very quickly. The one issue for them is the tax rates. And so they say, if the Republicans break on that, when they break on it, they believe they will, then everything else gets done very quickly. Of course, the Republicans see it differently.

I will just add, Anderson, quickly on that point David Gergen just made, the White House explicitly came out today saying, point blank, they do want a two-step process for tax reform, raise the rates on the top 2 percent to 98 -- to the Clinton levels now and let next year be a time for negotiating rates for the future and maybe everybody could lower the rates for everyone during that time.

COOPER: Dana, how much of this do you think is just public posturing and kind of bloviating on partisan cable channels? Because it does seem like there's a lot of that going on.

BASH: Of course. So much of that is public posturing and bloviating.

But I think that the difference between what we're seeing now and what we have seen in past high-stakes negotiations like this is you have the public posturing, the bloviating and then you have the private, OK, guys, let's roll up our sleeves and like really talk about what's going on.

By all accounts, that's not happening right now. Just like you said, the fact you said that it's news the president and the speaker had their first phone conversation which got nowhere in a week is really amazing and it speaks to the lack of the real conversations going on behind the scenes.

But I will say that, you know, back to what David and Jessica were saying, David particularly about the fact that -- the question about whether the White House and Democrats in general are overreaching, look, when Timothy Geithner says today that he's willing to go over the cliff, he's saying it because, yes, it's posturing. But he's also saying it because he means it.

And Democrats have been telling us this for a long time, for months and months and months before this was even close to the front burner, this issue. They say they realize that they have the leverage because if at the end of the day, Republicans don't agree to anything, all tax rates will go up and they firmly believe Republicans are going to get blamed.

It was very obvious listening to the speaker today, I was at that press conference talking to him, that they understand that they're losing the message war on this. That's why he made a point to say, it's not that we're not for raising taxes on the wealthy. It's just a difference over rates.

COOPER: David, it's so interesting how things have changed. I spoke with George Mitchell last night on the program. And I'm about to speak with Senator Trent Lott.

Bought have written op-eds. In talking to them, it's like talking to adults because they're talking about, you know, the way it was even five or six years ago, where people actually had meetings with each other on opposite sides, and you know, knew each other and didn't just kind of disappear to their opposite corners and fly away to their home districts. They actually compromised.

It's amazing to me how much things have changed just in the last couple of years.

GERGEN: It's true, Anderson. It's dramatic.

And I think there's a lot of blame to go around here. I don't want to try to push it one way or the other, but seeing Bob Dole on the floor yesterday of the Congress, on the disability question and remembering how Bob Dole and George Mitchell, how much they respected each other, how much they worked together, how much they both wanted to negotiate, there was a sense in the Senate especially, but even in the House some years ago, that the purpose of being there was to make progress for the country.

Yes, you made your arguments loud and clear. But at end of the day you sat down and negotiated it out because that's what the country needed. Now there's this -- there's this willingness to keep trying to pin the political blame on the other side, keep trying to push the other side, making sure they get the blame if this thing goes down, rather than sort of saying, how do we make sure we don't go down?

COOPER: Yes. David, we will leave it there. Dana Bash, Jessica Yellin, appreciate your reporting tonight.

So signs there could be progress, if far from a done deal. As we mentioned, the treasury secretary said today, the Obama administration is absolutely willing to go over the fiscal cliff if Republicans don't agree to raising taxes on the rich.

All this week, we have been focusing on what it is about this Congress and this administration that makes it seem like compromise is a dirty word, certainly, the extremes in the party that seem to view it that way.

We have been talking, as I mentioned, with past congressional leaders who have sat down at the negotiating table, facing sharp differences with the other political party in the past and still managing to come out with a deal.

Today, I spoke a short while ago with former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, author of "Herding Cats: A Life in Politics."

Listen to him.


COOPER: Senator Lott, you and Senator Mitchell, who we spoke with yesterday on the program, both wrote op-eds diagnosing dysfunction in Washington right now and offering some solutions.

You said one solution was for Congress to start holding routine committee hearings, marking up bills, voting on legislation. I think most Americans would agree with that, but be surprised to hear, I mean, that's their job. I think most of us, you know, would assume, isn't that their job description?

