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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Stimulus Plan Negotiations Underway; Outrage Over Octuplet Mom's Large Family and Public Assistance; GM, Wal-Mart Schedule Layoffs; Australia Searches for Arsonist
Aired February 10, 2009 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, breaking news on Capitol Hill: House, Senate and White House negotiators meeting right now in the Capitol Hill building late at night behind close doors trying to craft a massive final stimulus plan to jump start the economy. A plan they hope will pass both the House and Senate as early as this Friday.
It has been a long day for the Obama administration. Earlier, the president was on the road meeting with people, coming face to face with the raw emotion of the recession.
Wall Street meantime, giving a massive thumbs-down to the plan the Treasury Department unveiled today to bail out the banks. The DOW Industrial shedding 381 points.
Also new layoffs at GM, and even Wal-Mart cutting jobs.
A lot to cover tonight. Nearly $2 trillion in play and just possibly your family and this country's future.
We're covering all the angles starting with the talks right now on Capitol Hill. Dana Bash is there.
Dana what's happening?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Anderson, as we speak, the White House Chief of Staff and the president's budget director are inside Nancy Pelosi's office. And in fact, they have been here, coming up on eight hours straight.
Eight hours straight, shuttling between the House speaker's office and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office, trying to urgently broker a compromise between House Democrats and Senate Democrats in order to get the president's stimulus package to his desk by this week.
And I just spoke to a Democratic source who said that in these talks they are narrowing their differences.
BASH: House Democrats are not happy that Senate Democrats cut some $100 billion in spending from their stimulus package. Tens of billions slashed from Democratic priorities like education. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is now signaling they'll likely have to live with it.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D) HOUSE SPEAKER: As President Obama cautioned the nation that we cannot allow the perfect to be the effective enemy of the effective and of the necessary and we will not.
BASH (voice-over): Pelosi may not have a choice. Because in the Senate, centrists the president needs to pass this stimulus package tell CNN that putting back money for programs they don't think stimulate the economy is nonnegotiable.
ARLEN SPECTER, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: This is a place where you never say never; that this is probably as close as you get.
BASH: Republican Arlen Specter's experience tells you why he and other centrists are taking such a hard line against adding to the price tag.
SPECTER: Well the phones are overwhelming. It's a very unpopular vote.
BASH: Specter is up for reelection and is getting pummeled for supporting the $800 plus billion stimulus bill. Conservative groups are vowing to spend millions to help any Republican who will run against him. In fact, Republican Pat Toomey, who almost beat Specter in the GOP primary last time, tell us that top Republican officials want him to challenge Specter again.
REP. PAT TOOMEY, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: I think Republicans are pretty well united in understanding that we can't tax and spend or borrow and spend our way out of this recession. So there's a high level of frustration.
BASH: How concerned are you that this could be the thing that costs you your seat?
SPECTER: Well, I'm very concerned of that. I had a tough one percent primary last time. And I know the political peril. And in light of the very severe need to take action to avoid a depression, I thought my duty required that I do just what I did.
BASH: Now, Specter is one of only three Senate Republicans who crossed party lines to support the Senate stimulus bill. And that's why they hold a lot of power in these negotiations that, again, are going on as we speak at this late hour here on Capitol Hill.
And Anderson, let me just give you one quick example of the negotiations going on. I spoke to a couple of Democratic sources who say that they are likely to take out or at least scale back tax credits for home buyers that passed in the Senate in order to make room for some of the House Democrats' priorities. That is just one of the many, many things that they are talking about behind this closed door. COOPER: It would be fascinating to be a fly on the wall right now.
BASH: It sure is.
COOPER: Probably a lot of bare knuckle politics going. Dana, we'll check in with you throughout this hour.
President Obama is back in Washington after another day selling his stimulus directly to Americans. Yesterday, Elkhart, Indiana home to a massive unemployment; today, Fort Myers, Florida, foreclosure capital of the country.
Candy Crowley has the "Raw Politics."
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Senate just passed our recovery and reinvestment plan. That's good.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: As the Senate passed its $838 billion stimulus plan and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner unveiled what may be a trillion dollar-plus effort to stabilize the banking industry --
TIMOTHY GEITHNER, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: The strategy will cost money. It will involve risk and it will take time.
CROWLEY: President Obama was in Fort Myers, putting faces on those unimaginable numbers. An unemployed homeless secretary --
HENRIETTA HUGHES, FT. MYERS, FLORIDA RESIDENT: We need something more than the vehicle and parks to go to. We need our own kitchen and our own bathroom. Please help.
