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THE SITUATION ROOM
Bill Clinton Lashes Out at Obama Campaign; Republican Conservatives and John McCain
Aired January 23, 2008 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, happening now: Bill Clinton gets angry at the Obama campaign and even perhaps angrier at the news media. He says allegations he's playing the race card amount to a hit job. This hour, the best political team on television takes on Clinton;'s latest outburst.
Plus, are some high-profile conservatives determined to stop John McCain? we will talk about the new Republican front-runner's problems with Rush Limbaugh and the right.
And there's only so much Washington can do to jump-start the economy. We are going to go beyond the politics and look at the cold, hard facts about the turmoil in the markets and the threat -- the threat of recession.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
Right now, Bill Clinton is lashing out at Barack Obama's presidential campaign and at the news media. He's responding to harsh criticisms from an Obama supporter in South Carolina. He's calling those criticisms crazy. And Clinton says Obama's camp is spinning the news media to distract attention from the real issues.
Let's go to CNN's Jessica Yellin. She's in Charleston, South Carolina. She's watching this story for his us.
Jessica, he's stumping in South Carolina very hard for his wife right now.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He really is, Wolf.
You know, Senator Hillary Clinton isn't even in this state, but her husband is fighting hard. Don't believe the pundits when they tell you that they have given up the state to Barack Obama, because I will tell you something. They are in it to win it.
YELLIN (voice-over): Remember this guy, Bill Clinton, the policy wonk?
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are facing the prospect that a couple million people could be foreclosed on. All the experts are worried about us moving into a recession.
YELLIN: And, in South Carolina's, homeland's campaigner in chief.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Hillary Clinton tough enough?
B. CLINTON: Half the time, when she shows how tough she is, people say she's too tough.
YELLIN: He spent almost two hours working this Charleston crowd in that artful Bill Clinton way fighting to win here.
B. CLINTON: One of my rules is never look past the next election, or you may not get past the next election.
YELLIN: At first, he seemed to tread lightly when criticizing Obama here for supporting the Bush energy bill.
B. CLINTON: He voted for that I think because there was a lot of -- I don't know want on overstate this. I think he did it because there was money in there for ethanol.
YELLIN: But when I followed up after the event, the president unloaded.
B. CLINTON: I never uttered a word of public complaint when Mr. Obama said Hillary was not truthful, enough character, was poll- driven, when he had more pollsters than she did, when he put out a hit job on me.
YELLIN: The question that triggered this? I asked him to respond to a charge by an Obama supporter and former head of the South Carolina Democratic Party that the Clinton campaign's tactics are reprehensible and reminiscent of Lee Atwater, the late Republican mastermind.
B. CLINTON: They are feeding you this because they know this is what you want to cover.
YELLIN: Now, Wolf, he blamed the media for stirring up this issue. But I really want to make it clear that Senator -- President -- former President Clinton actually raised the race issue during his comments with voters well before we said anything.
He said -- and I will quote -- "Neither Hillary or Senator Barack Obama has lost votes because of race or gender, but they are getting votes because of race and gender. And that's why people tell me Hillary won't win here."
Also, I followed up with the Democratic operative who told me that he thought the president's tactics here were reprehensible, and he said he still believes that the president's comments to me today were more evidence that they're just running an unfair, dirty campaign -- Wolf. BLITZER: Jessica Yellin, thanks very much.
Jessica is covering the story for us.
In just a few moments, I'm going to be playing more of what Bill Clinton had to say when he hammered at the Obama camp and the news media. That's coming up in a little while. I will also speak about it with the best political team on television.
In Florida right now, the Republican presidential candidates are feeling the heat less than a heat before their next big contest. Rudy Giuliani may be sweating more than his rivals, given all the time and resources he has invested in that state.
Let's go to Florida. Dana Bash is on the campaign trail watching this story for us.
Very tense times, Dana, for Rudy Giuliani right now.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They sure are.
And, you know, today is Rudy Giuliani's 52nd day campaigning in the state of Florida. And despite the fact that he had the stage to himself here for weeks, two new polls today showed that his commanding lead is now gone. So, he's trying to adapt.
BASH (voice over): On the stump, Rudy Giuliani's theme of tested is retooled.
RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I did it with New York City, and you can go look at the results to the economy of New York City. I have done it with businesses. I have done it before, I can do it again.
BASH: Giuliani says he wants to jump-start the economy by simplifying the tax code immediately.
GIULIANI: Ultimately, if it's passed, you will be able to file your taxes on one page.
GIULIANI: One page.
BASH: His biggest challenge, getting Floridians to listen.
Before this appearance, volunteers worked the phones to beef up the crowd.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There'll be a gas station on your left. You will see Rudy Giuliani signs.
