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Romney's Binder of Women; Alleged New York Terror Plot Foiled

Aired October 17, 2012 - 22:00   ET


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

A lot to talk about tonight.

We begin "Keeping Them Honest" with Mitt Romney's record on women and something he said at the debate last night, something that has turned kind of silly, but might actually have some serious consequences for the campaign because it involves that key voting bloc, which is women.

You may already know what we're talking about, even if you didn't watch the debate last night. You probably are familiar by now with the phrase binders full of women. It's now a full-fledged Internet phenomenon. Take a look, about 140 million hits and counting on George. Binders full of women is of the several hot Twitter hashtags now.

There's a Tumblr page loaded with photos, cute photos, snarky photos, binders of unicorns, sharps with rainbow tongues, Hillary Clinton, Fat Bastard, you name it. When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro, it seems.

The binders of women craze began minutes, literally just minutes after Mitt Romney uttered those words, responding to a question about equal pay for women. Mr. Romney pointed to his hiring process when he first became governor of Massachusetts. Listen.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I said, "Well, gosh, can't we -- can't we find some -- some women that are also qualified?"

And -- and so we -- we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our Cabinet.

I went to a number of women's groups and said, "Can you help us find folks?" And they brought us whole binders full of women.


COOPER: That is a somewhat silly phrase.

Here is the totally serious context and why it's important to break it down. Women may decide this election, as you probably know. Look at this from the latest Gallup poll in swing states. President Obama's formerly big advantage with female voters appears to be gone now, while the polling shows a bigger gender gap in President Obama's favor.

But whatever the size of it actually is, if Mitt Romney can successfully narrow that gap, that would make the president's road to reelection very, very difficult, nearly impossible.

Campaign today in Virginia Mr. Romney said the president has failed America's women and you just was touting his own record last night claiming that he "went to a number of women groups and said can you help us find folks?"

"Keeping Them Honest" that's not quite true. There's a problem with the timeline. We want to look at that tonight. The group in question, a nonpartisan outfit called the Massachusetts Government Appointments Project, MassGAP, actually approached him.

They put out a statement saying -- and I quote -- "Prior to the 2002 gubernatorial election, MASSGAP approached the campaigns of candidates Shannon O'Brien and Mitt Romney."

They went to him and his Democratic opponent as well, not as he claimed the other way around. In addition, Mr. Romney last night credited the recruiting effort that followed with helping him bring so many qualified women on board. And today the campaign put this out from former Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey -- quote -- "As we took office, our administration actively sought to recruit the best and brightest women the commonwealth had to offer. And Governor Romney wasn't just checking a box."

"Keeping Them Honest" though, a 2007 MASSGAP study reveals that even though it started out strong, female recruitment dropped off by the end of his term, went 42 percent in the first two-and-a-half years, to 27.6 percent. Running mate Paul Ryan rose to his boss' defense today saying "He has an exceptional record of hiring women in very prominent positions in his administration, and that's the point he was making last night."

As for the Obama campaign, they certainly see an opening.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You heard the debate last night. When Governor Romney was asked a direct question about equal pay, he started talking about binders.


BIDEN: Oh, the idea he needed to go and ask where a qualified woman was, he just should have come to my house. He didn't need a binder.


COOPER: From debate claims to Internet sensation to political free-for-all.

Before checking in on the campaign trail, though, let's dig deeper on how the Romney record actually stands up to the facts. That's our job.

Joining us is now David S. Bernstein, staff writer for "The Phoenix" I Boston. He's a 20-year veteran of Boston journalism.

It's good to have you on the program.

You heard the governor's answer last night. Did that square with your memory of what happened?

DAVID S. BERNSTEIN, "THE PHOENIX": No, it doesn't. Immediately, when I heard it, I reached out to some of the women who I know that were part of that effort, which they did initially in 2002. It was a coalition of some 40 women's groups in the state formed that MASSGAP project you just were just describing.

They did it in 2002 and then again in subsequent gubernatorial elections. Like you said, they initiated the project. They worked at it for a number of months, reaching out to gather together and screen possible appointees, from women all over the state and to put that together present to whoever ended up being in the corner office.

The idea that he initiated it after beginning the process of filling his Cabinet just didn't square. I reached out and double checked that with the people who were involved. They agreed. And you saw the MASSGAP confirm that again today.

COOPER: Is it possible though it could about have been an honest mistake by him? Is there any way that Governor Romney might not have realized how the list reached him?

