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Obama Strikes Back at Former Pastor

Aired April 29, 2008 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're coming to you live from New Orleans tonight.
And, tonight, the political smack down of Jeremiah Wright, did it come in time for Barack Obama? For weeks now, Barack Obama's former pastor and his toxic sermons have been slowly poisoning Barack Obama's campaign. Yesterday, the dose turned potentially lethal, with a preening performance by the reverend at the National Press Club.

So, today campaigning in North Carolina, just a week away from the state's primary, Senator Obama said, enough. There are no excuses. Wright, he said, is wrong.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have known Reverend Wright for almost 20 years. The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago.

His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate. And I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church.

They certainly don't portray accurately my values and beliefs. And if Reverend Wright thinks that that's political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn't know me very well. And based on his remarks yesterday, well, I may not know him as well as I thought either.


COOPER: You're going to hear a lot more of what Barack Obama said in a moment.

The question is -- did he stop the bleeding? The final answer may not come until next week, when Indiana and North Carolina hold their primaries.

New polling tonight shows a mixed picture. In North Carolina, today's ARG poll shows him out in front 52 to 42 percent. That's compared to a 13-point gap three weeks ago. Other polls also show the race tightening. However, our latest Indiana poll of polls tonight shows the same dead heat there as our last edition.

More now on the "Raw Politics" of Wright from CNN's Candy Crowley.



CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was like watching an accident in slow motion. You knew it would come crashing down.

OBAMA: I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday.

CROWLEY: The senator and the pastor have known each other for 20 years. Jeremiah Wright married Obama and his wife, baptized his kids, prayed with him before Obama's presidential announcement.

For six weeks, Obama tried to balance that personal relationship and the politics of Wright's controversial statements. He condemned Wright's words, but wouldn't walk away from the man. Now Obama is all but gone.

OBAMA: There has been great damage. I do not see that relationship being the same after this.

CROWLEY: It was last Friday, less than two weeks before two primaries that will test Obama's appeal with blue-collar white voters. Wright grabbed the limelight, first on PBS, the NAACP over the weekend, yesterday, the National Press Club.

He repeated his views: The U.S. government is capable of deliberately spreading AIDS in the black community; 9/11 was the result of U.S. foreign policy; and the unkindest personal cut of all, the suggestion that Obama secretly shares Wright's views.

WRIGHT: He had to distance himself because he's a politician.

CROWLEY: The balance broke.

OBAMA: If what somebody says contradicts what you believe so fundamentally, and then he questions whether or not you believe it in front of the National Press Club, then that's enough.

CROWLEY: On the trail, Obama has been trying to push back against all the whispers that he doesn't salute the flag, that he's a Muslim, that he doesn't share American values.

OBAMA: And, so, you want to know who I am? You want to know what's in me? It's a love for this country that made my life possible. It is a belief in the American dream. That's why I'm in this race. That's what I'm fighting for, to make sure that everybody has a chance.

CROWLEY: But, yesterday, after Wright's latest musings were aired endlessly, the campaign knew it needed something more direct, because, more than Hillary Clinton or John McCain, it was Jeremiah Wright who seemed to be defining Barack Obama.

OBAMA: When I say I find these comments appalling, I mean it. It contradicts everything that I am about and who I am.

CROWLEY: Half-white, half-black, Obama's entire campaign is predicated on rising above partisan, social and racial divides. Every day he talked, Wright was a drag on the politics of hope. The question is whether Obama took too long to see that.


COOPER: Candy joins us now.

Candy, you have been following this candidate really from the get-go. How did his speech today, how did it seem to you? I mean, how personal was it?

CROWLEY: It was really personal. I mean, there were a couple of things.

The room was very tense. It was very interesting to me. And this is a very cool guy. He rarely shows emotions. Sometimes, he's a little snippy with the press corps, but, beyond that, you hardly ever see him break a sweat, as they say.

Today, he was alternately just looked really devastated by this, particularly when he was asked, well, what's your relationship now, what do you think it will be in the future, with Reverend Wright? But he was also really angry. You could almost see him seething.

It doesn't come across as well on the television, but, inside that room, it -- there was a real mix of emotions. And he said it right out, you know, I'm saddened and I'm angry.

COOPER: Do we know what made the difference? Because, yesterday, the statement he gave was -- I don't want to say carefree, but it certainly did not seem angst-ridden. Up until last night, he wasn't saying anything. Clearly, something happened between now and then. Do we know exactly what it was?

CROWLEY: Well, I think a couple of things.

I think, on the personal level, Obama said to us, listen, I had not heard what he said at the National Press Club when I said he can speak for himself.

