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McCain Chooses Alaska Governor as Running Mate; Gulf Coast Braces For Gustav

Aired August 29, 2008 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, a political star is born. John McCain picks an unknown quantity as a running mate, but is the woman who could be a heartbeat away from the presidency ready to be president? Another question confronting Alaska's governor, can she help McCain court women?

And Barack Obama says eight years of Republicans in the White House is enough. We examine whether that and other attack lines will help Senator Obama, all of that and the best political team on television.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Saint Paul, where Republicans are getting ready to hold their convention.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Republicans call her a uniter and a tough maverick. Now that John McCain has picked the Alaska governor, many people want to know a lot more about her. She's the first female ever chosen for a Republican presidential ticket. She's serving her first term as the first-ever female governor of Alaska. And at 44 years old, she's actually younger, two years, that is, younger than two of John McCain's own children.

Here in Saint Paul, Republicans will surely welcome Governor Palin with open arms when they begin their convention on Monday.

Let's go straight to CNN's Ed Henry. He's in Dayton, Ohio.

Ed, you were there for the big announcement earlier today.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Wolf.

Certainly, John McCain is hoping that this move, a surprise move, will electrify his party on the eve of the convention next week in Saint Paul. But I can tell you, this also is a big, big role roll of the dice.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HENRY (voice-over): Trying to underline his maverick image, John McCain made history in Dayton, Ohio, picking only the second female vice presidential candidate ever.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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)

HENRY: An in-your-face move just days after Barack Obama passed over Hillary Clinton as his running mate.

And Sarah Palin was blunt about trying to reel in female voters.

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)

HENRY: But Palin opposes abortion rights, making it unlikely many Clinton supporters will flock to the Republican ticket. Plus, she has far less experience than Clinton on the national stage.

So, this pick, coming on McCain's 72nd birthday, is very risky. McCain, who has repeatedly said a one-term senator is not ready to be commander in chief, is now putting a one-term governor just a heartbeat from the presidency.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Here to reach out, it's -- and he has criticized Barack Obama as not being ready -- to reach out to Sarah Palin, who has no national security experience, no national security exposure, and say, you're my standby, and I'm 72 years old, and I have had bouts with melanoma, I think that's a very large gamble.

HENRY: Expect the McCain camp to showcase photos like this during Palin's visit last year with Alaskan National Guard troops in Kuwait. McCain is also touting her brief executive experience fighting to cut wasteful spending, like the infamous bridge to nowhere.

MCCAIN: She's exactly who I need. She's exactly who this country needs to help me fight...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) MCCAIN: ... to help me fight the same old Washington politics of me first and country second.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Now, with John McCain unexpectedly in basically a dead heat right now with Barack Obama, some Republicans have been counseling him to go someone who is a safe bet, someone like Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty.

But advisers say that in the end McCain calculated that the only way to really break ahead of Obama is to come up with someone bold, to sort of come out with an outside-the-box choice -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He certainly did that. Thanks very much, Ed Henry, in Dayton, where the announcement was made.

Senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden surely are basking in the glow of newspaper headlines like these. Americans woke up to the images of Obama's historic nomination acceptance speech last night in Denver. The candidates themselves also reacting to the day's news that John McCain has selected his vice presidential running mate.

CNN's Jim Acosta is in Beaver, Pennsylvania.

They're commenting on what's going on and they're getting ready, Senator Obama and Senator Biden, to address some supporters. Tell us how they're reacting, Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I can tell you that Senator Barack Obama did call Governor Palin earlier today to congratulate her for being a trailblazing candidate. He wished her luck, but not too much good luck, Senator Obama said to Governor Palin earlier today.

But Barack Obama also had spent part of the day today explaining away one of the statements issued by one of his campaign spokespersons, Bill Burton, who said that Sarah Palin's selection is something to be taken into consideration by voters, saying that she has one of the thinnest foreign policy resumes in history.

Barack Obama, touring a biodiesel plant with his running mate, Joe Biden, started to back away from that statement earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: .. joint statement that was quite complimentary of her. But your campaign put out a statement saying she was very inexperienced, pointing out that she led a city...

