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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Storm Threatens GOP Convention; Platform Priorities; Presidential Race Tightening Up
Aired August 23, 2012 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, thanks very much. Good evening, everyone.
A lot of politics to cover tonight but first a quick update on the breaking news we're following right now. New information on Tropical Storm Isaac. We already know it may threaten the start of the Republican convention on Monday. But right now the storm could be a matter of life and death for hundreds of thousands of people who are right now in its path.
They're living in tents in Haiti, exposed to the elements, wide open to bad weather, and they're just the first who could be in very serious jeopardy. Moments ago, the National Hurricane Center came out with new storm data. So let's go straight to Chad Myers in the weather center.
Chad, what do we know from this new data?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, I know you've been to that Haiti and that situation. And I can't imagine what it's going to be like here in about 24 hours. This storm is on its way just to the south of Port-au-Prince. That means the worst side of the storm will be right over Port-au-Prince in about this time tomorrow night.
All of a sudden you have 400,000 people or very close to that number living in tents and wind blowing around at 80. Wind and rain going sideways. And I can't imagine what that night tomorrow night in Haiti is going to be absolutely unbearable.
The wind now, 45 miles per hour, a gust of 50. That's up five miles per hour from the last update. Hurricane hunter aircraft are in it. They're finding it more organized and that's how it gets to be a hurricane before it hits Haiti tomorrow, Anderson.
COOPER: And it does seem likely you're saying it could become a hurricane by tomorrow?
MYERS: I believe so. I don't think there's any way that it's in the very good water now. It's warm. There's not a lot of sheer, which means there's not wind blowing all over the place.
MYERS: Then it hits the land and when it hits land it breaks apart, and then the hurricane goes away, we're back to TS. Then it goes over to Cuba, and we're still a tropical storm. But as it gets back into the water near Key West, that's when it gets to be a hurricane again and the hurricane center has a category 185-mile-per- hour storm in the northern Gulf of Mexico somewhere. But they also -- one of their updates said that may be very conservative.
We'll have to keep watching.
COOPER: I mean, as you said, 400,000 people in Haiti right now living in tents from the earthquake still. And -- I mean those tents could be blown away. We're going to have to watch that very carefully. We're going to have a report on that later on in the program.
Obviously a lot of people are also wondering about the impact on the Republican National Convention on Monday.
At what point do you think we'll be able to tell if it looks like it may hit Tampa in a big way.
MYERS: Well, it's 100 miles away right now in the center line. And that's kind of a concern. That's not far enough away. You think -- if it's a hurricane right here, you're going to have very close to hurricane force winds into Tampa or at least tropical storm force winds. And at that point in time, although maybe the FAA doesn't shut airports down, certainly airlines are going to say -- airlines are going to say we're not flying.
And you have all these people trying to get to one place and you start canceling planes, that's when you have a big headache on Monday. If this thing does -- and Anderson, you and I, we're right there under that P in Tampa waiting for Charlie and we knew it was going to hit Tampa, and this was what, 2004. And it was going to be a big storm.
MYERS: It turned it to the right at the very last moments and hit Punta Gorda . Well, if it's over here and this storm decides to do the same thing and turn to the right, then all of a sudden Tampa becomes another very big story. And that might be only 24 hours before landfall, before we know that. That's the real rub about when you do you start telling people to stay home.
MYERS: Or getting out of the way, because these things do turn right and left very quickly.
COOPER: And we're going to get you to follow throughout this hour and so we've got folks in Haiti we're going talk to a little about coming up.
Chad, thank you very much.
Again, heading to Tampa. The storm known as Congressman and Senate candidate Todd Akin, that's already arrived in Tampa basically for Conservative Activists Conference. Congressman Akin, he says he's going to be skipping the convention, leading Republicans want him to drop out of the race entirely of course and they hope out of the national picture.
Here is a sign of how politically toxic they think he is. Mitt Romney not only doesn't want to answer questions about Akin or abortion, he doesn't even want to be asked those questions. Reporter at a CBS affiliate in Denver managed to score an interview with Mr. Romney. There was, he said, a catch. No questions about Akin or abortion according to his campaign.
The Obama campaign sent out on e-mail today making light of it saying, quote, "Women across America deserve to know the truth about Romney-Ryan's extreme agenda. Now that notion is part of a larger Democratic effort to paint Romney -- the Romney-Ryan ticket as the Romney-Ryan-Akin ticket. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN LABOLT, OBAMA CAMPAIGN NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY: The Republican Party, Mitt Romney's Republican Party, has now adopted Congressman's Akin's policies as part of their platform.
REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS: Paul Ryan and Todd Akin, like two peas in a pod.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ ,CHAIR, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: And now we have a Republican Party platform that was designed by Mitt Romney.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now that's the message that the platform, the Republican Party platform, was designed by Mitt Romney. Now "Keeping Them Honest," though, there are truthful ways of making that message. And less than truthful ways. Congressman Debbie Wassermann Schultz, you just saw on that clip there, also heads up the Democratic National Committee. I'm going to talk to her in just a moment. But first I just want to show you some of the fundraising -- some of the fundraising letter that she sent out this week.
