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Debate Aftermath; Presidential Body Language; Body Language Key in Debate; Turkey Authorizes Military Action in Syria

Aired October 4, 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 the gap between winning and spinning. With the first presidential debate now history, the verdict is in.

A string of pundits left, right, center agree, and so do nonpartisan observers and the undecided voters that we polled. Now, according to Wolf Blitzer's sources, so does President Obama himself even. Mitt Romney had a very good night last night and President Obama did not.

Here's the headline in Denver, where the debate was held and where this morning the hometown paper scores it round one Romney. The left-leaning's John Dickerson calling it the best moment of Mitt Romney's campaign.

Obama supporter Andrew Sullivan calls it the president's worst public performance bar none of his campaign. Last night, "TIME" magazine's Joe Klein asked did the president send out his body double tonight?

Critical reviews across the board is the consensus and effectively it's also the political reality now staring team Obama in the face. There is also no denying that no matter who wins or loses a given debate, each side immediately tries to convince you and us that their candidate came out ahead.

There's even that designated spin room, that's the one in Denver, and, yes, they actually call it that, the spin room, which is everyone's way of saying with a wink and a nod that we know that you know that we know that you know that we're trying to bamboozle you. Again, that's a given.

Both sides spin. But "Keeping Them Honest" tonight, there's spin and then there's spin. Shortly after President Obama turned in a performance in which he was widely perceived as dull and downcast and Mitt Romney was seen as being upbeat, Obama campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter tried to paint Mitt Romney this way.


STEPHANIE CUTTER, OBAMA 2012 DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Mitt Romney, yes, he absolutely wins the preparation and he wins the style points. But that's not what's been dogging his campaign. And you know what's worse, he got testy about it. He got testy about being on defense. I think that came across to the American people.


COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest," though, it's hard to find evidence for that conclusion in our poll of people who watched the debate. By 67 percent to 25 percent, they thought Mr. Romney won the debate.

When asked who was more likable, debate watchers gave the two candidates essentially equal marks. That's one piece of spin that doesn't quite pass the sniff test.

Decide for yourself if this one does from the campaign's Ben LaBolt, who suggested Mitt Romney last night was acting.


BEN LABOLT, OBAMA CAMPAIGN PRESS SECRETARY: It was performance art. He locked himself into some bad positions that he took during the Republican primary, tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, refusing to ask the wealthiest for a dime to reduce the deficit and those give us big openings to talk about on the campaign trail in key states in the weeks ahead.


COOPER: Vice President Biden, meantime, said his boss did a good job drawing a bright line between his policies and Mitt Romney's.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the president did a wonderful job of making it clear just how stark that choice is.


COOPER: Yet, "Keeping Them Honest," that is precisely where the pundits, even those who support President Obama, say he dropped the ball.

And when we asked our viewers whether Mr. Obama did better or worse than expected, 61 percent, nearly two in three, said he did worse. As for why, the president himself supplied an answer today, twice today out on the stump using nearly identical wording each time. Listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I got on to the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney.

(LAUGHTER) OBAMA: But I know it couldn't have been Mitt Romney because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy. The fellow on stage last night said he didn't know anything about that.


COOPER: It was a much different President Obama out on the campaign trail today than we saw on that stage last night.

But it was Al Gore who probably takes the prize for spin. He kind of blamed President Obama's performance in Denver to the fact that it took place in Denver, the Mile High City. He blames the thin air.

He did it sort of jokingly, but nevertheless. We will have more on that tonight in the "RidicuList."

Joining us from the campaign trail, Jim Acosta with the Romney campaign in Fishersville, Virginia, and Jessica Yellin is in Madison, Wisconsin, with the Obama campaign.

Jessica, the Obama campaign, are they at least off the record admitting it was not a good night for the president, to put it mildly? We have heard a lot of spin. Do they actually believe that spin?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They will say on the record it was not a good night for the president, yes.

They say they will adjust going forward. Here's one way they will adjust, I think. You know, the president's biggest asset they believe is his likability, and they want to protect that at all costs, but one of the ways they have to do that, it seems they thought was to preserve it by keeping him from going on the attack.

And that meant he didn't defend his policies enough and that meant that he didn't challenge Mitt Romney enough. And it came across badly last night. So the challenge for the president is what Al Gore faced in 2000, where one time he held it back too much, he overcorrected in the second debate and came across as too aggressive, missed the mark both times. The president has to avoid that this year.

COOPER: Has he already changed his tone on the campaign trail today?

YELLIN: Yes, he has.

