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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Swift Boat Sequel?; Russia Violating Cease-fire With Georgia?

Aired August 13, 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: Tonight, breaking news: Russian tanks on the move Georgia. Where will they stop? Can American pressure stop them? President Bush sending aides, sending Condoleezza Rice, sending a message to Russia to get out. Russia's foreign minister, in so many words, telling the president to get lost. The latest on the growing crisis with echoes of the Cold War tonight.
Plus, Swift Boat sequel. The author who clobbered John Kerry, he's got a new book out. His stated goal -- quote -- "to defeat Obama." But he twists the truth in doing it. That's not just an allegation. It's a hard fact. And we will show you the specifics from on the trail.

A bombshell story tonight making the rounds -- Colin Powell, President Bush's former secretary of state, on the verge of endorsing Barack Obama. But is that really true? We have got new reporting and new insight from our political table.

And allegations that China wins gymnastic gold by fielding a team of kids. Forget better, faster, stronger. Think younger, as in underage, and too young to compete. We have got the facts behind the allegations.

A very full hour ahead.

We begin with the latest developments in a war that was supposed to be over by now, but it is not. And it may not end before reviving the kind of Cold War tension that once kept the word on edge.

Russian forces tonight, as many as 15,000, according to Pentagon estimates, rolling through Georgia more than six days into hostilities, what the Georgians may have blundered into, but the Russians took to a brutal new level. Exactly where Russian forces are, we do not know. The European-brokered cease-fire seemingly a dead letter tonight.

Secretary of State Rice, as we said, heading to the region, U.S. aide arriving, and a verbal battle brewing with Russia, with very real questions about the clout behind the words.

The "Raw Politics" from Ed Henry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More tough talk in the Rose Garden, but no ultimatum for Russia. GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To begin to repair the damage to its relations with the United States, Europe and other nations, and to begin restoring its place in the world, Russia must keep its word and act to end this crisis.

HENRY: Facing charges he is all bark and no bite, the president announced he's sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region. Later in the day, she was sent out to face reporters and insist they are pressing Russia.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I am saying that it is time for the president to be true to his word.

HENRY: But that is as far as she would go. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov fired back, saying the U.S. is going to have to choose between Russia and Georgia, calling Georgia -- quote -- "a prestige and illusory project" for the U.S.

Meanwhile, almost a week into the crisis, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili charged the West has not done enough.

MIKHAIL SAAKASHVILI, PRESIDENT OF GEORGIA: The response has not been adequate. And the West has been -- first of all, they failed to analyze the Russians' intentions in advance, and they failed to react promptly towards what's been happening now.

HENRY: It wasn't supposed to be like this. From the start of their relationship, President Bush gave then President Vladimir Putin his seal of approval in 2001.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 2001)

BUSH: I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. I was able to get a sense of his soul.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: Given the crisis in Georgia, any second thoughts?

(on camera): There's been a lot of commentary in the last few days that maybe President Bush misjudged this relationship.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He understands that this relationship is complex, it is complicated.

HENRY: But has Putin taken advantage of that relationship?

PERINO: No, I don't think so.

HENRY (voice-over): The next test for the relationship comes immediately, as the U.S. sends military personnel to Georgia to deliver humanitarian aid. The U.S. has asked the Russians to led the aid in. If they refuse, this crisis could get more complicated real fast.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Ed, if Russia blocks U.S. aid from going in, then what happens?

HENRY: Well, we put that question to the White House today. We also asked, what if U.S. soldiers, military personnel get caught in the crossfire? They didn't want to answer either hypothetical, because both are awful scenarios. It runs the risk the U.S. being drawn in to the actual military conflict.

Right now, the U.S. is all but taking the military option off the table. They have got two wars they're already fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. So, once you do that, that essentially takes one of the biggest weapons off the table. There are not a lot of pressure points for this president in trying to get Russia to stand down.

So, instead, what he is doing, he is canceling or at least delaying the start of his vacation in Texas, staying in Washington a couple more days, going to the CIA tomorrow for more briefings about the situation in Georgia.

But all the president can really do is work the phones, get some briefings, but he really can't -- he doesn't have that many pressure point -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Ed Henry at the White House.

We go next to Matthew Chance in Georgia tracking Russian forces. He filed this for us as he was trying to get a handle on what exactly they are up to. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's been a lot of speculation about where the Russian troops are. Well, here they are, well inside Georgian territory and outside the main conflict zone of South Ossetia. They're now on the road to Tbilisi. The big question is, how far will they go?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And we don't know the answer to that. That is the question.

Here is Zain Verjee at the State Department.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Russian hardware moving further into Georgian territory than anyone expected. So, literally and figuratively, just how far is Russia willing to go?

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice didn't mince words.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Russia has perhaps not accepted that it is time to move on from the Cold War and it is time to move to a new era.

VERJEE: But even if Russia stops now with Georgia, does it have designs on other parts of its former Soviet empire?

SARAH MENDELSON, RUSSIA AND EURASIA PROGRAM SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: If I were a neighbor of Russia and I saw what Russia had done to Georgia, I would be very nervous.

VERJEE: To its former surrounding republics, Russia's message is clear: We are making the rules. So, you had better play by them.