CROWLEY: A former worker now on unemployment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you go from making $3,000 a month to $1,100 a month, how are you able to take care of your family?
CROWLEY: The stimulus bill likely to be signed into law offers only marginal immediate help for those in the worst of circumstances: $25 more a week for unemployment, an increase in food stamps, a $500 tax rebate. All can be accomplished fairly quickly within months.
But building bridges and roads and clean water facilities takes time. Some of those projects may take up to two years to produce jobs. And so the president, whose political capital is his public support, uses these town hall meetings, not just to tell Congress they are running out of time --
B. OBAMA: If we don't act immediately, then millions more jobs will disappear.
CROWLEY: He is also playing for time.
B. OBAMA: Even with this plan, our economy will likely be measured in years and not weeks or months.
CROWLEY: Administration officials say it may take a year before the country feels the effects of the stimulus bill. So the president needs a longer honeymoon than most fully understanding the reality of political marriage.
B. OBAMA: If stuff hasn't worked and people don't feel like I've led the country in the right direction, then you'll have a new President.
CROWLEY: But he is ahead of himself with a 76 percent approval rating. The bloom is still on the rose.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's such a blessing to see you, Mr. President. Thank you for taking time out of your day.
CROWLEY: Even as he balances the urgency for action against the need for patience, the president is also trying to find the sweet spot between not scaring people and white hot warnings that things could get worse before they get better.
B. OBAMA: We've inherited an economic crisis as deep and as dire as any since the Great Depression.
CROWLEY: Honest perhaps but not a confidence builder. Things will not get better until Americans believe they will. Two-thirds of the U.S. economy is consumer spending. And consumers don't spend when they're worried about the future.
Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: It should be pointed out, we're seeing something this President do that we haven't seen the last President do over the last eight years, which is meet with large groups of people who have not been prescreened and preselected to ask questions.
So there's certain impromptu nature to a lot of these questions and the responses. I want to show you -- you saw a little bit in Candy's report, but a dramatic moment that occurred today with that woman who asked the president a question.
I want to show you the full exchange between the two. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUGHES: I first want to say I respect you and I'm so grateful for you.
B. OBAMA: Thank you.
HUGHES: I've been praying for you.
B. OBAMA: I believe in prayers, so I appreciate that. HUGHES: I have an urgent need on employment and homelessness. A very small vehicle for my family and I to live in. We need urgent and the housing authority has two years' waiting list. And we need something more than the vehicle and the parks to go to. We need our own kitchen and our own bathroom. Please help.
B. OBAMA: Well, listen -- what's your name? What's your name?
HUGHES: It's Henrietta Hughes.
B. OBAMA: OK, Ms. Hughes. Well, we're going to do everything we can to help you. But there are a lot of people like you. We're going to do everything we can. All right?
But I'll have my staff talk to you after this -- after the town hall. All right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: President Obama selling his stimulus plan today.
David Gergen and our panel will join us shortly to talk about today's developments. You can join the live chat happening now at AC360.com and check out Randi Kaye's live web cast during the break.
Up next, though, the other sales job today, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner pitching part two of the bank bailout; $350 billion now, possibly more than a trillion to come. The market did not like it as we mentioned. Some experts aren't crazy about it either. We'll break it down so you can decide for yourselves.
And later, mass murder in Australia; that's what the Prime Minister is calling the fires that have destroyed communities. Death toll is rising and some remarkable survivor stories ahead to tell you about.
And the more you hear about the mother of octuplets, the worse it gets. A look at how her first six kids are living now. And we'll show you what fertility clinic helped her have eight more kids.
COOPER: Our breaking news negotiations under way right now at Capitol Hill tonight: important meetings on House and Senate and White House players meeting behind closed doors trying to harmonize two stimulus bills, each topping $800 billion but differing extensively on where the money goes.
The other part of the administration's plan to save the economy was unveiled today: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner laying out the new bank bailout plan. It did not go as well as anyone had hoped.
Tom Foreman is going to break it down for us -- Tom.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks Anderson, it seemed like it broke down of its own accord to a degree. The key problem that is confounded all efforts to fix the economy is that credit has remained tight. If you are an individual or a business, getting a loan is still very tough because no bank wants to get stuck if you can't repay it.
So Treasury Secretary Geithner has a four-part plan to beat that problem down. And he unveiled it today. It starts off with this idea of going to the very biggest banks; those with more than $100 billion in assets; a stress test for them.
He wants to talk over their books. Know that they will not fold if the recession deepens. And that they are solid enough to justify more government investment in them if it comes to that. In short, this is about building cornerstones. He wants to see which players he can depend on as the recovery plan goes forward.
