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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Michelle Obama's Image Makeover?; Floodwaters Threaten Midwest Towns
Aired June 17, 2008 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, breaking news: levees at the breaking point.
Today, one already breached -- a wave of floodwater starts rolling down the Mississippi River. And people drop everything to help their neighbors stay dry. We're live on the front line as tempers continue to flare.
Also, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, for the first time, face to face, side by side in public, a joint fund-raising appearance announced today, Obama trying to woo Clinton supporters. But a new hire by Obama is seen by some Clinton supporters as a slap in the face and a blow to her chances of ever becoming V.P. -- the latest on the divided Dems.
And is Michelle Obama getting a makeover? Tomorrow, she's on "The View." Her stump speech is being reworked. And she has a new powerful chief of staff to fend off attacks -- tonight, how the campaign is trying to make sure she's ready for the general election spotlight.
We begin, however, with the breaking news and the levees in danger, millions of gallons of water, with no place to go but down the Mississippi, more than two dozen levees along the way to hold them back, each and every one of them in danger of giving out. Today, one of them did along a stretch of river separating Burlington, Iowa and Gulfport, Illinois.
Take a look, a levee breached, a highway bridge flooded. Rail service went down. Farmers watched their crops destroyed. Consumers nationwide got ready perhaps for higher food prices.
Upriver, they're digging out in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. Downriver, they're sandbagging as fast as they can, shoring up levees wherever they can, getting ready for the floodwaters to work their way all the way down to Saint Louis. The question now, where, how soon and how bad?
Here with some answers, CNN severe weather expert Chad Myers -- Chad.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I will do my best, Anderson.
At this time last night, we talked to the Army Corps of Engineers. They said they had 26 levees that were a little bit too short. The water could go over, but none were in trouble of breaking. Eight hours later, one literally broke. And I will take you right on down to it. And that is the Gulfport, Illinois, barrier right there, the levee. Do one more shot. It's a much closer shot. And you're just going to love this shot. This is actually from our Microsoft Virtual Earth.
Well, that's live video.
But, anyway, they actually had people on this levee when it broke trying to save it. Those people had to be airlifted out of there by a medevac helicopter. Now, how does this help and how does this hurt? Well, for Illinois, it hurts a lot. Four western and southwestern Illinois, a lot of water is going to go into there.
But now we don't have levees acting like gutters or gutter balls, keeping this water in one place. We don't have two humps on both sides with the water trying to make it all the way down to New Orleans. We have a breach. We have water going all the way off to the east, millions and millions of gallons going off to the east.
Therefore, Anderson, we're not going to see the huge levels, the record levels that we probably could have seen down -- downwind or all the way downriver. I'm going to take you to one more thing. I do want to get this back up on the air, because I want to show you what the river gauge looks like in Mississippi.
What is blue is what has already happened. What is green is what probably will happen. If you notice, up there, there's a peak. See that blue 25.73 feet? It should have being going all the way up farther, much farther than that. But as the levee broke on the other side, the water was released, so the water levels came down.
That could be the pressure relief valve that may save some of the levees downstream, Anderson. We will see.
COOPER: Do we know how much longer this is going to continue?
MYERS: Oh, this water is going to take another two weeks to get all the way to New Orleans, absolutely.
But now the more levees we break upstream, the less water will be coming down all at once, because, when you break a levee -- and this is actually part of the water that has flowed out and toward Gulfport -- it's now not flowing straight down the river, because this river is getting wider and wider. And a wider river is not as high. So, we're not going to see as high of levels as we could have seen without this first levee break.
But there are still 25 other levees out there that could be overtopped -- not breached, but overtopped, which means the water could come out and down the other side. And, when that happens, you have no idea where that water is going to go and how low -- or how much -- how much damage you're going to do to the levee before it scours all the dirt out. And then you have a real breach. We will see.
COOPER: All right, Chad, thank you.
We are going to continue to check in throughout the hour as it develops -- if anything develops.
And we have got correspondents up and down the river tonight, 360's Gary Tuchman in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a city of mud, garbage tonight, and CNN's Dan Simon in the small town of Gulfport, Illinois, which got hit already today, but is getting ready for round two.
Dan, what's the latest?
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anderson.
That levee breach occurred a few miles away from here. You had all this water come in. The river is expected to crest some time tomorrow. So, you're going to have more problems. Let me show you what we're looking at right here. This looks like a lake, but it is actually a cornfield. It is totally submerged.
There is a huge agricultural loss to this region. And now there is a rush to save people's homes.
SIMON (voice-over): The race is on. The river is coming.
RON BIGGER, ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: We have never seen water this high in this area. This is a new record flood for 2008.
SIMON: Here in Gulfport, Illinois, they're building stopgap defenses, temporary protection. Crews are feverishly working to build a temporary levee with truckloads of dirt.
CARL SWON, RESIDENT OF GULFPORT, ILLINOIS: The most beautiful sight I have seen in my life was all these orange trucks coming down the road. There's no way that we had time or the resources to do what these guys are doing. This is a tough time, guys.
