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Bachmann Campaign Shakeup; Texas on Fire

Aired September 5, 2011 - 22:00   ET



Good evening, everyone, 10:00 p.m. here on the East Coast.

We have got some breaking news from the presidential campaign: a shakeup involving two of Michele Bachmann's top campaign staffers -- her campaign manager, Ed Rollins, a familiar face to CNN viewers, stepping back into an advisory role, citing health concerns, and Bachmann deputy campaign manager, David Polyansky leaving the campaign entirely.

Unclear who's going to take either man's place.

Joining us right now is Democratic strategist James Carville, and Ari Fleischer, who served as press secretary in the last Bush administration and can currently be reached on Twitter @AriFleischer.

James, what do you make of this shakeup?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, it's possible that Ed Rollins could have health issues here. That's not outside the realm of possibility. He had some health issues before. I don't know. Sometimes people just say that.

And also these differences in campaigns happen. It would be early to call this significant. I mean it may be but there's probably a lot more to find out about it before I deem it as something really significant here yet.

COOPER: Ari, if it is health, that's one thing. If it's not, could this also just be the growing pains of a campaign? Campaigns start off one way, often evolve into something else.

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes. Yes. This often does happen in campaigns.

You know, Anderson, as James knows, campaigns are probably the most grueling thing you can do to yourself. It is a labor of love, it is a labor of intensity. It is ridiculous hours, it is low pay, it is grinding, difficult work, and it ends hopefully in joy if you win. But I'm 50 and I'm too old to do a campaign. It really is a young person's business especially on the presidential level. So I don't know what the facts are with Ed. He's 68 years old. But you do have to keep your eye out for these things, especially Michele Bachmann has a history of not being able to keep a staff at her congressional office. So let's see how this does play out.

COOPER: Joining us now is also John King.

John, what do you make of this?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as both James and Ari know -- they're veterans of campaigns -- there are shakeups. This one also comes at a time where Congressman Bachmann faces a couple of issues. One is the entrance of Rick Perry into the race which has changed the dynamic and stalled her momentum a bit.

She has a lot to prove here in South Carolina and other states. Iowa, of course, the most critical state. Can't emphasize that enough. The most critical state. But also there have been some missteps. Some of them silly, getting Elvis's birthday -- confusing Elvis's birthday with Elvis's death day. Some silly factual misstatements, some of them not so silly.

Where the campaign has come -- a management of the campaign and saying, hey, staffers must be giving her bad information have come into play. So last time I talked to Ed Rollins about this just a few weeks ago in an e-mail exchange and he said he was having a lot of fun.

He has had some health issues over the past so I will for now take them at their word but they have also had some questions about management style, and management substance within the Bachmann campaign without a doubt.

COOPER: James, you've worked on a lot of campaigns, still work on campaigns overseas. What do you make of how her campaign has been run? Obviously you disagree with her politically but just as a campaign.

CARVILLE: Right. Right. Well, I mean, she has a lot of energy. Look, the one thing is we know, Michele Bachmann, contrary to my endorsement and pulling for her is not going to be the Republican nominee. That's hard to work. It's hard enough to work on a campaign where you have a chance. You know? But it's really hard to work on a campaign where you know in the end that you are not going to prevail.

That could have something to do with this. And Ari is right. You know and this is strictly -- you know campaign is a cause as opposed to something that's going to end in ultimate victory. You have to have a lot of energy and a lot of perseverance. So I'm not surprised and I think John pointed out that she's had trouble keeping staff at the congressional level. And some people are just hard to work for. Maybe she's one of those people. I obviously don't know that much about her. COOPER: Ari, to John's point about the entrance of Mitt Romney changing or maybe stalling some of her momentum, do you think that's true? And if so, I mean, how big a problem do you think that is for her?

FLEISCHER: You know, I think that Michele Bachmann attracts her -- people who -- working for her because they believe in her and she has a special appeal, she has this charisma and she has this energy herself. And so even if you're working on a campaign that is not winning -- but, remember, she does have a chance to win this thing. It's way too soon for anybody to pronounce who's going to win the Republican nomination.

That does fire up a staff and get them energized. So I just think you have to let this play out. If she does lose staff, you know, at the end of the day it's not the worst thing to happen to candidates. Many candidates go through staff changes. It's a regular party campaigning.

It does become a test of who the candidate is or how they persevere and move forward. Newt Gingrich is being tested on that front right now. It's a part of the adversity of campaigning that helps prepare people to become president. It's one of the grinding facts about working on a campaign.

We do get to measure the candidates over time as they deal with adversity whether personnel or policy.

COOPER: James Carville is grinning like a Cheshire cat so I got to ask him why.

CARVILLE: Well, no, I just -- I didn't say who was going to win, I just said she wasn't.


CARVILLE: I think that's pretty clear to anybody. And like I said -- and I go back to my point is, it's hard -- it's heck to work on a campaign that has a chance to win. It's mighty near impossible on one that doesn't have a chance to win.

