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Obama Endorsed by Powerful Nevada Union; Will Huckabee Win in South Carolina?
Aired January 9, 2008 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Jack, thanks very much.
Happening now, just hours after riding high in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton gets a letdown and Barack Obama gets a major endorsement. And Republican Mike Huckabee is hoping to steal John McCain's newfound thunder as he prepares for his next battle.
How did the pollsters and the pundits get it so wrong in New Hampshire?
Will the voters stop paying attention to the media?
Or do those stunning results mean they already stopped paying attention?
And will airline passengers one day hear this -- this is your hacker speaking. There are serious concerns right now that the computer networks on Boeing's new Dreamliner could lead to a new kind of cyber threat.
I'm Wolf Blitzer at CNN's Election Center.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
It was a stunning come from behind surprise that had everybody fooled except the voters. Hillary Clinton is still feeling the love after her victory in New Hampshire. But even the candidate herself isn't quite sure how she pulled it off.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, I don't know what all the factors were. But I'm really glad that I had a chance to say what I believe with all my heart -- that, you know, politics isn't a game. It's not a horse race. It's about peoples' lives. You know, that's why I do what I do. It's obviously really, really hard to get up every day and, you know, go out and stand up for people who don't have a voice, don't have an advocate, who sometimes they're just rendered invisible. But that's what I think I'm supposed to be doing. And I've done it for 35 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: As the candidates move on to new contests, Barack Obama had an unpleasant surprise for Hillary Clinton today -- a very important endorsement.
CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is joining us now from Jersey City in New Jersey.
She's got more on this part of the story.
What's going on -- Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, well, you'll see behind me the crowd cheering. Really very excited about Barack Obama. He got three very critical endorsements today -- one an international one, two based in Nevada. You can hear the crowd cheering. And this campaign is really about trying to prove they have not lost their momentum or their mojo. Today is all about big crowds, big money and big endorsements.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, we can. Yes, we can.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): Camp Obama is moving on -- today, winning two coveted endorsements from powerful Nevada unions in that key early voting state.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we're very excited endorsing Senator Barack Obama today.
MALVEAUX: The senator's surprising defeat to Hillary Clinton in the nation's first primary left aides scrambling to figure out why. Today, they are dismissing New Hampshire as a fluke. Obama's aides say it was Clinton's near tearful moment and its aftermath that wooed female voters her way -- thankfully, a moment that can't be duplicated, one senior staffer conceded.
OBAMA: Thank you.
MALVEAUX: So with one win, one loss, it's truly a dog fight now. Senator Barack Obama's campaign strategy is simple -- continue to do what works -- Focus on vision, paint Clinton as a pessimist and sell the message to young, first time voters and women. Wednesday afternoon, Obama rallied New Jersey college students before attending a New York fundraiser. His campaign reports it raised $8 million in the first eight days of this year -- $500,000 online since midnight. Later in the week, Obama travels to key states like Nevada, where he's hoping those labor endorsements will give him a win, and South Carolina, where half of the Democratic voters are black.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, the Obama campaign says they do not believe that race was a factor in his losing New Hampshire. But they say they are not going to take race for granted, certainly not the black vote for granted, in South Carolina. They're going to work very, very hard in the coming days -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux, thanks very much.
In fact, Barack Obama, as you point out, speaking right now.
I want to listen briefly and get a little flavor of what he's saying on this, the day after New Hampshire.
OBAMA: But, you know, the reason that they're coming up is because they recognize that we can't keep doing things the same old way, that we are in a unique moment in our history, where Democrats and Independents and Republicans are listening intently to what the candidates for president are saying. It's not just Democrats who have become discouraged. You've got Independents and Republicans who have also lost faith in their leaders, have also lost trust that anybody is listening to them. And so we have a unique opportunity to finally pull together a working coalition for change.
We have a chance to finally start tackling some of those problems that George Bush may have made far worse, but that had been festering long before George Bush ever took office.
OBAMA: I mean think about it.
OBAMA: Think about it. We have been talking about a broken health care system for decades now -- through Democratic and Republican administrations. And yet year after year, nothing happens. And you know why. Because the drug companies and the insurance companies spent $1 billion preventing reform from happening.
BLITZER: Change we can believe in -- that's his theme. You hear it throughout his speeches. You're hearing it right now. Barack Obama speaking to a group in New Jersey right now.
New Jersey one of those states holding its primary on Super Tuesday, February 5th. We'll continue to monitor the senator's comments, go back there, update you as necessary.
