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Up Close With Michelle Obama

Aired April 30, 2008 - 23:00   ET


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight everybody, a steely, tough Michelle Obama up close speaking out for the first time since her husband started dealing with the fury of a pastor scorned.
She talks about the controversy, how her husband finally put the hammer down about race, about the possibility of Hillary Clinton as a running mate.

First, though, we want to quickly get you up to speed on all of today's campaign developments less than a week before Indiana and the North Carolina primaries.

First, what Obama supporters are spinning is good news for their candidate a report on sighting unnamed capital insiders that congressional superdelegates have made up their minds and have notified their respective campaign. In fact each candidate today split nine superdelegates between them five for him, four for her.

Senator Clinton meantime rolled up to a gas station photo op in South Bend, Indiana. She again pushed for a summer holiday from the federal gasoline tax, something John McCain also supports and that Barack Obama is calling a gimmick.

As for the race itself according to our new national poll of polls, Senator Obama leads narrowly within the margin of error. She is ahead in Indiana; he is ahead in North Carolina.

But at this point any thing could change the dynamic; everything matters. High stakes and high pressure as Michelle Obama and Caroline Kennedy sat down tonight with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michelle Obama, Caroline Kennedy and thank you very much for joining us here in Boonville, Indiana. I know this is a place where you want to introduce or perhaps reintroduce Barack Obama to people who do not really know him.

We are going to talk about the reason you are here, a host of other issues, but obviously we are going to get to the news first.

Michelle, obviously the headlines here, Reverend Wright. You have known him for more than 20 years, he officiated your wedding. He baptized your children. When he went up there before the national press and said your husband criticized him because he is a politician, because that is what they do to get elected, did he betray you? MICHELLE OBAMA, BARACK OBAMA'S WIFE: I do not think it is helpful to sort of label it. I think Barack -- I was proud of the statement that he made yesterday. It was a tough thing for him to do.

It is a painful situation to be in, but I think that Barack's race speech was one of the most powerful, emotional speeches that he has written in his life, and I think the response to that speech spoke for itself.

That wasn't a speech of a political opportunist. Barack has been trying to bridge that divides all of his life. And I think that speech was a really sincere attempt to help bring clarity to a very difficult issue that this country has yet to deal with.

I was proud of him then, I am proud of him today, and we want to move forward. I think that is part of what Barack's speech said in Philadelphia, was that we have to let go of these old wounds, these old labels, these old hurts, because they just do not solve problems.

And we are hearing from the American voters that they are tired of it, too. The news of the day nationally is one thing, but here in Boonville, in Indianapolis, when we go to Jacksonville, folks are concerned about jobs, they are concerned about their health care. They are tired of the name-calling and the distractions. And our job from this point forward is to stay focused on the race.

MALVEAUX: Let me ask you about this. I mean, how painful was that? This is somebody who you confided in, and at one point obviously you have been misunderstood, you have been taken out of context.

At what point did you stop empathizing with your pastor and you thought, here is something that is over the line, it is over the top, this is it? How did you make that decision?

M. OBAMA: With all due respect, we're just -- we are moving forward. I think Barack was so clear and has been so open about this issue, and he speaks for me as well. I think the timing and sort of the details and the process is, you know, it just isn't relevant to what we are trying to do.

So, yes, it was painful. Yes, it has been difficult, but I think that, you know, the more difficult thing that this country is facing is really trying to move politics into conversations around problems and problem-solving.

And that is what we are going to be pretty determined to do. And I think, you know, this is about all I am going to say on the issue, and I think that, you know, we are going to close the chapter and move into the next phase of this election. So with that, I am hoping that we will talk about something else.

MALVEAUX: There are some people who I spoke with who have been trying on your behalf, on your husband's behalf, to close this and to go to him and say, look, you know, this is enough. Enough is enough. One of the people I spoke with said we are trying to establish a detente here. But they also describe him as someone who is vindictive and perhaps there is no buttoning up when it comes to whether or not he is going to come out and talk again.

Do you feel confident that you can move forward, that he is not going to speak out again? Or do you think this is something that is going to dog him in the election?

M. OBAMA: We are going to do our best to move forward. We're going to -- Barack and in our campaign, we are going to, with everything in our power, if allowed to by the press, to move forward. And, you know, we can not speculate about what other people will do. And, you know, it is just pointless to try to speculate.

