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CAMPBELL BROWN

Do or Die For Health Care Reform? Any Progress in Afghanistan?

Aired September 8, 2009 - 20:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Tonight, here are the questions we want answered. Can we have a rational conversation on health care, education and the economy?

JOHN AVLON, AUTHOR, "INDEPENDENT NATION": We're just going to crazy town every day when we stir stuff up, firing off press releases that have nothing to do with reality.

BROWN: After a long, insane summer of wild attacks and mudslinging, we are hitting the reset button. It's time to get real and get at the facts.

Plus, breaking news from Afghanistan -- four Americans dead today in fierce fighting, a suicide bombing in Kabul, charges of election fraud. Are we making any progress in Afghanistan?

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": They know the Taliban is out there, is watching them, is learning from watching the Marines. And that is a troubling sign.

BROWN: Anderson Cooper and Michael Ware on the front lines tonight.

And our newsmaker tonight, Kathy Griffin, is there anything she won't say? The queen of the D-list on politics.

KATHY GRIFFIN, ENTERTAINER: The very most important question about this administration is her arms and how did she get them? If I see one more news story about her arms, I might break one of them.

BROWN: Her personal life.

GRIFFIN: I have never been a keeper of secrets, and I'm not going to start now.

BROWN: And the truth about being a CNN junky.

GRIFFIN: I finally found love. You're going to have to address me as Kathy Griffin Johnston.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is your only source for news. CNN prime time begins now. Here's Campbell Brown.

BROWN: Hey there, everybody. It's good to be back.

Those are of course our big questions tonight, but we're going to start as we always do with the "Mash-Up," our look at all the stories making an impact right now, the moments you may have missed. We're watching it all, so you don't have to.

And back to work in Washington, D.C., today with the White House desperately trying to hit reset and get health care reform back on track. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Make or break moment for health care reform, Congress is now back in Washington, ready for a special address from the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president lost control of the health care debate over August, and this prime-time speech may be his last, best chance to get it back.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: What everyone wants to know at this point is whether the public option, an option for government-run health care, is out or in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Aides made clear the president won't make a government insurance option which he supports an absolute deal- breaker, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, after a White House meeting today, still said it's a must.

MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC: Virtually every Republican has decided to just say no to anything the president proposes.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: My friends, you can call it the government option, you can call it a co-op, you can call it a banana, but the fact is it is government intervention into the free marketplace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Still, the president tonight making a special appeal to Republican moderates, telling ABC News their voices are getting drowned out too by the fringe. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Part of the frustration I have is, is that, on the Republican side, there are wonderful people whose voices I think are tamped down. And the traditional leaders, the Bob Doles of the world, those voices have been I think shouted down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: A challenge from the president, but will he be able to quiet the loud voices in his own party? And how do we get past all the anger and invective? We're going to tackle that later tonight. Meantime, the president today delivering what in a normal universe would be a pretty unremarkable speech, a back-to-school message to America's children. But these days, even that becomes fodder for partisan attacks.

Last week, the chairman of the Florida Republican Party accused the president of trying to indoctrinate our kids. And it only got worse from there, hand-wringing on the right, parents pulling their kids out of class, urging their principals not to play the president's address.

Well, today the president spoke, no socialist screed, this. Here are the CliffsNotes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, the best schools in the world, and none of it will make a difference -- none of it will matter -- unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities.

I know that sometimes you get that sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work.

The truth is, being successful is hard.

If you get a bad grade, that doesn't mean you're stupid. It just means you need to spend more time studying.

If you get into trouble, that doesn't mean you're a troublemaker. It means you need to try harder to act right.

The circumstances of your life -- what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you've got going on at home -- none of that is an excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude in school. That's no excuse for talking back to your teacher or cutting class or dropping out of school. There is no excuse for not trying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: So that was it, people. Calm down, everybody. Well, now that the speech is over, the big speech is over, the reviews are in, and they are glowing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not the kind of speech that a lot of even critics of the president would find fault with.

BLITZER: Not a political speech that brainwashed children, as critics alleged.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was nothing controversial or subversive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hardly controversial at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It wasn't only noncontroversial. It was a conservative values speech.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I commend the president for his speech today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The speech was a perfectly sensible speech.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perfectly fine, telling our kids to stay in school, get a good education.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: About the controversy, the students all said that they felt it was overblown.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Even Newt Gingrich today praising the president's speech, saying every American child should real it. Some Republicans in Florida probably feeling a little foolish right about now.

Over to Afghanistan now and the presidential election there. Today officials ruled President Hamid Karzai got the majority of votes, which would make him the winner, but he's not, at least not yet. The U.N. commission that has to certify the results said not so fast and ordered a partial recount. It could possibly take months to sort all this out.

