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President Obama Makes Tax Cut Deal With Republicans; Elizabeth Edwards Ending Cancer Treatments

Aired December 6, 2010 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for watching, everyone. Tonight, breaking news: President Obama laying out a deal with Republicans on taxes and jobless benefits, and takes heat from fellow Democrats. Will they go along with him in the end, and which will Americans care more about, that he gave up on a campaign pledge to roll back tax cuts for the rich, or that he's trying to keep his other promise to reach across the aisle. We're "Keeping Them Honest."

Breaking news as well on Elizabeth Edwards: She's stopping her treatment for advanced breast cancer -- a shocking announcement, tonight, the latest on that tonight, how she's coping, her estranged husband, John Edwards, now at her side. We will talk to 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta about the latest.

And later: "Crime & Punishment." You will meet a 14-year-old boy who says he has killed four people, a hit man, he says, for a Mexican drug cartel. We will show you how he was recruited at age 12, how the cartels use drug to turn boys into killers until the boys say the killing itself becomes a high.

We begin, though, with breaking news on your taxes, or, if you have been laid off, your jobless benefits, with the deal President Obama struck with Republicans on both and the backlash to it inside his own party, Mr. Obama agreeing to extend Bush era tax cuts for all Americans, even the wealthiest, which he vowed in the campaign not to, in return getting a payroll tax cut and 13 more months of jobless benefits, both helping the working and middle class.

The president tonight signaling he was reluctantly trading one pillar of his campaign, the one on taxes, to preserve another, his pledge to get beyond partisan squabbling.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know there's some people in my own party and in the other party who would rather prolong this battle, even if we can't reach a compromise.

But I'm not willing to let working families across this country become collateral damage for political warfare here in Washington. And I'm not willing to let our economy slip backwards just as we're pulling ourselves out of this devastating recession. I'm not willing to see 2 million Americans who stand to lose their unemployment insurance at the end of this month be put in a situation where they might lose their home or their car, or suffer some additional economic catastrophe.

So, sympathetic as I am to those who prefer a fight over compromise, as much as the political wisdom may dictate fighting over solving problems, it would be the wrong thing to do.


COOPER: President Obama tonight clearly trying to put his move in best possible light.

"Keeping Them Honest," though, this is a complete abandonment of his campaign promise on taxes, a promise he made over and over again.



OBAMA: I end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.



OBAMA: And it means letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire.



OBAMA: And rolling back the Bush back cuts to the top 1 percent.



OBAMA: We have to roll back...



OBAMA: I want to roll back...



OBAMA: We're going to roll back.



OBAMA: I'm going to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans. (END VIDEO CLIP)


OBAMA: For the wealthiest Americans.



OBAMA: For the wealthiest Americans.



OBAMA: For the wealthiest Americans.



OBAMA: It is true that I want to roll back the Bush tax cuts on the very wealthiest Americans and go back to the rate that they paid under Bill Clinton.


COOPER: Well, that was then. These days, though, the fact is that President Obama simply doesn't have the support of conservative Senate Democrats for doing what he promised. And now, in cutting a deal, he's alienating some liberal Democrats.


SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: I'm very unhappy about it. You're right. It, in essence, takes $700 billion -- borrows $700 billion from China, charges it, and puts it on our children and grandchildren's credit cards, and gives it to the wealthiest 2 percent of taxpayers.

I mean, I -- people say Washington doesn't listen enough. It's clear what the public was saying is, give the tax -- keep the tax cuts going for the middle class. Extend, maintain unemployment benefits for those -- in my state, 85,000 Ohio families lost their unemployment benefits last week. The Republicans continue to filibuster that.

We should just keep going on that and -- and continue to fight for the middle-class tax break. I -- I -- I'm not at all happy with this. I want to see all details before I make any kind of commitment.


COOPER: Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown tonight on "JOHN KING, USA."

New York Congressman Anthony Weiner tonight not any happier. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "PARKER SPITZER")

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Compromise is not a vice. I mean, I have no problem -- I mean, we often have to do that. That's what we -- we go to Washington and govern about.

But it seems almost as if I missed the part of the fight, like, where was the fight where he said what he believed in?

I think that, to some degree, he underplays his hand. And, as I -- as I said today, it's almost as if he wants to punt sometimes on third down.


COOPER: Congressman Anthony Weiner, Democrat, on "PARKER SPITZER."

The president meeting with congressional Democrats earlier today behind closed doors, urging them to support a deal underscoring the message on camera tonight.


OBAMA: We cannot play politics at a time when the American people are looking for us to solve problems. And so I look forward to engaging the House and the Senate, members of both parties, as well as the media, in this debate. But I am confident that this needs to get done, and I'm confident ultimately Congress is going to do the right thing.


COOPER: Well, late reaction tonight from the Republican side, the spokesman for House speaker-to-be John Boehner releasing the following statement.

