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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Manslaughter Charges Filed in Sweat Lodge Death

Aired February 03, 2010 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening everyone. We begin with breaking news, manslaughter charges against self-help guru James Arthur Ray. He's been arrested. That's him this evening on his way to being booked, that's what they call the perp walk. Three people died in one of his sweat lodges. Tonight we're going to talk to a woman who was inside the sweat lodge where people died and talk to Jeff Toobin on the legal case against him.

Also tonight, serious new questions about that group of American missionaries under arrest in Haiti for trafficking kids and some explosive allegations tonight that we're hearing for the first time that they may have known what they were doing was illegal and some new questions about whether they may have paid bribes to take the kids.

And later, raw politics, President Obama's Q and A session, this time with Democrats. Was it any easier on him than Republicans? The answer may surprise you.

But first up, the breaking news. Let's get started. One of the country's leading self-help gurus is in jail, charged with manslaughter, this guy James Arthur Ray. Here's the video that we just got of him being taken into custody by authorities. Certainly not the image of the multimillionaire self-help guru we have been seeing over the last couple of months. He's a guy you have probably seen on TV, made a fortune selling self-empowerment for thousands of dollars a pop per person. The sheriff's deputies arresting him this afternoon at his attorney's office in Prescott, Arizona.

Now, the charges, you are going to remember go become to what happened in October right here at the so-called spiritual warrior sweat lodge ceremony outside Sedona. More than 20 people became ill inside there. Three eventually died. Gary Tuchman joins us with the breaking news. He has been covering this for a long time now. Gary what do we know?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, James Ray is in serious trouble, three counts of manslaughter against him in Arizona. That is recklessly causing the death of another. Each count carries the possibility of four to 10 years in prison. Now, his attorneys say it was unjust, that it was just a terrible accident. But here are 700 pages of testimony and evidence that say otherwise. These are people who were in the sweat lodge, dozens of people who have talked to detectives and most of them say the exact same thing that James Ray wasn't interested in people who were fainting, people who were passing out, people who were throwing up, people who were going delirious. There are also interviews with people who were in the sweat lodge last year. No one died last year, but people also got sick and they say James Ray also showed no interest in people getting sick last year.

But an example of some of the testimony, a detective talked to a man named Daniel who said, quote, he didn't remember anything because he had passed out, was hallucinating and dreaming. Daniel was actually hitting and kicking people. And then there's a man named Lou. The detective says I contacted Lou by phone. I asked how he was injured. He stated he had gotten so hot, he was delirious and was trying to get out of the lodge. He put his hand into the hot rocks in the middle of the lodge. Lots of participants interviewed by detectives, also employees, including one employee who is likely to be a star witness in a trial against James Ray. And I talked to her a few weeks ago. Listen.


MELINDA MARTIN, FMR. EMPLOYEE OF JAMES RAY INTL: It was like an absolute MASH unit. Helicopters coming down, you know, when he came out, the helicopters weren't there, but at that time, it is still bodies everywhere, passed out. I mean, and then they -- he walked out of there looking like a million bucks.

TUCHMAN: What was James Ray doing during this time?

MARTIN: Watching, standing above and watching. They hosed him down and he said, oh, thank you and you know, and then he walked past the guy who was screaming, saying -- he was earlier saying he didn't want to die and please don't let me die. James walked by and this guy went to -- said to James from his sitting down position, he goes, I died, I literally died and I came back to life. James is like, hey, all right, man, gave him a high five. It was like fantastic. James, I think was completely oblivious to the pandemonium that was taking place around that sweat lodge.

TUCHMAN: What happened during the worst point of all this, the most horrifying point?

MARTIN: My worst point or my most horrifying point was when the ambulances arrived and helicopters arrived and the paramedics came and they surveyed Kirby Brown and they put her in an ambulance instead of a helicopter and that was the worst moment for me.

TUCHMAN: Because you knew that it was too late for her?

MARTIN: And after me giving her mouth-to-mouth, I would breathe into her mouth, her stomach would go up and when it would go back down again, she would vomit into my mouth and this happened four times. And I really thought I was going to bring her back. I really thought that she was going to survive.


TUCHMAN: James Ray is being processed in the jail right now. He will have his initial appearance in court tomorrow morning. He's in jail in lieu of $5 million bond. Anderson, a short time ago, I talked with Andrea Puckett. She is the daughter of one of the sweat lodge victims, Liz Newman. She told me she feels utter relief tonight.

COOPER: You know, Gary are this point won't be part of the legal case because it's not about actually what happened inside the sweat lodge but I do think what we have seen subsequent to this in his behavior kind of points to what kind of guy we are dealing with. You have been on his trail for a long time. I would have thought after three people died in a sweat lodge that his business was associated with and he was directly involved with that he would have at least stopped, you know, having seminars right away. But he didn't do that. He went on to continue to have seminars and in fact, you tried and a producer tried to confront him at one of them and you guys got kicked out, right?

