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Extreme Weather; Stand by Your Woman; Phoenix Mars Lander Landed Successfully; Emotional Reunion for Some Texas Polygamist Sect Family; John McCain's Health Record
Aired May 25, 2008 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RICHARD LUI, CNN ANCHOR: After ten months and millions of miles, the Phoenix Mars Lander reached the end of its long journey just hours ago. Was it a success or a bust?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can't believe it. It's just frantic the way they're trying to push and pressure and bully all these delegates to come out -- oh, this is so terrible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LUI: Stand by your woman. Bill Clinton coming to the defense of his wife once again.
And after weeks without their children --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm praying for my family to be protected.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have done nothing. We have no evidence. All makes you say (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LUI: Emotional reunion for some of the Texas polygamist sect families.
Plus, seeking refuge in a church after a record-setting immigration bust.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My heart is really breaking. I mean, because they're good people. I mean, I've never had any of them do anything bad to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LUI: Tonight, where are those families and a school superintendent who says the bust has emptied the schools. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
And a very good Sunday evening to you. Lots of stories to get to. First off, new and devastating video into CNN tonight out of suburban Minneapolis. Look at these homes and what's left of them. The city administrator of Hugo, Minnesota tells CNN 50 houses were destroyed by one tornado that hit just a couple of hours ago. Dozens of others are damaged as well.
Now, the Associated Press reporting to us the storm killed a 2- year-old child. Another child is in critical condition as well and at least 20 people are unaccounted for. And a twister as well that is south of Minnesota also tore through northeastern Iowa. At least six people there were injured and one critically.
Now, these storms packed large hail as well. You can see these pictures pellets raining down on Minneapolis, big ones. Some were as big as baseballs shattering windows in houses and car windshields. Tens of thousands are without power right now.
Meteorologist Jacqui Jeras has been tracking the storms all evening for us. She's in the severe weather center with the very latest.
JACKIE JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, Richard. Incredible story ongoing in Minneapolis. The twin cities metro area here tonight. Tornado touchdown around 5:30 in Hugo. That's about 15 miles north of St. Paul and we've really seen extreme damage with this tornado. Look at how some of these homes have just been leveled.
At least 50 of them just destroyed and about 150 all together received some type of damage and then there were some homes that really received very little damage in this area at all. The debris is just strewn for miles and miles. At least one person we know has been killed in this storm and emergency personnel have been going door to door to see if they can find any other people that may need assistance.
Of course, this is a holiday weekend so they're hopeful that some of the people that are still being reported missing could possibly be out of town. This cell developed to the west of there around the Anoka area -- Anoka County and continued to travel eastward through Hugo and then made its way into Wisconsin.
Look at that damage and how extensive it is. And these homes are very well built. These are large homes that are well built. They're newer and so we know that this is probably what we would consider at least a severe tornado, an EF3 or possibly greater.
Joining me on the phone now is Mike Ericson and he is the city administrator in Hugo.
And, Mike, what can you tell me? Describe the scene in Hugo tonight. MIKE ERICSON, HUGO CITY ADMINISTRATOR: I've personally been on site and the devastation is very real. The residents are very rural. Seeing the looks in their eyes they just almost can't believe that it's happened. This happens to be an area in our community that is relatively new housing from a couple years old to six years old, and these are, as you said, very, very solid homes.
It hit home with our own public works director actually surviving the tornado in his basement with his young child and wife in his basement with a blanket over themselves or with the water heater protecting them. His home is entirely gone. We do have our personnel out there right now. We have more than 250 emergency personnel including police and fire.
We've evacuated the entire neighborhood with the residents going to a nearby elementary school. As you said, our emergency personnel have made the first pass-through through all the homes and they're now going door to door right now a second time to make sure that there are not any individuals in there.
Right now, our best information is what you had stated that one child is unfortunately a fatality. The one was critically injured and we do have eight serious injuries at the local hospitals here.
JERAS: Tell me, how widespread is this? Is this kind of localized into one neighborhood?
ERICSON: It is. It's actually two neighborhoods called Creek View Preserve and Water's Edge. The swathe that it went through is probably a mile or so long and that it went into the rural portion of our community where it downed big power line, et cetera.
We were able to get our mayor in here a little bit ago. He lives in a rural Hugo and he provided us with a snapshot in terms of how it hit their area. He lost a big storage barn on his property, but it pretty much touched down in this residential neighborhood just east of Oneka Elementary School.