I mean Ed -- I know him, he's an old friend of mine. He's hardly ideologically -- he worked for Christine Todd Whitman. And Christine Todd Whitman and Michele Bachmann logically a pretty much on a different planet if you ask me.

COOPER: I want to talk about --

CARVILLE: I mean he's a political professional as opposed to somebody committed ideologically to this.

COOPER: Obviously worked for Reagan for a long time.

Congressman Bachmann and four other Republican hopefuls spent the afternoon courting conservatives in Columbia, South Carolina, today at a forum that was hosted by Senator Jim DeMint. John, you were there. Who do you think came out making probably the best impression for that crowd?

KING: Well, I think making an important impression -- I don't know if I would characterize that the best impression was Governor Romney whose decision to come was a bit of a surprise because Senator DeMint is a Tea Party guy, because he's a conservative.

Senator DeMint, by the way, actually supported Governor Romney back in 2008 when the Massachusetts Health Care Reform Plan have been passed then. Now he says it's an issue for him. He says that's because this is a different presidential field.

But Governor Romney, with Governor Perry in the race, with Michele Bachmann's support among Tea Party voters, with the potential entry -- potential entry of Sarah Palin, needs to reach out beyond just the center of the Republican Party, the moderate conservative Republican Party.

He's going to need to get some votes. Maybe not a lot of votes, but some votes from the Tea Party movement. Some votes from Evangelicals. So this is an important statement from Governor Romney, Anderson, that he realizes he needs to broaden his reach and broaden his strategy a bit.

So he agreed to come here and then he does come here and instead of sharing the stage with Governor Perry -- a lot of Republicans would have liked that contrast, Governor Perry had to go home to Texas because of the wildfires. So we'll have to wait. Three debates coming up in the next few weeks for the Romney/Perry showdown. But I think Governor Romney did make an important statement by coming here today, and saying, I'm going to compete outside of what many of you might have thought was my box of voters.

COOPER: Well, it's interesting, Ari, Rick Perry seems to take kind of another swipe at Mitt Romney's jobs credentials today, even though many of the jobs he takes credit for in Texas are in the public and not in the private sector and low wage jobs. Who has the edge here in terms of jobs and work in the private sector, Romney or Perry?

FLEISCHER: It's a fair fight. And this is the stuff of which campaigns are made to see who can make their case stronger for Republican primary voters. You know Governor Romney has got the case that he has private sector experience. He knows how to create jobs in the private sector. He knows the dynamism of the private sector where jobs get lost, jobs get created, and net job creation.

Governor Perry has got the experience of being part of the fastest growth of jobs in America in the last couple of years, which in this economy is a significant accomplishment. And there's also a tendency especially in Republican primaries for voters to choose sitting governors because of their executive experience.

And so you've got really what I think is a fair fight. I think if the issue is the economy, and it certainly is the economy, these two are the ones to look for who can make the best campaign, the best message to candidates.

COOPER: James, what do you think?


FLEISCHER: I'm sorry, to the public.

CARVILLE: Well, I think -- look, I think it's a fascinating race and what I like about it is from everything that I hear and everything that I feel these two guys don't much care for each other. And that always makes for an interesting --


CARVILLE: An interesting primary. I know that primaries sometimes can be more intense than general elections. And I think this is going to be, you know, a very intense fight. Governor Romney and Governor Perry are two different people and I think that's going to become apparent over the next month.

It's unfortunate that the governor had a good excuse. Obviously those wildfires are very devastating in Texas. There's no question about that. But they have got -- remember they have got three debates coming up and one of them right here on CNN, as I recall.

COOPER: That is right.

Michele Bachmann --

FLEISCHER: Anderson, let me also --

COOPER: Go ahead, Ari.

FLEISCHER: Well, I was just going to say, I'm in the minority among Republican observers. I don't believe there is a Republican front runner. I think every candidate has sufficient strengths and sufficient weaknesses that nobody is in first place by enough to call them a front runner.

For a moment, it could be Governor Perry. For a moment it could be former Governor Romney. I don't count Michele Bachmann out yet. There's just too much of a Rubik's Cube nature to how this campaign is going and nobody has sufficient strength yet to be anything that I would call a front runner.

COOPER: But you see those three as the front runners? I mean Ron Paul is polling very highly, you don't -- you didn't name him.

FLEISCHER: No. That's right and I don't think he -- he doesn't have the strength to go beyond his very vociferous narrow base. But there's a top tier. And in the top tier I would put Michele Bachmann, I would put Mitt Romney, I would put Governor Perry.

And I also think there's a way for Governor Huntsman -- former Governor Huntsman of Utah to prevail because of his appeal to moderates in New Hampshire if he runs a smart campaign and if conservative divide possibly Huntsman can conquer. There's way too many dynamics still at play in the next several months of the Republican campaign.

COOPER: Now I want to show you something Michele Bachmann said about -- part of her idea about how the federal government could save some money.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Areas of government would include -- for instance, I believe the Department of Education, because the Constitution does not specifically enumerate, nor does it give to the federal government the role and duty to superintend over education. That historically has been held by the parents and by local communities and by state government.


