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Bush Holds Press Conference

Aired April 28, 2005 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: Good evening, everyone.
With gas prices rising and his poll numbers falling, President Bush addressed the nation tonight to shore up support for his Social Security plan and to urge Congress to put an energy bill on his desk by this summer.

The speech comes 98 days into his second term, in a country that likes to measure its presidents by what they accomplish in their first 100 days.

We begin tonight with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush focusing on pocketbook issues, gas prices, and Social Security, at one point proposing an endorsement to a plan for Social Security change.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I propose a Social Security system in the future where benefits for low-income workers will grow faster than benefits for people who are better off.

MALVEAUX: The rare prime-time press conference comes after the president spent the last two months crisscrossing the country to sell his plan to allow younger retirees to invest a portion of their Social Security payroll taxes into private investment accounts.

But polls have shown Americans are growing increasingly resistant to the idea, and Mr. Bush's approval rating is at an all-time low.

But still the president refused to back down on the idea of private accounts. Mr. Bush also wanted to convince Americans he too was concerned about soaring gas prices, even if there was little he could do about it.

Mr. Bush also addressed foreign policy issues, such as the nuclear ambitions of North Korea, the volatility of Iraq, and Russia's intent to sell short-range missiles to Syria.

BUSH: We're working closely with the Russians on the issue of vehicle-mounted weaponry to Syria. We didn't appreciate that. But we made ourselves clear.

MALVEAUX: The president also addressed the controversy surrounding his choice for U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton.

BUSH: John Bolton's a blunt guy. Sometimes people say I'm a little too blunt. John Bolton can get the job done at the United Nations.


MALVEAUX: It was a news conference that generated little news, but it did send a clear signal to Republicans to stand strong on issues as broad as the John Bolton nomination to Social Security. Tomorrow, Anderson, President Bush travels to northern Virginia to sell his Social Security plan.

COOPER: And a hard sell it is. Suzanne Malveaux, thanks very much.

More now on just how the president will do what the polls say Americans don't seem to want him to do.

That and more as CNN's Jeff Greenfield joins us.

Good to see you again.


COOPER: Any surprises tonight from this press...


COOPER: ... conference?

GREENFIELD: If people want to judge atmospherics, unlike that first press conference of a year ago, no deer caught in the headlights, a kind of confidence, if that's what matters.

But I think the only specific was a movement toward some meat on the bones of what he wants to do with Social Security, and the movement toward a notion of adjusting benefits toward those less well off. I think at least some Republicans are seeing that as a gesture to Democrats. We'll see if anybody picks up on that.

COOPER: There was some distancing that he -- the president did as well from some of the more conservative religious advocates, who have said that religion has played a role in the filibustering.

GREENFIELD: President Bush has always talked this way. That is, he has often said, You know, my faith is personal. And he has often gone out of his way to say, You don't have to have any faith at all to be a good American.

I think that they -- that this was, to me, the most interesting, if you want to call it newsmaking, notion, that he is once again the beneficiary of a base without tying himself to that base on this particular matter.

I think the phrase that the Family Research Council used, or that that Sunday justice meeting did, This is a gathering to protest filibusters against people of faith, he does not want this to be seen as a religious -- any kind of a religious (INAUDIBLE). He went out of his way to say, No, I just disagree.

COOPER: Right. He was asked if he agrees with Dobson, who heads the Family Research Council, who had said that the people who are filibustering are basically antireligious.

GREENFIELD: The phrase they used was (INAUDIBLE) that, Help defeat the filibusters against people of faith. And he was saying, No, they just disagree with the judicial philosophy. This was -- but again, this is the same way he ran in 2000, when people were raising these questions. He's always been -- he's always made this distinction.

COOPER: So is that -- I don't want to seem incredibly naive, though. Is that a real personal reflection of his beliefs, or is that a political move to, you know, have it both ways?

GREENFIELD: I don't profess to be able to see into the president's soul. I know that this is consistent with what he has always said. And he gets -- so my point is, he gets the benefit of the most ardent folks who do believe that this is a religious war, but he doesn't identify himself with them in the attitude that this is all about if you're against these judges, you're against them because of their religion. He does not want that fight.

