Return to Transcripts main page

ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

The Next President

Aired July 4, 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 HOST: Good evening everyone, and happy Fourth of July.
Tonight a special 360, the next president, up close. We know one of these men, Barack Obama or John McCain will be the next president. And either Michelle Obama or Cindy McCain will be the next first lady.

But who are these people and how do they get to this point just one election from winning the White House? Over the next hour, we're going to take an extended look at their lives and the challenges and the controversies they all have faced and overcome to get to this point. We hope you learn some new things about these four people, each on a historic journey.

There's Barack Obama hoping for the first African American president. After a bitter campaign fight with Hillary Clinton will he be able to convince voters he's the right choice for the future?

And John McCain who would be the oldest commander in chief if elected. Like Obama, he's had his share of battles including those against his own party. Will McCain be the one to take the oath of office? Those are the candidates and these are their spouses, thrust into the spotlight. Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain, outspoken, passionate champions of their husbands, both also under a microscope for what they have said and done.

Let's begin with Barack Obama. Born to a mother from Kansas and a father from Kenya, his path to this point is remarkable. And not just because of his background. Not too long ago, few people outside of Illinois knew his name.

But then came one moment and one speech when he grabbed the attention of the party and the country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): It was Boston four years ago at the Democratic National Convention when Barack Obama burst onto the national scene. His speech electrified the crowd.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

COOPER: That story begins an ocean away from Boston, in Hawaii with a boy named Barry.

REP. NEIL ABERCROMBIE, (D) HI: We all remember when he was born and at that time we knew he was little Barry.

COOPER: Barack Obama was born August 4, 1961. He was named after his father. Barack means "one who is blessed by God" in Swahili. Barack Obama Sr. grew up herding goats in a remote village in Kenya but won a scholarship to study at the University of Hawaii.

The woman who would be his mother moved with her parents from Kansas to Hawaii where she met Obama's father in a Russian language class.

DAVID MENDELL, "OBAMA: FROM PROMISE TO POWER": By all accounts it was love at first side. Much to the chagrin of her parents, I think. Much to the chagrin of her parents, I think.

COOPER: When Obama was two, his father won a scholarship to study at Harvard. He left his young family behind and returned only once, when Barack was 10. It was Obama's mothers influence as much as his father's absence that would shape his life.

MAYA SOETERO-NG, OBAMA'S SISTER: She really did a marvelous job of looking past superficial differences and understanding people at their core and I think that that's an important part of who he is.

COOPER: When Obama was five, his mother remarried an Indonesian man and a year later moved the family to Jakarta.

MENDELL: He learned again to fit into a new culture but he also learned that he wasn't necessarily of that culture.

COOPER: And there for the first time in his life, Barack Obama had a racial awakening. He was teased for the color of his skin. He also had another awakening.

(on camera): He saw a lot of poverty. What kind of impact did that have?

MENDELL: I think what he saw in Indonesia was the other kids who didn't have the privileges that he had. There was extreme poverty there. And he played with these other kids but there was always an out for him.

COOPER (voice-over): At 10 years old Obama returned to Hawaii to attend one of the state's most elite prep schools, Punahou School. He lived with his grandparents in a cramped two bedroom apartment while his mother stayed in Indonesia.

MENDELL: He had a sense of parental abandonment because his father was not around. And his mother was gone for period of time, too.

KEITH KAKUGAWA, HIGH SCHOOL FRIEND: He struggled more with himself than anything because he felt abandoned, he felt left out.

COOPER: Obama also felt left out at his mostly white, mostly wealth high school. But his classmates say they had no idea.

KELLI FURUSHIMA, HIGH SCHOOL FRIEND: He was very funny. He was very warm, friendly, kind of a prankster. He definitely had a sense of humor and he just seemed like a happy guy, comfortable in his skin.

COOPER: He got mostly Bs, sang in the choir and wrote poetry but his true passion was basketball.

KAKUGAWA: You can tell that he wanted to be accepted and at the time basketball was a place where it could be done.