Part two, he wants a combination public/private fund to deal with all those bad home loans, which are still poisoning the recovery. Banks are afraid if they have too many of these bad loans in their portfolio it could wipe them out. So Geithner wants to establish a market for buying and selling all these bad loans; essentially guaranteeing some kind of value for them.
Part three, Geithner working with the Federal Reserve, wants $1 trillion initiative, a lending program to pump money out there for small businesses, student loans, consumer loans, auto loans, you name it. Big stuff, he says? You bet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEITHNER: The path our country has pursued to date was too limited in support. It came late, came with too little broad trust and confidence and too little direct support to the businesses and consumers and households that are most affected by the crisis; people who were careful and responsible in their actions but were damaged by the judgments of those who did not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: And the fourth part of Geithner's plan, he wants to launch a comprehensive housing program to stop prices from falling. Make mortgages as affordable as possible and protect the single largest investment most families will ever make.
How will he do it? Well, he says those details are going to come in a few weeks. We'll just have to see how it works out -- Anderson.
COOPER: Yes, we will be watching closely. Tom thanks very much for that.
I want to talk to Ali Velshi now -- I want to talk more about how the markets reacted to what Secretary Geithner announced today.
A lot of pundits calling it a vote a no confidence, but one Steven Pearlstein of "Washington Post" went ballistic this afternoon saying, we owe Wall Street nothing until the fat cats and I quote, "Say I'm sorry and say thank you and tell us what their plan is." He went on to say that nothing would satisfy Wall Street at this point.
So where does that leave all of us? For "Our Money and Our Future," Ali Velshi joins us now from Chicago.
Ali, a lot of people are saying the markets went down because there weren't enough specifics announced by Geithner. Is that true?
ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly what it was. You and I talk about this last night on TV Anderson, and you asked me, what's going to happen tomorrow? And I said they've delayed this announcement about the second half of TARP. How they're going to spend the second $350 billion -- look at that -- of the bailout to help banks.
And they were holding it off so it didn't conflict with the stimulus. President Barack Obama last night in his speech said, I don't want to steal Tim Geithner's thunder. Well, all of a sudden, Tim Geithner makes a speech today and there is no thunder.
As one of my colleagues at CNN said, we were expecting a blueprint and we got a sketch on a napkin. That was upsetting to markets and that was upsetting to investors.
I wouldn't read too much into it all though, Anderson, because ultimately investors ran away from the market because they didn't see a plan, which means when there is a plan, when the president and Tim Geithner get together and say exactly what they're going to do, it will probably bring investors back in.
But quite a big drop in the market; took us down to levels we haven't seen since November, since the low of the market. Again, there was a reason for it. It was an expectation that was created that wasn't met. I think today was a major p.r. flub on Tim Geithner's part.
It reminded people back of September and October when you used to hear Henry Paulson speaking and President Bush speaking and Ben Bernanke speaking and then the market would sell off. I don't think it's all too serious but they do need a plan because we were expecting one.
COOPER: Yes, we're going to have more with Ali and our panel coming up. Ali, stay with us.
I want to look at the fine print and the missing details that are making TARP 2, as they call it, just as potentially toxic as the original.
Also this -- take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone has lost everything -- there is our house. Baby it's gone. Everything is gone.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Everything is gone, heartache, heart-stopping tales of survival on the fire lines in Australia. Plus, the latest on the search for culprits.
Also, arrests in the Michael Phelps bong hit. That's right, arrests. Eight of them, reportedly including the alleged owner of said bong. Are police going way too far because of the media coverage? You can be the judge ahead.
And later: the growing octuplet outrage and troubling new details about the mom and her doctor. Why did he help her if he already knew she had six kids she couldn't even care for?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY, (R) ALABAMA: Is this plan conceptually 180- degree turn from the Paulson plan? Or is it kind of the son of Paulson?
GEITHNER: Senator, this plan is fundamentally different in broad objectives and direction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner telling Senator Richard Shelby his new plan to fix the banking crisis isn't just more of the same; it is better than the one designed last fall by his predecessor, Henry Paulson.
Wall Street doesn't seem convinced yet. While, Geithner was getting grilled as we've talked about it earlier, the DOW plunged 382 points. So why the cold reception? Ali, talked about it almost to everyone, including Geithner himself, agrees the bailout plan he unveiled today is very short on specifics.
Joe Johns tonight is "Keeping them Honest."
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Giving Geithner his due, there is almost nothing this guy could say that would make Wall Street's problems go away overnight. So he came up with a big idea.
