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Crucial Court Ruling on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'; O'Donnell's Constitution Gaffe; Aqua Buddhist Mantra; "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"; Remembering John Lennon with Yoko Ono

Aired October 19, 2010 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, breaking news: a crucial court ruling on "don't ask, don't tell" just hours after the Military for the first time ever in this country started allowing openly gay and lesbian Americans to sign up to serve. We're going to be joined by Dan Choi, who was drummed out of the Army for being gay and who lined up to volunteer again today; also, senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin to make sense of a very convoluted set of legal actions.

Also tonight, Christine O'Donnell, she's running for Senate in Delaware as you know; claims to be a Constitutional scholar. If that's true, then why did she not know two major amendments to the Constitution today, and how come her comments on the First Amendment were met with laughter and gaffes? We're "Keeping Them Honest".

And later: a rare and exclusive conversation with Yoko Ono, John Lennon's widow; her life with him, the pain of losing him to an assassin nearly 30 years ago, and her life since then as an artist, a mom, and a keeper of the Lennon legacy. We talk about all of it, the first in a three-part series of conversations with Yoko Ono.

We begin tonight, though, as we do every night, "Keeping Them Honest" and we start tonight with a politician who claims to be guided by the Constitution and talks about it all the time on the campaign trail. Yet it turns out she might not be as familiar with it as she pretends.

We're talking about Delaware Republican and Tea Party favorite Christine O'Donnell, who is running for Senate debating opponent Chris Coons at a Delaware law school this morning. Now, the two were sparring over teaching evolution and the separation of church and state. Listen.


CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), DELAWARE SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state?



COOPER: A few beats later, someone in the crowd says unbelievable. Ms. O'Donnell keeps smiling, then, a minute later, this exchange: (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: The First Amendment, the First Amendment establishes the separation, the fact that the federal government shall not establish any religion and decisional law by the Supreme Court over many, many decades --


COONS: -- clarifies and enshrines -- clarifies and enshrines that there is a separation of church and state that our courts and our laws must respect.


O'DONNELL: So, you're telling me that the separation of church and state --


O'DONNELL: -- the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?


O'DONNELL: Let me just clarify. You're telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?

COONS: The government shall make no establishment of --

O'DONNELL: That's in the First Amendment?


COOPER: Now, perhaps Ms. O'Donnell was simply trying to say that the literal phrase separation of church and state is not in the First Amendment. That's true.

Here's a relevant passage. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

The very first sentence of the very First Amendment, the words separation of church and state are not in there. Yet, the sentence itself makes it plain. Government can neither meddle with your faith, nor set up an official faith of its own.

Now, even before the Bill of Rights, Article 6 of the Constitution prohibited religious tests for holding public office. And as Chris Coons pointed out, numerous Supreme Court decisions over the years have fleshed out what the First and other amendments mean in practice.

What Ms. O'Donnell got right was the technicality. What a lot of people think she missed was everything else. And she also had a tough time today remember some of the other amendments. When asked if she, like some other Tea Party candidates, supported changing or repealing the 14th, 16th and 17th Amendments, she said she didn't want to change the 17th Amendment, but clearly didn't know what the other amendments were. Listen.


O'DONNELL: Jason (ph), I'm sorry I didn't bring my Constitution with me. Fortunately, some of us don't have to memorize the Constitution. Well, can you let me -- remind me of what the other ones are?


COOPER: Well the 14th guarantees due process and equal protection under the law and defines citizenship. It's been a big issue on the campaign trail this year. And the 16th Amendment is the federal income tax, also obviously a pretty big topic.

Now, I'm sure most of us get confused about which amendment is which. I certainly do. But most of us aren't running for Senate, and most of us don't claim to be constitutional experts, as Christine O'Donnell has certainly come close to doing just that. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What responsibilities or experiences in jobs and past -- past activities do you feel qualify you to be a senator?

O'DONNELL: Well, for one, I have a graduate fellowship from the Claremont Institute in constitutional government. And it is that deep analysis of the Constitution that has helped me to analyze and have an opinion on what's going on today, to be able to determine that our leaders in Washington have lost their way, and no longer follow the constitutional principles.

Otherwise, we wouldn't have Obamacare, we wouldn't have these massive bailouts, we wouldn't be taking over GM. So, number one, it is my study in the Constitution.


COOPER: That's a couple weeks ago, her study of the Constitution.

By the way, the graduate fellowship she talks about from the Claremont Institute -- the Claremont Institute is a conservative think tank. It's not a university. And the fellowship lasted a grand total of seven days.

Now, that's not the only time that Christine O'Donnell has talked about the Constitution.


O'DONNELL: We people in Congress who are going to be advocates for our Constitution.

If you can help me get elected, I will always vote according to our Constitution.

The litmus test by which I cast my vote for every piece of legislation that comes across my desk will be whether or not it is constitutional.

And the Constitution is making a comeback. It's almost as if we're in a season of constitutional repentance.

It is the Constitution by which I will determine how I vote on all legislation coming across my desk.

It's the Constitution by which I determine all of my policies.


O'DONNELL: I also have a graduate fellowship in constitutional government from the Claremont Institute.

It is the Constitution that I will defend and it is by the Constitution by -- that I will make all of my decisions.


