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Clinton's Plan to Keep You Safe; Obama Rethinking Public Funding; Senator Arlen Specter Discusses Pennsylvania Primary and Cancer Battle

Aired April 11, 2008 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, criminals beware. Hillary Clinton says if she becomes president, she'll tackle crime head on. You're going to want to hear about her just-revealed plans.
Also, critics say Barack Obama said one thing but appears on the verge of doing another. It concerns campaign spending, some of which involves millions of your dollars.

And as Americans suffer the rough economy, Democrats say John McCain is simply disconnected. Now McCain is changing his words to send out this message: he feels your pain.

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

Let's begin with crime. Gang members, gun traffickers and other criminals may have new reason to fear. Hillary Clinton suggests if she becomes commander in chief, count on her being crime fighter in chief as well. Today she laid out exactly what she'd do to try to keep Americans safe from crime.

She unveiled a plan that would cost $4 billion a year. Among other things, it aims to steer some nonviolent offenders away from prison and takes tough stands against others.

Let's go to CNN's Suzanne Malveaux. She's joining us in Philadelphia with more on an issue that really hasn't received a lot of attention so far. But she is focusing in on it today -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, crime is really a big deal when it comes to people who live here. There is a Web site Philadelphia police have. It's a running tally of the number of murders. And this time last year they had more murders in this city than the more populated ones of Los Angeles, Chicago, as well as New York.

Now, since then, Wolf, the crime rate has gone down somewhat, but a lot of people still impacted by this very serious problem. It's a point that is not lost on Senator Clinton, who is fiercely competing with Barack Obama over support here in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Philadelphia, a city that in 2007 had at least one murder a day. Here's how the mayor put it... MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER (D), PHILADELPHIA: Here in west Philadelphia we're worried more about al gangster than we are al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden and some of those other folks couldn't last five minutes here in west Philadelphia.

MALVEAUX: With the mayor on a highly orchestrated tour, Hillary Clinton, with Secret Service and staff in tow, trying to earn some street cred by addressing the problem.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Violent crime is on the rise again in America.

MALVEAUX: She also did some dancing at the West Philly YMCA. Outside, across the street, she was meant with a chorus of supporters and detractors competing for her attention.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hillary! Hillary !

MALVEAUX: While polls show Clinton is still ahead of Obama statewide, here in Philadelphia they show him with a double-digit lead, making the fight for this delegate-rich city all that more important, and fighting crime a relevant issue.

H. CLINTON: These are not just statistics. These are our children. And it doesn't just happen in big cities. It happens everywhere in America.

MALVEAUX: Clinton unveiled a $4 billion anti-crime plan aimed at cutting the murder rate in half in cities across the country, putting 100,000 new cops on the street, restoring the assault weapons ban, and expanding community outreach. Mindful of reaching her base of rural voters, Clinton also addressed their problems, including the rapid rise of drug use.

H. CLINTON: In rural counties across Pennsylvania, there are dealers who are cooking up fresh batches of amphetamines.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And Wolf, Obama has also addressed the issue of violent crime on the campaign. He has said he wants to make sure that the criminal justice system works for everyone. He's talked about $1 billion in community-oriented policing and also early intervention for troubled teens and after school programs.

The question still remains whether or not her visit, Clinton's visit here to Philadelphia, and this anti-crime that she played out, is really convincing voters that she's got the best way to deal with something that is very much a local problem, but also they're trying to coming up with these federal solutions as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne, thank you.

Some of the programs, by the way, that Senator Clinton is proposing were actually launched during her husband's administration. Let's take a quick look at the Justice Department figures that show shortly after Bill Clinton took office, violent crime rates in the United States began to fall. They continued to drop throughout Clinton's term.

And when President Bush took office in 2001, that trend continued. Those same figures show violent crime rates remained relatively low under the current administration. But in the last two years, there's been an uptick in urban crime.

A matter of money today for Democratic Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign. He has a lot of it now, and it's becoming a bone of contention with Republican candidate John McCain.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is in Terre Haute, Indiana.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, since the system for public financing of presidential campaigns was put into place in the post-Watergate era, no major presidential campaign has ever opted out. The question is whether this year will be the exception.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): Barack Obama, who has raised more than $230 million so far, no longer sounds like a candidate who'd take the paltry $84 million he'd get out of the public campaign finance system.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that it is creeky and needs to be reformed if it's going to work.