STEVE BARTLETT, FINANCIAL SERVICES ROUNDTABLE: He's only been Secretary of Treasury for two weeks. It's a deep hole. He came up with what's actually a pretty robust plan that's comprehensive, it's huge.
JOHNS: "Keeping them Honest," Geithner has been running the Federal Reserve in New York and dealing with this problem on the front lines. So a lot of people, including many on the Street, expected a real blue print of how to clean up our toxic assets. But instead of laying down specifics, Geithner laid out a work in progress. GEITHNER: One of the reasons why we laid this out in general terms today is because this is enormously complicated to get right. And we're going to try to get it right before we lay out the details.
JOHNS: But the detail is the thing according to bank bailout expert Doug Elliott of the Brookings Institution. He says Geithner left too much uncertainty, especially on toxic assets.
DOUG ELLIOTT, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: We don't really know what it is and there are a lot of ways that it could be designed badly.
JOHNS: Elliott says the biggest question mark is finding a way to put price tags on the bad assets. Banks don't want to sell them for too cheap and investors don't want to pay more than they're worth.
Geithner wants to combine government money with private money and let the market decide the right price. But that doesn't necessarily let the taxpayer off the hook.
ELLIOTT: If the bank says they're worth 50 and the private investors want to buy them for 30, you're not going to be able to bridge that gap unless the government is willing to step in and pay 20.
So the other potential problem would be that the only way it works is the government writes very large checks.
JOHNS: So why even do it this way? Well, for one thing, the public is so fed up with bailouts for banks that the Troubled Asset Relief Program or TARP as it's called, is frankly becoming a four- letter word.
JOHNS: But don't even think this is the end of taxpayer financed bank bailouts. More so-called cash infusions to financial institutions could be on the way. And Treasury is reserving the right to ask Congress for even more money at a later date -- Anderson.
COOPER: Yes, more money that we don't have. Thanks very much. Joe is going to be joining our panel in just a moment and we're going to look at more of Geithner's plan to free up the credit market and how it could affect your finances. We'll have Joe, as well as David Gergen and Ali Velshi back as well.
Also ahead, a candid question for First Lady Michelle Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where's Obama?
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: He's in Florida.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn't live with you?
M. OBAMA: No, he does live with me. He just went there for the day. He lives with me. He does, really.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Mrs. Obama clearing up a bit of confusion while visiting a community health clinic in Washington. We'll have details on that ahead.
Plus, could Grammy-nominated R&B singer Chris Brown be facing more criminal charges? Why the D.A. is asking the police to do some more digging on the domestic assault case against his girlfriend Rihanna?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
B. OBAMA: And I know how frustrating it is for taxpayers when they're looking and they're saying, let me get this straight. You've got a guy who was making $20 million a year who ran his bank into the ground. And now we've got to come in and clean up the mess. Now, that's something that, it just makes you mad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: President Obama today in Fort Myers, Florida on the road, for a second day trying to drum up support for his economic plan. The President taking his case directly to the Americans and telling them he gets that they're angry and disgusted with the fat cats who helped create all this mess.
Tonight, the breaking news you've seen it at the bottom of your screen on Capitol Hill where House, Senate and White House negotiators are meeting right now behind closed doors trying to craft a massive final stimulus plan to restart the economy.
They hope to have this thing hammered out and voted on perhaps as early as Friday, it could get ugly. Let's talk strategy with senior political analyst David Gergen and once again Ali Velshi and Joe Johns.
David, with this meeting happening right now behind closed doors. You have Rahm Emanuel and you have House Democrats and Republicans and members of the Senate there as well.
I mean, you've worked for Republicans and Democratic Presidents. What goes on in these meetings behind closed doors? How tough, raw politics is it?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, a couple of things, Anderson. There's usually a very broad conversation about the content of what's going to be in the bill. And then there is a side conversation, often with a smaller number of players, about the politics of it.
In this case, Nancy Pelosi seems to be sending messages that she's willing to compromise, realizes that necessity requires that. Wants to get the bill done and is trying to be loyal. At the same time, they have got a real problem. They've got three Republicans holding the whip hand.
And they can't produce a bill that those three Republicans veto because then they won't get the passage on the floor of the Senate. That's their political problem. Everybody knows it. And so the compromising way toward the House Bill is just not going to happen.
COOPER: Joe, Tim Geithner's announcement today much heralded, much talked about and anticipated. How big of a p.r. disaster was it?
JOHNS: Well, I mean, you heard it. It was sort of a smack down, really when you think about it. A lot of people around town that I talked to were saying, hey, if you're going to have a rollout, have a real rollout. Don't have something like this where you come out and you just state some principles.
