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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
America Votes 2008; Online Tragedy
Aired November 16, 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: Well, you saw the debate. Now you tell us. Did Hillary Clinton get her groove back last night in Vegas?
We're digging deeper into what made her campaign stumble in the past and what makes it tick now.
Also, keeping the candidates honest on the hot button issue that stymied Clinton and some of her opponents too -- giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. Where do they really stand.
And then later, a troubled and vulnerable teenage girl finds love online. Only this story has such a terrible and twisted ending, it's going to leave you wondering what on earth is the matter with some of the so called grown ups involved in the story.
All that, and much more in the hour ahead.
First though, what happened in Vegas. Will it stay in Vegas or will it go nationwide? More Americans watched the CNN Democratic presidential debate than any other debate so far. That's because millions will be choosing a candidate soon so it's really starting to matter.
Going into last night, Senator Barack Obama was on a role. Hillary Clinton kind of on the ropes.
But as CNN's Candy Crowley reports, what a difference one debate makes.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This time she wasn't going to get burned.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES: But when somebody starts throwing mud, at least we can hope that it's both accurate and not right out of the Republican playbook.
CROWLEY: On the heels of the two worst weeks of her campaign, Hillary Clinton got her game back, out-maneuvering her opponents with a change up. She jumped into the fray.
CLINTON: Well, I cannot let that go unanswered.
CROWLEY: No laid back front-runner this debate. This time she lay in wait for her rivals to do what everyone knew they would.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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.
CLINTON: He talks a lot about stepping up and taking responsibility and taking strong positions. But 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.
CROWLEY: And no more passes for John Edwards. The most aggressive Clinton critic throughout the entire campaign, she's ignored him. This time she went right at him.
CLINTON: When Senator Edwards ran in 2004, he wasn't for universal health care. I'm glad he is now. But for him to be throwing this mud and making these charges, I think really detracts from what we're trying to do here tonight.
CROWLEY: Sometimes she didn't have to shut them down, sometimes the audience did it for her.
OBAMA: This is the kind of thing that I would expect from Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani, where we start playing with numbers -- we start playing with numbers in order to try to make a point. And we can't...
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CLINTON: Senator Clinton defends the system, takes money from lobbyists, does all those things. And my point is simply that people have or -- no, wait a minute...
CROWLEY: It's bad to get booed. It is really bad to get booed on national television.
It was her night. Within the span of two hours, she proved herself tough enough to push the boys, smart enough to edit her incomprehensible position on driver's licenses for illegals.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Clinton?
CROWLEY: Game enough to ponder girly things.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you prefer diamonds or pearls?
CLINTON: Now, I know I'm sometimes accused of not being able to make a choice. I want both.
CROWLEY: She who laughs last, laughs best. We are where we were. Hillary Clinton was and is the front-runner.
(END VIDEOTAPE) O'BRIEN: More now with Candy Crowley, along with John King and David Gergen, who has worked with presidents from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton.
Good evening to you all.
Candy, let's start with you.
Hillary had to fight back and she did. So let's take a look at some of the other candidates. Barack Obama, where do you think his biggest missed opportunities were?
CROWLEY (on camera): Well, I think there were two things. His first missed opportunity was she went after him on health care and said, hey, listen, you don't have a health care plan that covers everyone and I do.
Well, it seems to me the obvious response then would be, wait a minute, you're talking to me about health care plans? You're the one that presided over that failed 1993 health care plan. So I think they missed that.
And I think when they were talking about NAFTA and she was sort of laughed about Ross Perot and his warning that it would suck jobs out of the U.S. and she said oh, all I remember is a lot of charts. It's sort of a fuzzy memory. This was time for somebody to step in and say, wait a second, we're talking about millions of people who have lost their jobs to free trade agreements and everybody sort of let it go by.
O'BRIEN: Yes, they sort of missed the follow-ups.
What do you think, John, about John Edwards, where do you think his missed opportunities were last night?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Senator Clinton did the same exact thing to Senator Edwards on health care. He said you don't cover everyone.
And Senator Edwards has to step up to the plate at some point, Soledad, and make it about more than attacking Senator Clinton. But he feels right now that that has to be his key strategy right now so almost everything he says is an attack on Senator Clinton.
The one place where he did -- his campaign believes he was effective is on that very point of NAFTA. He is very dependent on the labor vote, especially out in Iowa. The labor unions didn't like it when President Bill Clinton pushed NAFTA through, so the Edwards campaign thinks they were effective on that one.
The question many of the other campaigns and other Democratic strategists asks is, when are we going to hear more about President Edwards as opposed to Senator Edwards attacking Senator Clinton?
