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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Race & Politics; Big Oil Reports Record Profits

Aired July 31, 2008 - 22:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, race and politics -- new shots in the war of words over who's really injecting race into the campaign. Is it Barack Obama for accusing John McCain of trying to scare voters, or is it John McCain for taking offense at the accusation? We have got the facts, not just the fury, so you can decide for yourself.
Also tonight, the enduring Muslim myth, why it hangs on and who still believes that Barack Obama is a Muslim, no matter what the facts say.

And, later, ExxonMobil reporting record profits, the highest ever, nearly $1,500 a second. Your paying at the pump. They're cashing in and spending big money to find big oil, right? Well, not as much as they could be spending. How big oil is really spending their billions. We're "Keeping Them Honest."

And a mother's plea: Bring my little girl home. There's heart wrenching, there are new developments tonight in the strange of disappearance of Reigh Storrow Boss and her shadowy father.

But we begin with race and politics. For weeks, the McCain campaign has been hitting Barack Obama hard, questioning his patriotism and, most recently, equating him with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.

And, for weeks, Barack Obama has been warning that Republican forces are trying to scare voters by calling attention to his exotic name, his global upbringing, and his skin color.

And, yesterday, for the first time, Senator Obama directly accused Senator McCain of doing that. And, today, the McCain forces pounced. They pounced hard. And then the Obama camp responded.

The "Raw Politics" from CNN's Dana Bash.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The issue of race exploded onto the presidential campaign trail with this statement from John McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis: "Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck. It's divisive, negative, shameful, and wrong."

He was referring to Obama's comments at three different Missouri campaign stops Wednesday, reacting to McCain's increasingly negative tone with a version of this. SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Nobody really thinks that Bush or McCain had a real answer for the challenges we face. So, what they're going to try to do is make you scared of me. You know, oh, he's not patriotic enough. He's got a funny name.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: You know, he doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills, you know?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BASH: In an exclusive interview with CNN's John King, McCain said it's fair to accuse Obama of playing the race card.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm sorry to say it, that it is. It's legitimate. And we don't -- there is no place in this campaign for that. There is no place for it. And we shouldn't be doing it.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They say that's not the case.

MCCAIN: OK, John.

KING: OK. Senator.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Appreciate it.

MCCAIN: I will let the American people judge.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: With that, McCain walked away, reluctant to personally engage.

But, at the same moment, McCain's own campaign was aggressively calling reporters to push and explain their race card charge -- Adviser Steve Schmidt calling Obama's remarks a -- quote -- "disgusting accusation," saying, "This campaign will not allow John McCain to be smeared in this way."

An Obama spokesman responded by saying, "Barack Obama in no way believes that the McCain campaign is using race as an issue. But he does believe they're using the same old low-road politics to distract voters."

Now, the reality is that, dating back to the Democratic primaries, Obama talked often about his opponents using what he called his risky traits against him. And just a few weeks ago, at a fund- raiser, he was more direct.

OBAMA: They're going to try to make you afraid of me.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: They're going to -- they're going to say, you know what? He's young and inexperienced, and -- and he's got a funny name.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: Did I mention he's black?

BASH: Camp McCain insist they pounced on Obama's new comments because, this time, he was hitting McCain, who has warned against injecting race into the campaign.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: So, what's really drive thing? McCain advisers think Obama cleverly used this tactic in the Democratic primary to push back on questions about his policies, so the McCain campaign is trying to lay down what advisers call a critical marker in their battle now.

And, Wolf, that marker, they say, is that, if race is an issue right now, it is the Obama campaign that brought it up first.

BLITZER: And it's very interesting, because, tomorrow, Senator McCain has a -- a major address before a group related to all of this.

BASH: Timing is everything, certainly. He's addressing the National Urban League. Obviously, that is a very large African- American organization. He's going to have a lot of pro-Obama supporters in that crowd, much like a couple of weeks ago, when he spoke to the NAACP.

I'm told by the McCain campaign that you should not expect him to bring up what happened today at all. He's going to try to play it pretty straight, talk about the issues that he thinks will appeal to them, primarily education.

BLITZER: We will watch that speech closely tomorrow. Dana, I know you will as well.

Dana mentioned the McCain forces laying down a marker. By the same token, the Obama campaign may also be laying down a marker. And the marker is this: Don't try to Swift Boat us. We won't take it lying down.

Whatever the motives, did Senator Obama cross a line? Are the McCain forces now simply protesting too much? What's going on?

Let's discuss in our "Strategy Session."