It was do-over Obama today. It was kind of like the guy who has all his comebacks five minutes too late, and he had all his comebacks on the campaign trail today, calling Mitt Romney a whole new person, a different kind of candidate, and you saw a very much more aggressive President Obama, and I think that's what you will see two weeks from now when he shows up at the next debate with Romney in New York -- Anderson.

COOPER: And, Jim, on the campaign trail, Governor Romney today more energized?


We were with him on his campaign plane during the day and as he got on the plane, he was smiling, he was laughing with his campaign staff. There was a spring in his step. There was an air of confidence in this campaign that I haven't seen in several weeks. And in talking to senior Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom, he said to me if this was a prize fight, they would have stopped the fight.

That's how well they think Mitt Romney did. But they're not going to be taking their foot off the gas pedal. I can tell you that the Romney campaign came to the back of the plane just as it was landing here in Virginia earlier this afternoon.

They were starting to sense that the story, the narrative was starting to change from sort of a post-debate high for Mitt Romney to this new counteroffensive from the president going after some of the statements that Mitt Romney made during this debate. They came back to the back of the plane as the plane was landing and I asked Ed Gillespie, a senior Romney adviser, what about this new ad from the Obama campaign saying if you can't trust Mitt Romney on the debate stage, how can you trust him in the Oval Office?

And he said it's the Obama ads that can't be trusted. So I think there was a sign there that the Romney campaign was getting a sense that the Obama campaign was coming up with this new counteroffensive.

COOPER: Jim, there had been talk prior to this debate about concern that big money donors maybe were kind of being hesitant in terms of giving money to the top of the ticket, giving money to Governor Romney. I haven't heard those concerns today. I assume there's a sense of -- there's a renewed vigor and renewed enthusiasm in terms of investing?

ACOSTA: That's right. The Romney campaign has been tweeting all day long about how much money they raised.

Donations were coming in every couple of seconds I think is what the Romney campaign calculated because of the performance that Mitt Romney put in last night, and keep in mind, you were talking about the adjustments, and Jessica was talking about the adjustments the president's going to make.

I get the sense from talking to several folks inside the Romney campaign, and most notably the debate sparring partner himself, Rob Portman, that they are going to be sticking to this idea, this approach of a tough debate prep, intense debate prep.

I think we will be seeing Mitt Romney going back behind closed doors with Rob Portman on several occasions over the coming days to make sure he is just as sharp for the next debate. I talked to Portman about this last night. He's sort of the debate whisperer now. And he said oh, no, his work is not finished until these debates are wrapped up. COOPER: I like that, the debate whisperer. It would be fascinating to be a fly on the wall in both those debate preps. Jim, Jessica, Thanks.

Yes, sure would.

Digging deeper now on what happened last night and what comes next with our political analysts David Gergen and Gloria Borger.

OK. We have had some 24 hours to kind of think about it.

David, the spin the Obama campaign has been pushing in the last 24 hours, especially today, that Mitt Romney at the debate last night changed his tune from the campaign trail, that's -- and that is what caught the president off-guard, does that run the risk of backfiring if the Obama camp isn't careful?


They have got to worry about, as Jessica pointed out, of being overly aggressive now, of slugging it out too much, of turning too negative. But in truth, Anderson, I think there is some damage that's come to the Obama campaign.

I think some things have changed. We don't know what the bounce will be for Romney, we have no idea what will happen the next few days, but what we do know is, A., tomorrow the story's going to change again because we will have new unemployment numbers and what we will be focused on, is it a jobs report, is it good for the president or vice versa?

But very importantly, two things have now happened. One is that the narrative of this campaign has changed. Romney has changed it. It was becoming a narrative that he was in terminal decline, that there was an inevitability about an Obama victory.

That is now gone. We're obviously much more in a horse race. The second thing, more subtle, Anderson, was that in this narrative of decline, there was the possibility that Barack Obama was going to open up a big lead, as it looked like he was doing in Ohio. If he did that nationwide, he would not only win the presidency big, but he would get a mandate to govern and he would have a lot of senators down-ticket who would win with him.

That would make him a much stronger president. I think now the likelihood is that chances of winning big have largely been evaporated. And it's likely we will have a much closer election now. The president obviously is still favored, but we have got a horse race.

COOPER: That's what makes these races so interesting, Gloria, is how the narrative changes. It used to be months -- from one month to the next.

It is now overnight. Last week was 47 percent, and now it's this, and who knows what it will be next week with the vice president debate.

