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The Bill Clinton Factor; The Great New Jersey Jailbreak

Aired December 18, 2007 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: She is struggling in Iowa and turning to an ex-president for help. Tonight, the Bill Clinton factor in a very tight campaign. He is taking shots at Hillary's opponents and making headlines for doing it, but how much he is actually helping? We will look at that tonight.
And later, new details how a pair they did it, how of pair dangerous inmates turned a scene from "The Shawshank Redemption" into the means of their escape. No Hollywood ending, though -- just a big manhunt and a lot of tough questions tonight.

Also, a remarkable series of reports from CNN's Nic Robertson on patrol with troops in the war we sometimes forget is being fought, the war in Afghanistan. Tonight, you will see American soldiers being pushed to the limits by a growing enemy. And they are pushing back hard.

We begin tonight with Hillary and Bill Clinton on the campaign trail. Sixteen days until the Iowa caucuses, and Hillary Clinton find herself in a place she might not have expected. She's in a tough three-way battle.

And even though she enjoys almost universal name recognition, she doesn't quite have the star power of her opponent Barack Obama or her husband, the 42nd president of the United States. The ex-president is her biggest supporter, obviously, and is reportedly playing a larger and larger part in her campaign. And that showed today in Iowa.

CNN's Candy Crowley has the "Raw Politics."


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the daily dynamic of the campaign trail, it is like they swapped talking points. The electric urgency of the Obama campaign is set aside for somber discussion.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am running to do more than end a war in Iraq. I know that that has been the heart of our foreign policy debate over the last several years, but I'm even more interested in ending the mind-set that got us into war.

CROWLEY: While Hillary Clinton, she of the 10-point plan, trots out Magic Johnson and magic Clinton to raise her charisma quotient.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know that people have been saying, well, you know, we have got to more about her. We want to know more about her personally. And I -- I totally get that.

CROWLEY: So, while Obama discusses war and peace with his foreign policy experts, including two former Clintonites, the two "Magics" trek through Iowa to extol the virtues of Hillary Clinton.

EARVIN MAGIC JOHNSON, FORMER NBA PLAYER: It is really a blessing to be here at Central High School with probably the smartest man and the most charismatic man that I know on the face of this earth, President Clinton.


CROWLEY: Oops. And that is the problem with Hillary Clinton's husband. He is like some kind of heat-seeking missile, programmed to hit the headlines. Just yesterday, he said, when his wife gets elected, he and the first President Bush will tour the world to repair the U.S. image.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First thing she intends to do is to send me and former President Bush a number of other people around the world to tell them that America is open for business and cooperation again.

CROWLEY: Oops again. The office of the former president, father of the current architect of foreign policy, says it is the first time he has heard of this mission and he thinks it is unwarranted anyway.

Still, the central point remains. For better and for worse, Bill Clinton is looking to get back in the game, and she intends to play him. The prospect raises some questions and some interesting answers.

CROWLEY: Vice president?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. No. I promise, no. And the reason is, I mean, I think, if I don't win the nomination, the likely nominee is going to be Hillary. And I love Bill Clinton. But can you imagine being vice president?

CROWLEY: So, you think he sort of would be -- kind of take that vice presidential role; is that what you are saying, and overshadow you?


BIDEN: Oh, I don't know. It's just -- it's just this -- I think -- I think you're going to -- I think it would not be something where the next vice president is going have all that much input.

CROWLEY: They have not yet made the sale, but that is the gist of Democratic musings right now. If, as in '92, voters go for the two-for-one Clinton deal, where would anyone else fit in the equation?

Candy Crowley, CNN, Des Moines.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Joining me now, David Gergen, adviser to presidents from Nixon to Bill Clinton, CNN contributor Roland Martin, and Carl Bernstein, also a CNN contributor and not too shabby a writer either. His latest bestselling book is "A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton" -- a remarkable read, by the way.

Carl, you pointed to comments by both Hill and...

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Whatever their names are.


COOPER: ... Bill Clinton and -- and Hillary Clinton as smacking of desperation. How so?

BERNSTEIN: Well, I think what we are seeing is another kind of wild Clintonian ride, another national psychodrama, which is about how much they want this. And it is about restoration at this point in many ways.

COOPER: But do you have any doubt, though, that they want it?


COOPER: I would say it is pretty clear they want it.

BERNSTEIN: No, but it is a question of how much they want it and what they are willing to say and do to get it.

And I think even I am surprised at what I have seen in the last couple of weeks.

COOPER: Really?

BERNSTEIN: I thought that the interview that Bill Clinton gave with Charlie Rose the other night is so revealing about a kind of desperation, a kind of sliding over the facts, a kind of assault on Obama that I didn't expect to see.

And then, the next day, the subsequent video that you can see on the Web of Hillary Clinton with David Gregory just stonewalling when he asks her to comment on what Bill Clinton said. And she keeps saying, but "The Des Moines Register," they endorsed me. They have said everything that needs to be said about this.

COOPER: It's interesting.


BERNSTEIN: There -- there is something going on now that I think -- you know, look, I agree with what Hillary Clinton said there. We need to know who this woman is.

