Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Crunch Time for Senators Clinton and Obama; Up Close with Former President Bill Clinton; McCain on the Campaign Trail in Ohio; The Smiley Face Murders
Aired May 1, 2008 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, crunch time for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama just days before a pair of make-or-break primaries. We have got new evidence that Democrats know who the winner will be, but aren't sure if they like the answer.
Also, a shocker -- a high-powered superdelegate switching sides from Clinton to Obama. He now equates support for Hillary Clinton with support for John McCain. We will talk about that.
And, later, we will look at, where is Bill Clinton, the most gifted campaigner of his time? So, why isn't he front and center? Why is he standing in the back of a pickup truck talking to a tiny crowd? Tonight, we track down the president on the campaign trail, but far away from the national media spotlight.
And, also, a smiley face on a wall, is that the calling card of a team of serial killers? A pair of retired cops say they have got the evidence to prove it and connect it to dozens of murders -- "Crime and Punishment" tonight.
We begin, though, with new signs the Democratic Party is split right down the middle over who should be their nominee, with new signs as well that the race could be at a tipping point, and a new call to end it now, before the party tears itself to pieces.
First, take a look at this. Democrats, by a 20-point margin, say they believe Barack Obama will be the Democratic nominee, that according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll. Yet, ask registered Democrats who they want to get the nomination, and it's 46- 45 Obama, a statistical tie, and serious erosion from his earlier numbers -- a dead heat, with Indiana and perhaps even North Carolina now growing tighter.
Yet, somehow, he keeps racking up more superdelegates, even taking today one away from her. Why is that? And where do the candidates stand just days away from two more crucial primaries?
CNN's Candy Crowley has the "Raw Politics."
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: A psychological boost and a superdelegate for a beleaguered campaign.
JOE ANDREW, FORMER DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I'm changing my support from Senator Clinton to Senator Obama.
CROWLEY: Joe Andrew is not just another switch-hitter. He's an Indiana native who Bill Clinton once picked to lead the Democratic National Committee. Andrew says Obama's opposition to temporarily lifting the federal tax on gas is emblematic of a guy who really could change Washington.
ANDREW: Barack Obama took on the heavy and difficult political task of doing what is right on an energy policy and an environmental policy, and not what is politically expedient in order to give a quick pander to Hoosier voters.
CROWLEY: Not that anyone needs a road map, but he was talking about Hillary Clinton, who does support a summer holiday from the gas tax.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama says we shouldn't do it, and it's a gimmick. And Senator McCain says we should do it, but we shouldn't pay for it. I sometimes feel like the Goldilocks of this campaign.
Not too much, not too little, just right.
CROWLEY: The gas price debate has emerged as part of the competition for the working-class vote. Obama argues, lifting taxes, even for a short period of time, would drain an enormous amount of money from the fund that fixes roads and bridges, while the average consumer would save just $30 over the summer.
A number of leading economists agree with Obama, adding that the tax holiday could encourage Americans to drive more, increasing demand, decreasing supply, driving up prices. On the politics of it, he's trying to use the issue to paint her as just another politician, say anything, do anything to get elected.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: After John McCain made the proposal, I guess, Senator Clinton thought it was going to poll well, so she said, me too. I will do the same thing.
And, so, now it's the McCain/Clinton proposal.
CROWLEY: Clinton says her program doesn't touch the money set aside for Highway repairs and any relief is better than no relief. Politically, she sees this as a way to frame him as an out-of-touch elitist.
H. CLINTON: But I find it frankly a little offensive that people who don't have to worry about filling up their gas tank or what they buy when they go to the supermarket think that it's somehow illegitimate to provide relief for the millions and millions of Americans who are on the brink of losing their jobs, unable to keep up with their daily expenses.
CROWLEY: The only problem is, neither one of them is going to be president this summer. This is not about reality. It's about politics. (END VIDEOTAPE)
COOPER: Well, imagine that, all about politics.
How big of a deal is this, Joe Andrew changing sides?
CROWLEY: Listen, he's one superdelegate. His vote matters as much as anyone else's, but no more so.
But, listen -- look at the poll numbers today, where you see that Barack Obama is slipping. We have gone with Reverend Wright for the last six days. This is a good kind of, you know, tearing up the headline and having one of your own.
Obviously, this is someone who was with Clinton, someone who knows the Clintons, someone who was appointed by a Clinton or selected, at least, to head the Democratic Party.
So, there is a real boost here in terms of perception. And, as you know, as we have talked about before, there's a lot of perception in politics.
COOPER: There sure is. Candy, stick around. We're going to talk to you more with our panel later.
In addition to Joe Andrew, at least 11 superdelegates have pledged allegiance to one candidate or the other this week. They are picking up the pace.
And, as CNN's Tom Foreman reports, they are being courted like never before. Take a look.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the superdelegates who have declared a choice have not been moving much lately, a little bit, but not much. They started out this year favoring Hillary Clinton massively. Now, however, her lead is down to about 20 people and sticking pretty much around there.
So, the number that really matters is this one, the undeclared. And this group actually contains two subgroups with different motivations guiding their decision.