It was no surprise that Mike Huckabee placed third in the New Hampshire Republican race. But he's counting on solid support from religious conservatives in South Carolina, where he hopes to knock New Hampshire winner John McCain down a peg.
Let's go out to Dana Bash.
She's in South Carolina watching all of this for us. I assume Mike Huckabee feels pretty much at home in South Carolina. It's not far away from his home state of Arkansas.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're exactly right, Wolf. I actually flew here with Mike Huckabee from New Hampshire and that's exactly what he said on his plane. He said that he feels a "deep connection to South Carolina" because he is a Southerner. He has that kind of bond, he thinks, with people here.
And, you know, in a race -- in a Republican race that is so incredibly up in the air still, and in a race where voters really, in some ways, are focusing as much on personality and sensibility, that matters.
BASH (voice-over): Guitar in hand, Mike Huckabee left New Hampshire with a distant third place finish, knowing full well he needs a win at his next stop down South.
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Here in South Carolina, it's going to be the place where we'll continue the momentum that we've seen in this campaign.
BASH: South Carolina has the same kind of Christian conservative base that propelled Huckabee's victory in the Iowa caucuses. Suddenly, stump lines absent in less Evangelical New Hampshire are back.
HUCKABEE: Because I believe with all my heart that one of the fundamental issues in this country that we have got to deal with is the sanctity of every human life, the intrinsic worth and value of every human being.
BASH: The former Arkansas governor is also trying to appeal to Palmetto State Republicans with subtle reminders he's one of them. Here, his push to abolish the IRS goes like this.
HUCKABEE: And we have a saying in the South -- and I know you say it in South Carolina, because I've said it here before and people nod their heads real serious. They're like yes. And that is that if you can't fix something with WD-40 and duct tape, partner, it can't be fixed.
BASH: Huckabee's Iowa upset means he's got buzz in South Carolina. But John McCain's New Hampshire comeback means he does, too.
RICK BELTRAM, GOP SOUTH CAROLINA COUNTY CHAIRMAN: I think it's significant because people watch TV, they listen to Fox News, CNN, and they listen to that. And that definitely has an impact. And I think a lot of folks do necessarily watch the winners and tend to trend toward winners.
BASH: Now, two men who have bonded over a common enemy in Mitt Romney are now likely to face-off for the top spot in a primary known for its rough and tumble tactics.
Yet South Carolina is most notable for this man.
FRED THOMPSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They were up there freezing themselves in New Hampshire and I was down here talking. (END VIDEO TAPE)
BASH: Now, that was Fred Thompson, of course. He is here. He is trying to campaign here as -- basically, his campaign aides tell us that this is his last stand and it is really critical for him. Mitt Romney is also somebody, Wolf, who has spent a lot of time and money here. We are told, though -- CNN has confirmed that he is pulling his ads from South Carolina and focusing exclusively on Michigan. That may be dangerous. It may be necessary, but dangerous, Wolf. And here's why. The history of South Carolina is that since 1980, every Republican candidate who won South Carolina's primary has won the nomination -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Dana, thanks very much.
Dana Bash reporting for us from South Carolina.
We're going to get back to the race for the White House in just a few moments. But right now, let's look at the man currently in the White House. It took him seven years, but President Bush arrived in Israel today in his first visit as president. In a week long trip to the Middle East, the president will press Israelis and Palestinians to work toward a peace deal and will ask the Arab states for help.
Our White House correspondent, Ed Henry, is traveling with the president.
He's in Jerusalem right now. Even as the president is there, there has been fresh violence in the region.
What's the latest -- Ed?
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's interesting, the whole point of the president's trip is to talk up peace. But now the specter of a possible war with Iran is in the air, with Mr. Bush issuing a tough new warning against Tehran.
HENRY (voice-over): A love fest for President Bush's first day in Jerusalem -- Israeli school girls singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" in Hebrew.
HENRY: While Mr. Bush and Israeli president Shimon Peres sang each other's praises.
GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I come with high hopes. And the role of the United States will be to foster a vision of peace.
PRES. SHIMON PERES, ISRAEL: I also believe that the process may be slow, but the (INAUDIBLE) can be sweet.
HENRY: The gushing continued with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
EHUD OLMERT, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: And I know what you have to take upon yourselves. And how you do it, the manner in which you do it, the courage that you have, the determination to do it.
