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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Iraq Peace Plan Under Fire; New Cargo Security Deal Stirs Controversy

Aired December 7, 2006 - 20:00   ET

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


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thanks so much for joining us tonight. Welcome.
There is important news coming into CNN all the time. And, tonight, we are choosing these top stories for a more in-depth look.

The "Top Story" in the Iraq war: a peace plan in doubt. Just one day after the Iraq Study Group's recommendations were winning near unanimous praise, they are now attracting a whole bunch of critics.

The "Top Story" on the security watch: an ironic choice. Remember all that complaining about letting a Dubai company operate some U.S. ports? Well, guess which company is going to start screening cargo before it heads over here?

And our top legal story starts with the news that Vice President Cheney's openly gay daughter is pregnant. And tonight, the nationwide controversy: Should gays be parents at all?

Our "Top Story" is the growing skepticism about the Iraq Study Group's peace plan. Tonight, much of the praise heaped on the Baker- Hamilton commission's report when it came out yesterday has now turned to doubt.

Believe it or not, there are even some people accusing the commission members of surrendering to terrorists. The 79-point plan calls for strengthening Iraq's government and its security forces, so U.S. troops can start coming home.

It also calls for getting Iran and Syria involved in the peace process.

Well, today, Mr. Bush said he won't accept all of the commission's recommendations.

And, as White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux reports, he's only grudgingly admitting that his own Iraq strategy isn't working.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's probably the closest you will get from this president to admitting failure.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You want frankness: I thought we would succeed quicker than we did. And I am disappointed by the pace of success.

MALVEAUX: The bipartisan Iraq Study Group described the situation in Iraq as grave and deteriorating. The president's incoming secretary of defense said, the U.S. was not winning.

For Mr. Bush, it's not easy to admit mistakes.

BUSH: It's a difficult moment for America and Great Britain.

MALVEAUX: But perhaps now, more than ever, people want to know, is he in denial? Does he get it?

BUSH: It's bad in Iraq. Does that help?

(LAUGHTER)

MALVEAUX: It was typical Bush: Use humor to throw off the scent, then a stab at formality to reassert his authority.

BUSH: Make no mistake about it, I understand how tough it is, sir. I have talked to the families who die.

MALVEAUX: Then, as always, with the zingers, came the appreciation.

BUSH: And so -- no, I appreciate your question. I appreciate -- as you can tell, I feel strongly about making sure you understand that I understand it's tough.

MALVEAUX: But with pressing...

QUESTION: Do you acknowledge that your approach has failed?

MALVEAUX: ... and more pressing...

QUESTION: Are you capable of changing course, perhaps in the next few weeks?

MALVEAUX: ... Mr. Bush relented.

BUSH: I do know that we have not succeeded as fast as we wanted to succeed. I -- I do understand that progress is not as rapid as I had hoped.

MALVEAUX: President Bush and his closest ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, have stood shoulder to shoulder on the Iraq war since the very beginning -- critics calling Mr. Bush the cowboy, for stubbornly leading the charge, and Mr. Blair the poodle, for obediently following.

But, three years since the U.S. invasion, the two are still adamant, their Iraq mission is sound. President Bush didn't just drink the Kool-Aid; he made it. But, perhaps now, it's a little less sweet.

BUSH: Not only do I know how important it is to prevail. I believe we will prevail.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Now, I think the vision is absolutely correct. What we have got to do now -- and this is exactly why the president is talking about the way forward -- is that we have got to get the right way forward.

MALVEAUX: But the right way forward may be to go backward by bringing combat troops home by early 2008, as recommended by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. Some analysts believe adopting at least some of the group's 79 recommendations is the only way these two leaders can salvage their legacies. Mr. Bush and Blair signaled, they're willing to try.

BUSH: Some reports are issued and just gather dust. And the truth of the matter is, a lot of reports in Washington are never read by anybody. To show you how important this one is, I read it and our guest read it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And Suzanne and I have read it.

So, Suzanne, we have heard some of what the president has said right off of the bat he won't commit to. But when are we going to know, in total, what -- what percentage of these recommendations he might implement?

MALVEAUX: Oh, Paula, as you noted, of course, he said he read the report.

But there's no guarantee that he's adopting this report. What he has said is that, over the next couple of weeks, he's going to look at internal investigations from the Pentagon, the State Department, and the National Security Council, before he makes up his mind.

And then, we're told, that he will go ahead and make a decision and make an announcement to the American people within the next couple of weeks -- Paula.

ZAHN: Suzanne Malveaux, thanks so much.

With so...

MALVEAUX: Sure.

ZAHN: ... much criticism of his policies in the Iraq Study Group report, the president's reaction is not all that surprising. But criticism is also coming from all sides on Capitol Hill, a big change from yesterday.

Here's congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the Republican chairman of the Iraq Study Group, a warning: If the president accepts some, but not all of their key recommendations to fix Iraq, the plan won't work.

JAMES BAKER, CO-CHAIRMAN, IRAQ STUDY GROUP: I hope we don't treat this like a fruit salad and say, I like this, but I don't like that; I like this, but I don't like that.

