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THE SITUATION ROOM

Kerry Playbook Being Used Against Obama?; Russia to U.S.: Choose Sides

Aired August 13, 2008 - 18:00   ET

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


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: The U.S. warns Russia, live up to a cease-fire with Georgia or face the consequences. And Moscow ups the tensions, telling Washington to choose sides, or else.
Also this hour, the playbook against John Kerry now being used against Barack Obama. An author admits he's on a mission to defeat the Democrat. The best political team is standing by.

And new speculation about Colin Powell's possible presidential endorsement. Could he be ready to spring an August surprise?

We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

It's the most intense stare-down between Washington and Moscow since the fall of the Soviet Union. Russia's foreign minister now is telling the U.S. to choose between supporting Georgia or continuing its partnership with Moscow on international issues. President Bush today making it clear he is siding with Georgia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We expect Russia to meet its commitment to cease all military activities in Georgia, and we expect all Russian forces that entered Georgia in recent days to withdraw from that country. So, I have made clear, Russia's ongoing action raised serious questions about its intentions in Georgia and the region.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: The president driving home his concerns by sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: This is not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia, where Russia can threaten its neighbors, occupy a capital, overthrow a government, and get away with it. Things have changed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: This comes as Georgia is accusing Russia of violating a day-old cease-fire. Russian armored vehicles were seen today in or around the cities of Gori, Poti, and the capital, Tbilisi.

I spoke with the president of Georgia just a short while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKHAIL SAAKASHVILI, PRESIDENT OF GEORGIA: We've done our best. But so far, the only thing we've been getting from them is bombs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: In Georgia right now, reports of looting, hunger and fear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It's a bad situation. There is no bread. There is nothing. We are hungry. I don't know what will happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: We have reporters standing by in Georgia, Russia and here in Washington.

First to our White House correspondent, Ed Henry -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, you just heard Secretary Rice declare that Russia just can't barge into a neighbor's country and overthrow its government, but the White House right now seems to be struggling to figure out how to stop Russia from doing just that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY (voice-over): More tough talk from President Bush, but without any real ultimatum for Russia.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To begin to repair the damage to its relations with the United States, Europe and other nations, and to begin restoring its place in the world, Russia must keep its word and act to end this crisis.

HENRY: The president declared he's dispatching Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region and sending in humanitarian relief. But six days into the crisis, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili charged the West has not done enough to help them deal with Russia's invasion.

SAAKASHVILI: The response has not been adequate. And the West has been -- first of all, they failed to analyze the Russians' intentions in advance, and they failed to react promptly towards what's been happening now.

HENRY: On top of that, withering criticism from the conservative editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, charging, So far, the administration has been missing in action, to put it mildly. If Mr. Bush doesn't revisit his Russian failures, the rout of Georgia will stand as the embarrassing coda to his presidency.

Administration officials say they have no regrets, insisting they have taken aggressive action.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We rallied our international partners to help solve -- get the cease-fire in place. That was the most important thing to do so that we could help protect innocent life.

HENRY (on-camera): But the cease-fire is not holding.

PERINO: Well, first of all, you had to get them to agree to it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Now, the president announced today as well that he's going to delay the start of his vacation in Texas by a day or two, stay back here in Washington, and deal with this crisis -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Ed.

Now to the conflict zone in Georgia.

Our CNN's Matthew Chance saw Russian troops on the move for himself. He is in the capital of Tbilisi.

From where you stand, what does Georgia look like on the ground?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, Georgia is very intense this evening, because, as you're aware, Russian forces have penetrated deep into this country, breaking out of the South Ossetia conflict, where they said they would stay, and pushing maybe 20 miles or so into Georgian territory.

Now, they turned back before they gotten as far as the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, but, nevertheless, it sent shivers down the spines of many Georgians who really believe that Tbilisi itself is under threat from some kind of Russian invasion. Now, that hasn't happened at this point. But this Russian incursion certainly represents a serious breach of the cease-fire.

MALVEAUX: Matthew Chance, thank you, from Tbilisi.

