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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

New Questions Raised About California Gas Explosion; Interview with Michael Moore

Aired September 13, 2010 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us.

Newt Gingrich ignites an uproar, saying President Obama is essentially a Kenyan con man who tricked Americans into voting for him and his secret radical agenda. So, are GOP politicians rushing to condemn his remarks tonight? And is anything out of bounds these days?

We're "Keeping Them Honest" with a Republican strategist, a Republican speechwriter, and Democrat Paul Begala.

Also tonight, Michael Moore joins us, with the imam of the so- called Ground Zero mosque speaking out today openly and leaving open the possibility of moving it. Michael Moore is offering to raise money to build the mosque, saying he doesn't want it near Ground Zero. He wants it at Ground Zero.

And later: new questions about that gas explosion in California. What did the gas company know about problems with its pipelines? And we have new incredible video of the inferno as it happened.

We begin, though, tonight "Keeping Them Honest" with a political firestorm begun by Newt Gingrich, the former Republican speaker of the House, a once and perhaps future presidential candidate, calling the president, in so many words, an alien, a liar and a con man who deceived Americans into voting for him.

He asks, what If President Obama is so outside our comprehension, Gingrich told reporters, that only if you understand Kenyan anti- colonial behavior can you begin to piece together his actions? He goes on to say that during a chat session on Friday, "This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president."

Gingrich added, "He was the person he need to be in order to achieve the position he needed to achieve. He was authentically dishonest."

Kenyan anti-colonial behavior? Where did he get that? Well, he was parroted and praising a "Forbes" magazine cover story by Dinesh D'Souza, who writes -- quote -- "Incredibly, the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman, President Obama's father. This philandering, inebriated African socialist who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anti-colonial dreams is now setting the nation's agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son."

Gingrich calls this article the most profound insight he's read in the last six years about President Obama.

Today, on "Good Morning America," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says Mr. Gingrich is trying to appeal to the fringe.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You would normally expect better from somebody who had held the position of speaker in the House. But, look, it's political season, and most people will say anything. And Newt Gingrich does that on a -- generally on a regular basis.


COOPER: Well, Democrats, as you would imagine, are condemning Gingrich and D'Souza.

But what about the Republicans? Well, tonight, we reached out to the offices of the leadership, Congressmen Boehner and Cantor, Senator Mitch McConnell, also John McCain, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee. We got no reply from anyone.

Joining us now, two Republicans who will talk, strategist Alex Castellanos, and David Frum, who is a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, as well as founder of the blog Forum -- sorry -- Also with us, Democratic strategist Paul Begala.

Paul, what is Newt Gingrich doing? Is this just a not-so-subtle way to play to racial fears?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, perhaps. I don't want to go there yet. Newt has said some incendiary things, of course, in his life. He called Justice Sotomayor a racist, which he quickly then retracted.

He's -- let me begin, though, by saying he's a brilliant man, OK? This is no dummy. He's an intellectual and a history professor, and he knows his history.

So, if you unpack that phrase about Kenyan anti-colonialism, the anti-colonialism is, of course, the first American tradition. We are a revolutionary anti-colonial people. The whole reason we exist is because the Continental Congress passed a resolution that said these colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent states.

So, it's not the anti-colonialism that can bother Newt as a student of history. He knows that's our finest tradition. So it's the Kenyan. Now, why did he pick that, instead of Kansas, which is where his mama was from, or Hawaii, which is where he grew up?

My guess -- you would have to ask Newt -- I hate to read somebody's mind, particularly one as complex and dense as Mr. Gingrich. But it's a curious choice to be sure, the word Kenyan. COOPER: Alex, what about that? I mean, President Obama's policies are pretty much in line with other liberals, like Walter Mondale or Jimmy Carter. There's plenty of reasons not to like him as president.

But, I mean, is playing armchair psychologist, linking him to African and a Kenyan tribesman, really appropriate?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, let's -- let's just put a peg here on Newt Gingrich's political judgment.

He's a brilliant ideas guy. At times, he's not as comfortable communicating with people. He does not have that common touch. And, perhaps, he might have expressed himself a little differently here.

COOPER: You're making him sound like he has Asperger's syndrome or something.


CASTELLANOS: Well, you know...

COOPER: He gets out in public. I mean, he's a familiar person with interaction.

CASTELLANOS: This is what I think a Newt Gingrich presidential campaign would be like. It would be one issue about Newt after another.


COOPER: So, are you saying he shouldn't have said this?

CASTELLANOS: Well, no. I think he's making an important point.

And it's this. If you have read a beautiful book called "Dreams From My Father," written by Barack Obama, you know, it takes your breath away. It's lyrical. It's poetic. There's a -- and it's really about Barack Obama's journey to find out who he is. He knows who his mother is, but he doesn't really understand his father or the culture that he came from.

And so he goes to find it. And there's a phrase in there where he says, "I'm trying to find the granite upon which my unborn children can stand."

