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AMERICAN MORNING

McCain Vows to Take on Washington; How did McCcain do: Post Analysis of McCain's Speech; RNC Protesters Sprayed and Gassed by Police; Fact Checking Sarah Palin's Speech\

Aired September 5, 2008 - 07:00   ET

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


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up now to the top of the hour and coming to you live from the Xcel Center here in St. Paul, Minnesota, home of the Republican National Convention, and here's what's ahead this hour.
The maverick of the party reaches the top of the mountain. Senator John McCain telling the nation to fight with me as he accepted the GOP nomination and promised to shake up Washington.

Also, Sarah Palin, fact or fiction. The governor gave one of the most watched convention speeches in history, saying that she took on special interests and turned down earmarks. We take a look at the books in Alaska to see if that's true.

And the man at the middle of "Troopergate." An exclusive interview with Sarah Palin's ex-brother-in-law. All those stories and more straight ahead on the "Most News in the Morning." But first, let's send it back to Kiran in New York.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: John, thanks.

John McCain says change is coming. Now the official GOP nominee, McCain says that he's going to beat Barack Obama, then cut the fat in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal and endowed by our creator with inalienable rights. No country, no country ever had a greater cause than that. And I wouldn't be an American worthy of the name if I didn't honor Senator Obama and his supporters for their achievement.

But let there be no doubt, my friends, we're going to win this election. We're going to win this election.

My fellow Americans, when I'm president, we're going to embark on the most ambitious national project in decades. We're going to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't like us very much, and some of that money --

We'll attack the problem on every front. We'll produce more energy at home. We will drill new wells offshore and we'll drill them now. Fight with me. Fight with me. Fight for what's right for our country. Fight for the ideals and character of a free people. Fight for our children's future.

Fight for justice and opportunity for all. Stand up to defend our country from its enemies. Stand up for each other -- for beautiful, blessed, bountiful America.

Stand up, stand up, stand up and fight. Nothing is inevitable here. We're Americans, and we never give up. We never quit. We never hide from history, we make history!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Very powerful message and one that was enthusiastically received here at the Xcel Center last night from John McCain as he accepted the mantle of Republican nominee for president.

Jessica Yellin was here for the big speech. She joins us now.

So this idea of him being a maverick, everybody believed in the year 2000. But nowadays, if I am ever on the air using the word maverick to describe John McCain, I get a flurry of e-mail from people on the left who say, what are you, nuts? So can he sell this?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I bet you do. And from the Obama campaign that's pushing back hard, he's trying to sell it by using the word "change," by hitting the Republican Congress of '06 which he did last night. The problem is he's been somewhere else recently and he is going to have to work on the stump to sell it batter than he did last night is my analysis, because there wasn't a brand-new message last night. He needs something that grabs people.

ROBERTS: Yes. We talked to Bill Bennett about this just a second ago, this idea of reforming the Republican Party. That's a message that not only would have resonance with independents but also conservatives in the party were awfully dismayed with the direction that it's taken in the last eight years.

YELLIN: And with the spending in Washington, absolutely. I mean, again, he took a bold step by being so critical of Republicans who have been in power. And he needs to continue it but he also needs to reach out to independents and woo them.

ROBERTS: Right. Hey, we all remember the famous speech in New Orleans where he had that awful green backdrop behind him and the campaign said never again. But what happened last night. What was that all about?

YELLIN: This was the most stunning aspect of last night. They literally vowed never again will they use green. They said it. And they can't explain what happened, why it happened.

The other part of it is when you pull out wide you'll see that the entire backdrop, I think that's grass, and it looks like he was standing in front of a huge mansion. ROBERTS: There you go.

YELLIN: It's a school. But after that whole drama over houses, it just was a poor decision.

ROBERTS: I wonder what Steve Schmidt was saying when he saw that image come up?

YELLIN: I think they were saying change the backdrop now. They did eventually.

ROBERTS: Jessica, thanks so much for that -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Thanks guys.

Well, we've seen satellite images of hurricanes before, but not quite like this. Take a look. This is NASA's view of the category three monster that is Ike right now. It's in the making and it's heading for the southeastern part of the United States. At least according to the tracks right now, this storm more than 100 miles wide.

Our Rob Marciano is tracking it for us this morning as well as the storm that's first in line, Hanna.

Wow. Ike looks like a monster, at least from those NASA pictures.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You know what, and they were close up, too. The International Space Station flies at about 200 miles up. And the typical satellite that we -- the stationary satellites are about 22,000 miles up. So definitely a lot closer.

Here it is from the 22,000-mile view. The eye getting a little bit less distinct so this storm got slightly weaker at least for now. But of more immediate concern certainly is what's going on with Hanna, which is beginning to take effect on Florida here with the western side or the western side of the storm now bringing some rainfall to Florida. And it looks like if anything it's kind of jogged a little bit farther to the west.

