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JOHN KING, USA

Occupy Wall Street's Mass Day of Action; More Calls for Syrian President to Step Down

Aired November 17, 2011 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Candy Crowley. John King is off today.

We begin with a story still developing from coast to coast.

Supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement called today for, in their words, a mass day of action. They got it.

Right now, you're looking live at New York City, where small groups of demonstrators are running up some of the streets. Throughout the day, police and demonstrators confronted each other near Wall Street. Phone camera pictures showed police dragging some people away, one woman by her hair.

The latest count from the police commissioner is 177 demonstrators arrested and five officers injured. But New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says that isn't the real story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: So far, the real story is, there have been, I think it's fair to say, minimal disruptions to people and most protesters have, in all fairness, acted responsibly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: As we said, it is coast to coast.

In Los Angeles, about 300 protesters marched a half-mile from City Hall to the Wells Fargo Center. Crowds also gathered in the streets of Portland, Oregon, threatening to occupy banks. Here in Washington, police escorted several hundred protesters through Georgetown, and across the Francis Scott Key Bridge to Virginia.

But the center of the action right now is New York City.

CNN's Amber Lyon is there.

Amber, what is happening right now on that bridge?

AMBER LYON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, things are getting a little tense behind me. I apologize, Candy.

But we have protesters that are in the middle of the road right now. That's why they're trying to get past me. A couple dozen of them sat down in the middle of the street, right in front of the Brooklyn Bridge, and they continue to sit there right now. We have seen several police officers go in and, as I speak, they're arresting these protesters.

A big goal and worry tonight was whether or not the protesters would go and cross the street and police had even set up barricades to try to keep them out on the sidewalks and kind of organize this march.

But as you can see right now, they didn't follow the barricades whatsoever. You see guys in white shirts walking through the street. They completely came out here and they blocked out traffic and are continuing to walk across the bridge.

What it seems like right now with the amount of people in the street, it seems like police have semi kind of lost control of this big crowd, because we are seeing so many people in the middle of the road, and we're not seeing any cars go through here right now -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Amber, I think I heard you say there have been some arrests. I know this seems like a somewhat strange question, but are they peaceful arrests, or are you seeing -- is that tension becoming physical as well that you talked about?

LYON: Well, from what we can see from here, we can't really tell if it is becoming physical. We're just -- we have been ordered to stay kind of back from that area. We're not allowed to walk in the street or we could be arrested as well.

But from what we have seen from the protesters standing on the side, they are peaceful. They're just yelling "We are the 99 percent." They're telling people to Occupy Wall Street.

As far as what's happening in the middle of the crowd, we're seeing a bit of a scuffle and some movement. But, Candy, we just don't know if things have gotten violent or not in there.

CROWLEY: Yes, understand. And those are difficult situations. You wouldn't be the first reporter to be arrested during a demonstration, but I wouldn't recommend it. Thanks so much.

Now let's go across the country to Los Angeles, where there also were demonstrations and arrests.

CNN's Casey Wian is there.

Casey, it's been so orderly in Los Angeles, at least so far as I have seen throughout this day. Why do you think that is?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's really amazing, Candy. There have been hundreds of people here throughout the day.

There was an intersection here near downtown Los Angeles that was shut down briefly. But throughout the day, despite protesters marching back and forth throughout downtown Los Angeles, there have been only a total of 28 arrests so far, mostly peaceful, no injuries, all misdemeanors, according to the LAPD.

Now, in answer directly to your question, it's remarkable to think back to just about four years ago, during the immigration protests in Los Angeles, where police and protesters clashed, people were injured, officers were suspended for misconduct. The LAPD paid out millions of dollars in settlements.

What's been happening during this protest has been much better communication between the organizers of the protests and the LAPD. They have been negotiating, they have been talking, they have been telling each other what's going to happen. So there have been arrests among those who decide to sort of step out of the line, but for the most part, everyone has really behaved well here and that's why you haven't seen the trouble you have seen in New York and in Los Angeles in previous years, Candy.

CROWLEY: Out of Los Angeles Casey Wian for us, thanks, Casey.

Back to New York now and City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez. He was arrested Tuesday when police cleared the Occupy Wall Street protesters camped in a park near Wall Street.

Thank you so much for joining us.

I think, Councilman, one of the things I wanted to ask you is, we have had seven people -- seven police officers have been injured, 176 arrests. We have heard both our correspondents say in large part, we heard the mayor say in large part this has been peaceful. But do these sorts of things get in the way of the message?

