May 28th, 2010
10:15 AM ET

The president's clashing symbols

Program Note: Be sure to watch Tom Foreman tonight on AC360° at 10pm ET.

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

You know why the faces on Mount Rushmore are four presidents instead of the Marx Brothers? Because symbolism matters. As much as we have a sense of humor in this nation (hey, we bought LaToya Jackson albums) we understand the enduring importance of leadership, especially when it comes to carving mountains into giant, granite heads.

So you know why the Obama Administration was in such hot water this week? Because the White House team members seem to have ignored the symbolic importance of everything they do during a crisis. As the Gulf oil spill spun out of control, they appeared for weeks to be mildly interested at best, and slightly miffed with the inconvenience of it all at worst. Like a Greek chorus, a variety of officials repeated the mantra, “We were there from day one!” as if those words alone would suffice.

But it was the shocking lack of there-ness on days two, three, four, and more that burned them. And it didn’t help that on the very day the men killed in the explosion were being memorialized; President Obama was attending a Democratic fundraiser. Talk about symbolism. The apparent disregard for the tragedy and the puddles of oil gathering at the president’s feet were noticed even by admirers in his own party, some of whom were by mid-week wondering openly why the White House did not respond earlier and more robustly.

No one with any weight in DC is disputing that this is BP’s fault, and the money to pay for it should come out of BP’s piggybank. Many have even accepted the Administration’s argument that the feds quite simply do not have the expertise they would need to take over the operation wholesale. What has troubled them, however, has been the symbolism.

Presidents, although they don’t like to admit it, spend a lot of time being primarily symbolic. When they throw out the first pitch, when they visit a closed factory, when they greet returning soldiers, when they hold town hall meetings to discuss health care; that’s all about symbolism. When President Bush flew over the wreckage of Katrina and just kept flying that was symbolic. And though the White House team is scrambling now to show their concern, those weeks of apparently lackluster involvement by President Obama were symbolic, too.

See Tom Foreman's column in Metro here.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Keeping Them Honest • Tom Foreman
May 28th, 2010
09:49 AM ET

Vice President Hillary Clinton?

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David Gewirtz | BIO
AC360° Contributor
Director, U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute

Reading tea leaves is not science. And what I'm about to discuss is an epic tea-leaf read. But it could make for an interesting strategy for 2012. Suspend a little disbelief and read on.

Here's the background. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hasn't spoken much on domestic policy since she took the foreign affairs gig. For someone so vocal during the campaign, it's been clear she's purposely sticking to her charter and staying out of domestic affairs.

Yesterday, according to Ben Smith at Politico.com, Hillary spoke to the Brookings Institution on national security strategy. That's exactly what you'd expect from SecState.

But then she took an interesting foray into domestic affairs by saying, "The rich are not paying their fair share in any nation that is facing the kind of employment issues..."

The comment itself is what got Politico's attention, but her rare move into domestic policy is what caught mine. Although Mrs. Clinton prefaced her statement by saying it was her personal opinion, that made it even more interesting.

Why would she say such a thing when she's been so disciplined about her messaging? Especially with China and Korea heating up, the Middle East still simmering, and all sorts of other threats and risks across the world - why would she move to the topic of wealth disparity?

Well, here's one idea. What if she's getting ready to go back on the domestic stage? How could it possibly make sense for her or for President Obama?


May 28th, 2010
09:30 AM ET

Part II: ATF whistleblowers share unlikely ties

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/05/28/story.edgar.domenech.cnn.jpg caption="Former deputy director Edgar Domenech says he was also a victim of retaliation from the ATF"]

Abbie Boudreau and Scott Zamost
CNN Special Investigations Unit

Dublin, California (CNN) - For the first 19 years of his career, Vince Cefalu spends most of his time in the field as a special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

But those days are over.

Now, he just sits in his office in Dublin, California, all day, and by his own admission, does virtually nothing. He said it's punishment for complaining and ATF's way of forcing him to quit. CNN gave him a camera to document five days at work.