BERNSTEIN: Well, I don't think that's really impossible, because during the campaign, it was actually something that his campaign and he personally signed a sort of letter of commitment to the project, it was after the primaries.

The project reached out to both him and the Democratic nominee, Shannon O'Brien, and she signed it first and then he agreed to sign it, pledging to try to use this material that MASSGAP was putting together to try to move toward parity in the high-level appointments.

There was also a candidate forum that he participated in that was part of this whole project where they asked specifically about this project and how he was planning to fulfill it and so forth.

It sounded to me more like he was describing the way he found a number of female appointees, but then decided to take the extra step of taking credit for initiating it, when, in fact, it was initiating by some other people.

COOPER: Let's put binders aside, did he have a good record on appointing women? And my understanding of this whole MASSGAP project was that the idea was to kind of to propel women into higher offices down the road. Did it have that effect?

BERNSTEIN: Well, it intentionally say that.

There are different interpretations of his record with women. There's no question you can point to a number of high-level appointments he did make particularly early on. As you pointed out, over the course of his of his four-year governorship, he actually declined from -- in terms of the number -- the percentage of women in those offices compared to his prior to him coming in even.

It was actually lower. There were also some other issues aside from just those appointees, and there were issues raised about his judicial appointees; 17 of his first 19 judge appointments were men, and then after some unfavorable press about that, he began appointing more women.

And so it really depends -- it depends on how you want to take the record. Certainly some of the most important positions, the people in charge of budget and transportation and business development, the ones that he was most concerned about, mostly went to men and mostly to men who he had dealt with in his business career.

One of the interesting things, and I'm not the only one who has mentioned this, is that his claim seems to take for granted that he didn't know any qualified women after running businesses and consulting for businesses for 25 years, which in and of itself is a little startling.

COOPER: David Bernstein, I appreciate you being on with your reporting and your recollections. Thank you very much.

BERNSTEIN: My pleasure.

COOPER: Joining us for more on how the two campaigns are handling this, Jim Acosta, who is traveling with Mitt Romney, and chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin.

Jim, is the campaign concerned right now about the whole binders controversy?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I think it's worth noting what Romney did and did not talk about at his first post- debate speech earlier today in Chesapeake, Virginia.

He did not talk about that dustup between himself and the president over what happened in Benghazi, but he did make reference to women voters, in his speech in Chesapeake. He said that the president has failed America's women. That appeared to be a pretty blatant appeal to female voters in the audience there and all across the country.

And, Anderson, late in the day, he sent out a tweet of a Web video featuring members of his Cabinet back in Massachusetts when he was governor there that were women. One of the women on that Cabinet said in the Web video that Mitt Romney understands working women. And keep in mind that he made this response, he made these remarks about binders full of women in response to a question about the Lilly Ledbetter Act which is supposed to be an act that makes it easier for women to sue over pay equity issues, and he did not address that question.

And going into the remarks about how he was trying to staff his office with women in Massachusetts, he didn't even mention the fact that his lieutenant governor was a woman. I think it was a sign that perhaps the president had gotten under his skin and he was forced into a situation where he just had an unforced error there.

COOPER: Jessica, it certainly seems the Obama campaign believes they can get some mileage out of Governor Romney's remarks.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they were working it on the trail all day already.

Look, Anderson, it was very unfortunate for Governor Romney, because it sort of raises this question, can he reality to working women? It made it sound almost like working women are some mail order product you can order out of colored binders and, you know, there are so many directions you can go.

What did the tabs in that binder say for each of the women? The problem for Governor Romney is twofold. One, if he's trying to show, and he is, that he can relate to and understand the frustrations that working women can go through, this does not suggest that he understands a sense of outsider-ness that many women feel when they work for largely male environments.

And, two, it raises a question, this is a man who at the time this he become governor had been a top executive in the business world for multiple decades and didn't he already know qualified women that he could call upon? Why did he need to go outside and a binder full of women to find some?

As Jim Acosta just pointed out, he actually did know women and he had some on his staff, so he did himself a disservice with the way he phrased this. But the Obama team is getting mileage out of it.

COOPER: Jim, is he talking about the role women had at Bain Capital? Because it is a very sort of male-dominated profession, particularly back then. Has he talked at all about that? Because in the debate he was focusing solely on his time as governor.

ACOSTA: Actually, no, Anderson. That's interesting you ask that question.