BASH: A packed house, but lots of people who can't vote in Florida. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm here visiting from Pennsylvania.
BASH (on camera): And where are you from?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bremen, Indiana.
BASH (voice over): There are fresh signs Giuliani's strategy to skip most early contests in search of a Florida win may not be working. A new poll here shows Giuliani now statistically tied for third with Mike Huckabee, a 10-point fall from his Florida lead a few months ago.
(on camera): So why is it that you seem to be losing support, not gaining support?
GIULIANI: I think the reality is that we are gaining support. I think the issues that we are hitting on are the ones that are the key ones for the people of Florida. And the most important one is, you know, proven leadership.
BASH (voice over): There, his obstacle is John McCain, on TV with this new ad...
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's no one more qualified to meet our national security threats. I have been dealing with these issues my entire adult life.
BASH: And McCain appears to be competing for Florida's top spot with Mitt Romney.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I will go to Washington using the experience I have in the private sector, in the real economy, to strengthen our economy.
BASH: Now, there is a saying here in Florida that the further south in the state you go, the more north you are. And we encountered a lot of New York transplants with Rudy Giuliani today. Those New York transplants, he is really banking on here.
But despite the fact that he did dominate here for quite some time, the terrain here seems to have shifted, Wolf, for Rudy Giuliani. So, the boisterous former mayor of America's biggest city is now having an interesting time trying to get his voice heard. It is quite -- it seems to be quite frustrating for the Giuliani campaign. There's no doubt about it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Dana Bash in Jerome, Florida, for us -- Dana, thanks very much.
BLITZER: Meanwhile, all of the candidates are chasing something they badly need to win.
Let's go to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's joining us. So, we're entering a different phase in this process right now, aren't we, Bill?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, we are. As we approach Super Tuesday, the candidates are starting to hunt for a different animal.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Early in the nominating process, the candidates were hunting for an elusive prey, the big mo', momentum. Did anybody get the big mo'? Not really. Every time a candidate won a primary or caucus, they claimed to have captured the momentum, only to see it get away a few days later, when another candidate became the comeback kid. The result? No mo'.
As we approach Super Tuesday, the candidates have started hunting for a smaller prey.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are watching the delegate count pretty closely and want to be able to rack them up.
SCHNEIDER: The delegate hunt could go on for months. Democratic rules require states to award delegates in proportion to the primary vote. Republican rules allow it. If you get a quarter of the vote, you get a quarter of the delegates. Most delegates are allocated by congressional district. Candidates can win delegates even if they don't win states. That gives them an incentive to stay in the race.
JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm in this for the long haul. We continue to accumulate delegates. There is actually a very narrow margin between Senator Obama, Senator Clinton and myself on delegates.
SCHNEIDER: Delegates give you a voice at the convention and real bargaining power.
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not just how you are doing at the beginning. It's not how even you are doing in the middle. It's whether you still have some kick left at the end.
SCHNEIDER: But is it good for the party to have candidates who still have kick at the end? The hunt for delegates prolongs the process and keeps the party divided, instead of uniting around the winner as quickly as possible -- Wolf.
BLITZER: This could go on for a while.
Thanks very much, Bill Schneider, looking at that part of the story.
With California so rich in delegates, you will want to watch the candidates battle there in our upcoming debates. They face off just before Super Tuesday. The Republicans debate January 30, the Democrats the next day. That's next Wednesday and Thursday night. Anderson Cooper will moderate the Republican debate. I will moderate the Democratic debate. Both start at 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
Let's go back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: You know, this idea that these primaries just go on forever, what if we just had like a national primary, like we have an election, general Election Day? I mean, the drawn-out process is good for us. We have got a three-hour show and we have got to put something in it.
But this idea that the party gets full of acrimony and fighting and gets ripped and pulled one way and another, and the thing just goes on and on for months and months and months, what if they had like just a primary Election Day?
BLITZER: Yes. Well, I don't think it's going to happen. There's too much history.
CAFFERTY: There's too much what?
CAFFERTY: We have always done it that way.
Well, President Bush and congressional leaders are promising urgent action when it comes to a stimulus package to jump-start the economy.
The truth is it may be too little. It may be too late, and their definition of urgent is probably quite different from that of the American people. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the Senate is going to sit on its hands and do nothing until the House does something. Reid says when the House passes a bill, then they can send it to the Senate. They will look at it, address it as quickly as they can.
Yesterday, Reid said their goal is to get a bill to President Bush by February 15. That's three-and-a-half weeks from now. In the last three weeks, the stock market has lost more than 1,000 points.
What we're getting is more government by photo-op. Look at this stuff. This is our leadership. They sit at a table. They get their picture taken. Then they go out and mumble stuff like bipartisanship and other platitudes that we have heard before.