It's powerful stuff. And, in there, he does find who he is. And it's the culture that his father came from. And at that time, it was an anti-colonial culture that said big powers like Europe, and I guess at this point it would be the United States, aren't necessarily forces for good and must be restrained.


COOPER: But it's one thing to write a book about the journeying to find who your father was. It's another thing to say that your father's ideas, a man who you never really met, who was a Luo -- descended from a Luo tribesman, are somehow basically running this country.

CASTELLANOS: Well, actually, I think all of us are products of where we come from. And, actually, Obama does say in the book that he found out, this is an important part of who he is.

COOPER: Well...

CASTELLANOS: And I think it's a fair discussion to have.



CASTELLANOS: And for Newt Gingrich to raise that -- you know, if it's there for Obama to write a book about it, why can't Newt Gingrich raise the issue?


COOPER: David, you have been critical of Gingrich's remarks.


COOPER: What makes them so significant? Is this a fair conversation to have, as Alex says?

FRUM: Well, imagine that we had a president right now, Barack "Barry" O'Bama, who was a child of an Irishman who had a drinking problem and who had abandoned him, and he made a voyage to Ireland to discover the story of his father, and there discovered that his father was actually a pretty disappointing person and that he identified more with his mother's family.

Would his political opponents say, ah, to understand him, you have to understand, he's just Irish?

Nobody would say that. You wouldn't say that. And to the extent that he was Irish, you would say, that's part of the American tradition and makes him no less American than anybody else.

I think there's plenty of opportunity to oppose every idea in Barack Obama's head without denying that they are American ideas. They are ideas that are wrong, that are misplaced, that are not conducive to economic growth, not conducive to economic liberty, but, as you said in the introduction to the item, the same bad ideas that were held by Walter Mondale and Ted Kennedy and other people of Northern European descent.

To make this link and also to endorse this article in "Forbes" magazine, which makes the point in a very dismissive way. A tribesman? A tribesman? That sounds kind of -- well, that sounds like a kind of primitive person. It certainly sounds like an alien. And it suggests that this person somehow infiltrated through deception the American political process. That's not the way that we want to beat this president. And it also sends a message -- and I say this as a Republican -- there are a lot of other people who are the descendant of African traditions.

Are they not welcome in our party? Do we not think they are real Americans? How do we send a message to them that this enterprise system that we defend is good for them, too, and that they are welcomed to join the party...


CASTELLANOS: Well, Anderson, if I may, I think David makes some points. There are some things in that article that I think are disrespectful and dismissive.

But the book Obama wrote is called "Dreams From My Father." He said, in fact, David, that he's Irish. He said, this is an important part of him, this culture. And it's fair to debate that. It needs to be treated respectfully.

But I think the other important issue here is that there is a sense that Barack Obama is not only a citizen of America, but he considers himself as a leader of something larger, that he has a larger world view.

Some people think that's a great thing because it increases the respect, perhaps, that other people might have for a more broad-minded America in the world. Other people think, no, he should cling more to an American exceptionalism that thinks America is unique and different and special because there's no place that values freedom the way we do.

COOPER: It -- it's...

CASTELLANOS: That's also a fair debate. But when people are saying that he may have a broader world view, we should debate that.


FRUM: If we had, as we have had, an Irish president, nobody would say that the part of him that's Irish is somehow alien to America. We would say, America is what it is in part because of this Irish infusion that's formed a lot of American sensibilities, even our habits of speech. And Africa is also part of America.


COOPER: Let David finish. Let David finish.


FRUM: Africa is also part of America. And America -- and to be from Africa is not to be outside the American tradition.

CASTELLANOS: No, but that's not the issue here.


CASTELLANOS: The issue here is that this president, himself, has said that, is America exceptional? Well, it's as -- no more exceptional than Britain or Greece.


COOPER: But, Alex, it is part of the issue because...


CASTELLANOS: And that is what the feeling is here.


CASTELLANOS: Is he a representative of something larger, a citizen of the world, as opposed...


COOPER: David, Dinesh D'Souza, in his article, implies that even being from Hawaii is sort of beyond the -- the borders of the United States.

Paul, you have been kind of shut out on this. Is this -- I mean, is there something about the -- I mean, is Kenya a code word here?

BEGALA: Of course it is.

Look, he's trying to reach the tin foil hat crowd, the crazies who don't believe this president is legitimate. By the way, they didn't think Bill Clinton was legitimate either. They never would accept the legitimacy of a progressive president.

And it's really beneath Newt. And, frankly, I love Alex, but it is beneath him. Go and read -- people should -- it was the number-one bestseller -- a lot of people did -- "Dreams From My Father" -- and it is about a search for personal identity, not for the importation of some sort of African political agenda, which is what I think Mr. Gingrich was implying there.

I just -- I think it's really -- it's sad. It's really -- it's just kind of pathetic. As David points out, there's plenty of decent ways to attack this president.

But the notion that, somehow, because his -- his father descended from Africa, that's illegitimate, is wrong. He, of course, refers back to his grandfather, who he was much closer to, who served in Patton's Army and was a white guy from Kansas who fought to save the world, along with millions and millions of others in World War II.