We have not heard Mitt Romney talk about that on the campaign trail, how women might have fared at his former investment firm. But keep in mind the chief of staff for Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts was Beth Myers, who went on to run his 2008 campaign, and then went on here in 2012 to lead his vice presidential search.

This is a candidate that has had women in high-level positions and it's worth noting in just the last few minutes here, he has had one of his top surrogates, Barbara Comstock, on the stage behind me and now Susan Allen, the wife of George Allen, running for the Senate here in Virginia, is on stage.

Perhaps not just some recalibrating in terms of his speeches, but perhaps who is appearing on the campaign trail on his behalf.

COOPER: Jessica, the president had a big advantage with women voters all year. Has there been concern within the campaign that Governor Romney was making some progress on that front? We were talking about this before the debate?

YELLIN: They wouldn't openly talk about that and they even contested some of the polls that showed Governor Romney closing the gap.

But you just have to look at the topics the president was bringing up at that debate, Anderson, to know this is the voter group that the president is focused on and that he knew that this was the greatest area where he was hemorrhaging support and his only growth opportunity. This is the women's vote that the president could win or lose on.

If the president is going to be president another four years, it will be because women make a difference. He will hit on contraception and his claims that the government has flip-flopped on it. He will hit on the pay equity issue. And he will continue to talk about this binders controversy and the larger issue that he claims Governor Romney isn't a natural advocate in his bones for women in the workplace.

This is the theme he will carry to Election Day, Anderson.

COOPER: Jessica Yellin, Jim Acosta, thanks.

Let us know what you this. Follow me on Twitter right now @AndersonCooper. I will be tweeting.

We're following some breaking news tonight, late word of a terror suspect in custody, allegedly with ties to al Qaeda. He was caught authorities say in what he believed to be the act of setting off a massive bomb in New York. We have more on that tonight.


COOPER: We have got some breaking news to tell you about.

A man with ties to al Qaeda has been arrested in a federal sting operation for allegedly planning a terror attack on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. That is according to federal authorities who say the 21-year-old suspect, a Bangladeshi national, tried to detonate what he thought was a 1,000-pound bomb.

Authorities had rendered the explosives inoperable, so there was no threat to the public. The suspect faces charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to provide material support to al Qaeda.

On now to the act of terror that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya. Going into last night's debate, the administration's handling of it or mishandling, as the case may be, seemed like an opportunity for Mitt Romney. Here is how it played out last night.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The day after the attack, Governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people in the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened. That this was an act of terror and I also said that we're going to hunt down those who committed this crime.


COOPER: That's when Mr. Romney pounced, latching onto to Mr. Obama's Rose Garden statement the day after the attack. We're playing it at length so you can actually see the statement in context.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I -- I think interesting the president just said something which -- which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.

OBAMA: That's what I said.

ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror?

It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you're saying?

OBAMA: Please proceed, Governor.

ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.

OBAMA: Get the transcript.

CROWLEY: It -- it -- it -- he did in fact, sir. So let me -- let me call it an act of terror...

OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?

CROWLEY: He -- he did call it an act of terror. It did as well take -- it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.

ROMNEY: This -- the administration -- the administration indicated this was a reaction to a video and was a spontaneous reaction. CROWLEY: It did.

ROMNEY: It took them a long time to say this was a terrorist act by a terrorist group.


COOPER: The bigger question, though, is what the president meant when he said it that morning, September 11.

Was he referring to the terror attack the night before in Benghazi as he was in the final seven paragraphs of his remarks, or was he speaking of what he mentioned in the paragraphs that followed, the 9/11 al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington?

The next day, he used a similar phrase. But then four days after that, no one in the administration, I should say, for days after that, no one in the information used the phrase terrorist attack to describe what many experts almost immediately believed was a terrorist attack.

Two days after the fact, on "The View," Joy Behar said, "I heard Hillary Clinton say it was an act of terrorism. Is it? What do you say?" He answered, "We're still doing investigations." That was two weeks after he said this in the Rose Garden.


OBAMA: Yesterday was already a painful day for our nation as we marked the solemn memory of the 9/11 attacks. We mourned with the families who were lost on that day.

I visited the graves of troop who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hallowed grounds of Arlington cemetery, and had the opportunity to say thank you and visit some of our wounded warriors at Walter Reed.

And then last night, we learned the news of this attack in Benghazi.