So winds at about 65 miles an hour. It's almost a hurricane. It's possible that it becomes a hurricane before it reaches shore. That's not the forecast. But, you know, 70 miles an hour, that's right below hurricane strength.

So here's the forecast track. We bring it into the Carolinas, anywhere from Charleston to Wilmington. Maybe even the outer banks would be included in that and the landfall expected later on tonight, early tomorrow morning. So this thing is on our doorstep and already the radar is showing the rainfall here in southern parts of Florida, which may, by the way, get a little taste of Ike before it's all said and done.

And if anything, it looks like the center of it may have even shifted a little bit farther to the west. So we'll see what this track does. Certainly all the Carolinas in play here and Florida, even Georgia will get a little bit of rainfall from what is Hanna.

And then a quick cha-cha and what's going on with Ike. Category three storm right now, Kiran, 125 mile an hour winds. And the track of this and the cone of uncertainty not looking very nice for the folks in Florida or the Gulf of Mexico or the southeast coastline as we get towards the beginning of next week.

Back up to you in New York.

CHETRY: And so, each day that passes it seems more likely that's going to stay the track, or can this thing still wobble?

MARCIANO: It can wobble, it can head to the south. You know, days three, four and five are always, you know, pretty low confidence. But right now, it has shifted a little bit farther to the south and much of south Florida is under that tone. And so, yes, we're a little bit nervous about that at this point.

CHETRY: All right. Rob, thanks.

MARCIANO: OK.

CHETRY: Still ahead, maced in the face. A woman gets sprayed before police shove her to the pavement. What happened when the RNC protest got ugly.

ROBERTS: Mac's new attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to change that. That's going to change. We have to change, change, change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Stealing Obama's thunder. Our panel weighs in. Can McCain change the game? You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I fought the big spenders in both parties who waste your money on things you neither need nor want. And the first big spending pork barrel earmark bill that comes across my desk, I will veto it. I will make them famous, and you will know their names. You will know their names.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Well, that's John McCain accepting the nomination of his party last night and using his speech to cast himself as a reformer who promises to clean up Washington. Joining me now to discuss the night, CNN political contributor and Republican analyst, Leslie Sanchez, and Democratic strategist, Lisa Caputo. Welcome to both of you. Thanks for being with us.

And you know, Leslie, a big theme last night was change and we had noted how many times he said "change." And this is an interesting editorial in the "New York Times" saying that, "The difficulty for the Republican ticket in talking about change and reform and acting like insurgents is that they have been running Washington -- the White House and Congress for most of the last eight years."

Is that going to be a problem for people to buy this argument that John McCain stands for change?

LESLIE SANCHEZ, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think fundamentally it might be. I mean, there's no doubt about who's running Congress. You also look at the fact that you have a Democratic Congress now with the lowest approval ratings in history. I think people are just frustrated that nothing is getting done in Washington and that Republicans walked away from fiscal responsibility.

The differences John McCain has a record on key pieces of legislation of being independent. Immigration reform, campaign finance and we can go on. And he's saying, look, I've taken on my own party and I also have a proven record of being bipartisan and getting things done. That's what he's going to run on.

CHETRY: Is it harder for the Obama camp to counter because John McCain has in some high-profile ways really stood up against the Bush administration?

LISA CAPUTO, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, last night -- no. I don't think. Last night he tried to distance himself from the Bush administration. But I don't think he was very successful because he wasn't very substantive, I mean, particularly on the economy.

What you heard last night was the Bush economic policy. And if people want to vote for four more years of the last eight years of economic policy, Barack Obama's going to run away with this.

I think that McCain gave a solid speech. It started off kind of slow and then picked up. But when you look at the substance of what he said, it's the same Bush policies. A Bush speech writer could have written it.

I mean, this is a man, let's remember, who has sided with the Bush administration and President Bush on 90 percent of his votes.

CHETRY: I want to ask you about that, Leslie, because we've heard this a lot from the Democrats. Do you guys agree and contend that he did? Is that a reliability for him that 90 percent of the time in the Senate he voted along?

SANCHEZ: You know, I think the Democrats need some new talking points. They've been using this 90 percent and trying all they can do is try to tie Senator McCain to George Bush. Biden voted with Bush 70 percent of the time. You never hear about that statistic.

CHETRY: And Obama 40 percent of the time at least according to one of the --

(CROSSTALK)

SANCHEZ: Exactly. And a lot of these were unanimous consent. I mean, the bottom line is, who is effective in government? Which of these candidates has the best vision? We all want prosperity and growth.

CHETRY: But I want to ask you about this. Was there a missed opportunity last night to bring up more specific economic policies? The one specific that we heard about helping with job creation and job loss was to get people into community colleges.

SANCHEZ: I think there needs to be more that's drawn out on the economic plan. I mean, and obviously the information is out there but that's what I believe the presidential debate is for.