MALVEAUX: Caroline, I want to turn the corner here and I want to turn the page --


MALVEAUX: Well, you know, you're nicknamed the rock behind Barack, and there is a reason. I know you can handle all of the questions we're throwing at you.

Caroline, you are here in Indiana. Obviously this is something -- a place where you want to talk about Barack Obama, where you want to introduce him to voters, specifically female voters. How can he be more effective in reaching out to those key groups, specifically white women, specifically blue-collar families who he needs for the general election?

KENNEDY: Well, I think, you know, many of the people that I have seen here in Indiana and in other states that I visited really do find him -- his message, his life, his choices, his career, his experience exactly what we need at this time in our country's history.

I think he's demonstrated extraordinary leadership. And he has got the power to bring our country together to solve the problems, which is something that we need so desperately right now.

And I think for women, as you think about the future, the kind of century we're moving into, that our children you are growing up in, the kind of educational system that we have, the values that I was raised with, the kind of values that he has lived and that Michelle has lived and speak about so eloquently and has written about, I think it is a tremendous example for children.

As a parent, I know my own children and so many other younger people across this country have been turned on to politics, inspired. And I think that in families that is a really powerful thing. And I think it has inspired their parents and grandparents as well.

It is a great thing for me to be part of that effort, because it reminds me of the way that people felt about my father and my uncle. I met a lot of people here today that talked about them.

MALVEAUX: Is there anything that he needs to be doing differently? The exit polls from Pennsylvania showing with the female vote, that 68 percent went for Clinton among white women and 32 percent went for Obama. Do you think there is a way that he could convey his message that resonates a bit more clear with that group?

KENNEDY: Well, I think as someone who was raised by a single mother and has two daughters, which in a way is an experience I share, I find that he will and has put those experiences in his policies in a very profound way.

And so whether it is his commitment to early childhood education, and raising the minimum wage, and after-school funding, and making college affordable, and asking kids to give back, I think that that is something -- as well as his own life story -- that really makes his candidacy and will makes his presidency so special.


BROWN: And Suzanne Malveaux is joining us live right now from Boonville. And Suzanne, that was a fascinating interview. We are going to go to more of it in just a moment.

But I just want to ask you, in this experience, it's obviously taken a toll on Michelle Obama, beyond what we could see there on camera. What was your feeling about how she is doing and, you know, how she felt about this off-camera?

MALVEAUX: You know certainly there was a sense that obviously this was painful. And she actually acknowledged that with this Reverend Wright controversy, but you really get the sense from her that they are ready. Ready to move on here, that this is not something that when you -- actually when you cover Obama and you see, it is not something that really comes up with a lot of the voters here.

And she acknowledges that it's not necessarily something that is in their control. They can not speculate about what Reverend Wright is going to do. They certainly hope the media moves on, that is something she stressed as well; that they are turning the page here.

So they want to make sure that voters in Indiana, in North Carolina, are really paying much more attention to what he is talking about when it comes to the gas prices, and home foreclosures, that type of things. So there is really a genuine sense here that they have dealt with the issue, that he expressed himself, that he renounced and denounced his former pastor, and that there are better things, things they want to talk about with the voters. They certainly hope they can move forward.

BROWN: Suzanne Malveaux, live with us right now. And we should mention that Caroline Kennedy by the way has endorsed Obama and is campaigning for him across the country.

Up next, Michelle Obama on the role of race, and then later, Hillary Clinton's message to blue-collar voters and her battle with a gas station coffee machine. We're going to talk about her push to give people a break on gas taxes, and whether it amounts to a plus or just pandering. Our political panel is joining us.

Also, troubling new allegations about the abuse of boys on Warren Jeffs' polygamist ranch. That is tonight on "360."


BROWN: Up close tonight, Michelle Obama. Before the break you saw a candidate's wife making it perfectly clear that her husband had already said everything that needed to be said about the Wright affair. The interview continued though with another tough topic -- race. Here is that part of Suzanne Malveaux's talk with Michelle Obama.


MALVEAUX: Michelle, there has been a lot talk about really winning over the blue-collar white families in the contests ahead. There is an 800-pound elephant in the room, too, which is that this race a lot of people see is becoming more racially polarized.

Do you think that at a certain point Barack Obama can work as hard as he can, and he can give him message to people, but there is always going to be a group where they are going to look at him and they are not going to give their support because of his race, because he is black?

