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Obama Picks Attorney General; Detroit CEOs on Hot Seat Before Congress

Aired November 18, 2008 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, we have got breaking news: coming and going, two new choices for the Obama administration on the way in, a budget director and the first African-American pick for attorney general.
And one convicted felon senator, the longest-serving Republican ever, apparently on the way out. Late word tonight from Alaska that Ted Stevens, who turned 85 today, appears to have lost his race against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. The Associated Press reporting it, citing a 3,724-vote Begich lead, with just 2,500 overseas yet to be counted.

Just moments ago, the Begich forces claimed victory, but a recount is likely. Now, if it goes against Ted Stevens, it would put the Democrats just two votes away from an effective supermajority, 60 members, with two Senate races still undecided.

CNN's Jessica Yellin has more on the breaking news -- Jessica.


Well, it seems there's one more vote for Barack Obama's agenda in the Senate. These are unofficial returns, but they do look promising for Mark Begich. He is poised -- to go to Washington, D.C., to bring the 58th vote to the Democratic Senate, as you say, just two votes away from that all-important 60-vote filibuster-proof majority, which would allow them to ram their agenda through the Senate, against the will of Republicans, leaving them almost powerless to object to anything that they won't sign on with.

Mark Begich does not have a certified vote yet. This has yet to be certified by the secretary of state there in Alaska. But if they do certify this, it could come in the next week or so. And his opponent, Ted Stevens, has only five days from then to contest it. So, a recount could happen in as little as two weeks. Right now, it does look like the numbers are on Mark Begich's side, and he is going to Washington, most likely, to support Barack Obama's agenda, another sign of the power shift in Washington -- Anderson.

COOPER: Let's talk about attorney general. CNN is reporting that Obama has made his choice.

YELLIN: Yes, that's right.

Eric Holder is a man that Barack Obama has come to know quite well over the last year. He helped vet the vice presidential candidates and helped choose Joe Biden. Barack Obama trusts him implicitly, we're told. He likes because he is, first of all, the first African-American attorney general. It would be a historic choice for a man who wants a diverse Cabinet.

He's also a man who made his career fighting for public integrity within the Justice Department, overseeing political corruption cases, so he could help Democrats restore what they think is the tarnished image of the Department of Justice.

And, finally, he's expected to sail through the Senate. He's widely liked. Importantly, he was Attorney General Janet Reno's number two for many years. So, he's well-known in Washington. The downside to that is, he's well-known in Washington. He's made some mistakes, most notably not objecting when President Clinton pardoned fugitive financier Marc Rich.

And he's a Clintonite. So, for a man, Barack Obama, who promised change you can believe in, this is just the latest example of going back to the Clinton years to find talent. He says, let's take talent where we can get it.

But, to borrow from John McCain, some are asking, is this change or more of the same? -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right.

Jessica, thanks.

More now on the "Raw Politics" of the attorney general pick and, in a larger sense, the retread factor, between John Podesta, Rahm Emanuel, Holder, and possibly Hillary Clinton, an awful lot of ex- Clintonites running around these days. Is it wise? Is Eric Holder a good choice, in any case.

Jeffrey Toobin joins us. In addition to being a CNN senior legal analyst, he's also a former U.S. attorney. Also with us, CNN senior political analyst and former presidential adviser David Gergen, and Marcus Mabry, international business editor at "The New York Times."

So, Jeff, let's talk about Eric Holder.

Sources tell CNN he was offered, accepted the nomination. You know him. What's he like? What kind of attorney general will he be?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: In temperament, he's actually a lot like Barack Obama. He's an easy-going person. He's a no-drama person.

But, politically, he could not be more different from John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales. He is someone who has attacked the administration repeatedly on Guantanamo, on the rule of law, on -- on wiretapping. So, it's big difference, politically, from the last eight years.

COOPER: David, how do you think his confirmation process will go?


There is this -- as Jessica reported, this question about a Marc Rich pardon. But I don't -- he was peripheral to that. And given the Democratic strength now in the Senate, I imagine it will be fairly straightforward and he will be confirmed.

But I do think, to -- to echo Jeffrey, that he brings a high- class professional to this. He will try to restore the -- the position of U.S. attorney to the kind of luster that it has had traditionally. And he will be strong on the issues of torture in Guantanamo on the international arena.

I do think, Anderson, it suggests that it's more likely than not that Hillary Clinton has become Barack Obama's first choice and will be the State -- will be at State.

COOPER: Well, you say that based on?

GERGEN: Well, here's the thing.

You know, this is a jigsaw puzzle to put together a Cabinet. There are four top positions, State, Defense, Justice, Treasury. Those have traditionally been the top four. He's -- Barack Obama is going to want a woman in one of those four. And now that he has got a man in one of them, and at Defense and Treasury, all the leading candidates are men, that suggests heavily, to me, that they -- the woman is going to be at the State Department.

