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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Iraqi Prime Minister Endorsing Obama Pullout Plan?; McCain Close to Picking Running Mate?

Aired July 21, 2008 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We begin tonight with breaking news, news with potentially major consequences for the war in Iraq.
After days of wrangling over what Iraq's prime minister wants regarding U.S. troops withdrawals, tonight, just a short time ago, Senator Barack Obama released a statement, along with his traveling companions in Iraq, Republican Chuck Hagel and Democrat Jack Reed.

In describing their meeting today with Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki, they say, in part, Iraqis want an aspirational timetable with a clear date for the redeployment of combat troops. They do not, according to Maliki, want an open-ended presence of U.S. combat forces.

It goes on to say, Maliki stated his hope that U.S. combat forces could be out of Iraq in 2010. That is similar to Obama's 16-month plan, poles apart from what John McCain knows the Iraqis really want, and substantially stronger than the White House, which has refused to use the term timetable, but has reluctantly signed on to what they are calling -- quote -- "a joint aspirational time horizon."

We will take you to Iraq in a moment.

But, first, CNN's Ed Henry is on the North Lawn of the White House tonight with the latest -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the significance is extraordinary.

You now have the Iraqi prime minister here driving himself, jumping right into the middle of the U.S. presidential campaign, and further driving a wedge between the two political parties, clearly coming down on the side of Barack Obama.

Now, John McCain is trying to push back here by saying that the only reason why anyone, including Prime Minister Maliki, is having this conversation about more U.S. troops coming home is that the surge that John McCain supported and Barack Obama opposed is working. And that's giving the breathing space to have this conversation about bringing troops home.

But McCain's pushback is being completely undermined by the fact that this really plays into what Barack Obama has been saying for so long on the campaign trial. And the irony, obviously, is that the only reason why Maliki has any credibility is that John McCain, President Bush and others have been propping him up for the last couple of years. And now he appears to be turning on them, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, what would be Maliki's motive to at this point really get deeply involved in the U.S. campaign?

HENRY: Well, clearly, Maliki has been in a politically precarious situation for the last couple of years.

By pushing back against the Americans, that can only help him back home standing up for Iraqi sovereignty. But, also, you have to remember, right now, Maliki is in intense negotiations with President Bush about the future U.S. presence on the ground in Iraq there. The president is under great pressure to get this done quickly for legacy purposes, to have something that goes beyond his own presidency.

So, the White House knows that Maliki is playing some hardball here. But aides at the White House and in the McCain camp, as well, have really been stunned by just how hard Maliki is pushing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY (voice-over): It was a shocker from Baghdad. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki all but endorsed Democrat Barack Obama's plan for pulling U.S. combat troops, telling a German magazine 16 months is the right time frame for a withdrawal. That seems to step on Republican John McCain's message that a timetable for pulling troops only helps the terrorists.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It doesn't in the slightest undercut the fact that it's based on conditions on the ground and that we have to maintain the progress that we have.

HENRY: McCain says Maliki is still on the same page with the U.S., because there are caveats to any withdrawal, a posture that again puts the Republican candidate in synch with an unpopular White House.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It is solely based on conditions on the ground, which have improved and are likely to continue, given the trajectory, as long as we work to cement the gains.

HENRY (on camera): McCain and the president have previously talked about American troops coming home when the Iraqi government wants the U.S. to leave. But they're not saying that anymore.

MCCAIN: It has to be based on conditions on the ground. But whenever you win wars -- and we are winning -- then we will be able to come home.

HENRY: Maliki has different ideas. After initially saying the prime minister was misinterpreted in the magazine article, a spokesman said, in fact, the Iraqi government would like to see most U.S. combat troops leave by 2010.

That's pretty much Obama's plan, giving the Democrat a clear lift during his trip to Iraq and other hot spots. SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have had a wonderful visit so far and excellent conversations.

HENRY: Putting the White House on the defensive could be a deliberate move by Maliki to strengthen his political standing within Iraq, in advance of fall elections. It may also help him squeeze the White House during talks over the long-term U.S. role in Iraq.

He already won a major concession Friday, when the White House embraced a general time horizon for removing U.S. troops -- this after years of the president rejecting what he called Democratic timetables.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Now, Dana Perino stressed today that the U.S. believes the Iraqis do not want to pull out arbitrarily. And, so, that's different than the Democratic plans to set a firm deadline to withdraw U.S. troops.

But is that a real difference, or is it just a semantical shift by the White House? We may find out as early as next week. That's when the White House hopes to wrap up these talks with Maliki, Maliki, about the future long-term presence there in Iraq -- Anderson.

COOPER: You know, the back and forth on this is confusing, and it's easy to get lost in the weeds. The bottom line, though, is that this seems to be a major shift on the part of the Iraqi government, whether it's for domestic and political reasons in Iraq on the part of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

But, as of Friday from the article in "Der Spiegel" to now, this is a big sea change for the Iraqis.

HENRY: It is.

Maliki has been on the same page with this president so for long. As I noted, President Bush has propped Maliki up. They have been -- they have both had an incentive to sort of be in it together. It looks like, based on this magazine article, that Maliki is starting to split himself ever so slightly from this White House.