Quote: "It's encouraging that the White House is now willing to stop all the job-killing tax hikes scheduled for January 1. We look forward to discussing this proposal with House Republican members and the American people."

We discuss it tonight in all dimensions with former McCain/Palin senior campaign adviser Nicolle Wallace, GOP strategist Ed Rollins, political analyst Roland Martin, and CNN's Ed Henry.

Ed, key Democrats were summoned to the White House today to be briefed on this deal. What do we know about what happened at the meeting, and is it a sign the White House is worried about the anger on their -- on -- basically, on the left?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They're very worried about it, Anderson.

I talked to some senior Democrats tonight who say this was a very tense meeting at the White House. You had some of the Democratic leaders telling the president in private they don't understand how he could give up such a bedrock principle, dating back, as you cataloged there, to the 2008 campaign.

And they also don't -- don't understand, as Sherrod Brown told John King, how, when the public polls show that many Americans believe the rich should be paying more in taxes, why the president, with all of his rhetorical gifts, could not engage the public and make a convincing case here?

The flip side, of course, though, when you talk to senior White House aides here tonight, they say, look, the president was staring at the cold political reality that he doesn't have the votes, particularly in the Senate, to get what he wants done, which is just passing the middle-class tax cuts.

And, number two, he's staring at 9.8 percent unemployment and an unprecedented string of unemployment in terms of consecutive months over 9 percent, close to double digits now. And if he -- the only other viable option here was to do nothing, let Congress go home, let the Bush tax rates expire, and then, come January 1, basically, every American would get a tax increase. That was the only other real viable option he had.

They had all these other symbolic votes on Capitol Hill last weekend. It went nowhere.

COOPER: Right.

HENRY: It was time to move forward in this debate.

COOPER: Roland...

HENRY: And that's their bottom line.

COOPER: Roland, in your blog today, you wrote -- and I quote -- "Frankly, the Republicans are going to play chicken with Democrats, force them to blame, because they know Dems and President Obama don't have the stomach to fight."

Is that really fair to say doesn't have the stomach to fight? Isn't he the guy who got elected saying he wanted to bring all sides together, get people in a room and come up with compromises?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: OK. Every president says that. I remember my fellow Texan George W. Bush said the exact same thing when he ran for president.

Yet, I was sitting here reading a tweet from a journalist, a friend of mine, David Dee (ph). He said, the New England Patriots are whipping up on the New York Jets like GOP whipped up on Democrats today when it came to tax cuts.

And when Ed just laid out where they felt they didn't have much room, that's because the GOP, as I wrote, sat back and said, look, you're going to blink. What they didn't do is tell the GOP, wait a minute. Are you going to allow 95 percent of Americans not to get tax relief?

Are you willing to sacrifice the middle class to get tax cuts in order for you to extend it for the top 2 percent of the wage-earners? That was never on the table. Not only that, Anderson. Look what happened. You extended the Bush tax cuts for the top tier for the next two years, but you only extended unemployment benefits for 13 months?

Why didn't the White House even say, fine, two years for them, two years for the unemployed?

COOPER: Right.

Nicolle, did -- did the president blink?

NICOLLE WALLACE, FORMER BUSH WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I actually don't think the politics on this are that bad for Barack Obama with the voters that -- that made the deciding factor -- that were the deciding factor in his election.

I think independents will be heartened to see him keep one of his other campaign pledges, which was what you alluded to: getting everyone in a room and working out compromise.


WALLACE: I think that the disillusionment with Barack Obama, the reason his numbers have plunged from 80 percent the week he was inaugurated to -- you know, I think they hover somewhere below George W. Bush's these days, is because what people thought they were getting was a guy who could work with the other side and pass reasonable, sometimes moderate, compromises.

COOPER: Do you think, though, that, Ed, that Republicans see this as a sign of weakness, that, basically, this is a victory for them?

ED ROLLINS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: No, I think what they see it as getting this economy moving again.

And I think they basically now see a president, unlike Speaker Pelosi earlier this week, who's willing to work, has read the tea leaves from the election, where they lost 63 House seats and six U.S. Senate races, and, basically, he has to deal now not with the weak and the lame. He has to deal with the leadership of the Republican Party.

And if they want to have any kind of government, cutting taxes or doing whatever in the future, cutting spending, they basically have to work together.

MARTIN: Anderson, one second. First of all, we keep talking about the election that took place on November 2. Didn't -- haven't we heard for the past month from Republicans, as well as conservative Democrat , deficit, deficit, deficit?

So, what happened to the deficit conversation as relates to these particular tax breaks? The deficit will increase, not only for unemployment benefits, but also for extending the tax cuts. So, it seems that the deficit argument sort of moves sort of like the wind blowing in a football stadium.

COOPER: Roland...

ROLLINS: Well...




ROLLINS: Just one quick point.

Why, if rich people keep their money and spend it in the economy, it is a bad thing, and if the government takes it away from them and spends it on runaway spending programs, it's a good thing?