HENRY: Despite the syrupy talk, Mr. Bush vowed to nudge Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Like prodding Olmert to keep his promise to stop new settlements in the West Bank.
BUSH: Now, in terms of outposts, yes, they ought to go. Look...
HENRY: The president smiled as he anxiously awaited a response from Olmert.
OLMERT (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We must uphold our commitment.
HENRY: Mr. Bush also declared that on Thursday, he will press Abbas about Palestinian rockets being fired into Israel.
BUSH: As to the rockets, my first question is going to be to President Abbas, what do you intend to do about them?
HENRY: All designed to show Mr. Bush as a peacemaker, as he searches for a legacy beyond the Iraq War.
BUSH: And it's an historic opportunity to work for peace. And I want to thank you for being a partner in peace.
HENRY: But even as he talked peace, Mr. Bush couldn't resist turning up the heat on Iran for confronting U.S. warships.
BUSH: It's a dangerous move on their part. There will be serious consequences if they attack our ships, pure and simple. And my advice to them is don't do it.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
HENRY: Now, Shimon Peres was also talking tough at Mr. Bush's arrival ceremony, warning Iran not to underestimate Israel's resolve to defend itself if Tehran launches an attack first -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed Henry in Jerusalem for us, covering the president's visit -- eight days in the region.
Thanks very much.
Jack Cafferty is here with The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: This is a long way from the Middle East and from the presidential election, for that matter, but it's interesting. Some pregnant high school students in Colorado may soon be getting maternity leave -- high school kids. According to local media reports, the Denver public school district is putting together guidelines for pregnant students' leaves, which could last anywhere from four to six weeks after they give birth. They would be expected to complete their school work at home and keep up with their studies. However, school officials insist it's important to give these new mothers -- these kids -- high school kids -- time to bond with their babies.
And there are a lot of these new teenage moms. Statistics show 42 of every 1,000 high school aged girls are having babies. And the rate has begun to increase again in this country.
The issue of maternity leave came up in Denver after the school district got some complaints that students -- some of them were being told to report back to class the day after they got out of the hospital or else risk getting unexcused absences. Experts, including a pediatrician and psychology professor, suggested giving new mothers at least four weeks of maternity leave to recover.
Across the country, other school districts, like Seattle and Minneapolis, say they have maternity leave policies that focus on individual attention for these students. And there's a good reason for that. Teen mothers often wind up dropping out of school. By some accounts, fewer than a third of them ever get their high school diplomas and only 1.5 percent of them get college degrees before they turn 30. Of course, critics of maternity leave would say that this raises the issue of whether it's a good time -- a good idea to give these students any more time off.
The question is this -- should pregnant high school girls be given maternity leave?
You can go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my new blog.
For a long time, the last several years, the birthrate among teenagers was declining in this country, but it appears to have bottomed out and it's starting to increase again.
BLITZER: And that's worrisome.
BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.
The midair disaster that grounded an entire fleet of U.S. fighter jets -- we have exclusive new video of what happened.
Also, could a computer hacker bring down a passenger jet?
We're going to show you what some fear is a critical vulnerability in a new state-of-the-art plane.
And reports of her political demise greatly exaggerated.
How did the news media get it so wrong in New Hampshire?
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: We're just now getting in some exclusive Pentagon animation showing the breakup of an F-15 fighter jet that prompted the U.S. Air Force to ground its entire fleet.
Let's go to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.
He's watching this story for us.
What are we learning from this exclusive animation -- Jamie.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you recall, this was the accident back in November that resulted in the grounding of the entire fleet of older F-15s. And CNN has obtained exclusively the official U.S. Air Force investigation's recreation of what happened that day.
Major Stephen Stillwell, a Missouri Air Guard pilot, was flying his F-15, attempting an 8G turn at 500 miles an hour when there was a major structural failure in something called the longeron. And, as you can see, the plane literally broke in half.
His wing men radioed him, urging him to eject while there was still time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eject. Eject. Eject. Knock it off. Knock it off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: MIG 3, copy. Knock it off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: MIG 3, knock it off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 34, safe enough. Climb high.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCINTYRE: Now Major Stillwell -- even though his plane broke apart around him -- was able to get out. He did recover. He did smash his shoulder in the accident and is still recovering from that.
Meanwhile, the Air Force has now inspected all of the planes and announced just today that 60 percent of the older fleet -- about 280 planes -- will be returned to service. They say they are absolutely confident that what happened to this plane won't happen to those. But there's still 40 percent of the fleet that have some suspect problems that are keeping them on the ground -- Wolf.