CROWLEY: Public financing of campaigns was designed to take big money influence out of politics. It's funded by that $3 check box on income tax forms.

In a written survey late last year, Obama said he'd take public financing if his opponent did. But that was before he became fundraising king. Now he talks about how he has a kind of de facto system of his own.

OBAMA: We know that the check-off system has been declining in participation. And as a consequence, the amount of money raised through the public financing system may be substantially lower than the amount of money that can be raised through small donations, which presents candidates then with some pretty tough decisions in terms of how they want to move forward, if they want to compete in as many states as possible.

CROWLEY: Actually, just under half of Obama's donations came from people giving $200 or less.

John McCain, whose own fundraising pales in comparison to Obama's, says he'll take public funding, and he uses Obama's hesitation as a campaign issue. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The fact is that he's saying one thing and he's doing the other. I mean, that's indisputable.

The piece of paper is there. He didn't talk about having discussions about third parties and all that when he committed to saying that he would take public financing if the Republican nominee did.

I'm the presumptive Republican nominee. I will take public financing. Keep your word to the American people.

CROWLEY: Actually, though Obama did check "yes" on that survey, he added a caveat. "If I am the Democratic nominee," he wrote, "I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election." That is a meeting Obama says he still wants to have.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: The McCain campaign says he is committed to taking public financing for his campaign. Nonetheless, the door seems to be just a bit ajar in case McCain's opponent opts out -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy, thank you.

The issue of lavish payouts to corporate CEOs was highlighted on the campaign trail today when Obama addressed that he wants Congress to require corporations to let shareholders vote on executive compensation packages. He says such legislation would hold CEOs accountable and it would not give shareholders veto power, he says, but it would let them voice their opinions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: And one place we can start is by restoring some common sense in executive pay. That's why last year I proposed legislation that would give shareholders a say on what CEOs are getting paid, and help ensure that companies are disclosing the rationale for the salary and benefits that CEOs are getting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Senator McCain's campaign responded to Obama's proposal saying typical Washington shenanigans are no substitute for real leadership. It says McCain opts to hold corporate chiefs accountable.

From the bully pulpit, he had this to say in Connecticut this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: There's a backlash in America today against corporate greed. There's many people that are very angry at Wall Street. There's many people that are angry at some -- when they see the CEO of Countrywide get a $20 million bonus just to stay in his job while they are struggling to keep their families together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton speaks often about executive pay. During a speech yesterday in Pennsylvania, she vowed to end billions in tax cuts and corporate loopholes, and she proposed a change to the tax code.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

H. CLINTON: And we're also going to end the unfairness in the tax code. It is wrong that a Wall Street money manager making $50 million a year pays a lower percentage of his income in taxes than a nurse, a teacher, or a truck driver right here in Beaver County who makes $50,000 a year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" on this Friday -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The story of the day right here. Just when talk about Hillary Clinton's tail from the tarmac in Bosnia was beginning to die down, well, her loving husband Bill Clinton brought it all up again.

Speaking in Indiana, the former president defended his wife's lie about "landing under sniper fire" during her visit to Bosnia in 1996. President Clinton said, Hillary made the comment "one time, late at night, when she was exhausted, misstated, and immediately apologized for it."

Bill Clinton added he believed Hillary was the first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt to go into a combat zone, and that the media treated her like she had "robbed a bank," suggesting, "Some of them, when they're 60, well, they'll forget something when they're tired at 11:00 at night too."

So now we have the former president lying about his wife's lie. Hillary Clinton made the comments about the Bosnia trip numerous times, not just once, and not just late at night.

Once she told the fictional sniper fire tale early in the morning. In fact, it took about a week for her to correct herself, saying she misspoke and made a mistake.

The Eleanor Roosevelt claim, that's bogus too. Pat Nixon went to Vietnam, 1969.

So why would a skillful politician like Bill Clinton re-ignite an issue that hurt his wife? You'd think he'd know better. Unless it wasn't an accident.

In fact, Clinton brought up the Bosnia thing twice yesterday. Hillary Clinton has since told her husband to knock it off. She said -- quoting here -- "You weren't there. Let me handle this." His response? "Yes, ma'am."

Here's the question: Why would Bill Clinton voluntarily bring up the story of his wife's trip to Bosnia?

