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Live From the Battle Zone in Afghanistan; President Obama's Health Care Hard Sell

Aired September 9, 2009 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Huge stakes tonight, the president's health care plan and the war here in Afghanistan.

It's morning at Patrol Base Jaker here in southern Afghanistan, the Marines here fighting a crucial war at a pivotal moment, while their commander in chief only a few minutes ago fighting his historic overall of health care, both efforts costing hundreds of billions of dollars, both costing lives.

One is here with us. What the Marines are doing here seems to be working in this area in Helmand Province. Taliban activity is down. But I have got to tell you, wherever we go, tension is very, very high.

We went on patrol today. There were no attacks. But, moments after we passed, a roadside bomb went off. No trouble in the village we visited. Then, once we left, Taliban fighters paid a visit. It feels like a standoff, with millions of Afghans waiting to see who blinks first, who stays, who goes.

Tonight: what it looks like, what it feels like through the eyes of Marines, day in, day out, very difficult conditions for them, constant danger. Yet, the troops at this patrol base will tell you they feel they are accomplishing something.

Michael Ware is in Kandahar for us, where that standoff, that waiting game is deadly serious. And Dr. Sanjay Gupta is with an elite army chopper team, medics who fly low and fast under hostile fire to save lives.

But, as we mentioned, tonight, in Washington, President Obama went into -- went to battle for his vision of health care reform. For the first time, he really took ownership of it. He called it his plan, a plan he says will not increase the deficit, and he says would actually save money over the years.

We're checking out the facts, though, tonight with the best political team on television, keeping the president and the opposition honest. We will also get your reaction with a CNN instant poll.

But, first, an extended sample of the president's health care address tonight to the joint session of Congress. Listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe it makes more sense to build on what works and fix what doesn't, rather than try to build an entirely new system from scratch.


OBAMA: The time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed.


OBAMA: Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do.


OBAMA: Now's the time to deliver on health care.


OBAMA: Now's the time to deliver on health care.

The plan I'm announcing tonight would meet three basic goals.

It will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance. It will provide insurance for those who don't. And it will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government.

An additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange.


OBAMA: Add it all up, and the plan I'm proposing will cost around $900 billion over 10 years, less than we have spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars...


OBAMA: ... and less than the tax cuts for the wealthiest few Americans that Congress passed at the beginning of the previous administration.


OBAMA: It's a plan that incorporates ideas from many of the people in this room tonight -- Democrats and Republicans. And I will continue to seek common ground in the weeks ahead.

But know this: I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than to improve it.


OBAMA: I won't stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are.

If you misrepresent what's in this plan, we will call you out. And I will not...


OBAMA: And I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time, not now.


COOPER: That was the president today.

The GOP responds shortly, polling results as well, people who watched the address on whether they liked it or not, whether they think it will help or hurt the debate, and perhaps most crucially, did viewers actually come away understanding what President Obama's vision of health care reform is?

We ask, did President Obama clearly state his health care goals? In our survey of people who watched tonight, 72 percent said yes. Twenty-six percent said no.

With that, I want to turn things over to best political team on television and John King -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, back to you in Afghanistan in just a moment.

Let's bring in our panel here, Candy Crowley, Paul Begala, Ed Rollins, David Gergen.

Candy, let's start with those polling numbers. People say the president did a good job communicating with them. Do we have any indication that more Americans say, OK, I'm for his plan?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Let me just sort of caveat this to death before we do it.

And that is that, first of all, these are just people who watched the speech. And we know that millions more will get little clips of it and listen to the punditry than actually watch the speech. It also skews heavily Democratic. We think that the Democratic sample in this flash poll is eight to 10 points higher than it is in the general population.

Having said that, the president did very well in this poll. When we asked, what is your reaction to the president's speech, 56 percent very positive, somewhat positive 21 percent, negative 21 percent. So, that is -- you know, that is a great showing, obviously.

Interesting, also, that he picked up support here for his plan. And we all know that this is -- you know, can waver. But, before this speech, about 53 percent of Americans were in favor of this, after the speech, 67 percent. And, as you pointed out earlier, that's about what Bill Clinton had at the end of his speech on health care, and we all know where that went. And, also, I think we have to just understand that these are not -- that polls go up and down, particularly flash polls. This is an interesting look. Obviously, Democrats loved what they saw tonight.

KING: So, a reason to celebrate based on the numbers, but not overcelebrate.

David Gergen, you're in a room, 535 members of Congress, but who is he really talking to tonight?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He's talking outside the room, because he really has to bring public opinion back in his direction. It was moving in favorably for him. The tide receded. It started going the other way.

