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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Still Alive?; Interview With Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman; Is Lap-Band Surgery Safe?; Who Was Gunman in School-Board Shooting?
Aired December 15, 2010 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight: Senator Joe Lieberman says the votes are there, including five Republicans, for lifting don't ask, don't tell. Lawmakers racing to do that and a whole lot more, but now they're fighting over working through the holidays, some Republicans accusing Democrats of disrespecting Christmas and Christians.
We're "Keeping Them Honest."
Also, surgery for the obese, at least it used to be for the -- just for the very obese. Now millions more Americans could be eligible for what's called lap-band surgery. But do the people pushing it, the companies pushing it, really have the data to show that it works and it's safe? Who's looking out for you? Dr. Phil McGraw and 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta join us.
Also, "Crime & Punishment": a deeper look at what happened in that dramatic meeting room as a gunman came in and opened fire on a school board. New details about who he was and the amazing stories of survival, that's coming up.
We begin as always, though, "Keeping Them Honest" with major developments on repealing don't ask, don't tell and a major argument over whether or not Congress should keep working into the Christmas holiday. In a moment, we're going to actually show you just how many days a year Congress actually does work. We will compare that to how many days a year, well, just about everybody else has to work.
But, first, the Senate today passed that compromise tax deal, began debate on that big budget bill. And late today, the House voted on the bill to lift don't ask, don't tell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D-MA), FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The yeas are 250. The nays are 175. The motion is adopted. Without objection, a motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, in a moment we will talk to Senator Joe Lieberman, who says that now he has enough votes, enough Republican votes even, to pass it in the Senate. And Majority Leader Harry Reid has the power, if he wants to use it, to bring it to the floor for a vote as early as tomorrow. But Senator Reid's office says it's likely going to happen late next week.
Meantime, opponents of the appeal and ratifying of the START nuclear arms treaty are angry at Senator Reid's plan to keep them in Washington next week. And it touched one of those food fights that seems like you only can have in Washington, D.C. Only, this time, the senators who don't want to miss out on their vacation are bringing Christianity into the argument.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JON KYL (R-AZ), MINORITY WHIP: It is impossible to do all of the things that the majority leader laid out without doing -- frankly, without disrespecting the institution and without disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians and the families of all of the Senate, not just the senators themselves, but all of the staff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, Senator Jim DeMint echoed that argument, telling Politico -- and I quote -- "We shouldn't be jamming a major arms control treaty up against Christmas. It's sacrilegious and disrespectful. What's going on here is just wrong. This is the most sacred holiday for Christians. And they did the same thing last year. They kept everybody here until Christmas Eve to force something down everybody's throat. I think Americans are sick of this."
Harry Reid shot back with this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I don't need to hear the sanctimonious lectures of Senator Kyl and DeMint to remind me of what Christmas means.
My question, Madam President, is where were their concerns about Christmas as they have had filibuster after filibuster on major pieces of legislation during this entire Congress, not once, but 87 times?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: All right. Well, for the record, Senator Reid is right there. There have been 87 filibusters.
But also for the record, Democrats joined some of those filibusters. And as recently as last week, with the clock ticking down toward the holidays, independent Senator Bernie Sanders took up nine hours of Senate time speaking against the tax deal.
As for the complaints by congresspeople about having to work until Christmas, only in Washington would that seem like a crazy idea. And it got us wondering, how much do these congresspeople actually work in Washington, D.C.?
Well, take a look at the numbers: 123 and 151. That's how many days the House and Senate have actually been in session so far this year, 123 and 151. Now, traditionally, they don't like to work on Friday, so they can all go back to their districts and raise money and shake hands and try to get themselves reelected, which is certainly work, but it's not the kind of work that actually gets legislation passed.
By the way, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American with a full-time job with five years on the job, they get 14 paid vacation days and 11 sick days. Allowing for the weekends, that adds up to 220 workdays so far this year. In other words, the average American has worked 71 more days so far this year than senators have, nearly 100 more days than House members.
And that's not counting the holidays. Now, I know working during the holidays is not fun, but people whose jobs are essential, they do it all the time, airline employees, doctors, nurses, police, firefighters, utility crews, trash collectors, you name it. They work because they have important and essential jobs.
Wouldn't it be nice to think that our representatives also considered their jobs important and essential?
Senator Joe Lieberman, like Senator Harry Reid and a number of Republicans, are willing to work through the holiday this year to finish the job, especially on don't ask, don't tell.
I spoke with Senator Lieberman about what he sees as the growing chances of repealing the policy earlier tonight.
COOPER: Senator Lieberman, you said this has been a -- a thrilling day.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: Well, most thrilling is the vote in the House of Representatives, which acted on our stand-alone bill, passed the repeal by a larger margin than when the repeal was adopted by the House in May, and picked up 10 more Republicans.
So, this now comes to the Senate with some real momentum. And here's the other good news today, and I take it to be thrilling as well. Senator Olympia Snowe, Republican of Maine, announced that she will vote for the stand-alone repeal of don't ask, don't tell.
That means, Anderson, that we have got not 60, but now 61 members of the U.S. Senate publicly committed to the repeal of don't ask, don't tell. So, all that will stop that repeal is a totally unacceptable refusal to bring our measure up in a timely way.