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

BLITZER: It's an intriguing question, because they were hoping that story would just disappear. But by him talking about it, all of a sudden it's back out there in the news.

CAFFERTY: Well, and it was kind of dying down. I mean, you know, it hadn't been around for a week or so. Now this is Friday, it'll be fodder for the Sunday talk shows.

I'll bet you're talking about it on your show on Sunday. And it'll last right through the weekend and into Monday. I mean, it doesn't seem like a great idea to me.

BLITZER: Yes. I'm sure he agrees with you right now, although I don't know what he was thinking then.

CAFFERTY: I'll bet he does.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.

As Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama battle to win Pennsylvania, will they need to pay Democratic operatives to help them? I'll talk about that and more with Republican Senator Arlen Specter. We'll talk about a longstanding tradition in his state. He knows all about it.

A Hillary Clinton supporter blasts her recently demoted strategist. That would be our very own Paul Begala. He now says he has "nothing but contempt for Mark Penn," the former top strategist for the Clinton campaign.

We'll talk about it with Paul. That's coming up.

And John McCain changes his tone so voters know he's not disconnected from their economic pain. You're going to find out what McCain is now saying.

Lots of news happening right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Less than two weeks to go before a potentially pivotal Democratic primary in Pennsylvania. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are battling right now for every single vote.

Let's discuss their race with the state's senior senator. That would be Republican Arlen Specter. We're also going to be talking about his very important brand-new book entitled "Never Give In: Battling Cancer in the Senate." It's a powerful book indeed. Senator Specter, we're glad you're here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for joining us.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Nice to be with you, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: You've been elected statewide, what, five times in Pennsylvania?

SPECTER: Yes. Right.

BLITZER: You know the state politically about as well as anyone. Who's going to win the Democratic primary on April 22nd?

SPECTER: Well, Wolf, it's only one man's opinion, but I would pick Obama at this stage. He is running a good ground game.

He's got a bus tour going to just the right spots. I know them because I've been there many times. Doing a lot more advertising. And I think the momentum is with him.

But these elections have so many ups and downs, it's hard to say. But that would be my pick.

BLITZER: You think the Independents, those who have helped you over these years, you think by and large they're going to turn for Obama? Is that what you're saying?

SPECTER: Well, that's my sense of it. Senator Clinton started off with a big lead, 16 points. Down to five. That looks like a trend in politics.

And he's running a good campaign. And all of that television advertising with his extra money, I think is having a significant effect.

BLITZER: He's outspending her in terms of commercials at least three to one, because he's got so much more money.

There's a story out there now about what they call in Philadelphia, your hometown, street money. Politicians giving out cash -- 20 bucks, 50 bucks -- to various individuals to go get out the vote, if you will. He says he's not going to do that this time. Even though it's legal, he doesn't like it.

How big of a deal is that in terms of Philadelphia politics?

SPECTER: Well, it is traditional to pay people to go door to door, find out who hasn't voted, and bring them out. As you've quoted, Senator Obama saying it's legal and it is done. And a lot of times a political organization may do it without the candidate knowing it, or perhaps it's plausible deniability. But don't be surprised if it happens in Philadelphia.

BLITZER: It always has happened in Philadelphia. We'll see if it happens this time around as far as his campaign is concerned. I suppose you're really happy you're not up for re-election this cycle. Given the huge number of Democrats that have registered that are coming out to vote, it's not necessarily going to be at all easy for -- at least right now for a lot of Republicans, is it?

SPECTER: I think it's very tough in projecting ahead for a primary, which I always have a tough one. Won my last one by a single percentage point. They have turned many Republicans who were my voters.

So we're going to be working very hard to try to turn them back. But it's not good because it creates an artificial imbalance.

BLITZER: Can McCain win in Pennsylvania in November?

SPECTER: Yes. Yes, he can. It's a horse race.

John McCain is the kind of an independent who will appeal to Philadelphia suburban voters, where traditional that's been the key to the election statewide. He can do it.

BLITZER: Let's talk about your book.

SPECTER: Thank you.

BLITZER: As I said, it's a powerful book entitled "Never Give In: Battling Cancer in the Senate."

We remember those days. A lot of us were very, very worried about you.

Remind our viewers. You suffered from cancer, you went through radiation, chemotherapy, all of that. We have a picture in fact of you and the president at one of the low moments in your struggle.

There it is right now. It's up on the screen. We have it up on the screen.

