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Michelle Obama Delivers Powerful Speech; Will Hillary Clinton's Speech Rally Dems to Unity?; Hurricane Gustav Takes Aim at Haiti

Aired August 26, 2008 - 09:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Good morning. Good morning, everybody.
We continue the coverage of the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver. 7:00 a.m. in the mile-high city, looking there at the Pepsi Center. Delegates probably just waking up after a long and emotional night behind them.

A harder hitting agenda tonight. Tonight's theme is -- well, it's being called renewing America's promise. Tonight's featured speaker is Hillary Clinton. The big question, really the enduring question in all of this, is -- can she bring her die hard supporters onto the Obama bandwagon. So, you've got emotion, anticipation, power, politics this morning to talk about.

Plus, kind of a chilling news item. Three people arrested in suburban Denver with weapons and walkie-talkies. Local authorities are now asking the feds to investigate. CNN's Dana Bash is in Denver for us, got details on all that and much more.

Dana, let's begin with how it went last night. Good morning.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's interesting, Soledad, that this morning, talking to Democrats here in Denver, last night's event is getting some mixed reviews, primarily, because some feel that the primary goal here in Denver should be to frame the debate against John McCain and explain why he is the wrong person to be commander in chief.

And certainly, you didn't hear that at all last night. What we did hear, of course, were some speeches from people who were important for Barack Obama, his wife, Michelle Obama, giving a discussion about who he is as a person.

And also something that was absolutely unbelievably dramatic. Having stalwart of the Democratic Party come back to speak before the convention in a way that never -- nobody really expected him to do.

So, you know, other Democrats are saying, those were important moments and people who were wanting red meat, don't worry, red meat will be coming the next couple of days.

O'BRIEN: (INAUDIBLE) to put it that way.

And you mentioned those two important moments, and certainly nobody expected that Michelle Obama would be the one to go after John McCain. Instead, she was really there positioned to talk about her husband.

Here's a short clip of part of her speech from last night.


MICHELLE OBAMA, SEN. BARACK OBAMA'S WIFE: That's why Barack's running to end the war in Iraq responsibly, to build an economy that lifts every family, to make sure health care is available for every American, and to make sure that every single child in this nation has a world-class education, all the way from preschool to college.


M. OBAMA: That's what Barack Obama will do as president of the United States of America.

You see, Barack doesn't care where you're from or what your background is or what party, if any, you belong to. See, that's just not how he sees the world. He knows that thread that connects us, our belief in America's promise, our commitment to our children's future.

He knows that that thread is strong enough to hold us together as one nation, even when we disagree.


O'BRIEN: Her speech, Dana, was a home run. Plus, the kids coming out at the end was icing on the cake.

What did you think?

BASH: Well, yes, I mean, she did what she had to do and what her goal was, which was to explain who Barack Obama -- is as a person, as a husband, as a father. But, you know, there were -- there's a lot of political point -- a big political point to be made here, that she was trying to make, trying to get across to those skeptical voters, many of those skeptical voters in places like southeast Ohio or rural Pennsylvania who don't really think that Barack Obama is necessarily one of them, that they really can't relate to him.

That she was trying to say, you know what, you should be able to relate to him, to us, because we come from working class families and we are -- we do have the kind of values that you want in a president.

But, you know, there was something else that she tried to do, and that was more personal, about herself.

Remember, she stirred a lot of controversy during the primaries by suggesting that this is the first time that she's proud of her country. She made a very clear point in that speech, saying, I love this country.

So it was much about -- it's much about talking about her husband as trying to soften her own image -- Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Ted Kennedy looked great last night. I mean, I was so -- you know, the reports were quite dire and I thought really at the last hour that maybe he just wasn't going to show up at all, even though we had heard earlier in the day that he would.

And then you say him, he was so strong, he sounded great, he looked great, his speech was -- well, you know, I cried through the whole thing. He was wonderful.

BASH: You know, there was not a dry eye in that hall. You think about it, Soledad, over the last half century, there has not been a Democratic Convention without a stirring, maybe controversial moment that involves a Kennedy.

And Ted Kennedy was not going to let this convention in Denver be any different, brain tumor or not. You're right, there was -- it was touch and go, really, apparently up until the last minute whether or not he could deliver that speech.

