Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Spending Bill Vote on Hold; Gupta Passes on Surgeon General Job
Aired March 5, 2009 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We have breaking news on several fronts, first, a serious setback for President Obama.
And, later, Dr. Sanjay Gupta telling us why he is taking his name out of contention to be America's surgeon general.
First, though, the setback involving a massive bill to keep the government going until October. It's the last piece of President Bush's final budget, $410 billion, about $8 billion of which is earmarks for Democrats and Republicans.
President Obama wanted it passed quickly and quietly. Tonight, it looks like it will be neither.
Dana Bash is with us to explain why.
Dana, an embarrassing delay for Democrats on a much publicized spending bill. What happened?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Democrats going into this, Anderson, they thought they were going to be OK, because, on spending bills -- and this is, of course, a spending bill -- they usually get a fair amount of Republican support.
But, on this one, the reality is, as we have reported on this program, it raised spending across the board about 8 percent and had, as you mentioned, about 8,000 earmarks in it. And Republicans just slammed it as wasteful spending.
And at the end of the day, because of the publicity on all of that, they lost some Democratic votes and even some Republican votes late this evening.
COOPER: But it's interesting that the folks on Capitol Hill are slamming it when they're the ones who stuffed this thing full of earmarks and pork, $2 million for pig odor research, another $2 million for grape research, $1 million for a convention center in Myrtle Beach.
What are they complaining about, if they're the ones that stuffed this thing?
BASH: That is such an incredibly important point, Anderson.
And some of those Republicans who are voting no saying this is wasteful spending, they do have millions of dollars, those very senators, millions of dollars in this bill.
But, look, what Democratic senators are hoping is that they can allow more Republican amendments, votes on those perhaps early next week, and that at the very least, airing those out -- many of them won't pass, but at least airing those out will create some goodwill, at least, get this over the line that they need to get this bill passed and over with.
COOPER: It's interesting, though.
The Obama administration was kind of shrugging this thing off as last year's business. They said, look, this is the Bush's budget, basically. It's last year's. Other opponents said, look, it's this year's money.
Are they doing anything behind the scenes on the earmark front one way or another?
BASH: They really have been distancing themselves over at the White House to this bill.
And I can tell you the answer to that is yes. Democratic sources tonight have told me that, despite what you hear or don't hear from the White House publicly, they have been working behind the scenes to get this passed.
In fact, I was told tonight, Anderson, that the treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, he was even tonight working on one Democratic senator who they were hoping to get to vote yes who didn't go their way and that is why they delayed the vote. And that's just an example of the intense power that they're trying to put on these Democrats from the White House even though publicly they're not saying much.
And the reality is, as you mentioned at the top of the program, they just want to move on and get past this and work on the Obama agenda. And the fact is, there has been a lot of bad publicity, specifically about those earmarks in this bill.
COOPER: And no moving on tomorrow, at least. Dana Bash, thanks.
While the budget was (INAUDIBLE) on Capitol Hill, President Obama was throwing a coming-out party of sorts for health care reform today, Democrats, Republicans, people from all sides of the issue at the White House, the president today, unlike Hillary Clinton, bringing key players together out in the open, not behind closed doors, Mr. Obama making no promises, except to keep an open mind.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If there is a way of getting this done where we're driving down costs and people are getting health insurance at an affordable rate and have choice of doctor, have flexibility in terms of their plans, and we could do that entirely through the market, I would be happy to do it that way.
If there was a way of doing it that involved more government regulation and involvement, I'm happy to do it that way, as well.
I just want to figure out what works.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, whatever it is, it won't be cheap -- the president already setting aside more than $600 billion over the next 10 years for the transition.
And if finding the money were not challenging enough, the president is taking on health care with the economy struggling and take a look at the markets tanking, the Dow losing another 4 percent, new word that GM, General Motors, could be on the edge of bankruptcy, Citigroup shares trading about a buck.
David Gergen said -- said he thinks the president is trying to do too much, and that was before Mr. Obama launched his health care effort today.
Here's Joe Johns with the "Raw Politics."
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's almost never a perfect time to reform health care, but President Obama says the time is now.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let's just be clear. When times were good, we didn't get it done.
When we had mild recessions, we didn't get it done. When we were in peacetime, we did not get it done. When we were at war, we did not get it done. There is always a reason not to do it. And it strikes me that now is exactly the time for us to deal with this problem.
JOHNS: With the economy in shambles, Wall Street bailouts, automakers sucking wind in Detroit, the mortgage crisis, isn't $634 billion over 10 years for health care reform too much to take on? Ask Phil Gingrey, health care expert/medical doctor and Republican congressman from Georgia.
(on camera): The president has a massive agenda. Is it too much to throw health care on top of that right now?
REP. PHIL GINGREY (R), GEORGIA: Well, I think it absolutely is, to try to come up with the plan, the comprehensive plan to deal with the 47 million uninsured and how best to deliver health care. And to say that we're going to do that in five months, by August one of this year, I think it is too much.