Tell us -- remind our viewers what you went through.

SPECTER: Well, the picture illustrates it. You see we're shaking hands. I'm bald as a billiard ball, pale and thin. And I speculate in the book the president's body language is pulling away. Maybe he's thinking, they say it's not contagious but who knows?

In this book I tell about meting Ed Rendell at a basketball game. I said, "How you doing, Ed?" He didn't recognize me. I'd known him for decades.

And in the book I tell about what I went through and how I stayed on the job. And I felt -- found that even though chemotherapy is very debilitating, Wolf, to literally drag myself out of bed -- I had a job which was very demanding, chairing the Judiciary Committee during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

I had on the left the most liberal Democrats, on the right the most conservative Republicans. And I found that the tougher the day was, the better I liked it because I had no time to think about myself.

BLITZER: Senator, you've been a leader in the Congress and getting funding for medical research, for cancer research. As you look at these three candidates who are still left right now, who is the best in terms of making sure we do everything we can to find a cure for cancer?

SPECTER: Well, I think they'd all be very good. John McCain is one Republican who has voted, for example, for embryonic stem-cell research with federal funding. I think on that score I'd endorse them all.

I think for seniority and for experience factors, it's McCain. But on health care I think they'd all be OK.

BLITZER: Senator Specter, we're happy you're OK, and I assume you are. How are you feeling?

SPECTER: I feel good, Wolf.

Let me make one other point about what I talk about in this book, "Never Give In." And that is I had two diagnoses of fatal diseases.

Once Lou Gehrig's Disease, the doctor was wrong. Once a malignant brain tumor, the doctor was wrong.

And in this book I tell about them in some detail to tell people that -- get a second opinion. Even the best doctors can be wrong.

And in working through it, I think if people see how I handled it with the high visibility that I had, people not recognizing me and fighting through -- using Churchill's famous statement, "Never give in" is the way to handle it. And I go into some great detail in the book.

BLITZER: And excellent advice for millions of people out there suffering from cancer and other debilitating diseases as well.

Thanks for writing this book, Senator.

SPECTER: And $24.95 on amazon.com.

BLITZER: You'll sell a few couples, I'm sure.

SPECTER: Try to.

BLITZER: And as I said, a powerful read indeed. Thanks for writing it.

SPECTER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Senator Arlen Specter.

This note, by the way. This weekend, CNN will be taking an in- depth look at the race in Pennsylvania. It will happen both on Saturday and Sunday nights at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Our own John King will host special reports, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

More planes grounded, more people stranded. It's another lousy day for American Airlines passengers. Is an end to the mass delays in sight?

And a new kind of political tit-for-tat is under way right now on the Internet. Supporters of the three main presidential candidates are waging what's being called a Wikipedia war.

We're going to take you to the online battlegrounds.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

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

Happening now, Republican presidential candidate John McCain breaks with President Bush over the issue of oil. The two are at odds right now over buying for the nation's stockpile. McCain says enough is enough, at least for now. We'll have a full report coming up.

The Olympic torch ignites global protests over China's crackdown on Tibet. A former Olympic athlete watching the controversy tells the world to get a grip. We'll tell you what's happening in Buenos Aires right now.

And Barack Obama courts the gay vote his way. The gay community says the Democratic candidate needs to do more to reach out. We will tell you what's going on, as the campaign is defending its strategy.

Carol Costello has a full report coming up.

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

Many people are struggling to stay in their homes, and all of us are faced with rising food and gas prices. So, John McCain wants Americans to know he understands, no matter how many Democrats say he is simply disconnected from reality.

Let's bring in our own Dana Bash. She's been watching this story.

The Democrats are now saying he's flip-flopping, Dana. So, what's going on?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he was asked about that this -- just this afternoon in Texas, Wolf.

He insists -- no surprise here -- that that's not true. He says it's factually inaccurate, that what he said a couple of weeks ago is that he didn't support a broad government bailout. But flip-flop or not, the reality is, his campaign rushed to put out a tangible proposal on the housing crisis yesterday to prevent a political crisis for McCain on voters' No. 1 issue.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Flashback: Santa Ana, California, two weeks ago:

MCCAIN: It's not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly.

BASH: Fast-forward to McCain's political course correction.

MCCAIN: I'm committed to using all the resources of this government and great nation to create opportunity.

