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Barack Obama Speaks Out on Race in America; Interview With Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick

Aired March 18, 2008 - 20:00   ET


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: And what a story tonight, everybody.
Senator Barack Obama attempts the ultimate in damage control. With the controversy over the racists and anti-America comments by his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, it's overwhelming his campaign and stealing away any momentum.

Obama had to face one of the toughest issues in America, racism. In Philadelphia today, he gave the speech he had to give.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress had been made; as if this country -- a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black...


... Latino, Asian, rich, poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past.


We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words.

We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that. But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we will be talking about some other distraction, and then another one, and then another one. And nothing will change.


BROWN: CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley joining us right now from Washington.

And, Candy, as you well know, there's been a ton of reaction on Obama's speech from outside of his campaign today. But what is the sense internally? Did he do what needed to do with this speech?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, they are hesitant. They're waiting at this point. We will see and they will see if he did what he needed to do.

Obviously, they say, first of all, that he wrote most of his speech himself, that he was up until the wee hours of the night working on it over the past couple of days. They believe that he said what he wanted to say. Now, what did people hear? That's a little further down the line, the answer to that question.

BROWN: Candy, since the start of the campaign, he hasn't talked about race, and yet, now, today, Rush Limbaugh, on his radio show, said that Barack Obama is now the candidate of race. How risky was this for him?

CROWLEY: I think it was a huge risk, and precisely for that reason.

Barack Obama has run a campaign based on transcending the old things that have kept Americans from reaching a consensus solution, partisanship, gender, race. People always point out to me, Campbell, which I think is very interesting, is a New Hampshire debate when the subject was changed and Hillary said, just by my being elected will be change. I will be the first woman in the Oval Office.

Barack Obama did not come back and say, yes, but I would be the first African-American. He stayed silent. This was always a campaign that did not want race in the forefront. They wanted to talk more about a transformational time, a transcendent candidate. So, this is risky, because it brings a focus to his race.

And it is something that a lot of white voters get uneasy with, particularly when you add in the tone and the substance of Pastor Wright's comments.

BROWN: And, Candy, there was one very important person who said she didn't listen to the speech as he was giving it. That of course is Hillary Clinton.

Let's listen to a little bit of what she did say about the speech.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I did not have a chance to see or to read yet Senator Obama's speech.

But I'm very glad that he gave it. It's an important topic. You know, issues of race and gender in America have been complicated throughout our history. And they are complicated in this primary campaign.


BROWN: What are you hearing, Candy, from the Hillary Clinton campaign in terms of what the speech really means?

CROWLEY: Exactly that. This is not something they want to touch at this point. What can you add? Nothing. The Clintons, as you know, have deep roots in the African-American community. They want that community to come back to them, should she be the nominee for the Democratic Party. This is nothing she can add to, nor wants to subtract from. They're letting this be.

BROWN: All right, Candy Crowley from Washington tonight -- Candy, thanks.

And with me now from Boston is Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. He is a Barack Obama supporter. He is also his state's first African-American governor.

Welcome to you, Governor Patrick.

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Thank you, Campbell. How are you this evening?

BROWN: I'm good. Thank you for being with us.

And I know you are very close friends with Barack Obama. Tell me, was this is a speech that he wanted to give or was he forced into giving the speech after all the uproar over Reverend Wright's preaching?

PATRICK: Well, I'm delighted he gave it, and I'm glad that it was so powerful. It was so much more than what was necessary to respond to all of the flap about Pastor Wright. I thought it was thoughtful. I thought it was honest. And I thought it was brave.

Thoughtful because race is complex, as both the senator said in his speech and as Senator Clinton said in the commentary you showed beforehand, and he is trusting the American people to be able to absorb and deal with that complexity.

I think brave because he didn't sugarcoat anything. And he's talking about how in fact we have to learn to transcend some of the bitterness on both sides, or the many sides of this question. And I thought it was so honest and personal, which was no sugarcoating, very, very important comment on the subject and very strong indication of statesmanship, which I think so many of us are looking for in our next president.

BROWN: Governor Patrick, let's listen to a bit of what he said, specifically about his experience at Reverend Wright's church. And then we will talk about it on the other side.


