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CAMPBELL BROWN: NO BIAS, NO BULL

Tom Daschle Under Fire; Michael Steele to Lead Republican National Committee

Aired January 30, 2009 - 20:00   ET

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


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, everybody.

We have breaking news to start tonight, new details still emerging at this moment that have put President Barack Obama's White House into damage control again.

We now have word that another one of the president's top Cabinet picks has had trouble with his taxes. And, this time, it is a longtime confidant of the president, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.

Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is just off the phone with her sources on this.

And, Dana, walk us through what the issues are here.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well I think the main issue does appear to be, as you said, a tax issue, and, specifically, Campbell, the fact that Tom Daschle was lent a chauffeur and driver by a very wealthy friend and perhaps a business associate of his back in 2005, and he never paid taxes on it.

And, apparently, Tom Daschle started paying taxes on it, in fact, paid everything he owed plus interest a little bit after he was nominated to be Barack Obama's secretary of health and human services. And, in fact, it added up to more than $100,000 for those back taxes and interest that he ended up paying. And he still does owe more for using this driver back this year, actually, or last year, I should say, in 2008.

Now, this does seem to be the main issue. But I can tell you this has been very secretive. And it has been a very long process. So, there very well may be other issues here, Campbell.

BROWN: And, Dana, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs has just released a statement. Here is part of it, saying -- quote -- "Senator Daschle brought these issues to the Finance Committee's attention when he submitted his nomination forms. We are confident the committee is going to schedule a hearing for him very soon and that he will be confirmed."

What's the sense, though? How much trouble is this nomination in?

BASH: Well, you know, they were very quick inside the Senate majority leader's office to put out a statement insisting that he is not in trouble.

In fact, Jim Manley, the spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, just released a statement insisting that he will be confirmed, Daschle will be confirmed as the secretary of HHS, that he has a long and distinguished career in public service.

There will be a meeting, Campbell, on Monday of the Senate Finance Committee, that committee that is going to determine whether he will be confirmed. That will happen at 5:00 on Monday. They will be going all over all these issues, perhaps other issues. And Tom Daschle might actually be there himself.

But, right now, they're saying it looks like a minor problem. But you never know until this -- this committee meets, because, again, it has been quite some time, and he has not gotten a hearing on this at all.

BROWN: All right, Dana Bash for us tonight on that breaking news -- Dana, thanks.

And we have got a lot more happening tonight.

We're going to start with bullet point number one: those controversial bonuses for Wall Street. You want to know how much of your bailout money they are getting? Our Jessica Yellin breaks it down for us. Top managers are doing well when so much is falling apart on their watch.

Bullet point two tonight: The battle to lead and rebuild the Republican Party is over. An African-American politician from Maryland won and will chair the GOP. He beat out a Southern politician who had just resigned from a whites-only country club.

And bullet point three: the California octuplets and their mother. Everybody has been talking about those eight babies this week. But serious questions are emerging about what the mother was doing and about the medical practices that created far more children than anyone expected. We will talk about that as well tonight.

But, first, we are "Cutting Through The Bull."

And, last night, on this program, we spent some time talking about Rush Limbaugh and a piece he had in "The Wall Street Journal" arguing there should be more emphasis right now on tax cuts to help the economy.

Our chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi, came on and took issue with some of what Limbaugh said.

Rush then responded with this today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW")

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Mr. Velshi, you are incompetent. You are a disservice to your business, except you fit right in at CNN, disinformation, character assaults. This economy is nowhere near as bad as it was in 1982.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: So, let's stop there.

Now, Mr. Limbaugh, you may well have a legitimate case to make about tax cuts and what they can do for the economy, but the histrionics and the name-calling, they undermine anything constructive you might have to say.

Rush, I would love for you to come on, on this show and debate Ali on the issues. Make a case for your ideas. Our country is in desperate straits right now, and we need ideas. But what we don't need is nasty rhetoric and useless noise. This doesn't help anyone get a job or keep a job or feed their family.

If there were ever a time to put the meanness behind us and focus on real dialogue and real solutions, this is the time.

And, on that note, we invited Ali to respond, not to the name- calling, but to the substance of this debate.

We're putting ourselves to our NO BIAS, NO BULL test tonight.

And, Ali, let's see, you know what you are. You're incompetent.

No, seriously. I mean, let's deal with the substance of the issues and forget the other stuff he said.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Right. Right.

BROWN: And, with that in mind, let me play a little bit more of what -- of the case he made on his radio program.

VELSHI: Sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW")

LIMBAUGH: Now, Mr. Velshi, after calling me a liar -- and I'm not even a business reporter, but you pretend to be -- 1986, GDP down over 6 percent. We were in a recession.