SIMON: Carl Swon is preparing his daughter's house for the worst.
SWON: You can't imagine how fast it come up. Unbelievable.
SIMON: They're moving everything out of the basement, always the first to flood. It's a common sight around town, reminded of how the day began.
Just three miles away, the levee broke, flooding acres of land, swamping a bridge, shutting down train service, ruining crops.
For Jim Olson, a season washed away.
JIM OLSON, FARMER: This was all planted in beans. And then our field across the highway was all planted in corn. And, as you can see, it's not going to be farmed this year. It's a total loss. SIMON: Back on the new front lines, workers are confident.
BIGGER: Yes. This is going to do the trick for these people here. We have two more of these that we have built. And we have been real lucky with them.
SWON: We're hanging our hat on these guys. And I -- I trust them.
SIMON: At this point, that's all people here can do.
COOPER: Right now, at this hour, Dan, I mean, what are folks trying to do to prevent the water from topping these levees?
SIMON: Well, in here, like communities like Gulfport, Illinois, and across the border in Iowa, they are making millions and millions of sandbags. And they're going to put those sandbags on top of levees.
Now, they can only be so effective. We saw in Des Moines, Iowa, for example, where they tried doing that, and it didn't work so well. And, also, in a town like Clarksville, Missouri, there are no levees. So, all they can do is rely on sandbags.
So, really, that's the effort right now, to try to build up a barrier on top of these levees. We will just see if it works -- Anderson.
COOPER: And that is backbreaking work, building the sandbags.
North along the Iowa River, in Cedar Rapids, a taste of what is to come if more levees fail, a taste, a terrible smell and the terrible heartache of coming home.
360's Gary Tuchman standing in a neighborhood where all of the above applies -- Gary.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it's absolutely stunning how quickly tons of water can disappear.
We were standing in this neighborhood in southern Cedar Rapids on Thursday. The water was up to my ankles. Within two hours, it was up to my chest. We got evacuated. Hundreds of people in this neighborhood got evacuated. Only boats could go through the streets. Then the water disappeared.
And now you have a situation where the water being gone is very good, but what it's revealing is very bad.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): This is the first day police are allowing Rochelle Charnowski to go back to her home. What she's about to see will not be pretty. I met Rochelle last Thursday. Her street was taking on floodwater rapidly.
I talked to her and a friend outside her house.
ROCHELLE CHARNOWSKI, RESIDENT OF CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA: I think I'm past worried. I'm just sad. This is where I grew up.
TUCHMAN: The water was just starting to trickle into her door. This is what her house and neighborhood looked like as she evacuated. Days later, the water in the street is gone. But reality has arrived.
(on camera): Is it hard to believe?
CHARNOWSKI: Yes. It's depressing that it was once somewhat nice. And now it's going to have to be all redone and cleaned. I think the worst part is the smell. It definitely stinks. That's for sure.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Stinks is an understatement. The smell is nearly unbearable. The watermark on the wall is three-and-a-half feet tall.
(on camera): I mean, it looks like someone came in your house, an intruder...
TUCHMAN: And just threw stuff around.
CHARNOWSKI: And that desk is at least a couple hundred pounds.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): The floor is buckled. And mold is growing out of carpet she just bought.
Rochelle is a competitive motorcycle racer. The water flooded so quickly, she didn't have time to get two of her motorcycles out of the garage.
CHARNOWSKI: Geez. Definitely well under water.
TUCHMAN: The bikes are heavily damaged. Some of the motorcycling trophies she's won are destroyed. And she has a lot more in the basement.
(on camera): Rochelle says she has more than 200 trophies down here in the basement. But the water is like five feet deep, too dirty and mucky for her to get back here. I told her I would take a look. And I found two of them. The rest of them seem to be under this murky water. I can't find them.
CHARNOWSKI: Oh, this is a nicer one, too. Half of one.
TUCHMAN: And there's two. (voice-over): For at least a few minutes, this takes Rochelle's mind off of what she has to do. She starts with emptying the refrigerator of ruined food. The stench is almost sickening.
The reality of the work that remains to be done in this home is just starting to sink in.
(on camera): Are you trying just to mind over matter and just think about what you have to do, rather than the emotion of it?
CHARNOWSKI: Definitely. Then I won't cry, for sure.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): This is Rochelle's own house. But her father bought it when she was only 2.
(on camera): You're a tough young woman. You have broken a lot of bones in motorcycle competitions. Does bone breaks hurt more or does this hurt more?
CHARNOWSKI: This hurts more.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Rochelle is hoping she can salvage her home, but she's not yet sure if she can.
COOPER: Does she have flood insurance?
TUCHMAN: Anderson, Rochelle does not have flood insurance. And that's not uncommon in this area.
Unlike Florida and North Carolina, where lots of hurricanes come if you live along the coast, the fact is, the river here is a mile away. And even 15 years ago, the big Mississippi River flooding, none of the houses here in Cedar Rapids got flooded. So, these people, in memory of even the old-timers, they have never had a flood. So, it's very common not to have flood insurance.
