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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Sarah Palin Speaks Out; Hurricane Ike Targets Texas

Aired September 11, 2008 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: A very big day in politics, a solemn day for the country, a terrifying day for a lot of people where I am standing. We are in Houston tonight, with Hurricane Ike bearing down.
And breaking news, a slew of grim updates and warnings of just how bad it may get here for the Houston/Galveston area, the strongest language we have ever heard from the National Weather Service, tens of thousands of people already on the road. The National Weather Service is now warning that the entire Galveston shorefront, as well as the barrier islands, could be covered by 15 to 22 feet of water, with the worth flooding expected on bay side.

Now, people are also being told to leave the most vulnerable parts of Houston, the warnings grim. The language is stark -- and I quote -- "Persons not heeding evacuation orders in single-family one- or two-story homes will face certain death -- certain death" -- Ike now expected to make landfall late tomorrow, early Saturday.

But, as we always expect, hurricane-force winds several hours in advance.

Let's check quickly now with Chad Myers, what's the -- what's the latest?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's still about 400 miles away from you right now. It is still moving to the northwest. And that's the good news. It is still moving. If it would have stalled, it would have stopped, it could gain some strength, maybe some more time in the Gulf, although it has kind of broken itself a little bit tonight.

That's slightly helpful. That little bit of breakup there may mean that it's not going to get to that Category 3 monster event. That would be for Galveston. But it's still going to have a devastating storm surge, because it has been blowing this way for so long. It has been a low in here for so long. And as the water comes in, with this bubble of water, it is still going to inundate the Galveston area. That is the problem.

It could turn left, and it could turn right. You are going to have to wake up tomorrow morning to see. We will have another update for you at 11:00. I'm sure it's going to come in early, Anderson. It always does. So, maybe 10:50, 10:55, as soon as I get it, you will have it.

COOPER: All right. We will check in with Chad throughout this hour.

Also tonight, Governor Sarah Palin making a very big stir with what she said today on ABC News in her first interview since being named John McCain's running mate nearly two weeks ago. Does she have what it takes to be vice president or even president?

Listen to her answer the questions tonight. Decide for yourself.

The interview aired seven years to the day since the 9/11 attacks. This afternoon, Barack Obama and John McCain set aside their differences and stood together at ground zero. Then, tonight, they traveled uptown to Columbia University, appearing back to back at the National Service Forum that just wrapped up. We will be bringing their words in-depth from both candidates.

But, again, today, it was a running mate, Sarah Palin, who continued to dominate headlines and raise eyebrows, this time on the issues, national security and foreign policy, questioned for the first time since joining the McCain ticket by Charlie Gibson of ABC News.

He begins with a central concern: Is she ready? Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC NEWS)

CHARLES GIBSON, ABC NEWS: When McCain asked you to take the number-two spot on the ticket, for a moment, did you think, no?

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I did not. I thought yes, right off the bat. When he offered me the position as his running mate, the first thing I said to him was, "If you really think that I can help the ticket, if you really think that I can help this country, absolutely, I want to do this with you."

GIBSON: And you didn't say to yourself, am I experienced enough? Am I ready?

PALIN: I didn't hesitate, no. I...

GIBSON: Doesn't that take some hubris?

PALIN: I answered him yes because I have the confidence in that readiness, and knowing that you can't blink.

You have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission, the mission that we're on, reform of this country, and victory in the war. You can't blink. So, I didn't blink then, even, when asked to run as his running mate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Digging deeper now with CNN's John King, Candy Crowley, CNN senior political analyst and former presidential adviser David Gergen.

So, John, we just heard Palin talk about whether she considered herself ready. How do you think she did in the interview? JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, some are saying, you know, she could have answered the question with a little more humility.

What, is she supposed to say no? The biggest thing the McCain campaign wanted out of this interview was certainly, poise, direct answers. And, on that question, she looked Charlie Gibson straight in the eye.

There's a lot of questions tonight about some of the other answers in that interview. But if your out there and your threshold question is, is she ready and how did she answer the question, in the McCain camp, they are happy tonight.

I will tell you, Anderson, in the Obama campaign tonight, there's other things in the interview they would like to take issue with, but they have a self-declared truce on 9/11 between the campaigns, so it appears they will wait until the morning.

COOPER: Do we know what those issues are?

KING: For one, they think she did not know what the Bush doctrine was when she was asked by Charlie Gibson to explain or to ask whether or not she agreed with the Bush doctrine, which is that, if you see a threat overseas, you can act preemptively to deal with it. You don't have to wait until somebody acts against the United States.

In the Obama campaign, they are insisting that she simply did not know what it was when asked by Charlie Gibson.

Let's play that bite right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC NEWS)

GIBSON: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?

PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?

GIBSON: The Bush -- well, what do you interpret it to be?

PALIN: His world view?

GIBSON: No, the Bush doctrine, annunciated in September 2002, before the Iraq War.

