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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Obama Cover Controversy; Cash For White House Access?

Aired July 14, 2008 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, a magazine cover ignites a controversy, Barack Obama in traditional Muslim garb, Michelle Obama with an AK-47. Satire or slander? We have got all the angles. You can decide for yourself, plus a "Strategy Session" on the political impact with James Carville and Bill Bennett and others.
Also tonight, the politics of fear -- why even now so many Americans still believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim and all the other false rumors still swirling out there.

Later, breaking news: an investigation announced into a Bush fund-raiser's promises, all of it caught on tape, a top Bush moneyman promising access to everyone, right up to the vice president. All you got to do is shell out a couple hundred thousand bucks for the Bush Library. What does the White House have to say about it? We're "Keeping Them Honest" tonight.

And baby photos for sale, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie reportedly auctioning off photos of their newborn twins. Why do the rich and famous do this? Is it fair? Is it right? A lot to cover.

We begin, though, with a magazine cover that today has become front-page news, this cover on this week's edition of "The New Yorker," Barack and Michelle Obama, a portrait of bin Laden hanging up above the fireplace, where an American flag burns. The editor says it's satire, calling it too over the top to be mistaken for anything else.

The Obama and McCain campaigns, however, have condemned it. Whatever you think -- and James Carville and Bill Bennett and others are going to weigh in, in a moment -- the magazine cover has put the focus squarely back on a serious problem for the Obama campaign. More than one in 10 Americans still believes something about him that simply isn't true.

Let's start with the magazine, the cover, and 360's Gary Tuchman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Coming soon to a newsstand near you, if it isn't there already, a drawing of Obama, dressed like Osama, whose portrait is mounted on the Oval Office wall on top of the fireplace, with an American flag burning in the embers, while, at the same time, the presidential candidate gives a fist-bump to his radical black militant wife with an afro and submachine gun. And it's all on the cover of the prestigious and liberal "New Yorker" magazine. DAVID REMNICK, EDITOR, "THE NEW YORKER": The idea is to attack lies and misconceptions and distortions about the Obamas and their background and their politics.

TUCHMAN: "New Yorker" editor David Remnick says this is obvious satire. But, at this Manhattan newsstand, some find it not so obvious.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow. I guess they want us to believe he's a Muslim, huh?

TUCHMAN (on camera): You think "The New Yorker" wants you to believe that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. That's what it looks like to me.

TUCHMAN: It's satire. They don't want you to believe that, the opposite.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Uh-huh.

TUCHMAN: You didn't get it, did you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess not. You asked the wrong person.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Barack Obama was asked about it, too. He shrugged and then said:

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have no response to it.

TUCHMAN: But one of his spokesman did -- Bill Burton saying in a sometimes: "Most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree."

Also agreeing, Barack Obama's Republican opponent.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just saw a picture of it on television. I don't -- I think it's totally inappropriate. And, frankly, I understand if Senator Obama and his supporters would find it offensive.

TUCHMAN: "The New Yorker"'s editor says the magazine is provocative and that he would do this again.

REMNICK: I do want to state very, very clearly, the intention of this cover, in no uncertain terms, is to talk about the politics of fear and the lies that have been told about Barack Obama and Michelle Obama as well.

TUCHMAN: But, at this newsstand...

(on camera): Do you think that cover is positive about Barack Obama or negative? Do you think they're trying to be positive or negative about him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess negative.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): ... not everyone is thinking satire.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Let's dig deeper with CNN senior political analyst and former presidential adviser David Gergen, CNN political analyst and radio talk show host Roland Martin, and Joe Madison, whose show can be heard locally and Washington, D.C., and nationwide on XM Satellite Radio.

Joe, "The New Yorker" says, look, it's satire. What do you think?

JOE MADISON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: No. Well, it's satire, but it failed. And, if you have to explain satire, it's poor satire. That's exactly how I feel about it.

COOPER: Roland?

MADISON: It's very poor satire. It didn't make sense.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Anderson, I was flying in. I was sent an e-mail about the cover, also what the headline, and then David Remnick's comments.

And I said, well, you put that all together, it makes sense that they're trying to go after those people who are trying to portray them as being militant, Obama as being a Muslim.

But when I came in -- and one of your staffers gave me the hard copy -- the problem is, as someone who has run three newspapers, there's no headline on the actual cover. On the actual tease here, it doesn't even address what the cover is trying to do.

And on 18 pages on the inside, you don't even touch upon what you're supposedly trying to condemn. So, I think they missed an opportunity to go after the critics of those windbags out there who are trying to portray them as being un-American, as militant. They failed in that regard.

COOPER: David, the Obama campaign calls it offensive. John McCain, as you saw, called it totally inappropriate. Your take?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a real clunker, Anderson.

And I think both McCain and Obama are right about this. You know, under David Remnick's leadership, "The New Yorker" has earned a reputation for being sharp and witty. And, ordinarily, it is that. This time, they just made a terrible mistake. It was a failure of judgment. And they turned out a cover that is both dumb and decidedly unfunny.

MARTIN: But, Anderson, I think the Obama...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Go ahead, David. I'm sorry.

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: I just think what we're dealing with...

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: Go ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: David, finish the thought.

GERGEN: You know, there are so many raw emotions in this campaign around this question of race, of Muslim, of terrorism, of patriotism, that this, I think, just -- it came into something. And I think, because it's so hard to get it as satire, and your opening piece said that, I just think it rubbed those emotions raw.