TUCHMAN: Right. He was trying to drum up business in the days after three people died in his sweat lodge. He was holding a seminar here in the state of Colorado where I am right now. And there were hundreds of people there. They were very enthusiastic and I wasn't able to get in because they recognized me and they wouldn't let me in. My producer got in he started taking some questions and my producer Ray (INAUDIBLE) said how are you holding this seminar with all these people just days after three people died and he said this is not a press conference and my producer got booed and they ushered him out of the room. It so happens that James Ray about a week later, stopped holding the free seminars. He says it was a decision he made. But Other people, Anderson who are witnesses who are on the 700 pages say the reason he stopped is because the hotels where he was holding them wouldn't have him anymore.

COOPER: Also, wasn't one of the people who died, weren't they sent to the hospital as a Jane Doe? And didn't they lay in the hospital as a Jane Doe for quite some time before they could figure out who their family was? And people from James Ray's organization didn't even -- or James Ray didn't even follow up on that?

TUCHMAN: That's exactly right. That one of the three victims was in the hospital and they didn't know who she was. She had no identification with her. And she was labeled as Jane Doe.

COOPER: Unbelievable.

TUCHMAN: That is one of the things, that's one of the things the families are so upset about, they feel it was so unfeeling.

COOPER: Understandable, ironic for a guy who talks about your feelings all the time. We're going to actually hear from him. He gave an interview right before he was arrested. We are going to read you some of what he had to say and also going to talk to somebody who was inside that sweat lodge for some more details and we'll talk to Jeff Toobin about the legal case. Let us know what you think about this. Join us right now the live chat under way,

Also later tonight, those American missionaries arrested for trafficking orphans in Haiti, this is a fascinating case and it's hard again to kind of figure out what exactly is going on with it. They say they did nothing wrong. They seemed like, you know, nice people, good intentions, but there's some new allegations that we have learned tonight from Karl Penhaul in the ground in Port-au- Prince that they may have known precisely that what they were doing was illegal. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I warned her. I say as soon as you get there without the proper documents, you going to get in trouble because they are going to accuse you because you have the intent to pass the border without the proper papers. And they are going to accuse you of kids trafficking.



COOPER: People put their lives in his hands, trusting him to help improve themselves. They paid a lot for the opportunity. Three paid with their lives. Our breaking news tonight, self-help guru James Arthur Ray, in custody, charged three counts of manslaughter in the deaths of one of his sweat lodge ceremonies. Now last month Ray and his attorney spoke with "New York" magazine. We're going to be showing you some of what he had to say about the sweat lodge incident and it really contradicts what we're hearing from people actually inside, including Beverly Bunn, who survived the ordeal. She's on the phone with us tonight. Also here with us, senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. Beverly, first of all, when he heard this guy was arrested what, went through your mind?

BEVERLY BUNN, SWEAT LODGE PARTICIPANT (BY TELEPHONE): I actually heard it from Gary and I started crying. It was an overwhelming feeling with mixed emotions.

COOPER: Mixed emotions how?

BUNN: So much satisfaction and gratification and vilification of what I have been saying since the beginning. And I just -- you know, the truth is the truth and now the truth is being told and the truth is coming out.

COOPER: Jeff in terms of what's going to happen in court, his lawyers are saying that there was no way he could have predicted the tragic events that happened. Obviously, police don't agree.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Right. The defense here is very clear. It is a tragic accident, not foreseeable, just a tragedy. A lot of facts that we don't know at this point will be very important in this case. You know, what had happened previously? Did he have warnings that this could have happened or had it gone off without a hitch in the past? What kind of precautions were taken? How were people warned? Were there medical personnel on the premises? It does appear like there was at least one doctor there. All these questions will go to his good faith or lack thereof. And I think that is really the critical legal question. COOPER: Beverly did they take, like, a medical evaluation of you before you were put in the sweat lodge?

BUNN: Nothing. No medical history was taken at all.

COOPER: Wow. I want to read you something, Beverly, that this guy, James Ray gave in an interview to "New York" magazine recently. When asked, what did you do after making sure 911 was called because that is what he said he did, Ray replied I did everything I could to help. There was a medical doctor there and I was having her make sure that everything was being run appropriately. I held peoples' hands. I stroke their hair. I talked to them. I held an IV for the paramedics. I was there the entire time doing whatever I could do to help until I was detained by the detectives. Beverly, you were there, is he telling the truth?

BUNN: No, that is completely false. The medical doctor was there as a participant and she actually was laying next to me. And when I actually was coherent and I started actually reviving one of the people that was in critical condition, I said we need medical assistance here and I knew she was a medical doctor. So I asked her to come and help. When we saw that they were doing CPR over in another area, that's actually when I told -- they required medical assistance. I told the lady that you need to go over -- she needs to go over there.

COOPER: You were the one actually directing this doctor around? What was Ray doing at this time?

BUNN: James Ray was about five or 10 feet away from Kirby and James Shore while they were actually conducting CPR on them. He just actually stood there. He was nowhere on our side of the tent. There's no way he was helping anybody. Those are very false, very false statements.

COOPER: Jeff --

BUNN: He was nowhere, anywhere near any of us.


TOOBIN: These are huge issues for the criminal case, because was the doctor there because she just happened to be a guest or was -- was she an employee who was someone there to --

COOPER: Beverly, do you know the answer to that? Was she an employee or she was actually taking part in the sweat lodge?