YDANIS RODRIGUEZ, NEW YORK CITY COUNCILMAN: Well, first of all, this is a peaceful movement. This is an Occupy movement. It's a movement for affordable housing, quality education, affordable jobs.

And we believe that the number of arrests that have been taking place in New York City today and hundreds more I will say before the end of the day are arrests organized in a peaceful way, is a member of the labor movement (INAUDIBLE) religious leaders, elected officials. We're sending a message loud and clear that the Occupy movement is a movement of the working class and the middle class who is fighting for more resources.

And we believe that the wealthy sector of this society can increase their contribution to the finance of our society.

CROWLEY: But do you think that, given that there's been some disruption of people trying to get to work this morning, perhaps going home tonight, at least if they're using the bridge where we just saw Amber Lyon, did you think that gets in the way of the message that you're talking about, because most working people, most middle-class people today, those lucky enough to have jobs, are trying to get to those jobs?

RODRIGUEZ: I believe that most of the people know that this is a price that we can pay. I believe that still most of the surveys that have been done show that more than 60 percent of New Yorkers support the Occupy movement.

I hope that Mayor Bloomberg understands that he should be connected to the need of the working class and the middle class, understand that we are not against Wall Street. We are not against the upper middle class. What we believe is that we have to redefine how we get revenue to balance the budgets at the city, at the state, at the federal level.

And (INAUDIBLE) today is a historic day. I'm so proud to tell my daughter, who is 5 years old, that she was born and growing at a point of history where working class and the middle class came together, demanding more resources to our community.

But I believe that this movement is a peaceful movement, it's a movement that has a message, it's a movement that has leadership, and the Occupy movement stay here -- came here to stay.

CROWLEY: Councilman, and let me ask you how you take this kind of passion on the streets and move it into political power at the voting booth.

RODRIGUEZ: I have been supporting this movement from the beginning.

Most of the participants of this movement, they voted in the last presidential election. They have also been voting at the local -- they have been voting on the local election in different cities, including New York City.

And I know that they will be voting in the next mayoral election of New York City, and they are also going to be voting for the presidential election. I have no doubt that this movement will send a message loud and clear to everyone, Republican and Democrat, that we have to redefine how we get the revenues, as I said before.

And I believe that this movement is so important, not only for the participants, but also for the labor movement, for the elected officials to be more connected to the democratic process of this nation and to understand that using public square has been a centerpiece in the democratic process of this nation. It has been used in the American Revolution and other parts of the history.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Thank you so much, Councilman Rodriguez. We really appreciate your time tonight.

Ahead, increasing pressure, new deadlines, and more calls for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down and end the deadly violence. Is there really an end in sight? We will ask the former U.S. ambassador to Syria next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Tonight, we are counting down to a crucial deadline in the Middle East. And the number is three. Today is the first of three days the Arab League gave Syria to stop the violence against civilians and admit international observers.

But it's been a day of at least 13 deaths and mass arrests across the country. You can see the flash points. We're also seeing reports that groups within the Syrian army are defecting and then clashing with government security forces.

With us now, the former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Ted Kattouf and CNN foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty.

Thank you both.

I'm going to let you carry this conversation.

My first question, I guess, is, the Arab League, the United States has said the Arab countries need to get involved, this is in their backyard. So now they're involved. And what do you think the chances are that we're going to see any change in behavior of the current government in Syria, Ambassador?

THEODORE KATTOUF, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SYRIA: Well, first, it's very big that the Arab League did get involved. It wasn't really expected.

I even talked to colleagues at State Department today who expressed that they had been surprised. But I think the Arabs were getting tired of seeing Turkey and Iran and outsiders playing these important roles and the Arab League, as usual, had been ineffectual. So, this is a big deal. But Bashar al-Assad will not change course.

He will do window dressing. He will welcome observers, but in the end, he won't let them go and see anything.

CROWLEY: It will look -- is that pretty much what you're getting? It will look like he's doing something, but he won't be changing anything?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it may not even look. He may just say he's going to do something. But we have seen this before.

And I don't think -- I think Ted is actually expressing precisely what the mood is, which is it's not going to change anything. We might get some promises, a few shifts around, but ultimately he continues to carry out this repression of the people who are in the opposition.

CROWLEY: So is he Syria's Gadhafi? Is he just -- is the only way he's going to go is by a death? What moves him out of power? It just seems now unsustainable to keep him there.

