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THE SITUATION ROOM
Ohio & Texas Tensions: Countdown to March 4th; McCain Slams Obama, Nabs Endorsement; Interview With Senator Chris Dodd
Aired February 28, 2008 - 16:00 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, Hillary Clinton rejects a supporter's slap at Barack Obama, but the incident is spotlighting a racial and ethnic divide in the presidential contest. Stand by for details.
Also this hour, a one-two punch. John McCain and President Bush offer tag-team criticism of Barack Obama and his foreign policy views. I'll get reaction from Obama supporter, the former presidential candidate, Senator Chris Dodd.
And New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ends the guessing game. He's not running for president. But what about vice president?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Tensions are rising, suspense is building five days before a potentially make-or-break round of primaries. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, John McCain and Mike Huckabee, they're continuing to zero in on Texas and Ohio. The best political team on television, that's out in force in today's key battlegrounds.
Suzanne Malveaux, Dana Bash, Jessica Yellin, they're in Texas. Carol Costello, John King, Candy Crowley, they're in Ohio.
But let's begin with our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's watching all of this unfold.
What's the latest, Candy, on the Democratic race? What's going on?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, on the Democratic race, what the candidates are trying to focus on is their main messages. What they both fear is any kind of brushfire which might ignite from supporters or elsewhere.
CROWLEY (voice over): Working river towns along the Ohio/West Virginia border, Hillary Clinton is all business with a plan to cut child poverty in half by 2020. She is trying to focus voters on the stakes, opting for small venues to talk big problems.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The issues that get you up in the morning or keep you up late at night worrying about, you know, how are you going to make ends meet? What is going to happen if you can't afford to send that son or daughter to college? You know, what about those mortgage payments?
CROWLEY: Just days for the Texas and Ohio primaries that could end or revitalize her campaign, Clinton does not need the kind of brushfire set off by a high-profile Latina supporter who told a Texas television station Obama has a problem with the Latino community because he's black.
ADELFA CALLEJO, HISPANIC ACTIVIST: When the blacks had the numbers, they never did anything to support us. They always talked -- used our numbers to fulfill their goals and their objectives. But they never really supported us, and there's a lot of hurt feelings about that.
CROWLEY: Clinton originally declined to condemn the remark, but her campaign said after seeing the comments in full, she denounces and rejects them. It is wording used at a recent debate when Clinton and Barack Obama sparred over words from his controversial supporter, Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan.
Putting out a brushfire of their own, Obamville doused a report that an Obama official told Canadian officials that Obama doesn't mean his anti-NAFTA talk. A conversation denied by the campaign and the Canadian government.
Playing to his signature large crowds, Obama has front-runner aura. His sights set on targets beyond the primaries, trying to tie McCain's fortunes to George W. Bush.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are not standing on the brink of recession because of forces out of our control. I think that's very important to understand. This was not an inevitable part of the business cycle. It was a failure of leadership in Washington.
CROWLEY: In a battle on another front, the Clinton campaign says it raised $35 million this month, a princely sum. The Obama campaign, with no details, says its number is higher.
CROWLEY: One clear fact going into this final weekend, Wolf, before the Texas and Ohio primaries, it is Clinton who is under the gun in the Obama camp. The way they add it up, that even if they sustain losses in Ohio and Texas, they think they'll still lead in the delegate count -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for that. Candy Crowley on the scene for us.
Republican John McCain, meanwhile, is drawing new lines in the sand for Democrats in Texas today. But the likely GOP nominee can't afford to forget that he hasn't clinched the nomination. At least not yet. Dana Bash is joining us now from Houston, watching this story for us.
Some are suggesting McCain is involved in a sort of Texas two- step. What's going on?
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He is, Wolf.
John McCain is really struggling to find his footing between the world of fighting fellow Republicans and the world of battling Democrats. But today John McCain got some help from a Texas Republican who has helped five Republican presidential candidates.
BASH (voice over): An endorsement from a veteran of Ronald Reagan's White House, John McCain's latest attempt to convince skeptical conservatives he's one of them.
JAMES BAKER, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: Like The Gipper, John McCain knows that sometimes it's better to take 80 percent of what you want, rather than go over the cliff with your flag flying.
BASH: James Baker labeled McCain a "principled pragmatist." But the candidate's political pragmatism was on display. McCain knows the debate with Democrats over Iraq will be his biggest challenge, and keeps looking for a head start.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A decision to unilaterally withdrawal from Iraq and set a date for withdrawal will lead to chaos.
BASH: Both at this Texas stop and earlier at the Baker Institute of Foreign Policy, McCain kept his long distance verbal volley with Barack Obama going.
MCCAIN: Yesterday Senator Obama said, well, we shouldn't have gone in the first place. And if we hadn't gone in the first place, we wouldn't be facing this problem. Well, that's history. That's the past. That's talking about what happened before. What we should be talking about is what we're going to do now.
