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Binder Blunder; The War for Women; Obama and Romney Clash over Libya; Interview with John McCain

Aired October 17, 2012 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, thanks. Good evening, everyone. We begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest." With Mitt Romney's record on women and something he said at the debate last night. Something that's turned kind of silly but might actually have serious consequences for the campaign because it involves a key voting group -- women.

Now you may already know what we're talking about. Even if you didn't watch the debate last night, you're probably familiar by now with the phrase "binders full of women." It's now a full-fledged Internet phenomenon. Take a look. About 140 million hits and counting on Google. "Binders full of women" is one of the several hot Twitter hash tags now. There's a Tumblr page loaded with photos, cute phone, snarky photos, binders of unicorn, sharks, rainbow, tons of Hillary Clinton, Fat Bastard, you name it.

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro, it seems. The "binders of women" phrase began minutes literally, just minutes after Mitt Romney uttered those words responding to a question about equal pay for women. Mr. Romney pointing to his hiring process when he first became governor of Massachusetts. Listen.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: And I said, well, gosh, can't we -- can't we find some women that are also qualified? And so we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our Cabinet. I went to a number of women's groups and said, can you help us find folks? And they brought us whole binders full of women.


COOPER: So that's the somewhat silly phrase. Now here's the totally serious context on why it's important to break it down. Women may decide this election, as you probably know. Look at this from the latest Gallup Poll of swing states. President Obama's formerly big advantage among female voters appears to be gone. Now other polling shows a bigger gender gap in President Obama's favor, but whatever the size of it actually is, and Mitt Romney can successfully narrow that gap, that would make the president's road to re-election very, very difficult, nearly impossible.

Campaigning today in Virginia, Mr. Romney said the president has failed America's women and, as you just saw, he was touting his record last night claiming that he, quote, "went to a number of women's groups," and said, "Can you help us find folks." But "Keeping Him Honest," that's not quite true. There's a problem with the timeline. We want to look at that tonight.

The group in question, a nonpartisan outfit called the Massachusetts Government Appointments Project, MassGAP, actually approached him. They put out a statement today saying, and I quote, "Prior to the 2002 gubernatorial election, MassGAP approached the campaigns of candidates Shannon O'Brien and Mitt Romney."

So they want -- they went to him and his Democratic opponent as well. Not as he claimed the other way around.

In addition, Mr. Romney last night credited the recruiting effort that followed with helping him bring so many qualified women on board. And today the campaign put out this from the former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey. Quote, "As we took office, our administration actively sought to recruit the best and brightest women the Commonwealth had to offer. And Governor Romney wasn't just checking a box."

But "Keeping Them Honest," though, in 2007, a MassGAP study reveals that even though it started out strong, female recruitment dropped off by the end of his term, went from 42 percent female in the first 2 and 1/2 years to 27.6 percent.

Running mate Paul Ryan rose to his -- the -- his boss' defense today saying, quote, "He was an exceptional -- he has an exceptional record of hiring women in very prominent positions in his administration and that's the point he was making last night."

As for the Obama campaign, well, they've certainly seen an opening.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT: You heard the debate last night. When Governor Romney was asked a directed -- a question about equal pay, he started talking about binders. Whoa. The idea he had to go and ask where a qualified woman was, he just should have come to my house. He didn't need a binder.


COOPER: So from debate claims to Internet sensation to political free-for-all, before checking on the campaign trail, though, let's dig deeper on how the Romney record actually stands up to the facts. That's our job.

Joining us now is David S. Bernstein, staff writer for the "Phoenix" in Boston. He's a 20-year veteran of Boston journalism.

It's good to have you on the program. You heard the governor's answer last night. Did that square with your memory of what happened?

DAVID S. BERNSTEIN, STAFF WRITER, THE PHOENIX: No, it doesn't. I -- immediately when I heard it, I reached out to some of the women who I know who had been part of that effort, which they did initially in 2002. It was a coalition of some 40 women's groups in the state that formed that MassGAP project you were just describing.

They did in 2002 and then again in subsequent gubernatorial elections. And like you said, they initiated the project, they worked at it for a number of months, you know, reaching out to gather together and screen possible appointees from, you know, women all over the state. And to put that together to present to whoever ended up being in the corner office.

So the idea that he initiated it after beginning the process of filling his cabinet just didn't square. I reached out and double check that with the people who are involved, they agreed and you saw the MassGAP confirm that again today.

