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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

American Hostage Beheaded in Iraq; Bush, Kerry Agree to Debate; Can Rather Survive Memogate?

Aired September 20, 2004 - 19:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: Good evening from New York. I'm Anderson Cooper.
Outrage in Iraq. An American beheaded by killers we've seen before.

360 starts now.

An American hostage brutally murdered in Iraq by the killer Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. What's being done to catch him? And why does he keep getting away with murder?

The deal is done. Bush and Kerry agree to debate. How both sides are preparing for what may be the final showdown.

Dan Rather says he's sorry over the Bush National Guard document debacle. But can the network newsman survive the scandal?

Tough testimony in the trial of Scott Peterson. The lead investigator takes the stand as the defense prepares to attack his methods and his motives.

Talk show host Montel Williams on a crusade to make marijuana a legal medicine. Tonight Montel talks drugs, pain, and the politics of weed.

And Marriage and Divorce in America, our special series. Tonight, singledom, the risks and benefits of going it alone.

ANNOUNCER: Live from the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.

COOPER: And good evening again.

We begin with a story all too familiar, an American hostage beheaded in Iraq. His name was Eugene Armstrong, and he grew up in Hillsdale, Michigan, far from where he died on a floor in some unknown building, murdered by the hands of men claiming allegiance to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the same man who says he slit the throat of Nicholas Berg.

There is a tape of the killing, of course, but we're not going to show it to you. On 360, we don't believe in broadcasting hostage videos, and, frankly, we wish others wouldn't as well. These are videos made by killers for the sole purpose of intimidation and recruitment.

Nevertheless, Eugene Armstrong's death is a story we feel you should know about, so we turn to CNN's Walter Rodgers live in Baghdad. Walt?

WALTER RODGERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the Islamic militants posted their video on a Muslim Web site moments before they killed Eugene Armstrong. Armstrong clearly knew he was going to die. He was wearing an orange jumpsuit. They had him on his knees. He was blindfolded. His hands were behind his back. He was sobbing.

Behind him stood five hooded men from the Abu Musab Zarqawi group. Four of them had rifles in their hands, one had a knife, a knife which was used to cut off Armstrong's head.

But before that happened, the man with the knife read something which said he was about to carry out God's law. Then he pushed Armstrong's head down to the floor, and he began sawing at the man's neck. You could hear Armstrong screaming in pain as the life went out of him.

These same kidnappers went on to say they will execute the next American, Jack Hensley, within 24 hours, and the British subject, Kenneth Bigley, if the Americans do not release whatever female Iraqi detainees now in custody.

The Americans say they have only two. They will not be released, Anderson.

COOPER: All under God's law. Walter Rodgers, thanks very much for that.

Eugene Armstrong hadn't lived in Hillsdale, Michigan, for years, his job in the oil industry taking him around the world. But his family and those who knew him remain there, where a vigil is just getting under way.

Keith Oppenheim is there now. Keith?

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, we're standing in front of the Hillsdale County Courthouse, where you have a good 100 people or so. They are now praying for not only the family of Eugene Armstrong, who is known as Jack in this town, but also for the other hostages.

Jack Armstrong had a couple of brothers who lived in the area. He also had his cousin's wife, who worked at the local newspaper, which explains why the managing editor of the "Hillsdale Daily News" read a statement for the family.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM PRUITT, "HILLSDALE DAILY NEWS": Jack, which was what they called him, Owen Eugene Armstrong, was a good guy. He was in Hillsdale for many years, but he didn't like to stay in one place. He loved to travel. He was in construction. All the Armstrongs are in construction. And that's all they have to say.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OPPENHEIM: Jack Armstrong pursued his construction career overseas for the last dozen years.

There is, as you would expect, Anderson, a sense of shock in this community, that someone from this small town was killed in such a brutal way on an international stage. And while there may be mixed feelings about American involvement in Iraq here, there is also, in general, when we have had interviews with folks, a sense of outrage that someone they know was killed in such a brutal way by his kidnappers.

Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: And I'm sure the outrage is felt by those who knew him and those who didn't as well. Keith, thanks for that.

Remember the U.S. Marine who claimed he was held hostage by Iraqi insurgents in June? We have a update now and a quick news note for you. A military official tells CNN psychologists who talked with Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun believe he was taken prisoner. They say it's unlikely someone could fake the trauma of being a hostage.

When Hassoun first (audio interrupt) his status changed to captured after a video surfaced of him blindfolded with a sword over his head. Then 19 days after he vanished, he showed up alive in Lebanon. Hassoun is back on active duty in North Carolina.

Iraq was front and center in presidential politics today. And just a few moments ago, we learned there will be an entire debate addressing foreign policy.

CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley has more on the debates and what happened on the trail today. Candy?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, get out your calendar, your Palm Pilot, whatever you use. Mark this down. September 30, Coral Gables, Florida. That's the first of three presidential debates and the one on foreign policy, announced minutes ago by both campaigns.

The second debate will be October 8 in St. Louis, Missouri, the third in Tempe, Arizona, October 13.

The vice president presidential candidates will debate on Tuesday, October 5, in Cleveland.

