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Will Endorsement by Former President Bush Help McCain?; U.S. Economy Continues to Struggle; NBA All Star Weekend is in New Orleans

Aired February 15, 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 happening now, John McCain is about to get another Bush in his corner. Will the former president's endorsement encourage Mike Huckabee to simply go away?
Also this hour, Barack Obama gets a powerful union behind him, and Hillary Clinton gets her back against the wall in Ohio. The best political team on television standing by.

Plus, he's rooting for Barack Obama and he's taking shots at Republicans and the religious right. You're going to find out who NBA great Charles Barkley is calling fake.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in New Orleans. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

John McCain is rallying another big-name Republican behind him right now on his march toward the GOP nomination. That would be the first President Bush, or 41, as his son likes to call him. Let's go to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's watching this story for us.

So, will Bush 41's endorsement wind up helping McCain, Candy?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, any time you get the endorsement of the senior statesman in your party, it's got to be a help. But there are a couple caveats here, and they have to do with George Bush's relationship with conservatives.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice over): In the latest sign the Republican establishment wants to wrap it up, party officials say former president George H.W. Bush will endorse John McCain in Houston Monday.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I hope so, because former President Bush is one of the more -- most respected people in our party.

CROWLEY: The nod is also designed to bolster McCain in Texas, where a strong block of politically active social conservatives could embarrass him in the state's March 4th primary. It is also designed to send yet another signal to Mike Huckabee to get with the program. The former Arkansas governor was busy courting voters in Wisconsin when news of the Bush endorsement surfaced, but it's not likely it will move him to abandon his mission impossible. As of last night, he was having none of it.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I think it would be a great disservice to the country and to my own party to just give up and quit because it looks like, you know, the numbers are trending toward John McCain at this particular stage.

CROWLEY: Nor is the former president's endorsement likely to impress the Republican conservatives fueling Huckabee. The so-called values voters always suspected Mr. Bush, the elder, was not wholly committed to the anti-abortion cause. And the former president's tenure in office gave rise to phrases that have become part of conservative vocabulary. No more suitors refers to a Bush Supreme Court pick, a relative unknown who has proven to be a high court liberal. And there was this at the 1988 Republican National Convention...

GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Read my lips: no new taxes.

CROWLEY: ... as President George Bush did raise taxes in a compromise with Democrats on a deficit-reducing package.

PAT BUCHANAN, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's go quail hunting today!

CROWLEY: Four years later, conservative Pat Buchanan took a run and Bush in the Republican primary season and beat the president over the head with the no new taxes promise.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Still, even in politics, time can heal wounds, and when John McCain stands next to the former president on Monday, it will be a powerful picture -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And so the only thing we're really waiting for among the Bushes is for the current president to endorse, formally endorse, John McCain. I assume that will happen once Mike Huckabee and maybe Ron Paul drop out. Is that what the White House is waiting for?

CROWLEY: Absolutely. And I think we saw in an interview the president did recently that, in fact -- sorry -- in an appearance he made in front of conservatives -- that, in fact, he is leaning toward John McCain. But, you know, he's president. He's head of the party. And it would not do to have him jump in at this point.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Candy Crowley.

Let's go over to the Democratic race for the White House. Barack Obama today reeled in the endorsement of one of the nation's largest and most influential labor unions. And that's not the only new blow to Hillary Clinton. One of her powerful African-American supporters now is said to be second-guessing the choice he made. CNN's Jessica Yellin is in Ohio covering the Democratic race.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Campaigning in Ohio, Hillary Clinton seems more determined than ever.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm asking you to hire me for the hardest job in the world.

YELLIN: She's offering new solutions to crack down on predatory lending and credit card abuses, and generally protect working Americans.

CLINTON: I am a candidate of, from, and for the middle class of America.

YELLIN: Now she's launched a new ad in Wisconsin, one of the next states to vote, attacking Barack Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CLINTON CAMPAIGN AD)

ANNOUNCER: ... why he voted to pass billions in Bush giveaways to the oil companies, but Hillary didn't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Her back is against the wall. Obama just won a sought- after endorsement from the Service Employees International Union, whose leaders say they have 150,000 members in upcoming primary states and plan to get out the vote aggressively.