Meanwhile, four American soldiers died today. After eight years, fighting the Taliban is tougher than ever on American troops.

Our Sanjay Gupta is in the war zone tracking the wounded heroes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We've been here just a few minutes. We're already getting an idea of just how busy this hospital is.

We're hearing this next is a very urgent case, a patient with lots of bleeding, possible double leg amputation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He does have very weak radial pulses. Carotid pulse is all right. And then the tourniquets were put on about 45 minutes ago.

GUPTA: Doctor Hays (ph) is communicating with the patient, translating, trying to figure out exactly what happened to him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not soaking through. As you can see, the tourniquets are still holding.

GUPTA: Yes.

They're putting big I.V.s in here. There's just a couple of tourniquets that are really holding all that blood from coming, pouring out of his legs. That's why they have got to take him to the operating room.

Twenty-four/seven, a battlefield hospital in the middle of a war zone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

We should tell you August was the deadliest month for U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. We're going to talk to Anderson Cooper and to Michael Ware, both in the war zone tonight. That is coming up.

Elsewhere in the world, a truly odd couple makes their red carpet debut at the Venice Film Festival. A South American dictator, plus a veiny conspiracy-loving director equals a match made in Hollywood heaven.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, has formed an unlikely partnership with the Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone to make a new documentary which premiered at the Venice Film Festival last night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He may be viewed suspiciously on the international political stage, but you can't buy this sort of celebrity endorsement.

OLIVER STONE, FILMMAKER: The mainstream establishment sees him as a villain, as a dictator. This man was not a dictator. He was elected three times.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and director Oliver Stone are suddenly BFFs. These guys are even dressing alike and giving a fist pump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Chavez called stone -- quote -- "a genius of cinema." The movie called "South of the Border" is critical of U.S. policy in Latin America.

Some terrifying video to show you tonight. And before you watch it, I have a promise here. Everybody is going to be OK. A crowd expecting a thrill at a Labor Day festival in Utah got it, but it was not what they planned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A paraglider crashed into a crowd, trying to drop candy into this crowd during Labor Day. Winds picked it up during this festival in Utah. Take a look at the video.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, geez! Oh, my God!

Are you OK? Are you OK? Lay down. You're OK. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Six people, including three kids, were hospitalized, worst injury, though, a broken leg. The pilot and his teenaged son on the paraglider were not hurt at all, which is pretty amazing.

And speaking of amazing, America's father of the year breaks his silence today, Jon Gosselin pouring out his heart on ABC's "Good Morning America," whining about poor little old him and trashing the mother of his eight children. Check out the highlights.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON GOSSELIN, FATHER: Let's finish what we got to finish and move on with our lives and stop feeding into the frenzy. I got married at 22. I had twins at 23. I had sextuplets at 27. Bye-bye, 20s.

I was verbally abused. I was beaten down. I was -- she separated me from my family.

I'm not going to go back that lifestyle. But I can't sit on the sofa with that woman. I can't sit on -- someone right now that I despise. I despise because she's not speaking from the heart. No, our relationship will never be fixed. I think she still wears the ring for public perception. I don't wear my ring because she took my ring.

I have cried more now in the last like eight months than my whole entire life. I just want to let the world know that I'm a real person with feelings. Yes, OK, I made mistakes. Maybe it wasn't the best idea to go out to the clubs. But we all learn from mistakes, except mine are public.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Will these people ever go away, please?

Well, that tragic story of matrimonial mayhem brings us to the "Punchline." And I should point out it seems that all of the late- night guys were at the beach yesterday, because their shows were all in reruns. So, our "Punchline" goes to a pair of newlyweds, including a groom who got his nervous bride to laugh and laugh and laugh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW ENGSTROM, GROOM: I, Andrew Paul Daniel Engstrom...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... do take Melissa Rene Warren...

ENGSTROM: ... do take Melissa Rene Warren...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... to be my lawfully wedding wife.

ENGSTROM: ... to be my wafflely -- lawfully and pancakey.

(LAUGHTER)

ENGSTROM: I have been scared this all my life.

(LAUGHTER)

ENGSTROM: Just give her a second.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: Yes, she needed more than a second. Newlyweds Andrew Engstrom and Melissa Warren, everybody. That clip gone viral in a big way, nearly a million views on YouTube. And that is the "Mash- Up."

It has been a long, hot summer with the name-calling, the wild accusations, the just plain nastiness in politics. So, tonight we are hitting the reset button, everybody. We are going to try to answer the big question. Is it possible to have a rational, thoughtful conversation about the most important issues facing this country? We are going to try when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: I want to take a minute to talk about some of the insanity we have witnessed over the past few days, the ridiculous charge that the president of the United States addressing American schoolchildren is somehow a dangerous thing.

