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Pope Wows Washington; Change on Climate Change: President Warms to Some Regulations; Obama/Clinton Debate
Aired April 16, 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, the president and the nation's capital offering a grand welcome to the pope. We're following this day of private talks and public ceremony. Thousands of people are waiting to catch a glimpse of the pontiff right now.
We're going to bring it all to you live.
Plus, a top Democrat warns John McCain that being president is "no old man's job." The all-but-certain Republican nominee fires right back in a brand new CNN interview. He's also responding to questions about his wealth and "elitism."
A big question in the Democratic race. Will Hillary Clinton have the knives out tonight? She and Barack Obama are getting ready to share a stage in a pivotal debate in Pennsylvania.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Pope Benedict is proving today that the leader of the Roman Catholic Church can win hearts and capture imaginations unlike just about anyone else. Even the powerful president of the United States.
Right now we're showing you a live picture from outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception here in Washington. Thousands of people are waiting for the pope to arrive there. He's going to be meeting with U.S. bishops.
Big crowds turned out earlier for the pope's grand exit from the White House. Benedict is only the second pope in history to visit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and he did it today on his 81st birthday.
Let's go to our White House correspondent, Ed Henry. He's on the scene. He was on the scene earlier during the president's welcome of the pontiff.
Tell our viewers what happened. A lot of people are just tuning in.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, plenty of pomp and circumstance, of course, but they also covered a lot of ground on international issues. And even though he was vetted here at the White House, not everything the pope had to say was completely favorable of the president.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HENRY (voice over): Over 13,000 people packed the south lawn of the White House for the first papal visit in 29 years. Pope Benedict XVI, usually considered less crowd friendly than his predecessor, drank it in.
POPE BENEDICT XVI: I come as a friend, a preacher of the gospel, and one with great respect for this vast (INAUDIBLE) society.
HENRY: Celebrating his 81st birthday, the pontiff was visibly moved as the crowd spontaneously into song.
CROWD (singing): Happy Birthday...
HENRY: A humanizing image for a pope trying to introduce himself to Americans who say they know little other than he was the hard- edged, right-hand man for the late Pope John Paul II.
POPE BENEDICT XVI: I express once more my gratitude for invitation, my joy to be in your midst, and my fervent prayers that the almighty God will confirm (ph) this nation and this people in the ways of justice, prosperity and peace.
God bless America!
HENRY: On a rare day where the president plays second fiddle to a visitor, Mr. Bush kept his remarks short, but hinted at areas where they're in concert, like abortion, euthanasia and stem-cell research.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In a world where some treat life as something to be debased and discarded, we need your message that all human life is sacred, and that each of us is willed, each of us is loved.
HENRY: The pope backed the president up.
POPE BENEDICT XVI: As the nation faces incredibly complex political and ethical issues of our time, I am confident that the American people will find in their religious beliefs precious souls inside (ph).
HENRY: Then the two leaders headed to a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office covering many subjects, though a joint statement later only highlighted the areas of agreement -- opposition to same-sex marriage, joint efforts to resolve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and humane treatment of immigrants.
As for Iraq, where they're divided, the White House suggested the conversation was narrow.
DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president said he brought it up, and in particular they spoke about the protection of Christians in Iraq. That is a concern they both share. Beyond that, I'm not able to provide more details.
HENRY: But in his earlier remarks, the pope hinted at his displeasure with the war.
POPE BENEDICT XVI: I am confident that this concern for the greater human family will continue to find expression (ph) support for the passionate efforts of international diplomacy to resolve conflicts and promote progress.
HENRY: Vatican watchers say the pope was referring back to his concern about a rush to war in 2003.
JOHN ALLEN, CNN SR. VATICAN ANALYST: I think that the pope's broader argument here is that when you have these situations of conflict, it is important to resist the temptation to take immediate military action.
HENRY: Now, it could also be read as a gentle warning for the U.S. not to go to war with Iran as well. It's hard to be completely certain, though, because when they went behind closed doors, it was just the pope and the president. Absolutely no staff.
And the president is not about to come out and tell us what, if anything, the pope was critical about behind closed doors. And it's highly unlikely of course that the pope is going to go public with any blunt criticism of his host -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Ed. Thanks very much.
Ed Henry with a good comprehensive report from the White House.
Let's go to Brian Todd right now. He's been following the very warm reception the pope has been receiving here in Washington. He's joining us now from nearby.
