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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
McCain's Surprise V.P. Pick; New Orleans Braces For Hurricane Gustav; Did DNC Unite the Party?; How Straight-Forward was Obama's Speech?
Aired August 29, 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: We are live in New Orleans tonight. We're at the new pumping station where the 17th Street Canal meets Lake Pontchartrain.
Now, the Army Corps of Engineers built it to prevent what happened three years ago today, when lake water surged back into the canal system, flooding the city after Hurricane Katrina. People here took note of Katrina's anniversary today, but, for the most part, they are busy getting ready for Hurricane Gustav, with very real doubts about how prepared their city will be, including whether or not these floodgates will actually work.
More on that throughout the evening, but we begin with John McCain's choice of a near unknown to be his running mate.
Now, back in April, he said that a person's readiness to be president would factor highly. Tonight, there are serious questions about that, jubilation among some conservatives, and big-time -- big- time surprise all around.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My friends and fellow Americans...
(AUDIENCE MEMBER SHOUTS)
MCCAIN: I am very pleased and very privileged to introduce to you the next vice president of the United States...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MCCAIN: ... Governor Sarah Palin of the great state of Alaska.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The scene, a large rally in Dayton, Ohio, today, his choice, the first woman ever on a Republican ticket.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
PALIN: ... but it turns out the women of America aren't finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Governor Palin got the nod after just a couple meetings with Senator McCain. She's staunchly pro-life, a global warming skeptic, a corruption fighter who is also embroiled in a corruption scandal.
As you might imagine, this is causing a major stir, not all of it politically correct. As Rush Limbaugh put it today -- quote -- "We're the ones with the babe on our ticket."
Up close now with the governor, 360's David Mattingly.
PALIN: Don't tell me that.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Standing in a park overlooking the city of Anchorage, Governor Sarah Palin talked to me just three weeks ago, sounding like a long shot.
PALIN: I'm a hockey mom from Alaska. I'm not one of those movers and shakers within the Republican Party that I think conventionally you would think would be tapped into.
MATTINGLY: And that could be what made her so appealing to John McCain.
At 44, she is the youngest governor Alaska's ever had and the only woman to hold the office.
(on camera): She pushed for a strong ethics law for public officials and took on members of her own party to do it. She also challenged oil companies over pipelines and leases. Palin also pushed back at government spending, killing the so-called bridge to nowhere, a pork barrel project guided by fellow Alaskan Republican Senator Ted Stevens.
PALIN: But we're constantly battling kind of the -- the political factions within the legislature and the political machinery within my own party, still. But it's what Alaskans have wanted and I believe, again, nationwide, this is what Americans want.
(voice-over): Palin has been governor less than two years, but is already the state's most popular politician. Before that, she was a small-town mayor. She was then appointed to chairman of the powerful State Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, all the while crafting her own message of change.
PALIN: A change that is craved, I believe, by Alaskans and by Americans is getting away with the obsessive partisanship, the partisanship that just gets in the way of doing what's right.
MATTINGLY: But Palin herself is under investigation by the state legislature. The probe grew out of allegations she fired her public safety commissioner for refusing to sack her ex brother-in-law from the state police.
Palin says she never authorized a staffer who was caught on tape pressuring state police to act.
LARRY PERSILY, FORMER ALASKA JOURNALIST: There's nothing yet that shows the governor pressured directly the publish safety commissioner. But her husband had contacts with the public safety commissioner, her chief of staff, members of her -- of the governor's office staff had discussions with the public safety commissioner, expressing the governor's displeasure with this trooper.
MATTINGLY: Palin is a mother of five. She has an infant with Down syndrome and one son in the Army. She was once a hometown beauty queen, second runner-up for Miss Alaska 1984.
A journalism graduate, she also tried her hand at sportscasting. She is the anti-Washington Republican conservative, pro-gun, anti- abortion, with a political record as far outside the beltway as anyone can get.
David Mattingly, CNN, Atlanta.
COOPER: Well, President Bush today raised the Palin choice, Senators Obama and Governor Palin speaking by -- by phone, Senator Obama saying he wished her luck, but not too much luck.
Then, later today, he had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I -- I haven't met her before. She seems like a compelling person, obviously, a terrific story, personal story. And, you know, I'm sure that she will help make the case for the Republicans. Unfortunately, the case is more of the same.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: "Digging Deeper" now with CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, CNN's John King, also CNN political contributor for and GOP strategist Alex Castellanos, and Paul Begala, a former Clinton adviser and CNN contributor.
All right, David, in an interview with TIME.com, Palin said -- and I quote -- "I don't have 30 years of political experience under my belt, but that's a good thing. I have never been part of a good old boys club."
You say this is a big gamble by McCain. How so?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The biggest single gamble in modern political history, Anderson.
On one hand, she's firing up the evangelicals and many of the social conservatives because of her pro-life, pro-gun sort of view, lifetime NRA. She's also very popular in Alaska.
