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Middle East on the Brink; Details in Santa Slayings Emerge
Aired December 29, 2008 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everyone. I'm Tom Foreman. Campbell is off tonight.
Breaking news that has the Middle East on the brink once again.
Bullet point number one: Israel's defense minister is declaring -- quote -- "all-out war" with Hamas. Watch this. That is new bombing just minutes ago in Gaza, where it's now Tuesday morning, and these latest pictures coming in to us show cars on fire on the ground, just some of the destruction as we enter the fourth day of airstrikes, killing at least 300 people in and around Gaza.
Israeli tanks are rolling to the edge of the border and 2,000 Israeli reservists have been called up, leading to fears that a whole new battle is about to start on the ground. We will take you live to Israel for what is next in just a moment and we will look at what led to this sudden blowup at what had been at best a shaky peace anywhere.
Bullet point number two: Barack Obama remains in Hawaii, but his thoughts must be filled with the sounds of violence in Gaza. The incoming president could be in a tough spot before he even takes office, lose whatever support he wants to build with Arab countries or strain relations with one of this country's most powerful allies in the Middle East.
Bullet point number three: The layers of evil continuing to unravel in the California massacre led by a man in a Santa suit. As revolting as his crimes were, we're learning just how much planning and effort went into this act of madness. Could anything have been done to stop him?
And bullet point number four: another bogus author who made it on to Oprah. She's not the only one who was duped by a piece of fiction billed as true love. But this fake memoir took advantage of the memories of millions murdered in a real-life horror, the emotional story too powerful to be true coming up later, that and so, so much more.
But we start in Gaza and Israel, where bombs and rockets are still falling, spurring furious crowds which are gathering at Israeli embassies all around the globe, in France, Spain, Britain, Italy, Denmark, and Venezuela to name a few. And it's all adding up to very real and intense pressure on Barack Obama to react, with potentially huge consequences for America. We will talk in a moment with Nic Robertson near the fighting and Ed Henry with the president-elect.
But, first, let's look at Gaza. It's twice the size of Washington, D.C. You see it here right along the water there, the Gaza Strip, that little orange area. It's home to 1.5 million Palestinians. Hamas took control of Gaza by force last year. Hamas is an elected part of the Palestinian government, but is considered a terrorist group by Washington.
And in recent months, Hamas militants have been firing rockets out across the border into Israel. Three days ago, Israel hit back with airstrikes against Hamas that have continued unabated against many, many targets. About 300 Palestinians have died, a few Israelis, too, as rockets continue to fly over the border this way.
Why does this matter so much to you, this conflict so far away? Because, time and again, unrest in this region over this issue of America's old ally Israel and the Palestinians has been a battle cry for terrorists to strike.
So, as the bombs fall in Gaza, let's get right to our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson. He's live in Jerusalem.
Nic, tell me what is happening right now.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Tom, in the last hour or so, 18 more missiles -- 18 missiles have been fired into Gaza. They have targeted, we understand, a government compound.
At least three buildings in that compound have been leveled, one of them Hamas-run foreign ministry. Another building used by Hamas for internal security reasons has also been destroyed. There are fires burning right now, more than 300 missile strikes so far.
But what we have seen in the past 24 hours is Hamas apparently find its war footing. They have stepped up their number of rocket attacks out of Gaza into Israel -- 150 rockets have been fired since Saturday, 75 of those in the past 24 hours, at least two people killed in those rocket attacks, more than six Israelis now known to have died since this conflict surged on Saturday, more than 20 Israeli civilians also wounded.
In Gaza, we understand from Palestinian health workers there more than 350 people killed -- 60 of them, according to U.N. workers in Gaza, 60 of them, they say, are civilians, some women, some children. But those strikes continuing through the night. The advice for Palestinians from Israel's foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, saying that Palestinians, if they are hiding somewhere, if they are near fighters, rockets, ammunition, weapons, then they should go somewhere else, because those are the things that Israeli is targeting tonight.
And that targeting continues, the Israeli presence with tanks around the border of Gaza also building up, adding to that speculation that possibly a ground offensive to follow these missile strikes -- Tom.
FOREMAN: Nic, talk to me a little bit about that, because, of course, that would represent a really significant step-up in this. Are we likely to see the Israelis go in on the ground to make this a ground war? ROBERTSON: It's not clear.
The reservists that have been called up so far are most support logistics elements. These are not troops who would likely be sent into the battlefront. There are two battalions there already around Gaza positioned. The question is, and we heard it from Israel's defense minister today, Ehud Olmert -- Ehud Barak -- saying that they will end the fight with Hamas, that they will take this to the end, that they will stop Hamas firing those rockets out of Gaza.
But, as we have seen, the missile strikes so far not appearing to achieve that. So, to that end, what options are there open to the Israeli government? A very big step if it was to go for a ground offensive. Would it be limited incursions? It's not clear. A very big step because of the potential international backlash. Already criticism around the world that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is at a very, very low ebb.
ROBERTSON: Criticism from Palestinian lawmakers calling the carnage a massacre, so a very, very big potential price as well to be paid by Israeli troops.