You're on the campus of Catholic University, is that right, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are, Wolf.
It's the campus of Catholic University, adjacent to the grounds of the National Basilica right here. This is the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, is it's formal name.
I'm going to ask our cameraman, Eddie Gross (ph), to kind of walk with me here as we go.
Amongst the crowd and toward the front entrance here -- now, this is -- that building is technically not on this campus, but the campus is, as you can see, adjacent to it. Crowds of thousands of people have gathered here to welcome Pope Benedict when he arrives here in we think about an hour. And we're just kind of wading in the crowd to kind of get a flavor of the place.
You know, what's interesting, Wolf, security here really airtight. On the way in we had to be swept, of course, with all of our equipment. Everybody here had to clear security. And on the way in I was kind of walking in with Father David O'Connell, the president of Catholic University. He was wearing his priest garb and did not have identification on him, and a guard stopped him, asked him for ID. He didn't have it.
It was kind of a funny encounter there. And the priest -- the guard said, "I'm sorry, but I don't know who you are. And I've got to see some kind of identification."
Father O'Connell kind of looked around and did the picture sign and said, look around you. This is my identification.
It just kind of tells you how airtight security is here. They're taking it very seriously.
Of course we're told that the pope is getting the same kind of protection that the Secret Service affords the president of the United States. So, I mean, if you take a look at this crowd here that we're among, everybody here is really anticipating the arrival. They're very excited about him coming here. You're going to see probably a rock star's reception when he gets here -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Brian. Thanks very much.
And in addition to that, the pope is going to be delivering a major speech. We're going to have live coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM, a speech in which he's going to address, we're told, directly the issue of sexual abuse and priests here in the United States. That coverage coming up. A lot more on the pope and his meetings coming up with U.S. bishops.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File." He's joining us now -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: That's -- the power of that office is something else, isn't it?
BLITZER: Yes, it's amazing. You know, just even here in Washington. Wait until he gets to New York City on Friday.
CAFFERTY: And you k now, he couldn't be any more different personality-wise from Pope John Paul II, who they said if he wasn't pope he would have been a movie star. This guy probably would have been a college professor.
And yet, it's the pope. And when the pope comes to the United States, it's magical. It's really something to watch.
We have this election going on. Allow me to digress.
Bill Clinton says older voters are supporting Hillary because they're too smart to be fooled by Barack Obama's rhetoric. Here we go again.
"The Boston Globe" reports the former president took issue with Obama's statement that many of the problem the U.S. faces were around long before President Bush took office. Clinton told voters in Pennsylvania, "I think there's a big reason there's an age difference in a lot of these polls, because once you've reached a certain age, you won't sit there and listen to somebody tell you there's really no difference between what happened in the Bush years and the Clinton years. That there's not much difference in how small-town Pennsylvania fared when I was president and in this decade."
See, it's really not about Hillary at all. It's all about Bill and his legacy.
On another note, a new poll out might spell some serious trouble for Hillary Clinton among voters of all ages. A "Washington Post"/ABC News poll shows only 39 percent of Americans think Hillary Clinton is honest and trustworthy. Fifty-eight percent say she's not. Barack Obama leads Clinton by 23 points when it comes to which one the voters think is the more honest.
Apparently, Clintons fairy-tale about sniper fire in Bosnia and her husband's defense of those claims didn't help much, especially when voters combine that with scandals that occurred while she was first lady, including the firings in the White House travel office and some of her financial dealings which resulted in widespread doubts about her trustworthiness.
So here's the question this hour. Bill Clinton says older voters are too savvy to fall for Barack Obama. Do you agree with that statement?
Go to cnn.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog.
He's doing it again -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. He's Bill Clinton. He's the former president of the United States.
All right, Jack. Thanks very much.
Hillary Clinton is changing her tune about Barack Obama once again. We're going to tell you about her striking departure and what it may mean for the Democrats' debate in Pennsylvania later tonight.
Plus, Obama courts Jewish voters. Could he ease some of their fears about his support for Israel?
And next, after years of heat, President Bush gives some new ground on the issue of global warming. Critics say it's still not enough.