COOPER: John, not really surprising. That's been a long held position by some Republicans getting rid of the Department of Education. What else jumped out at you today -- tonight in -- down there?

KING: Well, look. Social issues are important to Republican primary voters, especially evangelical voters. More than half, 54 percent of the voters here in the Republican presidential primary in 2008 describe themselves as evangelicals. So you're going to have debates, you're going to have questions about eliminating the Department of Education, about whether you should have a federal constitutional amendment or leave it up to the states to decide whether to outlaw abortion or to allow same-sex marriage.

Those are issues that are going to be discussed in a Republican primary. There is no way to avoid it and guess what? Republican voters want to hear those differences laid out.

There is a question, though, Anderson, when Republicans see the president of the United States, the Democratic incumbent as so vulnerable. There are some Republicans who worry if they get too much national attention that it gives the president the opportunity to say, these guys are too far right, or they're talking about issues not relevant to the number one, number two, number three, and number four challenges the country faces right now which is the economy.

So important issues to Republicans aren't necessarily today. Those issues aren't necessarily the issues. And in the case of the social issues certainly not the issues we will be talking about a year from now when we're at Labor Day heading into the final stretch.

COOPER: Yes, John, thanks very much.

James and Ari, stick around.

We're going to have much more on the story directly from Ed Rollins. He's on the phone. He joins us right after the break.

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook. You can follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. I will try to tweet some tonight.

And later, we'll take you to Texas, where wildfires have already destroyed hundreds of homes and are right now burning out of control.


COOPER: Our breaking news tonight. Big changes in Michele Bachmann's presidential effort. Her deputy campaign manager is stepping down and her campaign manager, Ed Rollins, is now said to be taking an advisory role. Ed Rollins actually is joining us on the phone.

Ed, thanks for calling in. Why are you stepping down?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN ADVISER: Anderson, I have been doing this three, four months now. You know I'm 64 years -- 68 years old. You know, I had a stroke a year and a half ago. And so, you know, I just -- worked 12, 14-hour days. It's wearing.

And I have great affection for Michele. I would do everything I can to help. It's kind of always my plan to build a team, get through the straw poll. Obviously we won that, and kind of make a transition when we got to the fall when she was coming back to Congress. So that's in essence where we are today.

COOPER: Can you say -- do you know --

ROLLINS: There's no conflict from the campaign. I have great affection for her. I will do everything I can to help her. Still very much the team I put in place. I just don't have the endurance to go 12, 14 hours a day, seven days a week anymore.

COOPER: Ed, I think you've got more endurance than me. I know you've been a fighter for a long time. You can still box my ears, I think.

ROLLINS: As long as you've been on this earth I have been doing campaigns. It's tough. It's a young person's game.

COOPER: The deputy campaign manager is also stepping down. Do you have a comment on that why?

ROLLINS: You know, David and I have been a team for a long time. We worked on the Huckabee campaign together. His family has recently moved back to Houston. And I think to a certain extent -- you know, he's got two young children. He lived in New York before. Just kind of -- you know, just a good time to make a change.

And once again, how she wants to structure it and who she structures it with will be sort of out of the players that are players but I think David just decided because we worked well together that he's worn out, too.

COOPER: Can -- I don't know if you can say, but how do you think the entrance of Rick Perry into the race has affected Michele Bachmann's campaign? Has it changed anything?

ROLLINS: Oh, sure it has. I mean, you know, Rick Perry is a very serious candidate who steps in. We now have two serious money people in the sense of Mitt Romney and him. They sort of do a little cross over. I mean I think the debates are going to play a big role. A vast majority of people don't know who Rick Perry is outside of Texas.

So, you know, we are sort of going after the same voter base. And I think to a certain extent it slowed our money down. It took a lot of the momentum that we would have gotten out of the straw poll victory.

You know, to win the straw poll after eight weeks being in the race is unheard of. And normally that would have given you a big, gigantic boost. He steps in the race the same day so there's a lot of attention on him.

This makes it harder, but at the end of the day he's got to prove himself in a very tough arena with the debates and all the rest of it. And she's a good debater. She'll do very well over the next six, seven weeks which is -- at the debates out there. So my sense is, you know, it's -- you know I think legitimately it's a Romney-Perry race with the leaders in the polls leading the money.

I think she's the third candidate at this point in time, which is way different and better than we thought when we started this thing. And she's very much in this thing. And I think the key thing here is just do very well. It's -- you know, think of it as a marathon. It's a long time before voters actually cast their votes. Still starts in Iowa and she's still very strong in Iowa.

COOPER: There are some reports tonight of strategic differences between the deputy campaign manager and Michele Bachmann which led to him stepping down. True?

ROLLINS: You know, there are always differences in a campaign. David did a superb job. He ran the straw poll. It comes down to time. It comes down to where do you put somebody? Are they in Iowa, are they in Florida, are they in South Carolina?

There is no strategic differences in the sense of what we should be doing or saying. It's just a question of how you use your time and how you use your resources.

COOPER: And I know John --

ROLLINS: Nothing severe and nothing different than any other campaign.

COOPER: I know John King is with us and wants to ask a question or two -- John.

