Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
John McCain Campaigns in Pipersville, Pennsylvania; Barack Obama Reaches out to Bill Clinton; Wesley Clark Targets McCain's War Service
Aired June 30, 2008 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... our veterans to raise their hands and say thank you for being here. Thank you for your service. Thank you, thank you very much. Thank you and God bless. Thank you. Thank you all. Thank you. Thank you. And thanks for serving. Thank you, sir. Thank you all. Thank you very much.
MCCAIN: I see we have veterans ranging from our greatest generation to those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, so I'm very grateful.
My friends, we don't have a whole lot of time today, so I'm going to make my opening comments brief because I think it's important that we understand the importance of the town hall meeting. It's not just an opportunity for you to hear from me. It's an opportunity for me to hear from you.
Americans are hurting right now. Today, people are sitting around of the kitchen table figuring out how they're going to afford their health care, how they're going to stay in their homes. Some have recently and suddenly lost their jobs. So I need to hear from you. I need for you to hear from me how I'm going to get this country back on track and how we're going to restore the prosperity and the greatness of this nation which is the obligation of every generation of Americans, which is to hand on to another generation a better country and a more prosperous and a safer one than the one we inherited.
But I would also like to tell you just very briefly, as you know, I come from the great state of Arizona. And I'm very proud of Arizona.
MCCAIN: And those of you that occasionally come and visit us in the wintertime, we're very grateful. I just have to tell you that California has stolen all of Arizona's water, which is really a tragedy. In fact, because of that, Arizona has so little water, the trees chase the dogs.
But I also would like to tell you about an unhappy tradition in the state of Arizona. And that is that it's because Barry Goldwater from Arizona ran for president of the United States. And a guy named Morris Udall from Arizona ran for president of the United States. And another guy named Bruce Babbitt from Arizona ran for president of the United States. And I from Arizona ran for president of the United States.
Arizona may be the only state in America where mothers don't tell their children that some day they can grow up and be president of the United States. But I'm going to win Pennsylvania, and I'm going to reverse that unhappy tradition. And I'm going to be president of the United States, and they will no longer...
And we will no longer -- and we in Arizona will no longer be able to tell that joke ever again. So -- and we've got about 130-some days.
I want to just mention to you, what are the issues in this campaign? They are reform and they are peace -- prosperity and they're peace. And I'm just going to mention just a couple of issues with you, and then I want to respond to your questions and comments.
And thank you again for being here.
But as far as reform is concerned, I don't think that I have to remind you that unfortunately we in Washington, and we Republicans, let spending get completely out of control. And when we did, we became -- we lost the trust and confidence of the American people.
And that spending became corruption. And I don't say that lightly, because we now have former members of Congress now residing in federal prison because of this system.
You know, Ronald Reagan used to say, "Congress spends money like a drunken sailor, only I never knew a sailor drunk or sober with the imagination of Congress." And that's a pretty good line. It gets a little chuckle. Well, I use it so often -- I'm not making this up -- I got an e-mail from a guy that said, "As a former drunken sailor, I resent being compared to members of Congress."
And my friends, when you see the approval ratings of Congress, in the last few days there have been polls, one that had approval rating of Congress at 13 percent, another one at 12 percent. All-time historic lows. And you know what they just did? With the housing crisis that we have -- and I don't have to tell anybody in this room about the housing crisis -- the Congress decides to take a two-week vacation for the Fourth of July without passing a housing bill to help people stay in their homes.
No wonder, no wonder that approval rating is so low.
I want to tell you right now, I've got a veto pin that Ronald Reagan gave me years ago. A pin. I'm going to use it. I'm going to veto every pork barrel project that comes across my desk. And I'm make them famous and you'll know their names.
And you'll know their names. I'll make them famous.
So let me say that we will reform government, then we'll reform Social Security, then we'll reform Medicare. And we will make government responsible to the people.
And I want to -- you'll hear this from me over and over and over again. My friends, I have always my whole life, and I will as president of the United States, I will put my country first. You can count on that, that I'll put my country first.
Now, if I could just mention to you one issue about prosperity and then mention, obviously, peace. And I'll make it quick.
My friends, we're in an energy crisis in America. If anybody's been to the gas station lately, you know that the costs of a gallon of gas continues to go up and up and up.
Steve and John were just telling me, $800,000 additional costs to transport the product that they have just this year. And my friends, that then gets reflected in inflation all over.
So, my friends, we're going to have to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil. There's three major reins for it. One is our economy.
We cannot -- we cannot continue to send $400,000 -- $400 billion a year or more, or $500 billion or $600 billion, wherever it reaches, to foreign countries that don't like us very much. And some of that money ends up in the hands of terrorist organizations. We've got to stop it.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: John McCain in a campaign appearance in Pipersville, Pennsylvania, today.
A big day of political news and a lot to tell you about.
Happening now, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton break their silence. New information about their private conversation just coming in.