COOPER: It was off the court that he struggled with his identity.

MENDELL: He channeled his rebellion into his racial identity and trying to figure out how to cope with being a black American, having been raised in a primarily white household.

COOPER: Obama says he tried drugs to numb his confusion but he kept his grades high enough to get into Occidental College in Los Angeles. In 1979, he left Hawaii.

MENDELL: Once he got to the mainland, he had to learn how to be a black man in the United States.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (on camera): Up next, Obama's awakening. The education that challenged him. The experience that changed him and the love that transformed him. And later, John McCain from POW to presidential candidate. The story you may not know, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back to this 360 special "Up Close, the Next President." We're spending the hour focusing on the candidates as people and the forces that shape them on their journeys toward the White House.

We began with Barack Obama. Before the break we told you about his youth and how his education left him with a powerful intellect but also in search for himself, a search that would lead him to a woman named Michelle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): It was 1979 when Barack Obama arrived in Los Angeles at Occidental College. The freshman seemed to know he had to make a difficult choice.

JERRY KELLMAN, FORMER BOSS, DEVELOPING COMMUNITIES PROJECT: Anybody in their early twenties is trying to work out a lot of identity issues and Barack was no stranger to that. He wanted to live in two worlds in a society that was telling you, no, you choose. You're going to live in a black world or a white world.

COOPER: Obama sought out the more politically active black students and after years of trying to blend in as Barry, he embraced his given African name, Barack. Two years later, he transferred to Columbia University. KELLMAN: Barack was a chronic underachiever in high school and his first years of college out in California. And then he made this decision which kind of clicked in, which was the voice of his mom saying you have all these gifts. Are you going to use them or not?

COOPER: He graduated from Columbia and then took a job as a community organizer for a church based group serving Chicago's public housing projects.

MENDELL: He did want to experience African American culture at in- depth total absorption level. He also wanted to help people.

COOPER: Obama had small successes. Pushed for a job training center. Worked to get asbestos removed from apartments but after a few years he had grown frustrated.

KELLMAN: I think Barack made a decision he wanted to do some good, he would have to have some power.

COOPER: Obama applied to Harvard Law School and was accepted.

KENNETH MACK, HARVARD LAW CLASSMATE: There was a certain quality of maturity that he projected. That really impressed people in a place where everyone was quite impressive.

COOPER: After his first year of law school, he became a summer associate at this Chicago law firm. Michelle Robinson, a Harvard grad and a lawyer, was assigned to be his hen more. Obama asked her out. She finally agreed.

CRAIG ROBINSON, MICHELLE OBAMA'S BROTHER: We all met and had dinner. They left to go to the movie and my mom and dad and I were like, what a nice guy, this is going to be great, wonder how long he'll last?

COOPER: But they stayed together through law school.

MICHELLE OBAMA, BARACK'S WIFE: One of the reasons why I respect Barack is that he understands to whom much is given, much is expected. When you're blessed, you don't sit on your blessings, that you figure out how do you make use of them and give them to the greatest number of people.

COOPER: Obama would become the first African American president of the prestigious "Harvard Law Review."

B. OBAMA: I think people can say my election symbolizes some progress at least within the small confines of the legal community. I think it's real important to keep the focus on the broader world out there.

MACK: It wasn't just that we had had our first African American president at the "Harvard Law Review." That would have been cause for celebration. But that it was because it was Barack. That people saw him as somebody special.

COOPER: Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in 1991. He went to work for this civil rights law firm in Chicago and finally started to put down roots. Joining a community, a church, even finding a neighborhood barbershop where he still goes today. He also married Michelle Robinson.

MENDELL: There certainly is a sense of he wants to fit into a community but there isn't any community that he neatly fits into. So he eventually chose the African American community on the South Side of Chicago by marrying a black woman and moving into that world, settling into an African American church.

COOPER: It's now well known, Reverend Jeremiah Wright became his pastor. His sometimes angry gospel of black liberation theology was at times controversial but for Obama it was a place to belong.

