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THE SITUATION ROOM

Obama Fires Back; Interview With John Edwards; Huckabee's Joke Falls Flat

Aired May 16, 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, Barack Obama comes out swinging against things his rivals are saying. He strongly defends his national security credentials and say this about President Bush and John McCain: They are trying to divide Americans to keep Republicans in power. We're standing by live to speak with Senator John Edwards, a major supporter of Barack Obama now.

McCain says Obama is naive for favoring meetings with U.S. foes. But did McCain previously favor the same thing? Democrats say they have proof of McCain's -- quote -- "hypocrisy." So, how is McCain responding? You will hear.

And President Bush travels to Saudi Arabia and appeals for help in lowering our gas prices. What they told him will affect you this summer and beyond -- all that, plus the best political team on television.

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

Barack Obama says that something President Bush did is nothing short of breathtaking. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

From Israel, the president suggested Obama and Democrats want to appease terrorists. Now Obama is accusing him of launching a false political attack simply designed to scare Americans. Obama says John McCain is doing the exact same thing.

Standing in the middle of this debate over foreign policy, Obama delivered this message to both men: He won't back down.

CNN's Jim Acosta is in Portland, Oregon, watching this story.

Jim, Senator Obama got some support from his rival in the Democratic campaign right now.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And for a Democratic Party in dire need of an injection of unity, this may be just what the doctor ordered.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: George Bush was before the Israeli parliament.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Barack Obama's response to what some in Washington are calling the Bush slap was perhaps as close as the Illinois senator comes to saying, bring them on.

B. OBAMA: They're trying to fool you and trying to scare you, and they're not telling the truth. And the reason is, is because they can't win a foreign policy debate on the merits.

But it's not going to work. And it's not going to work this time, and it's not going to work this year.

ACOSTA: Campaigning in one of the few remaining primary states, South Dakota, Obama grabbed hold of President Bush's appeasement comments and tried to hog-tie them to John McCain. Obama singled out the Arizona senator's support for the war in Iraq, saying it has emboldened Iran and al Qaeda, noting that an Osama bin Laden audio message has just been posted on several radical Islamic Web sites.

B. OBAMA: Those are the failed policies that John McCain wants to double-down on, because he still hasn't spelled out one substantial way in which he'd be different from George Bush when it comes to foreign policy.

ACOSTA: The appeasement flap has different the Democratic Party its first real chance to coalesce behind Obama, from Senator's Joe Biden take on the uproar...

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: This is bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED). This is malarkey.

ACOSTA: ... to the more telling response from Clinton herself. She didn't hit Obama on appeasement. She hit the president.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Bush's comparison of any Democrat to Nazi appeasers is both offensive and outrageous.

ACOSTA: And at a campaign stop in Oregon, she reminded gas price-weary voters of Mr Bush's close ties with the Saudi royal family.

CLINTON: As we're sitting here in this lovely home, President Bush is over in Saudi Arabia having tea with the Saudi leaders trying to persuade them to either increase supply or lower price. That's his energy policy. And, you know, I don't think it's a good energy policy to depend upon the kindness of the Saudis and the other OPEC nations.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And speaking of Senator Clinton, her campaign has released a new TV ad here in Oregon. It slams President Bush and does not mention Barack Obama by name -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim, thanks very much -- Jim Acosta reporting. Joining us now, Obama's most important new supporter, the former Democratic presidential candidate, the former U.S. Senator John Edwards.

Senator Edwards, thanks very much for joining us.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Wolf. Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: I want to play this little clip.

John McCain, just a little while ago, responded to this uproar involving the appeasement comments. And he directly responded to Barack Obama's earlier statement from today.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have some news for Senator Obama. Talking, not even with soaring rhetoric, unconditional, in unconditional meetings with the man who calls Israel a stinking corpse, and arms terrorists who kill Americans, will not convince Iran to give up its nuclear program. It is reckless.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And that was just the beginning. I don't know if you had a chance to hear his speech. But he is certainly not backing down at all.

I wonder if you want to weigh in.

EDWARDS: Well, I mean, first of all, I think, from a more thoughtful perspective, instead of all this anger, I think that, number one, it really is beneath the dignity of the president of the United States to make these kind of cheap political statements when he's in Israel celebrating the 60th anniversary of an extraordinary country.

And, in the history of the United States, the president does not do these kind of things. That's first.

And then, secondly, it's an amazing thing to listen to the continuation of fearmongering. We saw it back in 2004, when I was running for vice president, trying to scare the American people into believing the only -- if you elect a Democrat, it's going to be a disaster for the country.

