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THE SITUATION ROOM
Fears of V.P. Bombshells; Republican Convention Back on Track; After Gustav: Flooding, Debris, No Power
Aired September 2, 2008 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Republicans, they're set to sharpen their message. Will they pull out some political knives? The tone will be dramatically different at day two of their convention for John McCain and possibly against Barack Obama.
And this could take some heat off McCain's running mate, with questions swirling about if she's ready and if she's attracting damaging attention. McCain answers if she was fully vetted. And we find out Governor Palin -- we find out if Governor Palin had to answer some very embarrassing questions in the vetting process.
And nature threatens blow after blow after blow. Amid Hurricane Gustav's aftermath, three more storms now loom. Should you be worried?
I'm Wolf Blitzer in St. Paul, at the Republican National Convention. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Tonight, the gloves could come back off. Yesterday, Republicans muzzled political attacks because of Hurricane Gustav. But today, they could lift the self-imposed political gag order.
Tonight's goal, explaining who John McCain really is. Republicans are eager to focus back on Senator McCain and off his running mate.
The Alaska governor has been under intense scrutiny, which has produced some surprising items about Palin and her family and questions about whether she was fully checked out. We've even learned the governor was forced to answer some embarrassing questions during her vetting process.
CNN's Dana Bash is watching all of this for us.
Dana, you've been looking into this very sensitive story. What are you picking up?
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the man who led McCain's vetting process is A.B. Colvahouse. He's one of Washington's most well respected power lawyers. And I was told that before McCain made his final decision, he called Colvahouse just to make sure that he really thought that the little-known Alaska governor really could withstand the scrutiny, and that Colvahouse gave him a confident go-ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BASH (voice-over): On the road to St. Paul, John McCain defended the process that led him to Sarah Palin.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My vetting process was completely thorough, and I'm grateful for the result.
BASH: But after the bombshell news about Palin's teenage daughter's pregnancy, McCain's campaign is trying to quiet concerns about more surprises. A senior official with intimate knowledge of McCain's VP vetting process called CNN to walk us through it.
First, a preliminary report on Palin, one of some 20 contenders, based on public records such as disclosure forms, newspaper articles, and interview transcripts. That was given to McCain and the four top advisors involved in this secretive process.
Then Palin made the short list. That meant a credit check, a call for tax returns and other financial disclosure firms. She and others got a list of 70 intrusive questions, like "Have you ever paid for sex? Have you ever been fairly or unfairly accused of sexual harassment?"
In one answer, Palin told McCain aides about her husband's DUI arrest 22 years ago. Next, chief vetter A.B. Colvahouse interviewed Palin for three hours. It was there, CNN is told, Palin revealed her teenage daughter's pregnancy and was warned it would become public if she were picked. "She said she'd have the conversations with her daughter," the official tells CNN.
From the start of the vetting a red flag was a state senate investigation into whether Palin improperly dismissed Alaska's public safety commissioner for not firing her ex-brother-in-law. CNN is told McCain investigators spent considerable time looking into so-called "Troopergate," interviewing Palin's lawyer and quietly talking to others involved, and decided the facts were on her side.
BASH: Now, this source I spoke to intimately involved with this vetting process said that aside from talking to those who were involved in so-called "Troopergate," they really didn't talk to other so-called character witnesses up in Alaska. And they also made a point, they made a decision not on go to Palin's hometown of Wasilla and look at some of the newspaper clips from that hometown because, Wolf, in fact, they are kept on microfilm, and those involved and in charge of the vetting process felt that that was just too dangerous in terms of what they are trying to do, keep this process secret, to go and look into -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's interesting that one of the featured speakers tonight, Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential nominee back in 2000, I take it he was pretty thoroughly vetted as a possible running mate for John McCain himself, wasn't he?
BASH: He was. I am told by a Republican source who is close to both Senator Lieberman and Senator McCain that Senator Lieberman really was taken very seriously and was put through some of the -- of the vetting that we just described that Sarah Palin was put through. And, you know, it was pretty clear he was definitely on John McCain's short list.
We've been reporting for some time that John McCain, it is no secret, how much John McCain really simply adores Joe Lieberman, both personally and in terms of what he stands for. But it was pretty clear just because of his positions on many social issues and many other reasons, it was going to be pretty hard for him to pick Joe Lieberman as his running mate -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to have a lot more, Dana, on this whole vetting process coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Among the people explaining who John McCain is tonight, they include the former presidential candidate, Fred Thompson, and the former Democratic vice presidential candidate, as we just said, Senator Joe Lieberman, and President Bush himself. He will address the crowd via satellite, a video link hookup from the White House.
Let's go to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's up on the podium behind us.
