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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Presidential Race A Dead Heat; Selling Coal for Cash in Kenya; O.J. Simpson's Day in Court

Aired September 8, 2008 - 23:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, McCain rising, new polling. The race now a dead heat. On the trail, McCain attacks, Obama answers. And the Sarah Palin effect, where she could be a game changer.
Also ahead tonight, Governor Palin's beliefs. We look at the church where she's worshipped for years and the church she's now a member of. Has she blurred the line between religion and politics or is that what her critics are doing? You decide.

And O.J. Simpson back in court. The charge is serious, the case confusing, and the defense worried his murder case is not forgotten in the courtroom.

We begin "On the Trail;" just 57 days until the election and it is a whole new race. New polling, CNN's included now, shows a McCain surge.

Today's CNN Opinion Research Poll showing a perfect tie and not just in the bottom line. Voters also had equally positive views about both candidates; 60 percent and virtually equal results as well, 46-44 on whether they'd be proud to see either as president. That's the CNN poll.

In our Poll of Polls, which is a survey of five national polls, McCain's surge is even greater, giving him a two-point lead.

Now a reminder, these are all only snapshots. They do, however, show the movement toward McCain. State by state of course, the way presidents are really chosen, the pictures are somewhat different but all the state polling data is not as up to date.

So the candidates were stumping today in four important states; Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Iowa.

Let's start with the McCain/Palin team and "360's" Dana Bash.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thousands of Missouri voters wait in line to get in.

Would you have come if it was just McCain, pre-Palin?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Possibly, but for sure with Palin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would have been here only if Palin was here, yes. I would have stayed home and watched it on TV, on CNN.

BASH: Sarah Palin's ability to draw unprecedented McCain crowds is a key reason he scrapped plans for her to campaign solo and aides scrambled to arrange this in suburban Kansas City where McCain's must win big to take the state.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm leaning a lot more since he picked Palin.

BASH: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like her spirit and I like her no- nonsense attitude.

BASH: Inside, McCain and Palin played up that attitude as proof they're a pair of reformers offering new examples from her little known record as Alaska governor.

GOV. SARAH PALIN, (R) ALASKA VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I put our government state check book, I put it online for all the world to see. You see every penny that we spend up there. Doing that though, of course, it didn't thrill all the bureaucrats.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: But McCain aides concede the only way their agent of change message would sell is to discredit Barack Obama's. So they're now hitting Obama for engaging in a ritual that's become known as the ultimate in Washington excess, earmarks for projects back home.

PALIN: In just three years our opponent has requested nearly $1 billion in earmarks. That's about --

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Almost a million dollars for every single day he was in the United States senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: That's their claim, here are the facts.

Since Obama was elected in 2004, he has requested $850 million in earmarks, according to a nonpartisan watchdog group. But this election year he requested none. And though Palin boasts this --

PALIN: We've reformed the abuses of earmarks in our state.

BASH: Her running mate McCain has no tolerance for any earmarks and Palin has requested plenty. Just this year she asked Congress for $197 million of earmarks for Alaska. That is lower than past years but still the highest per capita of any state.

But McCain advisers are hoping that the wave of enthusiasm for Palin's persona not her record, will be what voters want to ride.

McCain and Palin now plan to campaign together through the middle of the week. McCain aides insist they're trying to tap in to their post-Convention excitement, but it does also give Palin a bit more time to study up on foreign policy and other issues before she hits the trail alone.

Dana Bash, CNN, Lee's Summit, Missouri.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: As for Obama and running mate Joe Biden, they went their separate ways. Obama in Michigan, Biden hitting Iowa and Wisconsin, surrogate Hillary Clinton continuing her swing through Florida. Now, all three were talking change and John McCain's new claim that he's the true agent of it.

More on that from "360's" Candy Crowley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: First, a new "it" candidate steals the scene. Now Barack Obama says John McCain is after his signature slogan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: A month ago they were all saying, oh it's experience, experience, experience. Then they chose Palin and they start talking about change, change, change. What happened? What happened?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: In the first survey made up entirely of post-convention numbers CNN's Poll of Poll shows Obama two points behind McCain. It worries some Democratic insiders who did not expect a September dead heat. They want Obama firing on all cylinders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: John McCain says that he is going to tell all those lobbyists in Washington that their days of running Washington are over which sounds pretty good until you discover that seven of his top campaign managers and officials are, guess what, former corporate lobbyists.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Obama is showing a new urgency. His mocking of the Republican ticket in full tilt as he tries to take some of the shine off Palin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: When it came to the bridge to nowhere, she was for it until everybody started raising a fuss about it and she started running for governor and then suddenly she was against it. Do you remember that, for before you were against it?

