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President Obama Nears Decision on Afghanistan; United States Still a Superpower?

Aired November 23, 2009 - 20:00   ET



CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Tonight, breaking news: the president meeting with his war council right now, inching closer to a decision on troops. How will we pay for it all?

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not going to get into how one funds a decision that's yet to be made.

BROWN: But some Democrats want a war tax. Are they serious or sending a message to the White House?

Also, breaking news for parents: the government about to announce the biggest recall of cribs in U.S. history. Not only are they dangerous, but they could be deadly. Find out what you need to know right now to keep your baby safe.

Plus, is the United States still a superpower? The president came back from his trip to Asia pretty much empty-handed. We're fighting two wars. Our economy is in tatters. Has the sun already set on the American empire?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: For the last 20 years, the United States has had no rivals. We now have serious competitors.

BROWN: Should religion be used as a political weapon? Patrick Kennedy says he's been told not to take communion because of his support for abortion rights.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said, "The fact that I don't agree with all the teachings of the church doesn't make me any less of a Catholic."

Well, in fact, it does.

BROWN: But should matters of faith be part of politics?

And a story that seems like science fiction, but it's all true. Doctors discover a man who seemed to be in a coma for 23 years actually heard every word they said -- the amazing true story of what he calls his second birth.


ANNOUNCER: This is your only source for news. CNN prime time begins now. Here's Campbell Brown.

BROWN: Hi, everybody. We're going to start tonight as always with the "Mash-Up." We're watching it all so you don't have to.

And, first, tonight, there is breaking news from the White House. Right now, President Obama is meeting with his war council in THE SITUATION ROOM. It is a who's-who of national security advisers, Biden, Clinton, Gates and five generals all in attendance -- the goal, to make a final decision on how many more American troops will be sent to fight in Afghanistan.

The White House says the president is taking his time, so that he can make the right decision for the country.


GIBBS: I think the American people want the president to take the time to get this decision right, rather than to make a hasty decision.


BROWN: Well, that's not enough to keep critics at bay, former Vice President Dick Cheney taking the opportunity to take a swipe at the White House.


RICHARD B. CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The delay is not cost-free. It's not one of these deals where you can just sit there and delay and delay and delay and think you are going to make a better decision. Every day that goes by raises doubts in the minds of our friends and allies in the region about what you're going to do, raises doubts in the minds of the troops.


BROWN: Cheney and other critics may not have to wait long. The president is expected to announce his troop strategy as early as next week.

We have got more breaking news to tell you about from Washington as well, the government about to recall more than two million drop- side kids made by Stork Craft. Now, this includes drop-side cribs sold with the Fisher-Price logo and with other brand names. It is the biggest crib recall in U.S. history.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are apparently problems with the drop side of the crib, which can, can result in enough space between the crib and mattress for an infant and toddler to be trapped. And, of course, that could lead to suffocation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Consumer Product Safety Commission says there have been 15 cases of children becoming trapped and four reported deaths. The cribs are made by Stork Craft, based in Canada -- the recall, two million.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tomorrow's recall involves multiple of drop-side cribs made by Stork Craft from January 1993 to October 2000, 147,000 of them with the Fisher-Price logo. Malfunctioning plastic hardware is to blame.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The industry said parents should closely inspect the hardware on any crib, but insisted newer cribs that are properly put together are safe.


BROWN: Parents are being told to stop using the cribs immediately and go to the company's Web site,, to order a repair kit. We are going to have a whole more on the story later in the hour.

And now to another health hazard that may be lurking in your own home. If you have a stinking smell that you think has been making you sick, pay careful attention to this. It could be something in the walls.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I couldn't get rid of the smell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The federal government is confirming what Joan Glickman (ph) of Pompano Beach, Florida, suspected all along. Tainted drywall from China is giving off a harmful gas that's turning her air conditioning wring black, causing it to fail. It's destroying electrical wiring and corroding metal throughout her home and, she believes, making her sick.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They can't tell what's happening to me now and, more importantly, they can't tell me what's going to happen to me in 20 years. Am I going to end like an asbestos person with lung cancer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But, in its report, the Consumer Product Safety commission says more testing is needed to determine whether the gas might cause health problems.

"We didn't a whole lot new today. I'm still disappointed the government is taking too long to establish whether there's a link between drywall, corrosion and health problems."