MARTIN: Actually, you didn't answer my question.

ROLLINS: You've never been able to make that argument to me.

MARTIN: No, no, no, no, no, no. No, answer my question.

ROLLINS: And at the end -- no, at the end -- at the end of -- at the end of the day, getting this economy moving -- and the chairman last night of the Federal Reserve, on "60 Minutes," said now is not the time to do deficit spending. It's a long-term thing. Now is the time to basically get this economy moving. That will benefit the president and benefit them all.

MARTIN: Well, I'm just exposing the fact that this whole deficit discussion has been a fraudulent conversation.

It's always a deficit conversation as it relates to the people who are most in need, but, again, when you talk about the deficit when it comes to those who are making more than $250,000, likely every single person on this panel...

COOPER: Nicolle, what...

MARTIN: ... the deficit conversation goes out the window.

COOPER: ... what about to his point?


COOPER: There are those who say, well, look, this will add $700 billion to the deficit by -- by not -- by having tax cuts continued for the wealthy?

WALLACE: Right. But I think the political reality, at least for Republican voters, is that all deficit spending is not equal.


WALLACE: I think Republicans have been engaged in a philosophical debate for the last two years.

We were talking about how Barack Obama has done a great job at expanding the tent on the Republican side. And the tax cut discussion, I think, for many liberals is about the rates at which you tax people.

COOPER: Do you argue that this...

WALLACE: For conservatives -- but -- but it's part of the philosophical debate about the role of the federal government in American life.

So, giving back people's money, no matter how much they make, is always a good thing.

COOPER: Roland -- Roland, you could argue that this is the only form -- or the only new form of -- of stimulus spending that anybody in Washington is going to get this year, I mean, that...

WALLACE: Right. Exactly.

COOPER: ... any kind of big government stimulus thing is not going to be very popular, particularly with Republicans coming in. And, at least with this, as Ed pointed out, maybe you have wealthy people saving some money and also spending some of this money.

MARTIN: And how did that go for the eight years of the Bush tax cut? We keep talking about how we got ourselves into this economy.

I'm simply making the argument, how has that worked thus far? When you talk about losing 500,000 jobs a month, and, all of a sudden, now we're scraping boy with 30,000 or 40,000, what did it actually get us? It got us higher deficits.

I'm just saying, I just think it is amazing how the deficit conversation has just magically disappeared a couple of weeks after -- after the election.

ROLLINS: Spending -- spending got us higher deficits, not higher taxes.


ROLLINS: Spending got us higher deficits.

MARTIN: But, I mean, even -- even the...

ROLLINS: And we continue to do that.

MARTIN: Even the economists can -- will say that those same Bush tax cuts contributed to the federal deficit.

ROLLINS: The chairman of the Federal Reserve, who really has something to do, not a president, not a Congress, but, really, the chairman, he basically said last night, if we had not put $3.3 trillion of Federal Reserve money into this economy, it would have been 10 times worse.

So, at the end of the day, there has been spending. There's been plenty of spending. The whole system is not about the tax cuts. It's about the banking system. It's about bad loans that were made.

And what we got to do is get confidence back in the business community, where they start hiring people again and putting their money back.


MARTIN: So, you're saying the moves by the Obama administration were good moves?


COOPER: Ed Henry, does this allow the White House to try to get some other stuff done in this -- in this lame-duck session now of Congress?

HENRY: You're absolutely right. That's a big part of this, is to not let this drag on for another week, 10 days, try to get the new START treaty, the arms reduction treaty with Russia, through, also try to deal with repealing don't ask, don't tell. Those are big, big things this president wants to get done.

They're going to be hard enough on their own. If the tax fight had been, you know, logjamming everything, he never would have gotten any of those other things done.

The other point is, long term, he has a problem with the fiscal mess, in terms of dealing with the debt, as Roland is saying. But, short term, as Ed Rollins is saying, you have the Federal Reserve chairman saying, look, five or six years, maybe more, of this unemployment.

So, short term, this president has to do something about jobs. It was a difficult choice, but he made it.

COOPER: Ed Rollins, Ed Henry, Nicolle Wallace, and Roland Martin, guys, thank you very much.

MARTIN: Thanks a bunch.

COOPER: Good discussion.

Let us know what you think. Live chat right now at, it's up and running.

Let us know what you think.

Up next: the very latest on Elizabeth Edwards, maybe not a surprise announcement today, but shocking nonetheless. The country has been following her fight against cancer. Now comes word she is discontinuing treatment. We will tell you what her doctors told her, what family sources are telling us, and we will talk to 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta.

And later, "Keeping Them Honest": Arizona cutting state money for lifesaving organ and bone marrow transplants. Arizona's Governor Jan Brewer blaming President Obama's Obama health care reform, but the vote to cut the funding came before the health care reform even became law. Find out what happened when we asked her to come on the program and defend her position tonight.


