Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Breach of Privacy and Security in the State Deparment; Will Bill Richardson's Endorsement Boost Obama?
Aired March 21, 2008 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm John King, along with the best political team on television.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
Barack Obama is urging Congress to investigate why a State Department contractor got an unauthorized look at his passport file. It now turns out there was snooping across party lines. The passport files of Hillary Clinton and John McCain also were targeted.
Let's bring in our State Department correspondent Zain Verjee.
Zain, a lot of apologizing from the secretary of state today.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Three apologies from the secretary of state this day, John. But what the State Department is doing is, it's pushing ahead with the investigation that it says is now in the early stages.
VERJEE (voice-over): The "I'm sorry"s just keep coming, first to Senator Barack Obama after the revelation that State Department contractors had sneaked a look into his passport file three times this year.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I told him that I was sorry. I told him that I myself would be very disturbed if I learned that somebody had looked into my passport file.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She called me and offered her the apologies, which I appreciated, but I also indicated that this is something that has to be investigated diligently and openly.
VERJEE: Then word that the trainee, a State Department employee, got into Senator Hillary Clinton's file last summer. Rice called the senator.
Next victim on the Republican side, Senator John McCain. He reacted to the Obama breach.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If anyone's privacy is breached, then they deserve an apology and a full investigation.
VERJEE: That's even before he knew one of the same people who clicked into Obama's file surfed his as well. Rice telephoned him in Paris. A top State Department official was dispatched to the Hill to brief all three senators' staff. Obama and others are demanding congressional investigations.
Big questions remain. What's in a candidate's passport file? Is it just an application form with a picture and bio info? Was all this politically motivated?
SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: It is still our initial take that this was -- I referred to it as imprudent curiosity. But we are not dismissive of any other possibility.
VERJEE: We have been down this road before, an unauthorized leak of the passport files of then presidential candidate Bill Clinton in 1992.
The probe cost $2.2 million, and no laws broken. The count so far, two contractors fired, one disciplined for the two violations, and a State Department trainee still on the job.
VERJEE: The State Department, John, says that the breaches were flagged immediately by the computer system they have here, but they do acknowledge the major problem here was that there was a complete failure by the lower levels to communicate to senior management at the State Department and let them know what was going on -- John.
KING: So, Zain, this meeting on the Hill today, a senior State Department official goes up, staff members for Senator Clinton, for Senator Obama, and Senator McCain. That all makes perfect sense. Also, tell our viewers, though, why staff members for Senator Joe Biden, a former Democratic candidate, were in that room.
VERJEE: Yes, he was there as well. And we asked, why would his staff be there as well? And the State Department is telling us that it's significant because Senator Biden is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and it's very significant for the State Department. It helps manage the State Department, helps them along with funding and things like that.
So, his staff was there because -- only for that reason, but not because there was any kind of breach of his passport records.
KING: All right. We will keep track of this.
Zain Verjee at the State Department. Zain, thanks very much.
And, as Zain mentioned, this kind of passport flap has happened before to Bill Clinton during his first run for president. It was back in 1992 and the State Department confirmed that pages had been ripped from Clinton's file from the late '60s and '70s. Clinton at the time blamed the administration of his opponent in that campaign, President George H.W. Bush, even though no evidence was found to prove the White House was behind the breach.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have got this great leader who wants us to trust him who has three highly-paid, highly-placed employees of the nonpolitical State Department who admit that they violated all their procedures in doing a special hit job looking into my passport files. Hell, I could have told them where I live if they just asked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is setting his ties to the Clintons aside and hopping on the Barack Obama bandwagon. The former presidential candidate offered his endorsement today, after weeks of mulling and hand-wringing.
CNN's Jessica Yellin is on the trail in Indiana.
Jessica, a big get for Obama and I assume a difficult choice for Governor Richardson.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, such a difficult decision for Richardson that one Clinton aide described him to me as Hamlet. He just couldn't make up his mind for the longest time, until now.
YELLIN (voice-over): He's a former Clinton confidante, the nation's only Hispanic governor, and his is one of the most sought- after endorsements of all. Now this superdelegate is on Obama's team.
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: Your candidacy -- and this is an expression of your candidacy -- is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our nation, and you are a once-in-a-lifetime leader.
YELLIN: He says Senator Obama's speech on race did it.
RICHARDSON: Senator Obama has started a discussion in this country that is long overdue and rejects the politics of pitting race against race. Senator Obama showed us once again what kind of leader he is.
YELLIN: Some say the Clintons helped make Bill Richardson's career and they have wooed him aggressively. The former president flying to New Mexico this year for the Super Bowl.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Do not get between Bill Clinton and Bill Richardson and the TV set when the Super Bowl is on. So...
YELLIN: But the governor says he developed a soft spot for Barack Obama during all those debates, and clearly a rapport. RICHARDSON: He didn't mention me, but that's OK.
OBAMA: Did that hurt your feelings, too?
