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Tax or Penalty?; Repealing Obamacare; Jerry Sandusky and Penn State Cover-up

Aired July 2, 2012 - 20:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, John. We are getting our first real look tonight of what Americans think about the Supreme Court's decision on health care reform. "Keeping Them Honest.

We're also getting a whole lot of talk, mostly double talk, from politicians on the ruling. The spin and there's plenty of it revolving around a single word, taxes. Does the money that you're going to have to pay for not buying health insurance amount to a tax?

Battle lines are drawn.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: It's not a -- it's a penalty for free riders.


BANFIELD: House minority leader Nancy Pelosi over the weekend, little slip of the tongue. Did you hear it there? Just straying for a second or two from talking points that the mandate imposes a penalty, not a tax.


JACK LEW, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The law is clear. It's called a penalty.

GOV. MARTIN O'MALLEY (D), MARYLAND: The massive so-called tax increase they're talking about is the freeloader penalty.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People who can afford to buy health insurance should take responsibility to do so.

LEW: I'm saying that it was set up as a penalty for people who choose not to buy insurance.

PELOSI: That's a penalty.

DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: Whether you call it a mandate or a tax, what it is is a penalty.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BANFIELD: In case you missed it, it's a penalty, not a tax. That's what's being said, right? As for the Republican side, though, any time is tax time.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: It's a tax increase. It's a massive tax increase on the middle class.


BANFIELD: That's Florida senator Marco Rubio on Saturday and the beat goes on.



REP. MICHELE OBAMA (R), MINNESOTA: Obamacare is the biggest tax increase in American history.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MAJORITY LEADER: The government could decide that we're going to tax you if you don't eat broccoli on Tuesday.

REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS (R), WASHINGTON: The Affordable Care Act is a tax. It is the largest tax in America's history.

RUBIO: The middle class tax increase.

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: It's the largest tax increase on the middle class in history.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Obamacare raises taxes on the American people.


BANFIELD: Enough to make your head spin, right? So "Keeping Them Honest," when Republicans say it's a tax on people who -- who choose not to buy health insurance, they are absolutely right. The provisions for it are written into the tax law. Section 5000a of the Internal Revenue Code. Fascinating reading.

Those provisions are enforced by the IRS. And as Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his opinion, quote, "The only effect of the individual mandate is to raise taxes on those who do not do so, and thus the law may be upheld as a tax."

Sounds pretty clear, doesn't it? However, to call it, as you just heard, the biggest tax increase in history is just factually wrong. But it is definitely a tax. Both in the eyes of the Supreme Court and in the eyes of the Republican Party. But over at Romney's campaign headquarters, it looks like someone forgot to read the memo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHUCK TODD, ANCHOR, MSNBC'S "THE RUNDOWN" : The governor does not believe the mandate is a tax, that's what you're saying?

ERIC FEHRNSTROM: The governor believes that what we put in place in Massachusetts was a penalty and he disagrees with the court's ruling that the mandate was a tax. But again --


TODD: So he agrees with the president? But he agrees with the president that it is not -- and he believes that you shouldn't call the -- the tax penalty a tax. You should call it a penalty or a fee or a fine?

FEHRNSTROM: That's correct.


BANFIELD: That's correct. Mitt Romney and President Obama are on the same page. Though in fairness it would be hard for the Romney campaign to say otherwise given that Mr. Romney is on record, on tape in fact defending the individual mandate in the reform plan that he signed as governor of Massachusetts. And crucially, crucially, calling it a penalty and not a tax.

Whatever you call the mandate, new CNN Opinion Research polling shows that people are really split on this, folks, 50-49 on this ruling. And they're no less divided on what to do next about it. Fifty-two percent favor all or most of what's in the law, 47 percent oppose all or most of what's in the law. Yet in the very same polling, 51 percent believe that Congress should repeal the whole thing.

We'll talk a bit in a moment about the politics of repealing the health care act as well as the tricky but by no means impossible mechanics of it.

First, though, tax or penalty? Joining us now, Ari Fleischer, CNN political contributor and former White House press secretary for George W. Bush, also Bill Burton, senior strategist for the top pro- Obama super PAC, and senior legal analyst for CNN, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeff, let me begin with you. It's a simple question but it doesn't seem to have a simple answer. Tax or a penalty?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the Supreme Court, John Roberts' opinion, said that this penalty, tax, whatever you want to call it, this punishment, this payment, was justified under the taxing power of the Constitution. That was why he approved the whole plan. That's what he said. What a bunch of politicians want to call it, that's the fight we're having now.