I mean, you can't just make stuff up. You can't just recreate yourself. You can't just reinvent yourself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: The Obama campaign believes that Palin's bounce is a short-term thing but there is concern by other Democrats that her appeal to so-called Wal-Mart moms, suburban working women with children, swing voters is real.

In part, the Obama campaign hopes the media will play a big role in revealing the candidate they think will be less appealing when better known.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) DELAWARE VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: What she says would appear to be some fairly extreme views. Her views on everything from global warming to other things if they are as presented, they're pretty far out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Camp Obama is also looking for an assist from some of its female surrogates and Hillary Clinton was out campaigning today, but she seemed unwilling to play. This is as direct as it got.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NEW YORK: No way, no how, no McCain, no Palin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: And no way, said a Clinton aide that she will go woman to woman with Palin. This, Clinton told the crowd, is about as Republicans versus Democrats.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Candy, so what did the Obama folks make of these polls now showing McCain at least dead even or up slightly?

CROWLEY: They pretty much dismiss them and say, listen, this is about electoral votes. We are watching these battleground states, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Iowa, Missouri. That's where they are looking at the polls and they say they see a much clearer path for Obama to get to 270 electoral votes than for McCain.

COOPER: All right Candy, stick around.

We're actually going to look at that electoral map shortly and we're also going to talk with Candy and others in the "Strategy Session," David Gergen and Jeffrey Toobin are going to join us.

You can weigh in yourself, go to ac360.com. I'll be blogging and you can also see Erica Hill's live web cast during the commercial breaks. Then, later tonight, exploring Sarah Palin's faith and her churches. Just as we did with John McCain and Barack Obama, what if anything, does her faith have to do with her politics. An exclusive interview with governor Palin's former pastor.

Also the very latest on hurricane Ike now hammering Cuba. We'll see where and when it may come to America.

That and more tonight on "360."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I'll keep taxes low and cut them where I can. My opponent will raise them. I'll open new markets to our goods and services. And my opponent will close them. I'll cut government spending. He'll increase it. He has the most liberal voting record as anybody in the United States senate.

OBAMA: When John McCain, with a straight face, stands up and says, I'm going to change things, at the same time that he says that he agreed with George Bush 90 percent of the time, you know, it's pretty hard to believe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Taxes, tug of war over change versus more of the same. The McCain surge and Palintology, as in the Sarah Palin effect, all of them making news tonight.

Let's talk strategy and campaign tactics with Candy Crowley, and CNN's senior analyst, David Gergen and Jeffrey Toobin.

David, John McCain is now saying he and Palin are the agents of change, essentially adopting Obama's message. By doing that does he basically sort of nullify the change thing and make this into a race about personality rather than issues?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He's largely erased Barack Obama's advantage on change. He hasn't caught up with him yet but it's a much narrower margin.

And I do think that he's become the story. He and Palin have become the story. They have the momentum. And either from Obama's point of view, either the McCain/Palin express has to slow down and sort of fade a little bit or Obama has to take it away from him.

And you know, Anderson, history goes both ways on this. We've had a couple of times in the recent past when somebody has surged ahead after their convention, you know, Bush 41 and also Bill Clinton, you know, moved up to the top and didn't look back after that.

We've also had examples to go the other way. Jimmy Carter 1980 came out with a bounce out of his convention, lost it, lost the election. And also, you know, Al Gore came out with a big bounce in 2000 and lost his lead. So it could go either way on this. And that's the drama of the next two or three weeks. McCain has a surge now with Palin. Can he hold it?

COOPER: Candy, David said it's working. We actually have poll numbers that shows how McCain has cut Obama's advantage on who voters think are going to bring change. Let's put those up.

How is the Obama campaign countering? I mean are they -- do they have a plan to counter that? And once someone else adopts your message, what do you do?

CROWLEY: You heard it. You try to grab it back. I mean that was Obama today. It was all about, you know, McCain/Bush, McCain/Bush, the same thing. This is not change, it's not change when you haven't done anything about the economy, it's not change when you haven't done anything about global warming, it's not change, and on and on and on.

So they are hitting this very hard. You know you heard the lobbyist bite in the piece. He has former lobbyists in his campaign. This is not a campaign that can change, I'm changed. And I think, you know, what's interesting is, this was the mantra throughout the entire day.

