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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Sex Sting Nets Idaho Senator Larry Craig; Owen Wilson in Trouble
Aired August 28, 2007 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: We are in a neighborhood tonight in a city that is rebuilding, but, in many ways, is still on the ropes.
If you take a look around, you can certainly see the evidence. If you take a tour of the area, you will certainly find a great deal more. Now, we have been talking to people who stuck around who are piecing their lives back together. And we're talking to other people who have come here to help. Tonight, we will have some of their stories two years after Hurricane Katrina.
But our top two stories tonight deal with the private lives of public figures and how they square with the images they put out there.
In the case of Senator Larry Craig, a scandal centered on allegedly cruising men in restrooms set against the senator's loud support of conservative family values.
Then there's actor Owen Wilson and reports of self-destructive behavior, possibly even a suicide attempt.
We begin tonight with Senator Craig. For the second time in his Washington career, he is confronting allegations about his sex life and hypocrisy. Now, the last time, 25 years ago, it was during a scandal in which, by the way, he was never officially implicated. It involved male congressional pages.
Now, this time, he is on the spot after the revelation of his arrest and a guilty plea in connection with an alleged cruising episode in an airport men's room.
Today, with calls coming from his own Republican colleagues for a Senate Ethics Committee investigation, Senator Craig went before the cameras in Boise.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LARRY CRAIG (R), IDAHO: First, please let me apologize to my family, friends, and staff and fellow Idahoans for the cloud placed over Idaho.
I did nothing wrong at the Minneapolis Airport. I did nothing wrong, and I regret the decision to plead guilty and the sadness that decision has brought on my wife, my family, friends, staff, and fellow Idahoans. And, for that, I apologize.
In June, I overreacted and made a poor decision. While I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct at the Minneapolis Airport or anywhere else, I chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge, in hopes of making it go away. I did not seek any counsel, either from an attorney, staff, friends, or family. That was a mistake, and I deeply regret it.
For eight months leading up to June 11, my family and I had been relentlessly and viciously harassed by "The Idaho Statesman." If you saw the article today, you know why.
Let me be clear: I am not gay. I never have been gay.
Still, without a shred of truth or evidence to the contrary, "The Statesman" has engaged in this witch-hunt.
In pleading guilty, I overreacted in Minneapolis because of the stress "The Idaho Statesman" investigation and the rumors it has fueled all around Idaho.
Furthermore, I should not have kept this arrest to myself, and I should have told my family and my friends about it. I wasn't eager to share this failure, but I should have anyway, because I am not gay.
I love my wife.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: It was a remarkable moment, and not just because it might earn him his own chapter in things not to say on TV. It's something we're going to take up in a little bit with Jeff Toobin.
Before we do, though, CNN's Candy Crowley lays out the charges, the allegations, the implications, and the history for us.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senator Larry Craig denies the allegations against him and the underlying implication.
CRAIG: Let me be clear: I am not gay.
CROWLEY: Craig was arrested in June at the Minneapolis Airport for alleged lewd behavior in a men's bathroom known for sexual activity. The police report describes in excruciating detail Craig's alleged actions, including two minutes when the senator stood outside, peering into the stall of a plainclothes policeman working on a sex sting.
"Craig would look down at his hands," the officer wrote, "fidget with his fingers, and then look into the crack in my stall again." The officer says Craig then went into the stall next to his and, "At 12:16 hours, Craig tapped his right foot. I recognized this as a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct."
The report says Craig also made several hand motions beneath the stall partition. The policeman responded by showing his badge. Once inside the police operations center, the officer says Craig protested that his actions were misconstrued. Then, the report says, "Craig handed me a business card that identified himself as a United States senator, as he stated, 'What do you think about that?'
The senator eventually paid a fine and pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, a plea he now says is a mistake.
CRAIG: I did nothing wrong at the Minneapolis Airport. I did nothing wrong.
CROWLEY: The senator says he pleaded guilty to -- quote -- "make it go away," and because he was stressed by a newspaper investigation into his sexual orientation.
"The Idaho Statesman" looked into allegations and rumors that have cropped up in the senator's quarter century in Washington. In 1982, during an investigation of charges that lawmakers were having sex with underaged congressional pages, Craig, whose name never surfaced publicly, nonetheless denied it publicly, a statement aired on ABC News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC NEWS)
CRAIG: Persons who are unmarried, as I am, by choice or by circumstance, have always been the subject of innuendoes, gossip and false accusations. I think this is despicable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: The newspaper probe began last year after a gay activist said Craig was gay. One of the sources of that story told "The Statesman" he had sex with Craig in a bathroom at Union Station in Washington. The paper found the source credible, but there is no proof of the event, nor of similar stories from two other men, and the senator has denied it all. In Washington, that may not be enough to save his career.