RICHARDSON: Well, a little bit.
YELLIN: The endorsement comes after a run of bad news for Barack Obama, including damaging stories about his pastor, an indicted former donor, missteps on NAFTA, and losses in Texas and Ohio. This could turn the tide. Now the Obama campaign can only hope it clears the way for other uncommitted superdelegates to follow Richardson's lead and that his stamp of approval will bolster the candidate's standing among Hispanic voters and buttress his foreign policy credentials.
YELLIN: Now, John, the Clinton campaign released a statement today saying that the voters, not endorsements, decide the nomination. And a top Clinton adviser said that it's past the time that a Richardson endorsement can really make a difference anyway. Meow -- John.
KING: Meow, indeed.
As we wait for the voters, though, Jessica, in the next contest, Pennsylvania, we have got a little bit to wait. Is there any indication that Richardson endorsing Obama will break the dam? A lot of other big names out there, former Vice President Gore, Senate Leader Reid, Speaker Pelosi, you know the list. Any indication there will be a flood now?
YELLIN: That's the question we all wanted answered. And I made a bunch of calls today. Aides to many of those people say, no, this is not going to start a stampede of other superdelegates endorsing Barack Obama, not at this time -- John.
KING: Or as they might say in this room, not happening now.
KING: Jessica Yellin -- Jessica, thanks so much.
Just ahead, we will ask Governor Richardson about the impact of his endorsement and why he said no to the Clintons' pitch for his support.
Republican John McCain is wrapping up an overseas tour today with a stop in Paris. The probable presidential nominee met with the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy. They discussed a wide range of issues, including a longtime sore point between Paris and Washington, the war in Iraq.
McCain said he expects the United States' relations with France to improve, no matter who wins the White House, because Mr. Sarkozy is committed to greater cooperation.
Jack Cafferty is not overseas. He joins us now with "The Cafferty File."
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Did McCain hold any fund-raisers in France?
CAFFERTY: Oh. But he did in England.
KING: Oui, or yes.
CAFFERTY: It turns out -- now, this is important -- I want you to pay attention to this, John -- it turns out money really can buy happiness, but the catch is this. You have to spend the money on someone else.
A new study conducted by Harvard Business School and the University of British Columbia finds that spending as little as $5 a day on someone else can make you significantly happier.
I will give you my address at end of this, because I want you to be happy.
Experiments on more than 600 Americans found people were much happier when they spent money on others, even if they thought they would be happier spending it on themselves. One of the researchers points out that the study goes along with a growing body of evidence that shows that helping others is the best way to help yourself.
Don't you love this pop psychology stuff? Pretend you're watching "Oprah."
Another expert suggests that it's experiences, not possessions, that actually make people happier. So, if you buy yourself a new car or a TV, that elation wears off relatively quickly. If you buy me a new car or TV, I will be thrilled with it for a long time. If you take a friend to lunch, you feel good longer. She suggests that kind acts make you think that people are grateful. So, that is also linked with happiness.
Meanwhile, this study was published in this week's edition of the "Journal of Science." It may also explain why people are not happier here in America, even though we're one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
So, here's the question: Is spending money on someone else the key to happiness?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment there on my blog -- John.
KING: Now I know why I'm so happy. (LAUGHTER)
CAFFERTY: Why is that? The check's in the mail, right?
KING: You don't mind, if people can't find Jack, if I say they could send it through me, and, after a very fair commission, I will forward it on?
CAFFERTY: No. You just take a little piece off the top. I understand.
KING: I will take the wide screen and I will send you lunch.
CAFFERTY: Yes, the plug-in.
KING: The plug-in.
Jack, we will see you in a little bit.
CAFFERTY: Thank you, John.
KING: Thank you.
Bill Richardson says his endorsement of Barack Obama matters, no matter what some people say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARDSON: I resent the fact that the Clinton people are now saying that my endorsement is too late.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The man who ran against both Obama and Clinton is right here to explain why picked one over the other.
Also, do Democrats believe that things are going badly in the war? Will that help them win? And might Iraq's success give Republicans the advantage?
And you may have seen her sleeping in Hillary Clinton's ad, but she does not want Clinton answering the White House phone at 3:00 a.m. That young lady is out with a new video you will see right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
KING: Barack Obama says he couldn't be more honored to have the support of another former presidential opponent, as he and Hillary Clinton duke it out for delegates and the Democratic nomination.
KING: Governor Bill Richardson joins us now from Portland, Oregon, after his big endorsement today.
Governor, thanks for joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM.
A big event for the Obama campaign today. They are highlighting this as proof that he is gaining Democrats of stature on his team. But you, yourself, were on this program just a couple of weeks ago with Wolf Blitzer, and you were asked about the possibility who you might endorse, and this is what you said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARDSON: Quite frankly, I don't feel, Wolf, that endorsements by politicians help each other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You also went on to say, I don't consider myself that important. So, why should anyone look at this endorsement and say this matters?
