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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Health Care Reform and Taxes; Penn State Cover-Up?
Aired July 2, 2012 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: It's 10:00 p.m. here on the East Coast.
And we're getting our first real look tonight at what Americans think about the Supreme Court's decision on health care reform. "Keeping Them Honest," we're also getting whole lot of talk, most of it double-talk, from politicians on that ruling. The spin and there's plenty of it revolving around a single word, taxes.
Does the money you are going to have to pay for not buying health insurance amount to a tax? Battle lines are drawn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: It's not a tax on revenue. It's a tax -- it's a penalty for free riders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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: It's a penalty.
DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Whatever 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 and not a tax. That's what's being said, right?
As for the Republican side, though, any time is tax time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: It's a tax increase. It's a massive tax increase on the middle class.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: That's Florida Senator Marco Rubio on Saturday and the beat goes on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: This law is a tax.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Obamacare is the biggest tax increase in American history.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: 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: In fact, the Affordable Care Act is a tax. It is the largest tax in America's history.
RUBIO: Middle-class tax increase.
GOV. BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: It's the largest tax increases on the middle class in history.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Obamacare raises taxes on the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: Enough to make your head spin, right? "Keeping Them Honest," when Republicans say it's a tax on people who choose not to buy health insurance, they are absolutely right.
The provisions for it are written into the tax law, Section 5000- A 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)
QUESTION: The governor does not believe the mandate is a tax, that's what you're saying?
ERIC FEHRNSTROM, SENIOR ROMNEY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: 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...
QUESTION: 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 tax penalty a tax; you should call it a penalty or a fee or a fine?
FEHRNSTROM: That's correct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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 are no less divided on what to do next about it; 52 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 will 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 the senior legal analyst for CNN, Jeffrey Toobin.
Jeff, let me begin with you. It's a pretty 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, that is 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's exactly what the opinion holds, that it's not a lot of people. 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, Eric Fehrnstrom, saying this is not a tax? It seems like things are a bit upside down right now.
ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: 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, but 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.
Frankly, Ashleigh, if on the federal level it's not a tax, it's not a law. It would have been struck down. 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 OBAMA WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: 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's not a difference. They agree that it's a penalty, that the people who are trying to freeload on the system and make all of us pay for their insurance ought to be penalized.
That's what the president did in his plan. That's just where this debate is. Now, the fact that there's this muddle of a message in the Republican groups vs. the Republican National Committee vs. what Romney and his campaign are saying, I think that's a message confusion issue 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 over the American voters' head, that the American voter will get very tired of this? It's pretty 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 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 will bring prices down and they think it's going to add to the cost of their insurance and now they're being 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. That's one of the pieces of the pile. I think the biggest problem with it is it is going to raise insurance cost for most Americans and make health care less affordable, not more affordable. That's the heart of the whole problem with Obamacare and trying to run health care so much essentially from the federal government.
BANFIELD: 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 numbers are 51 to 43 if I'm looking at them correctly.
But the president has a slight lead nationally 49 percent to 46 percent. Does health care weigh in heavily to these numbers or what do you make of them?
BURTON: I think this is one poll. There's been a lot of polls over the course of the last couple 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 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 will actually decide the election, the picture may look a lot worse.
BANFIELD: That's not what I asked you, I didn't ask you that. I asked you why you don't think he's doing very well in those 15 swing states, in those battleground states?
BURTON: I think the president is actually doing very well in swing states and especially if you look at the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll.
BANFIELD: He's lagging by eight points. That's outside of the margin. You cannot spin that, Bill.
BURTON: Ashleigh, this isn't spin. This is just about the polls.
You know, I think there's going to be polls that go up and down throughout this election cycle. 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 American people react to the fact that the Supreme Court has made it a settled 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: Ari, do you think that's changed since the opinion and all the flurry of activity on the news?
FLEISCHER: No. There can be a tendency when the Supreme Court rules for it to give a boost to whatever side it rules in terms of public polling because of the legitimacy the court can convey.
But I think in this instance, economy, jobs, health care hurts jobs in that sense. Obamacare hurts jobs. It becomes salient.
BANFIELD: We're not even a week out from the opinion, so regardless of how you look at it you might be basking in the afterglow or the afterburn of the opinion.
Ari Fleischer, Bill Burton, Jeff Toobin, nice to talk to all three of you.