M. OBAMA: You know, we're focused on people who are ready to turn the page. I think that what we're seeing in this race, because we also have to look at this room of big picture and look at the states that Barack has won.

I mean, you know, we can not just narrow this race down to the last couple of contests, because Barack has won in Utah and Missouri and Georgia, and Alaska, and, you know, states where there are many black people, states where there are no black people, in states where there are Republicans and progressives.

You know, what we have seen, not just in this race, but in Barack's career broadly, because Illinois is a very diverse state. That is not monolithic in any way, shape or form, Barack is one of the most popular politicians in the state of Illinois, is that when people know him and understand his background, and understand that the life that he and I have led is very much an outgrowth of the same experiences that most Americans are facing in this country, that the reason why Barack is in this race is to move the ball forward for working-class folks like my dad, like his grandparents.

People just do not know those stories, and our job is to become better known. One of the reasons why we try to do interviews like this is not to talk about Reverend Wright, but talk about who we are beyond that caricature. And sometimes things get bogged down.

And you know we do our best to say this is who we really are, and that takes time. But with time comes familiarity and growth, and we are confident that the American people are ready to move to a different place. And we just have to be confident and give them the benefit of the doubt that they get all the information, and we sort of come out of the muck, that they'll be ready to embrace a truth.

MALVEAUX: Are you still confident that your husband can win?

M. OBAMA: Yes, absolutely. I mean, let us look where we are. Barack has raised the most money. This is a guy that is not supposed to be here. Barack is the underdog that is true, yet in that position he has raised the most money.

He has won the most number of the popular vote. He has won more states and he has won it in all kinds of states. He is ahead in pledged delegates.

He is narrowing the gap every day in the superdelegate race, and there's still an energy and a passion among his supporters and people are coming on board every single day. So, yes, absolutely he can win, and yes, absolutely I think he's the person that needs to lead this country.

MALVEAUX: The last time you were asked about a possible Obama/Clinton ticket, you said, well, I need to think on that a bit. You have had some time to think. What do you think about an Obama/Clinton ticket?


BROWN: And we will have her answer right after the break, as our exclusive interview with Michelle Obama continues.

And then later, our political panel on the other half of what some are calling the Democratic dream ticket. That and more when "360" continues.


BROWN: There is no law that says running mates have to like each other. LBJ had a tortured relationship with JFK. Richard Nixon resented Dwight Eisenhower. Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush were bitter primary opponents.

So whatever Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton think of one another, there would be nothing historically strange about a Clinton/Obama ticket, or the other way around, which is where we pick up the conversation between CNN's Suzanne Malveaux and Michelle Obama.


MALVEAUX: Last time you were asked about a possible Obama/Clinton ticket, you said, well I need to think on that a little bit. You have had some time to think. What do you think about an Obama/Clinton ticket?

M. OBAMA: I haven't thought about it.

MALVEAUX: Is it possible?

M. OBAMA: You know, that is going to be Barack's call. And I think that's the one thing you earn when you go through this process, that at the end, you get to decide who your running mate is going to be. And I think that's going to require a lot of analysis and sort of sitting down and figuring this out.

Our focus is one day at a time, one step in front of another. We are here in Indiana; we want to win here in Indiana. We want to win in North Carolina, and we are focusing on the voters that are right in front of us. And that has been our strategy this whole year, not to get too far ahead of the game and understand the challenges that we are faced with right here today.

MALVEAUX: This has been a very long campaign, at 16 months. Barack Obama says on the trail, he kind of jokes, says that people "babies have been born and they are walking now and he is still running in this race."

What is the most trying, what is the most difficult thing about being in this race now, the toll that it is taken on your family?

M. OBAMA: The toughest thing, you know, for Barack and I, is when we are not together, when he does not see his girls. But both of us knew that this was going to be part of the sacrifice. And the thing that keeps us going is understanding that we are in this because of kids, not just our kids, but all the kids that we see out there. Bright, shining balls of potential who are now in under-funded schools, who do not have health care, whose parents do not have solid jobs.

So the minute we start feeling glum or glib or frustrated, we keep our eye on that goal because this -- through this limited struggle that we are facing, and it is minor, if out of that comes something grander and we get in a place where we are a more unified nation, where people aren't focused on the small stuff and we are looking at big picture, brave, courageous approaches to our problems.

And people are ready to roll up their sleeves and engage again, all that sacrifice and compromise that we make means nothing in the broader perspective, in the broader picture.

