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Reverend Wright Speaks Out; Clinton's North Carolina Chances; Justice Scalia Tells Dems: "Get Over It"

Aired April 25, 2008 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, an all-too-familiar distraction for Barack Obama. His former pastor is back in the spotlight, speaking out, and forcing Obama to explain himself all over again. We will tell you what's happening today.

Plus, John McCain's campaign ally gives Obama a pass on the Wright controversy. But McCain is finding something else to use against the Democrat.

And a dead heat in Indiana. Is Hillary Clinton getting a bounce from her Pennsylvania victory? The best political team on television is standing by.

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

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Barack Obama is running neck and neck with Hillary Clinton in Indiana right now, and one of the last things he probably wants to talk about is the controversial former pastor.

Jessica Yellin is here. She's watching this story.

There were some twists and turns today. What is the latest, Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The latest, Wolf, is that Barack Obama was in Indiana. He wanted to talk about gas prices, but he simply could not avoid questions about the latest comments by his former pastor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I understand that he might not agree with me on my assessment of his comments. That's to be expected.

So, you know, he is obviously free to express his opinions on these issues. You know, I have expressed mine very clearly.

I think that what he said in several instances were objectionable. And I understand why the American people took offense. And, you know, and as I indicated before, I took offense.

YELLIN (voice-over): Barack Obama speaking out on new comments by his former pastor.

REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT, BARACK OBAMA'S FORMER PASTOR: And put constantly other and over again...

YELLIN: The Reverend Jeremiah Wright, in an interview airing on PBS Friday night, stands by past sermons that became a political firestorm.

WRIGHT: ... controlled by rich white people.

YELLIN: Wright said his words regarding the 9/11 attacks and race relations were taken out of context. He also reacts to Obama's criticism of him.

WRIGHT: He's a politician. I'm a pastor. We speak to two different audiences.

And he says what he has to say as a politician. I say what I have to say as a pastor. Those are two different worlds. I do what I do. He does what politicians do.

OBAMA: Here in Indiana gas costs...

YELLIN: Also today, Obama criticized oil companies. At a gas station in Indianapolis, he called for a tax on their profits to help Americans struggling with high fuel costs.

Both Obama and Clinton are campaigning across Indiana today...

OBAMA: All right. Well, thank you so much, everybody.

YELLIN: ... where the race appears to be a dead heat. Clinton started her day in North Carolina, which along with Indiana, votes on May 6. She once again urged Obama to face off in a debate.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I would sure like to give an answer with a date and a time, and I said I will go anywhere, any time to have a debate.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: On the question of debates, Obama says they have had 21 debates, and he believes the voters know where they stand on the issues. He says he wants to spend his time campaigning, not debating -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jessica, for that.

John McCain is pursuing a tough line of criticism against Barack Obama today. He's portraying the Democrat as the choice of the Islamic militant group Hamas.

Let's bring in CNN's Dana Bash. She's watching the story for us. Dana, McCain isn't backing down from this at all, is he?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He's not at all, Wolf. McCain says he's running an above-the-fray campaign, but McCain advisers insist it is very much in bounds to talk about the fact that Hamas' political adviser essentially endorsed Obama, saying it reflects the difference between Obama's policy positions and McCain's.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): A trip to Arkansas for a reunion with an old Republican rival, but John McCain's focus was on his potential Democratic competitor, Barack Obama.

On a conference call with bloggers, McCain volunteered that Obama is Hamas' choice for president. "I think that people understand that I will be Hamas' worst nightmare," said McCain. "If Senator Obama is favored by Hamas, I think people can make judgments."

The reality is, a Hamas leader did say they want Obama to win the White House. McCain chose the blogosphere, an audience ripe for fueling that fact, to highlight an Obama soft spot, especially when it comes to his rocky relations with Jewish voters.

An Obama spokesperson shot back that he rejects Hamas' terrorist actions, but said McCain -- quote -- "makes claims he knows not to be true to advance his campaign."

McCain advisers call it fair game. The candidate said he stands by his statement.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hamas, apparently, their North American spokesperson is endorsing Senator Obama. People can make their own judgment from that. I don't view that as anything but a statement of fact.

BASH: But McCain gave Obama a pass on another political hot potato, controversial comments by his pastor, Jeremiah Wright. So did McCain's traveling companion, former preacher Mike Huckabee.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: I think that would be a little bit presumption to ever assume that, just because the pastor says something at the pulpit, everybody in the pew agrees with it. That's rarely the case.

BASH: But Huckabee made clear he's working for McCain to defeat Obama or Hillary Clinton, and said he is reaching out to potentially skeptical social conservatives to make sure they are, too.