President Bush finally admitted that this economy that he's chirped about being strong for the last six years is in trouble. He admitted it a week ago. So the time between that and actually seeing some help for the economy could be at least a month. It will probably be more than that.
In the meantime, people suffer, the markets dive, our politicians talk. Where's the urgency? It's like they're all reading "My Pet Goat" while the country falls into recession and the value of people's investments and retirement plans and houses goes down the toilet. It's worth remembering all this when you go to vote later this year.
Here's the question: Why can't the president and Congress move more quickly on an economic stimulus package?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, where you can post a comment on my new blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much. See you in a few moments with the best political team on television.
Bill Clinton is giving the news media quite a scolding.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
B. CLINTON: One more story. Shame on you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, guys.
B. CLINTON: Shame on you. You want another story. I'm not going to get in a fight with him. I'm just going to answer what the facts are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We are going to listen to more of the former president's strong words for us and for the Obama camp.
And then we will let the best political team on television weigh in.
Plus, the Obama camp is putting its charges against the Clinton's campaign tactics in Nevada in writing.
And coming up next, Wall Street bounced back today, but the economy still is hurting. How far should Washington go to give investors and voters hope?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: A stunning turnaround on Wall Street once again.
Today, the Dow was down more than 320 points in early trading and then roared back, finishing almost 300 points on the plus side. That's a final gain of 2.5 percent. The Nasdaq and S&P 500 were also up.
But no one is saying the economy is out of the woods, by any means.
Joining us now is Professor Peter Morici. He's a professor of business at the University of Maryland, a former chief economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission as well.
Professor, thanks very much for coming in.
PETER MORICI, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: It's a real pleasure.
BLITZER: Look at this picture right behind you. You see the president, the leaders of the House and the Senate. They were at that the White House yesterday. They are working on an economic stimulus package to turn this situation around. What's going on?
MORICI: Well, they are posturing.
I mean, if you listen to the president, he wants more investment tax credits for his constituents. If you listen to Nancy and the other Democrats, they want more entitlements program. We even had a congresswoman during Bernanke's testimony suggest that we give the money to ex-convicts who can't find work.
BLITZER: Because it will stimulate the economy, get some money going.
BLITZER: So, is Congress doing its job right now? Is the White House doing its job? What do they need to do to get this economy back in shape?
MORICI: Well, they need to do three things. They need a stimulus package to put cash in people's hands. We need...
BLITZER: All right. Well, let's hold off. Cash in people's hands, how do they do that?
MORICI: Well, a tax rebate is fine. An additional check into Social Security would be fine.
BLITZER: Tax rebate of how much, $800 an individual, $1,600 for a family? We have heard those kinds of numbers...
MORICI: Well, if you look at how many taxpayers we have and how many retired people, about $800 per individual, per adult.
BLITZER: Per individual. And would that turn around the economy?
MORICI: That would help, but it's not enough.
BLITZER: All right. What else?
MORICI: Well, we need lower interest rates to make credit easier, which we have gotten.
BLITZER: They lowered it three-quarters of a percent yesterday.
MORICI: And we are going to see more of that.
BLITZER: More of that?
MORICI: But also, the banks can't make mortgages because the bond market no longer trusts the banks after all the lousy bonds they made securitizing mortgages. We really need to clean up the way the banks do business.
BLITZER: How do you do that?
MORICI: Well, I think Bernanke has got to go down there and teach school.
BLITZER: The chairman of the Federal Reserve.
MORICI: Absolutely. He has got to talk to them about their business model. I mean, this notion of high-paid brokers that make very complicated securities that no one can understand simply won't do anymore.
BLITZER: So, more government regulation, is that what you are saying?
MORICI: No. I think we need more leadership. We need to talk to them about their business model. They are trying to run mortgage banking as if it was the merger and acquisition business. It just does not generate the kinds of profits they need.
BLITZER: The dollar is really weak right now. Is that good or bad?
MORICI: It is good and bad. Why is it weak? Because everyone has lost confidence in our banking system, and we are supposed to be the reserve currency. It does generates exports. But it is weak against the euro, but strong against the yen and yuan.
So, our Asia trade is not improving. That big trade deficit is a real tax. It's a rock on the back on the economy.
BLITZER: China, what's the issue there?
MORICI: China is 45 percent of the U.S. trade deficit -- excuse me -- 40 percent of the trade deficit. Oil is another 40.
BLITZER: We buy a lot more than we sell from China.
MORICI: They subsidize their exports. They close their markets to our products, and they keep their currency undervalued. They spend $450 billion a year. That's a 45 percent export subsidy dumping products here
BLITZER: Should Congress be doing something about that?
MORICI: Absolutely. And it hasn't.
BLITZER: What? What?