So they clearly know in the Obama campaign that he's been able to kind of usurp that mantle and bring change and the maverick thing. I mean it clearly galls them at this point that McCain has been able to step in and take over the change banner or at least kind of pull even with Obama on it.

COOPER: Jeffrey, it's interesting, too, and there's so much interest in Sarah Palin, it seems to go beyond facts. People -- I mean, if you look at facts, for instance, the bridge to nowhere, she says she told Congress, no, thank you very much. But she actually supported and you can actually -- we have this video from her when she was running for governor in a debate. She was asked, if she tried to stop the bridge to nowhere project -- we'll watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: I'm not going to stand in the way of progress, that our Congressional delegation and the position of strength that they have right now, they're making those efforts for the state of Alaska to build up our infrastructure. I would not get in the way of progress of this project or other projects that they're working so hard on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Earlier we saw her attacking Obama on earmark, she actually asked for more earmarks per capita than any other state. Do the facts matter in the support for Sarah Palin?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Well, you know, I think it's our job to point out the facts. I mean it's not our job to tell people who to vote for, but I sat here agog listening to her attacking Obama on earmarks when she hired a consultant to get earmarks. Now, that's not disqualifying for the presidency but it is contradictory.

COOPER: That was when she was a Mayor of --

TOOBIN: Yes, and, you know, same thing with the bridge to nowhere. There is a tremendous amount of excitement now about her because she's such a novelty.

I also think people need to take a deep breath and relax. We're still -- these polls deal with the immediate aftermath of the convention. I think people are going to take -- she's going to start giving a few interviews and we'll see if she's as popular two weeks from now as she is now.

COOPER: David, what do you think is at the core of the popularity? I mean does it go to sort of a cultural divide in this country? I mean is this sort of the cultural wars in the political process?

GERGEN: The Republicans have very successfully reignited the culture wars which have been sort of bubbling under the surface for a long time.

But you know, Anderson, there is a quality about this. There was an interesting piece in "The Financial Times" today by a columnist named Clyde Crook.

And he said that the Democrats suffer to a degree because they pass all these programs for people at the lower end of the scale but in fact there are a good number of Democrats while passing the programs also look upon those people at the lower end of the scale, especially sort of white rural Americans, with some disdain. That they do look down upon them and there is this kind of resentment factor on the part of those rural people.

If you're an Evangelical there was a long period of time when you felt as if you were being treated like a second class citizen in this country.

So the truth is that even at pointing out facts, which I think is a journalist's responsibility, the Democrats have to sort of think through, too, and I think Obama's trying to do this. How do you relate, how do you show respect for people who are not like you and convince them that you really are on their side. And that is a big challenge for the Democrats in the days ahead.

TOOBIN: Is it really in the Republican's interest, David, to reignite the culture wars which are chiefly about abortion, where the Democratic position, the pro choice position is by far the more popular one? Why is the culture war a winner for the Republicans?

GERGEN: The culture war, Jeffrey, is a winner in this sense. If you can do this in a way that is sort of being quietly done -- it's not up on the big radar screen -- that women in the suburbs feel really frightened by it, it makes a huge difference in energizing and getting people in more rural areas, small town America not only to vote. You know a lot of those people were going to vote against Obama, now they're voting for McCain/Palin. And those people are now starting to volunteer. They want to put yard signs up. They want to start to go out and help get out the vote.

That's what Karl Rove was a master of doing, of getting people in small town America, rural America and Evangelicals and others to volunteer. Obama has got this large army of people who've been doing this now for some weeks and it may be his hidden, his greatest hidden asset.

But the McCain people are trying to catch up and doing that pretty darn successfully with Sarah Palin.

COOPER: I just want -- ask all of you very briefly, hypothetical, if Hillary Clinton had been selected vice president nominee for Barack Obama do you think Sarah Palin would have gotten the nod from John McCain, David?

GERGEN: No, not at all.

COOPER: Jeffrey?

TOOBIN: I think it's possible actually. I think she might have been the trump card that McCain wanted to play anyway.

COOPER: Candy?

CROWLEY: I think it's possible. I mean is -- you know, it's the "X" factor that you never quite know about. But, yes, I mean I think what McCain was looking at was tapping another white lawmaker, male, and if he had picked Clinton, I think he would have gone for a female. I think that's entirely possible, yes.

COOPER: All right, we're going to leave it there as a hypothetical. David Gergen, Jeffrey Toobin, Candy Crowley, thanks.