OBAMA: Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in the church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: So, given what he's saying there, that he knew how controversial Reverend Wright's views were, why did Obama then seem so surprised when they became public and this turned into such a furor?

PATRICK: Well, for one thing, I don't think he's saying that he has heard the kind of things quite as virulent as the clips taken out of a 30-year history in the pulpit.

But I think he's also trying to convey something. It reminds me a little bit of that wonderful old saying of -- I think it was Louis Pasteur -- that education is learning to listen to anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.

There are candidates, I'm sure, who listen to the most virulent of the conservative radio talk show hosts. I know, occasionally, my wife listens to that stuff while she's driving in the car. But it doesn't mean that she accepts those points of view. She has a true north. And I think Senator Obama does as well.

BROWN: I guess my question is, though, why, though, didn't he leave the church? Why didn't he challenge Wright on those views? Why did it take his campaign essentially being at risk here before he comes forward to denounce him?

PATRICK: Well, Campbell, can I first say, I think you're grossly overstating this point.

First of all, he explained in the speech why didn't he leave the church. And he left, I think, a very clear picture that the kind of clips that have been replayed over and over on the television are not indicative of a regular service or a typical service at that church.

He's also talking about the incredible importance that this minister has had in his own life. And he talked about how you can reject the speech without rejecting the speaker, in the same way he rejects some of the nastier kind of comments that he's heard out of the mouth of his own grandmother without rejecting her.

And I would just also caution, Pastor Wright, due to respect to how unacceptable those comments were and how worthy they were of being rejected, is not the candidate. The candidate has shown his interest in and his commitment to unifying us. And I think that's why there's so much energy behind and excitement behind this candidacy.

BROWN: And what, specifically, if you can be specific about this, what solution is he offering to try to solve the race problems in this country?

PATRICK: Well, first of all, candor.

This is one of the things that's so complicated about race in this country. We have feelings. Black people have feelings. White people have feelings. Other racial and ethnic minorities have feelings. Women have feelings about their relationships with men and men with women.

But we don't have a safe place to be able to talk about those and the encouragement to let us get beyond them, to acknowledge them, but not to let them hold us back. And they have been used in so many political contests to divide us for purposes of winning. And then they make it impossible for us to govern.

I think, again, Senator Obama is offering a very different approach. He's challenging us not to go down that usual path of divisiveness, and instead to choose a path of unity. And I'm very, very excited and proud that he's offering us that challenge.

BROWN: All right. Governor Deval Patrick for us tonight, appreciate your time. Thanks.

PATRICK: Thank you. Thank you, Campbell.

BROWN: And like the governor just said, Barack Obama disowned his pastor's hateful remarks, but not the man.


OBAMA: I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can disown my white grandmother.


BROWN: Is that going far enough? We're about to turn our all- star panel loose on Obama's speech -- that coming up.



OBAMA: ... that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we have never really worked through, a part of our union that we have not yet made perfect.


BROWN: Senator Barack Obama's high-risk speech on racism addressed his pastor's words and delved deep into the issue of race in American life.

And that gives tonight's political panel a lot to talk about.

With me here in New York is Dick Polman, a national political columnist for "The Philadelphia Inquirer." We have also got CNN contributor Roland Martin, who is joining us from Chicago, and, in Washington, CNN contributor and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile.

Let me get all of your reaction, just general reaction, to the speech. And let me start with you, Dick, because you were there today. What did you think?


And I thought it was an electric atmosphere and an electric speech. I think you have got a situation where people often refer to him as another Bobby Kennedy. And I think this is actually one of those days where I thought that speech was very kind of a Bobby Kennedy paradigm, this notion of talking tough love almost to whites and blacks, challenging both audiences in a way that we rarely see in American politics.

And I think my feeling is that it read well. It was great to listen to as well. But I think in some ways it needs to be read or listened to in its entirety. The question is now, going forward, in terms of what do voters feel about the speech? Are they just getting clips and small segments, so they can cherry-pick the things perhaps they either like or don't like?

BROWN: Right. And that frankly, in all fairness, is exactly what we're doing tonight.

Donna, what did you think?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I thought it was a very inspiring speech.

But, also, I thought Senator Obama really showed a tremendous amount of courage in giving that kind of speech. Look, politicians like to poll just about everything they say to the voters to ensure that they don't step out of line, so to speak.