BASH: For McCain, that means stay the course.
MCCAIN: Continue the strategy, which is succeeding in Iraq. And we are carrying out the goals of the surge. The Iraqi military are taking over more and more responsibilities.
BASH: The likely GOP nominee also jumped into the Democrats' slugfest over NAFTA. They're fighting over who is really against the agreement. McCain called himself a free trader, very much for it. Another convenient dividing line.
MCCAIN: I believe in free trade. And I think that that may be one of the many differences between myself and whoever the nominee of the Democratic Party is.
BASH: This Texas campaign day is yet another vivid illustration of John McCain in transition. A little bit nervous about Mike Huckabee doing well here next Tuesday in the primary in the Lone Star State, but mostly really trying to focus on the Democrats and test drive his campaign lines of attack against his Democratic rival for the White House -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Dana. Thank you.
President Bush confronted a top issue in the race to replace him. That would be the United States economy. In a wide-ranging news conference, Mr. Bush put the best face possible on the economic turndown. And he seemed surprised by some dire predictions of soaring gas prices.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think we're headed to a recession, but no question we're in a slowdown.
QUESTION: What's your advice to the average American who is hurting now, facing the prospect of $4 a gallon gasoline? A lot of people facing...
BUSH: Wait a minute. What did you say? You're predicting $4 a gallon gasoline.
QUESTION: A number of analysts are predicting $4 a gallon gasoline this spring...
BUSH: Oh yes?
QUESTION: ... when they reformulate.
BUSH: That's interesting. I hadn't heard that.
QUESTION: Yes, sir.
BUSH: I know it's not now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The president also said Congress should acknowledge progress is being made in Iraq and give troops the funds they need to succeed. He urged House leaders to give telecommunications companies legal immunity for helping the government eavesdrop on terror suspects after the 9/11 attacks. And he asked Congress to quickly pass legislation to help homeowners avoid foreclosures without bailing out lenders.
Coming up, our White House correspondent, Ed Henry, will have a full report on the president's other hot topic -- his not-so-veiled criticism of Barack Obama. That's coming up later this hour.
Coming up right now is Jack Cafferty with "The Cafferty File."
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: There's a lot of information that voters still don't have about Hillary Clinton, including the White House records from when she was first lady and her tax returns. When asked at this week's debate a couple of days ago about those White House records, Clinton said she would absolutely release the documents to show the public what she did and who she met with over the course of those eight years. She said she's "urged the process be as quick as possible."
Well, the Bush administration now says it's actually the Clintons who are holding up the release of these records. They say the former president, Bill Clinton's representative, has not made any move yet to release over 11,000 pages of records. The Clinton campaign says it may take two more weeks for that representative to decide what to release and then to request the actual release of the documents from the White House.
That's convenient. That would be after next Tuesday's primaries in both Texas and Ohio.
As for the tax returns, Hillary Clinton also said at the debate that she would release them once she becomes the nominee or "even earlier." But her campaign seems to be backing away from that statement now, suggesting Clinton won't release the financial information until tax time, in April.
When Clinton loaned her own campaign $5 million, Barack Obama suggested she should follow his lead, release her tax returns so the public could see where the money came from.
Here's the question: How important is it for Hillary Clinton to release her tax returns and White House records now?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment there on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you. See you in a few moments.
President Bush suggests Barack Obama is sending some chilling signals to the world. Up next, I'll get reaction from Obama-rival- turned-supporter, Senator Chris Dodd. He's standing by live here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Are questions about Obama's experience sticking?
Also ahead, the Iraq war making a comeback in this presidential campaign. So which candidate has the edge on this issue?
And Michael Bloomberg closes the door on a possible White House campaign, but is he ready to back someone else for the job?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: President Bush gave John McCain an assist today in questioning Barack Obama's foreign policy views. In his news conference, Mr. Bush rejected talking to the leaders of Iran and Cuba, an idea Obama has embraced.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The decisions of the U.S. president to have discussions with certain international figures can be extremely counterproductive. It can send chilling signals and messages to our allies. It can send confusion about our foreign policy. It discourages reformers inside their own country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Joining us now, Senator and former presidential candidate, and Obama supporter, Chris Dodd of Connecticut. We should note that yesterday we spoke to Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of state, a Hillary Clinton supporter.
Thanks very much, Senator, for coming in.
SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, what do you think of the criticism that's not only being leveled by the president, but by John McCain and Hillary Clinton, that these kinds of meetings with what a lot of people would regard as tyrants, whether Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong-il, or Raul Castro, Hugo Chavez, that you need preparation, a president cannot simply go in without preconditions and talk to them?
DODD: Well, Wolf, I listened the other night in the debate where Barack Obama used the very word you just used, "preparation." And that's the smart word to use. And I believe that's what he's talking about here. He's not going to walk into the office and get a in a plane and fly to Havana or fly to Tehran and have initial conversations. There are preparations involved.