But, you know, he made clear that he wanted to do it. And, you know, I've had the privilege of covering Senator Kennedy for several years in the Senate, watching him, and watching the way he operates in terms of really trying to carry the torch of his legacy and the legacy of his family.

And the way he does that is by teaching people -- teaching other senators how to legislate. When he realized a couple of decades ago that it wasn't in the cards for him to be president, he really focused on that as his goal.

And that is a big part of the message that we heard from him last night in terms of passing it over to Barack Obama, but and also just, you know, showing his stuff, because he is somebody, as people close him told me last night, they reminded me, he is somebody who loves theatrics and loves the drama.

And he certainly created it last night.

O'BRIEN: It worked.

Let's take a quick look at a clip from last night talking about passing the torch.


SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: This November the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans, so with Barack Obama and for you and for me, our country will be committed to his cause.

The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on.


O'BRIEN: He looks so good. Let's talk about tonight. Hillary Clinton's going to be the big headliner. Talk to me a little bit about what's expected from her and more. BASH: You know, when you think about moments, Soledad, if you look back over the, you know, past year and where we were probably about a year ago, it was almost unthinkable that this would not be Hillary Clinton's convention.

And that is something that is going to really add to the drama tonight, where she is going to be speaking. And she is going to be trying to convince the many supporters who are still going to be in that hall trying to root for her that you know what, it's time to move on.


BASH (voice-over): Hillary Clinton must convince Denver Democrats she's now in it for Obama to win it.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: And now I ask each and every one of you to work as hard for Barack and Joe Biden as you worked for me.

BASH: Clinton's first convention audience was her home state political army, the New York delegation. She pleaded with them to be good soldiers.

CLINTON: Now we were not all on the same side as Democrats, but we are now. We are united and we are together and we are determined.

BASH: A sneak preview of her much-anticipated convention speech and a signal she knows what's expected of her -- preach unity and deliver it like she means it.

CLINTON: This is Barack Obama's convention, as it should be. And there is no doubt that what we are doing is trying to bring everybody together with the same level of commitment that I certainly feel so that we can leave Denver unified.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let the delegates vote?

BASH: But some angry Hillary supporters protesting outside the hall want no part of unity and John McCain's campaign is eager to stoke it. Showcasing in Denver the Clinton-turned-McCain supporter in a new anti-Obama ad.

DEBRA BARTOSHEVICH, CLINTON SUPPORTER FOR MCCAIN: I know there are more delegates. I spoke to a lot of delegates who are in the same position I am in. But they are not ready to come out yet. I do believe they will come out after the convention.

CLINTON: I'm Hillary Clinton and I do not approve that message.

BASH: But with polls showing more and more Clinton voters turning towards McCain, this may be her most important message of all.

CLINTON: Electing John McCain would be a mistake for our country. That is the overriding reality. And anyone who voted for me has so much more in common with Senator Obama than they will ever have with Senator McCain and the Republican Party.


BASH: Now the reality is if enough of Hillary Clinton supporters defect and actually support John McCain, enough that he would win the White House, that could really serve to help her politically and position her for a 2012, for the next time around.

But her challenge tonight, Soledad, is to show and make the case that she doesn't want that to happen. And I'm told a big way she's going to try to prove that is by making a very strong case against John McCain.

O'BRIEN: Yes, a fair bit of pressure on her tonight as well.

Dana, a quick update for me. There was arrests overnight and some security issues. Tell me where we stand there.

BASH: Well, federal authorities are saying, in fact, the U.S. attorney here in Colorado is saying that there is no credible threat. That's really the headline here.

Apparently what happened is a man was arrested after being caught in his car with firearms and even some drugs and during the course of the arrest, he mentioned that some others he was involved with were making threatening, even racist comments about Barack Obama, and that is what raised the concern level dramatically at the time.

But, again, what federal authorities are saying at this point is that they now don't think that there was a credible threat against Barack Obama or that he is in danger. But there will be a formal press conference to make some of those points more clear later today -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Dana Bash for us on several fronts -- appreciate it, Dana. See you later.

BASH: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Coming up next, we're going to be talking about faith and politics and the Democratic Party.

Jim Wallace will join us right after this short break. Stay with us, please.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We gathered here to Denver and in Denver to nominate Senator Barack Obama for the presidency of the United States. We ask God to give us wisdom and the strength to do God's will.