As Americans, let us never, ever forget our freedom is only sustained because there are people who are willing to fight for it, to stand up for it, and in some cases, lay down their lives for it. Our country is only as strong as the character of our people and the service of those both civilian and military who represent us around the globe.

No acts of terror will never shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today, we mourn for four Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.


COOPER: So that's what the president said in the Rose Garden. A week later, an administration official told a Senate hearing it was terrorism, but a week later, the president still wasn't saying that when directly asked.

Back to his words in the Rose Garden and what they meant. And because Speechwriters always come in handy when you have a speech to analyze, I spoke earlier with one of the all-time best, David Frum, former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and a contributor to CNN, as well as "Newsweek" and The Daily Beast. Joining him tonight, Fareed Zakaria, host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS," which is Sundays on CNN.


COOPER: David, this debate over whether the president was specifically referring to the Benghazi attack when he used acts of terror in his Rose Garden remarks the following day, as a former speechwriter, what was your take?

DAVID FRUM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That was a highly conditional statement in the Rose Garden.

What the president said was no act of terror. You write that when you want to say I'm not characterizing these acts. This is a general statement. It could have been delivered 24 hours before the attacks as well as 24 hours after. It was a way of putting something on the record without fully endorsing it, a mild lean forward.

You can almost imagine that somebody wrote this act of terror and that was scratched out in the staffing process and replaced with the less committed formula, no act of terror.

COOPER: Fareed, do you have any reason to believe that president was not referring to Benghazi when he said acts of terror in those remarks?


Look, the commonsense reading of it is that he was referring to acts of terror. There is sort of an artful interpretation that David has. I'm not actually sure. I think this is a red herring.

Look, even if a mob had spontaneously gathered because of the video and decided to charge the U.S. Embassy and killed the U.S. ambassador, two Navy SEALs and another American, that's still an act of terrorism. Right? Terrorism is basically the taking of the lives of particularly civilians in a political act that is designed to have some kind of political impact.

That strikes me as an act of terrorism whether or not it was a mob or al Qaeda. Was it an act of terrorism perpetrated by a terrorist organization affiliated with al Qaeda with planning and forethought? That we don't know. But I don't really see how it wasn't an act of terrorism no matter who did it.

COOPER: Do you think that Governor Romney missed an opportunity by focusing the debate last night on what the president and the word -- the word terror that the president used in the Rose Garden speech, as opposed to the nearly 14 days or whatever it was that they were still unclear about what happened?

FRUM: And continue.

Look, Governor Romney had good cards, he overplayed them and the president was able to push him back and pushed him back pretty hard, and he suffered for it. We're still not at the point where the administration -- where any of us exactly know, nor are we at the point where the administration has given up on trying to sell a false narrative to protect -- no one is saying this is treason or an impeachable often offense.

But there are four people dead. And it's serious. The question that is hanging in the air is was the Libya war a good idea? And President Obama has two wars, Afghanistan, which he escalated, but Libya, which he chose, and the question, what is the outcome in Libya? Is it a success or not?

ZAKARIA: And you think it really -- it hinges on whether or not you have one terrorist attack? That would have the chilling effect on any further American interventions, political or military if you say, well, if one gang somewhere could a few years later launch an attack on one of our consulates, it means the whole thing was a bad idea.


ZAKARIA: The Green Zone in Iraq was shelled routinely.


FRUM: No one is thinking a lot about Libya. But in this month before the election to talk openly about what happen to Ambassador Stevens means reminding people there is still no government in Libya, there is still no security in Libya, al Qaeda entities, al Qaeda- affiliated entities are moving freely in Libya. In fact, they are the most armed people in the country.

And it raises the question, what did this war accomplish? And I think most people, most people even who view a show like this, a very news-savvy audience, don't know that there isn't a government in Libya all this time later.

ZAKARIA: That's not entirely true, David.

There were elections. The Muslim fundamentalists actually lost badly. A moderate liberal pro-western government was elected. Gadhafi created a kind of sham state, so, yes, the institutions of government are not very strong in Libya, but to characterize it as there being no government misses actually a very important election that took place and many conservatives laud it precisely because it brought to power moderate pro-Western liberals.

FRUM: What did we get? That's the debate the administration wants not to have this month and that's the debate that is driven home by the events in Benghazi.

And that is why the administration is so keen to make this a story about a spontaneous reaction to a movie made in America. Nothing to do with us and it has nothing to do with our decisions and our policy. And maybe those were good decisions. Maybe all things considered, we chose the lesser evil. It's a question I think both Fareed and I would think about a lot.