MORICI: Well, we need to pass a bill that permits us to put a tax on currency transactions with regard to China. If they're going to subsidize purchases of dollars with yen, then we need to put a tax in the opposite direction to neutralize it. They stop intervening, we stop intervening.
BLITZER: But there's no indication the Chinese are ready to do that. They have got a lot of money invested in the U.S. T-bills.
MORICI: Well, they are not about to do that because they know the Congress won't act. Bills have been languishing up on the Hill since the Democrats took over. Schumer on his side, Rangel on the House side have both they are going to act, but nothing ever happens.
BLITZER: But right now -- you saw that picture we just showed you at the beginning. They're professing that they are going to work together and get something done.
MORICI: If they were going to get something done, it would already be done now. Getting a stimulus package is the easy stuff. They should be able to get that done tomorrow. At the rate they're going, we won't see it until March and it won't have any bite until May.
And, by that time, the economy will have flamed.
BLITZER: Should the tax cuts that were passed in 2001, 2003, should they be made permanent because they are set to expire in 2010?
MORICI: If they are not made permanent, then we need something comparable in size. The last thing this economy needs is more taxes. Certainly extend them or change them. But don't completely repeal them.
BLITZER: Peter Morici is a professor at the University of Maryland.
Excellent explanation. Thanks very much for coming in.
MORICI: It's been a real pleasure.
BLITZER: It is your money, $750 million and counting. But is it being wasted on a U.S. government project in Iraq? We are keeping them honest.
And the actor Heath Ledger's death stop President Bush from doing something very important today. We are going to find out what that was.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We are going to be hearing some more from Bill Clinton as he takes aim at the Obama camp and the news media.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
B. CLINTON: They are feeding you this because they know this is what you want to cover. This is what you live for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Up next, Bill Clinton in his own words on race and politics in 2008.
Plus, John Edwards may be the man out -- the odd man out, that is, of the Obama-Clinton feud. Will that help him with voters, though, or just leave him out of the mix?
And John McCain's big comeback gets a thumbs down from some Republican conservatives. Are his past troubles with the right coming back to haunt him? The best political team on television ready to take in all of that and a lot more.
We will be right back.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: Former Bill Clinton is taking the Obama campaign and the news media to task. We are going to show you the question from our reporter that set him off and why he says -- and I'm quoting now -- "This is crazy."
Also, Mike Huckabee's campaign is having a tough time in Florida, with staff and cash both stretched thin. Who benefits if he were to drop out?
Plus, John McCain is facing growing attacks from some fellow Republicans, including Rush Limbaugh. You are going to find out what he's saying, all of this plus the best political team on television.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We want to let you listen to Bill Clinton at length right now in South Carolina earlier today. Our Jessica Yellin asked him about a comment by a former South Carolina Democratic Party chairman and Obama supporter Dick Harpootlian. Harpootlian likened the former president to the late Republican Party chairman Lee Atwater.
Atwater, as you many of you know, is well-known, in fact, as the grandfather of modern-day hardball politics, was accused by Democrats of playing the race card.
Just so you know, another name you will hear is Dolores Huerta, a founder of the Farm Workers Union.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
B. CLINTON: Long before South Carolina was in play, when we were in Iowa months ago, I never uttered a word of public complaint when Mr. Obama said Hillary was not truthful, enough character, was poll- driven, when he had more pollsters than she did, when he put out a hit job on me.
At the same time, he called her the senator from Punjab. I never said a word. And I don't care about it today. I'm not upset about it.
The only thing I pointed out was that there was substantially no difference in her record than his on Iraq and that he had said, in 2004, there was no difference between his position and President Bush. And he said that was somehow dishonest, but he never answers how it is not accurate.
So, this is crazy. This rhetoric is getting a little carried away here.
And let me remind you, my ultimate answer is this. There are still two people around who marched with Martin Luther King and risked their lives. John Lewis and Reverend Andrew Young. They both said that Hillary was right and the people who attacked her were wrong and that she did not play the race card, but they did.
So, I don't have to defend myself from Dick Harpootlian. I will just refer you to John Lewis and Andrew Young and let him go get in an argument with them about it. Let him go get in an argument with Dolores Huerta, one of the founders of the Farm Workers, against what happened in Nevada.
There is a fact here -- this is almost like once you accuse somebody of racism or bigotry or something, the facts become irrelevant. There are facts here.
And the final thing I would like to say is, you're asking me about this. You sat through this whole meeting. Not one single, solitary soul asked about any of this. And they never do.
They're feeding you this because they know this is what you want to cover. This is what you live for. But this hurts the people of South Carolina, because the people of South Carolina are coming to these meetings and asking questions about what they care about. And what they care about is not going to be in the news coverage tonight because you don't care about it. What you care about is this. And the Obama people know that. So they just spin you up on this and you happily go along.