JOHNS (voice-over): There are fundamental philosophical disagreements over whether the market or the government should control health care, which suggests to Gingrey reform won't be easy. GINGREY: I'm not itching for a fight. I'm not itching for a fight. But I'm just saying, when I see the other guy putting on his boxing gloves and, you know, dancing around in the ring, I kind of suspect that maybe a fight's coming.
JOHNS: But the president's supporters, who control Congress, say it's critical to reform health care right now, because people who lose their jobs also lose their health insurance.
Fixing health care won't be cheap, especially at a time of economic crisis. Congressman Henry Waxman just returned from the president's health care summit.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D-CA), GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: It will be an expensive bill, but what is more expensive is not to do the reform, because our health care system is -- costs are out of control, and the only way to control cost is to reform the system.
JOHNS (on camera): Still, many Republicans say, for now, health care reform is change they might be able to believe in. But new administrations moving too quickly have been known to make mistakes, a history lesson the president might want to heed.
Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: So what do you think? Is the president trying to do too much. Join the live chat happening now at AC360.com. We want to hear from you. Also, check out Erica Hill's live Webcasts during the break.
We're going to talk to our panel about that, talk to David Gergen, David Walker, and Pamela Gentry.
Also tonight, we will take you south of the border, where spring break is happening right in the middle of a bloody drug war. Are American kids risking their lives for a few days of fun in the sun?
Later, California's highest court taking up same-sex marriage, a key court hearing today, the debate over seven judges possibly overturning the vote of millions of Californians.
COOPER: Updating our breaking news: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tonight delaying a key vote on the last chunk of this year's budget. They don't have the votes to pass it, basically. And we're talking about President Bush's last budget. It's come under fire for all the pork it contains, with Democrats and Republicans squirreling away -- squirreling away billions for pet projects.
Let's dig deeper with senior political analyst David Gergen, Pamela Gentry, senior political analyst for BET, and David Walker, who ran the Government Accountability Office under Presidents Bush and Clinton.
David Gergen, the president said today, look, health care is a key part of the economic crisis, so why shouldn't he be tackling it? You have said in the past he's trying to do too much.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Anderson, I admire the president for his ambitions, his desire to fix the health care system and energy and climate change. All of that is very necessarily and very important to move quickly.
But the crucial thing now is, this economy is in freefall. There was a gathering of business leaders today in New York, a private gathering. I'm told the gloom and doom was thick. The market today is in near-panic selling. General Motors reported today of substantial doubt about its viability.
And very importantly, the president's own team, at the Treasury Department today, the deputy secretary who was going to be nominated soon withdrew today. Undersecretary withdrew from a nomination process. There is no nominated person in place at the Treasury Department other than Tim Geithner.
Under these circumstances, I think it's important, it's urgent that the president focus, he and his team focus like -- with laser- like intensity on this economy. They have to stop the bleeding. Once the patient stops bleeding, then they can perform surgery that's necessary, too.
COOPER: David Walker, the president's point, health care is key to stimulating the economy.
DAVID WALKER, FORMER UNITED STATES COMPTROLLER GENERAL: We clearly need comprehensive health care reform. Universal coverage for preventative wellness and catastrophic has to be part of that.
But any comprehensive health care reform needs to save money as compared to the current baseline. The last thing that we ought to be doing is spending more money, when we have made tens of trillions of dollars more promises than we have the money for already.
COOPER: Pamela, it does -- it's interesting when you look at this White House health care summit today. You know, there were Republicans there and Democrats there and everyone is talking about cooperation and bipartisanship.
That won't last. So why have this big to-do today?
PAMELA GENTRY, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, BET: Well, I thought it was really interesting that he brought in Republicans and Democrats and all of these people who are stakeholders, because the stakeholders are who defeated the earlier reform efforts with the Clinton administration, because they just did not see where they could profit in that type of environment.
But now this time they're looking at it as possibly creating more business, because there's going to be more uninsured people out there. And I don't think that they will suffer like they did under the Harry- Louise ads, before more people now are unemployed and really want to see if they can get something done.
I thought it was a curious crowd today, and they were very anxious to come out after the event and talk with the press.
WALKER: It's not an issue of Harry and Louise. We're headed for Thelma and Louise.
WALKER: This economy is in tough shape. Our federal finances are headed for Thelma and Louise. And we better get our act together.
Dave Gergen is exactly right. You have got to focus on the credit crisis. We have got to get the economy turned around. Yes, we need comprehensive health care reform, but first things first.
COOPER: It's interesting, David Gergen hearing no one wants to work with Tim Geithner, basically, that he's kind of -- it sounds like he's kind of wandering the halls of the Treasury Department by himself.
I hope he at least has an assistant or something. Take us into a -- you and Dave Walker both worked in the White House. I mean, I -- I think, on the outside, we think, well, look, they have limitless people working on this kind of stuff. They have big staffs. They can do all these things at once.
You're really arguing that personality plays a role and that there are limited resources in terms of time and attention that can be paid to too many things at once.