(on camera): In Reverend Wright's church he found a community of African Americans that he felt a part of.

MENDELL: Right.

COOPER: And it helped him understand what it meant to be African American in America.

MENDELL: I think so. Both of those things. But he's also an intelligent and charismatic guy and Obama was drawn to that. So this guy had extraordinary influence on Obama and probably in a positive way.

COOPER (voice-over): Twelve years ago in 1996, Obama began his political career. It was hardly the easy road you might imagine.

MACK: When he lost, we were like, well, I guess that's it. I don't think anyone could have known that it was going to take this path.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (on camera): Next, highs and lows. The crushing defeat for Obama and the tough political lesson he would use to skyrocket in politics. Also the women alongside the men. The compelling stories of Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain coming up on this special edition of 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

B. OBAMA: Tonight, Minnesota, after 54 hard-fought contests, our primary season has finally come to an end.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Winning one race, hoping to claim another. That was Barack Obama on June 3rd in St. Paul, Minnesota. At his victory rally after defeating Hillary Clinton to become the presumptive Democratic nominee. Will he be the next president of the United States or will it be John McCain? We're profiling the candidates tonight and their wives. We started with Obama, telling you about his political successes and setbacks, for a man who some describe as calm and relaxed, he's had his share of rocky moments. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The intent of this bill ...

COOPER (voice-over): It was just 12 years ago, 1996 when Obama won an Illinois State Senate seat.

MENDELL: When he first arrived in the Illinois senate, they didn't welcome him with open arms. They thought who is this biracial guy from Harvard who has dropped in here and just thinks he's all that?

EMIL JONES, PRESIDENT, ILLINOIS STATE SENATE: So he got together with some down state legislators and maybe some lobbyists and they would play poker. And you establish friendships.

COOPER: It gave him a power base and helped him pass ethics legislation and a law making it mandatory to tape capital crime interrogations. After only three years in the State Senate Obama then ran for Congress against a popular incumbent.

MENDELL: His political aides and his friends, political friends told him this race is going to be disastrous. But he was a man in such a hurry to get to that next office that he did it any way.

COOPER: He did it anyway and lost.

MENDELL: The Bobby Rush race also taught him a lesson that timing was key. Having the right opening is key.

COOPER: Four years later he timed it right, running for United States Senate. He won by a landslide.

MENDELL: His broad support in the U.S. Senate race in 2004 was unheard of in Illinois politics for a black politician. He won in white areas of Illinois that black people even today don't venture into.

COOPER: That same year as keynote speaker for the Democratic National Convention, Obama burst onto the national radar.

B. OBAMA: There is not a liberal America and a conservative America. There is the United States of America.

JONES: With such a powerful speech and I felt so good toward him that tears was running down my eyes. So we all felt so proud and so good that he was so successful in delivering that speech.

COOPER: And yet despite his success, Michelle and Barack Obama worried about their two young daughters, Malia Ann and Natasha.

JUDSON MINER, FORMER BOSS MINER, BARNHILL AND GALLAND: The hardest issues were how to balance all the things he wanted to do with his family which was always enormously important.

COOPER: They reserved every Sunday for family. Michelle and the girls stayed home in Chicago. She kept her job as vice president of community affairs at the University of Chicago Hospitals. Obama got an apartment in Washington.

MENDELL: He had the same problems when he arrived in the U.S. Senate that he did in the Illinois Senate, people thought who is this guy think he is?

COOPER: His first year he kept a low profile. He did little media and became something of a legislation wonk.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL, (D) MO: I think he was demonstrating that he wasn't just about the bright lights, he wasn't just about the amazing oratorical skills. He was about the day-to-day, grind it out, do the work and earn the respect of your peers.

COOPER: Again, he formed personal relationships with senators and soon established a reputation for working across the aisle.

MENDELL: He did pass ethics legislation in Washington. He also co- sponsored a bill that reduced stockpiles of conventional weapons with a member of the Republican Party, Dick Lugar. But overall, he's not been one of the more proactive legislators.

