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Obama vs. Cheney

Aired May 21, 2009 - 20:00   ET


ROLAND MARTIN, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, folks, we are devoting most of our program to the one political story everyone is talking about today, the closest thing we may ever get to a direct debate between President Barack Obama and former Vice President Dick Cheney.

From Gitmo, to water-boarding, to keeping America safe, both men delivered hard-hitting arguments and took some not-so-thinly-veiled swipes at each other's time in office. You are going to hear long excerpts from both speeches.

And with me of course to break it all down, CNN anchor and correspondent Erica Hill, senior analyst Jeffrey Toobin, national political correspondent Jessica Yellin, and Lisa Bloom, "In Session" anchor and CNN legal analyst.

But, first up, President Obama, who had strong words about the damage he believes Gitmo has caused, arguing its been more harm than good day since one to America.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For over seven years, we have detained hundreds of people at Guantanamo. During that time, the system of military commissions that were in place at Guantanamo succeeded in convicting a grand total of three suspected terrorists. Let me repeat that -- three convictions in over seven years.

Instead of bringing terrorists to justice, efforts of prosecution met setback after setback. Cases lingered on. And in 2006, the Supreme Court invalidated the entire system. Meanwhile, over 525 detainees were released from Guantanamo under -- not my administration -- under the previous administration. Let me repeat that. Two-thirds of the detainees were released before I took office and ordered the closure of Guantanamo.

There's also no question that Guantanamo set back the moral authority that is America's strongest currency in the world. Instead of building a durable framework for the struggle against al Qaeda that drew upon our deeply-held values and traditions, our government was defending positions that undermined the rule of law. In fact, part of the rationale for establishing Guantanamo in the first place was the misplaced notion that a prison there would be beyond the law, a proposition that the Supreme Court soundly rejected.

Meanwhile, instead of serving as a tool to counter terrorism, Guantanamo became a symbol that helped al Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause. Indeed, the existence of Guantanamo, likely, created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained. So the record is clear. Rather than keeping us safer, the prison at Guantanamo has weakened American national security. It is a rallying cry for our enemies. It success back the willingness of our allies to work with us in fighting an enemy that operates in scores of countries.

By any measure, the cost of keeping it open far exceed the complications involved in closing it.


MARTIN: Folks, with us from Washington tonight, Steven Emerson, executive director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism, which compiles data an radical terror groups, also Clark Kent Ervin, a CNN security analyst who served with President Obama's transition team and is director of the Homeland Security Program at the Aspen Institute, an organization that tries to provide a neutral venue for discussing critical issues.

Steve, I want to start with you.

The president said Guantanamo created more terrorists than it detained, that it weakened our national security. Do you agree?

STEVEN EMERSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE INVESTIGATIVE PROJECT ON TERRORISM: You know, I have no political bone in this fight, but, frankly, I don't agree with that.

There were major terrorist attacks from 1993 on the World Trade Center, the '98 bombings of the Kenya and Tanzania embassies, the 2000 Cole bombing, the Khobar bombings, the 9/11 bombings. This was way before Gitmo.

I don't think that terrorists are sitting back and saying, you know, I had a bad experience at Gitmo, or Gitmo looks bad; let me attack the U.S.

They have got much larger beefs. They -- they want a caliphate. They oppose the United States. They oppose the very existence of the state of Israel. They oppose the West in the Middle East. So, I don't think Gitmo is the primary or even a minor factor in recruiting terrorists.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Clark, let me ask you to respond to that, because John McCain, during his campaign, said that he was in favor of closing Gitmo. And even President Bush had an ultimate goal of closing Guantanamo Bay prison.

So, is there any scenario in which keeping Guantanamo Bay open long-term is even reasonable?


And you are quite right to point out that that was even President Bush's long-term goal. And he frequently said that. For better or not, it is the fact that Gitmo has become a symbol. And it has become counterproductive for the United States.

The fact is that the war that we are fighting against terrorism has all kinds of elements, not just military elements. And there is a political, there is a diplomatic, there is a psychological element.

And, ultimate, those latter factors I mentioned are more important. We can't kill and capture every terrorist. And so the symbolism of Gitmo has actually undermined our efforts in -- in counterterrorism.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Clark, you say you want -- everybody wants to close Gitmo. And that is clearly true across the board, except perhaps for Dick Cheney.

But what do you do with the people who are there? That's what President Obama seems to be struggling with. What about the people you can't -- you don't have enough evidence to prosecute? Do you just do what the Bush administration does -- said, which was, keep them there indefinitely?