JERAS: And did anybody actually see the tornado that you know of?
ERICSON: We don't know that, but the best thing happened is our alarm. That is our tornado siren went off in the neighborhood and we believe that that tornado siren saved many, many lives, thank goodness.
JERAS: And do most people have basements here?
ERICSON: They do, yes.
JERAS: OK. And what are you telling people, obviously, you don't want anybody to get into this area here tonight. Is there a curfew?
ERICSON: Yes. It's been secured by the Washington County Sheriff's Department along with Sheriff Bill Hutton (ph). We do have the security personnel. Residents are encouraged to go to Oneka Elementary School nearby. We do have the Red Cross and Salvation Army there providing food and lodging as far as that's concerned.
We will determine tomorrow morning where we're at in terms of whether or not residents are going to be able to go back into their homes. Our emergency personnel are out there right now shutting off water, shutting off the gas lines, shutting off the electricity.
JERAS: OK. Mike Ericson, the city administrator in Hugo, Minnesota. Thanks so much for joining us tonight.
ERICSON: Thank you very much.
JERAS: All right. And that tornado threat is still ongoing, by the way, Richard. Widespread from Minnesota all the way down to Texas. We'll talk a little bit more about what's still going on tonight later in the show.
LUI: Yes. And those pictures really showing us the zigzagging damage that tornado had caused there. Thank you so much, Jacqui. She again is going to be back with us later in the show.
Iowans are dealing meanwhile with the aftermath of devastating storms as well. Officials in Butler County specifically going door- to-door searching for victims. Joining us by phone now is Holly Fokkena, public information officer for Butler County, Iowa.
Holly, let's start by this. What sort of injuries are you seeing right now and you're able to find people, we hope?
HOLLY FOKKENA, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, BUTLER COUNTY: I believe there are people being found every minute that we're speaking. I'm not sure. I haven't visited the site. I just know that there are, obviously, a large number of injuries being reported at this time.
LUI: And we had heard that at least one tornado had touched down. What's the latest there?
FOKKENA: I believe it's been one tornado that pretty much covered the southern part of Butler County. It started in a community called Aplington and it continued east along the southern boundary of Butler County through Parkersburg and New Hartford. It took out at least four or five businesses, major businesses in Parkersburg and a large number of homes.
LUI: A local affiliate there was reporting that there was an ammonia smell in Parkersburg. Do you have any information about that?
FOKKENA: Yes. As it left Parkersburg and headed to a small town of New Hartford, in between those two communities is a very large rural grain elevator complex, the Sinclair Elevator. It devastated -- just basically destroyed that elevator and it took out a very large anhydrous ammonia storage tank and it did force the evacuation of a large number of those rural residents. LUI: Holly, we know you have got a lot of work ahead of you tonight. Holly Fokkena, public information officer for Butler County, Iowa. Thank you so much for stopping by tonight.
FOKKENA: Thank you.
LUI: Years upon years in the making. Millions of your tax dollars at work and something all of us are getting a glimpse of for the first time. We've been waiting for images to come in from NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander.
Now, earlier tonight we went live at the $420 million spacecraft touchdown near the red planet's North Pole after a 10-month journey. It's just now sending back some images for us so we expect to be getting those very soon. Tonight's mission though is the first successful soft landing on Mars since the twin Viking Lander touched down in 1976 and the moment certainly wasn't lost on scientists at mission control in Pasadena, California.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Phoenix has landed! Welcome to the northern plane of Mars.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LUI: Our very own Miles O'Brien is at mission control tonight. He saw all of that glee and handshaking.
How did all fare out there, Miles?
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CHIEF TECHNOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Richard, it was quite an event, you know. I was here nearly ten years ago, December of '99, when a spacecraft that really has the same origin, same, similar design. Obviously, there has been a certain amount of upgrades because it didn't do so well in December of 1999. Mars Polar Lander came down. We don't know really what happened, but there probably about 12 possible places which could have led to its demise.
This spacecraft which was its sibling originally was canceled, but then they put it back on the racks and the testing board. They tested and retested it and flew the mission and proved that if you test a spacecraft you got a better chance of surviving. That, folks, is not rocket science. But that is what has happened here.
They learned a lesson, NASA did, about how much you cut the budget on a mission. That's why you're seeing these pictures tonight and that's why we just saw within the past few minutes, the first images from the Phoenix Lander. The first images of Mars north of the Arctic Circle.
