Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

B1 Bomber has Crashed in Qatar; New Report Claims Surge in Iraq is Working; Presidential Candidates Pay Tribute to Dr. King

Aired April 4, 2008 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, memorial in Memphis -- presidential candidates pay tribute to Martin Luther King. John McCain looks back, saying he was slow to give greatness its due. Hillary Clinton looks ahead, saying it's time for a cabinet post aimed at ending poverty in America.

A new intelligence report on Iraq says the surge is working. But Democrats call it too rosy. It comes as Iraq's government makes a dramatic about-face, calling a halt to raids on Shiite militants.

And when the Vietnam War raged, protesters marched to anti-war anthems. Protest songs topped the charts. But we'll ask big stars where are today's big songs?

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We'll have all the day's political developments in a moment.

But we begin with breaking news out of the Middle East. The U.S. military says a B-1 bomber has crashed at a key air base in Qatar. We go to straight to CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

Barbara, what are you learning at this hour?

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, we, for once, would like to give everybody a happy update on this military situation. The Air Force, just a few minutes ago, issuing a statement, saying that this B-1 bomber caught fire when it was landing and then taxiing at the Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar in the Middle East. It caught fire, but all of the crew members on board are safe. They all got out of the plane safely.

The B-1 is one of the workhorses of the fleet for both the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is used mainly flying out of al-Udeid, in some cases, to drop precision weapons over the battlefield. Today, some military families getting some happy news that their loved ones are safe -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Good news. Barbara Starr, thank you so much, out of the Pentagon.

Thousands of people marching through the rain in Memphis marking the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. 40 years ago today. Among those taking part in the commemoration, two of the three leading presidential candidates.

Republican John McCain took the opportunity to try to mend ties with African-Americans angry over his 1983 vote against creating a national holiday honoring King.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can be slow, as well, to give greatness its due, a mistake I myself made long ago...

(BOOS)

MCCAIN: I myself made long ago when I voted against a federal holiday in memory of Dr. King.

(BOOS)

MCCAIN: I was wrong.

(BOOS)

MCCAIN: I was wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We all make mistakes. We all make mistakes.

MCCAIN: I was wrong and eventually realized that in time -- in time to give full support -- full support for a state holiday in my home state of Arizona.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: I'd remind you that we can all be a little late sometimes in doing the right thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was also there. She spoke of fulfilling King's legacy and dream, saying part of that is making a commitment to ending poverty.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe we should appoint a cabinet level position that will be solely and fully devoted to ending poverty as we know it in America -- a position...

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: ...that will focus the attention of our nation on this issue and never let it go. A person whom I would see being asked by the president every single day, what have you done to end poverty in America?

No more excuses, no more whining, but instead a concerted effort. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: We want to take you live to Memphis for more on the events marking King's death.

CNN special correspondent Soledad O'Brien is there -- Soledad, when John McCain gave a very candid speech...

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Suzanne, I hear you cutting out from me. Can you hear me back again?

MALVEAUX: I can hear you -- Soledad. Can you hear me?

(AUDIO GAP)

MALVEAUX: Well, it looks like -- it looks like we may have to wait just a little bit on Soledad there. She filed this report.

Let's go to a report that she did just moments ago.

We're going to change plans at the moment. We'll get back to Soledad and her report.

But first, Barack Obama explained his absence in Memphis during his flight to Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I spoke at Dr. King's church on his birthday, was with the King family then. I obviously gave a fairly fulsome speech on the state of race relations just two weeks ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Obama later held a town hall meeting where he did speak about King.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The great need of this hour is much the same as it was when Dr. King delivered his sermon in Memphis. We have to recognize that while we each have a different past, we all share the same hopes for the future. We all hope we can find a job that pays a decent wage, that there will be affordable health care when we get sick.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: That we'll be able to send our kids to college. That after a lifetime of hard work, we'll be able to retire with security. There are common hopes, modest dreams and they're at the heart of the struggle for freedom and dignity and humanity that Dr. King began. And that is our task to complete.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: While King is remembered for his inspirational speeches, his legacy has been marked by one speech that led one to call him a traitor to his country. CNN's Joe Johns here joining us now.

And, Joe, we've heard a lot about that speech. Tell us more.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, while today is the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, it's also a day to remember his opposition to the war in Southeast Asia.

