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New Jobs Report; Presidential Campaigns Visit Battleground States

Aired September 7, 2012 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.

And we begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest" with a new jobs report that the president is acknowledging is just not good enough. The news is certainly not encouraging, not for the millions of Americans who are out of work and not for the president who's coming off a convention that touted over and over how many jobs were created on his watch.

The new report from the Labor Department today shows unemployment fell to 8.1 percent in August, down from 8.3 percent in July. But when you look closely, the reason behind that drop is largely because people have stopped looking for work. Lots of people. Some 368,000 people, and many of them young people.

In fact, the number of people of working age who are either working or actively looking for work now stands at 63.5 percent, which is a 30-year low. Pretty bleak report, one that seems almost impossible to put a positive spin on. But with the presidential election, less than nine weeks away, the spin goes on. Here's what President Obama said today.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, we learned that after losing around 800,000 jobs a month when I took office, business once again added jobs for the 30th month in a row, a total of more than 4.6 million jobs.


BARACK OBAMA: But -- but that's not good enough. We know it's not good enough. We need to create more jobs faster.


COOPER: To be fair, the president acknowledged today and has consistently acknowledged there's still work to do. We need more jobs and faster. What he said today echoed a mantra that came up over and over at the Democratic National Convention. The addition of new jobs every month for more than two years, to the tune of 4.5 million jobs. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have since created 4.5 million private sector jobs in the past 29 months.

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: This past July, the economy added 172,000 jobs, the 29th consecutive month of private sector job gains.


HILDA SOLIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF LABOR: Four-and-a-half million.

JULIAN CASTRO (D), MAYOR OF SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS: Four-and-a-half million new jobs.

CLINTON: President Obama, plus 4.5 million. Congressional Republicans, zero.


COOPER: Over and over, the president, Democratic leaders, talked about 4.5 million jobs.

But "Keeping Them Honest," what they don't seem to want to talk about is the kind of jobs that have been added. That's important to know. Jobs have been created in the past four years, but more than half of them, 58 percent, have been low-wage jobs. That's according to a report by the National Employment Law Project.

That backs up another report from the Labor Department that shows more than half of the workers who lost jobs and manage to find new ones are now working for lower pay. Focusing on just this latest jobs report that was released today, yes, 96,000 new jobs were added in August but that's still some 24,000 fewer than what economists were expecting.

Economists called the report disappointing and say at least 150,000 jobs have to be created each month just to keep pace with the population. We don't have to tell the 12.5 million people who are out of work about disappointment. They know far too well the challenges facing them and their families. President Obama certainly knows the stakes are high.

No president since Roosevelt during the Depression has been reelected with more than 7.2 unemployment rate.

A lot to dig into. I spoke to chief business correspondent Ali Velshi, senior political analyst David Gergen and chief national correspondent John King.


COOPER: Ali, is there any possible way to spin this, any legitimate bright spots or is this report as bad as it sounds?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it wasn't a loss of jobs. I suppose you could spin it that way.

I suppose if I were in the business of spinning this, I would say that half of this has to do with Congress and its intransigence and the fact we don't know what's going to happen and that creates a certain amount of anxiety from businesses hoping to hire people and half of it is Europe, the lack of demand from Europe.

We saw a manufacturing job loss of 15,000 jobs. That is clearly stuff that the U.S. manufactures that isn't being bought overseas. Look, I have always been of the view, and David may share this view, that presidents get altogether too much credit and too much blame for job creation and job loss.

But the reality is this is not a great number. If I were Barack Obama and I have three more job reports, this was one of them and there's two more before the election, I would want this one to have been above 150,000 which is the number you need just to sort keep things level and a bit more.

So no, the White House put up a pretty tepid response, saying we have created jobs in the private sector for more than 30 months. That is absolutely true. But no, 96,000 jobs in a month is absolutely not acceptable.

COOPER: David, what kind of an impact do you think this will have on any potential convention bounce, if there was one?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it can have a dampening effect. There's no question that Democrats leaving Charlotte this morning, the euphoria of just a couple nights ago after the Bill Clinton speech when they really thought they could get a breakthrough, that had largely disappeared after the jobs growth came out after President Obama's speech last night.

They're not expecting much of a bounce. It could be something. Gallup has shown a bit of a bounce. Two other polls are not.

COOPER: John, it's interesting. We talked a lot about before how the jobless picture in key swing states like Ohio is actually better than the in the rest of the country. And President Obama's been polling better in those states than he has overall. We don't obviously have polls taken after the convention or the new job report. But has that trend kept up all summer? Is there any reason to believe it won't last?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There has been a pretty steady static nature. He's up a little bit in Ohio. He's up a little bit in Iowa. Those are two states where the unemployment rate is down a bit from when Obama became president.

