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The Situation Room

Hurricane Gustav's New Track in the Gulf of Mexico; John McCain Taps Governor Sarah Palin as V.P. Candidate

Aired August 29, 2008 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, three years to the day after Hurricane Katrina, another killer storm is churning toward the U.S. Gulf Coast, with New Orleans possibly facing another direct hit.
Also, John McCain catches just about everyone off guard with his vice presidential pick, the Alaska governor, Sarah Palin -- thrust from relative obscurity into the international political spotlight.

Plus, they survived devastating injuries that left shrapnel in their bodies. Now serious new concerns about the health of our wounded U.S. troops are being reported.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Changing tracks, gaining strength and posing a very real threat to the Louisiana coast. We have breaking news right now from our Severe Weather Center in Atlanta about Hurricane Gustav.

We'll break away from convention coverage to go to Chad.

What are we learning about Gustav -- Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: An impressive storm, Wolf. And now even the National Hurricane Center says it will be stronger than they said six hours ago.

I'll show you what's going to happen now.

It bounced off Jamaica last night and now it's back into the warm waters here in the Caribbean, heading toward the Cayman Islands at 75 miles per hour. Probably about 90 miles per hour by the time it gets over the islands, though. And then over Cuba.

And then it gets into the Gulf of Mexico. And there's no way it's going to miss something when it gets there. There's just land all around it.

Look how wobbly this track has been so far. That's why it's hard to predict where these things go.

If it wobbles like that when it's really getting started, what could happen up here?

Well, the winds are still taking it towards New Orleans. But the best track -- the best case track is south and west of New Orleans -- New Iberia, Lafayette, maybe back over to Beaumont and Port Arthur. We'll see.

This is the cone. It could still be all the way to Pensacola, Mobile or as far left as Houston-Galveston.

And it's going to be a category three. Look at that number right there. That's 125 miles per hour. And that's plus or minus 10 miles per hour, I would think, because it could be bigger or smaller than that. Clearly, the potential to be a category four sometime in its life span. Hopefully, not that strong when it does make landfall somewhere on the Gulf Coast -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That water's very, very warm right now in the Gulf Coast.

MYERS: Absolutely.

BLITZER: And it's very dangerous.

Thanks, Chad.

We'll stay in touch with you.

MYERS: All right.

BLITZER: Where Hurricane Gustav finally makes landfall is still not a done deal, as you just heard. But Louisiana is under a state of emergency and evacuations already are beginning.

CNN's Sean Callebs is there for us -- Sean, tell our viewers what's going on.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Governor Bobby Jindal is going to hold a news conference, Wolf, in less than an hour. I just got off the phone with his office. They are going to be talking about evacuations. Of course, that was the Achilles' heel that really crippled this city in 2005 during Katrina and really showed the ineffectiveness of government at all levels in helping people in this city.

Governor Jindal is going to talk about evacuations. And mandatory evacuations -- voluntary evacuations could start -- could start as early as today.

Jindal is also going to detail the contraflow. That, of course, when both sides of the interstate are opened up so traffic can pull out of this area. That, of course, is important because no matter where you go -- west, north or to the east -- you have to go over bayous. It's a very difficult drive and it usually leads to big bottle neck. Very significant information there, as well.

So they're going to detail everything -- how hospitals will evacuate, how nursing homes will evacuate -- even where gas stations can be found at the eleventh hour -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Sean.

We're going to stay on top of this story with you.

Thanks very much.

A quick question, though, before I let you go. You've been living in Louisiana, in New Orleans, for some time now. What's the biggest difference -- what's the biggest difference now, as opposed to three years ago when Katrina hit?

CALLEBS: I think two things really stand out. One, the people here get it. Last time, they got a mandatory evacuation notice about 36 hours before Katrina slammed into here.

Secondly, government is talking to each other at all levels. That was just a catastrophe last time.

If you look at what happened even last night, Michael Chertoff, the head of homeland, Bobby Jindal, the governor, Ray Nagin, side by side at a news conference. These people are all on the same page. And this city is going to need it if, indeed, that hurricane comes anywhere near this area -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Sean. Thank you.

Gustav has already done its share of damage. Earlier this week, the tropical storm brought massive flooding to Cuba. Gustav also strafed the Dominican Republic, causing widespread damage and burying eight people when a cliff gave way. Last night and today the storm blasted Jamaica with high winds and heavy rain.

Downed trees and damaged houses are reported in the northeast corner of the island.

