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THE SITUATION ROOM
Obama News Conference; Exxon Valdez Damages Slashed; No Execution for Child Rape; Missouri Residents Waiting to See if Levee Will Hold
Aired June 25, 2008 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A wide ranging news conference. Lots of questions on everything. You just heard a parting shot on Iraq from Barack Obama against John McCain. Lots of other questions, on Zimbabwe, Chicago politics, the price of a gallon of gas and more.
Let's get some reaction to Barack Obama's comments.
Joining us now in our Strategy Session, our CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile. And commentator, also a CNN political contributor, Bill Bennett.
Let's go through some of the highlights that I listed over here.
Donna, I'll start with you.
He was effusive in his praise for Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, although Bill Clinton has not yet been all that effusive in his willingness to go out there on the stump for Barack Obama.
What do you make of that?
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: First of all, Senator Obama is really enthusiastic to have Senator Clinton's strong support. They're campaigning this week in New Hampshire. Senator Clinton was up on Capitol Hill today speaking to the House Democratic Caucus. And some of my colleagues up there say that they heard applause all up and down the hall.
So the party is coming together. Right now, Senator Clinton is actually doing the politics. And I know at a certain moment in this campaign Bill Clinton will be out on the campaign trail, also.
BLITZER: Bill, you wrote a tough piece against Barack Obama. We mentioned it yesterday in THE SITUATION ROOM...
WILLIAM BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.
BLITZER: ...10 reasons why you don't think he's ready to be president of the United States.
But getting to the Clintons right now, both of the Clintons, what do you make of it?
BENNETT: Well, just to make a comment on the press conference. The reason I wrote that piece is there's the charge that a lot of the media is soft on Obama. That press conference demonstrated it.
BLITZER: This one?
BENNETT: I mean, oh my gosh, you know, will you -- do you want Bill Clinton to help, do you want Hillary to help, would you like to say something nice about Chicago, would you like to say something un- nice about Charlie Black?
I mean there is a record here. This guy is maybe eight or 10 points ahead in the presidential sweepstakes. He has got the most far left record in the U.S. Senate.
How about some serious questions?
So that's why some of us are very frustrated...
BLITZER: But, you know, there were some pretty serious questions...
BENNETT: Not many.
BLITZER: ...including on the Supreme Court decision today that...
BENNETT: What did you think, they said?
BLITZER: Yes. But he -- and he gave a pretty -- a pretty strong sense that he was going against what the liberal justices, the majority in this 5-4 decision...
BENNETT: He didn't.
BLITZER: ...had in going with the conservatives. As you well know, that's not necessarily something a liberal would always do.
BENNETT: This isn't liberal. I suspect 95 percent of the American people would be with him and the minority of the court on this.
Can you put to death a man who rapes his 8-year-old stepdaughter?
Yes. I think maybe 97 percent of the American people.
No, it was a soft press conference, if you go through those questions.
BENNETT: If you look at the issues, "The Washington Post" last Sunday said there are a number of people in Europe who are concerned about his positions on Iran and other things, that he will undermine what's developed as a good coalition against Iran.
Bill Schneider devised the metrics for this "National Journal" assessment of who the most liberal and conservative people are.
This guy has a lot to answer to. He talks about his background in Chicago.
What about that vote in Chicago that turned the stomach even of NARAL, the liberal senators, that said if a baby is born alive after a late term abortion, you can throw it away?
Barack Obama approved that. Not one liberal in the U.S. Senate approved that.
BLITZER: All right, let me let...
BENNETT: I know the Kansas values thing, but the press has got to ask him some tough questions.
BRAZILE: Well, first of all, I disagree with Bill, because I think that...
BENNETT: On the abortion issues?
BRAZILE: I -- look, Barack Obama got around to talking about FISA and his vote on that. He got around to talking about gas prices, about drilling on our coastlines. He got a chance to talk about the economy. So he is answering the questions that not only come to him from the media, but also some of the constant negative charges coming from Republicans, who want to paint him as some old-fashioned, old- style liberal -- the old playbook that we've heard time and time again against any Democrat, not just this Democrat, but every Democrat that gets...
