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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Bruising Nomination Battle Damaging Democrats?; John McCain Looks to Separate From President Bush

Aired March 26, 2008 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hillary Clinton says she's staying in the race until the end, and her campaign's playing hardball to do it. We have got some stunning new poll numbers that show how dangerous that could be to Democrats in November and, surprisingly, how damaging the last few weeks have been for Senator Clinton.
New revelations, too, about why Democratic leaders want the war between her and Barack Obama to end.

Also tonight, John McCain laying out his foreign policy, fighting words, calling an Iraq pullout an act of betrayal, drawing the line on torture, trying to distance himself from the Democrats and also, at the same time, from President Bush. We will explore all the political angles and new developments in the race with our panel.

Later, a case of Goliath leaning on David -- Wal-Mart trying to collect money from a disabled former employee who had the misfortune not to read the fine print in her health insurance policy. This is one of those cases where what is perfectly legal may also be totally wrong. You can decide for yourself tonight.

We begin, though, with the new poll numbers that show how poorly people think of Hillary Clinton, but also how their view of both her and Barack Obama seems to be souring the longer their primary battle goes on.

According to a new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, Hillary Clinton's positive rating has fallen to 37 percent, the lowest that poll has recorded since her early days in the Senate in 2001, and her negatives a hefty 48 percent. Senator Obama's numbers have also gotten worse, but by not nearly as much.

CNN's Bill Schneider joins us from Washington to walk us through the data -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, voters in general, and Democrats in particular, seem to be blaming Senator Clinton for the negative tone of the campaign. Obama, as you indicated, has much more positive ratings. His ratings have not changed very much.

He's got 49 percent positive, 32 percent. And that's only a minor change over the past two weeks, which is the two weeks of the controversy over Reverend Wright. There is no evidence, NBC and "The Wall Street Journal" find, that the Wright controversy has done much damage to Barack Obama among Democrats in this race. And the race is still very close between the two of them.

COOPER: Do we know how many people were actually polled in this poll?

SCHNEIDER: Ah. I don't have that in front of me. I think it was a little under 1,000.

COOPER: OK. Yes, I believe it was about 600 or 700. Voters were also asked whether the candidates can unite the country. What were the results there?

SCHNEIDER: Well, that is also a bit surprising. Voters are looking for someone who can deliver what Bush promised, to be a uniter, not a divider. Who do they think can do that?

Sixty percent say Barack Obama, despite the Wright controversy. He gave a balanced and unifying speech, which was not provocative. Almost as many people say John McCain can unite the country. But, yikes, Hillary Clinton, just 46 percent believe she can unite the country. So, again, here's evidence that Barack Obama's controversy, the controversy involving Reverend Wright, really has not done him a lot of damage.

COOPER: In the latest Gallup poll, the tracking poll, supporters of Clinton and Obama were asked how they would vote if their candidate didn't win the nomination -- some pretty troubling numbers there for the Democratic Party.

SCHNEIDER: Certainly, they're troubling.

One in five Obama supporters say that they will vote for McCain if Clinton is the Democratic nominee. That's a lot of people. But what's even more -- there you are -- 28 percent say they would vote for McCain. But now look what happens if Obama's the nominee. What happens -- what would Clinton supporters do?

Well, this is -- no, this is Obama supporters. Nineteen percent would vote for McCain if Clinton is the nominee. Twenty-eight percent of Obama supporters say they would vote for McCain if Clinton is the nominee.

The bitterness of the Democratic division is certainly showing up here. But that's not the only reason why so many voters, so many Democrats say they would vote for John McCain. There's another reason. And that is, a lot of Democrats like John McCain. In our poll, 44 percent of Democrats say they have a positive opinion of John McCain.

How many -- how many Republicans have a positive opinion of Hillary Clinton? Nineteen percent. Barack Obama says he can appeal to Republicans. Thirty-five percent of Republicans have a positive opinion of him.

Well, the fact that so many Democrats like McCain and appear to be ready to vote for him suggests why we're seeing the big surprise in all these polls. You have got President Bush, a Republican president, who's very unpopular, a bad economy, an unpopular war. And, yet, the Republican nominee is running neck and neck with both of the potential Democratic nominees. That should not be happening. But, right now, it is.

COOPER: And I just want to make sure those percentages are right. Nineteen percent of Barack Obama's supporters said that, if Hillary Clinton is the nominee, they would vote for McCain. Twenty- eight percent of Hillary Clinton supporters said, if Obama is the nominee, they would vote for McCain.

SCHNEIDER: That's right.

COOPER: And I also double-checked it. Seven hundred people were polled in that.

Bill, appreciate you crunching the numbers for us.


COOPER: We don't yet know how the Clinton camp sees these latest numbers. Just last week, their strategist Mark Penn was using his own interpretation of a cluster of polls to make the case that Senator Obama -- Senator Clinton is more electable. That, of course, is open to debate, along with everything else to do with polling and politics.

About the only number we suspect really matters to either of these candidates at this point is the number of delegates and superdelegates in each column. And, today, Senator Clinton vowed to campaign until the last delegate decides.

CNN's Jessica Yellin is with her on the trail.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While Barack Obama was chilling in the Virgin Islands...


YELLIN: ... Hillary Clinton was in the ring fighting on.

