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Disturbance on United Airlines Flight; New Faces of the Republican Party?; Tiger Woods Appears in New Ad

Aired April 7, 2010 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, "Keeping Them Honest: the governor of Virginia declaring April Confederate History Month, but ignoring slavery in his own proclamation.

Now, for day, he's defended it, saying slavery was not significant enough. Now he's singing another tune. So, was he pandering to his base and playing politics with America's most explosive issue and a war that ripped this country apart? We're "Keeping Them Honest."

Also tonight, Bachmann-Palin overdrive. Sarah Palin and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, are these two the new faces of the Republican Party, or are they actually outshining the Republican Party? What they had to say today on the campaign trail.

Also, Tiger Woods appears in a new ad, his first since the scandal, the ad featuring his late father's voice. It is a strange commercial, no doubt about it, strangely compelling as well. What it means, we will let you decide.

First up tonight, "Keeping Them Honest."

Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia making April Confederate History Month, but not mentioning anything about slavery. Now, this is a proclamation which has caused a firestorm of controversy today and resulted in the governor just a few hours ago reversing himself.

I want to go over to the wall and show you in detail what the proclamation actually said. It was issued on Friday by the newly elected Republican governor of Virginia. This is him.

Now, here's the actual proclamation. I want to make it very big here so you can kind of see it. It starts off saying, "Whereas April is the month in which the people of Virginia joined the Confederate States of America." And look at this. It goes on to -- "joined the Confederate States of America in a four-year war between the states for independence."

Now, talking about the Civil War there, the war against the United States. Now, we skip ahead to clause three. And it says: "It is important for all Virginians" -- right here -- "to reflect upon our commonwealth's shared history, to understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders,, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War." So, do you notice anything missing there? He's saying that, in the month of April, all the people now in the state of Virginia, black and white, should understand and effectively pay homage to the -- quote -- "sacrifices of Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens."

Makes no mention of slavery, nothing about the sacrifices the half-million enslaved people in Virginia were forced to make. Now, you can scroll through the proclamation and never see the word slavery. And that issued on Friday.

Then, on Tuesday, when he was asked about it, the governor didn't say, oh, that was an oversight, I forget about slavery. He actually suggested that slavery was insignificant in Virginia, telling "The Washington Post" -- look at this -- let me just blow this up -- telling "The Washington Post": "There were any number of aspects to that conflict between the states. Obviously, it involved slavery, it involved other issues, but I focused on the ones I thought were most significant for Virginia."

Now, a few hours ago, after increasing criticism, the governor called the slavery omission a mistake and inserted this into the new proclamation. This is the new paragraph he put in.

He says: "Whereas it is important for all Virginians to understand that the institution of slavery led to this war and was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights and all Virginians are thankful for its permanent eradication from our borders, and the study of this time period should reflect upon and learn from this painful part of our history."

All right, now, so, "Keeping Them Honest," it seems pretty hard to argue that this was just an oversight by the governor, because, as we showed you, as late as yesterday, he was defending excluding any mention of slavery.

Now, the other explanation, of course, is that it was a calculated effort to appeal to his base. Governor McDonnell was lobbied to make the proclamation by the Virginia division of a group called the Sons of Confederate Veterans. They call the Civil War the second American revolution and say the citizen soldiers who fought for the Confederacy personify the best qualities of America. That is their quote.

Joining me now is Brag Bowling, the commander of the Virginia division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, also political contributor Roland Martin.


COOPER: Roland, what do you make of this? Was the governor just trying to appeal to his base? Was this just a mistake?


First of all, he clearly was trying to appeal to his base. It was an idiotic mistake for him to sit here and proclaim this. I mean, the bottom line, the Confederacy was based upon this issue of slavery. And, so, it was hurtful; it was degrading; it was an oppressive system.

And, so, I don't even see how he could even come up with this whole notion that it really wasn't significant enough to mention it, and that it was really no big deal. Let's celebrate the Confederates. It makes no sense.

That's like someone sitting here saying, let's celebrate Nazi soldiers for simply doing their job. Ridiculous.

COOPER: Brag, your group, the Sons Of Confederate Veterans, lobbied the governor to make this proclamation. Was it a mistake?

BRAG BOWLING, SONS OF THE CONFEDERATE VETERANS: Not at all. I applaud the governor for his courage and his insight.

And I completely disagree with Mr. Martin. The -- there were a whole lot of issues other than slavery involved in that war. And, actually, he's given a good reason why there should be Confederate History Month, because he knows only one reason. And that's slavery. And there were a whole lot more.


MARTIN: That was the dominant reason.

COOPER: But do you think it was a mistake for the governor not to mention slavery in his proclamation?

BOWLING: The governor -- it was an omission. And the Sons Of Confederate Veterans has always wanted a true and accurate history of the war.

And that includes slavery. So, we are not at all opposed to the insertion of that clause. No sane person in the 21st century supports slavery.


BOWLING: That was 150 years ago, and there are people that act like it's 1865 right now.

COOPER: Right.

On your Web site, though, on your home page, you don't mention anything about slavery. You say that the Civil War, which you call the second American revolution, was about the preservation of liberty and freedom, that that was the motivating factor.