But he stepped out of line today to make many of us uncomfortable, and looking at a topic and talking about a topic, a conversation that we rarely have, because often when the topic is race in America, people would rather clear the room rather than put their feelings and their concerns on the table.

So, I applaud him for taking this leadership. But I also applaud a Democratic contest that many people feel has gone on too long. But, at least on the Democratic side, people are willing to talk about race and gender. After let's hope, after today, that we can talk about it to inform, inspire and educate, and not to create any additional divisions.

BROWN: Roland, who was he most needing to reach today?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think he was most needing to reach America. I have been on CNN all day. I have been reading the blogs and listening to these comments, as people say, well, he didn't go far enough.

Frankly, he felt more like Daniel in the lion's den, because we want to sit here and say, well, disown him, get rid of him, leave the church.

I find it very interesting that here we are talking about comments by a pastor in the context of a Christian church, and we have people who are so-called Christians who have no understanding of forgiveness. What Obama did was to challenge us to say, we -- he looked at himself. He's looked at his pastor, looked at his church, looked at his family, but he also said, America must look at itself.

He spoke in the cradle of democracy in Philadelphia, at the same city where the AME Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, was founded out of the bowels of slavery. And so I think it's interesting that we for some reason don't want to put the mirror on ourselves and say how we can also change for the better to change America?

BROWN: OK. I get all that. I think everyone's in agreement that it was a powerful speech. But there are political ramifications to it.

And there were demographics that were being targeted, not to be too cynical about this. But you have written about this, particularly in Pennsylvania, where a primary's coming up, where white male voters are a crucial voting bloc, especially for him right now.


BROWN: Were they a target audience? Did he reach them?

POLMAN: I think they were clearly a target audience, particularly in Pennsylvania. The white male voters, working class in particular, lunch-bucket Democrats, in the Lehigh Valley, small towns like Allentown, towns like Scranton, that's the target audience. Those are the swing audiences in Pennsylvania, where Hillary Clinton's doing very, very well in all of the polls.

If he's going to make it close in Pennsylvania, That's the audience he needed to reach. I think he was trying to perhaps allay some of their concerns with this speech.

I think, however, that one of the potential dangers here is, there are things in that speech that, if people want to just sort of, I was saying before, cherry-pick the things that they don't particularly like, they can hang on to those, the whole notion of -- that he, as I think has been alluded earlier in the -- you asked this question, that whether he was going to walk out -- whether you heard something that was objectionable to the audience.

This thing where Reverend Wright cursed America in one of his sermons, maybe, yes, it's one line and one moment. But it's the kind of thing where that could be a deal breaker, fairly or not, for a lot of voters. And that's what I think he has to overcome. It's going to take a while to play out.


BROWN: Hold that thought, Roland. I want to take a quick break... MARTIN: Sure.

BROWN: ... because I want to get in to this without having to interrupt either of you.

Stay with us.

Barack Obama isn't the first presidential candidate to go before the country to better explain who he is. So, the question, did he provide answers with this speech or create more questions?

We have got a lot more to talk about when we come back with the panel.



RICHARD NIXON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was a little cocker spaniel dog in a crate that he would sent all the way from Texas, black and white, spotted. And our little girl, Tricia, the 6- year-old, named it Checkers. And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog, and I just want to say this, right now, that, regardless of what they say about it, we're going to keep it.



JOHN F. KENNEDY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not speak for my church on public matters. And the church doesn't speak for me.



MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: Almost 50 yours ago, another candidate from Massachusetts explained that he was an American running for president, not a Catholic running for president.

Like him, I am American running for president. I do not define my candidacy by my religion.


BROWN: As it was for Richard Nixon in 1952, John F. Kennedy in 1960, Mitt Romney just last year, the challenge for Barack Obama today was the need to put an issue to rest by giving a major defining speech.

So did it work?

Tonight's panel is with me again, "Philadelphia Inquirer" national political columnist Dick Polman, along with CNN contributors Roland Martin and Donna Brazile. And, guys, I want to continue the conversation and follow up on Dick's point just as we were going to break, which is how this all started, what brought it about. And it was the relationship, Obama's relationship with Reverend Wright.