KATTOUF: Well, I don't -- I can't quite compare him to Gadhafi because he's actually a rather smart and rather sane individual, and doesn't have a military background.

He's trained as an eye doctor. So I'm not going to stand here and say he won't get on a plane with his family at some point and go into exile.

CROWLEY: What would prompt that, though, do you think?

KATTOUF: Feeling that they were going down.

DOUGHERTY: And, you know, Candy, I think one very interesting thing that is happening right now are these disaffected military people who have been taking action. You referred to it. That's a disturbing trend. People at the State Department are very worried about it, not because they don't believe in a sense that it can be explained.

The State Department says, look, the repression has been so terrible that probably you, too, would rise up if something like that happened. But right now, you have elements of the opposition who are taking up arms. And when that happens, they are doing it basically out of frustration that the political leadership of the opposition really doesn't have a cohesive plan. It hasn't really put out a very cohesive plan of what it wants to do should the end come.

And so they're taking things into their own hands and that can be very un-stabilizing.

CROWLEY: I want to show our audience something that the Turkish prime minister said today.

"I want you to know that the people losing their lives in Syria are just as human as those who lost their lives in Libya. That those who had the appetite for Libya remained silent and without reaction in the face of the slaughters in Syria opens wounds hard to repair in human conscience."

Now, let's say Turkey has quite an interest in what happens in Syria, first of all, but who is he talking to in this?

KATTOUF: Well, he may be talking to NATO and the U.S., but there's a certain amount of hypocrisy there, because Turkey was one of the last countries to call for Gadhafi's ouster, because Turkey had important economic interests in Libya. And of course it has important economic interests in Syria.

But now they feel that Bashar has thrown down the gauntlet, that Bashar Assad has insulted them. The Turks are very proud. This leadership is very proud. And they're harboring elements of the Syrian opposition army. And they keep ratcheting things up in terms of economic sanctions. It can't be ruled out at some point, not soon, but some point down the road Turkey might get militarily involved.

CROWLEY: And when you look at Turkey and when you look at the general thrust of the comments which are perfectly right. And you ought to know that it's aimed at the U.S. and at NATO, but there's no chance that NATO and the U.S. is militarily going to get involved in that.

DOUGHERTY: At this point, it would appear not. Certainly, there's no appetite. It's a much more -- I would say a much more dangerous and complex situation than Libya, because it is an influential -- geopolitically, it's very important in that region.

It was part of -- just look at the relationship with Israel and the potential for some type of peace agreement with Syria playing an important role. It has -- it can play a role with Iran, with Afghanistan, with every single...

KATTOUF: The Lebanese are going to be insulted if you don't mention them.

(CROSSTALK)

DOUGHERTY: The Lebanese, absolutely.

(LAUGHTER)

DOUGHERTY: Everywhere you look, they are an important player, much more, I would say, than Libya.

KATTOUF: There's one thing I would say about this. There's a psychological struggle going on here, because each side has its strong supporters, but there are a lot of people sitting on the fence who haven't chosen sides, who don't want to get hurt, who don't want to get involved.

They're waiting to see who might come out on top. And so each side wants to give a sense of an inevitably of their victory. And 10 days ago, Bashar was giving that impression. In the last few days, the momentum has shifted to the opposition.

DOUGHERTY: And the Russians also want to have it both ways, it appears.

On one the hand, they argue that this is really -- the foreign minister said that this is almost a civil war. And so if it's a civil war, they would say, look, we told you, these people are ultimately terrorists, they have guns, this is bad. And it plays into the hands of the government, the Syrian government.

CROWLEY: Former Ambassador Ted Kattouf, Jill Dougherty, our own Jill Dougherty, thank you so much.

Why is the Middle East always so complex? It's never what it seems. Thank you all so much for shedding some light for us.

Ahead, new details in the Penn State sex abuse scandal are emerging.

Plus, why the mother of one of Jerry Sandusky's alleged victims is saying her son is afraid the former Penn State coach might go free. The very latest is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: This just in from the campaign trail. Three sources tell CNN that presidential candidate Herman Cain is about to receive Secret Service protection. He will be the first Republican of the 2012 election cycle to be placed under guard. Usually, the Secret Service begins protecting major candidates about four months before the general election.

There are disturbing new developments in the Penn State abuse story. Tonight, more victims appear ready to come forward with allegations of sexual abuse by former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

CNN contributor Sara Ganim, a reporter for "The Patriot-News" of Harrisburg, has talked to an attorney for one of them.