KING: Well, Anderson, Ed is an old friend to all of us here at CNN so I respect Ed's decision.

But, Ed, you said it's the right time to do this. As you know there are many people who will say no, it's actually absolutely the wrong time to do this. You just conceded yourself Governor Perry getting into the race changes the dynamic, creates momentum. There have been some criticism of Congresswoman Michele Bachmann for some of the silly mistakes, silly factual mistakes, confusing Elvis's death with Elvis's birthday, confusing Concord, New Hampshire, with Concord, Massachusetts in the American Revolution.

But for a candidate who, A, has a new competitor in Governor Perry, and B, a history of sometimes letting her tongue get out a little bit ahead of her brain, people will say now a campaign staff shakeup, in politics, as you know, perception can become reality. People will say another misstep or another problem for Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.

Will they not?

ROLLINS: Well, I think they will say that, but at the end of the day it doesn't matter. I'm not going away. I'm still going to be right there to give her advice and counsel. I talk to her today after she did very well in your forum which you had in South Carolina.

And you know I'm going to still be around and I'm still going to give her counsel. So it's not -- it's just -- there's a difference between starting at 6:00 in the morning and going to midnight and making every decision in a campaign which may have been my skill set 20 years ago but today my sense is my value is more or less is giving her advice and counsel.

What we're going to do is structure the campaign both from the fund-raising and also in the political side. And -- but the key thing over the next couple of weeks is how she fights very effectively as she has in the past, the whole debt ceiling, the new budget, all those kind of things, and in essence how well she does in the debates. And that key is pretty much intact --

KING: How much --

ROLLINS: I will participate in that.

KING: I'm sorry to interrupt, Ed. How much more difficult and how different is a conversation with a Republican fund-raiser now as opposed to right after our CNN Republican debate or right after the Ames straw poll where a lot of people were saying, hmm, let's give this congresswoman another look? And she had some juice and momentum.

How different and how much more difficult is it now a couple of weeks later to raise money when the perception again among Republican activists is that she stalled a bit?

ROLLINS: Well, as you know, polls go up and down. And I have heard you say it many times, and no one understands the game better than you do. At the end of the day here each has their own donor base. Certainly Governor Perry, having been governor of Texas, have raised enormous sums of money has to go put all that in play, too.

He's a viable candidate. We'll see as we go to the debates whether people like him outside of Texas. So we don't know that yet. And I think to a certain extent can Mrs. Bachmann sustain the good debate she's had and over time? Just like a Mike Huckabee's whose campaign I chaired four years ago, just at time he was barely known and he went on to win the Iowa caucus.

The key here is where do you win? And we won the straw poll. We put a strong organization there in eight weeks. That organization is still there. And obviously we won the caucuses. We get a ticket out. He has to win somewhere. He has to win either against Romney in New Hampshire or he has to win in South Carolina. Obviously we're going to compete for those places, too, particularly South Carolina.

COOPER: Ed Rollins, thank you. Good to talk to you on the phone. Appreciate it. I'm sure it's been a busy day for you.

John, thanks as well.

Let's just bring back in our political analyst, Ari Fleischer, James Carville.

James, you have just been hearing from our friend there. What do you make of it?

CARVILLE: Well, let's give Ed credit. He's a very honest guy. In politics, usually people try to make excuses, oh, no, we're doing fine in spite of Governor Perry getting in. He gave very honest answers and I tend to believe him. He's 68 years old. He said he had a stroke a year and a half ago.

And I think Ari can believe that, too, given the pace of the presidential campaign, I think our gut instinct was right. At least health issues contributed to his decision. You know you never know what else goes on in a campaign. And sometimes it takes a long time for the truth to emerge. But that is -- the other thing I just noticed is watching the tape of her on television.

She's an energetic candidate. I will tell you that. She'd be hard to keep up with. She moves around quite a bit.


FLEISCHER: Well, two sides. The human side and the political side. You know on the human side, people just don't realize unless they have worked the presidential or reporters who cover it how grinding and grueling it is. And so I have nothing but sympathy for Ed Rollins. And his personal reasons are his personal and human reasons.

The thing that made my eyebrows raised, though, on that interview was when he said this is a Perry/Romney race and Michele Bachmann is in third. That really caught me be surprise. You know when you're working for somebody typically what you say is, it's a Perry/Romney/Bachmann race. Any one of those three.

He took his candidate out of those first two. That's a big surprise for me to hear somebody who works for Michele Bachmann to say that.

COOPER: I think he did say, though, it's still, you know, too early and that people are still making up their minds about things.

FLEISCHER: Sure. Everybody knows that. But it was the statement he made that's it's a Perry-Romney race and Michele Bachmann is in third. That's a surprising thing to hear somebody say who works for a candidate.

COOPER: Ari Fleischer, it's good to have you on, James Carville, as well. Gentlemen, thanks.

Up next, Texas on fire. Have you seen these images? Wildfires burning across the state fuelled by winds and drought conditions. No relief in sight. One man forced to evacuate his home. they have said it best. You can smell the earth burning, he said. We'll take you there.

