February 21st, 2008
10:51 PM ET

Dialing Up the Undecideds

We’ve been rounding up undecided voters for a few months now – we love watching their reactions as the candidates debate the issues. For tonight’s panel, however, we faced a new challenge: finding these undecided Democrats.

I’ve had more than a few people tell me they’re surprised people could be undecided at this point, but thankfully, there are still a few… emphasis on few.

The firm who gathers our undecided registered voters had to pull out all the stops to find tonight’s group.  One thing that struck me as I was being briefed on tonight’s group? The women watching the debate with us tonight say they feel torn.

On the one hand, they feel an allegiance to Senator Clinton; yet they don’t feel she’s given them enough reason to get excited, enough reason to pull a lever for her.  All day long, you’ve heard that tonight is when Sen. Clinton needs to get people excited.

Will that be enough for this group? And is that excitement really what these votes come down to? Stay tuned to find out.

– Erica Hill, 360° Correspondent

Filed under: Erica Hill • Raw Politics
February 21st, 2008
10:44 PM ET

What Not to Do While Waiting for Your Candidate to Arrive

The crowd was excited, and didn't seem to mind in the least that Hillary Clinton was late for a rally.

The temperature was in the 60's on Wednesday night on the campus of the University of Texas at Brownsville, and the mood was electric.

A mariachi band provided robust and vibrant entertainment, and the thousands of people attending in this city that is over 90 percent Latino were visibly enjoying the pre-show entertainment.

The band finished to rousing applause and a young man then took the stage. Most of these rallies have local volunteers or politicians taking the microphone to get the crowd excited, and this was no exception.

The man told the crowd "Hillary will be here soon," and the throngs erupted. He told everyone to take out their cellphones and hold them high in the air.

Under a dark sky, the scene looked like the inspiring ones I remember from my college days when people would hold up their lighters at a Grateful Dead concert.

He then told everyone to type a 6 digit number in their cellphone, and text the word "WIN." Most people seemed to follow his instructions.

It was only AFTER that request, that he informed the bubbly supporters that they would now receive regular installments of Hillary Clinton campaign text messages on their cellphones.

And then, we heard a surprising sound for a crowd waiting for their political hero. Scattered boos.

Hillary Clinton's campaign is not unique in sending text messages to supporters. It is a good way to attract donations. And I would guess most of these people would be happy to receive such texts.

But those booing weren't so impressed with this stealthy technique.

I don't have any reason to believe Mrs. Clinton and her top brass knew a thing about this. But I can tell you that the enthusiasm level decreased significantly at that point.

Not something you want at this critical juncture of the campaign. Next time, they might want to consider leaving the mariachi group on stage longer.

–Gary Tuchman, 360 Correspondent


Filed under: Gary Tuchman • Raw Politics
February 21st, 2008
10:22 PM ET

So long, Austin....

And like that, they are off.  On to the next stop.  Several barbs were traded back and forth, and on more than one occasion the candidates were caught off balance by some very tough questioning.  However, after over an hour and a half of standing firm, the candidates shook hands with diplomatic grace and called it a night. 
The production here in the control room was very smooth and painless; probably one of the calmest productions I have ever seen.  These guys have it down to a science.  And for me on prompter - well, Campbell and I put on a very graceful performance. 
Now, along with the rest of the press corp, we will get a few hours of sleep and catch a plane to our next stop.  For me, it is back to New York.
Thank you Austin for your hospitality, you were a gracious host.
–Richard Morris, CNN Associate Producer

Filed under: Raw Politics
February 21st, 2008
09:57 PM ET

A Question of Ethics: Does it hurt, or help?

Remember when John McCain ran for president eight years ago? The New York Times story today suggesting that he’s actually part of the problem in Washington has, of course, become a problem for his campaign, but also perhaps a help to it.

With his wife by his side, a subdued McCain issued an unequivocal denial, saying he’s "very disappointed in The New York Times piece. It’s not true." That’s for every allegation in the lengthy article:

First, that he had a romantic relationship with Vicki Iseman. Mccain described his relationship with her this way: "Friends. See her occasionally at fund-raisers and appearances before the committee."


And an assist from Mrs. McCain: "My children and I not only trust my husband, but know that that he would never do anything to not only disappoint our family but disappoint the people of America."

Then, McCain took on the charge that he used his powerful position on a Senate committee to help her corporate clients: "At no time have I ever done anything that would betray the public trust nor make a decision which in any way would not be in the public interest and would would favor any one, or any organization."

The Times also says eight years ago his advisers were so concerned about his relationship with Iseman that they tried to stop it: He denied that, too.

The one named source to go on the record in the Times story was McCain’s former top political adviser, John Weaver. He confirmed to CNN that he was worried and did confront her. However, he insists now that it wasn’t about a romantic relationship, but about her spreading word around town that McCain helped her lobbying clients.