We have got to get this done. We can get it done. It's an injustice. It's time for it to go.
COOPER: But -- but having all those Republicans sign measures saying that they're not going to do anything until the tax cut deal is done?
LIEBERMAN: Yes. So, the tax cut -- actually, the tax cuts, of course, have passed the -- the Senate now, today. The Republicans who signed that letter said that they wouldn't take anything else up until the appropriations passed.
I think that will happen this weekend. It's pretty clear to all of us that we're going to stay here into next -- next week. Let me just get down here there into the weeds quickly a little bit. The House of Representatives, with -- with very strong support from the leadership, is sending the repeal of don't ask, don't tell legislation to the Senate under a special procedure, which means that Senator Reid can take it up at any time he wants. And going to the bill is not subject to a filibuster.
That -- that saves us two or three days of calendar time. We could actually get this whole thing done in two-and-a-half or maybe three days. And if we -- we're not capable of taking the time to do something that the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff want us to do, that everybody in the country, or most people, acknowledge is an injustice, shame on us.
I -- I think we're -- we're going to -- we're going to make it happen before we leave.
COOPER: There have been a number of folks who are saying that the repeal's fate is going to come down to basically a proxy war between the president and your friend Senator John McCain, and that whoever does more to try to exert their influence in the -- in the last days is going to win. Do you think that's a fair assessment?
LIEBERMAN: Well, look, there may be a battle there, but we have got 61 votes. I have been saying this. People thought I was puffing, but I knew I had those votes, and I know I have got at least one more Republican who will come with me.
And, you know, in the Senate, you don't need 51. You need 60. We have now got 61 and I believe 62. So, whatever is going on between other figures about this legislation, the -- the 62 senators have to work their will.
And it would be disappointing, to the point of infuriating, if, with that kind of support in the Senate, having passed the House today, that the repeal of don't ask, don't tell is not accomplished before Christmas. We have got to do it.
COOPER: And the top general in the Marine Corps, General James Amos, has just recently said that he thinks repealing it would be a -- quote -- "distraction" for Marines in combat, suggested this could result in more casualties.
Were you surprised he made those comments at this critical juncture? And do you think those comments have had an impact on anybody?
LIEBERMAN: Yes, I was very surprised by General Amos' comments. I know he's against the repeal. I, respectfully, just think he's absolutely wrong.
Eighty-four percent of Marines who have served with gay or lesbian -- lesbian Marines say that it has absolutely no effect on their functioning as a military unit on their morale or their cohesiveness or their effectiveness. So, that's the -- the opinion of -- of rank- and-file Marines.
COOPER: When do you see the Senate actually voting on this?
LIEBERMAN: Well, you know, Anderson, because the House leadership sent this repeal to the Senate under what they call a special message category, Senator Reid could take it up tomorrow.
My guess is, he will wait until after we finish the appropriations bill over the weekend. And so I hope it could come up Sunday or Monday of next week. And I -- I really believe that, after the tax cuts have been passed, which they have been in the Senate, the spending bills for the government are approved, this is the next most important and urgent thing to do.
Let me just talk straight, hard political reality. If we don't repeal don't ask, don't tell in this 111th session of Congress, the new Congress, I'm afraid, is not going to repeal it, and then we will have to depend on the courts to repeal it.
And Secretary Gates and the Defense Department have made it clear as recently as today, in responding to the House vote, how urgent they feel it is that the Congress give them the authority to carry out the repeal of don't ask, don't tell in an orderly way that will not arm the military, instead of letting a court come in, and perhaps creating chaos.
COOPER: Do you feel like you're on the cusp of history here?
LIEBERMAN: I do. I think that the -- the overall movement to end discrimination against our fellow Americans, based on their sexual orientation, is the front lines today of the civil rights movement.
And I think, if we can do the repeal of don't ask, don't tell in this session, it's going to be an historic accomplishment.
COOPER: Senator Joe Lieberman, I appreciate your time, sir. Thank you.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: Well, Senator Lieberman definitely sounded optimistic -- those against it still dug in, very dug in.
Listen to what Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert said today about the idea that history would judge this Congress poorly if the law wasn't repealed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: And to my friend who said history will judge us poorly, I would submit, if you will look thoroughly at history -- and I'm not saying it's cause and effect -- but when militaries throughout history of the greatest nations in the world have adopted the policy that fine for homosexuality to be overt -- if you can keep it private and control your hormones, fine -- if you can't, that's fine, too -- they're toward the end of their existence as a great nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now, "Keeping Them Honest," Mr. Gohmert doesn't actually offer any evidence or specifics about what nations he's talking about.
Now, we're not able to accurately fact-check Roman military policy or Greek military -- ancient Greek military policy as it relates to gays serving openly.
We can, however, look at which nations currently do let gays serve openly in their militaries. Here it is, as compiled by the Palm Center. Here's the -- the biggest ones, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Israel, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, among others, 25 in all.
You can decide for yourself if they're at the end of their existence as great nations, as Congressman Gohmert suggests.