BASH: But Jim Baker's appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee brought ample proof, Republicans and Democrats in Congress have just as many doubts as the White House about some of the biggest recommendations, especially engaging Iran and Syria.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I am skeptical that it's realistic to think that Iran wants to help the United States succeed in Iraq. They are, after all, supporting Hezbollah, which gathers people in the square in Beirut to shout, "Death to America."

BASH: Baker said, he met with a senior Iranian official, with the White House blessing, as part of the review.

BAKER: And they, in effect, said, we -- we're not -- we would not be inclined to help you this -- this time around.

BASH: Still, he and his Democratic co-chairman said, in their view, it's worth a try.

LEE HAMILTON, CO-CHAIRMAN, IRAQ STUDY GROUP: Syria and Iran have very great influence over events within Iraq, particularly Iran, but also Syria. And I just don't think you can avoid that.

BASH: On the military side, the report calls for phasing out the U.S. combat role in Iraq by 2008, and rejects an idea championed by Senator John McCain to send more U.S. forces to Iraq to stabilize the country. The commission says, those troops simply aren't available.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: There's only one thing worse than an overstressed Army and Marine Corps, and that's a defeated Army and Marine Corps. We saw that in 1973. I think there's a disconnect between what you are recommending and the situation on the ground.

BASH: Skepticism, too, of a recommendation to embed more U.S. troops with Iraqi units as part of accelerated training.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I'm just wondering, as a practical matter, whether that isn't an invitation to attack American troops that are one by one in small units.

HAMILTON: That will have some risks to it and there will be some American causalities, but not like, I think, we're now suffering.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So, Dana, we heard Suzanne Malveaux just reporting that the president will share with the American public over the next couple weeks what part of this plan he's going to implement.

In the meantime, where does Congress come into play here? What impact can it have at all?

BASH: Well, you know, officially, there really isn't much that Congress can do.

The president is, of course, commander in chief. He sets the policy and the military strategy for this country. However, there is a lot of pressure, Paula, from Republicans and Democrats here for the president to consult with them before he finalizes this new strategy.

Now, ask anyone around here, they will tell you that the president doesn't really have a very good history of that. But there is a sort of a feeling here that, A, things are so dire in Iraq, and, B, politically, things are so different here, that that -- that could change, primarily because of the fact that, in the past, Republicans have run the place here, and they have -- may have been upset that the president hasn't consulted with them, but they didn't really do much about it.

Now, of course, Democrats are going to be in charge. They're going to run committees. They're going to have the power of oversight and the power to hold hearings, to issue subpoenas. So, even on practical level, perhaps, there's some hope that there could be more consultation here, when it comes to members of Congress.

ZAHN: We will know shortly.

Dana Bash, thanks.

BASH: Thank you.

ZAHN: So, will the president take the study group's advice, and is he really still in denial?

Let's go to a "Top Story" panel joining us for entire hour tonight, Republican political consultant the Reverend Joe Watkins, Rachel Maddow from Air America Radio, and constitutional lawyer Michael Gross.

Glad to have all of you with us tonight.

(CROSSTALK)

MICHAEL GROSS, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION: Thanks, Paula.

ZAHN: So, there was a very testy exchange today during a joint news conference with the prime minister of Great Britain and -- and the president, where he, the president, said: I'm not in denial about what is going on in Iraq.

Do you think he is, Michael?

GROSS: Yes. This is a game that is in overtime.

We are using words like, are we winning? No. Are we losing? No. So, what are we? We're in a fight that we don't have an exit strategy for. The -- the -- the president just needs a way to get out without looking as if he's got his tail between his legs. I don't care that much about it.

But I do disagree strongly with what was just said by Dana. The Congress makes war policy, under our Constitution. That's the Article I requirement of Congress. It then is executed by the commander in chief. He's not the commander in chief of the people. He is commander in chief of the armed forces.

And Congress could make this decision, and should make this decision. Hello? The war is over. You got a nice way now, with a bipartisan group of people who said, here's a way you can just -- so...

ZAHN: All right.

GROSS: So, you know that TV commercial where the president says, "We have a problem"?

And a young fellow says, "Here is the answer."

And the president says, "Here is the answer."

And he says, "I just said that."

"Yes, but I want to say it."

(LAUGHTER)

GROSS: He needs to be the one.

ZAHN: So, Michael says the war is over. There are a lot of folks highly critical of this report today that said that this group basically surrendered.

Is that the way you see it? Is this war over? And is this...

REVEREND JOE WATKINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, this is just one report.

ZAHN: Is this report all about capitulating?

WATKINS: It's -- it's one report. And -- and there are others...

ZAHN: I understand that.

WATKINS: ... the president is going to consider. There's the Pentagon report the president -- the president is going to look at very closely, too. And he ought to look at that, because these are people who are professionals when it comes to the issues of national security.

And they're not Democrats or Republicans. They're career civil servants who understand all the issues that affect us, and on national security. So...

ZAHN: But you still didn't answer the question. WATKINS: ... he's going to wait to hear them.

ZAHN: Do you think this war is over?

WATKINS: No, definitely not, definitely not.

ZAHN: And, now, is it a case of coming up with the best exit strategy...

