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Obama Weighs in Again on Reverend Wright; Clinton and Obama Present Proposals on Fixing Ailing U.S. Economy; Is Obama Too Liberal to Unite Parties?; Baghdad's Green Zone Under Attack

Aired March 27, 2008 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Later, Americans in Baghdad under siege, the city locked down, the country descending into violence; President Bush praising the Iraqi government for making progress. We'll get the latest from CNN's Michael Ware.
We begin with the breaking news - A new statement from Barack Obama on Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the man who baptized his kids, officiated his wedding and lately has been causing him a political headache like none he's experienced before. A short time ago we got a clip from the segment airing tomorrow on the view in which Senator Obama revisits the controversy.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Had the reverend not retired and had he not acknowledged that what he had said had deeply offended people and were inappropriate and mischaracterized what I believe is the greatness of this country, for all its flaws, then I wouldn't have felt comfortable staying there at the church.


COOPER: Senator Obama reportedly went on to say that he has spoken to Reverend Wright in the wake of the controversy and he said "I think he's saddened by what's happened and I told him I feel badly that he's been characterized by just in this one way and people haven't seen this broader aspect of him."

Now this is the first time we're aware that Senator Obama has characterized with Reverend Wright's now thinks about his comments. And how they are being characterized even as senator Obama was taping that interview, other offensive statements were circulating on the web. Statements published under Reverend Wright's name.

CNN's Jessica Yellin who is working the story joins us now.

Jessica clearly this is something Senator Obama would prefer he is not still addressing but with this newest Wright controversy now out there, I guess he's got no other choice.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes Anderson, this is a story they were hoping they had moved beyond, but the latest developments have to do with, as you say, words that have been printed in publications from this church under Reverend Wright's name in various ways. This, first of all, is all on the web and is circulating primarily on conservative Web sites. From the bulletin of Reverend Wright's church, there's a Pastor's page where Reverend Wright can publish what he sees fit.

One of the statements or some of the statements published there would be offensive to people who are supporters of Israel, including this one from an Arab activist. "What the Zionist Jews did to the Palestinians is worse than what the Nazis did to the Jews."

Another, "Both speaking of South Africa and the Israel both works on an Ethnic bomb that killed Arabs and Black." And finally, from a Hamas official "Why should anyone concede Israel's right to exits?"

Again, those three statements published at various times last year in the church's official bulletin.

And also I should point out "Newsday" has gotten a lot of play for something it has published saying Reverend Wright once referred to Italians as garlic noses and describing Jesus' crucifixion as a public lynching Italian style carried out by apartheid Rome.

I want to emphasized those comments about Italians CNN has not been able to verify independently, something that "Newsday" is running with and is getting circulated on the web.

And Anderson, importantly the Obama campaign, I just connected with someone there, they feel very strongly this is a story that is being fed by the media and the people of America are satisfied with Barack Obama's explanation of his relationship with Reverend Wright, but obviously it's not a story that is going away. Anderson?

COOPER: Obviously, I mean, Senator Obama has distanced himself from these comments, he's repudiated these kinds of comments from Reverend Wright.

What more can he do? Is there something more that the campaign expects that he'll have to do or is this just, you know, the way things are going to be for a while as the story seems to still percolate?

YELLIN: Well, look it can't be a surprise that this drip, drip, drip of information would continue. It is an ongoing and very bitter campaign fight right now. I will say that they have to be cheered. The Obama campaign has to be cheered by the latest poll numbers.

Just out today a few polls shows that Barack Obama is up 49 percent to 39 percent for Senator Clinton. This comes on the heels of a separate poll that shows Obama appeared to rise in Democrat's estimation after the controversy, after he addressed the Wright controversy.

In fact, after all of this negative news has been out there over Wright, Clinton's negatives went up, not Obama's. So the overarching message you're seeing here is that the polls show in general Democrats think that Barack Obama has responded to this issue and this controversy very well and they're sort of satisfied.

But, you know, this news trickle is likely to continue and the campaign has admitted that they realize as much. They just wish we would stop talking about it.

COOPER: It is interesting, his comments today on "The View" that will be played tomorrow on the "The View" saying that he talked to Reverend Wright since all this broke out and he says had the reverend not retired and had he not acknowledged that what he'd said was deeply offended people and were inappropriate and mischaracterized what I believe is the greatness of this country in all its forms. That I wouldn't have felt comfortable staying at the church.

He seems to be saying that Reverend Wright has acknowledged that what he said was deeply offensive and the comments were inappropriate and mischaracterizing the greatness of America in all its forms. Is that your reading of it? If, so, that's the first time I've heard him characterize what Reverend Wright believes or says.

YELLIN: Right and it's the first we've all heard of Reverend Wright's reaction to this controversy, because Wright was away and has been silent ever since the controversy broke. There were a number of appearances, a number of instances in the last two days when we thought Reverend Wright might come out and speak and on those events have been canceled.