BOWLING: It was. There's no doubt about it.


COOPER: But you make no mention of slavery here.


BOWLING: We're an organization of Confederate descendants. And so we're naturally going to support the honor and good name of the Confederate soldier. He wasn't a politician. He was a soldier.


MARTIN: But wait. But wait a minute. Here's the reality.

The fact of that matter is, Virginia did not want the federal government telling them what to do. It was dealing with the issue of slavery. Now, you sit here and talk about freedom?

Well, guess what? People who looked like me, they were not free. They were oppressed.


BOWLING: I hate to give you a history lesson, sir.


COOPER: Well, let him finish. And then I will let you answer.

MARTIN: No, no. Again, though, that is the reality.

And, so, when you sit here and say, well, we will celebrate the Confederate veterans, these folks committed treason by taking up arms against the United States. You celebrate that? They were domestic terrorists.

BOWLING: Can I speak?

COOPER: Yes. Go ahead.


He's incorrect, especially when it comes to Virginia. Slavery had absolutely nothing to do with Virginia leaving the Union.

MARTIN: Come on.

BOWLING: As of Fort Sumter, Virginia was firmly pro-Union. It was when Abraham Lincoln called up 75,000 troops to invade the Lower South that Virginia seceded.

And the governor of Virginia, John Letcher, said that no Virginian would be allowed to fight against fellow Americans and be coerced into staying in the Union. Virginia wouldn't do that. It had nothing to do with slavery.

MARTIN: And why did they do it? Slavery.

They didn't -- Fort -- look, South Carolina, it's all slavery. You can dance around it, you can spin it, you can dress it up, but that is the reality. And the problem here is, the governor -- look, you had two previous Democratic governors who would not issue this particular proclamation. And then you have a couple Republican governors before them who did so. But even Governor Jim Gilmore saw the need to call slavery what it was.

This governor made an egregious mistake. And it is insulting, sir, for you to sit here and say, well, it was simply an omission. And if you can't even recognize it on your own Web site, that is insulting.

BOWLING: You wouldn't have supported a Confederate History month proclamation even if he did put the reference in. You wouldn't -- because this is political.


MARTIN: Before I don't -- I don't support the celebrating of terrorists. I don't support the celebrating of terrorists.

BOWLING: This is political, Mr. Martin.

MARTIN: I don't support somebody -- I don't support somebody celebrating Nazi soldiers by simply saying, well, they were only doing their job. I equate the two the same.

BOWLING: I hate to tell you, but the Confederate soldier was hardly a Nazi. He's been the main fighting force for the United States in every war we have ever fought, is the Southerner.


COOPER: So, Brag, do you then disagree -- Brag, do you disagree with what the governor has now done, because...


COOPER: ... in his new statement, in the new proclamation, he seems to disagree with you that slavery -- you say slavery had nothing to do with Virginia and the war.

BOWLING: Well, I disagree with the fact that he said that it was the reason. And it wasn't.

MARTIN: Oh, come on.

BOWLING: But he's been pushed into this by people like Mr. Martin. This is a political opposition to Robert McDonnell, is basically what he's hearing from.


MARTIN: It's called history. These same Confederate veterans, they didn't want people who look like me to read. And this is why, because we also understand the real history. So, you can -- you can sit here and create a secondary history. It can be revisionist. But that is the reality. And, so, there is a whole body of work that lays it out. But, when the people sit here and say, oh, it was states' rights, not telling us what to do, because they wanted to keep the way of life, which was to keep people like me in chains, beating them, oppressing them, and denying them the rights they richly deserved. Those are facts.

BOWLING: The United States -- the United States was the only country in the Western Hemisphere that ended slavery through war. And that was a policy of the Union government.

MARTIN: What was the first state -- what was the first state to legalize slavery? Virginia. What was the -- who had more slaves than any other state? Virginia.

Every single president that came from Virginia was a slaveholder. You can sit here and say that's not true, but they are simply facts. Can you dispute anything that I said?

COOPER: Brag, when -- why do you call -- why do you call the Civil War the second American revolution? I mean...

BOWLING: We're seeing the same issues...

COOPER: This was a war to destroy the United States.

BOWLING: Mr. Cooper, we're seeing many of the same issues today that the Confederacy fought for 150 years ago -- smaller government.

MARTIN: Like what?

BOWLING: ... lower taxation, a less imperialistic government, too.


COOPER: So, are you saying that the current efforts by Republicans are similar to efforts by Confederate soldiers?

BOWLING: No, I'm not. I'm just saying that the issues, many of the issues which were -- which were part of the Confederacy in 1860, you still see today.


COOPER: Right, but those issues were pretty much resolved by the Civil War.


COOPER: Go ahead, Roland.

BOWLING: No. Secession...

MARTIN: Right. BOWLING: ... was resolved by the Civil War. That was the only issue that was truly -- was truly resolved.

MARTIN: And they seceded primarily because of the whole issue of slavery primarily.

And, look, Anderson, these are the same folks who have tried to use state' rights. The two biggest reasons they have used the 10th Amendment have been because of slavery and when it came to education.

