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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Welfare Warfare; Interview With Newt Gingrich; Battle for Syria

Aired August 8, 2012 - 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: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.

And we're "Keeping Them Honest" tonight two times on two powerful presidential campaign ads, one from each side, one from a super PAC supporting President Obama, the other from the Romney campaign.

Each ad goes straight for the gut, seeking to reinforce your negative views about either Mitt Romney or President Obama. As pieces of political theater, as tools of political warfare, each one is formidable. And each one is false, as in not true.

Tonight, "Keeping Them Honest," we will confront the defenders of these dubious ads. As always, we're not taking political sides. We're simply trying to report facts. We begin tonight with the new Mitt Romney ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: In 1996, President Clinton and a bipartisan Congress helped end welfare as we know it by requiring work for welfare. But on July 12, President Obama quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements. Under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job.

They just send you your welfare check, and welfare to work goes back to being plain old welfare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, in a moment, you will hear from Newt Gingrich, who joins us to defend that ad, but who also makes a pretty stunning admission whether the ad he is defending is strictly speaking true to the facts.

But first, I want to show you how Mitt Romney is campaigning on the claims made in that very ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With a very careful executive action, he removed the requirement of work from welfare. It is wrong to make any change that would make America more of a nation of government dependency. We must restore and I will restore work into welfare. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Now, listening to that and watching the ad, you would think that the White House, with the sweep of the pen, somehow managed to undo all that your elected representatives, Democrats and Republicans, accomplished back in the late '90s on welfare reform.

You get the impression the Obama administration wants an America where hardworking Americans pay taxes and lazy ones sit around collecting welfare. And in case you missed the implications, Romney surrogate Newt Gingrich today spelled it all out.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think on the hard left, there's an unending desire to create a dependent America. It's not just that Obama's a radical, but the people he appoints are even more radical.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

COOPER: Obviously, the White House, the Obama campaign strongly disagree. And they're not alone.

A string of fact-checkers have blasted the ad as fall. PolitiFact gave it a Pants on Fire rating. "The Washington Post" fact guy weighed in with four Pinocchios. That's their rating system.

What in fact the White House and Department and Health and Human Services proposed doing was give governors more flexibility to tailor the program to their own states. And these were changes, by the way, requested by the Republican governors of Utah and Nevada. But what about this claim?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREA SAUL, MITT ROMNEY CAMPAIGN PRESS SECRETARY: If President Obama didn't want people to think that he was going to waive the central work requirement in welfare reform, his administration shouldn't have written a memo saying it was going to waive the work requirements in welfare reform.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, "Keeping Them Honest," here's the relevant portion from that very memo from the Department of Health and Human Services -- and I quote -- "HHS will only consider approving waivers relating to the work participation requirements that make changes intended to lead to more effective needs of meeting the work goals."

The administration is insisting they're not trying to waive the work requirement. They're in fact trying to make it less bureaucratic and more effective, precisely what those Republican state governors have asked for. As we said, Newt Gingrich has defended the ad, going beyond it as well in some respects. But as you will see later on in this interview, Speaker Gingrich, who I talked to just a short time ago, also makes a surprising admission. I spoke with the former presidential candidate just a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Mr. Speaker, this ad says -- and I quote -- "Under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check."

Now, according to pretty much every nonpartisan fact-checking organization, that's not true. President Clinton, who signed the law, which you worked on as well, says it's not true. Even Ron Haskins, who worked on the original welfare law, served as George W. Bush's welfare policy, said -- quote -- "There's no plausible scenario under which this new policy constitutes any kind of serious attack on reform."

Are they all wrong?

GINGRICH: Well, Robert Rector at the Heritage Foundation, who was the original developer of welfare reform, worked with Governor Reagan and then President Reagan, he was the first person to come out aggressively and say, look, this will in the end gut welfare reform.

And his reasoning is pretty straightforward. Once you start allowing states -- this is why, by the way, the law itself does not permit waivers. The president actually could not waive Section 407 which says there can't be any waivers to the work requirement, so he fudged and found a way to get around it, which I suspect will be -- turn out to be illegal.

Governor McDonnell of Virginia has come out and said he thinks that this is clearly gutting welfare reform. The two governors that the Obama administration is hiding behind, the governor of Utah and the governor of Nevada, have both come out and said that's not accurate, this is not what they wanted. This is not the flexibility they asked for.

And I think that this is going to become a genuine argument. Those of us who favored welfare reform and who worked hard to get it felt deeply that -- particularly in liberal states, if you didn't have some kind of strong requirement, you know, they used to have things like getting a massage counted. Going, you know, going through drug rehab counted as a work program.

