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Campbell Brown

Obama More Popular Than Effective?; Interview With Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele

Aired June 09, 2009 - 20:00   ET



CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: (voice-over): Tonight, here are the questions we want answered.

Is Obama more popular than effective? Republicans are slamming him on the economy and say his numbers just don't add up.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: He did not inherit a mess. He has created one.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Their plan has already failed.

JON VOIGHT, ACTOR: Everything Obama has recommended has turned out to be disastrous.

BROWN: Tonight, we're digging deeper to find out if the president can translate his big poll numbers around the world into real action here at home.

Plus, who's running the Republican Party? Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and Dick Cheney are jockeying for the spotlight, but Party Chairman Michael Steele says this.


BROWN: Michael Steele, tonight's newsmaker.

And one of the most infamous criminals of the 20th century.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I regard him as the essence of evil.

BROWN: Why is the Unabomber taking his victims to court?


ANNOUNCER: This is your only source for news. CNN prime time begins now. Here's Campbell Brown.

BROWN: Hey, everybody. Those questions, plus, are Americans put at risk by bringing Guantanamo detainees to the U.S.? That is tonight's "Great Debate." And we will get to that.

But we start, as we do every night, with the "Mash-Up." It is our look at the stories making an impact right now, the must-see moments of the past 24 hours. We're watching it all, so you don't have to.

First, an exclusive jailhouse interview -- the man accused of killing Kansas doctor George Tiller says he is thrilled Tiller's clinic, where he performed late-term abortions, is closing for good. Scott Roeder spoke to CNN's Ted Rowlands today. This was his first face-to-face sit-down with a reporter since the shooting.

No cameras allowed, but here's the story as Ted told it throughout the day.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He said he never admitted to this crime. He never said that he actually shot Dr. Tiller.

I said, listen, let's be frank here. There's -- there are witnesses that saw you at this church go up and shoot this man. You pointed the gun in other people's faces. Then you got in your car. They saw you leave and they got your license plate number. The evidence against you is overwhelming.

And he -- and he was sort of nodding on the phone as I was going through all this evidence against him.

And he said, "Well, in the end, if I am found guilty, then the motive of this crime was to protect the unborn."

He also said that the fact that Dr. Tiller's clinic, it's closed is a victory for the unborn children of the world, that he is no longer slicing and dicing the unborn children in mothers' wombs.

He sure didn't seem to carry any remorse at all with his body language or his intonation.

He also made mention that he's getting a lot of encouraging letters from people he doesn't know from across the country. And he says that that has -- has made him feel -- quote -- "good."


BROWN: The clinic's closing made news around the country today. But it was the very top story in Kansas, where for more than a decade Dr. Tiller's clinic made Wichita ground zero in the abortion wars.

Here's our local affiliate KSNW.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The move leaves them the Wichita area without an abortion provider.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anti-abortion activists have made shutting down Tiller's clinic their goal for decades. But David Gittrich from Kansans For Life says they would have preferred seeing it closed by legal, peaceful avenues, hoping an investigation by the Kansas Board of Healing Arts would've taken away Dr. Tiller's medical license.

DAVID GITTRICH, KANSANS FOR LIFE: Some mental case coming along and acting on his own is kind of a disappointment to us, because we were close. We were very close.


BROWN: Most leading anti-abortion groups have condemned the murder.

The other major story today, a brazen and deadly suicide attack in Pakistan. The target, this is a luxury hotel, popular with Westerners and with diplomats.


CHARLES GIBSON, ABC NEWS: The gunmen shot their way past security checkpoints, surrounding the popular Pearl Continental Hotel in the city of Peshawar, then detonated a bomb with more than 1,000 pounds of explosives.

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What stands out is, this is a huge civilian target. And this is the heart of the Peshawar.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Taliban are suspected, possibly retaliating from Pakistan's military campaign against militants in the Swat Valley.


BROWN: At least 10 people dead, seven people, plus the three attackers, the injuries in the dozens.

Well, now we're about to show you something very unusual. This is a rare interview with Kim Jong Nam, the eldest son of North Korean disaster Kim Jong Il.

In April, Kim Jong Il announced another son would be his successor. But apparently news travels slowly in North Korea, because, when our affiliate TV Asahi caught up with Kim Jong Nam, the young man didn't seem to know that his brother would be taking over.


KIM JONG NAM, KIM JONG IL'S ELDEST SON: I hear that news by media, and I think it's true. Well, however, it's my father's decision. So, once he decides, we have to support.


BROWN: Oh, well. strange there. Kim Jong Nam tells TV Asahi he is not interested in politics anyway.

And, last night, lots of Obama-bashing at that big Republican fund-raiser in Washington, but for us the headline-grabbing speech came from movie star Jon Voight. You might also known him as Angelina Jolie's father. And you will never mistake him for a fan of the president. Here he is in his own words.


VOIGHT: Obama really thinks he is a soft-spoken Julius Caesar. He thinks he's going to conquer the world with his soft-spoken sweet talk, and really thinks he's going to bring the enemies of the world into a little playground, where they will swing each other back and forth.

Everything Obama has recommended has turned out to be disastrous.

