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New Terror Threat for 9/11 Anniversary; President Obama Unveils New Jobs Plan

Aired September 8, 2011 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. I'm Anderson Cooper in New York.

Breaking news tonight on two fronts. Jobs and the specter of a terrorist attack on this country.

Even as lawmakers gathered tonight in the House chamber to hear the president, some key members had already been briefed on the intelligence, what the Department of Homeland Security tonight calls, quote, "specific, credible, but unconfirmed threat information."

An intelligence official telling us both New York and Washington were mentioned as possible targets, 10 years, of course, after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.

ABC News is reporting tonight that at least three people, including one American citizen, entered the country last month with the intent of launching some kind of attack using vehicles around the 9/11 anniversary.

ABC News -- and again we stress this is their reporting, we can't independently confirm it. They cite intelligence officials as sources for these details. One official saying at least two rental trucks are being sought nationwide.

Former White House Homeland Security adviser Fran Townsend and Susan Candiotti have been working their sources right up to airtime. They join me now.

Fran, what are you -- what are you hearing? You've just spoken to a senior administration official.

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR (via phone): Yes, Anderson. We understand that the information that they're acting on is only 12 to 14 hours old. That -- you know, they weren't surprised that they got last-minute information. What was different about this is it had more detail to it, and so they're working very hard to try and understand the real underlying source and credibility of this information, but they stress to me, you know, we have to act like it's real.

And so they're going through all the things you would expect. They're considering whether or not they need to raise the national terror alert system level. They say they think it's unlikely, certainly absent more information they wouldn't, but they have to go through the drill and they have to consider that.

DHS and FBI are as we speak working on guidance that they will put out to state and local law enforcement authorities. They said they wouldn't share it with us, but they expect that it'll get leaked to us and they expect to have that out tonight.

You know, they've been looking for this information. Secretary Napolitano has said that they've heard chatter, but this, Anderson, is the first time in a long time we've heard them use the buzz words "specific and credible" and of course that has everybody's attention.

COOPER: And ABC News is reporting very specific details. At least two rental trucks, one from Penske, one from Budget, were being sought nationwide, a Budget GMC truck and Penske GMC truck were both missing from locations in Kansas City, Missouri.

Tom Fuentes, former FBI assistant director, has new information. He's just called in to us on the phone.

Tom, what are you hearing?

TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR (via phone): Anderson, I just heard that the threat information had come. It started from overseas and was reported to the U.S., that information had been heard concerning possible vehicle bombs in either New York or Washington, vehicles being used for the attack as opposed to aviation.

But right now they're still trying to determine the credibility of it. The information was specific as far as vehicles, but trying to identify the specific vehicle or the specific people involved in it is still ongoing to determine if the information is actually credible.

COOPER: Susan Candiotti, based on your reporting, what are you -- what are you hearing?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this additional information I'm hearing tonight is that as we've heard these bulletins that are about to come out, well, tomorrow morning here in New York City, Mayor Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and the head of the FBI here in New York will be holding a news conference at city hall at 9:30 tomorrow morning to talk about this very specific credible threat that they are still trying to confirm.

So that again raises the level of concern about this and the question is, will they raise the threat level tomorrow morning, too?

COOPER: Fran, have you heard anything about the source of the information, whether or not it's based on documents that were found somewhere, whether it's based on human intelligence, whether it's based on some sort of a source? Do you know?

TOWNSEND: Well, here's what was said to me, Anderson. And it's interesting. They wouldn't confirm to me whether it was a human or a technical source, but what they said to me was the information -- there was information overheard. The information we believe was reported accurately, what was -- what was overheard. What we're trying to confirm is, is it true? And so if you look at the ABC report, and it seems to me what they're talking about here is there's the specific information, whether they got it from the human or technical source, they believe they've got the information accurately.

Now they're trying to confirm whether or not what the information that is that they've captured is true, is there really these people or these trucks that are being used to target New York and D.C.?

COOPER: Tom, do you know how fresh this information is to U.S. authorities? I mean we're just hearing about it now. Do we know when U.S. officials found out about it? Because there is a report saying that these individuals entered the U.S. in August. That would seem to be a fair amount of lag time between us hearing about it -- or officials hearing about it, if they are just hearing about it.

FUENTES: Well, the information I had was that it did not say specific individuals or when they arrived. It was just recently being reported as to the fact that it would involve vehicles, vehicle explosives, so I think that's still trying to be determined.

COOPER: And obviously, Fran, this close to the anniversary, I mean it is a natural time for any kind of group to -- that wants to make a statement to try to get attention.

TOWNSEND: That's right, Anderson. In terms of how old is the information, a U.S. official acknowledged, said to me that they've only learned of this information in the last 12 to 14 hours, and so to your point, there seems a substantial lag time from when these people would have entered to when we found out.

Now, you know, they've been watching the chatter and the threat information, they have been very sensitive. Everybody -- all the agencies have put their personnel on alert as we've gotten closer to the 9/11 anniversary.

One of the things that has made them especially sort of interested is the fact that when they raided the bin Laden compound, of course there was this reference to thinking about an attack timed to the 9/11 anniversary. They were very clear then that there was nothing specific and credible to suggest that there had been actual planning done to implement that.