And now there are questions whether Congressman John Lewis, a superdelegate and civil rights giant who endorsed Hillary Clinton, might be toying with the idea of jumping on the Obama bandwagon, too. Last year, even before choosing a candidate, he made it clear he was torn even then.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: Well, it's a difficult position to be in. But it's a good position to be in. We have choices.

YELLIN: And the Obama campaign is hitting back on Clinton's' attacks in e-mails to reporters and on the stump.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, she's right. Speeches alone don't do anything. But you know what? Neither do negative attacks.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: Wolf, Senator Clinton is headed to this event here just outside Cleveland, Ohio, and on her way, she stopped off at a local Democratic Party fund-raiser. She said: I want a big vote here in Ohio. If you give me a big vote, she said, I will give you everything I have.

And she had a play on Obama's chant, yes, we can. She says it shouldn't be, yes, we can. She says the chant is, yes, we will. Already, Senator Clinton is giving Ohio everything she's got, Wolf, because she knows she has to win here big -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ohio and Texas March 4th, it's going to be a huge, huge day. Thanks very much for that, Jessica.

Let's go back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" in New York -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The United States has a balance sheet that's starting to look more and more like a third-world country.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg lashing out at Washington over the federal government's plan to give rebate checks to more than 130 million people.

Bloomberg says, "I suppose it won't hurt the economy, but it's in many senses like giving a drink to an alcoholic." That's a quote. A spokesman later said the mayor meant Washington can't stop itself from spending money. He wasn't saying Americans who get the checks are part of the problem.

Bloomberg is also critical of the current crop of presidential candidates, accusing them of looking for easy solutions to complex economic problems. The mayor added that while they seem to be talking more about the economy now, they're looking for quick fixes in order to win votes, instead of taking a good, hard look at the roots of the problem.

He did have some kind words for Barack Obama. He praised his plan to create a national infrastructure reinvestment bank to rebuild things such as highways and bridges. It's funny how our mayor here in New York keeps popping up. His supporters think the country's economic problems create a unique opportunity for Bloomberg, with his business background, very successful businessman, to run as a third- party candidate for president.

Bloomberg continues to insist he's not a candidate, says he's speaking out on national issues as part of what he calls an experiment to see if he can influence the dialogue of the race.

So, here's our question: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the U.S. resembles a Third World country when it comes to our economy. Is he right?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: See you in a few moments with the best political team.

Jack Cafferty, thank you.

He used to throw elbows on the basketball court. Now he's pulling no punches against Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES BARKLEY, FORMER NBA BASKETBALL PLAYER: Every time I hear the word conservative, it makes me sick to my stomach.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Charles Barkley calls conservatives -- and I'm quoting now -- "fake Christians." He does not stop there. You're going to want to hear this interview. That is coming up.

Also, which presidential candidate gets the most donations from members of the U.S. military, the one with the honored military record, the two against the Iraq war? The answer might surprise you.

And they're the party insiders who could sway the Democratic race, superdelegates, facing pressure right now to do the right thing. But what exactly is the right thing?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Barack Obama has certainly scored an impressive number of big-named celebrity supporters. That includes a longtime NBA superstar, the always outspoken Charles Barkley.

Barkley is here in New Orleans for the All-Star Game this weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now, the TNT analyst Charles Barkley, the basketball great.

Charles, thanks very much for coming in. Don't really want to talk basketball with you. I want to talk politics. I know you support Obama. Tell us why you decided to go with him, as opposed to, let's say, Hillary Clinton.

BARKLEY: Well, I think, first and foremost, I consider him a friend of mine. And when I look at him, he represents everything that's good in the black community. He's intelligent. He's articulate. He's -- we need that. You know, most of our role models are athletes and entertainers. we have got to get more black kids to be educated, carry themselves with great class and dignity.

And he's perfect for what we need because we have got so much black-on-black crime in this country right now. we have got a lot of kids who are not getting their education. That's why I'm supporting him.

BLITZER: A few years ago you were a Republican. I know you're a Democrat now, but when you were a Republican, you were asked why you were a Republican, and you said something along the lines that, The Democrats want to raise my taxes. The Republicans don't. Obama wants to raise your taxes.