So, it's emotionally very difficult, Anderson. And, financially, it will be very difficult also.
COOPER: Man, just a nightmare.
We are going to of course continue to bring you any late developments on this throughout the hour.
We're going to be blogging as well throughout this hour. To join the conversation, go to CNN.com/360.
Coming up; breaking news. President Bush asks Congress to open up offshore drilling. John McCain now says he supports that position. And Barack Obama calls that a flip-flop. We will have the breaking news.
And the other war of words between McCain and Obama over keeping the country safe from terror attacks, McCain camp saying Obama has a September 10 mind-set, the Obama camp saying the GOP is partly to blame for not fighting bin Laden.
Plus, Michelle Obama -- the new plan to give her something of a political makeover, or at least get her ready for the general election spotlight. What are they going to do?
We have got the late details -- when 360 continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She's a fighter. And we need fighters in the Democratic Party, because we have got a lot to fight for. There is a lot worth fighting for. I'm a better candidate because Senator Clinton ran.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A prime-time shout-out there to Senator Hillary Clinton last night in Detroit. And I was trying to blog there.
A reminder: Obama is actually waging two battles in this race, one against John McCain, which we will have the latest on in a moment, the other to win over Clinton's loyal and sometimes angry supporters.
Just hours ago, Clinton's national finance director invited top donors to meet next week in Washington with both Senators Clinton and Obama. He also urged them to pull out their wallets to help pull the divided party together.
In Detroit last night, it was clear there is still a lot of mending to do.
CNN's Candy Crowley has the "Raw Politics."
AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, we can.
Ladies and gentlemen, the next president of the United States of America, Barack Obama.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twenty thousand people showed up for another step in the healing of the party, the picture of unity, Democratic golden boy Al Gore, presumptive nominee Barack Obama, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, a former supporter of Hillary Clinton. But it's going to take more. GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM (D), MICHIGAN: For all of those who, like me, supported Senator Clinton, we recognize that Senator Clinton -- Senator Clinton...
GRANHOLM: Come on, now. She's a great American.
GRANHOLM: She's a great senator.
CROWLEY: There are bad feelings on both sides of the Clinton/Obama fault line, the aftershocks of a fierce, sometimes bitter, primary season.
He, of course, has the most to lose. A "Washington Post"/ABC poll found, a quarter of Clinton supporters say they will vote for John McCain. A prime-time appearance in an arena full of supporters jeering Hillary Clinton's name does not help the cause.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She has, in her own words, shattered a glass ceiling into 18 million pieces.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: She has lifted up the sights of young women all across America, including my two daughters. She is worthy of our respect. She is worthy of our honor. She is going to be at the forefront of bringing about change in America.
CROWLEY: Odes to Clinton are a staple now in his campaign, but, in the cadence of politics, the best way to pull the party together is to rip your opponent apart.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MOVEON.ORG/AFSCME AD)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, John McCain. This is Alex. And he's my first.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: It is not Obama's ad. And, under campaign law, he can't have anything to do with it. But courtesy of the liberal MoveOn.org and a major labor organization, Obama is no doubt getting an assist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MOVEON.ORG/AFSCME AD)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John McCain, when you say you would stay in Iraq for 100 years, were you counting on Alex? Because, if you were, you can't have him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: A go-for-the-jugular ad aimed at the most sought-after vote of the season, women. It may do more to bring Clinton Democrats home than any ode Obama delivers.
COOPER: Well, Candy Crowley joins us next, along with our political panel, to talk about what it will take to pull the party back together again.
Also ahead, the Obama campaign isn't calling it a makeover, but the campaign is certainly focusing some attention on Michelle Obama. We will tell you what they're doing and why.
Plus, on the trail, John McCain does a 180 on the controversial issue of offshore oil drilling, sparking a war of words over energy and much more -- all that next on 360.
GRANHOLM: For all of those who, like me, supported Senator Clinton, we recognize that Senator Clinton -- Senator Clinton...
GRANHOLM: Come on, now. She's a great American.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Twenty-four hours ago in Detroit, the mere mention of Hillary Clinton's name by Michigan Governor right there Jennifer Granholm set off a round of boos at a rally for Barack Obama, a clear reminder of the divisions in the party.
After scoring a coveted endorsement from former Vice President Al Gore, Senator Obama went out of his way to heap heavy praise on his former rival.
Next week, as we told you earlier, the two are going to meet side by side in Washington in public with some of Clinton's top political fund-raisers. Now, we're digging deeper on all this with CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, Republican strategist Ed Rollins, and Hilary Rosen, political director for TheHuffingtonPost.com.
Candy, yesterday, the Obama campaign hired Patti Solis Doyle to be chief of staff for his eventual V.P. pick. Now, she was fired by Clinton's campaign back in February, hasn't spoken with Clinton since. How -- has this hurt, A, any chance of Hillary Clinton being vice president? But, also, I mean, do Clinton supporters just see this as a slap in the face?
