Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Five Years of Iraq War; Reaction Mixed to Obama Speech on Race
Aired March 19, 2008 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Senator Barack Obama told us he wanted to start a conversation about race in America. And, boy, has he ever. Around watercoolers, on talk radio, across the blogosphere, everyone's got an opinion: He went too far. He didn't go far enough. It gives Republicans ammunition for November.
There is a lot of fallout to consider, and we have got it covered.
Also, today marks the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. And today both Democrats were out promoting their plan for how to end it.
And there's also a new plan to revolve the crisis -- or resolve, rather, the crisis over superdelegates. Will this one fly? Well, our correspondents and members of the best political team in television are all over today's developments. We have put together some great political panels tonight, too.
But we start with the fallout from yesterday's big speech on race in the race. Barack Obama was on the trail today in North Carolina. And our Anderson Cooper was with him.
He's joining us tonight, and so does our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.
Anderson, let's start with you. And I know that Obama told you all the controversy over his pastor has shaken him up a bit.
Tell us a little bit more about what he had to say.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Well, I think the campaign is kind of waiting to see what kind of ripple effects this is going to have out on the campaign trail.
I talked to Senator Obama extensively about it today. He said, frankly, he wasn't sure how the speech was going to play among different demographic groups. He said it's not the kind of thing you can poll for.
But I did talk to him about the some of the specifics in the speech, and some of the questions that remain out there in a lot of people's minds. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: You said in the speech that, for some, nagging questions remain. I want to ask you a couple nagging questions that no doubt remain.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes.
COOPER: In the past, you said you didn't think that your church was particularly controversial. Yesterday, in the speech, you said that -- you admitted that you did hear in the church remarks that could be considered controversial.
Do you know specifically? Do you remember what you heard?
But let me give you examples. It didn't necessarily relate to some of the statements that have caused such controversy over the last few days. Reverend Wright, on occasion, for example, would talk about infidelity or issues having to do with family life in pretty blunt terms from the pulpit. And people would blush and blanch.
So, it wasn't just related to his political views. He had a blunt style. And so there are -- no doubt that there were times where he might have said something that I didn't agree with politically. As I said before, I had never heard him say things that were as incendiary as the clips that have been shown.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Barack Obama has said that he wants to have a debate, a discussion in this country about race, that it is time for that, for people to talk about it.
But it's not something that they want to eclipse the campaign. That's not the only discussion they hope to be having. And, today, as you saw, they were talking about Iraq. Clearly, Barack Obama and the campaign would like to try to move on from this as quickly as possible. Let's see if they're able to do it.
BROWN: Well, what's the feeling, though, internally, having spent the day sort of behind the scenes with him? Do they feel that they were able to achieve that?
COOPER: I talked to some of the aides. And they said, look, he did what we think he needed to do. Did he convince everybody? No. Are there some people who were not going to vote for him who will vote for him now because of what he said? Probably not.
He said he probably didn't think he changed any minds one way or another and that the people who still were undecided probably are still undecided and will be looking in the next couple of weeks up until Pennsylvania to see on specific issues.
He doesn't think this is an issue which people are going to be voting on one way or another. He remains very confident that he can get his message out on a whole range of issues.
BROWN: All right, Anderson, let me bring in Candy Crowley now, who is -- Obama of course is in North Carolina, Candy there as well. And, Candy, it's another crucial state coming shortly after Pennsylvania. How did the speech play there?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting.
In his first event, in Fayetteville, that was more of a speech about Iraq. So there wasn't any reaction there. There was a moment here in Charlotte, though. He had a town hall meeting here, basically, a speech, then a town hall meeting. A woman got up to ask about black-on-black crime.
And he said, well, I gave a speech yesterday.
And, before he could go on, there was a standing ovation that went on for some time. Look, this is a stocked pond here. We go to places where these are natural Obama supporters. I talked to a few people after the event here. And they said, "I had tears in my eyes. I cried through this."
This is a school with a largely African-American population here, but I didn't hear one negative word. It was all about how inspiring they thought it was, about how amazing they thought it was, and how historical they thought it was.
They really felt that, for this generation, this was the speech. Again, we're talking about Barack Obama supporters here. But that's how they viewed it.
BROWN: And, Candy, the other big story of the day today is the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq. Obama talked about it today. And the question of the -- quote -- sort of "right experience" to be commander in chief is still very much front and center, isn't it?
CROWLEY: It absolutely is.
I was thinking back to a year ago this past January. Before we talked about rock stars and marquee names, what brought the excitement to the Democratic race was the anti-war movement. It is still a very powerful issue in the Democratic race. Obama's answer has always been the same when asked about his commander in chief credentials, and he has done this from the get-go when he announced his presidential candidacy.
And that is, experience is not about years in Washington. It's about judgment. Experience is fine, but, if you have got the wrong judgment, where does it get you? And he says his judgment -- and he was the only one among McCain and Clinton and Obama. He was the one that was against the war from the start. He has always seen that as his ace in the hole when we talk about commander in chief credentials.