O'BRIEN: That was one of several invocations last night, a tradition for both major parties, but perhaps more apparent this year as Evangelical Christians begin to send signals that they should no longer be considered an owned and operated branch of any one party.

It's a message that my next guest knows very well. He's been spreading it for years. Going to sound the trumpet against day in Denver, Jim Wallace is the president and the executive director of the "Sojourners."

Always glad to see him.

Nice to see you again, Jim. Thanks for being with us.

JIM WALLACE, PRESIDENT, "SOJOURNERS": Good morning. Good morning. Soledad.

O'BRIEN: You've got a couple of panel. Thank you. Couple of panels for today.

What are your goals today? What do you hope to get out of today?

WALLACE: Well, there are faith forums today that I'm moderating, but I'm speaking at both conventions in Denver and in, you know, Minneapolis, St. Paul. And the message is that faith really is larger and bigger than politics.

God isn't a Republican or a Democrat and people's faith should be in no party's political pocket. So we'll be addressing the issues that are important to faith communities, like 30,000 children died again yesterday because of totally unnecessary poverty and preventable disease.

Darfur, HIV/AIDS, war and peace, climate change -- these are now the religious issues.

O'BRIEN: It's interesting. Yes, and you say these are now, because of that list.


O'BRIEN: Maybe five years ago, top of that list would have been gay marriage, abortion, things that people consider consistently to be religious issues. Historically, they didn't make your list there. You talked about poverty, you talked about the environment. It's changed.

WALLACE: It's been a sea change. Now the sanctity of life is a key issue for me, and for all people of faith, but a consistent ethic of life. So those kids who died yesterday, they're a part of our concern as well.

So how do you have a consistent ethic of life that really challenges both parties? I mean faith has to be prophetic and not partisan. As you know, Soledad, religion has been used and abused by politics and politicians for a long time.

And so any kind of faith at conventions is, you know, people are a bit suspects. And we have to make sure that we're speaking prophetically to the issues of faith and challenging both sides and holding both sides accountable.

O'BRIEN: Barack Obama is a Christian. There are still a few people out there that are confused about that.

WALLACE: Yes, he is.

O'BRIEN: But when you look at McCain's support among white Evangelicals, that support is growing. Barack Obama's is about the same.

What does someone like Barack Obama have to do to reach those white Evangelicals, or are they lost to him?

WALLACE: Oh, no. There are many people who haven't decided how they're going to vote in this election. Whoever speaks a moral language of politics and whoever addresses the key issues that are of concern to people of faith has a real chance of getting their attention.

The Census Bureau will come out today with a new report on poverty. Now, I'm afraid year after year it's gotten worse and worse. We're the richest country in the world, and so many kids -- one out of five -- are living below the poverty line. This is a moral, biblical issue.

The Bible is 2,000 verses on poverty. We're discovering that now more than before. So whoever speaks to those issues and a deeper notion of the sanctity of life, I think, will get the attention of voters across the country in the faith community.

O'BRIEN: Republicans have historically liked to claim those values voters, what we call them. Have you seen that change?

WALLACE: Oh, yes. I think, you know, if I was an -- I'm pro- life. But if I was an unborn child and I wanted the support of the far right, I should stay unborn as long as possible. Because once I'm born, I'm off the radar screen.

Life doesn't begin at conception and end at birth. How do you talk about supporting children from womb to tomb, as many of us say? How do we have a deeper sense of what the issues are? Values are about politics. Politics should be about values.

The values -- there's more than two moral values. And so what happens to the earth, creation care, is a value for us. What happens in places like Darfur, an end to this terrible war in Iraq -- these are our values too. And what happens to those whom Jesus called, the least of these, this is on the top of our agenda.

At these faith forums, we'll be talking about that wider, deeper agenda and for a long time, people have thought that faith belongs in one party or another. I think it's good that we've had the leveling of the praying field, as some have said. And people of faith -- they're on both sides now. But we got to hold both sides accountable.

O'BRIEN: I like that, I like that, I like that very much.

Jim Wallace, always nice to see you, of the "Sojourners." Thanks very much.

WALLACE: Great to see you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Certainly appreciate it.