BENNETT: Bill Schneider, not Bill Bennett, did the metrics for the "National Journal" review.
BRAZILE: Well, he...
BENNETT: He's to the left of Bernie Sanders in his votes, Donna.
BRAZILE: But is it about his liberalism or is his leadership on the issues -- does that matter?
BENNETT: His liberalism. His policies...
BRAZILE: His leadership on the economy...
BENNETT: ...his positions.
BRAZILE: ...whether the non-partisan Tax Policy Center that says that Barack Obama will provide more tax relief to working Americans?
Is that what we want to discuss?
Yes, talk about this issue.
BENNETT: We -- yes, absolutely. Let's talk about the issues.
BRAZILE: But are we going to talk about the labels?
Is that... BENNETT: No, the issues.
BLITZER: You know, he was...
BENNETT: The policies, his votes...
BLITZER: He was asked...
BENNETT: His votes. His votes.
BLITZER: He was asked about his switch, in terms of opposing accepting public funding for his general election campaign. That's a serious issue.
BENNETT: Yes, that -- I mean that was -- of course, he answered that question two weeks ago. This is not the most serious charge against Barack Obama. Most of us thought that it was obvious he had to move (INAUDIBLE) money.
BLITZER: What about the accusations against him from Ralph Nader?
BENNETT: Again, Ralph Nader -- you know, what does that represent?
Look, again, there are very serious issues. I hope we'll get to them. Look, it's still early in the summer. Presumably, we'll get to them. But it's not...
BLITZER: If you would have been at that news conference, Bill, and you had a chance to ask one question today, what would you have asked, if you were a reporter?
BENNETT: I think when he brought up Chicago I would have said why are you to the left of NARAL, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, when it comes to abortion?
Are you really there?
Not that it's the only issue in the campaign. But I've got to question a guy's moral judgment who doesn't see a problem with killing a baby after it's been born after eight months.
BRAZILE: But he's -- he's had an opportunity in several debates to talk about his position on abortion and choice.
BENNETT: And what...
BENNETT: ...what is the answer to that question?
BRAZILE: But, Bill, look...
BENNETT: What is the answer to that question?
BRAZILE: Look, Bill, you want to have a conversation about narrow issues...
BENNETT: That is not...
BRAZILE: ...and not...
BENNETT: That is fundamental.
BRAZILE: It is a fundamental issue. But there -- the American people want to talk about gas prices.
BRAZILE: They want to talk about the economy.
BRAZILE: They want to talk about housing foreclosures.
BENNETT: I want to talk about all of this.
BRAZILE: So if you want to go back to...
BENNETT: (INAUDIBLE) if there were one.
BRAZILE: ...to talking about, you know, same-sex marriages and abortions...
BLITZER: All right...
BENNETT: I didn't say anything about same-sex marriages...
BRAZILE: ...the base (INAUDIBLE)...
BENNETT: I asked about (INAUDIBLE).
BRAZILE: Well, but, again, Bill, Senator Obama -- perhaps you've missed all of the Democratic debates. I didn't. Senator Obama has talked about all these issues.
BENNETT: He hasn't answered the question, though.
BLITZER: All right, let's talk about some of the -- I know we asked each of you to talk about -- to come up with a list of three areas...
BLITZER: ...where you feel the other candidate is most vulnerable.
Bill, let me start with you and we'll put them up there on the screen.
Issue number one, why you think Barack Obama brings concerns.
BENNETT: Well, number one is foreign policy. I think the things he said -- the switches, the flips should make people very nervous. What he has said about Iran, what he has said about Jerusalem.
When you get into something like NAFTA, which obviously has implications for foreign policy, what exactly is his position on that?
He -- his view...
BLITZER: And what's the second area?