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I think that campaigns start getting these hair-triggers. And the statement that Joe and I put out reflects our sentiments.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: So, there you have some words of caution there from Barack Obama to his own campaign staff with respect to how to talk about this pioneering, trailblazing selection that John McCain has made, realizing all too well, Wolf, that they have to be very careful with those -- some of those disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters that are still out there, still saying that they're not quite comfortable with Barack Obama, despite everything that happened at that convention, Barack Obama today sensing today that he needs to be careful about how his campaign responds to this pick.

BLITZER: Jim, Obama and Biden are also wasting no time. They're trying to build their momentum for their convention. They have got a rally that is coming up. Give us the latest on that front.

ACOSTA: Well, you can see this is just being set up behind me. This is going to happen in about an hour-and-a-half from now. It is going to be unlike what we saw last night with those 80,000 screaming Democrats in New York -- or in Denver -- excuse me.

What we are going to see here in Beaver, Pennsylvania, is one of those smaller, more intimate settings, with Barack Obama surrounded by those picnic tables filled with people who were invited into this event. He will have his running mate, Joe Biden, there.

And Joe Biden is basically being his shepherd out here in blue- collar Pennsylvania. We saw that Barack Obama struggled with this portion of the electorate during the primaries when he was running against Hillary Clinton. Joe Biden, as we heard during the Democratic National Convention, not only talked about the fact that he was from Wilmington, Delaware, but also that he was born from Scranton, Pennsylvania.

So, even though Barack Obama is going to be here trying to convince those voters here tonight that they need to go with him and Joe Biden for this ticket, at the same time, we should note just on the other side of the road from this event is another big crowd that has gathered here, perhaps not taking into consideration here that they're not being invited into the event, perhaps a spillover from last night, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, we have got a horse race going on and a sprint to November 4.

Thanks, Jim, very much. We will get back to politics shortly.

But there is another huge story we're following now. Three years to the day after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is back on high alert for Hurricane Gustav.

Let's go to our severe weather expert, Chad Myers. He's tracking this storm. There is an update on what's going on. Chad, update our viewers.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: A storm, Wolf, that will certainly become a major Category 3, maybe Category 4 hurricane.

The update is the pressure is still going down, which means that this storm is still getting stronger as it runs over the Grand Cayman here, Cayman Brac, and also Little Cayman area. Significant wind increase overnight expected, maybe up to 100 miles per hour by morning.

Most of the time, these storms do build in the overnight hours. There is less wind in the overnight hours to tear it up, less shear, as we call it. So, we will see that this evening and probably into tomorrow morning, big-time puffing up of the pressures and also of the wind speeds. That right there hard to read, 125 miles per hour, though, in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. That could be plus or minus 15 miles per hour one way or the other, especially with gusts.

Pensacola, you're still not out of the woods yet. You're still kind of in the cone. But, Houston, I would think, probably more in the cone. And why? Because the latest models we're seeing, the computers that generate what they think is going to happen, start beginning to turn this storm to the west in the last part of the track.

And if it turns left, it would miss New Orleans. Great news there. But there is a big city right there called Houston that could be in the way of a Category 3, or, for that matter, better hurricane -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And the best estimate right now, Chad, what day might that happen, wherever it hits the coast?

MYERS: I think the earliest it could possibly hit would be noon on Monday. And that would be because New Orleans is here, Louisiana, a shorter distance. It could be as late as Tuesday afternoon, because you notice it has to go a farther distance to get to Houston, so Monday into Tuesday, for sure.

BLITZER: All right, Monday is when the Republican National Convention -- we're here in Saint Paul, Minnesota, right now -- that is when it begins. And so we will be watching all of this unfold.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: There is a political ramification, much more, though, the human dimension. That's what we're most obviously really concerned about.

And we have a programming note we want to share with you. Our own Anderson Cooper will be live from New Orleans tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, "A.C. 360" live from New Orleans tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The Democrats, as you know, you were there, went out with a bang last night at Invesco Field and may have ended the week with one of the best political conventions ever held.

This also means they have left John McCain and the GOP with one tough act to follow when they convene in Saint Paul on Monday. Although it's pretty hard to argue that the week was not a hit for the Democrats, Republicans were quick to dismiss Barack Obama's speech in front of 90,000 people in INVESCO Field and 38 million people on television last night.