BROWN: All right, Candy Crowley for us tonight from North Carolina, along with Anderson Cooper, who is traveling with the Obama campaign as well, thanks, guys.
Later tonight, we should mention Anderson Cooper puts an exclusive spotlight on the Obama campaign -- his full interview and a behind the scenes look at the campaign in a special edition of "ANDERSON COOPER 360" at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time.
During his speech on race in America, Senator Obama landed hard on the conservative media.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Well, talk radio is talking back to Senator Obama loudly. Wait until you hear it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": In my opinion, Senator Obama, irrespective of his experience in we refer to as the black community, really needs to take responsibility for his actions or his failures to take action.
NEAL BOORTZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I thought about his grandmother, though, now, this was a failing in the speech where Barack Obama tries to build a moral equivalency between his white grandmother and his black pastor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody could see the positive in Obama's speech yesterday. Obama broke his speech down for everybody.
AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I think so, too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There wasn't really nothing to explain.
SHARPTON: That's exactly it.
SHARPTON: And they are castigating him. All over those airwaves, you would think he didn't say anything at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: The phone lines are lighting up as talk radio responds to Barack Obama's race speech.
and there is a huge variety of opinion out there.
My next guests have spent today listening to it. Tony Beam is the host of "Christian Worldview Today." And he's joining us from Greenville, South Carolina. CNN contributor Roland Martin does a radio show out of Chicago.
Tony, let me start with you. I think we in the media have a tendency to focus on the horse race aspect of all of this, what he needed to do politically. But what I want to try to get at right now is how this resonated with your listeners. What about the speech was lighting up your phone lines?
TONY BEAM, DIRECTOR, CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW CENTER: Well, I think that one of the things that lit up the phone lines more than anything else was a lack of condemnation outright for the pastor's comments.
Now, while he did try to distance himself and he did say that his pastor had a distorted view of America, he also tried to weigh that with the work of the church, in other words, saying the church does this good work, it does that good work, and that, if you have those good works, if you have got enough good works in one hand, that somehow gives you the ability to say hateful things in the pulpit on the other hand about things that are going on in America.
So, I think that they were offended at this attempt to somehow balance the scales argument that Barack Obama was giving.
BROWN: Roland, were you hearing any of that?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, because the people who listen to my radio show actually listened to the speech. They actually read the speech and have an understanding of what he was talking about.
What they were saying is, he said, look, here is the reality.
He did condemn it. You see, what is interesting is, people want to keep talking about, well, I want more, more, and more, as opposed to saying he did condemn it. Well, he also talked about, which my listeners kept focusing on as well, that he also recognized what the church has done, because, see, people who are critics of him want him to do two things, Campbell.
They want him to denounce the pastor, disown the pastor, and denounce the church. And, so, he had to lay the framework. The people out there who have misunderstood, go to UCC.org. The United Church of Christ, they have talked about what the church has done as well.
And so my listeners clearly understood what he was saying. They appreciated the speech. But they also said now is the time for us to challenge ourselves to go to the next level with the conversation on race and get to work, vs. keep being stuck on what Reverend Wright said.
BROWN: Well, Tony, I want to try to understand why people are hearing this differently. And one point, if you have been a pastor yourself, and maybe you have even said things before some of the people in your congregation that they may disagree with. So, how much responsibility does Obama really bear for what his pastor is saying from the pulpit?
BEAM: Well, I do agree that it's not fair to place all the responsibility on Barack Obama for what his pastor said.
It's not that we put responsibility on what -- to Obama what the pastor said. But what was Barack Obama's reaction to what the pastor said at the time that he was saying it? At one point, he said, I really wasn't there when some of these things were said. Then he said, well, I was there when I heard these controversial things.
MARTIN: No, no, no, no, that's factually incorrect.
BEAM: No. If I walked into a church that was spouting that kind of hate and rhetoric, it would take me about five minutes to turn on my heels and leave.
I certainly wouldn't make the pastor of that church my mentor, and I wouldn't put as much stock in the pastor of that church as Barack Obama seems to have done. That is a question of judgment, on my view.
BROWN: Roland, go ahead. Let me let you respond.
Campbell, as a journalist, let's correct what he exactly said. He said the comments that have been played on the various snippets, he said, I wasn't present when those were said. What he did say in the speech, there were some comments made that others may deem to be controversial. So, that's an important fact to actually make.
But this whole again nation -- I think when you look at and you examine someone, I have heard comments over my years as a Christian that have come out of the mouths of white pastors, Hispanic pastors. And, again, I may have disagreed with it. But the question is, do I look at the person in totality and say, what else have they said, what are the works they are doing, and can I feel comfortable staying in this particular church?
