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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Clinton vs. Obama; Arnold Schwarzenegger Endorses John McCain

Aired January 31, 2008 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And there it is, the Kodak moment tonight at the Kodak Theater. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, along with supporters and surrogates, celebrities and people that came to be a part of history. You can see people going to the stage, trying to shake hands with Senator Obama and Senator Clinton, as well. There is Chelsea Clinton, as well.
An audience filled with celebrities, as may not surprise anybody with the Democratic party, giving off a lot of tickets to big name celebrities who are in the audience there at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood tonight. An electric evening, one of the most anticipated primary debates in recent presidential history, at the very least.

One way or another, the Democratic party will make history, nominating either the first woman or the first African-American as its candidate. Who is it going to be, though, of course, is anybody's guess. The polls are tightening. The campaigning, now, a sprint to Super Tuesday where Democrats in 22 states make their choice.

For Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, tonight was their last chance to score points, one on one, their first chance to go against each other, one-on-one. We have a lot of analysis to come. First, let's take a look at the highlights, as we continue to look at the crowd. CNN's Candy Crowley joins us now. Candy?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, you know, I hope we go back and take that final picture as both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama stood up after this debate was over. Basically, they were in a hug at some point. They both decided going into this that the arguing and the bickering, which really reached a high intensity level prior to coming here, was not going to help either one of them going into Super Tuesday.

So, what we had was a discussion about issues. Were there barbs? There absolutely were. But mostly when they differed, they differed over Iraq, over Barack Obama's opposition from the start. They differed on health care. She has a health care plan that would mandate health insurance for everyone. He tends to focus on bringing prices down so everyone can afford health care and not have the mandate.

And they talked about who you have diplomacy with. She, of course, has said, you can't just go sit down with a leader of nations hostile to the U.S. He said, why not? So, there were some definite difference that came up, but boy did they keep it cordial, Anderson.

COOPER: They certainly did. What was the biggest, the most notable exchange tonight, Candy?

CROWLEY: You know, I think we're back to the beginning. I think it was over Iraq, because it gets back to what they have -- what both these campaigns have pushed all along. She has pushed experience and he's pushed judgment. You had that line from him, yes, it's important to be ready to go into the White House on day one, which is one of her theme songs, but it's also important to be right. So, I thought that exchange was pretty intense, and really got them back to basics, and where really this entire race started.

COOPER: All right, Candy Crowley. When we come back, we're going to be digging deeper with our team tonight. We're also going to show you probably the most significant exchanges over the entire 90 or so minutes of the debate, in case you didn't catch it all. Some of the electric exchanges between the two candidates in this special edition of "AC 360," the final showdown. We'll be right back.



SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just by looking at us, you can tell we are not more of the same. We will change our country.


COOPER: One of the many moments of agreement tonight. They certainly might, come November, change the country, that is. The more immediate question, though, is, who will win the nomination? The race is tightening, the pace now incredibly intense between tonight and Tuesday next, Super Tuesday, of course.

Here to put it into perspective, members of the best political team on television, CNN contributor and Hillary Clinton biographer Carl Bernstein, author of "A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton," also CNN senior analyst David Gergen, and Jeffrey Toobin.

Good to see you all.

Your quick take, Carl.

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I didn't think it was electric. I thought it was a chess game. I thought Hillary Clinton did what she wanted to do, which was to slow the hemorrhage that has been occurring since South Carolina.

She showed early in the debate that she could be the best secretary of health and human services ever. I think we could skip over that part of the debate and agree. When it got to the serious stuff about who would be a president with leadership, I think Obama got in what he wanted to get in.

I think the tough stuff is going to be -- we're going to see later, when we're not in this debating forum, and that the third chess player was not in the room. And that was Bill Clinton. And his absence was very notable from the debate. And she had trouble on that answer at the end.

COOPER: Jeff Toobin.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: I thought both campaigns decided, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. She's ahead. I thinks she thinks she's going to stay ahead.

He's catching up. I think he feels like he's going to keep catching up. So, they both didn't take any risks, and they presented appealing, nonconfrontational answers that I think will keep both trajectories going.

Where it ends, I just don't know.

COOPER: David?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It was labeled a debate. And, right at the end, I think Wolf gave it away. He called it a conversation. And that's what it turned into.

And it was very warm, very civil. And I think moat Democrat will look at that say, whatever happens here, we're going to have a good candidate. I think it's going to help unify the Democratic Party because of how civil it was. And in the contrast to the clear disdain that John McCain holds for Mitt Romney, these two people obviously do have a level of respect.

I thought, on the substance, she was slightly better, but he held his own this time. And, in terms of likability, he once again is slightly ahead.


COOPER: We will go into a lot of detail ahead and show you, the viewers, a lot of the -- the best moments from the night.

It's a little past the top of the hour on this historic night.

It started with a picture never seen before in American politics, an African-American and a woman. One of them will win the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, a closely fought and cleanly fought debate tonight, one on one for the first and only time this primary season.

We will explore it at length and in depth tonight.

Also tonight, dial testing, how undecided viewers viewed this debate as it played out point by point, moment by moment.

And, on the Republican side, the impact of a major endorsement, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger throwing his support today behind Senator John McCain.

We begin, though, with the Democratic battle tonight in Los Angeles.

Let's get a quick take on the proceedings from the moderator, Wolf Blitzer.

Wolf, how -- how was it?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it was exciting up here.

You know, I didn't know what to expect. The last time we did this, Anderson -- and you have done these debates before -- you never know what's going to happen. In Myrtle Beach, we asked -- there were three candidates, with John Edwards, at the time. We asked some substantive questions about the economy, an economic stimulus package, jobs, and they immediately got into it, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

We didn't know what they were going to do this time. But we started with some of the substantive issues. We asked them to define where their policy differences were. They did. But they did it in a very respectful, polite manner, certainly compared to the last time.