We'll more on that story coming up.

Remember, Anderson Cooper tonight will be live from New Orleans. "A.C. 360," 10:00 p.m. Eastern, live from New Orleans.

And let's get back to the breaking news we're also following on this day.

John McCain surprising just about everyone by picking a relatively unknown woman governor as his running mate -- the first woman ever on a Republican ticket, only the second in U.S. political history.

He made the announcement at a huge rally in Dayton, Ohio.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My friends and fellow Americans, I am very pleased and very privileged to introduce to you the next vice president of the United States...

(APPLAUSE) MCCAIN: Governor Sarah Palin of the great state of Alaska.



GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know that when Senator McCain gave me this opportunity, he had a short list of highly qualified men and women. And to have made that list at all, it was a privilege. And to have been chosen brings a great challenge. I know that it will demand the best that I have to give and I promise nothing less.


BLITZER: All right. Let's bring in Gloria Borger, our senior political analyst. I think it was a shock -- a surprise to all of us.


BLITZER: We were expecting Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, maybe, you know, a Joe Lieberman or a Tom Ridge. But this name sort of just came out of the blue.

BORGER: Yes. And I think, in the reporting we've done today, you know, you have to ask the question of people, was this in reaction to the fact that Hillary Clinton was not on the ticket along with Barack Obama and that there was a sense in the McCain campaign that they really had an opening with Independent women voters, who were feeling kind of unloved by the Obama campaign?

And they had to know that they were throwing part of the experience argument out the window.

BLITZER: All right, stand by, Gloria, because I want to get some insight right now on who this woman actually is, what are her qualifications for the second highest office in the land.

Mary Snow has been looking into the record -- and, Mary, what are you picking up?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, first of all, a lot of surprise in her home state of Alaska. Sarah Palin is Alaska's youngest governor and the state's first woman governor -- a state that has a population of about 700,000 people. Palin started out in local politics, catapulted to the state's top job, making a name for herself as a government outsider.


SNOW (voice-over): Alaska Governor Sarah Palin introducing herself to the nation.

PALIN: I was just your average hockey mom in Alaska.

SNOW: The 44-year-old Palin is a mother of five. Her infant son has Down's Syndrome, her oldest is this the Army and heads to Iraq next month. Her husband is a commercial fisherman and an oil field worker.

Plain was elected governor of Alaska in 2006. She's known as a social conservative and she touts herself as a reformer.

PALIN: As governor, I stood up to the old politics as usual, to the special interests, to the lobbyists, the big oil companies and the good old boy network.

SNOW: Palin got her start in politics in Wasilla, Alaska -- a town with roughly 6,700 people outside Anchorage, where she was crowned Miss. Wasilla in 1984. She served on the city council and went on to become mayor.

Plain gave notice as a whistleblower, helping to uncover corruption after being appointed to the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Steve Heimel is with the Alaska Public Radio Network.

STEVE HEIMEL, ALASKA PUBLIC RADIO NETWORK: People really admired her for taking what they perceived to be a very courageous stance.

SNOW: As governor, Palin rejected the bridge to nowhere. She approved increases on the oil industry and pushed to use the surplus money to send $1,200 checks to residents to help pay energy bills. She's been a supporter of drilling in the ANWAR oil reserve and has said Senator John McCain has been wrong in opposing that.

While she has high approval ratings in Alaska, Michael Carey of the "Anchorage Daily News" says it doesn't compare to having national experience.

MICHAEL CAREY, "ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS": And the executive experience that she would have here is far different than it would be required to be president of the United States. I'm not trying to dis my home state, but I don't think it adds up.


SNOW: Now, Palin's first term as governor is not without controversy. A legislative investigation is looking into whether Palin fired the state's public service commissioner because he refused to fire Palin's former brother-in-law. And, Wolf, Palin has denied any wrongdoing in that investigation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow, thanks very much.

Let's go back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.



BLITZER: Unfortunately, I don't think we have Jack Cafferty ready yet. We'll try to get him ready. But Glenn Beck is joining us from CNN Headline News -- Glenn, what do you think about this Sarah Palin announcement as John McCain's running mate?


BLITZER: Unfortunately, I don't think Glenn Beck can hear us, as well. That's what happens when you have live television.

We'll take a quick break. We'll continue our coverage.

Much more coming up, including Barack Obama -- he's reacting to Senator McCain's surprise vice presidential pick. He's back on the campaign trail today, courting women and working class voters, hoping to ride the momentum from his convention.