But who really needs official debates? The president and the senator have been arguing for months. Today was no different.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN KERRY, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Not only did they... CROWLEY (voice-over): The subject was Iraq, but the Kerry campaign says the issue is character.

KERRY: ... but they helped us as a nation.

They were colossal failures of judgment, and judgment is what we look for in a president.

CROWLEY: As the new prime minister of Iraq arrived in the U.S., and President Bush prepared to address a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, John Kerry leveled his most brutal, most expansive critique yet of the war in Iraq.

KERRY: This policy has been plagued by an lack of planning, by an absence of candor, arrogance, and outright incompetence.

CROWLEY: With early September polls showing Bush with healthy leads over Kerry on the issue of terrorism and Iraq, Kerry strategists had figured on a fall campaign centered around mostly domestic areas, friendlier territory for Democrats.

But, said one of those strategists, things have changed. The situation, he said, is deteriorating in Iraq, and Bush keeps telling people we're making progress. It's a Bush blind spot, the source added, and we're going to hit it.

KERRY: Invading Iraq has created a crisis of historic proportions. And if we do not change course, there is the prospect of a war with no end in sight.

CROWLEY: More problematic for the president than Kerry's criticism is some of the friendly fire he took over the weekend from fellow Republicans -- McCain, Hagel, and Lugar, all asking questions about current U.S. policy in Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: It's so interesting now how the focus is on Iraq, I mean, just last week it was going to be domestic politics.

I want to ask you about the debates, though. Conventional wisdom, which I'm not a big believer in, claimed there was going to be two debates, if that many. Now there are three.

CROWLEY: Mostly because, we were told that the Bush camp wanted just two debates, it's what President Clinton had, it seemed to make sense. But I'm told by people on the Kerry side there really wasn't a lot of pushback about two, that the Bush camp said, OK, fine, three.

COOPER: Interesting. All right. It'll be -- those will be crucial debates, no doubt about it.

CROWLEY: It'll be great.

COOPER: Candy, thanks very much. Well, sometimes on the field of battle, when things aren't going so well, backing up, a tactical retreat, if you will, is the best idea. We'll get to some reporting on that as it relates to Iraq in a moment. But in the meantime, a look at what comes first, the rearguard action.

CNN's senior White House correspondent John King has that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president once again sought to deflect sharp criticism of his Iraq policy by suggesting his Democratic opponent can't settle on a policy his own.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today my opponent continued his pattern of twisting in the wind with new contradictions of his old positions on Iraq.

KING: Campaigning in New Hampshire, Mr. Bush took issue with Senator Kerry's statement that the Iraq war did not make the United States safer, and that toppling Saddam Hussein was not worth the chaos in Iraq today. Last December, Mr. Bush said these were Kerry's words.

BUSH: "Those who believe we are not safer with his capture don't have the judgment to be president or the credibility to be elected president," end quote. I could not have said it better.

KING: Mr. Bush has a political edge on the Iraq issue, despite a rising death toll for U.S. troops, an intensifying insurgency, and skepticism about the country's political transition.

But criticism of his Iraq policy is hardly confined to Democrats. Four Republican senators this weekend faulted the White House for what they called poor military planning, and even incompetence in Iraq. And Democrats who concede Senator Kerry dug himself a hole with his own words sense a shift.

SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA: I think John Kerry has gained the momentum at precisely the right time that will put Bush on the defensive just at the time that the American people are coming to realize that things, in fact, are not going well in Iraq at all.

KING: But Bush allies say the flip-flop label will be all but impossible to shake.

WHIT AYRES, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: It's just exceedingly difficult for him now, based on the box he's created for himself, to say anything that the American people would deem to be credible about Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: John King joins us now.

John, has the president's stump speech about Iraq, I mean, has it changed in the last week or so? Is he still very optimistic, very upbeat about it?

KING: He is very optimistic, which is one of the reasons the Kerry campaign thinks it has an opening. But the president, what he has done just in the past four or five days, he adds a clause, sometimes a sentence, saying, Yes, there's fighting in Iraq, yes, things are tough in Iraq. But then he says, It is a fight for freedom, it is a fight for democracy.

And today, for example, some of those Republican critics wondering, can you have these elections in January? The president quite emphatic, saying we will have elections in January. That was his message in the stump speech. It will also be his message here this week in New York at the United Nations.

COOPER: All right, John King, thanks for that.

A startling article in today's "Chicago Sun-Times" says that high-level sources in the Bush administration believe that President Bush will likely decide to pull American troops out of Iraq after Iraqi elections in January, or at least some in his administration want this. Always in the past, when asked how long American troops would stay in Iraq, the president essentially has said the same thing, as long as necessary.

CNN "CROSSFIRE" co-host and "Chicago Sun-Times" columnist Robert Novak, who wrote the article, says the decision will not be based on ending the insurgency or reaching a national political settlement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": I just think there's a strong feeling by these people, policy makers, that we cannot stay there in long-term basis with the possibility of killing 1,000 troops a year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: This is all from sources Robert Novak says he has in the administration. Later on 360, we're going to talk more about this in the "CROSSFIRE" with Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

Gunfire at a state capitol. That story tops our look at news cross-country tonight.

Springfield, Illinois, police are searching for a man who shot and killed an unarmed security guard inside the state capitol building and then fled the scene. The building was locked down for about an hour.