GERGEN: My entire experience is that the White House is a very small place. You only have a few players, and you cannot do too many things at once and do them well.
Anderson, I don't think it is that people don't want to work with Tim Geithner. I think, in fact, many people are extremely drawn to Tim Geithner. There's a lot of respect for him in various communities.
I think one of the problems they have got is that they have set the bar so high, that it's very difficult to pass the vet. It's very difficult to be approved for these jobs.
One of the reasons that reportedly the number-two person for Treasury withdrew was the vetting process is taking too long and there are too many questions arising about her past experience at the Securities and Exchange Commission.
We are knocking out good people to come in and work. And I think the president has to address that and get that solved. I cannot tell you -- there's also this issue increasingly with the health care bill and other things that's coming out of the administration.
The public is very much with the president. But I think David Walker would agree that there's an erosion of confidence in the business community right now. There is a sense in the business community that the administration is picking up this sort of populist anti-business chant, and that it's -- business is feeling increasingly alienated.
In the middle of an economic crisis, the president needs the business community to be on board to get this stuff done and stop the bleeding.
COOPER: David Walker, should the president be kind of rejecting the markets like this, basically saying, well, look, its polls, watch them up and down, it's not something you want to watch on a continuous basis?
WALKER: Look, you don't want to watch it on a day-to-day basis, but the fact of the matter is, the trend is down, down, down. It's a serious issue. There's a crisis of confidence.
There's a lack of action with regard to the credit crunch. We still don't know when we're going to get a plan. You know, there are a lot of things the president should be commended for in trying to deliver on his campaign promises, but first things first.
COOPER: Pamela, very briefly, do you think the president's going to try to reach out more to Wall Street in the coming days?
GENTRY: I think he's going to have to. It comes up every day in every briefing, and everyone wants to know when is he going to make some firmer aggressions toward Wall Street and getting the economy more page one?
He has had a lot of summits and I think more people want to him working specifically on just getting Wall Street back on track.
COOPER: We will see.
Pamela Gentry, good to have you, David Walker as well, David Gergen, as well.
More breaking news tonight: Sanjay Gupta's decision not to be surgeon general, we will talk to him about that, get into the specifics of health care reform and the president as well.
Also tonight, singer Chris Brown in court, brutal details of what police say he did to superstar singer Rihanna.
And, later, back to the White House for our first look at the first daughters in the most powerful playground in the land -- coming up when 360 continues.
COOPER: Now tonight's other breaking news, late word that 360 M.D. Dr. Sanjay Gupta will not be America's top M.D. He's taken his name out of consideration to be next surgeon general of the United States.
Sanjay is with us to talk about why.
So, Sanjay, we're certainly happy that you're going to stay at CNN. What made you decide to withdraw your name?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me say, first of all, it was a very, very, very hard decision, tough decision.
Certainly, it's -- I was very flattered and honored and humbled even to be considered for this. For me, I think it really came down to personal issues. You know, we're -- my third daughter is coming any day now, Anderson. You have actually talked about my other daughters when they were born on your show.
And you know how much family means to me. And I came to grips with this idea that I would probably have to live for years away from them, sort of commute back and forth.
And this job of ours -- you know, you and I have traveled all over the world -- it takes us away from the people we love I think too much already. So, I think that it was just going to be too hard. Also...
COOPER: Well, would you have been able to continue as a surgeon?
GUPTA: Yes. Ironically, no. And that was something that I learned as I sort of went through this process. It's very hard for the surgeon general to be a practicing surgeon.
COOPER: Because you practice surgery. You're a neurosurgeon. You operate on people, I think, every Monday, basically.
GUPTA: Yes, I operate every week, and I see patients in the office at a county hospital, a hospital that I have chosen to work at.
And I think it would have been a tough thing to abandon my surgical career. Four years of not operating, maybe even more years than that, of not operating, you're effectively saying goodbye to your surgical career. And I came to terms with that. And I think it was just hard to do.
COOPER: There have been a bunch of reports saying it was about money, that you didn't want to take the lower salary.
GUPTA: That was a sacrifice that we -- I certainly was willing to make.
And I think, Anderson, there are people who are drawn to public service and people who are not. I have always been drawn to public service in my life. I have been in public service before. It really was not about the money at all.
My wife and I talked about this. We were willing to do this. This was much more personal, about time with family and the surgical career.
COOPER: All right, let's talk big picture, health care.
You have talked, you have sat down with President Obama, talked about with -- with -- you know, talked to him about this. How big a priority is this for him? And how difficult is it going to be for him?
GUPTA: You know, it's interesting.
There's no secret that I sat down and talked to him about a lot of different things. But he was very clear to me. I remember this conversation well, when he talked about the fact that the economy, health care, energy. I remember him saying that. He's said it publicly, obviously, since then. But he said that to me in particular.
And I think what he was doing today and in speeches passed was really trying to draw what your panel was talking about, this relationship between the economy and health care.
And it's going to be one of these big decisions I think in the mind-set of people -- and we're going to do a lot of reporting on this on your show, Anderson -- do you think the health care and the economy are inextricably linked, or do you think they belong in different silos?