And that was the tone that went on for most of this debate that lasted, you know, more than an hour-and-a-half. So, I thought, on the whole, we learned a little bit about them, but they certainly didn't get into the fireworks that we saw the last time.

COOPER: Was there a moment that surprised you? I mean, often, being on the stage, sitting next to them, it's different than viewing it at home or viewing it from far away even in the audience.

BLITZER: The -- the thing that surprised me is that they seemed to have, at least in terms of the body language that I saw up close, a lot better relationship than they have when they're speaking to their various supporters out there on the campaign trail, a respect. I don't know if it's an admiration or what.

But, in the end, when I asked them about a Clinton-Obama or an Obama-Clinton ticket, you could see that it was something that was not necessarily all that farfetched than if either one of them thought that that would help ensure their election.

One of these two individuals up on this stage is going to be the Democratic presidential nominee. And if Hillary Clinton, for example, were to get that nomination, and she felt she really needed to unify that Democratic Party and -- and enlist a lot of Barack Obama's inspiration and support, especially among younger voters out there, I think she would be open to it. At least, that's the impression I got. And I think he would be open to that possibility as well.

So, you know, it's something that is out there. Some Democrats call it, as I said, the dream ticket. And I think, at least in the answers I got in the -- and in the exchanges they had, and the body language I saw, I don't think that's necessarily all that farfetched, given some of the divisiveness that we have heard over these past few weeks. COOPER: Let's check in now with members of the best political team on television, who are actually out in California, John King, CNN contributor Bill Bennett, and CNN contributor Roland Martin as well.

John, the -- this week, obviously, Barack Obama got the endorsement of Ted Kennedy, who cast Obama as the -- as really the heir to the JFK mantle. Senator Clinton was asked about that. And Senator Obama was asked the state of the union under Bill Clinton.

I want to play that for our viewers.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Before the latest round of immigrants showed up, you had huge unemployment rates among African-American youth.

And, so, I think to suggest somehow that the problem that we're seeing in inner-city unemployment, for example, is attributable to immigrants, I think, is a case of scapegoating that I do not believe in, I do not subscribe to.


CLINTON: If we can tighten our borders, if we can crack down on employer who exploit workers, both those who are undocumented and those who are here as citizens, or legal, if we can do more to help local communities cope with the cost that they often have to contend with, if we do more to help our friends to the south create more jobs for their own people, and if we take what we know to be the realities that we confront -- 12 to 14 million people here, what will we do with them?

Well, I hear the voices from the other side of the aisle. I hear voices on TV and radio. And they are living in some other universe.


COOPER: John King, I mean, both seemed to be -- go out of their way to be cordial with one another.

Obviously having -- obviously having a little (INAUDIBLE) mike. we will try to get back to John. Obviously having trouble.

Carl Bernstein, were you surprised that both candidates seemed to kind of go beyond what they have done in the past to try to be cordial?

BERNSTEIN: They obviously each had made a decision that, for this audience, this was the way to go, and they're going to pursue their harder ground game when they get out of this theater and get back in campaigning.

COOPER: So, the tough stuff is not over?

(CROSSTALK) BERNSTEIN: Oh, no. The tough stuff is not over. The whole issue of character, truthfulness, the way the campaigns have been conducted, they have surrogates to do that. We're going to see more of that.

But, tonight, what we saw was a different strategy by each of them to show a united party. And, also, Obama very much went hard about, I'm the better candidate against John McCain.

It was subtle, but he brought it through constantly. He kept making references to it. And that's going to...


BERNSTEIN: And we're going to see more of that when they get beyond the theater here.

COOPER: I want to play for our viewers each of their opening statements. Each was allowed to kind of make an opening statement and kind of set their case.

Let's play that.


OBAMA: When we started off, we had eight candidates on this stage. We now are down to two after 17 debates.

And, you know, it is a testimony to the Democratic Party and it is a testimony to this country that we have the opportunity to make history, because I think one of us two will end up being the next president of the United States of America.


OBAMA: And I also want to note that I was friends with Hillary Clinton before we started this campaign; I will be friends with Hillary Clinton after this campaign is over.


OBAMA: She has done -- she's run a -- we're running a competitive race, but it's because we both love this country, and we believe deeply in the issues that are at stake.

I believe we're at a defining moment in our history. Our nation is at war; our planet is in peril. Families all across the country are struggling with everything from back-breaking health care costs to trying to stay in their homes.

And at this moment, the question is: How do we take the country in a new direction? How do we get past the divisions that have prevented us from solving these problems year after year after year?

I don't think the choice is between black and white or it's about gender or religion. I don't think it's about young or old. I think what is at stake right now is whether we are looking backwards or we are looking forwards. I think it is the past versus the future.

CLINTON: Well, on January 20, 2009, the next president of the United States will be sworn in on the steps of the Capitol. I, as a Democrat, fervently hope you are looking at that next president. Either Barack or I will raise our hand and swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

And then, when the celebrations are over, the next president will walk into the Oval Office, and waiting there will be a stack of problems, problems inherited from a failed administration: a war to end in Iraq and a war to resolve in Afghanistan; an economy that is not working for the vast majority of Americans, but well for the wealthy and the well-connected; tens of millions of people either without health insurance at all or with insurance that doesn't amount to much, because it won't pay what your doctor or your hospital need...


CLINTON: ... an energy crisis that we fail to act on at our peril; global warming, which the United States must lead in trying to contend with and reverse; and then all of the problems that we know about and the ones we can't yet predict.