COOPER: He's obviously made a big deal in the presidential race about his opposition to the war in Iraq. Has he stood very firmly, though, since getting in the Senate?

MENDELL: Well, he did go silent on the Iraq War when he was -- became a senator. And I think that went into his plan to potentially run for president one day.

COOPER: In fact, Obama had served less than half of his first term as U.S. senator when he announced ...

B. OBAMA: My candidacy for president of the United States of America.

COOPER: Looking back now it's as if that young man who was searching so hard to find his identity had all along been on a journey toward the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (on camera): That's Barack Obama's journey toward the White House. What about his challenger, John McCain? If you think you know McCain's story, you're in for a few surprises.

Like Obama, we have new details to tell you about, details that turned a Navy pilot into a presidential candidate. We begin with the day in 1967 when McCain's plane was shot down over North Vietnam. Here's 360's Erica Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): In the darkest hour of John McCain's time as a POW in Vietnam, he became his own tormenter, not his captors. In that personal hell, McCain tried to hang himself. ORSON SWINDLE, FELLOW POW: We all contemplated taking our lives rather than have to go through this pain again or this humiliation again of this betrayal as we saw it again. You know because of what you just went through that you can fail again. And how do you get out of that? The only way out is die.

HILL: He had broken, confessed to war crimes he didn't commit after months of endless torture. McCain felt he had betrayed his country and concluded only death would set him free.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I view it as a failure because I think that I should have done better. I should have done as well as some of my friends did who were stronger and better men than me. Most of all, although he never, ever said a word except I'm proud of you, it may have embarrassed my father.

HILL: At the time, his father, a four-star admiral, Jack McCain, was commander of all U.S. forces in the war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is your rank in the Army?

MCCAIN: Lieutenant commander in the Navy.

HILL: Meaning this French TV news film of John became a perfect piece of propaganda for the enemy. For McCain, it was the ultimate humiliation.

FRANK GAMBOA, MCCAIN'S ANNAPOLIS ROOMMATE: That was a heavy family legacy to have his father and grandfather both graduates of the Naval Academy and prominent naval officers. I think that weighed heavily on him.

HILL: He never rejected the family military tradition, but he would follow it on his own terms.

GAMBOA: The sense of independence and his feeling that he had no choice but to be there I think caused him to rebel a little bit.

MCCAIN: My company officer would have predicted that I would be on probation rather than in the United States Senate.

HILL: At the Naval Academy in Annapolis, McCain was easily distracted.

GAMBOA: We liked to hang around with him because he was popular, he knew a lot of pretty girls and he was a lot of fun to party with.

HILL: Those distractions nearly torpedoed McCain's naval career. During his junior year, McCain flunked an exam and had one chance left to stay at Annapolis. But instead of studying, he went to another party.

GAMBOA: We got back to the Naval Academy about 6:00 in the morning. He hadn't slept, of course. So he showered and shaved and got into his uniform, went over to the academic board. When it was his turn to go before the board, the commander came out to get him and he was sound asleep.

HILL: Somehow, McCain convinced them he should stay. Then nearly a decade later, he was shot down. Taken prisoner in Vietnam. The ordeal gave the young man a purpose.

MCCAIN: They tried to teach me at the Naval Academy. What I found in prison, I was dependent on others. I was dependent on tapping on the wall to my fellow prisoners and helped to sustain them but more importantly they sustained me. And we then became part of a cause.

HILL: To keep up spirits, McCain told jokes, even recited full movies. At one point he taught literature classes from memory.

SWINDLE: Our grandest performance was a reasonable facsimile of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" and McCain played Scrooge, naturally. They had no material. But we stole cotton from the medic and made John some little lamb chop sideburns and everything. It was a great morale boost.

HILL: Just after returning from Vietnam, McCain wrote about his time as a POW. "I have a lot of time to think over there," he said, "and came to the conclusion that one of the most important things in life, along with a man's family, is to make some contribution to his country." But that contribution ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this hearing will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God.