MALVEAUX: Do you think that your husband has been treated fairly? Are you surprised how nasty this race has gotten?

M. OBAMA: You know, we've been in politics before. And I joke, we grew up in Chicago. Chicago politics is tough. Politics is tough. And there is nothing fair about it.

So, you know, Barack, the one thing that Barack knows is that when you are seeking one of the most powerful positions in the world, you have got to be able to take it. And you have got to, you know, know that the problems that are coming at you are going to be big and they are going to require emotional fortitude and courage, and stepping out and hurting feelings, and a whole range of things.

This is an important test. And he has always said that. He said measure me not by what other people say or do, but by how he handles himself in this race. The kind of organization he has built; the kind of campaign he has run.

And let me tell you, as an unobjective observer, who is sometimes very critical of my husband, he has done a phenomenal job. He has remained cool, focused, clear. Has not been perfect, but that is one thing I promised you, was that he wasn't going to be perfect, and he has said that time and time again.

Perfection isn't what we are looking for, we are looking for honesty, openness, commitment and passion, and he has got it.

MALVEAUX: And Michelle I understand that win or loose, that Sasha and Malia get a dog.

M. OBAMA: They get a dog, don't you think?

MALVEAUX: But one is allergic to the dog.

M. OBAMA: They are hypoallergenic dog, and she has effectively run off on the computer every breed of every hypoallergenic dogs. So you know those are the ones in our family who deserve the reward because these are two little girls who did not choose this. And they don't see their dad.

MALVEAUX: How are they holding up?

M. OBAMA: They are phenomenal. I am very proud of them. They are patient, and they are curious, and they are engaged in their world. They know they are loved, they know their dad loves them deeply.

And they have just been uncomplaining individuals. This is why we look to kids for our model, you know? We would do a lot better in this nation if we would just look at the kids and how they handle the stuff.

They do not get bogged down in the small stuff. So those girls deserve a dog, a horse, a pony. We're not going to do all that, but I think that's the least of it.

MALVEAUX: They might ask for it.

M. OBAMA: They are allergic to hay, so --

MALVEAUX: That is a good thing.

M. OBAMA: That might get us out of it.

MALVEAUX: Michelle, thank you so much for joining us. Caroline, thank you very much. I appreciate it.


BROWN: And Suzanne Malveaux, joining us once again. Suzanne, this is a lengthy interview. You spent a lot of time with her, you guys covered a lot of ground. What did you find about her to be the most striking thing to you? MALVEAUX: I think she is very determined. I think she really is very confident in her husband and their ability to move forward.

It was interesting, her family, the family dynamic there, they are all very close. Barack Obama talks often on the trail about the most difficult thing is really not seeing his daughters; but he does talk to them. And Michelle and Barack Obama get a chance at least once a week to spend some time together and that is really a kind of what keeps them together. That is something that they have talked about.

And I think just talking to her and a lot of different issues, a lot of areas, it seems as if she hasn't lost that sense of confidence, she hasn't lost that steam. That is why they do feel like, yes, it has been a long process, it has been a difficult process, but they see the end here.

And they do not have any illusions about which way it is going to go, but they are confident and feel like they are working hard to reach out to some of these voters.

There have been some missteps along the way. She acknowledges that hey, he is not going to be a perfect candidate. It has not been a perfect process, but they do feel like they have accomplished some good up and to this point, that no matter what happens, that they have done some good.

BROWN: All right, Suzanne, a fascinating interview. Suzanne Malveaux from Boonville, Indiana tonight. Suzanne thanks.

And you can watch Suzanne's interview again on the "360" blog, go to, and hit the link, we are going to post it shortly after the program.

Still ahead, we will continue our up-close look at Michelle Obama, with a look back at how Michelle Robinson became Barack's rock.

Plus Hillary Clinton's toughest comments yet on Reverend Wright. We will dig deeper with the best political team on television.

And get ready, Erica darling --


Here is tonight "Beat 360." Toyota's violin-playing robot performing at a design showcase in Tokyo. Here is the caption from our staff winner, graphics guru John Newhouse: "Tonight's performance, seemed a bit robotic."

All right thank you. Think you can do better?

BROWN: I could not come up with anything today. So I am impressed with no matter what it is.

All right go to, send us your entry, and we will announce the winner at the end of the program.