BARKLEY: Well, you know what? It won't affect me at all. But what I really said was, I'm rich like a Republican. I never voted for a Republican. I'm actually an Independent. But I'm supporting Barack because I have to look at the big picture. This country is divided by economics between the rich and the poor. And I'm going to support him all the way to the wall. I really like our chances right now.

BLITZER: If he doesn't get the nomination, if Hillary Clinton does get it, how would you feel about that? How would you feel about supporting her?

BARKLEY: I have got no problem with that. Last time I supported John Edwards. I'm going to vote Democratic. I hope it's my guy, Barack. But I'm going to vote Democratic either way, because I don't like what the Republicans have done to our country.

BLITZER: I spoke with Magic Johnson, who was a member of the so- called dream team in the old days. And he said that his dream team right now is Clinton and Obama. How would you feel about the two of them on the same ticket?

BARKLEY: Well, my dream team would be Obama/Clinton. Not Clinton/Obama. My dream team -- you know, I don't care. I want Barack to be president. If he's vice president, that's good. But I just think we need a new face. We need a new leader, because the way things are going, it's not going well. But I want him to be the president, not the vice president.

BLITZER: How do you think he would shape up against John McCain, who is the likely Republican presidential nominee, on this specific issue of national security?

BARKLEY: Well, I think, you know, people keep saying, well, he doesn't have enough experience on national security and things like that. First of all, whoever the president is, he's going to have tons of advisers. It ain't like the president gets to make every decision on his own. You have great advisers around you.

Hey, I live in Arizona. I have got great respect for Senator McCain. Great respect. But I don't like the way the Republicans are taking this country. Every time I hear the word conservative, it makes me sick to my stomach, because they're really just fake Christians, as I call them. That's all they are. But I just -- I'm going to vote Democratic no matter what.

BLITZER: What about you in politics? At one point you were thinking of running back in Alabama. What do you think?

BARKLEY: Well, I just bought a house in 2007. And in 2014, I promise you I'm going to run for governor of Alabama.

BLITZER: And when will you run for governor of Alabama?

BARKLEY: 2014. You have to have residency for seven years. And I bought my house at the end of last year. And I will be eligible in 2014.

BLITZER: All right. One quick point before I let you go. You used the phrase fake Christians for conservatives. Explain what you're talking about.

BARKLEY: Well, I think they -- they want to be judge and jury. Like, I'm for gay marriage. It's none of my business if gay people want to get married. I'm pro-choice. And I think these Christians -- first of all, they're supposed to be -- they're not supposed to judge other people. But they're the most hypocritical judge of people we have in this country. And it bugs the hell out of me. They act like their Christians. And they're not forgiving at all.

BLITZER: So you're going to get a lot of feedback on this one, Charles.

BARKLEY: They can't do anything to me. I don't work for them.

BLITZER: You feel comfortable saying all that?

BARKLEY: I feel very comfortable saying I'm pro-choice, and I'm for gay marriage. Very comfortable.

BLITZER: But you can't lump all these conservatives as being fake. A lot of them obviously -- most of them are very, very sincere in their religious beliefs.

BARKLEY: Well, they should read the part about they're not supposed to judge other people. They forget that one when it doesn't fit what they want it to say.

BLITZER: All right. we have got to leave it there, Charles.

Thanks very much for joining us.

BARKLEY: Thank you for having me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: He carried guns into a lecture hall, fired on students, reloaded, then shot himself. But why? We have the latest on that Northern Illinois University rampage, including details about the shooter.

And protests in Pakistan -- many are wondering why would one country again do something that caused angry reaction from so many Muslims?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: For more on the tragic shooting over at Northern Illinois University, let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She's been searching online for details about the gunman.

Abbi, what can you tell us? ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this is a graduate student, Stephen Kazmierczak And what we have been finding online makes this crime even more baffling.

Listed, he was praised for his work in the graduate school, receiving a dean's award from Northern Illinois University for his work in sociology. And articles that he co-authored online point to his interests, corrections, peace and social justice, and also indicate that he was an officer of a student chapter of the American Corrections Association.

We found two years worth of minutes and photos related to that student chapter that indicate that Stephen Kazmierczak was an active member of this group, these all images and pictures that take us through late 2006, before Kazmierczak left that university, enrolled elsewhere, but certainly no online clue at this stage emerging as to motive -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, what a story, what a sad tragedy, indeed. Thank you.