It is imperative that we have a president, starting on day one, who can begin to solve our problems, tackle these challenges, and seize the opportunities that I think await.


COOPER: David Gergen, I mean, listening to that, what is the strategy? What is the endgame?

GERGEN: I don't think this is just about shoving the negatives into the next two or three days out on the campaign trail.

I think this is, rather, a strategy in which each one went in trying to present his or her most positive case for himself. In some -- in some debates, you go in and you try to drive the other person's negatives up.

In this case, I think they each came in trying to drive their own positives up.

COOPER: And they were given opportunities to do that tonight.

GERGEN: That's right.

COOPER: But they chose not to take those.

GERGEN: That's right.

And I think what you saw with Hillary Clinton was an attempt to say, look, I'm very knowledgeable about -- I'm sophisticated about the issues. I understand this. But I'm also not as divisive as you think I am. Everybody is saying, you know, Barack can do a much better job against McCain than she can, because she is divisive. And she came in here tonight to show, no, I can actually work with other people and do that.

Barack, his great strength is that he's a uniter. His -- and he finally got to that argument tonight. He has not been making it well in previous debates. A couple times tonight, he made the argument, I can do a better job. I'm the best one here to unite people. That's what I do in my life.

And I think by being -- as the way -- the way he was with her, and having just gone through that story about whether he snubbed her in the Senate the other night, which I thought was a silly story, but that tableau at the end, when they were together, that dispelled any notion that he's sort of been sexist toward her at all.

I mean, I think he came in and tried to intentionally say, look, I'm a person who can bring everybody together. I can work with her. I can work with everybody.

COOPER: Donna Brazile also joins us now, Democratic strategist and CNN contributor. She is joining us from Washington tonight.

Donna, your thoughts on this, what was a historic debate, no matter how you look at it.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Anderson, this was a night that Democrats have been waiting for, for a long time, not only to see the field of candidates whittled down to the top two contenders, but also because I think Democrats understand that we're on the verge of making history.

One of those candidates will become, of course, the party's nominee, as well as, many of us believe, the next president of the United States. I thought they conducted themselves in a very dignified matter. They were presidential. They stayed on the substance. They had disagreements on the issues, but they didn't disagree with each other.

And it was a very -- a very civil debate, a very civil tone. They -- they really hit all of the right issues. They focused on the economy, focused on health care. And, when they had disagreements, they found disagreements with the Republicans.

I heard John McCain's name mentioned five times. Clearly, they are prepared to take on John McCain and take on the Republicans. But I thought both Senator Clinton, as well as Senator Obama, came in there tonight knowing that there are over 1,600 delegates at stake on Tuesday. And they really wanted to introduce themselves to those states and those voters to insure that they can get a hefty chunk of them next week.

COOPER: Bill Bennett, I think, changed his travel plans in order to be at the debate tonight to hear it himself.


COOPER: I know he was very excited about it.


COOPER: Bill, was it -- was it disappointing for you? What -- what -- what was your take?

BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I -- see, I'm in my Hollywood clothes here. I'm trying hard.

The crowd has left. Otherwise, I was going to ask you to refer to me as Bob Bennett, so I could get out alive.


BENNETT: I will tell you the difference. There may not be a culture war in this country, but, really, the truth, at the Reagan Library, the first thing someone said when they recognized me was: "Hello, Mr. Secretary. Welcome back."

Somebody in the crowd out here recognized me. They said, "Hey, drug czar. What are you here for, a bust?"


BENNETT: So, you know, it's a different -- it's a different set of...

COOPER: Different crowd.

BENNETT: It was a -- frankly, it was a -- I think, a little disappointing, from my perspective. I think Barack Obama had to do more than he did.

I thought she won -- I will just be crude and say I thought she won the debate. I thought she was in control. He said -- he used the locution, "we both believe," "we both think" too many times.

I think, if it comes out even, if no one has a clear advantage, it's advantage Hillary Clinton. He's the challenger. He's an athlete. He should know that he had to work a little harder. He was civil. He was very, very good on his details.

But I don't -- I don't think he really challenged her. And I think that that was -- that's -- that's -- that's going to be a problem. I think it's a victory for Hillary Clinton.


BENNETT: Super Tuesday is coming up. I don't think he had enough.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Anderson, I actually disagree with my colleague Bill. I think that what Obama started to do tonight, which he had started to do a little bit earlier in the campaign, was to make what he's calling the argument. And the argument is that, because he was opposed to the war from the start, he can make the argument against John McCain in a very clear-cut way, and that, with Hillary Clinton as the nominee, it's perhaps a little bit more muddled on the war.

And that's the argument that he just really, on the last couple of days on the trail, has really honed. And you heard it here tonight. They -- neither one of them really wanted to be the first bad guy on the stage. So, they didn't really get into it.

But I think we're beginning to see the outlines of what the conversation is going to be as -- as we head forward.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Hey, Anderson, I think we saw strategy tonight.

Obama's philosophy was to have a steely resolve. I think, for Clinton, it's, again, to lay out her policy positions and also say, look, this is where I differ from him.

This wasn't -- you know, they were not -- they were not going to take serious shots at one another, because we saw that January 21. They wanted to avoid that. But, again, the biggest criticism leveled against him from people out there say, we hear rhetoric. We hear change. We hear hope, but we don't hear specifics.

And, so, he chose to be the policy wonk tonight. Now, granted, that is her area, but he had to be able to show that, on the ground of policy, I can compete with her and hold my own.

I think, in the first half of the debates, she was very strong on health care, but she spent far too much time talking about the Iraq war.