They have been pretty steady. The question here is the psychological effect. Remember, Bill Clinton said, of course, we're better off, and cited some statistics. The president says I know it's tough. I haven't been perfect at everything. But yes, we are better off. We're heading in the right direction. Democrats leave as David said feeling great, taking this as a psychological boost, and then the morning after they get this get this thump. It is an anemic recovery at best. Does he hold Ohio? Who knows? It's a very much harder case now, the manufacturing jobs especially. How many people at that convention said made in America is making a comeback and then that happens.

Look, life and politics are not fair, but timing matters in politics and the timing here bad for the president.

GERGEN: Anderson, if I could just amplify on that a bit.

You know, what the president laid out last night was we have two paths. One goes in the Republican direction. One goes in the Democratic direction. He laid out a strong case for why follow me. But with the jobs report today, the Republicans say, yes, but your path is the road to nowhere.

COOPER: Right.

Ali, if the Fed does make a move in the wake of this report, nothing that happens at this point would really make a real impact by Election Day, right?

VELSHI: Correct. The Fed is meeting next Thursday. Ben Bernanke's been very clear that this is largely -- if there's anything that Washington can do, it's not actually Barack Obama, it's Congress. It's dealing with the fiscal cliff. It's dealing with the budget. It's getting things in order so that businesses don't have uncertainty about whether they have to lay people off or what they're going to pay next year.

If the Fed takes action, which is in the form of what they call quantitative easing, the third installment, you will hear it as QE3, that means the Fed injecting money in to economy, trading that for bonds with the banks. Banks then have more money that they can lend out to people.

And over time that means people get credit and businesses can expand. Businesses do not expand without the demand to justify that expansion. The bottom line is if the Fed does something next Thursday, there's a trickle-down effect. It takes a while. It is not going to be a quick fix. The question is whether or not the administration can somehow say that whether or not Barack Obama were the president, there would be more effective job growth.

My general opinion is the Congress and its intransigence compared with and contrasted with Europe and its problems are what is contributing to our lack of growth. Unclear whether it has anything to do with the president, but right now he's wearing that badge of honor.

COOPER: David, I see you shaking your head.

GERGEN: I don't understand why, Ali, why you're placing all the blame on Congress. After all, the fiscal cliff is one that has come as a result of an agreement between the White House and the Congress to reach an understanding about how to go forward.

Bob Woodward's new book suggests that the idea of a fiscal cliff actually came from the president himself. So I think it's Washington in the minds of most people.


VELSHI: I think that's probably true, David. I'm always loathe to disagree with you because I think you know a lot more about this than I do. But the bottom line is it is the uncertainty that prevents...


GERGEN: That I agree with.


VELSHI: If you think that the fiscal cliff is going to come and you're going to have to lay people off or you're going to lose a government contract or a defense contract, you're not hiring anybody right now. You're going to wait until January or February to find out what the truth really is.

So yes, whoever's to blame for the fiscal cliff, I think Congress and Washington, I agree with you, bears half the blame for this. The other half is the global economy and Europe. I don't think either of that has to do with the president all that clearly.

KING: But no president since the Great Depression, Anderson, has been reelected with the unemployment rate this high. That is the historical barrier Barack Obama is trying to clear. This does not help.

COOPER: John, you have been talking a lot about the small number of people who are kind of undecided, the small number of people still yet to make a call. How much are they impacted by these numbers?

KING: It's a great question because we want to see how this plays out. This is a national number we got. We will get new state numbers before the election.

I'm going to go out to the battleground states and talk to people up close and personal. If they don't think things are getting better, they go shopping for something new. If you don't like your car, you go to a new dealer.

I talked to some Republicans who did some focus groups last night. Remember, these are Republicans. But they say these focus groups are independent voters. They said they came away feeling a little bit better about the president's speech, but that he didn't make the sale. He didn't complete the sale to them last night.

So the Republicans were a bit nervous that the president maybe had them open their minds to a second term. They think this jobs number today is going to have a whole lot people... (CROSSTALK)

VELSHI: Anderson, we know the president knew those numbers last night and that's why his performance was a little tepid.

Here's the problem. This White House has been generally ineffective at carrying a message for a long time. Mitt Romney came out with a number. He said he will create 12 million jobs over four years, which is 250,000 jobs per month. And the reality is in an economy that grows at 1.7 percent, that is not possible. So what you're up against is a president who has not created that kind of job creation vs. Mitt Romney who says take a chance on me. The other guy didn't work out that well.

It's disingenuous on both parts. But that's what this campaign has come down to, convincing people to vote for me because I'm saying I can create more jobs than the other guy can.