It was amazing the range of things prior to 1995, the year 1996 that you could do and pretend they were work.

COOPER: But under the -- I mean, this ad said under Obama's plan you wouldn't have to work, you wouldn't have to train for a job, they just send you your welfare check. There's no evidence of that at all.

GINGRICH: Well, given that this is an administration which has maximized the increase in dependency, maximized the number of people on food stamps, maximized the effort to get people to rely on the government, there's also no evidence that once the waiver system is in place that you could rely on this administration to defend work.

I mean there's no evidence --

COOPER: But it would be -- it would be up to governors as you just said. And according to the governors themselves, that is not their intention. You talked about Utah Governor Gary Herbert's office put out a statement, they said Utah's request for a waiver stems from a desire for increased customization of the program to maximize employment among Utah's welfare recipients.

That's almost word for word what the HHS is saying. The HHS -- acting assistant secretary of HHS said that this is all about trying to create innovative strategies, flexibility, policies and procedures designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families. They're basically saying the same thing, no?

GINGRICH: Sure. The question you have to ask yourself is, given the track record of this particular secretary of Health and Human Services, given the general -- somewhere between liberalism and radicalism of the Obama appointees, and remembering that part of what I think led to this strong reaction non the part of a lot of conservatives and a lot of Republicans, was this came out in the same 48-hour period as the president's famous speech that you didn't build it, that you weren't responsible as a small business owner, for what you achieved.

So it's almost as though he was psychologically attacking work and achievement at the same time as he was shifting the regulations. And candidly, this is not an administration that, I think, you're going to find any conservative give the benefit of the doubt to.

COOPER: But isn't this in line -- I mean isn't this waiver idea in line with what you have proposed about innovative solutions at the state level, basically decentralizing power, putting it back in the hands of the governors and the states?

GINGRICH: Right. And this is one of the rare areas where frankly the reason we wrote in that it could not be waived is our experience had been that when you allow liberals to do it, that they will, in fact, create a dependency environment and they will waive the work -- just come back and look back at the kind of things, really starting with Lyndon Johnson and then Jimmy Carter, and expanding.

The kind of things that state welfare departments and liberal states were doing were absurdities. And this -- the whole thrust of the welfare reform was a function of the failure of those kinds of states as contrasted with Governor Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin or Governor Engler or Governor Leavitt, who had done a great job of moving towards workfare, despite the federal bias.

COOPER: But -- I mean, I have got to come back to then the wording of this ad. And again, it's under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work, you wouldn't have to train for a job, they just send you your welfare check. That's not saying we assume this or we think this or we worry about this. It's saying as a fact, this will happen and that's just not supported by evidence.

GINGRICH: I think if the ad makers have asked me, I would have said this makes it possible. Would have been a good way to enter into...

COOPER: So you think the wording of the ad is not actually accurate? That it is too straightforward?

GINGRICH: Well, I think that the ad does assert -- but this is a political ad. In 30 seconds, you tend not to get all the various amendments and things. And...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But accuracy is important.

GINGRICH: Look, I'm here -- I'm here tonight supporting the idea. And I believe absolutely that this -- the Obama administration is filled with people who do not believe in the work requirement. And this is -- as you yourself pointed out, even when Bill Clinton agreed to sign the bill, half the Democrats in the House, 100 representatives, voted no.

Barack Obama himself was opposed to it as a state senator in Illinois. There was a huge defense of dependency without work. So you say to me, do I think all those people who opposed the bill would probably try to gut it if they get a chance, of course I do.

COOPER: But if you were running this ad, you would change the wording of the ad to at least say I worry about it or based on what I believe about the president, I think he will do this? If...

GINGRICH: If I were running the ad -- if I would be running the ad it would be a much tougher ad. Because I would start by saying as the leading food stamp president in American history and the person who's increased American dependency more than anyone else in modern times and the guy who has failed totally with child poverty.

Remember, with the Clinton-Gingrich welfare plan, child poverty went down by 25 percent. The largest decline in child poverty was because we had a work requirement and people went to school and went to work and their lives got better. So my ad would probably have been tougher than this ad in setting up the conditions you're looking for. But then it would have been a 60-second ad and I don't know if we could have afforded it.

COOPER: Well, I think you could have afforded it. But I got -- you've got to come back to this because it did sound like you were saying earlier, and I want to just try to clarify this. You do think that the actual wording under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work, you wouldn't have to train for a job, they just send you your welfare check, that is not factually correct?

GINGRICH: We have no proof today, but I would say to you under Obama's ideology it is absolutely true that he would be comfortable sending a lot of people checks for doing nothing. I believe that totally.

COOPER: Speaker Gingrich, I appreciate you being on. Thank you.