COOPER: Not surprising, but shocking all the same, word today that Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former presidential candidate John Edwards, may be in her final stages of her fight against breast cancer. She and John Edwards are separated, though still married.

Her family saying her doctors have advised her that further treatment would be, in their words, unproductive. She's been dealing, of course, with the disease since 2004. Three years later, she and her husband revealed the cancer had spread.

In July of this year, Elizabeth Edwards sat down with Larry King. He asked her what would happen if she didn't get to finish raising her kids.


ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS: I would be sad for me and sad for them. I would like to -- you know, I would like to be -- I would like for them to -- to see me seeing them off into their new life.


COOPER: Such a sad prospect.

Tonight, a source close to the family says her prognosis was described in terms of weeks, that same source telling us she's not in pain and -- quote -- "has prepared for this."

Her family is with her, including, as we said, her estranged husband, John.

With us now, 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta, and Jessica Yellin, who has been covering this story extensively over the years.

Sanjay, what happens at this stage of the disease? I mean, doctors say it's -- it's no longer productive. What does that mean?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, when they say that the treatment is no longer productive, I mean, it's a risk/benefit analysis. Like most things in medicine, they're trying to figure out, is there some benefit to still giving the medicines to try and treat this cancer? And, you know, there's no absolute right answer to this. Every breast cancer -- the way that the -- breast cancer as a disease behaves is going to be individualized from patient to patient. But, at some point, as you know, Anderson, back in 2004, the original diagnosis, she was very open about talking that.

In 2007, three years later, she had spread of this breast cancer to her bones and now most recently to her liver. At some point, they say, look, the medicines, we have gone from this ability to try and think about curing someone of the breast cancer to simply trying to treat it. And, at this point, the treatments, even, we think could do more harm than good.

So, that's what they are really basically saying by -- by unproductive. Best to focus on just keeping her comfortable and free of symptoms at this time.

COOPER: Jessica, I -- I should know the answer to this, and I apologize to our viewers for not. I know they have a daughter who is in her 20s. They have sons. How -- do we -- how old are the kids?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They have two younger children. I actually can't remember their ages right now, but I think they're the early teenage years, and perhaps very -- you know, with many more years at home to go before they go to college.

And, of course, Anderson, she lost her teenage son Wade many years ago.

COOPER: Right.

And -- and she obviously played a very strong role in the Edwards campaign. I mean, some often said she was a driving force behind it, maybe wanted it more -- more than he did in some points. And there that moment now famous when, basically, during the campaign that she announced that the illness had returned.

I just want to play that for our viewers.



JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: The net result of all the tests is that she has -- her cancer is back. It's largely confined in bone.


COOPER: What sort of an impact has she had on her husband's career?

YELLIN: Well, you know, he was the candidate, but, oftentimes, it seems that she was the star.

I covered them through so many events, and she was always the -- sort of the popular public figure. And her struggle with cancer was a central part of -- in a way, both of their appeal.

Remember, she was admired for her strength after losing her son Wade. Then, when she got the cancer, she first noticed a lump toward the end of the 2004 campaign, as her husband was still running for vice president. And because she didn't want to upset anyone, she kept it quiet until the campaign ended. That won her a lot of affection.

And -- and so did her grace in fighting it. She first seemed to beat the cancer, but, as you will recall, she -- when it recurred in 2007, right as her husband was launching his presidential campaign, she was the one who insisted he stay in the race.

And her struggle with the disease and their bond together became a central part of his 2008 campaign. I -- I attended more Edwards campaign events than I can remember, and, every single time, he talked about her and her fight with this disease -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. I should point out.

Four children, as you said, Wade, who passed away, Catherine, and Emma Claire and Jack are 10 and 12, I'm told.

Sanjay, when -- at this point, I mean, what -- what sort of -- what does a patient do?

GUPTA: Well, you know, there's been a lot of studies on this exact question, Anderson. And you have varying schools of thought.

But one thing that she has talked is, she is going to be at home. She is going to be at home with her family, as opposed to being in a hospital, for example. And studies have shown that that, in terms of the overall anxiety levels for the patient and the family, and the -- even quality of care can all be better, in fact, at home, as opposed to in a hospital, as long as, you know, the care is available at home.

So, she says she's going to be at home. I mean, a lot of it is going to be focused on what is known as palliative care. And not to sound too clinical, but, basically, the concerns about pain, the concerns about nausea or vomiting, the concerns about what will happen to her heart and lungs, all of that can be addressed, so that she can be comfortable and be able to be interactive with her family.

But that's really got to be the focus. From what I heard from her statement, and also looking at studies of patients in this condition, it's -- it's focused on -- on treating these -- these types of the symptoms.


I mean, to think about her kids, 10 and 12 -- I lost my dad at age 10 -- I mean, it's -- it's a devastating impact on a child, particularly at that age.

Jessica, the relationship -- I mean, I think some people would be surprised to hear that -- that John Edwards is by her side.