We'll talk about that and more with the counselor to the president, Ed Gillespie. He's standing by live over at the White House.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: President Bush is revising his stand on climate change. Today he proposed a new target for stopping the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2025. He called on Congress to rewrite anti-pollution laws to deal with the threat of global warming.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The strategy I've laid out today shows faith in the ingenuity and enterprise of the American people. And that's a resource that's never going to run out. I'm confident that with sensible and balanced policies from Washington, American innovators and entrepreneurs will pioneer a new generation of technology that improves our environment, strengthens our economy, and continues to amaze the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's discuss this and more with the White House counselor, Ed Gillespie. He's joining us now live.
Ed, thanks very much for coming in.
ED GILLESPIE, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Wolf, for having me.
BLITZER: So, is it fair to say the president now is a firm believer in this whole notion, this theory of global warming? Because as you know, some critics think it's just a myth, that there really isn't any scientific basis to it.
GILLESPIE: Well, Wolf, as you know, the president, in opposing the Kyoto treaty and setting that aside, afterwards set up a process with major economies. And they meet this week in Paris. And the president is trying to make sure that all major economies -- Germany, France, United States, China, India -- are at the table, and that if there is an international agreement, that all parties play a role here.
And to show a leadership role in that regard, the president set forward an intermediate goal to level off greenhouse gas emission growth by 2025 here in the United States. And also addressed the fact that the United States Congress, the Senate, will be considering legislation in the coming weeks to address this issue. And weighed into that debate by putting down some markers on, you know, what would be the right approach versus the wrong approach as they consider legislation.
BLITZER: So I just want to be precise. Like John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and a lot of others, he believes global warming is obviously a real problem for the world?
GILLESPIE: Well, Wolf, the president said back in 2000 that global warming was a phenomenon, that human activity contributed to it. And so this is not anything new for the president to say. And he's taken a number of steps to reduce emissions during his presidency.
BLITZER: "The Wall Street Journal" had an interesting piece on its front page today in which they made this point about the timing of the president's initiative that he announced today. The Journal writing, "The White House is under pressure from a growing number of big businesses to take more action this year to spare them from the prospect of still-tougher regulation. All three major presidential candidates, including Republican Senator John McCain, have supported efforts to curb emissions that are more onerous than some industries would like."
Is that right?
GILLESPIE: I don't agree with that assessment, Wolf. The fact is this announcement today coincides with the commencement of the major economies meeting in Paris. And the president was sending representatives there today, and sending them with instructions to announce that we have a goal. So it's tied to that.
And the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, has the prerogative to schedule legislation on the floor of the Senate. We'd rather that he probably be scheduling the Colombia free trade agreement, or funding for our troops in combat, or perhaps maybe the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, but he's chosen to schedule a debate on the Warner-Lieberman legislation.
We have concerns with that bill. We have concerns about its impact on our economic growth. We have concerns about the fact that it doesn't keep major economies like China and India at the table. We have concerns it would raise taxes and the cost of energy.
So, in anticipation of that scheduled floor debate in the United States Senate, as scheduled by Harry Reid, we are starting to lay down some markers in terms of our views.
BLITZER: That would explain the timing from the White House perspective.
Let's talk about the pope. He's here for this historic visit to the United States.
Catholic voters out there, Republicans over many years now, going back to Reagan, maybe earlier, they've really made an aggressive effort to woo a lot of Catholic voters. And how worried are you right now that looking ahead to November, that a lot of these so-called Reagan Democrats who have voted for Republican candidates might come back to the Democrats in the face of Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama being very open in discussing their faith, their religion, as opposed to, shall we say, John McCain, who's much more coy about it?
GILLESPIE: Well, Wolf, the fact is, as you know in this country, the Catholic vote has always been a swing vote. I don't believe any candidate for president has won a majority of the popular vote going back 30 years without winning a majority of the Catholic vote ion this country. And if you look at some of the key battleground states like Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, Catholic voters have a disproportionately high share of the vote. So, it's not anything new that candidates are reaching out and identifying Catholic voters as an important, pivotal swing vote in an election cycle.
BLITZER: I want to play a little clip of what the president said in welcoming the pope to the White House earlier today. Listen to these words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The United States is the most innovative, creative, and dynamic country on Earth. It is also among the most religious.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Now, it may just be me, and I may be reading way too much in what the president was saying. But it sounded almost like a veiled rebuke of the controversial words that Barack Obama made out in San Francisco several days ago that he's been very criticized over.
Was that any response to Barack Obama? Or am I reading way too much into that?
GILLESPIE: I think you're reading way too much into it, Wolf. But that's the nature of the business that you're in. I don't quarrel with it, but I can tell you, having been involved in the preparation of the president's remarks and conversations surrounding them, that at no time in that process did the name Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or John McCain come up.
