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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Obama and McCain are Making the Economy Issue Number One; Politics and Your Brain; The Raw Politics of Religion
Aired June 10, 2008 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening everybody and get ready. John McCain and Barack Obama are making the economy issue number one and we are "Keeping Them Honest" tonight.
Tonight how they are already going at it over your money, your vote, in big venues, and one-on-one.
Take at look.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I'm rolling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready to roll.
OBAMA: Which way am I going? All right.
BROWN: Senator Obama spent the morning in Barnes (ph) Jewish hospital in St. Louis making the rounds with a nurse there and touting his plan for universal health care. He's back home tonight celebrating his daughter Sasha's 7th birthday.
Senator McCain for his part spent his morning addressing a small business summit in Washington talking taxes.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Will we enact the largest single tax increase since the Second World War as my opponent proposes or will we keep taxes low for families and employers? That's a question that will be asked. This election offers Americans a very distinct choice.
BROWN: The senator finished his day with a little revenue enhancement of his own; a fund-raiser here in New York. Wife Cindy also making news saying she envisions no roll for herself in a McCain administration.
We're going to start back at the economy though. Another record day for gasoline and the new concern; 24 percent of Americans in the latest CNN opinion research survey, nearly one in four called the cost of gasoline a crisis now. Another 59 percent say it is a major problem.
Today in Washington, though, the senate did, well, nothing about it; Republicans and Democrats failing to agree on an energy bill. With that, it's a pretty gloomy backdrop.
Here's "360's" Joe Johns now keeping the candidates honest on gasoline, taxes, your money and your vote.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The differences between these guys are enormous; what they think the government should do with your money. Here's how Obama tries to paint McCain.
OBAMA: A full throated endorsement of George Bush's policies.
JOHNS: And here's how McCain tries to paint Obama.
MCCAIN: It seems to me he's running for Jimmy Carter's second.
JOHNS: So what's the truth of it? Keeping them honest, we asked a couple of guys who track this policy stuff from different sides of the political spectrum and they agree on a couple of things.
Both Obama and McCain have some pretty bad ideas when it comes to doing something about the price of gasoline. Bad idea number one --
OBAMA: I'll make oil companies like Exxon pay a tax on their windfall profits.
JOHNS: It sounds like a way to punish the oil companies for record profits, right? But our experts say the cost of that windfall profits tax would probably just get passed onto the consumer.
HENRY AARON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: I believe that the administrative difficulties associated with implementing such a tax, the peculiar incentive effects that it produces on businesses are not beneficial to the economy.
JOHNS: Bad idea number two --
MCCAIN: All I wanted to do was give working Americans a little relief.
JOHNS: McCain proposed suspending the federal gas tax. Both experts say that idea is downright silly because the oil companies are under no obligation to pass the savings on to the customer.
DAVID KREUTZER, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: It sells to the public because they think it's going to lower their price. They're not going to be happy when they find out that it won't lower their price and they'll be even more upset if they find out it's going to the oil companies.
JOHNS: Obama opposes suspending the federal gas tax. So maybe it wasn't a coincidence that McCain gave a big economic speech today and didn't even mention this idea.
JEANNE COMMINGS, POLITICO.COM: It really surprised me. I wondered if it signaled that he may be indeed stepping away from it.
JOHNS: No word from the campaign on that one. But wait a minute this is not all about gas prices. These candidates are worlds apart on all kinds of economic issues. On trade policies -- Obama wants to revisit NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement that gets blamed sometimes falsely for American job loss. McCain says no way.
On income taxes, McCain wants to extend the George Bush tax cuts. Obama wants to mostly let them run out, effectively raise taxes on top wage earners.
OBAMA: We're going to roll back the Bush tax cuts on the top 1 percent, the wealthiest Americans.
MCCAIN: Under Senator Obama's tax plan, Americans of every background would see their taxes rise.
JOHNS: On and on it goes, a high-stakes debate over your money with your vote in the balance.
Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.
BROWN: Digging deeper now, CNN senior political analyst david Gergen. We have got GOP strategist and CNN contributor Ed Rollins and also Hillary Rosen, political director of the Huffington Post.
Welcome to everybody.
David, let me start with you. As we just heard a lot of differences between these two candidates, also a lot of criticism of some of the ideas they're proposing. But have you seen enough substance by either of them regarding their vision for the economy and what do you make of it all so far?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I must tell you at the moment, Campbell, I don't think they've provided us their full economic plans. For example, we haven't got a budget or the frame work for a budget from either candidate.