But one piece of David Axelrod's response today was that the president was basically taking the high road last night, which almost makes it sound like the president's performance was a conscious tactical decision. Do you buy that?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I don't think that they consciously decided to lose this debate and I don't think David Axelrod is going to come out and say you know what, the president really blew it last night, although, as Jessica pointed out, privately, certainly, there are Obama allies who are happy to say that.

But I do think there was a conscious decision here to be risk- averse. You had a candidate in the president who is ahead, people like him more than they like Mitt Romney. They believe he's on their side by a three to one margin, that he understands their problems, and there was a sense you know what, we don't want to mess with that. That's really good. We're doing well on the battleground states, we're ahead in the head-to-head polls, so let's kind of ease up here. We don't need to go on the attack. We just have to defend without being defensive and keep our position the way it is.

What happened is that the Mitt Romney who showed up on stage, the one that President Obama today said he didn't recognize, is actually the Mitt Romney who had been debating in 20 debates in the primaries and who was very adept at fending off challengers right and left.

So this is a man who has become a very good, very aggressive debater, and I don't think anybody in the Obama campaign or in the White House should really be surprised by the person that the president was confronting last night.

COOPER: It is interesting, David, because we will talk to Cornell Belcher, who is a pollster for the Obama campaign coming up in the next segment, who basically argues that in trying to reach out to, you know, the small number of undecided voters, to soccer moms somewhere, had he been too negative, had he gone on the attack and called Mitt Romney a liar, that would have turned them off.

Do you buy that, David?

GERGEN: No, I don't buy that.

Why would they be out making the arguments they're making today because they think they're effective today? Why didn't they make them last night. I think Gloria is exactly right. This is -- Obama has had a very good campaign. He's got a very good team supporting him. But there is a tendency here for the president to sit on his lead.

I think we saw that at the Democratic Convention. You know, the Clinton speech was the highlight of that convention, not the Obama speech. And here he came into this -- I think he sat on his lead last night and what you learn in this game is the other guy -- and by the way, I disagree with Gloria on one thing. I think this was a new Mitt Romney we saw last night or one we haven't seen before. I don't think he was ever as effective in the primary debates as he was this time. He was head and shoulders above his performances in the past.

BORGER: And he was a new Mitt Romney in a different way. I will say, he was as aggressive as he was in those primary debates when he needed to be.

He's a good performer under pressure. But I do think the Obama campaign has a point when they say this is a different Mitt Romney who is not the Tea Party Mitt Romney. This was somebody who said there is a role for government. He agreed with President Obama on education to get those women voters on board. You know, it was a different calibration about a more centrist...


COOPER: Did you see a tack to the center? There were times where Romney was saying we will keep the good things in Obamacare, get rid of the bad things. We will keep the good things in Bowles-Simpson and get rid of the bad things. We will keep the good things in the regulations of the banks, but get rid of the onerous things.

GERGEN: I thought there was a very subtle shift, Anderson, because coming out of this debate, the conservatives have really been fired up.

Look at "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page today which is sort of a signal of where things are going in conservative thinking. They're very positive. And yet at the same time, I think with a lot of subtlety, he made other people, say women, feel more comfortable with him, that he wasn't sort of extreme, that he had an understanding, an empathic -- I thought that was probably the most graceful thing they did in the debate. They made him aggressive and also more comfortable at the same time.


COOPER: We will also talk to Ralph Reed about the reaction among conservatives, especially.

We got to take a break.

Gloria, appreciate it, David Gergen as well. It's been a fascinating 24 hours.

It's only going to get more interesting. David Gergen, we will talk to him tomorrow as well as Gloria. We're on Facebook, of course. You can follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. I'm tweeting tonight.

"Raw Politics," more "Raw Politics." Two of the best political professional in the business on President Obama's rough night and a Romney performance one says is the best he has seen by a Republican candidate since Ronald Reagan. Do you buy that? The person he's talking against doesn't. Cornell Belcher and Ralph Reed join us. Stay tuned.


COOPER: hey, welcome back.

In "Raw Politics" tonight, more on President Obama's performance last night in Denver. As we have been reporting President Obama himself knows that he lost the debate. He's upset about it.

Here to talk about it tonight, Obama 2012 pollster Cornell Belcher., also Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

Cornell, bored, aloof, some said even arrogant, those are some of the words used today and last night to describe President Obama on that stage. What exactly was the strategy heading into this? Was there a strategy?

CORNELL BELCHER, OBAMA CAMPAIGN POLLSTER: What you saw last night from the president was the president trying to lay out the facts to those few undecided voters that are still out there, here's our plan, here's how we want to move the country forward vs. Mitt Romney and his plan about moving the country forward.