But are there any regrets he didn't choose Hillary Clinton as his running mate now that there's a woman on the Republican ticket?

I'll ask one of his senior advisers, Anita Dunn. She's standing by live.

And the Internet right now buzzing with reaction to John McCain's running mate selection -- a look at what's being said online.

That and much more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack Cafferty right now. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.


BLITZER: Of course.

CAFFERTY: I was under sniper fire on the fourth floor. I barely got up here. We're here because...


BLITZER: I know that.

CAFFERTY: "We're here because we love the country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight."

That's a quote. And with that, Barack Obama accepted his party's nomination in front of 84,000 people in Denver, Colorado -- the climax to a political convention unlike anything anybody's ever seen before.

To the relief of a lot of Democrats, too, he ripped into John McCain -- painted him as out of touch with ordinary Americans. "It's not because John McCain doesn't care," Obama said, "it's because John McCain doesn't get it."

Obama described his own upbringing -- a single mother, grandmother, food stamps, student loans. He said "I don't know what kinds of lives McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine."

He referenced McCain's famous temper, saying that he's ready to see who has the temper and judgment to be commander-in-chief.

The crowd, of course, ate it up. It was all Democrats. The Democratic convention is over now, though, and Obama and Joe Biden have just 67 days to try to close the deal with voters. They started today on a bus tour of battleground states -- Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan. Obama's campaign encouraged their supporters to text message friends and call thousands of unregistered voters. The campaign claims that it's identified 55 million unregistered voters across the country, including eight million blacks, eight million Hispanics, seven-and-a-half million people between the ages of 18 and 24. These Americans could elect our first African-American president ever.

And John McCain could help with a few more announcements like the one he made today.

Here's the question: In the final 67 days, what does Barack Obama have to do in order to win the White House?

Go to and you can post a comment on my blog.

We are getting a torrent of e-mail -- 12,000 letters, something like that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm sure. It's a hot, hot subject. Jack, thanks very much.

And let's check in right now with Glenn Beck of CNN Headline News. What's your answer, Glenn, to what we just heard -- the question that we just heard from Jack Cafferty?

GLENN BECK, CNN HEADLINE NEWS: Yes, I just -- I was listening to Jack and...

BLITZER: What does Barack Obama need to do to win this election?

BECK: You know, I can't tell you. I'm just listening to Jack, though, and I couldn't disagree with him more. And, by the way, I'm sorry I'm late. I was fixing my scope on the fourth floor.

But here's the problem. If she has no foreign policy -- if she can't put a sentence together and she doesn't know who Ahmadinejad is and, you know, she starts to repeat hey I looked into the eyes of Putin and he's our friend, then I've got a real problem with her.

But all of the -- all of the things that Sarah Palin has said and that I have seen -- and I've been watching her for a while now --she doesn't have Washington experience. However, she also doesn't have community organizing experience.

She is the real deal. She took on her own party. This is the kind of person that the GOP the Republicans -- or the conservatives like me that have been looking for.

What happened to the GOP? When did we lose control of our country? When did we just start getting these robots on both sides that will spin us into oblivion? When Republicans brought all this money to build the bridge from nowhere, she said we don't want it, we'll build our own bridges. And she sent the money back.

She's exposed the people that were, I believe, trying to buy her off with power. She quit -- resigned an ethics committee and said the head of the GOP, my party, is dirty.

I mean she has really been on the forefront of some amazing things, which is exactly what the American people have been wanting for -- from Barack Obama. They don't want a change just from George Bush. They want an end to politics as we know it. She is the one that could possibly bring real change -- not the -- just a change of policies.

BLITZER: I know you interviewed her in June on your show.

BECK: Yes.

BLITZER: I have a little clip. I'm going to play it for our viewers. Listen to this.


BECK: Would you go to that den of vipers in Washington if you were asked?

PALIN: You know, if I had to make such a decision today, it would be no. There's a lot that Alaska could be and should be doing to contribute more to the U.S. And I think that I can help do that as governor of the state staying here.


BECK: She's an amazing...

BLITZER: That's what all the potential -- all the potential candidates...

BECK: Sure.

BLITZER: ...basically say the same thing until they're picked. And then, of course, they change their mind. But you're really, like so many conservatives, you're really enthusiastic about this election.

BECK: Wolf, how many times have I -- how many times have I been on your show and I've said I can't get behind John McCain?

I mean I just...

BLITZER: Many times.