COOPER: Is it -- it is possible it could have been an honest mistake by him that -- I mean, is there any that Governor Romney might not have realized how the list reached him?

BERNSTEIN: Well, I don't think that's really possible because during the campaign it was actually something that his campaign and he personally signed a -- sort of letter of commitment to the project, it was after the primaries, the project reached out to both him and the Democratic nominee, Shannon O'Brien.

She signed it first and then he agreed to sign it, pledging to try to use this material that the MassGAP was putting together and to try to move towards parody in the high-level appointments.

There was also a candidate forum that he participated in that was -- that was part of this whole project where they asked specifically about this project and how he was planning to fulfill it and so forth. You know, it sounded to me more like, you know, he was describing the way that he found a number of his female appointees, but then decided to take the extra step of taking credit for initiating it when in fact it was initiated by some other people.

COOPER: So -- OK, so, let's put binders aside, did he have a good record on appointing women? And my understanding of this whole MassGAP project was that the idea was kind of propel women into higher offices down the road. Did it -- did it have that effect?

BERNSTEIN: Well, it didn't. It's interesting you say that. There are different interpretations of his record with women. There is no question you can point to a number of high-level appointments that he did make. Particularly early on. As you pointed out, over the course of his -- of his four-year governorship he actually declined from -- in terms of the number of -- the percentage of women in those offices, compared to -- prior to his coming in even. You know, it was actually lower.

There were also some other issues aside from just those appointees. There were issues raised about his judicial appointees. Seventeen of his first 19 judge appointments were men. And then after some unfavorable press about that he began appointing more women. And so it really depends -- it depends on how you want to take the record. Certainly some of the most important positions that people in charge of budget and transportation and business development, the ones that he was most concerned about, mostly went to men and mostly to men who he had dealt with in his business career.

One of the interesting things, and I'm not the only one who's mentioned this, is that his claims seems to take for granted that he didn't know any qualified women after running business and consulting for business for 25 years which in it of itself is a little startling.

COOPER: Yes. David Bernstein, appreciate it you being on with your reporting, your recollection. Thank you very much.

BERNSTEIN: My pleasure.

COOPER: Joining us for more on how the two campaigns are handing this, Jim Acosta, who's traveling with Mitt Romney, and chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin.

So, Jim, is the campaign concerned right now about this whole binders controversy?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I think it's worth noting what Mitt Romney did and did not talk about at his first post-debate speech earlier today in Chesapeake, Virginia. He did not talk about that dust-up between himself and the president over what happened in Benghazi. But he did make referenced to women voters in his speech in Chesapeake. He said that the president has failed America's women. That -- that appeared to be a pretty blatant appeal to female voters in the audience there and all across the country.

And Anderson, late in the day he sent out a tweet of a Web video featuring members of his Cabinet back in Massachusetts when he was governor there that were women and one of the women on that Cabinet said in that Web video that Mitt Romney understands working women.

And keep in mind that he made this response, he made these remarks about binders full of women in response to a question about the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which is supposed to be an act that makes it easier for women to sue over pay equity issues. And he did not address that question.

And in going into those remarks about how he was trying to staff his office with women in Massachusetts, he didn't even mention the fact that his lieutenant governor was a woman. So I think it was a sign that perhaps the president had gotten under his skin and he was forced into a situation where he just had an unforced error there -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jessica, I mean, it certainly seems the Obama campaign believes that they can get some mileage out of Governor Romney's remarks.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. They are working it on the trail all day already.

Look, Anderson, it was very unfortunate for Governor Romney because it sort of raises this question, can he relate to working women? You know, it made it sound almost like working women are some mail-order product you can order out of colored binders. And, you know, there are so many directions you can go.

What have been tabs in that binder say for each of the women, you know? And the problem for Governor Romney is twofold. One, if he's trying to show, and he is, that he can relate to and understand the frustrations working women go through, this does not suggest that he understands the sense of outsiderness many women feel when they work for -- in largely male environments.

And two, it raises a question, this is a man who, at the time he became governor, had been a top executive in the business world for multiple decades, and didn't he already know qualified women that he could call upon? Why did he need to go outside and get a binder full of women to find some?