He went home after campaigning -- went back to the hotel after campaigning, and did see it. And that's when he says he and Michelle both decided that he needed to speak out and be very, very strong about what was going on.

I can also tell you, though, Anderson, they were really tense inside this campaign yesterday. One of his top strategists said to me, you know, obviously, Reverend Wright is out for Reverend Wright. So, they were very worried about this.

Obviously, there were superdelegates outside the campaign that were looking at this really anxiously. So, there is a definite political element here. I can assure you that this campaign would not have taken this story for what is now the fifth day since Reverend Wright first reappeared on the scene last Friday.

So, this is day number five of this story. They would not have bought him out to perpetuate this story unless there was a really good reason. And I suspect that reason is that, somewhere in the polling, they know it's hurting.

COOPER: The question is, is it too late? Will it stop the bleeding? We will look at that all throughout this hour.

Candy, thank you.

Hillary Clinton is appearing in Princeton, Indiana, right now. So far, she hasn't said anything about the Wright story. This is a live event, a live picture you're watching. We're monitoring this appearance. We will break away if there's any reaction from her tonight. So far, we have not heard anything from her today on this issue.

We have said it before. Sound bites do nobody any favors, really. So, again tonight, as we have been doing throughout this controversy, we are going to trying to bring you a fuller picture.

So, here's Barack Obama today on his former pastor in-depth, in his own words.


OBAMA: I want to be very clear that, moving forward, Reverend Wright does not speak for me. He does not speak for our campaign.

I cannot prevent him from continuing to make these outrageous remarks. But what I do want him to be very clear about, as well as all of you and the American people, is that, when I say I find these comments appalling, I mean it. It contradicts everything that I am about and who I am.

During the course of me attending that church, I had not heard those kinds of statements being made or those kinds of views being promoted.

And I did not vet my pastor before I decided to run for the presidency. I was a member of the church. So, you know, I think what it says is that, you know, I have not -- you know, I did not run through -- run my pastor through the paces or review every one of the sermons he made over the last three years -- 30 years, but I don't think that anybody could attribute those ideas to me.

After seeing Reverend Wright's performance, I felt as if there was a complete disregard for what -- for what the American people are going through and the need for them to rally together to solve these problems.

You know, it now is the time for us to not to get distracted. Now is the time for us to pull together. And that's what we have been doing in this campaign. And there was a sense that that did not matter to Reverend Wright. What mattered was him commanding center stage.

We started this campaign with the idea that the problems that we face as a country are too great to continue to be divided, that, in fact, all across America, people are hungry to get out of the old divisive politics of the past.

What we saw yesterday out of Reverend Wright was a resurfacing and I believe an exploitation of those old divisions. Whatever his intentions, that was the result.

Obviously, whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed as a consequence of this. I don't think that he showed much concern for me. I don't -- more importantly, I don't think he showed much concern for what we're trying to do in this campaign and what we're trying to do for the American people and with the American people.

And, obviously, he's free to speak out on issues that are of concern to him. And he can do it in any ways that he wants. But I feel very strongly that -- well, I want to make absolutely clear that I do not subscribe to the views that he expressed. I believe they are wrong. I think they are destructive.

And, to the extent that he continues to speak out, I do not expect those views to be attributed to me.


COOPER: Barack Obama today in his own words.

Last night on this program, David Gergen and Ed Rollins said Obama had to essentially divorce himself from Wright. Was it enough? We will ask David Gergen, Ed Rollins, Roland Martin, and Mary Frances Berry.

You can also join the conversation online. Our live chat is happening now. Have your voice heard. Go to CNN/360 and join the conversation.

And later: shocking new developments tonight in the polygamist custody case, including the birth of a child. We will explain ahead.



OBAMA: I want to make absolutely clear that I do not subscribe to the views that he expressed. I believe they are wrong. I think they are destructive. And, to the extent that he continues to speak out, I do not expect those views to be attributed to me.


COOPER: Barack Obama today denouncing the words of a man he once considered a father figure and wondering out loud how well he really knew him at all. It may even be too soon to tell whether he stopped the bleeding today.

Digging deeper, though, tonight, CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, CNN contributor Roland Martin, Republican strategist Ed Rollins, and Mary Frances Berry, who chaired the U.S. Civil Rights Commission during the Clinton administration.

Thanks for being with us, all.

David, you said last night he needed to do. How did he do it today?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he did exactly what he needed to do. He got angry at Reverend Wright and he came out and smacked him right between the eyes. And I think that was right.

Now, I should note that Barack Obama is someone who keeps his anger on a leash. When he hits somebody, it's more with -- Ed Rollins, who used to box, will know that he hits with gloves on, not without bare-knuckles. And a lot of Americans prefer the bare- knuckles.