We went back and took a look at one of his most famous anti-war speeches, which was delivered, as it happens, exactly one year before he was shot down in Memphis.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): For so many, the power of Martin Luther King's message of hope, the dream, is transcendent.

But other words of Dr. King are, in some circles, controversial to this day. And perhaps one of Dr. King's most incendiary and controversial speeches of all time occurred one year before his death. Here at the Riverside Church in New York, Dr. King was taking on the United States government's involvement in the Vietnam War.

MARTIN LUTHER KING J.R., CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST & LEADER: And I knew that I could never gain raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, my own government.

JOHNS: It was 1967. The war in Vietnam was all-consuming and opposition at home reached a violent crescendo. Dr. King spoke out. Many questioned why. But in his view, civil rights and the war were inseparable.

KING: We were taking the black young men, who had been crippled by our society and sending them 8,000 miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in Southwest Georgia and East Harlem.

JOHNS: Later that month at his own church, he even went further -- the U.S. had invited the wrath of God.

KING: And it seems that I can hear God saying to America, you are too arrogant. If you don't change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power.

JOHNS: It was all shocking -- widely denounced as unpatriotic, if not anti-American. The comparison to Reverend Jeremiah Wright today is all but impossible to miss. "The Washington Post" said King had "diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people. "Time" magazine stopped just short of calling him a traitor, saying the speech was "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi."

And years later, when Congress debated a national holiday to honor Dr. King, North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms repeated King's own words in opposition.

JESSE HELMS, FORMER SENATOR, NORTH CAROLINA: He attacked this country in the most vicious way during the Vietnam War. And Ho Chi Minh was categorized as a hero in his book and that sort of thing.

JOHNS: To many at the time, King was a divisive figure, though what endures today is his power as a man of peace.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: Dr. King's role as a man of peace was actually validated years before, when he was named one of the recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Joe, it's really interesting, because after that whole Reverend Wright controversy broke, I spoke with many black ministers who said, you know, Dr. King, in some ways, is sanitized. A lot of people remember the I dream -- you know, "I Have A Dream" speech, but not some of the anti-American rhetoric here. And they say that perhaps Dr. King would not survive in an age of YouTube, where everything is recorded and analyzed.

What do you think?

JOHNS: Certainly that's true. I talked to a lot of pastors during that time, as well. And they all point out that that role many African-American pastors see in themselves as a person who speaks truth to power. So you never know. It may very well have been that Dr. King would have been one of those people who spoke again and again whatever he wanted to say when he wanted to say it.

MALVEAUX: All right. Joe thank so much.

Let's go back to Soledad O'Brien in Memphis. Soledad has been there. She's been watching all the candidates throughout the day giving speeches on this historic day.

John McCain gave a very candid speech admitting past mistakes -- Soledad, give us a sense of what the reaction was like there from the crowd.

O'BRIEN: Yes. It was a very candid speech. He said I was wrong, I was wrong. And what you heard from the crowd when he first began, he kind of came down the stairs of the balcony and was sort of surrounded by everybody with their umbrellas, because it was raining, was a combination of clapping, cheers and boos, also.

And then when he started speaking and he talked about he didn't originally support making Martin Luther King Day a national holiday, it was interesting to hear some people heckle him, but at the same time you had these occasional shouts of, "I forgive you, I forgive you." People -- regardless of what they thought about him, everyone closed in. Also, the same when Senator Clinton was here, as well -- very interested to see a presidential candidate up close and personal -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you very much, Soledad.

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

We'll let Jack get situated just for a moment there -- Jack, can you hear me?

Well, we're going to let him get ready for just a moment -- hey, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Sorry about that, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: No worries.

What are you looking at?

CAFFERTY: Well, I was being held hostage in the other room.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: I was lucky to escape with my life. Americans are in a...

MALVEAUX: No worries.

CAFFERTY: Americans are in a -- much to the disappointment of some people, I did. Americans are in a pretty foul mood these days, between an economy that's in a recession and an unpopular war entering its sixth year with no resolution in sight. We're not a very happy bunch of campers these days.

Eighty-one percent of us say things in this country have gotten seriously off on the wrong track, according to a "New York Times"/CBS poll. A year ago, it was 69 percent. Five years ago, it was just 35 percent -- the highest level of dissatisfaction ever recorded since this poll was first taken in the early 1990s.

Only 14 percent of us think we're going in the right direction.