It is utter nonsense. And, luckily, we're now in a very different place. I mean, we know what the American people think of George Bush. We know what they think of this mess of a war in Iraq. And his foreign policy, Wolf, has been a complete and utter disaster.

And moving to the more important thing for this election, since Bush is not running in this election, is, John McCain embraces it. It is -- the McCain foreign policy is virtually identical to the George Bush foreign policy.

And if you think about those two things in combination, and compare it to what's happened over the last eight years, anybody in America paying attention knows we need a change. That's what Senator Obama's going to bring.

And I would add, just as an afterthought, what we really need is visionary leadership that understands the importance of American strength, but also understands that, if we don't work and cooperate and engage in serious, principled diplomacy with the rest of the world, the huge problems facing America and the rest of the world, from climate change, to extreme poverty, all these issues that we're faced with, cannot be solved.

BLITZER: All right.

Well, what about the argument they make that Barack Obama -- and you were at one of those debates -- said he would meet unconditionally with tyrants, like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, without preconditions? Those were his words.

And you hear the response from President Bush and John McCain. What are they going to talk about with someone who calls Israel a stinking corpse?

EDWARDS: Well, we all think exactly the same thing about Ahmadinejad.

I actually have discussed this issue in depth with Senator Obama. His view about this is, I think, virtually identical to mine and to Senator Clinton's, which is that all the work would have to be done to ensure that something constructive could come out of such a meeting.

But, in the history of America, Wolf, we have been successful -- look at what's happened -- I will just give you an example. The Bush administration and George Bush derides Senator Obama, although not by name -- they were clearly referring to him -- and, at the same time, over the last couple of years, one of the great foreign policy achievements that they're now talking about is what's happened with North Korea.

That was the direct result of direct discussions between the United States of America and North Korea and the leadership of North Korea, one of the countries in the axis of evil.

This administration engages in ongoing contact with the leadership of Iran. They do it all the time. And the notion that we're not going to engage our enemies is utter nonsense. And what we have to do is, we have to do it in a thoughtful, responsible way. That is exactly what Barack Obama is talking about doing.

And this is -- the American people are going to have a dramatic choice come this November. If they want four more years of George Bush, then they ought to vote for John McCain. If they believe we can do better than this, they ought to vote for Barack Obama. BLITZER: I guess there's one thing about -- one point about having a diplomatic dialogue at relatively lower levels or senior levels, but it's another thing for the president of the United States to be willing to meet unconditionally with another tyrant, if you will.

And that's the criticism that McCain keeps making about Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton herself, at one of those debates -- I don't remember if you did -- said she thought it was naive or inappropriate to make a flat-out commitment like that. I'm sure you remember the discussion.

EDWARDS: Well, first of all, Wolf, that's not what George Bush said.

What George Bush said is that what we were talking about doing, the Democrats, was effectively appeasement. And then he compared it to what happened with Hitler just before World War II.

I mean, that's an extraordinary and deplorable thing to say. It really is, especially coming from a man who's been an absolute disaster, arguably the worst president in American history on foreign policy. And, so, that's the first thing.

And then John McCain defends him. I mean, I think that what Senator Obama is saying, if -- instead of engaging in this high-level political rhetoric, angry political rhetoric, what Senator Obama's saying is actually very thoughtful.

What he's saying is, we're going to continue to engage countries like Iran, that we don't have a friendly relationship with, at a diplomatic level. And if it appears that it would be useful for me as president to meet with the leader of any other country, then I will make that decision and judgment at the time. And if I think it's useful, I will do it.

What in the world is wrong with that? That makes all the sense in the world.

BLITZER: All right, Senator Edwards, I want you to stand by. I want to take a quick commercial break, but I want to continue this conversation and move on to some other issues as well.

We will continue our conversation with Senator Edwards right after this break.

Also, could his other former rival still end up on the Democratic presidential ticket? We will talk about Hillary Clinton's upcoming role for the Democrats.

Plus, Barack Obama challenges John McCain and the president to a debate. How far will this argument go?

And after Saudi Arabia turns down the president's appeal to turn up the oil spigot, the U.S. decides to stop filling its Strategic Petroleum Reserve. But will that really make a difference when you go to fill up your tank?

Much more coming up. We will continue our conversation with Senator Edwards right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's continue our conversation with former Senator John Edwards, the former Democratic presidential candidate, who now supports Barack Obama.