RICHARDSON: Well, I still believe that one politician endorsing another doesn't make that much difference. But Senator Obama had been talking to me pretty extensively since I got out of the race. So did Senator Clinton, who I deeply admire. And it reached the point when I felt that the campaign has gotten too negative.
Instead of unifying as a party, we're kind of tearing each other apart. We have to be ready in November for a very strong Republican candidate. So I felt stepping in, taking a stand for Senator Obama, who I believe can bring us together, was the right step to do. And that's what I'm doing, John.
KING: Do you believe Senator Clinton cannot bring the party together?
RICHARDSON: Well, I believe that she has every right to continue. She's running a very good campaign. But I think that Senator Obama has something special, something that can bring, internationally, America's prestige back, that can deal with the race issue as he did so eloquently last week, that can deal with the domestic issues in a bipartisan way. And there's something special about the guy that I found out during the campaign.
He's a good, decent man with an enormous ability to inspire. I just saw thousands of people here in Oregon just hanging on to his every word, but with hope in their eyes, with excitement. I have never seen that before. There's something special about this guy, and I want to be a part of it.
KING: Well, you say something special about this guy. You know, you were a cabinet member, you were an ambassador in the Bill Clinton administration. Bill Clinton flew out to spend Super Bowl Sunday with Bill Richardson, and you say it was just two old friends getting together. I see -- we have got a photo of you up on the couch watching the ball game. Look, the Clinton campaign said today, this is no big deal, this endorsement doesn't matter. Mark Penn said that on a conference call. But the former president of the United States came out to see you, they clearly wanted this endorsement. Bill Clinton put you in a cabinet position, gave you international profile, not just a high national profile.
Why not Senator Clinton? What is it about her that made you say no?
RICHARDSON: Well, I owe a lot to Senator Clinton and to President Clinton, to the Clinton family. But I served well. I paid it back in service to the country. President Clinton is a good friend. And we have been good friends.
It was very difficult for me to make this decision. It was a painful conversation for me that I had with Senator Clinton last night. But, you know, I believe that my personal feelings, I did run against Senator Clinton and others for president. I feel that you have got to get beyond those personal issues and do what you think is best for the country. But it was painful, John. It wasn't easy.
KING: If you look at the polling right now, Governor Richardson, it's clear the American people want the troops out of Iraq, they want the war over. Yet, when you them the question, who is best able to handle Iraq? John McCain beats Obama and Clinton by a significant margin, which leads most to believe the American people, even though they disagree with McCain on the war, have decided he has the better experience, the better judgment to be commander in chief.
Do you have any worry that Senator Obama, if he is the nominee, that the He needs on-the-job training, I don't argument would work?
RICHARDSON: Well, what you need in a commander in chief first is values. And Senator Obama has that. Secondly, you need good judgment. And he has that. Third, you need to surround yourself with good people and have contingency plans on what you're going to do if there's a crisis affecting Americans' national security.
On all those fronts, he scores extremely well. And perhaps the most important one, he can inspire and bring the country together internationally at a time of crisis to tackle our global challenges.
We don't have that. So I see him as a very viable commander in chief who has excellent judgment and would surround himself with some very good people.
KING: Any discussions that one of those good people might be Bill Richardson if Barack Obama wins the nomination?
RICHARDSON: No. You know, John, I love being governor of New Mexico and growing my beard, and, you know, riding my horse. So I'm going to work very hard for him to get him elected.
KING: Next time we do the interview it will be on a horse.
Governor, thanks so much for joining us today.
RICHARDSON: Thank you.
KING: And when it comes to endorsements by Democratic governors, Senator Clinton has the lead, but it is razor thin. She's been endorsed by governors in 10 of the 50 states. Obama has been endorsed by nine Democratic governors.
With the fight for superdelegates so intense right now, Democratic governors in nine states still have not decided whether they will side with Clinton or Obama.
To help stop the fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and to get one of them ready for John McCain, should Howard Dean soon cut a deal with Florida and Michigan?
And now that Bill Richardson has announced who he wants to be president, might other big name Democrats follow suit -- all that, plus the best political team on television, just ahead in THE SITUATION ROOM.
KING: The State Department has a lot of explaining to do about the snooping in the presidential candidates' passport files.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCORMACK: Of course you're mad and irritated if somebody's looking at your personal information. I think any American can relate to that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: So, was this an embarrassing mistake or was something shady going on? The best political team on television is standing by.
Plus, will John Edwards or Joe Biden follow Bill Richardson's lead any time soon and reveal their presidential preference? We will look at the wall of silence that has been up for months.
And Hillary Clinton's 3:00 a.m. ad comes back to haunt her again.
Stay here. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
KING: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, snoopers peer into the private passport files of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain. The State Department apologizes and investigates. Could political mischief have been the motive?
Barack Obama's big endorsement. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson calls him a once-in-a-lifetime leader. Will that open the floodgates for more endorsements from other superdelegates?