MARTIN: She should have simply pivoted from that as quickly as possible.

COOPER: And we're going to talk about Iraq as well.

John King...


COOPER: ... your reactions. Then, we have got to take a quick break.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think they were both incredibly polite on purpose, but both they did some important business.

If you're a Democrat who worries about universal health care, Hillary Clinton tried to score points by saying, his plan won't get you there. If you're a Democrat who cares most about the war, Barack Obama said, I'm not just ready on day one. I'm right on day one. I was right on the war to begin with. And I will be right on that point.

MARTIN: Great point.

KING: She played up the women's angle. She needs those voters on Super Tuesday. He played up the inspiration, the hope, the new and the young voters, the people he needs on Super Tuesday.

He also served notice, Anderson. Before the debate started tonight, the campaign released the fact that he had raised $30 million, a little more than that, in the month of January. That was a signal that they are in for the long haul. I know Bill thinks he needed a knockout punch tonight. I think they -- their calculation now is, they need to split Super Tuesday somewhere around 60/40. If they can do that, then, the longer the campaign goes on, the more it goes to his benefit.

COOPER: OK, a lot more to talk about.

BORGER: And, Anderson, they were both pandering...

COOPER: Gloria, I will come back to you in a second.


COOPER: A lot more to talk about, a lot more moments from the debate to show you.

Up next, while Senators Clinton and Obama were debating, some undecided voters were giving us instant feedback. It's dial testing. It is always interesting to watch. Erica Hill joins us with that, with the issues and the answers that triggered the biggest positive and negative reactions tonight. Which do you think those were?

Also, coming up at 11:00 Eastern, Dr. Sanjay Gupta looks at the health care system. That's part of a "Broken Government" special, "Critical Condition." That's at the top of the hour.


COOPER: Well, for Senators Obama and Clinton, it may all come down to undecided voters. In Oxnard, California, a number of them were keeping a close track on tonight's debate.

We have been recording their reactions. It's called dial testing.

CNN's Erica Hill has tonight's results.



CLINTON: Hi, Wolf. ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If they came looking for fireworks, this wasn't the night for them. From the start, this debate was tough, but tough on policy issues, not on personal attacks.

And our undecided Democrats responded.

CLINTON: The differences between Barack and I pale in comparison to the differences that we have with Republicans, and I want to say that first and foremost, because it's really...


CLINTON: ... a stark difference.

The Republicans were in California debating yesterday, they are more of the same. Neither of us, just by looking at us, you can tell, we are not more of the same. We will change our country.


HILL: Both candidates did well talking about health care. And Obama saw a good jump when he rejected the suggestion that immigrants make life harder for African-Americans.

OBAMA: I think to suggest somehow that the problem that we're seeing in inner-city unemployment, for example, is attributable to immigrants, I think, is a case of scapegoating that I do not believe in, I do not subscribe to.


HILL: But the mutual love from our dial testers didn't last. Despite initial high marks for both on immigration, Clinton really scored big with this sideswipe.

CLINTON: I co-sponsored comprehensive immigration reform in 2004 before Barack came to the Senate.


CLINTON: So, I have been on record on behalf of this for quite some time.

HILL: While Obama's accusations of Clinton's flip-flopping on driver's licenses for illegal immigrants fell flat.

OBAMA: Senator Clinton gave a number of different answers over the course of six weeks on this issue.

HILL: Overall, our undecided voters responded best to criticism of President Bush and the Republicans, like this one on why the country doesn't need a candidate with CEO experience.

CLINTON: The United States government is much more than a business. HILL: And this, when Obama said he wasn't worried about being painted as a tax-and-spend liberal.

OBAMA: I don't think the Republicans are going to be in a strong position to argue fiscal responsibility, when they have added $4 trillion or $5 trillion...


OBAMA: ... worth of national debt.


HILL: And, so, of course, the big question at this point, going in, Anderson, our group was pretty -- in fact, was -- equally split between the two candidates, coming out, by 60/40, so just a little bit of an uptick for supporters for Senator Clinton.

Sixty percent of our voters, our undecided voters, say they feel she performed the best and they would vote for her. I have to say, though, on the issue of Iraq, which, of course, is an important one that came up towards the end of the debate, our undecided Democratic voters did say that they thought Barack Obama performed best on that issue.

COOPER: It's always fascinating to watch.

Erica, thanks.

Up next, we're going to meet -- talk more with our panel about what they thought were the winning and losing moments. We will show you a lot more of those moments from the debate -- all of it looking forward to Super Tuesday and the biggest prize, California. Tonight, what is at stake there for the Democrats? We will examine that.

And, also, at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, health care -- 360 M.D. Dr. Sanjay Gupta with a fact check on the candidates -- when 360 continues.



BLITZER: When you let -- if you become president, either one of you -- let the Bush tax cuts lapse, there will be effectively tax increases on millions of Americans.

OBAMA: On wealthy Americans.

CLINTON: That's right.

OBAMA: And look...

BLITZER: And you are willing to go into...

(CROSSTALK) OBAMA: I'm not bashful about it.

CLINTON: Absolutely. Absolutely.

OBAMA: I suspect a lot of this crowd -- it looks like a pretty well-dressed crowd...


OBAMA: ... potentially will pay a little bit more. I will pay a little bit more.

CLINTON: But, Wolf, it's just really important to underscore here that we will go back to the tax rates we had before George Bush became president. And my memory is, people did really well during that time period.


CLINTON: And they will keep doing really well.



COOPER: That, of course, was Barack Obama and Senator Clinton tonight in Los Angeles.

