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Barack Obama's Former Pastor Speaks Out; U.S. Supreme Court Rules on Voting Rights
Aired April 28, 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 THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: Barack Obama reacts to new and provocative remarks by his former pastor. The Reverend Jeremiah Wright is offering no apologies. Will he cost Obama some votes in the next few round of primaries? We're only eight days away.
Also this hour, Obama looks for some new ways to appeal to white working-class voters. Is there anything he can say or do to pull them away from Hillary Clinton?
And it's the most important U.S. Supreme Court ruling on voting rights since Bush vs. Gore back in 2004. We're tell you about the high court's ruling today and why it could have a huge impact this fall.
I'm Wolf Blitzer, along with the best political team on television. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
Just a short while ago, Barack Obama told reporters he wants to make it clear once again that his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, does not speak for him. Obama's reaction coming after the latest in a series of public remarks by the Reverend Wright over these past few days.
Speaking to the National Press Club here in Washington today, Wright was asked about the racially charged views he's expressed from the pulpit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MODERATOR: Some critics have said that your sermons are unpatriotic. How do you feel about America and about being an American?
REVEREND JEREMIAH WRIGHT, TRINITY UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: I feel that those citizens who say that have never heard my sermons, nor do they know me. They are unfair accusations taken from sound bites and that which is looped over and over again on certain channels.
I served six years in the military. Does that make me patriotic? How many years did Cheney serve? (APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's go to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's joining us now from North Carolina right now.
Senator Obama made a point of speaking out. It's all very, very sensitive right now. What's the latest?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest is, Wolf, that you reported. And that is, before heading this way from Wilmington to Wilson, where we are now, Barack Obama talked to reporters on the tarmac and said: I assume you want to talk about Reverend Wright. I just want to say he doesn't speak for this campaign, because what Obama wants to be doing is speaking to blue- collar voters.
CROWLEY (voice-over): If you are preaching the politics of hope and go negative, you end up looking like just another politician.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are times where sometimes we get sucked into this whole negative thing. You know, people throw elbows at you, you start feeling like, oh, I got to throw an elbow back.
CROWLEY: Barack Obama spoke at a town-hall meeting in Wilmington, North Carolina, for an hour-and-a-half. They talked global warming, education, trade, health care. Nobody talked about Jeremiah Wright.
WRIGHT: I am not running for office. I am open to being vice president.
CROWLEY: They are not laughing inside the Obama campaign. Though declining to offer a damage assessment, one strategist said, "No one can doubt at this point that Reverend Wright is for Reverend Wright."
Wright's mini speaking tour is an untimely event for Obama, coming just in the midst of his intense courtship of the white working-class vote.
OBAMA: I didn't get in this race to run against Senator Clinton. I ran to run against unemployment. I ran to run against lack of educational opportunity. I ran to run against lack of health care and substandard housing and a war that we should not have fought.
CROWLEY: Obama needs to show strength among blue-collar workers to mute Hillary Clinton's superdelegate argument that he will lose that core constituency in a general election, a constituency presumed the most likely to be turned off by Wright's words. The reemergence of the reverend is exponentially harmful to Obama's mission. It gives Clinton another swing at it, even as she cries foul.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would not have stayed in that church under those circumstances, but I regret the efforts by the Republicans to politicize this matter.
CROWLEY: And for John McCain, who insists he opposes an ad using Wright's image to boost North Carolina Republicans, the continued storyline is another opportunity to comment on his no comment.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have no comments on it, but I also understand why millions of Americans may, as Senator Obama said yesterday, view this as a political issue.
CROWLEY: As for any attempts by the Obama campaign to try to get Jeremiah Wright to sit down and be quiet, and aide tells me there has been no contact between the campaign and Reverend Wright -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Candy, how big of a deal is it that the North Carolina governor is now about to endorse Hillary Clinton eight days before this primary?
CROWLEY: Well, I think it's a big deal.
First of all, it gives her a little momentum. She's behind her, as you know. I think last poll I saw was about 10 points. And what we have seen, what we saw in Pennsylvania and what we saw in Ohio is that in fact it matters when you get these governors behind you. Indiana obviously has a Republican governor, but she has Evan Bayh there. So, there's a structure there with a governor and there of course is a stature there with a governor and it always helps.
BLITZER: It certainly does. All right, thanks very much, Candy, for that -- Candy is in North Carolina right now.
And as Candy mentioned, Obama is trying to show that he has political appeal in working-class America. But that may be easier said than done.