JENNIFER DUFFY, MANAGING EDITOR, "THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT": I think it's very damaging. There is a lot of smoke here. And the truth is that, in politics, smoke is as deadly as the fire sometimes.
CROWLEY: Craig's crisis is exacerbated by his own record. He is one of Capitol Hill's most conservative members from one of the country's most conservative states. He is a family-values Republican who favors a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman. He voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, a bill defining the institution of marriage. He opposed a bill to prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: In a way, if he wouldn't have been just such a god-awful, big hypocrite, part of you just wants to -- you feel sorry. I mean, the guy's got family. He's got kids. You have got to feel sorry for him. But...
CROWLEY: Politics is not an arena rich in sympathy. Craig is out as chairman of the Mitt Romney team in Idaho. Romney compared Craig's problems to Bill Clinton's -- quote -- "It's disgusting."
Fellow Republican leaders, already fearful of getting hammered in 2008, scrambled for distance. They called for an Ethics Committee probe. Whatever Larry Craig did and didn't do, politically, he is toxic now.
Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.
O'BRIEN: So, Senator Craig now regrets pleading guilty, denies the charges, denies the sexual allegations, and chose to say so loudly today.
This all becoming public yesterday probably necessitated saying something, but this, and this way?
Well, here to help us understand what the senator said, how he said it, and perhaps why, is CNN senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin.
Jeff, good evening to you.
You know, it was interesting to me. Senator Craig said he pled guilty because he felt like he had been hounded by this local paper investigation, and, yet, pleading guilty to those charges almost seems like the exact opposite of what you would do if that were the case.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Soledad, I hope you don't expect me to apply -- apply logic to Senator Craig's behavior, because it is all so simply bizarre, that I can't explain it.
But what he did say today was, when I pleaded guilty in Minnesota, when I took an oath and swore to tell the truth to the judge when I pled guilty, I was actually committing perjury. I was lying to the judge, saying that I was guilty, when, in fact, I was innocent.
Now, why you would do that, and why you would think somehow pleading guilty would make this matter go away, why you would think, as a United States senator, that becoming a convicted criminal would not become news, would not be relevant to the constituents who elected me or the taxpayers who pay my salary, I have no idea why he thought that. But that's apparently what he thought.
O'BRIEN: It was certainly strange that this is something that happened in June, and yet no one really found out about it, not just his -- his colleagues in the Senate, but his family as well. And he sort of expected that maybe they -- they wouldn't by pleading guilty. That also was one of the many things that seemed strange to me.
TOOBIN: It is strange.
I mean, you know, frankly, most -- most reporters don't check who's pleading guilty to misdemeanors in Minneapolis. I mean, that is not generally a newsworthy thing in Minneapolis or anywhere else. But, obviously, this kind of thing is going to come out sooner or later. And it took a few extra weeks, but it did come out.
And now he's trying to deal with it, but his tack of saying, well, I pled guilty, but I'm not guilty, and I'm going to hire a lawyer to explore my options, presumably of trying to withdraw my guilty plea, is just absurd.
O'BRIEN: Is that a legal possibility? I mean, can you -- can you -- could you have a lawyer say, listen, he didn't know what he was doing; my client didn't have representation, didn't know what he was doing; he made a mistake?
TOOBIN: The circumstances when you can withdraw a guilty plea are extremely narrow: You were on drugs and didn't understand what you were doing. You didn't speak English. You were being physically coerced, threatened with death or -- if you didn't plead guilty.
This situation, where you have a highly educated, highly sophisticated United States senator making a conscious decision to waive an attorney and plead guilty, I don't see any circumstances where the Minnesota -- Minnesota courts will allow him to withdraw this guilty plea.
O'BRIEN: Of all the strange details in this story, one really stuck out to me, and that was where the officer said that -- there was this detail in the police report that said that the senator handed him his business card and said, "Well, what do you think of that?" because the business card said "U.S. senator" on it.
That seems, again, odd behavior for a guy who sounds like he was trying to fly under the radar.
TOOBIN: Yes, but you can also, perhaps, think that he was trying to intimidate the officer into not filing charges, because he didn't want to mess with a U.S. senator.
But, you know, this officer, in the Minnesota bathroom, who, frankly, has one of the worst jobs in the United States, I think, this poor undercover cop, seems like he did his job, wrote a very thorough report, and produced a guilty plea.
Now, the senator's behavior, in trying to say that the officer was lying about all of this, is much stranger than what the poor officer was doing.