It's a very different Mars. It's not your father's Mars. Take a look at this. You know, those are the first pictures. Joining us now, by the way, to walk us through this is Steve Squyres. He's the principal investigator for those plucky rovers that are still going on there four years in the making.
This is dull stuff, right? It's a solar array, but for the admission people, this is a big deal. There's a little bit of the turf there. A little bit of rock, but very different kind of terrain than you're used to. We see with spirit and opportunity, and then, of course, the solar arrays all just the way they should be. Often out. That was the key thing, right?
STEVE SQUYRES, MARS ROVER SCIENTIST: That is absolutely essential. That is necessary for the vehicle to complete its mission because that's where the light giving electrical power for this vehicle comes from.
O'BRIEN: All right. So Solar arrays are deployed. A picture off to the horizon which shows this tundra and you can take a rover and probably put it in high gear in this place. But we were talking about it earlier. You don't necessarily need to rove.
SQUYRES: No, you wouldn't want to. What you would want to do in a place like this is dig. And that's the reason that this vehicle has this gigantic kind of backhoe arm that is in the days ahead. Going to scoop down into that soil and find out what's down below.
O'BRIEN: That's about two days ahead. Let's go to the model. We'll talk about that for just a moment. It's actually, to be accurate, it's deployed. The cover it came with is off which is a good sign.
First of all, what they're going to do is focus on the camera. They will swivel it around to take a series of picture. It's a stereo camera so they can actually get kind of a three-dimensional feel of their surroundings and they really want to know what's on the horizon in a 360 way, right?
SQUYRES: They really want to do two things. First of all, they want to see out to the horizon so they can understand the geologic context. The setting in which they landed. But crucially, they also want to be looking off on the north side of the vehicle which is where they're going dig. And they're going to use that stereo camera to make a detailed terrain map of the actual stuff that the arm is going to dig into in the days ahead.
They kind of have to do that. The arm doesn't know where the ground is. They've got to tell it and they need to take those stereo pictures to do so.
O'BRIEN: All right. So two days from now if all goes well, we'll see those first digs. But we're going to get some more pictures as the night goes on, as they get more communications passes with the passing satellites.
Suffice to say, I can't think of a thing that's gone wrong thus far and that's an amazing statement when you consider what's been accomplished.
SQUYRES: It has been picture perfect. It really has. O'BRIEN: Steve Squyres, thank you very much.
Richard, wish you could have been here. It's a lot of fun. This is about the most fun you can have in the space beat business. That's for sure. Back to you.
LUI: Yes. Wish I could have been there as well. Thanks, Miles. Great stuff, again.
Hillary Clinton and senator and candidate standing by her controversial RFK assassination reference which she used as a justification to stay in the race.
Well, the New York Daily News ran a Clinton op-ed today answering her critics and it reads this.
"I want to set the record straight. I was making the simple point that given our history, the link of this year's primary contest is nothing unusual. I was deeply dismayed and disturbed that my comment would be construed in a way that flies in the face of everything I stand for and everything I am fighting in this election.
I am not unaware of the challenges or the odds of my securing the nomination, but this race remains extraordinarily close and hundreds of thousands of people in upcoming primaries are still waiting to vote. As I have said so many times over the course of this primary, if Senator Obama wins the nomination I will support him and work my heart out for him against John McCain, but that has not happened as of yet."
Well, while Daily News readers were digesting that op-ed, Senator Clinton was in Puerto Rico taking in the music and the sun and the support of island voters, she's widely expected to have on her side primary day June the 1st.
Also on her side, her husband who said Senator Clinton is being unfairly represented in the American media. Former President Clinton spoke on behalf of his wife today in South Dakota.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can't believe it. It is just frantic the way they're trying to push and pressure and bully all these super delegates to come out, oh, this is so terrible. The people may want her. Oh, this is terrible. She's winning the general election and he's not. Oh, my goodness, we have to cover this up.
Somebody might actually feel like -- if you notice, there hasn't been a lot of publicity on these polls I just told you, has there? It's first time you've heard this, isn't it? Why do you think that is? Why do you think? Don't you think if the polls were reversed and he were winning the electoral college against Senator McCain and Hillary was losing it, it would be blasted on every television station in America? You know it would. It wouldn't be a little secret.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LUI: Senator Barack Obama dropped the stump speech today -- mostly. Instead, he urged the class of '08 to embrace public service. Obama was the hurry-up fill in commencement speaker at Connecticut's Wesleyan University. The originally slated speaker, ailing Senator Ted Kennedy. Obama invoked the Kennedy name, the Kennedy legacy and challenged a generation to create their own.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Each of you will have the chance to make your own discovery in the years to come. And I say "chance" because as President Roth indicated, you won't have to take it. There's no community service requirement in the outside world. No one's forcing you to care. You can take your diploma, walk off this stage, and chase only after the big house and the nice suits and the other things that our money culture says you should buy.