O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question, David, the next debate doesn't come around until the beginning of December for the Democrats. Do they have -- you know, and we look at it as a sort of horse race, where we measure who did better, who did worse, but do they have to wait to recover, like Hillary Clinton, everyone kind of waiting to see how she'd do this time around. Is it possible to make up for some gaffs from last night by public appearances and the things they do on TV over the next couple of weeks?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVIERS: It is, but yes, there -- it was a missed opportunity for the other Democrats. She was -- she was bleeding coming into this debate. And she stopped the bleeding last night. Had they inflicted new wounds on her and the bleeding continued, you know, the press would be full today and would be for the next few weeks. She's vulnerable, she's not inevitable, she can be stopped. She'll be stopped in Iowa. And now she's back to a strong front-runner status, and so they have to take it away from her on the ground.
And I think that among the candidates, Barack Obama has the best chance of doing that in Iowa, because he has -- other than Hillary Clinton -- seems to have the best organization out there. He's put a lot of people in. You know, they are really putting the pressure on out there and he's got the money to go advertising.
I think for John Edwards, the danger right now is that this could increasingly become a two-person race. Nationally...
O'BRIEN: And not him?
GERGEN: And that may hurt him in Iowa.
O'BRIEN: Yes, a two-person race with him not one of the two people is what you mean.
You know, it's interesting, Candy, Barack Obama, when you look at the things that he's good at, which are those sort of impassioned speeches, one-on-one, et cetera, sometimes that just doesn't translate when he gets in the debate format. He messes up. That's the only way to put it.
CROWLEY: He really does. You can almost -- you -- you're sitting there sort of at the edge of your seat, thinking it's like he's had brain lock here because he sort of seems to be kind of, you know, searching around in his head for what he wants to say.
I think that's the civil rights lawyer in him. He's very deliberative. I have seen him do the same thing on the campaign trail in town hall meetings. Someone will ask him a question about the defense budget. And it's something you can do in a paragraph or two, but he goes all over it. He kind of looks at it from every angle. He is not a sound bite kind of guy. And frankly, that hurts you in debates.
O'BRIEN: Yes, it's a sound bite kind of world when it comes to debates, certainly. Let's listen to a little bit of what Joe Biden had to say last night in the debate. He got some positive reviews for his performance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Biden, I want you to weigh in.
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, no, no, no, no. Don't do it. No. Don't make me speak.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you ready to commit, absolutely, positively, that you will support the Democratic nominee?
BIDEN: Hell no. I wouldn't support any of these guys. No, I'm joking. Of course. I'd support them all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: You know, that's kind of the comic relief, but even in that question, he's back of the pack -- Richardson's back of the back, Dodd's back of the pack. Do they -- do they have any momentum at all out of that debate last night?
CROWLEY: You know, it's hard to believe -- there's only so much momentum that can come out of a debate, and it seems to me that it went to Hillary Clinton.
One of the things that, you know, in those clips and in other things that Joe Biden said -- he's a very serious guy with some very serious credentials. But he is now -- sort of reminds me of that Janice Joplin (ph) song, you know, freedom is Just another word for nothing left to lose. He knows where he is in the polls. It seems to me that he's becoming sort of more and more himself. And I think he comes across really well in these debates. And look, if he can come out of Iowa looking viable, is it a long shot? It absolutely is. But you go around him and when people see him, they go, you know, I really like that guy, I really agree with that guy. And he has sort of laid back a little lately.
O'BRIEN: Why, David Gergen, is he back of the pack? I mean, as Candy said, you know, he's kind of coming into his own and he's got great experience. Richardson's got a ridiculously incredible resume; and yet, Dodd, Richardson and Biden, back of the back.
GERGEN: Well, that's true. And I'm so pleased that you brought this up and showed those clips because last night in the post debate analysis we didn't have time to get to that and get to the superlative performance by Joe Biden and a very strong performance by Richardson and Dodd. I -- you know, and I've often thought if this campaign started all over again today, and these three guys were as strong as they were last night, would this be a very different race? And I have to tell you, I think all three of them got immeasurably better, and the debates are a much stronger candidates, but they're -- they've got -- they've been locked into this back of the pack mentality now for almost a year because they weren't able to get the early money. They didn't have the sort of campaign organizations on the ground in places like Iowa, you know, and at this moment, you know, I have to tell you, I think Joe Biden is making a strong case -- if Hillary Clinton is elected or the Democrats are elected, he's making an increasingly strong case, he'll have to be on the short list for secretary of state if that's something he's interested in.
O'BRIEN: All right, David Gergen and Candy Crowley and John King, I would ask you to stick around. We're going to come right back to you after this short break.
Hillary Clinton stumbled over this issue and got her mojo back, as we saw last night.
Barack Obama, probably lost a little bit of ground because of this issue. It's an unlikely issue, but everybody is now talking about it.
Coming up next, we're going to dig a little deeper into why a wallet-sized item is now causing a national uproar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN (voice-over): License to drive for illegal immigrants.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did it four years ago. My legislature sent me a bill. I signed it. My law enforcement people said it's a matter of public safety.