COOPER: They are obviously estranged. Do we know much about their relationship today?

YELLIN: Well, look, they're separated and not divorced. And that is meaningful, Anderson.

The facts still are pretty painful. In the last three years, she learned that she had a terminal illness, that her husband had a relationship with another woman, that he lied to her about it.

And that he was the father of this other woman's child. And, remember, much of that soap opera was unfolding during the campaign, while she was keeping up this brave public face. So, plenty has been written and said about the private tension behind the scenes.

Truthfully, as devastating as all of that must be, it's -- we should remember they still live in the same area. And part of the reason that he's been by her side as things took a turn for the worse is, we're told she generally thinks it's important that he has a strong relationship with his children.

She knows she's not going to be around for long, and she doesn't want to come between her children and their father.

COOPER: It's just so sad.

Jessica, appreciate you being on, and Sanjay as well. Thanks.

Just ahead: some people waiting for lifesaving transplants in Arizona are actually being turned down, not for lack of donors, but because of a lack of money. We're "Keeping Them Honest."

And next: a confession in a murder that rocked a picture postcard town of Celebration, Florida, white picket fences, and, for the first time, yellow crime scene tape.


COOPER: Tonight, we're hearing from an accused Mexican drug cartel hit man who isn't a man at all. He's a 14-year-old boy. We're going to that story coming up.

But, first, Joe Johns has a 360 bulletin -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the attorney for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says his client is planning to meet with police in Britain, not because of his online posting of classified U.S. papers, but an unrelated warrant involving a rape case in Sweden which Assange calls a smear campaign.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Holder says he's authorizing significant actions to investigate the document dump.

Police say a homeless man has admitted carrying out the first- ever homicide in Celebration, Florida, the town created by the Disney Company not far from Disney World. The transient was receiving counseling from the victim. Investigators believe the suspect bludgeoned the man to death with an axe.

The hunt is on for a shark that killed a 70-year-old woman off the southern coast of Egypt on Sunday. Two other sharks have been captured and killed, but tourists are being ordered to stay out of the water until the shark believed responsible for this latest attack is found.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he's not optimistic that the ban on openly gay and lesbian troops in the military will be repealed by Congress any time soon. Democrats are hoping to end the don't ask, don't tell policy before the lame-duck session wraps up.

And Alicia Keys is back from the dead, digitally speaking. Keys led a celebrity campaign to stage a digital death by staying off Twitter, Facebook, and other social media until they could raise $1 million to fight AIDS in Africa and India.

E! Online is reporting they met their goal after raising half-a- million from their fans and other stars. The rest came from a billionaire from the pharmaceutical industry, which is one way to get people thinking the drug companies are good.


Joe, thank you very much.

Time for tonight's "Shot."

All right, it's -- it's hard to think of anything funny about WikiLeaks, until the cast of Saturday Night Live got on the case, imagining what it would be like if Julian Assange and his team were like Harvey Levin and the squad over at TMZ. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Well, our guys caught up with President Hamid Karzai leaving (INAUDIBLE) last night.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: So, your boy Obama was in Afghanistan. Did you get to see him?


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Did he ask you about all the bribery in your administration?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Sir, you forgot your briefcase.

DE NIRO: I do not take bribes.



COOPER: Well, I wish we saw the guy who was Harvey Levin. It was very funny.

All right, the governor of Arizona tonight cut costs by cutting people from the chance of getting lifesaving transplants. Is the data she used to make the decision faulty? We're "Keeping Them Honest."

And, later: actor Josh -- actor Josh Duhamel speaking out about getting escorted off a plane for breaking a rule everybody has to follow. You will why he's cleared for landing tonight on our "RidicuList."


COOPER: Tonight, cutting budgets and blaming Obama care with the lives of low-income transplant patients hanging in the balance.

As of October 1, Arizona stopped financing certain transplant operations under the state's version of Medicaid. Arizona governor, Jan Brewer, a Republican, has reportedly blamed President Obama's health-care overhaul. But there's just one problem. The vote on cutting transplant funding came before the president signed that bill into law.

And for people waiting for transplants, this is a life or death matter. This man, for instance, Francisco Felix (ph), a 32-year-old father of four, his wife told us he needs a liver transplant. A friend whose wife had died recently called Felix and said she wanted to give him her liver. It ended up being a match.

But when Felix checked into the hospital, according to his wife, he was told the transplant would no longer be covered, and he need to come up with $200,000 within two hours as a down payment on the $500,000 surgery. He couldn't come up with the money. The liver went to somebody else. And Felix is now at home. Doctors say without the transplant he has about two years to live.

Then there's Mark Price, a 34-year-old father of six. He needed a bone marrow transplant. Doctors found a match, but it happened to be on the same day that Arizona's Medicaid program stopped covering them. An anonymous donor stepped in, offered to cover the costs of the transplant, hundreds of thousands of dollars, but Price died on November 28 before that operation could be done.