Also, Lee may no longer be a tropical storm, but it continues to wreak havoc on the South. Heavy winds, possibly tornadoes touching down tonight in Georgia. A look at Lee's path just ahead.


COOPER: It's a monster and it is zero percent contained. That's how a spokeswoman for the Texas Forest Service described a giant wildfire burning near Austin. The fire, one of dozens that are scorching Bastrop, Texas, has burned about 25,000 acres, destroyed nearly 500 homes so far. Five thousand people have been forced to evacuate.

Texas is in the middle of a historic drought, as you know, and could certainly use the drenching rains that have fallen on Louisiana and Mississippi from tropical depression Lee. Unfortunately winds from that storm have actually fanned the flames burning in Texas.

And tonight firefighters are battling in dangerous and fast moving fire just north of Houston.

CNN affiliate KPRC reports that it's burned about 1,000 acres and is threatening homes in a number of subdivisions. People have been evacuated, though we don't know how many. So far thankfully no reports of injuries.

And a separate fire in the eastern part of the state killed a woman and her 18-month-old child yesterday.

We're joined on the phone by Mary Kay Hicks also from the Texas Forest Service.

Mary, have you ever seen anything like this in Texas?

MARY KAY HICKS, TEXAS FOREST SERVICE: No, I have not. I have been here about 18 years. And this is -- this is one of those things that you trained for and you worry about for years, and hope it never happens. But all the pieces of that puzzle came into place in a very bad way this weekend.

COOPER: To hear zero percent contained, is that still the case? Have you made any progress?

HICKS: You know there are so many fires going on in the state. And they are making progress on some of them. Some of them, they're not calling contained at all because they just cannot get around them. The winds have just not died down.

COOPER: And yesterday we talked about a mom and her baby were killed. They had refused ordered to leave. Are people taking the warnings seriously?

HICKS: You know yesterday I was on fires and I talked to a lady. And she said this is all she had, she wasn't leaving. And it's just -- you know, it's a house. It's just a -- it's just a house. You know we just encourage people -- that's our number one goal is to protect, you know, firefighters first, volunteers that are out here. You know, and fight these fires and protect the properties, but mainly lives. You can replace everything else.

COOPER: I don't think a lot of people realize just how quickly these fires can jump from one area to the next and how fast they can move.

HICKS: Yes, these fires are like rolling.

Because of the extreme drought, the trees, all the fuel and everything out there, it may look sort of green, but it's not. It's like firewood standing there. And this fire is just rolling over it. It's just unbelievable. It sounds like a locomotive.

COOPER: Is there something people can do so that they don't inadvertently start other fires?

HICKS: You know, that's the horrible thing. These last couple of days we've seen people dragging chains, and we've seen people pulling barbecue pits that have embers coming out. Yes, you know, we just have to get the word out that there's so much you can do, because most fires in Texas are caused by people.

COOPER: And at this point, I mean, how are you guys battling all this?

HICKS: Well, mostly from the air. You know, they get the ground resources behind it, but mostly we're dropping water and retardant. And anything, you know, from the air is a whole lot better than on the ground because it's a lot safer.

COOPER: The work of the men and women out there is just extraordinary. Mary Kay Hicks, I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. Thank you. Good luck.

HICKS: Thank you.

COOPER: If only Tropical Storm Lee had made landfall farther west in Texas it would be a very different story tonight. Susan Hendricks is tracking Lee and some other stories in a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Susan.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, severe flooding from the remnants of that Tropical Storm Lee, as you spoke about, is blamed for at least one death in Mississippi. And a teenage boy is missing off the coast of Alabama. The water is waist-deep in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi.

And the storm may have spawned tornadoes near Atlanta. Four of them. Officials say more than 100 homes were damaged because of it. Out in the Atlantic, Hurricane Katia was upgraded today to a powerful Category 3 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 115 miles per hour. Forecasters do not believe Katia will strike the East Coast of the U.S.

The postal service announced today that it may default on an upcoming payment of a retiree fund. Under the law, it must contribute $5.5 billion to a health-care trust fund by September 30. If it does default, a spokeswoman said there will be no interruption in mail service.

And check this out. The Black Widow strikes again. Sonya Thomas is her name. The woman in red, all 100 pounds of her, ate a record 183 chicken wings in just 12 minutes to win the annual eating competition in where else but Buffalo, New York. She won the contest last year by eating 181 wings. Two more this year. She earned her nickname the Black Widow because she beats out the male competitors -- Anderson.

COOPER: Wait. When did this become a sport? I feel like I took a nap and all of a sudden, I woke up and this thing is like -- people are taking -- doing this.

HENDRICKS: Hot dogs. Now hot wings. I was looking for the bleu cheese and the celery.

COOPER: All right. Susan, thanks.

Coming up, "Crime & Punishment," the search for Robyn Gardner, the American woman missing in Aruba. We're going to show you how the man who had been held for a month in connection with her disappearance is trying to get out now from behind bars. Plus, there's new surveillance video that authorities are hoping can maybe lead to some sort of crack in the case. We'll have the latest from Martin Savidge in Aruba.