The problem with the debate last night is that one candidate showed up to talk about the facts of their plan and the other candidate showed up with a completely different plan, and was completely dishonest about the facts of his plan. That was a little problematic.

COOPER: But the president did not seem to take the fight to Mitt Romney. If you believe that Mitt Romney wasn't being honest, the president never seemed to confront him at all, and never even mentioned that whole 47 percent thing. I mean, was that -- was he trying to stay presidential or...

BELCHER: Well, I mean, here's the thing.

For those few voters out there who are still undecided, that undecided voter looks an awful lot like a suburban mom who is struggling to sort of deal with her kids and fix dinner and worried about work, and she hasn't read all the facts of the Obama plan or Mitt Romney's plan.

So for that suburban mom out there, you know, you want to lay out sort of your plan and lay out the facts. I mean, so the back and forth, the negative, the attack, that sort of thing really doesn't help that mom make up her decision. In fact, if anything, it probably turns her off more.

COOPER: Ralph, let me bring you in here.

You say you were actually surprised by the level of conservative conviction Mitt Romney expressed last night, but there was -- I know there was the question he answered about the role of the federal government, but he did seem to pivot a lot on a lot of issues to a more centrist position, talking sort of in general terms about keeping the good parts of Obamacare, but throwing out the bad ones, keeping the good parts of Simpson-Bowles, keeping good regulations, but not ones that were too onerous. Did you not see a pivot?


I mean, I think the main thing is that his critique of Obamacare, Anderson, which just like about everything else that Governor Romney did during the debate, was appropriately respectful, civil, but extremely tough and fact-laden.

He laid out a systematic and devastating critique of Obama's record on health care, including the independent payment advisory boards, across-the-board cuts in services, including $716 billion in draconian cuts to providers, nursing homes, hospitals and doctors under Medicare, including $2 trillion in new spending, including dozens of higher taxes.

And his argument was Mr. President, this is a big government scheme that doesn't work for trying to take over one-seventh of the GDP. I think for conservatives that was a rallying cry.

COOPER: Would you say it was a game changer or is that going too far for you?

REED: Well, I think it's too early to say that.

Look, I worked on the Bush campaign in 2004. When we went into the first debate at the University of Miami in I guess it was late September, Kerry had a very strong performance. We came out of that debate, Anderson, lost about five points in the Gallup, more in some of our own polling, but in the end, George W. Bush still won.

And this election's going to be decided in the end based on how those last undecided persuadable voters fall and based on who does a better job of getting their vote to the polls and that's what will decide the outcome.

COOPER: Cornell, I mean, I heard what you said before, but I got to -- I guess, the more I think about it, I just got to push back more on this, because even the president's final statement at the end, which is something I assume is the most easy thing to rehearse, at the end it seemed kind of like he was like, well, I will keep trying. I think -- I don't want to -- I'm paraphrasing it that way.

BELCHER: Anderson, I don't think that's fair at all.

Two things here. One is I have got to push back on one of the things. The predicate that you just laid out about sort of why Mitt Romney had such a great performance about how he was factually on health care and the critique of the president's health care was a flat-out lie.

The government takeover of health care, every fact-checker in the world has said that that's just not true. The idea that you're going to lose your health insurance, people who have their health insurance now are going to lose their health insurance because of Obamacare, it's just a flat-out lie. COOPER: Cornell, your energy in saying this tonight was not what the president's energy was last night, and the president's showing today energy on the campaign trail that he didn't show last night.

I'm just curious to know why you think he didn't show it last night. Why not say that is a lie, that is factually incorrect?

BELCHER: The problem is, look, if you're the challenger, you have to go out there and have a great debate, especially if you're a challenger behind. You have to go out and take it to the incumbent.

If you are in fact the incumbent, you help the challenger by getting down in the mud and brawling. If you're the incumbent who is ahead, the last thing you want to do is get down in the mud and brawl with the challenger, because ultimately, strategically, that only helps the challenger.

I think the president was very presidential last night. He laid out his case. He stayed on the facts. He did what he was supposed to do.

COOPER: And, Ralph, you don't believe he was shifting his position or arguing something else on that stage last night that is different from what he's been saying on the campaign trail?

REED: No, I don't. He's consistently said he would repeal Obamacare and replace it with what? Replace it with a conservative reform alternative.

COOPER: He hasn't really said much about what he will replace it with.

REED: He said that he will cut taxes across -- well, that's not true. I was on his Web site today and he's very clear about what it is.