BLITZER: That pilot is oh so lucky to be alive, Jamie.
What an amazing animation. Very, very dramatic stuff.
All right, thank God he's OK.
Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon for us. There's a new state-of-the-art passenger jet that may be too high tech for its own good. It's a new feature that some fear could actually make it vulnerable to attack by computer.
Let's go to our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve.
She's watching this story for us -- all right, Jeanne, update us.
What can you tell us?
JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, imagine a terrorist taking down an aircraft not with a bomb, not by storming the cockpit, but by taking over a plane's computer systems. It's a hypothetical surrounding a new plane going into service later this year, but it's one that is getting a closer look.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The 787 Dreamliner has been designed for passengers with larger windows, wide seats and aisles.
MESERVE (voice-over): And on-board, in-flight Internet access.
But how closely connected are passenger computers and the aircraft's critical control, navigation and communications systems?
Could a hacker interfere with an aircraft's operation -- even bring it down?
The Federal Aviation Administration is concerned writing the proposed data network design and integration may result in security vulnerabilities, from intentional or unintentional corruption of data and systems critical to the safety and maintenance of the airplane. Because the 787 uses new technologies not covered by current regulations, the FAA is requiring that Boeing demonstrate their computer security and safety.
Boeing's Mike Sinnett says there are hardware and software protections.
MIKE SINNETT, BOEING CORPORATION: There's no connection between the types of things a passenger could have access to and the flight critical systems and the data that passes among the flight critical systems.
MESERVE: But for security reasons, Boeing won't be any more specific.
Mike Loveless (ph), a hacker turned security expert, says he will fly on the 787, but wonders if Boeing has done enough.
MIKE LOVELESS: Well, that's the 30,000-foot question now, isn't it?
I mean, hopefully it is.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
MESERVE: Boeing says it won't know for sure whether its computer security does the job until the 787 is in the air. Flight testing is expected to begin in March -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jeanne, thanks very much for that.
Bill Clinton's attack on Barack Obama's record -- did Obama have the right response and did it help or hurt Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire?
Plus, a deadly 50-car pileup closing a major interstate. We're going to show you what happened.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What's going on -- Carol?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's been a very deadly day for U.S. forces in Iraq. U.S. military officials there are reporting six American soldiers killed by an IED in a house in the Diyala Province in Iraq. Four soldiers were wounded and are being treated at a coalition hospital.
A fiery and deadly pileup on Florida's Interstate 4. Take a look. About 50 vehicles, including at least six big rigs, involved in a chain reaction collision southwest of Orlando. At least four people were killed, dozens more injured. Visibility was very poor at the time because of fog and smoke from a nearby wildfire.
National Guard troops will be staying in New Orleans until summer. A spokesperson for Louisiana's governor-elect plans to keep on more than 300 troops, who have been helping police try to get control of spiraling violence in the city. They were first deployed in June of 2006. The new extension will keep them on patrol until the end of June.
Take a look at the headlines right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Carol, thank you for that.
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are planning their next moves in the wake of the New Hampshire primary.
What do they do next?
We're going to check it out.
Also, pundits calling for a Clinton loss in the Granite State. How did the news media -- at least some of it -- get it so wrong?
Plus, the law which critics say is unfair to some voters goes to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Happening now, a pay raise for Congress. New figures show lawmakers getting a $4,100 boost in their paychecks -- an increase of about 2-1/2 percent. Their annual salary now more than $169,000.
Also, the White House budget is going paperless. The 2009 budget, due out next month, will be published online -- all 2,200 pages of it. The White House says foregoing 3,000 print copies will save 20 tons of paper and about 480 trees.
Plus, the former Panamanian dictator, Manuel Noriega, fails in his latest attempt to stop his extradition from the United States to France, where he faces money laundering charges. He lost his latest appeal, but is planning another -- this time to the 11th Circuit.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Critics say the news media may have treated Barack Obama with kid gloves and for a long time, his opponents couldn't lay a glove on him. But Bill Clinton came out swinging the other day and landed a couple punches, attacking Obama's record.
Let's turn to CNN's Carol Costello. She is watching this story for us.
Is Obama suddenly vulnerable, Carol?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know Wolf, some analysts are saying he is, that he's too image oriented and not issue oriented enough. So when people like Bill Clinton call his war policy a fairy tail, voters believe him because they don't really know where Obama stands.