I know at least one Democratic governor of a major swing state has been telling people privately today that he thinks she will do very well among blue-collar voters. And she reinforces John McCain's reputation as a maverick.
But, then, on the other side, there is a view -- listen, the central argument, as you well know, of the McCain campaign has been, it is -- it is imprudent, in fact, it's reckless, to put the commander in chief role in the hands of someone with little experience like Barack Obama.
And here, a 72-year-old candidate, John McCain, who has had bouts with cancer, is asking someone to be at a heartbeat away, sitting next to him there in the White House, who has no experience in international issues, no experience in national security issues. There are Democrats who believe that is reckless, and they plan to make that argument in the days ahead.
It is a -- she's made an open appeal to Hillary Clinton -- Hillary Clinton's disaffected voters. I'm not sure how many there are after this Democratic Convention. But I can tell you, there may be some who will come over, but the CNN blog sites today are full of women writing in saying that, if that's the appeal here, they find that insulting. That is not what they represent. They're just not going to be taken in by just any woman. They thought it was going to be a qualified woman with someone closer to their views.
COOPER: Alex Castellanos, Democrats made the same argument, though, about Dan Quayle. It didn't do them much good back then.
ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: No.
And I hate to take exception with -- with Mr. Gergen there, but I think he's got this issue just exactly backwards. How can Democrats claim that Governor Palin isn't qualified and you shouldn't vote for her because she does not have the experience to be vice president, and then turn right around and say, vote for Barack Obama, though he has even less?
He's not a heartbeat away from the presidency. His heartbeat would be the president's. And he just has no experience at all.
Look, the only candidate in this race who has actually, for example, run a $5.5 billion state budget, who has actually run an education system, who has actually run a law enforcement system, who has delivered health care, 32nd largest budget in the country, bigger than a lot of countries, give -- you better get to know this woman and give her a chance. She's tough, strong.
She's -- I think America is going to be pleased with what it sees.
COOPER: Paul Begala, what about that? Barack Obama hasn't had executive experience in the same way that this governor of a state has, though she's only been there for I think less than two years -- or two years, about.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
And so we defer to what James Surowiecki calls the wisdom of crowds. It's called democracy. Eighteen million people, Americans all, decided that Barack Obama had enough experience. That's how we resolve these things in a democracy.
So, I didn't -- I wasn't one of those 18 million, but I defer to that choice in a democracy. This is the choice of one man, one man who met her apparently one time.
It is irresponsible. It may work politically. I'm -- I honestly want to pull out of the sort of game schema that we're generally in. And I'm a political strategist. But ,like David, I was a senior White House adviser.
And I'm thinking now actually as a citizen, as a former White House staffer. This is reckless. It's irresponsible. He's 72 years old, and he's had cancer four times, and he wants a woman he's met once to be a heartbeat away from the presidency? It is reckless.
CASTELLANOS: Paul, if that's irresponsible -- Paul, if that's irresponsible, what can you say about putting up Barack Obama as your candidate, who has never...
BEGALA: ... it's called democracy.
CASTELLANOS: No. Well, then give democracy a chance to work in November, Paul.
BEGALA: But we don't get a chance to vote for the vice president independently, Alex.
CASTELLANOS: Yes, you will.
BEGALA: No. I mean, no, we don't.
CASTELLANOS: You get a chance to vote for the ticket. Absolutely, you do. (CROSSTALK)
CASTELLANOS: And is it irresponsible to put up a guy who was a community organizer, who was a state senator who voted present, who has never actually had any foreign policy experience at all?
BEGALA: I'm trying to...
COOPER: Paul, I want you to answer that, and then I want to go to John King.
BEGALA: I'm trying to act like this is on the level. OK? I'm trying to act like an American citizen first.
BEGALA: As a Democrat, I think this is crazy and I think it makes McCain look crazy. And my party will prosper.
As an American, there's a coin-toss chance this man becomes the president, and, then, eight of our 43 presidents have died in office. So, as a Democrat, I'm happy with this. As an American, who has family in active-duty military, I'm petrified.
COOPER: John King, is it true that he only met her once? And what do we know about how this all came about?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He had only met her once in person before. Then they had a secret meeting at his Sedona ranch.
But he has been an admirer of her, in part because he believes she is very much like him. Now, Democrats will challenge this assertion, but he believes she has challenged the status quo, that she's drawn a line on state spending, the she stood up to Senator Ted Stevens over that bridge to nowhere.
And, Anderson, they also thinks it addresses -- and, again, this will be decided John McCain vs. Barack Obama. But if you look, especially coming out of the Democratic Convention, what are John McCain's two biggest weaknesses? His own base -- base is lethargic. Many in the conservative movement, especially social conservatives, but also gun owners, traditional members of the Republican base, don't quite trust John McCain.