Sara, tell me what you learned.

SARA GANIM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, again today, we're hearing from attorneys who are saying that more victims are coming forward after that Monday night interview on television with Jerry Sandusky, but they're very upset that he is asserting that he didn't do anything sexual over the last 15 years.

And the attorney that talked to me today said he particularly wanted to talk about this kind of dual role that Jerry Sandusky had with the victim that he represents. He was a good guy, he was a father, he did a lot of good things, but then there was this other side of him. And that's what made it so hard for his client to come forward and talk about this.

He was really torn between the good and the image that a lot of people knew about Jerry Sandusky for many, many years and then what we now know about Jerry Sandusky.

CROWLEY: So tell me just the sense you're getting, because every day it just seems that we're hearing about more people who at least allege that they have been abused, some of whom saying that they're willing to come forward and testify at a trial. This must hang so heavy, not just over the university, but over the state really.

GANIM: I think, you know, the mood has really been in swing mode.

It went from anger and shock to -- well, it went from shock to anger, and now a little bit more solemn. And people are starting to calm down a little bit, really trying to heal at Penn State and trying to move forward. It's only been two weeks, but it feels like a lot longer on campus. And students really just want to project that this is not who they are.

They want to have pride for their university again. They want to move past this. They want to show the world that they are bigger than just this scandal.

CROWLEY: Sara, thank you so much for your great work. We really appreciate it.

Today's "New York Times" reports Penn State may have engaged in a major cover-up of coach Sandusky's behavior over the years. Any way you look at it, a legal firestorm is about to hit. Trial lawyer Mark Geragos is no stranger to high-profile legal cases. He joins us, along with Florida assistant state attorney Stacey Honowitz, who supervises Broward County's sex crimes unit.

I'm not really sure where to go in this, because it seem like there are so many moving parts. But what do you think, Mark, is the next big moment in this case as we move forward?

MARK GERAGOS, ATTORNEY: I think the next big moment is when they do a hearing and whether -- I don't think that's going to be Sandusky first. I think it's going to be for the ex-president or the erstwhile president.

Recently, I think the attorney general filed something saying they wanted to postpone that. I think once you have a hearing, you're going to see some of the facts actually come out, as opposed to what right now appears to be rumors back and forth.

I mean, part of the problem with a case like this is that everything starts to get reported, and the sourcing becomes a little bit suspect. So you don't know how to kind of separate out what is just rampant rumor with no foundation, you know, this idea there's just a lineup of victims or this idea that somehow he's pimping out kids to big donors to Second Mile.

You hear just virtually anything come out. I think once you get a hearing and once you have cross-examination, then we will be able to tell was there a major cover-up? Was there? What did people know, when did people know it, as the old proverbial axiom goes.

Until then, this is really just kind of an overheated media story. And I do kind of feel for the Penn State community, because obviously, to flatten this out and to taint the whole community based on what has so far been kind of an overheated rumor mill, I think is a little unfair.

CROWLEY: Stacey, let me talk to you about one of the alleged victims. His lawyer has said, yes, he's willing to testify and he will be ready.

And I wondered how in the world do you prepare an alleged abuse victim to sit on that stand and talk? And I know it makes a difference, I mean, between how young they are. Some of these abuses are alleged to have gone back, so we're talking about grown men now. But how do you go about preparing them? What do you look for?

STACEY HONOWITZ, FLORIDA STATE ATTORNEY: Well, it's very interesting, Candy, because I have prosecuted a lot of cases with men who were boys when the abuse took place.

And it's interesting. Even though they're older and they're probably more able to know their way around a courtroom, they still have the same feelings as those little kids. They break down. And you have to prepare them that the testimony will be very difficult.

And what is so private and so secretive has to now come out into a court of law and strangers are going to have to listen and make a decision. So you really have to get them past the shame and the embarrassment that they're already feeling, because now the world is going to know what's going to happen.

But you would be very surprised. A lot of these men who have come forward now, and I know it from previous cases that I have prosecuted, want their day in court, because they have been living with this secret and the shame for so long without the ability to come forward, that this is going to be closure for them.

It will be difficult. They will have to withstand cross- examination. They're going to have to talk about very uncomfortable things that took place with their bodies and with his, if the allegations go forward in a court of law.

But you would be very surprised that afterwards they will say that finally they got to expose what was go on in their life. And so what seems to be very difficult in a courtroom sometimes works out to be the best thing in the end, because many of the men that I have dealt with have lived a very difficult life.