Let's go to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider -- Bill.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, it is clear that Obama has a problem with white blue-collar voters. What's not clear is why.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Barack Obama has a problem with white blue-collar voters. In Pennsylvania, whites without a college degree voted for Hillary Clinton by better than two to one. In the Democratic primaries so far this year, those voters have gone for Clinton in 25 states. They have gone for Obama in only three. Obama is aware of the problem.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People said, well, you know, maybe it hasn't -- you know, he hasn't proven that he can win, you know, the white blue-collar vote.
SCHNEIDER: What's their problem with Obama? Is it race or is it class?
STUART ROTHENBERG, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": Some of it is race. Some of it is his life experience and his style. And, undoubtedly, some of it is his ideology.
SCHNEIDER: His style?
ROTHENBERG: He talks at 35,000 feet. He's much more of a professor giving a lecture than he is a candidate who is trying to connect with real people.
SCHNEIDER: Why do white working-class voters prefer Hillary Clinton?
ROTHENBERG: Hillary's got this tough fighter image. And she does pepper her comments more in terms of the little people, more specifics, more about issues.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My campaign is about jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.
SCHNEIDER: How much of Obama's problem is race? In Pennsylvania, white non-college Democrats who said race was an important factor in their vote went for Clinton over Obama by four to one.
But how many white non-college Democrats said race was important? Only one in five. Eighty percent of them said race was not important. They voted for Clinton, too, by better than 2-1, suggesting that Obama's problem with those white voters is only partly racial. A lot of it is cultural.
SCHNEIDER: Obama is an African-American candidate who's being criticized for having elitist cultural values. Notably, it's the elitist problem that looks more serious -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider, thank you.
The cost of gas soaring to a new record high today, more than $3.60 a gallon. And the presidential candidates are seizing on this issue.
Let's go to CNN's Jessica Yellin. She's watching this they for us.
All right, Jessica, what are these three candidates saying?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, wolf, you might not be surprised to know that the candidates disagree about the best way to solve this gas price crunch.
YELLIN (voice-over): The rage over gas prices is rising, truckers protesting in Washington, Americans driving south of the border to fill up, or opting for alternative transportation.
Now the candidates are vowing to slash your prices at the pump. John McCain was the first to propose a federal gas tax holiday. He would lift the 18.4 cents a gallon federal tax on gasoline during peak summer travel months May through September. McCain says it will give low-income Americans:
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A little bit of relief, so they can travel a little bit further and a little bit longer and maybe have a little bit of enough money left over to enjoy some other things in their lives.
YELLIN: Clinton's plan? Like McCain, she would have a gas tax holiday. She points out that will cost the government up to $10 million, money that is used to improve our roads. So, she would make up for lost revenue with a windfall profits tax on the oil companies. Their profits over a certain figure would be taxed at 50 percent.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oil companies aren't paying their fair share to help us solve the problems at the pump. So, now, in the short term, we have to take aim at these enormous oil company profits.
CROWLEY: Clinton would also close $7.5 billion in oil and gas loopholes and monitor prices to be sure there's no manipulation.
And Obama? His plan is very similar to Clinton's. Only he does not support the gas tax holiday. He says it would save the average driver only $25 to $28 and calls it a political scheme.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's typical of how Washington works. There's a problem. Everybody's upset about gas prices. Let's find some short-term quick fix that we can say we did something, even though we are not really doing anything.
YELLIN: Obama would use a windfall profits tax on oil companies to help low-income families pay their energy bills. And he insists he will work harder than the other candidates to limit oil companies' influence in Washington.
CROWLEY: Now, Wolf, both the Clinton and McCain campaigns are really going after Barack Obama aggressively for opposing that gas tax holiday, McCain's campaign particularly pointing out that Obama supported a similar gas tax holiday when he was in the Chicago -- in the Illinois legislature.
But experts tell us, Wolf, that this gas tax holiday would not be a long-term solution to the price crunch -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jessica, thanks very much.
Let's go back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, that money also is earmarked to go to the states for road and bridge construction and maintenance. It's for infrastructure. You can't just take it away from the states for three months and say, well, you don't get this money. Have you been on some of these roads?
BLITZER: Yes. They need work.
CAFFERTY: Yes, really. Come on.
They're called Hill-raisers. These are the people who raise the big bucks for Hillary Clinton's campaign. And based on recurrent reports of money problems, unpaid bills, personal loans from the candidate herself, et cetera, she can ill afford to lose any of them.
But NBC news was the first to report that Gabriel Guerra- Mondragon, who has raised an estimated $500,000 for Senator Clinton, is leaving her to join Barack Obama's campaign as a member of his national finance committee. A formal announcement on that expected sometime this week. Guerra-Mondragon was reportedly becoming concerned about the increasingly negative tone of Clinton's campaign.