Some of us were surprised, Senator Edwards. Monday night, you were on "LARRY KING LIVE" and you said you weren't ready to endorse anyone. Wednesday night, you appear in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with Barack Obama and make this endorsement.

What happened in between to convince you it was time to go public?

EDWARDS: Well, I had made the decision about who I would support, because, for one thing, I had to vote in the North Carolina primary. And I voted for Senator Obama in the North Carolina primary.

But I just came to the conclusion, basically, in the 24 hours before we made the announcement on Wednesday night in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that it was time for me to speak out. It was more gut than anything else.

BLITZER: And what about Elizabeth, your wife? Is she on board with you? Is she formally part of the endorsement of Barack Obama?

EDWARDS: Elizabeth, I think, announced months ago publicly that she was not going to make an endorsement, that she had a very high opinion of both of these candidates. And she decided it was more important, particularly because she's so interested in the health care issue, that she stay focused on that, and not on either of these candidates, particularly since we had such good candidates.

BLITZER: Both of you had suggested that, on health care, you were closer to Hillary Clinton's plan than Barack Obama's plan. Is that still true as far as that one issue is concerned?

EDWARDS: Senator Clinton's plan was virtually identical to my plan. So, yes, that is true.

But I have talked to Senator Obama about this, and I have absolutely no doubt about his commitment to achieving universal health care. He cares deeply about it. He's worked on it for a very long time. And I'm totally convinced about his resolve and his determination about that.

BLITZER: I'm sure you had a lot of conversations with him leading up to the endorsement.

I remember the exchange you had with him when I moderated that debate in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I'm going to play a little clip of that and I want to see if you -- if the two of you have made up on this issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARDS: The question is, why would you over 100 times vote present? I mean, every one of us -- every one -- you have criticized Hillary. you have criticized me for our votes.

B. OBAMA: Right.

EDWARDS: We have cast hundreds and hundreds of votes. What you're criticizing her for, by the way, you have done to us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I'm sure you remember that exchange.

EDWARDS: Oh, yes. It wasn't the only one we had.

(LAUGHTER)

EDWARDS: You know, we were in a tough, competitive race, Wolf. That's what's been going on with Senator Clinton and Senator Obama over the last few months, but that went on for over a year.

I was fighting for the nomination with everything I had, trying to do it honestly and with principle, but challenging him in ways that I thought were legitimate. He did the same thing with me, by the way.

But, at the end of the day -- and I do -- I just have to say -- you haven't asked me about this, but I feel the need to say it. The extent to which I admire and am impressed with Senator Clinton has done nothing but grow since I have gotten out of this race. I have gotten to know her better, talked to her on the phone many times. She's been to visit and talk with me.

She is a fine human being and she -- and an extraordinary leader for the country. But I do believe that, given where we are, where America is at this time in its history, that we desperately need a change agent as president. And I think Senator Obama is in a great position to give us that chance.

BLITZER: I know you have effectively ruled yourself out as a possible vice presidential nominee. You have been there. You have done that, as all of us remember.

What about Hillary Clinton? You have been effusive in your praise for her. Would that help unite the party, to see Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on that ticket together?

EDWARDS: You know, I'm just not presumptuous enough to suggest to either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama what they should do about that.

I think that that's a judgment that -- I believe Senator Obama will be the nominee -- that I believe Senator Obama will have to make, with all things considered. And Senator Clinton, if it were offered to her, would have to decide whether she wants to do it.

Any leadership position that Senator Clinton can occupy in the United States of America is good for this country.

BLITZER: I know you're deeply committed to the issue of ending poverty in our country. What commitment from Barack Obama did you get in order to win your endorsement? I assume you discussed this issue of poverty at length with him. Did he make a specific commitment that as president he would do something about it?

EDWARDS: Oh, yes, and it would take longer than we have in this show.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Well, give me one specific -- give me one specific promise that he made to you.

EDWARDS: OK.

I'm chairing a new campaign called Half in Ten, cutting the poverty rate in America in half in the next 10 years. There are a number of substantive proposals, raising the minimum wage, expansion of the earned income tax credit, for example, expansion of the child care credit, that are contained in this initiative.

And he embraced the idea, embraced the substantive proposals, and said he would support them. But there's a lot more beyond that. We have spent an awful lot of time talking about this, because this is central to my life. And he cares about it deeply, too.

BLITZER: Senator Edwards, thanks so much for coming in.

EDWARDS: Thank you, Wolf, so much for having me.

BLITZER: We will see you soon.