And the earlier it gets behind us, the better.

COOPER: Joe, is it -- is race involved in this?

MADISON: Oh, of course it's involved in it.

I mean, you look at the caricature of Michelle Obama with the big fro and the AK whatever and the guns, quite honestly, that to me is an image of Patty Hearst. That's what comes to my mind. Then, the burning of the flag, the reality is that, once again -- and David hit it, and Roland is absolutely right -- I was with Oscar Robertson today. We flew into Cincinnati for the NAACP Convention.

And he said -- look, you can quote me. The Big O. said, you can quote me. This is America attempting to raise its ugly racist head once again, and we ought to be prepared to chop it off.

And I think he's absolutely correct. We -- we have this gaffe. We have this raw, open wound. And all this does is just poor salt on it, especially from a candidate who started off his campaign with trying to find common ground and to bridge the chasms that we all face. I mean, the reality is, conservative or liberal -- and it's sad that this is somewhat of a liberal publication. My God, who needs these kinds of friends.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Roland, should that give them something of a pass, the fact that they have said very positive things about Obama in the past?

MARTIN: No, I never believe in giving anybody a pass.

MADISON: Oh, no. MARTIN: Look, I didn't give Reverend Jackson a pass with his comments. And, so, I don't give people on the left or the right a pass.

But, look, the Obama campaign, they also must get a lot more aggressive in going after these critics who are trying to portray them as being un-American, as being -- portraying Michelle Obama as being militant.

You cannot allow it to simply sit out there. I think what they should be telling their supporters is, like you know what? Forget boycotting "The New Yorker." What you should be doing is going after those same windbags, those rhetorical thugs who are denouncing him and denouncing his wife, calling in to their radio shows, blasting them in magazines and newspapers, and not just simply hoping people get the truth out.

You must fight fire with fire in this information age.

COOPER: David, there are some who would argue...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: David, there are some who would argue that this might be a positive thing for the Obama campaign. It highlights how outrageous some of these smears are against him. It gets people talking and focusing on it.

GERGEN: Well, I think it gets people talking about "The New Yorker" more than it does about Obama.

And I don't -- but I have to say, listen, I edited a national news magazine for a while, "U.S. News & World Report." The hardest call you have to make as an editor each week is the cover. And it's a tricky call, because it's always a matter of taste and of judgment.

And, ordinarily, "The New Yorker" and David Remnick has had very, very high standards. I just think they missed on this one. It was a question of judgment and they missed it. I don't think they intended any harm. And I think the last thing Obama ought to be doing is making a big deal of it. I think he needs to get back with the issues, stick with the substance, stick with his hopes for America, go on "LARRY KING" tomorrow night, talk about Iraq, talk about his domestic plans, his economic plans, and let this go.

There will be enough trash talk about "The New Yorker" elsewhere. He needs to -- he needs to focus on...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Which it certainly seems like he's trying to do. He didn't even -- wouldn't even kind of address it, just saying he has no comment on it. He left it up to one of his campaign spokesman to -- to address it.

Joe, David Brody of...

MADISON: He didn't address it here at the convention.

COOPER: He didn't address it tonight?

MADISON: He didn't address it. Oh, no. Didn't have to. People here were disgusted by it.

You know, and I think David is absolutely right. You know, maybe people like myself and others, with talk shows, like Roland, and -- I mean, let us jump. But I think Obama needs to stay on message. And this -- and I will tell you something else.

If people keep this up, there's going to be blowback, or, as a fireman told me today, a captain told me today, you're going to have a back-burn. And it's just like in the '60s. When people see this kind of raw absurdity, young people today will react. And they may react by going to the polls, which could help Obama.

MARTIN: But, Joe, the real absurdity is really not "The New Yorker" -- and I understand the point -- but the fact that you have the people out there who are trying to smear this, trying to say they're militant and un-American. And that's I think the real issue. That's where "The New Yorker" missed it.

If the article had dealt with those individuals who are out there using television and radio to drive this, then it makes sense. But the cover simply does not match the article itself, which is about his history as a politician in Chicago. It makes no sense. It's a disconnect.

COOPER: We are going to have to leave it there.

Joe Madison, Roland...

(CROSSTALK)

MADISON: Well, I'm just saying let us -- let us take care of that. He needs to stay on message, Roland. He really does.

COOPER: We're going to need to leave it there.

Joe Madison, Roland Martin, David Gergen, thank you. Appreciate it.

Let us know what you think about this controversy. There's live chat happening now online. Join in at our Web site, AC360.com. I'm about to join in during the commercial break.

Up next, we are going to look closer at the false rumors about Obama and why so many Americans still seem to believe them. James Carville and Bill Bennett are going to weigh in on the rumors and the magazine cover.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Satire is fine, but it's got to work. This didn't work.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There's a bunch of people who think the Earth is 5,000 years old. Can you imagine anything that ridiculous? But you let them think that. What can you do?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Later, Afghanistan, nine American soldiers killed in a Taliban assault, the deadliest day for Americans in three years. What is going on in what some call the forgotten war? Peter Bergen and Nic Robertson join us. We will have live reports from on the front lines.

