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Encore: Up Close: The Next President

Aired July 18, 2008 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, a special 360 -- "The Next President: Up Close."
We know one of these men, Barack Obama or John McCain, will be the next president. And either Michelle Obama or Cindy McCain will be the next first lady. But who are these people and how did they get to this point just one election from winning the White House?

Over the next hour, we're going to take an extended look at their lives and the challenges and the controversies they all have faced and overcome to get to this point. We hope you learn some new things about these four people, each on a historic journey.

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

And John McCain, who would be the oldest commander-in-chief if elected; like Obama, he has had his share of battles, including those against his own party. Will McCain be the one to take the oath of office?

Those are the candidates and these are their spouses, of course thrust into the national spotlight.

Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain; outspoken, passionate champions of their husbands; both also under a microscope for what they have said and done.

Let's begin with Barack Obama. Born to a mother from Kansas and a father from Kenya, his path to this point is remarkable and not just because of his background. Not too long ago, few people outside of Illinois knew his name. But then came one moment and one speech when he grabbed the attention of the party and the country.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COOPER: When Obama was 2, his father won a scholarship to study at Harvard. He left his young family behind and returned only once, when Barack was 10. It was Obama's mother's influence as much as his father's absence that would shape his life.

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

COOPER: When Obama was 5, his mother remarried an Indonesian man and a year later moved the family to Jakarta.

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

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

He saw a lot of poverty. What kind of the impact did that have?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


COOPER: Up next, Obama's awakening, the education that challenged him, the experience that changed him and the love that transformed him.

And later, John McCain from POW, to presidential candidate, the story you may not know, coming up.


COOPER: Welcome back to this "360" special, "Up Close: The Next President."

We're spending the hour focusing on the candidates as people and the forces that shaped them on their journeys toward the White House.

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


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

JERRY KELLMAN, FORMER BOSS, DEVELOPING COMMUNITIES PROJECT: Anybody in their early 20s is trying to work out a lot of identity issues and Barack was no stranger to that. Barack wanted to live in two worlds in a society that up until that point was telling you, "No, you choose. You're going to live in a black world or a white world."

COOPER: Obama sought out the more politically active black students and after years of trying to blend in as Barry, he embraced his given African name Barack. Still restless, two years later he transferred to Columbia University.

KELLMAN: Barack was a chronic underachiever in high school and his first years of college out in California. And then he made this decision which kind of clicked in, which was in his voice, his mom saying you have all these gifts. Are you going to use them or not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COOPER: But they stayed together through law school.

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

COOPER: Obama would go on to become the first African-American president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think people can say that my election symbolizes some progress, at least within the small confines of the legal community. I think it's real important to keep the focus on the broader world out there.

MACK: It wasn't just that we had had our first African-American president at the Harvard Law Review. That would have been cause for celebration. But that it was because it was Barack. That people saw him as somebody special. COOPER: Obama graduated from magna cum laude from Harvard in 1991. He went to work for this civil rights law firm in Chicago and finally started to put down roots. Joining a community, a church, even finding a neighborhood barbershop where he still goes today. He also married Michelle Robinson.

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

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

In Reverend Wright's church he found a community of African-Americans that he felt a part of.


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

MENDELL: I think so. I think both of those things. He's also an extraordinarily intelligent and charismatic guy and Obama was drawn to that. This guy had an extraordinary influence on Obama and probably in a positive way.

COOPER: 12 years ago in 1996, Obama began his political career. It was hardly the easy road you might imagine.

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

COOPER: Next, highs and lows. The crushing defeat for Obama and the tough political lesson he would use to skyrocket in politics.

Also, the women alongside the men. The compelling stories of Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain coming up on this special edition of "360."



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


COOPER: Winning one race, hoping to claim another. That was Barack Obama on June 3rd in St. Paul, Minnesota, at his victory rally after defeating Hillary Clinton to become the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Will he be the next president of the United States or will it be John McCain?

We're profiling the candidates tonight and their wives.

We started with Obama, telling you about his political successes and setbacks. For a man who some described as calm and relaxed, he's had his share of rocky moments. Take a look.


B. OBAMA: The intent of this Bill --

COOPER: It was just 12 years ago, 1996 when Obama won an Illinois state senate seat.