BROWN: We are digging deeper tonight on the tightening race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. In less than a week, voters in Indiana and North Carolina will have their say.

And joining me now is CNN's senior political analyst Gloria Borger; also Dee Dee Myers, President Clinton's -- president Bill Clinton's former White House Press Secretary and the author of "Why Women should Rule the World." Also with us with me here in New York Ed Rollins Republican Strategist and former chairman of Mike Huckabee's national presidential campaign. Welcome to all of you.

Gloria, let me start with you. As we just heard Michelle Obama discuss the Obamas' relationship with Reverend Wright, let us listen.


M. OBAMA: With all due respect, we are just -- we are moving forward I think you know Barack was so clear and has been so open about this issue. And he speaks for me as well, and I think the timing and sort of the details and the process is, you know, it just isn't relevant to what we are trying to do.

So yes, it was painful. Yes, it has been difficult, but I think that, you know, the more difficult thing that this country is facing is really trying to move politics into conversations around problems and problem-solving.


BROWN: Today Obama said that he hopes the Wright issue won't become a perpetual distraction. Gloria, how does the Obama campaign get back on message?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know I think what you saw Michelle Obama doing was essentially saying that, that this issue was over, we need to move beyond it, I am not going to talk about it anymore, she said.

My husband has said everything, and I stand by his words. And we are going to talk about issues like education, and issues that the voters care about. This is a campaign that does not want to deal with the Reverend Wright anymore.

BROWN: Dee Dee, Senator Hillary Clinton was on "The O'Reilly Factor" tonight, she comment on the Wright issue let us listen to what she had to say.


O'REILLY: Can you believe this Reverend Wright guy? Can you believe this guy?

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, you know, I am going to leave it up to voters decide.

O'REILLY: Well, what do you think as an American? You're an American.

CLINTON: Well, what I said when I was asked directly, is that I would not have stayed in that church.

O'REILLY: No, no, no, but you are an American citizen. I am an American citizen. He is an American citizen, Reverend Wright. What do you think when you hear a fellow American citizen say that stuff about America, what do you think?

CLINTON: Well, I take offense at it. I think it is offensive, and outrageous, and that you know I am going to express my opinion, others can express theirs, but it is part of, you know, just an atmosphere that we are in today, where all kinds of things are being said. And people have to, you know, decide what they believe. I sure do not believe that the United States government was behind AIDS.


BROWN: So, Dee Dee, how do you think she handled the question? And do you think she will address it again before Indiana?

DEE DEE MYERS, PRES. CLINTON'S FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I do not think she will address it unless she gets asked about it by the news media which of course is entirely possible. But she went on to say in that interview that she -- those were not the kinds of issues she was hearing about from voters in either Indiana or North Carolina, and that she wanted to talk about health care, and gas prices and things like that.

Just as Michelle Obama had said earlier, I think it is very frustrating to the candidates when these issues come up and they are not hearing about it on the campaign trail. And yet they keep getting asked about it and it keeps dominating the headlines. But you know as Gloria said, that is sort of the way the game is played at this point, and they -- both teams have to deal with it. It is frustrating.

BROWN: And after Obama gave his press conference, on former presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani questioned Obama's motives. And he said, "Why did Senator Obama now come to the conclusion that he has to separate himself, not a year ago, not five years ago, not eight years ago? He was a member of the church but beyond that, he borrowed the title of his book from one of Reverend Wright's sermons. This is a man he deeply admired."

You know a lot of people especially Republicans that Barack Obama was hoping to win over may well be asking this very same question. I mean do you think that he was able to fully answer that question?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, he hasn't answered it, but I think -- I think he made a good step yesterday. I thought her interview tonight was a very important interview.

I think the bottom line here is the damage that is going to be done to him has been done. If Reverend Wright jumps back into the game and wants it to basically continually a media show, then it will continually be asked.

If he goes away, which I doubt he will but if he does, then I think to a certain extent you get back on message. The whole game here is you are always try to stay on your message and don't get pulled away. Something like this pulls you off your message.

BROWN: Gloria, Senator Clinton's supporter Evan Bayh and said he is concerned that Republicans will try to swift boat Barack Obama on the Wright issue. How concerned are superdelegates that this is going to haunt him?

BORGER: Well, you know I think that Evan Bayh is right to be concerned. We are already starting to see it. Certainly Rudy Giuliani's comments show you what Republicans are going to say in the general election.