We're following the money from the U.S. military to the presidential campaign trail.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Why do I get the most money from active-duty officers, military personnel?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Are U.S. troops voting with their wallets when it comes to the war in Iraq when they send cash to Ron Paul? We're watching this story.

Plus, Democratic superdelegates weighing in on what could be a nuclear option, choosing a nominee who didn't win the popular vote. The best political team on television has some advice. And Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama do battle over cheap words.

We're live here in New Orleans, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, the Democrats' superdelegates are under enormous pressure right now. Will they jump Hillary Clinton's ship and throw their support to Barack Obama instead? We're watching the story.

Also, new polls right now showing Mike Huckabee very competitive in Texas. What does that mean for John McCain? We will talk about that and a lot more with the best political team on television. And Chelsea Clinton is campaigning full throttle for her mom. But what are the Clintons seeking? Are they seeking special treatment for her on the campaign trail?

I'm Wolf Blitzer in New Orleans. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We have some new numbers tonight showing which members of the U.S. military are giving their donations to and which presidential candidates surprisingly are getting the most money. That would be the most vocal anti-war candidate apparently getting the biggest share. Let's go to Brian Todd. He's got the number. He's crunching them right now.

Brian, who is getting the most donations from U.S. military troops?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the winner by far in this is the man who has surprised us since this campaign season began with his overall fund-raising ability.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): If you're basing your vote on a candidate's position on Iraq, Ron Paul and Barack Obama won't leave you confused on where they stand.

PAUL: It's unconstitutional. It's an undeclared war.

OBAMA: The war in Iraq was unwise.

TODD: Those blasts could be striking a positive chord within the U.S. military. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks the government's information on campaign contributions, Ron Paul is by far the leading recipient of cash from current members of the military. Among those who gave more than $200, the group says, Paul brought in more than $210,000 last year.

Fellow war opponent Obama is far behind, but places second with more than $94,000. John McCain and Hillary Clinton are an even more distant third and fourth.

MASSIE RITSCH, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: For the military to be making such a bold statement, at least among the group that is contributing, does say something about their feelings about the candidates and about the war.

TODD: Observers say military donors, like all contributors, make up only a small percentage of voters. And, according to our Republican exit polls from the primaries, cash doesn't always translate into votes. McCain is still the leading vote-getter among Republican voters who say they have served in the military. Ron Paul barely registers.

Rick Weidman is with Vietnam Veterans of America, a nonpartisan that helps active-duty and retired military members. He says, for those still serving, the draw of Obama and Paul goes well beyond their positions on the war.

RICK WEIDMAN, VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA: People who are for Ron Paul are very passionate, because he wants to shrink government, and he wants to improve military pay, and he wants to improve retirement pay, and he wants to improve services to veterans.

Obama does, too, from a different perspective, is that of holding people accountable for what they're supposed to be doing to alleviate problems that veterans have and that current active-duty people have.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: But those who track campaign contributions say the Iraq war still does play a big part. The Center for Responsive Politics says before the invasion, about three quarters of contributions from military members went to Republicans. Since 2003, they say, that figure has dropped to about 60 percent -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, do those who watch this tend to believe that McCain is showing any vulnerability with these military voters?

TODD: No strong signs of that yet, Wolf. Rick Weidman says among those who are contributing to Ron Paul and Obama, they sense that there may be a perception that they're a little bit more out front on benefits issues and things like that than John McCain is. But McCain is still very, very strong overall among the broader population of military voters.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you.

Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, is poised to pick up an endorsement from the former president of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush, next week in Texas. That according to our sources.

Let's talk about that and more with our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's joining from us Chicago. Our own Jack Cafferty. He's in New York. And our CNN contributor Roland Martin. He's in L.A. . They are all part of the best political team on television.

How significant of an endorsement, Jack, is this?

CAFFERTY: I don't know how significant it is outside the Republican Party and outside the State of Texas. I think what's happening here is they're sending a message to Mike Huckabee. There are a couple of new polls out that show Huckabee very close -- very close in Texas -- I mean within a few points.

And I think the former president is sending a little telegram saying, you know, you're embarrassing our guy here and maybe it's time for you to get the hint and pack your stuff and maybe stay in the Cayman Islands. The other message is, I think, to the Republican Party inside Texas, to get off your butts and go out and vote for our guy, i.e., John McCain.