If you talk to folks, they're going to say this is when we're really going to pull those out, see a contrast and comparison of the two candidates together, and see which one is really aligned better.

The theme of last night was country first with Senator McCain. He's saying I'm going to do the right thing for the country versus a me-first attitude, which is the comparison with the Democrats.

CAPUTO: I would say last night's speech was hardly a tone of fired up, ready to go. And I didn't hear the substance, as I said. And I think when somebody votes 90 percent of the time, say what you will about Barack Obama's 40 percent or whatever. His smaller percentage was 90 percent is a huge number.

Secondly, I would say that Senator McCain missed a huge opportunity last night. Barack Obama has laid out specifics of his economic policy. He's talked about green jobs. He's talked about getting health care to the 40 million who are uninsured. We heard nothing about that last night.

And a wise man once said, "It's the economy, stupid." And people are hurting right now. Foreclosures, up. Deficits, up. People are in bad shape, and we heard no specifics last night from the Republican candidate for president. I will also add, he was out shined by his vice presidential nominee.

SANCHEZ: There's no doubt about that. I mean, I don't think people are going to really question that part. We're looking at the top of the ticket. Look, even if you look at Joe Biden, who's somebody who overshadows Barack Obama on some foreign policy experience, and experience, period, you've got a weak candidate with a resume that's like on tissue paper.

I think when you see the two candidates together on a debate substantively, voters are going to have a better sense of who is better prepared for America. CAPUTO: Can I --

CHETRY: We are out of time. I know -- one last thing, go ahead.

CAPUTO: I would just say that you can't say somebody is a weak candidate when he packs a stadium of 80,000 people and gets 40 million viewers.

SANCHEZ: He's a charismatic candidate. No doubt about that.

(CROSSTALK)

CHETRY: All right. We'll continue this.

Leslie Sanchez and Lisa Caputo, great to have you. Thank you.

ROBERTS: It's the beauty of these political discussions. There's always another opinion to go in there.

Hey, we're just doing a little fact checking here this morning. Bill Bennett said a couple of minutes ago that he thought that Harry Reid probably voted 60 percent of the time with President Bush. According to factcheck.org, the number is actually 39 percent.

Marching for peace and taunting the police. Protesters met with mace and tear gas. An inside look at the chaos outside the convention here in Saint Paul.

And everyone has been talking about Governor Palin's speech. But was everything she said true? We are fact checking the Palin speech.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VOICE OF JONATHAN MALAT, KARE PHOTOJOURNALIST: This is Jonathan Lott, photojournalist at KARE. I'm on the St. Anthony Marion Street Bridge, downtown Saint Paul. Police have us blocked off on both ends. And they're asking everyone to please put their hands on their head. And everyone on the bridge will be arrested.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Surrounded and about to be hauled in. A first-person account of the protests in Saint Paul last night. Police were trying to keep protesters from reaching the Xcel Center. Some 200 people were arrested, more than a dozen journalists were detained as well, including three from NBC News and two from ABC. They were later released, though.

Things almost spiraled out of control when marchers tried to break the line. Take a look at this.

Pepper spray and mace, and tear gas again. Protesters who walked up to them. One woman was shoved on to the pavement after a few sprays in the face. It didn't incapacitate her the way police had hoped it would.

The Saint Paul police chief says they seized a semiautomatic pistol and at least one Molotov cocktail, rocks and also bag of feces, which is a favorite weapon of protesters these days.

CNN's Joe Johns joins us now. They also have buckets of urine a couple of days ago?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: That's right. They actually confiscated a bunch of stuff over the weekend. You know, just lots of action out there last night.

A vigorous end to an unusual week in Saint Paul. Three hundred ninety-six people arrested, which would bring the totals for the week to almost 818. Last night was a cat and mouse game going through the streets of Saint Paul. The protesters had hoped to march to the Xcel Center but every time they tried another route, the police cut them off.

Then there was something of a street to street chase that ended up going through a shopping mall parking lot not too far from the capitol here in the state. We're talking about horses and motorcycles, bicycles, police on foot. The whole point, of course, was to keep the protesters from crossing the interstate overpasses that would have allowed them to reach the convention center on foot.

We heard a lot of big booms from those noisy distraction devices the police were using out there to startle protesters. Sounded a lot like a war zone at one point. No reports of serious injuries.

Apparently more than a few releases of pepper spray. A couple times as you just saw. We actually pointed out to authorities this week some examples of uses of pepper spray that we caught on our video. So far no comment from them, John. So a long, exciting day here in this city.

ROBERTS: Now, we mentioned the word mace in the lead-in to this. Do you know if any mace was used, or was it just confined to pepper spray?

JOHNS: To my knowledge it was just pepper spray. But we've been sort of using the term releases of chemical agents...

ROBERTS: Right.