What if Obama is the nominee, what does this tell you about Barack Obama's values, who he is and where he comes from? And in terms of superdelegates, you know, all the Clinton campaign needs to do right now, and they are doing it, is raise questions about his electability. Raise questions about whether voters believe that he shares their values.

That is an important thing to voters in a presidential race, and if they can raise doubts about that, doubts about his electability, that is going to help the Clinton campaign. I just was e-mailing somebody who is counting superdelegates for Barack Obama, he said to me, you know, they got a bunch today, and they expect to get some more publicly announced later this week.

BROWN: Dee Dee, how important is it for Obama to win Indiana, frankly, and help reassure superdelegates that he can win especially white blue-collar voters despite the Wright controversy?

MYERS: I think if Senator Obama were to win Indiana by any margin at this point, it would be a decisive victory for him. I think it will make it difficult for Senator Clinton to continue to make the argument that he is unelectable, and that superdelegates and blue- collar voters in particular are going to turn away from him.

So, it is a big, important step for him to win there. I think one of the things that's happened as a result of this controversy is that the expectations have been lowered for him. If he loses now, it would not be good for him, but I think it will seem more in keeping with expectations, whereas I think it is incumbent for Hillary Clinton to win.

It is a pretty close race there right now, but it is a difficult -- few days for him going into these next two primaries.

BROWN: Ed, do you agree with that in terms of the expectations game?

ROLLINS: I totally agree. I mean I think one of the important things that he did yesterday, he made a tough decision. A president has to make tough decisions every single day. And this is a man who has been untested in the politically arena.

It sounds very strange, a guy who has run for president for the last 16 months, but he got to be a state senator by almost by default, but the U.S. Senator by default, he was serving for less than 18 months when he started running for president. So he has not been tested by Republicans, he's not been tested until really now.

She has shown her toughness. She has basically risen to the occasion. He has to show how tough he is. Because obviously he will be the commander in chief, he will be going to be the President of the United States you have to show toughness and ability to make decisions.

BORGER: And you know, Campbell, some people say that he made the speech a little too late that he should have given it a day ago. And that you know he always seems to be a touch late when he is doing his damage control.

BROWN: All right we got to end it there. Gloria Borger, Dee Dee Myers and Ed Rollins, many thanks to you all. I appreciate it.

And a program note, you can catch the likely Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, tomorrow on "American Morning" at 6:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

Up next, on 360 you saw the Michelle Obama interview, now the story behind the woman or the woman rather Senator Obama calls his rock.

Also ahead, some Raw Politics with the Huffington Post's Arianna Huffington. That's coming up.



M. OBAMA: There is still an energy and a passion among his supporters. And people are coming on board every single day. So, yes, absolutely he could win, and yes, absolutely I think he is the person that needs to lead this country.


BROWN: A passionate Michelle Obama. We have been hearing a lot from the candidate's wife tonight. But it is not just what she says that matters, of course, it's who she is. Where she came from, and how a very private life became so public. Up close now, here's CNN's Randi Kaye.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She is the love of my life, the rock of our household.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She is the rock behind this rock- star candidate --

B. OBAMA: The next first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama.

KAYE: She was born Michelle Robinson in 1964. Her parents raised Michelle and her brother Craig in a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment on Chicago's South side.

CRAIG ROBINSON, MICHELLE OBAMA'S BROTHER: We did not know how poor we were. So it was terrific.

KAYE: Michelle's mother stayed home, her father worked for the city. At 30, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

ROBINSON: We watched a man who was disabled get up and go to work every day.

KAYE: That, Craig says, is where Michelle's sense of hard work and commitment comes from.

KAYE: They had dinner with the family every night, and went to drive-in movies, then in 1990 her father died. Her parents never had a chance to go to college, but Michelle and her brother made it to the Ivy League, both landed here at Princeton; Craig on a basketball scholarship, Michelle on a whim.

ROBINSON: The story she tells, if Craig can get in there, I certainly can. So she applied and got in. And you are laughing, but that is how she thinks.

KAYE: Michelle majored in Sociology, minored in African-American studies. Here is where she first struggled with her identity and ambitions. In her thesis she wrote -- my experiences have made me far more aware of my blackness than every before. I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus.

She graduated from Harvard law school, and took a job at the Chicago law firm. Before long, Barack Obama would enter her life.