I take it these Republicans, they're pretty happy to get their convention back on track?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. I mean, this is their chance and their time in the spotlight, and they are already down one day. They say, listen, we're really grateful for what has happened down South, in Louisiana and elsewhere, that it was not as bad as it looked as though it might be. So, that's their official response. But they are very relieved that they are now getting under way.
Tonight is their night to frame Joe -- sorry, to frame John McCain, similarly as Barack Obama did on the first night of his campaign with his wife, Michelle. You will see Laura Bush. You will see George Bush via satellite.
Fred Thompson, a very close friend of John McCain's, certainly when Fred Thompson was in the U.S. Senate. And, of course, Joe Lieberman, you just heard Dana talk about how close the two of them are.
So, these are the people that can speak most to who John McCain is, and that's what they want to do tonight -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Candy. Stand by.
The Republicans, of course, want everyone in the country to tune in tonight, and tune in tomorrow night and Thursday night as well. They're especially eager for viewers in some very specific places, places that could tip their state's electoral college vote one way or another this coming November.
Our chief national correspondent, John King, is with us, as he always is. Show us exactly on the magic board these places that we're talking about.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let's look at the challenge, Wolf, for John McCain entering his convention. The race is remarkably close, but you have to say, as the Republicans get under way tonight, advantage Obama. And here's why.
Look up here. We now give states with 226 electoral votes either solidly or leaning Obama, 109 electoral votes solid or leaning McCain. The problem for Senator McCain, Wolf, is that seven of these 10 golden states, these are the tossup states, the golden ones, seven of them were states that George W. Bush won last time. So McCain is defending more Republican ground as we go into the stretch one.
What does he have to do? Obama needs only 44 votes under this map, 44 electoral votes to get to the magic number, which is 270.
So what is John McCain's challenge? He has to use this convention to somehow put himself ahead in Florida to get its 27 electoral votes. He needs to hold the always-key state for Republicans of Ohio and get its 20 electoral votes.
He needs as well to win the Show-Me State, Missouri. He's hoping Sarah Palin helps there with social conservatives. That would put McCain back in the hunt with Obama, but Obama, of course, right now thinks he can pick up Virginia and its 13 electoral votes.
So, you could have coming into the final stretch, Wolf, essentially a dead heat with the battle right out here. We're in Minnesota, Iowa a big place, Michigan a battleground that the Democrats think they will get. We'll give that to Obama.
Look how this could play out, just a few states at the very end. A very tight race. The problem for McCain, Wolf, right now at this point, is that he is defending more traditional Republican states than Barack Obama is fighting to hold Democratic states.
BLITZER: President Bush and Vice President Cheney, for that matter, John, as you know, they were supposed to speak Monday night, but that entire situation was canceled because of Hurricane Gustav. Tonight the president will be speaking via satellite, video hookup, a short speech.
Does that help John McCain? Does it hurt John McCain? Where, for example, does it help and where does it hurt?
KING: It is the question many Republicans are asking. Inside this hall it will help.
President Bush is still very well liked by most Republicans in this hall, and he will give a very touching "Thank you for supporting me, it's been an honor to serve." But let's look again at some of these battleground states.
Here in the state of Ohio, Republicans have to win it. The president's approval rating, Wolf, is 30 percent. That's not good for John McCain. Over here in Pennsylvania, a state he hopes to take away from the Democrats, the president's approval rating, 25 percent. That is a drag on John McCain.
Down here in Florida, a state that has been key to George W. Bush's victories, again, his approval rating in one latest poll, 32 percent. And out here in Colorado, another battleground, another state where the president stands at just 30 percent. Excuse my scribble.
So, if you look at the president's approval rating right there, you understand why the Democrats are saying more of the same. That's what John McCain would be, and the challenge on John McCain right there at that podium and throughout these three days of the shortened convention is to prove, no, I'm not more of the same. I'm a different Republican than George W. Bush, because that could be baggage. The president can help in some ways, but in the key battlegrounds, most Republicans would say he hurts more than he helps.
BLITZER: I don't think there's any doubt, and I agree with you completely, when he speaks via satellite tonight to the 20,000 people who have gathered here, there's no doubt he will be very, very enthusiastically received with the base.
BLITZER: He's still pretty popular. All right, John. Thanks very much.
Let's check in with Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: There's a growing sense that John McCain may not have done all his homework before making his VP pick. Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is now getting headlines for all the wrong reasons. Her 17-year-old unmarried daughter is pregnant; Palin's hired a private lawyer in the Troopergate ethics investigation; she was for the Bridge to Nowhere before she was against it; Palin appeared at a convention of the Alaska Independence Party which tried to get votes on whether that state should secede from the union.
McCain's motto, "Country First," remember that?
Her husband was arrested 22 years ago on a DUI. And although Palin's now railing against earmarks, she got hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding for local projects as both governor and as mayor of Wasilla.