He votes with them most of the time, but they don't quite him. I cannot tell you the overwhelming change of the mood among the conservative social Republican base. And they believe, in the McCain campaign, that is critical, because of the intensity gap we have talked so often about, an intensity gap they believe could have grown even more out of Barack Obama's convention. Barack Obama has African-American support. He's signed up hundreds of thousands of new voters. And the McCain campaign came to a calculation: We need our base to turn out, just like Karl Rove used to say that it was so important for George W. Bush to turnout.
Plus, their other weakness, the other voting piece still at grabs out there, suburban women over the age of 30, white suburban women in key battleground states. They think this will help.
Will it cure everything? Of course not. Presidential races are decided at the top of the ticket, but they needed something dramatic to change the dynamics of this race. And they think this is it.
COOPER: Dramatic, this certainly is.
We're going to talk to a social conservative, Tony Perkins, in just a moment, as well as James Carville. And we will have more with our panel coming up throughout these two hours.
We're broadcasting for two hours live tonight. There is so much news to cover between this, Barack Obama's speech last night, the hurricane and more, a lot to talk about.
You can join the conversation. Go to our new Web site, AC360.com. There, you will also find a host of new material from our contributors on today's third anniversary here in New Orleans.
Just ahead, it didn't take long for the new team to hit the trail. Dana Bash was with them. We will talk to her next about both teams on the road.
And the latest on Hurricane Gustav, growing stronger, now taking aim right here. We will get the latest on the storm track and whether or not this city can handle it, whether those gates will work if a massive storm surge races toward New Orleans.
360, live from New Orleans, continues in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: Along with fellow reformers in the great state of Alaska, as governor, I have stood up to the old politics as usual, to the special interests, to the lobbyists, the big oil companies, and the good-old-boy network.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Most Americans getting their first look at Governor Sarah Palin today at a massive rally in Dayton, Ohio, the largest yet for John McCain.
His choice of a running mate such a total surprise, in part because he and she barely know one another, as you heard earlier from John King. Outside of Alaska, most people barely know her.
More now from Dana Bash on the trail with how the senator and the governor are working to change that.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John McCain's urgent task is exposing his little-known running mate to battleground state voters, their first campaign stop, some Buckeye shopping.
But, inside, McCain and his wife went one way, Sarah Palin and family went another. It's a new political pair hoping for the country to accept them as a team, even before they really know each other.
McCain met Palin just six months ago, only once, until meeting again this week, before making her his running mate. But moments like this are a big reason McCain picked her...
PALIN: So cute.
BASH: ... images of a young mother trying to do it all, someone he hopes female voters will relate to.
But what about voters who wonder why the man running on experience would pick a small-town Alaskan mayor turned first-term governor? That's what we wanted to know.
(on camera): Governor, what do you say to your critics who are saying that you don't have enough experience to do the job?
PALIN: Well, I have appreciated the 13 years in elected office that I have had to give me some good experience and to get ready for this job. It's been good experience.
BASH (voice-over): Talking points down, she got back on McCain's Straight Talk Express. And, as they stopped again to get some ice cream and greet more voters, one thing was clear: Bringing an unknown running mate around Ohio didn't just bring buzz.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There she is right...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: on TV today.
MCCAIN: She's right there.
BASH: It also generated intrigue.
PALIN: Time to get back on the bus.
BASH: It's a bold choice that has many in Washington shaking their heads, but, at least on day one, turning heads on the trail.
COOPER: Dana, what about the fact that they barely know each other? I mean, is it out of character for McCain to reach out to someone like that, that -- that he doesn't have a -- a long relationship with?
BASH: You know, at first blush, it definitely seemed out of character to me, Anderson.
BASH: Obviously, I have been observing him on the campaign trail.
COOPER: Go ahead, Dana.
BASH: Are you there? Anderson, can you hear me?
COOPER: Yes, I hear you. Go ahead, Dana.
What I was starting to say was that, on the campaign trail -- on the campaign trail, we absolutely get a sense that he is somebody who likes to have people in his comfort zone around him. That's why I thought that that was one of his key criterion in picking his running mate, somebody he knows very well, like a Tim Pawlenty.
But, in talking to his advisers, they insist that it's really her M.O., the way that she operates in the state of Alaska, that really attracted him to -- to her, her resume, and the fact that she -- that he's -- according to one adviser, he sees in her what makes him tick, that is, a big, big connection that he has on a level that may not be personal. He might not know her very well, but it is an important connection, according to his advisers, that was a main reason why he decided to go with her.
The fact that she is a supporter of gun rights, and she is an opponent of abortion, and also she is a she -- and she is a woman -- and that that is a package that really helps him with voters, that certainly was a big added benefit, no question about it, Anderson.
COOPER: Dana Bash reporting from New Concord, Ohio, on the trail with the McCain campaign.
Up next: the political assets and liabilities of Governor Sarah Palin on the GOP ticket -- a "Strategy Session" with conservatives Amy Holmes and Tony Perkins, and, on the other side, James Carville.
And, later, 38 million people watched Barack Obama last night, so, what did they see, and what impressions did the entire Democratic National Convention leave them with? How do the Democrats come out of their convention and take it on the road?