And on the heels of this new report, the government is expecting more answers. And homeowners like Joan Glickman (ph) will have to wait, wondering if their dream home is actually a ticking time bomb.


BROWN: So what do you do if you think your home has toxic drywall in it? Well, the government says please file a report. They're trying to track this stuff, but also, beware, a lot of insurance companies simply will not cover the damage. And we go now to South Carolina for the story of sex, love and hiking on the Appalachian Trail, and, yes, a little bit of politics. Governor Mark Sanford now faces 37 charges of breaking state ethics laws. He has been under scrutiny since he disappeared for five days over the summer to meet his lover in Argentina. In case you don't remember, here's a jog down memory lane.


GOV. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I will lay it out. It's going to hurt. And we will let the chips fall where they may, because as much as did I talk about going to the Appalachian Trail -- that was one of the original scenarios that I had thrown out to Mary Neal -- that isn't where I ended up.

And so the bottom line is this. I have been unfaithful to my wife. I developed a relationship with a -- what started out as a dear, dear friend from Argentina. It began very innocently, as I suspect many of these things do. It developed into something much more.

This was a whole lot more than a simple affair. It's a love story, a forbidden one, a tragic one, but a love story, at the end of the day.


BROWN: And while Sanford admits traveling to Argentina to meet his mistress, his lawyers say he broke no laws.

And now to another creepy politician caught in the act, so to speak, Republican Senator John Ensign. His former chief of staff says not only did the senator sleep with his wife, but he may have broken the law.

Doug Hampton claims Ensign fired him and his wife after the scandal broke. He also told ABC News that Ensign's parents then sent him a massive check.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, hey, listen, we realize our son's having an affair with your wife. Maybe some money will help. It's ridiculous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it crystal clear to you that that $96,000 was in fact severance and not a gift?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If the check was indeed severance, the senator may have violated campaign finance laws by not revealing it. The Ensign family insists they complied with all tax laws.

But there's more. Doug Hampton says the senator helped him get a new career, lobbying. Only problem is, that's illegal. Federal ethics laws prohibit staffers from lobbying the Senate within a year of leaving. And it may well be illegal for a senator to help them do it.

Is Senator Ensign himself lining up clients for you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. Hey, I talked to so-and-so. Call him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, let me make sure I understand what you're saying. There's no doubt in your mind that John Ensign understood that ethics laws were being broken as well?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no doubt in my mind.


BROWN: Well, we called Senator Ensign today and invited him on the show to tell his side of the story. He declined.

Sarah Palin took her whirlwind book tour to Fort Bragg today, signing books, shaking soldiers' hands as well. But there were some conditions, no photos, no personal notes, and no speech.

And that brings to us Martha Stewart, who had a less-than- positive review of the Palin tour. Take a listen.


MARTHA STEWART, FOUNDER, MARTHA STEWART LIVING OMNIMEDIA: She's a -- very boring to me, very boring, and a very, to me, kind of a dangerous person. I mean, she's dangerous.


STEWART: She speaks -- she's so confused. And anyone like that in government is a real problem. I wouldn't watch her if you paid me.


BROWN: Martha Stewart may not be watching, but a lot of America is -- Palin's book, "Going Rogue," right now number one on Amazon's bestseller list.

And that brings to us tonight's "Punchline. This is courtesy of Wanda Sykes. She gets the last laugh on Attorney General Eric Holder.


WANDA SYKES, COMEDIAN: I want to know why aren't people paying attention to Attorney General Eric Holder? Our attorney general, he said he's not scared to bring the terrorists here.

You know, and I like that. I mean, like, why aren't people feeling secure about that? But I think the problem is, is, because, you know, Eric Holder looks like Stedman.



BROWN: Wanda Sykes, everybody. And that is the "Mash-Up."

Breaking news tonight: President Obama meeting with his war council, a decision on how many troops to send to Afghanistan coming as early as next week.

The big question, though, how will he pay for it? Tonight's newsmaker, a key Democrat who wants a war tax.

Plus, a medical breakthrough. A man who doctors thought was in a coma for 23 years was actually conscious the entire time and could hear everything going on around him.