O'BRIEN: He says it worked. He's staking his campaign on it. But do the facts say something different? We're keeping him honest.
Later, new love online leads to deadly consequences.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, please, Megan. Breathe.
O'BRIEN: A teenager lost is a tragedy. The role some adults allegedly played, though, that's something else. Ahead, on 360 360.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you support driver's licenses for illegal immigrants?
EDWARDS: No. But I don't accept the proposition that we're not going to have comprehensive immigration reform.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. My belief is that giving a -- as I've said from the very beginning here, I think diver's licenses are the wrong thing to be doing in terms of attracting people to come here as undocumented.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
Senator Obama, yes or no?
OBAMA: Yes. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman Kucinich?
REP. KUCINICH (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I take issue with your description of people being illegal immigrants. There aren't any illegal human beings. That's number one. Number two, they're undocumented. And again, I take exception to the way you frame that question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, my answer is yes, and I did it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Biden?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: You almost would think they're running for the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Just to put it into perspective, presidents actually don't have much say over who gets a driver's license, or school prayer, or parole for state prisoners. Just the same, how a candidate handles the question, well, that can actually say a lot. So does how he or she handles the issue itself.
And Governor Bill Richardson, as you heard him say, he actually did handle that issue.
CNN's Joe Johns is keeping him honest, tonight.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson at last night's presidential debate brags that his state law allowing illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses made his state safer.
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I did it four years ago. My legislature sent me a bill. I signed it. My law enforcement people said it's a matter of public safety.
What we need is public safety, a reduction in traffic fatalities. We wanted more people to be insured. When we started with this program, 33 percent of all New Mexicans had -- were uninsured. Today it's 11 percent. Traffic fatalities have gone down.
JOHNS: Brian Zimmer, of the Coalition for a Secure Driver's License, says it's not so simple.
BRIAN ZIMMER, COALITION FOR A SECURE DRIVER'S LICENSE: Whoever prepared Mr. Richardson's notes for the debate got creative.
JOHNS: Keeping them honest, with all the hoopla over driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, we took a closer look at the governor's assertions. And we found them to be accurate, at least statistically, but that's not the end of the story.
New Mexico is one of seven states that gives licenses to illegal immigrants. The auto accident fatality rate there spiked at 521 deaths in 2004, the first year after Richardson signed the law. But the Department of Transportation says, fatalities went down to 488 in 2005 and just slightly lower in 2006.
And a spokesman for the governor provided documentation backing up Richardson's claim that uninsured vehicles dropped from about a third to less than 11 percent.
All told, the state estimates about 30,000 illegal immigrants got licenses by the end of 2006. But here's the twist. The state has also toughened up its insurance requirements and improved it's monitoring.
Brian Zimmer says it's more likely that these measures reduced the number of uninsured, not the licenses for undocumented immigrants.
ZIMMER: New Mexico was perhaps the worst laggard (ph) in the United States on this issue. So they just simply caught up with other states.
JOHNS: Which brings us to the other point about Governor Richardson's position on driver's licenses. New Mexico has actually gotten more restrictive in the past year and a half.
In February 2006, the governor tightened the rules on undocumented immigrants, issuing an executive order requiring two forms of ID from immigrants to prove they are who they say they are. Before that, they could show only one.
(on camera): But whether it's licenses for undocumented immigrants or just toughening the requirements that made New Mexico safer, critics say that's not the point. Using fake documentation to get valid state driver's licenses is what makes national security advocates nervous because that's exactly what most of the 9/11 hijackers did to get their driver's licenses.
Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.
O'BRIEN: And back with our panel, CNN's Candy Crowley, John King and David Gergen, adviser to a string of presidents, including Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.
Thanks, guys, for coming back with us.
Let's start with you, John.
Hillary, two weeks ago, talking about immigration. Such a big mess, actually, that it made all the front pages. Last night, huge change. First, let's listen to it. I'll ask you the question on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: It makes a lot of sense. What is the governor supposed to do? He is dealing with a serious problem.
I just want to add, I did not say that it should be done, but I certainly recognize why Governor Spitzer is trying to do it and we have failed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, this is the kind of question that it's sort of available for a yes or a no answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Better now. Kind of a mess the last time.
John, what do you think happened and how important was that change? Immigration now is what everybody's talking about.
KING: What happened was she got knocked on her heels for the first time in this race and she was at risk of losing the national momentum when she has to start focusing now on fighting state by state. Iowa is very close right now and so she went for clarity as opposed to confusion, and she gave a one-word answer, no. As president, she would not support illegal immigrants getting driver's licenses. It was the correction she needed to make. The Democrats are still divided on this issue. Some of her rivals have different opinions.
And Soledad, the Republicans are fighting over immigration too. It's the quicksand of American politics now.