They have been in and out of mental facilities. They have had difficulties in forming relationships, because pedophilia really knows no boundaries and it really has an affect on someone's life. So, sometimes, it's a real good thing for them to come into court and to have their day.

CROWLEY: Mark, Mike McQueary, who is an assistant coach, but at the time was a grad student, who is -- and the grand jury report says witnessed the -- coach Sandusky with someone believed to have been a 10-year-old, now has kind of changed his story, at least in e-mails to friends who leaked those e-mails, or somebody leaked the e-mails, saying, well, actually, I did call the police and, actually, I did stop or I stayed in that room until it stopped, the act by -- the alleged act by coach Sandusky.

Can you use -- it seems to me now you have got a grand jury report that says one thing and a witness in that grand jury who is now saying something slightly different or at least adding to it. Does that help the defense of Sandusky or hurt it?

GERAGOS: Well, so people understand, what you have so far is, you have got this 20-odd-some page document which they call a grand jury presentment in Pennsylvania. That is not the transcript.

That's the prosecutor summarizing what happened in the grand jury proceedings. And it has not been tested. And what I mean by that is, it is not subject to cross-examination. It's the prosecutor kind of picking and choosing things. So you have that presentment.

Now you have one of the witnesses who testified in front of that grand jury saying other things that isn't in the document, so you're going to have to go back to, if you're the defense lawyer, you're going to go back and take a look at the transcript. You're going to see whether they asked him questions, whether they pinned him down as to whether he said, "I went to the police, I didn't go to the police." If he changes his story, absolutely, it's a prior inconsistent statement. That's what we call it in the law. He's going to be impeached on that.

If he was never really asked that question or if it wasn't asked in a precise fashion, then it's going to be explainable. This is, however, one of the reasons, if you're a prosecutor, that the last thing you want is your witnesses out there in a case like this talking or yapping or doing anything or sending e-mails, because at some point that's going to become fodder for both sides.

CROWLEY: Stacey, the last question to you, and I need kind of a quick answer, but in your experience do most of these cases, when you have a young person or even an older person who is abused as young, do most of them go to court? Or once those witnesses signal their willingness to testify, are there deals? How do they mostly end?

HONOWITZ: Lots of times there are deals. When you have strength in numbers, if you have a number of victims that come forward, lots of times that will result in a plea deal. If you have only one or two, lots of times it will go to trial.

But like I said, in high-profile cases and cases of pedophilia, there is strength in numbers. If one victim comes out, more and more will come out of the woodwork, and that might result in a plea deal. Because you don't want to go to court with all of that testimony against you, with eight separate victims telling that they were sexually abused.

CROWLEY: Stacey Honowitz and Mark Geragos, thank you so much for joining us tonight. Appreciate it.

Next, a very serious turn in the story of those shots that were fired at the White House.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Welcome back. Here's the latest news you need to know right now.

You will soon be looking at -- you're looking at right now demonstrators from the Occupy movement moving across the Brooklyn Bridge. They're moving from Manhattan into Brooklyn. Very little traffic, although it looks like some going across that bridge during, of course, what is rush hour.

There were, earlier in the day, more arrests, reported as Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in New York stretched into this night. There are also arrests and demonstrations in a number of other cities across the country.

In court today, the man accused of firing shots at the White House last Friday was charged with attempting to assassinate President Obama. Court papers quote a witness who says Oscar Ortega-Hernandez believes the president is, quote, "the devil" and, quote, "need to be taken care of." Congress is working late to make sure the government does not run out of money tomorrow night. A stopgap spending bill passed easily in the House and is expected to clear the Senate in the next couple of hours.

Wall Street suffered through another down day, as jittery investors dumped risky assets that may be affected by the euro zone debt crisis.

Up next, a congressman who is furious about the huge bonuses going to top executives of some major players in the nation's financial crisis.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" is coming up at the top of the hour.

Erin, I have done it privately and on e-mail, but it's my first on-air chance to say welcome. I know you're an old hand, but nonetheless, welcome.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you. You're so nice.

CROWLEY: I know you've got a CEO tonight who has told you that he thinks there's something really important missing from the super committee?

BURNETT: He does. And actually, business acumen is what's missing as they look for cuts. John Paul Azoria (ph) is going to be our guest. You know him from Paul Mitchell Petrone (ph). This is a guy who started out homeless, living in a car and ended up becoming a billionaire, pledging to give half of his money away.