GINGRICH: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: I should point out that's an assumption. He's saying we have no facts today, no proof today.

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook, follow me on Twitter at Instagram -- also on Instagram @AndersonCooper, both Twitter and Instagram.

Up next: The inaccurate pro-President Obama ad made by a super PAC supporting him, I will talk to one of the people responsible for that.

Also, David Gergen joins us to talk more about the strategy and calculation behind both of these commercials.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We're "Keeping Them Honest" tonight, the campaign trail, first, on a factually bogus Romney ad, now a factually bogus ad from the leading pro-Obama super PAC that's expected to run in battleground states across the country.

It features a laid-off steelworker named Joe Soptic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE SOPTIC, WIFE DIED OF CANCER: When Mitt Romney and Bain closed the plant, I lost my health care. And my family lost their health care.

And a short time after that, my wife became ill. I don't know how long she was sick. And I think maybe she didn't say anything because she knew that we couldn't afford the insurance.

And then one day, she became ill, and then I took her up to the Jackson County Hospital and admitted her for pneumonia, and that's when they found the cancer. And by then, it was stage four. There was nothing they could do for her. And she passed away in 22 days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's obviously a very sad story.

"Keeping Them Honest," though, as heart wrenching as the loss of a job and the death of a spouse obviously is, virtually nothing else about the story fits either the timeline or the facts. Though Mr. Romney was still on the books as being CEO when the steel mill shut down in 2001, he'd already left two years before to run the Olympics. Now, you can argue he was still listed as CEO and had earlier had a hand in how the company was handled. But in the ad, Mr. Soptic said his wife became ill -- quote -- a short time after Romney and Bain closed the plant and he lost his health care. Well, it turns out it was five years after that, in 2006 that his wife unfortunately died.

In addition, CNN's Brianna Keilar spoke to Mr. Soptic. He told her that his wife actually had other health insurance. Actually her primary insurance was from her own job and she still had that when he lost his health insurance.

As with the Romney ad we talked about before the break, the fact checkers are not smiling on this one either."The Washington Post" giving this ad the same as Romney's, four Pinocchios, concluding -- quote -- "On just every level, this ad stretches the bounds of common sense and decency."

Tonight, both the White House and the Obama campaign are trying to distance itself from the Priorities USA ad, Press Secretary Jay Carney saying -- quote -- "I still haven't seen the ad. I have read about it. I don't speak for a third party group. I speak for the president and the administration, and I explain and defend his policies."

President Obama's campaign spokeswoman went farther than his White House spokesman saying -- quote -- "We have nothing, no involvement with any ad that are done by Priorities USA." She went on to say, "We don't have any knowledge of the story of the family."

"Keeping Them Honest," though, the campaign certainly ought to have at least some knowledge of Joe Soptic and his family because they used him in one of their own campaign ads earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SOPTIC: I was a steelworker for 30 years. We had a reputation for quality products. It was something that was American made. And we weren't rich, but I was able to put my daughter through college.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That was just Joe Soptic in an earlier ad for the Obama 2012 campaign.

Bill Burton is a senior strategist for Priorities USA Action. He joins us now.

So, Bill, let's talk about this."The Washington Post" says about your ad -- quote -- "On just every level this ad stretches the bounds of common sense and decency." Independent fact checkers have echoed that sentiment, saying, it's inaccurate.

How can you imply that Mitt Romney and Bain are somehow to blame for that poor woman dying of cancer?

BILL BURTON, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: My goodness, we don't and we would not. I mean, those fact checks presuppose that that's exactly what we're trying to do. And that's not the point of the ad. The point of the ad is to tell the story of the impact that Mitt Romney had on the lives of thousands of people. When he came to town, they lost their jobs, they lost their health care, they lost their pension benefits. And that impact is felt still today in those communities.

COOPER: But you spent -- I mean, you're a smart guy. You have a lot of smart ad people in the group that you're working with. Half the ad is him talking about his wife's demise. And it ends with him, saying, I do not think that Mitt Romney realizes what he has done to anyone. The implication is clearly that he is responsible or what -- the actions he took led to his wife's death.

BURTON: You know, the story is a very sad one and the truth is that there are thousands of stories that are -- that happened as a result of Mitt Romney and his time at Bain. And some of them are really tragic.

But just because they're really sad or tragic doesn't mean that they should be off limits. Well, we think it's important to tell the stories of these folks and how they were impacted by Mitt Romney.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: How is a woman dying be -- I mean, she had health insurance from her job after this man lost his job and then she got an injury years later and then lost her insurance.

BURTON: Right. To say that presupposes that we're trying to link Mitt Romney with her tragedy.

COOPER: You are.