JOHNS: ... or what have you to sort of capture everything because you really don't know all the different kinds of things the police are using right now.

ROBERTS: How does Saint Paul compare to Denver?

JOHNS: Denver was much more quiet. And, you know, and when you look back at New York, of course, last time, the Republican Convention once again had more arrests than the Democratic did. So, you know, it's the party in power, gets the protests, and that's pretty much what happened here. ROBERTS: Joe Johns for us this morning with that. Joe, thanks so much.

It's now 20 minutes after the hour on the "Most News in the Morning."

CHETRY: Palin's record.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I stood up to the special interests, championed reform, protected the taxpayers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Deborah Feyerick reviews the big speech and finds it wasn't all straight talk. We're checking the record and reporting the facts.

You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CINDY MCCAIN, JOHN MCCAIN'S WIFE: John has picked a reform- minded, hockey-momming, basketball-shooting, moose-hunting, salmon- fishing, pistol-packing mother of five for vice president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Well, that was Cindy McCain talking about Sarah Palin last night. And Palin herself roused the Republicans with her fiery speech. But was everything she said completely true?

CNN's Deborah Feyerick is here to fact check Ms. Palin's speech and I'm sure whenever politics is involved we have to fact check these.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a little bit relevant.

CHETRY: Right. Exactly.

FEYERICK: Exactly.

Well, you know, Kiran, Governor Palin delivered her speech with conviction, a sense of what you see is what you get. But after checking budget records and speaking to government officials and Alaska lawmakers, some of the claims are a bit of a stretch.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick. FEYERICK (voice-over): Putting Democrats on notice, Sarah Palin fired up Republicans listing what she's done and why she's qualified to be vice president. But is it all true?

PALIN: I stood up to the special interests and the lobbyists.

FEYERICK: Well, not entirely. Palin was the first Wasilla mayor to hire a Washington lobbyist, securing $11 million in special funding for the town.

PALIN: And championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress.

FEYERICK: Not true. In her two years as governor, Palin has asked Congress for $453 million for so-called earmarks, including $1 million for rock fish research. That famous $398 million bridge to nowhere?

PALIN: I told the Congress, thanks but no thanks.

FEYERICK: In fact, Alaska got that money but it was used for other projects.

Steven Ellis is with an advocacy group that tracks public spending.

STEVE ELLIS, TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE ACTION: Certainly she has got Wasilla into the earmarks game. She, you know, worked the system and was able to bring home earmarks and then certainly has been part of the earmark system in Alaska. And so, it's just something that is interesting to juxtapose with Senator McCain's position which has been stalwart no earmarks ever.

FEYERICK: On cleaning up state government.

PALIN: And today that ethics reform is the law.

FEYERICK: That's true. She signed it last year.

PALIN: I have protected the taxpayers by vetoing wasteful spending nearly half a billion dollars in vetoes.

FEYERICK: Also true. She vetoed 500 million. But the operating budget at $6.6 billion continues to grow at 10 percent a year. On the natural gas pipeline?

PALIN: I fought to bring about the largest private sector infrastructure project in North American history. And when that deal was struck, we began a nearly $40 billion natural gas pipeline to help lead America to energy independence.

FEYERICK: Yes and no. The pipeline project was approved by Alaska lawmakers. But the company still has to do environmental impact reports, deal with aboriginal issues, and get federal approval before any building can start. And most estimates on the pipeline are that it will cost less than $40 billion. The earliest the pipeline could be up and running is in 10 years.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: Near the end of her speech, Governor Palin reviewed Barack Obama's positions on energy, taxes, terrorism and government spending. Her review of his record also requires some fact checking -- Kiran.

CHETRY: As you say, parts of it are true and parts of it not so much. Deb, thanks for being with us.

ROBERTS: Sticking to the game plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've been through this for 19 months. She's been through it, what, four days?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Obama reacts to the attacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've been called worse on the basketball court.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTS: You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Again and again I've worked with members of both parties to fix problems that need to be fixed. That's how I will govern as president. I will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again.

My friends, I have that record and the scars to prove it. Senator Obama does not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: They've been at it for a year and a half already, and that was just an appetizer. The main course coming in the next 60 days.

The Republicans close their convention here in Saint Paul, Minnesota, last night with John McCain and Sarah Palin vowing to bring change to Washington.

Joining me now is McCain supporter, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. She was here in Saint Paul but she joins us this morning live from Dallas, Texas. Senator, it's great to see you. Many Republicans thought that Senator McCain had a higher bar to vault after Sarah Palin's speech on Wednesday, which was so well received. How do you think he did?

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: Oh, I thought it was great. I think he went for substance. You know, she was electrifying. Then he came in with the policies and the substance that people want to see from the presidential candidate. I think both of them did their job so well, and Republicans are leaving unified and excited.