RICE: This is not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia, where Russia can threaten its neighbors, occupy a capital, overthrow a government, and get away with it. Things have changed.

VERJEE: The U.S. is warning, Russia will pay a price for invading Georgia. Russia could be booted out of the exclusive group of industrialized nations and its World Trade Organization membership is at stake. The U.S. may suspend contact with Russia and cut off cooperation with NATO.

But Russia may just ignore the U.S.

WILLIAM COHEN, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: They have been gaining wealth through their export of oil and gas. They have been gaining military power. And, so, they're starting to flex their military muscle. But, most importantly, at this point, they want respect.

VERJEE: If there is one message Russia is sending to the world, it's this: We're back. Deal with it.

Zain Verjee, CNN, at the State Department.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Let's talk strategy now with CNN's Jill Dougherty in Moscow, also Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University and author of "The Idea That Is America: Keeping Faith With Our Values in a Dangerous World."

Anne-Marie, today, as we heard the Russian foreign minister saying, the U.S. needs to choose between a -- what he called a real partnership with Russia or what he called an illusory one with Georgia.

Just how threatened is Russia over Georgia's ties to the West?

ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER, DEAN, WOODROW WILSON SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS AT PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Well, those ties have been a complete thorn in Russia's side.

Effectively, it's been as if Cuba were sticking out its tongue at us constantly. And Russia has been telling us loud and clear, they don't want Georgia to be a part of NATO. And right now what they have done is show I think us and the world that, if Russia chooses to use force, we are not actually willing to send troops in to defend a country that is on Russia's border, not ours.

COOPER: Jill, how does all of this look from Moscow? How is it being played there? What does Russia want?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN INTERNATIONAL U.S. AFFAIRS EDITOR: Well, I mean, they say that they were justified in going in.

They blame the Georgians. They say the Georgians were the ones who took the first military action. And they would say that they were justified in going in to protect the peacekeepers, some of whom have been murdered, and also to protect Russian citizens.

And I think you would have to say -- question, did they achieve their objectives? And, if you look at it quickly, I think you can say they probably have. I mean, they have undermined how Saakashvili looks, because, after all, it looks as if he could lose both of those areas. They defeated the Georgian army, after it had been trained and equipped by the United States, made Georgia look like a less stable place, which may not be very good for investments, et cetera. So, they may achieved what they want without going even further.

COOPER: The question is, what do they want now? We will talk about that right after this break.

We are going to continue the conversation in a moment.

Also, looking at John McCain's tough talk.

A lot happening on the blog tonight. As always, I will be blogging with you during the commercial breaks. Join in by going to AC360.com. Follow the links.

Up next, as we said, McCain's hard line on Russia, not just when it comes to the war. Is he sending the right message overall to Moscow?

Later, are we about to see Jeremiah Wright chapter two? The buzz tonight, he's coming out with a book, and he will going on a book in the month before the election. That is the story that is floating around. The question is, is that really true? Our sources are talking. We're going to bring you the latest.

Also tonight, Kathy Griffin joins me. The comedian has recently performed for injured American troops. That's us together on New Year's Eve. We will talk to her about that, being at Walter Reed, and, frankly, whatever else she wants to talk about -- that and more tonight on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I'm not advocating cutting off relations with Russia. I'm not advocating a reignition of the Cold War. I am advocating for actions that will make it very clear to the Russians that there are long-term consequences for violation of the norms of international behavior.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: John McCain has recently said about the war, "We are all Georgians."

Critics say, OK, how does that really translate into policy, beyond simply talking tough? Others say that to hold back would be like appeasing Hitler in the run-up toward World War II. It's turning into that kind of supercharged debate.

Tonight, we're dialing down the heat, turning up the light.

Back talking strategy now, CNN's Jill Dougherty in Moscow and Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, and author of "The Idea that Is America: Keeping Faith with Our Values in a Dangerous World."

So, Jill, Secretary of State Rice isn't stopping to meet with the Russians in Moscow. She is going to speak to the French, and then onto Georgia. What does that -- what do you make of the fact that she is not even taking to the Russians?

DOUGHERTY: Well, they have already told the Russians what they feel about this, made it very clear. I guess you could argue that the Americans think there is nothing much to talk about at this point. You know how we feel. And what they want to do is send a signal that they support Saakashvili, the president of Georgia.

COOPER: Anne-Marie, how much leverage does America really have?

SLAUGHTER: Well, we have got diplomatic leverage.

And the real question is whether the Russians aren't going to overplay their hands. I agree with Jill that I think they have accomplished their objectives and, from their point of view, they -- this was a long time in coming. They -- they were going to make clear that they were back.

But, at this point, if they keep pushing, they are clearly way beyond the initial conflict. They are way beyond even humiliating Saakashvili. And you have had the leaders of six former Soviet states in Tbilisi with Saakashvili. If you then have Sarkozy representing the European Union and Secretary Rice representing us, you are putting the Russians then very much in the wrong during the Olympics, which doesn't make China happy at all. And you do have the possibility of suspending them from the G8, from the WTO, and, effectively, making them a power, a big power again, but a bad boy.

And it's not clear to me that is in their interests.

COOPER: Jill, John McCain, Barack Obama, President Bush, they were all talking about Georgia being part of NATO. Did America give them sort of a false sense of a commitment that really wasn't there?