So it's not -- it's not a veiled anything. I think it was pretty explicit, and the words should be taken on face value.
BLITZER: It was in marked contrast to what Barack Obama said, but all right, we'll leave it at that.
Ed Gillespie, thanks very much for coming in.
GILLESPIE: You bet. Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Appreciate it very much.
GILLESPIE: My pleasure.
BLITZER: Congressman John Murtha says John McCain is simply too old to be president. And John McCain is fighting right back. He spoke one on one with CNN, with our own John King, earlier today.
You're going to hear the message he has for Murtha in his own words. That's coming up.
And Barack Obama right now courting the American-Jewish community. How comfortable are Jewish voters with him? We're going to tell you about the debate and what's going on, and a lot more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: It won't be high noon, but it could be a showdown. Tonight, while White House guests eat and honor the pope, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama likely will be feasting on each other's words. They're facing off in a debate for the first time they've done so in more than seven weeks.
Our Suzanne Malveaux is in Philadelphia getting ready.
I guess they always suggest things could get heated in this kind of a debate. We don't know if it will. We'll have to wait and see. But what's the expectation?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, they certainly are preparing from that possibility.
Now, this is Senator Clinton's last anytime to challenge Barack Obama before the Pennsylvania voters cast their ballots. And the Clinton campaign believes they've got Barack Obama on the defensive for weeks now. That, because of the controversy over his pastor, as well as his comments about some small-town Pennsylvanians being bitter about their circumstances. But they also realize too that Clinton's lead in this state is quickly narrowing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX (voice over): Readying for the big face-off, Senators Clinton and Obama spent much of the day preparing for their Philadelphia debate behind closed doors. But both spent some time reaching out to key voting groups.
Senator Obama quietly courting Jewish leaders in Philadelphia. Clinton addressing a friendly audience in Washington made up of mostly white middle-aged union workers, proven to be her most loyal supporters.
After weeks of withering attacks on Obama, Clinton's words today were a striking departure.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm running against an incredibly important candidate with an enormous amount of talent and ability.
MALVEAUX: The last time Clinton expressed such adoration of Obama, she followed up with this...
CLINTON: So shame on you, Barack Obama.
MALVEAUX: Her sweet words today have many wondering what is in store for Obama tonight? Clinton's firepower was reserved for the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain, mostly delivered by supporter and anti-war veteran Congressman John Murtha, who four years McCain's senior, said the candidate was too old.
REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: And let me tell you something, it's no old man's job. I mean, the campaign, the stress and so forth.
MALVEAUX: A new poll suggests maybe Clinton should continue to let others deliver the potshots. Over the past three months her image has suffered. After her win in New Hampshire, 40 percent of Americans had an unfavorable view of her. Now it's up to 54 percent.
But the same poll shows Democratic voters do not want her to drop out of the race. Nearly six out of 10 Democrats who are supporting either Obama or Clinton said they want Clinton to stay in the race until one of the candidates wins a clear victory.
MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, Clinton has no intention whatsoever of dropping out of the race anytime soon. They still believe that they have a strong case to make to the superdelegates.
The most optimistic scenario here in terms of strategy is that she would come in perhaps a high single-digit lead or low double-digit lead here in Pennsylvania, that she could capture Indiana and perhaps an upset in North Carolina. They believe that Barack Obama at that point would hit a wall. But we'll have to see how this debate goes and how Pennsylvania first plays out -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Suzanne.
Suzanne's in Philadelphia.
And as she notes, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are getting ready to share the stage. We're going to continue to watch what's going on, on that front.
Also, Barack Obama meeting today with Jewish leaders. He apparently feels he has some explaining to do regarding his positions on Israel, other foreign policy issues.
Bill Schneider is standing by to explain what's going on.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: pomp and pageantry, prayers and praise. The pope continuing his U.S. visit. We have live coverage of today's events coming up.
Also, states are now clear to continue executions of prisoners. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court answered a question it had never addressed before regarding lethal injections. We have a full report coming up. And issues of faith and politics from a man of faith who's also a politician. That would be Mike Huckabee. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. What does he think of the Democrats openly talking about their faith, while John McCain prefers not to do so?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
As we just mentioned, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are set to face off in their first debate in more than seven weeks. So, what do they each need to do tonight?