Barack Obama's campaign is saying maybe in September. I don't know when John McCain's will. They both need to go deeper.
But I must tell you, as this campaign shifts from Iraq, which is McCain's strong suit, over to the economy, I think -- I do think that helps senator Obama some. The Pew center has a poll out that shows among people who think gasoline prices and energy is really a critical issue, the Democrats have a 15-point lead over Republicans at the moment.
BROWN: How, David, do you think - and that's a pretty substantial lead. How does McCain or any Republican in this election cycle close that gap and try to take ownership on the economy as an issue?
GERGEN: Well, I think a couple of things. One is that John McCain was giving a speech to small business folks today. I must tell you if you put back-to-back the McCain speech against the Obama speech yesterday, I think John McCain did pretty darn well.
It is a better written speech and it's not just orthodox conservatism. It is rather a lot of orthodoxy combined with a strong flavor of Teddy Roosevelt.
He wants to cut taxes but boy, he wants to go after those CEOs who are making lots of money. He wants to go after big companies. He wants to - and he says he has the line, he doesn't want -- he wants government to be at your side, not in your way. So I think he has the capacity of rhetoric to possibly help that.
But overall, you have to say, if the economy craters, and there have been some very bad signs in the last four or five days that indeed we may be heading back into what we thought we just avoided and that was a recession. If that were to happen it has to work in Obama's favor over the long-term.
BROWN: Ed, let me ask you specifically about one of the lines of attack that McCain is also using today. He said that Barack Obama would enact the single largest tax increase since the Second World War. Is this a strong argument for him?
ED ROLLINS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It is if it's true. I think the critical thing here is, in all of this, David and I were in the Reagan White House together and we went through two big tax overhauls. They are very complicated issues.
I think what I'm a little concerned about just as an American is I see both sides rushing to get something out there without seeing the long- term consequences. They're trying to do quick fixes. There's no such thing as a quick fix when you're really laying out an economic plan.
And I would wish both of them would take a little at a time here, put something out they can both run on. The country deserves two different views from two different parties and two different candidates but something they can really believe in and something that will make a difference.
BROWN: Well, the counter to that, too, Hillary is that Obama's argument is very much that McCain's tax policies are about benefiting wealthy and corporate America, more of the same of what --
HILLARY ROSEN, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, HUFFINGTON POST: Well, in fact, they are. As a practical matter, he's offering $5 trillion worth of tax cuts to wealthy Americans and corporations and look at something like the oil industry which has had record profits for the last year and a half as gas prices continue to increase.
You know what, if the oil companies aren't going to invest in alternative fuels and do other kinds of things to change the energy equation for the American people, then those taxes need to come back into the pocketbook of people who will invest.
One thing that is a big difference between John McCain and Barack Obama in these two speeches is Barack Obama actually said I'm going to pay for whatever investment incentives we give people for the middle class tax cuts he's proposing as opposed to a tax cut for the wealthy.
He's looking at a "pay as you go." We've spent hundreds of billions on this war in Iraq. John McCain is not proposing, you know, a dime of savings there. Barack Obama I think is being pretty responsible with spending and taxes.
ROLLINS: First of all, rich Americans are always going to make out. I don't care how you change the tax policy; they're going to basically find a way to invest their money or do whatever.
What you really have to do is stimulate small business. And I think the key thing here is to make sure that small business have an opportunity both getting government regulation off their back and not have things like FICA expanded out.
You have to basically make sure that they can create the job market because that's where jobs are created in America. And I think to a certain extent, you can hammer all you want on big business, big oil companies. I learned a long time ago, corporations don't pay taxes; they pass it off to the consumer. So whatever you try and do to basically make that, it's not going to work.
BROWN: All right. Hold that thought. We're going to come back with you guys in just a second. David Gergen, Hillary Rosen and Ed Rollins.
David had some advice for the candidates on the "360" blog today. You can check that out at cnn.com/360.
We've got more politics ahead, including Barack Obama and why these days his campaign is looking an awful lot like Hillary Clinton's.
And then later, is there another campaign in Chelsea Clinton's future, namely her own? We're going to look at what's next for her tonight on "360."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: America, this is our moment. This is our time; our time to turn the page on the policies of the past.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Barack Obama's sweeping victory speech one week ago tonight. With the general election campaign under way, he seems to be taking a page out of Hillary Clinton's book, carrying that populist mantle.
Senator Obama is reaching out to the working class and the struggling Americans. The question though, is will it work?
CNN's Jessica Yellin has the "Raw Politics."