DOUGHERTY: I don't -- you know, you could argue... (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Jill, go ahead.

DOUGHERTY: You could argue that.

Sorry.

You could argue that, because, after all, things were really slowed down realistically for their joining NATO. And, now, does anybody really think that the United States is going to go to war because they have to defend Georgia because they are members of NATO? It doesn't look that way. So, certainly, I think the brakes are put on that.

COOPER: Anne-Marie, what is your take?

SLAUGHTER: I agree with that.

But it's also very clear that the State Department and the White House told Saakashvili over and over again that the Russians were doing things to provoke him, and not to respond. We made it absolutely clear that he should not respond, he should not use force. And, in that sense, he definitely overplayed his hand.

But I agree overall. I think Georgian membership of NATO is not in the cards.

COOPER: Anne-Marie Slaughter, Jill Dougherty, appreciate your perspectives. Thank you.

Up next, attack politics, the target, Barack Obama in a new book by the same author who went after John Kerry four years ago over his Vietnam swift boat record. Well, tonight, we're "Keeping Them Honest." Is the new book about Obama just spreading lies?

And Colin Powell, a big name, is he about to endorse Barack Obama? That story has been floating around today, a lot of headlines on the Internet. We have got the "Raw Politics" and the facts?

And China's gymnasts win gold, but are they breaking the rules. Are they old enough to even compete? Some of them certainly don't look old enough. We're "Keeping Them Honest."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Coming up: a new bock attacking Barack Obama. The author is the same one who went after John Kerry's war credentials four years ago. Remember the Swift Boat affair? Tonight, his accusations against Barack Obama and why some of them are just not true.

First, though, Erica Hill joins us with a 360 bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Cindy McCain recovering from an enthusiastic handshake she received in Michigan today. The overzealous supporter apparently sprained Mrs. McCain's wrist, hence, the sling. But she is said to be doing fine.

In Little Rook, a deadly shooting at the Arkansas Democratic Party headquarters. The gunman walked into the offices, asked for state party chairman Bill Gwatney, and fatally shot him. He later died at a hospital.

After a 30-mile chase, police then shot and killed the suspect. There's no word yet on a motive.

The government says driving declined again in June. In fact, Americans clocking more than 12 billion fewer miles than we did a year earlier, marking the eighth straight month that Americans have cut back on driving.

And in England -- I love this story -- a gnome is finally home. Kidnapped seven months ago, Murphy the leprechaun was returned to his rightful place, giving his owner a big surprise.

COOPER: He looks rather bruised and battered.

HILL: Murphy had a rough run of it, apparently came back without his feet. But he did bring with him a photo album, detailing his globe-trotting days.

(LAUGHTER)

HILL: The gnome's owner does not know who took the little fellow, but a note said the gnome had itchy feet.

(LAUGHTER)

HILL: Very sweet. She didn't seem too upset. But the police apparently have said, I don't care if it's funny. This is a crime. We will prosecute.

COOPER: Really? Well...

HILL: Very serious.

COOPER: All right.

Erica, here's tonight's "Beat 360" photo: U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps getting ready to compete at the Summer Olympics, of course, in Beijing. Here's the caption from our staff winner.

Do we have the picture? Are we actually going to show the picture?

HILL: Why would we show a picture if it's about a picture?

COOPER: Nothing like showing the picture when we're doing the "Beat 360." It often helps...

HILL: Yes. If you have access to the Web site right now, you can look at it.

COOPER: ... because, otherwise, the line itself is not even funny.

There you go.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: There's the picture. Look at that.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: There's Michael Phelps.

Jon is the winner, summer intern: "Michael Phelps removes his skullcap, proving he is not human."

If you think you can do better -- hey, hey -- he's an intern -- if you think you can do better, go to our Web site.

(CROSSTALK)

HILL: ... very hard around here.

COOPER: Exactly.

AC360.com. Click on the "Beat 360" link. Send us your entry. We will announce the winner at the end of the program. The winner gets a T-shirt.

Still ahead, brace yourself for a new round of attack politics. The same author whose book about John Kerry launched the Swift Boat ads has written another book, this time about Obama. It's about to become a bestseller, actually, this weekend. Could it sink Obama's chances for the White House? Well, we will talk about it.

Also, a troubling rumor for the Obama campaign. Is Reverend Jeremiah Wright really planning to write a book and promote it this fall, before Election Day? We're checking the facts.

This is 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, we all remember the ads that turned swift boat into a verb, the ones that attacked John Kerry's military career, these ads that we're about to show you.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SWIFT BOAT VETERANS FOR TRUTH AD)

ROY HOFFMAN, SWIFT BOAT VETERANS FOR TRUTH: John Kerry has not been honest.

ADRIAN LONSDALE, SWIFT BOAT VETERANS FOR TRUTH: And he lacks the capacity to lead.

LARRY THURLOW, SWIFT BOAT VETERANS FOR TRUTH: When the chips were down, you could not count on John Kerry.

BOB ELDER, SWIFT BOAT VETERANS FOR TRUTH: John Kerry is no war hero.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The Swift Boat ads helped sink Kerry's campaign in 2004. And the man whose book launched the ads, Jerome Corsi, is back in the news tonight. He's written a new book about Barack Obama, just as inflammatory as the one about John Kerry. On Sunday, his book will be number one on the "New York Times" bestseller list.