Greenville, South Carolina, now, missing executive. Police say former Sara Lee executive James Kochman (ph) may have been abducted. Kochman has been missing since last Tuesday, when he was supposed to meet with a couple who wanted to buy his SUV. Police are seeking the couple for questioning.

Little Rock, Arkansas, now, Nader off the ballot. A circuit judge ordered Ralph Nader's name be taken off the presidential ballot in that state. The judge says Nader's campaign did not meet the state's qualifications to be listed.

And Reuters news service reports tonight that comedian Rodney Dangerfield is in a coma. Dangerfield has been in intensive care since undergoing heart valve replacement surgery last month.

That's a quick look at stories cross-country tonight.

And 360 next, CBS backtracks on National Guard documents. The network says it was duped, and they're sorry. And now the fallout. Should Dan Rather resign? Talk with Andrew Sullivan about that.

Plus, the female factor. What Republicans know about women voters that maybe the Democrats don't seem to get.

And Montel Williams pushing medical marijuana. Find out why he's making it a very personal crusade. He joins us live.

All that ahead.

First, let's take a look at your picks, the most popular stories on CNN.com right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Ever since his days as the White House correspondent for CBS, Dan Rather's been a bit of a lightning rod, famous for his confrontations with several Republican presidents. His supporters see him as a tough reporter not afraid to take on presidents. His detractors say he is political partisan biased in his coverage.

Today, less than 30 minutes ago, Rather went on air and admitted he and CBS made mistakes in their use of documents provided by a still-unnamed source.

Jeanne Meserve joins us from Washington with the latest. Jeanne?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, you're right. A 180 from CBS today, an acknowledgement that it made a mistake, that it cannot authenticate documents used to undergird a CBS report which raised questions about President Bush's service in the National Guard. The network revealed and interviewed its source, former National Guardsman Bill Burkett.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "CBS EVENING NEWS")

DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS: Have you forged anything?

BILL BURKETT, FORMER NATIONAL GUARDSMAN: No, sir.

RATHER: Have you faked anything?

BURKETT: No, sir.

RATHER: But you did mislead us, you used the word...

BURKETT: Yes, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), yes, I did. RATHER: ... lie, you lied to us? Why would I or anyone believe that you wouldn't mislead us about something else?

BURKETT: I could understand that question. I can. That's going to have to be your judgment and anybody else's.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: Burkett says when CBS pressured him about where he got the documents, he just threw out a name. He now says that individual was not the actual source. Though he still says the documents are real, he says he insisted to CBS that the documents be authenticated, something the network did not do.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "CBS EVENING NEWS")

RATHER: The failure of CBS News to do just that, to properly, fully scrutinize the documents and their source, led to our airing the documents when we should not have done so. It was a mistake. CBS News deeply regrets it. Also, I want to say personally and directly, I'm sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: Bill Burkett, the source, has in the past sued the Texas National Guard over medical benefits and alleged that President Bush's military records were sanitized, a charge that former Bush aides have called hogwash. He's also a Democrat. And the White House continues to suggest that the release of the documents is part of an orchestrated campaign against the president.

Among the unanswered question, who might have fabricated the documents and why. CBS says it intends to get to the bottom of things. It is launching an independent review of what is clearly a very damaging episode in the network's history, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, damaging to say the least. Jeanne Meserve, thanks for that.

Questions about the accuracy of these documents were first raised by bloggers online. They've really been instrumental in the coverage of this story.

I'm joined now by Andrew Sullivan, the senior editor of "The New Republic" and author his own Web site, andrewsullivan.com. He joins me now from Washington.

Andrew, good to see you, as always.

ANDREW SULLIVAN, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": Good to see you.

COOPER: I guess you saw some of what Dan Rather said tonight. Is that enough? He says he's sorry.

SULLIVAN: No. It's pretty sad, really. I mean, if you had -- or any normal general reporter had written a story based on false documents and had then insisted they were OK until a week later and then said, OK, they're not, now we're going to reinvestigate it, he would be fired.

COOPER: Why do you think...

SULLIVAN: Anybody would be fired.

COOPER: ... it took so long?

SULLIVAN: I don't know. It's just a huge mystery. I mean, your average Joe on the average Web site could tell these things were fakes within hours. And yet CBS News refused to acknowledge that for days and days and days. It's incredibly damaging of them. I can't understand why.

Unless CBS News and Dan Rather just so wanted this story to be true that they put blinders on and refused to look at the facts.

COOPER: Basically, the indication being that he's a partisan, and therefore it was blinded by political belief, you're saying?

SULLIVAN: Well, I think that's part of it. And, you know, we all want a good story to be true. It's also a good story. And so that's also running in your mind. But the idea that Rather is some neutral observer is also absurd. I mean, he has a long-running beef with the Bush family, he is a liberal Democrat. And inevitably, the suspicion is that he ignored all the warnings because he wanted it be true because he wants to defeat this president.

COOPER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) has he, I mean, did it surprise you, I, what surprised me is how this story was vetted and the speed at which it got on air, I mean, because there were people within CBS raising questions about this from the get-go, and even the day the thing aired.