That is why I spent all these years on this book. But what we are seeing now is somebody that I'm surprised at a kind of reversion to the '92, '93 campaign that I did not expect to see that smacks of the wheels coming off the campaign a bit.

COOPER: David, months ago, Hillary Clinton was talking about experience back in the '90s. Now she is the agent of change. Does that message work for her?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: It hasn't worked very well. I would ramp down some of Carl's rhetoric. I -- I appreciate the thrust of his comments, but I would take some of the air out of them.

I think -- look, I think she is in trouble. And they are doing exactly what they have always done. And when they are in trouble, they come together and they work together as a team. I think her problem is that, when he injects himself in the campaign in this way, especially at a moment of semi-crisis, it appears that he is the power behind the skirts.

And I think that is exactly what she does not need to be elected. I think she has to be seen -- be seen and, in fact, to be doing this on her own, because that is the way she is going to have the confidence in her leadership and who she is and in her authenticity.


COOPER: Where did they come up with saying that the -- the first George Bush was going to go out campaigning -- you know, going around the world campaigning? I mean, did Bill Clinton -- is that something he just made up?


BERNSTEIN: I think we are getting to the real problem.

David, I'm interested in your thoughts on this. And that is this reversion to a problem with being straightforward and candid. And, when that becomes so obvious to people and to voters, that's when they get into great trouble.

COOPER: David, going into that. And then I have got a question for Roland.


I think, Carl, they say it as being inventive.


GERGEN: They -- but you remember Hillary Clinton said down in South Carolina that she was going to send two people around the world as her emissaries. And, at that point, she named Bill Clinton and Colin Powell. And I understand Colin Powell was sort of like caught totally by surprise by that.

So, look, I think they are acting out of the best of intentions, but I think there are two problems when Bill Clinton gets involved. I think he, A, looks like he is trying to run his -- her campaign, which I think is a real -- after all the benefit he has brought to this campaign, is not helpful. And, secondly, when he goes after opponents, that is not becoming to him. It is one thing to validate her, which he should do. It is quite another to go after Barack Obama.

COOPER: But, Roland, in terms of star power, I mean, Bill Clinton is about as good as Hillary Clinton has.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, he brings the star power.

The problem is, you cannot have your star overpower you. He has to take a back seat. She is running for president. It's also about power within the party. The Clintons have controlled the Democratic apparatus for 15 years.

I talked to several Democratic operatives today who said, you know what, we are tired of this. Imagine if Hillary Clinton becomes president. Let's assume a second term. That means the Clintons will have controlled the Democratic Party for 23 years. Her V.P. runs, another four years.

And, so, you are talking about people saying, wait a minute. For one couple to have that much control, that is what this boils down to. He needs to step aside and let her be the candidate and not overshadow her.

COOPER: David, I want to go into Mike Huckabee a little bit. His new Christmas-themed commercial has caught a lot of people's attention, coming under fire from critics who charge that, you know, the bookshelf behind him was highlighted in the shape of a cross, was meant to send a subliminal message.


COOPER: He actually responded to that today. I want to play some of what he said.


MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That was a bookshelf behind me, a bookshelf. And, so, now, I have these people saying, oh, there was a subtle message there.

Actually, I will confess this. If you play the spot backwards, it says: Paul is dead. Paul is dead. Paul is dead.


HUCKABEE: So, the next thing you will know, somebody will be playing it backwards to find out the subliminal messages that are really there in back-masking. I never cease to be amazed at the -- the manner in which people will try to dissect the simplest messages.


COOPER: It's a great, typical Huckabee response, using humor to diffuse a crisis like that, if it was actually a crisis.

Is this much ado about nothing or is, in the larger sense, Huckabee trying to send messages to religious voters, whether or not the cross was -- was subliminal or not...


COOPER: ... but messages to religious voters that don't scare off others?

GERGEN: Look, I think he is clearly doing that. I appreciate how he uses the humor to deflect.

But the truth was, the message said this that is -- in this season, this is about the celebration of Christ. It was a clear appeal, I thought none at all subtle, to the Christian voters in Iowa. He is running his ads talk him about as being a Christian leader.


GERGEN: And I think it's going to play in Iowa. I do not think it plays well on...


BERNSTEIN: It looks like a pool table on the upper left...


BERNSTEIN: ... for a game of eight ball to me.


MARTIN: You know, David, I thought him wearing his sweater more like Mr. Rodgers, and I thought he was pointing to suburban voters.

You know what? What he is also doing is, he is taking the playbook from George W. Bush in 2000, this compassionate conservative. We haven't heard that phrase in several years. And, so, he recognizes, when you have hard-liner Romney, hard-liner Giuliani, he is a softer sort of person that people -- that is appealing to some folks.


GERGEN: I agree that the softness and the authenticity are working for him, just what is not working for Hillary Clinton.

But, on the other hand, there is no question about to his appeal to Christianity and to Christian voters.