He's in favor of, for example, setting up association health plans so that people who don't have insurance can get access to lower rates. He's in favor of continuous coverage for those with previous conditions. He's laid out a very specific plan there. And nobody can say anymore that this is the "Seinfeld" election, that it's an election about nothing.

This is a substantive, profound disagreement, not only about health care, taxes, spending, economy, jobs and trade, and frankly a lot of moral and cultural issues that didn't get discussed last night, but I'm sure will be, but it's really about two stark choices for very different futures for America.

COOPER: Cornell, do you agree with that, that it was the most substantive debate you have seen?

BELCHER: If you're in a fantasy land, because here you have got a guy who put out a $5 trillion tax plan and all of a sudden, he disavowed that. You have got a guy who put together a health care plan in Massachusetts that we sort of modeled our health care plan off, but all of a sudden, that's fantasy.

What you had last night was one of the most clearly blatantly dishonest performances by someone running for the presidency of the United States I think we have ever seen in modern time.

COOPER: Two very different views, obviously.

Cornell, I appreciate it. Ralph Reed, thank you very much.

BELCHER: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up, body language, it speaks volumes in a presidential debate. I'm often kind of skeptical of this sort of thing, but we actually have a fascinating look at some of the body language from last night, a gesture, expression, how it can help or hurt a candidate.

Just ahead, a Harvard business school body language expert walks us through the make-or-break moments last night in Denver.


COOPER: Well, winning a presidential debate, it is not just about what you say or don't say. It's also about how you say it and how you're seen, literally your facial expressions, gestures, posture.

From the moment President Obama and Governor Romney walked on stage last night, their body language was sending its own message.

Now, nothing escaped the cameras, from eye contact to smiles to how alert and engaged they seemed to be. According to the polls and pundits, Mitt Romney clearly aced this part of the debate. Even many Democrats accused President Obama of giving a flat and uninspired performance.

Now, on the eve of the debate we talked to a body language expert who teaches at Harvard Business School. She told us to -- what things to watch for. I got to say I'm usually very skeptical of this body language thing, but I find this woman very convincing and really interesting. A lot of things she talked about, I was watching for last night. Tonight she breaks down the body language that won and lost the debate. Here's Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They shake, they touch, they talk. They're doing it all. What does that tell you?

I can't see what Romney's doing with his non-dominant hand. I think it's interesting that Obama is sort of moving his hand on Romney's arm, so it's more gentle and it's warm.

ANY CUDDY, SOCIAL PROFESSOR, HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL: The smiles I thought were interesting. Obama comes out with a pretty good natural smile, and he produces very nice, warm smiles. Romney's is more of his typical smiling with the mouth but not with the eyes.

TUCHMAN: So what does that tell you?

CUDDY: That he's not feeling positive.

TUCHMAN: What's interesting to me is Barack Obama keeps nodding. Almost like yes, what you're saying is right. Obviously, he doesn't think that. Why is he nodding? What does that mean?

CUDDY: I actually think what's happening is that he's trying to show that he's listening so he's nodding to show that he's listening, but he's actually preparing his response.

TUCHMAN: What do the voters think of that?

CUDDY: Well, the voters -- the voters see it as sheepish and -- sheepish and weak. So I think that it doesn't come across well generally to voters, but I actually think it's not an accurate signal of what was happening in his head.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's estimated that by repealing...

TUCHMAN: You're saying during the debate there were times when Mitt Romney was moving very quickly: quick gestures, quick movements. What does that tell you?

CUDDY: That tells me that he's feeling a little bit powerless. So he's feeling frustrated and powerless to correct what he perceives as a misunderstanding.

Large animals move slowly and, you know, Obama and Romney are large animals, and they should be moving slowly. So when a large animal is moving quickly like a hummingbird, it indicates that that animal is feeling powerless and frantic, yes.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, I'm not looking to cut massive taxes.

CUDDY: In general, I felt that Romney in the debate looked engaged and strong and assertive, but at moments, too aggressive and too agitated.

ROMNEY: Mr. President, you're entitled as the president to your own airplane and to your own house but not to your own facts.

CUDDY: And the agitation undermines the strength, because it makes him seem a little bit helpless.

OBAMA: You can end up getting continuous coverage...

CUDDY: Obama seemed calm and composed, and Obama is almost always unwilling to engage in dominance competitions with other people. TUCHMAN: Why is that?

CUDDY: Well, I think it's for a couple of reasons. One is that he's a professor. He was a professor, and that's what you see. That's the way -- I mean, as a professor, that's sort of the demeanor that I might have.