Joining us, our senior political analyst David Gergen, our senior political -- our senior political analysis and radio talk show host Roland Martin, and Tara Wall, columnist analyst and columnist for the "Washington Times."

Guys, thank you very much for coming in.

Tara, I will start with you.

The Congressional Black Caucus now saying McCain is scraping the bottom of the barrel and appealing to people's fears. Is McCain now crossing a line?

TARA WALL, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON TIMES": Of course not. McCain is defending what he believes has been a line that has been crossed.

And, you know, the campaign has said, look, it needed to defend itself. It was wrong, what Obama said when he -- when he went into the race issue. He was -- he got to a point where he was fine, up until he mentioned the fact that, oh, by the way, they're going to say, you know, he doesn't look like other presidents.

I think, to say that that -- to refer to that in relation to John McCain was a little bit over the line. And, quite frankly, the Obama campaign acknowledged that. And that's why they toned it down a bit. So, the McCain campaign had to defend itself.

BLITZER: Roland, when -- when Senator Obama says Republicans will try scaring voters because he looks different than other presidents on dollar bills, what do you think he means by that?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Exactly what he says.

And, so, I understand that point. The problem here is that he tried to link Bush and McCain specifically with those comments. Now, you might have bloggers, you might have conservative talk show hosts, you might have columnists who are making all kind of comments like that, who are raising these whole -- these various issues. Frankly, Obama made a mistake.

And that's why they did change their tune. They haven't even wanted to talk about it even further. And, so, when the candidate brings that up, you need to have facts to back it up, if you're going to link to it.

That's why the McCain comment was very specific. He said, we did none of this.

Obama's mistake was not saying the larger sort of arena people who might be supporting McCain, those folks may be making these kind of comments. That's a mistake he made. They must own up to the mistakes they made.

BLITZER: By almost all accounts, David, the Obama campaign almost certainly doesn't want the issue of race to be a focus, like it was during the primary. But, if it does emerge as an issue right now, how can the Obama campaign turn it into an advantage?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Huh. I'm not sure there's an easy way to turn this to an advantage. I think it's turning into a knife fight, Wolf. And both sides -- the McCain side starting this fight. They have really gone after him. Now they have goaded Obama into this comment that I think is from -- I think I agree with Roland. He went too far.

But it is also true that, in all of the -- that, in the overall Republican attacks, race has not been directly mentioned by McCain and his campaign, but it's been heavily hanging over the attacks.

MARTIN: Right.

GERGEN: It's been implicit. It's been the subtext, that race -- race is the elephant in the room. Everybody knows that.

And -- and Obama has faced a lot of stuff on the blogs and elsewhere, you know, and they goaded him into sort of coming after McCain. I think he went a little far in that. But there's no question that they have been raising the race issue all the way along. And it's -- I think it's -- we have said on this program before, I think it -- net negative right now for him. He's trying to overcome it.

MARTIN: But, Wolf, when you call somebody out on the issue of race, you must have the facts to back it up.

The problem with Obama, his comment was so specific to McCain, that's why he couldn't dance around it. So, what David said is absolutely right. It's out there, well, you said, well, is he a Muslim? He's not. He's a Christian. But you hear that. This whole issue with his name, his background.

But you can't tar and feather your opponent with it unless you have something substantive to back it up with. That was a mistake. And what they have done also is remove the criticism of McCain about this whole celebrity ad. Now, all of a sudden, you have got people who are now -- now looking at Obama.

They made a tactical mistake with this comment, and they probably want us to simply move on, but they made a big mistake with it.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, the timing of all of this that's going on, because we have some poll numbers.

In our latest CNN average of the poll of polls right now, Obama is still ahead by five points, 48 percent to 43 percent, with 9 percent unsure. But that's not necessarily all that important.

Let's take a look at some of these battleground states right now.

And, David, I want you to weigh in. In Pennsylvania, Obama still has a slight advantage, 49 percent to 42 percent. But take a look at Ohio, a virtual tie, 46 percent-44 percent, in Florida, same thing, 46 percent-44 percent. In those states, which will determine the next president of the United States, this is neck and neck right now.

GERGEN: It is. And I'm glad you raise that, Wolf, because I want to go back to the beginning of this. It was Hillary Clinton who long ago predicted that the Republican attack machine would crank up against Obama. And she's been proven business right. Here they come. And I think what we see now is, in a race that, after this marvelous publicity Obama has had over the last two or three weeks, you would normally assume a candidate like this would be ahead by eight to 10 points. And, yet, we see a much closer race. The Gallup tracking poll this week actually saw significant slippage on Obama's part.