COOPER: It is interesting, though, when you compare the Huckabee as he presents himself now to some of his writings in the past. Already, we have talked about back in '92 him saying that people with HIV should be isolated. Now, in his -- the book that he wrote in 1998, we have the page he wrote. He wrote: "Abortion, environmentalism, AIDS, pornography, drug abuse, and homosexuality have fragmented and polarized our communities. It is now difficult," he went on to say, "to keep track of the vast array of publicly endorsed and institutionally supported aberrations, from homosexuality and pedophilia to sadomasochism and necrophilia."

I mean, there is this Huckabee then and Huckabee now. Are the two the same?

BERNSTEIN: I think it is all called going for the base. I think...


BERNSTEIN: I think that is pretty much what it is...


COOPER: But, I mean, he doesn't say those kind of things now.



MARTIN: Well, of course not, because he wasn't running for president then.


And, at the same time, there is a lot of that subliminal message that exists...

COOPER: Right.

BERNSTEIN: ... as Dave is indicating there.

I think what we are seeing, though, is that the essential questions in this campaign, on both sides, including whatever has gone on with McCain right now, the question of whether Bloomberg runs, which I think is one of the most interesting aspects of what is going on now, is that people seem, anecdotally and in polls, to be looking for straightforwardness, candor...

COOPER: Right.

BERNSTEIN: ... not an inauthentic approach.

COOPER: And Huckabee certainly has that...


BERNSTEIN: And that is one of the reasons for Huckabee's rise. It's one of the reasons Hillary Clinton is in trouble. It's one of the reasons Obama is doing so well and... (CROSSTALK)

BERNSTEIN: ... Bloomberg has got a future.

COOPER: The question is, the more they learn of -- the more they learn about Huckabee's record and past statements, will that jibe with that authenticity that we're speaking -- it remains to be seen.


MARTIN: It always changes when you learn more about a particular person. But he has no choice but to ride the wave, just like Obama will throw out there, I want to keep it real.

COOPER: We're going to have to leave it there.

Carl Bernstein, great to see you.

Roland Martin, as well.

David Gergen.

Gentlemen, thank you. Interesting discussion.

Up next, what the people already in Washington are up to. They are getting ready to leave town, but not before cranking out a colossal budget bill packed with hidden spending. Tonight, we are following the money.


COOPER (voice-over): Half-a-trillion dollars of your money, going once, going twice, gone, half-a-trillion tax dollars, thousands of pages, thousands of pork projects -- did anyone read it before spending your money? We are. We're "Keeping Them Honest."

Also tonight: Was it an inside job? How could a pair of thugs escape from prison without anyone noticing? We will take you inside their prison cell in "Crime and Punishment' tonight.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And welcome back to New York from CNN global world headquarters.

COOPER: We will be back after this short break.



COOPER: On the program tonight...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For Tuesday December 18, 2007. Here he is, your host -- we know him, we love him -- gun metal gray -- Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: Kevin, what are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I heard that NBC hired Michael Douglas to do their announcements. So, I thought I would give it a shot.

COOPER: It's very kind of you. I appreciate it. But I don't think -- you are a great stage manager. I don't think it's going to work out for announcing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, thank you for the opportunity.

COOPER: All right. Any time.

If you read my blog today, you know we are pretty disappointed around here, because our big plans to have a celebrity announcer have been overshadowed by NBC's big hiring of Michael Douglas.

We are moving ahead, though, since we thought of it first, Brian Williams, and have narrowed down the list to three finalists, Clint Eastwood, Paul Reubens, AKA Pee-wee Herman, and my personal favorite, Fran Drescher.

Now, we did get some excellent suggestions today on the blog. Some readers suggested Arnold Schwarzenegger. We also got a suggestion for Rosie Perez. I think that would be very a calm, neutral voice. And author Stephen Hawking, that came from a reader as well. Not sure about that one.

We have a blue-ribbon panel going over all the suggestions. And we will let you know when we make a decision. You can check out more about our search for a celebrity announcer on

Well, now to Capitol Hill and a story we have been following all year, congressional earmarks. Some are legitimate spending requests, no doubt about it. Others, though, are pure pork, which lawmakers love to hide deep inside spending bills.

Back in January, Democrats promised to end all the secrecy and uncover the pork. But they didn't promise to make it easy. And with Christmas just a week away, tonight, Congress is wrapping up a bill so huge, it is almost impossible to decipher. And that is no accident. The bill is packed with stocking stuffers.

CNN's Joe Johns tonight is "Keeping Them Honest."


JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was supposed to be different this time around. Earmarks, the special projects for the folks back home, were supposed to be in plain view. The idea was to put things like money for bee research in Texas or for the Father's Day rally in Philadelphia out in the open, so everybody could see them. And, this time, they are, technically.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: As clear as the noon day sun in a cloudless sky.

JOHNS (on camera): But there is a problem. "Keeping Them Honest," 9,000 earmarks worth billions of dollars and who knows what else are literally buried in an enormous piece of legislation known as an omnibus spending bill. It's 3,500 pages long. It's being slammed through, so Congress can go home for the holidays.

STEVE ELLIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF PROGRAMS, TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE: This is a ridiculous way to run the government. And, you know, we were in this exact same position last year.