COSTELLO: Barack Obama seems to be the Teflon candidate. Attack him and he not only bounces back but makes you look bad in the process. Many pundits have said for Hillary Clinton and her supporters, that's a big problem. So when Bill Clinton stood up at a campaign rally for his wife and blasted Obama as an Iraq war flip flopper, the pundits went wild.
WILLIAM BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: They should pull the hook. They should get the hook, get him offstage. He's hurting her.
COSTELLO: But did he? With Obama's second place finish in New Hampshire, others now say Obama should have fought back.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He failed to respond adequately, as far as I'm concerned, to Bill Clinton and some of his comments. I think they recognize you know what; we have to get more aggressive and come right back to let him know we're in this fight just like you.
COSTELLO: The senator has maintained he was always against the Iraq war, but in New Hampshire, Bill Clinton accused Obama of changing his mind over the years.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE U.S.: It is wrong that Senator Obama got to go through 15 debates trumpeting his superior judgment and how he had been against the war in every year, enumerating the years, and never got asked one time, not once, well, how could you say that when you said in 2004, you didn't know how you would have voted on the resolution.
COSTELLO: And today, Obama did fight back, saying he has always been anti-Iraq war.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So the notion that somehow that diminishes my clear, unequivocal statements about the issues of the war even before the Congress voted to authorize it, actually doesn't make much sense and Bill Clinton was taking some liberties with my statements.
COSTELLO: And Clinton appeared to do just that. His barbs were targeted to comments Obama made to the "New York Times" in 2004. Asked if he would have voted for the war, Obama said, "I'm not privy to senate intelligence reports. What would I have done? I don't know." But Clinton failed to mention the rest of the quote. Obama went on to say, "What I know is that from my vantage point, the case was not made."
COSTELLO: Well, completely true or not, keep in mind democrats love Bill Clinton. His approval rating among democrats is somewhere around 83% so what he says resonates. That's why some say Obama needs to push back louder. Wolf?
BLITZER: Carol, thanks very much for that.
We all remember Hillary Clinton's emotional moment the other day in New Hampshire. Well, it turns out the woman whose question almost moved Senator Clinton to tears voted for Barack Obama. 64-year-old Mary Ann Young tells CNN she was moved by Clinton's response when she inquired about the candidate's well-being, but Young says it wasn't enough to win her vote. Young adds she ultimately chose Obama after attending a rally where he moved her, where he moved her, to tears not once, but twice.
As remarkable as the New Hampshire result may be, the democratic candidates are already planning their next battles. Let's take a look at what to expect. Joining us now, two experts, two democratic Congressmen, Jesse Jackson, Jr. of Illinois, he supports Barack Obama, and New York's Charlie Rangel, the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, he supports fellow New Yorker, Hillary Clinton. Thanks Congressman very much for coming in.
Charlie Rangel, any second thoughts about Hillary Clinton right now?
REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: No, indeed. I think that as an American, we all should feel so proud we have a dynamic lady that running for leader of the free world and the president. We have an African-American that's inspiring and articulate. I think it's good for all Americans to heal the wounds we have had for decades. I think it's good for America's image. We are so lucky to have these quality candidates in the American political system but more importantly, as democrats.
BLITZER: You're supporting Hillary Clinton. You want her to beat Barack Obama. Am I right?
RANGEL: There's no question in my mind that African-Americans have a deep settled pride in terms of what Barack has been able to do, but in the final analysis, like all Americans, we want a strong America. We want to end the war. We are dealing with the economy, the deficit, health, education, and I think that certainly at my age, at 77, I really would want to hit the ground running. I think at the end of the day, this is what democrats will be looking for but let's face it; this is just the first step in a very long race that could very well go into the caucus, into the democratic convention.
BLITZER: Congressman Jackson, we're showing our viewers some pictures. He is shaking hands, Barack Obama. He's in New Jersey right now meeting with supporters there. Why did you decide to support Barack Obama as opposed to Hillary Clinton?
REP. JESSE JACKSON, JR. (D), ILLINOIS: Barack Obama's message of hope is resonating with all Americans from Iowa to New Hampshire, where we, for the better part of the last year, were down by 20 points and we closed the gap to almost within 2 percentage points. That speaks volumes about his capacity to reach out to both independents and republicans, a necessary factor, a necessary formula, Wolf, in making sure the democrats are successful in the November campaign. Only one candidate on the democratic side has shown the capacity to reach out beyond democrats, bring new voters into the process, independents and republicans, a sure formula for a democratic victory in November.