COOPER: Again, a lot of people, including myself, get confused about constitutional amendments, but not a lot of people running for Senate based on their deep analysis and study of the Constitution.

Joining us now is Democratic strategist Paul Begala, Tea Party organizer Dana Loesch, and senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin.

Paul, is it a fair criticism? I mean, if she says she is running based on her deep understanding of the Constitution, and that's how she's going to govern, is it fair then to say, well, she didn't know what the -- the -- you know, these amendments were? PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it is.

I think you make a good point. People might get confused. I mean, how many of us have had to invoke the Third Amendment, for example, whether it prohibits the quartering of troops in our home? Ok. I -- I get that.

But what bothers me -- and it's not just Christine O'Donnell, I think, who can plainly -- who can plainly plead ignorance as a defense -- but across the conservative movement, there is this schizophrenia, this claimed fidelity to the Constitution, when in fact, they want to shred a whole bunch of it.

As you pointed out, they want to repeal the 17th Amendment, the direct election of senators; the 16th Amendment, which allows an income tax. They want to change the First Amendment to ban flag- burning. They want to allow school prayer, which would change the First Amendment. They want a balanced budget amendment, a line item veto amendment. They want to change the 14th Amendment, so that people who are born here, some would not be citizens.

I could go on. They want to ban same-sex marriage and put that in the Constitution. So they -- they don't really like the Constitution. It's a little like saying -- say you get married, and you're on your honeymoon, and you turn to your wife and you say, honey, I love you, but you need a butt job, a boob job, liposuction. Could you put this wig on?

I mean, you know, if you love the Constitution, love it or leave it alone.

COOPER: Dana, is this a fair criticism of Christine O'Donnell, that -- that, you know, she's running on the Constitution and doesn't seem to know at least what two of the amendments are that are -- have been talked about a lot on the campaign trail?

DANA LOESCH, ORGANIZER, ST. LOUIS TEA PARTY COALITION: Well, I have to say -- and, Anderson, thank you for having me back -- I think Mr. Toobin's assessment of what conservatives think of the Constitution was grossly partisan.

Secondly, I don't know why anyone isn't talking about why Chris Coons wasn't able to mention --


COOPER: Paul Begala, not Toobin.

LOESCH: Oh, sorry, Paul. Sorry, Paul Begala.

COOPER: That's all right.


COOPER: Toobin is going to say something you're going to criticize also.


LOESCH: I don't have a monitor. Everyone's voices sound the same.


LOESCH: But, no, Chris Coons was unable to list --


BEGALA: Sorry. I am grossly partisan. Toobin is -- is brilliant. But --

COOPER: Sorry. Go ahead, Dana.

LOESCH: Well -- well -- ok.

Chris Coons was unable to mention the five enumerated rights in the First Amendment in this debate. No one is discussing that at all. And you would think that someone who is running for Senate, the First Amendment, that's an easy. That's a "give me". That's stuff that everybody learns in seventh and eighth grade.

You would think that he would at least -- and I realize that we're not all constitutional experts, but if we're going to have the same standard applying to Christine O'Donnell, it also needs to be applicable to Chris Coons as well.


COOPER: Fair point.

TOOBIN: That's certainly a fair point. Everybody has to be judged by the same standard.

You know, it's hard to evaluate something like this in a way that makes -- that is fair criticism, but you don't want to sound like a jerk or a scold. I had to look up the 16th Amendment. I didn't remember the 16th Amendment off the top of my head.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: But the 14th is a big deal. The First is a big deal.

COOPER: The 14th -- the thing about the 14th -- and -- and I was hesitant to be critical of this, but the 14th has been bandied about so much over the last couple of months with citizen -- you know, birthright and citizenship and the like.

TOOBIN: That's right.

And -- and if -- if you listen to the full context of the -- the debate about the First Amendment, it wasn't just that she didn't know the phrase separation of church and state was not in the First Amendment. She didn't know what the First Amendment was about.

I mean, that, I think -- you know, you don't need it to be --

COOPER: Well, her defenders will say, well, look, she was pointing out that the term separation of church and state is not in the First Amendment.

TOOBIN: That's what her supporters would point out. That's not what the tape shows. What the tape shows is she didn't know anything about the First Amendment, at least as I saw --

COOPER: Dana, do you think that's true?


LOESCH: I don't agree with that.

TOOBIN: You don't think that's true?

LOESCH: No, I don't agree with that at all. I think what she was pointing out was Chris Coons' unequal application of the establishment clause regarding the First Amendment, and how really, when you deny rights in the classroom to one group, when you deny rights to one group in favor of secularism, which is its own religion -- religion is not -- is not patented by just a faith in God or Christian principles. It's a devotion and a set of beliefs to a certain something.

You could be religious in your love of music or religious about green causes. But when you deny rights to one, that's -- that's unequal. It's just let it -- let whatever be represented be represented. That's a fair application of the establishment causes in first religion -- and if people -- really, that was put in the First Amendment to protect religion from government.

And this is really -- when you delve into Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptist, the sentence following the wall of separation between church and state really sheds a lot light onto that.


TOOBIN: Well, I just -- I think the point that O'Donnell was making and just -- was making right here -- is a lot of conservatives believe the courts have pushed God out of too many places in American life, that they have pushed God out of classrooms, they have banned school prayer.