TOOBIN: I'm enjoying the afterglow of the opinion.
BANFIELD: You got a tan.
TOOBIN: That's right. Yes.
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 that want the entire health care law repealed. Up next, how would that happen? We will let you know.
And, also, President Obama might be facing this even if he's reelected. If the Republicans take the Senate this fall, there are some mechanics you need to know about. And David Gergen and Dana Bash will break it all down for us next.
BANFIELD: Mitt Romney is on vacation with his family today in New Hampshire, possibly talking more hot dogs than health , are but he certainly made no secret though that repealing President Obama's signature achievement would be his first priority in the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: The question is how would that work? But, also, how might Republican lawmakers repeal or even gut that law if President Obama is reelected?
Senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash has been doing some digging on that and 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 it would take to actually rip apart this law after this election. Can you break down the mechanics of this in simple terms?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I can try.
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 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. What Republicans in the Senate I have talked to say they are 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 key Senate races 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 will veto it and they don't have votes to override that.
BANFIELD: You have 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.
David Gergen, let me turn to you.
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: Oh, Ashleigh, you have seen that process a lot.
GERGEN: People oppose something until they're in charge and then it's great. And Dana is absolutely right. They do intend to use the reconciliation process, if Mitt Romney is elected and if they have 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.
I think they see that, reconciliation, as 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.
Mitt Romney's team made a hash of the message today by saying this is a penalty and not a tax. But at the state level there are a number of races where this could make a difference and might help Republicans pick up some seats.
BANFIELD: So, Dana, talk about that, the down-ballot issue. I know you have 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 bigwigs here in Washington have told the Senate Republican candidates. You have to keep talking about this.
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 that 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 tell 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.
I know you were talking about this in the segment beforehand, but that is why you hear Republicans like Marco Rubio saying that this will 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, oh, 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 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 have climbed to about 17 percent approval.
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 have got an opportunity here. 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 will be just as important, in fact more important for most Americans than the health care bill. Which way is that number moving?
I think the Romney people hope over time that they can run a double-barreled campaign on jobs and on health care. Whether they will succeed or not, they're running against a very formidable candidate, and a nimble candidate in Barack Obama.
BASH: And, Ashleigh, if I could just add that the point you 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. GERGEN: Thank you.
BANFIELD: Coming up next, the fallout to our exclusive report on Friday, the purported e-mails from 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: 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 Curley about a three-part plan to "talk with the subject, contact the charitable organization and the Department of Welfare."
But the next day, Curley 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 extraordinarily 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 soon as McQueary came to him, that he went straight to his boss and told him what McQueary had said.
Now we find out it appears that Joe Paterno had another conversation about this two weeks after that with the athletic director, Tim Curley, at least alleged -- according to this alleged e- mail. 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 Director Louis Freeh, who is looking into the Penn State investigation for Penn State.
BANFIELD: Former FBI director.
CANDIOTTI: That's correct, former FBI director -- to release all of the e-mails and asking the Pennsylvania attorney general's office to release all of 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 them. Remember, they maintain that McQueary said that Sandusky was just horsing around with the kid, vs. what McQueary has testified to, that he was very...
BANFIELD: Very specific.
CANDIOTTI: ... very specific with Curley and Schultz about what he saw.
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 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 winning 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 with a 360 bulletin.
ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ashleigh.
Opposition groups claim more than 100 people were killed across Syria today. Meanwhile, a new proposal to end the crisis calls for a transitional government.
A "360 Follow": The family of a former Marine shot to by police in his White Plains, New York, apartment has file a $21 million lawsuit alleging wrongful death and negligence. Police arrived after Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. apparently accidentally set off his medical alert device.
And Jeneba Tarmoh pulled out of a runoff against Allyson Felix in the 100-meter dash at the U.S. trials. Not even a photo finish could determine the winner. Felix will compete in London -- Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: Isha, thank you.
Coming up, you're going to meet the elite firefighting unit known as 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 special 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 1500 wild and 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 and hotshot 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.
RICK STRATTON, FAIR WEATHER: My main piece of equipment is this laptop.
SAVIDGE: Glendale Holmes, 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 is doing is cutting edge and, until very recently, unthinkable.
He can predict where the fire will be not tomorrow but in five days, 10 days, even 21 days. The benefit is obvious. If you know where the fire is going then you can strategically place your limited resources to stop it.