BROWN: As we told you earlier, President Obama is meeting with his war council at this very moment in the Situation Room. You're looking at a picture of the White House live right there. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says they are very close to a decision on sending more troops to Afghanistan. It could come tonight or it could come in the next few days. No word yet on exactly which way the president is leaning.

But no matter how many additional troops he ultimately sends, it will likely cost billions of dollars. The Pentagon estimates each additional troop will cost $500,000. The White House says that number actually closer to $1 million.

And some Democrats in Congress are saying the only way to pay for that is with a war tax. And it's an idea that is getting a lot of attention today.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, David Obey, who's saying bluntly to the president now, look, we can't afford this. If we're going to send more troops, it's going to be the domestic agenda that's going to suffer.

REP. DAVID OBEY (D-WI), HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: If we don't pay for it, then the cost of the Afghan war will wipe out every other initiative that we have to try to rebuild our own economy. Whether it's the president, whether it's the Democrats in Congress, whether it's the Republicans. Ain't going to be no money for nothing, if we pour it all into Afghanistan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Robert Gibbs was asked specifically to comment on that surtax, whether or not -- you know, to react to what these leading Democrats have been saying.

GIBBS: In terms of discussing about the specifics of paying for it, I'm going to wait for a decision to be made before we get to that point.


BROWN: And Congressman David Obey is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. And he's joining us right now to talk through all of this with us.

Congressman, welcome to you.

OBEY: Thank you.

BROWN: You say, as we just heard, that we should have a war surtax to pay for any troop increase in Afghanistan. Talk us through exactly what you are proposing.

OBEY: Well, look, we have been told for the last year that we have to pay for every dime that the new health care reform bill will cost. And that's estimated to be about $900 billion over 10 years.

At the same time, we're being told by people who support General McChrystal's approach to expanding the war in Afghanistan that we need to be prepared to hunker down and accept what could be a decade-long commitment in Afghanistan.

If we do what -- what -- what has been in the papers about the size of that package, that also is about $900 billion, except that's not being paid for. So, what we're suggesting is that, if we're going to pay for health care, we also ought to pay for whatever we're doing in Afghanistan if we decide to go ahead.

And what we're suggesting is a war surtax, a graduated tax, so that we don't devour with that war cost every other priority that we have in the economy. That surtax would start at 1 percent for anybody with taxable income. It would rise to 2 percent if you have the income of, say, a member of Congress, and then, once you hit $250,000, $300,000, it would rise some more, until the full cost of the war would be covered, so we don't pass the cost of that war on to our kids.

BROWN: So, Robert Gibbs, who is the White House press secretary, was asked about your plan today. And he said, look, it's too early to talk about paying for a decision that's yet to be made. What's your response to that?

OBEY: I think he's right, in that you won't know how much it will cost until you know what's being recommended.

Look, the president has a miserable set of choices. He didn't start this war. He didn't screw up our ability to win it in the first place, like the previous administration did. And now we're stuck with the reality that we -- being mired in Afghanistan. In my judgment, we don't have a viable partner on the ground in an Afghan government that is worth anything in the fight.

No matter how good a strategy is, if you don't have the tools to implement it on the ground, the strategy isn't worth very much. And right now, it's very hard to convince me that we have a reliable partner on the ground in either the Pakistani government or the Afghan government.

BROWN: But let me ask you about your motives, because, two years ago, you proposed a similar tax on the war in Iraq. And it was a nonstarter then. I mean, very clearly, people said, this is going nowhere. It's not worth even having a discussion about.

What makes you think your colleagues are going to support it now in this form?

OBEY: Two years -- I don't know if they will. But, two years ago, the economy had not yet collapsed. Two years ago, we didn't have a runaway deficit, which we have now, thanks to the collapse of that economy.

And, two years ago, we weren't being asked to expand another effort in Afghanistan that we're told might last 10 years. I don't believe this country will support an involvement in Afghanistan for the next 10 years at the level being discussed.


OBEY: But, if they do, we at least ought to pay for it, so we don't drive the cost into our kids.

BROWN: So, it is a serious proposal, in your view? You're not just trying to send the president a message that Democrats are not just going to roll over on the issue of Afghanistan?

OBEY: Anybody who knows me knows I'm a serious person. And I have great sympathy for the president. There is no decision he can make that is going to be the right one. He will be hammered no matter what happens. That's unfair, but that's what will happen.

