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Interview With Michelle Obama; New Allegations Emerge in Texas Polygamist Case

Aired April 30, 2008 - 22:00   ET


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, everybody, a steely tough Michelle Obama up close, speaking out for the first time since her husband started dealing with the fury of a pastor scorned. She talks about the controversy, how her husband finally put the hammer down about race, about the possibility of Hillary Clinton as a running mate.
First, though, we want to quickly get you up to speed on all of today's campaign developments less than a week before Indiana and the North Carolina primaries.

First, what Obama supporters are spinning as good news for their candidate -- a report on citing unnamed insiders that congressional superdelegates have made up their minds and have notified the respective campaigns.

In fact, each candidate today split nine superdelegates between them, five for him, four for her. Senator Clinton, meantime, rolled up to a gas station photo-op in South Bend, Indiana. She again pushed for a summer holiday from the federal gasoline tax, something John McCain also supports and Barack Obama is calling a gimmick.

As for the race itself, according to our new national poll of polls, Senator Obama leads narrowly, within the margin of error. She's ahead in Indiana. He's ahead in North Carolina, but, at this point, anything could change the dynamic. Everything matters, high stakes and high pressure, as Michelle Obama and Caroline Kennedy sat down tonight with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Michelle Obama, Caroline Kennedy, thank you very much for joining us here in Boonville, Indiana.

I know this is a place where you want to introduce -- or perhaps reintroduce -- Barack Obama to people who don't really know him. We're going to talk about the reason you're here, a host of other issues.

But, obviously, we're going to get to the news first.

Michelle, obviously, the headlines here, Reverend Wright. You have known him for more than 20 years. He officiated your wedding. He baptized your children. When he went up there before the national press and said your husband criticized him because he's a politician, because that's what they do to get elected, did he betray you?

MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: You know, I don't think it's helpful to sort of label it.

I think, you know, Barack -- I was proud of the statement that he made yesterday. It was a tough thing for him to do. It's a painful situation to be in. But I think that Barack's race speech was one of the most powerful, emotional speeches that he's written in his life.

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

I was proud of him then. I'm proud of him today. And we want to move forward. I think that's part of what Barack's speech said in Philadelphia, was that we have to let go of these old wounds, these old labels, these old hurts, because they just don't solve problems. And we're hearing from the American voters that they're tired of it, too.

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

MALVEAUX: Let me ask you about this. I mean, how painful was that? This is somebody who you confided in.

M. OBAMA: Right.

MALVEAUX: And, at one point, obviously, you have been misunderstood. You have been taken out of context. At what point did you stop empathizing with -- with your pastor, and you thought, here's something that's over the line; it's over the top; this is it? How did you make that decision?

M. OBAMA: With all due respect, we're just -- we're moving forward.

I think, you know, Barack was so clear and has been so open about this issue, and he speaks for me as well. And I think the timing and sort of the details and the process is -- you know, it just isn't relevant to what we're trying to do.

So, yes, it was painful. Yes, it's been difficult. But I think that, you know, the more difficult thing that this country is facing is really trying to move politics into conversations around problems and problem-solving. And that's what we're going to be pretty determined to do. And I think, you know, this is about all I'm going to say on the issue. And I think that, you know, we're going to close this chapter and move into the next phase of this election.

So, with that, I'm hoping that we will talk about something else. MALVEAUX: There are some people who I spoke with who have been trying, on your behalf, on your husband's behalf, to close this and to go to him and say, look, you know, this is enough. Enough is enough.

One of the people I spoke with said, we're trying to establish a detente here.

But they also describe him as someone who is vindictive, and perhaps there is no buttoning up when it comes to whether or not he's going to come out and talk again.

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

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

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



MALVEAUX: Well, you know, you...


MALVEAUX: You're nicknamed the rock behind Barack. And there's -- there's a reason. I know -- I know you can handle all of -- all of the questions that we're going to throw at you, Caroline.

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

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

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

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

And, as a parent, I know my own children and so many other younger people across this country have been turned on to politics, inspired. And I think that, in families, that's a really powerful thing. And I think it has inspired their parents and grandparents as well. And it's a great thing for me to be part of that effort, because it reminds me of the way that people felt about my father and my uncle. And I met a lot of people here today that talked about that.

MALVEAUX: Is there anything that needs to be doing differently? The exit polls from Pennsylvania showing, with the female vote, that 68 percent went for Clinton among white women, and 32 percent went for Obama.