WATKINS: No, no. It's...

ZAHN: ... possible?

WATKINS: It is not over. It is not over.

We can't afford to lose there. And we have interests that are vital to America in that part of the world. We can't think for one second, Paula, that, if we just -- if left there, that everything would just be all right, that whatever those people on that side of the pond choose to do is fine, as long as America can exit and just -- just be left to its own devices. That's not going to work.

We have got to be concerned about what is happening in the Middle East, what is happening in Iraq, what is happening in Israel.

ZAHN: But all of that is in this report, is it not, Rachel? There's a lot of talk about making sure that the way the Iraqi soldiers are trained is improved, so you can actually empower them to patrol areas that American soldiers are patrolling solo today.

RACHEL MADDOW, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I -- I think what is going on right now is that we, as a nation -- down -- I would say everybody in the country, down to maybe fourth grade, understands that we're in big trouble in Iraq. And maybe even the first-graders get that.

ZAHN: The president did say that today.

MADDOW: That -- that...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Things are bad.

MADDOW: But he's also been saying, absolutely, we're winning. He's been saying that quite recently, as well, even though nobody else, even in the government, will say that now either.

We know that we're in trouble. We know that Iraq is a big problem. We know that we have to get out with the least additional harm to our national interests and to our soldiers.

The problem is that we need leadership. And we have decided that the best place to get it from is a panel of retirees turning in a $10 paperback.

GROSS: Statesman, not... ZAHN: What about...

MADDOW: We need leadership from the White House.

GROSS: And we don't need the Pentagon to tell us. They're to carry out the orders.

We need statesmen.

WATKINS: Well, we have got a leader.

GROSS: We need -- we need diplomats.

We -- we -- well, the leader, I'm afraid, is an Army man. He's -- he has never served. But he is treating this as if it is a military problem. And it isn't. He's a ballplayer. And it is not that kind of a game.

WATKINS: Leader...

(CROSSTALK)

WATKINS: He doesn't even talk to the enemy to find out what their grievances are, one of the most important parts of this report.

There's a civil war going on in that country. When people from the same country fight each other, that's a civil war. We're not allowed to say that. Why? Because there's going to be chaos when we leave. We're promised that.

WATKINS: Michael, leadership is not run by public...

ZAHN: You get the last word. We have got to continue...

(CROSSTALK)

WATKINS: Leadership is not run by public opinion poll. George Bush will be judged by history. And I think history will look kindly upon him.

MADDOW: Wow.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW: Couldn't -- couldn't disagree with more.

(CROSSTALK)

WATKINS: Absolutely.

ZAHN: Reverend Watkins, Rachel Maddow, Michael Gross, we will be seeing more of all three of you throughout the hour.

Just ahead, tonight's "Top Story" in the "Security Watch": You're not going to believe which country is going to start screening cargo before it is shipped to the U.S. It is the same Arab-owned firm that people didn't trust to handle cargo when it gets here. Coming up, what has changed?

Also, the "Top Story" of survival: There are some stunning new details tonight about a family's harrowing challenge, as they tried to survive in Oregon's snowy wilderness. We heard the nine days pretty much spelled out by one of the police officers today. It is absolutely chilling.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Our "Top Story" in the "Security Watch" tonight may reignite a controversy that was raging earlier this year.

Last winter, it looked like a company owned by an Arab country was going to buy cargo terminals at six major American ports. Well, outrage and fear of terrorism put an end to that. But now the very same company that a lot of people didn't trust to run our ports is going to be screening cargo bound for the U.S. for radioactivity.

We get the latest details now from homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a preemptive strike by the secretary of homeland security.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We will not outsource our security.

MESERVE: It was an effort to squelch congressional criticism, before it erupted, over the fact that Dubai-owned D.P. World operates three ports involved in a new cargo security program that will screen containers for radiation in foreign ports before they're shipped to the U. S.

CHERTOFF: The bottom line is this: If you want to do security overseas, you have got to work with foreign governments and foreign companies, because they own the ports.

MESERVE: Last February, there were high-decibel protests on Capitol Hill, when D.P. World purchased six port facilities in the U.S.

REP. PETER KING (R-NY), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I would urge the president to freeze this contract.

MESERVE: As for the new cargo program, King says he will be watching closely, but has been assured D.P. World will not have access to sensitive information or software.

However, some found it ironic that a company that raised security concerns a few months ago was now a partner in a security program.

In the pilot program, containers in six foreign ports will go through radiation detectors. Because those machines cannot detect shielded radioactive material, the container will also be X-rayed. If Customs and Border Prosecution personnel on site, or at the National Targeting Center, see a potential threat, the container will be pulled for further inspection by foreign authorities.

CHERTOFF: In the end, the go, no-go decision rests with our guys sitting in a CBP office. And if they have any doubt about how this has been resolved, they're going to say: Time out. It doesn't come in.

MESERVE: When the pilot is fully operational, just 7 percent of the cargo coming into the U.S. will be screened. DHS plans to expand the program over time, but some say 100 percent screening of cargo shouldn't wait.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D), MISSISSIPPI: Unless we give a date certain, we will limp along. It has been five years since 9/11. It is time to finish the job.