Joining me again here in New York, Carl Bernstein, David Gergen, Jeffrey Toobin, and Donna Brazile.

Iraq was really an issue where you saw the differences between these two candidates, Senator Obama, of course, wanting to highlight the fact that he voted against the authority to go to war.

I want to play one of the -- the responses by Senator Clinton. She was asked about why not just apologize for her voting for giving President Bush the authority to go to war.

Let's watch her response.


CLINTON: We need a president who will be sensitive to the implications of the use of force and understand that force should be a last resort, not a first resort.

BLITZER: So, what I hear you saying -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- is that you were naive in trusting President Bush?

CLINTON: No, that's not what you hear me say.


CLINTON: Good try, Wolf. Good try. You know...

BLITZER: Was she naive, Senator Obama?

CLINTON: Well, you asked the question to me. You know, I deserve to answer.

BLITZER: I thought you weren't going to answer.

CLINTON: You know, I think that, you know, that is a good try, Wolf.


CLINTON: You know, the point is that I certainly respect Senator Obama making his speech in 2002 against the war. And then when it came to the Senate, we have had the same policy because we were both confronting the same reality of trying to deal with the consequences of George Bush's action.

I believe that it is abundantly clear that the case that was outlined on behalf of going to the resolution -- not going to war, but going to the resolution -- was a credible case. I was told personally by the White House that they would use the resolution to put the inspectors in. I worked with Senator Levin to make sure we gave them all the intelligence so we would know what's there.

Some people now think that this was a very clear open and shut case. We bombed them for days in 1998 because Saddam Hussein threw out inspectors. We had evidence that they had a lot of bad stuff for a very long time which we discovered after the first Gulf War.

Knowing that he was a megalomaniac, knowing he would not want to compete for attention with Osama bin Laden, there were legitimate concerns about what he might do. So, I think I made a reasoned judgment. Unfortunately, the person who actually got to execute the policy did not.


BLITZER: Senator?

OBAMA: I don't want to -- I don't want to belabor this, because I know we're running out of time and I'm sure you guys want to move on to some other stuff, but I do just have to say this -- the legislation, the authorization had the title, an authorization to use U.S. military force, U.S. military force, in Iraq. I think everybody, the day after that vote was taken, understood this was a vote potentially to go to war.


OBAMA: I think were very clear about that. That's the -- if you look at the headlines.

The reason that this is important, again, is that Senator Clinton, I think, fairly, has claimed that she's got the experience on day one. And part of the argument that I'm making in this campaign is that, it is important to be right on day one. (APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: And that the judgment that I have presented on this issue, and some other issues is relevant to how we're going to make decisions in the future. You know, it's not a function just of looking backwards, it's a function of looking forwards and how are we going to be making a series of decisions in a very dangerous world.

I mean, the terrorist threat is real. And precisely because it's real -- and we have got finite resources. We don't have the capacity to just send our troops in anywhere we decide, without good intelligence, without a clear rationale.

That's the kind of leadership that I think we need from the next president of the United States. That's what I intend to provide.



COOPER: Jeff Toobin, moving forward, are we going to hear a lot more about the differences between these two on Iraq? I mean, it basically boils down to, you know, I voted for it. I voted against it.

TOOBIN: I think we will. I think if Barack Obama has anything to say about it, because that was clearly his best moment in the debate and her weakest moment.

Because her position on Iraq, her initial vote, is very hard to follow and very hard to justify. "I was not really voting for the war." His is very simple, and it turns her best argument against her.

Her argument is, "I have all this experience. On day one, I can do these things."

He says it's important to be right on day one. That's a very good argument, and I think it was his best moment in the debate.

BERNSTEIN: His best moment, and she had to dissemble, which has been her problem all along on this question. Even though some of what she says is quite plausible, if you go back and reconstruct things.

What's so interesting to me about this debate tonight, though, is how much Hillary Clinton got to be the person she likes to be. She was not under attack. And when she's not, she can show her stuff. She can be the policy person who knows it, has it down cold, who can be thoughtful, who can be humorous, who can be likable, who doesn't do too many zingers. She likes being that person.

And David, you worked with her.

GERGEN: ... people who are there (ph).

BERNSTEIN: You know, it's a little bit what was said about John McCain. Hillary Clinton comes in the room, and you don't know who you're going to get in the morning. And you're seen both of them. And we got this one tonight.

COOPER: This -- she did what she wanted to do?

BERNSTEIN: She did what she wanted to do except on this question of the biggest issue of the post Clinton era, she's on the wrong side of the argument in terms of where the Democrats want to be.

GERGEN: Yes. I think that's right. I think she's on the wrong side of the argument, but I don't think voters make decisions based on these kind of arguments. I think they try to size up the person and get a sense of -- they're so close together on the issues.

COOPER: But on that account, they both...

TOOBIN: You don't need a PhD to figure out the differences between them.


GERGEN: I thought he has made the argument -- I mean, he has made the argument, you have to not only have to be -- you know, have the experience, but you have to be right on day one. I think he has done that.

But I think people make decisions based on sort of a general -- more generalized sense. Does this person sound knowledgeable, and do I want to have this person in my living room? And do I enjoy this?

And I think on that issue, Barack has an edge on this. He has the humor. He has -- there's a dignity about him. He's a much better debater.

What I do think she pulled off tonight, going back to Carl's point, I think she pulled off a couple of good one-liners. She had a terrific one-liner on the question it took a Clinton to clean up after the first Bush, and I think it may take another Clinton to clean up after the second one.


GERGEN: ... best line of the night. I thought that was one of the best lines of her campaign.