And polls show Americans want to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, but they also seem to trust John McCain to do the best job of handling the war. What does that mean for the Democrats in November?
All this, plus the best political team on television.
Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm John King. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Barack Obama got a much coveted endorsement today. And there's an insult to injury factor, since his new backer, Bill Richardson, is a longtime friend of the Clintons. But some other big-name Democrats are still sitting on the fence.
CNN's Brian Todd joins us now with more on that.
Brian, what are they waiting for?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in at least one case, John, not even his closest advisers may know for sure.
John Edwards, Al Gore could be the two most high-impact endorsers left in the game here, both campaigns very eager for their endorsement. But the question now is whether they will endorse anyone at all or instead remain uncommitted until the convention, and perhaps play a different role entirely.
TODD (voice-over): One of the most hotly sought after endorsements, John Edwards, who beat Hillary Clinton in Iowa and won 26 delegate slots before dropping out. Edwards still is not saying whether he will endorse Clinton or Barack Obama.
And he didn't tip his hand on NBC's "Tonight Show."
JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In the case of Senator Obama, he's inspirational. He gets people excited. He gets young people out who otherwise may not be involved in the process.
Senator Clinton has a toughness and a tenacity and experience that has value. So, I think -- I think both -- either of them, I think, will be a great candidate. And I think either would be a great president.
TODD: Both Clinton and Obama have visited the Edwards' house since he dropped out. A former top aide to Edwards says he is speaking frequently with both and has also consulted advisers about whom to endorse or whether to endorse at all. So far, he has divulged nothing. Also still silent, Al Gore, who won the popular vote for president in 2000 and endorsed Howard Dean's failed candidacy in 2004. But, if the race is still undecided at the time of the convention, could Gore take on a different role?
ROGER SIMON, CHIEF POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THEPOLITICO.COM: You are going to need someone to step in, meet with both senators, and say, look, we don't want to go to 55 votes on the floor of the convention. And we don't want to leave anybody with a bad taste in their mouths. We have got to work out a deal in this room. And I'm here to help you come to some agreement. I think that is the role, if any role exists, that Al Gore could play.
TODD: Now, some other high-profile Democrats, like Jimmy Carter and Howard Dean, have pledged to make no endorsement, and so could conceivably play a role down the road -- John.
KING: Brian, let's look a little closer at John Edwards.
On "Jay Leno" last night, he said he wouldn't rule out a Cabinet job in a Democratic administration. Any sense that perhaps that's a bargaining chip?
TODD: Well, that is true. He may not want to ruin his chances with either candidate. A former top adviser to Edwards tells us that he does not anticipate any endorsement. He says Edwards plays his cards very, very close to the vest.
For example, before he decided to drop out of the race, Edwards asked many of his top advisers, but didn't tell them his decision. They didn't hear about that until 2:00 a.m. that very day.
KING: Two a.m.
TODD: That's right.
KING: Maybe somebody will make an ad about that.
KING: Brian Todd -- Brian, thanks very much.
And we will get to those uncommitted big-name Democrats in just a minute, but, first, the breach of the passport files.
Let's turn to the best political team on television. CNN senior analyst David Gergen joins us from Boston. Jack Cafferty is in New York. And senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, right here in Washington.
Jack, irrational curiosity --
CAFFERTY: What? KING: Jack -- irrational curiosity or are you one of these conspiracy theorists, that if they were going into these files, there has to be a reason?
CAFFERTY: I don't know what's in a passport file, so I don't know what these people were looking for. I know it happened to Bill Clinton back when he was in the same position.
I think it probably accrues to the Democrats' benefit that this was a Republican State Department that got to snooping around in these documents. But then they looked at John McCain's, too. So I'm not sure what any of this means.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I was more of a conspiracy theorist last night, John, when I thought that it was only Barack Obama. But now that it's more bipartisan in scope, I'm beginning to think that these were just snoops who were curious about people who were possibly going to become president of the United States.
However, one thing I'm really sure about is that this has been handled very badly at the State Department. I mean the fact that Condi Rice or the State Department spokesman or someone high up in that hierarchy didn't know about this until yesterday?
These are presidential candidates? It seems to me to be pretty ridiculous.
KING: David, is that where you think this ends up at the end, an embarrassing case of at least mismanagement or lack of communication in the State Department or is there more smoke down the end of the road?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ADVISER: Well, I don't think we know yet. But I think it is a huge embarrassment for the State Department, yes. The more you hear about this, the more you think, you know, it would be a lot more interesting to look at "The Cafferty Files" than these files.
CAFFERTY: Not really, David.
GERGEN: But however this plays out, I think that the system failed. If it's only the passport applications, it's not terribly meaningful. It does bring back some memories of the Clinton files, obviously, when he was running and they snooped in his files.
But, you know, we had a much bigger breach during the Clinton years, when the Clinton White House got the security files for about 400 or plus Republicans, remember?