I spoke about -- about repealing don't ask, don't tell, as well as the congressional work ethic, earlier tonight with Democratic strategist Paul Begala and Dana Loesch, editor over at BigJournalism.com and host of KFTK Radio in Saint Louis.
COOPER: Paul, we just heard Senator Lieberman sounding very optimistic about the chances for repeal. But, obviously, he and other supporters sounded optimistic before last week's vote as well. How confident are you about the -- the chances now?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, it's -- it's usually a safe bet that things die in the Senate. That's been the pattern for many years now.
But, you know, Senator Lieberman's been working this issue hard. I'm impressed that Senator Snowe has come out in favor of it. I -- I -- President Obama, I know, called her last week and personally lobbied her on this. So -- so, with her addition -- the don't ask, don't tell repeal lost by three the last time around. So, she comes around.
So, now the supporters only need two more. Well, Lisa Murkowski, the senator from Alaska, Republican, has said she supports repeal. Scott Brown, the senator from Massachusetts, Republican, he supports repeal. Blanche Lincoln, the Democratic senator, outgoing, but the still the senator, from Arkansas, she supports repeal, but was at the dentist when they cast the vote.
COOPER: Right. She was at a dentist last time.
BEGALA: So you could pick up -- and maybe even Joe Manchin, the new Democratic senator from West Virginia. So you just need two out of those four. It's getting awfully close. So, forgive me for being a little optimistic.
COOPER: Dana, what do you make about the brouhaha over schedules, people's schedules? I mean, basically, you know, there's -- there's more than a week until Christmas. I'm working today. You're working today. Most of the country is working today.
You know, firefighters, policemen, people who have really important jobs, work on Christmas Day, work on Christmas Eve. Are senators' complaints making any sense here about -- you know, about -- I mean, is this really the kind of argument that's going to fly with most Americans, that they don't want to work up until Christmas?
DANA LOESCH, EDITOR, BIGJOURNALISM.COM: Yes, I don't think so, Anderson.
I have no sympathy for elected officials. They knew what they were signing on for when they decided to run for elected office and when they were campaigning. They're in it for the long haul. This is about the future of the country. There's a lot of huge things at stake here.
And it's not like they're on the street in the cold in Washington, D.C., under a cardboard box. They're -- they're in -- they're in the Capitol Building. They have nice accommodations. So, I don't feel -- I don't feel sorry for them at all.
COOPER: Paul, any time, like, I complain about my job or listen to these people on Capitol Hill complain...
COOPER: ... about their jobs, like, you know, there are folks working in coal mines around the clock. There's, you know, people working all night long in bakeries, you know, and, as Dana said, delivering newspapers out in the cold. It just -- it kind of makes my head explode.
BEGALA: Well, and, in fact, this is -- you know, it's Senator Kyl of Arizona, Republican, who's like the chief whiner about this.
And Senator Kyl and all of his Republican colleagues are the guys who blocked even debating the 9/11 health care bill. I mean, this is for -- there's 58,000 men and women who inhaled -- frankly, inhaled the pulverized particles of the World Trade Center. Many of them are ill. They need health care. It's a national priority.
The Republicans filibustered against that. I guess that's in keeping with the Christmas season, as Senator Kyl is very concerned about offending his -- his Christmas celebrations. Of course, Jesus would have wanted those 9/11 first-responders to not get any health care.
LOESCH: Oh, come on. I have heard... BEGALA: And let's -- let's kill the nuclear...
LOESCH: I have heard Harry Reid invoke Christ: What would Jesus spend? I already heard him talk about Christ on the floor earlier.
BEGALA: This was the Republican talking point. See, they're saying that, if the senators have to work, somehow, that offends Jesus. So, they're going to -- they're going to...
LOESCH: That's not all Republicans' talking point.
BEGALA: They want to go home -- yes, that's...
BEGALA: It's the Republicans who are saying this. They want to go home because Jesus would want...
LOESCH: We would not in this position. Democrats had two years. What were they doing, twiddling their thumbs?
BEGALA: What they were doing was...
LOESCH: I mean, come on, we wouldn't even be having this decision -- this discussion...
BEGALA: What they were doing was...
LOESCH: ... if they had been doing something.
BEGALA: What they were -- what they have been -- this is like -- Lincoln told a story about the man who murdered his parents and then threw himself on the mercy of the court because he was an orphan.
BEGALA: The Republicans caused this. They delayed, delayed, and delayed. And this -- now they want to invoke Jesus because it will offend Jesus if we have like a nuclear arms treaty. Jesus, hey, he loved nuclear weapons. Jesus would want us to not control nuclear arms with the Russians. It's nuts.
COOPER: I just think, in a day and age where you have, you know, tens of thousands of U.S. forces serving overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan, for people to be complaining about their work schedule, for public officials to be complaining about their work schedule, just boggles my mind.
LOESCH: No, I...
COOPER: But -- but, Paul, realistically, though, time is running short. There is a whole lot left on the Senate's plate. Even if they work every available minute, can they wrap up their -- their -- their lame-duck agenda?
BEGALA: The problem is, the majority doesn't rule in the Senate. The Senate is supposed to be deliberative and slow and difficult.