Last week, Campbell, we were sitting here saying, why would Eliot Spitzer's wife stand right next to him? We ask all these questions all the time. People are still saying, why did Hillary Clinton stay with Bill Clinton?
People have a variety of reasons why. I think to examine those reasons, maybe go to the church. If we find out what they have done, that might answer the question, as opposed to keep just throwing out there why you don't get it.
BROWN: OK. Stay here, guys. You're going to be with us for the next round.
We have got to take a quick break. And I want to ask this question. Does Barack Obama's speech give the GOP ammunition against him? Are we getting a preview of the Republican's playbook for the general election were he to get the nomination? We're going to take that on next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in the church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Opponents of Barack Obama lashed out at the comments of his former pastor, Reverend Wright. And they attacked Obama for refusing to disown him.
Well, Obama spoke out, but this fight is far from over.
And let's go to our panel now again. Tony Beam, host of "Christian Worldview Today," is with us once again, along with CNN contributor Roland Martin. And joining us now from Florida, we have got Republican strategist Rick Wilson.
And, Rick, let me start with you.
Do you think the speech and more particularly the videos of Reverend Wright, do they provide material that the Republicans will use to attack Obama if he is the nominee?
RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Reverend Wright is a political gold mine.
And the fact that Barack Obama yesterday tried to very much trim the edges around this whole affair just leaves him more vulnerable to an attack based on this guy. He is not a guy that you want to have around you. Even Barack's mild denunciation of the guy is nowhere near sufficient to clear him from this, from the radiation of this guy.
BROWN: So -- so, Rick, when you say gold mine, are we going to see campaign attack ads, essentially, if in fact Obama becomes the nominee in a general election, where it is Reverend Wright all over the place?
WILSON: Look, I think you are going to see a lot of things out of the Chicago background, Rezko, Reverend Wright, a lot of politics there that seem acceptable.
Reverend Wright's church in Chicago seems like a perfectly natural thing to be involved in if you're a state senator, like Barack Obama. But it's a little different political culture than the rest of the country. And I think you are going to see Reverend Wright and other elements of the Chicago story starring in a lot of ads this fall.
BROWN: Roland, how does he answer that? I mean...
MARTIN: Well, first -- well, look, the way he answers that is, the question is, is here, does Reverend Wright conduct any policy whatsoever when he it comes to the United States? No. I think he will also answer the question by saying John McCain supported the war. He will probably answer the question by saying that also John McCain also favors the Bush tax cuts.
WILSON: Yes, but no supporter of John McCain has ever said, the KKK USA.
MARTIN: Rick, Rick, one second.
And will also happen is, Democratic interest groups, they're also going to say, especially targeting Catholics, that McCain has a pastor in John Hagee who has vehemently Catholics, calling it...
WILSON: McCain's pastor is not John Hagee.
BROWN: Roland, Roland, hold on.
BROWN: Let's let Rick make his point and then we will go back to you.
Go ahead, Rick.
WILSON: Roland, this guy -- John Hagee's relationship with John McCain is tangential compared to this guy who has a 20-year friendship and relationship with Barack Obama, 20 years. He's his mentor. His children were baptized there. He exposed his kids to the radiation of this guy's bizarre, sick, twisted philosophy for 20 years.
MARTIN: Hey, Rick, I have got a question for you. So, are you saying that Catholics will not be offended that a pastor who has endorsed Senator John McCain...
WILSON: I'm saying that Americans will be offended by the fact that Wright calls this the KKK USA.
MARTIN: Rick, it's obvious that you don't want me to get the statement out.
Catholics will be offended that John McCain has been endorsed by a pastor who called the Catholic Church a great white whore. You will have Muslims in America...
WILSON: I think Jews will be offended by the fact that Reverend Wright believes that Israel should be basically left to its own devices and left to the Arabs.
MARTIN: No, that's not what he said, Rick.
MARTIN: Rick, don't spin it. And don't lie. Don't lie, Rick. Don't lie.
BROWN: All right, guys, let me bring Tony into this.
WILSON: Whoa. Come on, buddy.
MARTIN: Rick, you want to start the lies right now. But go right ahead.
BROWN: OK. Hold on, Roland.
Tony, we have heard up until now that Hillary Clinton was the candidate that Republicans wanted to run against. But, listening to these two, do you think that's changed? Has Obama become their preference?
BEAM: Well, maybe so because of some of the baggage that has come out in the last few days.
Personally, I would still rather see the Republicans running against Hillary Clinton, simply because I think the negatives that she brings to the table are still there. I think that this, while it is hot right now, I don't think John McCain is going to jump on this and use this a lot. I think others might do that and in his behest... MARTIN: Of course.
BEAM: ... and perhaps even without him wanting them to do it. I think we're going to see those ads.
But I think that the negatives that Hillary Clinton brings to the table are better to run against for Republicans than a person who has the charismatic personality of Barack Obama.