BUNN: No. She was just a participant.

TOOBIN: That is a big issue. And also, the whole issue of his possible false statements because there is nothing prosecutors like better to show consciousness of guilt -- people lie about what went on.

COOPER: I want to read you a statement, Jeff that he gave to "New York" magazine. He was asked, were you aware that some participants were vomiting or passing out or screaming for help during the sweat lodge? His lawyer referred them to what they call the white paper, which was this defense document that they already have prepared and in the white paper it says, had Mr. Ray, (INAUDIBLE) personnel or volunteers heard or understood there to be an urgent call for help they immediately would have stopped the ceremony. It is a very carefully calibrated statement.


COOPER: Basically, had they -- had they heard or understood there to be an urgent call for help, not sure what an urgent call for help would be. I mean it is easy to interpret that in many ways.

TOOBIN: That's right. Certainly, prosecutors will be looking very carefully at his behavior to show that he knew what he had done was wrong. And lying is the classic way that people show that they know that they did something wrong.

COOPER: Beverly, I was stunned by something he also said in "New York" magazine in this interview. I don't know frankly why he gave this interview, if he thought he was helping himself. But he said, he was asked, do you think in some divinely or cosmically ordained way, this was the victims' time to die to which he replied I don't think I'm qualified to answer that. I think that's something that everyone would have to come to their own conclusions about. He also -- he seems to show no real understanding of how that might be interpreted. And earlier, he was asked about one of his volunteers saying on a conference call that -- referencing some channeler who said that this -- these people maybe wanted to die that they were having so much fun, it was their time to move on and transition. Are you surprised to hear this from this guy who I mean, you had turned to for spiritual enlightenment?

BUNN: I think it was a very bizarre statement on his part. And I was on the conference call and I did hear that. I didn't understand it at all. There was none of that throughout the whole seminar, as far as channeling or anything. So for him to actually say that -- state that, I don't exactly know where he is coming from when he says that.

COOPER: He was asked in this "New York" magazine about the channeler, whether the channeler -- I don't know really what a channeler is, but this person said there was a channeler who said that these people were having so much fun, maybe that they just moved on to the next life. He was asked do you agree with this? He basically said well, I'm not qualified to talk about channeling. I leave that for other people to decide. The obvious answer would be like, no that is an inappropriate statement.

TOOBIN: Right. And this new age gobbledygook that he is speaking is not likely to go over very well with the jury. And this whole "New York" magazine thing is just another example of why defense attorneys in general, say to their clients, don't say anything. Because this clearly only makes the situation worse. COOPER: Beverly, the fact that a person who had believed in this man was left in a hospital as a Jane Doe, when clearly the organization would have known who this person was and could have at least notified the family immediately, does that -- I mean, that's got to rub you the wrong way.

BUNN: Yeah. I mean, it completely rubs me the wrong way, but there's a lot of things, I mean, James Ray preached about living an impeccable life, taking responsibility for your life, taking responsibility for your actions. That was preached a lot during the whole course of the events. And then James Ray showed up, the real James Ray showed up in the end and the thing is that the man who has actually never showed any kind of accountability, responsibility in any shape or form, this whole event has totally changed my life. I've never received a phone call. I have been very public and the thing is that they have never actually contacted me to see, you know, how I'm doing. I have spoken with many, many survivors and they have never received any phone calls to see how they are doing. You know, he left the event. He basically, like I said before, he abandoned us at the event. And he did not come to the dinner hall that night. We were notified by the investigative team. He didn't show up at the dinner hall the next morning. He never went to the hospital and he has never contacted any of the families, not him, his staff, in any way, shape or form to see exactly how everybody is doing.

COOPER: He moved on to other seminars until I guess -- (INAUDIBLE)

BUNN: He conducted his business.

COOPER: Beverly, I appreciate you being on with us. I know it's a difficult thing to talk about, Beverly Bunt thank you and Jeff Toobin as well. Thanks very much. We will continue to follow it.

Just ahead what is Haiti's government doing to help the Haitian people or are they simply AWOL? We're going to look at that. Also we have some new damning allegations frankly against those American missionaries accused of kidnapping Haitian kids. See who says they were warned that what they were about to do was illegal. They went ahead and did it anyway. We'll tell you who allegedly helped them and who is now being questioned about maybe taking a bribe to do it. This thing is just getting stranger and stranger.

And later is the home crowd any easier than the opposition? See how President Obama did today fielding questions, not all of them soft balls, from his own party. We will have the raw politics.


COOPER: The question tonight are the American missionaries suspected of trying to kidnap kids out of Haiti telling the truth? A lot of people want to know, of course, including right here and home and in Haiti. As we have been reporting, the group is behind bars, that's where they still are, insisting they did nothing wrong and they were only trying to help the kids, not sneak them across the border. As we've also been telling you, they met with a Haitian policeman who they say offered to assist them, take the kids out of the country. But did they actually try to bribe this guy or did they bribe this guy? It's unusual to get a Haitian policeman to volunteer to help you for a certain amount of time without some sort of money being passed. We've got new information to bring you tonight. Karl Penhaul has been working the story for days. Here is his "360" follow-up report.


KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They said they were coming to save Haitian orphans in Jesus' name. First, they seemed naive but well intentioned. But Haitian and Dominican authorities now paint a different picture. They say the Baptist missionaries had no proper paperwork and were, in fact, warned last Friday their so-called mercy mission was illegal.

GENERAL CARLOS CASTILLO, DOMINICAN CONSUL: And I warned her, I say as soon as you get there without the proper documents, you're going to get in trouble because they are going to accuse you, because you have the intent to pass the border without the proper papers and they are going to accuse you of kids trafficking.

PENHAUL: But that's very different from what the group's leader, Laura Silsby told CNN in a jailhouse interview.

LAURA SILSBY: We went to the Dominican consulate and was told there by the consular general to go ahead and head towards the border that we should be fine to, you know, to pass.

PENHAUL: Less than four hours after they met the consul, Silsby and the other Americans were arrested at the border with 33 Haitian babies and children, accused of child trafficking. Haitian Steve Adrien who translated for the group, says he believes any paperwork the Americans have may have been facilitated by Haitian policemen who worked at the Dominican consulate.

STEVE ADRIEN, TRANSLATOR: They met a police guy and tell them that he could help and he was -- he was helping them with some paper.

PENHAUL: A senior Haiti police chief confirms this police officer was taken for questioning about whether he provided illegal travel documents for a bribe. In jailhouse interviews Saturday and Sunday with CNN, Silsby and the other Americans appear to portray themselves as well-intentioned but naive.

SILSBY: I can tell you our heart and our intent was to help only those children that needed us most that they had lost either both mother and father.

PENHAUL: But another interpreter working for the missionaries says criteria for selecting the children was not whether they were truly orphans but if they were under age 10. Was Laura well aware that these children were not orphans? Did she know -- did she know they were not orphans but had a parent or two parents or -- ADRIEN: Did she know that she -- that they were orphan?



PENHAUL: An Austrian charity now caring for the children says it has already confirmed two-thirds of them are not orphans. Some of the children came from this mountain village of Calabas (ph). (INAUDIBLE) like other parents we met here said he was too poor to care for his daughters after the quake. He hoped the Americans would give his girls a better future.

I put them both on the bus with the Americans with my own hands. I kissed them both good-bye and told them don't forget daddy, he said. Police gave CNN permission to talk to the missionaries again in jail Tuesday night to discuss allegations they knowingly flouted the laws here and of taking young children that weren't orphans. But they were in no mood to talk. They drowned out questions with hymns.


COOPER: Karl Penhaul joins us now. Karl, what do you make of this? Are these people naive? They have good intentions and something went wrong? I mean, if they are paying a bribe to a police officer if that is in fact true and as you have shown in your report, a police officer is being investigated or at least talked to about that, if they were told what they were doing was illegal and they went ahead and did it anyway, what do you make of this?

PENHAUL: Well, initially, I thought like a lot of other people, that these were well-intentioned people that would race down here to do something immediately to try and cut through the red tape and do something good. And you know, the way they talk, they are very softly spoken, they talk about how they believe that this was a mission from God that they are very righteous people, come across as that and I kind of bought into that. But then the more I dug into this, it just seems that they knew from the get-go that what they were going was going to be illegal, both on the Haitian side and from the Dominican side. Authorities were telling them you don't do it this way, you can't do it this way, you must do things right. And they simply flouted that and looked for other ways to circumvent it. And when it all comes down, I really wonder, you know, we know that these kids, many of them, had parents, most of them had have parents and I just wonder whether really, them going and living on their own in an orphanage is better than living with their parents here in Haiti. And I know the parents have got a poor existence here but development has got to be on giving those kids a better future here in Haiti, not a better future abroad.

COOPER: That is what all the groups, UNICEF, say the children are saying is look, yes kids were already in the adoption process that is one thing but for the kids who are still in Haiti right now, you know, the focus should be on trying to make their lives better, because not everybody can be taken abroad. Some of them do have -- that poor father who gave up his child, you know, because he felt he couldn't give his child the life. It's also not clear to me that they even had an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. I talked to you about this last night. You said they were going to be building it, but it is not as if the need in Haiti was so dire to get these kids out, you know, they could have come up with a facility in Port- au-Prince to fund and give money to I mean, people want to do good things for kids in Haiti, there is plenty of ways to do it besides taking them out of the country.

PENHAUL: I think you have hit the nail on the head. There is no need to take them out of Haiti to do this. Even if they -- you know, they could support them here in Haiti. In fact, where the kids are now, at SOS Children's Village, those are beautiful installations. There's a number of different houses. The kids live in 14 or 15 strong groups. They have got a big communal table there they all meet around have three square meals a day. Why don't these American Baptists pump some money into that instead of doing their own thing, when they clearly have no experience in that? I know from Dan Simon's report that they were saying they were trying to do this over the last two years. What Laura Silsby told us is that she only founded her charity a year ago.