CLINTON: I know there are some in Washington and there are some in the media who want this race to be over. Well, I disagree. I think everyone deserves to be heard.

YELLIN: Never say die. It's in the Clinton DNA.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to tell you something. My family's not big on quitting. You have probably noticed that.


YELLIN: Candidate Clinton seems to relish the fight.

H. CLINTON: This has been a spirited contest.

YELLIN: That's giving some Democratic Party heavy weights heartburn. They worry that, like Godzilla destroying everything in its wake, the sniping will take a toll.

JIM VANDEHEI, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE POLITICO": Blow for blow, day after day, in a way, that really has taken on a nasty tone. And that's why you see so much concern among the Democratic establishment. They're sitting back, going, look it, this is our election to lose. If we can't win this one, which presidential election can we win?

YELLIN: Fueling their anxiety, that new Gallup poll showing 28 percent of Clinton supporters and 19 percent of Obama's would vote for John McCain if their candidate doesn't win. Call it the bitterness index.

Clinton's odds are not good. She would need to pick up two- thirds of the remaining delegates to overtake Obama, a daunting challenge. But she's not going anywhere.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: In the great -- those great philosopher's on "Wayne's World," Hillary is going to quit when monkeys fly out my butt.


COOPER: An interesting visual there, Jessica.

So, the math, All right, makes it maybe almost impossible for Clinton to win. What is her strategy? Is she hoping something -- that, basically, the Obama campaign somehow implodes?

YELLIN: You got it, Anderson.

One Clinton supporter put it to me this way. Look, she's won three out of the four last contests. She's poised to win Pennsylvania by a hefty margin. They say, if the Obama campaign somehow collapses -- if -- then the superdelegates could still flock to Senator Clinton, insist that Florida and Michigan's delegates be seated, and hand her a victory.

But, of course, it's predicated on, A, a lot of ifs, and, B, a huge disaster in the Obama campaign. So, no sign of this party uniting, at least in the short term.

COOPER: I'm also not sure how much I really buy these poll numbers that show, you know, 19 percent of Obama supporters will vote for McCain, 28 percent of Hillary Clinton supporters would vote for McCain. In the heat of the battle, maybe so. But who knows, six months, once it's a general election, how these folks are going to vote.

YELLIN: And that's exactly what the party elders say. They say, look, right now, there's intensity and anger, but as soon as this is a matchup against a Republican, the Democrats will unite. But I can tell you, from being on the trail, we used to hear people saying like in January about how excited they were about both candidates; they thought their choices were great. And now you hear a lot more anger and vituperative comments, a lot more bitterness. So, there is some anxiety in the party that's warranted.

But, again, like -- like you say, the general election will change the dynamic, is the hope.

COOPER: I always love that term, party elders, you know?



YELLIN: They're older.

COOPER: Party elders, exactly, like the Druids or something.

Jessica, thanks very much.

One other bit of hardball to mention: a letter dated today from some top Hillary Clinton fund-raisers to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The essence of it, Speaker Pelosi should -- quote -- "reflect a more open view to the optional independent actions of each of the delegates at the national convention."

In other words, stop saying, as she has, that the delegates and superdelegates should reflect the voters' choice.

Now, the letter also makes a point of mentioning that these big- money funders strongly support the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which some are calling a veiled threat to cut off congressional campaign funding if Speaker Pelosi doesn't toe the line.

The Obama campaign calls the letter -- quote -- "inappropriate."

Judge for yourselves.

I'm blogging about all this tonight, of course, as we do each night. Join in on the conversation. Go to

Up next: Senator Obama on the campaign trail talking tough and talking again about his former pastor, responding to Senator Clinton's remarks yesterday that she would have left the church if it were her pastor.

Later, Wal-Mart tells a brain-damaged employee: Give us our money back. Randi Kaye has that story.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): ... dollars, money it has paid to cover Debbie's (ph) medical bills. The court ruled in Wal-Mart's favor. (on camera): The fact is, is, Wal-Mart isn't doing anything wrong here. It is their legal right to recoup this money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're quite within their rights. But I just wonder, they need it that bad?



COOPER: Barack Obama, back from vacation, campaigning in North Carolina, hitting back at Hillary Clinton's remarks yesterday on his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, campaigning as if he were already the nominee.

With that, on the trail, here's CNN's Suzanne Malveaux.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A warning to senator Hillary Clinton.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will take on anybody. If I have got the American people behind me, then I fear no man, and I fear no woman.

MALVEAUX: Far from shying away from Clinton's criticism of Obama's controversial pastor, Obama offered this:

OBAMA: I hope people don't get distracted by that. We cannot solve the problems of America if, every time somebody somewhere says something stupid, that everybody gets up in arms.

MALVEAUX: Before a largely African-American audience, who occasionally offered Obama an amen, the senator tried to put his black congregation in Chicago into a larger, more inviting context.

OBAMA: Everybody is welcome to come to Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street. It is a wonderful, welcoming church. The United Church of Christ, by the way, is a 99 percent white denomination.

MALVEAUX: Obama needs white voters to support him in the contests ahead, most immediately in Pennsylvania, where polls show Clinton has an edge.

Obama saved his most pointed criticism for the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain, who he mocked as just another version of President Bush, neglecting those who are struggling economically.

OBAMA: George Bush called this the ownership society, but what he really meant was, you're on your own society. If you lose your job, you're on your own. If you got lured in by deceptive mortgage practices, you're on your own. And John McCain apparently wants to continue this.