The first is all the Democratic governors, representatives and senators. Eighty of those folks are undeclared. We don't know which way they are going to go. So far, members of this group have favored Obama, just barely. Look at the numbers right there. The rest are expected to follow this trend, because many serve in states that Obama has won, and they don't want to go against the will of the voters, because, frankly, those are the voters that they will need for their own reelections.
So, Clinton's main target is the other group, superdelegates who have a vote because the party considers them important Democratic activists at the state or national level. About 200 of these people are undeclared at this point.
And when you look at those who have declared, you can see that she was winning that group quite handily. They are more likely to be concerned about this question of electability, which candidate can beat John McCain in November.
And this is the group Clinton is pounding on over Obama's preacher problems. Now, all of that said, however, you have to know that, undeniably, this remains an uphill battle for Clinton. Remember, Obama is ahead in the popular vote, the delegate count, and states won.
So, many experienced political analysts and reporters believe the bulk of the undeclared superdelegates are leaning his way, and they are just waiting for him to win a couple more states, so they can say the voters have spoken, and now we will, too -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Tom Foreman watching the superdelegates -- thanks, Tom.
A lot more politics ahead. As always, we're blogging throughout the hour, Erica and I. To join the conversation, go to cnn/360.
Up next: new numbers on what voters think of Bill Clinton. That may explain why he's not exactly front and center in this campaign. We're up close on the stump with him.
And we're digging deeper with our panel as well, Candy Crowley, John King, and David Gergen.
Later tonight, 40 people dead in 11 states, police want to know if they are all linked to a serial killing spree where the murderer leaves behind a very bizarre sign, a smiley face. That's the theory. We will check the facts -- "Crime and Punishment" tonight on 360.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: There's still an energy and a passion among his -- his supporters. And people are coming on board every single day. So, yes, absolutely, he can win. And, yes, absolutely, I think he's the person that needs to lead this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was Michelle Obama in an exclusive CNN interview speaking out for the first time since her husband's speech denouncing his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright.
Mrs. Obama says she's confident Barack Obama can win the Democratic nomination. But a new CNN/Opinion Research poll out tonight shows Senator Obama has slipped a bit. His favorable rating has fallen two points to 56 percent, while his unfavorable rating has climbed seven points, to 38 percent. Senator Clinton's favorable rating has fallen one point, to 51 percent, while her unfavorable number is up two points, at 46.
Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, is not a candidate, of course, but he's definitely part of the battle. His favorable -- his favorable rating is at 53 percent, two points higher than his wife's, unfavorable 43 percent, three points lower than his wife's.
Now, those numbers may help explain why Bill Clinton, controversial as he may be, remains a crucial surrogate on the trail. He is avoiding the national media right now, but is all over the map, talking to voters, sometimes in small groups.
CNN's Gary Tuchman spent the last two days with Bill Clinton. Tonight, we take you up close.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Bill Clinton, who some have seen as a loose cannon and occasionally even a political liability as he has stumped for his wife, is now on a whirlwind campaign tour. And he's staying relatively low-profile.
Within a 36-hour period, Clinton greeted throngs in the North Carolina city of Whiteville --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The 42nd president of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton.
TUCHMAN: -- and the Indiana city of Whiting. The man from Hope reminisced to the people of Hope Mills, North Carolina.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I was president, we had lots of millionaires, but the bottom 20 percent of earners increased their earnings in percentage terms more than the top 5 percent.
TUCHMAN: And gushed about his wife in somebody's front yard in Lumberton, North Carolina.
B. CLINTON: I would be here for her if she asked me if we had never been married.
TUCHMAN: And when he got to the North Carolina town of Dunn, Bill Clinton was nowhere near done.
B. CLINTON: This is my fourth stop today.
TUCHMAN: Thirteen campaign stop in a day-and-a-half in three states, North Carolina, West Virginia, and here in Indiana -- Bill Clinton is the cheerleader in chief for Hillary Clinton.
B. CLINTON: And, if somebody tells you, you can't win, it's because they know you can.
TUCHMAN: Bill Clinton's aides feel comments he's made during this campaign about Barack Obama and race have been unfairly interpreted. Campaign volunteers do their best to keep news cameras far away when he shakes hands, even telling police to kick us out of a public area.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need you to move back.
TUCHMAN: Well, why?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because you were told. Move back.
TUCHMAN: In all his stops during this crucial time, Clinton seldom makes any references at all to Barack Obama, although this implicit one was a zinger.
B. CLINTON: She's going to end this thing roaring, and what are they going to say if she wins the popular vote? I'm sorry we're going to give it to the caucus states that are going Republican in November?
TUCHMAN: At times, it feels like he's running for a third term. After all, how many political spouses get handed the proverbial baby?
Would you rather see him as president or his wife as president?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I vote for a co-presidency between the two of them, the Billary presidency. Hey!
TUCHMAN: Right now, Bill Clinton seems to be staying on message, and away from potential controversy, and cracks himself up when talking about his daughter, Chelsea.