ERVIN: Well, you're quite right. That is the next question. What do you do with them?

And I have to say that I'm sympathetic to those in the Congress on both sides of the aisle, who have held up funding until there is a definite plan. On the other hand, it seems to me today the president pointed the way toward a plan.

On the one hand, we need to redouble the efforts that, to be fair, the Bush administration began, but because, in part of Gitmo, it was unsuccessful in this regard, to get foreign countries -- most of the people we are talking about are foreign citizens -- to take these people back.

We should use all our political, economic and -- leverage to do that. For those people who won't be taken back, ultimately, the president pointed out that, in these supermax prisons, there's never been anyone who has escaped. We have terrorists in our country who have been convicted and who are held in prisons today, Ramzi Yousef, as he pointed out, Zacarias Moussaoui, the 20th hijacker. We have done it. We're doing it now. We can do it, if necessary.

EMERSON: Can I point out something here?

I think that if you put them in the United States, one, it's much easier to get into the United States than get them out. Number two, once they are here, they are going to be afforded all types of legal procedures and rights that we don't want to provide them with, because we didn't collect the evidence at the field of battle that would afford them the same type of due process that somebody who is arrested in New York would have.

Number three, we have discovered that Ramzi Yousef and others plotted inside American prisons with other radical Islamic terrorists to carry out terrorist attacks here in the United States. I don't think that because people are sitting in a supermax, they are saying, oh, I'm not going to attack the United States. They don't like the fact that we arrest terrorists, period.


EMERSON: And whether they're in Gitmo or not, it doesn't make a difference.

Gitmo is a place to keep them at bay, keep them separate from the American population. They have now been -- Gitmo can be the Club Mediterranean for the penal code here..

ERVIN: Oh, dear.

MARTIN: Steve, hold tight one second.

Folks, former Vice President Cheney came out swinging today, with no apology, of course, and no interest in changing his stance on how to best protect our country.

Here is a little bit more of what he said.


RICHARD B. CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground. And half- measures keep you half-exposed.


MARTIN: Is America more safe or less safe under President Obama?

I want to hear what you think, 1-877-NO-BULL-0. That's 1-877- 662-8550. You can also e-mail me And, as always, find me on Twitter and Facebook.


MARTIN: As we told you, President Obama and former Vice President Dick Cheney gave back-to-back speeches today on national security, tough talk from both men. And, as you would expect, they strongly disagreed.

You probably didn't get a chance to hear them this morning, but the issue is so important, we are doing something different tonight and playing key excerpts from both speeches, so you can hear them for yourself.

Listen to what the president had to say about detainees at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.


OBAMA: In dealing with the situation, we don't have the luxury of starting from scratch. We're cleaning up something that is quite simply a mess, a misguided experiment that has left in its wake a flood of legal challenges that my administration is forced to deal with on a constantly, almost daily, basis and that consumes the time of government officials whose time should be spent on better protecting our country.

We are not going to release anyone if it would endanger our national security nor will we release detainees within the United States who endanger the American people. Where demanded by justice and national security, we will seek to transfer some detainees to the same type of facilities in which we hold all manner of dangerous and violent criminals within our borders; namely, highly secure prisons that ensure the public safety.

As we make these decisions, bear in mind the following fact. Nobody has ever escaped from one of our federal super-max prisons which hold hundreds of convicted terrorists.

Whenever feasible, we will try those who have violated American criminal laws in federal courts. Courts provided for by the United States Constitution. Some have derided our federal courts as incapable of handling the trials of terrorists. They are wrong.

Our courts and our juries, our citizens, are tough enough to convict terrorists. The record make that clean. Ramzi Yousef tried to blow up the World Trade Center. He was convicted in our courts and is serving a life sentence in U.S. prisons.

But even when this process is complete, there may be a number of people who cannot be prosecuted for past crimes, in some cases, because evidence may be tainted, but who, nonetheless, pose a threat to the security of the United States.

We must have clear, defensible, and lawful standards for those who fall into this category. We must be fair procedures so that we don't make mistakes. We must have a thorough process of periodic review so that any prolonged detention is carefully evaluated and justified.


MARTIN: That was the president on the dilemma of detainees.

The former vice president responded moments later with this.


CHENEY: Now the president says some of these terrorists should be brought to American soil for trial in our court system; others, he says, will be shipped to third countries. But so far, the United States has had little luck getting other countries to take hardened terrorists.