SULLIVAN: The night before. And then they sent it to the White House with just hours to go. It was only five days between when they got the documents, which they knew were sent by this slightly unreliable character on a ranch in Texas with a gun and a dog, faxing them from the Kinko's. Five days later, they run a national story with it. It beggars belief that they would do something.

And I say again, any regular journalist would be fired on the spot...

COOPER: But...

SULLIVAN: ... for doing something like this. So why is Dan Rather above the basic rules of journalism?

COOPER: Let me argue the flip side, though. There are those who are clearly after Dan Rather because they view him, I mean, you yourself say you view him as a liberal, a liberal Democrat. I mean, there have been a lot of people that have had -- you know, wanted to get Dan Rather for a long time now. Aren't some people, especially some people online, just using this as, as, you know, they smell blood and they're going in for a kill?

SULLIVAN: Well, yes. And that's going to happen with any particular figure. But it doesn't mean they're wrong. I mean, the fact of the matter, absolutely on the table. And what gets me is their refusal to acknowledge it. It's like the pope two centuries later admitting that the earth is round. I mean, and then saying they're going to re-report the story.

I'm sorry, there is no story to re-report. You were wrong. And it's hugely embarrassing, and I think someone has to take responsibility. If this was a politician with a similar kind of mistake, don't you think journalists would be calling for him to go...

COOPER: Yes, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

SULLIVAN: ... to be fired, or someone take the fall?

COOPER: ... it'll be interesting to see who takes the fall. I mean, someone's, I assume someone's got to take the fall. Be interesting to see if it's a producer or Mr. Rather or (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

SULLIVAN: Well, I hope they don't fob it off onto some researcher or reporter. This was something vouched for by Dan Rather himself, and by Andrew Hayward, the head of the news division. I mean, that's where the responsibility lies. And I think people are tired of seeing real responsibility being shoved off onto people lower down. That goes to the Bush administration as well as CBS News.

COOPER: Andrew Sullivan, always good to talk to you. Thanks very much.

SULLIVAN: You too.

COOPER: Today's buzz is this. What do you think? Should Dan Rather resign? Log on to CNN.com/360. Cast your vote. Results at the end of the program.

And a tropical storm Jeanne kills at least 250 people in Haiti. That tops our look at what's going on right now around the world in the uplink.

In (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Haiti, raging floodwaters brought on by Jeanne took this coastal community by surprise, sinking homes, drowning crops, flooding also triggered mudslides. U.N. says most of the town is under water and calls the situation right now desperate.

In the Italian Alps now, heavy rains blamed for this massive landslide. Take a look at that. You can see a wall of rock, ice, and dirt crashing down the mountain face. It's recorded by an amateur video. Incredibly, it's believed at this point no one was hurt. Let's certainly hope so.

And in Jerusalem, Madonna calls for world peace as she wraps up a five-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Madonna, who's adopted the Hebrew name Esther, went to Israel to study her new-found faith in Kabbala, a form of Jewish mysticism. And while Israel's tourism minister said her visit was better than advertising, not everybody is a fan. Many Orthodox Jews called the non-Jewish material girl's devotion desecration.

And the beat goes on. That's tonight's uplink.

360 next, the Scott Peterson trial. Find out what he told police the day after his wife's disappearance. Lead detective on the stand.

Also tonight, is President Bush planning to pull out of Iraq after the election, after the Iraqi election in January? If so, why isn't he telling the American public? We go 360 on that in the "CROSSFIRE."

And a little later, should medical marijuana be legalized? Montel Williams makes his private battle very public. He joins us live. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Although he hasn't uttered an audible word in court yet, Scott Peterson has been speaking volumes to the jury in interviews with police that were admitted into evidence today. Peterson offered his own theory of what happened to his pregnant wife. It's a theory the lead detective didn't believe then and certainly does not believe now.

CNN's Ted Rowlands has the latest in justice served.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Modesto Police Detective Craig Grogan (ph) testified that Scott Peterson was the focus of his investigation from the beginning. Grogan said Peterson lied to him the day after Laci Peterson was reported missing, saying he was not having an affair.

Grogan said Peterson was an initial suspect because he was the last person to see and speak to his wife, the one who discovered she was missing, but not the one that called police, and because he was alone without a confirmed alibi the day she was reported missing.

As the lead detective, Grogan can testify about the entire case, giving an overview that can be compared to testimony from earlier witnesses.

DEAN JOHNSON, LEGAL ANALYST: And what you saw is, in effect, that the prosecution gets to give, through its investigating officer, a mini-closing argument.

ROWLANDS: Grogan said Peterson told him his wife had gone for a walk wearing jewelry she'd inherited from her grandmother, and that he thought she might have been robbed.

When talking about this concrete residue in Peterson's warehouse, Grogan was able to reinforce the prosecution's theory that Peterson used homemade weights to dispose of his wife's body, saying, quote, "It seemed like a tremendous mess for making one eight-pound anchor."

For the prosecution, Bergit Flattiger (ph), who normally plays a supporting role, handled the questioning of Grogan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And Ted Rowlands joins us now.

Ted, how long is the prosecution's case expected to last?

ROWLANDS: Another two weeks for the prosecution. The defense is expected to put on their case, which should last about two weeks. There was some speculation that they would put no defense on. However, we understand they do plan to move forward with a defense. Then there will be a rebuttal period. So at least five weeks, according to sources on both sides, before this jury will get the case.