He is a former ambassador to Chile who was appointed by President Clinton in 1994 and he joins a growing list of Clinton people who don't like what they see in Hillary's campaign. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich both now supporting Barack Obama.
It's interesting to note, as well, that no one is leaving Obama's campaign to join Hillary Clinton's.
Here's the question: What does it mean if one of Hillary Clinton's major fund-raisers is leaving to join Barack Obama's campaign?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you.
See you in a few moments.
Someone who will help decide the Clinton and Obama race has a message for those who will do the same thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: Superdelegates are going to see who can win, who can be the strongest candidate against Senator McCain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson believes that would be Barack Obama; he would be stronger. But how can Obama convince more working-class white voters he's the best candidate? Bill Richardson is here THE SITUATION ROOM.
Also, it's a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that could dramatically affect the election if some voters are turned away. The best political team on television joins me to take a closer look at that.
And John McCain's words are being used against him. Democrats are using what he said about being in Iraq for 100 years in a brand- new ad. Is the ad accurate? Is it fair? We're watching this together with you -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Try as he might, Barack Obama has struggled to connect with a group he will need if he becomes the Democratic presidential nominee. But what should his strategy be in going forward?
Earlier, I spoke with the New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson. He's a Democratic superdelegate firmly committed to electing Barack Obama.
BLITZER: He's struggling to win those white working-class voters, didn't do very well necessarily in Ohio weeks ago, more recently, in Pennsylvania.
What's the problem here? Why is -- why is he failing to get those voters in the numbers he really needs if he's going to win a presidential election in November?
RICHARDSON: Well, the problem was that there was a problem with several things he said relating to why voters were -- were not happy.
But the reality of it is that Barack Obama has a message of change, of opportunity. He's focusing more on the economy, on bread- and-butter issues, on the housing crisis, on economic growth issues, on creating jobs.
You know, here is a candidate of enormous change, a candidate that really is connecting and being able to bring people together. I think that's a slight aberration that has been corrected with his new emphasis on job and restoring the economy and international trade.
Wolf, I think he's on his way to doing well in Indiana and North Carolina and the remaining nine primaries before June 3. And he's getting more superdelegates. My senator from New Mexico, Jeff Bingaman, just endorsed him today. That's another superdelegate.
(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: So, the argument that Hillary Clinton supporters make, the Democrats, by all accounts, they need Ohio desperately if they're going to win in November against John McCain, they need Pennsylvania, and she does better in those two states than he does. How do the superdelegates, who want to make sure they have the most electable president, how do they deal with that apparent reality?
RICHARDSON: Well, the reality also is that, since Ohio, Senator Obama, at least in Pennsylvania, has improved his standing with white middle-class voters, with voters over 60. He's narrowed the gap with Senator Clinton.
But his emphasis on improving the economy, on working families, on bringing people together, I believe, in key states like North Carolina and Indiana and Kentucky and West Virginia, that are working- class states, that that gap with those voters that Senator Clinton has an advantage are going to narrow. And superdelegates are going to see who can win, who can be the strongest candidate against Senator McCain.
And I believe that's Senator Obama with his emphasis on change, on bringing people together, a fresh voice internationally, somebody that is able, in my judgment, to bring -- at least -- I just got back from Latin America, from Venezuela, where he has enormous support, where people really want to see a change in American foreign policy.
BLITZER: Senator -- Governor...
RICHARDSON: And they see Obama as that agent of change.
BLITZER: Governor, sorry for interrupting, but -- but this whole Jeremiah Wright decision now to come out over these past few days and now go forward and defend himself -- which he certainly has every right to do -- how much of a problem, though, is that for Barack Obama? Because what Jeremiah Wright is saying certainly gets a lot of white working-class voters, as you well know, pretty nervous.
RICHARDSON: Well, the reality is that Barack Obama's running for president. Jeremiah Wright is not running for president.
I think Senator Obama dealt with that issue. I don't believe that Reverend Wright deserves the coverage that he seems to be getting and the controversy that he's generating. Obama faced the problem. He said, we have a problem with race in this country. But he renounced what Reverend Wright had been saying, and rightly so.
Obama is an agent of bringing people together, of unity. And I don't believe that Reverend Wright is on the ballot anywhere. So, you know, we should just push him aside and focus on the differences between the two candidates.
BLITZER: Bill Richardson speaking with me earlier.
