Return to Transcripts main page

ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

President Obama Gives Commencement Address at Arizona State University; Anti-Abortion Protesters Seek to Block Obama's Notre Dame Speech; Sarah Palin to Write Memoir

Aired May 13, 2009 - 22:58   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Actually, we're -- the president's being introduced. Let's listen in.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, ASU. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you so much. Thank you. Please, thank you very much.

Well, thank you. Thank you, President Crow, for that extremely generous introduction, for your inspired leadership, as well, here at ASU. I want to thank the entire ASU community for the honor of attaching my name to a scholarship program that will help open the doors of higher education to students from every background. What a wonderful gift. Thank you.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

That notion of opening doors of opportunity to everybody; that is the core mission of this school. It's the core mission of my presidency, and I hope this program will serve as a model for universities across this country. So, thank you so much.

(APPLAUSE)

I want to obviously congratulate the class of 2009 for your unbelievable achievements. I want to thank the parents, the uncles, the grandpas, the grandmas, cousins, calabash cousins, everybody who was involved in helping these extraordinary young people arrive at this moment.

I also want to apologize to the entire state of Arizona for stealing away your wonderful former governor, Janet Napolitano.

But you've got a fine governor here, and I also know that Janet is now applying her extraordinary talents to serve our entire country as the secretary of homeland security, keeping America safe. And she's doing a great job.

Now, before I begin, I'd just like to clear the air about that little controversy everybody was talking about a few weeks back. I have to tell you, I really thought this was much ado about nothing, but I do think we all learned an important lesson.

I learned never again to pick another team over the Sun Devils in my NCAA brackets. It won't happen again. President Crow and the Board of Regents will soon learn about being audited by the IRS.

Now, in all seriousness, I come here not to dispute the suggestion that I haven't yet achieved enough in my life. First of all, Michelle concurs with that assessment. She has a long list of things that I have not yet done, waiting for me when I get home.

But more than that, I come to embrace the notion that I haven't done enough in my life. I heartily concur. I come to affirm that once titled, even a title like president of the United States, says very little about how well one's life has been led. That no matter how much you've done or how successful you have been, there's always more to do, always more to learn, and always more to achieve.

And I want to say to you today, graduates, Class of 2009, that despite having achieved a remarkable milestone in your life, despite the fact that you and your families are so rightfully proud, you too cannot rest on your laurels. Not even some of those remarkable young people who were introduced earlier, not even that young lady who's got four degrees she's getting today. You can't rest. Your own body of work is also yet to come.

Now, some graduating classes have marched into this stadium in easy times, times of peace and stability, when we call on our graduates simply to keep things going and don't screw it up. Other classes have received their diplomas in times of trial and upheaval, when the very foundations of our lives, the old order has been shaken, the old ideas and institutions have crumbled, and a new generation is called upon to remake the world.

It should be clear to you by now the category in which all of you fall, for we gather here tonight in times of extraordinary difficulty, for the nation and for the world. The economy remains in the midst of a historic recession, the worst we've seen since the Great Depression, the result in part of greed and irresponsibility that rippled out from Wall Street and Washington, as we spent beyond our means and failed to make hard choices.

We're engaged in two wars and a struggle against terrorism. The threats of climate change, nuclear proliferation, and pandemic defy national boundaries and easy solutions. For many of you, these challenges are also felt in more personal terms. Perhaps you're still looking for a job. You're struggling to figure out what career path makes sense in this disrupted economy.

Maybe you've got student loans -- no, you definitely have student loans. Or credit card debts. And you're wondering how you'll ever pay them off. Maybe you've got a family to raise. And you are wondering how you'll ensure that your children have the same opportunities you've had to get an education and pursue their dreams.

Now, in the face of these challenges, it may be tempting to fall back on the formulas for success that have been peddled so frequently in recent years. It goes something like this -- you're taught to chase after all the usual brass rings. You try to be on this who's who list or that top 100 list. You chase after the big money and you figure out how big your corner office is. You worry about whether you have a fancy enough title or a fancy enough car.

That's the message that's sent each and every day -- or has been in our culture for far too long that through material possessions, through a ruthless competition pursued only on your own behalf, that's how you will measure success.

