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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
President Bush Prepares to Announce New Iraq Strategy; Democrats' First 100 Hours
Aired January 9, 2007 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
Tonight: images from Iraq unlike any you have seen before, images you will only see here on CNN, insurgents and American troops doing battle right in the heart of Baghdad.
ANNOUNCER: Block by block.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A total of 10!
ANNOUNCER: Man to man -- shoot-out on Haifa Street, with our camera in the heat of it.
Iraq, the end game -- Americans losing patience.
ANNA PEREZ, FORMER BUSH ADVISER: I don't care. I don't care. What I want to see, as an American, is progress.
ANNOUNCER: The question is, will she find it in the president's plan? Tonight, a closer look,
Congressional crooks, you're still paying their pensions. Think there ought to be a law? Wait until you see why there isn't. We're "Keeping Them Honest."
And she will grow old, but this little girl will never grow up.
DR. DOUGLAS DIEKEMA, SEATTLE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: When you see Ashley, it's like seeing a baby in -- in a much larger baby.
ANNOUNCER: Surgery, hormones, all to keep her small -- her parents say they did it out of love. They call her their pillow angel. What would you do?
ANNOUNCER: Across the country and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.
Reporting tonight from the CNN studios in New York, here is Anderson Cooper.
COOPER: Want to thank our viewers here in America and watching around the world right now on CNN International. By this time tomorrow, we will have heard it directly from President Bush. But we have all the angles tonight on the president's plan for sending more troops, giving them greater freedom to take on the toughest targets, and a billion dollars to pump up the Iraqi economy, at least. It's a high-risk strategy. And we will look at the dissenters, Republicans having doubts, Democrats threatening to block any and all troops or money without congressional say-so.
Also, we will look back, how the war has wounded Bush's presidency and how some of those wounds may have been self-inflicted.
First, though, a sign of the difficulties ahead, a CNN exclusive, a battle between insurgents and American forces just steps away from the Green Zone, the heavily fortified section of Baghdad.
CNN's Arwa Damon is embedded with the Army's 3rd Stryker Brigade. And she was right in the middle of it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right there, right there! (INAUDIBLE) I would say a total of 10! You got a total of 10!
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ten insurgents are on the move below.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're moving in pairs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're not the normal (EXPLETIVE DELETED) (INAUDIBLE)
DAMON: The insurgents moving in pairs, maneuvering for sustained gun battle with the Americans, not simply firing and running away, as they usually do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Check.
DAMON: American troops are fighting the battle for Haifa Street from the roofs of the apartment buildings lining this main Baghdad thoroughfare.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the far side. Watch the far side.
DAMON: The enemy today, Sunni extremists, an explosive blend of both former Baathists and al Qaeda in Iraq -- facing them, some 400 American troops and 500 Iraqi soldiers, fighting for control of a two- mile strip of road.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The window far left, window far left.
(GUNFIRE) DAMON: The Iraqi soldiers are fighting side by side with the Americans on this rooftop. The Americans are giving the orders. This is more than an intense battle. This is training the Iraqis to do the job.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody's there. Just watch it. He will pop out again.
DAMON: The Americans and Iraqis are trying to get a fix on an insurgent in a window, but they are taking fires from all sides. They have got to get off this roof.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go!
DAMON: They move towards a building next door, moving to higher ground in this urban battlefield.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) to base, we just got a ricochet over here.
DAMON: The zing of bullets whistling past these soldiers' ears, the snipers shooting at them, the ricochets just feet away -- it's hour five. The Iraqi troops below have gone door to door, to a number of buildings, but the insurgents keep moving and keep firing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) RPGs from the right side of that front lawn!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The right side of the front lawn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go down. Let's go down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Let's go down.
DAMON (on camera): This soldier is trying to positively identify the gunmen whom they believe are shooting at them from the mosque located just 600 yards beyond this window.
They have received rocket-propelled grenade, machine gun, and small-arms fire from that location. This battle has been going on for seven hours now, and, as the day progresses, is only getting more chaotic.
(voice-over): Finally, 10 hours after it began, the insurgents stop firing, 10 hours against a combined U.S.-Iraqi force of nearly 1,000 men.
In this case, the Iraqis could not have done it alone.
COOPER: And Arwa joins us now from Camp Liberty. The connection is a little bit weak, but we are going to continue on anyway.
Arwa, how did the Iraqis do with the U.S. forces?
DAMON: Well, Anderson, according to the U.S. troops, they performed fairly well.
Remember, this is also a training session for these Iraqi forces. A positive sign that the Americans point to is the fact that there were no significant casualties reported, either on the Iraq, nor on the American side. And this was a very intense firefight.
They do also believe -- and there are conflicting reports that are coming to U.S. troops on the ground -- they believe that they wounded or killed between 30 and 50 insurgents. In fact, the Iraqi government is announcing that 50 insurgents were killed.