O'BRIEN: It's going to be interesting to watch.
All right, David Gergen, let me ask you a question. This issue, as you well know, had dragged down Hillary Clinton's campaign. They just couldn't get beyond it. They really couldn't -- for the last, you know, weeks until this debate last night.
Is it over? Is it sort of successfully stomped out?
GERGEN: I think she successfully pivoted off it last night. That is, after two weeks of stumbling around, they then got Governor Spitzer to withdraw it in New York so it's no longer alive as an issue there. And then she managed last night by just giving a one-word answer, no. Uncharacteristically short, but she made no news on the issue, and instead allowed Barack Obama uncharacteristically to stumble around on the answer. So, you know, I think that she has put it away for now and she can move back to health care and other issues.
O'BRIEN: And as you say, Barack Obama, I mean, really, really stumbled. Let's play a little bit -- I mean, a little bit. We had to edit down a fair amount because it went on and on and on, of what Barack Obama had to say on this issue last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you support or oppose driver's licenses for illegal immigrants?
OBAMA: I am not proposing that that's what we do. What I'm saying is that we can't be...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no. Look. Because this is the kind of question that it's sort of available for a yes or a no answer.
Either you support it or you...
Senator Obama, yes or no?
I am going to be fighting for comprehensive immigration reform and we shouldn't pose the question that somehow we can't achieve that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: They were good, Candy, when people are kind of laughing through your answer and the wolf whistles that we heard.
How bad, how damaging was that for his campaign?
CROWLEY: Well, I think it was bad. I mean, you know, one of the problems is not just that people are laughing through the answer, but whenever somebody says to you, yes or no, and you feel the need to go on, regardless of whether the question is nuance, regardless of how fair this is, it looks like you're trying to obfuscate here. I mean, it was like Clintonesque. It was just almost a mirror image of what went on with Hillary Clinton.
Now, he was -- if you go back and parse it, as we say. It was pretty clear what he was saying, but he just needed to say it right up front.
O'BRIEN: We heard a lot, John, of booing, a pro-Hillary crowd in that debate, I thought heavily so. Would you agree? And how do you think it affected the debate?
KING: Well, the campaigns get equal number of seats, but I think there is a pro-Democratic unity crowd in there. She was very effective early on, a very smart campaign tactic, and a trademark Clinton tactic -- her husband's as well as hers -- to say, hey, let's not go negative here. Why are you attacking me? You're helping the Republicans. In fact, you're reaching right into the Republican playbook.
The Democrats know they're going to have a tough race in the fall and Hillary Clinton was playing to the big Democratic audience, saying, you know, criticize me on policy, but don't get personal here.
O'BRIEN: David Gergen, I need a short answer because we're out of time. Pundits think of this as a horse race -- who was first? Who came in second? Who did well? Who did badly? Does the American people think of debates that way too?
GERGEN: Yes. These are the -- the chatter out of these debates has a big impact. And last night, of course, it was the biggest debate audience of the season. Over 4 million people watched this. I think this debate did have an impact last night. And it forces now all of the candidates, they have to take it away from Hillary Clinton on the ground in Iowa. Can they do it? Yes, they still have time to do it. It's going to be tough, but they can do it.
O'BRIEN: David Gergen, John King, Candy Crowley, thank you. Thanks guys. Appreciate it.
On the other side of the globe, a massive and deadly storm. Erica Hill has that and much more in our 360 bulletin.
ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, the death toll is rising in Bangladesh. The government estimates at least 500 people were killed when cyclone slammed ashore last night. But local media said that that toll is actually more than twice as high. Meantime, rescue and aid workers are struggling to reach the survivors. Some were even using elephants to move debris.
Here in the U.S., thousands of demonstrators gathering in Washington today to demand stepped up enforcement of hate crimes including the Jena Six case. The march was organized and led today by the Reverend Al Sharpton.
And the South getting a little drought relief. And man, do we need it. Federal biologists have now agreed to a plan which would keep more water in Georgia instead of releasing it down to Florida. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the plan will not jeopardize entire endangered species, although some may die.
O'BRIEN: All right. Well here's -- oh, just really, you know, terrible, gosh, to think about that.
Let me tell you about, "What were they thinking," Erica. Take a look at this. This video appears to take road rage to a whole new level.
Have you seen this? Two men caught by a traffic camera, fist fighting. Can you see them there?
HILL: Oh, my goodness. On the interstate.
O'BRIEN: Yes. They are -- have stopped on the interstate -- This is in phoenix. Now they're -- look, they're getting over in the other side of traffic. People are like, oh my gosh.
HILL: This is just awful.
O'BRIEN: Cars swerving to try to keep away from them. Much more to the story. Cops say that they are boyfriends. One of them had threatened to commit suicide by throwing himself in front of traffic. The other one was trying to tackle him to save his life.