Let's get answers from our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's watching all of this unfold in Pennsylvania.
You're in Philadelphia right now, Candy. What are you hearing from both of these camps right now, their strategy going into this debate later tonight?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, on both sides, the strategy is what it always is going into a big debate.
And, remember, this is the last time they have to address, on a statewide level, Pennsylvania voters before next Tuesday's primary. What they don't want to do is have a big blunder.
Beyond that, for Barack Obama, the idea has been what it always has been, is that he needs to show that his knowledge of the issues is every bit as good as hers, that he has sort of the presidential timber, because she has hit him very hard, as you know, on the experience issue.
He also has to avoid -- especially in the wake, Wolf, of this past week and his comments about small-town America, he has to avoid the kind of remark that he made in New Hampshire, where he said to Hillary Clinton, well, you're likable enough, Hillary, in response to a question to her about people not seeing her as likable.
Hillary Clinton going into this, Wolf, does have to worry. I think you have talked about that "Washington Post"/ABC poll, which shows that, nationwide, Americans now increasingly view her negatively. So, that may put sort of a -- some kind of onus over her to have the kind of debate that they have had recently, certainly one that they had in Los Angeles, which was very friendly.
So, tonally and substantively, both of them have to step up to the plate here.
BLITZER: Their last debate was back in February in Cleveland. Let's take a big-picture look. What's the same, what's different now?
CROWLEY: Well, think back to that debate. What have we had since? We have had Reverend Jeremiah Wright. We have had Obama's comments recently. We have had Hillary Clinton and her senior adviser paid by the Colombian government to promote a trade deal that she's campaigning against. We have had the Bosnia sniper fire. Interestingly, today, when he was talking to Jewish leaders, Barack Obama tossed sort of all of this off, including Bosnia, saying it's the product of a campaign where there are few differences. But, nonetheless, all of those, I would assume, in some form or another, will come up, because an awful lot has happened.
And, also, here in Pennsylvania, a lot has happened. We are seeing increasingly those polls, 5 percent or 6 percent. That's a pretty close race. So -- and, again, it's the last time they have until those Tuesday primaries. So, there's a lot at stake, particularly in this state.
BLITZER: All right, Candy, thanks very much. Candy is in Philadelphia as well.
Let's get to a question that's been dogging John McCain. Is the 71-year-old Republican simply too old to be president? As we heard earlier, a Democratic congressman, Hillary Clinton supporter John Murtha, says the answer is yes.
Let's go out to our chief national correspondent, John King. He's joining us now.
You had a chance to sit down with John McCain, and you posed that question to him earlier. Tell us what he said.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I did, Wolf. And I will get to that in just a minute.
But let me tell you, John McCain was here in south Milwaukee trying to sell that economic plan he unveiled yesterday. And he ripped a page of paper off a pad at one point. He said he would have a tax plan, an income tax plan, you could file with one sheet of paper.
He snapped his fingers at one point and said he would cut $100 billion in welfare, in wasteful spending. And then he sat down with us at that interview and one of things he talked about was his so- called plan to have a summer gas tax holiday. He says he knows the tradeoffs. The deficit could go up by several billion dollars. Some construction projects funded by the federal gas tax might be put on hold.
But John McCain said the overwhelming majority of Americans would benefit. And he thinks it's a good idea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Americans need some relief. They need some relief. And all of them have travel plans. And all of them are looking every day, literally, at an increase in the cost at the gas pump. Why don't we give Americans a break?
(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: I also asked the senator about his remarks earlier this week when he jumped into that whole debate over whether Barack Obama was somehow condescending to working-class Americans when he said they clung to their faith and their guns at times of economic anxiety.
I said, Senator McCain, how can you, the son and the grandson of admirals, someone whose wife has a family fortune, someone who has lived a rather comfortable life financially, call Barack Obama, the child of a single parent who grew up on food stamps, an elitist?
Listen to Senator McCain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Well, I called those remarks elitist. And that's my view.
I mean, anybody who believes that someone's religious faith or their respect for the Constitution, the Second Amendment of it, and their enjoyment of hunting is shaped by economic circumstances, I think that's the classic elitist kind of attitude towards hardworking everyday citizens.