FOREMAN: And I'm afraid, Nic, we're going to have to leave it at that point with the latest update there.
ROBERTSON: ... heavily populated urban ground warfare environment -- Tom.
FOREMAN: All right, thanks very much, Nic. We will have to leave it there and we will get back to you later on.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barack is already holding the president-elect's feet to the fire, reminding Israel's parliament what Barack Obama told him this summer, saying, if a missile were fired on the Obama home, with his children inside, Obama would do everything he could to stop it and assumes Israel would do the same.
Our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, is with Obama in Honolulu.
Right now, Ed, it seems like the president-elect has plenty of people saying that he should speak out immediately about the situation, others saying he should stay quiet. He's clearly listening to the first camp right now, publicly says it's because there's only one president at a time.
Is that the real reason?
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We have heard that mantra over and over, and they say that is the real reason, because they don't want to step on President Bush's toes. They also want to make sure that the U.S. is speaking with one voice during this crisis. They don't want to send mixed signals around the world.
However, as you note, a lot of world leaders have moved on essentially from President Bush. They know his time in office is waning and they're looking for real leadership from president-elect Obama. But he's sticking to his guns. He's not speaking on this crisis.
Instead, though, he's trying to stay in the loop, to show that he will be ready come January 20. He's been having a daily intelligence briefing, just like President Bush gets, so that he can keep a handle on the crisis on Gaza. He had an eight-minute phone call this weekend with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
And then he's been consulting with his own top advisers, retired Marine General Jim Jones, Senator Clinton, who's expected to be secretary of state, obviously. But he can only hold off for so long. Come January 20, he's going to obviously have to be speaking out once he's sworn in.
And this is a fresh reminder that while we have been talking a lot about the financial security issues, that national security issues still could define the Obama presidency. There's a whole host of them, starting with this one -- Tom.
FOREMAN: Well, Ed, Barack Obama campaigned with a very clear message that he was going to reach out to the Muslim world in particular and start a new dialogue about things, how things were going to be better.
How complex is that going to be now, when he's put in this position of having to back up an old ally, Israel, at the same time, which some in the Muslim world are not going to like?
HENRY: Very complex.
As you noted at the very top, you have the Israeli defense minister today in the Knesset using Barack Obama's words from last summer, when he was under fire from John McCain, allegedly not defending Israel enough.
He went to Jerusalem and bottom line, said, look, as you mentioned, if my daughters were facing rockets from Hamas at my house, I would think Israel should defend itself, should respond like this.
So, now Israeli officials are using this, Barack Obama's words, to say, look, he's essentially sanctioned what we're doing.
And so I think it clearly complicates the equation for him. It makes it look like potentially that he's not an honest broker, that he's leaning towards Israel. That's going to complicate things in the Muslim world. And one Obama adviser was frank with me today, saying, this situation, it's spiraling so much right now, that it's changing from hour to hour. It's going to be very difficult to get a handle on what situation they are facing January 20. It's changing constantly, Tom.
FOREMAN: All the more reason we will keep checking in with you, Ed. Thanks so much.
For now, Barack Obama basically has to sit on his hands. What can he do? What must he do come January 20? Our panel looks at Obama's options. And even if the Mideast boiling point simmers down anytime soon, there is still the recession, of course. You probably could have predicted the holiday shopping numbers are terrible, but there are some retail winners. Maybe your favorite store is among them. That's ahead. We will tell you.
Later, the Christmas Eve killings of nine people by a man dressed as Santa Claus, we're learning new details about his twisted plan? Is there anything the rest of us can learn from a mind and heart so full of rage to stop such things from happening in the future?
Stay with us. We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT-ELECT: If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my daughters sleep at night, I am going to do everything in to my power to stop that. I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Yes, that was then, and this is now. Back in July, candidate Barack Obama sounded like he was firmly in the Israeli camp, but right now, he's president-elect, just 22 days away from taking office and Israel is waging what its defense minister calls an all-out war against Hamas in Gaza.
So, if you're Barack Obama, what do you do now? That's the question for our guests, Bobby Ghosh, world editor for "TIME" magazine and its former Baghdad bureau chief, Reza Aslan, author of "No god But God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future Of Islam," a terrific read, and Brigitte Gabriel, author of "They Must Be Stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can Do It."
Bobby, let me start with you.
Obama has two options right now. One, speak up immediately, establish his turf, and say, this is what I'm going to do, or be quiet and let it rest on George Bush's plate and then come in as a new voice in 22 days. What's the better course?
BOBBY GHOSH, WORLD EDITOR, "TIME": I think he has to speak up, Tom. This is the 3:00 a.m. phone call. It's come a little early. But he has to respond.
This is the serious crisis. He can't hide behind the there's only one president explanation, especially since that one president is doing very little. Obama doesn't seem to have a problem discussing what he's going to do for the economy, what he's going to do on domestic issues. I don't see why he should have a problem in discussing and stating out boldly and loudly what he wants to do on international issues, and not just Obama. Hillary Clinton, too.