That and more -- when 360 continues from New Orleans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: She's not from these parts and she's not from Washington. But when you get to know her, you're going to be as impressed as I am.
She's got the grit, integrity, and good sense and fierce devotion to the common good that is exactly what we need in Washington today.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: John McCain talking about the woman he would like to be America's first female vice president, Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska.
And, well, let's talk strategy now with CNN contributors James Carville, who is with me here in New Orleans, and Amy Holmes. A Democratic strategist, of course, is James, and an independent conservative is Amy, also, Tony Perkins, president of the socially conservative Family Research Council.
Amy, why Palin? Very little experience, and a lot of Americans have not heard of her. What group of voters do you think McCain is targeting?
AMY HOLMES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I agree with David that this is a gamble.
I mean, we don't know how she's going to hold up under the national spotlight. That can be a very unforgiving place. But what she does bring to the table is, I think, also a real authenticity, a folksiness. This is a woman who is a hunter, a fisherwoman. She doesn't just vote with the NRA. She goes out and kills a caribou, skins, and it cooks it for dinner.
I think, when Republicans -- you know, when you see her video biography next week, it's going to be fabulous, when you have all of these amazing, colorful things about her. I think that John McCain was looking at her to be able to bring that folksy appeal to women. This is also a mother of five. She had to make a very difficult decision about one of her children who has Down syndrome.
And she didn't just -- you know, she's not just pro-life in word. she's pro-life in deed. She walked the walk. And I think that will be very appealing to a lot of mothers.
And, let's remember, women are not a monolith as a voting bloc, that married women tend, at the presidential level, to vote Republican. And I think, with Sarah Palin, John McCain has a chance of capturing even more of those voters.
COOPER: Tony Perkins, you have been on this show many times, talking about concern among social conservatives, evangelicals, about John McCain. How does the choice of Sarah Palin affect that? TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: I think it does.
I think there's been a turning in the campaign just in the last 12 hours. And something that's been missing in this campaign for John McCain has been excitement and enthusiasm. And, today, that seems to have turned, where there is great enthusiasm, because his language, his conservative language, is not the same that most social conservatives speak. Although he has the record, he doesn't talk a lot about those issues.
But what he -- what he did here by making this selection was a very positive move that speaks volumes to conservatives across the country.
COOPER: James Carville?
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think, among social conservatives, she's going to be fine. She endorsed Pat Buchanan for president in 2000. And he's a hero to social conservatives.
She's for teaching creationism in the public schools in Alaska, something that is sort of number one on the social conservative agenda. So, yes, I think, to the kind of Pat Buchanan kind of Republicans, she's going to have some appeal. And if that is...
COOPER: Do you think her appeal isn't any broader than that?
CARVILLE: Well, first of all, there was some question as to Hillary -- Hillary got 18 million voters. I said earlier she will be lucky to get 18 of them.
There are not many -- there are not many Hillary Clinton/Pat Buchanan people out there, I promise you.
CARVILLE: It's kind of -- and I'm sure that -- I say, to the Pat Buchanan-style Republicans, I think she will have a lot -- she certainly had a lot of appeal on the talk radio circuit today.
But, beyond that, I'm a little mystified at this. And the other thing is, is that Senator McCain said, when you get to know her like I do -- he had met her one time one time before he picked her. It was -- this -- this whole thing was a little bit strange to me, I think.
COOPER: John King reported that they had actually a second meeting, a private meeting at -- I think, at his house later on, once he was interested.
CARVILLE: Once he was -- OK. Well, they had two. I'm sorry.
CARVILLE: OK, it's two meetings.
CARVILLE: No. No, I always like to be accurate.
COOPER: All right.
Tony Perkins, what about that? I mean, can Republicans honestly argue that this is a choice made about governance, or is this a choice made purely about politics and getting elected?
PERKINS: No, I think she -- she is the only one on the ballot that has executive experience. She has been governor. She's been a mayor.
I was in Alaska about four weeks ago, and her name was being tossed about a little bit at the time, but not seriously. And -- and, just in talking to people, she was held -- she's held in high regard in Alaska, for many of the reasons that were described earlier. She is someone that people -- people can connect with.
She has a good record. But she does bring the political element here. She solidifies the base for John McCain. He has the experience in the foreign policy realm. She has the -- the domestic experience in terms of the executive experience, and brings to that the enthusiasm that has been missing in this campaign.
I think it was, strategically, a very good pick, because a lot of people, looking toward Barack Obama, were thinking about casting a historic vote for the first African-American president. They now can cast a historic vote for a conservative ticket by voting for her as vice president, the first woman to be elected vice president of the United States.
I think it was a great move on the McCain campaign part.
COOPER: Amy, I will ask you the same question. Was it a move based on politics and getting elected, or based on who's best to govern?
COOPER: I mean, do you -- Amy, do you -- do you have any concern about her being a heartbeat away from the presidency?