HUCKABEE: His conservatism is unquestioned, and that's why I can't imagine anyone not rallying toward his campaign.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, Huckabee, of course, stayed in the race well after it was clear McCain would be the GOP nominee, but they always got along. And Huckabee joked today, Wolf, that they had plenty of time to bond when they both were underdogs and didn't get much attention from the moderators in early debates. I'm sure he wasn't referring to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's hope not.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Appreciate it, Dana.

John McCain, we are going to continue to watch that story, the alleged ties involving Obama and Hamas. We will watch that very, very closely.

Meanwhile, American military officials are saying they're more sure than ever that Iran is helping to kill Americans in Iraq.

Our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, has new details on what the Pentagon says is brand-new evidence.

What's going on?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, General David Petraeus says he's got new evidence of Iran's involvement in Iraq. And we will probably hear from him in the weeks to come. But, already today, the Pentagon has begun confronting Iran.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice-over): Last month's botched Iraqi government offensive in Basra may have been a military debacle, but it was an intelligence boon, according to Pentagon officials, who claim it has exposed as a lie Iran's assertions it has cut the flow of arms to anti-government militias.

ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN, JOINTS CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I believe recent events, especially the Basra operation, revealed just how much and just far Iran is reaching into Iraq to foment instability.

MCINTYRE: Pentagon sources say some weapons seized in Basra after the fighting, like those in these official U.S. military photos, were newly-made in Iran. Date stamps on mortar rounds, rockets, and armor-piercing bombs show they were manufactured this year in the past month or two.

ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: What the Iranians are doing is killing American service men and women, and inside Iraq.

MCINTYRE: In addition, sources tell CNN, captured Shia insurgents in Basra revealed some were trained in Iran, and then returned to Iraq to train others. That's something the U.S. hasn't seen before.

And the Pentagon is pointing the finger at this man, Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani, head of Iran's shadowy intelligence and sabotage unit, known as the Cuds Force. MULLEN: I'm very hard-pressed to believe that the head of the Cuds Force is not aware of this, given his interaction, and, quite frankly, involvement in particular recently in the Basra operation.

MCINTYRE: General Suleimani is believed to report directly to Iran's supreme leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Admiral Mike Mullen conceded, the U.S. has no smoking gun that proves Iraq's top leaders are involved.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: Admiral Mullen continues to say that the Pentagon is keeping military options on the table. And he points out that means they have military options, even as he insists that he would like to see economic, diplomatic and international pressure come to bear to get Iran to back off -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The U.S. says the Iranians are killing Americans, but the Iranian leader is warmly welcomed by the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. There seems to be a major disconnect here, Jamie.

MCINTYRE: Well, that's right, Wolf, because while Iran is saying one thing publicly, the U.S. says it has the evidence to show that, privately, it's doing something else.

And, again, one of the big questions is, to what extent is it coming from the highest levels in Iraq -- in Iran, rather, or are some of these other elements acting on their own?

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, thank you.

Let's check back with Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: When Colin Daltry -- Saltry -- I'm sorry -- and Joey Daniel heard that Barack Obama was at Glider's Diner in Scranton, Pennsylvania, eating waffles earlier this week, they just couldn't help themselves. Saltry is class president, Daniel vice president at Scranton High School.

They left school. They headed for the diner. They managed to talk their way in through the media entrance. So much for security. And soon they were deep in conversation with the famous senator from Illinois.

When one of them mentioned that they would probably be suspended for leaving school without permission, Obama wrote them each a note. "Excuse Joey." "Excuse Colin."

Well, it didn't work. Both boys were suspended for one day. They wound up spending that day campaigning for Barack Obama. Both kids admitted it wasn't the right thing to do to skip school, and both said they would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Of all the days that they will spend at Scranton High School, 20 years from now, they will remember every single detail of this particular day. Here's the question: Which politician, living or dead, would you skip work or school to meet with and why?

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

BLITZER: It's Friday. It's a good question.

CAFFERTY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Glad you like it.

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton is behind in the polls right now in North Carolina, but she's got a heavy hitter there helping her. He's got a proven track record in closing the deals. You are going to meet him, hear his plans to try to deliver Clinton a Carolina win.

Also, things are much tighter between Clinton and Barack Obama in Indiana, at least according to the latest average of polls. You are going to find out how many people are for and against each of them and how it may all come down to the undecideds.

And many of you want someone, anyone, to do something about those high gas and food prices. Now President Bush insists help is on the way.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's certainly possible for Hillary Clinton to win North Carolina on May 6, but she would have to overcome some huge disadvantages. The polls there show her largely trailing Barack Obama. Several elements, though, suggest North Carolina potentially could be fertile territory, not only for an Obama win, but maybe for an upset.

Let's see. The Clinton campaign right now is leaving nothing to chance. They have got a top-notch strategist who's got a lot of his political opponents very, very worried. That would be Ace Smith. He's joining us now from Raleigh.