BANFIELD: But to be really clear, if you parse the opinion, it suggests that those who don't go out and get the insurance under the new law will be punished with a tax. TOOBIN: Correct. That is exactly what the opinion holds. That it's not a lot of people. I mean if Massachusetts is the example we're talking about, it's about 1 percent of the population refused to get health insurance and can afford it, those people will be punished under this law and Chief Justice Roberts' opinion says the payment that they have to make is a tax.

BANFIELD: So Ari Fleischer, to you then, why then is the senior adviser to Mitt Romney saying this is not a tax? It seems like things are a bit upside down right now.

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I checked with the Romney campaign today and I think the answer is actually very straightforward. Mitt Romney is being consistent on this. In Massachusetts where they had a provision that was roughly similar to that, it was called a penalty. Now Massachusetts doesn't have the United States Supreme Court, which actually is a higher authority of what the federal law is. So Mitt Romney is being consistent in calling it a penalty just as he did in Massachusetts.

President Obama, on the other hand, sold it to Congress as a penalty and then instructed his staff to go to the Supreme Court and call it a tax, hence a switch at the Supreme Court to save the legislation. And frankly actually, on the federal level, it's not a tax, it's not a law, it would have been struck down.


FLEISCHER: So I think what you have here is the president really trying to have it both ways and succeeding.

BANFIELD: So, Bill Burton, jump in on this if you would, because regardless of what the law actually says, there is a lot of talk out there and sometimes it sticks rightly or wrongly and the word tax is toxic.

BILL BURTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OBAMA DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Here's -- if you back up and take a look at this, Mitt Romney and President Obama have the exact same position on whether this is a penalty or a tax. And when the American people are choosing between these two candidates when it comes down to this issue, there isn't a difference. They agree that it's a penalty that the free -- the people who are trying to freeload on the system and make all of us pay for their health insurance, ought to be penalized. And that's what the president did in his plan. And that's -- that's just where this debate is.

Now the fact that there's this muddle of a message in the Republican groups versus the Republican National Committee versus what Romney and his campaign are saying, I think that's a message confusion issue that they have on their side. But when you just distill it down to who this race is between, President Obama and Governor Romney, they're in the same place on this issue.

BANFIELD: Ari, do you think there's any concern if this battle goes much further and Republicans decide to really beat the tax, you know, over the American voters' head that the American voter will get very tired of this? It's real arcane. It's real hard to understand it no matter how much cable news you watch. And they might just become sort of disenchanted with the whole thing overall.

FLEISCHER: No, I think that if you take a look at most of the polling for the Affordable Care Act, most Americans are against it. They are against it because they don't think it's going to bring prices down, they think it's going to add to the cost of their insurance, and now they're told if you don't get it, it's a tax increase.

It's a pile upon pile of reasons the American people don't like it. And that's one of the pieces of the pile. I think the biggest problem with it is it's going to raise insurance cost for most Americans and make health care less affordable and not more affordable. That's the heart of the whole problem with Obamacare in trying to run health care so much essentially from the federal government.

BANFIELD: Well, Bill, I want you to jump in since Ari brought up polling. I want to talk about a new CNN/ORC poll that has Mitt Romney eight points ahead of President Obama in 15 battleground states. I think the numbers are 51 to 43 if I'm looking at them correctly. But the president has a slight lead nationally, 49 to 46 percent.

Does health care weigh in heavily to these numbers or what do you make of them?

BURTON: Well, I think that, you know, this is one poll. There's been a lot of polls over the course of the last couple of weeks, and most polls actually show that in the swing states the president is doing better. I think the fact that CNN included states like Indiana and Missouri and Arizona, which are probably not as competitive as some other states, lends itself to numbers being a little more favorable for Mitt Romney.

But I think that, you know, mostly the president looks like he's doing a lot better for a lot of folks and despite what even an independent observer would consider a bunch of challenging news cycles, the president's numbers have been remarkably stable.

BANFIELD: Yes, but you know what, Bill, those are bad numbers in the swing states. Those are critical states. Why do you think he didn't do well?

BURTON: Well, I think that if you add in states that are a lot less swing than the states that the will actually decide this election, the picture may look a lot worse. But --

BANFIELD: That's not what I asked you.

BURTON: You just --

BANFIELD: But I didn't ask you that. I asked you why you don't think he's doing very well in those 15 swing states. Those battleground states. That's -- BURTON: I actually think the president -- I think the president is actually doing very well in swing states and especially if you look to NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll --


BANFIELD: He's lagging by eight points. He's lagging by eight points. That's outside the margin.