BASH: Why the change? McCain advisers privately admit, in trying to prove he understands economics 101, they neglected politics 101, that, in times of economic trouble, candidates must talk solutions and show empathy.

One McCain aide concedes his first speech on the housing crisis lacked the compassion quotient.

MCCAIN: I will consider any and all proposals based on their cost and benefits.

BASH: Giving Democrats an opening.

CLINTON: If he got the 3:00 a.m. call on the economy, he would just let the phone ring and ring and ring.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SEN. MEL MARTINEZ (R), FLORIDA: I would give Senator McCain an incomplete.

BASH: McCain supporters sent public signals of concern.

MARTINEZ: I think he fell short. We need to do some things that can help families, that can help people.

BASH: Thursday's housing proposal was just one attempt this week to blunt Democrats' success as painting McCain as aloof. A day earlier, he talked about corporate greed.

MCCAIN: There's many people that are very angry at Wall Street. There's many people that are angry at some -- when they see the -- the -- the CEO of Countrywide get a $20 million bonus just to stay in his job.

BASH: But the Democratic candidates have crafted meetings for the cameras with suffering homeowners, the kind of things some GOP strategists say their party often underestimates. B.J. COOPER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: What is important is that you're connecting with the voter and making sure you're filling that void of them feeling that somebody's watching out for them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And McCain will unveil an economic proposal next week. But, right now, aides say there are no plans in place to hold events with voters actually affected by the housing crisis.

And, Wolf, that has some McCain supporters I talked to quite concerned for the obvious reason that, in politics, it's not just what you say, but how you say it and where and who you say it to.

BLITZER: All good advice, obviously, indeed. Thanks very much, Dana Bash.

Senator Hillary Clinton has told her husband to stop talking about her trip to Bosnia. Her misstatement about events surrounding that trip as the first lady had just about blown over. Then, last night, suddenly, in Indiana, the former president mentioned it again, putting it right back on the radar.

Let's go to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's watching this story for us.

Here's the question some are now asking, Bill. Is the former president becoming a burden to his wife's campaign?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he is a former president, and it's kind of hard to keep a former president on message.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Remember the flap over Hillary Clinton's trip to Bosnia as first lady? The candidate had to correct herself after she described landing under sniper fire.

When that happens, the rule in a campaign is, move on. Bill Clinton didn't quite follow that rule. In Indiana on Thursday, he said the press "fulminated because once, late at night, when she was exhausted," his wife..."

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Misstated and immediately apologized for it what happened to her in Bosnia in 1995. Do you all see all that? Oh, they blew it up.

SCHNEIDER: The former president's comments were not quite accurate. His wife actually described the incident several times, most recently on March 17. And she didn't immediately apologize. A week later, she acknowledged that she misspoke.

W. CLINTON: And you would have thought, you know, that she had robbed a bank, the way they all carried on about this. And some of them, when they're 60, they will forget something when they're tired at 11:00 at night, too.

SCHNEIDER: Actually, Senator Clinton's March 17 remarks were part of a prepared speech delivered at 9:00 a.m.

W. CLINTON: Hillary called me and said: "Look, I misstated it. You said I misstated it. But you don't any -- you have got to let me handle it, because you don't remember it either."

So, I'm going to let her answer it.

SCHNEIDER: Bill Clinton says he told his wife, "Yes, ma'am."

The former president was off message. He's becoming a distraction for his wife's campaign. During the course of the primary campaign, opinion of Bill Clinton has flipped from positive to negative. Democrats still like the former president. But his negatives have gone up among them, too.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Senator Clinton acknowledges that she and her husband have different positions on trade. He has earned $800,000 from supporters of the Colombia free trade bill, which she opposes.

You know, it's kind of hard to blame a husband for defending his wife. But these are distractions her campaign does not need.

BLITZER: Especially right now in Pennsylvania...

SCHNEIDER: Yes.

BLITZER: ... where it's getting increasingly close, that contest.

All right, Bill, thank you for that.

You want to know more about the presidential candidates? Many voters turn to Wikipedia out on the Internet. But some people are attacking their pages with pranks and sabotage. You are going to find out how supporters of the candidates are fighting back.

President and Mrs. Bush, now they have put out their tax returns just a little while ago. You are going to find out how much they earned last year, how much they paid in taxes, how much charity they gave -- lots of information coming up, including the vice president as well.