Ace, thanks very much for coming in.

ACE SMITH, CLINTON NORTH CAROLINA CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR: Thank you very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: You have got a proven track record. You have brought her back from near setbacks in the past. What do you think, first of all, about North Carolina? How likely is it that she might have a huge upset there on May 6?

SMITH: Well, let's talk about what an upset is. An upset is anything 15 points or less with a deficit. Barack Obama has such a huge, huge lead here, about 25 points. If we can cut it down to somewhere within that margin, it's a huge loss.

We're just, very simply, asking that the same standard be applied to Barack Obama that was applied to Senator Clinton in Pennsylvania, which is, hey, you have a huge margin, you better keep it or you have got some problems.

BLITZER: So, what you're trying -- you're not expecting a win. What you're expecting is simply to narrow the gap in the polls; is that right?

SMITH: Well, if we somehow or another won here, it would be probably the greatest upset in a century or so.

A huge win would be anything under 15 points. And if we got it down to single digits, that would be just absolutely amazing. Look, the fact of the matter is, Barack Obama is so far ahead here, he's refusing to debate. He's -- and I guess it's from what happened in the Pennsylvania debate, but the people of North Carolina deserve a debate, and they're going to be demanding one. So, we think issues like that will help us, and also the economy is a huge issue and we think we have a clear advantage.

But clearly we start 25 points back. And, as I said, a 15-point or better would be a huge victory.

BLITZER: You know this state rather well. How important would some of these high-profile endorsements be? For example, John Edwards, the former senator, the former Democratic presidential candidate, and Elizabeth Edwards, I know they're under a lot of pressure to endorse one of these candidates. Would that be a big or a little deal in North Carolina?

SMITH: John Edwards or Elizabeth Edwards would be a big deal anywhere in the country. But we have some phenomenal endorsements in North Carolina. We have Maya Angelou, who just did an event at Winston-Salem with Senator Clinton, which was phenomenal. And just today she was with General Sheldon, who endorsed her. And he's a North Carolinian. So we think we have some of the best endorsements you can get down here.

BLITZER: All right. So, talk about your strategy right now -- you're a top-notch strategist -- in going after specific voters out there.

Among the African-Americans, what, about 70 percent North Carolina white, 21 percent African-American, are those the numbers that you have had? Because, in Pennsylvania, he got 92 percent of the African-American vote, according to the exit polls.

SMITH: Sure.

There's no question but that we have an uphill struggle here, and an uphill climb. But the thing that's fascinating about this state is, this state has 100 counties. They're very diverse, every one of them. And what we are going to try and do is go into every one and make our case. And the fact of the matter is, what's most fascinating with what's happening in this presidential race -- and the same thing happened in Texas, where I was -- is that these races are no longer being just absolutely dominated by the old-fashioned 30-second ads.

And the old Beatles song, "Money Can't Buy You Love," is apparently coming true for Senator Obama.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: You have a problem, though, because he's raised a lot more money than you have.

SMITH: But my point is this.

There's something really fascinating happening in this race, which is that, when you send Senator Clinton out to talk to voters, and she looks them in the eyes and they talk to their friends and they talk to their relatives, we close the case, even though we're being outspent dramatically.

This is an incredible candidacy, incredible candidate. It's -- she moves people when she's out there and she talks to them. Let me tell you. It is remarkable.

BLITZER: Attack ads, you know, everybody complains about them. They rail against them, but they're always out there, you know why? Because they often work. Will they work in North Carolina?

SMITH: I think attack ads are working less and less as we go forward in time.

Again, like I say, what's going to work in North Carolina is actually going on the hustings and talking to voters and really making an impression.

Again, if 30-second ads worked, Barack Obama would have closed this deal a long time ago, and he's just not able to because we're not back in the days of 1988, where you put a couple of million dollars up on the tube and you win. Those days are long gone.

And we actually live in a much more complex age, where people are looking not just at TV ads, but they're looking way beyond there. They're looking to what their friends are saying. They're looking to what they read in the newspapers. There's a variety -- they're looking at what they see on YouTube. And it's much more filtered and actually frankly much more digested.

BLITZER: How did you get your nickname, Ace?

SMITH: Well, my parents named me Averell, after Averell Harriman, and there's no little kid on Earth who can pronounce that name. So, I readily became Ace by about the time I was two.

BLITZER: Little did they know you would be an ace when it comes to these kinds of matters.

Ace Smith, thanks for coming in. SMITH: Thank you. Been a pleasure. Thank you.

BLITZER: They call him the closer. Let's see if he can close for Hillary Clinton in North Carolina.