And let's be honest for a minute about this. He gave an incredible speech yesterday in terms of its crafting and delivery, the way that he delivered the speech, the flags behind him, all of that. He is very good at what he does politically.
And I think that that's harder to run against on an emotional level than it is to run against Hillary Clinton, who brings a whole lot of negative baggage to the table at the starting line.
MARTIN: You know, Campbell...
BROWN: Yes, go ahead, quickly, Roland.
MARTIN: Well, I think the economy is also going to be again the critical issue. And what you likely will see from Democrats is, they will say that the Republicans have been in charge of the White House, of Congress for really seven of Bush's eight years. They are going to focus on that. They are going to drive their people to the polls.
So, you know the Republican game plan is going to be watch the economy be the focus if you're Obama. You know what the conservative folks are going to do. That's what they are going to focus on to get -- to win the White House.
BROWN: OK, really quickly, Tony, I want to get at this. Do you think patriotism is going to be sort of the line of attack if it goes in this direction? And given what we heard from Obama yesterday in his speech, is patriotism really a fair thing to go after him on?
BEAM: Well, I don't think Barack Obama dealt with the patriotism issue at all.
He turned it into an issue of race. The entire speech was pretty much about race. I don't think that the patriotism is going to be the question.
BEAM: No, the question here is judgment. Is there good judgment being exercised by Barack Obama, who has as a pastor and a mentor for 20 years the person who can spew that kind of hate? And you can't compare that to John Hagee, who is simply an endorser of John McCain. I think that is unfair.
BROWN: And, Rick, do you agree, judgment? WILSON: I think the judgment question is paramount here.
Barack Obama didn't have the sense in 20 years of a relationship with this guy to say, this guy is poisonous. This guy has got -- he has got a twisted, bizarre mental outlook on this country.
WILSON: And I think the judgment of failing to do that is going to tell Americans an awful lot about Barack Obama's character.
BEAM: It's incredible to laugh at that.
MARTIN: Maybe if you could hear one sermon, Rick, you may have a better judgment.
BROWN: All right, Roland, you get the last word. You always get the last word.
OK. Thanks, guys. Appreciate your time tonight.
MARTIN: Thanks, Campbell.
BROWN: Coming up: The war in Iraq began five years ago today. And American troops are still fighting over there. Just what do the presidential candidates plan to do about the war and how realistic are their proposals?
That's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision, and this is a fight America can and must win.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We cannot win their civil war. There is no military solution.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She obviously does not understand nor appreciate the progress that's been made on the ground.
OBAMA: Success comes to be defined as the ability to maintain a flawed policy indefinitely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: The Iraq war started five years ago tonight. And the anniversary finds President Bush's approval rating at an all-time low. It's only 31 percent in our brand-new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll; 67 percent disapprove of how he's handling his job. Only 36 percent say the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over. It was 68 percent when the war started in 2003.
Well, joining us from Washington tonight Christopher Hitchens. He is a contributing editor to "Vanity Fair" magazine. He is also the author of "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything." And with me here in New York is Laura Flanders, a talk show host on the liberal-leaning Air America Radio Network.
Welcome to you both.
LAURA FLANDERS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Glad to be here.
BROWN: Christopher, we know where McCain stands on this. He's committed to staying in Iraq. He's been very clear about that.
The Democrats, though, are both fighting over who can pull the troops out faster, essentially. Are the Democrats, do you believe, telling people what they want to hear? Has either articulated a clear plan to get this done?
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "VANITY FAIR": Well, it depends on what you mean by "this," if that doesn't sound too Clintonian of me.
I disagree with the whole grammar of your initial question. I don't think the war in Iraq did begin five years ago. I think it began not a second later, at any rate, than the time that President Jimmy Carter, that well-known Baptist humanitarian, gave Saddam Hussein a green light to invade Iran, a war that cost maybe a million casualties, or that we took on the responsibility for the recovery of an independent Arab state, Kuwait, from Saddam's annexation, or from the time when we declared no-fly zones over Iraq enforced by our own planes and those of Britain and for a while France to protect the Kurdish and Shia populations from a renewed genocide beginning in 1992.
Five years ago today, we decided we would intervene for the first time in Iraq on the right side, the anti-dictatorial, anti-jihad side, on the side of those Iraqis who were in favor of federalism and democracy. But that's only the latest phase in a very long engagement.
BROWN: But let me go back to the question, which was, are we having an honest dialogue about it?
HITCHENS: I'm not a consultant to Democratic candidates. I'm just the wrong person to ask.
BROWN: OK. Do you think we're having an honest conversation about it?
HITCHENS: No. Rather a very stupid, backward conversation.
BROWN: OK. I'm trying to get it whether or not the Democrats in this case, either the candidates are being honest about what their options are?
HITCHENS: No. Well, we have the --
BROWN: What their possibilities are?