COOPER: Historically, where is this president, as you look at other presidents in their second terms?

GREENFIELD: Actually, I think beyond the press conference, that's the most interesting notion, is this sudden wave of notion that this presidency is in somehow in trouble in this second term. Yes, he's in (INAUDIBLE) -- he's -- the Social Security reform is not going well.

And when gas prices rise, traditionally people take it out on the president. I think it's kind of funny, in a way, to suggest that the president or any president can pull a lever and lower gas prices. And traditionally, presidents really get hurt by this. Nixon did at the end of his administration. Carter got clobbered because of gas prices.

But if you think back to Reagan, to Clinton, if you -- you know, those folks had Congress, at least one or both houses, in opposition. This is a reelected president with both houses of Congress. And I, and so the kinds of things that normally bedevil a second-term president, like, for instance, congressional investigations, ain't going to happen, because his party is in control.

COOPER: And there was no way to predict, with those presidents, what their second terms (INAUDIBLE) be.

GREENFIELD: No. The idea that we know what's the -- what the second term is going to be dominated by on the basis of what we're covering now is, frankly, nuts, if I may use that impolite term. Who would have predicted -- you go back to Eisenhower. Yes, we all knew that Sputnik and the Russian -- and the space race was going to dominate him. Did anybody realize that Clinton's second term would be dominated by a fight for survival? Or Reagan, Iran-Contra, and then the end of the cold war, or the beginning of the end?

I mean, this notion that this 80 -- what was it, what did you say, 88 to 89 days...


GREENFIELD: ... defines the next three years and nine months? Uh-uh.

COOPER: We don't even know what we don't know at this point.

Jeff Greenfield...

GREENFIELD: Very well put.

COOPER: Well, you know. Thanks very much.

GREENFIELD: And we'll tell people that 24 hours a day.

COOPER: Jeff, thanks.

Tomorrow morning, Wall Street is going to get a chance to render its verdict on what the president said tonight, the issues already weighing heavily on investors. Well, markets got slammed today big- time, in part on news that the economy may be cooling, and oil prices are rising.

As you might imagine, as airlines and industries and you and I are feeling the pain of higher prices, oil companies, well, they're feeling something else entirely.

Here's CNN's Chris Huntington.


CHRIS HUNTINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you're fuming about high gas prices, consider this. ExxonMobil made more than $60,000 a minute every minute for the first three months of this year. In the time it took this guy to fill up, the nation's biggest oil company notched another $500,000 profit.

ExxonMobil made $7.8 billion in the first quarter, up 44 percent from a year ago. BP, which owns Amoco and Arco, earned a record $6.6 billion. Royal Dutch Shell pulled in $5.5 billion.

Those profits primarily flowed from the nearly 30 percent jump in crude prices over the last year, driven by a spike in global demand.

But Mark Cooper of the Consumer Federation of America says the wave of oil-industry mergers in the last decade made a tight market even tighter. MARK COOPER, CONSUMER FEDERATION OF AMERICA: There's a famous expression in the oil industry called "rockets and feathers." Prices go up like rockets, but they come down like feathers.

And that's essentially the function of not having enough competition. It's certainly not fair. ExxonMobil, BP, Arco, Amoco, Chevron, Texaco, all those used to be separate companies. They changed the structure of the domestic industry that undermined its competitiveness, and we've been paying the price.

HUNTINGTON: One result of consolidation, the sharp drop in the number of U.S. oil refineries, now down to fewer than 150 from nearly 300 in the mid-1970s. With refining capacity nearly maxed out, but demand for fuel steadily rising, prices and profits have soared.

JOHN KILDUFF, OIL INDUSTRY ANALYST, FIMAT: The secret to a lot of the profits going on right now, though, is their refining business, Turning a barrel of crude oil into gasoline is probably running about a $12 to $13 per barrel profit, as opposed to historical-type numbers of around $4 to $5 a barrel.

HUNTINGTON: CNN asked the Oil Industry Trade Group, the American Petroleum Institute, if consumers have been gouged. In a statement, API said, "The primary reason for high gasoline prices is that the price of crude oil has hovered at record or near record highs for much of the past year. Over the past couple of decades, at least 30 investigations by state and federal agencies have concluded that the market determines the price of gasoline."

