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THE SITUATION ROOM
Should Florida Delegates Be Denied the Vote?; Clinton and Obama Look Next to Texas; McCain and Huckabee Keep Presidential Race Interesting
Aired February 13, 2008 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Barack Obama, as we've been saying, he's on a roll. His latest three wins make it eight in a row and they make him the new Democratic frontrunner, as they say. Hillary Clinton makes what may be her last stand. That's coming up in Texas and Ohio.
John McCain bags more delegates, but concedes Mike Huckabee is keeping things interesting. Will evangelicals make things a lot more interesting?
And one of baseball's biggest stars is in the Congressional hot seat alongside his accuser. They're only feet apart. One says he used performance-enhancing drugs, the other denies it. Lawmakers say one of them is lying.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in the CNN Election Center. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
They're gathering up delegates like low hanging fruit. John McCain and Barack Obama each have three more primary wins and the convention votes that go with them. McCain's victories in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia put him nearly out of sight of Mike Huckabee, but Huckabee weighs heavily on his mind.
And by running the table, Barack Obama is now the Democratic frontrunner. A lot of people believe that. After a sweep in the so- called Potomac primaries and a string of eight straight wins, Obama now has 1,253 delegates compared to 1,211 for Hillary Clinton. And Obama is hunting for more starting next Tuesday in Wisconsin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know if you're aware there's an election on Tuesday.
OBAMA: But just in case nobody had told you, there is an election on Tuesday. And one of the things we want to do is to make sure that as many people as possible come out to the polls -- even if they're not voting for me. I just want people to participate, because one of the central ideas of this campaign is, is that we only bring about change when the American people get involved.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Hillary Clinton is also moving on. She's looking to make a clean start after that clean sweep she suffered. She's campaigning today in Texas. That's where we find CNN's Suzanne Malveaux. She's standing by.
So what's the latest? What is the senator doing in Texas to recover from these setbacks over the past several days?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you know this is very big. It is really kind of a Texas-sized showdown between Senators Obama and Clinton. And insiders say that she has got to win Texas, Ohio, as well as Pennsylvania, to get the nomination -- that everything is riding on that. But she also has to try to build some momentum here in the three weeks before the first race.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): If you're going to lose three primaries and a delegate count overnight, one way to do it -- simply ignore the results.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can't think of any better place to start our campaign for Texas than right here in El Paso.
MALVEAUX: With no mention of a recent string of losses, Senator Clinton burst forward in an all out blitz to win Texas. She's leaning heavily on Hispanics, traveling to Latino strongholds like El Paso, Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande Valley. She's also sharpening her attacks.
CLINTON: We're going to give our young people not only confidence and optimism, but real results.
MALVEAUX: Advisers call Texas the last stand -- the Alamo. In the weeks to come, Clinton will campaign heavily in Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Her husband, the former president, will again emerge as a regular presence on the trail. And Senator Clinton is baiting Obama for more debates.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe you prefer to give speeches than have to answer questions.
MALVEAUX: Despite Clinton's recent campaign staff shake-up, she's denied she was running a joyless campaign.
MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, in press availability answering some questions earlier today, she says that is not what is going on, that her campaign is energized and focused. I should also let you know, as well, that she did acknowledge, some 12 hours later, her series of defeats, saying that she congratulated Barack Obama on his victories. But then she also issued a challenge, saying she will see him in Texas -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
She'll see him at our debate, coming up a week from Thursday in Austin, Texas. Suzanne Malveaux reporting.
He swept the Potomac primaries and has a lead of almost 600 delegates, but John McCain can't seem to shake his GOP rival, Mike Huckabee. And the frontrunner is still looking for ways to convince conservatives to get behind him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't pretend that I wouldn't like Governor Huckabee not in the race. I mean, but look -- but I respect his commitment to do so and his commitment to continue in the race. Of course I'd like for him to withdraw today. I mean that would be much easier. But I respect and have repeatedly said I respect his right to continue in this race for just as long as he wants to.
Part of our discussion was clearly that we have to reenergize our base. We have to get everybody united. That's what we're trying to do. Primaries are always tough. Now, this is part of this process that we're going through. And when people are presented with differences on our positions and our philosophies and our vision for the future, I'm confident we will rally the Republican party. We have a lot of work to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's go behind-the-scenes now of the McCain campaign.Dana Bash is covering that campaign for us. She's joining us in Washington.
Dana, does he have a new strategy to bring in these reluctant conservatives?
