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National Security Focus for Democratic Convention Day Three; Gustav to Become Major Hurricane?; Dora Torres' Surgery

Aired August 27, 2008 - 15:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN's live coverage of the Democratic National Convention.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everyone. Soledad O'Brien at the CNN Election Center in New York, bringing you continuing coverage of the Democrats in Denver.

Big night in store tonight. You can see the preparations already under way, a lot of security in the halls, as always. Former President Bill Clinton is on the speakers list. So is Joe Biden and a string of other voices on national, including former U.N. Ambassador and current New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. We will take a look at that also this afternoon.

Also looking ahead to tomorrow, when Barack Obama will give his acceptance speech outdoors at Invesco Field on a Roman column stage at Invesco Field. The estimated turnout is 75,000 people.

To talk about all that, CNN contributors Hilary Rosen, political director of the liberal "Huffington Post," and GOP veteran Ed Rollins, most recently campaign chairman for Mike Huckabee.

Nice to see you both.


O'BRIEN: Ed, let's start with you because you're right next to me.

Earlier, Carl Bernstein said Bill Clinton in his speech tonight has a lot to do and sometimes he's a little uncontrollable. Part of that is that whole candidate X, candidate Y stuff that he was talking about earlier today. On the other side, he's also a pro. This is not his first time in the game. Is there anything that he should not do as he gives his speech, that he should absolutely, positively cannot do?

ROLLINS: Well, first of all, I think Bill Clinton is one of the best speakers in American politics. And I think he will give one of those speeches tonight because he knows what's at stake.

And he won't ramble. He's rambled before, but he won't ramble tonight. And I think he will stay on point. And I think his point is justifying what Democrats are about. And that's a very important part of this campaign. What he can't do in any way, shape or form is show any remorse or anything that is gratuitous to the candidate, Barack Obama.

And I don't think he will do that. I think you will see a great speech tonight, as she gave a great speech last night.

O'BRIEN: One, Hilary, of the odd, I think it's fair to say, Republican talking points has been that the 75,000 people behind Barack Obama in his speeches is a bad thing, before it sort of reinforces the celebrity star power of Barack Obama.

At the same time, David Gergen has said earlier very clearly what Barack Obama does have to do is give some specifics. He has to get some substance. How much of a challenge is that going to be, do you think, in his speech on Thursday?

HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I just think the Republicans are being ridiculous with this talking point. And everybody is repeating it, that, somehow, if you're popular enough to fill a stadium, that would make you a bad president, that all of a sudden, popularity somehow implies some sort of emptiness or lack of substance.

It's just not true. I think you are going to see both a popular and a substantive Barack Obama at Mile High Stadium tomorrow night. And I think the setup tonight with Bill Clinton is going to be exactly what he needs for that message, which is Democrats know what it's like when the economy is bad. We know what it's like when middle-class folks are struggling to pay their mortgages, to pay for gasoline.

And, on top of that, we're in the middle of a really unproductive and expensive war. I think Bill Clinton is going to tee up Barack Obama's message. And I think Barack Obama then is going to be at Mile High and kick the ball out of the field. Is that a metaphor I can use?


O'BRIEN: Yes, sure. You can use any metaphors you want. I support them all.


O'BRIEN: What are the challenges -- even completely mixed metaphors.

ROSEN: Yes, exactly. Kick the ball out of field.

O'BRIEN: What are the challenges, do you think, of Barack Obama's speech? Because many people say, if you're a person hurting at home, you have lost your job or you're on the verge, maybe your home is going into foreclosure, it can't just be all about hope.

And Barack Obama is one of those guys with the 15-point plans. You look at his Web site and your eyes can roll back. But he also has to reference Martin Luther King, the historic moment that he's there, and lay out an agenda and a whole bunch of other things, too. ROLLINS: There are few men or women who could speak before 75,000 people and do the job. He may be one of them. He's an extraordinary speaker.

The key thing here, I think, is that it has to be more than just rhetoric. It has to be the specifics. And at the end of the speech, which there's been several very meaningful speeches in the course of this week, and I'm sure there will be a couple tonight, people have to say, this is the guy. This is the guy we really -- we made a very tough choice between the woman last night who gave a great speech -- there wasn't an eye dry in the convention hall last night that wouldn't basically say what a strong candidate she would be.

Joe Biden tonight, who obviously is a second choice for many to be V.P. And he's got to give this speech that basically has people saying, I want to go out and vote for him. That's a tough, tough drill. But I think he can handle the speech. He can handle the number of people. Can he get the specifics and can he convince people he can be the commander in chief?

O'BRIEN: When you hear that argument 75,000 people behind him cheering -- and I imagine it's going to be a pretty diverse crowd -- is a bad thing, I mean...


ROLLINS: Well, I spent a lot of money, as did Dave Gergen, trying to raise crowds when we were both -- he was the communications director. I was the political director working for Ronald Reagan.


ROLLINS: It takes a lot to get a crowd of 50,000 or 75,000. And there's very few performers who can basically stand up there and be comfortable doing it. So, I applaud that.

