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New Iraq War Strategy Under Fire; Interview With New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin; Violent Crime Soars in New Orleans; Who's to Blame for Pensions to Felons?; Congress Takes up Stem Cell Debate

Aired January 11, 2007 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're focusing a lot on Iraq tonight.
The president's people were out in force, trying to sell his new plan. Democrats, however, were asking some very tough questions. We will get to all of that in a moment.

But I just want to show you where we are. We're in New Orleans, a city whose future is still very much in doubt. A surging crime wave here has many residents upset. There was a big demonstration. We are going to show you that shortly.

But, just to give you a sense of the pace of progress so far, or what some would say is the lack thereof, we are in the Lower Ninth Ward, a place we have been many times in the last 500 days since Hurricane Katrina.

And look at this. Though much of the Lower Ninth Ward has been cleared out, the land leveled, some homes still remain as they were. You can find people's possessions here still laying out, a child's toy still sitting out, as I said, some 15 months since Hurricane Katrina.

There's building after building here. You can still find pockets where it's all pretty much untouched. This is the roof of a building. You can still see the help sign written in there, scrawled, perhaps, by someone waiting for a helicopter while the floodwaters were still raging throughout this entire region.

The whole side of this house here has been wiped away. There's the -- a toilet there, the bathroom, the bedroom, the living room. It's all very much as it was some 15 months ago. And that's frustrating to a lot of people in New Orleans, about the pace of change. They want to know answers. They want to ask questions to the mayor.

And, tonight, we will ask the mayor questions about why things have not progressed fast enough and why the crime here is surging. As I said, there was a big demonstration. And we will get to that in a moment.

But we begin right now in Washington, where members of the Bush administration spent the day in front of congressional committees, defending their boss' new plan for Iraq. Mr. Bush laid it out last night, as you know, about 21,000 more troops, a focus on Baghdad, he says, and a commitment from Iraq's prime minister to crack down on the sectarian militias that are tearing this country apart.

Even supporters call the new strategy a gamble.

And, as CNN's Dana Bash reports now, those supporters were pretty tough to find on Capitol Hill today.


DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the moment she sat down, unrelenting criticism.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: I believe the president's strategy is not a solution, Secretary Rice. I believe it's a tragic mistake.

SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: I have not been told the truth over and over again by administration witnesses. And the American people have not been told the truth.

BASH: Across the Capitol, the secretaries of state and defense came to sell the president's Iraq plan, and were greeted with hostility and exasperation -- what was unprecedented, how scornful Republicans were...

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R-NE), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: This speech given last night by this president represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out.

BASH: ... Republicans who think Mr. Bush is flat wrong to send more troops into what they call a deepening civil war...

SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH (R-OH), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I have gone along with the president on this, and I bought into his dream. And I -- at this stage of the game, I don't think it's going to happen.

BASH: ... Republicans who say increasing U.S. troop levels has been tried before...

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: I'm not convinced, as I look to the the -- the plan that the president presented yesterday, that what we're seeing is that much different than what we have been doing in the past.

BASH: Twenty-one members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 10 of them Republicans, five presidential hopefuls, not one spoke in favor of the president's new strategy.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: What leverage do we have that would provide us some assurance that, six months from now, you will not be sitting before us again, saying, well, it didn't work?

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, Senator, the leverage is that we're not going to stay married to a plan that's not working in Baghdad. BASH: On the House side, there was Republican support.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: I recommend strongly to my colleagues that we support the military leadership, we support the commander in chief and, Mr. Chairman, that we support the call for reinforcements.

BASH: Here, too, Republicans joined in questioning whether the Iraqi prime minister can or will do what it takes to stabilize his country.

I just have my doubts the Iraqis will show up. The track record isn't there.

REP. JOHN M. MCHUGH (R), NEW YORK: I just have my doubts the Iraqis will show up. The track record isn't there.

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: If, at the end of the day, they don't keep the commitments that they have made to us, as I indicated before, we would clearly have to re-look at the strategy.

BASH: Democrats, who run Congress now, were already opposed to the president's plan, but were clearly emboldened by the GOP defections.

REP. NEIL ABERCROMBIE (D), HAWAII: This is the craziest, dumbest plan I have ever seen or heard of in my life.

BASH (on camera): For now, Democrats won't try to block funding for additional troops, concerned, if they did, it could send a message they don't support the troops. Instead, they will show where Congress stands on the president's Iraq plan by voting on it.

Dana Bash, CNN, Capitol Hill.


COOPER: Well, President Bush, meantime, was on the road, a lonely road.

As you will hear a GOP strategist describe it, he has been there before over the years, but, as CNN's John King reports tonight, never quite like this, and with so much at stake.


JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was on shaky ground to begin with, and made his choices knowing they would leave him even more isolated.

