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Campbell Brown

Democrats Step Up Attacks on Sarah Palin; Battleground Ohio

Aired September 09, 2008 - 20:00   ET


The big story on the campaign trail is, again, Sarah Palin. We have been talking about her a lot since she burst on to the national political scene 12 days ago, and a lot of our show is devoted to her tonight. There's a good reason for that, though. Think of how much we already know about the other candidates, how long we have been reporting on the other candidates, and how much we have yet to learn about Palin.

Our job is to get you as much information as we can, fair, unbiased, so that you can form your own opinions.

Tonight, Palin is in the headlines for not anything she said, but for what Obama's running mate, Joe Biden, said in a town hall meeting in Missouri today. He didn't mention Palin by name, but listen to this.


SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I hear all this talk about how the Republicans are going to work in dealing with parents who have both the joy -- because there's joy to it as well -- the joy and the difficulty of raising a child who has a developmental disability, who were born with a birth defect.

Well, guess what, folks? If you care about it, why don't you support stem cell research?


BROWN: A slam that Palin's opposition to stem cell research. But it's how he slammed her, the words Biden chose, that has the McCain campaign up in arms tonight. They are calling it, in their words, a new low.

Yes, everybody, we have now entered that phase of the campaign where you're going to hear both sides play a lot of semantical games here, taking words out of context, accusing one another of mythical slights. Both sides are guilty of it. But we are going to use the Biden example tonight to talk about some very real issues in this campaign.

Sarah Palin is a mother whose new baby has Down syndrome, but she's also running for vice president of the United States. Stem cell research has got to be a personal issue for her, but it's also a fair policy question that deserves debate. And we will debate it tonight. Also tonight, rumors flying about Palin all over the Internet. My e-mail box -- e-mail inbox is full of them. Yours probably is, too. Well, we're going to dig into those rumors for you, no bias, no bull, to separate facts from fiction tonight.

Plus, our exclusive interview with one of the people who does know her best, her father. We will have all that and more tonight in the ELECTION CENTER.

But, first, Joe Biden's comments today on stem cell research, how it could help children with disabilities. Though he was talking about Republicans, a lot of people thought he was talking directly to Sarah Palin.

Candy Crowley live in Washington now with the very latest on this.

And, Candy, we just heard Senator Biden's comments on stem cell research. His office said he wasn't talking about her. The McCain campaign calling it disturbing, a new low.

What are you hearing?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, obviously, they do think that this was directed at Palin, particularly since, in her remarks at the convention, she talked directly to parents with children with special needs, saying, you're going to have a friend in the administration when you elect the McCain-Palin ticket.

So, they took this very personally. On the other hand, as you point out, this is the season for both these campaigns to slam back, and slam hard. So, they obviously took this from Biden. They would like us to see it as another way that Biden is prone to stepping into gaffes.

Nonetheless, you're right. It does bring up what is essentially a really interesting division among these four politicians, and there are four of them running, about where they stand on stem cell research.

BROWN: Let's do that, Candy, because you're right. There are important divisions. Clarify where the candidates are on this.

CROWLEY: There are.

And this is obviously very a sort of scientific discussion that is overlaid with religion and moral and ethical concerns. But, by and large, John McCain, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama are pretty much in the same position.

Now, John McCain has said that he is for embryonic stem cell research, which is different -- there is adult stem cell research -- and there's no controversy about that, but embryonic stem cell research, in most cases -- he doesn't believe in cloning embryonic -- embryos for stem cell research. But, nonetheless, they are pretty much in the same way. The one person who is against stem cell research of any kind so far as we can tell from her public words is Sarah Palin, and that's another reason why they took this so personally at the McCain campaign.

BROWN: All right. Candy Crowley for us tonight -- Candy, as always, thanks.

So, how will Joe Biden's play with voters and will Palin's position help her or hurt her?

We're going to talk about that now with our panel, CNN senior political analyst Jeffrey Toobin, CNN political analyst also here Roland Martin, and Bay Buchanan, Republican strategist and former senior adviser to Mitt Romney's campaign, all joining us again tonight.

Welcome, everybody.

Roland, let me start with you here.

Joe Biden didn't mention Sarah Palin by name, but it sure does sound like he was addressing her as a mother of a special needs child. To some people, that crossed a line. What do you think?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, why can he not question her on a policy position?

See, here's the fundamental problem here. The Republicans want to say, we're running somebody who is a pit bull, who can criticize Obama, Biden in a speech, oh, but don't criticize her. This is a policy position.