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what you saw today -- that picture of John McCain with Republican leaders -- that is case in point of what they're trying to do today. Many of those Republican leaders were pretty open today, Wolf, about the fact that they have had strong disagreements with John McCain on some issues that matter a lot to conservatives. Immigration is one.
One of those members, Roy Blunt, for example, he said that he is close with Mike Huckabee, but, in his words, the contest is over. So that's a big part of his outreach strategy -- to have those people who are well-respected well-known and also, you know, formerly skeptical of him.
But, you know, John McCain even admitted today, Wolf, that he knows as long as Mike Huckabee is in this race, evangelicals -- who see Mike Huckabee as one of them -- they're going to vote for -- many of them are going to vote for Mike Huckabee.
But what he is trying to do more and more -- and you saw this today -- is to make the point that there is going to be a contrast in November between John McCain and either Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. And he's trying to lay out those contrasts on the issues that matter most to conservatives -- health care, tax cuts, big government -- those things more and more. You've heard from John McCain and you definitely will hear more from him in the days to come -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much for that, Dana, watching the McCain campaign.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty once again.
He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: All eyes on Capitol Hill today trained on New York Yankee baseball pitcher, Roger Clemens, as he denied ever using steroids. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, along with much of the national media, remained transfixed for hours while the award-winning pitcher insisted he never took steroids or human growth hormones.
If that's true, it's hard to explain an affidavit from Clemens' former teammate and friend, Andy Pettitte, who says that Clemens admitted to him as long as 10 years ago that he used HGH.
Also, Clemens' former trainer, Brian McNamee, testified in those same hearings today that he injected Clemens 16 to 21 times with steroids and HGH between 1998 and 2001.
So let's do an inventory. We've got the subprime mess, the housing crisis, a possible recession. We've got the war in Iraq, we've got health care, Social Security, terrorism -- and this is what takes up our time -- worrying about whether Roger Clemens used steroids 10 years ago. It's good to see we have our priorities in order, right?
A daytime made for TV dog and pony show put on by a bunch of irrelevant old Congresspeople so they can get their mugs on television. It's no wonder a guy like Barack Obama is doing as well as he is.
Here's the question: Does Congress have better things to do than worry about whether Roger Clemens used steroids 10 years ago?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and knock yourself out.
BLITZER: Well, there are some other members of the Congress who are worried about the NFL and the allegations of spying there.
CAFFERTY: You know, anybody who votes for an incumbent in November should lose their citizenship in this country.
BLITZER: He's just joking.
CAFFERTY: No, I'm not.
BLITZER: He's serious. (LAUGHTER)
BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.
Coming up, John McCain gets a clean sweep, but he still can't shake off Mike Huckabee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: My friends, I've got to say, he certainly keeps things interesting.
MCCAIN: Maybe a little too interesting at times tonight. But I must -- I must confess...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Can evangelicals help Huckabee make things even more interesting?
And as the Democratic Party punishes Florida and Michigan for moving up their primaries, civil rights leaders are now caught up in the political storm.
And blamed for the slaughter of Americans --, including more than 200 Marines in Beirut -- one of the world's most notorious terrorists is finally killed under mysterious circumstances. We'll give you the full report.
That's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: John McCain admits that Mike Huckabee is keeping things interesting in this presidential contest. He wishes Huckabee would bow to the reality of being nearly 600 delegates behind, but Huckabee says he has the support to keep on going.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's still a real sense in the Republican party of a desire to have a choice -- a desire to make sure that the voters who want a solid conservative, absolutely pro-life candidate, still exists. And I think that's what the results in Virginia clearly indicate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Joining us now, David Brody. He's the senior national correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network. He's joining us from our Washington studios.
David, what's motivating, do you believe, Mike Huckabee to continue? DAVID BRODY, CBN NEWS, THE BRODY FILE: Well, Wolf, I was talking to a senior campaign adviser for the Huckabee campaign just this afternoon. And basically what he is telling me is that listen, it's all about the message, that Mike Huckabee speaks to millions of Americans in this country, especially many evangelicals.
And he says, listen, why not go on? What's the point of leaving now? You know, part of this is look at the Democrats. When the Democrats are going to go on here for a couple more months, most likely, and there's no reason for Huckabee, at this point, to get out, according to the Huckabee camp, because there's no animosity between Huckabee and John McCain. And so that's -- that's a big part of it here.
However, I was talking to folks in the McCain camp today and one McCain staffer said to me, Mike Huckabee seems a little less amusing this week than last week.
BLITZER: In the exit polls in Virginia yesterday, among born- again or evangelical Christians, Huckabee got 60 percent of that Republican vote. Thirty-one percent went to McCain. How big of a problem does McCain have long-term among these evangelical born-again Christians?
