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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

President Bush Meets the Media; Interview With Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha

Aired March 21, 2006 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again, everyone.
As a White House correspondent put it today, it was one of those moments that came and went before you could say, hey, wait a minute, that was big. At a rough-and-tumble news conference, the president said to expect American forces in Iraq for the next three years, maybe longer. How much longer, and how many? He called it a question for commanders on the ground and future presidents to decide.

Even as he spoke, new details were coming in about a brazen and very well-coordinated attack on a jail northeast of Baghdad. At least 18 security officers were killed, dozens of prisoners freed -- more on that tonight, more on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, including a report card from our panel of retired generals -- all that and the president butting heads with an 85-year-old woman.

We begin with CNN's Elaine Quijano.


ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He has said before, he refuses to set a time frame for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, yet, today, this:

QUESTION: Will there come a day when there will be no more American forces in Iraq?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That, of course, is an objective, and that will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq.

QUESTION: So, it won't happen on your watch?

BUSH: You mean a complete withdrawal? That's a timetable. You know, I -- I can only tell you that I will make decisions on force levels based upon what the commanders on the ground say.

QUIJANO: One Republican strategist called that honest analysis.

SCOTT REED, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think what you heard today was a little straight talk from the president. And this wasn't any Pollyannish discussion about everybody being gone tomorrow.

QUIJANO: With the Iraq war now in its fourth year, the president also rejected calls for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to step down, saying he was doing a fine job. BUSH: I don't believe he should resign.

QUIJANO: At the same time, President Bush acknowledged, the U.S. military's tactics in Iraq have not always worked. But he insisted, his administration's overall strategy would prevail.

BUSH: If I didn't believe we could succeed, I wouldn't be there. I wouldn't put those kids there.

QUIJANO: His news conference marks the second day in a row Mr. Bush took questions, at one point, even engaging in a spirited back- and-forth with veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas.

HELEN THOMAS, JOURNALIST: My question is: Why did you really want to go to war, from the moment you stepped into the White House, your Cabinet officers, former Cabinet officers, intelligence people and so forth? What was real reason? You have said it wasn't oil, the quest for oil. It hasn't been Israel or anything else. What was it?

BUSH: I didn't want war. To assume I wanted war is just -- is just flat wrong, Helen, in all due respect.


BUSH: Hold on for a second, please. Excuse me. Excuse me.

No president wants war. Everything you may have heard is that, but it's just simply not true.

QUIJANO: With the president's poll numbers down, this give-and- take was a clear move by the administration meant to demonstrate a president in touch with the American people.

REED: Where they have kind of let Bush be Bush. And he's out there showing this emotion that has been lacking through some of these other events, where they're very structured, and he's reading.

QUIJANO: But with violence continuing in Iraq, some say, turning around public opinion will require more.

PETER HART, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: The one thing the president can do is make an adjustment and reach a pivot point, where he said, this is going to be a new path. Here are the markers and the buoys by which we are going to get out of Iraq.


COOPER: Elaine, what are the president's aides saying about his answer on the future of U.S. troops in Iraq?

QUIJANO: Well, Anderson, basically, his aides are saying that this is being overplayed, that the president was simply taking this question literally, to mean every single troop out of Iraq.

They say he was basically allowing for the possibility that perhaps there might be a small number of U.S. forces remaining in Iraq beyond his term.

COOPER: Elaine Quijano...

QUIJANO: Anderson.

COOPER: ... from the White House -- thanks very much, Elaine.

More now on the jail attack that happened today in Iraq, a precision operation, and a bloodbath. Phone lines were cut, walls breached, a battle that went on for nearly an hour. And now a lot more Iraqi bad guys are on the loose.

Reporting for us tonight, CNN's Nic Robertson.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): A smoldering ruin, the last trace of a complex attack by insurgents, who hit, and then fled with their comrades.

Burnt-out vehicles litter the police compound, from where more than 30 suspected insurgents were freed. Shell casings litter the ground, silent testimony to the scale of the attack that police say was launched by more than 100 insurgents mounted in 11 vehicles. Rockets and heavy machine-gun fire, police say, were used to breach their secure headquarters -- in the ensuing gun battle, more than 18 police killed and seven wounded.

Families scrambled to search for loved ones.

"Where is my son," she cries? "Let me in. I must look for him."

"By God, I have seen him," the guard tells her. "He is OK."

U.S. troops and the Iraqi army came in to provide backup. One U.S. soldier was injured -- only one insurgent confirmed dead, according to the police. No one knows who was among the escapees or what level of crimes they had committed.

(on camera): It's not the first time insurgents have been sprung from jail. Police say, in 2004, it happened on several occasions, but not last year. A police spokesman we talked to described the Muqdadiyah incident as a worrying development.