I'll ask Clinton insider Terry McAuliffe all about that.
Plus, Obama offers a new defense of his patriotism.
Also this hour, John McCain's truth squad. He's responding to an attack by Obama supporter Wesley Clark on whether he's qualified to be commander in chief.
And impersonating the president. Democrats try a provocative new tactic using a Bush sound-a-like to target House Republicans.
Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm John Roberts in New York.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Barack Obama reaching out to Bill Clinton today in a very personal, very private way, for the first time since locking up the nomination. This, coming three days after Obama found unity with Hillary Clinton. But the former president may be tougher to sell on togetherness.
Let's go straight to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.
Candy, what are you hearing about the conversation?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we are hearing from the Clinton side is that "It was a very good conversation," according to the office of the former president. On the Obama side, we're hearing that he thought it was a terrific conversation.
Listen, this is the breaking of the ice. Obviously, Barack Obama really does want to use President Clinton, former President Clinton. Former President Clinton is saying, look, I'll go out, I'll campaign.
I talked to somebody recently just after this phone call who said he did think they would probably have a campaign event with the Clintons -- plural -- and Barack Obama sometime before the convention. But that obviously is up to the Obama camp.
So they coordinated these messages that they sent out, these e- mails that they sent out confirming the phone call. Obama put his out first and then President Clinton. So they are trying to get in sync.
But you're right, this has long been seen as a tougher sell than Hillary Clinton. But there he is on board today.
ROBERTS: Candy, let's turn to Senator Obama's message of the day. In the lead-up to the Fourth of July holiday, he's launching his most concerted effort yet to reassure voters that he shares their values and loves his country, talking really about patriotism here. He spoke today in the battleground state of Missouri, the town of Independence, childhood home of President Harry Truman.
Let's listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: At certain times over the last 16 months, I found for the first time my patriotism challenged. At times as a result of my own carelessness, more often as a result of the desire by some to score political points and raise fears and doubts about who I am and what I stand for.
So let me say this, at the outset of my remarks. I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign.
OBAMA: And I will not stand idly by when I hear others question mine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: so, Candy, what is driving this new push by Obama on patriotism?
CROWLEY: Well, it's something that he's talked about before on the trail, but, you know, John, the e-mails have been coming for some time now, almost since the day that Barack Obama announced, questioning his patriotism. He talked about mistakes he had made.
There was a time at a state fry, of all things, in Iowa, put on by the senator from there, Tom Harkin, where "The Star-Spangled Banner" was playing, and there's this now famous picture of Barack Obama. His hand is not over his heart while other candidates do have that. So that's one of the mistakes.
He said, listen, I was listening to the music, I didn't do it, it was a mistake. There was a whole curfuffle about why he didn't wear a flag pin, which, by the way, he wears now, one that was given to him by a veteran.
So, all of these things sort of got eaten up inside cyberspace and keep coming out. So, obviously, this is something they're going to push back. Fourth of July week a great time to do it. And you heard him say, listen, I'm not going to stand by while people do this.
And they also think there's been an awful lot of coverage about that picture. So they're just trying to push back now as they have over time on the campaign trail -- John.
ROBERTS: Well, if there's ever a time to talk about patriotism, this is it.
ROBERTS: Candy Crowley for us in Washington. Candy, thanks.
Now to John McCain. Taking command of his own truth squad, his campaign pressed into action to respond to sharp criticism coming from an ally of Barack Obama. That would be retired General Wesley Clark. Clark took a weekend hit at McCain, targeting his history as a war hero and his possible future as president.
Let's go to CNN's Dana Bash.
And Dana, you could tell exactly what Wesley Clark was doing here. He was trying to hit directly at the heart of John McCain's credentials and life story.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're exactly right, John. And the McCain campaign scrambled a conference call today to respond to that with some of his comrades from Vietnam, some colleagues on Capitol Hill. And ironically, a veteran who was involved in the Swift Boat attacks against John Kerry in 2004. But this is what they're referring to inside the McCain camp as the truth squad, to talk up McCain's military re credentials, but it is also to try to suggest Obama is suffering from some hypocrisy.
BASH (voice over): If John McCain is known for anything, it's his five and a half years as a Vietnam POW. So why is he defending it?
MCCAIN: I'm proud of my record of service.
BASH: Here's why.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), OBAMA SUPPORTER: Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.
BASH: Retired General Wesley Clark is a Barack Obama supporter, and appeared on television as his surrogate. Camp McCain pounced on Clark's comments to feed their central feed about Obama: he isn't what you think.
JILL HAZELBAKER, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN SPOKESPERSON: Let's drop this idea that Barack Obama is somehow raising the dialogue and raising the debate in this campaign.
BASH: McCain aides argue Clark's comments are part of a pattern of Obama allowing surrogates to impugn McCain's service, not condemning it, like when Senator Jay Rockefeller slammed McCain for dropping bombs as an American fighter pilot in Vietnam. "You have to care about the lives of people. McCain never gets into those issues," said Rockefeller.