And, so, in a position, all those particular positions, the same voices, the same people saying, oh, no, the Confederates, the way of life; this is how -- the Southern way of life. That should be rejected absolutely.

And, so, he wants to talk about taxes and things along those lines. Nonsense.

COOPER: Brag...


MARTIN: Those are secondary issues. Slavery was the primary issue.


COOPER: We are going to continue this conversation in just a moment. We have got to take a quick break.

Let us know what you think. Join the live chat at You can talk to viewers watching right now the world.

Also, later, Sarah Palin vs. Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele -- which one really speaks for the GOP?

And Tiger Woods making news on the golf course, but also during the commercial breaks. We're going to tell you about an ad that's causing a lot of talk tonight, raising some questions, too. Tiger Woods' first ad since the scandal broke uses his dead father's voice. Listen.


EARL WOODS, FATHER OF TIGER WOODS: Tiger, I am more prone to be inquisitive to promote discussion.



COOPER: Hey. Welcome back.

We're talking about this proclamation that Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell made, making April Confederate History Month, the initial wording of it not mentioning slavery at all. It was updated late today to add a clause about slavery. The controversy, though, is certainly not dying down.

More now of my conversation with CNN analyst Roland Martin and Brag Bowling of the Sons of Confederate Veteran, which lobbied the governor to make the proclamation in the first place.


COOPER: But there are those who say, look, this is inherently offensive to African-American citizens in the state of Virginia, who are being asked in this original proclamation to understand the sacrifices made by Confederate leaders, by Confederate soldiers and by citizens. And it says nothing about sacrifices which were forced upon enslaved formerly Africans, enslaved black people.





BOWLING: Right. This is supposed to be a resolution, a proclamation sought for by our organization honoring the sacrifices of Confederates.


COOPER: Right. But why should black citizens...

BOWLING: We have no problem...


COOPER: Right. But why should black citizens in the state of Virginia today be told that this is a month in which they should understand the sacrifices made by Confederate leaders and Confederate soldiers? You could understand why some black residents in the state of Virginia especially would say, what are you talking about?

BOWLING: Let me ask you something.


BOWLING: If we don't -- and I'm sure this is the way my opponent here feels.

Should we not study Confederate history, which is an important part of American history? Because, if we don't, then we will be treating it like Russia. That's the way the Soviet Union did with history they didn't like.


COOPER: OK. Well, let me just give you my answer. And then I will let Roland give his answer. (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: My answer is, I have relatives who were Confederate soldiers. I have relatives who were Union soldiers. I have relatives buried in Confederate cemeteries in the state of Mississippi. I go and visit their graves.

But that doesn't mean that you whitewash what the history was, what the cause was. And I think your critics are saying that's what you're trying to do.


BOWLING: I think Governor McDonnell was writing a proclamation for our organization. And that's the approach he took. And he has changed it now because of the vitriolic opposition of people like Roland.

COOPER: Roland, I want you to be able to respond.

MARTIN: No, and here's the problem. Your organization does not represent all Virginians.

He is the governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. That means whites, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, men, women, people who support Confederate veterans and those who oppose them.

When the governor makes this kind of decision, he has to make it for all of the people in that particular state. That is what is so offensive.

No one -- any right-thinking person, especially any African- American, would not sit here and support the praise and celebration of a group of people who wanted to oppress their ancestors.

So, when you talk about your ancestors, trust me, mine were in chains; they were beaten; they were oppressed; they were degraded; families were broken up.

And for you to say, well, they had to sacrifice, well, guess what? People with my skin color paid a significant sacrifice by dealing with the folks who you are supporting.

BOWLING: Well, I can say this, that I don't think that you represent the feelings of all black people either.

MARTIN: I didn't say all black people.

But I can tell you this here. Virginia had more slaves than anybody else. It was a state that was deeply embedded with the culture of slavery. And you can deny it. You can dress it up. But that was the whole point of the Civil War.

And it is shameful that you cannot recognize the mistake that this governor has made by not even mentioning it, and then following up by saying, it was not significant enough to mention it by saying there were other issues he wanted to focus on.

And then to pull tourism into it? Oh, give me a break.

BOWLING: But there were plenty of other issues.

MARTIN: But what was the dominant issue? That's like Tiger Woods' wife saying, "I'm going to leave you because we can't communicate."

No, you're leaving because he cheated. So, stop trying to sit here and say there's other stuff. The dominant issue that cast a cloud over everything was slavery.

COOPER: Mr. Bowling, I want to give you the final thought, and then we have got to go.

BOWLING: No, I just -- I -- I totally disagree. I think there's a place to honor veterans, all veterans.

And the Confederate veteran is a recognized American veteran by Congress. And he deserves full honor for the sacrifice he made.

COOPER: I guess, though, the critics say, well, why not, then, have the month where Confederate veterans -- you know, everyone who fought in the Civil War is recognized, where Confederate veterans, Union veterans...

BOWLING: Well, that's -- that's -- that's an easy one. Because the Union Army invaded the South. And the Union Army killed thousands and thousands of Virginians.

MARTIN: Oh, it invaded.


