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Obama, McCain Battle Over G.I. Bill; Bill Clinton on the Attack; Small Town Devastated by Tornado; Is Military Doing Enough for Soldiers with Mental Illness?

Aired May 26, 2008 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Hope you had a great Memorial Day holiday.
Tonight, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton running hard -- Hillary Clinton fighting back after a weekend spent trying to explain and dismiss her comments about the assassination of Robert Kennedy, her campaign this weekend blaming Obama for continuing to bring the matter up. The Obama campaign says, we have moved beyond it.

Also tonight: Bill Clinton insisting there's a cover-up, slamming his wife's critics, suggesting unnamed forces are bullying superdelegates to support Obama, insisting his wife is really winning. We will bring you his comments.

And tornado terror -- unbelievable video from this weekend's deadly storms. Seven people are dead in two states. You will hear from the man who shot this video from a helicopter as a twister approached.

We begin tonight with new firestorms erupting for all three candidates. And it comes on a very busy day on the campaign trail, fighting tonight, even as they honor America's fallen heroes.

Barack Obama in New Mexico for a Memorial Day town hall meeting with Governor Bill Richardson. He also took some shots at John McCain over the proposed G.I. Bill. We will have more on that ahead. McCain was also hitting back at Obama today. He was in Albuquerque, speaking at a veterans memorial.

And Hillary Clinton held a rally in Puerto Rico. She later appeared at the Puerto Rico Senate. Clinton's campaign has spent much of this weekend trying to shake off the comments she made on Friday, citing the assassination of Robert Kennedy when she was discussing her staying in the race.

This weekend, her camp accused the Obama campaign of fanning the flames, taking her words out of context.

On the trail tonight, Suzanne Malveaux, traveling with Clinton in Puerto Rico.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Greeted wildly, but with her opponent's chant, "Yes, we can." Hillary Clinton used her little Spanish to get the crowd on message.


MALVEAUX: Getting back on message in Puerto Rico today was critical, after a weekend dogged by debate. On Friday, in defending her right to stay in the race through June, Clinton noted, Robert Kennedy was still campaigning that month, until he was assassinated.

H. CLINTON: We all remember, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. You know, I just -- I don't understand it.

MALVEAUX: The remark drew criticism all weekend, even after these apologized.


MAUREEN DOWD, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think it gave delegates and a lot of Democrats the creeps, because, basically, the only reason she is still in the race is that something bad will happen.


MALVEAUX: The two campaigns agreed to move on.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think that Senator Clinton intended anything by it. And, you know, I think we should put it behind us.

MALVEAUX: Robert Kennedy Jr. backed her up, saying she was clearly focused on how long past primaries have run, not on assassinations.

Now Clinton and her family are putting on a good face in Puerto Rico, the last big contest left, 55 delegates at stake.

H. CLINTON: I don't think there is a more important election that you will have an opportunity to vote in than this Sunday.

MALVEAUX: Clinton pressing issues Puerto Ricans care about, the debate over statehood, the economy, and the war.

H. CLINTON: I pledge to you, I will end the war in Iraq, bring our troops home, and take care of our veterans the way they should be cared for.

MALVEAUX: She even challenged Obama to another debate, even though he's ruled out any more.

H. CLINTON: I will debate about the future of Puerto Rico any time, anywhere, because I believe it's critical.

MALVEAUX: But Obama has indeed moved on, not just from Clinton's Kennedy remark, but from Clinton herself. He made a quick stop in Puerto Rico Saturday, but he's now campaigning for the Latino vote in New Mexico, and taking on John McCain.


COOPER: Suzanne, it's worth putting out that people in report Puerto Rico cannot vote in the general election. So, how important is the primary there?

MALVEAUX: Well, it's very -- it's very important to both of these candidates. Essentially, they offer 55 pledged delegates in Puerto Rico.

Barack Obama needs 49 to clinch the nomination. If that happens, he gets it. As for Hillary Clinton, if she can win Puerto Rico, she can move forward with her argument to the uncommitted superdelegates that she's getting stronger, she's got more pledged delegates, she's got more of the popular vote, and that she also has the Latino vote.

And that would move her forward, perhaps superdelegates going in her direction.

COOPER: Taking it with a grain of salt, what do -- what do the polls say there?

MALVEAUX: The polls say that Hillary Clinton is doing better, the last poll that was taken, about 13 points stronger than Barack Obama.

But, essentially, Barack Obama does not necessarily have to win Puerto Rico in order to clinch the nomination. There could be a group of superdelegates that join, say, in this week or shortly afterwards, that could put him over the top. So, Puerto Rico may not actually decide this nomination. Ultimately, it's going to come down to those superdelegates -- Anderson.

COOPER: Suzanne Malveaux in San Juan -- Suzanne, thanks.

Bill Clinton is back in the spotlight tonight, and in a big way. He's lashing out at pundits, at politicians, and the Obama campaign, saying superdelegates are being bullied and pressured to support Obama. His wife, he says, is winning the general election, and he says it's being covered up.

CNN's Brian Todd has the "Raw Politics."



BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The former president tells voters to ignore calls by -- quote -- "people on television" for Hillary Clinton to drop out and says she's been getting a raw deal throughout the campaign.