COOPER: All right. Ted Rowlands, thanks very much, from Redwood.

Talk show host Montel Williams on a crusade to make marijuana a legal medicine. Tonight, Montel talks drugs, pain, and the politics of weed.

And Marriage and Divorce in America, our special series. Tonight, singledom, the risks and benefits of going it alone.

360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: The Homeland Security Department say terrorists may want to disrupt the presidential race but really in some ways they already have. In this election cycle, Americans are still living in fear. Those nightmares have become a central focus of the political season. Today the Bush campaign stayed on that focus through a new ad outlining the president's plan to fight terrorists. And if you're wondering why politicians want to remind us the danger is still out there, well, the answer is pretty simple. Because it works. And in a tight election that's reason enough to keep turning raw fear into raw politics.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Bush and our leaders in Congress have a plan. Enhance border and port security. Increase homeland security measures.

COOPER (voice-over): A new television ad run by the Bush-Cheney campaign, designed to remind us we are still unsafe. It's one more voice in the dire chorus telling American voters they are vulnerable. Now the speaker of the House has entered the fear fray.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think you'll see Al Qaeda trying to influence this election. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They feel they can operate a little more comfort with Kerry than they have...

HASTERT: That's my opinion, yes.

COOPER: The vice president has been selling insecurity for some time. And so has the president.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're still vulnerable.

COOPER: Why play on voter vulnerability? Well, because it works.

JOHN MERCURIO, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is an issue that they believe they can win on. This is an issue that they have credibility on.

COOPER: But now the Democrats are fighting back with John Edwards taking on the speaker.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me just say this in the simplest possible terms. When John Kerry is President of the United States, we will find Al Qaeda where they are and crush them before they can do damage to the American people.

COOPER: And House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi describing all the recent Republican remarks as despicable. Call it security or fear mongering. When it comes to the real-life fear factor, incumbents win.

MERCURIO: For the past three years, since 9/11, President Bush and the Republican Party and Democratic Party to some extent, as well, has used this sort of specter of fear, the specter of terrorism as way to rally supporters.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And that fear has become part of a winning formula for raw politics. Earlier today I discussed the fear factor as well a possible administration plan for troop withdrawal from Iraq with CROSSFIRE hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Democrats are saying that the Republicans trying to cultivate a culture of fear. Do you think that's fair?

TUCKER CARLSON, CNN ANALYST: Well, yeah. It's fair to the extent that Republicans believe--the Bush campaign believes that America would be safer under George W. Bush, A, and, B, that national security is the only real issue in this campaign. The second one is indisputably true and the first one is true according to Bush supporters and it's a valid point of view. To go out and just directly argue, look, America is safer if you vote Bush, I think that's fair. COOPER: Paul, is this fear mongering?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN ANALYST: It is. And I think Tucker makes a good point. It's fine to say "I have better ideas to fight the war on terrorism. We will be safer if you elect me." Where you cross is line is when you say what Dick Cheney said: If we make the wrong choice, that is the Democratic choice, we'll be hit and hit again with devastating effect. Recently John Thune, the Republican candidate in South Dakota running against Tom Daschle said the same thing. That if Daschle wins, it will embolden Al Qaeda. I have a hard time believing that Osama bin Laden is following the South Dakota Senate race very closely.

COOPER: Tucker, do either candidate really have a plan for changing events on the ground in Iraq?

CARLSON: Not that I've seen at all. The Bush administration I think has--you can make a case the administration has been too weak in dealing with the insurgency in Iraq. And that's the central question right now. There are two questions. One is how do you restore order to Iraq? And Kerry doesn't even begin to address that. How do you get Sadr under control, for instance, and the tens of thousands of guerrillas he apparently controls, A, and B, what do you do with the troops there? Those are the two questions. Do you leave the troops in? Do you begin to pull them out? What do you do? And Bush sort of answered the second one; we're going to stay the course. Kerry hasn't even begun to address either question. Sort of a big deal.

BEGALA: Bush hasn't...

COOPER: Well-I'm sorry, go ahead, Paul.

BEGALA: Bush hasn't been fully candid. If the reports that have leaked out from the Pentagon are to be believed, and I don't doubt them because they're coming from generals in the Pentagon, there is a plan to launch a major offensive in Fallujah, in Western Iraq, right where the Sunni Triangle is, right where the enemy is strongest, after the election. Now, look, if it's right to attack the enemy there, then we should do it sooner rather than later, where they have more time to fortify themselves, more time to build up defenses, more time to entrench themselves. But it seems to me that the President is very vulnerable to the accusation that he's timing his military offensive for after the election. And if it looks like he's politicizing this war and he is, that's a disaster for him.

CARLSON: That's a lud--I think there are many, many fair criticisms of the Bush administration's prosecution of this war, many of which I have leveled, however, that's ludicrous. In fact--Of course it is. It would help the Bush administration, needless to say, to have some massive offensive going on right before the election. Of course it would. Projection of American strength, tangible evidence that the President has things under control, has a plan and is executing it, etc. etc. That would help.