It's no wonder that the Russian newspaper Pravda, the former House organ for the Soviet communist regime, recently said the American descent into Marxism is happening with breathtaking speed.


BROWN: Voight brought down the house when he called the president a false prophet.

Now, it is the only night where computer geeks are treated like rock stars. The Webby Awards the Oscars of the Internet, were handed out last night. No surprise, Twitter won for breakthrough of the year. The best thing about the show, though, no endless speeches. Winners had to limit their acceptance remarks to just five words. Check it out.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not journalism that's dying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When do we get dinner?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can't win them all.




BROWN: That was for real, that romantic guy there right there, Richard Buschman, who won for a Volkswagen ad.

And, as you can see, she said yes.

And that is the "Mash-Up."

We do have some breaking news to tell you about coming in from right now from Virginia. The Associated Press is calling state Senator Creigh Deeds the winner in today's Democratic primary for governor. The real headline here, though, of course, Deeds defeating Clinton confidant Terry McAuliffe, who had big money, big support from the Democratic establishment.

Once again, that's Creigh -- state Senator Creigh Deeds who is the winner in the Democratic primary for governor in the state of Virginia.

So, we're going to move on now to tonight's first big question. Is President Obama more popular than effective? That is the argument some Republicans are making. True, the president's approval ratings still sky-high, but that's not stopping the GOP from going for the jugular.


GINGRICH: Their budget is already wrecked, because we're going to have higher unemployment, greater government expenses, and less revenue than they projected, because their plan has already failed.

LIMBAUGH: Obama is destroying what others before him created. He did not inherit a mess. He has created one. And, as the mess he creates deepens, so does his blaming it on his predecessors.


BROWN: Fairly tough stuff there. So, do they have a point? Is the president getting somewhat of a pass because -- on the actual number crunching -- because of his popularity?

Joining us now to talk about that, NPR contributor John Ridley with us once again, John Avlon, a contributor for "The Daily Beast," joining us tonight as well, syndicated columnist Miguel Perez also here with me in New York, and, in Washington, Tony Blankley, Newt Gingrich's former press secretary and the author of "American Grit."

Welcome to everybody.

Tony, I have got to start with you on this. These are your brethren there that we just heard speaking, pretty fired-up. What do you think?

TONY BLANKLEY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, Republicans have three-and-a-half years to find a message and to find the candidate. And right now, we have got auditions going on.

And the issues that connect and the candidates that do that well are going to do better as the years progress. Others who misfire won't do as well.

So, just analytically, it makes sense for a lot of different Republicans to be out there saying a lot of different things. As far as a question of him being more popular, well, Reagan was more popular usually than his policies. His Central America policy was never more than about a 45 percent support. So, he was able to hold his policies up because of his personal popularity. It didn't mean that he didn't go down when the economy went down and stuff. But it is useful for a president to be more popular than his policies.

BROWN: But auditions aside, guys -- and, Miguel, you can address this -- do they have an actual point when it comes to what kind of progress the administration has made so far?

MIGUEL PEREZ, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, no, I don't think so. I think they're just throwing rocks. They don't have a plan. They criticize -- just like what the Democrats were doing when the Republicans were in power, by the way.

The -- what is happening now is the Republicans on the other way around criticizing everything Obama does, without a real plan, without a real alternative. It's basically politics that -- that's being played here. And the auditions, these guys -- if these are auditions, these guys are failing.

JOHN AVLON, AUTHOR, "INDEPENDENT NATION": And that's the problem. I mean, that's the problem, is this predictable hyper- partisanship that turns people off, that -- Ed Murrow used to say, you have to be -- to be persuasive, you have to be credible.

It's not just credible to say that the president didn't inherit a problem. He did. You can argue that he's compounded it.


BROWN: But what -- at what point, John Ridley, does the problem he inherited become his problem? How much time has to pass?

JOHN RIDLEY, COMMENTATOR, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think it's more than four-and-a-half months. I think we can agree on that.

There is a reality, though. You have to be honest that he is more popular than his policies. I do think it's a mistake to start to be hyperbolic with he hasn't inherited this disaster; everything he's done has been worse.

I think the smarter play would be let some of these policies play out and find out whether they're effective or not. And to simply dial things up to 11 every time around, it's a little bit of crying wolf and it's hard to realize later on, where are the Republicans being genuous (sic) and where are they being disingenuous?

BROWN: And, Tony, is that a danger, I guess strategically, that this could backfire, when many in the country may interpret what Republicans are doing as not pulling for the country, the economy more generally to improve, that it's less about Obama right now? They're willing to cut him some slack?

BLANKLEY: Well, first of all, there's no strategy, because there's no -- there's no team. There's a bunch of people saying whatever they want to say, which is what happens when you're in opposition.

Until we have a leader, we're not going to have a strategy. But as far as the utility of each argument, it depends on the audience. I think Rush Limbaugh is doing a tremendously useful job in identifying potential problems with Obama and keeping our base focused on that.

On the other hand, sitting senators probably want to be a little bit more cautious. That's what they're doing. So, you know, I think everyone's enjoying trying to find out whether there's something the Republicans are doing wrong. And they're doing a lot of things wrong. They're doing some things right. And we won't know what the right ones are until 2012, see which ones stuck.