BLITZER: You know, Roland, you're from Texas. What do you think?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, absolutely. George H.W. Bush is enormously popular in the State of Texas. The airport in Houston is named after him. He's got his library and my alma mater, Texas A & M University.

And, frankly, I think what you're seeing is you're seeing the Republicans rally around John McCain. You saw the endorsement by Mitt Romney. You saw other Republicans coming out and saying, look, he's our guy. They are basically saying he is our nominee, let's get behind him now, get this nonsense over and move forward, as opposed to sitting here waiting as if somebody else is going to jump up and become the candidate.

BLITZER: That would be...

MARTIN: He is the guy.

BLITZER: ... hugely embarrassing, Candy, if -- I don't think, necessarily, Mike Huckabee is going to win in Texas. But if he were to win, that would be hugely embarrassing. Even if he does really well against John McCain on March 4th in Texas that could be embarrassing.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. And remember Virginia, when those early returns began to come in and it really was beginning to look like a dog fight between Huckabee and McCain. He ended up, of course, winning it, but it showed the continued strength of Mike Huckabee. And as long as there is continued strength about Mike Huckabee, John McCain can't go back and say to these voters look, I'm your guy. It's not so much about the conservative leaders as it is about these voters who he's going to need in the general election.

And what they're worried about in Texas is the numbers for turnout for Republicans have been fairly low. When the turnout is low, the activists come out. And the activists are the social conservatives. And that's what they're worried about in Texas.

BLITZER: So --

MARTIN: Hey, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes?

MARTIN: Wolf, the other issue is that -- the other issue is Huckabee is really being -- cultivating folks like Hagee in San Antonio -- even the pastor at the churches in Plano, some of your mega churches. And so he's been really going after those smaller pastors and getting them involved.

The other critical point is this -- Texas has an open primary. So you can be Republican and when you go into the voting booth, you can turn left or turn right. And so if you have John McCain as the only person there, you might have a lot of people who might shift to the Democratic Party. That's something else watch out for because it's an open primary. BLITZER: Let me get your -- pick your brain, Jack, on what Brian Todd was reporting, those numbers, that a lot of active duty military personnel are really supporting Ron Paul, the Republican presidential candidate. They're making financial contributions to his campaign. He's probably the most outspoken in terms of getting out of Iraq ASAP.

CAFFERTY: Well, I -- you know, I think it would be news if the people in the United States military fell in lockstep behind the decision makers in Washington who deny veterans benefits and who start illegal and unnecessary wars, i.e. the war in Iraq.

I mean what is the presumption here -- that they're not any smarter than the rest of us? Of course they are. And a lot of them are opposed to the war and they're sitting there with their families not getting the benefits they ought to be getting from the government, the status quo.

And so they're looking for somebody who has a message that says maybe war is not such a great idea, especially one like this one -- $700 billion, 4,000 people dead, 25,000 people seriously wounded. It was unnecessary. It was illegal. It was foisted off on us based on a bunch of lies. And maybe we ought to get somebody in there who could see to some educational benefits for my kids and maybe some health care if I come back missing a couple of limbs. I mean what's the big surprise here?

BLITZER: But, Candy, in terms of the political impact of the war in Iraq, assuming U.S. casualties continue to go down, the issue, presumably, will be less and less of an issue, as opposed, shall we say, to the economy.

CROWLEY: Well, we've already seen the economy overtake the war in terms of what voters are concentrated on. I also think that Americans have already made up their mind about this war and that even if things get better, we don't say -- as they have been over the past couple of months -- better being a relative term -- it really hasn't changed how Americans feel about this war. It's going to be a problem for John McCain no matter how he looks at it or how good the situation on the ground gets.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by because we're going to make...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: ... we're going to make the turn to the Democrats in a moment -- the dilemma of the superdelegates, as they're called. Will they defy the popular vote at the Democratic convention in Denver at the end of the summer and cause a civil war in the Democratic Party?

And Chelsea Clinton in the glare of the spotlight out on the campaign trail. Off limits, though, to the news media. Is she getting special treatment? Frank Sesno looking at this story.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Superdelegates under pressure right now, even as we speak. Look at this. Michelle Obama -- she's speaking out on behalf of her husband. She's out in Cincinnati, Ohio campaigning for him right now.