COOPER: Marcus, do you agree with that?


You know, one of the challenges, somewhat ironically, one might think, of succeeding -- of coming after George W. Bush was that President Bush actually had one of the most diverse Cabinets, and, actually, I think, the most diverse Cabinet in the history of American politics.

So, ironically, this first African-American president, coming after President Bush, is going to have a challenge to be as diverse as President Bush. I think David's reasoning is exactly right there. I think he -- this does mean Hillary is more likely to be secretary of state.

I wonder -- I just wonder -- if it does not mean also that Tim Geithner, the head of the New York Fed, is more likely to be at Treasury, rather than Larry Summers, just because Geithner is a young man, in his 40s, like Obama, who could actually not be the same old kind of Clinton...


COOPER: I want to talk about Ted Stevens in a moment.

But, Jeff, you had some of the backstory on -- on Holder and his relationship with Rahm Emanuel when they were under Janet Reno.

TOOBIN: Well, you know, in this respect, the appointment is very different from the Clinton administration, because Janet Reno and Bill Clinton couldn't stand each other and didn't talk for years at a time.


COOPER: Wait. Janet Reno didn't talk for years at a time with Bill Clinton?


TOOBIN: Absolutely not. They could not stand each other.

And -- and the relationship got so bad that each side had to designate people to speak to each other. And Janet Reno designated her deputy, Eric Holder, and Bill Clinton designated Rahm Emanuel. So, Emanuel and Holder have a very close and long relationship that probably stood Holder in very good stead in getting this job.

Obama has clearly decided he wants to have a real relationship with his attorney general, unlike Clinton with Reno. So, in that respect, it's not a retread situation.

COOPER: Let's talk about Ted Stevens.

David Gergen, how big a deal is this?

GERGEN: This is big.

He has been one of the lions of the Senate. I'm sure he feels this is very unfair. He thinks he has a strong case for appealing these convictions. His lawyers think he has a very strong case. And, yet, those convictions sank him in this election.

But, for the Democrats -- from the Democrats' point of view, they -- they -- they were three away from getting to 60. There were three races outstanding. There was Alaska, Minnesota, Georgia. And Alaska has now come into the Democrats. Minnesota could well come their way. And, possibly, they could turn things around in Georgia and win that special election there. And that would put them at 60.

So -- and, also, they embraced Joe Lieberman today. And that was important, too, Anderson, to try to bring peace in the family to try to unify the Democrats. And it gives president-elect Obama great muscularity going into the new year.

MABRY: I think it is still a long way to get to that 60, because I'm not sure that the Democrats are going to pull out Georgia. I think that is still a long shot.

But I think the good news here is that we don't have Ted Stevens going to Washington as a convicted felon and kind of becoming the first, like, white Marion -- white Marion Barry.


COOPER: He's the longest-serving Republican.

Jeff, he still is going to get his pension, though. He still is going to get all those cushy benefits that even convicted felons in the Congress get, amazingly.

TOOBIN: Well, they actually changed the law, but only to apply to senators who are elected after they changed the law.

COOPER: Of course.


COOPER: Why would they do something that might affect them?



TOOBIN: That's right.

But, actually, one of the losers here is Sarah Palin, because if Stevens had won, and was thrown out of the Senate, there would have been a special election, which Palin very clearly said that she might enter. So, Palin now has to wait for six years to run for the Senate, by which...


COOPER: Which is more time to devote to her $7 million book.


MABRY: And she gets to stay an outsider right now.


TOOBIN: She's -- she's -- she's definitely an outsider, yes.

COOPER: It may work out to her favor, in the end.

David Gergen, Jeff Toobin, Marcus Mabry, thanks.


COOPER: Let us know what you think of how the Obama administration is shaping up. Weigh in at or what you think about Stevens getting -- well, losing. And, as always, check out Erica Hill's live Webcast also during the break tonight.

Up next: Detroit CEOs on the hot seat, big-time, lawmakers wanting to know why you should cough up billions of dollars to bail them out. It's not a bad question. We're running the numbers. We're "Keeping Them Honest."

Plus, the Obama kids visit the White House and a possible school -- tonight, the personal side of the presidency and what Obama is reading about great presidents and why his book selections are now climbing the bestseller list.

And an 8-year-old boy apparently confesses to murder.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I shot my dad, because -- because he was suffering, I think. I think shot him because he was suffering, so I might have shot him.


COOPER: The cops say he admitted to shooting two men, including his dad. But is that confession for real? And why was he there without a lawyer or a parent?

That and more -- when 360 continues.



SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: Their discomfort in coming to the Congress with hat in hand is only exceeded by the fact they are seeking treatments for wounds that I believe to a large extent where self-inflicted.

No one can say that they didn't see this coming. The companies have been struggling for years.


COOPER: That is certainly true. No one can say they didn't see this thing coming.

Today, the top men at Detroit's big three automakers went before lawmakers, promised, each, to do their jobs for a dollar a year. Well, that's the good news. The bad news, they still want $25 billion or so of your money. Now, if they don't get it, they warned of pain like this economy has never seen. But, believe it or not, it wasn't the only piece of the meltdown unfolding today. There was the mortgage mess as well.

CNN's chief financial correspondent, Ali Velshi, is here.

So, Ali, Paulson and other economic power players grilled on Capitol Hill today. What is the latest?

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: All right. Honestly, your eyes can glaze over when you hear about these Capitol Hill hearings. But today was full of action that is going to be interesting to you out there. First of all, Hank Paulson, treasury Paulson, Ben Bernanke, Fed chief, and FDIC Chief Sheila Bair all before Congress today, and they were -- there was a bit of heat. And it wasn't just between the congressmen and Paulson.

It was actually between Paulson and Sheila Bair at one point, because Henry Paulson, after spending $250 billion of the $700 billion bailout plan, is still resisting the idea of money going directly to help people who are in troubled mortgages, something that Sheila Bair has advocated.

Let's listen to what they both had to say.


HENRY PAULSON, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: As some on the committee know, I have reservations about spending TARP resources to directly subsidize foreclosure mitigation, because this is different than the original investment intent.

SHEILA BAIR, CHAIR, FEDERAL DEPOSIT INSURANCE CORPORATION: As foreclosures escalate, we're clearly falling behind the curve. Much more aggressive intervention is needed if we are to curb the damage to our neighborhoods and to the broader economy.


VELSHI: So, Anderson, you can see that tension developing. And you can see that will probably play itself out.

Where does the rest of the money go? Paulson said he's not going to spend that part of the $700 billion that hasn't been spent so far. He's going to wait until the Obama administration is in office, expectedly, with their own treasury secretary. You're going to talk to Andy about that in a few minutes. And they will decide what to do with the rest of it.

The other thing is, Paulson was grilled by some people about his about-face. You will remember, this $700 billion bailout is called TARP, Troubled Asset Relief Program. Well, they're not buying any of these troubled assets anymore. They're not buying those toxic mortgages. They're recapitalizing the banks.

And Congress asked Henry Paulson why he decided he would do a complete about-face after such a hard-won victory to get that bailout package. Here's what he said.


PAULSON: When the facts changed and the circumstances changed, we changed the strategy. We didn't implement a flawed strategy. We implemented a strategy that worked.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VELSHI: And that, again, will continue to be a discussion. What happens with the rest of this money? And said a strategy that worked. We have yet to see whether it's fully worked. We know that interest rates have come down for those interbank loans that were part of the credit freeze -- Anderson.

COOPER: So, what happened to the big three automaker CEOs on Capitol Hill today?

VELSHI: They were out there talking about the $25 billion bailout that they want to get.

It's different from a $25 billion bailout that was authorized in September that was connected to the automakers becoming more fuel- efficient. This is a loan, a line of credit that they're asking for.

We know General Motors has suggested that it could be in serious problem it doesn't get it. Before those automakers went to Washington to give their testimony, I spoke to Alan Mulally. He's the CEO of Ford. I spoke to him in Detroit this morning, before he flew out to D.C. And I asked him what would happen if in fact this bailout didn't happen, if there was a chance of bankruptcy for even one of the U.S. automakers.

And this is what he told me.


ALAN MULALLY, CEO, FORD MOTOR COMPANY: If any one of the automobile companies would get in trouble or go into bankruptcy, that the supply base would -- would be distressed immediately, that the dealer network would be distressed, and you could go into a collapse of the entire auto industry.


VELSHI: And that collapse, Anderson, the problem with that is that they share suppliers. So, Mulally was suggesting that, if one of the suppliers goes under, that could put stress on the rest of the auto industry.

He did say one thing. He said Ford is not expected to tap that line of credit if it's passed, but he does want it available for the rest of the automakers -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, thanks very much, Ali Velshi.

Let's dig deeper now with "Fortune" magazine managing editor Andy Serwer.

Let's talk about Paulson. He's opposed to -- to the bailout in the form that the Democrats want. Why?

ANDY SERWER, MANAGING EDITOR, "FORTUNE": Well, you know, it's actually really interesting. He showed that he is the master and commander of our economy and the bailout, but it's a bit of a contradiction, isn't it? He says that it's against the intent of the TARP to go directly to homeowners, and yet he can redirect the TARP when he wants to, but not the...

COOPER: So, TARP stands for?