And, attention, news junkies and other Americans. A new museum has just opened here in Washington. It's dedicated to all things involving -- Guess what? -- the news. It's a big event here in the nation's capital, a huge reception, opening ceremony tonight. I will be there. We will show you what's going on at the Newseum -- much more coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: It's a problem for all the presidential candidates: protecting their reputations when so much is being said about them, true and false, especially out there on the Internet.

One site many people use as a source of information is Wikipedia. But anyone can add or delete information there or even attack McCain, Clinton and Obama's Wikipedia pages with pranks and vicious attacks.

CNN's Tom Foreman has been looking into this story.

So, what's a candidate to do, Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, what do you do when the mouse roars, and everybody's got a mouse? That's the deal.

There's a presidential war raging on Wikipedia right now, that online user-edited encyclopedia that virtually everyone turns to now and then.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over): Three hundred million times a day, people click on Wikipedia for information about chameleons, catastrophes and presidential candidates.

And that is where it gets tricky, because, for months, supporters of all three have been furiously changing Wikipedia entries to make their choice look good and the opponent's look bad.

Andrew Rashay (ph) is studying the impact on this election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people who are watching over those pages have to basically act as vigilantes to make sure that the information remains as unbiased as possible. It's a very difficult thing to do.

FOREMAN: It's a difficult thing in part because of the very nature of Wikipedia.

It works like this. Users post information and cite their sources. Other users add to it or make changes, and, gradually, everyone agrees on the facts -- unless they don't.

That's when super-volunteers, who have earned special privileges, editors like Dan Rosenthal (ph), must step in.

(on-camera): This is something of an intellectual war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you could characterize it like that.

FOREMAN: Over and over, users try to change Obama's page, for example, and make him a Muslim. He's not. They have tried to label Hillary Clinton a white supremacist. She's not.

And they have accused John McCain of starting a huge fire on an aircraft carrier that took more than 100 lives. He barely escaped with his life in that incident, but he did not cause it. (END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: The Wiki war has grown so intense, the pages for all three candidates are semi-locked, meaning only some people can make changes.

And some users have been booted out altogether. Still, Wiki fans say it's all worth it because the vast number of users make only constructive, honest edits. And, hey, that's what getting involved in a democracy is all about. We will have much of it on "THIS WEEK IN POLITICS" this weekend -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And it airs Saturday night, 6:00 p.m., and it replays Sunday at 1:00 p.m., right after "LATE EDITION."

FOREMAN: Exactly.

BLITZER: Right after "LATE EDITION," 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

FOREMAN: Exactly. And it's so popular, one of the wings of the new new museum is all set up for it. The Newseum, it's all for it.

BLITZER: All right.

FOREMAN: For our show.

BLITZER: Excellent.

FOREMAN: We will see.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Tom Foreman, good work.

Coming up in our "Strategy Session," Bill Clinton gets a talking to -- a talking-to, that is, from his wife.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

W. CLINTON: Hillary called me and said: "Look, I misstated it. You said I misstated it. But you don't any -- you have got to let me handle it, because you don't remember it either."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He says he got it wrong on Bosnia, but isn't the real story that he's taken the campaign off message?

And Senator McCain takes another swing at being kinder and gentler out on the nation's housing woes. Could this be a new theme for his campaign?

Donna Brazile and Terry Jeffrey, they're here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We will be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The campaign gaffe by the former President Bill Clinton is getting a lot of attention today.

Speaking in Indiana last night, he raised the issue of his wife's tale about a trip to Bosnia. Would it have been better left unsaid? She thought so, told him that in no uncertain words.

Let's discuss that and more in our "Strategy Session."

Joining us, our Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Donna Brazile and the conservative commentator Terry Jeffrey. He's editor in chief of the Cybercast News Service.

Guys, thanks for coming in.

I will play a little excerpt of what Bill Clinton said today, after his wife suggested maybe not the best idea to talk about that issue last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

W. CLINTON: Hillary called me and said: "Look, I misstated it. You said I misstated it. But you don't any -- you have got to let me handle it, because you don't remember it either."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And so he's -- to go on, he said, "Yes, ma'am" when he -- when she said don't talk about it anymore. So, he was not mincing any words.

What do you think?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's a distraction, no question. I mean, I think Senator Clinton tried to put this issue behind her at least 10 days ago. President Clinton now has brought it back in -- on the surface.