COOPER: It's a fascinating story. And Karl, I appreciate your dogged reporting on it. Thank you very much. It's not easy trying to figure out what is true on the ground in Port-au-Prince. Karl is doing a great job.

More from Haiti ahead. Where is the Haitian government? What are Haiti's leaders actually doing to help their own people more than three weeks into the disaster? We are keeping them honest tonight.

Also tonight, are Democrats any easier on President Obama than Republicans when they have got him on the spot? You can see for yourself. They grilled him today, some of them did just like Republicans did last week. Some of their questions may surprise you. We will play them for you.


COOPER: Tonight, new details about the decision to try the accused Christmas-Day bomber in civilian court. We'll tell you what Attorney General Eric Holder revealed in a letter to Senate Republicans hammering the decision.

First, let's get to some of the other important headlines tonight. Kiran Chetry has the "360 Bulletin" -- Kiran.


We start in northwest Pakistan, where three American soldiers were among seven people killed today when a powerful roadside bomb struck a convoy. It happened near a girls' school. The Americans were there training the country's security forces to fight the Taliban and al Qaeda.

There's more confusion tonight for owners of Toyotas recalled because their accelerator pedals could stick. During a hearing on Capitol Hill today, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that the eight recalled models should not be driven.


RAY LAHOOD, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: My advice is, if anybody owns one of these vehicles, stop driving it, take to Toyota dealer because they believe they have the fix for it.


CHETRY: Well, later, LaHood said that he misspoke and only meant to urge Toyota owners to take recalled cars into the dealerships to have them fixed as soon as possible.

Former secretary of state, Colin Powell, today publicly shifting his stance on the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, a ban that he actually proposed when he was chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. Powell said he now supports efforts to lift the ban on gays openly serving in the military, saying, quote, "Attitudes and circumstances have changed in the 17 years since Congress mandated the policy."

And if you think you're hip because you tweet, think again. According to a new report, those who really know what's cool, you know, teenagers, they think tweeting is pretty lame. Researchers found that only 8 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds online are active on Twitter. They mostly follow celebrity tweets. And the takeaway, Anderson, is if you prefer tweeting to texting, you're actually just showing your age.



COOPER: Oh, my God. Oh, my God.

CHETRY: OMG is the right way to say it.

COOPER: I hate being mocked by 8-year-olds.

CHETRY: Exactly.

COOPER: I hate being told by an 8-year-old what's cool.

CHETRY: Do you -- do you also notice. I'm very uncomfortable around teenagers. I feel like they're just sitting there thinking, "What is this old bag trying to say to me right now," but anyway.

COOPER: I feel that way around our interns.

CHETRY: Me, too.

COOPER: Kiran, thanks very much.

The Democrats take on the president with the cameras rolling. Senators asking their boss why should Americans trust the Democratic Party? This open forum backfire or is it a really good thing for President Obama? We've got that coming up. Talk to David Gergen and others.

Later, on Haiti's government, weeks after the earthquake, the people are waiting for answers and asking where are their leaders? So are we, Keeping Them Honest, tonight.


COOPER: Bill Clinton will be in Haiti on Friday. He has a big new role. The U.N. today asked the former president to lead the coordinated global aid efforts for Haiti. Fundraising is going to be, obviously, a major part of that role.

Clinton already serves the United Nations special envoy to the country.

But tonight, the question we're asking, frankly, a lot of Haitian people are asking on the ground in Port-au-Prince, is where is the Haitian government? Where have the leaders been? I don't mean their physical location. We know they're located by the airport. I mean, what are they actually doing to help people?

"Keeping Them Honest" tonight, Joe Johns joins us from Port-au- Prince. And in Chicago, Professor Ludovic Comeau, an economics professor at DePaul University and former chief economist of the Haitian Central Bank.

Professor, first of all, how do you think the Haitian government has been dealing with this crisis? I mean, a lot of folks in Haiti are just saying where have they been?

PROFESSOR LUDOVIC COMEAU, ECONOMICS PROFESSOR, DEPAUL UNIVERSITY: Well, the Haitian government has also been hit by the earthquake, and many have lost their parents and families. One minister lost their son.

But clearly, there has been a communication problem, a public relations problem for the Haitian government. Because when you're dealing with such a tragedy, one would hope that the president, the prime minister, would have come out in the first few hours and ask the foreigners that had come first to provide some relief, to provide them with communications, you know, to speak to the people.

But unfortunately, that didn't seem to have happened. And in the diaspora, and also in (ph) Haiti, people are wondering, Haitians are wondering what happened? Why didn't we see the president, the providers, some leadership and live up to the moment?

COOPER: Joe, it's interesting. President Preval has said in print, "Well, look, I'm not there for photo ops." But -- but you know, in a country where, if you know, they make the argument, well, the government is broken, and we don't have money so there's not much we can do, the least you can do is lead by example. And if your countrymen are suffering and -- then you should be out there, helping people pick through the rubble in those first few days or doing something visible. I know you talked to the Haitian government people today. What's their excuse? What are they saying?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, I mean, what we know is that this is a country that is the poorest country in the hemisphere, made poor, kept poor by the west. Its leadership has been undermined, essentially, for centuries, and that comes right to this day.