But, even so, I think he did exactly what he had to do today, express the outrage, the anger, and divorce himself from this man who is an egomaniac, as "The New York Times" so appropriately called him on page one today.

COOPER: Ed, what happens now for Barack Obama? I mean, does he continue talking about this, or does he just try to move on?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think he has to try and move on.

I think -- I think -- I agree totally with David. He did everything he could today. The problem is, there's a second act here. And the second act is, you have a narcissistic guy who was the father/mentor who has now been brushed aside.

And, unfortunately, there's an addiction to the television and an addiction to all the appearances that he's going to be offered. So, is Reverend Wright going to go home, go off on meditation or disappear for a period of time, or is he going to attempt to respond? And that's the critical thing.

And, unfortunately, for Barack Obama, the more Reverend Wright talks about it, because he wants to sell a book, or says something controversial, or strikes back because he thinks his young mentoree, who is now on the way to possibly being president, has thrown him under the bus, there may be a resentment.

But I think, from Barack's perspective, he did the right thing. He did the honorable thing. And I think, to a certain extent, only time will tell. Politics is a came of addition. There's no question he lost support this last week. And I think he's got to try and rebuild it.

COOPER: Roland, during the press conference, Obama appeared to take some of Wright's comments very personally. I want to play some of what he said.


OBAMA: And what I think particularly angered me was his suggestion, somehow, that my previous denunciation of his remarks was somehow political posturing. Anybody who knows me and anybody who knows what I'm about knows that I am about trying to bridge gaps and that I see the commonality in all people.


COOPER: Roland, you talked with people from Obama's campaign. How angry was he regarding the statements? And what changed between last night and -- and him deciding to make this speech today?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, he was ticked off, because it calls into account the question of authenticity, as it relates to his position.

And, so, folks around him, they were not happy. They thought it was a nightmare. But it wasn't just what he said. It was also the histrionics. It was the attitude. I got a lot of that with my phone callers as well.

And, really, what changed was the fact that he actually saw it. He heard it.

And, look, Anderson, if you read Reverend Wright's comments, in terms of a transcript, OK, you could take the position -- take -- take offense at what he said. But there's a difference when you see, because, remember, Obama kept saying today "performance," "performance." He was also bothered by, visually, how Wright came across as well. That also spoke volumes.

COOPER: Mary, do you think he has stopped the bleeding on this issue?

MARY FRANCES BERRY, FORMER CIVIL RIGHTS COMMISSION CHAIRWOMAN: I don't know, but what I want to say about this is that I think that the conversation so far has been a little bit off what really is going on here.

You had Reverend Wright thinking that he was disrespected by Obama by being discounted, and thinking that his guy, who was in his congregation, who he pastored, had dissed him, as they say in the streets. Take, so he felt disrespected. So, he comes out and he's angry, Reverend Wright. And then he disrespects what Obama is trying to do in his campaign and says, this guy who, I thought I knew him, I thought I was his pastor for 20 years.

And now you have Obama coming out angry because the stakes are so high, and his campaign was losing support. And now he's turned around and dissed Jeremiah Wright.

It's the disrespect game that you see in the streets, but you see it played out between the pastor and somebody he thought he knew for 20 years, and Obama saying it's somebody he thought he knew as a pastor.

But Obama had to do it, and had to do it politically. It should satisfy Obama's supporters. They should be very satisfied now with what he did today.

MARTIN: Mary...

BERRY: We will just have to wait to see if it satisfies people who are not his supporters.


MARTIN: Anderson, I have got to say this here.

There were people who were close to Reverend Wright, who are fellow pastors, who said, don't do this. This wasn't just a matter of Obama disrespecting Wright. There were people who called around the country and said, please, do not do this. They were pleading with him as late as Friday.

Look, if the Bill Moyers interview, even the speech in Detroit, had those two interviews there stood by themselves, I don't think we be where we are now. But it was the performance yesterday that really...

BERRY: Roland, Roland, Roland, Roland...


MARTIN: Mary, even supporters of Reverend Wright...


COOPER: OK, Roland, you make your point.


MARTIN: That's what they think.

BERRY: Roland, Roland, Roland, I talked -- Roland, I talked to pastors, too, today.

And, in fact, I'm not saying Reverend Wright should do it. You missed -- that was not my point at all. I'm saying that what we're seeing playing out here is two people who think that each has disrespected each other. But the stakes are so high because we're talking about a presidential campaign. And that's why Obama had to really be angry with him and put him down.