COOPER: Do you make any of Bob Novak's column where it basically says that there are many in the Bush administration who frankly think that Bush will pull out and want Bush to pull out? And even Kerry would pull out next year?

CARLSON: Yeah. Of course, we're going to pull out. I don't think there's any question about it. Whether it's a good idea. Whether it's responsible...

COOPER: You think tales a done deal, you think U.S. troops are going to pull out?

CARLSON: Of course it's not a done deal. You can imagine many scenarios that would alter that, but sure-let me put it this way...

COOPER: By the end of next year, do you think they'll be pulled out?

CARLSON: One hates to make predictions but we will pull out, and I bet sooner rather than later. And I will say this: I don't know anybody living in Washington, talking about this everyday at lunch, I don't know anybody--responsible person who is saying now, well, you know, I can see 18 months from now how Iraq will really be a stable, prosperous place. I just don't see people believing that here. Maybe they do and they're just hiding it. But I don't think they do.

BEGALA: Well, that's what the President should be telling us-- Novak I don't agree with him on much but I know he has very deep sources in the Bush administration and in the Bush White House. And so if his sources are telling him that, that's astonishing because the President telling us everything is great, we're going to stay the course. If, in fact, his people are planning to pull troops out after Election Day, it really would make him the most profoundly dishonest President since Richard Nixon.

COOPER: We're going to leave it there. Paul Begala, Tucker Carlson, thanks.

BEGALA: Thanks.

CARLSON: Thanks.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, if you've been checking out polls, you probably realize that the GOP may not be your father's party anymore, this year it seems to be winning with women. President Bush, who lost the female vote by 11 points four years ago, now has a 5 percent lead over Senator John Kerry, that according to recent Times/CBS poll. In July, a similar poll had Kerry leading by 12 points. So what's the Bush camp doing right and Senator Kerry doing wrong? Naomi Wolf believes there are a lot of things. Wolfe is a contributing editor for "New York" magazine, she has written about First Lady Laura Bush in the latest issues. Fascinating article. Thank you for being with us. You write that the GOP devised a strategy to, quote, "Showcase a moderate, mainstream feminist makeover of the Bush brand." How do you think they are doing this?

NAOMI WOLF, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: I've got to give them credit, unfortunately and I'm a partisan Democrat. They've done this since 2000. The real genius behind the Bush campaign is not Karl Rove. The real genius is Karen Hughes. She's the...

COOPER: The former communications director.

WOLF: Correct. She's the archetype of the suburban female swing voter that this election, the last three elections, have hinged upon. And she's a suburban mom, she's a working mom and she understands that...

COOPER: How does that come out on the campaign trail? Specifically, what do you see, what do you hear?

WOLF: Well, what they did was they did a makeover of the old scary male Republican face of the party, back when Newt Gingrich was saying women in the military would get horrible infections on the front lines. They slowly eroded the traditional Democratic advantage with women voters. In '92 Democrats had a 6 percent advantage. In '96 they had a 16 percent gender gap advantage. And again in 2000. So what they've done is sent out surrogates like Laura Bush, like Condoleezza Rice, like Mary Matalin and they've put this sort of tolerant happy face of mom-ness on the same old scary Republican Party. For example...

COOPER: And you're saying this clearly as a partisan. You clearly--you're a Democrat.

WOLF: I'm a partisan and I'm a cultural critic. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to hear amazing things coming--it's like feminism light in Laura Bush's speech. She talks about how moms and dads are dying in Iraq. That's amazing to hear from a feminist point of view. She talks about it's great to have an Iraqi woman athlete competing in the Olympics. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was a female entrepreneur in Texas...

COOPER: Isn't it possible, though, that just-there are plenty of women who-the policies of President Bush appeal to them, the security moms everyone is now talking about, like soccer moms, people who believe that President Bush can keep them safer?

WOLF: Look, they've been very strategic and I also think Michael Deaver is behind the amazing visuals. They're always showcasing Bush surrounded by women and surrounded by children and also surrounded- they often show him seated listening to a woman like Condoleezza Rice. So they're constantly saying the message with words like "appreciate," "listen," "comfort." These are focus-tested words with obviously female polled groups that make women feel like these are tolerant people. They are listening to me. They appreciate me.

COOPER: What are the Democrats--In your article you're writing it's not just what Republicans are doing right but what Democrats are doing wrong.

WOLF: Yeah, unfortunately.

COOPER: What are they doing wrong?

WOLF: Well, can you think the last time John Kerry--a scene of John Kerry had woman in it let alone children. Teresa Heinz Kerry unfortunately is a real liability.

COOPER: You think she's a liability?

WOLF: Unfortunately.

COOPER: Why?

WOLF: And I hate to say this seven weeks before the election as partisan Democrat. Well, Teresa Heinz Kerry just subliminally having the Heinz in there is almost we read it on an archetypal level as she's withholding full endorsement of her spouse. When Hillary Rodham Clinton kept the Rodham that was a lightning right only because she was introducing herself into the marital equation. Teresa Heinz Kerry unconsciously is introducing another man, a Republican and he's a dead guy. And the struggle for the presidency is a struggle about potency.

COOPER: And you think that's really true. You think that subliminally, this has an impact?