ROBERTS: John McCain says that the maverick is back. He's vowing to go and change Washington. It's a bit of a different John McCain than we saw during the primary process. He appeared to be running to the right to try to embrace the conservative base. He appeared to lock that up with the nomination of Sarah Palin as his running mate.

But what does this mean about the maverick? It's obviously an appeal to independents. But if I recall, the 2000 version of the McCain maverick didn't go over so well with the party establishment.

HUTCHISON: I think he has hit his theme now. That he wants to change the way Washington works. And I believe that if you took a poll in America, 99.9 percent of the people would say, hallelujah. And I think he is saying, I have a record of doing this.

ROBERTS: Right.

HUTCHISON: He has a record of going against the party. He also has a record of reaching across the aisle on very tough issues and trying to gain a consensus, and he's been successful.

ROBERTS: Senator, you didn't get a speaking slot here at the convention. You're one of the most well known and experienced women in the republican party. Some people say you would have made a terrific running mate. Why weren't you up there on the stage?

HUTCHISON: Well, I had a speaking slot. But after we lost all of Monday and a good part of Tuesday, I was happy to give up my speaking slot for all of the many speakers who had to be crammed in to two days or 2 1/2. And so the decision was made, I think, also my topic was energy. And I think the vice presidential candidate covered energy very well. So I thought it was fine.

ROBERTS: On the topic of the vice presidential candidate, when you joined us Friday morning when we were talking about the announcement of Governor Sarah Palin as the running mate, you told us that you didn't know much about her. Do you know more about her now and do you know enough that you believe that she has the qualifications to step into the roll of president, god forbid, something should happen, or do you still want to hear more?

HUTCHISON: Well, I do know more. I really didn't know at the time because I think people didn't. But I do now. And I think her record and her - what she has done and will do is really remarkable. She's a remarkable woman. And I think she really matches so well with John McCain because they now have a theme with backup to prove that they will go against the establishment, that they're going to work for the people, against the big interests of any kind. And I think it's going for the independent vote. I'm very excited about it. And I think republicans, I was on the floor, and they were so excited.

During the convention when they started seeing about her, about the maverick, the go for broke mentality that we're going to have, I think people are ready to rumble.

ROBERTS: All right. Well, there's no question that they liked it here on the floor. We'll see how the rest of America feels about that in the coming days. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, good to talk to you this morning. Thanks so much.

HUTCHISON: Thank you, John. Thank you.

CHETRY: Well, it's 30 minutes after the hour. We got a check of the top stories we're working on this morning. John McCain and Sarah Palin aren't wasting any time basking in the glory of the GOP convention. They're off to key battleground states today where they'll start the day meeting with voters in Wisconsin before moving to a rally in Michigan.

And it could be another down day for the markets. Boy, yesterday was tough one. Stock futures now pointing to a lower open and the Dow fell 344 points yesterday. It's the fourth biggest drop this year. The markets falling on worries about the jobs report which will be released in about an hour. In fact, our own Ali Velshi will be bringing us those numbers as soon as they come out.

Republicans are hoping Sarah Palin can bring in voters like she brought in viewers. More than 37 million people watched her speech Wednesday night. That's almost as many viewers as Barack Obama got the week before. And a lot more than that tuned in to see her counterpart Joe Biden. Palin's audience was bigger than the Academy Awards, the "American Idol" finale and the opening ceremony at the Olympics.

Well, a day after a series of harsh attacks by the republicans against Barack Obama, John McCain went a little easier on him, even praising Obama in his speech. Obama's ears are still burning from Wednesday night's speeches. Suzanne Malveaux joins me now with more on that. Hi, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kiran. We've been following Barack Obama. He's been hitting these very small towns in northeastern Pennsylvania. These are really places where he needs to win over the voters. Barack Obama said regarding Sarah Palin's comments as well as the RNC's attacks on his record, he called it virtually the same slash and burn politics. But Barack Obama is defending his record at the same time, trying to minimize Palin's criticism.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me. At least that's the line.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can't keep playing the same political games we always play. Where we attack each other and we call each other names and we accuse somebody of being a liberal or a right wing or this or that or the other. And then we never get anything done.

MALVEAUX: After a series of zingers from the top republicans, including the vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, Barack Obama and his team tried not to appear bruised.

OBAMA: I've been called worse on the basketball court. It's not that big of a deal.

MALVEAUX: Their strategy focus not on what is being said but what isn't being said.

OBAMA: You haven't heard a word about how we're going to deal with any aspect of the economy that is affecting you and your pocketbook day-to-day.

MALVEAUX: In the heart of Bush country where Obama is fighting for blue-collar voters, he largely stuck to the script. Following a tour of a Pennsylvania power plant, he talked to factory workers about his economic and energy policies. When asked to compare his experience to Palin's, he didn't take the bait.

OBAMA: I'll let Governor Palin talk about her experience and I'll talk about mine.