Believe it or not, this was a huge deal over Labor Day weekend. We heard overheated warnings that the president was trying to indoctrinate our kids and sow the seeds of socialism. We saw tearful parents vowing to pull their kids out of school.

And today, the speech happened. Most people agreed it was pretty harmless, study hard kind of stuff. So, now can we all take a deep breath and admit this whole episode was just nutty? I mean, don't we feel a little bit silly right now for even debating the issue?

In everyone's defense, it has been a whole summer of silly, so let's take a moment now and get it out of our system. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: There's something about August going into September where everybody in Washington gets all wee-weed up.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA: You want to be let out of here, you're welcome to go.

Now, wait a minute. Now, wait a minute. Now, wait a minute.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys are stealing from us. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why do you continue to support a Nazi policy?

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D-MA), FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: On what planet do you spend most of your time?

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: And one other thing for the media. How about in honor of the American soldier, you quit making things up?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Questions about these so-called death panels are being raised at health care town halls across the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Death panels.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Death panels.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Death panels.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The idea of a death panel or desire to kill granny.

OBAMA: First of all, we just don't have enough government workers to send to talk to everybody to find out how they want to die.

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": Mr. President, I'm not sure you want to go with dry wit on this one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Recently, Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested at his home in Cambridge.

OBAMA: The Cambridge police acted stupidly.

GLENN BECK, HOST, "GLENN BECK": This guy is, I believe, a racist.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Call it a White House beer summit, a multi-olive branch in a bottle.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The White House adviser on green jobs is out of his job. Critics went after him when bits of his past caught up with him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How were the Republicans able to push things through when they had less than 60 senators but somehow we can't?

VAN JONES, OBAMA ADVISER: Well, the answer to that is they are (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Ah, the dulcet tones of bipartisanship. And that was the least of Van Jones' problems. He also signed a petition questioning whether the 9/11 attacks were a government conspiracy. Jones resigned over Labor Day weekend.

And now that summer's over, we're hoping we can put this kind of drama behind us, because Americans are tuning in again. They're going back to work. So should Washington. Time for Republicans and Democrats to put aside all the destructive distractions, the vicious politics of personal attacks, and really dig in to what the American people want them to do.

So, joining me now to discuss the road forward, CNN political contributor Mary Matalin, a former counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney, CNN political analyst Roland Martin, and John Avlon, contributor to The Daily Beast, with me as well.

Mary, let me start with you here.

Conservative attacks on the president have grown increasingly vicious. You saw some of the highlights there. Now that the summer is over, are we finally going to get a break?

MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, we saw highlights of the what you and I know to be the case, that politics is showbiz for ugly people. That was a lot of showbiz. But who is angry and who moved numbers and why the White House feels compelled to take this strategic reset moment, a very defensive moment, is because the independents that are -- have fallen out of favor with him, and conservative Democrats.

And this is -- you can blame this on Republicans. He's trying to blame it on Republicans, but it's the Democrats and independents who have abandoned him in droves. That's what the anger is coming from.

And you know what, Campbell? It preceded health care. It goes back to the stimulus package, which was nothing that the president promised it would be and continues to be ineffective. So, yes, he lost control because regular Americans thought they were losing control.

BROWN: But, Mary, let me just -- I think you have got to concede here that leaders within the Republican Party have been pushing some insane stuff.

I mean, look at the chairman of the Florida Republican Party, who's the one out there warning that the president's trying to indoctrinate children with this back-to-school speech, saying this before he had even read the speech. Once he had, he later said, oh, well, it's fine.

How do we stop these sort of knee-jerk partisan reactions that don't get us anywhere in terms of a thoughtful conversation?

MATALIN: Well, thoughtful conservatives should be wary of what goes on in public schools.

My own children -- and you would be concerned about this when your kids are this age -- were forced to watch "An Inconvenient Truth." I completely disagree with that. When I raised that objection, I was told I could come and tell the doubters' side. OK, but parents...

(CROSSTALK)

MATALIN: ... concerned about this.

BROWN: But, Mary, this is a speech by the president of the United States. Are you concerned about your children watching a speech from the president of the United States about going back to school? Would that bother you?

MATALIN: If the speech was what was it was originally suggested it was going to be, "How can I help President Obama?" yes, I would be concerned.

If it's stay in school, no, of course I'm not concerned. But that's not where the speech started. And it always seems that with this president and this administration, whatever you call them on, there was a reason to call them on.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Just wait. Let me stay with -- did you see a draft of the speech? Or is this just, it's getting circulated on Republican blogs? I just -- I want to get to the bottom of this, honestly, because it just -- it seemed crazy to me.