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

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

COOPER: It gave him a power base and helped him pass ethics legislation and a law making it mandatory to videotape capital crime interrogations. After only three years in the state senate, Obama ran for congress against a popular incumbent.

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

COOPER: He did it any way and lost.

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

COOPER: Four years later he timed it right, running for United States senate. He won by a land slide.

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

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

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

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

COOPER: And yet despite his success, Michelle and Barack Obama worried about their two young daughters, Malia Ann and Natasha. JUDSON MINER, FORMER BOSS, MINER, BARNHILL & GALLAND: I think the hardest issues that he struggled with were how to balance all the things he wanted to do with his family which was always enormously important.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COOPER: In fact, Obama had served less than half of his term as senator when he announced --

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

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

That's Barack Obama's journey to the White House.

What about his challenger, John McCain? If you think you know McCain's story, you're in for a few surprises. Like Obama, we have new details to tell you about details that turned a navy pilot into a presidential candidate.

We begin with the day in 1967 when McCain's plane was shot down over North Vietnam. Here's "360's" Erica Hill.


ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the darkest hour of John McCain's time as a POW in Vietnam, he became his own tormentor, not his captors. In that personal hell, McCain tried to hang himself.

ORSON SWINDLE, FELLOW POW: We all contemplated taking our lives rather than have to go through this pain again or this humiliation again or this betrayal as we saw it again. You know because of what you just went through that you can fail again. And how do you get out of that? The only way out is die.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HILL: At the naval academy in Annapolis, McCain was easily distracted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MCCAIN: And this hearing will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God.


HILL: -- would put John McCain in a place he says was even worst than 5 1/2 years of hell as a POW.


COOPER: Coming up, McCain's darkest time and how hitting rock bottom propelled him toward the presidency. Also standing by his side, Cindy McCain, his adviser and confidante who helps run a big business and who's had her own struggles in life. An up-close look when "360" continues.




COOPER: Veteran, political warrior, presidential candidate. We're taking a closer look at the two White House hopefuls.

We've already told you about Barack Obama's story.

Now we're profiling John McCain. He spent years as a prisoner of war, we all know that, but you may be stunned to learn that incredibly his darkest days he says were yet to come.

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


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

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

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

HILL: McCain and four other senators became known as the Keating Five for their connection to this man, Charles Keating, a developer and a major political donor. He was under federal investigation for his role in the savings and loan collapse. And McCain and the other senators faced accusations of corruption for trying to influence the investigation by meeting with regulators, including William Black.

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

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

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

In 1986, McCain made the move from the House to the Senate and began a quick rise in Washington and within the party. He was even rumored to be on the short list of VP candidates for George H. Bush's 1988 White House bid.

But as quickly as McCain's star rose, it crashed when he became one of the Keating Five. Suddenly, he was connected to the big money and back room politics many voters despise.

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

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

ROBERT TIMBERG, AUTHOR, "JOHN MCCAIN: AN AMERICAN ODYSSEY": He said, this is the worst thing that ever happened to me. And I thought, well, obviously not a very good thing, but it doesn't seem to me quite matches up with 5 1/2 years in a North Vietnamese prison. He said no, this is worse.

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

Cindy McCain has said her addiction to prescription drugs made public in the early '90s was partially due to the stress of the Keating Five affair. As for that affair, McCain maintained any appearance of wrong-doing was deceiving.

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

HILL: Finally, the Ethics Committee found that McCain used "poor judgment."

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

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

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

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

MCCAIN: Please, let me finish.

HILL: John McCain at odds with his own party.


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

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


COOPER: Between the two men, the choices could not be more different. And for a nation deeply divided over many issues, the stakes could not be higher. Before you cast your ballot, you should know everything about the candidates.

We began with Barack Obama, now John McCain.

We already showed you what brought McCain to D.C., but it's a big leap from Washington to the White House. Once again, here's Erica Hill.

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

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

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

HILL: Suddenly, the former POW was the go-to man for national security. By now, McCain was regularly reaching across the aisle to collaborate on everything from environmental regulations to gun control. He was also still pushing for campaign finance reform having partnered with Senator Russell Feingold, a Democrat from Wisconsin.

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

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

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

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

HILL: The blunt approach helped him take New Hampshire. But the momentum barely lasted three weeks. By the time the Republicans hit South Carolina, the race had become one of the nastiest in history.