And let me ask you, Roland, the question that I think a lot of people still have is, as he said today, if he knew how controversial Reverend Wright could be at times, why did it seem like he didn't come out, he didn't denounce it, he didn't distance himself in any way until it turned into a political issue?

MARTIN: Well, again, because the initial issue last year was Trinity United Church of Christ's black value system. And then of course the sermons come out.

So, what exactly would have been denouncing? Would he have come and said, hey, you all, my pastor has said any number of things, so let me go ahead right now and denounce these things?

Absolutely not. We all know that's not how it work. And so people respond to these various issues. I think that's what really happened here in terms of how it all came out. This hasn't been an issue in the last two weeks. This really started last year. Again, the criticism of the church has always been there.

BROWN: Donna, do you think this issue for him has been put to rest?

BRAZILE: Perhaps not, because there are people in this country who enjoy sowing seeds of division, so that they can reap the harvest of polarization.

But what I thought Senator Obama tried to do today was to take the country to another place, a place where, if we can heal these divisions, if we can look past our pain, and perhaps figure out ways to work together, we can solve big problems like health care and the economy.

I just want to remind, Roland, that, back in September, not too long ago, we were on a panel where we had to put to rest Obama's blackness.

MARTIN: Right.

BRAZILE: Because people thought that, with a white mom and a dad who was from another continent, and raised by two white grandparents, perhaps he did not fit the description of being black.

And so now, tonight, we're saying that he has to reach out to white male voters in Pennsylvania. I believe that Obama has to reach out to America, as do Senator Clinton and Senator McCain.

MARTIN: Right.

BRAZILE: This is America. Our men and women in uniform tonight in Iraq and Afghanistan represent the totality of this great country. They're not fighting for a black result or a white result or a Latino result. They're fighting for America. And that's what we sometimes forget when we have these conversations.

BROWN: Well, let me ask all of you this question. What's driving it, then? What is putting race into the conversation? Is it us in the media? Is it the Clinton campaign? What is making this front and center?

POLMAN: Well, I will take one quick stab at that.

BROWN: Dick.

POLMAN: I think part of the problem is that Obama's so new to the scene, he's a blank slate still for a lot of people. So, it's very easy, when there's new information, particularly potentially troubling information, for people to say, oh, I'm not so sure about that. You know, what else is going to come out about him?

He doesn't have a long -- this is one of the things where Hillary Clinton may have a point, where she has been around so long, so all the high negatives or whatever you want to call it that she has, people are familiar with them already. It's all new with Obama. And that, I think, is part of this.

BROWN: Roland?

MARTIN: I think we have to own up to reality that race is in the DNA of America.

And what I mean by that, I'm not saying that, oh, everybody is racist. What I'm saying is that, when we look at so many different things, race's there. It is spoken and it is unspoken. We knew this day was come. We knew this was going to come up.

As Donna mentioned, is he black enough? Is he too white? The whole issue of his church. Not only that. Is he Muslim? Maybe this whole issue puts to rest the whole notion that he's not Muslim, and he's indeed a Christian.

And so it's always there. This is the reality of when you're the first African-American who is this close to a Democratic nomination, a Republican nomination, and to the presidency. This was invariably going to come up regardless. Now, all of a sudden, you have conservative radio talk show hosts who said he should talk about race. Then, when he talks about race, now they're saying, he shouldn't be talking about race. He can't win either way.

BROWN: And, Donna?

BRAZILE: Well, that's often the paradox that people who often have a conversation that makes people uncomfortable have to deal with.

Again, I applaud Senator Obama, because I have worked for candidates of all stripes. I have worked for the former Vice President of the United States Al Gore. I was on both Clinton campaigns, and, of course, back in the '80s. But the truth is, is that these candidates didn't have to answer these questions, because they didn't run a campaign based on helping America move beyond the moment.

MARTIN: Right.

BRAZILE: Obama of course has to discuss this because this is a vision that he has for the country. Now let's see if he has the temperament to help us get there.

BROWN: All right, our thanks to the panel, Donna Brazile, Roland Martin, and Dick Polman. Thanks, everybody.

MARTIN: Thanks, Campbell.

BROWN: And we would like you to join the conversation about race in America. Turn on your digital or cell phone camera, record your thoughts on Senator Obama's speech, and send them to us at

Coming up: Just how much do we really know about Hillary Clinton?