And on a much lighter note, tonight's RidicuList revisits the story that inspired this.





COOPER: "Crime & Punishment," in Aruba, the search for a missing American woman is now focusing on a grainy security camera video of a car. That's the car there. Authorities are looking for the driver of a white Hyundai that was caught on camera driving behind the restaurant where Robyn Gardner was last seen with her traveling partner, Gary Giordano. The time stamp leads authorities to believe that the driver of that car may have seen the couple snorkeling in the area. Giordano has been behind bars in Aruba for a month now. He says Gardner was swept out to sea while they were snorkeling. A judge has ruled he can be held for another 60 day, but today Giordano appealed that and has a hearing set for Wednesday.

Now, Martin Savidge is in Aruba for us tonight. He joins us now.

So Martin, over the weekend, Aruban authorities released that photo of that white car hoping to get some new information about the driver. Why is that so significant?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, that photo is really interesting for two reasons.

No. 1, where that photograph was taken and when the photograph was taken. And as you point out, that's a security camera. It's really grainy. Hard to tell what the car is. It's identified as a Hyundai Getz. Most Americans have never heard of it. Apparently, very popular on the island; popular with the rental car stores, as well.

It was photographed behind the restaurant where Robyn and Gary had their last meal on August 2. In the exact area where Gary Giordano says they were snorkeling. That is the where. And the when, as you point out, 17:59, one minute before 6 p.m. exactly, when Gary Giordano says they were back there snorkeling.

So here's the whole premise, of course. Now this video shot shows that there was somebody else there. Somebody else who could confirm that, maybe he saw Robyn and Gary in the water snorkeling or not. Or that they saw their car back there -- or not. Or that Gary Giordano is telling the truth -- or not. Which is why authorities so desperately want to find the driver.

But here's the problem. They don't see a license plate. They don't know who the driver is. Don't know if it's a local. Don't know if it's a tourist. So they're putting out this photo in both countries, asking if you're out there, Mr. Driver, please, contact authorities. They desperately want to hear from you.

COOPER: And the attorney filed an appeal to the ruling last week that's keeping him behind bars for another 60 days. There's a hearing on Wednesday. What's -- I mean, how likely is it that he could get out?

SAVIDGE: Well, you know, if I was a betting man, I would say the odds are not very high he's going to be released. But the reality is, you probably shouldn't try to guess what three judges are going to do. That's what he's going to go up against.

Gary Giordano's going to be at that hearing. It's going to take place either at the prison or maybe in a courthouse. We don't know which. It's at 11 a.m. in the morning. And his attorney is going to argue and say, "Look, there's no proof that Gary Giordano committed a crime. He was only a witness to a horrible accident." You can bet the prosecution is going to argue something a little bit different. But either way, the judges will make a decision on that day and they could, if it goes in Gary's favor, rule that he could go home, he would be free, on that very same day, a day and a half from now.

COOPER: I want to bring in criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos. He joins us from Los Angeles. Mark, obviously, laws are different in Aruba than here. Do you think the police have enough to keep Gary Giordano in jail another 60 days?

MARK GERAGOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: If it were here in the U.S., no. But there, they've got a little bit more lax idea of what happens pre-filing. And so they may -- they may survive. Although I would not be surprised if they ordered him released.

I mean, at this point they've got two problems. No. 1, was there even a crime? And No. 2, did he have anything to do with it, if there was a crime. And at least, it seems to me as an outside observer speculating that they're short -- they come up short on both counts.

COOPER: Well, it does seem a lot of this stuff is circumstantial, Mark, at this point. I mean, there's no body. They don't really seem to have much physical evidence.

GERAGOS: Right. Somebody disappeared. And it appears that it could have been at worst -- or at best, I suppose, depending on how we're looking at it -- an accident. Is that enough to just hold somebody incommunicado for months and months and months? Certainly wouldn't happen here in America, but that's one of the reasons that you travel with a little bit of hesitation, I suppose.

COOPER: It does raise a lot of suspicions, though, Mark, when, you know, apparently, he had a travel insurance policy put out in her name. She must have cooperated with, according to the report from Martin Savidge. But that he was the beneficiary, according to authorities, of -- of her travel insurance policy.

GERAGOS: Anderson, I hear this -- I mean, if you go back and take a look at your archives on missing white women, which cable news specializes in, it always is a default that there's some insurance policy or somebody alleges that. I'm never sure, and I always take that with a grain of salt, because I've been involved in cases where that was not the case.

Even if there was a insurance policy and it was traveler insurance, sometimes they just charge it to your card and you designate who you're with as the beneficiary or cross beneficiaries or anything else. I never give that any great moment in terms of a financial. Even if there was insurance, who's to say that this wasn't an accident? So far they just don't seem to have anything other than just kind of suspicion. And I don't think that that's enough.