BECK: I just said to my wife -- and I was a Romney supporter, but the guy flirts with socialism and I don't need more big government. And I just said to my wife this morning, if he picks Romney, I don't think that I can -- I don't think I can even pull the lever even with Romney.

Sarah Palin, assuming that she checks out, assuming that she is solid on her understanding of world politics, Sarah Palin may be that person that will cause me to pull the lever for John McCain. She's an amazing woman.

BLITZER: All right, Glenn.

Thanks very much.

BECK: Thank you.

BLITZER: Gloria Borger, boy, this convention is going to be thrilled. I think a lot of the conservative base are going to be very happy with this election.


BLITZER: And Glenn Beck certainly underscored that as a conservative himself.

BORGER: You know, in a way, I think John McCain picked a female version of himself as a reformer. And he also picked up someone who's more conservative than he is on the social issues and who kind of locks up his base for him.

So I think that's really part of the calculation. People like Glenn Beck, who don't really like John McCain, trust John McCain, think he's culturally not conservative enough, look to Sarah Palin and say, OK, this is the direction we want to take the Republican Party.

BLITZER: And on the conservative issues, she's very, very conservative. The conservative base -- what they wanted to do -- one of the story lines we were expecting here in St. Paul was could he unite this party and energize that conservative base. And based on what we're hearing and all the reaction we're getting so far, including, obviously, from Glenn, it seems to point out that maybe that Republican Party can get around this ticket.

BORGER: Yes, it's very funny, because you find someone Glenn Beck likes and then John McCain takes a look at her and says gee, maybe that's what I was like, you know, 15 or 20 years ago.

BLITZER: Gloria, stand by. We're going to be coming back to you. And we're just getting this in. Senator Obama has made a congratulatory call.

Let's go to Jim Acosta. He's with the Obama campaign right now. What do we know -- Jin?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what we know is shortly before 5:00, riding aboard his bus, Senator Barack Obama did put a phone call in to Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, congratulating her on being selected by John McCain as his running mate.

He told her over the telephone that she would be a terrific candidate and that he wished her good luck -- but not too much good luck.

And having said all of that, the Obama campaign is trying to have it both ways. Barack Obama at the same time praising Sarah Palin for being sort of a pioneer -- being the first woman on a Republican Party ticket. His campaign has issued a very different statement earlier in the day.

Bill Burton issued the statement saying that she had the thinnest foreign policy experience in history. At a biodiesel plant here in Pennsylvania earlier this afternoon, Wolf, Barack Obama was asked about that statement. He said: "I think sometimes campaigns start getting hair triggers with these sorts of statements."

And that he said please go with his statement and Joe Biden's statement with respect to Sarah Palin. Joe Biden saying earlier today he looks forward to meeting with the governor during their vice presidential debate -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jim Acosta.

Let's go to a senior adviser now to the Obama campaign. Anita Dunn is joining us now live.

All right, Anita, tell us what you think about this election.

ANITA DUNN, OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: Well, this is obviously very exciting on a lot of levels. And as Senator Obama said in his statement earlier today, you know, it's become an election in which we're seeing traditional barriers for candidates breaking right and left. And I think we all feel America is a better place because of that.

But, Wolf, at the end of the day, this really doesn't change a lot of the dynamic of this election. Because the choice the American people have between John McCain and Barack Obama is between more of the same -- four more years of -- eight years of policies that have not served this nation well -- and change, the change we need to get us back to a country where work is honored, as opposed to wealth.

And we believe that, at the end of the day, that's really what's important here. That's the choice Barack Obama outlined last night on the final night of his convention. A record number of people watched that speech. And we think that the choice will be clear.

We've got a short time left in this election. We're all looking forward to that Republican convention next week. We congratulate Sarah Palin.

But let's not lose sight of the choice between John McCain and Barack Obama -- four more years versus change.

BLITZER: All right. You know, a lot of people noted Sarah Palin's reference to Hillary Clinton in her speech today.

I guess -- I know what you're going to say, but are there second thoughts?

Was it a mistake not to pick Hillary Clinton as Barack Obama's running mate?

DUNN: Well, you know, obviously, having listened to Glenn Beck and heard the extraordinary enthusiasm of conservatives over the choice of Sarah Palin who is, indeed, a very, very conservative -- socially conservative person, you know, it's hard to believe that Hillary Clinton supporters -- who supported Hillary Clinton for a reason -- are going to be that attracted to Sarah Palin as vice president.