What the McCain campaign wants -- and, look, I understand political strategy. They want to be able to say, oh, she can play tough, but, if you question her, well, you know what, don't question her child. Well, she talked about it in the speech. It's all about policy.

Ronald Reagan, they had all these tributes to Ronald Reagan at the convention. You didn't hear one Republican say Nancy Reagan supports stem cell research. No. But they loved themselves on Ronald Reagan.

And so you can't have it both ways. Biden was right to make the comment. That's what happens. And if Palin wants to play this game, guess what, it's called game on, on both sides.

BROWN: Do you agree with that, Bay? Is it fair?

BAY BUCHANAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I will tell you, certainly the issue is a fair one. And she will tell you point blank she's opposed to stem cell research. She's not going to hesitate. Everybody already knows this.

The problem is, he suggested that, because she stated that she cares, she will be a voice, she will be an open heart for anyone who has these kinds of difficulties in their family, he says, well, if that is what she says, if she really cares, how can she take this position on stem cell research?

That is a non sequitur, a complete non sequitur. You can be extremely concerned and fight and help these people in every way you can and also stand up for your beliefs. And that is a strong pro-life statement that you're opposed to stem cell research.


BROWN: Here's where I'm a little confused, is why that is crossing a line? Because, without a doubt, I you will hear some families say who support stem cell research maybe because of someone in their family who could benefit from it, who may say to her, you are in a similar position to me. How come you can't relate to what I'm going through? Why don't you get my support for this?

BUCHANAN: It's a quick answer, is, she believes that -- and we're not talking adult stem cell. We're talking strictly the embryonic stem cell.

And she says, it's very clear. I believe that's life. And I do not believe we can create life to destroy it. I can't support that. It goes against all my beliefs.

She's a woman that stands up and is not hesitant to take a strong position and not go over that line. But, in all other ways, she's there, research for adult stem or the umbilical cord cells. Those are becoming very, very promising. We will do it in other ways, but I will not violate my personal beliefs for myself, for my own family, or for anyone else.

BROWN: Jeff.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: I think this is a very perilous issue for Republicans, because -- forget this phony outrage over what Biden said. I think that's just a total sideshow.

What is interesting is, stem cell research is very popular with swing voters, people in the middle, families who have multiple sclerosis, who have Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, all these decisions where stem cell research is promising.

By excluding that entire scientific method, it seems like you're an extremist. And frankly her position is very extreme in the American spectrum. And I think that is the real problem here. That's why they're trying -- the Republicans are trying to make her look like a victim, rather than talk about the merits of her position.

MARTIN: Absolutely.


MARTIN: It's sort of like if you criticize Barack Obama if he sends a kid to private school, they say, well, don't bring his kids up, because they shouldn't be a part of the conversation. Come on.


BROWN: We have got to take a quick break. But let me just add here, too, it's her position. John McCain supports stem cell research.

BUCHANAN: And John is on the other side. And that's why it doesn't -- even going to play in the campaign.

BROWN: OK. Hold on a minute, guys. You're coming right back. We have got more to talk about, including a look at Sarah Palin rumors flying around the Internet. We have been digging into them, so that we can separate fact and fiction for you. We will have that next.

And then later, McCain and Obama at odds on Iraq. Can either one pass our no bias, no bull test?

Plus, the candidates go to Ohio, one of a handful of states that may decide this election. We're going to tell you why.



BROWN: Senator Palin stepped into the political spotlight less than two weeks ago. And since she's such an unknown, she's been an easy target for rumors. And the Internet is now full of them.

Well, our Joe Johns has been digging into them. He is ready to tell you the truth in the ELECTION CENTER style, no bias, no bull.

Joe, lots of charges and accusations out there. Give us a reality check here.

And let's start with the rumors that Governor Palin wanted to ban books while she was the mayor of Wasilla.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Internet rumor that, as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, Palin demanded that certain books be banned from the library.

Pretty much didn't happen. The truth is, she did ask some questions about banning books, even fired and quickly rehired the librarian. But, for the record, no books were actually banned.

So, what was she up to? Well, you could draw the inference -- and many people have drawn the inference -- that she was up to something, but all we know is that we have no evidence one way or the other, Campbell.

BROWN: All right, Joe, what about the accusations that Governor Palin wanted to teach creationism in Alaska schools?

JOHNS: This is another one making the rounds on the Internet, that Palin pushed for teaching creationism in Alaska schools, very controversial. Palin said students should debate both sides -- that's a lot different -- both sides of the creationism debate, but she didn't declare that it had to be part of the official curriculum.

BROWN: All right. Joe, we have also been hearing a lot of talk about Governor Palin cutting funds for special needs students. Did that happen?