WALLACE: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Got more convention coverage coming up in about 15 minutes. And of course throughout the day, reporting from New York, I'm Soledad O'Brien.

Let's send you back to Atlanta and "CNN NEWSROOM" right after this short break.


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris. Heidi Collins is on assignment.

See events come into the NEWSROOM live on this Tuesday morning, August 26th. Here's what's on the rundown.

The radar tells it all. Hurricane Gustav suddenly blows to life, taking aim at Haiti. The storm on track for the Gulf of Mexico. Fierce winds driving a wildfire into homes in Boise. Ten burned to the down, almost as many are damaged.

Her concert video seems to compare John McCain to Hitler. "Madonna at 50." Still stunning in the NEWSROOM.

Well, you want to talk about a developing story. This is certainly a developing story. Hurricane on the horizon. Gustav quickly forming as a category one storm early today.

The National Hurricane Center already saying it could become an extremely dangerous storm. Now on course to pass over Haiti today and later move into the Gulf of Mexico. Not good news.

Our Rob Marciano is tracking Gustav. He joins us here. I guess I'm joining you in your Severe Weather Center.


HARRIS: Yes, good to be here.

MARCIANO: You may be here for several days.

HARRIS: Sounds like it.

MARCIANO: It's flared up, it's got a lot of things going for it, including warm water and a lot of things not going on in the upper level...


MARCIANO: So it's got room to grow.

HARRIS: I see extremely dangerous storm. Well, you certainly have my attention.

MARCIANO: Yes. So let's talk about -- we'll break it down.


MARCIANO: Tower cam for you, here's a live picture, WSB, kind of feels good, I can knock it alive, being the local (INAUDIBLE) here in Atlanta to feel that rain coming down in a place that desperately needs it. And the Carolinas will get it as well, Tony. So we'll try to make this a drought buster. Not quite.

HARRIS: Not quite, but it's good news.

MARCIANO: But it certainly helps.

HARRIS: Isn't it?

MARCIANO: Yes, for sure.

HARRIS: OK, Rob. Appreciate it. Thanks, man.

MARCIANO: You got it.

HARRIS: Home after home up in flames in Idaho, destroyed by a fast-moving wildfire. Take a look at this. We're told at least 19 homes destroyed or damaged. Fire officials say the fire started in a field of sage brush and quickly spread into a Boise neighborhood fanned by strong winds.

More than 100 people forced to flee their homes as a precaution. Paramedics said several firefighters had minor injuries and at least seven police officers treated for smoke inhalation.

Danger in Denver? It's an open question at this point. Guns, ammo, and a man allegedly threatening Barack Obama. How serious is this? We are watching and waiting for a news conference from federal authorities. That's scheduled for later this afternoon.

Meantime, CNN's Joe Johns with what we know right now.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): What we can say is that authorities are investigating a possible threat against Senator Obama. How credible a threat that is, is another matter.

Authorities have released a statement through the United States attorney's office saying, there is no credible threat against the senator. What we know is that at least three men have been arrested in the Denver area on firearm and methamphetamine charges. Police said one of those men was driving a rented truck with at least two rifles in it and a scope.

Police also said they found a bulletproof vest and walkie- talkies. Police said a second man jumped out of a sixth floor hotel room window when they went to visit with him. Now, there are at least two reasons why this story sounds a little shaky.

A source tells CNN that one of the men arrested said that one of the other men had threatened Senator Obama, so that's not necessarily a reliable statement of fact. The other big problem for authorities here is that drugs were involved, methamphetamine, the authorities say they simply do not know whether this threat was serious or whether it was, quote, "some methed up yahoos high on drugs talking out of their heads."

The United States attorney's office has scheduled a news conference for later this afternoon. Hopefully then we'll get some answers.

Joe Johns, CNN, Denver.


HARRIS: And a fresh nuclear tensions with North Korea to tell you about today. The communist nation says it has stopped disabling its nuclear plants. In fact, North Korea says it could begin restoring them.

The reason, the U.S. has not removed North Korea from a list of states that sponsor terrorism. That sticking point between the two countries -- well, it is a sticking point, it is verification. North Korea has refused Washington's request for sweeping unannounced visits.

Despite pleas from President Bush, Russia is recognizing the independence of two breakaway regions of Georgia.