HOLMES: No, I don't have a concern about that. And the experience issue was not ever something that, for me, was -- is causing reticence about Barack Obama. It's actually more ideology. Is he more of a traditional standard-issue liberal? That's -- that's my concern.
But you know what, Anderson? There's nothing wrong with it being a little bit of both, that Sarah Palin has a -- has a record and reputation as a reformer. This is someone who has gone up against her own party in Alaska, the Republican Party, and she's hugely popular.
I mean, this is a woman who said to Ted Stevens, a very powerful Republican senator from her home state, about that bridge to nowhere, thanks, but no thanks.
So, she brings that. And it also helps John McCain, then, be able to campaign as an outsider. This is a man, of course, who has been in the Senate all these years. But he can campaign as an outsider, a reformer, someone who has never voted for an earmark. So, she helps him on both fronts.
COOPER: We value all perspectives here.
Tony Perkins, good to have you on, Amy Holmes as well. James Carville will be on throughout these next two hours on this issue and also on, of course, this gathering storm.
Up next: the "Raw Politics" from Denver, Colorado, and the Democrats, and the raw nerves between Hillary Clinton supporters and the Obama campaign. Remember that whole narrative from earlier on in the week? Is that all gone? Did the Democrats emerge united? We will talk to James Carville about that.
And, ahead, we are live, of course, in New Orleans, three years to the day after Hurricane Katrina took its deadly toll on this city. Now another deadly storm is out there, bearing down on the Gulf Coast. Where is Hurricane Gustav headed? We will have the latest track.
And we will take a look at this pump station behind us, these gates which have been built. Are they strong enough to prevent whatever may be coming?
When 360 continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And you haven't worked so hard over the last 18 months or endured the last eight years to suffer through more failed leadership. No way, no how, no McCain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was of course, the line from Hillary Clinton that got so much attention. There had been so much talk early on in the Democratic convention about whether or not Hillary Clinton, how much she would support Barack Obama and the same kind of talk about Bill Clinton. By the end of the convention, certainly, most Democrats felt they were extremely united, moving forward. Tonight, Tom Foreman takes a look back at what we have witnessed over the last week and takes a look forward at how united the Democrats really are.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Democrats came to Denver with a question: could their former first couple put aside disappointment and unite a fractured party? The Clintons gave it a heck of a try.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Barack Obama will lead us away from the division and fear of the last eight years, back to unity and hope.
H. CLINTON: Whether you voted for me or you voted for Barack, the time is now to unite as a party with a single purpose.
B. CLINTON: Everything I learned in my eight years as president, and in the work I have done since in America and across the globe, has convinced me that Barack Obama is the man for this job.
H. CLINTON: This is a fight for the future, and it's a fight we must win together.
CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Sure, we had a hard-fought primary but they put the focus back on where it should be, where we all agreed, on the party and Barack Obama, making sure that we win the White House in November and to defeat John McCain.
FOREMAN: Beating the Republicans and beating back George Bush were rallying cries to close ranks. From a man who was vice president...
AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you believe it's time for a change, then vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
FOREMAN: ... to the man who hopes to be veep.
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We don't have to accept the situation we cannot bear. We have the power to change it.
FOREMAN: From a lion of the party's past battles...
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: My fellow Americans, it is so wonderful to be here.
FOREMAN: ... to the man they hope will lead them to future glory.
JOHN HARRIS, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, POLITICO.COM: The Democratic Party is united. Whether all the voters that it needs to be backing the Democratic Party in November are behind them is still an open question to me.
FOREMAN: It's an open question on the street for some, for sure.
(on camera) Do you think the Democrats are united now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the most part.
FOREMAN (voice-over): But party leaders say a big hurdle to unity has been cleared. The headlines were all about one famous Democratic duo. Now the front page belongs to another.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Let's dig deeper. Joining us again, Democratic strategist, CNN political contributor James Carville.
You got a lot of attention early on when we talked Monday night. You were very critical of the first couple of hours of the convention, about a squandered opportunity. Looking back on it now, the way it ended, that final speech?
JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It was incredible, yes. And I said that I expected that everybody was going to give tremendous speeches, that the level of oratory at this convention could be the best ever. And they turned out -- I think I was right on that question. It was some spectacular speeches.
Look, in terms of the party, I think Will Rogers said, "I don't belong to an organized political party; I'm a Democrat."
But I think that -- I think we're facing a really united party, and I think that everybody did their job. I think that President Clinton and Senator Clinton did a good job of setting the table, and I think that Senator Obama prepared a sumptuous meal. I think he -- I think he really closed the deal on Thursday night. He really did.
COOPER: That whole narrative of the Clintons, do you think that has been put to rest?
CARVILLE: Well, I mean, look, I think he -- I think that both he and Senator Clinton have a real role to play in the campaign. I think they'll campaign some, but you're right. This is Senator Obama's show. He's the nominee and, in all likelihood, is going to be the next president of the United States.