JOHNS: Right.

This is one of the first false rumors I got in my e-mail about Palin, that she cut Alaska's funding for special needs education, by more than 60 percent, by the way. The truth on this one is exactly the opposite. That's according to Viveca Novak of She looked into it. She says Palin actually tripled the funding for special needs children. It went from something like $24,000 per student, which was this year's amount. And, in three years, it's going to go to $74,000 a student, which is just about tripling it.

BROWN: All right, Joe, we also asked to you do a little fact check on what Governor Palin has been saying, also, because she appears to be fudging a bit in a line that she's continually using on the campaign trail about that infamous bridge to know. Let's listen.


GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I told Congress, thanks, but no thanks, for that bridge to nowhere, said, if our state wanted to build a bridge, we would ourselves.



BROWN: So, what's the real story here?

JOHNS: OK. It's basically true, but Congress sort of said no thanks first.

We talked to the nonpartisan watchdog group Taxpayers For Common Sense. And they say she did put the nail in the coffin on one of the bridges to nowhere, but only after Congress weighed in on the very same point. So, it's sort of like she got religion on this issue of earmarks, but it was a little bit after it came -- became a national issue, Campbell.

BROWN: And she had originally supported it, also, right, John?

JOHNS: Right. And that's also very important to say. She did support it. She also supported a lot of different earmarks in the state of Alaska. Even as the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, she even hired a lobbyist to try to get money to come into the state and come into her town.

But, at the end of the day, she changed her mind about this. And a lot of politicians have been changing their mind, somewhat under pressure, on the issue of earmarks, as it's become more of a national controversy.

BROWN: Right. And she's out there campaigning as an anti- earmark candidate as well.

OK, Joe Johns for us doing the reality check, no bias, no bull -- as always, Joe, thank you.

The thing about smears and rumors is that sometimes they do work. And how much of this is the sort of thing that can hurt a candidate?

We're going to talk about that now again with the panel, Jeff Toobin, Roland Martin, Bay Buchanan.

And, Roland, let me start with you, because we certainly saw what a smear campaign did to Barack Obama. It took a lot of time and energy from that campaign to deal with false rumors that he was a Muslim, to deal with ridiculous questions about patriotism.

Is this -- now I guess the same thing, in many ways, is happening to her. Should kind of politics generally be out of bounds?

MARTIN: First of all, you have always had the smears. Folks on the left and the right want to attack the other side, make them out to be the most crazy, outrageous person.

And so it's the responsibility of the campaigns to debunk every single one of those smears. The Obama campaign was slow out of the gate initially in trying to fight them, thinking they would go away. In the age of the Internet, you can forget about it.

But you do -- but you have to be careful, though, if you're the politician. When you begin to make comments in your speeches and you have the facts that don't back it up, then all of a sudden your credibility is lost. That's where they have got to be careful.

TOOBIN: There's a big issue here that is different, though.

The way politicians rebut these things in general is give interviews, answer questions. Why was this librarian fired? Frankly, I don't know. I don't think Joe Johns knows. I don't think we know.

JOHNS: That's a good point.

TOOBIN: How much creationism should be taught in schools? Why didn't you say that you were supporting the bridge to nowhere before you opposed it? Give an interview. This is what politicians do. She's got one interview scheduled, but this is not the normal way national candidates behave.


MARTIN: In fact, I had former Congressman J.C. Watts on my radio show today. And, Campbell, he said, point blank, she should go before the media, answer many of the questions, and get them out of the way.

(CROSSTALK) BROWN: Well, Bay, seriously, we don't -- there are so many unknowns about her. It's in part why people argue the media is obsessed, the public is obsessed, is because there are so many unknowns. It is so close to Election Day.

BUCHANAN: Is that why?

BROWN: Yes. Don't you think?

BUCHANAN: Yes. No, I don't know that that is why.


BROWN: Address Jeff's point, because that was a fair point that Jeff just made, is that all those things, we dispelled what were falsehoods in Joe John's piece.


BROWN: But we don't know the answers to those questions that Jeffrey just raised.

BUCHANAN: No, we don't. And she's going to do interviews.

But let me explain to you. A strategy is defined as to what is best for a campaign. They define it, not the press, saying, we think you should do this, we think you should do that.

Forget it. Don't even listen to those fellows. They don't have your interests in mind. Right now, the momentum of this campaign is all with McCain/Palin. We are picking up points every single day. We shouldn't change one thing we're doing.

And I got to tell you another thing. You want to talk about all these smears. We now have Obama putting together a sleaze squad, 30 guys flying into Wasilla, Alaska, to see if they can't turn over anything, any bit of dirt to spread rumors. That's the kind of campaign...