CAFFERTY: That's right.
BORGER: Yes, right.
GERGEN: You remember that?
GERGEN: And they sat over there and had a political appointee sitting on top of that stuff. You know, that, to me, was a much, much bigger invasion of privacy than this. This does not seem, so far, to have many political purposes behind it.
KING: All right, we'll --
BORGER: But again, we don't know. We just don't know.
KING: OK. We don't know.
KING: We'll keep an eye on the investigation as it goes forward at the State Department. The Hill says it wants to get involved.
Let's look at the other big story today, which is the Richardson endorses Obama. In and of itself, even Governor Richardson says I'm just one guy, endorsements don't matter all that much.
But at least it moves the superdelegate ball just a little bit. And before we talk, let's put this up on the wall so our viewers can see it. Among the superdelegates -- these are the elected party officials -- mayors, other party activists around the country who get a vote at the convention -- superdelegates.
Barack Obama has 209 at the moment, super-delegates, even though he's ahead among pledged delegates. Hillary Clinton still leading among the super-delegates, with 243.
Jack, is this one guy, Bill Richardson -- or do you think the trickle will turn into a flow?
CAFFERTY: Well, I don't know. But I have a hunch we're going to find out, maybe not -- and maybe we don't have to wait too long to find out. I think the Richardson endorsement is very, very big for Obama because of his past relationship to the Clintons. He worked for President Clinton in a couple of capacities. He's a friend of the family's. And he turned his back on Hillary Clinton.
Now if somebody who's a close friend of Hillary Clinton says you know what, I'm not going to support you, I'm going to support your enemy, that tells me people something. And it provides a certain amount of cover, I think, for other superdelegates, if they're on the fence or having trouble making a decision, to maybe go ahead and say, all right, if Richardson can do this, so can I. But, again, we'll have to wait and see what happens. KING: You're nodding David. What do you make of the calculation here?
GERGEN: I think this is a very significant victory for Barack Obama, especially because it comes just at this moment. And, you know, he's had a rough 10 days. The big question in politics now, is the bottom going to fallout for him, are people going to walk away from him?
Some Democrats have been wary. To have Bill Richardson step up to it in this moment, I think, is very helpful.
GERGEN: And it also, frankly, was an act of courage on Bill Richardson's part. After all, his name has been widely circulated as a possible vice presidential candidate with Hillary Clinton. That possibility is now gone.
KING: Yes, it is.
BORGER: But, you know, I think Richardson --
KING: You think?
BORGER: I think Richardson could get another payoff, though, because if Barack Obama becomes the Democratic nominee and if he were to become president, Obama would owe Richardson big time. And...
GERGEN: Yes. But that -- isn't that interesting that he made that calculation?
BORGER: Yes. Yes. And I -- you know, and I think right now, as David was saying, this was a really bad week for Obama on a lot of fronts, although he did get what he waned in Florida and Michigan. But, you know, this was kind of a vote of confidence that he really needed.
CAFFERTY: Well, the other thing about Richardson is he brings a dossier, a resume, to the Obama camp that's very useful. The rap on Obama is he's young and he's inexperienced and he's this and he's that. And Bill Richardson is experienced in all the places that the opponents claim that Obama is not. So it's a very good fit for Barack Obama.
KING: Well, one of the --
KING: -- Well, one of the arguments people around the Obama campaign and some senior staffers in the Obama campaign has been making is look at the math. It's almost impossible -- almost impossible for Hillary Clinton to win this race. So why doesn't she do the right thing and get out? Governor Richardson, in our interview earlier, said she has every right to stay in -- David?
GERGEN: I -- you know, look, I think the big, big question now -- I think it is very, very difficult for her to win. But there remains this question if she can pull off a string of victories now, including not only a big in Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky and then, very importantly, if she could pull off North Carolina, there could be a move or a sense that, you know, the country has really changed on Barack Obama and she could -- the psychology then would change a lot.
GERGEN: So I think that, you know, Barack Obama has to do everything he can to pull closer in Pennsylvania and save North Carolina. And perhaps he could get John Edwards before the North Carolina primary. We'll have to wait and see.
KING: All right, a quick time out. A quick time out. We'll be back in a minute.
Snoopers found it easy to peek into the passport files of the presidential candidates for medical records, for financial information. What kind of job is the government doing with your private information?
And as John McCain gets a firsthand look at world trouble spots, are Americans more inclined to trust him with the war in Iraq?
The best political team on television is back just ahead.
KING: Can the Democratic Party can it still find its way out of the mess in Michigan and Florida? Is it too late for a deal?
We're back with the best political team on television -- CNN senior analyst David Gergen is in Boston. Jack Cafferty is in New York. And CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger right here in Washington.
Jack, I want to get your thoughts on this super-delegate question and the whole question of Michigan and Florida added in. Before you speak, I want to read you something from an op-ed by Doug Schoen. He's a pollster, a Democratic strategist. He was helping Mayor Bloomberg trying to get ready in running for president. I guess he has time to write op-eds now that...