But given that reference at the bin Laden Abottabad compound and now this intelligence, needless to say, it's got everybody in the intelligence and law enforcement community very concerned.

COOPER: So, Susan, you're saying there's going to be a press conference with Mayor Bloomberg tomorrow morning?

CANDIOTTI: That's right. The FBI, Bloomberg and the head of police, the police commissioner here in New York City. And certainly the other information I have too is that it seems to dovetail with what we're hearing in other reports, that this is very recent information that we're getting. COOPER: Right.

CANDIOTTI: It is -- goes beyond whatever was found in the bin Laden compound.

COOPER: I just want to break in, New York Congressman Peter King, and chairman of the -- who's chairman of the Committee of Homeland Security who's been briefed on, he also joins us now.

Congressman, what can you tell us?

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Anderson, what I can tell you is that the threat is very specific, it's credible, but it's not confirmed. And -- but when you tied --

COOPER: What does that mean?

KING: Well, it means that they have information which is specific. There's reason to believe it could be true, but we cannot confirm it's true. And that's what's being done right now. Attempting to find out if it is true, running down all leads and taking whatever action has to be taken.

COOPER: I know you've been briefed and obviously I assume part of that is classified and therefore I don't want to put you on the spot too much, so I'm going to ask you a question and you can tell me whatever you can tell me.

ABC News is reporting tonight that at least three individuals, one believed to be a U.S. citizen, entered the U.S. in August by air and that authorities are now looking for two trucks, rental trucks, that may have been taken from a location in Missouri.

KING: Anderson, I'm sorry, I really cannot comment on that. I mean the briefing I received was classified. I really don't want to be giving out any details other than to tell you there were very, very specific facts that were made known in this threat.

COOPER: What is your advice to folks who are listening to this, who suddenly think, OK, do I want to -- on 9/11 do I want to, you know, go out? Do I want to be in a public space, either in New York or Washington?

KING: Anderson, I would tell people right now to go about their lives, there's no need to panic. We don't know if this threat is real yet. It's being tracked down. I can tell you that the administration, all levels of law enforcement, federal, state and local where it's appropriate are checking out every possible lead, running this to ground, and we've come a long way since September 11th.

And we -- again, there are many -- many agencies are looking at this from every possible angle and so I would urge people not to give into any type of fear or panic. Go about living their lives. Just keep their eyes and ears open and listen to any more public announcements that are made. I understand Mayor Bloomberg and Ray Kelly -- Police Commissioner Kelly are having a news conference tomorrow morning. Certainly no one knows more about this or is more expert than Commissioner Kelly. And -- so I would just say listen to people involved.

Let me emphasize, there's no partisan element to this. The administration is handling this exactly the right way, doing what they have to do, and I certainly pledge to work with them in every way that I can.

COOPER: Congressman King, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much.

Susan Candiotti, I'm told you may have some more information?

CANDIOTTI: Yes, as I'm sitting here actually getting information from our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, and she has confirmed some of what we have been reporting and attributing it elsewhere.

She says that the information is believed to have involved three individuals who have possibly entered the U.S., at least one believed to be a U.S. citizen, reading now. U.S. officials believe the threat is a vehicle laden with an explosive bomb, but, quote, "The intelligence picture is not completely formed. Not enough is known about the potential operatives and their plotting."

So that again is from our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

COOPER: It's also important to note that often the early reports on something like this are often inaccurate.


COOPER: So again it's important to note that and take this for what it's worth, putting the information out there. And obviously the congressman said no reason at this point to alter anything as this weekend approaches.

Susan, all our correspondents, Fran Townsend and Tom Fuentes, appreciate your reporting. We'll continue to update throughout the hour. We'll follow the story as any late developments throughout the night.

Now the president's address to Congress and the nation tonight on jobs, 14 million Americans are looking for work right now. Millions more have given up looking. The economy at best is stuck in neutral.

Tonight the president laid out proposals he says will get it moving again. Everything in the run up to this moment has been contentious right down to the scheduling of it and chances are everything in the aftermath will be just as loaded with conflict and partisanship.

But that sort of point scoring and game playing is precisely why the president tonight called on both parties to set aside as they consider collections of tax cuts, hiring incentives and infrastructure spending.

Tonight we'll look at whether that's a realistic hope and more importantly what's in the president's plan and his promises up to this point. "Keeping Them Honest."

Senator McCain is with us and so is the man who speaks for President Obama, but first, here's the president himself.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am sending this Congress a plan that you should pass right away. It's called the American Jobs Act. There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation. Everything in here is the kind of proposal that's been supported by both Democrats and Republicans. Including many who sit here tonight.

And everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything.

This idea came from a bill written by a Texas Republican and a Massachusetts Democrat. The idea for a big boost in construction is supported by America's largest business organization and America's largest labor organization.

It's the kind of proposal that's been supported in the past by Democrats and Republicans alike. You should pass it right away.

The American Jobs Act will not add to the deficit, it will be paid for. And here's how.