MARTIN: I'm sorry. Your brother is Patrick Buchanan. Isn't that called opposition research?



MARTIN: Bay, come on.


MARTIN: Come on. You know how the campaigns work. It's called opposition research. And what you do is, you find -- first of all, you find out about the opposition, so you know how to attack them and respond to them. Come on now. (CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: Let me ask you, is family part of this? Are friends part of this? Can we just move...


BUCHANAN: ... 17-year-old girl? Is that part of your campaign?


MARTIN: Why don't you ask your folks on the right about Obama? Come on, Bay. Stop it.


BROWN: We're not talking about her family or her daughter, not on this program, Bay. We're trying as much as we can to focus on the issues here and who she is and what her positions are.


BROWN: Jeff gets the last word.

TOOBIN: Bay gave a wonderful definition of the difference between a strategist and a journalist.

She's saying, look, this is working for us. Let's keep it up.

BUCHANAN: Absolutely.

TOOBIN: We're not strategists. Our job is to find out the facts, is to learn about these people's backgrounds. And I don't care if it's helping or hurting McCain or Obama. It's our job to learn what people think. And the usual way to do that is to get interviews.

BROWN: Fair point.


BUCHANAN: Keep trying. Keep trying.


BROWN: I'm letting Jeff have the last word.


MARTIN: We will keep trying, Bay. And when...


MARTIN: ... keep having answers...


MARTIN: ... you see what happens.

BROWN: We will be back in just a minute.

Coming up next, the war over the war. You have heard what Obama and McCain keep saying about troop withdrawals. How would their positions really play out on the ground? We have the facts tonight. Michael Ware is with us, no bias, no bull.

And later in the hour, our exclusive interview with somebody who has known Sarah Palin her entire life. Maybe he will help us get some answers here. Her father will be with us.

We will be back after this.


BROWN: Important news today about one of the biggest issues in this campaign, the war in Iraq. And we are showing you the numbers right now. The U.S. now has 146,000 troops in Iraq. Today, though, President Bush announced that, by early next year, some 8,000 troops will leave without being replaced.

The president also announced he's shifting about 4,500 U.S. troops into Afghanistan to beef up the fight there against the Taliban and al Qaeda. He says conditions in Iraq are improving.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Reduced levels of violence in Iraq have been sustained for several months. While the progress in Iraq is still fragile and reversible, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker report that there now appears to be a degree of durability to the gains we have made.


BROWN: So, even before today's announcement, it was clear that either President McCain or President Obama will have to decide the future of U.S. forces in Iraq.

So, we're going to listen to what both candidates are saying about Iraq today, put to our no bias, no bull test.

Who better to do that than CNN correspondent Michael Ware.


BROWN: He's been stationed in Baghdad for years, and just happens to be stateside and here in the ELECTION CENTER tonight.

Welcome to you.


BROWN: We're going to do this. We're going to hear from both candidates. So, let's first listen to what John McCain said today.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We have succeeded in Iraq. And we are winning. And our troops will come home with victory and honor. They will come home with victory and honor.


MCCAIN: If Senator Obama had had his way, we would have suffered defeat, Iranian influence would have increased, and we face greater chaos in the region.

Senator Obama has refused to acknowledge that he was wrong about the surge. He said it wouldn't succeed. Thanks to General David Petraeus and these brave young Americans, we are winning in Iraq.


MCCAIN: And we will come home with honor.


BROWN: OK. So, reality check on McCain. Are we really winning in Iraq, and is the surge the reason?

WARE: Well, first, let me say, the troops will come home with honor regardless. I mean, the way they have comported themselves in this war, they have earned that honor.

Winning, however, is a matter of definition. Now, if by winning, you mean strengthening a member of what President Bush called the axis of evil, Iran, the very thing Senator Obama -- Senator McCain says that they prevented, Iran is stronger because of this war.

If you mean by dividing a community with blast barriers, if you mean by having to build an American militia, if you mean by destabilizing the entire region, then, sure, that's winning, that's victory. But I'm not sure that's why people went in there.

BROWN: It doesn't sound like you think that's winning.

WARE: Well, at this point, a win may just be getting out while minimizing the damage.

Now, to what degree has the surge played into this? Again, that's a matter of definition. What exactly is the surge? I would love to hear Senator McCain explain that -- 30,000 troops...

BROWN: The increase in troops, the 30,000 troops. That's what he means, though, when he says it, right?