And, then, over the weekend, the White House was saying, wait. Wait a second. He's clarifying. He didn't really mean that. And then, today, a spokesman for Maliki came out and reiterated exactly what Maliki said in that article, that, basically, he wants troops out by 2010. So, the White House is in a very precarious spot. It is clear Maliki is starting to split himself from this White House -- Anderson.

COOPER: Ed, thanks.

We are going to have more now on the broader trip that Barack Obama is taking and the bigger political picture, what Senator Obama is trying to accomplish as he makes his way west from Kabul, where he was this weekend, through the Middle East and Europe.

Candy Crowley has tonight's "Raw Politics."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Barack Obama is 6,200 miles from the nearest U.S. campaign trail, but, as he steps into the international arena, the imagery sent back home is all American, commander in chief-like, a helicopter tour of Iraq with David Petraeus, the general in charge of multinational forces, a chow-down with the troops in Afghanistan, basketball with U.S. forces in Kuwait.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, how is the trip?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Great so far. Thank you.

CROWLEY: But if there is anything better in politics than imagery, it is timing. And Barack Obama has it.

OBAMA: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you so much for having me.

CROWLEY: He arrives in Iraq as the Maliki government said it hopes U.S. combat troops will be out of Iraq by 2010, pretty much Obama's 16-month timetable.

OBAMA: We had a very constructive discussion.

CROWLEY: And though Maliki says his previous statement that Obama's timetable seemed about right was misinterpreted, and in any case not an endorsement of Obama, it was more than enough for the Obama campaign to claim their candidate is more in synch with conditions in Iraq than John McCain.

OBAMA: Excellent to see.

CROWLEY: Likewise, politics and on-the-ground developments dovetailed in Afghanistan, where Obama visited with President Hamid Karzai and U.S. troops. The trip comes amidst a resurgence of al Qaeda and an increase on attacks on coalition troops there. It lends weight to Obama's argument that the war in Iraq has distracted the U.S. from the real war on terror in Afghanistan.

OBAMA: We have got to have a clear strategic vision that uses all of our power, our economic power, our diplomatic power, our intellectual power, as well as our military power, to help make this world safer.

CROWLEY: This trip could help bolster Obama's foreign policy credentials, though he told CBS he sees it more like laying the groundwork for his presidency.

OBAMA: The objective of this trip was to have substantive discussions with people like President Karzai or Prime Minister Maliki or President Sarkozy or others who I expect to be dealing with over the next eight to 10 years.

CROWLEY: Iran ends Obama's Pentagon-sponsored portion of his trip. From there on out, to Jordan, Israel, France, Germany, and England, a it's campaign-paid journey aboard the Obama campaign plane.

His campaign insists this is not a campaign trip; it is an opportunity to discuss substantive issues with world leaders.

In the end, it's a balancing act, looking presidential without seeming presumptuous, looking like a diplomat who could repair the U.S. image overseas, while seeming like a man tough enough to stand up for U.S. interests.

(on camera): It's a balancing act, looking presidential without seeming presumptuous, looking like a man who can help heal U.S. relations overseas, and still like a man who will stand up for U.S. interests, looking like a world player without seeming political.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Amman, Jordan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, let us know what you think about this trip, how it's going. Let us know in our blog. You can join the conversation. We're live-blogging. AC360.com is the address.

Up next, we're digging deeper with David Gergen, Gloria Borger, and Peter Bergen about the situation in Iraq and Obama's trip.

Also, the veepstakes -- a new report that John McCain could be a lot closer to picking a running mate than anyone expected. There are actually conflicting reports on this. We will take a look at who's in the running for both McCain and Obama.

And, later, we are tracking Dolly, a tropical storm right now, expected to grow to hurricane strength. CNN's Chad Myers tonight is following the late bulletins, crunching new numbers. We are expecting to get an update shortly. We will bring that to you as soon as we get it live -- ahead on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Barack Obama today with General David Petraeus, head of Central Command, and architect of the so-called surge.

Our breaking news tonight, more evidence of a major shift in thinking on the part of the Iraqi government -- Iraq's prime minister again stating his desire to see American combat forces gone in 2010, not vague goals, certainly not the kind of long-term commitment the Bush administration wants or John McCain envisions.

Also breaking tonight, Barack Obama coming as close as he's ever come to saying he was wrong in opposing the so-called surge, telling ABC's Terry Moran he -- quote -- "did not anticipate the convergence of not only the surge, but the Sunni awakening, in which a whole host of Sunni tribal leaders decided they had had enough to al Qaeda. He pointed as well to Shia militias standing down and, sadly, the ethnic cleansing that drove Shia and Sunni out of direct contact. Now he goes on to tell Moran -- quote -- "I am glad that, in fact, those political dynamics -- those political dynamics shifted, at the same time that our troops did outstanding work."

Now, this echoes what Obama said in a statement released just a few hours ago, saying violence is down significantly in Iraq. And he attributes to to -- and I quote -- "the extraordinary efforts of our armed forces, more effective Iraqi security forces, the decision by the Sunni awakening to fight al Qaeda in Iraq, and the cease-fire by Shia militia."

