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Democratic Presidential Debate Winners and Losers; Barry Bonds Indicted

Aired November 15, 2007 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Seven candidates finished going at it just moments ago in Vegas, really going at it at times. This ain't spring training anymore. The game is on.
Iowa and New Hampshire are getting closer. The polls are getting tighter. In the run-up to the debate, Hillary Clinton stumbled and Barack Obama caught fire, amping up the stakes for each. And, tonight, it showed.

We're looking at the Clinton-Obama slugfest and all the other storylines tonight, all the angles, starting with John King, who's got some highlights -- John.


COOPER: Clearly, John's having some problems. We will try to check in with him momentarily.

Let's dig deeper with the best political team on television, former presidential adviser to Democrats and Republicans David Gergen joins me, along with former Bill Clinton adviser and CNN political contributor James Carville, senior political analyst Gloria Borger, and J.C. Watts, also a CNN political contributor, as well as a former congressman from the state of Oklahoma.

Issue one: Hillary vs. those other guys.

David Gergen, how did she do?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, as you say, over the last couple of weeks, Hillary stumbled and Barack was on fire.

Tonight, it was just the opposite. The fire seem to go out of Obama, and she regained her stride. So, I think that there were a few nicks here and there, but she came out rested. She was more relaxed. And, when people went after her, she went after them back. She retaliated, I thought pretty effectively.

And, very strikingly, Anderson, the fact that Obama and -- and Edwards both got booed when they went after her, I thought was one of the most interesting parts of this debate.

COOPER: Let's play one of the moments where Barack Obama directly talked about Senator Clinton. Let's watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When it came time to step up and decide whether or not he would support universal health care coverage, he chose not to do that. His plan would leave 15 million Americans out. That's about the population of Nevada, Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire.

You know, Senator Edwards raised health care again. When Senator Edwards ran in 2004, he wasn't for universal health care. I'm glad he is now.


COOPER: J.C. Watts, how did you think Hillary Clinton did?

J.C. WATTS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I will tell you, Anderson, I think she did very well.

I think, over the last 10, 14 days, I think she stumbled, and I think they, you know, dazed her a bit. She was -- she was a bit dazed. But I think, tonight, she established herself early. And -- and I don't think they -- the opposition, Senator Edwards or Senator Obama, I don't think they were able to take advantage of the things that they put her on her heels for over the last 10 to 14 days.

So, I think she came out very well in this discussion tonight.

COOPER: I want to play some of what Barack Obama said when he tried to directly talk to Senator Clinton. Let's play that.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Clinton, I think, is a capable politician, and I think that she has run a terrific campaign.

But what the American people are looking for right now is straight answers to tough questions. And that is not what we have seen out of Senator Clinton on a host of issues.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Clinton says she will end the war. She also says she will continue to keep combat troops in Iraq and continue combat missions in Iraq.

She says she will turn up the heat on George Bush and the Republicans, but, when the crucial vote came on stopping Bush, Cheney and the neocons, on Iran, she voted with Bush and Cheney.

And the most important issue is she says she will bring change to Washington, while she continues to defend a system that does not work, that is broken, that is rigged and is corrupt.


COOPER: James Carville, were any of them effective at trying to gain any ground on Hillary Clinton?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the thing that was interesting, from my vantage point, was, it was about 85 percent of the fireworks took place in the first 10 or 12 minutes of the debate.

And it's almost like a light went off in somebody's head and said, this thing is heating up too much. And then, for the remainder of the debate, it was -- it was like the earlier debates.

I agree with David and J.C. I think that Senator Clinton's people have to be -- and Senator Clinton -- have to be pretty pleased tonight that they certainly reversed a trend. We will see where it goes from there.

And I thought her answer on the women's question was -- was particularly good and particularly beneficial. I think every woman over 40 knew exactly what she was talking about, precisely what she was talking about.

So, I do. But I did find -- I did find it interesting that most of the -- the contentious part of the debate happened very early in the debate. And it looks like it was almost two debates. It was the first 10 or 12 minutes and then there was the rest of the debate.