(voice-over): In Mosul, in late 2004, poor training, corruption and infiltration by insurgents were to blame when police fled and their outposts were destroyed, as they came under insurgent attack.

As the investigation into the Muqdadiyah jail break begins, the focus will likely center on whether the fledgling police force is infiltrated and if that police force is even up to the job of guarding insurgents.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Well, back home, Vice President Cheney did what vice presidents do, and this one does better than most. He stood by the boss and took a few shots at the critics.


RICHARD B. CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Recently, there have been some prominent voices advocating a sudden withdrawal of our forces from Iraq. Some have suggested that the war is not winnable. A few seem almost eager to conclude that the whole struggle is already lost.

But they're wrong. The only way to lose this fight is to quit, and that is not an option.


COOPER: Well, at times, Mr. Cheney seemed to be referring to John Murtha, the Democratic congressman from western Pennsylvania.

CNN's John Roberts with Congressman Murtha earlier today.


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Congressman Murtha, at his press conference today, President Bush seemed to indicate that U.S. troops will be in Iraq, at least until the year 2009, saying it will be up to future presidents to determine whether or not U.S. troops will remain in Iraq.

What do you make of that statement today?

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I -- I will tell you this, John.

I -- I -- I don't know how to believe this president or this administration. There's been so much mischaracterization, so many misstatements, so -- so -- it's just on and on and on, the rhetoric vs. the reality. And -- and it's just so confusing. I -- I don't have a clue who is accurate. They have -- they have -- they have not been accurate about anything they have predicted so far.

ROBERTS: But do you find it troubling that U.S. forces could be there at least until 2009?

MURTHA: John, I don't believe they will be there until 2009.

I think you will be substantial reductions this year. And -- and, if he doesn't reduce the troops substantially, there will be a Democratic Congress. And -- and I'm sure that worries this president, that he is going to have a Democratic-controlled Congress. The public wants a change in direction. The public is crying for a change in direction.

ROBERTS: Congressman Murtha, the president also said today that he was confident of victory, that, if he wasn't confident of victory -- quote -- "I wound put those kids in there."

Do you not think he's sincere when he says that?

MURTHA: Well, he -- he's confusing progress with optimism.

And -- and this is part of their problem. What he should do -- and this is in my estimation -- he -- he should stay in the White House. He should get people in there that -- that have had some experience, talk to them. He should fire some people, and then -- and then -- then start talking to the international community, trying to get them back on our side, because we have lost confidence of not only of the -- the -- the international community, but the American public. And the troops are -- 70 percent say they want to come home.

ROBERTS: This story took an interesting twist over the weekend, when retired General Paul Eaton, who used to be the commander of Fort Benning, Georgia, was also sent over to Iraq to begin to train up Iraqi troops, in an editorial, said that, of Donald Rumsfeld: "In sum, he has shown himself incompetent, strategically, operationally, and tactically. Mr. Rumsfeld must step down."

What does it say that a military man is saying that?

MURTHA: Let -- let me tell you something, John. I hear that from not only from retired military. Obviously, they don't say it publicly, but I see people who are serving that think this -- this has been incompetence in -- in many of the mistakes that were made.

For instance, they said that they would go in there and be out within six months; it wouldn't last more than six months. They went in with inadequate forces. It was a failed policy wrapped in illusion, I say, because they -- you know, they miscalculate -- calculated the insurgency.

ROBERTS: Now, your plan, Congressman Murtha, is to redeploy troops, U.S. troops, to the periphery, and let Iraqis take care of security.

But is there not evidence that -- that, if we were to do that, that the Iraqi troops would collapse under the weight of the insurgency? And how would that help things out in that country?

MURTHA: Well, you know, this -- this is a question I get more than any other.

And -- and let me tell you. Who -- who's saying this? This administration is who's saying this. This administration is saying there will be chaos. Well, there hasn't been one thing that they have said yet that turned out to be true.

I'm convinced it's the opposite. Sixty percent of the Iraqis are saying, we -- if you get out of there, it will be less chaos. There will be less fighting. And -- and, now, I don't say that there won't be a short period of time. But this is their problem. This is not our problem. ROBERTS: Well, if anything, Congressman Murtha, this debate is only going to heat up, as this election year progresses. Thanks very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

MURTHA: Yes. Nice talking to you, John.


COOPER: Ahead on 360, another angle to the story: grading Donald Rumsfeld. What do generals really think of him? You heard one retired general's opinion. We will ask two others.

Also, a Florida teacher who could have gone to prison for allegedly having sex with a 14-year-old student, she won't be seeing any prison time at all. Why did prosecutors drop the case? And did she get different treatment because she's attractive? If she were a fat, ugly, old man, would they have thrown away the key?