BURTON: No, no, no, the truth is...

COOPER: You've made a commercial about Mitt Romney and it's all about this woman's tragedy if you're trying to link it, why are you even talking about her?

BURTON: No, but Anderson, if we were making that point, that means that if she hadn't had another job in an intervening time, if somehow it had happened much sooner to when Joe lost his job, that somehow Mitt Romney would be more responsible. And that's now what we're saying. What we're saying is that at a moment of true concern and anxiety in a family, when Joe Soptic really needed health insurance for his family, he didn't have it. And that's the point here. He was promised health care benefits and he lost them.

COOPER: You claim -- you really claim -- you really want people to believe you're not trying to link in any way even just subtly or not subtly that there's some linkage between Mitt Romney, Bain Capital, business decisions he made and this woman's death.

BURTON: Anderson, it would defy logic to do so. The point here is that even to today that community is completely worn down. The whole area, the factory is abandoned. People still don't have jobs in some cases. Many folks still don't have health insurance. People who do have jobs are getting paid much less. And the point is that Mitt Romney's business experience had a profound effect on the lives of thousands of people.

(CROSSTALK)

BURTON: And that effect is still being felt.

COOPER: Right. And you...

BURTON: And that's what this ad tells the story of. That's what all of our ads tell the story of.

COOPER: OK. I mean, we -- I don't want to go back and forth on this, but I mean, this ad tells us a very specific story. More than half of the ad is him talking very detailed about his wife in a way which does -- BURTON: Anderson, it's a sad story.

COOPER: It is a very sad story, but it also jumps over -- I mean, it truncates time in a way that makes it seem like he got fired, she didn't have health insurance, which she did from her other job, her primary insurance, in fact...

BURTON: Not at the -- not at time when she died, though. She had health insurance for a very short time that...

COOPER: Right. Because she lost her other job.

BURTON: Right. But when -- but ultimately when Joe Soptic needed health insurance for his family, health insurance that had been promised to him by a contract that Mitt Romney had helped to negotiate, he didn't have the health insurance.

COOPER: Right. Because they -- because under bankruptcy protection, they were able to do away with the promises that they had made.

BURTON: They were able to void a contract that they had with workers.

COOPER: Right. That's bankruptcy law.

BURTON: But they still made -- they made plenty of money. All those workers got screwed.

COOPER: Right. Again, you can make an ad all about that. I just -- you're implying -- I think any rational or none -- certainly nonpartisan observers look at this and say you are linking this. Otherwise we would not put this in an ad.

BURTON: I actually think just the opposite. I think that the rational thing to take away here is that -- how on earth could you possibly imply that? What we're saying is that at a moment of true anxiety...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: You've made a 30-second spot about this. What are you saying how can you imply that, it's totally disingenuous, Bill. Come on, you know that.

BURTON: I just -- I just don't think that that's true. I think that Mitt Romney had an effect on these people's lives. And to talk about it is an important part of the story. Because people -- he wants the American people to make a decision on whether or not he should be president based on his business experience. And his business experience, when people take a look at it, when they hear the stories of these folks, they say, I don't want that guy to be president of the United States.

COOPER: Well, Bill Burton, I appreciate you coming on to talk about the ad. Thanks, Bill.

BURTON: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Let's bring in senior political David Gergen for his take not just on what's in the ads but also the strategy behind putting them out, whether or not they're factual.

What do you make of this, David?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Anderson, both sides are boiling mad tonight at the other. Because they -- each one thinks the other has been dishonest in a very, very unfair way. And frankly, they're both right.

COOPER: You're saying they're both...

GERGEN: They're both -- right. And it's very striking.

You know, this outside group, it can judge this. "The Washington Post" checks these things very carefully, and they give Pinocchios when they think that something is wrong. And they give four Pinocchios when they think something is usually wrong. They give four Pinocchios to both the Obama team's ad and to the Romney ad.

COOPER: I mean, when Bill Burton says how can you possibly link, you know, this woman's death, there's no way we're even suggesting that there's a linkage, do you buy that?

GERGEN: No, of course not. It's plain on its face. I like Bill Burton. I respect him. But he's engaged in sophistry. What we call sophistry. In the old days the Greeks call it that. We call it double speak now. Of course the point of the ad is to make the point that Mitt Romney was responsible for this woman's death because she did not have health insurance. And if you look at the pattern, you know, over time now they've called Mitt Romney a felon, or suggested heavily he's been a felon. They've said he didn't pay his taxes for 10 years.

Now they're saying, you know, his business practice -- you know, he caused the death of a woman. And on the other side, you know, they're saying Obama is still -- they're still saying he's a -- you know, the birther movement. He was born outside of the United States, which is wrong. That he's a Muslim, which is wrong.