And that is a perfectly legitimate widely-held view that I think O'Donnell held. Now, the Supreme Court has not really embraced that view much lately, but it is certainly not some exotic, crazy view. That's a view a lot of conservatives hold.

COOPER: Paul, is --

BEGALA: But there -- there --


COOPER: I'm sorry, go ahead.

BEGALA: But there is an exotic, crazy view that some conservatives hold, at least Sharron Angle, the Republican candidate for Senate in Nevada.

And that is that Sharia law is coming to America, or even has come. Right? If -- if you don't believe there's a separation of church and state, then you could get Sharia law. So -- so, Ms. Angle and the other Tea Partiers have to choose. Are they more fearful of Muslims and Sharia law or more desirous of tearing down the -- the separation of church and state, so that maybe -- I guess they don't want the Mohammed Law. They want the Jesus law.


COOPER: Paul, you're saying -- BEGALA: But I don't think it's going to work that way. And I think we need that wall of separation.


COOPER: You're saying the idea of separation of church and state actually prevents Sharia from becoming the law of a land?

BEGALA: Exactly. It's -- it's why we can't have Sharia law in America, because we have a separation of church and state.

LOESCH: Well, Sharia -- no, no, no. Sharia law allows for -- in fact they just passed this, I believe, over in Saudi Arabia, that it is ok under Sharia law to beat your wife, as long as there are no bruises. So I think we have basic assault laws here in the United States that would prevent that and not the separation of church and state.

COOPER: Paul, you want to respond?


BEGALA: But no, but, if you changed the law, then it wouldn't be assault anymore. I mean, come on.


COOPER: You're too much in shock.

TOOBIN: I'm too much in shock.

So what that Saudi Arabia -- I mean, Saudi Arabia's legal system is very different from ours.


TOOBIN: The case you're referring to I believe is actually from the United Arab Emirates -- Emirates, which said that you can beat your wife as long as there's no marks here. But that's there. And that's here. And the law is very different here. And I think we can all celebrate that.

LOESCH: Oh, no, but I was responding to -- to Mr. Begala's explicit remark about -- about Sharia law in the United States.

COOPER: Do you think any of this matters to -- I mean, Dana, obviously, voters -- Christine O'Donnell needs to get independents. She needs -- I mean, she's far behind in the polls. Do you think this -- I mean, does this end her campaign? I mean, is this a major deal?

LOESCH: I don't think it ends her campaign, but I think she needs to stop being reactionary.

That's just my particular take on it. Obviously, if I were advising her campaign, which I am not in the business of, I would tell her to stop being so reactionary with stuff. Quit allowing other people to put you in a particular frame when it comes to a particular issue, because she's spending her entire campaign being reactionary to whatever Bill Maher does or whatever Chris Coons does. And she needs to get out of that -- of that rut.

COOPER: Paul, does she have a chance?

BEGALA: Not much of one.

It's a Democratic state. Joe Biden held that seat for 36 years. She's a good 10 or 20 points behind. This probably doesn't help, but, you know, the -- the percentage of people who are for her, maybe this isn't going to move them off, but it's not going to get her any independent votes.

COOPER: All right, we've got to leave it there.

Paul -- Paul Begala, Dana Loesch, Jeff Toobin, appreciate it. Thanks.

Let us know what you think. Join the live chat right now at

Up next: the Senate candidate who says what an opponent did in college 27 years ago is fair game. He's sticking by an attack ad against Rand Paul; he joins us next to defend it.

Just ahead, reaction also to tonight's breaking news: a judge reaffirming her ruling that the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy is unconstitutional. We're going to talk with two former servicemen, both discharged from the military, one of them signing up again today.


COOPER: Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Jack Conway is standing behind the campaign ad that even has some Democrats shaking their heads. We're going to talk to him a moment.

But, first, here's the ad about his opponent, Republican Rand Paul.


JACK CONWAY (D), KENTUCKY SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Jack Conway. I approve this image.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why was Rand Paul a member of a secret society that called the Holy Bible a hoax that was banned for mocking Christianity and Christ?

Why did Rand Paul once tie a woman up, tell her to bow down before a false idol, and say his God was Aqua Buddha?

Why does Rand Paul now want to end all federal faith-based initiatives and even end the deduction for religious charities?

Why are there so many questions about Rand Paul?


COOPER: Well, since that ad has aired, the woman in question who allegedly went to college with Paul is telling The Washington Post's "Plum Line" blog that the ad is accurate, but -- quote -- "over the top".

Rand Paul denies any criminal behavior in a recent debate, and had plenty to say about Jack Conway bringing up the incident, which is nearly three decades' old.


RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: You know, Jack, you know how we tell when you're lying? It's when your lips are moving. Ok?

CONWAY: When is it ever a good idea -- a good idea to tie up a woman and ask her to kneel before a false idol, your God that you call Aqua Buddha?

PAUL: When this debate ends, you will notice that I will not be shaking his hand tonight. I will not shake hands with someone who attacks my religion and attacks my Christian beliefs.


COOPER: Well, since that debate over the weekend, fellow Democrats have been split on the Conway ad with some, namely Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, saying it comes close to crossing the line.