COOPER: Fareed, I want to ask you about the special that you have on because we heard last night both candidates talking about energy policy, gas prices, and you have got a show on Sunday called "Global Lessons: the GPS Road Map for Powering America."

It's a complicated topic. But ultimately high gas prices hurt the president, right?

ZAKARIA: High gas prices hurt the president. But as he pointed out, high gas prices in some part because the economy is recovering and more importantly it's because there's growth all over the world, because the Chinese want more gas, the Indians want more gas.

What I was struck by is that both of them agree we want energy independence and they were both telling you how they were going to achieve it. It's mostly happening for reasons that have very little to do with the president. It's happening because of shale gas, which is this extraordinary technology that is revolutionizing our ability to extract them.

It is controversial and there's a need to study it and regulate it, but the simple fact is that the United States is likely within the -- by the end of the decade to export more petroleum and liquid natural gas than Saudi Arabia or Russians.


ZAKARIA: We're going to become the world's great exporter of liquid hydrocarbons.

COOPER: That's incredible.

I look forward to that on Sunday.

Fareed, thanks very much. David Frum, thanks again.


COOPER: Candidates' words aren't the only thing that is being parsed. What did their body language say last night? The town hall format freed them from a lectern. Which candidate used the stage most effectively?

Our experts weigh in ahead.


COOPER: Up close during last night's town-hall-style debate. President Obama and Governor Romney were free to move around the stage. They often ended up just inches apart, confronting, correcting each other. At times it looked a little like a boxing ring. Voters saw a much more animated President Obama. Obviously, a sharp contrast to his first debate against Governor Romney.

The body language of both candidates being parsed today just as closely as their words. Earlier, I talked to Brett O'Donnell, a former debate strategist for Mitt Romney, and Jeanne Driver, a body language expert and author of "You Can't Lie to Me."


COOPER: Jeanne, one of the exchanges you point out, there was certainly a lot of heat last night. One of the exchanges, you point out, is the exchange over oil production. Let's take a look at that and talk about what we see.

OBAMA: That's the strategy you need, an all-of-the-above strategy, and that's what we're going to do.

COOPER: What do you seeing in on?

JEANNE DRIVER, BODY LANGUAGE EXPERT: Right here, watch. We're doing chopping right here this is chopping, and this chop is pointing towards the president. We're going to get into this little bit of a debate here. Look at all this chopping. They're looking at each other. Now they're in each other's -- they're in each other's space, right.

This is very interesting. When the president stands back up, this is like man to man, and it's interesting. Although they are having this debate, Anderson, they're not coming across as contemptuous. Contempt is more superiority, where "I'm better than you." It's almost like two brothers who have a disagreement. And there's still that professionalism with both of them here.

COOPER: I thought it was pretty interesting that it seemed like a lot of times the president didn't want to be seen to be sitting down when Governor Romney was kind of addressing him and talking to him.

DRIVER: And we saw the president engage Candy quite a bit. He would literally walk towards Candy. We have what's called proximits. Aare less than 18 inches, we're in someone's personal zone. We see that with both the president and Mitt Romney many times, where they are in each other's personal zone.

COOPER: One of the exchanges that you point to was over drilling on public lands, and you say it sort of got away from Mitt Romney. How so?

BRETT O'DONNELL: I think that instead of just making his point, asking the question one time and leaving it, he kept asking it repeatedly. He did that with the pension exchange as well.

COOPER: Asking the president -- asking the president.

O'DONNELL: That's right. No. It seemed to be that he went a little too far. He looked defensive. He looked overly aggressive with the president, and I think that it could have been misperceived.

COOPER: So it's better to just -- for him to say one time, you know, has drilling gone down or drilling gone up on public lands or whatever and then moved on.

O'DONNELL: Make your argument, move on.

COOPER: There was a lot of back and forth about Libya, as well. I want to show that exchange.

ROMNEY: It took them a long time to say this was a terrorist act by a terrorist group. And to suggest, am I incorrect in that regard? On Sunday, the...

DRIVER: The president here is like, "Hey, listen, I want to address this issue." We see this palm down gesture. When we see the palm down, this is not very welcoming. This is hey, this has to be handled. When police come in and they do a raid, they go "On the ground, on the ground." They don't say, "On the ground, on the ground."

