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Obama Cabinet Shake-up; GOP War Against Obama?

Aired February 12, 2009 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, we begin with breaking news: President Obama reacting to the stunning announcement today that Republican Judd Gregg has backed out as commerce secretary nominee.

Tonight: why Senator Gregg changed his mind. Was it just a philosophical difference, or is there another sign that the Republican Party has in fact declared all-out war on President Obama?

We begin with dramatic announcements by the man who was to be commerce secretary and the reaction by the president.

Ed Henry has the breaking news.


ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Obama is vowing, the loss of a Republican in his Cabinet will not stop his efforts to bridge the partisan divide.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Judd's a good man. And I think that he sincerely wanted to work with us. I think he had a change of heart about the idea of leaving the Senate.

The one thing I want to make sure of is, people don't take from this the notion that we can't get Democrats and Republicans working together. I'm going to keep on working at this.

HENRY: The president, aboard Air Force One in Springfield, Illinois, to celebrate the 200th birthday of his political hero, a Republican who helped pull the country together.

But Mr. Obama was left dealing with another Cabinet shake-up, Republican Judd Gregg dropping out at commerce secretary.

SEN. JUDD GREGG (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: I realize that to withdraw at this point is really unfair, in many ways, but to go forward and take this position and then find myself sitting there and not being able to do the job the way it should be done on behalf of the president 100 percent, that would have been an even bigger mistake.

HENRY: Gregg didn't like some of the spending in the stimulus plan and had concerns the White House would take control of the census away from him. The population count determines how congressional districts are drawn, sparking Republican fears the Obama White House was going to tilt the balance of power.

OBAMA: We're going to break down some of these barriers, because the American people need it. They are desperate for us to find common ground. And I actually think more exists than it appears right now. But it's just taking some time to break down the bad habits. I'm going to keep on at it.

HENRY: Just last week, the president said Gregg would be a bridge to conservatives on efforts to rein in federal spending.

OBAMA: A trusted voice in my Cabinet.

HENRY: So, the exit may make it harder for Mr. Obama to sell the next round of his economic plans.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs expressed frustration, claiming the senator had offered his name for the job and promised to embrace the president's policies, but then backpedaled, Gibbs saying -- quote -- "We regret that he has had a change of heart."

A White House that has spent so much time wooing Republicans is showing that it can throw a punch sometimes, too.


HENRY: Now, the president just wrapped up a speech here in Springfield, Illinois, honoring Abraham Lincoln. And he tried to joke to the crowd about this whole controversy.


OBAMA: In 1854, Lincoln was simply a Springfield lawyer who had served just a single term in Congress, possibly, in his law office, his feet on a cluttered desk, his sons playing around him, his clothes a bit too small to fit his uncommon frame, maybe wondering if somebody might call him up and ask him to be commerce secretary




HENRY: So, you see, the president there is clearly trying to turn the page, the president trying to turn the page on this whole controversy.

And it should be noted as well that him coming back on Air Force One and addressing reporters on camera, that almost never happened with President Bush. So, he is trying to be more open about a controversy like this, deal with it head on. But, nevertheless, it's still a headache they did not need right now, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, in terms of selling the stimulus plan, which is what President Obama was hoping Gregg would -- would help with, how big a blow is this?

HENRY: Well, I think what they were looking more for was -- was round two of all this. They think that they have got the stimulus deal finally in the bag, and they were hoping that Gregg would lean on conservatives in the Senate, who are going to be really concerned, as well as some conservative Democrats, not just Republicans, about spending more money on this second round of bank bailouts, the foreclosure crisis, all of these big checks being written.

And he's somebody who has been known as a fiscal conservative. And, in fact, the White House is playing this big fiscal responsibility summit in early March to also deal with other big problems, Medicare, the growth of Medicare, Social Security, all these entitlement programs.

So, they were hoping he would lay the groundwork, he would reach out to Republicans. Now that's not there. And they still have this open Cabinet spot. So, this is just something they did not need right now -- Anderson.

COOPER: Not need, and it seemed like almost surprised by.

How much coordination was there between the White House and Gregg on this announcement? I mean, this guy held a press conference when the president was just about to make a big speech, kind of upstaging him. How annoyed is the White House by all of this?

HENRY: They seem pretty frustrated by the timing of all this. They had known for a couple of days, at least, that he was contemplating this and that he was likely to pull out.

But the way the whole thing played out and just the fact that he's pulling out clearly frustrated -- as you heard in Robert Gibbs' remarks there, really angry at the fact that Judd Gregg had basically indicated privately at the beginning of this whole process -- they knew that he was against the president on certain issues, but he had assured them privately that he would be on board.

So, they're really stunned by this. But the other funny thing, if you just take a step back, is the commerce secretary job has ad never been that big of a deal in previous administrations. It only became a big deal because Bill Richardson did not get the secretary of state job.