The fundamental point here, and I find it somewhat ironic with the president talking this way, his failure was not talking to anybody. I mean, I recall a year or so ago, when I went to Syria, the call came out, we don't want anyone talking to Assad. Then you listen to someone like Jim Baker, the former secretary of state under this president's father, talk about how important it is that we engage here.
You cannot walk away. He talked about 15 different meetings he had with Assad before he could get something done. I think of Richard Nixon here. If this mentality you just heard expressed the president had prevailed, who could have been more of a tyrant in many ways than Mao Tse-tung?
BLITZER: Yes, but before that meeting between Richard Nixon and the Chinese leader took place, there was ping-pong diplomacy. There was a lot of advance work, a lot of meetings at much lower levels before they set the stage for that high-level presidential encounter.
DODD: And that's the word that Barack Obama used the other evening, "preparation." And so I think a lot more is being made of this than should be the case. I think the alternative is not talking to people. We've been through that.
When this president refused to pick up the phone and talk to the prime minister of Israel or the prime minister of Lebanon for more than 30 days during the war in southern Lebanon, that kind of diplomacy has got to be over with. We need a president who's willing to engage these issues, and "preparation" is the word that Barack Obama used. That's the operative word. And I think his approach makes a lot of sense.
BLITZER: What about Hillary Clinton? You had a tough choice...
DODD: Yes, I did.
BLITZER: ... between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. You're friends with both of them. You've known her and her husband obviously for a long time. Why not Hillary Clinton?
DODD: Well, it wasn't about why not Hillary. And I know people look at these things and say you're choosing one over the other. I really believe having spent more than a year on the trail, in countless forums and debates, I got to watch obviously Barack Obama over the years.
We serve on two committees together here, Wolf, on the Foreign Relations Committee and the Labor Committee. I got to see him up close and in a very personal way in that debate. And I believe that he's touched a responsive chord in the country that you and I haven't seen in a long time. And I don't think that's inconsequential.
I think for the first time in 25 years, instead of hearing just about Reagan Democrats, I'm hearing about Obama Republicans. Independents and Republicans who are as attracted to this candidacy of Barack Obama as many Democrats are. That's a unique opportunity not just for a political party, which may be important, but more importantly for the country.
We are desperate. I've said to Barack Obama, you're getting 18,000 people showing up at the Hartford Civic Center not because they just want to see you. They want you to hear them as well. And that's what a lot of this is about. Americans are desperate for this country to come together again.
I think Barack Obama offers us that opportunity. The last thing is a rejection of my friend Hillary Clinton. I admire and respect her immensely. I just think at this moment Barack Obama offers the opportunity to get elected, and then to lead our country in unique and different ways that Americans are looking for.
BLITZER: Your fellow Connecticut senator, Joe Lieberman, has picked John McCain, a man you know quite well. You've worked together with McCain for many years. Can Barack Obama go head-to-head with John McCain when it comes to national security issues?
DODD: Absolutely. I mean, I think that's a question -- national security involves many different things. Certainly there's great respect for John McCain. And you're right, I have worked with John over the years. And obviously all of us revere the contribution John McCain has made to our country. The time he spent in solitary in the Hanoi Hilton is embedded in our minds in very strong ways.
But this is the presidency of the United States. Security depends not only on having a knowledge of our military, but also the security of our economy, the position of our country as it relates to other nations around the world.
And I think Barack Obama brings a unique candidacy that encompasses all of that. Not just a knowledge of the military, but also a knowledge of these other issues that I think is going to make him a strong candidate. More importantly, a great president as well.
BLITZER: No matter what happens on Tuesday -- you've got Rhode Island, Vermont, Ohio and Texas -- given the way the Democrats divide up delegates and the superdelegates, it's -- no matter who wins, it's still going to be relatively close in terms of the delegate count.
Would it make sense from your perspective, from the party's perspective, to let this thing continue to April 22nd in Pennsylvania? Or should it just end after Tuesday, if, for example, Hillary Clinton were to lose either Ohio or Texas?
DODD: Well, I think the worst thing I could do at this moment would be telling people what they ought to do with their campaigns. I know how I felt about it when people were sort of advising me what to do at critical moments.
My hope would be that we come together. I'm worried, Wolf, about the divisiveness of this campaign. It's gotten ugly in the last week or so. And it needs to get back on track. Obviously, if this goes on as a fight into August, I don't need to tell you -- you know enough about political history -- that would not portend well for the fall campaign.
So my hope is this will come to closure sooner rather than later. If you end up with divided results or some other outcome on Tuesday, then this could go on. If it doesn't, then I think it's time for us really to rally around a candidacy, and I believe that candidacy to be Barack Obama's.
BLITZER: Senator Chris Dodd, thanks for coming in.
DODD: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: President Bush had much more to say in his news conference today. He took several swipes at Barack Obama and talked about whether a sagging economy might be bad news for the Republican candidate, John McCain. You're going to want to hear much more on that.