The people don't care about this. They never ask about it. And you are determined to take this election away from them. And that's not right. That is not right. This election ought to belong to those people who are out here asking questions about their lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's talk about this and more now.
Joining us, the best political team on television.
our senior political analyst Gloria Borger. She's here in Washington.
Our own Jack Cafferty. He's in New York.
And our chief national correspondent, John King. He's in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, covering the campaign trail.
Does he have a fair point when he says that we -- the news media, Jack, are sort of just being manipulated and spun by the Obama campaign, that real people are not asking these questions of him, that we're just fomenting these kinds of problems?
CAFFERTY: Well, I don't know.
How many times have we played that clip of him today?
I've seen it a half dozen times. Yes, he's got a point. We -- I didn't see anybody asking Hillary Clinton what the answers were to the questions that these people come to these meetings in South Carolina to ask because, of course, she's not in South Carolina. She's out somewhere in California, on the West Coast.
So this nonsense about these people come for answers and you people in the news media make it about race, the candidate who's running for president and presumably has some of these answers isn't even in South Carolina. So stow it, Bill, you know?
GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I don't -- I actually do not think President Clinton has a point here. As Jessica Yellin, pointed out earlier in the show, Wolf, that he raised the issues of race and gender in his speech beforehand and that Jessica Yellin did not raise this particular issue with him without the Clinton campaign, in fact, having raised it before. And I think, look this is a clear strategy.
I'm not saying they started out from day one with this strategy, Wolf. But if anything that lowers the altitude of Barack Obama as the candidate full of hope, who never gets into an argument, is good for them, any time the issue of race is raised in regarding to Barack Obama -- who has not run as an African-American candidate -- the Clintons believe it is good for their campaign.
BLITZER: All right. You know, John, you and I covered the Clinton White House and both of us have personally felt Bill Clinton's wrath at times, when he's lashed out. He's got a temper, to a certain degree. But I think he gets over it relatively quickly, as well.
Give us your thoughts.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I've been on the receiving end of that temper, Wolf, many times in my career.
KING: Look, you know this from our days of the White House. And I remember this from my days covering Bill Clinton as a presidential candidate. He is perfectly capable of ignoring questions from reporters and he was perfectly capable today of just walking out of that room. He did not have to stop to talk to Jessica Yellin or anyone else. He did it on purpose. He did it because he wanted to say something.
He said the fairy tale remarks in New Hampshire because he made a political calculation it would help his wife's campaign. And he stopped to talk to reporters today because he made a political calculation that he wanted to do that.
What is his motive?
What is the end game?
How do they think it would help?
Those are all questions for the Clinton campaign.
Both of these campaigns have been going back and forth at each other. But on the issue of Bill Clinton, when he stops and talks, he does so for a reason.
BLITZER: Jack, I want you to listen...
CAFFERTY: You know, there's one other thing...
BLITZER: Hold on, Jack.
CAFFERTY: Well, I'm going to make...
BLITZER: All right, go ahead.
CAFFERTY: ...one other quick point before we go on here.
BLITZER: All right.
CAFFERTY: We never had a woman or an African-American running for president of the United States. A certain amount of this stuff, I think, is inevitable. There are built in prejudices and biases and attitudes against those -- both those members' population groups -- women and African-Americans. And they're -- and the two -- the two camps have candidates up for president.
We're going to have the discussion nationally. You can't avoid it.
BLITZER: Here is what Barack Obama, Gloria, said today.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are some good folks out there. They may disagree on some things, but we -- it doesn't mean we can't work on some things together. Teamwork. So -- so don't be confused, you know, when you start hearing a whole bunch of this negative stuff. Those are the same old tricks. They're trying to bamboozle you. It's the same old okey-doke (ph).
OBAMA: You know all know about okey-doke, right?
OBAMA: It's the same old stuff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Gloria, go ahead.
BORGER: Well, it's very clear. You know, Barack Obama in South Carolina -- as Jack was saying before, is running against Bill Clinton. The okey-doke (ph) he's talking about is what's coming from Bill Clinton, because Hillary Clinton is off in other states campaigning. And he is reminding people of the questions they have about both Clintons. And that issue always comes down to an issue of trust. And that has been Hillary Clinton's Achilles' heel during this entire campaign. And he's yoking the two of them together, saying you cannot trust them.
BLITZER: You know, John, John Edwards, the third Democratic presidential candidate, he may be coming across right now the best of all of them, in part because of what he said last night and elsewhere.
Listen to what he told David Letterman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN," COURTESY WORLDWIDE PANTS INC.)
JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, what I was trying to do is represent the grownup wing of the Democratic Party last night.