At the end of the day, Wolf, women aren't monolithic anymore than any group in this country are. And the people who supported Hillary Clinton are the people who believe that a woman should get equal pay for equal work, that health care is a right and not a luxury.

The people who supported Hillary Clinton are people who believe we need change.

So we feel very good about our convention. We feel great about Senator Clinton's speech this week and the fact she'll be campaigning for Barack Obama. And we're looking forward to, you know, a rocking and rolling 65 days here.

BLITZER: It's going to be rocking and rolling.

All right, Anita Dunn, thanks very much for coming in.

We're going to continue our coverage here from the Convention Center in St. Paul. But we're watching other news, including some of the worst flooding in decades, leaving more than one million people stranded surrounded by floodwaters.

Plus, will women who backed Hillary Clinton cross over to John McCain now that he has a woman as a running mate?

We'll continue our discussion on that front, as well.

Stay with us.



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Carol Costello in New York monitoring stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

This just in -- two passenger planes were one minute away from colliding this week over the Caribbean. It happened at 33,000 feet over San Juan, Puerto Rico. A Delta plane and a Russian passenger jet were heading right for one another when the alarms went off in both cockpits. The NTSB says the pilot of the Russian 737 descended at the last moment to avoid a collision. That Delta plane was out of Kennedy in New York.

Rescue efforts are being stepped up in Northern India, where more than a million people are stranded by what's being called the worst flooding in 50 years. In the impoverished state of Bihar, tens of thousands of people have taken refuge in 300 state-run relief camps. Flooding from this year's monsoon season has already killed more than 800 people across India -- India's prime minister calling it a national calamity.

The mother of missing Florida girl Caylee Anthony will apparently remain free on bail. A bounty hunter who threatened to seek revocation of Casey Anthony's half million dollar bail said he changed his mind. Leonard Padilla had said he was concerned about the mother's safety, but those concerns were being addressed. Casey Anthony is a person of interest in her daughter's disappearance. Caley hasn't been seen since mid-June, but wasn't reporting missing until mid-July.

A federal appeals court said the U.S. government can bar U.S. meat packers from testing their cows for mad cow disease. The case now returns to a lower court, where new arguments may be made. The Department of Agriculture tests about 1 percent of cows for the potentially fatal illness. A meat packer in Kansas wants testing done on all animals. Larger meat packers oppose such testing, for fear they would be forced into conducting across the board tests, as well.

That's a look at the headlines right now -- back to you Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Carol

And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, she's a national unknown and a calculated shot at a powerful voting bloc. Now that new Republican running mate, Sarah Palin, has shaken up the Republican race.

Can she pull in women voters?

And fresh off his historic acceptance speech in Denver, Barack Obama returns to his campaign as the undisputed Democratic presidential nominee. What will the push to November bring?

And thousands of wounded U.S. troops and vets are getting a warning from Pentagon doctors. They still have shrapnel in their bodies and it could be putting them at real risk.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're here on the floor of the Republican national convention, the Xcel Energy Center here in St. Paul, Minnesota.

John McCain's surprise pick of the Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, as his running mate, was clearly designed, in part, to attract women voters, especially those who may have been backing Hillary Clinton. The question now -- will it work?

Carol Costello back.She's talking to some of those women. What are you hearing -- Carol?

COSTELLO: Oh, I've heard a lot of interesting things today, Wolf.

Now, keep in mind, voters don't know much about Governor Palin. Most women voters -- most women's groups were actually stunned at McCain's choice. And a lot of them were not all that happy.


COSTELLO: Governor who? Sarah Palin's name might not help John McCain, but her gender might. And she's already working it.

PALIN: It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America. But it turns out the women of America aren't finished yet. And you can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.

COSTELLO: Her message is clear. Hey, Hillary supporters, shattered dreams? No more Clinton? How about me? We asked some Clinton supporters here in New York if they would consider it.





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Absolutely not.


COSTELLO: And some of the most ardent Clinton supporters, even though still loathe to vote for Barack Obama, found McCain's choice of Palin patronizing.

ALLIDA BLACK, HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER FOR OBAMA: Well first we were just laughing. I mean, laughing not in the sense of oh, my god, what has he done, but does he really think that's goings to work? I mean, does he think that women voters who were with Hillary think Hillary is some Lego block that you can take out a red one and put in a green one?

COSTELLO: She says the governor is like Clinton in gender only. Palin is anti-abortion rights, belongs to the NRA, and is Republican. And she's been critical of Clinton, calling Hillary Clinton's charges of sexism in news coverage of her campaign whining.