MATALIN: Well, I was so busy getting my kids back in school.

What I thought I had read over the holidays was that the original assignment was going to be, how can I help -- to write an essay on how I can help President Obama.

So -- but, look, Campbell, let's take a step back, because I hear what you're saying. I wish that the party apparatus was as effective as to be able to do what has happened over the summer, which is to push back on the kind of health care that Americans don't want.

There's only 20 percent of Americans who want what Obama was selling, which was universal health care run by the government. They have wanted that for 60 years. They're not going to get it. And it's not Republicans who pushed back on that.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: OK. Hold on a second, because, Roland, I know you're laughing, but I got to challenge you too on this, because it wasn't just the right that was going Looney Tunes. You had the left going nutty as well, with the president's green jobs czar, Van Jones, forced out after revelations that he had signed this petition questioning whether the government may have let 9/11 happen.

And then you have the left coming out and aggressively defending him as he is resigning. I mean, can't we all concede here that this guy crossed a line and that maybe he had to go? ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, but it's not going to happen.

First of all, addressing me in terms of the left, I laugh at the left just right, because you have people on both sides who are absolutely idiotic when it comes to many of the things that we are seeing. The bottom line is, the people who are yelling the loudest are the ones who get the attention.

And so whether you're talking about people who are conservatives or liberals or Democrats or Republicans, you're going to see this. So, you're not going to have rational conversation, because a lot of folks don't want rational conversation.

Van Jones had to resign because he was becoming more of a story than what the president's agenda was. And so, therefore, the White House says he wasn't asked to resign, but the bottom line is he was going to step aside.

When you serve at the pleasure of the president, the last thing you need to do is become a distraction. Van Jones isn't the greatest issue in the world right now. The issue is health care.

And one reason I was laughing, because when Mary talks about what Americans don't want, universal health care was the centerpiece of the president's election campaign. Last I checked, he won. This wasn't George W. Bush in 2000, where he lost the popular vote and won the Electoral College. This president was elected to drive one of these issues through and that's what you're seeing.

But the fringe posts are going to always be yelling and acting a fool.

BROWN: All right, let me let John Avlon jump in here.

Is Roland, right that you -- whoever yells the loudest gets the most attention?

AVLON: No, he shouldn't be right, because that's not what the American people voted for in 2008.

This was not a liberal ideological mandate. It was a rejection of the play-to-the-base politics of the Bush area. And that's one of the reasons why the independents started to abandon the president over the summer, because they didn't vote for this overspending, endless deficits, growth of big government.

But the far right does their own party the deepest disservice there is. I believe, as an independent, the far right and the far left are equally insane, but we have had a summer of wing nuts here. They have dominated the debate. And that is why now is the time to push back, start putting them on defense, and start defining the terms of the debate according to the American people, the vast majority, not these extremes on either side, who are totally insane.

BROWN: Mary, let me ask you about tomorrow night. This is a huge moment for the president. This health care speech that he's going to deliver before Congress, the stakes couldn't be any higher.

Is there anything he could say -- can we hit the reset button for real? Is there anything he could say to convince Republicans to work with him on this going forward?

MATALIN: Sure, he could acknowledge that our -- that there's a desire for health care reform that would include some conservative and Republican principles which have never been on the table, despite his saying everything is on the table, like tort reform, which doctors would like to see as well, like pooling across states, so insurance companies can lower their costs if they had that economy of scale option, like consumer transparency, so consumers could get more involved in this.

What people wanted from the outset and still want is to lower their costs, but maintain their quality and their choice. And these are not -- yes, there's a lot of extreme rhetoric, but, again, I will say again, and as -- every number, every poll validates this -- it is the independents and conservative Democrats that have moved away from this Obama plan, or...

AVLON: Campbell...

MATALIN: Go ahead, John.

BROWN: Very quickly, John.

AVLON: What the president needs to do tomorrow night is depolarize the debate. He needs to define the common ground clearly and then propose a plan that builds on it. That's what he needs to do and in the process he's got to get rid of both the extremes.

BROWN: OK, Roland, I'm out of time. I'm going to give you 15 seconds.

MARTIN: Very simple. The president has to get this deal through. Otherwise, 2010, they're in jeopardy of losing. And so he has to get his party under control before he even deals with the Republicans.

BROWN: All right, guys, we have got to end it there.

We will be talking about this a lot more tomorrow night and after that as well.

Mary Matalin, Roland Martin, and John Avlon, thank you.