Now, you can take that road and it may work for some. But at this critical juncture in our nation's history, at this difficult time, let me suggest that such an approach won't get you where you want to go. It displays a poverty of ambition, that in fact the elevation of appearance over substance, of celebrity over character, of short-term gains over lasting achievement is precisely what your generation needs to help end.

Now, ASU, I want to highlight -- I want to highlight two main problems with that old, tired, me-first approach to life.

First of all, it distracts you from what's truly important. And it may lead you to compromise your values and your principles and your commitments. Think about it. It's in chasing titles and status, in worrying about the next election rather than the national interests and the interests of those who you're supposed to represent that politicians so often lose their ways in Washington. They spend time thinking about polls, but not about principles.

It was in pursuit of gaudy, short-term profits and the bonuses that came with them that so many folks lost their way on Wall Street, engaging in extraordinary risks with other people's money.

In contrast, the leaders we revere, the businesses and institutions that last, they are not generally the result of a narrow pursuit of popularity or personal advancement, but of devotion to some bigger purpose. The preservation of the union or the determination to lift a country out of a depression, the creation of a quality product, a commitment to your customers, your workers, your shareholders, and your community.

A commitment to make sure that an institution like ASU is inclusive and diverse and giving opportunity to all. That's the hallmark of real success.

That other stuff -- that other stuff, the trappings of success, may be a by-product of this larger mission, but it can't be the central thing. Just ask Bernie Madoff. That's the first problem with the old attitude.

The second problem with the old approach to success is that a relentless focus on the outward markers of success can lead to complacency, it can make you lazy. We too often let the external, the material things, serve as indicators that we're doing well, even though something inside us tells us that we're not doing our best; that we're avoiding that which is hard, but also necessary; that we're shrinking from rather than rising to the challenges of the age.

And the thing is, in this new hyper-competitive age, none of us -- none of us can afford to be complacent. That's true whatever profession you choose. Professors might earn the distinction of tenure, but that doesn't guarantee that they'll keep putting in the long hours and late nights and have the passion and the drive to be great educators.

The same principle is true in your personal life. Being a parent is not just a matter of paying the bills, doing the bare minimum. It's not just bringing a child into the world that matters, but the acts of love and sacrifice it takes to raise and educate that child and give them opportunities.

It can happen to presidents as well. If you think about Abraham Lincoln and Millard Fillmore had the very same title. They were both presidents of the United States, but their tenure in office and their legacy could not be more different. And this is not just true for individuals; it's also true for this nation.

In recent years, in many ways we've become enamored with our own past success, lulled into complacency by the glitter of our own achievements. We've become accustomed to the title of "military super-power" forgetting the qualities that got us there, and not just the power of our weapons, but the discipline and valor and the code of conduct of our men and women in uniform.

The Marshall Plan, and the Peace Corps, and all those initiatives that show our commitment to working with other nations to pursue the ideals of opportunity and equality and freedom that have made us who we are; that's what made us a super power.

We've become accustomed on our economic dominance in the world, forgetting that it wasn't reckless deals and get-rich-quick schemes that got us where we are, but hard work and smart ideas, quality products and wise investments. We started taking shortcuts. We started living on credit instead of building up savings. We saw businesses focus more on re-branding and repackaging than innovating and developing new ideas that improve our lives.

All the while the rest of the world has grown hungry, more restless, in constant motion to build and to discover, not content with where they are right now, determined to strive for more. They're coming.

So, graduates, it's now abundantly clear that we need to start doing things a little bit different. In your own lives, you'll need to continuously adapt to a continuously changing economy. You'll end up having more than one job and more than one career over the course of your life. You'll have to keep on gaining new skills, possibly even new degrees. And you'll have to keep on taking risks, as new opportunities arise.

And as a nation, we'll need a fundamental change of perspective and attitude. It's clear that we need to build a new foundation, a stronger foundation for our economy and our prosperity, rethinking how we grow our economy, how we use energy, how we educate our children, how we care for our sick, how we treat our environment.

Many of our current challenges are unprecedented. There are no standard remedies, no go-to fixes this time around. And Class of 2009, that's why we're going to need your help. We need young people like you to step up. We need your daring, we need your enthusiasm, we need your energy, we need your imagination.