PALIN: I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell-bent on destroying our nation.

There have been blunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made. And, with new leadership -- and that's the beauty of American elections, of course, and democracy -- is with new leadership comes opportunity to do things better.

GIBSON: The Bush doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a preemptive strike against any country that we think is going to attack us.

Do you agree with that?

PALIN: Charlie, if there is legitimate and enough intelligence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people, we have every right to defend our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: David Gergen, do you think she knew what the Bush doctrine was? And do you think it matters?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, she didn't know what the Bush doctrine was. But, Anderson, I don't think most people know what the Bush doctrine is or was.

You know, we don't normally talk in the press -- I must say, on this one, I'm sympathetic to her, because we don't ordinarily use that a shorthand. We haven't in a long time. We talk about the preemptive doctrine of George Bush, but we don't ordinarily, you know, I think as citizens or as journalists, go around talking about -- quote -- "the Bush doctrine."

So, on that, I have to say, I don't think that was -- I think it would be unfair to conclude that she (INAUDIBLE) to the question.

COOPER: Overall, David, how do you think she did?

GERGEN: Well, I'm not a judge of -- as much as John King, Anderson, because I haven't seen the full transcript or tapes. I have just had conversations about it.

In one sense, one fundamental sense, the fact that we don't have big headlines tonight of Palin stepping in it, for the McCain campaign, is probably pretty good news. But I haven't seen the actual tapes. I don't know -- you know, you do need to see body language and hesitancy and that sort of thing.

COOPER: Yes.

GERGEN: But from the point of view...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Yes. It's different reading a transcript and actually seeing it.

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: Yes.

COOPER: Candy, Palin was also asked about the situation between Russia and Georgia and whether Georgia should be invited to join NATO.

Here's her response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIBSON: Do you believe the United States should try to restore Georgian sovereignty over South Ossetia and Abkhazia?

PALIN: First off, we're going to continue good relations with Saakashvili there.

I was able to speak with him the other day and giving him my commitment, as John McCain's running mate, that we will be committed to Georgia.

And we have got to keep an eye on Russia. For Russia to have exerted such pressure, in terms of invading a smaller democratic country, unprovoked, is unacceptable. And we have to keep...

GIBSON: You believe unprovoked?

PALIN: I do believe unprovoked. And we have got to keep our eyes on Russia. Under the leadership there...

GIBSON: What insight into Russian actions, particularly in the last couple of weeks, does the proximity to the state give you?

PALIN: They're our next door neighbors. And you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.

GIBSON: You favor putting Georgia and Ukraine into NATO?

PALIN: Ukraine, definitely, yes, yes, and Georgia. If Putin thinks otherwise -- obviously, he thinks otherwise, but...

GIBSON: And, under the NATO treaty, wouldn't we then have to go to war if Russia went into Georgia?

PALIN: Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement, when you are a NATO ally, is, if another country is attacked, you are going to be expected to be called upon and help.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Candy, it's interesting.

This interview by Democrats who don't like her will be seen one way, by Republicans who like her will be seen another. How do you think it's seen by independents?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, again, I say -- you know, I say this a lot, but the fact of the matter is, I think independents -- and, in fact, most voters -- are looking at the top of the ticket.

I also think that a lot is going to depend on how this is sold and how far the Obama campaign pushes it, because she did go on to say, it doesn't have to be war. It can be economic sanctions. It can be political sanctions. It can be diplomatic sanctions. And she was perfectly right in her assessment of what it means to be a member of NATO. You are in it all for one and one for all. So -- but if it gets played as and pushed as, boy, she's -- you know, she -- remember, they're trying to frame McCain in the Obama camp as someone who is too quick to go to war, someone who is too anxious about using military force. If they can sort of fit this into that general structure, they will be happy to do so.

COOPER: We're going to have a lot more ahead tonight from our panel, from Sarah Palin.

Also the latest bulletins on Hurricane Ike.

The blog is open as well. Join the conversation, AC360.com. You can also see Erica Hill's live Webcast during our commercial breaks.

Up next, though, Sarah Palin seeing her son off to Iraq, answering questions tonight about her grasp of the mission, and whether, in fact, she thinks it is a mission from God.

And, all through the evening, updates on Ike. We're expecting a new bulletin from the National Hurricane Center shortly. We are going to bring that to you, any late developments from the monster storm taking aim at Galveston and Houston.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: That's Governor Palin earlier today at the deployment ceremony of her 19-year-old Track, who is heading to Iraq. Senator Joe Biden's son, Beau, will also be serving this country there.

It's Palin who is making headlines today with her first interview with the news media, Charlie Gibson of ABC News asking the questions, and focused on Palin's experience and foreign policy views. He also asked about her comments she had made saying that U.S. troops in Iraq were being sent on a task from God.

Here's what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC NEWS)

GIBSON: You said recently in your old church, "Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIBSON: Are we fighting a holy war? PALIN: The reference there is a repeat of Abraham Lincoln's words, when he said -- first, he suggested, never presume to know what God's will is.