And tonight's big question, when we come back, why is Afghanistan spinning back out of control? Anderson Cooper, Michael Ware are on the front lines tonight. And they will be joining us. How did this become the deadliest summer for U.S. troops? We are looking for answers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The mission here is in crisis, President Obama is holding a basket case of a war in his hands. And this is going to be a defining moment for the foreign policy initiatives in his administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Tonight's newsmaker, Kathy Griffin, she's joining us shortly with a look at the funnier side of politics.

(NEWS BREAK)

BROWN: All right, tonight's next big question, are we making any headway in Afghanistan? CNN's Anderson Cooper, Michael Ware joining us from the front lines.

Plus, Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes us inside a military operating room with a hometown doc.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: This place has been attacked. You're risking your life to save others.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to take care of him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The deal was, when they need you for whatever they need you, go. That's it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: We told you a little bit about the chaos in Afghanistan, uncertainty at the ballot box, violence in the streets and once again today, American blood was shed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. military is reporting four American service members killed in what it calls an ongoing event in Eastern Afghanistan. Those deaths make 13 so far this month alone, 196 so far this year.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The attack was apparently targeting a NATO convoy. It's the third major attack by insurgents in the Afghan capital this past month.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And today, a U.N.-backed commission said it found what it called convincing evidence and fraud in last month's presidential election in Afghanistan and ordered to recount some of the votes.

CHETRY (voice-over): They've already thrown out about 200,000 votes. Opponents of current Afghan President Hamid Karzai say that tallies have been doctored and ballot boxes have been stuffed across the country. Since the vote, there's been more than 2,000 claims of voter fraud.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Tonight, Anderson Cooper is at a forward patrol base in the Helmand, and Michael Ware is in Afghanistan's capital city. I spoke with him just a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Michael, you're in Kabul, not far from where those four American troops were killed today. There's obviously been an increase in the number of soldiers on the ground. But overall, what is your take? Is the strategy working?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in a simple answer, Campbell, no, it's not. I mean, the mission here is in crisis. President Obama is holding a basket case of a war in his hands. And this is going to be a defining moment to the foreign policy initiatives in his administration. Does he decide to fight this war or not?

I've been talking to the top commanders here on the ground. They simply don't have the troops to put military pressure on the Taliban as is required. I've seen in the south, I've just come from there. I spent a week in southern Afghanistan in the heart of the combat zone in the southern capital of Kandahar, and I can tell you now the Taliban war machine is not under threat. It's barely under pressure. And in Helmand where this major offensive is underway, the American military is taking just a very small bite of a very large apple.

BROWN: And, Anderson, give me your take. You've been talking to soldiers there as well. Are they telling you essentially the same thing?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I'm in Helmand province right now, at a patrol base called Jaker (ph). And if there is -- if there are small signs of success and you don't hear that term very much here, they will say that in this area where I am, there are some optimistic signs. They've been able to push the Taliban out of these areas. But as Michael points out, they don't have enough forces to move into the areas the Taliban is now in. So there's some areas that are basically just no-go areas and that's where the Taliban is regrouping.

You also have large numbers of Taliban, perhaps not the hard core ideologues, who are still living all around in this area, and kind of just watching to see how long the Marines are actually going to stay here. The Marine strategy is clear, hold and build. And as Michael said, this whole strategy is under review, but what's happening here, which is these small patrol bases, Marines going out every day on patrol, on foot, not in Humvees, interacting with locals, trying to build confidence in the Marines and in the government of Hamid Karzai, it's a very long-term strategy. It's slow, it's traditional counterinsurgency but it requires time. And as U.S. officials will point out to you, time is not on the side of the United States here. BROWN: And, Michael, let me go back to you in the election. What are you hearing specifically? Especially, I know you're talking to a lot of the U.S. commanders about how that may affect the strategy as we await the final outcome.

WARE: Well, obviously, the corruption allegations completely undermines the American mission here. They desperately needed these elections to go off successfully and in one sense they did. The election's actual polling took place, but we now see hundreds of substantive allegations of ballot box rigging.

Now, most of those allegations seem to focus on the votes that went to -- you know, incumbent President Hamid Karzai. I mean, entire polling booths returned 100 percent of their votes for the incumbent or other polling booths returned more ballots than people suspected should have actually come forward. Again, virtually all of them would have gone to President Karzai, so that really does strip this incoming government, if it is to be Karzai of any legitimacy and America really needed that. So this could be a serious blow to the political aspect of the mission going forward, Campbell.

BROWN: And, Anderson, before I let you go, let me turn to you because you're going to be talking about this issue on your program tonight. I know IEDs have been such a danger and such a threat to American forces, specifically. Talk to us a little bit about what you're working on with regards to that tonight.

COOPER: IEDs, I mean, that's the number one killer of U.S. forces right now in Afghanistan. There are some estimates here in Helmand, 80 percent of the casualties are from these IEDs.