So, all in all, I think both the U.S. and Iraqi troops are very satisfied with the way this operation has gone thus far.
COOPER: Arwa, we're having trouble with your audio, too, so we're going to cut out.
Arwa Damon, appreciate that. Stay safe, Arwa.
The notion that Haifa Street went from bad to better to worse really goes to the heart of the problem. Clear and hold, which is the policy, only works, the experts say, when you have the troops to clear and the commitment to hold, the ability to hold.
Critics say there's neither, even with the 20,000 more soldiers and Marines and perhaps a billion more dollars to spend on the Iraqi economy that may be in President Bush's new plan.
As you might imagine, the Bush administration has a very different take of what it's going to take in Baghdad.
With that, CNN's Suzanne Malveaux.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush's new Iraq plan includes two big differences from previous failed attempts to secure Baghdad.
MALVEAUX: Sources familiar with the strategy say, Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has made a personal commitment to President Bush that he will soon flood Baghdad with more Iraqi troops, to join the added U.S. forces, the first wave of which would go into Iraq by the end of January.
And Maliki personally assured the president that the rules of engagement for Iraqi troops have changed, that they will take on the militia of the powerful Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, something Maliki had been loathe to do. Mr. Bush is said to be confident and optimistic. (on camera): But not everyone is convinced. Sources familiar with the administration's deliberations say, there is real concern inside the office of the Joint Chiefs, doubt that the strategy makes sense or is adequate.
(voice-over): Inside the Pentagon, another source describes the mood as anxious and nervous, like taking a deep breath before you take that roller-coaster ride. Many are quietly questioning whether Maliki is up for the task. Those familiar with the plan stress that, while the military component of a phased increase of 20,000 U.S. troops is an important piece, it is not the most important.
Also key will be political progress toward ending the sectarian violence. While the plan will not include a checklist for Iraq's government, which sources say would be considered humiliating to Maliki, it will outline critical milestones the Iraqis must meet, including making changes to its constitution, reversing its policy of isolating Saddam loyalists, moving towards national reconciliation, and finalizing a formula to share oil profits among various Iraqi factions.
The plan will include an economic package featuring a billion- dollar jobs program aimed at getting Iraqis back to work and away from militias and insurgent movements. There will also be twice as many State Department officials in Iraq to coordinate reconstruction projects with Iraqi companies.
(on camera): Sources say, the president's thinking is that these components will show Maliki that the U.S. is seriously committed to Iraq's success and that it's Maliki's best chance at achieving it. We're also told the president will go so far as to say that the goal is for Iraqis to be in charge of the security of their own country by November of this year.
Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, the White House.
COOPER: And, again, the president speaks tomorrow, but, already, opponents are speaking out against the plan.
Today, Massachusetts Democrat Ted Kennedy introduced legislation in the Senate that would prevent Mr. Bush from sending more troops or spending more money without first getting congressional approval.
On the House side, Democrats may or may not add Iraq to their 100-hour legislative plan. By our count, they are now six hours, 49 minutes in. They have passed one plank of their agenda.
Details on that now from CNN's Joe Johns.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ticktock. With that 100-hours clock running down, you have to wonder if the Democrats controlling the House are getting the results and the headlines they want.
In fact, they did achieve most of today's goal, passing virtually all of the 9/11 Commission's reforms -- but most of their goal, not all of it. The House did not look at the reform about fixing its own role in Homeland Security. Ever since its creation, and especially after Hurricane Katrina, the Homeland Security Department has earned the reputation of the government gang that couldn't shoot straight.
That mess comes in large part because, according to the 9/11 Commission report, dozens of committees, and even more subcommittees, in Congress control a piece of Homeland Security. In fact, the 9/11 Commission counted 88 committees and subcommittees playing a role in Homeland Security.
The report called this problem the single largest obstacle impeding the development of the department, and recommended putting it all under just one or two committees.
(on camera): That was three years ago -- and, since then, progress, streamlining. Both sides say, fewer committees and subcommittees are now involved, especially in the Senate.
But, when we asked House Democrats how many panels the Homeland Security Department has to report to, they honestly couldn't give us an answer -- the best estimate, dozens.
(voice-over): And that brings us back to today and the congressional clock. Congress did not do anything about really reducing the committee bureaucracy, because that would mean stripping new Democratic committee chairmen of all that power.
Democrats leaders point out, Republicans didn't do it either when they had a chance, because it would have been a complete mess, a jurisdictional food fight.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The jurisdictional issues that we didn't resolve completely the last 15 months or so, I assure you, we will do our best to make sure that they don't come into impacting the committee.
JOHNS: Translation: No change, but we will try to keep this dignified.
To the Democrats' credit, they did tackle almost all of the 9/11 Commission's other recommendations, including the screening of all cargo ships into the country, which sounds good, but, to many, seems like a pretty expensive proposition right now. The Senate is already pushing back.
SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: Given the enormous volume of containers coming into the United States every day -- and it's absolutely vital to our economy -- we cannot literally open and inspect every single piece.
JOHNS: For the rest of the week, as Democrats run the clock on their first 100 hours in control, they're expected to try to increase the minimum wage, pass a bill to expand government-sponsored embryonic stem cell research, as well as reduce the cost of Medicare prescription drugs.
But, "Keeping Them Honest," on another issue that helped Democrats win control of Congress, it's not clear whether Iraq will make the 100-hour Democratic countdown. On that, they say, they're waiting on the president.
REP. GEORGE MILLER (D), CALIFORNIA: Any additional request is going to have to be accompanied by a very, very strong justification and, in fact, a detailed plan as to what would the purpose of that escalation of those troops be. And we're waiting.
JOHNS: But, in fact, some say this is what Democrats have been waiting for. They control Congress. They do have the power to do something about Iraq now.
Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Well, as Joe said, the 9/11 Commission made its recommendations three years ago. Here's the "Raw Data" on today's vote.
The bill passed in the House on 229-128 margin. One thing it did not include, however, significantly, an estimated price tag -- that will require follow-up legislation. Legislation introduced in the Senate a year ago to implement the recommendations had a price tag of more than $53 billion over five years.
So, stay tuned on this one. We certainly will.
Some perspective now on Congress, the president, and Iraq -- in a phrase, war and politics.
Earlier tonight, I spoke with Republican strategist Anna Perez and Democratic strategist Paul Begala.
I started off by asking how Paul how he thinks the president has handled the Democrats' 100-hour agenda and the situation in Iraq.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I really did expect, knowing him a little bit when he was in Austin and he was my governor in Texas -- he worked very well with the Democrats in the legislature then. And he worked pretty well with Senator Kennedy and others to pass his education bill in his first year in office.
But, from there, you know, the breach just widened and deepened every day. I thought, after this election, he would come back to the center. He would agree to minimum wage, which I think he will agree to at the end of the day, and a variety of these other pieces of legislation, the same way that Bill Clinton, when I worked for him, he had to come and agree to a balanced budget on a timetable that -- that many Democrats didn't like, a welfare reform bill that was probably not exactly to his liking, but he thought was better than the present system.
And, on Iraq, I am really surprised, frankly, even at -- at this late date, at how hardheaded the president has been. He's had Republicans coming to him and telling him to get out. And out how? I think Anna puts it quite well. He's had generals coming to him, telling him that we need to get out.
And, you know, it's just "Hell no, we won't go." And, you know, Mr. Bush...
BEGALA: ... just seems so out of touch on this.
COOPER: Anna, you -- you don't think that's true? I mean, there are those who say, the president, you know, links his future in -- I mean, in history, how he is going to be seen, how his presidency will be -- will be seen from generations to come, by what happens in Iraq.
ANNA PEREZ, FORMER BUSH ADVISER: Right now, I don't think George Bush is thinking about his legacy.
What I think he is thinking about, what I believe he is thinking about is, how do we get this right? How do we get to a semblance of stability in that region? Remember, I was on this program about a month ago, saying that no Democrat had come forward with a plan. Well, that's still true today. Joe Biden talks -- Joe Biden talks about sectioning off the country. That's the closest the Democrats have come to a plan.
BEGALA: The -- the Democrats do have a plan.
Congressman Jack Murtha from Pennsylvania has suggested what he calls strategic redeployment, pulling out of some of these troubled areas, being able to have a quick-strike capability, if we need to project power, but letting the Iraqis fight for themselves.
And, Anna, you pointed out that Senator Joe Biden from Delaware, he has a plan. But the point is, this is Mr. Bush's war. And the -- the problem here is not that the Democrats don't have a plan. It's that Mr. Bush doesn't have a clue.
And what's he is going to do, I think, tomorrow night is give us one more glossy brochure full of nostrums that have been poll-tested and focus-grouped that signify nothing, except more of the same, and an escalation thereof.
And, by the way, it's not even 20,000 new troops, which is a bad enough idea. It's a Potemkin escalation. He -- what he's going to do is extend the tours of duties of young men and women who are already overextended. And he's going to cut short the rotations back home of young men and women who deserve to be back home and training and re- equipping themselves for the future. So, it's really an unfair thing to the soldiers. (CROSSTALK)
COOPER: No matter the details of this plan, Anna, isn't all of this, whatever the president decides to do, whether it's 20,000 or however many thousand troops, and whatever the economic packages that he plans, the jobs packaging, the billion dollars more in funding to Iraq, whatever the exact details are, isn't it all a repudiation of the policy he's -- that he and Donald Rumsfeld have been following for the past three years?