For the latest now from Moscow and analysis of the tough, tough talk coming from both sides, here is CNN's Jill Dougherty, who is in the Russian capital.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN INTERNATIONAL U.S. AFFAIRS EDITOR: Well, Suzanne, it's almost unbelievable to think that this fighting began less than a week ago. But it's revealing deep fault lines in the relationship between the United States and Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY (voice-over): A fragile cease-fire agreement pulled together by European envoys is no match for the chaotic confrontation between Georgia and Russia. At one point, a convoy of Russian soldiers is spotted on a major road leading to the Georgian capital Tbilisi. The Georgian president presumes the worst.

SAAKASHVILI: What they are doing, they are encroaching up on the capital, and you know that they want to -- they have blocked the main road from the east to the west. So, they have basically isolated the capital. They cut the bloodline of Tbilisi. And, of course, it all looks like an all-out attempt of occupation of Georgia.

DOUGHERTY: But Russian officials say the troops are securing caches of weapons and equipment that could be used to attack civilians or peacekeepers. There was never any plan, they say, to attack the Georgian capital or overthrow its president.

DMITRY PESKOV, RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: We strongly disagree with Mr. Saakashvili that someone is killing democracy, someone is killing people. To the contrary, I would just suggest that we remember the very beginning of this story, when Georgian leadership has made an order to stop tart South Ossetia with heavy weapons, killing thousands and thousands of innocent civilians.

DOUGHERTY: A top Russian military official says, in fact, Russian troops have stopped active military operations in the conflict zone and Moscow has started planning the withdrawal of its troops back to their permanent bases. The Russians claim it's the Georgians who are not fulfilling the cease-fire.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY: So, there have been very strong comments being lobbed back and forth between the Russians and the Americans, some actually personal. In fact, the foreign minister, Lavrov, saying that President Bush needs some new speechwriters -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Jill, you have been covering Russia and this region for many, many years. Have you seen anything like this?

DOUGHERTY: Not in recent history. Let's put it that way. The tone of it Manhattan is very, very harsh. And the implications are very broad. They're really talking about Russia's role in the world right now. And that gets into areas that are very serious.

It's not clear how this is all going to be pulled back. And it is such a small, contained conflict. It's really shocking, what's going on.

MALVEAUX: Jill Dougherty, thank you so much from Moscow. Jack Cafferty is off today.

Straight ahead, the U.S. stands with Georgia in this conflict. But Georgia's president says the U.S. should do more to help. I will speak with him.

John McCain and Barack Obama hope to look presidential amid this conflict -- the latest on what they're saying.

And a new book about Barack Obama mixes facts with wild accusations. It's already a bestseller.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: The United States stands with Georgia in the conflict unfolding, but Georgia's president says that the U.S. should do more to help.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Thank you very much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Earlier today you accused the United States of having language that was too soft. You said earlier on CNN that some of the first statements from Washington were pursued by the Russians as almost a green light for doing this because they were too soft.

There was an ultimatum that was given by a Russian official to the United States that said the Bush administration either backs Russia or Georgia. We heard from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just moments ago. I want you to take a listen to what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICE: As to choosing, the United States has made very clear that it is standing by the democratically- elected government of Georgia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Are you satisfied with her statement? What more do you want the Bush administration to do in terms of support?

SAAKASHVILI: I never accused the United States in the first place of anything. I just said that the Russians mistook some of the statements at certain levels. That you know, for, you know, an inability of the U.S. to react to flagrant violation of every international law and any principles of justice.

What we've been witnessing for the last few days is brutal, calculated, cold-blooded, premeditated murder by Russia of a small democracy on its borders. And what -- and, you know, it's not about Georgia or choosing between Georgia and Russia for the United States. It's about choosing whether the U.S. is willing to stand up for freedom, not to lose the whole region, not to lose eastern and central Europe, not to lose central Asia and the Caspian and wider Middle East, or -- and succumb to Russian pressure and succumb to never- ending appetites and ultimatums of military rhetoric in Moscow, and of the voice of people who are committing war crimes right now on my territory.

And this is a very, very fundamental issue. And this is not about Georgia. It's not like what Neville Chamberlain said about Czechoslovakia in '38, that, you know, why should we care about a faraway country of what which know very little? Well, they gave up Czechoslovakia, they compromised in Munich, and the huge tragedy of Second World War with tens of millions of people dead have followed. Now -- what we have now is -- what we really have now is Georgia being -- you know, Georgia being attacked, and I think this is just the starting of a big chain of events that might unfold if Georgia falls...

MALVEAUX: Mr. President...

SAAKASHVILI: ... if people in the West, in the world, don't stand up for freedom.