Now as Jim Acosta just pointed out, he actually did know women and he had some on his staff so he did himself a disservice with the way he phrased this, Anderson. But the Obama team is getting mileage out of it.

COOPER: Yes, Jim, is he talking at all about the role women had at Bain Capital? Because it is a very sort of male dominated profession, particularly back then. Has he talked at all about that? Because in the debate he was focusing solely on his time as governor.

ACOSTA: Actually no, Anderson. That's interesting you asked that question. We have not really heard Mitt Romney talk about that on the campaign trail. How women might have fared at his former investment firm. But, you know, keep in mind that the chief of staff for Mitt Romney when he was governor in Massachusetts, was Beth Myers who went on to run his 2008 campaign and then went on here in 2012 to lead his vice presidential search.

So this is a candidate who has had women on high-level positions. And it's worth noting in just the last few minutes here, Anderson, he's had one of his top surrogates, Barbara Comstock, on the stage behind me. And now Susan Allen, the wife of George Allen, who's running for the Senate here in Virginia, is on stage.

So perhaps, not just come recalibrating in terms of the speeches, but perhaps who's appearing on the campaign trail on his behalf.

COOPER: Jessica, I mean, the president had a -- had a big advantage with women voters all year. Has there been concern within the campaign that Governor Romney was making progress on that front? Certainly we're talking about before this debate.

YELLIN: Well, they wouldn't openly talk about that. And they even contested some of the polls that showed Governor Romney closing the gap. But you just have to look at the topics the president was bringing out at that debate, Anderson, to know that this is the voter group that the president is focused on. And that he knew that this was the greatest area where he was hemorrhaging support and his only growth opportunity.

This -- it is the women's vote that the president could win or lose on. And so if the president is going to be president for another four years, it will be because women make the difference. So he is going to hit on contraception and his claims that the governor has flip-flopped on it. He's going to hit on the pay equity issue and he'll continue to talk about this binders controversy and this -- the larger issue that he claims Governor Romney isn't a natural advocate in his bones for women in the workplace. This is the theme he'll carry to election day -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jessica Yellin, Jim Acosta, thanks.

Well, let us know what you think, follow me on Twitter right now @andersoncooper. I'll be tweeting.

We're following some breaking news tonight. Late word of a terror suspect in custody allegedly with ties to al Qaeda. He was caught, authorities say, in what he believed to be the act of setting off a massive bomb in New York. We have more on that tonight.


COOPER: We've got some breaking news to tell you about. A man with ties to al Qaeda has been arrested in a federal sting operation for allegedly planning a terror attack on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Now that is according to federal authorities who say that 21-year-old suspect, a Bangladeshi national, tried to detonate what he thought was a thousand-pound bomb.

Authorities had rendered explosives inoperable so there was no threat to the public. The suspect faces charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to provide material support to al Qaeda.

And now to the act of terror that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya. Going into last night's debate, the administration's handling of it or mishandling, as the case may be, seems like an opportunity for Mitt Romney. Here's how it played out last night.


OBAMA: The day after the attack, Governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people and the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened, that this was an act of terror. And I also said that we're going to hunt down those who committed this crime.


COOPER: Well, that's when Mr. Romney pounced, latching on to Mr. Obama's Rose Garden statement the day after the attack. We're playing it at length so you can actually see the statement in context.


I think it's interesting the president just said something which is that on the day after the attack he went in the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.

OBAMA: That's what I said.

ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack it was an act of terror? It was not a spontaneous demonstration.

OBAMA: Please proceed.

ROMNEY: Is that what you're saying?

OBAMA: Please proceed, Governor.

ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record. Because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.

OBAMA: Get the transcript.

CANDY CROWLEY, DEBATE MODERATOR: He did, in fact, sir. So let me -- let me call it an act of terror.

OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?


CROWLEY: He did call it an act of terror. It did as well take -- it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea of there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.

ROMNEY: This -- the administration -- the administration --


ROMNEY: -- indicated that this was a reaction to a -- to a video and was a spontaneous reaction.

CROWLEY: They did.

ROMNEY: It took them a long time to say this was a terrorist act by a terrorist group.


COOPER: The bigger question, though, is what the president meant when he said it that morning of September 12th? Was he referring to the terror attack the night before in Benghazi as he was in the final seven paragraphs of his remarks, or was he speaking of what he mentioned in the -- in the paragraphs that follow, the 9/11 al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington.