GERGEN: Anderson, one more footnote...


GERGEN: ... if I might add which is I found interesting.

If you look at the jobs report today, I think it's true, Ali, that a lot of people coming into jobs are older and a lot of the people leaving the work force in this job report are younger. And the young are the very people President Obama wants to draw to him.

COOPER: That's a good point.

David, thanks very much. John King, Ali Velshi, guys, thanks very much.

KING: Thank you.

GERGEN: Thank you.


COOPER: Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter at @AndersonCooper. I will be tweeting tonight, also on Instagram.

It was a day of dueling campaign stops in Iowa and New Hampshire and both campaigns visited tossup states. The messages they brought and the "Raw Politics" on that ahead. We will talk to Mary Matalin and Paul Begala.

Plus, Clint Eastwood is finally speaking out about his, I don't know, convention speech/performance. Well, whatever you call it, he's speaking out about it. Does he regret the whole empty chair/invisible Obama routine? Ahead.


COOPER: A lot of "Raw Politics" on day one of the final stretch of the presidential race, 60 days of campaigning to go, just 60 days.

New Hampshire and Iowa both battleground states were the first stops for both campaigns. No surprise there. Here's what President Obama told a crowd just hours ago in Iowa City.


OBAMA: President Clinton point out that the single biggest thing missing from my opponent's plan is arithmetic. It doesn't add up. You do the math. If you want to lower the deficit, but we're spending $5 trillion on tax cuts for folks who don't need it and weren't even asking for it how's that going to work?


COOPER: Obama started his day in New Hampshire. Mitt Romney did the reverse. Here's what he said a short time ago at a rally in New Hampshire.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I expect him to report, to come to the American people and say, when I ran four years ago, here are the promises made, and then describe why it was or why it was not that he was able to carry out his promise. But he didn't talk about that. Instead, it was a whole new series promises. He didn't deliver on the last ones. Why should we expect him to deliver on these?


COOPER: CNN national political correspondent Jim Acosta is with the Romney campaign in New Hampshire. He joins me now live.

Jim, you have been with Mitt Romney nearly all week. He clearly feels that bad jobs report is his ticket to success in November. But there are some perils with that, no?


Keep in mind, Anderson, if that jobs report had come out today after what was a fairly successful Democratic Convention and it said that 250,000 jobs were created and that the unemployment rate had ticked below 8 percent, this would have been a very different campaign day for Mitt Romney.

But instead he got what was some pretty good news for his campaign. That unemployment rate only ticked down to 8.1 percent. And that was because a lot people got out of the work force. So if you were to create a word cloud or do a word count of what Mitt Romney had to say today, Anderson, promises would be one of the biggest words in that word count because he kept hitting that all day long saying the president just isn't keeping the promises he made in 2008 to get this economy going again.

To be fair to the president, there were some promises he did keep, one being that he'd reform the health care system. He did talk about that back in 2008. But he was firing off a good number of attack lines today.

Just a few moments ago, he touched on the temporary absence of the word God in the Democratic platform. Mitt Romney telling this crowd just a few moments ago here in Nashua that God was in the Declaration of Independence, so he did go after the Democrats on that one as well.

COOPER: The Romney campaign they also released a blizzard of ads today, 15 ads in I think eight battleground states. He has now got access to a lot campaign cash, right?

ACOSTA: That's right.

Ever since he accepted the GOP nomination, the switch was flipped. He is now spending general election money. Up until that point, he was spending primary money. As you know, Anderson, he's been raising about $100 million every month. He's on pace to do that until Election Day.

So, yes, that is where all this money is coming from to pay for these ads. And if you look at those ads, they have been tailored to each individual state. So for Virginia and Colorado, there are defense-oriented ads because the defense industry is so critical to those two states.

When I asked a senior Romney strategist who was on hand here, what about the absence of Wisconsin and Michigan, why weren't those states targeted in these ads, they said stay tuned. And I think that means that more ads are on the way, Anderson.

COOPER: Jim Acosta, appreciate the reporting. Thank you very much.

A lot of "Raw Politics" in Iowa and New Hampshire today. Let's talk about it with CNN political contributor and Republican strategist Mary Matalin, also CNN contributor Paul Begala who we want to point out advises a pro-Obama super PAC.

Paul, it's been about 24 hours or so, a little less, since the president's speech. What do you make of it now in the cold light of day or in the dark light of the new night?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I was still parsing it until 2:30 in the morning hanging out with my friends, Pit Bull and Sister Scissors, or Scissor Sisters, these bands we had at our PAC's rally last night.