And I would never presume to know God's will or to speak God's words. But what Abraham Lincoln had said -- and that's a repeat in my comments -- was, let us not pray that God is on our side, in a war, or any other time. But let us pray that we are on God's side.

That's what that comment was all about, Charlie.

GIBSON: But, then, are you sending your son on a task that is from God?

PALIN: I don't know if the task is from God, Charlie.

What I know is that my son has made a decision. I am so proud of his independent and strong decision he has made, what he decided to do, in serving for the right reasons, in serving something greater than self, and not choosing a real easy path, where he could be more comfortable and certainly safer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So, did she change her mind? Did she answer the question?

Joining me tonight for our "Strategy Session," Republican strategist Bay Buchanan and CNN contributor and Democratic National Committee member Robert Zimmerman.

Robert, what about that? Did -- was that a new answer from her? Did she answer -- ask -- answer the question?

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, ultimately she really didn't just -- she didn't deal with the issue. She explained her statement in church.

But, you know, I -- I certainly respect the power of faith, but that's not a strategy to base our foreign policy on. It's not a strategy to go to war. It doesn't provide armament for our soldiers in battle or protect them when they come home with health care.

And I think, truly, the sad aspect of her interview, what was most disappointing, is that she failed to discuss how in fact a McCain/Palin foreign policy will differ from the Bush administration, the new initiatives they would take.

And I think that ultimately speaks to the fact that she represents the exact extension, four more years of the Bush administration's failed foreign policy.

BAY BUCHANAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don't think...

COOPER: Bay Buchanan, on that specific answer, how do you think she did? Did she -- did she answer the question? BUCHANAN: Oh, sure she did. It was an excellent answer.

And I think she was very natural, very confident, and you could really see that she felt this. She's sending a son overseas. Of course, she wants God to be watching over, and she wants to be on God's side, and she wants to think that the lord is going to be there right with him and all of our brave young men and women that are overseas right now.

This is just the words of somebody who is very deeply committed to their faith, and wants to make certain, and wants to pray that the lord is watching over us, and as well as this country.

ZIMMERMAN: But, Bay -- but, Bay, she's not running to be reverend in chief.

BUCHANAN: No.

ZIMMERMAN: We all pray for our soldiers. We all pray for them to come home safely and for them to be successful.

Her responsibility is to protect our soldiers in battle with a plan that is going to help us fight the war on terror, and also to bring them back with proper health care and protection. And we're not getting...

BUCHANAN: And she answered...

ZIMMERMAN: And she didn't even address that.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: She answered every single...

(CROSSTALK)

ZIMMERMAN: Nor did address any substantive issue.

BUCHANAN: She answered every single question.

COOPER: Let's take a look at a question that -- let's take a look at another question that Gibson asked her about her experiences abroad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIBSON: Have you ever traveled outside the country prior to your trip to Kuwait and Germany last year?

PALIN: Canada. Mexico. And, then, yes, that trip that was a trip of a lifetime, to visit our troops in Kuwait and stop and visit our injured soldiers in Germany. That was a trip of a lifetime. And it changed my life.

GIBSON: Have you ever met a foreign head of state?

PALIN: I have not.

And I think, if you go back in history, and if you ask that question of many vice presidents, they may have the same answer that I just gave you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Bay, I think ABC News just did a fact-check. They looked back. The last 30 years, all vice presidents have met a foreign leader. Does that matter?

BUCHANAN: No, it doesn't at all.

Her answer was excellent, Anderson, because it will make Americans feel that much closer to her. She's very real. Sure, she hasn't traveled overseas to meet these foreign leaders, but that's not what Americans are looking for. She's absolutely correct. They want somebody who they relate to, who is hearing them. They're sick and tired of those people in Washington who may know lots of facts and figures and meets lots of people, but fail to respond to the American people's needs.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Wait. Let her answer.

ZIMMERMAN: OK. Excuse me.

BUCHANAN: Go right ahead.

COOPER: Go ahead, Robert.

ZIMMERMAN: OK.

All I was saying, Bay, it's always a danger when we have leaders who know facts and figures. That really does get in the way of setting up policies -- setting up sound policies.

You know, Bay, I appreciate your loyalties to Sarah Palin, but you sound more relieved than you do in fact proud of her answers.

My concern here...

BUCHANAN: Oh, my gosh.

ZIMMERMAN: My concern, Bay, is that, when Sarah Palin acknowledges -- says that she doesn't -- she's not met foreign leaders, like that's a good thing, you know, we made that mistake eight years ago, when George Bush was elected, because he was that likable guy you would want to have over for a barbecue.

(CROSSTALK)

ZIMMERMAN: I'm sorry.