For anyone still thinking the Supreme Court snatched the presidency from Al Gore in 2000, one top justice has a message for you -- and I will read the quote -- "Get over it." Find out who said that and why.

And a controversial court ruling today in New York, the case of a groom shot on his wedding day. We will have that and a complete check of the headlines.

That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: Barack Obama disputing a class divide.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I don't think that there's a huge difference between black working-class, white working-class, suburban, urban, rural.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The Democrat is confronting questions about weak spots in his support. Will he have a problem in the next round of primaries?

Also ahead, new evidence Indiana is a dead heat for the two Democratic candidates right now. The best political team on television gives us a sense of why it could be a squeaker.

And is John Edwards any closer to making an endorsement in his home state of North Carolina? His support potentially could be key in the days ahead.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, it's anybody's race in the upcoming Indiana Democratic primary. CNN's latest poll of polls combining data from multiple surveys finds Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in a dead heat right now. Each has 45 percent of likely primary voters, 10 percent of those likely primary voters undecided.

Senator Barack Obama answers questions regarding his weakness with white blue-collar Democrats. Obama countered today, saying there's little difference between working classes. And a member of the U.S. Supreme Court has some petulant words for people who carry a torch for the 2000 presidential election. He tells them to get over it -- all this coming up, plus the best political team on television.

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

A dead heat in Indiana for the two Democratic presidential candidates, let's discuss this and more with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, our own Jack Cafferty, and our newest CNN political contributor Tony Snow. They're all part of the best political team on television.

Guys, thanks to all of you.

Jack, I will start with you -- 45-45, 10 percent unsure. It's a snapshot, 12 days to go in Indiana. This is another one of those critical primaries. What do you think?

CAFFERTY: Well, at the risk of bursting anybody's bubble, I think we're kind of perpetuating a myth here that this race is still close. I don't think it is.

I think it's -- for all intents and purposes, it's over, and Barack Obama is going to be the next nominee. Unless she wins, unless Hillary Clinton wins all of the remaining primaries and gets something in the neighborhood of 60 percent of the vote, she's going to end this thing behind him in pledged delegates.

Delegates are the way you get the nomination. The Democratic Party is not going to overturn the will of voters in 48 states and alienate the largest and most dependable constituency they have, African-Americans, by taking the nomination away from Obama and handing it to Clinton. So, there's -- this is a lot more smoke than fire.

BLITZER: But it's not that simple, Gloria, is it?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I don't think it's that simple.

I think Jack may be right about the numbers and the math. He is right. But this is also about the psychology, because, if Barack Obama is going to be the nominee, he doesn't want to go into this election against John McCain hobbled. He doesn't want to go in with the sense that he can't win these white working-class voters that are a very important part of the Democratic base.

He says he can win them, particularly when he's up against John McCain. But I think there is some burden on him, not only to win Indiana, but to show that he has an appeal to these voters, because she's painted a picture of him as this elite candidate who cannot attract them. So, he needs to start showing that he can do it.

BLITZER: Is it effectively over, all but the dust, Tony? TONY SNOW, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's hard to say, Wolf. I mean Jack's absolutely right about the primary math. But, on the other hand, you've got superdelegates. They've got to make the calculation who can win the presidency.

You saw Barack Obama stumble pretty badly in Pennsylvania and a lot of the damage was self- inflicted. You had the "Bittergate" comment. You had the pretty mediocre performance in the debate there. So the question is, can this guy take pressure, does he have what it takes in terms of experience and also sharply defined and credible positions on key issues or is he just a smooth talking guy that people love because he's got such a wonderful personality and is there going to be buyer's remorse on the part of Democrats as they get closer to an election that will be driven, yes, by personalities, but also by issues.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Let me play, Gloria -- just listen to how Barack Obama dealt with this issue that he simply couldn't get those white, working class voters -- at least enough of them -- in Pennsylvania.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The bottom line is that I think people across the board are interested in figuring out how we're lowering gas prices, how are we going to put people back to work, how are we going to going to make sure that we are dealing with the war in Iraq and starting to bring our troops home. I don't think that there's a huge difference between black working class, white working class, suburban, urban, rural. I think people want to see the country make progress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, Gloria.

BORGER: Well, and that's the smart answer for him. It's the answer he's going to give throughout the campaign. But I do still think that Barack Obama's kind of a cool candidate. I think of him as kind of F.M. radio, kind of that sort of soft music. And maybe he needs a little more A.M. in him, you know, a little more rat-a-tat- tat, this is what I stand for, this is what I'm going to do for you, these are my headlines on the hour. Because that's what Hillary Clinton is doing. And that seems to be connecting.

CAFFERTY: Excuse me, if I could just offer -- he's winning.

BORGER: Yes, well...

CAFFERTY: He's winning.