We also see that with Mitt Romney when he's asked about, in fact, how he is similar to G.W. or how is he different to G.W. Mitt Romney says, "That's a great question." He does that palm down. This is saying, "I don't really like your question." And now we have a stalling technique, was like "That's a great question. I appreciate it."

COOPER: Brett, you were saying, the Libya exchange was probably the most decisive blow that the president got against Romney.

O'DONNELL: The president looked presidential. It was a moment where Governor Romney appeared to be caught on a fact, didn't exactly know what line of argument to pursue. And the president did this sort of righteous indignation moment, where he said, "I'm offended that if you -- you would accuse me or my team of playing politics with this issue." And that moment seemed to advantage the president over Governor Romney.

DRIVER: Up until that point, I felt like it was an even with regard to body language, with regard to verbal at that point with Libya. When the president was intense, I felt like the president stepped out of the role of "I'm a man of running for the president," and stepped into the role as "I am the current president." His gestures were really intense, and it literally was "I'm not using this as a ploy to become a president."

COOPER: Was it a mistake for Romney to focus on the day -- you know, the Rose Garden speech? Because in the Rose Garden speech.

O'DONNELL: The facts are on Governor Romney's side.

COOPER: The administration did not talk about this.

O'DONNELL: But he focused on that one word: did you say "terror"? COOPER: Right.

O'DONNELL: And instead of focusing on the larger context, he focused on that one day and then kept asking the president, again, repeatedly asking. And the president -- if you notice, the president's response was "Please proceed, Governor."

COOPER: The CNN poll, it did reflect that, even though people felt President Obama overall won on economics, on taxes, on deficit. They felt Governor Romney won the debate.

O'DONNELL: And I think that's reflected in those exchanges. But it was the Libya exchange, and maybe the couple of exchanges in the debate where Governor Romney pursuing a question that the president wouldn't give him the answer he wanted that seemed to frustrate him and may have caused the perception.

COOPER: What stood out to you? What surprised you most in this?

DRIVER: With Libya, I have to say, with Libya, what we saw, I believe that what we noticed is that we saw an increase in pacing then with Mitt Romney. I think the president really knocked it out of park.

COOPER: For you, the key for Governor Romney is focus on the economy moving forward.

O'DONNELL: Absolutely.

COOPER: ... even though the next debate is on -- right.

O'DONNELL: Even on this -- even on this foreign policy debate. There are ways for him to relate foreign policy and national defense, national security, back to the economy. And that's what the governor has to do.

COOPER: Brett O'Donnell, thank you. Jeanne Driver, thanks.

O'DONNELL: Thanks.


COOPER: Four years ago, of course, it was Senator John McCain debating then-candidate Barack Obama. He was watching last night's debate closely, tweeting about it. Senator McCain joins me ahead. It's the big 360 interview. We're going to talk about Syria, as well.


COOPER: The fallout continues in the Lance Armstrong doping scandal. Sponsors are dropping him, and there's a big change at the Livestrong charity. That's ahead on 360.


COOPER: Well, the town hall forum can be a tricky one for presidential candidates. Four years ago, my next guest, Senator John McCain, faced off with then-candidate Obama at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. Take a look.


OBAMA: Senator McCain suggests that somehow, you know, I'm green behind the ears and I just spouting off, and he's somber and responsible.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Thank you very much.

OBAMA: Senator McCain, this is the guy who sang "Bomb-bomb-bomb Iran." Who called for the annihilation of North Korea. That, I don't think, is an example of speaking softly. This is the person who, after we had -- we hadn't even finished Afghanistan, where he said, "Next up, Baghdad."

MCCAIN: If we'd like to go back and forth, I'd like to have equal time to respond.

DAN BROKAW, FORMER NBC ANCHOR: Last word here and then we have to move on.

MCCAIN: Not true. Not true. I have obviously supported those efforts that the United States has had to go in militarily, and I have opposed those that I didn't think so. I understand what it's like to send young Americans into harm's away.


COOPER: That was from four years ago, Senator McCain watching last night's debate closely. He joins me for the "Big 360" interview.

Senator McCain, we heard that heated exchange from four years ago, and you know what it's like to be on that stage in the midst of rough and tumble. I heard from a lot of voters today. Some said they liked the sparring last night. Others were turned off by it. You've been involved in it, both sparring and not. Do you think more people are turned off -- off by it than are pleased by it?

MCCAIN: I think more people are turned off by it, Anderson, because when people start talking over each other, and really exchanging barbs, I don't think viewers get a lot out of it.