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Barack Obama spent the morning touring a Missouri hospital with a hard-working nurse. Remind you of something? Maybe Hillary Clinton's tour with the hard-working nurse?
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D-NY): She's getting excellent care.
YELLIN: Or Hillary's ad about hard-working women?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They work the night shift at the local hospital. They're often overworked, underpaid, and sometimes overlooked.
YELLIN: Obama's message is familiar, too.
OBAMA: You don't have to read the stock tickers or scan the headlines in the financial sections to understand the seriousness of the situation we're in right now. You just have to go to Pennsylvania and listen to the man who lost his job but can't even afford the gas to drive around and look for a new one.
YELLIN: Sounds a bit like the populist themes Clinton adopted late in her campaign.
CLINTON: Or we can elect somebody who's going to fight for you. That is the choice in this election.
YELLIN: Which sounds like John Edwards from the early days of the race.
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS, (D) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How long are we going to let drug companies, insurance companies and their lobbyists run this country? America doesn't belong to them. America belongs to us.
YELLIN: Clinton's heartfelt working Americans worked. She adopted the "I feel your pain" message right before the Texas and Ohio contests.
CLINTON: If you will stand with me, I will stand and fight for you day after day after day until we do make history and take our country back. Thank you all and God Bless you!
YELLIN: She went on to win 9 of the remaining 15 contests. So as Barack Obama tries to woo Clinton's base of blue collar voters and working women, it should be no surprise he's taking a page from a winning playbook.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Senator Obama watched Senator Clinton, watched her give voice to the pain and frustration of these working folks and I think it sparked something in him. Now he sounds more like the community organizer that he was for so many years in the south side of Chicago, going to churches and neighborhoods and helping folks who lost their jobs.
YELLIN: The challenge for Barack Obama will be finding a way to appeal to blue collar Democrats who are drawn to a fiery populist message without alienating Republicans and independents. Hitting the right notes will be a tricky balancing act for him in the months ahead.
Jessica Yellin, CNN, Washington.
BROWN: Still a lot to talk about tonight and you can join the conversation on our blog at cnn.com/360.
Up next, something that is getting a ton of buzz and that is choosing a running mate. Senator Obama's adviser says they have a list of the names. Tonight we'll look at the veep-stakes in our "Strategy Session"
And then later, under water in the Midwest; the latest on the heavy flooding when "360" continues.
BROWN: Now, just because she's out of the race doesn't mean Hillary Clinton is out of the game. We know she remains open to the possibility of being Barack Obama's running mate. So might a lot of other people. But one man isn't one of them.
Today, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland took his name off the list saying he would absolutely not join the Obama ticket. At the same time, we did learn today that Obama's VP team has come up with 20 names. They include top officials as well as former military leaders.
So who could they be? And who should be the chosen one? Well that's the focus of tonight's "Strategy Session." With us again, CNN senior political analyst David Gergen; Republican strategist and CNN contributor Ed Rollins; and political director of the Huffington Post, Hillary Rosen.
David, let me ask you about qualities that Obama may need. Does a vice president for Barack Obama need to have national security experience?
GERGEN: I think the first and most important thing is that he choose someone who is seen as a serious person of gravitas, someone who could become president. I do think he needs help there in particular.
If he wants -- one clear option is to go for someone with national security experience and Campbell the surprise today was to hear that perhaps former military generals might be on that list.
Obviously, Wes Clark has been supporting Hillary Clinton, might be a possibility. There are other names now floating such as two former marine generals, one is Tony Zinni, an ardent outspoken opponent of the war in Iraq. And the other is Jim Jones, a man who is highly praised in Washington, former commandant of the Marine Corps, and now deeply engaged in an energy project.
Those are the kinds of names that are suddenly appearing on this list that give it a somewhat different complexion.
BROWN: So Hilary, do you agree with David or is there -- do you think there needs to be an emphasis on a female running mate, whether it's Hillary Clinton or somebody else? ROSEN: You know, I think it would be great if he picked Hillary Clinton but I think David is exactly right. The first thing that Barack Obama has to do is pick somebody who is ready to be president at any point.
The second thing he needs to do is pick somebody who he's comfortable with because it's an extremely lonely place in the presidency. So having a vice president you can count on, that you can have private advice with and count that that person will give you the best most candid answer.
So I'm hearing a lot of other names as well. You know, Chris Dodd, Senator Chris Dodd from Connecticut is a name starting to float up to the top.
BROWN: Let me ask you the importance of that comfortable relationship. Does that, in a sense, put Hillary Clinton kind of further behind many other possibilities because of the brutality of the campaign?