So what happens then? Attorney General Holder and others have admitted that the United States will be compelled to accept terrorists here in the homeland, and it has even been suggested U.S. taxpayer dollars will be used to support them.

On this one, I find myself in complete agreement with many of the president's own party. Unsure how to explain to their constituents why terrorists might soon be relocating in their states, these Democrats chose instead to strip funding for such a move out of the most recent war supplemental.

The administration has found that it's easy to receive applause in Europe for closing Guantanamo, but it's tricky to come up with an alternative that will serve the interests of justice and America's national security.

Keep in mind that these are hardened terrorists picked up overseas since 9/11. The ones that were considered low risk were released a long time ago. And among these, it turns out that many were treated too leniently, because they cut a straight path back to their prior line of work and have conducted murderous attacks in the Middle East. An estimated 14 percent of those released previously are believed to be back in the business of jihad.

I think the president will find upon reflection that to bring the worst of the worst terrorists inside the United States would be cause for great danger and regret in the years to come.


MARTIN: The president and the former vice president, obviously, are on opposite sides of this issue.

And now we want to hear what our panel thinks. Erica, Jeff, Jessica, And Lisa are back, along with Steven Emerson and Clark Kent Ervin.

Now, Jeff, the president and his particular policy on how he wants to deal with these detainees, will it hold up in court?

TOOBIN: It's really hard to tell, because think about the background here.

Three times, the Supreme Court rejected what the Bush administration tried to do there. So, this is a court that is clearly engaged on this issue. It is also true that Obama has tried to move the bar a little bit towards a more protective-of-the-rights-of-the- detainees position.

His plan for military tribunals is a little bit more pro- defendants-rights. But he did suggest there will be some people who will simply be held without charges indefinitely. And that's something the court, I think, may well have some trouble with.

LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And that -- but that is a relatively small amount of the current detainees, right?

I mean, for those who are going to be tried in American courts, that's not going to be a...


TOOBIN: Not a controversy, yes.

BLOOM: Those who are sent overseas, not a problem. So, we are only talking about a relatively small number who we don't know what to do with legally. That's the issue.

TOOBIN: That's true. It is -- it is a small number, but they could be some really bad folks.

BLOOM: Sure.

TOOBIN: And you still have the legal problem of what to do with them.


MARTIN: Steve...


ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you also have the containment problem, which is -- which is, I think, for most Americans, what we are hearing is that that is a bigger concern than maybe the legal issue.

They want to know, if these people are brought to the U.S., will they be safe? The president of course saying today that he was adamant, in fact, that U.S. prisons could detain these detainees, noting no one had ever escaped from a supermax.

Steven, do you believe that he can stand by that and ensure that nothing will happen?

EMERSON: Well, look, he's right that no one's ever escaped from a supermax. But that's not the issue. The issue is, what do they do in prison? The collaboration between Islamic terrorists, we know it happened with the Blind Sheik and his communications with El Sayyid Nosair that brought on the 1993 bombing.

We know that communications being the Blind Sheik and his own lawyer, Lynne Stewart, passing communications. And we also know what would happen if -- we don't know what would happen if the Chinese Uighurs were relocated to Virginia. These are hardened...


MARTIN: Steve, Steve...


MARTIN: But, Steve, right now, we have 23 terrorists in U.S. prisons right now. So, it's not like this is a new idea. They are in U.S. prisons right now tonight.

EMERSON: Yes, absolutely. I'm -- I'm not disagreeing with the fact that -- that there are terrorists, like Ramzi Yousef, the Blind Sheik, that have been convicted duly and sentenced to life imprisonment and are not going to be a danger to the American public.

On the other hand, when you start resettling people in, like the Chinese Uighurs, there's been talk about putting them in Virginia. And the FBI says these are people who are going to require 24-hour surveillance.


EMERSON: They are not going to be tried, because there is no evidence to try them. But they were caught as hardened jihadists on the battlefield.

YELLIN: Let me ask a quick question. Let me jump in here and ask Jeff, is it possible that any of this is a different issue -- I'm sorry -- Clark -- if this is a different issue when they are relocated to the U.S.? If we don't know what to do with a certain number of detainees, is that any different if they are in Guantanamo Bay or if they're here in the U.S.? It's the same legal problem, isn't it?


ERVIN: That's right. It is exactly the same legal problem.

The vast majority of these people can be dealt with. There is going to be just a small number of people who don't fit into either category. And we need to come up with a procedure for these people. The military commissions idea, with some improved rights for defendants, it seems to me is the way to go with that.

But we have established that we can, here in the United States, handle people who are very, very dangerous.