COOPER: Suzanne Malveaux joins us from New York tonight.

Suzanne, why is -- is Senator Obama still talking about Reverend Wright?

MALVEAUX: This really is a political calculation here, because, ultimately, they believe that they have got to exhaust this conversation, they have got to exhaust the topic now, at least before the general election.

They feel they can weaken this. If there are unanswered questions, unanswered concerns, this is something that they have to deal with. They realize it. They're trying at the same time to really kind of balance this out and say, we don't want this to be a distraction. But, if they can answer those questions now, get it out of the way, then they can deal with some other issues.

COOPER: They have got to be encouraged by these poll numbers that came out in this "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll that we had at the top of the program that shows, really, Senator Clinton's favorability numbers have slipped, certainly more so than Obama, in the wake of all of this.

He's giving a major speech -- he's going to give a major speech on the economy. When is that, and what's the focus?

MALVEAUX: Well, it's actually tomorrow morning. It's right here in New York.

And, essentially, he's going to highlight what he sees as some of the economic problems. He's going to talk about some of his own solutions, the fact that he's going give a tax break for those who make $75,000 or under. He's going to close the tax loop for the highest 1 percent wage-earners. He's going to talk about giving $4,000 in credit for student grants, that type of thing.

But he's also, Anderson, really going to go after John McCain. We heard it today. We heard it yesterday. He's essentially going to say, this is the same old thing. This is Bush politics. He said that McCain admitted he doesn't know very much about the economy, and then he went on to say that he proved that in his speech about the housing crisis. So, expect to hear some real contrasts, some deep -- some differences between these two candidates, and really putting Hillary Clinton aside.

COOPER: An interesting idea there.

And, again, we heard from John McCain today, focusing a lot of criticism on the Democrats in terms of their foreign policy. We will talk about that coming up.

Suzanne, thanks very much. We will talk with you tomorrow night.

With both Democratic candidates digging in on the campaign trail, tonight, we're digging deeper with our political panel, "TIME" magazine's Mark Halperin, Democratic analyst and Obama supporter Jamal Simmons, and senior Clinton adviser Kiki McLean.

Mark, according to this "Wall Street Journal" poll, Obama and Clinton are still basically in a dead heat, suggesting that this flap over Obama's pastor, Reverend Wright, hasn't hurt him. Do you buy that?

MARK HALPERIN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, "TIME": Well, it's always hard to say. This is one measure. We can look at some others.

I think that a question that he's got to ask himself is, why is he not doing better in Pennsylvania? He wasn't doing particularly well before the Wright flap, but let's see if he makes a big push there, and whether we see something in the exit poll. I think, as we have long discussed, this isn't a national election. Let's see, when Pennsylvania votes, whether we see any effect of it. I think that's really the first data that will actually matter.

COOPER: Kiki, Hillary Clinton revived the Reverend Wright controversy yesterday, after kind of remaining silent about it for much of the previous week. Is her strategy now to raise his negatives as much as she can? And, if so, isn't that damaging the party's chances if he becomes the nominee?

KIKI MCLEAN, SENIOR CLINTON CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Well, her strategy is actually to talk about the issues that matter to people.

You know, last week, she spent the week talking about Iraq and what her policy and vision is for the future. This week, she kicked off a series of economic addresses, where she talked about the foreclosure and credit crisis, where she talked about retirement security. She took on John McCain on Iraq and his desire to privatize Social Security.

Tomorrow, she kicks off solutions for the American economy tour. And she will tour through North Carolina...

COOPER: Right.

MCLEAN: ... Indiana, and right into Pennsylvania.


MCLEAN: So, that's what Hillary Clinton is talking about, Anderson.

COOPER: But -- but, yesterday, she was very clearly talking about, with prepared remarks at a press conference, about Reverend Wright.

MCLEAN: Well, yesterday -- yesterday, she was asked a very specific question about what she would do, and she answered it.

COOPER: Right, with prepared remarks that she was clearly ready to answer. I mean, do you think she's trying to distract attention?

(CROSSTALK) MCLEAN: You know what? Her focus is on the areas of national security and the economy. Yesterday, she went to an editorial board meeting. She was asked a question about what she would do, not what somebody else would do, not what she thought somebody else should do, about -- about what she would do.


MCLEAN: And she answered the question. It's that simple.

COOPER: And my -- my question was, is she trying to raise Barack Obama's negatives? Do you think that is a part of the strategy?


She's trying to make sure that people understand what her vision is for the country and the kind of solutions she brings to the table. Look, this is a very, very close race. Democrats have a big decision to make about who they believe will best represent the party, has the best chance to win in November, and, frankly, the best ready to be president now.


MCLEAN: And, so, people need to hear where we are on the issues. That's what it's really about.

COOPER: Jamal, do you believe it is Senator Clinton's strategy to try to raise the negatives on Barack Obama?


One of the things that we're seeing -- look, the Clinton campaign has got a bunk of great spinners over there. It's a fabulous communications operation. I know a lot of the people who are in it. They're very good at what they do.

And I think what she was, she was caught in the mix of this tall tale about Tuzla in Bosnia that she was in the middle of. And they took a strategic moment to remind people of this Roe v. Wade controversy.