CROWLEY: Well, there are Clinton supporters like the kind you saw not in the arena, but like Jennifer Granholm, and then there is a cadre of people around her that were offended by the Solis Doyle appointment, saying, you know, not only do they bring her over in the campaign, which they fully expected, because it had been long talked about, but they put her in that chief of staff for the vice presidency.
They thought it was -- you know, I talked to several people in the campaign, as did our colleague, Jessica Yellin, who said, you know, it's a slap in the face. It looks like another signal that it's not going to be her.
Now, listen, you know, these guys lost. You know, whining not allowed. The Obama campaign keeps saying, oh, no, there was no message here. But, boy, it certainly -- in politics, where symbolism means a lot, it was a symbol that was not taken well by those close to Hillary Clinton.
COOPER: Ed, you have been on a lot of campaigns. How do you take this symbol?
ED ROLLINS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it's important to try and bring staffs together. But it's always the staffs that fight to the bitter end. And I think, to a certain extent, whether she was good, bad or indifferent, she was sort of blamed for the early stumbles.
And I think -- I think putting her in charge of the vice presidential campaign, which obviously is always difficult for someone coming in when someone else takes charge of it, they might have been better served to just make her a senior adviser.
She and David Axelrod have a longtime relationship. It's been rumored for weeks. But I think this particular thing just kind of gets in the face of the Clinton people.
COOPER: Hillary, as we just heard in Candy's piece before the break, nearly a quarter of Clinton supporters say that they're going to vote for John McCain. Does that make any sense to you?
HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, it's kind of unfathomable, I think, that somebody who really believes in the issues that Senator Clinton believes in will find John McCain an acceptable alternative.
But, you know, I think it's important to note a couple of things, one, that, over the last couple of weeks, there has been an increase in Barack Obama's support among women. And, secondly, this sort of white suburban women problem is not something that Barack Obama invented in the Democratic Party. These have always been the swing voters.
So, the fact that Hillary Clinton was able to coalesce so many of them around her candidacy was really unusual. And I think her coming together with him next week, the campaigns doing more together, and, frankly, her being out there more is going to make a big difference. And I think, in the end, he's going to end up with more of this vote than any Democrat has gotten in the last 15, you know, 16 years.
COOPER: It's interesting, though, Ed. McCain is also trying to reach out to these Clinton Democrats, especially these women, talking about how much he admires her and how women everywhere tell him they have been inspired. Does he have a chance of successfully winning them over?
ROLLINS: You know, it depends. There's a long ways to go in this campaign.
I think the critical thing here is, John McCain has decided that the Republican brand -- or at least his people have -- the Republican brand is not a good brand, as opposed to deciding the leadership of George Bush wasn't good leadership, and he's going to go redefine the Republican brand.
And he's sort of stepping away from some Republicans, at least some of them in the base. And he's got to go get independents and he's got to go get some Democrats. If he can do successful that, then he can be a credible candidate. If he can't, and he's lost some of that base, then it's going to be very hard to put together enough voters to get 270 electoral votes.
COOPER: Candy, we learned today there's going to be this joint appearance next week of Clinton and Obama for a fund-raiser. How big a deal is this? I mean, and how often is this going to happen in the weeks ahead?
CROWLEY: This is a fine line.
Look, it's a big deal, because, once again, she can show that she at his side. She's now sharing donors. That's a big deal. They're coming to Obama's side. Look, you know, these are grownups here in the political arena. They can take these losses a lot easier than their voters can. They know it's going to take a while.
This fund-raiser is a part of the process. I think she will be out there, but he needs to be careful not to -- he's got to go out and woo these voters himself. He can't be seen as bringing her along, you know, and saying, well, look, here she is with me.
I think there will be joint appearances, maybe in the fall. But I don't see that many, you know, between now and the convention. He's got to establish his place.
COOPER: All right. We're going to have a lot more from our panel coming up.
We're also going to be talking not only about Michelle Obama, but also the war of words between John McCain and Barack Obama on the campaign trail today, both about offshore oil drilling off Florida and California, but also about 9/11 and the search for Osama bin Laden.
But, first, on a lighter note, let's look at tonight's "Beat 360." It's got kind of a political edge tonight.
Here's the photo: Senator Barack Obama talking with Al Gore after being endorsed by the former vice president in Detroit last night.
Here's the caption from our staff winner, Cate: "Speaking of inconvenient truths, your fly is unzipped."
There you go. Think you can do better? Go to CNN.com/360. Send us your entry. We will announce the winner at the end of the program.
Up next: breaking news on a very controversial way to bring down the price of oil, if it would do that, word that President Bush wants to lift a decades-old ban on offshore drilling.
Plus, Barack Obama and John McCain doing verbal battle over fighting terrorism. See how the Obama camp is answering McCain's allegation that he's living in a pre-9/11 world.
And new details on plans to reshape, you might say, Michelle Obama's image -- all that and more ahead on 360.
COOPER: Some breaking news to report.
CNN has learned that, tomorrow, President Bush is going to call on Congress to lift a federal ban on offshore oil drilling. Now, his position isn't new. The timing, however, is significant.