"After several transfers, suspensions, attempts to terminate me, attempts to attack my credibility and my reputation, the end game was to assign me to this position," Cefalu said.

Five years ago, Cefalu was the lead agent on a racketeering case and complained to his supervisors about what, he says, were plans for an illegal wiretap. ATF disputes his claim and says he's had disciplinary and performance issues.

But since then, he says, ATF has made his life miserable. He has filed a series of grievances and complaints related to his job, which is now overseeing ATF property.

Full Story

Follow Abbie Boudreau on Twitter: @Abbiecnn

Read Abbie's blog post "Bureaucrats and Bullies"

Filed under: 360° Radar
May 27th, 2010
10:10 PM ET

AC360 on the Gulf Coast: Join the Live Chat

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Anderson is on the water, up close, along miles of marshland soaked in oil. The question is where are the clean-up crews? We're keeping them honest.

Want to know more about our live coverage from the Gulf? Read EVENING BUZZ

Scroll down to join the live chat during the program. It's your chance to share your thoughts on tonight's headlines. Keep in mind, you have a better chance of having your comment get past our moderators if you follow our rules.

Here are some of them:

1) Keep it short (we don't have time to read a "book")
2) Don't write in ALL CAPS (there's no need to yell)
3) Use your real name (first name only is fine)
4) No links
5) Watch your language (keep it G-rated; PG at worst - and that includes $#&*)

Filed under: Live Blog
May 27th, 2010
08:13 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Is ‘top kill’ working to plug leaking oil well?

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Cate Vojdik
AC360 Writer

There’s plenty to report from the Gulf Coast tonight. BP says it spent the day evaluating the results of the first round of its so-called “top kill” effort to plug the massive mile-deep oil well leak off the Louisiana coast. The company’s chief operating officer said BP temporarily stopped pumping drilling fluid into the well just before midnight and resumed the effort a short time ago. Tonight we’ll take a close look at how well the top kill is working.

Meantime, we learned today the spill is worse than first thought–much worse. A new estimate shows it’s the largest in U.S. history, surpassing the Exxon Valdez spill. Also today, the National Weather Service issued its hurricane forecast. It predicts eight to 14 storms this season, with as many as seven reaching category three or higher. That forecast is adding to the sense of urgency along the Gulf Coast

President Obama today defended the government’s handling of the spill. He says he’s on top of the crisis. He also ordered work to be suspended on exploratory drilling in the Gulf and cancelled or deferred some future wells around the country. This, as the head of the Mineral Management Service, Elizabeth Birnbaum, resigned.

We also heard from some the families of the 11 men killed when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded. They testified before Congress, urging lawmakers to hit BP and everyone responsible for the disaster where they’ll feel it most—in their wallets.

Anderson and his team on the ground in Louisiana also heard an earful from locals who say they’ve received very little compensation from BP so far. They’re skeptical BP will make good on its promises to reimburse everyone’s losses from the spill.

Then there are the victims with no voices. How many animals—from fish to birds to dolphins—have already died? How many species are being threatened by the spill? Incredibly, it seems there’s an effort to keep that information hidden. But why?

We’ll cover all of these angles tonight in our live coverage from the Gulf.

See you at 10 p.m. eastern.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Cate Vojdik • The Buzz
May 27th, 2010
07:59 PM ET

Video: Gulf residents say govt. not "in charge"

Program Note: Watch Anderson Cooper's reporting from Louisiana on the Gulf oil spill on AC360° tonight at 10pm ET.

May 27th, 2010
07:26 PM ET

One Simple Thing: Surfing's dirty little secret

One Simple Thing features people who through small yet innovative ways are making a difference in education, energy, the environment, and the use of the planet's resources.

Paul Vercammen

San Clemente, California (CNN) - Joey Santley's flip-flops rhythmically clap as he strolls through San Clemente's surf ghetto, a cluster of boxy surfboard-making businesses.

This chatterbox entrepreneur spouts out ideas like big waves churn up foam.