JOHNS (voice-over): Do you know how long it takes to read a 3,500-page document full of mind-numbing legalese mumbo jumbo? Maybe a speed-reader could do it, but most people on Capitol Hill probably don't have a clue what is in this thing. And guess what? They are voting on it.

ELLIS: There's going to be errors and there's going to be buried treasure that we are not going to know about until much later and after Congress is already having their holiday punch.

JOHNS: We didn't print out the entire bill because we had a deadline to make, but we got about 1,000 pages or so, just to give you feel. Basically, what the government is doing with this is spending half-a-trillion dollars of your money.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: When you have a bill of 3,500 pages, you can find a few reasons to vote for the bill and you can probably find a whole lot of reasons to vote against the bill.

JOHNS: Now this stack of paper is being used as a political weapon. Republicans are trying to whack the Democrats for their handling of the spending bill. The Democratic response? Most of the specific provisions of these bills have already been debated and approved.

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MAJORITY LEADER: That is four-and-a- half months to review the overwhelming majority of the substance of these bills.

JOHNS: Still, budget watchdogs say, it could be weeks or months before we know what was buried in the bill. And only a select few did know before it went to the president's desk.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Well, as regular viewers will know, we have been covering this story all year. It is something we take very seriously. And we are proud of the work our reporters have done. Just this month, 360 and CNN's Drew Griffin won a business and financial reporting Emmy for his investigation of more than 32,000 earmarks. At one point, he and a bunch of interns called every member of the House, every member of the Senate for their list of earmarks to find out who would actually admit what earmarks they had recommended. Only a handful of senators and congressmen actually were willing to do that.

All the pork added up to more than $29 billion. And that is your tax dollars. That's why we're going to keep on "Keeping Them Honest."

A number of quick stories to tell you about.

Randi Kaye has got the 360 bulletin -- Randi.


Prosecutors in Aruba have dropped the case against three suspects in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway. The Alabama teenager has been missing now since May 2005, but her body has never been found. The suspects were re-arrested last month. And authorities claimed to have new evidence against them. But, today, an appeals court ruled that the evidence wasn't sufficient and ordered the three young men released.

In Nicaragua, the lawyer for an American cleared of murder yesterday by an appeals court has filed papers demanding his client's immediate release. Eric Volz was convicted in February of murdering his former girlfriend and received a 30-year sentence. Yesterday's ruling reversed the decision, but 28-year-old Volz remains behind bars. His lawyer says the judge who sentenced Volz back in February is stalling on signing documents needed for his release.

And now take a look at this. Researchers have discovered two new species of mammals in a remote jungle in Indonesia, a giant rat and a tiny possum. The rat actually is five times the size of a typical city rat and apparently has no fear of humans. How scary is that? Well, scientists the possum is one of the world's smallest marsupials.

I'm glad they are over there in Indonesia. That's all I can say.

COOPER: Well, I have got to tell you, Randi Kaye, for -- I'm a lifelong New Yorker. And I have met a lot of rats in this city that have no fear of humans as well.


COOPER: It's pretty scary.

KAYE: Even scarier.

COOPER: Thankfully, they are not quite that big.


COOPER: Stick around, Randi. "What Were They Thinking?" is next.

Did you hear what happened to a Santa in Connecticut who was on the job when things turned naughty? We will leave it at that. But we are told Mrs. Claus might be ready to sue. We will tell you what happened ahead.

Also ahead, a prison escape that took its cue straight from Hollywood. We will show you how those two cons facing hard time broke free in plain sight -- next on 360.


COOPER: Time now for "What Were They Thinking?"

Randi is back with me.

Randi, you might think that working as a Santa in a shopping mall is a pretty safe job. You might have to deal with some crying kids.

KAYE: Yes.

COOPER: That's to be expected, but not this.

A Santa at a Danbury, Connecticut, mall was allegedly molested over the weekend. He was apparently groped -- that's right, groped -- by an adult woman while she sat on his lap. The 65-year-old Santa, as you can imagine, was shocked. He is not talking on camera. But other Santas are outraged. And they are speaking out.

Here is what one had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is something that should not be ignored, nor should it be something that you condone or laugh or chuckle about.


COOPER: The woman who took liberties with the Danbury Santa was charged with sexual assault and breach of peace, both misdemeanors.

No comment from Mrs. Claus either.


KAYE: I don't know. You know, you are supposed to sit on Santa's lap and ask for what you want, right? Not just take it, like she did.

COOPER: Apparently, yes.

KAYE: She just went for it.

COOPER: Yes. And now she is being charged.

Randi, thanks for that. Up next, a prison break right out of a Hollywood script. We told you last night about the criminals who scraped their way out of their cell. Well, tonight, new details about how they pulled it off and who they say helped them.

Also ahead tonight, an exclusive look at American troops on the front lines of the forgotten war, Afghanistan -- coming up.


COOPER: Well, somewhere tonight, two dangerous, violent, but certainly creative inmates are on the loose. They broke out of a New Jersey jail a few days ago with the kind of ingenuity made famous in "The Shawshank Redemption," the film that is on cable more than "Law & Order."

Before they left, the two prisoners left a message for the guards. And let's just say it was in the holiday spirit.