And let me be clear, when I say young, I'm not just referring to the date of your birth certificate. I'm talking about an approach to life, a quality of mind and a quality of heart, a willingness to follow your passion regardless of whether they lead to fortune and fame, a willingness to question conventional wisdom and rethink old dogmas. A lack of regard for all the traditional markers of status and prestige, and a commitment instead to doing what's meaningful to you, what helps others, what makes a difference in this world.

That's the spirit that led a band of patriots, not much older than most of you, to take on an empire and to start this experiment in democracy we call America. It's what drove young pioneers west to Arizona and beyond. It's what drove young women to reach for the ballot, what inspired a 30-year-old escaped slave to run an underground railroad to freedom.

It's what inspired a young man named Cesar to go out and help farm workers, what inspired a 26-year-old preacher to lead a bus boycott for justice. It's what led firefighters and police officers in the prime of their lives up the stairs of those burning towers and young people across this country to drop what they were doing and come to the aid of a flooded New Orleans.

It's what led two guys in a garage named Hewlett and Packard to form a company that would change the way we live and work, what led scientists in laboratories and novelists in coffee shops to labor in obscurity until they finally succeeded in changing the way we see the world. That's the great American story: young people just like you following their passions, determined to meet the times on their own terms.

They weren't doing it for the money. Their titles weren't fancy: ex-slave, minister, student, citizen. A whole bunch of them didn't get honorary degrees. But they changed the course of history, and so can you, ASU.

So can you, Class of 2009. So can you.

With a degree from this outstanding institution, you have everything you need to get started. You've got no excuses. You have no excuses not to change the world.

Did you study business? Go start a company. Or why not help a struggling not-for-profit find better and more effective ways to serve folks in need?

You study nursing? Go -- understaffed clinics and hospitals across this country are desperate for your help.

You study education? Teach in a high-needs school where the kids really need you. Give a chance to kids who can't -- who can't get everything they need maybe, in their neighborhood, maybe not even their home, but we can't afford to give up on them. Prepare them to compete for any job anywhere in the world.

You study engineering? Help us lead a green revolution, developing new sources of clean energy that will power our economy and preserve our planet.

But you can also make your mark in smaller, more individual ways. That's what so many of you have already done during your time here at ASU, tutoring children, registering voters, doing your own small part to fight hunger and homelessness, AIDS and cancer.

One student said it best when she spoke about her senior engineering project, building medical devices for people with disabilities in a village in Africa. Her professor showed a video of the folks they had been helping, and she said, "When we saw the people on the videos, we began to feel a connection to them. It made us want to be successful for them."

Think about that. It made us want to be successful for them. That's a great motto for all of us. Find somebody to be successful for. Raise their hopes. Rise to their needs.

If you think about your life after graduation as you look into the mirror tonight after the partying is done -- that shouldn't get such a big cheer -- you may look in the mirror tonight and you may see somebody who is not really sure what to do with their lives. That's what you may see.

But a troubled child might look at you and see a mentor. A homebound senior citizen might see a lifeline. The folks at your local homeless shelter might see a friend.

None of them care how much money is in your bank account or whether you're important at work, or whether you're famous around town. They just know that you're somebody who cares, somebody who makes a difference in their lives.

So Class of 2009, that's what building a body of work is all about. It's about the daily labor, the many individual acts, the choices, large and small that add up over time, over a lifetime to a lasting legacy. That's what you want on your tombstone.

It's about not being satisfied with the latest achievement, the latest gold star, because the one thing I know about a body of work is that it's never finished. It's cumulative. It deepens and expands with each day that you give your best, each day that you give back and contribute to the life of your community and your nation.

You may have setbacks and you may have failures, but you're not done. You're not even getting started, not by a long shot. And if you ever forget that, just look to history. Thomas Paine was a failed corset maker, a failed teacher and a failed tax collector before he made his mark on history with a little book called "Common Sense" that helped ignite a revolution.

Julia Childs didn't publish her first cookbook until she was almost 50. Colonel Sanders didn't open his first Kentucky Fried Chicken until he was in the 60s. Winston Churchill was dismissed as little more than a has-been who enjoyed Scotch a little bit too much before he took over his Prime Minister and saw Great Britain through its finest hour.

No one thought a former football player stocking shelves at the local supermarket would return to the game he loved to become a Super Bowl MVP and then come here to Arizona and lead your Cardinals to their first Super Bowl. Your body of work is never done.