BRODY: Well, it may not be as bad as people are making it out to be, Wolf. A couple reasons for that. The McCain camp is going to go after -- through surrogates -- they're going to go after the evangelical vote through people like Sam Brownback, people like Ted Olson -- folks that are good on judges and some of the life and marriage issues. And John McCain has been making phone calls himself to some evangelical leaders just this week, as well.
So I mean there is going to be a push on issues like judges, also on the issue of pro-life -- the fact that John McCain has this 24-year pro-life record. Of course, there are stumbling blocks along the way. But let's also remember the trump card that John McCain has here, and that is patriotism and the fighting the war on terror and radical Islam.
You know, to many evangelicals, fighting the war on terror -- especially when it gets to this idea of radical Islam -- resonates with evangelicals. And John McCain is going to play up the patriotism angle and the fact of his POW status. And it will be somewhat of a compelling narrative.
BLITZER: But how much of an issue is it that he opposes a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage? And even though he does have a long-term opposition or record against abortion, I believe he's still opposing the constitutional amendment that would ban abortion, is that right?
BRODY: Yes. And so part of -- this is part of the tough sledding, so to speak, for John McCain. But, you know, he's going to obviously make his case personally to these evangelical leaders, which he already has. Sam Brownback and others will do that, too. But there's a whole range here of what McCain's camp is going to do. And, Wolf, one of the things that they're going to look at is say, listen, you may not agree with me on everything -- this is John McCain and his supporters talking. But look at the alternative -- the Democrats.
Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama -- are they going to be for a Federal Marriage Amendment? Of course not. So I mean there is a point of difference that John McCain's folks will raise.
BLITZER: Sam Brownback didn't do much to help him in Kansas, even though -- I mean Huckabee had a crushing win in Kansas.
BRODY: Yes, but, also, let's remember Sam Brownback as you know, Wolf, is very popular not only among the grassroots evangelicals -- which is what, which are who John McCain is going to have to obviously convince -- but also here in Washington among the values action team -- these folks that meet on a weekly basis up here, these evangelical leaders, not just nationally and grassroots. And that's where they believe Brownback can have some impact.
BLITZER: Is there a name for a possible vice presidential running mate that would really satisfy the evangelical, the born-again Christian community?
BRODY: Well, I think it's probably a little too early for that. No names have necessarily been floated. I can tell you that -- this, that many Republican strategists are saying that when John McCain does, indeed, eventually pick that running mate, he's going to have to have a name that's going to jump out to the grassroots conservatives in this country -- someone where the grassroots look at that name and go all right, we can deal with that one.
That's a pretty good one. In other words, they're going to have to get motivated over the actual announcement of the name. It can't be someone where there is going to be all sorts of questions.
BLITZER: David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network. David, thanks for coming in.
BRODY: My pleasure, Wolf.
BLITZER: The head of the NAACP is jumping into the fray over those seating -- the issue involving the seating of Democratic delegates from the states of Florida and Michigan. And you're going to find out what he did that's causing a whole new uproar.
Plus, cheers of a different kind for Obama -- not the candidate, the beer. We're going to show you what it's all about.
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 is a tough time for Army recruiters, so they're using an unusual new incentive to boost the ranks -- a downpayment for a house. It's called the Army Advantage Fund. It offers enlistees up to $40,000 toward a home or a startup business after their commitment. The program is being tested right now in just a few cities, including Seattle, Cleveland and San Antonio.
A dramatic snub and political statement by director Stephen Spielberg. He is turning down an offer to be the artistic adviser for the opening and closing ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics this summer. The reason? Spielberg says China is not doing enough to pressure its ally, Sudan, into ending the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. No response yet from Chinese Olympic officials.
And you can have Hollywood at your doorstep, literally, for just $22 million. An investment group is selling a 138-acre plot right next to the "H" in the landmark Hollywood sign. Howard Hughes once owned it and he planned to build a house for Ginger Rogers, his lover at the time. He never got around to it, though. Conservationists want the city to buy the land. We'll keep you posted. Back to you -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Carol, for that.
Financially troubled homeowners across the country are scrambling to see if a new effort called Project Lifeline can actually help them save their homes. Our senior business correspondent, Allan Chernoff, has more.
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, economists predict a million mortgages could be foreclosed this year. So many people stuck with expensive loans are desperate for help.
CHERNOFF (voice-over): Daisy Respas is struggling to hold onto her home outside Baltimore, as her high interest subprime mortgage has pushed her to the brink of foreclosure.