But he feels very strongly about things the super committee could do right now to still get a deal done, Candy. So he's going to be our exclusive guest tonight. Billionaires with ponytails, who have been homeless, not that easy to come by. So we're excited for that one.

Also, as we cover the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations tonight on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, we're going to be joined by the former NYPD police commissioner, Howard Safir. He'll be our special guest.

And also, I started taking a vitamin today. I'm really bad about that, Candy, never take them. Omega 3, 6, and 9. And the reason is because Dr. Andrew Weil told me to, scared me into it. He's our special guest on the show, and he'll tell you why.

Back to you.

CROWLEY: Goodness. I already take three, but I'll have to figure out about 6 and 9.

BURNETT: So watch and see if you want that one.

CROWLEY: Thanks so much.

BURNETT: Thank you.

CROWLEY: "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" coming up at the top of the hour.

The government-backed mortgage agencies known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac received the biggest bailouts of the financial crisis, about $169 billion. But over the past two years, agency executives took home some $35 million in bonuses. It's the kind of news that sparks outrage on Capitol Hill, even among the richest members of Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: I exactly remember the year I made over 1 million. I'm sure you do. What year did you first have compensation, including bonuses, that put you over $1 million?

MICHAEL WILLIAMS, PRESIDENT & CEO, FANNIE MAE: Congressman, I'm not sure what year that was.

ISSA: So money's not that important to you?

WILLIAMS: No, money is important to all of us who are here today, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Now, Congressman, Michael Williams, we'll just tell our audience is, of course, the head of Fannie Mae, correct?

ISSA: Correct. He's been there over 20 years, coming up through the ranks during all the mistakes that that agency made.

CROWLEY: Right. Now let me -- let me talk to you a little bit. I mean, he seemed to have gotten under your skin in some way, shape or form. Is it because he was there during the disaster that you think he shouldn't be getting any bonuses, just a part of his bonuses? I mean, he's meeting a -- some kind of standard in order to get those bonuses.

ISSA: Well, Candy, that's exactly the problem. We read the so- called standard. It would not pass the sniff test at an ordinary corporation's compensation committee. And the audit committee and PriceWaterhouseCoopers or any of the other organizations that normally oversee them would say they didn't have a standard you could be held to. They had two pages of sort of feel-good what they would accomplish, rather than measurable results that would justify anything close to the nearly $5 million a year he received.

And remember, this is somebody who does not have some special skill other than the skill of coming up through the ranks of an organization that, for the most part, has been failing us for most of that 20 years. CROWLEY: But getting someone with special skills, and I don't -- I don't want to accept your premise that he has no special skills. But the argument about this is, if you want to get someone from the private sector to do this job, they are now making so much more money than even the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac execs are making, that you can't get them. This is a basically deal we're getting.

ISSA: Well, the studies show that in the case of CEOs of comparable, large financial institutions, including bonuses, they were relatively similar.

But, again Mr. Williams was paid $115,000 when he signed up. There was no reason to have an expectation he'd make $5 million. And at a time in which they're taking $13 billion just this quarter in new, not borrowed, but given money by the taxpayers to make up for permanent defaults.

You know, this is an organization that over the last decade on a net basis made no money. This is an organization that all the way back with Franklin Raines more than 10 years ago had serious accounting practices that had caused large bonuses to be paid when, in fact, they really weren't making money.

More importantly, Candy, this is -- sort of says it really well. When we looked at studies of chief counsels, general counsels, we found in Southern California that you -- you would make $400,000. As a lawyer, being paid just a salary and bonus of about $400,000, was, in fact, acceptable for public and private companies. They paid theirs approximately $2 million.

So it wasn't just the CEO. It basically, when you're using other people's money, tens and hundreds of billions of dollars, you can also afford to be very loose with these bonuses, far greater than were justified on performance.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you, while we are on the subject of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It's now been revealed that presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, of course, former speaker of the House, made between $1.6 million and $1.8 million from Freddie Mac, advising them. There's some questions what he actually did. Does anything you have heard so far make you think that it's a disqualifier for Newt Gingrich running for president?

ISSA: Well, certainly, when you look at organizations that spent $170 million in lobbying during that period, and regularly would do these technically non-lobbying expenditures in order to curry favor, you've got organizations that I question what they were trying to get for it.