What about her foreign policy credentials? CNN's Campbell Brown repeatedly and heatedly got into it last night with McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds. Why is Palin ready to be commander in chief, Campbell wanted to know. What qualifications does she have? And asked him to name one foreign policy decision Palin has made.
Campbell never got an answer. It's reported that Palin may have only traveled overseas once in her lifetime, last year, to Germany and Kuwait.
Oh, and Cindy McCain suggested today that because of Alaska's proximity to Russia, that some foreign policy something or other accrues to Sarah Palin because of that.
This has all led a lot of people to wonder how thorough a vetting the Alaska governor got. McCain only met her once. He had one phone conversation with her before offering her the job, vice president of the United States. It raises serious questions about the kind of judgment John McCain would use as president to make other big decisions.
Here's the question: Was Governor Sarah Palin properly vetted before being named John McCain's VP?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Get ready, Jack. You're about to get a lot of comments right now. Jack Cafferty with "The Cafferty File."
Gloria Borger is here with us, as she always is as well. Gloria, tonight, this is really the first night. Last night they had an abbreviated, two-hour largely business session. Laura Bush spoke, Cindy McCain spoke, both very briefly because of Hurricane Gustav. What should we be looking for as we go into this convention tonight?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, Wolf, we're hearing music tonight.
BLITZER: Yes. No music yesterday.
BORGER: No music last night. And what you're going to see is a gradual ratcheting up of the attacks on Barack Obama and the Democrats.
Tonight, Joe Lieberman is not going to attack Barack Obama. He's going to talk about why he feels so strongly about John McCain, and that is largely because they both agree on the war in Iraq. They disagree on many issues.
Fred Thompson, a good friend of John McCain, is going to talk about John McCain as a person. So, tonight is the John McCain night. Not so much attacking the Democrats, although I'm told by somebody who is working on Thompson's speech, that he'll get in a few digs on Obama tonight.
BLITZER: I'm sure he will.
BORGER: But watch for it to work its way up during the week.
BLITZER: He got in some digs Sunday when he was on "LATE EDITION."
BORGER: He did. BLITZER: And Rudy Giuliani, by the way, is going to be joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM later, so we'll be talking to him about all of this as well. Thanks very much.
BLITZER: As we cover all the questions swirling around John McCain's vice presidential pick, we're also following the Obama campaign's reaction to those suggestions, those criticisms. You're going to hear what Senator Obama's running mate, Senator Joe Biden, is now saying.
Also, as we said, Rudy Giuliani, he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll ask him what he thinks about Sarah Palin's being on the ticket.
And many people should brace themselves for blow after blow after blow. Hurricane Gustav wreaked death and damage, but what could three -- yes, repeat, three -- three new storms in the Atlantic right now, what could they do? Should you be worried?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Right now we're getting our first good look at the extent of the damage caused by Hurricane Gustav. Flooding is still a huge concern, so are the fallen trees and the downed power lines.
CNN's Brian Todd is joining us now. He's in Louisiana.
Where are you, Brian, about 60 miles or so outside of New Orleans? What's it like where you are?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're in the town of Houma, Louisiana, closer to the Gulf Coast than New Orleans a little bit. A little bit southwest of New Orleans, as you mentioned.
This was pretty much ground zero for where the eye wall of Gustav touched down yesterday. A lot of damage here. We're going to take you through some of it.
This is a typical example of what happened here. In this house over here on Egeron (ph) Street in Houma, this massive tree and this power pole came crashing down on this house at the same time. Our cameraman Mark Raven (ph) is going to follow me through some of this.
It hits this car, and then it comes up here and takes out this column of the house right here. Another column of the house also came down.
The gentleman who lived here, Carl Thomas (ph), talked to us a short time ago. He said, still, with all of this damage, he feels fortunate. He was out on the front porch trying to crank his generator just before this happened. He got tired. He went inside. Thirty seconds later, all of this came crashing down on his house.
He and other residents here are very fortunate because about 95 percent of the residents of this parish, we are told by the sheriff, got out before Hurricane Gustav hit. They have no deaths or injuries to report. But a lot of the town looks like this today -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Brian. Stand by, because we're going to be coming back to you. We have a lot more reporting to do on the aftermath of Gustav.
And remember, we're looking ahead. Three more storms brewing in the Atlantic right now.
Some Republicans thought Rudy Giuliani would actually make a good running mate. So, what does he think about Governor Sarah Palin having that spot? And what about the questions do on the aftermath of Gustav. And, remember, we're looking ahead. Three more storms brewing in the Atlantic right now.
Some Republicans thought Rudy Giuliani would actually make a good running mate. So what does he think about Governor Sarah Palin having that spot? And what about the questions swirling around her? Mayor Giuliani, he's standing by to join us live.
And in Pakistan, forces chase on the heels of an al Qaeda number two commander. You're going to find out what happened in this hunt for Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, today's session of the Republican National Convention is only hours away from beginning. President Bush won't be here in person. He'll be here via satellite.