MCCAIN: I do.

HILL: Would John McCain in a place he says was even worst than five and a half years of hell as a POW.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Coming up, McCain's darkest time and how hitting rock bottom propelled him toward the presidency.

Also, standing by his side, Cindy McCain, his advisor and confidant who helps run a big business and who has had her own struggles in life. An up-close look when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello. I'm Randi Kaye. We'll return to our special "Up Close, the Next President" in a moment.

But now in the news, wildfires continue to burn out west this Fourth of July. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in Santa Barbara County where a fast-moving fire is threatening the town of Golita.

The fire has destroyed 5,400 acres in that region in three days. Further forth, fires have chewed through about 65,000 acres near the popular resort of Big Sur. Firefighters are also fighting flames in Malibu. That fire began in a mobile home and has burned 20 acres. Dramatic new footage of the daring rescue mission in Colombia that ended with the release of three American hostages this week. The video was shot by Colombian soldiers pretending to be a camera crew. It ends with the celebration aboard the helicopter when the three American hostages and former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt realized they are being rescued.

And speaking of celebrations, this Fourth of July was celebrated with hot dogs, fireworks and fireworks. In New York, it is a Fourth of July tradition, the annual hot dog eating contest on Coney Island. This year's fierce competition went into overtime. The reigning champ Joey Chestnut won for the second year in a row downing more than 60 hot dogs.

And millions turned out for the fireworks display along New York's East River.

And in Washington, DC, a celebration concert that ended with spectacular fireworks.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone.

Our special "Up Close, the Next President" returns in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Veteran, political warrior, presidential candidate. We're taking a closer look at the two White House hopefuls. We've already told you about Barack Obama's story. Now we're profiling John McCain. He spent years as a prisoner of war, we all know that, but you may be stunned to learn that, incredibly, his darkest days, he says, were yet to come.

Once again, here's CNN's Erica Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Incredibly, after 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war -- the beatings, the terrible conditions, the awful uncertainties, would he ever see his family again? -- John McCain says he suffered through worse. Much worse.

It was in 1989, when he was at the center of a massive political scandal.

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY/MCCAIN FRIEND: He felt that his honor really was at stake, that the Vietnamese didn't hurt him as much as people acting not out of principle but out of politics.

HILL: McCain and four other senators became infamously known as the Keating Five for their connection to this man, Charles Keating, a developer and a major political donor.

He was under federal investigation for his role in the Savings and Loan collapse. And McCain and the other senators faced accusations of corruption for trying to influence the investigation by meeting with regulators, including William Black.

WILLIAM BLACK, FORMER FEDERAL REGULATOR: No U.S. senator with the financial pressures they are under to raise massive amounts of contributions, is going to lightly turn their back on their largest political contributor.

HILL: Largest and one of his first and most loyal backers. Keating was there for McCain since his first campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John McCain for Congress. New leadership for Arizona.

HILL: McCain won but, of course, he wasn't new to Washington. He'd spent time there as a child. And in 1977, was appointed naval liaison to the Senate.

(voice-over) In 1986, McCain made the move from the House to the Senate and began a quite ride of Washington and within the party. He was even rumored to be on the short list of VP candidates for George H. Bush's 1988 White House bid.

(on camera) But as quickly as McCain's star rose, it crashed when he became one of the Keating Five.

HILL: Suddenly, he was connected to the big money and back-room politics many voters despise.

BLACK: We were extraordinarily nervous because five U.S. Senators, 1/20th of the U.S. Senate, were meeting with us personally to put pressure on us.

HILL: those meetings led to the suspicions of corruption and humiliating hearings before the Senate Ethics Committee.

ROBERT TIMBERG, AUTHOR, "JOHN MCCAIN, An American Odyssey."

He said, "This is the worst thing that ever happened to me." And I thought, well, obviously not a very good thing, but it doesn't seem to me quite matches up with 5 1/2 years in a North Vietnamese prison. He said, "No, this is worse."