So it was a tough day for Geithner on the one hand. On the other hand, you sort of have to let these things kind of play out. Because there was one fellow I talked to who has a lot of experience on the Street who said, it could have been a lot worse for us.
The fact of the matter is, if he'd come out with a whole bunch of Washington regulation that nobody on the Street wanted there would have been a negative reaction there too.
So at the end of the day, this is not just about what this administration says. It's also about execution. Whatever you decide on, you're going to have to pull it off. So they have a bunch of different hoops to fall through. And this one p.r. hit may not last very long.
COOPER: Ali, in terms of the markets reaction, I mean, it dropped significantly today. But is there some good news in there in terms of finding a bottom?
VELSHI: Yes. Well, first of all, Joe is right. We're no further -- we're no worse off than we were yesterday. All we didn't do is get a plan. So maybe that reaction was a little overwrought. But a number of people has said to me, look at this market. We're back to where we were at the lows of November. This is terrible.
And my response to that, Anderson, is that economically, we're far worse off than we were in November. We've got for more people unemployed, we've seen housing prices go down further and we haven't seen a loosening of the credit freeze.
So if our market is where it was in November, we're not doing too badly, this is how you form a bottom on the market. We have now come back to the point that we were in November. And that indicates that there's people who are playing in the market, from the level that we're at now, above.
I think this is not a bad thing and fundamentally when the market goes down for a reason, in this case, disappointment that we didn't get detail on the plan that we thought we're going to get. That's fine for me, I worry when the market goes down for no reason.
When Tim Geithner and President Obama come up with a plan, the one that we thought that we were getting today, you'll probably see people get back into the market. I'm not overly alarmed by this bit of a p.r. mess and nothing that can't be solved.
If they come out with the plan that we were expecting, I think we'll be back on track again.
COOPER: David, the broad frameworks of Geithner's plan it doesn't seem to be what the Street was necessarily reacting to just a lack of specifics and I guess to Ali's point there is some good news in that. Once the actual specifics are fleshed out, then perhaps there will be support for the plan.
GERGEN: I'm a little in disagreement, Anderson.
I do think fundamentally we have to be patient. Franklin Roosevelt's team made a number of mistakes early on. They had some early bumbles.
The Obama team is going to make some mistakes. We have to give them time to get on their feet. But I do think that this as a publicity matter, as a public relations matter, a black eye for Tim Geithner and for the administration. They have put a lot at stake in this rollout. They promised and led people to believe that it would be bold and detailed. It was neither.
And when the plan was introduced last night on the Hill, briefed to Congressional staffs, "Wall Street Journal" has reported to day that it met with a rude reception. Skepticism, sarcasm, even laughter from some Republican quarters. And then today it got this negative reaction on the Hill.
I think this is not what they wanted. It's not what they planned for. Yes, they can get it straightened out. But for Tim Geithner and getting started here, it is -- I can't tell you how important it is. It's important not only to have a plan. But this administration needs an economic spokesman who can speak with authority and be respected for what he says or she says.
Right now they haven't quite found that person in Tim Geithner and he is their chief economic spokesman. That's what he's been designated. So it's very, very important, not only for the president, but for Tim Geithner, to get back on track quickly and to establish his authority and his gravitas because that's going to be very important to confidence in the system.
COOPER: Joe, David makes an excellent point which is that, you know, finding other voices. Right now they're relying an awful lot on President Obama; using his tremendous popularity to sell this.
But at a certain point and very quickly, I mean, they need other people who they can put out there who people have confidence in.
JOHNS: Clearly they do need other people. Certainly the president is going to be associated with it. As Candy Crowley talked about it earlier in the program, the fact of the matter is, he's going to have to talk a lot.
You saw a little bit of the sympathizer in chief today. He's got to buy some time in order for people to start seeing some effects of the programs that he's trying to put into place.
So they've got a lot to think about. They do need surrogates. I can tell you, I called over looking for the surrogates today at the treasury department. Who do you have out there speaking on this issue? And they pointed me to a couple of United States senators.
There have got to be some other people out there who are like- minded with the same voice and who can say what the administration wants said.
VELSHI: Anderson, to that point, one thing that happened is the market smacked the administration down today. The Republicans smacked them down. At the end of the day, Tim Geithner did say, we probably could have done a better job at that. We fought last year a long time for having the administration say that they'd got what was going wrong. At least today, I thought there was some acknowledgement from the administration that that really didn't work. Let's hope they fix that.
COOPER: All right, Ali Velshi, David Gergen, Joe Johns, thank you, good discussion.
Up next, the first lady's tour of Washington continues. Michelle Obama meeting some young fans; her increasingly visible role -- we'll talk about that, coming up.