What was the centerpiece of Mr. Reagan's economic recovery plan, Mr. Velshi? Let me spell it for you, T-A-X C-U-T-S.

In fact, Mr. Velshi, you may not have seen anything like this before, but I have. I have seen worse. I lived through worse.

When Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, the top marginal tax rate, Mr. Velshi, was 70 percent. When Ronald Reagan left office in 1989, the top marginal tax rate was 28 percent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: All right. So, he argues the economy much worse in the early '80s than it is right now.

Does he have a point?

VELSHI: Yes, I mean, I don't want to get into a "My recession is worse than your recession" argument.

But, ultimately, I am going to have to interject with a few facts that he might have to think about. We have -- unemployment was higher back then than it is today. It was 10.8 percent. It's 7.2 percent right now.

But 2008, we saw the price of a median single family home drop 15 percent. Never before have we seen that on record. Industrial production, which is the measure of how much we actually make in this country, has never been lower than it is right now.

Personal income, adjusted for inflation, was higher then than it is today. Personal savings -- right after Reagan got elected, people were socking away 12 percent of what they made, today, virtually nothing, which means we don't have anything to get us through a recession.

But put all of the economic talk aside for a second. Ultimately -- we have talked about this many times -- this is an economy that is based on people's willingness to spend money, more than any other economy in the world. People are not willing to spend money.

And just to give you the one indication of this that we always talk about, and it's consumer confidence. Inconveniently, for Mr. Limbaugh, the standard for consumer confidence was set in 1985. So, 1985, whatever consumer confidence was back then is considered 100. Today, it is at 38. It is the lowest it has ever been.

Until consumers start buying, businesses will not start investing. You can give them all the tax cuts you want; they can't.

Now, he is right about something. Reagan cut taxes from 70 percent to 26 percent. They're 35 percent right now, the top marginal tax rate. So, we don't -- we can't halve them.

Back then, when you took them from that rate over a course of years, down to 26 percent, even if you didn't believe in tax cuts, you would really believe that that would be stimulative.

So, ultimately, there are two schools of thought, cut taxes or stimulate the economy another way. Virtually nobody falls into one entirely camp or the other. I, too, would like to pay lower taxes.

But, ultimately, the facts are the facts. But maybe it was worse for a lot of people. Every recession is hard on -- on some people. But we are in a very dire situation right now.

BROWN: All right, Ali Velshi with that perspective tonight.

Certainly, I will reiterate my request for Rush Limbaugh to come on. VELSHI: Absolutely.

BROWN: And we could actually have this as a debate.

But, Ali, appreciate it tonight. Thanks, as always.

And for much more on your money and on President Obama's massive stimulus package, don't forget later right here tonight, we will have the premiere of the "CNN Money Summit." Again, that will be later tonight. Ali and the best money team on television look at how we can really fix the economy. It premieres at 11:00 p.m. Eastern time.

And coming up on NO BIAS, NO BULL, why some CEOs should send you candy and flowers. Your bailout money helped pay for some of their bonuses.

Also tonight, Super Bowl Sunday is as much about commercials as football. We will look at how the recession may affect what we see on TV during the game.

And, later, octuplets born this week to a mother who already has six kids and who took fertility drugs. Some are asking, what were she and her doctors doing?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: These people are idiots. You can't use taxpayer money to pay out $18 billion in bonuses.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill lashing out at the Wall Street titans who gave out millions in bonuses as the economy tanked. Yesterday, President Obama called those bonuses shameful.

Well, now, some of that bonus money was paid by banks that didn't take any bailout money. Still, you have got to ask why other companies on federal on life support are rewarding employees with handsome chunks of extra pay.

We have had Ali looking into that for us, along with national political correspondent Jessica Yellin, both back with me once again.

And, Jessica, let me start with you.

Billions of dollars in Wall Street bonuses go out in 2008. And the numbers if you look at them are pretty staggering. Walk us through it.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: OK, Campbell.

Let me show you. Last year, $18.4 billion in bonuses were paid out. That is the same year Wall Street got Congress to OK that $700 billion bailout. Now, let's look at some of the bonuses being reported. Right here, Merrill Lynch, that company's CEO left in disgrace you will remember for among other things deciding to spend a little too much money renovating his corporate bathroom. He paid out $4 billion in bonuses last year.

And then the company that's been another major recipient of rescue funds, you remember AIG, that is that insurance giant. It got around $150 billion in bailout money. We can't tell you exactly how much went to all the company in bonuses. But this we do know, $450 million to just 400 employees. Do the math. That's more than $1 million per person. Sounds good, right? Well, all those people worked for the one division that some say triggered all the companies' major problems.