So really Barack Obama's comments on "The View" are the first time we've heard any sense of how Reverend Wright is reacting and it was yesterday when Barack Obama was returning. He talked from his vacation, he talked to the press corps and said for the first time I did speak to Reverend Wright after this controversy broke and he says that he didn't ask Reverend Wright to do anything or react in any particular way. That's all Obama said at that point.

And so we're all still really waiting to hear from Reverend Wright, see if there's any way he puts this controversy to rest. But I can point out, Anderson, in Obama's speech, the big speech he gave, he did acknowledge that there were times when he sat in the pews and heard the reverend say controversial things and that did seem nod, an acknowledgement that there could be more stories to come. There could be more news of this nature that Obama would have to acknowledge.

He's aware that Reverend Wright has said controversial things and it's sort of a way of trying to say look we all know who this guy is and he can say controversial things, but I am addressing this once and for all right now. So --


YELLIN: This can't be a big surprise to the campaign.

COOPER: Jessica Yellin I appreciate you reporting. Thank you.

Joining me now is Senior Correspondent Candy Crowley and Time Magazine political guru Mark Halperin. Candy, what do you make of this? Obama continues to answer questions about his relationship with the Wright. Clearly the campaign ought to be talking about something else. Is this just because he's asked about it, that he talks about it or do they still feel the need for him to explain himself or is this being driven by the media?

CANDY CROWLEY, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes obviously it's because he's been asked about it. They want to move on to the economy, they want to talk about the war in Iraq. These were questions obviously that were put to him specifically.

And the thing is that there is not going to be much movement in what he does. The pastor has retired. He has already said in that speech he gave about race that he could not renounce him. He feels close to this man. So the only thing he can do when something new comes up and somebody asked him about it is say, well, of course I don't believe that.

So we already know how this is going to play out; we just don't know how long it's going to play out.

COOPER: Mark, there was a recent poll by NBC that said 29 percent of all voters said they would like Obama to provide more answers on the topic. What more can he really say?

MARK HALPERIN, TIME MAGAZINE: Anderson, I'm of like seven different minds about this story. And so it's hard for me to organize my thoughts, because on the one hand --

COOPER: You can spill now. We got time.

HALPERIN: You know that Monty Python thing where he says I want to answer that question in two ways, first in my normal voice, then in a high squeaky pitch; I sort of feel like that.

Look on one level I think this is a distraction. Reverend Wright is not running for president, Barack Obama is. He's answered; voters can make of it what they will.

You know, Jessica said that some of his aides think this is only a press creation. Why? I was just dining across the street from the CNN Center here with one of Obama's top aides and that's not the impression I got from him, although I agree that some of his aides say that.

They see this as a long-term discussion that they're going to have to have and they assume through November, because they think Obama will be the nominee and that there's still more explaining to do with some voters who currently are very fixed in their view of what's happening and don't look more favorably on Barack Obama because of it.

But over the long-term, they think they can convince people. But it is the addition of these new facts, the new church bulletins and perhaps additional new facts that are coming that make people think that the current polls may be a snapshot of what people think so far in some parts of the country. But that in parts coming up, maybe Pennsylvania for instance, that this could be a problem.

COOPER: So we don't know at this point, and what I'm hearing you say is the campaign themselves, more importantly, they do not know how this is going to play out, the ramifications of this in Pennsylvania and elsewhere?

HALPERIN: Well, I will tell you that the Clinton campaign believes that this will and should, probably more should, play out in the course of the nomination fight and that if it doesn't they think it will be injustice. They also think that it is a ticking time bomb.

And if you talk to McCain people about it, they are you -- choose your metaphor -- licking their chops, whatever you would like to say. They believe that if this does not derail his chances of being the nominee, that it will be invaluable to them in gaining support amongst key constituencies. That's code for white voters in the general election.

They may be wrong and the Obama campaign may be right that this will be resolved for them and not derail his chances of being president. But I will tell you it is one of the many areas of confluence of agreement between what the Clinton campaign thinks and the McCain campaign thinks. And they're pretty close observers of all this.

COOPER: We're going to have more from Mark and from Candy on this topic and also other topics are coming up.

As always, I'm blogging tonight. You can join the conversation, go to

Up next: where Clinton and Obama stand on the number-one issue to voters, what to do about the sinking economy/

Later, Americans under fire in the Green Zone, Baghdad on lockdown, street-fighting in Basra. CNN's Michael Ware has the latest on the explosiveness mixture triggering fears of an Iraqi civil war.

We will be right back.


COOPER: Well, our breaking story at the top of the program stirs a lot of passion, but nothing Reverend Jeremiah Wright says and nothing Barack Obama says about what he says comes close to the importance of the economy as a campaign issue.