The pain has spread across almost every demographic and political group -- Democrats, Republicans, men, women, people who live in the cities, people who live in rural areas, college, high school graduates. The poll also found that compared to five years ago, 78 percent of Americans think things in the United States are worse now. Seventeen percent say the same. Only 4 percent of us say things have gotten better in the last five years.

The public's unhappiness began to rise with the onset of the war in Iraq. Now the economy is playing a big part in the darkening mood. Twenty-one percent say the overall economy is in good condition. Nearly two in three say they think the economy is already in a recession.

It's clear, then, that America Americans are looking to the election in November to offer a drastic change of course. Either John McCain, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama has to convince the public that they can right the train. And the one who does that will be our next president.

Here's the question: Which of the presidential candidates will most benefit from the fact that 81 percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment on my blog --

Suzanne, I apologize for leaving you hanging. That's happening to you a lot today and it shouldn't happen at all.

(LAUGHTER)

MALVEAUX: No apologies necessary, Jack. It happens to all of us.

CAFFERTY: All right.

MALVEAUX: Huckabee, Romney and Rice -- sounds like a lobbying firm. Well, maybe one day. But right now, those names show up in a poll of Republicans. You may be surprised to hear what draws the most responses.

John McCain is reluctant, but ready to bow to reality. Why he'll soon be talking to the Secret Service.

And Hillary Clinton has just released her tax returns. We'll tell you how much the Clintons made and what we found buried inside.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: John McCain says he's got about 20 names on his list of potential V.P. picks. But Republican voters are hard-pressed to come up with a favorite of their own. In a new Gallup Poll, 18 percent of those surveyed say they'd like to see McCain choose former candidate Mike Huckabee as a running mate. Another former candidate, Mitt Romney, is backed by 15 percent. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is named by 8 percent. But it's still early. About 31 percent of Republicans cannot name anyone they'd like to see on that ticket.

And some Republicans are pressuring John McCain before he makes his vice presidential pick. More than two dozen social conservative leaders will run an ad in tomorrow's "Prescott Daily Courier" in McCain's home state of Arizona. They will announce they can't support McCain if he selects Mitt Romney as his running mate. The ad repeats the campaign's criticism which social conservatives aimed at Romney over abortion and gay rights. Romney has said he has changed his stance on those issues. McCain is due to appear in Prescott tomorrow.

And now that he is set to become the Republican nominee, John McCain is ready, however reluctantly, to step into the Secret Service's security bubble. Let's turn to CNN's homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve. -

Jeanne, we know that he has been reluctant so far, but I guess he's giving in at this point. Tell us why.

JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he is.

Suzanne, McCain has made it very clear he does not want Secret Service protection. But today he bowed to reality and said he'll take it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE (voice-over): John McCain stood on the balcony where Martin Luther King was assassinated, as controversy swirled about the public revelation Thursday by the director of the Secret Service that McCain had not asked for protection.

MARK SULLIVAN, DIRECTOR, U.S. SECRET SERVICE: As far as an actual request, there has not been one yet. So we don't go in advance and secure some of the sites, you know, where he might be. Congressman, we have no involvement at this point.

MESERVE: The ensuing attention brought a change. Friday, McCain told Fox News, "I think that it's important as we get more and more visibility that we recognize the inevitable. We will be talking with them early to arrange for, very soon, some Secret Service protection."

McCain relishes his personal contact with the voters and had said in the past that the Secret Service would constrain his political and personal style.

JONATHAN MARTIN, POLITICO: He wants to act like any other normal America, be able to come and go as he pleases and stop for a cup of coffee, as he often does, wherever he wants and whenever he wants and do so without checking in with a group of security folks.

MESERVE: To get Secret Service protection prior to an election, a candidate must request it; the secretary of homeland security authorize it. Barack Obama got a detail in May of last year -- unusually early. Hillary Clinton has had one because she is a former first lady.

The McCain campaign and Secret Service have had talks about protective coverage in the past and another meeting is scheduled for next week. Government and campaign sources say the current media spotlight has accelerated the timetable for protection and a homeland security official says a security detail is ready to go.

A former agent says Secret Service protection will bring more than that.