COOPER: Right. But there were plenty of Virginians who actually -- there were plenty of Virginians who actually supported the Union and actually formed the state of West Virginia. And there's -- to say that they invaded Virginia, there are those who would argue with you it was part of the United States.

BOWLING: I think that's the prime motivating factor of the Confederate soldier, is the fact that they were invaded. They had to defend their homes and their families.

MARTIN: Right.

BOWLING: And some of the things that the Union armies did when they were in Virginia by completely destroying the Shenandoah Valley, burning people's homes, stealing things...

MARTIN: Sir, how dare you? How -- how...

BOWLING: This is the way the -- is the way the Union Army behaved in every Southern state, from the March to the Sea all the way through South Carolina. And it was shameful and degrading. (CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: So, were you offended when they destroyed Africans? Were you ashamed when they destroyed families, when they killed them, when they tortured them, when they murdered them? You sit here talking about what the Union Army did...

BOWLING: What, the Union army?

MARTIN: ... when the people you're -- no. The people you're supporting, they tortured and killed Africans who were slaves. And you're sitting here by saying, well, they invaded?

Come on. Do you even see -- did you even hear how you sound?

BOWLING: I think I sound perfectly rational. I'm giving you what happened.

MARTIN: No, I think you -- no, I think you sound delirious, when you can't even recognize how they destroyed human beings. This was a sin against humanity.

BOWLING: You're giving a perfect reason why -- why this whole era needs a full study.

MARTIN: Was slavery a sin against humanity? Yes.

COOPER: But -- but, Mr. Bowling, you're not -- you're not -- I just want to give you an opportunity to respond to what Mr. Martin said. I mean, you do recognize that, you know, slavery was inherently evil, and Africans who were brought over were treated terribly?

BOWLING: I do. I do.

I make no -- I make no defense of slavery. But we live in 2010. We don't live in 1860, where slavery was a worldwide institution. It's a completely different place now.

MARTIN: And it was wrong then.


MARTIN: And it was wrong then.

And, in the governor's statement, he even said, we need to recognize the times people lived in.

I'm sorry, sir. I reject evil then, and I reject it now.

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

Brag Bowling, appreciate your perspective and behind honest, being on the program with us.

Roland Martin, as well, thank you.


COOPER: Interesting discussion there.

Breaking news, though: I want to show you Denver International Airport -- on the ground, United Flight 663. The breaking news, we have details, very preliminary. We're being very careful not to get ahead of the facts.

What we know is this. There was a disturbance aboard the flight traveling from Reagan National Airport in Washington to Denver International Airport. Someone tried to light their shoe or shoes on fire. The plane is on the ground, as I said, met by authorities in Denver, including the TSA and the FBI.

Joining us now on the phone, national security analyst Peter Bergen, also on the phone, Fran Townsend, national security contributor and former White House homeland security adviser.

Fran, what do you make of this?

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first thing, Anderson, you know, look, I'm sure what they're trying to figure out here is, is this person crazy? In other words, somebody had a mental breakdown and caused a disturbance on the flight.

The concerning fact here is -- is the shoes on fire, because, of course, that's reminiscent of the Richard Reid attempted plane bombing going back -- oh, gosh -- I guess that was 2002.

And, so, you know, was this an attempted terrorist attack, like the Christmas Day attempt, using a shoe bomb, or was this just a mental disturbance, you know, a mentally disturbed person?

And I'm sure that's what they're sorting through now. Interesting they have got the FBI there and TSA. You know, one of the other questions I have is, what does the National Counterterrorism Center know about this individual?

Some preliminary reports suggested it was a diplomat. You know, I guess we're going to have to wait and see what more we can find out about it.

COOPER: The other question is, were there air marshals on board this flight? Is that how this person was -- was subdued, if it came to that?

TOWNSEND: That's right, Anderson.

You know, initial reports suggested there had been air marshals on board that helped subdue this person. But now United Airlines, the spokesperson didn't confirm that, and said that they had asked for law enforcement officials to meet the plane on the ground.

And, so, again, conflicting reports early on, that's not really a surprise. I expect they're trying to sort this whole thing out. One good indication to me is, I understand that the airport operations -- that is, you know, incoming and outgoing flights there at the Denver Airport, haven't been affected. And that's a good sign. That means they feel like they have got a real good handle on this.

COOPER: Yes, this was Flight -- United Flight 663, going from Reagan National in Washington, obviously, to Denver.

Peter Bergen, obviously, Peter, leaving from Washington, D.C., I mean, security is always tight, especially at that airport.

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Yes, Reagan has, obviously, extreme good security, so this is a big black eye.

It appears that there is a shoe bomber involved. So soon after the Christmas Day attempt, you know, speculation on my behalf here, but the guy who built that shoe -- the bomb on Christmas Day, the -- the bomb that didn't go off over Detroit, that bombmaker is still out there.

And, clearly, that bombmaker may also have been involved in the Richard Reid attempt that we -- that Fran just mentioned back in 2001, because the -- the bomb ingredient in both of those attacks was PETN. It's a very unusual explosive. There's no indication that that bombmaker has yet been eliminated or captured.