MESERVE: Others think the entire approach is misguided.

RANDALL LARSEN, FOUNDING DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR HOMELAND SECURITY: They're asking the wrong question. Most people ask the question, how do we prevent al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations from bringing a nuke through a seaport? The right question is, how do we prevent al Qaeda from becoming a nuclear power?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: DHS says money is being spent on that, too. But critics say it isn't enough -- Paula.

ZAHN: So, what is that Homeland Security is bracing for now? Do they see this as a -- a replay of what happened last year?

MESERVE: Well, they appear to be trying to preempt any uproar in Congress. But, frankly, there hasn't been one as yet.

You heard Congressman King in my piece. He -- he told me that he was just going to keep an eye on it. Senator Schumer, who was another big critic of the ports deal, say he thinks enough scrutiny has been given to DPW for this to go forward.

And Senators Collins and Lieberman, who -- who are the chairman and ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee, issued a release tonight, praising this -- this deal, saying that it fulfills some of the requirements of the Safe Port Act, which Congress passed back in October.

ZAHN: All right, Jeanne Meserve, thanks much.

MESERVE: You bet.

ZAHN: We're going to go straight back to our "Top Story" panel, Republican Party political consultant, the Reverend Joe Watkins, Rachel Maddow from Air America Radio, and constitutional lawyer Michael Gross.

Welcome back.

So, Rachel, do you have a problem with this?

MADDOW: Yes, I do.

ZAHN: Why?

MADDOW: My problem with this is that, it's five years after 9/11, and our big hope right now is that we can get to 7 percent screening? Really? I think the big...

ZAHN: But come back to the presidential candidate issue of Dubai Ports World doing the actual screening.

MADDOW: Yes.

ZAHN: Now, we got to make it clear, it is local port officials that do the screening. And, then, that information is almost instantaneously fed to Homeland Security and -- and border officials.

MADDOW: Right.

And -- and, you know -- and Dubai -- I don't know if Dubai should trouble us more than a company that was owned by Peru or a company that was owned by Canada. I don't know Dubai has taken the security machine -- taken the security measures they need to, to set aside some of the concerns that were raised last time this came up.

But I really...

ZAHN: What has changed since then?

MADDOW: But the -- what has...

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW: But, also, why are we outsourcing this?

WATKINS: Well, what has changed is, they have done their due diligence.

I mean, the reason why so many members of Congress are quiet on this is because they are a little bit embarrassed. I mean, they rushed to judgment initially, when the initial discussion of the sale, some months ago, was discussed, only to find out now that Dubai Ports World has a great track record. They do a great job around the country and around the world.

And, so, there's no threat with -- or fear with regards to having Dubai Ports World partner with Homeland Security to get this done.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Do you have confidence in them as partners... GROSS: No.

ZAHN: ... in the screening...

GROSS: No.

ZAHN: ... of cargo, that -- and -- and particularly screening for radioactive materials?

GROSS: Paula, I'm afraid that they're good. My position...

ZAHN: Why is that?

GROSS: Yes, because, ultimately, if we're all totally screened, cameras are everywhere. Detection equipment is everywhere. There will be no crime, and we will have no quality of life at all.

The direction that we should be going in is not instilling fear and this paranoia that we have been suffering. We're in a post- traumatic stress syndrome from 9/11.

ZAHN: What are you suggesting, though, that you only inspect 2 percent of cargo, instead of 7 percent?

GROSS: I'm suggesting that -- that...

ZAHN: Is that what you're saying?

(CROSSTALK)

GROSS: Yes.

MADDOW: No, I -- I'm...

GROSS: Drop it. Get to learning who these people are, finding out what their grievances are, finding out why they are angry, and dealing with it, exchanging culturally, exchanging intellectually, exchanging languages. And stop isolating us, building walls, keeping out everybody.

(CROSSTALK)

WATKINS: We just need to be safe. That's all. We just want to make sure that no...

(CROSSTALK)

GROSS: Sorry, but there's no life in that kind of safety.

(CROSSTALK)

WATKINS: ... no nuclear weapons come into the country. That's all.

(CROSSTALK)

GROSS: You may as well live in a padded cell.

MADDOW: Fellows...

GROSS: Be courageous. Have a little bravery and trust, and you will have better quality of life.

MADDOW: We have to understand why...

GROSS: That's the ultimate goal here...

MADDOW: We -- we have to understand...

GROSS: ... not safety.

MADDOW: We have to understand why we're at risk.

We also have to harden ourselves as a target. We do. We have to do that, because the people who are coming after us, in a lot of cases, are utterly irrational. We have to understand that.

WATKINS: Absolutely.

MADDOW: That said, it is an absolute national disgrace that, five years after 9/11, we're aiming high for 7 percent screening.

GROSS: What's the disgrace...

(CROSSTALK)

WATKINS: Well, that's a beginning. That's the beginning.

MADDOW: That is...

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW: ... absolute disgrace.

WATKINS: It is going to get better.

I mean, he's looking for 100 percent eventually. But this is a good start.

MADDOW: Eventually.

(CROSSTALK)

WATKINS: There's no doubt it.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Ideally, who is it that you want screening this cargo for radioactivity?