(CROSSTALK) COOPER: You know, I can imagine a lot of folks at home are listening to both of you and saying, you know what? Of course, the Republican is supporting everything Sarah Palin said, and, of course, the Democrat is bashing everything Sarah Palin said.

I just want to ask the flip question.

And I'm going to ask this to both of you.

Bay, was there anything that disappointed you in her answers?

BUCHANAN: No. I think that there's no question, when it...

COOPER: Nothing?

BUCHANAN: No, I am comfortable.

Now, I will tell you what really pleased me. I think that she's obviously coming around to a foreign policy that is obviously John McCain's foreign policy. I disagree with some of that, but it's to be expected. She's right there. She's his vice president.

But I liked the things she distinguished. She said immediate -- an imminent threat. She felt that this idea of going in and attacking another country, if there's an imminent threat. That's very key.

COOPER: All right. So, you -- there -- just in answer to the question, there was nothing you had any problem with, nothing you were a little disappointed with?

BUCHANAN: No. In fact, I thought she was -- no. I thought she was very, very strong and confident.

COOPER: OK.

BUCHANAN: And I think we got through that first interview very welcome.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Robert, let me ask you, was there anything you liked, anything you thought, you know what? She's impressive?

ZIMMERMAN: Yes. And I must tell you, I'm proud to be a Democrat, but I also am capable of thinking independently, as Bay Buchanan is as well.

I was impressed by the fact that she accepted...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I'm sorry. I have lost you.

ZIMMERMAN: Oh. Can you hear me now?

COOPER: Go ahead. Yes. Yes. I have got you. ZIMMERMAN: I was very pleased by the fact that she supported the Barack Obama position, which is that we should, if we see Osama bin Laden within our sights while we're in Pakistan, while we're -- we should cross over in Afghanistan to get him. I think recognizing that's now the military strategy which Barack Obama articulated over a year ago.

COOPER: Bay, was that something that -- that John McCain had been critical of Barack Obama for?

BUCHANAN: I don't -- I don't recall if he was, to be quite honest.

I think that her answer was very solid. She didn't say that it was something that we wanted to do or that we were going to go immediately in there, but I think her answer was very solid. Let's keep everything up on the table here, whatever we have to do to defend this country, but, at the same time, we want to work with people and be allies, and work with them, rather than just show up in their country.

But what is -- everything's on the table if that wasn't going to work.

COOPER: All right.

BUCHANAN: I thought she showed herself to be very strong.

ZIMMERMAN: As a matter of fact, Bay, John McCain did -- as a matter of fact, Bay, John McCain did criticize Barack Obama for suggesting that, if we have bin Laden in our line of fire, we should go after him from Pakistan.

But, in fact, to the credit of our military, they now have made that our foreign policy. And I appreciate Sarah Palin supporting that position.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: We're going to have to leave -- we're going to have to leave it there, Robert Zimmerman, although it was -- you know, the only thing you could find was something that you think agrees with Obama.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: But I will let you both pass on it. You both really didn't answer the question.

ZIMMERMAN: Thanks for the break on that one.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Robert Zimmerman, Bay Buchanan, thank you, as well.

Next on 360: fact-checking the candidates, taking a close look at the strategies they support in Iraq and Afghanistan, what their plans say and what they leave out. That's ahead.

And then bracing for Ike. The message is dire. We just got a warning from the National Weather Service. They're saying, for folks in Galveston in one- and two-story homes, you stay, you die. Certain death, that's the -- their exact words.

New developments of this incredibly dangerous hurricane -- coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We continue with breaking news, the onslaught of Hurricane Ike.

We are in Houston tonight, where residents in nearby Galveston and coastal areas are under a mandatory evacuation order, the threat so serious people in coastal Galveston are being warned by the National Weather Service that, if they don't get out now, and they're in one- or two-story homes, they face certain death.

Severe weather expert Chad Myers is tracking the storm as it takes aim at Texas.

Chad, have you ever heard such firm language from the National Weather Service?

MYERS: I heard a similar statement before Katrina from the Slidell, Louisiana, Weather Service, yes. And the person that wrote it took a -- took a -- well, took a lashing. I will just put it that way.

But I will tell you what. It actually turned out to be very, very close to the truth. So, although maybe somebody had to stick their -- their neck out to make that statement, if it saves some lives, so be it. I mean, that's all it's worth right there.

Look at the size of this thing, though, all the way from Tampa, the first cloud, the way almost over to where you are now, just a thing now just filling up the Gulf of Mexico. So, even if we don't get this thing up to 120-mile-per-hour wind, and it never gets to a Category 3 -- now it looks like it's never going to get to a 4, the size and the scope and the amount of hurricane winds still blowing in the middle here is going to push this surge right onto land.

And this surge is going to be that -- that gradual flooding of Galveston, gradual flooding all the way up Galveston Bay, and that water eventually then gets all the way up into the Houston ship channel and such.

And some of the models now still predicting 18 to 22 feet for that surge. That's a huge surge. That's the surge like Bay Saint Louis got after Katrina, if you're on the right side, with all that water getting pushed right onshore.