Where is Hillary Clinton when you need to hear her opinion?
FOREMAN: But what if they contradict what President Bush or Condoleezza Rice says?
GHOSH: They don't seem to have a problem with that when discussing the economy. Why have a problem with it when discussing foreign affairs, especially since this is obviously a very, very serious crisis and the White House seems to be asleep at the wheel?
FOREMAN: Reza, are you on board with that? Or do you think that that is not a good approach?
REZA ASLAN, AUTHOR, "NO GOD BUT GOD: THE ORIGINS, EVOLUTION, AND FUTURE OF ISLAM": Well, it depends.
As a politician, he's probably better off just keeping quiet. As you know, Tom, the Israel-Palestinian conflicts has taken down many, many American politicians. And it's a very sticky situation. I think, at this point, Obama really has two choices.
One is to just simply continue to remain quiet and give deference to the president, who I think -- he's absolutely right -- hasn't been doing much of anything, except his usual sort of statements of support for Israel.
The other thing is to really make good on the promises of thinking outside of the box, particularly when it comes to this region, to start recognizing that the status quo, as it has been perceived so far in this cycle of violence that is back and forth, that never seems to stop, is damaging not just for the Palestinians, but for the Israelis themselves. And he needs to be very forceful about coming out with some new ways, new ideas, new regional-wide plans for dealing with this cycle of violence.
FOREMAN: Let get to you, Brigitte.
Do you think that this region is ready to hear that? These are some very entrenched positions on all sides.
BRIGITTE GABRIEL, AUTHOR, "THEY MUST BE STOPPED": They are very entrenched, especially on the part of Hamas.
Israel tried everything it can for the last few years, including the withdrawal out of Gaza two years ago, in order to achieve peace with Hamas. Hamas started launching missiles at Israel since 2001. And Israel thought that by withdrawing out of Gaza and giving Gaza to the Palestinians, including leaving the industry there, the greenhouses, it will give the Palestinians a place to begin a new future, build infrastructure, build schools, move into peace negotiations. But Hamas shot that in the foot and Hamas reiterated repeatedly that their goal is the destruction of the state of Israel. Israel has no other option but to retaliate at this point.
FOREMAN: Reza, when you think about the regions, the whole region there, the thoughts of so many people there, this does seem like a very dicey point. If the first thing that Barack Obama does is reassert that he's behind Israel, to what degree will the nations around there say, ah, he says he's going to be different; it's the same old thing?
ASLAN: I think Barack Obama's going to have a very short window of opportunity to prove that he's going to be a fair mediator, which is something that the United States simply hasn't been under the Bush administration when it comes to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Now, what is interesting is that this is the president, president-elect, who can do a couple of things that no other American president can do. One, he can actually stand in front of the Arab League, address the Arab League, and say, it's time for you to stop being an obstacle to peace and it's for you to start being constructive towards easing the Palestinian crisis.
Secondly, he can go to Israel and say, from a position of strength, particularly with Hillary Clinton behind him, an avidly pro- Israel politician, and simply say that there are certain concessions that Israel must give into if they want to continue to have the support of the United States.
This is going to take an enormous amount of give and take on both sides. It's not just intransigence on Hamas' part and it's not just aggression on Israel's part. Until both sides really believe that the United States is working from a position of neutrality, from a position of peace and stability for both sides, then I think that it's going to be very difficult.
But, as I said, he has a very brief chance, a very brief opportunity to come at this from a fresh perspective. And he has got to take advantage of it.
FOREMAN: We're running low on time here.
Bobby, very quickly, what does this mean to all the troops that we have in Iraq and Afghanistan?
GHOSH: Well, they will be watching from a distance, but they have their hands pretty full.
The concern I suspect for the commanders in Afghanistan and Iraq is how much of the president-elect's attention this problem gets and how much it takes his attention away from their problems, the problems of Afghanistan and in Iraq.
FOREMAN: And final word very quickly to you, Brigitte. Same question. What do you think about our troops over there? Does this make it better, or worse or the same for them? GABRIEL: It's going to make it very difficult for the troops over there.
If the region explodes, if Iran gets involved, if Hezbollah retaliates from the northern border of Israel, and the conflict spreads outside of Gaza, it will put our troops in a very difficult position and it will force us as a government to get involved in the region in a much bigger way than we are already.
FOREMAN: And we have been involved in this conversation longer than we can afford to be already.
Thanks, Brigitte, Reza, as well, and Bobby. Appreciate you all being here.
GABRIEL: Thank you.
FOREMAN: The U.S. economy found a big lump of coal in its stocking this holiday season, another problem Barack Obama must face, but some retailers didn't do so bad. Ali Velshi has the winners and losers coming up.
Then, Bristol Palin's bundle of joy, details of Sarah Palin's first grandchild. Yes, the child is here. Let's just say interesting names run in the family. We will talk about that.
And, later, she got fooled again. The author who pulled the wool over Oprah's eyes with a bogus love story.