B. CLINTON: And I have never seen anything like it. I have never seen a candidate treated so disrespectfully just for running. TODD: Pleading for time, he tells an audience in South Dakota, his wife still has a chance.

B. CLINTON: Why have all these people tried to run her out of this race? They're trying to get her to cry uncle before the Democratic Party has to decide what to do in Florida and Michigan.

TODD: The former president says he also sees an effort afoot to strong-arm undecided superdelegates to make their choice fast.

B. CLINTON: I can't believe it. It's just frantic, the way they're trying to push and pressure and bully all these superdelegates to come out.

TODD: The superdelegate count has recently tipped in favor of Senator Clinton's rival, Barack Obama. In the last week, he's picked up 17, to her five. Obama, for his part, has tried to take the high road, praising Mrs. Clinton at every opportunity.

OBAMA: She has set the standard. She has broken through barriers, and will open up opportunity for a lot of people, including my two young daughters.

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": Well, he doesn't want her to feel disrespected and her followers to feel that she's been disrespected.

TODD: Will that be enough for Obama to win over her voters if he becomes the Democratic nominee?

ROGER SIMON, CHIEF POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THEPOLITICO.COM: A lot of her supporters, women supporters, feel that she definitely has not been treated respectfully, and they believe that the best sign of respect that Barack Obama could deliver is to pick her as his vice president.

TODD (on camera): Even Bill Clinton reportedly believes that, if his wife doesn't win the nomination, she's at least earned a shot at the number-two slot. But, for now, the Clintons are focusing on the top job, campaigning together in Puerto Rico.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Let's dig deeper now with our panel.

Joining me now is Republican strategist Ed Rollins and Democratic strategist Robert Zimmerman, who is a superdelegate, supports Clinton.

Ed, Bill Clinton says that they are trying to bully the superdelegates and push her out. Is he right? And, if so, who is they?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I'm there's no -- I mean, Bill Clinton has been around a long time -- no disrespect to the -- the former president. It's just -- it's a tough game. And there's no they. There's no -- there's no big bosses in Washington.

You know, both he and Bush are attacking the media for not treating any of them fairly. And I think, to a certain extent, they diminish their case. I mean, the case is that she's -- she's run a great campaign, she's been much stronger the last two months than Obama has. But it's -- it's a tough business.

COOPER: Robert, I mean, the terms he's using are pretty tough. He says he's never seen a candidate treated so disrespectfully just for running.

Do you agree. And, if so, do you worry at all, as Ed says, that they're diminishing the candidate?

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think, certainly, I agree that she's being treated disrespectfully. I don't know that she's been treat the most disrespectfully. But I think the point here is, obviously, I can appreciate the Clintons' frustrations.

Here, Hillary Clinton has won as many popular -- as many votes as Barack Obama, in some counts, more so. There is -- this race is still going forward. There will be some dramatic changes May 31.

COOPER: You're counting Florida and Michigan?

ZIMMERMAN: I'm counting Florida and Michigan. But I think there will be some dramatic changes May 31, when Florida and Michigan are seated.

Right now, we're talking about 2,026 delegates to win the nomination. That number will increase dramatically, by perhaps 50 or 100, after Michigan and Florida are seated.

COOPER: Do you buy that math?

ROLLINS: Yes. I'm not a member of the national rules committee or the Democratic Party, but I think there's no question that they have to seat Florida and Michigan. They have to determine how many they're going to put on the -- otherwise, they are going to have big problems in the fall.

ZIMMERMAN: You see, Anderson, it's really not about spin. It's about third-grade math. The 2,026 number is based upon 48 states and territories.

If in fact the rules and bylaws committee seats Michigan and Florida, as the Obama and Clinton campaigns say they want to see happen, that means you will have 50 states. That's increasing the delegate count, therefore, the number that will be required for the nomination.

COOPER: I want to read something that Hillary Clinton wrote in an op-ed in "The New York Daily News" about why she's running.

She says: "I'm running because I believe staying in this race will help unite the Democratic Party. I believe that, if Senator Obama and I both make our case, and all Democrats have the chance to make their voices heard, in the end, everyone will be more likely to rally around the nominee."

Ed, do you think this is uniting the party?

ROLLINS: I think it's a -- I don't think competition is a bad thing.

I think, to a certain extent, both are energizing certain segments of the base. I have to assume, as I have watched 40 years of this business, that, when Obama or Hillary is the nominee, they're going to come together. It may be a little pushing and shoving for a while. But, in the end, against John McCain, it will be a unified party. And we, as Republicans, have to be prepared for that.

COOPER: We're hearing, Richard, rumblings from the Clinton campaign -- I mean, Robert -- I don't know where my head is.

ZIMMERMAN: It's Memorial weekend.

COOPER: It is. No, it's been a long weekend.

But we're hearing rumblings from the Clinton campaign that this could go all the way to the convention. I mean, Hillary Clinton has said this. Bill Clinton has intimated this. Do you believe this has much life beyond June 3, June 4?

ZIMMERMAN: I don't think it will go all the way to the controversy. I certainly hope it doesn't.

I think what will be interesting to watch, after Puerto Rico votes -- and that's a very big voting state -- could be over a million registered Democrats voting there -- after Puerto Rico votes, and then the final two contests on June 3, you could have a scenario where Hillary Clinton has won the popular vote; Barack Obama ...