John McCain suggests the U.S. could be in Iraq for 100 years, but that's not necessarily all that he said. We are going to give you the full context of his comments, and you decide if a brand-new Democratic political ad is fair or not.
And forget about protests. There was nothing but praise for the Olympic torch in one nation. And the torch's run even made some history. We will tell you where -- all that coming up and a lot more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Voting rights advocates are warning, a new U.S. Supreme Court ruling could discourage some Americans from even going to the polls.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's actually infuriating. It's infuriating that people who really need to impact the system the most are being denied the right to do so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We're going to tell you what the high court decided today and who might end actually wind up paying a price for it on Election Day.
BLITZER: Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean says, when the primaries are over in early June, one of his party's candidates needs to make a major decision about dropping out. Is there any real hope that will happen? The best political team on television is standing by.
And a military father posts some grim images of his son's barracks online. Is he getting the Army's attention?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: a U.S. Supreme Court with a potentially major impact on the November election. We're going to show you what the justices decided and which party could feel the most fallout at the ballot box.
Also, Howard Dean's deadline for Democrats. He says when the last primary is over in early June, it's time for one of the candidates to drop out. But what if they don't necessarily heed his call?
Plus, inside a new DNC ad targeting John McCain using his own words against him, but is it fair?
All of this coming up, plus the best political team on television.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
A very important new U.S. Supreme Court ruling on voting rights could throw a curveball into the November election. The high court today upheld Indiana's strict law requiring voters to show a picture I.D. before they can cast their ballots.
Let's go to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena. She's watching this story for us.
It could have a significant impact, especially in November. Kelli, what happened?
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, now that the Supreme Court has upheld Indiana's law, it does give the green light to other states to pass similar legislation, just in time for the November election.
ARENA (voice-over): Remember this? Protests, hanging chads, charges of voter intimidation. The 2000 presidential race raised questions about election integrity. And Democrats say today's Supreme Court ruling may raise even more.
DONNA BRAZILE, DIRECTOR, DNC VOTING RIGHTS INST.: The voter ID scam is a suppression tactic used by many people to undermine the right to vote in this country.
ARENA: In upholding Indiana's strict voter ID law, the toughest in the nation, the high court cleared the way for other states to follow suit. Voting rights advocates say the impact will be felt most heavily among the poor, the elderly, minorities, people who tend to vote Democratic.
MELISSA MADILL, INDIANA VOTING RIGHTS ADVOCATE: It's actually infuriating. It's infuriating that people who really need to impact the system the most are being denied the right to do so.
ARENA: The hurdles are real for people like Karen Vaughn, a quadriplegic who doesn't have a driver's license or a passport. She had to pay more than $100 to get documentation to prove who she was.
KAREN VAUGHN, VOTING RIGHTS PLAINTIFF: They just don't care. We're unimportant.
ARENA: Indiana isn't the only state to require I.D. More than 20 states ask voters to present identification, including most of the key battleground states. Election officials say the laws are necessary to prevent fraud.
TODD ROKITA, INDIANA SECRETARY OF STATE: And it's so easy for someone to claim that I'm -- that they're somebody else and steal an election that way. ARENA: But there's little hard evidence to back that up. And the ACLU and People for the American Way say there's evidence instead to suggest that disadvantaged voters will have a hard time. In past elections in Ohio and Florida, some voters reportedly complained that poll workers tried to turn them away even with proper I.D.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ARENA: Wolf, state election officials say that they're working very hard to make sure everyone knows what the rules are, what kind of I.D. is accepted. Some experts say the Democrats, though, will have to work a little harder to make sure that their members are well- informed.
BLITZER: Kelly, thanks very much.
So what impact will the court's decision have on the November election?
Let's discuss that and more with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. She's here in Washington; our own Jack Cafferty in New York; our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin. He's also in New York. They're all part of the best political team on television.
And, Jeff, I want to start with you. You've written the brilliant best-seller, "The Nine," about the Supreme Court.
Were you surprised by this major decision -- some saying the most important voting rights decision since 2000 and "Bush v. Gore?"
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I wasn't surprised by the result. I was surprised by the vote. I was surprised to see Justice Stevens, certainly one of the more liberal justices, siding with the conservatives. But the outcome looked pretty much preordained from the way the Justices sounded in the oral argument and the fact that there are five conservatives on the court now.
BLITZER: It was a 6-3 decision.
Jack, did they make the right call?
CAFFERTY: You know, it's just great to have the Supreme Court back in the presidential election, isn't it?
CAFFERTY: I mean they haven't had anything to say about one since 2000.