But it also -- and I have checked the Constitution -- it's supposed to run on a majority, not 60...
BEGALA: ... 50.
And the Democrats have tried in good faith to bring up this legislation. The Republicans have, using the filibuster rule, which only used to be used once our twice a year...
LOESCH: It used to be 67 votes, instead of 60. And it was a Democrat who changed it.
BEGALA: They even filibustered -- they even filibustered the -- the -- the help for these 9/11 first-responder responders. They will filibuster anything in order to get their tax cuts for the rich.
And that seems to be their one agenda.
LOESCH: Oh, don't even go down the "tax cuts for the rich" road, Paul.
BEGALA: ... which, of course, in the Christmas season, again to come back to the baby Jesus...
LOESCH: Come on.
BEGALA: No, Jesus said...
BEGALA: Didn't he say it's more difficult...
LOESCH: What would Jesus spend?
BEGALA: ... for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a poor person to get a tax break...
LOESCH: You know what? That's -- that's -- that's the little-known 11th Commandment.
BEGALA: Yes. No, it's just silly.
LOESCH: Paul, did you know that? That's the little-known 11th Commandment. It was written on the side margin of the tablets that Moses had.
LOESCH: Thou shalt not pimp Jesus for the sake of an argument.
LOESCH: Nobody -- nobody -- because it was written on the side, because there wasn't enough room, nobody remembers that.
BEGALA: I'm simply -- I'm picking up the motif the Republicans have given us. Senator Kyl has said that...
BEGALA: ... somehow, it's going to offend the baby Jesus if these guys have to work over the holiday. And I -- I just don't -- I have been talking to Jesus about it. I haven't heard back from him, but...
LOESCH: Harry Reid said that: Do it for Jesus.
LOESCH: Pass the big porker omnibus bill for Jesus. What would Jesus spend?
COOPER: I haven't heard Jesus mentioned so much in a political debate in quite some while...
COOPER: ... from both the left and the right.
COOPER: I think we're going to leave it there.
COOPER: Paul Begala, Dana Loesch, thank you.
BEGALA: God bless you.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: All right.
COOPER: Well, let us know what you think. The live chat right now up and running at AC360.com.
Up next: big news on the BP spill. The federal government, you may know, is seeking unlimited damages. But get this. The families of the 11 oil workers who died in that rig, well, they are getting the short end, thanks to a law dating all the way back to 1920. Now, Democrats and Republicans want to change the law and have been talking about it since the summer, but, basically, one lawmaker standing in the way right now. We will name names. We're "Keeping Them Honest." And we will talk to the father of one of the killed workers.
And later, we should warn you, the images are shocking, no less shocking than the story behind them that is emerging tonight. New details. We're talking about the stunning shooting at a school board meeting and new details about the gunman who tried and, fortunately, failed to become a mass murderer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think anything was going through my mind, except for the fact that these guys were sitting ducks. They were lined up like pigeons on a wire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Today, the Justice Department announced a massive civil action against BP drilling contractor Transocean and several other defendants in the BP oil spill. It accuses them of failing to take necessary precautions to prevent or control the blowout, seeking unlimited liability under the federal Oil Pollution Act, plus fines under the Clean Water Act.
But, remember now, 11 rig workers died in the initial explosion. And their families are pursuing legal action of their own. But an obscure law from way back in 1920 actually limits what their families can collect.
Keith Jones is the father of Gordon Jones, who died on the Deepwater Horizon and left a wife and a baby behind.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEITH JONES, FATHER OF KILLED RIG WORKER GORDON JONES: We know that Gordon's body was cremated. Then the fire boats washed his ashes out to sea.
I admit that having nothing to say goodbye to is much, much harder than I thought it would be. Call it closure or whatever. Something is missing for us. If you want these companies, one of which is headquartered in Great Britain and another in Switzerland, to make every effort to make sure their employees don't act as these did, putting American lives at risk, you must make certain they're exposed to pain in the only place they can feel it, their bank accounts.
As a friend recently said, make them hurt where their heart would be, if they had a heart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, as we mentioned, this obscure law called the Death on the High Seas Act, which was passed in 1920, it limits what Gordon's family and others can collect to lost wages and income, not, for example, the pain of growing up without a father or spouse's loss of companionship and care.
For months, we covered this story, and changing the law, it's got a lot of bipartisan support. A measure passed the House back in July, but similar legislation has now stalled in the Senate, largely because of a single senator, Republican Jim DeMint.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there objection?
SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Reserving the right to object, Madam President, this is a nation of laws, not of men. It destroys that whole foundation to our legal system when we make retroactive law.
This bill has not been vetted properly by a committee. And, again, it undermines our whole system of the rule of law. So, I am compelled to object.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Objection is heard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: All right, that was Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, last week, a spokesman explaining his action in a statement today -- quote -- "While Senator DeMint sympathizes with the victims of this tragedy, he's concerned that Congress should not retroactively change the law to specifically affect pending legislation."
In English, he doesn't want to, you know, change the rules in the middle of the game.
Leave aside the fact this is not a game. Senator DeMint has actually done precisely this before. He's actually changed the rules involving exactly the same law.