Do you think that there's a way that he can convey his message that resonates a bit more clear with that -- with that group?

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

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


BROWN: And Suzanne Malveaux is joining us live right now from Boonville.

And, Suzanne, that was a fascinating interview. We're going to go to more of it in just a moment.

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

MALVEAUX: Well, you know certainly there was a sense that obviously this was painful -- and she actually acknowledged that -- this Reverend Wright controversy.

But you really get the sense from her that they are ready, ready to move on here, that this is not something that, when you -- actually, when you cover Obama and you see, it's not something that really comes up with a lot of the voters here. And she acknowledges that it's -- it's not necessarily something that is in their control. They can't speculate about what Reverend Wright is going to do. They certainly hope that the media moves on. That is something that she stressed as well, that they are turning the page here. So, they want to make sure that voters in Indiana, in North Carolina, are really paying much more attention to what he's talking about when it comes to the gas prices, and home foreclosures, that type of thing.

So, there's really a genuine sense here that they have dealt with the issue, that he expressed himself, that he renounced and denounced his former pastor, and that there are better things, things that they want to talk about with the voters. They certainly hope that they can move forward.

BROWN: Suzanne Malveaux live with us right now.

And we should mention that Caroline Kennedy, by the way, has endorsed Barack Obama and is campaigning for him across the country.

Up next: Michelle Obama on the role of race.

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

Also, troubling new allegations about the abuse of boys on Warren Jeffs' polygamist ranch.

That's tonight on 360.


BROWN: Up close tonight: Michelle Obama.

Before the break, you saw a candidate's wife making it perfectly clear that her husband had already said everything that needed to be said about the Wright affair.

The interview continued, though, with another tough topic: race.

Here's that part of Suzanne Malveaux's talk with Michelle Obama.


MALVEAUX: Michelle, there's been talk about really winning over the blue-collar white families in the contests ahead.

There's an 800-pound elephant in the room, too, which is that this race, a lot of people see as becoming more racially polarized. Do you think that, at a certain point, Barack Obama can work as hard as he can, and he can give him message to people, but there's always going to be a group where they're going to look at him, and they're not going to give their support because of his race, because he's black?

M. OBAMA: You know, we're focused on people who are ready to turn the page.

And I think that what we're seeing in this race, because we also have to look at this from a big picture and look at the states that Barack has won. I mean, you know, we can't just narrow this race down to the last couple of contests, because Barack has won in Utah and Missouri and Georgia, and Alaska, and, you know, states where there are many black people, and states where there are no black people, and states where there are Republicans and progressives.

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

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

And that takes time. But with time comes familiarity and -- and growth. And we're confident that the American people are ready to move to a different place. And we just have to be confident and give them the benefit of the doubt, that they get all the information and we sort of come out of the muck, that they will be ready to embrace the truth.

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

M. OBAMA: Yes, absolutely.

I mean, let's look where we are. Barack has raised the most money. This is a guy that is not supposed to be here. Barack is the underdog. That's true. Yet, in that position, he's raised the most money. He's won the most number of the popular vote. He's won more states, and he's won it in all kinds of states. He's ahead in pledged delegates.

He's narrowing the gap every day in the superdelegate race. And there's still an energy and a passion among his -- his supporters. And people are coming on board every single day.

So, yes, absolutely, he can win. And, yes, absolutely, I think he's the person that needs to lead this country.

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


MALVEAUX: Is it possible?

M. OBAMA: You know, that's Barack's -- that's going to be Barack's call.

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

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

MALVEAUX: This has been a very long campaign of 16 months. Barack Obama says on the trail -- he kind of jokes, and he says, people -- babies have been born, and they're walking now...

M. OBAMA: Yes. Yes.

MALVEAUX: ... and he's still running in this race. What is the most trying, what is the most difficult thing about -- about being in the race now, the toll that it's taken on your family?

M. OBAMA: You know, the toughest thing, you know, for Barack and I is when we're not together, when he doesn't see his girls.

But both of us knew that this was going to be part of the sacrifice, and the thing that keeps us going is understanding that we're in this because of kids, not just our kids, but all the kids that we see out there, bright, shining balls of potential who are now in underfunded schools, who don't have health care, whose parents don't have solid jobs.