He was a little miffed, so the president-elect at that time back in November, December, made a pretty big deal about how commerce secretary would have a key seat at the economic table. Then he had to drop out, so he brought in Judd Gregg, made a big deal about bipartisanship; this is going to be a big deal.

Now he pulls out. And so it's almost like they have created the controversy a little bit, because they have really built up a job that previously was not that big of a deal -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Ed Henry, thanks.

The larger question raised by Gregg's about-face, is it a sign that Republicans have no desire for real bipartisanship? Have they in fact declared war on President Obama?

Republican Congressman Pete Sessions suggested they learn from the Taliban a while back and operate as insurgents against the Democrats. Blogger Andrew Sullivan today suggested the war against Mr. Obama is real. Republicans, he wrote, want failure.

You can decide for yourself if that theory makes sense. Some facts now from Tom Foreman.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Despite President Obama's soaring popularity, members of the GOP have startled political analysts by launching vigorous assaults on his initiatives.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I'm here today to point out the fact that this is not bipartisanship. This process that is -- we're engaging in is not smart. We're not working together.

FOREMAN: The prime target, the stimulus bill. Whether it was packed with at least a type of pork, as some Republicans said, is debatable. But the GOP found the accusation resonated with voters. Almost no elected Republicans voted for the plan. And, soon, the president was being pushed to explain why.

QUESTION: Is that a sign that you are moving away, your White House is moving away from this emphasis on bipartisanship?

FOREMAN: The fall of other Cabinet nominees built Republican confidence. They are not ready to hit the president head on, according to political watchers like Stephen Hayes of the conservative "Weekly Standard."

STEPHEN HAYES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's just the opposite.

I think, actually, Republicans are being very careful right now not to declare war on Obama. And if you listen carefully to what you're hearing from Capitol Hill leaders on the Republican side, they are attacking, almost exclusively backing House and Senate Democrats.

FOREMAN: And that distinction matters. Polls have long suggested the public loves Barack Obama, but mistrusts Congress.

(on camera): So, Republicans are quite clearly trying to force a choice on to the president. They would like to make it so that he must stand closer to congressional Democrats, and risk losing public approval, or keep his distance, and risk his own party's support.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Want to talk strategy now, both about the -- the Gregg withdrawal, but also about the war -- the idea of a war against the president by Republicans.

Let's bring in senior political analyst David Gergen, Joe Johns, and John King.

David, first your reaction to Senator Gregg's withdrawal. What did you make of that, not only that he did it, but how he did it?


DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Surprised, disappointed, found it another embarrassment for the administration, but a bigger embarrassment for Judd Gregg. After all, he did put himself forward on this.

And I don't think it was -- I think it was awkward for both sides. It does call into question, did they have really serious conversations about what this job would be like and how they would work it out before they sort of rushed into this?

And I think that raises questions about whether the Obama team did their homework. I do not think there -- but I think it's more of an embarrassment for Judd Gregg. I do not think it's a war against the White House.

I think it underscores the political culture in Washington and the philosophical divides is a -- deep, deep divisions, which the election of Barack Obama has not yet healed. And he's trying hard, but the chasm is so deep, so wide, and has been there so long, that it's going to take a long time, if ever, to change the culture. And it's one of our -- one of our biggest problems as a nation.

COOPER: We're going to have more with David and John King and Joe Johns right after this break. We have got to take a short break. We will have a lot more from them ahead.

Coming up, we will have more from our panel. You can also join the live chat happening now at You can also check out the Webcasts during the commercial breaks, Randi Kaye's live Webcasts.

Also tonight, remember those middle-class tax cuts that then candidate Obama said you would be getting? We look at the new stimulus bill to see if you actually will.

Also tonight, other news, Chris Brown and Rihanna -- both superstars -- he's accused of assaulting her. They're both up for NAACP Image Awards tonight, if you can believe it. We will have the latest on the troubling case.

And the octuplet mom as you have never seen any mom before -- what carrying eight babies does to a body, and what Angelina Jolie says about the woman who clearly seems to be trying to pattern herself after Jolie -- that and more ahead on 360.



GREGG: But, for me, I just realized, as these issues started to come at us, that -- and they started to crystallize, that it really wasn't a good fit, and that I wouldn't be comfortable doing this, and that it wouldn't be fair to him to be part of a team and not be able to be 100 percent on the team.


COOPER: Strange day, so much for a team of rivals -- Judd Gregg foregoing a Cabinet job, sparking plenty of questions about why he did it and what it means for this president, who promised changed and an end to partisanship.

Certainly, they have taken plenty of hits, some of them self- inflicted, over personnel decisions lately. But do developments today also speak to something deeper, a war, an insurgency by Republicans against the president, against Democrats in the House, and against their agenda?