HILL: Oh my goodness.
O'BRIEN: They both ended up being -- look, it just goes on and on and on. They were both arrested on domestic violence charges.
HILL: Oh my -- it's amazing that they both survived that.
O'BRIEN: I know. I know.
All right, Erica, thanks a lot.
O'BRIEN: Let's get with Karen Chetry now with a look at what's coming up on Monday on "AMERCIAN MORNING."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAREN CHETRY, HOST, "AMERICAN MORNING": Thanks, Soledad.
Monday, wake up to the most news in the morning, including a new call for "Made in America." After so many toys coming from China have been found to have lead paint or dangerous magnets.
We're going to see how American toy companies are stepping up and whether you can take comfort in the "Made in the U.S.A." Label.
Our Consumer Reporter Greg Hunter is looking out for you. That's Monday. It all begins at 6:00 a.m., Eastern.
Soledad, back to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: And tonight, it happens all across the country, a young teenager wrestles with issues of self esteem and finds a friend on the Internet.
But for 13-year-old Megan Meier, there was no happy ending.
We'll tell you how cyber-bullying turned deadly for this girl, when 360 continues. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
It seems that every teenager today has a MySpace page. And if you're a parent or you're a grandparent and you don't know what I'm talking about, well, then, I would suggest that you find out. It's where teenagers chat and socialize and sometimes flirt.
But for one troubled girl, the social Web site was used as a horrible game by a person that no one would have suspected. And as a mother, I can tell you it's a story that's going to leave you very shocked, very sad and probably very angry.
Gary Tuchman has our report.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What happened here is horrifying. Why it might have happened will leave you incredulous.
TINA MEIER, VICTIM'S MOTHER: She was just a good girl.
TUCHMAN: Tina Meier of suburban St. Louis is the mother of Megan Meier who had lived a challenging childhood.
RON MEIER, VICTIM'S FATHER: She got bullied in school and she had big self esteem issues. She had struggled with depression since she was in the third grade.
TUCHMAN: Megan's mother and father allowed her to set up a MySpace account under their supervision, and said their 13-year-old swooned when she got her first affectionate note ever from a boy named Josh Evans.
T. MEIER: He thought she was really pretty. Posted on her comments on her pictures, you know, this is beautiful. Your eyes are beautiful.
TUCHMAN: For about a month, Josh sent her instant messages saying things like "lucky me and lucky you because you're my No. 1." But Megan's mother and father started getting suspicious, because although the notes were not explicit, their parental instinct told them something wasn't right.
T MEIER: I did contact the police department and I called and asked to be transferred to the cybercrimes division to check to see how this MySpace account is real. Nothing you can do.
TUCHMAN: And then one day...
T MEIER: Then a world wind (sic). It was Josh saying horrible things to Megan, Megan saying things back to him.
TUCHMAN: Nasty messages from a boy who just a day before meant everything to this lonely girl, one in particular cut deep.
R MEIER: The world would be a better off place without you and have a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) rest of your life.
TUCHMAN: Megan was distraught beyond words.
T MEIER: This is the part I'll never forget forgive myself for because she was looking to me to help calm her down like I normally always did and be there for her and I was upset with her because I didn't like the language that she was using and I was upset that she didn't listen to me and sign off when I told her to. And, so I was aggravated with her about that and told her that she knew better and she just said to me, "you're supposed to be my mom, you're supposed to be on my side" and she took off running upstairs.
TUCHMAN: It was too quiet for too long in that upstairs bedroom.
R MEIER: Tina left, walked upstairs, I didn't really pay much attention to it. And then I just heard the blood curdling scream.
T MEIER: I just saw her hanging from her closet.
R MEIER: And just she just screamed, and I was right there.
T MEIER: I tried picking her up.
R MEIER: I held her, and I yanked the whole closet thing out of the wall and Tina ran and got a knife so I could cut the belt from around her neck and started performing CPR.
T MEIER: She had tears the entire time running down the side of her face the entire time until she passed away.
R MEIER: It was just like, please, please Megan. Breathe.
TUCHMAN: Megan was pronounced dead the next day. When Ron Meier came home from the hospital, he wanted to find Josh Evans and let him know what he had done to his little girl. The first place he tried to look was Josh's MySpace page.
R MEIER: It was deleted, the whole Josh Evans no longer existed.
TUCHMAN: Months past as the Meier's struggled with their grief, searching for answers why their daughter went to such extremes and who was the boy who drove her there. Then a neighbor told them something stunning, Josh Evans was actually the creation of a mother who lived on the same block as the Meier's, a mother who actually went to Megan's funeral. According to an official police report, that mother acknowledged it, the report saying: "In the months leading to Meier's daughter's suicide, she instigated and monitored a MySpace account which was created for the sole purpose of communication with the Meier's daughter."