As one veteran oil industry analyst puts it, the oil companies simply sell what everybody needs.

BARBARA SHOOK, ENERGY INTELLIGENCE: They just happen to make their money by producing oil and natural gas and refining it or otherwise turning it into products that consumers can use. They are in business to make money. Now, they're not public servants.

HUNTINGTON: Something to remember the next time you fill up.

Chris Huntington, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Lot more to come in the hour ahead, starting with what justice can achieve and what it can't. As a jury brings a verdict in the Samantha Runnion case, we'll revisit the sheriff who caught the killer but couldn't save the child. Tonight, he remembers a little girl he never got a chance to know.

Also tonight, four people, two lives on the line, one incredible story. A new way of cutting through the bureaucracy and getting people the lifesaving surgery they need.

Also, surprise testimony as Michael Jackson's ex-wife does a number on the prosecution, and, boy how.

From New York, this is NEWSNIGHT.


COOPER: In just a moment, a verdict in a child murder case, a case that changed the life of a California sheriff.

But first, it's about 18 past the hour. Erica Hill is in Atlanta with some of tonight's headlines.

Hey, Erica.


The Bush administration reminded a House panel today, September 11 hijackers used computers in public libraries to gain access to the Internet. And they argue, that's one reason a controversial provision of the PATRIOT Act that is set to expire should instead be renewed by Congress. The provision allows antiterrorism investigators to seek court permission to search library records.

The Pentagon today released hundreds of photographs of coffins of American soldiers. Most of those photos were released without context, meaning it's unknown where and when they were taken, and whom they portray. Up until now, the Pentagon has refused to release the images. But this time it did so under pressure of the Freedom of Information Act.

And it is a milestone in Iraq. The national assembly approved a partial cabinet today. Iraq's incoming prime minister called it the first step in building a new country. But the cabinet's not complete. There are two vacancies still, and five acting ministers, and so far, no member of Iraq's Sunni minority holds a key post.

But Anderson, it's all a start.

COOPER: It certainly is. Erica Hill, thanks very much.

In Southern California, a verdict today in the Samantha Runnion case, jurors finding Alejandro Avila guilty of kidnapping, molestation, and murder.

Next, they're going to decide whether he should live or die.

Whatever the sentence, two things, of course, will not change. A 5-year-old girl will never grow up, and a sheriff who became famous during the case may never stop hurting.

Her story now and his, from CNN's Miguel Marquez.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Her name was Samantha Runnion. As soon as she was abducted, Sheriff Mike Corona knew he was in a race against time.

SHERIFF MICHAEL CORONA, ORANGE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: If you don't find that child within the first three hours, 74 percent of the children are dead.

MARQUEZ: But this sheriff was ready, a deputy at Samantha's house just four minutes after she was taken, a sketch of the suspect widely circulated. And he used what was then a new method to tell the county a child was missing, an Amber Alert.

CORONA: During the early hours, you know, we were very, very hopeful, again, because we had such a quick response. Unlike a lot of other law enforcement agencies across this country, we had already run an Amber Alert.

MARQUEZ: So hopeful, he made a promise to Samantha's mother.

CORONA: Where it became personal for me is, the first time I had to sit down with Erin Runnion and ask her for a picture of Samantha, so we could get that out to the public, and telling her, much like I'm looking you in the eyes, and saying, I'll bring Samantha home alive.

MARQUEZ: Corona all but begged the public for help, and he got it, thousands of phone calls, tips. But soon came the call no one wanted to hear.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God, we found a dead body. Please hurry. (INAUDIBLE). OK, I'm in the Ortegas, OK, Ortega Mounts up in Riverside County, OK?


MARQUEZ: The sheriff, a self-described by-the-book man, went into denial.

CORONA: To a person, we didn't want to believe it. There was an absolute sense of denial by all of us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They believe they've found a small child, the body of a small child here in this ravine.


MARQUEZ: The race to save Samantha had failed. Now Mike Corona's mission was a manhunt. Again, he made it personal.

CORONA: Don't sleep. Don't eat, because we're coming after you. We will take every resource that's available to us to bring you to justice.