So I may be a little blurry. But I really liked the speech a lot. It was not as beautiful and elegant frankly as the speech in Denver four years ago. Nor should it have been. This is a really smart guy, President Obama. And he understands that he needed last night to give us the way forward. I heard Mitt Romney attacking it. But the most important thing either one of these men can do is tell us at least the framework, tell us the path, the blueprint, where do you want to take us if we hire you for this job.

Romney punted on that. It was a huge mistake. His convention all in all was pretty good. The Democratic was almost flawless.


COOPER: But were there specifics though in President Obama's speech? You say it's a framework. It was kind of broad, no?

BEGALA: It was much more focused than Governor Romney's for sure. It was not as specific as a Bill Clinton speech, but nothing is. The technical schematic diagrams that Bill Clinton puts in his speech are impossible for anybody else.

This president lined out specific goals on energy, education, national security, manufacturing jobs. And I really like that. That's a little more prosaic, frankly, but Governor Cuomo, Mario Cuomo, the father of the current governor of New York, used to say you campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose.

This was much more of a prose speech. But I liked it because I think that's what those swing voters want is, don't give me all your high-blown rhetoric. Give me your path forward. Romney failed to do that. Obama achieved it.

COOPER: Mary, according to today's Gallup daily tracking poll, perhaps a little bit of a sign of some sort of bounce. The president is getting something, a preliminary bounce. His approval rating has climbed above the 50 percent mark to 52 percent. I think last time it was that high was after bin Laden was killed.

Does that number worry you at all or do you think these new job numbers now are going to eliminate any bounce that might have been achieved?

MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Anderson, there are two headlines this morning, that both the president and the economy underperformed.

I'm not saying the speech was a failure. It's hard for Obama to live up to his own stratospheric expectations and thoughts about himself. But this was not a convention that was directed at swing votes. It was a convention directed to pump up the base. It was all about abortion. They're applauding the president of NARAL, whether booing God. That was a very base convention.

I don't know that he said anything in his speech that would have been appealing to independents. He was largely defensive, saying we're not saying government's the solution to everything. We respect entrepreneurs. We're not anti-business.

So it was very defensive and everybody's looking at the same polls. He knows what his weaknesses are. I would say no one should be looking for any bounces off of either of these conventions because of the limited number of people who remain undecided. It's a record low number. It's a polarized electorate. What we did see in the target, a lot of the target states is the lowering of Romney's negatives that the president had pushed up through all that massive -- Paul's commercials and negative spots and all. Now it's a head to head. It's a virtual tie in RealClearPolitics. It measures all of these things. Averages all of them. It's a virtual tie, which is an improvement for Romney's positions.

COOPER: Paul, isn't the issue of what God not being in the platform early on, Mary said they were booing God, others will say, no, there was -- what they didn't like was the process by which this thing was being voted on. People didn't think it was two-thirds. That's what people were booing about.

Whatever, you can't -- you would have to go around and ask everybody what they were booing or upset about. But do you think this has lasting impact? Because you saw Mitt Romney talk about it today.

BEGALA: No, he did, but it doesn't have lasting impact because the mistake was corrected by President Obama and his team. They moved in.

We talked about this in Charlotte. Do not ask me to defend leaving God out of my party's platform or the problem the original platform this year had with Jerusalem, where Democrats have for years said the capital of Israel's Jerusalem. The United States government should recognize that. That was left out of my party's platform.

But President Obama put it back in. He was informed about what the platform said. He said those two things are not consistent with my views and values and my party changed them. We took a hit for doing that. We looked kind of bumbling for about 15 minutes. The difference with the Republican Party, Mitt Romney claims the platform doesn't reflect his views on abortion.

He claims today as of 8:24 p.m. Eastern that he supports exceptions to his ban on abortion in cases of rape and incest. The party platform does not acknowledge those exceptions. Romney did not intercede to change his party's platform because he doesn't have the courage of his convictions. I think all in all the Democrats looked better on this than the Republicans.

COOPER: Mary, I want you to be able to respond to that.

But I also want to ask you about Clint Eastwood, Mary, because he is now speaking for the first time about his shtick at the GOP convention. He spoke to "The Carmel Pine Cone" which I'm sure you're familiar with. It's a small California newspaper.

But he said -- he called Obama -- quote -- "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." He said he was aiming at people in the middle of the speech and he sort speaks for the ordinary American.

MATALIN: He also said, and I caught this right from the beginning, his third goal was to let the country know that not everybody in Hollywood is a loony left, that there are a lot of conservatives out there. I know that to be the case.

I find it sad, I find it despicable that so many conservatives who work and lived in the Hollywood business, in the film business, in the entertainment business, have to be closeted because of their political views. So that was the first goal he met.