Senator John Edwards joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: "The Republicans are busy dying while the Democrats are busy being born" -- that stark assessment from Peggy Noonan in a great column she wrote today called "Pity Party" in "The Wall Street Journal."

Noonan paints a bleak picture for the Republicans come November, describing them as -- quote -- "frozen," not like a deer in the headlights, but a dear in the darkness, his ears stiff at the approaching sound of a hunting party."

In light of the string of GOP losses in special elections this spring, Noonan points to many party leaders in Washington that she says are stupid and detached. She suggests Republicans goofed big time by not breaking on principle with the Bush administration on issues ranging from the war in Iraq, to immigration, to runaway government spending.

If the GOP had pushed back against Bush in the last few years, Noonan says, they could have separated the party's fortunes from the president's. She said it would have left the party broken, but not with a ruined brand.

Speaking of branding, House Republicans settled on a brand-new campaign slogan called the change you deserve, you know, the same one that is used to market the antidepressant drug Effexor. Well, after being laughed out of town for a couple of days, Democrats saying, Democrats, not drugs, is what America people need, it seems that cooler heads have prevailed, where late this afternoon, Republicans have modified their slogan to the change America deserves.

Gee, imagine that, the word change suddenly appearing in the Republican slogan.

Here's the question. Take your own shot at this: What slogan would you pick for the Republican Party?

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

BLITZER: Get ready for a lot of slogans, Jack. Thank you.

Some Democrat -- some Texas residents, that is, are very angry about the border fence. They say the feds took their land illegally. We are going to tell what you they're doing about it.

A state Republican Party slams Michelle Obama for a comment she once made about being an American. Should candidates' spouses be fair game for political attacks?

Plus, you're going to hear the joke Mike Huckabee made about Barack Obama at the National Rifle Association, and why it fell flat.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Strong words, insults and a challenge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

B. OBAMA: If George Bush and John McCain want to have a debate about protecting the United States of America, that is a debate that I'm happy to have any time.

MCCAIN: I welcome a debate about protecting America. No issue is more important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Barack Obama and John McCain say they both are ready for a face-off on foreign policy, but who would win?

President Bush asks the Saudis for help in the oil crisis. Here's the question. Will that move help reduce gas prices? Will it work?

And Mike Huckabee is known for his sense of humor. Not everyone is laughing at what he said about Barack Obama today before the National Rifle Association.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, the quest for oil. The Bush administration says it's stopping shipments to U.S. reserves. President Bush asks Saudi Arabia for more to bring prices down, but they say no.

Tennessee Republicans launch an attack against Barack Obama's wife, Michelle, blasting her for a remark made months ago. State GOP officials are unapologetic. The Obama campaign calls it shameful.

And anywhere, any time -- Barack Obama throws down the gauntlet and challenges John McCain to a national security debate -- all this coming up, plus the best political team on television.

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

John McCain is wasting no time reacting to what Barack Obama said or to some Democratic claims he's guilty of hypocrisy.

Let's go straight to CNN's Dana Bash. She's in Louisville, Kentucky, where she's getting reaction, quick reaction from Senator McCain -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And the reason is, because you talk to McCain advisers, and they say, when it comes to national security, Barack Obama is playing on their political turf.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): A last-minute addition to his speech at the NRA to fire back at Barack Obama.

MCCAIN: I have some news for Senator Obama. Talking, not even with soaring rhetoric, unconditional -- in unconditional meetings with a man who calls Israel a stinking corpse and arms terrorists who kill Americans will not convince Iran to give up its nuclear program. It is reckless. It is reckless to suggest that unconditional meetings will advance our interests.

BASH: McCain aides insist they've been itching for this fight with Obama, eager to engage, despite a new accusation from Democrats of hypocrisy when it comes to Hamas. Jamie Rubin, a Hillary Clinton supporter, released this interview he conducted with McCain two years ago in Davos, Switzerland.

MCCAIN: And sooner or later we'll have to deal with them in one way or another. And I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy toward Hamas. But it's a new reality in the Middle East.

BASH: Barack Obama seized on that, blasting McCain for attacking him for wanting to sit down with the leader of Iran.

B. OBAMA: He was actually guilty of the exact same thing he is accusing me of, and, in fact, was saying that maybe we need to deal with Hamas. And that's the kind of hypocrisy that we've been seeing in our foreign policy.

BASH: Riding on his bus, McCain insisted his position on Hamas has always been the same -- no negotiation until they renounce wanting to destroy Israel.

B. OBAMA: That Hamas would have to abandon their terrorist activities and their dedication to the extinction of the State of Israel. It was very clear then, very clear now.