The leadership in this country is not respected by a lot of the people. A lot of the people say they're not doing anything. So we did go to the information minister here in Haiti today, asked a couple of questions about that, and she said, "Look, we're working quietly behind the scenes."

Let's listen.


MARIE LAURENCE LASSEGUE, HAITIAN INFORMATION MINISTER: I say that all the countries who came to help us, they are there because we need them. And Canada, United States, Venezuela, Africa, they help us because we have a lot of priorities.

So even when the population can see people from any kind of country, but we ask them to help us. So, the government is working in coordination, in articulation with all that country.


COOPER: Joe, she's essentially saying, "Well, what we did was we asked for help, and we should get praised because we asked for help."

I mean -- I mean, in terms of specifics, you know, a state-run company did collect the bodies that were on the streets of Port-au- Prince. So that's -- in fairness that's something they did, though as we know a number of those bodies were just dumped on the side of the road and not actually buried.

There are now people picking up rubble, but that's funded by the U.N., right?

JOHNS: Yes, a lot of that is funded by the U.N. But there are also people from the government here picking up rubble, as well. There are things the government is doing.

I mean, I don't want to overstate it, but they're working on inoculations. That could be very important. They are working a lot on the new orphans, trying to figure out who they are and helping all the NGOs in Port-au-Prince place them, and that's massive effort.

In fact, NGOs is one of the biggest problem for this government, because for decades, so many people who were giving money to this country gave all the money to the private, charitable organizations and not to the government. So the government didn't have money to stand up its public safety sector, for example, or to put in new infrastructure.

And that's where we are today. This government is broke, and that's why it can't do anything, Anderson.

COOPER: That's, of course, because of the history of corruption.

Professor, moving forward, I mean, President Clinton has this new role. What -- how can he help Haiti rebuild? I mean, what does he need to do? There's this huge Haitian diaspora. There's millions of Haitians around the world, many in the United States. You're saying that they should be part of this rebuilding, yes?

COMEAU: Well, absolutely. And since the earthquake, many Haitian groups in the diaspora, particularly in the United States and Canada, we have gotten together. We have formed think tanks and groups of professionals to try to come up with ideas and plans for the long term of Haiti.

And we are happy that we have someone like President Clinton, with all the contacts that he has. But we think that he has to be more a facilitator and try to put the different sides together, and one of the main partners in the rebuilding of Haiti, the huge diaspora.

For example, there is a -- there is a group in Canada who is going to organize a symposium early in march. I'm going to be part of that. And the goal is to gather Haitian scholars teaching in universities and all type of Haitian experts abroad and organize a huge international conference in May in order to come up with some blue books, some blueprint for a new vision for Haiti.

COOPER: Right.

COMEAU: So Haitians are there. We have the capacity for leadership. We just need to be part of the -- of the dialogue, and President Clinton can be instrumental in being a facilitator, a bridge in between the Haitian diaspora, qualified Haitians in Haiti, because there are qualified Haitians in Haiti, international organizations, and other partners or the friends of Haiti around the world.

COOPER: It also seems like over the years there's been a lot of foreign groups that have come in and kind of put their ideas of, well it should work this way, as opposed to kind of a Haitian solution bubbling up or coming from the diaspora.

You know, Haitians have a remarkable strength and resilience and ability to solve problems in their own way, and maybe it's not the way we would like or we think is the most efficient, but it can only work if there is buy-in from Haitian people, both here and around the world.

So Professor, I appreciate your comments tonight, Professor Ludovic Comeau.

Joe Johns, as always. Thank you, Joe. Coming up, President Obama serving himself up as a political punching bag. First, it was the Q&A with the Republicans. Now the Democrats get their turn. Is it actually a good thing for the president? We'll have the "Raw Politics" on that.

And NASA's deep space mystery. What is that? Scientists have some theories. What do you think? The story ahead.


COOPER: President Obama took part in a question-and-answer session today at a strategy conference for Senate Democrats. He may have faced a bigger helping of "Raw Politics" than he expected. Sort of the same televised meeting he had with Republicans last week, the one where he went on the offensive.

Today, Mr. Obama had a strong message for the Democrats, too, but some are facing tough re-election battles this fall, and there were definitely some sparks. Dana Bash has the report now -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, as you said, last week when the president opened up the Q&A with Republicans, it was to show independent voters that he will reach out to the GOP and also to show his base he's not -- he is willing, I should say, to take on Republicans.

Well, today, what was so interesting is that Democrats used the same kind of forum for their vulnerable senators to take on the president.

I want to put up on the screen six senators, six Democratic senators. They are all up for re-election, and they were all, Anderson, hand-picked by the Senate Democratic leader to ask a question of the president. And none of them missed an opportunity in this live forum. This was live. The cameras were rolling. It was broadcast on CNN and elsewhere. To show their frustrated voters back home that they hear them.

We'll play some of the clips from some of those questions.


SEN. BLANCHE LINCOLN (D), ARKANSAS: I visited with a constituent yesterday, good Democrat, small business owner, who is extremely frustrated, extremely frustrated because there was a lack of certainty and predictability from his government. For him to be able to run his businesses.