The Meier's were told the other family wanted to find out from Megan why she was having a dispute with their own 13-year-old daughter.
R MEIER: As if my daughter would have killed herself with a gun, they loaded the gun for her. TUCHMAN: We are not reporting the name of that other family to protect the identity of their daughter, but did go to their home to try to get their side of the story. The woman's father answered the door and in a soft voice, the grandfather said it was sad, but then would not say if he thought the police report was wrong.
TUCHMAN (on camera): Have you talked to these people since then?
T MEIER: Yes, I have.
TUCHMAN: What have you said to them?
T MEIER: Probably things that I can't say on camera.
TUCHMAN: And what have they said back to you?
R MEIER: "Give it a rest."
T MEIER: "Give it a rest."
TUCHMAN: Now, at this point, if you're waiting to hear what law enforcement is doing in an effort to get Megan and her family some justice, well, you may be waiting forever. County prosecutors, the county sheriff's office and the FBI say there is no indication whatsoever a crime has been committed, so there are no plans to do anything legally.
(voice-over): After initially telling us they weren't even investigating the case anymore, the prosecutor is now telling CNN, his office will review the situation, but more than a year has gone by since Megan hanged herself. Tina and Ron Meier, who have separated, partly because of the stress, were told by lawyers it was best to stay quiet. But, they no longer are. They are angry and feel they owe it to Megan to speak out.
TUCHMAN (on camera): Maybe your story could help the welfare of another child.
R MEIER: Absolutely.
T MEIER: That's what we hope.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Garry Tuchman, CNN, O'Fallon, Missouri.
O'BRIEN: Joining us tonight, the host of the radio show "Loveline," Dr. Drew Pinsky and the CNN senior legal analysis, Jeff Toobin.
Gentlemen, I have to tell you, this is a horrible story. I mean, after like 20 years in the business, this kind of is up there with the worst. How is this not a crime, Jeff, how is it possible that this is not a crime?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR LEGAL ANALYST: You know, this is a story that makes you want to scream you get so angry to think that adults could do something like this to a teenager, because you think adults could do something like this to a teenager. But, I don't think it's a crime because the law is very strict about causization, the idea that you could prosecute someone for homicide for baiting someone into suicide is a theory that I certainly understand intellectually, but I don't think any court would allow it even to go to a jury, I don't think any prosecutor would push it. And I understand it, the authorities there have not gone forward for just that reason, that you just can't prove the causization.
DR DREW PINSKY, HOST, LOVELINE: You could certainly try, though.
TOOBIN: You could.
PINSKY: I'm concerned that people are really bothering -- or sort of trouble by the delivery system, the circumstance of it rather than just the fact that these are adults behaving in a way that they -- I mean, reprehensibly. You know what I mean? It doesn't really matter how they did it so much as there was opportunity, they exploited it and the behavior was just inexcusable.
O'BRIEN: You know, but we've heard stories, certainly, of cyber bullying before, but this one, at least in my experience, kind of takes the cake, not just to the bullying and the leading up to it, but the execution...
TOOBIN: Also because it was adults harassing teenagers. I think that's what makes this -- I mean, you know, teenagers are often horrible to each other and I certainly don't excuse that, but the idea that adults could do it makes it worse.
O'BRIEN: Oh, it's horribly, horrible. We're going to talk about it. We're going to actually talk about some of the consequences of cyber bullying including whether Megan's parents can bring civil charges against their neighbors. That's when we come back. Stay with us.
O'BRIEN: And we're back taking about this horrible MySpace suicide story. Joining me again is Dr. Drew Pinsky and CNN legal analyst, Jeff Toobin.
OK, let's talk about a civil case, because the burden of proof is lower, right, for a civil case.
O'BRIEN: Maybe it's not a case of the parents, the neighbors killed the girl. But are there other charges they could face?
TOOBIN: Possibly, although again the causization will be difficult. There's a tort known as "intentional infliction of emotional distress." That sounds like it might, could be -- but again, the causation issue would come up. And Drew, I mean, this is your department, but you know, people who commit suicide often have a lot of problems and that's the defense.
PINSKY: Oh, absolutely. And I guarantee you, there's almost never a direct line. It's not as though you can say somebody left a letter saying that this is specifically why I -- and even then there's usually long histories of depression, there may be drug use, other imitating circumstances all that certainly are part of what leads to a suicidal act. However, you would still hold somebody responsible for contributing significantly to the precipitation of a major act like this.
TOOBIN: And, one reason why that might fit better with civil charges is oftentimes in civil cases, jurors literally are asked to assign percentages to how much responsible they are and this would, might at least, lend itself to that sort of allocation.
O'BRIEN: The mother, who's a neighbor, in the police report, apparently said she didn't feel as guilty because she had heard at the funeral that this young girl, Megan, had tried to kill herself before, history of depression, history of ADD...