Eight years ago Stratton became part of a team that worked to come up with a computer program that would predict the fire's future. He's a self-professed fire nerd.
STRATTON: 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 the winds interacting in the mountains and you can see just how complicated it gets, which is why Stratton doesn't work alone. There's Julia Ruthford, the IMET, or incident meteorologist. She studies the weather, wind shifts kill fire crews, and predicting them is her job.
JULIA RUTHFORD, IMET AND METEOROLOGIST: If I see anything on the 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?
RUDY RODRIGUEZ, FIREFIGHTER: 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.
RODRIGUEZ: Everybody calls it the Lunar Lander.
SAVIDGE: These robot weather observers constantly update conditions, even as the fire burns all around. With a few key punches he gets to the station to talk to me. Then there's Ashley Whitwork (ph), a fuel technician. She takes samples of trees, bushes and grass near the fire and is reminded of the urgency when a giant helicopter hovers almost overhead and drops water on a sudden blaze nearby. At a lab, she dries and analyzes the samples to see how quickly each will burn.
Then there's 6'5" Nate Orseburn (ph).
NATE ORSEBURN, WEATHER OBSERVER: 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, then takes me with him to look at it from the air.
STRATTON: It's really curious why these were holding right here.
SAVIDGE: He takes all of the information from Julia, from Ruddy, from Ashley, from Nate and others and punches it 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 -- this is what we (INAUDIBLE). It's going to go this way. And then we came in here. It's still pretty hot in here. But it's holding. And we're going to catch it here.
SAVIDGE: Like all firefighters here, Stratton is exhausted. When I asked what keeps him going, he suddenly forgets the data and talks in very human terms about what he saw when he fought on the line.
STRATTON: 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 wild land 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 of Colorado since the 1900s. They noted that the fires have grown in frequency and they have grown in size. They've also become more costly in lives and in dollars.
There's a couple of reasons for that. Number one, it has to do with the fact that there's 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: And there are -- you know, 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, nothing left but ashes. The whole 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. And there are a couple of 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.
And then there's the fire department itself. If it comes down a street that's fully involved, it's got 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 are going to let go. And it's a painful decision but they make it nonetheless. We should also point out good news. Seventy percent containment now being reported at this hour. They're almost done.
BANFIELD: Wow. Wow. Seventy percent now. That's -- that's terrific. Fantastic news. Martin Savidge, thanks for that. Appreciate it.
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: 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 at 1500 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. But if they don't get to the blaze quickly, the flames will often spread rapidly.
Smokejumpers court disaster every day they're on the job.
(On camera): When you talk to people you know who aren't necessarily close family, you tell them what you do, what do they say to you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They think I should get 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 don't just fight the 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'll find our hand tools that we use for fighting fires. Generally Pulaski's and shovels.
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: Usually weighs between 120 and 140 pounds and we'll 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. Phillip Lind was once seriously hurt when he missed the target.
LIND: Had a branch from a tree puncture me, come through this pelvis and this rib. And fortunately the personal hours with was a trained paramedic.
TUCHMAN: The smokejumpers put out the fire by clearing fuels with their equipment and digging fire lines. Also building back fires to stop the wild fires in their tracks. They have to get a long with each other because their lives depend on relying on each other.
(On camera): Are there times when you're fearful?
LIND: Almost certainly. I think all firefighters have moment when they're fearful. We like to say courage is not the absence of fear but the 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 terrific reporting out of Colorado. We have a lot more happening tonight. We have 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 is 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 may be 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 repudiation of psychiatry.
TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: Do you know what Adderall is? Do you know what Ritalin? Do you now that Ritalin is a street drug? Do you understand that?
MATT LAUER, NBC'S "TODAY" SHOW HOST: The difference is --
CRUISE: No, no, Matt. Mat. Matt.
LAUER: -- this was not against your will, though. But this wasn't against --
CRUISE: Matt, Matt, I'm asking you a question. Matt, I'm asking you a question.
LAUER: I understand there's abuse of all of these things.