Now, Governor Brewer has said her heart went out to the Price family but that the cuts were necessary.


GOV. JAN BREWER (R), ARIZONA: The state only has so much money and we could only provide so many optional kinds of care. And those was one of options that we had taken liberty to discard, to dismiss.


COOPER: She said optional kinds of care. The question is are transplant operations optional? Three national transplant organizations has sent Governor Brewer a letter saying that what she's done is a death sentence. Quote, "This baseless exclusion of coverage to Arizona citizens for services that represent the best treatment options for patients with end-stage organ failure to both improve survival and quality of life represents an actual death sentence for many of these citizens of Arizona."

So the question is how did Governor Brewer and the Arizona state legislature arrive at the decision? It was after state officials looked at success rates and survival rates for transplant procedures. But transplant groups say the data that they looked at was faulty and outdated.

The transplant group sent Governor Brewer a letter back in June saying that the proposed changes to one type of heart transplant for example, were based on inadequate and discriminatory data.

For instance, lung transplants were cut out entirely, because Arizona's version of Medicaid said data showed the surgery did not extend life expectancy.

According to, which is the report card for all major organ transplants, 66 percent of patients survive at least three years after having a lung transplant.

Brewer said she would consider restoring the transplant funding if she were provided ideas on where to get the money. Turns out she did get some ideas. Back in September, representatives from transplant programs at four Arizona hospitals sent her a letter, recommending other cost-cutting measures that they say could have saved at least the same amount if not more than what they say by cutting the transplants. They say they never heard back from her office.

As the local transplant experts, this group of doctors say they're surprised that they weren't consulted even in the first place and that no one listened to them.

What about federal stimulus money? Could that be used to cover the transplants? Public information officer for Arizona's House Democratic caucus told us that there are $30 million in federal stimulus dollars that are unaccounted for of the money that's been spent. Two million went to fixing the roof at the Coliseum, which is apparently a rarely-used venue, and $2.4 million went to algae research.

What are the transplant cuts saving the state? Well, if you think it's tens of millions of dollars, it's not. It's $1.4 million a year.

We asked Governor Brewer to come on the program tonight. She said she wasn't available tonight or for the entire rest of the month or the first half of January. The invitation stands.

Arizona state Representative Anna Tovar was available and she feels strongly about this. Not only politically but personally as a transplant survivor. I talked to her earlier tonight.


COOPER: Representative, you had a bone marrow transplant ten years ago. You say it saved your life. For you, was this what governor Brewer calls "optional" type of care?

REP. ANNA TOVAR (R), ARIZONA: Well, definitely this transplant saved my life. I've had two transplants. I had a bone marrow transplant and a stem cell transplant, and I know for a fact that, without the transplants, I wouldn't be here today. The transplants saved my life.

The transplants that people here in Arizona need are not optional. These are actually life-threatening, you know, diseases that they have and they definitely need a transplant in order to survive. So in my eyes, transplants are not optional. This is something that they need in order to have a second chance at life.

COOPER: You know, to be fair to Governor Brewer, no one is happy about these cuts. The argument is that the state's in bad financial shape and, you know, difficult cuts have to be made somewhere. Do you buy that?

TOVAR: Well, I mean, Arizona is no different than any other state in the nation. We face our deficit cuts.

But the fact of the matter is that Governor Brewer and the Republicans have chosen to cut over 400,000 people off health care and one of those, you know, being transplants.

And at the time I mean, we had a choice to make and priorities, and we could have chosen to cut, you know, tax loopholes for big businesses and for the rich. But I mean, their priority was cutting people's, you know -- what they considered optional care, which is not optional care for transplants. That I just find totally outrageous.

COOPER: It seems like the data used by the governor, the legislature, to make the decision on the cuts, I mean, it's been widely criticized by a lot of medical professionals. Nationally, even some state Republicans are saying, you know, the data is potentially outdated and flawed. How did that happen?

TOVAR: Now, actually, my bone-marrow doctor has come forward, along with many other physicians across the nation now, and have stated her and to other democrats and to Republicans, that the information was flawed. Yes, the information that we received. But to now, there's been nothing done as far as Governor Brewer or the Republicans, to push forward in solving the solution.

I mean, they made the mistake. They admitted to the mistake. But as of yet, you know, no solution has been brought forward, no action in moving past (ph)...

COOPER: You're calling for a special session from governor Brewer to address these budget cuts. Have you heard any -- gotten any response from her?

TOVAR: There's been no response from her regarding the special session. But actually, the easiest solution for her to take is to use some of her discretionary monies, $1.4 million, to be exact, out of her $178 that she was awarded by the federal government, to use wisely. And that's going to be...

COOPER: You're talking about stimulus funds?

TOVAR: Yes. The stimulus funds. Those can be used, you know, for those transplants to save almost 100 people's lives in Arizona.

COOPER: She said, though, that she's used up her stimulus funds.

