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Obama on Race; Which Presidential Candidate can Help Economy?; Dalai Lama Threatens to Step Down; Supreme Court Hears Case on Second Amendment

Aired March 18, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, a sweeping vision of race in America, Barack Obama's words echoing out on the campaign trail. Did he put this controversy surrounding his former pastor behind him? This hour, you're going to be able to listen for yourself. We're going to bring you Barack Obama's speech at length.

Plus, Hillary Clinton's response to Barack Obama's plea for unity. The best political team on television takes a closer look at the state of racial tensions in the race for the White House.

And how does John McCain compare to the Democratic presidential candidates when it comes to handling your money? We're examining all three of these presidential candidates, their business experience, or lack of it.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

It was Barack Obama's most aggressive attempt yet to try to move beyond the racial tensions that have been dogging his campaign and this overall Democratic presidential contest. But will it change anything in his showdown with Hillary Clinton?

Let's bring in our Suzanne Malveaux. She's in Pennsylvania. She's watching this story for us.

Suzanne, you were there when Barack Obama took this issue head on. He also discussed the broader issue of race in America. What happened?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, they recognized this was a very important speech for Barack Obama. It was also a very ambitious speech.

What they hoped to do is to address the racial controversy, to move on so he can talk about issues like economics, health care and education, but they also wanted to do something else, and that is to really open up the dialogue, this discussion about this sensitive issue of race.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): Barack Obama...

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm a son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas.

MALVEAUX: America's racial history and it's divisions are now front and center of Obama's campaign thanks to the controversial remarks made by his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, who, among other things, criticized the U.S. government and suggested America was to blame to for the September 11th attacks.

Standing in front of eight American flags in the city where the Constitution was born, Obama again repudiated the reverend's remarks.

OBAMA: ... views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation, and that rightly offend white and black alike.

MALVEAUX: But Obama also tried to explain his nearly 20-year relationship with his religious leader.

OBAMA: He has been like family to me. He strengthens my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms.

MALVEAUX: Obama used his own life experience to explain his struggle.

OBAMA: I can no more disown him than I can disown my white grandmother, a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed her by on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are part of me. And they are part of America, this country that I love.

MALVEAUX: Obama addressed the history of America's racism -- black anger, white resentment, and its occasional expression in the black church. He called for Americans not to ignore the sensitive subject.

OBAMA: The anger is real. It is powerful. And to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.


MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, he said that the Reverend Wright's profound mistake was not taking on racism or even being critical of the U.S. government, but rather it was the suggestion that the United States was static, that society was static, that it was incapable of changing. And he says this is about change. It's the centerpiece of his campaign. And that is what he's trying to bring back around here come full circle, saying that is what he is trying to promote -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux, thanks very much.

Let's get reaction from the Clinton campaign. Jessica Yellin is over there, not very far away.

What are they saying in response to this major address by Barack Obama, Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, Senator Clinton appeared just about a mile from where Barack Obama was speaking this morning, and she was focused on an issue a world away, on Iraq. She did acknowledge Barack Obama's speech in comments to reporters, but only briefly and obliquely.


YELLIN (voice-over): Senator Clinton says she did not watch Senator Obama's speech, but she's glad he delivered had.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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.

YELLIN: She seemed reluctant to go further. Had Senator Obama done enough to announce Reverend Wright's comments?

H. CLINTON: Well, I think that will question should be directed at him.

YELLIN: Is there anything she would add to the discussion of race?

H. CLINTON: Well, I will have to read it first.

YELLIN: Did her supporters inject race into this campaign?

H. CLINTON: Obviously, it's something that I take seriously and will remain as vigilante as I can.

YELLIN: Senator Clinton made these remarks at Philadelphia City Hall flanked by her supporter Philly Mayor Michael Nutter.

MICHAEL NUTTER (D), MAYOR OF PHILADELPHIA: Senator Clinton's ability to end the war in Iraq and serve as commander in chief from day one.

YELLIN: She was eager to remind voters that Obama is not the only trailblazer in this campaign.

H. CLINTON: We will be nominating the first African-American or woman for the presidency of the United States. These are difficult issues. And we have seen that in this campaign. Race and gender are difficult issues.