BORGER: Yes. But he's got to win against a Republican if he's the nominee. CAFFERTY: Well, how big a chance do you think the Democrats will have if they would overturn this process and give Clinton the nomination...

SNOW: Now I think...

CAFFERTY: ...after Barack Obama won?

Do you think that the Democrats would turn out in that case?

BORGER: I agree with you on that.

CAFFERTY: I don't.

BORGER: I agree with you on that.

CAFFERTY: It's not going to happen.

SNOW: No. But they can look -- the question they're going to be asking, Jack, is what kind of chance are they going to have with Barack Obama if he is, in fact, a magisterial new kind of candidate, fine. If he's slick Barry, it's a different problem for them. And this is -- Barack Obama has gotten this far through the campaign and yet he is not sharply defined.

You just listen to that answer. It was a hope and change speech without any specifics. And there lies the rub.

Does he have what it takes to be a president or is he a guy who's simply going to kind of ad lib it based on the audience, based on the conditions at that time...

CAFFERTY: Well...

SNOW: ...telling people what they want to hear?

BLITZER: But your former...

BORGER: But if he's ever...

CAFFERTY: But your former employer, Tony, has created such an appetite for change in this country that it might be enough for him. It might get him there.

SNOW: Well, except...

CAFFERTY: There is such disdain for the status quo in Washington.

BLITZER: All right...

CAFFERTY: You look at the opinion polls, the way people hold Congress in contempt, disapprove of the war, disapprove of your former boss. They're tired of Washington politics.

SNOW: Well, they're also tired of... CAFFERTY: And that's why Barack Obama has the appeal he does.

BLITZER: All right...

SNOW: Jack, I hate to tell you, they're even tireder of journalists who fare even worse...

CAFFERTY: Well, I have no doubt about that.

SNOW: The fact is, in a time of war...

(LAUGHTER)

SNOW: In a time of war, you're going to have an unpopular president. And the president understands that.

But you know what?

The conditions in the world aren't going to change. If you think Barack Obama is really going to withdraw troops, you're smoking rope. He is going to get the same kind of intel that the president has and he will be faced with the same unpleasant responsibilities. And that's the key -- do you have somebody who really kind of gets it, because you're absolutely right, the economic challenges are huge.

Are you going to get yourself fit to win in a global economy or are you going to run away?

Do you believe in free trade or not?

BLITZER: All right...

SNOW: That's one of these -- so issues like that...

BLITZER: Gloria, quickly, because we've got to take a break.

BORGER: Well, I mean, but, again, you know, you can't consider Barack Obama in a vacuum if he becomes the nominee, which is likely. You have to consider him against John McCain. And Barack Obama may have not done well in the last debate against Hillary Clinton, but how will he do against John McCain, who's not known as a terrific debater?

You know, elections don't happen in a vacuum. You've got a person on either side (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: He was good enough in those debates to get the Republican presidential nomination, so he can't be that bad of a debater either, right, Gloria?

CAFFERTY: He's pretty bad.

BORGER: Well, I would say that. But even McCain's people will tell you he's not the best debater in the (INAUDIBLE)...

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: He had some formidable opposition getting that nomination.

All right, guys, stand by, because we're going to continue this conversation. A lot more to go. Hillary Clinton's challenge to Barack Obama. But so far, he's not taking her up on another debate.

Why not?

We're going to talk about that with the best political team on television.

Plus, their former rival, John Edwards, could he make a difference in North Carolina if he were to decide to step in and endorse one of these candidates?

I'll ask. You'll hear the answers right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I'm hoping we can have a debate right here in North Carolina. I think the voters of North Carolina deserve a debate. I have said I'll debate anytime, anywhere. Look, I'm so sleep deprived, it doesn't matter. Anytime. Anywhere. I'll show up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Welcome back. We're talking to the best political team on television.

Tony Snow, usually the candidate behind is anxious for a debate, the candidate ahead says maybe not necessarily.

What do you think about this little over a debate?

SNOW: Well, you're absolutely -- you've just captured it. It's kind of typical. Barack Obama wants to sit on a lead. He's got a prohibitive lead in North Carolina, as you found out earlier in the hour. The Clinton strategy really is to try to whittle that big lead down and then proclaim victory.

So how do you do it?

You do a debate. You figure out some local issue, maybe, that's going to catch fire or try to lure him into making a comment that's going to tick off some of the people in the Tar Heel State.

Hillary Clinton has everything to gain from it. Obama has shown himself a little gun shy when it comes to the debates after what happened in Pennsylvania. It sends kind of an interesting signal that probably won't have any effect in North Carolina, but may have an impact in other states, which is well, why won't he go ahead and do the debate?

BLITZER: We've invited both of the candidates to our own CNN debate that we would do with PBS in Indiana. The Hillary Clinton campaign has agreed. He hasn't yet agreed. Maybe he will.