MARQUEZ: Within days, the hunt was over. Alejandro Avila was arrested. Again, the sheriff didn't mince words.

CORONA: I am 100 percent certain that Mr. Avila is the man who kidnapped and murdered Samantha Runnion. MARQUEZ: Later, when thousands came to mourn the little girl, and the sheriff rose to speak, something remarkable happened. First they applauded, then they stood. Later, even the president would thank the sheriff.

BUSH: I want to congratulate you for your good work in helping make your community as safe as possible.

MARQUEZ: The race to save Samantha was not in vain. Just days after her death, California made Amber Alerts a state law. Congress and the president soon followed. Samantha's mother, Erin, became an advocate for child safety.

ERIN RUNNION, MOTHER OF SAMANTHA RUNNION: Since then there have been 40, over 40 Amber Alerts issued in the state of California, and every single child has been recovered alive.

MARQUEZ: But almost two years later, the case that grabbed Mike Corona's heart still doesn't let go. He gave his word to Samantha's mother, and he failed to keep it.

CORONA: I did make a commitment to her mother, and I failed in that original commitment. And that part, that's the one that you just grapple with, and it sticks with you, I mean, for the rest of your life. Probably will the rest of my life.

MARQUEZ: This sheriff will always remember the little girl he never met.

Miguel Marquez, CNN.


COOPER: Coming up on NEWSNIGHT, a look at the Michael Jackson case.


COOPER: In California today, Michael Jackson arrived in court to hear a second day of testimony from his ex-wife and mother of two of his children, Debbie Rowe. Ms. Rowe was called by the prosecution, but has turned out to be a better witness for the defense, much better.

Today Ms. Rowe described her former husband as a good father and, quote, "great with kids." She also portrayed him as a victim of, quote, "opportunistic vultures in his inner circle." Not exactly what the prosecution wanted to hear. Then again, it's not the first time Ms. Rowe has surprised.

Here's CNN's Jeffrey Toobin.


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST (voice-over): It wasn't what you'd call an obvious match, Michael Jackson, the king of pop, and Debbie Rowe, his dermatologist's nurse. J. Randy Taraborrelli has written about Michael Jackson for more than 10 years.

J. RANDY TARABORRELLI, AUTHOR, "THE MAGIC AND THE MADNESS": UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael just thought that she was one of the most entertaining women that he's ever known.

TOOBIN: They married in Sydney, while Jackson was on the Australian leg of his 1996 tour. The ceremony took place 10 days after they announced Rowe was pregnant with Michael's child.

TARABORRELLI: No one knew who she was. All of a sudden, there was this mystery woman in Michael Jackson's life who was carrying his baby.

TOOBIN: What kind of marriage was this? One London tabloid quoted Rowe's father as saying she was artificially inseminated. Others reported she was paid to carry the child.

TARABORRELLI: I think that their marriage was really for the purposes of public relations and image making, but not for the purposes of, you know, love and romance.

TOOBIN: By the time the couple divorced in 1999, Rowe had given birth to two children, Prince Michael and Paris.

TARABORRELLI: Their relationship has been very strange. She never lived at Neverland. When they were husband and wife, they never lived together. Yet she was having these children for Michael Jackson and giving them to him to raise.

TOOBIN: In 2001, Debbie gave up her parental rights to both kids, saying at the time, Michael was, quote, "a brilliant father," and it was in the children's best interest to be with him.

According to court papers, Rowe signed a confidentiality agreement when she and Jackson split. It barred her from discussing paternity, Michael's mental or physical condition, purported drug use, sexual behavior, or the lifestyle of her children.

In return, she received a multimillion dollar settlement.

In 2003, after Martin Bashir's now-infamous documentary on Michael Jackson, Debbie appeared in Michael's taped rebuttal, defending her ex-husband.


DEBBIE ROWE, MICHAEL JACKSON'S FORMER WIFE: He'd never hurt a child, never. It's not in him. It's -- no way.


TOOBIN: But Jackson's arrest on molestation charges opened a new chapter in this strange relationship. Debbie initiated legal proceedings to regain custody of her children. And later that year, when Debbie appeared on an entertainment show, Michael stopped paying her, saying she had broken their confidentiality agreement. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Jeffrey Toobin joins us now. Also joining us from Santa Maria, California, Maureen Orth, who's covering the Jackson trial for "Vanity Fair" magazine.