BENNETT: His view has been characterized as naive and irresponsible, not by right-wing conservatives, but by Hillary Clinton.
The second is the one I've talked about, this...
BLITZER: On abortion.
BENNETT: Look, and the point is, if you can't get something like that one right, if you're wrong on that one, one has to question your judgment.
BLITZER: All right.
And the third?
BENNETT: The third is this voting record. We just have to unpack this voting record vote by vote.
BLITZER: You say...
BENNETT: These are policies.
BLITZER: And what about Donna, the three concerns that you have, areas of concern for John McCain?
Do it quickly.
BRAZILE: John McCain has been in Washington, D.C. for 28 years. He's been a fixture.
Will he improve the economic climate in the country or will he go back to the trickle down economics that has left most Americans falling behind on their payments?
The second concern, of course, that I have is that John McCain is now, you know, changing his record on energy and changing his record on the Bush tax policy. And that's also a concern.
Who is the real John McCain and what is campaigning to change?
And, of course, the war. That is a very important issue. Two- thirds of the American people are tired. They want us to bring our troops home. They've done their jobs. It's time that the Iraqi government stands up, spend their oil revenues so that the American people can invest in their own.
BLITZER: Let's continue this conversation. Guys, thanks very much.
BENNETT: We probably will. We probably will.
BLITZER: Tomorrow, by the way, our guest here in THE SITUATION ROOM will be the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. And you can be part of the interview. Go to iReport.com/situationroom. You can submit your own video questions. Some of them we'll use, questions for Nancy Pelosi here tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Ralph Nader, as you now know, raising eyebrows with this remark about Barack Obama.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RALPH NADER, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I haven't heard him have a strong crackdown on economic exploitation in the ghettos -- payday loans, predatory lending, asbestos, lead, you know.
What's keeping him from doing that? Is it because he wants to talk white?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: But Nader tells us he doesn't understand what the big deal is. Barack Obama just responding to Ralph Nader. We'll update you.
Libya's Muammar Gaddafi is about -- is also talking about Barack Obama's race. His remark could come back to haunt the candidate. We'll tell you what Gaddafi is saying.
And outrage at police over a nightclub stampede that killed 12 people.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Barack Obama gets some advice from an unlikely source. Muammar Gaddafi has some suggestions for the Democratic candidate.
Also, lots of buzz today about the Democratic candidates getting military briefings. CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr will tell us what is fusing all the talk.
And criticism from a fellow Democrat. Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin answers questions from I-reporters and explains his differences with Barack Obama.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Two major rulings from the United States Supreme Court today. One involving one of the worst environmental disasters in American history. The justices voted 5-3 to slash punitive damages in the Exxon Valdez oil spill case from $2.5 billion to $500 million.
The justices were even more narrowly divided in ruling on one of the most heinous crimes imaginable. In a 5-4 ruling, they said raping a child is not grounds for execution. A ruling Barack Obama just said moments ago he disagrees with.
Our justice correspondent Kelli Arena is watching all of this for us.
All right. Update the viewers on what the Supreme Court did, Kelli.
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, this was a major ruling on the death penalty front, one with very broad implications. It all started with a very heinous rape in Louisiana.
ARENA: It's difficult to even think about. Patrick Kennedy brutally raped his 8-year-old stepdaughter. He was convicted and sentenced to death. But as terrible as that crime was, the Supreme Court ruled it did not warrant the death penalty.
KATE BARTHOLOMEW, SEX CRIMES PROSECUTOR: In my opinion, the rape of a child is more heinous and more hideous than a homicide. Because the child survives with what has happened.
ARENA: Yet the justices ruled 5-4 that it's unconstitutional to put someone to death for a violent crime other than murder. In fact, the justices said that allowing the death penalty could provide a perverse incentive for child rapists to murder their victims, siding with opponents.
JUDY BENITEZ, LA. FDN. AGAINST SEXUAL ASSAULTS: That they're going to face the death penalty for raping a child, why would they live a living witness.