And he, of course, grew up much closer to his grandfather, who helped raised him, than his father. But that book is not about searching for a political ideology or an agenda. It is about something much more intimate and personal, the search for who his father was who abandoned him...

COOPER: We're going to...

BEGALA: ... and a pretty disappointing result at that.

COOPER: We are going to continue the conversation.

Paul and Alex, stick around.

David Frum, thanks very much for being on the program tonight. We appreciate it.

Let us know what you think. The live chat is up and running at

Ahead, we're going to also talk to Michael Moore. Here's some of what he said.


MICHAEL MOORE, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: Mr. Gingrich has a problem, a real problem. If he's -- if he's concerned about anti- colonial attitudes, I have a document for him to read. It was written in 1776 by a bunch of radicals, and he probably wouldn't like them either.


COOPER: He's got a lot to say about the Islamic center in Lower Manhattan and the people opposing it. We will talk to him.

And later: a view of the deadly gas line explosion in Northern California, literally as it happened. These images that we got today are just stunning. A question: Could the utility company have prevented it? We will find out.


COOPER: Well, Americans vote again tomorrow in the final primaries going into November -- on the ballot, a New York congressman in deep ethical trouble, also one of the most popular figures ever in Delaware politics now trailing a favorite of the Tea Party and Sarah Palin.

John King is in D.C. tonight with a preview of the top three things for us all to watch out for tomorrow.

John, what are they?

JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING, USA": Well, Anderson, let's focus on two to start. And those are the two Republican Senate primaries that both national parties here in Washington are watching closely, because they think who wins tomorrow night could determine whether the Democrats have a shot of taking those seats come November.

And let's start in Delaware. That's the race everyone is most watching. You mentioned Mike Castle. He's won 11 times statewide. He's a congressman right now. He's two terms governor of the state of Delaware, by far overwhelming Republican establishment favorite, a moderate Republican, likes to work with Democrats when necessary.

But ahead for months, he's now being challenged -- and this got very close at the end -- by a Tea Party favorite, Christine O'Donnell. Will she win the tomorrow? She's closed the gap and she's within striking distance, in part because of a big endorsement from Sarah Palin and a lot of money from the Tea Party Express.

Here's why Republicans are worried about this seat. They say, if Castle wins the primary, they are convinced -- and most Democrats agree -- he will win in November. That was Joe Biden's former Senate seat. O'Donnell has run statewide before, Anderson, and she's not won.

So, Republicans, this is a purity test in the Republican Party. And the national party is worried, if the Tea Party candidate wins, they won't be able to pick up that seat in November.

Let's move on to New Hampshire now. This one is a little bit different, five Republicans runs from the nomination. Judd Gregg is the incumbent Republican. He's retiring, so it's an open seat. Conservatives see an opportunity to come to Washington.

Kelly Ayotte is the former state attorney general. She was the early favorite in this race. She's been challenged of late by Ovide Lamontagne, a conservative in that state. There are several other Republicans running as well, including one who has spent $6 million of his own money.

But the former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte is the favorite. This one not so much a Tea Party feud, Anderson, but a feud that could carry over into 2012 presidential politics. Kelly Ayotte, she has the endorsement of Sarah Palin in this race.

Mr. Lamontagne, he has the endorsement of the conservative "Union Leader" newspaper, which likes to play big in presidential politics. Watch how this one goes forward.


You know, the other race, John, that's fascinating to watch tomorrow and the third one kind of on your list I guess is Congressman Charlie Rangel's race right here in New York.

KING: Right there in New York City. His district is in Harlem. It's an overwhelmingly Democratic district. So, traditionally, whoever wins that primary tomorrow night will win in November.

Charlie Rangel is seeking his 21st term in the House of Representatives. He normally would be an overwhelming favorite. But Adam Clayton Powell IV is his lead challenger. There are five challengers in that race to Rangel. Adam Clayton Powell is the lead challenger and given by some a chance to win, although Rangel is favored, because of the ethics allegations against Congressman Rangel here in Washington, accused of abusing his office, accused of hiding some income on his financial disclosure forms.

That trial is still pending. Charlie Rangel, though, getting some last-minute help on the eve of the primary from a very famous Democrat. See if you can identify this voice.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need Charlie to go back to Washington to work with President Obama to say yes. Charlie Rangel has always been there for us. I urge you now to be there for him in this Tuesday's Democratic primary.


KING: That there of course the Southern twang of the former President from Arkansas Bill Clinton, who now has an office, where, Anderson?

COOPER: In Harlem.

KING: Right there in Charlie Rangel's Harlem.

COOPER: All right.

Fascinating stuff, last-minute.

John King, thanks.

Back now with Paul Begala, Alex Castellanos.

Paul, I know you're pretty stunned by the how the Republican Senate primary in Delaware is shaping up tomorrow night. And it's saying something, I mean, if you're stunned. What do you think is going to happen?