TRENT LOTT (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Well, they have slowly slipped away from that over the last four years, I guess, particularly the last two years.

The Senate hasn't passed a budget resolution in several years now. They don't do their appropriations bills before the end of the fiscal year, not even before the end of the calendar year. They haven't had a traditional conference between the House and Senate in at least a year.

COOPER: I mean, I don't want to sound hysterical, but that just sounds crazy to me.

LOTT: It does to me, too. Frankly, it's one of the simple things that they can do that would be a solution to the gridlock and the partisanship we have now.

I think if they would go back to the old way of getting things done, carefully, systematically, it would really help them.

COOPER: Here we are -- to your point, here we are at the edge of a fiscal cliff, and Congress is still taking three-day weekends and planning on a holiday break.

LOTT: You know, I did an interview last night. The moderator of a panel I was on was Mark Shields. And he asked me, if you could just recommend one thing other than going back to what we call regular order, what would it be?

My recommendation to the Congress and to the president would be, quit campaigning, quit having press conferences. Sit down at a round table and negotiate a deal. There's a little bit of a revisionist history where we talk about how it was so good in the old days. It was tough then, too. But we got it done. One of the ways we did it, we quit running around, talking at each other, and sat down and talked with each other. COOPER: Your op-ed, the headline was Washington lost its love of the deal, and it really does seem like that, that deal-making, that compromise, even just talking to each other like civilized human beings doesn't seem like that's happening at all.

LOTT: It's not happening.

And, you know, Anderson, I was always a conservative Republican and I had very strong beliefs about certain things we should or should not do, but I also thought that I was sent to Washington by the people of my state, not to make a statement, but to make a difference and try to get results.

When you're dealing with 100 United States senators, let alone 435 House members, you're not going to get it all the way you want it. The president's going to have to give some, the president is going to have to show leadership. The leaders in the Congress have to step up.

Now, it's kind of dangerous because, you know, the extremes of both parties, they're not looking for compromise. They're looking for a win on their point of view. But you have to be prepared to give some. You have to be prepared to push to get something done. And, if you do that, if you make up your mind I'm going to get this done, you will.

COOPER: And when you were leading the Senate, you spoke to Senator Daschle all the time.

LOTT: I had a red phone on my desk. Sometimes, the problems in Washington or in the Congress and the administration -- there are staff people -- so I had a red phone where when I picked up that phone, it rang only one place, on Tom Daschle's desk.

When he picked it up, I knew I was talking to Tom Daschle, not his staff, not my staff. Sometimes, he and I had to lead when our conferences were not ready to move. I remember one time I called him, I stepped out from a conference meeting and I said, Tom, you know we need to do this. I'm having problems. He said, I am, too. I said, let's do it. He said, let's go. I will see you on the floor.

We went up on the floor of the Senate, we called the bill up, and we passed it by sundown. You got to do that every now and then, even though you might catch a little flak from some of the people within your conference. It's called leadership, Anderson.

COOPER: So, what for you do you think was the moment that this changed, that compromise became a dirty word? Democrats point to the Tea Party and say, on the right, that's it. Republicans will say on the left, there's extremes as well.

LOTT: Yes, yes, there are extremes on both sides. I used to get hammered for being -- I was accused of being a compromiser or a deal- maker. I didn't know those were dirty words.

But it didn't just happen overnight. It wasn't an event. It's been an evolutionary thing. Anderson, a lot of things contributed to it. Tom Daschle, my good friend, who was the Democratic leader when I was the majority leader for Republicans, says the biggest problem is the airplane, because members, they don't bring their families up here anymore.

They come in on a Monday night or a Tuesday morning and all they want to know is, what time can I leave Thursday? You can't legislate in 48 hours a week. You can't legislate when you're in sessions two weeks and off a week, or three weeks and off a week. Schedules don't match.

Number one, it's part of the times we're in. When I came up here, we didn't have cell phones, fax machines, computers. So we spent time together. We knew each other, we liked each other across party lines. That doesn't happen now. Members run away now. Part of it is, frankly, Anderson, 24/7 news.

You make a mistake in this city now and you're toast for days. So, it's all of the above. But it can change. Anderson, once people make up their mind, look, we are going to start doing things a little differently, we're going to go back and do some of the things that worked -- part of it is generational, perhaps, and maybe with the next generation it will be different.