The next question, as Ed Rollins said, I think, is, what will Jeremiah Wright do now? And will he try to keep this going on? COOPER: And we want to -- we want to talk about that. We're going have more with our panel coming up throughout this hour.

Still to come, up close: What pushed Barack Obama to denounce his pastor of 20 years? A look at how he likely made this very personal decision.

Also, tornado terror -- rescue crews still going through the wreckage in southeastern Virginia. Tonight, we have new details on the storms. Look at the damage there. Unbelievable. Officials say it's amazing no one was killed.


COOPER: Coming up, more on Barack Obama's outrage -- that is his word -- over Jeremiah Wright's comments. We will give you an up-close look at his very personal decision to distance himself today from his former pastor.

But, first, Erica Hill joins us with a 360 bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we begin with a 360 follow.

Six tornadoes are responsible for a 25-mile path of destruction in southeastern Virginia. The National Weather Service giving us the number of twisters today -- the city of Suffolk took the biggest hit, more than 100 homes damaged, more than 200 people hurt -- luckily, no fatalities.

In Austria, police say DNA testing confirms Josef Fritzl is the biological father of six children born to his daughter. A seventh child died shortly after birth. Fritzl's daughter was held captive in his basement for 24 years, beginning at age 18.

And flooding, broken drain pipes, mold, and more documented by one outraged Army dad who posted that video of his son's Fort Bragg barracks on YouTube. Well, not long after, dad got a call from a general outraged by the images. We're told repairs are now under way -- Anderson.

COOPER: Man, let's hope so.

Erica, don't go anyway. Here's tonight "Beat 360": a Chihuahua dressed as a scuba diver during a dog show at a mall in suburban Manila.


COOPER: Oy. My goodness.

Here's the caption from out staff winner, Cate: "This time, they have really crossed a line. It's payback time on their new carpet."

HILL: You know, if I were the Chihuahua, I would think the same thing. COOPER: If you think you can do better, go to Send us your entry. We will announce the winner at the end of the program.

A scuba suit, my goodness.

Up next, up close: Was Barack Obama's speech today just about politics, or was he personally outraged?

Also ahead, a stunning new development in the polygamy custody case: a teenage mom and another child caught in the middle of the fight.



OBAMA: When I say I find these comments appalling, I mean it. It contradicts everything that I'm about and who I am.


COOPER: Senator Barack Obama didn't mince words today on the subject of Reverend Wright and his inflammatory words. "Appalling," "destructive," "outrageous," those were Obama's words today. But he also spoke of disappointment.

After all, the man he publicly took down today is the man who he says pulled him into the Christian faith.

Tonight, up close: Obama's decision to speak out, a tough decision.

Here's CNN's David Mattingly.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Barack Obama, it was personal. He once said he could no more disown his pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, than he could disown his white grandmother. But, today, it was as if Obama had been betrayed by an old friend.

OBAMA: ... then he doesn't know me very well. And based on his remarks yesterday, well, I may not know him as well as I thought either.

MATTINGLY: It was like a very bitter and very public divorce, the words deeply wrenching. The man Obama had likened to an uncle, who married the Obamas, who baptized their two children, had become something much more than a political liability.

OBAMA: If what somebody says contradicts what you believe so fundamentally, and then he questions whether or not you believe it in front of the National Press Club, then that's enough.

DAVID MENDELL, AUTHOR, "OBAMA: FROM PROMISE TO POWER": He can be a sensitive man. He's a guy with a conscience. And I think he feels genuinely badly about how this has all turned out.

MATTINGLY: David Mendell is the author of the book "Obama: From Promise to Power." He says, this is a falling-out that the Reverend Wright will be taking to heart as well.

MENDELL: And there clearly was a great deal of affection that he had for the senator. He -- he looked at him sort of, I think, as a godchild in a way, someone who he had helped get into the Christian faith.

MATTINGLY: The decision to denounce his former pastor could not have come easily. This was Obama just last month, disagreeing and distancing himself from the controversial excerpts from Wright's sermons, but still speaking with affection.

OBAMA: As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding and baptized my children.

MATTINGLY: This is Obama now.

OBAMA: But he was somebody who was my pastor, and he married Michelle and I, and baptized my children, and prayed with us when we announced this race, and, so -- so, I'm disappointed.

MATTINGLY (on-camera): Obama says, after his speech on race last month, he called and spoke with Wright on the phone and expressed his objections to his statements. He didn't share any details about that conversation. After all, it has been a very private anguish on a very public stage.

David Mattingly, CNN, Atlanta.


COOPER: Well, a lot of people would no doubt like to know what he said.

Digging deeper now, our panel joins me again, David Gergen, Roland Martin, Ed Rollins, and Mary Frances Berry.