Today, Republican presidential candidate John McCain proposed lifting the very same ban, and immediately took fire from Barack Obama. It was part of an intense war of words on the trail today, where the war on terror also generated major heat, Barack Obama accusing Republicans of dropping the ball on the search for Osama bin Laden. John McCain shot back, saying his rival -- quote -- "doesn't get it."
The attacks and counterattacks did not stop there. Here's a wrap-up with CNN's Dana Bash.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John McCain.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the heart of Texas oil country, John McCain went after Barack Obama for supporting a windfalls profit tax on oil companies.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If the plan sounds familiar, it's because that was President Jimmy Carter's big idea, too.
MCCAIN: And a lot of good it did us.
BASH: Critical now, but, just last month, McCain said he was open to the idea.
MCCAIN: I would be glad to look, not just at the windfall profits tax -- that's not what bothers me -- but we should look at any incentives that we are giving to people. BASH: The change, proof of how tricky gas price politics is for McCain. On the one hand, he's pushing green energy alternatives, like wind, solar, and biodiesel, pushing away from George Bush with this new ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: John McCain stood up to the president and sounded the alarm on global warming five years ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: But, in the face of voter outrage over high gas prices, McCain is changing his position on an issue that helped define him as an environmentally conscious Republican. He used to oppose lifting a federal moratorium on offshore drilling. He now wants to lift the ban.
MCCAIN: The broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production.
BASH: Obama seized on McCain's change. He opposes offshore drilling, insists it's no short-term fix.
OBAMA: There is no way that allowing offshore drilling would lower gas prices right now. At best, you're looking at five years or more down the road.
BASH: Even as they bickered over energy, accusations were flying over another issue. McCain's campaign seized on this Obama statement on ABC News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC NEWS)
OBAMA: The first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons incapacitated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: The McCain campaign said Obama was confusing terrorists with common criminals and scrambled a conference with reporters to say he doesn't get it.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RANDY SCHEUNEMANN, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR OF FOREIGN POLICY AND NATIONAL SECURITY: Senator Obama is a perfect manifestation of a September 10 mind-set. He brings the attitude, the failures of judgment, the weakness and the misunderstanding of the nature of our adversary.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BASH: Republicans successfully used those arguments against John Kerry in 2004, a lesson Obama clearly learned, given his rapid response.
OBAMA: These are the same guys who helped to engineer the distraction of the war in Iraq at a time when we could have pinned down the people who actually committed 9/11. I don't think they have much standing to suggest that they've learned a lot of lessons from 9/11.
BASH (on camera): Republicans didn't have the same success with the "Democrats won't keep you safe argument" in the elections of 2006 as they did in 2004.
But McCain advisers fully admit his best shot at winning the White House is running a race combining national security and experience, one that hammers away at Obama for not being ready to lead in a post-9/11 world.
Dana Bash, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Well, up next, Michelle Obama, is the campaign giving her a makeover? She's getting a new speech, a new chief of staff, all to prepare her for the general election ahead. We'll go up close, next.
COOPER: Up close, new information tonight on Michelle Obama. She's been attacked by critics as the angry, unpatriotic and negative. Now the Obama campaign is trying to make sure that she's ready for what lies ahead in the general election campaign. You'll see her tomorrow on "The View," and in the coming weeks, you should be seeing her evolve as a campaigner.
CNN's Randi Kaye has the latest and joins us now.
Randi, what is this all about?
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I haven't been able to confirm with the campaign. Mrs. Obama has a new chief of staff, name of Stephanie Cutter.
Also, that Michelle Obama will be incorporating into her speeches and her smaller gatherings more details about her family and her upbringing, how poor she was growing up. Her father died from M.S. after working for the city his whole life.
This language may be a move toward a kinder, gentler Michelle Obama, a softening of her, if you will. She'll also continue these personal meetings with women, small groups. She held them during the primary. They worked very well for her. And she will continue to chat about issues important to them: health care, daycare, trying to hold a job and still be a good mom.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KAYE (voice-over): Michelle Obama's upbringing didn't exactly put her on the path to the White House. She and her brother grew up poor on Chicago's South Side.
CRAIG ROBINSON, MICHELLE OBAMA'S BROTHER: We didn't know how poor we were. So it was terrific.
KAYE: Today, Michelle is a health-care executive with an annual salary of nearly $275,000. Her next job could be first lady.
CARL SFERRAZZA ANTHONY, FIRST LADIES HISTORIAN: I think the initial impression is a woman of substance.
KAYE: Carl Sferrazza Anthony has written extensively about presidential wives.
ANTHONY: It's important for her to define herself before others define her. One comment made off-hand, easily misinterpreted by the opposition.
KAYE: Like this one perhaps?
MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF BARACK OBAMA: For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country.
KAYE: The Obama campaign says she was just excited about grassroots support. But conservatives were quick to question her patriotism. Anthony says Betty Ford and Barbara Bush were also blunt. They used sarcasm and humor, too.
(on camera) What does Michelle Obama exude? Is it confidence, is it power?