It is what it is. We saw the vice president basically being very disrespectful, in my view, to Paul Ryan. There was -- there was a lot of back and forth last night, so -- but I just -- I think most people that I talked to that come up to me say they wished they'd be a little more respectful. Not a lot, but a little more.

COOPER: On Benghazi last night, there are certainly big questions to be asked and still that need to be answered: why wasn't there more security for the ambassador? Why did the administration's narrative change so many times? And still, what really happened there? The direct question on last night didn't actually get directly answered, but by focusing on that Rose Garden statement, and the use of the word "terror," do you think Mitt Romney missed an opportunity?

MCCAIN: I think so. In a way, he did, because I think that when you look at the president's Rose Garden statement, that it really wasn't talking about that act, and the recent why I don't think he was, he later went on "The View," went on "Letterman" and others and kept repeating what they had send -- sent his U.N. ambassador out to say, and say this was a hateful video that triggered this demonstration, or we don't know what caused it.

Look, we knew -- we knew within hours, Anderson, that this was a coordinated attack with heavy weapons, and we now know that one of the leaders of one of the al Qaeda related groups was even there. It was obvious that this was not a -- there was no demonstration whatsoever. And when they keep saying, "Well, we'll wait until we have a full and complete investigation," some facts are obvious now.

And I'd like to mention one other aspect of this if I could. Back in April and June, there were attacks on the U.S. embassy, one an IED, very serious. The British ambassador was attacked. The British closed their consulate. The Red Cross left.

Was the president briefed about the danger there? I don't expect him to know whether 16 people stayed or when. But shouldn't he have been briefed about the deteriorating situation in Benghazi, where it was obvious that al Qaeda were coming in across the border? That's we need the question should be. What did the president know? When did he know it? And what did he do about it? Obviously not much.

COOPER: I want to ask you also about Syria tonight. "The New York Times" is reporting Sunday that most of the weapons flowing to Syrian rebels from Saudi Arabia and from Qatar are actually going to Islamic jihadists.

Why is it that we've not been able to identify more moderate groups? Or, I mean, have we been able to identify, and just because the folks sending the weapons are -- you know, have sympathies maybe with jihadists and they're sending them to these groups that they are?

MCCAIN: It makes me so sad. Makes me so sad.

COOPER: You predicted this. I mean, you were talking about this before anyone else.

MCCAIN: Yes. And it's so sad, because there are legitimate elements that you and I have even met, both inside and just outside of Syria. And there has been a flood of these jihadists into Syria as this thing has dragged out for now 18 months and over 30,000. And it's a failure of American leadership.

You know, and let me just say, it's well known that over the years, that the Saudis have supported Salifists and other extreme groups. So has Qatar. So it's not surprising. But where is American leadership to say to them, by the way, "Stop that, and we'll do the job. We will make sure that those weapons get in"? That's what American leadership is about.

And I could go on and on. The tensions on the border, as you know, of all of those countries is dramatically increased. The slaughter goes on. The Russians continue to step up their arms supplies. Iranians are overflying Iraq with supplies of arms. And it's -- the tragedy goes on and it cries out for American leadership, and it's just not there.

I don't know what the Turks are going to do. But I know that the Turks are crying out for our leadership.

COOPER: Governor Romney has been critical of the Obama administration for not acting sooner, for calling Assad a reformer early on.

But recently, he called for arming the rebels, but he stopped short of saying the U.S. should provide them weapons. His staff said the governor would rely on allies to do that, which is unnamed allies, but it's exactly, basically, what the Obama administration is already doing, isn't it?

MCCAIN: I don't think they're doing it. They say they are, but we know the facts are that they're not doing it, because the arms are going into the wrong people, as we said at the beginning of our conversation.

Obviously, I support strongly providing them with weapons. I hope that Governor Romney will agree with our position. But...

COOPER: You think the U.S. should directly supply them with weapons?

MCCAIN: I think, you know, I've always said that, and I think that Mitt Romney is right, that we should play a much greater and stronger role in making sure that those weapons go to the right people, which is obviously not the case now because of a lack of American leadership.

COOPER: Senator McCain, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up, an update on the 14-year-old girl marked for death and shot by the Pakistani Taliban for advocating the education of girls. How she's doing tonight, and a big name charity effort on her behalf, when we continue.


ISHA SESAY, HLN ANCHOR: I'm Isha Sesay with a "360 News & Business Bulletin."