Also, breaking news; Congress says tonight it's investigating this, a Bush moneyman caught on tape raising big bucks. No crime there. But he's also caught promising White House access in exchange for those bucks. We will have the late-breaking developments. We're "Keeping Them Honest" -- next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, when Barack and Michelle Obama bumped fists at a campaign rally last month, they were using a gestures that athletes and other Americans, especially young Americans, use all the time. That didn't stop one commentator on FOX News from asking if it might be a terrorist fist jab. She later apologized. The comment, however, has been harder to silence.

Here's what Michelle Obama had to say about the fist bump on "The View."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE VIEW")

MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: It is now my signature bump. But let me tell you, I'm not that hip.

(LAUGHTER)

M. OBAMA: I got this from the young staff. That's how they -- that's the new high five.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The fist bump brouhaha, just one example of some of the kind of rumors and misinformation the Obamas are facing.

CNN's Joe Johns tonight has the "Raw Politics."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the big lie that simply won't die. How many times does this guy have to say "I'm not a Muslim" for people to just let it go? SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm a Christian. And I pray -- I pray to Jesus Christ, our savior. Now, I don't -- and I have been doing it for many, many years.

JOHNS: And, yet, pollsters say there's a small, but stubborn percentage of Americans who either haven't gotten the message or just won't accept it.

MICHAEL DIMOCK, PEW RESEARCH CENTER: When we ask them, well, do you know what his religion is, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, whatever, about 12 percent tell us they believe he's Muslim.

JOHNS: And if you think it's just Republicans, that Pew poll shows half of those who say Obama is a Muslim are from his own party.

DIMOCK: It's interesting, because the same number of Democrats think that he's Muslim as Republicans. So this crosses party lines.

JOHNS: We're talking about folks like Janice Wolff, who told CNN she's a lifelong Democrat, but won't vote for Obama.

JANICE WOLFF, NASHVILLE VOTER: Well, I don't like the candidate. I think he's a Muslim.

JOHNS: A new "Newsweek" poll shows 12 percent think Obama was sworn into the Senate with his hand on a Koran. Not true. He used the family Bible -- 26 percent think he was raised as a Muslim. Not true. He says his family was not religious.

Thirty-nine percent think he attended an Islamic school in Indonesia. Not true. CNN tracked down the school. The headmaster says it's not religious.

Fueling all of this is the dark side of the Internet, often untraceable e-mails that perpetuate all the myths about the senator.

(on camera): And perhaps the most perverse thing of all is that it's threatening to drive a wedge between the Muslim community in America and a campaign that claims to be inclusive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's sad in our society that we're in an environment where, politically, it could be harmful to reach out to Muslims or where, you know, being labeled a Muslim is a smear.

JOHNS (voice-over): So, is there a way out, or should Obama just forget about it? A longtime expert on American politics and author of a book on political cartoons says the outrage over "The New Yorker" magazine cover might just give this issue the kind of sunlight it needs.

STEPHEN HESS, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Well, a jolt like this may be what is necessary, because anyone who thinks he's a Muslim is -- is talking out of ignorance, and so they need truth, or deep prejudice, which it's useful to point that out.

JOHNS: But some other political observers are not so optimistic. After all, beliefs like these don't necessarily die in the face of the facts.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, with that in mind, is "The New Yorker"'s cover satire or smear?

In a "Strategy Session" earlier, I talked with political contributor and Democratic strategist James Carville and CNN political contributor and conservative radio talk show host Bill Bennett.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: James, what about it? Satire?

CARVILLE: Of course it's satire. And it's a magazine that has a long, rich and illustrative history of using satire. It's not like it's the first time they did it.

And it's caused a brouhaha. And I suspect that's what good satire does.

COOPER: Bill, it has certainly caused anger. I have gotten tons of e-mails from people saying, this is outrageous.

BENNETT: Yes, they're right. It's ill-timed and badly targeted. These are intellectuals who are victims of their own illusions about, you know, the benighted right-wing, which thinks this is what Obama is, and let's caricature them.

But it's not what conservatives think. And they may think they're very clever, but they they're too clever by half. They outsmarted themselves. People don't think it's particularly funny. The Obama campaign doesn't.

This guy, whatever the people from "The New Yorker" think of him, whether they think he's the second coming or not, to a lot of Americans, is still not clear who he is. He's an unformed figure. They're not sure. They're still trying to find out who he is. To make this -- put this cartoon on the cover reifies some people's concerns and worries, not because they're biased or prejudice. They just don't know who he is. So, they got way ahead of themselves. Intellectuals sometimes lack common sense.

CARVILLE: I'm a little skeptical of the thought police running around the country saying, well, this is over the top or this is whatever.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I think it is a history. Again, my point is, this is something that this magazine has an illustrative and long history of doing. It fit in that context.

It certainly is an outstanding publication. And I don't see -- I think this is satire and I think it's fine.

BENNETT: OK.

You know, Irving Kristol used to talk about people who were smart, smart, and stupid. Sometimes, people just lack common sense. This baby backfired big time.

CARVILLE: I think it backfired with people who don't understand "The New Yorker" and what it's about so much.

BENNETT: Oh, I don't think so, James.

CARVILLE: No, I do.

BENNETT: I will bet you the e-mails were from all over the map. I will be you.

CARVILLE: Again, again, my point is, is that I think it's just like what Wes Clark said. Being a fighter pilot doesn't qualify you to be president. I think he was absolutely right. If he wasn't right, then let's get Randy "Duke" Cunningham out of jail and let him be president.