"My concern wasn’t about anything John had done. It was about her comments. It was about access she claimed to have had," Weaver told us.

McCain insists he knows nothing about that: "I never discussed it with John Weaver. As far as I know, there was no necessity for it. That’s a judgment that he made."

But Iseman’s lobbying firm issued a statement calling the story fantasies of a former disgruntled campaign employee, without merit or foundation.

The irony in all this? The McCain campaign is relishing the controversy, because it allows the candidate trying to appeal to conservatives to pick a fight with what they see as a big enemy, The New York Times.

In fact, the campaign sent out a fund-raiser today calling on donors to send money to fight the "liberal establishment."

–Dana Bash, 360° Correspondent

Filed under: Dana Bash • Raw Politics • Top Stories
February 21st, 2008
07:52 PM ET

McCain, the Times, and the Lobbyist

Some 24 hours after the New York Times posted the McCain story on its web site, here's where I sense that things stand:

The story itself has plenty of smoke but absolutely no evidence of any fire.  Both the Senator and the woman in question have denied the underlying allegations - that (a) they had a romantic relationship and (b) that he did favors for her as a lobbyist.  Several others around the Senator have also issued similar, strong denials.  No one  - not a single source, named or unnamed - has come forward with a shred of evidence to show that their denials are wrong. 


Under the circumstances - and given John McCain's long and honorable record of serving his country - I believe that most Americans will more than give him the benefit of the doubt.  Unless someone comes forward soon with something concrete, the Senator emerges from this unscathed with the general voting public.  

Indeed, it is increasingly clear that among conservatives, this episode is actually serving to strengthen him.  Look at the way his detractors like Rush Limbaugh rallied around him today.  Many of them hate the Times, and even though they do not love McCain, the enemy of their enemy is now their friend. 

McCain's team has also been adroit at turning the Times itself into a growing issue.  Personally, I think the criticisms of the Times that it intentionally sat on the story to protect McCain in the early primaries and then dumped it out on him now has no basis in fact - or at least any facts that we know so far.  The Times, like most news organizations on controversial stories, has to work hard to make sure it has enough solid sourcing before it goes with the story. And when that is in hand, it goes. Note that in all the denials today of any fire, there wasn't much of a denial about the smoke - the allegation from unnamed sources that some of his aides became convinced that there was an underlying story; the fact that John Weaver and the woman in question have both said there was a meeting to tell her to get lost actually lends a little credence to the idea that some aides were worried about appearances. 

So, the Times did have something.  It is a much harder question whether, given how little they had, they should have held the story altogether.  I can imagine that was a very tough call within the newsroom - journalists do publish such smoky stories a lot (just ask the Clintons, who were pummeled by such stories, some from the Times).  But it is also very understandable that the Senator and his team were outraged - if there is no evidence of any underlying story, doesn't a story like this seem terribly unfair, even a smear, as they argued?  This is where the world of journalism collides with the world of politics - each has its own values, its own culture, its own set of standards.  Personally, if in the newsroom, I would have voted to spike the story unless and until something concrete appeared.  But I also know that among many outstanding journalists, not just at the Times, the vote would have gone the other way.

For now, unless another shoe drops, John McCain goes forward with a more united base than he had 24 hours ago.

-David Gergen, 360° Contributor

Filed under: David Gergen • John McCain • Raw Politics • Top Stories
February 21st, 2008
07:42 PM ET

No Live Blog Tonight...

...too much post-debate stuff going on.   We'll be starting tonight's program early, as soon as the debate is over.  Be sure to tune in!

Filed under: Behind The Scenes
February 21st, 2008
07:23 PM ET

Hillary, Barack, Campbell and....me

Live from Austin, Texas....

Tonight is the night.  Clinton vs. Obama.  The air is thick, the passion is high, the crowds are gathering, and I am stuck in a dark trailer watching it all through tiny TV monitors.


Tonight, we are broadcasting from a control room on wheels.  During the debate, there will be roughly 21 people packed into this tight, dark space watching it all play out.  Fortunately, I sit on the low end of the totem pole.  My responsibilities are minimal. There are only two times I could goof, and be subsequently yelled at: the beginning and the end.

Tonight, I will run prompter for Campbell Brown, the moderator of the debate.  Prompter is typically the lowest of low positions, but you feel such prestige, having that unique in-the-moment feeling with the anchor as you turn this tiny wheel, the words magically appear, they’re spoken by a famous person and sent electronically across the country, maybe even the world, and then just as quickly they disappear. 

Tune in tonight at 8pm ET, as you watch the debate begin live, you will witness Campbell and I beginning our dance.  If only for 90 seconds, we will waltz into the battle of the year as we introduce this debate for the world to see.  Then, you can see Campbell in the post-debate show on AC360°. But my role will be over. Almost as quickly as the words did, I’ll disappear, too.