WARE: Yes. Well, if that's what he means, then he has no idea what is going on in Iraq, because what has delivered the successes we're seeing now, as drops of 80 to 90 percent in violence, and who doesn't welcome that, began two years ago or more, when the U.S. began engaging with its enemy, the Sunni insurgency when it started bringing in al Qaeda, and putting them on the U.S. government payroll, setting them loose on hard-core al Qaeda elements, and setting them loose on Shia militias.

BROWN: So, strategy, rather than the 30,000 troops?

WARE: Yes, the 30,000 troops was sort of like the icing on the cake.

BROWN: Right.

WARE: But the success that you're seeing right now has been building for two years. And it also includes accommodating someone who was one of your number-one enemies, which was Muqtada al-Sadr, and turning him into a legitimate political figure.


Hold on, because we want to hear from Barack Obama. He's also talking about Iraq today. But, instead of hitting back at John McCain, he called in reporters. He went after President Bush. And here's part of what he said.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Today President Bush announced a very modest troop redeployment from Iraq. Meanwhile, we will continue to keep nearly 140,000 troops in Iraq while our military is overstretched, which is still at or even above pre-surge levels. We will continue to spend $10 billion a month in Iraq, while the Iraqi government sits on a $79 billion surplus. In the absence of a timetable to remove our combat brigades, we will continue to give Iraq's leaders a blank check, instead of pressing them to reconcile their differences.


BROWN: All right, so timetable is what he keeps hammering away at.

WARE: Yes.

BROWN: Is it -- would that really help? And if we don't set a timetable, are we in fact giving them a blank check?

WARE: Well, who doesn't want to see the men and women in uniform coming home? That's a domestic issue, though.

But it's so disheartening to think that people honestly believe that a timetable of American withdrawal in any way terrifies or pressures the Iraqi government. I mean, while the U.S. troops are there, sure, they are fine. They are happy to have the troops there for a certain period. It allows them to consolidate their power. It allows them to build upon the militias that they have already developed, to enhance the Iranian influence that they had when they went in there, and to get ready for what comes.

But, if the U.S. troops left tomorrow, they would be just as happy to set the dogs loose. So, the real test for America is not timetables. It's, how are you going to manage the dynamics of horror and tension that you're going to leave behind. That's the real issue.

BROWN: Well beyond the timetable. Michael Ware for us tonight. Michael, as always, thanks.

WARE: Great pleasure, Campbell.

BROWN: Good to have you here in person, too.

WARE: Nice to be here.

BROWN: All right. Stay with us. A lot more in the ELECTION CENTER. We'll be right back.


BROWN: Check this out. The presidential candidates in the same state at the very same time today. For a while, they were only about 25 miles apart, and that state is Ohio. You really can't win the White House without it, frankly. So our chief national correspondent John King went there, too, not to listen to the candidates, though, but to listen to the voters.


JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Portsmouth hugs the Ohio River, nestled in the hills and farmland of Appalachia, small town and struggling, wondering if the jobs will ever return and whether the old rule of hard times means votes for Democrats will apply this year.

At Scioto County Democratic headquarters, Chairman Randy Bashan (ph) sees the chance to make history colliding with historical reality. Some on the other end of the phone say they simply aren't ready or willing to vote for a black man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's basically comes down to that. And Appalachia is probably the hardest slice in the state of Ohio because the population of the black vote here in southern Ohio is probably two percent.

KING: Obama was trounced here in the Democratic primaries. Hillary Clinton won 81 percent of the vote in Scioto County, and top Democratic strategists say Obama has yet to fix things.

PETER HART, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: In the primary, he didn't connect. He needs to be able to connect with the small town and rural voters, and they're all throughout that southern Ohio. KING (on camera): Recent history suggests winning here in southeast Ohio equals winning the White House. The Democrats have carried this region only three times in the last 10 presidential elections, in 1976, 1992, and 1996. Those just happen to be the party's only three White House victories in the past 40 years.

(voice-over): In Portsmouth's bustling market street cafe, there is a hopeful vibe for Democrats. The younger staff is all for Obama. Co-owner Mary Rase, a loyal Republican, sees a giant generational divide.

MARY RASE, REPUBLICAN VOTER: I think people more my age seem to be for McCain, but I do feel overall that there is more Obama people.

KING: But the scene at local Democratic headquarters is telling. An office worker felt compelled to pin a flag on a cardboard Obama's lapel. The overwhelming issue here is jobs. Yet just eight weeks to Election Day, local Democrats are still rebutting rumors their candidate won't wear a flag pin, isn't a Christian, and took his Senate oath on a Koran, not a bible.