How difficult is it to get some of this more comprehensive reform? It's difficult. He has -- he talked about Teddy Roosevelt, Truman, Clinton. Obviously, we have heard lots of administrations -- heard lots of administrations trying to do this in the past, not with success.
What sets it up to be different this time? We have to wait and see on that, Anderson.
COOPER: But, in your opinion, is the system broken?
GUPTA: Yes. I mean, I think, clearly, any time that people can't get health care that is available to other people, that's a broken system.
There are people who can't get basic health care needs. They can't get operations when they need them. The health care system seems to work well for a certain segment of the population and doesn't work at all for others.
And I think everyone really on your panel before, across party aisles, are going to that that's probably not the way it should be. The real question is, how do you fix that? Do you take the entire system, throw it away, and start all over fresh from new?
Or do you say, look, this part works here, that part's broken, let's just target the broken parts? That's a fundamental decision that the people and the administration is going to have to make.
COOPER: All right, Sanjay, we're going to talk to you more about this.
We should mention that Dr. Gupta's brush with life inside the beltway drew him deeply into the health care debate. He's been devoting a lot of time to different proposals out there to fix it.
We're going to have reports all next week, a rare inside look at how the reform process is working, "Sanjay Gupta: Inside the White House: Healing Health Care," all next week on 360.
Up next: Spring break danger, kids heading to Mexico, where drug cartels have killed thousands, are they safe? Gary Tuchman reports from south of the border.
Also tonight, today's court battle over Proposition 8. Will the court decide to uphold Prop 8 and ban same-sex marriages?
And it happens to a lot of people, but so soon? President Obama going gray. Is the job getting to him already? More on that -- ahead.
COOPER: Right now, thousands of young Americans are on spring break in Mexico. Many more will be heading there in the weeks ahead. With the sun and the fun, a very serious warning from the State Department, telling all U.S. citizens to be extremely cautious and careful.
There's a good this to be concerned. Mexico's drug wars are out of control. Competing cartels have killed cops, civilians alike. There have been kidnappings and executions, beheadings, all of it increasing, the violence slipping into the U.S. as well.
The bloodshed, in many ways, has transformed Mexico, but it's not stopping college kids from crossing the border. They're looking to have a good time. But do they really know the dangers?
Gary Tuchman is with some of them in Mexico, and what he's found has surprised him.
His report tonight in a "360 Dispatch."
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Spring break on Mexico's Northern Pacific Coast...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Totally relaxing, what we needed after finals. TUCHMAN: ... where it feels like heaven, unless you make the drug traffickers angry. Then, it feels like hell.
When you hear a police siren in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, these days, your heart jumps, because, in the past half-year, this small city of 100,000 has seen at least 30 people killed by the drug cartels, none of them tourists. But this very popular spring break location has very few tourists right now.
Despite beautiful weather, we saw more horses on the wide beach than people. And at this outdoor bar, the only spring-breakers came off a cruise ship and were only here for six hours.
(on camera): You're all on a cruise. But if they said to you, you could stay in a hotel here for a night or two, how many of you would want to do that? Raise your hand.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Knowing what we know now, probably not.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the fact that the beach is completely empty.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): What they know now is this. In this town and nearby cities, like Ensenada and Tijuana, roughly 200 people have reportedly been murdered in the last six months and often beheaded as a grotesque message.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My mom freaked out about me going to Mexico.
TUCHMAN (on camera): What did she say?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She said that she was really worry about kidnappings and the drug lords.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): This man was arrested six weeks ago, not far from Rosarito, charged with dissolving the remains of cartel victims into barrels of acid.
Santiago Meza Lopez was asked how many people he had done this to. He declared 300.
Alerts and warnings have been issued about traveling to Mexico by the U.S. State Department, the ATF, even colleges.
(on camera): The good people of Rosarito find themselves living along a lucrative drug trafficking route, among the 30 people murdered over the past few months, seven police officers, all shot gangland- style. It's not a job for the faint-hearted.
The mayor of this city says about 75 cops in Rosarito were either fired last year for working with the cartels or killed. About 150 more have now been hired. They're being paid better salaries and given lie-detector tests to help make sure they stay honest. Officer Karina Valdez (ph) is 20 years old.
(on camera): (SPEAKING SPANISH)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The situation is bad, but there are people who need us.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Rosarito Mayor Hugo Torres believes his city has never had more honest and brave police officers.
HUGE TORRES, MAYOR OF ROSARITO, MEXICO: Beginning in January of this year, we have no killings at all.
TUCHMAN: And in the larger city of Tijuana, they were saying the same thing.
(on camera): But the relative quiet is now over. At around the same time we were riding in a police car, authorities announced they had made a horrifying discovery. Near this bull ring, about 20 minutes north in the city of Tijuana, we're only 100 yards away from the California border.
They got a call from two joggers, who said they saw something terrible right here, right under that graffiti on the ground. Police arrived. They saw three bodies without heads, without hands, and a note that said, "Snitches."