O'BRIEN: People wish they had had that kind of draw.

ROLLINS: They wish they had that kind of drawing power.

O'BRIEN: All right, Hilary Rosen and also Ed Rollins with an update and looking forward, thanks, guys. I truly appreciate it.


O'BRIEN: Coming up next, the Democrats, Iraq, the forgotten war, the one in Afghanistan, we will take a look at that right after this short break.


O'BRIEN: Tonight's theme in Denver is national security.

Our guest now is Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Nice to see you. Thanks for talk with us.

One talking point certainly that we have heard a lot from the other side has been that Democrats, or even maybe specifically Barack Obama, is unprepared when it comes to national security. And you see some of that sticking and reflecting in the polls.

What specifically do you think Barack Obama has to say and do to turn that around?

PAUL RIECKHOFF, FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: Well, I think he's got to talk specifics about Afghanistan. He's got the talk about what his plan is on the ground there, how he's going to deal with the infrastructure requirements that the Iraqi people have. How many troops is he going to move over there?

He's also got to talk very specifically about what his plan is for Iraq. And what veterans want to see is, how is he going to take care of about 1.7 million people who served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11? They're dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury. They're struggling to find jobs. They want to hear specifics about how he's going to deal with those issues once folks come home.

O'BRIEN: What do you think President Clinton can say specifically that would be helpful to Barack Obama on that front as he tackles that topic tonight?

RIECKHOFF: Well, I think he can talk about the strides that were made at the VA under his administration. I think the VA was really neglected for the past few years. And they have struggled to catch up with the increasing demand.

We have got about 25 million veterans in America. They're not beholden to any party, Republican or Democrat, and they're pretty independent-minded. So, I think they are going to listen carefully to President Clinton to hear what his views are, to hear what his experiences are in dealing with veterans.

And I think they're also going to be watching the veterans that Democrats are putting forward tonight. Two high-profile young veterans, Tammy Duckworth and Congressman Pat Murphy, are going to be on prime time. And we're going to be listening to hear what they have to say and what the new faces of the Democrats look like with regard to national security and military affairs.

O'BRIEN: In regards to national security and military affairs, there's a new poll out, and 52 percent of the registered voters who were polled said they felt McCain, John McCain, would have better judgment in an international crisis, compared to 43 percent for Barack Obama.

In a year that seems to be almost all about the economy, where almost 80 percent of voters think the economy is bad, very bad, and 66 percent of the people polled back in August say they don't support the war, do you think that those things, the economy and being against the war, trump the national security concerns reflected in that poll?

RIECKHOFF: Not for veterans. I mean, these are folks who have been personally affected, adversely affected. Their families are really under tremendous strain. So, they are going to be looking carefully at what the Democrats propose here.

They are reflective of the general population. A big percentage of them are against the war, a growing percentage. But they also know there are no silver-bullet solutions. So, they have generally gone towards John McCain because he is a decorated Vietnam veteran, because he's a POW, because his son is in the Marine Corps.

But Barack Obama can put his better face forward, too. He does sit on the VA Committee in the Senate. And he's got some specifics on how he's going to deal with the National Guard and Reserve. So, I think our folks are kind of like a jump ball. And they are going to be really looking carefully at not just the national security speech, but also at the veterans piece, which we think is really underreported.

O'BRIEN: Paul Rieckhoff is the executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Thanks for talking with us. Appreciate it.

RIECKHOFF: My pleasure, Soledad. Thank you.

O'BRIEN: We're going to more convention coverage coming to you in just about 15 minutes and throughout the day as well.

Reporting from the CNN Election Center in New York, I'm Soledad O'Brien. We are going to send it back to Atlanta and the CNN NEWSROOM right after this short break.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Two days shy of the third anniversary of Katrina's attack on New Orleans and the Mississippi coast, Gustav aims for the Gulf. It's already killed more than 20 people and forecasters fear it is just getting started.

Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon, live here at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. The latest on Gustav and much, much more seconds away -- right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.


LEMON: Islands in the Caribbean are taking a real beating from Gustav, once a hurricane, now back to a tropical storm. Gustav triggered mudslides and flooding in Haiti overnight, splitting one town in half. At least 22 people are dead, eight from one family in the Dominican Republic.

The storm is slowly making its way towards Jamaica and Cuba. Both are already feeling the effects. And forecasters warn Gustav could turn into a dangerous Category 3 hurricane when it reaches the Gulf of Mexico.

And of course our Jacqui Jeras in the CNN Severe Weather Center, the hurricane headquarters, as a matter of fact, following all of that for us.

Jacqui, what do you have?


Hey, slowly is the key word right about now, Don, too, unfortunately, this thing just barely moving along around five miles per hour, which is just devastating news for Haiti and the Dominican Republic, because it continues to bring in just torrential downpours, in fact, could see as much as a foot of rain on top of what's already going on here.