COOPER: It definitely did -- did sparks early on.

GERGEN: There was sparks early on.

But to go to James' point about the women, she was -- not only, I think, resonated pretty effectively with women, but the best line of the debate was her line when she said: They're not attacking me because I'm a woman. They're attacking me because I'm ahead.


GERGEN: And that got a big cheer in that audience.

She had a -- she clearly had a very sympathetic audience there with her tonight, too. That seemed, I think, to help set an environment which -- which I'm sure she found helpful.

COOPER: I want to play, for Gloria Borger, Hillary Clinton's response to the bite we played earlier from Senators Obama and Edwards. Let's listen.


CLINTON: I respect all of my colleagues on this stage. And, you know, we're Democrats, and we're trying to nominate the very best person we can to win.

And I don't mind taking hits on my record, on issues, but, when somebody starts throwing mud, at least we can hope that it's both accurate and right out of the Republican playbook.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Gloria Borger, this past weekend, Senator Obama, a lot of people, said gained fire, he found his mojo in that fiery speech that he made. Did he lose it a little bit tonight? Was he able to continue that passion?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, actually, in sort of the first 10 to 12 minutes of the debate, he was really hot, going after Hillary Clinton. And I think he did have a little bit of that fire. I do think it -- it kind of gave way at the end of the debate.

But Hillary was really interesting, because she really went at John Edwards. The throwing-the-mud line was at John Edwards. She -- and she said that she had been personally attacked, and she kind of swatted him like a fly, I think.

And then he, if you will notice, towards the middle of the debate, kind of backed off, and said, whoa, don't take this personally. This isn't personal. This is about issues.

Obama kind of kept it to the issues. And I think Edwards realized that he was a little too hot and had to back off.

COOPER: J.C. Watts, what is the headline going to be tomorrow in the papers?

WATTS: Well, I think, you know, the first 10 minutes, as James said, was pretty heated, Anderson. And it was so heated, I had to take my coat off in the green room. It was -- it was pretty interesting.

But I think it's -- everybody was kind of going into this to see how Senator Clinton was going to recover. And I think she -- she recovered fairly well. So, I think the headlines, you know, tomorrow probably points to the fact that she's still the person to beat in this -- in this election.

I think Senator Edwards and Senator Obama had a chance to gain some ground tonight, just based on what's happened over the last 10 or 14 days. And I just don't see that that happened.

COOPER: David Gergen, you agree?

GERGEN: I -- I -- yes, I do. I think J.C. is absolutely right.

And what strikes me, Anderson, is, they did -- they -- they were smart about the way they prepared for this debate. They took her off the road. They had her get some rest. She's obviously -- you know, I think she was tired in the last debate. She got surprised by it.

And, very importantly, she got -- she put pressure on the Spitzer -- Governor Spitzer in New York to drop that driver's license deal before the debate. And, so, tonight, when -- when the driver's license issue came up, she was able to, you know, get out of it with a one-word answer. She -- there was no discussion. So, she was able to pivot out of what had been an issue that could have dragged her down again. And, so, I -- I think a lot of the preparation that went into the game plan actually paid off for them pretty well tonight.

COOPER: And it was interesting. Barack Obama kind of stumbled on that very same issue...


COOPER: ... an issue that you would think he would have been prepared for...

GERGEN: Absolutely. Absolutely.

COOPER: ... beyond any other.

GERGEN: Absolutely.

And -- and, you know, they have not been able, in the Obama campaign, to figure out, how do you take a guy who can be very hot in a -- in a -- in a speech environment, and make him hot and passionate in a debate, and make it work? They haven't figured that out yet.

COOPER: It didn't work tonight.

Up next: more on that issue that stymied Senator Clinton at the last debate, illegal immigration. We will talk about how she and the others did when our special coverage continues.

We will be right back.


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: What did you mean at Wellesley when you referred to the "boy's club"?

CLINTON: Campbell...


BROWN: Just curious.