And it was clear, because Kiki knows very well that Senator Clinton has been asked this question several times over the last week, and she did not talk about it. So -- but what's happening? What has happened, as we saw in the poll numbers that you just mentioned, is that Democrats recognize that the Clinton campaign is trying to raise Barack Obama's negatives. But it's coming back on them negatively as well. And we saw the same thing with James Carville's remarks the other day.

COOPER: Kiki, I want you to have the chance to respond to that.

MCLEAN: Anderson -- Anderson, let me ask you a question. Yes, I would like to ask a question. So, maybe the question should be, to Jamal, is it Senator Obama's desire to try to raise Senator Clinton's negatives when they put out a memo last Friday calling her a liar, when one of her advisers calls her a monster, when they give a very important speech on...


COOPER: Right.

I'm actually going to ask him that question after the break. I was just trying to get an answer to the question I asked you, which you wouldn't answer. So, I will ask Jamal that question after the break.


MCLEAN: No. I told you that wasn't her strategy.



MCLEAN: Yes, I told you that wasn't her strategy.

COOPER: Right, the third time...


SIMMONS: And I have never used that L-word, but it's clear that she did not tell the truth about Bosnia.

COOPER: Kiki McLean, stick around.

We will have new comments by Bill Clinton about the fighting on the trail.

Also ahead, did Saddam Hussein pay for U.S. lawmakers to visit Iraq before the war? The strange details -- when 360 continues.



B. CLINTON: I have already had four people come up to me and say, tell her not to quit. And I want to tell you something. My family is not big on quitting. You have probably noticed that.



COOPER: Bill Clinton today about the pressure his wife is getting to drop out of the Democratic primary. Not only is Senator Clinton not quitting -- as we reported earlier, she is turning up the heat. And we're digging deeper.

Joining me again, Mark Halperin, Jamal Simmons, and Kiki McLean.

Jamal, I mean, Kiki raises the point. Isn't it also true that Barack Obama is clearly, while he talks about sort of staying above the fray, his surrogates, at the very least, are out there every day on these calls with some pretty biting attacks against Hillary Clinton. Isn't -- isn't their campaign also to raise her negatives even more than they already are?

SIMMONS: Well, you know, it's very interesting.

Senator Clinton is -- we're in a situation where Senator Clinton goes out or her surrogates go out or campaign officials go out, and they rap Barack Obama about the ears every single day about some issue or another. And, so, if his campaign comes out and...

COOPER: But Obama's surrogates do this as well.




SIMMONS: And, so, my point is, so, his campaign comes and out retaliates, or sort of says, well, let's look at these things, and not just look at Barack Obama. Here's where Senator Clinton is vulnerable. Here are some issues that she should have to explain.

Then everyone wants to point the finger at Barack Obama for -- for attacking. I think he has absolutely every right to respond, every right to try to point out where Senator Clinton's record is vulnerable.

COOPER: It's getting into a he said/she said...


COOPER: Go ahead.

MCLEAN: I was just going to say, I don't think comparing Bill Clinton to Joe McCarthy is a response to an issue debate, Jamal.

COOPER: Mark, what about this?

I mean, this -- this clearly pointing fingers by both campaigns, how much does this threaten the Democratic Party, or is this just the rough-and-tumble of campaigns, as Bill Clinton was saying today; look, this is what happens in campaigns; these are strong arguments to be made?

HALPERIN: I'm pretty sympathetic to that point of view. This isn't particularly rough. You don't see negative television ads with Reverend Wright. You don't see negative television ads with the Tuzla arrival ceremony.

So, this could get a lot rougher. But both campaigns are doing it now. It's been Hillary Clinton's only path to victory for weeks, that she try to destroy Barack Obama. Some of it has happened a little bit organically with the Wright thing. But I don't understand why people are suddenly focused on that.

It is the case, as you said -- suggested in your questioning, that, more recently, the Obama campaign, for a variety of reasons, has decided they need to go after Senator Clinton personally.

But, you know, Anderson, back when you were in elementary school, what I used to say is, if you can't stand up to your nomination rivals, how are you going to face down Gorbachev? And there's got to be some current-day version of that. If they cannot fight each other effectively and keep their own reputations intact, I don't think they will beat John McCain or be effective presidents.

COOPER: Well, Jamal, that is that is what a lot of Clinton supporters say. I mean, I talked to Carville the other night on this program, who said, look, this is just a bunch of whining from the Obama campaign, that they can't take the heat.

SIMMONS: Well, I think it's very telling that the numbers you talked about earlier show that Senator Clinton's numbers are going down among Democrats, while Barack Obama's have basically stayed the same. Maybe he's lost a point or two.

And I think what is happening there, the reason why that is the case, is because Democrats recognize that not -- you know, to use Mark Halperin's kindergarten analogy, she started it.


SIMMONS: So, I do think people do recognize that, and they see that he's trying to uplift the debate. He gave a very empowering and open-minded speech. And then Senator Clinton...


COOPER: You ended up basically saying, she started it. That was the point you made.


HALPERIN: Anderson, I was kidding about that elementary school thing, just to be clear.


COOPER: Yes, I know.

I want to play, actually, something that Bill Clinton said today just about this rough-and-tumble on the campaign trail. Do we have that?


B. CLINTON: If a politician doesn't want to get beat up, he shouldn't run for office. If a football player doesn't want to get tackled and want the risk of an occasional clip, he shouldn't put the pads on.