SERWER: The Troubled Asset Relief Program.

COOPER: Right.

SERWER: The bailout, essentially, that $700 billion.

So, he says that he can redirect it, but to his ends, and not to where Congress wants to go. He's philosophically opposed, thinks he can get more impact by aiding financial companies and banks by leverage, and also he thinks that there's not enough federal funds to actually bail out homeowners. Sheila Bair, as Ali says, wants to get that money directly to homeowners right away, though.

COOPER: It's scary, though, when -- there is the story now that Barack Obama will get $350 billion. That is what will be left by the time he goes into office from the $700 billion bailout. So, they have already spent -- or will have spent $350 billion. It doesn't seem to have helped much.

SERWER: You could argue that it hasn't. Of course, you could always argue that it would be worse if we hadn't.

COOPER: It could be worse.

SERWER: But, I mean...

COOPER: I mean, do we know?

SERWER: We don't really know. And that's sort of one of these sort of philosophical debates as well.

COOPER: Where has the money gone, though?

SERWER: The money has gone to these financial companies, in terms of investing into them, buying preferred stock, and also investing into some troubled assets as well.

But it doesn't seem that has actually stabilized the market. But, behind the scenes, it actually has, because some of these credit markets, such as commercial paper, which is very important and sort of the lifeblood of our system, actually has eased up a bit. So, behind the scenes, things have gotten better.

On the other hand, we see foreclosures and job losses of course have accelerated and gotten worse.

COOPER: At this point, does Obama have any real power over this stuff? No.

SERWER: See, this is really interesting. And I think the answer is no, as you say.

I mean, you know, right now, he hasn't appointed a treasury secretary yet, or designated one that he wants to get confirmed. He can start negotiations and discussions with the president and also with Treasury Secretary Paulson. But he really doesn't have any leverage over the direction of this.

Of course, you have to remember that both Paulson, Bush and Obama all want the same thing. They want to make sure that the country doesn't go down the tubes. So, they're not really working at cross- purposes. But they do have different ways of getting there. And those differences, we're starting to see them in sharp relief, I think.

COOPER: Other than a bailout of the big three automakers, what's the option for the big three?

SERWER: Well, I think that we could let them go bankrupt, especially GM. It doesn't appear, first of all, that Ford, as Ali suggested, is not going to go bankrupt right now. GM is saying that they will run out of cash very quickly unless they get money.

And may in fact be able to tap that $25 billion that Congress designated in September to use for green cars. That may be sort of the way out here.

You know, it's interesting. Right now, Democrats are pushing Secretary Paulson and saying that he should move the money to homeowners. Republicans are pushing against giving money to Detroit. So, you know, you're seeing both sides of the aisle kind of resisting in different ways.

I think, though, that there may be a middle ground and that some of that $25 billion if not all of it may be earmarked for the automakers. Again, President Bush doesn't want to see the car companies go bankrupt on his watch either.

COOPER: Right.

All right. Well, we will be watching.

Andy, thanks.

SERWER: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Andy Serwer of "Fortune" magazine.

Just ahead tonight, find out the punishment Senator Joe Lieberman got from Senate Democrats for campaigning against Barack Obama and for John McCain. You might be surprised when you learn the price he didn't pay and why.

And, later, crime and punishment -- two killings, with an 8-year- old alleged killer on tape at the center of it all.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: That videotape shows a murder suspect being questioned. You can't tell from the tape because his face is covered, but he is just 8 years old. Police say the child confessed to killing his dad and another man. There was no defense attorney, though, or family member in the room when the alleged confession was made. It is a disturbing case, to say the least, no matter how you look at it. We will have all the details coming up.

But, first, Erica Hill has a 360 bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, authorities now say that massive wildfire in Santa Barbara was not a case of arson, after all. It was sparked by a bonfire over the weekend. The fire was the first of three blazes that erupted in Southern California in just the last week. That fire is now fully contained after destroying more than 200 homes and injuring more than two dozen people.

The Senate Democratic Caucus will allow Senator Joe Lieberman to keep his high-profile Homeland Security chairmanship. The vote followed a heated debate over what, if any, price the Democrat-turned- independent should pay for his vocal support of John McCain's presidential bid.

And for the second straight year, some military airspace will be temporarily open to commercial flights for the holiday season to accommodate heavy air traffic. The White House calls the extra corridors the Thanksgiving express lanes -- Anderson.


COOPER: All right.

Time now for our "Beat 360" winner. It's our daily challenge to viewers to come up with a caption for a photo that is better than one we could think of.

All right, so let's take a look at the photo: traders at work today on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, kind of holding their noses there.

Our staff winner tonight is Alyssa (ph). Her caption: "Something stinks in here, and it's not just the economy, Mark."