Former senator Fred Thompson, he will be here in person. And get this, tonight's featured speaker is a Democrat-turned-Independent.
Also, she's the governor of the geographically largest state in the union, but virtually no one in the other 49 states knew much about Sarah Palin before last week. My Headline News colleague is one of the few people who did, Glenn Beck. He interviewed her. He's standing by to join us live with his insight.
And Rudy Giuliani was supposed to be tonight's keynote speaker. Now he's not yet even on the official schedule, although that could change. I'll ask him what's going on. He's standing by live.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. All that and a lot more coming up. But first, we have this note for our viewers.
Today, Larry King was scheduled to interview John McCain and CNN was supposed to run excerpts of the interview during our primetime coverage. However, a senior McCain campaign advisor tells CNN the interview has been pulled because of a segment CNN ran last night during Campbell Brown's "ELECTION CENTER." The segment was about Senator McCain's running mate, Governor Sarah Palin, and it involved this portion of the interview with McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Can you just tell me one decision that she made as commander in chief of the Alaska National Guard? Just one?
TUCKER BOUNDS, MCCAIN SPOKESMAN: Yes, she has made -- any decision she has made as the commander of the National Guard that's deployed overseas is more of a decision than Barack Obama has been making as he's been running for president for the last...
BROWN: OK. So Tell me -- tell me what one -- give me an example of one of those decisions. I'm just curious. Just one decision she made in her capacity as commander in chief of the National Guard.
BOUNDS: Campbell, certainly you don't mean to belittle every experience, every -- every judgment that she makes as commander of the National Guard...
BROWN: I'm belittling nothing. I just want to know one judgment or one decision. I would love to know what one decision was. I'm not belittling anything, Tucker. I'm really not. I'm just curious.
BOUNDS: As she makes a decision as to how to equip, how to command the National Guard in Alaska, that is more experience...
BROWN: But Tucker, those are the Pentagon's decision. That's General Petraeus. That's the White House.
BOUNDS: ... and more of a judgment that Barack Obama's made during the campaign trail. That's my only argument.
BROWN: No governor makes decision about how to equip or deploy the National Guard. When they go to Iraq, those decisions, as you well know, are made by the Pentagon.
BOUNDS: Actually, Campbell, they do. Campbell, on a factual basis they certainly do. In Alaska, if you -- if you have any sort of emergency as things are happening in your state, the National Guard is under the command of the governor. That is more of a command role than Barack Obama has ever had. I would argue that, on our ticket, John McCain and Governor Palin, between the two of them, have far more command experience in the military than either of the candidates on the Democratic side.
And I do want to argue that this is about the top of the ticket. Ultimately, when people go into the ballot box and decide between Barack Obama and John McCain, they are going to decide between John McCain's record of reforming Washington and Barack Obama's rhetoric on the campaign trail. Doesn't have a lot of experience, certainly has no military experience, no command military experience, which both of our candidates have.
That's an important distinction. I think voters will make the right call in November.
BROWN: All right. Tucker, I'm going to -- I'm just going to give it to you, baby. We'll end it there.
BOUNDS: Thank you, Campbell. I appreciate that.
BROWN: But I really -- I appreciate you coming on and taking the time to have this debate.
I think it's important.
BROWN: People don't know a lot about her. And they want to understand her qualifications as much as possible. We're not beating you up here. We're not trying to. We're just trying to educate ourselves and educate our viewers. So, I really do appreciate your time, and thank you for coming on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The McCain campaign said it believed that exchange was over the line. And, as a result, the interview scheduled for "LARRY KING LIVE" with Senator McCain was pulled.
CNN does not believe that Campbell's interview was over the line. We are committed to fair coverage of both sides in this historic election.
You can see the entire interview, by the way, at CNN.com. We hope Senator McCain will join us here on CNN in the very, very near future.
Since Senator McCain announced Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate on Friday, a record number of I-Reporters are sending us their reactions to his decision, also reacting to the news about her daughter's pregnancy.
Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, has been watching all of these Internets.
What are you seeing, Abbi?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, you only have to visit ireport.com today just to see the sheer amount of people who want to weigh in on this topic.
The first thing to point out is the number of women, many of them who say they, too, were young mothers, who want to talk about this, some of the people saying that this happens all across America. This happens all across the world. Why are we so focused on this?
This woman here, Darla Jones (ph) from Oregon, telling us that this news actually makes her -- makes her relate more to Sarah Palin and this vice presidential -- this running mate choice.
And then you have people who have very different opinions on the other side.
This is Jim Robertson (ph) from Florida. He says he really feels for this young woman. And he blames the McCain campaign for putting her in the spotlight.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Man, McCain's judgment is the worst. He picked a vice president who he knew had a daughter that was going to be put through this media circus. I don't under...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TATTON: There are plenty more of these sound bites that you can go and look at ireport.com.