I mean, Rumsfeld was all about less troops, less -- you know, less of a footprint there. Now this entire administration is putting their salvation and -- and the salvation of the operation in Iraq into complete opposite policy, it seems.
PEREZ: I don't think that they have changed the policy goals for our presence in Iraq. Those have not changed. But, if the strategy has changed, if we need more troops, maybe it's because the violence is escalating.
BEGALA: And why has it?
PEREZ: The violence...
PEREZ: The violence has escalated, because what are the alternatives? If we leave now, or even -- and where are we going to deploy?
COOPER: So, you don't see this at all, though, as a criticism...
PEREZ: How many troops?
COOPER: ... of the policy that we have been following up to here? You don't see this at all as a failure...
PEREZ: I don't think it matters.
COOPER: ... of Donald Rumsfeld's policy?
PEREZ: Do you know what? I don't care. I don't care.
COOPER: I think there are plenty of people watching who would say, this goes to credibility. And they're going to be listening on Wednesday night for what the president has to say and how credible he is on it, but they are going to be judging what he has said for the past three years.
PEREZ: That may well be. That may well be.
But I still believe -- I still believe that he has one last shot, that this administration has one last shot to get -- to -- so -- so, the American people can judge if this administration has the chops to get it right.
COOPER: We are going to have to leave it there.
Anna, Paul, thank you.
PEREZ: Thank you. It's good to talk to you.
COOPER: You can join CNN tomorrow night for coverage of the president's speech, which begins at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. I will be in Washington with all the angles on the president's new plan at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, a special edition of 360, "Iraq: Exit Strategy or No Way Out?"
We hope you join us for that.
Up next, though, tonight: the war of public opinion. Will tomorrow be President Bush's last chance to gain support from the American public? To put it bluntly, do Americans still believe what he has to say? Do you?
Plus: convicted congressmen collecting fat pensions, pensions that -- you guessed it -- you are paying for. We're getting action. Tonight, one congressman's battle to change the law -- we're "Keeping Them Honest."
And parents taking drastic action -- they have stunted the growth of their profoundly disabled daughter, had her uterus removed. They say it's for her own good. They call her their pillow angel -- the controversy when 360 continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NOVEMBER 4, 2004)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You asked, do I feel free? Let me put it this way. I earned capital in the campaign, political capital. And now I intend to spend it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Remember that? What a difference a couple years makes.
The longer the war in Iraq drags on, the lower President Bush's approval numbers fall. Tomorrow night, the president is going to unveil his new war plan to the country. And a lot hinges on his own credibility -- credibility, which, as Candy Crowley reports now, has been badly eroded.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the spring of 2003. U.S. tanks barreled through the Iraqi desert, headed north to Baghdad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MARCH 2003)
BUSH: Saddam Hussein is losing control of his country. We are slowly, but surely, achieving our objective.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Less than four years ago, 71 percent of Americans approved of the way the president was handling Iraq. Each spring thereafter shows a president in slow freefall, as Americans come to believe the war was too slow, the objective far from sure. Within 12 months, the insurgency began to take hold.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, APRIL 2004)
BUSH: We will not waver in the face of fear and intimidation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Every good thing, elections, new governments, a constitution, was followed by something horrendous, roadside bombings, prison abuses.
MICHAEL O'HANLON, SENIOR FELLOW IN FOREIGN POLICY STUDIES, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: So, each year, the theory of victory, or the theory of ultimate success, that we had had was either invalidated or displaced by something else. And, now, basically, every theory of success has been disproven.
CROWLEY: In the spring of '04, the president's approval rating on Iraq was down 20 points, 51 percent. His reservoir of political capital, trickling away for most of that election year, began to hemorrhage. By spring of 2005, he was down to 43 percent of the country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, APRIL 2005)
BUSH: There are still some in Iraq who aren't happy with democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: President Bush was openly challenged on Capitol Hill by former allies. He launched a series of speeches designed to buck up support. But Americans were not to be bucked up.
KEATING HOLLAND, CNN POLLING DIRECTOR: I don't recall any time when a speech that President Bush has given changed a lot of the public's mind on Iraq. You will usually see a bump of at least a few points, but they tend not to last.
CROWLEY: In spring of last year, approval on Iraq was 35 percent, and the president talked new tactics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, APRIL 2006)
BUSH: By the way, every war plan, or every plan, is fine until it meets the enemy. But you have got to adjust.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CROWLEY: He is, today, a severely weakened commander in chief.
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam.
CROWLEY: And now another speech, a new plan.
O'HANLON: He's got one last shot. I mean, that's the way to look at it, I think. It -- you know, it's -- it's Hail Mary time.
BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: I don't think he can come back to the well anymore, not six months, not 12 months. I think this is it. He has got to put on the table what he needs to turn this around. And this policy will either work or it will fail.
BUSH: No president wants to be a war president, but I am one.