But -- but I think the other reason is that Obama is aware that, as a black man -- and this is supported very, very well by good science -- it is very risky for black men to show any signs of aggression. So when a black man shows a sign of aggression, people say, "See?" So it confirms a stereotype about black men.

TUCHMAN: Even when you're a black man who's president of the United States?

CUDDY: Yes. Absolutely.

ROMNEY: This is the private market.

TUCHMAN: You're saying this part of the debate where we're talking about the role of the federal government is notable.

CUDDY: Yes. What I think is interesting, this movement right here where Romney is shifting from side to side. To me it looks like he's a boxer. Again, it gets at this -- this idea that Romney sees this kind of as a boxing match, you know, and he's kind of like preparing to go on by shifting his weight from side to side. He's kind of getting himself ready. You don't see Obama doing anything like that.

JIM LEHRER, DEBATE MODERATOR: You have a closing two minutes.

TUCHMAN: Does that tell you anything when he wipes his lip?

CUDDY: Well, I mean, you might have noticed throughout that he is sweating sort of on his upper lip, and he's aware of that, and he wants -- he wants to mop that away before his closing argument. So he wants to make sure that he looks really strong.

And it's funny, I think when you do something like that, even on camera, you think people don't notice it as much as they do.

TUCHMAN: Now, Amy, we're looking at the good-bye. What does all this good-bye stuff tell you?

CUDDY: Obama looks glad it's over. He looks relieved. He doesn't look victorious. Romney looks happy and he looks relieved, but you can tell that he feels victorious.

TUCHMAN: How do you know that Barack Obama was relieved it was over? What did his face or body tell you?

CUDDY: Just his -- he posture sort of drooped a little bit. He walked over more quickly not because he wanted to be assertive but because he sort of wanted it to be over with. And then he goes over to Michelle. And again, there's this sort of -- it's very, very subtle but this kind of collapsing body language that looks a little bit defeated.

Romney is showing the opposite. He's doing more of the sort of -- he actually looks -- he loves everyone right now.


COOPER: That was Gary Tuchman with Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy. We appreciate it, Professor.

Someone else who was watching the debate closely, Alan Schroeder, author of "Presidential Debates: 50 Years of High-Risk TV" and a journalism professor at Northeastern University of Boston. He wrote about his take on last night's debate on He joins me now with some historical perspective.

It's interesting, I've heard this before. You say that incumbents usually fall flat on the first debate. Why is that?

ALAN SCHROEDER, AUTHOR/PROFESSOR: Well, there are several reasons for that, and actually, they make sense.

First of all, the incumbent is out of practice. He or she has not been on the debate stage in four years and Mitt Romney, on the other hand, has had 20-plus primary debates this season.

Then also, they live in a White House cocoon. These incumbents are not used to having people challenge them directly, and especially in a really personal way, as was the case last night with Mitt Romney.

COOPER: So part of -- I mean, some people said they thought President Obama seemed almost irritated to be confronted like that. You think part of that, if it was irritation, that comes from the idea that he's been surrounded in this sort of presidential bubble where people aren't attacking him to his face?

SCHROEDER: Yes, I think there is a lot to that theory. And also, even in the rehearsals, even in the debate preps, I think there's maybe a tendency on the part of the people surrounding a president to go a little easy, you know, not to be too assertive and aggressive with him.

COOPER: In the past when candidates have had poor debate performances, do we know what their staffs have done to get them back on track, to make sure they don't make the same mistakes twice or recalibrate?

SCHROEDER: Yes. A lot of different things. Reagan, for instance, was told after his disastrous first debate in '84 to go back to his instincts and just sort of think in themes. Set aside all the facts and just think about how you feel about particular issues.

But my favorite example is Al Gore in 2000. He had a really bad first debate, the one where he rolled his eyes and sighed throughout the debate with George W. Bush. So what happened after that, his handlers actually sat him down after "Saturday Night Live" did its parody of that debate, and made him watch it. And I think that's probably some of the best debate prep advice anyone ever got. I have a feeling that the Obama people might have something similar up their sleeve after this weekend.

COOPER: That could not have been a pleasant viewing of "Saturday Night Live" that night.

The next presidential debate is a town hall format. Is there a certain type of candidate that does better in that kind of setting? I mean, obviously Bill Clinton comes to mind, excelled in those debates.

SCHROEDER: Bill Clinton was the master of the town hall format. You know, he made such a great, strong emotional connection with the people asking the questions. Just in an absolutely masterful way.