ANDREW O'CONNELL, FORTRESS GLOBAL: You get things like threat assessments, you get things like protective intelligence research that the private sector doesn't have access to. (END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: A homeland security official says he is unaware of anything suggesting any sort of imminent threat to any candidate. But many feel McCain is better safe than sorry -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thanks -- Jeanne Meserve.

Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan says it costs at least $38,000 a day to protect a candidate. Once John McCain's detail is up and running, the tab for guarding all three presidential candidates will cost the taxpayers $114,000 a day.

Thousands more U.S. troops will soon be heading overseas. We'll have details of President Bush's new commitment to the war on terror.

Plus, troubling new developments in the housing market. We'll show you what's happening to homes across the country.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Carol Costello is off today. Brianna Keilar is monitoring all the stories that are coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Brianna, what are you watching?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Suzanne.

We're following severe weather in the South. This includes a tornado that touched down within the past hour north of Montgomery, Alabama. We are working to get details of possible damage or injuries. But it's basically a line of dangerous thunderstorms that has been tearing across the region, with winds topping 70 miles per hour.

A French yacht seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia. Thirty crew members are on board, but no passengers. The French prime minister says his country's military and foreign ministry are working to free the hostages. France has a sizable military presence in that region.

And Queen Elizabeth's husband, Prince Philip, he is hospitalized in London with a chest infection. Officials at Buckingham Palace say the 86-year-old prince had a cold that has gotten worse in recent days. And they say he was taken to the hospital by private car and that he walked inside on his own and that he's now undergoing tests.

Well, you know, beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. At this pageant here, more than 15,000 camels are competing in the International Camel Beauty Contest in Abu Dhabi. But, you know, forget about the scholarships, the modeling contracts. The prizes here include Range Rovers and up to $10 million cash. The pageant is part of a multi-billion dollar campaign to revive the region's Bedouin culture -- Suzanne. MALVEAUX: No bathing suit contest I noticed.

OK, Brianna.

KEILAR: Probably not.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thanks, Brianna.

Barack Obama promising to quickly bring home U.S. troops from Iraq. But one of his advisers may have a different timetable.

Also, we'll show you what's happening in the housing market that's raising new concern about the economy. And protesting war with music then and now -- find out what's still the same and what's changed.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, the Clinton campaign has just released tax records for the former president and current presidential candidate. They show earnings of $109 million between 2000 and 2006, with $33 million paid in taxes and more than $10 million in charitable contributions.

Also, Michigan Democrats are pulling the plug on a possible primary re-do. State party officials say there is no practical way to do it before the national convention. The national party refuses to recognize Michigan's January primary because it was held early, against party rules.

And about four out of five Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction. Eighty-one percent of those asked in a CBS News/"New York Times" poll said they believe the U.S. is seriously off track.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A campaign adviser to Barack Obama is recommending that U.S. forces remain in Iraq longer than the candidate has been promising. CNN's Jim Acosta joining us now.

And, Jim, tell us what this is all about.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, on his Web site, Barack Obama promises he will "have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months."

But an Obama adviser on Iraq has other ideas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OBAMA: Yes, we can! ACOSTA (voice-over): It's one of Barack Obama's "yes we can moments" on the trail. Yes, he asserts, America can end the war in Iraq in 16 months.

OBAMA: We're going to bring one to two brigades out per month. At that pace, it will take about 16 months to get all of our combat troops out.

ACOSTA: But Colin Kahl, an unpaid adviser to the Obama campaign on Iraq, argues no, America can't. In a policy briefing obtained by "The New York Sun," Kahl urges a transition force of 60,000 to 80,000 troops in Iraq until the end of 2010. That's nearly two years into an Obama presidency.

Kahl writes: "A policy of conditional engagement, a nuanced middle position between all in or all out, offers a better chance of producing lasting progress in Iraq."

SAMANTHA POWER, FORMER OBAMA ADVISER: It's the best case scenario.

ACOSTA: Last month former Obama foreign policy adviser Samantha Power suggested to the BBC the 16 month timetable is flexible.

POWER: He will of course not rely upon some plan he's crafted as potential candidate or a U.S. senator. He'll rely upon an operational plan in consultation with people on the ground to which he doesn't have daily access now as a result of not being the president.

ACOSTA: And just this last week, Obama's current foreign policy coordinator said at a panel discussion, "Obama will listen to his commanders on the ground and react to developments on the ground."

As for Hillary Clinton, she promised withdrawing forces in her first 60 days in office.