What it tells me is that Barack Obama and his team need to take a fresh look at the prospect of Hillary Clinton being his vice president. She is the one who understands this fight. She's been in these fights before. She knows how to handle herself in a fight. She would help to unite the Democratic Party.

And, as Lanny Davis pointed out in an important "Wall Street Journal" piece today, if you look at the most recent polls, by FOX, for example, a few days ago, Obama was ahead by one point against McCain head on head. If it's Obama and Clinton, Hillary Clinton, vs. McCain and Romney, he picks up eight points.

So, in my judgment, given the closeness of this, it's time for the McCain -- for the Obama people to rethink, give a fresh think about how much Hillary Clinton could add to this ticket, because the number-one objective here for the Democrats is to win the election.

BLITZER: All right, very quickly, Tara, is that realistic at all, given the fact that they have made it clear they really don't want Hillary Clinton on the ticket? But now that this race is really tightening up in some of those key battleground states, like Florida, for example, where she does have some significant popularity -- and Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, those are the states that will determine this outcome -- is it realistic, do you think?

(CROSSTALK)

WALL: I don't think it's realistic. I think her negatives far outweigh any positives.

I do that think, listen, these are local races. These local races are going to determine the election, obviously. And the polls we're looking at are national polls. And it doesn't take into account where folks are hearing John McCain's message on the ground. They're making distinctions between these two candidates. They're hearing the disparities between the two candidates on a number of issues.

And I think we will continue to see this. The independent vote is -- is really up for grabs right now. You have -- you even have some conservative Democrats now saying that they're going to support McCain and coming out for McCain.

So, I think that those are the areas, yes, Barack Obama is going to have to focus in on. He's still having a large program -- a big problem with white and independent voters. And those are the areas he's going to have to focus in on.

Also, Florida is not -- Florida is where he's having the problems with Hispanic and Jewish voters. That's why you're seeing those numbers there as well.

MARTIN: Yes, but, you know, Wolf, real quick, the bottom line is, Obama campaign team must be much sharper. They must understand the kind of fight they're in. They cannot be coasting.

If they actually think they can just ride this thing out, based upon polls, forget about it. They must go recognize they must go after John McCain, who has an opening there. They cannot sort of waltz through this. They need a sense of urgency. If I'm Obama, I'm calling my team together and saying, look, act like we're the underdog, because that's what we're going to be come October.

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: It would help to have two of the best fighters -- it would help to have two of the best fighters in the game, to have the Clintons right there at your side.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: All right, we hear what you guys are saying, and what Roland is saying specifically to Senator Obama. Don't follow the example of Michael Dukakis back in '88. Remember, he was way ahead in the polls, only to see all of that collapse. All right, guys, good discussion. Thanks very much.

Don't forget, you can join the conversation tonight and every night on Anderson's blog. Just go to AC360.com, follow the links.

Also, I want to tell you about a new feature tonight, the candidates in-depth in their own words. That's coming up.

And, next, in search of Americans who -- get this -- who still believe Barack Obama is a Muslim. Gary Tuchman didn't have to travel very far.

And, later, keeping ExxonMobil and the rest of the big oil world honest on the record profits they're raking in.

And the mother of a missing girl now speaking out -- you're going to hear her plea and the latest on how the search is going -- all that and a lot more tonight on A.C. 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Barack Obama in church on Father's Day, calling on dads to do a better job, in a church, at the pulpit, giving a sermon on a Sunday. So, why is it that there are still so many people, more than one in 10 in recent polling, who still believe he's a Muslim?

360's Gary Tuchman went looking for some answers. He found them up close in Tennessee.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It always feels like Christmas in this store in the tiny town of Copperhill, Tennessee. But the owner, who plays Santa Claus Year after year, isn't so jolly when he talks about Barack Obama.

RIP MANN, OWNER, CHRISTMAS IS HERE!: I feel he was raised a Muslim the first part of his life, yes. I have read that he has attended a Muslim school for a couple of years. His father was Muslim.

TUCHMAN (on camera): See, he says, although his father was Muslim, he didn't attend a Muslim school and he wasn't raised a Muslim. He was always a Christian.

MANN: Well, if that's true, I'm -- I'm not aware of it.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): He's far from alone. According to a "Newsweek" poll, more than one-quarter of all Americans believe Obama was born a Muslim. And 12 percent believe he still is a Muslim. Quite a few who live here in Copperhill are part of that 12 percent.

(on camera): What concerns you about Barack Obama?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The safety of our country if Obama gets in. I do -- he is a Muslim, and I'm very concerned about that.