(voice-over): The Tijuana newspaper had a picture of the scene on the front page with the headline, "The Wave of Violence Returns."
Eighteen miles away, within the city limits of Rosarito, they're still hasn't been a killing since the beginning of the year. The mayor thinks tourists should be comfortable coming back. And he's hoping for bigger crowds next week, when spring break starts to peak, although he himself has to be accompanied by armed guards when he travels throughout the city.
(on camera): What stops somebody from driving by and shooting us while we're walking?
TORRES: Well, I don't know. I guess nobody can. If somebody wants to kill you, they will kill you. I know that for sure.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): The mayor says he has no plans to step down because of fear. He's too busy trying to protect and promote his very empty city that so many are now too scared to visit.
COOPER: Gary, in Juarez, where we reported from last week, Mexican military just sent in more than 3,000 troops. Any word that troops might be on the way to where you are?
TUCHMAN: There's a large contingent, Anderson, of well-armed federal troops a few miles to the north of here, a few miles to the south of here. The mayor reserves the right to bring them in whenever he wants.
Understandably -- this is a resort town -- he doesn't want to. It will even scare people more. Nevertheless, between September and December, when it was really bad here, the federal troops who were in this town, and they could ultimately come back.
Now, it's pointed out to you how vacant and empty the city was during the day. Right now, Anderson, I'm standing in front of the most popular club in town. It's called "Papas and Beer (ph)." On a typical night during spring break, there are about 1,000 people inside. You hear the music. It's open. Right now, there are precisely zero customers inside, just the bartenders.
COOPER: All right, Gary Tuchman. Appreciate it, Gary. Thanks.
Still to come, R&B singer Chris Brown goes before a judge to answer to charges he beat up Brianna as new details emerge about what allegedly happened the night she called police.
First, Erica Hill joins us with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Erica.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, we begin with breaking news that we're following for you out of Cleveland. Word from authorities there about a shooting. We're told there are five fatalities. They say it happened in a home in the western part of the city of Cleveland.
Now it appears to be a domestic dispute turned deadly. The shooter has been identified by police. It is a man named Davon Crawford. He is at large, this man right here, 33 years old, said to be armed and dangerous.
We're also told there is one survivor, a 7-year-old child. We will stay on top of this shooting for you, again out of Cleveland. Five confirmed dead.
A 360 follow for you now. The United Nations today calling for the Sudanese government to let more than a dozen aid agencies back into the country, just a day after officials expelled them. Now, that move in response to an arrest warrant for Sudan's president, issued by the International Criminal Court over atrocities in Darfur.
Worries over General Motors helping to fuel the sell-off on Wall Street today. In a filing with Security and Exchange Commission, GM auditors revealed, quote, "substantial doubt" over the company's ability to operate under continuing losses. They say GM may seek bankruptcy protection if it cannot accomplish a huge restructuring plan.
Robin Williams set to undergo heart surgery. The 57-year-old actor and comedian will receive a new heart valve. That's the same procedure former first lady Barbara Bush had. Williams was hospitalized this week with shortness of breath.
And Brad Pitt goes to Washington. The actor meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Obama today to talk about his foundation, which works to rebuild homes in New Orleans' Ninth Ward, many of them taken out by Hurricane Katrina.
Speaker Pelosi says the visit gives her bragging rights with her kids, Anderson, and her grandchildren.
COOPER: All right.
In San Francisco today, a showdown in California's highest court. Will the state's ban on same-sex marriage stand or fall? It's a flashpoint in a nation divided. Coming up, details on today's crucial hearing on Prop 9.
Also, R&B singer Chris Brown in court today, facing two felony charges as new and ugly details emerge about the picture-perfect couple who at one point seemed to have it all. Be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are exactly like Adolf Hitler. Can't you see that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was the scene tonight outside California's supreme court in San Francisco during a crucial hearing on Proposition 8, the ballot measure banning gay marriage that voters passed in November. Today the court heard arguments from both sides. Take a look.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Leading off for same- sex marriage, Shannon Minter, who lived his first 35 years as a female.
SHANNON MINTER, LAWYER: Our government is based on the principle, not just on majority rule, but equally so on the limit that majorities must always respect minority rights.
SIMON: Mentor told the justices that Prop 8, which voters approved last fall, banning same-sex marriage, turns gays and lesbians into second-class citizens, and the court should strike it down.
MINTER: To have an official recognition of one's family relationship that is of equal stature and dignity to the recognition given to opposite sex couples.
SIMON: Attorney Michael Maroko argued that Prop 8 didn't just amend the constitution; it drastically and illegally changed it by undermining the inalienable rights it guarantees.
MICHAEL MAROKO, LAWYER FOR GAY COUPLES: If you're in the marriage business, do it equally. If the state obviously stuck its finger in the marriage business, it should stick it there equally. And if they're not going to be equal, then get out of the marriage business. That's our position on that.