My life has not been one of privilege and luxury. I had the great honor of serving in this country on a -- sometimes under the most difficult circumstances, which tested my faith and affirmed my faith. Had it not been for my faith in my country, in my fellow countrymen, in my fellow prisoners, and my faith in God, I would not be here today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: And, then, Wolf, I also put to Senator McCain the question you raised about Jack Murtha. The congressman is 75 years old. He's a Democrat. But he's been friendly with McCain over the years.
In that speech earlier today, he said he didn't believe that McCain was up to the rigors of a presidential campaign and especially the rigors of the presidency.
I asked the senator to react.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: All I can say is that I admire and respect Jack Murtha.
Speak for yourself, Jack.
MCCAIN: I'm doing fine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: And one other quick point, Wolf: Senator McCain, back in 2000, when he first ran for president, said he could envision naming a vice presidential running mate if he won that campaign who supported abortion rights. I reminded him of that remark eight years ago. He said he didn't recall it and he also gave a very strong hint that his running mate this time will be somebody who, like him, opposes abortion -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, good, good work, John. Thanks very much -- John King reporting from Milwaukee. Thank you. Thanks very much.
Some Jewish leaders say they're wary about Barack Obama. Can he convince them he will support Israel as strongly as Hillary Clinton or John McCain? He's trying to do just that today. We will have a full report.
Also coming up in our "Strategy Session": President Bush's new green streak. Is he making real concessions on global warming?
And later: Pope Benedict makes another grand entrance to speak to America's bishops. We're standing by for live coverage right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Senator Barack Obama is trying today to reassure Jewish voters he's on their side when it comes to supporting Israel and fighting anti-Semitism. But it could be a tough sell for several reasons, including those sentiments expressed by Obama's former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.
Let's turn to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He is watching this story for us.
He met with Jewish leaders in Philadelphia today. What did he need to do, Bill?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he needs to make them feel more comfortable about him.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Does Barack Obama have a Jewish problem? We asked Jennifer Siegel, who covers the campaign for "The Jewish Daily Forward."
JENNIFER SIEGEL, "THE JEWISH DAILY FORWARD": I don't know that he has a Jewish problem, but there's been considerable debate in the Jewish community about whether he can be trusted on foreign policy.
SCHNEIDER: When Obama met with Philadelphia Jewish leaders on Wednesday, he made this assertion.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that nobody has been able to identify any set of comments that I have made or any positions that I have taken that are contrary to the interests of the Jewish community or of Israel.
SCHNEIDER: Former President Jimmy Carter has said he will meet with Hamas. Would Obama?
OBAMA: I would not meet with Hamas, given that it's a terrorist organization. It is not a state.
SCHNEIDER: Has Obama been having a problem with Jewish voters? Not really. Jewish voters are split, like many other Democrats. The exit polls show Hillary Clinton carried Jewish voters in New York, New Jersey, and Maryland. Obama carried Jewish voters in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and California.
So, what's the problem?
SIEGEL: We're seeing sort of generalized uneasiness related to some scattered remarks he's made about wanting to sit down with leaders in Iran and other places, about feeling that Israel does need to take steps for peace.
SCHNEIDER: The key word seems to be uneasy.
SIEGEL: Uneasy with his association with his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, who, of course, has had dealings with Louis Farrakhan.
SCHNEIDER: Many Jewish leaders simply don't know him.
SIEGEL: Obama is someone who's not tremendously well known in the Jewish community, is somewhat of a screen for people to sort of project their fears on to.
SCHNEIDER: Obama is meeting with Jewish leaders to try to reassure them they have nothing to fear -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Bill -- Bill Schneider, thanks for that report.
Coming up in our "Strategy Session": the greening of President Bush.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, I'm announcing a new national goal: to stop the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: But is the president's position a preemptive strike?
And a pollster who once worked for Bill Clinton says the only way for Hillary Clinton to win the nomination is to hammer away at Barack Obama. But what's the downside to that tactic?
Steve McMahon and Dick Armey, they're standing by live -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: One of Bill Clinton's former advisers has a new message for Hillary Clinton: Fight harder.
In an op-ed piece in "The Washington Post" today, the former adviser says Clinton should do all she can -- and I'm quoting now -- "to undermine Barack Obama's candidacy."
Let's get to that and more in our "Strategy Session." Joining us, the Democratic strategist Steve McMahon, also, the Republican former House Majority Leader Dick Armey.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
Doug Schoen, the pollster, former partner of Mark Penn, another Clinton adviser, writes this, among other things, in "The Washington Post": "As the underdog, Clinton's positive message will not work unless she is able to undermine Obama's candidacy. Clinton needs to argue that, despite what Obama has said, he has done very little to actually promote and create bipartisan solutions in Washington, and that he is, in effect, probably the Senate's most liberal member."