(CROSSTALK)

BENNETT: Well, we're not talking about Duke Cunningham, James.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Can I finish?

BENNETT: Yes. You're going afield, though.

CARVILLE: It is possible -- it is possible to call -- to say something about John McCain, who is a war hero. That doesn't mean you're unpatriotic.

BENNETT: Right.

CARVILLE: It's possible to use satire about Barack Obama. It doesn't mean that you're intolerant.

BENNETT: Right. OK.

CARVILLE: And I think what we need to do -- excuse me -- I will be glad to...

(CROSSTALK)

BENNETT: Take your time.

CARVILLE: I think we need to call a wide strike zone here, and not be this, that or anything else.

And I think that "The New Yorker" brings a lot -- has historically brought a lot to the coverage. A.J. Liebling, who is one of my favorite writers of all time...

BENNETT: Now you're talking.

CARVILLE: ... worked there.

BENNETT: Now you're talking.

CARVILLE: So, I completely understand satire. And let the right use it. Let the left use it.

BENNETT: Can I have something resembling equal time?

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Bill, go ahead.

BENNETT: Satire is fine, but it's got to work. This didn't work.

Check Jonathan Swift. If you're trying to make something funny, make it funny. This wasn't funny.

COOPER: Are you saying it didn't work just because it was on the cover, and people who aren't going to read the article will walk by the newsstand and see it and not understand that it's supposed to be satire?

BENNETT: Oh, I think a lot of people will not understand it's supposed to be satire.

If they were satirizing the people who are opposed to Obama, why is the Obama campaign so upset about this? This thing is just -- it's just too clever by half, which means it really isn't clever at all.

But, you know, leave it -- leave it out there. Keep selling it. You know, no thought police. This joke didn't work.

I heard Remnick. He was saying, well, Stephen Colbert does this all time -- except, when Colbert is on, he's often funny. This wasn't funny.

CARVILLE: Yes, again, I think the Obama campaign was wrong.

(LAUGHTER)

CARVILLE: And I'm not a left thought police guy or right thought police guy. You guys use satire. And, you know, push the envelope. That's what we need to do in this country. We need not to take ourselves so seriously. We need to take the issues seriously.

BENNETT: Not funny, though. Push it cleverly. Push it cleverly. This wasn't clever.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I don't know. Humor is in the eye of the beholder. I thought it made a good point. It made me chuckle.

BENNETT: All right. Well, get the reviews. They're selling copies, but I don't think...

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Well, I don't -- I don't -- my thinking is not based on what reviewers says. My thinking is based on my own observations.

BENNETT: Hey, James, this requires too much explanation. When a joke requires that much explanation, it's not a joke.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: We will have more with Carville and Bennett in a moment.

Also, is a tight Senate race about to become more unpredictable? We finally know the answer to the question, will Jesse Ventura run? The answer in a moment.

Plus, breaking news: an investigation announced tonight into a Bush fund-raiser caught on this tape proclaiming high-level access for cash. The story ahead -- breaking on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: ... stand by and let our children drop out of school and turn to gangs for the support they're not getting elsewhere in the community. That's not the freedom that we fought to achieve. That's not the America that our leadership sought to build. That's not the dream they had for our children.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Barack Obama talking tonight a few -- about an hour or two ago, to members of the NAACP, speaking again about personal responsibility and honoring the sacrifices made in the civil rights movement.

Back when those sacrifices were made, some of the people putting their lives on the line for civil rights were seen as somehow less than American. Martin Luther King, for instance, was falsely called a communist by no less than the head of the FBI.

Barack Obama is a politician, of course, but he's also seen by some as being less than fully American. The cover of "The New Yorker" was meant to satirize that view. Maybe it backfired. Maybe it didn't.

More now from my conversation earlier with James Carville and Bill Bennett.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Bill, does "The New Yorker" get credit for -- for trying to sort of poke fun at or, you know, start a discussion about a lot of the rumors that are out there and a lot of the way these two have been framed?

(CROSSTALK)

BENNETT: No. This is a professional magazine. Look, it's often a first-rate magazine. I read a lot of it. I quote it a lot. I cite it. You don't get credit if you're "The New Yorker" for trying. You get credit for succeeding.

And when you put up a balloon like this, and it deflates, like this has, you don't credit. You get criticized. That's it.

CARVILLE: I suspect that this cartoon will neither bring Senator Obama down or rise him up.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BENNETT: He's going down for some reason.

COOPER: In terms of the reason -- the rumors that are out there about them, how do you, from a political standpoint, going about addressing them without sort of trafficking in them?

CARVILLE: Well, I think that they are...

COOPER: As Joe Johns pointed about, there are a bunch of people who still think Barack Obama is a Muslim.

CARVILLE: There's a bunch of people out there that think the Earth is flat. There's a bunch of people who think the Earth is 5,000 years old. Can you imagine anything that ridiculous? But you let them think that. What can you do?

If somebody right now wants to believe the Earth is 5,000 years old, I can't convince them any differently. Let them go talk to a state legislature or some such foolishness as that.

BENNETT: But the way to deal with false impressions is with the truth, with true impressions.

I have said on my radio show 100,000 times, this guy is not a Muslim. I don't think -- I think that might have helped Obama a little bit, but it's the cause of the truth. I don't think "The New Yorker" helped at all.