TOVAR: Well, as of to date she's yet to account for the $30 million that she said she spent. So we've requested records. And she's yet to come forward with what she spent this money on.

COOPER: Do you think there's hope for those people who are waiting, those people who are, you know, on a list and not going to be able to pay for it?

TOVAR: Really, no. I mean, if they're unable to raise the funds, they're not going to be able to get the transplant.

But there are solutions. The governor could use her discretionary federal money. We can go into a special session and designate money to go back into these transplants and for people to have a second chance at life. I mean, this is a mandatory operation that they must have in order to live.

COOPER: And in terms of how much money we're talking about, what kind of sums are we talking about?

TOVAR: We're talking about $1.4 million, out of our state budget which is approximately $9 billion. So when you look at the scheme of things, $1.4 million to save over 100 people's lives in Arizona, I mean, to me that's definitely money well worth it and well spent.

COOPER: Representative Tovar, appreciate you coming on. Thank you.

TOVAR: Thank you.


COOPER: We'll continue to follow that.

Coming up, "Crime & Punishment," a 14-year-old kid, an alleged drug cartel hitman. He says he's executed four people, slitting the throats of his victims. You'll hear from him and also give you an extraordinary look at how Mexico's drug cartels seem to be luring young kids to try to do their dirty work.

And actor Josh Duhamel flies no class and gets himself escorted off a flight. We'll tell you how he earned himself a spot on tonight's RidicuList.


COOPER: Tonight, some frightening new evidence of the war next door. Mexico's exploding drug violence has claimed more than 28,000 lives in just four years. Imagine that.

We're now hearing from an alleged assassin who's just been captured. He's not even old enough to drive a car, and he claims to have been killing -- killing for several years now. Ed Lavandera tonight shows us why he may not be alone in tonight's "Crime & Punishment" report.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A teenage boy caught in the middle of a violent man's game. On the street, he's known as El Fonges (ph). Mexican authorities say this kid worked as a drug cartel hitman, slitting the throats of his victims.

(on camera) How many people have you executed, friend?


LAVANDERA: How old are you?


LAVANDERA (voice-over): In Mexico, criminal suspects are routinely paraded before the news cameras, and it was no different for this young boy, captured near Mexico City at the airport with his sister.

The teenager told reporters he was trying to get to San Diego, where he was born. He says a man called El Negro forced him into the deadly drug cartel world.

(on camera) Who picked you up?


LAVANDERA: And he convinced you or he made you join this?


LAVANDERA: What did he tell you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That either work or he'll kill me.


GRAPHIC: You don't have parents?

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The boy said he dropped out of school after the third grade. He says he started killing with the help of drugs. (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

GRAPHIC: Who gave you orders to hit them, to execute them?


LAVANDERA: Where did you learn to execute? To beat?


LAVANDERA: Did you get drugged?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: El Negro drugged me.

LAVANDERA: Since when did El Negro drug you?


LAVANDERA: You belonged to the gang since you were 12?



LAVANDERA: The young boy says he was on the cartel's payroll making $500 a week.

CHARLES BOWDEN, AUTHOR, "MURDER CITY": They use them like Kleenex as they say in the business. You can just throw them away.

LAVANDERA: Charles Bowden has documented the cartel's stranglehold on thousands of young kids. He recently wrote a book called "Murder City" about the violence in Juarez, Mexico.

BOWDEN: You got to imagine being 11 or 12 and knowing you have no future. Knowing your life is going to be a ruin. Knowing nothing's going to get better, and here's your shot. Go out and kill somebody and make some bucks and be a big guy for a while, all the while knowing you'll die.

Reporter: cartels have preyed on teenagers for years. Bowden says they're recruited because they're not punished as severely if arrested and don't know enough to testify against cartel leaders.

The authorities say it's not rare for teenagers to reach the level of assassin. Two American teenagers in Laredo, Texas, were convicted of murder two years ago. Rosalio Reta and Gabriel Cardona were teenagers when they joined the Zetas' drug cartel, their faces and bodies marked with menacing-looking tattoos. Cardona even had eyeballs tattooed on his eyelids. Reta claimed in this videotaped police interrogation, that he started killing at age 13.

"I loved doing it. Killing that first person, I loved it. I thought I was superman," said Reta.

and that is the lure. The hope of becoming bigger than life and escaping the squalor around them.


COOPER: Was this kid's route into the drug cartel or what we know about it, I mean, was it different than others who ended up there?

LAVANDERA: Well, what was interesting about what he said, and basically, what we have to go on is that those statements that he had mode to reporters after being arrested is.

But we know that a lot of young kids are brought in to the drug cartel world. They start off as lookouts on street corners. They run small amounts of drugs across the border or sell drugs on a street corner. This kid said he was forced into it, essentially told if he didn't do it he would be killed so that sounds at least from what we know right now to be slightly different from other routes and other ways that other young kids have gotten into it, Anderson.