David, what does it say, though, about the Obama campaign that it took basically 24 hours -- more than that -- from the time Reverend Wright made those comments on -- on Monday at the Press Club, to the time Obama made his speech today?

I mean, at what point -- the fact that he didn't actually see the remarks until later that night, if his campaign was allegedly, you know, on Defcon 4 mode. What does it say about the campaign's organizational ability?

GERGEN: Well, you know, I don't fault them on that. I mean, they've shown a lot of organizational ability for the most part throughout this campaign. That's why they've come out of nowhere to be in the strong position where they're in. Look, I went through the same experience myself yesterday, hearing about it, seeing the snippets and then having a chance to sit down and look at the whole thing. And it totally changed my mind late yesterday. So by the time we talked last night I was in a very different position.

Can I just add one other point, though, Anderson, while I have the floor, so to speak?


GERGEN: On the question of where it goes from here, it does seem to me that Barack Obama does need to move on, as Ed Rollins said, but that there ought to be a group of his supporters, many of whom are black, who ought to be prepared now to speak out.

If Jeremiah Wright returns fire, they ought to be the ones who come out and handle that, put him in his place, say how destructive this is and how contradictory it is.

And I do not agree that this was sort of a tit-for-tat kind of deal. I mean, Barack Obama when he first came out, and to go back to Mary's point is when he -- when Barack Obama first came out, he was very respectful toward the -- Wright himself as a man. He distanced himself. He denounced the views.

When Wright came out yesterday, he denounced Obama's integrity. He went after him and said he doesn't really believe what he's saying. That's what made him -- clearly, what Barack is all upset about today.

BERRY: David, you may think that Wright should not have been upset but I'm told by pastors who know Wright that he was very upset at the speech when he distanced himself from him, feeling like he should have been told.

GERGEN: I'm not saying he wasn't upset.

BERRY: And so he was upset. He got angry. I'm not saying it was right that he should be angry; I'm just telling you he was. And therefore, he took umbrage at it. That's all I'm saying.

MARTIN: Anderson, I can tell you...

COOPER: Roland, to David's point, how likely do you think it is, though, that other African-America preachers are going to come out in support of Obama and essentially distancing themselves from Wright? It seems like there is a reticence to do that.

MARTIN: Well, first of all, there's a reticence to do that, because Reverend Jeremiah Wright is a significant figure in theological circles. But Obama opened the door to that today.

You also have fact that when you have black radio talk show hosts who also have taken their aim based upon Reverend Wright's performance, if you will, on yesterday. And so you're going see that shift and people are going to say you're going to jeopardize your opportunity here. They're going to come at him. And so he may want to hold his powder, because he's not going to have a lot of support there.

ROLLINS: It's very important...

COOPER: We'll have more from Ed Rollins and others after this short break. We're going to take a short break, Mary. We'll join -- join you again shortly.

Also ahead tonight, a teenager removed from that polygamous compound in Texas gives birth to a baby boy. The details on that. And new information from inside the compound is coming up. Stay tuned.


COOPER: And we're back with our panel: David Gergen, Roland Martin, Ed Rollins and Mary Frances Berry.

Ed, Obama discussed Wright's press tour over the past couple of days and how much of a distraction he says it's been. I want to play that for our viewers.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And the fact that Reverend Wright would think that somehow it was appropriate to command the stage for three or four consecutive days in the midst of this major debate is something that not only makes me angry but also saddens me.


COOPER: Ed, what do you think happens now? Now?

ROLLINS: I think...

COOPER: Regardless of what Reverend Wright does, for Obama what happens now?

ROLLINS: He has two very critical primaries next week. He has to exceed the expectations that are out there already for North Carolina. He's got to win by 10 or more points. And obviously, he's got to be competitive or win Indiana.

This was a guy -- I mean, I think it's important to put it in perspective. This is a guy who's in his third year of the United States Senate. Reverend Wright has never been in national politics or even a big-time player. He may be in the religious world a little bit, but certainly not a big time player.

All of a sudden this guy is on the verge of winning the nomination, and the last four or five weeks, he's had a terrible period of time, both self-inflicted by his own words, a very decisive defeat in Pennsylvania. And all of a sudden, a week he needs to regain momentum to get back in and to prove he can win, one of his friends and his mentor comes off the bench and tackles him and totally distracts this entire week has been lost and he only gets a limited amount of time.

So my sense is I think he got angry last night. I think, obviously, for the last three days it's been nothing but Reverend Wright and very little about Obama, other than reaction to it. And I think to a certain extent, he's lost that critical time of making his case of how he can win this election. And I think that's what part of the anger is.