HILL: I think it's cute.

COOPER: You might not be able to see it on your screen, but the guy on the right is Mark, according to the name on his trading jacket.

Our viewer winner is Alicia from Mountain View, California. Her caption: "Smell that? It's Calvin Klein's 'Recession'."

I like that.

HILL: Clever.

COOPER: Yes. Alicia, your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way. You can check out all the entries on our blog and play along tomorrow at

So, should the auto industry be bailed out? It is the $25 billion question. Some say why reward carmakers for their own mistakes? So, what happens if they're not rescued? We're "Keeping Them Honest" -- next.

And, later, the Obama girls visit the White House. Did they get to pick out their rooms? The details of their guided tour -- coming up.



RICK WAGONER, CHAIRMAN & CEO, GENERAL MOTORS: This is all about a lot more than just Detroit. It's about saving the U.S. economy from a catastrophic collapse. In short, helping the auto industry bridge the current financial crisis will not only prevent massive economic dislocation now; it will produce enormous benefits for our country later.


COOPER: General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner today on Capitol Hill.

GM, Chrysler, and Ford are pleading for a $25 billion bailout. The big three says the money lifeline may be the last measure to save them from financial ruin. But is that really so? What would happen if they don't get the cash?

360's Tom Foreman tonight is "Keeping Them Honest."


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Detroit's arguments for the bailout all swirl around a theme: Too many jobs, too much income, too much tax revenue will be lost if the big three automakers fold.

But, "Keeping Them Honest," there appears to be little agreement on exactly how many jobs are really at stake.

(voice-over): Let's start with the biggest number you may have heard. General Motors has a video online which says a whopping one out of every 10 jobs in the United States relies on the U.S. auto industry. That comes from the Center For Automotive Research, a respected non-profit group.

In a 2003 study, the center added up all jobs substantially related to all car production in the U.S., whether domestic or foreign-made, including jobs at manufacturers, dealers, car-washes, taxi stands, and came up with about 13 million. So, why does Chrysler have a video that says the number of jobs at risk is 4.5 million? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's how many jobs are tied directly and indirectly to U.S. automakers. If those jobs go away, it would be equivalent to putting the entire populations of South Carolina, Kentucky, or Louisiana out of work.

FOREMAN: Chrysler is relying on the Center for Automotive Research, too, but looking at a 2005 study, which was, as you might guess, much narrower in focus.

So, if the big three collapse, what does the Center for Automotive Research really think the job loss would be right now, in 2008? About three million jobs. It points out that many of those jobs included in the 2003 survey, like taxi driving, aren't going away.

And what's more, the center predicts about half of the lost jobs would probably come back anyway, as new investors bought up the failed operations.

(on camera): The center points out that these are still pretty hefty numbers and that, in fact, the economy and the nation's tax base would suffer. They suggest, that's a pretty good argument for the bailout.

But, bottom line, $3 million jobs lost is a lot less than the 13 million that some in the auto industry are trying to claim -- Anderson.


COOPER: All right, Tom Foreman "Keeping Them Honest" -- thanks, Tom.

Coming up: more on our breaking news. Ted Stevens apparently lost his Senate seat. Last month, the Alaskan was convicted of seven felony corruption charges. So, what is going to happen to his fat Senate pension? You're not going to believe it. Next.

Also, Malia and Obama get their first look to -- at their soon- to-be new home, a chance to put dibs on their bedrooms and check out some possible schools, as well.

All that when 360 continues.


COOPER: Quick recap of some breaking news, Alaska Senator Ted Stevens has apparently lost his race against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. The Begich forces are claiming victory, though a recount is possible. Stevens, who turns 85 today, is the longest serving Republican senator ever. He's also a convicted felon.

Last month, a jury found him guilty of filing false statements on his Senate financial disclosure forms. Guilty on all seven charges. He is still awaiting sentencing. Now, you might think that being convicted of a crime would mean that this guy could no longer get his cushy Senate pension. But that's not how Washington works, especially for the folks who make all the rules.

CNN's Drew Griffin tonight, "Keeping them Honest" -- Drew.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson. Even if he was convicted -- committed these crimes right now today and was convicted tomorrow and sent to prison the next day, Senator Ted Stevens would still be getting a huge government pension.

How huge? The National Taxpayers Union says this guy is going to get $122,000 every year to start. It comes with a cost of living allowance adjustment, which means the longer he lives the higher that pension is going to go.

We thought this was all going to go away with the sweeping ethics bill passed last year. Not so. The National Taxpayers Union says this big test of this big pension bill has failed. Take a listen.


PETE SEPP, NATIONAL TAXPAYERS UNION: All too many times lawmakers want to make ethics reforms that don't actually change a lot but give the appearance that they're making change. That's the case with this pensions for felons provision. They wanted to show the American people they were getting tough without actually doing it.