He was a summer associate, she was his mentor, and when Barack Obama wanted to date the woman who would become his bride, her brother says she made him sweat, literally.

ROBINSON: My sister had heard my dad and I talking about how you can tell a guy's true character when you take him out on the basketball court. So she asked me to take him to go play.

KAYE: She was testing him?

ROBINSON: She was testing him; had a gauntlet for the guy to run through.

KAYE: So when the game was over? What did you report back to your sister?

ROBINSON: I told my sister, this guy's terrific. KAYE: Barack and Michelle Obama married in 1982, and settled in Chicago. She took a job with the mayor. In 1996, moved to the University of Chicago Medical Center. She's on leave to campaign. Daughters Malia and Sasha are top priority.

M. OBAMA: I am a mother first, and I am going to be at parent- teacher conferences, I am going to be at the things that they want me to attend. I am not going to miss a ballet recital.

Can we do this?

KAYE: On the campaign trail, Michelle is an impressive fund- raisers and bridge to women, black and white. Michelle insisted her husband quit smoking before she agreed to this campaign, and has promised her girls, win or lose, they get a new puppy. But make no mistake; Michelle is in this to win.

You ever kind of pinch yourself and say, "Wait a minute, my sister could become the First Lady of the United States?"

ROBINSON: It is surreal to think of my sister as being the First Lady. You know, astronaut maybe or first woman to swim around the world or something incredible -- something completely out of the ordinary, but First Lady? That would have been at the bottom of my list.

KAYE: Bottom of his, now top of hers.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


BROWN: Up next, "Raw Politics" with Arianna Huffington. We asked her if the right is so wrong, why is John McCain in a dead heat with both Democratic candidates?

Plus disturbing new allegations of child abuse on the polygamist ranch in Texas. What officials say they have uncovered. That is coming up.


BROWN: Reverend Wright may be hurting Barack Obama's chances in November, but he's not the only one feeling the heat. Both Obama and Hillary Clinton continue their heated and personal battle this primary season. And with all the controversy between the two, some fear the Democratic Party is destroying any hope of claiming the White House.

That is one of the topics we want to talk about tonight with Arianna Huffington, the always outspoken co-founder of "The Huffington Post" and she is also the author of new book "Right is Wrong" and she has plenty to say on the presidential race and a whole lot more.

Arianna is joining me now in "Raw Politics." Welcome to you.


BROWN: Let me start by asking you about what has -- talk to us about what's been going on with Barack Obama. How do you think he's handled the situation with Reverend Wright?

HUFFINGTON: I think he handled it extremely well yesterday with the press conference. Because he looked angry, he looked human, and that's good, because he's always such a cool cat, and I think people wanted to see him emotional, and he was.

He did the right thing, distancing himself from this highly narcissistic pastor, and now I think it's up to the media, Campbell, to put it behind them. Because otherwise we're going to have a Reverend Wright watch every day.

BROWN: Fair point. Earlier tonight too though, I want to mention there's a Reverend Wright watch sort of continues here, we heard Michelle Obama respond to the issue, to questions about it. She said that it was painful, that it was difficult, but as a campaign they are moving forward or trying to move forward.

Beyond the media staying focused on it, are they able to? Will Senator Clinton allow them to?

HUFFINGTON: If the media allow them to, they will move forward. And you know, you said at the beginning that Democrats will have a harder time in November as a result of this very, very passionate primary.

You know what, I think in the end, Campbell, the Democrats will be so determined to prevent a third Bush term, which is what obviously John McCain would be offering despite his so-called maverick image. And they will have to start coming together quickly and begin to unmask John McCain, whom I describe in the book as the Trojan Horse of the right. Because he still has that image.

The media is still in love with him. He has abandoned all his long-held belief on immigration, on torture, on tax cuts. He want us to stay in Iraq for a very long time, so that's the most important priority for the Democrats.

BROWN: Do you think that's possible, that they really will rally, given the heated, heated battle that we have seen between the two of them that continues? We don't know when it's going to end.

HUFFINGTON: I really do because I think that right now it's deeply emotional. Right now the polls show that some of them are not going to rally, they maybe prefer to vote for McCain, but that's now. The minute the nominee is selected, I think exposing John McCain and what he would do to our safety, to our economy would be such an important fact for Democrats that they will rally.

BROWN: This is kind of the focus of your book, and I'll mention the title again, "Right is Wrong," and you talk about the policies of the extreme right. But you just said that, and characterizing McCain, he's also a lot of people may not know, someone you really liked and respected beforehand.