OK, it's all relative. So here is the big kicker. Last year, in 2008, the year of the big financial collapse, they paid out almost the same amount in bonuses, $18.4 billion, as they paid out in 2004. That's when they paid out $18.6 billion -- 2004, Wall Street was flying high. That is down so significantly, though, I should point out, from the year before, Campbell, 44 percent down from 2007. So, there is a bit of a fall. But come on.

BROWN: Yes, I was going to say, given what is going on.

So, how does this happen? Given the economic turmoil, explain how this happens, because a lot of people are going what?

VELSHI: Well, for fear of losing my head, it's part of the corporate structure. Their pay structures are entirely different.

So, people go into a job in the financial services industry expecting that a very small portion of their pay will be base salary and the rest of it possibly, more than half, will come from bonuses. So, when you think of how much money people earn, it may be outrageous, but the bottom line is they actually do get less of a base salary.

So, it's not a bonus because you did a great job. It's a bonus because it's your share of the company's profit. Now, to your point, if they weren't making profits and they had those kinds of losses, something needed to be done.

BROWN: Right.

VELSHI: And I think that's what's frustrating for most Americans. But remember there have also been remarkable job losses in the financial industry. In fact, as a proportion, it's higher than some other industries. It's really been decimated.

But, again, it's very hard to understand how they don't -- it's a little tone-deaf.

BROWN: But I guess here's my question to both of you.

If something could have been done theoretically about this, you look at the legislation that -- when Congress passed the TARP program and put all this in place. You now have President Obama calling this shameful, Senator Chris Dodd, chairman of the Banking Committee, coming out and saying this is ridiculous.

But President Obama was a senator at the time. And Chris Dodd, they all bear some responsibility for not putting better regulations, better accountability measures in that legislation when it passed. Am I wrong?

VELSHI: Well, Jessica and I were working the day it passed. And it was 400 pages. And you would think in there you could cover all of that.

They did cover executive compensation. These bonuses are not all to executives. This is across the board. And they didn't tackle that at all.

BROWN: Do you think they will try to fix it?

YELLIN: Well, Wall Street gives a lot of money in campaign donations to politicians, so they will make some changes, but not enough.

BROWN: Not enough.

All right, Jessica Yellin, Ali Velshi for us tonight -- thanks, guys.

Again, later tonight, Ali, the best money team on television look at how we can really fix the economy. Again, as we mentioned, that's tonight 11:00 Eastern time on CNN.

And still to come, a mother of six young children has fertility treatments, hard enough to believe. But then she had octuplets, eight more babies at once, a very puzzling story everybody is asking about. We are going to have details for you and more on late-breaking story of a tour bus crash near the Hoover Dam. Five have died, 15 people injured. We will bring you the latest and update you on that as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: History tonight, as the Republican Party elects its first African-American chairman, the new man in charge, former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele. His marching here pretty straightforward: Bring the Grand Old Party back to life.

And here today is what he told the Republican rank-and-file.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL STEELE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: For so long, we have allowed the Democrats to define us. We have allowed the media to define us, you know? And so it's important for us to begin to establish with clarity who we are, what we believe, as we begin to go out and take, I think, a brand-new message to the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Joining me now for NO BIAS, NO BULL look at the Republicans' new man, his new message, CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, former Newt Gingrich press secretary Tony Blankley, who is also now executive vice president of global public affairs for the public-relations firm Edelman, and his new book is "American Grit: What It Will Take to Survive and Win in the 21st Century." Also, we have got on the telephone joining us by phone columnist Errol Louis of "The New York Daily News."

So, Tony, you are a Republican. What message is your party sending by picking its first African-American chairman?

TONY BLANKLEY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think of the candidates they clearly picked the best man of any race, I mean, just as far as his ability to speak to the public, his credibility within the party. He's got an impeccable record. He ran a magnificent campaign in Maryland last cycle. So, he is an able man.

I think you have to understand...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: But, in all honesty, Tony, you don't think his race had anything to do with the reason he was chosen?

BLANKLEY: Oh, sure it did, of course. That's part -- at this moment, do you want to pick a black man or do you want to pick a white guy who was in an exclusive club that kept blacks out?

Of course, in 2009, you would have to be nuts as a party to go with the latter.

BROWN: And we should mention that's who his competition was. But go ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

BLANKLEY: But, beyond that, I have worked closely with party chairmen in the past.

And one of the big challenges, maybe a bigger job than being spokesman, is be behind the scenes to try to help coordinate the party, so it speaks as coherently as it possibly can. But this is a very different time. And no one person is going to be leading the party. It is going to have to evolve out of the moment, out of the out of -- the way Obama performs and how the party responds to that.