Back with our panel, David Gergen, Joe Johns, John King.

John, what do you think about this whole Gregg thing? I mean, clearly, he knew of these issues, he knew of his opposition, of his philosophical differences with this White House before he took the job.

What really happened?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's an embarrassment, as David Gergen noted, Anderson, before the break, for both sides.

And in e-mails and conversations with people back in Washington today, you hear the words "amateur hour" about both the administration and about Senator Gregg, in the sense that running the Census Bureau -- many Americans are probably out there with their eyes glazed over when you start that conversation tonight -- but the Census Bureau is critical, every 10 years, when they redraw all the lines of the House seats across the United States of America.

It is politically a huge issue. And the White House wants to take control of that, most of that, out of the Commerce Department, and have more control at the White House. And Judd Gregg saw that as a political ploy.

COOPER: But they deny that.


COOPER: They say, look, it would still be the same reporting to -- to Gregg, and Gregg would report to the president.

KING: Well, Senator Gregg came to the conclusion that his influence would be undermined, or at least there would be a different set of eyes, a more political set of eyes.

But -- but, no matter who is right here, Anderson, these are the conversations that you have, especially when you're reaching across and bringing somebody from the other party into the conversation. Ray LaHood is now the transportation secretary. He's a Republican. Now, he's mostly spending road money, but he also has to deal with union issues.

So, you have a conversation with the Republican, and say, are you comfortable with our policy on this? He has to deal with minority set-asides. You have a conversation with the Republican and say, your party doesn't like some of these programs. Where are you? Are you OK with this?

If you are going to bring in a Republican to be your commerce secretary, deals mostly with trade issues -- that's a tough issue in the Democratic Party -- you have to have those conversations in detail. And everyone knew the census debate was one of the big, bubbling issues.

And then he wouldn't even vote on Barack Obama's stimulus bill while he's still a member of the United States Senate. So, there were red flags in this relationship from the beginning. And it appears that both sides did not deeply explore them enough.

And if Senator Gregg decided, in the end, he was not comfortable with it, that is his right. But the question being asked in Washington, especially after the Richardson nomination, after the Daschle nomination, after the controversies about Geithner and other Obama picks, why didn't somebody at the White House push, push, push, and push on all these issues, just to make sure?

COOPER: Joe, is it possible, though, that he -- Gregg, then, was also getting pressure from House Republicans, from Senate Republicans, who were saying, look, why are you doing this; we have this whole insurgent strategy; we have this whole -- you know, we're redefining ourselves; we're on the move; we're suddenly feeling reinvigorated, and now you're going to go and -- and play for the other team?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: There's no question he was getting tremendous pressure. He was being called all kinds of things all over Washington, D.C., because this thing just didn't look right to a lot of Republicans.

They said, here you are on Capitol Hill, one of the leaders, really, and now, all of a sudden, you're going to turn against everything that you seemingly stand for when it comes to fiscal conservatism and go and push the Obama agenda.

It was a very tough sell for him on Capitol Hill. And then you add on top of that the issue, certainly, of the census, and that was a huge problem.

On the other side, you have to say that Barack Obama was taking heat, too. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus were looking at Barack Obama, saying: Come on. I mean, what are you thinking about, bringing a guy like this, who wanted to abolish the Census -- I'm sorry -- the Commerce Department, and now you're going to put him in charge of it?

So, both guys were taking a lot of heat. On the other hand, you have to point out that they do get some credit for at least thinking about this thing, trying to change the tone in Washington. But we're just not there yet, apparently.

COOPER: So, David, though, you don't buy the idea that there is a war by Republicans against the president, whether it's -- it's -- whether the Gregg nomination was part of this, the withdrawal, or just, in general, you don't buy that?

Because, I mean, Pete Sessions, you know, who's head of the Republican Congressional Committee, was citing the Taliban as sort of an example of how to run an insurgent campaign against a -- a larger force.

GERGEN: Are there some hotheads in each party who would like to destroy the other party and see it as war? Yes, there are. There's definitely on each -- in each party, Anderson, that has been true for a while.

But it really, again, comes back to the political culture. You know, for -- for the fact that a -- that a man like Judd Gregg could not go in, for the best interests of the country, and work for -- in a -- in a Democratic administration and would be treated like Benedict Arnold, it's not that people were trying to pull him back in.

It's the ostracization. I know something about this. I have gone through this. And you feel like you're suddenly isolated, that you're in no-man's land, because you have agreed to work with the other side. That speaks to the health of the political culture.

But let me just say that I think there may be a silver lining here for the Obama administration. For the life of me, I have never been able to understand why they wanted to put a political figure at the Commerce Department. They have tried twice now.