COOPER: They don't get to vote in the general election.

ZIMMERMAN: No, they don't. But they vote for the Democratic nomination.

COOPER: Right.

ZIMMERMAN: That will take another show to figure that one out.


ZIMMERMAN: But, OK, that's been going on since 1980.

But the point is, you will have a scenario where Hillary Clinton could be winning the popular vote, and Barack Obama could have a delegate lead of perhaps 100 delegates, maybe a few more. And then it will be up to the superdelegates to decide where to go.

COOPER: We're going to -- Ed? ROLLINS: The sad thing about all this -- and I don't mean to get into Democratic politics -- but, if they had left the calendar as it was, you would be going into the last week in -- first week in June with states like California, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, who always voted very late, making a decision, and they're the ones that should make the decision.


ZIMMERMAN: That's why we cherish Ed's advice.


COOPER: We're going to have more from Ed and Robert Zimmerman coming up after this break.

As always, I'm blogging throughout the hour. You can just the conversation. Go to

Ahead on the program: Obama vs. McCain, the fight over the G.I. Bill. Today, both candidates went head to head on the heated issue. We will take you up close.

And, later, as close as you will ever want to get to a massive tornado. Take a look at these pictures. We will bring you the latest on the tornadoes that obliterated communities and lives in the Midwest.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a large tornado, very large. That's the most impressive tornado I think I have ever seen.




OBAMA: We should make sure that today's veterans get the same benefit that my grandfather got when he came back from World War II. It was a good investment, not only for him, but it was a good investment for the country. It builds our middle class. So, we're going to make sure that that gets passed, because we have got to have outstanding educational opportunities for veterans when they come home.


COOPER: Barack Obama marking Memorial Day in a crucial swing state, New Mexico, by speaking about his support of this G.I. Bill, which passed the Senate last week. It is not a done deal, by any measure. The G.I. Bill battle could go on for months, in fact.

John McCain, also in New Mexico today, called the bill a mistake of colossal proportions. The politics aside, some veterans just aren't getting enough money from the government for their education to make ends meet.

Up close tonight, here's CNN's Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After two tours in Iraq, Marine Corporal Kevin Grafeld works as a paintball referee.

CPL. KEVIN GRAFELD, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: Both sides, get ready!

KAYE: This former intelligence specialist needs money for college.

(on camera): When you signed up with the Marines, what were you told about college and how much would be covered?

GRAFELD: What I was told was, the G.I. Bill was going to pay for everything, you know, school, books, tuition, you know, living expenses, gas, the whole nine.

KAYE: Kevin says classes here at Nassau Community College cost him answer $1,600 a semester. He gets about $2,400 a semester from the G.I. Bill, but says that's not enough to cover even half his expenses. Factor in books, gasoline to get to campus, even lab fees for science classes, and the G.I. Bill still comes up short.

(voice-over): Corporal Grafeld even moved in with his parents to save money.

GRAFELD: I'm not trying to sound greedy, but I do think we deserve at least a little bit more. I don't want a free ride. But I at least want the ability to stand up on my own two feet and make something of myself.

KAYE: Signed by Franklin Roosevelt in 1944, critics say the G.I. Bill, contributes to veterans' college education, hasn't kept pace with rising costs.

Two proposals are being debated in Congress. Senators Jim Webb and Chuck Hagel want four years' tuition covered at a public university, plus living experiences for veterans who served at least three years. One study estimates, the bill will reduce retention rates by 16 percent. So, John McCain is suggesting an alternative: increase benefits based on length of service to keep troops serving longer in a military stretched thin.

Barack Obama threw the first punch.

OBAMA: I respect Senator John McCain's service to our country. But I can't understand why he would wind up behind the president in his opposition to this G.I. Bill. I can't believe why he believes it is too generous to our veterans.

KAYE: McCain issued this scathing statement: "I will not accept from Senator Obama, who did not feel it was his responsibility to serve our country in uniform, any lectures on my regard for those who did."

Obama didn't let that go.

OBAMA: I think the notion that, somehow, I can't speak out on behalf of veterans because of the fact that I didn't serve makes no sense whatsoever.

KAYE: President Bush threatens to veto the Webb-Hagel bill, though Congress passed it overwhelmingly. The debate goes on. Kevin Grafeld's bills mount.

GRAFELD: We go to Iraq. We go to Afghanistan. We go all to Africa. We do -- we go all over the world and we serve our country. It's a drop of a hat. We do whatever is asked of us. And, when we get out, we're being paid this tiny, tiny amount of money to go to school.

KAYE: Increasing troops' education benefits may cost $2 billion a year. Too much? Consider this. It cost just as much to fight one week of war in Iraq.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Levittown, New York.


COOPER: Let's dig deeper now on the G.I. Bill and the debate that's raging between Senators McCain and Obama.

Joining us again, Republican strategist Ed Rollins, Democratic strategist Robert Zimmerman, who is a superdelegate, supports Hillary Clinton.

Politically, Robert, the Democrats have done sort of a masterful job of putting the Republicans against the corner on this.

ZIMMERMAN: It's really probably Barack Obama's shining moment in this campaign, the way he phrased this debate, the way he framed the issue.