It's still forecast to be a Category 3, 120-mile-per-hour storm. Right now it's somewhere between 95 and 100. So, it has to gain some strength to get there, a little organization to get there. But, look, it's still forecast to be a Category 1 way north of Houston.

So this rolls over Houston with at least 75-mile-per-hour winds, maybe higher, knocking windows out, maybe knocking some buildings down, not big ones, not strong ones, but you get the idea. And then you're going to flood this Bay, Anderson. It is going to be a mess one way or another.

The only hope for Houston and Galveston right now to avoid some real catastrophic damage is a turn to the left or a turn to the right. And that's what people in Houston today were betting on. And I hope they weren't betting their life on that, because it just may not happen.

COOPER: Chad, I don't want to waste time on air, but I would love to get an e-mail from you on where you think we should position ourselves tomorrow night at this time, so we -- we want to broadcast for two hours tomorrow night during the -- when it's really kicking up, the storm. From 10:00 to midnight, we want to be able to stay on the air. Love to get your thoughts on that in an e-mail.

It's one of the things we're trying to figure out in our coverage. Do we stay here in Houston? Do we go out to Galveston, which we're thinking about going out to tonight? So...

MYERS: No.

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS: Absolutely not.

COOPER: No? All right.

Well...

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: We will talk about that in an e-mail.

We are going to have much on the approaching storm in a moment. We will talk to Chad later on in the broadcast as well.

Much more on the major political developments of the day -- the candidates speaking back to back at tonight's presidential forum on national service. Our savvy political observers dig deeper into what they had to say.

And the candidates' war strategies -- we're fact-checking -- we're fact-checking their war of words, specifically on Iraq and Afghanistan, each candidate insisting his plan is better. We're checking the facts, "Keeping Them Honest."

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICHARD STENGEL, MANAGING EDITOR, "TIME": Governor Schwarzenegger in California has made service -- the service czar in California a Cabinet-level appointment.

If you were president, would you do the same and make service a Cabinet-level appointment? And would you perhaps ask Senator Obama to be a member of your cabinet for national service?

MCCAIN: Yes.

WOODRUFF: Senator Obama, this question of whether or not national service would be elevated to a cabinet-level position. Among other things Senator McCain said that, if it were that, he would ask you to be his secretary. Would you ask him if you were elected president?

OBAMA: If this is the deal he wants to make right now, I am committed to appointing him to my cabinet on national service.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Some lighter moments from Barack Obama and John McCain tonight, in the middle of a forum on the serious subject of national service.

Digging Deeper on that and Sarah Palin, we're back with our panel: John King, Candy Crowley, David Gergen, and Mark Halperin.

David, John McCain was asked about Governor Palin sarcastically referring to Obama's community service at the Republican convention. Let's listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Your running mate, vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin's made somewhat derisive comments about Senator Obama's experience as a community organizer. I heard you say you haven't taken that tone. So I guess my question is, are you saying to others in your campaign and your supporters that that's not the kind of language you want to hear? How -- how do you -- how are you approaching that?

MCCAIN: Look, Governor Palin was responding to the criticism of her inexperience in her job as a mayor in a small town. That's what she was responding to.

Of course I respect community organizers. Of course I respect people who serve their community. And Senator Obama's record there is outstanding. And so I -- I praise anyone who serves this nation in capacities that, frankly, we all know that could have been far more financially rewarding to individuals, rather than doing what they did.

WOODRUFF: Less significant than the work of a small-town mayor?

MCCAIN: I think a small-town mayor has very great responsibilities. They have responsibility for the budget. They have hiring and firing of people. They have great responsibilities. They have to stand for election. I admire mayors.

Listen, mayors have the toughest job, I think, in America. It's easy for me to go to Washington and, frankly, be somewhat divorced from the day-to-day challenges that people have. So I admire mayors. I admire anyone who is willing to serve that I community and their country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: You know, David, it's interesting. When a candidate is asked specifically about some of kind of the nastier or meaner elements that are coming out of their campaigns, they kind of back off, and yet they allow this stuff still to float out there.

GERGEN: Well, they sure do, but both candidates tonight were in a very conciliatory mood. They agreed on a great deal, and for that reason this was not as electric as the debates will be.

But it was still a significant evening, Anderson, in a couple of ways. It brought back some of the civility to the campaign that's been so badly lacking during recent weeks. It was an enormous lift to the national service movement, a movement inspired mostly by the younger generation. And they got a commitment tonight from both candidates to expand the size of AmeriCorps from 75,000 people a year to 250,000 a year, mostly young people. That would really change our culture, our political culture.

And I think it gave us a foretaste, again, of the debates that are coming. They said very clearly tonight -- once again John McCain had a good night, just as he did at Saddleback. He's going to be tough in those debates, much tougher than people think.