BROWN: Errol, what do you think of the choice in Michael Steele?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, what strikes me about actually is his youth -- he is in his early 50s -- and the fact that he has signed on to a 10-point program, RebuildTheParty.org. Some young conservatives had been pushing for it.

And it includes things like trying to make sure at least 40 percent of Republican candidates are under 40 years old. It includes retuning how they use technology, so that it becomes closer to the social networking that the Obama campaign relied on.

He strikes me as the kind of person who is going to take them in a direction using the nuts-and-bolts part of the job, which is really the heart of the -- of a party chairmanship, to get them at least competitive, you know, give them the framework so that they can be competitive.

Now, where they get the ideas from and where they get their candidates from, that is another question.

BROWN: But, again, diversity, how much do you think his race -- given the diversity issues for the Republican Party -- I mean, you just have to look at the numbers. Overwhelmingly, Obama was supported by African-Americans, Latinos in this country.

How much of a role, how important is his race and trying to send that message that the Republican Party needs to be more diverse, Errol?

LOUIS: Well, when he ran for Senate, he lost.

When Ken Blackwell, another prominent Republican candidate for statewide office, ran for governor of Ohio, he lost. And there were a lot of recriminations, frankly. So I don't think they're going to try that window-dressing strategy, if they're thinking of it as anything other than window dressing or just kind of an extra plus.

But, look, the Republican Party, when it comes to that, just individual achievement of particular leaders, they have nothing to apologize for. They named the first black secretary of state and the second black secretary of state. You know, it's not as if they have to come crawling back.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Right.

Let me ask Candy about this, because I'm not -- I don't think it is about individual leaders. But it is about the broader outreach of the Republican Party. I mean, you just look at the numbers -- 95 percent of blacks voted for President Obama, 67 percent of Latinos. I mean, Karl Rove has said that the Republican Party has to have far more outreach to Latinos in this country, just given the direction the country is headed in terms of diversity.

So, Michael Steele alone, whatever symbolic message his choice may be, can't do this alone. How does the Republican Party achieve that?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're going to need more than Michael Steele. And nobody knows that better than all the Republicans and Michael Steele.

What they need is to bring the party into this century both in terms of plans and policies, but also in terms of the infrastructure. And that's where Michael Steele comes in.

Certainly, to pick up on this conversation, Michael Steele, an African-American, does send a symbolic message. But I have to tell you that the Republican strategists that I talked to today said, listen, Michael Steele is the only one that is looking forward.

If you ask so many of these Republicans sitting in that room and they will say, what should the party be, they will say Ronald Reagan. Michael Steele is going to move us forward, rather than backward.

So, yes, of course, race always matters. Ask Barack Obama. But the fact of the matter is that a lot of these Republicans I talked to said it is about moving forward and stop looking back into the '80s.

BROWN: And, with that in mind, Tony, let me give you the last word here. What are the ideas? What are the problems that the Republican Party needs to focus on, needs to talk about, in terms of policies to try to move forward and to reach a different audience than they have in the past?

BLANKLEY: Well, any party -- and the Republican Party has to be addressing the issues that the public cares about at the moment. You can't -- you may be right on a lot of issues. But if you are not talking to the immediate concerns of the public with the values of your party, programmatically, then you are not going to be doing very well.

I have to say that the history of minority parties is that they tend to come back into power when the majority party screws up badly enough. So, there's going to be a little pause before the Republicans come back into power.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: A fair point there.

To Errol, to Tony, and to Candy, thanks very much. Appreciate it, guys.

Coming up next, education, our kids, and President Obama's new secretary of education, Arne Duncan. He's going to join us to talk about mind-boggling challenges facing schools and students and teachers and some controversial ideas he has about how to fix them.

And then we will look ahead to Super Bowl Sunday, normally a big party day. But given the nation's mood, will the White House go the whole nine yards? We will tell you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANIELLE LORIN, FIRST-GRADER: Dear President Barack Obama, what does it feel look to be president? Can you help our country by telling all the people to share?

From Danielle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Six-year-old Danielle Lorin is a first-grader student at the Heschel West Day School in Agoura, California. Kids all over the country sharing their thoughts with the new president. We would love to read yours. So, send us your letter. Look for the I-Report link on our Web site, CNN.com/Campbell.

And it's not the most talked-about part of President Obama's stimulus package, but in the long run it could be the most important, a whopping $150 billion increase in funding for education. And that's just one of the wholesale changes in education policy that the new administration is planning, after eight years that could be summed up basically in four words.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): No Child Left Behind, a nationwide program that tested performance standards for schools, it was one of the hallmarks of the Bush administration, but it was widely criticized for not living up to its promise.