Digging deeper now with CNN senior political analyst David Gergen and Gloria Borger, also CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen, who was recently in Iraq.

David, what do you make of these moves by the Maliki government saying it wants American combat troops out of Iraq by 2010?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a dramatic shift, Anderson. And this drumbeat has been now coming since last Friday, as you just pointed out. And it's very clear that, as elections approach in Iraq, Maliki is asserting a certain kind of nationalism there. And it's a shift which does bolster Barack Obama's argument, just as President Bush sending an envoy to talk to the Iranians this last weekend bolstered his position.

But let me add a contrarian point. I think it was the first -- Barack Obama made the first mistake of his trip, in my judgment, in releasing a statement in which he said exactly what Maliki had said in those conversations.

We have a long tradition in this country that we only have one president at a time. He's the commander in chief and the negotiator in chief. I cannot remember a campaign which a rival seeking the presidency has been in a position negotiating a war that's under way with another party outside the country.

I think he leaves himself open to the charge tonight that he's meddling, that this is not his role, that he can be the critic, but he's not the negotiator. We have a president who does that. So, I think the underlying facts support him, but I think it would be a real mistake -- and I think it was a mistake -- to get into these conversations and let it be used politically.

COOPER: That's interesting.

Gloria, do you think this is the first mistake he made on this trip?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, it's very interesting.

I do agree with David. And Candy, in her earlier piece, talked about walking the fine line between being this candidate and being presumptuous. And I think that he may just have crossed that, because, you know, it is a tradition. You don't talk about these private conversations.

And it's not up to Barack Obama right now to negotiate troop withdrawals. It's up to Barack Obama to be on a fact-finding mission, which is indeed what he has said he was on.

COOPER: Peter Bergen, John McCain has been hammering Barack Obama, saying, look, he didn't support the surge, and, had it been up to him, you know, the surge would have never happened, and the successes that have occurred would have never happened.

Obama is replying basically by saying, well, look, it's not just the so-called surge. It's not just the remarkable hard work by U.S. troops, which he acknowledges. He says it's also more effective Iraqi security forces, the Sunni awakening, and this decision by Shia militia to have a cease-fire.

Is he right?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: I think, in short, yes, Anderson. The surge is one of many factors.

A, there was a change, a major change in strategy, a rethink on the counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq. The surge was one part of that. Secondly, al Qaeda basically was self-inflicting a whole series of defeats on itself, antagonizing the very community it was based in, the Sunni community. Thirdly, you know, Sadr suggesting a cease-fire. The Shia militias being taken out in Basra and Sadr City by the Iraqi army, a rather large and rather effective Iraqi army now.

There's a whole series of factors. If it was merely the surge, the violence would be up again. We have seen that the violence continues to trend down, and there are some fundamental underlying reasons for that.

COOPER: How does -- David, how does John McCain now react? If you have the president of this country, al-Maliki saying, you know -- or excuse me -- the prime minister saying he wants U.S. troops out by 2010 as an aspirational timeline, you have got to kind of recalculate, if you're John McCain, no?

GERGEN: I think it has put him on the defensive, Anderson.

And -- but a couple of things. One is, the head of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen, has just said in the last 48 hours he thinks it's a mistake to set deadlines, and hard deadlines, that there can be aspirational deadlines, but hard deadlines are a mistake.

Secondly, John McCain does bring great credibility to this argument, because the surge, combined with these other factors, has been a great success and, in the minds of the American people, been a success. And Barack Obama is now acknowledging that.

So, I think he -- there is a question what's the long-term strategy for the region, and how do we withdraw in a way that strengthens stability in the region?

And I think the -- the getting out by 2010 may or may not do that. One has to sort of consider that in the whole. But, overall, is John McCain on the defensive? Yes. But does he have some counterarguments? I think he does. And I think he may come back on this question of, Barack Obama is not the right person to be negotiating an end to this war right now. Let the commander in chief do that.

BORGER: You know, Anderson, just recently, both Democrats and Republicans were talking about this prime minister as somebody that we couldn't depend on, somebody we couldn't trust.

And I'm wondering, now that he seems to be taking sides here, whether you're going to hear that again, particularly from Republicans. And he's clearly doing this for domestic -- his own domestic internal reasons. And, so, you know, maybe there's going to be a move on to sort of discredit the prime minister and sort of talk about why he's doing it.

COOPER: Peter Bergen, thanks for joining us.

We're going to have more from Gloria and David coming up.

Just ahead, a new report tonight that John McCain may be close to tapping his running mate. Now, we have got conflicting reports from different sources on this, actually. But, tonight, we are going to take a look at who's on top of McCain's short list and how about Barack Obama's search for V.P.? Is Hillary Clinton still a possibility?

Our political panel has been making calls. They will give us the latest.

Plus, Tropical Storm Dolly barreling across the Gulf of Mexico tonight, gaining strength, approaching hurricane status. Where and when is it going to hit? We're expecting a new update within the hour. We're going to bring it to you live -- latest details ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: John McCain and the elder George Bush at the Bush family compound today in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Mr. Bush knows all too well what it's like to campaign against a younger opponent with a gift for words and the ability to draw a crowd. It can be tough going. Senator McCain is getting a taste of it this week.