ARENA: Justice Kennedy, who wrote the opinion, acted as a swing vote. He said the decision reflects evolving standards of decency, and a national consensus. Fighting words for the pro-death penalty camp. In fact, the ruling is similar to others by the high court, banning execution of the mentally retarded, under aged killers, and those who received an inadequate defense at trial. And it will impact similar laws in at least five other states. There's no doubt the decision restricts the death penalty, but there is still a question as to how much.
RICHARD DIETER, DEATH PENALTY INFORMATION CTR.: They left open questions about national security, espionage, things of that nature that are a whole different threat to the country.
ARENA: As for the victim's family, before the ruling, her aunt said that it would be a relief if Kennedy were put to death.
LYNN VICTIM'S AUNT: Something that she can look forward and not backward and happen to look over your shoulders and one day look at him. Or see him.
ARENA: Wolf, CNN was able to talk with that aunt again today after the ruling, and here's what she had to say. And I'm quoting, she said, just knowing the kind of man he is, we will never be comfortable. Back to you.
BLITZER: Kelli Arena is over at the Supreme Court. And only moments ago Senator Obama was asked whether he agrees with this 5-4 decision on the case. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I disagree with the decision. I have said repeatedly that I think that the death penalty should be applied in very narrow circumstances for the most egregious of crimes. I think that the rape of a small child, 6 or 8 years old, is a heinous crime. And if a state makes a decision that under narrow limited, well-defined circumstances, the death penalty is at least potentially applicable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's discuss with our senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin, an authority on the Supreme Court.
Were you surprised by Senator Obama's reaction?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I was. Because he has said that the justices, he really looks up to are Steven Brier, Ruth Ginsberg. They were with the majority in this case. But he is also a -- you know, he's a former law professor himself, and he believes the political majorities by and large should be allowed to operate without interference from the courts and the political majority in Louisiana wanted this law. I guess so did Barack Obama.
BLITZER: Does this Supreme Court decision mean that across the United States, the only times that defendants, if convicted, will be executed, will get the death penalty, is if murder was involved? Other crimes won't be?
TOOBIN: In terms of one-on-one crimes, yes. No death penalty for rape, for kidnapping. The open question is the issue of treason and espionage. That was not really addressed by today's decision. In fact, there hasn't been an execution for treason or espionage for decades. The law is still on the books. I don't think today's decision really affects that. Rosenberg has been used in plea bargaining since then.
BLITZER: Right. Absolutely.
Thanks very much. We'll see you back here, Jeff Toobin.
Libya's Muammar Gaddafi called Barack Obama "our African Kenyan brother." He has unusual advice for the Democratic presidential candidate.
The campaign finance law bears his name and Senator Russ Feingold says Obama made a bad decision.
BLITZER: Some very surprising remarks about Barack Obama from the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, offering advice and criticism to the Democratic presidential candidate for using words that could come back to maybe haunt Barack Obama.
Let's go to Carol. She's here watching this story.
So what is Gaddafi saying?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, oddly enough some of his comments sounded an awful lot like Ralph Nader's, who said Obama wants to talk white. Well, Muammar Gaddafi after calling America a dictatorship, said Obama is acting whiter than white. And there's more.
MUAMMAR GADDAFI, LIBYAN LEADER (through translator): His name is Obama.
COSTELLO: That is the Muammar Gaddafi. Dubbed the mad dog of the Middle East by Ronald Reagan, he was once considered the most dangerous terrorist in the world, sponsoring the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 which killed 189 Americans. Today Gaddafi is offering advice, indirectly, to Barack Obama. This speech broadcast on al- Jazeera TV.
GADDAFI (through translator): If our brother Obama feels because he's black he doesn't have the right to rule America, this would be a disaster. Because such a feeling would make him behave whiter than white.
COSTELLO: Gaddafi feels a kinship with Obama since Obama is African and Gaddafi is Arab and African. But experts say that feeling has cooled ever since Obama expressed support for Israel.