HITCHENS: We have the word first of Senator Obama's main foreign policy adviser, he doesn't really mean it. I mean, she said that unprompted to the BBC. Don't judge what he says in some mere election campaign. No one would be so naive or so callous as to stake American national security interest in the Middle East on crowd pleasing, you know, in a caucus in Iowa. Right.
Well, good, I'm glad he said that. Mrs. Clinton used to take a very robust view of national interest in the Middle East. She changed it to try to win Iowa, failed. We now know exactly what price she puts on important questions like this. She'll do anything to get a vote. Yes, I suppose that is worth knowing. It doesn't tell us much about Iraq, though, does it?
BROWN: Well, Laura, let me turn to you. Here's I guess what my question is, you know, we keep hearing the same rhetoric over and over on the campaign trail. What happens if a Democrat is elected and sits down with their generals on the first day and the generals say, you're crazy, we can't do this?
LAURA FLANDERS, AIR AMERICA RADIO NETWORK: Well, I mean --
BROWN: If we withdraw, the situation is going to be far worse than anything we've seen so far.
FLANDERS: Well, I mean, two things. I don't think that it is, you know, generally frowned upon in a democracy to be listening to the will of the people. The Democrats are looking at the same polls that you're looking at. What they'll get from their generals, I mean, depends which generals as we have a situation at this moment.
I mean, you know from the days when your husband was working for the administration inside the Green Zone, people that don't represent this policy of this administration don't last very long. So that I would say the integrity and the judgment of those hand-picked generals who are there still in Iraq today isn't really very reliable. There have been wrong prediction after prediction.
(CROSSTALK) BROWN: So what do you do? What do you do if you're a Democrat and you're elected president? Do you fire the generals and you start over?
FLANDERS: I think you pick your new generals. I mean, absolutely, there are plenty of potential generals who have been, you know...
HITCHENS: Well, she's generalized a whole lot.
FLANDERS: ... who've been marginalized, who've been forced out. There have been plenty like William Odom who said the only thing that's going to change the agenda in Iraq is a reasonable and clearly stated date for withdrawal. And he's not alone in that.
HITCHENS: But look, I mean, let me tell you about putting my only chance to agree with Laura on something and say that there's a very important principle of civilian control. Generals who don't agree, who have different opinions and express them publicly and politicize their role as officers, can and should often be fired as President Truman had to demonstrate most notably.
FLANDERS: I mean, another thing that we're missing here is that it's a question of political leadership. I mean, our military, the most powerful in the world, they'll basically be able to accomplish whatever we set them to accomplish if they're given a clear mission, if they're equipped properly, if they have enough personnel to do that.
If a new president comes in with a clear agenda, the military will get it done. They can do what they're told if they're given a clear plan. What we were led into this war with was an understaffed, underequipped and, you know, underresourced military that didn't have a plan.
BROWN: All right.
HITCHENS: Well, I agree with that. I agree with that, too. I always thought it should have been a much more immense and shocking and awe-inspiring invasion, but I thought --
FLANDERS: The last thing --
HITCHENS: I thought the answer -- we're moving was against the --
FLANDERS: You're the last person in the world that thinks that it should have been happening at all. This is a disaster on all accounts. If you think that four million refugees and four thousand deaths are --
(CROSSTALK) HITCHENS: Then don't say it should be -- then don't say it should have been done -- then don't say it should have been done with the --
FLANDERS: I'm saying the military can do what they're asked to do if they're given the right equipment and the right leadership.
HITCHENS: I thought you weren't going to say it.
BROWN: Sorry, guys. We've got to end this there.
HITCHENS: I thought you were never going to admit in front of the cameras that you were against this on principle.
FLANDERS: I am against this on principle.
HITCHENS: Well, now is the time to say that.
BROWN: Christopher Hitchens and Laura Flanders, thank you for your time tonight.
Coming up, we're going to talk about a paper trail. We've just got our hands on 11,000 pages of documents from Hillary Clinton's days as first lady. Anything noteworthy in there? We're going to take a look, and we'll talk about that coming up. Stay tuned.
BROWN: Hillary Clinton records, the National Archives and the Clinton presidential library today released 11,000 pages of schedules from Senator Clinton's days as first lady. It's the result of intense pressure by Clinton's critics and legal action by a conservative group. So what exactly is in those 11,000 pages?
Well, CNN's Washington staff has been sifting through electronic copies of them all day today. They're mostly about speeches, meetings and social engagements along with trips when Clinton was first lady. But much has been blacked out, and we don't have access to her private calendar.
To bring us up-to-date now, we've got Brian Todd, who's joining us from Washington. And Brian, are there any great revelations in what you've seen today?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not a lot of them, Campbell. You do get a sense of how deeply involved Mrs. Clinton was in her husband's presidency from the very beginning. Just three days after her inauguration, she held her first meeting as head of the Health Care Reform Task Force. We found countless other meetings on health care day after day for months, even after that task force dissolved.