But McCain aides note the Democratic candidate himself is careful to take the high road.
OBAMA: For those like John McCain, who have endured physical torment in service to our country, no further proof of such sacrifice is necessary. No one should ever devalue that service, especially for the sake of a political campaign.
BASH (on camera): Do you think that Senator Obama is being hypocritical here?
MCCAIN: I don't know. I know that many -- that General Clark is not an isolated instant. But I have no way of knowing how much involvement Senator Obama has in that issue. I know he has mischaracterized some of my statements in the past.
BASH: Now, a spokesman for Senator Obama said, "Of course he rejects General Clark's statement that riding in a plane and getting shot down isn't necessarily a qualification for president." The McCain campaign responded, John, by saying that, "We've learned that we need to wait to see what Obama does rather than take him at his word" -- John.
ROBERTS: Dana Bash this afternoon for us from the capital of Pennsylvania. Dana, thanks very much.
Being a war veteran is no guarantee of presidential success, as we have seen during the past four elections. Back in 1992, World War II veteran George Herbert Walker Bush lost to Bill Clinton, who never served in the military. Another World War II vet, Bob Dole, lost to Clinton in '96.
In 2000, Vietnam War veteran Al Gore lost to George W. Bush, who served in the Texas National Guard but never saw combat. And decorated veteran John Kerry lost to Bush in 2004.
It's 12 minutes after the hour. Time now for "The Cafferty File." And Jack Cafferty joins us.
Good afternoon, Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: They're getting their money's worth out of you today, aren't they?
ROBERTS: You know, I'm trying to compete with Wolf for the iron man of the year award. We're doing a triathlon next week.
CAFFERTY: You may challenge for the trophy.
Time's apparently running out to do something about Iran's nuclear program. In the latest issue of "New Yorker," Sy Hersh reports the U.S. has now stepped up covert operations inside that country, everything from spying on Iran's nuclear program, to supporting rebel groups that are opposed the country's ruling clerics.
Meanwhile, a former head of the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, told London's "Sunday Telegraph" that Iran may have a nuclear weapon within one year. And he says there's no doubt that Iran intends to use it once it gets it. He says the time is getting shorter now for Israel to act.
Unlike the U.S., which has spent more than five years looking for Osama bin Laden, and invading Iraq and not succeeding at either one, the Israelis tend not to mess around. Ask Syria. Last year, an Israeli air strike reportedly targeted a partially-built Syrian nuclear reactor.
Ask Iraq. Back in 1981, Israel bombed a nuclear reactor in Baghdad, saying they thought it was making nuclear weapons to destroy Israel.
While the international community, led by President Bush, continues to bluster and sanction and threaten, Iran continues its relentless march toward nuclear weapons. There's a lot of stuff the civilized world doesn't want to deal with. Iran having nuclear weapons would be somewhere near the very top of that list. Unless they have a change of heart, a la North Korea, it looks more and more now like Iran's going to go all in. And it's going to eventually be up to somebody in the West to decide whether or not to call.
Here's the question: "If Iran is attacked, who should do it, the United States or Israel?"
Go to CNN.com/cafferty file. You can post a comment on my blog.
ROBERTS: Provocative question this afternoon.
CAFFERTY: We try.
ROBERTS: Of course, that article by Seymour Hersh as well in "The New Yorker" saying that covert activity is increased. We'll be talking to him later on this afternoon.
CAFFERTY: Good. Look forward to it. You know, he hasn't been wrong yet about anything he's reported out in the Middle East, starting at Abu Ghraib.
ROBERTS: The State Department continues to laugh at him, though.
ROBERTS: So we'll try and answer all of that.
CAFFERTY: We'll see.
ROBERTS: All right, Jack. Thanks so much.
Bill Clinton's office is now calling Barack Obama an "inspiration" Has the former president put his primary season anger behind him? I will ask the man who's in charge of Hillary Clinton's campaign, Terry McAuliffe.
Plus, a McCain ally's scary warning about a new terror attack. The politics of fear playing out right now in the 2008 election campaign.
And Democrats find a new way to saddle Republican candidates with the president's baggage. They've hired a Bush impersonator.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ROBERTS: They have talked. Now what?
Moments ago we reported that Barack Obama and Bill Clinton had their first conversation since Obama essentially locked up the nomination. It was a private conversation, and statements from both sides say they are impressed by each other.
Here to talk more about this is the man who ran Hillary Clinton's campaign as chairman, Terry McAuliffe.
Terry, good afternoon. Good to see you. What can you tell us about this conversation?
TERRY MCAULIFFE, AUTHOR, "WHAT A PARTY!": Well, you know, I was on CNN yesterday. I said, I don't know what the fuss is about. The president is now back in the country. He was traveling all over the world, and he'll talk in the next 24, 48 hours.