And building a shoe bomb is not an easy thing to do. And we may find that it's the same shoe -- the same bombmaker in all these cases, because they bear a certain amount of similarities.

COOPER: They all have a similar signature in that -- in that ingredient?

BERGEN: In that ingredient and either the ankle-length hiking boots that Richard Reid was wearing or the shoe bomb that may be in this case or the secretion in the undergarments in the case of Christmas Day.

Anderson, as you know, in this kind of situation, always there's kind of misinformation initially. Going back to Christmas Day, the first -- the first reports were that a firecracker had gone off on Northwest Flight 253. Of course, it was much more serious.

So, right now, we have these sort of fragments about the story. But the fact that the FBI is involved, as Fran mentioned, that indicates to me this is not some -- just some guy who is acting out on a plane, that this is something more serious that they're going to be looking at.


And, as always in these situations, there are a lot of rumors out there and a lot of speculation out there floating around right now. We are not telling you that, because, frankly, we want to be very clear on what we know, what we don't know, and what is just rumor. Again, United Flight 663, the flight is on the ground. Clearly, as you can tell by all the flashing lights around that plane which is at the center of that, it has been met by law enforcement. The flight's crew asked for law enforcement to meet the plane. There was a disturbance on the plane. No one on board apparently was injured, according -- to the best of the spokesperson's knowledge, said -- this spokesperson said they had no details on the nature of the incident.

It's a Boeing 757 -- 157 passengers were on board, six crew, the flight leaving from Reagan National to -- to Denver, and one source saying airport operations have not been affected. Again, this flight has been met by the TSA and the FBI.

We're going to continue to carefully follow this, bring you any updates as warranted. We will probably have a few more updates coming up a little bit later in this hour. So, again, stay tuned for that.

Also tonight, new developments in the effort to make the Upper Big Branch coal mine safe enough for rescuers to try and locate four miners who might -- I say might -- still be alive, though hope is slim.

And that new Tiger Woods' ad involving Tiger Woods and his late father.


WOODS: I want to find out what your thinking was. I want to find out what your feelings are. And did you learn anything?



COOPER: We're continuing to follow breaking news, this disturbance aboard a United Airlines flight out of Washington, someone reportedly trying to light his shoe or shoes on fire.

We don't know how serious the incident was, Flight 663, the jet on the ground in Denver, serious enough that the plane is surrounded by law enforcement right now, TSA representatives, as well as the FBI. We will bring you updates on that as they come in.

In the meantime, Lisa Bloom joins us with a 360 news and business bulletin -- Lisa.

LISA BLOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a federal official says rescue crews may be able to enter a West Virginia mine to search for four missing miners sometime tonight. Dangerous gases have kept them from going inside the Upper Big Branch Coal Mine, but those levels have been dropping. Twenty-five miners died in Monday's explosion, the deadliest disaster in 25 years.

The former Soviet republic Kyrgyzstan erupted today with waves of protesters storming government buildings and apparently, driving the president from office. At least 40 people were killed. A former foreign minister claims to be in control of an interim government.

Alan Greenspan acknowledged today he made mistakes during his 21 years of tenure as chairman of the Federal Reserve. He said he was wrong -- get this -- about 30 percent of the time. But he also said that his policy of keeping interest rates low did not inflate the housing bubble. He was testifying at a hearing on the causes of the financial crisis.

In less than 24 hours, Tiger Woods tees off at the Masters. Well, today, Billy Payne, the chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club didn't cut him any slack, saying Woods disappointed everyone with his sex scandal.

This as Nike released a new ad featuring Woods and the voice of his late father.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tiger, I am more prone to be inquisitive, to promote discussion. I want to find out what your thinking was. I want to find out what your feelings are, and did you learn anything?


COOPER: I've seen the ad now a couple times, Lisa. I mean, I find it really compelling and interesting, also kind of creepy at the same time. I mean, it's his late father's voice. I'm not sure what the message is that's supposed to be there. I mean, it's really thought provoking, I guess. What do you think?

BLOOM: Yes. My first reaction was the same as yours: creepy, and they're using his deceased' father's voice, obviously recorded in some other context, to give him a public spanking.

And then I thought about it, Anderson. And it occurs to me that this is Nike. This is one of the biggest sponsors that stuck by Tiger over the last five months. Unlike some of the other ones, they never dropped him. Presumably now, they want to go forward and feature him in ads. But maybe they needed some kind of a transition, so they chose to do it this way.


BLOOM: It's almost as if Nike is giving him a public spanking using the voice of his deceased father to do it.

COOPER: Yes. And it's also sort of building sympathy but also putting us in the shoes and also, obviously, in the visual, you know, sight of his father, looking at Tiger Woods, sort of asking us to ask him what was going on.

I mean, it's interesting. It's an interesting commercial. It's obviously very thought-provoking, very talkative. I don't know that it sells Nike products, but I don't think that's the intent, certainly. BLOOM: Yes. And the questions that his father is asking him, what were you thinking? What have you learned? He really hasn't answered those questions. So is that going to be the next set of Nike ads, or are they just going to move on?

And by the way, these ads are only running for about a day and half on a couple of sports channels, ESPN and the Golf Channel. It's got to be one of the shortest in history.