The next day he used a similar phrase but then four days after that no one in the administration -- or I should say for days after that, no one in the administration used the phrase, "terrorist attack", to describe what many experts almost immediately believe was, in fact, a terrorist attack.

Two weeks after the fact, on "The View," Joy Behar asked him, I heard Hillary Clinton say it was an act of terrorism, is it, what do you say, he answered, we're still doing the investigations.

That was two weeks after he said this in the Rose Garden.


OBAMA: Of course yesterday was already a painful day for our nation as we mark the solemn memory of the 9/11 attacks. We mourn with the families who were lost on that day. I visited the graves of troops who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hallowed grounds of Arlington Cemetery. And had the opportunity to say thank you and visit some of our wounded warriors of Walter Reed.

And then last night we learned of the news of this attack in Benghazi. As Americans, let us never ever forget that our freedom is only sustained because there are people who are willing to fight for it, to stand up for it, and in some cases lay down their lives for it.

Our country is only as strong as the character of our people and the service of those both civilian and military who represent us around the globe. No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.

Today we mourn for more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waiver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible attack and make no mistake that justice will be done.


COOPER: So that's what the president said in the Rose Garden. A week later an administration official told a Senate hearing it was terrorism, but a week later the president still wasn't saying that when directly asked.

Now back to his words in the Rose Garden and what they meant, because speech writers always come in handy when you've got a speech to analyze. I spoke earlier with one of the all-time best, David Frum, former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, and a contributor to CNN as well as "Newsweek" and the "Daily Beast." Joining him tonight, Fareed Zakaria, host of "FAREED ZAKARIA, GPS," which is Sundays on CNN.


COOPER: So, David, this debate over whether the president was specifically referring to the Benghazi attack when he used the word "acts of terror" in his Rose Garden remarks the following day, as a former speechwriter, what is your take? DAVID FRUM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That was a highly conditional statement in the Rose Garden. What the president said was no act of terror. Now you write that when you want to say, I'm not characterising these attacks. This is a general -- this is a general statement. It could have been delivered 24 hours before the attacks as well as 24 hours after.

It was a way of putting something on the record without fully endorsing it. A mild lean forward. The -- you can almost imagine that somebody wrote "this act of terror" and that was scratched out in the staffing process and replaced with a less -- with a less committed formula, :no act of terror."

COOPER: Fareed, do you have any reason to believe the president was not referring to Benghazi when he said acts of terror in those remarks?

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: No, look, the common sense reading of it is that he was referring to acts of terror, this sort of artful interpretation that David has. I'm not actually sure. I think this is a red herring.

Look, even if a mob had spontaneously gathered because of the video and decided to charge the U.S. embassy and had killed the U.S. ambassador, two Navy SEALs, and another American that's still an act of terrorism. Right? Terrorism is basically the taking of the lives of particularly civilians in a -- you know, in a political act that is designed to have some kind of political impact.

That strikes me as an act of terrorism whether or not it was a mob or al Qaeda. Now was it an act of terrorism perpetrated by a terrorist organization affiliated with al Qaeda with planing and forethought that we don't know. But I don't really see how it wasn't an act of terrorism no matter who did it.

COOPER: David, do you think that Governor Romney missed an opportunity by focusing in the debate last night on what the president and the word -- you know, the word terror the president used in the Rose Garden speech, as opposed to --

FRUM: Yes.

COOPER: -- the nearly 14 days or whatever it was that they were still unclear about what happened?

FRUM: And continue. Look, Governor Romney had good cards, he over played them and the president was able to push him back and push him back pretty hard and he suffered for it. But we're not at the point where the administration -- where any of us exactly know, nor are we at the point where the administration has given up trying to sell a false narrative to protect itself.

And no one is saying this is treason or an impeachable offense, but there are four people dead, and it's serious. The question that is hanging in the air here is, was the Libya war a good idea? This is the -- I mean President Obama has two wars, Afghanistan which he escalated, but Libya which he chose. And the question is, what is the outcome in Libya? Is it a success or not?


ZAKARIA: And do you think it really -- it hinges on whether or not --

FRUM: No, it's the -- of course not.

ZAKARIA: You have one terrorist attack --

FRUM: No, but it's symbolized.

ZAKARIA: That would have the -- that would have the chilling effect on any further American interventions political or military if you say well, one gang somewhere could -- a few years later launch an attack on one of our consulates, it means the whole thing is a bad idea.