And to the credit of Republicans on Capitol Hill, like Senator Chuck Hagel, who has joined Senator Webb, you're seeing a strong bipartisan consensus to provide our G.I.s the same benefits that proportionally were awarded in 1944. We're talking about $52 billion over 10 years. And that's really a pittance compared to what George Bush has sunk into the Iraqi government.

COOPER: Ed, politically, have the Republicans been outmaneuvered on this.

ROLLINS: Well, I think John McCain has been outmaneuvered.

I think -- and no one has a right to challenge John McCain's patriotism, his support of the troops, or his understanding veterans. But here you have two men, both of whom served in the Reagan administration, Chuck Hagel, Vietnam veteran, wounded -- was a deputy VA administrator in the Reagan administration. Webb was the secretary of the Navy in the right now administration -- both advocating for a volunteer military, when, in the past, it was always a drafted military, but you give them benefits.

Sometimes, in politics, there are intellectual issues and there are emotional issues. Intellectually, John McCain may be right. The president may be right. Emotionally, they're on the wrong side. You can never win an emotional battle with an intellectual argument.

COOPER: Is it fair, Robert, for John McCain to basically say to Barack Obama, look, you have to right talking about this stuff or challenging me, because you didn't choose to serve?

ZIMMERMAN: You know, that is what so compelling.

You know, John McCain has said many times over the years, military service is not a requirement to be president. I suppose that's why he supported George Bush. But the point here is, when it comes to this particular issue, they quote the Congressional Budget Office, Senator McCain did, saying that it would diminish retention by 16 percent.

The Congressional Budget Office also reported it would encourage new recruitment by approximately 16 percent, because of the added benefits. So, I think it's very telling by the way -- the fact McCain ignored the facts and attacked Obama personally.

COOPER: Moving forward, Ed, does it become difficult -- is this a weakness for Barack Obama, the fact that he never served? We should point out that, I mean, he was too young for Vietnam, and I think probably too old for Desert Storm.

ROLLINS: It's certainly not an issue anymore. And I think George Bush broke that mold.

I think the bottom line here and the statistic that always was astonishing to me is, George Bush's father was a war hero, lost the veterans vote to Bill Clinton, who was not -- served in a war, the same way Bob Dole, a war hero, lost the vote.

I think, in this particular case, John McCain is going against veterans groups. He's going against a constituency that should be his. As I said, he's a man of courage. I think he absolutely believes in this. But I think he's on the wrong side of this issue.

COOPER: Where does it play out? How much -- what is the life of this?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, I'm sure the Democrats want to keep this debate going for a long time.

COOPER: Right.

ZIMMERMAN: But I think, ultimately, you're going to see, I predict, a congressional override, because, ultimately, on the merits, this is the right thing to do, especially since we're talking about bringing really not anything additional, but giving veterans the same benefits veterans got in 1944.

And I think there will be a presidential override of the veto. And I think John McCain will really have a lot of -- it puts him really in a very difficult spot.

COOPER: Do you agree with that?

ROLLINS: This is -- a lot of Republicans are voting for this, and I think to a certain extent, as it moves forward, there will be more and more. There will be tremendous pressure from veterans groups past and present. And I think that you will see a lot of bipartisan support for this bill.

COOPER: Ed Rollins, appreciate your time as well on this holiday.

Robert Zimmerman, thanks for coming in very much.

Up next, breaking news -- we're just learning of the death of a Hollywood legend.

Also ahead tonight, a tornado in the Midwest -- at least seven people killed. Tonight, we're getting incredible video of one of the tornadoes as it touched down.

And Mars like you have never seen it before -- the first images from the Phoenix lander coming up.


COOPER: Some breaking news out of Hollywood, sad news, indeed.

CNN has learned that Academy Award-winning director Sydney Pollack has died. As a filmmaker, Pollack left his mark in cinema with a host of memorable movies over the last 40 years. He directed "Three Days of the Condor," "The Way We Were," "Absence of Malice," "Out of Africa," and "The Firm," just to name a few.

One of his most successful and critically acclaimed films was "Tootsie," starring Dustin Hoffman. Pollack appeared in "Tootsie" as the main character's agent.

Here's a scene.



DUSTIN HOFFMAN, ACTOR: Are you saying that nobody in New York will work with me?

POLLACK: No, that's too limiting. Nobody in Hollywood wants to work with you either. I can't even send you up for a commercial. You played a tomato for 30 seconds. They went a half-a-day over schedule because you wouldn't sit down.

HOFFMAN: Yes, it wasn't logical.

POLLACK: You were a tomato! A tomato doesn't have logic! A tomato can't move!



COOPER: Pollack began his career as an actor. He has had numerous roles. One of his most recent appearances was in the movie "Michael Clayton." According to new report, he died of cancer.

Sydney Pollack was 73 years old. And, to those who knew him and loved him, it is hard to imagine Hollywood without him -- Erica.



HILL: He was really incredible, wasn't he?

COOPER: Yes, it is.

Let's get the update on some of the latest in a 360 bulletin.

HILL: Get you the latest now.

Some damage control, actually, in southwest China, where soldiers plan to dynamite a so-called quake lake to prevent it from bursting, which could in turn cause a devastating flood. Now, this is actually just one of dozens quake lakes which were formed by this month's deadly earthquake.

We're also getting in some of the first pictures from NASA's Mars Phoenix lander, which touched down yesterday near Mars north pole. It's there to test the planet's soil for signs of life. So far, though, no little green men.