You know, both sides frankly are playing dirty.

COOPER: And in the Romney campaign ad now, they're saying, which is a campaign ad, not a super PAC ad, they're saying President Obama is trying to gut welfare reform, that under his plan you wouldn't even have to work. You'll just be sent a check, which is just factually not at all what they're proposing. It was interesting to hear Newt Gingrich tonight even say well, we don't have any facts today...

GERGEN: But in their hearts, we know.

COOPER: Right, that he's assuming this based on his perception.

GERGEN: And Newt himself, when he was on, what he really basically said, I wouldn't have written this way but, you know, we all know in our hearts what they really believe. You know, they're closet socialists or whatever.

COOPER: It is -- does it matter? I mean, there's always factual inaccuracies in ads, and that's part of our job to point them out. But does it -- do you think it matters? Or do you think the fact that Bill Burton comes on and Newt Gingrich comes on and just repeats it over and over again, does that help their cause? Even though they may be factually incorrect, to just repeat the idea over and over again?

GERGEN: Well, look, I think it undermines confidence and their trust in the president as well as in Mitt Romney to have these kinds of campaigns. I think it ultimately is going to make it much more difficult for the winner to govern. They're not going to have the kind of public support you really need to govern well. And there's going to be so much anger on the other side when this is all over, on the losing side.

But having said that, does it help one of these candidates? Clearly the Obama people feel that having a campaign based on this -- this is a very different campaign that they've conducted four years ago, is helping them. And if you look over the last few weeks, you know, this was a very close race. It was a one-point race about three or four weeks ago. And President Obama has opened up a lead, especially in some of the battleground states.

I think actually right now it is generally speaking working in Obama's favor. He's discrediting Mitt Romney in a way that -- people say, I really don't like what Obama is doing, but I can't vote for Romney, I guess I have got to vote for Obama.

COOPER: Interesting. David Gergen, appreciate your being on.

GERGEN: Thank you.

COOPER: Thanks very much.

A lot more happening tonight. In Syria, all-out warfare is not letting up. CNN's Ben Wedeman is on the ground in Aleppo, came very close to sniper fire in a very volatile neighborhood that the Syrian government is trying to take control of. We've got an update from him in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Country music star Randy Travis is in trouble again with the law. He's facing a drunk driving charge after police found him lying naked on a highway. That's not all he's charged with, though -- the full story ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: In Syria, the battle for Aleppo continues at a deadly cost. Opposition groups say 30 people died today in Aleppo alone, that 141 people were killed in violence throughout Syria. A source for the Free Syrian Army said the situation in one neighborhood in Aleppo is quiet for now, while another source with the same army said Syrian ground forces tried to enter a very volatile neighbor, but they were pushed back.

I want to check in with CNN international correspondent Ben Wedeman, who's on the ground in Syria, made it to that neighborhood, despite a lot of sniper fire.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've made it into Salahadin. We drive through a government-controlled area, but made it around the checkpoints. But now we're inside.

There are very few people actually here. There are some civilians walking around, but the biggest danger is snipers that are on buildings in this direction, firing like this. So we've had to sort of make a very roundabout route into this area.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Ben Wedeman joins me now.

Ben, what's the latest situation that you're hearing today?

WEDEMAN: Well, what we know is that the Syrian army did attempt to get into the Salahadin area, which is a critical neighborhood just on the edge of the rebel-held area, right next to the main highway between Aleppo and Damascus.

According to sources in the Free Syrian Army, about 200 foot soldiers came into that district, which is very crowded, very cramped. The roads are very narrow. They were backed up by Syrian army tanks.

However, we are told by the Free Syrian Army that they were able to repulse this attempt to retake the -- this critical neighborhood. This is really part of this long-anticipated counteroffensive by the Syrian government in Aleppo. We saw over the last few days as people were increasingly concerned that the Syrian army would try to retake this critical city for the Syrian government, but it appears that at this point they've been repulsed.

Of course, we know that the Syrian army has been reinforcing its numbers and its weaponry around the city. And of course, the very good possibility that they're going to try again tomorrow to retake Aleppo.

COOPER: In the last month or two, opposition fighters have increased their use of roadside bombs, of IEDs and bombs. I understand you've learned that they planned to use roadside bombs with -- on Syrian tanks that enter the city.

WEDEMAN: Yes. Because that's their way of sort of evening out the equation. They're clearly outnumbered and rather outgunned in every possible way. They have the advantage, however, of familiarity with the territory. Many of the fighters in Salahadin come from the neighborhood; they know it like nobody else. And they're going to be using, we were told, these improvised explosive devices to try to disable the tanks and, therefore, really stop the Syrian army in its tracks, so to speak.