We were out on patrol today with a guy on point, sweeping every step he took with a metal detector. They had dogs out searching for IEDs. It's a difficult job. It is a slow process finding these things. It is very difficult, and it's an uphill battle.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: That was, of course, Anderson Cooper, Michael Ware reporting tonight. Our reporting from Afghanistan takes you into the war's emergency room. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta introduces us to a surgeon who is saving our troops and the smallest victims of the war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just don't ever see yourself, after all those years of education sitting in the middle of a dessert trying to scrape dead tissue off a child.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Tonight's breakout story takes us back to Afghanistan, but not to see bombs explode or bullet fired. Instead, our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, shows us what it's like for a combat surgeon who is fighting to save our troops from the wounds inflicted not far from the emergency room entrance, a doctor whose patients go far beyond just our injured servicemen and women.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, that's a mess. OK.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): U.S. Army Major Augustus Brown is the only vascular surgeon for the entire country of Afghanistan.

AUGUSTUS BROWN, VASCULAR SURGEON IN AFGHANISTAN: Probably an anti-personnel mine that he stepped on and basically it amputated his legs. His feet were gone. We completed amputation.

GUPTA: Brown is 43 years old. He's a long way from home, the same hometown as mine, which makes this all the more personal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This place has been attacked. You're risking your life to save others.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's OK. We're going to take care of them.

BROWN: The deal was when they need you for whatever they need you, go, that's it.

GUPTA: The go call came January 29th, and there's been no rest for this battlefield surgeon.

(on camera): We're here in one of the trauma bays at the (INAUDIBLE) three hospital. It's an usually quiet moment. But I wanted to give you an idea of the numbers here which give you a reflection of what's happening here in Kandahar, what's happening in Afghanistan.

On average, they used to see about 80 patients a month, mainly traumatic patients. By April, it was 100 a month. And take a look at August, roughly 230 patients a month and they think by fall, the numbers will increase even more.

(voice-over): U.S. troops, coalition forces, locals, Dr. Brown treats them all.

(on camera): They asked me to help. They need four surgeons, they only had three. This is what happens when they have a hospital as busy as this one.

One of your children was born while you were deployed?

BROWN: That's true.

GUPTA: How do you deal with that?

BROWN: It is a sacrifice to my family, but it's a privilege. Even when I'm back in Atlanta and they ask what do I enjoy most about the service, the most fun I ever had is when I'm at war.

GUPTA: When you had to say goodbye to your wife and your many kids, you have lots of kids, just like I do, tell me about that conversation.

BROWN: It was hardest for my son. And the oldest, 6 years old, that's always hard. There's no silver lining. He gave me a good luck charm. It's a little stuffed dog. It's in my uniform in the back and I always go with it. The promise was as long as I keep it on me, I would be safe.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to have more from Afghanistan tonight on "AC 360" that's at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

When we come back, tonight's newsmaker Kathy Griffin unplugged and completely unafraid of speaking her mind.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATHY GRIFFIN, COMEDIAN: I think people are stupid and crazy.

BROWN: And that's the basic --

GRIFFIN: And, by the way, they're going to resort to guns and religion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Tonight's newsmaker, Kathy Griffin, a self-proclaimed D- list celebrity who has made a career out of fearlessly mocking the famous and her own place in Hollywood's hierarchy. It has earned her some A-list recognition, two Emmy awards and a Grammy nomination. Her new memoir is called "Official Book Club Selection." I asked her first what she thinks of the uproar over President Obama's speech to schoolchildren.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KATHY GRIFFIN, COMEDIAN: I think it's ridiculous and hilarious that people are making a fuss over him giving a speech at schools.

BROWN: I mean, because you had people --

GRIFFIN: Have you ever heard of Twitter? Do you know what the kids are into? Really, they're safe with the president giving a speech saying stay in school.

BROWN: Why though the rhetoric reached this level. You had people saying that this was like him, you know, spreading socialist ideology. Why do you think the rhetoric has reached this level?

GRIFFIN: I think people are stupid and crazy. BROWN: And that's the basic --

GRIFFIN: And, by the way, they're going to resort to guns and religion just as you said, and you never should have apologize for that because it's true. Read a history book.

BROWN: I got to ask, you've been making headlines in the political world for another reason.

GRIFFIN: I finally found love.

BROWN: You have.

GRIFFIN: Yes. And soon, I'm not going to say when, but you're going to have to address me as Kathy Griffin Johnston, because I have met someone and what we have is special.

BROWN: So is that love at first sight? Or did it evolve every time?

GRIFFIN: I would have to say it was love at first photo-op.

BROWN: Really.