B. CLINTON: She was asked, do you think your mother will be a better president than your father? And she said, well, sure I do.
So, I called her. And I thought she would say, oh, dad, don't worry about it. I mean, it's election and she's on the ballot. You can't run anymore. What else can I say?
You know what she said? Dad, they asked me a direct question. I had to tell the truth.
TUCHMAN: The sometimes self-deprecating 42nd president doing what he can to make his wife the 44th.
COOPER: Gary, it's fascinating how out of the national spotlight he is. And, clearly, it's intentional, if they are pushing you away at this event. Does he take questions from people who show up at these events?
TUCHMAN: No. These events are very structured. He comes. He speaks for 30 to 50 minutes. He takes no questions at all from the audience either. People come for handshakes and for autographs afterward. And some of them whisper soft questions, but none of those questions are captured on microphones.
It's interesting, Anderson, because his daughter and Hillary's daughter, Chelsea, does the exact opposite. She campaigns for her mother and takes lots of questions and answers. And she does it rather masterfully. And it's a really good example for how we think, as members of the news media, people always should be campaigning.
COOPER: It's fascinating.
Gary, appreciate it. Thanks.
Bill Clinton vs. version 2.0 perhaps.
Gary Tuchman blogged about his travels with President Clinton on the campaign trail -- a lot of you sharing your thoughts. You can read Gary's entry on our blog. Go to cnn.com/360. You can weigh in there as well.
Digging deeper now on the Clintons and Obama with Candy Crowley, and John King, and CNN senior political analyst David Gergen.
John, superdelegate Joe Andrew switched his support to Obama. He said the attack dogs were going to come against him from the Clinton campaign. Already, the Clinton campaign is kind of saying, maybe he's not even from Indiana.
How significant is this guy's switch?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is moderately significant, as Candy noted a bit earlier.
Number one, he's very well-liked and very well-respected inside the state of Indiana, which he says is his home. And, so, it could give Barack Obama a boost among Democratic activists there. Number two, Anderson, it is one more, as Barack Obama tries to close the one place where Hillary Clinton still does have a lead, among the superdelegates.
And even as superdelegates and other Democrats have more and more doubts about Barack Obama because of the Jeremiah Wright controversy and because of other issues, this, more than anything, is a sign that, guess what, there's also a lot of Clinton fatigue in the Democratic Party.
Joe Andrew giving voice to those who say, yes, maybe Barack Obama is not perfect, but the longer this goes on and the longer Hillary Clinton keeps saying and doing what she's saying and doing, the more she's helping the Republicans.
COOPER: We're going to have a lot more with our panel, David Gergen, Candy Crowley, and John King, after this short break.
Also ahead tonight: a tragic twist to the case of the madam with some D.C. power players in her little black book.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Back with our panel, CNN's Candy Crowley, John King, along with CNN senior political analyst David Gergen.
David, you know, most polls right now indicating that the Wright and those bitter comments have certainly hurt Obama, possibly made him more vulnerable in the general election, hurt him in Indiana and perhaps North Carolina.
And, yet, we don't see superdelegates really breaking for Clinton; how come?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think a lot of the superdelegates, Anderson, especially members of Congress, would prefer to have Barack Obama at the top of the ticket. They think, in many states, he's going to run better than she will and will help the down -- candidates down ticket.
I think they are also very worried that, if at this late stage, the nomination now goes to her it could really split the party badly for a long time to come. So, you have got the superdelegates moving -- gently to be sure -- but they are moving a little bit more to Barack Obama.
In the meantime, the real drama tonight is whether Reverend Jeremiah Wright is going to destroy the candidacy of Barack Obama. And I think the national polls -- we always knew there would be a swing in the national polls downward from Monday on. The issue is what happens in North Carolina and Indiana?
Without Wright, I think it's clear that Barack Obama would have won a big victory in North Carolina, and he had a very fighting chance to win Indiana. If he won both of those, I think this campaign would have been over.
Now the numbers in Indiana are going up in her favor. She has got a four- or five-point lead. It looks like she's heading toward a victory in Indiana. If she were also to pull off North Carolina, that would be a dramatic blow to Barack Obama.
COOPER: And you think that's possible?
GERGEN: I was in North Carolina a few days ago and said to you I thought he was still ahead. I think he still -- I think he has still got a lead of around seven points, if you look at the average of the polls.
GERGEN: But it has been coming down. And one poll actually had her ahead today. So...
COOPER: Candy, how...
COOPER: Let me ask Candy. Candy, how concerned are the Obama folks?
CROWLEY: Well, they are absolutely concerned.
I mean, you know, the -- the problem here is, there's sort of two sets of things going on. One of them is perception.
And she certainly has all of that going in her favor. As you noted, the polls, he has gone down, not just in Indiana and in North Carolina, but in head-to-head matchups, that kind of thing. So the Clinton campaign is pushing that very hard in the electability issue.
Then you have a set of facts which it is still highly likely at the end of this process Barack Obama is going to have more pledged delegates. There's this kind of parallel universe going on here because David is absolutely right.