CLINTON: Well, it is clear, I think, from women's experiences that, from time to time, there may be some impediments.


CLINTON: And it has been my goal over the course of my lifetime to be part of this great movement of progress that includes all of us, but has particularly been significant to me as a woman.


CLINTON: And to be able to aim toward the highest, hardest glass ceiling is history-making. Now, I'm not running because I'm a woman. I'm running because I think I'm the best qualified and experienced person to hit the ground running, but it's humbling.


CLINTON: It's inspiring.



GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D-NM), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's stop this mud-slinging. Let's stop this going after each other on character on trust. Let us debate the issues that affect the American people, and let us be positive. Let's be positive.



COOPER: Well, it certainly didn't stay positive all the time.

Back with our panel, former presidential advisers David Gergen and James Carville, CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger, and CNN political contributor J.C. Watts, also a former congressman.

Immigration a major talking point in this debate, which led to some dodging of some questions.

James Carville, did it interest you that -- that Barack Obama kind of seemed to waffle on the question about supporting driver's licenses for illegal immigrants?

CARVILLE: Yes, a little bit, it did. I mean, you had to know this question was coming. It wasn't like the question had come out of left field or something like that. It was a big issue in the previous debate. Any -- any debate prep would have had this.

And I was a little surprised. His answer, if you look at the whole thing, it sort of made sense, but it was sort of convoluted in coming out, and particularly when they were trying to attack Senator Clinton for saying, you're trying to have it both ways. It looked like he -- he could have been a lot more concise in his answer.

I was -- I pick up on your point, and I was a little surprised that he wasn't a little more prepared and a little more concise on that.

COOPER: After not answering yes or no whether he supports a driver's license for illegal immigrants, he did kind of give a longer answer. Let's play some of that.


OBAMA: What we have to do is create a comprehensive solution to the problem.

Now, I have already stated that as president I will make sure that we finally have the kind of border security that we need. That's step number one.


OBAMA: Step number two is to take on employers. Right now, they -- an employer has more of a chance of getting hit by lightning than be prosecuted for hiring an undocumented worker.


COOPER: Gloria Borger, his long answer basically stands in stark contrast to Hillary Clinton, who just said, no, she no longer -- she doesn't support driver's licenses for illegal immigrants.

BORGER: Right.

And she knew she had to do that. And Wolf made it very clear that this was kind of just a yes-or-no answer. And what was sort of ironic was that Obama had come out at the beginning of the debate attacking Hillary for taking two weeks to come up with her position on driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, and then he still waffled and was very unclear at this debate.

That's the difference between a very experienced candidate, which you have in Hillary Clinton, and one which you don't in Barack Obama.

COOPER: J.C. Watts, why is Barack Obama kind of -- why are debates not his strong point?

WATTS: Well, you know, and, Anderson, just one point on the way he answered the license-for-illegal-immigrants question. He gave a pretty long, you know, inconcise answer. And Senator Clinton chopped him off at the knees by saying, no, a one-word answer. So, that kind of just superseded everything that -- that he had said.

You know, I think -- we were on Wolf's show this evening and one of the things that was said, that, Senator Clinton, you know, she -- she's just so good at just, you know, punching you in the nose, and you never know that you're in a fight.


WATTS: And, you know, she smiles, and -- and she -- you know, she's charming, and she does a lot of different things to kind of keep you off guard.

I think Barack might have overprepared for this debate, because I think he was able to -- he was wanting to take advantage of some of the things that put her on the ropes in the last two or three weeks. But I just think, again, the fact that she could punch you in the nose while she's smiling at you was a tremendous asset for her tonight.

COOPER: Obama also weighed in on Iraq strategy. Let's play that.


OBAMA: The overall strategy has failed, because we have not seen any change in behavior among Iraq's political leaders. And that is the essence of what we should be trying to do in Iraq.

That's why I'm going to bring this war to a close.


COOPER: David, it didn't seem like the war was as front and center in this debate as it has been in past debates.