I mean, you expect, in, say, Utah, where comparatively moderate Republican incumbent Bob Bennett got knocked off by a more conservative Republican -- that's a conservative state. Or you might even expect it in Alaska, even though I was astonished by that upset, where Joe Miller knocked off incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski.

But Delaware is a liberal state. As John King pointed out, it's the home of Joe Biden. The polling is very clear for Republicans. If they nominate Mike Castle, popular former governor, popular congressman who represents the whole state in the House, they lead by 11 points against Chris Coons, the Democratic nominee, the likely Democratic nominee, certain Democratic nominee. They lead by 11.

But if they nominate Christine O'Donnell, who is kind of the Tea Party-Sarah Palin candidate, they trail by nine. So, there's a 20- point swing in this primary tomorrow. They can either nominate someone who leads by 11 or nominate somebody who trails by nine. I know which side I'm on in that, but I don't actually get to vote in the Delaware Republican Party. COOPER: Yes, but, Paul, I mean, people in the Tea Party who I have talked to say, well, look, you know, it's more important to stand up for what you believe in and vote for who you believe is saying the right things than for the person you think can win.

BEGALA: Well, God bless them. And that's a valid tradition in our politics.

What's curious to me about Christine O'Donnell, though, as a Tea Party candidate, unlike Rand Paul, the libertarian candidate and -- Republican, but libertarian in Kentucky, or Sharron Angle, the very conservative libertarian candidate in Nevada, Christine O'Donnell, to the extent she's had a name for herself -- and she ran against Joe Biden a couple years ago -- it hasn't been on these Tea Party Tea Party issues, these fiscal issues. She's been far more concerned with more prosaic matters of human sexuality, particularly going on MTV from time to time to talk about her views on self-gratification and other really icky things that I really don't need to -- I mean, you know, I'm Catholic.

We're taught that sex is a dirty, vile, disgusting act that you save for the one you love.


BEGALA: But I -- I'm uncomfortable hearing anybody talk about it.


BEGALA: But I have no idea why Tea Party people, who seem to be much more secular and more about spending, all of a sudden, want to nominate somebody that goes on MTV and talks about...


COOPER: Well, Alex, if she does win the Republican Party nomination, it does say -- does it say much about the power of Sarah Palin? I mean, how much do you think she would owe that victory to Sarah Palin?

CASTELLANOS: Oh, I don't think -- I think this is much bigger than Sarah Palin.

Republican primaries like this one, closed, are a little bit like private clubs. Only Republicans get to vote. So, even if it's Delaware, a left-of-center state, you can still have a very right- leaning primary. And that's what you have here.

Now, the left has the blogosphere. The right has the Tea Party. And they're a little bit like the lines on the side of the road. You're glad you're there. They tell you how far you can go, but you don't necessarily want to drive there all the time.

I do think the Tea Party's detriment, their -- the liability of the Tea Party is overstated by the media. Tea Party candidates are running ahead in places like Colorado. Ron Johnson is running even with Russ Feingold.

So, the Tea Party -- if you ask Americans, hey, do you agree with the Tea Party, 60 percent say yes. And it's because of Washington. This is an anti-Washington election. So, don't count these candidates out yet.

COOPER: So -- so, you think she could still win in that state, even if she gets the Republican nomination?

CASTELLANOS: Oh, I think she could, but I think it's -- Paul is right. It's much tougher. In a general election, it's not a private club. And it is a left-of-center state, and it would be much tougher. There's no question.

But, you know, here's what Republicans say. What good would it do us to have an Arlen Specter in the Senate? And that's the way many Republicans up there look at Mike Castle. You know, we had to ship Arlen Specter back over to the Democrats, where he was much more comfortable. What good would it do to try to build a new Republican Senate majority around that?

COOPER: Paul, what do you make of John Boehner's talking this weekend about, perhaps, not extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy?

BEGALA: You know, as one of my old bosses used to say, a hit dog barks. It tells me, you know, if I were a poker player, that's a tell.

President Obama went out and said, Republicans want to hold middle-class tax cuts hostage in order to cut taxes for the very, very wealthy, those making over $250,000 a year, like Alex, right?


BEGALA: And when -- as soon as Obama -- the president said that...

CASTELLANOS: Like Anderson.

BEGALA: ... as soon as President Obama said that, Boehner jumped and gave up, right? He said, OK, I surrender, I surrender.

And that told Democrats a lot. I have been talking to Democrats on the Hill since that comment yesterday. And they feel very strongly that Boehner revealed a tell, that the Democrats have the upper hand here. And they are going to push real hard to cut taxes for the middle class, but then let them expire for people that make over $250,000 a year.



COOPER: Paul -- by the way, I didn't know you lived in public housing and were not doing so well. But... BEGALA: No. It's a trailer, actually, but we own it ourselves, and we're proud of it.


CASTELLANOS: He has borrowed that suit and tie tonight.


CASTELLANOS: But it looks good.



BEGALA: I have got to have it back by 11:00.