TUCHMAN: The fact is, he says he's not a Muslim. He says he's a Christian.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I know what he says.

(LAUGHTER)

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Diners at breakfast had similar sentiments.

(on camera): Deep down, do you think he's a Muslim?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Even a man who says he may vote for Obama doesn't believe him.

(on camera): Do you think he was born a Muslim?

HANK BAUDET, RESIDENT OF COPPERHILL, TENNESSEE: Probably.

TUCHMAN: He says he wasn't.

BAUDET: Well, given his background and his parents, he probably was, or at least close to it, educated in somewhat Muslim religion.

TUCHMAN: In other words, what I'm getting at, he says he isn't. You're not taking his word for it?

BAUDET: No.

TUCHMAN: How come you don't take his word for it? BAUDET: Politicians will tell you anything you want to hear to get elected.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Certainly, not everyone in Copperhill feels this way. But, here, like many other towns across America, many people refuse to let go of misperceptions of Obama, including the mayor.

(on camera): In your heart, do you think he's a Christian?

HERB HOOD, MAYOR OF COPPERHILL, TENNESSEE: This is just speaking for myself. And I'm not speaking for the city of Copperhill. I mean, my personal opinion is, I don't feel that he's a Christian, per se.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REVEREND JEREMIAH WRIGHT, TRINITY UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: Barack knows what it means...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Mayor Herb Hood says Obama's past relationship with Reverend Jeremiah Wright is a major reason he has his opinion. But others are far more general.

(on camera): Do you think he was raised a Muslim?

BARRY FRANKS, RESIDENT OF COPPERHILL, TENNESSEE: Yes.

TUCHMAN: How come?

FRANKS: Just everything I read and hear.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Of the roughly two dozen people we talked with, only one man unequivocally believed Barack Obama on this issue.

(on camera): How does it make you feel, all these rumors that are circulating about him?

GALE WALBORN, RESIDENT OF COPPERHILL, TENNESSEE: I just ask people, where do you get this information from? And people are telling me, the Internet, e-mails, what people say. And I say, do you have proof? No.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But it's clear...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barack Hussein Obama just doesn't sound an Anglo-Saxon name to me.

TUCHMAN: ... suspicions continue to linger.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: So, Gary, why did you choose Copperhill, Tennessee? Is it different than other places? TUCHMAN: Well, Wolf, basically, a random choice. The fact is, you can go to many, many, countless cities in all 50 states and get the same smattering of opinions.

What we did, my producer, Diana Miller, and I, we took out a United States map, and we both just pointed at dots on the map, good names of towns across the country. We called business leaders. We called mayors. And this particular town, Copperhill, has a very gregarious mayor who said he would be happy to go on camera.

And he guaranteed, everyone in town will want to talk to you.

And, indeed, they did. So, that's why we went to Copperhill. But we could go to all 50 states and do the exact same story, Wolf.

BLITZER: I suppose you could. Gary, good work. Thanks very much for bringing that to our attention.

Up next, in court and defiant -- the longest serving Republican senator in U.S. history, now facing corruption charges, showing he's not giving up without a fight.

And later, a new twist in the bizarre kidnapping involving a little girl and a man named Rockefeller.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A new CNN/Opinion Research poll shows Americans blame big oil companies in large part for the record high gas prices. And one of those big oil companies just posted an $11 billion profit. Are huge profits like that causing some pain at the pump? We're "Keeping Them Honest" tonight. That's coming up.

But, first, Erica Hill joins us with a 360 bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.

Eight people dead tonight after a small charter jet crashed in southern Minnesota while it was trying to land. Thunderstorms were battering the region at the time. The plane took off from Atlantic City. It went down in a cornfield just about an hour south of Minneapolis.

In central Canada, a passenger on Greyhound bus savagely attacked his seat mate while that man slept and decapitated him. According to one witness, the victim was stabbed as many as 50 times. Now, the suspect is in custody tonight. Police, though, have not released his name, nor a motive.

Indicted Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska pleaded not guilty today in a Washington courtroom. Stevens is charged with scheming to conceal thousands of dollars worth of gifts from an oil services company. His trial begins with jury selection on September 24 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: OK, Erica, stand by. Oil was certainly big news today -- just ahead, what the candidates were saying about their energy plans. We're going to let them speak, so you can listen, and you can make up your own minds.

Also, the real story behind the windfall profits big oil posted today. How are the oil giants spending all that money? Are their gains to blame for high prices at the pump? We're "Keeping Them Honest."

And the congressman who lives 1,000 miles and four states away from his constituents -- is that legal?