"Keeping Them Honest," 10 years ago, the Death on the High Seas Act was amended after the TWA 800 crash to provide compensation for the surviving families of a group of schoolkids who died on board. And guess who one of the lawmakers who supported that change was? Then Congressman Jim DeMint. Same law, similar changes, so why now the difference?
Well, earlier this year, Senator DeMint also blocked a bill that would have given the bipartisan commission investigating the BP spill subpoena power, a bill that passed in the House with overwhelming GOP support.
Is it that changing the law back only affected a dying airline, not a multinational oil company? Well, you can decide that for yourself.
We're joined now by attorney Keith Jones, father of Gordon Jones, who died on the Deepwater Horizon.
Keith, you say this maritime law is draconian, it's outdated, and frankly unfair.
JONES: Well, of course it is.
I think we looked at wrongful death in 1920 differently than we do now. Back then, the -- it seems like -- well, for one thing, in industrial accidents, there were a lot more wrongful deaths than there are now.
But -- but we have come to realize in this country that a life is a whole lot more than just a paycheck. And I know that my daughter-in- law and my grandsons have lost far, far more than just monthly income.
COOPER: You know, what's so frustrating about this is, back when there was a lot of attention this summer, the House version of this legislation passed. It had a lot of support, passed in July. You expected it, you know, to pass with unanimous consent in the Senate.
Now, you know, people aren't paying attention. The media's not paying attention as much as they were. Were you surprised when Senator DeMint blocked it?
JONES: I was surprised.
First of all, although the bill that we got through the House was very wide ranging and broad and -- and made the Death on the High Seas Act fair for everybody, the bill, because of the interests of special interest influence, has been reduced now to providing more adequate damages only for the victims of the Deepwater Horizon.
It won't affect anything in our American judicial system that Senator DeMint's so worried about, other than just these claims by these 11 families. So, I was surprised when he objected. No one in his -- on his staff had every indicated -- my son visited his office, and no one indicated that he would object.
But what astonishes me is that he still is the only man in the Senate, only senator, who objects. And despite the fact that it is 99-1 or whatever, he won't relent. His staffer keeps explaining to me that he has the right to do it and the power to do it. And I don't question that. He's a powerful man, and he's exerting that power on these 11 families, but to what end? That's the part I don't understand. The retroactivity issue is -- he's turned on its head. The -- the United States Supreme Court first decided that Congress could pass laws that retroactively affect pending cases back in 1800.
JONES: They have made dozens of decisions that said the same thing. That's always been our law.
JONES: Congress has always had that power.
COOPER: Well, also, I mean...
JONES: And to say...
COOPER: I'm sorry.
When -- when -- especially when you look -- I mean, you could say, OK, he's making a principled stand or whatever, but when you look at his own record on this very same law regarding TWA Flight 800, then, you know, it doesn't make sense.
JONES: And -- and since I haven't been able yet to speak to Senator DeMint -- and I suppose I never will -- I have had to speak to the policy staffer that will discuss it with me.
And she just says she has no explanation for it. The senator has no explanation for it. They say that was 10 years ago; that's the way he voted then, but he's not going to vote that way now.
And why there's a difference, I wish I knew.
JONES: I could -- I could appeal to him on the basis of that, I suppose.
COOPER: Well, we obviously invited him on the program tonight. He declined that invitation. We will continue to try to figure out, get an answer, if -- if we can, from him.
I just wanted to ask. I had talked to you a little in the break. But, you know, your son died on the Deepwater Horizon. I know these are the first holidays that your family is facing without him. How are you guys holding up?
JONES: Well, Michelle and those boys have a lot of family and friends that love them very much and are doing everything they can to support them.
But the holidays are not easy. I -- I'm kind of new at this. I never really lost anybody before, let alone my youngest child. And I -- as I told you in the break, I -- I never thought I would say I dread Christmas, but I do.
COOPER: Yes. Yes, I was telling you, again, during the break, when I lost my brother and even my dad when I was a kid, it took me years to be able to even celebrate Christmas again.
And -- and, even now, it's -- I think, for anyone who's lost somebody around the holidays, it really -- you know, it's a -- it's a bittersweet time.
But, you know, I have been thinking about you and Gordon. Especially on Thanksgiving, I really was thinking about you guys. And I'm glad you're on tonight.
And we'll continue to follow this for justice to be done.
Keith Jones, thank you.
JONES: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: Well, coming up next in "Crime & Punishment," it was an unthinkable scenario, played out at what should have been a typical school-board meeting in Florida: a gunman opening fire before he got wounded by a security guard, turning the gun on himself. Board members describing a simply surreal scene, as you see it for yourself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you have could have seen that gentleman's eyes, this was going to happen. You saw him, this was going to happen. They -- we could have had this place like Ft. Knox, and he would have shot us as we come out of the building.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So who was that shooter? What was it about that guy? We're going to find out the new details tonight.
And later, there soon could be new guidelines for who qualifies for weight-loss surgery, actually lowering the threshold for who should get a procedure called the lap-band. Traditionally, it's been for people who are very obese. Well, now they're lowering the standards for what that actually means. The company that stands to make a whole lot more money if more people qualify for the lap-band, they actually sponsored the study that suggested lowering this. So is that fair?