Tonight, unlike Saddleback when Barack Obama was weak, he was much better himself tonight, so that it was pretty tied. But I think this suggests these are going to be very close, closely-fought debates come September 26 and beyond.

COOPER: Seeing them back to back, no doubt about it. These are two incredibly strong candidates with pluses and minuses on both -- for both of them, frankly.

Mark, Obama was asked about his reaction to the same comments made about his community service at a convention. Let's listen to his answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STENGEL: We asked Senator McCain the same question about Governor Palin's belittling being a community organizer. Did the Democrats in return belittle being a small-town mayor? Was she being unfair? Or was it hypocritical, because Republicans actually say, "Hey, what people do in their private life is more important than public service?

OBAMA: Well, listen, we had an awful lot of small-town mayors at the Democratic convention, I assure you. I meet them all the time. And I have -- the mayors have some of the toughest jobs in the country, because that's where the rubber hits the road. You know, we yak in the Senate. They actually have to fill potholes and trim trees and make sure the garbage is taken away.

So I was surprised by the -- several remarks around community organizing and belittling it. You know, when I think about the choice I made as a 23-, 24-year-old, to spend three years working with churches to help people help themselves, no insult to the president of this fine institution, but it was the best education I ever had, because it taught me that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Mark, what did you think of that response? And also overall, what you saw from Obama and from McCain tonight?

HALPERIN: Anderson, is this show on a seven-second delay in case I use profanity? Because if I'm commenting on Senator McCain's answer, I might have to.

You know, to disavow any responsibility for what went on at his convention, they clearly had a strategy to make fun of Barack Obama's public service, and I think Senator McCain did not give a fully honest answer on that.

I don't think Senator Obama was totally honest either. I think he was more than disappointed. I mean, he was probably angry about what happened.

Today was a remarkable day in this election. Yesterday was -- and then the day before were incredibly raucous. Today, because of the power of the memory of 9/11, because of the commitment both of these men truly have to public service, I think it brought them both up. You saw little indirect jabs that each of them made, but for the most part, I think they both felt good about having, effectively, a day off in what has been incredibly heated exchanges.

And I think we'll see tomorrow, as at least one person in your control room would like, a return to the engagement that we've seen. The stakes are very high, and the tension is very high. And both of these guys, again, despite the handshake and the hug on stage, I think both of them are pretty angry about what's gone on in the last few days.

COOPER: Candy, how -- I mean, how does it change the campaign? As Mark said, they took this time-out today, really, in respect for the memory of 9/11. Is it a good thing for Obama to kind of reassess and step back, a good thing for McCain?

CROWLEY: Well, I'm not sure they're reassessing, but they definitely stepped back for the day. I have seen both of these men over the course of the past 19 months say things themselves -- I'm not even talking about, you know, something their vice-presidential candidate said or a surrogate said, that they then walked back.

The fact of the matter is they are spending -- I mean, don't cry for them, Argentina, but they are spending a lot of long hours on this campaign trail. The stakes are incredible. They are meeting people all the time, having to be on their game all the time. They get angry. Something comes in that they're not expecting, and they bite back.

And I think this was -- this probably was welcomed, and I know it was welcomed in the Obama campaign -- I'm sure it was in the McCain campaign -- as a time to kind of, you know, step back a little from what has been sort of this increasingly acrimonious atmosphere, because they do sometimes overextend themselves and cross that line, and they do regret it. But I think they will go back to certain things tomorrow.

COOPER: Yes, John, does the battle change tomorrow at all? I mean, are we seeing evolution in this campaign?

KING: Well, we are told we will see an evolution of Barack Obama, who has been debating Sarah Palin, not John McCain in the past week. And he's been getting all sorts of advice to make more of a connection with real people, try to humanize yourself and, No. 1, get back to jobs, jobs, jobs, McCain, McCain, McCain. And we're told he will do that.

We're also told he will be on "Saturday Night Live" this weekend, where I can bet that they will encourage them to get involved in a skit about -- you know who -- Sarah Palin. So we'll see how this all plays out over the next few days, Anderson.

But they do say in the Obama campaign they realize they've been knocked off balance and they need to get back on the economy and linking McCain to Bush and try to ignore Sarah Palin to the degree they can.

COOPER: Very briefly, Mark Halperin, how do you think Sarah Palin did in the interview? I wasn't able to ask you earlier.

HALPERIN: Well, I think she did pretty well, given the stakes, given I thought Charlie Gibson was pretty tough in the questions. I think we need to see more of the interview, this interview, and Charlie's got more time with her tomorrow.

This is just the beginning. I don't think, even in our instant analysis media culture, we should make a judgment about how well or how poorly she did. I think people want to see, over the limited time we have, that they can have confidence that she can be, as Charlie asked her, not just a good vice president, but potentially a good president.

Some good moments and some other moments I thought where her tentativeness may have made some Americans a little uncomfortable.