COOPER: Obviously in the United States, you wouldn't parade a 14-year-old suspect in front of the media, which is why we're covering this kid's face. Do we know what happens to him now?

LAVANDERA: Well, he's going through the Mexican legal process right now, and there's a hearing today in Mexico as to exactly how he'll be tried. He will not face the kinds of consequences that we alluded to there in the piece that he other adults would have faced for similar crimes.

From that standpoint, it's very possible that he could end up back out on the streets again.

But, you know, what is fascinating about this world, Anderson, I've had you know, many people tell me about -- people in DEA and other federal law enforcement officials in the U.S., is that they wonder why these kids get into this. Do they ever stop and realize that you never meet any old, retired drug cartel members? This isn't the kind of lifestyle you kick back and retire from one day.

COOPER: Yes, well, I mean, a 12 or 15 year old from a, you know, poor background in Mexico is probably not thinking too are about what happens at age 40.

Ed, appreciate your fascinating report. Ed Lavandera, thanks so much.

Up next, it's being called the Fed's $110 billion headache. What caused a huge batch of brand-new $100 bills to be quarantined? Details on that.

And what did movie star Josh Duhamel do on a plane that landed him on our RidicuList tonight?


COOPER: All right. Joe Johns joins us again with a "360 Bulletin" -- Joe.

JOHNS: Anderson, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met today in Washington with South Korean and Japanese diplomats for talks on how to respond to North Korea's recent attacks and nuclear arms proliferation. The three nations jointly condemned North Korea and rejected the call by China to return to six-party talks to resolve the long-running conflict.

California's long-running battle over same-sex marriage is back in the courtroom. A federal appeals court heard arguments on Proposition 8, which bans such unions. A lower court judge ruled Prop 8 to be unconstitutional. The case is likely to reach the Supreme Court.

Stocks fell, the Dow losing 26 points after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke gave a pessimistic outlook about the nation's economy. Here's what he said in an interview with "60 Minutes."


BEN BERNANKE, FED CHAIRMAN: The peak and the end of last year we lost 8.5 million jobs. We've only gotten about a million of them back so far. And that doesn't even account for the new people coming into the labor force. At the rate we're going, it could be four or five years before we are back to a more normal unemployment rate. Somewhere in the vicinity of say, 5 or 6 percent.


JOHNS: It's being called the Fed's $110 billion headache. More than a billion new $100 bills slated to be released next year have been kept back because of a printing problem that renders some of them useless. The new design was supposed to make them more resistant to counterfeiting.

The ink on Kelsey Grammar's divorce isn't even dry yet, and now the former star of "Fraser" and "Cheers" is engaged yet again, this time to a 29-year-old British woman. Grammar's break up with Camille, who stars on "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," has yet to be finalized. And I guess that's Hollywood, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, we truly wish him the best.

All right. Time now for the RidicuList, our nightly journey through the valley of, well, just silly stuff.

Tonight, actor Josh Duhamel winds up on the RidicuList. He got removed from a flight in New York City last week for refusing to return his ego to its upright and locked position and get off his phone.

That's right. Josh was that guy, the one who won't turn off his BlackBerry before take-off. He apparently just kept texting away, sitting there on the tarmac, even after a flight attendant repeatedly asked him to shut it down.

So the plane turned back to the gate at La Guardia. And he was Supreme Courted off.

And Josh told, that the experience was, quote, "not my favorite moment." I'm sure it wasn't, but I'm sure the dozen or so -- the dozens of other passengers also really enjoyed returning to the gate and having their flight delayed, because he was texting his agent or his manager or chef or whatever.

Maybe it's just because I fly often, but I hate it when people are rude to flight attendants. We're hard. They have to deal with drunken, smelly, sweaty passengers, not to mention egotistical actors and anchors, all the time. I mean, why make their lives hard.

People who argue with airline personnel at the check-in counter or people who argue with TSA screeners or rental car agents or traffic cops. These folks aren't making the rules. They're just doing their jobs. And you know what? These are people who get yelled at all day long. And if you think you yelling at him is going to make them work harder for you, you're wrong.

You know what helps? A smile, being polite. Turning offer your stupid blackberry when you're supposed to. Josh Duhamel says he learned his lesson, and we're certainly glad to hear that. But for a clueless list of a wireless device, he's texted himself onto tonight's RidicuList.


COOPER: Thanks for watching. No. 1 tonight, breaking news. President Obama laying out a deal with Republicans on taxes and jobless benefits and takes heat from fellow Democrats. Will they go along with him in the end? And which will Americans care more about? That he gave up on a campaign pledge to roll back tax cuts for the rich? Or that he's trying to keep his other promise to reach across the aisle. We're "Keeping Them Honest."

Breaking news, as well, on Elizabeth Edwards. She's stopping her treatment for advanced breast cancer. The shocking announcement tonight, the latest on that, how she's coping. Her estranged husband, John Edwards, now at her side.