Plus, Iraq took a back seat during a good chunk of the primary season. We're going to tell you why the war is now for many people front and center once again, and who may benefit.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, you might say Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are hanging out a huge "help wanted" sign to white male voters. The candidates hoping to make history might not be able to do that without them. Brian Todd working this story.
Also, whoever becomes president may have to deal with this man in Israel. That would be Benjamin Netanyahu. He could become prime minister again. He's going to be joining us live to talk about that and a lot more. And I'll ask him his thoughts about what's going on in the presidential race.
And the secret is out. There's a surprising admission from the British military regarding Prince Harry.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Today the commander in chief sounded a bit like the political pundit in chief. Given the chance to weigh in on the presidential race, President Bush took the hook and even offered one candidate some advice. Sort of. Let's go to our White House correspondent, Ed Henry. He's watching this story for us.
Ed, we heard some intriguing words from the president today.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
The president has repeatedly said that he doesn't want to weigh in to 2008. But he still keeps dipping at least a toe in the water, especially when he has a chance to back up something John McCain has said and he has a chance to take a little bit of a swipe at Barack Obama.
HENRY (voice over): President Bush again insisted he wants to stay out of the race to replace him.
BUSH: I'm not talking about politics.
HENRY: Yet he could not resist a poke at Senator Barack Obama.
BUSH: I believe Senator Obama better stay focused on his campaign with Senator Clinton, neither of whom has secured their party's nomination yet.
HENRY: Asked about Obama saying if al Qaeda established a base in Iraq he would consider sending U.S. troops back to Baghdad, the president offered a bit of a lecture. BUSH: It's an interesting comment. If al Qaeda is securing an al Qaeda base? Yes. Well, that's exactly what they've been trying to do for the past four years.
HENRY: That line mirrors the attack launched earlier this week by Republican front-runner John McCain.
MCCAIN: I have news for Senator Obama. Al Qaeda is in Iraq. And that's why we're fighting in Iraq.
OBAMA: I have some news for John McCain. And that is that there was no such thing as al Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
HENRY: And, like McCain, the president rejected Obama's claim it would be OK to meet the leaders of Iran and Cuba.
BUSH: Sitting down at the table, having your picture taken with a tyrant such as Raul Castro, for example, lends the status of the office and the status of our country to him.
HENRY: But the president ducked a question about whether a sagging economy will sink McCain, just as it doomed Mr. Bush's father in 1992.
BUSH: I don't think we're heading to recession, but no question we're in a slowdown. And that's why we acted, and acted strongly.
HENRY: And, if he ran again, could the president win a hard-hit state like Ohio?
BUSH: Landslide, yes?
HENRY: Now, Obama fired back today that he believes the president and Senator McCain are calling for the status quo with what Senator Obama called an endless war in Iraq and a failed policy of not talking to leaders that the U.S. does not agree with -- Wolf.
BLITZER: With the economic indicators out there pretty bad right now, there's some talk of a second economic stimulus package. What is the president saying?
HENRY: The president shot that down today. He said he thinks that the first stimulus plan of about $150 billion of checks just about to go out, starting to go out in a few weeks, he said that first plan needs a chance to work before there's a second bite of the apple. He's also talking down any chance of a so-called housing bail out. A lot of administration officials say that would just reward bad behavior among some bankers and some speculators -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And he said those checks will start going out in May. All right, a lot of our viewers will be anxious to get those checks.
HENRY: That's right.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Ed Henry, at the White House.
President Bush also talked about Iraq, because it's a top concern to many Americans. But it hasn't always been at the top of this presidential contest.
Joining us now is our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's filed this report.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): The Iraq issue is back. Obama said in Tuesday's debate:
OBAMA: And if al Qaeda is forming a base in Iraq, then we will have to act in a way that secures the American homeland and our interests abroad.
SCHNEIDER: McCain sprang.
MCCAIN: Al Qaeda already has a base in Iraq. It's called al Qaeda in Iraq.
SCHNEIDER: Senator Obama?
OBAMA: There was no such thing as al Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SCHNEIDER: Senator McCain?
MCCAIN: That's history. That's the past. That's talking about what happened before. What we should be talking about is what we're going to do now.
SCHNEIDER: The debate that's beginning to emerge is over which is the greater threat to U.S. security, for the U.S. to stay in Iraq...
OBAMA: ... that I intend to bring to an end, so that we can actually start going after al Qaeda in Afghanistan and in the hills of Pakistan, like we should have been doing in the first place.
SCHNEIDER: ... or for the U.S. to get out of Iraq. MCCAIN: If we left Iraq, there's no doubt that al Qaeda would then gain control in Iraq and pose a threat to the United States of America.
SCHNEIDER: In two recent polls, Americans give McCain the edge over Obama in Iraq, not because Americans support the war, but because McCain is seen as having stronger national security credentials.