In fact, some say, its standardizing one-size-fits-all approach penalized both kids and schools.

During the campaign, President Obama had harsh words for it.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must fix the failures of No Child Left Behind.

BROWN: But the president's new education secretary, Arne Duncan, says No Child Left Behind is not beyond repair.

(on camera): But be specific. I mean, you certainly know enough about it, about No Child Left Behind and what it entails, to have formed an opinion on whether or not it is the right way to go.

ARNE DUNCAN, EDUCATION SECRETARY: Yes.

Well, again, philosophically, direction, it's the right way, but there's many things in implementation that we think we can improve on going forward.

BROWN: As former chief executive officer of public schools in Chicago, Duncan has a record of fighting what he sees as the problems with federal policy. He even once threatened to sue the Department of Education, though he ultimately won his argument without having to.

(on camera): Some people argue that we should let No Child Left Behind expire at the end of this school year, as it is scheduled to do, and just start from scratch. Do you agree with, or no?

DUNCAN: Well, I think we will look to reauthorize late this calendar year. Again, these first couple months, right now, we are pushing very, very hard to have this historic package passed. Once it is passed, we need to focus intensively on making sure we implement and execute against it impeccably, and then use the next few months, again, to get out to listen, to learn, to hear from the American public, and then come back and reauthorize later in the school year.

BROWN (voice-over): The stimulus plan -- even with education policy, it all comes back to the economy. The giant economic stimulus bill passed by Congress this week included a $150 billion increase in federal money for education.

DUNCAN: We want to save literally hundreds of thousands of teaching jobs. We are very, very worried about tremendous cuts, devastating cuts in school districts in states around the country. And we want to stave those off going into the fall.

We want to continue to raise the bar academically, raise standards, raise expectations. And there are opportunities in the stimulus package to do that. And at a time when going to college has never been more expensive, we have to help out.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And if you think none of that sounds like a terribly radical way to achieve, the Obama administration's lofty education goals, well, the new secretary is no stranger to controversy.

(on camera): Just a few months ago, you launched a program in Chicago that pays kids for good grades. $50 for an "A," $20 for a "C." A straight "A" student could earn $4,000 a year. And as I said, very controversial. But why do you think it's a good idea?

DUNCAN: This is a pilot program we started this fall, so it's very early on. But so far the data is very encouraging. The students' attendance rates have gone up. Students' grades are going up, and these are communities where the dropout rate has been unacceptably high.

And whatever we can do to challenge that status quo, when children drop out today, Campbell, as you know, they are basically condemned to social failure. There are no good jobs out there, so we need to be creative. We need to push the envelope.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And coming up, the story that everybody has been talking about around here. Eight ought to be enough, especially when you already had six. We're going to hear what the grandfather of this California octuplets is saying.

And we'll also have some late-breaking details about a bus crash near a popular tourist site near Las Vegas. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: If ever the saying "don't burn your bridges" applies, it might go to the newest member of the White House staff. She was not kind to Hillary Clinton. But first, Gary Tuchman has tonight's "Briefing."

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Campbell. We have breaking news tonight from the Arizona desert, where a Las Vegas tour bus has crashed about 30 miles from the Hoover Dam. At this hour, six people are reported dead. At least 16 are injured. Police say a motorcycle was also involved in the accident.

The FDA has started a criminal investigation to the Peanut Corporation of America after a nationwide salmonella outbreak that may have caused eight deaths. More than 500 people have gotten sick from bacteria in the company's products. So far no major peanut butter brands are involved.

A Virginia man pleads not guilty to charges of trying to destroy all of Fannie Mae's computer data. The FBI says it could have shut down the mortgage giant and cost millions of dollars to fix. The suspect was fired from Fannie Mae in October. Prosecutors allege he planted a computer virus that would have been released tomorrow.

And after making their own winning touchdown, the crew members of US Airways Flight 1549 will be honored Sunday at the Super Bowl. Captain "Sully" Sullenberger, co-pilot Jeffrey Skiles, and three flight attendants saved 155 lives landing their jet on New York City's Hudson River after the engines failed.

And Campbell, "Sully" is a hero but I'm very glad the NFL is recognizing that the first officer and the flight attendants are also.

BROWN: Good point there. Gary Tuchman for us tonight. Gary, thanks.

Coming up next, the experts, ordinary parents, all of us kind of scratching our heads here. A woman with six little children just had octuplets. People aren't just asking why and how she did it. They want to know if it was right to try.

And then later, what millions consider to be the best part of Super Bowl Sunday. Stay with us and see if those super excessive commercials have been thrown for a loss by the economic crisis.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Tonight, we are looking for answers on what has got to be the strangest story of the week, and yes, we are talking about these California octuplets.