Hurricane hunter, they are flying into the storm as we speak. And you're looking at near real-time data here. And they're flying up at around 5,000 feet. Their flight level winds are out of the northwest, the surface winds estimated at their present location around 22 miles per hour.

But we know those maximum sustained winds around 60 miles per hour. They are going to continue to fly around this storm, sample the situation. And we will get a better handle on this storm coming up. It is moving westward. So it's heading towards Jamaica and towards Cuba. Could just kind of slice right in between the two, which would be the best news for little impact. But it will keep it over the water, then, which means further intensification is going to be real likely. In fact, it could become a major hurricane as it heads towards western Cuba or somewhere near the Yucatan.

It is going to be pushing through here. After that, that is the big question. That is the big money question everybody wants to know. Unfortunately, the waters here are just incredibly warm. In fact, this will show you these dark red areas. That's like 87-, 88-degree temperatures. So, we could see some real intensification in the Gulf of Mexico and we could be seeing things heading toward the Gulf Coast late in the weekend or early next week -- Don.

LEMON: Jacqui Jeras keeping a close eye on all of our weather for us -- Jacqui, thank you very much.

Let's go overseas now. And the U.S. military is handing over security control of Anbar Province, once the heart of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. A senior U.S. military official tells CNN, Iraqi forces will take over Anbar on Monday. Some 25,000 U.S. troops are based there now.

A U.S. military ship loaded with 38 tons of aid docked today in Georgia. The Coast Guard cutter Dallas made port at Batumi, avoiding the port of Poti and a possible confrontation with the Russian troops who occupy it.

Meantime, three Russian missile boats are anchored in a port in Abkhazia, one of two breakaway regions at the center of this conflict. Now, Russia says they will take part in peacekeeping operations there. Now, yesterday, Moscow formally recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

From Libya, word that a hijacking that started this time yesterday is over. Officials say the two hijackers surrendered after releasing all of the 93 people on board of a flight from Sudan. The plane was seized just after taking off from the Darfur region bound for Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. It landed at a dessert town in southeastern Libya. The pilot says the hijackers are from a Darfur rebel group. But the group says they are not.

Flight schedules are finally back to normal, finally, one day after air traffic control problems left thousands of frustrated passengers stranded for hours, going nowhere fast. The cause, a glitch at the office here in Georgia that processes flight plans for the Eastern U.S. They say something called a packet switch failed. The FAA says safety was never at stake. But more than 600 flights were delayed.

The nonprofit Travel Industry Association calls yesterday's mess -- quote -- "one more example of America's deteriorating air travel system."

I was one of the folks affected by yesterday's airline delays. And so were some of our viewers.

I-Reporter Stephanie McCauley sent this picture while she was sitting on a Southwest plane, all the planes sitting there, lined there, getting ready to take off, nowhere to go, stuck for, oh, an hour-and-a-half on the tarmac at Baltimore.

And Randy Donahoo sent in two photos from Atlanta. He says he was clobbered with the double whammy. First, his plane had to wait to get a flight plan. Then, when the plane finally got on the tarmac, it developed electrical problems.

Wow, sorry about that.

Remember, when you see news, share your pictures and your video with us. Just visit us on the web at

Missing no more -- three teenagers stranded overnight in the mountains of Washington State, rescue teams found them today and are bringing them to safety. The hikers reportedly got pinned down by fog and show. They called for help last night, a cell phone. Three Fingers Mountain is about 7,000 feet high.

All right, the sheriff's department in Orlando County, Florida, has fired a deputy who had an intimate relationship with Casey Anthony. Anthony has been called a person of interest in the disappearance of her 3-year-old daughter, Caylee Marie. Now, the sheriff's department says Deputy Tony Rusciano lied to investigators about his relationship with Anthony, claiming he met her only once at a party.

The ex-deputy isn't talking to the media. But Jessica D'Onofrio of CNN affiliate WKMG has been following this story. And she says evidence on Casey Anthony's computer contradicts the deputy's claims. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JESSICA D'ONOFRIO, WKMG REPORTER: Come to find out, they went into Casey Anthony's computer that they had seized a while ago. They were able to put in some keyword searches. And then up pops a chat between Casey Anthony and Tony Rusciano, this deputy that was just fired. In the chat, you can see that they obviously had some kind of relationship. You can also understand that they are talking about Caylee at points in time in that conversation. But what I'm told is that there's no reason to believe that there was anything in those chats that would lead them to find this missing 3-year-old.


LEMON: At this point, many doubt 3-year-old Caylee Marie Anthony will ever be found alive. She's said to have disappeared June 9, but her mother didn't report her missing until more than a month later.

All right, got a question for you. A lot of people are wondering about it. When will John McCain reveal his running mate? Remember the whole cell phone thing last week, e-mailing, Barack Obama, when was he going to do it? Now it's John McCain's turn. There is a lot of speculation that it may be two days from now, after the Democrats wrap up their convention.

So, what's the buzz right now about McCain's short list?

There he is. CNN's Josh Levs joins me to run down some of the names.