I think the question tonight was, was he able to reverse the tide? Clearly, Democrats, as Candy said, have been heartened. I know a lot of independents will be heartened.

But this, in the last minutes since the speech, everything we have heard on television, everybody is still back to their entrenched positions. Nobody is willing to sort of say -- open it up and say, let's think about this some more. Maybe the president opened my mind in a new way.

KING: And, so, Ed Rollins, he did embrace three or four Republican ideas. He said, this is from John McCain. This is an idea you Republicans have pushed a long time.

A serious effort at bipartisanship, and will he get results from it?

ED ROLLINS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: He will get no results from it. It was -- you know, it's nice rhetoric, and he can go out and can say, I'm trying to do things.

The bottom line here is, he promised a lot and said it's not going to cost anything. Everybody is going to have better health care, and it's not going to cost anything. Doctors, hospitals, everybody is going to be OK. If you're on Medicare, you're going to be OK. You know, we just got to be a little more efficient. We're going to have waste, fraud and abuse, which we have all written in speeches over the 40 years we have been around politics.

At the end of the day, he now has laid a marker down, which is it's revenue-neutral. It's now up to the insurance companies and others to go prove that it's not revenue-neutral.

KING: Some skepticism from Ed Rollins there. We will get Paul Begala's view after the break.

We will also talk more with everyone else here at the panel. And we will take your question. If you have a question about President Obama's health care plan, you can text it to us at AC360, or 22360.

But, first, let's check back in with Anderson at Marine Base -- Marine Patrol Base Jaker in Afghanistan -- Anderson.

COOPER: John, thanks very much.

Breaking news out of Afghanistan tonight -- a daring rescue of a "New York Times" reporter who had been kidnapped several days ago, a helicopter assault on the Taliban kidnappers who had taken him. One soldier was skilled in that assault. We will have details tonight.

Also tonight, 360 M.D. Dr. Sanjay Gupta's life-saving tour of duty with the Army's DUSTOFF crew. These are elite medics who make every minute count for wounded troops.

Also, a day in the life here at Patrol Base Jaker, the heat, the dust, the danger, the sense of accomplishment -- all live from Afghanistan in a moment.


COOPER: We're back with two vital stories tonight: the growing war here in -- in Afghanistan. And it is a deteriorating war. In the last two months, more U.S. forces have died than at any previous time in the entire eight years of the conflict here in Afghanistan.

We're also covering President Obama's health care message to Congress. In addition to laying out his vision, he promised to call out those who spread falsehoods about the plan. Listen.


OBAMA: Some of people's concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but by prominent politicians that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens.

Now, such a charge would be laughable if it weren't so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple.



COOPER: Did the president change any minds? It doesn't sound like it changed many politicians' minds tonight, certainly.

Let's go back to John King in New York -- John.

KING: Anderson, thanks, and back to you in just a moment.

Paul Begala, let's come in on that point. Did he change any minds? Obviously, he reached out to Republicans, but the biggest part of this calculation is Democrats. House Democrats want the robust public option. Moderate Democrats say, sorry, votes are not there for it.

What business did the president do in his own party tonight?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's the most important thing.

I think he shored up his own party. Before this speech, the -- that erosion he had was not with Republicans. They didn't vote for him. It was with independents. And I think he worked hard to get them back. But, within that room, those Democrats -- you know, he has 57 Democrats in the Senate. Presumably, Massachusetts will replace Senator Kennedy, if the governor is given that power, with a Democrat. If not, they're likely to elect one. There's not a single Republican in the Congress from Massachusetts.

So, he's got to solidify his party. There was talk earlier last week that maybe Democrats should primary Barack Obama if he somehow commits the apostasy of compromising on the public option. I think you will hear a lot less of that now.

I mean, he revved up his party. That is his job, in part, but, at the same time, he reached out to the independents. It's a difficult trick. I think he pulled it off well.

KING: Not -- by far, not the most important moment of the speech, but a night like this is big drama, the president standing there, a joint address to Congress.

The president at one point said that death panel charge was a lie. He used the word lie. And then the president was talking about illegal immigrants and the controversy about whether they would be covered under the plan. And we heard a voice from the floor calling the president a liar. Let's listen.


OBAMA: There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false. The reforms -- the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.



OBAMA: It's not true.

And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up: Under our plan...


KING: The words lie coming up from the floor of the House of Representatives. David, this is one of text -- one of the text 360 questions coming in all night, but here's one. Erik writes in: "Why did the Republican congressman yell out, 'You lie' during President Obama's speech in regards to covering illegal immigrants? Who is right?" is our text question. And then we can talk a little bit about the decorum of that.