I mean if she wins both these states, then what happens to these superdelegates? Can you, you know -- she has the momentum at the end and he has it at the beginning where does it then end up when you cross the finish line? It's a worry.
COOPER: John, is there any prevailing wisdom among Republicans whom they would rather face, potentially polarizing Hillary Clinton or Obama with new baggage that they can play off?
KING: That is the biggest change in this election. Back at the beginning of the year, Anderson, there was no doubt Republicans wanted Hillary Clinton. They thought if nothing else, she would motivate the Republican base.
Now more and more, including inside the McCain campaign, they think especially in the key states that decide who gets to be president in a key election, that they want Barack Obama. Let me tell you why with the number and an anecdote.
In the past month Hillary Clinton support among white blue collar working class people has gone up 10 points. You don't need a rocket scientist to understand why that has happened.
And number two in focus groups -- I talked to Whit Ayres -- he's a Republican pollster -- today. In focus groups they often try word association to see what message might move a voter. When they say now in these working class groups in Tennessee and other rural areas of America when they say Barack Obama they say more and more the response from voters is Jeremiah Wright.
COOPER: David, Clinton is arguing that this extended race is good for the party. If you check out the CNN poll registered Democrats now feel less enthusiastic about both of them, about Obama and about Clinton than at any point this year.
GERGEN: Well, that has been good in one fundamental sense. And that is, it has been more revealing about both candidates. It has tested both candidates; we've got a better chance of each of the candidate.
I think whoever emerges from this will be -- such as Barack Obama, I think he will be hardened up. I think he would be more seasoned as a candidate.
Having said that there's no question that in an election year when the Democrats ought to be at least 10 points ahead of the Republicans on head and head it's a dead heat that suggests these fights or these squabbles over the last few weeks all the different controversies are really costing both Democrats and it has got Democrats deeply worried.
That's why so many of the superdelegates want to get this over and why they say look we can't go the other way. Let's just go ahead and go for Barack. We know it's a risk. Let's go for it and we'll fight it out.
COOPER: Candy, in a new interview with ABC, Clinton said that if the battle goes to conventional the eventual nominee will not be damaged. At this point what's the likelihood of that actually happening?
CROWLEY: Going to the convention?
CROWLEY: Boy, I could tell you it will be over the -- maybe still living but prone bodies of a lot of party leaders. I mean, you have all of them coming out now saying listen, when this is over we need you all to make a choice here. So, I really don't see it going to the convention.
But let me -- I just wanted to add one thing that David said. Think back to Iowa and even New Hampshire, before South Carolina. Every time you talked to a Democrat they said oh, my goodness we have an abundance of riches, I would take any of these people.
Now what you see and now what's scaring these party leaders and a lot of Democrats is that you're talking to and seeing in the polls people going, "Well, you know what? If Hillary Clinton gets it I'm going to go vote for John McCain not Barack Obama." And vice versa.
So this hardening on the side of the voters, we keep seeing these candidates coming out saying it is all going to get -- it will be fine, we'll get back together no matter who wins. But the voters are not feeling that way. That'll soften up but that's worrying them at this point.
COOPER: John, you agree with that?
KING: I do, absolutely. Anderson, politics is about branding. And at this moment John McCain -- look the fundamentals still favor the Democrats in this race enormously. We have John McCain is running dead end as David just noted. And he's out there working on his brand. I'm a different kind of Republican. I'll fight Bush here. I'll reach out with Democrats there. I'm a guy you can trust. I'm a patriot.
The Democrats, Hillary Clinton's unfavorables are way up, Barack Obama is unfavorable the way up. The mud continues to fly. If she somehow wins both contests next Tuesday the Democratic Party is going to have a holy fill in the blank moment and not know what to do next.
So Republicans are working on their brand while the Democrats are, in the eyes of many Democrats, very much hurting their brand.
COOPER: And David, if that does happen and there is that holy blank moment whatever that blank may be, I really have no idea, what happens?
GERGEN: You know, they continue fighting. And it will go through June and Hillary Clinton will then win two, three or more states. He'll probably pick up a couple and we're still going to be left hanging. If he were to lose North Carolina, given the large black vote there, that would be very, very bad.
COOPER: When you say lose, do you mean actually lose or have it be really close, he pulls it out but it's very close.
GERGEN: I think he has to win North Carolina in order to keep the superdelegates, you know, coming to him and hanging in there. If there's --
COOPER: Is a squeaker still a win for him?
GERGEN: I think any win right now is a win. I think if there's white flight in North Carolina that's going to send a very bad message for him. Does that mean he can't get the nomination? No, I think he might still get it but it is going to deeply worry a lot of Democrats.
COOPER: David Gergen, John King, Candy Crowley, always good to talk to you. Thank you.
GERGEN: Thank you.
COOPER: Up next a tragic twist in the case of the so-called D.C. Madam whose client list included at least one U.S. Senator.
Also, eight months pregnant and busted for DUI, can you believe this? The arrest on tape today the mom to be, imagine that, spoke out when 360 continues.
COOPER: The "smiley face" murder mystery. Forty young men killed across the country. Are their deaths connected to serial killers with that sick signature? That's coming up a little later in our "Crime and Punishment" segment.