And, you know, political parties like everything else that, you know, go through changes. There's nothing -- but that happens.
COOPER: How much do you see the Clintons actually campaigning, do you think?
CARVILLE: That would be up to Senator Obama and President Clinton and Senator Clinton. But I think they'll -- I think they'll be, you know, fairly active. I mean, it's a little bit of a -- of a mixture as to how much and what place you do. But I suspect they'll be a, you know, fair amount.
COOPER: Does having Sarah Palin now as John McCain's running mate, does that somehow change the calculus for -- for the Democrats?
CARVILLE: Again, when they find out, when they find out -- I man, when people find out that Sarah Palin supported Pat Buchanan, that she supports teaching creationism, they're not -- she's not a person that's going to be very attractive to Democrats.
And I don't think that it's going to be -- and I think that Senator Clinton did a good job of talking to her voters, and I think that Senator Obama closed the deal for them. I think they're much more comfortable with him than now before the convention started. I think they accomplished a lot in that.
But look, are we going to find some people on account of -- you know, there's somebody, a Sergeant Yakashima is going to be in a cave in Okinawa, holding out -- you know what I mean -- ten years after the war is over? Yes, we can always dig somebody up like that. But by and large, I think the party is pretty united going into this.
COOPER: We're going to have James more throughout this hour and the next. We are on for two hours tonight. A lot of news to cover in the political world and also right here along the whole coast, Mississippi Gulf Coast and New Orleans, about where this storm may be headed.
Up next, we're keeping the Democrats honest tonight, breaking down Barack Obama's speech last night. It was certainly spectacular. It was soaring in the rhetoric, but did he make misleading comments? "Keeping Them Honest."
And we're tracking Gustav. Some evacuations already begun not far from where we are here in New Orleans. We'll go live to the CNN weather center for the latest on the hurricane's path and show you what is being done to prepare for this already deadly storm.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: John McCain likes to say that he'll follow bin Laden to the gates of hell. But he won't even follow him to the cave where he lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Many who heard Senator Obama speak in Denver last night called it the most important moment to date of the candidate's political career. And Democrats say Obama hit it out of the park.
But at a closer examination, we asked whether the Obama address holds up as a completely honest picture of his views and, more importantly, of his opponent's.
Joe Johns is "Keeping Them Honest." (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a big speech full of big ideas, but "Keeping Them Honest," it also left some big questions. Like when the senator from Illinois, seemingly embracing message of economic populism, slams McCain for how he defines middle class.
OBAMA: I don't believe that Senator McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn't know. Why else would he define middle class as someone making under $5 million a year?
JOHNS: But did McCain really say that? Well, yes. But it turns out McCain was making a joke when asked at what point a person goes from being middle class to rich.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't want to take any money from the rich. I want everybody to get rich.
So I think if you're just talking about income, how about $5 million? So no, but seriously, I don't think you can -- I don't think, seriously, that -- the point is that I'm trying to make here, seriously, and I'm sure that comment will be distorted. But the point is, the point is -- the point is that we want to keep people's taxes low and increase revenues.
JOHNS: From apparent distortion to omission. At another point in the speech, Obama once again repeats a well-known and well-worn charge, that McCain's Senate votes show he's a big supporter of the Republican White House.
OBAMA: But the record's clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time.
JOHNS: That's true. But what the senator leaves out is that, when it comes to voting, he sticks with his party, too, aiding with Democrats in the Senate 97 percent of the time.
Another omission: Obama seems to suggest he'll pay for his spending proposals essentially by going through the budget line by line and eliminating wasteful programs.
OBAMA: Now, many of these plans will cost money, which is why I've laid out how I'll pay for every dime, by closing corporate loopholes and tax savings that don't help America grow.
JOHNS (on camera): What Obama didn't say is that he'll also pay for his plans by allowing tax cuts to expire on families making over $250,000 a year and, by most estimates, his plans will dramatically increase the federal deficit.
(voice-over) Obama's speech wasn't riddled with exaggerations and inaccuracies, but he wasn't exactly pristine either. As one watchdog group, FactCheck.org, put it, he stuck to the facts except when he stretched them. Joe Johns, CNN, St. Paul, Minnesota.
COOPER: A lot more politics over the next two hours.
But up next, storm alert. We are tracking Hurricane Gustav, which has already left a path of destruction and death throughout the Caribbean. If it strikes here in New Orleans, is the city ready? Or could we see the same chaos after Katrina on this, the third anniversary of Katrina? We're live in New Orleans. Stay tuned.
COOPER: A funeral ceremony with jazz, a tradition here in New Orleans. Today, this one for the still-unidentified victims of Hurricane Katrina. Of course, this the third anniversary of that storm, with Hurricane Gustav building at the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico.
Gustav is now a Category 1 storm, but it could become a Category 3 as it churns across the Caribbean toward the Gulf Coast, potentially making landfall early next week.
Chad Myers, our senior weather expert, is tracking Gustav.