MALVEAUX: Mr. President, specifically, you spoke with President Bush earlier today. What did he promise you? What has he said in terms of the United States' help or aid to your country?

SAAKASHVILI: President Bush expressed unwavering support for Georgia's elected government, for our independence and territorial integrity. And there will be no compromise at the expense of our territorial integrity like there were compromises in the past in terms of appeasing one dictatorship or another that was in the past century.

The U.S. was famous for never making such deals. The U. S. , the only big democracy in the world that never went for appeasement and never went for all kinds of shady deals.

That's the main force and appeal of the U.S. for every small and big nation worldwide. That's why my people are so sympathetic of the United States. That's why we had forces in Iraq to fight for the U.S. and our people died there. But we never, ever asked for extra gratitude, because we have common values, we share those values.

And what Russia is trying to kill right now in Georgia is not just killing my country and getting rid of me as its president, but it's about killing -- it's about killing the idea of freedom, democracy and future for the whole region. And that's a very, very essential dilemma.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: The presidential candidates also are weighing on this conflict. John McCain says Russia's invasion should force the U.S. to reexamine its relations with Moscow. McCain is also talking about the potential for Georgia to join NATO.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: NATO should also begin anew, the discussions about a membership track for both Georgia and Ukraine.

After the events of the past six days, no one should wonder why countries on Russia's periphery so ardently seek the security guarantees alliance membership represents.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Barack Obama is on vacation, but he is also keeping track of the situation. Obama today saying in a statement -- quote -- "I welcome President Bush's decision to send aid to the people of Georgia. And Americans stand united in support of the men and women who will carry out this humanitarian mission. The situation is still unstable. And Russia must back up its commitment to stop its violence and violation of Georgia's sovereignty with actions, not just words."

A brutal attack at one of the Democratic state headquarters. The state party chairman is dead -- where it happened and how up ahead.

And John McCain makes a comment about a potential V.P. pick that will make conservatives uneasy. Hear who he's considering.

And Cindy McCain taken off the trail and to the hospital. Find out what happened.

Plus, her one-on-one interview with CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Colin Powell's presidential endorsement is a prize that is coveted by both John McCain and Barack Obama. We will tell you what we're hearing right now about whether Powell is ready to choose sides and possibly cross party lines.

New concerns among some Democrats that Obama may get the Swift Boat treatment that helped defeat John Kerry -- details on a new bestselling book.

And Condoleezza Rice is warning Russia to stop resorting to its old Soviet ways. Will the conflict in Georgia be a headache for the next administration?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: a worsening crisis over military Russia's push in Georgia. Is this the start of a new Cold War? And which candidate would be best to deal with it?

Also, could a new book spell trouble for Barack Obama? It has made its debut on "The New York Times" bestseller list and its author says the goal is to defeat Obama.

Cindy McCain, the would-be first lady, talks to CNN about a certain young blogger's coverage of her husband. The blogger happens to be their daughter -- all of this plus the best political team on television.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

There's a new book out about Barack Obama. It is not flattering. The facts are mixed with accusations about Obama that are misleading or just flat-out wrong. Yet, despite all of this, there is concern that the author's claims might actually catch on with some voters.

Our CNN's Jessica Yellin joining me now.

Jessica, even the author seems to admit that there is an agenda here.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He does, Suzanne. I spoke with him Jerome Corsi just short time ago. And he says he is concerned about Barack Obama becoming president because he doesn't like what he calls Obama's leftist politics. And he wants to see him defeated.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice-over): Remember the Swift Boat attacks of 2004?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE ELLIOTT, SWIFT BOAT VETERANS FOR TRUTH: John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam.

AL FRENCH, SWIFT BOAT VETERANS FOR TRUTH: He is lying about his record.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Now the man who wrote the Swift Boat book has a new book out on Barack Obama, and he's been promoting it in appearances like this one on FOX News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEROME CORSI, AUTHOR, "THE OBAMA NATION": I feel Americans know very little about Obama. Four years ago, he was a state senator in the legislature in Illinois. And he has not been fully vetted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: The book debuted at number one on the "New York Times" bestseller list and scored an article on that paper's front page.