To people with receptive ears, it was music to my ears. He did make the point that normal people understand -- have understood from almost the outset, which is the emperor has no clothes. Barack Obama was an empty vessel that everyone filled up with all their hopes and all their desires and all their best wishes. And it turned out to be an empty -- in this metaphor, the empty chair, but it could be the emperor has no suit.

But there's no there there. I thought it was brilliant. We're still talking about it. Had a barrage of favorable tweets in all of the blogosphere, whatever that world is out there, so real people thought it was great. Sort of the inside the beltway political people were just tsk, tsk, tsking. Whenever they're all universally tsk, tsk, tsking, I know we have done something great.

COOPER: Paul, I will you quickly respond.

BEGALA: Let me refer to my Latin. The thing speaks for itself.

In this case, if the Romney thought it was such a great thing, they would be running ads on it. I was proud my party didn't bash Clint Eastwood. It was too easy, frankly. I have reviewed President Clinton's speech with him. There were some people that wanted to put some kind of cheap shots about Eastwood in there. Clinton wouldn't have anything to do with it.

But now if Mr. Eastwood is actually pretending, or claiming, maybe he believes that that really odd performance was somehow targeted for the middle, maybe the middle of Fifth Avenue, some guy naked pushing a shopping cart. But, no, it was really -- it was just painful. He is an icon, I love his movies.

But, Mary, seriously -- and I'm like a professional hyperbolist. That is like the greatest example of spin I have ever heard in my life.


MATALIN: I'm not spinning, Paul. I thought that when I saw it and had the same fight with James. And he called and gave me your spin.

I'm like, you're not a normal person. You watch this convention like someone who hates conservatives and thinks that the sun rises on Obama.


MATALIN: Normal people out there completely understood what he was saying and understand him as the iconic person that he is. (CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: This is Mary's problem. She lives with James Carville so she can no longer recognize crazy. So you have got to give her a break.



MATALIN: That's a good point. OK, on that, we will agree.

COOPER: We will leave it there on that.

Mary, appreciate it. Paul, thanks very much. Have a good weekend.

BEGALA: Thank you.

COOPER: There are growing concerns tonight about a deadly virus outbreak at Yosemite National Park. This is a bizarre story. A third person has now died from this thing. It's called the hantavirus.

Park officials are scrambling to alert thousands of visitors who may have been exposed, thousands. Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins me ahead to explain this thing.


COOPER: Important medical news tonight. A third person who recently visited Yosemite National Park has died from the hanta virus. And park officials are concerned that far more people than they first thought may have actually been exposed to it.

Hanta virus is carried by mice. There's no cure, but early detection and treatment can be crucial. So there are eight -- so far eight confirmed cases in people who visited the park this summer, a peak season, obviously, for Yosemite.

Now, at first park officials thought the risk was limited to 10,000 people who stayed in tent cabins in one of the park's campgrounds. But like we said, that number could be much higher. Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, joins me now.

So what is hanta virus? Can you explain it?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It is a -- it's a pretty rare virus. I mean, this isn't something a lot of people have heard about, because there just aren't that many cases. But it's a virus that's carried by rodents, specifically.

And with a lot of these viruses, Anderson, as you know, the animal does not get sick. So it's very hard to figure out, you know, which exactly of the rodents are carriers.

But what happens is these rodents get into these camp sites. There's droppings, you know, from saliva, from various -- urine, for example, from the rodents. And what happens is when they're cleaning the camp site or someone starts to occupy the camp site, if it hasn't been occupied in a while, that gets aerosolized. It gets into the air. People breathe that in. and that's how you get sick.

COOPER: So someone gets the virus how, by breathing it in the droppings or something?

GUPTA: Most commonly, that's the way. You know, they technically could also get it, for example, if they got a bite from a mouse that was carrying the hanta virus. They might also get it, for example, if they touch something that had the hanta virus on it, and then they subsequently touched their nose and their mouth. They contaminate themselves that way.

But typically, you imagine, Anderson, the scenario is you walk into a camp site that hasn't been occupied in a while. People may be sweeping it up, trying to, you know, make it clean, even sleeping on some of the -- sleeping in the beds, for example. You can aerosolize, again, some of the virus. And that's the most common route.

COOPER: And how do you know you have it? What are the symptoms?

GUPTA: Well, you know, this is more challenging because, you know, like a lot of the other things that we've been talking about, including West Nile, for example, there is an incubation period. So you don't get sick right away. So you can imagine that you've got to sort of figure out, you know, is there some -- were you at some risk? So people are going into the doctors right now with flu-like symptoms.

One critical thing is that they often affect the large muscle groups. People get muscle aches. And it's often the large muscle groups like in your back and in your hips, in the back of your thighs. So those are some of the early signs, Anderson.

COOPER: So if someone thinks they've contracted the virus, what should you do?