ROSEN: I don't think so. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were friends for a long time when he got here. She campaigned for him in his election. I think they're going to move back to that good friend and easy relationship pretty soon. I think they both understand the campaign is over.
BROWN: Ed, John McCain has taken a far more low key approach in terms of how they are going about this than Obama has. What do you make of the contrast?
ROLLINS: I don't think it's quite as important. John McCain has very significant experience in Washington. I think anything he adds is a compliment, but is not necessarily a compliment.
I think in the case of Barack Obama; he is young, he's inexperienced. People don't think he has a foreign policy credential. So anything he can do with gravitas, he's way ahead of the game. So I think McCain has got a little more time. I think the governor might be very helpful; some of them can handle the southern base.
But as David talked, the generals are a very interesting concept, and anybody who has three or four stars on their shoulders is usually a superstar.
But I think the model ought to be like Dukakis picking Benson or Carter picking Mondale. I think he needs someone with some credibility, maybe a governor of that stature.
ROSEN: Pretty much we don't want anybody who is going to lose. So those are two really bad examples for Democrats. Al Gore is a much better example.
ROLLINS: Mondale did not lose. And the head of the ticket is not basically -- it was Carter-Mondale and remember, you guys did win that one.
BROWN: Let me go - because I want to get to this issue before we run out of time.
David, I want to ask you about Jim Johnson, one of the members of Obama's vetting team has come under attack by Republicans for receiving loans from a mortgage company now under federal investigation. Obama says essentially this isn't an issue, it doesn't matter for the task at hand. But how big a distraction could this become for Obama?
GERGEN: I think based on where it is now, not much. What Obama basically said was, look, we're not going to start hiring a vet to vet the vetters. That is Jim Johnson and Eric Holder and Caroline Kennedy who formed this team are, after all, helping him in a campaign selection process, getting information to help him on the field.
Jim Johnson has done that twice before and done it very well. He has a good reputation in this area. So if he were putting him up for a cabinet post, that's a wholly different proposition, as both Hilary and Ed will tell you. That requires senate confirmation.
This is a very temporary, very quick and it doesn't have much to do with a countrywide or Fannie Mae (ph) or anything like that.
ROSEN: The McCain campaign is doing this obviously because they have got some problems with where they are with -- they still haven't purged the lobbyists from their campaign and the like. Johnson's loans were well before nationwide had any trouble. Countrywide.
ROLLINS: Jim Johnson made -- I ran a campaign against Jim Johnson in which he won one state. He went on and ran Fannie Mae and made a ton of money. He doesn't need any low-interest loan. He's a very fine guy and he'll make good choices.
BROWN: We got to end it there. But many thanks to David Gergen, to Hillary Rosen and to Ed Rosen. Thanks guys.
Tomorrow night on "360," the secrets of Al Qaeda in Iraq revealed. CNN's Michael Ware and his Baghdad bureau producers, they have been looking at the contents of computer hard drives obtained by CNN; hard drives that were seized by U.S. allied Iraqi militias and they found some pretty disturbing videos like this one.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Al Qaeda gunmen brought this man here to die. Staged for maximum impact, he's to be executed on this busy market street. We don't know why. The Al Qaeda members who recorded this tape offer no explanation. But the anticipation is agonizing; leading to a moment that we cannot show you.
A punishment for betraying Al Qaeda or for breaking their strict version of Islamic law? Either way, it was public executions like this that would help lead to the unraveling of Al Qaeda in Iraq. And Al Qaeda knew it.
It is an "AC 360" exclusive and there are more videos, even secret documents. We're going to share them with you tomorrow on "360."
Up next, Midwest misery; rising water, more homes and cars washed away.
and then later, what's next for Chelsea Clinton after her mom falls from the campaign trail? Could it be a political career of her own?
BROWN: After Hillary Clinton's exit, what is next for her daughter Chelsea? Could it be a career in politics like mom and dad? That is coming up.
But first Erica Hill joins us now with a "360 Bulletin." Hi, Erica.
ERICA HILL, CNN HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Campbell, I want to get you the latest on the deadly flooding in the Midwest. It is far from over tonight. In fact CNN meteorologist Chad Myers warning that trouble in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota could continue for the next three weeks.
In Wisconsin alone, authorities are carefully monitoring 1,000 dams for fear they could burst.
Near Walitka (ph), Oklahoma, two girls, 11 and 13 years old, shot to death on a dirt road. The best friends were having a sleepover. They decided to take a walk. Officials believe the killer is someone local. There is a $14,000 reward for any information.