It alleges, Obama is on the extreme left of American politics, and has extensive connections to Islam and with radical racial politics, this despite the fact that, for months, Obama's been explaining he is not Muslim.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you get one of these e-mails that says I'm a Muslim, not true, that -- never been a Muslim. This -- this is just stuff that is designed to make people suspicious.

YELLIN: It includes lines that some might consider racially insensitive, such as, "Obama's mother chose another Third World prospect for her second husband, a second man of color, to be her mate." Obama supporters charge, Corsi has been discredited. In 2004, the Associated Press verified he posted comments on a conservative Web site describing Islam as a religion in which the "boys are buggered and the infidels are killed," and calling Pope John Paul II "senile."

Campaign supporters say that's reason enough to dismiss the book.

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I don't think anybody's going to take Jerome Corsi all that seriously, once they learn who this guy really is. Even people on the right wing haven't associated themselves with him, because of some of the pretty bigoted and outrageous things he's said in his career.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: Suzanne, when I spoke to Corsi, he says he long apologized for those insensitive postings online and insisted he's not a racist.

The Obama campaign, through a spokesman, told me they believe this book is nothing but a series of lies that have been discredited. They say it's written by a person who wrote a similar book to get Bush and Cheney reelected and that this is just an attempt to continue that four years later. They insist more people are going to try to make more money in this presidential campaign, and they will -- quote -- "respond to these smears forcefully."

I should add that Jerome Corsi, the author of this book, will be on "LARRY KING LIVE" tonight -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Jessica.

Joining us to talk about this controversial book and more, CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, CNN contributor Dana Milbank of "The Washington Post," and Stephen Hayes, senior writer for "The Weekly Standard." They are all part of the best political team on television.

Candy, I want to start off with you here. How damaging could this be? Even if a lot of people know it's misleading, they're lies, could this catch on and could this be another problem for Obama?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me tell you the view from the Obama camp.

And that is, it isn't so much the people reading the book. They believe that mostly those will be people who are already not inclined to vote for Obama. It's the coverage of it, obviously. It's the fact it was on the front page "The New York Times." It's the fact that we're talking about it now and you see those little clips from the book -- or, rather, those excerpts from the books. And that's what worries them.

Nonetheless, they have John Kerry, who is setting up a Web site to respond to it. They understand that swift-boating has become a part of the political culture and that people have a negative reaction to that.

So, could it be harmful? It could. But, right now, they're still monitoring this. And they will see how -- how much leg this particular story has. But it is mostly the coverage of it that they worry about. Obviously, they have been out there, and they know the idea that he is a Muslim is -- is obviously a tricky one for them, other things like that.

But right now, the book is just one of these things that they're trying to swat away as, look, this is a man who has no credibility.

MALVEAUX: Dana, what do they need to do? Do they need to do more? Do they need to be very aggressive about discrediting this book?

DANA MILBANK, "WASHINGTON POST" STAFF WRITER AND AUTHOR: I think it does a great deal of discrediting on its own. In most cases, the sequel is not as good as the original and this is the case here, as well. The last time around, there was sort of the element of surprise -- injecting something new and damaging to John Kerry with the Swift Boaters.

This seems more of a rehash. It's things we've all heard about before. I note that Mary Matalin, who is publishing it was out there saying it was sort of academic scholarship. And I suspect Professor Matalin's scholastic credentials may be in question on that particular point. So I suspect the pushback they're doing will be sufficient.

MALVEAUX: Steven, what do you think? Is there anything as comparable that John McCain is dealing with, when it comes to kind of these misstatements about the candidates?

STEPHEN HAYES, SENIOR WRITER "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, I'm not sure there's anything comparable. There have been, you know, books written that are critical of John McCain. There's one out called "The Myth of the Maverick," I believe, written by "Reason" magazine editor Matt Welch, which is, you know, it takes a look at McCain's books and challenges certain assertions in those. So, I mean there are -- I don't think there's similarities. I don't mean to compare the two.

But, look, I think the big problem that this book faces is that there were, as pointed out in "The New York Times" article, several sort of easy and obviously false allegations contained in it, so it makes it easy to discredit.

MALVEAUX: And you've had a chance to actually interview John McCain. Today, you write a rather lengthy article about it. Tell us what the highlight was, particularly -- I know that he was with Tom Ridge.

HAYES: Yes. I had spoke to Senator McCain today for about 40 minutes on his campaign plane and asked him a variety of questions. I think maybe the most interesting thing to come out of the interview was what he told me about a potential vice presidential pick, which he hasn't really talked about much.