CNN's Jason Carroll has the story and a look inside the cell.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jose Espinosa was looking at 17 years for manslaughter. Otis Blunt was facing robbery and weapons charges. Together, they hatched a plan to chip their way out of doing hard time.

THEODORE ROMANKOW, UNION COUNTY, NEW JERSEY, PROSECUTOR: I'm angry that two prisoners would escape a secure facility and not even know when they did it.

CARROLL: Guards noticed both inmates missing from their high- security cells at the Union County Jail at 5:15 p.m. Saturday. They found this metal wire and say they believe Blunt used it as a tool to chip away a hole into Espinosa's adjoining cell.

Then they used it to chisel an 18-inch-wide hole from Espinosa's cell to the outside. The holes were concealed with pinup posters.

If their plan sounds a little familiar, that's because that's basically what a character in the critically acclaimed film "The Shawshank Redemption" did to escape.

ROMANKOW: I really prefer not to compare it with any movie, although I can understand why you might, because it does -- to a certain degree, it does look very similar to some of them, except I think, in "Shawshank Redemption," they had a better poster on the wall.

CARROLL: In the movie, the character crawls through a sewer pipe to freedom. Blunt and Espinosa took a different path. The hole they created opened up to third-floor landing. And once outside, authorities say they presumably took a running jump 15 feet out, clearing a razor-wire fence and landing 30 feet below. The duo left a note to a guard reading: "Thank you, officer, for the tools needed. You're a real pal. Happy holidays."

It was marked with a smiley face.


COOPER: This story is unbelievable.

Any idea where these folks went to?

CARROLL: Well, obviously, investigators right now are conducting a statewide search. They are going to be looking obviously at their hometowns. Both of them are from south New Jersey. So, they will be looking in some of those areas to try to see if they can get some leads.

COOPER: They -- they think they split up, though.

CARROLL: Absolutely, because right outside that cell, they noticed their footprints -- both those footprints going in opposite directions.


CARROLL: So, that's one of the leads they're going to be looking at.

COOPER: Fascinating.

Jason, thanks for the report.

A quick program note: tomorrow on 360, the shocking truth about hundreds of millions of tax dollars, your money, that Texas was supposed to spend on victims of Hurricane Rita, but hasn't. It's been more than two years now.

And Randi Kaye is "Keeping Them Honest." Here is a preview.


KAYE (voice-over): The numbers are staggering. After Hurricane Rita, nearly 500 million federal dollars targeted for housing and infrastructure repair were sent to Texas. But only a fraction, $1.1 million, has actually been spent on rebuilding homes. That is less than one-tenth-of-one-percent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my little house.

KAYE: This 69-year-old grandmother from Sabine Pass has been living in this FEMA trailer since the storm.

(on camera): So, your house used to be right out there?


KAYE: Wow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It used to be right out there in the front.

KAYE: Helena Saunders (ph) can't afford to rebuild on her own. In all this time, she hasn't gotten a single dollar from the state.


COOPER: Unbelievable. It's not just Hurricane Katrina. It's Hurricane Rita as well.

Don't miss Randi's report tomorrow on 360.

Tonight, though, we take you to one of the most dangerous places on Earth, Afghanistan's Hindu Kush Mountains, home to a platoon of brave American soldiers fighting for you and me and sheer survival.


COOPER (voice-over): On the tip of the sphere....

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You heard them being shot at you, but you had no idea where they were.

COOPER: ... in a corner of Afghanistan where the war could be won or lost and the enemy threatened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were outnumbered and we were surrounded.

COOPER: A day in the dangerous life of the Bulldawg Company, unsung soldiers of the Forgotten War.

Also tonight, slumping markets, mortgage meltdowns. They're threatening the economy and your job. So why are some of these guys getting billions of dollars in bonuses? Ahead on 360.



COOPER: We told you earlier about the enormous spending Bill being pushed through Congress. It's more than half a trillion dollars. Of that amount, some $31 billion would go toward the war in Afghanistan.

And in Afghanistan today it was reported Taliban killed 15 Afghans guarding a U.S. military contractor convoy.

For some Americans serving there, it is the Forgotten War. We're making sure, though, that they are not forgotten. I've gone to Afghanistan a couple times in the past two years. And tonight, we take you once again to the frontlines there to show you the tip of the spear, one of the most dangerous assignments for U.S. troops. It is an incredible story of courage under fire and a story we think will stay with you.

The Forgotten War, up close tonight with CNN's Nic Robertson.


ALEX NEWSOM, BULLDAWG COMPANY: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) We're moving around the eastside of the camp right now.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: High in Afghanistan's Hindu Kush Mountains, Lieutenant Alex Newsom leads his platoon...

NEWSOM: Ten feet outside the wire movement.

ROBERTSON: ... on a hunt for Taliban and al Qaeda.

NEWSOM: Are you OK?

ROBERTSON: The air is thin. The peaks so steep the soldiers struggle under heavy body armor, weapons and ammunition.

Less than 15 miles from the border with Pakistan, Newsom and his men are at the far edge of the war on terror.