Since a lot of his attacks on John Kerry were widely discredited, tonight, we are checking the facts in his new book about Barack Obama.

CNN's Jessica Yellin is on the trail.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jerome Corsi's new book, "Obama Nation," makes the case that Obama is on the extreme left of American politics and has extensive connections to Islam and radical racial politics.

JEROME CORSI, AUTHOR, "THE OBAMA NATION": Well, I think Barack Obama does not want to squarely tell the American people how radical his associations have been in Chicago, for instance, with this black liberation theology church, with Tony Rezko, whom he knew for 17 years, with William Ayers, the Weather Ground -- Under -- the Weather Ground bomber, that -- that Obama served on a board with on the Woods Foundation for many years. So, I don't think we have the truth.

YELLIN: To prove his point, Corsi says the book is meticulously researched and fact-checked. But when we checked his facts, we found he is wrong on many points.

Here are a few. The book claims Obama didn't dedicate his first book, "Dreams From My Father," to his family members. He did. He dedicated it to his mother, his grandmother, and his siblings.

Corsi cites a report saying Obama was in church when Reverend Jeremiah Wright made comments about race on July 22. But Obama was out of state, a full time zone away. And Corsi writes, Obama has "yet to answer questions about whether he ever stopped using drugs." But, in his first book, Obama said he stopped getting high during college.

The Obama campaign dismisses the book as a series of lies from a discredited writer.

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I don't think anybody's going to take Jerome Corsi all that seriously, once they learn who this guy really is. Even people on the right wing haven't associated themselves with him, because of some of the pretty bigoted and outrageous things he's said in his career.

YELLIN: But Corsi's message is getting out. And he's making some wild allegations.

CORSI: A gentleman who currently heads the Indonesian Airlines was quoted in the papers as saying that, as far as he was concerned, having gone to school with Obama, Obama remained a Muslim until he married Michelle.

YELLIN: Barack Obama has said many times:

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Not true, that -- never been a Muslim. This -- this is just stuff that is designed to make people suspicious.

YELLIN: So, is the Obama campaign in danger of being swift boated?

KEVIN MADDEN, FORMER ROMNEY CAMPAIGN NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY: The big risk for any campaign is hoping that the problem will go away. As we all know, in campaigns, hope is not a strategy. You have to work every day to make sure you that you get the fastest archive, the most ready, available facts to your surrogates, to your supporters, to make sure that you knock down any of those attacks.

YELLIN: Obama supporter John Kerry, the target of the original Swift Boat campaign, has launched a Web site to do just that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: It got cut off there. That was Jessica Yellin.

Let's dig deeper now with CNN's Candy Crowley and "New York Observer" columnist Steve Kornacki.

Candy, number one of the "New York Times" bestseller list. How worried is the Obama campaign?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, at the moment, I think you can tell from their reaction, which is basically to kind of brush this off.

They will put people out there to talk about it, as you saw in Jessica's package. But, basically, they are looking the this and trying to brush it off, saying, this is lies. This is a discredited author. They believe that people , when they hear the term swift boat, know that this -- or believe that that is sort of a code for underhanded politics.

So, they think they can brush this off at this point. They are not so much worried about people reading the book as the coverage of the book. So, they're eying this. But I don't think, at this moment, they are treating it as a major concern.

COOPER: I guess, Steve, damned if you do, damned if you don't. If you ignore, then it goes -- things go unanswered. And, if you pay too much attention to it, it brings it more attention.

STEVE KORNACKI, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK OBSERVER": Yes.

At a certain point, I think, from the media standpoint, too, there's a little bit of like rear-view thinking going on here. This played a major role in 2004. Therefore, we have to watch to see if it plays a role in 2008.

There are some fundamental differences, I think, between this story and between the Swift Boat story in 2004, just the basics. When he wrote this book -- when he co-wrote this book in 2004, it was basically amplifying concerns or amplifying charges that were already being leveled by a specific a group of people.

COOPER: There were actual people leveling charges.

KORNACKI: Right. You could put faces to these charges.

COOPER: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: And those were the faces that appeared up on the commercial.

KORNACKI: And the charges were pretty much debunked.

You also had this guy, T. Boone Pickens, who was willing to bankroll this television advertising campaign on its behalf. This year, T. Boone Pickens, of course is bankrolling a different kind of television advertising campaign...

COOPER: Right.

KORNACKI: ... that has nothing to do with Swift Boat type attacks. And, so, it's different in the nature.

COOPER: So, the charges in this new book, there's not really individuals who served with Barack Obama over the years making these charges.

KORNACKI: This is just a mishmash of, well, he hasn't denied this and he hasn't denied that, and I talked to a guy on an airline once who said he was a Muslim, and that kind of thing.

COOPER: Right.

KORNACKI: Now, there is an audience for that, clearly.

COOPER: Right.