Jeff could address this a little better than I could because he's much more knowledgeable about it. But there's -- to me, there's something sinister about these kinds of laws. Most of the people who have an Indiana driver's license will be able to show that, go to the polls, no big deal. The people who may not be able to cast a vote because they can't comply with this law tend to be poor people. They tend to be Democrats. The legislation was supported by the Republicans in Indiana and it was backed by the conservatives on the Supreme Court.
Is there something sinister going on, Mr. Toobin?
TOOBIN: Well, I don't think there's any doubt that this was a partisan enterprise. You know, Democrats have said from the beginning, this is a cure for which there was no disease.
TOOBIN: Voter fraud is not a major problem in this country.
GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Right.
TOOBIN: No one in the history of Indiana has been prosecuted for voter fraud, yet here the Indiana legislature felt the need to do this.
But the Supreme Court said, look, voter fraud is illegal. If the legislature wants to make a step to make voter fraud that much harder to commit, we're not going to second guess them.
BORGER: But, you know, you have to consider this in the whole political context. Voter suppression has been a problem in this country. So this case before the Supreme Court does not appear in a political vacuum. And Democrats worry, given past history with voter suppression, that if you get to a close general election -- and believe me, we all know we've been there before -- that this could truly make a difference for them.
So now they're looking to their local Democratic Parties to try and work this out so they can be sure to get those minorities, those elderly voters, those disabled voters to the polls.
BLITZER: So government...
BLITZER: Some government formed, government issued photo I.D. -- you need it to get on a plane. So the argument is, Jack, why not make sure that illegal immigrants or non-citizens or people who were convicted of -- felons, that they can't vote, find a major way to make sure that only the real eligible U.S. citizens are voting.
CAFFERTY: Well, the same nonsense that has come to apply to our air travel in the wake of 9/11 is -- I mean there's something parallel going on with this kind of stuff. There's no reason to put the average middle-aged person in this country through the kind of inconvenience and nonsense that they have to go through to get on an airplane just because some terrorists hijacked planes six years ago. And there's no reason for this, either. This isn't Chicago during Al Capone's time, when dead people used to show up and vote in every election. We don't -- Jeff just said, we don't have voter fraud in this country -- at least not at the levels that we're talking about here, where some 75- year-old woman who needs a walker to go and vote is going to somehow represent a great force of corruption to the democratic process. The two political parties take care of that pretty much all by themselves. (LAUGHTER)
CAFFERTY: They don't need our help.
BLITZER: I know, Gloria, there's going to have an -- there's going to be an impact in November, in a general election, a presidential election, Senate elections, House elections, state and local elections.
BLITZER: But what about next Tuesday in Indiana, where the Democrats are holding their presidential primary -- the Supreme Court announcing today, deciding that the law in Indiana is constitutional, you need a photo I.D. to go ahead and vote.
Does this help Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or is it really irrelevant?
BORGER: I think, at this point, Wolf, it's very hard to say whether it's relevant or not. Probably irrelevant. But I'm sure both of the campaigns right now are taking a look at their voters and saying, at the local level, at the district level, at the county level, whatever, saying to them, you know, make sure you've got proper identification when you go out and vote and doing a bit of voter education on this right now. But it...
CAFFERTY: Well, part...
BORGER: In terms of a few days from now, I don't really -- I don't really see it.
CAFFERTY: This law has been on the books since 2005 in Indiana.
CAFFERTY: They've had a half a dozen statewide elections. So the people there are used to dealing with this, I think.
BORGER: Right. Exactly. Exactly.
TOOBIN: And look for states with Republican legislatures and Republican governors to start pushing these laws.
TOOBIN: It happened in Indiana, happened in Georgia, happened in Florida. And any state where you have that kind of political alignment, you're going to see laws like this.
BLITZER: I think you're absolutely right. Twenty states have similar laws and a lot more, presumably, will get them down the road.
All right, guys, stand by we have much more to talk about. The race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama -- could it be over in June?
That's what the Democratic Party chairman, Howard Dean, is calling for.
But will the candidates and the party's superdelegates listen?
Plus, the new DNC ad using John McCain's own words -- but are they being twisted, are they being used out of context?
We're taking a closer look right here on THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The Democratic Party chairman, Howard Dean, wants the party's superdelegates to make up their minds as soon as possible over -- after that last primary is over on June 3.
We're back with the best political team on television.
Gloria, if neither of these two candidates have 2,025 wrapped up, super and pledged delegates, why should he or she drop out?