GERGEN: No, it was not. I think that's because the surge has had -- had an impact, has -- has reduced the number of casualties. And -- and the temperature has gone down in Iraq. It's no longer, you know, the top story in the news either.

And there's much more fear about Iran. And, of course, because Pakistan is on a knife edge, it's more -- you -- you have less focus on Iraq. And it almost seemed that, when Barack Obama was asked about, is the surge working, he couldn't even acknowledge, hey, look, the death numbers are down. I mean, there is something that's happening here that's important. It had to be -- he had to sort of dismiss it altogether.

And it was sort of like, you know, come on. You're -- you're the straight guy here. You're the guy who is going to tell us the truth. Acknowledge that some things are working better here. And I thought he didn't take advantage of that.

But I think, primarily, Anderson, the issue is, he often appears in these situations -- his -- his answers are fine. They are straightforward. I mean, the answers are smooth. He's fairly -- and he's very articulate.

But you got to be hungry for this. And Hillary Clinton is clearly hungry. She's passionate about wanting to be president. You don't have a sense that he wakes up every day saying, I'm going to take this away from her and I'm going to be the president. You just don't have sense of inner fire that you need, the fire in the belly that we -- we like to talk about in politics. And I thought he had that in that speech in Des Moines.

And, tonight, it suddenly -- he sort of left it at home.

COOPER: I should point out David Gergen was an adviser in the Bill Clinton White House, as, of course, was James Carville.

James, putting on a political strategist hat, what do you advise candidate Obama to do? I mean, David Gergen talked about that fire in the belly. Last weekend, Obama talked about the urgency of now.

How do you capture that urgency of now? CARVILLE: Well, first of all, I think you have two Obamas. You have the Obama when he's on stage by himself, when he's campaigning. And I think he -- he -- in that instance, he's a really good candidate. And he can have some really great -- he has some really great moments.

I think, when he gets on stage, he's a little a conflict-adverse. I don't know about -- I don't him that well to be able to say what it is, but I think he might be even slightly intimidated, that he thinks Senator Clinton is more experienced than him, a little more hungry than he is.

But, for whatever it is, he doesn't seem to be the kind of candidate that relishes that debate format. By the same token, if you put him up in a speech, in something like that, he's a lot more comfortable.

And, remember, they're going down the homestretch in Iowa here. And January 3 is going to be a big day in this campaign. And I suspect that the Obama people and Senator Obama himself are getting on a plane and flying into Des Moines or Cedar Rapids or somewhere, and going to be kind of glad to get these debates behind them. That's my sense.

COOPER: The polls are showing them really neck and neck, Edwards, Obama and Clinton, in Iowa.

Up next: how the candidates handled the showdown with Iran. Questioners Campbell Brown and John Roberts are going to join us.

Also, the possibility of slugger Barry Bonds going to prison. That is breaking news. The most home runs of any player in history, now the most federal indictments -- how's that for a record?

Back in a moment.


COOPER: We're going to have more on tonight's Democratic presidential debate in a moment, but first let's get caught up on some of today's other headlines. Erica Hill joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: Anderson, President Bush laid out steps to ease holiday air traffic. First and foremost, he ordered the Pentagon to free up military air space from Maine to Florida, creating what he calls a Thanksgiving express lane.

Air traffic controllers, though, say lots of luck. The real problem is too many flights and too few of them.

One of those controllers, apparently responsible for a near collision in the skies above Indiana. It happened Tuesday night. A controller momentarily lost track of a Midwest Airlines commuter jet as it descended and came within about a mile and a third of another airliner. But luckily, on-board warning devices did their jobs, and the crews took action.

And no joy in baseball tonight. Barry Bonds's record, now 762 homers and one federal indictment. Five counts of perjury and obstruction of justice, alleging he lied to the grand jury about steroid abuse. Maximum sentence here, if convicted on all counts, is 30 years, Anderson.


COOPER: To dig deeper on the Barry Bonds indictment now, CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. Could he -- he could do serious jail time?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He will do serious jail time if he's convicted on these charges. Under the federal sentencing guidelines, he has to go to prison for about two or three years if he's convicted of these.