GRIFFIN: Giving this guy $122,000 a year is not actually getting tough, Anderson.

COOPER: So are there crimes that actually do prevent you from collecting a lifetime pension?

GRIFFIN: Yes, they very narrowly defined this bill. Ten specific felonies all related to bribery, racketeering, corruption, basically in office.

But in this case, the seven felony counts that Ted Stevens was convicted of, relating to, you know, lying about big-money gifts from wealthy friends and government contractors, that wouldn't have been included in the bill in the first place. So like I said, even if he was convicted of these very crimes today or committed them today, he would still get the pension.

COOPER: There's a whole rogue's gallery of those folks who have committed crimes, who are still getting their pensions, right?

GRIFFIN: Yes. At least 20. At least 20 convicted felons from Congress have or are still getting their pensions. We've reported on your show, Anderson, about some of the biggies: you know, James Traficant, $40,000 a year. We've got Randall "Duke" Cunningham, $64,000 a year, and Dan Rostenkowski. Remember him, the big House Ways and chair -- Means chairman? He's getting $126,000 a year.


GRIFFIN: All of them convicted felons.

COOPER: Amazing. Drew, appreciate it. Thanks for "Keeping Them Honest." Drew Griffin tonight.

Still ahead, police say an 8-year-old confesses to a double homicide. Take a look at the tape.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you thinking right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That I'm going to juvie.


COOPER: "Going to juvie," that's what he said, because on the tape, he claims he shot his dad and another man. But is this 8-year- old boy really a killer? Hear the rest of the tape. Decide for yourself.

Also tonight, the personal side of Barack Obama. What he's reading now and why those books are now climbing up the best-seller list, next.


COOPER: It was choose-your-bedroom day for the future first daughters, Sasha and Malia Obama were given their first tour of their new home. First lady Laura Bush invited the girls, along with mom Michelle and their mother-in-law, to check out the second-floor residence.

Sasha and Malia are also looking at some of their top school choices in Washington. They checked out Georgetown Day School yesterday. This morning their motorcade was spotted outside Sidwell Friends, the Quaker school that Chelsea Clinton attended.

As for Barack Obama, he's not just the president-elect. He's become a powerful pitchman, especially when it's about books. Watch what he told "60 Minutes."


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I've been spending a lot of time reading Lincoln. There's a wisdom there and a humility about his approach to government, even before he was president, that I just find -- find very helpful.


COOPER: Along with Lincoln, Obama said he was reading a book about FDR's first 100 days? But which book? It seems there are actually three books like that on the market, and the authors and publishers are arguing over which one he was actually talking about.

Tonight, we have the answer. CNN's Samantha Hayes has an up- close look.


SAMANTHA HAYES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the economy being compared to the Great Depression, no surprise Barack Obama is being compared to FDR. And no surprise the 32nd president is on the top of the president-elect's reading list.

Obama's transition team says he's reading not one but two books on Roosevelt: Jonathan Alter's "The Defining Moment" and Jean Edward Smith's "FDR." Obama told "60 Minutes" he's looking back for guidance.

OBAMA: What you see in FDR that I -- I hope my team can emulate is not always getting it right but projecting a sense of confidence and a willingness to try things and experiment.

HAYES (on camera): President-elect Barack Obama is also drawing inspiration from "Team of Rivals," Doris Kearns Goodwin's book on Abraham Lincoln. It's another inescapable comparison: both from Illinois, Lincoln paving the way for Obama's historic victory.

OBAMA: There's a wisdom there and a humility about his approach to government, even before he was president, that I just find -- find very helpful.

HAYES (voice-over): Wisdom Obama can put to immediate use. "Team of Rivals" deals with Lincoln's decision to name his political opponents to his cabinet. Smart politics then and many think smart politics now, if he ends up choosing Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.

(on camera) By the way, Anderson, "Team of Rivals" is No. 2 on's biographies and memoirs list. The top spot goes to Obama's book, "The Audacity of Hope."


COOPER: That was Samantha Hayes reporting.

In our next hour, we're going to take a look at what kind of person starts a fire, knowing that the damage could, well, get out of control. CNN's Ted Rowlands went looking for answers from lawmen and a convicted fire starter in Washington state.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An arsonist, most likely someone from the area, was starting fires at a furious pace just outside the town of Ellensburg.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The public was stressed out. We had people not wanting to leave their homes. WADE KIRKWOOD, CONVICTED ARSONIST: Deep down in, I didn't want anyone to get hurt, but I took that chance when I set the fires.

ROWLANDS: It was a risk you were willing to take.

KIRKWOOD: At that time.

ROWLANDS: For your gratification?