McCain called the speech misleading and fundamentally at odds with his meager record. That was before we found out about Sarah Palin. McCain insists, despite all the hoopla, Obama is not ready to be president. But the governor of a state that has the population of Austin, Texas, is. It will be interesting to see if McCain keeps making that argument now that he's named the former mayor of a town of 7,000 as his running mate, first-term governor from Alaska, who is younger than Obama and has less experience.

Republicans also have to contend with Hurricane Gustav, as we were just talking there, on track to hit the Gulf Coast, maybe even New Orleans, next week. Some Republican officials are arguing that the convention ought to be delayed. The White House debating whether President Bush should cancel his scheduled appearance in Saint Paul. Three years after Hurricane Katrina, the image of Republicans celebrating their nominee with another potentially deadly storm looming, well, that could be disastrous for everybody in the Republican Party. But the convention president insists the gavel will go down as scheduled on Monday.

The question is this: What do Republicans have to do at their convention to top the Democrats?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

Here is a question: Will women, angry women who backed Hillary Clinton cross over now to John McCain now that he has a woman as his running mate? I will ask a top Clinton backer.

And Barack Obama forcefully taking on John McCain in his acceptance speech, setting the stage for the next phase of their battle. We will assess.

And two passenger jets within a minute of colliding. We have new details coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to the Xcel Energy Center here in Saint Paul, Minnesota. They're getting the balloons ready. Those balloons will go up to the ceiling and then they will fall down Thursday night when John McCain is formally -- after he formally accepts the Republican presidential nomination.

We're getting ready for extensive coverage throughout the week. John McCain's new running mate finds herself right now confronted with some of the same questions Barack Obama has often faced. Does she have enough experience to be commander in chief?

Let's go to Dana Bash. She's in Cambridge, Ohio. You got a chance to ask her about that today, Dana. What did he say?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was interesting, Wolf. Right after the big announcement, the two of them got on the Straight Talk Express. It was her first introduction to the famous bus that John McCain rides around on.

And they went around and to make sure that they got some pictures for us of them campaigning. They actually went to the Buckeye Corner in Ohio and looked around for some paraphernalia from this very important battleground state. So, they were not supposed to be talking to the people in the media. They were actually there to talk to real voters.

But I did shout a question at her. And it was the question that pretty much every Democrat is saying that they want to know the answer to.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... critics that are saying you don't have enough experience for 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: There you hear her say 13 years of experience in government. And in riding with the McCain campaign on a couple of stops here, they are trying to push back very hard on the idea that she doesn't have enough experience, saying that they believe she has more experience on an executive level than -- than Barack Obama had and has in the United States Senate -- Wolf.

BLITZER: How well do they actually know each other, Senator McCain and Governor Palin, Dana?

BASH: Personally, not that well. You know, you and I talked about this in the last hour.

And I just found out and had confirmed from McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, that they actually only met once. They only met once before he started seriously considering her as a contender. And that was at a National Governors Association meeting back in February of this year.

He said that they did have a couple of events together at that convention. But that was the only time that they had met in person before she started being seriously vetted and before they met in person again this past week, while it was -- at that point, it was pretty clear he was going to offer her the position of his running mate. So, didn't know her that well.

BLITZER: Yes, obviously.

All right, Dana, thanks very much.

Gloria Borger is here, our senior political analyst.

Quite a surprise for all of us. We know that Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, maybe Tom Ridge, the former governor of Pennsylvania, they were all on the short list. She got it, though.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think this was a decision in a way that came down to the wire. I have been told by a source close to the campaign that the campaign called Governor Pawlenty some time on Thursday.

BLITZER: He's the governor of Minnesota.

BORGER: Right where we are, right, and called him some time on Thursday, said that -- told him he was under serious consideration. He was, of course, in Denver. They told him to fly back to Minneapolis.

BLITZER: He was going to be a guest on our show that day.

BORGER: Exactly. And he canceled, right?

BLITZER: Yes.

BORGER: And to get his thoughts together, that he was under serious consideration, did not tell him he had the job or anything else, and that then McCain had another meeting with Governor Palin.

I don't know whether that was decisive -- a decisive meeting in which he offered her the job or whether he had offered her the job before. But they had a long meeting in Dayton. And then, of course, as we know, the job became hers.

But it's very...

BLITZER: I think that meeting was in Flagstaff, Arizona. Today, they were in Dayton, right?

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: But they had another meeting in Dayton.