COOPER: What exactly is his accused of doing?

TOOBIN: He testified in the grand jury in 2003, and many, many times he was asked, "Did you use steroids? Did you knowingly use steroids?" And he over and over again denied it.

And what's really so extraordinary about this indictment is it says he has tested positive for steroids, and he knows that he used steroids. So you have the holder of the most sacred record in our national pastime proven, at least according to the federal government, that he cheated to do it.

COOPER: Why can't he just say, "Well, I was given stuff. My coach gave it to me. My friends gave it to me. I didn't realize it. You know, I thought it was some sort of vitamin."

TOOBIN: Right. Well, that's what he says on the grand jury. The government says he did know. They don't outline in the indictment how they plan to prove it, but that obviously will be the key issue in the case, his state of mind. Did he know he was using steroids?

It seems pretty clear that his trainer, who it was ambiguous about whether he'd cooperated before. It certainly seems like he did cooperate, and if he did, it's very hard to say.

COOPER: When your hat size is growing, it's hard to not know you're doing something.

TOOBIN: Well, I mean, that's why, you know, he was never a very popular person even though he set this great record, is because so many people saw his hat size grow so much.

COOPER: Fascinating. Jeffrey Toobin, thanks very much.

Back to the debate. Slug fest and love fest, depending on when you tuned in exactly. Let's go to John King's take now and the hits, runs and errors -- John. JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we're here in the spin room now, and I think you can actually speak to me now. We're done with our technical issues, I would hope.

And as you would expect here in the spin room all of the campaigns coming in here and saying they think their campaign was the one who performed the best.

But the Hillary Clinton people rushed into the room after the debate, and the first thing they said was, quote, "She's back." They thought that she energetically opened the debate. They thought that she elbowed, if you will, Barack Obama and John Edwards when there were issues there.

And their big spin here in the spin room is that Barack Obama couldn't answer in this debate the question that Hillary Clinton couldn't answer in the last debate; his position on driver's license for illegal immigrants.

So a great deal of energy here in the spin room after the campaign. Some of the aides to other candidates acknowledging Hillary Clinton was much more spirited in this debate than she was in the past. I heard you talking earlier.

I think it was James Carville who said that Barack Obama would like to get the debates over and get on to Iowa. I think that's pretty much the sense of all the campaigns. They believe it's time to get out on the streets, looking for votes, and get off the stage.

COOPER: The clock is definitely ticking. The debate covered a lot of ground from Iran to the role that gender is playing in the race. CNN's John Roberts and Campbell Brown had a front row seat to all the fireworks, along with Wolf Blitzer. They were the ones grilling the candidates. They join me now.

John, Campbell, thanks for being with us. Campbell, I want to play for our audience part of an exchange that you had with Senator Clinton. Let's play that.

What did you take away from sitting up close? It's always a different view when you're actually on the stage.

JOHN ROBERTS, CO-HOST, "AMERICAN MORNING": You know, I didn't actually hear that sound bite. Is it possible for you to paraphrase it for me?

COOPER: We actually didn't play the sound bite. I'm just asking you, from your perspective, what did you take away from tonight? What jumped out at you?

ROBERTS: Just -- I thought that Hillary Clinton came here tonight to put her suit of armor back on, and I think that she effectively did that. I had -- had an opportunity to doorstop her just before she left the hall. And I asked her, "How do you think you did tonight compared to a couple of weeks ago in Philadelphia?" And she said that she thought that she had done a much better job. And I think that that would be the consensus in the house, as well. From the very first quip when she came out and said, "I've got an asbestos pantsuit on." You know, it evoked a nice little laugh in the crowd.

It did not stop John Edwards or Barack Obama from going after her. But the thing that you saw here in this hall, and I don't know how well it translated to television, and perhaps because there were a lot of Hillary Clinton supporters in the room. She does have 51 percent support here in Nevada.