KORNACKI: For instance, if you find that poll that says 12 percent of the people think that Barack Obama is a Muslim, I don't think that has to do with people who are misinformed, who actually have read the facts and believe, based on the facts, he's Muslim. Those are -- this is like the triumph of emotion over fact in politics. These are people who hear stories like this and they feel, yes, he's -- there's a negative connotation to being a Muslim for a lot of people in this country. Yes, he feels like he should be a Muslim. I think that's what that 12 percent I reflecting.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: There is, Candy, though, a danger in being too aloof, of just playing it too cool and saying, well, look, people are smarter than that and we have moved beyond the Swift Boat days.

CROWLEY: Right. But there is more to the campaign than Barack Obama.

I don't think you will see the campaign elevating this to the level of Barack Obama denying anything in the book. They believe that the people reading it are probably not inclined to vote for Obama anyway.

But they do have John Kerry out there with a Web site answering these things. They do have people that are out there willing to talk about it. But it will not be elevated to the extent of, OK, here is Barack Obama talking about it, unless it becomes a huge problem. And they don't believe it will, simply because of the audience and because they believe that the writer has been discredited.

COOPER: I want to move on to another big story.

Colin Powell, there was a report on FOX that he was going to endorse Barack Obama at the convention. We have talked to his spokesperson. CNN talked to their -- his spokesperson, said, it's simply not true. And, in fact, Powell has denied to ABC News that he is even going to the convention.

It would be a big deal if he did.

KORNACKI: Sure. It would be a big deal.

I think, at this point, though, there is a certain expectation, you know, among people who are following this thing, that Barack Obama -- that Colin Powell probably supports Barack Obama. You know, whether he's going to come out and make a show of it, nobody's quite sure. Powell, of course, very, very cautious, you know, publicly. You know, it doesn't sound like he's going to be at the convention. It doesn't sound like, you know, he's going to be the guy.

They're looking for -- the Democrats are looking, you know, for this sort of voice who has a lot of resonance with, you know, middle America, with independent voters. And Colin Powell would be the perfect candidate for that.

If you get a Republican, if you get Chuck Hagel. It doesn't look like he's even going to be at the convention. If the idea for a while if maybe you could get Chuck Hagel to come out and sort of give him the seal of approval, you know, from outside at the sort of core base of support. And among these sort of swing voters, who are -- you know, the ones who are like him but they want some reassurance. A guy like Colin Powell gives them reassurance. A guy like Chuck Hagel gives them reassurance.

COOPER: But as of now it seems like it's not happening, at least at the convention.

KORNACKI: I wouldn't be surprised if there's a statement sometime in September or October. That might be the level we're looking at here.

COOPER: All right. Let's leave it there. Steve Kornacki, good to have you on. Candy Crowley, as well. Thanks, Candy.

Just ahead on 360, the new potential Jeremiah Wright controversy. Are the book rumors true? After all the trouble the preacher's caused the Obama campaign, will Wright make two wrongs?

Also the Chinese gymnasts who grabbed gold at the Olympics now under fire. Their passports say they're 16, but their tiny size and other evidence suggests they may be younger. Did China bend the rules? We're "Keeping Them Honest."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT, FORMER PASTOR, TRINITY UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: The stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards. America's chickens. Coming home to roost.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's a blast from the past. The video of Jeremiah Wright sent the Obama campaign into a tail spin earlier this year. The outcry, of course, over the incendiary preachings was intense and forced Senator Obama to distance himself from his former pastor and his former church.

Wright did not disappear quietly after the initial storm, you'll remember. And today, he was back in the news, at least rumored to be writing a book and planning to promote it this fall, just before the election. An October surprise for the Obama campaign.

Well, tonight, we're checking out the rumor. CNN contributor and radio talk show host Roland Martin is up close. He joins me now.

Roland, you spoke with Reverend Wright's daughter about this October book tour rumor which was in "New York" magazine and elsewhere. What did she tell you? Is it true?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, she said absolutely it's not true. She said that the only book that they're working on is really a history of Trinity United Church of Christ. She said that she's editing it and hasn't even gotten to it yet. She called her father, who was in Ghana. He's been there since last month. He's there teaching and ministering. And he laughed at what he heard about it and said absolutely not true. He's not writing any book. He's not going on any book tour.

Anderson, I saw that item in the New York magazine. The first thing, as a journalist, which jumped out at me, there was no attribution. There was no mention of a publisher. And so it was sort of like, "Oh, he's putting a book out in October and going on a book tour."

You would think you would back that up with something else, versus just putting the line in there at the end of a very long story.

COOPER: How long, do you know, is Reverend Wright staying in Africa?

MARTIN: Well, I mean, first of all, he's been in Africa. I was in Ghana towards the end of July. I was there for about nine days speaking at a technology conference. In fact, I was having breakfast one morning in a hotel, and I saw him walk in. He looked, and I said, "Is that Jeremiah Wright?" So I went over and it was him and actually spoke to him.

He actually is teaching there, a large number of people there in the country also from Trinity, from other churches around the country, where he's doing some teaching there. Look, he's made any number of trips to the mother land over the last 30-some-odd years. And so he is a regular visitor and teacher in many African nations.

COOPER: So no idea if he's going to make any public appearances before the election?

MARTIN: No, the only thing that -- the only thing that Jerry said is that he said that he was not able to receive or send out any e-mails, because he's in a remote part of Ghana at the time. But he did plan on releasing an actual statement, clearing up his whole deal simply saying that, "Look, I am not putting out a book."