And a cancer patient in Texas is the first death linked to the tomato salmonella outbreak. As the FDA tries to determine the source of the outbreak, more restaurants and grocery stores, even some public schools have stopped serving and selling tomatoes. All together, better safe than sorry, Campbell.
BROWN: Absolutely. Ok Erica thanks.
And an update now from Anderson, deep in the heart of Africa. Anderson and the "Planet in Peril" team are in Cameroon for "360's" Battle Lines investigation. We'll hear from him tomorrow night about the transmission of disease between humans and animals.
Earlier they were in Rwanda face to face with mountain gorillas, some of whom had never been visited by tourists. Here are the pictures; pretty extraordinary encounter. Just a handful of scientists interact with the great apes and there are about 40 gorillas in this research group.
To see more of the slide show, logon to cnn.com/360 and click on the link.
Up next, the other Clinton. She used to be seen and not heard but everything changed when she hit the campaign trail. What is next for Chelsea Clinton now that this campaign is over?
And Erica, here is tonight's "Beat 360" photo. HILL: I've been waiting.
BROWN: Senator Obama carrying a tray of food into a room at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. Here's the caption from our staff winner, Allen Smithee: "Universal health care, one patient at a time."
BROWN: That's pretty good. Think you can do better? Go to cnn.com/360 and send us your entry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHELSEA CLINTON, DAUGHTER OF BILL AND HILLARY CLINTON: Ready to go? I have now been to 39 states.
BROWN: Talking to people but not the media. That is how Chelsea Clinton courted voters for her mom. While she didn't attract the kind of attention her father did, she certainly did get noticed.
What stood out was her passion, her poise and the possibility that Chelsea may enter politics. So will she follow in her parent's footsteps?
CNN's Gary Tuchman reports.
H. CLINTON: You'll always find me on the front lines of democracy fighting for the people.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The day before Hillary Clinton officially suspended her campaign Chelsea Clinton gave a sneak preview of what her mother would say.
C. CLINTON: My mom will be making a speech tomorrow supporting Senator Obama.
TUCHMAN: The former first daughter addressed 15,000 people at the Texas state Democratic convention.
C. CLINTON: Thank you so much for all of your support.
TUCHMAN: It was one of more than 400 events in 40 states where she spoke out for her mother.
C. CLINTON: I passionately support my mom. She is my mom.
TUCHMAN: We've known Chelsea Clinton since she was 12 years old but most people had never even heard her voice and knew nothing about her wit before this campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are your thoughts of a Bush-Clinton, Bush- Clinton pattern?
C. CLINTON: For one, I wish we hadn't had a second Bush. TUCHMAN: Hillary and Bill Clinton are the career politicians. But Chelsea seemed to get the highest percentage of positive campaigning accolades.
AMIE PARNES, POLITICO.COM: I expected to see this 28-year-old girl who is sort of winging it on the trail, and instead what I saw was this girl who was very articulate and knew her stuff in and out.
She talked about the war in Iraq. She talked about the economy. And it kind of blew me away.
TUCHMAN: Chelsea Clinton would not take any questions from reporters. Only from the mostly college students at her rallies.
At least twice, though, questions came that her aides feared reporters would ask. Like about her father's personal controversies in the White House.
C. CLINTON: It's none of your business.
TUCHMAN: But then Chelsea kind of answered the question.
C. CLINTON: I don't think you should vote for or against my mother because of my father.
TUCHMAN: Even when Clinton aides clumsily told a New York City restaurant owner that he had to take down a picture of Chelsea Clinton visiting his restaurant, it couldn't reduce the admiration the owner has for her.
NINO SELIMAJ, RESTASURANT OWNER: I'm proud of meeting Chelsea and having taken a picture with her. It's wonderful.
TUCHMAN: By the way, the picture still remains.
PARNES: I think this is a like a trial period is for her and she knows what the campaign trail is about now. I think we can expect to see her out campaigning to be a congresswoman in the next 10, 20 years, maybe sooner.
TUCHMAN: In March, she told University of Mississippi students this --
C. CLINTON: I have a little apartment, a dog, a job. And at some point that is what I will return to.
TUCHMAN: Her job inside this Manhattan skyscraper where she works for a hedge fund. It's not clear if she's back at work yet. But in this especially noisy neighborhood in Manhattan, she is back in her apartment with her Yorkshire terrier.
No word whatsoever about whether she might be a politician some day.