O'BRIEN: It is very, very strange. Jeff Toobin for us -- thank you, Jeff, as always.
TOOBIN: OK, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: And, of course, like it or not, the story is really red meat for comedians. It's a nightmare for editors who are trying to keep a serious story serious.
Case in point, a major blog leading with this line: "Senator Craig comes out swinging."
You can see why people would giggle at that.
It's the same reason other people get mad, though, hypocrisy hitting hot buttons and funny bones, and it is not for the first time.
Here's CNN's Tom Foreman.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If anyone should know how far they can fall, you would think it would be people in high places. Yet, time and again, they plummet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The truth is, I broke the law.
MICHAEL VICK, CONVICTED NFL QUARTERBACK: I take full responsibility for my actions.
SEN. DAVID VITTER (R), LOUISIANA: And I'm so very, very sorry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think there is a fancy way to say that I have sinned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY SWAGGART, TELEVANGELIST: I have sinned against you, my lord.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: So, what leads a person under intense public scrutiny to imagine that he or she can get away with unacceptable behavior? This: People who surround the rich, powerful and famous tell them they are special, feeding what psychologist Belisa Vranich calls acquired narcissism.
BELISA VRANICH, PSYCHOLOGIST: They're giving you everything. They're at your beck and call. So, you break the rules because they just aren't there for you anymore.
FOREMAN: She says here is how it works. As public figures rise in fame and influence, people who want to share that spotlight may help them around the rules that govern our daily lives. The powerful often don't wait in lines. They don't search for parking spaces. When they make a phone call, people answer.
Gradually, some start believing they really are not like everyone else. And, for politicians, the effect can be even more pronounced.
VRANICH: They're saying: I'm serving the public. I have given my time. I have given hours and years of my life to serve the public. So, now I'm entitled to break the rules when it comes to my comfort. FOREMAN (on camera): Our whole society reinforces this. We learn, for example, not to challenge our bosses, even when we think they're doing something wrong, because we fear being punished or cut out of the rewards.
(voice-over): So, special people do play by special rules, and they don't expect to be caught -- until, of course, they are.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
O'BRIEN: Let's get a little perspective now from addiction specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky. He's with us from Los Angeles tonight.
Dr. Drew, nice to see you, as always.
DR. DREW PINSKY, AUTHOR, "CRACKED: PUTTING BROKEN LIVES TOGETHER AGAIN": Hi, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: There are really, I mean, so many questions surrounding this case, truly. But -- but here's one of the things that struck me. The officer said that the senator handed him his card...
O'BRIEN: ... to sort of point out, you know, "What do you think about this?"
Jeff Toobin said a minute ago, well, maybe that's some kind of intimidation.
What do you think that says about this senator involving this case?
PINSKY: I think it was an attempted intimidation. Just like that piece you just rolled, it shows people in special positions do tend to sort of feel that they are special and have special privileges.
And he figured he would get by with this. And the reality is, you know, he -- he was pleading guilty in June, and he almost did pull this off. That's the fact. I would look at it differently than your legal analyst, not that it would eventually come up, but this guy almost slipped through. He played it exactly right for what he was trying to do.
The reality also is that not just that people like this get acquired narcissism. In research I have recently published, we were able to show that people in celebrity status, celebrity positions, come to that celebrity status with severe narcissistic tendencies. So, they already have character problems, and it's inflated further by their position and specialness.
O'BRIEN: Yes, but, you know, if there was ever a press conference that didn't help you, that -- that was it. And... PINSKY: Yes.
O'BRIEN: ... the rationale for -- for why he pled guilty was -- was incredibly odd. And...
O'BRIEN: ... you got the sense that, well, he felt that, if there was just this calm, straightforward delivery of the reason, that would be enough for everybody; he explained it away.
And I -- you know, we have seen this before in politicians. There's a long, rich history of politicians denying things like this, and a lot of political speak, and lawyer speak when they get up in front of the public.
I was sort of remarking about the fact that he said, "I'm not gay." And I thought, hmm, that's a specific category. There's other categories, like men who have sex with men, that's actually a clinical category. He may be trying to cover up even now in front of all of us. He may be trying to sort of shroud the truth in this sort of legal speak.
O'BRIEN: He talked about this newspaper that had really been hounding him about questions of his sexual orientation for a long time. And, yet, when you read the details of the police report, it seems like everything he did, allegedly, in this bathroom would be the opposite of what you would do if you were nervous about an investigation into your sexual orientation.
PINSKY: Yes, absolutely.