MADDOW: The U.S. government. I want U.S. federal employees doing it.

GROSS: Like -- like -- like...

MADDOW: We don't need to contract this stuff out.

GROSS: Like the people who are fighting the war on drugs. They're doing such a great job.

WATKINS: I want the people who are most...

GROSS: They're watching everywhere. They're screening everywhere.

And more people are using drugs. And more people are killed in drug wars, because we never figure out what it is about the quality of life that drives people to use drugs.

How about trying, what's wrong with, when you get six imams praying in a plane, we want to pull the plane down -- in fact, we want to throw them off the plane -- instead of understanding not everybody is the same?

ZAHN: Reverend, you get the last word.

WATKINS: Well, what I want, what I want is, I want to be safe.

And I want people who are our allies helping us inspect those cargo -- that cargo. That's what I want, more than anything else.

ZAHN: So, you have no problem...

WATKINS: I have no problem. Dubai...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: ... with U.S. people working side by side with folks from the United Arab...

WATKINS: As long as they're fighting with us in the war against terror, I have no problem.

ZAHN: Well, some people aren't too convinced of that. And that's what we had to debate the last go-round with Congress.

Thank you, Reverend Joe Watkins, Rachel Maddow, Michael Gross. We will get to all of you in just a little bit.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: We're going to move on to another "Top Story" tonight that is an amazing story of bravery and sacrifice. Coming up, for the first time, we're going to hear details about a father's heroic effort to get help for his lost family trapped out in the wilderness, even though it eventually cost him his life.

And, then, a little bit later on: a nationwide legal battle. Should gay couples be allowed to have children? Will any minds be changed by the news that Vice President Cheney's openly gay daughter is pregnant?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Tonight's top survival story: some of the new details that we're just beginning to learn about the ordeal of the Kim family, stranded in the snowy Oregon wilderness for more than a week. Kati Kim and their two daughters were rescued on Monday. But James Kim's body was found just yesterday.

Today, we learned he died of exposure, after a desperate 10-mile hike through the backcountry to try to get help for his young family.

Thelma Gutierrez has more on James Kim's heroic and ultimately tragic story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): James Kim died trying to save his family. The pilots who tried to save him say, he's a hero. Now they're in mourning.

LIEUTENANT GREGG HASTINGS, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, OREGON STATE POLICE: He was spotted lying on his back, fully clothed, in a shallow depth of Big Windy Creek.

GUTIERREZ: The coroner says the 35-year-old father of two died of exposure and hypothermia. It is not clear how long he survived in this harsh wilderness, all alone, without food.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have hope. You put somebody in there, you don't give up on it. You go, we're at the bitter end with it.

GUTIERREZ: Last Friday, these local pilots were hired by the Kim family to help find James, Kati and their two kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no open areas in this range. It's very narrow canyon, a lot of trees.

GUTIERREZ: As the choppers began searching for them, the Kims were burning their last tire to stay warm. They had been stranded in their station wagon on a desolate logging road for seven days in the freezing cold. The parents ate berries and drank melted snow. Kati Kim breast-fed her two children to keep them alive.

JOHN RACHOR, PILOT: The car was just down in a well, it looked like, in the trees.

GUTIERREZ: The Kims could hear the choppers flying above, but they were running out of food for their children. James Kim decided he could no longer wait.

HASTINGS: On Saturday, December 2, at about 7:46 a.m., she said that James left on foot to reach help.

GUTIERREZ: So, James lit a fire for his wife and children. He took some clothes, a flashlight, and two lighters, then walked down the road. He walked several miles, then headed into the forest, toward a river.

HASTINGS: If he could get to the river, he could make it to the town.

GUTIERREZ: He walked 10 miles, most of it down treacherous, steep, wet terrain, in tennis shoes, jeans, and a jacket.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know exactly why he did it, because he had a wife and two children that were stranded for eight or nine days. That's why he did it. He was a father who was trying to save his family.

GUTIERREZ: On Monday, his second day out, John Rachor, a volunteer pilot, spotted car tracks in the snow.

RACHOR: There was an SOS stomped in the snow.

GUTIERREZ: He knew it was Kati Kim.

RACHOR: I couldn't have landed right where the car was.

GUTIERREZ: He called for help. That's when Scott Dunn (ph) and Daniel Townsend (ph) made a harrowing landing in the dense woods, with only a five-foot clearance on either side of the helicopter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She just had a big smile on her face. She was jumping up and down, you know, just saying thank you for finding us, for getting us.

GUTIERREZ: With Kati and the kids safe, the search for James intensified. Rescuers found clothing and pieces of an Oregon map. And finally...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Found it?

GUTIERREZ: Two medics were lowered to the ground. It was too late.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was pretty (inaudible).

GUTIERREZ: One rescuer said the wicked 10-mile trek through this stretch of woods had never been attempted by anyone before, but James Kim almost succeeded, for the love of his family.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: What an absolutely incredible story, Thelma. I know you've had a chance to talk with these rescuers and hear more about what shape Kati was in and her two children when they were found. What did they tell you?