CROWLEY: His approval rate on handling Iraq is now 28 percent. On top of his game less than four years ago, the president is out of cards.
Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Well, up next, the Iraq hawks, they pushed for the war -- tonight, what makes them tick and why chances are you are more likely to follow their advice than you might think -- some surprising new insights ahead.
Plus: Your tax dollars are still covering the pensions of crooked congressmen. Tonight, why is it taking so long to change the law? And how come we're all still paying for it? We're "Keeping Them Honest" -- when 360 continues.
COOPER: Well, after President Bush's speech tomorrow night, his top advisers know it is going to be a hard sell.
But surprising new research suggests that, no matter how you feel about Iraq, when it comes to war, human nature may cause you to embrace the opinions of hawks, like President Bush, than those of so- called doves.
CNN's Tom Foreman explains.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the beginning, one view held that the war would be long, difficult, and require many troops to win.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FEBRUARY 25, 2003)
GENERAL ERIC SHINSEKI, U.S. ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: Something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are -- are -- are probably, you know, a figure that would be required.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: But this was another view:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FEBRUARY 27, 2003)
PAUL WOLFOWITZ, DEPUTY DEFENSE SECRETARY: We can say with reasonable confidence that the notion of hundreds of thousands of American troops is way off the mark.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: In terms of policy, the second view, that the war would be relatively easy and quick, was embraced. Why?
Maybe because humans naturally lean toward conflicts, and think they will win. That's the suggestion of a new paper co-authored by Nobel laureate and professor of psychology Daniel Kahneman.
DANIEL KAHNEMAN, PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: If the leader gets advice from hawks and from doves, most of us will be predisposed to find the hawk more -- more persuasive than the dove.
FOREMAN (on camera): Just the general population as well?
KAHNEMAN: The general population.
FOREMAN (voice-over): Blame it on human biases, shared by all races, ages, and nationalities.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you live under a rock?
FOREMAN: For example, most of us think we are smarter, more skilled, and more fair-minded than average. So, anyone who opposes us is seen as unreasonably hostile.
KAHNEMAN: Whereas, in fact, their hostility could be a reaction to what you are doing, or it could be a reaction to internal politics. It doesn't have to be deep or permanent. But we tend to exaggerate the permanence of the hostility on the other side.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Big guns go into action.
FOREMAN: In any conflict, humans generally think their side will win. Before World War I, leaders in both France and Germany predicted victory within weeks.
KAHNEMAN: The war took four years -- 20 million dead.
FOREMAN (on camera): Both sides were hugely unrealistic.
KAHNEMAN: And both sides -- also, when the war started, each side thought that the other was more hostile than they were.
FOREMAN (voice-over): And even with only a slim chance of winning, humans will almost always fight toward victory tomorrow rather than accept loss today.
KAHNEMAN: And so wars are very easy to win and hard to end.
FOREMAN: Kahneman says his paper is not about Iraq, but it is about forces deep within all of us, forces that even now may be pushing us toward the next war.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Interesting. What do you think?
Well, to Capitol Hill now, where we're not going to stop until crooked congressmen cannot collect pensions. Why has it taken so long to pass a law? Why are they still getting your money? We're "Keeping Them Honest".
Plus radical surgery and hormone treatment. The controversial step one family has taken to ensure their severely disabled daughter never grows any bigger. They call her the Pillow Angel. Did her parents cross a line? We'll let you decide when 360 continues.
COOPER: After $40 million and years of planning, Oprah Winfrey's new school in South Africa has finally opened its doors. A hundred and fifty-two lucky young girls have had their lives transformed. They come from the kind of poverty that often destroys hope. And Oprah grew up poor. She told me she sees herself in these kids. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: The world says to you that you're not as good, because you come from dire circumstances. And so what I'm trying to tell them is it doesn't matter where you come from. What matters is what is possible for you. And this school is about opening up possibilities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: In our next hour, in the 11 p.m. hour of 360, we're going to take you inside Oprah's new school and inside the lives of the girls who say it's like a fairytale come true. That's ahead in about 45 minutes or so. If our inbox -- if our inbox, I should say, has anything to say, it tells us you're good and angry about paying the pensions of criminal congressmen. We were bombarded by e-mails. Why, you wanted to know, is this still happening? Don't lawmakers have any shame? Who's been killing any changes in the law?
We're talking about congressmen convicted of crimes who are still receiving pensions, pensions that taxpayers are paying for.
Well, Drew Griffin, who first broke the story, also wanted to know, so he went out in search of whodunit. Who killed the reforms? He's got the story, but sadly no fingerprints, as you'll see. It just doesn't work that way in Washington, even though you, and he and we, all of us, tonight are "Keeping Them Honest".
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He had the bill in Congress last year. He had 24 other representatives sponsor it, too. It would have been a start at revoking the pensions of politicians convicted of abusing their office.