First, Erica Hill joins us with the 360 Bulletin -- Erica.
ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the police say the so-called D.C. Madam has committed suicide. Deborah Jeane Palfrey's body was found hanging in a shed at her mother's Florida home along with a suicide note.
Last month Palfrey was convicted of running a prostitution ring, catering to Washington's political elite including Louisiana Senator, David Vitter. She was facing up to 55 years in prison.
Smoke and chaos relived today. This is just one of the videos of the July 2005 London bombings shown in court today. Three men are charged with conspiracy in the case; 52 people and four bombers were killed in the coordinated attack.
And in Florida a mom to be, eight months pregnant arrested for DUI. Cops say they also found marijuana in the car. The accused says she's innocent. If found to be otherwise, however, she could face up to a year behind bars.
COOPER: I mean, if she's guilty, it's just unbelievable.
HILL: It's awful.
Here's John Roberts right now. What's coming up tomorrow on "American Morning?"
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ROBERTS, ANCHOR, "AMERICAN MORNING": Wake up to the most news in the morning including a tale of two countries. While most states are struggling financially some are thriving. We traveled to both up and down states to find out what's driving their fortunes tomorrow on "America Morning" beginning at 6:00 a.m. Eastern.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A lot more from the campaign trail ahead tonight.
And a question: Why is a congressman from Alaska so interested in a stretch of road in Florida? And did his staff actually rewrite a bill to spend your money on it after it was voted on? We're "Keeping Them Honest."
And here's tonight "Beat 360": Senator Charles Schumer holding up a loaf of bread during a committee hearing on rising food prices today.
Here's the caption from a couple of folks on our staff: "I don't care what the polls say about John McCain. Come November, he's toast."
COOPER: If you think you can do better, go to cnn/360. Send us your entry. It sounded like a whole mob of people there.
HILL: The whole peanut gallery there.
COOPER: We will announce the winner at the end of the program.
COOPER: So next Tuesday, Senators Clinton and Obama go head-to- head in two crucial battles -- we all know this -- the Indiana and North Carolina primaries. Meantime, of course, the general election is looming, and the man one of them will run against has a major advantage right now, which is time.
Senator John McCain was hitting the trail hard today in Ohio.
Again, here's CNN's John King with the "Raw Politics."
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Costs to the consumers go up.
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The stage to himself in another November battleground state; John McCain looking to make the most of a golden opportunity.
MCCAIN: There are those who are convinced that the solution is to move closer to a nationalized health care system. The key to real reform is to restore control over our health care system and restore it to the patients themselves.
KING: Rare is the candidate with the luxury of time, but Senator McCain has it. Just this week, McCain visits a handful of general election target states; an eye on November while the Democratic nomination battle drags on into May.
WHIT AYRES, GOP POLLSTER: He's got an opportunity to present himself as a different kind of Republican, which is pretty important in this climate. He is as popular, if not more popular, among independents than he is among Republicans. Independents are going to decide this election.
KING: But while Senators Clinton and Obama are busy with each other, there is suddenly a more determined effort to knock McCain from his careful script.
MCCAIN: Major combat operations in Iraq.
KING: This, what the liberal group MoveOn.org promises will be a million-dollar ad campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now we need to know how long will we be in Iraq if John McCain were president.
KING: A half-million-dollar Democratic Party ad buy also centers on McCain, Bush and Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If all he offers is more of the same, is John McCain the right choice for America's future?
KING: McCain says those ads deliberately distort the context of his words. And he's quick to note frequent disagreements with the administration, including the use of this now infamous "Mission Accomplished" banner five years ago.
MCCAIN: I thought it was wrong at the time. I thought the phrases like "a few dead-enders," "last throes," all of those comments contributed over time to the frustration and sorrow of Americans.
KING: Most of all McCain though tries to turn Iraq questions into a debate about what comes next, not the past five years.
MCCAIN: I said, as you well know, more than a year ago, I'd much rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. And I still stand by that statement.
My knowledge and experience, which Senator Obama and Senator Clinton do not have, dictate to me that we must succeed -- and the strategy is succeeding -- with spikes and with enormous difficulty and enormous sacrifice.
KING: Spikes and sacrifice. That's military talk for recognizing it was a bloody April for U.S. troops after what had been a period of relative calm. A grim reminder those running for president have little control over how the Iraq mission will look to voters come Election Day.
John King, CNN, Cleveland.
COOPER: The politics of the war. Expect to hear plenty more of it during the White House race. As you just heard, it's been five years to the day since President Bush's "mission accomplished" speech. Five years later, we've seen the pain and the progress in Iraq.
Erica Hill joins us now with the raw data, the real costs of the war so far -- Erica.
HILL: Yes, and that is definitely about pain, Anderson. When we take a look five years, as you mentioned, since that infamous speech, the "Mission Accomplished" speech May 1, 2003, since then more than 3,900 U.S. troops killed in Iraq.
And this month alone, the month of April, 52 Americans killed in Iraq, and that is actually the deadliest month since last September.