This is -- Harold Rosenberg called intellectuals once a herd of independent minds, you know, all these guys talking to each other in an echo chamber. They should tested this out a little bit maybe in someplace other than Manhattan.

COOPER: This is election tougher for Obama in the sense of sort of more hurdles he has to overcome, being the first African-American candidate?

CARVILLE: I mean, Senator McCain is the first -- would be the first time -- first person to get elected that's over 70. He has his own hurdles.

BENNETT: Yes.

CARVILLE: The problem is, he can't get the yoke of the Bush administration and these disastrous right-wing policies from around his neck. He's trying to run -- this is a Teddy Roosevelt -- he doesn't know anybody. He's now back to Teddy Roosevelt and...

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I think people that want change in this country, which are an overwhelming number of them, a majority of them are going to vote for Senator Obama," but the cover of "The New Yorker" or the effective use of satire notwithstanding.

BENNETT: It's not a major thing. It's a relatively small thing.

But, look, yes, they each have hurdles to overcome, Anderson. James mentioned a couple about John McCain. He's fighting gravity. Republicans are in disfavor, right track/wrong track. How does this guy stay up. How does he stay afloat?

"Newsweek" had Obama at 15 points last month. This week, they got him ahead three points. I don't know how McCain is doing it.

But Obama's problem is a different kind of problem. And it was something "The New Yorker" didn't help with. Obama's problem is, people are still not sure who he is. If they're not sure who he is, this double clever sarcastic satire confused a lot of people.

COOPER: We're going to leave it there.

Bill Bennett, James Carville, guys, thank you.

BENNETT: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Still ahead: breaking news, access to the President Bush's top aides in exchange for cold hard cash. Is that what happened? We have got the videotape and news of an investigation breaking tonight. We're "Keeping Them Honest."

And will he or won't he? Jesse Ventura making up his mind, finally, about running for Senate -- we think, sort of -- his decision next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Later this hour, the alleged bidding war for the those pictures of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's newborn twins. We will have the latest. But, first, Randi Kaye joins us with a 360 bulletin -- Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Anderson.

In an exclusive interview, Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura told Larry King just an hour or so that he's made up his mind about whether to enter that hotly contested Senate race in Minnesota between Democrat Al Franken and Republican Norm Coleman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")

JESSE VENTURA, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MINNESOTA: I will tell you now, I am not going to run at this moment. But, if between now and 5:00, maybe God comes and speaks to me, like he did the president, and tells me I should run, like he apparently told the president to invade Iraq, well, then, maybe at 5:00 tomorrow, Larry -- don't call me a liar -- just understand, God sent me to file.

How's that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: Citing surging gas prices, President Bush today lifted a ban on offshore oil drilling. But drilling cannot begin without congressional approval. And that is considered highly unlikely.

Hurricane Bertha is now just a tropical storm and walloped Bermuda today with ferocious winds and some waves. On the eastern seaboard, though, Bertha is blamed for several drownings over the weekend.

COOPER: All right, Randi. Here's tonight's "Beat 360" photo. Take a look.

No, Cindy McCain is not planning to start steering the Straight Talk Express. But she is learning some of the finer points of race car driving before the start of the Indy car series 200 auto race in Tennessee on Saturday.

So here's the caption from Brooke, our staff winner: "When you find the campaign is drifting to the far right, just turn back towards the middle of the road."

KAYE: That's good.

COOPER: Think you can do better? I could not. Go to our new Web site, AC360.com. Click on the "Beat 360" link. Send us your entry. We'll announce the winner at the end of the program. Of course, the winner gets a wonderful new T-shirt.

Still ahead, breaking news, did a Bush fundraiser and lobbyist cross the line while wrangling donations for his library? His deal- making caught on tape. We'll show you the tape. It's now an investigation -- now under investigation. We're "Keeping Them Honest." Plus, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have babies this weekend, twins. The latest on their and other celebrities' efforts to sell their kid's photos for millions of dollars. Even though the money is going to charity, is it the right thing to do? When 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Breaking news for you now, involving fundraising, promises of access to power, possibly the White House and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cold hard cash.

Tonight we learned just a few hours ago that Congressman Henry Waxman, who runs a powerful House Oversight Committee wants to know more about an incident caught on tape. A Bush fundraiser on camera trying to rustle up donations for the Bush library. He says he was doing nothing wrong and blames the media for playing gotcha. But that has not put out the firestorm this videotape is kicking up.

CNN's Ed Henry tonight, "Keeping Them Honest."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Promises of access to the president's top aides in exchange for contributions to the George W. Bush Library and some cold hard cash on the side for the man brokering the deal. The whole discussion, caught on tape.

Here's what he said: "A couple of hundred thousand, I think that would probably get the attention of people raising the money." That's Texas lobbyist and Bush fund-raiser Steven Payne, unwitting star of this video, secretly recorded by the "Times of London."

You see him here trying to wrangle a donation to the Bush library from a man who he thought was representing the exiled former president of Kyrgyzstan. Payne again, "Two hundred, 250, something like that. That's going to be a show of, we're interested."

In exchange for the money, Payne is caught on tape promising to set up meetings with top administration officials, including the vice president. Payne again, "Cheney is possible. Definitely the national security advisor. Definitely Dr. Rice."