BROWN: Congressman, let me...

OBEY: But I do want to do everything I can to make certain that the White House and everybody in Congress understands that there are huge financial costs to this war.

We saw the progressive movement in this country back before the '20s wiped out by World War I. We saw Harry Truman's Fair Deal wiped out by Korea.

BROWN: Right.

OBEY: We saw Lyndon Johnson's Great Society wiped out by Vietnam. I don't want to see the restructuring and reforming of our own economy wiped out because we get stuck in a 10-year war, a war that isn't paid for.

BROWN: Congressman Obey, we appreciate your time tonight and you coming on to express your views. Thanks so much.

OBEY: Thanks for having me. BROWN: And when we come back: Congressman Patrick Kennedy says a Catholic bishop told him not to take communion anymore because of his stance on abortion. Should the church be getting into politics? We are going to talk to two different priests with two very different points of view.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a difference between someone who's the average Catholic in the pew -- they, too, have to be prepared to receive holy communion -- and someone like the congressman, who is in a very high-profile position, who is in a position to effect legislation that enables or facilitates abortion.



BROWN: Just ahead: A man spends 23 years in a coma, or so his doctors thought. It is a medical mystery with an incredible ending. That is coming up.


BROWN: Next up: an incredible medical breakthrough. A man who doctors thought was in a coma for 23 years was actually conscious the entire time. He could hear everything going on around him. He tried to scream for help. Tonight, he can communicate, using a laptop. And we have an exclusive interview with him about his incredible ordeal.


BROWN: Tonight, a CNN exclusive.

For 23 years, a Belgian man lay trapped inside his own body before a medical breakthrough helped set him free. Doctors said he couldn't think, he couldn't reason or communicate. And they were wrong.

Inside, he was screaming, but no one could hear.

Robert Moore from CNN affiliate ITN actually talked to him about his ordeal.


ROBERT MOORE, ITN REPORTER (voice-over): Rom Houben's story is both terrifying and uplifting. After a car crash, it was thought for two decades he was in a vegetative state with no awareness of his surroundings. Now it's known that, while paralyzed, his mind was strikingly alert, but he had no way of telling the doctors.

(on camera): My name is Robert. And I work for a British television station, ITV News. Hello.

(voice-over): Today, I interviewed him. While his carer supports his hand and elbow, Rom guides a pen onto a keyboard. He understands English, but types his answers in Flemish.

(on camera): How lonely, how frightening has it been for you these last 20-something years?

ROM HOUBEN, PATIENT (through translator): At some moments, it was terribly lonely, but I knew my family was believing in me.

MOORE: People have described you as optimistic, which is an astonishing tribute to your character.

(voice-over): And to that comment, he slowly and simply typed the words, "I'm just being myself."


BROWN: Unbelievable.

And Joseph Giacino is an associate director of neuropsychology at JFK Medical Center in Edison, New Jersey. And he is joining us right now to talk more about this.

And I should tell people you just spoke with his doctor a short time ago. So, you have some really interesting insight on this. First, though, just talk to us about how something like this can happen, you know, 23 years without anybody understanding what was going on.


I think, when there's a disturbance in consciousness, very often, the only behavioral signs that one is capable of are very subtle. So there may be movement problems, there may be sensory problems that limit how much one can express their awareness through movement.

For example, if I ask you to touch your nose, you would simply reach up and touch your nose. But if there's a problem with engaging movement, you're not going to be able to do that.

The other problem is that patients often fluctuate. So, in one examination, they may show signs that are clearly indicative of conscious awareness -- 10 minutes later, those very same signs may no longer be apparent. We don't really understand why these fluctuations occur, but they do.

And then a third reason is that very often doctors don't spend enough time at the bedside, trying to do as much assessment as possible, using specialized techniques. So, if one goes into the examination and does only a few commands, and walks outside the room, they may come up with a diagnosis of vegetative state...


BROWN: Right.

It takes -- I mean, clearly, it takes really intense focus and somebody who is watching for even the slightest indication, right?


BROWN: Go ahead.

GIACINO: Exactly.

And the other -- the last problem is the interpretation of the behaviors. So, we have no index for consciousness. We have to rely on someone's movement, for example. But some movements can be reflexive...