Other records backed up Mrs. Clinton's claims that she was involved in the Northern Ireland peace process, and the effort to help refugees from Kosovo. But a big part of the story, as you mentioned, is what's missing. Nearly 5,000 schedules in these records have redactions. Several names deleted from key meetings. Carl Bernstein, a biographer of Hillary Clinton, says he's not surprised at the lack of transparency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARL BERNSTEIN, AUTHOR, "A WOMAN IN CHARGE": But this is not about someone who is eager to shine a light on her full record. That's the point. And at the same time, some of this is understandable for, you know, when you're running for office, the slightest thing can be misinterpreted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Now, critics say this document dump had to be forced out by a lawsuit from Judicial Watch, a long-time political foe of the Clintons. A Clinton spokesman told us that lawsuit had nothing to do with this release, and he said the Clinton team had nothing to do with the redactions. The spokesman said a key aide to the Clintons actually fought to what he called unredact some of this material, Campbell.
BROWN: And Brian, are there more documents to come? What are we expecting?
TODD: Well, the National Archives, interestingly enough, in a recent court hearing that had to do with this release, said it needed one to two years to release dozens of other types of records including 20,000 pages of telephone logs from the Clinton presidency. So that's clearly not going to happen in time for the November elections. What we are promised by next month is a release of Mrs. Clinton's tax records. She's been under a lot of pressure to do that from the Obama campaign and others. That will be, as we say, a very popular release on the campaign trail next month.
BROWN: All right. Brian Todd for us. Brian, thank you very much.
TODD: Thank you.
BROWN: Well, there is no end in sight to the Clinton-Obama race. But one superdelegate says he has a solution. Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen explains his idea coming up next.
BROWN: Hillary Clinton stopped by Michigan today to deliver a message, either count the votes that have already been cast in Michigan and Florida or have new full and fair elections.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The road to a Democratic White House goes through Michigan and Florida. And if Democrats send the message that we don't care about your votes, I'm sure John McCain and the Republicans would be happy to have them.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BROWN: Both Florida and Michigan lost all of their convention delegates as punishment for holding primaries too early. Without counting those states, Barack Obama has a 142-delegate lead over Clinton, 1,621 to 1,479. But as Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen writes in today's "New York Times, "It's entirely possible that when primary season ends on June 3rd, we will still lack a clear nominee. We would then face a long summer of brutal and unnecessary warfare."
Well, the governor has a plan to settle things and is joining us now to walk us through it. So do walk us through your plan, Governor.
GOV. PHIL BREDESEN (D), TENNESSEE: Well, I think you'll certainly set it up. I mean, it seems to me that if we have a nominee come Labor Day with a very deeply divided party and an emotionally exhausted party, I think we have a problem. We have the information that comes down to the superdelegates at that point. We have the information in June to do it. And what I said is let's call the superdelegates together.
Let's have the Democratic National Committee. Ask them to come together for a short meeting, a two-day meeting, listen to the candidates, talk about it, and ask people to make their choice at that point so that we have a shot at having a clear nominee. We've got to resolve this in some way before the end of August.
BROWN: But how does that really differ from a convention? I mean, the question I would have is who is going to run the show? It sounds like you're proposing almost an extra convention, and that's a pretty big deal.
BREDESEN: Well, I think it obviously cannot be. There's no time to plan a convention that has all of the side shows and hoopla of a normal political convention. I'm suggesting more of a business-like meeting that particularly those delegates who are still undecided could come to.
I think it takes to -- and you're herding cats here. In fact, these are all powerful politicians, it's like herding tom cats. You have to bring this together in some way at a time certain and a place certain, and kind of really put people in a box and ask them to make a choice and to move forward.
BROWN: But do you think -- do you think --
BREDESEN: I think the DNC has to do that.
BROWN: Do you think by then, people are really -- superdelegates are really going to be undecided? I mean, you're talking about doing something in June, having gone through the entire primary process.
BROWN: They have will have heard, you know, a million speeches. There will have been 20-something debates, I think, between the two candidates. At that point, I mean, why can't you just say to all the superdelegates, speak up, say it now. Who do you choose? Let's know ahead of time before we go into the convention?
BREDESEN: If that works, if that could work, or if for that matter if the primaries there held up to that point make the answer clear, that's great. I mean, that's even a better -- it's even a better solution. I think just based on my own experience and knowing my delegation here in Tennessee and other governors I've talked with, I think it's going to be hard to bring people to the table unless you have something to focus it around.
That's what I'm really proposing to the DNC is to say, look, find some way to focus and really force people to make these choices. It's just too easy to wait until the convention.
BROWN: Hillary Clinton, I know, won your state's primary. Do you think that superdelegates should go with the primary winner or go with their own gut?