COOPER: Yes. But it's like those political commercials that only run on YouTube but get played everywhere because, you know, people find them so compelling and fascinating. So they didn't need to do a big ad buy, I think, because now us and a lot of folks will probably run them and talk about them as we just have.

All right. So we're going to check in with you a little bit later on.

Coming up next, though, who's in charge of the Republican Party? Are these two the new faces of the party? They're certainly drawing crowds. What Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin had to say today on the campaign trail.

Plus, Martina Navratilova in her own words, talking about her battle with breast cancer. And the latest on that incident aboard a United Flight.


COOPER: "Raw Politics" tonight and who's in charge of the Republican Party? The question tonight: are you looking at them? That's Sarah Palin today with Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann at an event in Minneapolis, the pair outshining the state's Republican governor, Tim Pawlenty, used to be considered the top presidential contender, and giving a big shout-out to the Tea Party movement.


SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: Now, backstage, Michelle and I were talking about the Tea Party movement. We were catching up a little bit, and I was wondering, "Do we have some Tea Party Americans here today?"

Well, I thank you, then. I thank you for being part of this beautiful grass movements that's really sweeping across our country, and it is full of common-sense conservatives who are ready to take our country back. I thank you for being a part of this.


COOPER: No shout-out for this guy, GOP's chairman, Michael Steele.

CNN contributor, GOP advisor Alex Castellanos saying the party needed to, quote, change direction because Chairman Steele has lost the trust of any party's lifeblood major donors. The latest gaffe on Steele's watch, of course, the RNC money spent at a West Hollywood bondage-themed strip club called Voyeurs. Voyeurs, by the way, calls itself an art club.

There have been a lot of other missteps, of course, since Steele became chairman, a lot of headline-making comments. Let's talk "Raw Politics" now with GOP strategist and CNN contributor, Ed Rollins and former Bush speechwriter David Frum.

Ed, should Michael Steele step down?

ED ROLLINS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think for the good of the party, he should step aside. I don't think he can be effective in the six months we have for a very, very important election, and his job is to raise money, to be the voice of reason, neither of which I think he can do at this point in time.

COOPER: Has he become too much of a distraction?

ROLLINS: He's absolutely a distraction. We've spent the last two weeks discussing things that shouldn't be relevant to the American public. What should be relevant is the president signing a -- not a very good treaty, I think, with the Russians, the health-care debate that still needs to go on. And I think we're talking about sex clubs. And I think that goes against our base. I think any donor today who thinks about giving money to the RNC will think about jets and wasted money, as opposed to money that's going to be spent well on a candidate.

COOPER: David, do you agree? Do you think he should step down?

DAVID FRUM, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: I do not agree. You led the show, Anderson, with the story of the proclamation in Virginia. I don't think Governor Bob McDonnell had any ill intent, I think actually is trying to avoid controversy, not make controversy.

But he couldn't see that situation with any eyes but the eyes he happened to have, and the eyes around him are also very similar kind of eyes. We need some different perspectives inside the Republican Party and at the highest levels, levels that no American history from other points of view, not just from a book. And that is something very precious that Michael Steele brings.

Michael Steele is also a little bit the victim here of the difficulty of breaking a media narrative. Look, on my Web site we broke a story the Democratic National Committee spent not $1,900 but $6,000 at a D.C. strip club called Josephine's. Now, we've been putting it all over our front page and that doesn't get as much traction.

And yet, are there calls for the head of the DNC to step down?

Michael Steele didn't make that strip club decision. It was made by somebody who's been since disciplined. It was a big mistake. There are a lot of problems inside the RNC. Michael Steele should not be made the victim and fall guy for everything that goes wrong. COOPER: I had no idea -- I mean, David, Ed, did you know that -- is so much money always traditionally spent at strip clubs by Republicans or Democrats?

ROLLINS: ... and I have great respect for David. He was a great speechwriter for President Bush. I oversaw it when I was in the White House, director of the RNC. The man at the top has total control of that place. We've had about four or five scandals in the fundraising today. But we're turning donors off.

The role of the Republican National Committee is to raise money, and it's not doing a very effective job. Haley Barbour, one of our great governors, former chairman, was a greet chairman, is saying don't give to them. Give to the RGA and the head of the congressional committee saying give to us. How are you effective? The party is about the people. Not people running around with hats every four years at conventions.

COOPER: What about to David's point, though, about needing different voices, needing different complexions?

ROLLINS: We need to elect people. Michael Steele hopefully will go run again some day for office. But at this point in time, everyday it's about him. And it's not a good reflection. And he himself making comments about race being involved in this I thought was a very real insult to Republicans.

And I think at the end of the day, our job is to go take safe Republican seats, which we have 180 of them, find good candidates, who may also be African-American or Hispanic and elect them. And that, basically, would help to long-term broaden. It won't be David and I talking about why you should be a good Republican. It's going to be people like those elected who can do that.

COOPER: David, could -- could anybody in the Republican Party ask Michael Steele to step down at this point because of his race? It certainly would not -- you know, that would become an issue, wouldn't it?