Chad, where is this monster?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, right over the Cayman Islands, basically. And now the updated forecast. The 11 p.m. is already in, Anderson, and it's forecast to be a Category 4 at some point in its lifetime. And we'll get to that, and I'll show you the track in a second.
The storm did move over Jamaica. It moved over Haiti, tore itself up a little bit over those islands and over the nations there. Other than that, it is back into very warm and very deep water. There are the winds there for you. Winds are 80 miles per hour, and the pressure is 974.
That just means it's getting -- it's getting lower. The pressure is getter deeper, kind of like a Nor'easter or a snowstorm. The lower the pressure, the bigger the storm. And this storm is growing now, and it's expected to turn into a Category 3 even before getting to Cuba tomorrow. And then by, yes, 8 p.m. Sunday night, a Category 4 and 135 miles per hour.
Now, the difference is I've stopped this before we actually made landfall. This would really be Monday night now, but it could be left and it could be right, depending on how it goes.
But the very latest models will take -- and tell you that almost every model that I can find that I know is accurate is west of New Orleans. Nothing now east of New Orleans. Not that you can take a deep breath, Pensacola; it's still possible. You're still in the potential cone. But I think you're in less of the cone than the western side of this cone.
So maybe we draw a line through Lafayette, maybe up through Lake Charles. But that still leaves New Orleans, Anderson, on the wrong side, the bad side of the eye. There is no good side of the eye at 130 miles per hour, to be really very honest.
So if this wind is blowing the water back into Lake Pontchartrain, we're going to have that same problem we had with Katrina, the water piling up and that water trying to come over those levees that you're basically sitting on or standing on right now.
COOPER: So when do we know what we know -- what we will know? At what point will the city be able to make a determination, all right, we would start doing mandatory evacuations? I mean, some parishes, you know, are going to be doing it tomorrow. When is this thing exactly going to hit? Do we know?
MYERS: We know that there is a big jet plane. It's called the G-4, the Gulf Stream 4. It's not the hurricane hunter that flies through the eye and we see all those ugly pictures with people getting jostled around. This jet flies back and forth across the entire gulf, 40,000 feet high. It doesn't care where the hurricane is. It's dropping little dropsans (ph), little weather machines that are going down and splashing into the ocean so that we get a feel for what the winds are like here.
We don't have any observations here. There's nobody here to send up a weather balloon. It's a big ocean, the Gulf of Mexico. But with this Gulf Stream going back and forth, dropping those weather balloons, almost like upside-down weather balloons, going down instead of up, then we'll have an idea. The models will be much better by morning.
And I think you're going to wake up tomorrow morning, find out what the hurricane center says at 5 a.m. and get a really good deal. I would say you're less than 100 miles worth of error by tomorrow morning. We will know that much better because of this, well, fairly expensive, but we talk about it all the time, this hurricane hunter aircraft flying through the storm to give us more data, give them accuracy of the models, a much higher rate of success.
COOPER: Great. We'll check in with Chad in the next hour, as well. Chad, thanks.
Despite the upbeat assessments from elected officials here in New Orleans about the changes that have been made post-Katrina, and there have been many, until this city is put to the test, no one really knows if it's truly ready. Gustav could be that test. Levees have been shored up, shelters stocked. Evacuations could begin tomorrow.
But the shattering fury of Katrina, which wrote one of the most shameful chapters in our history, is never too far from anyone's mind.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This government will learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina.
COOPER (voice-over): President Bush three years ago in New Orleans' Jackson Square, promising the city would be rebuilt bigger, better, stronger. Gustav may put his promise to the test.
New Orleans is protected by a series of levees and canals to channel water out of the city. Then it's pumped into Lake Pontchartrain. For three years now, the Army Corps of Engineers say they've been working to shore up those levees, adding gates to prevent storm surge and new pumps where the canal meets the lake.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The levee system here in New Orleans is stronger than it's ever been. We've still got a ways to go.
COOPER (on camera): This massive levee here in the Lower Ninth Ward has been rebuilt after the old one breached during Hurricane Katrina, causing massive damage throughout this whole area.
Now, the old levy wall here was 12 feet. The new one is 15 feet high and actually extends deep underground. We're told it's stronger, but real questions remain about how strong these levees really are. There have been water seepages around this levee and others throughout the city, and the work isn't scheduled to be completed until 2011.
(voice-over) Rainwater from the city is drained into 200 miles of canals and then pumped into Lake Pontchartrain through the largest pumping station in the country at the New Orleans Sewage and Water Board.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're ready Sunday night, Christmas night, any time. The stations are always -- these large stations are always manned.
COOPER: During Katrina, the pumps worked, but the power failed. Now they say the pumps can empty about a half inch of water out of the city every hour.
Pitiful planning and poor corporation were the downfall of elected officials after Katrina. Now a new FEMA director, a new staff in the mayor's office and a new governor seem to be on the same page.