But it's clear that this was a decision that McCain had a couple of -- a few people perhaps at the top of his list, and that he was deciding it himself. And I was told by somebody close to McCain that he has always been intrigued by Governor Palin because she took on Ted Stevens and the bridge to nowhere and she took on the old boy network in Alaska. And he really admired that.

BLITZER: Stand by. We are going to continue this discussion, Gloria. Don't go away.

A near disaster in the skies over the Caribbean, two planes, including a Delta flight, coming frighteningly close to colliding. We will have the details.

Also, some call it his rock star moment. Does Barack Obama's acceptance speech mark a turning point in the race for the White House?

Plus, the music behind the words, an unconventional listen to Obama's convention soundtrack.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to the Republican National Convention. We're in Saint Paul, Minnesota. We're here at the Xcel Energy Center. On Monday, this convention will begin.

Right now, I want to give you a little tour of an area that is going to be off-limits to all of us once this convention begins. That's the podium here. It's the stage where John McCain will accept the Republican presidential nomination and Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska will accept the vice presidential election.

They will walk out. They will walk up here to this podium over here. They will look out. There is a Teleprompter there. There will be Teleprompters on the side. And they will formally go ahead and accept their nominations.

The balloons are basically almost all of them -- but if you take a look over here, you can see the balloons are still, many of them, on the floor. They're going to be lifted up. And Thursday night, once he formally accepts that nomination, all those balloons are going to come down and it's going to be a very, very exciting moment.

I love it when the balloons come down, Carol, because it underscores sort of the fun part of these political conventions.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I must say you looked very presidential behind that podium, Wolf.

BLITZER: Did you like that? It felt pretty good.

COSTELLO: I was waiting for you to say something presidential. But I'm sure you're waiting until the end of next week.

BLITZER: All right.

(NEWSBREAK)

COSTELLO: A first for Republicans, a woman named number two on the GOP presidential ticket. We will delve into the background of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

And does experience matter for the number two in line for the U.S. presidency? Barack Obama had some tough words for John McCain in his historic acceptance speech. Will he keep up the pressure?

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, Alaska's first-term governor tapped for the number-two spot on the Republican ticket. We're taking a closer look at her background. What sold John McCain on Governor Sarah Palin?

Also, Barack Obama invokes Osama bin Laden in his acceptance speech, his line of attack on John McCain -- all of this, plus the best political team on television.

And we're tracking Hurricane Gustav. It's gaining strength right now and bearing down on the Gulf Coast. Disaster preps are happening right now.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The first term governor of Alaska plucked from relative obscurity, now the vice presidential candidate of the Republican Party.

So who exactly is Sarah Palin and what are her qualifications for the second highest office in the land?

Mary Snow has been looking into her record.

What are you learning -- Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, from talking to people in Alaska, we're learning that's there's a lot of shock in her home state. Sarah Palin is the first woman to serve as governor of Alaska and the youngest person to hold the state's top job.

She catapulted there after making a name for herself in local politics.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Alaska Governor Sarah Palin introducing herself to the nation.

PALIN: I was just your average hockey mom in Alaska.

SNOW: The 44-year-old Palin is a mother of five. Her infant son has Down's Syndrome, her oldest is in the Army and heads to Iraq next month. Her husband is a commercial fisherman and an oil field worker.

Palin was elected governor of Alaska in 2006. She's known as a social conservative and she touts herself as a reformer.

PALIN: As governor, I 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. SNOW: Palin got her start in politics in Wasilla, Alaska -- a town with roughly 6,700 people outside Anchorage, where she was crowned Miss. Wasilla in 1984. She served on the city council and went on to become mayor.

Palin gave notice as a whistleblower, helping to uncover corruption after being appointed to the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Steve Heimel is with the Alaska Public Radio Network.

STEVE HEIMEL, ALASKA PUBLIC RADIO NETWORK: People really admired her for taking what they perceived to be a very courageous stance.

SNOW: As governor, Palin rejected the bridge to nowhere. She approved increases on the oil industry and pushed to use the surplus money to send $1,200 checks to residents to help pay energy bills. She's been a supporter of drilling in the ANWAR oil reserve and has said Senator John McCain has been wrong in opposing that.

While she has high approval ratings in Alaska, Michael Carey of the "Anchorage Daily News" says it doesn't compare to having national experience.