MALVEAUX: But Obama did take exception to Palin's ridicule of his work as a community organizer in Chicago.

OBAMA: Why would that kind of work be ridiculous? Who are they fighting for? What are they advocating for? Do they think that the lives of those folks who are struggling each and every day that working with them to try to improve their lives are somehow not relevant to the presidency?

MALVEAUX: Obama's running mate, Senator Joe Biden, will face off with Palin in upcoming debates, was less forgiving. He called e-mails and internet ads distorting Obama's record garbage and malarkey. Obama's aides acknowledged taking on Palin is a delicate balancing act because some may charge sexism.

OBAMA: I assume she wants to be treated the same way that guys want to be treated. Which means her records are under scrutiny. I've been through this for 19 months. She's been through it, what, four days so far?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And Kiran, one thing that Obama said is the reason he's not going after Palin harder, he says John McCain is the one who's running for president and Obama's not running against Palin. He's running against John McCain. SO obviously trying to minimize her role there. And what you're going to see later today on the campaign trail is really a combination here of biography, talking about himself, but he's also going to be touring this glass factory. He's going to be taking questions. It's going to be kind of a small setting, obviously trying to put the focus, the emphasis on voters' issues, namely the economy. Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. He's been getting a lot of criticism that perhaps they should have mentioned that a little more in the speeches last night, especially John McCain. Suzanne Malveaux, thank you.

MALVEAUX: Sure.

ROBERTS: 36 1/2 minutes after the hour now. Our CNN Special Investigations Unit going to Alaska for answers. Accusations that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power to try to get her ex-brother-in- law fired. CNN tracked him down. We'll have the exclusive interview coming right up.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She knows where she comes from. And she knows who she works for. She stands up for what's right and she doesn't let anyone tell her to sit down.

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ROBERTS: Senator John McCain talking up his running mate Sarah Palin last night. She is the first woman ever on the GOP ticket and she is under the microscope. Right now, lawmakers in Alaska wants to know whether she abused her power in an attempt to get her ex-brother- in-law fired. There is brand new information today that Sarah Palin's attorney has already questioned two witnesses who could testify against her in the investigation. Palin's former police commissioner says he lost his job because he would not get rid of Trooper Mike Wooten.

CNN's Drew Griffin is in Alaska. He went there for answers and he found the man at the center of all of this and got an exclusive interview with Sarah Palin's ex-brother-in-law. Drew is live for us in Anchorage. Drew, what are you finding out?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT: John, that ex- brother-in-law, trooper Mike Wooten says he has no ill will towards the Palin family. He says he's actually excited about Sarah Palin's bid for the vice presidency. What he's not excited about is the fact that his bitter divorce with Sarah Palin's sister and the ensuing custody battle over their two children has now turned his private life into headline making materials.

He sat down with us exclusively yesterday afternoon on the condition that his union representative be at his side. He wanted to set the record straight.

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GRIFFIN: How do you feel about just having all of your life plastered in newspapers and TVs and now picked up nationally?

MIKE WOOTEN, ALASKA STATE TROOPER: It's definitely not very easy. It creates a lot of stress. That's for sure.

GRIFFIN: What would you like the people who have read all these reports to know about you?

WOOTEN: Well, you know, I guess my priorities are my kids. And being the best father I can be to my children. And, you know, being - my job. Being the best trooper that I can be for the state, the citizens of the state. And you know, I was young and I made mistakes. And I was punished for those mistakes. I learned my lesson. They're behind me. And I'm trying to move on and be the best dad I can be to my children and be the best trooper that I can be. You know, I love my job and I love this state. And, you know, that's - those are my priorities.

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GRIFFIN: Here is the record. Mike Wooten, 36 years old, has been married four times. All four marriages have failed. He has a long list of reprimands as a state trooper. He tasered his 11-year- old stepson in a demonstration, which he admits. He killed a moose illegally, which he admits. There were allegations he was drinking in his patrol car which he denies. Allegations he threatened to kill Sarah Palin's father over all this divorce issue which he also denies.

After all of that, he was suspended for five days. Not fired, John. But it's not his record that's the focus of this state investigation now. It's whether or not the governor used her office to try to pressure the Public Safety commissioner to fire Wooten. And when the Public Safety Commissioner would not fire Wooten, the allegation is she fired the Public Safety Commissioner. The ongoing state investigation probably will take another month. John.

ROBERTS: Our Drew Griffin for us in Anchorage, Alaska. Just to tell you a bit of the other side, the McCain-Palin campaign says she is an open book on all this, that she has answered all of the questions that have been put to her and she will answer any questions that are asked of her in the future about this by investigators. You can see Drew Griffin's entire interview with Mike Wooten tonight on "A.C. 360" at 10:00 Eastern.