KEN DUBERSTEIN, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: It's a lonely road. George Bush thinks he is on the right path. This is very uphill. This is a lonely walk.

KING: Speaking to troops at Fort Benning, Mr. Bush said his strategy offered the best chance of success. GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is new. This is something different that enables the military folks to predict that we will succeed in helping quell sectarian violence in Baghdad.

KING: But critics and even some past allies see stubborn defiance, ignoring evidence past troop increases haven't worked and ignoring the message war-weary voters sent last November.

BRUCE BUCHANAN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS: He has been willing to ignore the will of the people perhaps more than any modern president, certainly on this issue. We could be headed for a constitutional crisis. It kind of depends on how determined the Congress is to push back.

KING: In trademark Bush style, he defied his critics and upped the ante.

This National Security Council slide presentation outlines a plan that not only orders more troops into Iraq, but vows key operational shifts will include new efforts to counter Iranian and Syrian actions that threatens coalition forces.

Such talk alarmed some in Congress.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Let me say that again: explicitly denies you the authority to go into Iran.

KING: The administration, though, says it has no intention of widening the conflict.

GENERAL PETER PACE, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: We can take care of the security for our troops by doing the business we need to do inside of Iraq.

KING: Another key tactical shift raising eyebrows is a plan to remobilize the National Guard, which most governors oppose.

And, most of all, critics cite the promise of bold new steps by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the same prime minister the president's national security adviser described in a recent classified memo as unwilling or unable to make the necessary tough choices.

BUCHANAN: Bush really has no choice. He has bet on that horse, and now he's stuck with him. In his mind, his main audience now is history, rather than current opinion.

KING: For an administration that is loath to admit mistakes, this slide is stunning. Under "Key Assumptions," the White House admits it was wrong about the nature of the insurgency, wrong about progress toward political reconciliation, wrong in believing Iraq's Arab neighbors would help more, and wrong in its optimistic assessments of Iraq's security forces.

BUSH: Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.

DUBERSTEIN: The president, you know, sounded that note of contrition last night, and not a lot of bravado in that speech.

KING: Even many allies say that contrition was long overdue. But what leaves the president in such a lonely place is that many can't see an administration that got so much so wrong suddenly getting it right.


COOPER: And, John, at this point, I mean, is there a plan B, if this doesn't work?

KING: That was the defining question in Washington today, Anderson. Is there a plan B?

Secretary Rice, who you saw in Dana Bash's piece, said to the Committee on Foreign Relations, let's not talk about that. Let's give plan A a chance. Secretary Gates said, it should be just two or three months before we know whether the president's new plan is working.

The administration doesn't want to talk about it, but it says it is prepared to deal with the Iraqi government, if the Iraqi government does not keep its commitments. Now, what does that mean? Some say the president has created an opening to get out of Iraq, to begin pulling out, if the Iraqis don't keep their end of the bargain.

Three or four months from now, the president could say: I tried. I gave it one last chance.

But most people believe, Anderson, that, if this plan does not work, if the Iraqis do not keep their end of the deal, the president, because of his stubbornness and because he knows this will define his legacy, will try something else, try again -- Anderson.

COOPER: And, John -- John, this may be a stupid question, but do we know when the Bush White House decided that things weren't working in Iraq, because, publicly, all along, they have been saying things are working; we are succeeding; we are winning; until, one day, we weren't?

KING: Well, they would describe it as a cumulative process. And the tipping point, obviously, was the November elections. The president says he decided before the election Secretary Rumsfeld had to go.

But that was, if you will, the door blowing open right around -- the period right around the November elections. They were slowly coming to the conclusion that things weren't working. They were trying to keep it to themselves. They realized, after the election, there was no sense in that. The American people had made the verdict quite clear.

COOPER: Keeping it to themselves, indeed.

John, thank you -- John King.

Of Democrats criticizing the president's plan, five are running to succeed him in the White House. Here's the "Raw Data" on that.

Senator Christopher Dodd declared his candidacy today, joining former Senator John Edwards, retiring Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, and former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel.

Interestingly, while Democrats are fulling declaring, Republicans are now merely exploring. Senator John McCain has formed an exploratory committee. So, has Senator Samuel Brownback, former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former Virginia Governor James Gilmore, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

We will see who else joins the pack.

Now back to the story right here -- and there is a big story right here, violent crime soaring, especially murder. We will hear from Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans in just a moment about what he says he's doing about it.

First, we hear from the thousands who marched through the streets of New Orleans today, a remarkable demonstration. And their message was: Enough is enough.


COOPER (voice-over): It started off small, a few dozen people, residents of this city, bloodied and bruised.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want the city to know, we want everybody to know, even other citizens to know, it's just too much.