FOREMAN: There are signs of the times for you there, deep discounts, drastic markdowns, slashed prices, and an awful lot of merchandise going begging.
This was not a white Christmas for American business. It was a red Christmas, red as in red ink, oceans and oceans of it, not much of a holiday from the business point of view.
But Ali Velshi is here to give us a little break and crunch the awful numbers with us.
All of those sales out there, but it didn't really pay off for the businesses.
ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Exactly right.
You just mentioned red in. You know Black Friday. I'm sure you know this, because you know every piece of detail out there.
FOREMAN: Sure. Sure.
VELSHI: But Black Friday was so-called because it was the day that retailers went into the black. They had been in the red all year. They had been unprofitable. They were supposed to have these massive sales and go into the black.
It didn't work this time. And, by the way, this dropped -- 2.8 percent is how much sales were lower this year than last, 2.8 percent. We have not seen a drop like that since about 1969. These are still estimates. The numbers are still coming in. But it looks pretty bad.
Now, it was bad all over, but some of those main, core things that people think of as Christmas gifts or holiday gifts suffered. Luxury goods took a massive hit. You saw that 70 percent sale. Saks was blowing things out at 70 percent in some cases.
Electronics, there was no must-have items this year, in addition to the fact that people were sort of holding back and didn't have the availability of credit. And, of course, clothing, a really tough year because as this economy really fell off a cliff in September, October, and November, retailers didn't have time to turn those ships around, ships full of goods that were coming in from the Far East, so a very, very difficult season all around. And this is going to have ramifications going into 2009 -- Tom.
FOREMAN: Well, Ali, were they any winners at all this holiday season, other than those of us who got the good buys?
VELSHI: Well, there are some. You will notice you will see these in the results that come in over the next week or so, but the discounters did fairly well. Wal-Mart did well. Target will have done well, Amazon.com.
But there are a lot of reasons the National Retail Federation is suggesting some of the reasons why this was a bad season in general. Well, first of all, we know we're in a recession. We also know that there was a shorter shopping period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, one full weekend fewer.
And that last weekend before Christmas was bad weather through much of the country, so it was a really tough time. And even that deep discounting, you said, it just didn't get people into the stores. So, what happened is, you have seen a shift from people spending a lot of money on goods going into those places like Wal-Mart and Target and Amazon, getting a little more for their money, not being in the festive spirit to just hang around the malls and buy things -- Tom.
FOREMAN: You know what I think the problem was, Ali?
VELSHI: What's that?
FOREMAN: You didn't buy me enough gifts.
VELSHI: I'm giving you a hug this holiday season.
FOREMAN: Always my favorite. Thanks.
You will be back in a little bit to deal with a deal so sweet, it may make your jaws ache with anger. Stick around for Ali and that coming up.
And a multimillion-dollar buyout for a guy who was basically just passing through from a company being kept above water with your money.
Also, congratulations to Sarah Palin. As of this evening, she's a grandmother. Stay tuned for the "Political Daily Briefing," plus a special review of the year in pop culture, hits and hisses, you might say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRISHA PRABHU, THIRD-GRADER: Hi, president-elect Obama.
I congratulate you, on November 4, becoming the 44th president of the United States of America. My name is Trisha Prabhu.
I am a strong believer in global warming and a very positive girl. I have very, very positive dreams that this country, this Earth, this globe, can become a wonderful place.
Please, president-elect Obama, do something about global warming. And I know I can count on you, because, when I saw you the first time in a speech, in a debate, you were confident, you were strong, you were calm. And I always thought in my heart it would be positively Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Wow, talk about confident and strong.
That was 8-year-old I-Reporter Trisha Prabhu, who is a third- grader at the Arlene Welch Elementary School in Naperville, Illinois. And don't bother being impressed with her letter-writing skills. She's already written a book, for heaven's sake, "Christmas and Commitment Go Together," which is available on Amazon.com.
To send us your letters to the president-elect, go to CNN.com/Campbell and click on the I-Report link.
Well, it's time now for our "Political Daily Briefing," provided to us this evening by Randi Kaye.
And topping the "PDB" is the latest in the saga of Caroline Kennedy.
So, she's speaking up. What is going on?
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, she is. Well, it's very closely analyzed, every word that she says, absolutely. Now, Kennedy finally broke her silence when she sat down first with a local New York station, where she addressed everything from why she should be the next senator of New York to her stardom being likened to that of pop star Jennifer Lopez. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAROLINE KENNEDY, DAUGHTER OF PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY: I would be an unconventional choice. I haven't followed the traditional path. But I think I bring a lifetime of experience to this. In my family, you know, public service is really, you know, the greatest honor that anyone can have.
I admire the journey that J.Lo has traveled. And I actually have a lot of admiration for her. And -- you know, and she looks pretty good. But, in terms of public policy, I don't -- and -- and how we have spent our adult lives, I don't think there's really that much that we have in common.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Well, it puts that debate...
KAYE: You think?
FOREMAN: I guess. I don't think J.Lo comes up that much in these conversations.