It starts of by saying, "Friend, here's the Republican Party's message to women in 2012. No choice, no exceptions." It went on to say, "Their party just voted to embrace Akin's position by including a constitutional ban on all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest in their 2012 platform."
Then the DNC chairwoman calls out Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan for saying, they don't entirely agree with that plank. And here's how she backs it up. Quoting again from the letter, quote, "But guess what? The 'Los Angeles Times' reported yesterday that the platform was, and I quote, 'written at the direction of Romney's campaign'."
Now those words did appear in the "L.A. Times" and just that little bit of that quote, written at the direction of the Romney campaign seems pretty clear, right? But "Keeping Them Honest," those -- that quote was taken completely out of context. It was ripped in fact out of a sentence. If you put it back into the sentence, here's what it looks like. Quote -- this is from the "L.A. Times," delegates for presumptive nominee Mitt Romney are voting down substantive changes in the platform language that were written at the direction of the Romney's campaign. So the DNC letter takes the last eight words out of that sentence, uses it to suggest something that the full sentence obviously does not suggest.
And "Keeping Them Honest," there's more to the story than just selective editing. There are facts that directly contradict the DNC's claim. First, the abortion language in the 2012 platform, it hardly differs from the 2008 language and the 2004 language in the platform. That language obviously wasn't written by the Romney campaign.
Now in addition our own correspondent Peter Hamby was in the room while the platform was being debated or being drafted. He says Romney advisers made any number of suggestions but not on the abortion plan.
Congressman Wasserman Schultz joins us now.
Congressman, in the wake of the comments made by Congressman Akin on abortion, you've been sending out fundraising appeals that seemed or that attempt to link Mitt Romney with Congressman Akin, even Paul Ryan's position on abortion. You do acknowledge that Mitt Romney supports abortion in the cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, CHAIRWOMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, I think that women need to know the dramatic difference between President Obama's position on a woman's right to her own reproductive choices as well as the Democratic Party's position and Mitt Romney and the Republican Party. And so Mitt Romney's words are very nice. But the bottom line is that, his campaign just directed the Republican Party platform to include the most restrictive constitutional amendment that would say to women that you would have no opportunity to make your own reproductive choices under any circumstances even in the case of rape or incest.
COOPER: But wait a minute. You're saying his campaign --
SCHULTZ: Absolutely silent and makes no exception at all.
COOPER: You're saying his campaign directed -- you're saying his campaign directed the writing of the platform, and that's the claim you make in your fundraising --
SCHULTZ: That is the responsibility of --
COOPER: But it's not. I mean --
COOPER: You're saying --
SCHULTZ: That's the responsibility of a presidential campaign. COOPER: But factually speaking --
SCHULTZ: And just one more --
COOPER: Mitt Romney did not design or direct the writing of the Republican Party platform. The line -- in particular, the language on abortion is virtually the same --
SCHULTZ: I'm sorry.
COOPER: -- as has been for years. Are you saying that he wrote in 2000 and 2004?
COOPER: And 2008? Because it's the same language and according to our reporters who were in the room --
SCHULTZ: Actually Mitt Romney --
COOPER: -- as the platform was being discussed. People could suggest changes, and the Romney did suggest changes to a few sections but they didn't say anything about the abortion language. You can fault them as you did for not pushing their position. But you can't say that they designed the abortion section.
SCHULTZ: In fact, Anderson, we definitely can say it. Because even in the previous platform, Mitt Romney has embraced previous Republican Party platforms and embrace that language, and said he'd be delighted to support a constitutional amendment banning all abortion. He supported personhood amendments. I mean there's no getting around --
COOPER: But he has also vocally for years --
SCHULTZ: Fully embraced policy.
COOPER: Sorry. I don't want to speak over you. But he has for years, you have to knowledge, he has for years publicly said that he supports abortion in the case of rape, incest and where the life of the mother is at stake.
SCHULTZ: I can certainly knowledge that he says that out loud. And I think it's very clear that Mitt Romney talks the talk, certainly doesn't walk the walk. He has fully embraced his party's platform that includes a constitutional amendment, banning all forms of abortion, including with no exception for rape or incest.
COOPER: I guess I don't understand, though, why in a fundraising appeal, you would, it seems maybe accidentally, but you completely misquote the "The L.A. Times". You make it sound as if they're saying something that they're not saying. And you're using that as evidence to back up your position.
SCHULTZ: Anderson? Anderson, it doesn't matter. Any way you slice it --
COOPER: It does. What matters, I mean, if you're misquoting "The L.A. Times," and say something they didn't say.
SCHULTZ: Because -- OK.
COOPER: You're saying it's proof of your position but it's actually not proof of your position.