GUPTA: Well, if -- if you sort of fit the criteria -- you're getting flu-like symptoms this time of year, you've visited a Web site -- you should see your doctor. I mean, there's not a specific sort of therapy for this. But when you look at these particular campsites and you figure out that there's been, you know, 20,000 people maybe that have visited these campsites over this summer, there's going to be a population of people who are going to develop these flu-like symptoms.

If it gets particularly bad and what happens there is that you develop pulmonary symptoms. People have a hard time breathing. And take a look at this, Anderson. On the left, that's a normal chest X- ray. I think everybody can tell that the one on the right has been badly affected. You see all that white area.


GUPTA: That's what the virus does to the lungs. And that's why those three people that you just mentioned died. They developed symptoms like this.

COOPER: Sanjay, appreciate the update, thanks.

GUPTA: You got it, thank you.

COOPER: Scary stuff.

There's more we're reporting on tonight. Susan Hendricks joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Susan.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is back in Washington tonight after receiving treatment for bipolar depression at the Mayo Clinic. Jackson's aides say they hope he will be back on Capitol Hill on Monday.

To Syria where an opposition group says 130 people were killed by government forces today. The opposition claims 40 of those deaths happened in the capital of Damascus and its suburbs.

Prince Harry is back in the war zone in Afghanistan. The Apache helicopter pilot will serve a four-month deployment. Prince Harry will be assisting NATO and Afghan forces from his base in Helmond province, a Taliban danger zone. Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Susan, thanks very much.

A young mother murdered by her former boyfriend. Her family is still seeking justice, even though her killer pled guilty. He vanished after the feds say a stunning move was made by the judge, the district attorney and another attorney. It's our "Crime & Punishment" report ahead.


COOPER: A grisly murder mystery in the French Alps, with two little girls orphaned in the attack. Will they be able to tell police who killed their parents and two others?


COOPER: "Crime & Punishment" tonight. A mother in South Texas awaits justice after her daughter was murdered back in 2005.

Now, the killer confessed to the crime, but he's vanished. He's on the run. And it's all linked to a bizarre alleged corruption case. At the center of the case is a county district attorney, a man sworn to uphold the law. That's him. He's under federal indictment, accused of racketeering, bribery, extortion and fraud.

Now, this case has a lot of angles to it. Our Gary Tuchman tries to sort it all out.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Her body was found on a remote stretch of beach on Texas' South Padre Island. Hermila Hernandez was 31 years old, a teacher, the mother of three. The man accused of fatally shooting her: Amit Livingston, a former boyfriend who had incentive to plea bargain, because there was overwhelming evidence against him and he could have received the death penalty.

Hermila's mother and sister trusted that the district attorney in Cameron County would make the right decision. The D.A., they thought, seemed like such an honorable man.

(on camera) Did he look you in the eye?

MONICA GARCIA, SISTER OF VICTIM: Yes, straight in the eye.

TUCHMAN: What did he say?

M. GARCIA: That he was there for my sister. That he was there to defend her and be her lawyer. Straight in our face. I mean, you would believe him if you were there.

TUCHMAN: Amit Livingston pleaded guilty to the murder, seemingly sparing Hermila's family the agony of a trial. I say seemingly, because shortly after the plea, everything went haywire.

(voice-over) Livingston received a 23-year prison sentence on the day he made his plea. But inexplicably, the judge ruled Livingston could have 60 days of freedom to get ready for prison without any bond. The murderer never came back. He's now been on the run for five years.

HERMILA GARCIA, MOTHER OF VICTIM (through translator): I'm in incredible pain. I hurt. I have such pain over my daughter's murder. I struggle to fight it, but it defeats me.

TUCHMAN: Here's what makes it even worse. The D.A., the man the family trusted so much, allegedly pocketed a chunk of the $500,000 in bail money the murderer was using during the case. Armando Villalabos is accused of taking $80,000 of it.

In a blistering 34-page indictment, federal prosecutors say the D.A., the judge and the lawyer representing the victim's children in the civil suit against the murderer agreed to give some of the bail money to the children. That would be proper.

What was stunningly improper, according to the feds, is that the attorney for the children gave huge cuts of the cash to the D.A. and to the judge. The judge has pleaded guilty and he's talking, aiding the federal prosecutors in the case. The feds say the D.A. was the leader of the enterprise.

(on camera) Armando Villalabos is accused of bribery, extortion and racketeering and faces the possibility of many years in prison. Yet, incredibly, despite being indicted and facing a trial, Villalabos does not feel the legal or moral obligation to step down. See, Armando Villalabos is still the district attorney.