Maureen, let me start off with you. You were at the courtroom today. Was the prosecution stunned? Were they surprised? I mean, was this what they expected Debbie Rowe to say?

MAUREEN ORTH, "VANITY FAIR" MAGAZINE: I don't think it's what they expected Debbie Rowe to say, but they didn't act surprised. I mean, she's not the first witness in this trial to come in and sort of change her story on the stand. So they tried to just go along, but I was really fascinated because the defense began with trying to get a motion to strike all of her testimony and to throw her out as a witness early this morning, and by the end of Tom Mesereau's cross- examination, where he was actually sort of purring like a cat, they decided to withdraw the motion. So, you can imagine what had happened.

COOPER: Is it true, I mean -- she was looking at Michael Jackson and sort of making eyes at him, and he was tearing up? Sounded like a love fest.

ORTH: Oh, at one time, she -- well, she obviously -- I mean, she obviously still wants to be in his orbit, and she obviously misses not being around him. And, at one point, she said, there's different Michaels. There's my Michael, and then there's other Michaels, and she started to cry. At one time she addressed him directly. She used an expletive in front of the judge. She was really ready for her close-up, and frankly, she reminded me of the mother of the accuser, who also put on a big show for the prosecution and the defense last week.

COOPER: Well, Jeffrey Toobin has his own "my Michael" story. I mean, the prosecution cannot be happy about this?

TOOBIN: They can't be, but what I don't understand is why they got themselves into this mess in the first place. Even if she testified the way the prosecution wanted her to, to say that, yes, I was told what to say on the video, this is a child molestation case. They have gotten involved in this complicated conspiracy count, which deals with peripheral matters. They should have just tried this case as a child molestation case and gotten rid of all this evidence. I mean, it doesn't help them even if she testified...

COOPER: It's a distraction from the molestation case?

TOOBIN: It seems to be to me. I'm going to be curious what Maureen thinks, but I just don't understand why this count is in the case at all.

COOPER: Maureen?

ORTH: Well, I think that a number of people think the reason it's there is because it allowed them to bring in a lot of material that would show patterns of his behavior. But don't forget, Debbie Rowe is the 76th witness we've heard from the prosecution. We've heard from two boys who've directly said they've been molested by Michael Jackson. We've heard accusations from the mother of another. We've heard accusations of alcohol being given, a completely wild sort of environment of children, of boys doing whatever they want at Neverland.

So, we've heard a lot of testimony. It's gotten derailed in the last few days over these conspiracy charges, and I have to wonder if Debbie Rowe wasn't really just trying to make points for her own custody case today and having Michael think that she's out there to save him or something.

COOPER: Well, I mean, she clearly wants some sort of ongoing relationship with him. I know she appeared on, I guess, "Entertainment Tonight." I mean, I think I saw her getting a chemical facial peel on that show, one of those "Access" type shows. I think I've seen more of Debbie Rowe's face work than I ever wanted to, but -- but she needs money from him. She's getting $1 million a year from him, or was, until he cut her off, right?

ORTH: Well, let me tell you something. I reported two years ago in one of my stories in "Vanity Fair," she was the one who decided on the divorce. She called up in the -- in July of 1999 and said she wanted $10 million or else she was going to go to the press and spill all of his secrets. So he told one of his business advisers, give her whatever she wants. And she signed the confidentiality agreement. He has absolutely kept her away from the children. Today she said that she was calling for months and months after she made this video for him, because she had been promised to go to Neverland, and of course, nobody let her go there.

And at one point the prosecutor says, well, who do you think is keeping you away from your kids? And she goes -- he says, isn't Michael the father? And she goes, well, I guess -- I mean he ultimately is responsible, but I don't want to believe that.

COOPER: Well, denial, it ain't just a river. Is -- I mean, the prosecution says they're going to rest their case, Jeff, next week? Two days later than they previously said? I mean, overall, do they have a case?