With millions of homeowners facing foreclosure, gasoline prices soaring, and a big investment bank collapsing, people want to know what the next president plans to do about it.

Today, Senators Clinton and Obama staked out their positions. And, as you will, they barely differ from one another. But each is worlds apart from John McCain's prescription for a tanking economy.

The "Raw Politics" from CNN's Suzanne Malveaux. (BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): All three candidates are vying to become economist in chief.

OBAMA: If we can extend a hand to banks on Wall Street when they get into trouble, we can extend a hand to Americans who are struggling, often through no fault of their own.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're trying to run today's economy on yesterday's infrastructure. And we're jeopardizing tomorrow's prosperity.

MALVEAUX: Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama presented broadly similar proposals on how to fix the ailing economy, but sharply different from the presumptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have always been committed to the principle that it's not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly, whether they're big banks or small borrowers.

MALVEAUX: In contrast, Obama, just a few blocks from Wall Street, called for greater government oversight to protect families from predatory lenders.

OBAMA: The American economy does not stand still, and neither should the rules that govern it. The evolution of industries often warrants regulatory reform.

MALVEAUX: Clinton, kicking off a three-state tour from Raleigh, North Carolina, emphasized providing relief.

CLINTON: As president, I will work to rein in the corporate special interest and to rebuild a prosperous and strong middle class.

MALVEAUX: Clinton's plan calls for a $30-billion bailout for states to help them buy properties in foreclosure and a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures. Obama's plan calls for a $30-billion economic stimulus package and greater government intervention.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hillary Clinton continues to have more details and more proposals out there. What we're seeing is Barack Obama almost looking like he's following in those detail, although they're not different from anything he's been suggested in the past, and John McCain sort of bringing up the rear, sort of emphasizing his strength on foreign policy, and continuing to emphasize that he will seek advice on how to deal with the economy from those around him.

MALVEAUX: Both Democrats attacked Republican John McCain for his approach, which limits the government's role in stabilizing the market.

MCCAIN: Any assistance must be temporary and must not reward people who were irresponsible, at the expense of those who weren't. I will not allow dogma to override common sense.

OBAMA: It amounts to little more than watching this crisis unfold.

CLINTON: It seems like, if the phone were ringing, he would just let it ring and ring and ring.


COOPER: Suzanne, you know, a lot of folks are asking, what can these three candidates really do to change things in the economy?

MALVEAUX: Well, Anderson, it's a very good question and it's a good point, because there is very little that they can actually do now. They can sponsor or co-sponsor legislation, as we have seen with Barack Obama, the Federal Housing Administration, a greater role when it comes to refinancing. And even Senator Clinton really pushing forward ideas that she's pushing for the Bush administration to actually listen into and follow.

But, beyond that, I mean, it really requires the support of Congress. What they're trying to do is impress the voters they have got good ideas, perhaps somebody will be listening to those good ideas. But, eventually, it really is just going to be up to the nominee and who gets the presidency nine months down the road.

COOPER: Yes. And, Suzanne, we saw Mike Bloomberg on the stage there with Senator Obama; people reading a whole lot into that. Should we?

MALVEAUX: Well, I was in that room, and there was a lot of tension and speculation when we saw that, because, obviously, that the buzz was is that perhaps he would endorse Barack Obama, perhaps this would even be a good coupling, if you will, a team going forward.

That did not happen, but they certainly were kind of flirting with the friendship a little bit, Bloomberg saying, well, thanks for treating me to breakfast, and Obama saying, well, I treated you to breakfast because I thought I would get something much bigger and better in return here.

Obviously, that didn't happen so we will still have to wait and see.

COOPER: All right. We will wait and see.

Suzanne, appreciate it. Thank you.

Still to come: Critics say Barack Obama is too liberal to unite Democrats and Republicans, as he promises. We will take an up-close look at his record.

First, Erica Hill joins us with a 360 bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Puerto Rico's governor and 12 of his associates indicted on charges of election fraud. Those charges relate to three election campaigns which date back to 1999.

The family of a woman who died in police custody at the Phoenix Airport has now filed an $8 million claim against the city. This is the first step in filing a wrongful death suit. Back in September, Carol Anne Gotbaum was on her way to an alcoholic treatment center when she was arrested for disorderly conduct. She died in a police holding cell.

And a bumpy end to a Continental Airlines flight from Oklahoma City to Houston -- the plane landed normally, but then blew out all four tires as it made its way to the gate. The airline is now looking into what happened.


HILL: I'm kind of happy I wasn't on board.

COOPER: Yes, really, not -- not good.

Stay right there, Erica. Here's what -- "What Were They Thinking?" is next, a paparazzi meltdown, punching and shoving, high drama. We will tell you what this was all about, the celebrity that was at the center of all that.