B. CLINTON: Let's just saddle up and have an argument. What's the matter with that? That's what America is about, right?



COOPER: Kiki, you know, a lot is being made about this poll that shows 18 -- 19 percent, I think it is, of Obama supporters will vote for McCain if it's Clinton, 28 percent of Clinton supporters.

Do you buy that? I mean, it seems to me that, just in the heat of the moment, that's what people say, but, down the road, when it's a two-person race in a general election, do you really see people switching over?

MCLEAN: Well, you know what?

I truly believe that, when we're talking about Hillary Clinton running against John McCain, and we're talking about somebody who said he wants to keep our troops in Iraq for 100 years, and Hillary Clinton wants to bring them home safely and responsibly now, we're going to win that race.

Now, have things gotten tough? Yes. I mean, when I hear people make personal attacks against Hillary Clinton whom I respect and whom I support, it stings. It hurts. I would hope that everybody will come together in the end.

But I -- I think this really vicious personalness of calling her a liar, calling her a monster, comparing President Clinton to Joe McCarthy, a man who has led our party and led our country to great prosperity and peace, this is a problem. And, so, you know, there are probably some hurt feelings. But, ultimately, we're not going to know until we get there.

COOPER: Mark, what do you think? Do you think people are just going to ultimately come together?

HALPERIN: I have been saying for a while there will come a moment, either in June or at the convention, where one of these candidates will win and one will lose.

And, at that point, it will be up to the loser to smile, be an outstanding actor or actress, and say, "I support wholeheartedly the one who won, and all the Democrats should get together."

I think they will do that, whether they become a ticket or not. And I think, when they do that, a lot of Democrats will fall into line. And the enthusiasm you have seen in fund-raising, in voter turnout, in every other way, in the overwhelming support for these two candidates, will come together. If the loser doesn't do that, the Democrats have a big problem, because John McCain has extraordinary appeal to independents, despite his view of the war and the economy.

COOPER: A politician being an actor, I can't even imagine such a thing.

Mark Halperin, Kiki McLean, Jamal Simmons, always good to have you on. Thank you very much.


COOPER: Still to come: tough talk from John McCain: why he calls the Democrats' plan for a pullout from Iraq an act of betrayal.

First, Erica Hill joins us with the 360 bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, speaking of Iraq, several prosecutors saying today Saddam Hussein's intelligence agency secretly paid to send three U.S. lawmakers to Iraq just months before the U.S.-led invasion.

An Iraqi-born U.S. citizen is accused of arranging that trip. He believed the lawmakers were sympathetic to lifting sanctions against Iraq. In exchange, the man allegedly received two million barrels of Iraqi oil.

American Airlines canceling hundreds of flights today to conduct more a detailed inspection on the wiring of its MD-80 aircraft. And there could be some flights grounded soon at Delta -- that airline saying tonight it plans to reinspect the wiring in 133 of its planes.

The FBI is analyzing a parachute found by some kids playing in Washington State. It turns out it may have been used by legendary plane hijacker D.B. Cooper in 1971. You may recall, he famously parachuted off the plane with $200,000 in cash. Agents don't think he survived the freefall, but there's been no sign of him since -- so, maybe a clue.

COOPER: D.B. Cooper is not a relative of mine, in case you're wondering.

HILL: Really?


HILL: His real name was David Cooper. Is David Cooper a relative?

COOPER: No. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.


COOPER: I actually did see a mug shot, like an artist's rendering of him -- I don't know if we have that -- we probably don't -- but earlier today, and it kind of looked like me. I got a little worried. HILL: Oh, careful.

COOPER: But, as far as I know, not a relative.


COOPER: Yes. At least he hasn't shown up to any family reunions.

So, stay right there, Erica.

Kids today. Have you heard of the -- what's called the "Bimbo" game? Apparently, youngsters can buy their virtual dolls breast implants and put them on crash diets. Oy. "What Were They Thinking?"

That's next.


COOPER: Erica, now our segment, "What Were They Thinking?"

The days of playing Yahtzee and Twister have apparently given way to a new and truly tasteless cyber board game. It's called, Miss Bimbo.

HILL: Yes, right there.

COOPER: Bills itself as a, quote, virtual fashion game for girls. Here's some of that fashion. Girls get to name their own online bimbo. They can also give the Internet dolls breast implants, even get them to lose weight with diet pills. I kid you not.

HILL: This is great.

COOPER: They pay for these things by earning so-called bimbo cash. We're told the site is from Britain. It was launched last month. It's apparently popular with tweens and teenagers. I wasn't really familiar with what a tween was, but someone explained it to me.

One of the guys behind Miss Bimbo reportedly said it's not a bad influence for young children at all. There you go.

HILL: No. No. Not at all. That's great, yes. Just buy yourself some boobs and starve yourself to death. That's a great lesson for a 7-year-old.

COOPER: Yes, really charming. All the -- see, isn't the Internet grand?

HILL: Fantastic.

COOPER: All right. We'll have more from Erica next -- coming up.

Also tonight, John McCain's fighting words, calling Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's plans to pull troops out of Iraq an act of betrayal. We've got the "Raw Politics" of his foreign policy address.