BLITZER: You want to respond, Congressman Rangel, to that?
RANGEL: There's no question in my mind that most Americans, not just in the party, but they want what's good for our great country. It won't take just one person to be able to do it. They have to be able to put a team together, of economists and diplomats and I quite frankly think that the people and the person that has the experience to be able to bring this team together is Hillary Clinton. There's no question that Obama has done a great job for the people of Illinois but in terms of what he has been able to do on the national level, unlike Hillary Clinton, I think in terms of the opportunities we have, ultimately, she is our best candidate and hopefully America will agree she will be one dynamic leader in chief.
BLITZER: Congressman Jackson, do you believe that that emotional moment Hillary Clinton showed the other day in New Hampshire helped her when all is said and done?
JACKSON: Of course I do. And so do the Clinton candidates and the Clinton surrogates. Everyone today on the news has been suggesting that emotional moment did have an impact. But let me be perfectly clear. We are really not here to discuss the sincerity of Senator Clinton's tears. What we are here to discuss is the fact that for the last eight years, George Bush has made all of us cry. He's given us a lot to be very sad about. So whether it's Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, democrats will make progress.
I'm confident, however, that only Barack Obama has the capacity to bring people together. His message has been consistent. He does have experience. But most importantly, he has judgment. He made the judgment from the outset to oppose the war in Iraq. Unlike any other democrat, no one else can say that.
BLITZER: Congressman Jackson, I want to be precise, are you suggesting that her emotional moment was not sincere?
JACKSON: No, I'm not suggesting that at all. What I am suggesting, however, is that there are a lot of reasons to be concerned and emotional in this campaign; the 47 million Americans without healthcare. There are many issues, including bringing our men and women home from Iraq, for which one can be emotional about. Barack Obama is the kind of president that I would suggest has demonstrated the kind of sincerity on those issues for which all of us can be proud.
BLITZER: Congressman Rangel, about half of the democratic likely vote in South Carolina is African-American. I wonder what your prediction is, how do you think they will come out when the dust settles in South Carolina?
RANGEL: Well, I think that she is going to be very persuasive and get substantial support. Like I said earlier, there is no question the deep-seated pride that African-Americans and certainly New Yorkers have for the effort that's been made by Obama, but in terms of what's good for the country, I really think when you take a look at the overall situation, what we are facing in terms of the world's problems, the national problems, that we should be looking for a substantial vote for Hillary Clinton.
I would like to say, though, as relates to the war, while there is no question that Senator Obama opposed the war rhetorically, he was not in the house or the senate at the time the vote had to be taken. While I voted against the war and against President Bush's initiative that I thought was one of the most immoral things that could ever happen, I think the record should be abundantly clear that voting for or against the war was not an easy thing, and if you were not in the house and you were not in the senate, it's pretty easy to say what you would have done, but it was not a very easy vote to do.
BLITZER: I will give you ten seconds for the last word, Jesse Jackson, Jr. Go ahead.
JACKSON: African-American voters in South Carolina are excited and motivated by Barack Obama's message. This is the first time that we are entering a diverse contest of the magnitude of South Carolina. We expect great returns in that contest.
BLITZER: Jesse Jackson, Jr., Charlie Rangel, good of both of you to join us. Good luck to both of your respective candidates. We will have you back here on CNN. Thanks very much.
JACKSON: Thank you, Wolf.
RANGEL: Good seeing you. Good talking with you, Jesse.
JACKSON: You too, Charlie.
BLITZER: This important programming note for our viewers, CNN the congressional black caucus will co-host the presidential debate in South Carolina. You can see it live right here on CNN on January 21st. We will be in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for that. I will be joined by CNN correspondents Suzanne Malveaux and Joe Johns, part of the best political team on television.
And later tonight, we will have a special report at 8:00 p.m. eastern right after "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," America votes 2008, a political special. I'll be anchoring that right here from the CNN Election Center.
Pundits were digging her political grave but Hillary Clinton surprised a lot of them with her win. How did the news media, at least some of it, get it so wrong in New Hampshire?