CASTELLANOS: No, look, I think this is a losing hand for the Democrats.

Well, first of all, there are -- there isn't anyone left in America that makes over $250,000 a year now, two years into the Obama administration.


CASTELLANOS: And, secondly, if you had a baseball team, you wouldn't take your most productive hitters with the highest batting averages and penalize them and remove their incentives. But yet we want to do that in the economy.

We want to take the most productive Americans who are producing, generating the most money and income, and somehow penalizing them. And what Americans are seeing, I think, is that, look, we want the whole team to win. We want everybody to get a good batting average, because we're all in one economy.

There isn't one economy for rich people and one economy for middle-class or poor, anybody else. We're all in the same...


COOPER: I know a lot of rich people who aren't particularly productive, by the way.


BEGALA: Yes, exactly.


BEGALA: Paris Hilton sits on her bony butt, and she ain't productive at all, and she is worth millions. I mean, no seriously, Alex, this is... CASTELLANOS: Yes, but when Warren Buffett goes shopping for jewelry, he doesn't go look across the counter and find Bill Gates selling it to him. It's regular Americans. We're one economy.


BEGALA: This is why some people are Republicans and some people are Democrats, right?

Republicans worship at the altar of wealth. They believe that if you have more money, you're a better person. You're, in Alex's words, a more productive person.


CASTELLANOS: No, no. People who produce more money produce more money, Paul. That's all I said.


BEGALA: We Democrats think that maids and master sergeants and maintenance workers and soldiers and firefighters and cops, look, we think that the middle class drives the economy. That's what we think. And the rich will be even richer still.


CASTELLANOS: And Republicans think everyone drives the economy. Republicans don't think there are good and bad Americans.


BEGALA: No, Republicans think that Bernie Madoff economic elites do. And that's why they target all their assistance to them.


COOPER: Well, I hear a new slogan -- I hear a new slogan to be pushed by Paul Begala in commercials, the Bernie Madoff elites.

BEGALA: There you go.

COOPER: Paul Begala, Alex Castellanos, guys, thanks very much.

Up next: something brand-new for election season. We will take a campaign ad, this one by the Democrats slamming House Minority Leader John Boehner, to see how honest it actually is. We're not grading on a curve here, only the facts, holding both parties accountable, as we should.

Later: Michael Moore, what he says about the so-called Ground Zero mosque, why he's calling for putting it at Ground Zero itself. Agree or disagree, you will want to hear what he has got to say.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Tonight, a new segment on 360. We're calling it "Political Theater." We are going to take campaign ads and put them under the fact-checking microscope to see how truthful they are.

You can get in on the action. Go to our Web site at View the ad. Let us know what you think about it.

Tom Foreman tonight takes the stage for the first time in our very "Political Theater" -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the Democratic National Committee has set its sights on the man who could be the speaker of the House if the Dems lose enough seats, Minority Leader John Boehner.

In a new commercial hitting the air this week, they accuse him of much wrong against American workers.

Let's take a look.


NARRATOR: Think Republicans have no plan for the economy? It's not true. John Boehner opposes funding for government jobs, jobs for teachers, for cops, for firefighters. Boehner has a different plan, tax cuts for businesses, those that shift jobs and profits overseas, saving multinational corporations $10 billion.


COOPER: So, Tom, we posted that at our Web site. And where do viewers think that falls on the "Keeping Them Honest" sliding scale of truth?

FOREMAN: Well, as you said, Anderson, they can play along with this game at home.

Lise (ph) says that she absolutely loves this ad. "It tells the truth in real and shocking terms."

And another fellow named D.J. -- or maybe another gal named D.J. -- I'm not sure -- says: "This guy is so far away from the average American that you can't even see him from Russia." That's what they say on that side, but not everybody agrees with that.

On the other side, listen to what Roy says. He says: "This ad is a big fat lie. Republicans are trying to stop wasteful extending. The Dems can't run on their record of tax and spend."

So, the big question we have here, of course, is who is right? Well, the Democrats have some valid points in this ad. Boehner did vote against a $26 billion jobs bill back in August which passed anyway. And it helped some cash-strapped states, as they had to keep some teachers, cops and first-responders on the job. So, check on that. He also said, however, when he did that, that he was opposing it for the spending reasons. Boehner said no one wants teachers or police officers to lose their jobs, but, he added, where do all these bailouts end? So it was all about the spending for him.

And what about this business of cutting taxes for great big companies that offshore jobs? This bill in question raises taxes on businesses with international operations by a modest $10 billion over ten years. Boehner opposed that tax increase, but he did not champion a tax cut as the Democrats claim in this case. And both sides argued that their approach would ultimately save more American jobs in the long run and, of course, we're going to have to wait some years for the long run to happen to see who's right on that.

So in the end we threw all that onto our sliding scale of truth and, after great consultation and consideration, we watched the big needle swing back and forth from "big fat lie" to "right on," and it wound up at "it's a stretch," Anderson, to believe all of the Democrats are claiming in this commercial.