What they need there is what the Commerce Department has traditionally had. They need a CEO in this administration. They don't have anybody. What they need most of all -- to go back to it again -- they need a Jack Welch-type CEO they can bring in and help to oversee some of this spending and make sure it is well done and that -- and bring some trust.

And I think they have got the opportunity now to put the kind of person they should have put in there to begin with.

COOPER: Well, I told last week Jack Welch actually watches our program. So, maybe he's hearing you right now, David, and...


COOPER: ... maybe will be interested in what you have to say.


COOPER: We're going to have more with our panel coming up.

Just ahead, also, candidate Obama promised you a middle-class tax cut. Does the stimulus bill really deliver one, and, if so, how much? Your bottom line is coming up next.

And, later, the 44th president paying tribute to the 16th president -- Barack Obama speaking just about two hours ago about Abraham Lincoln and how Lincoln's legacy touches him. We will play a big chunk of the president's remarks later tonight.

Also, Chris Brown and Rihanna, superstars both, but what really happened between the two that led to his arrest? Both were up for NAACP Image Awards tonight. We will tell how that went as well -- details ahead.



OBAMA: Looking out at this room full of so many who did so much for me, I'm also reminded of what Lincoln once said to a favor-seeker who claimed it was his efforts that made the difference in the election.


OBAMA: And Lincoln asked him, "So, you think you made me president?"

"Yes," the man replied. "Under providence, I think I did."

"Well," said Lincoln, "it's a pretty mess you have got me into."


OBAMA: "But I forgive you."



COOPER: President Obama about two hours ago tonight.

We're going to play a lot more of his remarks later on in the program, because they're -- they're worth listening to.

It's a tough job, now more than ever. Yet, somehow, there's -- there's never a shortage of applicants for presidency. President Obama tonight in Springfield, Illinois, on the verge of getting the stimulus bill signed, page after page of spending, page after page of tax cuts, including the kind of break for middle-class Americans that Mr. Obama mentioned at just about every stop on the campaign trail.

But look closer in the details, and, at least in the case of the tax cut, there's a little less than meets the eye.

Details tonight from Candy Crowley.


OBAMA: Thank you, everybody.



OBAMA: When they finally pass our plan, I believe it will be a major step forward on our path to economic recovery.

CROWLEY: But the stimulus bill President Obama is getting is not the one he wanted. About that $1,000 tax break for 95 percent of working Americans:

OBAMA: Having an extra $1,000 during some tight times can really make a difference. So, that is a central part of the package.

CROWLEY: Both the Senate and the House voted for it, and the president wanted it, but it came out of conference committee Obama- lite: instead of $1,000 per couple, $800, instead of $500 for an individual, $400, about $13 a week over the course of a year.

There are $282 billion in tax cuts included in the bill, but this is the one with the broadest reach, touted along with a college tuition tax credit, as key.

OBAMA: And $1,000 worth of badly-needed tax relief to working and middle-class families -- these steps will put more money in the pockets of those Americans who are most likely to spend it.

CROWLEY: It is the first lesson presidents learn. They don't get everything they want. Second, you got to give something to get something.

Disappointment two, it's likely only three Republicans will vote for this bill in its final form, less than fulsome bipartisanship. But most Americans don't blame him, and that includes Republican lawmakers.

AMY WALTER, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "THE HOTLINE": They say wonderful things about Barack Obama. He's gracious. He's helpful. He reached across the aisle. He's trying. Too bad that the House leadership ruined it for him.

That says to me they get that, yes, Obama's still popular, and, yes, they're still willing to listen to him.

CROWLEY: And, somewhere, some time, he will need them.

Politically, and line by line, the bill is not what he envisioned, but it's hard to argue that getting $790 billion out of Congress in less than a month is anything less than a big victory. Politics is often about loving what you have got and moving on.

OBAMA: It's only the beginning of what we're going to have to do to turn around our economy. CROWLEY: The transition has begun -- next phase, stabilizing the housing and banking industries, and doing all those other things he campaigned about. And they're getting hinky on the Hill.

WALTER: I was talking to somebody today who said, well, how do we even get -- how can there be an appropriations process? Aren't we sort of done with that?


WALTER: There's no more money left.

CROWLEY: This will not get easier.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: We're going to have more with our panel ahead on the stimulus and whether or not Republicans have decided to declare a war on the president. We are going to bring you also the president's comments in Springfield tonight. He wrapped up about two hours ago. Hear for yourself what he had to say.

Also tonight, Michael Phelps -- is a local sheriff going too far? He's arrested a number of partygoers already. According to their lawyers, all this guy cares about is the nabbing the Olympian.

And, later, new photos of the octuplet mom before she had the babies -- plus, death threats against her now. We will play you some of the chilling voice mails -- coming up.