So, the minute we start feeling glum or glib or frustrated, we keep our eye on that goal, because if, through this limited struggle that we're facing -- and it is minor -- if out of that comes something grander, and we get in a place where we're a more unified nation, where people aren't focused on the small stuff, and we're looking at big-picture, brave, courageous approaches to our problems, and people, you know, are ready to roll up their sleeves and engage again, all that sacrifice and compromise that we make means nothing in the broader perspective, in the broader picture.

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

M. OBAMA: You know, we have been in politics before.

And I joke, we grew up in Chicago. Chicago politics, it is tough. Politics is tough. And there is nothing fair about it. So, you know, Barack -- the one thing Barack knows is that, when you are seeking one of the most powerful positions in the world, you have got to be able to take it. And you have got to, you know, know that the problems that are coming at you are going to be big, and they're going to require emotional fortitude and courage, and stepping out, and hurting feelings, and a whole range of things.

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

And let me tell you, as an unobjective observer who is sometimes very critical of my husband, he's done a phenomenal job. He's remained cool, focused, clear. Hasn't been perfect, but that's one thing I promised you, was that he wasn't going to be perfect. And he's said that time and time again. Perfectionism -- what we're looking for, we're looking for honesty. We're looking for openness, commitment, and passion. And he's got it.


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

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


MALVEAUX: But of them is allergic to the dog.

M. OBAMA: There are hypoallergenic dogs. And she has effectively run off on the computer every breed of every hypoallergenic dog.

So, you know, those are the ones in our family who deserve the reward, because these are two little girls who didn't choose this. And they don't see their dad.

MALVEAUX: How are they holding up?

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

And they have just been uncomplaining individuals. They -- this is why we look to kids for our model, you know? That's -- we would do a lot better in this nation if we would just look at the kids and how they handle this stuff. They don't get bogged down in the small stuff.

So, those girls deserve a dog, a horse, a pony.


M. OBAMA: We're not going to do all that.


M. OBAMA: But I think...

MALVEAUX: They might ask for it.


M. OBAMA: Yes, I -- you know, they're allergic to hay, so...

MALVEAUX: Well, that's a good thing.

M. OBAMA: Right.


MALVEAUX: You're lucky on that one.

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

MALVEAUX: Michelle, thank you so much for joining us.

M. OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Caroline, thank you very much. KENNEDY SCHLOSSBERG: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Appreciate it.


BROWN: And Suzanne Malveaux joining us once again.

And, Suzanne, this was a lengthy interview. You spent a lot of time with her. You guys covered a lot of ground. What did you find about her to be the most striking thing to you?

MALVEAUX: I think she's very determined. I think she really is very confident in her husband and their ability to move forward.

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

And I think just talking to her in a lot of different issues, a lot of areas, it seems as if she hasn't lost that sense of confidence. She hasn't lost that steam, that they do feel like, yes, it's been a long process, it's been a difficult process, but they see the end here. And they don't have any illusions about which way it's going to go, but they are confident.

And they feel like they're working hard to reach out at some of these voters. There have been some missteps along the way. She acknowledges that, hey, he's not going to be a perfect candidate. It hasn't been a perfect process. But they do feel like they have accomplished some good up and to this point, that, no matter what happens, that they have done some good.

BROWN: All right, Suzanne, well, a fascinating interview.

Suzanne Malveaux from Boonville, Indiana, tonight -- Suzanne, thanks.

And you can watch Suzanne's interview again on the 360 blog. Go to, and hit the link. We're going to post it shortly after the program.

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

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

And, get ready, Erica, darling.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes, my dear, here I am. BROWN: Here's tonight's "Beat 360": Toyota's violin-playing robot performing at a design showcase in Tokyo.

Here's the caption from our staff winner, graphics guru John Newhouse (ph): "Tonight's performance seemed a bit robotic."

All right. Think you can do better?

HILL: I couldn't. I couldn't come up with anything today. So, I'm impressed with no matter what it is.


BROWN: All right. Go to Send us your entry. And we will announce the winner at the end of the program.


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

And joining me now, CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger, also Dee Dee Myers, President Clinton's -- President Bill Clinton's former White House press secretary, and the author of "Why Women Should Rule the World." Also with us, with me here in New York, Ed Rollins, Republican strategist and former chairman of Mike Huckabee's national presidential campaign.

Welcome to all of you.


BROWN: Gloria, let me start with you.

As we just heard Michelle Obama discuss the Obamas' relationship with Reverend Wright, let's listen.