CLINTON: ... most transparent person in public life.


BROWN: Well, we are about to see. Thousands of previously classified papers going on display tomorrow, what will they reveal?


BROWN: Over 11,000 pages of Hillary Clinton's schedules as first lady are to be released to the public tomorrow following months of controversy and legal pressure for Clinton to disclose them. The papers will be available for viewing on the Clinton library Web site. It may sound like full disclosure, but there are 20,000 more pages of call logs that some critics would still like to see. Hillary Clinton says she has been very forthcoming.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think I'm probably the most transparent person in public life. I think what, 60 books? Sixty books have been written. I mean, you know, I feel you know a lot more about me than you know about anybody else. Much of it untrue, but nevertheless, it's all out there.

Stay tuned. There will be a lot more so that, you know, the books and the writing and words about me will continue to fill many archives and warehouses across the world.

BROWN: Jessica Yellin is with the Clinton campaign tonight in Millersville, Pennsylvania. And Jessica, first tell us who's responsible for getting these papers released. How did they come about?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It happened because there was a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch. And Campbell, you remember them as the group that dogged the Clintons during their White House years over Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones issues, and has followed up with lawsuits trying to get them to release any number of documents, the latest of which is this one. And they have prevailed after filing a number of appeals. Finally, these documents are being released tomorrow.

BROWN: Any sense of how important they may be? What we're going to find out?

YELLIN: Well, you know, no one really knows. What they reveal is there are 2,888 pages of her schedule. So, who she met with, who she talked to. And it could reveal how many meetings she really did have with these foreign leaders she claims she was so involved in developing foreign policy with. Or did she have meetings with embarrassing figures?

Now, we should point out that these were all vetted very carefully by one of President Clinton's personal attorneys or longtime professional attorneys, Bruce Lindsey, who we're told went through line by line and redacted anything that was personally revealing or too many phone numbers, private details. They say, nothing that was, you know, matter of national public importance. But who knows what we'll really find in them. We can't know until we read them.

BROWN: Well, and I was going to say, that's been a big part of her argument, you know, as she's out on the campaign trail, all of the experience she garnered as first lady. So you have to wonder whether -- when we find out what's in them, whether it will help or hurt her argument.

YELLIN: And you know, one of the big questions, you're absolutely right. And the big question it raises is why aren't more of her papers released? She claims to be so involved in the foreign policy proposals of the Clinton years and their activities. Why hasn't she released foreign policy briefing papers or itineraries and details of her foreign trips? So these are the kinds of questions that tomorrow's release could bring up.

I should point out Judicial Watch, the same group, is still pressing for her to release the documents from her health care war room or the health care task force meetings. So, it begs this question of transparency and will certainly raise more questions probably than they answer tomorrow.

BROWN: And then, finally, Jessica, there's been a lot of pressure on her to release her tax returns. What's the status right now? Are we going to see them?

YELLIN: Well, they insist, her campaign insists we will see them after the April 15th filing deadline. And they're pretty adamant about this, but she is very forthcoming on the tax returns, has released them for years, and will release these in about a months' time, a little less than a month. So we'll have a few weeks before we have to go poring through those, Campbell.

BROWN: All right. Jessica Yellin for us. Jessica, thanks.

These days there is so much information about the candidates at our fingertips. Anything they hold back tends to raise a red flag. And more and more we demand total transparency from our public figures.

So joining us now from Washington is a strong transparency advocate, Arianna Huffington, of the "Huffington Post." Also with us here in New York is CNN senior analyst Jeff Toobin.

And Arianna, let me start with you. You've been hammering Hillary Clinton over her lack of transparency. And we just heard from Jessica Yellin these documents are about to be released about her travels as first lady. A decent first step for her, or do you think they would have ever been released had there not been a lawsuit?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, FOUNDER & ED., "HUFFINGTON POST": Well, exactly, Campbell, that's the point. They would not have been released had it not been for a lawsuit. And there's a lot more that has not been released and there's another pending lawsuit as Jessica mentioned. So the question is why? Why not release those documents?

And to go to the tax returns, why not release the tax returns? After all, in 2000, when she was running against Lazio in New York, she said it was frankly disturbing, these are her words, that he was not releasing his tax returns.