Also ahead, a story more than a million of you have respond to on the 360 blog. Wal-Mart suing a former employee. She has brain damage, and they want her to pay them. Randi Kaye has the outrageous details, coming up.



SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It would be an unconscionable act of betrayal, a stain on our character as a great nation, if we were to walk away from the Iraqi people and consign them to the horrendous violence, ethnic cleansing and possibly genocide that would follow a reckless, irresponsible and premature withdrawal.


COOPER: Iraq was a major focus of Senator John McCain's foreign policy speech today here in Los Angeles. It's one of the most challenging issues he faces as the presumptive Republican nominee. Same for the Democrats, as well.

With two-thirds of Americans now opposed to the war in Iraq, and President Bush's approval ratings at an all-time low, Senator McCain has to convince voters he's not offering more of the same. That's part of what he tried to do today.

CNN's Dana Bash has the "Raw Politics."


DAN BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John McCain's emphatic support for keeping troops in Iraq defines his candidacy but defies public opinion. Here, he tried to explain.

MCCAIN: I hold my position because I hate war, and I know very well and very personally how grievous its wages are. But I know, too, that we must sometimes pay those wages to avoid paying even higher ones later on.

BASH: In his first major foreign policy address as presumptive Republican nominee, McCain used his background as the son of veterans and a Vietnam POW as a contrast to Democrats he calls naive.

MCCAIN: Arguing for a course that would eventually draw us into a wider, more difficult war that would entail far greater dangers and sacrifices than we have suffered to date.

BASH: He called staying in Iraq a moral responsibility, sounding a lot like George W. Bush. But this speech was mainly an attempt to highlight a McCain world view quite different from the president's.

MCCAIN: Our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want, whenever we want.

BASH: Insisting he will abandon the president's perceived go-it- alone mentality.

MCCAIN: When we believe international action is necessary, whether military, economic or diplomatic, we will try to persuade our friends that we are right. But we in return, must be willing to be persuaded by them.

BASH: An attempt to show his commitment to restoring America's tarnished reputation, McCain repackaged a list of other differences with the president: a treaty on climate change, nuclear disarmament, closing Guantanamo Bay.


COOPER: Talking about repackaging. Not really a lot new in the speech today, but clearly trying to draw distinctions between himself and the Democrats and also himself and President Bush.

BASH: That's exactly right, Anderson. Really, no new proposals at all in this speech. And of course, Democrats jumped on that and said, "Aha! Another vapid speech from John McCain, just like yesterday on the economy."

But what you said is really exactly, frankly, what McCain advisers say the point of the speech was, was to put, in a comprehensive place, John McCain's world view and really try to flesh out what makes him tick, in terms of his approach to diplomacy, his approach to war, and again, provide a contrast with the Democrats, clearly, on Iraq. But also President Bush. Not just on some of the things that I just listed in the end, though, like Guantanamo Bay and others, but he was much more -- much more of a tough position on Russia, for example, much more skeptical of President Putin.

So it also gives us a bit of a benchmark, if there ever is a McCain presidency, we can go back and look at this and see if -- we're keeping him honest already.

COOPER: In response to what the Democrats have been saying, because you hear from Senator Clinton, you hear from Senator Obama. Both talk about McCain and George Bush almost interchangeably in terns of the war in Iraq.

BASH: And that was exactly the point: on everything except for Iraq. That's why he really laid that out there.

COOPER: Dana, thanks very much for that.

All three candidates have plans for Iraq, of course. We think it's worthwhile just to take a moment to look at the three plans and how they're different. Erica Hill is back with the "360 Fact Check" -- Erica.

HILL: So Anderson, they all have promises about how they would deal with the war in Iraq, but are any of these promises or these plans realistic? We're going to lay them out for you and let you be the judge. Let's start first with John McCain. Now, to win the war, he actually wants to add U.S. troops in Iraq, as we learned. That's because he believes an overwhelming American force there would destroy the insurgency, halt sectarian violence and ultimately help rebuild the country. In order to stabilize Iraq, McCain plans to speed up the training of Iraqi armed forces.

And he's also going to seek worldwide pressure, he says, on both Iran and Syria to stop, who in his words, who have aided and abetted the violence in Iraq.

Now, as we know, both Democrats want out of Iraq. Hillary Clinton says that she would begin her presidency, if elected, by withdrawing forces within the first 60 days of her presidency. She'd also bring in a U.N. representative to help broker peace among the various sectarian groups in Iraq.

And she wants to create a diplomacy coalition, a group of U.S. allies and also Iraq's neighbors, which would develop and help implement a specific plan for stability there.

Barack Obama says he would start pulling troops out immediately if elected and that he wants all U.S. combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months of taking office. He says he would not have any permanent U.S. bases there but that he would keep some American troops in the country to protect U.S. embassies and personnel.

Now, he would also include both public and private Iraqis, as well as U.N. representatives in a group that would help to plan for the country's governance, also to re-examine its constitution.

And like Clinton, Obama also believes diplomacy is what will help stabilize the country. He would also call on Iraq's neighbors here to help with that plan, including, he points out in his plan, Iran and Syria, Anderson.

COOPER: Erica Hill, thanks very much for that "360 Fact Check."

Up next, a story you really have to see to believe. Wal-Mart is suing a disabled former employee to get back insurance money they say she owes them. They're not breaking the law, but are they right? You can decide for yourself after you see the story.