BROWN: Right.

GIACINO: ... or they can be purposeful and sometimes it's very difficult to distinguish the two.

BROWN: I want to read you what Houben wrote. He said that, quote, "All that time I literally dreamed of a life. Frustration is too small a word to describe what I felt. I shall never forget the day when they discovered what was truly wrong with me. It was my second birth."

So it walks through. How did they discover that he had been conscious the whole time?

GIACINO: For the first step in his case was that they used a specialized behavioral assessment measure, one that's designed to look for these very subtle signs of conscious awareness. For example, if one engages the eyes and the eyes move in response to an object, that's a sign of consciousness. Very often that's not done at the bedside. In this case, I believe it was and that was the first indication that --

BROWN: But why after so much time would they suddenly say, OK, now we should do something a little more focused?

GIACINO: You know, I think there's not a good awareness of all of the sorts of behavior one has to assess in order to really get a sense of whether somebody's conscious or not.

BROWN: Right. You led the study that found 41 percent of all coma patients are misdiagnosed, which is terrifying. I mean, do you think the medical field just needs to do an entire overhaul of how they think about this?

GIACINO: I think this is important because three out of the last four studies done in the last 15 years have found rates of misdiagnosis above 35 percent. So I think this is a wakeup call.

BROWN: Absolutely. And it clearly is going to have a huge or potentially a huge impact on the right to die movement and the debate, political ramifications that surround that as well. It's an interesting conversation. I'm sure we'll be talking a lot more about it in the days ahead. Appreciate your time tonight.

GIACINO: Thank you, Campbell.

BROWN: And breaking news tonight to tell you about when we come back for parents of young children. You need to know this before you put your baby to bed tonight.

A major manufacturer recalling 2.1 million cribs in the U.S. and Canada. This is the largest crib recall ever, and the government wants you to stop using these cribs right away. We're going to tell you everything you need to know when we come back.


BROWN: Tonight, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is announcing the biggest crib recall in history. 2.1 million drop-side cribs manufactured by the Canadian Stork Craft. The agency is warning parents to stop using these cribs immediately.

Don Mays is senior director of products safety for Consumer Reports and he's joining us now by phone from Greenwich, Connecticut.

Hey there, Don, appreciate your coming on tonight to talk about this.


BROWN: Just what type of cribs are we talking about here?

MAYS: Well, these are the type of cribs where you can lower the side to make it easier to put the baby in the crib or take the baby out. And yet this is a very common type of crib that you're going to see disappearing from the marketplace because there have been so many safety problems associated with these drop-side cribs.

BROWN: And explain the danger, essentially. The kids are getting trapped in the side, right, by the mattress?

MAYS: Yes. It had to do with the fact that the hardware that they have been using on these drop sides is just not sturdy enough to withhold, withstand the normal forces of raising the thing up and down. The hardware has a tendency to break, parts fall off. It opens up dangerous gaps in which a child can become entrapped.

And it's not only the hardware on the side rails but in some cases, it's even the wooden spindles or slats in the crib that can break. And in some cases, it's even the mattress support. So in many cases, we just think that these drop-side cribs pose a very unsafe condition for children and, therefore, Consumer Reports has recommended that people not buy drop-side cribs. Instead, buy only those cribs with fixed sides.

BROWN: And so not even -- you're not even talking about just the Stork Craft cribs, right? You're talking about any drop-side crib, period.

MAYS: Well, Stork Craft is, of course, the biggest recall now in history but there have been many other major recalls of cribs, including cribs manufactured by Delta, by Simplicity. And this is actually the second big Stork Craft recall of cribs.

BROWN: But you're talking about drop sides. I guess just to be clear, you think, frankly, if you've got any drop-side crib, no matter what the brand, you ought to get rid of it?

MAYS: Well, we don't think you should be buying any crib with a drop side. If you have one with a drop side, we would advise you to stop using that drop-side component of the crib.


MAYS: Because that's the dangerous part.

BROWN: So quickly, Don, if you are one of these parents, you've got the Stork Craft crib, what do you need to do right now?

MAYS: Well, the other Stork Craft or any other crib, check the recalls list at It gives you all of the recall information about cribs. If your crib has been recalled, make sure you take care of it immediately.