Among those superdelegates, some are actually thinking of jumping ship right now -- throwing potentially critical support from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama. Let's get back to the best political team on television.

And Jack Cafferty, I'll start with you once again. First of all, Michelle Obama -- she's really emerging as a powerful force in this campaign. A lot of Americans are getting to know her and they like her.

CAFFERTY: Yes, well, she's a very likable person -- charismatic, intelligent, pretty, charming. You know, she does well in front of a crowd. She's a class act and a big asset to Barack Obama, I think.

BLITZER: You know, she's a Harvard Law graduate herself.

CAFFERTY: But we don't hold that against her.

BLITZER: No, no, no. I hope not. I think it's a...

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: I think it's great honor for her husband, who went to Harvard, as well. So, obviously, they're very talented -- in her own right.

Roland, you know her quite well. What do you think?

MARTIN: Well, absolutely. I think -- but it's -- but, really, if you throw the Harvard aside and the Princeton, what she often talks about is growing up on the South Side of Chicago, seeing her dad, you know, going to work every single day -- the work ethic, going to public schools. And so she really emphasizes that and this whole notion of having balance and family.

And so her message is a little bit different. And, in fact, I've talked to a lot of people who said, you know, I was on the fence. And when they hear her speak, they really love the fact that she is so real and down to earth, as opposed to somehow being distant from the public.

BLITZER: All right, Candy, listen to this. I'm going to play two sound bites back to back -- one from Hillary Clinton and one from Barack Obama, responding, in effect.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's a big difference between us -- speeches versus solutions, talk versus action. You know, some people may think words are change. But you and I know better. Words are cheap. I know it takes work.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So she's right, speeches alone don't do anything. But you know what, neither do negative attacks. Neither --

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: You know, her supporting NAFTA didn't give jobs to the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. It's getting a little testy out there.

What do you think, Candy?

CROWLEY: Well, I think you know, in some ways, we are back to the future. Hillary Clinton has all along said I'm all about change, but I've got the experience to do it. He has all along said, listen, we can't effect change unless we have a totally different way of doing business in Washington. We can't do the old ways because it doesn't work -- the negative attacks, etc.

So, in some ways, you are seeing the initial argument as soon as these two began to engage each other. That's what this argument has been about -- who can best bring about change. The fact of the matter is, when you put up their positions -- their policy positions -- side by side, 90 percent of the time, they're in total agreement. So this has always been about who is going to make the changes that you want, not specifically what those changes are.

BLITZER: But, Jack, as we are discussing this, at least in recent days, we're seeing some of those so-called superdelegates who had been supporting Hillary Clinton begin to think about switching over to Barack Obama.

CAFFERTY: Well, you've got to remember, there was an air of inevitability about Hillary's candidacy last summer. Everybody assumed -- including Hillary -- that this was a cakewalk and by February 6th, she would be the nominee and everything would be right in the Democratic organization.

It turns out now she's got her back to the wall. And when you look at the margins of victory, for example, in the Potomac primaries, where he's winning by 60, 65, 70 percent, these super-delegates don't have a brain in their head if they don't understand which way this wind is blowing.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: The ones who lined up with Hillary Clinton are going to look like the village idiots if they maintain that position and he goes on with the kind of momentum he has to wind up with the most states, the most delegates, the most votes. They're going to be forced to go with the person that the American people have said they want to represent them as a Democrat. If they don't, they ought to be locked up somewhere, because they're not -- they're a danger to themselves.

BLITZER: Roland, wrap this up for us.

MARTIN: Well, look, it's -- you look at the Congressional Black Caucus, the members; you look at the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. Obama won her district. And so when you hear her comments talking about, hey, you must not go against the will of the people, they recognize you -- look, they're politicians. They want to be on a winning team.

And if they see Obama riding forward and possibly getting the nomination, they want to get on that train before it really takes off and leaves the station. That's what you're seeing all across the country. But, again, the key is Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania. That's going to be the key. If she wins those, that changes that ship. It causes that train to sit back and say wait a minute, it hasn't left yet. So they may be wavering a bit.

BLITZER: And that train might go all the way to Denver if that happens.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much.

MARTIN: Very true.