And a little later on, new details on what caused a pilot's gun to go off inside the cockpit of a U.S. Airways plane.

You're watching 360.


COOPER: There's a heated discussion on our blog right now about this next story. Go to if you want to weigh in and join the conversation.

A giant among giants, Wal-Mart, it's the world's largest retailer. We know that. Nearly 2 million employees. Last year alone, it reported more than $374 billion in sales. A lot of money, to be sure.

That's why this story may leave you angry. It's a battle between Wall-Mart and a family that has been devastated by tragedy. At the center of this emotional case is the law, of course. And some say just because it's the law, doesn't mean it's right.

CNN's Randi Kaye investigates.


DEBBIE SHANK, FORMER WAL-MART EMPLOYEE: (speaking foreign language)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Debbie Shank remembers how to count in German, but she has no idea what she had for breakfast or what my name is minutes after meeting me. Debbie has no short-term memory.

In May of 2000, a semi truck plowed into her minivan on this Missouri highway. Debbie's brain took the brunt of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It came through her window and probably hit her head.

SHANK: I don't remember.

KAYE: Today she lives in a nursing home. Jim Shank works two jobs to help pay the bills, and his bank account may soon take another hit.

(on camera) Eight years ago, when she started stocking shelves at this Wal-Mart near her home, Debbie signed up for the company's health and benefits plan, so she was covered and her family says the bills were paid promptly.

What Debbie didn't notice, her husband says, is a tiny clause in the plan's paperwork that says Wal-Mart has the right to recoup medical expenses if the employee also collects damages in a lawsuit.

(voice-over) In 2002, the Shanks settled with the trucking company. After legal fees, $417,000 was put in a trust for Mrs. Shank's care. The family's lawyer says he told Wal-Mart about the settlement.

Then in 2005, Wal-Mart's health plan asked for its money back and sued the Shanks for about $470,000, money it had paid to cover Debbie's medical bills. The court ruled in Wal-Mart's favor.

(on camera) The fact is, is Wal-Mart isn't doing anything wrong here. It is their legal right to recoup this money.

JIM SHANK, DEBBIE'S HUSBAND: They're quite within their rights. But I just wonder if they need it that bad.

BASH (voice-over): We tried to ask Wal-Mart why go after the money? The company's net sales, third quarter of 2007, were $90 billion.

A Wal-Mart spokesman, who called Mrs. Shank's case "unbelievably sad," told us, "Wal-Mart's plan is bound by very specific rules. We wish it could be more flexible in Mrs. Shank's case. Since her circumstances are clearly extraordinary. But this is done out of fairness to all associates who contribute to and benefit from the plan"

(on camera) Do you think Wal-Mart should make an exception for your family?

J. SHANK: My idea of a win-win, you keep the paperwork that says you've won and let me keep the money so I can take care of my wife.

BASH: If Wal-Mart's health plan gets the money back, Jim says he won't be able to pay for his wife's care or his own. He's recovering from prostate cancer. He may lose his car, and he won't be able to send his youngest son to college.

J. SHANK: Who needs the money more, a disabled lady in a wheelchair with no future whatsoever, does she need it? Or does Wal- Mart need $90 billion plus $200,000?

BASH: The Shanks' lawyer says Wal-Mart is entitled to only about $100,000. Right now, about $277,000 remains in the trust, far short of what Wal-Mart wants back.

J. SHANK: That's what she got you for Christmas.

BASH: Last year, Jim divorced Debbie so she could get more money from Medicaid.

(on camera) The trauma to Debbie's brain was so severe, Jim says, she won't remember we were here visiting her. In fact, she doesn't even remember the accident that put her here.

She's in a private room for now, due to severe mood swings and a tendency to scream, all related to her injuries. But she may not be able to afford her own room much longer.

(voice-over) Last summer the Shanks appealed the ruling in Wal- Mart's favor and lost. One week later, another terrible loss. Their son, 18-year-old Jeremy, in Iraq just two weeks, was killed. Debbie went to the funeral but doesn't remember her son is dead.

D. SHANK: Why?

BASH: When reminded, it was as if she was hearing it for the first time.

Just last week, the family lost its final push. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Debbie's case. So they wait until Wal-Mart comes to collect.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: It may not be fair, but it is the law. What else might surprise you about this is your company may have the same health care policy. We'll find out. Randi Kaye has some new details to tell you, and we'll also hear from senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, next on 360.


COOPER: Before the break, we told you how the family of a former Wal-Mart employee, a woman who was brain damaged after a traffic accident, is being ordered to pay back hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses. Even though Debbie Shank was covered under Wal-Mart's health plan, the company has the right to recoup the cost.

Just one week after losing the case in court, the family learned that Debbie's son was killed in Iraq. It is an unbelievably heartbreaking story, and the case raises questions about morality and justice.

Joining us for some new developments from her report, CNN's Randi Kaye, along with senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeff, first, I just want to ask you, Wal-Mart is saying, look, they had to sue this lady, they had to sue the Shank family out of fairness to everyone who contributes to the plan. Those were their words. Do you buy that?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely not. They don't have to sue. It is true. I had a long talk with the Wal-Mart lawyers today. It is true that, under the contract, they had the right to sue, and they won their case.

But the idea that a company this size was obligated to sue is completely wrong. And I don't believe -- I am enough of a believer in American capitalism that I don't think there are five companies in the country that would have sued to get this money back, given these circumstances.