COOPER: They carried pictures of Helen Hill, a local filmmaker shot to death in her home last week. Other victims were present as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The problem is that we don't have any real leadership. And people are scared. And they're frustrated. And they're worried. And this is a city that's really worth fighting for. And every single person here is fighting, and putting their money where their mouth is. But the real question is, is it worth dying for?

COOPER: Mary Howell clutched a picture of Dominic Johnson, a foster child she helped raise, a young man of promise, shot dead at 18.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Almost everybody here knows somebody who was murdered, loved somebody that was murdered, had a friend who was murdered. It's -- it's a very close and personal issue here. It's not abstract. It's not rhetorical.

COOPER: Dana Nashan Bashek (ph) carried a picture of her baby, Etienne (ph), shot to death by a carjacker. He was just 11 months old.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was shot four times, and my son was shot in the head. My 2-year-old daughter was in the car at the time as well, and she escaped being shot. So, I'm here for not just myself and my son, but everybody.

COOPER: They brought their children, their stories. They brought their frustration, as well. The mayor, they say, is not doing enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's he been? And what is he doing?

COOPER (on camera): It doesn't seem like he's here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, not many people are seeing much of him. And -- but I think he -- I think he's a good man. I think he -- he means well. I think he loves this city as much as anyone else. But I think more needs to be done.

COOPER: What you hear over and over today is, people saying, enough. Enough with the violent crime here in New Orleans. There have been at least eight murders in this year alone, eight murders in just 10 days.

And it doesn't seem like the police or the justice system here is capable of handling it. There -- there have, for months, been promises about new initiatives, new ways to fight crime. And, yet, the murders continue, and no one seems to have any answers.

(voice-over): At city hall, they finally gather, thousands of marchers from all over town, black and white, united by grief, barely able to contain their anger.

BART EVERSON, RESIDENT OF NEW ORLEANS: Shame on you, Mayor Nagin, Superintendent Riley, District Attorney Jordan. You have really let us down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm scared to death of the police.

COOPER: The mayor, the police chief stood silent, listening, as speakers took them to task.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going tell you that straight up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we don't address crime now, before we know it, there won't be a Mardi Gras. They will be snatching you off the float.

Stop the violence now.

COOPER: The mayor had hoped to address the ground, but march organizers had other ideas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This convening was an opportunity for the people to speak. This was our press conference. Mayor Nagin will have an opportunity to speak at his press conference.

COOPER: Tired of hearing empty promises, they refused to let the mayor speak. It was a very public slap in the face, a sign of just how deep the anger here has become.


COOPER: More now on the mother and filmmaker whose killing sent all these people on to the streets today.

CNN's Randi Kaye reports.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Helen Hill and Paul Gailiunas fell in love with each other, and with New Orleans, after graduating Harvard. Helen was an award-winning filmmaker, Paul, a family physician.

SHERI BRANCH, FRIEND OF HELEN HILL AND PAUL GAILIUNAS: They were so full of energy and beautiful, beautiful, happy, loving energy.

KAYE: The couple was forced to leave New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina flooded their home. But last August, Helen convinced Paul to return.

(on camera): Were you concerned at all about her heading back to a dangerous city?

KEVIN LEWIS, STEPFATHER OF HELEN HILL: Yes. Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I -- I -- in retrospect, I should have been even more concerned than I was.

KAYE (voice-over): Helen and Paul reveled in the eccentricities of the community. They had a son, 2-year-old Francis, and a potbellied pig. Together, they fed the homeless and rallied against the war.

But, 5:30 in the morning last Thursday, Paul was asleep in their bedroom when everything suddenly changed. He heard a gunshot and his wife screaming from the living room. Paul says, he ran to the bathroom with their son to try and keep him from harm's way. The gunman chased them, shooting Paul three times, hitting him twice in the arm and once in the cheek. The little boy wasn't hurt.

(on camera): When police arrived here at the couple's house, they found Paul bleed, huddled here at the front door, clutching his son. Helen, Paul's wife of 10 years, was inside on the living room floor, already dead from a gunshot wound to the neck -- her last words before she died, "Please, don't hurt my baby."

(voice-over): Helen's death marked the sixth homicide in New Orleans in less than 24 hours. It was the 12th in that week -- no motive, no suspects.

JACOB HILL, BROTHER OF HELEN HILL: If, in some grotesque way, Helen has become a touchstone to what's happened in New Orleans, then, I didn't want her to be a martyr, but let's -- let's accept that and shed some light on the tragedy that is still happening in New Orleans. There is a community there that, because of the context and the circumstances, is breeding a culture of violence. And it's because they need help.

KAYE: Mayor Ray Nagin promises, more will be done.

RAY NAGIN (D), MAYOR OF NEW ORLEANS: ... that we will put all of our resources to focus on murders and violent crimes.

KAYE: The city is down more than 200 officers since Katrina. So, 300 National Guard troops are in New Orleans, backing up local police. Still, the murder rate climbs.