STEVE STURGILL, OBAMA SUPPORTER: I have that question all the time. People that I talk to in our community still have great reservations about that.

KING: Many older Democrats like Steve Sturgill say it's often tough to break through.

STURGILL: There's no doubt in my mind that Senator Obama is not a Muslim. He's not a left wing crazy.

KING: Jean Carlson is a Goldwater Republican turned Obama Democrat. She sees questions about flags and faith as thinly-veiled racism.

JEAN CARLSON, OBAMA SUPPORTER: I think it's an undercurrent. I think it's sad but I think it's still an undercurrent here.

KING: Local Republicans say the race factor is exaggerated and that Obama is just too liberal for these parts. Whatever the reason, Obama's chance to make history could rest on whether he can change perceptions in small towns where change isn't always welcome.

John King, CNN, Portsmouth, Ohio.


BROWN: Still ahead tonight, our exclusive interview with the man who introduced Sarah Palin to Alaska -- her father. A unique, personal insight into the newest, biggest political star.

This is the ELECTION CENTER. We'll be right back.


BROWN: Everybody is talking about the Palin factor, and "LARRY KING LIVE" is picking up that conversation in just a few minutes. Larry, tell us what it's all about.

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": You got it, Campbell. She remains a huge presence on the political radar, of course. There are different views about her.

Joy Behar will be here with her thoughts. And those with others opinions will have their turn to as we discuss, deliberate, debate the Palin factor. Who would have thunk it two weeks ago. That's next on "LARRY KING LIVE" -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right. Larry, we'll see you in a bit.

Right now, most Americans do know Sarah Palin's name, but truthfully not that much about her. And we still have a lot of catching up to do. Who better to tell us to give us an education than her father, Chuck Heath.

In a CNN exclusive tonight, he brings us the inside story of the beauty queen who became a mayor, a governor, and perhaps even the first woman vice president of the United States.


BROWN: Coming up, our exclusive interview with someone who knows Sarah Palin better than most, her father. But, first, to Erica Hill, here with tonight's "Briefing" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And a big story we've been following, Campbell, of course, is Hurricane Ike. I want to update you now on this storm.

It is moving into the Gulf of Mexico after battering Cuba for a second day. It is also blamed for 73 deaths in Haiti. Forecasters fear Ike could spawn tornadoes in south Florida. The storm is expected to strengthen possibly up to a Category three before it slams into Texas or possibly Mexico sometime this weekend, Campbell.

BROWN: We're going to be keeping a close eye on it. Erica, thanks very much.

Coming up, everybody, proud dad talks about the Republican Party's rising star. A CNN exclusive with Sarah Palin's father and how living in Alaska influences Governor Palin's outlook on environmental issues, everything from the Arctic wildlife preserve to wolf hunting. We'll be back.


BROWN: If you want a sense of who Sarah Palin is, a good place to start is Alaska. Growing up there in so many ways made her who she is today. Palin's father, Chuck Heath, moved the family north from Idaho 44 years ago. In an exclusive interview, he talked to Drew Griffin about life in the last frontier.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIVE UNIT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He came to Alaska for one reason. Make that two.

CHUCK HEATH, SARAH PALIN'S FATHER: I came up with a fish pole in one hand, Drew, and a gun in the other, and I haven't put them down yet.

GRIFFIN: Forty-four years ago, in 1964, Chuck Heath, a school teacher from Idaho, uprooted his family, including infant daughter Sarah, and headed north, even though he knew his wife wasn't sure about Alaska and that he didn't have the money to move back.

(on camera): Were you crazy?

HEATH: Yes. Yes. I was a -- and I tried to get up there two or three years before that but I couldn't afford to move.

GRIFFIN: Why Alaska?

HEATH: Hunting and fishing. I was raised in Idaho, a small town in Idaho, taught school in Idaho, played sports in Idaho, and Alaska was always -- I had looked at it as a step upward in the hunting and fishing. Kind of a selfish thing, I think.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): It was here in Alaska he taught his children the love of the outdoors. He still teaches. Outside his home, he has a pyramid of antlers. With them he can show you the differences between a moose killed by a wolf.

HEATH: You can see where they actually even chewed on the tips.

GRIFFIN: Or by an avalanche or antlers that were just shed. He invited us inside, passed the fishing gear, the hundreds of photos, the trophies on the walls, and offered us caribou sausage as he helped paint a picture of his daughter.

(on camera): You know, I have to tell you, Chuck, sitting here in this house with all your trophies and you're a school teacher and your wife is a school secretary and you guys hunt and you're in Alaska, it almost seems like it's made up that your daughter is a vice presidential candidate.