Still ahead on "360," selling charcoal for cold hard cash, it is illegal it's also wiping out acres of forest in Kenya. A battle between man and nature that's more complicated than it sounds.

Next on "360."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tonight's "Planet in Peril" report takes us to Kenya in east central Africa, where man and nature are locked in a battle that nature is losing. When acres of trees can be sold for cold hard cash that can help send your child to school the choice is pretty simple, but that choice is also causing devastation.

Here's CNN's David McKenzie.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Massai call it the "Blessed Valley," but this place is cursed. Indigenous trees can take 60 years to grow to this size, minutes to fell. With pastures here trading herding for the illegal charcoal trade, these sparse forests are dying. For James and his family, it was an obvious shift.

JAMES ILANET, CHARCOAL MAKER: It's a good business. We cut it and get cash money. So we get money in a various way.

MCKENZIE: This charcoal kiln was made up of 13 trees. It's been here for five days and now it's ready; it still incredibly hot. It can earn these Massai almost $120. Charcoal is big business in Kenya.

But the ultimate costs are huge. In the past four decades, Kenya has seen its forest cover crash from 11 percent to just over one percent due to rampant logging and charcoaling. Poor government regulation and lax law enforcement has encouraged the destruction.

Charcoaling is one of the chief culprits. It is the biggest source of energy in Kenya used for heating and cooking, but almost a fifth of it is wasted.

Now a private company in Nairobi is revolutionizing the industry. Tar dust collects charcoal waste from small vendors to create an entirely new product.

And all of this was made out of waste products.

ELSEN KARSTAD, CHARDUST: Yes, that's right, yes. It is normally just thrown away or blown it into the air.

MCKENZIE: Elsen Karstad and his partners developed a secret recipe for converting dust into briquettes.

KARSTAD: If you're going to start making a rather bad industry good or better, you have to start first with the improving the efficiency.

MCKENZIE: So they sieve, press and dry the charcoal to produce a product that burns longer and helps limit the carbon footprint of the industry. But the real problem remains at its source. Just don't ask these bush-charcoalists to stop; environmental groups and local chiefs have already tried.

That makes you angry that they're telling you to stop?

ILANET: Yes, it's making us angry.

MCKENZIE: The forest's loss is their gain. The youth now can go to school.

In Africa, harnessing natural resources is one way out of poverty. And these trees will provide a future for this generation. But unless energy consumption radically changes in Kenya, the next generation will suffer as the forests continue to disappear.

David McKenzie, CNN, Kenya.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, quick reminder. CNN's award winning "Planet in Peril" returns on December 11 at 9 p.m. Eastern. This season, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Lisa Ling and I travel to the front lines of the worldwide battle between growing populations and natural resources. We uncover some amazing and important stories in our year-long investigation.

We're excited for you to see them.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: That's hurricane Ike battering Cuba where it made landfall as a Cat 3 storm last night damaged or destroyed at least 1,000 homes.

Erica Hill joins us now with the "360 Bulletin." And it looks as if Ike could make landfall in the U.S. later this week, right?

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, that's right Anderson. And in fact we're looking at satellite images. We have some for you that actually show hurricane Ike passing over Cuba. There you see them there.

Forecasters say Ike could make landfall later this week along the mid-Texas coast. There's that projected path. The storm has weakened at this point to a Category 1 hurricane. Waves though as high as 50 feet still battering Cuba; winds near 80 miles-an-hour. No deaths have been reported in Cuba. More than 70 people were killed in Haiti, however.

An incredible story of survival off the central Florida coast. I think we have a video there we go where a 12-year-old and his father spent more than 12 hours treading water overnight in the in the Atlantic; apparently in shark infested waters. Dad had jumped in to save his son who was swept away in a current. Both are in good condition.

And the government bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac welcome news on Wall Street. The DOW rose 290 points to 11,510. The NASDAQ was up nearly 14. The S&P 500 gained 25 points -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Erica.

Here's tonight's "Beat 360" photo, Democratic VP candidate Joe Biden taking a moment out during a speech in Green Bay, Wisconsin. He has his eyes closed there. And here's the caption from our staffer winner Chuck who got a little assist from Joey. "Find a happy place, Joe... a place where Sarah Palin is still a small town mayor and she can't hurt me."

If you think you can do better, go to our web site ac360.com. Click on the "Beat 360" link, send us you're entry. We'll announce the winner at the end of the program. And of course, the winner gets the "Beat 360" t-shirt. It's actually been redesigned a little bit.