BURTON: Ashleigh --

BANFIELD: You cannot spin that, Bill.

BURTON: Ashleigh, this isn't -- this isn't spin. This is just about the polls. And you know, I think that there's going to be polls that go up and down throughout this election cycle. But I think that the president's numbers have actually been pretty stable despite some challenging news cycles and it will be interesting to see how the American people react to the fact that the Supreme Court has made a subtle decision on health care and whether or not people are just ready to move on from that debate or if they want to keep having it.

BANFIELD: So, Ari, do you think that's changed since the opinion and flurry of activity on the news?

FLEISCHER: No, you know, there's -- there can be a tendency when the Supreme Court rules for it to give a boost on whatever side it rules in terms of public polling because of the legitimacy the court can convey. But I think in this instance the economy, jobs, health care, hurts jobs and in that sense Obamacare hurts jobs. If becomes salient.

BANFIELD: We're not even a week out from the opinion so regardless of how you look at it you might basking in the afterglow or the after burn of the opinion.

Ari Fleischer, Bill Burton and Jeff Toobin, nice to talk to all three of you.

TOOBIN: I'm enjoying. I'm enjoying the after glow of the occasion.

BANFIELD: You got a tan.


BANFIELD: Thanks all three of you.

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook and you can follow the program on Twitter @AC360.

We mentioned the slim majority of people who want the entire health care law repealed. Up next, how would that happen? We're going to let you know.

And also President Obama might be facing this even if he is re- elected. If Republicans take the Senate this fall, there are some mechanics you need to know about. And David Gergen and Dana Bash are going to break it all down for us next.


BANFIELD: Mitt Romney is on vacation with his family today in New Hampshire, possibly talking more hotdogs than health care but he certainly made no secret, though, that repealing President Obama's signature achievement would be his first priority in the White House.


ROMNEY: What the court did not do on its last day in session, I will do on my first day if elected president of the United States, and that is I will act to repeal Obamacare.


BANFIELD: The question is how would that work? But also, how might Republican lawmakers repeal or even gut that law if President Obama is re-elected?

Senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash has been doing some digging on that, has some answers, too. And also with us senior political analyst David Gergen.

Dana, let me begin with you. We're hearing a lot about the term reconciliation and the process that it would take to actually rip apart this law after this election. Can you break down the mechanics of this in simple terms?



BASH: Reconciliation is a process that both parties have used which effectively allows a piece of legislation in the Senate to be filibuster proof, so it means that you can get it through with a 51 vote majority, a simple majority, instead of 60 votes which you effectively always need for most legislation. But the legislation has to have a tax and a spend component. So what Republicans in the Senate I talked to say is that they're pretty sure that large parts of the health care law can be repealed with a 51-vote majority through the reconciliation process.

The issue is getting that 51-vote majority for Republicans and that's why they have really stepped it up in making the case on the campaign trail in the key Senate races, Ashleigh, that voters should vote for Republicans for a lot of reasons but primarily they're going to really focus on the idea that they need that 51-vote majority in order to repeal health care.

But this is a very, very important point. The only way they can do that is a clean sweep. They can't do that if there's a Democrat President Obama in the White House because he'll veto it and they don't have votes to override that. BANFIELD: You've got to have the trifecta in order to make that plan work.

If it sounds awfully familiar it should because back in 2010 that's exactly how Obamacare went through in the first place. So, David Gergen, let me turn to you.

BASH: Exactly.

BANFIELD: If I recall correctly, and it hasn't been that long, there was an uproar over reconciliation on the Republican side. So how can they effectively come back and do the same thing they railed against just two years ago?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Ashleigh, you've seen that process a lot.


GERGEN: -- until they're in charge and then it's great. And that's -- Dana is absolutely right. They do intend to use the reconciliation process if Mitt Romney is elected and if they have a majority in the Senate not only to get health care repealed but they intend to use reconciliation in order to extend the Bush tax cuts and to make the kind of spending cuts that they want to do.

You know I think they see that. Reconciliation is a major weapon. If they can grab control of the Senate. What's interesting now is how Republicans, conservatives, are now targeting some Senate races to see if they can pull this off using health care as that weapon. You know Mitt Romney's team has hashed a message today by saying this is a penalty, not a tax. But at the state level there are a number of races where this could make a difference and it might help Republicans get -- pick up some seats.

BANFIELD: So, Dana, talk about that. The down ballot is -- I know you've been working your GOP sources who say things like any day that you are not talking health care is a day wasted.