New charges of sexism swirl around the coverage of Sarah Palin. Her hair, voice, her mothering skills, her clothes. What's fair to criticize and what's just plain sexist? We'll ask that question.

And we're watching the Atlantic. Two churning storms, both with an eye on the East Coast. Our Rob Marciano is tracking it all from the CNN Weather Center.

Hey, Rob. ROB MARCIANO, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: Hey, John. Hanna is going to make landfall across the Carolina coastline later on today. Will it become a hurricane again? And Ike - it is a hurricane, a major one. It's also headed to the East Coast. We'll talk about both tracks when AMERICAN MORNING comes right back.

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CHETRY: We got some things cooking in the Atlantic right now that could prove troublesome for Florida especially, but other parts of the country as well. Out Rob Marciano is tracking all of it for us. We're talking about Hanna and then Ike.

MARCIANO: Yes. Hanna, although not going to directly impact Florida as far as landfall is impacting the East Coast as far as rainfall goes right now. Latest advisory, this just came in, 65 miles an hour winds gusting to 75. So tropical storm. Northwesterly moving, 18 miles an hour. So that's been picking up steam overnight.

Here's the forecast track. Charleston to Wilmington, you're in the cone here. Timing is such that the Carolinas will begin to feel the impact of this later on this afternoon as far as rain, some winds, some battering waves and then a complete landfall expected tonight into tomorrow morning. And then look at the track as it gets across the Delmarva. Maybe slamming into Long Island before the weekend is done.

Here it is on the radar. I mentioned the rain on the west side flaring up and heading to the east coast of Florida. And then the east coast of Florida, especially the southern tip may very well be in the path of Hurricane Ike, which is now a category 3. 125 miles an hour wind expected to pretty much remain a major hurricane over the next several days.

Here's Tuesday morning early, just off the coast, potentially of southern Florida. This could go into the Gulf of Mexico. This could hit Florida straight on and die off. It could bend back up towards the Carolinas. These are all distinct possibilities, Kiran. But all of our computer models are saying that this is likely to remain a mayor hurricane when it gets close to the U.S. beginning next week.

And Hanna could become a hurricane, very close to it, over the next 12 hours as it makes landfall somewhere along the Carolina coastline. Back to you in New York.

CHETRY: Wow. All right. Rob, thanks a lot.

MARCIANO: You got it.

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ROBERTS (voice-over): Juggling work and motherhood.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've found just the right partner to help me shake up Washington, D.C.. ROBERTS: Sally Quinn tells Sarah Palin to rethink her priorities. But is she pushing an unfair double standard? You're watching the most news in the morning.

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CHETRY: Well, there's been so much talk around GOP vice presidential nominee and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. And in fact, a lot of the buzz surrounds questions about how she can balance caring for her five kids, including her four-month-old son with Down syndrome and potentially balance it with the highest office in the land. So are these questions sexist? Are they a double standard? Joining us now is Sally Quinn. She's a columnist from the "Washington Post." Thanks for being with us, Sally.

SALLY QUINN, AUTHOR, "THE PARTY": Thank you.

CHETRY: You've written two articles now on Palin arguing that she was not the best pick, that she's not ready to be commander in chief if that were to happen. And you also questioned her ability to be a mom and a leader. Are those the same questions you would ask of a man?

QUINN: Yes, absolutely. However, I do think that mothers and fathers are different and I think that there's not a woman out there who is a mother, a working mother who wouldn't tell you exactly the same thing that every woman I'm a working mother. I've been for 26 years. Every woman I know practically is a working mother. We have conflicts and guilts that men simply don't have. And basically the burden of raising children falls on the mother, no matter what kind of job she has.

So I think that to, you know, we're so far beyond the feminist argument here. This is not about feminism, it's not about sexism, it's simply about, can you do the job? One of the things I noticed over this last convention is John McCain, they must have said it 1,000 times. I put my country first. He put his country first. And I think if you're talking about the commander in chief and that is what she is likely to be given his age and his health. Will she put her country first, or will she put her family first?

CHETRY: But let me ask you this, why is that same question, why are you not writing columns about whether or not Barack Obama, who has two small children, can put his country first, as well?

QUINN: I think - because I think that Barack Obama's a man and I think that men, John McCain went to war for six years. Men go to war, women go to war, and I think that when they do, when they go away they make a decision to put their country first. My question is simply this, it's not whether she should or should not, it is, will she? Because I think if you're choosing as a citizen I want to know what the priorities are for my commander in chief. I suspect that whoever is commander in chief, if it's Barack Obama will put his country first over his family. CHETRY: I do know and this has certainly been the topic of conversation among many women in full disclosure. I have a son, I think was born a day before Sarah Palin's son, I'm a nursing mother and I don't have all the answers either. But doesn't everybody, men and women have issues that they have to deal with, you know, beside their job, that affect their ability to lead. I'm just wondering why this become such a topic, specifically dealing with Sarah Palin.