And we're not talking just about the 2007 tax returns, we're talking about the tax returns of the last eight years, basically since the Clintons left the White House and Bill Clinton has been making a lot of money and a lot of deals which are questionable, whether it's with Ron Burkle or some of the deals that have resulted in massive contributions to his foundation, all these things need to be released to the public. If there is nothing to hide, why hide?

BROWN: And Jeff, why wait? I mean, you're already taking a hit because you've said you're going to release them. People are hammering you for it, so what is she waiting on?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Well, she is someone who doesn't like disclosure. I mean, it is true, as she points out, that a lot of books were written about her, most of them without her cooperation. You know, George Stephanopoulos and others think that her failure to release documents about Whitewater early on, really was a major negative turning point in the Clinton presidency because, in fact, Whitewater turned out to be a big nothing.

But the automatic reaction with the Clintons, I think, it's safe to say, is that they don't release things. They haven't released the tax returns. They haven't released these schedules, even though, it seems likely, there's nothing incriminating there.

BROWN: OK. I got to show you all something that happened today because I think it's very striking. My question is, are we starting to see from some in the political world a preemptive attempt to release stuff before they get nailed. And I'm talking about an example.

This is on the day he's sworn in, New York's new governor, David Paterson, admitted that he and his wife had both been unfaithful during their marriage. And this is what he had to say today at a press conference.


GOV. DAVID PATERSON (D), NEW YORK: I didn't want it hanging over my head. I didn't want to be compromised perhaps by innuendo or some sort of message that you better not to do something or we're going to out you about the fact that there was infidelity in your marriage. So, actually, my conscience is clear. I feel a lot better.


BROWN: He's getting huge kudos for doing this. I mean, there was no reason to do it, doing it on the day he's sworn in. Is there a lesson there, maybe, for other political candidates?

TOOBIN: Well, let's not give him too much credit. The reason why he came clean is because the "New York Daily News" came to him and said, we have this evidence. What do you say? I think he reacted in the right way. I'd like to know less about the sex lives of most politicians, frankly. I don't want to even picture most of any of this going on. But I think, actually, you know, when it's adultery, which is not a crime, it's probably better for him to come out and say it, but it's probably better not to talk about it at all because who cares.

BROWN: Arianna, is there a trend toward preemptive releasing information now to try to avoid some of this, to not have to do this big moments?

HUFFINGTON: Well, two separate points. First of all, I completely agree with Jeffrey. You know, the last one about politicians private lives, the better. Eliot Spitzer's case is different because it involved the law. But in terms of preemptive disclosure, whether it's about matters of the law or anything else, absolutely. Because if there's one thing we've learned throughout history is that a cover-up is always worse than the crime. And it's the cover-up that gets them into trouble.

BROWN: All right. On that note, Arianna Huffington for us from Washington tonight, and Jeff Toobin here in New York.

TOOBIN: And disclosure always late on a Friday afternoon.


TOOBIN: You have to make that, right?

BROWN: Yes, a good rule of thumb. OK. Duly noticed. Thanks, guys. And in a very special addition of "Political Pop," we're going to show you what happens when a preschool campaign goes negative. That's coming up.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE CHILD: Hillary, your pantsuit's not funny to me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE BOY: I don't like you in pantsuits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE BOY: Who really wears the pantsuits, Hillary? Is it you, or is it Bill?



BROWN: For anyone who thought yesterday's bailout of Bear Stearns was just a temporary band-aid, Wall Street showed that its bruises are healing quite nicely. Thank you. The Dow Jones 220 points, its biggest one-day gain in five and a half years. One big reason, the Federal Reserve chopped three-quarters of a point off in interest rates. It will make it a lot easier to pay credit card bills and other loans.

As always, any move made by the Federal Reserve affects our lives in a very real way, and that's why we thought the Federal Reserve was worth putting through "The Decomplicator."

So if that money in your savings account was really just sitting in a vault at the bank, you might sleep better, but the economy would be at a standstill. Keeping money flowing through the economy is the main job of the Federal Reserve. Like a plumber with access to the main spigot, the Fed controls how much money is available for your bank to lend. In other words, the Fed is the bank your bank goes to. And if the spigot shows signs of drying up, the Fed works those pipes with something better than a plumber's license.