He's -- he and his father have worked hard. They've built three or four different small businesses. And he fears that there's no one in your administration that understand what is it means to go to work on Monday and have to make a payroll on Friday.

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D), COLORADO: This place looks broken to the American people. The ability -- our ability to make these decisions is open to enormous question in the wake of the health-care discussion in particular.

I had a woman the other day in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, ask me where she could get her lobbyist in Washington, D.C.

What are we going to do differently? What are you going to do differently? What do we need to do differently?

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: Why should the Democratic Party be trusted? And are we willing to make some of the tough decisions to actually head this party in a better direction?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll tell you why the Democratic Party should be trusted, because the last time this budget was balanced, it was under a Democratic president who made some very tough decisions.


COOPER: Dana, as you know, the president is correct when he says that, but we should also point out that Republicans controlled both houses of Congress back then. Are we going to see more of these meetings? I mean, does the White House think this is a good thing?

BASH: It is likely. Because let's keep them honest here. The president was a willing participant in the political choreography today. In fact, I was told tonight by a senior Democratic source that the White House actually knew, the Democrats here on the Hill actually gave them a heads up of who would be asking the questions at today's forums.

He didn't necessarily know the content, but he knows what's going on. He knows that all of the people standing up are in very tough re- election bids, and so he knows the politics of the moment.

And I was in that room today, Anderson. I can tell that you everybody there knew that the optics of this were probably beneficial to them back home.

And just to give you an example of the "Raw Politics" of this, one of the Democrats you heard there, Blanche Lincoln, who has a really, really brutal race this year in Arkansas. Probably an hour or two after this forum, she sent out a campaign press release -- this is a Democrat -- back home in Arkansas, telling the voters that she stood up, and she challenged the president today.

COOPER: Interesting. Dana, appreciate it.

Let's dig deeper with senior political analyst David Gergen, also, John Avlon, columnist for and author of "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America."

David, you know, President Bush used to get kind of knocked for having pre-scripted questions or kind of softball questions at press conferences. I mean, just fair play here, why not have just actual impromptu questions from -- not from hand-picked senators and folks? Why not just have an actual meeting where things may get ugly, but it's real?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Or maybe even a formal press conference, Anderson.

COOPER: How about that?

GERGEN: A press conference. Wouldn't that be a change of pace? We haven't had one for about six months, I think.

Look, I think these have been constructive, especially the one with the Republicans. There was a certain electricity in that. This one was more -- was much tamer. And it was sort of more predictable and had more of a pep rally feel to it, frankly, and very much a pre- campaign kind of effort.

But what I don't think -- I did visit the White House today, and -- after this session. And I came away with the impression that these will not become routine, that if anything, they're going to look for fresh ways to communicate.

They do have very much a strong feeling in White House that the president needs to get out more. I have some questions about that strategy. But nonetheless, they want to put him in different settings.

I think what he ought to be doing, frankly, is some more listening, too. You know, a listening tour in which he listened to a lot of citizens. You know, these tea-party folks who are meeting this week, you know, their argument is "Nobody is listening to us." I think the more the government listens to citizens and then responds after a number of comments, I think that would be healthy.

COOPER: John, the argument is that President Obama has been plenty out there in terms of giving interviews, and you see him on a lot of different shows. What do you think independents think of -- how do they read this?

JOHN AVLON, COLUMNIST, THEDAILYBEAST.COM: I think this has been the substance behind the talk of a new reaching out, today's event. But also even more substantively, the Republican event, which really showed the president back in the mode that independents voted for him in '08.

Clearly, a president who's intelligent, who can think on his feet, who's not ideological and a real break with the Bush administration in that way. And I think actually these are not incidental events. I think these are very important. These have been real bright moments for the Obama administration.

COOPER: Would you like to see more of them?

AVLON: Absolutely, and there's actually a grassroots movement going on the Web right now. Liberal and conservative bloggers and journalists say make more of these, make it like British prime minister's questions. An era of constant spin, the only way to break through the spin is to stop spinning. COOPER: British prime minister questions, though, I mean, there's nothing like that in American politics. There hasn't been like that for a long time. I mean, it gets -- it gets downright mean, and I mean, people are yelling and booing. It's really fascinating.

AVLON: It's brutal, but it's honest. And I think that's what people are sick of, is the cynicism of Washington politics. Just having an honest exchange, and the fact that these are substantive, that's what's really revolutionary.

COOPER: So interesting, David, to see that kind of British-style thing. We should get a video of it and maybe play it tomorrow or something, because it is fascinating to watch. You know, the whole crowd goes, "Harumph, harumph, harumph," and you know, challenges what the British prime minister says.

GERGEN: Yes, Anderson, in Britain and the parliament, they keep -- you know, you have to stand behind the line when you're speaking. And the other party is directly across behind another line, and the two lines are just far enough apart that two swords can't hit each other. You can't hit the other guy with a sword.

But I want to go back to this, Anderson, about that. I think -- look, I think the president does need to be regularly accountable through questions, through the press and other forums. But I don't think people sent him to Washington to be a talker. I think they sent him to Washington to be a doer and to et results.