MICHAEL CAREY, "ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS": And the executive experience that she would have here is far different than it would be required to be president of the United States. I'm not trying to dis my home state, but I don't think it adds up.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now, Palin's first term as governor is not without controversy. A legislative investigation is examining into whether Palin fired the state's public service commissioner because he refused to fire Palin's former brother-in-law. And, Wolf, at this point, Palin has denied any wrongdoing.

BLITZER: Mary Snow, thanks very much.

Let's talk about this surprise vice presidential pick and more with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, she's in St. Paul with me; our own Jack Cafferty; and Steve Hayes, the senior writer for "The Weekly Standard."

Steve, you had a chance to interview Sarah Palin not too long ago. What do you think?

STEPHEN HAYES, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, it was actually an interesting coincidence. I interviewed John McCain and asked him whether he was reconsidering his position on ANWAR, which I had heard from some of his staff. He said he continues to examine it...

BLITZER: That's the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge up in Alaska.

HAYES: Right. BLITZER: He opposes drilling there. She supports drilling there. mBut go ahead.

HAYES: Yes, he's opposed it. But I had heard from his staff that he was taking a second look at it and asked him about it. And he said he continues to examine the issue. And then I said well, have you talked to Alaska Governor Sarah Palin about it?

And he sort of looked at me and didn't say anything at first. And he said, you know, I should. I really should talk to her and I'll call her.

That, I guess, was this call that took place last Sunday, when he got her at the Alaska State Fair and she walked him through her position on ANWAR, why she thinks we need to be drilling. So an interesting little coincidence.

BLITZER: You know, I'm going to play a clip, Jack, of what she told Lawrence Kudlow on CNBC when she was asked on July 31st -- not that long ago -- about the prospects of her being vice president of the United States.

Listen to her answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: As for that V.P. talk all the time, I tell you, I still can't answer that question until somebody answers for me what is it exactly does that the V.P. does every day?

I'm used to being very productive and working real hard in administration. We want to be sure that V.P. slot would be a fruitful type of position, especially for Alaskans and for the things that we're trying to accomplish up here for the rest of the U.S., before I can even start addressing that -- that question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right.

Jack, what do you make of this decision by John McCain?

CAFFERTY: I don't think she's going to have to worry about it. I mean the most fun for the next three days is going to be to watch members of the Republican Party have to come out and defend this. You had a Congressman from Virginia on here a couple of hours ago and you asked him twice -- I was watching in my office -- twice what foreign policy credentials does this woman bring to the job. Because McCain is 72 years old. McCain has had bouts with melanoma. That's a potentially form of -- a fatal form of skin cancer.

McCain, conceivably, would not finish his term in office, which means Sarah Palin would be the president.

You asked this Congressman what qualifies her to conduct foreign policy on the behalf of the United States? And he turned into Ralph Kramden. It was hummona, hummona, hummona. And then you said well, let me ask the question again, and he did the same thing again.

So I want to watch the Sunday talk shows and watch all the Republicans try and figure out some way to try and sell this. I don't think they can.

BLITZER: Well, here's the statement, Jack, that Jill Hazelbaker, the McCain communications director, put out after the initial Obama campaign's statement criticizing this decision.

And, Gloria, let me read it to our viewers and we'll get you to weigh in.

"It is pretty audacious for the Obama campaign to say that Governor Palin is not qualified to be vice president. She has a record of accomplishment that Senator Obama simply cannot match. Governor Palin has spent her time in office shaking up government in Alaska and actually achieving results -- whether it's taking on corruption, passing ethics reform or stopping wasteful spending on the bridge to nowhere. Senator Obama spent his time in office running for president."

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Ouch.

BORGER: Yes, it really is.

BLITZER: That's a pretty strong statement from the McCain campaign.

BORGER: Yes, it really is. Look, the McCain campaign makes the case that she has executive experience and that is what matters -- executive experience. And everybody else -- Democrats are saying no, no, no, she doesn't.

Now, I've been talking to some Democrats who are now expecting that Senator McCain will soon name his secretary of state, secretary of defense, to try and allay questions about the sort of military- industrial complex in his administration should anything happen to him.