What do you think about this debate over a debate, Gloria?

BORGER: So are we a little self-interested here, Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, we are.

BORGER: We're all for debates.

BLITZER: We'd love to have...

BORGER: We love debates.

BLITZER: We'd love to host another debate.

(LAUGHTER)

BORGER: So Barack Obama, you should debate. No, I agree with Tony. I think that he has every reason not to and she has every reason to want to. Also, she tends to do better in these debates. I can point to a couple of debates that I think he did really well. But most of the debates, Hillary Clinton is on her talking points. She's very sharp. Obama does not speak in sound bites, in case you haven't noticed. He tends to be more professorial and that doesn't really work, generally, in a debate. She's very good at it and she's waiting for him to make a mistake that she can pounce on.

BLITZER: You know, Jack, the last debate that I moderated at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles, when it was just one-on-one between the two of them, I thought they both did really well. And I think both of them emerged happy with their respective performances.

CAFFERTY: They were terrific that night. I watched that debate. And there's gold in them there debates for us TV people. That's why everybody is anxious to have them.

We've had 21 debates. Tony, don't they call this a Rose Garden strategy during a presidential election -- the incumbent presidential content to stay in the Oval Office and say boys, knock yourselves out, I'm the incumbent, that gives me advantage. I don't think that Barack Obama is ignorant of that point.

And going to what Gloria just said, I remember a question in a debate when Hillary Clinton was asked about driver's licenses for illegal aliens in New York.

BORGER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: And that was the beginning of the collapse of the inevitability of the Clinton presidency, that night.

BLITZER: You're -- that's a fair point, Jack. A fair point, indeed -- Gloria.

BORGER: But I -- overall, though, I would say, just as a voter here, a citizen, I think these debates have been terrific. I think they've been educational. I think you have a sense that you can watch these candidates unfiltered. So from a voters' perspective, I say the more debates the merrier.

But from a candidate's perspective, I think Obama can say look, we've had more than 20 of these debates. What more do you want to see of me? You've seen enough.

SNOW: Well, but the real key is who is this guy? There's still a lot of question marks around the country. You remember when they had the Tony Rezko press conference? He took eight questions. Eight. He said well, I think I've already answered enough. You know, what happens in a lot of these debates...

BORGER: But you're a White House press secretary, Tony. You take, you know, a gazillion questions a day, right?

BLITZER: He took hundreds of questions.

(LAUGHTER)

SNOW: But the fact is, you've got to be able to answer more than eight questions on the issue of the day. And so I think, also, you've got to realize that as unpleasant as these may be, they're pretty good training for when you get into a general election campaign. I still think you err on the side of boldness, but, then again...

BLITZER: Jack...

SNOW: ...I don't think the Obama campaign is going to call me for advice.

BLITZER: A quick question...

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: A quick question to you, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Yes?

BLITZER: And if we have time, the others. John Edwards -- if he were -- and Elizabeth Edwards -- to endorse, let's say Hillary Clinton. She has endorsed her health care plan over Barack Obama's health care plan. If he were -- they were to endorse only days before their home state of North Carolina has their primary, would it make a difference in North Carolina?

CAFFERTY: Well, I don't know if it will make a big enough difference in North Carolina to change the outcome. My guess is that if there's something in that endorsement for John Edwards, then we'll see the endorsement come forward. He's got a pocketful of delegates. He is in a position to ask for something in exchange for his endorsement, whether it's something to do with writing the platform, a cabinet position, a spot on the ticket. I don't know. But somewhere in that equation is a quid pro-quo.

Is it an important endorsement? Yes.

Will we see it in North Carolina?

Somehow I don't think we're going to see it yet.

BLITZER: Well, we'll soon find out. I wrote about it on my blog post at CNNPolitics.com today. We're getting a lot of comments on that intriguing question.

Guys, thanks very much...

CAFFERTY: Hey, Tony, can I just welcome you to CNN, too, along with everybody else who has?

BORGER: Me, too.

Welcome.

CAFFERTY: I used to watch you over on the "F" word network and then when you were down there at the White House and I've always enjoyed your work and think you did a hell of a job. And I'm just glad to have you here with us.

SNOW: Well, Jack, Gloria and Wolf, thank you all. It's good to be here.

BLITZER: And we'll be seeing a lot of Tony right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

BORGER: That's good.

BLITZER: But we always see a lot of Gloria and Jack.

Guys, thanks very much.

Jack...

CAFFERTY: That's the problem.

BLITZER: ...we've got "The Cafferty File" coming up.

Jack's question, by the way, this hour: Which politician, living or dead, would you skip work or school to meet and why?

Jack and your e-mail when we come back.