The White House distanced itself from Payne and suggested he's no insider.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's categorically no link between any official business in the Bush library. Steve Payne was never an employee of the White House. But we do use hundreds of volunteers, years and years, you know, for helping us do advance work.

HENRY: The White House does admit Payne helped with logistics on some foreign trips. And Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff did appoint him to an advisory position.

And of course, he did raise $200,000 for the president's re- election campaign.

In a long, written statement to CNN, Payne called the "Times of London's" story gotcha journalism. He acknowledged mentioning to his apparent clients that they might be able to make donations to think tanks, foundations and/or President Bush's library but said he made it very clear that there could be no quid pro quo.

Payne showed us e-mails where he wrote he would accept the $250,000 and pass it directly to the library, while noting that he could not promise specific government action in return. Because that would be bribery.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Seems like something is different in the tape than it is in the printed letter. I guess the key question is did this guy, Stephen Payne, get White House meetings for his clients?

HENRY: I asked Dana Perino that question at the White House briefing today. She said she didn't know. So I asked, "Well, would the White House would release visitor logs so we can see how many times has Stephen Payne in recent years been going in and out of the White House? And has he been bringing various clients. This turned out to be a fake client, but he does purport to have other clients. Has he brought them in?

She said she was going to consult with White House lawyers. But now you have, as you mentioned earlier, Chairman Henry Waxman on Capitol Hill, trying to investigate this. But I can tell you, he's been trying to get visitor logs and other things, trying to get other documents from the White House for months and months now, and he's not been very successful. So it's very unlikely we're going to get those documents.

COOPER: It's kind of remarkable you can't get visitor logs at the White House. I mean, it seems it's the public's building.

But are there any regulations on these presidential libraries? I mean, any public disclosure requirements? President Clinton, I think famously, has not disclosed who has given money to his library.

HENRY: It's pretty much a lot of potential for abuse. Very little regulations. Basically, someone can come up. And there's no limit on donations: $1 million, $5 million you would be a foreign entity, a foreign government. And there's basically no public disclosure. You're not required to publicly release your donors like you would in a presidential campaign.

That is -- obviously there's a lot of potential for abuse and this investigation on the Hill is going to focus in not just on Republican but Democratic libraries potentially as well. Are foreign governments, government entities trying to influence the U.S. government, Anderson?

Up next, a major battle in Afghanistan. Nine Americans killed fighting against hundreds of Taliban militants, maybe al Qaeda. Is this only the beginning? Peter Bergen and Nic Robertson report on the front lines.

Plus, big charges in the murder of a Ft. Bragg soldier. An arrest has been made, and we'll tell you who it is and why they're in custody tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: In the "360 Dispatch" tonight, we're learning much more about the surprise large-scale attack in Afghanistan that ended with the greatest single loss of American life in three years of combat there.

Nine American troops were killed, 15 injured yesterday when hundreds of Taliban fighters stormed an operating base near the Pakistan border. U.S. officials called it a major enemy offensive, said insurgents breached an observation post outside the base before being driven back.

The resurgence of the Taliban and al Qaeda both fueling a June was the deadliest month for the U.S. since the war began. With that, let's talk strategy and reality on the ground in Afghanistan. Joining me are Nic Robertson and CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen, who is in Kabul.

Peter, how significant is the scale of this attack? The fact that the Taliban or perhaps al Qaeda can mount such a major operation? What does that tell you?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: They've been resurging for years, as you know, Anderson, but they seem to really control a lot more territory. They seem to have developed tactics that allow them to attack inside Kabul, pulled off an attempted assassination against President Karzai, blew up the Indian embassy, killing 41 people, and then this attack that you referenced earlier, indicating an ability to mount large scale operations, not just IED attacks but full-on, frontal assaults on American soldiers, Anderson.

COOPER: A couple weeks ago, you were embedded with Marines in Afghanistan. What did you see there? What did you learn on the ground?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that IEDs are being used a lot more. We went on patrol. We discovered an IED. That was 10 they discovered that month.

I was very surprised that commanders, I was with the 24th MEU, and they'd expected a two- to three-day battle with the Taliban in their piece of Helmand. They got a 35-day battle.

So I was very surprised that commanders they didn't have a better sense of what the Taliban were about to do in the area they were going into. Also, the local political officials in the area were saying, "Look, the Taliban are just beyond this new front line. Go after them." But the Marines couldn't go after them, because they don't have enough troops to do it. So those things struck me. COOPER: Peter, we're told that al Qaeda in Iraq is on the run. Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, how much are they behind this working with the Taliban? What do we know about the relationship between the two?

BERGEN: Well, I think al Qaeda has influenced the Taliban ideal, both ideologically and tactically. Ideologically, the Taliban, certainly the upper region of the Taliban see them part of the global jihad, talking about -- trying to attack in London and New York, in some cases.

And, of course, they've adopted all of al Qaeda's tactics: suicide bombings, IED, et cetera. And I was recently in Iraq, and it's clear that a lot of the foreign fighters who might have gone to Iraq, according to U.S. officials, are now going to Afghanistan, which they see as basically a safer place, a place where they're going to have less problems and also a place where they might have a bigger impact.

COOPER: Nic, what is -- what do you see as the main reason behind this shift, behind these increasing attacks? I mean, is the Taliban doing something differently?