And a bracelet that is anything but fashionable -- it's designed to keep convicted drug -- drunk drivers off the road. We will tell you how it works and if it does -- coming up on 360.



SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Imagine what would happen if it were announced tomorrow in the headlines of the papers of in America and throughout the world that Rumsfeld was fired. It would energize -- energize -- the rest of the world.



BUSH: No, I don't believe he should resign. I think he's done a fine job of not only conducting two battles, Afghanistan and Iraq, but also transforming our military.


COOPER: Well, the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, has shaped the war in Iraq, arguably, more than anyone. He has also felt plenty of heat from his critics.

But he has never, not once, lost the public support of his boss, not after the WMD intelligence turned out to be wrong, not after U.S. troops failed to secure the weapons that later fell into insurgent hands, not even after Abu Ghraib.

But with the war now in its fourth year, and his critics angrier and bolder than ever, could that possibly change?

CNN's Tom Foreman takes a look back.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's big-time basketball season for colleges all over, just past quail season in Texas, and, most assuredly, Rumsfeld season in Washington.


FOREMAN: The secretary of defense, in a routine as common as the changing seasons, is once again facing calls for his resignation, this time to mark the third anniversary of the Iraq war. And, once again, the president says, no way.

BUSH: No, I don't believe he should resign. I think he's done a fine job of not only conducting two battles, Afghanistan and Iraq, but also transforming our military.

FOREMAN: That transformation of the military, from a Cold War gigantasaur, relying on overwhelming numbers of men and machines, into a smaller, quicker high-tech force has been at the heart of many of the complaints about Rumsfeld.


RUMSFELD: The only thing that the coalition will discuss with this regime is their unconditional surrender.


FOREMAN: Some military analysts say his straight-talking, fast- strike approach to the war in Iraq included too few soldiers and too little planning for the long run.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, SENIOR FELLOW IN FOREIGN POLICY STUDIES, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: The preparation for the counterinsurgency campaign was minimal and largely off-base. And the corrections to that policy took over a year, and sacrificed a great deal of momentum and goodwill towards the United States from the Iraqi people.

FOREMAN: Rumsfeld has never come even close to saying his plan was wrong.


RUMSFELD: You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want.


FOREMAN: Indeed, through the rise of the insurgency, through the prisoner abuse scandal, through the hostages, riots and mounting death toll, he has made gradual adjustments, but never abandoned his basic course.

(on camera): And neither have his critics. With the third anniversary of the Iraq war, they want Rumsfeld gone as much as they ever have, maybe more.


BIDEN: It would energize -- energize -- the rest of the world. They would be willing to help us. It would energize American forces. It would energize the political environment. Yes, he should step down.


FOREMAN (voice-over): But it seems more likely they will still be saying that, and he will still be ignoring him when the fourth anniversary of this war rolls around.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Army General John Abizaid oversees U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today -- and, today, Defense officials says he has agreed, at the request of Secretary Rumsfeld, to stay at his job for at least another year.

We wouldn't expect a general still on the job to talk candidly about what it's like to work for his boss. For that, you sometimes need a retired general.

And we found two, Brigadier General James "Spider" Marks, who is also a CNN military analyst, and Lieutenant General Bernard Trainor, formerly with the Marines and co-author of "Cobra II."

I started off tonight by asking General Trainor if Rumsfeld has successfully modernized the Army.


LIEUTENANT GENERAL BERNARD TRAINOR (RET.), CO-AUTHOR, "COBRA II: THE INSIDE STORY OF THE INVASION AND OCCUPATION OF IRAQ": I think he has, in large measure. And, even in -- in the Gulf War, it was a trimmed-down military force that made the dash towards -- towards Baghdad. And that was a plus.

The problem was that they didn't have the -- the manpower after the fall of the regime to take care of the stability and security in the area.

COOPER: General Marks, you were in Iraq at the beginning of the war. You -- you say in General Trainor's new book -- quote -- "My position is that we lost momentum and that the insurgency was not inevitable."

BRIGADIER GENERAL JAMES MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think we need to recognize that, in the early days of our getting into Iraq, in April -- early March, and then into April of -- of '03, there was a lot of momentum that we had achieved.

And we had destroyed Saddam's army. What we did not have was sufficient strength on the ground, combat power, no-fooling combat power on the ground, to cover down on those unknowns, those contingencies that would inevitably crop up, after you create a situation of incredible chaos.

COOPER: General Trainor, it's interesting, with Rumsfeld, because what -- what this administration all along has said -- you know, when you ask them about troop levels, they will say, well, we -- we listen to our commanders on the ground.

From reading your book, though, it sounds like his style really isn't that, that -- that, basically, he wears down those commanders who are reporting to him.