COOPER: Well, I would just say on a personal note, I wouldn't sell yourself short. It's good to have people there who know how to compromise, who know how to get things done and who have experience there. So, it's good to talk to you.


COOPER: It's good to talk to you, Senator. Thank you.

LOTT: OK. Appreciate it.


COOPER: Well, let us know what you think about this. Follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. I am tweeting about this already tonight.

We also have more breaking news ahead, a startling report from NBC tonight, the Syrian military loading chemical weapons into a bomb and awaiting orders from President Assad to use them. That's the concern among U.S. officials, the belief that has happened. We will talk it over with Fran Townsend, Bob Baer and Barbara Starr next.


COOPER: Welcome back.

We have important breaking news to tell you about right now. NBC News is reporting U.S. officials say their worst fears have been confirmed, that the Syrian military has loaded chemical weapons inside bombs. NBC says those same officials say that Bashar al-Assad's forces are now awaiting final orders to use those loaded missiles against Syria's own people. This video posted online, which we should say we can't independently verify, purports to show Syrian missiles that have been modified to carry chemical and biological weapons. Obviously, this is a sobering development in a situation that seems to be getting worse by the day.

Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins me now, along with CNN contributor and former CIA officer Bob Baer, and on the phone CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend.

Barbara, I know you're working to confirm this NBC report. How much would this development change the situation? If U.S. military is going to act to prevent Assad from gassing his own people, it would seem, if they loaded this stuff into weapons, the time to do it would be at hand.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, I can tell you, Anderson, if this turns out to be true, even if not, the U.S. military, the CIA in a full-blown effort to collect every piece of intelligence they can about what is going on with the chemical weapons and develop a targeting strategy if it were to come to that.

So, what are we talking about here, Anderson? They have to put together targeting options for the president. That involves the latest intelligence. Where are the chemical weapons in Syria? What would you do to attack them? What kind of U.S. bomber aircraft would you use? Do you know precisely where they are? How will you get that bomber aircraft past Syrian air defenses?

I think it's very safe to assume the neighboring countries, Israel, Turkey, Jordan, their intelligence services also working this problem around the clock. There is a lot we know. There is growing concern by the hour in the region, because if the Syrians use these kind of weapons against their own people, catastrophic.

But if they also use them, these weapons, the plume clouds, if you will, can cross borders, terrorists could get ahold of this kind of material if it's now out of secure locations and take it across borders into Israel, Jordan or Turkey. It just doesn't get more serious than this.

COOPER: Bob, you have obviously been looking into how catastrophic these weapons could be.

BOB BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Anderson, look at it this way. A .122-millimeter artillery round with mixed sarin landing in the middle of a city will immediately kill 18,000 to 20,000 people, and that's in the first seconds.

COOPER: One round?

BAER: One round. And the dispersion on that could be -- it depends on the wind, but you could take out let's say a city like Homs. You could take out a third of the city in the first couple hours. Anderson, this is a highly toxic liquid. It's a persistent agent. It's absolutely, completely deadly. Keep in mind that if, in fact, they mix the sarin -- it's a binary agent -- it doesn't do you any good to bomb these sites because it will just disperse the chemicals all around. If they're sitting in cities or near cities, it will have the same amount of damage. So, we are faced with a terrible dilemma.

Of course, if you could just take one of these rounds and put it on artillery, you could fire it into anywhere you want, into Israel, for instance. And considering that al Qaeda is on the ground in Syria, there's all sort of disastrous scenarios. They're remote, but they're still a possibility.

COOPER: We don't want to speculate too much. This is an NBC report that they have been loaded into bombs.

We haven't been able to independently confirm it at this point.

Fran, from your experience in the White House, what kind of planning goes on at a point like this? Are the president's military advisers presenting him with options? And to Bob's point, if you strike these targets from the air, it doesn't help. It can disperse something like sarin.


Senior military officers have confirmed to me what they told us months ago, and that is this sort of contingency planning, the planning for how do you secure what may be as many as four dozen chemical weapon sites in Syria, what does that take, what sort of coordination with our military allies and NATO would it take?