FRUM: Look, in this --


ZAKARIA: And we were --

FRUM: This year's --

ZAKARIA: The green zone and --

COOPER: One at a time.

ZAKARIA: In Iraq was shelled routinely by militants.

FRUM: No one is thinking a lot about Libya. But in this month before the elections, to talk openly about what happened to Ambassador Stevens it's reminding people there is still no government in Libya. There's still no security in Libya. Al Qaeda entities, al Qaeda affiliated entities are moving freely in Libya. In fact, they are the most armed people in the country. And it raises the question, what did this war accomplish?

And I think most people, most even -- a show like this, very new savvy audience don't know that there isn't a government in Libya. All this time later.


ZAKARIA: Well, it's not -- that's not entirely true, David. There were elections, the Muslim fundamentalists actually lost badly. A moderate liberal, pro-Western government was elected. Gadhafi created a -- you know, a kind of sham state so yes, the institutions of government are not very strong in Libya. But to characterize it as there being no government -- this is actually a very important election that took place that many conservatives lauded precisely because it brought to power moderate pro-Western liberals.

FRUM: What did we get? And that is the debate that the administration wants not to have this month, and that is the debate that is driven home by the events in Benghazi. And that is why the -- and that is why the administration is so keen to make this a story about a spontaneous reaction to a movie made in America. Nothing to do with us and has nothing to -- and nothing to do with our decisions and our -- and maybe, maybe those were good decisions. Maybe all things considered we chose the lesser evils. The question I mean I think both Fareed and I would think about a lot.

COOPER: Fareed, I want to ask you about, this special that you had on, because we heard last time, both candidates talking about energy policy, gas prices. You've got a show on Sunday called "Global Lesson: The GPS Roadmap for Powering America." It's a complicated topic. But ultimately high gas prices hurt the president. Right?

ZAKARIA: High gas prices hurt the president. As he pointed out, high gas prices in some part because the economy is recovering. More importantly, it's because there's growth all over the world, because the Chinese want more gas, the Indians want more gas. What I was struck by, both of them agreed that we want energy independence, and they were both telling you how they were going to achieve it.

It's mostly happening for reasons that have very little to do with the president. It's happening because of shale gas, which is this extraordinary technology that is revolutionising our ability to extract them. It is controversial and there -- there's a need to study it and regulate it. But the simple fact is that the United States is likely, within the -- by the end of this decade to export more petroleum and liquid natural gas than Saudi Arabia or Russia.


ZAKARIA: We are going to become the world's great exporter of liquid hydrocarbons.

COOPER: That's incredible. I look forward to that on Sunday. Fareed, thanks very much. David Frum, thanks again.


COOPER: Well the candidates' words aren't the only thing that's being parsed. What are their body language say last night. The town hall format freed them from the lectern. Which candidate used the stage most effectively. Our expert weigh in ahead.


COOPER: Tense exchanges in each other's faces. We decode the body language in last night's presidential debate. Our experts weigh in on the nonverbal fireworks in round two of President Obama versus Governor Romney. That's next in 360.


COOPER: Up close during last night's town hall style debate. President Obama and Governor Romney were free to move around the stage. They often ended up just inches apart confronting correcting each other.

At times it looked a little like a boxing ring. Voters saw a much animated President Obama obviously, a sharp contrast to his first debate against Governor Romney. The body language of both candidates is being parsed today just as closely as their words.

Earlier I talked to Bret O'Donnell, a former debate strategist for Mitt Romney and Janine Driver, body language expert and author of "You Can't Lie To Me."


COOPER: Janine, one of the exchanges you point out -- there were certainly a lot of heat last night. One of the exchanges you point out is the exchange over oil production. Let's take a look at that. What do you see going on?

JANINE DRIVER, BODY LANGUAGE EXPERT: Right here. Watch, we are doing chopping and this chop is pointing towards the president. Look at all of this chopping. They are in each other's space, right?

This is very interesting and the president stands back up. This is like man to man and it is interesting although they are having this debate, Anderson. They are not coming across as contemptuous.

Contemptuous is more a superiority run better than you. It is like two brothers who have a disagreement and there's still that professionalism with both of them here.

COOPER: It seemed like the president didn't want to be seen sitting down with Governor Romney was kind of addressing him and talking to him.