Tonight, though, we have got a tantalizing hint of how he might -- might be planning to grab back the spotlight this week, big time. That's a Dick Cheney word, by the way. Cheney was the surprise pick for vice president.

Tonight's development concerns both, a pick and a surprise.

CNN's Dana Bash has the latest on that. And joining us again, David Gergen and Gloria Borger.

Dana, what are you hearing about the timing of McCain's announcement? There was a Novak quote saying that some source of his has said, this week, there might be an announcement.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

The answer to that question, Anderson -- you're not going to be surprised by this -- but it depends who you talk to. The McCain campaign, they officially, their official word is that that it's not going to be today. Just tonight, one of McCain's closest advisers on his plane said, "Well, I can't rule out tomorrow."

Now, if there's a little bit of drama in that, that's not an accident. This is something -- that this is the ultimate in political code-cracking, especially given the fact that our viewers should know that there is an order, there are strict orders inside the McCain campaign for people not to talk about this at all with reporters.

But never mind the mystery of when this is going to happen and, of course, who the V.P. pick would potentially be. There is a mystery in why we're talking about this tonight. Some say -- I talked to who say, you know, it is because there were discussions that it could be this week. Others say, you know what? It got out there in that article you talked about, Anderson. And, so, if that helps to create buzz to distract from Barack Obama's trip abroad, that's great.

We have talked about the fact that there are some staff changes, many staff changes, inside the McCain campaign. Some people I talk to say, wait a minute. The reality is, we don't have basic staff. We're not ready for that.

But John McCain is unpredictable.

COOPER: Gloria...

BASH: He likes to be. So, you never know.

COOPER: Gloria, is this just -- have you have heard -- is this just a head fake by the McCain campaign, trying to steal some attention?

BORGER: You know, it could be a head fake.

I think what's more likely is that someone inadvertently said something to Novak, which set off this total frenzy here in Washington this weekend. And the people in the McCain campaign that I have spoken with, that Dana has spoken with, that John King have spoken with are saying, you know, yes, there have been discussions of maybe speeding it up to the end of the week, but that the candidate hadn't decided anything.

It's clear that what this shows is that he's narrowed down his choices.

COOPER: Right. BORGER: But I still think the more likely bet is, not now. After Obama chooses, then they will do it.

COOPER: All right.

Well, let's name some names. David, John McCain is going to meet in Louisiana with the governor, Bobby Jindal, this Wednesday. He's rumored to be on the short list. A, do you think he's a possibility? And who else do you think is -- is a very strong possibility?

GERGEN: Possibility, but he's a future star. It seems unlikely. He' so young. He's just in his -- barely 37, 38 years old, very little experience.

I think Mitt Romney remains the most speculated about and possible. There are others who are -- McCain could go anywhere. If he goes this early, he could go -- it suggests he could also go anywhere with a name.

You know, to go this early suggests a campaign that's running scared. I don't think it gains very much. And I sort of think it's not going to happen. But -- and he also, there's a great advantage when you have -- when you're the -- you have the second convention, to wait and see who the other guy picks, because you may want a game against that, as much as anything else.

So, there's -- since he has the second convention, there's always been a great advantage, it seems to me, to wait much closer and after the Democratic Convention to take some of the bloom off the Democratic Convention, not just this trip.

COOPER: Right.

And, Gloria, certainly, some of the other names on the list, we're seeing Charlie Crist, Carly Fiorina...

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: ... Tim Pawlenty.

BORGER: Yes.

COOPER: Any likelies there?

BORGER: Well, I think Tim Pawlenty is someone that is really interesting, because he appeals to the evangelical community. He's a governor. And he sort of balances out McCain.

But to go back to the timing of this, I agree with David and Dana. I don't think this is likely to happen right now. I think it's possible that maybe somebody threw this out and said, let's do it out now.

COOPER: Right.

BORGER: All those press are over covering Barack Obama in Europe. Let's give them a story here that they're going to miss.

COOPER: All right.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Dana, let's look at the Democrats. Who's on the short list?

BASH: Well, I mean, it's actually interesting, Anderson.

The Democrats, Barack Obama is doing it in a very different way. He's being a lot more public about who is -- who is potentially being vetted. People who I talked who are most interested -- the people they are most interested in are Joe Biden. He of course is the Senate Foreign Relations chairman. He is somebody who people think he is an extraordinary spokesman for Barack Obama on the issue where he might have the biggest deficit, and that's on national security.

(DOG BARKING)

Another is Evan Bayh, another senator from the state of Indiana. He is absolutely beloved in the state of Indiana. Indiana has been a red state for a very long time. And having Evan Bayh on the ticket could help Barack Obama in that state. And that could mean the presidency for Barack Obama.

COOPER: Dana, do you have a dog with you?

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: I don't, but I'm staying at a very nice place in Kennebunkport. And, apparently, one of the people who are staying here does.

COOPER: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: I will get the name and I will...

COOPER: I'm a dog person. So, that's OK.

BASH: I will get the info for you.