BREDESEN: I think the superdelegates were designed to exercise some independent judgment. And when you talk about going with the winner, I mean, for me you make a good point. I mean, at the moment, Barack Obama is ahead in the popular vote nationally. Hillary Clinton won Tennessee. What's my obligation there to go with the vote?
I think most superdelegates will take very much into account the way their state voted, the way things are nationally. But they were designed into the process to exercise independent judgment. I certainly wouldn't take that away from them.
BROWN: And we should underscore the fact that you are uncommitted at this point.
BREDESEN: That's correct.
BROWN: I got to ask, though. I know you've been working the phones today since your piece ran in "The New York Times." What kind of feedback are you getting? Do you think this is actually a possibility?
BREDESEN: You know, I've getting an awful lot of feedback that says basically though, you know, it's such common sense. There must be something wrong with us. But generally, the feedback has been very good. People are concerned about logistics obviously. But, you know, we're certainly touching a nerve here that there's got to be some way to resolve this thing before the end of the summer.
You know, I just don't -- you know, John McCain right now, he has some of the same problems of divisions in his own party certainly. It's March, and he is working on them. If we start working on them Labor Day weekend, we've got a problem.
BROWN: Well, Governor, good luck to you. Good luck to -- I'm sure a lot of people are hoping that maybe you've come up with a way to sort all this out. Appreciate your time tonight.
BREDESEN: It's nice talking to you.
BROWN: All right.
Hillary Clinton is running out of time. How does she make up the delegate gap? We've got four ways that she can still snag the nomination. That's coming up.
BROWN: With Senator Barack Obama taking a majority of states so far in the primary, some suggest that he has the Democratic presidential nomination all locked up.
Well, Mark Halperin is the senior political analyst and editor at large of "Time" magazine," and he also has a very influential political Web page called "The Page". He's joining us today to suggest four ways that Hillary Clinton could still win the nomination. You think her candidacy is on life support to a certain extent. Not everybody probably agrees with you on that.
MARK HALPERIN, ED. AT LARGE, "TIME": No, I mean, look, she's still fighting. But I asked a lot of Democrats and Republicans how good are her chances. Basically, they all say maybe 25 percent. For someone who is the prohibitive front-runner, that's not so great. But she still has a chance.
She's behind in delegates. She probably can't catch up in those elected delegates, but she's got different things she can do. She's been doing them for a while. Some working better than others to try to put herself in a position to win this nomination.
BROWN: OK. And the first one, let's start with Florida and Michigan.
HALPERIN: Florida and Michigan, she won both those primaries. She was the only one on the ballot in Michigan. In Florida, they were both on the ballot, but nobody campaigned.
HALPERIN: The DNC says those delegates aren't coming in. I would say right now, of the four, that is to her worth. She's not doing well there. Both those efforts are on life support. The democrats in those states would like to either count the original vote or to have re-votes. But so far, the Obama campaign, I have talked to them, they've done a very good job of kind of delaying the process behind the scenes.
I don't think either of those places are going to produce very much -- that many likelihood to get very many delegates out of there. So that's a big thumbs down for her, not one of the four, the one where she's doing the worst.
BROWN: OK. So that then takes us to the superdelegates, who she is wooing very aggressively.
HALPERIN: And, of course, they're the key to this. They're going to decide this contest. Whoever the nominee is, they're going to need more superdelegates than they have now. A lot of them like Governor Bredesen who was just on still undecided. Some good news there, some bad news.
On the positive front, she finally got some superdelegates since her big wins in Texas and Ohio. Until yesterday, she had gotten zero public commitments. The thought was she won those two states, she'd get some. She finally got two yesterday, including Congressman Murtha from Pennsylvania. That's good news.
The other thing is Obama had a bunch of people ready to go for him before Ohio and Texas. She slowed down the rush to Obama. But on the thumbs downside on the superdelegates, he's done very well in the last month. He's picking up some days, two, three, four superdelegates.
HALPERIN: So she slowed down the move to Obama. She has frozen people in place, but she's not winning them yet. And she's going to have to win a lot of them to win the nomination.
BROWN: And then the third way, she's pushing very hard, is trying to make this electability argument.
HALPERIN: Electability -- you know, I think a lot of these remaining superdelegates like the governor of Tennessee, will they look at past performance in these primaries and caucuses? They will. But I think what they're really going to be focused on is electability. Who can win against John McCain? I think she gets a thumbs up there because of a couple things.
She's won these big states. There is still the question being vague? Why did she win Texas and Ohio? I asked the Obama people every day. I understand you're saying there are other factors at play, but tell me why he's not winning these big states? They don't have a great answer for it, and I think a lot of the superdelegates will look at her right now and say, there's an argument that they're both electable.
Previously a lot of Democrats say, he is the most electable. Now, when I ask Democrats, I get split answers. Some say him. Some say her. You know what most say? I don't know. And that's a pretty good place. It gets her a chance to argue over the next few weeks on the most electable.
BROWN: OK. And finally, we've got about 30 seconds. But it's defining Obama in negative terms.
