Fair is Fair
CNN Special Report: Presidency in Crisis
Cooper: Welcome back to CNN's continuing coverage of the shocking comments made by President Obama regarding disabled Americans. I'm Anderson Cooper. In case you're just joining us, last night on NBC's The Tonight Show, in response to a question by host Jay Leno about his bowling ability or more accurately, his lack of bowling ability, President Obama stunned the nation with these insensitive comments:
Leno: Now, are they going to put a basketball – I imagine the bowling alley has been just burned and closed down.
Obama: No, no. I have been practicing all –
Leno: Really? Really?
Obama: I bowled a 129.
Leno: No, that's very good. Yes. That's very good, Mr. President.
Obama: It's like – it was like the Special Olympics, or something.
We're joined now by the nephew of murdered former President, John F. Kennedy and chairman of the Special Olympics, Timothy Shriver. Tim, what do you make of all this?
Shriver: It's outrageous. This man, and I refuse to refer to him as President because he's no longer my president, this man is trying to cover his own miserable failures as a bowler by criticizing the most vulnerable segment of our society, the disabled. I can't understand how on the one hand this vile man dares to compare himself to my uncle, President John F. Kennedy, and then goes out and says this kind of stuff.
Cooper: I can see you're pretty upset by all this.
Shriver: My phone has been ringing off the hook all morning. Fortunately my secretary, who I'm proud to say is also a participant in the Special Olympics, is hard of hearing so it's not bothering her too much but I can tell you there's a lot of upset people on the other end of those lines. My inbox is overflowing with emails from outranged parents and Olympians from all over the country. What really makes my so angry is here this man, Obama, still a relatively young man, voluntarily disables himself by injecting nicotine into his body while our Special Olympians have no freedom to change their condition.
Cooper: You talking about the cigarettes.
Shriver: Yes. It's disgusting that this weak man doesn't have the willpower to stop this disgusting habit. You want to see willpower, come on out to our 2010 USA National Games next July in Omaha. We'll show you willpower. When you see some poor, retarded kid struggling with all his might to throw the javelin without hitting anybody, when you see…
Cooper: Are you crying Tim?
Shriver: I'm sorry, Anderson. You just don't realize how deeply this upsets me.
Cooper: We understand completely Tim. Do you need a few minutes?
Shriver: Maybe I better take a break.
Cooper: Take all the time you need, Tim. That's Timothy Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics and member of the vaunted Kennedy family. We're joined here at the desk now by MSNBC's host of Countdown, Keith Olbermann. Well Keith, you just saw the head of the Special Olympics break down over the insensitive comments of President Obama. What do you think?
Olbermann: You know Anderson, if you thought about all the unbelievably stupid and insensitive comments you could make, I don't how you could come up with anything as destructive as Obama's comments from last night. I mean you could rip on the homos or pound on the dykes or tear the homeless a new one or
Cooper: Alright, alright, I think we get the point which is, criticizing the disabled is about as low as you can get.
Olbermann: Damn straight. Who does this guy think he is? Some kind of god? Is that what this country is coming to? Our President, the God, can strike down the weak and defenseless with impunity? We can't just sit here and take this.
Cooper: What should we do?
Olbermann: I tell you want we should do. We should gather up all the gimps, the retards, gather up all these Special Olympians and march or wheel or whatever it takes, on Washington. Every American city and town should see a convoy of short buses heading to our nation's capital to avenge this wrong. I bet you didn't' know this but there's a Special Olympian up in Michigan that's rung up a 300 game. Let's encircle the White House with these people and dare that punk Obama to take on this kid. We'll see who's laughing then.
Cooper: Sounds like a great plan but in the interests of journalistic integrity I must correct one minor point. That kid you refer to is actually a 35 year old man.
Olbermann: Whatever. He'd kick his ass even if he was 135. Obama sucks.
Cooper: Excuse me Keith. My people have just informed me our next guest is available. Can you stick around?
Cooper: We joined now by Lynette Harris, mother of Alfred Harris, a Special Olympian from Pawtucket, Rhode Island. How are you Mrs. Harris?
Harris: (sobbing) I've been better, Anderson.
Cooper: Yea, I know, I know this must be tough on you. Tell us about your son. I understand he's quite the athletic.
Harris: Alfred's been competing in the pole vault for a number of years. He can clear one foot pretty consistently and we're shooting for 15 inches by next summer.
Cooper: That's incredible.
Harris: You should see how excited he gets during the games. I don't know what we'd do without them.
Cooper: Just to be fair, no matter how insensitive the President's comments may have been, I don't believe he intends to stop the Special Olympics.
Harris: Well that's just it, Anderson, you never know. When you have a man who's so insensitive to the disabled, there's no telling what he's capable of. Just look at what they're doing to those AIG executives. They don't like them so their imposing a special tax on them. How do I know that he won't slap a 100% tax on my income because my son competes in the Special Olympics?
Olbermann: He'll never do that as long as I'm around. If he ever dared to try something like that we'd beat him like a red headed step child.
Harris: Thanks Keith. I watch your show all the time. You're my hero.
Olbermann: Just doing my job ma'am.
Cooper: So how's your son, Alfred, handling all this?
Harris: Well, Alfred doesn't understand things like you and I do but I can tell you he's deeply hurt. After eight long years of that awful George Bush, Alfred was looking forward to an enlightened age under Obama. After the election, Alfred put up a life-sized poster of President Obama in his room.
Cooper: Has he said anything specifically about the President's comments?