And eight people have now reportedly been arrested in connection with Michael Phelps's bong hit; the hit seen around the world. Could the Olympic swimmer actually face charges, too.
And we'll continue to learn more about the octuplets' mom. We'll bring you inside the home where all 14 children will live. And hear the harsh words from the grandmother who thinks her own daughter has gone way too far.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
M. OBAMA: You know, I have little girls, too. My little girls are --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know their names.
M. OBAMA: What's their names?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sasha.
M. OBAMA: That's right. That is right. Do you know how many times I have read this book to Sasha and Malia? Can you guess how many times?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Four hundred.
M. OBAMA: Close. I think it was more than that. I think it's been millions of times.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: -- first lady Michelle Obama some hugs after she read "Brown Bear" at a community health clinic in Washington, the latest stop on her tour of her new city.
We're following other stories tonight as well. Let's check in with Randi Kaye for "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Randy.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Anderson. Exit polls in Israel are showing moderate foreign minister Tzipi Livni's Kadima party edging out conservative leader Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party. The polls also show strong support for smaller hard line parties, though, and that could make it difficult for Livni to form a government.
More on today's pink slips -- General Motors is cutting 10,000 white-collar jobs worldwide. One-third of those job losses are here in the U.S.
And Wal-Mart is eliminating up to 800 positions at its headquarters to trim some costs.
The L.A. district attorney has asked the police to do some more investigative work before deciding whether more charges will be filed in the domestic violence case against singer Chris Brown. Sources say the alleged victim was his girlfriend, singer Rihanna.
And a "360 Follow" now, WIF-TV in Columbia, South Carolina reporting that eight people have been arrested for their ties to that pot party where Michael Phelps was photographed taking a bong hit. Seven face drug possession charges. One accused of distribution. The Richland County sheriff's office is reportedly still investigating Michael Phelps' role. There is also word that the infamous bong has been confiscated after -- get this -- its owner tried to sell it on eBay for $100,000.
COOPER: I'm not sure it's accurate to say that it was a pot party, from what I've read about it. But anyway, a minor point.
KAYE: OK, we won't go with that.
COOPER: I can't believe they've arrested eight people.
KAYE: I can't believe the guy tried to sell it on eBay.
COOPER: Stranger and stranger.
Before we get back to the "Beat 360" winners, just a quick program note: the crew of US Airways flight 1549 spent the evening on "LARRY KING LIVE." That was just part one. You can see part two of the interview with Larry tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time right here on CNN.
Now our "Beat 360"; it is our daily challenge to viewers. A chance to come up with a caption better than the one that we can think of for a picture that we put on our blog everyday. Tonight's picture: an old English sheepdog getting ready for show time at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show here in New York. A great photo, that.
Our staff winner tonight is Brooke. His caption: "It takes our makeup artist many, many hours to prep Anderson for air." I should say it was a former staff member here.
KAYE: Can we get those blue eyes to show?
COOPER: Unrelated. He was fired for cause.
Our viewer winner is Wyatt from New York. His caption, "Lady, I said I wanted the John King look, not the Don King look."
KAYE: That's pretty good.
COOPER: That's good.
Wyatt, your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way.
Up next, terror in Australia as fires continue to rage. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your mind kept saying, go to sleep, lie down, sit down, sit down. And you knew -- you just kept fighting, trying not to black out because if you blacked out, you were dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A survivor of the inferno. The fire is being called an act of mass murder. Authorities suspect arson in several of them and the death toll continues to rise.
We'll take you there.
And the octuplets' mom reveals new details about the controversial fertility clinic she went to for treatments. Plus, her mother, the grandmother of the kids speaks out, calling her daughter's decision to have so many kids unconscionable.
And later, Dolly Parton and Barack Obama? What do they have in common? It's tonight's "Shot" coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their kids are dead. And -- you know, I played golf with the 12-year-old kid on Saturday who's not here anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Unimaginable grief in Australia tonight from the killer wildfires. Authorities say some were deliberately set. An act of mass murder, they're calling it. Right now the search is on for the arsonists who have left scores dead, including entire families.
Some of the fires have been contained but the suffering appears to be spreading. With each new day the grim details of lives lost and lives destroyed emerge. Gary Tuchman has the latest.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Surrounded by flames, a cell phone camera captures the horror. In southern Australia, where the worst wildfires in the country's history have engulfed entire towns, turned forests into waste land and have left thousands homeless. From space, a NASA photograph reveals the scope of the catastrophe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's on fire. Cars on fire. Everything's gone. The car is blown up.