Just as we looked at Barack Obama's church and John McCain's religious supporters, coming up, Sarah Palin's church and what, if anything, her religion tell just about her leadership style and what it all means if she's elected VP.

Randi Kaye is "Digging Deeper." Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Palin's current church, the nondenominational Wasilla Bible Church, is also now under the microscope. On August 17th, just days before Palin was asked to run as vice president, the founder of Jews for Jesus, David Brickner, told worshipers terrorist attacks on Israel were God's judgment of Jews who haven't embraced Christianity.

DAVID BRICKNER, JEWS FOR JESUS: Judgment is very real and we see it played out on the pages of the newspapers and on the television. When Palestinians from east Jerusalem took a bulldozer and went plowing through a score of cars, killing numbers of people, judgment, you can't miss it.

COOPER: The church, the time, do those words really reflect her views? We're digging deeper -- ahead on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think God's will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built. So pray for that. But I can do my job there in developing our national resources. But really all of that stuff doesn't do any good if the people of Alaska's hearts isn't right with God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Sarah Palin asking members of her former church to pray for an Alaskan pipeline she wants built. The video was shot in June last year. It's big on YouTube right now. It's got a lot of people wondering about Palin's church and the role of religion in her political decision-making.

As you no doubt remember, we looked extensively at Barack Obama's church and pastor and examined John McCain's religious supporters as well. Palin has made her strong faith a major part of her appeal. So tonight a look at her religious background and how it may or may not shape her politics.

Digging deeper, Randi Kaye has this exclusive report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sarah Palin calls herself, quote, "a Bible believing Christian, period." What she doesn't mention is this. Palin spent most of her life attending a Pentecostal church which may have shaped her beliefs, if not her politics. Palin's spiritual journey, from her teenage years until 2002, was mainly at the Wasilla Assembly of God, a Pentecostal church where congregants say they speak in tongues.

CAROLINE SPANGLER, MEMBER, ASSEMBLY OF GOD: When the spirit comes on you, you utter things that nobody else can understand. Only God understands what is coming out of our mouths.

KAYE: Tim McGraw was pastor at Wasilla Assembly of God when Palin belonged there.

TIM MCGRAW, PASTOR, WASILLA ASSEMBLY OF GOD: I don't think everybody understands how -- why it is that humans would react the way they do if they get touched by God. And I think that the Pentecostal church is very familiar with that dynamic.

KAYE: McGraw says he never saw Palin speak in tongues. He says members also practice faith healing and believe in the End Times, a violent upheaval in the world that will bring the Second Coming of Jesus.

MCGRAW: Sarah didn't -- she wasn't taught to look for one particular sign, one cataclysmic kind of single sign. She just knew that, like every Christian does, that God is sovereign and that he is in control.

KAYE: When Palin delivered this speech at the Wasilla Assembly of God in June, it got little notice.

PALIN: We can work together to make sure God's will be done here.

KAYE: But she suggested people prayed that the troops in Iraq are following God's will.

PALIN: Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right also for this country; that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending them out on a task that is from God. That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God's plan.

KAYE: Neither Palin nor the campaign will say much about her faith except that she has deep religious conviction. But recordings like these have many wondering if her beliefs could impact policy decisions. Her former pastor says he has no doubt she'll turn to her faith in office.

MCGRAW: Since her view of the world includes a God that loves us and can be accessed by us, it would be logical for her to frame her world with that possibility in it.

KAYE: McGraw says Palin attended advanced classes to strengthen her Pentecostal faith and that he prayed with her to become a better leader.

MCGRAW: What Sarah attempted to do was to apply everyday wisdom to her assignment as a leader in our local government. Proverbs out of the Bible, applied common sense, but I would call it wisdom, to wise leadership.

KAYE: Palin's spokeswoman told me the governor doesn't mix religion with government business.

MEGHAN STAPLETON, PALIN SPOKESWOMAN: I know that she does pray for things, but she doesn't bring that to her office. She prays for things.

KAYE: But at Wasilla Assembly of God, she called on her audience to help fulfill Alaska's destiny and her mission to build a $30 billion natural gas pipeline here.

PALIN: I think God's will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built. So pray for that. But I can do my job there in developing our natural resources. But really, all of that stuff doesn't do any good if the people of Alaska's heart isn't right with God.

KAYE: In Alaska, Palin's spokesperson explains it this way: "Of course, they're all praying, doing everything possible to get the pipeline. What's the big deal?"