CAFFERTY: That worked out pretty well, yes.
KING: ...that's not going to happen. But he writes this in "The Wall Street Journal" today: "The bargain should start with the Democratic National Committee pressing for re-votes in both states. And as a concession to the Obama campaign, Mr. Dean, the chairman, should promise something Mr. Obama desperately wants -- support in rallying super-delegates to the party's frontrunner.
If, at the end of the contest, Mr. Obama has won more states, enjoys a larger share of the popular vote and maintains a triple digit lead in pledged delegates and went along with re-votes in Florida and Michigan, Mr. Dean should promise to personally pressure superdelegates to respect the will of the Democratic voters and support the party's frontrunners."
CAFFERTY: Oh, please.
KING: That sounds like Jack Cafferty.
CAFFERTY: It makes my teeth hurt. You know, we -- that -- Florida and Michigan have said they're not going to do re-votes. The Michigan legislature is on vacation for two weeks. The Democratic National Committee created the situation.
It's not Barack Obama's responsibility to resolve it. And we've been talking about Michigan and Florida on this program in this segment for two weeks and I'm tired of it. When there's something new, let's go back and visit it. Until then, enough already.
BORGER: Well, there's going to be something new, though, Jack, because the -- Dean has to get together that Rules Committee. Then it's got to go to the Credentials Committee. And he's got a bunch of people on that Credentials Committee. And they have to come up with a solution. It can't be a 50/50 split, which is what the Obama campaign wants, because the Clinton will never agree to it.
CAFFERTY: He doesn't...
BORGER: They're going to have --
CAFFERTY: ...have to do anything. The rule was if you move your primary dates...
CAFFERTY: ...your delegates don't seat at the convention.
BORGER: But otherwise --
CAFFERTY: That's -- that was the ruling that was made.
BORGER: Well --
CAFFERTY: That's what we're dealing with here. It doesn't have to change.
BORGER: But Dean has to do something if he doesn't want a huge...
CAFFERTY: No, he doesn't.
BORGER: ...a huge fight. Well, he doesn't want a huge fight at his convention because he wants to win the election. KING: But, David, what is the effect -- A, what does -- what can Howard Dean do?
He wanted to have the re-votes. He was hoping -- somebody saved him from this problem, if you will, that Florida and Michigan would come up with a plan. The Michigan legislature went home. It doesn't mean they can't figure something else.
But what -- is this a train wreck for the Democrats?
GERGEN: Not necessarily. I don't think Howard Dean caused this, by the way. I do think it's caused by the political leadership -- the failure of political leadership in both Florida and Michigan. And they're the people who ought to clean it up.
It is an injustice to the Clinton campaign to have this situation. It's an injustice to the voters, because she would have been favored heavily in Florida and been favored in Michigan and it would have helped her.
Under the circumstances, it seems to me what's likely to happen now -- I don't think they're going to do it. I think it's -- it probably has gone by the boards.
I think what we're going to do is after North Carolina, after the last primaries, if Barack Obama continues to have a lead in delegates and in votes and in states, the bottom hasn't dropped out, if that's where he is and he's ahead like that, I would imagine that what they would try to do is get the superdelegates to come together and resolve which way they're going to go. And if they do go for Barack Obama and he basically has it wrapped up, then to seat the original delegation from Florida and Michigan, as they were determined by these two primaries -- these "primaries" are real beauty contests.
BORGER: But Howard Dean says he's not going to do that. Look, if Barack Obama is that far ahead at that point...
GERGEN: Yes, well, then Barack Obama could come around and say let's go ahead and do that.
BORGER: He's magnanimous, sure, let's go do that.
BORGER: If -- and if he's winning in the popular vote, as well as in the delegate count.
KING: But what about if she starts winning -- she wins Pennsylvania, she wins West Virginia, she wins, maybe, Kentucky. And Indiana is still in play. And so, at the end, they still have this stalemate and he's ahead.
Jack, she needs Florida and Michigan then or can she not win? CAFFERTY: Look, the math is pretty simple -- she's not going to catch him in pledged delegates. Barring a miracle, she's not going to catch him in the popular vote.
If the superdelegates turn that over and hand the nomination to Hillary Clinton, then they have a lot of explaining to do to one of their largest and most reliable constituents in the party. That would be African-American voters. Do you really think they're going to do that? I don't.
KING: Well, there's an argument in the Politico -- on the Politico.com Web site today that quotes even some of Hillary's own supporters saying there's only a 10 percent chance or so that she could win.
KING: Some say well, then, if you think you only have a 10 percent chance, get out. But I used this analogy before -- they don't stop the Indy 500 at 485 because somebody...
KING: ...is back five laps. When the Red Sox and the Yankees -- see, Jack, I'm being bipartisan here -- are down six to one or 10 to one...