We don't agree with the CPSC that you should stop using the crib if in fact it's in perfect working order, particularly if your other option is to put that child in an adult bed.

BROWN: Right.

MAYS: That's a less safe environment for a child.

BROWN: OK, fair point and a good point to make. Don Mays for us tonight. Again, senior director of product safety at Consumer Reports. Don, we appreciate you taking the time.

MAYS: Thank you.

BROWN: Politics and religion collide with a Kennedy caught in the middle. Can a pro-choice congressman be denied communion? Or should a Catholic bishop stay out of politics?

And in the light of President Obama's trip to Asia, we ask is America still a superpower? More on that.


FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN'S "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": For the last 20 years, ever since Bill Clinton was president, we didn't need anyone and the whole world needed us. That world is over.



BROWN: One politician's deeply personal faith has turned into a very public controversy. Representative Patrick Kennedy, the son of the late Massachusetts senator, Edward Kennedy, says Rhode Island's top Roman Catholic leader has asked him to stop taking communion, all because of Kennedy's support for abortion rights.


JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kennedy, the nephew of this country's only Catholic president, John Kennedy, revealed the bishop's request of 2007 to a newspaper over this past weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bishop Tobin says he did write to Kennedy in February of 2007, saying, "I believe it is inappropriate for you to be receiving Holy Communion and I know ask respectfully that you refrain from doing so.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Is this something that you normally do quietly, secretly with other parishioners? Are you doing it because he is in a political office, he is a high-profile individual?

BISHOP THOMAS TOBIN, RHODE ISLAND: There is a difference between someone who is the average Catholic in the pew and someone like the congressman who is in a very high profile position, who is in a position to effect legislation that enables or facilitates abortion.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bishop Tobin and Congressman Kennedy were supposed to meet earlier this month to discuss their differences. That meeting never happened.


BROWN: So is this the case of religion being use as a political weapon? And joining me to try to talk this through are two Catholic priests, Reverend Mitch Pacwa and Fr. Thomas Reese.

Father Pacwa, our apologies, Father. So let me start with you. Do you agree with Bishop Tobin that it was right, I know, to tell Congressman Kennedy that he shouldn't take communion because he is pro-choice? I guess --


BROWN: Does that apply, though, to everybody? Would you give that same counseling to all of your parishioners or do you think it's different because of who he is?

PACWA: No. It's the kind of advice that I would give to everybody. That somebody who is in favor of abortion or has done abortions, this is a very serious sin. And that the issue is not as was portrayed earlier in your own remarks, that this is religion intruding into politics. It's rather that a political position is trying to intrude into who may receive Holy Communion and that the norms are set by the Catholic church for centuries and that this has been the 2,000-year teaching that abortion is a serious sin, excluding people from communion.

BROWN: All right.

PACWA: So it's simply being applied to this representative.

BROWN: So, where do you draw the line? Or do you draw the line? Should politicians who support the death penalty still take communion?

PACWA: You know, one of the things that has to be paid attention to is that the church is teaching on the death penalty is of a different order than that of abortion. And one of the things that you see in Canon Law is that it's not absolutely prohibited but it's what the church would like us to do so that we can be consistently pro life. But there are situations where the death penalty is allowed in certain, again, certain cases, especially in places where people cannot afford to sustain people in a life imprisonment situation.

BROWN: OK, Father Reese.

PACWA: So that might be another situation.

BROWN: Father Reese, I know you disagree. Let me give him an opportunity to speak.

PACWA: Sure.

BROWN: Father Reese, go ahead.

REV. THOMAS REESE, S.J., AUTHOR, "INSIDE THE VATICAN": Sure. You know, I think the thing that needs to be pointed out is that most of the bishops in the United States simply don't agree. They have only a small percentage of the bishops have gone into this business of denying communion to Catholics, politicians who are pro choice.

In fact, it's a well-known fact that the pope, Pope John Paul II gave communion to pro-choice politicians in Italy. Now, is Father more Catholic than the pope? You know, are these bishops more Catholic than the pope?

You know, so I don't think that we can simply say that this has been a long teaching of the church or this is our tradition of denying communion to people when in fact Pope John Paul II didn't do it.

BROWN: So how do you respond to that, Father Pacwa?