ROBERTSON: Well, what the coalition commanders say they're doing differently is taking the fight to the Taliban. But speak to coalition commanders. And speak as well as they did, to some people who used to be very, very close. The Taliban have good insights into what the Taliban are doing and thinking.

Now the Taliban are becoming increasingly popular with the Pashtun people. This is the people in the east of Afghanistan and the west that border tribal region of Pakistan where the Taliban have been becoming much stronger.

So the Taliban are becoming much more popular with those people. They have a history of standing up to, as they say, to western attacks, both the Russians and the British back in the -- back in the 19th century. So the Taliban are becoming more popular.

But when you take troops to fight them, they're able to then recruit more people in those local villages.

Plus, President Karzai isn't very strong outside of Kabul. He isn't seen as being very popular with many Pashtun people. And for that reason they're are big tribal problems that could be addressed by President Karzai if he were stronger and this would probably head off some of the fighting and therefore head off a growth and resurgence of the Taliban. So there are many issues.

COOPER: Peter, there is an op-ed today in which Senator Obama says we're basically under resourced in the region. He said that, if he was president, he would provide, and I quote, "at least two additional combat brigades to support our effort in Afghanistan."

And he says, "We need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence gathering and more military assistance to accomplish the mission there."

Basically he's calling up to 10,000 more troops, calling for that. Is that the answer, more troops on the ground?

BERGEN: Well, I mean, all of those things are the right answer, Anderson. I mean, you know, this was the most under-resourced reconstruction project that the United States has engaged in since World War II.

So 10,000 extra soldiers, that would certainly help. But they have to be the right kind of soldiers. They can't just be, you know, National Reserve units with very little experience. You really want people who have been here before and U.S. Special Forces. So it's not only the numbers of boots on the ground; it's the kinds of forces you have. And also, the right kind of strategy, the rest kind of insurgency strategy, which I think has yet to really happen here, Anderson.

COOPER: A lot of reasons to be concerned right now, but we're just going on on the ground. Peter Bergen, thank you. Stay safe.

Nic Robertson, thanks, as well, from London tonight.

Still ahead tonight, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Their big family just got even bigger. We'll tell you about their newborn twins and the bidding war already on, apparently, to buy their first pictures. How many millions will they get? What will they do with the money and why are so many stars selling their kid's pictures? Is it right? Details ahead.

Plus, the $52 billion deal that is rocking the brewery world. Why the so-called King of Beers will never be the same. Next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie expecting no more. In case you missed it, Jolie gave birth to twins in a French hospital over the weekend, a boy and a girl. Knox Leon and Marcheline Jolie-Pitt, they were born about a minute apart, weighed in at about five pounds each.

Two of the biggest stars in the world, having two babies. One celebrity insider called it a perfect storm. No surprise. There is already a bidding war over those first baby pictures.

Now, for the Hollywood set, having kids and getting married can actually be a lucrative enterprise. We see it all the time. I mean, increasingly, it seems, sometimes they sell the photos for a profit or for charity as a preemptive strike even against the paparazzipaparazzi. But does any of that make it right?

360's Randi Kaye reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eleven million dollars. It's got a nice ring to it. So here's the question. Would you sell pictures of your newborn for that kind of money?

New parents Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are reportedly considering it. They've been down this road before. They were reportedly paid more than $4 million for pictures of their first child, Shiloh. One of the glossies negotiating with the couple this time around is "OK!" magazine.

ROB SHUTER, "OK!" MAGAZINE: "OK!" magazine wants these babies so, so much because our readers want to see these babies. The reason readers want to see these babies is because they love celebrities. Our readers adore celebrities, and they like to see celebrities at their most real, their most intimate moments.

KAYE: "OK!" is emerging as a major player in the baby pics business. And it's no mystery why it pays top dollar for the snapshots.

SHUTER: In the past "OK!" has worked with Jamie Lynne Spears. We're the only magazine to ever shoot Jamie Lynn and her baby. We've worked with Britney Spears. We've worked with Katherine Heigl. We've worked with Eva Longoria. We've worked with Larry Birkhead to bring the first pictures ever of Anna Nicole's little girl.

KAYE: Legally, this is all OK. But even if the money goes to charity, as Jolie and Pitt are reportedly planning, on a moral level is it right?

BRUCE WEINSTEIN, "THE ETHICS GUY": It's unethical for celebrities or for anyone to sell photographs of their children, even for a worthy cause. Because children should not be used merely as a means to an end, and children cannot provide an informed consent to this practice. So they may grow up feeling, reasonably, that their rights have been violated.

KAYE (on camera): They may be smiling to the camera, but not everyone ends up happy. Singer Christina Aguilera was rumored to have axed her publicist because news stands sales of the issue featuring her son, Max, fell short of expectations.

And some reports say Aguilera was livid over the fact that the photographs of Anna Nicole Smith's daughter fetched more than the ones of her child.

(voice-over) We see it in weddings, too. Ashley Simpson's bridal pictures went for a reported $1 million. And Star Jones, well, her day of matrimony to Al Reynolds was a star-studded and sponsored event with product placements for gowns and tuxedos. The couple even listed Continental as the official airline. No word on how much the couple was paid.

Giving readers what they want is how some look at all this. Bruce Weinstein disagrees.

WEINSTEIN: Just because people want to have something doesn't mean that they should be allowed to have it. And in some sense, this is contributing to the degradation of our culture. And at the very least, it's contributing to the degradation of the rights of children who don't really have a voice in this.