YELLIN: Still, one political watcher says the controversy over Reverend Wright's comments could help Clinton, even if she never addresses it again.

STUART ROTHENBERG, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": People are going to raise questions about his judgment as to why he sat there. And he has acknowledged now that he sat there during some controversial comments. People are going to want to know exactly what were those comments, and how offensive were they or weren't they and why did he accept them.


YELLIN: Now, Wolf, at that same press conference with reporters, Senator Clinton took a number of questions about the economy, and she offered very long and in-depth answers to those questions which stood in stark contrast to her very brief answers to questions about Obama's speech and about race, clearly a sensitive topic she was treating very delicately -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jessica.

Stocks surged by the way today after the Federal Reserve slashed a key interest rate by three-quarters of a percentage percent. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 420 points, its best day in five- and-a-half years. Most political analysts agree that concerns about the economy likely to be at the front of the voters' minds when they elect a new president in the fall.

Let's go to Brian Todd. He has been looking at the candidates' positions, their credentials all when it comes to the economy.

Brian, here's the simple question that may not be simple to answer. Which candidate is best poised to take advantage of this issue number one in the campaign, which is the economy?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, depending on who you ask, Wolf, it's either all of the above or none of the above. Now, the candidates have all formulated positions on taxes. They have all been grilled recently about home foreclosures, but actually hands-on experience especially dealing with one economic crisis after another, that's completely another matter.


TODD (voice-over): A mortgage meltdown, a credit crisis, oil skyrockets, the stock market slides. And among America's top three choices for president, not one who's run a business or balanced a state budget.

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: They basically draw down their capital from their life experiences up to the point of going into the White House. You know, so it is a concern. At the same time, I think it's also true that no one can really run a $14 trillion economy who hasn't been there and tried it.

TODD: John McCain does have two decades on the Senate Commerce Committee dealing with a broad range of issues, but one economist says for McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, voting on an economic stimulus package may not be the best preparation for what's ahead.

LAKSHMAN ACHUTHAN, AUTHOR, "BEATING THE BUSINESS CYCLE": As lawmakers, you know, there is the sense that you can take a decision, maybe even vote it into law, and then your job is done. And that's not how the economy works.

TODD: When the next president takes office in January, the U.S. may still be facing some tough economic problems. McCain wants to eliminate some taxes, reduce others and cut government spending. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama want to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, while cutting them for low and middle income taxpayers and they want to bail out struggling homeowners.

CLINTON: You know, a moratorium on home foreclosures for 90 days.

TODD: But most economists would tell you the president doesn't sit there and pull levers running the economy. So what should we expect of the next president with more market-busting news looming on the horizon?

SABATO: Not specific expertise in the economy as much as the good sense to surround himself or herself with real experts, people who understand the economic cycle.


TODD: Larry Sabato says that means people who understand what government can do to help the economy and what it can't do. One economic analyst told us a president who can act quickly but not rashly and at least project an air of decisiveness and confidence will do more than you can imagine to at least start to revive the economy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brian, for that.

Let's check back with Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The United States' economic problems are getting worse. Americans grappling with higher costs for food and gasoline. Their adjustable rate mortgages go up, while the value of their homes goes down, the economy losing jobs, 63,000 of them last month. The dollar continues to hit record lows against foreign currencies, like the euro, while rising commodity prices signal inflation.

The nation's fifth largest investment bank, Bear Stearns, went belly up. The Federal Reserve on a Sunday night struck fear into everyone's heart by suddenly announcing the government is going to make emergency loans available to Wall Street firms in addition to banks. Why Sunday night? What did they know that couldn't have waited until Monday during regular business hours when the fear quotient of that decision could have been greatly reduced?

Similarly, the feds' race to dramatically lower interest rates in big chunks, for example, today's reduction of three-quarters of a percentage point, also raises questions about whether things are worse than we're being told. A recession now is all but inevitable and a lot of experts say it could be long and deep and very painful.

A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows 65 percent of those surveyed are very concerned about inflation, 59 percent worried about unemployment; 48 percent point to the drop in the values of their homes and 40 percent to the decline in the stock market.