Gary Tuchman, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: And still ahead tonight, the politics of fear. Remember this ad? Most people say it didn't change their vote, but their brains said something different. We're going to go up close.
Also ahead, the "Raw Politics" of faith. How can John McCain and Barack Obama put their pastor problems behind them and keep the support of people in the pews? When "360" continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's 3:00 a.m. And your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Hillary Clinton's famous 3:00 a.m. Ad campaign. The strategy was simple and hardly new; win votes by preying on emotions. But does it work? CNN's Randi Kaye reports up close.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The year was 1964. Lyndon Johnson was running for president against conservative Barry Goldwater when his campaign unleashed this.
A little girl, a mushroom cloud and a booming voice, warning the stakes were too high not to vote for Johnson; enough to scare the voters and help elect Johnson. He won by the widest margin in history.
Fast forward more than 40 years and those same fear tactics are still playing out today. Have you noticed the candidates trying to scare you with attack ads? You may not like these ads and think they don't work, but your brain knows better.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two wars, oil prices skyrocketing and an economy in crisis.
KAYE: Emery University psychologist Drew Westen, author of "The Political Brain," says fear-based attack ads are very effective because they reach the voters' subconscious.
Is the subconscious smarter than we think?
DREW WESTEN: Yes.
KAYE: To prove it, we asked Westen and his business partner Joel Weinberger to measure how this group of undecided voters responds to attack ads.
Their company, thinkscan.com, has developed software to probe the subconscious. The voters watch the ads, then identify the color of key words, like weak, inexperienced or terrorist. If they hesitate, even for a thousandth of a second, it means the word had impact and so did the ad.
JOEL WEINBERGER, PRESIDENT, THINKSCAN.COM: If the word is on their mind, if the word was activated, it will slow them down.
KAYE: Westen says that response time measures voters' subconscious feelings. Take Hillary Clinton's 3:00 a.m. ad, designed to make Barack Obama look inexperienced.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's 3:00 a.m. And your children are safe and asleep.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That one to me was pandering and fear-mongering.
KAYE: Did it make you think Hillary Clinton is a stronger leader than Barack Obama?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not at all. It made me think that she's much more political than he is.
KAYE: In fact, no one in the group thought it made them doubt Obama. But it did. The group had the strongest association with words like weak and lightweight, which Westen says means the ad made them question Obama's readiness and they didn't even know it.
DREW WESTEN, AUTHOR, "THE POLITICAL BRAIN": Its purpose too is to make him seem like he's scary, he's dangerous, like you need to be afraid if this guy's president. I think that message unconsciously got through.
KAYE: Still not convinced? Watch what happened with this ad against John McCain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think Americans are concerned if we're there for 100 years or 1,000 years or 10,000 years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 100 years in Iraq? And you thought no one could be worse than George Bush.
KAYE: It got a thumbs down from our group, but Westen's data showed it left them feeling McCain has poor judgment and is too close to President Bush. When this test was given to a much larger group, 100 voters, the results were nearly identical.
Why does this happen? Westen says the ads trigger a response in a part of our brain that experiences emotion. Still, Westen believes attack ads are risky. They can backfire.
RUSTY BOWERS, UNDECIDIED VOTER: I think the attack ads show the weakness of the candidate who is pushing the attack ad. So it looks like Hillary Clinton while watching the 3:00 a.m. phone call is saying that I feel people don't think I'm fully capable, so I'll make this ad.
KAYE: The ticket to the White House Westen says is making voters feel inspired by you and worried about your opponent. If you don't believe that, just ask your subconscious. Randi Kaye, CNN, Atlanta.
BROWN: So will your subconscious determine your vote come November? Let's talk to psychiatrist Gail Saltz about that.
Dr. Saltz, why would people genuinely think they dislike attack ads and then you look at these tests and they show that they're doing something, they're actually working.
DR. GAIL SALTZ, PSYCHIATRIST: Exactly. What that demonstrates is there's a big difference between what's on your conscious mind and what's on your unconscious mind.
And the fact is what we saw is that consciously some would think this is bad form, or I don't like that this person is attacking someone. What we saw is that unconsciously, it's almost like a subliminal message which, you know, was made legal many, many years ago.
But it's walking up to the line of the subliminal message, transporting a message into your mind sort of without you knowing that that's really what is going on. And that affects your reasoning ability. So it actually impacts you greatly in your decision making.
BROWN: That's what I was going to say. Once the fears are activated, then how do they play out in the voting booth?