I think it favors candidates who have that particular style, but what it does tend to do is discourage a lot of attacks among the candidates on the stage, because it's really hard to do that. It's hard to pull that off when you've got a group of citizens who are there to ask their questions. That's not a very good venue for one candidate to launch an attack against another.

COOPER: One of the sort of the side notes from last night was Governor Romney's Big Bird reference. You know, on Twitter, it's been talked about ad infinitum today. You say that Governor Romney actually has a history of kind of making cultural references or pop culture references that don't necessarily help his message. How so?

SCHROEDER: Well, you know, his pop culture references are just a little off somehow. They're out of date in some ways. During the primary debates, he made a reference to, that as governor of Massachusetts, he didn't inhale. Now, that goes all the way back to Bill Clinton in 1992 and probably, you know, 75 percent of the country had no idea what he was even talking about.

He made a reference to George Costanza in "Seinfeld" that actually was one of his better ones. Al Gore invented the Internet. That was another one of his lines during the primary debates.

So it's always a little risky territory for politicians to try to connect on a pop cultural basis unless they really have, there again, Bill Clinton knew his movies, knew his TV, knew his music, but I don't know, I don't think with Mitt Romney it's such great advice.

COOPER: Alan Schroeder, appreciate you being on again. Thanks so much.

In Gary Tuchman's piece, Professor Amy Cuddy mentioned studies that show it's very risky for an African-American man to show any signs of aggression. You can find those studies shortly on our Web site, at

Still ahead, the FBI finally visits Benghazi three weeks after the attack that killed AmbAssador Stevens and three other Americans. Plus new clashes on the Turkey-Syria border. CNN's Ivan Watson is there. We're going to talk to him, coming up.


COOPER: Al Gore's take on President Obama's debate performance. Is there any truth to his theory that it could have been the air pressure's fault? We'll take a detailed look coming up on "The RidicuList."


COOPER: Tonight, escalating tensions between Syria and Turkey. Today, Turkey -- Turkey launched more strikes at Syrian military positions, a retaliation, of course, for yesterday's deadly attack on a Turkish border town. Five women and children were killed when mortars fired from Syria struck the village.

United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution condemning Syria, quote, "in the strongest terms" for that cross-border shelling. The Syrian ambassador to the U.N. offered condolences today in a letter he presented to U.N. officials.

Meanwhile, Turkey's parliament held an emergency session, authorized cross-border military operations into Syria. Doesn't mean they're going to happen. They just authorized them.

The close ties between Syria and Turkey, that they once had, they now have been severely strained. I spoke to Ivan Watson a short time ago.


COOPER: So Ivan, Turkey's parliament held an emergency closed- door session today. What was the outcome of that?

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They voted in favor of a new resolution, which is rather vaguely written, but basically it gives the Turkish government authority to send its armed forces into, quote, unquote, "foreign countries," basically in response for the deaths of these five civilians on Wednesday. It's very clear that this is focused on Syria in particular.

And it says that the Turkish government can decide the scope or the size or the duration of any of these proposed military operations.

Turkish officials have come out, and they've said this is not a war resolution. They're saying this is more a preventative measure. Basically a warning to the Syrians not to shoot into Turkey again.

COOPER: So there's no plans right now of Turkey sending in military forces?

WATSON: Well, what they have done is that since Wednesday, they've fired repeatedly artillery across the border near this flashpoint town where the Turkish civilians were killed. Now, the Syrian government has admitted that at least two of its military officers were wounded there by Turkish artillery fire. Rebels that we've talked to say, in fact, 13 Syrian troops were killed and more wounded, and that this Turkish artillery fire forced the Syrians to pull back from one of their border posts, so the truth may be somewhere there in the middle.

What is clear is this is the first time that the Turks have used such heavy weaponry as far as we know across the border. It's a definite escalation. And it does appear to be serious use of Turkish military force in response to what had been a series of Syrian, very provocative cross-border attacks that have included, over the course of the last year, the shooting down of a Turkish military reconnaissance jet, and at least one other incident when Turkish armed forces, rather Syrian armed forces, shot into a refugee camp on the Turkish side of the border, and wounded some refugees and even a Turkish police officer.

COOPER: So Syria says they're investigating. Have they -- have they made it clear they -- they don't want an escalation with Turkey or have they commented either way?

WATSON: Well, it does seem that they kind of want to pull back.

I mean, Turkey has a huge army, Anderson. It's the second largest army in the NATO military alliance. The last thing the Syrians really need right now, when they've lost so much of their own territory to Syrian rebels, is to take on a huge armed force like Turkey.