SCHULTZ: Anderson, we sent out that e-mail. The reason that we sent out that e-mail and that we will continue to send out e-mails, and reach out to voters, is we want them to know the difference between the two parties and the two parties' candidates on a woman's right to make her own reproductive choices and that Mitt Romney has a very extreme position on that == on that issue. And on top of that --
COOPER: But just as you don't like being misquoted, I don't like being misquoted.
SCHULTZ: We leave --
COOPER: I'm sure "The L.A. Times" doesn't like being misquoted to back up a -- your political position. I don't understand why you would need to do that?
SCHULTZ: Anderson, there is no getting -- I'm sorry. There is no getting around that Mitt Romney, when he accepts his party's nomination for president of the United States next week, and they adopt that platform, which has no exception for rape and incest in it, that is Mitt Romney's platform. And you know, to suggest anything else is absolutely ludicrous and it would be different than any other previous party convention.
COOPER: Do you at least acknowledge that --
SCHULTZ: And people should know that.
COOPER: -- the quote that you gave from "The L.A. Times" is completely incorrect?
SCHULTZ: No, I don' t-- I don't acknowledge that. I know that's what you're saying but what I acknowledge is that --
COOPER: Well, I can read it to you right now. I mean what you said is, guess what, the "L.A. Times" --
SCHULTZ: It says-- what I'm saying ---
COOPER: -- reported yesterday that the platform was -- SCHULTZ: Anderson, what I'm saying is doesn't matter.
COOPER: I think what you say does matter. You're quoting "The L.A. Times" and again you've misquoted them and to back up a position. I mean --
SCHULTZ: The point -- Anderson. Anderson, the point of the e- mail, and there is no getting around that, and I would think you would agree that there is no way that a presidential candidate, a party's nominee, can separate themselves from that party's platform. There is no exception for --
COOPER: He has. I mean he --
SCHULTZ: -- rape or incest in the Human Life Amendment.
COOPER: Right. He has separated himself.
SCHULTZ: But he has been consistent that his own party's platform -- but no, he hasn't because he has been insisted -- he had an opportunity during the drafting of that platform language to make sure that his own view, if that really is his view, is in that party's platform language.
SCHULTZ: He didn't do that. Neither did his campaign team.
COOPER: Before we go --
SCHULTZ: That's why we sent the e-mail.
COOPER: I do just -- I know.
SCHULTZ: Because I want to make sure women know that.
COOPER: But you sent the e-mail to raise funds and you're using -- you're misusing a quote. And I just think -- I do think accuracy is important. And my job is to point out things that are not factually correct.
What you said, you said, guess what, "The Los Angeles Times" reported yesterday that the platform was, and I quote, "written at the direction of Romney's campaign." That sounds very direct. But that's not actually what the "L.A. Times" was saying.
COOPER: That's not what they actually said.
SCHULTZ: The bottom line. The bottom line message -- OK. I understand what you're saying. The bottom line --
COOPER: The bottom line that what they said is, delegates for presumptive nominee Mitt Romney are voting down substantive changes to the platform language that was written at the direction of the Romney's campaign. They're not saying they wrote all the language. They're just saying specific language that the Romney campaign, their surrogates are voting down and abortion language, it was not part of that.
SCHULTZ: Anderson, the bottom line message of our e-mail is that, A, women need to know the difference between the two parties and the two presidential candidates on a woman's right to make her own -- reproductive choices. And that Mitt Romney can say that he is for an exception for rape or incest. His party platform doesn't reflect that.
He has previously fully embraced a human life amendment with no exception and said he'd be delighted to support it. And women need to know the difference. And women need to know that Mitt Romney is simply saying one thing but not insisting that his party's policies, as reflected in their platform, reflect his views.
And we're not going to let him get away with it.
COOPER: And --
SCHULTZ: This is an important decision that women need to make.
COOPER: My only point is --
SCHULTZ: And they need to be informed.
COOPER: My only point is, and again it's my job on both sides to point out things that are inaccurate, is in a fundraising e-mail --
COOPER: -- to misquote some thing to serve your argument, just doesn't seem in the long term to serve your argument very well. But you've made --
SCHULTZ: I understand your point but I think we -- I mean, the balance of the e-mail makes the case very clearly, and the main thrust of the information we're trying to convey is that Mitt Romney is disingenuous when it comes to his position on a woman's right to make her own reproductive choices and he's extreme, and has embraced an extreme position and we want women to know that.
COOPER: Congress Debbie Wasserman Schultz, I appreciate you being on. Thank you.
Well, let us know what you think about the discussion right now on Twitter @Andersoncooper.
One late note from our senior congressional producer Deidre Walsh on Congressman Todd Akin. She's learned of a possible threat against him. A spokeswoman telling her that Capitol police are currently working with the FBI on the matter. But declined to say more citing policy against discussion obviously the security of members of Congress. So let us know what you think. We're on Facebook, follow me on Twitter as I said, @andersoncooper. I'll be tweeting throughout this hour.