GERGEN: It's been my understanding all along that it does not provide insurance for illegal immigrants.

It does provide insurance for people who are legally here who are not citizens, but not for illegal immigrants. And what we had tonight was, town hall comes to Capitol Hill, you know? And it's -- it's -- it was -- it's been interesting. Since the speech has been over, John McCain was on "LARRY KING" tonight, said it was disrespectful for that Republican member to speak -- to call out like that -- or speak out like that, and called for him to apologize.

KING: Called for him to apologize.


KING: Now let's play a clip from Congressman Charles Boustany, who delivered the Republican response.


REP. CHARLES BOUSTANY JR. (R), LOUISIANA: The president had a chance tonight to take the government-run health care off the table. Unfortunately, he didn't do it.

We can do better with a targeted approach that tackles the biggest problems.


KING: Now, Ed, the Republicans are saying the president failed their test because he didn't take the public option off the table. You couldn't have expected the Democratic president to do that.



ROLLINS: Listen...

KING: He may do that in private negotiations. He wasn't going to do it there.

ROLLINS: The bottom line is, you have got to go out and argue the facts on the public option. The Republicans haven't done that. They just say, we're against it.

And what the facts are is they're going to -- in the bill, Senate -- in the House bill, you add $2 billion of federal money to set this thing up. It's going to -- can't pay anymore than 5 percent of -- more than what Medicare pays, which is 20 percent less than insurance companies pay. It will be cheaper insurance. But, in the end, it will do in hospitals and -- and doctors. And Republicans have to make that case.

KING: He said at the beginning it's time to stop partisanship. Let's have a bipartisanship conversation about this.

But it was a pretty partisan speech.

BEGALA: It was tripartisan. He went to the Republicans.


BEGALA: It was.


BEGALA: He went to Republicans. He praised John McCain. He praised Orrin Hatch. He praised Chuck Grassley. Ain't one of them going to vote for this plan, not even come close.

But he did it. He threw this sop to the Republicans, this myth that, somehow, medical malpractice is driving up insurance. And he said, well, we will have test cases.

We have had one in my home state of Texas. And health care costs in Texas are increasing faster than the national average. But that's -- that's what he's doing to appeal to Republicans.

He revved up the Democrats, as I talked about before. Independents, who in the elections of 2010, are going to determine who controls the Congress, he gave them those insurance reforms. (INAUDIBLE) liberal group Democracy Corps, you're familiar with -- our buddy Carville helps to run it with Stan Greenberg.

KING: Boy, you're promoing him tonight big-time.

BEGALA: Well, I want to give them credit.

They -- they -- they tested this notion that the president talked about, about recision, people who pay their premiums, but get dumped, like the woman who got dumped for having breast cancer because she had had acne. It was off the charts. And even higher, even with Republicans, was repealing this god-awful preexisting-condition rule, where insurance companies can turn you down for the sin of having been sick in the past.


ROLLINS: Well, all of those are outrageous, but, at the end of the day, insurance companies are about risk. I'm not a defender of insurance companies, don't have any clients that are insurance companies. But the rates are going to go up if you basically include all these people who have preexisting...

(CROSSTALK) GERGEN: It was -- it was hard to see -- it was hard to see where the cutting of costs in health care was going to come in this speech. It just was impossible to find.


KING: Well, let's check in. We will check in. And we're asking text questions. We're hearing from out panel.

And Tom Foreman is monitoring reaction online -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they had a White House online discussion during this speech. And it was heated, and, just like our poll, tilted somewhat people who already support the president. They took part more. And they largely focused on this key issue.

Lesli from New York put it this way: "Please, please, please keep the public option. Do not listen to the lunatic fringe and the gutless wonders of Congress."

Tim from Georgia put it in terms of political consequences: "No public option, no second term."

And some supporters took Democrats to task for the trouble this plan is facing. Ken from New York: "Take a cue from Bush. He would have passed this thing in a week. Democrats have no guts, no backbone."

Those who oppose the plan primarily said they don't believe the president can pay for it.

Dave in Oklahoma said, "I hope he gives an estimate of how many jobs will be lost and how many small businesses close due to the cost."

Curtis from Kansas said, "The Congressional Budget Office disagrees with the president's assessment of the cost."

In the end, there was plenty of talk about Nazis and socialism. There was precious little talk of any kind of middle ground on this or any way that they might reach that middle ground between what the left says it can't do without and what the right says it cannot abide -- John.

KING: That is all rather feisty online.

We will continue this conversation in the days and weeks ahead, but, for now, we have got to back to Anderson Cooper in Afghanistan -- Anderson.