CLINTON: We're bringing our sons and daughters home. It's up to the Iraqis to chart their own future course.

ACOSTA: But she has yet to say exactly when the war would end. Some Iraq policy analysts believe an immediate withdrawal will be easier said than done.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: I actually find it reassuring given that Senator Obama may very well be our next president that he has some independently minded people willing to say these sort of things in public. On the other hand, it's going to cause some people to question whether Obama has been true to his own premise of his own campaign.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: As far as the Obama campaign says, the senator does not share the views of this adviser. The campaign insists Obama is not backing away from his 16 month pledge -- Suzanne. MALVEAUX: Thank you, Jim Acosta. It'll be interesting to see if those timetables change if they get more information on the ground and if either one of them becomes president. Thanks again, Jim.

As the Obama campaign wrestles over the troop commitment in Iraq, Democrats are taking issue with a new intelligence report. And President Bush commits more troops to battle in the future. Let's go live to CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

Barbara, you've got all the details. What are you looking at?

STARR: Well Suzanne, what is really striking people here in the pentagon is President Bush is making a military commitment in Afghanistan for the person who moves into the White House next.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): At the end of the NATO summit in Bucharest, President Bush committed a new round of U.S. troops to the war in Afghanistan. According to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Mr. Bush told other heads of state that in 2009 the United States would make a significant additional contribution of forces to fight the Taliban.

U.S. commanders want another 10,000 troops so why not send them now to join the 30,000 U.S. troops already there? The answer, Iraq.

ADM. MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: There are force requirements there that we can't currently meet. So having forces in Iraq don't -- at the level they're at don't allow us to fill the need in Afghanistan.

STARR: Finding enough troops for Afghanistan and Iraq is proving increasingly difficult. A new classified national intelligence estimate on Iraq that congress requested be ready before General David Petraeus testifies on Tuesday is now on Capitol Hill. It reportedly says the surge is working.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: There are some parts of it which would be helpful to support the case that changing course is long overdue here.

SEN. KIT BOND (R), MISSOURI: All I can say is the people who are bitching obviously didn't like the results.

STARR: The latest fighting in Basra may temper Petraeus' view that the surge has worked. The U.S. now has more than 500 troops in the south helping Iraqi security forces.

O'HANLON: Basra makes everything more complicated. A month ago we could have tried to tell a story that Iraq was getting better, that even the political system was starting to make compromises on issues like a budget.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Now, Suzanne, just think about the calendar. In September the first post surge brigade is scheduled to return to the United States. So within the next several weeks, General Petraeus has to decide, does he still replace those troops or let the overall troop levels in Iraq decline and have some of those troops become available for the new commitment in Afghanistan -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: A lot of folks on Capitol Hill will be anxious to hear what he has to say. Thank you Barbara Starr at the pentagon.

Realistic or rosy, that new intelligence report on Iraq is sparking new controversy. Let's get a fact check. Our CNN's Michael Ware joining us live from New York, but he has spent most of his time in Iraq.

Really Michael, since day one since this war has begun we've been listening to John McCain. We've heard this idea from the administration that the so-called surge is making conditions on the ground better in Iraq. What is your assessment?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, to a fair degree that's true and it's not true. What one has to look at is, first, what exactly is the surge. Well I can tell you now it's far more than just 30,000 combat troops acceptability to reinforce the capital. That's just the thin veneer on the surface.

What the surge really is as Ambassador Crocker and many others told us, it's really about cutting deals with the Sunni insurgents who have been killing Americans, it's about Muqtada al Sadr telling his militia to lay low for his own political purposes, nothing to do with trying to help America. It's about segregating Baghdad into divided communities that perhaps irreparably has torn apart the fabric of Iraqi society but it's prevented people from getting at each other to kill one another.

It's about a whole host of other political accommodations. It's also about political surge where the state department and the embassy has been trying to force the Iraqi government and the various factions to agree on legislation and push it through. That's hard markedly mixed results. Even General Petraeus himself who said reconciliation, the progress on that is insufficient. At the end of the day, that was the ultimate purpose of the surge.

I have to tell you, whatever the reason, no matter how it's done, no matter how long it lasts, it's brought the death toll down by cutting the deals and separating the communities. Who's not thankful for that?