STAPLETON: I think we're all pray for a pipeline. I think every single one of us is praying for the pipeline, because that's the future of this state. It's the future of the nation.

KAYE: Palin had been a believer since she was a young girl. Her bio says she was baptized in Alaska's Beaver Lake and by age 12 had enrolled in church camps and Bible schools. She learned from the Pentecostals she can be directly moved by God.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: At Sarah Palin's current church, some recent remarks from the founder of Jews for Jesus has turned a few heads. Just ahead, Randi Kaye digs deeper, with an exclusive look at some unusual sermons at Sarah Palin's former place of worship and also her current church.

The question is, do those sermons actually have anything to do with what Sarah Palin actually believes? It was a visiting pastor who made the Jews for Jesus remarks. We'll explore that, ahead.

Plus, Sin City and an unusual twist for O.J. Simpson as jury selection gets under way for his robbery and kidnapping trial.

You're watching 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Governor Sarah Palin speaking out from the pulpit in June last year. Just as we examined the church and the pastor of Barack Obama and the religious supporters of John McCain, we continue our look at Sarah Palin's church and her beliefs and how her faith may or may not play a role in her politics.

Once again, CNN's Randi Kaye digging deeper with this exclusive report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE: For more than two decades, Sarah Palin was a practicing Pentecostal. Yet, the McCain campaign now says Palin doesn't consider herself Pentecostal. She hasn't talked about her faith since joining the Republican ticket.

Is she playing down her Pentecostal roots? Her former Pentecostal pastor, Tim McGraw.

MCGRAW: I think there may be issues of belief that could be misunderstood or played upon by people that don't know what we taught, was God is the creator of the world, that he can be accessed by simple conversation and prayer. That he has the highest plans and purposes for their life.

KAYE: Palin left the church six years ago to join a more mainstream nondenominational church.

We don't know why she left the church, but we do know the senior pastor from her former church, Wasilla Assembly of God, had preached some unusual sermons, including one about how Alaska is destined to serve as a shelter for Christians at the End Times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe Alaska is one of the refuge states.

KAYE: Many Pentecostals believe we are approaching the end of days, when Jesus will return and only believers will be saved.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God has a destiny for the state of Alaska.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of keys of God's plan for Alaska, the United States, and the entire world.

KAYE: In church, in 2004, Pastor Ed Cowman (ph) focused on presidential candidate John Kerry. From the pulpit, he questioned the salvation of people who voted for the Democrat for president.

The church directed us to a statement on its Web site, saying the pastor was joking when he suggested Kerry supporters would go to hell. "We do acknowledge in hindsight that it was careless, and we do apologize for that. This statement is not written as a defense but as a clarification."

Palin's current church, the non-denominational Wasilla Bible Church, is now also under the microscope. On August 17, just days before Palin was asked to run for vice president, the founder of Jews for Jesus, David Brickner, told worshipers, terrorist attacks on Israel were God's judgment of Jews who haven't embraced Christianity.

BRICKNER: Judgment is very real and we see it played out on the pages of the newspapers and on the television. When Palestinians from East Jerusalem took a bulldozer and went plowing through a score of cars, killing numbers of people, judgment, you can't miss it.

KAYE: Palin's new pastor, Larry Kroon, agreed with Brickner's views.

Would David Brickner be invited to speak here again after making those comments?

LARRY KROON, PASTOR, WASILLA BIBLE CHURCH: Yes.

KAYE: Yes?

KROON: Yes. He would be.

KAYE: The McCain campaign has confirmed Palin was in attendance for that sermon, but Palin's spokeswoman told me Brickner's comments are not a reflection of her views.

STAPLETON: I know that the governor without a doubt is pro- Israel.

KAYE: Pastor Larry Kroon wouldn't comment on Palin's beliefs.

How do you think a person's faith influences them or shapes them and their decisions?

KROON: You're talking to a real core aspect of who they are and how they see things, and they will, I think -- I think that's part of how they'll make decisions and react.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Randy joins us now on the phone -- Randi.

KAYE: Anderson, I guess the real question is how will Sarah Palin make decisions, if she does become vice president? And if the past, really, is any indication of the future, as governor of Alaska, she did not push her socially-conservative agenda.

But some of the Democrats here say that's because she was too tied up with the oil industry and trying to build the pipeline and that, if she doesn't make it to Washington, that she will turn her attention towards abortion and some of these issues.