TOOBIN: She really sounds like a prize, this woman, doesn't she?
O'BRIEN: Oh, don't even get me started.
PINSKY: There was some in the story too...
O'BRIEN: Yeah, there was some vandalism, in fact they have a camera of the neighbors because they're worried about people vandalizing them, they've been trying to, you know, tell the -- Megan's parents don't want anybody to do that because they know the police will blame them or they're concerned about that. But, couldn't you push a kid who doesn't even have a history of depression and ADD and all the things this young girl, who by the way, the neighbors knew that she suffered from all these things, they knew that.
PINSKY: Yeah, that, by the way, buys a really important piece of evidence is that they knew that this was a fragile person.
O'BRIEN: But, even a non-fragile person. You're regular teen -- what teenager is not fragile?
PINSKY: I mean, the real crazy part about all this is the way parents relate to teenagers these days, as though they, themselves where teenagers or adolescents and they're just their buddies hanging out, enjoying their social life with them. And the fact is, that itself is damaging to all teenagers. Teenagers have tons of adolescent friends, they need parents who act like parents who are adults. And unfortunately, in this culture right now, there's a lot of parenting that's sort of thought of as being just the buddy and the pal and I think this is symptomatic of that sort of thing.
O'BRIEN: Have you seen cases where kids who don't have a history of depression and kids who don't have ADD and whole host of other problems and a life-long struggle with their weight, et cetera, et cetera -- where they've been driven to the brink by horrible cyber bullying? PINSKY: Well, I can't really say specifically cyber bullying, but cyber bullying -- bullying, very definitely. I mean...
O'BRIEN: So, you don't have to be depressive to want to kill yourself?
PINSKY: Well, again, it's a very complex process, the kids that tend to be the object of bullying, as well as, the kids that do the bullying. They sometimes change roles, they tend to have been abused themselves when they were earlier in childhood, so there are risk factors.
O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the law for one more second, because I'm -- I'm sorry. I know this story...
TOOBIN: You might want to go to law school and become a lawyer just for this case.
O'BRIEN: Can I do it by the end of the night? Is there a correspondence course that I could rush through?
This makes me so furious, it sounds like you're saying in the eyes of the law, it's OK to bully somebody to the brink or over the brink, it's OK because it's not like shooting them, it's not like taking their life, you can just push them right there to the edge.
TOOBIN: But again, you have to remember that the law deals with simple causization. Remember the cases we've talked about, like with "Natural Born Killers" the movie, supposedly inspired people to commit a crime, or Marilyn Manson, the singer, inspired someone to commit a crime. Ultimately those have not really proceed through the legal system.
O'BRIEN: Of course, that case -- there was a whole host of other people who bought that album who weren't inspired. There was a whole host of other people who sat through that movie, this was one girl getting e-mails specifically targeted, she was meant to be a victim, they were trying to harass her and they succeeded.
TOOBIN: It's certainly a much stronger case that the others.
O'BRIEN: Your Honor.
TOOBIN: Exactly, I want to give her a damage award. I want to give her a law degree.
O'BRIEN: I mean, these neighbors, I...
PINSKY: It's a sad situation.
TOOBIN: It's a really sad situation.
O'BRIEN: It's a pathetic situation. PINSKY: And here's what -- you know, in my life and my work, what gets even sort of more confusing about these kinds of things, when you find the people that act like this, you find that their past is very troubled and they too have been the object of horrible abuse. And so it's never, you know, there's never all an evil person.
TOOBIN: Judge O'Brien's not buying that.
O'BRIEN: The doctor is trying to talk me out of my anger.
PINSKY: But insofar as -- I'm sure where a legal perspective, there will be a black or a white sort of perspective on this, but in reality from a human standpoint, it's very hard to say this is a horrible, evil person and this...
O'BRIEN: I hear what you're saying. If you're the parent of this girl who was found dead hanging in her closet. You don't care.
TOOBIN: You don't care. It's not their responsibility...
O'BRIEN: This child was harassed to death. This child was harassed to death. That's my judgment. Gentlemen, Dr. Drew Pinsky.
TOOBIN: So be it.
PINSKY: The verdict is in.
O'BRIEN: The verdict is in from me. Thank you, gentlemen, I appreciate it. Thanks for letting me vent, at least.
Up next, Raw Politics so raw it rises or sinks to a new level. We'll tell you about the campaign dirty tricks targeting Mitt Romney and his Mormon faith. On 360, next.
O'BRIEN: After such a distressing story like the one we told you just a moment ago, it's almost a pleasure to turn back to lawmakers who wasting your money, leaders who are ducking accountability. Campaign tricks so dirty, so over the top, they could only be called "Raw Politics." Tom Foreman dishes it up for us starting with what else, Turkey.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And they're off. Lawmakers have left for their two-week Thanksgiving break leaving a pile of bills unresolved, on funding for the Iraq war, farm issues, children's health, the alternative minimum tax, the Republican assessment.