Also ahead, we will talk to Michael Ware about the new eruption in violence in Iraq, all U.S. Embassy employees being told to stay inside after attacks inside the Green Zone.

And more politics, including the question, is Barack Obama too liberal? Some critics of his say so. Or do labels even really matter? We will check the record.

Decide for yourself -- when 360 continues.


COOPER: Erica, time now for "What Were They Thinking?"

For tonight's edition, we take you to Turkey. A brawl broke out between the paparazzi. As you can see, it gets pretty nasty. I think I saw one guy slam his camera onto another photographer's face.

HILL: Even the photographers are fighting amongst each other.

COOPER: I know. We hate to see this sort of thing.

HILL: It's terrible.

COOPER: It unfolded at the airport in Istanbul. So much pushing, shoving, and yelling; who could they possibly be fighting over? Madonna? Prince Harry? Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, maybe? Nope. Here's the answer.

HILL: Not Anderson Cooper. You're in L.A.

COOPER: No. The answer? That's right.

HILL: She who must not be named.

COOPER: The hotel heiress herself. Yes, she who shall not be named. She was famous -- well, the socialite who's famous for being famous was spotted in Turkey to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for physics and chemistry.

HILL: Right. Right.

COOPER: Yes. No. Not. She was in town to actually judge a beauty contest.

HILL: It's funny, because I thought physics and chemistry and all that was part of what she was going to do after getting out of jail to help the world.

COOPER: I remember a lot of talk on "LARRY KING" about her helping the world.

HILL: Yes.

COOPER: Apparently, that hasn't -- we're -- we're -- we're still waiting.

HILL: Judging beauty does a lot.

COOPER: Yes, exactly.

Up next: Is the honeymoon over for Democrats? Just a few months ago, many said they were happy to have such good choices. But now some folks are frustrated with the infighting. We have got the "Raw Politics" on that.

Here's tonight's "Beat 360": a photo of a Hillary Clinton supporter in Texas holding up a cardboard cutout of the presidential candidate in a boxing pose.

Here's the caption from our staff winner, Cate: "Mattel releases its newest action figure after Hillary Clinton regales the press with her memories of Muhammad Ali in 1974."

All right. You think you can do better, go to Send us your submission. We will announce the winner at the end of the program.



MCCAIN: We realize, we Republicans, that our best chance of winning the general election is with a united party. We are united. Now our job is to energize our party. And I believe that Governor Romney can play a very important role in that.


COOPER: John McCain on the campaign trail with Mitt Romney today in Utah speaking about a united party, something the Democratic Party rarely is, and certainly isn't right now.

Some CNN new polling underscores the consequences already for the general election of a long and bitter primary fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Sixteen percent of both Obama and Clinton supporters saying in this poll they would simply stay home in November and not vote if their candidate loses the nomination.

With John McCain already running dead even with either contender in the polls, that could be just the edge he needs to win.

The "Raw Politics" from 360's Tom Foreman.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Democrats were almost measuring the White House for curtains last summer with a deep field of well-liked candidates. But now the party is bitterly divided; arguing over rules, arguing over policy, arguing over arguments.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It would have been a wonderful thing to have democracy at work and -- and allow this to happen, Congressman. And the fact is, is that the agents and lobbyists for the Obama campaign stopped it.

REP. XAVIER BECERRA (D), CALIFORNIA: James. Stop it. Stop it. You know that's not the way it...

CARVILLE: Of course it happened that way.

BECERRA: You know it's not the way it happened.

CARVILLE: ... how it happened.

FOREMAN: The brutal primary season has produced numerous wedges, according to political analysts, including that very public spat over whether delegates from Florida and Michigan should be counted, the tortured debate over whether superdelegates should decide the winner, and, of course, angry words over race and gender.

Jenny Backus is a Democratic strategist.

JENNY BACKUS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: We have our two most reliable bases symbolized by African-Americans with Barack Obama and women with Hillary Clinton fighting with each other. That's tough. So, we're going to have to do some reconciliation. But we have lots and lots of time.

FOREMAN: Both candidates talk about party unity.

OBAMA: I want to make sure that the tone of this campaign remains -- creates the situation where Democrats are going to win in November.

CLINTON: The most important goal is for us to put a Democrat back into the White House next January.

FOREMAN (on camera): Still, winning will be tough, unless those voters who are feeling battered by this process can feel good enough about it again to keep participating.

What do you have to do to get those people back in the tent?

BACKUS: Pick a fight with John McCain.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Maybe. But, for now, the Democratic demolition derby rages on.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: You know, it's worth pointing out that, whenever a battle like this erupts, party insiders worry about a split in the party. And, sometimes, that does happen, like when Ted Kennedy took on President Jimmy Carter back in 1980, badly wounding Mr. Carter against Ronald Reagan.