So, here's the question: How's the growing bad news about the economy affecting your daily life? You can go to and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

It's what's arguably been the biggest speech he's given since he decided to run for president of the United States.


OBAMA: This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we have been stuck in for years.


BLITZER: Barack Obama tackles issues of race head-on. If you missed it, coming up next, we're going to have a lot more of the speech. You're going to be able to make up your own mind.

Also, John McCain often plays up his foreign policy credentials. So, how could he make such a big mistake when talking about extremist potential threats to United States?

And how well maintained are the planes we fly on? The government's taking stunning new measures to try to keep all of us safe on planes. This is a story that affects all -- repeat, all -- U.S. airlines.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Barack Obama is telling the nation that racially charged remarks by his former pastor were divisive and flat-out wrong. But will Obama's sweeping speech today take the political sting out of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright's remarks?

You can decide for yourself. Here now is an extended excerpt of Obama's speech in Pennsylvania.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy, and in some cases, pain. For some, nagging questions remain.

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, just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests or rabbis with which you strongly disagree.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country, a view that sees white racism as endemic and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems -- two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change, problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church?

And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television sets and YouTube, if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn't all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor.

He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine, and who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who over 30 years has led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth -- by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety -- the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gangbanger. Like other black churches, Trinity's services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing and clapping and screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear.

The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and, yes, the bitterness and biases that make up the black experience in America. And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright.

As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect.

He contains within him the contradictions -- the good and the bad -- of the community that he has served diligently for so many years. 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, a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed her by on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are part of me. And they are part of America, this country that I love.


BLITZER: So, what do people who attend and are familiar with Barack Obama's church in Chicago think of his speech? We are going to go live to the church. That's coming up.

Also, many Americans say they want change, but who do you think can bring the most change to Washington? We have some answers that may surprise you.

And sad news regarding visionary science fiction writer Arthur Clarke. We're going to tell you the disturbing news that we have just learned.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: In New York, he was supposed to be the antidote to scandal in the governor's office. But now David Paterson and his wife are making a stunning confession.


GOV. DAVID PATERSON (D), NEW YORK: I don't think I violated my oath of office. I saw this as a private matter. But both of us committed acts of infidelity.


BLITZER: Is it a private matter or a new political scandal? Coming up, questions of power and infidelity.

Plus, Barack Obama's speech on race judged by the people back home. Did they hear what they were hoping to hear?

And a monumental United States Supreme Court case on guns. Will the justices make history by defining the right to bear arms? Rare audio excerpts, plus the best political team on television -- coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, Barack Obama peels the veil back on one of the most difficult subjects in America, race relations. How are some people familiar with Obama's church reacting?

Also, who do you think has the right experience to be president, and who would give you the greatest sense of pride if they were elected? We have some answers. I will discuss those answers and more with the best political team on television.

And there's death and protest in Tibet. China reportedly does not want the full picture getting out, but our Internet team has found some startling images you're going to want to see.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Barack Obama today rejected the racially charged rhetoric of his former Chicago pastor, but tried to put those inflammatory words into the context of America's racially charged history.

So, how do people back home in Chicago feel about the controversy? Let's go to our national correspondent, Keith Oppenheim. He's right outside the church, the Trinity United Church, in Chicago.

He's getting reaction -- Keith.

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's fair to say that Senator Obama and Reverend Wright are very referred figures in this neighborhood. So, the question for people is, how do they feel about the senator condemning the words of his pastor without condemning the man himself?


OPPENHEIM (voice-over): Literally, a stone's throw from Reverend Jeremiah Wright's church, we found the childhood home of Deborah Patula (ph). While her mom cooked bacon on the stove, Deborah, her friend Latasha Gardner (ph) and her brother-in-law Anthony Burton (ph) talked about the preacher, the politician and race with me. DEBORAH PATULA, REACTION TO OBAMA'S COMMENTS ON PASTOR WRIGHT: It was the typical speech around America pretty much in the black churches.

OPPENHEIM: All three agreed Reverend Jeremiah Wright's fiery speech...

REVEREND JEREMIAH WRIGHT, TRINITY UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: Barack knows what it means to be a black man living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people.