COOPER: We saw when you were in Aleppo that you actually came under government sniper flyer as you entered one of the neighborhoods. What happened?

WEDEMAN: Well, we were coming into the Saladin neighborhood, which is really the front line in this battle, and unfortunately, we had a driver who hadn't been there in four days, even though he was completely confident, of course, of what he was doing.

And we rode -- went through a small intersection, and we heard the crack of several rounds very nearby. We screeched to a halt in front of a group of FSA fighters, and they said, "Are you crazy? Don't you know there's a sniper there?"

And just -- less than a minute later a yellow Aleppo taxi drove up, and in the front seat was a man who had just been shoot by a sniper, slumped over, completely bloodied by it. So yes, it was a very dodgy entrance into Aleppo.

COOPER: Ben Wedeman, my best to you and your crew. Stay safe. Thank you, Ben.

Well, here at home there are new details tonight about the final moments in the deadly shooting at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. We'll have the latest in the investigation ahead, but let's check in first with Isha and a "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNNI/HLN ANCHOR: Anderson, New York police today returned to the basement where the man charged with murdering Etan Patz says he killed the boy. Authorities say new information they've received triggered the new search of the site of a former bodega. Six-year-old Patz disappeared in 1979 while walking to his bus stop. His body was never found.

Deadly floods in the Philippines have now claimed 16 lives while putting hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. The capital of Manila has recorded 34 inches of rain in 72 hours.

Here in the U.S., the July heat wave that destroyed crops and fueled wildfires also shattered a record. The average temperature last month in the lower 48 states: 77.6 degrees Fahrenheit, more than 3 degrees higher than the record set in 1936. What's more, the first seven months of 2012 are the hottest since recordkeeping started in 1895.

And country music star Randy Travis has been released on bond after his arrest for driving while intoxicated and allegedly threatening to shoot and kill the state troopers working the case. Texas authorities say Travis was found naked on a highway, smelling of alcohol, after a one-vehicle accident -- Anderson.

COOPER: Tonight, new details about the mass shooting at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. We'll have the latest in the investigation ahead.

Plus, two very brave little kids who are being called heroes tonight, a brother and sister playing outside the temple that morning. They saw the shooter firing his weapon when he first arrived. They ran inside, warned the others. You'll hear from them just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. There's new information tonight about the final moments in the mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

FBI officials say that Wade Page, the skinhead who gunned down nine people, killing six, also now killed himself after a police officer's bullet hit him in the stomach.

There's also new details tonight about his former girlfriend. Ted Rowlands now joins me with the latest.

What do we know now? Her name was Misty Cook. She was arrested Sunday. What do we know about her?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, she was arrested, Anderson, for illegal gun possession. And the FBI wants to be very clear that that arrest has nothing to do with their investigation about the temple shooting.

They say they interviewed her, and she has been very cooperative. And at this point, they don't believe she knew anything about it or could have predicted that it could happen. They say it's still under investigation. But at this point she's basically in the clear.

We are learning a lot more about her, though. And like her boyfriend, she seems to be knee-deep in this white supremacy world. The Anti-Defamation League provided some photos for us, and a few Internet postings that they attributed to her. And in those photos you see her wearing a wearing a Volksfront T-shirt. The ADL says this is a group, a racist group. It's clearly her wearing it.

In another photo, she's at a table with friends. She has her middle finger up with some other people, but if you look at the end of the table, there's a guy who's giving a Nazi salute. Clearly, she just seemed to be knee deep in the same world that her boyfriend, Wade Page, was in.

COOPER: I was surprised to hear today that authorities now say that this -- that this man actually shot himself after being shot in the stomach. What are -- what are they saying about the chain of events leading up to him taking his own life?

ROWLANDS: Basically, what they're saying is they've been able to analyze some dash cam video from the squad car of that second officer that pulled up.

So what they say is the first officer came up and was ambushed, was shot by Page. The second officer, according to this video, shows that he shot Page in the stomach area. Page then drops to the ground in the parking lot outside the temple. And on the video, they say they can see Page then raise his gun to his head and shoot himself in the head, therefore giving himself the fatal wound.

They say they're not sure if the officer's shot would have killed him or not but clearly, he did technically take his own life.

COOPER: And in terms of the investigation, where does that stand?

ROWLANDS: They say they are actively pursuing more than 100 leads worldwide. They say they've issued out 180 subpoenas, talking to people in his past, around the United States, even around the world. They didn't want to get specific as to where around the world. They are issuing subpoenas and talking to people and pursuing leads.

But they say at this point, nothing -- nobody, nothing -- has directed their attention in terms of being involved in this. They say the only person involved at this point is Wade Page, and they have no other evidence that anyone else was involved.