Sure enough, they spoke today. The president said he had a great conversation, ready to go on the campaign trail, do whatever Barack Obama wants him to do, whatever the Democrats need him to do.
So, just as I thought, just as I said yesterday, you know, it was a great conversation. He's ready to go to make sure the Democrats win this fall.
ROBERTS: There was all this talk, Terry, about lingering anger.
ROBERTS: That the former president thought that the Obama campaign was trashing his record at the same time as they were running on issues that were very close to his heart. There were also some concerns that some people had raised that they were portraying him as a racist during the South Carolina campaign.
Was there any of that lingering anger, and did they in a sense bury the hatchet during this phone call?
MCAULIFFE: Well, they didn't have to bury the hatchet, because many of these stories, John, had come out, as I said yesterday, just weren't true. Did some of us in the campaign, angry about some of the way the press treated the campaign? Sure. Some of the ways we ran the campaign? Sure.
But you know what? Once it was over, we had to look forward. That's how Bill Clinton is. He is positive. He's ready to move forward. So it was a very good conversation.
Thursday night we were with Senator Obama in Washington. Friday they did the event in New Hampshire.
Everybody is together. This is a historic time -- picking up seats in the Senate, picking up seats in the House.
We have 80 percent of the state legislatures up this year. We do very well there from the 2010 redistricting reapportionment. This is a huge opportunity for the Democratic Party, and we can only do it working together.
ROBERTS: So President Clinton has offered his services. I assume that that includes going out on the campaign trail, doing events with him, or doing them separately.
I recall that he made a similar offer back in the 2000 campaign. Al Gore did not take him up on it.
ROBERTS: And some people say it was a mistake for him not to do that. He was running away from Bill Clinton, as opposed to running beside him.
Would you suggest that Barack Obama use Bill Clinton to maximum effect?
MCAULIFFE: Sure I would. And as you know, John Kerry in 2004 used him tremendously.
People do remember the '90s as tremendous economic growth, 22 million new jobs created, peace around the world, so many programs that worked. People felt better. Everybody did better in this great country and everybody felt better about America when Bill Clinton was president. So people very fondly remember the former president.
He's the first Democrat to win two terms since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He's a huge figure on the campaign trail. He's revered all over the world.
So, sure, he's going to use him to campaign. But let's be honest here, John. Barack Obama is the one running for president. And that's what people want to listen to. They want to hear what he has to say, how he's going to take this country in a new direction.
But, you know, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, everybody else is going to be in, in order to help Barack Obama be the next president. The stakes are too great. We've all got to work together.
We've got gas prices over $4 a gallon. We have record job losses. Huge debts. We spent $123 billion in Iraq.
People want to go in a new direction. Barack Obama will take us there with the help of Bill, Hillary Clinton, as well as all the Democrats.
ROBERTS: Terry, everybody knows that the former president is a very, very astute and effective politician. He is a magnificent public speaker.
ROBERTS: But during the primary season, some things happened that have left a bad taste in some people's mouths. For example, what happened in South Carolina. Even the House majority whip, James Clyburn, says that, you know, his sense of Bill Clinton was tainted somewhat by that campaign. He even told him to chill a little bit.
Is there out there on the campaign trail still some lingering animosity toward Bill Clinton for some of the things he did during the primary campaign?
MCAULIFFE: Well, I've been out there campaigning all over the country. When I traveled with the president, or saw him, I mean, huge crowds came out to see him.
You've got to remember, Hillary received 18 million votes. He had huge crowds wherever he went. And let's be honest, his wife was running for president of the United States of America.
He felt passionately about it, he felt passionately that she would be a spectacular president, take the country in new directions in dealing with health care and education. You know, so he was a huge plus.
And I know the press, you know, during the campaign, is Bill Clinton out there too much? Well, then it was, why is Bill Clinton not out there? I mean, the poor guy can't win.
He did a magnificent job as president of this country and he did a magnificent job on the campaign trail. He is focusing most of his attention, John, on the Clinton Global Initiative. He has raised billions of dollars. There are literally thousands of people receive AIDS treatment every day around the world because of Bill Clinton.
ROBERTS: No, but Terry...
MCAULIFFE: Yes, sir?
ROBERTS: Terry, one of the big questions is, what role will he play at the convention? It would seem pretty much a given that Hillary Clinton will have a night to make a speech. Should Bill Clinton introduce her, or should it be somebody else? Should it be Chelsea? Because some people have observed that if Bill Clinton speaks before Hillary Clinton, he seems to sort of capture the limelight, and she has a difficult job performing to the same level as him.
So, should he introduce her or should Chelsea Clinton introduce her at the convention?
MCAULIFFE: Well, I'm not going to get into who did better or not because, you know, that's a no-win situation for me. I mean, Hillary was magnificent on the campaign trail.
But listen, having run the last two Democratic conventions, I'm going to leave it up to the convention organizers to obviously work with Hillary's office and Bill Clinton's office. But he will be there.