OBAMA: The agreement we passed in July will cut government spending by about $1 trillion over the next 10 years. It also charges this Congress to come up with an additional $1.5 trillion in savings by Christmas.

Tonight I am asking you to increase that amount so that it covers the full cost of the American Jobs Act. And a week from Monday, I'll be releasing a more ambitious deficit plan. A plan that will not only cover the costs of this jobs bill but stabilize our debt in the long run.

Here's the truth. Millions of Americans rely on Medicare in their retirement and millions more will do so in the future. They pay for this benefit during their working years. They earn it. But with an aging population and rising health care costs, we are spending too fast to sustain the program.

And I don't pretend that this plan will solve all our problems. It should not be nor will it be the last plan of action we propose. What's guided us from the start of this crisis hasn't been the search for a silver bullet, it's been the commitment to stay at it, to be persistent, to keep trying every new idea that works and listen to every good proposal, no matter which party comes up with it. Regardless of the arguments we've had in the past, regardless of the arguments we will have in the future, this plan is the right thing to do right now. You should pass it, and I intend to take that message to every corner of this country.


COOPER: Our panel of analysts joining us in a moment. But first joining us now is Arizona Senator John McCain, President Obama's opponent back in 2008.

Senator, thank you so much for being with us. When you hear the president talk about infrastructure and investment, do you hear the word "stimulus"?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Yes, I do, and I'd be, again, very curious how we're going to pay for it. The president said he's going to send over a detailed plan, that's fine. And look, I agree with payroll tax cuts. I think that infrastructure is important. We need to know how it's paid for.

But some things are puzzling. For example, he keeps talking about he wants us to pass free trade agreements. Those free trade agreements have to be submitted to Congress. He's not sent them over.

And I agree that we have to fix Medicare for -- and keep present benefits for present beneficiaries, but if he's looking at using those savings for other purposes rather than shoring up Medicare, then certainly most of us are not going to agree with that.

So we need to know how it wants be paid for. It is another spending package but the president is a very effective speaker and I hope that there are areas that we can agree on. I think there are.

COOPER: So you think there may be some areas that -- or enough areas that maybe some sort of a deal can be worked out?

MCCAIN: Well, I certainly hope so. I think, as I said, we could agree on the payroll tax cuts. I think those could be very helpful. We know we have to fix Medicare. We know that there are other areas that we could agree on. But they are not, frankly, of the size that would really have a real effect. He did mention homeownership.

Anderson, if there's one major cause of the recession, it was the housing meltdown. Last week in my state, home values are at a 10-year low. Just one sentence about really what is causing enormous economic problems in my state and across this country, nearly half the houses in Arizona are under water.

We've got to focus on the housing. We took care of the financial institutions, according to Bloomberg. We gave $1.2 trillion to major financial institutions. Meanwhile we did nothing to stop the housing crisis. This recession will not begin to end until housing prices stabilize.

COOPER: That's an incredible fact there. Half the houses are you say under water?

MCCAIN: Nearly half the houses. Nearly half the houses in Arizona are worth less than their mortgages.

COOPER: And at this point, though, do you believe -- I mean that -- I mean you know Washington better than anybody. Has -- have things become so divided that, you know, at this point with an election coming up, I mean, is consensus -- is some sort of compromise, is some kind of a deal even possible? Just given the politics that are behind everything.

MCCAIN: OK. We look at the president's polling numbers and they are obviously very bad. Have you seen Congress's numbers lately?

COOPER: Thirteen percent I think.


MCCAIN: We seek approval, too, you know? I've said it before, maybe it's worn out, but only 10 percent of the American people approve of Congress. Not one in that 10 percent has attended a town hall meeting of mine in Arizona. So we want to work with the president. We want to be able to go home and say we're going to cut your payroll taxes so that you can hire more people, small businesses.

We want to do the things that we can in order to stimulate small businesses and keep people in their homes. We want to be able to show them some results as well. So I think there are some areas we can agree on.

COOPER: Just before you go, I just want to ask you about this --


COOPER: This 9/11 threat that we're now hearing about, a lot of different reporting on it. It seems like some sort of credible, specific but the authorities are saying unconfirmed threat. It's a little bit confusing, those three adjectives, but what do you make of it? How seriously do you think someone sitting at home right now should take it?

MCCAIN: Well, I think that our law enforcement agencies are taking it seriously. I don't think there is a cause for panic or alarm or change in lifestyle, because then they begin to win.

I do have confidence in our homeland security people and our enforcement agencies, but I do think it's a matter of concern and it's a reminder that this struggle against radical Islamic extremists and -- or extremists is still a long way from over.

COOPER: Senator McCain, I appreciate your time, sir. Thank you very much.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: We just want you to know we just confirmed actually that Mayor Bloomberg is actually going to have a press conference tonight at 9:30 p.m. here in New York. We've -- obviously the commissioner of police will be involved as well as we believe FBI officials.

We'll do everything we can to bring that to you live.

And let us know what you think. We're on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @Andersoncooper. I'll be tweeting tonight.

Our political panel joins us after the break.

And just ahead tonight we'll look at claims that President Obama made about his previous economic plan and the consequences if it didn't work. Are the criticisms of it fair game? We'll show you what he said and talk to White House spokesman Jay Carney about that and the terror threat.