MARTIN: Gentlemen, we have got lots more to cover tonight, folks. This will be in just one moment.

In his speech today, President Obama rejected the use of interrogation methods like water-boarding. Critics like Dick Cheney say that makes us less safe.

We want to know what you think? Is America more safe or less safe under President Obama?

Here is James from Illinois.


JAMES, ILLINOIS: I think that we are incredibly less safe under Obama. If you look at what is happening in North Korea, Iran, the facilities that (INAUDIBLE) Syria, these four terrorist suspects that were arrested in New York are like the last remaining intelligence, it looks like, from the Bush administration.

So, yes, we're screwed.


MARTIN: Remember to call 1-877-NO-BULL-0, 1-877-662-8550.

Drop me an e-mail, And, also, find me on Twitter and Facebook.


MARTIN: In this economy, folks, it's tough enough to make a living, let alone make a difference -- tough, but not impossible.

Tonight, the young entrepreneur who turned his thirst for helping others into a thriving business, he is making good and giving back. We will tell you more about it in just a moment.


MARTIN: President Barack Obama and former Vice President Dick Cheney went head-to-head today without ever being in the same room. Both men gave important speeches on national security, so important that we are playing the most important parts for you and breaking it down with our panel.

Let's listen to the president leaving no doubt as to where he stands on harsh interrogations of terror suspects.


OBAMA: I know some have argued that brutal methods like waterboarding were necessary to keep us safe. I could not disagree more. It's commander-in-chief, I see the intelligence. I bear the responsibility for keeping this country safe. And I categorically reject the assertion that these are the most effective means of interrogation.


OBAMA: What's more, they undermine the rule of law. They alienate us in the world. They serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists and increase the will of our enemies to fight us while decreasing the will of others to work with America.

They risk the lives of our troops by making it less likely that others will surrender to them in battle and more likely that Americans will be mistreated if they are captured. In short, they did not advance our war and counterterrorism efforts; they undermined them. And that is why I ended them once and for all.


OBAMA: Now, I should add, the arguments against these techniques did not originate from my administration. As Senator McCain once said, torture serves as a great propaganda tool for those who recruit people to fight against us.

And even under President Bush, there was recognition among members of his own administration, including a secretary of state, other senior officials, and many in the military and in intelligence community that those who argued for these tactics were on the wrong side of the debate and the wrong side of history.

That's why we must leave these methods where they belong, in the past. They are not who we are, and they are not America. I recognize that many still have a strong desire to focus on the past. When it comes it actions of the last eight years, passions are high. Some Americans are angry. Others want to refight debates that have been settled, in some cases, debates that they have lost.

I know that these debates lead directly, in some cases, to a call for fuller accounting, perhaps, through an independent commission. I have opposed the creation of such a commission because I believe that our existing democratic institutions are strong enough to deliver accountability. The Congress can review abuses of all values, and there are ongoing inquiries by the Congress into matters like enhanced interrogation techniques.

The Department of Justice and our courts can work through and punish any violations of our laws or miscarriages of justice.

I can stand here today as president of the United States and say without exception or equivocation that we do not torture and that we will vigorously protect our people while forge a strong and durable framework that allows us to fight terrorism while abiding by the rule of law. Make no mistake. If we fail to turn the page on the approach that was taken over the past several years, then I will not be able to say that as president.

And if we cannot stand for our core values, then we are not keeping faith with the documents that are enshrined in this hall.



MARTIN: That was the president today at the National Archives, where the Bill of Rights and our Constitution are kept.

Just minutes later, we heard from former Vice President Dick Cheney, defiant in the face of criticism and the possibility of an independent investigation.


CHENEY: It's hard to imagine a worse precedent filled with more possibilities for trouble and abuse than to have an incoming administration criminalize the policy decisions of its predecessor.


MARTIN: All right, folks, this isn't just their debate. It's our national debate.

Let's hear from you. Is America more safe or less safe under President Barack Obama? Call 1-877-NO-BULL-0. That's 1-877-662-8550. E-mail me or find me on Twitter and Facebook.


MARTIN: Both President Obama and former Vice President Cheney came out swinging today. And we're cueing up the greatest hits from both speeches tonight.

Before the break, we heard from the president denouncing the harsh interrogation tactics used by the Bush administration. Just minutes later, Mr. Cheney fired back in what he calls enhanced interrogation tactics.


CHENEY: To the very end of our administration, we kept Al Qaeda terrorists busy with other problems. We focused on getting their secrets instead of sharing ours with them. And on our watch, they never hit this country again.