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: I know.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: David, Chuck Hagel and Jack Reed are traveling with Obama on this trip. What are the chances of a Chuck Hagel being on the ticket?

GERGEN: Well, it's possible. It sounds more likely that he could be a secretary of state or secretary of defense, perhaps. And secretary of defense is perhaps the role that would most fit him, as a veteran of Vietnam, a man who has thought a lot about national security.

And just as traveling with Barack Obama, you know, and seeing the Afghans and the Iraqis, you know, he gives some weight and stature to this trip.

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: And that statement he just issued, having Hagel on that statement helps Barack Obama.

COOPER: It helps.

Very briefly, Hillary Clinton, any possibility, do you think, David?

(LAUGHTER)

GERGEN: Well, I think the door is still open. There are many around who think now that it's a more distant possibility.

But I think a lot depends on where he's -- whether he's five or 10 points ahead just before the convention.

COOPER: Right.

All right, we're going to have to leave it there.

Dana Bash, enjoy Kennebunkport. It must be nice up there.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: David Gergen, and Gloria Borger.

Still ahead; allegations of media bias, after "The New York Times" rejects an essay written by John McCain. It's critical of Obama's Iraq policy. Is that why it wasn't fit to print? Was it fit to print?

Also ahead, the arrest of an international fugitive responsible for the deaths, perhaps, of as many as 100, 000 people, how did they finally catch this guy?

And South Texas is under a hurricane watch, as Tropical Storm Dolly continues to gather strength. We will have new information about the track of the storm from the National Hurricane Center. We're told to expect it any moment now. We will bring it to you live -- coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: On the move tonight in the Gulf of Mexico, Tropical Storm Dolly, expected to gain more strength. Tonight, a hurricane watch is in effect for parts of the Texas coast. We are going to have the latest on the storm -- a new update, where and when it may hit land, coming up.

But, first, Erica Hill joins us with a 360 bulletin on some of the other stories we're following -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, police in Oklahoma today released a frantic 11 recording they hope will help solve the mystery murders of two young girls gunned down six weeks ago.

The caller you're about to hear is the grandmother of one of the victims.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Somebody has killed two girls. And one's my daughter's -- my grandbaby, and my -- my -- her daughter -- her friend. I'm on County Line Road.

911 OPERATOR: What happened, now, ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. They went for a walk, and they're both down here dead.

911 OPERATOR: They're down there dead?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're dead!

911 OPERATOR: Your granddaughter?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, and my -- her friend!

(END AUDIO CLIP)

HILL: The girls had planned a sleepover the night they were killed. Their bodies were found in a ditch less than a half hour after they went out for a walk.

The parents of Madeleine McCann today vowed to continue searching for their daughter, as Portuguese officials halted their 14-month investigation into the British girl's disappearance. Madeleine vanished just days before her 4th birthday during a family vacation.

Her parents are no longer suspects, and that means they will now have access to police files that were previously off-limits.

The Food and Drug Administration is calling a contaminated jalapeno pepper a significant break in the salmonella mystery. Investigators found that tainted pepper at a Texas food supplier. They believe it may provide a clue to just how more than 1,200 people across 42 states have been sickened since April, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Here's tonight's "Beat 360" photo, Erica. Senator John McCain, former New York City mayor and presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani and his wife walk through Monument Park before yesterday's Yankees game.

Here's the caption from our staff winner, Joey.

HILL: Stop. Joey won?

COOPER: Yes.

HILL: Unprecedented.

COOPER: He wins every night. "And right there in the bushes is they caught A-Rod and Madonna."

(SOUND EFFECT: FOGHORN)

HILL: That's why he wins every night.

COOPER: There you go. Topical. Think you can do better? Go to our new Web site, AC360.com. Click on the "Beat 360" link, send us your entry. We'll announce the winner at the end of the program. The winner, of course, gets a fancy T-shirt.

Just ahead on 360, the McCain campaign crying foul, accusing "The New York Times" of blatant bias. The paper publishing Barack Obama's op-ed on Iraq. So why did they turn down John McCain's rebuttal days later? We'll give you the facts. You can make up your own mind.

Plus, one of the world's worst fugitives on the run for more than 10 years, finally caught. Does this man have the blood of more than 100,000 people on his hands? Christiane Amanpour reports, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JASON SUDEIKIS, CAST MEMBER, NBC'S "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": Senator Obama, a minute ago, Jorge Ramos, asked was there anything we can get you, and you said, quote, "No thank you, I'm fine." My question is, are you sure? Because it's -- you know, it's really no trouble.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That "Saturday Night Live" skit, skewering the media's campaign coverage, aired back in February. But the debate over fairness continues.

Tonight, the McCain campaign and others are leveling new charges of media bias at "The New York Times." To those critics, the story is simple: the paper recently published an opinion piece that Barack Obama wrote about Iraq but days later refused to print John McCain's rebuttal.

Up close tonight, we asked the question, is it really that simple? As always, we'll leave it to you to decide. Here's the facts with 360's Randi Kaye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A nearly 900-word op-ed by Senator John McCain, but "The New York Times" said no thanks, less than a week after it published an op-ed by Senator Barack Obama, titled "My Plan for Iraq."