But Turkey also has a lot to lose. I mean, it's had a booming economy in recent years that has slowed somewhat. It is fighting a Kurdish PKK insurgency in other parts of southeastern Turkey. It has a booming tourism industry. It does not need a major conflict, another one on its borders with Syria right now, which could further destabilize relations with major trading partners like Russia and Iran, who are strong supporters of the Assad regime in Syria.

COOPER: We'll continue to watch it. Ivan Watson. Ivan, thanks.


COOPER: We're going to obviously continue to follow that. Let's check in with Isha right now and the "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, HLN ANCHOR: Anderson, 18 children are dead after a landslide buried their elementary school in southwest China. Their bodies were found in the muddy rubble of their village. The students wouldn't normally be at school today, due to a national holiday, but they were making up classes canceled after a series of earthquakes last month.

An FBI team finally got to the U.S. consulate in Benghazi to investigate a deadly assault there nearly a month ago and spent only a number of hours in the city. For security reasons, they traveled with U.S. military support. Four Americans were killed in the September 11 attack, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

The outbreak of noncontagious fungal meningitis has grown to 35 cases in six states. Nine new cases in one day. At least five people have died: three people in Tennessee, one in Maryland and another in Virginia. Every patient infected received a steroid injection to the spine, a common treatment for back pain. The plant where the steroid is manufactured has voluntarily shut down.

American Airlines has ordered more inspections of the same Boeing 757 they've been checking for seat problems. They will do an additional check on the lock that secures seats to the aircraft's floor. Forty-eight planes are involved. The FAA has said it agrees with the decision.

And a dinosaur hunter at the University of Colorado says he's discovered a new species, a mini dino, if you will. Scientists say it looked a bit like a porcupine, was about the size of a house cat and had some big, scary fangs -- Anderson.

COOPER: Hey, Isha, thanks.

Coming up, Al Gore takes post-debate commentary to a whole new level. "The RidicuList" is next.


COOPER: Time now for the "RidicuList." And it's the night after the first presidential debate so of course, there was a lot of analysis going on all day but as I mentioned at the beginning of the program, one bit of commentary really got our attention. Watch as Al Gore takes it to the next level.


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm going to say something controversial here. Obama arrived in Denver at 2 p.m. today, just a few hours before the debate started. Romney did his debate prep in Denver. When you go to 5,000 feet...


GORE: ... and you only have a few hours to adjust...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's interesting.

GORE: I don't know, maybe...


COOPER: Look, there's no denying the air is different in Denver but speaking in political excuses, remember, we don't know how much of that air President Obama actually inhaled.

What I also find interesting is no one in that panel with Al Gore seemed to question his -- shall we say -- wide stance on the issue. They just kind of hiked the Appalachian Trail right along with him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just came from L.A. the same day. You know what I did? I drank two cups of coffee before coming out here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coffee or energy drink.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really different. The first time I ever did stand-up in Denver I had the same exact effect. I flew in that day. And when your lungs aren't acclimated to that kind of air, yes, it makes you drawn, it makes you off. The president had an off night.


Cooper: The irony is that, if Al Gore had never invented the Internets, we would not have been able to find these clips on YouTube.

You have to admit, though, Al Gore's kind of an air expert. He knows a lot about climate change, all kinds of environmental issues. He's documented them meticulously in the movie "An Inconvenient Truth" and hilariously on "30 Rock."


TINA FEY, ACTRESS: I'm so sorry, Mr. Vice President. This all started when...

GORE: Quiet. A whale is in trouble. I have to go.


COOPER: See? Al Gore has a sense of humor. Maybe he was joking about the elevation thing, and no one could tell, because we all know the air pressure is not the most serious problem one faces upon arriving in Denver. It's the airport.

Oh, that's right. You knew it would all come around back to the airport and my old friend, William Tapley, a "RidicuList" favorite. Also known as Third Eagle of the Apocalypse and Co-Prophet of the End Times.


WILLIAM TAPLEY, THIRD EAGLE OF THE APOCALYPSE: This program is a continuation of my series on the Denver International Airport, and especially the murals and the art contained therein. Many of them are phallic symbols.

The bird standing upright is phallic. The shape of the sign is phallic. And even the name is phallic.

Many of the shapes on the horse's tail and mane are phallic shapes. The outdoor baggage handling area is in the shape of a phallus. Up here we see the testicle area. And out here, the phallus.


COOPER: And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call elevating the discourse to brand new heights. We'll be right back.


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