Each of them at one point in their life didn't have any title or much status to speak of, but they had passion; a commitment to following that passion wherever it would lead, and to working hard every step along the way. And that's not just how you'll ensure that your own life is well-lived, it's how you'll make a difference in the life of our nation.

I talked earlier about the selfishness and irresponsibility on Wall Street and Washington that rippled out and led to so many of the problems that we face today. I talked about the focus on outward markers of success that can help lead us astray.

But here's the thing, Class of 2009 -- it works the other way, too.

Acts of sacrifice and decency, without regard to what's in it for you, that also creates ripple effects, ones that lift up families and communities, that spread opportunity and boost our economy, that reach folks in the forgotten corners of the world, who when committed young people like you see the true face of America, our strength, our goodness, our diversity, our enduring power, our ideals.

I know starting your careers in troubled times is a challenge, but it is also a privilege, because it's moments like these that force us to try harder and dig deeper, and to discover gifts we never knew we had, to find the greatness that lies within each of us.

So, don't ever shy away from that endeavor. Don't stop adding to your body of work. I can promise that you will be the better for that continued effort, as will this nation that we all love.

Congratulations, Class of 2009, on your graduation. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

COOPER: And you've been listening to President Barack Obama speaking, his first of three commencement speeches this season, addressing some 9,000 graduates and some 70,000 people in Arizona State University in Tempe, just outside Phoenix, 70,000 people gathered to hear the president speak.

In a moment, we're going to look at the controversy he triggered just before leaving Washington today and the one awaiting him at his next commencement, Notre Dame.

But joining us right now is senior political analyst David Gergen, in New York, "Daily News" columnist Errol Louis and GOP strategist Kevin Madden. David, the president actually turning the controversy that had start at ASU a kind of on its head. Initially, they didn't offer him an honorary degree, saying that his body of work was not accomplished enough. He basically saying that he agreed with that, that he hasn't achieved enough in life and that no matter how much you've done or how successful you've been, there's always more to do and more to learn, and more to achieve.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And he also used humor, Anderson. And it was almost an extension of Saturday night, when he was at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. You remember he had these few zingers, and he said that ASU, sorry about that IRS audit that's coming, and he kidded himself a little bit.

I'd like to see more of that humor. I think it works well for him. But he did -- it was a smart move. I thought the speech started well and then wandered. And I couldn't figure out, what's he doing. And then he ended with this fairly long inspirational message to the graduates. I did not think they were trying for the history books tonight. They weren't trying to get a message out.

COOPER: And Errol, I mean, joining in on this, the kind of speeches we have seen Barack Obama give as president are very different from what we saw in the campaign trail. And as David pointed out, it really began with inauguration day -- they're much more workman-like, they're really not the sort of soaring rhetoric that so many people flocked to see on the campaign trail.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: This is more of the rhetoric than we've heard from him in quite a while...

COOPER: Right.

LOUIS: ...I must say, though. And here again, he's talking to these students, these are the people that he got fired up first and early, and most importantly, because they went out and they were his foot soldiers in the early months of the campaign trail. And I heard him giving them exactly what they want to hear.

Telling them, you can do this too, you can do what I've done, you shouldn't hold back on your ambition. You should dream for something really, really big. And so he's talking about -- he's talking about Harriet Tubman, and Martin Luther King, and Hewlett-Packard, and giving them these whole panoply of choices, and saying look just go up there and go for it, and I'm here with you.

COOPER: Kevin...

KEVIN MADDEN, FORMER SPOKESMAN FOR MITT ROMNEY: Yes.

COOPER: I mean, does it surprise you, that we haven't heard more of the then-candidate Obama as president?

MADDEN: No, I think that that's probably the realization, that he's no longer candidate Obama, instead he's President Obama, and more importantly Commander in Chief Obama. I think one of the greatest criticisms you heard of -- from Republicans during the campaign was that he was just not ready, here's somebody who's going to -- the presidency is not an on-the-job learning experience. And instead, I think that he's taken the opportunity to use these moments to quiet frankly what they are -- as pageantry to hammer home the -- hammer home the message that he is on-the-job, that he is looking forward.

And that he's much more in tune with governing this nation, moving this nation forward, looking at the big challenging that we face as Americans versus, again, getting caught into the day-to-day management of a news cycle that a campaign would offer.