What about the neighbors and what will they contribute? There's been a good deal of military planning, training and coordination that's gone on over the last six to 12 months for this. Now, that's all in preparation for exactly what Barbara and Bob are telling us now.

That is, now have you to understand given the current intelligence, and there is a real priority on collecting current real- time intelligence to understand, now how do you take those plans that have been working and address the immediate threat? That's the challenge. You bet that the president's military advisers, along with his national security staff, are working to present him options.

COOPER: Bob, I think back to kill my entry-level political science classes in college where you talk about the rational actor model. And assuming that Bashar al-Assad is a rational actor, and even if he thinks he may lose and may need a place to go some day like Russia or be able to live in exile somewhere, just rationally speaking, it would not make sense for him to use these weapons, would it?

BAER: Well, we have to look at the generals around him. He's not alone in this. He's not a single man making these decisions. There are a group of Alawite generals -- they're from his own promotion -- which are controlling this war. They are not being offered a way out. You know, and the way they look at it, I have spent a lot of time with these people. They're virtually a cult. They think their survival's at stake.

Even if the United States were to enter in any sort of -- you know, to go in and get the weapons, that would be a better option for them than to losing to the rebels who they consider terrorists, fundamentalists, whatever you want, and their chances are dimming by the day and they're very desperate and they are this closed-in mentality. It's unpredictable exactly what they're going to do right now.

COOPER: Barbara, I guess to Bob's earlier point, even if the weapons aren't used, if the chemicals are mixed and loaded into delivery devices, that's a concern because, as Bob said, there's al Qaeda groups on the ground, there's jihadist groups on the ground. And if the control over these weapons then is lost, who knows where they could end up. What's the U.S. military posture in the region, in terms of aircraft carriers, fighter jets, the ability for the U.S. actually to project power into this?

STARR: Well, the U.S. does have an aircraft carrier last time we checked nearby in the Red Sea -- pardon me -- amphibious warships with Marines on board in the Red Sea. They could move north. There are aircraft throughout the Persian Gulf region, fighters and bombers. There are aircraft carriers in the North Arabian Sea on station for missions over Afghanistan.

All of these things could be brought to bear. But I think what the U.S. is hoping at this point is that very rapidly somehow they can mobilize support amongst the neighboring countries to get Assad to back away from this.

But Bob's point is absolutely key. Assad could go into asylum tomorrow, the crisis would not end. If you do not have an orderly transition of power, if you have no assurance on who's in charge of Syria the day after Assad leaves, this problem of security of the chemical weapons perhaps becomes even more dire.

COOPER: It's sobering stuff, and especially Bob's assessment of the power of just one shell in a city like Homs.

Bob, I appreciate you being on, Barbara Starr, Fran Townsend.

We will continue to follow it as well.

Up next, while lawmakers have been battling over the fiscal cliff crisis, they did manage to find time to vote on a treaty that would have protected disabled people around the world. It's modeled on the Americans With Disabilities Act. But 38 Republican senators blocked it with their votes. You might ask, why would they do that? Well, we will tell you ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: An arrest in the death of a New York man who was pushed onto the tracks and killed by a subway. Tonight on 360 I'm going to talk to another man who jumped onto the tracks once and saved a man's life three years ago. He says all the criticism for those who didn't help this time is misguided. We're going to hear why, coming up.


COOPER: Back to Capitol Hill. This time "Keeping Them Honest," not trying to take sides, pulling for Democrats or Republicans. There are other cable channels for that. Our focus tonight is just reporting, exposing facts and trying to expose hypocrisy where we find it.

Yesterday, the Senate blocked a U.N. treaty aimed at protecting the rights of disabled people around the world. A hundred and twenty- five countries are ratifying it. It's modeled on the American with disabilities act which the U.S. passed 22 years ago. But 38 U.S. Republican senators voted against the U.N. treaty, leaving it five votes short of ratification.

Not even a rare visit by the former Republican senator, Bob Dole, just before the vote made a difference. He's 89 now, appeared frail in his wheelchair and Dole who's, as you know, disabled from war injuries, came to the chamber to show his support for this treaty.

Rick Santorum, the former senator and Republican presidential candidate, led the charge against the treaty. He and some other Republicans warned that it would jeopardize U.S. sovereignty and personal freedoms. Listen.


RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER SENATOR FROM PENNSYLVANIA: The problem is, there's a provision in this international law, which we would be adopting if the Senate ratifies this, that puts the state, the state in the position of determining what is in the best interest of a disabled child.

SEN. MICHAEL LEE (R), UTAH: I simply cannot support a treaty that threatens the right of parents to raise their children with the constant looming threat of state interference.

SEN. JIM INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: The treaty could be used to interfere with the ability of parents with disabled children to decide what action is in the best interests of their children.


COOPER: Well, that all sounds very alarming, but "Keeping Them Honest," it's just not true.

The treaty does create a committee that can issue nonbinding recommendations on how nations can do better on disability rights, but it doesn't -- I repeat does not -- require any changes to existing state or federal laws. In July former Republican attorney general, Dick Thornburgh, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee saying that the treaty's provisions, and I quote, "protect U.S. sovereignty and recognize the convention as a nondiscrimination instrument similar to our own Americans with Disabilities Act." In other words, the U.N. treaty can't force the U.S. to do anything. Nothing at all.

But that fact didn't stop Rick Santorum, whose 4-year-old daughter is disabled, from pushing his own storyline and, frankly, twisting the facts along the way. Listen.


SANTORUM: This is a direct assault on us and our family, to hand over to the state the ability to make medical determinations and see what is in the best interests of the child and not look at the wonderful gift that every child is.


COOPER: After the treaty was voted down, John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and an advocate of the treaty, said, and I quote, "This is one of the saddest days I've seen in almost 28 years in the Senate. It needs to be a wake-up call about a broken institution that's letting down the American people. We need to fix this place."

Well, today he addressed Mr. Santorum's claims.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I have great respect for both Rick and his wife, Karen, and their daughter and their family. He's a strong family man. But he either simply hasn't read the treaty or doesn't understand it or he was just not factual in what he said, because the United States has absolutely zero, zero -- I mean zero -- ability, to order or to tell or to -- I mean, they can suggest, but they have no legal capacity to tell the United States to do anything under this treaty. Nothing.


COOPER: Well, tonight many disability rights advocates are saying that politics trumped the welfare of the disabled everywhere.

Seven-term Democratic congressman Jim Langevin of Rhode Island is among the many supporters of the U.N. treaty. He's the first quadriplegic person to serve in the U.S. House.

Before yesterday's vote he talked with former Senator Bob Dole in the Senate chamber. The congressman joins me now.

You voted for this treaty. You joined Senators McCain and Kerry earlier this week, calling for its ratification. Why do you think it's so important? REP. JIM LANGEVIN (D), RHODE ISLAND: First, Anderson, thank you for having me on the program. And thank you for paying attention to this very important issue.

This issue is important, not just for people here in the United States, but most especially for people around the world who don't yet enjoy the same protections that people -- disabled people like myself enjoy here in the United States because of the passage with -- of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

That law has really transformed the lives of people with disabilities, and I can speak to that firsthand. I was injured in 1980. I became paralyzed after a gun accident and I know what the law was like -- what the world was like, both before and after the ADA. And I can tell you, it's remarkably different.


COOPER: Let me...

LANGEVIN: ... it's just a shame the Senate couldn't pass that measure yesterday. But I do want to thank Senator Kerry and Senator McCain, Senator Harkin for their extraordinary leadership and everything they did to get it to this point. And the bipartisan support, the 61 senators who did vote in favor of it.

COOPER: But look, some people look at -- look at the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and they say if the U.S. has what's considered by many to be the gold standard of legislation in this area, why do we even need a treaty from the U.N.?

LANGEVIN: Because we're, in many ways, endorsing the work of the U.N. in trying to spread that message of equality and protection of the rights of people with disabilities around the world. And how can we, in a sense, show leadership in this area if we're not able to and willing to join with the other nations around the world who have supported this -- this treaty?

COOPER: So for those who say -- for those who say this violates U.S. sovereignty because they argue it could somehow force changes in U.S. law, is that even possible? Because I don't see how that's possible.

LANGEVIN: Not even possible. Not even possible. In fact, the Senate's "advice and consent" wording made it very clear that -- that it does not trump U.S. law. In fact, there's a U.S. Supreme Court decision, I believe it was in 2004, that said such statements by the Senate are just positive.