BASH: That's exactly what a top Republican source told me that the big wigs here in Washington have told the Senate Republican candidates, you've got to keep talking about this. I mean here's the irony here. Republicans are very upset that the policy that they so disdain was upheld by the Supreme Court. But when it comes to politics, it's a whole different ball game. They are elated because they still have something to run against that they think is very powerful and that of course is this health care law.

They really -- obviously they believe this fires up the Republican base. Obviously it does so for the Democrats as well. But they are looking at numbers that we actually saw in our poll today, independent voters, for example, I will just say to you, 55 percent of independent voters oppose the crux of the law, which is the government mandate for health insurance, and 59 percent of independent voters, they believe that the health insurance mandate is a tax and you were talking about this in the segment beforehand. But that is why you hear Republicans like Marco Rubio saying that this is going to be a tax on middle class voters. They are trying to make the connection between people who -- independent voters specifically who say yes, it's a tax, and wait a minute, that means me.

BANFIELD: Yes, the poll numbers aside, and they are definitely strong, there's another poll out there that's equally as strong and that is that Congress is at almost an all-time low. It was at an all- time low approval rating back in, I think, February, around 10 percent. They've climbed to about 17 percent approval.

So, David, maybe jump in on this with me and tell me if this is a winning strategy to go after this so tenaciously and to try to beat this issue up heading into the election.

GERGEN: Well, I do think that the Republicans are right in believing this mobilizes their base. The Tea Partiers were getting a little complacent. This will get them out there. This was, after all, one of their founding issues. So they've got an opportunity here. And there are chunks of the country, however, that Mitt Romney also needs to appeal to who think we ought to move on and where he might do that is on the numbers coming out Friday on the unemployment.

When that jobs number comes out it's just going to be just as important, in fact more important for most Americans than the health care bill, which way is that number moving. So I think the Romney people hope over time that they can run a double barreled campaign on jobs and on health care. Whether they'll succeed or not, they're running against a very formidable candidate and a nimble candidate, Barack Obama.

BASH: And Ashleigh, if I can just add that the point you just made is really exactly what we're hearing from Democrats from the White House to Capitol Hill. Republicans are fighting yesterday's battle and that what we need -- what they need people to hear from Washington is talk about jobs.

BANFIELD: And the beat goes on. Dana Bash, David Gergen, thanks to you both. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, the fallout to our exclusive report on Friday. The purported e-mails between Penn State officials about Jerry Sandusky. What potential role did Coach Joe Paterno play in not reporting Sandusky to the police? We're "Keeping Them Honest."


BANFIELD: Millions of people in the dark in the midst of a heat wave. When air conditioning is a necessity and not a luxury. It's more than just hot, it is deadly. We're going to have that and much more when 360 continues.


BANFIELD: Fallout tonight to the exclusive story that we reported on Friday. Purported e-mails exchanged between Penn State officials in 2001 about Jerry Sandusky's behavior. Specifically Sandusky's sexual encounter with a boy in a locker room shower.

Did Penn State officials cover up that incident by not reporting Sandusky to the proper authorities?

There is one indisputable fact. After that 2001 incident, Jerry Sandusky went on to sexually abuse at least four more boys.

"Keeping Them Honest," the e-mails suggest that Coach Joe Paterno may have played a role in the university's decision not to report Sandusky to the authorities. In one e-mail exchange Penn State vice president, Gary Schultz, wrote to athletic director, Tim Curry, about a three-part plan to, quote, "talk with the subject, contact the charitable organization and the Department of Welfare."

But the next day Curry responded, writing to Schultz and President Graham Spanier, that he changed his mind. Saying, quote, "After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday, I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps. I am having trouble with going to everyone but the person involved."

Our Susan Candiotti broke this story exclusively on 360 on Friday. And Susan joins us now.

These are seemingly extraordinary damning e-mails, Susan. What are the implications, though, for Joe Paterno at this point?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's what everyone wants to know, of course, Ashleigh. And until now we know that he has said publicly and he testified before a grand jury, although he was never interviewed by Penn State University about all of this. But he said that as McQueary came to him that he went straight to his boss and told them what McQueary had said.

Now we find out it appears that Joe Paterno had another conversation about this about two weeks after that with the athletic director Tim Curley, at least -- according to this alleged e-mail. And so it suggests or at least raises the question, what did he say?

BANFIELD: What happened in that conversation?

CANDIOTTI: That's right. And did he now, therefore, play a role in the decision not to contact child welfare? Well, now the attorneys for the Paterno family say absolutely not. That Joe Paterno who we can't talk to now obviously, he passed away in January, that he never interfered with this investigation and tonight the family is calling on the director Louise Freeh who is looking into the Penn State investigation.