OK, who's on the short list?

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, OK, I haven't officially seen it. None of us actually gets to see it.

LEMON: Oh, come on, Josh.

LEVS: But I will see that and our best political team on television did do a good job of reading the tea leaves last time and knowing who was on that short list.

And we have every reason to believe it's the same case here. We actually have a really good spread up at where you can learn about all of them.

Let's go to our first graphic, though. I'm going to summarize for you the pros and cons for some of these candidates. And we're going to start off here with Mitt Romney, a lot of focus on him, a lot of speculation.

Now, some of the pros we point out for him is that he has economic know-how. Keep in mind, a lot of people question John McCain on that. It is issue number one. Also, Mitt Romney would really thrive in that attack dog role that the number two takes on during the election cycle. On the flip side, there was that bitter primary. There is so much tape of these two attacking each other. If it is Mitt Romney, then the Obama campaign could do exactly what the McCain is doing right now with that old tape of Clinton attacking Obama.

Also, some people are uncomfortable with Mitt Romney being a Mormon. Would that be a problem? We don't know. We will have to see.

Let's go to the next one now, Tom Ridge. He's also, we believe, on that list. Now, he was the former Pennsylvania governor. If he could help toss Pennsylvania to the McCain column, that would be big. That's one of the biggest swing states there is. Also, he was the first secretary of homeland security. He could bolster the strength of McCain in that respect.

But he is pro-choice, may not help shore up the social conservatives out there who have questions about McCain.

And one more I'm going to show you believed to be on the short list, and that is Tim Pawlenty. Now, he is Obama's age. A lot of talk about McCain's age. The announcement might come on McCain's birthday. He's 47 here, Tim Pawlenty is. And he also might help win Minnesota, which hasn't gone to the GOP side in more than three decades.

But he's a polarizing figure even inside Minnesota and he actually barely won reelection there. So, if it would be him or not, we really don't know.

Before I toss it back to Don, let me bring you in here. I want to tell some of the other names that are at least being floated out there. Let's close in here. Here, you're seeing Tom Ridge, but there are some others. Some people have talked about John Thune, senator from South Dakota. Would it be him? We don't know.

This is a really interesting one, Joe Lieberman. Some people think it might be him. Now, he would be the first to be a number two on the Democratic and the Republican tickets. Might be a long shot. Maybe not.

Bobby Jindal also, young, governor of Louisiana. He keeps saying, it's not me. I wouldn't do it. I don't want it. But that doesn't stop the speculation.

And I'll toss in one more for you here, Don. And that is Michael Bloomberg. Some people still think it might be Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York.

Now, not a lot of users are thinking that. Let's go over to the political market here, this graphic. The last thing I'm going to show you, this is where people are betting imaginary money on who is ultimately going to get the number-two slot on that GOP side. This green line is Romney. So, clearly, most people betting him. But the other ones are in there, Pawlenty, Lieberman, Huckabee, too, maybe him, and Ridge. They're all on there. But, clearly, right now, a lot of people are betting their nonreal money on it ultimately being Mitt Romney, Don.

LEMON: Romney. Of course, Bobby Jindal from Louisiana, a rising star in the party, but he would definitely add the diversity to that ticket, don't you think?

LEVS: Yes. And that's one reason that people say that might be a big pro. Clearly, Obama's nomination is historic. Bobby Jindal would be historic as well. He's just that he has said so -- everyone says it, but he's said so many times it's not going to be him, it is hard to believe it might actually believe. But you never know. Hopefully, we will find out in two days.

LEMON: Well, we will know when he know, when he announces.

All right, Josh Levs, appreciate it. Thank you very much.

LEVS: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: About 1,000 new moms in the San Francisco area are being warned they and their babies may have been exposed to TB. Tuberculosis, we're talking about. A maternity ward worker at the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center has been diagnosed with active TB. Everyone affected, moms and babies, are urged to get a skin test. But a hospital spokesman calls the risk of exposure low.

OK, well, check this out. How is this for curb appeal? An Ohio family was ready for an extreme makeover -- of course, it's the home edition -- after a speeding car smashed right through the porch and buried itself into the living room. Well, here's the good news. Nobody was hurt in the house. And the teenager behind the wheel who reportedly was fleeing police, he wasn't hurt either.

All right, here is the bad news for you. They had just cleaned those living room windows. I guess, since everybody is safe, it ends well.

All right, what happened to the road? This driver hangs on as her car is swept downstream.

And it's day three of the Democratic Party's national convention. We have got a lot more live coverage from Denver. It's all straight ahead.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN's live coverage of the Democratic National Convention.

O'BRIEN: Good afternoon.

Welcome, everybody.

I'm Soledad O'Brien at the CNN Election Center in New York. But you're looking at live pictures from Denver, Colorado as we continue our coverage of the Democrats, who are in Denver today. It's day three. It's going to be getting underway officially very shortly. And inasmuch as political conventions are about issues, the issues tonight are defense and foreign policy.