PALIN: When I hear a statement like that, coming from a woman candidate, with any kind of perceived whine about that excess criticism, or, you know, maybe a sharper microscope put on her, I think, man, that doesn't do us any good.

COSTELLO: That's not to say all Clinton supporters would be adverse to a McCain/Palin ticket. The PUMAS, which stand for party unity my ass, are still on the McCain bus.

WILL BOWER, HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER FOR MCCAIN: For many Democrats including myself, this is about the DNC. Essentially we feel Barack Obama is the DNC's candidate and not the candidate for the Democratic Party.


COSTELLO: Now, independent women voters might agree with the PUMAS. but if you take history into account, according to Rutgers, what drives the gender gap is the party of the candidate, not the gender. Most women vote Democratic, not Republican -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Carol Costello, with that report.

On the web, meanwhile, people are buzzing with the reaction to Senator McCain's unexpected choice of Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. What's the reaction, Abbi, online?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well Wolf, from the conservative blogs, they are ecstatic about this pick. The conservative blogs haven't always been 100 percent behind Senator McCain, thinking he's maybe a little bit too much of a maverick, won't listen to the base enough. Listen to this today. Look at these posts on from a reader. Now I will put a McCain sticker on my car.

But what's interesting here is look across the aisle at the liberal blogs and you'll find that they're just as happy. They think that they've been handed this election on the plate right now. Posts like this one from the website, if today's John McCain's birthday, why did he give us a present. They think that this person is just too inexperienced.

What you'll find online is just how much the web is buzzing about this. This is a list of Google searches, the top Google searches going on today. Palin, Palin, vice president, governor of Alaska, miss Alaska. These are all the searches that people are doing around the country, around the world in the top 100. It's fair to say it's not every day the web is abuzz with a McCain presidential race -- Wolf?

BLITZER: It's going to be -- that buzz is going to continue, I'm sure. Thank you, Abbi.

Top Democrats are pouncing on the Palin pick, going as far as calling it a dangerous choice. And Republican Congressman Eric Cantor, he was seen as a possible McCain running mate. He's here. He'll be joining us. He's standing by live.

Plus, a potential threat that could be hiding in the bodies of tens of thousands of American soldiers.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament and judgment to serve as the next commander in chief, that's a debate I'm ready to have.


BLITZER: That was Barack Obama speaking last night, his acceptance speech in Denver.

Let's talk a little bit about what's going on in this race for the White House with Republican congressman, Eric Cantor of Virginia. He was on the short list, we were told, to be the vice presidential running mate.

I take it he must have called you to tell you didn't make it, Congressman?

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), VIRGINIA: You know, Wolf, that's sort of old news now. We are really excited about the pick of Sarah Palin. And really, what it means for this election and the next 60 some days. It's going to be an all-out fight, obviously until November. You already see the Barack Obama camp come out swinging. I think it was an unexpected pick for most people but a terrific one nonetheless.

BLITZER: What's so reassuring to you as far as her background, her record on national security, that she's ready to be commander in chief?

CANTOR: Well, you know, Wolf, what is reassuring to me is that she is a woman who has come from the middle class of America. She is a mother of five. She balanced all of that responsibility, was elected to be mayor of a town, then governor of her state. And she went about that with the single mission of trying to be true to the people that elected her and to ensure for an open and honest government and one that functions.

I think all of us have seen the polls, Wolf. And you and I have talked about it before. The people of this country understand that Washington's broken, and they want a federal government that works again for the people. She is going to be a tremendous force in that and a tremendous presence of reform in Washington.

BLITZER: Let me repeat the question. What national security experience does she have that qualifies her to be commander in chief?

CANTOR: Well, listen. I mean, you know, that's really the attack that the Obama camp has been dishing out all day. And, you know, frankly, her experience in government approximates that, and probably even exceeds it in terms of executive decisions. She's been head of the National Guard in Alaska. She obviously comes to the table with a wealth of experience in energy policy, which as you know has become the geopolitical issue of the decade. And will bring that to the table with John McCain and his long life service to our country, and his wealth of national leadership experience.

BLITZER: She disagrees with John McCain, it's interesting, on the issue of drilling in the National Alaska Wildlife Refuge. She also disagrees with him on global warming in the sense that she's not convinced this is a man-made phenomenon. Is that a problem from your perspective?