We will be bringing more of them to you in the 6:00 hour. Take a look at one more here.
This is a woman from Connecticut, her name, Barbara Braun (ph). She wanted to weigh in and just say that this is nobody's business but the Palin family.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We should really focus on the choices that the V.P. will make, as opposed to what her children do in their own private lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TATTON: Wolf, as I said, at 6:00, we will be bringing you more of these, plenty more coming in as we speak -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Abbi, for that.
Let's get some more now on this decision by Senator McCain to pick Governor Palin.
Joining us is our commentator Glenn Beck. He's one of the few that really delved into Governor Palin, interviewed her before most of us really knew much about her. What do you think of the latest twists and turns, Glenn, in this drama?
GLENN BECK, HOST, "GLENN BECK": Well, let's go a couple of places.
I, as a dad, tried to imagine myself being called up and say, hey, you want to be a vice presidential candidate, and then sitting around the dinner table and talking to my family, and then looking at my 17-year-old daughter, and saying, you know you're going to be pulled into this, and having the family discussion.
It must have been hard to do. But I couldn't imagine, as a dad, in my wildest dreams, of the things that have been thrown at this family, the conspiratorial ideas that that -- that Trig is not her -- not her child, but the child, instead, of her daughter. It is obscene.
It is -- it is -- from a -- from a group of people that would not even question John Edwards, because the affair was coming from "The National Enquirer," and they wouldn't take it on for eight months. It is amazing to me how this story has spread by -- like wildfire all across the country.
BLITZER: I guess some of the some of the commentators, some of the women out there, are wondering whether or not she did the right thing, Governor Palin, by accepting John McCain's invitation to be his running mate, knowing that it would focus so much attention on her family, her personal life, especially her 17-year-old daughter, who is pregnant.
BECK: I -- I think it is, Wolf.
I mean, her daughter is 17. Obviously, her daughter is old enough to make mistakes and get married. So, you know, she's kind of now into -- into her own life. I doubt that Governor Palin just made this decision on her own. I bet they made it as a family. I don't know that.
But, again, I think this is actually going to turn around on those who are trying to destroy Sarah Palin. It's going to turn around, because I really, truly believe that America is looking for change, but they -- what they were excited about with Barack Obama were not his policies. They were excited because the left and the right are tired of the lies.
They're tired of the same old politics, the same old garbage that happens in Washington, in Chicago, in Alaska, all over the country. They're tired of it. What they want is somebody who's human, that -- that hasn't turned into this bizarre beltway robot that doesn't care.
You know, have you noticed how many politicians in the last two years have tried to convince us, "Well, I'm just like you; I -- you know, I used to work at a steel mill; my grandpappy used to" -- stop it. You're not like me. You have turned into a beltway robot. Sarah Palin and her family, unfortunately, I think, for a lot of -- to the surprise of a lot of people in Washington, is a lot like America. She has a family that has its problems, warts and all.
I mean, my family has got -- look, Wolf, I'm this close -- no, I'm not even this close. I am white trash. And a lot of people are white trash, and hold their family together the best they can. And we're looking for somebody who's real, who's like us, who also has the courage to stand up, stand true to their convictions, and take on the beltway robots.
BLITZER: Glenn, I got to tell you, I don't consider you white trash at all.
BECK: Oh, I am.
BECK: Come on over to my house sometime.
BLITZER: I have a lot of respect for you, Glenn Beck.
BLITZER: Not white trash.
We will see you back here tomorrow. Thanks very much.
BECK: Thanks a lot. Bye-bye, Wolf.
BLITZER: Republicans aren't the only ones getting questions about Governor Sarah Palin and her family. Check this out. It happened a little bit ago at one of Senator Joe Biden's campaign stops.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to know. Now we have another woman who's making news on the other side.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But what I want to ask you, though, what do you people really think? Do you really think...
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Well, let me tell you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
BIDEN: No, let me answer the question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Stay with us. We're going to have the rest of Senator Biden's answer in just a minute.
Also, his keynote address was supposed to be tonight's featured speech, now not yet on the official schedule. Will it be on the schedule? We will ask Rudy Giuliani. He's standing by live to join us right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're in St. Paul, at the Republican National Convention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: First of all, I don't know the governor. Everything I know about her, there's no reason not to respect her and believe she's qualified to be the vice president. And I take her on face value.
She's a governor. That's no mean feat. And she seems to have a strong personal story.
With regard to the stuff you're talking about, I have a simple proposition. Children are off-limits. Children are off-limits.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden being very careful with questions about his Republican opponent, Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska.
Let's discuss in our "Strategy Session."
Joining us, our Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor Donna Brazile, along with Republican consultant Alex Castellanos.