Also, a Web site that claims to be raising money for Barack Obama, but so far he hasn't seen a dime of it. We're going to show you the situation online.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check in with Lou Dobbs to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour.

What are you working on -- Lou?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Thank you, Wolf.

At 7:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN, more on the presidential campaign. Tonight we're reporting on troubling new evidence that the federal government is incapable of stopping enemies of this nation from obtaining our military secrets. We'll have that report.

And President Bush has a new plan to help what's left of our middle class. He's sending out some tax rebate checks starting Monday. But it may be too late for millions of Americans, especially those in and facing bankruptcy.

And the U.S. Chamber of Commerce pushing an agenda that has nothing to do with the common good or the national interest. You won't believe what they've come up with this time.

And a judge clearing three New York City detectives of all charges in the Sean Bell case. Critics refusing, however, to accept that verdict and they're discussing the race card. Radio talk show host Curtis Sliwa will join me us to give us his assessment.

All of that and a great deal more at the top of the hour here on CNN. Please join us -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: See you in a few moments, Lou.

DOBBS: Yes.

BLITZER: Thank you.

It was the wildest presidential election in memory. That would be the 2000 recount in Florida that made hanging chads famous. Now a powerful new call to let the past stay in the past.

Let's go back to Brian Todd. He's been watching this story for us.

All right, Brian, what's going on? What's the latest?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's clear that the 2000 recount still resonates. Analysts say many Florida voters are still angry about it. But one man who was at the center of the decision that fall has a fairly abrupt answer to that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): In his typically blunt manner, the Supreme Court's conservative standard-bearer says he and his court owe no apology for their decision in the 2000 Florida recount that swept George Bush and Dick Cheney into the White House.

Pressed by CBS' "60 Minutes" on accusations that the decision was purely political, Justice Antonin Scalia responds, "Nonsense." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "60 MINUTES")

ANTONIN SCALIA, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: Gee, I really don't want to get in -- I mean, this is -- get over it. It's so old by now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Contacted by CNN, representatives for Al Gore said he would not comment.

But a former Gore press secretary did respond.

CHRIS LEHANE, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY FOR AL GORE: If you actually take a look at what Scalia is saying here, I think it only -- only reinforces concerns out there that this was very much of a political decision.

TODD: Justice Scalia told "60 Minutes" the Supreme Court merely did what it was asked to do in that contentious autumn, and places the ball in the Democrats' court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "60 MINUTES")

SCALIA: It was Al Gore who made it a judicial question. It was he who brought it into the Florida courts. We didn't go looking for trouble. It was he who -- who said, I want this to be decided by the courts. What are we supposed to say? Oh, not important enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: The Gore campaign did take the case, at one point, to the Florida Supreme Court. But before that the Bush team has actually been the first side to go to court, with a lawsuit in federal district court in Miami.

After the recount, one audit sponsored by a group of media companies, including CNN, suggested that if the Supreme Court had allowed the recount to continue, Bush still would have been elected. Another media study was inconclusive.

Analysts say Scalia's comments still strike a nerve because of the charged political climate this year. And Florida is again in the middle of it.

TOM FIEDLER, FORMER EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE MIAMI HERALD": It's as if the not yet healed scab has been peeled back once again, with the threat that the 1.7 million Florida Democrats who voted in the Florida presidential primary are being told that that was an illegitimate contest.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: That, of course, refers to the refusal of the Democratic Party to seat Florida delegates at the convention because Florida moved up its primary against party rules. Now, that's not likely to resonate as heavily as the 2000 recount. But Tom Fiedler says it could still hurt the Democrats if Floridians feel that they haven't been treated fairly here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The justice, Antonin Scalia, he also had some legal arguments in defending that 2000 decision.

TODD: He did. He said that the main issue in that case, in his mind, at least -- and that was whether the Florida Supreme Court had violated the Constitution by pursuing a recount without some kind of a statewide standard was not even close in the Supreme Court. They voted 7-2 on that. But the court's final decision, as we know, Wolf, ending the entire recount, was very much closer. That was a razor thin 5-4 vote.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brian, for that.

If you need more cash, by the way, to pay for gas and food, President Bush says extra money is now on the way. The president says some Americans will get those tax rebates starting as early as Monday. That's sooner than expected. The president says that should help many people. The speaker of the House agrees. Nancy Pelosi also wants a second stimulus package. And there's been conversations between lawmakers and the White House about that.

Those of you getting rebates Monday will see them directly deposited into your banks. That will continue most of next week and through May 16. As for those old-fashioned paper checks, the government says they'll start going out on May 9. The last mailed check will be July 11.

When your rebate goes out depends on the last two digits of your Social Security number. Of course, the government hopes you'll use that money to boost consumer spending and try to help the overall economy. So national retailer like Sears, Kmart and Kroger, among others, they're offering discounts for shoppers who spend their rebate checks at their stores.