BLITZER: That would probably be a smart move, Steve Hayes. I don't know what you think about that. But it would be not necessarily unprecedented, but it would, supposedly, reassure folks that there would be some serious people there in charge of national security, whether at the State Department or the Defense Department.

HAYES: Yes. No, I think it might be a good move. But, I think -- look, I think Jack is just flat wrong about this. I mean it's legitimate to wonder whether she would have this experience. But look at what she's done in Alaska. I mean you can't just ignore her record in Alaska. She upended the establishment -- the Republican Party establishment in Alaska, taking on people in her own party. She's governed effectively. She's cut taxes. She's done, you know, all of these things that have won her an 80 percent approval rating.

It is absolutely not crazy to pick her. And it is crazy to suggest that Barack Obama, who as Jill Hazelbaker pointed out, came to the Senate, served for two years and then decided to run for president, is far more experienced...

CAFFERTY: Can I...

HAYES: ...than Sarah Palin?

CAFFERTY: Can I just ask a couple of quick questions.

The State of Alaska has a population the size of Austin, Texas.

What does she know about inner city poverty, the war on drugs?

What does she know about the Middle East?

You want to put her up against Putin and Ahmadinejad. She was the mayor of a town of 7,000 people in Alaska.

I mean you can buy this if you want, but I got 13,000 e-mails this afternoon and 90 percent of them said -- and they were from both sides of the aisle -- that the Obama people are hysterically grateful for this. They had a great convention and now they get Christmas early.

HAYES: Well, then you're talking to different...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Can I just...

HAYES: You're certainly talking to different people than I am.

CAFFERTY: And most of the Republicans...

(CROSSTALK)

CAFFERTY: Most of the Republicans I heard from, including a lot of women, who said how dare John McCain presume, because he names an inexperienced woman from Alaska, that he can start collecting the 18 million votes that were cast for Hillary Clinton?

They're on opposite sides of all the issues. People are outraged. This is a joke.

BORGER: You know, I think...

HAYES: It's absolutely -- no.

BORGER: ...we wouldn't be talking about this... BLITZER: Hold on. Hold on. Steve, go ahead and react. Then Gloria.

HAYES: Well, look, I mean I just think Jack -- Jack can fulminate about this as much as he wants. He's obviously talking to different people from the people I talk to.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

HAYES: And my mother-in-law, outside of Toledo, Ohio, was an Obama supporter until she saw this presentation today at noon and finds it awfully compelling. She's convinced. I mean I think you're going to hear more about Sarah Palin's record as a governor in Alaska. People are going to get more excited, not less.

And it's silly to say just because she's a woman, that's why John McCain picked her and that's why he thinks he's going to win the women's vote. He picked her because she's done things like he's done...

BORGER: But Steve...

HAYES: ...on the federal level at the state level.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BORGER: Steve, do you think we would be talking about Governor Palin if Joe Biden hadn't been the vice presidential choice?

Don't you think there's the sense that this happened late in the game and that, perhaps, this campaign waited until they saw the reaction of women to the pick of Senator Biden and that's why we're talking about Governor Palin instead of Governor Pawlenty or Governor Romney?

HAYES: Well, I think -- I think it certainly happened late in the game. We now know that Rick Davis was talking to her throughout this entire process.

But I think one of the reasons that John McCain made the pick, at the end of the day, was because it was -- we kept hearing that it was going to be a comfort pick and a transformative pick. And I think she was somebody who met both of these goals...

CAFFERTY: Can I...

HAYES: ...especially as John McCain talked to her more.

CAFFERTY: Can I just ask another hypothetical question?

Let's suppose -- and lord knows we hope it doesn't happen, but let's suppose that that the phone reads at 3:00 in the morning and either Joe Biden or Sarah Palin has to answer it. You tell me.

HAYES: Well, I think it's a legitimate debate and I think we'll find out a lot more about her foreign policy views as we go through the process.

BLITZER: All right...

HAYES: But I do think that -- It's not disqualifying just because she doesn't have foreign policy experience, as we're seeing from Barack Obama...

CAFFERTY: But it is disqualifying...

HAYES: ...who had none.

CAFFERTY: ...for Barack Obama because he doesn't have it?

I mean what is that?

HAYES: No. Who's -- no. Nobody said it's absolutely disqualifying for him. But he's making the case that he should be at the top of the ticket, the number one guy. He should be leading the United States in the world with, I would argue, less experience on issues that matter than she has.