So just how powerful is the Fed? Mighty powerful. Its decisions don't have to be OKed by anyone because it's not part of any branch of government.

So, got something that needs decomplicating. Let us know. Send it to ELECTION CENTER at

Larry King live is coming up in just a few minutes, and Wolf Blitzer is in for Larry. Wolf, who's joining you tonight?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Campbell. We have a good hour. We're going to be dealing with the two big stories of the day, the Barack Obama speech on race and politics. We have an excellent panel. We're going to digest a lot of that speech.

And then, we're going to take a closer look at the economy, this roller coaster ride on Wall Street. But we're going to have some practical advice what it means for our viewers out there who are watching not only in the United States but around the world. Campbell, we got a good hour coming up on "LARRY KING LIVE."

BROWN: OK. We'll be watching, Wolf. Thanks.

Coming up, John McCain claims he's an expert on foreign policy. So why is he correcting himself about al-Qaeda in Iraq? We'll explain.


BROWN: Republican presidential candidate John McCain is far from the political front lines. He is half way around the world this week, moving on to Israel today after a visit to Baghdad and a stop in Amman where he sat down with Jordan's King Abdullah, part of an effort to highlight his foreign policy experience. And that effort does seem to be paying off.

A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows McCain virtually tied with either Democratic candidate. Senator Hillary Clinton leads McCain 49 to 47 percent, and Obama leads McCain 47 to 46 percent.

CNN's John King has been traveling with the senator and is in Jerusalem tonight. John, it's way too early to read too much into this polling, but on the question of who would be best at handling the situation in Iraq, John McCain has a clear lead over the two Democrats. Is that in part what this trip is about?

JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, make no mistake about it. The McCain campaign sees that number, and they see something quite significant. Because break it down a bit. Remember, more than six in 10 Americans think the war is a bad idea. More than six in 10 Americans want to end the war and bring the troops home. And yet, by a sizable margin, they picked Senator McCain.

Those same voters who don't like the Iraq war say they trust Senator McCain more than Senator Obama or Senator Clinton to deal with the Iraq war. Well, Senator McCain is the one who says keep the troops there. So what the McCain camp reads into numbers like that is that the American people believe that he has more experience and better judgment to deal with the big difficult foreign policy issues, and they think that is a big advantage in this campaign.

BROWN: But John, the thing that everyone is talking about here at home right now is the economy, especially after the events over this last weekend. Does he seem to be missing something by being overseas by focusing so much on foreign policy right now?

KING: Well, certainly some would say that. And let's take another number from our same poll. If you ask voters what's most important right now, 42 percent say the economy, 21 percent say Iraq. So it is clear, the economy is by far the number one issue. But remember, for eight months from Election Day, you need to do two things in politics. Solidify your strengths and deal with your weaknesses. Foreign policy, the McCain camp believes is a strength, so they're taking this trip now months before the election. He may take another one before the election to try to build that wall. You trust me when it comes to foreign policy. But he knows, Campbell, trust me, he knows the rest of the summer, through the convention in the fall, the issue that would be the number one issue, and he needs to do a better job at is the economy.

BROWN: And John, McCain is known to be an expert on Iraq on foreign policy generally, but he had a little verbal gaffe today. What happened?

KING: Well, earlier today in Jordan, he was discussing Iran's role in the region. It's specifically what he says is Iran's meddling in Iraq. And he went too far. He not only said Iran was helping the militias and the militants inside Iraq. What he said is Iran was training Sunni. Iran is a Shia country. He said it was training Sunni, al-Qaeda and Iraq fighters in Iran. Then, he tried to clean it up. Let's listen.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's a common knowledge and it's been reported in the media that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran. That's well known. And it's unfortunate. I'm sorry. The Iranians are training extremists, not al-Qaeda.


KING: The mumbling voice you heard there before McCain cleaned up his earlier comment was his colleague, Senator Joe Lieberman, who leaned over and told Senator McCain, you made a mistake and you need to clean it up essentially. So what the campaign is saying is that he misspoke. This is not a huge gaffe, by any means, but the timing of it not so helpful for Senator McCain.