BORGER: Well, with all due respect to Howard Dean, I don't think they're going to listen to what Howard Dean has to say. The one thing that these superdelegates are going to listen to are their constituents and their constituencies, because at some point, their constituents are going to say we voted this particular way, now it's time for you to decide. They're just sort of putting their finger in the air, waiting to see which way the wind is voting. When they figure it out, then they're going to decide. And I think it's the voters who are going to force them into it, not Howard Dean.
BLITZER: Because, Jeff, 1,900, 2,000 not enough. You need to show you have 2,025, effectively, to push the other candidate out.
If neither of these candidates has that magic number, what do they do?
TOOBIN: Well, I think Dean is right. I don't think Dean is going to force people, the superdelegates. But I think the superdelegates are desperate to get this thing over with. They will declare in June who they're for. One candidate, likely Barack Obama, will go over the top and Hillary Clinton is going to have to pull out, if, Obama, in fact, goes over 2,025.
CAFFERTY: I want to be in the room when Hillary Clinton is told by Howard Dean you have to quit now, it's over and you have to pack up your toys and go home. He won't do it in person, he'll do it over the telephone...
CAFFERTY: ...because he would be putting his life in danger.
BORGER: Just like Bill Richardson did, right?
CAFFERTY: That's right.
BLITZER: Here's a new ad that the DNC -- and Howard Dean is the head of the DNC.
Here's a new ad they're running against John McCain.
I'll play a little clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM DNC AD)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years.
MCCAIN: Maybe 100. That would be fine with me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Here's the full context of what McCain said and I'll play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years.
MCCAIN: Maybe 100. How long...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that
MCCAIN: We've been in South Korea -- we've been in Japan for 60 years. We've been in South Korea for 50 years or so. That would be fine with me as long as Americans...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So that's your policy...
MCCAIN: As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed, then it's fine with me. I hope it would be fine with you if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world, where Al Qaeda is training, recruiting and equipping and motivating people every single day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A fair ad, Jack?
CAFFERTY: You know, stop whining. I mean he said a hundred years. And the American public doesn't want to be in Iraq for another 100 hours. So, you know, it's politics and, you know, get used to it. I mean, look at the ad that was being run in North Carolina by the Republican Party down there at the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. This stuff is awful -- all of it. But I mean it's what we do here.
BORGER: Right. But it's a...
TOOBIN: But, you know, if the Democrats don't run that ad and don't refer to that comment every single day between now and November, they ought to quit politics and go into art history or something.
CAFFERTY: That's right.
BORGER: OK. Well...
TOOBIN: This is a crucial issue in this country. And, but, you know, McCain has an explanation. Let him give his explanation.
BORGER: But, you know, I think it's an ad, honestly, that's out of context. And I know that it's the way politics is done, but that doesn't make it right. And I think if you want to take on John McCain on the war, there's plenty of ways to do that. There's plenty of ways to do that.
TOOBIN: What's wrong with that ad?
BORGER: I think what McCain was clearly...
TOOBIN: I don't understand even what's out of context about it.
BORGER: Well, what McCain was clearly saying was that he wanted to keep them there in some kind of a peacekeeping role, as we have in Japan.
BORGER: He didn't -- you know, he's not talking...
TOOBIN: And when is that...
BORGER: ...about 100 years of combat.
TOOBIN: When is that going to happen?
BORGER: That's the...
TOOBIN: When does that start?
BORGER: But that's the argument to have. That's the legitimate argument. Just saying I want to be there for a hundred years...
CAFFERTY: Yes, but it was a stupid thing for McCain to say.
Does he think that the Islamic extremists are going to suddenly decide not to shoot at American soldiers who are in those countries in the Middle East? That was the reason 9/11 happened. Bin Laden said get off our property, we don't want you here. That's why they took down the World Trade Center. They're not going to leave us alone as long as we're hanging around over there.
BORGER: But I think...
CAFFERTY: It was a dumb thing to say.
BORGER: I think it's a perfectly legitimate debate and perhaps it was a really stupid thing today. But, as I said, the debate over the war in Iraq has to be a lot more fulsome than just taking something out of context and saying, oh, he wants us to be there for a hundred years. Well...
TOOBIN: I don't even think it's out of context. I think that's what he said. I think it's a legitimate subject to debate.
BORGER: It is.
TOOBIN: It's a big difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. And let him explain under what terms he wants them there for a hundred years. But he said it.
BORGER: But that's the debate.
BLITZER: He's got -- and I'm just going to read the precise words. He said: "I would hope it would be fine with you if" -- and this is the clause -- "if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where Al Qaeda is training, recruiting, equipping and motivating people every single day." He said that -- you know, he made the comparison to U.S. troops in South Korea 50 years after the war there.