BLITZER: Candy Crowley, always great to have you with us.

Roland Martin -- both of you can go.

Jack, you've got to stay for "The Cafferty File."

Thanks very much.

MARTIN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Meanwhile, imagine someone in your family running for president of the United States. You want to help them, but doing that may make you the target of some political attacks. Our special correspondent, Frank Sesno, has more.

FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's absolutely standard fare for candidates to put their families on the campaign trail. But even the Clintons, as battle-hardened as they are, may not have realized how the white hot glare of the media mob would collide with their own protective parental instincts -- raising issues of fairness and access along the way.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SESNO (voice-over): Chelsea Clinton campaigning for her mom. It seems innocent enough. All the big kids are doing it. But Chelsea must know by now that controversy goes with the last name. Remember the flap over the 9-year-old who asked for an interview. "I don't talk to the press," Chelsea was reported to have said, "Even though you're cute." Nothing cute about the comment MSNBC anchor David Shuster made about the campaigning former first daughter.

DAVID SHUSTER, ANCHOR: Doesn't it seem like Chelsea is sort of being pimped out in some weird sort of way?

SESNO: The campaign protested. Hillary Clinton fired off a letter to NBC and demanded appropriate action.

CLINTON: I am a mom first and a candidate second and I found the remarks incredibly offensive.

SESNO: Shuster was suspended. The remark was ugly and unnecessary, but the bubble around Chelsea begs the question -- are the Clintons seeking special treatment for their daughter? She was off limits to the press when she was a kid in the White House. No one quibbled about that. But now the 27-year-old is actively campaigning.

CHELSEA CLINTON: Well, I hope you vote on Tuesday. I hope you vote for my mom.

SESNO: Bringing some youthful star power to the college circuit. Candidates love to invoke family when the story line is simple. Recall the Romney boys' "Father Knows Best" blog. But families often are not simple. The Bushes complained when it got personal with their daughters. Dick Cheney clammed up when asked about his daughter Mary, who had a child with her lesbian partner.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a blessing from God. It's not a political statement.

SESNO: As for Chelsea, there's no such controversy. She's public -- but walled off -- still no interviews. The campaign says Chelsea has appeared in dozens of venues in more than 20 states and is trying to reach as many people as possible.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESNO: Chelsea is popular with younger voters, no question about that. Really, a draw wherever she goes. And right now, her mother's campaign needs all the help it can get. But the tensions over the access to Chelsea and the sustained efforts to maintain her zone of privacy show just how difficult it is to be a little bit public -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Frank. Thanks very much. Frank Sesno reporting.

Mike Huckabee forced to face the music. You're going to find out which famous rock band wants the Republican candidate to stop playing their song.

And is New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg right to say the U.S. resembles a Third World country when it comes to our economy?

Jack Cafferty has your e-mail.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Checking our political ticker right now, the House Oversight Committee chairman, Henry Waxman, says he now regrets holding a very dramatic hearing on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. Waxman telling "The New York Times" the Wednesday hearing unnecessarily embarrassed the pitching great, Roger Clemens.

According to Waxman, Clemens' lawyers had said the baseball star wanted a public forum to deny the allegations of using steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs.

Mike Huckabee is the latest candidate to get a warning from a pop group to stop the music. The chief songwriter and founder of the band Boston says Huckabee is using his 1970s hit, "More Than A Feeling," without his permission. Tom Scholz sent Huckabee a letter saying he ripped off his song to promote ideas he opposes. But the Huckabee camp says the only time it played "More Than A Feeling" was when a former Boston band member appeared with Huckabee at a campaign event.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, check out CNNPolitics.com. The political ticker there is now the number one political news blog on the Web. That's also where you can read my latest blog post. I wrote today about my visit here in New Orleans and what I'm seeing, especially when I went down to the lower Ninth Ward.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" in New York.

I've got to tell you, Jack, as much as it sounds trite, what you see on television is nothing compared to when you see it in person.

CAFFERTY: Well, my daughter graduated from Tulane University in New Orleans in May. And I made many trips down there before and after Katrina. The devastation of that city is mind-boggling. The fact that it hasn't been fixed is criminal. It really is a damned shame. That is one of the great cities in the world, not just in the United States. And to let it just sit there in ruin the way Washington has, it's unbelievable.