The room turned very sour very quickly when they were talking about politics and trying to compare and contrast themselves with her, Anderson. So for people who came here tonight trying to challenge her, they had a very difficult time in this house trying to do it.

COOPER: John, I want to play for our viewers one of the exchanges, Hillary Clinton talking about gender. Let's play this.


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN: Some have suggested that you, that your campaign, that your husband, are exploiting gender as a political issue during this campaign. What's really going on here?

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I'm not exploiting anything at all. I'm not playing, as some people say, the gender card here in Las Vegas. I'm just trying to play the winning card.

And I understand very well that people are not attacking me because I'm a woman. They're attacking me because I'm ahead.


COOPER: A line that got quite a big response, John. How careful does she have to be when talking about this issue?

ROBERTS: Not the first time she's used that line either.

You know, I talked to John Edwards about this afterwards, because it was his advisor, Kate Michelman, who was the one who first said she's raising the gender issue here. And I said to John Edwards, "Despite what she said, is she in fact using gender as a wedge in this campaign?"

And he kind of backed off a little. He said, "Well, I'm not suggesting she's doing it, but her campaign is."

I think they have to be very careful. Because she's -- what is she? Is she the strong, independent woman running for president? Or is she is the damsel in distress? She can't play both sides of that coin herself.

Her husband can come out and defend her. But she has to be very careful, because she is trying to win the presidency here on the idea that she is the strongest leader out of any of the candidates here, not just Republican -- not just Democrat, but Republican, as well.

And if she -- if she were to play that card to say, "I'm the strong, independent woman" on the one hand, but on the other hand, the boys club is beating up. I mean, that's not going to play too well. She's got to be careful how far down that road she goes.

COOPER: Campbell, Iran took center stage tonight from one of the questioners in the audience. Let's play some of Hillary Clinton's response, as well as John Edwards's.


CLINTON: I believe that the Bush administration has allowed this situation to worsen and fester, because they won't have any diplomatic relations of any sort with Iran.

So what I would do is to immediately begin that kind of negotiation. And I wouldn't ask the Iranians to give up their quest for nuclear power or anything else.

Get them to the table. Let's figure out if there's some way we can, No. 1, ratchet down the tension. No. 2, prevent them from becoming a nuclear weapons power, because that would be dangerous for all of us.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My own view is that it's important for us to stop Bush, Cheney and the neocons at every single stage. And I think there was an important opportunity to do that on the vote on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Bush, Cheney and the neocons wanted the Iranian Revolutionary Guard declared a terrorist group, as Senator Biden just spoke about, because it's part of their path to moving militarily on Iran.

And actually, the fear a lot of us had about that was realized about a week ago, when Bush, Cheney and the administration declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard terrorist organization and -- this is the part everybody's going to love -- a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction.

We've seen this movie. We know how it works out.


COOPER: Barack Obama also used that question, the Iran issue, against Hillary Clinton, talking about the way she voted. And Wolf Blitzer pointed out that, in fact, he had an opportunity to vote on it. He missed that vote because he was out campaigning, which he said was a mistake.

ROBERTS: Right, and, Anderson, this is something that they're going to try to stick Hillary Clinton with, this idea that in 2002 she voted to give the president authorization to go to war in Iraq. Now she is coming back off of that, saying if, "I had known then what I know now, I wouldn't have voted the same way," though she does refuse to apologize for that vote, saying that she thought it was the right thing to do at the time.

This Iran vote, it's a pretty difficult issue to stick her with, unless, of course, the White House were to use this in the next 12 months as a pretext to go to war. And then people might come to Senator Clinton and say, "Well, if you had known then what you know now, would you have still signed on to this?"

It's a difficult thing for them, I think, to paint her with, Anderson, though it looks like they're going to continue to try. Any they can try to do to break open that little crack in the armor that she showed back there in Philadelphia.

COOPER: Just ahead tonight, a question of priorities. Which should a president put first: human rights or the security of the United States? You think it's a difficult question. Well, some different answers on the stage, next on 360.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I believe you're the only person on this stage who had a chance to vote on the Patriot Act right after 9/11 who voted against it right away.