COOPER: Donna Brazile, who's also joining us tonight from Washington, was Senator Clinton able to discuss her husband -- I mean, Wolf asked her about the question about the role her husband would play and would she be able to control him in the White House. Was she able to kind of put voters' fears aside on that?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Absolutely. And look, she said this is her campaign. She's going to be the decider in the White House, that she is running not just her campaign, but she is prepared for day one.

Look, I agree with David. I think Senator Clinton had one of the best lines when she said it took a Clinton to clean up the first Bush and may take a Clinton to clean up the second Bush. Obama didn't come back and say, well, maybe it takes an Obama to clean up after George Bush after all.

But look, I also think that on the war issue, while this has animated the conversation for so many months inside the Democratic Party, it's really not the deciding issue. The economy, people are worried sick.

And tonight what you heard Senator Clinton as well as Senator Obama talk about his middle class, the mortgage crisis. They really talked about their plans to try to fix what's ailing our economy. And of course, they invoked John Edwards' name several times to remind voters that perhaps he's not in the room, but they're ready to take up his cause.

BERNSTEIN: It's not only he's not in the room; he hasn't endorsed anybody yet, and he still might. So he also figures in this chess game.

But I want to disagree with one thing Donna said, and that's the answer about Bill Clinton. I think that it was a very obviously unsatisfactory answer as soon as she...

COOPER: I was surprised that Barack Obama didn't -- didn't bring it back up.

BERNSTEIN: There's no need for him to. Because the minute they get outside the bubble of the Kodak Theater and they pick up tomorrow's paper, and they pick up the story about Bill Clinton and his trip to Kazakhstan in "The New York Times" or they pick up the latest "Wall Street Journal" and stories about the two of them, it's back there. There's no need for Barack Obama to do it. The press is doing it. His surrogates are going to do it. And...

COOPER: It is in...

BRAZILE: He was background noise. You got to agree that tonight he was background noise. He was not the subject of conversation. He was...

BERNSTEIN: I agree with you -- I agree with you totally, Donna, but what I'm saying is there was no need for Barack Obama to do it. It's being done out there for him.

COOPER: And it is interesting, just anecdotally, and talking to people over the last week, I've heard people now say the Clintons, rather than Senator Clinton. They're not talking about her; they're now talking about both of them as a pair.

BERNSTEIN: You can't deny that this is a campaign for restoration of the Clintons to the White House.

TOOBIN: It is. But sort of the media narrative is always, you know, he's a disaster. He's an embarrassment.

Remember, he's a very popular person in the Democratic Party. And the fact that he's there, and the fact that he's speaking for her, and the fact that he'll be in the White House again is a big point in her favor for many people.

GERGEN: It has -- Jeffrey, it has been. It was up until South Carolina. In New Hampshire and South Carolina. I think it may come back. But they clearly overplayed their hand, and they're trying to pull back from that.

BERNSTEIN: There's been a real reaction against Bill Clinton in the party from people who have been his...

COOPER: We've seen reactions...


COOPER: So don't underestimate him.

BERNSTEIN: Oh, no. I'm not about to underestimate Bill Clinton, no way.

COOPER: We're going to take a short break.

Speaking of spouses, tomorrow on 360, Barack Obama's wife, Michelle. CNN's Soledad O'Brien talks with Ms. Obama about life on the campaign trail and the ultimate goal, of course, moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Michelle Obama, one on one, tomorrow on 360.

Next on the program tonight, though, fast forward to Super Tuesday and the numbers game. Why California is so crucial for the Democrats now.

Also ahead in this hour, the candidates talked a lot about health care this evening. Well, Dr. Sanjay Gupta is putting their promises to the test. He'll join us in a moment for a preview of his "Broken Government" special: "Critical Condition." It starts at the top of the hour here on CNN.



SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES: I don't think the Republicans are going to be in a real strong position to argue fiscal responsibility when they've added $4 or $5 trillion worth of national debt.

You know, I am -- I am happy to have that argument. If John McCain, for example, is the nominee, I'd respect that John McCain, in the first two rounds of Bush tax cuts, said it is irresponsible that we have never before cut taxes at the same time as we're going into war.

And somewhere along the line, the Straight Talk Express lost some wheels. And now he is in favor of extending Bush tax cuts that went to some of the wealthiest Americans who don't need them and weren't even asking for them. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Straight Talk Express lost its wheels. You can write that down. You'll be hearing that line, probably, a lot more on the campaign trail, if Barack Obama does go against John McCain.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is the latest big-name politician to endorse John McCain for president. We're going to see if his support helps the senator, of course, on Super Tuesday in California.

But winning that state is crucial for both Republicans and Democrats. CNN's Tom Foreman is here to show us exactly why -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, you're absolutely right. For all these zingers and one-liners, what it comes down to is voters who will give you delegates. And of all these states that are up, there are some monsters on Super Tuesday. New York is in there. Illinois is in there, the southern states. Big deals. But California, this is the monster out there. Enormous.

A Democrat needs just over 2,000 delegates for a nomination. California alone has 370. Clinton is polling very well with California Dems, who are strongest in the urban centers. You look at Los Angeles. You look San Francisco, the areas around there, along the coast, that's where she's really strong.

She's counting on women, who make up 60 percent of the party there, for a big turnout. And down south she's hoping for a big turnout from the 13 million Latino voters there who tend to like her. Many of them in the southern part of the state.

Obama is going to try to cut into her base, knowing that if he makes a good enough showing in all of these areas that she would like to consider safe, he can still snag delegates there. And, under the Democratic rules, he will get some. Even if she wins a district he can pick up a few by percentages.

But he's also going to reach into the countryside and into the suburbs, reaching out for moderate, more affluent, more educated Democrats and independents, who tend to like him over her. That's the strategy.