KAYE: The children don't, but millions of fans do. And that's why fortunes will continue to be paid for a rarified glimpse into the private lives of celebrities.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So Randi, what is the most anyone has paid? Do we know?

KAYE: I did a little research online tonight, Anderson. Apparently, Forbes did a whole big study on this, and the most expensive photo, it seems, was $6.1 million by "People" magazine for J. Lo's children.

COOPER: Do you know what she did with the money?

KAYE: No idea.

COOPER: Randi, I know you're following some of the other headlines. What do you got?

KAYE: I sure am.

The Marine husband of a missing Ft. Bragg soldier was charged with her murder today. And a second Marine is charged as an accomplice. The dead woman, 24-year-old Holley Wimunc, was the mother of two children and a nurse at Ft. Bragg. She is the second female Ft. Bragg soldier whose death is now being treated as a homicide.

Hundreds of worried depositors lined outside of IndyMac locations today. The big California bank's $18 billion in assets were seized by the government on Friday. The takeover followed a two-week run on the bank during which customers withdrew $1.3 billion.

And Bud is going Belgium. Anheuser-Busch, America's largest brewer, is being brought by its Belgian rival, InBev. The $52 billion sale was announced today. InBev, which makes Beck's and Stella Artois, will become the world's largest brewer when this deal is approved, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Randi.

Now time for "Beat 360" winners. Our daily challenge to the viewers, a chance to show up our staffers by coming up with a better caption for the picture we post in our blog every day.

All right. Here's tonight's picture. Cindy McCain sizing up a steering wheel with a race official before the start of the Indy car series auto race over the weekend in Tennessee.

Brooke -- yes, big NASCAR fans. Brooke, our staff winner quips: "When you find the campaign is drifting to the far right, just turn back towards the middle of the road."

(SOUND EFFECT: car horn) COOPER: Our viewer winner is Dennis from Fairfax, Virginia, who wrote: "OK, now when you're out on the track, be careful of Barack in the blue car. He's been drifting to the right lately.

A lot of drifting to the right.

You can check out all the entries we received in our blog. Play along tomorrow by going to our new Web site: AC360.com. And that's the T-shirt you win. And that goes out to our winner tonight. Congratulations.

So Randi, "The Shot" is up next. An embarrassing moment for Miss USA. You might have seen it over the weekend. Her tumble in front of a billion TV viewers. Yikes. And she handles it lovely. There she goes.

Plus, we'll show you our favorite beauty pageant moment.

Also ahead, satire or slander. Reaction to "The New Yorker" cover controversy at the top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Time now for "The Shot." Miss USA did it again. Over the weekend, Crystle Stewart slipped during the evening gown competition. And down she goes. She went straight down, too.

Like a true pageant pro, the 26-year-old Texan stood right up, clapped her hands and got on with the business of beauty. In the end, a young woman from Venezuela was crowned Miss Universe. Miss Stewart was the finalist.

Now as you'll remember, Randi, last year, another American fell, Miss USA contestant Rachel Smith also lost her footing. Ouch.

KAYE: The same fall.

COOPER: I know. She struck a pose before falling on the stage. It's certainly embarrassing. Certainly embarrassing but really nothing can be more painful than this. Ladies and gentlemen, our favorite beauty pageant moment. I bring you Miss South Carolina, Teen USA.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAITLIN UPTON, MISS SOUTH CAROLINA: There's some people out there in our nation that don't have that, and I believe our education, like such as in South Africa and Iraq, everywhere like, such as. And I believe that they should -- our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S. -- or should help South Africa and should help Iraq and the Asian countries.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: I think she's stoned. I think she was. No, I'm sure she wasn't. But... (SOUND EFFECT: laughter)

KAYE: Something was not right.

COOPER: She did seem to be, didn't she?

KAYE: ... was a different kind.

COOPER: What's that weird artificial laugh? Where did that come from?

(SOUND EFFECT: laughter)

KAYE: From the ceiling here.

COOPER: I think they're all -- I don't know.

You can see all the most recent shots on our new Web site, AC360.com there. You can also see other segments, and the peoples from Americas and the stuff like that.

KAYE: South Africa.

COOPER: Read the blog. Check out the Beat 360 pictures, and Americas peoples. AC360.com.

Still ahead on 360, the politics of fear and a backlash over a magazine cover that many say crosses the line. "The New Yorker" says it was intended as satire. The Obama campaign doesn't see it that way. Neither does the McCain campaign. We're "Digging Deeper" tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tonight, a magazine cover ignites a controversy. Barack Obama in Muslim garb, Michelle Obama with an AK-47. Satire or slander? We have all the angles. You can decide for yourself.

Plus a strategy session on the political impact with James Carville and Bill Bennett and others.

Also tonight, the politics of fear. Why even now so many Americans still believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim and all the other false rumors still swirling out there.

Breaking news, an investigation announced into a Bush fund- raiser's promises, all of it caught on tape. A top Bush money man promising access to everyone, right up to the vice president, all you got to do is shell out a couple hundred thousand bucks for the Bush library. What does the White House have to say about it? We're "Keeping Them Honest" tonight.

And baby photos for sale. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly auctioning off photos of their newborn twins. Why do the rich and famous do this? Is it fair, is it right? A lot to cover.