PRESIDENT DMITRY MEDVEDEV, RUSSIA (through translator): I have signed an order to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and the independence of Abkhazia by the Russian federation. Russia is also calling on other states to follow suit.


HARRIS: Russian president Dmitry Medvedev just hours ago officially recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The Russian parliament approved the move Monday.

President Bush says the U.S. will continue to support Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, just moments ago, calling Russia's decision regrettable. The U.S. ambassador -- or U.S. embassy says a second ship load of humanitarian aid is expected to arrive at the Black Sea port city of Poti on Wednesday.

Hillary Clinton's big night in Denver. Convention coverage from the best political team on television.

Hurricane Gustav on the move. Does the Gulf Coast have a bull's- eye on it?


O'BRIEN: And good morning. Welcome back, everybody. Soledad O'Brien here with continuing coverage of the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver. It's just about 7:30 Mountain Time.

A bright and clear day is expected there and more crucially for the Democrats, clear weather for Thursday, which is when Barack Obama will officially accept the nomination outdoors in front of what's expected to be more than 75,000 supporters.

Now, they've already seen some very powerful moments indoors. Ted Kennedy's triumphant embrace of the crowd last night and their embrace of him. Really heartwarming appearances by Michelle Obama, her brother, their little kids. And the candidate joining in by video hookup. Tonight, more substance, a lot more at stake too. Tonight Hillary Clinton's going to talk. What is she going to say to her followers?

For more on tonight, last night, all the nights leading up to election day, let's check in with Bill Schneider. He's at the CNN Grill in Denver.

Hey, Bill, good morning.


Well, last night was a very dramatic night and we saw a speech by Michelle Obama. You know, she spoke about her values and tied them to her husband's values. This is what she said, notice the words, "same values."


M. OBAMA: Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values, like you work hard for what you want in life. That your word is your bond, that you do what you say you're going to do.


SCHNEIDER: Barack Obama's an unfamiliar figure to many Americans. He has an unusual background. Her background, more typical. And she said the same value for him and for me. And here was his response to his wife's speech.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How about Michelle Obama! Now you know why I asked her out to so many times, even though she said no. You want a persistent president.


SCHNEIDER: Could this be the beginning of the Obama dynasty to succeed the Clinton dynasty in American politics? Well, one of the key figures who helped make that happen was Ted Kennedy and he made an important appearance there and a very poignant appearance last night.


SEN. TED KENNEDY, (D) MA: We have never lost our belief that we are all called to a better country and a newer world. And I pledge to you, I pledge to you that I will be there next January on the floor of the United States Senate.


SCHNEIDER: So what we saw really was the passing of power from the Clintons to the Obamas, but with the blessing of the Kennedys, who were there, both Ted Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy, both of whom endorsed Obama earlier this year. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question about your blog. I know how much you love to blog. And I was reading it, and it talked a lot about -- and you mentioned it a moment ago too, the dynasty. That you felt, watching Michelle Obama's speech, that in fact she could have a political future?

SCHNEIDER: She certainly could. I think the audience at home and the audience in that hall were amazed how accomplished and poised she was. Her performance was really very impressive. She looked at her and they said, this is a future political candidate. And I believe we're witnessing the passing of power in the Democratic Party.

The Clintons have owned the Democratic Party for 16 years, since 1992. Bill Clinton being the only successful president the Democrats have elected for 16 years. And now the Obamas are coming along and they saw that there's not just one Obama with a political future, but two. That's a real dynastic change and importantly it has the blessing of the Kennedys because Ted Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama back in January.

O'BRIEN: You neglected to mention seven-year-old Sasha who was trying to steal the microphone. She could be part of that dynasty give her 20 years or so. Bill Schneider for us this morning. Thank you, Bill. As always, nice to see you.

More now on women in politics. Hillary Clinton and a high stakes (ph) night.

Let's talk to Ellen Moran, she is executive director of Emily' List and Faye Wattleton, the Center for the Advancement of Women.

Nice to see you, ladies. Thanks for talking to me. First, give me a sense of how you thought Michelle Obama did with her speech. I thought it was a home run on all fronts. But I wasn't surprised. I've been surprised that some people were surprised. I wasn't surprised. I knew she was poised going in.

What did you think of the speech? Faye, why don't you start? I'm sorry, go ahead.