COOPER: All right. Ted, appreciate the reporting. Thanks very much for being on the scene.

The death toll in Oak Creek could have been much worse. Inside the temple that morning, food was being prepared for a communal meal.

Outside a 9-year-old child named Amanat Singh was playing with her 11-year-old brother, Abhay. Now, their parents had gone to the store to buy supplies. The two kids saw the gunman approach and saw the gunman begin to shoot. Incredibly terrifying, you can imagine. Tonight they're being called heroes. Earlier, I spoke to them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Abhay, what do you remember about Sunday morning at the temple?

ABHAY SINGH, WITNESS: I remember my parents had to go get some paper plates, and they'd told us not to go outside. But it was actually really warm inside. So me and my sister, we went outside. And we found some crates, and we sat on that.

And then all of a sudden, we find this purple taxi or a four-door sedan, and he -- a white man had come out. And he -- for a second, me and my sister thought maybe he needed directions or needed -- or he needed help.

But then when he was halfway there, he got both of his pistols and he just started shooting randomly. And first -- first shot, we thought it was, like, a firework, but then when me and my sister looked at him, then we noticed he was shooting those two people. And then we ran as fast as we could inside to warn everybody in the kitchen and everywhere else to -- just to warn everybody there's a man outside with a gun.

COOPER: Were you scared?

ABHAY SINGH: We were a little bit scared.

COOPER: Yes, I can imagine.

Amanat, how about you? I understand you were celebrating your ninth birthday. Happy birthday, by the way. When you realized that someone was doing something bad and trying to hurt people, what did you think?

AMANAT SINGH, WITNESS: I felt kind of bad.

COOPER: Yes. And you guys hid inside a pantry, and you were very quiet. What happened while you were in there?

AMANAT SINGH: Well, some of the people left the gas on and all of the sudden the door -- the door shut, and the smoke was coming in and it was really hot.

COOPER: Oh, my gosh, I bet. And Kanwal, I know you were gone to the store when the shooting first occurred. I mean, it must -- I can't imagine to be separated from your kids while all this was going on.

KANWAL SINGH, MOTHER: We were very horrified. And me and my husband were outside, and they were stuck inside. So at that time we couldn't think what's going to happen next, because they were stuck inside. And we were worried, and we were praying, like hopefully we will see them again. And God was so great, you know.

COOPER: You must be very proud of your kids for having the presence of mind to run in and try to warn the adults.

K. SINGH: Yes, we are. We are proud. Like, they were safe, and they used their presence of mind. They went inside, and they warned people, like, there's somebody with a gun outside and they should be, you know, hiding anywhere, wherever they can.

COOPER: Abhay, I know a lot of people consider you and your sister to be heroes. What do you think of that?

ABHAY SINGH: I think of that -- I feel really proud of me and my sister, that we didn't run off anywhere. And we were -- we could have got everybody -- everybody could have gotten killed and same as us, too. But I -- but instead, we went inside and warned everybody, everybody in the kitchen and whoever we saw.

COOPER: I understand that your name, Abhay, means "fearless." It seems pretty appropriate, doesn't it?

ABHAY SINGH: Yes. Yes, it does, thank you.

COOPER: And Amanat, do you feel like a hero?

AMANAT SINGH: Yes, I feel like a hero.

COOPER: Yes? Well, I think you are, too. And both you and your brother. And thank you so much for talking to us. I'm glad you're both OK and, you know, just keep doing what you're doing.

K. SINGH: Thank you.

ABHAY SINGH: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: It's great that his name means fearless.

Still ahead tonight, this may be a real eye-opener. The federal government is being asked to loosen -- yes, loosen -- its cell-phone radiation standards by 20 percent. Trying to find out what that means and what impact it may have on all of us. Details ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: There's a lot more we're following. Let's check in with Isha in a "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

SESAY: Anderson, Egypt launches air strikes and deploys ground forces in Sinai in response to several attacks by masked militants at military checkpoints near the border with Israel. It's the first test for Egypt's new government.

In neighboring Libya, a power transfer. The General National Congress is now in control after the country's transitional council handed over power today. It's the first peaceful government transition there since before Moammar Gadhafi seized power back in 1969.

A "360 Follow," a 20-year-old Christian college student is planning a rally in support of the mosque that burned down this week in Joplin, Missouri. It will take place next month.

Meanwhile, investigators are trying to find out what sparked the blaze. It is the second fire at the mosque this summer.

The Government Accountability Office is urging the FCC to revise its 16-year-old cell-phone radiation standards. The agency says that the current radio frequency limits and texting requirements for mobile phones set in 1996 may not reflect the latest research.