TUCHMAN: He is one of the lucky ones in killer infernos officials suspect were caused by arson. The prime minister has labeled them an act of mass murder.
The death toll now stands at more than 180 but authorities fear it will surpass 200. Hundreds of others have been injured. Many of the dead were found in their homes. A family of six reportedly burned alive in their car. Those who perished had nowhere to run and no chance to escape.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have houses with unknown people within them that we've now got to identify and track their movements.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is unprecedented. We haven't had to face this task before.
TUCHMAN: The brush fires began Saturday. At their height, hundreds were burning out of control. Now firefighters, aided by the army, have brought the number down to around 20. For those returning home, only memories remain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I lost two kids, mate. You know. Nothing will bring them back.
TUCHMAN: There is overwhelming tragedy but at the same time, incredible stories of strength and survival. A woman is reunited with her father after being separated by the disaster.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't cry. Please.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you.
TUCHMAN: And an extraordinary sight. A firefighter comes to the aid of a koala bear, giving the animal water from his bottle.
Gary Tuchman, CNN.
COOPER: Unbelievable, what's happening there.
Coming up next on "360," how could a doctor have made it possible for a mother of six to have eight more kids that she can't afford? Tonight we'll show you the clinic where this was done. Also, the children's beleaguered grandmother lashes out at her daughter and what her doctor has done.
And what do President Obama and Dolly Parton share? They both managed to make it into tonight's "Shot." Find out how ahead.
COOPER: Few mothers in recent memory have ignited the kind of reaction that that woman, Nadya Suleman, has. The 33-year-old single mom on public assistance gave birth to octuplets last month; she has six other children already. We now know a lot more about her and her kids' situation than ever before.
In a new interview, Suleman said all the embryos were transferred at a fertility clinic. The case is now being investigated. Suleman's own mother now says her daughter's behavior is unconscionable.
"Up Close" tonight, here's Randi Kaye.
KAYE: The octuplets are still in the hospital as their mom showed the world on NBC's "Today Show."
NADYA SULEMAN, OCTUPLETS' MOM: Hi, Malia (ph). Your eyes are open.
This is Noah (ph). He's doing well. He's really well. He's not on oxygen or anything. He's the blonde one. He's the tiniest one that was the troublemaker.
KAYE: But when they are released in a few weeks, this is where they will live. Pictures from the entertainment Web site, Radaronline, take us inside their home for the first time. This bedroom is crammed with two cribs and a bed. Radar's reporter described the home as filthy, with food on the walls.
Mom, Nadya Suleman already lives here with her other six children and her parents. Do the math. Soon there will be 14 children and three adults sharing three bedrooms.
In an interview with radar online, the octuplets' grandmother, Angela Suleman, questioned her daughter's decision to have so many kids. ANGELA SULEMAN, NADYA'S MOTHER: To have them all is unconscionable to me. She really, really has no idea what she's doing to her children and to me. Why would she do this?
KAYE: And how was she going to pay for them all?
Her mom owns the home they all live in, and her mom says Suleman hasn't worked since she had kids or helped pay the bills.
Suleman told NBC --
N. SULEMAN: No, I'm not receiving help from the government.
KAYE: But we've learned she is. Suleman's own publicist told us she gets $490 every month in food stamps and that three of her six older children get some kind of government disability assistance.
Her publicist told us she was treated here at the West Coast IVF Clinic. Without naming names, the medical board confirmed it's investigating the case. "We're looking into the matter to see if she can substantiate violation of the standard of care." Many have wondered why a doctor would implant so many embryos into a single unemployed mother of six.
On NBC, Suleman defended her doctor.
N. SULEMAN: He did nothing wrong.
KAYE: Dr. Michael Kamrava is the director at the clinic. He hasn't returned our calls. Suleman hasn't said if Kamrava was her doctor this time. But this is her at his clinic back in 2006 when he treated her.
N. SULEMAN: It was amazing. It was totally different than that old-fashioned in vitro because you see it through the monitor, you see it in the ultrasound. He knows exactly which area to pinpoint.
KAYE: Still, the "L.A. Times" reports that Dr. Kamrava's clinic had only two successes out of 20 tries that year, one of the worst rates in the country. But Suleman may help change that. Her fertility treatment worked every time for six children and now, eight more tiny success stories.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: So many questions about this. Let's dig deeper. Professor Arthur Caplan, the medical ethicist at the University of Pennsylvania. Good to see you again.
So, Nadya Suleman said six embryos were transferred for this last pregnancy. Let's listen to what she said about that in the interview with the "Today Show."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) N. SULEMAN: Some people were like, "Oh, that's too many." A lot of people are unaware of statistics involved in IVF. There's a very low probability of success in most procedures. Any given procedure there's 50 percent chance one will grow, maybe less.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Is she accurate? Is she basically defend why she would have six embryos transferred in to her at once?