And in, Gloucester, England, the annual Cheese Roll. I loved this video. These people are crazy. Competitors flipped, slipped, and tumbled down a steep hill.


COOPER: Yikes.

HILL: Yes. No one knows for sure how it started, but...

COOPER: You could -- someone could get killed doing this, no?

HILL: I'm surprised someone hasn't. I was actually on the Web site earlier. I think it was the winner either this year or last year had to be carried off in a stretcher, but didn't apparently require hospitalization.

COOPER: Oy. Oy. Yikes. HILL: You know what they win?

COOPER: Look at that.


HILL: They win cheese.

COOPER: That's it?

HILL: Yes.

COOPER: That's all you win?

HILL: Yes. There's only one lady who makes this cheese. It's a 7. half pound roll of cheese.

COOPER: Really ? Yes, wow. Well, I hope it's worth it.

Erica, here's tonight's "Beat 360" photo: Senator Hillary Clinton ready to know back a beer at Sabor Latino Restaurant & Bar in San Juan, Puerto Rico yesterday, ahead of Sunday's primary, next week's primary.

Here's the caption our staff winner, Sean: "Mental Note: Change the name of this beer to 'La Presidenta' during my first 100 days in office."

HILL: Very clever, Mr. Yates (ph).


COOPER: Is that a little "Space Invaders" sounds? Is that what...

HILL: They did the bubbles.

COOPER: Oh, bubbles. OK. There you go.


COOPER: I see, bubbles.

Think you can do better? Go to Send us your entry. We will announce the winner at the end of the program.

Coming up: Tornadoes hit the Midwest this holiday weekend. Boy, did they -- deadly results. We will get the latest in a live report.

Plus, some amazing images of one twister taking aim. It's hard to see what you're actually seeing. We will explain it coming up, though, video taken from a helicopter -- the raw, powerful destruction next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: We are keeping a close eye on this live shot out of Oklahoma. You can see the lightning, a lot of lightning, a remarkable amount.

Dangerous weather being reported in the town of Mangum. It's west of Oklahoma City. There's lightning. There are also concerns, of course, of possible tornadoes. We are watching this very closely. We will bring you any events as warranted.

We are going to monitor this storm, bring you the latest from Oklahoma, as well as Kansas, where a tornado watch remains in effect until midnight, local time. Look at how frequent this -- this lightning is, just unbelievable.

Tornadoes took a deadly toll across the Midwest this weekend. One twister killed six people in Iowa. Another in Minnesota claimed the life of a 2-year-old child. Today, of course, the victims today were mourned. Communities surveyed the damage.

We're used to seeing images of tornadoes captured from moving cars speeding fast, but we wanted to show you one of the tornadoes that touched down this weekend in Oklahoma. Now, the pictures were taken from a helicopter. And they're some of the most dramatic images of a tornado's strength we have ever seen. Take a look.


COOPER (voice-over): It takes just a few seconds. Before our eyes, a funnel cloud turns into a tornado, touching down near Lacey, Oklahoma.

You can see the vortex rotating wildly, the furious wins spinning across what appears to be an open field. But look to the right. This unstoppable force of nature is about to strike a direct hit.

And all Mason Dunn, helicopter pilot for TV station KWTV, can do is watch.

MASON DUNN, KWTV HELICOPTER PILOT: Guys, there are some structures there. I don't know if that's a house or whatever. There's a barn, several barns. And it's going to -- it looks like it's going to be right in the path here very shortly.

COOPER: And then it happens.

DUNN: Oh, no.

COOPER: The tornado tears a massive pig farm apart, sending huge parts of the structure airborne, until there's nothing left but debris and ruins. As viewers were watching this video live, six farm workers were running for their lives.

MICK GILBERT, PIG FARMER: The rain just started pouring like crazy. And we turned and look to our left over here. And that's when we seen the tornado forming, all the kind of debris being thrown out. We heard glass breaking. The doors were rattling. COOPER: Incredibly, despite the immense destruction, all six men were safe. And they weren't the only ones to make it out alive.

JOE POPPLEWELL, PIG FARMER: I expected to see a lot of them dead. But we walked around the barns, and at this point, we haven't found one yet.

COOPER: How powerful was the tornado? The helicopter pilot who shot this extraordinary video told CNN it easily could have killed them.

MASON DUNN, KWTV HELICOPTER PILOT: Basically, those tornadoes, I was about two miles away from. You'll notice the helicopter turning a lot. It starts kind of, you know, sucking you in, so to speak. And so you have to, you know, keep flying away from it.


COOPER: Unbelievable pictures out of Oklahoma. But by far the greatest destruction from this weekend's tornado outbreak was in Iowa. One of the hardest-hit areas was Parkersburg, where six people died, dozens were injured. This home video was taken as a huge tornado moved across the town.

Emily Price is a reporter with our Des Moines affiliate, KCCI, and has the latest on the devastation from Parkersburg.


EMILY PRICE, KCCI REPORTER: Anderson, about half the town of Parkersburg is destroyed tonight.

Take a look at this house behind me. It's one of about 200 homes here in town that have been leveled by the tornado that touched down last night around 5 p.m. Another 400 homes have at least some form of damage to them.

Four people died here in Parkersburg. Another two people died in nearby New Hartford.