HEATH: Well, it's finally sinking in that she is the governor of Alaska. Now, what happened last week it still hasn't sunk in. I mean, it's -- when I was in Minneapolis yesterday and the day before and the day before that, I was in la-la land. Dreamland. I couldn't believe this was happening to my little girl. Completely, completely blind sided.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): He says his daughter Sarah has always been full of surprises. When she became a beauty queen, that was a surprise. When she eloped with her childhood sweetheart, surprise again. And when she ran for mayor of Wasilla, her dad drove her around to knock on doors but wondered, what is this little girl doing?

HEATH: Yes, I'm talking about my little girl running for mayor and she'll never make it, you know.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Are you sexist?

HEATH: It wasn't the gender. She was running against a guy that had been in there for three terms, and his running for his fourth term. And he was a popular guy. He's from the old school and a good, old boy. And I said to myself, she'll never beat him. And bingo, she did. Yes.

And when she ran against him the second time, when he tried to get his job back, I remember she got 75 percent of the votes, which she had proved herself by then.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): He says his daughter, now the governor, no longer has to prove anything to him. And to the critics or the doubters who think she could never or will never be a great vice president, he says, just wait.

Drew Griffin, CNN, Wasilla, Alaska.


BROWN: So we've seen how the Alaskan outdoors shaped Sarah Palin. How does it affect her view about the environment?

Well, maybe not in the way you might think. She loves the outdoors but the critics say she's no environmentalist. We went to Alaska to get the truth. "No Bias, No Bull," that's next in the ELECTION CENTER.


BROWN: When it comes to the environment, Sarah Palin's outlook is certainly influenced by where she lives. Alaskans have a very different opinion about everything from oil drilling to hunting. Randi Kaye joins us from Anchorage, Alaska, with more on all of this -- Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Campbell, as you know, Alaska is considered ground zero for climate change and the environment. And a spokesperson for Sarah Palin says she understands that, and she does make natural resources and wildlife a priority. But some of the environmentalists that we spoke with here say her record shows something else.


KAYE (voice-over): What you're looking at may appear disturbing but it's entirely legal in Alaska. State wildlife officials in small planes chasing down wolves then shooting them dead. The video is from the Defenders of Wildlife.

Wolves eat caribou and moose, a staple for Alaskan hunters and vital to tourism. So Governor Sarah Palin gave the go ahead, making aerial shooting of wolves in Alaska legal.

MEGHAN STAPLETON, PALIN CAMPAIGN SPOKESWOMAN: It's about making sure that Alaskan natives can put food on the table. KAYE: Nationwide aerial hunting has been banned since 1972. Governor Palin says Alaska's program is about managing predators.

(on camera): She says it's to help preserve the caribou and the moose for Alaskans. Do you buy that?


KAYE (voice-over): Biologist Rick Steiner says there is no evidence wolves endanger Alaska's moose or caribou populations.

In a word, if you can sum up Sarah Palin's record on the environment here, what would it be?

STEINER: Abysmal.

KAYE: So what is her record? She supports oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and this year opposed an initiative to protect salmon streams from a mining project. Despite federal conclusions Beluga whales are in critical danger, Palin says the Belugas are rebounding.

Just last month, she brought a lawsuit filed by the state against the U.S. government. In the suit, she challenges the listing of the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and argues that listing hampers oil and gas exploration.

STAPLETON: If you look at the polar bear numbers, the primary concern falls within Canada than those you can find in Alaska.

KAYE: But this study by the U.S. Geological Survey concludes projected changes in future sea ice conditions could wipe out two- thirds of the world's polar bears by 2050. Maybe sooner than that.

STEINER: Science is sound. Climatic warming is going on in Alaska. Sea ice is reducing, and polar bears are in serious trouble.

KAYE: Opponents argue Palin is less sympathetic to wildlife because she's a hunter. This fellow hunter and family friend disagrees.

Danny Parrish says like most Alaskans, she has a love of the outdoors and all things in it.

DANNY PARRISH, PALIN FAMILY FRIEND: When we're out, the governor wanted to pick berry. That was her prerogative, to get out, relax and pick berries.

KAYE: Parrish took us deep into the woods of Fairbanks. He says he's never seen Governor Palin kill anything, but she's very comfortable around guns and loves to fish.

You haven't shot a moose or anything, you think that she would have been right there?

PARRISH: Hands on. Hands on. Wouldn't even hesitate. KAYE: The beauty of moose country. A serene contrast to the very bitter exchanges over Sarah Palin's record on the environment.