PACWA: I don't know what Pope John Paul knew about those politicians in that circumstance. However, what I do know that during his reign --

BROWN: But what do you need to know? I mean, if they had publicly pro-choice positions --

PACWA: What I need to know is this. What I need to know is this, that during his reign he had legislation that was put out by the office for the defense of the faith, that said politicians who are pro abortion may not receive Holy Communion. That is church policy. And Bishop Tobin was simply making that policy. In terms of what the pope knew about this person coming to communion and so on, I don't know. BROWN: All right. I don't want to get lost -- I kind of want to keep this a little, more big picture if we can.

PACWA: Right.

REESE: This is a situation --

BROWN: But, Father Reese, go ahead.

REESE: This is a case where facts matter. I mean, you know, if the pope is giving communion to pro-choice politicians in Rome, I mean, the pope's not -- you know, John Paul is not a dummy. This was a very smart man who knew the situation and was giving them communion. I think, you know, it's important to make a distinction between people who are pro abortion and people who are pro choice. If someone gets up and says, I think abortion is wonderful and every woman should have one...

BROWN: But no one is pro abortion.

REESE: ... this is very different.

BROWN: I mean, that's --

REESE: Well, exactly. I mean even --you know, within the last couple of months, the editor of "Osservatore Romano", the pope's newspaper, made the statement that he did not think that President Obama was pro abortion. And this upset people in the United States. They wanted him fired. Well, he's still in his job.

BROWN: All right. Gentlemen, this is -- we need a whole lot more time to get into this issue, I know. But I appreciate you both sharing your views with us tonight.

Father Pacwa and Father Reese, thank you so much.

PACWA: You're welcome.

BROWN: When we come back, or rather, at the top of the hour, "LARRY KING LIVE" is coming up. And Larry is with us right now.

Larry, what do you have tonight?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Campbell, that was spirited. We'll continue in that vain. Ann Coulter versus Al Sharpton, both outspoken pundits are with us tonight, sounding off on health care, President Obama, Sarah Palin and more.

It should be, as we look to say, a sprightly debate.

BROWN: And --

KING: Plus, Oprah's pals, Gayle King and Suze Orman are here with their take on Oprah's departure from syndicated television. That's next, top of the hour on "LARRY KING LIVE" -- Campbell. BROWN: I love Suze and I love Gayle. But the fact that you think you're only going to have a spirited debate between Ann Coulter and Al Sharpton, spirited would be understatement of the year.

KING: Yes. Well said.

BROWN: We will be watching. We will be watching, Larry. See you soon.

KING: Thanks, Campbell.

BROWN: When the Cold War ended, America became the world's lone superpower. But is that true anymore? We're fighting two wars. Our economy is battered and now, are we losing the lead in science and innovation? That is the question when we come back for Fareed Zakaria.


FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN'S "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": So I worry not about today, but 20 years from now, will we still be the place that makes the new iPod, that founds the new Google, or will that stuff be happening in Asia and we'll be consuming it rather than producing it?


BROWN: Today at the White House, President Obama held a special event to try and refocus American students on science, because, of course, once upon a time, it was science that helped make the United States a superpower. America dropped the first atomic bomb, landed the first man on the moon but where do we stand today?

We are fighting two expensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our debt spiraling, our dollar is weak. And earlier I spoke with Fareed Zakaria, host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" here on CNN.


BROWN: So you have written a lot about this. Is America still a superpower in your view? And what does it even mean to be a superpower now?

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN'S "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Sure. America is a superpower. And a superpower means this. We are the only country that has great power on every dimension, economic, military, political, cultural. If you look at every dimension, the United States is pretty much at the top of the lead and there's a big gap between us and the next country.

We have the biggest army in the world. We have the biggest economy in the world. So there's no question we are currently the world's superpower. The question, though, is what is this going to look like in the future? And for that, the key is economics, technology, productivity. It's not how many places around the world you have troops. It's how well you're doing at the core, at the industrial productive core. BROWN: And let's -- let's get into that in a moment. But tell me how this is playing out right now. Because we saw President Obama be criticized for how he handled his trip to China, in particular. He was criticized by many for being too deferential to the Chinese. Was that in part a reflection by him on where we are now, that America is waning a bit in those areas?

ZAKARIA: You know, I think people have actually forgotten what we were like even during the Cold War when we had a serious rival. We were a lot more deferential in those days.