We're "Keeping Them Honest." We're going to talk to Dr. Phil McGraw and Dr. Sanjay Gupta in what it means in the fight against obesity, coming up.
COOPER: Tonight in "Crime & Punishment," it began as a routine school board meeting in Panama City, Florida, turned into a horrifying scene. You've probably seen the video of this already, but want to warn you again, it is disturbing. Fifty-six-year-old Clay Duke -- we now know his name -- brandishing a gun, ordered everybody but six male board members out of the room and started shooting. Amazingly, none of the school-board members got hit. Duke was wounded by a security guard and then killed himself.
The remarkable part of this story is after Duke ordered everyone out but the six men, board member Ginger Littleton came back in, tried to knock the gun out of his hand with her purse. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLAY DUKE, GUNMAN: Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who's your wife?
DUKE: No, no, Ginger.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Incredible. The question in everyone's mind is what could Ginger have been thinking? I mean, incredibly brave. Today she told the story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGER LITTLETON, FOUGHT BACK AGAINST GUNMAN: That's pretty much what was going through my mind. I -- I was concerned about my guys. They were lined up like ducks in a row. He was already basically standing on the same level with them. I knew something bad was going to happen. That was my only option, was to see if I could at least divert him or somehow or other detain until somebody got there to help us. Because my guys had three ring binders and pencils for protection, and that was all.
My thought was that Plan A had failed, and I didn't have a Plan B, which was probably not one of the smartest things I ever did. He wanted to be killed rather than kill, but as time passed, obviously, it appeared that he was getting more and more ready to do some real damage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, Ginger, the other folks in the room say, was a surreal, life-changing moment that left them without sleep and trying to make sense of what happened. It also left a big question to which we're starting to get some answers: just who was the shooter, Clay Duke? Tom Foreman investigates.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please don't. Please don't. Please.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The school board members who came under fire from Clay Duke did not know at the time who he was, only that he seemed intent on violence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you could have seen that gentleman's eyes, this was going to happen.
WILLIAM HUSFELT, SUPERINTENDENT, BAY DISTRICT SCHOOL: He had the gun and we felt helpless.
FOREMAN: Now much more is known. Duke was 56 and police say fixated on this movie, "V for Vendetta," the tale of a lone fighter standing up to oppression.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those responsible will be held accountable.
FOREMAN: Along with military tactical books and anti-government screeds, investigators found a copy of the film in Clay's home. He painted a symbol from the story on the school boardroom wall, and it also topped what appeared to be his Facebook page, along with this: "Some people (the government sponsored media) will say I was evil, a monster (V)... no... I was just born poor in a country where the wealthy manipulate, use, abuse, and economically enslave 95 percent of the population. Rich Republicans, rich Democrats... same-same."
RICHARD COLBERT, DEPUTY CHIEF, PANAMA CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT: I think it's just safe to say at this point that, obviously, Mr. Duke had some mental health issues that he was addressing and suffering from and that that may have in some way, shape or form played into how that come about.
FOREMAN: An attorney, Ben Bollinger (ph), who once represented him, says 11 years ago Clay Duke stalked a former wife with an AK-47 rifle, a silencer, a mask and a bullet-proof vest. Even, Bollinger (ph) says, firing a shot at her car.
(on camera) Bollinger (ph) says Duke was diagnosed as bipolar, that he was a survivalist who was let go from a Navy job for making threatening remarks. Furthermore, at the time, he says, Duke was stuck on the idea that the year 2000 was going to signal some sort of cataclysm.
Nonetheless, Duke agreed to a plea deal, spent the better part of five years in prison, and came off of parole just last February.
(voice-over) When he entered the school-board meeting, police say he was carrying a 9 millimeter pistol with 12 rounds. He had an extra clip hidden in his pocket and a box of ammo. The only fact he revealed, he said his wife had been fired by the schools.
COLBERT: We have clarified that -- this morning that, in fact, she had been employed as a teacher by the school board, and that like I said, within the last year, that her employment had been terminated.
FOREMAN: It's not clear why, but she says she is now broke and suggests the couple's difficulties may have pushed her husband over the edge.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He had changed. He'd been on medication. He had not been a problem to anyone. His records through prison, through his probation, through everything from being off, he was trying to make it, trying to get a second chance, doing everything he could on his part. But other people wouldn't give him a chance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please don't.
FOREMAN: Now this fact is also known. Clay Duke followed a long and troubled road to his violent death.
Tom Foreman, CNN.
COOPER: It's an interesting note: Mike Jones, the chief of security for the school system is obviously being hailed as a hero for stopping Duke. Jones is a retired police officer.
It's actually not the first time he's been recognized for being a stand-up guy. It turns out he was on the Oprah show ten years ago, honored for his role in Salvage Santa, a program to rebuild bikes and toys for needy kids.
A lot more going on tonight. Susan Hendricks joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Susan.
SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, an intensive search is under way in Arizona for a suspect in the fatal shooting of a U.S. border agent. Four others are in custody. The agent, this man, Brian Terry, was killed while patrolling a remote area just north of Nogales.