The bottom line, though, has just as much to do with image. The Democrats are facing a confidence gap among voters on national security and tonight is designed to narrow that deficit.

The lineup is heavy on defense and foreign policy experience and drama, in the person of Bill Clinton -- and, the Democrats hope, excitement. This is Joe Biden's first night as a running mate. And anticipation -- Barack Obama will speak tomorrow at INVESCO Field.

And -- before I run out of ands -- let's get right to the panel. CNN contributor Dana Milbank of "The Washington Post" joins me, along with independent conservative Amy Holmes.

Nice to talk to both of you.

Dana, I'm going to start with you.

One of the charges that's consistently leveled against Barack Obama has been a lack of foreign policy credentials and credibility.

Does the selection of Joe Biden put that to rest or do you think that this is something that Obama is going to have to overcome in his own speech, frankly, on Thursday?

DANA MILBANK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, I don't know if it puts it entirely to rest. It gives Obama little bit of leeway. After all, Joe Biden has been doing foreign policy longer than most Americans have been alive. And we'll see a lot of that tonight.

You know, with foreign policy, generally, the best Democrats usually can hope to do is play to a tie. You know, there's the old reputation of the Republicans being the daddy party and the Democrats being the mommy party. They will generally be ahead on domestic issues. But, in part, because of the war in Iraq, they have a chance to at least play the Republicans to a tie on national security.

O'BRIEN: Then you have Senator Biden -- his speech, talking not only about national security, but also being the attack dog, which everybody expects he's going to have to do.

Listen to a little bit of what he had to say earlier today.


O'BRIEN: Nope that's not it.


SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESUMPTIVE VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: You talk about how much you're worried about being able to pay the bills. Well, ladies and gentlemen, that's not a worry John McCain has to worry about. It's a pretty hard experience. He'll have to figure out which of his seven kitchen tables to sit at.



O'BRIEN: That was his speech on Saturday. And you could hear the roar of the crowd...


O'BRIEN: Meaning that he made an effective point.

Is this a preview, do you think, of what we're going to see tonight?

He has a manner that's sort of a charming gotcha.

HOLMES: Sure. Yes. I think this is a preview -- this is a preview -- that was a preview of how Joe Biden can deliver a zinger. I think two things that he's going to do tonight. He's going to, of course, touch on that foreign policy and, as Dana said, all of the vast experience that he brings to the ticket.

And he's also going to serve as someone who can testify against John McCain. Back on Saturday, that same speech, he said I know John McCain, he's a friend. And then he proceeded to eviscerate him.

So, you would say well, with friends like these, my goodness, John McCain doesn't need enemies.

But Joe Biden, he is going to try to use that to say that he has special credibility to tear apart John McCain tonight.

O'BRIEN: What does it mean for Mitt Romney?

I mean even that joke, the whole idea of the seven kitchen tables, Dana, you know, Mitt Romney -- you could tee up a bunch of guys sitting around trying to figure out how many homes they own, which could be, at a time when the economy is in very tough shape, not a laughing matter -- even though it will be a punch line -- not a laughing matter for a lot of Americans.

Does that disqualify Mitt Romney in any way?

I mean is that making him a big problem?

MILBANK: Well, it's a bigger problem because of this -- the hole that John McCain dug for himself with this rather inopportune inability to remember the number of deeds he has to homes. But Romney, obviously, has been blessed with great wealth and prestige from birth and from his own making. But it's not clear to me that the answer, necessarily, for John McCain is to go out and find a pauper to run with him. So there may be many reasons not to have Romney on the ticket, but that's not necessarily one of them.

O'BRIEN: Two nights of Clinton might be a tough act for anybody to follow.

What do you think is going to be the strategy for Barack Obama as he takes on an historic speech on a historic setting on a historic day?

HOLMES: Sure. Well, Barack Obama himself has said that he's getting tired of the reverence. And yet that seems to be undercut. We're getting reports today that he's building what looks like a Greek temple on a football field from which to deliver this speech. I'm not sure what symbolically that's supposed to evoke -- timelessness; maybe to compare him to Martin Luther King when he gave that "I Have A Dream" speech, since this is that anniversary.

But Barack Obama himself has said that he wants to get a little bit more down to brass tacks, which I think, Soledad, is -- might create like a little bit of a dilemma that those supporters of him -- of his in that football stadium -- I mean these are the true believers and they want that soaring rhetoric. They want those high flying phrases. And yet the Independents, the more conservative-minded who will be watching this, they want meat and potatoes. They want to, you know, put some meat on those bones and flesh out what is this guy really going to do for me.

O'BRIEN: But don't true believers also want, you know, statements of, you know, specific facts?

HOLMES: Well, they do, but they want that night to be transported. I read a report today that there will be fireworks and confetti -- what you would expect, you know, at a political rally. But it's certainly unprecedented to deliver this nomination acceptance speech on a temple stage.

O'BRIEN: Well, we'll see if it turns out to be a temple.