In other words, he wants her to really go negative and pound away. Is that a wise strategy?
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It's almost like he's channeling Mark Penn, Wolf.
It's a strategy. And it's probably one that would enable her to raise doubts about Barack Obama, which I think she's actually doing pretty effectively, and I think which Senator Obama helped her do by his recent comments. On the other hand, every time she does that, her negatives go up. She now as a 23-point deficit among Democrats in the area of honesty and trustworthiness to Barack Obama.
And, as that grows, it becomes more and more of a problem for her. It may be a situation where she might be able to succeed somewhat in the primary by doing this, but she creates enormous problems for herself if she's successful and becomes the nominee, because there are going to be a lot of people who have placed their hope in Barack Obama who won't vote for Hillary Clinton if she wins it this way.
BLITZER: What do you think of that assessment?
DICK ARMEY, FORMER REPUBLICAN HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: I think he's absolutely correct. I don't think...
BLITZER: When you say he, you mean Steve?
ARMEY: Steve, yes.
MCMAHON: I have never heard that from... (CROSSTALK)
ARMEY: No, no.
MCMAHON: ... from a Republican majority leader before. Wow.
ARMEY: Well, trust me, I have an insidious motive...
ARMEY: But I don't think Senator Clinton can do this. I do think Senator Obama has, in fact, put himself at question with some of his own comments, the bitterness comment and so forth. And Reverend Wright hangs over him.
But this is an interesting phenomena. And I have a model that -- by which I characterize the Democratic Party as the academic party. And, by my model, there is no way you can stop Senator Obama from getting the Democratic nomination, because he is clearly the least qualified person available. And that, in my model...
ARMEY: ... demonstrates that they consistently choose the least substantive person they can find.
BLITZER: I'm sure you don't agree with him on that.
MCMAHON: He admitted he had an insidious intent. And he just proved it.
BLITZER: Obviously, that was his point.
But the whole notion of negative attack ads, if you will, all these candidates say...
BLITZER: ... oh, we don't want to do any attack ads.
But they work. I assume they work. Is that right?
MCMAHON: They do work. And what they do is, they raise doubt about your opponent. They don't necessarily move people over to you. They move people away from your opponent.
So, I guess in some measure, that's a success. What Hillary Clinton needs to do, however, is close the delegate gap between herself and Barack Obama, which means she has to win by a fairly significant margin. Right now, it looks like Senator Obama is holding it pretty close in Pennsylvania. If she doesn't open it up at a time when he clearly looks very vulnerable, people are going to start to wonder whether she can.
BLITZER: What do you think, Mr. Armey, about this whole new -- some suggest, new President Bush when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, becoming more green, his new initiative that was unveiled today?
And we heard Ed Gillespie, his counselor, tell us earlier this hour he's long believed that, yes, this global warming is a real problem. It's not just a myth, as some -- some critics suggest.
ARMEY: Well, I think the president is saying: I have been aware of some of the legitimate concerns we should have as a nation and some of the truly beneficial policies we could pursue. And I want to lay a marker out demonstrating my willingness to go in these sound directions, but also demonstrating that I won't take any what I would call eco-evangelical foolishness out of Congress, using such things as the Endangered Species Act, for example, to over-regulate or foolishly regulate the...
BLITZER: What do you think about this initiative he unveiled today?
MCMAHON: Well, he basically said that the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species acts are nice, but they're not important enough to follow, and we certainly don't want the courts to enforce them.
I think the president sort of sounded like Rodney King out there saying, why can't we all just get along? It's really nice that he has finally acknowledged global warming exists. But he said that, by 2025, we ought to do something about it, rather than right now. And he favors voluntary standards, rather than anything written into the law.
I mean, that's what we have had for years. That's how we got into this problem. It's not going to get us out.
ARMEY: Well, of course, I would argue that, historically, in this country, the greatest single trespass against our environment and our resources have been the government policies, the federal government policies in agriculture.
There's a very clearly documented case in point where bad policy has been harmful to the environment. And the president is saying, it's time for us to sober up and be analytically aware of the resources available to us in nuclear, in wind. We have an opportunity for an enormous wind generation right off Nantucket Sound. It's being blocked by liberal Democrats, who are for alternative energy.