COOPER: John, we're going to have more on the dramatic rescue of a "New York Times" reporter kidnapped by the Taliban. One soldier was killed in that. We will have details ahead.

We will also take you out on patrol with the Marines. We saw IEDs today, small-arms fire. The Taliban is still out there, still trying to kill Marines whenever they can, laying those IEDs.

And, later, Dr. Sanjay Gupta aboard the world's fastest ambulance with the army's DUSTOFF crew, and the latest on that little boy Malik (ph) who was badly injured a couple days ago.

We will be right back.


COOPER: Coming up, we will show you what life is really like for Marines on a daily basis here in Afghans -- Afghanistan's Helmand Province, nothing cushy or even comfortable about it.

But, first, Erica Hill joins us with a 360 bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Mexican officials say a 44-year-old Bolivian man is the sole suspect in a brief hijacking today of a commercial airliner in Mexico. The man took control of the Boeing 737 en route, demanding to speak with Mexico's president. He claimed to be one of three hijackers and said he was carrying a bomb. Well, it turned out he did not have a bomb and was apparently acting alone. The incident did end peacefully. That flight, by the way, was en route from Cancun other Mexico City.

Fred is now the second major Atlantic hurricane of the season -- the Category 3 storm packing winds near 120 miles per hour. Forecasters though, say it doesn't pose any real threat to land, and they predict Fred will weaken tomorrow.

At New York's Lincoln Center today, friends and colleagues of legendary newsman Walter Cronkite paying tribute to the former CBS anchor who died on July 17 -- among the speakers, President Obama and former President Bill Clinton, who shared this story.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But, in a very tumultuous summer in our personal lives, 1998, we were up on Martha's Vineyard. And Walter Cronkite picked up the phone, and he said: "Betsy and I want you to go sailing with us, you and Hillary and Chelsea. We will just go out and sail around." He said, "Somebody might take a picture of it, but so what."


CLINTON: I will never forget that.


CLINTON: At the time, I could have done with a picture with Walter Cronkite.


(END VIDEO CLIP) HILL: And there is late word tonight talk show Ellen DeGeneres will replace Paula Abdul as a judge on "American Idol" when it begins its ninth season in January. This is especially important for "Idol" fans, like Anderson Cooper. She will sit alongside Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and Kara DioGuardi. Abdul announced of course last month -- actually, she didn't announce it -- she tweeted it -- that she was leaving the hit reality show after eight seasons.

Anderson, I don't have any details on whether or not she will be judging some of the dancing portions. But, you know, maybe you could get in on that. Just a thought.

COOPER: Uh-huh. Oh, she -- I'm sure she will be a great judge. That's actually a really cool idea.

All right, coming up next: the race against time. Dr. Sanjay Gupta rides along with an elite medical crew whose mission it is to save the lives in the midst of combat.

Plus, what life is like here at Patrol Base Jaker for the U.S. Marines -- we will get an up-close tour of where the Marines eat, sleep and even play.

Throughout the night, we will bring you messages from service members to their friends and families back home.


LT. MIKE MCCARTY, U.S. NAVY: Hi. My name is Lieutenant Mike McCarty. I'm from Decorah, Iowa.

I would like to say hi to my wife, Sherry (ph), my son, Brody (ph), and daughter, Hanna (ph).

Happy birthday, everybody.



COOPER: That was the sound that woke us up in the middle of the night, illumination rounds being fired. An observation post nearby here thought they saw some suspicious people walking around in the dark of night. So, the mortar let loose those illumination flares to give -- to give those Marines a sense of what was happening around them.

It's the kind of thing you -- you hear an awful lot around here these days.

We're learning the details of a daring commander raid to rescue a "New York Times" reporter captured by the Taliban. The raid played out about 24 hours ago. Reporter Stephen Farrell and his translator were taken hostage Saturday in the northern province of Kunduz when they went to cover a NATO airstrike of two hijacked fuel tankers. The bombing carried out by U.S. jets killed at least 90 people -- actually, by German jets -- NATO jets -- or called in by NATO jets -- excuse me -- by German troops.

In a predawn raid yesterday, British commandos managed to free Farrell. His translator and a British commando were killed during the operation. A woman and child also died in the crossfire.

Right now, we're going to return to Camp Dwyer, a forward operating base here in Helmand Province. It's farther south from where we are. And, as we have been reporting, casualties in this region are mounting for Americans and for Afghan civilians.

It's one thing to report the numbers, but tonight we want to show you what happens minute by minute when a call comes in that someone has been hurt.

Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta spent time with an elite medical crew at Camp Dwyer. Every time a call comes in, their job is to beat the clock. Just 60 minutes, that's all they get every time.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One hour, that's it. Minutes began ticking down when word came that two men, both civilians, about 40 miles from here were critically wounded. Without help, they could bleed out and die.

SGT. NATE DABNEY, COMBAT FLIGHT MEDIC, U.S. ARMY: If they're an urgent patient, we have timelines where we need to be moving extremely fast, I mean within minutes. We don't mess around. When that bell rings, we run. And we get out here, we get all geared up, and we take off.

(on camera): Right now, we're in a medevac Black Hawk helicopter. (INAUDIBLE) traveled in one of these, 1,200 feet off the ground. We know there are two patients (INAUDIBLE) That's all we know. We don't know how bad off they are. We don't know (INAUDIBLE)

(voice-over): It's what these guys do. I'm with an elite medical DUSTOFF crew. The name goes back to Vietnam. It was a radio emergency call signal to chopper in the combat flight medics.

They are a go-team. Twenty-four/seven, they steal moments of time to save lives.

DABNEY: Our job is to get people up and out of here in that seconds, because seconds count.

GUPTA: For Nate Dabney and his team, most missions are about rescuing American military.

DABNEY: They're leaving this gate every day on foot and vehicles knowing what's out there. And, if they can do that, then I will do anything to make sure that they get out all right. GUPTA: But, today, the call came to save Afghan locals. It's a critical part of the U.S. strategy to win the hearts and minds of Afghan civilians.

We are now into the golden hour. Most trauma patients who die of blood loss die within an hour, unless we can stabilize them. So, we have 20 minutes to fly...


GUPTA: ... 20 minutes to get the patient on the chopper, 20 minutes to get the patient to a hospital. It's one golden hour.

DABNEY: So, when I got on the aircraft, my mind-set is airway, oxygen, stabilization of the chest. Fine-tuning this down to the very last second is the most important thing.

GUPTA: But with the DUSTOFF teams, the challenge is not just getting to the patients, but about getting out of there safely.

DABNEY: This is probably the most dangerous place in Afghanistan. I couldn't see any security out yet. You know, here we are coming into this area. You can see it when we were going, those six-foot-high cornfields and water and mud everywhere. Not very many ways for us to get out of there real quick, if we had to. So, I was worried.

GUPTA (voice-over): For so many reasons, that fear is always looming. Dabney surprised me when he pulled out this picture. These are his three boys.

DABNEY: I've discussed it with my wife, even written a letter for her to read to them. When it comes to that kind of thing, you hope that they're proud of you. One of the things you try not to think about.

GUPTA (on camera): It must have been a tough letter to write, though.

DABNEY: It was. It was a real -- in fact, it probably took me about -- you know, being a dad is probably the most privileged and most important job you could ever have, no matter what you do. You know this.

And -- but at the same time, showing them what being a man is really about, you know, fighting for your country, sacrificing for your country. Things that are more important than, you know, staying at home and avoiding this kind of thing.

GUPTA (voice-over): As for today's mission, Dabney and his dust- off (ph) crew cheated the clock, again. It's now clear the two men they flew in to save will survive their terrible wounds.

COOPER: Sanjay, that was an amazing story. Those doctors do such incredible work. Tell me about that little boy Malik. What's happened to him? What's the update? GUPTA: Well, you know, it's been a bit of a roller coaster over the last couple of days. We've been watching it very closely.

Some of the video that you're probably looking at now, Anderson, he -- he had a fever, which can happen sometimes after an operation like this. The problem is it sort of set him back a little bit, which made the next couple of days all the more remarkable.

Take a look at this. He's walking. What's so remarkable here is they thought he was going to be essentially paralyzed on the left side of his body. But with just a little bit of help from his father, a little bit of aid there, he's able to put weight on that left leg and walk, which is remarkable.

Anderson, even as we're talking right now, we're starting to uncover some more details about what exactly happened to Malik. And I think more importantly, what's going to happen to a boy like this in a war zone. We're going to have some of those details for you tomorrow. It's really special.

COOPER: All right. The U.S. medics and doctors here work on Afghan civilians, as well as on U.S. military personnel in need. Sanjay, we'll talk to you tomorrow. Thanks.


COOPER: I talked to Sanjay a short time ago. We recorded that just a short time ago.

When we come back, in case you think that U.S. Marines are living on fancy bases here with all the comforts of home, we're going to give you a reality check. We'll show you what life is like for the Marines here in Helmand province.

And later, we'll take you to Taliban country. It's all around us. Michael Ware returns to Kandahar to see how the enemy is thriving and how the city he used to live in is now under siege. Michael's report coming up.