And Ed Rollins was telling me how much -- how much money he would give out to get 75,000 people anywhere when he was running campaigns.


O'BRIEN: He said he wished they had that kind of pull.

I want to thank you both for being with us, Dana and Amy, as well.

Coming up next, Barack Obama -- he's known him since law school. Actor Hill Harper of

"CSI: NY" will join us right after this short break.


O'BRIEN: Remember all those FOBs -- friends of Bill's?

Well, joining me now is another sort of FOB -- a friend of Barack, actor Phil Harper of "CSI: NY," by way of Harvard Law School. That's how they became friends.

It's nice to see you, Hill, as always.

Thanks for being with us.

HILL HARPER, ACTOR, "CSI: NY": Hey, Soledad.

How are you?

O'BRIEN: I'm really well.

HARPER: You know, this is the highlight of me being here so far. I get to wear this really cool Janet Jackson headphone. I mean, really, you guys aren't just the best political team on television, you're the coolest political team on television.

O'BRIEN: We have the coolest stuff. That's going to be our next tag line.

HARPER: You do.

O'BRIEN: The best political team on TV and we have the coolest stuff.

HARPER: Yes, you do.

O'BRIEN: I'll pass that along to everybody.

Tell me how you first met Barack Obama.

HARPER: Wow! We first met the first week of school at Harvard Law School. We were classmates. And the funny thing about Harvard Law School, the library is very full, but the gym is empty. And I think was there to blow off steam and Barack came in to play basketball. And we struck up a friendship. And, you know, he went on to be, in my opinion, the top student in our class, the president of "Harvard Law Review". And he couldn't be more proud of who he is and what he's done, his commitment of public service, his leadership, his judgment. He's just a wonderful guy.

O'BRIEN: At the time, did you think, wow, this is a guy who is really paving the way to be a national leader or did you think hey, this is a guy who's stealing dates from me, every time I go out (INAUDIBLE)?

HARPER: Well, you know what, he definitely had a gravitas amongst all the students, because you've got to remember, he was out doing community service and community organizing before he came to Harvard Law School. Most of us came there straight from undergrad, like I did. And he was five years older than we were, because he had been out for five years doing public service work and community service. And he certainly had a gravitas and a sense of -- and everyone on the campus respected him.

And then you've got to remember, Harvard Law School is a pretty competitive place. So there's a lot of people there that think they could one day be president of the U.S., I have a feeling.

O'BRIEN: Yes, Harvard is full of people who think they should be the next president. There's no question about that.

HARPER: Exactly. I think...

O'BRIEN: What are you doing at the DNC?

I mean are you working?

I know you're obviously talking to us and making the rounds.

HARPER: Right.

O'BRIEN: But you also -- are you working to get out the vote, etc.?

HARPER: Yes. Yes. You know, I'm on the national finance committee and I also operate as a surrogate for the campaign. And the key of the -- what I think the media misses is -- and certainly the American public misses it -- it's the real work. This is a working convention. You know, the speeches are fantastic. But the real work are the committee meetings from 8:00 in the morning all the way until when the actual public part of the convention starts.

And those are the people that are going to determine this election -- the people from across this country that are going to go back to their local counties and register new voters, get people out to vote, get them energized about the Democratic ticket and make us in November.

And that's really what it's going to be about. It's not whether -- who gave the best speech or not. It's about can we energize the thousands of people that are here that are the real workers to go back in the communities and get new voters out to the polls for us on November 4th.

O'BRIEN: The issue of race raised its head several times throughout the primary, in ugly ways sometimes.

How do you think Barack Obama is going to be able to deal with that as things, I would assume, are going to get nastier as you head toward November?

HARPER: Well, you know, and I have so much more faith in the American public. I mean we have about, what, 75 days until this election. And I think when you look at -- you have a president that's in the White House that when he came into office, gas was about $26 a gallon and recently, a few weeks ago, it was, about, what, $146 a gallon. They were talking about people trying to pay their mortgages and all sorts of issues that people...

O'BRIEN: You mean a barrel.

HARPER: ...see a lot...

O'BRIEN: Not a gallon. But it feels like a gallon. But you mean a barrel.

HARPER: Oh, a barrel. A barrel. That's right. You're right.

O'BRIEN: It only feels like a...

HARPER: A barrel.

O'BRIEN: ...gallon when you're filling up your SUV, I'm sure.

HARPER: It certainly does. But, you know, come on, Soledad, I drive a Prius, so...

O'BRIEN: As do I. As do I, Hill.

HARPER: So I don't have...

O'BRIEN: I'm right there with you.

HARPER: Well, good.

So you think about that stuff. And I don't know people -- you know, the American public isn't going to think about race. They're going to think about who's the best person to lead this country into the future.

And I think it's clear if you look -- you know, I've had the fortune -- the experience of knowing Barack Obama for 20 years. And certainly, the American public hasn't had that. But hopefully they'll learn about how wonderful he is -- his extremely good judgment and just -- he certainly is the best candidate and we have the best ticket. And so hopefully come November 4th, we will have gotten that message out there and folks will turn out and we'll have the most Electoral College votes come the end of the day.