DAISY RESPAS, HOMEOWNER: Debt. I may lose my home from the bank. And it's really devastating.
CHERNOFF: Respas left a secure state job when she had to care for her ill mother. Bills piled up and she decided to refinance her mortgage.
CHERNOFF: Now, saddled with an interest rate above 9 percent, she's been unable to find a new job.
RESPAS: It is very frightening. It's undescribable.
CHERNOFF: The Bush administration is offering some help -- convincing major banks to hold off on foreclosures for 30 days and renegotiate loan terms with homeowners in trouble.
HENRY PAULSON, TREASURY SECRETARY: Project Lifeline has the potential to offer new solutions to responsible, able homeowners who want to keep their homes.
CHERNOFF: Maryland needs a lifeline. Foreclosures in the state have jumped approximately thirteen fold in the past year. The non- profit Southeast Community Development Corporation says it counseled as many people facing foreclosure in January as it did all of last year.
CHRIS FREYER, SOUTHEAST COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION: We've seen a number of people come into the office from all over the Baltimore metropolitan area that are in danger of losing their homes.
CHERNOFF: Respas' lender, Indymac, is on board with the administration's Project Lifeline. The savings and loan told CNN, "We're actively reaching out to our customers to ensure that as many as possible who have the desire and ability to stay in their homes may do so." Indymac would not address Respas' personal situation.
Daisy Respas is hoping her lender will agree to easier terms, in addition to the 30-day reprieve. And she's turning to her state government -- applying for an interest-free loan.
CHERNOFF: Ms. Respas hopes all those steps will allow her to get out of her debt squeeze and hold onto the home she loves -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Allan Chernoff. Thanks very much for that story.
The chairman of the NAACP finding himself in the middle of an unusual controversy -- why one letter about voting in Michigan and Florida has his own membership angry.
Plus, a terrorist mastermind assassinated -- coming up, why he was one of the world's most wanted criminals. What happened?
And it's been a while since we've heard testimony like this on Capitol Hill. You'll want to see what happens when a Congressional committee takes on the issue of the baseball superstar, Roger Clemens.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, President Bush has signed the economic stimulus plan approved by the Congress, calling it a booster shot for the ailing economy. Americans who qualify should be getting tax rebate checks of between $600 and $1,200 by May.
Also, Pakistani officials say two suspects in the plot to assassinate Benazir Bhutto have confessed to helping the suicide bomber whose attack helped kill her. Investigators say five men in total were involved, including the bomber. Two remain at large.
And Defense Secretary Robert Gates is recovering from a broken arm, a Pentagon spokesman saying Gates slipped on the ice outside his Washington, D.C. home last night. But they didn't seek treatment until this morning.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Let's get back to presidential politics. There's is new controversy over the Democratic Party's decision not to seat delegates from Florida and Michigan at the national convention because they broke party rules by moving up their primaries to before Super Tuesday. So should the Democratic Party lift its punishment on those Democratic voters in Michigan and Florida?
Joining us now two guests. Federico Pena is a former Clinton cabinet member, a former Denver mayor. He's now a national co-chairman for the Obama campaign. And California Congresswoman Hilda Solis is a Hillary Clinton supporter. Thanks to both of you for coming in.
Let me start with you, Mr. Secretary. What do you think should be done with those Democratic voters in Florida and Michigan?
FEDERICO PENA, FORMER CLINTON CABINET SECRETARY: Wolf, it's very unfortunate because those two states apparently got into a conflict with the Democratic National Committee and its chairman and its policies. Their delegates apparently have been told they cannot vote in Denver -- my home city -- which is very unfortunate.
BLITZER: That's where the convention is.
PENA: That's where the convention is. So until the Democratic National Committee and those two states and the political parties there work this out, apparently those delegates are not going to vote. And that's -- that's quite unfortunate.
BLITZER: Congresswoman, what do you think?
REP. HILDA SOLIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I think that they should have an opportunity to have their voices heard and they should be seated. And, of course, in Florida, they did very well on behalf of the candidate I'm supporting, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. So I'm very anxious to see this resolution come about and I hope that it happens soon.
BLITZER: But Congresswoman, a lot of people out there note that there was no campaigning allowed. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton -- they couldn't actually campaign. In Michigan, his name wasn't even on the ballot. Why would that be fair, to allow those results to be used, when it really wasn't under normal circumstances?
SOLIS: Well, I have to tell you that a lot of people view your news station, as well as others, and they saw the campaigning that was going on across the country. So I think that people are sophisticated enough to understand what the political environment is like across the country. So I think that there was a strong turnout. Obviously, that was a very, very, in my opinion, a very strong vote in support of someone who I believe has a lot of experience...