TOOBIN: I think Maureen made a very important point. As badly as some prosecution witnesses have done, there have been witnesses on the witness stand who said Michael Jackson molested me, including the alleged victim in this case. If the jury believes them, this case is over and Jackson loses. I just think, if they had narrowed their case to those witnesses and those counts, they'd be a lot better off now that all these peripheral issues mostly that help the defense, are part of the record.

COOPER: Jeffrey Toobin, thanks very much. Maureen Orth, great to talk to you. Thanks very much.

Still to come on NEWSNIGHT tonight, a meeting that would change four lives and save two of them. It all came down to finding the right match.

From New York, this is NEWSNIGHT.


COOPER: Imagine not being able to save a loved one even though you're willing to risk your own life to do so. Your son or daughter, your husband or wife, sister or brother, desperately needs an organ transplant, but you can't help because you're not the right match. In the world of organ transplants, finding the right match is everything. Donors are scarce compared with the need. Waiting lists, notoriously long and wrapped in red tape. More than 61,000 Americans are waiting for a kidney transplant right now, which brings us to a remarkable and, we think, remarkably simple idea that might possibly ease the backlog. It's about fair trade, helping someone else in return for the same favor.

Here's CNN's Jonathan Freed.


JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rose and Paul Meyer have good reason to be nervous.

PAUL MEYER: Dry your hands real quick.

ROSE MEYER: Oh, I can't help it. OK.

FREED: They're on edge, because they know any second now the two people who could end Paul's suffering will be coming through the door. The four have never met, but if all goes well, they'll be linked together forever.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Josephine, this is Rose Meyer.


R. MEYER: Nice to meet you.

J. VOLLMAR: Nice to meet you.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Daniel is going to be...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is great, isn't it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, Yes. I am so excited.

FREED: Paul Meyer and Josephine Vollmar both have kidney failure and need a transplant. Paul's wife Rose wants to donate one of her kidneys to her husband and Daniel Vollmar wants to do the same for his mother Josephine. But they can't, because they're not compatible.

J. VOLLMAR: Dan was O-positive, my other two kids are A-positive.


R. MEYER: So they wanted him right off the bat, but he's, you know, real skittish about needles and doing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. I don't care to get poked all of the time.

FREED: It turns out, though, Rose is compatible with Josephine and Daniel is a match for Paul. The quartet was put together through a program called Live Donor Paired Exchange. Essentially, we'll give you ours if you give us yours.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And they have a real good crew there and that's where I go for dialysis.

FREED: Dr. Michael Rees set up the program here at the Medical College of Ohio in Toledo and teamed up with the Doctor Steve Woodle of Christ Hospital and the University of Cincinnati to take the concept statewide.

While other health centers around the country are trying paired exchanges, Rees says the Ohio program uses software they developed specifically to cross-match sets of donors and recipients. And he believes the potential is staggering.

DR. MICHAEL REES, MEDICAL COLLEGE OF OHIO (TOLEDO): Somewhere around 10,000 people in America are in this predicament where they -- there's somebody they really love who they want to help and for immune reasons they can't. And the answer used to be, I'm sorry, there's the door and now the answer is, we have an alternative for you.

FREED: The Ohio organ exchange model is already being picked up by hospitals in other states. And doctors estimate at least 3,000 more transplants could be performed every year if it goes nationwide.

(on camera): What went through your minds when you guys met today?

R. MEYER: I was just excited. I saw her and it was, like, oh, my God. It's real. It's actually going to happen.

FREED: Was there a flash of oh, wait a minute. This will be going to a perfect stranger? And did you ever have a second thought?

D. VOLLMAR: Myself, I was pretty excited because then I felt like, not just one person was going to be getting help, but two separate people were going to get help.

FREED: Have all of you felt frustration or anger? What are the sorts of emotions on that side of the scale that you guys are feeling?

P. MEYER: For me, when I realized that I was going to need a kidney transplant it was more of why me?

J. VOLLMAR: I think everybody wants a better quality of life. And this is going to give it to me. And I think that is just the most wonderful thing, because I can run around after my grandkids more, enjoy them more and...