So, it would give no standing to anyone in U.S. courts to sue a state, or federal courts, and absolutely does not trump the constitution or any U.S. law.

In many ways, it is a standard that we want other nations to -- to aspire to, if you will. And we are setting the standards by -- with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. But it's even -- it makes the more -- the treaty have -- making the rights of people with disabilities even more relevant and more clear by endorsing a treaty that is designed to give the same protections around the world that we enjoy here in the United States.

COOPER: Yes. Congressman, I appreciate your time tonight. And again, we're not reporting on this based on politics, just looking at facts here, and the facts that were being used against this were just incorrectly used. They just -- they just weren't true. Congressman, appreciate your time tonight.

No end to the violent protests in Egypt tonight. We're learning President Mohamed Morsi is preparing to address his country. The latest on that coming right up.


COOPER: Police announced an arrest in the deadly subway altercation in New York City. Up next, you're going to hear from a man who risked his own life to save a man who fell onto the subway tracks a few years ago. The question is, would you be able to do the same thing? We'll be right back.


COOPER: Police in New York announcing an arrest in a crime that's really shocked this city and much of the country. Thirty-year- old Naeem Davis is now facing murder charges for shoving another man in front of an oncoming train.

The arrest is doing little to quiet questions about why those in the station didn't try to do more or do anything to help lift him off the tracks.

A freelance photographer on the scene shot this photo for "The New York Post" -- that's the cover. It showed the victim after it was too late to get out of the train's way. The photographer says he was trying to use his flash to alert the train's driver while others ran for station workers.

Another photo from "The New York Post" shows the man on tracks with the subway in sight, perhaps giving bystanders enough time to help.

Our next guest says he understands what's going through a lot of people's minds in a moment like that. In 2009 Chad Lindsey jumped onto the New York City subway tracks and rescued a man who passed out and fell off the platform. He joins me now.

Chad, thanks for being here. What you did is amazing. There's been a lot of criticism of not only the photographer but other people on the platform. You say that's misguided. Why?

CHAD LINDSEY, RESCUED MAN FROM SUBWAY TRACKS: Well, because they weren't there. I think we do a lot of quarterback backing from the couch. I mean, you know, we don't know what happened. That's a still shot. You know, how do you know how far away he was? How do you know how -- and also people have different reflexes. And you don't know what they are until they're tested.

COOPER: I found that in war zones. You never know how people are going to react. Some people you think are going to rise to the occasion, do not. Some people who you think are going to shirk away do rise to the occasion.

LINDSEY: I'm a trained dancer and actor. When someone falls, I catch them. He's a trained photographer. You know, so you don't know what -- you do what your muscles are trained to do. And that may sound like an excuse, and maybe it is, but it's not our job to judge his actions. It's our job to control our own, you know.

COOPER: You also say that the track is much deeper than a lot of people think. And it's not so easy to just like...

LINDSEY: You know, it's deeper than it looks. If there's the edge, it's then cut away. So if you're up on it, there's nothing to brace against, which I didn't know until I tried to press myself up out of there. It's dirty. It's slippery. It's greasy dirt. So it's not just dusty the way it looks.

COOPER: You were also sort of confident in your own knowledge of the subway tracks, because I mean, you knew where the third rail is. Like I look -- I ride the subway every day. I don't think I know where the third rail is.

LINDSEY: Yes, I'm a bit of a train guy, so I know how they're built and what it looks like and where things go. Although I learned something new today, because of this, which is that if you run to the end of the track there are ladders, which I guess I've seen. I just never thought of it. But if you run in the direction -- run away from the train, that there's a ladder at the end, which is helpful, I think, although there's lots of things that could go wrong there, too. So ultimately, train safety is your best bet.

COOPER: There's another photo that I just want to show our viewers of when Mr. Han fell on the tracks. And it doesn't look like the train is that close. It seems like there may have been time to help.


COOPER: Again...

LINDSEY: If that's the case, then we've got something else here, Mr. Anderson Cooper, which is we need to decide as Americans, as human beings, whether we're going to be in a moment or whether we're going to take a picture of it.

COOPER: Right.