COOPER: It's a stretch, indeed. Tom, thanks.

A quick program note: following the allegations against Craigslist that underage girls were being sold for sex on their site and other sites. A lot of advocacy groups have said it is definitely happening, but the truth is the actual numbers of how many girls get trafficked online don't exist.

Amber Lyons, though, has been investigating the issue. Tomorrow on 360 we'll show you what she has found. Here's a preview.


AMBER LYONS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Where are we headed right now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going upstairs to her bedroom.

She's a normal 12 year old. Hannah Montana, the Jonas Brothers. She wants to be a singer.

LYONS: Which bed is hers?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is her bed right here.

I sleep here.

LYONS: You sleep in her bed at night?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I do. Just so I can still basically, have that connection. I'm always praying for her, that she's safe. Just really hurts because it's almost like I feel like somebody's controlling her.

LYONS (voice-over): A mother's anguish. Her 12-year-old daughter, lured away by a pimp on her way home from school in January, then sold for sex on Craigslist adult services section and on another Web site,

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A friend of mine told me that that's actually how they are, I guess, prostituting. So they told me to look on Craigslist, and it almost blew my mind. I really didn't believe what I saw. She was there with a wig on. She had on a purple negligee.

LYONS (on camera): Your 12-year-old daughter?



COOPER: The mom was talking about her 12-year-old daughter. We're going to show you what happened to her.

Still ahead tonight, Michael Moore weighing in on the controversy surrounding the proposed Islamic center in Lower Manhattan.

But first, Isha Sesay joins us with a "360 Bulletin."

Hey, Isha.


Iran could be on the verge of releasing Sarah Shourd. She's one of the three American hikers held for more than a year. Shourd was supposed to be freed on Saturday, but that plan hit a snag. Iran now says she'll be released when she posts $500,000 for bail.

A deadly plane crash in South America. At least 15 people were killed when a plane went down this morning in Venezuela. More than 30 others survived. No word yet on the cause of the crash.

Hurricane Igor remains a powerful Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 150 miles per hour. It's far out in the eastern Atlantic and is expected to track north of the Caribbean islands. Forecasters believe it will downgrade to Category 3 storm by the end of the week.

And as Oprah Winfrey kicked off the 25th and final season of her talk show today, Anderson, she rolled into the studio a model of a Quantas jet and told the 300 members of her audience they were traveling with her and Harpo Productions on an eight-day, all- expenses-paid trip to, where? Australia, in December, Anderson.

COOPER: Wow. There you go. Have you ever seen on "Saturday Night Live" the -- I think it was "Saturday Night Live" -- where people's, like, heads explode in the audience?


COOPER: I like that. It was sort of like that today.

SESAY: That's my best bit of all this. People go to a level of hysteria...


SESAY: ... that you probably shouldn't see anywhere except in a controlled environment like the Harpo Studios.

COOPER: Exactly. All right, Isha. We'll check back in with you in just a little bit for some of the other stories we're following.

Just ahead in the program, Michael Moore has some pointed words for opponents of the Islamic center near Ground Zero.


MIKE MYERS, FILMMAKER: If the bigots want a Muslim-free zone in Lower Manhattan, they've got a problem, because over 60 Muslim Americans died on 9/11 at the World Trade Center.


COOPER: Is it fair that he calls all opponents, though, bigots? I challenge him on that ahead. Hear the interview.

Also ahead, incredible amateur video of the gas-line explosion and fire in California. These pictures are really stunning. They're really as it is happening from the ground. We'll show you them ahead. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Tonight, the imam that wants to build a mosque near Ground Zero says they're looking for ways -- other ways to resolve the conflict, but at the same time he might be adding fuel to the firestorm over the controversy.

Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations, Feisal Abdul Rauf said it was disingenuous to call the block near Ground Zero hallowed ground, given all the other kind of businesses that are around there.

Michael Moore, whose film "Fahrenheit 9/11" was about the terrorist attacks, is now joining the fray, asking people to donate money to the project and offering to match the first $10,000 donated. Moore, whose latest film, "Capitalism: A Love Story," is now available on DVD, joined me earlier for the "Big 360 Interview." We talked about the mosque but began by discussing Newt Gingrich's latest comments.


COOPER: Michael, I don't know if you saw this. In an interview with National Review Online, Newt Gingrich is now saying that -- and I quote -- "only if you understand Kenyan anti-colonial behavior can you begin to piece together what President -- President Obama's actions." Does this make any sense to you?

MYERS: Yes, it makes sense to me in the sense that Mr. Gingrich has a problem, a real problem. If he's -- if he's concerned about anti-colonial attitudes, I have a document for him to read. It was written in 1776 by a bunch of radicals. And he probably wouldn't like them either.

COOPER: What do you think...

MYERS: The whole Kenyan thing about this was really -- I mean, this is injecting the racial thing. You know, I'm a Catholic. Newt just converted to Catholicism. This is what I mean by religious extremists. They exist in all religions.