He's actually heard about these rumors, as well. And again, folks have been posting elsewhere. But this is where I think, as journalists, you've got to back this kind of stuff up. Because it takes a life of its own. People all of a sudden start speculating, well, what if he comes out? What is it going to mean? When is it going to happen? And so it sends folks into a tizzy. She said point- black her dad is not writing a book. It is not coming out in October. He's not on any kind of cooper.

COOPER: Has there been, any fallout, the your knowledge, among the congregants at the church, toward the Obamas?

MARTIN: No. No, in fact, when this happened, when he actually, resigned, a number of people called my radio show, claiming they are members and saying, "Look, we understand why they left." In fact, we discussed the very issue today, and members called again, saying, "Look, we understand it." What they say is people are still coming to the church. People are still -- I mean, one person said they're still being harassed. People are still, you know, asking questions, even on those lines. Even though he has resigned, you still have folks who are looking for some count -- some kind of outburst. So Trinity members simply want to get on with their lives, worship like anybody else without this whole distraction in terms of folks, frankly, you know, interfering with the worship service. I mean, that is what the church is all about, is to praise God and focus on their faith.

COOPER: All right, clearing up the rumors. Roland Martin, thanks.

MARTIN: Thanks a bunch.

COOPER: They're young and nimble and now gold medalists. But are they also cheating to compete? There's growing speculation the Chinese women gymnastics team may have team members with some doctored passports. Could that be true? We're "Keeping Them Honest."

And Kathy Griffin. Sure, she's only won one Emmy and been banned from multiple talk shows. But we love her. When we heard she performed for wounded troops at Walter Reed, we asked her to come and talk about it. Kathy Griffin joins me live tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you arresting me? I want to talk. I want to talk. Hold on.

What upon you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a journalist.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Tonight, a side of the summer Olympic Games you have not seen. That's ITN reporter John Ray (ph), who was hauled away by police in Beijing today after taping a free Tibet demonstration. He was detained for about 30 minutes and says police yanked off his shoes and held him down. He said they would not let him put his hands in his pocket to show them his media credentials.

Now another controversy. Chinese gymnastic team, they are tiny. The smallest member weighs 68 pounds and stands 4'6". The official line is that everybody on the team turned 16 this year. But then you see their faces and size and begin to wonder. 360's Randi Kaye, tonight "Keeping Them Honest."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How old does this girl look to you. The Chinese gymnastics Coaca (ph) say he is 16, the required age to compete in the Beijing Olympics.

But is she really? A recent investigation by The New York Times suggests half the Chinese team, three out of six, could be underage. These are the girls raising eye bros.

According to their passports they are 16, but the "Times" reports a 2006 Chinese biography on Hu listed her birthday as January, 1994, which would make her 14, not 16.

This girl was listed as 14 in a local competition in China recently. And a Web site in China says this member of the team is 15.

Amanda Borden represented the U.S. in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

AMANDA BORDER, FORMER OLYMPIC GYMNAST: Are they 16? I'm not sure we'll ever know the exact age of those girls. They do look like they are far from being 16.

KAYE: Borden says there are definitely advantages to competing at a younger age. Gymnasts are smaller, more flexible.

BORDEN: We tend to be a lot better and at our peak performances when we are younger, before we go through maturity.

KAYE: This Chinese gymnast knows that's true. In this documentary now on YouTube, she admits she was too young to compete at the 2000 Sidney Olympics, where she won a bronze medal. She says she was just 14.

Debbie Johnson has been coaching gymnastics for 30 years. She says the girls don't look 16 either.

(on camera) One of these girls is 68 pounds. Do you know of any 16-year-olds that are 68 pounds?

DEBBIE JOHNSON, GYMNASTICS COACH: No, I don't. I don't.

KAYE (voice-over): What's the average height and weight of a 16- year-old gymnast that you see here at your gym?

JOHNSON: My gym they're much bigger. The average, maybe, 100 pounds, 110 pounds, 5'2", 5'3", 5'4", in that range.

KAYE: A Chinese gymnastics official reportedly suggested sports writers in China got the ages wrong, insisting their passports are valid.

(on camera) The Chinese team's average size is 4'9", 77 pounds. The gymnasts from the U.S. are about 3 1/2 inches taller and 30 pounds taller. Only one American, Shawn Johnson, stands shorter than 5 feet and weighs under 100 pounds.

(voice-over) A spokesman for the International Olympics Committee told "The Times," "We feel comfortable having heard feedback from people directly involved with the athletes." But that's not how legendary gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi sees it. The man who once coached Nadia Komenici and Mary Lou Retton told the Associated Press, "These people think we are stupid."

And during NBC's coverage of the games Tuesday night, Karolyi continued.

BELA KAROLYI, FORMER U.S. OLYMPICS COACH: Half of the Chinese students under age. I think it's over. Nobody could really prove it. Why? Because they have their passport given by the government.

KAYE: Former Olympian Amanda Borden says the focus should still be on the games, not the girls.

BORDEN: I think, had the U.S. won, the women's team, none of these issues would come up.

KAYE: The competition may be over, but the fight continues.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Orlando.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And this from Chin Yuan, the state-run news agency. Translated: "Before the Beijing Olympic Games there were already foreign media writing articles on the ages of China's female gymnastics team. The team reacted quickly and have clarified with abundant evidence that all girls of the team are born before December 12, 1992.