They were born on Monday. We all smiled about it. Then came the revelation that their mother already has six other children. The oldest just 7 years old. Sort of makes your head spin. Fourteen little kids.

What was she thinking? How did this happen? Lots of questions tonight. David Mattingly has been tracking down some of the answers for us -- David. DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Campbell, it took a team of doctors and nurses all of five minutes to deliver these babies. It will take a lot longer to explain why so many.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Eight babies, one mother. The news was startling enough. And then we learned the mother already has six children at home. And that's produced a frenzy of questions.

ED SULEMAN, OCTUPLETS' GRANDFATHER: She's fine. The babies are fine. Everybody is fine, except us because of you.

MATTINGLY: The grandmother told the "Los Angeles Times" that the mother had undergone some kind of fertility treatment. Why, we don't know. Hospital doctors say the mother came to them in her first trimester, and they advised her she could selectively remove some of the fetuses. She declined.

(on camera): What kind of risk was this woman taking when she chose to have these babies?

DR. MICHAEL TUCKER, FORENSIC PHYSIOLOGIST: In my mind at that point with seven, and ultimately eight babies on board, an extreme risk.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Reproductive physiologist Michael Tucker says the case goes against modern fertility treatment practices of limiting multiple births. He says the case will be scrutinized for how fertility drugs might have been used or how many embryos might have been implanted.

TUCKER: Somebody who is already known fertile to transfer more than one or two embryos is quite, quite unreasonable to say the least.

MATTINGLY: Guidelines of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine says doctors normally would not implant more than two embryos at a time for any woman under 35.

(on camera): Her age has not been confirmed. But with eight new babies, she now has a total of 14 children. So far she's trying to hold on to her privacy but through the California Hospital where she's recovering, she called the octuplets a miraculous experience.

(voice-over): But the questions about these births address more human concerns. The baby's grandfather says multiple births were not part of the plan.

SULEMAN: She did not seek to have more children. She thought she's going to have one more child. And it happened. So that's it. Thank you very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: And the surprises continued up until delivery on Monday. Mom thought she was having only seven babies. She was carrying so many though, Campbell that the eighth managed to escape detection until that landmark C-section.

BROWN: David Mattingly for us tonight. So many questions here, David, and we're going to talk about them now. Moral, ethical questions raised by the story have started a firestorm in the medical community.

We're going to take a "NO BIAS, NO BULL" look at that right now with CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, and Dr. Jamie Grifo, director of the division of reproductive endocrinology at New York University's Langone Medical Center, joining me here in the studio as well.

Welcome to you.

DR. JAMES A. GRIFO, NYU LANGONE MEDICAL CENTER: Thank you.

Elizabeth, let me start with you. If a doctor really implanted eight embryos in this young woman, that's got to be well beyond the bounds of accepted medicine, right?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, Campbell, well beyond the bounds of accepted medicine. Every doctor I talked to said you've got to be kidding. Who in the world will put eight embryos into a woman?

Let me give you a chart here. For a woman this age, you are only supposed to put in one embryo and then it gets higher as you get older. But still, no more than five. And even five is very controversial.

This should just never be done, but I want to make a point. It was the grandmother who said that she actually had these embryos implanted. All the doctors I talked to, and I know Dr Grifo will weigh in here, said they didn't think that it actually was embryo implantation called IVF. They said they think that she was just amped up on drugs to hyperstimulate her ovaries. That's something very, very different.

BROWN: So let me ask you, James, you're a doctor. When you heard about this, what did you think could have happened? I mean, what was going through your mind?

GRIFO: Well, obviously, fertility treatments were the first thought. And IVF was not the first thought for me because I know very few practitioners who would ever transfer that number of embryos. And in many cases --

BROWN: I mean, it would be extraordinary for somebody to do that and not --

GRIFO: Incredibly extraordinary. I've never done that and never will do that. What I thought was that this woman was given fertility medications. Her ovaries responded very vigorously and instead of canceling the cycle were converting it to IVF where you could control the number of embryos that would end up in the uterus. She was given ovulation induction and artificial insemination and ended up with this multiple gestation, because that's where it's less controlled. With IVF we can control the number of embryos being transferred. But now to hear that eight embryos were transferred, it's incredibly surprising to me.

BROWN: And Elizabeth, there is some suspicion, I think that she took these fertility drugs herself and sort of didn't go to a clinic and didn't have any doctors supervised system for doing this at all. I mean, is that even possible?

COHEN: Oh, sure, some sources (ph) who we talked to said they thought that was very possible and they thought in fact that may be what she did.

I had my producer go on line and I said, Sophia, I want you to try to buy Clomid, which is one of these fertility drugs. And she did it in about ten minutes. It really wasn't hard.