Then you hear the words and you think, "That's not me. That's not what I'm about. And obviously, if people think that's who I am, I can't possibly be elected president."

So I think the last 48 hours have been a really critical period for him, and he's got to get back on his message and convince white voters, in addition to African-American voters, that he represents them all and represents their values.

COOPER: Mary, do you think he can rebound from this in Indiana?

BERRY: Yes. Well, we'll see, of course, but I think it's possible. It will depend on how the next day or so goes and what Reverend Wright does. But I think the last thing Obama needs is a bunch of black preachers getting up, attacking Reverend Wright and then, because there will be another sizable group of black preachers who will get up and defend Reverend Wright.

And then you'll have it still be all about race. And it will be about race, race, race endlessly. And what Obama wants to do is get beyond the discussion of race.

ROLLINS: This campaign is about race.

MARTIN: Anderson, first of all...

COOPER: I'm sorry. Ed was talking. Sorry, we crossed over. Ed was talking. Ed, I want you to finish your thought.

ROLLINS: If this election ends up being about race, as opposed to being about the Bush war or the Bush economy or what have you, Barack Obama cannot win.

BERRY: Right.

ROLLINS: And if this is about healing America and moving forward, but it will bring out every bit of ugliness on both sides if this ends up being a debate on race and who understands which particular group better than the other?

BERRY: Absolutely.

COOPER: Roland? I want to get...

MARTIN: He's got to appeal to the core voters. He's got to say to women, especially white women, look, there are four conservatives in the Supreme Court. The next president is going to appoint three. Look, you better recognize who you're going to vote for. He's going to say vote your economic interest. Focus on the war. College tuition. Hey, he and Michelle paid off bills three years ago (ph).

COOPER: You're saying back on the issues. David Gergen?

MARTIN: That's what -- he's got to do it hard.

COOPER: David Gergen?

GERGEN: Well, we'll have to see what the results are here in North Carolina and Greensboro for a couple of days now. And people here tell me that he's been hurt by this, but they do not think his campaign is cratering. Even though the governor of the state today endorsed Hillary Clinton, there is a continuing sense here he'll win North Carolina and win it by a significant margin, perhaps not by the 10 that Ed Rollins said.

I do think he has to go in Indiana now and push really hard. You know, if he can win Indiana under these circumstances, this thing can almost be over. If he loses Indiana, it goes on and on and on.

COOPER: All right. We're going to have to leave it there. Mary Frances Berry, David Gergen, Ed Rollins, Roland Martin, thank you very much. Interesting discussion, as always.

New developments tonight in the battle over hundreds of kids of Warren Jeffs' polygamous compound. New details on the kids, and a new arrival. One of the young women has just given birth.

Also, fresh complaints from homeowners here in New Orleans. The government is trying to get them to give back money they got for rebuilding. We're "Keeping Them Honest."



COOPER: The sounds from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. It began last weekend. It ends on Sunday. Performers include Al Green, Stevie Wonder, the Neville Brothers. Attendance is expected to be in the hundreds of thousands.

Jazz Fest is a triumph for this great city of New Orleans. It's a testament that people have never gave up hope. Attendance this year is at levels not seen since Hurricane Katrina. It is a sign of the city's rebirth, the reviving of this great city. They continue to rebuild their homes here, their lives and the city.

Challenges, of course, remain. Challenges that, to this day, nearly three years after the storm, kind of leave you scratching your head at times. This one involves the government, who's handing out aid with one hand while demanding it back with the other.

"Keeping Them Honest," here's CNN's Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There is a game of give and take in Louisiana, a game New Orleans resident John Montegut has no interest in playing.


KAYE: Montague's angry because he and his wife spent nearly $100,000 repairing their home after Hurricane Katrina. Twenty thousand dollars of that was a grant from Louisiana's federally-funded program known as Road Home.

But now this: a $13,000 bill from the state. Montegut's letter says...

MONTEGUT: We overestimated the damages to your house, and you owe us $13,000.

KAYE (on camera): What did you think when you saw the letter?

MONTEGUT: I went ballistic.

KAYE: Do you have $13,000 to pay back ICF?

MONTEGUT: No. We spent that at least twice already.

KAYE (voice-over): Why do they want the money back? Turns out the contractor hired by the state to dole out the cash, ICF International, overestimated some damages and gave residents too much money. Now it wants as much as $175 million back. As many as 5,000 residents could have to pay up, some on the hook for as much as $150,000.

(on camera) "Keeping Them Honest" we tried to ask ICF how this happened and why they're asking homeowners to repay money most have already spent. A company spokeswoman told us this is the state's program, and it would not be appropriate for ICF to give us an interview.