In the case of Speaker Gingrich, he had left office. He had no specific power. Certainly, it appears to be very high compensation for very little work. But I think we have to get back to the point. This is an organization that showered huge amounts of money on people often with less connection and less experience than Speaker Gingrich.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about Fast and Furious, which was a federal attempt to try to figure out about gun running between the U.S. and Mexico. It turns out that some of the guns that were allowed by the feds to cross the border in this investigation turned up in the death of a U.S. enforcement officer and in other places.

It has become bad enough that more than 35 members of Congress have called for the resignation of Eric Holder, the attorney general. And I wonder why you haven't, because you've been very critical, both of the attorney general and of this particular program.

ISSA: Well, I'm -- I'm not the president. The president has full confidence in Eric Holder. That's his decision.

Eric Holder has said that -- Attorney General Holder has said that those responsible be held accountable. But Lanny Breuer in other direct reports, who had direct knowledge in large amounts, have not yet been held accountable.

Candy, my job is to connect the dots as the chief investigator of the House on behalf of the American people. My job is to get all of the facts. I'm going to do that. I believe that there is a systemic problem at justice that allows this kind of activity from the bottom to the top to go on. There were too many places and too many people who should have said stop. I believe Eric Holder is one of those people.

But I'm not going to pick on any one of them. We're going to line up all the places in which the system failed to protect the American people and Brian Terry, and then present that. That's our job.

CROWLEY: Congressman Darrell Issa, thank you so much for your time tonight. Appreciate it.

ISSA: You're very welcome.

CROWLEY: Coming up, which presidential candidate called a rival privileged? It wasn't a compliment. We'll discuss that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Our latest polling confirms more and more voters say things in this country are going badly. Is that good news for some of the presidential candidates? We want to dig into the numbers with Republican strategist Ed Rollins; Cornell Belcher, a pollster for the Obama 2012 campaign; and CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

I want to put up -- in fact, let me just briefly say here that something like 44 percent of the country, only 44 percent of the country at this moment, think that things will be going well a year from now. This is not the kind of numbers you want to see.

CORNELL BELCHER, POLLSTER, OBAMA 2012 CAMPAIGN: Actually, that number's been moving up...

CROWLEY: No, it actually hasn't, because a year ago, it was 55 percent. BELCHER: Yes, but go back a couple months ago. It's been moving up and down. Look, Americans want to be optimistic about the future, but they see what's going on in Washington right now, and they have -- and they have a lot of doubts about what Washington can get done. And we're going to see this come to fruition very shortly when the super committee comes up with its loggerhead.

CROWLEY: Let me -- I want to put up a couple of other numbers and quick ask Ed a question about it. This is a FOX News poll head to head. Your choice for president 2012: President Obama, 42 percent; Romney, 44 percent.

Now, I want to show you Gingrich in this same head to head. President Obama, 46 percent; Gingrich, 41 percent.

In the end, Ed, isn't this going to be about Republicans choosing the guy they think can beat President Obama? And hasn't that pretty consistently been Romney?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Been Romney. I mean, Romney's kept his base for about six years of 25 to 30 percent of the vote, and most people assume...

CROWLEY: But he's kept it.

ROLLINS: ... that he'll -- he'll survive this process. Republicans this time, who normally are ideological voters, sometimes single-issue voters -- guns and abortion, what have you -- this time the goal is to beat Obama. They see a vulnerable president, and they're going to do every single thing they can to make sure whoever our nominee is, assuming that it's Romney, is going to -- is going to beat them. We're not going to go battle ourselves and divide ourselves.

Once we get through these idiotic processes that we go through in the next 6, 8 weeks, and all the debates we're going through, at the end of the day, when it comes down to one on one, whoever that one is on our side, everybody will support.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, here's the funny thing. I was talking to a Romney adviser. I said, "Why aren't you out there talking about how you're the only plausible president up there, how you're -- you know, you can beat Obama, the polls show you beating Barack Obama," and they say, "Not in the Republican primary so far, because when a conservative candidate, or someone who says he's conservative, says, 'I can beat Barack Obama,' it's a clear sign to conservatives that you're really a moderate." So they don't want to say that yet, right?

BELCHER: And the truth is...

ROLLINS: I'm sorry, go ahead.

BELCHER: I'm sorry, Ed. And the truth is, if it was that clear cut that they thought Romney could beat the candidate and they wanted to go with the winner, they would all move to Romney, because he's stuck at 22, 24 percent. They are searching for someone who's an alternative, a conservative alternate candidate to Romney.