Plus, could John Edwards lose South Carolina's crucial African- American voters? I'll speak with him right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're getting an important development just coming in to CNN from Barbara Starr. She's standing by right now at the Pentagon. What are you learning, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, CNN has learned that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is on the verge of sending 3,000 additional combat forces to Afghanistan. This is most likely to be 3,000 U.S. marines, both a combination of ground and air forces. This is a request that is coming to the Pentagon directly from the NATO commander in Afghanistan. He simply does not have enough troops due to the rise of the Taliban and al Qaeda threat in Afghanistan. NATO has so far not contributed the full complement of troops that is needed, so they are coming to the Pentagon.
As of this afternoon, this proposal is on Defense Secretary Robert Gates' desk. According to senior U.S. military officials, there is every indication he will approve it and the surge, if you will, for Afghanistan may well be underway. 3,000 more troops possibly very quickly going to Afghanistan in the next several weeks, as soon as Secretary Gates signs those papers. Wolf?
BLITZER: A tenuous situation in Afghanistan right now. All right. Barbara, thanks very much for that news.
Few people were likely more surprised by Hillary Clinton's New Hampshire win than the pundits who spent much of the last few days reporting about her political demise. CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" host Howard Kurtz has details. Howie?
HOWARD KURTZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in the hours leading up to the New Hampshire results, everyone in the news business was on the same page. How could Hillary Clinton survive another devastating defeat by Barack Obama? Then suddenly, they had to throw out the script.
KURTZ: The media narrative was clear. Obama was soaring after his win in Iowa while Clinton, well, this "New York Post" headline said it all. The "Washington Post" said a New Hampshire loss would leave the former first lady gasping for breath. There was even chatter about when she might get out of the race.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Democrat Barack Obama may be heading for his second big victory in less than a week.
BRIT HUME, WASHINGTON MANAGING EDITOR: The democratic presidential race in New Hampshire is now clearly Barack Obama's to lose.
WILLIAM BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think the Clintons are losing and I think it's almost panic time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What they want to do is have everyone in the Democratic Party take a deep breath on Wednesday and stop any calls for her to get out of the race so she has time to recover.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't see how Hillary can prevent a real crushing defeat, double digit defeat.
KURTZ: The anchors and the pundits who rely so heavily on polls could hardly believe it when Clinton managed to win the democratic primary.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the rest of us who were saying out loud that this was not going to happen, we have a lot of explaining to do.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: The savants, the pundits, all of the political experts, need to do a little seeking of forgiveness and achieve a little humility or at least modesty if you can't quite get to humility because everyone was so wrong in this, and breathtakingly so.
KURTZ: And the newspapers simply updated their spin.
That wasn't the only media misstep. John McCain won in New Hampshire's republican primary, six months after most journalists all but pronounced him dead when his fund raising imploded and top strategists resigned.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When the pundits declared us finished, I told them I'm going to New Hampshire, where the voters don't let you make their decision for them.
KURTZ: The new story line, McCain had been resurrected from that premature burial and it was just last week when Mike Huckabee won Iowa's GOP caucus, the same Mike Huckabee who most news organizations ignored as a hopeless long shot for most of 2007.
KURTZ: In the era of around the clock polling and predictions, journalists have increasingly gone into the political forecasting business. Their predictions can look awfully embarrassing once the voters show up. Wolf?
BLITZER: Howard Kurtz, thank you.
Barack Obama's campaign is catching fire in his father's native Kenya. Our own Zain Verjee is there in Kenya right now. She will be reporting for us shortly.
Also, Hillary Clinton finding a way to connect with voters, especially women. How will it change her campaign? Will it?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Senator Barack Obama has a lot of supporters that can't vote in U.S. elections, the people of Kenya, where his father was born. Bloodshed has followed Kenya's own recent election which was declared rigged by a U.S. envoy. Now many Kenyans are shifting their attention to Barack Obama's campaign.
CNN's Zain Verjee is joining us from Mombassa in Kenya. Zain, what are you hearing?
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's a world away but Kenyans have been glued to their TVs.
VERJEE: Barack Obama is Kenya's favorite son. Probably more than any other country in the world, Kenyans are tuning in to see if he is going to win the race for the White House. They woke up in the wee hours of the morning and they were following the New Hampshire primary really closely.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I woke up at 4:00 a.m. to watch the primaries in New Hampshire. He was a few thousand, 2,000 points below Clinton and I felt sorry. I kept on hoping that he would catch up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's only one setback but he is still going to win.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no rigging going on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's rigging. There's rigging even in U.S. even in England, there's rigging.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You think he lost because there was rigging?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a lot of rigging.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are some people that say they don't want him because he's a black man -- not even a black. Closer to Islamic.