But Democrats have a new angle. They're linking the war with the economy.
OBAMA: We are bogged down in a war that John McCain now suggests might go on for another 100 years, spending $12 billion a month that could be invested in the kinds of programs that both Senator Clinton and I are talking about.
BLITZER: That report from Bill Schneider, our senior political analyst.
Politics aside, here's one chief reason Iraq matters so much. There are tens of thousands of American men and women serving there in Iraq alone. Right now, there are about 158,000 troops. Because of the troop increase plan, that number has been decreasing somewhat, supposed to go down by this summer to 140,000 or so, while, in Afghanistan, 28,000 U.S. troops are fighting the Taliban, trying to keep the peace, working on behalf of the U.S. military and NATO.
A big decision by Michael Bloomberg. He says he's not running for president, but the New York mayor still might have an impact on the race for the White House. You're going to find out what is going up. That's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Plus, the battle for superdelegates. Hillary Clinton was far ahead, but now Barack Obama is closing in. What does she have to do to keep her lead among those superdelegates? That's coming up in our "Strategy Session."
And, for months, it was one of the world's best-kept secrets, but now it's out: Prince Harry at war, where is he fighting, what he says about it.
Lots of news happening today -- in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: This story just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.
The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has asked for a grand jury investigation into the Bush administration matter of who is responsible for some information. Bush administration insiders, she wants subpoenaed before that grand jury. At issue, should the White House Chief of Staff, Josh Bolten, and the former White House Counsel, Harriet Miers, be prosecuted for contempt of Congress? Pelosi is demanding misdemeanor charges against both Miers and Bolten for failing to cooperate with the investigation into the 2006 mass firing of federal prosecutors. When the House issued contempt citations last week, the White House called it unprecedented and outrageous -- this story only just beginning right now. We will see what happens. We will get the reaction from the White House -- lots more coming up on this development.
Meanwhile, the waiting game is over. The New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, says he's decided once and for all not to run as an independent presidential candidate this year. Let's get details from our Mary Snow. She's watching the story in New York.
So, what's behind Bloomberg's decision, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Michael Bloomberg didn't say this, but, reality, for one, is behind the decision. Polls in key states showed he wasn't gaining traction.
But Bloomberg calls this election phenomenally important, and isn't planning on staying quiet.
SNOW (voice-over): No, really. This time, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg means it.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I have said repeatedly over the last year I am not and will not be a candidate.
SNOW: Bloomberg officially ended the guessing game on his non- candidacy in an op-ed in "The New York Times." But he says he will step from the sidelines to endorse a candidacy who shows independent leadership.
After raising his national profile by taking on issues such as global warming and gun control, Bloomberg says candidates need to start leveling with the public.
BLOOMBERG: And it's time that people walked away from saying just, I'm in favor of motherhood and apple pie, and went out and actually said, this is what I'm going to do.
SNOW: On health care, for instance, he says the candidates fall short.
BLOOMBERG: I have not heard anybody tell me how they would ever get a plan through Congress, or what do you do if people don't want it and don't want to pay.
SNOW: Bloomberg says he will use the bully pulpit of New York to steer national debate. He says he knows all the candidates, but last met with Senator Barack Obama in December. So, would he consider, let's say, the number-two slot if Obama asked him?
BLOOMBERG: Nobody is going to ask me to run as vice president. Yes, sir?
SNOW: Some political strategists say a Bloomberg endorsement would be big for any candidate.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There are two things that are moving about Mike Bloomberg. First of all, he is this extraordinarily successful leader, both as a businessperson and as mayor of New York. And, secondly, he has a huge treasure test.
SNOW: The billionaire Bloomberg would be limited in the amount of money he could donate to a campaign, but could spend on ideas he wants to advance.
"New York" magazine writer Chris Smith calls it a graceful exist for Bloomberg.
CHRIS SMITH, "NEW YORK": Bloomberg wanted to run. But he also wanted to win. And it became painfully apparent, in both the major- party nominees and in the polling numbers that Bloomberg was doing, that there was no plausible way for him to win.
SNOW: Now, on the campaign trail today, when asked by reporters, Senator Obama said he would definitely be reaching out to Bloomberg. Senator Clinton said she has the highest regard for Bloomberg, noting she's worked with him on a number of issues in New York -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Mary, thank you very much.
Bloomberg may be downplaying the possibility of being tapped as a running mate, but, if he were a vice presidential candidate, could he donate some of his fortune to the person at the top of the ticket? And he's worth billions and billions of dollars.
One election law attorney tells us, the Federal Election Commission has never been asked to officially rule on that question, but he says precedent would indicate that, if Bloomberg were a vice presidential candidate, he could donate an unlimited amount of personal cash to the ticket if the campaign were not accepting public funding -- an intriguing, intriguing question.