D. VOLLMAR: Longer.

J. VOLLMAR: Yes, and longer, too. So this is just -- thank you so much.

R. MEYER: You're welcome.

DR. STEVE WOODLE, CHRIST HOSPITAL/UNIV. OF CINCINNATI: The fact that donors feel like they're helping two people rather than one means the benefit they're getting which is nothing more than psychological is double.

R. MEYER: A little needle poke. You'll be fine.

FREED: The meeting over, instant friendships created, both pairs head home, mentally preparing for the upcoming surgery which will happen with one operation in Toledo and another in Cincinnati.

When NEWSNIGHT returns, both pairs head for the point of no return.

P. VOLLMAR: I guess I'm afraid of not waking up, you know? More than anything else.

FREED: What happened in the OR, next.


COOPER: We return now to the story of two families, who agreed to make a trade that will, if all goes well, save two lives. Paul Meyer and Josephine Vollmar desperately need two kidneys. They each have a loved one willing to donate a kidney but unable to do so because they're not the right match. Between of four of them, however, two perfect matches.

Once again, Jonathan Freed picks up the story.


FREED (voice-over): The events that will forever change the lives of four people start before dawn on a crisp, spring morning.

R. MEYER: It hit my about 11:30 last night. I woke up like, oh, my God, I'm losing one of my kidneys today.

FREED: Rose Meyer arrives at the Medical College of Ohio in Toledo to donate one of her kidneys to Josephine Vollmar.

REES: Whenever you get put to sleep, bad things can happen. You can have a heart attack, you can die from this operation.

DR. MATTHEW RUTTER, MEDICAL COLLEGE OF OHIO: At the very last moment if you say no way, we'll stop. That's OK. Nobody will fault you.

FREED: 200 miles away in Cincinnati.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your last name please.

P. MEYER: Meyer, M-E-Y-E-R.

FREED: Rose's husband Paul checks in to the hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could you repeat your full name to me.

FREED: Josephine's son Daniel Vollmar is there, too, set to donate one of his kidneys to Paul.

WOODLE: Are you nervous?

D. VOLLMAR: Yeah. A little bit.

WOODLE: Listen, you want to know the time to get nervous? The time to get nervous is when the surgeon gets nervous. If he's not nervous, everything's OK.


WOODLE: Do I look nervous?


FREED: This double transplant is the result of a program called Live Donor Paired Exchange. Rose and Paul Meyer aren't compatible with each other, neither are Josephine and Daniel Vollmar. Usually only close relatives would take the risk of donating a vital organ, but in this case, a computer cross-match brought together these two families, previously strangers, who will now swap kidneys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're asleep, we're positioned and we're prepping and draping.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. So you're already underway.

OK. All right, well, then we'll proceed.

FREED: Everything's coordinated to happen at the same time in both cities in case one of the patients has second thoughts.

D. VOLLMAR: I feel something in my (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, here's a little oxygen for you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you're in the recovery room, big fella.


FREED: Doctors use a remote control technique called laparoscopic surgery to remove Daniel and Rose's kidneys. The organs are then put on ice and prepped for transplant.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Primed next door! Three minutes, 26 seconds, sounds good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Matt. See you.



FREED: The kidneys are taken to adjoining operating rooms where Paul and Josephine are already unconscious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll take the clamps off and we'll go from being dead and white to pink and alive and rocking. Go for it. Take the clamp off.

Mark the time, please. Clamps are off.

See the kidney pinking up, now we're going to see blood start coming down that vein. Now open up the vein. There we go.

One pink, happy kidney.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cincinnati is done and making urine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations.


REES: I am thrilled right now. She's got a new kidney and it's a living kidney transplant. 50 percent of those will make it to about 15 years. And so I hope have given her lots of great years of life.

FREED: Just 24 hours later, still recovering in the hospital and connected by a bond few have experienced, the two pairs make the effort to see each other.

R. MEYER: Hi, Josie.

OK. How are you?


R. MEYER: You feel good?

J. VOLLMAR: Yes, pretty good.

P. MEYER: We did it.

D. VOLLMAR: All right, Paul.

P. MEYER: You did.

D. VOLLMAR: Oh, yeah.

P. MEYER: How are you feeling?

D. VOLLMAR: Pretty good.

J. VOLLMAR: Bless you, honey.

R. MEYER: Oh, no, thank you. I'm glad I could help.

FREED: That's a big question. Is it worth it?