Also since then, Mr. Conway seems to be getting a lift in the polls.

Rand Paul doesn't come on CNN these days, but Jack Conway has. He joined me just a few moments ago.


COOPER: You claim you're not attacking Rand Paul's religion in this ad, but the narrator in the commercial sure seems to be questioning whether Rand Paul is a Christian.

Do you believe he's a Christian?

CONWAY: Oh, listen, I'm not questioning his faith. I'm questioning his actions.

What happened here, Anderson, is -- is, some time ago, evidently, the -- the president of Baylor -- Baylor University banned this group. And he banned them because they were, quote-unquote, "making fun of Christianity and Christ."

And we're asking the question, why did he knowingly join a group known for mocking people of faith, and -- and when, if ever, is it appropriate, whether you're 22 years old or 42 years old, to ever tie up a woman and ask her to kneel before a false idol?

And these -- these allegations have been out there some time now. Six different reputable media groups have been reporting them for some time now. And Rand Paul hasn't answered the questions.

COOPER: But --

CONWAY: He hasn't denied this.

COOPER: -- you say, though, you're not attacking his faith. You're just attacking -- talking about his -- his actions. But, I mean, your -- your commercial has a series of questions, and the only link between them is faith, saying his group mocked Christianity, he made someone bow before a false idol, that he wants to end federal faith-based initiatives and deductions for religious charities.

These are all separate things, and the only link between them is religion. That's not a coincidence.

CONWAY: Well, listen, values matter. And -- and it is -- it is a question though, of why he would -- why he would join a secret society at Baylor that mocked religion. I mean, I don't think you should ever mock faith in any way at any age.

And Rand Paul has come out and said that the federal government doesn't need to be involved in faith-based initiatives. He's come out for a 23 percent national sales tax and a new sales tax program that would do away with charitable deductions. And -- and that's not all the sort of off-the-wall stuff he's -- he -- he's come out with.

COOPER: Right, but, but -- but --


CONWAY: I mean, he has -- he's questioned fundamental principles of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, too.

COOPER: But those are not things you mention in your commercials. The only thing you are mentioning in your commercials are questions about his faith.

And, so, I mean, it does beg the question, it does seem -- I mean you can say you're only talking about actions. It does leave in the mind of voters certainly, who see this commercial, questions about his faith.

CONWAY: Well, listen, I take him at his word on his faith. And the question is --

COOPER: You -- you believe he is a Christian?

CONWAY: -- is why won't Rand Paul answer for his actions?

Sure. Sure. I -- I'm not questioning his faith. I'm questioning his actions. And when -- when, if ever, is it appropriate to tie up a woman and ask her to kneel before a false idol? I mean, that is not appropriate behavior at any age.

COOPER: But, look, this was, you know, nearly 30 years ago, and this was a group, like the Harvard Lampoon or some sort of satirical group that they clearly were -- were collegiate level humor, not very funny perhaps.

But, you know, are you implying that, you know, he's kidnapping people? Are you implying that it's somehow criminal?

CONWAY: No, I didn't -- I didn't -- listen, no, no, no, no, no, I'm not implying criminal. And the woman came out again today, Anderson. And I hope you saw the piece in the -- in "The Washington Post." And she said our ad was correct.

COOPER: Well, she said your ad was over the top.

CONWAY: And said our ad was correct.

COOPER: Accurate, but over the top.

CONWAY: Well, but she also said what -- what -- what she said, she didn't like the music and -- and -- and she didn't like -- and -- and she called it that, but, also, what said she was, it's -- it's essentially correct.

COOPER: But does an incident that may or may not have occurred 27 years ago, does it really matter to voters today, given all the things that people are facing, all the things, the problems that people are having in their own lives?

CONWAY: Yes. Yes. In this -- in this case, it does matter, Anderson.

COOPER: Doesn't everybody do stupid stuff in college or when they're in late teens or early 20s?

CONWAY: Sure, sure, everyone does stupid stuff. But -- but Rand Paul is denying that this happened. And -- and the woman, what she says, Anderson, is she says, you know, why is he denying his past? Why not just admit what happened and who he is now?

And there's a direct line, Anderson, from his college days. "The Washington Post" last week did a series of stories about Rand Paul's college letters to the editor. And he questioned whether or not two people could ever be equal. You know, I happen to think our Creator makes us equal. He questioned whether or not women needed equal protection in the law.

And he questioned non-discrimination laws and consumer protection laws. And you could draw a straight line from those attitudes in college to the positions he has taken in this campaign.

COOPER: What's the name of the woman who made these allegations? CONWAY: Well, the woman who has made the allegations has -- has remained anonymous.


COOPER: So, you -- you don't know, nor does anyone know, really, who she is, other than some -- one or two reporters who have talked to her -- talked to her?

CONWAY: Other -- other than the reporters for "The Washington Post" and "GQ" and the other -- and the people -- it's been presented in "The Louisville Courier-Journal," "The Herald-Leader," CBS News.

One gentleman named Mr. Green has gone on record who was a compatriot of Rand Paul's in this secret society and said, yes, they -- they aspired to sacrilege and Rand Paul reveled in it. So, he has -- he has former members of this society that have gone on record about --


COOPER: But does it concern you, though, to be basing so much of your campaign in these final days and this television commercial on a nameless person who won't come forward, who won't -- and, for all we know, I mean, this is -- you're an attorney. You couldn't put this person on a stand. They're not willing to come forward. You couldn't put these statements in court.