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: Our state, our local, our federal government is much better prepared than it's ever been before for a storm. But we, as Louisianans, still have personal responsibility.
COOPER: If the call for mandatory evacuation comes, there will be no shelter of last resort in New Orleans: no Superdome, no convention center. The city says they can move out 30,000 people. Buses have arrived to move those without the means. There will be 17 pickup stops around the city to take residents to shelters in northern Louisiana, and Amtrak has trains ready to move 7,000 elderly three hours north to Jackson, Mississippi.
RAY NAGIN, MAYOR, NEW ORLEANS: Ladies and gentlemen, in my estimation, I think we're ready for this threat. COOPER: Another promise, another storm. Let's hope this time New Orleans is ready.
COOPER: Coming up, preparations for Gustav get personal, as we talk to one of New Orleans' most famous residents, James Carville. Does he think the city is ready for another hurricane?
And investigators want to know what caused an explosion on that Qantas flight last month, but there is still another big question that needs to be answered. The latest on the investigation when 360 continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NAGIN: This is a national disaster. Get every doggone Greyhound bus line in the country and get their asses moving to New Orleans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was, of course, Mayor Ray Nagin on -- just a couple days after Hurricane Katrina hit three years ago. This is the third anniversary. James Carville has joined me here.
James, you live here with your family. How concerned are you about this storm? what are you doing?
CARVILLE: I'm watching it. And I'm going to send my daughters and the dogs to Washington. You know, right now, if it goes as planned, I'll probably ride it out here in the house in New Orleans.
But you know, it's something that you live with here. It's the greatest city in the world. I love living here. You know, we, by the way -- before Katrina, we survived any number of storms. It's pretty much the norm here. And unfortunately, the levees didn't hold in that. So I'm optimistic.
COOPER: Do you believe the city is ready? Do you believe these levees -- we're right here. They've built these new gates that are going to try to stop the storm surge.
CARVILLE: You know, I hope so. I mean, we won't know until they test it. I think that there -- I think that there's been a lot of coordination here. They're going to get a lot of people out.
The Katrina evacuation was actually very successful. Like 80 percent of the people were evacuated. I think they'll be fine. Hopefully, the storm has turned a little bit more to the west. But you have these things, growing up in Louisiana. You watch them, you have to be respectful for them, but by and large, we've had a lot of them.
COOPER: About 100,000 people didn't have access to cars before. They're saying now about 30,000 people, they say, they have plans to get them out. They've got buses. We'll see what happens.
CARVILLE: Remember, there's a lot fewer people in the city now than there was in -- three years ago. So that would help, too. But hopefully, you know, the levees will hold. A lot of people that I've talked to, by the way, you know, will probably stay if it doesn't get -- if it doesn't get any worse. If it gets worse, you get out.
COOPER: All right. James Carville, thanks very much. Appreciate it.
Coming up, our "Shot of the Day." But first, let's get caught up with some of tonight's other headlines. Gary Tuchman joins us with a "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Gary.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anderson.
Rapidly rising flood waters in northeast India are threatening two million people near the border with Nepal. The flooding is the worst in generations. Nearly a quarter million homes have been destroyed, and tens of thousands have been forced to flee.
An exploding oxygen tank is blamed for the blast that blew a gaping hole on a Qantas flight last month, but investigators still don't know why it happened. No one was injured on the jet, which made an emergency landing.
And Hurricane Gustav has already slammed into gas prices along the Gulf Coast. Residents in some coastal cities in Mississippi have seen prices rise more than nine cents a gallon. In Alabama and here in Louisiana, there's a spike of three cents a gallon.
I know you feel the same way, Anderson. Very eerie feeling when you're walking around this city. You feel so badly for these people here.
COOPER: Yes, I know. A lot of people watching this storm. We'll continue with Gary throughout this hour.
Up next, a messy, fun and massive food fight. That is our "Shot of the Day," on a light note.
And on the top of the hour, the surprise pick, our breaking news. New details tonight on McCain's running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. We are live all throughout this next hour. Stay tuned.
COOPER: Gary, time for the "Shot of the Day." Here's what you get when you combine more than 100 tons of tomatoes, 40,000 Spaniards, and a massive food fight.
Tens of thousands of people took part in this mega mess in the village of Bunol -- I'm not sure if that's how you actually say it -- this week. It sort of looks like Mardi Gras a little bit. Some sported swimming goggles to protect their eyes. Others used tennis rackets to actually smack the tomatoes. It is, of course, an annual event and an annual kicker for lots of newscasts all around the world. There you go.
TUCHMAN: I don't think we'll need (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. That's right.
You can see all the most recent shots on our Web site, AC360.com. You can also see other segments from the program, read the blog, check out the "Beat 360" picture. You can have your laundry done there, all sorts of things. Actually, you can't have your laundry done.
Up next, the pick that is rocking the political world. More on the repercussions from our breaking story: John McCain's new running mate, Governor Sarah Palin.
Also tonight, this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Thirty-eight million people saw the speech.