GRIFFIN: Which is similar to first sight. And if you think about it, you know, the wind blows many different ways and I am pretty close to basically living in the White House. I mean things could still go my way.

BROWN: Who is using who in this relationship?

GRIFFIN: Who's whom and who? I would have to say that Levi Johnston is using me for my incredibly hot body.

BROWN: And that's really all it comes down to.

GRIFFIN: And that's OK with America because the last time I checked, we have rights in this country and I have the right to love a hunting man in an igloo named Levi.

BROWN: Talk to me, though, about because this is a huge issue throughout the book. Generally, women in -- whether it's public life and we're talking about politics, whether it's entertainment, what a struggle it's been for you.

GRIFFIN: Are you talking about my book?

BROWN: Yes. Yes. That would be your book, upside down and flip it around to make sure we get the shot.

GRIFFIN: OK.

BROWN: But this is a theme for you.

GRIFFIN: No, no.

BROWN: How hard (INAUDIBLE) and that you have oftentimes felt that you've been treated unfairly because you're a woman.

GRIFFIN: You know that. We are working in a man's world, that is it. I defy anyone to say that we're not. So you and I are both in industries that are very, very sexist and you can say whatever you want, but the numbers are right there. So if you call a comedy club and you say give me your Saturday night lineup. I guarantee you any local comedy club is going to probably have, you know, eight guys to one great female. So, it's out there.

BROWN: Do you think that's changing?

GRIFFIN: No. I thought it would actually. You know, when I was a kid and Joan Rivers took over "The Tonight Show," I remember thinking, oh, boy, this is the first of many women that will take over in late night. And not only did it change, it actually changed the other way.

BROWN: So what have you tried to do? I mean, what advice would you give to women -- younger women who are coming out, who are starting out. I mean, you know how hard you worked and you know how hard you struggled.

GRIFFIN: Still you have to work harder and jump higher. I don't care what anybody says. Take that Jerry Lewis. Very famous. He said chicks (ph) aren't as funny.

All right. So, you got to get out there and do it and you better love it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Nothing out of bounds when you talk to Kathy Griffin, not even her own plastic surgery.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: I want women to know when you get liposuction trying to be Jennifer Aniston, this is what it really looks like.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: We're back with more confessions from Kathy Griffin. She makes no secret of her own struggle to stay thin and how it all went horribly wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: You mentioned plastic surgery.

KATHY GRIFFIN, COMEDIAN: Yes.

BROWN: Let's talk about that because you have been very open.

GRIFFIN: Oh, I have a picture. I have a picture in the book that is so heinous you can't even believe it. And it's a picture of my botched liposuction that looks like a CSI crime-scene photo.

BROWN: So why did you do this?

GRIFFIN: Because I want women to know when you get liposuction, trying to be Jennifer Aniston, this is what it really looks like.

BROWN: But why did you do the liposuction in the first place?

GRIFFIN: Oh, because I was on a television show and thought that I could be simpler (ph) and better and happier.

BROWN: But -- I mean, why did you fall for that? I mean, you know -- I mean, that's Hollywood and that goes with the territory.

GRIFFIN: That's right.

BROWN: And if you're going to be in this business --

GRIFFIN: You know, when I was a bank teller, I never felt that way. So I would have to say it's because of being on television.

BROWN: But are you over it? I mean, do you, you know --

GRIFFIN: No, I'm not over it. I'm hungry right now. Do you have a sandwich on you? Oh, never mind, I can't eat. I'm on television. I'm hungry and bitter.

BROWN: But if you're falling into the same sort of, you know, trap, which it is a trap...

GRIFFIN: Yes.

BROWN: ... of getting liposuction, getting a nose job, which you said you --

GRIFFIN: I've had lots of dental work. That's what I call it.

BROWN: OK. At the urging of some crazy agent out on Hollywood or whoever.

GRIFFIN: Agents and casting directors and the whole thing.

BROWN: So --

GRIFFIN: And some of it is just me telling myself that I want to be better. I'm always happy when I'm making people laugh.

BROWN: Yes.

GRIFFIN: I'm going to be happy if people read this book, which let me tell you is brutally honest. It has brutally honest moments that, you know, that I'm cringing at even holding the book. In fact, I'm going to let go of it right now.

BROWN: Seriously? Too honest? Do you have any regrets?

GRIFFIN: Yes. It's too honest, but no, I don't have regrets.

BROWN: Let me mention to people so they know what we're talking about here. A couple of the moments, you talk about your brother.

GRIFFIN: Yes.

BROWN: Who you say in the book --

GRIFFIN: Was a pedophile, yes.

BROWN: Was a pedophile.