ROBIN GIVHAN, FASHION EDITOR, "WASHINGTON POST": I think some people will see confidence and others might see cockiness. I think some people will see strength. Others might see arrogance.
KAYE (voice-over): That worries the Obama campaign. Donors say the campaign is aware of the criticism Michelle is too hard.
GIVHAN: She comes across as someone who is extraordinarily independent and very much a force to be reckoned with.
KAYE: "Washington Post" fashion editor Robin Givhan says even potential first ladies have to establish a style. She compares Mrs. Obama's look to Jackie Kennedy: classic yet powerful. And oh, those Barbara Bush pearls.
GIVHAN: They do have this kind of whimsical, almost cartoon quality to them. I mean, they're huge.
KAYE: Michelle Obama's pearls were front and center the night her husband sealed the nomination, accessorizing a purple sleeveless dress.
GIVHAN: For so long, first ladies have had this attitude that, if you show off your arms, you're practically going -- you know, running naked through the Capitol. They are nude (ph). They're toned.
This is really someone who is a contemporary woman who works out, who balances a workout schedule along with kids, along with a professional life.
KAYE: Before the campaign, Mrs. Obama used to work out daily, at 4:30 a.m., with a personal trainer.
(on camera) The Obama campaign tells me that Michelle Obama picks out her own clothes. No image consultant on staff. She's as comfortable in a gown as she is in a pair of jeans at her kid's soccer game.
But beyond style, what may most define a first lady is a sense of dignity. The ability to strike a balance between queen and commoner.
ANTHONY: A sense that they can relate to the wives of the everyday people.
KAYE (voice-over): Known as The Closer on the campaign trail for her ability to connect with voters, Michelle Obama, win or lose, has already left her mark on history.
COOPER: I mean, how much -- how far is the Obama campaign going with this or willing to say they're going with this in terms of trying to have some sort of a makeover? I mean, are they bringing in an image consultant?
KAYE: Well, I asked him that question, and I was told no. But you might want to interpret that as a yes, because I asked them many different ways today: is she getting an image consultant, someone to work on her clothing, her persona as a potential first lady. Maybe tell her what she can and can't say or should be saying in public and shouldn't be saying.
And I was told no by her spokeswoman. But her spokeswoman went on to say, and I'm quoting here, she has staff engaged in simply part of the process to growing to a general election campaign, putting a strategy together to help people get to know her. It's what you do as you move from primary voters to general-election voters.
So all of this is going on, sort of behind the scenes, while the campaign outwardly is denying that they're working on her image. There's obviously some work being done.
In fact, an Obama supporter, a very strong Obama supporter, Senator Claire McCaskill, telling "The New York Times" just tonight, all Michelle has to do is be likable. The trick, she said, is being friendly and outgoing but not pushing too hard to persuade people Barack is the right one.
Can she do that? The campaign is certainly looking to help her do that.
COOPER: Well, I guess that starts tomorrow. She's going to be on "The View." We'll probably be seeing a lot more of her.
KAYE: There you go. Reaching out to women, for sure.
COOPER: Randi Kaye, thanks very much.
Up next, our panel weighs in on Michelle Obama in a 360 strategy session. Is she in need of some sort of a makeover, or is she being held to a different standard than other potential first ladies?
Also ahead, the search for a fugitive millionaire. He was sentenced to prison and then disappeared. It looked like suicide. Now there's a twist, a big one. "Crime & Punishment" when 360 continues.
COOPER: Technically, first ladies don't run for office, but they are definitely judged in the court of public opinion. Before the break, we told you about changes being made in Michelle Obama's campaign staff. Want to talk more about that in our "Strategy Session."
Joining us again, CNN's Candy Crowley, Hilary Rosen of HuffingtonPost.com. Also along with us is CNN's Roland Martin.
Roland, do you think Michelle Obama is being held to a different standard as other first ladies? Potential first ladies.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I think what you have is you've got some weak men on the conservative side who, frankly, don't like strong women.
I mean, we saw the exact same thing take place for Hillary Clinton back in 1992 where all of a sudden it's like, "Oh, you know, she can't be so strong." All of a sudden -- all of a sudden Michelle Obama is this angry black woman, when in fact she's an accomplished woman, a mother, a wife. And so they are trying to define her in that way, because they don't want to deal with the reality. That's what you have going on here.
COOPER: Well, are you saying that race is playing a role in this? Because I mean, if she was white, would she be being described as angry?
MARTIN: Well, I think if you examined 1992, they tried to say Hillary Clinton was too tough, she was too commanding, she was too domineering. And that's what you have here. And so they're trying to frame her that way, but it's ridiculous. There are no facts to substantiate that.
And what you also have is Senator McCain, you've got two women who are standing by their husbands who are strong businesswoman. I would love to see them have a conversation to show America we can have a different view of first lady than the typical just staying back and follow behind your man.
COOPER: Candy, there have been some things that -- that Michelle Obama has said that have certainly raised people's eyebrows, raised a lot of criticism. Her comments about the first time she was really proud of being an American. I mean, that has been widely criticized.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It has, and in some ways, that was the kicking off point. Because last summer, Michelle Obama was seen as this huge asset to him. He called her "my rock." She was out there on the campaign in New Hampshire with her children.