HILL: It wasn't just substantial campaign contributions binding McCain to Keating; it was also personal. Their families vacationed together, sometimes flying on Keating's jet. McCain's wife and father-in-law even invested in one of Keating's shopping developments.

Cindy McCain said her addiction to prescription drugs was partially due to the stress of the Keating Five affair. As for that affair, McCain maintained any appearance of wrong doing was deceiving.

MCCAIN: I'm fully satisfied that my conduct at all times was conducted in keeping to the standards of my office.

HILL: Finally, the ethics committee found McCain used, quote, "Poor judgment."

COHEN: John came close to absolutely walking away from the center.

HILL: Instead, McCain became a crusader for campaign finance reform and more transparency. Not everyone agrees his intentions were pure.

MATT WELCH, AUTHOR, "MCCAIN, THE MYTH OF A MAVERICK." The charitable explanation is that his idea about campaign finance was this: he felt chastened. He felt his own honor questioned. This whole exercise was a way to address that honor question.

HILL: In any event, his new role as a reformer would inevitably set him up for his next battle.

MCCAIN: Please, let me finish.

HILL: John McCain at odds with his own party.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Up next, McCain's admission, doing it his own way, even if it means taking hits.

Also tonight, Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama, new insights on the candidates' wives, one who will become the new first lady.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Between the two men, the choices could not be more different. And for a nation deeply divided over many issues, the stakes could not be higher. Before your cast your ballot, you should show everything about the candidates. We began with Barack Obama, now John McCain. We already showed you what brought McCain to D.C., but it's a big leap from Washington to the White House.

Once again, here's Erica Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John McCain! John McCain! John McCain!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John McCain! John McCain! John McCain!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John McCain! John McCain! John McCain!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: John McCain was the surprise start to the 2000 primary, easily taking New Hampshire with a lead of nearly 20 percent over George W. Bush. But how did the senator manage to rise so high after the Keating Five scandal, a time he calls the lowest point in his life? McCain may have history to thank.

(GUNFIRE)

HILL: "I was relieved when Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August of that year gave reporters some other reason to talk to me," he writes in his memoir, "and something else to report."

MCCAIN: As far as U.S. ground troops being involved...

HILL: Suddenly, the former POW was the go-to man for national security.

By now, McCain was regularly reaching across the aisle to collaborate on everything from environmental regulations to gun control. He was also still pushing and a major campaign finance reform, having partnered with Senator Russell Feingold, a Democrat from Wisconsin.

While the campaign finance reform efforts scored big with voters, McCain's own party cried foul.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: It's a horrible piece of legislation, richly deserves to be defeated.

HILL: But McCain held tight. Campaign finance became the focus of his 2000 bid for the White House and fueled his Straight Talk Express.

MCCAIN: I will always tell you the truth, no matter what.

HILL: The blunt approach helped him take New Hampshire. But the momentum barely lasted three weeks.

By the time the Republicans hit South Carolina, the race had become one of the nastiest in history. There were rumors McCain had fathered his daughter, Bridget, with a black prostitute. In fact, she was adopted from Bangladesh.

And a whisper campaign his wife had never really kicked the prescription drug habit she made public in the early '90s.

ORSON SWINDLE, FRIEND & MCCAIN 2000 VOLUNTEER: He was appalled at some of the stuff they said in South Carolina. It was some of the most disgusting politicking I've ever seen in my life.

HILL: There were also run-ins with one of the GOP's most needed- backers, the religious right.

PAT ROBERTSON, FOUNDER, THE CHRISTIAN COALITION: This man is regarded as a maverick. He doesn't work the will with his colleagues, and so we're looking at a situation that could be devastating to the Republican Party.

HILL: McCain famously shot back.

MCCAIN: Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left and Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right.

HILL: Straight talk that would come to haunt McCain, though he'd face another battle first: skin cancer. In August of 2000, McCain was diagnosed for a second time with a severe form of the disease and had surgery to remove it.

As for his relationship with the religious right...

MCCAIN: Today, it might seem as if the world...