(on camera): How difficult is it for you to think about the fact that your sister went back there because she loves the city so much, wanted to make a difference, only to be gunned down four months later?

HILL: I could not imagine that it was a community with such danger as it was, until this happened.

KAYE: Friends have said, when Helen died, a light went out in New Orleans.

LEWIS: It did. It went -- it went out in a lot of places.

KAYE (voice-over): Helen was buried this week in South Carolina. Paul plans to move back to Canada with their son. He does not expect to return to New Orleans ever again.


COOPER: And -- and I know, Randi, you had a chance to talk with Helen's husband, Paul. I mean, I would ask how he's doing, but it's an idiotic question.

KAYE: Actually, he's -- he's doing well, considering what -- what has happened, because he's -- he's trying to be very strong for their 2-year-old son, Francis.

But I met with him at -- at her family's home in -- in South Carolina for a little while. He still has bandages and a cast on one arm.

COOPER: He was shot three times?

KAYE: He was shot three -- three times. He has a -- a Band-Aid on his face from where the bullet grazed his cheek. And he has a cast on one arm, and some bandages on the other arm, from where she was shot.

COOPER: And this is a man who -- he's a doctor. He worked in a clinic for -- for poor people...


KAYE: For poor people, exactly. And -- and he -- he hopes to still continue to do that. He says he will still be able to work, even though the injuries on -- on his arm.

But he's -- he was reluctant to go on camera, as you can imagine. So, we didn't push him on that. But he -- he clearly is going through a very difficult time. He...

COOPER: Obviously.

KAYE: His wife was his closest friend. She was a beautiful soul, as he says, a very creative person. He said that she looked at life as one giant art project, and he was just along for the ride.


KAYE: So, it -- it was a beautiful relationship.

COOPER: Well, our thoughts and our prayers are with them, and, then, of course, all the victims of crime here.

Again, the buck stops at Mayor Nagin's office. So, what does he have to say about the murder wave that is happening on his watch? Some nine people dead here in the last 10 days -- we are going to get his side and hear from some of his constituents, who, frankly, just are not buying whatever it is he has to say. That's coming up.

That's not all. Once again, we're "Keeping Them Honest."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know the answer to that.

COOPER (voice-over): The question was, who stopped a plan to keep criminal congressmen from collecting millions of your tax dollars, even while they're in prison?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I -- I can't remember all the specifics.

COOPER: Hmm, Republicans? Democrats? Doesn't anybody remember? You wanted answers. We're "Keeping Them Honest" -- when 360 continues.



COOPER: Looking at shots we took today, the devastation here in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward, 500 days after Katrina.

This is -- these are not pictures from a year ago. These are pictures from today. Five hundred days later, Mayor Ray Nagin is still under fire from the city's troubles, the slow recovery effort, and now a growing violent crime problem.

As we mentioned earlier, there were protests across New Orleans today over the rising number of murders, nine in just 10 days. Last year, New Orleans had probably the highest murder rate in the country, if not the highest, one of the highest, depending on how you look at the statistics.

At one protest at City Hall, the mayor hoped to speak, but demonstrators would not have it. They're tired of hearing his words. That's how bad it has gotten here.

The researchers are angry. And it's understandable why. They want answers. And so do we.

I spoke to Mayor Nagin earlier to get him on the record.


COOPER: Back in June, on the crime issue, you said, enough is enough. You called in the National Guard. Last week, you said, enough is enough.

A lot of people out there I was talking to today say, you know, they hear you saying the words, but they're not seeing action.

NAGIN: Well, we -- we change our actions every time. We try and do things better.

We check ourselves against everybody around the country, to make sure we're using the most state-of-the-art techniques that are out there. The crime element is very sophisticated in some respects. So, we have to adjust accordingly.

COOPER: What's the problem? I mean, you called it an uptick in crime. Your critics say, you know, nine deaths this year alone in some 10 days, that's more than an uptick.

What -- what's -- what's behind the crime?

NAGIN: Well, we have had that before, unfortunately. Even prior to Katrina, we had some incidents.

Resources is an issue. We still don't have a crime lab in the city, from the Katrina devastation. Our police force is -- is struggling to get its numbers up. And our criminal justice system, even before Katrina, it was struggling. And now, post-Katrina, with the buildings being damaged, and people being gone, it's in a little worse shape.

COOPER: "The New York Times" referred to the law enforcement institutions in the city as dysfunctional. You think that's true?

NAGIN: I think that they do not work in a very good, coordinated manner, if -- if that's what they mean, absolutely.

We have a separate criminal judge systems, the DA, and the police. And getting them -- with the pressure of this pending march, it was the first time since I have been mayor that I have been able to get a meeting of all three of those entities together to substantively talk about how we can solve this.