SIMON: Later, for the pro-Prop 8 side, Kenneth Starr, famous for leading an inquiry into President Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky. He's now the dean of Pepperdine University's Law School and an advocate for conservative causes.
KENNETH STARR, LAWYER FOR PROP 8: We want to restore the traditional definition that has been in place since this state was founded. And almost every other court in the country has agreed with the rationality of that. You may think it's bad policy. You may think it's unenlightened.
SIMON: Starr argued that rights in this country and here in California are ultimately defined by the people, which prompted this hypothetical question from the chief justice.
RONALD GEORGE, CHIEF JUSTICE: Right to marriage, right to free speech, whatever that can be removed by the simple amendment process.
STARR: We may govern ourselves have unwisely but happily, because we are a federal republic, there are fail-safe mechanisms under the federal constitution.
SIMON: So the fundamental question confronting the California supreme court is can the will of the majority take away rights from a minority? A ruling is expected within 90 days.
Dan Simon, CNN, San Francisco.
COOPER: All right. Let's talk strategy, with two people on opposite sides of the issue. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council is here. And radio talk show host from Sirius XM, Michelangelo Signorile.
Michael, thanks for being with us. And Tony, thanks for being with us.
Michael, I want to play something that one of the justices said today. Let's play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSTICE JOYCE KENNARD, CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT: The people are those that have created the constitution. And I think what you're overlooking is the very broad powers of the people to amend, by initiative, the constitution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: She was saying that to supporters of same-sex marriage. Why should the court overturn the will of the people of California?
MICHELANGELO SIGNORILE, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, you know, this is a very unique situation in California where they have such a broad ballot initiative process here, where basically anything can come to the ballot. In most other states, even states with ballot measures don't have it as broad-based as this.
This ballot measure process began back in the beginning of the 1900s, as a way to take on corruption in the government. It was never meant...
COOPER: You're saying the process is flawed?
SIGNORILE: The process -- the process is very flawed. It was never meant to take away the rights of a minority. The minority is to be protected by courts. That's the basis of our democracy.
COOPER: Well, Tony, what about that? Is it the court's job to protect the rights of minorities from the tyranny of the majority?
TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Anderson, in the oral arguments today and in the questioning by the judges, the justices, it made it clear that there is checks and balances, that the court can check the legislature, and the people through the ballot initiative can check the courts.
And there seemed to be in the line of questioning some deference given to the people after the court overturned Prop 22 and created a right that they now are yielding to the people. It would appear. Now we're still a ways away from the final decision. But the questioning did appear that they may listen to the people this time.
COOPER: Yes. You would agree, Mike, that it seemed that the judges were going to uphold Proposition 8?
SIGNORILE: Yes. It didn't look good, certainly, for gay activists. It certainly didn't look good for marriage equality. It looked like they were going to uphold Prop 8.
COOPER: So what would be the next step?
SIGNORILE: Well, the next step would be to take this back to a ballot.
You know, as far as a lot of activists are concerned, this really is an unfortunate situation with California, but in the larger battle, we are winning.
Connecticut just passed marriage after California. Massachusetts has marriage. Iowa may soon. The supreme court there may make marriage legal. So this was unfortunate what happened today, and we don't know what the outcome will be. But it was unfortunate the way it looked. And the next thing will be to take it to a ballot.
In 2000, California voted by 20 points to ban marriage. Proposition 8 was only four points. We are moving in the direction, even with the people of California, of legalizing marriage.
COOPER: Tony, do you agree with that? That sort of the tide of history is moving this direction? PERKINS: No, not necessarily. I mean, if you look at what happened, everything was stacked against the proponents of Prop 8. Jerry Brown, who argued against -- his office argued against Prop 8 today in the courtroom. They wrote the ballot language so that it was confusing. Millions of dollars spent to confuse the issue. So I wouldn't -- I wouldn't read too much into that.
I would say every time the people have an opportunity to vote on this, they vote in favor of traditional marriage. It's happened in over 29 states now, and so I don't think that's going to change overnight.
COOPER: What happens to the 18,000 people who have gotten married already in California? The court is going to decide on that as well?
SIGNORILE: Yes, and we don't know what will happen there. It did seem, from some of the questioning by the justices that they would uphold those marriages. Again, we don't know what will happen.
I do want to address something that Mr. Perkins said about the fact that the people always have upheld marriage. Again, we've seen California shift dramatically since 2000.
But I also want to point out that courts are a part in this democracy of really creating change. Back in 1967, Loving vs. Virginia, a Supreme Court case that ruled that states cannot ban interracial marriage, that case helped to change this country.
Seventy percent of the country was opposed to interracial marriage. But once the court ruled, people -- and of course, the civil rights movement and all of the other change that happened -- understood that there was nothing -- the world wasn't going to change. People were realizing they needed to respect that.
COOPER: Tony, very quickly, I just want to give you the chance to respond, and then we've got to go.
PERKINS: Well, much different scenario. You had people who had all the characteristics for marriage, male and female, being arbitrarily prevented from marriage because of color. That's not the same thing here. And people who do not have immutable characteristics.