GUTIERREZ: Well, Paula, one of the things that the pilot said is that when he was landing, he was very concerned. He knew all along this was a mother who was stranded in her car with her two young children. He didn't see the children. He saw her. He was worried. All of a sudden he lands, he makes contact with her. She's incredibly upbeat. She's jumping around, she's thanking them. And then she says her children are fine. He sees the four-year-old, they give them candy and crackers. The four-year-old is jumping around. She's very healthy and very happy. The baby was smiling.

On top of that, Paula, the mother said, please help me find my husband. He went off in this direction to look for help. She was very concerned, because she said that she saw big bear prints in the snow and she was worried for her husband. But overall, she was very upbeat.

ZAHN: It is just extraordinary, that they were able to survive on berries and in the case of the two kids, on breast milk. It's just absolutely stunning.

Thelma, thanks so much. Stay with us for more about the Kim family. Coming up at the top of the hour, James Kim's former bosses is among the guests on "LARRY KING LIVE."

One of the most emotional issues in this country is also one of tonight's top stories. Should gay couples be allowed to raise children? Should they have any legal rights at all? Coming up next, the impact of the news that Vice President Cheney's openly gay daughter is pregnant, expecting in the spring.

Then a little bit later on, some chilling details from a bizarre checklist, and a chilling one. And how it landed one of New Orleans' best known TV personalities in jail and indicted for murder.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Our top legal story is touching off a furious controversy in conservative America tonight, after Vice President Cheney's openly gay daughter announced that she's expecting a child with her lesbian partner. Now, some of Mr. Cheney's staunchest supporters are very upset about this, and instead of congratulations, some conservative groups reacted by calling it disappointing and a disservice to the child. Others issued a terse no comment.

But that may be the least of Mary Cheney's problems. She and her partner plan to raise the child in one of the most unfriendly states when it comes to gay rights. Here's Mary Snow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is a pregnancy sparking intense interest, not just because of who is pregnant but because of the mother-to-be lives. Mary Cheney, the vice president's lesbian daughter, is pregnant, expecting her first child with long- time partner Heather Poe. The couple live in Virginia, a state that's long billed itself as a state for lovers, but not if they're gay.

The budding family's dynamics clashed with Republican politics, which has long espoused marriage as a union between a man and woman. JENNIFER CHRISLER, EXEC. DIR., FAMILY PRIDE: It really makes real how aggressive the right and fundamentalists have been about attacking gay and lesbian families. And here, the vice president's own daughter is about to become a part of that in an even bigger way that she already is.

SNOW: And has been since Mary Cheney had a high-profile role in her father's election campaign in 2004, even as her father's boss, the president, pursued a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Earlier this year, Cheney publicly broke ranks with the administration.

MARY CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT'S DAUGHTER: The notion of amending the Constitution and writing -- basically writing discrimination into the Constitution of the United States is fundamentally wrong.

SNOW: And it's not just the country she lives in. The state of Virginia has long denied many rights for gay couples.

Cheney recently supported a campaign that fought a ban of same- sex marriage in Virginia, but the ban was approved.

CHRISLER: Mary's partner will have no legal relationship to this child at all.

SNOW: In 1995, Sharon Bottoms lost custody of her son Tyler to her own mother, Pamela Bottoms. Pamela claimed that her lesbian daughter was an unfit parent because Sharon's sexual orientation violated Virginia's sodomy laws. But a more recent case may determine how modern gay families like the Cheneys are treated in Virginia. Janet Jenkins and Lisa Miller had baby Isabella in Virginia in 2004. They moved to Vermont shortly after to get a civil union and cement their family ties.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course, we were ecstatic about that, because we knew that we wanted to be together. We knew we wanted to have a future together, be married.

SNOW: But then the couple split, and Lisa took the baby back to Virginia, where same-sex unions are not recognized.

LISA MILLER JENKINS, GAY PARENT: I am Isabella's mom. I did conceive her. I birthed her. I'm raising her. And in my opinion, Isabella needs to stay with me 100 percent of the time. Because I'm -- I'm the only person that she identifies as a mom.

SNOW: Janet, who has no parental rights in Virginia, has not seen Isabella in more than two years, as the women continue battling for custody.

Meanwhile, conservative groups continue discouraging laws protecting gay families.

ROBERT KNIGHT, MRC'S CULTURE AND MEDIA INSTITUTE: Mary Cheney and her personal life shouldn't be the driving force behind public policy. If we distort the law because some people have made decisions in their lives that don't comport with that, then that will not be good for society.

SNOW: How the courts rule on the Miller-Jenkins case will help decide not just Isabella's fate, but how Virginia will treat the gay families of the future.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And I can't wait to hear what our top story panel thinks of this one. Once again, Reverend Joe Watkins, Rachel Maddow, Michael Gross.

Welcome back.

So, Reverend, help us understand the tough position the vice president is in here. First of all, as a father, who apparently has a pretty close relationship with his daughter.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: And yet he knows that this decision that she's made will alienate a lot of the hard-line conservatives.

WATKINS: Well, it is contrary, of course, to what the president has certainly said, in terms of marriage, that marriage is between a man and a woman.