Also, sizing up the plan compared to the first stimulus and checking out allegations that the current package is too small to help the economy but is just right to use in the 2012 campaign. How about that?


COOPER: The two breaking stories tonight, a specific credible, but unconfirmed terror threat with New York and Washington mentioned as targets and the search reportedly on for a pair of rental trucks presumably to be used in an attack. There's supposed to be a press conference at 9:30 p.m. tonight we believe in New York. We'll bring that to you, of course.

Also President Obama tonight laying out his plan for jumpstarting the economy, payroll tax cuts, tax incentives for hiring, money for highway construction projects, teachers and more. The cost reportedly now said to be about $450 billion. It would be financed the president says with spending cuts elsewhere.

The package, already encountering pushback from Republicans but earlier some GOP members were also objecting to President Obama's choice of unveiling it before a Joint Session of Congress, saying they don't want to be used as a political backdrop for the Obama campaign.

Let's bring in our political panel. John King, host of "JOHN KING, USA," Erin Burnett, anchor of the upcoming "OUTFRONT," Democratic strategist, Paul Begala, chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of the -- of, Obama 2008 pollster and Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher, and David Frum, speechwriter for President George W. Bush and founder of

A lot to talk about.

Erick, I notice a tweet you posted a few minutes ago, you wrote, quote, "Instead of yelling, you lied, I wish they'd loudly laugh at this farce. This speech is a rehash joke."

Tough words. Why do you think it's a joke? ERICK ERICKSON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, REDSTATE.COM: Well, you know, I heard this speech before. I heard it in January of 2011, I heard it in January of 2010, and I heard it in February of 2009.

And you know, we wouldn't have had this speech tonight had those last three speeches done anything, particularly those first two when the Democrats controlled Congress and the White House.

COOPER: Cornell, is this a joke?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No, but that sort of partisan talk is part of the reason why we're in this problem.

Look, you know, I'll go back with you on this, Erick. And the truth of the matter is what the president -- the president's actions that he took when we were in a complete nosedive and losing jobs, you know, each month pulled us out of a nosedive. But clearly we need now -- we need now something a little -- a little boost here. And what he's asking for is, look, most of these plans, a balanced approach to this and most of this stuff quite frankly should have bipartisan support for because a lot of this stuff quite frankly Republicans have supported in the past.

There's nothing insane or crazy about the idea that we have to build our roads, we have to improve our infrastructure, and we have to put our teachers back to work at the same time that China and India are hiring more teachers, we're laying off teachers. There's nothing crazy about that as an ideal. It's a solid idea.

COOPER: David Frum, what about that, though? Because for a lot of Republicans when they hear about investment or infrastructure, they think that's basically using other terms for stimulus?

DAVID FRUM, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR PRESIDENT G.W. BUSH: Look, this speech was very effective. And we can already see it beginning to have its effect. Eric Cantor and John Boehner were saying to reporters for "Politico" that they will pass some of the elements that the president is proposing. Whether that ultimately happens or not, we don't know.

But they have been put to a situation where they understand they can't afford to look as uncooperative as they did during the debt ceiling battle. So the president has achieved something there.

The Republicans will then resent that even more. Of course this speech is political. The president is framing an argument. But it is a political -- it's a political maneuver that is working. It will produce a counter effect because Republicans will resent it.

It could also have some beneficial effect on the economy and that really is the most important thing of all. That payroll tax cut is a good idea. It should have been bigger, it should have been done earlier. And infrastructure spending, it works, that's what the economists tell us.

COOPER: Erin, how do you think the business world is going to look at this?

ERIN BURNETT, ANCHOR, ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT: They're going to like the payroll tax cut. And I think it's interesting politically. I mean Eric Cantor has voted for that before, said he would again. It's also really well structured. You know it's not going to the big companies. It's going to small companies and on the employer side but every working American gets that tax cut.

That would seem like that's something a lot of people can agree on. Obviously the extending unemployment benefits, that's an area where a lot of debate. Medicare and Medicaid, I mean you could see all the areas. But the payroll tax cut, yes, it would seem business is going to like that. That's going to go through.

But I think John McCain really had it right. Housing is the root of all the problems here. We still don't have a solution for that. So this could just continue being another band-aid.

COOPER: And John King, how political of a speech was this? Because there have been some Republicans who's said look, they don't want to be used as a backdrop. Was this a political speech?

JOHN KING, ANCHOR, JOHN KING, USA: It was a hugely political speech but it's a relatively modest proposal. It was a political -- you know I'm going to say this and people are going to say, well, it's a joke. But the president really said, you know, one of the bridges we need to rebuild is between Ohio and Kentucky. Speaker Boehner, Leader McConnell, the two top Republicans in Congress.

The president right there was saying this is a political speech. However, some of these proposals the Republicans don't like. They've been clear about that. David Frum just made a very important point. The statement from Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor after the speech was, we can do some of this, we're going to work with the president.