TRAINOR: That's right, Anderson. He kind of wore down the -- the military, who are, culturally, prepared to make their case before their boss, and then, when the boss makes a decision, salute, and -- and go out swiftly, and try to do the best they can.

He had two techniques. One was the written technique, where he would send out these memos, which became known as snowflakes, and, pretty soon, they became a blizzard, which had everybody running around down at the Central Command headquarters.

And, then, his other technique was in interrogation. When somebody would be briefing him, he would break off the brief, and he would constantly ask questions on -- on unrelated subjects, and -- and confuse people, until they would simply try to respond as they saw that -- that the secretary wanted.

And I think his -- his technique was very effective, but it certainly wasn't something that was -- served our best interests.


COOPER: That was General Trainor and General Marks.

From a military battle to a legal one -- some charges are dropped against a former Florida teacher accused of having sex with a student. That story is coming up.

But, first, Erica Hill from Headline News has some of other stories we are working on -- Erica.


We start off with tears of joy in Oregon tonight, where a family of six missing for 16 days has been found alive. The family had disappeared after leaving for a trip along the coast in an R.V., and ended up stranded in the snow in a remote area in southwest Oregon. The two parents were found first, wandering, looking for help. Talk about relief there.

Fort Meade, Maryland: a U.S. soldier convicted of misconduct by a court-martial jury for his actions at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. Sergeant Michael Smith was found guilty of using his military dog against prisoners and for allowing the dog to be videotaped in a sexual situation with two other U.S. troops at the prison. Smith will be sentenced tomorrow and could face up to eight years behind bars.

At New York's Brooklyn Bridge, talk about a wild historic discovery in a Cold War bunker. Transportation workers inspecting the bridge found a stockpile of dusty good that could be used if there were a nuclear attack back in the '50s and '60s, things like medical supplies, paper blankets, and much more, including more than 350,000 crackers, still intact. Jeanne Moos tried one -- apparently, not so tasty.

And this from Summerville, South Carolina. Oh, no. Kitty, don't. Oh. There you go.


HILL: No, that wasn't Piper, the cat. That was Anderson apparently making a mooing noise.

All right, here's the...


HILL: Here's the story on this poor guy -- or she, actually.

Piper, the cat, survived an 80-foot fall, no serious injuries. She had been in the tree for eight days, and either jumped or fell. We are not sure -- probably used up one of her lives there.

But, look, she's fine -- no broken bones, no nothing. And, by the way, we checked this out with a vet here in Atlanta, Dr. Will Draper (ph). And he says, actually, anything higher than eight stories for a cat...

COOPER: Uh-huh.

HILL: ... is actually better for them than between one and eight stories, when they fall.

COOPER: Really?

HILL: Yes.

COOPER: I did not know that.

HILL: I could go into more detail, but we probably don't have time.

COOPER: I will just quickly see your falling cat, and raise you maybe a bouncing bear.

HILL: Oh, I love it.


HILL: You know, it has been too long.

(RIBBITING) HILL: And a frog.


HILL: You people are all over these sound effects.

COOPER: I know it looks like the bear was hurt, but, again, as we say always, because this thing has been running now for three years, the bear was not injured in the fall...

HILL: That's good to know.

COOPER: ... apparently.


HILL: Thank you for clarifying.


COOPER: Thanks, Erica.

In Florida, a bizarre story -- a former teacher, she was about to stand trial -- a televised trial, at that -- on charges she had sex with a 14-year-old boy. Now that is off the table. We have got the latest, including her explanation for her -- well, for her behavior.

Plus, a hurricane forecast that may mean trouble for millions of people not used to the threat -- could your family be in danger?

All that ahead -- when 60 continues.


COOPER: Well, in America, when it comes to sex, there are a lot of things you can keep secret. But what Debra Lafave was doing isn't one of them. She was 23 and a teacher. Her student was 14 years old. And she was having sex with him. Last year, Lafave pled guilty to lewd and lascivious battery. And, even then, she still faced additional charges, until today.

What happened surprised an awful lot of people.

Here's CNN's John Zarrella.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Twenty-five- year-old Debra Lafave might have gone to prison. But the former Tampa middle school teacher, charged with engaging in various sex acts with a 14-year-old student, and already serving a sentence of house arrest for the crime in one Florida county, walked out of court, the same charges dropped in a second county.

DEBRA LAFAVE, FORMER TEACHER: The past two years have been hard on all parties involved. I pray with all my heart that the young man and his family will be able to move on with their lives. Again, I offer my deepest apology.

ZARRELLA: The young teacher's life went instantly from the obscure to obscene, with the accusations and charges of sex with a student two years ago. Lafave says she is undergoing therapy now for bipolar disorder, which she claims led to her actions.