I mean, either that cop is a delusional maniac or he got the wrong guy, or he's got some explaining to do, because the -- the actions speak for themselves. And then he became rather histrionic and grandiose, claiming that he was handcuffed and dragged in.
I mean, the police report, I really encourage people to read it. It's quite revealing. I feel very sorry for this man. He must be in great, great pain and in great misery. This is a horrible situation.
Unfortunately, though, because of his previous political positions, the rest of us feel righteous indignation, and we are very sensitive to these sorts of issues in our culture today.
O'BRIEN: Anybody who's taken psychology 101 would say, there's a theory that people do things in an obvious way when they want to be caught.
What do you make of that?
PINSKY: Yes. I -- I don't make much of that.
In my -- in my clinical practice, in my clinical life, people -- the idea of people crying out for help and wanting to be caught, people just take things to higher and higher levels of arousal and extremes. They're taking greater risks to get greater highs. And, eventually, they get caught.
Now, they may want, on some level, to get caught. They may feel deeply disturbed about what they're -- what they're doing and actually wish to be re-victimized. Oftentimes, these people were victims in childhood, and these are victim reenactments.
Being caught, being put before the public, being the object of shame, that can be a reenactment. To that extent, but they don't sort of consciously do it. And they are not crying out for help. I -- I never see that.
O'BRIEN: I know you're not a legal analyst, but do you think that this is the end of his career, that he's going to have to come to a different kind of mea culpa?
PINSKY: He's going to have to do something; that's for sure. I hope this is an opportunity for us all to look at these sort of saber- rattling, you know, strategies that people have out there, and say, hey, look, we're all human beings. Let's take a more libertarian approach to all this. People make mistakes. And don't try to tell people how to live their lives.
O'BRIEN: Dr. Drew Pinsky, for us tonight -- thank you very much, Dr. Drew.
PINSKY: My pleasure.
O'BRIEN: Dr. Pinsky is going to stay with us to help us understand another story tonight that is rocking Hollywood.
Actor Owen Wilson going through some kind of personal crisis, reportedly trying to kill himself.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Happy-go-lucky, but, apparently, not happy.
LARRY SUTTON, "PEOPLE": There are a number of reports out there that say he attempted to commit suicide, that he attempted to slit his wrists.
O'BRIEN: What drove Owen Wilson to desperation? And how do you battle inner demons in the glare of Hollywood glamour?
Also: why Republicans love Hillary, and who is Fidel Castro's choice for a presidential ticket?
"Raw Politics" -- only on 360.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "WEDDING CRASHERS")
OWEN WILSON, ACTOR: The present you're holding is a sterling silver fondue set. John Ryan...
RACHEL MCADAMS, ACTRESS: Claire Cleary. Uh, so how do you know that?
WILSON: Well, I'm a psychic.
MCADAMS: You're psychic?
WILSON: I am.
MCADAMS: What's that one?
WILSON: Knife set. German. Very nice.
MCADAMS: Hmm. And that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: That was a scene from the comedy hit "Wedding Crashers."
Tonight, one of the stars of that film, Owen Wilson, is in the hospital. He is recovering from a reported suicide attempt.
Why would a man with seemingly everything in the world want to kill himself? We're going to check back in with Dr. Drew Pinsky with that question in just a moment.
First, CNN's David Mattingly has the latest for us.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On screen, he's often a charming and slightly out-there slacker. And, in the smash hit "Wedding Crashers," Owen Wilson played the guy who got the laughs and got the girl.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "WEDDING CRASHERS")
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: But, in real life, Wilson's easygoing persona may have been masking serious personal problems.
Police say that, on Sunday, they were called to the block in Santa Monica, California, where Wilson's gated mansion is located. Police logs reveal they were responding to a suicide attempt.
LARRY SUTTON, "PEOPLE": There are a number of reports out there that say he attempted to commit suicide, that he attempted to slit his wrists. None of this has been confirmed by authorities, either at the hospital or the police who responded to the call. Word is, though, it was pretty serious.
MATTINGLY: Wilson last made celebrity headlines three months ago during his high-profile split with actress Kate Hudson.
SUTTON: As far as we know, his breakup with Kate Hudson was something that happened a few months back, and he got over it. It doesn't seem like that's the kind of thing that make him -- put him over the edge.
MATTINGLY: Wilson was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he was visited by family, including brother and fellow actor Luke Wilson.
Hospital officials say Wilson is in good condition, but would not reveal specifics. In a statement released by his publicist, the actor said, "I respectfully ask that the media allow me to receive care and heal in private during this difficult time."
With a string of successes, Wilson is an actor in demand. And, as long as audiences continue to laugh, many predict his career in comedy will likely overcome a private life filled with drama.