You can choose to narrow your concerns and live life in a way that tries to keep your story separate from America's. But I hope you don't. Not because you have an obligation to those who are less fortunate, although I believe do you have that obligation. Not because you have a debt to all those who helped you get to where you are today, although I do believe you have that debt to pay. It's because you have an obligation to yourself.
Because our individual salvation depends on collective salvation. Because thinking only about yourself, fulfilling your immediate wants and needs, betrays a poverty of ambition. Because it's only when you hit your wagon at something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential and discover the role that you'll play in writing the next great chapter in the America's story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good luck to you, sir.
KENNEDY: Good to see you, take care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LUI: As Barack Obama filled in for him in Wesleyan, Senator Kennedy took it easy in Hyannisport. He took advantage of favorable sailing conditions today aboard the family's 50-foot schooner Maya. The senator is home following his brain tumor diagnosis. He told reporters this weekend he is grateful and uplifted by the letters and well wishes from his Senate colleagues, his friends and the people of Massachusetts.
Well, coming up for you, last month the state took hundreds of kids from a polygamist ranch in Texas. Tonight, some of them are back with their parents. Plus, men carted away, wives and kids left behind. Did this record-setting immigration raid go way too far?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was a very warmhearted person and you could see the caring in his eyes when he would talk about his family. He would talk about his children and his wife and how he was worried about them but that he was very upbeat about preparing to go to Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LUI: And you can find more memories like that at cnn.com/i- report. It was an emotional reunion for some of the families from that polygamist ranch in Texas. An Appeals Court allowed 12 of the children to reunite with their parents. Here are some of the pictures from those weekend reunions. It's all part of a massive and ongoing custody battle. CNN's Sean Callebs has more on that.
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For weeks FLDS members have complained Texas officials had no right to seize more than 450 children from the sect ranch near El Dorado. Now that an Appeals Court has sided with the FLDS, a dozen children, for the time being, have been reunited with their parents.
JOSEPH JESSOP, FLDS MEMBER: It was so comforting to hold them, to take them out and put them in the car and know that we were going stay with them that night.
CALLEBS: Joseph and Lori Jessop were reunited with their three children Friday. We're not showing the faces of any FLDS children because it's still unclear if they were victims of a crime. The Jessops say their children were hospitalized while in state care and that the entire incident has scarred the young ones and they believe the raid was a form of religious persecution.
J. JESSOP: We don't feel like they'll just back off until they've thoroughly investigated everything and prosecuted us for anything they can.
CALLEBS: Allegations of multiple marriages and child brides, one of the conditions of the interview with the couple is that the Jessops who say they're monogamous not be asked about polygamy. Renee Haas is their attorney.
RENEE HAAS, JESSOP'S LAWYER: I see every indication that CPS wants to keep these children and I see every indication that they want to destroy the religion.
CALLEBS: The state remains adamant that child abuse was prevalent at the ranch and that the children were removed for their own safety. The ordeal has made the Jessops targets of taunts. LORI JESSOP, FLDS MEMBER: Well, people yell at us pligs -- but it hasn't been that so much now. It was that way at first.
CALLEBS: Pligs stands for polygamists.
The Jessop say they just want to live in private on the YFZ ranch, but believe Texas authorities won't let that happen.
LUI: All right. Sean Callebs now joins us live from San Antonio, Texas.
Good day to you, Sean. You know, you're a parent. You've been around kids. What was your sense of this family? You sat down with them for quite a bit of time.
CALLEBS: One thing that's impossible to fake is that unconditional love that a child has for his or her parents. And clearly, that was evident between the Jessops and their three young children. They are playing. They're (INAUDIBLE) having a great time laughing. Clearly, all happy to be reunited. But let's remember that those three children represent less than one percent of the kids at the center of this investigations and the state has indicated it has no plans to back off.
But I'm also struck by one thing that Renee Haas -- the attorney said. She said when the state goes in to investigate alleged abuse they need to go to great lengths to be the least disruptive as possible. And she says the state botched it in this case. What they should have done was gone after either specific instances or perhaps asked the men to leave that compound.