BASH: Trying to back that up, the McCain camp points to this 2006 CNN interview conducted within days of Rubin's.

MCCAIN: Well, hopefully that Hamas, now that they are going to govern, will be motivated to renounce this -- this commitment to the extinction of the State of Israel. Then we can do business again. We can resume aid. We can resume the peace process.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Remember, Wolf, that was around the time just after Hamas won elections, the Palestinian elections. Now, the McCain campaign just sent us a link to what they found -- more of this interview that Jamie Rubin did back then, about two years ago, with Senator McCain.

And in it, he also says -- Senator McCain says, "I think part of the relationship will be dictated by how Hamas acts, not how the United States acts."

Now, the McCain campaign insists that's proof that Senator McCain isn't contradicting himself.

I should add that we actually asked Jamie Rubin for more of the interview, for the transcript. He told CNN earlier today that he didn't have it, he only had -- he didn't have it, I should say. He only had this one particular quote that he put in his op-ed this morning -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The op-ed being in "The Washington Post."

All right, thanks, Dana, very much. Let's discuss this and more with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. She's here in Washington. And also in New York, Jack Cafferty and our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin. They're all part of the best political team on television.

It looks like both of these candidates -- Obama and McCain, Jack -- are ready for a debate on national security. Republicans say bring it on. This is their home turf. And if they want to play on the issue of national security, they feel McCain has the advantage.

CAFFERTY: Well, let's take a quick look at national security during the last seven years under George Bush and John McCain.

9/11 happened six-and-a-half years ago. Our borders aren't secured. Our ports aren't secured. Most of the cargo that goes in our airplanes is un-inspected.

Iran's nuclear program is on the fast track to having weapons in a year or two, full speed ahead, despite all the cowboy bluster of George Bush and all his jumping and stomping around about what bad guys they are.

Our military has been ripped to shreds by an illegal, phony war in Iraq, which has created more terrorists in Iraq than ever existed before we invaded a country that had done absolutely nothing to us. Afghanistan has been neglected. The Taliban has reconstituted itself and is now in control of most of that country. And Osama bin Laden is out there running around some place.

So Republicans are doing a heck of a job, Brownie.

BLITZER: The -- the Republicans will respond, Gloria, and point out there hasn't been a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11, George W. Bush has kept Americans safe...

CAFFERTY: Yes, right.

BLITZER: ...McCain will do the same thing, and Democrats, as everyone knows, they will say, are weak on national security. This is a fight we've seen before.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Republicans think this. If they have any safe terrain going into this election -- and I'm not sure they do -- they believe that this is the one piece of ground that they have that they can stand on. Because the Democrats, if you look at polls, as you were saying, Wolf, they're still showing some weakness on national security. Obviously, Barack Obama doesn't have the breadth of experience that John McCain has.

But if you look at it from the Democrats' point of view, any time they get a chance to yoke John McCain with George W. Bush, they're happy about it. They're happy to talk about a president with a 27 percent approval rating.

So this issue is going to work both ways in this election. But make no mistake about it, the general election started this week. BLITZER: Having said all that, Jeffrey, would you agree that McCain would much rather have a debate with Barack Obama on national security as opposed to domestic economic issues?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think he would. Certainly, that's his strength, according to the polls. But I think it's important to look at the merits of what this particular debate is about. The debate is over should we talk to countries that are our enemies. But, you know, the fact is we have talked to our enemies throughout history. We talked to the Soviet Union when they had thousands of nuclear weapons pointed at our cities. We talked to North Korea. The Bush administration, I think, had a considerable success there. They had a great success with Libya.

So the argument that we should not talk, I think, is a difficult one for McCain to make. Yes, he wants to talk about foreign policy. But this issue, I think, is going to be tough, to persuade people that this is a terrible thing Obama is advocating.

BORGER: You know, when you look at McCain's words, I mean he calls Barack Obama naive and reckless. Those are very, very strong words.

And what he's going to say is, you know, you may want change in this country, but how much risk do you want to take with Barack Obama?

Is he safe enough for us?

That's going to be the sort of underlying thing that they're going to talk about in the general election.

BLITZER: All right guys, stand by, because we have much more to discuss, including two big moves to help solve the oil crunch.

Are they really big moves, though? One comes from the Saudis, the other from the White House. Can it help the prices at the pump?

Plus, Mike Huckabee was trying to make a joke about Barack Obama, but not a lot of people laughing right now. You're going to hear what he had to say right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're back with the best political team on television.