NEWSOM: The only thing to get anything done appears from the high ground. Down there on the road, by the river, you're just a target.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get your rifle.

Get your hands up!

ROBERTSON: Their tiny base, surrounded by mountains...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They got one on top of the building right here, too.

ROBERTSON: ... is a magnet for insurgent attacks, hit regularly by rocket and sniper fire.

They are so remote they can only be resupplied by helicopter. Ammunition competes with food. Soldiers get only two cooked meals a day. They've never had their full ration of ammunition, and their Humvees are lighter, with less armor, because the helicopters can't carry the heavier version, making them more vulnerable to attack.

These are the men of Bulldawg Company, thousands of miles from home, nearly a year to go in their 15-month tour. Their leader, Captain Tom Bostick (ph).

NEWSOM: He's a take-charge kind of guy and definitely the kind of man that a lot of us saw as invincible. You know? The kind of guy, if he's out there, you're going to be fine.

ROBERTSON: But on July 27, just after daybreak, as Captain Tom Bostick (ph) led his men on a routine patrol, they aren't so sure.

SGT. JOHN WILSON, BULLDAWG COMPANY: I was feeling kind of apprehensive that day.

ROBERTSON: Sergeant Wilson has a bad feeling as they head eight miles from their base to the tiny village of Saret Koleh, a few scattered huts next to a fast river in a narrow, steep-sided valley.

WILSON: Part of our mission, a subtask, was to go into the village of Saret Koleh and conduct a village assessment. Basically, talk to all of the elders.

ROBERTSON: The other part of their mission, to check out intel reports that insurgents were planning an attack.

WILSON: We heard that there was something like 100 fighters, you know, just to the southwest.

ROBERTSON: Bostick (ph) and his men set up a stakeout, placing 40 U.S. and 30 Afghan national army, ANA, soldiers strategically around the village. Newsom stands by with a quick reaction force of 15 more solders. But soon they learn their enemy is dug into the mountains, too.

LT. JOHN MEYER, BULLDAWG COMPANY: Within 30 minutes of actually leaving Saret Koleh, the first actual round was fired. It was awfully quick.

WILSON: You heard them shooting at you, but you had no idea where they were.

ROBERTSON: Sergeant Wilson and four others head up to mountain to find them. Sergeant William Frischy (ph) (ph), who just joined the platoon -- this is his first mission since arriving -- is out front. They discover tracks that show insurgents are all around them.

NEWSOM: There's one in far most (ph) with an AK out there. These are trained fighters. They knew what they were doing.

MEYER: We were outnumbered and we were surrounded. We had RPGs being fired every couple of seconds at us. They're pinging off the turf, hitting off the doors.

ROBERTSON: Even high above, soldiers on lookout are being attacked from both sides of the valley. And below, Meyer's platoon is pinned down, too.

MEYER: We had fighters spread across probably 500 meters on the north base engaging us. So it was not just fighting against the north face. It was north, northwest and the northeast. We had two U.S. platoons plus ANA, all -- all basically pinned down.

ROBERTSON: Newsom's reaction force is ordered into the fight. The enemy is gaining the upper hand.

NEWSOM: They knew what they were doing. It seemed like they had a plan. And it even seemed like they were tightening their noose around us.

ROBERTSON: Captain Joey Hutto is monitoring the situation from their secure base 15 miles away.

CAPTAIN JOEY HUTTO, BULLDAWG COMPANY: You feel helpless at times, because you can only sit there and listen to a radio.

ROBERTSON: He didn't know it then, but, he, too would be heading into the battle.

(on camera) By now their enemy was circling around them, trying to cut off their exit, close in for the kill. If they didn't get out soon, then the situation could get a whole lot worse.


COOPER: Man. The men of Bulldawg Company realize they're surrounded on all sides, a classic ambush. See what happens next when Nic's exclusive report continues after the break.

And a little later, worries on Wall Street. A mortgage meltdown, but have you heard how much some bankers are making in bonuses this holiday season? Not sure if it will make you mad or jealous or maybe both. Stick around.


COOPER: Well, before the break we told you part of the story of the men of Bulldawg Company. As you saw, they were coming under fire from all sides in Afghanistan. The enemy seemed everywhere and at the same time nowhere.

Through it all, these heroes were determined to finish the mission, defend each other and get their brothers home.

Once again, the Forgotten War, up close with CNN's Nic Robertson.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): The shooting comes from everywhere. Captain Tom Bostick (ph) and his men are being fired on from every direction.

MEYER: We had fighters to the north, to the south, to the east and to the west.

ROBERTSON: Sergeant Wilson's squad is higher up the mountain but is also taking fire and trying to make his way down to safety. They almost run into insurgents dressed as Afghan army soldiers.

WILSON: I come up on three guys in a cave. They're about 15 meters away. I almost yelled out, "Hey, hey, hey." And I just kind of stopped. And I just was like, wait a minute. These guys aren't looking in my direction. If they were security, they'd be looking at me. They're paying attention to the guys on the road. These are bad guys. We need to kill them.

So we took those three guys down.