ELLEN MORAN, EMILY'S LIST: I thought she was fantastic last night. She really spoke so authentically to so many women out there about her upbringing, about her experiences and her values. And her relationship with Senator Obama. And women voters in particular, they want to get to know these new leaders and as we frame the choice, turning into the general election, they're really taking a very close look at the Obamas for the very first time and I was really excited to watch her speech and see her come across so naturally and so authentically.

O'BRIEN: What did you think, Faye?

FAYE WATTLETON, CENTER FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN: I thought that Michelle Obama's story is the story of thousands, hundreds of thousands of African American women. And so for that reason, I felt a very special identity with what she was describing. I don't think that her upbringing is terribly unusual. The fact this it's considered exotic is, I think, a statement about how far is the divide in understanding African American life in this country. And so it was on display and illuminated in a very poised and articulate way and I thought she did a terrific job.

O'BRIEN: Bill Schneider, you heard moment ago, talked about a dynasty. I'm sure Michelle Obama's waking up thinking, oh gosh, don't talk about my political career yet. Let's get through Thursday night. But do you think there's some truth there? People are looking at her and thinking, wow, here's a woman who actually could carry on whatever tradition may or may not carry on the tradition that's starting January.

WATTLETON: I think she could carry on the traditions. And her position on women more accurately reflects what's going on in the Democratic Party. The party now consists of 57 percent women. And heretofore, at least in the primaries, the issues that women care about, the issues of sexual discrimination, health care, equal pay for equal work have not been front and center. So a very articulate first lady, or one who does have a political future might begin to bring those more to a centrality of the Democratic Party than we have seen heretofore.

O'BRIEN: Yes, I've always been surprised that those are dismissed in a way as women's issues. Those are sort of the core issues of any family. That's kind of a shocker for me over time. Here's what she had to say ...

WATTLETON: They're the core issues of any nation.

O'BRIEN: Exactly, across the globe. Listen to what a little bit of Michelle Obama had to say last night about Hillary Clinton. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) M. OBAMA: I stand here today at the cross currents of that history, knowing that my piece of the American dream is a blessing hard won by those who came before me. People like Hillary Clinton who put those 18 million cracks in that glass ceiling so that our daughters and our sons can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher.


O'BRIEN: Paying homage with that 18 million cracks remark. What do you think, Ellen, obviously that went over great with the crowd. Does it go a distance in kind of bringing the party a little closer together where there's been some discord?

MORAN: Sure it does. Senator Clinton want what is we all want, which is the Democratic Party moving forward in November to a Democratic victory. Women voters, certainly, with the state of the economy right now and the foreign policy changes that we have ahead of us, and as Faye said, the issues that are so central in their concerns and their daily lives, you know, our -- the choice could not be clearer as we head into the general election here. And I think Michelle Obama really laid out in a very, very compelling way what she stands for, where she comes from, introduces herself to the electorate in a very important way.

And certainly, as we move forward tonight, Senator Clinton, I think, will deliver a terrific speech and really lay out the case for Senator Obama and why we need the change so fundamentally to change this system in this country, because we are really at a cross roads in history here and there could not be more at stake, certainly for women and for the nation as a whole.

O'BRIEN: It's a speech that everybody's going to be watching tonight. Go ahead, Faye, give us the final word before we run out of time.

WATTLETON: Yes, I just hope that Senator Clinton will lay out the issues. It's really terrific to say that we need change, but what does change mean and how can women identify with that change? We need really specifics at this point, not just a dream. It has to be how do we really make change in this country for women.

O'BRIEN: Ellen Moran and Faye Wattleton joining us. Thank you, I appreciate it.

Coming up next we're going to talk about politics and art with Grammy winner John Legend as our convention coverage rolls on.


O'BRIEN: That was Grammy winner John Legend. In case you thought the protest song died when Dillon went electric, think again. It's called "If You're Out There," the call to action that debuted last night.

And John Legend joins us this morning. Nice to see you. I know it's a call to action, what exactly is your song about?

JOHN LEGEND, R&B SINGER: Well, the song says the future started yesterday and we're already late. We can't afford to wait. And the idea behind the song is just to motivate people to get involved, to take action, to be part of the solution and it's really inspired by all that's been going on this year with the election, all that's been going on with my Show-Me Campaign, which is a campaign to end poverty. All these things I've been seeing with young people who are so excited about this year and so moved to get with the movement for change. I just wanted to write a song to help inspire that. And that's what this song is about.