Jack, let's talk a little bit about oil. The president right now in Saudi Arabia. He's asking them to increase production. And all of a sudden, the White House announced today they're going to stop filling that Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

What is this going to amount to?

CAFFERTY: Well, it's the second time that the Saudis have said no to George Bush. Now, the royal family in Saudi Arabia and the Bush family, which is our royal family here -- just ask them -- these are close personal friends, have been for years. And twice in less than a year, George Bush has appealed to Saudi Arabia to pump more oil. And twice in the last year, Saudi Arabia said why don't you go back to Washington?

Stop filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is about as useful in combating rising gasoline prices as repealing the federal gas tax for 90 days 18 cents a gallon and giving everybody an extra $50 or $60. This isn't energy policy, this is insanity.

BLITZER: Yes, Gloria, they did agree a few days ago to increase production by about 300,000 barrels a day. I don't know how much of an impact that is going to have.

BORGER: Yes, not much. And I agree with Jack. I think that -- look, this is a president who is sort of going to Saudi Arabia hat in hand and saying, please, please, increase. And I think, you know, I think them turning him down is a real embarrassment, quite honestly, for this president, whose family does have a close personal relationship with the Saudis.

BLITZER: What do you think, Jeff?

TOOBIN: Well, you know, I think Hillary Clinton had it exactly right the last time Bush was there. She said it was pathetic the way...

(LAUGHTER)

TOOBIN: ...the way we have to beg the Saudis to increase their production. And meanwhile, you know, we haven't cut our dependence on oil, we haven't developed alternative fuel sources and we're contributing to global warming when we don't do it. So it's an economic and an environmental disaster...

CAFFERTY: And we're selling the Saudis...

TOOBIN: ...our policy over there.

CAFFERTY: And we're selling the Saudis arms, right?

We're supporting that government that runs these little schools that teaches their children hatred of the West so they can grow up to be 16 of the hijackers that commandeered the planes that knocked down the World Trade Centers.

BORGER: And it...

CAFFERTY: I mean what's wrong with this picture?

BORGER: And it looks like this is our energy policy, right?

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BORGER: I mean going to the Saudis and saying please, please.

CAFFERTY: Unbelievable.

BORGER: That's not -- that's not much of a policy.

BLITZER: All right, listen to this so-called joke that the former Arkansas governor and the former Republican presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, made over at the NRA, at the National Rifle Association, convention earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But the reality is -- and I'm worried because, frankly, within the -- that was Barack Obama. He just tripped off a chair. He's getting ready to speak. And somebody aimed a gun at him and he -- he dove for the floor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. That's not very funny.

But what do you think, Jack?

CAFFERTY: He's an idiot. He's just an idiot.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: Anybody who would say something like that is -- is a moron.

BLITZER: Gloria?

BORGER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: What else do you want to know?

BORGER: I just think it was -- there's no way to defend it, there's no way to talk about it. It was a huge mistake. And I think he probably knew it the minute he said it.

BLITZER: I'm sure he regretted it that minute...

TOOBIN: Can I...

BLITZER: ...yes.

TOOBIN: Can I just offer some testimony, as someone who has said stupid things on television?

BORGER: You never have.

CAFFERTY: Well, we all have.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Never.

TOOBIN: And, no. I mean, really. I mean, you know...

BORGER: Yes, sure.

TOOBIN: I have said stupid things before. I'll say them again. You know, I think that Jack's a little too hard on Huckabee. It was a dumb thing to say. But, you know, people -- bad attempts at humor are not cause for calling someone that -- an idiot.

CAFFERTY: All right, well...

TOOBIN: I think maybe there are other reasons.

CAFFERTY: Let me just rephrase that. He's an idiot for saying something like that.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: All right...

CAFFERTY: Absolutely.

TOOBIN: Well, I'm glad my advocacy skills succeeded so well with you, Jack (INAUDIBLE).

BORGER: You're a great lawyer. You're a great lawyer, Jeffrey.

TOOBIN: No, I just think...

BLITZER: Guys...

TOOBIN: ...you know, give him a break.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to have Jack back with "The Cafferty File."

To the other two, have a great weekend, guys.

TOOBIN: All right.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

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

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": You know, Wolf, this is one of those cases where Jeff and Jack are both correct, don't you?

BLITZER: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

DOBBS: Wolf, thanks.

Coming up at...

BLITZER: I'm willing to give Mike Huckabee the benefit of the doubt because I've said a lot of stupid things, too. And once in a while even Lou Dobbs probably does. DOBBS: Oh, I resent the implication and the assertion.