DRIVER: And we saw the president engaged Candy quite a bit. He would literally walk towards Candy. We have what's called "proxemics." When we are less than 18 inches, we're in someone's personal zone. We that with both the president and Mitt Romney many times they are in each other's personal zone.

COOPER: Bret, what in the exchanges have you point to was over drilling on public lands and you say it sort of got away from Mitt Romney how so?

BRET O'DONNELL, FORMER DEBATE STRATEGIST: I mean, instead of just making his point and asking the question one time and leaving it. He kept asking it repeatedly and did that with the pension exchange as well.

COOPER: Asking the president.

O'DONNELL: Repeatedly and it seemed to be that he went a little too far. He looked defensive. He looked overly aggressive with the president and I think that it could have been misperceived.

COOPER: So it's better to just for him to have said like one time, has drilling gone down or drilling gone up on public lands or whatever and move on.

O'DONNELL: Exactly, make your argument and move on.

COOPER: There was a lot of back and forth about Libya as well. I want to show that exchange.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It took him a long time to say this was a terrorist act about a terrorist group and to suggest, am I incorrect in that regard. On Sunday --

DRIVER: The president here is like listen. I want to address this issue. We see this is palm down gesture. When we see the palm down, this is not very welcoming. This is -- this has to be handled.

When police come in and they do a raid, they go on the ground, on the ground. They don't say on the ground, on the ground. We also see that with Mitt Romney when he is asked later about in fact how is he similar to G.W. or how is he different to G.W?

Mitt Romney says that's a great question and does that palm down. This is saying I don't really like your question and now we have a stalling technique with it's like that's a great question. I appreciate it.

COOPER: Bret, you're saying the Libya exchange or fight the most decisive blow that the president got against Romney.

O'DONNELL: The president looked presidential. It was a moment where Governor Romney appeared to be caught on a fact and didn't exactly know what line of argument to pursue.

The president did this sort of righteous indignation moment where he said I'm offended that you would accuse me or my team of playing politics with this issue and that moment seemed to advantage the president over Governor Romney.

DRIVER: To that point, I felt like it was even with regard to body language and with regard to verbal. At that point, with Libya, when the president was intense, I felt like the president stepped out of a role of I'm a man running for president and stepped into the role as I am the current president. His gestures were really intense and it literally is I'm not using this as a ploy to become a president.

COOPER: Was it a mistake for Romney to focus on the day -- you know, the Rose Garden speech because in the Rose Garden speech it's an arguable point --

O'DONNELL: The facts are on Governor Romney's side. But he focused on that one word did you say terror and instead of focusing on the larger context, he focused on that one day and kept asking the president and the president you know if you noticed his response was please proceed governor.

COOPER: The CNN poll, it did reflect that even the people felt President Obama overall won. On economics, on taxes, on deficit, they felt Governor Romney won the debate. O'DONNELL: Yes, and I think that's reflected in those exchanges, but it was the Libya exchange and maybe the couple of exchanges in the debate that Governor Romney was pursuing a question that the president wouldn't give him the answer he wanted. That seemed to frustrate him and may have caused the receptions.

COOPER: What stood out to you and what surprised you most in this?

DRIVER: With Libya, I have to say after Libya, what we saw -- I believe that what we notice is that we saw an increase in pacing with Mitt Romney. I think the president really knocked out of the park --

COOPER: Bret, for you the key for Governor Romney is focus on the economy moving forward.

O'DONNELL: Absolutely.

COOPER: Tell us about the next debate.

O'DONNELL: There are ways to relate foreign policy and national defense, national security back to the economy and that's what the governor has to do.

COOPER: Bret O'Donnell, thank you. Janine Driver, thanks.


COOPER: Well, four years ago, it was Senator John McCain debating then candidate Barack Obama. He was watching last night's debate closely, tweeting about it. Senator McCain joins me ahead in the big 360 interview. We are going to talk about Syria as well.


COOPER: The fall out continues in the Lance Armstrong doping scandal. Sponsors are dropping him and there's a big change at the "Live Strong" charity. That is ahead on 360.