COOPER: Randi, on the blog the attorney for the Shank family is getting a lot of criticism. I know you spoke to Jim Shank about it. First of all, what's the criticism, and what does he say about it?

KAYE: Well, a lot of the people, of course, are very angry with Wal-Mart, saying they're not even going to shop there ever again.

But a lot of the criticism about the attorney was that he did receive a fee of about $300,000, according to Jim Shank. So I asked Jim, "Well, are you upset about that, because a lot of -- certainly a lot of our readers and viewers are?" And he said no.

COOPER: So he took his fee?

KAYE: He did take his fee. But Jim said that he earned every penny of it, and he was OK with that. And -- and... COOPER: Also, had he read the fine print in that -- I mean, had he known that, if they got money back in the lawsuit, they would have had to pay Wal-Mart back, would they have gone ahead and sued?

KAYE: Yes, Jim said that he had been made aware of that, but nobody really ever thought it would come to that. First of all, they didn't know if they were actually going to settle with this trucking company. They did get $1 million, and then $417,000 was put into this trust for her care.

But now Jim is left to have to explain to his wife, who doesn't even understand why she's living in this nursing home, that all this money put aside for her care is going to be taken away from the company that -- that she worked for and that had agreed to protect her. They thought they were covered.

And Anderson, really, the lesson here is that Wal-Mart is not the only company that has a clause like this, a fine-print clause in that contract. Hundreds of them do around the country, including the one that you and I work for.

COOPER: That's good to know. I'm not sure there's anything -- Jeff, I mean, in terms of laws, is there anything one can do about that, or is that just -- you just have to be aware of it?

TOOBIN: Well, the problem with these contracts is: A, no one understands them; B, no one reads them; and you don't have much choice.

But it's also important to remember here somebody's going to pay for Debbie Shanks' care. And it was either Wal-Mart or the taxpayers. And so Wal-Mart has arranged it so that the taxpayers, Medicaid, covers her care instead of Wal-Mart. And I think that's also part of this story.

COOPER: And just -- yes, and just the fact that, I mean, he had to get divorced from her so that she could get more Medicaid -- more Medicare and that her son died in Iraq and, you know, that every time she hears about that it's like hearing about it for the first time. It is just -- it's an unbelievable story.

A lot of people weighing in on the blog. I urge people to go there at Appreciate all your comments.

Randi, we'll continue to follow the story. You can check again,

Erica Hill joins us now with the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Erica.

HILL: Anderson, a smooth landing tonight for the Space Shuttle Endeavour at the Kennedy Space Center. Endeavour spent more than two weeks in orbit, and much of that time was spent working on the International Space Station.

Some new details on the pilot's gun that went off inside a U.S. Airways cockpit on Sunday -- Saturday, that is. In a police report made available today, the pilot said the pistol discharged as he was trying to stow it away. He didn't notify air traffic control, nor did he say the bullet had punctured the cockpit until the plane landed. The pilot has been grounded, pending an investigation.

Some economists believe the government may soon be helping homeowners crippled by the housing crisis, not just banks. Last week, of course, the Federal Reserve agreed to back nearly $30 million in losses at Bear Stearns.

And the first lady of France, au natural. Pictures of Carla Bruni Sarkozy taken in 1993 when she was a model now being auctioned by Christies in New York. The photos of President Nicolas Sarkozy's new wife will be sold next month.

All this came out right before their trip to the U.K. today, so getting a little extra attention, Anderson.

COOPER: Wow. If you have naked pictures around they're going to come up at auction.

HILL: They could, yes. But I don't have any, luckily, and they wouldn't fetch what hers would. So there you go.

COOPER: Yes. Just -- let's just move on. Just ahead on the campaign trail, presidential candidates, of course, like to stress their differences. But deep within their family trees, there are some possible surprising connections. Wait until you hear who they may be related to. That's next on 360.


COOPER: Tonight's "Shot" has it all: politics, family secrets. For three years now the New England Historical -- Historic Genealogical Society has been tracing the ancestry, Erica, of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. To put it mildly, they have found some surprises.

The researchers say that Senator Obama is actually related to actor Brad Pitt. Yes, who would have guessed that? His rival, Senator Clinton, said to share roots with Brad Pitt's romantic partner, actor -- actress Angelina Jolie. She, of course, is also the mother of Pitt's child, which I guess means that Shiloh and Chelsea Clinton are also somehow connected.

In the meantime, Senator Clinton [SIC], who as you know, has a pretty bumpy history with President Bush, is said to share common ancestors with first lady Laura Bush.

HILL: How about that? You know, and I think we also found one of your distant relatives, Anderson. I think we -- there we go. D.B. Cooper. Yes.

COOPER: Yes. Can you see the sort of resemblance? It's kind of creepy, isn't it?

HILL: Actually, there is a little something there. It's kind of weird.

But you're not related.

COOPER: I actually look like...

HILL: You know nothing about what happened in 1971. Nothing at all.

COOPER: That's right. At age 4, I looked exactly like I look now, and I knew how to parachute out of a plane.

HILL: There you go.

COOPER: Coming up at the top of the hour, the battling Democrats. New polling about the damage to Hillary Clinton and the damage to her and Barack Obama if the fight goes on. That's next. Stay tuned.