It was not dead on arrival. A lot of other Republicans are saying stimulus two, same old failed policies but the leaders that matter most are saying we will do some of this. Why? Because the president did repackage a lot of things. So we don't pass on a bottle of wine just because it's old, we want to know if it's any good.

Some of these proposals Republicans like. And so they will pass some of them. The president won't get it all. The bigger question is what will the president have to give to get some of this from the Republicans? How will they pay for this? The Republicans won't agree to how the president wants to pay for it.

And then the bigger question is, will it have an impact on the economy in those 14 months, as the president noted, between now and the next election. Most Republicans, Anderson, believe they can agree with the president on much, if not most of this because, A, philosophically they do agree with it and, B, politically they don't think it will have such a big job creation oomph that it helps the president in his reelection campaign.

COOPER: Gloria, I want to play just a little bit more of the president's speech.


OBAMA: Regardless of the arguments we've had in the past, regardless of the arguments we will have in the future, this plan is the right thing to do right now. You should pass it, and I intend to take that message to every corner of this country.


OBAMA: And I ask -- I ask every American who agrees to lift your voice. Tell the people who are gathered here tonight that you want action now.


COOPER: Gloria, the president clearly appealing to the public to rally behind him. I'm getting a lot of tweets from Democrats saying they haven't seen the president this fired up in quite a while.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Fired up and ready to go, remember that? This is -- this is game on, Anderson. And what -- the president tonight was really trying to appeal, not to Erick Erickson, you know? He's trying to appeal to independent voters, and he's trying to come across as the reasonable leader.

And don't forget, his leadership numbers have suffered lately, particularly after the debt ceiling. And one way he can do that is to challenge Republicans, lay down a very clear plan and say you should pass it, you should pass it, this makes a lot of sense to me, and hope that it makes a lot of sense to the independent voters out there who will then put pressure on Republicans in Congress.

The missing part here, which I want to see, is when the president is going to talk on September 19th about how he intends to pay for it and what he's going to say to that joint committee. And how he's going to pay for this $450 billion or whatever it turns out to be. That's something the American people need to hear also.

But for tonight, he was very concise, very clear, told them he's going to send up legislation, which is something we also haven't seen from this president, and say here's what I want. Now you go do it. So game on.

COOPER: Paul, what did you think of the speech? Do you think it's something that the American people or at least, you know, his base will rally behind him on?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think definitely. And in fact, as you know, I advise liberal PAC that's pro Obama. We're independent of the party or the president's campaign, but our PAC actually did some focus groups tonight in Richmond, Virginia, in Eric Cantor's district with swing voters. Not with the president's base but with swing voters. People who are disaffected, who have fallen out of favor with President Obama. They don't like him anymore and our pollster just e-mailed me and he said that it went over very well. That he showed a lot of strength, they liked him personally. Most interesting to me on the issue front, what they liked -- not the best, but what they especially liked is when he paired up ending tax breaks for the wealthiest with funding education.

Now it always hurts Democrats when Republicans say we're big spenders, it's true. But it always hurts Republicans when we say they coddle the rich. So the president I think has linked those two up in a very effective way. At least from the swing voters that my group tested, they loved it.

COOPER: Everyone stick around, we're going to be coming back to you throughout the evening.

Up next, a payroll tax holiday, infrastructure spending, unemployment benefits. Is the White House proposing just more of the same as some Republicans are saying?

Why should Americans believe it's going to make a difference this time around? White House Press Secretary Jay Carney joins me just ahead. We'll talk about the terror threat as well.

Plus presidential candidate Michele Bachmann had to share the stage at last night's Republican debate. Tonight, she's holding a news conference to respond to President Obama's speech. What she said, plus our panel weighing in.


COOPER: The jobs plan that President Obama proposed tonight is expected to cost almost $450 billion. The 2009 stimulus package cost $789 billion. When Mr. Obama signed that bill, he promised it would save or create as many as four million jobs and said he'd hold himself accountable if it didn't.


OBAMA: The single most important part of this economic recovery and reinvestment plan is the fact that it will save or create up to four million jobs.

It's a plan that will save or create three to four million jobs. We've already begun to implement the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. A plan that will save and create over 3.5 million jobs over the next two years.

The goal here is that we're going to create or save 600,000 jobs over the next 100 days. We have made steady progress on these fronts, but we're not making progress fast enough.

What I continue to believe is that ultimately the buck stops with me. I'm going to be accountable. If I don't have this done in three years, then there's going to be a one-term proposition.


COOPER: According to some estimates, the White House may actually have come close to creating or saving four million job as promised, but here's the problem. As it turned out, the economy lost more than eight million jobs during the recession, more than anyone predicted.

By that measure the first stimulus plan turned out to be a band- aid and not a cure. So how the White House convince Congress this new plan is the right medicine, the White House Press Secretary Jay Carney joins me now.

Thanks very much for being with us. A payroll tax holiday, infrastructure spending, unemployment benefits extension, it's all familiar. Is there a danger this comes across as just more of the same, that it's just basically stimulus spending, in other words?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, two things, Anderson. First of all, what the president -- what he said tonight and what he will deliver to Congress early next week is the American Jobs Act.