HILL: ... in 2006, McCain changed his tune, giving the commencement address at Falwell's Liberty University.

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR POLITICS: McCain's critics immediately called him a hypocrite. And there was an element of hypocrisy involved. Of course, hypocrisy is the lifeblood of politics.

MCCAIN: The first thing we need to do is make the Bush tax cuts permanent.

HILL: One of only two Republicans to vote against the Bush tax cuts, McCain now says they need to stay.

In 2000, McCain was against overturning Roe vs. Wade. Now, he says the Supreme Court overstepped its bounds.

SABATO: He's trying to keep the conservative base happy when they don't like him any way. And at the same time, continue to attract independents and moderates.

HILL (on camera): Is he sacrificing some things to win?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think he's sacrificing to win, but he knows to get elected and to run this country, you have to have all the people, no matter what their political philosophy, come together and say, "Yes, I'll buy into this."

HILL: But it's how McCain gets those voters to buy into his philosophy that may determine his legacy.

Straight talk from a former POW, fulfilling his cause greater, honoring his family name, or simply the rhetoric of a politician, fighting for his final glory?

Erica Hill, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: John McCain's story can't be told without the most important person in his life, his wife Cindy. While he wants to be commander in chief, she is already chairman of the board, running a business reportedly worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Like her husband, Cindy has also had her personal challenges, including an addiction to painkillers.

CNN's Randi Kaye has the revealing portrait up close.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You'll often find her just a step or two behind her husband. It's where Cindy McCain is most comfortable, on the sidelines.

(on camera) Is she shy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. When I first knew her, she was quite shy.

KAYE: Cindy McCain was born Cindy Lou Hensley, an only child. She had a privileged upbringing. Her father owned one of the largest beer distributorships in the country. Today, she is chairman of the board.

(on camera) Cindy went to Central High School here in Phoenix, a public school. Friends say she was very popular. She didn't play any sports, but she was a cheerleader and went on to become a rodeo queen.

(voice-over) She graduated from the University of Southern California with a master's in special education and became a teacher. Love stole her from her students.

In 1979 she met then-future Senator John McCain at a cocktail party in Hawaii. Cindy was 24. He was 42. Though at the time, both lied about their ages, trying to narrow the 18-year gap. John McCain was married then but separated. One month after his divorce, he married Cindy. Their perfect bliss would not last long.

When John McCain became a member of Congress in 1982, he moved to Washington part-time. Cindy stayed in Phoenix. After a series of miscarriages, the couple finally had three children, and thought it best to raise them in Arizona.

Her parents lived across the street and pitched in. But in her husband's absence, Cindy entered one of the darkest periods of her life. A secret addiction and a federal investigation would all come back to haunt them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Up next and up close, Cindy McCain's biggest battle. What went wrong and how she fought back.

Plus, Michelle Obama: wife, mother, and lawyer, never afraid to speak her mind, when this 360 special continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAYE: Hello, I'm Randi Kaye. We'll return to our special, "Up Close: The Next President," in a moment. But now in the news, wildfires continue to burn out west this Fourth of July.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in Santa Barbara County where a fast-moving fire is threatening the town of Goleta. The fire has destroyed 5,400 acres in that region in three days.

Further north, fires have chewed through about 65,000 acres near the popular resort of Big Sur. Firefighters are also fighting flames in Malibu. That fire began in a mobile home and has burned 20 acres.

Dramatic new footage of the daring rescue mission in Colombia that ended with the release of three American hostages this week. The video was shot by Colombian soldiers pretending to be a camera crew. It ends with a celebration aboard the helicopter when the three American hostages a former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt realized they were being rescued.

And speaking of celebrations this Fourth of July was celebrated with hot dogs, concerts and fireworks. In New York, it is a Fourth of July tradition, the annual hot-dog eating contest on Coney Island. This year's fierce competition went into overtime. The reigning champ, Joey Chestnut, won for the second year in a row, downing more than 60 hot dogs.