COOPER: On this show, we try to let our viewers decide for themselves. Mark, thanks very much. David and John and Candy, as well.

Next on 360, the war, the war planes -- you can hear a plane going over. We're near the Houston Airport. A lot of folks getting on planes, hoping to leave town. Obama and McCain's strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan. You've heard the promises. Now let's see the details. That's ahead.

Also the breaking news on Hurricane Ike. Extreme warnings of a 20-foot storm surge, and that anyone who stays behind in Galveston, in the coastal areas in a low-level house, a one-story, two-story, is facing, quote, "certain death." The latest on the storm, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: The Tribute in Light, remarkable beams of light soaring over lower Manhattan, honoring the victims who perished on 9/11 in 2001.

Senators Obama and McCain were at Ground Zero today in a show of unity and civility. Tomorrow the candidates, no doubt, will resume their war of words, especially when it comes to Iraq and Afghanistan. Each candidate insists his is the better plan for both fronts, but what are the details? And what are they really -- are they really that far apart?

The "Fact Check" now. Here's Candy Crowley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): For this moment they walk together, remembering Ground Zero. This day, even the home pages on their Web sites spoke to country, not party. It's different other days between this longtime opponent of the Iraq war...

OBAMA: What President Bush and Senator McCain don't understand is that the central front in the war on terror is not in Iraq and it never was. The central front is in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the terrorists who hit us on 9/11 are still plotting attacks.

CROWLEY: ... and this longtime supporter.

MCCAIN: My Democrat opponents who want to pull out of Iraq refuse to understand what's being said and what's happening, and that is the central battleground is Iraq in this struggle against radical Islamic extremism.

CROWLEY: They disagree on the past, whether the war was necessary, whether more troops should have been sent, the so-called surge, but moving forward they are moving closer. The situation in Iraq has improved, and both now talk about troop withdrawal.

Obama says he'd pull them out by 2010. McCain rejects firm timetables but not the possibilities.

MCCAIN: I think it's a pretty good timetable, as we should have our horizons for withdrawal. But they have to be based on conditions on the ground. This success is very fragile. It's incredibly impressive, but very fragile.

CROWLEY: And in fact, Obama's withdrawal timetable leaves room for a change of plans.

OBAMA: And yes, we will make tactical adjustments, as we implement this strategy. That is what any responsible commander in chief must do. As I have consistently said, I will consult with commanders on the ground and the Iraqi government.

CROWLEY: And now with the situation in Afghanistan growing worse, McCain and Obama both wants more troops there. Ten thousand more, says Obama, who would use U.S. troops rotated out of Iraq.

McCain would double the size of the Afghan army and pressure NATO into sending more forces. He would send U.S. troops, if needed, when available. Both say they will improve U.S. diplomatic efforts, but Obama says he is willing to sit down with rogue leaders of countries like North Korea and Iran.

OBAMA: The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them, which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration, is ridiculous.

CROWLEY: It is a statement that has allowed McCain to play his trump card: his own lengthy resume.

MCCAIN: Senator Obama was wrong about Iran, he was wrong about Iraq, and he has no experience. And more importantly, he lacks the judgment to lead this country.

CROWLEY: Homeland security and foreign policy experts say they are frustrated by the lack of details in both campaigns, perhaps because voter attention is elsewhere. On the day of 9/11, a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation polls that only about 1 in 10 Americans say that terrorism is the most important issue to their vote for president.

Candy Crowley, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: We devote our Web site to the anniversary of 9/11. There are incredible must-read blogs, postings on the site, first-hand accounts, insights and commentary dedicated to the day that changed all of our lives. Check it out at AC360.com.

Next, Hurricane Ike, a worst-case scenario now predicted, Galveston and Houston facing a massive deadly threat. The latest forecast coming up.

And at the top of the hour, one stage, two candidates. The latest from tonight's forum with senators McCain and Obama, just ahead. You're watching 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: You're looking at archival photos of Galveston, Texas, after being devastated by a hurricane 108 years ago this very week. As many as 6,000 people may have died the first night of that storm, at least 2,000 more in its aftermath, the deadliest natural disaster in America's history.

Now, tonight people from Houston, where we are, to the Gulf Coast are being told to get out -- at least Houston and some areas of -- low-lying areas of Houston -- are being told to get out ahead of another monster hurricane, Ike. Residents of Galveston are warned that they will die if they don't leave quickly. If they stay in one- or two-level homes they face what the government called -- the National Weather Service called "certain death."

Gary Tuchman is there in Galveston. Susan Candiotti is in Surfside Beach, Texas. First to Gary.

What's the scene?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I don't think I used these words before on TV, but here in Galveston, people are pretty freaked out about that National Weather Service warning. And the people who haven't left appear to be starting to leave, but there are still people here on Galveston Island, population 57,000, about 40 minutes southeast of you in Houston, perched precariously between the Gulf of Mexico behind me and the Galveston Bay.