For the last 20 years, the United States has had no rivals, has been towering on top of the world by itself. So you're right. We were more deferential to the Chinese and we would have been more deferential whoever the president was, because we now have serious competitors, partners, allies, call them what you will. The Chinese have real stakes at the stable.

If you go back to the way in which, you know, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger were dealing with the Chinese, they were very deferential to Mao Tse-tung and Zhou Enlai (ph) when they were around because they needed the Chinese against the Soviets. For the last 20 years, ever since Bill Clinton was president, we didn't need anyone and the whole world needed us. That world is over.

BROWN: In your book, you tick through sort of this list of how things have changed, the world's biggest refinery now in India, the largest casino in Macao. And you talk about Hollywood not even really being the biggest movie industry in the world. It's now Bollywood, right?

ZAKARIA: That's right. And the biggest movie star in the world is not Tom Cruise. It's a guy called Shahrukh (ph) Khan, measured by the number of fans he has, way more than --

BROWN: Most Americans probably have never heard of.

ZAKARIA: Never heard of but he is, you know, he's something like 1.5 million fans.

BROWN: What do we do? I mean, look into the crystal ball here and if the world is changing, are we responding to it in the right way?

ZAKARIA: Well, see, that's a really good question. There's a new study out on innovation. And we usually, the United States usually tops all these studies. But this one looks at very hard data. And what it finds is that while we're still at the top, we are not moving as fast as we need to keep up that lead. And that if you look at the other countries that are making adjustments in research and investment, in education, we're actually lagging way behind.

Because we are at the top, we think we don't need to do a lot. You know, we produce the new iPods of the world. But all that stuff happened because we had made investments in science, in research, in education. In the '50s and '60s, you know, the moon shock (ph), Sputnik, all that forced us make real investments in science.

We're not making the same kinds of investments now. So I worry, not about today, but 20 years from now, will we still be the place that makes the new iPod, that founds the new Google, or will that stuff be happening in Asia and we'll be consuming it rather than producing it?

BROWN: In terms of the politics, does it matter and in terms of the immediate, that President Obama is extraordinarily popular around the world? Can he use his own popularity in any way to enhance at least the perception of where America stands?

ZAKARIA: You know what? It's nice that we're liked. It helps us get our way in the world. It makes it easier for other politicians in the world to do things that are pro American because they don't feel like they're doing things that are politically unpopular at home. But ultimately it doesn't matter. I mean, what matters is productivity, technology, innovation in America. Because, you know, you can be very popular. It's not at the end of the day you're going to matter if you're not the place that's inventing the future.

BROWN: Fareed Zakaria. Fareed, as always, thanks.

ZAKARIA: My pleasure.

BROWN: "LARRY KING LIVE" starts in just a few moments. An up next, tonight's "Guilty Pleasure," the video we just can't resist. We'll have it.


BROWN: "LARRY KING LIVE" starts in just a few minutes. But first, Mike Galanos back with tonight's "guilty Pleasure," the video we just can't resist. What is it, Mike?

MIKE GALANOS, HLN PRIME NEWS: Campbell, we're going to go back to last night's American Music Awards. Jennifer Lopez performing and then the ill-advised move. J. Lo going to use her guys as a staircase and then the leap, and the fall off the slick stage.

Give her credit, though. Bounced right back up into a solo dance but there it was again. Oh, the flat (ph) fall. J. Lo talked to Ryan Seacrest about that on his radio show this morning.


VOICE OF RYAN SEACREST: You almost tripped but recovered quicker than anybody ever on stage. What happened?

JENNIFER LOPEZ, SINGER: Did I -- did I -- did I -- did I trip a little bit?

SEACREST: It wasn't even a trip. It was more like a stumble.

LOPEZ: I don't even remember. It always is, yes, I meant to do that. What are you talking about? You just know me better than that. That was part of the choreography. Look, the measure of things is not what happens when you fall. It's how you handle it when you fall.

SEACREST: You recover, I love that.

LOPEZ: That's right.


BROWN: And you know what, Mike? That is why it's our pick because she is so awesome. You didn't even know she fell.

GALANOS: That's right.

BROWN: All right. See you tomorrow.


BROWN: That's it. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.