OBAMA: This man, our first Republican president, knew better than anybody what it meant to pull yourself up by your bootstraps.

He understood that strain of personal liberty and self-reliance, that fierce independence at the heart of the American experience. But he also understood something else. He recognized that, while each of us must do our part, work as hard as we can, be as responsible as we can, although we are responsible for our own fates, in the end, there are certain things we cannot do on our own. There are certain things we can only do together. There are certain things only a union can do.


COOPER: The president tonight paying tribute to President Lincoln, issuing a call to action in his name, also taking a poke at his former commerce secretary pick.

Updating our breaking news -- and, by the way, as I mentioned, we're going to play a lot more of the president's comments, which happened about two hours ago, a little bit later on tonight.

Republican Senator Judd Gregg -- this is the breaking news -- dropping out of contention for the job. And we have the president's late reaction to that.

Let's dig deeper now with David Gergen, Joe Johns, and John King.

John, this idea of -- that some have raised, of a Republican war against the president, at least in -- if not by name, at least in -- in their agenda, I want to play just a bit more of what the president had to say tonight in Illinois about the lack of bipartisanship.


OBAMA: Such knee-jerk disdain for government, this constant rejection of any common endeavor cannot rebuild our levees or our roads or our bridges. It can't refurbish our schools or modernize our health care system. It can't lead to the next medical discovery or yield the research and technology that will spark a clean-energy economy.

Only a nation can do those things.


COOPER: Republicans who are going to be up for reelection in -- in two years, do they see a value in working with this president? Or do they define themselves and make themselves stronger by being, you know, an insurgency, an opposition?

KING: It's a little dangerous to overgeneralize, Anderson, but there is a pattern for this.

Now, first, it's worth noting, these Republicans did not fall randomly from the sky into their seats in the House and the Senate. They were elected in conservative districts and largely conservative states, and most of these Republicans go home to places Barack Obama did not win or did not win by any large margin, if he did.

So, they feel safe opposing him now on what they see as big spending. This is a bread-and-butter Republican issue: big government spending and big deficit spending.

The question will be, when we move on to other issues, like health care, like climate change, like another round of the financial bailout or another round of an auto bailout, what will the Republicans do? One fight does not make a war.

But, remember, in 1993 and 1994, Republicans decided voting no and casting just about everything President Clinton did as big, liberal government, not what this president promised you in the campaign, they decided back then, that was their strategy.

And guess what happened in the 1994 midterms? Fifty-two Republican seats, in part because Bill Clinton played into their hands. So, we're in the first skirmish here, but it is worth watching to see whether we get a repeat now of what happened when the last Democratic president came to office in his first term.

COOPER: Joe, what are you hearing on the Hill?

JOHNS: Well, number one, it sometimes helps a president to be able to run against the Congress, as it were.

The problem is, the Republicans aren't in control of the Congress. It's the Democrats who are running things over there. So, it's helpful to Barack Obama, to the extent that he has a bit of a foil that he can deal with and talk to the country and say, "Those Republicans are opposing me." But at the end of the day, it's his own party that's in control.

And as we all know by now, there are a lot of Democrats, particularly some over in the House, who are causing a bit of trouble for the president right now. As I said, the Black Caucus among them. There are people over there who say they think too much was taken out of this last bill.

COOPER: David, on the Democratic side, I guess the flip side of the argument, are the Democrats, and especially in the House, really, do they believe in this bipartisanship? I mean, is this just the president kind of singing this song and no one else really dancing to the tune?

GERGEN: In terms of our political culture, Anderson, the House of Representatives for many years now has been where the worst problems have occurred, the greatest hostility, the greatest divides occur. So on both sides in the House, there tend to be an awful lot of people -- and this has long roots going back into the way we redistrict in various states, in which they've become essentially Republican districts and Democratic districts that are safe. And what you get is very -- a hardening of lines on both sides, and the middle gets squeezed out, and you don't find this kind of moderation.

But I must add, there's one other aspect to this. From Barack Obama's point of view, he has now scored a very substantial victory with this stimulus package. It's a very, very big victory for him.

The question is, what's the cost for him now going forward? It may be, given all these divisions that are cropping up, the ones that I think John king and Joe Johns have described so well, it's going to get much harder now when the automobile companies come in and look for a handout, as they will in the next -- in coming days, on the bank bailout. I think health care has suddenly gotten a lot more difficult, to see it getting through to fruition this year, which health-care reform was right at the top when Barack Obama was elected and when he came to Washington.

COOPER: Yes. Sure was. David Gergen, Joe Johns, John King, thanks. We're going to have to leave it there.