CANTOR: Well, I think that her priority is, from all I have seen, has been the working families, the middle-class families of this country and in terms of energy policy, first things first. Let's bring down the gas prices so that the families of this country are not suffering under the gas prices. She has the experience of watching how we can transition in terms of our technological advancement to alternative fuels. I think she's got her priorities straight. I think she complements John McCain. And I think she meets sort of the desire of the majority of this country who wants to see action, and action now, to start drilling offshore, start drilling in this country to increase American energy supply.

BLITZER: Eric Cantor is a Republican congressman from Virginia. Congressman, thanks for coming in.

CANTOR: Wolf, always a pleasure.

BLITZER: Thank you.

The military's asking tens of thousands of troops to report to the hospital. It's because of a potential hidden threat. That story live from the Pentagon, that's coming up next.

And Barack Obama's big night, including some interesting choices of music. Personally I loved the music. Jeanne Moos, though, has her comments. That's coming up as well.


BLITZER: Defense department doctors are concerned about the U.S. military's walking wounded, specifically those who are still carrying around bits of shrapnel from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She's joining us now.

Barbara, what are they exactly looking for?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well you know Wolf, thousands of troops have survived IED attacks, artillery strikes, even gunshot wounds, but now there is a new worry for them.


STARR (voice-over): CNN just learned that tens of thousands of wounded troops will be notified they may face a new health risk from the metal shrapnel they carry in their bodies. Active duty troops and veterans wounded in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan are being asked to be tested to see if the metal shards inside them are harmful.

DR. MICHAEL KILPATRICK, PENTAGON OFFICE OF HEALTH AFFAIRS: This will be the first time that this kind of monitoring and this kind of long-term look has been done on our war wounded.

STARR: Doctors often leave shrapnel from enemy weapons inside the wounded rather than subject them to additional surgery. If a soldier has shrapnel, blood and urine will be monitored for health effects. But fragments already removed are also being looked at.

This army soldier was wounded in Iraq. He serves in special operations. We can't show his face.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This actual piece was on the inside part of my calf muscle, sitting next to the tibia bone. And for the last two years, every time I've seen an x-ray, this piece was always sitting there. So I was concerned.

STARR: Today he is getting the all-clear.

DR. JOSE CENTENO, ARMED FORCES INST. OF PATHOLOGY: The basic composition of this fragment is iron. And there's nothing to be concerned about.

STARR: Thousands of pieces of shrapnel are going under the microscope. So far, no problems. But even so, the military wants to know the health effects of carrying fragments in your body for years or if insurgents have been using unknown harmful agents.

CENTENO: The importance is to be able to determine if the patient has been exposed to elements of toxic concern.


STARR: Military doctors tell us that they learned a lesson years ago in issues like agent orange in Vietnam, and the gulf war syndrome. They don't want to wait years to find out if there's a medical problem, so they're getting started now, and they plan to monitor these troops for decades to come. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. I hope they find out what's going on and make sure that these guys and gals are OK, Barbara. Thanks very much.

Barack Obama has the Democratic nomination in his pocket. Now Jack Cafferty wants to know this, in the final 67 days of this campaign, what does Obama have to do to win the White House? Jack, in your e-mail, that's coming up.

And bombs are washing up on the beaches of one of the most exclusive island resorts.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now with "The Cafferty File."

Jack, before we get to "The Cafferty File," I just want to pat all of us, the best political team on television, on the back a little bit. And let our viewers know that our coverage here on CNN was the most widely watched of not only the cable networks but the broadcast networks as well. Last night at 10:00 p.m. during that 10:00 p.m. Eastern hour, we had a lot more viewers than NBC, CBS and ABC. It's a real tribute to the best political team on television. More Americans got to watch this on CNN than any other television news network, cable or broadcast and I think that's pretty impressive. I just wanted to pat all of us on the back, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Want to hear some more?

BLITZER: Yes, go ahead.

CAFFERTY: At 10:00 last night, CNN had more viewers than the" f" word network and that other one with all the call letters, MSRQYZ, all the call letters and no viewers, more viewers than the "f" word network and that other one combined. Combined.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting though. That's obviously impressive. But even more impressive is that we can beat the three broadcast networks. They go into 100 percent of the homes and cable obviously doesn't go into 100 percent of the homes. It's a tribute to all the hard work.

CAFFERTY: No question about it.

BLITZER: That our team has been doing.

CAFFERTY: No question about it but we don't compete against the broadcast network every day. We compete against these other clowns every day and we whipped them, whipped them good.