Harris: No, but when I went in his room this morning, the poster was gone. I asked him why he took the poster down and he said, "Barack doesn't like me anymore."
Cooper: Are you ok Keith?
Olbermann: (sobbing uncontrollably) That just tears my heart out. I've got to get out of here.
Olbermann springs out of his chair and runs from the set. The sound of falling equipment reverberates through the studio.
Harris: Is everything alright there?
Cooper: I think you better take care of your son, Mrs. Harris. Thanks again for joining us and if it means anything to you, I'm sorry that my past support of the President has indirectly brought so much pain to you and your family. Now let's go to our expert panel. Joining us here on this special report are former presidential advisor David Gergen, national political activist, the Reverend Al Sharpton, Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, and Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter. David, I'll start with you. You worked in the White House. What's the political fallout from these comments?
Gergen: It's huge, Anderson. I mean you can't pick on the innocent victims in our society and just expect to walk away Scot-free. But I can I point out something else I haven't heard discussed on your show and the live coverage on CBS, NBC, ABC, MSNBC, Fox, and PBS?
Cooper: Please do.
Gergen: Lost in all the outrage is Obama's admission that he's been spending time practicing bowling. Now we already know from earlier reports that the President spends a significant amount of time working out with weights.
Frank: Yea, look at his rock-hard bod.
Gergen: Ok. So as I was saying, he's spending a lot of time working out and now we find out he's spending more time bowling. When does this guy have time to attend to the people's business?
Cooper: That's a good point. I would have never thought of it.
Gergen: Back when General Eisenhower was president, he took a lot of criticism for his golfing. There was a bumper sticker that said, "Ben Hogan for President. If we're going to have a golfer for President, at least let's have a good one." Now of course that's just a bumper sticker but the point is valid. I think the President has really opened himself up to severe criticism as someone who doesn't take his job too seriously.
Cooper: Thanks David. Now let's go to the Reverend Sharpton.
Sharpton: Anderson, let me tell you something. I've been to these games these wonderful people are having and I just can't believe President Obama could harbor such vile thoughts. People of all races and creeds gather together to celebrate their disabilities and here's this man of privilege putting them down.
Cooper: What do you think we need to do about it?
Sharpton: We're already doing something about. Even as we speak, my attorneys are drawing up a civil rights lawsuit that we intend to file in federal district court in Los Angeles tomorrow morning.
Cooper: Excuse me Al. I don't see how this is a civil rights issue.
Sharpton: Of course you don't Anderson because you're so white you're practically an albino. These disabled people are the lowest of the low and they need our help. I know all about being on the bottom. I know all about the privileged and being enslaved and...
Cooper: We're pressed for time on this segment Al. What damages are you seeking?
Sharpton: We're asking for $500 million dollars.
Cooper: What are you going to do with it? Give it to the disabled?
Sharpton: No even better than that. We're going to put in a fund, to be administered by us, for, as the lawyers say, an as yet to be defined program to benefit, in a currently unspecified manner, the disabled.
Cooper: Well good luck with that. Let's go to Congressman Frank. As an openly practicing homosexual, do you feel you have a common cause with the disabled?
Frank: Absolutely. Like the disabled, we're society's outcasts, a ready target for bullies and thugs. And go back and watch the tape closely, Anderson. After the President so grossly insults the disabled, what does the audience do?
Cooper: I believe they laughed.
Frank: Go look at it! They laughed like crazy. The president has a lot of influence over people. He insults the disabled, the people laugh, and our sensitivity is torn down. Pretty soon he'll be herding the disabled and homosexuals like cattle into camps. Where does it end?
Cooper: How's the caucus taking all this?
Frank: It's exploded. I haven't seen this many angry faces on Capitol Hill since they closed the House Post Office. Speaker Pelosi's trying to calm the members down but I don't think that will be possible.
Cooper: Is there anything you can do, I mean legislatively?
Frank: Not directly but we are getting ready to pass a joint resolution of censure co-sponsored by Senator Specter and myself. It doesn't have the force of law but it expresses the sense of outrage we all share as the friends and protectors of the most defenseless members of the public.
Cooper: Senator Specter, tell us more about this joint resolution.
Specter: Thank you Anderson and thank you Congressman Frank. This resolution is a simple and straight forward condemnation of the President for his uncalled for and callous remarks on The Tonight Show on or about March 18, 2009. In a separate resolution that I've also introduced, we're moving to take action against on the President on the grounds of delict.
Cooper: What was that again, Senator? Delick? You lost me there.
Specter: It's delict. It's a concept from Scots law similar to torts but it differs in that in deals with a general harm inflicted instead of a specific injury. I think we might potentially have a strong case.
Cooper: But doesn't the President have a general immunity from prosecution under the Constitution?
Specter: Well that's possible and we're still researching the law so I can't say anything for certain as of yet.
Frank: Can I jump in here Anderson? I wish Senator Specter all the best with his legal pleadings but I think there's a more direct and substantial action we can take against the President starting right now and one that I think will be taken.
Cooper: What's that?
Frank: After this disgusting, revolting incident, I think anything coming up to Capitol Hill with the name Obama on it is dead in the water.
Cooper: Wow, this is huge. Alright, we have to take a break. Thanks gang. This is Anderson Cooper with CNN's continuing coverage of the fallout from President Obama's insulting of society's most pitiful victims, the disabled. We'll be right back with Cher, who while not being disabled herself, once acted in a movie about a disabled guy.