Coming up on 360, just a short time ago, the nation's 44th president gave tribute to the 16th president in the city Abraham Lincoln called home. Coming up, we'll have more of President Obama on the man he so admires, Abraham Lincoln, in his own words. Also ahead, as the octuplets' mom faces growing anger and outrage, new details about her alleged interest -- some would say obsession -- with actress Angelina Jolie. Plus, the reaction from Angelina Jolie.

And new details about the new set of charges music superstar Chris Brown may be facing. How did the singer's image fall so far, so fast?


COOPER: Angelina Jolie on the right there, of course, and the octuplets' mom, who denies that she's trying to be like the actress. You can be the judge.

Jolie is reportedly creeped out by Nadya Suleman. Sources also say that Suleman has made numerous attempts to contact the actress. We'll have more on that in a moment.

A couple days ago, we showed you this animation of what pregnancy might have looked like with someone carrying eight babies in their womb. That's the rendering of the eight babies inside. That's what we think it might have looked like.

This is what we know it looked like from the outside, a very pregnant Nadya Suleman. We got this photograph from the Web site TMZ. It says this shot was taken just eight days before she gave birth. It is quite a picture.

We also have new information about the fertility clinic at the center of this story, but we begin with some disturbing news: the death threats against the mother. Up close tonight, here's Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When most women give birth, they are overwhelmed with congratulatory messages. Not this woman. The publicist for the octuplets' mom says her client has been bombarded with hundreds of angry e-mails and voice mails, some including death threats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That little gold-digging trailer trash tramp has no right to be using the money of the taxpayers to pay for her (EXPLETIVE DELETED) welfare tribe of little children.

JOANNE KILLEEN, SPOKESWOMAN FOR NADYA SULEMAN: I've gotten death threats. One gentleman called, and I think he was from Fargo, said that people like me should be put in a wood chipper.

KAYE: Many are mad because Nadya Suleman is an unmarried single mother on Food Stamps, who already had six children. Taxpayers aren't happy about paying for these babies, too, even though she says she's getting her master's degree, then a job. Fertility experts aren't thrilled with any of this either. DR. JAMIE GRIFO, NYU FERTILITY CENTER: The number of embryos transferred, that's beyond what our guidelines are, that exposed this patient and her babies to very -- very severe medical risks. And that's not what we do.

KAYE: The American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends the transfer of only one embryo for women under 35 and no more than two.

Suleman, seen here in this picture from, is 33. She told NBC she had six embryos implanted, then two of them split.

(on camera) Part of the problem: the U.S. doesn't have any laws to enforce the guidelines. The CDC told us it keeps track of fertility data, but reporting is strictly voluntary. With no accountability, more than 50,000 children a year are born as a result of in vitro fertilization in this country, making it a $1 billion business nationwide.

(voice-over) Meanwhile, the octuplets' birth continues to play out in Hollywood, too. The "Chicago Sun-Times" reports actress Angelina Jolie is, quote, "totally creeped out" by Suleman, who has denied trying to look like Jolie, but bears an uncanny resemblance.

The paper also says a source told them Suleman sent Jolie letters over the past year about her talent and her efforts to help children around the world.

Is there a movie in here somewhere?


COOPER: So is there a reaction from this spokesperson about the Angelina Jolie comparison?

KAYE: There is, Anderson. We spoke with her tonight, and she said that she'd be shocked if Angelina Jolie, a woman of her stature, as she described her, would call her client or describe her client like that. She says that she doesn't believe for a minute that Angelina Jolie is, quote, "creeped out" by Nadya Suleman.

COOPER: That was in the "Chicago Sun-Times", the report originally?

KAYE: The report originally was there, and then we called the publicist tonight to get some reaction.

COOPER: All right. Randi, thanks.

Up next, a medical finding all parents will want to hear about. A court says there is no link between vaccines and autism. The question is, will parents believe it? We'll have details ahead.

And then, one of music's rising stars fall. Chris Brown charged with attacking girlfriend Rihanna, another big star. Find out what happened and why he's been nominated for an image award. And later, much more from President Obama in his own words. He's honoring Lincoln and managing a legacy of his own. His comments, in his own words, when 360 continues.





COOPER: That's Chris Brown, a music icon to millions of young Americans. This video, in fact, for his hit song has been viewed more than 87 million times on YouTube.

Chris Brown and his girlfriend, singer Rihanna, were nominated for NAACP Image Awards. The ceremony was tonight. Both were not present and we just found out neither actually won this evening, but they are making some very big news after Brown was accused of brutally attacking Rihanna.

The latest now in "Crime & Punishment" from David Mattingly.



DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On his Web site, Chris Brown bills himself as the boy next door who became a music superstar. And at 19, he is one of the most popular R&B singers in the country.

His girlfriend, Rihanna, is called the new princess of pop. She has graced the covers of beauty magazines and has sold millions of albums. Both are young and famous, and right now both are at the center of a disturbing police investigation in Los Angeles, where Brown has been accused in an attack against a woman identified by sources close to the couple as Rihanna.