BANFIELD: The former FBI director.

CANDIOTTI: That's correct. The former FBI director, to release all of the e-mails and asking the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office to release all the e-mails. But Ashleigh, it's doubtful that that is going to happen certainly before all those investigations are complete. They want to see the full context.

BANFIELD: And apart from all the conversation about what may or may not have transpired between Curley or Paterno, that may or may not have changed the direction of these officials, do we know anything more about what the Penn State officials may have done post-this 2001 incident to change the direction on the three-part plan?

CANDIOTTI: Well, what we're finding out is this. We know according to a source familiar with the Freeh investigation that they have turned up billing records that indicate allegedly that Penn State contacted an outside law firm to research what its legal obligations were for reporting this incident in 2001 and what may be being crystallized now is trying to determine the difference between what Curley and Schultz are saying that McQueary said to him.

Remember that he -- they maintain that McQueary said that Sandusky was just horsing around with the kid versus what McQueary has testified to that he was very, very specific with Curley and Schultz about what he saw.

You know, there's a long way to go perhaps before these two investigations are over with on two separate tracks.

BANFIELD: What's fascinating, though, is this incident, particularly this is victim number two, correct, in the shower incident, that was one of the acquittals. The rape acquittal. So it is fascinating. They may have a real argument there.

CANDIOTTI: Correct. Although he was found guilty on other charges of having sexual contact with a child.

BANFIELD: Susan Candiotti, excellent work as usual. Excellent work tonight. Thank you very much.

And still to come, does Tom Cruise's scientology faith have anything to do with the breakup of his marriage? We're digging deeper on it.

First, though, Isha Sesay joins us on with the "360 Bulletin."

Hi, Isha.


Opposition groups claim more than 100 people were killed across Syria today. Meanwhile, there's new optimism as the groups met in Cairo to discuss the latest international plan to end the crisis. It calls for the transitional government to end the 16-month old bloodshed.

A 360 follow, the family of a former Marine shot to death by police in his White Plains, New York apartment has filed a $21 million federal lawsuit, alleging wrongful death and negligent. Kenneth Chamberlain died last November. He was unarmed and apparently accidentally set off the medical alert pendant he wore around his neck. And American sprinter Jeneba Tarmoh has pulled out of the runoff against Allyson Felix for the final slot on Team USA's 100-meter Olympics team. At the U.S. trials in Oregon, not even a photo finish could determine the winner. Felix will compete in London. This saga is finally over -- Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: What a story too because they are friends. Isha, thank you. Thank you for that.

Still to come, you are going to meet the elite firefighting unit known as the "Smoke Jumpers" as they bravely battle Colorado's wildfire.


BANFIELD: Scientology, is the controversial religion a factor in Katie Holmes' decision to divorce Tom Cruise? We're digging deeper ahead.


BANFIELD: Tonight, there's finally some good news to report about the giant Waldo Canyon wildfire in Colorado. Firefighters say the blaze had stopped growing and is now 55 percent contained.

But so much damage has been done. Nearly 18,000 acres charred, 350 homes have been destroyed and two people have lost their lives.

And while weather conditions have improved, one official put it this way. The tiger is in a cage, but the door is still open. In other words, the winds can pick up at any moment.

Tonight, we have two reports on how firefighters tackle a wildfire of this magnitude and we begin with Martin Savidge who spent the last few days with a unit that uses all the tools of modern technology to predict the direction in which a wildfire will move.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's morning at the base camp of the Waldo Canyon fire. Close to 1,500 wild land firefighters get up and head out and as they leave, they pass a reminder of what's at stake.

Residents come to cheer and thank these men and women who daily go out and risk their lives to try to save their town. The fire crews teams fight the fire with shovels and hoses while planes and helicopters drop water or fire retardant.

But when fires like this one become monsters covering thousands of acres, there are never enough people or planes. Last Tuesday's firestorm demonstrated it can be frustrating and imperfect work.

But it's the way wildfires have been fought for decades. Rick Stratton is changing that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My main piece of equipment is this laptop.

SAVIDGE: Wendell Homes, a middle school in Colorado Springs is the fire command center. School is out for the summer so Stratton and his team have taken over Mrs. Wilson's science class, which seems only appropriate because what Stratton's doing is cutting edge and until very recently unthinkable.

He can predict where the fire will be not tomorrow, but in five days, ten days, even 21 days. The benefit is obvious. If you know where the fire is going then you can strategically place your limit of resources to stop it.