What do you think about -- because we have heard very generous statements on this whole sensitive issue coming from Joe Biden today and from Barack Obama yesterday.
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the Palins are entitled to their privacy. Both Senator Obama and now -- I mean, Senator Obama yesterday, Senator Biden today made it very clear that this is off-limits.
Look, Democrats would like to talk about the issues. They want to get back to talking about the economy, the war in Iraq. The last thing we want to do is to get involved in talking about a private decision that the Palins have made. BLITZER: It seems, Alex, that -- and you can correct me -- you know a lot more about this than I do -- he clinched the nomination in early February. It wasn't -- he had six months to do a thorough vetting of everybody, anybody. He had a lot of time to make this, the most important decision of any presidential nominee.
And it seemed like, at the end -- correct me if I'm -- they seemed to rush the vetting process, maybe called the house, the lawyer, to rush the vetting process of Sarah Palin.
ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, the big issues, the issues we're actually talking about, the campaign says they vetted and they well knew about.
They -- they were aware of the situation with the teenaged daughter. They were aware of the situation with the trooper. You know, I think John McCain looked at this situation, hey, I have found a co-pilot. I have found somebody who shares my agenda for reform, an executive who has governed a state, somebody who is going to help me change Washington. Should I disqualify them because what has -- something's happened in their family that happens to over three million American families a year, and that's an unwed pregnancy?
And I think Senator McCain thought that was wrong and said no.
BLITZER: Think about this. Almost exactly to the day eight years ago, you were helping Joe Lieberman get ready to accept the Democratic vice presidential nomination. And, within a few hours, he's going to be speaking here at this Republican Convention, endorsing John McCain.
How do you feel about that?
BRAZILE: Well, some Democrats are clearly disappointed with Joe Lieberman. He is, after all, a member of the Democratic Caucus in the United States Senate, and he supports the Democratic Party's agenda.
But this is a very personal decision. I have talked to him. I have e-mailed him. And I understand how difficult this was. He doesn't want his Democratic family to think that this is -- he's a traitor. But, on the other hand, John McCain is a personal friend.
And I know that, based on working with Joe Lieberman in 2000. They were very close. So, this is personal. Tomorrow, we will get back to politics and talking about how Joe Lieberman agrees with Democrats.
BLITZER: Do you buy all these reports out there that Senator McCain would have loved to have asked Joe Lieberman to be his running mate?
CASTELLANOS: You know, Donna is exactly right. They are so close. I'm sure that, when it came down to the finish line and the last handful of candidates, Joe Lieberman was right there.
You know, Senator McCain may disagree with the Republicans on some issues, whether the environment. You know, we have -- there's some diversity in the Republican Party, too. But one thing that unites all Republicans is security and keeping their country safe now. And that strong passion, commitment to that is something he shares with Senator Lieberman.
BLITZER: Think about this. If Senator McCain would have asked Joe Lieberman to be his running mate, Senator McCain would have had something very much in common with Al Gore.
BRAZILE: Well, I don't think his conservative base would have agreed with Joe Lieberman on the issues.
But I still like Joe -- Joe Lieberman. He's a friend of mine, and, hopefully, he will help us out in the future.
BLITZER: We will see. We will see what happens.
Guys, don't go away. We have got a lot to talk about through these coming hours.
Some people wanted the former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on the Republican the ticket. I will ask him about the choice John McCain made. That's coming up.
And former Mayor Giuliani, as I say, he will be right here. When will he speak before this -- this convention? We will ask him.
And you will also want to see this. Jack Cafferty wants to know whether you think the McCain campaign properly vetted Sarah Palin as his running mate. Jack's getting tons of e-mails.
Stay with us. We're here at St. Paul at the Republican Convention.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
Let's go back to Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: Was Governor Sarah Palin properly vetted before being named John McCain's V.P.?
Tom write from New York: "The operative word here is properly. It is obvious that they gave her a quick-once over and McCain decided she was it. There will be more information forthcoming about Governor Palin. I think, by this time next week, she will step down due to family considerations."
Jennifer writes: "McCain's decision to put Palin on the ticket shows that he makes decisions based on what's good for him, without thinking or checking, and not good for the country. How could he put someone like that one melanoma away from the presidency? He went with his gut? That makes sense, because he surely didn't make the decision made with his brain."
Lyn in Michigan writes: "Let's see. He met her for a full 15 minutes. No one in Alaska can remember being approached during the process. Her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. And she's under investigation for improperly using gubernatorial power? You think?"
Rick in California writes: "Sarah Palin is looking more and more like one of those people you see on 'The Jerry Springer Show.' I can't wait to see what future revelations come out regarding Palin and her past."
Wendy in North Carolina: "Good grief. I am more qualified to be V.P. if this is McCain's version of vetting. If you really want to get the Palin picture, have her debate Hillary. Now, that would be fun to watch."