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: I see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, John.
KING: Well, Wolf, if that's the case, the grownup wing of the Democratic wing is not being referenced in the South Carolina polls right now. Senator Edwards is running a distant, distant third in his home state. And it's a very difficult challenge for him.
And back to the earlier point about Barack Obama. He will be held accountable for this, too, Wolf, because that's a very different language and cadence than he would use before a white audience. So Barack Obama is trying to play to this, as well, saying y'all, okey- dokey (ph), bamboozled. He's speaking to an African-American audience there, trying to say, look, it's not just me under attack, we are under attack here.
So there are political calculations on both sides. And Jack is right. We have never been here before. The risk is in this back and forth between the first woman and the first African-American, does it get ugly?
And many Democrats think there's a potential for long-term damage to their party...
KING: ...if these two don't make peace.
BORGER: Right. That...
CAFFERTY: I noticed the change in the cadence and the speech patterns, too. And the first thing that occurred is Bill Clinton has succeeded in dragging him, to a degree, onto his school yard.
BORGER: Absolutely. I think he's gotten Obama completely off his message. And this may be a very good short-term strategy for the Clintons to use in terms of winning primaries, but I talked to lots of Democrats today who are kind of worried -- OK, let's say Hillary Clinton is the nominee.
Does this hurt us in the general election?
BLITZER: All right...
Yes, I think it's a fair point and we're going to pick up.
Stand by, guys.
We have a lot more to talk about, including this -- he's a fiscal conservative, a military hawk and he's against abortion.
So why do some conservative Republicans dislike John McCain so strongly?
We're going to show you what one of the most -- the country's most influential Republican conservatives is now saying about McCain.
Plus, other Republicans are having a tough time in Florida.
Will that state be Mitt Romney's comeback?
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: And Senator John McCain is facing some strong attacks from some fellow Republican conservatives, who feel he's not necessarily one of them.
Let's get back to the best political team on television.
Jack, you know, there is this notion out there that a lot of the conserve -- very, very conservative Republicans don't like McCain because he teamed up with Russ Feingold on McCain-Feingold, on campaign finance reform. He teamed up with Ted Kennedy on comprehensive immigration reform.
Listen to Rush Limbaugh on his radio show.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH: What we need, ladies and gentlemen, are more people talking about McCain's record, not fewer. They're telling us to shut up. They're telling us come on, Limbaugh, you're destroying the party. You're breaking it apart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Jack, what do you think about this -- this sort of rebellion within the conservative movement against McCain, who is doing really well right now in his race for the nomination?
CAFFERTY: I don't think there's any surprise here at all. In the '91 New Hampshire primary, we talked at some length on CNN during the election coverage about the fact that the issue of immigration would dog him all the way down the campaign trail. This was not immigration reform, this was amnesty. And the reason that it never got anywhere in Washington was the people of this country didn't believe that the politicians would close the border.
And McCain was right at the front of trying to shove that thing through. And people haven't forgotten that, and won't forget it. And immigration is a big, big issue for a lot of people in this country.
So he's got a problem there.
BLITZER: Well, Gloria, are they rallying around somebody else, these anti-McCain elements in the Republican conservative party...
BORGER: Well, the...
BORGER: ...it's sort of -- there is a kind of anyone but McCain movement going on out there. And if they're looking for someone they believe is electable and wouldn't be Mike Huckabee, then they may be drifting off in Mitt Romney's direction, which is great for Mitt Romney -- who has come to a lot of their points of view just lately.
McCain has an 82 percent rating from the American Conservative Union, which is pretty conservative, Wolf. But they just don't trust him because he hasn't bowed down to that wing of the party. And he's got a huge job ahead of him, because he hasn't been winning with conservative Republican voters in any of these primaries.
BLITZER: What do you think, John?
KING: Well, I think, Wolf, timing is everything in politics. And Mitt Romney does have a golden opportunity, as Gloria just noted, because look what has happened. Fred Thompson gets out of the race. You would think by reflex that benefits Mike Huckabee. Well, Mike Huckabee is just about out of money. Florida is not the best terrain for him. He could come in third or even fourth here.
Rudy Giuliani is not the conservative alternative to John McCain. So there is an opening to Mitt Romney. Just as Thompson gets out, conservatives are looking for an anti-McCain, if you will, and the issues portfolio has turned to the economy, which is Mitt Romney's strength.
The question is, can he capitalize on this opening?
He's in a dead heat right here in Florida with John McCain. And the challenge for John McCain here in this state -- a big state -- is to prove he can win a Republican primary with only Republicans voting. That's his test on Tuesday.
BLITZER: Because in Florida, there's no Independents. You've got to be a registered Republican to actually vote in that state...
BLITZER: ...unlike some of the other early races.