KING: ...they don't stop the game in the fifth inning. They finish the game.
KING: What's the harm in finishing the game?
CAFFERTY: But, John, how much damage is going to be done, potentially, by finishing the game here?
You know, if all the cars cross the finish line at the Indianapolis 500, nobody gets hurt. They all go home and say I finished the race.
CAFFERTY: People are getting hurt.
CAFFERTY: The Democratic Party is getting hurt by this and the damage is going to continue unless it's resolved at some point.
GERGEN: I would --
KING: Go ahead, quickly, David.
Quickly. I want to get in one other subject.
GERGEN: Yes, OK, good. Look, they've got to finish. This is an important testing time for Barack Obama. It's important to go ahead and follow this up.
GERGEN: But I think if they do get to the finish line -- if they conduct their campaign in a more high tone way, they won't be so hurt. It's the tone of the campaign that's started to hurt them a lot, not the length of it.
KING: I want to present you with some poll numbers. And if I'm a Democrat, I'm looking at these numbers and I'm saying whoa.
Let's look at this right now. How should the next president handle the number of troops in Iraq? Thirty-three percent of Americans say keep about the same number. Sixty-one percent say remove most within a few months. That is the position of the Democratic candidates. Then you ask them how candidates would handle the war in Iraq -- who would do the best job, essentially?
John McCain, 65 percent; Obama, 55; Clinton, 53.
So the American people disagree with John McCain on Iraq and yet they think he would handle it better. What does that tell you?
BORGER: It tells you that the --
CAFFERTY: It means you leave the troops there for a hundred years and then you start bringing them home.
BORGER: And it tells you that John McCain is in a lot better shape than he should be given the state of the economy, given the way the people feel about George W. Bush and given the way that they feel about the war. There is something about John McCain that goes really beyond his positions, but goes -- but speaks to his leadership. We saw that in all the primaries as it played out.
BORGER: And I think that's going to be something that whomever the Democratic nominee is is going to have to grapple with.
GERGEN: I think it goes beyond that, if I might just add. I think Gloria is absolutely right about John McCain. But beyond that, most Americans would like to bring the troops home quickly. But they are -- they see that the war has changed on the ground.
They understand this is working better. And they would like to -- you know, I think that the Petraeus testimony -- General Petraeus' testimony in the eighth and ninth of April is going to be critical. And I will bet you he will come out of that testimony having convinced most Americans let's not pull the plug too fast, we have made too much progress. Let's not pull the plug too fast. And both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are going to have a problem after that testimony.
KING: Much more on this in the days, weeks and months ahead.
We need to pull the at the moment, though, on this Friday.
BORGER: Thank you.
KING: Thank you, she says.
CAFFERTY: Can't we talk some more about Michigan and Florida?
KING: Next week. I promise, Jack. I promise. When the Wolfman is back, we'll get it done.
BORGER: I love Michigan and Florida.
KING: Gloria Borger, Jack Cafferty, David Gergen, thank you -- let's all go to Michigan and Florida. Here we go.
BORGER: Let's go.
KING: And Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show right at the top of the hour.
Lou, I'm sure you're listening, but what are you working on?
LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Absolutely. And I don't think you pulled that plug a minute too soon. John, thanks.
Coming up at 7:00 Eastern here on CNN, much more on the furor over those passport files being breached -- files that were read inappropriately and illegally -- all three of the major candidates, their files read.
Were the files accessed for political reasons? We'll have the story.
And Senator Obama winning the endorsement of the nation's only Hispanic governor, Governor Bill Richardson. The endorsement, however, raising new questions about Obama's claim to be a unifier of all Americans. We'll examine race and politics on the presidential campaign trail.
And troubling new evidence that the American dream is in jeopardy for an entire generation of Americans.
Meanwhile, corporate elites rushing to hire new workers. You guessed it -- not from this country, overseas. We'll have complete coverage of the war on the middle class tonight.
Please join us at the top of the hour for all the day's news and much more -- John, back to you.
KING: Lou, we'll be back to you in just a few minutes. Thank you.
Contractors got a look at presidential candidates' supposedly secure passport files, which begs the question, how secure is your personal information?
And is spending money on someone else the key to happiness? Jack Cafferty asks what you think.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
KING: The breach of the passport files for the three major presidential candidates has raised new questions -- if contract workers can gain access to information about high profile presidential candidates, just how secure can millions of other U.S. passport holders expect their information to be?
As CNN homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve discovered, not very.
JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: John, every agency in government will tell you it has protections in place to guard your personal data. But are those protections good enough?
MESERVE (voice-over): Details of your medical history and work record, financial transactions, your Social Security number, travel history -- the kind of personal information entered into government databases.
How often do prying eyes look at it?
SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: It's a handful each year that we know about. Now, of course, there's always a possibility that there are some that you don't know about.