A former Guyana parliament member convicted of plotting to blow up airport fuel tanks at JFK International Airport was sentenced to life in prison. Abdul Kadir is one of four people who face charges in the 2007 plot.
At least 28 asylum seekers trying to reach Australia sadly died within sight of their destination. Their boast slammed into rocks as they were approaching Christmas Island. More than 40 others were rescued. According to local media, the boat was carrying people from Iraq and Iran who wanted to start a new life in Australia.
And here is something you don't expect to find on the beach. Take a look at a statue estimated to be about 2,000 years old. It was discovered in Israel after a cliff collapsed in a storm. The marble statue of a woman is about four feet tall and weighs about 440 pounds. It was found without a head or arms.
COOPER: Wow, that's cool.
COOPER: It's neat. All right, Susan. Thanks.
The -- still ahead tonight, the weight-loss surgery that could soon be approved for millions more Americans. The question is tonight: does the data actually support changing the rules for lap-band surgery? Is it really safe? We're "Keeping Them Honest." Dr. Phil McGraw and Dr. Sanjay Gupta join me to talk about a controversial vote by an FDA panel.
And later we'll tell you why this guy ended up on the RidicuList. Note to would-be thieves: please don't look at this guy for tips. He may be a sign of the times but not in a good way.
COOPER: Well, the "Keeping Them Honest" report. This one is about medicine, money and a serious health crisis: obesity. Now, about a third of American adults are obese. We all know that. We hear about the epidemic all the time and how much it costs the health-care system. I want to show you -- show you something. Take a look at this ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I tried diets, diet pills, exercise programs. Nothing worked. Then my doctor recommended the lap-band system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's an ad for lap-band surgery. It's a type of weight- loss surgery that's heavily promoted by companies that obviously make the bands that are used.
Now the company with the biggest share of the market is a company called Allergen, and it made that ad. Its lap-band sales were $182 million in the first three quarters of this year, although the sales have been kind of dropping.
A lot of money. But about 4 percent less than last year, according to news reports, which may explain why Allergen is trying to expand the market for its lap-band. It's asking the FDA to approve the device for less obese people.
Right now the lap-band is only approved for people with what's called a body mass index or BMI of 40, or those with a BMI of 35 who have health problems like diabetes. Allergen wants to lower those BMI cutoffs to 35 and 30.
Looks like they're going to be successful. An FDA advisory panel recently voted to lower the BMI cutoffs. A final decision from the FDA is pending.
Now if it follows the panel's advice, 27 million more people could qualify for the surgery. And that's a huge number.
But here's what has some people crying foul. The study that the panel based its decision on, guess who they were sponsored by? Well, the study was conducted by Allergen, the same company that stands to benefit from the ruling.
And what's more, the chairman of the company actually owns stock in Allergen. The FDA told us she was given a waiver to sit on the panel and didn't actually cast a vote. But four panelists who did vote also reportedly have financial ties to Allergen. When we asked the FDA about them, a spokesperson was unable to immediately confirm those reported ties and said she'd get back to us. And we're still waiting to hear from her.
Now I want to make this very clear. This story is complex, because for some severely obese patients, this type of surgery can be vital, even life-saving treatment. But right now there aren't long-term studies showing how well it works in less severely-obese people.
I talked about all this with 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Phil McGraw.
COOPER: Sanjay, how does this surgery work exactly? It's different than the gastric bypass surgery.
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Gastric bypass is, you know, a more invasive operation. This is still invasive, to be clear. They classify it as minimally invasive.
But basically, think of it like this. I mean, you're essentially putting a band -- in this case it's sort of a silicone band -- and wrapping it around the stomach. Think of that almost like a little seat belt, if you will, and you're trying to shrink the size of the stomach. You see the band there. And then over time that band sort of just creates a smaller pouch. And the theory is that, as a result you eat less. You have less appetite. That's what they say, you know, makes this work.
COOPER: So under these new guidelines, you're talking about tens of millions of people who would suddenly be qualified -- are qualified to have this kind of a surgery. Dr. Phil, I mean, are people going to hear this and then say why bother dieting? I mean, if suddenly, you know, this surgery is easily accessible?
PHIL MCGRAW, HOST, "DR. PHIL": That's the problem, Anderson, and I think Sanjay will probably agree with this. I think this is one of the most misperceived procedures out there, both gastric bypass and lap-band.
People think that this is the easy way. And if you ever talk to anybody that's had one of these procedures, they will tell you it's anything but easy.
And the problem -- you can hear them talk all they want, the rhetoric about, well, this can help with diabetes or hypertension, and there's always a return to health when you lose weight. But what's going to draw people to this, they're going to think, "OK, finally I have an appetite control and I can lose weight."
But this is not easy. There are side effects in over 70 percent of the cases. People have pain. They have vomiting. There are all of the normal complications that you can have with surgery. And the long-term effects of this have yet to be well demonstrated. There's one way and one way only that you're going to lose weight and keep it off, and that is to alter your lifestyle.
COOPER: I was reading this study, Sanjay. I mean, do we really know enough about the risks associated with this, to be offering it up as a solution to obesity? I mean, the study was limited. Only about 149 people were studied, most of them white women, not a lot of African- Americans or Hispanics or men in the study, and it was actually sponsored by Allergen, which is the maker of this band.