In our "Strategy Session" that is coming up: Senator McCain's focus is on unifying his party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: I believe that I can do it. And I believe that we will be united, because I think there will be very stark differences between my philosophy and that of either Senator Obama or Senator Clinton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So, what more does he need to do to build a bridge to the conservative wing of the Republican Party? We're going to ask Bay Buchanan.
And the experience factor, does Obama have it? Does he need it? We will cover that with Dee Dee Myers, who worked with a newly minted and untested President Clinton back in 1993.
All that and a lot more coming up -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: He says change. She says experience. But which message from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is piercing through with voters?
Let's get to our "Strategy Session."
Joining us right now, the former White House press secretary in the Clinton administration Dee Dee Myers. She's also the author of a brand-new book entitled "Why Women Should Rule the World." Also joining us, Republican strategist Bay Buchanan.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
DEE DEE MYERS, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thanks for having us.
BLITZER: So, I assume, when you wrote the book, you're endorsing Hillary Clinton, "Why Women Should Rule the World"?
MYERS: No, actually. The book had almost nothing to do with Hillary Clinton. It just happens to come out now, although, as a Democrat, I would be happy if Hillary Clinton were president. I would be happy if Barack Obama were president.
But I think what I mean by "Why Women Should Rule the World" is that there ought to be more women in all levels of public life, because women bring sometimes different life experience, different strengths, different qualities. And when you bring all those to the table, I think we get a better look at our problems and better solutions.
BLITZER: Does she have a point?
BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: I think she's absolutely correct. In conservative politics, we don't have anywhere near enough women who are around that table. And I find, when we do...
MYERS: And it's not anti-men, because we love men.
BUCHANAN: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. But they do bring...
MYERS: We have sons. We have dads. We have brothers.
BUCHANAN: I only have sons.
MYERS: Yes, exactly.
BUCHANAN: But there's no question. I think you make an excellent point, Dee Dee, because, when I'm around a table, you can see there's a different perspective.
BUCHANAN: It's something that should be heard as we try to plan a message for the...
BLITZER: On this issue of experience vs. change, let's talk about this fight that is going on between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
BLITZER: "TIME" magazine has a cover story that is just coming out today. You can turn around and take a look over there. You see. How much does experience matter? What is more important, the notion of change, a new face like Barack Obama, or the experience? Hillary Clinton, she's been around, obviously, in the public domain for a long time.
MYERS: Right. Well, so far, Democratic primary voters have decided that they're more interested in change. They think experience is important, but they feel that things have gone so far off the track, that we need to just really shake up the playing board and move things forward.
So, you know, again, a disproportionate number of Democrats are saying that change is the most important thing. Experience is important. And I think the two candidates bring different experience, but there's all kinds of different experience that is valid and effective to being president.
And if you look at the history of the country, we have had presidents from all different walks of life, some with one kind of experience, some with another, not a very good predictor of success.
BLITZER: What do you think?
BUCHANAN: You know, I think experience is important. It's very good to have. It's an asset, although, if you have too much of it, it also can turn around and bite you, because you have a long record.
BLITZER: Because, in '92, when Dee Dee was helping Bill Clinton, he was a governor, a former governor of Arkansas, with virtually no foreign policy experience.
BUCHANAN: Right. Exactly.
BLITZER: And the incumbent president was a vice president for eight years...
BLITZER: ... president for four years...
BLITZER: ... former head of the CIA...
BLITZER: ... U.N. ambassador.
BLITZER: He had a ton of experience. But the American people in '92 said, not that important.
MYERS: And they wanted change.
BUCHANAN: Exactly. But it's not just change that Obama is giving them. And I think that is key.
MYERS: You're right.
BUCHANAN: He has tapped into something that is remarkable, in the sense that he touches hearts, motivates people, energizes them to get out and have a reason to belong to this cause that he's basically leading. And that is something that's very, very difficult to stop.
And just saying, well, he doesn't have experience isn't going to do it. Where the experience might come up, a lack of experience, and bite him, Wolf, I think, is if he starts to make some mistakes. And then people would have this concern that maybe he doesn't have the necessary experience.
BLITZER: But, back on Super Tuesday, which seems like years and years and years ago...
BLITZER: ... at that time, Hillary Clinton had -- among the superdelegates, not the pledged delegates, had 241 to Obama's 169. There was a difference of 72. You can see it there. Right now, it's changed, 236 for Hillary Clinton, 185 for Barack Obama. The difference is only 51. What does it say when she's -- when he's narrowing the gap among the superdelegates, because he's pretty much ahead as far as the pledged delegates are concerned?
MYERS: Right. He -- in the past couple of weeks, he's picked up almost three dozen new superdelegate commitments. And Hillary Clinton has actually lost a couple. And I think it says that the party establishment -- I think they're mostly standing on the sidelines.
But those who are taking a position at this point are -- are joining the campaign and the movement of the front-runner. I think what -- I think the superdelegates would prefer to stand back, let the voters decide, and hope this thing gets resolved before it ever has to go to them.