And, sometimes, people do get over it.

Digging deeper, let's turn next to CNN's Candy Crowley and "TIME" magazine's Mark Halperin.

Candy, Republican strategist Mike Murphy has compared this to a -- what he calls a two-way suicide pact that helps John McCain. Is there a point when some of the Democratic leaders, like Al Gore and Nancy Pelosi, are going to try to intervene and push for some sort of conclusion?

CROWLEY: Well, it depends on where we are.

I mean, we're polling people in the middle of a very fierce battle. We are a long way from November to say, OK, these people aren't going to vote. Let's remember 60-plus people supported the war in Iraq when it started. So, people change their minds.

We haven't finished with the primary process. We still don't know what the superdelegates are going to do, and we don't know what's going to happen with Michigan and Florida. It's entirely possible that most people can gather around and say, OK, this looks fair in whatever of those three categories they're looking at.

But, if it remains like this, certainly, you're going to see some of those party leaders, at least behind the scenes -- and, by the way, behind the scenes, they already are pretty active, trying to kind of calm things down in terms of rhetoric.

But I think it's a little early to -- for the Democratic Party to be hopelessly divided and really hurting itself in November. We're not there yet.

COOPER: Mark, writer George Packer commented on the lack of policy differences between Obama and Clinton and the problem of this long layoff between contests.

And he wrote -- quote -- "The predictable result is that two appealing politicians will quickly start to lose their luster, until, by the time Pennsylvania gets to vote, on April 22, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will seem like the smallest, meanest, dirtiest, lowest, most dishonest candidates ever to run for office in the United States."

How did this -- how did this get decided?

HALPERIN: Nothing better than hyperbole in good writing. I mean, I think that may be a bit of an overstatement.

Look, Senator Clinton is not giving up. As Candy ticked off, there's a long way to go. A lot can happen. And there's a sort of implicit assumption among some of the Democratic leaders, certainly amongst the Obama campaign, certainly some of our colleagues, that Clinton is just kind of playing out the string, waiting to look for the right opportunity to get out of this race.

That is not the way she sees it, not at all. I did an interview her with her earlier this week for this week's "TIME" magazine. And she made it clear, as the headline of our story says that I did with Jay Carney, our Washington bureau chief, she is in it to win it.

She thinks that there's a path to win this nomination, and she still thinks she would be not just a better president than Obama, but a better candidate to go up against McCain. She's not getting out.

So, there's a long way to go. And, as Candy said, these polls now are measuring things right in the heat of the battle. I think the party will come together, assuming that the loser decides to be gracious to the winner.

COOPER: Well, you complimented George Packer on his writing. And I should compliment you on your writing. It's excellent. So, I look forward to reading that article.

But what is her endgame? What is -- I mean, in it to win it, what does that mean? How does she see herself winning at this point?

HALPERIN: Well, I think it's several things. One is, she thinks she's got a chance to go all the way through June, when the last state votes. I think she's got a little bit of a speed bump, at least, maybe a brick wall, when we get to the day when Indiana and North Carolina votes.

But she thinks she can win these contests and show momentum at the end. She thinks she can get some momentum from -- to the superdelegates by arguing about electability if she's able to win Pennsylvania big. And then she has got to hope for some luck. She's got to hope that things happen with Obama, perhaps with Reverend Wright, perhaps maybe he makes a mistake. There are some upcoming debates. Maybe something happens that shakes the superdelegates' confidence in him. And that would allow her to get those superdelegates.

But she said the other day in Pennsylvania, and I asked her about it in the interview -- she said this is going to go on for three more months. And I said, "Did you really mean three more months?" And she said that's her assumption right now, a little bit of hedge.

She believes the confluence of strong close, electability argument and Obama mistakes she can take it at the convention. And she told me she's comfortable winning this at the convention. The party will still have time to come together. She says that.

COOPER: So Candy, I mean, it sounds like she's really hoping for some sort of implosion or counting on some sort of implosion in the Obama campaign.

CROWLEY: It's a combination of things, but certainly, that's one thing. I think that it is going to be hard, however, to go to those superdelegates and say, "I'm more electable." If at the end of all of this in June, he still has more pledged delegates, he still has the popular vote and he still has won more states. I think she has to go with some kind of ammunition.

What they would like to do is overtake him in the popular vote, even if they can't overtake him in the pledged delegates. It is an uphill battle for her, but as Mark just said, there is -- you know, and as you heard former President Bill Clinton say, losing is not in their vocabulary. She is going to go on with this

I will also add that every candidate is always in the race until they get out of it. So you know, as he said there was hedge room. I've never yet met a candidate who said, "No, I might get out. I might not." You know, they're always in it.