BROWN: Well -- you were shaking your head, John.

AVLON: Because -- because I don't think Republicans have really understood why they're in the problem they're in.

BROWN: And you're speaking as a former Republican?


AVLON: No, no, as an independent...

BROWN: As an independent.

AVLON: ... but who has worked for Rudy Giuliani for many years very proudly.


AVLON: But Republicans need to start practicing politics of addition, not division. Until they understand that, if they keep putting forward their most polarizing voices and then wondering how come they're losing the center and losing independents, they're just not paying attention.


BLANKLEY: Let me make a point, that we put our most polarizing candidate forward in 1977, Ronald Reagan, and we ended up winning. It's not a question about whether they polarize. It's a question of whether they polarize with a majority or polarize with a minority.


RIDLEY: But I would say also it's about picking the fights. Part of the problem here is that everything becomes a fight.

You look at Susan Sotomayor -- Sonia Sotomayor, that was a ridiculous fight to start, and it's not going away. When it goes from being racist to not racist, to racialist, at some point, you have got to let that one go. Pick the fights. And I think being an adversarial party, that's fine, but where are you going to be an adversary? Where are you going to be a partner and show that you can work together with a very popular president? BROWN: All right, guys, we have got to take a quick break.

We should mention we're going to take this conversation sort of to the next level, I guess. Our newsmaker, Michael Steele, he's standing by some of this pretty tough criticism of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor specifically. Listen.


MICHAEL STEELE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: my view of it was, in looking at it, you're now segregating out white men by your comments. So, God help you if you're a white male. If you're seeking justice, this may not be the bench you want to go before.


BROWN: That is the chair of the Republican National Committee talking Supreme Court politics. Plus, I will ask him who is really the new face in his view of the GOP.

Also, tonight's "Great Debate" coming up: Is bringing Gitmo detainees to the U.S. a security risk or could it actually make us safer? We will get two very different points of view.


BROWN: Welcome back, everybody.

Tonight's newsmaker never at a loss for words. And it looks like it's going to be a busy summer for the Republican National Committee chairman, Michael Steele, as his party gears up for a Supreme Court battle, continues searching for its voice of the future, and keeps trying to win back support among its own base.


BROWN: Mr. Chairman, welcome to you.

STEELE: It's good to be with you, Campbell.

BROWN: So, a brand new poll just out, "USA Today," says that one-third of Republicans view their party unfavorably.

Why is that number so high?

STEELE: Well, I think it's still a little bit of the tailspin left over from the '06, '08 campaigns, a frustration with the level of spending, and certainly the role that some have played in the past on things like stimulus and the like. So, I think those numbers are going to settle out, Campbell. I think we've turned an important corner.

Two weeks ago, I set, I think, an important tone for our party by declaring the naval gazing is over. You know, the time for looking backwards is done, that we now need to look forward with a vision, and then speak that vision directly to the American people when it comes to the policies of this administration.

The honeymoon is over, as far as we're concerned, that we now get into the nuts and bolts of exactly what does, you know, a $3 trillion budget look like and feel like? What does a stimulus bill look like and feel like? And what does all this excess spending mean to our small businesses and to our communities?

And I think that that will help us reengage, I think, in an affirmative way with the voters out there and really set up the contrast between the Obama administration and Democrat control, absolutely control, of the Congress, and the Republican Party and its sense of fiscal responsibility and discipline.

BROWN: You know, you've talked about expanding the party to win specifically Latinos over. But some in your party, including you, have said some pretty inflammatory things about Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

Do you think that hurts those efforts?

STEELE: Well, I don't know what I said that was inflammatory about the judge other than we wanted to see what her record is and we wanted to wait until that record was fully understood so that we can engage in I think a very important debate about the direction the Supreme Court at these times...

BROWN: Right.

STEELE: ... where you've got questions regarding property rights, questions regarding, you know, the role of the government and the lives of the American people. So I don't think I said anything inflammatory, though.

BROWN: Well, I'll read you the quote...


BROWN: ... and then you can clarify it for all of us. This is after you had said that Republicans shouldn't, in your view, use hot rhetoric...

STEELE: Right.

BROWN: ... that was the quote -- about race to attack her. You then said, "God help you if you're a white male coming before her bench. "

STEELE: Well, that's not inflammatory. It's based off of what -- the inference that she left and what she said.

You know, if you have a judge, where you have a situation where you have -- you're going before a trier of fact, and the trier of fact is on record as saying that this individual's background experience is better positioned to make a decision than someone else, that gives one pause. And so my view of it was, in looking at it, you're now segregating out white men by your comments. So, God help you if you're a white male. If you're seeking justice, this may not be the bench you want to go before.

And I think that's the clarification the judge needs to make very clear in her hearings, that -- was that something that she views as a personal view, or is that how she adjudicates the law? What is it?

BROWN: Let me take the conversation a little bit broader here.

If you look at the leaders of your party, the loudest voices you hear right now are the same three men -- Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh.

Are they getting in the way of your efforts to put a new face on the Republican Party?