Up next, the "Raw Politics" of a presidential race that could come down to just a tiny number of people in a handful of key states. We've got some new polling. Interesting new numbers out there from those key states. John King crunched the numbers and perspective from presidential debate moderator Candy Crowley.
COOPER: Hey, welcome back. "Raw Politics" now. A new polling that shows the gap between President Obama and Mitt Romney narrowing. The race tightening, the stakes growing, obviously, for both candidates, going into their conventions.
Our John King is here to break it down for us at the magic wall. Before we go to John King on that, we should say that we've spent a long time trying to come up with an appropriate title for John's segment at the magic wall. Our thinking is a good title, I don't know, might make you sit up a little bit more, take notice, when one of the best political minds in the business is coming on.
We have not rolled out a title because really all of our idea really kind of stank. Things like "King Size Download" or data driven or math master, we're really -- they're all cheesy and lame.
Yes, I know, John is shaking his head. So tonight, we just decided to call it what we think it is. And we even made a fancy graphic, "The Part of the Show When John King Makes You Smarter." John?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, three new battleground state polls out today and three new pieces of evidence that this race, 75 days before the election and just days before the Republican convention, is about as close as you can get.
All three states where we have the new polls were Obama states in 2008, Wisconsin, Ohio, and the state of Florida. Let's go through them one by one.
If we look at Wisconsin and we look at this first and stretch it out, you see this is the "New York Times"/Quinnipiac/CBS poll, that's a dead heat. The president with a slight advantage, proof positive the Paul Ryan pick has given the Republicans a bit of a bounce in Wisconsin. It has been Democratic state in presidential politics for a long time. It is a battleground now. This is the one place where you do see evidence of immediate help for Governor Romney when it comes to the electoral college map looking at the battleground states.
Then you move over to what is often the decisive battleground, the state of Ohio. Again, here you see a slight advantage for the president. In this poll, the president has a six-point edge. Some other new polling out just today shows the race a little bit closer so both campaigns can see that the moments, slight advantage for the president in battleground Ohio, that this is a very competitive race, and Anderson, this is a state, it's almost impossible to do Romney wins math without the state of Ohio. So he needs to improve his standing here.
Now we come down to the state of Florida, the home state, of course, of the Republican convention, weather permitting. We'll watch that one play out. But at the moment, again, about as close as they come. The president with a slight advantage here, 49-46, that is within the margin of error, a statistical dead heat in the state of Florida. The Tampa convention, a chance for Governor Romney to move the numbers a bit there.
As he tries to do that, let's take a look at some of the key subgroups there. Older voters will be critical across the country especially, in a state like Florida, the Medicare debate, front and center right now. So if you look at the age breakdown, the president, winning convincingly among younger voters, a key part of his coalition in 2008. But look at this, Mitt Romney, right now this is in the state of Florida, the senior vote is critical, with a big 13-point advantage. That's better than John McCain in 2008, that's even better than George W. Bush over John Kerry in 2004.
If Governor Romney can hold that, it bodes well for his chances in battleground Florida. So what does all this mean? Let's switch maps and take a look at how this plays out when you look at the electoral college. At the moment, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida, we have them all as tossups.
Play out this scenario. Right now, the president has stronger leaning 237 of the 270 he needs. Governor Romney is a bit behind, 206 of the 270 he needs. If Governor Romney could pull out Florida, Ohio, look at that, he is closing -- he's passed the president, he's knocking on the door. If he can get Wisconsin, he's knocking at the door of being the next president of the United States, would need only one more big state or two of the smaller states to get there. That's if Governor Romney can pull out the troika here and win all three.
But, Anderson, look at this. Let's put this one back to toss-up. What if the president won Florida and lost none of the states he has right now, if he wins Florida and wins Ohio, it is game over. That shows you why the three states we're talking about today, especially Florida and Ohio, are so critical.
Governor Romney has a tougher map. He needs to win Florida, he needs to win Ohio, he would like to win Wisconsin. It'll make the challenge a lot easier. But if the three states we're talking about today, Florida and Ohio, if they are not red come November, very hard to see Romney in the White House -- Anderson.
COOPER: John, I want to bring in Candy Crowley, obviously chief political correspondent and anchor of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION."
So, Candy, the poll numbers that John just outlined, Romney gaining ground in some key swing states, a point or two increase here and there for Romney, what did you think is behind that? CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think a couple of things, and I think the dynamics of the race, much like the poll numbers, haven't changed all that much because what you have are sort of countervailing forces. You have the economy, which really is a drag on President Obama, still when you look at the polls. Any time you have an economy showing the kind of figures that this economy shows right now, it's a danger zone for the president.