So, Caroline Kennedy also sat down with "The New York Times" and I read somewhere that a gossip Web site went over all the details of this and they came up with something. What is that about?
KAYE: You know, there's really a lot to this story.
The gossip Web site Gawker.com noticed that Caroline Kennedy loves to say the words "you know." A scan of the document found that Kennedy used the words "you know" 138 times, 12 times in just under a minute, six times in that answer that you're at right there on your screen alone.
You know, some might say that could be a problem, Tom.
FOREMAN: Yes, you know, that could be true.
So, Sarah Palin, grandma? Grandma Palin now, is that the deal?
KAYE: This could be breaking news, "People" magazine reporting that Sarah Palin's 18-year-old daughter, Bristol Palin, who many of you might recall, was the center of a controversy during the campaign when news broke that she was pregnant, but not married, of course.
Well, apparently, according to "People" she gave birth yesterday to a seven-pound baby boy named Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston. Now Tripp is the newest addition to the Palin clan joining Bristol's brothers and sisters. That would be Track, Trig, Willow and Piper, Tom. We're keeping track there.
FOREMAN: Big names for a little baby.
KAYE: A mouthful.
FOREMAN: That's a lot of names there. And finally, under the category what was he thinking, a candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee in trouble over some holiday gifts. What's the deal?
KAYE: Well, he thought it would be funny apparently. That's what he says. Chip Saltsman, Mike Huckabee's former campaign manager, is singing the blues after word got out that he distributed some CDs to friends that included a track called "Barack the Magic Negro," a spin-off of the popular Peter, Paul and Mary hit "Puff the Magic Dragon."
The incident comes as the Republican Party is expected to host historic meetings next month to examine the future of the party. One of the main topics, believe it or not planned for discussion, racial sensitivity. But again, he thought it would be something funny.
FOREMAN: Wow. It's just amazing. You know, it's like they never learn.
Randi, thanks for being here.
FOREMAN: When "NO BIAS, NO BULL" continues, a special CNN look at pop culture in 2008. There will be cheers, jeers and head scratching galore.
And another embarrassment for Oprah. The single most beautiful love story she's ever heard turns out to be a hoax. It seems that's sometimes truth is stranger than fiction because it is fiction. We'll be right back.
FOREMAN: Take a look at this. It's the second annual Good Riddance Day. Here in New York over the weekend. People tossed everything from now worthless stock certificates and zeroed-out bank statements to photos of old lovers into a jumbo size shredder. And it happened where else? Well, in Times Square where the world celebrates New Year's Eve.
You can join the party right here on CNN with Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin live from Times Square, New Year's Eve beginning at 11:00 p.m. Eastern. Make sure you don't miss it.
And as a warm up right before the big event, you ought to join me on New Year's Eve for a special look back at this roller coaster year we've all been through. It's called "All the Best, All the Worst 2008," a rollicking look at everything from politics to pop culture.
FOREMAN (voice-over): The culture went pop again this year just as it always does with celebrities.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a good year for pop culture, wasn't it? It was exciting.
FOREMAN: It was certainly exciting for oh my, Miley Cyrus. The 15-year-old star who put the Hannah in Montana found herself in hot water.
PEREZ HILTON, CELEBRITY BLOGGER: Easily my favorite celebrity of 2008 was Miley Cyrus.
MILEY CYRUS, SINGER: I'm just here to help out with what I can.
HILTON: Why? Because she was somebody new to talk about.
FOREMAN: Britney Spears last year took our worst comeback award. This year, give her the best behavior badge for all the headlines she did not make.
It was not all happy returns. Worst publicity stunt of the year?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mentally pretty good.
FOREMAN: Magician David Blaine magically producing yawns by hanging upside down in Central Park.
DANA GOULD, COMEDIAN: The trick that I want David Blaine to do, and I'm challenging him here -- go away.
FOREMAN: But the worst moment on television? Rosie O'Donnell's "Rosie Live" dead on arrival.
HILTON: It aired on one of the most watched nights of television, the evening before thanksgiving and only about five million people tuned in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NBC BROADWAY VIDEO)
AMY POEHLER, PLAYING HILLARY CLINTON: I believe that diplomacy should be the cornerstone of any foreign policy.
TINA FEY, PLAYING SARAH PALIN: And I can see Russia from my house.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: The best moment on TV this year? Every time Tina Fey took on Sarah Palin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NBC BROADWAY VIDEO)
TINA FEY, PLAYING SARAH PALIN: And now, I'd like to entertain everybody with some fancy pageant walking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TARA WALL, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know, I think some of it probably was a little over the line, but overall it was all in good fun. And I thought she was hilarious.
FOREMAN: Just a little taste of our yearend special "All the Best All the Worst 2008." It airs New Year's Eve at 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Don't miss it. Everyone will be talking about it.
Coming up, it's happened again. Oprah is stunned by another bogus memoir. The shocking story of the author who almost got away with it.
Also ahead, a sweet deal. Millions of dollars for a few months of work and it's your money. Stay with us.
FOREMAN: Here is a story like something out of fiction. So compelling Oprah Winfrey called it the single greatest love story she's heard.