BLITZER: All the names ...
SOLIS: ... in --
BLITZER: All the names, Congresswoman, were on the ballot in Florida,, but not in Michigan. Barack Obama's name wasn't even on the ballot.
SOLIS: I can't respond to why his name wasn't on the ballot.
BLITZER: Well what do you think? Does she have a point that voters out there were watching this on television, Mr. Secretary, and that as a result, they could be educated about these candidates even if the two candidates weren't campaigning physically in their states?
PENA: Well, Wolf, there's a certain principle in our country in what's called fairness and due process. The Democratic National Committee instructed the candidates not to campaign in those two states, to abide by the Democratic National Committee rules, and that's what Barack Obama did. That's why he didn't have his name on the ballot. To be penalized now for following the rules is justly unfair. It's very unfair.
So I think most Americans are looking at this with common sense and you cannot penalize a person who followed the rules. I hope that Mr. Dean and the DNC come to some resolution here. It's very unfortunate but we followed the rules and unfortunately that's where we are today.
BLITZER: Here's a question for you Congresswoman about Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama has been doing really well since Super Tuesday, including yesterday's sweeping all of those contests. Why can't she compete, Hillary Clinton, in a state like Virginia or in a state like Maryland, because it was really a decisive win for Barack Obama?
SOLIS: Well, I think in terms of Maryland, the Latino vote was actually five percent higher for Hillary Clinton. I think that also, I mean the margin of difference in Virginia really wasn't that great. So I still think that the Latino community still is looking for an experienced person, someone who has longevity, someone who has name resonates with our community.
That's what we have in Texas as we are going into Texas right now. Four members of Congress and former secretary of HUD and many elected officials who have been on board for a number of months and maybe even a year or so more.
So I really think Hillary has done her homework. She brought a lot of people on board early on and had that outreach component and campaign in place. It proved true in California. In my district, she got 71 percent of the vote. In surrounding districts where other members supported Senator Barack Obama, that also came out very strongly for Hillary Clinton.
BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, you served in the Clinton administration. You worked with Hillary Clinton. Why have you decided to abandon her and go to Barack Obama?
PENA: Well, first of all, let me respond to the Congresswoman, with all due respect. Senator Obama is doing very well in the Hispanic community. First of all, in Iowa, we won the Hispanic vote in Iowa. Were endorsed by two Hispanic newspapers. We won the Hispanic vote in Virginia. We won the Hispanic vote in Illinois. We won the Hispanic vote in my home state of Colorado. We are essentially tied in New Mexico. It's dead even and half that state is 50 percent Hispanic.
And speaking of Texas, we will do very well in Texas. We have the endorsement of Congressman Charlie Gonzalez, a number of legislators. More and more Hispanics are supporting Barack Obama and the reason is when he has the time to present himself to the Hispanic community versus a 15-year brand name, the Clinton name, we are finding that Barack Obama ...
BLITZER: Let me get back to the question, Mr. Secretary. You worked with the Clintons when you were the transportation secretary during the Clinton administration. What convinced you that she was second choice, shall we say, as opposed to first choice?
PENA: Three things, Wolf. The reason I decided to support Barack Obama is I believe our next president has to have an extraordinary ability to unify the American people. We are deeply divided over the war and many other issues. I believe Barack Obama has the best skill set, the natural god-given ability to bring Americans together and the fact that he's won in 23 of these states is an example of that.
Secondly, I want someone as president who can work with Republicans and Democrats and Independents and it's difficult to do that when you've been fighting one of the other parties for 20 years or 15 years and Barack doesn't have that history.
Thirdly, I want a president who will bring bold change and new ideas to our country and who will look to the world with a different attitude about foreign policy. Those are the three reasons that I supported Barack Obama. I believe he has the best ability to do that.
BLITZER: Let me let the Congresswoman Solis respond. Go ahead.
SILOS: Yes. This is the first time in our history that we are going to have the ability to elect a woman, a strong woman who has already served in the senate, has worked on legislative agendas that have already passed the House, the Congress, and she's worked on a bipartisan level.
She has been able to garner that support particularly when we're addressing the war. We are talking about veterans that are coming home. Many of them are Latino and African American soldiers coming home. She fought very hard for their benefits and she was able to get that package through with the help of a Republican senator.
Secondly, she is for universal health care. We don't need to see programs that are going to be cutting us apart and not allowing for full coverage for all of our families. She is a strong advocate for that. She is also for promoting health care disparities.