STEELE: No. I'm here and they're not. So it's not a question of who's face is where, it's the fact that we've got a very broad party.

Everybody has a role to play, they're playing their roles. They have their constituent groups that they talk to.

My job as the national chairman is to look at the party in very broad strokes and understand and appreciate the diversity and complexity of that party and try to move us as an organization in a direction in which we can engage in the conversation. In the case of the nomination of Sotomayor, about her jurisprudence and the type of judge she's going to be. But then again, also engage on health care and the environment and other issues that are going to be important.

We have Senate and House leadership, we have governors. We have a broad section of folks.

Now, the media likes to play up the Rush Limbaugh angle and the Newt Gingrich and some of the other folks. That's fine, but the reality for me is working the grounds, working with state party organizations, and trying to set a tone that transcends what may appear on the news every night, but actually touches voters, reaches them and have them understand exactly what our position is on any given issue.

BROWN: Let me ask you about another star in your party. Former Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said today that Sarah Palin had, in his view, a long way to go before she rises to the level of being a serious presidential candidate.

What do you think she has to do?

STEELE: Well, Sarah Palin is Sarah Palin. I don't know if Ari Fleischer can galvanize 10,000 Republican activists just by the mere call of her name and excite them to go out and fight for the cause. Maybe he can. I don't know.

If he can, that's great. That's the beauty of the party. Everyone brings something of value to it, and Sarah Palin is no different. I don't know what her long-term or short-term plans are. All I know is she's been a good governor of Alaska, she was a great nominee for us for the vice presidency. She galvanized Republicans around the country. She even stimulated a few Democrats that I now of.

So, I think that she has an appeal out there that, by some cases, some folks are threatened by it. Others embrace it. But that's the sign of a leader.

That's what leaders do. They evoke an emotion. And Sarah Palin evokes an emotion across the country, and I think we'll just have to wait and see how she wants to utilize that ability for her own future opportunities.

BROWN: Chairman Michael Steele joining us tonight -- appreciate your time.

STEELE: All right.


BROWN: And tomorrow night, our newsmaker is Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association. Is the White House really going after the rights of gun owners, as many Republicans claim? That's just one of the areas we're going to explore with him tomorrow night.

The man accused of killing a soldier at an Army recruiting center speaks out. He says he did it. He thinks he was justified. We're going to have details of the second big jailhouse interview of the day.

Also, tonight's breakout, a CNN exclusive -- victims of the Unabomber and their battle to make money off the loner terrorist. Will they ever see justice?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My memory is actually very vivid. I started opening the mail. I pulled the tab, and there was a -- sort of a spark, a flash, and then the explosion. I was thrown to the floor. And I managed to get up. I crawled outside. Police came. An ambulance came.



BROWN: Welcome back, everybody.

Let's get a check of some of the other stories making news right now.

Here with tonight's briefing, Erica Hill.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Campbell, a green light for Chrysler from the U.S. Supreme Court, that green light for its sale to Fiat, that decision coming down, in fact, less than an hour ago.

Justices rejected a last-ditch attempt to block the deal by some pension funds and consultant groups with a stake in that sale, effectively clearing the final hurdle for President Obama's bankruptcy plan. Now, also today, a judge approved Chrysler's plan to close 800 Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep dealers immediately.

And the man accused in last week's shooting death of an Army recruiter says it was not murder. Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, a Muslim convert, tells the Associated Press he thinks the killing was justified because of U.S. military action in the Middle East.

Now, we're also hearing for the first time from a soldier wounded in the attack, who tells reporters today he is staying in the Army, saying -- quote -- "I like defending this country."

Big revelation about "American Idol" runner-up Adam Lambert -- he has landed a record deal. Oh, and, by the way, he's gay. Lambert came out in an interview with "Rolling Stone" magazine. He will also be on the cover. He says he's proud of his sexuality and it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. His first album is due this fall.

And the best part about that, Campbell, is, everybody can stop wondering.


BROWN: Yes. How many were?


BROWN: Erica Hill for us tonight, all right.

HILL: There you go.

BROWN: We will see you in a few.

Tonight's "Great Debate," here's the premise: Bringing Gitmo detainees to the U.S. is a national security risk. Liz Cheney squaring off tonight with Joan Walsh from We're going to hear a case made by each side.

And, as always, we want to know what you think at home as well.

Plus, the miracle on the Hudson tonight -- hear for the first time exactly what was going on in the cockpit as the pilot made the split-second decision that saved everyone on board.


CAPT. CHESLEY SULLENBERGER, U.S. AIRWAYS: I said: "This is the captain. Brace for impact."


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BROWN: Time for our time for our "Great Debate."

And tonight's premise: Bringing Guantanamo Bay detainees to America is a security risk.

Some Republicans say that is exactly what happened today, when Ahmed Ghailani was brought from Guantanamo to New York to face trial.

And joining us to debate tonight, Liz Cheney, the former vice president's daughter, who also served in President Bush's State Department. She thinks Gitmo prisoners do not belong on American soil. On the other side, Joan Walsh, who is editor in chief of Salon --

And we want your opinion too. Vote by calling the number on the bottom of your screen.

First, we're going to have opening statements from each, 30 seconds on the clock.