ARTHUR CAPLAN, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: She's trying. It's true that any given success of any given embryo is probably 50 percent or less. But, I don't believe she only had six or seven put into her. It's not credible to me that all of them took. I think there probably were more involved and putting in so many embryos just runs the risk of multiple birth that any respectable infertility program wouldn't do.
Nowhere, Anderson, in the U.S. is anybody putting in five, six, seven embryos in women under 35.
COOPER: Her -- she lives with her parents, she gets food stamps, admitted to having no income.
I want to listen to more of what her mom, Angela Suleman, said about the situation to radaronline. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
A. SULEMAN: How's she going to cope? I don't know. I'm really tired of taking care of those six. I need her to really think of what she's going to do and how she's going to provide for all these children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Clearly, she should have thought of that before she had these kids. And when you look at these photos from radaronline, inside her parents' three-bedroom home; there are several cribs, bunk beds. There's clothes all over the place. Is it appropriate for a doctor, a fertility specialist to consider someone's financial situation before implanting embryos?
CAPLAN: You know, Anderson, people say it's not up to the doctor. They shouldn't be making these calls about how many kids someone can have. I completely disagree. I think it's absolutely appropriate to step in and say, "Look, do you have money to support children? Do you have a home where children can go? Are you yourself, emotionally, psychologically able to face this kind of challenge? Do you have any help?
She doesn't have any of that. You look at that house, you look at the number of kids that're going to be in there, you think Child Protective Services is going to be visiting them. I'm not even sure if she's going to wind up being able to keep those kids. COOPER: What about mental health? Do fertility doctors, is there a psychological assessment? You look at that interview of her, I have tons of questions about whether I want that person raising any child.
CAPLAN: You know, again, this is not a question of discriminating against somebody because of they're a single mom or because they're Lutheran or Lithuanian. What we're talking about here is a doctor should be making a call to look out for the best interest of the kids.
If this woman has six kids at home, she's go three disabled kids, which we now know she does. She's on food stamps, doesn't have any help, doesn't even own her own home, it's absolutely appropriate both to ask about social circumstances and the psychological circumstances.
When I look at her, I wind up thinking to myself, this woman has a lot of psychological problems. I can't believe that she would make it in as a patient to get one more baby, much less take the risk and wind up having eight more babies.
COOPER: What's the number one thing you would like to ask the doctor who did it?
CAPLAN: To me -- did you ask anything about the psychological, social, emotional circumstances or did you just look at the cash that she somehow scraped together to pay you and say I'll do what you want?
COOPER: Art Caplan, it's always good to have you on. Appreciate your perspective. Thanks.
CAPLAN: My pleasure.
COOPER: We have more breaking news: this time deadly weather. Three tornadoes confirmed touching down in Oklahoma. One of them causing three fatalities in lone grove about hour south of Oklahoma City. 25 to 50 injuries reported; nearly 30,000 homes without power right now. If you're living in the area especially heading east toward Texas, stay on the lookout. The line of storm that cause these tornadoes are expected to plague the area throughout this evening.
Other news on a far lighter note: the "Shot" is next. Dolly Parton, the queen of country, goes to the D.C. delivers a memorable line about the new administration. The joke, the shot coming up.
COOPER: Randi, time for tonight's "Shot." An American icon with her own theme park had them laughing at the National Press Club at D.C. today. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOLLY PARTON, COUNTRY SINGER: I was out on tour when everybody was campaigning, when Hillary was running. Yes, it would be great to have a woman in the White House. And I thought, well, I don't know if it's such a good idea. Twenty-eight days those terrorists are going to run deeper into them woods if we can get a woman in there.
Somebody said to me, you know what? You've got such a big mouth and you know how to talk to people -- did you ever think about running for president? I said I think we have enough boobs in the White House. And -- but hopefully Obama won't be one of them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Dolly Parton. How cool is Dolly Parton?
KAYE: Pretty cool.
COOPER: I wonder how many times she's used that line before. We're not really sure.
She -- I understand we should actually have a belated happy birthday to a music legend. She turned 63 last month. Happy birthday, Dolly Parton.
KAYE: Still looking pretty good.
COOPER: You can see all the most recent -- and she's got a play, I think, "9:00 to 5:00," I think it's opening on Broadway sometime soon.
You can see all of the recent shots at ac360.com.
That does it for 360. Thanks for watching. "LARRY KING" starts right now. I'll see you tomorrow night.