ROBERTSON: An hour and a half into the battle they know they need help. Air support comes to their rescue. WILSON: At that point two big 500-pound bombs got dropped. I heard the bomb coming in, and it hit and it just rocked my world like, you know, I went deaf.

ROBERTSON: As they get up, another insurgent appears.

WILSON: That was when Frischy (ph) got shot. It was, like, two rounds. Yes, he was right in front of me. I saw him get hit. And it was kind of unreal at the moment. To me, that was the first time I had really seen death.

ROBERTSON: The men have no time to mourn. They are under attack.

WILSON: When I was up there, I had this horrible feeling you're trained and trained and trained to never leave a guy behind. Here you are in a situation where your choices are to leave a guy behind or to die with him.

ROBERTSON: They choose to move.

Down in the valley, Newsom's quick reaction force makes it in and takes fire.

SPC. MICHAEL DEL SOTO, BULLDAWG COMPANY: They swarmed us, and I was engaging a target. It was a 360 ambush.

ROBERTSON: The men suddenly realized their company commander, Captain Bostick (ph), hasn't been heard on the radio. They continue their firefight. At the same time, they begin a search. When they find him, he's dead.

NEWSOM: As we were putting his body in it really hit me the hardest. You know, oh, what do we do? But we had the situation under control. I mean, we just kept going. You go with the momentum of the situation, and you just don't stop.

ROBERTSON: And now the valley is a kill zone. Meyer and Newsom's two lightly-armored Humvees are full of wounded soldiers.

MEYER: I was scared like everyone else was out there. We had soldiers, you know, getting shot or getting blown up. I mean, it was happening, probably, you know, one guy a minute was getting hit. Every time we tried to move there was another person shot. It got so bad I had eight casualties in my vehicle.

ROBERTSON: Their only escape, to hide behind their Humvees.

WILSON: It is a real helpless feeling, because you're just kind of out there in the open. I just kind of accepted it. I'm just waiting to get shot, basically. From about 200 meters and that's when stuff really started to get bad. We took a whole bunch of casualties. They pounded us with RPGs.

ROBERTSON: But with Newsom's quick reaction force adding crucial firepower, and air support preventing the insurgents from advancing, the soldiers in their Humvees gradually back out of the valley, still taking fire from all sides.

Seven hours after the first shots were fired, Bulldawg makes it out.

Seven U.S. soldiers are wounded; two are dead. The Afghans lost even more.

(voice-over) They were out of the kill zone, but Sergeant Frischy's (ph) body was still on the mountainside, where they'd been forced to leave him. They had to go back.

(on camera) They go back in on foot, the insurgents now gone.

WILSON: It was real humbling, too, when we found Sergeant Frischy's (ph) body. He was laying down where he had been killed, and his arms were like this across his chest. I had totally expected his body to be gone. And just kind of show that there is humanity on both sides.

ROBERTSON: Bulldawg Company held together, despite the heavy losses.

HUTTO: As a troop as a whole, it would have been easy for them to collapse. I think, due to Tom's leadership, he had built a dynasty here. Every platoon leader seemed to understood their mission. They continued with their mission. They knew exactly what they had to do.

ROBERTSON: Their commanding officers called them heroes, but these soldiers say they were just looking out for each other.

WILSON: I don't feel like a hero. I just feel like I was there. I got put in a bad place, and I got out of it the best I could.

ROBERTSON: But there is frustration. Without enough resources, they feel forgotten and hope their brothers' lives won't be.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Forward Operating Base Keating (ph), Afghanistan.


COOPER: And we should never forget all those who are serving overseas in Iraq and especially Afghanistan, a war that is forgotten too much by the media.

Up next, holiday bonuses that will blow your mind. What some on Wall Street are finding in their stockings this season.

Also, here is the before picture, yes, but wait until you see a new shot of Michael Jackson. What he looks like now. Kind of shocking. We'll show you that in a moment.

And the moment you have all been waiting for. That's right, Journey names a new lead singer. Woo! When 360 returns.


COOPER: If you're looking for folks who are doing a heck of a job, Brownie, you don't have to look much farther than Wall Street. There you'll find some of the crew that cooked up ways to turn risky mortgages into securities to sell.

Then, just before the bottom fell out, some of the same wizards bought billions of dollars of their own junk paper. They lost a fortune. CEOs got canned. Stockholders took a bath. And the economy may tank because of it all.

So how is it today that the investment bankers at Goldman Sachs just announced salaries optioned and bonuses totaling $20.2 billion for 2007? That's right, $20.2 billion in bonuses. That's an average of $661,000 per employee.

Here to explain, CNN senior business correspondent Ali Velshi.

Goldman Sachs has actually a pretty good track record. It's the gold standard.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It the gold standard of Wall Street. And while all of these other investment banks were busy losing money and buying their own junk paper, Goldman actually made some very smart financial bets in a really bad market.

COOPER: The CEO gets a pay package of, like, $70 million.

VELSHI: That's what's reported. Lloyd Blankfein might make $70 million, but that is about as high as it gets in the world that we understand. There's a whole hedge fund world out there where people are making ten times that money. So it's kind of interesting.