And millions turned out for the fireworks display along New York's East River.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SOUND OF FIREWORKS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: And in Washington, D.C., a celebration concert that ended with spectacular fireworks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Happy Fourth of July, everyone.

Now our special, "Up Close: The Next President," in a moment.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Wife, mother and perhaps future first lady. Cindy McCain is her husband's closet adviser and confidant. But her private life became very public once she married the senator. Please saw the smiles but not the pain. Our up-close look at Cindy McCain continues.

Once again here's Randi Kaye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE: Cindy McCain exudes glamour: well-tailored suits, never a hair out of place. But her image wasn't always so perfect. In 1989 after injuring her back in a car accident, she became addicted to prescription painkillers.

COLLINS: In 1993, her mother walked in one day, and said, "There's something wrong with you."

And she said, "Yes, there is." She broke down, and she never took another pill after that.

KAYE: After telling her husband, Cindy went public about her addiction.

In 1994, a federal probe further exposed her drug problem. She confessed to stealing pills from the charity she'd started. Six years later, campaigning for the South Carolina primary, Cindy was painted as a drug addict.

There were also stories John McCain had fathered an illegitimate black child. He had not. But in 1993, the couple had adopted a fourth child unexpectedly after an international charity mission.

C. MCCAIN: When a mother comes home with a new child and surprises him with a new baby from Bangladesh, and not only does he open his arms, but loves her just like I do, that's something that says something about the character of the man.

KAYE: Character wasn't enough. Senator McCain's presidential bid ended, and the bad luck continued. Cindy's father died in 2000. And four years later, she had a stroke from high blood pressure.

COLLINS: She taught herself to walk again and talk again. And just concentrated on that. And in fact, eight months after the -- after the stroke, she ran in a marathon.

KAYE: Cindy volunteers for international charities and squeezes in some NASCAR. She's a big fan.

Dan Nowicki covers McCain's campaign for the "Arizona Republic" and says Cindy was reluctant about a second presidential run until some smooth talk from the senator.

DAN NOWICKI, "ARIZONA REPUBLIC": Her husband mentioned she's -- she could be the person who will restore elegance and grace and style to the White House, and I think that she kind of ate that up.

KAYE: Grudges or not, Cindy appears more confident and is having more fun. Their daughter Meghan's blog from the trail captures her lighter side. Cindy McCain's second national campaign. Maybe this time she's ready for the good and the bad.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Phoenix, Arizona.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: From Cindy McCain we turn our attention to the other potential first lady, Michelle Obama, a lawyer, mother, and now a public figure who often generates as much press as her husband. Will she join her husband in the White House?

Her life up close. Once again, here's CNN's Randi Kaye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

KAYE: 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 didn't 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.

(voice-over) They had dinner as a family every night and went to drive-in movies. Then in 1990, her father died.

Her parents never had the 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: "Well, if Craig can get in there, I certainly can." So she applied and got in. And you're laughing, but that's how she thinks.

KAYE: Michelle majored in sociology, minored in African-American studies. Here's 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 ever 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 (on camera): She was testing him?

ROBINSON: She was testing him, 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, I said, "This guy's terrific."

KAYE (voice-over): Barack and Michelle Obama married in 1992 and settled in Chicago.

She took a job with the mayor and in 1996 moved to the University of Chicago Medical Center. She's on leave to campaign.

M. OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you so much.

KAYE: Daughters Malia and Sasha are top priority.

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

Can we do this?

KAYE: On the campaign trail, Michelle is an impressive fundraiser 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.

(on camera) You ever kind of pinch yourself and say, "Whoa, 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, you know, first woman to swim around the world or something incredible -- you know, 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Up next on this 360 special, "Up Close, The Next President. Barack Obama said in his first speech before a national audience, quote, "On no other country on earth is my story even possible." The improbable story that could land the first black man in the White House is straight ahead.

And later, another against-all-odds story from fighter pilot to POW to war hero, to Senate scandal and now the Republican candidate for president, John McCain has spent a lifetime challenging convention and pulling off the improbable. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)