On the other hand, you have Mitt Romney, who the American voter has not yet warmed up to. They still have this real skepticism about Mitt Romney, about whether he can make things better. Some of the early advertising from President Obama and folks supporting him has done pretty well at tamping down any kind of expectation that Mitt Romney would kind of pull ahead in this sort of economy.
So you've got these two forces. You've got the economy and then you've got the likability of Mitt Romney which really he's showed no headway. And that's why when you look at convention and the upcoming debates it's so important for Mitt Romney.
COOPER: Well, John, in the states where Romney is showing signs of improvement, how much of that do you think maybe also the addition to Ryan to the ticket or signs that Governor Romney's ads against President Obama may be working?
KING: I would say a bit more evidence of the former than the latter in a sense and especially if you look at Wisconsin, there's no doubt Paul Ryan has been worth a point or two in his home state. He's energized the Republican base. That has given Governor Romney a bit of a bounce.
If you look at the new polling data, if you look at Florida, if you look at Ohio, one of the things that is crystal clear, is that it has helped him among the conservative base. Now he's doing pretty well among conservatives anyway, Anderson. But this has helped a little bit, so you have this fascinating demographic now. Hundreds of millions of dollars are about to be spent to influence a tiny slice of the American electorate in eight or nine states, because if you look at the latest polling, in part because of Paul Ryan, Governor Romney is rock solid among conservatives and among Republicans.
And guess what? President Obama is rock solid among liberals and among Democrats. The key is the very small slice in the middle that describe themselves as independent and undecided. So it's a bit of Paul Ryan. The ads have been mostly a wash. Both sides. And all the super PACs essentially what they're doing is confusing people.
COOPER: Candy, it's interesting, though, in this battle for those undecided or independents, perhaps, this poll doesn't show any fallout from the Congressman Akin remarks yet because of when this poll was taken. Do you think that may have an impact, just the whole discussion about abortion and abortion rights?
CROWLEY: We'll see. I think that the Romney team is lucky that they've got the conventions coming up where they can try and turn the conversation back to where they want, which is the economy. It doesn't surprise me that there is no real, real switch here, simply because we know there's a huge gap between the percentage of women intent on voting for President Obama and those intent of voting for Mitt Romney. So there was already a huge gap there.
And just to add one thing to John -- what you and John were just talking about. And that is, that yes, it certainly is going to be about the swing voters but even more than that, and I think this is why we got the Ryan pick, it's about getting your voters enthusiastic and getting them out there. It's a turnout election more than a message election at this point.
COOPER: How much, John, of a bump from a convention can a candidate like Mitt Romney expect and how long does that bump actually last? Because, I mean, if you look at, I think past years' past presidential races, whatever bump, it gradually has faded for a number of candidates.
KING: They do tend to fade, especially for the candidate who goes first. And Mitt Romney is going first.
Anderson, I remember leaving Atlanta in 1988 with Michael Dukakis. He was 17 points ahead. And they thought it was time to measure drapes and pick furniture for the White House. And guess what? Michael Dukakis lost 40 states. So to me it's not so much the horserace number. Yes, Governor Romney would like to boost his number in the national horserace. He would love to boost his number. This convention is in Florida. We'll get a lot of local coverage as well as national coverage.
He's love to boos his number there. But more important than, say, a two or three or four point bounce in the national polls for Governor Romney is to go deeper in the polls. Candy is dead right. The Obama people have defined Governor Romney in the spring and the summer as a rich guy who not only doesn't understand but they've made the case he doesn't care about the middle class.
That's what he has to move. The numbers -- when you look at people, does he care? Does he understand, does he get your problems? And one other point, Governor Romney now leads among seniors. Republicans tend to win the vote among seniors. He needs to boost that number because when the Democratic convention comes around a week later, guess what, they're going to hammer Romney and Ryan on Medicare.
They will peel some of that numbers so Romney needs to boost his standing among older voters and then get to the perception that the Obama people has started to paint, that he doesn't care about everyday Americans.
COOPER: John King, Candy Crowley, thank you.
Well, an amazing story coming up. A Texas county judge is facing calls to resign his elected position after saying that civil war could break out if President Obama is re-elected. He's talking about U.N. troops being sent to Lubbock, Texas. Details ahead.
COOPER: Seemed like a no-brainer. A bill in the California legislature would have made it easier to fire teachers who committed sexual abuse, physically -- physical abuse or drug related acts with students. But it went down to defeat and wait until you hear why. It's pretty shocking. We're "Keeping Them Honest."
COOPER: There's a growing fallout tonight over comments by an elected county judge in Texas. His name is Judge Tom Head. He is a Republican. He oversees emergency planning efforts in Lubbock.
In radio and television interviews this week, he warned that civil war could break out if President Obama is re-elected. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think he is going to do in the next term?