M. OBAMA: With all due respect, we're just -- we're moving forward.

I think, you know, Barack was so clear and has been so open about this issue, and he speaks for me as well. And I think the timing and sort of the details and the process is -- you know, it just isn't relevant to what we're trying to do.

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


BROWN: Today, Obama said that he hopes the Wright issue won't become a perpetual distraction.

Gloria, how does the Obama campaign get back on message?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I think what you saw Michelle Obama doing was essentially saying that, that it -- that this issue is over; we need to move beyond it; I'm not going to talk about it anymore. She said, my husband has said everything, and I stand by his words, and we're going to talk about issues like education, and issues that the -- that the voters care about.

This is a campaign that does not want to deal with the Reverend Wright anymore.

BROWN: Dee Dee, Senator Hillary Clinton was on "The O'Reilly Factor" tonight. She commented on the Wright issue. Let's listen to what she had to say.


BILL O'REILLY, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL'S "THE O'REILLY FACTOR": Can you believe this Reverend Wright guy? Can you believe this guy?

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

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

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

O'REILLY: No, no, no, no. You're an American citizen. I'm an American citizen. He's an American citizen, Reverend Wright. What do you think when you hear a fellow American citizen say that stuff about America? What do you think?

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


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

MYERS: I don't think she'll address it unless she gets asked about it by the news media, which of course, is entirely possible. But she went on to say in that interview that she -- those weren't the kinds of issues she was hearing about from voters in either Indiana or North Carolina that she wanted to talk about health care and gas prices and things like that, just as Michelle Obama had said earlier.

I think it's frustrating to the candidates when these issues come up and they're not hearing about it on the campaign trail. And yet, they keep getting asked about it and it keeps dominating the headlines.

But you know, as Gloria said, that's sort of the way the game is played a at this point and both teams have to deal with it. It's frustrating.

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

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

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

I think the bottom line here is the damage that's going to be done to him has been done. If Reverend Wright jumps back into the game and wants to basically continue to be a media show, then it will be continually asked. If he goes away, which I doubt he will, but if he does, then I think to a certain extent you get back on message.

The whole game here is always to try and stay on your message and don't get pulled away. Something like this pulls you off your message.

BROWN: Gloria, Clinton supporter Evan Bayh said he's concerned Republicans will try to swiftboat Obama on the Wright issue. How concerned are super delegates that this is going to haunt him?

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

What if Obama is the nominee? What does this tell you about Barack Obama's values, who he is and where he comes from?

And in terms of super delegates, you know, all the Clinton campaign needs to do right now, and they're doing it, is raise questions about his electability, raise questions about whether voters believe that he shares their values. That's an important thing to voters in a presidential race, and if they can raise doubts about that, doubts about his electability, that's going to -- that's going to help the Clinton campaign.

I just was e-mailing somebody who's counting super delegates for Barack Obama. He said to me, you know, they got a bunch today, and they expect to get some more publicly announced later this week.

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

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

So it's a big, important step for him to win there. I think one of the things that's happened as a result of this controversy is that expectations have been lowered for him. You know, if he loses now, it won't be good for him, but I think it will seem more in keeping with expectations, whereas I think it's incumbent on Hillary Clinton to win. And -- well, to win. It's a pretty close race there right now, but it's a difficult few days going into these next two primaries.

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

ROLLINS: I totally agree. I mean, I think one of the important things he did yesterday, is he made a very tough decision. A president has to make tough decisions every single day. And this is a man who's been untested in the political arena. It sounds very strange, a guy who's run president for the last 16 months.

But he got to be a state senator by -- almost by default, a U.S. senator by default. He was serving for less than 18 months when he started running for president. So he's not been tested by Republicans. He's not been tested until really now.

She has shown her toughness. She has basically risen to the occasion. He has to show how tough he is. Obviously, if he's going to be the commander in chief, he's going to be president of the United States, you've got to show toughness and an ability to make decisions.

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

BROWN: All right. We've got to end it there. Gloria Borger, Dee Dee Myers and Ed Rollins, many thanks to you all. Appreciate it.

ROLLINS: Thank you very much.

BROWN: And a program note. You can catch the likely Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING" at 6 a.m. Eastern Time.

Up next on 360, you saw the Michelle Obama interview. Now the story behind the women -- or the woman, rather, Senator Obama calls his rock. Also ahead, some "Raw Politics" with the Huffington Post's Arianna Huffington. That's coming up.



MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF BARACK OBAMA: There's still an energy and a passion among his supporters, and people are coming on board every single day. So, yes, absolutely he can win. And yes, absolutely, I think he's the person that needs to lead this country.


BROWN: A passionate Michelle Obama. We have been hearing a lot from the candidate's wife tonight, but it's not just what she says that matters, of course, it's who she is, where she came from, and how a very private life became so public.

Up close now, here's CNN's Randi Kaye.



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

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 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 this 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?

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 quite 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.


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

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


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

That is one of the topics we want to talk about tonight with Arianna Huffington, the always outspoken cofounder of the Huffington Post. And she's also the author of the new book, "Right is Wrong," and she's got plenty to say on the presidential race and a whole lot more.

Arianna is joining me now in "Raw Politics."

Welcome to you.


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

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

BROWN: Be emotional.

HUFFINGTON: ... emotional, and he was. And he did the right thing, distancing himself from this highly narcissistic pastor. And now I think it's up for the media, Campbell, to put it behind them, because otherwise we're going to have a sort of Reverend Wright watch every day.

BROWN: Fair point. Earlier tonight, too, though, I wanted to mention as the Reverend Wright watch sort of continues here, we heard Michelle Obama respond to the issue, to questions about it.

And she said that it was painful, that it was difficult, but as a campaign they are moving forward or trying to move forward. Beyond the media staying semi-focused on it, are they able to? Will -- will Senator Clinton allow them to?

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

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

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

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

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

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

HUFFINGTON: Yes. I write about that in the book. I write how hard it is. Because in 2000, I traveled with him, as you probably did, on the Straight Talk Express in New Hampshire. I fell in love with him like many in the media did, because he was a straight talker, because he spoke the truth. He's not doing that anymore.

Imagine the man who was tortured himself voting against a bill that now allows the CIA to practice torture.

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

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

BROWN: Arianna Huffington. The new book is called "Right is Wrong." It's good to see you. Thanks for being with us. Appreciate it.

HUFFINGTON: Thank you so much.

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

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


BROWN: He's back. David Blaine attempts another daring record underwater. It is our "Shot of the Day," but first Erica Hill joins us with a "360 News and Business Bulletin."

Hi, Erica.

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

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

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

The Fed today cutting interest rates again, this time by a quarter point, which brings them down to 2 percent. That is the lower point, Campbell, in nearly four years.

BROWN: And now for "Beat 360." This morning, we posted a picture on our Web site, like we do every day. And now it is time to see if you were able to outdo our staff and come up with a better caption.

Tonight's picture shows a violin-playing robot designed by Toyota , performing in Tokyo, Japan. The robot has 17 joints in both arms, which give it the precise control needed to actually play the violin.

Toyota aims to develop robot technology to assist nursing and medical care by the year 2010. That's pretty quick.

HILL: That's right over the horizon there.

BROWN: Pretty amazing tough.

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

HILL: Valiant effort.

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

I liked it.

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


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

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

HILL: Anyway.

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

HILL: It does help.

BROWN: As always, you can check out the captions that didn't quite make the cut on our Web site at -- or dot -- yes, dot com slash 360. OK, got it right. There you OK.

HILL: So we couldn't let you go, of course, without tonight's "Shot." David Blaine back for the honor tonight and underwater again. Why you ask? Oh, we could be here all night with that one. So how about we just say it's to set a new record?

The magician turned endurance specialist appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" today, where he held his breath in a tank for a record- breaking 17 minutes 4 seconds. Insane. The former record: 16 minutes 32 seconds.

The attempt had everyone nervous, especially Oprah. In the end, though, Blaine was fine. No idea what his next stunt will be. But something tells me, Campbell, there will likely be cameras, perhaps some publicity and some sort of death-defying feat.

BROWN: What possesses someone to want to do that?

HILL: I don't get it, I have to say, but apparently, it's made him a nice living.

If you see some amazing or strange video, tell us about it. The Web site, of course,

And while you're there, a reminder, we have until tomorrow, people. Vote for us for our Webby award. We're nominated in the celebrity fan category. We need your support. Last I checked, we were No. 2. We want to be No. 1.

The link's on our home page, and you can help us write our acceptance speech, if you help us win. Remember, there is a five-word limit at the Webby awards.

BROWN: All right.

Still ahead, everybody, Michelle Obama speaks out for the first time since her husband denounced his former pastor in no uncertain terms. The CNN exclusive interview just ahead on 360.