HALPERIN: Anderson, I should make it clear, not that this is a big revelation, but Obama's overwhelmingly in a strong position to win this nomination. And part of what Senator Clinton is doing is she feels an obligation to her supporters and, because she thinks she could beat McCain, and she doesn't think Obama can.

But part of it is just that old-fashioned ambition. As Candy suggested, a candidate doesn't give up this run very easily.

COOPER: Sure. Mark, appreciate you being on.

Candy, is it true you came in this week on your vacation to talk with us?

CROWLEY: I did. Flowers will be fine.

COOPER: OK. I appreciate that.


COOPER: Thank you very much.

Up next on 360, a new review of Barack Obama's record shows that he's the most liberal in the Senate. Not so much of a new review, really. But is he too liberal to bring the country together? His critics are certainly using that against him right now. Does he even buy the label? We'll take a look at the record.

Also, the violence in Basra is spreading to Baghdad's Green Zone; two Americans killed; a curfew now in effect. We'll get the details of what's really going on with Michael Ware coming up.


COOPER: Barack Obama on the campaign trail today. It is impossible to avoid labels when you're running for president. And one that's flying in the direction of Barack Obama from his critics these days is probably inevitable for any Democratic candidate who aspires to the White House, the liberal label.

CNN's Randi Kaye looks up close at who's using the word "liberal" this time, what it means and whether it's going to stick.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Barack Obama has big plans if he's elected president: end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, increase the Social Security taxes paid by the wealthy, and enact a national health plan. Sound like a liberal platform to you?

It does to Peter Wehner of the Ethics in Public Policy Center, which deals with religious and moral aspects of politics.

PETER WEHNER, ETHICS AND PUBLIC POLICY CENTER: On every major issue he is an orthodox liberal.

KAYE: Obama's record was examined by "The National Journal," and it found Obama to have the most liberal voting record in the Senate last year. His opponent, Hillary Clinton, ranked 16th. They only differed on ten votes.

But Obama is promising to unify the country and bridge the gap between Democrats and Republicans. Can he do that after being ranked the nation's most liberal senator?

WEHNER: His rhetoric would lead you to believe that he'll do it, but his record wouldn't.

KAYE: Wehner says Obama comes across as fair-minded, but his record is clear. Obama is for higher taxes and bigger government spending on health care. He's against free trade and NAFTA. He supports abortion rights and driver's licenses for illegal immigrants.

In response, the Obama campaign told me, "The tendency of Washington to apply a misleading label to every person and idea is just one of the many things we need to change about how things operate inside the Beltway."

OBAMA: There is nothing liberal about wanting to reduce the influence of money in politics. That is common sense.

There is nothing liberal about wanting to make sure that our troops are treated properly when they come home.

There's nothing liberal about wanting to make sure that everybody has health care.

WEHNER: He's trying to run away from that label, and his making speeches saying those labels don't mean anything is an indication to me that he's aware of the potency of the charge.

KAYE: So is Republican John McCain. He's already calling Obama a standard order left-winger, and today released this statement about Obama's speech on the economy: "No amount of rhetoric can hide Senator Obama's clear record of embracing the liberal tax and spend."

(on camera) Wehner says the charge may not stick if Obama can take a page from the presidential campaign of the other Clinton, Bill Clinton. In 1992, Bill Clinton inoculated himself against the term "liberal" and ran as a new Democrat. He adopted some conservative policies like welfare reform. If Obama can do the same thing, he may not be as vulnerable as critics are counting on.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: We got Candy to stick around for one more round of questions. She joins us again.

Candy, the Obama campaign has made a point on this, saying that the "National Journal's" ranking system is flawed, it doesn't portray him accurately; he doesn't deserve the top liberal designation.

And they also say that he has a record working across the political aisle going all the way back to the state senate. Does he?

CROWLEY: Well, I'll tell you, we did go at one point to Illinois early on and did talk to Republicans, many of whom said, "Listen, he worked with us, you know; we played poker with him; you know, we really did work well together on a number of bills."

In the U.S. Senate, there was nothing there that suggests that there has been a lot of bipartisan approach (ph) of Barack Obama reaching across the aisle.

He will tell you, and has said many times, you know, in the Senate, it's a little difficult to, you know, kind of cross the aisle and find things because votes are put in such stark terms. As president he said he would be able to drive the debate and frame the debate, and so that's where it's different.

But you're perfectly right, that the core of his campaign is, unless we do business differently and sort of transcend partisanship nothing is going to get done. And right now in the U.S. Senate record, there isn't anything that suggests there's been a great deal of partisan cooperation between Barack Obama and other Republicans.

COOPER: Candy Crowley, again, appreciate it.

Up next, Baghdad's Green Zone under attack, two Americans killed this week, raging violence. What could be done, if anything, to stop it? And what does it mean, what does it portend about a possible pull-out? We'll talk with CNN's Michael Ware coming up.