COOPER: Let's check in with Suzanne Malveaux who is with the president in Tempe. Suzanne, what was the atmosphere like?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Anderson, I have to say, covering the campaign is one thing that I saw that was very familiar in this speech that we saw in the campaign, when he actually challenged people. He said, "Well, you have a business degree, go out and create a business."

One of the things he did in the campaign that got like the biggest applause, people would go crazy, they'd be on their feet, is when he was talking about, "Look, I'm going to offer you scholarship money or grants, loans, these types of things. But I want you to give back, I want you to do something, do community service or serve your -- overseas, anything like that, and people would get so excited about the possibility of actually contributing to making the country better or to making a difference.

That was one of the things that really attracted a lot of people to his campaign, those young folks. It's the kind of thing that he used here at the commencement speech when he really challenged people to get directly involved and to make a difference. I thought that was very similar.

The other thing that was interesting was the big applause line, everybody got to their feet when he talked about these people, the ex- slaves, the minister. These are folks who don't have those fancy titles; they don't have an honorary degree. A lot of people feeling a sense of relief almost that he did use humor, and that he did bring up this controversy.

I expect and suspect that he is going to do that at Notre Dame on Sunday when we cover his speech there as well, that he's not going to shy away from the idea that his controversial appearance will encourage debate, whether or not it's over abortion, whether or not it's over this culture of life or health care. That there are some ways; that there's this similarity but that it's okay to disagree on some of those very hot issues -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Suzanne Malveaux, reporting from Tempe, Arizona tonight. Suzanne, thank you very much.

Up next, more with our panel, presidential 180 over the photos of alleged abuse in military prisons; first the president said he would allow the photos to be released, now he says he's going to fight to keep them secret. Is he flip-flopping or maybe taking the advice of commanders, or doing both?

Were "Keeping Him Honest," you can decide for yourself.

Also tonight, Governor Sarah Palin, writing a book; find out how much she may be making -- how many millions. We've got details on that ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Before President Obama left Washington today to go speak at ASU, he did a striking about-face on photos of prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The ACLU fought and won a court battle to make those photographs public. President Obama said he would abide by the ruling. But today after strong lobbying from his top military commanders, he decided to fight to block their release.

The question tonight, is he backpedaling on core promises about transparency that he'd made as some of his critics say? Or is he keeping another promise to listen to opposing views and then take them to heart? Ed Henry tonight is "Keeping Him Honest."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A dramatic reversal by the president on whether to make prison abuse photos public.

OBAMA: The most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.

HENRY: Different from what the president's own spokesman, Robert Gibbs said just last month. Back then the president was concerned about the effect on U.S. troops for more Abu Ghraib-style photos. But Gibbs suggested much like the release of memos detailing alleged torture in the Bush years the president believed transparency would not damage national security.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There was a lot of back and forth in his mind over the course of several weeks about ensuring that this protected those that keep us safe, that it protected our national security. And the president came to the determination that the decision that he made was consistent with all of those criteria.

HENRY: After today's announcement, the president refused to take questions, while Gibbs struggled to explain what led to the change.

(on camera): Was there a failure here at the White House in the first go-around in April to fully weigh the national security implications?

GIBBS: The argument that the president seeks to make is one that hasn't been made before. The -- I'm not going to get into blame for this or that.

HENRY (voice-over): So, what sparked the reversal? Senior military officials confirmed to CNN in the last several days, Generals David Petraeus and Ray Odierno urged the president to reconsider because of concerns about troops. While former vice president Cheney has been making the rounds, charging the president is making the country less safe.

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that we are stripping ourselves of some of the capabilities that we used in order to block, if you will, or disrupt activities by al Qaeda that would have led to additional attacks.

HENRY: White House aides sharply deny the former vice president had any impact and they note it was Mr. Obama who raised concerns about the troops during a meeting with General Odierno on Tuesday, so he was not giving in to pressure. Nevertheless, liberals are furious about what they're calling a stonewall tactic, reminiscent of the Bush-Cheney years.

AMRIT SINGH, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION: This decision makes a mockery of President Obama's promise of transparency and accountability.

HENRY (on camera): The ACLU's open records lawsuit may now go to the Supreme Court where it could take months or even a year to decide.