Four more deaths linked to the outbreak of fungal meningitis tied to contaminated steroid injections made by a Massachusetts company. The CDC says 19 people have now died, and the number of cases is up to 245.

Major fallout for Lance Armstrong. Nike has dropped him because of what the company calls seemingly insurmountable evidence that he doped.

Also today, Armstrong stepped down as chairman of his cancer charity, Livestrong, although he'll remain on the board. He has repeatedly denied doping.

Angelina Jolie's charity is donating $15,000 to a group that's setting up a fund to educate girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan in honor of the teenage activist who was shot in Pakistan last week. She is still fighting for her life in a hospital. She spoke out about education for girls, and the Taliban has vowed to kill her.

Ashton Kutcher's move to "Two and a Half Men" has paid off. He landed the No. 1 spot on "Forbes" list of the highest paid television actors. Between May 2011 and May 2012, he earned an estimated $24 million.

And a man in North Dakota has sold a 20-year-old jug of barbecue sauce for nearly $10,000. And this on eBay. Not just any sauce, though. McJordan barbecue sauce from a Michael Jordan promotion at McDonald's in the early 1990s -- Anderson.

COOPER: Isha, thanks.

Coming up, the most important celebrity alive weighs in on the presidential election. Here's a hint: she hadn't even heard of one of the candidates, and you may not understand what she's actually saying. "The RidicuList" is next.


COOPER: Time now for "The RidicuList." And tonight, we're adding celebrity endorsements for president. They've been rendered completely obsolete, because the only celebrity who really matters any more just weighed in on the election.

No one else needs to say anything else from this point forward. I am speaking, of course, about Honey Boo-Boo.


JIMMY KIMMEL, LATE NIGHT TALK SHOW HOST: Do you know who Mitt Romney is?


KIMMEL: Do you know who Barack Obama is?

The president.

KIMMEL: He's the president, yes. They asked on the "Kelly and Michael show," they asked Mitt Romney if he preferred Snooki or Honey Boo-Boo. Do you know what he said? He said he preferred Snooki. So now I have to ask you, who are you going to support for president, Mitt Romney or Barack Obama.

THOMPSON: Who said that?

KIMMEL: Mitt Romney said that.

THOMPSON: Marack [SIC] Obama.

KIMMEL: So you're voting Barack Obama.


COOPER: Honey Boo-Boo has spoken on Jimmy Kimmel live. And without translation.

She's too young to vote, of course, and ok, she doesn't know exactly who Mitt Romney is, and I think she may have said Marack [SIC[ Obama. But make no mistake about it: that tiny tornado is a force to be reckoned with, politically.

Her reality show, "Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo" on TLC, actually got higher ratings than the Republican National Convention and tied in the ratings with the Democratic National Convention the night that former President Clinton spoke.

So when you look at it that way, Mitt Romney may now be regretting his answer to that fateful question.


MICHAEL STRAHAN, CO-HOST, ABC'S "LIVE WITH KELLY & MICHAEL": This is the most serious question of all. Honey Boo-Boo or Snooki?

KELLY RIPA, CO-HOST, ABC'S "LIVE WITH KELLY & MICHAEL": Do you know who either of these two people are?

ROMNEY: I'm kind of a Snooki fan. See...

STRAHAN: She's had a baby now.

ROMNEY: Look how tiny she's gotten. She's lost weight and she's energetic, I mean, just her spark plug personality.

COOPER: Let's be honest, Snooki does have a spark plug personality. She's certainly energetic. But come on, so does Honey Boo-Boo. And I speak from experience. She and her mom were on my daytime show, "Anderson Live," and I did a pretty good job of keeping the train on the tracks, your honor the circumstances.


COOPER: So June is -- so you're not...

A. THOMPSON: You better redneck-ognize.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's a good mess. She's a good mess.

COOPER: How do you deal with all the controversy? You know, because there's -- it's interesting. You go to your Facebook page and there's -- there's people who love you guys, and there's people who are very critical of the show. How do you deal with that, June?

J. THOMPSON: In life there's going to be criticism. You can't make everybody happy all the time. And, you know, there are people who love us, and people who hate us.


COOPER: For the record, I fall firmly into the people who love them camp.

Mama June, Sugar Bear, Pumpkin and, of course, the greatest political mind of our time, Honey Boo-Boo. Watch your back, Gergen. It is Honey Boo-Boo's world; we are just watching it.

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