OPPENHEIM: ... was somewhat representative of what goes on in African-American churches, that, historically, black ministers have preached politics, sometimes provocatively.

Still, Anthony Burton felt Pastor Wright went overboard.

ANTHONY BURTON, OBAMA SUPPORTER: I don't agree with the use of harsh political and black liberation antics if it doesn't meet with what is in the bible.

OPPENHEIM: Keep in mind, all three are Obama supporters. All three felt that Reverend Wright's words put Obama on the defensive.

(on-camera): But you're all saying there is more of a separation between the political beliefs of the pastor and the spiritual faith of a parishioner.

BURTON: No question. We don't always believe in what they're saying politically when I go to church.

PATULA: Absolutely.

BURTON: But when I go to church, I want to make sure that we meet together with our beliefs that are spiritually, not automatically not our belief politically.

OPPENHEIM: Ultimately, these three are asking themselves the central political question. Did Obama help himself with his speech today?

OBAMA: Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely, just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests or rabbis with which you strongly disagree.

PATULA: I think he's taken a tough situation and turned it into his advantage for the simple fact that he is trying to bridge the gap.

OPPENHEIM: What Latasha Gardner heard was a direct message to African-Americans.

LATASHA GARDNER, ON OBAMA'S PASTOR PROBLEMS: I mean there's people who want to hold the government accountable and this society accountable for all the things that have happened in the past. But I think he's trying to move forward and not say oh, those issues are not to be dealt with or -- you know, but we're going to deal with them in a different kind of way.


OPPENHEIM: To reiterate, all the people we spoke to are Obama supporters and they're really trying to see, over the next few days, how his speech today will play on a national scale -- on a national audience. And they are hoping that it will help, not hurt, his campaign in this primary season -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Keith very much.

Barack Obama certainly did lay it out in the open today, taking on the issue of race in America and his own identity as, in his words, being the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas.

Let's go to the best political team on television.

Joining us now, our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin, Jack Cafferty -- they're both in New York -- as well as our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, here in Washington.

Did it work for him today -- Jack?

CAFFERTY: I don't think we know the answer to that yet. It was a good speech. If you haven't seen it or read it, you probably should. This is an articulate, bright man who's got some things to say that we probably all should listen to.

That being said, though, my gut feeling is that it may be too little and too late -- that the damage has already been done to Barack Obama. The news media, primarily television for the last week, has absolutely fixated on this story. And we have run, all of us, those clips of Pastor Wright over and over and over -- thousands and thousands and thousands of times, hour after hour after hour, day after day after day for the better part of a week.

The cumulative effect of that kind of media exposure of those little snips of videotape is not something to be taken lightly. And it's probably going to take a lot more than one speech one day for Barack Obama to overcome that if, in fact, he can overcome it at all. I'm beginning to wonder.

BLITZER: Gloria?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I thought at the very least you have to say it was authentic, transparent, very clear. He did something politicians hardly ever ask us to do, which is to think about our lives, ourselves, our country, our history. So I think he did a very good job at enlarging the entire frame of the conversation.

I think the question that Jack is raising and the question that remains out there is what did he do about those questions closer to the ground? And that is, in talking a lot to Democrats today, the question still is he didn't disavow totally the Reverend Wright and gave us his reasons. But politically that question is how is that going to play with those white, working class male voters that he is trying to attract to both seal up the nomination, as well as win the presidency? And do I think we don't know the answer to that.

BLITZER: Jeff, what do you think?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it was an absolutely superb speech, I think it was one of the smartest, most interesting speeches I've ever heard from an American politician. I also think he's in better shape than maybe Jack and Gloria do, because -- you know, I have never heard of an American politician or any American public figure, for that matter, being forced to vouch for his minister. That has never happened before.

And I think the basic fairness of the American people are going to kick in and say wait a second, why should he defend everything that this pastor has ever said. And I just don't think this is going to last as a big story.

BORGER: I think what's important today, though, Wolf, is that we learned a lot about Barack Obama. The American public -- probably most folks haven't read his books. They don't know who he is. They don't know his history. They really don't know about where he came from.