But if we take a look, just to put a few things in context here, there is actually some better news if we take a look back, history- wise. From January to April of this year, as you can see, the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq is actually down more than 50 percent. So if nothing, I suppose that's somewhat of a good number, if you can have that.
COOPER: Yes. Erica thanks very much.
Up next, Congress goes coconuts over an earmark for a highway in Florida. We'll explain the whole coconut thing. See, Coconut Road. It cost taxpayers millions. We're "Keeping Them Honest." Also ahead, the search for the so-called Smiley Face Killers, if in fact the Smiley Face Killers even exist. The FBI says no. Two former cops say yes. And they say they've got the evidence. "Crime and Punishment," coming up.
COOPER: As Hillary Clinton tries to make history in November, she's already achieved a milestone of sorts here on Capitol Hill. We learned today that Clinton is asking for nearly $2.3 billion in earmarks for 2009. We all know about earmarks, the pet projects the lawmakers often put into spending bills.
Her request is the highest by any senator this year. Clinton's actions are perfectly legal, of course, but there's another lawmaker whose earmark proposal may land him in big trouble.
This week, the House voted to have the Justice Department open an investigation into Don Young, the Alaska congressman. It's not for that Bridge to Nowhere we've been telling you about for some time. It's for a road he wants to build thousands of miles away from his home state.
So the question is why would a guy from Alaska care so much about a road in Florida? CNN's Joe Johns is "Keeping Them Honest."
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What does this frozen stretch of water in Alaska have to do with this patch of scrub at the end of a road in tropical southwest Florida? Connecting these distant dots is this man, Congressman Don Young of Alaska, former chairman of the powerful House Transportation Committee.
He's famous for trying to use taxpayer money for wildly expensive bridges to nowhere in the icy wilderness. And now he's in hot water again over a botched plan to build an interchange. It's another one of those infamous earmarks: $10 million.
And this is the place where that interchange would go: Coconut Road in Estero, Florida. Kind of makes you wonder. What's a congressman from Alaska doing trying to get money for a road in the Sunshine State?
And just like that bridge to nowhere in Alaska, people down here are saying the Don Young Interchange would have gone right out into, yes you guessed it...
BRAD CORNELL, AUDUBON SOCIETY OF FLORIDA: It would go nowhere. There's nothing out there. It's a home for panthers and wood storks. It's not a home for people.
JOHNS: But "Keeping Them Honest," this story is about much more than questionable spending. It's about how the money got there.
Somebody -- it's not clear who -- took an 800-page, $286 billion Highway Spending Bill that was on its way to the president's desk, a bill that had already been debated and approved and agreed on by both the House and the Senate, changing a line.
What Congress approved was $10 million to widen and improve Interstate 75. What the president signed was quite different: $10 million in seed money for a new interchange; small change but a big problem. Changing an act of Congress after Congress has already voted on it is sort of like throwing the United Stats Constitution out the car window.
Attorney Stan Brand is a former counsel for the House of Representatives.
STAN BRAND, FORMER HOUSE COUNSEL: If you cannot trust that Congress's bills are being written into law as passed, then you can't trust anything.
JOHNS: OK, so who made the change? Ever since this controversy arose, all eyes have been on Congressman Young and his staff.
REP. DON YOUNG (R), ALASKA: I have been the subject of much innuendo concerning my intent and modification of this project.
JOHNS: But Wednesday Young seemed to suggest he didn't do it.
YOUNG: A committee chairman does not control the enrollment process. I have never been in an enrollment office, and I do not believe any chairman has that right.
JOHNS: At the same time, Young said, he supports the interchange.
YOUNG: This has always been a good project. The residents of this community deserve to have a safe and effective evacuation route for themselves, in case of a national disaster.
JOHNS: But that's not the whole story. Just before the change was made, Young flew down to Florida to attend a town hall meeting on transportation issues and later a fundraiser, where he got about $40,000 from a group including at least one developer with a stake in the Coconut Road interchange.
The value of that interchange to developers is obvious. It would give them another place to build.
Put another way, the interchange could have turned that habitat for panthers and wood storks into a gold mine.
Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah.
RAY JUDAH, LEE COUNTY COMMISSIONER: It would have probably made that land the most highly valued property in southwest Florida.
JOHNS: Why do you say that?
JUDAH: Well, because it would have provided direct access. JOHNS: What's more, local elected officials not only didn't want the interchange; they were stunned to see the money they thought was going to widen the highway being earmarked for Coconut Road.
So you saw something fishy here?
CARLA BROOKS JOHNSTON, FORMER SANIBEL MAYOR: That sums it up.
JOHNS: Finding out what happened is now a $10 million question.
Joe Johns, CNN, Fort Myers, Florida.
COOPER: And we'll continue to look into it. Unbelievable.
Next on 360, "Crime and Punishment." Did serial killers leave the smiley face? That smiley face is their signature. The victims, alleged victims, 40 young men. Forty mysterious drownings. Are the killings related? We'll investigate.
And later, the bombshell from Barbara Walters. She reveals her secret affair with a married senator. His identity when 360 continues.