She was quick to point out, though, the program has an extremely low error rate and very few homeowners will be affected.

(voice-over) Homeowners' advocate Melanie Ehrlich disagrees and says anyone who got a grant could get hit with a massive bill. She says she knows of more than 300 residents who have already been billed.

MELANIE EHRLICH, CITIZENS ROAD HOME ACTION COMMITTEE: It's so cruel to ask for money back for people who have gone through an agonizing grant application process because of ICF incompetency and because the state didn't exercise enough oversight.

KAYE: But this isn't just a cut-and-dried case of incompetence and injustice. It is, like just about everything related to Katrina's aftermath, complicated. Everyone who got a Road Home grant signed a contract agreeing to repay money if overpayments were later discovered.

This is Montegut's contract.

MONTEGUT: They made mistakes. They make mistakes all along, you know. Why should people suffer?

KAYE: Montegut says he was denied access to the state's damage report. So he couldn't have known the state's inspector included a claim for six skylights he doesn't even have or for 22 windows that weren't even damaged.

(on camera) So the adjuster said these windows had to be replaced?

MONTEGUT: These windows had to be replaced.

KAYE: Even though they were well above where the water was?

(voice-over) The state plans to fine ICF and hire an auditor to review all the cases. Still, John Montegut expects to find a lien on his house or a collector on his front door.

MONTEGUT: I don't have the money to give back. I spent the money, you know, improving the house and fixing the house up. and fixinx

KAYE: So the game of give and take continues with no end in sight.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New Orleans.


COOPER: A game of give and take. As you might imagine, there's plenty of reaction to this story. We're getting a lot of comments tonight on the blog. To weigh in go to CNN/360. Follow the links, and we'll share some of your feedback, coming up.

Up next on the program, the latest on the FLDS custody case. It just got larger by one. We'll explain that.

And when a race car goes off the course and goes airborne, you try not to think about what comes next. Except this time, a truly death-defying ending, when 360 continues.


COOPER: In Texas tonight new developments in the custody battle between the state and a polygamous sect. More than 460 kids, as you'll remember, were removed from the compound belonging to the FLDS Church. Well, today, one of them gave birth to a baby boy at this hospital, and under guard.

We don't know the mother's age, only that she is teenager and authorities consider her a minor. There are other new details to tell you about. Details on the kids who are in foster care and what life is like now inside the polygamous ranch. CNN's Gary Tuchman joins us from San Angelo, Texas -- Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, last week the people at the FLDS ranch let the news media onto the ranch to talk to a lot of the women, the mothers who lost their children. The feeling was that the mothers would cast a sympathetic light and that would help their case.

Well, now the ranch has been completely closed to us. They've shut the gates. They're not allowing us on there any more.

We wanted to talk to some of the men. Men were not made available. We ended up talking to some of the men today as they walked out of the gates, as they got in their cars to drive off. And a lot of them are telling us, they're saying, "This is not the America we know. Our rights are being violated. Our children never should have been taken away from us."

Nevertheless, state authorities are still saying they made the right decision, that they've seen widespread abuse. Four-hundred sixty-three boys and girls under the age of 18 have been taken away.

And, according to authorities -- this is a startling detail. This is what state authorities are telling us. Out of the 53 girls between the ages of 14 and 17 who have been taken away, 31 of them, about 60 percent of them, have either been pregnant or are pregnant.

Now we can tell you the FLDS people are saying that is not true at all. They're saying that's blown out of proportion. Nevertheless, we are also being told that today a minor gave birth to a child in the hospital.

Now, FLDS attorneys are telling us that wasn't a minor. They're saying it was an 18-year-old girl who gave birth in the hospital. They say she's in a monogamous marriage to a 22-year-old member. Nevertheless, the FLDS lawyer does acknowledge to us that 18-year-old girl also happens to have a 16-month-old baby from before. So you can do the math and figure that out.

Either way the men who are on the compound are very angry that their children are gone. They still say, though, they have faith in God, faith in their prophet, Warren Jeffs, and they believe they will get all their children back -- Anderson.

COOPER: Gary, do we know anything about the ratio between how many of these kids are boys and how many are girls?

TUCHMAN: Well, this is one of the most fascinating things. Of the children, the newborns to age 13, it's exactly split between boys and girls.

But from the age 14 to age 17 there are far more girls who have been taken than boys. The reason, according to people who are familiar with the FLDS, they say that the men who are on the ranch need to have a number of wives, and therefore, they don't want to bring teenage boys to the ranch to compete with the older men who are already there.

Once again, the members of the FLDS deny that. They say it's just happenstance.