So that's the context, I guess. But you know what, this is not a journalistic...
CAFFERTY: The only (INAUDIBLE)...
BLITZER: This is not a journalistic enterprise. This is politics and these are political ads.
CAFFERTY: One other quick point. We're in Japan and South Korea at the request of those governments after those wars ended. Nobody in Iraq wants us there. Ask them.
BORGER: Well, you know, this is a legitimate argument that is going to be discussed in this campaign.
BLITZER: All right...
BORGER: And I think to just oversimplify it is not right.
BLITZER: Well, that's an (INAUDIBLE).
CAFFERTY: But that's what we do. BLITZER: All right, guys.
BLITZER: We don't do it, but the commercials...
BORGER: OK. That is what we do.
BLITZER: The ads do it.
All right, guys, stand by. We'll see you back here.
Jack, we've got The Cafferty File coming up.
Lou Dobbs is coming up at the top of the hour and he's going to give us a little preview of what he's working on -- Lou.
LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Well, that was very -- that was very enlightening, Wolf, because I didn't know until Mr. Cafferty apprised us of such that the Japanese and the Germans, after World War II, had requested the troops that now remain there, just about 60,000 of them, divided between these two countries. Still, very helpful.
Wolf, coming up at 7:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN, we'll be reporting on a critically important ruling by the Supreme Court on our voting system. The Justices upheld Indiana's law requiring voters to show photo I.D. a ruling that could affect the entire nation.
And compelling new evidence tonight that corporate elites are trying to import cheap foreign workers who are neither the brightest or the best. Perhaps it's something to do with the fact corporate America is trying to replace high paid American jobs with cheap jobs.
And Senator Obama's controversial former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Reverend Wright isn't going away. He's having a heck of a good time, thank you very much.
I'll be joined by three of the best political analysts in the country.
And Hispanic lawmakers -- well, they're at it again -- apparently trying to muzzle me on the issue of illegal immigration. One of the lawmakers, Congressman Luis Gutierrez, is among my guests. We'll be talking about that and all sorts of things.
Join us at 7:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN -- Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: I don't think anybody is going to muzzle Lou Dobbs.
All right, Lou.
Thanks very much. John McCain has the GOP nomination all locked up, but Republican Ron Paul says he's not going away. We're going to tell you what the congressman is doing to try to keep his campaign alive.
And tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the former President Jimmy Carter on presidential politics, his own widely criticized talks with the Islamic militant group, Hamas. Jimmy Carter tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Checking our Political Ticker, Republican Congressman Ron Paul says he won't allow himself to be shut out of the presidential race by the Republican Party. Paul has never officially dropped out and he has 21 delegates that he's won, according to CNN's estimate.
A large group of Paul supporters managed to bring Nevada's Republican convention to a standstill over the weekend, after the party tried to exclude the Texas congressman from delegate allocations.
On CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING" earlier today, Paul was asked if he would consider urging his supporters to support John McCain. He suggested that's not going to happen until McCain changes his views on the war in Iraq.
Remember, for the latest political news any time, you can check out CNNPolitics.com.
Let's go back to Jack.
He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Just a little point of clarification. We were discussing South Korea and Japan, not Germany.
The question this hour is what does it mean if one of Hillary Clinton's fundraisers is leaving to join Barack Obama's campaign?
Robert in Toronto writes: "If you look at the amount of people who have left the Clinton campaign for one reason or another over the last four months, that should be more of an alarm to the superdelegates than any poll or news articles. Hillary Clinton might say she's electable, but her own supporters don't seem so sure."
Joe writes: "I believe Clinton's arrogance is such that 'If I can't have it, neither can he,' and people in the campaign are getting tired of it."
Jeremy in Pennsylvania writes: "It means as much as we are dismayed by the negativity coming out of the Clinton camp, there are things going on behind-the-scenes that are so bad that even their closest and most loyal are saying I can't get behind this anymore. Where there's smoke there's fire. If Obama doesn't get the nomination, we're going to be forced to choose between an angry foul-mouthed senator or one who is so negative that even her own people have turned against her. Obama isn't just -- doesn't just talk about hope, he may represent our only hope as a country."
Ashley in Indiana: "It means absolutely nothing. Neither side will win our lose because of who's working on the campaign. The race will be decided by how people vote. And I bet most people won't even know this went on. Obviously, a large number of Americans like both candidates, seeing as how this race is going on. And if you ask any of them to name more than two people who work on the campaigns, they probably wouldn't be able to do it."