In addition, she is into job creation, green collar jobs to revitalize our communities. She is the only one that's talked about it and actually put her finger on it because she promoted legislation that was actually signed into law by President Bush. And I happen to be the co-sponsor on our side of the house.
BLITZER: All right. Hilda Solis, a member of Congress, thanks very much for coming in. Federico Pena, a former member of the cabinet, former mayor of Denver, thanks to you as well. Both of these candidates are very lucky to have you in their respective corners. Good discussion. Appreciate it.
The head of the NAACP is at the center of this new storm over Florida and Michigan delegates and is outraged about it. Let's go back to Carol Costello, who is watching this story for us.
What's going on, Carol?
COSTELLO: Well Wolf, it's a strange story. It is fast becoming a bitter fight. The NAACP's Julian Bond has remained neutral in the race for president as required by the NAACP. But now accusations are flying he's not. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
COSTELLO: The NAACP's chairman, Julian Bond, doesn't quite get the controversy over his letter to the Democratic National Committee. The letter was stamped with the NAACP's letterhead but written without the knowledge of its board. It urges the DNC to make the vast number of minority votes cast in Michigan and Florida count by resolving the party's dilemma. Refusing to do that, says Bond, brings to mind the sordid history of racially discriminatory primaries.
JULIAN BOND, CHAIRMAN, NAACP: I'm inserting the NAACP in the fight to have votes counted. And that's a fight we've been fighting for longer than most people have been alive and one we will continue to fight.
COSTELLO: Some African Americans say Bond's real fight is for a struggling Hillary Clinton. Hers was the only name on the ballot in Michigan and she won in Florida. If the DNC decided to make those votes count, she could pick up a good chunk of Michigan's 156 delegates and Florida's 210. The DNC is unlikely to do that, and that may be a relief to Al Sharpton.
He fired off a letter of his own, saying any change in the DNC's rules would be a grave injustice, because he says, "We have a responsibility to protect both candidates from charges that the process was tainted." Bond is incensed at the implication.
BOND: The day before yesterday, I was accused of authoring an Op-Ed whose title was '10 Reasons Not to Vote for Hillary Clinton.' And as that got wide distribution on the Internet, I became an Obama stooge. Now, a day later, I've become a Clinton stooge. I'm not either. I have not endorsed either candidate or any other. I don't intend to.
COSTELLO: He says it's just fighting for the minority voter, Wolf. You know I just talked to someone from the Democratic National Committee. She told me this issue is not likely to be resolved until summer, when the Credentials Committee of the DNC meets to decide how many delegates to seat and that won't be an easy thing, either, especially if the contest between Clinton and Obama remains close. I talked to one Credentials Committee member who believes Michigan and Florida made their bed, they broke the rules, and you know that's just too bad.
BLITZER: What a story. All right, Carol. Thanks very much for staying on top of it for us.
Next week, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will take part in our CNN debate in the key battleground state of Texas. It takes place Thursday night, February 21st, in Austin, Texas. It's co-sponsored by Univision and the Texas Democratic Party. It airs live here on CNN beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern and airs later that night in Spanish on Univision.
He's a major player in the Democratic Party in the world of politics. He was on the scene the last time there was a convention fight. Now the former San Francisco mayor, Willie Brown, says we're about to potentially have another battle at the upcoming Democratic convention in Denver. My interview with Willie Brown is coming up.
Plus, the accused mastermind of terror attacks that killed hundreds of Americans, including more than 200 U.S. marines, has now met a very violent death himself. We are going to show you who he is and what happened.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Barack Obama is their favorite son but some Kenyans celebrating the primary victories may have had one Obama too many. CNN's David McKenzie explains from Nairobi.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: While Senator Barack Obama celebrated his clean sweep of the Potomac primaries ...
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Change we seek swept through Chesapeake and over the Potomac.
MCKENZIE: There were lingering effects of the primary party in Kenya, the homeland of Obama's father. Regular CNN I-reporter Patrick Kamau was there to capture the results of this Wednesday after a Super Tuesday in Nairobi. A mountain of empty beer kegs, hundreds stacked outside the distributor. Locals say there were leftovers from the Obama victory celebrations. Senator beer has become popular since the start of the U.S. primaries. Kenyans have given the local beer a new nickname, Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They order Obama for the drink.
MCKENZIE: The Obamas are flying off the shelf.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are very excited about the primaries. I am surprised that even people are watching CNN the whole night.