CONWAY: Look, she -- Anderson, she -- she -- she has -- she has called it -- she has called it sadistic and she has called it weird. And she's talked about it on multiple occasions.

COOPER: But -- but we don't know who she is. I mean, she could be making up a story, and -- and we don't know.

CONWAY: Yes, but -- well, but we know that the president of Baylor University banned the group. We know that Rand Paul has appeared on the cover of the magazine with articles that mocked Christianity therein.

And we know Mr. Green has come forward to talk about his days in college. And you asked what we're talking about on the campaign trail. Yes, this is one thing we're talking about on the campaign trail, because values matter.

COOPER: A lot of people are not standing up for the commercials that they're putting in the air. Rand Paul won't come on this program. I appreciate you coming on the program. Whether people agree with the commercial or not, at least you're standing up and defending it. Thanks for being on.

CONWAY: My pleasure, Anderson.


COOPER: Well, up next tonight, breaking news: for the first time in history in this country, the U.S. military is now accepting openly gay and lesbian recruits. Former Lieutenant Dan Choi signed up again today for the military, after being drummed out because of his sexual orientation. We'll talk to him about what happened and what today's court ruling means.

And later, my exclusive and pretty revealing interview with Yoko Ono about life without John Lennon and their first meeting, when she says she had no idea who he was.


COOPER: I guess it wasn't love at first sight.

YOKO ONO, WIDOW OF JOHN LENNON: I -- I saw his face and I thought, oh, he's rather, you know, elegant. But I -- and I thought, well, I could -- I could think of having an affair with somebody like that, but I didn't want to because I'm too busy.



COOPER: There's breaking news on the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which bars gays from serving openly in the military.

Tonight, a federal judge in California denied the Obama administration's request that she suspend her own ruling, which struck down the policy as unconstitutional. Now, the administration will most certainly appeal the decision, but it comes on the same day that we learned of a stunning recruitment change by the Pentagon.

For the first time in the history of this country, the U.S. military is now telling its recruiters that they can accept openly gay and lesbian applicants. They made the change because of the federal judge's ruling.

Former Army Lieutenant Dan Choi went to a recruiting station in New York today to re-up. He's a veteran of the Iraq war, an Arab linguist, and a West Point graduate who was discharged earlier this year after announcing he was gay.

A short time ago, I spoke to Dan Choi. I also spoke to Alex -- Alex Nicholson, founder and executive director of Servicemembers United, who was also discharged under the policy. He's a plaintiff in the case the judge ruled on. And our own Jeffrey Toobin, CNN senior legal analyst, joined in the discussion.


COOPER: Dan, you were discharged from the Army, what, a couple of months ago. Today, you actually went back to re-enlist. What happened?

DAN CHOI, DISCHARGED UNDER "DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL" POLICY: They allowed me to re-enlist. They allowed me to sign up. We know that "don't ask, don't tell" has been dead for a week now, seven days. And they're allowing people to sign up and be openly gay.

COOPER: So -- so, I mean, you walked in to, what, the Times Square recruiting office today?

CHOI: That's right.

COOPER: And you -- you tried to join the Marine Corps, but you were too -- you're too old for that.

CHOI: A couple months too old. So --

COOPER: A couple months too old. So -- so, what did you sign up for?

CHOI: The Army took me. And they're processing my paperwork right now.

I was an officer before. I graduated from West Point and served in Iraq, but now I get to follow my dreams. I want to be enlisted.

COOPER: And did you tell them today that you were gay?

CHOI: Yes. I said that I was discharged under ""don't ask, don't tell"." I have no intention of keeping it secret. I want to sign up and serve with the full measure of integrity and honor and tell the truth of who I am. I don't intend to keep that part of my life silent.

COOPER: And what was the reaction in the office among the soldier you were talking with?

CHOI: They're very professional, motivating and very inspirational. Told me all about what the Army is and --

COOPER: They gave you have the regular spiel? Really? That's kind of fascinating.

CHOI: Well --

COOPER: And did you kind of say like, "Yes, I know that part. I went to West Point."

CHOI: They were excited because it's rare to see people who have prior service to come back and particularly in a time of war. They need people of all different skills. And being able to speak Arabic and wanting to be a linguist, they also told me, you know, it's the needs of the Army. It's whatever the Army needs.

I said, I've also been through airborne, air assault training, Rangers school and infantry training.

COOPER: By any traditional benchmark for the military you would be a great candidate. CHOI: That's right. So a week ago, even with all these qualifications, I would have been turned away if I would have said that I'm gay, and I intend to be honest about it. Today was very different.

COOPER: And they handed you a pamphlet, too.

CHOI: They said, "Stand up, stand out and stand Army strong." I was very excited.

COOPER: So your paperwork is going through?

CHOI: It's going through, and they're processing it. I'm very happy about it.

COOPER: Alex, though, despite today's announcement, your advice for both gay enlistees and members is to continue to not tell. Why?

ALEXANDER NICHOLSON, PLAINTIFF IN "DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL" CASE: Well, that's our advice for active-duty gay and lesbian troops because, of course, we don't want to see anyone jeopardize their career in this volatile period.