COOPER: Again, Ted Rowlands, complete report in our next hour.

Still ahead tonight, is he a confessed killer or a scared little boy?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if the gun went off by accident, but it might have. But I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. The gun went off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think so, maybe. But I don't -- I don't think -- I don't know.


COOPER: A videotape police say proves an 8-year-old boy shot two men, including his dad. But look, two police officers, no lawyer and no family member present. "Crime & Punishment" next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I shot my dad because he was suffering, I think. He was suffering. So I might have shot him.


COOPER: "Crime & Punishment," new videotape tape of an interrogation of an 8-year-old child. The boy is accused of murdering his father and another man, and what you're seeing is his alleged confession. But is it really? There was no defense attorney there, no family member present. Authorities have released this portion of the tape.

Jeffrey Toobin joins us in a moment to talk about the disturbing case. But first the interview.


COOPER (voice-over): The murder suspect sinks in a sofa chair. His voice is low. He speaks softly. He's only 8 years old.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's real important that you tell us what happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if the gun went off by accident.

COOPER: Police interviewed the boy alone, with no lawyer or family member present, a day after Arizona authorities claim he shot and killed his own father and another man who rented a room in their home.

Initially and repeatedly, the third grader told the two female officers questioning him that he found their bodies after coming home from school.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You walked around have, and then what did you do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then I started walking around the street towards my house. Then I saw the door open and I saw (UNINTELLIGIBLE) right there. And I ran, and I said, "Dad, Dad." And then I ran upstairs, and then I saw him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then you saw him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was blood all over his face.

COOPER: But an hour later, a second tape shows detectives pressed the boy again and again to tell the truth, saying, "We think you're not being honest" and claiming they knew that he did it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happened with your dad?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come on, tell us the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not. I'm not lying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How about if we have somebody THAT told us THAT you might have shot him?

COOPER: Then, finally, the boy changes his story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many times do you think you fired the gun?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You think twice? Do you think it could have been more than twice?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I thought it was twice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. You shot your dad twice?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. How many times did that gun shoot?


COOPER: Why would he do it? The boy said he did it because his father and the other man were suffering, although he never says how.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The reason I shot my dad, because he was suffering, I think. He was suffering.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I might have shot him. I didn't want him to suffer. And then I went. I went outside and I saw -- but at first, I -- and then I saw (WORD DELETED) -- I saw (WORD DELETED). And he was shaking. And I think at that time it went off. And then I went upstairs and I saw my dad. And I think that I shot him because he -- he was suffering.

COOPER: The suspect is being charged as a juvenile and held at a jail for minors. He's not entered a plea.

Under a gag order, few details have come out, but police say they have probable cause to justify the murder charges and have cast doubt on reports the father may have abused his son.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the room where we talk to people, and we make a promise to each other that we're only going to tell the truth. OK?


COOPER: The boy's lawyer that says interrogation was improper, because the 8-year-old was never told his rights, and a family member or legal representative was not with him during the question.

"They became very accusing early on in the interview. Two officers with guns at their side. It's very scary for anybody, for sure an 8-year-old kid."


COOPER: So why was the video released? The prosecutor told us the judge modified a gag order, allowing the release of public records. The prosecutor would not explain why a controversial confession in an ongoing juvenile investigation could be made public.

So was the confession coerced? Was it appropriate for police to be talking to the boy like that? And should an 8-year-old boy stand trial for murder? A lot of questions to talk about tonight. We're joined by CNN's senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

So this tape is part of a four-hour interrogation in which the child's story changes after police repeatedly pressure him to tell the truth. Is this thing going to hold up? JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Boy, it seems unlikely. You know, this whole case, Anderson, seems to me a situation where the criminal law is just inadequate to deal with a situation like this. I mean, how do you prosecute an 8-year-old boy? How do you investigate an 8-year-old boy?

But in certain respects, you're sympathetic with the police, because you've two dead people and you've got to find out who did it. But you know, to interrogate a child, a third grader, which is what he is, without a family member present, without a lawyer, I think is just outrageous.

COOPER: I don't get it.

TOOBIN: And then to release it, that is even crazier.

COOPER: I don't get it, though. Because anyone who watches a police show knows -- knows the law and knows you're supposed to at least read Miranda rights, which apparently they didn't do to this kid, and not to talk to somebody unless they have a parent of a guardian present. I just don't get how police do this.

TOOBIN: Well, you can interview someone if they make a knowing waiver, if the waive the right to an attorney. But what does it mean to ask an 8-year-old whether he wants an attorney? How could an 8- year-old possibly know what an attorney is, what an interrogation is or what Miranda rights are?

It is unconscionable and probably unlawful to interrogate an 8- year-old without a family member present who can make those sorts of judgments about whether the interrogation should continue and whether a lawyer should be present.