As I say, people remember very fondly what happened in the '90s under his leadership. He left office, John, just remember this, with the highest approval rating of any second-term president in the history of our country. Higher than Ronald Reagan.
I mean, he left office, everybody around the world, he's a beloved figure. And he still is today. So he will have a role because obviously he will energize people, get them excited. Ultimately they're going to go vote for Barack Obama, but to remind the Democrats of a great economy compared to what we have today, where people around the world don't think so positively about us as they did speak so fondly when he was president, that all helps to create the dialogue for the Democratic Party to win up and down the ballot.
ROBERTS: Well, we'll keep on watching, of course, Terry, very closely...
MCAULIFFE: You bet.
ROBERTS: ... to see just how much they idolize the ex-president.
Terry McAuliffe, good to see you, my friend. Thanks for being with us this afternoon.
MCAULIFFE: Thank you, John. You bet. Thank you.
ROBERTS: Some people would say to you, be very afraid. One senator says the U.S. will likely suffer a terror attack next year. But injecting fear in the campaign may backfire.
And if you're trying to fight fat, something happening tomorrow here in New York that will help you. It will affect nearly all sweets and many fast-food items that you eat.
ROBERTS: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And happening now, a controversial claim. A Pulitzer Prize- winning journalist writes that the U.S. has escalated highly secretive operations inside Iran, as parts of efforts to destabilize Iran's government. Seymour Hersh will be here and I'll ask him how he arrived at his conclusions.
Also, has the hunt for the world's most terrorist been hampered by Bush administration officials arguing over how to do it?
And Barack Obama and John McCain have both been to Iraq, but there is a political point to these and other foreign trips they're planning.
Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm John Roberts in New York.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Whether you vote out of fear or some other criteria, how you vote could dramatically change Congress' balance of power. According to the Capitol Hill newspaper "Roll Call," there are 12 Democratic seats open in the House, but 36 Republican seats are open. To win and keep some of them, Democrats are using a controversial tactic.
CNN's Kathleen Koch is here.
Kathleen, they're tying Republican candidates to President Bush. Is that going to be an effective strategy?
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're hoping so, John. You know, they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But new energy-related radio ads that Democrats are rolling out today are anything but flattering to the president and the GOP.
KOCH (voice over): When President Bush used an impersonator at the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner, it was all in good fun.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How come I can't have dinner with the 36 percent of the people who like me?
KOCH: But the GOP's not laughing now as Democrats borrow the tactic to level a political charge that Republicans have done nothing about high gas prices.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: W here. I wanted to thank you for your support of the big oil energy agenda. Sure, gasoline is over four bucks a gallon, and the oil companies are making record profits. But what's good for big oil is good for America, right?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
KOCH: In the radio ad, the Bush impersonator calls each of 13 incumbent Republicans in districts around the country. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is spending more than $100,000 for it to run Monday through Friday.
The White House has no response. Republicans, including a New Jersey congressman who's among those targeted, have less of a problem with the impersonator and more with the Democrats who control Congress saying Republicans are at fault for failing to help American drivers.
REP. SCOTT GARRETT (R), NEW JERSEY: What do we get out of the Democrats. Well, we get Nancy Pelosi flying her private jumbo jet back to -- back to California, and putting Congress on recess with no resolution to the energy crisis. And now we get attack ads.
KOCH: Democrats insist it's a fair tactic that makes a valid point.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: We think it's important to give credit where credit is due. After all, these are the Bush/Cheney policies. They have been enabled by their allies in the House and the Senate.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
KOCH: Now, with the polls showing that gas prices are Americans' top concerns, you can expect more such ads. As a matter of fact, the conservative group Freedom's Watch tomorrow releases radio ads in 16 districts charging Democrats this time of making matters worse by voting against increased domestic oil exploration and production.
So, John, the finger-pointing continues.
ROBERTS: And every election cycle, they find some way to push the envelope.
Kathleen Koch for us -- Kathleen, thanks.
Meanwhile, a conservative group is running radio ads, these in 16 congressional districts. They're taking at Democratic incumbents, claiming they're saying partly responsible for high gas prices. The group running the ads is called Freedom's Watch.
Its director says, congressional Democrats have not done enough to help everyday Americans with high energy prices.
It's a nightmarish thought. One John McCain supporter, a senator, says the U.S. will likely be attacked by terrorists next year. But injecting fear in the presidential campaign could hurt.
And a controversial claim regarding Barack Obama's stance on a controversial abortion procedure, we will get to the facts on that.
And I will talk to CNN political contributors Bill Bennett and James Carville about it.
ROBERTS: It seemingly happens every presidential cycle, campaigns telling voters to carefully consider their vote, especially for the sake of national security.
In past commercials, we have seen Republicans depict terrorists as wolves, or Hillary Clinton's famous 3:00 a.m. ad. Now one senator urges you to consider this: The U.S. could be attacked by terrorists again, and soon.