Well, we are live with this. A comedian joins us for some last, for calls very close to her heart.

Also tonight, nervous laughter soon turned serious on stage in Iowa when a python slithered up one pant leg and down the other. Yikes. It is tonight's "Shot." Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: That's Kathy Griffin, of course. A funny lady. A familiar face to 360 viewers. She rang in the new year with us this year. The comedian, reality star and Emmy winner also entertained U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kathy then went to visit some of the wounded heroes at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, a visit that is having a profound effect on her. It's going to be on the season finale of her show. Kathy Griffin joins me now.

You were pretty nervous about performing at Walter Reed.

KATHY GRIFFIN, COMEDIAN: Well, of course. Because you know, it's a very different environment from when I went to Iraq and Afghanistan, where they're in a combat zone and they're all amped up. And now what I'm proud about the episode is it kind of shows what happens to these men and women when they come home and, of course, in a hospital environment.

At Walter Reed, they have everything from the rehab facility, which they've never allowed cameras in before, to, you know, a Fisher House, a housing facility they have for them. And it was -- it was pretty sobering, but I think it also was a great illustration of how you use humor to get through something traumatic.

COOPER: Fisher House was started by Jack and Elizabeth Fisher. And what they've done is just extraordinary at rehab hospitals just around the country. It allows the family of soldiers to stay. And I think that's one of the things you -- I mean, you spent a lot of time with family members during the episode. And I mean, I think a lot of people don't understand the sacrifice -- it's not just the sacrifice the troops are making, which are life-changing and huge. But the families, as well, are going through remarkable, you know, trauma at the same time.

GRIFFIN: If not more so. Because they're thrust into this environment where they -- you know, I've met women that are 19 years old, and they've got a kid. And then now they've got a husband who's missing a couple of legs, and the family has to all deal with it however they can, the best they can.

And I was so impressed with how they deal with something that I think most Americans couldn't. I certainly couldn't. And the emotional trauma is there, too, and it's visible on their faces. And I saw the broad spectrum of reactions, everything from kind of almost acting like it didn't happen to crying to not showing emotion to some of the sickest jokes I've heard. And of course, those are my favorite.

COOPER: Yes, and you seem to have really bonded with soldiers over a sick sense of humor. I want to show some of -- just one little interaction you had with one wounded soldiers. Let's take a look.

GRIFFIN: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: Where's your arm? Did you lose it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, he's got it.

GRIFFIN: Here. Put your arm on please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They told me today it costs an arm and a leg to talk to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: Was it hard figuring out what was appropriate and what's not appropriate?

GRIFFIN: Oh, yes, that was the hardest part for me. But I mean, I wasn't so focused on that until the performance came. But all day I was so interested to hear their stories and talk to the family members and the medical staff. They were amazing. And it wasn't on camera, but one female doctor said that she had seen everyone in the audience on the operating table at one time. And she was saying how it was great to see them up and going to a show and stuff.

COOPER: I've got to say, when you started -- I mean, I watched this episode. Now, it hasn't aired yet, but I watched it. And you kind of bombed for awhile there.

GRIFFIN: I know.

COOPER: I mean, there was dead silence in the audience.

GRIFFIN: I bombed like an insurgent. I'm just going to be honest. Not -- you know...

COOPER: They just weren't laughing at you, or even with you. Or even at you.

GRIFFIN: There were -- there were amputees walking out. I'm going to be honest. But you know what? That's where the comedy comes in, Andy. And I know if you were there, you would have been laughing very, very hard at my Lindsay Lohan jokes.

COOPER: I don't know -- I don't know what you're referring to.

GRIFFIN: I'm looking right at you.

COOPER: I don't know what you're referring to.

GRIFFIN: All right. I meant by Ally Lohan jokes.

COOPER: I don't know.

GRIFFIN: But I -- it got to the point where I would do anything to make these men and women laugh. And it was really great. And I got to see an actual case of rehabilitation. Because I went off camera about nine months ago, and I visited this one guy names McKenzie. And he had just been medevacked in. He was really in bad shape. He said he was leaving the military. And, you know, his dad was there, and of course, the officers let him just vent and stuff.

And then sure enough, at the end of the day of shooting, I was signing autographs and silly notes and stuff like that. And I hear this guy behind me say, "Hey, man, would you write 'to McKenzie'?"

And I turned around, I was like, "McKenzie?" And he was up, walking. He had a crutch. He was going to stay in the military. He wasn't going to, you know, go back to Iraq. But it was great. Like, I got to see a case of an actual person who was better off for staying at Walter Reed.

COOPER: It's -- I mean, I've watched your whole series this year, and they're always funny. This is actually a very moving episode. And I want to play just one moment where clearly this has had an impact on you. Let's take a look.

GRIFFIN: Oh, Andy.

COOPER: Yes. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: It's a privilege to meet them and get to know all their, like, coping mechanisms. And, you know, it's just intense and it's really impressive. And so my job is to make them laugh, so I'm having a private crying time. Because I would never let them see me -- you know, I would never let them see me cry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The other thing that so many soldiers and Marines and airmen that you talked to is that they want to go back. I mean, they want to go back to complete the mission. They want to go back to being with their buddies.