A boy in a Nazi concentration camp survives on apples tossed every day over the fence by a girl outside. They meet again on a blind date years after the war, fall in love and marry. It was to be a book called "Angel at the Fence" but not now, because it turns out the true life fairy tale of Herman Rosenblat and his wife Roma is not true at all.
Gabriel Sherman of "The New Republic" blew the lid off this Pandora's box of fabrications and he joins us now.
Let's start with the parts that are true. He really was a Holocaust survivor.
GABRIEL SHERMAN, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": He was a Holocaust survivor and that is undeniable and he had a very traumatic life. And I think what people are responding to is that he didn't need to embellish this love story because his own story was so powerful.
FOREMAN: His true story was that he went through this experience...
FOREMAN: ... but then some years ago, he started showing up telling people this bigger story about how he met this girl over the fence.
SHERMAN: Exactly. He wrote a story into a newspaper contest to tell the most romantic love story and from there it picked up and he got snowballed in. Next thing he knew, he was on Oprah.
FOREMAN: And when you went to check this out though, as this grew in prominence and the book deal was struck...
FOREMAN: ... and Oprah was talking about it, as you went to check this out, it was pretty easy to find some clear holes in this story.
FOREMAN: What did you find?
SHERMAN: Well, you know, historians discovered that the place where he said he was, it was not possible for him or Roma, the girl he said he married, to approach the fence. So right away this whole love story of her throwing him apples just probably couldn't happen the way...
SHERMAN: ... physically couldn't happen. The SS barracks where right near the spot where he said he met her and it would be physically impossible. You know he would have been killed if he had tried to do what he in fact --
FOREMAN: Were they both in the area at the time?
SHERMAN: No, she was, in fact, a couple of hundred miles from where he was during the war. So she wasn't even in the vicinity of the camp where he spent the war.
FOREMAN: Well, let me ask you something about this. You checked this out and found it out pretty easily. Oprah had the Rosenblats on her show two times.
SHERMAN: Twice, yes.
FOREMAN: Yes. And it wasn't the first false story to get by her. You may remember sometime back there was a story of James Frey and "A Million Little Pieces."
FOREMAN: That turned out to be false.
FOREMAN: She made a big deal about this when she responded. Listen to what she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, "THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW": It is difficult for me to talk to you because I really feel duped. I feel duped. And so now, as I sit here today, I don't know what is true and I don't know what isn't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: So it only took you a week to find out that this story that had been around for years about this guy was false.
FOREMAN: Why didn't somebody else find this out?
SHERMAN: Well, here's the thing Tom. You know, we have the publisher saying they published the book because, in part, he was on Oprah. Oprah sort of vetted his story and here with the James Frey case, we had the case where Oprah said she's relying on the publisher to vet the story. So nobody, either Oprah or the publisher, is doing any independent fact checking.
FOREMAN: This wasn't hard to find out though.
SHERMAN: It wasn't hard. It just required some work. You have to make phone calls. You need to double check what people say, and they easily could have done that.
FOREMAN: What's the story though really with the Rosenblats and all of this? Did they believe this story? Had he been telling it so long? He's an older man. Or why didn't people around them who knew it wasn't true speak up?
SHERMAN: Well, that's complicated. What we don't know is whether they believed it or they told it so often that this was an act that they ended up just performing in public. But, you know, he had an experience where it was very tragic. He was shot during a robbery in New York City where he was working in the '90s and he had a vision that came to him when he was in the hospital where his mother said, "Herman, you must tell the story."
And we know from that moment on, he started telling the story in public. Now what we don't know is whether they, in fact, truly believe this was the case or they were performing.
FOREMAN: And there was some sense that in the Holocaust survivors community, there's a tendency to not want to discount the story of another.
SHERMAN: Exactly. And that's what makes the story so powerful is that for years his friends and people close to him knew this wasn't true, but no one wanted to come forward because it's so hard when someone has had a traumatic experience like the Holocaust to come question them, especially in public.
FOREMAN: Oh, it's a tragic story in so many ways.
SHERMAN: It is.
FOREMAN: Good work on checking things out.
SHERMAN: Thanks a lot.
FOREMAN: All right. Just because your business collapsed doesn't mean you can't cash in. Our "Bull's-Eye" has its sights on the head of a company whose very logo is a bull and there might be a good reason.
And we're minutes away from "LARRY KING LIVE." Tonight, Larry King sits down with "Mindfreak" Criss Angel.
"NO BIAS, NO BULL" back after this.
FOREMAN: Breaking news. The violence continues tonight in Gaza. These are pictures from just a short while ago. Take a look.
New bombing by Israel underway as these pictures coming in show cars on fire. We're now on the fourth day of an assault triggered after Hamas fired rockets into southern Israel. Defense minister Ehud Barak is declaring what he calls all-out war with Hamas. Some 300 Palestinians and four Israelis have been killed.
We will keep you posted on this. But right now, Joe Johns is here with tonight's "Briefing" -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Tom, grim news coming in from Canada minutes ago. A seventh body has just been recovered after a pair of avalanches on Sunday. The search continues for one other man who could still be alive.