GRIFFIN: And went to prison and was a crack addict and all kinds of problems, yes.

BROWN: And then died in your mother's arms?

GRIFFIN: Yes, it was a very, very traumatic thing for my entire family and I would say in particular my mom and dad. But, you know, the reason I talked about it is, number one, I couldn't write the book without writing about him, period. Period, just couldn't do it, you know.

BROWN: Why.

GRIFFIN: It's a memoir. That's the kind of book it is.

BROWN: There are some things you needed to --

GRIFFIN: Well, it's a tell-all memoir. You know, I think it's better that I told the story than if some reporter found out, you know. And also, I think it's important for people to know that secrets do nothing but fester. I've never been a keeper of secrets and I'm not going to start now.

BROWN: So was it hard writing about it, I mean, emotionally?

GRIFFIN: Yes. It was awful. It was awful living through it and writing about it. Awful. Terrible.

BROWN: Any sense of catharsis, closure? I don't know if you ever get closure when you're talking about something like this.

GRIFFIN: Yes, I think so. You know, I think that, you know, everyone has a relative that is on the fringe in some way and people always think it's only in their family. So I think that's an important thing.

You know, look, a big part of my act in saying celebrities do these crazy things just like non-celebrities do. And in this book, I wrote about things that, you know, there are times where I thought it was only happening in my family, it only happened to me. And, in fact, you know, everything from my failed marriage, to my brother, with all of his issues to, you know, all the funny stuff in between, it's -- it's the story of my life. I mean, I couldn't leave that stuff out. BROWN: And now your mom is --

GRIFFIN: My mother is a giant television star.

BROWN: She's a huge star.

GRIFFIN: Yes. You know that they've done testing on my television show and my mother tests much higher than I do on my own show.

BROWN: Is she going to get her own show, maybe?

GRIFFIN: She is basically -- I can't even get her on the phone usually, I have to go through her agent. But yes, she is beloved by the world. And, you know, she could get her own spin-off very easily.

BROWN: I can bet in all seriousness, you're kind of taking care of your mother right now.

GRIFFIN: Well, my mother deserves to be taken care of. She's awesome, you know.

BROWN: As a lot of people are at this stage in our generation, I think they're taking care of their parents.

GRIFFIN: It's a big issue. Yes. And, you know, my mom is 89 years young and she's doing so well and she's in fantastic shape. And yet, it's always on my mind, what's the best way to take care of her. It's all about independence. You know, that age is all about being independent and stuff. And, you know, I worry about her when I'm on the road and try to take care of her. And, you know --

BROWN: And she gets the joke? I mean, she's a big part of your --

GRIFFIN: Oh, my mom -- my dad who passed away was so funny, and my mom is still so funny that that's where I get them. My whole family is funny. They're all really witty and super smart and I just sort of watch them and learn from them growing up.

BROWN: Just give me your quick, very brief take on a few people on the news right now.

GRIFFIN: OK.

BROWN: What you think of them. Rush Limbaugh.

GRIFFIN: He is a drug addict and a tool and a blow hard.

BROWN: OK. Jon Gosselin.

GRIFFIN: Oh, he is hilariously ridiculous and I can't get enough of his Ed hardy wear with the big pythons on his shirts, and things like, you know, live hard or die, that sort of thing.

BROWN: What about Arnold Schwarzenegger. GRIFFIN: OK. That guy's had more face work than I have, right? That guy is like me, Joan Rivers, and Jocelyn Wilderstein (ph) combined.

You know, that's why he can't balance the budget. He's always healing.

BROWN: Michelle Obama.

GRIFFIN: Well, I think the very most important thing about this administration is her arms and how does she get them? If I see one more news story about her arms, I might break one of them.

BROWN: But do you admire her?

GRIFFIN: Yes, of course, she's very smart. Very, very smart. I admire her.

BROWN: Yes.

GRIFFIN: There you go. I like smart people. That's my thing.

BROWN: Oprah.

GRIFFIN: Well, I'm a little scared of her.

BROWN: You have a love-hate relationship with Oprah, right?

GRIFFIN: I think he does great things for the world, and that's what's important.

BROWN: She.

GRIFFIN: I'm sorry, she.

BROWN: Yes.

GRIFFIN: Her royal highness, Oprah.

No. You know, I love to make fun of Oprah and the truth is I really, really truly watch her show every single day. So she's -- you know, there's a lot of people I thought I made fun of but I also love. I love to make fun of Celine Dion and I also have every CD. They're not mutually exclusive.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: The brutally honest Kathy Griffin. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: That's all for now. Join me and the best political team on television tomorrow for President Obama's address to Congress. Live coverage starting at 7:45 p.m. Right now, "LARRY KING LIVE."