And don't forget: this state has more than 300 colleges and universities, like UCLA right here in Los Angeles, and he's done very well with students. He would love to get them pouring off of the campuses to help them.

This is the playing field right now. It's like a great big game of Capture the Flag. They know where they're strong. They know what they have to protect. But they're going to try to dip into the other person's territory, if they can, grab a few delegates and get out without having their pockets picked.

And you, Anderson, and the rest of them, will have to tell us how they pull that off.

COOPER: We'll be watching. Tom, thanks very much.

We're going to take a short break. We'll have more from our panel inside the Kodak Theater coming up.

And at the top of the hour, Dr. Sanjay Gupta investigates the crisis in health care and health care insurance. We'll be right back.



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Would you consider an Obama-Clinton or Clinton-Obama ticket going down the road?

OBAMA: Well, obviously, there's a big difference between those two. But look, the -- let me say this. And I said this at the top.

I respect Senator Clinton. I think her service to this country has been extraordinary. And I'm glad that we've been walking on this road together and that we're still on that road. We've got a lot more road to travel.

And so I think it's premature for either of us to start speculating about vice presidents, et cetera. I think it would be premature and presumptuous. But I'm sure that Hillary would be on anybody's short list. So...

BLITZER: All right. Senator Clinton, what do you think about a Clinton-Obama, Obama-Clinton ticket?

CLINTON: Well, I have to agree with everything Barack just said.

BLITZER: That means it's a yes, right?

CLINTON: This has -- this has been an extraordinary campaign, and I think both of us have been overwhelmed by the response that we have engendered, the kind of enthusiasm and intensity that people feel about each of us.

And so clearly, we are both dedicated to doing the best we can to win the nomination. But there is no doubt we will have a unified Democratic Party.


COOPER: And welcome back. Our coverage continues.

You thought that was an important moment?

BERNSTEIN: I did, because of what she didn't say. Because I don't think there's a chance in hell that, after her experience in the White House with Al Gore, that she would ever be a vice-presidential candidate with anybody.

And on top of that, she just doesn't want to go there. And this is going to be a long time before we know how this is going to shake out. And this is the only election I can remember where the so-called experts and the candidates have no idea where this is going to go. Really, everybody is in the dark, particularly given this Super Tuesday...

COOPER: That is -- I mean, a lot of people asked me that same question, though: why not have those two on the same ticket?

TOOBIN: It breaks all the traditional rules. A senator picks a governor; a liberal picks a moderate. The people from different parts of the country. Don't count out this idea. I think it is a very real possibility that they can run together.

GERGEN: It sure looks like the dream ticket. But you remember when Senator Kennedy picked Senator Johnson.

TOOBIN: That was classic old school.

GERGEN: But I do want to say this. I thought the warmth really helped the Democratic Party.

I did think there was a downside here for Barack Obama, because when -- they sort of semi hug and then the way they signed those autographs at the end. The warmth they, they looked like they would be a natural ticket.

He does not want to let people off the hook of making a choice. If he lets them think you can get both, then vote for Hillary, and you get both of them, it makes it too easy. So I thought there was a bit of a trap there for him.

BERNSTEIN: It was a good question, and she got the better of that. That's exactly right.

COOPER: Let's check in with our panel in L.A.

Bill Bennett, you think there's any chance of a Clinton-Obama ticket or Obama-Clinton?

BENNETT: There could be, but Dave Gergen's right: he'd be the junior member. It was a mistake.

Can I make three quick points?


BENNETT: First, despite my colleagues, whom I esteem, she won the debate. She won the debate. And Obama had to win. Dave Gergen said the other night about touchdowns and field goals. He didn't even win by a field goal. He didn't win.

Second, when you hear -- when you hear them talk about the war, and Obama did have some good points there, it shows you the gulf between the Democrats and the Republicans. Who is tougher on withdrawing from Iraq? Who was more negative about the war? John McCain, on the other hand, saying we may stay 100 years. This issue will be joined and joined soon. And finally, a good line by her about cleaning up after the Bushes once, maybe a second time. But then, for this audience, but for a national audience, cleaning up? The Clintons cleaning up after the Bushes, agents of moral hygiene? Is this -- bring it on. It's time, it's time.

BORGER: Anderson, you know, I just also want to add on this president-vice president thing. I think there is no chance whatsoever that, if Barack Obama were the nominee of the Democratic Party, that he would put Hillary Clinton on that ticket, for the reason that she is too polarizing. He's not just making it up when he says that. He actually believes it. And he doesn't -- he would never put her on the ticket.

I think if she were to become the nominee, I think that she would -- I've talked to Clinton people about this. There's a possibility that she would reach out to Barack Obama, if only for the drama of it. So that he could say no, because they have a lot of problems with African-American voters after South Carolina.

One other point I want to make about this evening. Both of these candidates were pandering, as I said earlier, pandering to the John Edwards voters. The first two words you heard out of Barack Obama's mouth tonight were John and Elizabeth.

He wants to get those voters, and so does she. And they've made his poverty platform their poverty platform, and you heard his name come up over and over and over.

COOPER: I want to play for our viewers -- Roland, I want to play for our viewers just a time when Clinton was asked about whether it was time to move past a Clinton and Bush dynasty. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Obama mentioned the generational issue, and when we look at returns and exit polls, there is something going on there. And we've got a question along those lines from Karen Roper (ph) from Pickens, South Carolina.

She asks to you, Senator Clinton, that you have claimed that your presidency would bring change to America. "I'm 38 years old, and I have never had opportunity to vote in a presidential election in which a Bush or a Clinton wasn't on the ticket. How can you be an agent of change when we have had the same two families in the White House for the last 30 years?"