There's no question that it -- it's not a good story for Senator Clinton. And the former president should have not repeated it, and, then, you know, expanded on it. And now the media and everyone else is picking up on it.

So, it was a distraction. But he loves his wife. He supports Senator Clinton. And I think what he was trying to do was defend her.

BLITZER: And he was -- he's really being active, Terry. He's going out every single day on the campaign trail, and he's working about as hard for her election as he used to work for his election. And some of us covered those efforts back in '92 and '96, and remember how hard he worked then. He's working really hard now.

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR IN CHIEF, CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE: Well, he's hardworking, there's no doubt about it. But he's working against her right now, Wolf.

And I think it's not just that he took her off message. It's what this reminds the Democratic superdelegates of, which is, when Bill Clinton was president last time, when Hillary was in the White House, he was impeached by the House of Representatives for perjury in a grand jury.

Judge Susan Webber Wright held him in contempt of court for what she called intentionally false testimony. And the question the Democratic superdelegates have to decide, if they're going to take the nomination away from Barack Obama, what they're saying to the country is, we really do want to put the Clintons back in the White House.

We don't care what the primary voters said. We don't care how many primaries Barack Obama -- we want to put Bill and Hillary Clinton, despite their record of dishonesty, back in the White House.

BLITZER: You heard Arlen Specter just this hour tell us -- he's the Republican senator from Pennsylvania. He's been elected statewide five times. He knows that state about as well as anyone. He predicted that Obama will win August -- excuse me -- April 22 in Pennsylvania.

BRAZILE: I think Senator Obama is doing a lot to -- to sort of close the gap.

But this state is -- Pennsylvania is still heavily favored for Hillary Clinton. She has practically all the political leadership. The former mayor just -- of Pittsburgh just endorsed her, a popular governor. I still believe it's a Hillary Clinton state.

BLITZER: She's got the current mayor of Pittsburgh. She's got the current mayor of Philadelphia. She's got the governor, Ed Rendell, who might be the most important.

But he has Senator Casey, who's a very popular senator as well.

John McCain, he's coming out now with a more -- more activist approach, shall we say, in dealing with the mortgage crisis, the housing crisis out there. Is this a new -- a new -- a change on the part of the -- the Republican presumptive nominee?

JEFFREY: I think it is, Wolf. And I think it's a big problem. On this program, I said that he had staked out exactly the right philosophical position.

BLITZER: Which is a hands-off position, from your perspective?

JEFFREY: Well, what he said is that the government shouldn't bail out the small borrowers. It shouldn't bail out the big banks. But if there's a real threat to the financial system, systemically, that could hit everybody, it should.

What he's throwing away, Wolf, here is an opportunity to say, look, what the Democrat nominee wants to do is take money out of the pockets of hardworking people who were careful when they bought a home, who are paying their mortgage, and bail out people who stretched themselves too thin to buy a house they couldn't afford.

He could have made that argument. Now he's essentially buying the argument that wealth ought to be transferred to -- people who are careful to people that were not careful.

BRAZILE: I think John McCain has found his voice on the economy. He's trying to speak up now for those on Main Street. He knows that they are hurting.

And, yes, he did flip-flop. He's changed his tone. He's changing his position on the mortgage crisis. Two million Americans, whether they were irresponsible or not, the fact is, is that the United States government should do as much to help bail them out as they did to bail out Bear Stearns.

JEFFREY: And, politically, Wolf, it reinforces among the conservatives the idea that, every time there's a big fight and McCain gets under pressure, he effectively sides with the liberals, against the conservatives. That's what my conservative friends are talking about today in regard to exactly this.

BLITZER: In the next hour, we're going to be speaking with Paul Begala, our Democratic strategist. He's got some very strong words about Mark Penn, the former top strategist for the Clinton campaign, making one -- said he -- he should have been gone a long time ago, even making a comparison to Donald Rumsfeld, if you will.

What do you think about this?

BRAZILE: Paul Begala is my friend. I am going to stick -- I'm going to stand behind Paul Begala. I know they were tough. They were strong words. He knows Mark Penn. I know Mark Penn. We have all worked with Mark Penn. Paul expressed his opinion. And I will stand behind Paul Begala.

BLITZER: Yes, these Democrats, they are really tough with each other.

JEFFREY: Well, when you have a losing campaign, at the end of it, everybody looks back and tries to put the blame on somebody else.