All that coming up -- right here on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: That clock shows that time definitely is money, barrels of money, if you're ExxonMobil, nearly $1,500 a second, to be exact. That's how much ExxonMobil makes every minute every day. That's a lot to wrap your head around, so we're going to try to keep that clock running throughout this segment, and to tell you what it all adds up to.

The candidates have been talking energy on the stump a lot. Tonight, you're going to hear what they're saying in-depth, in their own words. That's what you have been telling us you want, more of the candidates weighing in on the issues you so deeply care about, so you can make up your own minds in November.

So, here's our first installment, part of our long-term commitment to keeping you up to speed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama says that he wants energy independence, but he's opposed to new drilling at home. He's opposed to nuclear power. He's opposed to an innovation prize for electric cars.

My friends, we must begin immediately in drilling offshore, so we can get some of the oil that's off our own coasts.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: We have to begin that drilling. And Senator Obama opposes it.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: He said that the high cost of gasoline doesn't bother him, only that it rose too quickly.

Yesterday, he suggested we put air in our tires to save on gas. My friends, let's do that. But do you think that's enough to break our dependence on Middle Eastern oil?

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: I don't think so.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We just learned today that ExxonMobil made nearly $12 billion last quarter. This is coming off of $11 billion the quarter before that and $11 billion the quarter before that. No United States corporation has ever, in American history, made that much of a profit in a quarter. Never happened before.

But while big oil is making record profits, you're paying record prices at the pump. And our economy is leaving working people behind. For far too long, we have had an energy policy that works for the oil companies. I think we had -- I think it's time that we had an energy policy that works for you...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: ... that works for the American people, that works for our children and our grandchildren and future generations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And there you see the profit clock, $300,000 already, and it's still running. Just today, as you heard from Senator Obama, ExxonMobil reported the largest quarterly earnings in U.S. history. It netted $11.7 billion in the second quarter. That's in three months.

Shell was just behind with $11.5 billion. BP posted a net profit of $9.4 billion. ConocoPhillips netted $5.4 billion. They may be celebrating, but average Americans certainly aren't. In a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, more than two-thirds of the people blamed the big oil companies for the high gas prices that are busting their budgets.

Here's the question: Is that fair? Are huge windfalls like those posted today really part of the problem?

CNN's Joe Johns is "Keeping Them Honest."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Washington, where Congress is feeling heat for doing nothing on gas prices, news of the latest oil company bonanza came just in time for Democrats to blast the big oil bogeymen all over again and complain how they spend their truckloads of money.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: We are shocked about how the oil companies are spending those profits. They tell us they want to do more domestic production. They tell us they need to drill offshore. They tell us that they can find oil on the mainland. And what do they do with their profits? They buy back their stock, simply to increase their share price.

JOHNS: So is that true? In a word, yes. Exxon Mobil recently announced it would buy back $8 billion worth of its own stock. Exxon also announced a dividend of $1.60 a share, totaling another $2 billion. That means the company has awarded more than $10 billion to shareholders this quarter, a giant windfall.

(on camera) Meanwhile, critics are screaming that if energy is an urgent issue, and voters say it is, than the oil companies need to invest more of those profits in things like, say, alternative energy sources.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: They've put a pittance, a few billion -- million dollars into renewable energy research so that they can go out with this mantle of "we're for the future; we're about renewables."

JOHNS (voice-over): Still, the outfit in Washington that represents the oil industry argues that, while the profits and what oil companies like Exxon do with them may be great at making you mad, that's just not what's causing the problem for the consumer.

JOHN FELMY, AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE: If you were to eliminate all those earnings, you wouldn't see a big change in the price of gas. The key factor that goes into the costs of gasoline right now is crude oil. Crude oil is 74 percent of the cost of a gallon of gasoline right now.

JOHNS: Of course, the oil companies say they need more offshore drilling to get more oil, which takes us back to Capitol Hill. Some members of Congress say that's the solution and some don't. Either way, they still haven't done anything about it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: So here's the question: Congress hasn't really done much. They've been trying to do something. But what's going on?

JOHNS: Well, they're probably not going to do anything soon, because this is the August recess. We're up on it right now. Congress is getting ready to leave town for a five-week vacation.

And there are a lot of indications that both parties would rather have this as an issue at least through the convention. So a long while to go. And you know, as you said, there is that poll out there that shows a lot of people blame the oil companies.

On the other hand, there's some other polling out there that suggests a lot of other people are thinking we need more drilling, which is a Republican issue. So it sort of cuts both ways to some extent.