Mary in Baltimore: "If this is the judgment McCain used in selecting a vice president, good luck to all of us if he ever gets to the White House. An elderly gentleman with a history of a serious medical problem has chosen an inexperienced person from a remote village and state to be his backup and perhaps president of the country. This is Katrina for the rest of us."
And Kevin in Massachusetts: "I think her name was picked from a hat. Does that count as vetted?"
CAFFERTY: If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile, where we post hundreds of these.
You know, it's -- I just was wondering, Wolf. She was named on Friday. Have you seen any interviews with her over the weekend?
BLITZER: I saw one in "People" magazine that she gave shortly after her first joint appearance with Senator McCain. I haven't seen a whole lot of others. I think she's gearing -- they tell me here's gearing up. She's doing some homework, getting ready for some of those interviews.
CAFFERTY: I will bet she is.
BLITZER: All right, stand by, Jack.
The former New York City mayor, we see him right now. He's walking over here to CNN. We are going to be talking with him. We will ask, what's going on?
Stay with us -- Rudy Giuliani right after this.
BLITZER: In our "Political Ticker," let's get right to it. The former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani is here with us. Mr. Mayor, thanks very much for coming in.
RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR: How are you, Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, just clarify a couple things, technical things, first of all. You were supposed to be the keynote speaker tonight. But we don't see any schedule yet. What's the latest?
GIULIANI: I will be the keynote speaker tomorrow night.
BLITZER: Tomorrow night. So, you...
GIULIANI: Ten o'clock. Ten o'clock Eastern time, 9:00 -- 9:00 your time.
BLITZER: So, you're the big prime-time speaker tomorrow. You got your speech; you're ready to go?
GIULIANI: My speech is all ready to go. I have to admit it's been changed a few times, back and forth, back and forth.
BLITZER: How does that work? You write it? They...
GIULIANI: Actually, I wrote it last week. We went through over the weekend. The campaign has already signed off on several versions of it that they're happy with.
BLITZER: They have to -- they have to approve it.
GIULIANI: Yes. They are happy with it. We wanted some ideas of theirs, but it's my speech.
BLITZER: How tough are you on Senator Obama and Joe Biden?
GIULIANI: Well, it's going to depend on the political climate by tomorrow.
BLITZER: But -- but all -- but the earlier concern, this is not a time for politics because of Hurricane Gustav, that's all gone away...
GIULIANI: I think, tonight -- I think, tonight, you are going to see a kind of a transition. You're going to see a focus on John McCain, who he is, what he's all about, how service means everything to him, and how he puts the country before self-interests, like he did at the -- when he was in the Hanoi Hilton, like he did with the surge, where he put his whole campaign at risk, and like he did with this convention, by putting it off, because focusing on the people that might be having some difficulties in this country was more important.
I think that's what you're going to see tonight. BLITZER: All right.
GIULIANI: I think, tomorrow night, we are going to probably get into more of the -- the contrasts...
GIULIANI: ... why John -- why John McCain, as opposed to Barack Obama.
BLITZER: All right, Gloria Borger is here. John King is here. Let's go with a question from Gloria first.
BORGER: Can you tell us -- let's talk about John McCain's choice for his vice president, Sarah Palin.
You're a pro-choice Republican. Why did John McCain choose her? And will she appeal to independent voters that liked you?
I'm a Republican. On that issue, I have differences with some people in the party. On most issues, I agree. That's the way I vote. So, I think that what I would say to Republicans who agree with me is, let's take a look at the whole picture. Let's take a look at what an effective governor she's been, one of the most effective in the country, the most popular in the country, done really exceptional things in a short period of time.
From being mayor of New York City, I know that most of the critical things I did, I did in the first 18 months I was in office. That's when I had to make all the tough decisions. It appears to me she's done the same thing. I'm very impressed with her.
So, the question is, are you a single-issue voter, or are you looking at a much broader -- are you looking at a much broader picture?
KING: Let me ask you, Mr. Mayor, a question about her foreign policy experience.
When you were running, you had been the mayor of a city with eight million people living in it. You had led that city through 9/11, the days after 9/11. I believe it was the man who is now the Democratic vice presidential nominee who said, Rudy Giuliani has crisis management experience, not foreign policy experience. He is subject, verb, 9/11.
As you know now, they are lining up to criticize Governor Palin, saying...
KING: ... John McCain is 72 years old. It's a legitimate question.
KING: He's 72 years old, a man who has battled cancer. What -- what convinced him that she was ready to be commander in chief?
GIULIANI: Well, first of all, you know, you have got to balance the ticket. You usually balance the ticket with somebody with foreign policy experience, somebody with domestic experience.
In the case of the Democratic ticket, they balanced it with someone with no experience with someone with a lot of experience, Joe Biden.
GIULIANI: So, the reality is...