COOPER: Gunfire on the streets of Basra in southern Iraq. After months of reduced violence, Iraq is once again erupting. The violence is widespread.

In Basra, the Iraqi army is engaged in a fierce battle with the followers of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Iraq's government is trying to crush al-Sadr's forces. The fighting has left scores dead.

And in Baghdad, insurgents continue their assault on the heavily fortified Green Zone. Members of the U.S. embassy are being told to stay inside. Two Americans have been killed after five days of rocket -- excuse me, after days of rocket attacks. And a city-wide curfew is in effect through Sunday evening.

Now today, President Bush stood firm, saying the so-called surge is working and, quote, "the progress in Iraq is real," unquote. The question is, is it?

For a reality check, Erica Hill spoke to CNN's Michael Ware, who's been covering the war in Iraq since it began.


ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: Michael, with everything we've been seeing lately and now the U.S. embassy telling employees to stay inside because of the violence, can you tell us why there's such an up tick? Why now?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this has been triggered by an Iraqi government offensive in the southern oil-rich city of Basra. Now, that's a city that's controlled by a number of militia factions.

Now, whilst the Iraqi government and the U.S. military is very keen to dress this up as a bold decision targeting criminal elements, in the ultimate washout, the real target of this offensive will invariably be the Mehdi Army militia, which is loyal to the anti- American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

HILL: But isn't there also -- and correct me if I'm wrong here, Michael, but there's also the issue that in Basra specifically, a lot of the forces there, I think more than half of them, maybe 16,000 of the Basra police force, they're also -- have been said to be infiltrated with the very militia they're supposed to be fighting.

WARE: Oh, absolutely. I mean, in one sense there's no such thing as an Iraqi police force. I mean, these are localized groups put in police uniforms, largely funded by the Americans and trained by Americans. But there are the Sunni insurgent groups who serve in their hometown or their local militia forces backed by Iran who serve in their hometown.

Basra is no different. However, in Basra, we have a whole rainbow alliance of Iranian-backed or Iranian-linked or Iranian- supported militias.

Now, the provincial government is controlled by one group. Now, they're not completely aligned with Iran, but they're not separate from Iran. The streets, in many ways, are dominated by the Mehdi Army militia of Muqtada al-Sadr who has links to Iran but is not beholden to Iran.

Yet, this central government, who is launching this offensive, is very much in so many ways, through its key factions, tied intricately with Iran. Yet, America must inevitably throw its lot in with this government.

So this is a very complicated picture. There is so many games at play here we can't even begin to describe them.

HILL: I know. And frankly, it's tough to keep them all straight. But I would imagine one of the other major concerns here is the fact that this violence in Basra, in the southern part of the country, could spread?

WARE: Well, it could spread in a number of ways. I mean, in one sense, the potential is that this will be limited to Shia-dominated areas. That's largely southern Iraq, which is heavily overwhelmed by Iranian influence, not American influence. Certainly, not British influence, who were given control of that area, and they've retreated to their air base outside of Basra and have no ability to -- to change this environment whatsoever.

However, could it spread to the rest of the country? Northern Iraq? No. The Kurds are very happy to see Arabs fighting Arabs, whether they've been Iranian-backed or backed by other Arab countries.

The Sunnis now, 70,000 of whom were killing Americans but are now on the U.S. government payroll, will have a key strategic decision to make. Do we try and capitalize on this internal Shia-on-Shia, pro- Iranian backed factional fighting. Or do we stand back, let them kill each other and then step in?

So there's a potential for this to go any number of ways, all of which are complicated, all of which add to the woes of the U.S. mission, and all of which risk jeopardizing the gains of the so-called surge.

HILL: Last thing I think anyone wants to hear, unfortunately. Michael Ware, always appreciate the insight. WARE: Thank you.


COOPER: Next on 360, saving sharks - what their survival means to us and why so many of these predators are dying. Our Planet in Peril investigation when 360 continues.


COOPER: Sharks have been scaring humans for centuries and probably with good reason. They're among the most perfect killing machines in the world. Sharks are also vital though to the ocean's ecosystem. Now they're disappearing at an alarming rate, predators falling victim to their only threat, people.

For tonight's "Planet in Peril" report here's CNN's John Zarrella.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are what's called apex predators, the top of the food chain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got something, maybe the ground. But there's something -- oh, yeah, it's a shark.

ZARRELLA: But sharks aren't doing well these days. For 20 years, boat captain John Milchman...

JOHN MILCHMAN, FISHING GUIDE: Keep this line here in case he runs.

ZARRELLA: ...has watched them nearly disappear.

MILCHMAN: It used to be where you could not hang a bait over the side of the boat without the sharks eating it right off the side of your boat even. And now sometimes you go hours without seeing one.