OBAMA: We must isolate Hamas unless and until they renounce terrorism, recognize Israel's right to exist, and abide by past agreements. There is no room at the negotiating table for terrorist organizations.
COSTELLO: Scholars say those words cost Obama luster in much of the Arab world. Gaddafi is merely saying aloud what many Arab leaders now feel.
MICHELE DUNNE, CARNEGIE INSTITUTE: They were sort of hoping that Senator Obama would take a different approach to the Middle East. Not only different from President Bush, but different from all previous U.S. presidents.
COSTELLO: And by Gaddafi's words, he was clearly surprised an African-American in the United States would not be more sympathetic to Arabs, a people Gaddafi considers victims of discrimination.
GADDAFI (through translator): The thing we fear most is that the black man suffers from an inferiority complex. This is dangerous. But we were taken by surprise when our African Kenyan brother, who is an American national, made statements that shocked all his supporters in the Arab world.
COSTELLO: Still, even though Gaddafi is critical of Obama and certainly not admired by many Americans, his use of phrases like, our African Kenyan brother, could be used against Obama as he campaigns for president.
LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Over the course of several months, campaigns use almost all the ammunition at their disposal, whether it's good ammunition or bad ammunition. Whether it's real bullets or blanks.
COSTELLO: They'll use anything if you're losing.
Just a word about Libya; recently Libya and the United States have come to an understanding, Libya has given up its quest for weapons of mass destruction and is paying damages to those who lost loved ones aboard Pan Am flight 103. The United States took it off its terrorist list.
BLITZER: There's a whole new diplomatic relationship between the United States and Libya as a result.
COSTELLO: They're not exactly friends, but they're talking.
BLITZER: But there are diplomats now.
COSTELLO: That's right.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks, Carol.
Millions of acres of American land available for oil production, but sitting idly by. Why? One of our I-reporters asks Senator Russ Feingold. Stand by.
Ralph Nader wonders if Barack Obama is trying to "talk white." Obama is pushing back.
And a Republican senator's unusual campaign strategy, highlighting his ties to Barack Obama.
BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring other stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Carol, what's going on?
COSTELLO: Wolf, President Bush is condemning a decision to go ahead with the presidential election in Zimbabwe that will essentially be a one-man race. Earlier today the country's electoral commission decided to hold a run off election Friday despite the withdrawal of the opposition candidate. The opposition accuses supporters of President Robert Mugabe of using violence and intimidation tactics. Now President Bush is weighing in saying the election results will not reflect the will of the people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Friday's elections, you know, appear to be a sham. You can't have free elections if a candidate is not allowed to campaign freely and his supporters aren't allowed to campaign without the fear of intimidation. Yet the Mugabe government has been intimidating the people on the ground in Zimbabwe. This is an incredibly sad development.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: Mugabe has been Zimbabwe's only leader since independence from Britain in 1980.
Anxious right now hours in Winfield, Missouri. Engineers report that the only levee protecting the town and the surrounding areas from the swollen Mississippi is holding, but just barely. Officials are scrambling to reinforce the levee and are trying to keep people from using boats in the area. They say as little as a two-inch wake could be enough to cause the levee to crumble.
In other news around the world, shocking pictures here of the terrifying power of a crowd at a nightclub in Mexico City. A dozen people were crushed to death or asphyxiated when customers rushed the exit during a police raid. An emergency exit was reportedly locked. The city's chief prosecutor is blaming overcrowding and police errors for the tragedy.
An Italian architect is unveiling plans for a new skyscraper in Dubai that would change that city's skyline, not just once, but constantly. The 80-story design is billed as the first building in motion. Revolving floors would offer residents ever-changing views and give the tower an ever-shifting shape. A second version of the building is planned for Moscow. If you have an apartment in there, Wolf, you could actually talk to a computer and it will rotate your apartment on demand.