WOLF: That combined with her being wealthier than he is and her consistently doing things that are alienating to mainstream swing voters...

COOPER: Emasculating, in a way.

WOLF: Your word, not mine. But, for instance, to give a speech in which she doesn't shine the light on her spouse, the candidate, so much as on herself does break a hole in his armor, archetypally. And then the swift boat accusations. This war hero, this big tall Senator, this he-man guy is being cast as effete, French, they're practically calling him gay from the other side. And the paintbrush is effective because this rent has been torn in his armor by the lack of full support of his spouse. And the lack of something they can relate to that American women can relate to in her. Now my question is, where is Elizabeth Edwards, who looks like an average American woman, knows what it's like to be more of a Mom...

COOPER: More of the sort of Laura Bush mold, you're saying?

WOLF: We don't have to be Laura Bush but what Karen Hughes understands and what the Republicans understand is that they can't win on the issues with women. Women care about the environment. George Bush sucks on the environment. They care about security, George Bush sucks in terms of security...

COOPER: Now, I don't want to get into Bush arguments with you, but it is a fascinating article and it's a fascinating theory. It's in "New York" magazine this week. Naomi Wolf, thanks.

WOLF: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up next on 360, Montel Williams fighting MS and fighting for the legalization of medical marijuana. A talk show hosts personal appeal. He joins us live.

Also, a little later, love, marriage or going it alone? Could being single be hazardous to your health? Part of our special series, "State of the Union." All that ahead.

(COMMERCIAL)

COOPER: When voters in Oregon go to the polls in November, they'll consider expanding that state's medical marijuana laws. Oregon is one of nine states with such laws, laws that the Bush administration adamantly opposes. Syndicated talk show host Montel Williams finds himself on the side of those who support medical use of marijuana. He uses it himself to ease the pain of multiple sclerosis. Tomorrow he's going to devote his entire show to that very personal and controversial topic. Montel Williams joins us now. Good to meet you. Thanks for being here.

MONTEL WILLIAMS, TALK SHOW HOST: Thanks so much for having me.

COOPER: You were diagnosed with MS in 1999. When did you start using marijuana?

WILLIAMS: You know, I, probably like a lot of people who are in my age group, used marijuana when I was younger. I kind of dabbled in it a little from time to time, didn't really even bother with it that much. As soon as I got diagnosed one of the things I found out on the Internet and I found out from other friends who knew other people who had MS in the same way that I have it--I have extreme neuralgic pain from my knees through my feet.

COOPER: What does that mean, neuralgic pain? What is the pain like?

WILLIAMS: It's hard to kind of equate but it would be if I liken it to you striking your crazy bone and multiply that by about 100 or 150.

COOPER: And that's all the time?

WILLIAMS: That's 24 hours a day. Sometimes I can bring it down when I'm in the middle what have is considered an episode or a bout it's at 10 which is excruciating enough that I think I wrote a book which is called "Climb Me Higher" and in that book I talked about the fact I wanted to take my life. That's how much it hurts. And I know other people are in just as much pain. So what I did was, after finding out how medicinal marijuana works, I started utilizing it every day because there's a saturation point you want your body to be at.

COOPER: And you tried other painkillers. OxyContin...

WILLIAMS: I have prescriptions for, right now, OxyContin, Percocet, Ultracet, Vicodin, Talwin, I've been down to--been through morphine pills. I've been down that path.

COOPER: What does marijuana do that-marijuana's not as strong as morphine. What does it do that the others don't?

WILLIAMS: There has been test after test, tests enough that the United States government understands this--I don't know if you know this, Anderson, or not. But do you know for the last 25 years our government has been distributing marijuana to 20--originally it was 12 different pharmacies across the country. Five of the patients died. Now seven. Every single month they deliver canisters of marijuana to seven people, grown at the University of Mississippi, studied for 25 years, we understand its efficacy. What does it do? For people like me it helps ease that pain, it helps me get up in the morning, go to work and be a taxpayer.

COOPER: Let me sort of tell what you the nation's drugs czar, Director John Walters told us. Let me put this on the screen. He says, "Research has demonstrated that smoked marijuana is helpful as medicine. We are currently funding research to determine if there are components of cannabis that may be used as medicine. A component in marijuana, THC, has already been approved in pill form by the FDA. It's called Marinol and doctors are able to prescribe this drug or any other drug that proves safe and efficacious if they feel it would best serve their patients' needs."

Can I ask why not use Marinol?

WILLIAMS: Let's go back. The same person that just said that didn't say to you that he himself makes sure that every single month seven patients get a can of 50 marijuana cigarettes to utilize because we understand just like Vicodin, Talwin, other drugs don't work for everybody. Marinol doesn't work for everybody. It's a synthetic form of THC that doesn't work. The majority of people who have tried to take it don't use it because of the way it affects them. So, truthfully, if you go to a natural product--that's what we're looking for. If he claims that it doesn't work, why is it the federal government distributing it itself and has been distributing it itself. It has been for 25 years and been studying it 25 years and is giving it out every month.

COOPER You're leading the fight for this. Do you find it a tough battle because it's sort of linked with the notion of legalizing drugs altogether?

WILLIAMS: Yes. It is a tough battle that way.

COOPER: And it's very different. You're talking about medical marijuana. You're not talking about legalizing drugs.