SEN JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: It's a sorry state of affairs, this broken Congress. FOREMAN: The Dems smarting over their inability to cut Iraq spending, blamed the White House for, in effect, insisting on a blank check.
SEN HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: Shouldn't there be some minimal accountability? That's all we're asking.
FOREMAN (on camera): Feelings are so raw, Senator Reid there, even took special steps to make sure the president can't make any recess appointments to federal commissions while the Senate is away.
(voice-over): Thousands of marchers converged on the Justice Department, protesting what they say is a pour federal response to recent hate crimes.
AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: We're here to say the federal government has a responsibility.
FOREMAN: The new attorney general says he will pursue such cases as much as the law allows.
Someone is calling voters in New Hampshire and Iowa pretending to be conducting a poll, but then taking swipes at Mitt Romney for being a Mormon. The mittster (ph) calls it repulsive, other Republican candidates agree.
Virtually all the Democratic contenders agreed with big Joe Biden on policy points at the debate, so look what's on his Web site now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's exactly what Joe Biden talked about, here.
SEN JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I want to add on to something that Joe Biden is said.
SEN HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To do exactly what Joe is saying...
SEN BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Listen, Joe's exactly right...
FOREMAN: Smart play.
And the Raw Politics chop up the week. Remember John Edwards' $400 haircut? Republican Tom Tancredo has one, too. He got his at the Hair Biz salon in New Hampshire just to poke fun at Edwards.
(on camera): The money from the stunt went to autism research. Mike Huckabee did the same thing and that is "Raw Politics," well done -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Thanks Tom.
Get another dose of "Raw Politics" and all the day's headlines with the new 360 daily podcast. You don't need an i-Pod, you can watch it on your computer cnn.com/ac360podcast or get it from the i- Tunes store.
Coming up next, the "Shot of the Day", new photos discovered. Do they show Abe Lincoln at Gettysburg? We're going to let you decide.
Plus, a health alert tonight, a deadly strain of the common cold. We'll tell you what you need to know when 360 continues.
O'BRIEN: Shot of the day is coming up, a historic photo. See the hat right there? Could that be Abe Lincoln? First though, Erica Hill from HEADLINE NEWS joins us with a 360 news and business bulletin.
ERICA HILL, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, hard facts for the U.S. Army, tonight. The desertion rate soaring, 80 percent since the start of the Iraq War, that is it's highest since 1980, but still, lower than during the Vietnam era draft time.
And at least 10 deaths, we're learning, have now been linked to a mutated version of the common cold. Deadly sniffles? Talk about scary. So far the rare strain has been found in more than 140 patients in Texas, Washington, Oregon and New York.
And stocks finishing the week in positive territory. It's been an up and down week, the Dow, though, managing to gain 66 points to close at 13,176 points. The NASDAQ at 18, the S&P rose seven -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: All right, Erica. Let's take a look at the "Shot of the Day," some newly discovered photos from a very historic date. Take a look. See the top hat right there? Historians believe that that man is Honest Abe -- Abe Lincoln, right before the gave the famous Gettysburg address. Kind of neat, isn't' it?
HILL: It is. I mean, it looks like his top hat. I buy it.
O'BRIEN: Or anybody's top hat, who was tall.
HILL: Tall, exactly.
O'BRIEN: The photos are cropped from a wider shot. They were discovered in a collection at the library of Congress by a Civil War enthusiast. Now, before this discovery, there was just one photo of Lincoln at Gettysburg, but it was from after the speech. So, this is kind of a big deal.
HILL: It is a big deal. Not bad.
O'BRIEN: And a reminder if you see some video that could be the "Shot of the Day" or a maybe a photograph that could be the shot of the century, tell us about it at cnn.com/360. Researchers today announced a major new study, the largest of its kind, into the causes of autism. About one in 150 children born today will develop autism. Nobody exactly understands why. I just isn't serious, just is misunderstood is how people will autism see the world. But on Monday you're going to meet a woman who's throwing open a window into that world, her world, 360 MD Sanjay Gupta has an introduction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We first came across Amanda on YouTube. Her appearance there is so startling, I wanted to meet her. I had so many questions.
AMANDA: The way I naturally think and respond to things, looks and feels so different from standard concepts or even visualizations that some people do not consider it thought at all. It is only when I type something in your language that you refer to me as having communication.
GUPTA: Amanda calls her bilingual. For other autistic people, she has movements and gestures to communicate, but for the rest of us, she made this video to teach us how it works.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: "Autism: Finding Amanda," that's on 360 on Monday night, 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Coming up next, who won, who lost and did anybody go for broke. We gather the best political team in business, asked them for their post Vegas analysis of who now is the favorite and who's the long-shot in the race for the White House. You'll want to stick around.
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