JERRY PENACOLI, "EXTRA": Chris Brown has built his career on a very squeaky clean, clean-cut image. So again, this is why this particular instance of alleged domestic violence is really just catching everybody by surprise.

MATTINGLY: The LAPD says the incident occurred early Sunday morning, just hours before Brown and Rihanna were to appear at the Grammys. Neither of them showed up at the awards ceremony.

Authorities believe an argument between Brown and a woman turned physical, with the woman suffering visible injuries. Brown was arrested and released on $50,000 bail. Neither he nor his lawyer near Rihanna have commented. The D.A. has sent the case back to the police for more evidence.

The allegations have already cost Brown major endorsements. Wrigley dropped him as a pitchman. So did the "Got milk?" campaign, with both citing what they call serious allegations.

The singer's sister is shocked by the allegations.

LYTRELL "TOOTIE" BUNDY, BROWN'S SISTER: He's -- always been a good boy, never violent, if that's what people want to know.

MATTINGLY: The story has also stunned the hip. Hop community. In a radio interview, Kanye West was quick to come to Rihanna's side.

KANYE WEST, SINGER: Rihanna is so important to our culture, to you know, pop music. In that sense, I feel like that's my baby sis, and I would do any and everything to help her in any situation.

MATTINGLY: Brown and Rihanna are now shunning the spotlight. She's canceled a concert in Malaysia, and he won't be at the NBA all- star game this weekend. Two superstars used to headlines, but not like this.

PENACOLI: Look at Chris Brown, triple threat: singer, actor, dancer. Rihanna, beautiful and, you know, a voice like, you know, a song bird. I mean, these two had nowhere but up to go. It's just, honestly, a shame.

MATTINGLY: David Mattingly, CNN.


COOPER: Just ahead, President Obama in his own words, giving tribute to his political hero.

First, Randi Kaye joins us with the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Randi.

KAYE: Hey, there, Anderson.

A special federal court today ruled that vaccines are not to blame to autism. The decision: a major blow to parents who believe that vaccines caused their children's autism. Thousands of families are seeking awards from the government's vaccine injury compensation fund. Today's ruling was in three widely-watched test cases.

Stocks regained some ground today after dipping to a three-month low. The Dow staged a comeback and closed just six points down. The NASDAQ rose 11 points. The S&P 500 edged up one point.

New signs that South Carolina police are set on building a drug case against Olympic champion Michael Phelps. Two lawyers say their clients were among eight people arrested recently in connection to the investigation. All of this fallout from that photograph showing Phelps smoking a marijuana pipe at a party near the University of South Carolina. That's actually a marijuana bong.

Henrietta Hughes, the woman who asked President Obama for help during a town hall meeting in Florida two days ago, is no longer homeless. The wife of a state legislator is letting Hughes and her son stay rent free at a house she owns until they get back on their feet. An act of kindness from a total stranger.


HENRIETTA HUGHES, NO LONGER HOMELESS: Well, overwhelming gratitude, because no one would do that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes they would. Yes they would. Definitely.

HUGHES: Someone like her. Someone like her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Definitely. I was just in the right place at the right time.

HUGHES: Yes. So -- I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're just very grateful that we got together.




KAYE: Clearly overwhelmed. Yes.

COOPER: ... that family, yes.

Coming up next on 360, President Obama's arriving back right now at Andrews Air Force Base, Air Force One. Let's take a look. Andrews -- Air Force One just pulling up there. The president will, in no short order, be coming off the plane. We'll try to bring that to you.

He's returning, of course, from Springfield, Illinois. It has been a busy day for the president. We're going to stay -- we're going to stay with this, watching the president get off, just in case he happens to say anything to the cameras, although it's doubtful he will. It's been a very busy day.

And a big speech in Springfield, Illinois, was planned to commemorate the birthday of Lincoln, the 200th birthday of Lincoln.

Of course, it did not go quite as planned today with the withdrawal of Senator Gregg from contention to be the commerce secretary. Apparently, the White House had known about this for at least a few days, but did not expect it to come about quite as it did today. They seemed to be caught by surprise. Gregg giving a news conference while the president -- just a short time before the president was to take the stage in Springfield, Illinois. So clearly, that took a good part of the attention away from the president today.

The White House was quick, then, to put out a statement about half an hour later.

The president also on Air Force one earlier today, in a rare talk on Air Force one, rare for the last president, President Bush. It's not something, according to Ed Henry, that President Bush did very often. But here we see the president about to come down the steps at Andrew Air Force Base from Air Force One.