COOPER: It could still change.

NICHOLSON: It very well can. And, you know, our advice for people who want to go enlist for the first time is very different. You know, we're certainly advising caution, and this would not be the case, obviously, with my good friend Dan, because he's been in the military before.

But for those who have never been in the military and want to go enlist or want to go commission and want to reveal their sexual orientation in the process, you know, we're certainly advising people to think long and hard about it, because the military is a big commitment. You know, you're committing to a job for a certain amount of time, up to and including giving your life for this country in performing that job.

And so we just, of course, are advising caution with people who go enlist or commission for the first time, because the military is a big commitment. It's a serious commitment. And we're, you know, ecstatic now that can you do that, even if you happen to be openly gay.

COOPER: But correct me if I'm wrong. If they change their mind or if this is appealed and, if this is appealed and overturned, then those people who have applied now and have said that they're gay, what happens to those enlistment papers? Are they just thrown away?

NICHOLSON: It's likely that the enlistment -- I mean, yes, essentially, it's very likely that the enlistment or the commissioning process for those individuals will be -- would be put to a stop.

And you know, of course, the reason we're advising caution for active duty service members is because it's also unclear if the military would use that information, them coming out during this volatile period, this interim period, to discharge them when -- if "don't ask, don't tell" is put back into force.

COOPER: Jeff, in terms of legally, what happens now? I mean, the government, are they going to appeal this to the Ninth Circuit?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They are. But, I mean this is really an extraordinary political and legal Rubik's cube. Because there are a lot of different moving parts here.

There's the court case. Judge Phillips has said, "don't ask, don't tell is out." She's denied a stay. That's why Dan got to enlist. Because the law of the land today is that "don't ask, don't tell" is not going to be enforced.

But this ruling will almost certainly be appealed to the Ninth Circuit, and that could be overturned. If it's overturned, then we return to the political arena, where after the midterm elections, Congress is going to address this issue.

The Obama administration is asking Congress, get rid of "don't ask, don't tell" once and for all. But especially with a more Republican Congress, it's by no means clear that Congress is going to do that.

COOPER: I mean, there is obviously irony in the Obama administration pursuing this through courts to try to overturn what this judge has already ruled, given that President Obama has said that he wants to end this policy. He's saying, though, he wants to have Congress be the ones to actually end it.

CHOI: Anderson, the way I say it is the president has two choices. Now that "don't ask, don't tell" is unconstitutional, it's dead; he can appeal that, revive it, resuscitate it, bring it back from the dead.

Or he can do what he's going to have to do anyway after Congress repeals, which is to institute a non-discrimination policy, talk about reinstatement, re-enlistments, all of that.

I think that if President Obama is going to stay true to his promises and his continued rhetoric, then he does need to do one thing, and that is to sign an executive order that institutes a non- discrimination policy. That's where it is right now, because the courts have done the heavy lifting for him.

COOPER: Alex, there are those who say, "Well, look, this is causing confusion among the military. There's this review that's been undertaken. The results of that haven't been released. Anticipated to be released I think, sometime this year. And some, mostly Republicans, are saying, "Look, you know, it's got to be done in a more orderly fashion."

To that you say what?

NICHOLSON: Well, I'd say just like Dan said earlier. "Don't ask, don't tell" has not been in effect for seven days. You haven't seen enormous consequences like the Defense Department leadership predicted. You have not seen enormous consequences also in cases throughout the U.S. military before now, where you have men and women serving openly and honestly on a daily basis with the full knowledge of their peers and many times their commands.

"Don't ask, don't tell" has deteriorated to a state of arbitrary, capricious enforcement. And, you know, many people, my partner included, served openly for many, many years without a problem.

And, of course, you know, you don't see those problems happening in our foreign -- in our allied militaries, where they've had open service policies for decades.

COOPER: Jeff, the Obama administration does not have to appeal this to the Ninth Circuit. I mean, they could just let this ruling stand.

TOOBIN: They could. And they are in a very bizarre position, frankly, of their own making.

But their view is, look. This needs to be done through the political process. They don't want the courts to deal with this unilaterally. They want to get to the same result, but they want to do it through the political process, through the democratically- elected branches. But they may wind up losing "don't ask, don't tell" on both -- in both counts.

I mean, they have a chance now, if they don't appeal, that "don't ask, don't tell" is just gone. But if the Ninth Circuit overturned Judge Phillips' decision, and Congress does not act to overturn "don't ask, don't tell", "don't ask, don't tell" could be back and the Obama administration could be responsible for that.

COOPER: It's an interesting time.

Dan Choi, appreciate it and it has been a long day. Appreciate you being with us; Alex Nicholson, as well. Jeffrey Toobin thanks.


COOPER: Former JetBlue flight attendant, he's back in the headlines. His meltdown, of course, turned him into a folk hero of sorts. Well, he took a plea deal. We'll tell you what he copped to and what he has to do in return.

And later, a 360 exclusive: a rare interview with Yoko Ono. Agreed to talk with me about what life with John Lennon was really like, the good memories and also the horrific night he was murdered in front of her.