CRUISE: No, you see, here's the problem. You don't know the history of psychiatry. I do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Although Cruise joined scientology in the 1980s, over the past decade his public identification with the group has been much more pronounced. He's explained 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 Radaronline.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUISE: I think it's a privilege to call yourself a scientologist and it's something that you have to earn and -- because scientology does, he or she has the ability to create new and better realities and improve conditions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Many of Cruise's statements underscore a central lesson of the faith that its followers can accomplish great things. Again, Radaronline.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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 on someone else somewhere else, you know, because I put it ruthlessly on myself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Such talk echoes teachings laid out in the 1950s by the faith's founder, science fiction writer, L. Ron Hubbard. He created an outline for conduct and advancement. For example, through counseling sessions, referred to its audits, followers are supposed to be led toward positive thinking and achieving their goals, no matter how ambitious.
Listen again to that Radaronline video as Cruise talks to fellow devotees about world leaders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUISE: They want help and they are depending my people who know and who can be effective and do it and that's us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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 over their daughter Suri being raised in the faith. But for now, neither is addressing those reports.
Holmes' attorney called the divorce a private matter and said her primary concern is her daughter's best interest. Cruise's attorney did not respond to CNN inquiries but told the "Los Angles Times" his client hoped the divorce would not be contentious.
Cruise has spoken dismissively what scientologists calls SP's, suppressive persons. The term used for people who try to impede the mission of scientology. Again, Radaronline.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUISE: They said, so have you met an SP?
CRUISE: I looked at him -- you know, and I thought what a beautiful thing because maybe one day it will be like that. You know what I'm saying? Maybe one day it will be that. Wow, SP's. It's like, those -- I read about those in the history books.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Whether any 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 was 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 Radaronline.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUISE: And I do it the way I do everything.
CRUISE: There's nothing part of the way for me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: There is no sign he has any intention of backing away from his controversial faith.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
BANFIELD: And there's a lot more we're following tonight. Isha Sesay is back with "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Isha.
ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Ashleigh, at least 19 people were killed by intense storms across the country this weekend amid a grueling heat wave. Nearly two million customers from Indiana through Maryland don't have power. Some may be in the dark until Friday. Eighteen states under heat advisories, watches or warnings.
GlaxoSmithKline will pay a $3 billion fine by the Justice Department. The largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history. The company admitted to misbranding its drugs Paxil and Wellbutrin 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 for 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, from signals they might find what they're looking for.
All right. Thanks, Isha.
Up next, get out the sunscreen. This is all going to make sense when we share the staff's 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, CNN ANCHOR: Time for the "RidicuList," and tonight we're adding a portion of society that I like to refer to as paleness haters. You're a shifty bunch but I know you're out there laughing and rubbing coco butter on each other, and 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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so pale.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're on air.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today's snow is crippling much of the Washington lowlands.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: All right. She got caught on an open mike. No big deal. She totally picked up and moved on with the weather forecast. Besides, it happens to the best of us. If my microphone was open during commercials, I mean, that's all you'd hear is me talking about how pale I am and of course me yelling at the crew. They keep looking me in the eyes and I really don't like that.
I get it, though. Being pale -- shh, they're laughing. They always talk.
Being pale has its downside. Sure, I might be a translucent national treasure with piercing blue eyes but the reality is that I'm just never going to have that rich leathery glow of George Hamilton. Wow. That's a really nice screen grab of me. And yes, that's my new head shot. You know what, it's OK. Pale is beautiful. And if you disagree, you can take it up with my pale sister in arms, Academy Award winner Tilda Swinton. Because I'm going go out on a limb and say that she doesn't have time for your pale-hating baloney.
Neither, I'm sure, does a Mr. Gary Busey. Heard of him? 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 a little on the pale side. It's also the horse that looks like Gary Busey. Remember him? Ride on, my pale friend, ride on.
Then of course there's that poor cat. You know the cat I mean. Yes. Let me tell you, that cat doesn't worry about being pale. Not only --
Let me tell you, that cat doesn't worry about being pale. The only thing that cat worries about is being too good looking.
I don't know what this is about. All right. Hold on. I'm reminded of something. If we could, I would like to pause a moment and check in with Larry King.
Hey, Larry, always good to check in with him from time to time. I love Larry.
But look, back to being pale. I don't know that Larry was rather tangential. Back to being pale. I get how it's maybe not the most desirable appearance. I get that a healthy base tan is something -- sometimes optimal. In fact, I'll admit it's a stunning look. And I mean it's not like anything could ever go wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been tanning my whole life. Going to the beach. Tanning salons. And so forth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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: That does it for this edition of 360. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT, OUTFRONT" starts now.