Liz Cheney, the premise is: Bringing Guantanamo detainees to America is a security risk. Make your case.


Well, I think that it's clear that al Qaeda operatives and terrorists have spent a lot of time and have expended a lot of effort to get into the United States. So, I think it's impossible to argue that, when our government actually helps them get into the United States, as we would do in this case, that it doesn't make us less safe. Of course that makes us less safe.

Secondly, you have had the director of national intelligence and the attorney general talk about the fact that some of these detainees will, in fact, be released in the United States.

So, faced with a situation where you can either have terrorists detained...


CHENEY: ... in a secure facility in Guantanamo or in your neighborhood, I think it's clear that you're less safe if they're in your neighborhood.

BROWN: Joan?

JOAN WALSH, EDITOR IN CHIEF, SALON.COM: Campbell, I just think that's really silly.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen, before Barack Obama was inaugurated, said, we have to close Guantanamo. It's a recruiting symbol. Secretary Robert Gates agrees. General Petraeus agrees. They are -- these are all high-ranking military figures in the Bush-Cheney administration. John McCain agrees. We did not have a debate about Guantanamo last year because everyone agrees, except Liz Cheney, and Dick Cheney, I might add.

CHENEY: Well, I think, actually, there are also 90 -- 90 U.S. senators...



WALSH: The fact is, we already...


WALSH: We already -- Liz, don't interrupt me. That's outrageous.


BROWN: Come on, guys. Come on.


CHENEY: The bell rang. There are 90...


WALSH: Well, Campbell, she took some of my time. May I finish?

BROWN: OK. A couple of seconds, Joan.

WALSH: Thank you, Campbell. I appreciate it.

There are 340 convicted terrorists already in American supermax prisons, including Ramzi Yousef, who planned the World Trade Center bomb in '93, and the Unabomber...

BROWN: All right.

WALSH: ... and plenty more.


WALSH: We can do this. We have done it. We will do it again.

BROWN: Joan, I...


BROWN: Let me let Liz respond.


CHENEY: Several things. I think, first of all, it's outrageous for you to say that it's just the Cheneys who think that terrorists shouldn't be in the U.S. Actually, 75 percent of the American people don't want to see terrorists from Guantanamo brought here. And 90 U.S. senators...


WALSH: It depends on how you frame the question.

CHENEY: Now, Joan, are you going to interrupt me, or are you going to let me -- let me talk here?


BROWN: Let -- let her make her point.


CHENEY: Secondly, Joan, I think it's very important -- I recommend to you, if you haven't read it yet, a book called "Willful Blindness" by Andy McCarthy, who prosecuted the blind sheik.

And, in his book, he goes through in great detail the -- the very real failings of the criminal justice system when dealing with terrorists. Our criminal justice system is simply not set up to handle the kinds of classified information that would have to be turned over to terrorists in order to prosecute them.

You have got a real potential that you get the terrorists here, and judges will decide that they have got to be released, that they can't be held indefinitely in U.S. maximum-security prisons.

WALSH: Liz, the top -- the top military leaders of our country want Guantanamo closed. President Bush, in June 2009, gave a speech where he said he would close it, and he would bring people home and try them here.

CHENEY: No, I'm sorry.

WALSH: President Bush said that.

CHENEY: He did not say he would bring terrorists onto the homeland. Joan, no, he didn't say that.

WALSH: We also -- Ahmed -- Ahmed -- Ahmed -- Ahmed Ghailani, who came to the United States...


CHENEY: It's a very different thing to say...


BROWN: Hold on, guys.

(CROSSTALK) WALSH: If you're not going to stop, Liz, I won't stop.

BROWN: Hold on for a second. I -- because I want to clarify this.

Joan, let me ask you this, because we have heard President Obama himself say that there are some detainees that will not be able to be tried in regular courts and that can't be released. What do you do with these people, then?

WALSH: You know, that's a hugely, hugely divisive issue, Campbell.

And Liz may be closer to President Obama on it than I am. He has talked about for a hand -- well, we believe it's a handful. It might be more. We don't know. He has talked about creating a system of review for the relatively small number of people at Guantanamo who, A, seem like they want to harm us, but, B, can't be tried, either because we don't have the evidence or because we tortured them under the Bush- Cheney torture regime, and thus we can't use the evidence we acquired.

I don't know how many people there are. I think it's going to be a very divisive issue. But we shouldn't start there, Campbell. We should start with the vast majority of detainees who are, A, either innocent, like Lakhdar Boumediene, who ABC exposed the horror of his torture at Guantanamo, an innocent man tortured, or, if they did something, they will be tried, just like Mr. Ghailani.

Four of Mr. Ghailani's co-planners in the 1998 embassy bombers are in jail in prison for life, no parole.


BROWN: OK, Joan.

WALSH: The system works.

CHENEY: Your facts are just wrong. The vast majority of the detainees...

WALSH: Oh, really?

BROWN: Liz -- Joan, let Liz make her point.

CHENEY: Yes, really.

WALSH: Sure.

CHENEY: The vast majority of detainees at Guantanamo now, the 241 or so who are left, are the worst of the worst.