But Republican Congressman Mark Kirk found out stripping retirement money from criminal members is anything but easy.
REP. MARK KIRK (R), ILLINOIS: Well, because members of Congress have pensions, and they're worried about what would happen if they were ever charged with a crime.
GRIFFIN: And there have been plenty of lawmakers convicted of crimes who went on to get pensions. We've exposed some of them, and you've told us you don't like it.
You don't like convicted former congressman Dan Rostenkowski getting an estimated $126,000 a year pension. You don't like convicted long-time Congressman Randall "Duke" Cunningham and James Traficant, getting what the National Taxpayers Union calculated will be fat pensions, while still in prison.
None of them would talk to CNN, by the way.
And you don't like the fact that, according to the National Taxpayers Union, in the last 25 years, 20 law-breaking congressmen went on to still get federal pension benefits.
And that's why Kirk drafted a bill and got 24 cosponsors in the House to block pensions for the most egregious lawbreakers.
KIRK: Including all of the felonies you would expect: bribery and -- and various items of public corruption, to make sure that a lawmaker, who is convicted of breaking the law, suffers the penalty and doesn't get a taxpayer-funded pension.
GRIFFIN: So what happened?
(on camera) Kirk's bill started off with 21 felonies that would revoke a pension, but it was whittled down to just three. But those three felonies actually did make it into a bill, another bill, and it passed the House. Then that bill went over to the Senate, where it sat and it sat, and it died.
(voice-over) The Senate had its own bill last year, Senate Bill 2268, pushed by Democratic senators John Kerry and Ken Salazar. It singled out five felonies dealing with public money and bribery that would have revoked pensions. It got sent to this committee, didn't even get a vote, and died.
But guess what? Since we started "Keeping Them Honest" on pensions for felons, Congress is again looking at the issue, and Colorado Senator Ken Salazar says this time around, it just may work.
SEN. KEN SALAZAR (D), COLORADO: I think the mood of the leadership here in Washington, D.C., is that we need to restore the confidence of the people of America back in our Congress.
GRIFFIN: But despite the cry from the public, Melanie Sloan, who heads up Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, says based on history, Congress will not pass laws to take away its own pensions.
(on camera) Is it in the end because this is money they want?
MELANIE SLOAN, CREW: This is money they want. This is money they don't want to take away from their colleagues and their colleagues' families. These are their friends we're talking about.
COOPER: It's all about, it seems, protecting your friends. Who is it doing this? I mean, can you name names? Who is it who stopped the moves to block the pensions for these criminal congressmen in the Senate? It went to that committee and just died. Who killed it?
GRIFFIN: You know, it is so difficult to tell, Anderson, because the system in this town is so easy to kill and not to pass a bill. It goes to a subcommittee. It gets puts over in this to-do pile. It sits in that to-do pile. Nobody does anything about it. And then the session ends and the bill is killed.
No fingerprints. Nobody is doing anything actively to kill the bill. It just dies. And that is exactly what the critics say they want to happen, that they don't want to pass the bills. So they can just do nothing and nothing happens.
COOPER: And we're talking about -- you know, it's $10,000 here. It's $40,000 there, $100,000, more than $100,000 for Rostenkowski. About what, a million dollars a year?
GRIFFIN: It's about a million a year, a couple of hundred thousand dollars a month, according to Congressman Kirk. And it just bugs him that so much of this money is going out there.
Not the amount of it, Anderson, but just the fact that we're giving this money to these people who have been convicted of violating the law while they're in office. He says the will is just not there to do it.
COOPER: I think a lot of people listening around the world and sitting at home here in the United States, would say a million a year is an awful lot of money.
Drew Griffin, appreciate it. "Keeping Them Honest". We'll keep on it.
Just ahead on 360, a story that has ignited both outrage and sympathy. A tough case, a young girl profoundly disabled and the extreme measures her parents took to keep her from growing any bigger, taking out her uterus, sterilizing her.
Ask yourself, could you do what they did? Should you be able to do it?
Also ahead in Malibu, California, multimillion dollar homes reduced to smoldering rubble. We'll tell you which celebrity lost her home in yesterday's wildfire and what investigators have discovered, when 360 continues.
COOPER: To Seattle now, a story that has ignited debate and even outrage around the world. Its bare outlines, frankly, sound shocking. Two parents find doctors willing to use hormones and surgery to prevent their young, disabled daughter from ever growing into an adult.
Keeping her small and sexually immature, they say, will give their profoundly disabled daughter a better quality of life. An ethics panel agreed with them, but some critics think what they've done is unconscionable.
Here's CNN's Elizabeth Cohen.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This little girl is setting off a worldwide debate about intentionally and permanently stunting a child's growth.
Ashley had a normal birth, but her parents soon realized something was terribly wrong. She's never learned how to walk, talk or even sit up by herself. She has a severe brain impairment no one can fully explain.