JUDGE TOM HEAD, LUBBOCK COUNTY, TEXAS: He is going to try to hand over the sovereignty of the United States to the U.N. OK, what is going when that happens? I'm thinking worst case scenario, civil unrest, civil disobedience, civil war maybe. We are not talking just a few riots here and demonstrations. We're talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms and get rid of the guy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Judge Head claims that President Obama is going to bring United Nations troops into the U.S., into Lubbock, Texas, he actually said that. We're going to play it for you in just a minute.
The Texas Democrats are calling for him to resign. The county's Republican Party chief is standing by him. Ed Lavandera joins me now from Dallas. Ed, what is the latest on this?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, if you really back up a little bit here, it's even more amazing when you look at the context why all of this started.
This is all had to do with a debate there in Lubbock County where county commissioners were debating whether or not raise taxes to add extra funding to the Sheriff's Department and the Prosecutor's Office there in Lubbock County.
So you're wondering, how in the world do you go from debating that to talking like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HEAD: He is going to send in U.N. troops. I don't --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: U.N. troops. HEAD: With the little blue beanies. OK, I don't want them in Lubbock County. I'm going to stand in front of the personnel carriers and say, you're not coming in here.
The sheriff, I've already asked him. I said, are you going back me? He said, yes, I'll back you. Well, I don't want a bunch of rookies back there. I want trained, equipped, seasoned veteran officers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAVANDERA: So, you can imagine, the local reports there in Lubbock heard all of this. They went and asked the sheriff about it, about this conversation. How did all take place? The sheriff, Anderson, says that they had talked about emergency plan contingencies, but none of this talk of civil war ever came up.
COOPER: So this is actually -- he is wanting to kind of raise taxes in order to buy enough equipment in order to fend off Lubbock, Texas from the U.N. troops that he believes President Obama may send in after he ceded southern sovereignty over to the United Nations?
LAVANDERA: Exactly. He has said in a couple of these interviews. He doesn't think that this is actually is going to happen, but he has to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.
COOPER: So could Judge Head face any kind of repercussions for the comments? I mean, he is a sitting judge.
LAVANDERA: Well, there's no -- right, he is an elected official. He's had a great deal of overwhelming support for more than a decade there in Lubbock County. There is no way of recalling someone in his position.
Obviously, many local officials, mostly Democrats of which there aren't very many in Lubbock County, they had put out a statement this afternoon saying, Judge Head's paranoid fantasy of a U.N. invasion has captured the attention of the world.
A disease of the mind has taken control of the Republican Party. Judge Head would rather have an imaginary conversation with our sheriff to prepare for United Nations tanks invading Lubbock County than to do the serious work of preparing the county budget requires.
And just I spoke tonight, Anderson, with the lone Democrat, county commissioner on that court and I asked, is this something that is typical from a Judge Head?
And I asked, do you feel like he has fit to serve in office? I'm saving this for the end because I wouldn't be able to stop laughing to be able to get through this. But the quote I got back from the commissioner was, Judge Head is a six-pack short of a 12 pack of beer, if you know what I mean.
COOPER: That's from the Democrat we should point out, the lone Democrat. Ed Lavandera, appreciate the update, a remarkable story. Coming up, a teacher accused of sexually abusing his students, yet the school actually has to pay him to leave. You say there ought to be a law?
Well, next, we'll show how just such a law making it easier to eliminate problem teachers was block. We're keeping them honest.
COOPER: Breaking news, Tropical Storm Isaac is on a collision course with Haiti, where hundreds of thousands of people are still living in tent camps after the 2010 earthquake.
Imagine living in those camps with a tropical storm this size heading that way. Gary Tuchman is there now live. We have a live update from Port-Au-Prince when we continue.
COOPER: Welcome back. Another "Keeping Them Honest" report about a bill that recently died in California's legislature. This is probably going to make you mad and we should say upfront the story contains some adult subject matter that's disturbing.
So if there are little kids in the room, you might want to have them leave for just 2 or 3 minutes. The bill was designed to make it much easier for public schools to fire teachers who commit sexual, physically abusive or drug related acts with their students.
It sounds pretty noncontroversial, right? The fact is, it is incredibly hard to immediately fire public school teachers in California even if they are charged with completely despicable crimes against students.
Now the bill's sponsor wanted to change that before key legislators derailed his plans. "Keeping Them Honest," the question is did money from the state's powerful education unions influenced their actions. Here is CNN's Kyung Lah.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, hi.
(voice-over): In the halls of the California State Capitol, assembly member Wilmer Amino Carter is not in the mood to talk.
(on camera): I want to chat about Senate Bill 1530.
LAH (voice-over): She wouldn't stop to answer a single question, as silent here as when faced with legislation aimed of protecting sexually abused children.
(on camera): Can you just give me a reason why you chose not to vote on that bill?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have no comments on that bill. LAH (voice-over): But a voice in California's capitol is what parents were demanding. This is Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles where prosecutors say teacher Mark Burnt blindfolded children as young as 7, placed roaches on their faces, taking pictures.