Eight years ago, Stratton became part of a team that work to come up with a computer program that would predict the fire's future. He's himself professed fire nerd.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because it's high tech and it's cool, man.

SAVIDGE: Fires are propelled by three basic things, weather, fuel and topography. Sounds simple, but just one look at a computer map of winds interacting in the mountains and you can see how complicated it gets, which is why Stratton doesn't work alone.

There's Julia Rutherford, the I-Met or incident meteorologist. She studies the weather, wind shifts kill fire crews and predicting them is her job.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I see anything on radar, I'll let you, guys, know as well. So have a very safe day out there.

SAVIDGE (on camera): When did the fire burn through here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that was about four or five days ago.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Rudy Rodriguez is also part of the team. We follow him into the fire. He sets up remote automated weather stations or RAWS.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody calls it a lunar lander.

SAVIDGE: These robot weather observers constantly update conditions even as the fire burns all around. With a few key punches he gets the station to talk to me.

Then there's Ashley Witworth, a fuel technician. She takes samples of trees, bushes and grass near the fire and is reminded of the urgency when a giant helicopter flies overhead dropping water on a sudden blaze nearby.

At a lab, she dries and analyzes the samples to see how quickly each will burn and then there's 6'5" Nate Orsburn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the whole time we're walking, we're taking a log.

SAVIDGE: It's his job to record and photograph where the fire has already been and he often works alone hiking miles from the nearest road. Stratton himself goes into the field. He follows the fire from the ground and takes me with him to look at it from the air.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was curious why these were holding here.

SAVIDGE: He takes all of the information from Julia, Rudy, Ashley, Nate and others and punches it is into a computer. The end result is a color-coded map that tells fire commanders with varying degrees of probability where the fire is headed and when it will get there and it works.

RICH HARVEY, INCIDENT COMMANDER: So we plan based on what this was telling us. Here, it's going to go this way then we came in here. It's still pretty hot in here. It's holding. We'll catch it here.

SAVIDGE: Like all firefighters here, Stratton is exhausted. When I asked him what keeps him going, he forgets the data and talks in very human terms about what he saw when he fought on the line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've witnessed firsthand of people coming to their destroyed home and the agony. It's probably the sickest I've ever felt in my life hearing their cries and seeing their sorrow.

SAVIDGE: For Stratton, there are no cheering crowds, but he is every bit a wildland firefighter who uses a laptop instead of a shovel.


BANFIELD: And Martin Savidge joins me live now from Colorado Springs. Martin, it seems to the casual observer that these fires are bigger and more frequent than they used to be, but is that actually what's happening?

SAVIDGE: Yes, they are at least when it comes to the front range here in Colorado since the 1900s. They've noted that the fires have grown in frequency and they have grown in size.

They have also become more costly in lives and in dollars. There are a couple reasons for that. Number one, it has to do with the fact there are more people and they like to live with nature even though nature from time to time rules.

The other factor is the weather. It's changing. It's getting hotter and it's getting drier and that means the vegetation burns that much more easily -- Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: There are tens of thousands of people who are now able to go back to their homes, but they are seeing awful things and the strangest pictures will show one home burned to the ground and nothing left but ashes. The home next door is standing and the grass out front is green. Can you explain that?

SAVIDGE: Right. Well, even the president of the United States commented on that. There are a couple reasons for it. Number one, a lot of it has to do with what was used to build the home. Wood shingles are very popular. They look nice but they burn like crazy.

Then on top of that, vegetation, people like trees. They like shrubbery around their house, but that stuff becomes gasoline in a fire. Then there's the fire department itself.

If they come down the street that's fully involved, it has to make some quick decisions. It's house triage, if you will. They're going to have to decide which homes they can save and which ones they're going to let go.

It's a painful decision, but they make it nonetheless. We should also point out good news, 70 percent containment now being reported at this hour. They're almost done.

BANFIELD: Wow, 70 percent now. That's terrific. Fantastic news. Martin Savidge, thanks for that. Appreciate it.

I want to go now to Gary Tuchman who met up with some highly trained firefighters who may have the most dangerous job in this whole business. They start in the sky and then they just jump right in.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the entire USA, there are only 430 of them. They are among the firefighting elite. They are the "Smoke Jumpers."

And many of them are in Colorado right now marching onto aircraft, which is their transportation to the action. Their job? To fly into the fires just as new ones are starting up and stop them from getting bigger.

This is video the smoke jumpers just brought back. It's hard to spot the flames from up here 1,500 feet, but the smoke jumpers are trained to see them and it's all very clear when they're on the ground.