There were several sites where she could get it without a doctor's prescription. And then we found sites where mothers bragged about the fact that they got themselves pregnant on fertility drugs without ever seeing a doctor. They went on line, got the drugs and did it themselves.

BROWN: Jamie, does having this many children put the mother's health at risk, the children's health at risk?

GRIFO: Well, it puts everybody at risk. I mean, first of all, if you have this many embryos implanted, you risk losing the whole pregnancy at a very early stage. And then once you get beyond that, the risk to mother and fetuses are great, and death for all of them is one likely outcome in certain circumstances.

Apparently, there's a fortunate outcome here but that still remains to be seen. We don't know how healthy these babies will be. Right now, all looks good. This is not good medicine. This is not the way we practice.

BROWN: And that there are no real -- I mean as Elizabeth just explained it, there's no real way to monitor this or --

GRIFO: Well if the patient is giving herself medications, I doubt it was Clomid because Clomid rarely you get triplets. One in 1,000 pregnancies with Clomid are triplets. But the injectable gonadotropins that we use for in vitro fertilization can be uncontrolled and if you don't monitor properly, this kind of outcome can occur. We fortunately by our practice methods don't have this happen at all.

BROWN: Right.

GRIFO: The most I've seen is quads in 20 years of practice, and that was twice. So you have a lot more control as a physician. So this is a very suspicious story, and we don't know all the facts yet.

BROWN: Right. A lot of this we should say is speculative and I'm sure we'll be finding out more with time.

Many thanks to you...

GRIFO: Thank you.

BROWN: Dr. Jamie Grifo, for being with us, and Elizabeth Cohen as well. Thanks, Elizabeth.

We are going to switch gears now and take a look at this weekend's biggest event. Super Bowl Sunday usually means some of the glitziest, fanciest, most expensive TV commercials that we'll see all year. Well, has our super economic crisis changed that? We'll check it out and we'll see what the White House is doing for the big game when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Tonight, the Obama administration giving us a new twist on an old saying, politics makes for strange office mates. Erica Hill here to explain in tonight's "Political Daily Briefing." And this is the story of the foreign policy expert who caused some trouble during the campaign for Barack Obama.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just a teensy little bit. Yes. Now coming aboard perhaps to be part of the administration and working with none other than the woman she was talking about. Then an interesting turn of events here.

We're actually hearing tonight Samantha Power will be tapped for a high level foreign policy job in the Obama administration. Why is this a big deal?

Well, because of that little snafu perhaps. White House officials right now not exactly forthcoming with the details probably because of the incident during the campaign when Power told "The Scotsman," "She is a monster too. She's stooping to anything."

The "she" she was referring to, Hillary Clinton, who is, of course, now Secretary of State Clinton. And Power would be working with the secretary if she gets the job. Wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall?

BROWN: I know. Of course, we've had no comment yet from Secretary Clinton about that.

HILL: You'd probably stay that way.

BROWN: Yes, I think you're right. Speaking of rivalries, Super Bowl party at the White House this weekend.

HILL: Big weekend. Very big weekend as we learned yesterday. That's right. There will be a Super Bowl party at the White House. And break out the smores because it is just going to be a Kumbaya love fest in the making. The latest from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You'll see Democrats and Republicans. You'll undoubtedly see Steelers fans and Cardinals fans, once again bringing people together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: President Obama is also bringing apparently politicians and his nonpolitical friends together. One name though we didn't see on the guest list of everyone coming together, Cardinals fan and Arizona Senator John McCain.

BROWN: I wonder if he'll actually be going to the Super Bowl?

HILL: What do you think since it's his team?

BROWN: I know. It's his team.

HILL: There's probably a pretty good chance he's making his way to Tampa.

BROWN: All right. So Erica, stand by, you're sticking with us. When we come back, there are going to be more.

They can be more entertaining than the big game itself. What happens to all those Super Bowl Sunday ads when the economy is fumbling? We're going to look at that question right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: "LARRY KING LIVE" just minutes away. Tonight, he is talking to a big name in baseball who's got a lot to say about his old team. Larry, who's coming up?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": You're right, Campbell. It's a big night for us. His book isn't even out yet, but we've got it. I read it. I have lots of questions for him.

Joe Torre is our guest. And this is the book, "The Yankee Years." We'll talk about A-Rod and Jeter, and steroids and Steinbrenner. Joe Torre, you will hear it from him here first, next on "LARRY KING LIVE," Campbell.

BROWN: All right. Thanks, Larry. We'll see you in a few minutes.