But the way they did it and there are now hundreds of kids scattered (INAUDIBLE) throughout Texas and all of them are facing an uncertain future tonight.
LUI: All right. Sean Callebs live in San Antonio. Thank you, Sean.
Now, coming up for you. If he wins, John McCain would be the oldest person elected president in U.S. history. That raises the question of just how healthy this 71-year-old is. We'll take a look.
And it's being called the largest immigration bust in U.S. history and some people say it went way too far.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're looking at a picture of Corporal Albert Gettings and his former wife Stephanie. Corporal Albert Gettings had his life taken on January 5th 2006. He embodied what it meant to be a United States Marine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LUI: And you can add to your own memories by going to cnn.com/i- report as well as you heard in that one.
In a few months, John McCain will celebrate his 72nd birthday. His age, like his health, has been of keen interest to voters. Yet camp McCain has been reluctant to release the senator's medical records until this week. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta was one of the journalists given access.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We've seen Senator John McCain crisscrossing the country on the campaign trail, but the question is, is he ready for the rigors of the presidency. Now we've gotten some more information.
(on camera): It's sort of a little bit of a different experience than I'm used to as a medical doctor. We're going to be sort of ensconced in this room for a period of time. No electronic devices are allowed in. I have my notes sort of prepared the things that I'm looking for. And we're going to see what we find.
(voice-over): We're learning just how extensive McCain's operation for melanoma was in 2000. Doctors removed 34 lymph nodes in his neck. Doctors say the high number was due to an abundance of caution. He still has swelling that is obvious.
McCain has had melanoma removed four times, the most recent in 2002. There's a 66 percent chance of it recurring within 10 years. Eight years have already passed.
Also new, McCain had skin cancer taken off his leg in February of this year, squamous cell carcinoma. His campaign insists it's under control. Blood pressure 134 over 84, fine. Cholesterol 192, that's down from 226 just five years ago. It looks like the medications are helping here.
He's also had an operation to reduce the size of his prostate. He smoked two packs a day for 25 years, up to 1980, and had polyps removed from his colon, but no signs of cancer from any of those.
He was beaten and tortured while a POW. His shoulders were both broken. To this day, he can't lift them over his head. And doctors say he may need both shoulders replaced. He does get dizzy from time to time, especially when tipping his head back. Diagnosis? Vertigo, a problem with his inner ear.
As far as fitness goes, medical records had him at both 5'6'' and 5'9''. We will go with 5'9''. Weight, 163. That puts his VMI at 24, pretty good, pushing the normal limit. His heart and circulatory system were all within normal limits for a man his age.
There was hardly any mention of his mental health. And while he trots out his 96-year-old mother on the campaign trail, it is worth noting his father died at age 70 of a stroke.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Fountain Hills, Arizona.
RICHARD LUI, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you just heard Dr. Gupta mention McCain's ordeal as a POW and while we know the Senator was a prisoner of war, many of us don't know what he rally went through.
Robert Timberg, in this book here, a Vietnam vet himself, wrote about it five and a half years for McCain, what it must have felt for him like a lifetime. Take a listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT TIMBERG, MCCAIN BIOGRAPHER: He spent more than two of those years in solitary confinement. During much of that time, he was being beaten, he was being tortured and he was being hung by his arms from what they call torture ropes. He was not a friendly prisoner of war. He called his guards names. He made gestures of defiance.
They tried to send him home after he was there a year or so because his father was the most senior military man in the Pacific and Senator McCain, you know, then Lieutenant Commander McCain said he wouldn't go. And he said, you know, we have a rule here among the prisoners -- first in, first out.
It wasn't quite that simple, though, because he was also in very bad shape physically. And there were other prisoners who were telling him, look, John, go home. He looked like he was, you know, not too far from death's door at that point. Ad he wouldn't go and he finally told the North Vietnamese under no circumstances would he go and that triggered -- that triggered beating and torture.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LUI: All right. Author Robert Timberg there again. Now, McCain's father and grandfather, four-star admirals with the Navy. And this week, interesting headlines and back stories surrounding all three presidential candidates, McCain and Hagee, Hillary's verbal goof and Obama's weak spots. We're tackling politics with two of the best strategists around right here on the weekend rundown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Dave and on behalf of my four brothers and sister, I want to salute our brother Corporal Richard J. Nelson, who died in a roadside bombing on April 14th, 2008. I salute Rick for his courage to join the military and become a Marine in time of war. I salute him for his honorable life that he lived, the respect he showed people. And we love you, Rick, we think about you every day and we'll see you again some day.