And Anderson, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had some major fun on her visit to South Africa. Look at her tear up the dance floor during a dinner hosted by the country's foreign minister. Oh, yes. Look at her bust those moves.

COOPER: It takes guts to dance on TV; something I would never do.

SESAY: What? What do you mean?

COOPER: I would never dance on TV.

SESAY: No?

COOPER: Is that how you dance, really?

SESAY: Really, you've got other moves? I guess not. So what?

COOPER: What is that?

SESAY: I'm just saying.

COOPER: I haven't seen you dance at the 360 parties. Not that we have parties, really.

SESAY: Don't -- don't share our secrets with the public.

COOPER: You're right, you're right.

SESAY: They don't need to know. All you need to do is -- no?

COOPER: No.

SESAY: OK, fine.

COOPER: Time now for "The Shot." Proof tonight of why it pays to have a pet in the family. Check out this special moment caught on tape, a little boy and his dog.

Aww.

SESAY: That is awesome.

COOPER: I love that.

SESAY: They're happy.

COOPER: There's more to being a dog owner than taking walks, picking up messes and giving doggy baths. This is a -- well, you see what it is. It's kind of a "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" Cute. I love dogs.

All right, Isha, thanks. Coming up, a guy tries to pull a fast one at a fast-food restaurant and runs into a little bit of trouble. "The RidicuList" is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Ah, yes. Time for "The RidicuList." And tonight we're adding a group of people we're calling the real-life Hamburglars. I'm talking about people who will go to extreme lengths, allegedly, to get a taste of that sweet, sweet McDonald's. And I do like my McDonald's.

You remember the Hamburglar, right? He was in those commercials from the '70s and '80s. We'll show you a clip, but if you have coulrophobia -- yes, look it up, coulrophobia -- you might want to look away, because Ronald McDonald is in it, too.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Hamburglar. The Hamburglar is very clever and very sneaky, and he loves taking McDonald's hamburgers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Man. Creepy yet delicious.

So our first stop on the real-life Hamburglar train is Evansville, Indiana, where surveillance video caught this guy on tape at 2:30 in the morning. The glass doors of McDonald's were smashed open with a rock. And here he is trying to liberate a cash register from the counter. He seems to be having some trouble, can't get the thing to come loose, and so he gives up on the register and instead steals -- wait for it -- about 5 bucks worth of yogurt parfaits from the refrigerator and then hightails it out of there.

I do like the yogurt parfaits, as well.

So police officers who were viewing the surveillance tape of McDonald's, one of them thought he recognized the guy. And then what do you know: suddenly the suspect walks right by the store.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SGT. JASON CULLUM, EVANSVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT: He still had some glass, from when he had broken the door to get in, on him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: I guess he was returning to the scene of the crime because he forgot a spoon, maybe? You'd think he would have at least brushed the glass off first. Officers arrested him on charges of burglary, theft and criminal mischief.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CULLUM: If you're going to get the charge for breaking in, you might as well get something out of it. We've seen a little bit of everything. But you know, this one is a crime, but it was still kind of amusing for the officers that were involved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Personally, I like the fruit and walnut salads. They're also very good. Try them.

Our next real-life Hamburglar -- sorry, alleged hails from the great state of Pennsylvania. Now, this guy says it's all a big misunderstanding. But he's been cited on a misdemeanor charge of impersonating a public servant. Police say he repeatedly went to a McDonald's on Route 50 and demanded free hamburgers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was on duty.

SGT. JEFF SKEES, SCOTT TOWNSHIP POLICE DEPARTMENT: He let them believe that he was a police officer and on duty so that he could get free food. It's kind of ridiculous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, the guy says he never pretended to be a police officer, that he was just, quote, "teasing." But I think the bigger issue: Do police officers really get free food at McDonald's? I think it might be time for me to consider a career change. I like journalism and all, but it doesn't come with free Big Macs.

In any event, the one good thing about these two alleged Hamburglars is they didn't physically assault anyone. Unlike this lady in a McDonald's drive-through in Ohio we like to call our Honey Mustard, because she became enraged because she couldn't get any Chicken McNuggets, because they were still serving breakfast. Which I must say, I've run into that problem sometimes myself. I never know what time they make that switch.

Anyway, she could have gotten pancakes, but I guess she was really just in the mood for something assaulted. Thank you, try the veal. They don't serve veal.

Look, believe me, I understand the unique allure of McDonald's, but there's I'm loving it, and then there's I'm loving it too much, in that I'm willing to commit a crime for it, which could find you doing hard time for fast food and earn you a supersized spot on "The RidicuList."

OK, that's it for us. Thanks for watching, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.