He mentioned -- I asked him about a conversation that we had had with a couple of other reporters back in February, where McCain said that picking a pro-choice running mate would be difficult for him because the Republican Party is fundamentally a pro-life party. And I asked him if he still feels the same way. And he seemed to back off a little bit to me and said no, you know, I think we're a pro-life party, but that doesn't mean we would exclude people who are pro- choice. And then McCain, on his own, brought up Tom Ridge as an example of someone who would merit serious consideration.

MALVEAUX: Candy, how does that weigh in with the Obama camp here?

Does that potentially offer some sort of problem for them, if McCain is seen as moving more toward the middle here, seeing that, you know, his vice presidential candidate might be pro-choice?

CROWLEY: They already knew that McCain, as every Republican does, is looking at the middle and that most people seeing him as a sort of a maverick and not a real Republican. It's why they are already out there -- and have been incessantly, in ads and on the campaign trail, talking about McCain/Bush and tying them together.

So this kind of fits into that, where they can say look, the number two doesn't matter. John McCain is really the third term of George Bush. So that's how they'll handle it.

MILBANK: (INAUDIBLE).

MALVEAUX: All right, Dana, we'll get back to you right after the break.

On the next subject, Hillary Clinton will get a major prime time moment at the Democratic National Convention. But some analysts are asking just how she's going to aim her speech. Will she use her speech to get Barack Obama elected or improve her own chances for another presidential bid?

And an international crisis -- war in the former Soviet Union. How are Barack Obama and John McCain handling it? The best political team on television weighs in.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: There is a lot of buzz right now about Colin Powell and whether he may endorse one of the presidential candidates any time soon.

Our chief national correspondent, John King, is here.

There is talk that Powell might endorse Barack Obama, perhaps at the convention. Tell us what you know.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bill Kristol, who is the editor of the conservative "Weekly Standard" and a Fox News contributor says flat out that he is told by sources that Colin Powell will endorse Barack Obama and most likely do so in a speech at the Democratic Convention. Well, ABC caught up with General Powell and he said no, he's not going to the Democratic Convention. He did not let the conversation go on to answer the bigger question -- who will he vote for and might he endorse anybody. Suzanne, I'm told by two sources very close to Powell that he has not made up his mind. Now, that, in and of itself, is news.

MALVEAUX: Right.

KING: He's a Republican. He served in the Bush administration. He's been a friend of John McCain for more three decades.

One of these sources told me he would like to vote for John McCain, but he hasn't found a reason to do that. The second source said he would not be surprised at all if, in the end, Colin Powell voted for Barack Obama -- maybe even endorsed Obama. But he says Colin Powell told both candidates in face-to-face private meetings, I want to see who you pick for a running mate, I want to see the tone and the tenor of your conventions and I want to see what you're talking about out on the trail.

So, first and foremost, he's waiting for the V.P. picks. Then we'll see if there's any drama from Colin Powell. He likes drama. But he will not be going to the Democratic Convention. I'm also told the McCain people asked him to come to the Republican Convention and he said no.

MALVEAUX: And Barack Obama has reached out to him several times, his counsel, I understand.

KING: Make no mistake about it, the Obama people would love Colin Powell to endorse. They would love for him to come to the Democratic Convention because it would disprove something McCain is saying. What McCain says is I have a history, I have a record, I reach across the aisle.

If Barack Obama could get a prominent Republican like Colin Powell, who served in the Bush administration, has stature on national security issues, it would help him in so many ways.

Powell, I'm told, is reluctant to go to the convention anyway. He also has a lot of Republican friends who are telling him, are you crazy? You're going to go into the Democratic Convention and do something like that?

So we'll keep watching this. Again, General Powell likes the drama. He also keeps his cards close to his vest. Those closest to him say they think, at the moment, he is inclined to vote for Barack Obama. The big question in their minds, will he say anything public about that and will he make an endorsement? Those are open questions and the McCain people continue to lobby a bit more furiously after they saw those reports today.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thanks, John. We enjoy the drama, as well. So thank you very much, John.

KING: Drama is good.

MALVEAUX: We want to go back to our team, as well, just to get quick reaction. We know that Hillary Clinton speaking at the Democratic Convention.

The question is, does she have an ulterior motive possibly to undermine Barack Obama?