-Richard Morris, Associate Producer

Filed under: Behind The Scenes
February 21st, 2008
05:56 PM ET

Beat 360° 2/21/08


It's time for 'Beat 360°' Everyday we post a picture – and you provide the caption. Our staff will get in on the action too.

Tune in every night at 10p ET to see if you are our favorite! Can you Beat 360°?

Here is today’s “Beat 360°” pic of the day.


Have fun with it. Make sure to include your name, city, state (or country) so we can post your comment.

Filed under: Beat 360°
February 21st, 2008
05:41 PM ET

Afternoon Buzz

Hi, bloggers.  It's a busy afternoon.  Protestors have attacked the U.S. embassy in Belgrade.  A burned body has been found inside. The demonstators are angry the U.S. has supported Kosovo's independence from Serbia.  In Afghanistan, a scary moment for three U.S. senators when their helicopter had to make an emergency landing.  Here at home, at the University of Texas-Austin, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama face-off in tonight's debate only on CNN.  On the GOP side, John McCain is blasting the New York Times for an article claiming he had a close relationship with a lobbyists eight years ago.  And, the LAPD goes after the paparazzi targeting Britney Spears. Grab your afternoon snack and click on the links for your afternoon buzz.  Let us know what you think of the headlines.  

 Top Stories 

Serb protesters attack U.S. Embassy

Helicopter carrying U.S. senators makes emergency landing in Afghanistan 

Lacrosse players sue Duke

Raw Politics

Clinton, Obama ready for Texas throw-down

McCain camp blasts Times for 'smear campaign'  

Crime & Punishment

Man gets 50 years for killing, cutting up wife

YouTube taser stunt ends in arrests

What YOU will be TALKING about TONIGHT

Boxing legend's sister found frozen to death

SAT sues test-prep company 

Police arrest Britney-hounding paparazzi

February 21st, 2008
04:41 PM ET

Dr. G and the G forces

I had one of the most thrilling rides of my life yesterday. I was invited by the Blue Angels to ride along on an $18 million jet for about 90 minutes, flying out of Naval Air Facility El Centro, California. I approach these stories like I approach a med school exam. I studied really hard, and tried to learn everything I could about the physiology of pilots.

As is often the case, though, there is a big difference between reading about something and doing it. Now, in full disclosure, I was very worried about taking this ride. I do get sick in the back of cars, and even a little movement on a boat makes me want to toss my cookies. Things like Dramamine have worked in the past, as has ginger. They do not work, however, when you are traveling at supersonic speed in a high-performance jet. The combination of barrel rolls, quick and violent turns and super high G forces – the force of acceleration or gravity that feels like extreme pressure on your body – is not easily treated with any kind of medication.


Before the ride, the Blue Angels gave me an outstanding briefing on anything and everything about the plane. It has two engines that can each generate 16,000 pounds of thrust – and they did. It can travel 1,200 miles an hour and go as slow as 120 mph. The pilot explained to me that going slow was what made this plane unique. Any plane can go fast, but to be able to "hit the brakes" and suddenly slow down made this F18 Hornet, a special plane. It can fly inverted for quite some time, and I didn't even know planes could really do that. There also was plenty of discussion about a "bonus ride." Yep, that's the ejection seat and it can rocket you high enough in the air that even if you are ejected from the ground, you would land safely with a parachute.

There is no question that it was cool to break the sound barrier, though I didn't hear much when I did. We turned cartwheels in the sky and flew through canyons like I was playing a video game. I learned breathing techniques and exercises that help one combat G forces. Simply tensing your leg muscles and trying to stand up against the 12 point harness will force blood into the upper part of your body, including your heart and brain. Contracting your stomach muscles and saying "hick" loudly also does a good job of keeping that blood where it needs to be. From a medical standpoint, at 4G's, you will start to lose color vision, which is why it is called "graying out"; 4.5 G's and you may lose vision all together. Higher G's and your lungs start to collapse, your esophagus stretches, your stomach drops and blood pools significantly in your legs. It's hard for the human body to take, although my pilot seemed to be enjoying it and joking the whole time, sometimes at my expense.

During my flight, I topped 6 G's – six times the force of gravity. The exercise and breathing techniques that I used in training worked for the most part – except for the one time I think I passed out, only to have Lt. Frank Weisser say, "Hey doc, you awake?" I thought I was. I wasn't. And, yes I completed both P's of my Blue Angel flight. Not only did I Pass out, I did Puke. I guess burritos weren't such a good idea for breakfast.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I think I will keep it that way.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

-Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Chief Medical Correspondent

Filed under: Dr. Sanjay Gupta
« older posts