KAYE: Now, Sarah Palin is considered a friend to Alaskans in terms of the Exxon Valdez victims. I can tell you that the ruling on the awards took place in June of this year and she is quoted as saying, "She was extremely disappointed with the decision saying that the court gutted the jury's decision on punitive damages and undercut one of the principle deterrents for marine shipping here in Alaska." She called the decision "tragic," Campbell, and said that her heart goes out to the families of the victims.

BROWN: All right. Randi Kaye for us from Alaska -- Randi, thanks.

And we should mention that this weekend we're going to have much more on both of the vice presidential candidates. The CNN special investigations unit presents two special programs, "Sarah Palin and Joe Biden Revealed." That's this Saturday and Sunday night starting at 9:00 Eastern time.

Coming up next, we'll talk about Sarah Palin's views. Are they, in some cases, too outside of the mainstream for most voters? What about global warming? What about polar bears?

We've got the political panel weighing in when we come back.


BROWN: We want to talk about -- more about Sarah Palin's views on many of these issues. For some, they are heavenly. For others, very much to the extreme.

I've got the political panel back with me now. Jeff Toobin, Roland Martin and Bay Buchanan.

And, Jeff, you saw the pieces we just aired -- Randi Kaye's pieces from Alaska, listening to her father. On environmental issues in particular, one of the positions that's getting a lot of scrutiny is global warming. Her view is that global warming is not manmade. Now, that is different from what John McCain believes and different from even President Bush who's come around in this issue.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a very extreme view. Look, her views about getting oil out of Alaska are not extreme. Everybody in Alaska, Democrats and Republicans, they're pro- exploring in the wilderness. But the view of global warming reflects an extreme outside the mainstream view that John McCain doesn't share and frankly, no respectable scientist shares.

BROWN: And, Bay, I mean, the debate over global warming did seem to come to an end, though.

BAY BUCHANAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes. BROWN: You even had Bush coming around on that over the last year.


BROWN: Is that not fair?

BUCHANAN: It's completely ridiculous. Jeff has got to get outside the East Coast a little bit, read some more science. There's all kinds, I think, there's many scientists that suggest there is no evidence whatsoever that it's related to anything man has done. That it's just a course of nature itself, but one or the other that's the key.


BROWN: But, Bay, John McCain disagrees. George Bush now disagrees with you.

BUCHANAN: I don't care. I don't care. The scientists who are out there are very clear about this. This issue is not resolved and goes --


BROWN: OK. I leave it --


BUCHANAN: There's nothing extreme.

MARTIN: Hey, Bay, you also got the people out there who don't think I'm black enough. Look, you can find any scientist who have the opposite opinion. The reality is, she, again, as Jeff has talked about, when you have McCain with his position, Obama and Biden and Bush, yes, she's in a different corner.

But, again, where this goes to, Campbell, is when you don't answer the questions yourselves, you're allowing others to define your position. That's the danger in allowing other people to speak for you.


BUCHANAN: We know where she stands. We know exactly. She's very upfront about it. You just reported.


BROWN: Let me bring it to a different perspective here because the McCain campaign itself had said that this election is not necessarily going to turn on the issues, but rather how people feel about the candidates, their character, their personalities.

So, Bay, to what extent is the McCain campaign celebrating her -- you know, these images of her hunting and being very much of the western, you know, sort of --

TOOBIN: They love it.

BUCHANAN: And, of course, the fact that she is a hunter and she owned a fleet, a fishing fleet, I mean, she's obviously extremely concerned about the environment. The fact that she's so popular in Alaska, which is very concerned about environment, shows she's there with them. She's mainstream. The hunters and the fishermen in Iowa, I mean, Ohio and Michigan and out there, Pennsylvania, she is going to take care of them.


BROWN: You have to see it from a purely political point of view, though. These images are effective, are they not?

TOOBIN: They are. But, you know, it's not our job to evaluate the effectiveness of images. The images are great but if we're going to try to evaluate what people stand on the issues are, and whether they are consistent with science, and I apologize if that's an elitist view.

BROWN: I'm with Jeff. I don't want to re-debate global warming. To me, that issue is dead and pretty much decided.

But quickly, Roland, on the cultural issue.

MARTIN: Very simple. The Obama folks want to go after her on the hardcore issues. They want it to be about personality. Smart political strategy? But as Jeff say, it's not our job to go along with the gang.

BROWN: All right, guys, we got to end it there. But as always, Jeff, Roland, Bay, a great discussion. Thanks much, guys. Appreciate it.

BUCHANAN: You're welcome, Campbell.

BROWN: That's it from the ELECTION CENTER.

"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.