COOPER: Look at that smiley face. Could that be the calling card for serial killers who have murdered dozens of young men? Two retired New York City cops say it is and insist they have the evidence to prove it.
The FBI, however, and local authorities say the deaths are not connected at all. They're convinced there's no such thing as the Smiley Face Killers.
We're going to talk to a criminologist about the case in just a moment. But first the mystery, the facts. With tonight's "Crime and Punishment" report, once again here's Erica Hill.
HILL: Mack Kruziki vanished from East Dubuque, Illinois, on Christmas Eve 2005. Three months later his body was found in the nearby Mississippi River. Police called the 24-year-old's death a drowning. But could he actually be the victim of a gang of serial killers?
BILL KRUZIKI, FATHER OF MATT KRUZIKI: Some of these cases the evidence is so compelling it just can't be coincidental.
HILL: That chilling theory comes from two former New York City police officers, convinced the drownings of at least 40 college students, including Kruziki, are connected. Their interest was piqued after looking into the 1997 death of Patrick McNeal in New York City, also a young college student, also apparently drowned. The retired cops believe the young men were murdered by a band of psychopaths in a crime wave spanning 25 cities and 11 states. And they have a name for their suspects: The Smiley Face Killers, because of the crude graffiti like this found near some of the locations where the young men were found dead.
And near one crime scene in Michigan - the word "Sinsinawa." Matt Kruziki, whose body was found in Illinois, was last seen in a bar on Sinsinawa Avenue.
While the former NYPD officers are convinced serial killers are responsible, many local police departments are not.
CHIEF ALAN MULKIN, CANTON, NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT: As far as the New York City police detectives I just heard about, I don't know who they are. I don't know what they're looking at. I'm not aware of any of their evidence.
HILL: The FBI isn't buying the serial killer angle either, issuing this statement two days ago -- quote, "We have not developed any evidence to support links between these tragic deaths or any evidence substantiating the theory that these deaths are the work of a serial killer or killers. The vast majority of these instances appear to be alcohol-related drownings."
But for some families the similarities are too strong. And they fear the lives lost were, in fact, lives taken.
COOPER: That's such a bizarre case; if true, a horrifying one. The question is, is it true? Are the former police investigators right that a band of serial killers is murdering young men and making their deaths look like accidental drownings and putting smiley faces?
We're going to talk about that with an expert in serial killers, criminologist Jack Levin, who's a professor at Northeastern University. He's also the author of the book, "Serial Killers and Sadistic Murderers, Up Close and Personal."
Jack thanks for being with us.
These former NYPD officers investigating this thing think it's the work of more than one serial killer, perhaps a gang of serial killers. I've never heard of such a thing. Has that ever actually happened before?
JACK LEVIN, AUTHOR, "SERIAL KILLERS AND SADISTIC MURDERERS": Well, you know, you can go back to Charles Manson in the 1960s. And a number of killers were responsible for the seven deaths, but they were all in the same location. I've really never heard of a network of serial killers around the country.
You know, it isn't inconceivable that we're talking about the work of one or two serial killers. Ted Bundy killed dozens of women in a number of states across the country, and he didn't have a partner. He wasn't part of a network. Anything is possible.
And assuming that these two homicide detectives didn't fabricate the evidence -- and I have no reason to believe that they did -- I think it's an amazing coincidence that there are smiley face symbols in a number of these crime scenes.
COOPER: Yes. They found smiley faces at at least 12 of the apparent drowning sites.
LEVIN: I don't think that's something that you usually find at water's edge.
COOPER: Could this be some sort of a copycat thing? Or I guess the fact that it hasn't been publicized till now would make the copycat thing difficult.
LEVIN: Well, actually, there was a serial killer on the loose in the 1990s about two years before these drownings occurred. And this killer, who is now incarcerated for the rest of his life in Oregon, Keith Jesperson, was called the Happy Face Killer. And he would taunt the police by putting smiley faces on letters that he sent to them.
It is conceivable, again, that this is a copycat killer who got the inspiration, the idea from Jesperson's crimes.
COOPER: And the victims, or the alleged victims, the people we know either disappeared or died, are all white men between the ages of 19 and 23. They have a high level of academic achievement. They competed in sports. I mean, by profiling who the alleged victims are, does that say something about who may have killed them, if anyone, in fact, did?
LEVIN: Well, you know, serial killers often will target people who others may see as superior to them. Serial killers have suffered. They've experienced pain in childhood. They feel powerless. So they may go after people who are quite successful, maybe out of a sense of jealousy, maybe out of a sense of revenge.
So it's not that unusual, believe it or not, for college students to be targeted by serial killers.
COOPER: We're talking, really, about 40 deaths in 25 different cities in 11 different states.
COOPER: What does your gut tell you?
LEVIN: You know I've never heard of that many crimes being committed, serial crimes being committed over such a large scale. My guess is that some of these are not connected and some of them may be.