Carol Costello joins us.
And, Carol, we're talking about Senator Joe Lieberman here, who supports John McCain.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We certainly are.
And Senator Lieberman says we could suffer another terror attack next year, as in 2009. In a single TV appearance, he ratcheted up the politics of fear.
COSTELLO (voice-over): There is no doubt, even seven years after 9/11, a sense of fear still grips America, not as pervasive, but it's still there. So, when a U.S. senator says something like this, voters listen. Or do they? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FACE THE NATION")
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: We're in a war against Islamist extremists who attacked us on 9/11. They have been trying to attack us many, many ways since then.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: Lieberman, who supports both John McCain and the Iraq war, took his comments a step farther, asserting, the next attack could come next year.
LIEBERMAN: Because our enemies will test the new president early. Remember that the truck bombing of the World Trade Center happened in the first year of the Clinton administration -- 9/11 happened in the first year of the Bush administration.
COSTELLO: He went on to say, Barack Obama's call to pull American troops out of Iraq will only increase the danger. Some might call that the politics of fear. It's the kind of political language that's been getting louder of late.
Last week, McCain adviser Randy Scheunemann said: "Senator Obama is a perfect manifestation of a September 10 mind-set. He does not understand the nature of the enemies we face."
That sounds an awful lot like what then Bush adviser Karl Rove said back in 2006, an election year that saw Democrats take control of Congress. It didn't seem to work then, so why would it work now, when economic issues outweigh terrorism concerns?
Experts in voter behavior put it this way. "In politics, the emotions that really sway voters are hate, hope, and fear. The skillful use of fear is unmatched in leading to enthusiasm for one candidate and causing voters to turn away from another."
And, if Republicans are skillful, that will be good for McCain.
PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Terrorism is an issue where John McCain excels. And he -- what he's trying to do is make the -- terrorism the number-one issue in this campaign.
COSTELLO: As for what a skillful use of fear is in 2008, that's hard to say. But maybe independent Joe Lieberman is on to something. We will see -- John.
ROBERTS: Carol, thanks so much.
In the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, a great political divide in Colorado that could swing the presidential race one way or another. John McCain suggests Barack Obama is putting partisanship before the country. The power of negative politics, that's coming up in our "Strategy Session."
And now they're treating it as a homicide -- new developments in the death of a pregnant U.S. soldier.
ROBERTS: Our Carol Costello is monitoring stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Carol, what are you picking up?
COSTELLO: Well, John, oil joints are lining up as Iraq opens its six largest oil fields to international bidding, a move that could increase Iraqi oil production by 1.5 million barrels a day. BP, ExxonMobil, Shell, along with the Chinese and Russian oil giants, are among 35 companies that are in the running for the lucrative long-term contracts.
In the meantime, Iraq hopes to wrap up controversial talks on short-term no-bid contracts, allowing U.S. and European oil companies to service those oil fields.
Syria says it wishes it had a nuclear weapons program to target the arsenal it believes Israel has. Syria's foreign minister the comment in again denying U.S. claims it was building a secret nuclear reactor at a site Israel bombed last year. U.N. nuclear inspectors visited the site in northern Syria last week, but they have been banned by Syria from investigating beyond that site.
And Israel has agreed to free a convicted murderer and other Lebanese prisoners in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the deal with Hezbollah wasn't easy, but Israel has a moral obligation to bring its troops home. Palestinian militants in Gaza hold another Israeli soldier who is still alive, but Hamas says it won't let him go unless Israel frees hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.
Two years later, cyclist Floyd Landis has hit the wall. He has lost his appeal to restore the Tour de France title that was stripped after his positive doping test. Landis is banned from competition until 2009, and he has to pay $100,000 to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
And France's president is apparently backing away from threats to boycott -- boycott the Beijing Olympics. Nicolas Sarkozy said today he could now attend the August 8 opening ceremonies if talks between China and the Dalai Lama continue to make headway. Sarkozy has been highly critical of China's crackdown on Tibet after mass protests there in March -- back to you, John.
ROBERTS: Carol, thanks so much.
In the "Strategy Session": John McCain's pointing his finger at Barack Obama for attack-style politics. Meanwhile, the McCain campaign accusing Obama of putting his partisan interests over the country's. Will any of these barbs change anyone's votes?
And on our Political Ticker today: John McCain's campaign takes off.
ROBERTS: More on our top story now.
Moments ago, we reported that Barack Obama and Bill Clinton had their first conversation since Obama essentially locked up the nomination. So, what might Bill Clinton's role be in Obama's campaign?
Here for our "Strategy Session," senior political contributor and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and conservative commentator Terry Jeffrey, the editor in chief of the Cybercast News Service.
Donna, let's start with you. And let's talk about the conversation between Senator Obama and President Clinton. You headed up Al Gore's campaign in the year 2000, and the campaign was criticized for not using Bill Clinton more effectively, basically, not just keeping him at arm's length, but keeping him out the door.