Instead, the opinion page editor asked for another draft with more new information: "It would be terrific to have an article from Senator McCain that mirrors Senator Obama's piece."

HOWARD KURTZ, "WASHINGTON POST": It asks for far more detail, and wanted McCain to address the use of timetables. John McCain opposes timetables for withdrawal in Iraq.

KAYE: "Washington Post" media reporter Howard Kurtz says "The Times" has an obligation to publish McCain's op-ed.

"The New York Times" explains it's standard procedure to go back and forth with an author. The paper points out it has published at least seven op-ed pieces by McCain in the last 12 years, adding, "We take his views seriously."

In McCain's op-ed, written in response to Obama's, he criticized the Democratic Senator for calling for an early withdrawal timeline.

JILL HAZELBAKER, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN: We wanted to give them Senator McCain's side. Unfortunately, "The New York Times" wasn't willing to accommodate that request.

KAYE (on camera): Politics is exactly what the McCain camp claims the "Times" is playing, accusing the paper of publishing the Obama op-ed and stiffing McCain and noting that the op-eds editor was once a senior speechwriter for a Democrat, Bill Clinton.

Critics say McCain's problems goes far beyond the "Times" op-ed, suggesting the media isn't giving him enough air time to compete fairly.

(voice-over) Consider this: network anchors and reporters are following Obama's every move in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the last four months, McCain has gone abroad to Europe, the Middle East, Canada, Colombia, and Mexico. No anchors tagged along. Some networks didn't even send reporters.

KURTZ: This has been a very cleverly stage-managed trip abroad, in which Obama is doling out interviews to not just the three network anchors but other television anchors and correspondents. And it is allowing him to dominate the dialogue, dominate the world stage at a time when John McCain is struggling to stay in the headlines.

KAYE: CNN sent correspondent Candy Crowley with Obama, and John King covered John McCain on his recent Mideast trip.

According to a group that follows this stuff, Obama gets more than twice as much coverage as McCain on the broadcast networks' weekday evening newscasts: 114 minutes compared to just 48. Same goes for the covers of "TIME" and "Newsweek." Journalistic fascination or media bias?

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So is this a case of media bias against John McCain, or is "The Times" justified in asking him to rework his op-ed piece?

Joining me for a "Strategy Session" are Alex Castellanos, a Republican consultant and former advisor to the Romney presidential campaign; also Jennifer Palmieri of the Center for American Progress, an eight-year veteran of the Clinton White House.

Jennifer, what about this, is "The Times" biased against John McCain in this regard?

JENNIFER PALMIERI, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I don't think so. I think that when I -- when I worked for President Clinton, "The New York Times" rejected many op-eds written by him as a sitting president of the United States. They don't just give up space to a candidate because their opponent has space.

You know, you can't just go -- you can't go to "The New York Times" editorial page and say, "I want to say what's wrong with the other guy." They want to leverage their space, which is very valuable, to force you to say something you haven't said before.

And I think that that turned down Obama -- they turned down McCain not because they like Obama but because McCain was -- all he was doing in his piece was criticizing Obama, and they wanted to put him on the spot to say more.

COOPER: Alex, what's your take on it? "The Times" goes on to say, look, they published him, you know, seven times over the course of -- you know, of his career, and they even endorsed him as the Republican candidate during the primaries. Is there bias?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Well, evidently they've got a new favorite in this election, because I think Jennifer's right. They didn't want to force Senator McCain to say something he didn't want to say. They wanted to force him to say something he didn't believe.

They said that if he'd -- if he'd only had a timetable in his -- for withdrawal from Iraq in his piece that that's the kind of thing they were looking for. Well, Senator McCain doesn't believe we need an unconditional timetable.

COOPER: They wanted him to talk about timetables.

CASTELLANOS: They wanted him to talk about timetables. That's not part of his plan. What they said is they wanted to know the details of his plan for victory in Iraq and timetables. And that's not something he believes in. It's like saying, "Hey, Senator McCain, tell us about the details of your tax increase plan." He doesn't want to raise taxes. COOPER: Jennifer, you know, there's no doubt, though, that Barack Obama is receiving far more media coverage...

PALMIERI: Right.

COOPER: ... than John McCain. John McCain has received adoring media coverage over a good part of his career in the past. But you know, I think if you look at the surveys, it was mentioned in the prior piece by Randi, you know, the broadcast networks, Obama gets twice the amount of coverage that John McCain has. Is that fair?

PALMIERI: Right. And welcome to John Edwards and Hillary Clinton's nightmare. He's -- Obama is a great story. And I don't know that it's fair that he gets more coverage than McCain. But I understand, you know -- I understand why it's happening.

COOPER: Do you think it's bias that these media companies, including us -- you know, are you saying that they support...

PALMIERI: No, I don't think that's it at all, no.

COOPER: ... Obama or is it just that he's an interesting story?

PALMIERI: I don't think that's it at all. I don't think that this is about supporting Obama or -- I believe that this is about who is a better story. And obviously, Barack Obama is a really great story.

And I think that the McCain campaign, you know, first of all, this is their base. Right, the press had been their base, turning on them. And that's hard for them.