The question this hour: In the final 67 days, what does Barack Obama have to do to win the White House?

Lorenzo in Maryland writes: "He needs to do what he spelled out at the convention. Stay on message, take the message to the people, stay focused on the issues, tell folks to do their part and the government will do its part. They already know how bad things are. It sounds simple but if he follows this strategy, it's lights out for the Republicans."

Joe in Illinois says: "McCain just handed him the election. All Obama has to do now is breathe until November."

Lance in Wisconsin: "Barack needs to do exactly what he did last night. Point out McCain's weakness, but not to the point of being rude. Barack Obama is an inspirational speaker. He needs to continue inspire while implementing why he would be a good president within the same speech."

Barry writes: "He's done his part and brilliantly. Now, it's up to the rest of us to get the voters out on Election Day."

Roy writes: "I don't think he can do anything to win. I think by Election Day, people will see he's a great talker and that's about it. I'm a life long Democrat and wouldn't vote for the guy no matter what. He just doesn't have what a real leader needs."

Emmy in Boston: "It's all about getting new voters to the polls in November. If the Obama campaign is successful at this, all the mainstream polls and pundits will prove to be meaningless."

And Cody writes: "All Obama has to do is sit back, wait for John McCain to mistake his decision."

If you didn't see your e-mail, you can go to my blog, Look for yours there, 13,000, 14,000 e-mails.

10:00 last night, CNN had more viewers than the "f" work network and MSNBRQZ combined -- back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jack, thanks very much. We're very proud of that fact that more Americans watched this convention last night, the Democratic convention on CNN than any other cable or broadcast network.

Meanwhile, residents of an island playground for the rich and famous, stunned to find rockets, bombs and more are washing up on their exclusive beaches.

And Barack Obama, riding a wave of momentum out of this convention. Can it help him win over some of those voters who have been elusive to him so far?

Stay with us. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your newspaper tomorrow.

In Iraq, a U.S. Army sergeant torches an area with a flame flower to give coalition forces a clearer line of sight against insurgents.

In South Ossetia, a boy holds a toy gun in the streets of the capital Georgia's breakaway province.

On Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman Island, workers at a seaside resort carry sandbags in preparation of the arrival of Hurricane Gustav.

And here in the Excel Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, workers carry balloons in front of the podium as they get ready for the Republican National Convention.

Some of this hour's "Hot Shots." Pictures often worth a thousand words. Something very unusual is washing up on the beaches of an island popular with the rich and famous, rockets, bombs and other munitions dating back to World War II.

Our Boston bureau chief Dan Lothian shows us what's going on.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rick Dwyer finds a lot of things patrolling the pristine beaches of Martha's Vineyard but what he recently ran across on Norton's Point stands out.

RICK DWYER, BEACH MANAGER: I found this thing in the sand. It almost looks like a rusted-out drive shaft. It's probably about maybe I want to say maybe about two feet long.

LOTHIAN: It wasn't a drive shaft but a World War II era rocket.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They look harmless but may not be.

LOTHIAN: Parts of this popular island playground were once deserted target ranges for navy pilots. Now munitions from decades ago are surfacing at what officials save is an alarming rate.

Chris Kennedy, with a nonprofit group that owns and operates some of the beaches, says about 60 rockets and practice bombs have been found in shallow water or on the beach so far this summer, sometimes picked up by locals or tourists.

CHRIS KENNEDY, THE TRUSTEES OF RESERVATIONS: It's a really dangerous practice. Again, you don't know if it's live or if it's inert.

LOTHIAN: Especially these practice bombs designed with a small explosive charge.

KENNEDY: The navy is telling us that there's a certain percentage perhaps upwards of 10 percent that never went off.

LOTHIAN: So what's causing all these once buried munitions to surface?

(on camera): Well, the experts are still trying to figure that out but they suspect strong currents could have something to do with it. This beach where I'm standing just a year ago was connected to that beach way over there.

(voice-over): But a powerful nor'easter caused a breach and created this swirling waterway, possibly stirring up munitions.

Signs now warn beachgoers. The Army Corps of Engineers, which did a massive cleanup here 20 years ago, wants to do more.

CAROL CHARETTE , ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: We are currently going through the process of identifying in discreet areas what would be the appropriate action to take. LOTHIAN: None of the munitions has ever exploded. But no one wants to take any chances.

Dan Lothian, CNN -- Martha's Vineyard.

BLITZER: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.