In the meantime it may not be bad politically for the president to take some heat from the left. It only moves him to the middle.

Ed Henry, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, back with us now "Digging Deeper," David Gergen, Errol Louis of the New York "Daily News," and Kevin Madden, GOP strategist.

David, does the president look weak by changing his mind like this?

GERGEN: He certainly looks like he's flip-flopped. He certainly looked like he has changed his mind, and I think the Ed Henry question at the press briefing with Gibbs saying why didn't he pick all these things...

COOPER: Why weren't they thinking about troop safety back then?

GERGEN: Yes, exactly, I thought that was an appropriate question.

Having said that, I think most Americans appreciate the fact, Anderson that the toughest decisions come to the president's desk. They're really hard calls; it's a 51-49 call. And I think if it's a question of -- you know, if by honoring your pledge for transparency you actually bring the deaths and brings riots and deaths of American troops as commander-in-chief, I think most Americans would agree that your commander-in-chief role comes in first.

That you should not put American lives in peril by releasing these. I would imagine that yes, he's going to get heat on the left, but I think that most Americans will agree in a close situation they are sympathetic and I'll bet they will see that this was -- in my judgment it was a very sensible decision.

COOPER: Kevin Madden, from a Republican standpoint, can now Republicans say that this makes a mockery of all his calls for transparency and a lot of his criticism of the Bush administration?

MADDEN: Well, I think what it does is it feeds the arguments that many Republicans made on principle that previous decisions he made with regards to the release of those interrogation memos, that somehow we have credence on those arguments.

I think we have to remember about this president, is that he will always take the path of least resistance. I think that what he's realizing now is that his base on this issue is not so much the left, but instead it's right in the middle. That there's a certain pragmatism to this argument that he's making on national security terms as well as the simple fact that he is coming to terms with the weight of the role of commander-in-chief now.

COOPER: Errol Louis, is this a victory for former vice president Cheney?

LOUIS: No. I don't think so. I mean, he has been raising issues that I think make it look as if he were try to go protect his own administration, trying to protect his own hide, trying to protect his own legal status.

But I have to say, I have to disagree with Kevin. This was not the path of least resistance.

COOPER: You don't think President Obama takes the path of least resistance?

LOUIS: Well, in this case he certainly did. And the easiest thing to do would have been to say listen, it didn't happen on my watch. I have no responsibility for this, transparency is our watch word. Here are the photos, let the chips fall where they may. That would have been the simple thing to do.

On the other hand, he is playing in -- let's keep in mind, it's not just the domestic political audience -- he's about to make this what he has touted even before he took office as a major speech to the Muslim world. It's going to happen in Egypt. It's going to be really important. It could change American relations with much of the planet for the next 20 or 30 or 50 years.

Compared to that the release of these memos and these photos at this time, it's actually relatively a smaller kind of a deal, and it could be handled by the courts, it could handled by Congress. He's chosen to take himself out of it to a certain extent; a very tough call. GERGEN: I don't think it's the path of least resistance, having made a mind up one way and then flip-flopping, he's now open to this criticism that he obviously changed his mind and he obviously didn't think about it hard enough to start with. I actually think it was a gutsy call.

COOPER: Kevin, when you say he always takes the path of least resistance, what do you mean?

MADDEN: Well, I think if you look back to a couple weeks ago, he believed the way to make the argument was right down the middle. And in fact, what happened was he distanced himself from the left and he distanced himself from the right. He became under intellectual assault from both of those sides.

I think this particular decision is one that he's trying to again -- trying to find that middle ground so that he doesn't have an argument being made against him by Republicans up on Capitol Hill.

COOPER: Isn't that being a uniter, not a divider?

MADDEN: I think you can make that argument. I think that both Errol and David are right in this respect that he will enjoy bipartisan support on this, and that there are many folks up there who are not so much worried about the consistency of the argument that he's been making on this, but instead that they're happy that he's made the right argument, and that is one that has put the thumb on the scale for national security reasons.

COOPER: David, I saw you shaking your head.

GERGEN: The only thing I disagree with Kevin about was I don't think it changes the argument or undercuts him about releasing the memos he had before. Kevin was making the argument well it shows Republicans were right about the memos to start with. I don't know why those two things -- one follows from the other. I don't get that.