As you said, that is a series of proposals that we absolutely believe will create jobs, spark the economy, get the private sector hiring again and not -- and don't just take our word for it, because we are confident that outside economic analysts will make that judgment too.

There is simply -- the way the economists look at this, when you cut the payroll tax in half and you also extend it to employers, you have a very positive and direct impact on the economy because the economy to expand and causes the private sector to begin hiring more.

And that's certainly more when you get to infrastructure spending. You have a very positive effect when you put construction workers back to work. They spend that money that they're earning. That helps other businesses and you have what is a virtuous cycle.

COOPER: Is there a ban -- some Republicans are saying there's a ban of the use of the word "stimulus" from this White House. Is that true?

CARNEY: Look, whatever you want to call this, two things are important. It is designed and will be judged by outside economists to grow the economy and to help create jobs, no doubt about it.

Secondly, it will be paid for. As the president said tonight, he will put forward in this legislation mechanisms to pay for it and so that not one dime is added to the deficit or the debt. That's important to him, it should be important to congress and it's important to the American people.

We need to do things right now to get the economy growing faster and to get the economy creating jobs faster. I think anybody out there listening understands that out in the real world, if you will. What Americans are really tired of is the kind of circus they witnessed in Washington this summer.

You know, Americans are generally used to gridlock and obstructionism in Washington, maybe some partisan posturing. They find it annoying. What they saw this summer is they found out it was dangerous and harmful.

The circus that we witnessed where one faction of Congress decided that in the name of ideological purity they would hold the American economy hostage, maybe the global economy hostage, that had a direct negative impact on the American economy and the American worker. We can't let that happen.

Members of Congress are sent to Washington to listen to their constituents. They have to listen to them and pass this jobs act now.

COOPER: Eric Cantor tweeted that the president just outlined, quote, "some goals that we can work with him on and that Congress," quote, "should work quickly to pass the areas where we agreed."

It did seem like the president was challenging Republicans, almost daring them to appear partisan, but their leaders are sounding at least some of them kind of a cooperative tone. Are you encouraged?

CARNEY: Well, we are, and we welcome the tone and we look forward to working with members of Congress of both parties to pass these very common sense, very bipartisan proposals.

I mean, as the president mentioned, the payroll tax cut extended to the employees and the employers is a proposal that was included and sponsored by 50 of the most conservative House Republicans just last year.

COOPER: When are the details coming out next week?

CARNEY: I'm sorry?

COOPER: The devil is in the details. When do the details really come out?

CARNEY: We will put forward legislative language, a bill in writing to Congress early next week. It will include everything about the American Jobs Act, all the provisions within it and the specifics on how the president proposes paying for it.

He will then a week from Monday, as he said tonight, put forward a comprehensive detailed set of proposals for long-term deficit and debt reduction. You know he's committed to that. He worked awfully hard this summer hoping for something sweeping and substantial, a balanced package to deal with our deficits and debt with the speaker of the House.

That didn't happen. That was unfortunate. We saw the impact of the fact that didn't happen. He's committed to trying again and he will show that we can do this in a balanced way that doesn't ask too much of any segment of society in America and we can get this done and put our economy on the right footing. COOPER: And finally on another subject on this terror threat, what's the president done so far, what kind of meetings has he had and what has he done about it?

CARNEY: Well, Anderson, the president chaired a meeting just two days ago of his senior Homeland Security team reviewing the precautions and all the steps being taken for our Homeland Security around the 10-year anniversary of 9/11.

Ever since the raid that eliminated Osama Bin Laden, brought him to justice, we have known that al Qaeda, not surprisingly, is interested in significant dates. The 9/11 anniversary is obviously one of those.

As for today's reporting, I can tell you that the president has been briefed regularly by his Homeland Security team and that overall his team is taking all the necessary precautions that you would expect in a situation like this.

COOPER: Jay Carney, I appreciate your time tonight, thanks.

Ahead, republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann comes out swinging tonight at the president's plan perhaps no surprise there. The question is did she land any punches? The political panel weighs in.


COOPER: Back now with our members of our political panel, Paul Begala, David From and Erin Burnett also Stephen Moore, senior economy writer at the "Wall Street Journal." Paul, critics who say, the stimulus didn't work the first time around, how can this one succeed, what's your response?

BEGALA: Conservatives will say it didn't, so go to the neutral observer and that's the Congressional Budget Office. It's a bunch of propeller heads, but the smart people looked at this and in the last few weeks they released a report.

And they said in fact the dreaded stimulus bill produced between 1 and 2.9 million jobs and increased GDP the CBO said between 0.8 of a percent and 2.5 full points. So it worked, but didn't work well enough because it was an $800 million plug in a $2 trillion hole.

The hole was much bigger than we realized at the time. It's unfair to say it didn't work because the Congressional Budget Office says it did. It just didn't do enough which is why we need to do more.

COOPER: Stephen, did it work and I think you say about this -- this new plan is that it's full of short-term solutions and don't fix long-term problems.

STEPHEN MOORE, SENIOR ECONOMY WRITER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Look, I don't think it worked at all. I think if you look at these numbers, I mean, let's just put this in perspective. Over the last three years, Anderson, we have borrowed $4 trillion.