Ashley can't keep her head up or change her sleeping position or even hold a toy. In fact, unless her parents move her, Ashley usually stays in one place on a pillow, which is why they call her their Pillow Angel.
Now 9 years old, Ashley's doctors say nothing will change. DR. DOUGLAS DIEKEMA, SEATTLE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Her cognitive function was the equivalent of that of an infant and always will be, so when you see Ashley, it's like seeing a baby in a much larger body.
COHEN: Ashley spends her days lying down. Her parents carry her around and play music. They say Andrea Bocelli is her favorite.
But they always worried what would happen when her body got even larger. That's when her parents made the radical decision to keep her small forever. Her parents want to remain anonymous, but they've told their story on their web site.
"Ashley will be a lot more physically comfortable, free of menstrual cramps, free of the discomfort associated with large and fully developed breasts, and with a smaller and lighter body that is better suited to constant lying down and is easier to be moved around."
So three years ago, Ashley's parents gave her estrogen therapy with a patch to stunt her growth. And surgeons removed her uterus and removed her breast buds.
The result: for the rest of her life, Ashley will be about 4'5" -- that's about 13 inches shorter than she would have been -- and weigh 75 pounds. And she'll never hit puberty. No monthly periods, no breasts. Doctors expect her to have a normal life span.
Still, Ashley's private challenges have become fodder for public debate. Her parents say recently their web site received nearly half a million hits in one day.
The reactions? Mostly positive, but on CNN's web site, one person wrote, "I don't think anyone has the right to play God."
Another wrote, "It makes me sick to my stomach."
But Seattle Children's Hospital say they performed the procedure only after careful considerations by an ethics panel.
DIEKEMA: If Ashley's brain is the brain of a 6-month-old, then Ashley should probably be treated as a 6-month-old.
COHEN: Bur Ashley's parents have written, "Unless you are living the experience, you are speculating and you have no clue what it is like to be the bedridden child or their caregivers."
They say they hope someday these medical procedures, what they call the Ashley treatment, will be available to other disabled children.
Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Atlanta.
COOPER: Well, Ashley's story obviously raises different questions. Deciding how high far a parent can go or should go to manage the life of a disabled child is full of thorny issues. I talked about it, the case, with 360 M.D. a while ago, Sanjay Gupta.
COOPER: Sanjay, what exactly is this little girl's condition?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She has a condition known as static encephalopathy. Basically what that means, the static part means that it's going to stay in the condition that it probably is now. It's not going to get worse, but unfortunately, probably not going to get better, as well.
The encephalopathy, what that means is there's been damage to the brain. Exactly what the damage is, is unclear. It could have been a lack of oxygen, for example, to the brain while it was developing. But there's been some damage that doesn't appear it's going to change at all.
COOPER: And why did they decide -- I mean, what is the medical reason for removing her uterus and her breasts?
GUPTA: Well, you know, there's differing sort of thoughts on this, but as far as the uterus goes, I think that, first of all, to prevents menstruation. So she's not actually going to go through that as she gets older, but also, she won't ever get pregnant, for example, in the case of rape.
As far as the breasts go, she can never develop breast cancer, which runs in their family, apparently, a history of breast cancer. But also just logistically, you know, when they're putting the straps on, transporting her, she's not going to have breasts. It will make it easier for her to actually be transportable.
As far as the estrogen goes, you know, giving high doses of estrogen, it's kind of interesting. This actually has a bit of medical history to it. They give the estrogen that causes the growth plates to actually -- to fuse, so someone can't actually grow any further. The high-dose estrogen does that.
COOPER: Obviously, you know, when you first hear about this, it's shocking. They went through an ethical -- you know, medical ethicist or review board. How difficult an ethical decision do you think this is?
GUPTA: I mean, I think it's remarkably difficult. I read the original paper. I read a lot of the ethics back and forth.
The problem is, you know, there's obviously a lot of situations where someone is mentally disabled, and they grow into an adult. And they live either at home or they live in some sort of a facility.
This obviously is going to be a different situation, but at what point do you decide you're not going to do any further interventions? Would you, for example, amputate somebody's legs if they could never walk to keep them smaller? Would you do something like that?
It becomes, as they say, in so many ethical debates, a slippery slope of sorts. And I think this case sort of exemplifies that as much as any.
COOPER: And I guess her parents are saying, "Look, this is for her benefit. It's not about, you know, making the caregivers' life easier." Some of the critics are saying, well, it does appear that this is just to make it easier for those who are caring for this little girl down the road.
GUPTA: Yes, you know, there are certainly a lot of medical concerns in someone who's not going to be able to move, not going to be able to raise their head off the pillow.
They can develop ulcers. They can get infections, all sorts of things. They're not moving around as much. They can get pneumonia. So there are certain benefits I can see and I think most doctors can see in terms of the patient herself, in this case, the young lady, the little girl.