COOPER: I was surprised to learn, Martin, that today the body of a middle-aged man was found floating by people in a yacht around Aruba. It doesn't seem in any way related to Robyn Gardner's disappearance. But what are locals saying about the fact that a body which was found something? SAVIDGE: If you were surprise we were shocked. Because initially all we heard was a body found in the water. Of course, we initially thought it would be something pertaining to the Robyn Gardner case. As you point out, it's not. Unfortunately, the tragedy of a local man who went swimming and drowned.

However, what this points out and the locals affirm, they say what they've said all along, is the mystery of Robyn Gardner's disappearance, because they say if you drown on the island, you're found on the island. Robyn Gardner has been missing since August 2, not a trace of her. Today, by the way, is the one month since Gary Giordano was taken into custody arrested at the airport as he was trying to board a plane back to the U.S.

COOPER: We've got to leave it there. Martin Savidge and Mark Geragos, appreciate both of your time. Thank you very much.

Up next, Amanda Knox returns to an Italian courtroom to appear her conviction on murdering a roommate. Her defense team is claiming the DNA evidence wasn't there during her original trial. Italian police responded to that accusation today.

And the crisis in Somalia is getting. The U.N. says a record 4 million people are now in need of humanitarian aid. And guess this: they say 750,000 people are in danger of what they say is imminent starvation. What you can do to help when we continue.


COOPER: It's hard to believe the deadly famine in Somalia could get worse. It's hard to think that what we saw in Mogadishu about a month ago could become even more desperate but the famine is, in fact, spreading.

Today the United Nations saying that the number of people who need emergency aid has climbed to 4 million. That's a jump from 2.4 million in need just eight months ago. They said that 750,000 people, right now, in danger of imminent starvation. Seven hundred and fifty thousand people.

The U.N. says the crisis is going to deepen unless the world community steps in to try to help. The group al-Shabab has delayed and even stopped the flow of food to Somalia so desperate in need. In some areas, the areas they control, they have outlawed inoculations of kids.

Here's some of what we saw in Mogadishu in a poorly equipped hospital for kids.


COOPER (voice-over): Many kids are able to bounce back. With quick intervention they gain weight day after day. For others, however, the malnutrition is too far along.

CNN's Nama Elbagir introduced us to Abdullah Hassan (ph). He lost a daughter and now his 18-month-old son is sick, as well.

(on camera) You must be very worried about your child. How long has your child been sick?

"Actually, for the last six months he's been hill," he says. "The famine has tightened around us no one has been able to help us. Then we came here, and now we're just hopeful."

In the corner of a room, Mohammed and his wife, Ragia (ph), sit in silence. Between them we noticed a small pile of cloth. It turns out, it's covering the body of their son. His name was Ali. He was just 1 year old.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He came up from the area from Al Shabab, and it was just so difficult to get out, took them so long to get out that, by the time they arrived, there was nothing anyone could do for him. He died about two hours ago.

COOPER: So this child has just died. And what will they do with him now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They don't have enough money to bury him. So they're just sitting here hoping that someone will come and someone -- in this situation nobody has any money. But they're hoping that together, people try and put money in together when things like this happen and they can raise the funds. Otherwise, they have no means of burying him.


COOPER: I should point out we helped that family bury the child, but there are so many others still in need; 750,000 people according to the U.N. in imminent -- facing imminent starvation.

Right now Nama Elbagir joins us from London. When we were in Somalia with you a few weeks ago, the U.N. announced that Mogadishu was part of the famine zone. Now, with the spread even further, the U.N. is saying it still doesn't have the money it needs.

NAMA ELBAGIR: Yes. I mean, this is something that we kept coming back to again and again. That you're two months into a U.N. call for assistance. They want $1 billion from the entire donor community. And they still don't have the money.

And the funds that being pledged, that are in place, frankly, I think when you're talking about the world's largest economies, are actually quite embarrassing. The U.S. has given just under $90 million. The U.K. has given $83 million. And all the way down here you have someone like France, which has only given $6 million.

And when you're talking about the fact that during those two months while the funds have not been fully raised, they've said that tens of thousands of people have died. We've had aide workers telling us that hundreds of people are dying every day. And half of those that have already died are children. COOPER: The other thing is this is a significant time in Somalia because of the harvest season. This is when, what, is this the planting time?

ELBAGIR: Yes. I mean, we're just -- we're coming into the rainy season in October. And actually, they're quite hopeful that this rainy season might be a little bit better. But people -- I mean, you saw them. So weak, so utterly devastated that the aide agencies are worried that, if they can't feed them now, then they won't be able to plant. If they can't plant, they won't harvest. And we'll be in exactly the same situation next time this year -- this year next time.

COOPER: And some countries are saying, "Look, they don't want to give money because of Al-Shabab, this terrorist group -- this Islamist group in Somalia. They don't allow, you know, aid into famine-struck areas. They've outlawed inoculations. Is that still a legitimate concern?

ELBAGIR: I really don't think it is. You know, we've been speaking to the Red Cross, and they are one of the few aid organizations, in fact, the only aid organization in terms of the scale of the area that they've been given access to by Al Shabab and they're trying to raise funds to feed 1.1 million people. And they haven't managed to raise the over $155 million that they need.