She -- everybody said, "Oh, she's so great, because she talked in terms of, you know, 'well, I had to do with the kids and then I came out here'." Women really related to her. She seemed like the Hillary antidote for the Obama campaign.
And then she made that remark and it came to light, "I've never been -- for the first time in my adult life I'm proud of my country." And boy, that was sort of the beginning of people really going after her.
It also, by the way, tends to coincide with when Barack Obama became a real player and people saw him as possibly going to be the presumptive nominee.
COOPER: And I think she used the word "really," which people that support her say makes a difference in the statement.
COOPER: I just want to add that in.
But Hillary, I want to just read something from "The New York Times" tonight, which says, quote, "Barack Obama often blurs identity lines. Much of his candidacy has seemed almost post-racial. Mrs. Obama's identity is less mutable."
Do you agree with that? And if so, why is that the case, or why does it matter?
HILARY ROSEN, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: I'm actually not sure I do agree with it. I think that the philosophy that he has, she -- I think she's a terrific role model. She -- she obviously has been a great mom and made her kids a priority in this campaign.
I think what's going on with Michelle Obama is what goes on with most political spouses, which is you have an identity. You're strong and your husband or wife appreciates you for that identity. But when you get out in public, people don't really want to know about you. They really want the candidate to be out in front.
And so your authenticity sort of gets beaten out of you. The spontaneity has to go away, because in essence, you know, it is much more your job to be controlled and be in a very specific, supportive role, even more so than the candidate in some way, because you are supposed to, essentially, be the support role: seen, not heard. You know, keeping things together. Keeping people gently motivated.
And I think that what's going on is that she has experienced her role as being the advocate. And I think that, as the general goes on, she's going to -- she's going to fade back into kind of a more supportive role.
MARTIN: Anderson, you raised a great point when you talked about how they tried to say Obama is post-racial. But here's the reality: Obama is a biracial man with a white mother and a Kenyan father.
Michelle Obama grew up on the South Side of Chicago, two black parents, went to public schools, grew up with her brother. And so she comes from a different experience. And so she brings something different, and he brings something different. So you can't deny one's past. And I think that's what some folks want to do. She brings a different set of circumstances and history to the table than her husband.
COOPER: Is -- do people -- are people less comfortable with that, though? I mean, Roland, do you think people are not -- are just -- aren't as comfortable with her background or how she presents herself?
MARTIN: Anderson, I think America just -- if America is going to have to be used to the notion of there being a potential first African-American president, they're going to have to get used to the notion of there being an African-American first lady.
And so this is a matter of breaking down barriers. But I do think a lot of this is not because of race. That you have people who are -- who are critics of strong women, who represent first ladies who aren't just a matter of standing up there and reading the typical script.
When she talks about policy, this is a woman who is an executive for a hospital. She can discuss health care. Why not let her talk about it?
COOPER: We're going to have to leave it here. Candy Crowley, Roland Martin, Hilary Rosen, interesting discussion. Thanks a lot for being with us.
Up next, "Crime & Punishment." The manhunt for a fugitive hedge- fund manager convicted of defrauding investors our of $450 million. This guy disappeared, leaving behind a bizarre suicide note. Police now say he's alive and on the run. The question is, where is he?
Also ahead, a lighter moment from our "Planet in Peril" assignment in Africa. Our "Shot of the Day" coming up.
COOPER: Tonight, new developments in a story we continue to follow. You probably know that the hedge-fund manager turned thief, convicted of stealing nearly half a billion dollars. Authorities weren't sure if he killed himself or went on the run tonight. They have their answer. With the latest, here's Erica Hill in tonight's "Crime & Punishment" report.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): This is Samuel Israel, the Wall Street scam artist who may have saved his best con for last.
ROSS INTELISANO, CLIENTS LOST MILLIONS: If I was a betting man, I would bet that he is on the lam and that he gets caught. I think it's unlikely that he jumped off the bridge.
HILL: Last Monday, Israel, a hedge-fund manager, was supposed to start a 20-year prison sentence for defrauding investors out of $450 million. He never showed up.
But his GMC Envoy did, in the middle of the Bear Mountain Bridge in upstate New York. Scrawled on the SUV, the words "Suicide is painless."
SGT. DENNIS STOLL, ROCKLAND COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: Probably a mile and a half north.
HILL: Immediately, police started searching the waters of the Hudson River for Israel's body.
STOLL: We'll continue to search if it takes a week, a month, or the rest of the summer.
HILL: But the search of the river is now over. And the U.S. Marshal Service isn't treating this as a suicide but as a case of a fugitive who is very much alive.
Why? No witnesses saw anyone jump off the bridge. But reports say security cameras do show a second car pulling up behind Israel's SUV. The driver of that car is being questioned as a possible accomplice.
And as for the people Israel swindled, their lawyer says they never believed he killed himself.