COOPER: I think that surprises a lot of people, because it does seem like groups aren't talking together.

I mean, you have -- first of all, you have citizens who, in some communities here, are afraid to talk to the police, or don't believe in, you know, what they call snitching. You then have the police, who say the prosecutors aren't tough enough on criminals once they do get arrested.

You have a DA who called the police rabid dogs. And you have everyone who seems to be saying judges are far too lenient, with only sending 7 percent of -- of people arrested, mostly for drug crimes, 7 percent, actually, only end up in prison.

NAGIN: What you're seeing is the residuals from a system prior to Katrina that was broken. Katrina is exposing everything in its rawest forms now. And it's just something that the citizens have to help us to push.


COOPER: Well, Mayor Nagin admits, the criminal justice system is broken. You just heard him say it can be fixed.

The protesters heard it all before, frankly, including Bart Everson. He's a friend of Helen Hill, the filmmaker who was murdered earlier this month.

This is what he had to say to the mayor today.


EVERSON: Today, I want to say, shame on you, Mayor Nagin, Superintendent Riley, District Attorney Jordan. You have really let us down. You have failed us.


COOPER: It's obviously been a devastating time for Bart Everson and a tiring day.

He, though, joins me now, and Julia Reed, senior writer for "Vogue" magazine, contributing editor for "Newsweek."

Guys, appreciate you being here. I'm sorry it's under these circumstances.

Bart, first of all, as -- as a friend of Helen Hill's, what do you want people to know about her?

EVERSON: Well, Helen was, quite simply, just the nicest person that I ever met.

I think she befriended really everybody that she met. And it's a tragedy that, you know, she will never befriend anyone again.

COOPER: One of the things you said today, the -- the march today wasn't just about Helen Hill. You named a dozen people who -- who...

EVERSON: Dick Shavers, Jolina Brown (ph), Preston Turner (ph), who was shot just a block from my house. And that was a couple years ago.

COOPER: Where is the -- what is the anger about? Who are you angry at? Why are you angry?

EVERSON: There's -- I'm angry at our officials. When we're marching on city hall, I think you want to bring that -- that anger to them.

But I'm also angry at myself and at the community for allowing this to happen. This is -- you know, this violent, murderous society is our society. And we need to take responsibility for that.

COOPER: What's going on? And, Julia, what is going wrong here?

JULIA REED, SENIOR WRITER, "VOGUE": Well, I think -- I think what Bart said is -- is right, is that it's the first time that the citizens have really, really risen up.

And -- and what's happening now, post-Katrina, as horrible as -- as Katrina is -- and -- and you pointed it out with our backdrop -- but what was going -- what's going on, crime wise, happened before the hurricane, was happening before the hurricane.

And, so, we don't have leadership to deal with it. I think that it's -- it's terrific that people like Bart are leading the charge, and getting people involved in their own neighborhoods, because, I mean, there -- there are so many things that -- that have to come together to solve this problem.

But one of the few is that we can hold our -- our officials accountable, at least make them come outside. I mean, Nagin did not call a press conference about the killings that had been happening until yesterday, only because he knew that you guys and -- and half -- you know, thousands of people were getting ready to march into his office.

COOPER: And he wasn't allowed to speak today.

Was there the sense that he and other city officials were trying to sort of co-opt this -- this march, to kind of make it that they were part of it, when, in fact, it seemed to be a message you were sending to them?


I think they tried to head it off at the pass, so to speak, by a couple days, coming out with these new measures. And...

COOPER: What do you make of these new measures? REED: Oh.

COOPER: Is it just -- just same old, same old thing?

EVERSON: It's -- to me, it's a little troubling.

I just had a friend who was stopped at one of these, you know, random checkpoints. And there were bunches of police cars there, and a paddy wagon ready to take people away. And he was sitting and waiting to be dealt with. And he -- he got kind of upset. And -- and he -- and he yelled at a cop. And he got a ticket.

And, so, we're worried that now we're descending into a police state. You know, we're not asking for more police power. We're asking for responsible policing and -- and a criminal justice system that works.

COOPER: That's the thing, because you look at the numbers, I mean, we're talking about -- there's some 1,300 police officers right now.

REED: We have National Guard. We have got deputy sheriffs. We have state police. We have local cops. I mean, we could use some more cops, but we could also use some cops that are thinking outside the box.

I mean, we were -- you know, the last two police chiefs we had, including Eddie Compass, who did not display his abilities very well during the hurricane, have been from within the police department. We need to have a different kind of police department, I think. And we need -- we definitely need to have a police department, whatever kind we had, that works with the DA's office.

And one of the things that -- that is helpful about having citizens marches, that maybe people in their own communities can be responsible for this. People can come forward and -- and say, yes, I saw this guy.

I mean, right now, we have no cooperating with the cops.