As he dangled spoons filled with his semen near their mouths and forced them to eat cookies laced with bodily fluid. Burnt pled not guilty to charges and faces trial next year
As disgusting as horrific those alleged acts are, they are only the beginning of the outrage. Despite what the charges against Mark Burnt for what police say he did to his students, the school district couldn't simply fire him.
That's because in California, the process to fire a teacher even one accused of a child sex crime can take years. So what could the school district do with Burnt? They could have suspended him with pay pending a hearing, but instead they chose to pay him to resign.
(on camera): They paid him $40,000, right?
ALEX PADILLA (D), CALIFORNIA STATE SENATE: So $40,000 simply to retire.
LAH (voice-over): California State Senator Alex Padilla said that sent a signal that the system was broken. So he drafted a new bill that would allow a faster way for schools to fire teachers accused of the most heinous crimes against children.
PADILLA: We are very specific to these serious and egregious crimes, sex, drugs, violence involving students. I mean, these to me are no-brainers.
LAH (on camera): The bill looked like a shoo-in. It sailed through the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support. Its next stop, the State Assembly and there, it died. Not just by lawmakers voting no, but lawmakers who chose to stay silent. They chose to not vote at all.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there a motion on the bill?
LAH (voice-over): This is the Assembly Education Committee earlier this year. There are 11 members.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Carter not voting.
LAH: Four key members, members of Padilla's own party chose not to vote at all, which in California is as good as saying no. Their silence helped kill the bill that fell one single vote short of being sent to the Full State Assembly.
(on camera): Why do they stay silent?
GLORIA ROMERO, DEMOCRATS FOR EDUCATION REFORM: Out of fear and intimidation that these campaign dollars will no longer flow their way. LAH (voice-over): It comes down to cash. Campaign contributions from special interest groups charges former State Senator Gloria Romero. She knows a thing or two about it.
She's the former head of this very committee and now an education reformer. Not voting, she says, a political Teflon. They don't look bad to their constituents and the money from the powerful education unions keep flowing.
ROMERO: They voted no because they were tied to the hip with power and money thinking that nobody would ever find out about an abstain vote. Well, we found out and we're outraged.
LAH: But is it simply about the money? Dan Newman is the president and co-founder of MapLight, a non-profit, non-partisan research group dedicated at looking at money's influence on politics.
We looked at overall campaign contributions from teachers unions to the committee members from January 2009 to May 2012.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see how the money correlates with the vote.
LAH: With the exception of the committee chair, the numbers reveal a pattern. All those voting no or not voting received much more money over the years from education unions than those who voted yes.
DANIEL NEWMAN, PRESIDENT, MAPLIGHT: I don't know what is in the lawmakers' head, but I do know that on average, it's striking that lawmakers who receive more money from the teachers union in this case tended to vote more often with that union. What that correlation shows is that the money is having an influence.
LAH: We also don't know what is in the lawmaker's head. We got no response when we ask for sit down interviews with the four who were silent. So went to Sacramento to see them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you take the camera out?
LAH: Kicked out of one office after another. Staffers saying their bosses couldn't talk. When Assembly Member Carter wouldn't answer our questions on the hall, we followed all of them to the assembly floor where rules say interviews may be granted if you send a note.
(on camera): Can we ask Assembly Member Carter.
(voice-over): Assembly Member Carter who according to MapLight received more than $7,000 from teacher unions since 2009 ignored the note.
Assembly Member Mike Ang received $18,000 from teachers union since 2009, barely glanced at the request. Member Betsy Butler who according to MapLight received more than $11,000 from teachers union since 2009 visibly reacted to my note, but still ignored the interview request.
Only Assembly Member Doss Williams who received nearly $30,000 in campaign contributions from teachers unions walked right over.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought the bill was too much of an overreach.
LAH: An overreach, but he couldn't elaborate what that means nor would he talk about what his decision to not vote because he said the assembly was in session.
This is the underbelly of how government works say critics and laws they say are the people who these members are supposed to represent.
ROMERO: Children in a classroom where their teacher has been accused of feeding them semen? These legislators just threw the kids through the wind and basically said, you know, we don't want to think about you.
COOPER: Kyung Lah, that assembly member that you talked to on the floor, he reached out to you after the session. What did he tell you?
LAH: Yes, he gave me a phone call and he said basically, he used that word overreach, Anderson. And what he is trying to say, he felt that bill just simply did too much.
There is a process in place and he said it wasn't the campaign dollar doing the talking when he wasn't talking. He actually said if there is a new bill drafted with Senator Padilla, something he is hoping to do that perhaps there is a new version of the bill he might support.
COOPER: It's interesting though that they don't vote no. They just abstain, which has the same effect, but it sort of as you say protects them from blow back from it. What did the teachers unions in California have to say about it?
LAH: Yes, the California Teacher's Union, perhaps one of the most powerful groups here in California, because they have one of the largest war chests. They have so many members and so many contributing dollars.