HALPERIN: And that's two big thumbs up for her. He has had a bad two weeks. His speech yesterday on race helped him, but he still is being defined in negative terms. The dirty little secret of the Clinton campaign is the only way she can win is to have him be basically disqualified for the superdelegates and voters to say, he can't win a general election.
She's doing some of it herself. But the press and Obama's mistakes are doing some of it as well. That's the chance she has now is that Obama is basically disqualified in the minds of the voters.
BROWN: All right. We have to see how this plays out and then have you back to see if you were right.
HALPERIN: All right. We'll see.
BROWN: Mark Halperin, good to see you.
HALPERIN: Great, Campbell, thank you.
BROWN: "LARRY KING LIVE" is coming up in just a few minutes, and Wolf Blitzer is in for Larry tonight. Wolf, what are you working on?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Campbell.
We're following up on a lot of this stuff you've just been reporting on, including the political fallout from this, the fifth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq. Two key U.S. senators, a former Senate majority leader, Tom Daschle, who supports Barack Obama, and Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton's colleague from New York, he supports her. They'll be here. They're going to debate what's going on.
Plus, an outstanding political panel will be following up on Barack Obama's big speech yesterday on race and his pastor. Lots of stuff, Campbell, coming up here on "LARRY KING LIVE."
BROWN: All right, Wolf, thanks very much.
Coming up in "Political Pop," we've got Def Jam's very own Russell Simmons who is trying to energize the hip-hop vote today in Philadelphia. Russell Simmons live on ELECTION CENTER next.
BROWN: So some political stories are just too good to miss. New Jersey is considering switching to electronic voting machines. So officials there asked a couple of Princeton computer scientists to check out a machine made by Sequoia voting systems. The Sequoia votes no to testing.
It has hired lawyers and is making threats. What exactly are they afraid of? The professors discovered flaws in other company's machines and softwares, and they told everybody about it.
So who faces more obstacles running for president, a woman or a black man? Feminist Gloria Steinem caught a lot of flack recently or a while back rather, for saying it is a woman. But it turns out that Americans agree with her. In a new CBS News poll, 39 percent of registered voters say a woman faces more obstacles. Thirty-three percent say a black candidate has it tougher.
And coming up in tonight's "Political Pop," Russell Simmons brings hip-hop to politics. Will it bring young people to the polls? He's right here in the CNN ELECTION CENTER to talk about it.
BROWN: We have talked about many voter groups over the past months, but what about the hip-hop vote? Well, legendary Def Jam Mobile and Obama supporter, Russell Simmons, was in Philadelphia today for a hip-hop summit to jolt the youth vote. And he is here to talk about it with us right now. Good to have you here.
RUSSELL SIMMONS, CHAIRMAN, RUSH COMMUNICATIONS: Thank you. It's nice to be here.
BROWN: Let me ask you because every year, we talk about the youth vote and how influential it's going to be in 2000, in 2004, and then turnout never sort of reaches expectations. Why do you think this year is going to be different?
SIMMONS: Well, the last election cycle actually in the beginning there was this -- I guess FOX News reported they didn't come out, but the fact is they really did. And there was a big increase, the last cycle. But we've already seen record numbers in the primaries. And the fact is, you have a woman a stone's throw from the White House, and that's an inspiration to many people. And you have an African- American who is, I guess, the highest candidate for the highest office. And that's pretty inspiring as well.
BROWN: For the hip-hop community, is the fact that there's an African-American who has a real shot at becoming president, is that mobilizing people in a way you've never seen before?
SIMMONS: I would say that they both -- Senator Clinton and Senator Obama represent change. And, of course, what they're saying is they have progressive agendas. That's the model. Everybody is talking about change. In young people, I think there's an injection, a healthy injection of faith and stuff that's kind of -- they've been locked out of the political process.
The American political landscape has left out faith and hope, and these kind of words have not been thrown around so much, if you will. And I think that's an inspiring thing and you're going to see record turnouts.
BROWN: So who are we talking about in the hip-hop world? Who's getting involved?
SIMMONS: My, God. Who's not? I mean, Will Smith hosted our first summit, you know. I don't know how many years ago, but he had Jay-Z and Puffy, and name an artist. I mean, everyone you can name has helped the hip-hop summit and will be supporting this effort.
BROWN: And lining up behind the two different candidates?
SIMMONS: Well, the idea is to get young people out --
BROW: I've got people come out for Hillary Clinton and for Obama.
SIMMONS: Yes. The idea is to get young people out, to hear their voice. And I think that, you know, young people are more creative. They have greater vision, and they want change. And so, they're going to come out and they're going to vote.
BROWN: Well, Russell Simmons, it's good to have you here. Good luck with this.
SIMMONS: Thank you.
BROWN: All right. Appreciate it.
"LARRY KING LIVE" right now.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxantshop.com