The snowmobilers became trapped Sunday near the British Columbia town of Fernie. A second avalanche occurred after part of the group had come to rescue their friends. The area is a popular back country destination.
A natural gas line exploded this morning in Savannah, Georgia. The blast sent flames shooting off from underground and forced evacuations along a busy tourist spot near the Savannah River. Leaking pipes are blamed. No one was hurt.
It will always be one of the most dangerous jobs, but the number of police who died by gunfire fell dramatically this year. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund says 41 officers were shot and killed in 2008, the lowest number since 1956. However, the study also finds more female officers are among those giving their lives in the line of duty.
The woman who made national headlines after killing her son's alleged molester has died. Ellie Nesler shot the suspected pedophile five times back in 1993 in a rural California courtroom. The case turned into a national debate on vigilantism. Nesler spent three years in prison. She died of cancer at the age of 56.
An entire village in Iran has surrendered to rats. Eight hundred people are packing up and moving 20 miles away after spending two years fighting a losing battle to get rid of the rodents after they overran the northeastern Iran town. Their new homes will sit on land donated by the government and landlords.
FOREMAN: Unbelievable, Joe. Thanks so much.
Up next, the story so many of you were talking about with your families on Christmas, as we were here, too. A story that's just hard to imagine. The Christmas Eve massacre.
New details on what could have led this man to such a premeditated act and what you might look for to avoid such things in the future. Stick around.
FOREMAN: You've all been following it, a story that seems like something out of a perverse horror movie. A man dressed as Santa Claus opens fire at a Christmas Eve party hosted by his former in- laws, then he sets her home on fire severely burning himself. Nine people, including his ex-wife and her parents died in the rampage in the Los Angeles suburb of Covina and 13 children are orphaned.
Hours later, the man police say was the shooter, Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, committed suicide. His body was found with $17,000. The car he'd been driving was left booby trapped. The whole thing is almost unimaginable, but what may be the most incredible detail, apparently, no one saw this coming. How can that be?
Joining me now to explain how that could happen, clinical psychologist Jeff Gardere, and Casey Jordan, criminologist, attorney and former criminal profiler.
Jeff, this was a guy who seemed pretty well liked.
JEFF GARDERE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Yes.
FOREMAN: Nobody seemed to see any warning signs about him. What are we to make of this kind of person? How does this happen with no one seeing signs?
GARDERE: Well, I think someone did see signs. Now what we're starting to find out they said, very friendly guy, but really kind of quirky, kind of spent time to himself. He dated a lot, but usually dated women who are much younger. And they did know that there was some real issues about the divorce. And as a matter of fact, one of the things he said was, "I'd love to go back to family counseling or some sort of couples counseling so I could be with my wife." So this was a --
FOREMAN: All that could be seen very innocuous, too, couldn't it? I mean, those same patterns could be in a lot of people and that makes trouble.
FOREMAN: So what are people supposed to do about this? (CROSSTALK)
GARDERE: It could be seen as innocuous. But this was a guy who had been through some real traumas. We had found out that he had a son in 2001 who he may have been responsible for that child almost drowning and becoming a paraplegic. So he was dealing with a lot of emotional issues, losing his job for quite a while, and then going through somewhat of a contentious divorce.
So the signs are there, but you are right, Tom. There are a lot of people who might say, well, we didn't really see anything there, but you have to look deeper and I guess that's what we do as psychologists.
FOREMAN: Casey, this seems a little bit different than the type of person we see in crime who just snaps.
CASEY JORDAN, CRIMINOLOGIST: Right.
FOREMAN: This guy calculated this to such a degree and over such time. He seems to be somewhere between the person who just snaps and like a serial killer, a sociopath...
FOREMAN: ... who has no feelings whatsoever.
JORDAN: Well, a mass murderer has a very different psychology than a serial killer. The mass murderer who kills everyone at the same time at one event and usually, or at least about 50 percent of the time commit suicide thereafter. Very different psychology.
But in sociology, we use the term anomie, the sense of normlessness that comes just like the spiraling down.
JORDAN: Normlessness. You believe you saw it. You were going to do everything that society expected of you. You believed in normal.
You follow the rules. You did everything you were supposed to, and then through no fault of your own, your world crashes and caves. So you have economic hardship going on.
The man hadn't worked since July. He just lost just about everything in the divorce -- his wife, his dog. And this can just be the tipping point. The straw that breaks the camel's back can make an otherwise very normal, healthy person just want to say, that's it. I'm going to check out and I'm going to take as many of my enemies with me when I do it.
FOREMAN: So, Jeff, this could be similar in some ways to -- we had cases of, for example, people out in rural areas where the family farm fails...
FOREMAN: ... and the man slaughters his family and himself...
FOREMAN: ... because he's saying the world has collapsed, I must end it for everyone.
GARDERE: Yes. This is a guy who sees life as being fundamentally unfair to him. He's had to deal with this crisis. But then you have to ask yourself, well, wait a minute. All of us deal with emotional crisis. There are traumas in our life. What makes us different?