GUPTA: You know, I think that's a really good point. And you know, even though it was supposed to be a five-year study, the data that was actually presented to this advisory committee was just about a year's worth of data.
And to Dr. Phil's point, people may gain this weight back over time. So that's a real concern, as well. That band may stretch. There are real potential complications of this particular band.
Now it is fair. A lot of companies that make drugs or do procedures a lot of times will fund the studies on those particular drugs or procedures. But in this case, the real question was, you know, you're opening this up, potentially, to 27 million more people. And it's sort of, you know, it was sort of always thought of as a last resort, possibly going to some sort of operation. In this case they're sort of seeming to move the line even earlier.
COOPER: You know, just on the face of it, Dr. Phil, and I know nothing about this company. I have nothing against them. But I'm reading that they're losing market share. Their sales are down for this lap-band. And then all of a sudden they sponsor this study that suddenly introduces them to a potential new -- you know, 27 million new clientele. Does it seem like a conflict of interest to have a drug company doing the study or is that just the way it's done?
MCGRAW: The problem here, Anderson, is gastric bypass surgery generally costs between $20,000 and $30,000 to do. Lap-band surgery is $12,000 to $20,000, generally, to do.
And this is going to eliminate a lot of other medical therapies. There are going to be people that are not attempting to control their nutrition quite as much. They're not going to be trying less invasive opportunities that might be available, treatment-wise, either medically or just lifestyle-wise. They're not going to investigate those things. Instead they're going to say, "OK, I want the lap-band. Shrink my stomach up by creating this pouch and then I'll be there.
But I can tell you, I've dealt with people over the years who eat right through this lap band. They eat right through it. And it can expand into the pouch and they're right back where they were.
There is a recidivism rate for both gastric bypass and lap-band. I'm not saying that, properly used, it's not a legitimate medical therapy, because I think it is, Sanjay. You can comment on that better than I. But I think we have to be -- we have to use some discrimination in the way that it's applied.
COOPER: Right. Is it being applied too soon? I guess that's the question. Are there other avenues being explored, Sanjay?
GUPTA: Yes. You know, I mean, when you first heard about these types of operations being made available, it was always sort of again a last resort, people who had tried everything and simply couldn't do it. And in that case, as Dr. Phil said, I think that there is -- it is a legitimate option for people.
I guess I think the concern for a lot of people is that the -- you know, it seems to be moving in the other direction now. A BMI of 30, that is the -- that is the sort of lowest indication of someone who is -- who is obese. It used to be 40, now they're saying someone with a BMI as low as 30, if they have a medical condition, can have this done.
You know, I think the concern is, are more and more people just going to go to this as a first option? Culturally, you know, I don't know how it's all going to play out. But I think that's -- that's the big concern right now. This is the advisory committee stage, so we don't know what the FDA will do. But I think that that's what a lot of people are concerned about.
COOPER: A lot of good information. Dr. Phil, thank you. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
Well, coming up, the RidicuList. We've told you before: be careful what you post on Facebook. No drinking, no drugs, no nudity in this picture. So why is this guy the latest addition to the RidicuList? We'll tell you in a moment.
COOPER: Time now for the RidicuList, and tonight the honor goes to the Facebook thief. This guy.
Now, we don't know his name. We know his game, however. The story comes from Mark Fisher, writer for "The Washington Post."
On Friday a burglar broke into his house, stole a bunch of stuff, including his 15-year-old son's laptop, iPod, savings bonds and cash. And then here's the real slap in the Facebook.
The thief opened the son's computer, took a picture of himself holding said cash, went to the kid's own Facebook account, posted the picture for the son's 400 friends to see. Talk about an anti-social network.
Mark Fisher says in the picture the thief is wearing his brand-new coat, stolen right out of the box it came in. Fisher handed the picture over to police, but the investigation doesn't seem to be getting off the ground. Fisher even wrote that officers told him that they rarely press hard on burglary cases, because they usually just get probation.
So the Facebook thief is still at large and living large. And you know, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has just been named "TIME" magazine's person of the year over the Chilean miners among other people they considered. That's a real sign of the times. As Zuckerberg counts his billions, let's reflect on what he's created.
On Facebook, you can play excruciatingly long games of Scrabble with people you don't even know or frankly don't even like. You can get back in touch with the guy who stalked you in high school. You can pretend you live on a farm or in the mafia, or whatever those games are. And you can even post a picture of yourself committing a crime and make sure all your victim's friends see it instantly.
Not to get all Henry David Thoreau on you, but technology really is something, isn't it? Just think: not that many years ago, the thief would have to bring his own camera along or steal one, go buy film, load it, take the picture, drop it off at CVS, wait an hour, pick up his pictures, make a bunch of copies, and hand deliver them to all of his victim's 400 friends. That would be so tiring. It would take forever.
Now, thanks to a Web cam and a social network, within just a few seconds, the Facebook thief was in full-on gloat mode. And also on the RidicuList.
A lot more ahead at the top of the hour, starting with the growing possibility of senators repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and a big- time battle over the sanctity of Christmas.