WILLIAMS: Changing it from Schedule I to Schedule II. If I have a doctor who can prescribe for me OxyContin, morphine, morphine drip, and let me drool in the corner and not be able to go to work and pay my taxes and that same doctor says, no, you know what, I think medicinal marijuana works for this patient. If we think he's smart enough to make me drool, is he not smart enough to make me better? And, if in fact our own government has been distributing it for 25 years and researching at the University of Mississippi for 25 years, I hold a can tomorrow on the show of what they shipped last month to a person. If our drug laws claim it doesn't work, why is our government trying to poison people? It's not, because they know it works. So, therefore, that's why they do it. Stop the madness, stop the stupidity. If they can give it to seven people, they can give it to other people who need it. COOPER: And you're going to be talking about this on your show tomorrow?

WILLIAMS: Most definitely. For a full hour.

COOPER: Montel, thanks. Nice meeting you.

WILLIAMS: Thank you so much.

COOPER: Good luck to you.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

COOPER: 360 next, our special series. "State of the Union." Love and marriage, or living the single life. Which one is bad for your health? We'll show some studies. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tonight, the "State of the Union." Not in political terms. We're talking about the unit of marriage. The single's life is tonight. Sexy as single may sound, might it actually be bad for your health? CNN's Adaora Udoji takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Call her determined. 27 and single, Blair Allison is on a mission to be engaged by December.

BLAIR ALLISON, SINGLE WOMAN: I can't believe I went on this date three months ago. This site has been up for three months.

UDOJI: To help the professional love coach launched a Web site listing her vitals and her goal. Two dozen dates later, no Mr. Right yet.

ALLISON: It's a feeling. You feel that you're ready. And why do I have to be embarrassed of that? I think that it's taboo to say that you want to be married in this city and it really shouldn't be.

UDOJI: Nearly 5 million Americans get married every year, though waiting longer, the average age for men 27 now, women 25. It's good for them says David Popinoe of Rutgers University.

DAVID POPINOE, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: They're happier, they have more and better sex. They are less depressed. They make more money. And they live longer.

UDOJI: But there's that divorce rate of nearly 50 percent. And the marriage rate has steadily declined 40 percent the past 30 years while co-habiting couples, once rare, have increased 1100 percent.

POPINOE: Nobody seems to be in much of a rush. They want to wait and make absolutely sure that they have the right person.

UDOJI: The love-seeking girls on "Sex and the City" even dismissed marriage once.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH JESSICA PARKER, ACTRESS: OK, girls. See you tomorrow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UDOJI: That happens in real life. Take the Alternatives to Marriage Project.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's an organization for unmarried people of all kinds.

UDOJI: Members like John Hofmann say it isn't for everyone and singles face unfair discrimination.

JOHN HOFMANN, ALTERNATIVES TO MARRIAGE PROJECT: All my friends are married, so at times it feels like there's pressure to get married. And I'm just not ready for that now. I may never be ready for that.

UDOJI: It's all about choice, they say. Blair is looking for a love union. John is not, whatever the studies say.

Adaora Udoji, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

COOPER: Our series, "State of the Union, Marriage and Divorce in America," continues tomorrow with custody battles. How do you co- parent when you can't stand the other parent and what's best for the kids? Wednesday, marriage sabbaticals, taking a break from your spouse. Thursday, not tonight, honey. A look at sexless marriages and Friday, sex, lies and secret lives. What happens when a spouse comes out. That's all ahead on 360 this week.

Coming up, the state of the Presidential Race. Bush and Kerry seeking your vote. Both about to launch a TV offensive. We're going to take some wild ideas of our own to the "Nth Degree."

Also, today's "Buzz." Should Dan Rather resign. What do you think? Log on to CNN.com/360. Cast your vote. Results when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Time now for the "Buzz." Earlier we asked you, "Should Dan Rather resign?" 29 percent said "yes." 71 percent said "no." Not a scientific poll but it's the "Buzz" and we appreciate you voting.

Tonight taking bold new thinking to the "Nth Degree." Well, all right, it's about time the candidates broke out of the television rut they've fallen into. I'm talking about John Kerry's upcoming appearances on "Dr. Phil," "Live With Regis and Kelly" and the "David Letterman Show." The idea, a campaign spokesperson says, to reach people who, quote, "might not be paying attention just to nightly news." And the President, too, has taped a show with Dr. Phil.

Good idea. But why stop there? To reach people who might not pay attention to Dr. Phil, what about campaign appearances on "Pimp My Ride?" Wouldn't you like to hear John Kerry say, "'Sup, playa?" Or the "Iron Chef." The President and Mr. Kerry could both be on that one, cooking against each other. You know, dueling spatulas. Maybe that call-in sex therapist on the Oxygen Channel has advice to offer on campaign dysfunctions as well as the birds and bees kind. The Donald versus the George would be interesting. And think of the new voters they could reach with cameo appearances on the "Simpsons" or "The Sopranos." Never knowing where on TV a candidate might they would pop up next could make the campaign fun, kind of like "Where's Waldo." It's a thought.

I'm Anderson Cooper. Thanks for watching. Coming up next, "PAULA ZAHN NOW."

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