As you know, we released a number of them during the Bush administration, those that we thought actually could be released. And 14 percent of them returned to the battlefield.

So, it may be that, you know, sitting in Manhattan... WALSH: That's not true, Liz.

CHENEY: It actually is true, Joan.

WALSH: The Pentagon has refuted that number.

CHENEY: Joan, you going to let me talk here?


WALSH: The Pentagon has refuted that number. And "The New York Times" abandoned it.


BROWN: Joan, you got -- you got a lot of time here. I have got to let Liz finish her point.

Go ahead. You get the last word, Liz, before we take a break.

CHENEY: Joan, I think that, you know, it -- it may be the case that it's easy to sit in Manhattan or whenever you're sitting, Joan, and say, gosh, these people don't really want to harm us, and we really shouldn't detain them.

But, you know, we're at war. And the laws of war very clearly state that...

WALSH: I know we're at war, Liz.

CHENEY: ... while you're at war, you can detain enemy combatants to prevent them from returning to the battlefield.

Seventy-five percent of the American people do not think that our government should be bringing terrorists to the homeland. And they're right.


I know there are very strong feelings here on -- on both sides, but we're going to do what we do every night, which is try to find some common ground on this, an area where the two of you can agree. I'm hopeful.


BROWN: You have the commercial to think about it.

We will be back in a moment. Stay with us.


BROWN: We're back with tonight's "Great Debate."

And the premise: Bringing Guantanamo Bay detainees to America is a security risk. Liz Cheney, the former vice president's daughter, has said yes to this, editor Joan Walsh saying no.

We're going to try to find some common ground right now, guys.

Liz, do you think there's an area here relating to the policy where you and Joan can agree?

CHENEY: Campbell, I just don't think there is.

I mean, I think there are some issues on which...

BROWN: Oh. Ooh.

CHENEY: I know. I'm sorry. But I just think there are some issues -- you know, I firmly believe our government ought to detain terrorists, it ought to defend us against terrorism, and it ought to kill terrorists, when necessary.

And it shouldn't facilitate their entry into the U.S. And I think Joan and I just don't -- we don't see eye to eye on that. I mean, maybe Joan can suggest something.


CHENEY: But, sometimes, I think it's better to be very clear about what your position is and what your stand is on an issue as important as this one.

BROWN: Joan, any common ground here?

WALSH: Campbell, I actually had a couple of ideas.

BROWN: OK. Let's hear them.

WALSH: I had a couple of ideas.

First of all, we both love and admire our fathers. That's very important, foundational, gives us something in common. Second of all, I believe we both really and truly want to keep America safe.

Sitting here in San Francisco, a city that I love very much -- I won't be condescended to about that -- I care about the security of this country, and I believe that torture and illegal detention has made us less -- less safe.

Finally, I think...

CHENEY: You had me until the end there, Joan. You were good until the end.

WALSH: ... Liz is probably very, very excited that the pro- America party won the election in Lebanon, and that we're both looking forward to the possibility of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad losing on Friday, which would show that the Obama administration's approach of reaching out, rather than alienated the -- alienating the Muslim world, might be working.

BROWN: All right.

WALSH: I bet she's hoping for the same thing.

CHENEY: Well, actually, I disagree with you on the last part of that there, Joan.

I don't think it makes that much of a difference who wins the election in Iran at the end of this week. I think that the Iranian regime will continue to pursue the same policy.

But I will grant you that we love our fathers and we love our country.


WALSH: Thank you. All right. There we go.

BROWN: Liz, Joan, thank you, guys. Appreciate it. It really was a great debate. Many, many thanks.

CHENEY: Thank you.

WALSH: Thank you.

BROWN: And we want to see how you voted in tonight's "Great Debate."

Evenly split tonight -- 50 percent agree bringing Guantanamo detainees to America is a security risk. Fifty percent disagree.

As always, this is not a scientific poll -- a snapshot from our viewers, only, who called in tonight. Thanks, everybody.

And every night, a new "Great Debate" on this show. Tomorrow's premise, the war on drugs is a failure. Agree or disagree? We'll have that tomorrow night.

And we'd like to know tonight another question we're going to take up in the second half hour, are airline pilots under-trained and overworked? What you should know about the men and women who are in the cockpit. Some troubling new information coming out today. We'll tell you about that coming up.


BROWN: The hero of the 'Miracle on the Hudson," Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, was the star witness today at the National Transportation and Safety Board's hearings on air safety, and Sully's testimony was riveting. Listen to this exchange about the split- second decision that may have made the difference between life and death as that plane landed in the river last January.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was the emergency command that you gave over the P.A. prior to impact?

CAPTAIN CHESLEY SULLENBERGER, US AIRWAYS: I said this is the captain, brace for impact.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was there any other announcement made by you over the P.A. part prior to the water impact?

SULLENBERGER: No, there was not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As a previous instructor and a union accident investigator, do you think a better command to convey the type of impact information to enhance appropriate preparation might be brace for water impact?

SULLENBERGER: I tend to think that I wish I'd had more time to more fully (INAUDIBLE) of the situation that we faced. I probably spent some amount of time. I would guess I had maybe four or five seconds to decide to make the announcement and what I should say.