REED: And they're afraid to be, because, if you call for the cops, the cops aren't going to cooperate with the DA's office.


COOPER: How much does race play into this, because it's rare that you see African-Americans and -- and white residents here really marching together? And we did see that today. It felt like it was something different today.

REED: Well, I think that what happened was that, in the last weekend, we had two very popular citizens, one black, you know, this band leader, a coach, and this white filmmaker. And, so it's two disparate elements bringing -- bringing the city together. And that's what it took.

I mean, usually, we have drug dealers killing drug dealers, which is not any better, but it's -- it doesn't ignite the -- the populace like this.

COOPER: Where does it go from here? Where does the -- how do you -- what do you do with it?

EVERSON: Well, I think that's the question. We're still trying to figure it out as citizens. What happens when we hear about the next murder? What do we do? In order to -- because we have to change the way that we're reacting to this.

We want the media to, you know, pay attention to each victim. Just because a victim was, say, a black hairstylist as opposed to, you know, somebody more prominent, it should be front-page news, and it isn't.

REED: And it would be good if the mayor turned up. I mean, even though we have an incompetent mayor, he can at least talk the talk. I mean, you know...

COOPER: He doesn't turn out -- there was a press conference on Tuesday, but that's really the first a lot of people...

REED: That's the first time. That's the first time. He should say, "I am in this with you. I am here. I know what's happening." And he doesn't even acknowledge what's going on. So I'm sorry, we've talked to other mayors around the county. Crime is going up everywhere else so don't worry about it. That was his response up until this moment.

COOPER: We'll keep on this story. We appreciate what you're doing. Good to talk to you. Sorry for your loss, and please, extend our condolences to all your friends.

EVERSON: Thank you.

COOPER: In Washington, a showdown over stem-cell research is shaping up. We're also going to have a lot more from New Orleans in this coming hour, as well. But a showdown over stem-cell research is shaping up between the Democrats on Capitol Hill and the president. We'll have that story coming up.

Plus, convicted lawmakers. You are paying their pensions, congressmen who've committed fraud, corruption, all sorts of crimes. They're in jail. We're still paying their pensions. Who let it happen and why? Naming names. We're "Keeping Them Honest" when 360 continues.


COOPER: And welcome back.

Coming to you from the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. We'll have a whole lot more from here coming up later tonight. But right now, congressional crooks. They are behind bars, literally, and you're still paying their pensions. Last year a law that would have cut them off died in the Senate.

When we told you about this earlier this week you were outraged. Some of you think we didn't go far enough. You wanted to hear names of who's to blame: who killed this bill? So we sent CNN's Drew Griffin back to Capitol Hill to track down the committee members and keep them honest.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former Congressman Randall Duke Cunningham pleaded guilty to accepting more than $2 million in bribes, but he still gets his congressional pension of an estimated $64,000 a year.

Convicted congressman James Traficant gets an estimated $40,000 a year. Both of them are still in prison.

Why hasn't anyone stopped it? Senate bill 2268 was introduced last year to do just that. The bill would have banned the pensions of lawmakers convicted of what its co-sponsor called the really bad crimes: stealing, bribery, public corruption.

SEN. KEN SALAZAR (D), COLORADO: It's really that white-collar crime where people, instead of representing the private interest and the people of the country, instead of representing their own personal interests. And so that's why we went after the white collar crime.

GRIFFIN: But even as good as it sounds, the bill never even got a vote. Tuesday night, we reported it got to this Senate subcommittee and died.

(on camera) But that wasn't good enough for at least one of our viewers. Julia Charles of West Palm Beach, Florida, wrote to say all members of that subcommittee are to blame. She says, "The fact no one did a thing to move that bill makes them guilty. All of them. So why didn't you name the committee members?"

(voice-over) Julia, here they are, all the members of the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, Federal Workforce and District of Colombia. For two days we've been tracking them down, and it may come as no surprise, that was not easy.

The chairman of last session's committee was Republican George Voinovich of Ohio. His staff told us he was just too busy. The ranking Democrat was Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii. He emerged from a vote in the Senate today and he says he doesn't know where there was no vote last year.

(on camera) You support it and you will support it?


GRIFFIN: I -- but I still, I spent two days trying to figure out why nobody supported it last year.

AKAKA: Yes, that's right. I didn't, but this year is different.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Two more senators on the subcommittee, one Democrat and one Republican, also had no explanation for last year's failure. In fact, they couldn't remember what happened.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: The question is what happened to it last year? I don't know the answer to that question.

SEN. MARK PRYOR (D), ARKANSAS: I can't remember all the specifics. We had a lot of amendments last year.

GRIFFIN: If their memories are a little weak on the subject of getting crooks a pension, it's because they say last year ethics weren't a big issue. Now they are.