Surfing is a sport with a black spot on its eco-friendly soul, and Santley thinks he found a way to cleanse it.

"We're going to take the biggest pile of trash that our industry makes and we are going to figure out a home for it," Santley explains.

The shaping and making of surfboards for decades has produced a chemical residue, a toxic white dust that can be found all over the surf ghetto.

Santley grabs a plastic bag inside the major surfboard manufacturer Lost, and points down at a pile of polyurethane powder, excess foam that sprinkled from a surfboard-shaping machine.

"I'll come in here and clean up all this stuff," explains Santley, using a broom and dustpan to put the polyurethane dust into a plastic garbage bag. "They can keep cranking [producing surfboards] because it gets too full in here.

"They love it because they don't have to clean up. And I love it because I come and get material for my boards. And if I wasn't doing this, the dust would be going into the landfill over the hill."

Read More

Filed under: One Simple Thing
May 27th, 2010
05:50 PM ET

Beat 360° 5/27/10

Ready for today's Beat 360°? Everyday we post a picture you provide the caption and our staff will join in too. Tune in tonight at 10pm to see if you are our favorite! Here is the 'Beat 360°' pic:

Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L), Italian Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi (2L), Slovenian Prime minister Borut Pahor and OECD secretary General Angel Gurria (R) gestures at the issue of OECD ministers meeting at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) headquarters on May 27, 2010 in Paris.

Have fun with it. We're looking forward to your captions! Make sure to include your name, city, state (or country) so we can post your comment.

Beat 360° Winners:

Steve Brusk:
All paper again! Another tie. Well, one of our countries has to bail out Greece.

Robbi from New York:
Then I got a call from Costanza Modeling.

________________________________________________________________________________ Beat 360° Challenge

Filed under: 360° Radar • Beat 360° • T1
May 27th, 2010
05:41 PM ET

Stolen Valor

Program Note: Watch Randi Kaye’s full report tonight on AC360° at 10p.m. ET.

Randi Kaye
CNN AC360° Correspondent

As Memorial Day approaches, it got us wondering here at Anderson Cooper 360 about all those folks who pretend to be veterans.

Many of them come out especially around this time of year and flaunt their fake credentials and medals, hoping to impress friends or get better treatment at the Veterans Administration. But the case of “Stolen Valor” as it’s called that we are reporting on for AC360 tonight is unlike any other.

In this case, a 26-year-old man from Texas duped the United States Army! Yes, the top military in the world was fooled! The guy’s name is Jesse Johnston and he used a standard form resume required by the military, known as a DD-214, to stretch his credentials. On it he claimed he had four years experience in the Marine corps, combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, a bronze star and a purple heart.

Turns out it’s all a lie. All the Army had to do to verify Johnston's record was call the Marines - that's what we did! Instead, it gave him the rank of Sergeant. If checked, the Army would have discovered, just as we did by calling the Marines, that Jesse Johnston had never even been through boot camp. Yet the Army gave him a leadership role in a combat unit of the Army Reserves.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Crime & Punishment • Randi Kaye
May 27th, 2010
05:02 PM ET

Boycott BP movement growing

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Allan Chernoff
CNN Senior Correspondent

(CNN) - An online movement to boycott BP for its role in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is growing at a rate of better than 25,000 names a day.

"I won't buy their gas any more. I won't patronize a company that's destroying our planet," New Jersey resident Patricia Jarozynski told CNN, one of 118,000 fans of the "Boycott BP" Facebook page as of this writing.

"I think they should pay a price," said Sue Kemper, another "Boycott BP" Facebook fan.

Anger is growing along with the size of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico. BP's environmental catastrophe has Public Citizen, the consumer advocacy group, also calling for a boycott against the oil giant, the first time it's taking such action against an energy company.

"The boycott sends a clear message that we as American consumers are not going to tolerate corporate illegal activity," said Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen's Energy Program. "We're not going to tolerate a company that has a clear demonstrated track record of willful negligence."

Read More

Filed under: 360° Radar • Gulf Oil Spill
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