BLITZER: We will continue this debate on another occasion.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
MCMAHON: Thank you.
BLITZER: It's the latest gesture of praise to Republicans and the latest snub to Democrats. You're going to find out what Senator Joe Lieberman would do now to help defeat his former party in the presidential election.
And we're also following very closely the pope's historic visit to the United States. We're going to have live coverage of the rest of the day's important events coming up -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: On our Political Ticker today: Senator Joe Lieberman says, if asked, he will accept an offer to speak at the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul.
The former Democrat-turned-independent confirms to CNN he would give a GOP convention speech if it would help John McCain. Lieberman's endorsement of McCain cost him his superdelegate vote at the Democratic Convention eight years after he was the party's vice presidential nominee.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File."
CAFFERTY: Has anybody asked him?
BLITZER: I don't know if they have asked him formally yet. But he says, if asked, he's there.
CAFFERTY: But nobody's asked him.
BLITZER: Not yet.
CAFFERTY: So -- so, what are we talking about here?
The question: Bill Clinton says older voters are too savvy to fall for Barack Obama. Do you agree with that statement?
Richard writes: "Older voters like me -- I'm 65 -- remember too well the scandals of the Clinton years and his impeachment. Please just go away, Bill, and let us -- the young and old alike -- elect Senator Obama and get on with dealing with the real problems of today."
Anthony in Wildwood Crest, New Jersey: "Bill is absolutely correct. These young kids, easily led, vulnerable, naive individuals falling for his rhetoric, Obama's. Let's remind people that, eight years ago, some of the same made George Bush out to be a 'compassionate conservative' and the second coming of Ronald Reagan. How did that turn out for you?"
Terry in Virginia; "Bill Clinton has referred to his wife's age, 60, in a negative manner on more than one occasion. Now he's telling us older voters that, if we support Obama, we're not savvy. Why am I not surprised that an aging frat boy who digs younger chicks would make some kind of dumb remark, one of the dumbest I've ever heard made during a campaign? Maybe he's just bitter."
Rhea writes: "Bill, please go back to New York. You are beginning to sound as if you don't know which team you are supposed to be playing for. Why, dear God, are you giving the Obama team so much ammunition? Why are you sabotaging your wife's campaign? Could it be that you don't want to be first lady?"
Tracy in California: "In desperate times, people want to hear what they want to hear. Obama's rhetoric has a feel-good message. I am a middle-aged, highly-educated voter who wants solutions and a clear direction. Obama's sound bites may be inspiring, but his message won't get oil under $114 a barrel or make the world a safer place."
Martha in L.A.: "Depends what the meaning of older is. I'm an older voter, by Clinton's standards for his wife -- 60 -- and gets tired at 11:00 at night. I'm also a clear convert to Barack Obama and am now wildly enthusiastic about him."
And Yvonne from Atlanta says: "The savvy older voters are voting for Obama. The stupid older voters are not."
CAFFERTY: If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile, where you can look for yours among the hundreds of others.
I will give you a tip. That's pretty good reading today. We got some pretty funny stuff.
BLITZER: You always do. You have great -- great correspondents out there. Thanks very much.
CAFFERTY: Yes, they are. They're good.
BLITZER: They're excellent. Thanks, Jack. See you in a little while.
A competition from MoveOn.org to make an online ad for Barack Obama is attracting some older voters. Calling themselves White Haired Women for Obama, they're proving that online liberal activism isn't just for 20-somethings.
Let's turn to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She's watching the story.
Well, what are they saying, Abbi?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, when 83-year-old Patricia Burton heard about this competition from a friend, she decided with her friend that they too should get in on the act.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... haired women can speak for themselves for Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALES: Yes, we can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TATTON: White Haired Women for Barack Obama, all from Nashville, Tennessee. And Burton says the youngest amongst them, 79 years old. They made this with the support of a local filmmaker, Travis Nicholson.
Among Democratic voters, these women represent a demographic that polls show favors Hillary Clinton. Nationally, Clinton beats Obama amongst white women of all ages except those under the age of 30. Well, filmmaker Nicholson says he hopes to show with this video that there are white-haired Southern women rooting for Barack Obama.
This is being passed around online today, almost 20,000 views at this point. When we told Patricia Burton that, she said she was confounded, as she has only discovered YouTube this week. Voting on all these ads starts Monday -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Abbi, for that.