PRYOR: This year we're going to try to do our dead level best to pass the amendment to take pensions away from senators and congressmen who have been convicted of public corruption while they're in office.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Senator, every single lawmaker I've talked to on this issue says we absolutely should not be paying the pensions of crooks. And, yet, year after year it does not happen. Is it really going happen?

COBURN: I don't know. I am certainly supportive of it. I will drive it through the subcommittee.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Senator Coburn even told us, CNN, that we should keep the pressure on, keep the cameras on, keep revealing how many convicted politicians are still getting pensions.

But critics are telling us nothing will change, and if we want to find out why, just go into the House Ways and Means Committee hearing room and see how Congress has treated one of its own who was caught and convicted but certainly not forgotten.

(on camera) That is convicted Congressman Dan Rostenkowski's picture up there. The former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee went to prison for stealing public money. He got a pardon from Bill Clinton, he got a spot on the wall and he gets from you and me, the federal taxpayers, an estimated $126,000 a year pension.

MELANIE SLOAN, CREW: 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.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Maybe this time, though, it will happen. The Senate bill to ban pensions for felons may come up for a vote next week.

Drew Griffin, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Don't you kind of wish politicians would keep personal diaries so that when they asked them why a bill was killed in the subcommittee a year ago they could actually remember? It seems mysterious. No one seems to remember why this bill didn't make it, but this year they say it's going to pass. We'll keep on them. We'll keep them honest.

It's not like lawmakers can't get things done when they really want to. It took hours for House Democrats to ram through a bill that President Bush hates. A whole lot of people could be better betting their lives on. Extending stem-cell research.


MICHAEL J. FOX, ACTOR/ACTIVIST: Stem-cell research offers hope.

COOPER (voice-over): We'll hear from one of them, actor, activist and father, Michael J. Fox.

(on camera) Is it true one of your kids used to call you Shaky Dad?

FOX: Yes. My son used to call me Shaky Dad. And my daughters, my little one's favorite thing to say is, "He's got a broken brain (ph)."

COOPER (voice-over): Michael J. Fox on Parkinson's, politics and more when 360 continues.



COOPER: Well, the clock is ticking. House Democrats are 17 hours, 48 minutes into their first 100 legislative hours.

After tackling 9/11 reform and minimum wage, the House today voted to lift restrictions on federal funding for human stem-cell research, but the vote fell short of the two-thirds majority need to override a promised presidential veto, setting up what could be a bitter showdown between Congress and President Bush.

CNN's Joe Johns was on Capitol Hill tonight, "Keeping Them Honest".


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three days into their 100-hour blitz, House Democrats picked a fight with the Bush White House over the only issue that has prompted a presidential veto: embryonic stem-cell research.

REP. JOHN DINGELL (D), MICHIGAN: Embryonic stem-cell research holds the potential for developing treatments for many dreaded diseases. JOHNS: At Johns Hopkins Cancer Center in Baltimore, Maryland, the careers of stem-cell researchers are literally on the line in the debate.

DR. ELIAS ZAMBIDIS, JOHNS HOPKINS HOSPITAL: I think -- I think that it's an impasse.

JOHNS: An impasse over whether the federal government should fund research that involves frozen embryos created for in vitro fertilization that could lead to cures for a whole host of diseases like Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, even cancer.

Today's debate over stem cell was expected to be a replay of many others, except for a new and potentially significant twist. The announcement last week that researchers had isolated stem cells from amniotic fluid, the liquid that surrounds a fetus in the womb.

The amniotic stem cells can be harvested without harming what many see as the beginning of human life. The debate is a proxy fight over abortion.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: Ethical stem cell alternatives continue to flourish in the scientific community.

JOHNS: Keeping them honest, we took a look at whether the alternate source of stem cells in fact holds the same promise as embryonic cells without the ethical issues.

Dr. Elias Zambidis at Johns Hopkins is a cancer doctor and researchers.

ZAMBIDIS: I think most of us in the stem cell biology field don't see it as an either/or. I think we see it as a welcome addition.

JOHNS: But that hasn't stopped people on both sides of this emotional debate from drawing early conclusions. Abortion opponents think the new study cuts the ground out from under the embryonic stem cell advocates.

CARRIER GORDON EARLL, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: Folks that advocate for destructive embryo research are finding the science does not line up with their politics and it's putting them in a hard position.

JOHNS: But Eve Herold, author of a new book, "Stem Cell Wars", says the anti-abortion groups are going too far too fast.

EVE HEROLD, AUTHOR, "STEM CELL WARS": It causes so much confusion in the minds of the public that you really can't blame people for not knowing which way to go on this. There are people who really want it to be true, and I think that is where they kind of go off the track.

JOHNS: There's enough gray in all of this to give the president reason to stick to his guns and his veto and instead call for more funding for research into alternative source of stem cells that don't involve human embryos. And since the House didn't reach the two- thirds majority to overturn that veto today, we're still at an impasse.