If you were running Barack Obama's campaign this year, how would you utilize Bill Clinton?
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, we utilized Bill Clinton in very strategic ways to help us win the popular vote.
There's no question that Senator Obama will use Bill Clinton to help him campaign this fall throughout the country. Bill Clinton is perhaps one of the best known political strategists in the country. But, more importantly, he's a former president of the United States. He has a great -- a great mind. He can help Senator Obama frame the issues, can be one of the best validators on national security, on domestic issues.
So, I think this is a net plus for Senator Obama, to have President Clinton campaign for him this summer and fall.
ROBERTS: Terry, do you think he's an asset to the campaign, or, based on some of the episodes that occurred during the primary campaign, might he be a liability among some constituencies?
TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR IN CHIEF, CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE: I think he's a big negative, John.
I thought that Senator Clinton's campaign got better and better and better as the Democratic primaries went on, as was revealed by the results. She won more primaries at the end than Senator Obama did. But the biggest handicap Hillary Clinton had was her own husband. I think she hurt him very badly at the end of the campaign. I think it would be a bad thing for Senator Obama to bring President Clinton too close.
And, quite frankly, I think one of the reasons that Senator Clinton will not be picked because as the vice presidential nominee of the Democratic Party is because of her husband.
ROBERTS: So... BRAZILE: Well, I -- I disagree, because let me just tell you this. Most voters remember the Clinton/Gore years as a year -- years where we had record prosperity, paying down the national deficit.
To have Bill Clinton out there talking about the economy, talking about how we get the country back on track, that would be a net plus for Senator Obama and the Democrats up and down the ballot.
ROBERTS: Now, the McCain campaign has been engaging in a new strategy. They are trying to paint Senator Obama as a person who puts party interests and self-interests above that of the nation, painting him as a real partisan who they claim has never reached across party lines to pass anything controversial.
Is that a fair charge, Terry Jeffrey?
JEFFREY: I think it's a fair charge. He has no serious legislative accomplishments in the United States Senate.
But, John, I think a more effective charge would be for the McCain campaign to explain to people in very clear terms why Barack Obama may be the most left-wing candidate ever nominated by a major party. They should talk about the issues where he's way out of step with those people that John McCain was talking to this afternoon in Pennsylvania, which will be a key swing state in this election.
These are the very people that Barack Obama said clung to guns and religion because they were bitter.
ROBERTS: Right. But, you know, if -- you are saying that he has voted with his party. This is the charge from the McCain campaign, that he's a partisan. He votes with his party. He doesn't do what's in the best interests of the country.
But if you look at "The Congressional Quarterly" numbers, as reported by FactCheck.org, John McCain voted with President Bush 95 percent of the time in 2007, 100 percent of the time, only six votes, in 2008.
So, Donna Brazile, who's voting for party here?
BRAZILE: You know, I think the charges that the McCain campaign is trying to level against Senator Obama are totally false and inaccurate.
The truth is, is that this campaign is not about demonizing the character of a public servant like Barack Obama. Rather, we should focus on what, really, voters care about, focus on the economy, focus on fuel prices, focus on the safety and security.
Once again, the Republicans are using the old playbook of the past to try to demonize their opponent, but not tackle the real issues facing the American people.
ROBERTS: Terry, Senator Obama came out today and repudiated the remarks of one of his supporters, General Wesley Clark, who said yesterday's on CBS' "Face the Nation" regarding Senator McCain and his war record that getting shot down does not qualify you to be president.
Obviously, here, it looks like he was trying to undercut the central strength of John McCain's candidacy, which is his war record and his capability of being commander in chief. Did he hurt McCain with that statement?
JEFFREY: No, I don't think he hurt McCain.
Actually, let me give General Clark some credit. I think it is true that simply because someone was courageous at war or has an outstanding record in combat, or even was a great commander of the military, does not necessarily mean that they will be a great president.
Ulysses S. Grant was a Union general that won the Civil War. He wasn't necessarily a great president.
But I think the mistake, politically, for General Clark was bringing the focus back onto national security. If we have a debate over who will be the better commander in chief, who is better capable of handling the national security policy of the United States, John McCain will beat Barack Obama on that area.
ROBERTS: Donna, did Wesley Clark hurt himself by that, because Senator Obama had to come out and repudiate his remarks?
BRAZILE: You know, I happened to have watched the show yesterday, and let me tell you, Wesley Clark is a patriot. He was not in any way demonizing John McCain's military service.
What he was questioning was, as Terry mentioned, you know, whether or not that is the right experience for commander in chief. I want to applaud Wes Clark for speaking up. And, unfortunately, sometimes, your words get taken out of context, but he was not demonizing Mr. McCain's service to this country.
JEFFREY: And let's make clear, though, that there are qualities that John McCain demonstrated in his career in the United States military and his experience as a POW that will be valuable for him being president.