COOPER: What's been the McCain campaign response to all the YouTube videos coming out on Sarah Palin's church?

KAYE: It hasn't been very happy about it, Anderson. They released a statement late today, certainly trying to clarify those comments about the Iraq war, staying that she has saying that the war will be God's plan. She is not asserting that it is God's plan.

Also saying -- calling the statement an incredibly humble statement and saying that the campaign stands by it 100 percent.

COOPER: All right. Randi Kaye, thanks very much from Anchorage tonight. Earlier in the program we were discussing Sarah Palin's record concerning the so-called Bridge to Nowhere. She says on the trail that she opposed it told Congress no thanks.

As we mentioned, she actually supported the bridge while running for governor. But I'm not sure we made clear enough that she later changed her position and opposed it. The facts matter and those are the facts.

Coming up on 360, same O.J., different crime. Jury selection is underway in a new O.J. trial. In this one he's charged with armed robbery and kidnapping. Just ahead, all the bizarre twists and turns of the case so far.

And a personal victory of sorts, well, not really, actually. Just a conversation with Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, at the Republican convention, when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: "Crime & Punishment" tonight, a familiar face, a familiar setting; O.J. Simpson in a courtroom. Jury selection began today in Vegas. Simpson's charged with armed robbery and kidnapping. It is a strange case, to say the least, involving a hotel-room showdown with shady characters, sports memorabilia and an audio recording of the whole thing.

Our resident expert in all things Simpson, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin joins us now for more.

So, the robbery was recorded. And I try to play it for some of us who may have forgotten some of the bizarreness. Just listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O.J. SIMPSON, CHARGED WITH ARMED ROBBERY: Don't let nobody out of here. (EXPLETIVE DELETED), you think you can steal my (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and sell it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

SIMPSON: Don't let nobody out of here. (EXPLETIVE DELETED), you think you can steal my (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Seems like so long ago. How solid a case is this?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This seems like a very peculiar case. Remember, this is a dispute over memorabilia, or to use the technical term, the crap that was supposedly for sale. And O.J. did have some claim to it.

The only real issue in the case, as I see it, is that somebody brought guns into that room. And whether O.J. authorized the guns or asked that the guns be used, that to me is the only issue in the case that makes this a real criminal case. Because otherwise, it just seems like a bunch of jerks screaming at each other in a hotel.

COOPER: And the fact that there is this tape, I mean, it -- it seems like a set-up to some degree. Does that play -- I mean, would that mitigate what happened?

TOOBIN: Right. And the idea that the alleged victim taped it in advance suggested that he knew something was up. None of these characters are at all admirable, respectable or even perhaps believable.

The real question and it started to get into it in jury selection today is, is the jury in Las Vegas going to punish him forgetting acquitted in the murder case?

COOPER: And his defense attorneys tried -- wanted to ask or asked the judge if they could ask the perspective jurors if they thought O.J. was guilty of murder.

TOOBIN: Right. Do you think O.J. Simpson is a murderer? That's what they asked. The judge -- the judge said no. But between the written questionnaire and the questions she is allowing, they're going to be able to get a pretty good sense of who -- of whether the jurors are nursing prejudices.

COOPER: How is she going to find somebody who doesn't have an opinion on that?

TOOBIN: You don't have to have no -- you don't have to have not heard of the O.J. case. But you just -- you can't be nursing a grudge. You can't have made up your mind. So it's...

COOPER: For prosecutors, what's the biggest difficulty?

TOOBIN: I think the difficulty is to prove that a crime took place at all, that this wasn't just a bunch of crazy guys fighting over some garbage in a hotel room.

I mean, it really is hard to see this as much of a case, unless you believe that the guns were really an important part of it. Because, if they were just screaming at each other over this, you know, this memorabilia, I mean, why should that be a criminal case?

So I think the hardest thing is going to be for the prosecutors to say, "Look, a crime took place. These people are genuinely victims. And you've got to convict O.J."

COOPER: So if O.J. knew about the guns that goes badly for him?

TOOBIN: Very badly, yes.

COOPER: But if he didn't know about the guns...

TOOBIN: If he didn't know about the guns then he was just going to -- he has at least an arguable claim that he thought the stuff was his. If he's just going to the hotel room and yelling, "Give it back." COOPER: Arguing over stuff.

TOOBIN: Including -- including the best piece of stuff is the suit he was wearing when he was acquitted. I have a hard time believing there's a big market for that. But, hey, what do I know?