Jeanne in Florida: "It means a campaign strategist from Obama's campaign was offered something more substantial after the election then the Clinton camp had offered. A lot of these strategists are professionals who move on after the election, but others hope to snag a little West Wing action after the voting."
And Ron in San Diego: "Maybe she got offered -- he got offered better pay and benefits."
It's time for me to stop now.
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile. Look for the rest of them there. You can read them for yourself and you won't have somebody stumbling around trying to read them to you -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jack.
We'll see you tomorrow.
Let's go back to Carol Costello. Some new pictures coming in of a tornado.
What's going on -- Carol?
COSTELLO: Oh, yes, terrible. Two tornadoes touched down in Southeastern Virginia. Take a look at these new pictures just coming into CNN. The A.P. reporting one person died in those storms. Over 200 people injured in these storms. The pictures you're looking at are from Suffolk, Virginia. There were reports of people trapped in strip malls and cars. We'll update you on you the latest when it comes in -- Back to you -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Carol, thanks very much for that.
The U.S. military is promising action after a soldier's father posted images on YouTube showing deplorable conditions at his son's barracks in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton -- Abbi, what are we seeing in these pictures?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, Sergeant
Jeff Frawley returned from Afghanistan to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED FRAWLEY: The second floor toilets have overflowed and there is over three inches of water on the floor. I don't need to tell you what the brown water around the floor drain is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TATTON: These pictures are from barracks at Fort Bragg. The voice you hear of is of the Sergeant Frawley's father, Ed. He was so appalled by the conditions that his son was living in, he took out his camera and he posted the results on YouTube -- peeling paint that Mr. Frawley says is lead-based. There's tissue stuffed in a drain in an apparent effort to stop sewer gas from seeping into a sleeping area.
The results now on YouTube and the Army is responding. A spokesman for the 82nd Airborne said in a written statement: "The conditions depicted in Mr. Frawley's video are appalling and unacceptable and we are addressing the concerns he expressed." -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Abbi, thanks for that.
Hopefully, it will be fixed.
He's been called controversial and a firebrand. But there's another more playful side to the pastor that everyone is talking about.
Jeanne Moos is standing by.
She'll fill us in with a Moost Unusual report.
BLITZER: Reverend Jeremiah Wright certainly knows how to put on a fast-moving show.
Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He is a man in motion, from his fingers to his shoulders.
REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT, SENATOR BARACK OBAMA'S FORMER PASTOR: Well, he's never heard me speak.
MOOS: And speak isn't all he does that.
WRIGHT: Lovers of European quintadas...
(SINGING): Comfort yes. I love the lord.
MOOS: He even did hip-hop.
MOOS: No matter how you feel about Reverend Wright, it's right to call him a showman.
WRIGHT: If you got some white friends, they'll be clapping like this. Yoo.
MOOS: No, he's not making fun of white folks. He's just showing how black and white musical cultures developed differently. Over the last few days, we've heard him imitate different voices. From LBJ...
WRIGHT: My fellow Americans.
MOOS: ...to JFK.
WRIGHT: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask rather what you can do for your country.
MOOS: He even imitated his own critics.
WRIGHT: He has hate speech. Listen to how bombastic he is.
MOOS: Playing with the theme different does not mean deficient. He supplied his own band to illustrate the differences between white and black band music.
WRIGHT: Now go to a Florida A&M in Grambling band.
MOOS: The showmanship factor showed up in the reviews.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With a rousing speech.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Extremely entertaining.
MOOS: Though his National Press Club performance got mixed reviews. Defending his patriotism, he noted he served six years in the Marines.
WRIGHT: How many years did Cheney serve?
MOOS: The moderator had to bang her gavel while Reverend Wright handed up behind her back.
(on camera): But all that flamboyant body language -- all that flamboyant language period -- didn't go over big with everybody.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: There were moments today I felt that he was too flippant.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was brilliant. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Phenomenal.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ADVISER: I think it's time for him to get off the stage.
MOOS (voice-over): Get off the stage?
WRIGHT (SINGING): Somebody knows the trouble I've seen.
MOOS: Yes, this somebody. The reverend sure is stirring the pot. A Web site called PopPhoto has come up with images of what each presidential candidate could look like after a term in office. You know how all that stress ages a person. Well, if this Reverend Wright stuff keeps up...
MOOS: ...Senator Obama could look like this in four months, not four years.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BLITZER: Leave it to Jeanne Moos.
That's it. We're going back here tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM. Remember, we're on the air from 4:00 p.m. To 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting.
Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.