INTELISANO: They were hoping to get a good portion of their money back, have him go to jail, and just move on. And they're very frustrated that it's not.
HILL: Israel may have more than a few days' head start, and some suspect he has tens of millions of dollars at his disposal. So just where could this white-collar criminal be?
PHIL PARROTT, NATIONAL WHITE COLLAR CRIME CENTER: Where he would likely go would be out of the country if he could. If not, it had to be pretty well planned where he would go. A person who has made their entire life on their personality. To be now a quiet, submissive background person, that's just out of character.
HILL: Out of character, and on the run.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Such a bizarre story, Erica. I know you're also following other stuff in the "360 Bulletin."
HILL: We begin with a deadly day in Baghdad, where a car bomb killed at least 51 Iraqis at a crowded market and bus stop. At least 75 others were injured. The U.S. military says militants with ties to Iran claimed responsibility for that attack.
With gas prices surging, some are now wondering if the fix is in. Senate hearings focusing on oil speculators began on Capitol Hill today. Lawmakers want to know if traders were using their bets to drive up the cost of oil.
And the race for the White House by the bottle. No shots and beers this time. No, no, just soda. Jones Soda Company hopes to parlay politics into some profits with a little sales contest. You backing Obama? There's the "Yes, We Can" cola. On the other side of the cooler perhaps, how about a pure McCain cola? Also available for you, Capital Hillary Cola.
HILL: All right, Erica.
Now time for the "Beat 360" winners. You know it works. We put a photo on our blog. We ask viewers to come up with a caption. We play cheesy music. Erica does a little dance. And let's see if the caption's better than the one from our staff.
Here's tonight's photo: Senator Barack Obama talking to Al Gore, being endorsed by him yesterday. Our staff winner is Kate. She wrote, "Speaking of inconvenient truths, your fly is unzipped."
(SOUND EFFECT: Zipper unzipping)
HILL: I liked it.
COOPER: I liked that one, too. I wasn't sure about the sound effect but figured out finally it was a zipper.
Our viewer winner is Sean in Los Angeles: "After using the internet to raise millions for his campaign, Barack Obama thanks Al Gore for inventing it."
(SOUND EFFECT: "Oooh!")
HILL: Very clever, as well, I must say.
COOPER: Who didn't make the cut? You can check that out. Be sure to play along tomorrow by logging on to our blog at CNN.com/360. There's a world of things you can find out on that blog.
"The Shot of the Day" is next. From the "Planet in Peril" blooper reel, Dr. Sanjay Gupta's walk across a log. And not so much.
At the top of the hour, the Mississippi River rising, the levees breaking, the latest on the massive Midwest floods when 360 continues.
COOPER: Erica, time now for "The Shot." I hope somebody actually checked with Sanjay to make sure it's OK to show this video, because...
HILL: We're about to find out.
COOPER: We're about to find out. I'll see if I can name it. It comes from our "Planet in Peril" As you'll see, Dr. Gupta had a little trouble getting from point A to point B and there. Yikes.
HILL: Those leaves, I imagine, though, could make it hard.
COOPER: Sanjay laughed it off. It was all in good fun. But you know, I've got to tell you. This is on a day he was hiking for eight hours through the forest, following these hunters, trying to find game.
Eight hours, you have no idea how tough it is, hiking through these forests. I did it for about four hours with a different group of hunters. When I heard that he was eight hours, I felt so bad.
HILL: Let me ask you: on the day that you did it for four hours, was that one of the days that you had a little car trouble perhaps? Like this day right here?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anderson Cooper in the background. Help me, Anderson. Not really helping you out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: Were you resting at that point, tired from the four hours? "No, no, you guys. I'll supervise the tire change."
COOPER: Yes. Well, notice Sanjay is not helping change the tire either. He has a blog to do. I don't even pretend to know, really, how to correctly change an SUV tire.
HILL: You just stay out of the way so it's no going to cause more problems?
COOPER: Yes, I left it to the experts and, you know, I actually made one of those fake moves to help like, "Oh, yes, let me look at it."
HILL: No, no, Anderson.
COOPER: And that I realized why even fake it?
HILL: Yes, yes. But all in all, a pretty incredible trip.
COOPER: Yes, it was. It was a remarkable trip. We have a lot of stuff on the blog on you haven't seen it, about it. The reporter's notebook from last night, a bunch of slide shows, also a bunch of blogs.
You can see all the most recent shots, all the stuff from the trip on CNN.com/360. And of course, our "Planet in Peril" part two, battle lines, is going to be airing in -- I think in December. The address again: CNN.com/360.
All right. Up next, we're on the front lines with the country's mightiest river rising, serious concern about the levees that were designed to contain it. Will they hold? One broke today. New information when 360 continues.
COOPER: Tonight, breaking news. Levees at the breaking point. Today, one already breached. A wave of floodwater starts rolling down the Mississippi River, and people drop everything to help their neighbors stay dry. We're live on the front lines as tempers continue to flare.
Also, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, for the first time face to face, side by side in public. A joint fund-raising appearance announced today.