BLITZER: Is he unstoppable on the Democratic side, Bay, right now?
BUCHANAN: I believe he is. I just think there's so much momentum. He has got this positive approach. He looks like a winner now. He walks and talks with great confidence.
And the people -- I mean, he gets 17,000 people to go to a rally. This is just an incredible phenomenon, to be quite honest.
BLITZER: Do you agree, Dee Dee?
BUCHANAN: I don't how he -- she stops him.
MYERS: Yes. I mean, I think it's do or die for her on Tuesday. She has to win both primaries.
BLITZER: What if she only wins one of them?
MYERS: I think it's over.
BUCHANAN: It's over.
MYERS: But -- but we will see what happens. I think -- and her -- President Clinton has said she has to win both. Harold Ickes has said she has to win both. So, her campaign is on the record as saying...
BLITZER: Because if she wins one -- let's say she wins Ohio...
BLITZER: ... but loses Texas narrowly...
BLITZER: ... under the Democratic rules, they divide up those delegates pretty much down the middle still.
MYERS: She needs to show that she is gaining ground in delegates, that, somehow, she can overtake his lead. Otherwise, there's no rationale for her staying in.
But I think the Republicans have a lot to be worried about in Barack Obama, in that he's -- he has motivated people. And Democrats have come out in such big numbers across these many primaries. And I think that's a tribute to both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
BLITZER: Bay, let's talk about John McCain, the fallout from that flap the other day in Cincinnati, when that conservative radio talk show host, William Cunningham, introduced him, said some ugly things about Barack Obama in the process, and then McCain wasted no time in blasting the radio talk show host.
There's been political fallout. What's going to be, if any, the long-term fallout?
BUCHANAN: I think what is significant is not his battle with Cunningham, per se, but the fact that you have here a real hardened conservative, a guy that has a real following out there, 24 years in radio. And he's very respected, even though he's a bit of -- someone that speaks, you know, very, very strongly sometimes. And there was no necessity for John McCain to say anything.
And, if he had to say something, if he felt the need, he could say, listen, I'm delighted to have his support. The guy was real bold, went out there and -- he's a conservative who was going out there to support me. And he said some things I don't agree with, but that's -- those are his words. They're not my words. But I'm delighted to have him. He did not have to offend the guy.
BLITZER: He repudiated him in strong terms.
BUCHANAN: He absolutely repudiated him. And that sends a message to conservatives that John McCain, if you support him, is not going to fight for you. Don't make any mistakes, because John McCain is going to cut you off at the legs. And it's --
MYERS: That's not just a mistake.
BUCHANAN: It was.
MYERS: I mean, that -- that was really appealing to the worst instincts in people. And I think McCain did absolutely the right thing to repudiated him and say, my campaign is not going to be about this, because you see...
BUCHANAN: What did he say?
MYERS: Well, he used...
BUCHANAN: He used a man's middle name. Oh, my gosh.
MYERS: Why did he use his middle name?
BUCHANAN: Why can't he his middle name?
MYERS: Why did he?
BUCHANAN: He used it because it is his middle name.
BUCHANAN: And we are allowed to use the man's middle name.
MYERS: Well, why did he use it, Bay?
BUCHANAN: It was given to him by his mother, for heaven's sakes.
MYERS: Why? Why?
BUCHANAN: Because -- it's an interesting point.
BUCHANAN: You know what is interesting, is the media on this. I find enormous hypocrisy in the fact that it's OK for a guy like Huckabee to go out and stir up all kinds of anger and -- against Mormons, and then for the media to step in and say, do you think your religion is going to be a key player?
BUCHANAN: Do you think this is an important -- talk to him about his religion, ask Mitt Romney to defend his religion, and then do polls, all these polls, that say do you think...
BLITZER: Your point, Dee Dee, is, by saying Hussein, which is his middle name, he was trying to what?
MYERS: Right. Trying to suggest somehow that Barack Obama is other than -- he's -- he's not an American. He might be a Muslim.
MYERS: All those things that -- that's exactly what he's trying to suggest.
BUCHANAN: That he has Muslim in his blood. Is that a legitimate position, as his father was a Muslim? I think it's not. I think the fact that...
MYERS: It's not.
BUCHANAN: ... Mitt Romney is Mormon is not.
MYERS: And John McCain says it's not. And the media should have...
MYERS: So, we're not allowed to use his middle name? I think it's a legitimate concern of a lot of Americans. And we certainly...
MYERS: What is a legitimate concern?
BUCHANAN: Does he want -- does Barack Obama want to say, I don't -- I want to distance himself from my middle name; I don't want to ever use it again; I don't want anybody to say it?
MYERS: Well, what's the point of bringing up the middle name? I still don't under...
BUCHANAN: Why can we not?
MYERS: Why -- why...
BUCHANAN: It's part of who he is.