But we want to get back to the best political team on television, senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley; our CNN contributor, Dana Milbank of "The Washington Post;" and Stephen Hayes, senior writer for "The Weekly Standard."

On John King's point here and Colin Powell, what this might mean for Barack Obama, what do you think, Candy?

CROWLEY: Well, I mean, obviously, it would be a great get. And the question is whether the McCain campaign -- and I'm sure it is, at this point, reaching out to Colin Powell in some way, shape or form. Again, for all the reasons that John explained, this would be huge for Barack Obama, although people close to Colin Powell say it would not be a surprise to them.

So I think it will play out for a while. Right now, I can tell you, the Obama camp is very excited about this and it hasn't said a word. Obviously, they're all waiting for Powell, who, I'm also told, may not say, may just go on in and vote and never say who he voted for.

So stand by. I think this is going to play out over time, at least the next several weeks.

MALVEAUX: All right. Let's switch gears here and we'll get to you, Dana.

Obviously, there was an editorial in "The New York Times," Maureen Dowd talking about what she believes might be Hillary Clinton's role at the Democratic National Convention. And she says that: "Hillary feels no guilt about encouraging her supporters to mess up Obama's big moment, thus undermining his odds of beating John McCain and improving her odds of being the nominee in 2012."

She believes that Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton having such a prominent position on the stage, one of the speakers at the convention, is really going to hurt Obama as opposed to help him.

MILBANK: Well, that may be. But Obama doesn't really have a choice. Now, the one thing that weighs in the favor of her not harming things at the convention is if she does really wish to run in 2012, assuming Obama loses, she can't be perceived as having been the spoiler in the race. That will bash her choices entirely.

So, yes, she can mess up at the convention, but no, she probably won't. In public, she needs to appear to be a team player. So I think Obama can sleep relatively easily on that one. MALVEAUX: And, Steve, what do you think about the notion -- before there was some supporters who were saying that she should be put into nomination, there should be at least a vote and something at least symbolic, we've heard in the past from Hillary Clinton, for the sake of Chelsea, to show that there was a lot of female support and that this was a very close race?

HAYES: Yes, I mean, it was something that certainly she has encouraged. I mean she was caught on YouTube video telling her supporters that this was a possibility, saying that it might be a catharsis.

So I think, you know, she's been up to some sort of behind-the- scenes mischief.

But I agree with Dana's basic point that, you know, at the end of the day, if she wants to run again in 2012, she's going to need to behave herself and to be seen as a strong supporter of Barack Obama.

MALVEAUX: We have seen, in the last couple of days, both of these candidates obviously trying to stay a step ahead of the other one when it comes to this conflict between Russia and Georgia.

I want to play a quick bite from the Georgian president here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAAKASHVILI: Yesterday, I heard Senator McCain say that we are all Georgians. Now, well, it's very nice and, you know, very -- cheering for us to hear that. But, of course, it's time to pass from deeds to -- from words to deeds.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Candy, he's actually asking for some action from John McCain. He's very focused on John McCain. He also mentioned Barack Obama in my interview.

Does this seem to undermine that we still have a commander-in- chief, that's neither one of these candidates or do they seem to be successfully overshadowing this administration?

CROWLEY: Well, I think, actually, what we have here is a lame duck and we have people looking forward. So, necessarily, what Obama has to say and what John McCain has to say are both kind of overshadowing what the president has to say. Nonetheless, it's the president who's going to carry out policy. So, yes, I mean on a sort of a TV, on a -- you know, in terms of the front page of the papers, obviously, Bush does get overshadowed.

It's been interesting to watch the Obama reaction versus the McCain reaction, because what the Obama people attempted to do was say well, we applaud President Bush doing this and we think we ought to now move forward, we're talking to the Europeans and being in the forefront of the diplomacy. On the other hand, they're trying to frame John McCain as having been too belligerent and outside what President Bush has suggested.

MALVEAUX: Dana, I'll give you the last word here.

Real quick, who does it help, who does it hurt?

MILBANK: I think...

MALVEAUX: Does anyone come out on top?

MILBANK: In theory, it benefits McCain on his foreign policy credentials. But the fact of the matter is once most Americans realize we're not talking about the Georgia that Atlanta is in the middle of, they lose a lot of interest.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you very much, all three of you. Appreciate it. The best political team on television.