BLITZER: Congress certainly isn't doing anything before their conventions, because they're not coming back from their recess until after both of the conventions in early September.

JOHNS: That's a fact.

BLITZER: All right, Joe, thanks very much.

By the way, Exxon Mobil was making a lot of money, a lot of it. You can see on your screen. Only since the time we've been doing this story, more than $717,000 and running, no end in sight.

Up next, a home away from home. A Florida congressman under fire right now for not living in the state he represents. But does it really matter?

And later, a mother's desperate plea to her ex-husband, a man claiming to be a Rockefeller who allegedly kidnapped their daughter.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A question of honesty over a home tonight. Democratic Congressman Robert Wexler has served the south Florida district since the 1990s but he hasn't lived there in the state in more than a decade. Wexler says he's now renting an apartment in Florida. But will it be enough to end the controversy?

CNN's John Zarrella reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Congressman Robert Wexler and his family live in this home, in Maryland. They moved north not long after he was first sworn in, in 1997. But the congressman insists home, as they say, is where the heart is.

REP. ROBERT WEXLER (D), FLORIDA: I'm a proud Floridian. Floridian through and through.

ZARRELLA: Wexler has never hid the fact he doesn't live in his district. In Washington, he insists he still effectively represents his constituents about a thousand miles away.

WEXLER: I had two goals as a person as I was sworn into Congress. One, to be a devoted full-time congressman who stood up for his constituents. And two, to be a devoted, full-time father.

ZARRELLA: In his book, "Fire-Breathing Liberal," Wexler writes, quote, "A congressman's salary is not nearly enough to pay for a mortgage in his or her home district and a comfortable place to live within commuting distance of the capital." So why, after 11 years, did this suddenly become an issue?

ED LYNCH (R), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: When you look him up in the white pages, the only phone book he shows up in is in Maryland.

ZARRELLA: Ed Lynch brought it up. He's a Republican running to unseat Wexler. Lynch charges Wexler can't adequately represent people if he doesn't live here.

LYNCH: He lives there for more than 183 days per year, which he admits and his wife admits, and their children go to school there. His life is in Maryland, not down here in District 19.

ZARRELLA: On his driver's license and other official documents, Wexler claims an address inside this gated community as his Florida residence. It's his in-laws' home.

"Keeping Them Honest," we asked is what Wexler did legal? Apparently so.

ROBERT JARVIS, NOVA SOUTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY: Legally speaking, not an issue. Politically, it has become an issue.

ZARRELLA: Law professor Robert Jarvis says the Constitution is explicit. To be a member of Congress, you must be at least 25 years old, a citizen of the United States, and an inhabitant of the state when you first get elected. Wexler was.

But does it look good?

JARVIS: We have 25 representatives from Florida. Twenty-four of them maintain a residence in Florida. And Robert Wexler is the lone holdout.

ZARRELLA: A south Florida "Sun-Sentinel" poll asks should he keep a real home here? Eighty-three percent said yes. Wexler is taking their advice. He says they'll be coming home to lease a place in his district.

John Zarrella, CNN, Boca Raton, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Up next on 360, a new twist in a strange kidnapping case. A young girl allegedly snatched by her father, a man who claims to be a member of the country's most powerful families. Her mother's desperate plea for her safe return, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: New details tonight in the desperate search for this girl. What began in Boston has become a hunt on land and sea for her and her father. Police say she was abducted by her own dad. After days of silence, her mom is now speaking out.

360's Erica Hill has the latest in tonight's "Crime & Punishment" report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Sandra Boss has a message for her ex-husband turned fugitive, Clark Rockefeller.

SANDRA BOSS, MOTHER OF REIGH BOSS: A lot of things have changed. You will always be Reigh's father, and I will always be Reigh's mother.

HILL: Reigh, whom her mom calls Snooks, is their 7-year-old daughter police believe is the victim of a custodial kidnapping at the hands of her mysterious father. And in today's emotional plea from London where she works, Boss begs him to do the right thing.

BOSS: I ask you now, please, please bring Snooks back. There has to be a better way for us to solve our differences than this way.

HILL: Rockefeller allegedly abducted the 7-year-old during a supervised visit in Boston on Sunday. Police say he grabbed her, then jumped into a waiting SUV, driving off as a social worker clung to the outside of the vehicle.

Police believe Rockefeller then had a second driver take him to New York. They are also looking at the possibility that Rockefeller purchased a yacht, paying at least in part with gold bars, and that he may be sailing with his daughter out of the country.

The FBI is leading up the land-and-sea search for the two. And as the hunt continues, Reigh's mom is reaching out to the man she was once married to.