LAFAVE: I believe that I -- my mental illness had a lot to do with my actions and for someone -- I have gotten -- my passion was teaching. That is taken away from me. I have lost family, and I have lost friends. And, as you see, my face has been plastered on every Internet address, every news outlet.

ZARRELLA: The court's ruling today does not mean Lafave is free. She had been brought up on the same charges in two Florida counties, because she had allegedly engaged in sex acts with the boy in both, at the school and in her house in Tampa, in the back of a car in Marion County.

A plea deal was sculpted for both courts, three years house arrest, seven years probation. The deal went through in Tampa, but not in Marion County. The judge there rejected it, because Lafave would not get prison time.

So, rather than go to trial, where the victim would have to testify, prosecutors dropped the case. Lafave says what hurts her most is what the sensationalism of the case has done to the victim's life.

LAFAVE: He is a young man. And his privacy has been violated. He has walked outside the door and been approached by media. His picture was published on the Internet. That's what I'm talking about.

ZARRELLA: Well before this latest decision, the boy's family was ready to put the headlines behind them for good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This would follow him forever. And my prayer is that he can leave this behind him.

ZARRELLA: Debra Lafave wants to move on, too.

LAFAVE: I am a strong Christian woman. And I believe that God has a path for me. And this was just a bump in the road.

ZARRELLA: Her marriage to Owen Lafave disintegrated into divorce, after the case against her took shape. Now she's engaged to be married again.

LAFAVE: His support is unconditional. And I have known him for 20 years. And he has proved that he loves me unconditionally. And we're just going to take it day by day.

ZARRELLA: If you ask the victim and his family, it's the same for them, just trying to get on with their lives.

John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.


COOPER: Well, for all the obvious reasons, this case generates enormous debate.

Joining us is Karen Russell, an attorney who specializes in employment law and harassment at the workplace. Thanks for being with us.

I -- I find it impossible to believe that, if this woman was an old, you know, gross man, they would have thrown away the key.

KAREN RUSSELL, TRIAL ATTORNEY: Yes, there absolutely is a double standard. I mean, I think that some people think this is a sort of a rite of -- a rite of passage, and boys will be boys, and that boys actually aren't victims. And, so...


COOPER: Because even the terminology -- you see people on television or in the legal profession talking about that, they talk about a relationship. They talk about it as -- you know, as her partner, when, in fact...

RUSSELL: A love affair.

COOPER: Right.


COOPER: When, in fact, I mean, this -- if this was a -- a -- a man molesting a 14-year-old woman or a woman -- you know, a man molesting a 14-year-old girl, it -- it would be rape. I mean...

RUSSELL: Yes. He would be a pedophile. He would be a child rapist.

COOPER: Right.

RUSSELL: And we would define it differently, absolutely.

COOPER: Do you think the law looks differently at women in these cases?

RUSSELL: Well, I mean, the reality is, is that it's -- most of the aggressors aren't -- aren't women. So, it really is the exception to the rule.

And I think that it is -- this is a high-profile case because of the way the woman looks, and the fact that she was a teacher. I mean, so, I think that the prosecutors want to say, look, you know, we're going to be evenhanded; we are going to be, you know, gender-neutral.

But I think that it's also a challenge for the jury to see, you know, this attractive woman, and wonder, is this kid really victimized? If I was a 14-year-old boy, would I really be so bummed out about this? COOPER: Was it surprising -- did it surprise that, apparently, allegedly, this young man, 14-year-old boy, did not want to come forward and testify, and that's really why this case fell apart?


But you have to imagine, this is -- would be such a huge media circus. And, you know, all the shows would be down there covering this. And maybe it's one of these situations where, in addition to his parents not wanting him to be scrutinized, but maybe it's -- he's embarrassed, for being the kid who dropped the dime on the teacher, and said, you know, this is what happened, and got her in trouble.

And maybe it's peer pressure, and his peers saying, "You know, I can't believe that you turned her in."

COOPER: There have been some, though, who have been saying, well, it's hard to believe that he would find this embarrassing, when having sex with her in the back seat of a car while someone else was in the car, or, you know, who knows who was looking through the window, that didn't seem to be a problem. But actually testifying in court, you know, and -- and he's 14 -- he would have his identity protected -- that was a problem.


And it could be his parents also saying, you know what, this is out of hand. So, it's -- it's -- it's more of a parental decision than maybe the child's decision.

COOPER: It's a fascinating case. I appreciate you joining us. Thanks very much. Nice to have you on the program.

RUSSELL: My pleasure.

COOPER: I'd love to have you back.

Debra LaFave says that she is bipolar and suggests that that may be the reason for her sexual advance toward her student. What is bipolar? And could it be a factor in Debra LaFave's case?

We're going to take look at that with an expert psychiatrist coming up ahead.