And now, unfortunately, we've got one -- we've got a number -- we've got O'Reilly, too. We've got five of the nine justices of the Supreme Court. But every religion has this kind of extremism, and I'm sad to hear Newt talk like this.

COOPER: I want to talk about an essay you wrote about whole situation with the Islamic center, a proposed mosque a few blocks from Ground Zero. You wrote that you don't want the mosque to be built near Ground Zero. You want it built on Ground Zero. A, are you really serious, and if so, why?

MYERS: Of course, I'm not serious. I'm making a point, which is that -- that their religion, Islam, was defiled by 19 murderers who killed 3,000 people. And if 200 years from now somebody kills 3,000 people and said they did the in the name of this guy from 200 years ago named Michael Moore, I sure hope somebody will go and put a statue of me or some of my books or something, at the site where this crime took place so that people would know that my name got hijacked by these -- by these killers.

What we're building on Ground Zero now, which, you know, I know you're aware of this. The remains of nearly 1,100 people still haven't been identified or found. What are we doing building another big monument to commerce where we're going to conduct business? Why isn't that a peace park? Why aren't all faiths represented or no faiths or any -- I don't understand why we've allowed this to happen.

And if -- you know, if the bigots want a Muslim-free zone in Lower Manhattan, they've got a problem, because over 60 Muslim- Americans died on 9/11 at the World Trade Center, and some of their remains are still there. So they're every bit as American as you are I or anyone else, and I'm tired of bigotry.

COOPER: But you're characterizing anyone who oppose this as a bigot. In your blog and your essay, you actually kind of talk about bullies and thugs. But there's plenty of Americans who aren't bullies, or thugs, or bigots who just feel, you know what? There's something about this that doesn't sit right with them.

MYERS: Right. And when Martin Luther King wanted to have a march in Cicero, an all-white suburb of Chicago, a lot of people said, "This doesn't feel right. Why are you doing this here? It's just going to upset a lot of people who otherwise support you. Why are you going to bring black people and march through the white neighborhood?" You know?

I mean, this is an old story for us as Americans. You know, the Confederates, in order to whip up hatred of Lincoln, put out this rumor that he was a Catholic, because that was really a bad thing back then.

And -- and when FDR did all of the great social programs he did, his opponents said that he was a Jew. In fact, they had a name for him, Jewsovelt.

This kind of antagonism and bullying and lying about people, has been going on for as long as this country, and it makes me very sad.

COOPER: This was, though, supposed to be a project that was going to bring various religions together, sort of evolved into that. But I mean, at this point, given all the sensitivity over it, given all the emotion over it, isn't that kind of impossible? I mean, even the imam now says that, had he known there was going to be this uproar, he wouldn't have done this.

MYERS: Well, I think he said he said he wouldn't have done it this way. I hope he doesn't back down. I hope he still builds it. I really support it. Most good-hearted Americans support it. I've got to believe that they do, even though the polls show something else.

COOPER: Michael Moore, thanks.


COOPER: We're going to have some new video that captures the instant that gas line exploded in California, leaving a neighborhood in ruins. Shocking, the pictures. The state utility is under investigation now. The latest developments and new questions about the deadly fire ahead.

And later, a reporter says she was taunted and teased by players from the New York Jets. What she says happened in the locker room coming up.


COOPER: Answers and accountability. That's what residents of a northern California town blown apart by last Thursday's deadly gas explosion are demanding tonight.

Take a look at this newly-released amateur video taken moments after the blast. You really get a sense of just the enormous size of the fireball destroyed dozens of homes, killed at least four people, and injured nearly 60 others. I mean, those flames are huge.

Tonight, the search continues for four other people still missing since the inferno erupted. The utility company at the center of the investigation, Pacific Gas and Electric, said it's going to spend $100 million to help rebuild the neighborhood.

And the damage, though, it's hard to imagine. Take a look at before and after images from Google Earth. House after house on one block just gone. On the right is what the scene looked like after the explosion: homes just reduced to ash and rubble there.

Along with the striking images, the new information that the utility was warned about an old line that posed a high risk. Ted Rowlands investigated.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This gas station surveillance video shows the first moment of last Thursday's explosion. Watch closely as the man in the red vehicle gets out. First, you can see chunks of asphalt and debris. Then, a massive wall of flames shooting into the sky. Within seconds, the fire grows larger. A woman carrying a baby runs across the street, away from the flames, while others seem attracted to the blaze. Some actually drive towards the fire.

Nobody knew what was going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My first thought is the plane went down. OK? And I run up halfway down there. The fire was pretty bad.

ROWLANDS: Across the street inside this grocery store, people said they first heard the strange hissing sound. Now watch as the sliding doors push in from the explosion. Watch it again in slow motion the store quickly turns to chaos. People start running away from one of the exits while others desperately try to get out of the store.

Still unanswered, what caused this massive explosion? Many people here are getting impatient waiting for answers.

BILL MAGOOLAGHAN, RESIDENT: My kids play at the park which is now melted. You know, these were neighbors. The woman down the block, my dog played with her dog, and she's dead. It's not fair.