O'BRIEN: You have also focused on the arts and have been, with a group that pushes the candidates to arts education and also to arts funding. Do you feel when you're talking about big issues like the economy and the war and poverty and a bunch of other things that kind of take front and center that arts funding and arts education sometimes doesn't even make that long list of things that the politicians are talking about or are thinking about?

LEGEND: Well, I think we have to make a decision as a country to think about the future and part of investing in the future is investing in education, investing in the arts, investing in the development of our young people. I think sometimes we think about everything that we're against, but we've got to think about what we're for. We're for the future of our children. And I think such an important part of that is funding education, more thoroughly, and specifically, arts education and development of the arts in our communities is an important part of investing in our future as a country.

O'BRIEN: What have you heard on that front from each of the candidates? Are you impressed, are you encouraged, are you hopeful?

LEGEND: We met with Senator Obama's campaign earlier in the year and we were very hopeful by their support and we also met with a lot of congressional leaders and the leadership in the House was very supportive as well. And I think we're going to get some movement when it comes to getting more funding for the arts as we move forward.

O'BRIEN: John legend with "A Call to Action" performed last night at the convention. Thanks so much. So nice to see you. I'm a huge, giant fan. Everybody in the studio can attest.

LEGEND: Thank you very much, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: We've got much more convention coverage coming up in about 15 minutes and also throughout the day. In New York, I'm Soledad O'Brien. Let's send it back to Atlanta and CNN NEWSROOM. They're tracking a hurricane, a big one. They'll pick that up right after this short break.


HARRIS: We're back, everyone. Welcome to the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris. Heidi Collins is on assignment. And Rob Marciano, we'll talk to him in just a second. Maybe we should throw up a weather loop for just a moment here, Michael, and show everyone what we're tracking here. You're looking at a storm that is absolutely strengthening rapidly, Gustav, forming as a hurricane earlier today and already nearing Category 2 status. The storm heading toward Haiti right now. It could be bound for the Gulf of Mexico with even stronger winds as we mentioned a moment ago. Rob is tracking this.

And once this storm hits the Gulf of Mexico, boy, the warm waters there.

MARCIANO: And once it's in there, it just pretty much completely encloses. That's why the Gulf is so scary. Let's break it down first and we'll talk about where it is right now, Tony, which is the northern Caribbean, heading toward Haiti at about nine miles an hour. It's about 60 miles or so south of Port-Au-Prince. Here you go with the satellite imagery showing huge circulation.

Fay was obviously much weaker, but a very, very large circulation. When they're smaller, they tend to get their act together a little bit more quickly. That's what this guy seems to be doing. Gustav -- by the way, I'm not crazy about that name. That sounds a little bit scarier than a Fay.

It's a Category 1, winds of 90, we bump it up a another six miles per hour and it's a Cat 2. Hurricane forecast center says it will probably do that once it scrapes Haiti and then get into the gulf, this is Sunday morning. Water temperatures here, not only are they completely enclosed, but water temperatures in the Gulf are 86 plus and that is a lot of fuel for the fire, my friends.

All right, we've got this tornado watch in effect for the next couple of hours still with rough weather moving through Talbot County here in central Georgia. Tornado warning indicated there on the Doppler radar scope. Quick shot of Mobile, which is no stranger to hurricanes. The last one to roll through there, last direct hit would be Ivan. WALA, thanks for that shot. You will be on the watch as well as Gustav potentially arrives in the Gulf of Mexico this weaken -- Tony.

HARRIS: Appreciate it, Rob. And stay with us on that story.

Let's talk about your money now. This morning, new snapshots on the health of the economy. This hour a key index shows U.S. home prices dropped by the sharpest rate ever in the second quarter. The plunge according to the report 15.4 percent compared to a year ago.

Next hour, two more important reports, consumer confidence is expected to be up and new home sales down. Oil prices trending down, but bouncing a bit this morning. There are fears newly formed Hurricane Gustav could threaten supplies in the Gulf of Mexico. Gas prices down yet again, today's national average, $3.67. That is down about a penny from yesterday. And nationwide, gas prices have dropped more than 10 percent since the middle of July. For Democrats, all of the complex measures of the economy comes down to a simple, single yardstick. CNN'S Christine Romans has the answer. Barack Obama, the question.