That is more money over three years than any time since World War II so we've thrown every kind of Keynesian demand-side government program at this recession that liberals could possibly think of.

The idea that somehow a $400 billion more of borrowing is going to repair this economy, it just makes me scratch my head and wonder, wait a minute, what kind of theory says more debt and borrowing and leverage is going to repair an economy.

By the way, that almost all economists agree right now, Anderson, the number one problem with this economy is that there's so much debt out there. Adding $400 billion of debt I don't think is going to solve these problems.

COOPER: What do you think, Erin?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMAEL: Well, gosh, you and I have talked about this for years, but I don't think he's going to try to say that it's not going to be borrowing, that he's going to make up for it in part by increasing taxes on people like Warren Buffett, right? He'll make the case through combination of tax increases and spending cuts. He's not going to have to borrow money.

BEGALA: But, you know, Erin, this is the biggest problem I have of all of the plan. I mean, on the one hand the president says we're providing tax cuts for businesses. On the other hand, he's telling businesses -- let's face it the people in the highest income tax bracket, those are small business owners and operators.

You're telling them we're going to raise your taxes in 2013. Businesses don't make decisions on the basis of one year. They make decisions on the basis of three years, five years, 10 years. The idea of a big tax increase in 2013, I think is bearish for the markets and bearish for the economy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anderson, I wonder though, you know, if he's trying to get some things done, everyone can agree on the payroll tax cut. Maybe he doesn't get the tax increases he wants on the wealthy, but maybe he gets some of those corporate loopholes taken away. I mean, you're actually opening the door here for compromise on things that there hasn't been compromise for a long time.

COOPER: David, from where do you see the opportunities for compromise?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The United States government can right now borrow for two years basically for free. It can borrow for 10 years for under 2 percent when the markets are not so worried about America's debt. If someone were offering to lend me money for free, I'd probably take it.

I think I could find things to do with it. Right now, the biggest problem is jobs. It is an urgent crisis and has to be addressed. Here's what I think went wrong, most of all, in 2009. President Obama and the Democrats produced an extremely sloppy fiscal stimulus bill. They larded it up with only one in eight dollars of that fiscal stimulus went to infrastructure, the thing that actually economists tell you deliver is the most bang.

They put in a tax rebate. A one-time tax giveaway that people used to pay down debt, which is a rational act for those individuals, simply moves the debt from one column to another. That has no economic effect. That was done to keep an obsolete campaign promise left over from 2008.

Increases in Pell grants, helping states Medicaid bills, not crazy or worthless things to do, but not stimulus. This new project sounds more rational and more targeted and that's the benefit of having not one party control of Congress.

The president is not advocating to Congress the way he did last time and I think there is some possibility to work here, to borrow money very, very cheaply to remedy the jobs crisis, which is crisis one.

MOORE: I just did an analysis for the "Wall Street Journal" on this, all we've been doing the last 10 years is building infrastructure. We have doubled transportation, energy spending, public works spending.

All you have to do is travel around the streets of New York City or Washington, D.C., where I live and you see all the streets are being torn up and rebuilt. I mean, we are doing infrastructure already. That's what the whole idea of shovel ready projects was all about.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Steve, have you been to New York? I drive down the street and I get a flat tire.

COOPER: We've got to leave there. I think -- everyone, I appreciate you guys sticking with us. Thanks very much.

Coming up, Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann just wrapped up a news conference on Capitol Hill reacting to the president's address. We'll show you some of what she said. Our panel will weigh in next.

Also breaking news, a massive power outage in Southern California stretching to Arizona and Mexico. More than a million people without power right now. We'll have the latest on why.


COOPER: Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann just wrapped up a news conference reacting to the president's speech. Bachmann has been obviously outspoken in her criticisms of President Obama. Here's some of what she said a short time ago from Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I stand here tonight to say to the president not only should Congress not pass his plan, I say, Mr. President, stop. Your last plan hasn't worked and it's hurting the American economy. Instead of temporary fixes, do what has worked in the past permanent, pro-growth policies that are driven by the free market.


COOPER: Bachmann's reaction tonight echoed the sentiments from last night's Republican presidential debate. She and other candidates hit the president hard on his performance on everything from the economy to health care to the military. Take a look.


BACHMANN: As devastating as our economy is with the policies of Barack Obama, I think that he is actually weakened us militarily and with the United States presence globally.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a president so committed to class warfare and so committed to bureaucratic socialism that he can't possibly be effective in jobs.

GOVERNOR RICK PERRY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: On day one as the president of the United States that executive order will be signed and Obama care will be wiped out.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: On day one if I'm elected president is I'm direct my secretary of Health and Human Services to put on executive order granting a waiver from Obamacare to all 50 states. It is bad law, it will not work.

RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Once Obama care is repealed, and it will be, the question is what do we do now?

BACHMANN: Obama care is killing jobs.

ROMNEY: This country has a bright future. Our president doesn't understand how the economy works.

BACHMANN: Don't forget the day that president Obama took office, gasoline was $1.79 a gallon.