COOPER: Well, the fact that he still has it shows that maybe it's not that big a market.

TOOBIN: Because he sold a lot of things.

COOPER: That's right. Jeff Toobin, thank you very much.

"The Shot" is next, my run-in with Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, at the Republican convention. That's ahead. Triumph is the one with the cigar.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Time now for "The Shot," Erica. And what would a political convention be without Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog? Now, I ran into the sarcastic, vulgar and funny hand puppet from "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" during the RNC. Here's what happened. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERT SMIGEL, PUPPETEER FOR TRIUMPH THE INSULT COMIC DOG: Now, Anderson Cooper. Oh, yes. Please. Sorry. I did watch because I'm on NBC. I watched Barack Obama's speech on MSNBC.

COOPER: You were the one.

TRIUMPH: I don't know. Maybe I was. But I was very impressed with it.

COOPER: Really?

TRIUMPH: I thought there was one especially beautiful moment when Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews climaxed at the same time.

COOPER: Ew.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: Good answer. Yes.

Hysterical. Have you met Triumph before? Do you two go way back?

COOPER: I have met Triumph many times before.

Yes, I'm not sure how we initially got involved, Triumph and I. But...

HILL: That will be a story in itself. COOPER: Yes, Robert Smigel is the guy behind Triumph. And it's hard -- you never know if you're supposed to look at Triumph or you're supposed to look at...

HILL: That was going to be my question for you. Because clearly, there's -- I mean, we don't ever see them in the shot, but there's somebody holding the puppet behind the camera.

COOPER: Right. It's Robert Smigel. And -- and I mean, he's brilliantly funny. How he thinks of all of this stuff on the fly is pretty amazing.

HILL: It was hysterical, the whole clip that they had on the show. I love some of the questions he had.

COOPER: I was proud of the passing the note idea.

HILL: I thought the passing the note was very clever. But "I poop on you?" Really?

COOPER: Richard was talking, and I thought I'd use the time to just pass the note.

HILL: But why did you feel the need to say that to Triumph?

COOPER: That's what Triumph always used to say. I don't know if Triumph still says that. That was Triumph's big thing.

HILL: Gotcha.

COOPER: Yes.

HILL: I'd like to throw it back at him.

COOPER: I try.

You can see all the most recent "Shots," much more on our Web site, ac360.com.

Time now for our "Beat 360" winner. Drum roll, please. Roll the cheesy music. There you go. Our daily challenge to viewers to come up with a better caption than the one we can think of.

So tonight's picture, vice-presidential candidate for the Democrats, Joe Biden -- there he is -- pausing for a moment during a speech in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

So here's the caption from our staff writer, Chuck, who got an assist from Joey. We needed two people to come up with this one. "Find a happy place, Joe, a place where Sarah Palin is still a small- town mayor and she can't hurt me."

HILL: You know it's a rough day when even Joey can't win on his own. He's like the king of "Beat 360." I mean that in a good way.

COOPER: He had a bunch of them that were all funny, but they were all kind of harsh.

Our viewer winner is Dave from Vancouver, Canada. His caption: "I'm thinking positive, and I'm Biden my time."

HILL: Clever.

COOPER: Hey, try the veal. Biden my time, get it?

HILL: Yes, yes, yes.

COOPER: Thank you.

HILL: OK. Drum roll again.

COOPER: Dave, congratulations. Your "Beat 360" is on the way.

HILL: Wait. I got a question about the shirt. I thought you said earlier in the show it had been redesigned. That looks like the old shirt to me.

COOPER: It's shrunken, the "I Beat 360" is...

HILL: It's smaller now?

COOPER: Yes. It's smaller now.

HILL: Just made it bigger so that you can see it at home?

COOPER: Yes. It looks a bit -- that's probably the same graphic. But the newer one, it's just more manageable. Before it was a little like...

HILL: There was a lot going on there.

COOPER: ... Right Says Fred, like Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Was that what the name of that? Frankie Goes to Hollywood or whatever? Anyway...

HILL: Right Said Fred, wasn't that the "I'm Too Sexy"? Aren't those the "I'm Too Sexy" people?

COOPER: Yes.

HILL: That should be Triumph's theme song or something. Yes.

COOPER: Yes.

HILL: Yes.

COOPER: Can we move on now?

HILL: If you need to.

COOPER: Are we done? Are we done?

HILL: If you're done. If you're done talking. COOPER: That does it for this edition of "360." Thanks for watching. "LARRY KING: starts right now.

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