SEN. CHRIS DODD (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is critical. I always say this is the single most important issue. I've been asking this question over 26 years in the Senate 1,000 times. It's a difficult question to answer.

What's the most important issue? This is the most important issue. Every other issue we grapple with depends upon our ability to have the best educated generation we've ever produced. And we need to have -- and we need to have, in my view, far more cooperation at the national level.

We spend less than 5 percent of the national budget on elementary and secondary education. That is deplorable, in my view. It's basically Title I (ph). We need to fundamentally reform No Child Left Behind. No Child Left Behind is a disaster, the most (ph)...


COOPER: Clearly, a popular issue in the Democratic audience. Senator Dodd talking about education there.

Another hot topic in tonight's debate, the war on terror versus human rights. Joining us again, Jeffrey Toobin, Campbell Brown and Suzanne Malveaux.

Campbell, so far in these debates, Edwards has been on the attack Tonight, the tables turned a little bit at one point with Representative Kucinich weighing in. Let's play that.


KUCINICH: I think in the last debate, I think Hillary Clinton was -- was criticized by John Edwards for some trade-related issue. But the fact of the matter is, John, you voted for China trade, understanding that workers were going to be hurt.

Now you're a trial lawyer; you knew better. I'm saying that it's important...


COOPER: Campbell, how did Edwards handle that?

CAMPBELL: Well, you know, I have to apologize to John Roberts, actually, who was talking to you just a minute ago, because right before the debate we were having our own debate, and he had made the case that, if -- if John Edwards sort of came out with the same pit- bull style that he has demonstrated during previous debates, that it may backfire at this stage.

And I think, you know, he has been sort of the leading force in terms of going on the attack against Hillary Clinton in the previous debates. And he got a little pushback.

And, in fact, when he did try to push back and come back at her later on, he got booed by the crowd, which I thought was really unusual. And I didn't expect it. I disagreed with John earlier on. I thought that, in his position where he is, polling-wise, he really has no choice but to go on the attack, in order to try to appeal to the constituency that's been behind him.

I thought, you know, that the sort of pushback he was getting toward the end and coming under fire, like you just pointed out by Kucinich and some of the others, for his own positions and his own, you know, flip-flopping -- John had asked him about that question early on -- was sort of an interesting turn of the tables from what we had seen in the previous debates.

COOPER: Suzanne, you were down on the floor with people who were actually asking questions, from the audience, to the candidates. Did they feel like their questions were actually answered?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it was really interesting. Because if you just watched some of the expressions on their faces, a lot of them, you know, kind of shaking their heads and crinkling up their noses a little bit, you know, especially in the first half.

I think that the second half, the candidates definitely seemed to at least engage, you know, more physically. They were up on the stage. They were directing some of the voters, just looking at them straight on, trying to get a sense of like, look, you can trust us.

But I got a sense from this audience that there was a lot of mistrust here, that they felt like, when it came to the woman whose own son had fulfilled three tours of duty in Iraq. And she's worried about Iran. I mean, there is definitely a sense that they don't know what to think. They don't know what to make of Iraq, the situation there, and they're quite worried, quite scared about things.

I spoke with the other woman whose son was also in Iraq, as well. And she was talking about the issue of contractors, these private contractors that she is insulted, she says, because she feels like these are jobs that are being outsourced and that her son is really not protected there and he's not even being paid.

So there was a lot of frustration I think I got from the audience, and they really are hungering for change.

COOPER: On the subject on Pakistan, Wolf asked the candidates what was more important, human rights or national security. Let's play some of that.


GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D-NM), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Of course I'm worried, but what happened with our Pakistan policy is we got our principles wrong. We forgot our principles. Our principles that we said to Musharraf, "You know, Musharraf, security is more important than human rights."

DODD: National security, keeping the country safe. When you take the oath of office on January 20, you promise to do two things, and that is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and protect our country from enemies, both foreign and domestic. The security of the country is No. 1.