BLITZER: I'm getting dizzy just thinking about it. I've been to Dubai, but I don't want to live in that building there.
COSTELLO: I'm sure it's going slow. It's a slow revolve.
BLITZER: Carol will be back. North Korea, poised to make good on a deal in a spectacular way by blowing up part of a nuclear reactor.
Barack Obama speaks out about a racially tinged remark by fellow presidential candidate Ralph Nader.
BLITZER: Barack Obama taking some heat from some fellow Democrats for partially siding with President Bush when it comes to wiretapping without a warrant. Listen to what he said about it in his news conference just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Given that all the information I've received is that the underlying program itself actually is important and useful to American security as long as it has these constraints on them. I felt it was most -- more important for me to go ahead and support this compromise.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And joining us now, Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.
Senator, thanks very much for coming in.
SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: Good afternoon.
BLITZER: I know you're a champion of civil rights, and all sorts of rights. You were the only member of the senate who voted against the Patriot Act back right after 9/11. Everybody else voted for it. How upset are you that Senator Obama now says he's going to go ahead and vote for this compromised senate domestic supplying legislation that's moving over from the House to the Senate?
FEINGOLD: First of all, I don't take second place to anybody to stop those who attacked us on 9/11 and anybody who works for them or tries to achieve these horrible acts against the American people. But I happen to think this can be done consistent with the United States constitution. That's why I voted against the Patriot Acts. That's why I have reservations, enormous reservation about the extension, or semi-permanent extension to Protect America Act.
I think all Democrats, in fact all members of the senate should vote against it. Everybody is entitled to their own view. I think it's a very bad law. Anybody that really reads it would conclude it's a bad idea and it should have been fixed.
BLITZER: The -- but Senator Obama says he's now going to vote for it, even though it's got some retroactive immunity for the telephone companies who cooperate with the U.S. government in eavesdropping, sometimes without even warrants. What does that say about him to you?
FEINGOLD: Well, we'll be offering amendments to try to take out the immunity provisions, retroactive immunity provisions. I hope Senator Obama will consider voting to help us get rid of --
BLITZER: What if he doesn't?
FEINGOLD: He's a senator and he can vote as he wishes. This is my recommendation.
BLITZER: You're obviously a strong supporter of Barack Obama. But this is a source of, I take it this is a source of deep disappointment?
FEINGOLD: I certainly would be disappointed. Obviously his opponent is going to vote for this legislation as well. I happen to think that Senator Obama as president would be far more likely to try to fix this problem. My advice would be, it's a lot harder to fix it after it's already in place. We should fix it now. All Democrats should be unified against this lousy piece of legislation.
BLITZER: I know you're disappointed also on a second issue with senator Obama, his decision to forgo public funding for the general election. He says the system was broken. You deny that. You say the system for the general election is not broken. How disappointed are you that he's decided to back out of the public funding, even as John McCain who co-authored the important campaign finance reform said he will take the people's money?
FEINGOLD: I want to be clear that Senator Obama was one of the very first senators to join in my legislation with Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, to try to change this system. He will be a president who will want to move on that. I do think he made a bad decision when it comes to taking this money. I think it's harmful to his reputation, to not stick with the current system. He would be the first candidate to ever do it. But overall, Barack Obama is very, very good on the issues, in particular on lobbying and ethics reform that he and I did together.
We disagree on this one. I was disappointed. But I do understand that there are a lot of arguments on both sides. And I just wish he had done otherwise.
BLITZER: Is he moving away from sort of the liberal base of the party toward the center right now in order to try to get reelected?
FEINGOLD: I think Barack Obama will be one of the most progressive presidents in American history. We will have particular disagreements. I will be open about them. That's my nature. And as much as I respect him, and am proud to support him, I'm going to call them as I see them. But I do think he will move the country in a right direction, and in most cases a redirection.
BLITZER: I said reelected, but I meant elected.
FEINGOLD: In four years reelected.