BOSS: We both love her dearly and have only her best interests and well-being at heart.

HILL: Police say Rockefeller has multiple aliases. Published reports describe him as a wealthy master of deception, who used his last name to his advantage, even though he apparently is not a member of the famous Rockefeller family.

While more about his life surfaces, Sandra Boss turns the attention back to her little girl.

BOSS: And Reigh, honey, I love you. I miss you so much. And remember, you're always a princess.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: Now, Wolf, there have been a number of tips coming in. Sadly, a number of them false tips, but tips nonetheless.

The FBI, by the way, is also saying one thing to be on the lookout for is that perhaps this little girl's hair has now been cut so that she more closely resembles a boy. So that is something else to look for.

BLITZER: My heart goes out to that mom. I hope they find that little girl and find her soon. Thanks very much, Erica.

BLITZER: Up next on 360, candidates and B-list celebrities. John McCain and Barack Obama in their own words on McCain's new ads comparing Senator Obama to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.

Plus, an update on this plus-sized cat. The new twist to this pet mystery, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: No shortage of sound and fury out on the campaign trail today. You got a sampling at the top of the program.

Now a bit less fury and a lot more sound. Barack Obama and John McCain in depth, in their own words, unfiltered. So here again, the candidates today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Given the seriousness of the issues; given the fact that the decisions that we make right now are going to help determine the future, not just of the next generation but perhaps generations after that; given the magnitude of our challenges when it comes to energy and health care and jobs and our foreign policy, you'd think that we'd be having a serious debate.

But so far all we've been hearing about is Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. I mean, I do -- I do have to ask my opponent, is that the best you can come up with? Is that -- is that really what this election's about? Is that what is worthy of the American people?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No!

OBAMA: Even the media has pointed out that Senator John McCain, who started off talking about running an honorable campaign, has fallen back into the predictable political attacks, demonstrably false statements.

You know, but here's the problem. I'm not interested in getting them into a tit for tat. These negative ads, these negative attacks, spending all this time talking about me instead of talking about what he's going to do, that's not going to lower your gas prices. That's not going to help you stay in your home if you've fallen behind on your mortgage. That's not going to help you find a job if it's been shipped overseas. It doesn't do a single thing to help the American people. It's politics as a game. But the time for game playing is over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Earlier this year in April, you had made comments about, like, the mud-slinging, how it had been affected other campaigns and how you didn't want to do that.

But recently, especially last week when Obama went to Europe, seemed like there was a lot of campaign ads that you put out that were doing that. And the one yesterday, with comparing him to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, like, I was like, "OK." So it seems like Americans like me and other people, like you may have flipped on what you had said earlier. And what's your response to that?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first of all, let me say that there are differences, and we are drawing those differences. And I've said earlier I admire his campaign. But what we are talking about here is substance and not style. And what we're talking about is who has an agenda for the future of America. And these are -- campaigns are tough. But I'm proud of the campaign that we have run. I'm proud of the issues that we have been trying to address with the American people.

And, again, I would hope that Senator Obama would join me so that we could discuss this, as he said he wanted to, quote, "duel" over taxes, I believe it was yesterday.

So all I can say is that we're proud of that commercial. We think Americans need to know that I believe that we should base this campaign on what we can do for Americans here at home and how we can make America safe and prosperous, and that's the theme of our campaign.

I thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: A quick note about what's coming up tomorrow on this program. You've told us you want to know more about where each candidate stands on the challenges facing this country. Tomorrow night, we'll be presenting a 360 in-depth look at precisely that. "Extreme Challenges," the next four years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: George Bush is going to give you something that looks like it's doing better. You know, Colin Powell has long argued this is like putting a lid on a pot. The American presidency is like putting a lid on a pot, and you can keep it on simmer for a long time. Once you start taking the lid off, the pot can boil over.

So if you're the Democrat, you come in there, you commit to getting out. You start taking the lid off that pot. If it starts overflowing, erupting, and you suddenly become the candidate, the president who lost the war. You've become the president who lost Iraq. And that can destroy your whole presidency.

So how you do this is critical to the future of your entire presidency. It's not just about Iraq: it's about your political power, your political capacity to govern at home on any number of issues which are, in some ways, I think Perino would agree, in some ways are far more important than Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Anderson, David Gergen, Fareed Zakaria, "Extreme Challenges: The Next Four Years," 360 tomorrow night, 10 Eastern.

We're following several other stories for you tonight in a "360 News and Business Bulletin." Let's go back to Erica.