I chose my words carefully. My highest priority at that moment was to avoid passenger impact injury. I knew that the flight attendants would do their assessment prior to opening the doors. And I wish I could have told them there was water landing but had I done that, they might have begun getting people to put on life vests and not be in the brace position at impact.


BROWN: Captain Sullenberger also said one of the biggest challenges pilots face is "to remain alert and vigilant and prepared." The FAA acknowledged this much today when it called for better pilot training at regional airlines. And that was in response to the deadly crash of a continental plane near Buffalo New York in February.

So the big question we have tonight is, are pilots, especially for those regional airlines, under-trained and overworked?

And here to talk about that with us tonight is Justin Green who is a pilot and aviation attorney. He is also representing some of the families of the victims of that continental crash. And also Mary Schiavo with us as well, former Transportation Department inspector general. She's also an attorney who has represented families of crash victims.

We should mention we also invited the Regional Airline Association to join us tonight, as well. And they declined.

Mary, let me start with you on this. You may have seen this "USA Today" report where they compiled so much of this information that the NTSB had been gathering in reporting that eight recent regional plane accidents. One of the pilots had failed at least two tests. And these are accidents that killed 137 people.

I guess my question is, is how does this happen? How does a pilot fail tests and then still be allowed to fly the plane? MARY SCHIAVO, FMR. TRANS. DEPT. INSPECTOR GENERAL: Well, it's not unusual to fail maybe one or two or a few in your career. But what has occurred here is the airlines say that some of those failed tests took place in the training. And also they do excuse some of the failed tests.

Pilots are quick to say the FAA and other inspectors have to flunk a certain number. But in some cases, it happened in the Colgan Air testimony, they did not go back and verify what the pilots told them. They just took the pilots' words and they said, oh well, you know, it's not our job. It's not required by the FAA. And they said that time and time again.

If it wasn't required by the government, they just didn't do it. And in seven of the accidents of the regional accidents in the last decade, they cited pilot error and problems with the pilot's training and judgment.

BROWN: Justin, what's your reaction to this?

JUSTIN GREEN, PILOT & AVIATION ATTORNEY: I agree with Mary as I often do on a lot of these issues. The differences between the pilot experience and the Colgan accident up in Buffalo, Captain Renslow with Captain Sullenberger really tells us a story.

Captain Sullenberger is a guy you want in the cockpit. Captain Renslow is somebody who didn't have any business being in the cockpit. And the important thing is Colgan had no idea about three of his prior failures. They didn't know about the prior failures that they failed him on, and they did know that he had one prior failure. But they never went back, as Mary said, and looked at his record and they would never have hired him had they done that.

BROWN: So they've announced this increased training, you know, as the solution to this. I mean, is that enough for you? Is that enough?

GREEN: No. No, not at all. They announced a meeting. They announced a meeting next week. They announced the meeting because the families, the Colgan families, the family -- not the Colgan families, but the families of the victims of Colgan have been in Congress and in the Senate and they've been pressuring the FAA to act. This is the first step. And we're going to hold the FAA's feet to the fire and make sure they make real and substantive changes.

BROWN: Is it enough, Mary?

SCHIAVO: No, it's not. And for my years as inspector general, we investigated the FAA time and time again for their failure to enforce the law. And the important thing will be when they have this meeting they have to send a message and they have to back it up with enforcement.

Now, they only have about 3,800 inspectors, but when situations like this happen, what they do is they reposition. They say, OK, we're going to pull some from the majors or we're going to pull some from somewhere else. And we are going to be in the field inspecting and make the regionals live up to the promise of the majors and the promise of the FAA that we have one level of safety.

BROWN: Right.

SCHIAVO: That's what they have to do in force.

BROWN: All right. I appreciate your time both of you tonight. We'll be tracking this obviously.

SCHIAVO: Thank you.

BROWN: It sounds like there's still a ways to go. Justin Green with us here in New York.

GREEN: Thank you.

BROWN: And Mary Schiavo as always.

GREEN: Thank you, Campbell.

BROWN: When we come back, tonight's breakout, a CNN exclusive on the "Unabomber." The survivors of his lone terrorist rampage fighting all these years later for some final justice.


DR. CHARLES EPSTEIN, VICTIM: Who would think we would be sitting this many years later still having dealings with the man who tried to kill us?



BROWN: Every night, we bring you a breakout story from around the globe, the kind that breaks through the noise. And there has been no criminal in this country like the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, the domestic terrorist who mailed letter bombs to his victims for two decades. But from his maximum security prison cell, he is in a new battle with some of those who survived his evil. They want to put his personal property up for auction.

Abbie Boudreau of our special investigations unit is here to tell us why -- Abbie.

ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT: Well, Ted Kaczynski was called the Unabomber because he targeted universities and airlines. So from 1978 to 1995, he waged a war against technology through his crime spree. And now he's fighting a different kind of battle against his victims.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're the Unabomber.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I regard him as the essence of evil. He's evil and amoral. He has no compassion.

BOUDREAU (voice-over): Ted Kaczynski killed three people. He wounded 23 others in a crime spree that lasted 17 years.