David Mattingly, CNN, Atlanta.
O'BRIEN: For more on Owen Wilson's apparent suicide attempt, let's bring back addiction specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky.
Dr. Drew, you know, I have got to tell you, when people heard the story, they -- they were truly shocked.
O'BRIEN: And -- and maybe it's because there's a stereotype of the kinds of people who commit suicide. People are lonely, desperate, terribly depressed, none of the things that, frankly, would describe Owen Wilson.
You have to keep in mind that suicide and depression can sometimes be symptoms of other psychiatric disturbances. For instance, half of schizophrenics attempt to commit suicide. Addicts frequently commit -- try to commit suicide. Bipolar in manic states try to commit suicide, and, of course, depression.
Now, the other thing about depression is, it too, can be a symptom of other conditions. The only thing we know about -- about Mr. Wilson -- and it's -- it's sad that we're having to talk about him. This is a guy that everyone loves, and, so, maybe we can all learn something about this, but, really, our empathic -- and our hearts should go out for him.
But the reality is that he was admitted to Hazelden chemical dependence Treatment center for apparently heroin and cocaine. And, once someone is an opiate, cocaine addict, they are always an opiate and cocaine addict. That is their diagnosis.
So, if they develop depression, and develop behavior problems and suicidality, you must think that their primary diagnosis is underlying that. And I must tell that you relationships break down when people are using. Maybe that's what happened with Kate Hudson.
The other thing that opiate addicts do they're trying to detox is, they will frequently self-mutilate and do very impulsive things. They will cut their wrists, they will cut their throats, in an attempt to sort of get relief from the pain of the withdrawal syndrome.
So, it's very suspicious that depression is actually not the underlying condition here, but some other disturbance, such as addiction. That's why we're all so bewildered about it. He doesn't seem depressed. He didn't leave a suicide note. He wasn't giving things away, which are the kinds of things you see from someone, particularly a male, who, when they do commit suicide, complete it.
But, when addicts do compulsive acts -- or impulsive acts, you see this sort of thing unfold.
O'BRIEN: So, you're saying it's not a classic suicide attempt; it's an addict whose sort of drug behavior went wrong?
PINSKY: The addict -- well, no. It's addict -- well, no, no, addicts do very impulsive things to try to get out of the pain and misery of their addiction, whether they're trying to get relief from withdrawal.
Or, really, we sort of conceptualize it as trying to kill the addict, that they feel despair will never go away in them, and they feel -- they see no other way out. It's really -- they are depressed. They are truly depressed, but it's really not depression that leads to the suicide attempt.
And this -- this situation really smacks of that kind of thing. The good news is, highly treatable. Addiction is a highly treatable condition. Thank God he did not kill himself. Again, a depressed male usually uses a gun or violent means, while an addict will do very impulsive things, pills, scratching, slit -- you see even going at their throat and things with -- with sharp objects. That's a common thing in addicts in withdrawal.
O'BRIEN: Let's talk about another common thing. I mean, is it usual for people around the person who -- who -- who attempts to take his or her own life, that -- that the friends and family members wouldn't necessarily know that they have a severe problem, or is it your experience that, usually, they do know? PINSKY: No, it can be hard to tell, particularly with adolescents. They hide these things very carefully. They can be ruminating about suicidality. You may just think you have got a moody young person on your hand, when, in fact, there are much more serious demons afoot.
I will tell you the one thing I -- the thing I mentioned earlier is, if you see somebody giving things away, expressing hopelessness, ruminating, obviously, about suicidality or death, that's a clue.
But, oftentimes, people don't give you much clues when they're going to, in a -- in a systematic way, say, in this case, of a depressed patient, when they're going to kill themselves. The ones that complete the act often give you no clues.
O'BRIEN: Well, whatever it is, it's a truly very sad, sad story.
Dr. Drew Pinsky helping us out again -- thank you, Dr. Drew. Appreciate it.
PINSKY: My pleasure.
O'BRIEN: Coming up next: a "Raw Politics" look at the presidential race, why Hillary Clinton might become a top fund-raiser for Republicans.
And who has Fidel Castro's vote?
Also ahead: some raw summer fun. You don't want to try this at home.
O'BRIEN: President Bush arrived in New Orleans just a few hours ago. He is here to mark the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina tomorrow.
He is not the only politician in town this week. And that's where "Raw Politics" begins.
Here again is CNN's Tom Foreman.
FOREMAN: Soledad, up to your neck in alligators is one thing, but New Orleans right now is being flooded with something much more dangerous.
(voice-over) The anniversary of Katrina is drawing presidential campaigners from all over.
JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I want to see action.