KING: That's right.
BLITZER: All right, Jack, do you think that they can -- they can pull the rug out from under McCain right now, those elements who really dislike him?
CAFFERTY: Well, I think there are -- there are pieces of Republican affection that align themselves with several candidates. I mean Giuliani is going to get a lot of votes in Florida because of his stance on national security and his ability to have turned the economy of New York around.
I mean we've got a country going into recession. Giuliani says, you know, when I took over New York City, the economy was in the garbage can -- and it was. And I turned it around -- and he did.
That will resonate with people in Florida, who are living on fixed incomes.
So Romney stands to benefit from Huckabee's weakness down there. But it's hard to say who's going to be a winner. I don't think McCain, maybe, is going to come out on top. I think there might be two or three bunched at the top and I think it might be very close.
BORGER: But, you know, it does come down to this question of electability -- who could beat the Democratic candidate -- because Republicans want to win. And if you look at match-ups between McCain and Hillary Clinton or McCain and Barack Obama, he does really well.
And the question is whether conservatives are going to be able to say that Mitt Romney will be able to beat whoever the Democratic nominee is. And, you know, that's McCain's key right now, is that he says I can beat the Democrat, because I can get those Independent voters.
BLITZER: And, John, he does have a point when he says -- McCain -- he's the most electable come November against any of the Democratic candidates.
KING: The polls certainly show that right now. And most Republican strategists would tell you, despite the internal differences with McCain in the Republican Party, he is the best tested Republican when it comes to reaching out to Independent voters, which they believe will be the key, especially if Hillary Clinton is the nominee. These are old blood feuds within the Republican Party. There are many in the party saying stop it. We may not love John McCain, but he may well be our nominee.
Wolf, this will play out over the next 10 days or so. If he can win here in Florida, he'll have a great deal of momentum going into Super Tuesday. If somebody else wins here in Florida, then all of these candidates, short on money, are going to cherry pick various regions of the country and this is going to go on for a while.
So the big test for John McCain is can you back up South Carolina with a win in Florida?
If he can do that, a lot of these voices...
KING: ...not all of them, but a lot of the voice of dissent in the Republican Party will turn down the volume.
BLITZER: John King, Gloria Borger, guys, thanks very much.
Jack, thanks to you, but you'll be back shortly with The Cafferty File.
Thanks to all of you, the best political team on television.
Barack Obama's campaign is filing a formal complaint with Nevada's Democratic Party. We're going to tell you why.
And Jack has your e-mail on his question this hour -- why can the president and Congress more quickly on an economic stimulus package?
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Checking our Political Ticker right now, a recent Republican presidential campaign dropout is now backing his former rival, Mike Huckabee. Congressman Duncan Hunter of California says the other candidates have strengths, but he's impressed with Huckabee's character and integrity. Hunter won only one delegate before quitting the race last week.
Barack Obama's campaign today filed a formal complaint with Nevada's Democratic primary, charging irregularities in Saturday's caucuses and requesting an investigation. The Obama camp blames the Clinton campaign for the alleged violations. The Clinton camp says the Obama team is "acting out" because it lost the Nevada contest.
This programming note. John McCain will be a guest tomorrow morning on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING". That will air tomorrow morning at around 8:15 a.m. Eastern, the interview with John McCain.
Remember, for the latest political news any time, you can always check out CNNPolitics.com. That's where you can read my blog, as well.
Let's go to Lou Dobbs.
He's getting ready for his show, that begins right at the top of the hour.
What's coming up -- Lou?
LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": That's right, Wolf.
Coming up at 7:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN, tonight we're reporting on the tremendous challenges facing this nation as the economic downturn and financial crisis threatens to destroy much of our middle class. President Bush and the Democratically-led Congress struggling to take a tough decision required to avoid outright economic disaster. We'll have complete coverage. And some areas of Mexico, across our Southern border, are now on the verge of civil war. The Mexican military has launched an offensive against heavily-armed drug cartels there. We'll be reporting on the dangers posed to this nation.
And a rising backlash across the country against paperless e- voting -- new concerns about the integrity of our voting system. We'll have a special report in Democracy At Risk tonight.
And we're examining the widening divisions within the Democratic Party, as President Bill Clinton accuses Senator Barack Obama of launching a hit job.
Join us for all of that and more, all the day's news at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: All right, Lou.
We'll see you in a few moments.
Let's go back to Jack right now.
He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Why can't the president and Congress move more quickly on an economic stimulus package?
I mean don't hold your breath until you see something meaningful out of these people.
Patty writes: "Come on. It's because they have no clue what the rest of us deal with. When was the last time one of them filled up their own car with gas? When was the last time they went to the grocery store or to any other store, for that matter? They have people who do that for them. Oh, yes, and when they retire, they have no worries about Social Security or their 401(k) plans, either."