O'BRIEN: Hill Harper, nice to see you, as always.

Thanks for talking with us.

Appreciate it.

HARPER: Thanks, Soledad.

You're doing a great job. Keep it up.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much.

We've got much more convention coverage coming to you throughout the day and the evening, too.

I'm Soledad O'Brien reporting from the CNN Election Center here in New York.

We're going to send it back to Atlanta and the CNN NEWSROOM right after this short break.

And then "THE SITUATION ROOM" begins at 4:00 p.m. Eastern time.

Please stay with us.


LEMON: All right, time now to tell you about some of the stories we're working on for you in the CNN NEWSROOM at 46 past the hour.

Another security handover in Iraq. A senior U.S. military official tells CNN that coalition troops will turn Anbar Province over to Iraqi forces on Monday. Anbar will be the eleventh province to revert to Iraqi control.

Libya says two hijackers have surrendered one day after they commandeered a Sun Air flight in Sudan. State media reports say the passengers and crew members all were released.

And a big night ahead at the Democratic National Convention. A roll call vote will make Barack Obama the first African-American to win a major party presidential nomination.

All right, some weather news now. An anxious wait along parts of the Gulf Coast as Tropical Storm Gustav swirls in the Caribbean. The storm was a hurricane yesterday when it crossed Haiti's southern peninsula. As it moves to the west, though, it is expected to get even more intense. And in New Orleans and Southern Mississippi, that is, of course, a huge concern. Hurricane Katrina came ashore there three years ago this week.

Meteorologist Jacqui Jeras is tracking Gustav in the CNN Severe Weather Center and she joins us now with the very latest on its path -- Jacki.


Yes, ironic that that possibility is out there on that three year anniversary. But we want you to keep in mind how much uncertainty we still have five days out.

You know, we're talking about, at earliest, a potential landfall would likely be late into the weekend or possibly early next week. So, right now, we're watching that Gustav is moving slowly off to the west. And because it's moving so slowly, it's really bringing some torrential downpours here across parts of Haiti still. And that will remain a huge flood problem, along with the threat of mud slides.

As it moves westward, then, it's going to be making its approach toward Jamaica and Southern Cuba late tonight and throughout the day tomorrow. And as it moves through these waters here, it will likely intensify a little bit. You know, it's gone over land, so it's kind of gotten chopped down and weakened a little bit. But we think it is going to be wrapping up gradually as this storm gets itself more organized.

The intensification forecast bringing it to possibly a major hurricane here, as it heads toward the Yucatan Channel and then out into the Gulf of Mexico. Everybody from Western Florida to the Panhandle all the way over to Texas need to be on high alert for the potential of a major hurricane late in the weekend or early next week -- Don.

LEMON: All right, Jacqui Jeras.

You're going to be busy for the next couple of days.

Thank you very much for that.

You know, I just got back, Jacki, from New Orleans, where the scars from Hurricane Katrina are still all around. On Friday, the third anniversary of Katrina's Gulf Coast landfall, we'll look at how schools -- that's very important -- and businesses are faring and we'll tell you how some of the survivors there are taking things into their own hands in very innovative ways.

All right, and if you had heard it once -- I want you to look closely at this video -- you have heard it a thousand times -- don't drive onto a roadway covered in water. You don't know how deep the water is. This driver can vouch for that. Take a look. Yesterday, she tried to maneuver through what she thought was just a few inches of water on the Apache Trail in Arizona. But before she knew it, look at that -- her car was floating. And it didn't take long for water to push it right into a bridge.

Can you imagine that?

Lucky for her and her little girl, who was in the car, a stranger stopped to help. He pulled the child to safety then helped the mother regain her footing on solid ground.

Some scary, scary moments there.

Of course, as weather becomes the news, remember to send us your I-Reports. Just go to or type in "ireport" at right into your cell phone. But remember this -- it's very important -- we want you to be safe.

All right, let's talk about a hero, a champion. Dara Torres is an Olympic hero, a five time Olympian with a lifetime of vigorous training. She's also been chasing a 2-year-old around the house. And both, of course, can take a huge toll on anybody.

Today, Torres underwent surgery to fix a shoulder problem.

And CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, was there for all of us -- OK, give us the inside scoop.

How is she doing?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, she's doing really well. It's a pretty remarkable glimpse of Dora Torres, because we all know her, obviously, as the Olympic swimmer.

She's 41 years old, the mother of a 2-year-old. What you didn't know is some of what you're probably looking at now. She had shoulder surgery and gave us an exclusive look at that. She just got out of the operating room a few minutes ago. She also had this shoulder operated back in November. She had had her knee operated on in January. So this is some of what she's been going through leading up to the Olympics.

The problem was that her clavicle or collarbone, as it's known, was sort of impinging on her shoulder, sort of pushing in this particular area over here. So Dr. Shalala (ph), who's the surgeon here at this outpatient surgical center, removed part of that clavicle.