FOREMAN: They're all promising a more vigorous response to the needs of the area. MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to find the resolve and the will to rebuild our own cities in our Gulf Coast.
FOREMAN: It's an easy sell. Our latest poll says more than half of you think the federal government has not done enough to rebuild from the storm.
The masked candidate rides into trouble. Undeclared Fred Thompson is struggling to corral his non-campaign. Another big aide quits, and hints are flying that his fundraising is still low.
FRED THOMPSON, FORMER SENATOR: Not much upside.
FOREMAN: The "Raw" read, he is expected to jump in in the next couple of weeks, but every day until then may be critical time lost.
Top fund-raiser for the Republicans, Democrat Hillary Clinton. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is the latest GOP stalwart to say the Hill will get the Dem nomination. And Republicans must unite to defeat her in the general election.
And bring on the dancing communist. Fidel Castro has an editorial in a Cuban newspaper saying a Clinton/Obama ticket would be unbeatable in the upcoming election.
(on camera) No response from the campaigns yet over this apparent endorsement from the world's most famous communist, but we probably couldn't understand him over all the screaming and cursing anyway -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Yes, that's one of those "thanks for that endorsement." All right. Thanks, Tom.
David Mattingly joins us now. He's got a "360 Bulletin" tonight.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Soledad.
Serious charges tonight against a military officer tied to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal have been dropped. Lieutenant Colonel Steven L. Jordan was acquitted of charges he failed to control soldiers who abused detainees at the infamous Iraqi prison.
However, a judge did find him guilty of disobeying a general's command not to talk about the investigation into allegations of prisoner abuse. Jordan faces up to five years in jail.
Former astronaut Lisa Nowak is planning an insanity defense against charges that she shot pepper spray at a romantic rival. That's according to court documents.
In February, Nowak allegedly stalked Air Force captain Colleen Shipman and drove from Texas to Florida to confront her in Orlando. Shipman had been dating Nowak's former love interest. Nowak's trial now begins next month.
And embattled football star Michael Vick today canceled a scheduled appearance on a nationally syndicated radio show. Vick backed out of "The Tom Joyner Morning Show" after advisors said someone might take some parts of the interview out of context.
Yesterday, Vick pleaded guilty to a federal dog fighting conspiracy charge.
And now, Soledad, our segment, "What Were They Thinking?" And I'm afraid I may know the answer to that question.
Tonight's video comes to us from a viewer in Illinois. Take a look at this. It's a slide rigged up to the top of a roof. At the bottom of it is a small pool. There you go.
This guy who went down the slide apparently didn't get hurt, but he lost his shorts. That, though, didn't stop others from trying it out. Of course, we strongly recommend that you don't try this at home or anywhere. Come on. That's just wrong.
O'BRIEN: No, no. That could end very, very badly. Yes, yes. Losing your shorts is the least of your problems.
MATTINGLY: But I think I know what they were thinking. These are young guys. They saw that. They were thinking, hey, this could be fun. No. No.
O'BRIEN: Hey. Why not a slide? From the roof?
All right, David, thanks.
Coming up this evening, people around the country tell us they don't think enough is being done to help the folks in New Orleans. Coming up next, are their suspicions correct?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN (voice-over): He's made a lot of promises since the hurricane. We're "Keeping Them Honest".
SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right outside your window there, we could see this new homeless camp that has sprung up. Have you gone over there to look? Do you want to take a look, walk out with me on your balcony and take a look?
RAY NAGIN, MAYOR OF NEW ORLEANS: I know exactly what you're talking about.
O'BRIEN: How New Orleans Mayor Nagin has lived up to his promises of action two years after Katrina.
Also ahead, the young heroes who dropped everything to help kids in New Orleans learn. They came from all over, but is the system failing them and their students? "Keeping Them Honest" where it matters the most, to the next generation, only on 360. (END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Clearly, these are images we're never going to forget. It's almost hard to believe, but tomorrow marks the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. And while progress is being made, the promise of rebuilding New Orleans remains largely unfulfilled.
And there are many Americans who believe it's going to stay that way. A new CNN poll shows that 55 percent of those surveyed feel New Orleans will never completely recover from the storm.
But every day there are people here who are trying to bring the city back. And tonight you're going to meet one of them. He's a young man who came to New Orleans to teach in a school district devastated by Katrina. And despite the immense challenges, he says he is determined to succeed.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Alex Perlman (ph) is just three months out of college, but already, he's packing up and heading back into the classroom. His very first real job is teaching in New Orleans' troubled public schools.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I'll be teaching math.
O'BRIEN: He'll be at Frederick Douglas High School in the Ninth Ward, a classic inner city school plagued with terrible test scores, even before the storm.