DR. SALTZ: Very much so because basically you think about it. In the voting booth, you're going to be even more stressed. Now your vote really matters and you're not being judged by somebody else.
So for instance, outside the voting booth when we have all these exit polls, they're not super accurate because you're thinking for instance this person's asking me if I'm racist and I'm going to say no, because they will judge me very badly if I said yes. Maybe I even believe consciously the answer is no, but unconsciously if that's lurking anywhere, that will play out in the actual voting booth.
BROWN: And it sounds like I guess even though everybody says they hate these attack ads and the way, you know, politicians go about using them, they're here to stay because they work.
DR. SALTZ: Well, they do work. Basically what they do is trip off this part of the brain called the amygdala (ph) where fear resides and it's rather -- if you think about it -- it's the model of having an anxiety disorder.
If you've seen anyone with panic attacks or a phobia, it's not a logical fear. You would be able to say do you really believe this? No, this doesn't make sense, I know this thing can't hurt me or I don't really believe that this candidate is actually dangerous.
Consciously you think that. But when your amygdala is tripped off, the fear is so great and has nothing to do with logic, that it actually sort of goes into the part of your brain, the cortex that says, you know, what is my reasoning here? And it affects deeply it such that changes your mind.
BROWN: It shuts down your ability to reason.
DR. SALTZ: Exactly.
BROWN: It's interesting stuff. Dr. Gail Saltz, thanks, appreciate it.
DR. SALTZ: My pleasure.
BROWN: Up next, the "Raw Politics" of religion and how both presidential candidates are trying to get right with evangelical voters.
Then later, the surprising connection and there's an understatement between Britney Spears and Bill Clinton, prosecutor Ken Starr. That's when we come back.
BROWN: A look there at Jeremiah Wright and at John Hagee, famous now for being Barack Obama and John McCain's problem pastors.
Tonight, though, we are looking beyond the controversy, at the deeper connections between faith and politics. We're doing it because voters say it matters to them and as you'll see, the candidates know it.
Barack Obama today met privately with Christian leaders. John McCain is reaching out as well. So tonight, the "Raw Politics" of religion.
Here's CNN's Tom Foreman.
TOM FOREMAN: Hold on to your hymnals. The Obama campaign is about to launch a fresh offensive to take religious voters from the Republican Party.
It's called the Joshua Generation Project, and will use parties, concerts, the internet, flyers. David Brody with the Christian broadcasting network says it's just the latest step and McCain better watch out.
DAVID BRODY, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK: The Democratic National Committee has been working on religious outreach for months and now the Barack Obama campaign has been doing the same thing but not just for months, close to a year now.
FOREMAN: Obama's support for abortion rights and his pastor problems give him little chance with older conservative Christians. But his easy way of talking about faith is a break with past Democratic candidates and his camp believes it could give him a shot with the younger crowd many of whom oppose the war and think the United States should do more about world hunger, poverty.
OBAMA: America, this is our moment. FOREMAN: McCain, meanwhile, continues to face questions about his commitment to the religious right in his own party. He's not expected to attend this week's gathering of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest evangelical group.
BRODY: The Grassroots conservative, social conservative Christians want him to be more talkative when it comes to his faith. But John McCain is not willing to do that.
FOREMAN: McCain has tried. He sought endorsements from conservative pastors but in two high profile cases that blew up in his face. Inflammatory past sermons came to light and he had to reject their support.
All of this matters because the votes of conservative Christians have been critical to every Republican presidential victory for 30 years. It's GOP gospel since the days of Reagan; "Thou shalt not win by moderate votes alone."
That is a warning some conservatives are shouting to McCain now, especially with Obama working the pews, looking for converts.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
BROWN: With us now is Tony Perkins, president of the Conservative Family Research Council and author of "Personal Faith, Public Policy." Tony, welcome to you.
Let me ask you, can McCain do you think successfully win over evangelicals while he's trying to kind of enact this dual strategy of also targeting moderate voters and independents?
TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Campbell, he can, but he can't step over them in the pursuit of independents and unaffiliated voters. I think it's important to point out, we talk about these independent voters as if they don't share a similar philosophy to some of these conservative voters.
When in fact in 2004, we saw this huge spike in voter turnout, the value voters; a lot of those value voters were not Republicans. They were not evangelicals. They were independents who shared a lot of the same core value issues.
So it's a mistake to think it's only the religious right or social conservatives that care about value issues.
BROWN: Let's focus for a second on social conservatives because you and I talked about this before and you said frankly they're not that enthused right now at least. What does he need to do to get them energized and if he can't, can he win without them?