LT. J.G. SARAH TVERDOSI, U.S. NAVY: Hi, my name is Lieutenant J.G. Sarah Tverdosi. I'm from Lake Opaca (ph), New Jersey. I want to say to my husband Nick (ph) on the West Coast and the rest of my family on the East Coast. I miss you guys, and I'll be home soon.




COOPER: Driving anywhere in Helmand province these days is a painstakingly slow process. The Taliban may not be openly fighting the Marines right now, but they're still here, and they're still planting deadly IEDs. We're returning to base after a long patrol, along the same road that we came down. So any Taliban who have been watching us know that we're going to be using this road. So we have to be very careful.

We're in the lead vehicle of a multi-vehicle convoy, driving very slowly down this road, scanning the road ahead for anything that looks unusual.


COOPER: That was the end of our patrol earlier in the day. You know, it looks so calm around here. And then all of a sudden, you realize, you know, the road that we had just gone down, an IED was exploded on it a short time later. An area that we passed through, which seemed calm, a few hours later there was small arms fire, Taliban entering the town.

We head home in a couple of days. The same, of course, cannot be said of the Marines who are stationed here at Patrol Base Jaker. It's a small forward outpost in Helmand province. It's their home for the last two points or so. It's going to be some time to come before they actually get home.

We wanted to kind of show you behind the scenes. We've been showing you a lot the last couple days about what it's like out on patrol, outside the wire.

We want to show you what it's like in this camp living here under very difficult conditions. Take a look.


COOPER (voice-over): Patrol Base Jaker may not be much to look at, but for the Marines of the 1st Battalion, 5th Regiment, it's become a home.

(on camera) You may have heard stories of U.S. forces living overseas on huge bases that have all the comforts of home: movie theaters, convenient stores, fast-food restaurants. Patrol Base Jaker is nothing like that.

There are about 50 Marines here at any given time, and the conditions they face are extremely difficult.

(voice-over) Temperatures here can reach 120 degrees, but there's no air conditioning in tents, no respite from the heat and dust.

(on camera) First thing you notice when you get into Camp Jaker is this dust. The Marines call it moon dust. It's a fine powder that coats everything and gets everywhere: into weapons, in clothing, even food. There's nothing you can do about it.

How do you deal with the dust?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is what it is, I think. You can't beat it, so you just go with it. COOPER: You give into it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you surrender.

COOPER (voice-over): Nothing seems to bother Sergeant Riley Saborski (ph). He's had to deal with a lot more than just dust.

(on camera) You've been hit by two IEDs?


COOPER: Does that make you very lucky or very unlucky?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd go with lucky.

COOPER (voice-over): Lance Corporal James Steven wasn't feeling quite so lucky. When we met him, he was burning excrement, a dreaded assignment, especially in the heat.

(on camera) Of all the jobs, this is probably the worst job here?


COOPER: The smell is...


COOPER: Did you -- did you anger somebody and they assigned you this? Or...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I was just coming over...

COOPER: You were at the wrong place at the wrong time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, wrong place, the wrong time.

COOPER (voice-over): Around the clock, patrols come in and out. Marines move supplies. There's constant movement at Jaker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's do your work and that's it. Do your job, that's it. Go to bed, wake up, do your job.

COOPER (on camera): That's what it's like, 24 hours a day, seven days a week?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, no Burger King.

COOPER (voice-over): There is food, of course. But it's all prepackaged, meals ready to eat.

As for leisure activities, a few old weights and a sledge hammer is the gym. For golfers, the whole place is a sand trap.

There is no privacy here, no place to simply take a break. (on camera) The bathroom facilities here are primitive to say the least. There are pipes in the ground which are -- well, it's obvious what the pipes are for. And the toilets, there's four of them. They're communal.

(voice-over) Up in the guard tower, Tim Myers (ph) admits he often gets frustrated. But being here, being a Marine, is a dream come true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just wanted to do it since I was a little kid.

COOPER (on camera): Do you feel like you're doing some good here?


COOPER (voice-over): Despite all the hardships of life on a small combat outpost, there is a feeling of accomplishment, and the bonds of brotherhood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As weird as it sounds, this place is actually a nice home.

COOPER (on camera): What do you like about it?




COOPER: All the Marines we've met are an incredibly impressive group. It's really been a privilege to be here at Camp Jaker the last couple days. I've been here, along with national security analyst Peter Bergen.