MESERVE: Very possible. A report card on government computer security issued last year failed the State Department and seven other federal agencies. The government-wide grade -- C minus. Some agencies have made improving security a priority. The Veterans Administration was red-faced when personal information of more than 26 million beneficiaries was compromised in 2006.
Now all medical information in its files is encrypted and customized thumb drives can only be read on authorized computers. Other government agencies have privacy officers who are supposed to police the use and disclosure of personal information. Many agencies require employees and contractors undergo privacy training and sign privacy pledges. Many have computer systems designed to detect unauthorized snooping in files.
Of course, the State Department had all of these and still files were breached.
BARRY STEINHARDT, ACLU: The fact that it happened to three of the highest profile people in America shouldn't be taken as an indicator this only happens to the powerful. It happens to ordinary Americans, it just doesn't get the same sort of attention.
MESERVE: And Steinhardt says if it happens to you, it is very likely you will never find out -- John.
KING: Jeanne Meserve.
Troubling. Thanks, Jeanne.
And Jack Cafferty joins us again -- hey, Jack.
CAFFERTY: All right, here's a little something for you to think of over the weekend, John.
Is spending money on someone else the key to happiness?
Somebody did a study indicating that it is.
Mike in Staten Island writes this: "It does feel nice to buy people stuff. But the key to happiness? That statement goes a little too far. It's making someone else happy that may well be the key to it. That and having a fat, well fed and relaxed cat."
Mark writes: "I spend about $75 a week sending goodies like brownies and other edibles to soldiers in Iraq and their thanks are so rewarding. Man, am I happy doing that."
Good for you, Mark.
Anthony writes: "Two thousand years after Jesus Christ, somebody finally figured out doing something for others makes us happy. Great. Now, let's see what we can do with peace."
Myk writes: "You can't just skip the race and go to the finish line. Spending money on others doesn't make you happy, being happy makes you want to spend money on others. If you have someone in your life who you want to provide for, you're probably already happy."
Ellyn writes from Pennsylvania: "Taking an older person out to dinner and horse racing is a lot more fun than shopping for clothes, I found out recently. It shows that sharing yourself, your time and possibly money with another person is better for you spiritually than spending or hoarding it all for yourself."
David writes: "Jack, let's find out. Can you send me a few dollars?"
Craig in Tampa writes: "It must be, Jack. Every five or six years I find a woman I don't like and buy her a house. And, no, I won't buy your book just to make you happy, because I've got mortgage payments on three ex-wives."
And, finally, Greg in Illinois writes: "Then former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer must be very, very, very, very happy."
CAFFERTY: Back to you, John.
KING: All right, Jack -- let's see -- let's see how this fancy SITUATION ROOM technology works. Stick out your right hand.
CAFFERTY: My right hand?
KING: Right now. I'm trying to give you something here. See -- see, there you go. See, I'm trying to give you something.
KING: There you go.
CAFFERTY: It's funny, there's nothing there.
KING: It's not working.
KING: Some sheckles (ph) I brought back from my trip. I have some dinars (ph), too. I'll pack them up and send them your way.
CAFFERTY: Thank you very much.
KING: That will make me happy.
CAFFERTY: Have a good weekend.
KING: Will it make you happy?
CAFFERTY: Yes, fine.
KING: All right, then.
CAFFERTY: Absolutely. I'm always happy, John.
KING: You are always happy.
KING: Have a great weekend, Jack.
She may have appeared in that Hillary Clinton, 3:00 a.m. ad, but the girl, who is grown up, does not want Hillary Clinton picking up the White House phone at anytime. Her new video is a bit of a wake-up call.
KING: You remember it was just last month -- a Clinton campaign ad asking voters, who would you want to pick up the phone at the White House at 3:00 a.m.?
Well, the little girl featured in that ad says she'd want it to be Barack Obama. Now, she's drumming up support for Senator Obama online.
Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton -- Abbi, what's she saying?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: John, it's this little girl in the Hillary Clinton ad, the sleeping girl, now all grown up and stumping for Barack Obama online.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CASEY KNOWLES, OBAMA SUPPORTER: That little girl in the stock footage was me eight years ago and I'm here to tell you that I'm not scared.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TATTON: That's 17-year-old Casey Knowles. She gave television interviews earlier this month when she saw this ad, about her support for Barack Obama. And now, in this new Web ad, which is posted on Obama's Web site, she complains that the Clinton camp used that old video, which she said was intended for things like cough syrup, for the politics of fears -- tinting the footage and adding what she calls a scratchy voice.
Well, Casey is telling people online that that simply won't do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KNOWLES: I'm Casey Knowles and I approve this message -- and not the other one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Thank you.
Abbi, thanks very much.
Sunday on "LATE EDITION," Senator Evan Bayh. He's a Clinton supporter. And Governor Janet Napolitano, an Obama supporter. "LATE EDITION" starts, as always, at 11:00 a.m. Eastern.
Thanks for joining us. I'm John King in THE SITUATION ROOM. Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxantshop.com