CLINTON: I agree with that completely. I mean, the first obligation of the president of the United States is to protect and defend the United States of America.


COOPER: That's such -- such a softball answer -- softball question, but Bill Richardson has got to be regretting his answer.

TOOBIN: And what was very interesting was the way that Richardson went first. And Richardson said human rights was more important.

But Hillary Clinton, you could see her thinking about the general election in this answer. Because the Democrats are always going to be worried about seeming soft on national security. And she couldn't wait to say, no, national security is the most important.

COOPER: Jeff Toobin, thanks very much. Our Campbell Brown, as well. Suzanne Malveaux. Up next, a look to the future. Seven Democratic candidates; only one will be the nominee. If elected, what he or she will face? I'll talk to David Gergen about that in a moment.



SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The American people don't give a darn about any of this stuff that's going on up here.

Look, they're sitting down -- seriously, think about it. They're sitting down at their tables tonight. They're putting their kids to bed. They're worried about whether or not their child is going to run into a drug dealer on the way to school. They're worried about whether they're going to pay for their mortgage, because even if they did have one of those sub-prime mortgages, things are looking bad for them. They're worried about whether they're going to keep their job. And they're worried about whether their son in the National Guard is going to get killed in Iraq.

Ladies and gentlemen, look...


COOPER: Senator Joe Biden, talking about one of the many issues the next president's going to face.

Joining me again, former presidential advisor to Bill Clinton and a host of Republicans, David Gergen.

That is the real question. I mean, no matter who gets elected, the challenges facing this next president are enormous just in terms of trying to bring people together.

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR: Absolutely, Anderson. And the problems themselves are, I think, the most difficult that any president has faced since Franklin Roosevelt took office...

COOPER: Really?

GERGEN: ... in 1933. I do. Many of the issues are less obvious now. They're more below the water line. But if you look at what the next president is going to inherit and have to deal with in year one, clearly, Iran is going to be at a near boil if we haven't taken military action already. That's going to be coming at us very fast.

Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia long-term, all those kinds of issues. And then we may well be in a recession within a year from now. There may be a lot of aftermath from -- from the economic downturn that the next person will have to deal with. That's just for starters.

And that will be -- occupy most of the presidency. The next person cannot wait on health care reform any longer. We've got the Baby Boomers retiring during the first term of the next president. You've got to deal with Social Security. You've got to deal with Medicare, issues we've postponed and postponed and postponed.

The next president has to deal with the environment. And you've got to get a comprehensive energy and environmental bill. Kyoto expires in the fourth year of the next presidency. And that's the climate change. It's huge.

COOPER: And there's such a divide, not just over the presidency but also on Capitol Hill.

GERGEN: Absolutely.

COOPER: Is there -- is there a leadership? I mean, can our system work? I mean it seems, you know, Democrats come in promising change, it's now running at, I think, the 11 percent approval rate of Congress. Can Congress lead?

GERGEN: You know, it's 11 percent. The Congress right now is below O.J. Simpson. His approval ratings were 16 percent. So that's how bad, how far down.


GERGEN: Exactly. I think that the -- what we're asking right now in all this horserace we've been talking about is who's going to win. To me that's an interesting question.

I think the hard question is can the winner govern? Can the winner lead? That's going to be really, really tough.

And, you know, what we're looking for now is out of can, out of all this welter (ph) of conversation, can someone emerge who has the integrity of the judgment and the capacity to bring us together? And that is a much, much harder question. I don't think we know that yet.

COOPER: It is scary times and scary days ahead. David Gergen, appreciate your expertise. Thank you.

A reminder, later this month I'm hosting the second CNN-YouTube debate on November 28. The Republicans answer your question. We already have thousands of submissions, but there's still time to get our question into the mix. All you have to do is go to It's going to be fascinating.

The GOP debate is still coming -- is still to come. But up next, another look at the Democrats squaring off. Hillary Clinton still the front-runner but under attack and on the counter attack. How'd she do? You can decide for yourself. The whole debate start to finish, after the break.