GRIFFIN: I think 90 percent of them want to go back. It was unbelievable. So you're talking to guys, and they're missing limbs. And they're like, "Yes, I want to go back to my unit as soon as possible."

So I try to get as many as possible to just stay home and maybe to work for me and be my assistant. I'm always looking for new people.

But they're very, very dedicated. And the sense of -- there's McKenzie.

COOPER: That's him?

GRIFFIN: The guy with the baseball cap. There he is. Sorry. I got super excited.

COOPER: You know what? That's the first side you have not pointed out your Emmy.

GRIFFIN: Oh, by the way, I'm a double nominee this year, Anderson. This is going to hurt you.

COOPER: Are you really? Really?

GRIFFIN: This is the first you've heard of it?

COOPER: This is the first I've heard of it. I know you were trying to go for a Grammy, too. Did that every work out?

GRIFFIN: I don't know. I still think it's "For Your Consideration."

Now, by the way, this Georgia conflict, who's the president of Georgia?

COOPER: Saakashvili?

GRIFFIN: Yes.

COOPER: I always get it wrong. GRIFFIN: Remember when you used to be a newsman?

COOPER: I know, I know. You know what? I've actually -- I've actually been to Georgia. I've actually reported from Abkhazia in, like, '94.

GRIFFIN: I think audiences in Atlanta are fantastic, and I have two shows there coming up at the Fox Theater.

COOPER: I actually think we just have a shot of something. There's -- oh, look, there's one of our Emmys. Look, is there one there? Is that just one? Oh, look, our interns have Emmys. Those are two of our interns with Emmys. And there's a third Emmy. Wow, that's like four Emmys just laying around there. That's interesting. Wow. Did she leave? Is she gone?

GRIFFIN: Am I the first person to ever walk off "AC 360"?

COOPER: I think you are. I think you are.

GRIFFIN: Yes!

COOPER: If Dina Lohan was here, she would have walked off, too. But...

GRIFFIN: Look at it. It's a blank screen.

COOPER: Kathy Griffin, when is the show on?

GRIFFIN: That's how you get an Emmy, my friend.

COOPER: When is...

GRIFFIN: That's how. You take risks.

COOPER: When is the show on?

GRIFFIN: You've got a blank screen, buddy. You and a blue wall.

COOPER: Promote your -- promote your show. When is the final episode on?

GRIFFIN: All right.

COOPER: When is it on?

GRIFFIN: It's on tomorrow night at 9 p.m. on Bravo. Watch what happens.

COOPER: All right. Kathy Griffin.

GRIFFIN: I love America.

COOPER: Thanks, Kathy.

"The Shot" is coming up next. Is this a stupid animal trick or a stupid human trick or truck? We'll let you decide.

And at the top of the hour, breaking news on the move. Russian forces in Georgia. What's next and can the White House can do anything to stop the battle? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Time now for "The Shot," Erica. It's animal related. You know what that means. The evil-eyed prairie dog. There we go. Dramatic animal video.

But guess what? We've found another spooked-out critter to intro this segment.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: I love that cat!

COOPER: Wow.

HILL: That is impressive.

COOPER: Scary. All right, our "Shot" this evening is about a snake and a local weather guy. They got to know each other pretty well.

Iowa meteorologist Curtis Gertz (ph) was at a state fair last -- well, I don't know -- and he was getting a primer. Actually, he was getting a primer on a Burmese python. During the show the snake slithered into the weather man's pants. An awkward moment. But a funny one, too.

HILL: Wow, he was giving his own primer.

COOPER: Yes. Luckily, the snake was removed from the pair of pants. Both animal and weatherman are said to be fine.

HILL: I don't even know what I would do if that was me live on the air.

COOPER: Yes. There are a lot of jokes we could be adding in right here, but we're just going to leave it up to your imagination.

HILL: We're too classy for that, Anderson Cooper. We don't do that kind of stuff on this show.

COOPER: Yes. Look at that. Yikes. Yes.

HILL: There we go. I think she might need to replace the prairie dog.

COOPER: I think yes, you know. They're both pretty good.

Time for our "Beat 360" winners, our daily challenge to viewers to come up with a caption that's better than one we can think of.

Here's the picture. Do we actually have it this time? U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps getting ready to compete in the Beijing Olympics.

Staff winner, summer intern Jon. His caption: "Michael Phelps removes his skull cap, proving he's not human."

Our viewer winner, Phil from Phoenix, Arizona. His caption: "Who put Nair in this thing?"

HILL: It's a good picture.

COOPER: It's a good picture.

HILL: It's a funny picture.

COOPER: Phil, your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way. Congratulations. You can check out all the other entries at AC360.com and play tomorrow.

HILL: I've got a quick idea.

COOPER: Yes.

HILL: I think you should send Kathy Griffin a T-shirt.

COOPER: You think?

HILL: Yes.

COOPER: Sure, why not?

HILL: She'd wear it.

COOPER: Yes. We can, you know, paint all our Emmys on it.

HILL: Definitely. That's an idea.

COOPER: Then she'll just be filled with bitterness.

Coming up at the top of the hour, how far will Russia go inside Georgia and what, if anything, can America do to stop it? That and more when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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