B. OBAMA: Ask yourself a simple question - that is are you better off now than you were when George Bush took office?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You'll hear a lot over the next nine weeks about family budgets and the struggling middle class and whether the economy is better off today.

LAKSHMAN ACHUTHAN, ECONOMIC CYCLE RESEARCH INSTITUTE: In a word, no. By comparing a recession today with eight years ago when you were in a boom. That's a tough comparison no matter how you slice it.

ROMANS: Tough comparison indeed. Remember gas at $1.49? It has more than doubled during George W. Bush's administration, most recently $3.68 a gallon. Medical costs are gobbling up an ever bigger chunk of your hard-earned dollar. Think of it this way, more than 17 cents of every consumer dollar is spent on health care. Tuition and food prices are exploding after paychecks shrink. Some say the richer are a little richer and poorer a little poorer and everyone else ...

MARK ZANDI, MOODY'S ECONOMY.COM: I think for the average Americans they are treading water financially, their incomes are about where it was eight years ago and net worth as well.

ROMANS: Historically income rises. The Democrats blame White House economic policy, one reason many say John McCain must distance himself from George Bush and choose a running mate strong on the economy. At the same time, the GOP warns against democrats taxing and spending the country further in the hole.


HARRIS: And CNN's Christine Romans joins us live from New York. Christine, good morning to you.

ROMANS: Good morning.

HARRIS: Yes, good to see you. Is there anything that is, let see, better for Americans over the past eight years?

ROMANS: Believe it or not, for some people, if you have a job, if you own your home, don't have a crazy mortgage and you didn't raid it like an ATM machine to pay for all kinds of other things including things that you have to like college tuition and the like, if you own that home, home prices are still up since 2001, according to Zillo, it's a real estate Web tracker. You've got to go back to 2004 where we are for home prices right now. It's still been a pretty good run for homeowners despite all that's been happening in the housing market right now.

HARRIS: And we'll take any good news we can get. Christine, good to see you.

ROMANS: Good news of sorts, Tony.

HARRIS: Of sorts. Absolutely. All right, Christine, thank you.

Corn dogs, cotton candy and counseling. A sign of troubled times at the Minnesota state fair. Listen to this, booths offering thousands to those at risk of losing homes. Experts share advice and resources on how to avoid foreclosure.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of people I know can't even afford their mortgages right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Work out options basically with their lender.


HARRIS: Homeowners looking to downsize to a more affordable home are paying a double-edged sword. The crisis has pushed up mortgage rates and forced banks to tighten lending standards.

Madonna and the presidential race. The McCain campaign mad about Madonna's new concert video.


HARRIS: So the singer Madonna injecting herself into the middle of the presidential campaign. CNN's Carol Costello has the provocative video and the outrage it's stirring.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even at 50, she can titillate. During a performance of the song "Get Stupid," Madonna played politics flashing images on screen that appeared to compare Adolf Hitler and dictator Robert Mugabe to John McCain ...

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wanted to just come by and say hello.

COSTELLO: An infuriated McCain camp shot back, "The comparisons are outrageous, unacceptable and crudely divisive all at the same time."

Not only that, in contrast, Madonna compared Barack Obama to Gandhi, John Lennon and Al Gore. That opened a door for an Obama jab. "It clearly shows that when supporting Barack Obama his fellow worldwide celebrities refuse to consider any smear or attack off limits."

Did you catch it? Fellow worldwide celebrities. It plays into the attempt to portray Obama as merely a celebrity.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Politically it was brilliant for the Republicans to take this issue, seize on it and try to link Barack Obama to it. But the fact of the matter is, Barack Obama has no control over who supports him for president.

COSTELLO: The Sticky and Sweet tour will make its way to the united states soon after the Obama camp it told us, "These comparisons are outrageous and offensive and have no place in the political process. We hope that John McCain will offer a similar condemnation and his allies increasingly practice sleazy swift boat politics."

Carol Costello, CNN, New York.

HARRIS: The Obama and Clinton camps try to show America the past is the past. Family matters at the Democratic Convention. Soledad O'Brien covering it all.