After the most lethal and devastating terrorist attack ever, seven and a half years without a repeat is not a record to be rebuked and scorned, much less criminalized. It is a record to be continued until the danger has passed.

To completely rule out enhanced interrogation in the future is unwise in the extreme. It is recklessness cloaked in righteousness and would make the American people less safe.

The administration seems to pride itself on searching for some kind of middle ground in policies addressing terrorism. They may take comfort in hearing disagreement from opposite ends of the spectrum

If liberals are unhappy about some decisions and conservatives are unhappy about other decisions, then it may seem to them that the president is on the path of sensible compromise. But in the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground. And half majors keep you half exposed.


MARTIN: Well, joining us now from Washington, D.C. is White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

Robert, thanks so much for joining us.


MARTIN: All right. You heard the vice president's criticism today. He really went after the president on Gitmo. Here's what he had to say and I want you to respond.


CHENEY: On his second day in office, President Obama announced he was closing the detention facility at Guantanamo. The step came with little deliberation and no plan.

Now, the president says some of these terrorists should be brought to American soil for trial in our court system. Others, he says, will be shipped to third countries. But so far, the United States has had little luck getting other countries to take hardened terrorists. So what happens then?


MARTIN: So, Robert, even Democrats in Congress are saying what happens then, so what is the answer?

GIBBS: Well, Roland, when the president signed an executive order closing Guantanamo Bay within a year, he stood up a series of task forces to make decisions to review the 240 cases of individuals that are now in Guantanamo. He's worked to reform military commissions to bring certain detainees to justice and the Justice Department itself announced just this morning that an individual involved in blowing up our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and killing innocent Americans in 1998 will be transferred to the southern district of New York and brought to justice for the crimes that we believe he committed.

So we're making progress on going through each of the individual cases at Guantanamo Bay and removing the stain that that prison camp has caused our image around the world.

MARTIN: Robert, we already have terrorists who are in federal prisons in the U.S., World Trade Center bombing 1993. So what is the real beef here when it comes to bringing these terrorists to U.S. prisons?

GIBBS: Well, look, I think, Roland, this is a political argument that certain people are trying to make, not out of any constitutional obligation, but in many ways out of fear.

I think the best example here, Roland, is we picked up four individuals, the FBI did, just last night in New York. And they're going to be charged with a conspiracy to commit terror because they wanted to blow up synagogues and thought they were buying bombs and wanted to buy missiles to shoot down planes. They're going to be held in the very same facilities that this Guantanamo detainee that blew up our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania will be held before he is tried, as well.

So we can deal with very bad people. As you mentioned, the 20th hijacker is in an American jail.

MARTIN: Right.

GIBBS: People that tried to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993, thankfully, are held securely and tightly in super-max facilities throughout this country.

MARTIN: You earlier mentioned politics when it comes to the issue of terrorists in U.S. prisons. Yet, the former vice president also said that President Obama is taking the middle ground when it comes to fighting terrorism, saying it boils down to political purposes. And so, how do you respond to him saying that what the president is doing is all politics and is not a question of keeping Americans safe? GIBBS: Well, again, the president upheld, put his hand on a bible and held his right hand up and swore an oath to keep this country and its citizens safe. And that's what he thinks about each and every day. That's what he'll continue to do.

But, what he believes, Roland, is we don't have to sacrifice who we are as a people, the values and the institutions that our great country has created in order to keep us safe.

MARTIN: Robert Gibbs, thanks so much. We certainly appreciate it.

GIBBS: Roland, thanks for having me.

MARTIN: All right, folks, we're going to talk a lot more about President Obama's speech as well as Dick Cheney's. If you didn't get a chance to see them for yourself, we'll have them in full on our Web site. Just go to

Like Robert Gibbs just said, we don't need a reminder that the threat of terrorism is still with us. We've got one in New York City. The plot, the suspects and what they're accused of saying about the World Trade Center just ahead.


MARTIN: Oh, getting a little love (ph) there. You like that, Lisa?



ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Isn't that what Wolf Blitzer danced to when he was on "Ellen"?

BLOOM: You're right. And he was good.

HILL: He was great.

YELLIN: I was going to say it was a surprise.


MARTIN: Oh, that's so cold, Jessica.

Here is our question tonight, folks. Is America more safe or less safe under President Obama? Or watching Wolf dance?

We want to know what you think. Give us a call right now, 1-877- NO-BULL-0. 1-877-662-8550. But right now with the wonderful and inviting "Briefing" Erica Hill.