COOPER: And I guess the fact that the FBI at this point doesn't seem to be believing this and local authorities don't seem to, as well, does that surprise you or... LEVIN: Not at all. Not at all. You know, it's -- first of all, the police and the FBI do not want to terrify the public. So they would be the last agencies to admit that there may be a serial killer on the loose. They would be waiting for more evidence. And they may be right. But only time will tell, I'm afraid.
COOPER: Well, we certainly don't want to be alarming anyone unduly. So we'll continue to watch. Professor Jack Levin, it's good to talk to you again. Thanks.
LEVIN: Thank you.
COOPER: Let's go to Erica Hill now with the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Erica.
HILL: Anderson, a bloody day in Iraq, where a double suicide bombing targeting a wedding convoy killed 35 people and wounded dozens. One of the bombers was a woman. This is the fourth attack in 11 days involving a female bomber.
As Congress began hearings on rising food costs, President Bush urged lawmakers to approve $770 million in additional global food aid. That's beyond the $200 million announced two weeks ago. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised quick action.
And stocks surging today as investors bet the worst of the credit crisis has, in fact, passed. The Dow jumped nearly 190 points, closing above 13,000 for the first time in almost four months. The NASDAQ rose up to 67. The S&P shot up 23 points.
And the Associated Press reporting TV journalist Barbara Walters admitted to having an affair with former U.S. Senator Edward Brook three decades ago. Walters was divorced at the time. Brook was married. The A.P. says Walters revealed the affair in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, which is scheduled to air next week.
COOPER: She's got a new book coming out. I guess it's all part of the book.
HILL: I would imagine that.
COOPER: And I know one or two people have actually read the book and said it's actually excellent. And it's going to be a huge, huge bestseller. So I look forward to reading that.
Time now for you to take on our staff or everyone to take on our staff, really. It's called "Beat 360," our daily contest that pits you against our staff to see who can come up with the best caption. We post a picture on our Web site every morning.
Today's picture is of Senator Charles Schumer of New York holding a hearing on rising food prices, hence the loaf of bread.
HILL: Fine prop. COOPER: Yes, exactly. Tonight's staff winners, well, the staff; sometimes it takes a village. This caption is kind of a collaboration. "I don't care what the polls say about John McCain. Come November he's toast!"
Yes, it's bread. It's not toast. Anyway...
HILL: Well, it's going to become toast, you see. You just read now.
Our viewer winner tonight is Cameron. His entry, "Politicians loafing around in Washington." As always, you can check out the competition they beat out at cnn.com/360. And link to the blog.
HILL: A lot of excitement tonight for "Beat 360," wasn't there, here in the studio?
COOPER: Not a lot, no.
Still ahead, please do not try this at home. Have you seen these pictures, Erica? Have you seen this? Yes, look at that. Yikes.
HILL: I'm not doing that to my kids.
COOPER: I know.
Some people are trying to ban this practice in India. It's a 500-year-old ritual that some people believe brings luck to babies.
HILL: And a heart attack to a mother.
COOPER: I know. The babies don't have a say in it, clearly.
COOPER: Erica, now tonight's "Shot." We want to say up front, we do not condone what you're about to see. Do not try this at home. It's a 500-year-old tradition, practiced by Muslims and Hindus in India. Take a look.
Babies are tossed from a 50-foot temple tower onto a bed sheet held by men below.
HILL: Oh, great.
COOPER: Yes. The ritual is believed to bring good health and good luck to the kids. Critics want the practice banned. Many think it's unsafe. Gee.
HILL: I can't imagine why.
COOPER: I can't imagine why.
HILL: They seem to be holding the sheet very well. COOPER: Yes.
HILL: Clearly, there's no need to be alarmed.
COOPER: The villagers say no babies have ever been hurt. I find that very hard to believe.
HILL: I mean, I guess at least they wait until they're a little bit older, so it doesn't look like their neck is going to get broken.
COOPER: But look -- I mean, come on. I don't even like seeing this video.
HILL: I can't do it.
COOPER: Enough. Enough of the footage. Seriously. All right. Yes.
HILL: It really is giving me a heart attack.
COOPER: Yes, I know, please, seriously, let's stop the video.
If you see some bizarre video...
HILL: Disturbing video.
COOPER: If you see videos of this, I don't want to see it any more.
HILL: Don't send it, whatever you do.
COOPER: No, don't send it. Tell us about your video, though, at cnn.com/360.
And while there don't forget to cast your Webby's vote. Today is the last day to vote, apparently. Act quick. We're nominated in the celebrity fan category. We need your support. You'll find the link to vote on our 360 page and you can even help us write our acceptance speech. That seems a little cocky to me. I don't know. But I think we're in second place right now, so...
HILL: But if we win we're going to need one. So it's nice to have the ideas there because it's difficult. You're only allowed five words at the Webbys. You want to it be really clever.
COOPER: Five words?
HILL: That's the whole shtick.
COOPER: I'm confused by the whole shtick.
HILL: You only get five words.
COOPER: All right.
HILL: Wow. I'm confused by that. Hey. Is that something new? COOPER: Did I hear a baby cry?
For international viewers, "CNN Today" is next. Here in America, Larry King is coming up.
Thanks for watching. I'll see you tomorrow night.