Well, it kind of fits in with this. New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg says the U.S. resembles a Third World country when it comes to our economy. Is he right?

Jim writes: "Right on, Mr. Bloomberg. The fat cat politicians are spending our money like it was theirs -- easy to do when you can rack up debt on someone else's dime.

Marybeth (ph) in Neptune, New Jersey: "Of course our economy is like a Third World country. That's where all the middle class jobs went. All of our manufacturing and now our tech jobs went to Third World countries while CEOs make multi-million dollar bonuses and we spiral down into a service economy. Restaurant and retail jobs don't buy houses and cars. College costs are making the kind of education that will allow you to have the kind of life our grandparents had simply out of reach."

Eric in New York: "Anyone who says the U.S. resembles a Third World country has obviously never lived in one. Maybe Mike Bloomberg, who I like, should visit Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The poverty rate is 80 percent. The unemployment rate in this country is hovering around four percent. During the Great Depression, it was 34 percent. There are a lot of things wrong with how things are these days, but this country has been through a lot and we got through it. And with the right leadership, we'll get through it again."

David in Langley, Washington: "We're a Third World society by many measures -- extreme wealth concentration, a declining standard of living for most Americans, difficulty influencing our government, an enormous military, an economy mostly owned by a rich few, enormous debt and exporting raw materials and importing finished products."

Sherry writes: "After spending over 20 years traveling as a military wife and going overseas, I think Bloomberg is right and we're reaching Third World status faster than some of the other countries where we're sending foreign aid."

J.R. writes: "Third World Country? Third party candidate. Hmm -- I think he's just teasing us." -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, have a great weekend. Thanks very much.

CAFFERTY: Thank you.

BLITZER: The Presidential Debates Commission didn't think New Orleans was ready to host a presidential debate. But thousands of basketball fans are right now here in New Orleans. They're getting ready for Sunday's NBA All Star game. The police commissioner says the weekend is a lot more than just having fun. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's the biggest party of the NBA season. But it's also a huge boost for a city that really needs it. I sat down just a little while ago with the NBA Commissioner, David Stern.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Commissioner, thanks very much for joining us.

DAVID STERN, NBA COMMISSIONER: It's always a pleasure to be here.

BLITZER: New Orleans -- this is a major decision on the part of the NBA to come here. How difficult of a decision was it given the problems that the city still has?

STERN: At the time that we made the decision, I'd say -- a couple of years ago, it was a little risky. But, really, when you think about the fact that New Orleans has hosted the Bowl championship series, the Sugar Bowl, Mardi Gras, the Essence Jazz Festival -- all events with larger numbers than the NBA -- the one thing that has happened here is that their ability to host large conventions and tourist events is really demonstrated.

BLITZER: So it's working as a credit to this city that they can accommodate a weekend with you.

STERN: Oh, absolutely. They -- and they've done so many Super Bowls before us. And they have this wonderful sort of corridor of entertainment and hotels. So it's really quite good.

BLITZER: And you're going to be spending some quality time trying to do something. The NBA has got a deep commitment to go in and help out, at least a little bit.

STERN: You know, we do that all over the world. The NBA Cares. But this was an opportunity for us. And we thank New Orleans to welcome -- for welcoming us to do it. All our guests and licensees, customers, broadcasters, are going to be given the opportunity to fan out through the city and we're going to have 2,500 people building houses, renovating classrooms and dedicating computer centers, building playgrounds.

And, really, the most extraordinary thing is the outpouring from the guests who are coming, saying, what an opportunity to give back, to try to do something. Can I bring my kids? Can we participate together?

BLITZER: It's sort of a marked contrast to what happened last year. I was there in Las Vegas for the NBA All Star weekend. And there's a whole different environment -- atmosphere, given the nature of Katrina and what happened in New Orleans this time.

STERN: That's correct. And, also, this is a -- in Las Vegas, there were 130,000 hotel rooms and we had 6,000 of them. So there were other events. Here, we are pretty much the center of attention. And the industry here and the politicians, government leaders, are all very appreciative of our being here. And we are very appreciative of them for the hospitality.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And you can see the NBA All Star game this Sunday night on our sister network, TNT, 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Watch it.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in New Orleans.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT."

Kitty Pilgrim is sitting in for Lou -- Kitty.

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