But nonetheless, the vice president is doing the right thing as a father, that is he loves his daughter and his daughter loves him. And I think that's a good thing, of course.

At the same time, I'll say this. You know, people have asked me, you know, how do I judge this whole thing? Well, I answer by saying the Bible says that we're supposed to judge not that we be not judged.

Nonetheless, it speaks very clearly, very clearly about what marriage is. Marriage is between a man and woman.

ZAHN: Well, a lot of people certainly are judging tonight. Michael, Family Pride, a group that advocates for gays and lesbians had this response, which we're going to put up on the screen right now.

"Grandfather Cheney will no doubt face a lifetime of sleepless nights as he reflects on the irreparable harm he and his administration have done to the millions of American gay and lesbian parents and their children."

Do you really think gay parents harm their kids?

WATKINS: Yes.

GROSS: No, of course not. Why do people not understand how ridiculous this is. We had a women's movement...

WATKINS: Did you have a mother and a father?

GROSS: ... we had...

WATKINS: Did you have a mother and a father?

GROSS: Excuse me. We had a -- pretty hard to, I think, generate life without those two things happening. Whether we had parents.

MADDOW: ... mother and a father...

GROSS: I understand the difference between parents and fathers. Big difference.

But let me say this. Women, blacks, all of those civil rights movements which this country forward ran, went great. What's wrong with the civil rights movement when it comes to gay people?

Why is it that homosexuals don't get equal treatment?

The law is real clear, and those states, Massachusetts and New Jersey, that have looked at it, there isn't any doubt, no doubt at all. People have rights, you can't take them away from them because of their sexual preferences. So why not?

MADDOW: But that's not true in Virginia.

GROSS: ... Because this man thinks that the president, who what, talks to God? Tells us what -- that marriage is between a man and woman.

WATKINS: That's the Bible says. I mean...

GROSS: Then what you're saying is that God wrote the Bible and God tells George Bush what to do.

WATKINS: I believe the Bible. I believe the Bible.

GROSS: If he heard that through his earpiece, we would know we had a serious, certifiable maniac. But that he tells us he knows what God wants for us, is something that frightens me and it should frighten you.

MADDOW: Let me jump if here. I think the way most people are reacting to this is to say, it's sad this has to be politicized. Mary Cheney and her family and the Cheney family and what they're dealing with here, this is their private family decision.

What gay people want is we want to be left alone, really. We want to be left alone to make our family decisions. Whether it's we want to get married or we want to get divorced or we want to kids or we want to not have kids, we want to do those things privately the way that straight people get to do those things privately. And we want to have the same rights that everybody has.

We want to be able to...

GROSS: And you got to stand up and fight for them.

MADDOW: Well, thank you.

GROSS: You're going to get dragged behind a truck otherwise...

MADDOW: Cheers. Cheers. Right.

GROSS: And Mary Cheney can fight...

MADDOW: Hold on one second.

We want to be left alone in order to do those things. The problem is that our private lives have been dragged out into the public so we can be used as Willie Hortons every time the Republicans decide that gay rights are a good bugaboo issue for an election.

We need to be left alone.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: No one dragged this out. Mary Cheney was very happy to announce she was pregnant.

WATKINS: Nobody dislikes gay people. I mean, let's face it. Nobody dislike gay people.

The question is do you change the definition...

(CROSSTALK)

WATKINS: ... do you change the definition of marriage? Do you change the definition of marriage?

GROSS: Marriage, in your definition is simply a myth. When two people commit and live together, they're given under the law certain rights. What you would do is say, well, only if you're of opposite sexes. Who says -- if you're the same-sex you're deprived of those rights...

ZAHN: Let me ask you this...

GROSS: ... you...

ZAHN: Do you think that a marriage constituted by same-sex partners is ruinous to a child they would raise, whether they choose to have the child themselves or adopt a child?

WATKINS: I know this much. I know my wife and I have been married for a good period of time. We have three children. And it's a challenge for a mother and father to raise children, who love each other and who love their kids.

ZAHN: What, gay people can't love each other... WATKINS: No. I'm sure that gay people love each other. I'm sure that gay -- that women raising a child love each and they love their children. And I'm sure the same is true with men who are raising, they love their child.

However, that doesn't give me the right to change the word of God, which says that marriage -- the institute of marriage is between a man and woman.

ZAHN: I got to, unfortunately, leave it there.

Thank you all.

Just the beginning of a debate, I'm sure, that's going to be ringing on for sometime.

MADDOW: We'll take it to the bar. Don't worry.

ZAHN: All right. Good luck across the street. I'll buy.

Reverend Joe Watkins, Rachel Maddow, Michael Gross.

Things will be great at the Coliseum tonight.

Thanks again for being with us.

Tonight's story in crime is a shocking death and the bizarre evidence that led the police to one of the most well-known people on New Orleans TV. Coming up next, a step-by-step checklist that looks like a game plan for murder.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Our top story in crime tonight, a really bizarre turn of events in a mysterious case of murder. And you're not going to believe how police say they got their man.

Just hours ago, a popular TV sportscaster in New Orleans was indicted for the brutal murder of his wife. Amazingly, he doesn't look anything like the killer eyewitnesses describe. And there is no weapon with his fingerprints on it.