MCKENZIE: We tried to order a couple. Two Obamas, please. The keg was empty. But just in time, in came another round of Kenya's favorite son. Let's try this. Kenyans are going mad for Obama beer since Obama won the primaries last night, but it might be they like it because it's really strong and very cheap. Let's give it a try. It's pretty good. Cheers.
David McKenzie, CNN, Nairobi.
BLITZER: The notorious terrorist mastermind who predated Osama Bin Laden by decades is now dead, Imad Mugniyah blamed for hundreds of American deaths. He was killed in a car bombing in Damascus, Syria. Let's turn to CNN's Brian Todd. He's been watching this story.
I know, Brian, you have been following this terrorist for a long time, Imad Mugniyah, going way back. What happened?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you mentioned he predated Bin Laden. Before 9/11, U.S. officials blamed Mugniyah for the deaths of more Americans around the world than any other terror suspect. Bin Laden may have overtaken him on that count, but we're told Imad Mugniyah hadn't lost much of a step.
TODD: U.S. intelligence officials tell CNN that at the moment of his death, Imad Mugniyah was still very active in terrorist operations. That as a top Hezbollah commander, he had even been involved in training terrorists in Iraq and militants in the forces of radical Shiite clerk, Muqtada al Sadr.
A fixture on the FBI most wanted terrorist list, Mugniyah was considered a model for Osama Bin Laden, a man who figured out early on what the symbolism of one devastating attack could do to drive America from the Middle East. Beirut, October 1983, a suicide truck bomb believed masterminded by Imad Mugniyah, kills 241 U.S. service men at the marine barracks.
LYNN SMITH DERBYSHIRE, SISTER OF BEIRUT BOMBING VICTIM: As incredible as it may seem, it took three weeks for them to identify his body. TODD: For Lynn Smith Derbyshire, memories of that day linger like an open cut. Her brother, 30-year-old marine helicopter pilot Vince Smith, left a wife and three-year-old son, Ian, a young man who just got married.
DERBYSHIRE: It was bittersweet. It was very difficult to be there without Vince. We all looked at Ian and how happy he is and looked at his wife, and we all just said to each other Vince should be here. It's not fair that he isn't here. And this man who died was responsible in large measure for Vince not being here.
TODD: As a U.S. special forces officer, Ken Robinson spent years tracking Imad Mugniyah. Once in the 1990s, he says his team had golden intelligence. Mugniyah was on a plane stopping over in Saudi Arabia.
KEN ROBINSON, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL FORCES OFFICER: The flight was sent to intercept him. The Saudis failed to cooperate with the United States government and they did not allow Imad Mugniyah's plane to land, preventing the United States forces from being able to snatch him.
TODD: Robinson says the runway lights even went out that day. The Saudis claiming they had malfunctioned and they called off the landings because of safety concerns. Robinson says he believes the Saudis didn't want to deal with the fallout of allowing such a legendary militant to be captured on their soil. We tried multiple times to get Saudi officials in Washington and Read to respond to Robinson's account. They have not yet responded. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Brian, thanks very much. Brian Todd reporting on that story.
Baseball superstar Roger Clemens like we've never seen him, taking some serious heat from members of a Congressional committee. What he has to say about drugs, his former trainer and the accusations against him.
Plus a look inside Hillary Clinton's losses. Which voters she's losing to Barack Obama, which ones she's holding on to, what she needs to do to make a comeback.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: He's a seven-time winner of the Cy Young Award, given on the best pitcher in major league baseball. Now, like other stars before him, Roger Clemens finds his record tarnished by allegations he used performance-enhancing drugs. Together with his former trainer and chief accuser, Clemens today faced a Congressional panel. He would not be the intimidating figure that stared down at batters from the pitcher's mound.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D), OVERSIGHT & GOVT. REFROM CHMN.: As we move forward in our investigation, we found conflicts and inconsistencies in Mr. Clemens' account. During his deposition, he made statements we know are untrue. And he made them with the same earnestness that many of the committee members observed in person when he visited your offices. In other areas, his statements are contradicted by other credible witnesses or simply implausible.
ROGER CLEMENS, MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYER: I'm not saying Senator Mitchell's report is entirely wrong. I am saying Brian McNamee's statements about me are wrong. Let me be clear. I have never taken steroids or HGH.
BRIAN MCNAMEE, CLEMENS' FORMER TRAINER: When I told Senator Mitchell that in injected Roger Clemens with performance-enhancing drugs, I told the truth. I told the truth about steroids and human growth hormone. I injected those drugs into the body of Roger Clemens at his direction. Unfortunately, Roger has denied this and has led a full court attack on my credibility.