And that's not what the court is dealing with. The court is dealing with the traditional definition of marriage and what the people of the state of California have said.
COOPER: Tony, do you want -- do you want the 18,000 folks who have gotten married in California, do you want those marriages to be annulled?
PERKINS: I think -- I think Michael's right, I think what's going to happen, I think the court in their line of questioning on that today, seems to be they're going to kind of split the baby on this and allow those 18,000 marriages to remain. Now, many of them are outside the state of California.
I think, in essence, the court will be punting on the issue, because I believe that, if those marriages remain, those same-sex marriages remain, you will have another court challenge, probably in a federal court at some point in time.
PERKINS: So it's just really passing it later.
COOPER: Got to leave it there. We'll continue to follow it. Tony Perkins, thanks very much.
Michelangelo Signorile, thanks so much, as well.
From superstar singer to criminal defendant, Chris Brown in court facing a judge and the cameras for allegedly brutalizing and threatening his girlfriend, the singer Rihanna. We have late developments on that.
And also breaking news, Dr. Sanjay Gupta's decision not to -- or I should say to take his name out of the running to be surgeon general of the United States. We'll talk to him about that.
And later, recess at the White House. New pictures in the White House, Sasha and Malia at home, playing around and having fun. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's Chris Brown with the most popular music artists in the country, and tonight he is a defendant, facing years in prison if convicted for allegedly assaulting his equally famous girlfriend, Rihanna.
We have new details of the alleged attack, how Brown is accused of repeatedly punching her and threatening to kill her. With the latest in tonight's "Crime & Punishment" report, here's Randi Kaye.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you understand that, sir?
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wearing a gray suit and showing little emotion, Chris Brown stood before a judge today to hear his arraignment pushed back until April.
The complaint against Brown charges the 19-year-old with assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury and criminal threats, both felonies, in an attack against his 21-year-old girlfriend, the singer Rihanna.
The alleged attack happened the night before the Grammys, when the couple was riding in his Lamborghini. According to a detective's sworn statement, Brown became enraged after Rihanna read a text message on his cell phone from a woman he had a previous sexual relationship with.
The affidavit says Brown took his right hand and shoved her head against the passenger window, punched her in the left eye and continued to punch her in the face, causing her mouth to fill with blood and blood to splatter all over her clothing.
The affidavit says Brown then told her, "I'm going to beat the blank out of you when we get home. You wait and see. Now I'm really going to kill you."
This photograph, obtained from the gossip and entertainment Web site TMZ, shows the singer's battered face. Young, rich and immensely popular, the pair are known as the prince and princess of R&B.
TOURE, "ACCESS HOLLYWOOD": He's the boy who you could bring home to mom. You know, at least he seemed so before all this. She's become this pop R&B sort of icon, definitely one of the top young female singers around.
Chris and Rihanna together was like too good to be true, at first. This was like this has got to be a publicist's dream to put these two together.
KAYE: That clean-cut image landed Brown several endorsements, including one with Wrigley. But the company has been suspended as a pitchman.
TOURE: That just murders your image, and for a guy who had this really clean-cut sort of image, this just -- a cloud like this over his head is just devastating.
KAYE (on camera): Devastating, but it hasn't divided the pair, and that's what is so stunning. Weeks after the attack, the two are reported to have reconciled. A source tells "People" magazine, "While Chris is reflective and saddened about what happened, he is really happy to be with the woman he loves."
(voice-over) Back together, shocking to some, but not to everyone.
LISA BLOOM, HOST, "LISA BLOOM: OPEN COURT": I used to work in a battered women's shelter and two out of the three women ended up returning to their abusers. It's a very difficult sociological phenomenon, that domestic violence survivors typically do go back.
KAYE: If convicted, Brown faces up to four years and eight months in prison.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: Up next, is President Obama letting the job go to his head? A lot of talk about the president's hair. Is he going gray? Not that there's anything wrong with gray hair. We'll take an up- close look.
And more on our breaking news: Democrats hold off on a vote on the spending bill to keep the government going through September. Will lawmakers rethink all those pork projects, totaling about $8 billion? We'll see.
Be right back.
COOPER: Last night we showed you Sasha and Malia's new swing and play set. Well, tonight, proof that they like it. The White House released this photograph today. It's pretty self-explanatory: Sasha and Malia and mom Michelle on the swings. They're also dressed in winter coats, fitting considering it was cold yesterday.
The Shot lets us take a closer look at the set. There's a periscope on the second floor, a boat theme going on there. Also ropes and ladders and a wooden bench in the background.
President Obama not in the picture, but the Oval Office is. I assume he was working at the time. Let's hope so, at least.
Six weeks into the job, we've already noticed a change in Mr. Obama, not in his message: in his hair. The black hair has given way to specks of gray. I personally don't have a problem with this, of course, but some are surprised at the speed the colors are changing. Oh, believe me, they change mighty fast.
Erica Hill has more on tonight's "Up Close" report.