MYERS: What is part of who he is?
BUCHANAN: His name.
MYERS: And -- but what does it suggest about who he is?
BUCHANAN: Well, it's says -- that's his name.
MYERS: He was born in the United States of America. He is an American citizen.
BUCHANAN: Yes. Exactly. No one suggests otherwise.
MYERS: No, they do suggest otherwise.
BLITZER: The point is, everybody calls him Barack Obama.
BLITZER: They don't go out of their way to call him Barack Hussein Obama.
MYERS: Somebody said today he has a European view of foreign policy.
BLITZER: Bay, hold on a second. We have got to go. But, quickly, what's your middle name?
BUCHANAN: My middle name, Marie (ph). But you know what? People...
BLITZER: But we don't call you Bay Marie Buchanan.
BUCHANAN: You can. You can. But you know...
BLITZER: Dee Dee, your middle name is Dee. There's a Dee Dee.
MYERS: People call me by Dee Dee all the time.
BUCHANAN: Pete du Pont was ran as Pete du Pont. And you know what we called him? Pierre, because we were convinced that people wouldn't vote for Pierre. And he laughed about it. And others laughed about it. And he kept going back to Pete.
It's part of a campaign, for heaven's sakes. And Barack Obama, he is proud of that middle name. And he should be able to be willing to talk about it, if others want to raise it.
BLITZER: All right, guys.
BLITZER: We have got to leave it right there.
BUCHANAN: It's time for the media to start talking about it.
BLITZER: We have got to leave it right there. But it's good that Dee Dee Myers and John McCain agree.
BLITZER: On that point.
BLITZER: And you know who else agrees with John McCain on that? Donna Brazile. She was here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
MYERS: I'm sure she does.
BLITZER: She said exactly what you said.
BUCHANAN: Of course.
BLITZER: All right, guys.
BUCHANAN: The media does and the Democrats and the liberals all agree.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
BUCHANAN: It doesn't leave much room for Republicans.
MYERS: And John McCain.
BLITZER: Bay Buchanan, Dee Dee Myers.
MYERS: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Dee Dee has got a new book, "Why Women Should Rule the World." Go ahead and read it, or buy it, even more important.
Barack Obama faced questions after Louis Farrakhan praised him. Now the controversial leader is speaking out. You're going to want to hear just what Louis Farrakhan had to say.
Also, something a Hillary Clinton supporter said is raising eyebrows. It concerns Barack Obama being African-American. You're going to want to hear about this story as well.
And one of the best-kept secrets is now out about Prince Harry. It concerns his military service, where he is serving right now.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: On our political ticker today, the Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan, now is responding to Barack Obama's rejection of his campaign support.
In Tuesday's debate, Hillary Clinton urged Obama to flat-out reject Farrakhan, as well as his anti-Semitic rhetoric. Obama did.
Now Louis Farrakhan says -- and I'm quoting now -- "Those who have been supporting Barack Obama should not allow -- should not allow -- what was said during the February 26th presidential debate to lessen their support for his campaign. This is simply mischief-making intended -- intended to hurt Mr. Obama politically."
Remember, for the latest political news any time, you can check out CNNPolitics.com. That's also where I write my daily blog post. I just posted one a little while ago. Go ahead and read it, if you would like and comment as well.
Let's go to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: How important is it for Hillary Clinton to release her tax returns and her White House records now?
Woodrow writes: "As long as Senator Clinton continues to resist transparency, she reinforces the negative image of politics as usual. It breeds distrust and suspicion over her whole campaign. I don't believe this will help her assertion that she is a change agent. What is she hiding?"
Stan in Pittsburgh writes: "Why should she? Because Obama is hoping for something the media can find to pick and twist to make a story about nothing? The media should be looking into something that matters, like Farrakhan and Wright. I am surprised at you, Jack. Did you recently attend an Obama rally or something? You are starting to sound like Chris Matthews with the tingle up his leg."
Win in Phoenix writes: "It appears the Clintons are not being completely truthful. Hillary complains that the media has been biased toward her. I disagree. If Barack was stalling in releasing his tax returns, I am almost certain the media would not be as patient with him as they have been with Hillary. Proof is in the pudding. How long can she continue to attempt to fool the American people?"
Annie in Atlanta writes: "Another example of how the media bring up negatives on Hillary and leave Obama alone. What about Obama and his home and land deal and the crook behind it? Where are those questions? What's good for one is good for the other."
Helen writes: "Leave her alone. It is not important to see her income tax. She has been vetted more than any other candidate. Why don't you harass others the way you do Hillary? We will all get to see her income tax return at the appropriate time. Did you file yours?"
And Nathalie writes: "Of course she should release them. One of the huge impediments to her election, in my opinion, is that she seems intimately entangled with many of the special interest groups. Until I am convinced she will not be a George W. Bush version 2.0 with regards to special interests, she will not get my vote or my money" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.
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