Peter, you know, let's talk about the cost of this war. Some $200 billion so far over the course of eight years, $4 billion every month being spent here. Is it money well spent? Is it worth it?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, you know, part of the problem, Anderson, is that the initial funding of the war was so under-resourced. This was the least resourced post-World War II the United States has been involved in per capita. So you get what you pay for. We did it on the cheap, and in a way, we're paying the price now.

COOPER: Did it on the cheap in terms of money and also in terms of troops. Not enough troops on the ground.

BERGEN: Six thousand American soldiers here two years after the fall of 9/11 -- after 9/11. That's the size of the police department in a city like Houston. You know, this is a country the size of Texas. It's just not enough. COOPER: It's going to be 68,000 by the end of this year. Likely, though, there is going to be a request, at least, for more troops in order to be able to clear, hold and build in all the areas where the Taliban is currently operating. They're certainly on the move. The situation here is deteriorating. Seven hundred billion dollars is what the operation in Iraq cost, what the war cost there. You think it's going to reach that kind of level?

BERGEN: I don't think it's going to reach that kind of level. I mean, historically, Iraq has cost five times more than Afghanistan. Now, serious resources are being put in. Afghanistan is not a country that needs the same amount of resources that Iraq, a much more modern place, needed. You know, I don't anticipate that the political will for the kind of effort that was made in Iraq.

COOPER: All right. We're going to talk with Peter more throughout this week.

We've got a lot more ahead tonight. We're going to take -- show you Michael Ware's experiences in Kandahar, a city he used to live in. We'll show you how life there has changed, a city controlled in many parts, or at least move many parts -- the Taliban moved freely there.

Also tonight, the lighter side of our reporting. Dr. Sanjay Gupta getting some shut eye. The video he doesn't even know we have. We'll bring it to you, later.


COOPER: The situation on the ground here in Afghanistan is deteriorating. U.S. officials admit that. The last two months have been the deadliest for U.S. forces here. The Taliban has been on the move, into areas traditionally they haven't been in, in the north and in the west.

The fight for Afghanistan is happening all across this country. The city of Kandahar is a prime example. It's a place where citizens are terrorized by Taliban members, and where attacks are launched against U.S. and NATO forces.

Michael Ware spent some time there recently. Take a look at his report.


MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How does that make people feel here in Kandahar?

(voice-over) I wanted to see what had happened to this place since I left. Kandahar is the birthplace of the Taliban and the capital of the south, the fiercest combat zone. I once lived here, before Iraq and after the fall of the Taliban.

(on camera) So much has changed here in Kandahar. There's new buildings. There's new roads. There's new tree lines. But there's also a new Taliban. There's a Taliban here that wasn't here just a few years ago. And this city now lives in the shadow of the Taliban.

The Taliban control neighborhoods here. In fact, this is a Taliban neighborhood. These police are from a police station right in the midst of the Taliban stronghold. They're very much on the front line, guarding the gates to Kandahar.

(voice-over) In fact, here in this market place, the mood among shopkeepers is anxious. "Everyone in Kandahar is saying the city is surrounded," this businessman says. "There's something like 200 men standing here. Go, ask them. Is there Taliban or not?"

Here, the sense of a city under siege goes much deeper than just hurting business. "Even here in the city, you cannot speak out against the Taliban. Those who do speak up face a terrible conclusion," this shopkeeper says.

I found for many, these fears are growing, even though a major U.S. and Canadian base is located at Kandahar's airfield, just outside the city limits, their vehicles in city streets.

So for more answers, I turn to some old friends. One is Ahmed Wali Karzai, brother to the Afghan president and now patriarch and leader of the family's tribe.

AHMED WALI KARZAI, BROTHER OF HAMID KARZAI: Taliban, that's what it is. And it's not a major force to I should be have a fear sitting here that they might be -- come over to come attack us tonight. This is merely now they're surrounding the city.

WARE: But it also seems those small pockets of Taliban are turning to old and highly successful tactics. They're using the same valleys, mountain passes and many of the same old commanders who defeated the Soviet army.

This man, another old friend, was a guerrilla hero in the war against the Soviets here. He's now head of a massive tribe tied closely to the Taliban.

"The Taliban are walking in the steps of the Mujahideen, who fought the Russians," he says. If the Taliban hear that the government is coming to an area, they simply escape to a safe place to spend the night.

And it's not just in the villages.

(on camera) Just one week ago, a massive truck bomb detonated just here, right in the heart of Kandahar city itself. On this side of the road was the offices of an aid agency and houses. You can see the blast absolutely leveled the buildings. On that day, over 40 Afghan civilians lost their lives.

And you can see the size of the blast. A week later, they're still cleaning up.