They're expecting a storm surge up to 22 feet -- that's a possibility -- in addition to certain death, according to the National Weather Service. People (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- we are being told that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- and roads will be washed away and that people in high rises will be stuck in their high rises for days to come.

You're right, 108 years ago, September 8, 1900, about 6,000 people were killed -- that was about one fifth the population of Galveston -- in the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. So they are savvy about hurricanes here in Galveston. They got hit 25 years ago by Hurricane Alicia, a major hurricane, which caused much damage. And most people do appear to have left -- Anderson.

COOPER: Gary, we're trying to figure out if we should come to Galveston or where we should go to broadcast tomorrow night during this time slot. Are you going to be in Galveston? Do you know?

TUCHMAN: That's a tough one, Anderson. We're going to have to get on the phone with each other and figure this out. Because a real stuff decision. We have a very, very safe hotel. We're not in a one- or two-story hotel. It's going to be very safe. But we could be stuck for a while. I can tell you that much.

COOPER: All right. We'll try to coordinate that.

Let's check in with Susan Candiotti. What's the situation where you are?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the surf is pounding here, Anderson. I can tell you that.

I think the first thing we have to point out. We're literally on the beach on Surfside Beach, a coastal community. This is indicative of what you find, some beaches -- some houses built right here on the beach, wooden homes on stilts.

We are talking about two things on a picture postcard I would tell you about if I was showing you surfside. No. 1, wooden homes on stilts. No. 2, you've got miles and miles of chemical plants right nearby in the Gulf of Freeport which is right next door.

About 1,000 people live in this coastal community on this spit of an island. They're under a mandatory evacuation order to get out, and they have. It is deserted here. This is only four feet above sea level. These homes come up to maybe 14 feet, so if you've got up to an 18-foot storm surge, well, you do the math.

The police chief here is saying if Ike really hits hard here, it could be, in his words, catastrophic -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Well, major evacuation is under way here in parts of Texas. A million people have been ordered to leave coastal areas, with Ike on track to strike the coastline, potentially, as a Cat 3, winds up to 130 miles an hour. Those who ignore the evacuation orders are being told they face certain death, at least in Galveston. We'll have the latest update in just a moment from Chad Myers.

And at the top of the hour, John McCain and Barack Obama on the stage in New York, talking about 9/11, national service. You're watching 360. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We're live in Houston, Texas, tonight. Let's check in with Chad Myers.

Chad you just got the new update? What's happening?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The new update does not take it to a Category 3 this time. Now, there are some -- some times in between -- we talked about this last night -- where the forecast is only every 12 hours. Somewhere there on the sixth hour in between those forecast points, it could be stronger, but that's just not how it's forecast.

So here we go. This is a very large storm. Whether it gets to be a Category 3 or not, you have to notice the size and how much of this storm is blowing wind. The entire northern half of the Gulf of Mexico is blowing wind and water in this direction. That's where the surge comes from.

Think of your morning cup of coffee and it's hot. You want to get the top. You want to get the top layer a little cool. If you blow across the top of your coffee, and you see those little waves on the coffee, those are the waves that are going to be blowing into Galveston. Here's your -- here's your coffee, and there's your wind that you're blowing it across. It's going to pile into Galveston.

The track really didn't change very much whatsoever. They're right on track, still, but that's a 2 and not a 3. The winds 110, not 120. You don't think that's a lot, but that makes a big difference. It also makes a difference in storm surge.

But everywhere that you see color, Anderson, this is where you need to be out of there. This is where the water is going to be coming up over the barrier islands, all the way up through -- not quite into Houston, obviously, but right through the ship channel and all the way through Galveston Bay. There's going to be water 10 to 15 and still maybe, possibly, 20 feet deep -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Well, we'll be here tomorrow night covering it. We're not sure where, but we'll figure out a spot.

Let's got to some of the other headlines that we're following. Erica Hill joins us with the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, a major fire shut down the English Channel tunnel, or the Chunnel, as its know, linking France and the UK. This is the third time in its 14-year history it's been shut down. Fourteen people were treated for smoke inhalation or other injuries.

This all happened after a freight train caught fire. In 1996, a truck fire closed the undersea thoroughfare for a month. This time, though, the tunnel is expected to reopen within the next 24 hours.

The price of oil continuing to inch downward toward the $100 mark today. The per barrel price fell to a 5-1/2-month low. It settled at $100.87. And that drop in crude prices also helped to cut the week's losses on Wall Street, the Dow actually closing up today, gaining 164 points to close at 11,433. The NASDAQ and the S&P also posted gains, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Well, that's a little good news there.

Erica, as you can hear, a lot of planes taking off from Houston Airport, a lot of folks trying to make connecting flights to get out of here, want to be anywhere but here.

Coming up at the top of the hour, Obama and McCain back to back at a presidential forum on national service. What they said tonight, what they chose to leave out, that and more -- much -- much, much more, coming up next.

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