But, as Susan Roesgen reports, an incriminating list of things to do may be the key to this case.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's wrong with her? Do you have any idea?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ma'am, I don't know. I was trying to find a parking place. She's bleeding from her head very badly.

SHERIFF HARRY LEE, JEFFERSON PARISH, LOUISIANA: This is a very safe neighborhood, so everybody was alarmed that there's some guy shooting people for money out there. SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It looked like a botched robbery, a 45 year-old woman shot twice in the face. Witnesses called 911 to report a bearded man racing away on a bicycle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He looked like, you know, one of these kooks you see all, you know, dressed up in different kind of outfits.

ROESGEN: While detectives searched for the man on the bike, they release the murdered woman's name. She was not well-known in New Orleans, but just about here everyone knows her husband.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Number-one draft choice, defensive end...

ROESGEN: Vince Marinello is a long time local sportscaster. Two years ago he fell in love with a woman 20 years younger, Mary Elizabeth Norman. Liz's family didn't believe she was gunned down in broad daylight, and they began to doubt that robbery was the motive. The sheriff was beginning to doubt it, too.

LEE: It was a hit.

ROESGEN: Liz was shot with her purse still on her shoulder, her car keys in her hand. And while the guy on a bike had disappeared, some ugly allegations about the Marinello marriage were starting to come out. Liz's mother said the couple had argued violently and she was worried.

BERTHA NORMAN, VICTIM'S MOTHER: I said you need to do something because he's threatening your life.

ROESGEN: Liz filed for divorce in July and got a temporary restraining order against Vince. The family suspected his involvement in Liz's murder right away, but detectives weren't so sure.

Marinello said he was driving to Jackson, Mississippi when Liz was killed, two and a half hours away to watch a Saints game. But friends said he got to the game late. He could still have been in New Orleans when his wife was killed.

Then the owner of a local costume shop told detectives Marinello had recently bought a moustache, telling the clerk he already had a fake beard. Finally, the owner of a local gun shop told detectives Marinello recently bought a box of .38 caliber bullets with a special nylon tip, the same type of bullet used to kill his wife.

(on camera): When detectives searched Vince Marinello's FEMA trailer, they didn't find a disguise, or a bike, or a gun, nothing to tie him to the murder of his wife, except a sheet of paper. They say it was a checklist for murder.

LEE: Some of them he had OK, some of them he had check marks by. And on the back side of this note was a drawing of the parking lot.

ROESGEN (voice-over): The sheriff says list included references to a moustache, a bicycle, even a reminder to get rid of the gun.

Marinello was arrested on a second-degree murder charge, but there are still unanswered questions.

LEE: For him to have this feeling that this is what he had to do, that's -- he wasn't thinking right.

ROESGEN: Marinello hasn't entered a plea yet and has declined to comment. Now the sportscaster who used to enjoy the spotlight is unable to avoid it.

Susan Roesgen, CNN, New Orleans.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Change your focus quite a bit now as we move on to our "Biz Break".

(MARKET REPORT)

ZAHN: So what do you think about doing when you retire?

Coming up, the amazing story of a man whose choice is the last place you might expect, and he's loving it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: When you dream of retirement, you probably don't picture yourself walking a mile through the Minnesota winter to go to school and teach every day. But you're about to meet a 78 year-old man who's on a mission.

Valerie Morris has tonight's "Life After Work".

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD SHORE, VOLUNTEER TEACHER: I may not be the most perfect person in the world here, but I feel like I'm an important person to these kids.

VALERIE MORRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Soon after Richard Shore retired, he walked into the inter-district downtown school in Minneapolis and said he wanted to volunteer. That was nearly five years ago.

SHORE: The most critical thing to do is to provide kids with assistance in learning and to hopefully enable them to experience satisfaction in learning. That's why I do it.

MORRIS: As an aid to teachers, Shore gives students that one on one support they may need to succeed. For these young minds, this special attention can go a long way. Many of these students have put aside their insecurities and are facing their schoolwork assignments head on.

SHORE: Try to enable them to appreciate that, you know, this isn't a major challenge they're going to face in their life.

MORRIS: Shore's career included many years of work for both the U.S. government and the educational system. He said he's traveled the world and now tries to bring the world to students. And that's the satisfaction this 78 year-old retiree gets every day.

SHORE: If you ask me how long I intend to do this, as long as I can take the mile and a quarter walk to school every morning and back.

MORRIS: Valerie Morris, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: He's moving pretty fast pace there.

Coming up at the top of the hour, "LARRY KING LIVE". Larry had a talk with a close friend of James Kim. Plus, amazing survival stories from other people who were trapped in the snow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Right now, we have an update for you on tonight's top science story. NASA, still planning to launch the space shuttle Discovery tonight. Lift-off is set for about 35 minutes from now. The weather has been pretty iffy all day long. Nasa says, though, at this hour it is improving. So we will keep watching it, and if and when the launch happens, we will cover it live for you.

That wraps it up for all of us here tonight.

Thanks much for joining us.

We will be back same time, same place tomorrow night. Until then have a great night.

LARRY KING LIVE starts right now.

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