(END VIDEO CLIP) LUI: All right. Remembering Memorial Day on this Sunday for you.
We've got a lot of ground to cover right now. We're going to get right to our political panel. A former aide, first of all, to President Ronald Reagan, Charlie Gerow, is a Republican strategist. Anna Greenberg is all about getting women elected to office. This Democratic strategist has a very impressive resume.
Let's knock it all out of the park right now. Start with John McCain rejecting John Hagee's endorsement. Why didn't he distance himself from the televangelist sooner?
Charlie, we're going to start with you. February 27th, they got the endorsement, McCain camp did. Why did it take him so long?
CHARLIE GEROW, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I don't think it took him so long and this is much ado about nothing. I think there's going to be an attempt by the other side to try to portray this as John McCain's Pastor Wright, but there's no comparison.
Pastor Hagee is not his pastor. He hasn't been a parishioner of his for 20 years, hasn't contributed tens of thousands of dollars to him, hasn't taken his daughters to church there, or have them baptized by him. This is going to go over very quickly, I think.
LUI: Anna Greenberg, let's ask you this. Richard Wolf of "Newsweek" said McCain has gotten a little bit of a free ride so far. What do you think?
ANNA GREENBERG, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think he's gotten a free ride, though I would suggest that in the last three months I don't think he's gotten much benefit to sort of having a nomination sewn up and attention on to Democrats.
But I want to talk about Hagee for a minute. What he says to me is that John McCain is a typical politician. He basically won the nomination without shoring up the right wing of the party. He needs to shore up the right wing of the party. He sought out endorsement of an extreme right wing minister, knowing full well that he had said, you know, unacceptable things about the Catholic Church, for example.
And then after a pressure over a couple of months was, forced to repudiate his endorsement. It really gives lie to the notion that he's a maverick, that he's a straight talker, that he's independent. He's all about trying to shore up the conservative base.
LUI: Anna, I want to pick up on one of the points you just made there.
Charlie, the question really is, can McCain reach those Christian conservatives and the religious right that at this moment seems to be a bit in question based on the two rejections that he had to make the date?
GEROW: No, he has and he will. And again, the notion that this is anything other than straight talk from John McCain is really misplaced. John McCain has had 25 years to tell the American people who he is. They know him, they trust him. They know he's a man of credibility and a straight talker.
This is really something that's going to blow over very quickly in my judgment. We'll get on to the real issue. If this is the best the Democrats have to throw against John McCain, he's in pretty good shape.
LUI: Well, some of that might -- I'm watching you Anna and you seem to be shaking your head there. What are you thinking?
GREENBERG: Well, I just think it's the beginning of revealing, you know, who John McCain is. I mean, you can -- there's a whole series of different issues where he has changed his position for political reasons.
For example, he rejected the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and now he says we should make them permanent. He rejected Jerry Falwell and other right-wing ministers and now he's seeking out, you know, Hagee's endorsement.
I mean, we can go across a range of different issues where he has basically changed his position because he's running for president and I think that's all going to be revealed.
LUI: All right. I know that you want to respond there, Charlie, but we're going to move on to this. Bob Barr, as you probably know, five hours ago got the Libertarian endorsement there. He is now the nominee for the Libertarian Party. What does this mean for John McCain going forward?
GEROW: I don't think it's an issue that is as big as some would like it to seem. John McCain has spent the last few months shoring up the conservative base. I think he's going to be fine with them moving forward. We're going to talk about the vice presidential selection process in a minute, I know. There's where the conservative base is really going to come into play.
The Libertarians will take a fringe element, some of those conservatives, some of them -- really, frankly, pretty liberal. There's no cohesiveness to the Libertarian Party. Bob Barr is going to get some votes, but I don't think they'll all come from John McCain.
LUI: Anna, what do you think? Will this be the Ralph Nader of 2000 Al Gore?
GREENBERG: I think it's going to be a real problem for John McCain. First of all, everything says this is going to be another close election. All of the polls have been very, very close. Some have, you know, Obama up a bit. Some have McCain up a bit.