An injury takes Cindy McCain off the campaign trail and into the hospital.

Plus, hunters for Obama -- there are more out in the woods than you may think.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: While Cindy McCain's sprained hand got a little attention to the trail today, her daughter has been busy blogging about the campaign.

CNN national correspondent, Gary Tuchman, tells us how Meghan McCain is help keep the McCain campaign cool and talks to Cindy McCain about her daughter's role.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, John McCain can be described in many ways, but hip is not one of them. However, his 23-year-old daughter is a different story. Meghan McCain is out on the campaign trail with her father and she's chronicling her adventures with her eye on people more likely to watch "American Idol" than one of her father's campaign events.

She has a blog site called McCainBlogette.com. On it, unique, unusual, whimsical and, yes, fluffy looks at her dad. No policy discussions here.

She shows pictures of her dad, like this one that she says is "one of my all time fave pictures of him."

She has this breaking news on the blog that she decided on Father's Day to register as a Republican efficient first time. She had been an Independent. She writes to her dad: "Happy Father's Day."

And then she also has videos, including this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEGHAN MCCAIN, DAUGHTER OF JOHN MCCAIN: I believe that we can win this. And I believe that we will because my dad is the best candidate. He has the most experience. And I genuinely believe that. It's hard sometimes because I know I'm his daughter and I'm -- we share DNA.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: Megan McCain would not do an interview with us. Campaign officials say she has written a children's book about her father that is being released next month and she will do no interviews before that. But, another person who knows her very well talked to us, her mother.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CINDY MCCAIN, WIFE OF JOHN MCCAIN: The blog was her idea. And she came up with it on her own. And she came up with the idea of how -- of what she wanted on the blog, which is, as you know, is completely different from any other political blogs that's out there. It does a little of everything. And it's highly entertaining. And her father and I, at first we weren't sure, you know, because we, of course, were trying to protect her. And as it turned out, we both love the blog and she's done such a marvelous job on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: On a free-wheeling blog like this, there is certainly potential for comments that could be embarrassing. But the campaign says it does not approve Meghan's copy. So when she shows pictures of Henry Kissinger's and Joe Lieberman's shoes, it wasn't necessarily with the endorsement of the McCain campaign -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thanks, Gary.

You can see more of Gary Tuchman's interview tonight at 10:00 p.m. "ANDERSON COOPER 360."

On our Political Ticker, new presidential polls from two battleground states. In New Jersey, Barack Obama leads John McCain by 10 points in a new Quinnipiac University survey of likely voters. And Obama is five points ahead of McCain in Pennsylvania, according to a Franklin and Marshall Poll of likely voters.

A new gauge of how of how hunters and fishermen are likely to vote this fall. A poll by the Congressional Sportsman Foundation finds McCain leading Obama 45 to 31 percent. Politico.com reports McCain's lead is far smaller than the advantage George W. Bush had with the hunters and fishermen in 2004 over John Kerry and in 2000 over Al Gore.

MALVEAUX: Well, who knew -- John McCain a disco fan. He tells "Blender" magazine the Abba classic is his favorite song. Also making his top five, "Blue Bayou" by Roy Orbison; Abba again with "Take A Chance On Me," "If We Can Make It Through December" by Merle Haggard; and Dooley Wilson singing "As Time Goes By."

As for Barack Obama, he says his favorite song is "Ready Or Not?" by the Fugees.

That's followed by Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," "I'm On Fire" by Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones "Gimme Shelter" and "Sinner Man" by Nina Simone.

Our Carol Costello is monitoring the stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol, what are you watching?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm still getting over the Abba thing.

(LAUGHTER)

MALVEAUX: (INAUDIBLE).

COSTELLO: I bet he likes "Mamma Miami," too.

(LAUGHTER)

COSTELLO: Anyway, in the news tonight, Prince Charles warns that oversized orange you're holding is killing the environment. The Prince of Wales telling a British newspaper that genetically modified food may weaken the Earth's soil to the point there's no more food. As an organic farmer, he calls crop modification "an experiment with nature gone seriously wrong."

That's a look at the headlines right now. That's all I've got -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, Carol. Well, you know, you've got to love disco, too. You know, you can't diss it too badly.

COSTELLO: I do. I liked Abba back in the day.

MALVEAUX: Back in the day. All right.

But what do you think about the Fugees?