Let's redo the statement from press secretary Robert Gibbs in response to Senator Gregg. He said, "Senator Gregg reached out to the president, offered his name for secretary of commerce. He was very clear throughout the interviewing process that, despite past disagreements about policies, he would support, embrace, and move forward with the president's agenda. Once it became clear after his nomination that Senator Gregg was not going to be supporting some of President Obama's key economic priorities, it became necessary for Senator Gregg and the Obama administration to part ways. We regret that he has had a change of heart."

Quite a blunt statement from the White House in response to Senator Gregg's press conference earlier today.

From here the president will board Marine One, going back to the White House. Actually, we're being told he's going to drive to -- back to the White House. And we're not sure what the delay is in the president getting off the -- Air Force one, but we are waiting along with everybody else.

It has been a busy week, obviously, for the president, trying to sell the stimulus plan. There had been talk about trying to get a vote on that. Some had hoped for a vote even as early as tomorrow. That seems not to, though, going to be happening. There's still, though, technically a deal has been done. We're still waiting to find out when the actual vote will take place on the president's plan.

What -- what comes as a blow for the White House is that Senator Gregg was clearly, as commerce secretary, was slated to try to sell the second part of the TARP spending to Republicans on Capitol Hill. That is clearly something he was not apparently willing to do. He said he philosophically just disagreed with the president on the matter, as well as the question as who had control of the census reporting and who would report to whom in that process.

But for the White House, it has clearly come as a blow.

We're told the president is heading to Chicago tomorrow. And we want to play a little bit more of his statements from earlier today in Springfield, Illinois, on the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln.

As we're waiting, we're just going to take a quick break, and we'll bring it to you on the other side of the break.


COOPER: President Obama returning just minutes ago to Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, back from Springfield, Illinois, a tribute dinner to Abraham Lincoln.

It's, of course, well known that the 16th president, born 200 years ago today, is President Obama's political hero. I asked President Obama about that recently when I interviewed him in the Oval Office. Take a look at his answer.


COOPER: You read a lot about Abraham Lincoln. What is the greatest thing that you've learned from your studies of Lincoln that you bring into the office right now?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, when I think about Abraham Lincoln, what I'm struck by is the fact that he constantly learned on the job. He got better.

You know, he wasn't defensive; he wasn't arrogant about his tasks. He was very systemic in saying, "I'm going to master the job, and I understand it's going to take some time."

But in his case, obviously, the Civil War was the central issue, and he spent a lot of time learning about military matters, even though that wasn't his area of experience.

Right now, I'm learning an awful lot about the economy. I'm not a trained economist, but I'm spending a lot of time thinking about that so that I can make the very best decisions possible for the American people.


COOPER: Tonight in Springfield, President Obama gave tribute to his hero. We played some of his remarks earlier. Let's listen to more of the 44th president in his own words.


OBAMA: It's only by coming together to do what people need done that we will, in Lincoln's words, lift artificial weights from all shoulders, give an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life. That's all people are looking for: a fair chance in the race of life. That's what's required of us, now and in the years ahead.

We will be remembered for what we choose to make of this moment. And when posterity looks back on our time, as we are looking back on Lincoln's, I don't want it said that we saw an economic crisis, but we did not stem it; that we saw our schools decline and our bridges crumble, but we did not rebuild them; that the world changed in the 21st century, but America did not lead it; that we were consumed with small things, petty things when we were called to do great things.

Instead, let them say that this generation, our generation of Americans rose to the moment and gave America a new birth of freedom and opportunity in our time.

These are trying days, and they will grow tougher in the months to come. And there will be moments when our doubts rise and our hopes recede, but let's always remember that we, as a people, have been here before. There were times when our revolution itself seemed altogether improbable, when the union was all but lost, when fascism set seemed set to prevail around the world, and yet what earlier generations discovered and what we must rediscover right now is that it is precisely when we are in the deepest valley, when the climb is steepest that Americans relearn how to take the mountaintop together, as one nation.

As one nation, as one people. That's how we will beat back our present dangers. That is how we will surpass what trials may come. That's how we will do what Lincoln called on us all to do. And nobly save the last best hope on earth.


COOPER: The last best hope on earth.

Coming up at the top of the hour, the Senator who invited himself into the cabinet, and then invited himself out. Why did Judd Gregg do it? Did the White House blow it? Is it a sign the Republicans are declaring war on the president? Next on 360.


COOPER: Tonight we begin with breaking news. President Obama reacting to the stunning announcement today that Republican Judd Gregg has backed out as commerce secretary nominee.

Tonight, why Senator Judd changed his mind. Was it just a philosophical difference, or is this another sign that the Republican Party has, in fact, declared all-out war on President Obama?

We begin with dramatic announcements by the man who was to be commerce secretary and the reaction by the president. Ed Henry has the breaking news.


ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Obama is vowing the loss of a Republican in his cabinet will not stop his efforts to bridge the partisan divide.