Also, call it a lie detector for people who drink too much. It may be unbeatable. It does keep drunk drivers off the road, and we'll show you how when 360 continues.



DEBRA LAFAVE, FMR. TEACHER: I want the world to see that bipolar is real. If anything, I'm tired of the media. I don't think not one time has the media brought up the subject of my bipolar. And I challenge you to read a book or an article on bipolar illness. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: We take that challenge.

Yet again, like two people on the show tonight blaming the media. First the government and now her.

Anyway, former Florida teacher Debra LaFave, that was her talking about the condition that she now believes led to her sexual involvement with a student, her molestation of a student, we should say. She's already under house arrest after previously pleading guilty to lewd and lascivious behavior. Today prosecutors dropped the remaining charges against her.

So we want to talk about bipolar and what, if anything, that might have had to do with anything that she did.

Joining us is Dr. Carol Bernstein, a psychiatrist and senior assistant dean at New York University.

What is bipolar disorder?

DR. CAROL BERNSTEIN, PSYCHIATRIST: Bipolar disorder is a serious mental disorder that's characterized by periods of elevated mood, euphoria, really feeling terrific, followed by periods of serious depression, when people can be suicidal.

COOPER: Does it explain why someone would have sex with a 14- year-old child?

BERNSTEIN: Not by itself, of course not. Although, one of the things that I would have to say is that hyper-sexuality and loss of judgment is very characteristic of the manic phase of the illness.

COOPER: Hyper-sexuality, not necessarily, though, with underage children?

BERNSTEIN: No. No, not at all. But it is certainly true that when people are in a manic phase that they can be very sexually promiscuous, approach a lot of people in a sexual mode, and this is true whether they're male or female.

COOPER: To a lot of people it strikes them that she's basically blaming a real legitimate illness and sort of using that to excuse her behavior. If she was labeled a pedophile, as just about any man would be labeled in this case -- if a man molested a 14-year-old girl, he would be labeled a pedophile or an ebophile (ph), or whatever the clinical term is for someone who likes to have sex with 14-year-olds. Why not label her a -- I mean, if she was labeled a pedophile, that would also explain her behavior.

BERNSTEIN: Absolutely true. And I don't know what she is because I haven't had a chance to examine her. But I think that's true, and I really think that it depends on what the lawyers are using in their arguments in the courtroom. Are they saying that someone has an illness like bipolar disorder and that someone was psychotic and didn't have any judgment at the time that they did things, or do they suffer from other type of problem, like pedophilia, that requires incarceration and deserves incarceration?.

COOPER: What is it that leads people to objectify, to see a child as a sexual object? I mean, is there -- is it just as simple as, well, it's pedophilia, or are there explanations for it?

BERNSTEIN: I don't know that we have a good understanding about why people are attracted to children. We know it does happen, and it is a disorder in the diagnostic criteria. It's not the same as bipolar disorder. It's a something else.

So I think the difference is that we have treatments for bipolar disorder. And I don't know that we have any treatments right now for pedophilia. I mean, there are behavioral modalities, but not in the same way, nor do we have the same understanding as we do of bipolar disorder.

COOPER: So when someone now says they have bipolar disorder, someone else out there shouldn't think instantly they want to have sex with a child?

BERNSTEIN: Absolutely not, they certainly shouldn't think that.

COOPER: Dr. Carol Bernstein, appreciate you joining us.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you very much.

COOPER: Thanks.

I want to know what you think about the charges being dropped against Debra LaFave. Coming up, we'll be taking your phone calls. The toll-free number is 877-648-3639. Again, that's 877-648-3639. That's going to be in probably about 20 minutes, or 30 minutes or so.

Ahead on 360, it is a bracelet that once it is strapped on makes it impossible to lie about how much you've had to drink. We'll tell you how it's being used to keep convicted drunk drivers honest and sober.

Also, with hurricane season fast approaching, why you may be in great danger even if you're nowhere near the Gulf Coast.

We'll explain coming up on 360.


COOPER: Well, for parents who put their kids on a school bus in Fruitland, Idaho, the news was horrifying. The driver of the bus is now facing as many as 21 possible criminal charges for allegedly being drunk on the job.

Police say her blood alcohol level is possibly four times the legal limit. She took a blood alcohol test after school. Officials got an anonymous tip, and after taking the test, reportedly resigned.

There was no crash, luckily. All the children on the bus got home safely. But it could have turned out differently.

More than 16,000 people died in alcohol-related traffic accidents in 2004. That's the most recent data available. Keeping drunk drivers off the road is a huge challenge. There is now a new high- tech bracelet that might be able to help.

CNN's Adaora Udoji is keeping them honest and sober.



ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In this Scranton, Pennsylvania, courtroom, Judge Michael Barrasse doesn't let defendants get away with much, especially those with a record of drinking and driving or other alcohol-related offenses. If he's ordered them to stop drinking, they'd better, or armed with cutting-edge technology, he'll find out. And when some paroles test him, it isn't pretty.

JUDGE MICHAEL BARRASSE, LACKAWANNA COUNTY COURT: I'm giving you one chance to be honest with me. One chance, and that will be a determination as to whether you're going to the county or to the state.

When's the last time you drank?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Honest to god, I didn't have a drink since I had this -- the bracelet on?

BARRASSE: When's the last time you drank?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About a week ago

BARRASSE: And how many days in a row did you drink, Richard?


BARRASSE: Richard, how many days in a row did you drink?


UDOJI: How did the judge know? The parolee referred to a bracelet. He's talking about this, a Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor, or SCRAM bracelet, a new device that monitors a person's alcohol consumption. In other words, you can't lie about what you drink. It's an alcohol lie detector.

BARRASSE: How's your -- your bracelet doing?

UDOJI: The past two years, it's spread to hundreds of courtrooms across the country in 36 states. Judge Barrasse was one of the first.

LISA WHITE, PROBATION OFFICER: The bracelet begin to read as the alcohol was burning off.

BARRASSE: That would be a daily consumption.


UDOJI: Parole officer Lisa White oversees some of the toughest cases of multiple offenders. She takes them through intense treatment, which includes SCRAM reports every day which she shares with the judge.

The bracelet shows, despite a court order, this defendant was drinking, so he now goes jail.

BARRASSE: Beforehand, we didn't have that capability. So a person could be on house arrest and they'd just be sitting home drinking the whole time and you wouldn't know it.

UDOJI: Not anymore. The bracelet collects information all day long, constantly monitoring the wearer's perspiration, looking for alcohol.

Watch this black line closely. At 2:01 a.m. it begins to rise. That means it's detecting alcohol.

The parolee has started drinking. And that information is relayed to a monitor, then to a databank which notifies the parole officer. They're also notified if the parolee tampers with the bracelet or takes it off.

BARRASSE: Peter, you've had a long and checkered career in this courtroom.


UDOJI: Peter Farrell just spent 90 days in jail on his third DUI. Today the judge orders Farrell, a successful contractor, not to drink. And to be certain, he must wear the SCRAM bracelet 24/7 for the next four months.

FARRELL: I have to be in this room, which they make at 4:00 a.m., because you'd be sleeping.

UDOJI: Peter, who struggles with alcoholism, said the bracelet worked last time as long as it was on. He started drinking after it came off. He served a jail sentence and is hoping this time the bracelet will help him keep sober.

FARRELL: Between probation and the other treatment, and you can still live your life. You can see your children, which is good. And you can work, you know, and you can earn money and take care of your family.

Shane (ph), he's the oldest.

When I was in jail, I was thinking, here I am, you know, I have six kids and I'm 40. You know, I've been drinking since I'm like 15. Like, enough is enough.

UDOJI: Judge Barrasse says the idea is for Peter and the other 3,000 parolees across the country wearing SCRAM bracelets to stay sober long enough to learn they can live without alcohol.

BARRASSE: If we couple that with treatment, and if we couple that with the external pressure of the court, we have a better chance of a positive outcome.

WHITE: Can I sit here and say that Pete's going to be a success story? I can hope he is. I can do everything in my power to get him to the agencies he needs to assure that. But I can't sit here and say he will be.

UDOJI (on camera): Do you think the SCRAM will up his chances?

WHITE: Yes. Yes, absolutely it will. Absolutely it will.

BARRASSE: How long have you been sober?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's coming up on four months.

BARRASSE: Congratulations.


UDOJI (voice over): Judge Barrasse says the bracelets work, though it's too early for hard numbers. And it's too early too tell if it will be enough to help Pete Farrell help himself.

Adaora Udoji, CNN, Scranton, Pennsylvania.


COOPER: Interesting.

Well, the predictions of another rough hurricane season is not too far away. We all know hurricane season begins June 1. The Gulf Coast has reason to be worried, of course, but should other parts of the country be just as concerned? One prominent forecaster says yes.

We're going to tell you why some big cities might want to take notice.

Plus, the White House versus the media. You've seen and heard about the gun battles, explosions and kidnappings, but is that an accurate view of what's really happening in Iraq? The Bush administration says no. We'll take a look when 360 continues.


COOPER: Well, the next hurricane season is just 72 days away, and you can be sure people along the Gulf Coast are anxious about that, concerned that another big storm could head their way. But perhaps they shouldn't be the only ones worrying. One prominent forecaster now says a major hurricane is due to strike and says big cities in the Northeast would be in the storm's path.

CNN's meteorologist Rob Marciano takes a look.


ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST (voice over): Here's what you need to know about hurricanes and New York City. It's all about geography.

Manhattan sits at an angle, which can allow water to accumulate. It's surrounded by two rivers and a harbor. Together, they can form a funnel which would push a possible 12-foot storm surge on to land. A possibility feature filmmakers couldn't resist.

It has been the subject of science fiction films and of some speculation by weather experts and emergency management officials. What would happen if New York City was hit by a major hurricane?

Well, now some photographers say it's not a question of if, but when. And it could happen soon.

Dr. Bill Gray specializes in predicting hurricanes.

WILLIAM GRAY, HURRICANE EXPERT: The odds are almost high this year as in a long-term average year.

MARCIANO: Meteorologically speaking, conditions are certainly right for a significant Northeast storm. Since 1995, we've seen a lot more hurricane activity. Add to that above-normal water temperatures and ideal pressure systems and it's the perfect mix for a major Atlantic storm.

WILLIAM VORLICEK, CORPORATE PREPAREDNESS PRACTICE: We have to realize that probability does exist, that hurricanes do occur. They occur at a certain time during the year. And we are in the hurricane path.

MARCIANO: The last big one to hit New York was the hurricane of 1938, back before hurricanes had names. With winds of 120 miles per hour and a massive storm surge, it killed hundreds in the Northeast.

This map based on information from New York City's Office of Emergency Management shows how badly inundated Manhattan Island would be by a Category 4 storm. Lower Manhattan could be covered by 20 to 30 feet of water. Chelsea and Greenwich Village would flood with waters from the Hudson River spilling well into the center of the island. The East River would take over the East Village.

And what about the wind? Wind speeds go up as you go higher, and that might not bode well for the city's skyscrapers.

Then there's the challenge of moving 1.5 million people off an island. Not just people, but naturally skeptical New Yorkers.

VORLICEK: When do you pull the trigger to say time to evacuate? That's a -- that's a tough decision. And in New York, you have the attitude -- and I'm a New Yorker -- the attitude is, you know what? Yes, yes, yes. You know, we hear this all the time.

MARCIANO: On the plus side, New York has a short peek hurricane season from about August through October. But all it takes are the right conditions coming together on the right day, and the results could be devastating.


MARCIANO: Well, the Statue of Liberty may not very well be under water like that, but you're not going to see palm trees flailing around like you've seem in hurricane seasons past. If a storm gets up towards the New York area or New England, you're talking about hard woods that will be blowing around, and they may be a little bit weaker than the weather-savvy palm trees.

All right. Let's break down the numbers.

What does Dr. Gray really say as far as doubling or almost doubling the probability of seeing a storm like this strike New York or the Northeast? Well, on an average year it's only about a 6 percent chance. I mean, these storms have a hard time getting that far north and staying to the west.

Well, conditions for this year almost double. Round numbers go up to about 12 percent for your run of the mill hurricane to strike the Northeast.

How about a major storm? Those are the ones we're really worried about. They do the most damage.

Well, on an average year, a 4 percent chance of seeing a major hurricane, Cat 3, 4 or 5 storm hit the Northeast. This year, with the conditions the way they are, actually that number goes up to 8 percent.

So, you know, it's not -- not numbers that are going to blow you away, Anderson, but certainly numbers that make you wake up just a little bit. And hopefully the Northeast will get lucky again. But it looks like it's going to be another active season no matter how you slice it.

COOPER: All right, Rob. Thanks very much.

Coming up ahead on 360, more of the unexpected twist. Prosecutors in Florida dropping their case against a teacher accused of molesting a 14-year-old student. Would it have ended differently if she were man?

We're taking your phone calls on that.

But first, Erica Hill from HEADLINE NEWS joins us with some of the business stories we're following tonight.


COOPER: Coming up, the woman who had sex with a 14-year-old student -- a teacher. She might have gone to jail. So what's her punishment now after a stunning legal twist? Now she's only grounded instead.

What do you think? We're taking your calls, 1-877-648-3639.

Also, is the media losing the war in Iraq? We'll hear from a blogger who says the worst it gets the happier we are to report it. Not sure who the "we" are that's he's talking about, but that's what he says.

And why science can tell us about dreams. Dr. Sanjay Gupta's dreams and yours all coming up tonight on 360.


COOPER: And good evening again.

A female teacher charged with molesting a boy. Today the case was thrown out. Is there a double standard when an accused sex offender is a woman?


ANNOUNCER: Remember teacher Debra LaFave? She had sex with a 14-year-old student.

LAFAVE: My greatest regret would probably be the fact that I put this young man through this.

ANNOUNCER: So why did prosecutors drop the charges against her? Would the same happen if the teacher was a man?

We're taking your calls.