It happens this Sunday, America's biggest tailgate party. Tens of millions of people perched wherever they can perch to watch the Super Bowl and everything that goes with it. All those eyeballs might be appealing to big companies willing to pay millions a minute to run commercials during the game.

Here is the question though -- in hard times is it really worth that much? Erica Hill has been looking into that for us. What do we know? HILL: Well, it can be especially for some beer companies, like Anheuser-Busch. As one expert told me, in theory, they've got a captive beer drinking audience during the game. But the key this year is going to be proving that that audience is really worth those millions of dollars.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILL (voice-over): The Super Bowl screams excess. Just look at the commercials. Thirty seconds of ad time in this year's match up goes for $3 million. And that doesn't include the cost of the ad itself. In this economy, are Super Bowl ads still a smart business move?

MELANIE WELLS, FORBES: For a lot of advertisers, it is hard to prove that paying $3 million for a 30-second ad is worth the money. You can bet that the board, CEOs, investors, want to know or be darned sure that there will be some payoff from these ads. That's more important than ever.

HILL: Even the Super Bowl can't escape the recession. While NBC is raking in the cash, as of late Friday, two ads still weren't sold, almost unheard of in year's past. And some of the most well-known American brands will be on the sidelines Sunday.

GM tells CNN its decision made in September was prompted by reduced marketing budgets and not having a major vehicle launch. No mention of the multibillion dollar federal bridge loan.

Noting the current economy, FedEx said being in the game simply sends a wrong message both to employees and other FedEx constituents. But Pepsi tells CNN, "We almost can't afford not to advertise during the Super Bowl. When you consider the millions of people who watch the game and discuss the commercials, the value is incredible. The ads you'll see Sunday will create year-long buzz."

And Pepsi is banking on it. Buying five to six minutes of commercial time in Sunday's game, including this 3D spot for SoBe Lifewater, part of a promotion for the upcoming Dreamworks animation film "Monsters vs. Aliens."

WELLS: This is the biggest TV advertising event of the year. Last year 97 million people watched. If you are going after that audience, it's golden. It's great.

HILL: But every advertiser will still need to prove the millions were worth it. And that's why more and more, it's the after-game buzz that counts.

WELLS: There's not so much talk about advertising, Super Bowl advertising this year. That's not a good sign for advertisers. You're going to see a different next year and advertisers that are willing to pony up this kind of money.

HILL: Which could help small companies like MV Weatherproof. The New York clothing company tried to capitalize on the recession pitching NBC this five-second, less is more spot. The peacock didn't bite, but the appetite could change in 2010.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: Now a quick note on that 3D ad. I have a ton of 3D glasses in my office that I forgot upstairs, but you actually will need 3D glasses. You'll be able to see that Pepsi ad in 3D on Sunday if you have the glasses.

BROWN: Well, how do you get the glasses?

HILL: I'll give you some. I'll give you some. But you can get them at a lot of local retailers.

BROWN: OK.

HILL: You can check on the Web site. I also want to mention this. Here we talked about beer off the top and how it's generally good for beer makers.

BROWN: Right.

HILL: Well, when it comes to the troops in Iraq, they are actually lifting -- the commander in Iraq has said, look, we are going to let everybody have two 12-ounce beers for the Super Bowl.

They have had 15,000 cases of beer that has been flown in. It's going to be in the dining facilities to Iraq, not in Afghanistan. The ban on alcohol still stands there, but they're getting pizza.

There's actually a nonprofit called Pizzas for Patriots, they're bringing in a number of pizzas. Some of the pizzas also going to Iraq along with 6,000 bottles of Schlitz.

BROWN: All right.

HILL: So, I mean, the party is getting started. It's 2:00 a.m. local time, by the way, is the Super Bowl in Iraq.

BROWN: That should have been our "Bull's-Eye" tonight. Erica Hill for us, good note to end on. Appreciate it.

But our "Bull's-Eye" is next. The country coming apart at the seams, so what does Utah Senator Orrin Hatch decides to take up on the Senate floor today?

We were amazed. You will be too. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: In tonight's "Bull's-Eye," we spotlight a fiery speech on the Senate floor today by Orrin Hatch of Utah. Give a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: The BCS (ph) system is anti- competitive, unfair, and in my opinion unAmerican. It's not right. This may not only be unfair in the normative sense, it may very well violate our nation's antitrust laws.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Senator Hatch sure got worked up. That BCS thing must be plenty important. Something to do with collapsing the economy or $819 billion stimulus plan or something like that?

Actually no, as you football fans know, BCS stands for Bold Championship Series. Senator Hatch was upset that his state's school, the University of Utah, was excluded from the BCS championship game this year, even though it was undefeated on the football field, taking it up on the Senate floor.

That's all for us tonight. Have a great weekend.

"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.

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