Nowhere near any roads and sometimes quite a distance from any civilization. If they don't get to the blaze quickly, the flames will often spread rapidly. Smoke jumpers court disaster every day they're on the job.

(on camera): When you talk to people you know that aren't close family, you tell them what you do, what do they say to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They think I should have my head examined.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Part of the reason for that is because of how they get to the fires.

(on camera): Firefighting is not an occupation for the timid particularly in this specialty. Take a look, these guys just don't fight fires, they sky dive into potentially deadly combustible wilderness.

(voice-over): We were invited to watch the smoke jumpers train in this canyon near Grand Junction, Colorado. After the smoke jumpers land, their equipment is attached to its own parachute.

STEVE STROUD, SMOKEJUMPER: Inside the cargo you find our hand tools for fighting the fires.

TUCHMAN: The smoke jumpers who all work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Interior also have MREs, water and sleeping bags in their cargo boxes.

Because they may be in the wilderness for up to 48 hours while hauling gear on their backs.

PHILIP LIND, SMOKEJUMPER: It usually weighs between 120 to 140 pounds and will hike out of that situation.

TUCHMAN: The fires in Colorado have been unpredictable and relentless, but there are so many other ways to get hurt including lightning and bad parachute landings.

Philip Lind who's once seriously hurt when he missed the target.

LIND: I had a branch of a tree puncture me and come through this pelvis and eviscerate me and fortunately, the personnel I was with was a trained paramedic.

TUCHMAN: The smoke jumpers put out the fires by clearing fuels with their equipment and digging fire lines. Also building backfires to stop the wildfires in their tracks.

They have to get along with each other because their lives depend relying each other.

(on camera): Are there times when you're fearful?

LIND: Most certainly. I think all firefighters have moment when they're fearful. We like to say courage is not the absence of fear, but making of action in spite of it.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And there has been no shortage of action this fire season.


BANFIELD: Wow. Talk about courage. That's amazing. Gary Tuchman with some terrific reporting out of Colorado. We have a lot more happening tonight.

Got some reports that scientology is a factor in Katie Holmes' and Tom Cruise's decision to break up. We're digging deeper next.


BANFIELD: We're digging deeper tonight into news that KATIE HOLMES has filed for divorce from Tom Cruise. Multiple reports are alleging that scientology played a role in the couple's split.

Cruise is a high profile member of the controversial secretive religion. Holmes, who was raised a Roman Catholic, has filed for sole custody of their daughter, Suri.

The move has fuelled the rumors that Suri's upbringing in scientology maybe a factor in Holmes' decision to leave that marriage. Here's Tom Foreman.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When it comes to scientology, Tom Cruise may well be the faith's most combative celebrity defender famously tearing into NBC's Matt Lauer over the church's reputation of psychiatry.

TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: Do you know what Adderall is? Do you know Ritalin? Do you know now that Ritalin is a street drug? Do you understand that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The difference is -- this wasn't against your will.

CRUISE: I'm asking a question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand there's abuse of all these things.

CRUISE: Here's the problem. You don't know the history of psychiatry. I do.

FOREMAN: Although Cruise joined scientology in the 1980s, over the past decade his public identification with the group has been more pronounced explaining his beliefs on talk shows, in the press.

And scientology meetings featuring Cruise with his "Mission Impossible" theme playing in the background and the star giving a military salute to a scientology leader have appeared in videos like this one posted by Radar Online.

CRUISE: It's something you have to earn because scientology does, he or she has the ability to create new and better realities and improve conditions.

FOREMAN: Many of Cruise's statements underscore a central lesson of the faith that its followers can accomplish great things again Radar Online.

CRUISE: When you drive past an accident, it's not like anyone else. You drive past and you know you have to do something about it because you know you're the only one that can really help. I won't hesitate to put it somewhere else.

FOREMAN: Such talk echoes teachings laid out in the 1950s by the faith's founder, a science fiction writer, L. Ron Hubbard. He created an outline for conduct and advancement.

For example, through counseling sessions referred to as audits, followers are supposed to be led toward positive thinking and achieving their goals no matter how ambitious. Listen again to that Radar Online video as Cruise talks about world leaders.

CRUISE: They want help and they are depending on people who know and who can be effective and do it and that's us.

FOREMAN: That was 2004. By 2005, cruise was expressing even more enthusiasm over actress Katie Holmes. Most notably by jumping around on Oprah's sofa, so what happened?

Holmes, who was raised Catholic, is believed to have converted to scientology as her relationship with Cruise grew. But in the wake of their split, there are reports that she is concerned about her daughter, Suri, being raised in the faith.