But it was a very smart thing for them to release this "New York Times" e-mail. I think that the media love stories about themselves. I think that the media are likely to be -- what they're -- they're looking for a call from the rest as Hillary did when she was complaining about Obama's -- the press coverage that Obama got during her race.

And I think they're looking for the media maybe not to pay more attention to McCain, although they'd probably like that, but to have more scrutiny on Obama.

COOPER: Alex, do you think it's as simple as Barack Obama is an interesting story; he's newer on the scene; he's, you know, got this interesting background, and that's why he's getting so much more coverage? Or do you think the media is biased in favor of him?

CASTELLANOS: Let's give Obama credit. That's certainly part of it. But that's not all of it. There's an interesting dynamic developed here. One of the dangers for Obama is that he's perceived as the candidate of the elite in society. And even the media elite.

And I think that dynamic is growing. Now you're seeing -- you have Barack Obama getting coverage now abroad, as if he were the president of the United States. You have "The New York Times" shutting down John McCain here. There's a little guy versus the elite dynamic developing here that may be something that works in McCain's favor.

COOPER: But hasn't John McCain been part of the media and Washington elite for, you know, decades now?

CASTELLANOS: And isn't it interesting how the world turns? Because now the little guy who's not getting the coverage is McCain, and the new elite, the new favorite is Barack Obama.

COOPER: Alex Castellanos, Jennifer Palmieri, thanks.

PALMIERI: Thank you.

COOPER: The world does turn.

Up next, "Crime & Punishment," a fugitive on the run for more than 10 years finally caught. How long it took, why did it take so long to get this guy, blamed for the deaths of more than 100,0000 people? We'll have the latest, live, from CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

We're also expecting an update from the National Hurricane Center. Tropical Storm Dolly growing, moving fast. We know that. The question is how big a hurricane could it be, when and if it hits Texas? When 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Today, a major arrest of an international outlaw. The man known as the Butcher of Bosnia, Radovan Karadzic, was finally apprehended, indicted for war crimes and genocide by the U.N. tribunal for authorizing the slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men during the siege of Srebrenica in 1995. The war in Bosnia killed more than 100,000 people

With tonight's "Crime & Punishment" report, CNN's chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, joins me on the phone.

Christiane, how big a victory is this for those seeking justice? And how big a criminal is this man?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Radovan Karadzic was responsible, along with his henchmen, for the worst slaughters in Europe since World War II, defining the word ethnic cleansing, concentration camps full of Bosnian Muslims, mass rapes as a tool of war, the most heinous crimes: sniping of civilians, shelling of Sarajevo, besieging all over Bosnia.

And these were heinous crimes. But in fact, he and his fellow henchman, Radko Mladic, were indicted twice on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and other crimes. And there were some 200,000 people killed around Bosnia during the rampage that he unleashed during the '90s, from '92 to '95.

And then after the U.S.-brokered war, part of the final settlement was to bring him in. And despite the presence of 60,000 NATO troops led by 20,000 Americans, they never went after him seriously. And so he's been on the run for the last dozen years.

COOPER: How is it possible, though, that with all those troops on the ground, 60,000, 20,000 U.S. troops, they didn't go after this guy?

AMANPOUR: Well, Anderson, to be very frank, it was a great shame. A shameful period, because everyone connected will agree with you now that to say that they -- they just didn't want to.

The NATO troops decided that they were there to stabilize Bosnia after the war, a fact that you can understand. But their mission also was to abide by the resolutions and by the war crimes tribunal and bring in those who were indicted. And they just felt that it might be too risky, and it could upset the political apple cart in Bosnia.

Well, what it failed to take into account was that, actually, when NATO troops went in, they went into a permissive atmosphere. Not a single troop was killed in anger, not a single one was wounded by a shot fired in anger. And it was just over-caution, despite repeatedly from some of the U.S. officials who had brokered the Dayton peace accords and the prosecutors of the international criminal tribunal in the Hague to bring Karadzic and Mladic in.

Finally, Karadzic seems to have been arrested. Mladic is still on the run.

COOPER: Still on the run. Christiane Amanpour reporting for us tonight. Christiane, thank you very much.

Up next, severe weather expert Chad Myers with new details about the path of Tropical Storm Dolly, gaining strength and headed for Texas.

Also ahead, a diner turned into a drive-through. Check this out: incredible video. A remarkable story. It's amazing the guy on the right there wasn't injured. It's our "Shot of the Day," coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: An update on Tropical Storm Dolly. We're going to check in next with Chad Myers, who's just getting in a new bulletin from the National Hurricane Center. He's working right now to try to crunch it through.

First, Erica Hill joins us with a "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Erica.

HILL: Anderson, the first U.S. war crimes trial today since World War II opened in Guantanamo Bay with a not guilty plea from Osama bin Laden's former driver and alleged bodyguard, Saleem Hamdan. Now, if convicted, Hamdan faces life in prison.

Oil prices headed back up today after a big four-day slide. They settled at $131 a barrel. Lack of progress in negotiations with Iran helped to spark that price hike. And a girl fight on the track, sort of. Bit of an altercation here over the weekend between Indy car drivers Danica Patrick and Milka Duno in Lexington, Ohio. Patrick was allegedly upset at Duno for getting in her way during a practice run. We believe -- we do know so far no comments.