D. VOLLMAR: I think so.

P. MEYER: Yes.

D. VOLLMAR: I mean, I don't feel like I've lost anything. You know?

P. MEYER: I sure have gained. That's for sure.

FREED: If Paul Meyer and Josephine Vollmar were forced to use dialysis, statistics show it could have shortened they're lives by as much as ten years, but, thanks to the paired transplant program, if all goes well, Paul and Josephine will now have those years to spend with their families.

R. MEYER: Yes.

FREED: Jonathan Freed, CNN, Toledo, Ohio.


COOPER: A quick end note. Jonathan has been in touch with both families since the surgery. All four are recovering well and say they have no regret. They're also planning to get together as soon as they can arrange it.

In a few moments, a place in which it may be legal to smoke marijuana, but a lot of people don't.

Now at about a 49 past the hour, Erica Hill is in Atlanta with the headlines -- Erica.

HILL: Hey, Anderson. A former Army translator claims military officials at Guantanamo Bay often stage mock interrogations of prisoners to impress visiting politicians and military brass. Now the Army denies the assertion. The former sergeant also told "60 Minutes" only a few dozen of the 600 detainees were terrorists. And that they didn't reveal much information. As the search for a missing bride-to-be in Georgia intensifies, police are pretty much ruling out the theory she got cold feet and ran away. So they have now opened a criminal investigation. Jennifer Wilbanks was reported missing by her fiance on Tuesday. They were supposed to be married this weekend. The fiance has been asked to take a polygraph test.

And it looks like the honeymoon is definitely over for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. His job approval rating has plunged since January. The Republican governor says he's not worried, though, and plans to press on with his agenda to change California's bureaucracy. Analysts say Democrats sense Schwarzenegger is a wounded governor.

And that's the latest from HEADLINE NEWS at this hour. Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Erica, thanks very much.

Still ahead on NEWSNIGHT, a place where marijuana is legal and easy to get. So why aren't more people there using it? From New York, this is NEWSNIGHT.


COOPER: A minute now for a late-night experimentation with drugs. We recently sent a producer to Amsterdam, to see what happens in a place where marijuana use is legal, highly regulated, and believe it or not, less common than you might imagine.


PETER COHEN, CENTER FOR DRUG RESEARCH: In the Netherlands, making not a big deal out of marijuana use seems to work and does not offend its sense of morality and what is right and what is wrong.

Marijuana was introduced in the '60s, mostly by American musicians who already knew about marijuana. Like in all other Western countries, suddenly marijuana became very fashionable. It became the thing to do. We have in this city all along, there's more than 200 shops where you can buy all sorts of strength and types of marijuana.

JON FOSTER, GREY AREA COFFEESHOP: The people here are riding bicycles around, so they do their shopping daily. And they say they may go shopping at the -- get their bread, and then they buy the wine, and then they stop at the coffee shop and buy a gram of grass for personal use.

Can I see a menu?


FOSTER: There's a no-advertising law for cannabis in Amsterdam. So that, for example, when customers come in, they have to ask for the menu in order to see the product.

I'll take five grams of that.

They have a law they you have to have underneath 500 grams in your shop, and also that you can sell only a maximum of five grams per customer. It's something basically to be for personal use only.

Most of the customers in the coffee shops, although there is a local contingent, most, I think, would be tourists who come through.

COHEN: Use in the population of the Netherlands is about half than it is in the United States. If people want to use marijuana, they will.

Amsterdam and San Francisco are comparable on a lot of variables. There is two universities. It's a harbor. It's a city of about 700,000 people. It compares well to Amsterdam in sense of being liberal. You will find many more marijuana users in San Francisco. Almost 80 percent of the population has experience with cannabis. In Amsterdam, it's almost 40 percent.

So in spite of the easy access to marijuana, not many people decide it's important for them to try. It is slowly rising over the last 30 years, but very slowly.


COOPER: Well, in a moment, we'll roll things off and wrap things up. We'll be right back.


COOPER: And that's it for NEWSNIGHT tonight. Thanks very much for watching. We'll see you tomorrow.


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