And what we see as a difficult economy with people losing their homes, there are still a lot of people making a lot of money on Wall Street, because there are still deals being made. It's a good lesson to everybody: there's money to be made even in the worst economy.

COOPER: I don't -- I mean, I don't pretend to know this stuff. I don't pretend to know about hedge funds. But how does someone who's running a hedge fund make close to $1 billion? I mean, what do you actually do that earns you $1 billion?

VELSHI: These folks on Wall Street are making money on deals, companies being sold to other companies, stocks being bought. They're making money coming and going. So when we see a market going down 500 points, someone is still making money on all those trades, commissions, investing in companies, private equity, taking companies and making them private.

There's been a lot of business out there. So when we see a rough market or a rough economy, remember that those are always transactions, and someone is making money on all of these. They're making money on the upside and the downside. And this is what we are seeing. COOPER: So the average -- it averages out for Goldman Sachs to $660,000 or some odd to employees. I mean, the receptionists don't...

VELSHI: No. These are analysts and higher. And it's about 60 percent of that number is what the bonus is. So these people go in with a salary, and they expect those bonuses.

COOPER: So the trickle down theory doesn't really work to the receptionists?

VELSHI: Not all the way down.

COOPER: Not all the way down on Wall Street. All right. Ali Velshi, thanks.


COOPER: "The Shot of the Day" is coming up. Seem to recognize him. Michael Jackson under a whole lot of bandages. The story of the photo that we can't show you right now, just ahead.

But first, Randi Kaye joins us with the "360 Bulletin" -- Randi. There it is.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There he is. That's not Randi Kaye. OK, here I am, Anderson.

Tomorrow morning, a judge will grill Justice Department lawyers about CIA interrogation videotapes. They showed the interrogation of two al Qaeda suspects. The judge will determine if the Justice Department violated a court order to safeguard evidence of torture, mistreatment and abuse of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

The Justice Department says the videos aren't covered by the order, because the terror suspects were held in secret CIA prisons, not at Gitmo.

Also tomorrow, President Bush is expected to sign a new energy Bill into law. It was approved by Congress today. Car makers will have to boost fuel efficiency by 40 percent to an average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020.

It also requires a six-fold increase in ethanol plus new efficiency standards for appliances and the lighting of commercial and government buildings.

Well, the days of "Jimmy Kimmel" reruns are numbered. Despite the Hollywood writers' strike, the late-night talk show host will be back on live TV next month, following the footsteps of Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien.

And the rock band Journey has found a new lead singer on YouTube. Arnel Pineda of the Philippines was discovered by Journey's guitarist -- get this -- after watching hours and hours of clips of the guy on YouTube. The guitarist, Neal Schon, admits it took some convincing to get Pineda to believe him that he wasn't an imposter and the band really did want this guy. Only that easy.

COOPER: Was he one of those guys in the Philippine jail that were dancing to "Thriller"? Probably not.

KAYE: He might be.

COOPER: I don't think so.

Randi, stay right there. "The Shot" is coming up. Michael Jackson has resurfaced, and he doesn't look anything like that. In fact, it's a whole new look. We're not sure exactly how that happened, but we'll try to figure out when 360 continues.


COOPER: Well, Randi, lock the doors, hold onto the kids, because "The Shot" today is -- duh, duh-duh-duh -- Michael Jackson.

This photo was taken Friday in Las Vegas, showing a family outings to Barnes & Noble. If you look closely, those appear to be bandages or industrial-size Band-Aids on his face. They're actually very scary.

Michael's rep said he did not get more plastic surgery. No!

KAYE: No, of course not.

COOPER: But offered no other explanation. Now, really, no explanation is needed. Just in case you forgot what Michael Jackson looked like back in the day, let's refresh your memory.

KAYE: How could we forget?

COOPER: That's Michael Jackson. And then let's look at the transformation. That's Michael Jackson. Then and now. It's amazing what diet and exercise can accomplish.

Now, Michael's new look reminded us of someone, and all day long, we've been trying to figure out who it is. Now, first we thought maybe it was this guy, "The English Patient."

KAYE: That's a good call.

COOPER: Yes. Well, it's a bad photo of "The English Patient."

Then we thought it was this man, the Invisible Man.

KAYE: There it is.

COOPER: But then we realized Michael Jackson is now trying to look like Liam Neeson as Darkman.

KAYE: That's the one.

COOPER: There it is, exactly.

KAYE: That's it right there. He's really morphed into "Thriller," though, I have to say.

COOPER: I think it's Liam Neeson as Darkman. Not Liam Neeson as he is in real life, because he looks nothing like that.

KAYE: Right.

COOPER: Anyway, just to his friends and family, in case they're watching up. As they often do.

Up next on 360, Billary is back in business. Well, the former president is feeling the heat in Iowa. The former president is stepping in. Will Bill Clinton's higher profile role in the campaign help or hurt his wife? Our experts weigh in after the break. We'll be right back.


COOPER: She is struggling in Iowa and turning to an ex-president for help. Tonight the Bill Clinton factor in a very tight campaign. He's taking shots at Hillary's opponents and making headlines for doing it, but how much is he actually helping? We'll look at that tonight.