HILL: Inviting and very --

MARTIN: I've been trying to make it, you know -- HILL: Which is good. We do start with a very serious story, though, that we've been following since it first broke late last night. All four suspects, we can tell you now, in a New York bomb plot currently being held without bail.

Authorities say the men were "eager to bring death to Jews" and plotted to blow up New York City synagogues. They also allegedly hoped to shoot down a military plane. Prosecutors say the men were even sorry the World Trade Center wasn't still around to attack.

Also in New York, a suspected Somali pirate accused of holding a U.S. ship captain hostage pleading not guilty today. His lawyers say they're looking for witnesses in Somalia to prove he is a juvenile. A judge ruled last month he should be tried as an adult.

GM reaching a deal with the United Auto Workers union that would change its labor contract. And a deal is considered to be essential for the automaker to avoid bankruptcy in the next two weeks. Exact terms of that deal were not disclosed.

And while we know Congress has never really been known for being brief, here's yet another -- a little tidbit for you to chew on about that.

Case in point here tonight, the climate bill, which is now in the House Subcommittee runs, get this, 946 pages. And Republicans were threatening to invoke their right to force the reading of the entire bill.

What a novel idea, read the entire bill before you vote on it.

MARTIN: Shocker.

HILL: Yes. So Democrats came up with a novel solution. They hired a speed reader. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe cited as the energy production, innovation and conservation act. B, Table of Contents.

Table of Contents for the act is as follows. Section one, short title on table of contents. Table One: Clean Energy Standards.

Section 101: Title: Clean Energy Standards. Title Two: American Energy, subtitle A: Conservation --


HILL: I think we got the picture there. So, yes, we're still not going to read it. And we probably can't understand what the guy is saying, but in theory we're listening.

MARTIN: What a fun job this was. Who the hell thought about this?

YELLIN: Oh, the Democrats on the committee. They were ready.

MARTIN: Look, who was that -- you know, we don't need to pay a speed reader.

BLOOM: I want that job. I want that speed reader job.

HILL: You want to be able to speed read. That could be impressive.

BLOOM: I think that would be fun.

MARTIN: Golly, I tell you. Crack heads in the Congress.

Come on. You hire a speed reader, we're broke. What are you doing? We need to sell. We're paying you a 100-plus grand a year.

All right, folks, tonight's America's favorite judge stops by "LARRY KING LIVE." Judge Judy weighs in on Michael Vick, Miss California, maybe that speed reader from the Democrats. It's Judge Judy for the hour at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

President Obama faces some tremendous challenges over his next 100 days. And some of the smartest folks at CNN are talking about what lies ahead in a special edition of "AC 360. "Extreme Challenges, the Next 100 Days" airs tonight at 10:00 Eastern.

All right, now, with the economy in crisis, speed reading jobs available, because anytime you start a business, my next guest says absolutely. In tonight's "Money and Main Street' segment, we'll meet a young entrepreneur who's doing well by doing good.


MARTIN: All right. Time for "Money and Main Street," our weekly look at how the economic headlines are affecting everyday Americans.

This is National Small Business Week. President Obama called the entrepreneurial spirit the core of our nation's economy and identity.

Tonight, you're going to meet a young, successful entrepreneur who's not letting the recession get in the way of his company's thirst for customers and his dream of helping others.

Ben Lewis is only 20 years old and already he's the CEO of a growing bottled water business. But from day one, he's thought about more than just the bottom line. He thought of those in need by donating a dime for every bottle he sells to charity. In fact the name of the brand is "Give Water." (INAUDIBLE) it's also adding up.

Ben Lewis joins us from Pittsburgh.

Now, Ben, times are tough right now. So why do you think now is really a great time to become an entrepreneur?

BEN LEWIS, "GIVE" WATER FOUNDER/CEO: I think it's a good time as ever to become an entrepreneur. I mean, I know when I started out, well, I guess it was a little bit before the economy started to tank.

But, you know, it's a great time to -- it's a great time for, you know, young people especially, to take initiative. I think if you have a great -- if you have a great product, you have a great vision, if you have a good idea, it's as good a time as ever.

MARTIN: Hey, Ben, do you say it's a good time because, frankly, you have people who are very skilled who don't really want to get caught up in a corporate environment? And so are you saying they should be able to take resources, be able to start a product? Because when you started the company, what? You guys started with how much money? How much does it cost to launch the company?