COOPER: Also, I seem to remember from, I guess it was the McMartin preschool case, where all those kids made all those allegations that basically all got thrown out, as far as I remember. But basically, it seemed like the interrogators had led those kids. Kids are very susceptible to suggestion.

TOOBIN: Very susceptible. And even in what we've seen in this interrogation, you have very much a changing story, from a complete denial to sort of an acknowledgement of -- of having shot the two men, and then an acknowledgement that he did it.

So it is very hard to imagine that a jury would take this confession very seriously, given all the pressure that was put on him. Now, maybe there is other evidence that implicates the kid. I don't know. But certainly, a case based solely on this confession, even if a judge allowed a jury to see it, would be very hard to hold up.

COOPER: There's another piece from this tape that we haven't seen. Let's take a look at it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think you might have shot at him accidentally?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cause I already saw him bleeding. And I thought I saw him shaking. And I think I was holding the gun. And I think it might have gone off or I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. So you saw Tim shaking, and you had the gun at that time. OK.

Now, let's talk about your dad. Let's talk about your dad. What happened with your dad?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come on, tell us the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not. I'm not lying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did Tim shoot your dad?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How about if we have somebody that told us that you might have shot him?




COOPER: According to the FBI, between '76 and 2005, there were only two cases where a 7- or 8-year-old child actually killed a parent. Does the legal system -- I mean, how does the legal system deal with something like this?

TOOBIN: Well, Arizona does allow criminal charges to be brought against someone 8 years or older. States vary in that. But as far as I can tell, no one has been prosecuted in Arizona who's under 12 or 13 years -- years old, at least in modern times.

Basically, if these people are prosecuted, they are put into juvenile facilities for until they're 18. But sometimes when they're older, they're charged as adults. But certainly, someone who's 8 couldn't be charged as an adult.

But fortunately, we live in a world where this is an extremely rare situation. And as I say, the legal system just doesn't do this very well.

COOPER: Yes. We'll continue to follow it, Jeff. Thanks, Jeff Toobin.

Barack Obama makes history again. His choice for U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder, could be the first African-American to lead the Justice Department. We'll have late developments on the story at the top of the hour. But first, "The Shot." That's right, this guy, he's bringing Mohawks back and setting a sky-high record. We'll be right back.


COOPER: We have a very special "Shot" for you tonight. Sorry. I dare say it's uplifting. Take a look.

This is a CNN iReport. The guy -- there's a guy there whose head is -- his name is Eric Hawn. He's going on a record. He's attempting to have the biggest Mohawk in the world. Actually the highest Mohawk.

ERIC HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Piece of plywood.

COOPER: This is a time-lapse video of the hair makeover. He used tons of hairspray, a matt, some sort of makeshift flattening device. Eric was able to get the strands to go vertical and stay that way. Bizarre.

HILL: That's amazing.

COOPER: The end result, 27 inches of a punk rock perm.

HILL: All for a good cause, though.

COOPER: Yes. His mission helps a couple of charities: Locks of Love for cancer patients, and Project Night Lights, which helps disadvantaged kids there.

HILL: Do you think it's hard to balance with that on your head there?

COOPER: I know. How do you, like, go to sleep with it? I guess you probably wouldn't be able.

HILL: Ask a Vegas show girl. That's the first thing I can think of.

COOPER: Well, actually, let me ask you, because...

HILL: Moi?

COOPER: I seem to recall from the '80s. There you go.

HILL: Yes. But see, mine was spread out all over. Remember, it was like a lion.

COOPER: When was that, Erica Hill?

HILL: That was probably about 80...

COOPER: I'm saying six?

HILL: Six?

COOPER: Yes, '86. That's about... HILL: What gave it away? The collar?

COOPER: The collar shirt. Yes, exactly. The "I just watched my first Flock of Seagulls video and I'm very excited" look.

HILL: I think I learned the Flock of Seagulls hair from one Anderson Cooper, perhaps.

COOPER: I did sort of have Flock of Seagulls hair.

HILL: We actually have that picture floating around. Someone found it.

COOPER: I don't think so.

HILL: I think we do. Not tonight, we don't.

COOPER: Apparently not. So that's fine. Doesn't...

HILL: Maybe tomorrow.

COOPER: I don't deny that I had a strange swoosh. I don't know what's going on.

HILL: We've all had our moments.

COOPER: All right. Coming up at the top of the hour, serious stuff. More on our breaking news. Senator Ted Stevens' challenger claiming victory. Plus, Barack Obama's historic choice for attorney general, what it says about the kind of administration he wants to run.

Also, what makes somebody set a wildfire, knowing full well that homes are going to be destroyed and lives put in jeopardy? Inside the mind of an arsonist, ahead on 360.