HUFFINGTON: Yes. I write about that in the book. I write how hard it was. In 2000, I traveled with him, as you probably did, on the express in New Hampshire. I fell in love with him like many in the media did, because he was a straight talker, because he spoke the truth.

He's not doing that anymore. Imagine a man who was tortured himself voting against a bill that now allows the CIA to practice torture?

BROWN: How do you explain it, he's in a statistical dead heat basically with both of the Democrats when you look at the national polls?

HUFFINGTON: Because there's a real lag between somebody changing and the media catching up with the change. The media need to update their image of John McCain, they need to fall out of love with John McCain. That's not easy. But they do happen.

BROWN: Arianna Huffington, the new book is called "Right is Wrong." It was good to see you. Thanks again. Appreciate it.

HUFFINGTON: Thank you very much.

BROWN: Up next, troubling new allegations about the abuse of boys at the polygamist compound in Texas.

And unbelievable video. This is the Austrian man who police say terrorized his daughter, holding her captive for nearly 25 years and fathering seven children with her. Wait until you see where this video was shot while she was held in a dungeon.


BROWN: Erica Hill joins us with the "360 News and Business Bulletin." Hi Erica.

HILL: Federal officials are looking into the possibility now that some boys removed from a polygamist sect in Texas have been sexually abused. Investigators say the allegation is based on interviews with the children and journal entries found at the Eldorado ranch.

They also say at least 41 children may have had broken bones. Church members, though, say the state is misleading the public.

Smiles and laughter from Josef Fritzl on vacation in Thailand. fun in the sun while police say the Austrian man's daughter was held captive in the cellar of his home. He has now confessed to fathering seven children with his daughter, who was imprisoned for 24 years. She was rescued this week, along with three of her children.

The Fed today cutting interest rates again, this time by a quarter point, which brings them down to 2 percent. That is the lowest point, Campbell, in nearly four years. BROWN: And now for "Beat 360." This morning, we posted a picture on our Web site, like we do every day. And now it is time to see if you were able to outdo our staff and come up with a better caption.

Tonight's picture shows a violin-playing robot designed by Toyota, performing in Tokyo, Japan. The robot has 17 joints in both arms, which give it the precise control needed to actually play the violin. Toyota aims to develop robot technology to assist nursing and medical care by the year 2010. That's pretty quick.

HILL: That's right over the horizon there.

BROWN: Pretty amazing stuff.

Tonight's staff winner is John. And his caption: "Tonight's performance seemed a bit robotic."

HILL: Valiant effort.

BROWN: Tonight's viewer winner is John from Pennsylvania. And his entry: "His mother, a Roomba, cleaned floors to pay for his lessons."

I liked it.

HILL: You know, I thought that was really funny once you explained to me what a Roomba was.


HILL: In case you're not familiar with it, one of our producers, Sean (ph), apparently loves his. It's one of those vacuums that just looks like a disk, and you just let it go, and it vacuums. Vacuuming itself, all on its own.

BROWN: Who knew? I'm getting a Roomba.

HILL: Anyway.

BROWN: It's much better when you know what a Roomba is.

HILL: It does help.

BROWN: As always, you can check out the captions that didn't quite make the cut on our Web site at OK, got it right.

From extreme records to extreme measures in politics, just ahead, a day after Senator Barack Obama smacked down his former pastor, calling his words appalling and wrong, our blog is on fire.

On the radar is next.


BROWN: "On the Radar" tonight, Barack Obama's speech about the Reverend Wright is getting a lot of response on our blogs.

Dawn writes: I applaud Senator Obama. He has taken the high road for quite some tie. Reverend Wright is arrogant and ignorant. How could Rev. Wright be so egotistical to possibly sabotage the campaign of the Senator?

Marie has this to say: You cannot go to a church for twenty years, choose to be married there, have your children baptized there and not know the beliefs of the minister. By staying in the Church, Obama was saying that he accepted what was being preached.

And this from Mike: The economy, the war, the environment, Washington lobbyists, the homeless, and corporate corruption are the real problems this country has to face. So let's stop being childish and grow up.

To share your thoughts on this or any other story we are working on go to and link to the blog.

That does it for this edition of AC360. For our international viewers, "CNN Today" is next. Here in the states, Larry King is coming up.