How dare you?

Yes, you're right.

Coming up at 7:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN, we'll be reporting on the latest efforts by pro-amnesty lawmakers to push their open borders agenda through Congress piece by piece without the consent of the American people. We'll have complete coverage.

And special interest groups launching their most extensive effort yet to block more fencing along our border with Mexico, putting their own interests, of course, ahead of the national interests. It's becoming a sport for special interest groups.

And we'll introduce you to an Army veteran tonight who's had a belly full of the broken two party system. He's not just complaining, he's now running for Congress as an Independent. Go.

We'll examine the increasingly nasty fight in this campaign -- this presidential campaign -- over terrorism and national security. Three of the best and brightest political analysts join me.

We will be doing all of that at 7:00 Eastern here on CNN. We'll have all the day's news and much more for you. Please with be with us -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: We'll see you in a few moments, Lou.

DOBBS: You've got it.

BLITZER: Thank you.

So, are political spouses fair game?

Republicans in one state think so. They have a new video targeting Michelle Obama based on what she said. We're going to have details of this controversy.

Plus, Hillary Clinton making a big impression on one supporter. We have some political odds and ends you'll have to see to believe right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's go back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: What slogan would you pick for the Republican Party?

They've had some trouble coming up with one. I think they finally settled on something, but I'm not sure.

Michael writes: "My slogan, let's just pretend the last eight years never happened." Eli in Georgia writes: "Selling out America with pride fits any slogan out there for the GOP."

Carol in Massachusetts: "How low can we go?"

Sharon in Minnesota: "Get back to moderation and stability with John McCain. Vote McCain in 2008."

Steve writes: "We want change, just as long as everything stays the same. And Jeb's not my brother."

Robert in Minneapolis: "The GOP -- we're not hypocrites, we're just really, really confused."

Carlos in New York: "The only slogan they should be using is we're very sorry."

Briston writes: "Republicans screwing it up since 2000."

Jack in Oregon: "The GOP slogan should be let us pray."

Michael writes: "Who's this Bush you speak of?"

And John writes: "Easy. Republicans -- small tent, wide stance."

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

BLITZER: Jack, see you Monday.

Have a great weekend.

CAFFERTY: You, too.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Jack first talked about this story in "The Cafferty File" earlier today in our Political Ticker. A state Republican Party is blasting Michelle Obama for a comment she once made about being an American.

Should candidates' spouses be fair game for political attacks?

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us now. He's looking at this story for us.

What's this one, Brian, all about?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is about Michelle Obama becoming more of a lightning rod in this political season. Analysts say sometimes she brings it on herself and sometimes she doesn't. One of the most recent examples has her husband's campaign accusing the Republicans of shamefully attacking his family.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice-over): Described by associates as straightforward and tough, Michelle Obama may now need to tap those attributes more than she ever thought. A Web video from the Tennessee Republican Party goes right after Mrs. Obama -- six times mixing an often criticized remark of hers with comments from Tennesseans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, TENNESSEE REPUBLICAN PARTY AD)

MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF BARACK OBAMA: For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country.

BOB HOPE, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: Hi, I'm Bob Hope and I'm proud to be an American, because mainly of the First Amendment -- the right to worship God anywhere I choose to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Barack Obama's campaign responds with a statement calling the video "a shameful attempt to attack a video who has repeatedly said she wouldn't be here without the opportunities and blessings of this nation."

The Obama campaign says the Republican Party is engaging in pathetic smear tactics. But GOP officials tell us neither the national party office nor John McCain's campaign had anything to do with it. The McCain campaign says it's not going to play referee in these cases and should only be judged on the ads it runs.

But following Mrs. Obama's initial remarks in February, Cindy McCain did jump into the fray.

CINDY MCCAIN, WIFE OF JOHN MCCAIN: I'm proud of my country. I don't know about you, if you heard those words earlier.

I'm very proud of my country.

TODD: Michelle Obama has since tried to clarify, saying she really meant to say how proud she was that record numbers of Americans are engaging in the political process.

Cindy McCain has also drawn fire for refusing to release her tax records. And observers say there's a broader mine field for the campaigns -- spouses are increasingly fair game.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, "WASHINGTON POST": When they are out there raising money for their husband's campaigns, speaking on behalf of their husband's campaigns, they are also open to being criticized or at least being watched for what they say.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: That same point was made to us by an official of that Tennessee Republican Party, which put out that video. He was unapologetic, saying Michelle Obama is out making policy-oriented speeches for her husband and was in the state for a fundraiser when the party posted that video -- Wolf. BLITZER: Brian, the Republican National Committee says it had nothing to do with that video.