COOPER: All right. We have to leave it there. Kevin Madden, Errol Louis, David Gergen, thank you very much for staying up late with us. We appreciate it.

Coming up next on 360, the president's problem in Notre Dame -- thousands are protesting his commencement address this weekend, saying his anti-abortion views are against the Catholic Church, and should not be heard on campus. We'll take a closer look after the break. I should say pro-choice views.

Also, setting the record straight, Governor Sarah Palin says that is what she plans to do with a new book. What else does she have to say about the memoirs? Details on that ahead tonight on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We're back and live, President Obama wrapping up the commencement speech at Arizona State University, his first of three this season. For the next one this weekend at Notre Dame with a big controversy over a hot topic -- abortion. That was him congratulating graduates.

The "Raw Politics" on his speech in Notre Dame with Candy Crowley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By the time they graduate, American students are well-schooled in free speech.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We do not believe it's right to celebrate a man who's gone so against Catholic principles.

CROWLEY: The man is President Barack Obama, supporter of abortion rights who will give the commencement address to and get an honorary degree from Notre Dame, a premier Catholic school, a religion that considers abortion a mortal sin.

Let the free speech begin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't afford to be sending a message to people that we value power and fame over our Catholic identity.

CROWLEY: The debate is not defined to campus. It made it to the pulpit of Orlando Bishop Thomas Wenski.

BISHOP THOMAS WENSKI, ORLANDO, FLORIDA: It implies almost an approbation or if not an approbation, an approval of the president's position, at least a winking at it, as if it was not that important.

CROWLEY: And it made it into a "The Washington Post" column by Father Thomas Reese.

REV. THOMAS REESE, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: I think when we start banning speakers, we look afraid. We look like we feel we can't come up with convincing arguments. And I think that's a self-defeating strategy.

CROWLEY: Beyond the church sanctuary, anti-abortion activists, Catholic and non have gathered in South Bend to make their case. Among them former presidential candidate Alan Keys, arrested for trespassing, and conservative anti-abortion activist Randall Terry.

RANDALL TERRY, ANTI-ABORTION ACTIVIST: We push baby strollers peacefully, quietly prayerfully on campus, and in the strollers were baby dolls covered with stage blood and an Obama bumper sticker, saying Obama '09 - one dead baby at a time, Notre Dame to make a statement.

CROWLEY: Countering the protests, critics accuse Republicans of trying to drive a wedge between Catholics and Democrats. They note both President Bushes and Ronald Reagan spoke at Notre Dame and they were pro death penalty, also against Catholic teaching.

Having won the Catholic vote last year, the president is on firm territory when he takes to that podium. While at least one Notre Dame honoree is boycotting, along with some students, a vast majority of graduates and parents are expected to show up.

Beginning in the Vietnam era, protest has been a time-honored graduation exercise. At Fuhrman, some faculty members boycotted then- President Bush's address, others silently made their case.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I supported the decision...

CROWLEY: John McCain was interrupted constantly by protesters during his commencement address at New York's New School.

MCCAIN: All eyes...

CROWLEY: No one was disinvited. Everyone spoke. They all survived. The tradition goes on.

GIBBS: The president intends to go to Notre Dame, speak, accept the degree and come back to the White House.

CROWLEY: Democracy 101. Everyone gets free speech.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Still ahead, could be the most talked about tell-all in years; Governor Sarah Palin getting millions to write her memoirs. We have the details on that.

But first, Erica Hill has the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, updating our breaking news for you: a deadly tornado, one person dead, several others injured in northern Missouri. Video we have for you here of this storm hitting. This is from iReporter Michael Ambrosia. Emergency officials tell us some people who sought safety in their basements actually ended up trapped in their own homes unable to get out because of the storm damage. We'll keep you updated on that.

Meantime, the controversial erotic services ads on Craigslist will soon be gone replaced by a new adult section which will be monitored by site staff. The change comes amidst strong pressure from a multi-state attorneys general task force and comes following the murder of a masseuse, allegedly the victim of a Boston medical student who found her on Craigslist.

Stocks tumbling following a weaker than expected sales report: the Dow off 184 points, the Nasdaq fell 52 while the S&P lost 24.