CAFFERTY: Well, after today's pick by Mr. McCain...

BLITZER: All right, well...

BORGER: I think...

CAFFERTY: ...you could make an argument about which one has the better judgment.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by, because, as you can see, this is a serious debate. And people are going to be debating for days and weeks to come.

We're also going to pick up our conversation and talk about the most closely watched speech of his life. Barack Obama uses it to get tough on John McCain.

We'll be back with the best political team on television.

And while most focused in on Obama's words, some are listening to his music. The convention sound track -- Jeanne Moos will have a Moost Unusual look.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: When John McCain said we could just muddle through in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11 and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we had them in our sights.

(APPLAUSE) OBAMA: You know, 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)

BLITZER: That was Barack Obama last night accepting the Democratic presidential nomination.

Steve Hayes, he minced no words in directly going after Senator McCain on what a lot of people consider to be Senator McCain's strength, the whole issue of national security.

HAYES: Yes. It was one of the few discordant notes in what I thought was a really good speech. It doesn't make any sense. What is he saying, John McCain knows where Osama bin Laden is? That he should go there himself? That Obama could go there himself?

It was sort of a silly, almost a schoolyard taunt that, at the end of the day, I thought came off as incoherent.

BLITZER: What did you think, Jack?

CAFFERTY: Maybe he was saying if we hadn't spent five years in Iraq and $200 billion or $300 billion a year and lost 4,000 soldiers fighting a war of occupation in a country we have no business in in the first place, and had instead deployed those troops to Afghanistan, the Republicans wouldn't be sitting here all these years after 9/11 with nothing but excuses for why the biggest terrorist in the world is still out there.

BLITZER: Gloria?

BORGER: I'll be brief. I think it was just another way of linking him to George W. Bush, saying they both failed at finding Osama bin Laden. That's it.

BLITZER: I guess the argument, Steve, is that everybody believes that Osama bin Laden is somewhere along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the U.S. is not devoting the resources right now, during the Bush administration at least, to going in there, working with the Afghans, working with the Pakistanis, forcing them, in effect, to find that cave where Osama bin Laden might be hiding out.

HAYES: Well, look, and Barack Obama has made exactly the argument that Jack just made. He didn't make it last night. Instead, what he said was something that I thought was extraordinarily foolish, doesn't make any sense. And, you know, if you're going to play tough guy with John McCain, with a POW, you should at least show up to debate him when he challenges you to debate him on these issues. Barack Obama hasn't even done that.

BORGER: I think he made it very clear in his speech last night that -- bring it on, as George W. Bush would say, right?

I think he took him on on foreign policy quite directly. BLITZER: He said he welcomes...

CAFFERTY: It sounded like he...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: He welcomes -- he said he welcomes that debate. And you know what?

There will be three presidential debates and we'll have a chance to see both of these contenders in action.

All right, guys, we've got to leave it right there.

Jack, don't go away. We've got "The Cafferty File" still to come.

On our Political Ticker, Senator McCain's choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate was unexpected. But a grassroots movement online had been working for months to draft her as the vice presidential candidate.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She's got some of the details -- Abbi, how are they reacting to all of this?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, I think the Draft Palin Brigade online is about as surprised as anybody. Twenty-one- year-old Adam Brickley set up this Web site over a year ago. He's not from Alaska. He's never met Palin. He just really liked her as a vice presidential pick.

And people have been joining along to his online movement. It's a loose coalition of people setting up their own sites, creating YouTube videos, pushing this idea. They've been pushing an online petition, calling the McCain campaign, calling into talk radio about Sarah Palin.

But by no means was this a big movement. Some of these sites would get a couple of thousand hits in one day.

As for what's happening next, Adam Brickley says he hasn't really thought of that, saying that they had plenty of contingency plans in case she didn't get selected and they didn't really have one in case of success -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Abbi.

Thanks very much.

The music behind the words -- I loved the music at the Democratic Convention and I know I will love the music here at the Republican convention. But what tunes were the Democrats spinning in Denver? We'll take another closer look at Obama's soundtrack. Jeanne Moos is standing by.

And what do Republicans have to do at their convention here in St. Paul to top the Democrats? Jack Cafferty will be back with your e- mails.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's go right back to Jack.