PERKINS: Well, he has to talk to them, he can't talk over them. He has to talk about issues that they care about and convince them that those issues are part of his issue set. They're not looking for him to turn his straight talk express into the straight and narrow express and get religion and become a preacher.
But they are expecting him to focus on their issues as a part of his overall political agenda. That means he's got to talk about his record on life, which is actually pretty good. He has to talk about marriage and family. He has to talk about values and he has to connect with them.
You're right, what I see out there is not a ground swell of support moving toward Barack Obama. I mean, his language is opening the ears of some to listen, but when they look at his record, he's way too liberal. Young evangelicals, which I know the package said that he's -- they're being attracted to him, it's interesting that the Pew research recently said that 71 percent of young evangelicals are actually more pro-life than their parents.
Do they care about other issues? Yes, they do. But it's still a priority to protect human life and Barack Obama is not there on that issue.
BROWN: Tony, could the right running mate mobilize conservative Christians for Senator McCain?
PERKINS: Well, Campbell that's a good question. I think it's a critical decision that the senator will make. Depending upon who John McCain chooses as his running mate will depend upon -- or determine whether or not there is that intensity that he needs to be successful in the election.
He needs someone who speaks the language, who can shore up the support among evangelicals who, if they really take a look at John McCain's record, they'll be more comfortable with him.
But unfortunately, in a lot of the -- in a vast majority of the American public that votes, they're not going to take the time to dig down on his record. They're simply going to listen to what he says and he's silent on these value issues for the most part.
BROWN: Tony Perkins for us tonight. Tony, thanks.
PERKINS: Thanks Campbell.
BROWN: A lot more happening tonight. Erica Hill joins us again with a "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Erica.
HILL: Campbell, we begin with a heartbreaking and horrifying runway scene from the capital of Sudan; a Sudanese airliner engulfed in flames. Local television reports more than 200 people were on board the plane when it caught fire just after landing at the Khartoum Airport. There are conflicting reports at this hour on casualties but we are told at least 28 people are dead.
A quiet day on Wall Street, basically a flat day for the Dow closing up at nine points to finish at 12,289; the Nasdaq and the S&P both fell slightly. Despite a dip in oil prices, investors remain cautious. And from the who would have thunk it file tonight, Ken Starr, the same man who uncovered all the lurid details of President Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky. Now he's the guy working to protect celebrity's privacy.
California lawmakers have asked Starr, who is now the Dean of Pepperdine University Law School, to help write a law which would stop the paparazzi from endangering the public by swarming around movie stars.
BROWN: Interesting change of focus there.
HILL: Indeed it is.
BROWN: Erica, here are tonight's "Beat 360" winners. You know how it works. We put a photo on our blog and ask viewers to come up with a caption that is better than the one from our staff.
Here's tonight's photo. Senator Obama carrying a tray of food into a room at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. Our staff winner is Allen Smithee: Universal health care, one patient at a time.
HILL: Not bad.
BROWN: And our viewer winner is Ed in Sidney, Ohio: Hillary is just sick about dropping out, the least I can do is bring her lunch.
HILL: I like it.
BROWN: I know. You helped pick it.
HILL: I did, Ed, I voted for you. You're welcome.
BROWN: All right. See the other captions that didn't make the cut at cnn.com/360. And logon tomorrow afternoon and play along.
Up next, the ultimate accessory; a luxury bag like no other and with quite a price tag. It's our shot of the day.
HILL: Campbell, time now for "The Shot" and perhaps this one is really for the girl who has everything. Perhaps for a certain hotel heiress who on this program is known as she who must not be named. A little something for her to show off.
Certainly not your ordinary clutch handbag here, Campbell. It's platinum encrusted with more than n 2,000 diamonds; 208 carats. It's really super-versatile because if you see the strap there, it's removable, it doubles as a bracelet or necklace. The little bauble on the front there you can actually it wear as a brooch.
Really it's a three to four-in-one. The purse is being shown at London's jewelry week and Campbell, it can be yours for about 2 million bucks. We could split it and share.
BROWN: Yeah, let's do. I'll take Monday through Wednesday.
HILL: Perfect. We'll alternate weekends.
BROWN: Love it.
You can see all the most recent shots on or Website, cnn.com/360 and there you can also see other segments from the program; read the blog, check out the Beat 360 picture. All that and much more; the address again -- cnn.com/360.
I'm Campbell Brown, in for Anderson Cooper. For our international viewers, "CNN TODAY" is next. Here in the States, "LARRY KING" is coming up.