And also, take a look at this. This is one of several hundred cars here in town damaged. Windows blown out because of the tornado that hit last night.

And also take a look at this, right across the street. The high school here in town, that is also destroyed. School was supposed to let out some time next week. Now they say they don't know what they're going to do.

And just down the road from the school, the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army have set up tents for people to come and get some food and water during the day.

Also, not far from here, a 100-year-old cemetery, quite a bit of damage to that, as well. This is where a lot of people would be coming this Memorial Day weekend. Instead, you can see heavy headstones have been overturned and only two flags remain. This is one Memorial Day people here will never forget.


COOPER: No doubt about that. KCCI's Emily Price joins us now live.

There's a curfew in place, Emily. Where are folks staying tonight?

PRICE: Well, tonight, the American Red Cross was considering setting up an overnight shelter here. But they decided that there wasn't really much of a need. A lot of people are staying with family and friends tonight or in nearby hotels. So there is no overnight shelter here in Parkersburg tonight.

COOPER: How much warning did people get in Parkersburg about the tornado?

PRICE: Well, people here said they had about ten minutes' warning. Luckily, coincidentally, just about ten days ago, they put up a tornado siren here on the south side of town.

It used to be there was only a tornado siren on the north side of town, but people were realizing there was really a need for a siren on the south side of town here. So they found some federal money and just ten days ago, wouldn't you know, a tornado siren was put up here. And on the south side of town is exactly where this tornado hit.

COOPER: Well, that is incredibly lucky of them or smart thinking of them to put that up.

Emily Price, appreciate your reporting. Thanks.

Up next tonight, a soldier's struggle. He fought in Iraq, but when he needed help the Army punished him instead. Is America's military doing enough to help service members in need? We're "Keeping Them Honest."

Also ahead, a 747 splits in half during take-off. How'd you like to be on that flight? You'll have to see it to believe it. We'll explain ahead on 360.


COOPER: On this Memorial Day, we honor the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, those who died in battle and those who died fighting their own private battles.

According to the Army, as many as 121 active duty soldiers committed suicide last year. That's an increase of 20 percent over the year before. So the question tonight, is enough being done to prevent more deaths?

Randi Kaye is "Keeping Them Honest" with the story of one soldier's struggle.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He grew up on Ft. Bragg, the son of a master sergeant. For Jason Scheuerman, joining the Army was the natural thing to do. He enlisted in 2004, a year later he was in Iraq.

In his first year there, his parents say a soldier from his unit was killed. Another committed suicide. This confident young man starts to unravel.

ANNE SCHEUERMAN, PFC. JASON SCHEUERMAN'S MOTHER: He said, "I'm seeing things, Mom." He goes, "I guess I'm seeing visions."

KAYE: Private Scheuerman's military file, obtained by CNN, shows a soldier struggling. He's depressed and suicidal. One fellow soldier says he saw Scheuerman put his rifle in his mouth several times.

On June 22, his platoon sergeant finds him out of touch with reality and recommends counseling. An Army chaplain advises, "Have his weapon and magazine taken from him immediately and send him for psychiatric evaluation."

A week later, this doctor's form shows signs of a nervous breakdown, depression, hopelessness. It asks, "Have you ever had any thoughts pertaining to the following?" He checks "killing yourself."

(on camera) When somebody fills out a form saying that he's depressed, anxious, he's only sleeping three hours a night and has had thoughts of killing himself, what do you think should have been done?

CHRIS SCHEUERMAN, PFC. JASON SCHEUERMAN'S FATHER: He should have been on an airplane to Landstuhl, Germany, for the treatment that he needed.

KAYE (voice-over): Early in July, Mrs. Scheuerman gets an e-mail from her son, which she interprets as a suicide note. She calls the Army, and two days later, Jason is back with a psychologist, denying he feels suicidal.

Despite it all, the psychologist writes, "Jason does not meet the criteria for any mental disorder. It is my opinion this soldier is capable of claiming mental illness in order to manipulate his command, shirk duty or avoid punishment."

C. SCHEUERMAN: I cannot fathom how my Army let my son down like that. His command had a duty to look out for his safety. They knew what was going on, and they failed him.

KAYE: "Keeping Them Honest," we asked the Army if Private Scheuerman's case was handled properly. Army officials said steps had been taken to reduce the risk of suicide and added, "Our prevention efforts do help soldiers and their families deal with the war-time challenges they face every day."

(on camera) Would those efforts help this soldier? In the end, Private Scheuerman was pegged a phony, his behavior determined a hoax. Instead of getting help, he was threatened and punished, even humiliated in front of Iraqi soldiers by being forced to do pushups.

(voice-over) Chris Scheuerman says the Army took away his son's dignity, made him feel like a coward.

C. SCHEUERMAN: In a million years, I can't imagine this happening. That everyone who saw him, saw how he was suffering and failed to protect him, to help him.


COOPER: So what would become of Private First Class Jason Scheuerman? Will he get the help he needs? Randi has the outcome of this one soldier's struggle.

And a little later, a frightening take-off. A cargo jet crashes, then splits in half. What happened to the people onboard, ahead.