This is a man of great courage, of great perseverance, someone who truly knows what he believes in. And those are outstanding qualities that we know about John McCain, both from his service in the military and from his long years in public office.
BRAZILE: And, as Senator Obama said, no one will question Senator McCain's service to his country and his sacrifice. We all applaud his service to our great nation.
ROBERTS: Folks, we have got to leave it there. It's great to see you. Donna Brazile, Terry Jeffrey, thanks for coming in today for our "Strategy Session."
JEFFREY: Good to be here.
ROBERTS: Stories that we're covering here in THE SITUATION ROOM on the Political Ticker: An institution on the presidential campaign is closing its doors.
And business owners are trying to lure you with their place -- to their places with the ultimate bait, free gasoline.
Plus, massive street battles in the streets of South Korea. They're protesting American beef. But is there a larger issue at play?
ROBERTS: Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends at the Associated Press this hour, pictures you're likely to see in your newspaper tomorrow.
In a West Bank village, a vendor waits for customers to buy his coffee.
In Georgia, a veterinarian and assistants help release a sea turtle to the open ocean.
In Iraq, the Baghdad Symphony prepares to play for live audiences.
And, in Ukraine, a 4,400-pound hippopotamus celebrates its 50th birthday with a fruit basket gift.
I didn't know they lived to be 50.
ROBERTS: And that's this hour's "Hot Shots," pictures worth 1,000 words.
On our Political Ticker: John McCain's campaign goes airborne with a new plane bearing the logo of the Straight Talk Express. The Republican is hoping to recreate the uncensored, unpredictable feel of his famous campaign bus aboard a cushier and more expensive aircraft and not to mention one that will get where he needs to go faster than a bus will.
It also has a special area for him to chat with reporters, colleagues and pals, very similar to the setup that he had on the bus.
Say so long to a New Hampshire institution. For nearly three decades, the Merrimack diner has been a place for presidential candidates to chew the fat during primary season and maybe sip some chowder, too. "The Boston Globe" reporting that the Manchester restaurant closed its doors for good over the weekend.
As one local political figure fondly remembers, if you were eating at the Merrimack within a month of the primary, you wouldn't be eating alone. And, remember, for the latest political news any time, check out CNNPolitics.com. That's where you can also download our new political screen-saver and you can check out Wolf Blitzer's blog.
Jack Cafferty here again now with "The Cafferty File."
CAFFERTY: John, the question is this hour, if Iran is attacked -- and the retired head of Israeli intelligence says he thinks they will have a nuclear weapon within a year -- so, if Iran is attacked, who is going to do it, the United States or Israel?
Maureen writes from Massachusetts: "If the current administration decides that Iran needs to be invaded, they will invade. And they will probably do it right as they walk out the door, handing the whole mess over to the new administration. Right or wrong, it's as simple as that. With the U.S. backing Israel, Russia and China backing Iran, we are poised to start a nuclear war, which will go far beyond the Middle East."
Matt in Nebraska says: "I can't believe some of the comments saying, let Israel attack Iran, and then we can defend Israel because we're her ally. That's a load of bull. If Iran is attacked by Israel, Iran has every right and duty to strike back. Our soldiers should not shed one drop of blood to protect Israel. If they want to stir up the hornets' nest, let them take all the stings."
Les writes Florida: "Under what circumstances would an attack be justified? That would be a better question. An unwarranted attack by the U.S. would be a diplomatic disaster that would completely destroy what little credibility we have left in the area. An unwarranted attack by Israel could lead to a possible use of nuclear weapons on other Arab nations, as Israel attempts to protect its position after creating a renewed Arab-Israeli war."
Jan in Tennessee: The U.S. should certainly not do it. Our military is overstretched as it is. Americans have had enough war. I really don't think it would be a good idea for Israel to do it either."
Shane in Boston says: "I have an intelligent idea: How about none of the above? And all I have to point to is North Korea. We sanctioned the hell out of them, used the U.N. to put increasing pressure on them, and, finally, Kim Jong Il broke. The same can be done with Iran. Diplomacy first."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, it's because we didn't find it interesting enough to include.
CAFFERTY: You can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile. It may be there, along with hundreds of others, or we may have just ignored you altogether.
ROBERTS: Well, certainly, the ones that you did share with us today were worthy of sharing, a lot of strong opinion out there.
CAFFERTY: I liked the hippopotamus picture.
ROBERTS: That was a good picture.
ROBERTS: I didn't know they lived to be that old.
CAFFERTY: It's because they eat those baskets and leave the fruit.
ROBERTS: It's a high-fiber diet.
ROBERTS: Jack, thanks so much.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And happening now: U.S. forces ready and eager to capture the world's most-wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden, but bureaucracy may be holding them back.
Also, the presidential candidates traveling abroad to win support at home -- how their trips can translate into votes.
Plus, the extreme measure that some people are taking to show their solidarity with Barack Obama -- they are adopting his middle name.
Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm John Roberts. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.