Stephen writes: "Why can't anything get done quickly? Division -- not the kind you learned in the third grade, either, but the kind that makes it impossible for Americans on both sides of the aisle to work together. It's the hallmark of the Bush administration."
Delane writes: "There are only two speeds in the by the way -- slow and stop; maybe a third, reverse. Other than that, forget it."
Craig writes: "It's simple -- there's no immediate gain for them -- no payoff, no grateful corporate lobbyists, nothing extra in the old envelope. They would have to work together, admit something is wrong and then find a solution they could agree on."
Ron in Connecticut: "As long as we keep electing presidents and congressmen who are in the high income bracket, they'll never move quickly to respond to an economic crisis. They don't know what it feels like to see their measly investments dwindle away to nothing, so they don't respond with any sense of urgency to our needs."
And Karen writes: "My medical insurance went up $2,000 this year for my family of three. I'm sick of these people. Take that and stuff it."
CAFFERTY: Wolf, she isn't talking about the Thanksgiving turkey, either.
BLITZER: You get a lot of comments on your blog, Jack. There are a lot of people who are hurting right now out there. And it's certainly coming across.
CAFFERTY: Well, they're hurting and they're mad and, you know, the one thing they can do is when it's time to go and vote, remember this stuff, and vote all the incumbents out. Throw every one last out of them out on the street. It can't get any worse.
Why don't we just start over?
BLITZER: It's not going to happen, though.
CAFFERTY: Well, unfortunately it won't.
So that negates all of this concern, doesn't it?
BLITZER: Well, it...
CAFFERTY: If we keep reelecting these morons, then I guess we get what we deserve.
BLITZER: We'll see you tomorrow, Jack.
Thanks very much.
CAFFERTY: OK, Wolf.
I'll be here.
BLITZER: All right, good.
Was Bill Clinton America's first black president?
Barack Obama has something to say about that and CNN's Jeanne Moos is getting ready to take a Moost Unusual look at the evidence.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the Hot Shots coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press -- pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.
In India, a paramilitary soldier stands guard. Security is beefed up nationwide ahead of this Saturday's Indian Republic Day.
In Kenya, a man carries a table away from a memorial service after everyone there fled riots nearby.
In Beijing, a Spanish competitor attempts to weight lift during a tournament. She placed fourth, lifting more than 500 pounds overall.
Also in China, employees install more than a thousand red lanterns as they get ready for a spring festival.
Some of this hour's Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.
America's first black president -- Bill Clinton's got the label, but does he have the moves?
And doesn't Barack Obama have something to say about that?
A Moost Unusual look right now from CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bill Clinton is back for an encore -- an encore campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think Bill Clinton was our first black president?
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: It was African-American author Toni Morrison who popularized the phrase in a "New Yorker" article, saying: "Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness -- single parent household, born poor, working class, saxophone playing, McDonald's and junk food loving boy from Arkansas."
(on camera): Was Bill Clinton the first black president?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (LAUGHTER).
MOOS: Is Bill Clinton the first black president?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my God. (OBSCENE WORD OMITTED) no.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a metaphor. I'd say he's just a Southern boy who knows what's happening.
MOOS (voice-over): When the first potentially real black president was asked about the first metaphorically black president, Barack Obama tipped his hat to Hillary and cited Bill's enormous affinity with African-Americans, then joked he'd have to investigate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: ...Bill's dancing abilities and...
OBAMA: ...you know, before I accurately judged whether he was, in fact, a brother.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm sure that can be arranged.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: Well, we've investigated Bill's dancing abilities and concluded his brother status is uncertain.
MOOS: We didn't have much to go on -- just an inaugural dance or two and a private swimsuit-clad, two-step on the beach. There's no reason public officials need to be good dancers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE," COURTESY NBC)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, hit it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: That didn't stop "Saturday Night Live" from lampooning Bill Clinton's attorney general with a Janet Reno Dance Party. And then she finally came on the show and danced alongside her impersonator.
Barack Obama seems ready to dance...
(VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW," COURTESY WARNER BROTHERS TELEPICTURES)
MOOS: ...with anyone who swivels their hips at him.
MOOS: As for that first black president stuff...
(on camera): You know what Obama said?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What?
MOOS: Obama said he'd have to see how he dances.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, (INAUDIBLE).
MOOS (voice-over): Comparing Barack Obama and Bill Clinton would be like comparing apples and oranges -- or black with white.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BLITZER: And we're happy to tell you, you've helped make our politics pod casts one of the most popular on iTunes. To get the best political team to go, subscribe at CNNPolitics.com.
Thanks very much for joining us.
I'm Wolf Blitzer reports in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.
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