HILL (voice-over): Our fascination with the president's locks as is old as the office itself. And with the days of powdered wigs and hats far behind us, there's a lot more to see.
DR. MICHAEL ROIZEN, CLEVELAND CLINIC: To me when I look at the before and after, whether it's four years or eight years, they all look much older.
HILL: President Bush was no exception, despite plenty of regular exercise. You could also see the age in President Clinton, who was far more silver after his two terms.
Now in office just six weeks, President Obama's salt and pepper transformation has actually been on the radar since the campaign trail.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Somebody pointed out how much gray hair I have now compared to what I looked like when I started this race. And 19 months -- listen, 19 months is a long time.
HILL: Doctor Michael Roizen is a best-selling author and chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic.
ROIZEN: We know that, in fact, every one of our presidents since Teddy Roosevelt, when we looked at the data, ages about two years for every year they're in office. And there really is one reason: it's the stress.
HILL: While there isn't definitive proof that stress causes gray hair, Dr. Roizen says there is a connection between stress and aging.
ROIZEN: A famous person said the key for a president keeping his black hair is to dye it. I think it was Ronald Reagan.
HILL: The jury is still out on whether President Reagan followed that advice, but when it comes to this president, don't bet on it.
Mr. Obama's Chicago barber, Zarif (ph), has been cutting the president's hair for 14 years. Our calls to Zarif (ph) today were not returned but he did tell the "New York Times," the president's hair is, quote, "100 percent natural. He wouldn't get it colored."
Let the graying begin.
HILL: Now, Dr. Roizen did offer some tips for keeping the stress level low. He said definitely keep those friends that he has around him, speaking of the president. Put the basketball court in.
He also recommended using the BlackBerry because it's sort of his connection to, you know, the outside world, which maybe -- maybe would have helped you, considering how much that thing is glued to your hand. I think we have some pictures, though, back in the day.
COOPER: Great, yes.
HILL: Old A.C.
COOPER: I really appreciate that.
HILL: And none of us had a BlackBerry in those days.
COOPER: That was when I was a member of Flock of Seagulls, apparently.
HILL: It was, yes.
COOPER: You can see that, yes.
HILL: It would be a totally different show now. I mean, no silver fox, no...
COOPER: Actually, you can see there, I actually did have -- I was sort of going gray right around here, is where it started. HILL: That wasn't a highlight?
COOPER: You can sort of see it there. A little speck. That's when it all began.
HILL: The beginnings of the man we now know.
COOPER: Yes, yes. All right, thank you.
HILL: He did also say, by the way, it does add a little gravitas.
HILL: So says the good doctor.
COOPER: I don't know about that.
Erica, stick around. You're going to want to see this. Oh, yes, you will. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL JACKSON, SINGER: I love you. I really do. You have to know that. I love you so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That hair is entirely natural. Michael Jackson makes a big announcement today, big hair day. We'll tell you what it is. I have no idea what he said. Your guess is as good as mine. I'm waiting with bated breath.
Plus, breaking news from Capitol Hill. A vote on the $410 billion spending plan on hold because Democrats don't have enough votes. Is all that pork making lawmakers nervous? We're talking about your money, your future. Stay tuned.
COOPER: Time for "The Shot," Michael Jackson unveiling his new shows and new look, I guess you might say. Take a look. He's -- there's Jackson -- well, where is he? Those are -- well, someone's hugging him. There he is.
COOPER: He's 50 years old. I'm 50. Remember that, on "Saturday Night Live"? I'm 50.
COOPER: Oh, well.
HILL: Oh, yes. Sorry.
COOPER: Jackson -- Jackson told fans in London today he's ready to perform again. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACKSON: This is it. I mean, this is really it. This is the final -- this is the final curtain call. I love you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Promise?
JACKSON: I really do. You have to know that. I love you so much. Really, from the bottom of my heart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: I agree that hair is totally natural.
COOPER: It's totally natural hair. Jackson will do ten shows in London in July. He says it's his final curtain call. Jackson has a name for the new tour, This is It. That's the name, This is It.
HILL: This is It?
COOPER: I wasn't saying, like, "This is it." I'm tell you the name. That's the name.
HILL: But it's both, apparently.
COOPER: Yes. When news broke of the new concerts, our own Tony Harris was on the set in Atlanta broadcasting and during the break, he delivered a Jackson impression. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, come on now. Come on. Give it to me
Hang on for a second. Hang on. There's a little something there. Hang on a second. Hey, come on now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: I got to tell you...
COOPER: I hope we asked his permission to show this, by the way.
HILL: I think they showed it earlier. But actually, I'm not surprised. He used to come into the makeup room in Atlanta...
HILL: ... singing, doing his little moves.
COOPER: Impersonating Michael?
HILL: Tony Harris is on fire.
COOPER: All right. You can see all the most recent "Shots" at AC360.com.
Coming up at the top of the hour, We'll update you on the breaking stories, big spending bill without enough votes to pass in the Senate.
Also breaking news on our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta, taking his name out of the running to be surgeon general. Stay tuned.