COOPER: Before the break, we introduced you to Private Jason Scheuerman. Within months of being deployed to Iraq, he began showing signs of extreme depression. He told Army officials he'd had a nervous breakdown, considered suicide. A fellow soldier said he'd seen Private Scheuerman put a gun to his mouth, inside his mouth, several times.

So did the Army do enough to help this young man? Here's Randi Kaye, "Keeping Them Honest."


KAYE (voice-over): In late June of 2005, Private Jason Scheuerman is under severe stress. The company chaplain says he needs professional help. Instead, he's punished, cut off from his family, denied phone and computer privileges.

C. SCHEUERMAN: The last thing you do to someone you know who is suicidal is cut off their support group.

KAYE: Seven months after he's deployed to Iraq, Private Scheuerman is punished yet again, for failing to secure his weapon. He's given two weeks of extra duty and told he may face a court- martial and sodomy in military prison.

That night, in the closet of his barracks, he puts the rifle into his mouth again. This time he pulls the trigger.

C. SCHEUERMAN: They said, "Mr. Scheuerman, I'm sorry to inform you that your son died in Iraq."

KAYE (on camera): Did they ever indicate that it was suicide?

C. SCHEUERMAN: After a while, they told me it appeared to be from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. KAYE: Did you ask if there was a suicide note?

C. SCHEUERMAN: Yes, I did.

KAYE: And what was the response?

C. SCHEUERMAN: They said no.

KAYE: Yet more than a year later, a suicide note written by Jason arrived in his parent's mailbox. It was mixed in with hundreds of documents they had especially requested from the government. Nobody had told them it had been found, tacked to the wall of the closet where Jason had shot himself.

C. SCHEUERMAN: "Maybe finally I can get rid of these demons. Maybe finally I can get some peace. Scheuerman."

A. SCHEUERMAN: It just -- every day it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart, because he was reaching out for help.

KAYE (voice-over): "Keeping Them Honest," we asked the Army why it didn't protect Jason Scheuerman from himself. The Army refused to answer questions but in a statement told us, "The loss of any member of the Army family is a tragedy. And suicide prevention is a top priority for the U.S. Army."

The statement did not address why a soldier who'd been recommended for psychological treatment twice and was seen putting a gun in his mouth was punished rather than pulled from combat.

Two investigations by the Army found no evidence of negligence, though one said there was a lack of communication among those concerned about Scheuerman. The Army inspector general had launched a third investigation, and the Army has updated its guidelines for mental-health screening.

Jason's dad still teaches Army medics at Ft. Bragg.

(on camera) How do you feel speaking out against the Army which you spent your entire life serving?

C. SCHEUERMAN: Right is right and wrong is wrong. And what happened to my son was wrong. No one was held accountable.

KAYE (voice-over): Private First Class Jason Scheuerman is buried about a mile from where he grew up on Ft. Bragg.

C. SCHEUERMAN: When I go there, I see the little boy. It's hard.

KAYE: One soldier: casualty of war or casualty of a military struggling with the stress of war?


COOPER: It's unbelievable that, first of all, they didn't tell him it was suicide for quite a while and then that they -- they didn't even tell them about the existence of this note and they just send it in a packet with other information.

KAYE: Right, Anderson. The family had actually requested documents because they were very upset, obviously, about what happened. So they requested all of the documents related to his case, and all of a sudden a year later, in these documents, mixed in with them, is the suicide note.

COOPER: Is there any sign that things are getting better, that the Army is being more careful?

KAYE: There's still plenty of problems on the battlefield. Last year 2,100 soldiers attempted suicide. That's six times the rate from before the war.

Part of the reason this is happening is because, as you know, the military is stretched thin. There's a lot of pressure to increase the ranks, a lot of pressure on recruiters. And so a lot of these guys who may have some mental instability or mental illness are being allowed to remain on the battlefield.

Some sign, though, that there is going to be some improvement: new legislation now saying that, for any soldier who shows signs of mental illness on the battlefield, if it doesn't improve within two weeks, that soldier must be evacuated out of there, either home or to a hospital. So that is new.

COOPER: A courageous family, not only this young man who ultimately took his life, but courageous for -- for even saying he was having trouble. But for the father to come forward, even though he's working for the Army, and still continue to serve honorably is just -- is just remarkable.

KAYE: And he testifies in Washington for the cause. He's working now to try and put an end to all of it.

COOPER: Such is that story. Randi, thank you very much.

Hear from the troops themselves this Memorial Day in our special feedback from the frontlines on our blog. We asked them what it's like spending Memorial Day away from home and what this holiday now means to them. Go to, follow the links.


Up next, President Bush's Memorial Day tribute to our troops. And on a far different note, Robbie Knievel following in his dad's footsteps. His record-breaking jump in our "Shot of the Day" coming up on


COOPER: In a moment, Evel Knievel may be gone, but his son is flying high. I'm going to show you the jump Robbie Knievel made this Memorial Weekend to honor his famous father. But first, Erica Hill joins us again with a "360 News and Business Bulletin."

HILL: And Anderson, we begin with a dramatic plane accident in Belgium, where a cargo plane tried to take off at Brussels Airport, crashed at the end of a runway and then split in two yesterday. There's the final result you just saw. No one onboard the Boeing 747 was seriously injured.

President Bush marked this Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery, laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. He said he was humbled and proud of the sacrifices made by the men and women in the armed services.