COOPER: The town hall format can be a tricky one for presidential candidates. Four years ago, my next guest Senator John McCain faced off with then candidate Obama at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. Take a look.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Senator McCain suggests that somehow, you know, I'm green behind the others and same spouting off and he's sombre and responsible.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Thank you very much.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Senator McCain, this is the guy who sang bomb, bomb, bomb Iran, who called for the annihilation of North Korea. That I don't think is an example of speaking softly. This is the person who after we hadn't even finished Afghanistan where he said next up Baghdad.

MCCAIN: If we are going to go back and forth, I would like to have equal time to respond. Not true. I have obviously supported those efforts that the United States had to go in and I have opposed those that I didn't think so. I understand what it is like to send young Americans in harm's way.


COOPER: Well, that was from four years ago, Senator McCain was watching last night's debate closely. He joins me now for the 360 interview.

Senator McCain, we heard that heated exchange from four years ago and you know what it's like to be on that stage in the midst of the rough and tumble.

I heard from a lot of voters today. Some said they liked the sparring last night and others who were turned off by it. You have been involved in sparring and not. Do you think more people are turned off by it than are pleased by it?

MCCAIN: I think more people are turned off by it, Anderson, because when people start talking over each other, and really exchanging bashes, I don't think viewers get a lot out of it. It is what it is.

We saw the vice president basically being very disrespectful in my view to Paul Ryan and there was a lot of back and forth last night. But I think most people that I talked to that come up to me say they wish they'd be a little more respectful, not a lot, but a little more.

COOPER: On Benghazi, last night, there are certainly big questions to be asked and still they need to be answered. Why wasn't there more security for the ambassador? Why the administration's narrative change so many times and still what -- what really happened there.

The direct question last night didn't actually directly answered, but by focusing on that Rose Garden statement and the use of the word "terror," do you think Governor Romney missed an opportunity?

MCCAIN: I think so in a way he did because I think that when you look at the president's Rose Garden statement that it really wasn't talking about that act.

And the reason why I don't think he was because he later went on "The View" and went on "Letterman" and others and kept repeating what they have sent his U.N. ambassador out to say and say this was a hateful video that triggered this demonstration or we don't know what caused it.

But we knew within hours, Anderson, that this was a coordinated attack with heavy weapons and we now know that one of the leaders of the one of the al Qaeda related groups was even there. It was obvious, there was no demonstration whatsoever.

And when they keep saying wait until we have a complete and full investigation some facts are obvious now. I'd like to mention one other aspect of this if I could.

Back in April and June, there were attacks on the U.S. Embassy, one an IED very serious. The British ambassador was attacked. The British closed their consulate. The Red Cross left.

Was the president briefed about the danger there? I don't expect him to know whether 16 people stayed or went. Shouldn't he have been briefed about the deteriorating situation in Benghazi where it was obvious that al Qaeda were coming in across the border?

That's what we need. The question should be what did the president know, when he did know it and what did he do about it, obviously, not much.

COOPER: I want to ask you also about Syria tonight. The "New York Times" was reporting Sunday that most of the weapons flowing to Syrian rebels from Saudi Arabia and from Qatar are actually going to Islamic Jihadists.

Why is it that we've not been able to identify more moderate groups or I mean, have we been able to identify just -- because the folks sending the weapons are, you know, have sympathies maybe with Jihadists. They are sending them to these groups that they are?

MCCAIN: It makes me so sad.

COOPER: You were talking about this before anyone else.

MCCAIN: Yes, and it is so sad because there are legitimate elements that you and I have inside and just outside of Syria. And there has been a flood of these Jihadists into Syria as this thing has dragged out for over 18 months and over 30,000.

And it's a failure of American leadership. Let me just say that it is well-known that over the years that the Saudis have supported extreme groups. So, it is not surprising, but where is American leadership to say to them by the way, stop that and we'll do the job.

We will make sure that those weapons get in. That's what American leadership is about and I could go on and on, the tensions on the border as you know of all of those countries have dramatically increased.

The slaughter goes on and the Russians continue to step up their armed supplies and the Iranians are over flying Iraq with supplies of arms and the tragedy goes on and it cries out for American leadership and it is just not there.

I don't know what the Turks are going to do, but I know that the Turks are crying out for our leadership.

COOPER: Governor Romney has been critical of the Obama administration for not acting sooner for calling Assad a reformer early on. But recently he called for arming the rebels, but he stopped short of saying the U.S. should provide weapons.

His staff said that the governor would rely on allies to do that, which is unnamed allies, but it's exactly basically what the Obama administration is already doing, isn't it?