And I think that, you know, Bob Barr and the Libertarian Party represent a real threat to John McCain. Even if he gets 2, 3 percent of the vote, that could be a real problem in a close election for him. I don't think you see the same thing on the Democratic side. I think there's a great cohesiveness and a real desire to win.
LUI: Let's move on now to Hillary Clinton's recent statement regarding Robert F. Kennedy and the assassination, trying to explain how long the race has gone so far today.
Anna, do you think that's what she was just trying to say?
GREENBERG: Well, you know, I don't know. I don't know her personally. I assume that's what she was trying to say. I mean, if you listen to what she said it seemed like a sort of fairly innocent comment around trying to talk about the length of this race. So, I take her at her word when she said that's all she meant by it.
LUI: As Senator Obama did as well. Now, Charlie, what do you say about this? Do you think that she's -- she's saying that it's taken out of context? Was it taken out of context?
GEROW: I tend -- I tend to agree with Anna. I really do. And I think that Hillary Clinton did all that she could from a crisis communications perspective. She apologized quickly and I think fairly contritely. Most significantly, she brought out Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who said "no mas."
But the problem for the Clinton campaign here is that they've tried to use this period of time to convince the Democratic superdelegates, the media and the American people that she's a superior candidate in a general election and yet, there have been a serious of gaffs that have put her behind. She's on the short end of the stick right now. She can't afford to make these kinds of mistakes.
LUI: Is that why she wrote that op-ed piece in the "New York Daily News"?
GEROW: I think it is. I think it is.
LUI: All right. Thank you, both. We appreciate you stopping by today. Charlie Gerow and Anna Greenberg. It's been fantastic talking with you, guys. Wish we had more time, but you know how it goes. Appreciate it.
GREENBERG: Thank you.
GEROW: Our pleasure.
LUI: Seeking refuge in a church after a record-setting immigration bust. Tonight, where are those families and a school superintendent who says the bust has emptied his schools.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was a very warm-hearted person. And you could see the caring in his eyes when he would talk about his family. And he'd talk about his children and his wife and how he was so worried about them, but that he was very upbeat about preparing to go to Iraq.
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LUI: Again, remembering loved ones on this Memorial Day weekend.
It's being called the largest immigration raid on a workplace in U.S. history with some of the harshest punishments. 389 mostly Guatemalan and Mexican workers arrested at a kosher meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa -- reportedly the largest kosher meatpacking plant.
Now, left behind -- their spouses, their children. And people in the town now saying the federal raid has torn Postville apart.
UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The only sign of this raid on an Iowa meatpacking plant, load after load of buses from the Department of Homeland Security filled with nearly 400 workers, their faces hidden behind tinted windows. Some of this town's residents struggled to hold back their emotions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My heart is really breaking. I mean, they're good people. I mean, I've never had any of them do anything bad to me, never. And I mean, they're just trying to earn an honest living. That's it. You know, they're not taking jobs from anybody, you know. They're just here to earn a living.
UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Helicopters circling overhead tipped off families that immigration agents were approaching. The "Washington Post" reports a man and his wife, both workers at the plant, hid for hours before escaping and finding refuge in the pews of the town's only Catholic Church. Hundreds of Guatemalan and Mexican families gathered here hoping to avoid arrests but most were caught.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The community is being broken up. Families are being broken up. Little children are left alone or a mother is left with two or three little children and the bread winner, who they expected to come home on Monday. They left Monday morning in the same fashion they've left every single day. They're not coming home and they're just panic stricken.
UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: According to the Immigration and Custom Enforcement Office, most of those arrested were convicted this week of felonies ranging from identity theft to using false documents. Many got five months in prison, with orders to deport them back to their home country.
LUI: Well, so far, no officials at the meat plant have been charged. Joining me now by phone is the school superintendent in Postville, Iowa, David Strudthoff.
Good evening to you, David, and thanks for being here with us. You've said that half the kids in your elementary school -- 200 children were absent the day after the raid? How has this affected your community?
VOICE OF DAVID STRUDTHOFF, SUPERINTENDENT, POSTVILLE COMMUNITY SCHOOL: Well, the situation we're running into here is we're breaking some new ground because, quite frankly, we haven't had -- we had over 10 percent of our entire population in our community imprisoned and so that hasn't happened since the Civil War.
So, we're entering into areas of, you know, economic, social situations that, quite frankly, no other community has really had to struggle with or has experienced for quite a long time.
As for the children, our number one issue was to get to their life back to as normal as possible. They needed refuge for at least eight hours a day where they could count on everything being they way it had been before the raid.