So when donor countries say that, you then say, "Well, why haven't you given to the Red Cross?" And realistically, you know, a lot of these people are going into the camps in Kenya that have always been recruitment grounds for Al Shabab. And now Al Shabab are hugely unpopular, because they haven't allowed foreign aid in.

So even if you're just thinking from the perspective of national interests, when these people sit, desperate and dying, in camps, and they feel like the world has completely forgotten about them, you know, they're going to start looking around and say, well, maybe Al Shabab were right. Maybe the west doesn't care about us? And then you're going to see the militancy and that radicalization starting up all over again, Anderson.

COOPER: Nama Elbagir, I appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Many of you have asked us how you can help the victims of the famine. You can find a list of organizations right now taking donations online at

There's a lot more happening tonight. Susan Hendricks is back with a quick update, a "360 Bulletin" -- Susan.

HENDRICKS: Anderson, the International Committee of the Red Cross has been granted access to a detention facility in Syria for the first time since the political uprising began there back in February. Meanwhile, human rights groups say security forces killed six people today in Hans (ph). And 70 people were arrested when dozens of homes were raided in Iqlib (ph) province. CNN cannot independently confirm these reports. Pakistan's military says a senior al Qaeda leader who wanted to attack targets in the U.S. and Europe and Australia has been arrested. A U.S. official says the arrest is a major blow to the terrorist group.

In Italy in a courtroom, Amanda Knox' appeal case continued today after a summer break. Italian prosecutors are defending the DNA testing that linked the American student to the 2007 killing of her British roommate. Knox's defense team is arguing the DNA evidence used in her original trial is not conclusive.

And it's official, after weeks of rumors, Carla Bruni, the wife of French President Nicolai [SIC] Sarkozy, confirms yes, she is pregnant. She is vowing to keep the child out of the spotlight. It will be difficult, but she says she will do whatever it takes -- Anderson.

COOPER: Susan, thanks very much.

Coming up, Gerard Depardieu finally addresses the whole "peeing on a plane" incident, sort of. It's Depardieu part two, next on "The RidicuList." Let's see if I can giggle some more.


COOPER: Time now for "The RidicuList." And tonight, with great trepidation, lest I break out giggling again, I've got to add Gerard Depardieu for the second time. That's right.

The renowned French actor made the list a few weeks ago, you may remember, because while aboard a plane in Paris, his fly reached a dangerously low altitude, in that he unzipped it and peed in the cabin right in front of everyone.

Unfortunately, there is no video of the actual event. Seriously, people. I walk down the street and get cell-phone cameraed all the time. This guy is urinating on a plane, and no one bothers to whip out their cell-phone camera?

The resulting publicity has since slowed to a mere trickle, but now, thanks to -- you got that. Thank you. Good. Now, thanks to Depardieu himself, it's back because he made a parody video about the incident. It's good to know he can laugh at himself, although let's be honest: how seriously can you possibly take yourself while a stream of your pee meanders through business class?

Anyway, this guy is an Academy Award-nominated actor, so I'm sure the video is going to be pretty great. Really nuanced and subtle. Let's take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, we're ready for takeoff. Please replace your tray in the upright position and fasten your seatbelt, thank you.




COOPER: OK. So it's in French. We'll probably be able to get gist, anyway. Let's see some more.





COOPER: All right, let's just stop right there. I don't even care what they're saying. I have some important questions that need answers immediately.

One, can someone please tell me why he's wearing -- what is that? Some kind of Viking helmet? So he's a Viking from the neck up and Tweedle Dee from the neck down? And what's he doing with the braids? Is this some kind of "Alice in Wonderland" Viking Pippi Longstocking thing? It's just so bizarre.

French humor, why must you be such a mercurial mystery? Where is Jerry Lewis when we need him? I kind of want to give up on the video but let's pull a Depardieu and just give it one more go.





COOPER: All right, so I'm told the costumes are a reference to the movie that he's making right now based on the French comic book series Asterix, which I've seen but I've never read because I'm not French.

And we did get the video translated. It was a whole shtick about how he wanted to eat wild boar but the flight attendant told him he'd have to wait. And then there was an announcement about him making a mess.

Look, I applaud the effort, but I think there was a gigantic missed opportunity here. Come on, Gerard. You are an actor. Masterpee-s Theater, Flush Gordon, Euretha Franklin, Jacob's Bladder, Eat, Spray, Love. I mean, the possibilities are endless.

Golden Globe or not, after seeing Gerard's video, I still prefer the re-enactment the Conan O'Brien show did, performed entirely by peanuts. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this point, witnesses say Depardieu got out of his seat, unzipped his fly and began to urinate on the carpet.

The flight was cancelled, and the plane was taken back to the departure gate, where Depardieu was removed from the flight.


COOPER: See, not that is how you do a proper reenactment of a rotund French actor relieving himself on a plane.

But Gerard, nice try. Tonight we're all thanking our leaky stars that you'll always be No. 1 on "The RidicuList."

That's it for 360. Thanks for watching. The CNN special, "Beyond Bravery: The Women of 9/11," hosted by Soledad O'Brien, starts now.