COOPER: With us again, John King, host of "JOHN KING USA," chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, Democratic strategist Paul Begala and Erick Erickson, editor in chief of

So John, we heard Bachmann there, her response to the president. She said she wasn't there to answer questions about the campaign that she was there as a member of Congress. Do you buy that?

JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING USA": Sure. I buy that it serves her purposes tonight. She doesn't want to answer questions about a staff shakeup. She doesn't want to answer questions about was she overshadowed in the debate last night, she wants to take direct aim at the president of the United States and hope that she gets some attention for that.

The fact that we're talking about it maybe says she succeeded. But what is most interesting about it is one would expect the candidates running against President Obama to draw sharp contrasts on just about everything, but Michele Bachmann, who is often out of step with her own Republican leadership, listen to what she said.

She said not only should we not act on it, that all of the president's policies are awful. This at the very same moment essentially that her leadership, the Republican speaker and the Republican majority leader are saying there's a lot in the president's plan actually that we like and there's some of it we can probably pass.

And let's try to work with the president before we say dead on arrival. So that to me is quite striking. She's running for president. The speaker and the majority leader realize they need to defend their majority.

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: There's some a little extra here as well. For example, the payroll tax holiday, which I think they'll probably be able to come up with and the unemployment -- I think Michele Bachmann has voted for this payroll tax cut in the past.

COOPER: That's right.

ERICKSON: So is she saying she's not going to vote for the payroll tax cut in the future as well?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look, she's in a Republican primary right now.

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: As a political strategist you have to understand that at some point she's got to pivot and get in front of or at least catch up to the people who have now passed her.

Everyone on the stage is attacking President Obama. It makes -- I completely understand that, but at some point she has to say why me, Tea Party, as opposed to Perry and she's not doing that right now. She's flailing.

I was initially bullish on her because I thought she was going to speak to the Tea Party, but she's clearly had a rough couple of weeks. She's no longer the darling of the Tea Party. Rick Perry is beginning to sort of move into that space.

As a strategist, at some point her campaign has got to pivot and say why me and not Rick Perry and less about President Obama right now, because we get it, she doesn't like President Obama.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It's interesting to me because I think President Obama is the one who actually pivoted tonight. The language that we heard from Barack Obama, the direct kind of speech, the common sense, pass this bill, we want people in South Korea to be driving Chevys.

I want to give the economy a jolt. You people have voted for this before. We need to do what the public wants us to do. It was Barack Obama, although he was addressing a joint session of Congress, it was Barack Obama the candidate, I think, that we heard tonight talking to independent voters.

Putting Republicans on notice that he's going to go to the country and run against them as Harry Truman ran against the do nothing Congress. By comparison tonight, Michele Bachmann seemed a little kind of sticking to her talking points as a Republican presidential candidate who has to win a Republican primary.

COOPER: I've got to jump in because we've got to go to a quick break. John King, Gloria Borger, Cornell Belcher, Erick Erickson, thanks.

A late update, more information coming in on a potential threat of a terror attack.

Also more breaking news, a massive power outage in Southern California, Arizona and Mexico. Millions left in the dark. We'll have the latest.

Plus more than, 70,000 people forced to evacuate in Pennsylvania due to flooding. Remnants of Tropical Storm Lee are being blamed. Details ahead.


COOPER: Information on a breaking story tonight. The possibility of a terror plot against the United States on or around the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Susan Candiotti has late details and joins us now. What have you learned, Susan?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's a new aspect of this. There had been a report elsewhere that there were two missing rental trucks from two different companies in Kansas City, Missouri, and that they were looking for that in connection with this threat.

I have confirmed from a U.S. government official that those trucks have been located and there is, quote, "absolutely no nexus to terrorism involving those reportedly missing trucks." So the latest we have is that more information is expected at 9:30 tonight Eastern Time at a press conference involving the FBI, New York's mayor as well as New York City's police commissioner. So hopefully we'll have more for you at 10:00.

COOPER: Yes, that had been an ABC News report, which we mentioned at the top of the hour and also pointed out early reports are often wrong. So clearly you're saying based on a source you have talked to, the reports of two trucks, they actually had named the truck companies they were taken from, those are not true according to your sources. Susan Candiotti, I appreciate your reporting.

Let's get caught up with some of the other stories we're following with the "360 Bulletin" with Susan Hendricks. Susan --

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, breaking news tonight, a huge blackout has left at least 1.4 million customers without power in Southern California, Arizona and also Mexico. San Diego Gas & Electric says the problem seems to have started in Arizona. Authorities are trying to figure out the cause.

And a wildfire near Austin, Texas, has now destroyed nearly 1,400 homes. It has burned 34,000 acres. Today, a fire official said there is still some possibility the fire could get even bigger than that. At least two people have been killed in the fire. The Texas Forest Services has responded to 176 fires in the past week alone, 20 new fires just yesterday.

Tropical Storm Lee has left at least three people dead in Pennsylvania and caused near historic flooding in the northeastern part of the state. Tens of thousands of people have evacuated homes near the Susquehanna River, which is expected to crest tomorrow morning -- Anderson.

COOPER: Susan, thanks very much. That's it for us. We'll see you at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT starts right now -- Piers.