BLITZER: Brian McNamee was blasted by one committee member for telling, I'm quoting, lie after lie after lie. We'll have more on this story coming up.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now. He's got "The Cafferty File."
CAFFERTY: Did they swear him in?
CAFFERTY: So if you lie under oath, that's perjury. That's a crime. You can go to prison for committing perjury.
BLITZER: At least for six months.
CAFFERTY: Well, it's a start.
The question is, does Congress have anything better to do with its time than worry about whether Roger Clemens used steroids ten years ago? Nobody that wrote to me thinks this is a great idea that they're doing this.
Michelle in New York says, "I think it's incredibly sad. People are worrying about where they're going to live if they can't make mortgage payments or how they're going to feed their family while Congress once again is wasting taxpayers' hard-earned dollars on whether or not Clemens used steroids ten years ago. Maybe we should take their salaries that they're wasting and feed families or make mortgage payments for some unfortunate good people."
Bill in Wisconsin, "What happened today in Congress is truly absurd. I couldn't improve much on your characterization except to say that the Oversight Committee really made itself look foolish today. It's a real tragedy and a very scary sign that Henry Waxman and company are spending this much political capital and destroying any thought of their credibility when they should be looking into allegations of high crimes and misdemeanors on the part of the current executive branch of government."
Donna writes, "Thanks, Jack. I have steam coming out of my ears. Both my sons are in rotation to Iraq for a balmy Baghdad summer and these clowns are discussing baseball and steroids. Would a line drive upside the head get them to focus on real problems?" I doubt it, Donna.
Linda writes, "This is a hideous display of what our priorities are and I'm not just talking about Congress. This trash appears to be what the American public is interested in. Talk to practically any American and they can tell you more about Britney Spears, Heath Ledger, Natalee Holloway, et cetera, than they can tell you where about particular politicians stand on the issues."
And Steve writes from Pennsylvania, "I was honing hoping you would ask this question. It gives me the opportunity to say I can't imagine any legislative body in the history of the world could have ever exhibited a more infuriating and boring waste of time than the U.S. Congress with these stupid steroid hearings. I would be deeply grateful if you would exploit every opportunity that presents itself to ridicule and humiliate them for it."
That's what we're trying to do here.
BLITZER: That's what we do every day.
CAFFERTY: That's what we're doing here.
BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.
A virtual fence along the border. You can bet Lou Dobbs has something to say about that. Lou is standing by to join us live.
Plus, he was there for one of the biggest battles ever on the floor of the Democratic convention. Will it happen again this summer in Denver between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama? I'll ask the former San Francisco mayor, Willie Brown.
Stick around, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says the government will approve 28 miles of virtual fence along the border with Mexico, despite glitches they are withholding partial payment to the contractor, that would be Boeing.
Lou Dobbs is watching this story. You're already smiling.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Talking about a virtual fence. It's a low grade brain trust trying to build it and put it together. Boeing has screwed this thing up from Jump Street. The Department of Homeland Security is looking at 28 miles and that border is actually 2,000 miles long. We still have a porous border.
We are not seeing anything done. This administration, this Department of Homeland Security, this Congress, have permitted just, you know, a travesty at the southern border with Mexico.
BLITZER: You really think they should finish that physical fence.
DOBBS: Well, color me stupid, but the reality is it's a 2,000 mile long border. It seems to me we should secure all 2,000 miles of it, whether with a fence, a virtual fence, or national guardsmen or border patrol agents or a combination thereof. But this is such a silly sham of a game being played by DHS and this Congress.
BLITZER: You don't have confidence in the Department of Homeland Security to deal with this issue.
DOBBS: Well you know I guess the saying goes, you know, the answer would be straightforwardly I don't have confidence about anything in this federal government or anyone running it in this administration but that's only based on experience.
BLITZER: Based on what you've learned.
DOBBS: And the evidence.
BLITZER: Would it be different if there was a new administration, whether a McCain administration or a Clinton or Obama administration? Do you think it would change?
DOBBS: Well you know, let's see. We've had a republican or a democrat in charge here for some time but over the last 30 years, these partisan parties are the ones working both of them for corporate America and special interests, both of these parties on lock, stock and barrel by corporate America and those special interests.
What difference do you expect it to make whether it is Obama or Clinton or McCain or Huckabee? These are all, you know, cut from the same cloth.
BLITZER: In an hour from now, there will be a lot more of Lou on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT."
DOBBS: At least a whole hour of it.
BLITZER: That's right, one hour from now. Thanks, Lou, very much.
DOBBS: Thank you.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
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