CLINTON: Well, as I have often said, I regret deeply that there is a Bush in the White House at this time.

But I think that what's great about our political system is that we are all judged on our own merits. You know, we come forward to the American public, and it's the most grueling political process one can imagine.

We start from the same place. Nobody has an advantage, no matter who you are or where you came from. You have to raise the money. You have to make the case for yourself. And I want to be judged on my own merits. I don't want to be advantaged or disadvantaged.

I'm very proud of my husband's administration. I think that there were a lot of good things that happened, and those good things really changed people's lives. The trajectory of change during those eight years went from deficits and debt to a balanced budget and a surplus.

All those 22 million new jobs and the -- and the hopefulness that people brought with them. And, you know, it did take a Clinton to clean after the first Bush, and I think it might take another one to clean up after the second Bush.


COOPER: John King, that's a line she uses a lot on the stump.

KING: It is a line she uses at her campaign rallies, and it goes over well with her supporters, and went over well with the Democrats in this audience.

But it was worth noting, Anderson, that was a missed opportunity for Barack Obama, but not because he sat silently but because we went to a break right after her answer there. And I'm told by his team that he did have an answer.

And his answer would have been something to the effect of I would support Senator Clinton if she is the nominee. I think she's fine. I think she would be a good president. But a lot of Americans out there do have those doubts, do not want to go back to the Clinton days. And if we, as Democrats, want to nominate our strongest general election candidate, I am that man. And that was his point.

Bill is right from a debate scoring system, I think. And she was the president of the debate team at Wellesley.

Remember last summer, when we were all critical of his strategy, and he says he was drafting, waiting for a moment to come out around her. And he did that in Iowa.

They are insisting they are doing the same thing here, that he want to get into a nasty debate with her tonight, that he wanted to make the case "I am a stronger general election candidate for the Democratic Party. I can debate policy with her. I can do it politely."

He's the one who brought up McCain. He's the one who said he would relish a debate with the Republicans over taxes and spending and repealing some of the Bush tax cuts.

And they say they will surprise us on Tuesday, on Super Tuesday, winning in the smaller states, getting proportional delegates out of California and then still having more than $20 million in the bank to go forward. So we'll see next Tuesday if their strategy is right. But they were right the last time they did this. COOPER: Up next, getting deeper on health care. Three-sixth M.D. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has a fact check. And don't miss his special report at the top of the hour, "Broken Government: Health Care, Critical Condition" right here on CNN.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: And that was the ending moment between these two candidates as the debate wound down. They then approached the stage. A lot of people came up for autographs and pictures.

The Democratic rivals, of course, focused a lot on health care for a big chunk of tonight's debate. And there were all Americans -- a lot of Americans in polls say that they want something better, and to varying degrees the candidates are coming out with their plans.

In the next hour, our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is going to examine the health-care crisis. He joins us right now with a fact check on what the candidates said tonight.

First, though, full disclosure. In 1997-98, Sanjay worked as a White House fellow, which is a nonpartisan appointment, by the way, three or four years after Hillary Clinton's health care plan went down to defeat.

Getting that out of the way, Sanjay, a fact check.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it was interesting tonight to sort of watch the distinctions between the two health-care plans.

Obviously, universal, as you know, is the buzz word here. The big distinction really has to do with this idea of whether or not there would be a mandate or a requirement. Hillary Clinton says she would require all people who can afford to buy health care buy it.

Barack Obama says that's simply not the problem. That people who don't have health care insurance can't afford it. And that's why they're not buying it. And that's probably the biggest distinction.

Senator Clinton will come back and say, look, that means that 15 million people will be left uninsured under Senator Obama's plan. And that is not universal health care. Senator Obama will say we don't mandate. That is not something we should do, mandating people to do something. How are you going to enforce that? Are you going to impose penalties?

The points they do agree on, Anderson, is how they would pay for this expense, which would be tens of billions of dollars. First of all, they both agree they would roll back the Bush tax cuts.

And they both say they would sort of foster this culture of prevention, trying to take care of people before they get sick and then ultimately save hundreds of billions in the long run. But there would be a lot of upfront costs. That's sort of the gist of it. There is some important distinctions there, Anderson, but some similarities as well.

COOPER: And Sanjay is going to look more at that in his next hour. Don't miss the special report at the top of the hour in about three minutes from now: "Broken Government: Health Care, Critical Condition," a CNN investigation.

And up next, some of tonight's other big headlines. A top al Qaeda leader was killed. We've got the details next.


COOPER: Coming up, "Broken Government." Dr. Sanjay Gupta examines health care in America, a system in critical condition. But first, Tom Foreman joins us with a "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Tom.

FOREMAN: Hi, Anderson.

Al Qaeda's No. 3 man is dead. U.S. officials say he was killed in Pakistan in a CIA air strike. The militant was on the military's most wanted list. He was accused of attacks against U.S. and coalition forces in a number of countries in North Africa and the Middle East.

The killer of a young hiker sentenced to life today. Sixty-one- year-old Gary Hilton earlier pleaded guilty to killing Meredith Emerson in the north Georgia mountains on January 4.

Hilton is also a suspect in the killing of a woman in Florida and an elderly couple in North Carolina.

A positive close to an otherwise brutal month on Wall Street. The Dow ended the day at 12,650, a jump of 207 big points. The NASDAQ and S&P also posted gains -- Anderson.

COOPER: Tom, thanks very much.

Up next, Dr. Sanjay Gupta's report, "Broken Government: Health Care, Critical Condition." The red tape, the claims denied, and the frustrations surrounding it all.