LINDSEY: And again, this is not to throw blame back on the photographer, but there were lots of people on the platform. And there were lots of people in the platform when I was in that same situation, and a lot of them backed up against the wall or ran for the station door. And our culture is obsessed with proving we were there, so I'm going to post that on Facebook and I'm going to put this on...

COOPER: That's more true than ever. And I think you raise a really important point, which is there is this whole instant desire. Rather than have a real experience or be in the moment, people just want to document it, take a picture of it, and post it later. And I think we see that in a lot of different cases.

We've got to go because we're -- we're running short on time. But I really appreciate you being with us.

LINDSEY: My pleasure.

COOPER: Amazing what you did years ago. Thank you so much.

LINDSEY: Thanks.

COOPER: All right. Up next, find out why a radio station is apologizing after an incident linked to Prince William's wife, Kate. The royal mom debate. We'll be right back.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Deb Feyerick with a "360 News & Business Bulletin."

Fugitive software mogul John McAfee has been arrested by Guatemalan authorities. That's according to the country's interior ministry. He's accused of being in the Central American country illegally. A government spokesman said he'll likely be returned to Belize tomorrow. It is the latest twist in a bizarre saga.

Police in Belize are eager to question McAfee in the shooting death of his neighbor, a fellow American ex-pat. McAfee says he's being persecuted by the Belize government. He's been on the run since the killing last month.

And chaos in Cairo. Protests continue outside the presidential palace. The health ministry reports at least four people dead and more than 270 injured. Sometime in the next few hours, President Mohamed Morsi is expected to address the nation. Demonstrators are upset with Morsi's power grab last month.

And massive job cuts at Citigroup. Eleven thousand jobs set to be eliminated in an effort to trim costs. Citi will also consolidate or close 84 bank branches in the U.S. and other countries.

And an Australian radio station has apologized after making a prank call to the hospital where Prince William's pregnant wife, Catherine, is being treated for acute morning sickness. Two DJs eventually got through to Kate's private nurse after claiming to be Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles -- Anderson.

COOPER: Deb, thanks. "The Connection" tonight, a new way to use social media to find homes for pets in need. The Pics for Pets app allows users to browse through photos of animals at shelters across the country, where they either start the adoption process or share photos with friends. It's a cool idea.

With the app, you can also use your cell phone's camera to take photos of pets in shelters, share them. It even offers tips on getting the cutest shot. When the photos go viral, Pics for Pets will make a donation to the shelter. The more shares, the more cash for supplies like food, bedding and toys.

We'll be right back. "The RidicuList" is next.


COOPER: Time now for "The RidicuList." And tonight, I'm proud to present to you a very important message from the esteemed former senator from Wyoming, Mr. Alan Simpson.

Now, this requires your full attention. It is a message from one of the country's most highly respected elder statesman, directed to the youth of America.


ALAN SIMPSON, FORMER SENATOR: Stop Instagraming your breakfast and tweeting your first-world problems and getting on YouTube so you can see "Gangnam Style."

(MUSIC: "Gangnam Style")


COOPER: Normally I would say that when former senator Alan Simpson does it, it probably means that "Gangnam Style" has officially jumped the shark, but I think the dancing can of soda next to him kind of saves it. It adds kind of a fresh twist.

Oh, and there's more.


SIMPSON: Start using those precious social media skills to go out and sign people up on this baby, three people a week, let it grow. And don't forget: take part or get taken apart. Boy, these old coots will clean out the treasury before you get there.


COOPER: So it's a video for a group called the Can Kicks Back, a nonpartisan campaign by young people to fix the national debt. And I think they're totally onto something with this video. I feel like any time you get to hear Alan Simpson say "these old coots" and talk about Instagraming your breakfast, it not only screams fiscal responsibility. It also could be used in peace talks and quite possibly could cure the common cold.

Now, lest you think I'm exaggerating, just take a look at how the video ends.


SIMPSON: The lasso again. And then the horseback. Horse, horse, the cowboys ride, the cowboys ride.


COOPER: It's video Prozac. You're welcome.

You know, it's too bad the House of Representatives went home for a break, because I think that video is just what Washington needs to crack the whole fiscal cliff thing wide open.

All I'm saying is I think it really has the power to bring people together, Simpson style.

OK, that's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.