FRUM: I get the feeling quite a lot of people are asking him to step down including Ed Rollins. And so I don't think race buys you any immunity, nor should it. We just should value, I think, some of the insights Michael Steele brings. And it is -- it's sobering to consider what would the party's national image look like?

COOPER: Would you give money to the RNC or would you give it to another group right now?

FRUM: I would give money to the RNC, because I'm a small-dollar donor I'm afraid, I apologize to say. And the small dollar donors have historically gravitated to the RNC. The big party donors sometimes go elsewhere.

But what would the party look like? Who would be the face of the party but for Michael Steele? It would be -- the media collaborates we wouldn't here so much from Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty, but we hear a lot from Sarah Palin and from the faces at FOX News. And that's not enough of a face to turn to the country.

COOPER: Are you concerned by the attention that Sarah Palin gets or Michelle Bachmann gets? Are they the face the Republican Party wants out there right now?

ROLLINS: They're a very important part of the Republican Party. I think, first of all, the party is big enough -- I think the party is to elect people to office. I think the office holders are the ones that vote everyday. And the rest is it is all, on the surface, part of the organization.

The more people you can have, the more diversified you can have, the better. Sarah Palin was our vice-presidential candidate. She energized a political part of this campaign that nobody else could, including John McCain . She's a very important long-term part of this.

If she ever walked away from our party -- Michael Steele can go away. If Sarah Palin decided she wanted to go be part of to the Tea Party and run as an independent candidate, she would do so much damage to this party. We need her. We need more like her. And I think at the end of the day, she's an effective communicator.

COOPER: David, do that the Republican Party needs her now?

FRUM: Well, she is a little bit like plutonium. And Ed Rollins is right, if she started to run as a third-party candidate, the head of the Tea Party, she would do a lot of damage to the Republican Party. And if she started to run inside the Republican primary, she'd do a lot of damage to the Republican Party. Pretty much wherever she goes, she's going to do a lot of damage to the Republican Party.

Because despite the intense devotion of her relatively small band of followers, she's very off putting. You -- CNN has done a poll that found an interesting number. Half of Republican women think that Sarah Palin is unqualified to be president. She has a huge reverse gender gap. That is, her own gender is more suspicious of her than the male gender is.

ROLLINS: She energized a very large segment of this party, though. And if she wanted to be a player, she could be a very significant player.

COOPER: Ed Rollins, David Frum, appreciate you guys being on tonight. Thank you very much.

Still ahead, we're going to update the breaking news, disturbance onboard a United Flight from Washington, D.C., to Denver, just landed. Did a passenger try to light his shoes on fire? We'll have the latest on that.


COOPER: I'm going to bring you up to minute on the breaking news out of Denver. United Flight 663, it's on the ground safely. There was apparently some kind of disturbance -- we don't know the nature of the disturbance -- on the way from Reagan National Airport in Washington. The question right now is did the passenger try to light his shoe on fire or was it all just a misunderstanding? It is frankly unclear at this moment.

Norad reporting that F-16s were scrambled to escort the flight in. The plane is now on the ground, surrounded by authorities, including the TSA and the FBI.

Peter Bergen is joining us now again.

Also, Peter, I should just tell viewers that the TSA did put out a statement a little bit earlier -- I'm just trying to find it -- basically saying TSA is monitoring an incident on board United Airlines Flight 663 from D.C. to Denver for receiving initial reports that a federal air marshal responded to a passenger possibly causing a disturbance on board this aircraft. The flight landed safely at Denver International Airport.

Law enforcement TSA responded to the scene. The passenger is currently in custody and all steps being taken to ensure the safety of the traveling public. So don't really know the details of what happened. A lot of rumors floating around, including ones that maybe this was all just kind of a misunderstanding. Clearly, a lot of questions right now.

PETER BERGEN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: I just got a call, Anderson, from an Arab diplomat who knows the passenger in question whose name I'm not going to mention. But apparently, it is a misunderstanding, according to this Arab diplomat who knows the passenger. This -- the passenger on the plane may have been smoking, may have made an unfortunate joke or comment resulting in this discussion of a shoe bomb.

This is just one source who says he knows the passenger in question, but he's saying this is a misunderstanding. The person involved, in this is estimation is not a terrorist, is a diplomat at events in Washington. So I just pass that on for what it's worth.

COOPER: OK, hold onto that. I want to bring in Fran Townsend, national security contributor, former White House homeland security advisor. Fran, you've been talking to sources on the phone. What have you learned?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR (via phone): Hi. I understand from senior law enforcement officials it was a diplomat from the embassy here in Washington. An initial examination of the shoes turns up there is no -- it is not an explosive device, and so they don't believe that this guy had a bomb that he was trying to ignite.

They don't understand -- the person I spoke to said they're still trying to understand why they're -- why they either think he was trying to set his shoes on fire, why he was in the bathroom for an extended period of time. They haven't gotten to the bottom of that to their satisfaction. But they were very clear with me that this was not an explosive device based on their initial look at the shoes. COOPER: And Fran, I don't know if you heard Peter, but I just want to bring peter back in. So Peter, your source, who allegedly knows this person, this diplomat said that what, he was smoking in the bathroom or was just in the bathroom a long period of time?