LEWIS: I mean, when we started out it was on a totally different scale. We probably started with $15,000. You know, whatever the minimum amount of money we could spend to get our first run of bottles made, making deliveries out of the back of a car and, you know, really building a business from the ground up here in Pittsburgh in our hometown, like I said out of the back of a car.

So it definitely started out on a totally different scale, but, you know, like I said, it's really about the hard work. If you believe in what you're doing, it's not hard to, you know, to grow a successful business.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Ben, can I ask you a question that I've always wondered about and you're the first water entrepreneur I've ever spoke to. What is the difference between one water and another?

YELLIN: One bottled water.

TOOBIN: One bottled water and another?

LEWIS: That's a great question.

TOOBIN: Well, thank you very much. But what's the answer?

LEWIS: You know, it's funny because when I started out, you know, I started "Give" right after my senior year of high school. And it's funny I love telling the story how, you know, I would call around. I would call retailers, grocery chains throughout the country and talk to the buyers on the phone. And, you know, the first reaction was, water? I don't need another water.

You know, click. They hang up the phone. All water is the same. You know, there's so much --

TOOBIN: That would be my view actually. But go ahead.

LEWIS: Honestly, there are so many different brands out there. And, I think, especially now, people don't really care whether a brand is, you know, from -- imported from, you know, France or Norway or Fiji or anywhere else around the world. It's really about, you know, all water is exactly the same.

MARTIN: So basically, it's about packaging. Is it about color?

BLOOM: Yes. And on that point, maybe the difference is that you're giving ten cents from each bottle to different charities and people can choose the charity based on which one -- which color bottle they choose. But one thing all the waters have in common, Ben, is this packaging. All this plastic and all these cans, which isn't so great for the environment.

LEWIS: Yes. I mean, I think that's a great point, as well. I mean, there are so many different -- like I said so many different waters out there on the market, and there's no differentiation.

I mean, as far as I've seen until now with "Give," you know, there's a lot, imported from this, you know, exotic spring in, you know, Europe or, you know, a great-looking package. People don't really care about that. And what we've done with "Give" is really --

BLOOM: So, Ben, I know you're going to do something about this packaging issue?

LEWIS: Well, actually -- you know, actually we have. We have -- about two months ago we unveiled the first oxybiodegradable bottle in the country. Our bottles actually degrade within ten years as opposed to over a thousand.

YELLIN: Hey, Ben, quickly. How much money have you raised for charity? We know that you're raising money for charity. How much have you given to charity so far?

LEWIS: We've donated over $75,000.



TOOBIN: That's great.

LEWIS: Just through the sale -- through yes, selling bottled water you would never think.

MARTIN: All right.

LEWIS: We donate 10 cents of every bottle sold to a cause of the consumer's choice. It's actually right here.


LEWIS: Pink bottle -- if you buy "Give Hope," which is our pink bottle, you're giving to breast cancer research. There's four different causes. Basically, the consumers choose how they want to give back just by buying a bottle of water.

MARTIN: All right, Ben --

LEWIS: And really ten cents adds up very quickly, as you can see. MARTIN: Absolutely. Well, Ben, look, certainly good luck with that. And again, for people out there who are looking to start their own thing, I'd say, go at it, live your dream.

We certainly appreciate it. Thanks a lot.

Folks, can you afford to start your own small business like Ben Lewis did? Find out how good your financial health is with a test we have for you. Check it out at

All through the program we've been letting you see President Obama and former Vice President Dick Cheney making impassioned arguments for why they know best when it comes to defending America.

Diane in California has her mind made up.


DIANE, FROM CALIFORNIA (via telephone): I think we're far more safe under President Obama than under Dick Cheney. After all, 9/11 happened on Cheney-Bush's watch.


MARTIN: Is America more safe or less safe under President Obama?

Call us now 1-877-662-8550. 1-877-NO-BULL-0. You can also e- mail me or shoot me a note on Twitter and Facebook.


MARTIN: Oh, that Joss Stone, "Tell Me How You Feel."

All right. We want to hear from you, folks. We've been asking you what you think. Is America more safe or less safe under President Obama?

We've heard from lots of you at home. And, of course, Erica, Jeff, Jessica and Lisa are back with us, along with Steven Emerson and Clark Kent Ervin.

All right, folks, lots of different folks on the phone lines right now. They've been waiting to talk to us on this very topic.

Before we go there, Clark, you like the fact that you've got these two great guys talking about this issue of national security.

CLARK KENT ERVIN, THE ASPEN INSTITUTE: I think that's right, Roland. We should step back for a bit and just point out that today was a great teaching moment for the country.