BLITZER: We had some questions for you through our I-report system. Jordan Sarber (ph) of Atlanta, Georgia, sent us this question for you. Listen to this. JORDAN SARBER, ATLANTA, GEORGIA: Have you received a satisfactory answer as to why oil companies haven't utilized the 68 million acres of land currently available for domestic oil production? And also, how big a role do you think speculators play in the current price of oil?
BLITZER: All right.
FEINGOLD: I can't think of a better or more timely question, Wolf. No, I haven't gotten a decent answer from the oil company executives why they have all this acreage to drill in, onshore and offshore, and they haven't used it. Republicans have pretended that somehow, oh, yes, they lose the property, the right to do that if they don't drill.
But the fact is, I don't think this has been properly investigated. And I do think, sir, that speculation is an enormous part of this problem. And many of us in the Senate and the House are trying to move into address that issue as soon as possible. These are some of the real issues, instead of the phony issues like trying to drill in Alaska which to me is a red herring compared to the issue that you brought up.
BLITZER: Why is it a red herring? There's a lot of oil up there. Those who support drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge say they can do it in an environmentally sound way.
FEINGOLD: It's a red herring because a lot of the oil doesn't come to the United States. It would be relatively small quantity of oil. It would take many, many years to do it. And it would be based on most evidence I've seen harmful to the environment. It's like taking a giant issue with the alternatives out there for alternative energy, and frankly, all the alternatives for drilling for oil on lands owned by oil companies and trying to reduce it to this one tiny thing.
It's phony. It's an attempt to make a postage stamp or bumper sticker out of the most important issues tor the American people. I don't think people should be misled by this.
BLITZER: I just want to be precise. Despite your disagreement with senator bomb on some of the issues we discussed, you're going to be campaigning for him in your home state of Wisconsin?
FEINGOLD: And everywhere else. Barack Obama will be the next president. He'll be a great president. And it will be a great moment in American history.
BLITZER: Senator Feingold, thanks for coming in.
FEINGOLD: Thank you.
BLITZER: Let's go right back to Jack Cafferty. He has "The Cafferty File." He's a pretty smart guy, whether you agree or disagree with him, he's a pretty smart guy. JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: I like the way he talks. He gives you straight up, here it is. Here's what I think. You can take this and smoke it or not.
BLITZER: He's like you.
CAFFERTY: Well, he's much more articulate and intelligent than I am.
Now, a couple of hours ago we posed this question: What does it mean if Barack Obama's opening up a double-digit lead over John McCain in some of the polls?
Since we asked the question, the polls may well have changed but nevertheless, here's some of what you wrote to us.
Jay in Williamsburg writes: "Big deal. The numbers don't mean a thing. If the mainstream media would give McCain as much attention as they give to Obama, then there wouldn't be such a spread. Today Obama offered to help Hillary Clinton with her campaign debt. Now if that isn't buying votes I don't know what is."
Frantz in Atlanta: "It means the media will now turn on the front runner in order to make things more interesting. And the GOP dirt machine will get cranked up."
Greg in Ontario: "Polls are seldom accurate in the best of times. The people they are important to are journalists, pundits and those rare voters who try to figure out how everyone else is voting to they can do the same. Thank god we have guys like you and Wolf to keep the issues up front."
Pamela in Germany: "It means the American public is not as stupid as some think. They realize that McCain is a flip flopper and can see the huge difference between the two candidates. Once the head to head debates start I think the lead will get even bigger."
Fred in Las Vegas, Nevada: "Double digit lead in June doesn't necessarily guarantee Obama a win. Any number of things can alter the direction of the race. But whatever happens, if the Democrats don't win this time, I don't know when they will."
Ross in Baltimore says: "It means most voters don't want George Bush's third term."
And Dan in New Orleans says: "It means that the IT department over at Diebold may have to rig the voting machines that much more than they had to in the last election.
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at cnn.com/caffertyfile and look for your there among hundreds of others -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Jack, see you in a few moments.