QUINN: Well, I also think, you know, there's a tipping point. She's got five children, a Down syndrome. I have a son who is very learning disabled who was sick most of his life, there's a wonderful op-ed piece in the "Washington Post" by a woman with a special needs child. I know the kind of time and effort it takes to raise a child who has special needs and I couldn't have worked full time and done what I did to take care of Quinn. I just couldn't have, unless I just handed him over to a nanny or a baby-sitter to take him to the hospital and or be there with him when he was in surgery and all of that kind of thing.

I know a lot of women who have special needs children and often times, they will take time off. It's almost always the mother who takes the time off. I mean, how many times did we hear in this convention, single dads. Did you ever hear anyone talk about single dads? No, they talk about single moms. And the reason is because it's always the moms who are always the ones that take responsibility and -

CHETRY: Yes. She does have a big family and she does have the support of her husband as well -

QUINN: Right.

CHETRY: -- which you can't count that out. You can't count out how hard dads are working and taking care of their kids. But it's very interesting and like we said this is something that has been talked about a lot, which is why we wanted to bring you on. You've written two different articles about it that I encourage people to read from the "Washington Post." Sally Quinn, thanks for being with us.

QUINN: Thank you.

CHETRY: Coming up next, same issue with the other side, the former president of the National Rifle Association tells us that Sarah Palin is getting slammed unfairly for these same topics. We're going to talk about that coming up.

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ROBERTS (voice-over): Game on --

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are going to win this election.

ROBERTS: As the convention closes shop, whether John McCain can close the gap. MCCAIN: Fight with me, fight with me, fight for what's right with for our country.

ROBERTS: Let the race begin in for real. It's the most politics in the morning live from St. Paul.

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MCCAIN: I am very proud to have introduced our next vice president to the country, but I can't wait until I introduce her to Washington.

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ROBERTS: Senator John McCain also called his number two a champion of the reforms that he is promising to bring to the federal government. A few minutes ago, we heard that it is fair to focus on Governor Palin's gender and her status as a mother. But our next guest says, oh, not so fast.

Joining us now is Sandy Froman and she is former president of the National Rifle Association and a delegate from Arizona. It's good to see you this morning.

SANDY FROMAN, FMR. PRESIDENT, NATL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: I'm happy to be here, John.

ROBERTS: So you wrote a heated column about this whole thing under the title "Sarah get your gun." What do you think of the treatment of Governor Palin?

FROMAN: Well, I think this is expected in this business that there are going to be some shots taken at her and her but I think she will shoot back, as well. I think she's proven in the early days, right after her announcement as VP that she has upped any task. I mean, she can give back what is being dished out. I don't want people to underestimate her.

ROBERTS: But do you think the treatment of her this week has been fair or unfair?

FROMAN: Well, it depends on who you're talking about. I think the treatment by the group here at the Xcel Energy Center during the Republican National Convention has been a resoundingly positive and I think that's carrying through the rest of the country. The amount of money that's been raised by the McCain campaign since her announcement is proof that people connect with her. They like her. She's an authentic person.

ROBERTS: But on the other side of that coin?

FROMAN: On the other side of the coin, I think there are a lot of people who look at her and say, why is this woman running? And maybe they have questions about her. I think a lot of those questions will be answered as we go through the next two months.

ROBERTS: But is it sexist? Is it misogynistic to ask those questions?

FROMAN: I think to some extent it is. I think a lot of those question would not be asked of a man. What if a man has five children? No one is going to say, do you have time to be president? Or are you going to be abandoning your family?

ROBERTS: Right.

FROMAN: So, yes, I think it is sexist for them to be asking those questions just because she's a woman.

ROBERTS: Now, the Hillary Clinton campaign earlier this year was complaining of sexism in the coverage of her campaign. Sarah Palin was actually asked about that at a "Woman in Leadership" forum that "Newsweek" magazine put on. Let's hear what she had to say about that.

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GOV. SARAH PALIN, VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I hear like that, coming from a woman candidate with any kind of perceived whine about that excess criticism or you know, maybe a sharper microscope put on her, I think, that doesn't do us any good. Women in politics, women in general, wanting to progress this country.

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ROBERTS: So she's saying, don't whine about it, rise about it. Just fight the fight.

FROMAN: And I think she's done that. And I think a lot of us who have been pioneers in terms of succeeding in a male environment, whether it's in the law, at the NRA, whatever, have done that as well.

You have to work a little harder, you have to handle a little bit more. But, women are the original multi-taskers and we're usually up to it. Just don't underestimate us, is what I'm saying.

ROBERTS: I don't think anybody's going to underestimate her after what she did on Wednesday.

FROMAN: I think you're right/

ROBERTS: Sandy Froman, it's good to see you this morning. Thanks for dropping by.

FROMAN: Thank you, John.

ROBERTS: Appreciate it.