There were rumors McCain had fathered his daughter, Brigitte, with a black prostitute. In fact, she was adopted from Bangladesh. And a whisper campaign his wife had never really kicked the prescription drug habit she made public in the early '90s.

SWINDLE: He was appalled at some of the stuff they said in South Carolina. It was some of the most disgusting politicking I ever seen in my life.

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

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

HILL: McCain famously shot back.

J. MCCAIN: Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right. HILL: Straight talk that would come to haunt McCain though he would face another battle first, skin cancer. In August of 2000, McCain was diagnosed for a second time with a severe form of the disease and had surgery to remove it.

As for his relationship with the religious right --

J. MCCAIN: Today, it might seen as if the world --

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

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

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

HILL: One of only two Republicans to vote against the Bush tax cuts, McCain now says they need to stay. In 2000, McCain was against overturning Roe V. Wade. Now he says the Supreme Court overstepped its bounds.

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

HILL: Is he sacrificing some things to win?

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

HILL: But it's now McCain gets those voters into buy into his philosophy that may determine his legacy; straight talk from a former POW, fulfilling his cause greater, honoring his family name, or simply the rhetoric of a politician, fighting for his final glory?

Erica Hill, CNN, New York.


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

CNN's Randi Kaye has the revealing portrait Up Close.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KAYE: you'll often find her just a step or two behind her husband. It's where Cindy McCain is most comfortable, on the sidelines. Is she shy?

BETSEY BAYLESS, FRIEND OF THE MCCAINS: Yes. When I first knew her, she was quite shy.

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

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

She graduated from the University of Southern California with a Masters in special education and became a teacher. Love stole her from her students.

In 1979, she met then future senator John McCain at a cocktail party in Hawaii. Cindy was 24, he was 42 though at the time both lied about their ages trying to narrow the 18-year gap.

John McCain was married then, but separated. One month after his divorce, he married Cindy. Their perfect bliss would not last long.

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

But in her husband's absence, Cindy entered one of the darkest periods of her life; a secret addiction and a federal investigation would all come back to haunt them.


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

Plus, Michelle Obama, wife, mother and lawyer; never afraid to speak her mind. When this "360" special continues.




COOPER: Wife, mother and perhaps future first lady. Cindy McCain is her husband's closest advisor and confidante. But her private life became very public when she married the senator. People saw the smiles but not the pain.

Our "Up Close" look at Cindy McCain continues once again, here's Randi Kaye.


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

NANCY COLLINS, HARPER'S BAZAAR: In 1993, her mother walked in one day and said; there's something wrong with you. And she said, yes, there is she broke down and she never took another pill after that.

KAYE: After telling her husband, Cindy went public about her addiction. In 1994, a federal probe further exposed her drug problem. She confessed to stealing pills from the charity she'd started.

Six years later, campaigning for the South Carolina primary, Cindy was painted as a drug addict. There were also stories John McCain had fathered an illegitimate black child. He had not. But in 1993, the couple had adopted a fourth child unexpectedly after an international charity mission.

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

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

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

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

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

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

KAYE: Cindy appears more confident and is having more fun. Their daughter Megan's blog from the trail captures her lighter side. Cindy McCain's second national campaign, maybe this time she's ready for the good and the bad.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Phoenix, Arizona.


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

Here live "Up Close" once again, here's CNN's, Randi Kaye.


B. OBAMA: She is the love of my life, the rock of our household.

KAYE: She is the rock behind this rock star candidate.

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

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

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 everyday.

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

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 is where she first struggled with her identity and ambition. 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 a Chicago law firm. Before long, Barack Obama would enter her life.

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

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

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

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

ROBINSON: I told my sister, I was like, this guy is terrific.

KAYE: 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. Daughters Malia and Sasha are top priority.

M. OBAMAMA: I'm a mother first. And I'm going to be at parent- teacher conferences and I'm going to be 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 fund-raiser and bridge to women, black and white. Michelle insisted her husband quit smoking before she agreed to this campaign and has promised her girls, win or lose, they get a new puppy. But make no mistake; Michelle is in this to win.

Do 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. Astronaut maybe or first woman to swim around the world or 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.


COOPER: We hope you learned something new about the candidates over the last hour and how their personal experiences shaped not only their public lives but also their presidential ambitions.

Thanks for watching.

I'm Anderson Cooper.