Memorial Day is also the start of the summer travel season but many of you may be driving a little less this year. AAA says the average price of gas has risen now for the 20th straight day to just under $4 a gallon. This time last year, by the way, it was about $3.32 a gallon.

And a memorable weekend for the producers of the new "Indiana Jones" movie. Paramount Pictures says the latest installment to the franchise took in $311 million globally, more than $151 million in the U.S. It is the second biggest Memorial Day opening ever.


HILL: How about that?

COOPER: Three hundred and one -- $300 million.

HILL: I didn't see it. But maybe...

COOPER: I wanted to. And I then I thought, battling the lines.

HILL: It's going to be there for a while.

COOPER: Yes, with the kids screaming.


COOPER: Oy. Wait till it's on video.

All right, Erica. The moment I know you've been waiting for. Tonight's "Beat 360." Earlier, we asked for viewers to come up with a caption that's better than one of our own.

So here's tonight's photo, Senator Hillary Clinton toasting a cold one at Sabor Latino Restaurant and Bar in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Our staff winner, Sean. His entry: "Mental note: Change the name of this beer to 'La Presidenta' during my first 100 days in office."

(SOUND EFFECT: water bubbling)

COOPER: All right. Tonight's...

HILL: Beer bubbles. HILL: Beer bubbles. Tonight's viewer winner is Frank, just submitted a few minutes ago. His caption: "When you want to be El Presidente so bad, you can taste it!"


HILL: Very clever, Frank?

COOPER: Very good job, Frank. Check out -- you truly did "Beat 360."

Check out the other ideas at And feel free to play along.

HILL: Frank's life is complete now.

COOPER: That's right.

"The Shot" is next. Like father, like son. Robbie Knievel trying to do what no daredevil has done before, and he's got one of those fancy uniforms. The stunt, next. Or is it a costume? I don't know. I'm not sure.

At the tope of the hour, Bill Clinton says there was a cover-up. Clinton super delegates are being pressured to back Obama. The latest developments from the campaign trail when 360 continues.


COOPER: Time now for "The Shot." If you can find a better use of delivery trucks, let us know.

On Saturday, Robbie Knievel honored his dad, who died last year, by jumping over 24 delivery trucks. Check it out. Boom.

HILL: I'm amazed.

COOPER: Yes. Pretty impressive. And not only the trucks but then flaming jets of -- I don't know -- steam or something. Robbie's motorcycle was -- 200 feet in the air he jumped, traveling around 95 miles per hour. This was in Kings Island in Ohio.

HILL: Not bad. You know, 33 years ago, Evel Knievel was in Kings Island.

COOPER: I did not know that.

HILL: Well, here we go. The video, I believe, from that event. The classic star-studded white jumper, uniform, costume, whatever it may be called.

COOPER: Oy, oy.

HILL: Fourteen buses there.

COOPER: Wow. HILL: Without breaking any bones. Not bad.

COOPER: Well, nothing in my mind -- I mean, those jumps are good, and both Evel and Robbie are impressive. But nothing beats the Fonz's jump.

HILL: Good call.

COOPER: Do you remember this dramatic moment?

HILL: Who could forget this?


HILL: Can we have a moment while we watch.

COOPER: He was jumping over Arnold's chicken stand. Very dramatic.

HILL: Attempting any way. And?

COOPER: Yes! Yes. Well, actually, was he jumping over the chicken stand or did he fall into the chicken stand?

HILL: Look, he ran into the chicken stand.

COOPER: Yes. What was he jumping over? I couldn't see. Was it garbage cans?

HILL: I don't know. It was the Fonz. Does it matter?

COOPER: It doesn't, because frankly, in fourth grade, I went as Halloween -- as the Fonz.

HILL: OK. We're going to need those pictures.

COOPER: Those pictures exist. What's really sad is I put Vaseline in my hair, because I thought that's what the Fonz did. You know, like I didn't realize it doesn't come out of your hair, that that's not what you use in hair. So for weeks I was ridiculed as a kid.

HILL: Very shiny and greasy hair.


HILL: That was a fun fact, Anderson Cooper. Thank you.

COOPER: Put it on YouTube, no doubt.

You can see all the most recent shots on -- have at it -- on our Web site, Goodness knows what kind of video you can make out of that.

You can also download the podcast. CNN's No. 1 video podcast, by the way. Thank you very much. The address again: Much more serious affair ahead from the campaign trail. Hillary Clinton trying to distance herself from comments she made about the assassination of Robert Kennedy. We'll have the latest on the controversy.

Also, Barack Obama and John McCain fighting over the GI Bill. The war of words and what it could mean for veterans coming home when 360 continues.


COOPER: Good evening. Hope you had a great Memorial Day holiday. Tonight, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton running hard. Hillary Clinton fighting back after a weekend spent trying to explain and dismiss her comments about the assassination of Robert Kennedy. Her campaign this weekend blaming Obama for continuing to bring the matter up. The Obama campaign says we've moved beyond it.

Also tonight, Bill Clinton insisting there's a cover-up, slamming his wife's critics, suggesting unnamed forces are bullying super delegates to support Obama, insisting his wife is really winning. We'll bring you his comments.

And tornado terror. Unbelievable video from this weekend's deadly storms. Seven people are dead in two states. You'll hear from the man who shot this video from a helicopter as a twister approached.