And the bottom line is, I think they know Senator Clinton is heading towards a losing campaign. In the end, the fault will not be her campaign consultants. It'll be hers, as a candidate.

BLITZER: We will leave...

BRAZILE: Well, let me just say this. The campaign is not over -- 566 pledged delegates, 10 contests. This campaign isn't over. We shouldn't coronate a king or coronate a queen. Let's wait and see what the voters decide.

JEFFREY: Who are you going to vote for, Donna?

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: She will let us know when she wants to let us know.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: She's been very good so far, as a superdelegate, in not telling us.

BRAZILE: That's right.

BLITZER: Donna, thanks very much. Have a great weekend.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

BLITZER: Terry, thanks to you as well.

Regardless of how you feel about the news media, get ready. The Newseum here in Washington is opening its doors. We are going to have a preview of what is going on over there.

And if you have ever wondered how much the president of the United States pays in income taxes, wonder no more. The Bushes, they have just filed their tax returns. They have made them public. We will tell you.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In today's Political Ticker: A 250,000-square-foot honor for the American news media.

It's a museum of news called the Newseum. It opened here in Washington today, to much pomp and fanfare. Attending the opening were news executives, elected officials, even the chief justice of the United States.

John Roberts said, visitors should understand one key mission every reporter faces: reporting the facts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT: And I think, so long as the journalism profession remains faithful to that, a museum dedicated to journalism will deserve its place here, in the heart of our capital city, no matter how much, from time to time, it acts like an animal in our midst.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The Newseum has theaters, major galleries, TV studios, and an extensive news collection. It even has remnants of the World Trade Center, sections of the Berlin Wall, and newspapers dating back almost 500 years.

Adults will pay $20 to get in, children age seven to twelve, $13. Younger children are admitted free.

Be sure to watch CNN Sunday. We're the exclusive broadcaster of a presidential candidate forum on faith and values issues. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will attend. CNN's Campbell Brown will moderate, along with Jon Meacham of "Newsweek." Again, that's a forum on faith issues featuring Senators Clinton and Obama, exclusively here on CNN Sunday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

And, remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can check out CNNPolitics.com. That's where you can also read my daily news blog. Just posted one before the show.

Let's go to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: What did you write about?

BLITZER: I wrote about the men and women who serve our country in Iraq.

CAFFERTY: Oh, nice topic.

All right, well, I wrote about Bill and Hillary Clinton, which is the gift that keeps on giving, whether you're in the Newseum or not.

The question this hour is: Why would Bill Clinton voluntarily bring up the story of his wife's trip to Bosnia?

We got a ton of e-mail on this. Always do. All you got to do is mention Bill Clinton's name, we get a lot of people write in.

Peter in Dallas writes: "She was exhausted, and that led to the error of a sniper fire? If she doesn't know the difference between a flower ceremony with a little girl and a sniper because of exhaustion at 11:00 p.m., then what kind of judgment will she show when the phone rings at 3:00 a.m.?"

Ann in North Carolina: "Plain and simple, he doesn't want her to win. He wants to be the only one in the family to hold the title of former president. You are looking at the dysfunction of two of the greatest egos of our times."

Joe in Arizona: "Right now, the entire Hillary campaign is in a tailspin. I am a Democrat, but the constant lies and exaggerations remind me too much of Bush, Cheney and company. Obama and McCain may have their own issues, but at least they appear to have their integrity intact."

Tina writes: "Because, if the spotlight is dimming on him, he has to make the light shine. He is not happy being second fiddle."

Wael in Saint Paul, Minnesota: "For Obama, Bill is the gift that keeps on giving. If Hillary becomes the nominee, Bill will become McCain's gift that keeps on giving. He caused a blowout loss in South Carolina. This time, he might cost her a knockout punch in Pennsylvania. Bill makes the race much more entertaining and fun to watch. Can you imagine the kind of drama we would get if the Clintons are back in the White House?"

And Dennis writes from North Carolina: "If Bill Clinton makes a comment about Hillary being tired, then I would imagine John McCain, at his age, would not even bother to answer the phone at 3:00 a.m., which leaves us only Obama, who can correctly answer the phone."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile, and look for yours, along with hundreds of others.

I will go to sleep tonight, but not before I scratch my head once more, and wonder, what the hell was he thinking?

BLITZER: A lot of people agree with you, Jack. Thanks very much for that.

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