He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: What do the Republicans have to do at their convention, which begins next week in St. Paul, to top the Democrats?

Shammara in McGaheysville, Virginia: It sounds like an Irish place to me: "They can't do anything. They're so out of touch with the pulse of the people that it's just mind-boggling. Do you think McCain can top that speech Obama gave? No chance. And now that he has his Barbie doll V.P. with as much experience as my dog, McCain handed over the election to Obama. What happened to the McCain I used to respect? Political pandering at its finest."

Nate writes: "They can start by being openly honest in how and why our country is in peril and viewed less favorably in the world economically and socially."

Champ writes: "It's simple -- start over with two new candidates."

Diane in Washington: "Nothing the Republicans do will match the excitement, enthusiasm and viewership of the Democrats convention. I watched practically gavel to gavel the Dems convention. Never prouder of my party. My husband and I already have decided -- we're not going to watch the Republican convention. Can't stomach it."

Kristen writes: "Show up. That's all a Republican ever has to do to beat a Democrat."

Tom in Minnesota: "Walk on water, turn water into wine, top the miracle of the loaves and the fishes, become instantly something other than what they are -- which is the party of self-interest, corruption and the disasters of the last eight years."

And Ed in Oklahoma City: "Simple. Either McCain, Palin or Bush must walk out with Osama bin Laden in handcuffs."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and look for yours there.

We got 15,000 e-mails today, Wolf.

For a Friday in August, that's a lot of traffic.

BLITZER: That's a lot more than you usually get.

CAFFERTY: Yes, it is.

BLITZER: Give us a little ballpark, on a normal day, what would you estimate you get?

CAFFERTY: Three, four, five, along in there, you know, depending on how scintillating the questions are.

BLITZER: Really?

CAFFERTY: And we try to keep them scintillating, as you know.

BLITZER: I can't tell you how many people are e-mailing me that they really were never all that interested in politics, but in recent weeks they've became political news junkies, which is good for our business. I'm glad they're watching.

CAFFERTY: Well, give me a quick take on that convention. I watched it from New York. Geez, what a show.

BLITZER: It was really an amazing moment. And we felt the history and, you know, it was a compelling story.

John McCain has a very compelling story. We'll hear a lot about that over the next few days.

If you're a political news junkie -- and you know that I am, Jack -- you love this kind of stuff and you feel blessed that you have a chance to have a front row seat to history. So I'm very, very happy.

CAFFERTY: They're having some elections in El Salvador...

BLITZER: All right, Jack...

CAFFERTY: ...right after the Democrat or the Republican convention. They need you down there immediately.

BLITZER: I've had -- no.

Jack, have a great weekend.

CAFFERTY: See you later.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: Barack Obama may have a really unusual way with words, but music is another way to motivate supporters.

Here's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While Obama's words were the main event, maybe you'd like to hear the sound track.

(MUSIC)

MOOS: There was music from beginning to end, punctuated with everything from flags...

(MUSIC)

MOOS: ...to fist pumps...

(MUSIC)

MOOS: The kind of songs it's hard not to sing along with.

(MUSIC)

MOOS: The songs served as intermission between speakers, like laid off factory worker, Barney Smith.

BARNEY SMITH: We need a president who puts Barney Smith before Smith Barney.

MOOS: When Al Gore made his entrance, Mr. Global Warming was serenaded with...

(MUSIC)

MOOS: Live performers ranged from Michael McDonald...

(MUSIC)

MOOS: To Stevie Wonder.

(MUSIC)

MOOS: To Sheryl crow.

(MUSIC)

MOOS: To will.I.am and John Legend singing a song that's become an Obama anthem.

(MUSIC)

MOOS: Yes, they did choreograph the climax...

(MUSIC)

MOOS: ...with a heady swirl of flags and posters and hope.

(MUSIC)

MOOS: One of the Obama daughters played in the confetti as if it were snow flakes. Even the sky cam ended up draped in streamers, its aerial vision obscured. The confetti clung to the head of the vice presidential nominee.

The Web site Wonkette reports seeing a marriage proposal on bended knee and offered photographic proof. They weren't the only couple enjoying a moment of their own in front of 80,000 pairs of eyes. With an unconventional moment, I'm Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: That's it for us.

Up next, a special edition of Election Center with Campbell Brown.