Last year was especially chaotic, and one former Douglas teacher says that made it hard to control the worst behaved kids.
BILL MALONEY, TAUGHT IN NEW ORLEANS SCHOOLS: They were threatening my life, yet I didn't really feel that they were going to try to kill me or anything. But I was threatened on several occasions, with "Get the 'F' out of my face."
O'BRIEN: Bill Maloney taught art at Frederick Douglas for the first two months last year, then quit.
Student Debbie Carey (ph) stayed on. She'll be a senior this year.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... we got the books. Till, like, after the third month, we got the books. And we couldn't take them home because they didn't have enough.
O'BRIEN: It was the same across the district: often no books, no supplies, students transferring in and out, and there weren't enough teachers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Towards the end of the school year, having enough teachers wasn't even a problem. What the problem was is keeping the kids in the schools.
O'BRIEN: Alex Perlman (ph) says he's well prepared to deal with all that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Teach America has really worked to make sure that I'm prepared to deal with a large urban school.
I'm not really concerned because I think in the end all students want to learn.
O'BRIEN: Teach for America recruits recent college graduates. It's sending more than 100 teachers to New Orleans. So overall, there will be about 200 brand-new teachers like Alex in the main public school district.
Can enthusiasm overcome the utter lack of experience? New superintendent Paul Vallis (ph) says yes, it can.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Teach for America produces some of the finest teachers that I've ever worked with, and I'll tell you why. They're not clock punchers, you know. They'll come in early, and they'll stay after school. And they do all those things that -- that the great teachers do. The one thing that they lack is they lack the, you know, they lack the experience.
O'BRIEN: Vallis (ph) says the district can make up for that by providing them with goals and guidelines and lesson plans.
Alex Perlman (ph) says he sees his move not just as a job, but as a mission.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I definitely want to do something that had an impact on the larger community after college. And teaching was probably the most effective way to do that, and New Orleans needs teachers, needs energized people to come down and help rebuild after Katrina.
O'BRIEN: So some people are coming in from the outside. Other people see it as their mission to stay and rebuild and help themselves.
Pastor Robert Brown is with the Ray Avenue Baptist Church. He represents a lot of those folks.
Nice to see you, Pastor. Thanks for talking with us.
ROBERT BROWN, PASTOR: Thank you so much for coming.
O'BRIEN: When you look around, what do you think?
BROWN: Well, what do I think? I think it's a -- it's a tragedy as it relates to a community of this nature and capacity of still being in the shape that it's in after two years. But we do see hope in that the people of this community, they refuse to continue to just sit back and wait for the government and any other agency to help them.
So basically, we just wanted it to be known that we are organizing ourselves, and we have a mission now that if we -- that we're going to actually rebuild our community block by block, and we just wanted it to be known that there is -- there is work that is actually being -- being done here in our community by the community itself.
And we wanted that kind of awareness made known, that the community is doing something to help itself. Because a lot has been said that a lot of people of color are actually waiting for someone to come in and give them something, and they're not trying to do something to do something to help themselves.
O'BRIEN: The sort of myth of everybody waiting around for a handout.
O'BRIEN: We actually hear that story, not just here in New Orleans...
BROWN: All over America.
O'BRIEN: ... but in every single neighborhood...
O'BRIEN: ... whether you're talking about Lakeside -- or really, Lakeview or anywhere. So I think the point that you make, Reverend, is apt and reflected by a lot of people here in the city of New Orleans who are trying to recover still two years later.
BROWN: And that's the basic theme that we wanted made known. We appreciate you highly for coming to our community. Our community does need attention. We appreciate the attention you're bringing to it.
O'BRIEN: Well, we appreciate your time tonight. We're out of time, but thank you for talking with us.
BROWN: That will work. Yes.
O'BRIEN: Coming up next, we're going to talk to Mayor Ray Nagin. He's urging folks to come back to New Orleans. But what about all the people who are already here and can't figure out where to live? We're keeping Mayor Ray Nagin honest on 360 next.
O'BRIEN: Take a look at these live pictures. This is a house right behind us. Unfortunately, there are so many homes that look exactly like this in the neighborhoods that surround New Orleans. But as the city rebuilds, Mayor Ray Nagin is urging everybody who left after Katrina to come back. Two years after the storm, the city's population stands at about 270,000 people. But, of course, that number doesn't tell the whole story.
Thousands of people came back only to discover that they can't afford to live here anymore. Rents have soared, and so has the number of homeless people.
"Keeping Them Honest", here's CNN's Susan Roesgen.