MCCAIN: I don't think they are doing it. They say they are, but we know the facts are that they are not doing it because the arms are going into the wrong people as we said at the beginning of our conversation. Obviously, I support strongly providing them with weapons. I hope that Governor Romney will agree with that position, but --

COOPER: Do you think the U.S. should directly supply them with weapons?

MCCAIN: You know, I have always said that and I think that Mitt Romney is right. We should play a much greater and stronger role in making sure that those weapons go to the right people, which is obviously not the case now because of the lack of American leadership.

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

MCCAIN: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up an update on the 14-year-old girl marked for death and shot by the Pakistani Taliban for advocating the education of girls. How she is doing tonight and a charity effort on her behalf when we continue.


COOPER: The "Ridiculist" is coming up, but first Isha is here with the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, major fall out today in Lance Armstrong's doping scandal. Nike has dropped him because of what the company calls seemingly insurmountable evidence that he doped.

Also, today, Armstrong stepped down as chairman of its cancer charity "Live Strong" although he will remain on the board. He has repeatedly denied doping.

Angelina Jolie's charity is donating $50,000 to a group that's setting up a fund to educate girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan in honor of the teenage activist who was shot in Pakistan last week.

The 14-year-old girl is still fighting for her life in a hospital. She's work out for education for girls and the Taliban has vowed to kill her.

Four more deaths have been linked to the outbreak of fungal meningitis tied to contaminated steroid injections. The CDC says 19 people have now died from the outbreak and the number of cases is up to 245.

And Anderson, listen up, a man in North Dakota has made about $10,000 on the 20-year-old bar of barbecue sauce. The man held on to jar of McJordan barbecue sauce from a Michael Jordan promotion at McDonalds in the early '90s. He sold it on eBay.

COOPER: Really, for that much money?

SESAY: I know you are going -- barbecue sauce, but it expired in 1992.

COOPER: So someone bought old barbecue sauce? Wow. There's a market for everything. Isha, thanks.

Coming up, the most important celebrity alive weighs in on the presidential election. You may not be able to understand what she is saying. The "Ridiculist" is next.


COOPER: Time now for the "Ridiculist." And tonight, we're adding celebrity endorsements for president. They've been rendered completely obsolete because the only celebrity who really matters anymore just weighed in on the election. No one else needs to say anything else from this point forward. I am speaking, of course, about Honey Boo-Boo.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know who Mitt Romney is.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know who Barack Obama is?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is the president, yes. They asked on the "Kelly and Michael" show. They asked Mitt Romney if he preferred Snooki or Honey Boo Boo and do you know what he said. He said he preferred Snooki. So now I have to ask you. Who are you going to support for president, Mitt Romney or Barack Obama?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney said that.



COOPER: Honey Boo Boo has spoken on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and without translation. She is too young to vote of course and OK, she doesn't know exactly who Mitt Romney is and I think she may have said Barack Obama, but make no mistake about it. That tiny tornado is a force to be reckoned with politically and her reality show "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" on TLC, actually got higher ratings than the Republican National Convention and tied to the ratings with the Democratic National Convention, the night that former President Clinton spoke.

So when you look at it that way, Mitt Romney may now be regretting his answer to that faithful question.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the most serious question of all, Honey Boo Boo or Snooki?

ROMNEY: I'm kind of a Snooki fan. She has lost weight and energetic, just her spark plug personality.


COOPER: Let's be honest. Snooki does have a spark personality. She is certainly energetic, but come on, so does Honey Boo Boo. I speak from experience because she and her mom were on my daytime show. And they were keeping the train on the tracks under the circumstances.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: You better recognize.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She a mess. She's a good mess.

COOPER: How do you deal with the controversy? It is interesting. You go to your Facebook page and there are people that love you guys and people who are critical of the show. How do you deal with that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In life there is going to be criticism. You can't make people happy all the time. There are those that love us and those that hate us.


COOPER: For the record, I fall firmly into the people who love them. But Mama June, Sugar Bear, Pumpkin and of course, the greatest political mind of our time, Honey Boo Boo, watch your back, Gergen. It is Honey Boo Boo's world. We are just watching it.

That does it for us. We'll see you again one hour from now another edition of 360 at 10 p.m. Eastern. Thanks for watching. I forgot Chubs. Chubs is also on that show. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts now.