ROWLANDS: The investigation is centered on this section of pipe which was installed in 1948. The gas company, PG&E miss warning signs that something was wrong before the explosion?

(on camera) Several people in this neighborhood saying in the days leading up to the explosion, they smelled gas. One person even says he saw and talked to a PG&E crew about a gas leak. But PG&E says, according to their records, since the month of July they've only been here twice.

CHRISTOPHER P. JOHNS, PRESIDENT, PG&E: In one instance there was a small leak at the meter which we replaced. Fixed it right away. In the second instance there wasn't a leak found anywhere.

ROWLANDS: We may never know if there was a second leak and, if so, whether or not it was a associated with the explosion. The pipe itself was last inspected in March.

"Keeping Them Honest," we asked for the results of that inspection, but we were told they couldn't be provided because of an ongoing investigation. We got the same response at a press conference.

GEISHA J. WILLIAMS, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, PG&E: That is part of the NTSB investigation and I really cannot share the findings of that particular assessment.

ROWLANDS: "PG&E" is taking responsibility, setting up a $100 million fund for victims. This week they plan on giving everyone whose home was destroyed up to $50,000, no strings attached. They claim it's the right thing to do.

What's still unclear is what PG&E may have done wrong and whether there's a chance it could happen again.


COOPER: Ted, this story makes us all think about, you know, gas lines near our home. And a lot of us -- I mean, I have no idea about this kind of stuff. What do we know about the condition of other old lines in California and, frankly, around the rest of the country?

ROWLANDS: Well we know for sure that there are a lot of old lines. A lot of these major lines went in, in the '50s and the '60s, even before that. And what has happened since then is buildings and homes and neighbored have been put on top of high-transmission lines that were never expected to be there.

Here in California, the California Public Utility Commission, which oversees PG&E, they've ordered PG&E to inspect every line in the state. And a lot of people think every line in the country should be inspected in light of this accident.

COOPER: Ted, thanks, appreciate it.

Next on the program, the BP well still has not been killed. Drilling resumed today to finally seal the well. We'll give you an update ahead.

And later, the alleged Christmas-day bomber accused of trying to blow up a plane, well, he was in court today. He made a surprising announcement. We'll tell you what he said in a minute.


COOPER: Let's check in with Isha Sesay again with another "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

SESAY: Hi, Anderson.

The man accused of being the underwear bomber wants to represent himself. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab told a federal judge today that he no longer wants a public defender for his upcoming trial. He was arrested last Christmas day, accused of trying to detonate a bomb hidden in his underwear while on a flight from Europe to Detroit.

BP's working again to permanently plug its sealed-off broken well in the Gulf. Today it resumed drilling the relief well. It was forced to halt drilling last month due to severe weather conditions.

Big changes ahead in Cuba. The communist government plans to cut at least half a million state jobs over the next six months while allowing private enterprise to create jobs in the future. It said the state can no longer support unproductive labor practices and inflated payrolls.

And an internal investigation is under way by the New York Jets. The sports reporter from Mexico's TV Azteca, saying allegedly faced harassment from Jets players in the locker room following practice on Saturday. She's already received an apology from the owners of the Jets, and Anderson, the team has said it will work with the league to gather the facts of this matter.

COOPER: Interesting. Isha, I don't know if you've seen "The Shot" yet tonight. It's pretty amazing. It's a remarkable young man. His name is Aaron Fatheringham -- or I'm not sure I'm pronouncing it right. Fotheringham, I think.

SESAY: I think you were close.

COOPER: Yes. What can you do?

And he's -- he was born with spinal bifida. But it hasn't stopped him. He's eight years old -- 18 years old. He skateboards, he bikes.


COOPER: Now he performs a double wheelchair black flip. We have this clip from YouTube. His nickname is "Wheels."

Now, he was determined to get this world record and, as you see from the video, he -- the first attempt ends pretty nastily with a face plant. He gave it a couple more tries. Each time...

SESAY: Ouch.

COOPER: It's pretty painful. But he keeps at it, and whilst the anxious crowd is watching, take a look.

Wow! Way to go!

SESAY: That is fantastic stuff.

COOPER: Wow, pretty cool.

SESAY: I mean, he is truly inspiring. This story has made headlines right around the world, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Pretty amazing stuff.

SESAY: Look at him go!

COOPER: Isha, good to see you again. Isha, good to see you see you again. We'll see you tomorrow night. Serious stuff at the top of the hour starting with a leading Republican, Newt Gingrich, who might be running for president, calling President Obama a con man. What do other top Republicans have to say about it? We'll find out when we come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Newt Gingrich ignites an uproar, saying President Obama is essentially a Kenyan con man who tricked Americans into voting for him and his secret radical agenda. So are GOP politicians rushing to condemn his remarks tonight? And is anything out of bounds these days? We're "Keeping Them Honest" with the Republican strategist, Republican speechwriter and Democrat, Paul Begala.