Dr. Charles Epstein, a retired University of California professor and a world renowned geneticist, was one of those injured.

DR. CHARLES EPSTEIN, VICTIM: I started opening the mail, pulled the tab and there was sort of a spark, a flash, and then the explosion. I was thrown to the floor. I managed to get up.

I crawled outside. The police came. The ambulance came.

BOUDREAU: The blast destroyed both his eardrums. He fractured his right arm and lost parts of three of his fingers. And this was the man responsible. He was once only known by this sketch.

Police called him the Unabomber. Then in 1996, Ted Kaczynski was captured in this Montana cabin, deep in the woods. But it's what investigators found inside the cabin that the victims are now fighting for. Personal items Kaczynski once owned that they want sold at auction.

(on camera): This was that old sweatshirt and old pair of sunglasses, just like you saw on that sketch. And you might think that a lot of this stuff isn't worth anything, but because it was Ted Kaczynski's old typewriter and his old degree from Harvard University, his victims hope all of this is worth a lot of money.

(voice-over): Shovels, a screwdriver, tweezers, a knife, his dusty boots, other typewriters and his doctor of philosophy degree from the University of Michigan. Hundreds of items locked away for years in FBI evidence bags that CNN had exclusive access to. All of this likely heading to an auction for anyone to bid on.

But Kaczynski doesn't want his possessions auctioned off, especially his diaries and personal writings. These thousands of pages detail his crimes and what he was thinking at the time. In his hand-written legal arguments where he calls himself "K," he claims the district court's orders violate K's First Amendment rights.

(on camera): It seems like this whole thing is just about control.


BOUDREAU (voice-over): Acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence Brown says Kaczynski's appeals likely won't make a difference.

BROWN: If some funds are raised by this auction to help out some of the victims, well, then, that does serve to promote some level of justice. But you just cannot right the tremendous wrong Kaczynski committed.

BOUDREAU: Steve Hirsh is the attorney for four of the victims, including Epstein, who are owed that restitution. STEVE HIRSCH, VICTIMS' ATTORNEY: The victims who were placed in this terrible position of either accepting the idea of an auction or letting Kaczynski have all of his things back, which would have been just another wound for them.

BOUDREAU: It's been nearly 16 years to the day since Epstein was injured.

EPSTEIN: And who would think we would be sitting this many years later still having dealings with the man who tried to kill us?


BOUDREAU: Kaczynski is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. He has until Monday to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. The lawyers we spoke with say there is no way the court will hear this issue. The auction is expected to take place later this year. So --

BROWN: And, Abbie, you said Kaczynski owes $15 million in restitution to some of his victims.

BOUDREAU: Fifteen million.

BROWN: Could the auction bring that kind of money?

BOUDREAU: Everyone we talked to says there's no possible way it's going to bring in $15 million, but it could bring in hundreds of thousands. It's a true possibility. And there are Web sites out there that auction this kind of stuff. So we do know that there's a market for people to want these items.

And we talked to one person who runs one of these Web sites and he told us that those sunglasses that you saw and the hooded sweatshirt that everyone knows so well...

BROWN: Right.

BOUDREAU: ... could sell for $50,000 to $75,000. So, I mean, who wants this? I don't know, maybe some collectors. We also heard that there are some cases where people buy it just to destroy it later.

BROWN: Yes. All right. Abbie Boudreau for us. Fascinating story, Abbie. Thanks very much.

Comedian Stephen Colbert in Iraq this week. You may have heard entertaining our troops and he's getting a little help with his material from a maverick. That's in tonight's "Political Daily Briefing." Stay with us.


BROWN: Time now for the "PDB," our "Political Daily Briefing." Erica Hill is back, and someone who inspires late night comedians isn't laughing this time. What's the beef apparently between Sarah Palin and David Letterman?

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, not a lot of chuckling going on, I don't think tonight. The Alaska governor apparently not a fan of the late night talk show host.

Highlights of her visit to New York this week were the inspiration for Letterman's top ten list last night. Number two on that list, bought make-up at Bloomingdales to update her "slutty flight attendant" look.

No surprise that one didn't sit too well with the governor who fired back this morning in a radio interview calling Letterman pathetic, Campbell.

BROWN: I imagine so.

HILL: Yes.

BROWN: So now, we've all heard that President Obama, of course, was on "The Colbert Report" spoofing him last night, but he wasn't the only one who is apparently involved in this little --

HILL: He was not. In fact, Governor Palin's former running mate, John McCain, making an appearance. There is a full lineup for Stephen Colbert's shows from Iraq this week and you would hope so because he's getting plenty of free advertising from all of us, for all the funnies. So here's Senator John McCain's message for the troops which he sent along.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Hi, I'm John McCain. As a former military man, I have the utmost appreciation for what you brave servicemen and women are doing. And I have a word of advice. Make sure to always take the time to clean your musket. I learned that at Valley Forge.


HILL: It's good. Senator McCain always does do a pretty good job with the comedy.

BROWN: Yes, I couldn't agree more. Well, maybe he missed his calling.

Erica Hill for us tonight. That's it for us.

"LARRY KING LIVE" starting right now.