Holmes' attorney called the divorce a private matter. Cruise's attorney did not respond to CNN inquiries, but told the "Los Angeles Times," his client hopes the divorce will not be contentious.

Cruise has spoken dismissively what scientologists call SPs, suppressive persons. It's a term used for person who try to impede the mission of scientology, again, Radar Online.

CRUISE: They said, have you met an SP? I looked at him -- you know, I thought what a beautiful thing. Maybe one day it will be like that. You know what I'm saying? Maybe one day it will be -- wow, SP. They'll read about those in history books.

FOREMAN: Whether they of this plays into the split with Holmes is yet unknown but when Cruise and his second wife actress Nicole Kidman divorced, similar speculation appeared.

Kidman, who also raised Catholic, never seemed to fully embrace scientology and after the breakup she was described as enjoying a homecoming in the Catholic Church. As for Cruise, one last time listen to Radar Online.

CRUISE: I do it the way I do everything. There's nothing part of the way for me.

FOREMAN: There is no sign he has any intention of backing away from his controversial faith. Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


BANFIELD: There's a lot more we're following tonight. Isha Sesay is back with a "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

SESAY: Ashleigh, at least 19 people were killed by intense storms across the country this weekend amid a grueling heat wave. Nearly 2 million customers from Indiana through Maryland don't have power. Some may be in the dark until Friday, 18 states under heat advisories, watches or warnings.

Glaxosmithkline will pay a $3 billion fine by the Justice Department. It's the largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history. The company admitted to misbranding its drugs and withholding safety data about its diabetes drug Avandia.

An expedition attempting to solve the mysterious disappearance of Amelia Earhart 75 years ago will set sail to an island in the South Pacific tomorrow.

The crew believes that Earhart and her navigator landed there safely in 1937 and radioed for help before their plane was swept out to sea. Ashleigh, they are sounding pretty confident. We'll see what happens.

BANFIELD: Yes, some signals they may find what they're looking for. I hope they do. All right, thanks, Isha.

Time for the shot now. Up next, by the way, get out the sunscreen. This is all going to make sense when we share the staff favorite "Ridiculist" so far of 2012.


BANFIELD: All last week we took your votes for your favorite "Ridiculist," but tonight it is the staff's favorite. It's their favorite "Ridiculist" of the year so far. Here's Anderson.


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: Time for "The Ridiculist." Tonight, we're adding a portion of the society that I like to refer to as paleness haters. You're out there laughing and rubbing cocoa butter on each other.

You know what? Maybe if there wasn't so much snickering about pale folks, there wouldn't be moments like this on the local news.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today, snow is crippling much of the Washington lowlands.

COOPER: All right, she got caught on an open mic. No big deal. She picked up and moved on with the weather forecast. It happens to the best of us.

If my microphone was open during the commercials. That's all you'd hear me talking about how pale I am, and of course, me yelling at the crew.

I get it though being pale -- they are laughing. Being pale has its downside. I might be a translucent national treasure with piercing blue eyes, but the reality is that I'm never going to have the rich, leathery glow of George Hamilton.

And yes, that's my new head shot. You know what? It's OK. Pale is beautiful. If you disagree, you can take it up with my pale sister Tilda Swinton. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that she doesn't have time for your pale-hating bologna.

Neither I'm sure that Mr. Gary Busey. Pale, maybe a little, but stable without a doubt. Speaking of stable, it's not just Gary Busey who knows what it's like to be on the pale side. It's also the horse that looks like Gary Busey. Remember on?

Right on, my pale friend, right on. Then there's that poor cat. You know the cat I mean. That cat doesn't worry about being pale. Let me tell you that cat doesn't worry about being pale. The only thing that cat worries about is being too good looking.

All right, hold on. I'm reminded of something. If we could, I'd like to pause a moment and check in with Larry King. Larry. It's good to check in with him from time to time. Back to being pale, I get how it's maybe not the most desirable appearance.

I get that a healthy base tan is sometimes optimal. In fact, I'll admit it's a stunning look. I mean, it's not like anything could ever go wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been tanning my whole life, going to the beach, tanning salons, and so forth.

COOPER: And so forth is the understatement of the decade. I still can't even wrap my mind around that and apparently, now she's turned into some sort of deep fried paparazzi magnet over there in New Jersey. It's all too much. So say what you will, pale haters, but you might want to consider the flip side on the Ridiculist.


BANFIELD: And that does it for this edition of "360." We'll see you again in one hour at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts right now.