(voice-over) The law does not require Villalabos to step down. But can he fairly and conscientiously run an office that prosecutes criminals and protect citizens? In a statement he gave just before his indictment, he said yes.

ARMANDO VILLALABOS, D.A.: We're going to go forward. I'm not going to resign. I'm innocent of all charges. I look forward to going to court so we can get this thing over with.

TUCHMAN: Villalabos has acknowledged not opposing the killer's release while in open court but claims he told the judge he was against the idea during a meeting in the judge's chambers.

But unfortunately for Villalabos, this man was also in that meeting. Greg Gladden was the attorney for the murderer.

(on camera) Whose idea was it for Livingston to get out without bond?


TUCHMAN: Absolutely?

GLADDEN: Absolutely.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Gladden, who was in no way implicated in the shenanigans in this case, is astounded that Villalabos hasn't stepped down as D.A. and explained that, if his client did not agree to immediate sentencing, the bond money would not be freed up.

In hindsight he thinks his client was offered the 60 days of freedom without bond to ensure he would agree to a rapid sentencing and not mess up the scheme.

(on camera) In your career, how many murderers who have been sentenced to 23 years in prison or more have you seen sentenced and then freed without bond?

GLADDEN: It's never happened. I mean, it's -- not that I've never seen it, it's never happened in Texas.

TUCHMAN: So you must have been sitting there going, "What is going on? But this is my client, I'm not going to object to him being freed."

GLADDEN: That's exactly right.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The corruption involving this murder case is one part of a larger federal probe here in south Texas that involves a dozen people on this and other cases. Most of the 12 have already pleaded guilty. South Texas has a sorry history of political corruption says this history scholar.

ANTHONY KNOPP, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT BROWNSVILLE: Shocked with the extent of this particular situation, yes. I think we were apprised or shocked by it. But when another episode of corruption is on the evening news, well, that's just the way things seem to go down here. TUCHMAN: The district attorney has not taken reporter questions since his indictment.

(on camera) I'm Gary Tuchman with CNN. Can we speak with the district attorney? His personal lawyer and his associates in his office said he would not talk to us.

H. GARCIA (through translator): It wasn't worth it for them to do this, for them to let him walk away free for money. They let him walk free.

TUCHMAN: The brutal murder or Hermila, the disappearance of her murderer, and allegations that lawyers who were supposed to help them instead grubbed for blood money. For this family, it's too much to bear.

M. GARCIA: This is a nightmare. A true nightmare.


COOPER: So Gary, when is the D.A.'s trial?

TUCHMAN: Well, Anderson, the D.A. and the lawyer representing the children will go on trial this April. Both men asked a federal judge to drop the charges, saying the indictment was too vague. The judge disagreed.

What's interesting is when this D.A. goes on trial in April, he will no longer be the D.A., not because he's quitting. We don't know anything about him quitting. But because his term comes to an end at the end of this year.

What we do know about this district attorney is that he's accused of being a very selfish criminal, yet he's still prosecuting criminals.

COOPER: Does the murderer's attorney know where his client is?

TUCHMAN: That's another interesting thing about this case. Based on what prosecutors say, he's the honorable guy in this situation. He says that he, frankly, wasn't surprised that his client disappeared based on what happened. Nevertheless, his client promised him he would come back. He's not back.

And what the attorney, Greg Gladden, is telling us is that he doesn't believe his client is in the United States, because he would have been caught by now. He's an Indian American, and the attorney believes his client is somewhere in India.

COOPER: All right, Gary, appreciate it. Thanks. We'll continue to follow it.

A murder mystery also now in the French Alps. We'll tell you about a family attacked. Two young girls survived, including a 4- year-old who hid for hours inside the family's car underneath bodies. Can they actually help police solve the crime? Details ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. A 7-year-old British girl who was in France with her family could be the key to solving a chilling murder mystery.

The little girl was found severely injured outside this bullet- riddled car in a parking lot in the French Alps. Now inside the car, her parents and an unidentified woman were shot to death. A French cyclist was found nearby, also shot to death. Four killings in all.

Hours later, police realized that the little girl's sister, who was just 4 years old, was actually hiding inside the car behind her mother's body, too scared to even move. Her 7-year-old sister is in a medically-induced coma. Police hope she can tell them what happened.

I spoke to CNN's Dan Rivers about the case.


COOPER: So Dan, what are the latest developments in the murders?

DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a real profound sense of shock here in the quiet London suburb of Claygate. People still digesting the news that the family in the house behind me were targeted in such a brutal way.

We're still waiting for more details, really, from the French police. We know they're looking for two vehicles that were seen near the shooting. A motorcycle and a green 4-by-4. French detectives are coming to the U.K. to work closely with the British police. It is a French investigation that is leading this.