The one thing you must bear in mind, Suzanne, what are the costs of this strategy and what are going to be the consequences? There's a number of things that have been put in as a result of the surge to obtain short-term goals and at some point someone's going to have to pay for them, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Well that's a very good question Michael because we really don't know how much this is going to cost when it's all said and done. We've heard of Barack Obama's campaign. Perhaps there seems to be a window opening here, 16 months to get the U.S. troops out. But do you think it's a good idea for a timetable in the first place? You've never been a big fan of that. Do you think it's good there's some flexibility perhaps the candidates are showing?

WARE: Well, the notion of a timetable is ludicrous to begin with strategically and realistically. One must bear in mind campaigning this is actually running a war.

Certainly it's the hope of the commanders on the ground from a senior level that what's being said now may not necessarily be what's done when someone's sitting in the oval office.

Indeed I was speaking to Senator Kerry in D.C. just yesterday. Even when he was outlining what he considered to be a responsible timetable for withdrawal, it was a much more nuanced approach than the bumper sticker kind of slogan that you're hearing from the candidates currently campaigning.

In Senator Kerry's version which is on record, there still remained U.S. troops for some time to come. There was going to be renewed efforts in other fields and areas, but it was not the let's pull out and go home.

MALVEAUX: Sure.

WARE: He said we're not pulling the plug. Really I think there's a lot of wiggle room and the American public need to be aware of that.

MALVEAUX: Sure. I spoke with Senator Kerry yesterday as well. It seems like it's going to be a lot more complicated for whoever really gets in the office there.

Thank you very much, Michael Ware, for your perspective. Obviously from day one inside of Baghdad. Thanks again, Michael.

This is the time of year when many Americans put their homes on the market. Now new evidence of increasing desperation. We'll look at why home prices keep falling.

And China prepares to throw, well, a huge party for the world. But while Beijing is showing off, what is it covering up?

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: The labor department says employers cut 80,000 jobs in March, a troublesome number. The news behind it is even more so. It's the third month in a row of job losses, the longest period of decline since 2003. The cuts also pushed unemployment up 5.1 percent, the highest level since 2005.

Those troublesome developments in the market and the housing market where we're learning prices plunged yet again ahead of the important spring sells season. CNN personal finance editor, Gerri Willis, joining us live.

Gerri, I guess the big question is, is there any end in sight?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Well, I got to tell you Suzanne, the market is not looking good for this spring. We continue to hear reports that prices are going down, down, down.

I want to talk a little bit about where median housing prices have been and where they're going. If you take a look at the regions area by area you can see what the median prices are here. Right now the national median at 195,500. Remember, just a few years ago it hit its peak at $230,000.

As you can see the prices are coming down and they're coming down hard. If you're a buyer in this market, the world's your oyster. There are really lots of opportunities out there, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Beyond securing loans, what else should home buyers be thinking about?

WILLIS: Well, I think you have to think about obviously securing a loan. That can be very difficult.

You also have to think about negotiating the best deal you can. In this market, you really want to lowball an offer. It's a great idea to actually challenge sellers on the price they're putting in the marketplace. You want to negotiate that deal and prepare for the closing.

When you go into the closing, you want to make sure you have your HUD-1 form. This is a form that will outline the fees you're paying. You compare it with obviously the charges you were promised at the get-go on your good will form and make sure they're not charging you too much.

At the end of the day for buyers, you've really got to think about am I negotiating the best deal and am I getting the best loan. We saw what happened to folks who did not get good loans over the last five years. Many of those folks now in foreclosure -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right. Gerri Willis, thanks again.

There is a lot more on everything you need to know about buying and selling in Gerri's new book. It is called "Home Rich."

Time now for our weekly segment, "What If," something Chinese officials may be asking themselves as the world reacts to their crackdown in Tibet and more.

Here's CNN special correspondent, Frank Sesno.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: What if you planned a party and invited the world so everyone can see just how well you're doing? The new house, pool, backyard, the influential friends.

That's what China wants. Its Olympic bash is designed to impress a metaphor for a country booming into the 21st century where people tell visitors they want to be innovators, not imitators, rising aspirations and emerging power.

But what if reality crashes the party? It already has in Tibet. As the torch was passed, even as presidents met, remember the protest at the White House two years ago over human rights?

It's doubtful anyone will pull out of the games. Countries want to compete. China's too big, too important with too much trade. Olympic boycotts don't change much.