On this side of the street were shops and businesses, and a reception hall for weddings. Convoys carrying American trucks are passing by on this very street. And as I'm standing here, speaking to you right now in this devastation, just a few suburbs away, over there, less than a mile, is a Taliban-controlled district.

(voice-over) And local police commanders say there's no hint of improvement. The major U.S. military offensive in nearby Helmand province they say, is killing Taliban fighters, but the Taliban keeps evolving and finding new ways to wage war, all of which leaves the view from Kandahar one of a Taliban war machine that shows no signs of slowing.

(on camera) A Taliban war machine that's ever growing. While the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate, the -- the country is in a national political limbo. They don't even know who their president is because of corruption allegations plaguing the presidential election results.

And militarily, the American war plan is also in limbo. The generals have to go back to D.C. They need more troops. They need to rethink it.

So all of this while the Taliban is growing stronger is now all eyes on the White House. Is President Obama ready to step up to fight this war, Anderson?


COOPER: Yes, and a classified strategy assessment has been given by General Stanley McChrystal to President Obama for him to look at. Very likely in the coming months, or maybe even weeks, there may be a request for increased U.S. forces here in the country. We'll have more from Michael Ware throughout the week.

And we're also letting you hear directly from American troops here in Afghanistan. We posted other messages from them on our Web site. You can log on to to see those right now.

Ahead on "360," we showed you our living quarters here at Camp Jaker. We showed you what it's like for the Marines here. Now it's Dr. Sanjay Gupta's turn. We'll show you where he and his team try to get some rest between their shoots.

And images from a galaxy far, far away. Really incredible photos from the Hubble Space Telescope you kind of have to see to believe.


LIEUTENANT J.G. AARON OJARD, U.S. NAVY: Hi. I'm Lieutenant Junior Grade Aaron Ojard from Maryland. I want to say hello to my wife, Melissa, my son, Logan, and daughter Riley (ph), and Terrence (ph) and the rest of my family in northern Minnesota.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Coming up, we're going to give you a behind-the-scenes look at how Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been living while on assignment here in Afghanistan. Some pictures he doesn't actually even know we have.

But first, Erica Hill joins us again with a "360 Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, there's some news just into CNN. The congressman who shouted "you lied" during President Obama's health-care speech tonight has called the White House to apologize. Republican Joe Wilson of South Carolina speaking to chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

He also issued the following statement tonight. Quote, "This evening, I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the president's remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health-care bill."

The congressman goes on to say, "While I disagree with the president's statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility."

A Republican state lawmaker in California resigning after he was caught on video bragging about extramarital affairs. Mike Duvall wasn't shy as he talked about having sex with two women, one of them a lobbyist. His comments were picked up by a microphone.

You will hear some of it in a moment, but first we want to give you a warning. If you do have children in the room with you, they definitely should not hear this. Here's the outspoken politician.


MIKE DUVALL (R), STATE LAWMAKER IN CALIFORNIA: So I've been getting into spanking her.


DUVALL: Yes, I like it.


DUVALL: Yes, yes. She goes, "I know you like." I said, "Yes. Because you're such a bad girl."


HILL: Let's head to deep space now, lighten things up a bit. Shall we? New photos here were taken by the newly-repaired Hubble telescope. The ten images -- images of galaxies and nebulas were sharper than previous Hubble photos, thanks to its billion-dollar upgrade.

And Melanie Oudin's magical run at the U.S. Open is over. The unseated 17-year-old from Georgia, who knocked out three top players at the Open, lost tonight 6-2, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.

Oudin actually never even expected to get this far. Turns out she had to switch hotels after her reservation ran out. She moved over to the hotel next door. Still, a fine showing for that Georgia girl.

COOPER: It was, indeed.

All right, Erica. Still ahead, 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta at work in Afghanistan. Hasn't been much time to sleep. We'll show you where he's caught a few winks, where he's had some rare down time.

Plus, how did President Obama's make-or-break health care reforms go over with Americans? Did he get his lessons across and cut through the confusion? What our polling shows so far, ahead on 360.


PHILLIPS: Erica, tonight, we thought we would show you where Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been staying. Over the last couple days, he's been working out of Camp Dwyer, which is in Helmand province. This is what it looks like. Facilities are pretty bare bones, simple cots, no real privacy, of course. You share the space with others and catch sleep when you can, which is apparently what Sanjay was doing when we shot this. Doesn't really know we took that picture, but we got it -- Erica.

HILL: Even Sanjay Gupta has to sleep. How about that? The man with 18 jobs. I'm shocked.

COOPER: I know, it is shocking.

That does it for this edition of 360. Thanks very much for watching. CNN special coverage of the president's address begins right now.