Whatever your position on this issue, I think we had the two most eloquent and persuasive defenders of their respective positions on these issues that are possible. And so I really expect that this will engender some nationwide conversation about this really critically important issue. MARTIN: Let's see if they had an effect. Harriet from Georgia, what say you?

HARRIET, GEORGIA (via telephone): Hi. My response to the question being post is that I absolutely believe that we are safer in the Obama administration due to some great measure, you know, its efforts to use diplomacy as an integral part of ensuring our national security, as most Americans recall was absolutely or virtually totally absent in the previous administration.

I further believe that Cheney is simply trying to use this issue to invite a terrorist attack for the expressed purposes of political posturing, an effort to undermine the Obama administration to expand its inclusion of their diplomat efforts.

MARTIN: All right. All right. Thanks so much. From a Georgia peach to a Hoosier -- Patrick from Indiana. Patrick?

PATRICK, INDIANA (via telephone): Yes. In regards to your previous caller one back, the Bush -- 9/11 happened on the Bush administration's watch because the CIA as well as the rest of the military was diminished under Clinton and we didn't have all the information that we should have. But the inconvertible fact that nobody has mentioned yet is that there has been no terrorist attack in the United States, or for that matter, our embassies or other foreign interests around the world.

MARTIN: OK. All right, Patrick, thanks so much.

Let's go out west. Dave, Utah.

DAVE, UTAH (via telephone): Hi. I have to agree with the previous caller. I think that under the Obama administration if we are going to allow people in our country who want to persecute us, that is a big error. And I think Bush solved that right away.

MARTIN: OK. Dave, thanks so much. Let's go to Michigan. Ginny?

Ginny, MICHIGAN (via telephone): Hi. I just find the whole situation very odd that the former vice president of the United States would turn the safety of this country into a competition, when in fact, it was on their watch that the 9/11 events happened.


GINNY: And as we can see from your today's headlines, we thwarted the attempt in the very state of New York. Thank you.

MARTIN: OK. Ginny, thanks so much.

And, folks, when we come right back, we'll have final comments. So sit tight.


MARTIN: All right. Back with our panel along with Steven Emerson and Clark Kent Ervin in Washington.

HILL: Real quick question, Clark, I just want to throw this by you. We listen to the sound off the top when we came to the show. The president saying that he feels Guantanamo Bay set back "the moral authority as America's strongest currency."

What has happened to that currency? Is it weaker now in the world and is it because of Guantanamo Bay?

ERVIN: Yes, there is absolutely no question about that, Erica. You know, I thought today about George Kennan, the then-young American diplomat in our embassy in Moscow back in the 1940s who sketched out a strategy that ultimately proved successful against Soviet communism.

And in the last paragraph of that strategy document, he said the ultimate greatest danger to the United States is that in fighting communism, we've become like the enemy we're fighting. That's what happened to us over the past seven to eight years and Gitmo is the symbol of that.

MARTIN: Steven?

STEVEN EMERSON, INVESTIGATIVE PROJECT ON TERRORISM: I would respectfully disagree. Look, I think the whole problem in the 1990s when we were experiencing radical Islamic attacks, a term, by the way, that the president refuses to even use which I think is dangerous because it basically says you can't identify your enemy. The problem in the 1990s is that we attacked the problem like a law enforcement problem. It was a military problem.


EMERSON: We tried to solve it, you know, right after 9/11. The three pirates who were just killed in that boat, they weren't read their rights.

YELLIN: But Steven -- quickly, can you just --

EMERSON: Go ahead.

YELLIN: Can you explain, do you think Gitmo should stay open then indefinitely?

MARTIN: About 15 seconds, Steven.

EMERSON: Yes, I believe at this point it should definitely stay open for as long as the conflict exists. Absolutely. And they should not be allowed into the United States.

BLOOM: Yes. I mean, Steven, the problem is that President Obama was speaking from the National Archives talking about our constitution and our deeply-held values. Doesn't that come into this at all?

MARTIN: Steven, about 10 seconds.

EMERSON: Of course it comes into, but the rule of law is not the rule of lawyers. And the fact is that you fight wars. And we fight wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan today.


EMERSON: People are not being read their rights when the Marines attacked them.

MARTIN: Gentlemen -- Steven, I certainly appreciate it. Clark Kent Ervin, thank you very much.

Folks, be sure to tune in tomorrow night as our panel talks with Larry King. We're going to Larry King right now.

HILL: What do we say?

ALL: Holla.