And people still just digesting the news of what happened, mainly that the family, it appears, were targeted in a kind of execution- style shooting. Three adults in the car shot through the head. A child, a 7-year-old child, shot as she tried, apparently, to flee. She was found on the road outside.

Amazingly, the 4-year-old girl who was cowering in the back of the car stayed in there, wasn't discovered for eight hours. Police finally finding her under the body of her mother.

COOPER: And no leads on motive right now?

RIVERS: It's a complete mystery at the moment. There was a suggestion in the media here that there was some sort of falling out, a family feud with his brother. But now we're told that the brother went immediately to the police station here in the U.K. -- he lives nearby -- on hearing the news. They seem to be playing down that motive, although they're keeping an open mind. At the moment there is absolutely no clarity of why on earth this family were targeted.

COOPER: And is there any word on how the two surviving girls are? Are they under police protection? RIVERS: They are, yes. The elder girl, Zainab, who's 7 years old, is still in a coma, we're told, an induced coma. She's under armed guard in a French hospital. The younger girl, Zeena, who's 4, is obviously deeply traumatized. The police have talked to her, you know, very briefly. And really saying that she didn't see much of the attack at all. That she apparently could have dived down into the foot well of the car almost immediately.

COOPER: Poor little girls. Dan Rivers, appreciate the reporting. Thanks.


COOPER: Let's check back in with Susan Hendricks with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Susan.

HENDRICKS: Anderson, lawyers for Drew Peterson may appeal his murder conviction. He was found guilty yesterday of killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio. Two witnesses testified that his fourth wife, Stacy, who disappeared five years ago, told them that Peterson killed Savio. Defense attorneys call that testimony hearsay.

A Philadelphia man has been charged with calling in a false threat that a passenger aboard a U.S. Airways flight had a bomb. Apparently, the caller was trying to get back at the passenger over a Facebook posting.

And Wall Street closed out the trading week in the black. The Dow, NASDAQ and S&P all finished higher today, and all three rose for the week as a whole.

A mother in China has come up with a novel way to tell her quadruplets apart. She did this. She shaved their hair, giving them numbers from 1 to 4 on the tops of their heads. Her mom says her 6- year-old boys are identical and that their teachers feared they would not be able to tell the boys apart in school. We think that should do it now.

Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Susan, thanks.

Coming up, what is it about bad weather that makes people get naked and show up on the news? "The RidicuList" is next.


COOPER: It's that time of the night for "The RidicuList," and tonight we're catching up on some very pressing post-Tropical Storm Isaac news.

Now watch what happened in Arkansas when a camera from local news station KARK was rolling on a couple and their dog, Buddy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is this out here we got?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what he was, Buddy was looking at.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to sic Buddy on him. Do you know him? Jim, do you know this gentleman?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We ought to go out there and start and ass kicking contest.


COOPER: Yes. A naked guy just nonchalantly wondered out of the woods. That's a thing that happens, apparently. Maybe it happens all the time and this is just the first time a camera was actually around to capture it. Who knows?

In any event, I'm happy to report there was no ass-kicking contest. Instead, a neighbor decided to call the police.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a naked man standing out in the middle of the damn street with privates in his hand, just standing. No ma'am, don't want to get close to him. You can't miss him now. He's right in the dead middle of the road.


COOPER: Sure is sitting right in the middle of the road there. So the guy was arrested, charged with indecent exposure. And here's a shocker, public intoxication.

Now, I don't know what it is about inclement weather that inspires people to go au naturale. This actually is not the first time we have seen this phenomenon. Oh, no. During Hurricane Irene coverage, live on the Weather Channel, for instance, the forecast was, as they say, cloudy with a chance of meatballs.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... incredibly -- a ton of people have been coming out. We're talking about dozens of people -- wow, timing. And I'm pretty much speechless.


COOPER: And it's not just hurricanes that seem to inspire the unclad masses. A good, old-fashioned snow storm can do it, too, apparently.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been out a couple hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cold out here. Woo!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So people are just out of their minds. You know? What are you going to do? I mean, it's not...


COOPER: I've seen that a million times. In retrospect, I suppose I should just be glad that the guy who tried to run into my live shot during Hurricane Ike was fully clothed.


COOPER: We are live throughout these next two hours. Then Larry King takes it live. Then we take it live for another hour. We have much more coverage of Hurricane Ike still coming up. There's a lot of people, if you can believe it or not, in Houston, a couple bars are still open.


COOPER: Yes, if you can believe it or not, a couple bars are open. That was how I tried to segue from that.

First comes the rain, the wind, then the streakers and the chicken suits. Even after the storm passes, there's always a chance of naked guys strolling out of the woods. No one said covering the weather was easy.

That's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.