VERJEE: If you had one message today for Barack Obama, what would it be?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wish him best of luck to win in USA so he can have power also in Africa.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it will be like that.
VERJEE: Wolf, in Kenya, Obama continues to be a rock star. Wolf?
BLITZER: Zain Verjee, another rock star in Kenya right now. Thanks very much. Zain is from Kenya originally.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty. She's doing good reporting for us, Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He wasn't a rock star in New Hampshire last night.
BLITZER: Almost. Got close.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour is should pregnant high school girls be given maternity leave? There are some school districts around the country that are discussing that idea, one of them out in Denver.
Noel writes in Minnesota, "In my second year of high school, one of my classmates gave birth. Though there was no law requiring it, the school gave her four weeks maternity leave, customized her schedule so she could spend part of the day with her child while her mom was at work. In our third year, she was quite open about discussing all this, even spoke at a class retreat. In our senior year, she was voted class president, graduated the top of the class. Yes, she might be an exception to the rule but at least she had the opportunity."
Lori writes, "As a high school teacher, I know absences have a serious impact on students' success. Unfortunately, today's pregnant teens, who have already demonstrated lack of judgment, also lack dedication and tenacity. Instead of viewing their baby as someone who will need a successful parent, they treat it like a toy, showing off ultrasounds and baby gifts. Anytime they feel uncomfortable, they stay home. They have no idea that life will just get harder and no one is teaching them that lesson."
Michelle writes, "I'm an education sales consultant and work with our nation's public and private schools in southeast North Carolina. I took 6 weeks maternity leave by doctor's order. I needed it. The baby needed to eat every two hours and it took an hour and a half to feed him. The better question is, what about paternity leave for the baby's father? I haven't seen that school improvement plan developed by the administration, staff, faculty, parents and students."
Melanie writes, "These girls shouldn't even be pregnant! They don't even have jobs to afford to take care of these kids! I'm 21, virgin, with one child: a female dog named Daisy. Girls want kids? Adopt a dog! It's cheaper!"
And a mother writes this. "If businesses can give mothers maternity leave, certainly schools can. These young people need to be given a chance to recover, bond with their child if they're going to keep the baby and to succeed in life. In 1972, when I was 17, I was kicked out of high school when I started to show but Minnesota state law allowed me to graduate by providing a tutor. I am now a university professor." Good for you. Very good.
BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.
It's meant to fight fraud at the polls but is it disenfranchising some voters? Instead, a controversial law facing the ultimate challenge right now.
And John McCain and Mitt Romney, they are preparing for battle in Michigan.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: It's meant to fight fraud at the polls but critics say a state law which calls for a photo I.D. at the polls unfairly impacts some voters and the U.S. Supreme Court today began hearing a challenge.
Let's go to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena. She's live for us at the Supreme Court.
What's this all about, Kelli? KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, it's all about this, a government-issued photo I.D. that may be very difficult for some people to get their hands on in time to vote.
ARENA: Remember this? Angry protests, hanging chads, an election too close to call. The 2000 presidential race raised questions about election integrity. Indiana says its voter I.D. law has integrity written all over it. It requires government-issued photo I.D.s when voters show up at the polls to prevent fraud.
TODD ROKITA, INDIANA SECRETARY OF STATE: We believe we have a good case. We believe voter I.D. gives voters and taxpayers and all of us confidence in the process, a confidence that's been waning since Florida 2000.
ARENA: But the state's Democratic Party, which is leading the fight against the law, says it's just a sneaky way to discourage people who usually vote for democrats from showing up at the polls; the elderly, minorities, the poor. Critics argue it will be hard for those folks to come up with birth certificates to get the proper I.D.
PAUL SMITH, ATTORNEY FOR INDIANA DEMOCRATS: We do have actual people who tried to vote in Indianapolis in November of 2007 and were turned away and didn't have their votes counted.
ARENA: It all comes down to a question of balance between preventing fraud and burdening voters.
Justice Samuel Alito seemed to speak for many of his colleagues when he asked, where do you draw the line? And Justice Anthony Kennedy, who's swing vote is key, wondered aloud whether the law could be upheld with some minors changes.
ARENA: There's obviously some urgency here. States want legal clarity on this issue before November's election. We do expect a ruling by June, Wolf.
BLITZER: Kelli Arena at the Supreme Court. Thank you.
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