COOPER: Tonight, a 360 exclusive we're really excited to bring you. Yoko Ono doesn't give many interviews, but she recently agreed to sit down with me to talk about her life with John Lennon. As you probably know, Lennon would have turned 70 years old this month.

Ono has been re-mastering his music, and she celebrated the anniversary of his birthday in Iceland, where she performed with the Plastic Ono Band, which is still making music after all these years.

It is hard to believe that Yoko Ono is 77 now. She looks amazing. In December it's going to be 30 years since Lennon was murdered outside the New York apartment building that he and Ono shared with their son, Sean. Thirty years.

That terrible day is still vivid for Ono. We talked about what she remembers and how she managed to move on.

Ono also told me what life with Lennon was like, how they first met, and what she thinks Lennon would be like today if he was alive. She was candid, and charming, and over the next three nights, we're going to bring you the entire interview.

Tonight we start with the Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland, a memorial to Lennon built by Yoko Ono.


COOPER: Let's start off by talking a little bit about the Imagine Peace Tower.


COOPER: What is -- what's the idea behind it?

ONO: Well, you know, it's very strange because I had that idea in 1965. I sort of announced it, like this is going to be a light tower.

COOPER: Why -- why is it in Iceland? How did you pick Iceland?

ONO: OK. Because Iceland is the top north, you know, in the map. And the north is wisdom and power, and the wisdom and power from the north would just go -- spread all over the world.

COOPER: What's the -- the idea of the tower? For someone who hasn't seen it, what does it look like?

ONO: Well, it's a tower that's only made of light. So every birthday, October 9 on John's birthday, I go there and light, and the tower becomes alive.

COOPER: There's a lot I want to ask you about, both your work now, what's coming up, and also just, given that this is the anniversary for John's birthday, how did you first meet? How did you first meet John?

ONO: Oh, OK. Well, I was doing a show, my own art show in Indica Gallery in Mason's yard in London. And John just came in, just walked in with the owner of the gallery. And I was a bit upset about it, because I told the owner that nobody should get in before the opening. And it was just before the opening. I said, "What is he doing?"

COOPER: You didn't know he was a Beatle?

ONO: Of course not. Of course not. I don't know how to put it, but I thought he was very elegant, very beautiful guy. I saw his face and I thought, he's rather, you know, elegant. But I, you know, I thought, I could -- I could think of having an affair with somebody like that, but I didn't want to because I'm too busy. I was really busy at the time. Forget it.

COOPER: So when was there that connection? When was there the moment of, "Oh, OK, I recognize you"?

ONO: Well, I started to feel that he did sort of have a special feeling for me, probably, in 1967, when he visited my apartment. And the way he visited was kind of nice. He just suddenly appeared.

COOPER: Why do you think there was such prejudice? Why did so many -- you know, I guess some of it stems from people saying that you broke up the Beatles, but I mean, the Beatles were on their way to breaking up before you were --

ONO: They didn't think about that. I think I was used as a scapegoat, and it's a very easy scapegoat; a Japanese woman and whatever.

COOPER: You think some of it was sexism, racism?

ONO: Sexism, racism, but also just remember that the United States and Britain were fighting with Japan in World War II. It was just after that in a way. So I can understand how they felt and --

COOPER: Did it hurt?

ONO: Well, it did in a way. But you know, it was sort of like a distant thing in a way, because John and I were so close. And we were just totally involved in each other and in our work. You know, I just kept on being -- getting ideas, and he was, too. So that was much more exciting.

COOPER: What do you think he would have been like at 70?

ONO: John was an incredibly spiritual and intelligent guy, but aside of that, he was a very attractive guy, and you know, he would not have changed. I'm sure of that. Because he had this kind of like cheekbone and the bone structure that would not fail in years.

And, of course, he would not be retiring. I mean, he would never have -- well, he did think about retiring. He said, "In the end we should be in Cornwall, you know, in rocking chairs and waiting for Sean's postcard or something." Well, that didn't happen.

And I'm sure that, if he got to be 70, then he would have forgotten all of that. No, we have to do something now. And I'm sure this is when he would have been totally activist.

COOPER: Totally activist.

ONO: Yes, sure.

COOPER: What do you want people on John's 70th birthday to think about him and to think about, about that day?

ONO: Well, I would say that let's not think about the fact that he passed away, but let's think about, you know, we should celebrate that he was here. The fact that he was here really helped the world.

So I want people to remember that and not when he passed away. But of course he did pass away, and I don't know, but by saying that I think -- concentrating on his birthday, I think somehow I changed the kind of configuration of things.

COOPER: I lost my father when I was very little, and I found it very hard to -- for some reason I focused on the day he died. In subsequent years, that day I would always think about -- rather than his birthday. And I'm not sure why that is. I mean, I don't think it's a good thing. I sort of wish --

ONO: I don't know if it's a good thing or bad thing. I think that it's a normal, it's a human thing to think about that. But if I had -- if I hadn't changed the configuration of my emotion about it, I wouldn't be here.

You know, I survived because I tried to think of the positive of the world. And you know, to think that everything's actually a blessing and that way I survived.

In the beginning, when I felt so bad, and one day I looked at the mirror, and I was going like this. I thought this is not going to do. You know? And I -- especially with Sean -- you know, what a mother. You know? So I started to -- tried to smile in the mirror every morning.