Erica, what's going on? HILL: Well, Wolf, Defense Secretary Robert Gates says a troop drawdown from Iraq is, in fact, a real possibility since he said conditions there have improved dramatically, but adds the final decision will be made by General David Petraeus.

Oil prices falling near $3 today to settle at just over $124 a barrel. The good news for you is gas prices are also down. According to AAA, the national average for regular unleaded is $3.90 a gallon. That's actually down two pennies in just a day.

And it turns out even cats are affected by the economy. We first told you about this 44-pound feline in yesterday's "Shot." Well, it turns out Princess Chunk is really a prince. Now the cat's owner has come forward saying she abandoned it because her home was in foreclosure. Hundreds of people have called into Jersey animal shelters, saying they would love to adopt him.

Sadly, though, Wolf, this is not only the case for Prince Chunk. As it turns out, a lot of pets being abandoned, and shelters are saying they're even having to turn some people away.

BLITZER: How did that Prince or Princess -- I guess Prince, we should say -- get so big, shall we say?

HILL: I don't know the exact reason, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say, maybe a little too much royal food.

BLITZER: Yes. I think a little bit of that chunky whatever it is.

HILL: One or too many treats there.

BLITZER: All right. Let's get to our "Beat 360" winners. What do you got there?

HILL: A little "Beat 360," today's daily challenge. A chance, of course, to show up our staffers by coming up with a better caption for the picture we post every day on our blog.

Tonight's picture right here, Senator Timothy Kaine of Virginia, playfully closing the door on an employee taking a picture with his cell phone before appearing on a radio program.

Our staff winner tonight is Chuck, who I believe also won last night. His caption: "Tell Hillary she'll have to wake up pretty early in the morning to catch the K-Dogg doing anything compromising!"

(SOUND EFFECT: GROANS)

HILL: Ba-dum-ching.

Our viewer winner is Adam from Bettendorf, Iowa. His caption: "The only picture I want taken of me is next to Barack Obama!"

(SOUND EFFECT: "OOH!") HILL: Hey. Adam, of course, wins the coveted "Beat 360" T- shirt. You can check out all the entries received on our blog and play along tomorrow. Just log onto our Web site at AC360.com.

Wolf, I think we need to get you one of those T-shirts.

BLITZER: I could trade you one of those for a "SITUATION ROOM" T-shirt, Erica, if you want a "SITUATION ROOM" T-shirt.

HILL: My friend, you have a deal.

BLITZER: We have a deal. All right, you heard it right here. We'll make that happen tomorrow. Right?

HILLS: Sounds good.

BLITZER: All right. Up next on 360, "The Shot." If you're in a rush, we have the perfect way to watch me anchor "THE SITUATION ROOM." Stand by for that.

And at the top of the hour, the McCain campaign accuses Barack Obama of playing the race card. The story and reaction from both camps, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HILL: Wolf, as you know, every night we end the show with an interesting or amusing image or clip we like to call "The Shot." Tonight's "Shot" is all about you.

The folks at the comedy Web site 236.com love "THE SITUATION ROOM." Who doesn't? They love it so much, though, they found a very creative way to boil down those three hours into one minute. Take a look at this, Wolf.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Happening now, John McCain, Ahmadinejad. Olympics. You're in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

No. 1 issue. Issue number one.

Senator Obama. I want to hear what McCain is going to do to cut the deficit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... which deficit you're talking about.

BLITZER: The budget deficit, all right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The budget deficit.

BLITZER: You're going to have to leave it right there.

Prime minister of Pakistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you so much. Is said to be -- certainly. Certainly. Definitely.

BLITZER: Good luck to you. Welcome to the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you so much.

BLITZER: Presidential election, our new poll of polls. Poll of polls. Poll. Our poll of polls.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Six times 22. Two. Only one. Twelve. Eighteen. Six. Less than a point.

Imagine what would be happening if either George W. Bush or Dick Cheney were running this time. But they're not.

BLITZER: John McCain. Growth removed from face.

We're all over this story.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A mole removal.

BLITZER: A mole.

GUPTA: Removal. At this point it's just a mole.

BLITZER: A little mole removed.

JOHN CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Very white thin skin.

BLITZER: The best political team on television.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: You know, Wolf, boiling it down like that could make your day a lot shorter.

BLITZER: Yes, one minute of television. They did an excellent job. I think they hit all the important points.

Erica, thanks very much.

Coming up at the top of the minute, or shall we say, the top of the hour, Barack Obama and John McCain trading shots on attack ads and playing the race card. No hype from us, just the facts so you can make up your own mind. "Raw Politics" next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)