But here's the question -- are they Democratic Congress these state Republican Parties from releasing these kinds of ads?

TODD: In this particular case, Wolf, they may not be. We asked them about that. They're referring us to the McCain campaign's stand that it does not want to play referee here. But last month, the RNC and the McCain campaign both asked the North Carolina Republican Party not to run an ad attacking Barack Obama. That party went ahead and ran that ad.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much.

Brian Todd reporting.

On a recent campaign stop, a slip of the tongue by the candidate, Barack Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator, how are you going to help the American autoworkers?

OBAMA: Hold on one second, sweetie. We're going to do it. We'll be doing a press event.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He later apologized for calling the reporter "sweetie." But that's just one lose end that CNN's Jeanne Moos will tie up when we come back.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the Hot Shots right now.

In China, temple guardians stand strong among the ruins of a Buddhist temple that collapsed in Monday's earthquake.

In the Dominican Republican, a voter gets his finger inked after voting in the country's presidential election.

In Idaho, graduates dressed in caps and gowns line up for their commencement ceremony.

And in Baltimore, a horse gets a bath in preparation for the Preakness.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots -- pictures often worth a thousand words. A presidential candidate calls a reporter "sweetie," the "Obama girl" is perspiring and CNN's Jeanne Moos wonders how Senator Hillary Clinton wound up on a tattoo artist's thigh.

We'll have Jeanne Moos tie up all of this with this Moost Unusual report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Would you mind if Senator Barack Obama said this to you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator, how are you going to help the American autoworkers?

B. OBAMA: Hold on one second, sweetie.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wouldn't mind if anybody called me sweetie.

MOOS: From Senator Obama's "sweetie" apology...

B. OBAMA: It's a bad habit of mine.

MOOS: ...to the Hillary tattoo.

(on-camera): So I hear you have Hillary Clinton on your thigh?

LUIS SALGADO, TATTOO ARTIST: Yes.

MOOS (voice-over): To the "Obama Girl" deodorant commercial?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I try to be a little sexy, but this is not the way.

MOOS: Some of these campaign stories are the pits, but somebody has to cover them. Barack Obama blew off a reporter for CNN Detroit affiliate, WXYZ...

B. OBAMA: Hold on one second, sweetie.

MOOS: ...then ended up leaving an apology on the reporter's voice mail.

OBAMA: It's a bad habit of mine. I do it sometimes with all kinds of people. I mean no disrespect. And so I am duly chastened on that front.

MOOS (on-camera): Would you mind if Barack Obama called you sweetie?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He could call me sweetie.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would have preferred darling. MOOS (voice-over): How sweet does this retired doctor get with nurses?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I worked with them, I didn't call them sweetie. Now that I'm retired I call them sweetie. And they think it's just fine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I call everybody honey because I can't remember their names.

MOOS (on-camera): I call that guy -- I'll call my cameraman darling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, will you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't.

MOOS (voice-over): Baby is what "Obama Girl" calls her favorite senator.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Baby, you're the best candidate.

MOOS: Well, now she's peddling the best deodorant.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had a problem with excess perspiration before I started using Certain Dri.

MOOS: Gee, we never noticed her excess perspiration before.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've got a crush on Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No more stains. Pretty sexy, huh?

MOOS: Actually, not so much. Now this is sexy.

SALGADO: I'm pretty sure that I'm the only guy in the world with a Hillary tattoo.

MOOS: Luis Salgado is a tattoo artist in Philadelphia. Another artist by the name of Buffalo Bill gave him this Hillary tattoo as a tribute to the wannabe first female president.

SALGADE: Oh, it's awesome.

I'm in love with the tattoo.

MOOS (on-camera): It took about three hours to do.

You're not worried that she may be -- end up being kind of a loser and then you're stuck with a loser on your thigh?

SALGADO: No. She's not. In my eyes, Hillary is never going to be a loser.

MOOS (voice-over): She's certainly gotten under his skin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does that make Hillary a Dermocrat?

MOOS: By the way, if you want to see Luis' view of Hillary, it's upside down, but with a leg up on the race.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Leave to it Jeanne Moos.

Thank you very much, Jeanne.

I'll be back on Sunday on "LATE EDITION" -- the last word in Sunday talk. We'll have the interview I did with Hillary Clinton. That will be Sunday.

Until then, thanks for watching.

Let's go to Lou in New York -- Lou.