COOPER: Wow, all right.

We're tracking Tropical Storm Dolly tonight, which is moving across the Gulf of Mexico and up toward Texas. Dolly is likely to be a hurricane by tomorrow, we believe. But we're going to get an update on that from Chad Myers. Let's check in with him.

Chad, what's happening?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, we have everything we need from Falstow (ph) and Genevieve and Cristobal, but we haven't gotten anything from Dolly yet. Still waiting here, twiddling our thumbs, waiting for this thing to come in.

These are still the numbers from 5 p.m., and then from 8 p.m., still south and southeast of Corpus Christi. The storm is gaining strength. You can tell by the radar and the satellite signature here. The satellite signature really much more impressive than it was at 8 p.m. We'll keep you advised. We'll get you numbers as soon as I get them, if it comes in before the end of the show, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Chad, thanks.

Erica, "The Shot" is next. Talk about your grand slam breakfast. Check it out. Can you believe no one was hurt? Hi, Erica, I'm talking to you.

HILL: Yes, Anderson Cooper, here I am.

COOPER: We'll have "The Shot" coming up.

Also, at the top of the hour, breaking news: new information about what Iraq's government really wants. Senator Obama reveals what Iraq's prime minister told him. David Gergen's eyebrows were raised by that fact. We've got the "Raw Politics" coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: It was like the start of a joke: a man goes into a diner like he'd been doing for years, sits down, orders. But then, the punch line of what seemed like a most ordinary day at the coffee house in Wilkes-Barre, North Carolina (ph), turned into this.

A van traveling about 50 miles an hour, slammed through the window of the restaurant, knocked Kenneth Anderson off his stool. That looks out of this world. He says he was reading the newspaper and kablam. Incredibly, the guy just picked up his baseball cap and sat back down.

HILL: That's pretty wild. By the way, kablam, a seriously underused word.

COOPER: Kashow. It's all those comic-book words. Not Kashow. I don't know what that was; I made that up.

HILL: Oh, kashaw.

COOPER: Yes. You can see all the most recent shots on our new Web site, AC360.com. And you can also find other segments from the program, all that stuff.

Do we have the update from Chad yet? Do we have that?

All right. Let's check in with Chad. I think he's getting the new numbers in on the storms.

Chad, what do we know?

MYERS: It's still forecast, Anderson, to be a Cat 1 here. The new numbers just finally coming in, they're just a little bit on the late side. We like to get these in about 10 minutes beforehand.

But they put out all the other unimportant systems in the first place. It is still a 50-mile-per-hour storm. Forecasting it to 55, 65, and then 70.

And right now they shifted the track a little bit farther to the south. Corpus Christi is still in it. And Brownsville, you are in the middle of that cone right now. So they shifted that track to the south by about 30 or 40 miles. That is the very latest with the landfall as a Cat 1 storm -- Anderson.

COOPER: I'm sorry. You said the landfall, around a Cat 1, when?

MYERS: That would be on Wednesday day. Wednesday after daybreak.

COOPER: Wednesday after day break. All right. Chad, thanks very much for the update.

Now our "Beat 360" winners. Our daily challenge to viewers, a chance to show up our staffers by coming up with a better caption to the picture we post on our blog every day. We've got a short memory at some point.

Tonight's picture shows John McCain and Rudy Giuliani and Judith Giuliani, walking through Monument Park before the Yankees game on Sunday. Our staff winner, Joey: "And right there in the bushes is where they caught A-Rod and Madonna." No, they didn't.

(SOUND EFFECT: CHEERING)

COOPER: Our viewer winner is Lauren, who has Rudy Giuliani saying, "And here's where they buried my political career."

(SOUND EFFECT: "Oooh!") COOPER: Ouch. Tough words. Although there is now talk for him running for governor. Lauren, your "Beat 360" t-shirt is on the way. We check out all the entries we received on our blog, AC360.com. There you go.

Coming up at the top of the hour, breaking news: new details just out from Iraq. What Iraq's prime minister told Barack Obama about pulling American forces out. And should Barack Obama be talking about what the prime minister told him? David Gergen raises that question. That and more when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We begin tonight with breaking news, news with potentially major consequences for the war in Iraq.

After days of political wrangling over what Iraq's prime minister wants regarding U.S. troop withdrawals, tonight just a short time ago, Senator Barack Obama released a statement, along with his traveling companions in Iraq, Republican Chuck Hagel and Democrat Jack Reed.

In describing their meeting today with Prime Minister, Nouri al- Maliki, they say in part, "Iraqis want an aspirational timetable with a clear date for the redeployment of combat troops." They do not, according to Maliki, want an open-ended presence of U.S. combat forces.

It goes on to say -- Maliki stated his hope that U.S. combat forces could be out of Iraq in 2010. That is similar to Obama's 16- month plan. And substantially stronger than the White House, which has refused to use the term timetable but has reluctantly signed on to what they are calling, quote, "joint aspirational time horizon." We'll take you to Iraq in a moment.

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