I think Barack Obama -- you know, I had that -- I like that groove. (INAUDIBLE).

COSTELLO: I do, too. And the lead singer actually used to be in my favorite soap opera, "As the World Turns". That's a little trivia thing for you.

MALVEAUX: Wow! Really. I had no idea, no idea.

COSTELLO: Well.

(LAUGHTER)

MALVEAUX: So, what are your other favorites?

We had "Dancing Queen."

You had any other favorites back in the day? COSTELLO: Back in the day -- well, Abba, I must honestly say, was not my favorite back in the day. I think Billy Idol was, which -- and I'm giving away my age now. But I did love Billy Idol.

MALVEAUX: I was a Donna Summers fan myself. You know, "Last Dance," I was, you know, in tears. So I understand.

COSTELLO: She's back now, too. She has a new album.

MALVEAUX: They always make a comeback at some point, huh, Carol?

COSTELLO: Yes, they do.

MALVEAUX: All right. See you, Carol.

COSTELLO: Bye-bye.

MALVEAUX: When it comes to politics, the term flip-flop is usually considered an insult. But that may be changing. Jeanne Moos reports on a "Moost Unusual" new brand of footwear.

Plus, the thrill of the victory -- a celebration at the Olympics in Beijing just ahead on our Hot Shots.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Here's a look at "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends at the Associated Press -- pictures likely to be in your newspaper tomorrow.

In Georgia, that country's president questions members of the media about developments in the war torn region.

In England, high winds hamper sea travel, as waves engulf a ship arriving in a port.

In China, the Ivory Coast soccer team jumps in celebration of an Olympic victory over Australia.

And in Poland, a 3-month-old tiger cub, abandoned by its mother, plays with a puppy.

That's this hour's "Hot Shots" -- pictures worth a thousand words.

Well, the term flip-flop can refer to something you may wear on your feet or politics, but usually not both -- at least not until now, that is.

Jeanne Moos finds the "Moost Unusual."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ah, for the days when fish were what flip-flopped.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's now flip-flopped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Talking about flip-flops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh.

MCCAIN: Flip-floppers all over the world.

OBAMA: The only person who's flip-flopped on this issue is John McCain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John McCain has flip-flopped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the ultimate flip-flop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Worse than a flip-flopper.

MOOS: No, this is worse than a flip-flopper. It's the Obama flop and the McCain flop -- the latest in political footwear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where would I wear them?

I'd wear them in the shower.

MOOS: Nine of your favorite or least favorite candidate's heads on a flip-flop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's almost like you're stepping on the candidate that you are for, though.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not sure McCain would want me to have him on my toes.

MOOS: The once lowly flip-flop has been upgraded in recent years with everything from a hidden flask to knitback (ph) to a bottle opener. The flip-flop peaked as a political weapon when Republicans shook them to try to stigmatize John Kerry.

MOOS: And this campaign...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Barack Obama flip-flops...

MOOS: Flip-flops have been drilled into us. The time was right for politicizing right and left feet.

LINDA SPANN: How many products do you know that instantly make you smile when you wear them?

MOOS: That's creator Linda Spann. She patented the one piece mold that's featured everything from grapes to footballs -- and now heads.

SPANN: You can squeeze the head. They're light. They're hollow. And they look so real.

MOOS: Don't tell the candidates their heads are hollow.

The voting's already underway on the HotFlop's Web site. You can vote with your feet.

(on camera): But who's winning so far?

(voice-over): Obama is leading in sales two to one, which is fitting since he's a guy who seems to wear flip-flops.

But is wearing these flip-flops an insult or a compliment?

Listen to the president of HotFlops and their creator flip- flopping.

SEAN JACKSON, HOTFLOPS CEO: Are they supporting him or are they saying he's flip-flopping on some issues?

But I think if we see...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, like everybody, you wear these because you support your candidate.

MOOS: Or you could mix and match.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That would be good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, very bipartisan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Toe the line.

MOOS: Online is where you can buy them -- for 30 bucks a pair.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn't pay $30.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $9.95.

MOOS: Or, better yet, try to get them free by modeling for a news crew desperate for footage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you're not going to get fired, we're going to keep them.

MOOS: Go ahead, all hail to feet.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Well, check out our SITUATION ROOM screen saver and stay up to date on the latest political news. You can download it at CNN.com/situationroom.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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