And I think what's different about this particular person is that what we don't know about his history, his psychology, he may have been a very fragile person, might have been dealing with the depression for quite some time, someone who had a lot of rage, as we saw with this fire that he started. Very symbolic, who is holding on to that for quite some time and wasn't discussing it.
FOREMAN: Casey, this kind of person though is very rare.
JORDAN: This particular type of mass murderer is rare, not the family annihilator. It is actually short of workplace violence. An extremely common type of mass murder just isn't make the news that much.
What's rare about it is the organization and the premeditation that went into it. This was not a snap. This guy got a Santa costume.
GARDERE: Sometime in September he did that.
JORDAN: Yes. Well, it started but just in the last five days before Christmas is when the divorce came through and the decree was final.
He rented two cars. He got this, you know, contraction (ph) the police had never seen before that sprayed this jet fuel. It resulted in an excessive number of deaths, and there was a lot of premeditation that went into it. And that's what we don't normally see with the family annihilator.
FOREMAN: Someone we need to more about. It's good to have you both here. I know we could talk all night as I'm sure many viewers --
GARDERE: Oh, we'll learn more as times goes on.
FOREMAN: Jeff, Casey, good to have you both here.
GARDERE: Thanks, Tom.
JORDAN: Thank you. FOREMAN: Unbelievably sad and interesting case.
What may be the most outrageous story yet on Wall Street is coming up here. You've heard about the bailout. You've heard about the bonuses. But how about this?
One executive reportedly made a cool 25 million for three months of work. We'll tell you how he spent it when we come back.
FOREMAN: And finally this evening, Ali Velshi is back with the "Bull's-Eye" for us. A load (ph) to be precise if our program here had a sweet deal feature, this item would certainly qualify in that category as well.
This is the story of a man who worked for Merrill Lynch for three months. That's one, two, three, and moved on with a reported $25 million. Thank you very much.
Ali, how did this happen?
ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: What a story. Sweet deal is correct. This is a gentleman whose name is Peter Kraus. Now we have to tell you, he's done nothing wrong. He's broken no laws at all.
He is -- was one of these former masters of the universe types who worked for Goldman Sachs, and then was recruited to work for Merrill Lynch in May. He delayed his start until September and within a couple of days of starting, Merrill Lynch, in the midst of that financial crisis, was sold to Bank of America. But Peter Kraus organized something in his contract with Merrill Lynch that said if the company were to change ownership, he'd get a $25 million payout.
I'd work out that sort of deal, Tom. If you leave this place, I'm getting a big payout.
$25 million, so couple of days after he arrives, the bank is sold through no-doing of his own. He hangs around until December because that's the sweet thing to do if you've been given $25 million. Now he's off to head another investment firm. He left a few days ago. But that's what he got, a $25 million goodbye from Merrill Lynch, which, by the way, has been a company that has been bleeding money because of the subprime crisis for many, many months well before May.
FOREMAN: And the companies don't give out this information. As you said, this guy's done nothing wrong.
FOREMAN: But one of the reasons we know about this had to do with a little buying power.
VELSHI: Yes, exactly. Now we're in the middle of a recession in a city which has a lot of bankrupts. It's been hit hard by this recession and the job losses. So when you buy a $37 million house, which is listed for sale, when you buy a $37 million house on Park Avenue, it doesn't take much digging to find out that it was listed in the name of Peter Kraus's wife. $37 million, which is a big gain from what it was a couple of years ago. And that's how it came to everyone's attention.
We did speak to Merrill Lynch who said because he's not an executive of the company, it's not compelled to give out any information and wasn't able to tell us anything else about it.
FOREMAN: $37 million.
VELSHI: Yes. When you leave and I get my payout, I'm going to lay low for a while.
FOREMAN: You can get a house for that money. (INAUDIBLE) or not?
VELSHI: You got to say in this kind of economy, I didn't know. But for 37 million bucks, I'd think you can buy a block.
FOREMAN: But again, this was normal business on Wall Street.
VELSHI: Well that's the point of this. It's not -- Peter Kraus did nothing wrong. It's the sort of the tone deafness and the sense that on Wall Street, you can actually make deals like this. I mean, most of us probably want to run over there and see if we can still cut deals like that. You can't anymore. But that's quite something. He made a deal but if the ownership of the company changes, he gets the payout.
FOREMAN: Man, you got that kind of deal when I leave...
VELSHI: That's right. I'll be sad.
FOREMAN: ... and I'll leave now and we'll split.
VELSHI: Right. I'll be sad but I can be rich.
FOREMAN: The start of 2009 really looking good there.
FOREMAN: Thanks, Ali. Good to have you here.
That's it for now. All we've got here on "NO BIAS, NO BULL." I'm Tom Foreman sitting in for Campbell.
"LARRY KING LIVE" is coming up with Criss Angel. Some amazing feats that you want to stick around for.
Thanks for joining us. We'll see you again tomorrow night. Here's Larry.