And so, we really made efforts in school to make sure their days are as normal as possible. And the experiences they had there was something that, you know, they could look forward to, count on and be relied that they knew they'd be safe. So, that's basically what we've worked on following the raids or immediately after that.
LUI: David, you sent some pictures to us. Describe to us how these children, these groups are really a strong part of your community.
STRUDTHOFF: Well, more than a strong part, you know. They're enrolled in the heart of our community. The bottom line is our immigrant population actually started back when the Eastern Europeans came in early '90s. So, we have a number of Russian, Ukrainian parents that still live in this community.
The Latino population is a little bit more recent. And they came in the -- basically the late '80s -- I'm sorry, the late '90s. But many of them now are married, have children and they're an integral part of our fabric of not only our community, in the business, but also our school community.
Children, of course, in our lower elementaries make up almost 50 percent of the total population. And so, that's the kind of issue that we face there.
LUI: With that said, David, there have been some comments that what the Feds had done was perhaps overly aggressive, perhaps more than they should have done. Do you share that opinion?
STRUDTHOFF: Well, here's the thing. I'm in the kid business and my issue is dealing with the children. And the biggest issue I have, instead of pointing fingers at who did what, when -- the reality, the blame really needs to be placed on our government officials for not having the courage to stand up at the very least, to send the children that we -- that are being hurt with this.
They had an opportunity to pass legislation called the Dream Act just less than a year and a half ago. And for no other reason than the lack of courage, they couldn't get it done. Much of the pain that we're experiencing here, a lot of it has to do just with the lack of courage from our government officials in stepping up and trying to protect the weakest and most vulnerable part of our society and that's our children.
LUI: David, we spoke with officials at the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and they say they can't comment on the investigation into the company so far, Agro-Processors.
But that - quote -- and this is what they said, "ICE targets egregious employers who ignore the laws of the country and knowingly pursue a business strategy based on hiring illegal aliens. ICE must build worksite investigations in stages. Developing sufficient evidence against employers requires complex white-collar crime investigations that can take years to bear fruit."
Now, last year they arrested more than 90 company supervisors of Agro-Processors. What has been the response to the fact that at this moment, none of them have been charged, managers or supervisors?
STRUDTHOFF: Well, I think that's kind of concerns we're having a little bit. I think we basically know. I guess -- I can't speak to what's going to happen here because, honestly, none of us know. But what I've seen experiences with other plants that have been raided is usually the executive directors, CEOs basically go away scot-free and the middle management will be the sacrificial lambs. I'm guessing it will be a similar thing that happens here.
LUI: All right. David Strudthoff, thank you so much for stopping by this evening and speaking with us here on CNN NEWSROOM. We appreciate it. You have a good evening, we hope.
STRUDTHOFF: Thank you very much.
All right. Coming up, new details from the areas that suffered from those deadly tornadoes. One more check of the extreme weather forecast right after this.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a picture of my brother Sergeant Jason Vaughn. The thing I most admired about my brother was his kindness and compassion for others. We always said that he should have been a politician because he could really work a room. He was killed May the 10th, 2007 in Baqubah, Iraq, and we will always miss him.
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LUI: And there are hundreds of memories like that on cnn.com if you'd like to listen to more for in memory -- for Memorial Day, rather.
We've had some really extreme weather tonight including deadly tornadoes. We're going to check in one last time with Jacqui Jeras in the Weather Center.
Jacqui, you've certainly been working it today.
LUI: All right. Thanks, Jacqui. What a busy day it's been for you. We'll be right back. Stay with us.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my brother, David Kirkpatrick. What I miss about him most is his humor. He was such a funny kid and, you know, he was quiet but anything that he said, anything that came out of his mouth was always funny. He always had something to tell you and he was only 20 and we miss him so much and we miss him more and more every day.
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LUI: And you can send us your memories, audio or video, by going to i-report.com. Remember that prediction we heard a while back about a gallon of gas costing over four bucks by Memorial Day weekend?
Well, in 11 states and D.C., it has come true. Take a look at this map and you'll see exactly what we mean here. As for the average in the rest of the country, AAA says we're looking at another record high price -- $3.93 a gallon. As long as I'm crunching the numbers for you right now. This is the 19th straight increase and the 18th straight record-high for the weekend.
And with that, I'm Richard Lui in for Rick Sanchez. Have a great weekend ahead. Thanks for joining us right here on CNN NEWSROOM.