GIULIANI: But the reality is, he's got the foreign policy experience. She's got the domestic experience, and she's got the judgment. And she's got what John McCain, I know, finds very attractive, which is a real independent spirit and a person who can produce results.
BLITZER: This is a time, as you repeatedly point out, after 9/11, where there are extremists out there who want to hurt the United States.
You feel that this governor -- she's been governor for less than two years -- before that, she was the mayor of a town, not like New York City, with eight million people...
BLITZER: ... mayor of a town with 7,000 people, that she could be commander in chief, ready to take charge and make sure the United States and the American people are protected?
GIULIANI: Well, first of all, John McCain is going to be the commander in chief. And she's going to be his principal...
BLITZER: No, God forbid -- but, God forbid, God forbid if someone were to happen to...
GIULIANI: God forbid, she will be ready. And the reality is, when you...
BORGER: How do you know? GIULIANI: Well, you never know.
Barack Obama is not ready. Barack Obama's never run a city, never run a state, never run an agency, never run a business, never made a payroll, has never really negotiated, which is why he makes so many mistakes on how to negotiate. You know, negotiate without preconditions, that's absurd. I think Hillary Clinton said that -- or his whole reaction to Georgia.
It took Barack Obama three days to get Georgia right. First, he's -- first, he's got a moral equivalency between Georgia and Russia. Then, he wants the U.N. Security Council to handle it. And they have got a veto. Russia had a veto power.
BLITZER: But we're talking about Sarah Palin now.
GIULIANI: But wait.
BLITZER: But let's talk about this woman right now, because...
GIULIANI: Well, why did Barack Obama get a pass on his experience? And why is Sarah Palin's experience, which, from the executive point of view, is considerably more than Barack Obama's, under such scrutiny?
BLITZER: But who says he's been getting a pass? He's been scrutinized for months and months and months.
GIULIANI: I haven't seen it. I haven't seen the scrutiny of his experience...
BLITZER: Do you read your hometown newspaper, "The New York Times"?
GIULIANI: I do. That's why I don't see any -- any...
GIULIANI: I do read them. Maybe that's the problem. I read "The New York Times," and I haven't seen much scrutiny of Barack Obama in "The New York Times."
BORGER: But some say the experience argument was your best argument, which the campaign made over and over and over again.
BORGER: So, the criticism you hear, not just from Democrats... GIULIANI: Sure.
BORGER: ... but from Republicans, is that you have essentially given up your best argument.
GIULIANI: We have the ticket in the right order. We've got the most experienced candidate on the top. They've got a candidate with -- all right, no experience or little experience on the top.
We've got the younger candidate of the next generation on the bottom of the ticket. Someone that can learn, someone that can develop, someone that's already accomplished a lot, but hasn't accomplished as much as at the top of the ticket. They've got it kind of reversed. They got the guy with all the experience at the bottom of the ticket.
BLITZER: Based on what you know, was she thoroughly vetted or was this a rush job?
GIULIANI: Based on what I know, she was thoroughly vetted.
I think John knew her, knew what she accomplished in Alaska, a lot of it has been an open book. I think the issues that are coming out now, all the ones that I have heard so far, are ones that he knew in advance, talked to her about it on Friday. And, he has confidence -- this is after all the main criteria of getting selected as vice president, the presidential candidate has to have confidence that you've got what he needs to accomplish the job.
BLITZER: Because the argument is, you know, you had Tim Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota, Joe Lieberman, Tom Ridge, Mitt Romney --
GIULIANI: They were great choices.
BLITZER: -- Rudy Giuliani, you put all of those --
GIULIANI: Except for one --
BLITZER: He had Rudy Giuliani --
GIULIANI: -- he had great choices.
BLITZER: All of these guys, and Sarah Palin who -- who is obviously not very well known.
GIULIANI: But you know the game, right? If he'd picked any one of those -- I was in Denver last week, some of my Democratic friends were telling me that the ads they had ready for -- for Mitt Romney, for Tim Pawlenty -- I mean, they were ready to shock them with who knows what. You can almost imagine what.
So no matter who you pick, there are going to be pros and cons. I think in her case, she unites our party. This is a much more united convention than the Democrats had. The Democrats had to work at getting united. We don't have to do it. And I think what we're going to find is that she's a woman who, in a very short period of time, has accomplished a great deal. Enormously positive response to her, at least all throughout the Republican Party.
BLITZER: I think we just got a preview of his keynote address tomorrow night.
GIULIANI: I'm going to have to change it now.
BLITZER: Mayor, go back and doing a little rewriting.
Thanks very much for coming in.
GIULIANI: Great to see you. Great coverage.
BLITZER: The former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani.
GIULIANI: Thank you.
BLITZER: You don't like the "New York Times."
GIULIANI: I like the "New York Times." I respectfully disagree with them.
BLITZER: You're right. Thanks very much.