But what if China's approach toward Darfur, Iran, human rights doesn't change? What if the protests continue? It'll mean more headlines, more diplomatic pressure. The Chinese people may even get a whiff of it.

The Olympics are a pressure point inside China and out. Beijing has bulked up and will push back. Already has. Its news agency says China's president told America's president those riots in Tibet involved brazen, violent act, not peaceful demonstrators. No apologies here.

What if reality crashes China's Olympic bash? It will. To make a point and to compete alongside all of this. Let the games begin.

(on-camera): The Chinese point proudly to their economy, the cities, highways and universities. They'd rather not harp on the problems, the pollution, the politics. What if the attention gives them no choice? They may be about to find out.

Frank Sesno, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And Hillary Clinton does late night TV. And plays off her own headlines to get a few laughs. Hear for yourself what she said.

And decades after Vietnam, Iraq is inspiring some singers. We'll show you how protest music has changed.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Well, she's faced a lot of criticism lately for saying that she faced hostile fire during a trip as first lady but Hillary Clinton turned that into laughs last night when she turned up on the "Tonight Show" with Jay Leno.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, TALK SHOW HOST: Good to see you. CLINTON: It is so great to be here. You know, I was worried I wasn't going to make it.

LENO: Oh.

CLINTON: Yes. I was pinned down by sniper fire.

LENO: Really? Right out here? You know, in L.A. that might be true actually.

CLINTON: I know. This has just been, you know, such a mismatch of words and actions and I was thinking about it because obviously I've been so privileged to represent our country in, gosh, more than 80 other countries, lots of war zones and all the rest of it. I wrote about this in my book and then I obviously just had a lapse.

LENO: OK. Yes.

CLINTON: So here I am safe and sound.

LENO: I want to ask you about that Chelsea. I know as a parent she's out there. And how protective. I know when I first started in the business my dad would come to the show. If somebody heckled me, hey, shut the hell up. My dad would go over and like threaten the guy. I mean as a parent, when you see her out there, people ask rude questions, how do you ...

CLINTON: Well, my stomach is in knots. That's the way a parent feels. I really sympathize with your dad. But luckily I'm not there. I'm not going to make a spectacle of myself like your father did. Obviously I'm very proud and I'm also incredibly touched that she's doing this. Because it's her decision and she's making a real difference for me.

LENO: She said she thought you would be a better president than her dad.

CLINTON: She's such a smart young woman.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Time now to check back with Jack Cafferty -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour, Suzanne, is: Which of the presidential candidates will most benefit from the fact that 81 percent of Americans now think our country is on the wrong track?

We get this Inri from Cambridge, Massachusetts: "Obama campaigns on change, Hillary campaigns on Obama's electability. Even if they're wrong people associate them with their campaign platforms. If people don't like the way things are going they're going to support change even they have an idea of the word and not the candidate."

Andy in Virginia writes: "None of the candidates benefit. The truth of the matter is no matter who is elected in November they'll have to spend their time trying to fix the damage." Dan in Massachusetts: "Democratic candidate, whoever he or she may be. The Republicans are responsible for setting forth an agenda that has crippled our military, destroyed our economy and seized power where it had never existed before. McCain is Bush. He's a Republican. The Democratic Party will win the White House come November."

Pete in Florida writes this: "When the first hurricane Bush left the U.S. in bad shape, it was Bill Clinton who put us back on our two feet. Now the second hurricane Bush knocked us off our feet again. The one who would benefit most is who knows how to deal with a Bush storm and that would be Hillary Clinton."

Jim in Louisiana: "I would put forth the idea that should the Democrats not win the White House in November of '08 it's time to do away with the two-party system. With the empire of George Bush and Darth Vader crashing on so many different fronts at this particular time, the Democrats ought to be shoe-ins."

Harry in Kentucky says: "The candidate with the least perceived connections to the beltway. Currently that would be Obama. Let's pray things don't get so bad that Nader becomes viable."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and look for your letter there and read hundreds of others as well.

We get a lot of traffic on that blog site. I trust you'll enjoy it.

Suzanne, you read all those e-mails every day, don't you?

MALVEAUX: Oh, I try, Jack. All right. Jack, thanks.

When the Vietnam War was raging, protesters marched to a number of anti-war anthems. Protest songs were a big part of popular culture. It's different today, even as the Iraq war rages. CNN's Kareen Wynter joining us from Los Angeles.