ROESGEN (voice-over): On a hot and sticky night, people who have no place else to go sleep on cardboard and concrete. Some of them were homeless before the hurricane, but many were not. And to make the point, they have started sleeping right across the street from city hall.
What's the city doing about it? "Keeping Them Honest", we asked Mayor Ray Nagin.
NAGIN: We're trying to provide these services that we need help to do. And that's -- that's where you are being unfair.
ROESGEN (on camera): Well, do you agree that it is a city responsibility?
NAGIN: It would be a normal city responsibility under normal circumstances. These are so far away from normal circumstances.
ROESGEN: You know, right outside your window there, we could see this new homeless camp that has sprung up. Have you gone over there to look? Could we -- you want to take a look, walk out with me on your balcony and take a look and talk about that issue?
NAGIN: No, I know exactly what you're talking about. You know, homelessness is something that was here prior to Katrina.
ROESGEN: So we just finished our interview with the mayor, and this is what he didn't want to do. He didn't want to come out here on the balcony right outside his window to look at that homeless camp across from city hall.
(voice-over) These are the mayor's new neighbors, some of the 12,000 homeless, twice as many as before Katrina. Mayor Nagin says the city has provided all the services it can up to this point. But some of the homeless have joined together here with a message for the mayor: you're not doing enough.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We hear a lot of talk about what you're doing, and we're doing this and we're doing that, but yet we see nothing taking place. We want to see some action take place down here.
ROESGEN: Many say they have jobs but can't make enough money to pay for a place to stay. Like this janitor, Morrow Trotter.
MORROW TROTTER, HOMELESS: I work, and I still can't afford housing. So we've got people up here that can't even afford houses that have jobs, go to work seven days a week.
ROESGEN: Since Katrina, housing in New Orleans has been in short supply, and rents have gone up a full 30 percent, with many returning evacuees not even knowing it until they get here.
Linda Gonzales is a nonprofit shelter director who tries to help.
LINDA GONZALES, SHELTER DIRECTOR: Well, you see people that were not homeless before are now coming back and finding that they cannot make it because of the rent. So they try, and then all of a sudden they realize they can't keep up with the rent. They get behind a month or two. Then they call us, and they say, you know, can you help us?
ROESGEN: For many, there just is no help, only the prospect of more nights spent in the shadow of city hall.
Susan Roesgen, CNN, New Orleans.
O'BRIEN: Tomorrow night on the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a CNN special event. It's called "Children of the Storm". We teamed up with filmmaker Spike Lee, gave cameras to kids living in and around New Orleans.
We've got a look at their compelling stories. That's tomorrow night at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.
And then at 10 p.m. Eastern, Anderson is back. He's going to be here to host a 360 special. It's called "Katrina 2 Years Later: Keeping Them Honest".
We'll be right back.
O'BRIEN: David Mattingly is back with us again with a "360 Bulletin".
MATTINGLY: Hello again, Soledad.
In Iraq today, Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for calm after clashes between Shiite militias left more than 50 dead and hundreds wounded. The fighting began in Karbala, where hundreds of thousands of pilgrims were attending a Shiite religious festival, and then it spread to Baghdad.
In Greece, new wildfires erupted and others rekindled as anger rose over the government's handling of the growing disaster. At least 64 people have died in the catastrophic blazes which have burned nearly 500,000 acres since last week.
In California, a surfer is in stable condition after surviving a shark attack. The 24-year-old victim suffered bites on the torso and thigh. He was surfing in Monterey Bay when the shark attacked him from behind.
And a tough day for the markets. The Dow fell 280 points to 13,041. The S&P 500 lost 34 points, closing at 1,432. And the NASDAQ dropped 60 points. Talk about a bite -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: And talk about something pretty spectacular. Our "Shot" tonight is actually a series of photographs of this morning's total lunar eclipse. Really, they are spectacular. Take a look.
They're taken by I-Reporters across the country. They show the earth's shadow creeping across the moon's surface as the earth passed between the moon and the sun.
The lunar eclipse was the second this year. It was visible across the entire United States, but sky watchers who were in the west had the very best seats. They were able to see the entire show.
We want you to send to us your "Shot" ideas. If you see some amazing video, tell us about it at CNN.com/360. We'll put the best clips on the air.
Coming up next on 360, the Idaho senator busted in an airport bathroom say he did nothing wrong. He insists he's not gay. His dramatic news conference right after the break.
O'BRIEN: Good evening. I'm Soledad O'Brien in New Orleans. We're in a neighborhood in a city that's rebuilding, but in many ways still on the ropes. Just take a look around. You can see the evidence. And if you take a tour of the area, you'll find a great deal more.
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