BERGEN: Apparently, might have been smoking in the bathroom and might have made some sort of joke about what he was doing there, which -- you know, perhaps about a shoe bomb, which would have triggered this. Obviously, that was a very dumb thing to say.

This diplomat is based, as Fran has just reported, in the Qatari embassy. He's a sort of mid-level diplomat. The person that I just spoke to knows him pretty well, says this is not the sort of guy who would be engaged in some sort of shoe bomb operation, and this is all an unfortunate mistake.

COOPER: Peter, we should also point out for those who, you know, don't know much about Qatar, I mean, there's U.S. presence in Qatar in Doha. There's been a long military presence there, and they sort of have a unique role in the Middle East.

BERGEN: Well, in a custody (ph) way, because the operational commander of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed actually lived in Qatar in 1996, and he lived there basically under the protection of the government minister. The FBI went to arrest him, and he was tipped off. He disappeared, and then he was the operational commander of 9/11.

So Qatar, which is one of the richest countries in the world and, you know, is -- it's a place which does have -- has had sort of infamous terrorists who have passed through it, yet at the same time, it's a relatively close American ally.

COOPER: Clark Kent Ervin, formerly with the FBI, is also on the phone. Clark, what are you hearing?

CLARK KENT ERVIN, CNN ANALYST (via phone): Well, as this is breaking, of course, Anderson, I'm learning this as everyone else is. Of course, this brings back to mind immediately the whole Richard Reid incident and, of course, it just reminds us that there's always the potential for airplanes to be a terrorist target.

You know, it's interesting that this breaks just a week or so after the announcement by TSA of the relaxation of their post- Christmas-Day incident rules to target people from 14 countries known to be associated from terrorism and instead have an intelligence-based system. This shows that our system is on hair-trigger alert, which is exactly as it should be. It appears that this is nothing to be worried about now but shows that authorities are alert and that's the way it ought to be, as they say.

COOPER: And Fran, what moron on the planet does not know that you don't make a joke about, like, blowing up an airplane or lighting a shoe bomb or anything on a plane or in an airport or anywhere near an airplane. It's just -- it's like he's so stupid if that is, in fact, what happened? TOWNSEND: Yes, I agree with you, Anderson. And I'll tell you, it's interesting because a senior law enforcement official said, look, this just didn't make sense to them when they heard about the disturbance, that this could have been an intended terrorist attack. Because this is a U.S. domestic flight. Reagan National where the plan took off has got advance explosive detection capability that would have picked up such a bomb.

And so they had questions as soon as they got the initial information, which is why I think they have completely dismantled this guy's shoes. He's now without a set of shoes, because they're going through it pretty carefully to make sure that there was no explosive in there. So you're right, how stupid to make such a joke.

COOPER: Bottom line from two sources now, this was not an incident. This was some sort of a misunderstanding, and we're going to take a short break. We'll have more when we come back.


COOPER: Bring you up to the minute on the breaking news out of Denver. United Flight 663 is on the ground safely. There was some sort of disturbance or misunderstanding on the way from Reagan National Airport out of Washington.

At first, as it was first indicated, a passenger was thought to have tried to light his shoe on fire. It's unclear now at the moment. We have two different sources who said this clearly. Seems to be some sort of misunderstanding.

Norad reporting F-16s were scrambled to escort the flight in. As I said, the plane is now on the ground, surrounded by authorities from the TSA, the FBI. The suspect in question is in custody and is obviously being questioned quite thoroughly.

Joining us again now is national security analyst Peter Bergen, on the phone with Fran Townsend, national security contributor and former White House homeland security advisor. Again, confirmed that the main detained on the flight has credentials as a diplomat from Qatar. We also have Clark Kent Ervin, former homeland security inspector general, on the phone with us.

Peter, again, just for those viewers who are joining us close to the top of the hour, what you have heard from your source is that this is a misunderstanding?

BERGEN: Yes, Anderson. The diplomat in question, according to my sources, is a guy called Mohammed al-Modadi who is listed as a diplomat on the Qatari embassy Web site in Washington D.C. He's described as somebody who wouldn't be engaged in that sort of a terrorist attack of any kind.

My source is an Arab diplomat who knows this guy pretty well, says that he may have been smoking, maybe even a pipe near the bathroom at the back of this plane, and that that sort of triggered this response, and he may have made some observation, perhaps, about a shoe bomb. And of course, you can't really make those kinds of observations in this environment.

COOPER: Yes. And Fran Townsend, that's similar to what you are hearing from the folks you have talked to?

TOWNSEND: That's right, Anderson. I spoke to senior law enforcement officials, who told me that this Qatari diplomat had an extended period that he was in the bathroom, that they don't know what he was doing. They want to get to the bottom of that.

After the plane landed, they examined his shoes and did not find that to contain any explosive device.

The other thing I should mention is this senior law enforcement official say the entire national security and homeland security apparatus here in Washington was notified and sort of on alert and monitoring this very closely.

COOPER: It's amazing in this day and age how quickly a small incident becomes a very big one. We're going to have more at the top of the hour. We'll be right back.