ZARRELLA: Milchman is working with researchers and university students from the South Florida Student Shark Program, trying to learn what's happening to the sharks and what their decline tells us about the ocean. To do that, they have to catch them.


ZARRELLA: The 7-1/2 foot lemon shark is pulled to the back of the boat then it spins, turns and barely misses. The shark is not done fighting.

MILCHMAN: He's going to try to bite the boat now.

ZARRELLA: The students work quickly securing the shark. They measure and tag it. A biopsy is taken.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got the mercury biopsy. ZARRELLA: The students have laid out ten lines.

One of the key goals of this project is establishing a shark baseline. Because researchers can't determine whether shark populations are decreasing or how fast if they don't know how many there are to begin with.

The numbers they catch, the time of year they're caught will help answer the question. One trend they're already seeing --

NEIL HAMMERSCHLAG, SOUTH FLORIDA STUDENT SHARK PROGRAM: Those species, the big ones are declining and their food, their prey, the smaller sharks are starting to increase in numbers.

ZARRELLA: Researchers say as the big sharks vanish, the ocean's food chain is thrown out of whack and that trickles down to nearly all the undersea plants and animals.

Why are the big sharks' numbers decreasing? The researchers say over-fishing, pollution and habitat loss are the primary culprits. On this trip, two more sharks are caught; one of them a 7 1/2 foot bull shark.

HAMMERSCHLAG: That's a big shark, awesome. Bull shark, this is amazing. This is what we're out here today to find.

ZARRELLA: All the sharks are tagged then released. And now possibly providing clues to their own survival.

HAMMERSCHLAG: There she goes.

ZARRELLA: John Zarrela, CNN, on Florida Bay.


COOPER: Amazing pictures. For more of the story and our other "Planet in Peril" stories, you can go to our Web site, We'll be right back.


COOPER: Well, let's check some of tonight's other headlines. Erica Hill joins us with the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Erica.

HILL: Hey, Anderson.

The Defense Department wants to make sure it can account for all its nuclear weapons. Comforting, right? So Defense Secretary Robert Gates has now ordered a complete inventory. Why? Well, it happened after the department discovered last week that four nuclear warhead fuses had accidentally been shipped to Taiwan in 2006.

A standoff between police and an armed man that closed a major bridge between New Jersey and Philadelphia for three hours this afternoon during rush hour. The man, who was driving an SUV, had a woman and a baby with him. He eventually surrendered.

And talk about a tough day for travelers; Delta and American Airlines grounding hundreds of flights so engineers can check the wiring on some of their planes. And you may want to call if you have a flight tomorrow, because the cancellations are actually in effect through Friday.

COOPER: Yikes. Wow.

Erica, time now for our winner of the "Beat 360" competition. It's easy to play, as you all know. We post a picture on the Web site; you try to come up with a better caption than our staff.

Tonight's picture shows a supporter of Senator Hillary Clinton holding up a cardboard cutout of the Democratic presidential candidate in a boxing pose at a campaign rally in Fort Worth, Texas.

Tonight's staff winner is Cate. Her caption: "Mattel releases its newest action figure after Hillary Clinton regales the press with her memories of KO'ing Muhammad Ali in 1974."

That was clever.

Tonight's winner viewer is Marcie. Her entry: "The Hillary Doll -- for the girl who wants her dream house to be white."

HILL: Not bad.

COOPER: Check out the other captions we received. Go to our Web site: There's a whole bunch of other stuff there as well.

And Erica, "The Shot of the Day" is next. We're going to introduce you to the John McCain girls. We've all seen the Obama girl, and now the John McCain girls, their musical tribute to the Republican presidential candidate when 360 continues.


COOPER: Time now for "The Shot." What do you get when you combine an '80s R&B hit, Erica, and John McCain? Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): It's going to start raining McCain. It's raining McCain, hallelujah. It's raining McCain.


HILL: Hallelujah.

COOPER: It's raining McCain. It's their take on the Weather Girls classic. We found this, of course, on YouTube. Where else? It's the latest entry to the Internet world of politically-themed music videos. The three ladies, of course, have company, we should point out. HILL: One or two other people.

COOPER: Yes. Do we have the Obama girl? Where is she?

This is the Obama girl's new song, kind of has a slow groove to it; just kicking it old school. Here is Miss Obama Girl, she isn't exactly shy in front of the camera.

HILL: No, not so much.

COOPER: Yes, not so much. So there you have it. There she goes.

HILL: Never a dull moment.


If you see some remarkable videos or something we should know about, give us a call. Tell us about it,

You can go there also and see all the most recent shots, other segments from the program, read the blog, check out the "Beat 360" picture, really whatever you want at that Web site.

That's it for this edition of 360. For our international viewers, "CNN Today is next." Here in America, Larry King is coming up.

Thanks for watching. I'll see you tomorrow night.