COOPER: Well, that goes to the whole issue of the Lost Boys who you have covered extensively throughout this. And I mean, I keep thinking back to all those questions you asked the women and others asked the women when you were allowed on the compound about underage pregnancies, all of which they would say, "Well, we're not here to talk about that. We're here to talk about our kids."

Sounds like their kids, overwhelmingly, are or have been pregnant.

TUCHMAN: Yes. This is what authorities are saying. I mean, those are startling numbers, Anderson. To think that over 60 percent of these teenage girls under the age of 18 have had babies or are currently pregnant. But it must be stressed that the attorneys for the FLDS say that's not true.

However, and this is really important, they're not denying that there aren't some people, some girls under the age of 18 who have been pregnant or who have had babies. So, you know, no one is saying it's zero. That's for sure.

COOPER: Right. Well, one day, I guess, we'll find out the actual number.

Gary Tuchman, appreciate the reporting.

A lot more happening tonight. Erica Hill is back once again with a "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Erica.

HILL: Anderson, in a White House news conference today, President Bush accusing Congress of contributing to the economic downturn by blocking legislation, saying lawmakers have either delayed, ignored or replaced his economic proposals with ones the president does not support.

Democratic leaders shot back, accusing the president of offering failed ideas and of losing control of the economy.

The Pentagon has said it will cut $171 million from its budget. That money was earmarked to build police stations in Iraq. Congress has demanded the Iraqi government spend its recent oil windfall on reconstruction projects to lessen the burden on American taxpayers.

And a terrifying smash-up -- look at that. This happened in Italy's Monza circuit. That was a French driver's car. As you can see, it was nearly obliterated when it spun out of control. It rolled over. Incredibly, though, the driver only suffered a broken ankle, Anderson.


HILL: I have no idea how.

COOPER: And just missed that other car, too. That's unbelievable.

Erica, time for our "Beat 360" winner. This is where, of course, you compete at home with our staff to come up with a better caption to a picture we post on our Web site every morning.

Tonight's picture? That's right, a Chihuahua showing off his scuba costume during a dog show in suburban Manila. He looks thrilled. We're told the dog got first place in the fashion show category, by the way.

Anyway, tonight's staff winner is Cate. Her caption: "This time they've really crossed the line. It's payback time on their new carpet."

Tonight's viewer...


COOPER: The dogs liked it. Tonight's viewer winner is Erica. No relation to our own Erica Hill. Her entry: "From Taco Bell fame to scuba suit modeling shame! Next thing you know I'll be 'Dancing with the Stars.' Yo quero retirement."

That was good.

HILL: Very cleaver. I think it's the name, that her name was Erica. Just a thought.

COOPER: Erica, yes. You can check out the captions that didn't quite make the cut at our Web site:

Still ahead, we've shown you bears bouncing off trampolines, bears stuck in trees. Tonight we ratchet up our 360 bear mania. You can't resist this little guy. Oh, my goodness. That's cute.

Later, in his own words, after weeks of holding his tongue, Barack Obama strikes out, saying his former pastor has fallen from grace in his interview -- in his view. And we'll hear Barack Obama in his own words.


COOPER: All right. Time for "The Shot" now. Probably the cutest shot we've ever had. It's official: with this video we now have become the most trusted name in bears.

HILL: Someone has to be.

COOPER: We start with tonight's "Shot" on Look at this little bear. So cute, so cuddly, so sleepy. He's drifting off to sleep. HILL: His little nose can't even hold him up. Poor guy.

COOPER: I know. Exactly.

HILL: I love it.

COOPER: We sure tried to look for information about this dozing guy, but we've come up empty. Certainly, he's adorable. While we watch, some illuminating facts, because frankly, I can watch this bear for hours. There are eight species of bear in the world. Did you know that? The black bear can hibernate for 100 days.

HILL: Wow.

COOPER: So how do I know these things, you ask? Oh, look -- oh, that's adorable.

HILL: He is adorable.

COOPER: All right. Yes.

HILL: How do you know those things, Anderson Cooper? How are you so smart about bears?

COOPER: Well, because I'm a "Jeopardy" champion.

HILL: Ah, that's what I thought.

COOPER: Yes. It was a dumbed-down "Celebrity Jeopardy," though. I do admit that.

HILL: You still won.

COOPER: If you see some incredibly cute bears or non-bear video, tell us about it, While you're there don't forget to vote for the Webby awards. We're nominated in the celebrity fan category, and we need your support. The link is on our home page. You can even help us write our acceptance speech. Remember, there is a five-word limit. I'm not sure what that means.

Anyway, coming up at the top of the hour, Barack Obama smacking down his mentor, Jeremiah Wright. We've got the "Raw Politics." And you'll hear Barack Obama in his own words.