BROWN: All right. Getting by with a little help from a friend. OK. John King with John McCain in Jerusalem. Thanks, John.

With tomorrow's five-year anniversary of the beginning of military operations in Iraq, the war moved back to the front lines of the political battle here. Hillary Clinton picked up a major new endorsement today from Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman and superdelegate, John Murtha, one of Congress' most outspoken critics of the Iraq war. The decorated Vietnam veteran said Clinton is best qualified to lead the nation and forge a consensus on the war.

And the Obama campaign says the candidate will deliver two major speeches this week on Iraq. Senator Obama will be in Fayetteville, North Carolina, tomorrow, the war's fifth anniversary, to talk about Iraq and national security. The next day he's in Charleston, West Virginia, where he'll focus on Iraq and America's economy.

In other political news, Senator Obama faces an uphill battle in the next big primary state, Pennsylvania. Just look at the latest CNN poll of Pennsylvania polls. Senator Clinton has a double-digit lead. She is the choice of 50 percent of Pennsylvania's democratic primary voters. Obama is trailing with 38 percent. You got about 12 percent still undecided. The Pennsylvania primary is more than a month away on April 22nd.

And in the disputed primary scramble, it's looking less and less like there will be any do-over of the vote in Michigan. Lawmakers there have been wrangling over possible scenarios all day. One major hitch is whether to allow people who cast a vote in the Republican primary to vote in a democratic re-do.

Michigan traditionally has an open democratic primary where voters of any party can participate. Hillary Clinton was the only major Democratic candidate on the Michigan ballot in January. Her spokesman tell CNN the senator will actually visit Detroit tomorrow morning to personally press the case for a re-vote and will blame Obama for holding it up. His campaign's response, "On a day when Michigan legislatures themselves have indicated that there isn't enough legislative support for a re-vote, and when Senator Clinton's own Michigan co-chair said that a re-vote wouldn't make much difference, it doesn't make any sense for them to point fingers at our campaign."

On a lighter note, you probably heard of "Obama Girl." But now, she has competition from the McCain girls. We're going to show you their feel-good anthem.


MUSIC: Alleluia, it's raining McCain. Amen.



BROWN: And now for tonight's "Political Pop." Remember all that talk of an Obama/Clinton dream ticket? It's pretty much subsided for now. But a University in Belgium used technology to show what it would like if Clinton and Obama were melded into one person. Check it out. Our staff thinks it kind of looks like an older, wiser version of Sanjaya. I don't know about that. Maybe.

Hot off the presses. The CNN poll suggests beer drinkers are more likely to vote for Senator John McCain in November while wine drinkers lean toward the Democrats. So will Zima drinkers go for Ralph Nader? And are there actually Zima drinkers out there?

Well, we have seen negative political ads used effectively to bring down opposing candidates. Well, now, it seems kids are getting into the act, giving the Atwater treatment to their fellow classmates.


NARRATOR: Here are some things you might not know about Billy. He's got small hands. In the last year, he was given a time-out on four separate occasions. He can't read. During his tenure as milk monitor, the price for chocolate milk reached all-time highs. Does this look like the work of a leader? Ignore Billy and put your gold star next to Jimmy Jones, your next preschool president?


BROWN: And you can't get enough of trash talk and kids? Well, the folks at "Huffington Post" comedy Web site "23/6" have tykes taking a page out of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth playbook and their target, Hillary Clinton's fashion sense.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE CHILD: Hillary, your pantsuit's not funny to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE CHILD: I don't like you in pantsuits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE CHILD: Who really wears the pantsuits, Hillary? Is it you, or is it Bill?


BROWN: So enough negativity for one day. Let's end on a decidedly positive John McCain YouTube video that pretty much speaks for itself.


MUSIC: It's raining McCain, Alleluia, it's raining McCain, amen. I'm going to go out, elect myself again. Absolutely, John McCain. It's raining McCain, Alleluia. It's raining McCain, amen.


BROWN: Nicely done, ladies. That is our "Political Pop" for the day, everybody.

Finally, tonight, today's photo-op is the political equivalent of Groundhog Day. In Thailand, people looked to a couple of elephants to give a clue how the Obama/Clinton race will end. You'll be disappointed. It was a tie. So bring in the superelephants.

That's it for tonight. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.