CROWLEY: And that would be who?

BELCHER: Well, Bachmann, you know, anti-Bachmann -- you know, Cain, Perry.

ROLLINS: You're bringing -- you're bringing polls that can make a better analysis than that, but the bottom line is the independents are going to decide this president, just as they did in 2008, just as they made the Republicans the majority in 2010.

And so Gloria's point is exactly valid. If you're out talking about how "I can attract independent voters" when you're dealing with conservatives, very conservative voters who participate in caucuses and primaries, you're basically saying just exactly that. "I'm a moderate," and that's not a good place to be.

CROWLEY: Big red light.

I want to move on to something that the president said recently, when he was in Honolulu, that has now become a part of the campaign conversation. But I also put it -- we put it together with something that President Obama said at the end of last month. So these are two things you're going to see. First from Honolulu, here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, we've been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades. We've kind of taken it for granted: well, people want to come here and we aren't out there hungry, selling America.

We used to have the best stuff. Anybody been to Beijing airport lately? Or driven on high-speed rail in Asia or Europe? What's changed? We've lost our ambition. Our imagination. And our willingness to do the things that built the Golden Gate Bridge and Hoover Dam and unleashed all the potential in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Now, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, among others, were all over this, saying the president called Americans lazy, which isn't precisely what he said. He said we've been lazy about a certain thing.

But this idea that we've lost our ambition, our imagination, our willingness, every time I' see that quote, I've been looking at it for a while, I think Jimmy Carter malaise.

BELCHER: But no, no, because here's the thing. Every news outlet in this country has called that wildly inaccurate. And Rick Perry's put up a commercial ad about that, that is basically a lie. The president didn't call the American people lazy. There's no president -- there's no one...

CROWLEY: He did say we've lost our ambition, our imagination...

BELCHER: Who was he talking? He was talking about a certain business sector bringing in -- going out and bringing in foreign -- foreign business here.

The problem -- here's the thing. There hasn't been a leader over the last decade who's talked more about American exceptionalism than President Barack Obama. There's not a leader over the last decade -- this guy -- this guy has talked about sort of the productivity of the American worker consistently. Now the American worker isn't -- hasn't benefited from the productivity of his work because corporate America keeps getting better. But to say that this -- this president has not talked consistently about exceptionalism of the American people is just not true.

CROWLEY: Let me -- I would love to get the two of you on this, but there's something I really want to get to, because I think this was -- we heard something today from Herman Cain that I want all three of you to analyze in a couple of minutes we have. Let me just play you -- he was up in New Hampshire, I believe, when he had this to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ever reached the point where this campaign became damaging to my family, my wife and my family, I'm not a quitter but I'm -- but there is a point beyond which you will not go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: What does that sound like to you, Ed?

ROLLINS: It sounds like a guy who's having real reflections on how tough it is to run for president. You know, he had a month or two which was great fun. And now he's had a month or two which is miserable, as anybody who's been around presidential politics knows it is miserable. It's going to take more than the Secret Service protection than he's getting advised here -- assigned here to turn this thing around.

You know, if there's more -- more signs of women coming forth or what have you, and that's affecting his marriage, there's nothing -- he's got to play it out. He's not going to be our nominee at the end of the day. And at the end of the day, he's got to be a happy warrior or he's not going to do well.

CROWLEY: Sounds like reaching the skids to me a little bit.

BORGER: Yes. I think -- look, I think he has had a miserable couple of months. He may know more than we know, that he's going to have another miserable month. He's not only had the sexual harassment allegations, but he's also been say things like "I don't have to know about foreign policy" and not knowing what the president's policy is on Libya.

So he's made a lot of rookie mistakes. And those things build up. At a certain point, they reach a critical mass. And we may be getting there. And I think this is the most reflective that I've really heard Herman Cain be about this.

BELCHER: Don't run for president if you're not prepared. Plain and simple.

ROLLINS: It's a tough game. He may be a businessman. It's a lot tougher than selling pizza and hamburgers. I've seen -- I've seen some of the best of them get pounded. And it's an accumulative-type thing. And as I said, he -- he didn't understand the game he was getting in. He didn't have a team around him to protect him.

And at the end of the day here, he's going to have a -- he's going to have a brief experience of euphoria and a long experience of a lot of pain and anguish.

CROWLEY: Ed, Cornell, Gloria, thank you all so much.

That is all from us tonight. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

BURNETT: All right, thanks, Candy.