Kareen, what are the singers themselves saying about this?

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Suzanne. Some musicians believe that you have a much better chance of getting protest songs played on the radio if they have subtle, less accusatory themes instead of those that hammer home strong messages of hate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WYNTER: It was the '60s and early '70s and the sounds of discontent filled the airways.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had a power that we felt like we could help change the world.

WYNTER: Crosby, Stills Nash and Young, Bob Dylan, Jefferson Airplane and Joan Baez were grabbing public attention with tunes that challenged the United States government and spoke for generation angry about the Vietnam War.

JOAN BAEZ, SINGER: The '60s was a perfect storm and the music coming in from there and politics coming in from there, civil rights here, Vietnam there. In the middle of that came the music.

WYNTER: With polls showing the majority of Americans today oppose the war in Iraq, there are parallels with the 60s and '70s when the public sentiment turned against the war in Vietnam.

But where are today's protest songs? The Foo Fighters won a Grammy earlier this year for their hit, "The Pretender." Some say it's a rant against President Bush and his policy in Iraq. But the lyrics are open to interpretation.

DAVE GROHL, FOO FIGHTERS: As an American who feels shafted by our administration, I could write songs all day long about that. But I don't want to be too literal so it can apply to a thousand different things.

WYNTER: Songs that are more direct like Eddy Vetter's new single "No More" from the "Body of War Documentary" aren't getting a lot of play on commercial airwaves.

GRAHAM NASH, CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG: We know what happened to the Dixie Chicks. They said something quite innocent in some ways.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not ready to make nice. I'm not ready to back down

WYNTER: Rewind to the Iraq invasion in 2003 when Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks told concert goers in London she was embarrassed to be from the same state as George Bush. There were public CD smashings and a number of stations refused to play their music.

NATALIE MAINES, THE DIXIE CHICKS: It scares other people for us to speak out and it scares other artists after what happened to us to speak out.

BAEZ: I always think that real change is kind of measured by the amount of risk people are willing to take.

God bless this land. God bless this land

SHERYL CROW, SINGER: People say do you think music can change things. I don't know if it can but it can certainly move molecules. That's where we've got to start.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WYNTER: How about this. Neil young has posted more than 2,500 protest songs on his Web site, Suzanne, just to give artists with a message a chance to be heard -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thanks Kareen. Good seeing you. Who's the best fake Obama? Jeanne Moos will show you the candidates and you decide for yourself.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Well, who's the best fake Obama of them all? CNN's Jeanne Moos is pointing fingers in this report on the battle of the Obamas. It's Moost unusual.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Will someone please point to the best fake Obama?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He'll do this with his fingers.

OBAMA: Especially among young people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First I'm going to do this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live from New York.

MOOS: It's the battle of the fake Obamas hitting Saturday Night Live.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes we can take sides.

MOOS: Against Fox's Mad TV. Against the Tonight Show.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to take you down [ bleep ].

MOOS: Controversy was injected into the battle when Saturday Night Live chose a guy of white Asian heritage to play Obama dealing with love struck supporters. Not a bulls eye according to a Chicago tribune columnist. "Call me crazy but shouldn't SNL's fictional Barack Obama be played by an African America?"

Mad TV's Obama says what makes him so right for the job is ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm half black and half white and he's half black and half white.

MOOS: As for Leno's Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am 100 percent black.

MOOS: Christopher Duncan got rave reviews on Leno debating the length of the presidential race.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a marathon. You know who wins marathons? Guys from Kenya.

MOOS: Mad TV's fake Obama, Keegan-Michael Key, has been doing a lot of musical numbers. He appeared in a mostly too racy for us to show video and he did a couple of skits.

Physical differences from the real Obama can be overcome or over done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was the last part? I couldn't hear you.

MOOS: Fake Obamas agree on the trickiest part about doing Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That cadence that I think it may be easier for a black man to slip into.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the situation is there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just feels good in the mouth.

MOOS: The Leno Obama would love to do "Saturday Night Live" next season.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My agents at SNL are in contact ...

MOOS: In the meantime, the fake Obama's are doing impersonations within their impersonation. Here's Obama doing Bill Cosby...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to thank Hillary...

MOOS: And here is Obama doing Donald Duck making love...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) slow down...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you describe that as silly?

MOOS: Yes we can,

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxantshop.com