Jack Cafferty is joining us once again with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: That's what we do in this country -- spend, spend, spend.

Here's the question this hour: Which politician, living or dead, would you skip work or school in order to meet and why?

Remember those two kids in Pennsylvania that skipped out of Scranton High School to meet with Barack Obama?

They got suspended but they said they would have done it again in a heartbeat.

Billy in Las Vegas writes: "I would skip school to meet Herbert Hoover if he were still living, just to find out if he is a distant relative of either George Bush, Dick Cheney or John McCain." Kevin in Michigan: "I'd love to have met Harry Truman. He seemed like a man of good character, a sense of humor, a kick butt attitude. We sure could use that now. If he were living, I couldn't imagine what his comments might be on the games that go on in Washington, D.C. "

Lance in Texas writes: "I feel very lucky just to have a job to skip. Of course, it would also depend on how much gas it would take for me to get to the event. But I think I'd like to see President Reagan and get his honest opinion of how much better off we all are after the past eight years of Republican rule."

Michael in Lorton, Virginia: "This is touching. I'd skip school to meet my father. He's deceased. I'd tell him something I was unable to tell him before he died -- that I loved him and that I think of him always."

Denise in San Antonio says: "Senator Barack Obama. He reminds me of my father, my church pastor, my husband, my friends, wise college professors, my uncle, my cousins and my dad's friends from Texas Southern University. I own the company, so I could skip a day of work and go spend time with him."

And the last one is from David: "Silly question, Jack. You and the Wolfman, of course."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile. We post bunches of them there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I know in your day in high school, Jack, you probably skipped a class or two. And probably not necessarily to go see some presidential or other candidate -- local candidate.

But give us the answer to your question -- who would you skip class for to see?

CAFFERTY: Maybe Merle Haggard or Jack Nicklaus. Those are names I'd like to spend some time with.

BLITZER: Very impressive.

CAFFERTY: The stuff I skipped school for can't be talked about on this program.

BLITZER: We're not going to talk about it.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Have a great weekend.

CAFFERTY: You, too.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thanks very much.

You've probably heard about the incredible sums of money being raised by Barack Obama -- millions and millions of dollars. Well, now some on the Internet might be trying to take advantage of his appeal. We're going to look at one questionable fundraising site and what's going on.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: People Googling Barack Obama this week may have seen Web sites inviting you to donate for Barack Obama for president. But they are not from the Obama campaign and the campaign wants an investigation underway right now.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She's been watching what's going on.

All right, what are these Web sites called -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, the address is DonateToObama.org -- DonateToBarackObama.com. Here, we accessed them earlier this week. You can see there an Obama logo, a photo. And if you clicked on that donate button, it would invite you to give up to $2,300. But if you gave here, you wouldn't be giving to the Barack Obama campaign.

Read on and you'll see it's going to a group calling itself Concerned Citizens for Obama.

These Web sites are registered to a man called Lou Kheriaty in Washington State. Mr. Kheriaty talked to us earlier this week and said that any money gathered through these Web sites would be to support the candidacy of Barack Obama. And he said he didn't think it was misleading at all, stating that -- pointing us to this part here, that you're giving to Concerned Citizens for Obama.

But the Barack Obama campaign disagrees. Campaign lawyer Bob Bower sent a letter to the Department of Justice yesterday, asking for an investigation. He wrote the activities of the sites "appear clearly intended to deceive supporters of Barack Obama." He also pointed out that there's no record of these Web sites -- the group being registered with the FEC -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What's the reaction from this Web site?

TATTON: Well, Wolf, after talking to Mr. Kheriaty earlier this week, he has not responded to repeated requests for more information. But we have been checking in on his Web site. The Obama logo has gone and the photo. And if you check back this afternoon, you'll see that it looks like he's put it all on the market -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Abbi, for that.

Let's take a look at some of this hour's Hot Shots -- pictures often worth a thousand words.

In Indianapolis, Senator Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in a gas station.

Sixty miles to the north, in Kokomo, Indiana, a vendor carries posters to hang outside an event. Senator Obama is hosting a town hall in a local gym there tonight.

In Bloomington, Indiana, Senator Hillary Clinton addresses a crowd on the campus of Indiana University. The Democrats are in a dead heat in CNN's latest poll of polls.

And in Little Rock, Arkansas, Senator John McCain and his wife Cindy read the menu at The Whole Hog Cafe.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots.

Among my guests Sunday on "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Pete Hoekstra. We'll be talking about the latest questions about North Korea allegedly helping Syria with nuclear work. "LATE EDITION" starts 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

Until then, thanks very much for joining us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.