And more reaction to former vice president Dick Cheney's claims the country is less safe under the Obama administration; this time from former president Bill Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wish him well. It's over. I wish him well. It's over. I do hope he gets more target practice before he goes out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Mr. Clinton, of course, referring there to the former vice president's infamous hunting accident when he accidentally shot his 78-year-old friend in the face. They were quail hunting at the time.

COOPER: Yes they were.

Coming up next on 360, Sarah Palin, author, which means Sarah Palin, the book tour. Tell you about the deal and what she could be making.

Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We're not sure if Governor Sarah Palin's going to seek the White House in '12. But tonight, we know, she shares at least one thing in common with President Obama -- a book deal. Today the former vice presidential candidate announced that she signed a deal to write a memoir. The contract could make her millions of dollars. There's a lot of ground to cover, no doubt: controversial remarks, the campaign trail, her relationship with John McCain, her family, her future plans. It goes on and on. Erica Hill, tonight, with an "Up Close" look at the book.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), ALASKA: I was just your average hockey mom.

HILL (voice-over): Governor Sarah Palin in her own words, words now worth millions of dollars, thanks to a deal the one-time VP candidate inked with publisher HarperCollins. Neither party would confirm the amount of the payout, but no publisher would option a book for millions if they didn't think it would sell.

ROBERT THOMPSON, PROFESSOR OF POPULAR CULTURE, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY: She is not just any vice presidential candidate in any election. She became a celebrity in her own right, part of the American popular culture, someone that was being parodied on "Saturday Night Live."

HILL: That Tina Fey connection could be a huge selling point.

While plenty of Palin supporters are anxious to hear more from the Alaska governor who says this book is her chance to quote, "speak truthfully in an unfiltered forum," there's no denying the amount of attention Palin still gets from her detractors.

THOMPSON: She could move a lot of units to people who are reading this with their tongues firmly in their cheeks and their elbows in the ribs of the person sitting on the subway chair next to them. HILL: The governor will work with a yet to be named collaborator but her attorney assures CNN every word in the book will be Sarah Palin. The focus -- everything: life in Alaska, life as a working mom, as the mother of a son with downs syndrome, dealing with her own daughter's teenage pregnancy and, yes, the 2008 campaign.

PALIN: Let's send the maverick of the senate to the White House.

HILL: But just how much we'll learn about the rumored nastiness on the trail and after the election may depend on the governor's own political aspirations.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The publishers don't want her to say some sensational things to sell books but equally as important, whatever she says will be used against her in the foreseeable future.

HILL: The book will be released when Governor Palin is up for re-election and when the 2012 campaign will be wrapping up.

Still, with expectations of a multimillion-dollar payout, chances are we'll get a nugget or two in advance.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: The rumors, of course, are flying on what that actual amount may be. As we mentioned, no one would confirm but the rumors range from $7 million to $11 million. Governor Palin calls that figure laughable.

COOPER: $11 million was laughable?

HILL: Yes.

Either way it's million with an "s," so she's laughing all the way to the bank.

COOPER: Yes. No doubt about that.

Time for our "Beat 360" -- I think we have time for that.

HILL: It's a fine one this evening.

COOPER: It's our daily challenge to viewers to come up with a caption better than the one we can come up with for a photo that we put on the blogs. Here's the picture: Secretary of State Clinton leaving Yankee stadium after New York University's commencement -- she's wearing a commencement gown. Staff winner, Tom Foreman, his caption: "My graduation? Oh, it's 2012 and I know just the job to go after."

HILL: Oh, that cheeky Tom Foreman.

COOPER: He's cheeky as a cheeky monkey.

Our viewer winner is Don from Washington, his caption, "Hillary Clinton models the new special edition commencement Snuggie." HILL: Again, Jack Ray (ph) would be trapped.

COOPER: I don't have -- I have not worn a Snuggie.

HILL: It's not the season. Unless you're sitting in the studio and then you need three of them.

COOPER: I feel like Snuggie has jumped the shark (ph), hasn't it?

HILL: It may have. We'll see next Christmas.

COOPER: Don, your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way. Congratulations.

That does it for us for 360. Thanks very much for watching.

I think "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now. Yes it does.

HILL: All right.

COOPER: "LARRY KING LIVE" starts now.

I'll see you tomorrow night. Thanks for joining us.