COOPER: Really? You would actually try to do that?

ONO: Without, you know, but my eyes were not smiling. But I thought, well, we'll try this. You know? And I started to smile and smile and smile, and I finally felt that, OK, I'm alive. And my whole body's smiling. So, great. This is great. You know? And I had to do that to survive.


COOPER: Yoko Ono -- more of my interview with Yoko Ono tomorrow on "360". She still lives in the Dakota, the legendary apartment building where she and Lennon lived and where he was murdered as they came home one night together.

Tomorrow she takes us to the Dakota and to Central Park, where she and John Lennon spent so much time, as she talks about that terrible night he died.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: I mean, we all remember the day -- the night he died, and people coming spontaneously and thousands of people outside singing. Did you hear those songs?

ONO: Of course. Because I was -- my bedroom was right in front of that. I'm right next to it. And so all night, I'm listening to them singing or sometimes they'd play the radio, John singing. And when John was singing, it just made me feel strange because he's supposed to be in bed with me, and then you know -- it wasn't very --

COOPER: Was it helpful? Did it make it harder?

ONO: It made it very hard. Yes.


COOPER: Yoko Ono also told me that -- what she thinks now about the man who killed John Lennon. Can she ever forgive him? Her answer tomorrow on 360.

Up next, he was America's favorite dad. Even the Fonz thought he was cool. We remember Tom Bosley, Mr. Cunningham from "Happy Days".

Plus Steven Slater, JetBlue flight attendant turned kind of folk hero, maybe, maybe not. Well, he's pled guilty to his meltdown. The plea deal, details on his punishment, coming up.


COOPER: Let's get you updated on some of the other stories we're following. Randi Kaye has the "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the "New York Times" is reporting that high-level talks are now under way to end the war in Afghanistan. They reportedly involve President Hamid Karzai's inner circle and top leaders of the Taliban and other guerilla factions. NATO troops are reportedly escorting Taliban leaders to the talks from their hideouts in Pakistan.

The wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has contacted Anita Hill. You'll recall Hill testified at Thomas's confirmation hearing back in 1991, where she accused him of sexual harassment. Virginia Thomas left a voicemail, asking Hill to consider apologizing to Justice Thomas for her testimony.

A former JetBlue flight attendant pleaded guilty today to two counts of attempted criminal mischief. Back in August Steven Slater cursed out a passenger over the public address system on board and jumped off the plane on the emergency chute at Kennedy Airport. He now must pay $10,000 to cover the cost of that chute, and he'll stay out of jail if he completes a year-long mental health program.

Tylenol's latest recalled product, Tylenol 8-hour caplets, 50- count bottle, was made at a Pennsylvania plant where other recalled products were manufactured. The plant was shut down in May. The caplets were recalled yesterday after consumers complained of odors.

And actor Tom Bosley died of heart failure today in Los Angeles. Bosley's career spanned more than half a century, but of course, he was best known as Howard Cunningham, head of the family on "Happy Days". Tom Bosley was 83.

COOPER: It's sad. I watched that show so much when I was a kid.

KAYE: Me, too. I was a big fan of his.

COOPER: I wanted to be the Fonz. I was the Fonz for Halloween one year.

KAYE: You had the black leather jacket?

COOPER: Yes, I think I did. But I was really dumb, I put Vaseline in my hair because I thought, like, to grease it up, and I didn't realize that Vaseline doesn't come out of hair.

KAYE: Yes. That must have been fun.

COOPER: So I was, like, mocked in school for, like, a week, because I was the guy with the greasy hair.

KAYE: But you looked cool.

COOPER: I don't think so. I looked like a dork with greasy hair.

Tonight's "Shot" stars Claude, the kung fu bear that has become an Internet sensation. Have you seen this? Take a look.

KAYE: I have seen that.

COOPER: It's on YouTube. I think I saw this on, like, "Tosh.O" a while ago, which is kind of one of my new favorite shows. But this was shot -- and we found this on YouTube -- was shot by a Canadian man during a visit to a zoo in Japan.

Remember, bears do not have opposable thumbs so this is a particularly difficult feat. Some people have actually raised doubts about the video's authenticity, imagine that, but according to the British Newspaper, "The Telegraph" an older video from a couple of years back apparently shows the same bear twirling a similar stick, though not quite as fast.

KAYE: Yes. Look at that.

COOPER: In the older video, a zoo worker also confirms Claude's obsession with twirling sticks. Clearly, this bear is sort of bored and doesn't have much to do.

KAYE: Yes. Actually, the animal behaviorists, they actually studied this bear.

COOPER: Oh, really? KAYE: Yes. And they said that there's no way that he could have taught himself this, that he had to have been trained but that they think he just continues to do it out of sheer boredom.

COOPER: That's kind of sad.

KAYE: I know. But he's really good at it. He gets really fast. At some points in that video if you watch the whole thing --

COOPER: It's not a skill you can use in the real world, though. So --

KAYE: It's very cute.

COOPER: Yes. At least -- yes. Never mind. I was going to say something about a bunny costume, but I digress.

A quick break, more on 360 just ahead.


COOPER: Hey, that's it for 360. Thanks for watching.

"LARRY KING" starts now.

I'll see you tomorrow night.