Everything went well. It's remarkable to think about this -- you know, Don, she says that it's hard to know whether she was performing at optimal performance during the Olympics. She's not going to use this shoulder problem as an excuse. But she did need to have this surgery just about a week after she returned from China -- Don.

LEMON: The silver, three of them, not so bad.

All right, Sanjay, amazing story, amazing technology. And she is a fantastic woman.

Thank you very much for that report.

GUPTA: Yes, let me -- let's -- do you want to take a quick look?

She said that we could take a quick look. She's still a little bit groggy, Don, so we're not going to make her...

LEMON: Oh, wow! OK.

GUPTA: ...her talk. But there she is.

LEMON: Hi, Dara.

GUPTA: She says -- they're saying hello from -- yes.

LEMON: How is she?

How are you doing?

GUPTA: We're not going to make her say anything because -- how are you doing?

We're not going to ask her too many questions because they told her she still has a lot of medications onboard. So we're not quite sure what she might say at any given time here.

She's in good spirits, I assure you of that, cracking jokes already. She's doing well.

We're going to catch up with her again.

The one thing they told it, it's going to be hard to keep her out of the pool. So we may find her there sooner than we might expect.

LEMON: Yes. I figured no matter what she says, America loves her, so we don't really care, as long as she's OK.



Thank you, doctor.

All right, it's time now to check in with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

He's standing by in Denver with a look at what's coming up at the top of the hour in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Wolf, what do you have?

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Thanks very much, guys.

One of the biggest moments of this convention is about to start. In a little more than an hour from now, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton's names will both be placed in nomination and the state delegations will cast their votes. There are lots of questions right now about exactly how this will unfold and just what Hillary Clinton might do here in the next hour or so. It's going to be pretty exciting.

We're going to be covering it. See what happens. The best political team on television standing by here in Denver.

Plus, tonight Bill Clinton gives his own major speech to the convention.

Will he be able to get over his difficulties with the Obama campaign?

And live on the floor of this hall with us today, John Kerry and Bill Richardson. And later, the Montana governor, Brian Schweitzer, who brought the house down with his speech last night.

All that and a lot more coming up right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM." It's going to be a long and interesting night.

LEMON: Oh, it certainly is. And I saw Mr. Schweitzer's speech in the airport last night watching you guys. It was amazing and funny and very enjoyable to watch.

OK, Wolf, we look forward to that.

And, of course, Wolf mentioned Bill Clinton. And we want to talk now about the faces of Bill Clinton. At times, the former president listened intently as his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, spoke at the Democratic National Convention. At other times, smiles, tears and hearty laughs.

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With a kiss of the hand, Bill Clinton settled in to watch his wife's speech. The faces of Bill were all on display -- from lip biting to nail biting. As Hillary was cheered, his eyes seemed to fill. And he mouthed, "I love you."

Barack Obama watched Bill watch Hillary.



OBAMA: Listen, when my wife was up there, I was like whoa.



MOOS: But near tears soon turned to laughter.


MOOS: And Bill loved the pantsuit joke.

CLINTON: To my sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits...


MOOS: Barack liked it, too.

CLINTON: To my sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits.


MOOS: Those pantsuits had traveled to this same stage hours earlier for what was described as a light test. Apparently, the orange won.

With an un-conventional moment, I'm Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


LEMON: All right, well, you can call them champs. These young ball players from Hawaii just won the Little League World Series. A huge crowd of family and friends greeted them at the Honolulu airport. The team pounded a squad from Mexico, 12-3, on Sunday. Look how happy they are.

But they almost didn't make it. They took a dramatic come from behind victory over Lake Charles, Louisiana to capture the U.S. title. Hawaii's governor calls the team's performance "truly inspiring."

Of course. Of course they are truly inspiring.

OK, the closing bell is about to ring on Wall Street. Stephanie Elam is standing by with a look at the trading day -- hey, Stephanie, to follow that one.

Have you got some truly inspiring news for us?


ELAM: Well, the markets are up. I can inspire people that way, hopefully.

But, you know, the one thing I do want to tell you about, Don, that's probably not too happy is that there is a growing number of banks that are in trouble. And the FDIC had 117 banks on its problem list in the second quarter, marking the most in five years. And that's up 90 -- from 90 in the first quarter.

It says the list is expected to grow as credit problems worsen. The problem banks, which are not named, are those at the greatest risk of failing. So far, nine banks have failed this year. But to keep this into perspective here, that's nowhere near the 1,000 financial institutions that fell during the savings and loan crisis of the late '80s.

Still, people are no doubt worried about their money. But everyone should remember this -- the FDIC insures individual accounts up to $100,000 and retirement accounts up to $250,000. So unless you're above that, you'll be OK.

All right. And most banks are going to be OK anyway.


LEMON: Stephanie Elam.

All right, thank you very much for that.

Now let's go to "THE SITUATION ROOM" and Wolf Blitzer live in Denver -- take it away, Wolf.