And this notion that he needs to get out on the countryside more, I think he needs to govern more and take charge in Washington and get some results. And yes, stay in touch. But most important thing is get some results for people.

COOPER: But now, Scott Brown is being sworn in, I mean, Democrats lose their filibuster-proof majority. So in truth, what can the president really get done?

AVLON: Well, look, they don't have a filibuster-proof majority, but they still have a strong majority. Many presidents have governed very effectively with far less. So I think there's a sense that you lose the 60 seats, all of a sudden the mandate to govern is over. And that's just not the case.

I think the president campaigned early on, on changing the culture in Washington. No doubt that's tough to do. It's addicted to division. But you begin by reaching out, by beginning, engaging in the conversation. And ultimately, what leaders do is change the culture. And I think this is a step in the right direction.

COOPER: David, do you thank that's possible?

GERGEN: There are some things. Yes, I think on this year, I was up on the Hill today, too, and talked to some of the Republican leadership. And I will tell, there is a -- there was a -- a gratitude expressed by Republicans that in the State of the Union, he said, "Look, I want to go on nuclear power. I want to go forward. I want to go forward with offshore drilling."

And if there is a possibility of putting together an energy bill this year that would have bipartisan support, there will be energy production. Cap and trade is gone. There would be a possibility of doing something on trade.

On education they are closer together. On Afghanistan, there's a lot of Republican support. So there are areas where you could build some trust, and people could begin to see, you know, maybe those guys can work together.

That would help the country's morale a lot.

COOPER: David Gergen, John Avlon, appreciate it. Thanks very much. Good discussion.

Coming up next, battle over the handling of the alleged Christmas-Day bomber. The attorney general fired back at critics today. We'll tell you what he said and let you decide for yourself whether he's right.

Also, the unidentified flying object. Take a look at this image from space. It had scientists baffled. We'll tell you what it seems to be ahead. I think it's from "Battlestar Galactica," frankly. But -- just a Cylon raider, but that's just me. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Following a number of other important stories right now. Kiran Chetry has a "360 Bulletin" -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Hey, Anderson.

Well, Attorney General Eric Holder today defended his decision to try the accused Christmas-Day bomber in federal court and to read him his Miranda rights. In a letter to 11 Senate Republicans who have hammered the handling of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, Holder said that he acted with the knowledge and consent of other relative government departments and agencies. And he also noted similar decisions by previous administrations of both parties were not criticized.

Iran today saying it successfully launched a research rocket carrying two turtles, a mouse and worms into space. It also unveiled models of a new rocket and three new satellites. Iran's space program has worried western powers. They fear the technology will one day be used to deliver nuclear warheads.

And this is your favorite. Look at what NASA spotted for the first time with a little bit of help from the Hubble telescope. Not a UFO.

COOPER: Cylons.

CHETRY: Doesn't really look like a UFO, does it? It's a cosmic collision of two asteroids, according to scientist. They say that it was actually traveling five times faster than a rifle bullet. COOPER: That's what they want you to think.

CHETRY: Mm-hmm.

COOPER: Cylons.

CHETRY: I think it's 3-D special effects for the new "Avatar."

COOPER: Yes. Yes. All right. "The Shot." Have you seen the shot, Kiran?


COOPER: It's Snooki. Now I must admit, I have not seen this TV show yet. I've seen it on "The Soup," so I feel like I've seen it. And I know who Snooki is solely because she is the object of derision and mockery on "The Soup" just about every week.

CHETRY: You love "The Real Housewives," right? You're going to love this.

COOPER: Yes. No, I think this crosses my line. And it's not a -- and it's a very thin line, I will say. But that's Snooki, as she traditionally lookies.

The hair, she calls it the poof. She's got the makeup, the tan, the spray-on tan or peel-off tan. I'm not sure what sort of a tan. I'm sure it's natural, though. That's the way we know her, and I guess some people sort of love her/are repulsed by her.

But the folks at "Inside Edition" have given Snooki a makeover. Here's the new Snooki.


COOPER: Classy, sexy. It's very -- I don't know what it is. It's very Kim Kardashian.

CHETRY: It is actually. Good call.

COOPER: Yes. It's a little Kim Kardashian-esque. So I don't know. I kind of like the old Snooki, though I frankly don't know her. I kind of like the old...

CHETRY: She's very down-to-earth.

COOPER: Very down-to-earth?


COOPER: You're being polite.

CHETRY: Well, no. When you ask her, she says, yes, we were drunk all the time, but it was the Jersey Shore. What were we supposed to do?

COOPER: She's like laying in the gutter. That's how down-to- earth she is, I think.

CHETRY: Not that bad. But you know, the hairstyle really sets her apart.

COOPER: Have you seen her in the hot tub? I've seen that on "The Soup."

CHETRY: Not personally.

COOPER: Yes. Yes. It's like a Petrie dish. I don't know what that means.

That's it for the show. I'm going to be in trouble with "THE SITUATION."

CHETRY: He does have a 12-pack. So you've got to watch out.

COOPER: I don't know. I've seen it on "The Soup".

All right. Breaking news at the top of the hour. Stay with us. We'll be right back.