What the CTA is basically saying is that there is a due process in place. That it simply does work. Yes, there are certainly bad examples, but they feel that overall, the teaching process.
The process there in place with these teachers that should not be interfered with and they say campaign contributions, no, they are not going to talk that way.
COOPER: I think for taxpayers to realize they paid $40,000 to get rid of that teacher accused of really the most abhorring kind of behavior. It's pretty shocking. Kyung Lah, appreciate the report, really interesting reporting.
We have breaking news next. The latest in the path of Tropical Storm Isaac. The storm heading straight for Haiti. More than 400,000 people still living in tents. Our Gary Tuchman is there in Port-Au- Prince with a live report.
COOPER: Breaking news tonight. The people of Haiti, many still recovering from the 2010's devastating earthquake are in danger of yet another natural disaster.
Tropical Storm Isaac expected to be Hurricane Isaac when it reaches Haiti, brings with it as much as 12 inches of rain, the possibility of flash flood and mud slides.
Hundreds of thousands Haitians are still living in tent camps two years after the earthquake and aid organizations are bracing for the worse as the storm approaches.
Our Gary Tuchman is there live in Port-Au-Prince. He joins me. Gary, how are people there preparing for the storm, are they?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think what is incredible, Anderson, with all the tropical storms and hurricanes I have covered, I have never gone through a city and a capital like Port-Au-Prince with absolutely no preparations whatsoever.
There's no actually no sign of the eminent arrival of a dangerous storm. Now in some wealthier neighborhoods, there may be. And those people are going to shelters and churches and police stations.
But here, we're in a section of Port-Au-Prince like 10 minutes away from the presidential palace, this is a tent city, this is the neighborhood, there are hundreds of people here, and we had to notify at least eight or nine of them that a storm called Isaac was on its way.
People are alarmed, but they say they are not leaving. They don't want to leave their home. They feel if they leave, someone will come and take their place in the only homes they had since the earthquake.
So these people are staying. We are less than 24 hours from the arrival of a dangerous storm and we haven't seen anyone here leave for shelter. They are sticking it out.
COOPER: And amazing that they haven't been notified. It seems to be a slow moving storm. So flooding for people on those tents that's obviously a very real concern.
TUCHMAN: Yes, I mean, this country has suffered so much grievously throughout the decades from mud slides and storms. In 2008, 800 people were killed from four different storms that came through Haiti. In 2004, when Hurricane Gene hit, 3,000 people killed. There hasn't been a tropical storm or a hurricane that's hit Haiti since the earthquake. A tropical storm kind of fizzled out last summer, so this will be a big test.
The fact is these people have suffered so much. You know, you talk about 300,000 people who were killed two and a half years ago that is 3 percent of the population of this country of 10 million.
These people have suffered. Nevertheless, we have let people know and they are scared, but they are not leaving.
COOPER: All right, Gary, we will continue to follow it. Gary, thanks very much. Gary Tuchman reporting live from Port-Au-Prince. Again, it will probably be this time tomorrow night that the storm will be hitting. So we will continue to follow it very closely. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Yes, it's that time of the program, the "Ridiculist." Tonight, we're talking about adventures in local news starting with a little impromptu vocabulary lesson.
When trying to cig way from one story to the other, a news anchor in Canada learned the hard way that a certain word doesn't mean quite what he thought it did. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of them brought their girlfriends out to canoodle or whatever.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did people canoodle in Union Bay?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe we can canoodle before you get into it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are not going to be canoodling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought canoodle meant chat. Astrid, you are lucky there is a producer in my ear. I would have carried it on and on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Canoodling, kissing, cuddling. Not to be confused with noodling, which can mean casually improvising music or catching cat fish with your bare hands.
Two other things I'm guessing meteorologist Astrid Brunsmith wouldn't agree to do with him either. But lest you think local news has the market cornered on totally inadvertent on air sexual harassment, let us not forget about this moment right here on CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMAEL: I know who likes chocolate. Our Zain Verjee loves chocolate. Nice melons behind you there. Whoops, I'm sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It's a base form of humor, don't you think? Allow us to raise the maturity level of it, shall we? And check out what happens when a local reporter is live on the air with a flatulent rhino.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He just said, pull my finger. Yes, baby! Good times in the rhino barn. You are not kidding. It smells ripe in here now. Let me tell you. That is so -- that is so funny. Yes. How is that working for you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now, at this point, you may be wondering, how can one top a gassy rhino live on the local news? How about an entire scatological seismic event.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattled -- that was a very large earthquake. The good thing is, there were no immediate reports of any damages or injuries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I give him points for moving on. Magnitoward, it's a great band name. Not so great method of measuring earthquakes, but it is also an excellent reminder in local news as in life, we should choose words our carefully, pronounce them carefully.
And yes, ideally, I mean, if you want to talk about a perfect world, know what they mean. That does for us. We will see you again one hour from now at 10 p.m. Eastern. Thanks for watching. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts now.