But I think in terms of the slippery slope it becomes very difficult. Where would you stop? What would you not do or what would you do in the future as problems may develop?
COOPER: Sanjay, appreciate your perspective, thanks.
GUPTA: Thank you.
COOPER: Up next, a wildfire wipes out mansions in one of the country's most exclusive celebrity enclaves. One star's home is destroyed. We'll tell you who has to rebuild.
Plus, she's one of the biggest celebrities in the world and one of the most generous. In our next hour, Oprah's gift to South Africa and how she says it will help change the world.
COOPER: The fires were just incredible. Malibu, California, is known for its beautiful beaches, of course, waterfront mansions, home to some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. It's also known for dangerous wildfires. It typically sees the fires every two to three years, fires like the one that destroyed a couple homes overnight, causing millions of dollars in damage.
More now from CNN's Thelma Gutierrez.
THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the sun roses over Malibu Beach, some of the priciest real estate in Southern California was still smoldering.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is your first look at your house?
GUTIERREZ: A sad sight for homeowners like actress Suzanne Somers and husband, producer Alan Hamel. They were out of town and watched their home burn on television. They came back today to see what was left. SUZANNE SOMERS, ACTRESS: It was a beautiful house. It was a beautiful place to live.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How long had you lived here?
SOMERS: Seven years.
GUTIERREZ: All that remained of their home: a magazine, a chair, and a charred Jaguar. But the actress kept the loss in perspective.
SOMERS: It's OK. I don't have a son or a daughter. There's not a death in the family, and you know, we'll rebuild.
GUTIERREZ: The fire that burned Suzanne Somers' home and four others began Monday evening.
This area is home to countless celebrities. Mel Gibson, Brad Pitt, and Angelina Jolie, and Jane Seymour all live nearby. The fire burned with a vengeance, fast and furious. No one knows how it started.
Three hundred firefighters, a Black Hawk helicopter and 40 engines deployed to Malibu, but they were helpless. Santa Ana winds more than 50 miles per hour pushed the flames toward the beach homes.
(on camera) Firefighters say the flames created a tunnel over this road, burning the palm trees on that side and then jumping over to this side of the road, igniting the pine tree right in front of the homes.
(voice-over) It took just 20 minutes for five homes to be reduced to ashes. The heat from the fire was so intense, this Mercedes-Benz melted to the ground.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know that Suzanne and her husband Alan, Alan, are devastated. They have their memories in their home, just like everybody does.
GUTIERREZ: Somers says Malibu is home and that she will rebuild.
Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Malibu, California.
COOPER: Well, "The Shot of the Day" is coming up. What is going on there? Why is the paparazzi interested in pushups? Well, we'll explain ahead, but first Kathleen Kennedy joins us from Headline News with a "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Kathleen.
KATHLEEN KENNEDY, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: Hi, Anderson.
New information tonight about the timing of Saddam Hussein's execution. Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, said today the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad asked him to delay the hanging by 10 days to two weeks. He said he refused, because he worried that a delay would fuel rumors about a deal to let the former dictator avoid execution. Tensions were high, he said, and security concerns trumped that request.
A commuter train crashed into a truck just north of Boston this afternoon, killing two track maintenance workers and injuring a third. No passengers aboard the train were hurt. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
A mixed day for stocks. The Dow lost six points. The S&P fell slightly, while the NASDAQ gained nearly six points, driven in part by an announcement by Apple Computer.
Apple says its long-awaited iPhone will go on sale in the U.S. in June. It's a breakthrough for multitaskers. The device combines an iPod, phone and Web browser, and works entirely by touch screen.
Cingular Wireless will provide cell service, and the iPhone's two models will retail for $499 and $599.
Anderson, back to you.
COOPER: It's a pretty cool looking phone, I've got to say.
Time now for our "Shot of the Day". Who says lawmakers in Washington don't work hard?
In the House they're working five days a week, almost. How about that? And on the Senate side, they're even breaking a sweat.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two...
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COOPER: There's Sherrod Brown of Ohio doing 55 push-ups. He lost a bet on the college football championship game with his colleague from Florida, Bill Nelson. Ohio State lost; the Florida Gators won. Brown went to Nelson's office, dropped and gave him 50 plus five, the total number of points scored.
And as we reported last night, there were an awful lot of Congress offices empty yesterday because of that game. I don't know if these guys were working or not. But they were working today.
Still to come, the heavy lifting on Iraq. Big spending, too. A billion dollars more to help the Iraqi economy. The question is, what would it be buying? Will it make a difference? And where has all that money gone that's already been spent?
Then new details on the American raid on al Qaeda in Somalia. The picture coming more into focus tonight.
And more on Oprah Winfrey's promise to help young girls in South Africa escape grinding poverty. We'll bring you a lot on your feedback on our report and how you, too, can make a difference. You're watching 360.
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