Joe Johns, CNN, Baltimore, Maryland.


COOPER: Well, coming up tonight, he has become the face of stem- cell research, actor turned activist Michael J. Fox. He has a crippling, incurable illness. He believes these controversial methods can offer hope to millions of others suffering the same fate. Our revealing interview next on 360.


COOPER: And here we are in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. Some of the wreckage which still lays out here, some 500 days since Hurricane Katrina struck.

We'll have a lot more from New Orleans coming up, but right now we're talking about stem-cell research. In the '80s his role as Alex Keaton on the hit television sitcom "Family Ties" made Michael J. Fox a household name. Today his name is synonymous with one of the most controversial issues in politics: stem cell research, embryonic stem cell research in particular.

Before the November election, Fox used his star power to campaign for candidates in favor of the research. I went to Washington to talk to him about his personal battle with Parkinson's and why he believes that embryonic stem-cell research could offer people hope.


COOPER: Do you feel like you're making a difference?

MICHAEL J. FOX, ACTOR/ACTIVIST: Yes, I do, and it's -- the great thing about when you get involved with something that's much bigger than you. I mean, in a way I might have become a catalyst in some areas in terms of the conversation, but the conversation has its own steam.

COOPER: There are those who said, look, that you're giving false hope to people, that you're implying that a cure is just around the corner.

FOX: I've never said that. But at the same time, too, there's qualification of hope is very unsettling. It's -- hope -- hope is what this country is about. Hope, and it's an informed hope. It's a hope based on the opinions of most scientists.

I won't say all scientists, but there may be one or two out there, but certainly, we agree that stem cell research is worthwhile and viable and may yield results.

We agree that there should be no egg forming and there should be -- there should be no -- there should be no human cloning. We agree that to the extent that some of these hundreds of thousands of cells that are routinely being destroyed can be adopted. That's great. We support that program.

We agree with everything. We're just saying we can have a seat belt and we'd also like an air bag because technology exists. So why should we stop short of a full expression of our hope for cures? And following the advice of scientists that may yield results, as well.

When people throw around words of cloning, they bring up images of recreating human beings, like ten of you and five of me, or whatever. It's not at all. It's being able to create cells that can be used specifically to patients for drug screening, for research but there's no life created. There's no potential for life there.

So it's -- it's -- it's advanced science, but there are such stringent ethical guidelines in place that it will never express itself in the way that they're concerned.

COOPER: What is it like to -- you're suddenly seeing politics in a very raw way, up close. I mean, you're -- people say it's a full- contact sport.

FOX: It's true.

COOPER: You've been punched around it a bit. What have you learned?

FOX: Well, if you believe in what you're doing, it doesn't hurt. I have just one message and it's bipartisan and it's nonpartisan, and it's just about hope. It's just about giving hope a chance.

But I -- I'm just really -- really concerned if we close doors because we -- because we think that our scientists aren't ethical enough to -- to proceed down this path in a way that we, as a country, would approve of. I think that, you know, we -- that the strictest ethical guidelines are in place, you know. But if we don't lead in this another country's going to, and we're not going have the ethical oversight. And it's going happen, so we should do it.

You know, like I said, I just really believe in this. I have no axe to grind other than I just want -- I just want us to really consider the effect that this can have on people that we love and -- you know, I really would love for us to be optimistic and express hope.


COOPER: That was Michael J. Fox back in November. The debate only continues.

Back here, yet another outrage. A plan that was supposed to help people repair their homes, it's called the Road Home Program, but for a lot of people it's turned into a road to nowhere. We're "Keeping Them Honest" ahead.

Plus the man President Bush is counting on for the mission in Iraq to succeed. As you're going to see, not even the president's top advisers really trust him.

You're watching 360, the long road home from New Orleans.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Tom Foreman in Washington. Anderson will have more from New Orleans in a moment, but first a quick business bulletin.

Today on Wall Street, a day of record highs. A big rally pushed the Dow to its highest close ever, 12,514, up 72 points. The NASDAQ added 25 points, its highest point in nearly six years. The S&P gained nine.

That's a look at the markets. More from New Orleans, next.


COOPER: And we are coming to you tonight from the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, 500 days since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, yet seemingly a lifetime away from making this city whole again.

Things haven't gone well here. There has been waste and corruption. There has been out and out incompetence. There has been a blame game. You name it, you can find it here.

You can also find more and more people, good people, people who are fed up, who say they're just not going to take it anymore.

Coming up tonight, why 500 days since a natural disaster, this manmade catastrophe still goes on. You get a sense of it here in the Lower Ninth Ward. Even though many houses have been cleared and there's a lot of just block after block of nothing. Some homes still remain literally untouched.


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