And we saw a man today trying to bridge the black and white community -- to try and get us to think a little differently about race and to start the conversation, which is what we're having right now. Whether that continues across the country in a good way or in a terrible way, you know, remains to be seen. You know, race is an issue we need to talk about.

BLITZER: All right, guys. It's going to be a subject, I'm sure, for down the road. But we're going to move on from this subject.

Other important issues coming up, as well. Stand by. We've got a lot more to talk about, including the case of the right to bear arms versus a ban on handguns. The U.S. Supreme Court takes on the Second Amendment, this for the very first time. The best political team on television will assess.

An Iraq war critic, Congressman John Murtha -- he's now backing a candidate in the presidential campaign. We're going to tell you who it is.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't care what the polls say today, although for three days in a row, the national polls have shown her running better against Senator McCain than Senator Obama. By November, they'll all be that way. They'll all be that way because she wears well. Because they beat up on her for 16 years and she just gets stronger and stronger and stronger.


BLITZER: Bill Clinton supporting his wife out on the campaign trail.

Jack Cafferty, let's look at some of these polls. We've got the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll that came out today.

Who has the right experience to be president? McCain comes out on top on that, 68 percent, 61 percent think Clinton does, 40 percent think Obama does.

Who can bring the kind of change the country needs? Fifty-six percent say Obama. He comes out on top on that, 49 percent Clinton, 39 percent McCain -- he's not doing well on that one.

Someone you would be proud to have as president -- Obama comes out on top on that one, as well, 62 percent, 57 percent for Clinton, 51 percent for McCain.

Sort of a mixed bag out there. What do you see?

CAFFERTY: Well, the dissatisfaction of the public at large over the way things are going in this country and have been going for the last seven years indicates that they want something different. They want change. All of the polls are indicating that. And I suppose the candidate of the three remaining in the race who represents the greatest capacity for something besides business as usual in Washington is Barack Obama.

John McCain and Hillary Clinton are poster children for the Washington establishment. And if either of them is elected president, my guess is things aren't going to change a whole lot.

BLITZER: Gloria?

BORGER: Well, I'm just interested to see that John McCain is doing as well as he's doing, given the fact that people think the economy could be headed in a recession, the war in Iraq remains very unpopular, despite the surge or the success of the surge.

John McCain is still considered somebody, by over half the people, that they would be proud to have as president, because he's a war hero. You have a war hero, you have a woman, you have an African- American. People like that.


TOOBIN: Well, I don't read much into those numbers at all. I just don't think they're very significant. I think, you know, Obama's younger. He's less experienced. But we've got a long way to go. I don't think we're going to learn -- we can learn that much from those numbers at this point.

BLITZER: Here's something that's very significant, Jeff, and I think you'll agree, as someone who's written a bestseller on the United States Supreme Court. Today, the justices heard arguments dealing with gun ownership, the Second Amendment. And it was hard for me to believe this is really the first time they've done this -- they've taken a close look at the right to bear arms.

How big of a deal is this?

TOOBIN: This is really a very big deal because the Second Amendment -- a very bizarre ungrammatical sentence in the Bill of Rights has never really been understood by the courts. Does it speak of a right to bear arms? Do citizens really have a right to bear arms or does that really only apply to state militias? The Supreme Court has never settled

that. This case addresses it squarely. And certainly from the argument today, it sounded like the Supreme Court was getting ready to declare many gun control laws unconstitutional. So the NRA should be happy tonight.

BLITZER: Not necessarily.

CAFFERTY: What's the wording (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: Hold on a second. Jack, hold on, because I want to play a little excerpt, the audio from one of the arguments, because you'll hear Justice Scalia maybe taking a dissenting view.

Listen to this.


JUSTICE DAVID SOUTER, SUPREME COURT: Can they consider the extent of the murder rate in Washington, D.C. using handguns?

ALAN GURA, LAWYER: If we were to consider the extent of the murder rate with handguns, the law would not survive any type of review, Your Honor.

JUSTICE ANTONIO SCALIA, SUPREME COURT: All the more reason to allow a homeowner to have a handgun.


BLITZER: All right, Jack, go ahead

CAFFERTY: I was just going to ask Jeff what the wording of the Second Amendment clause was that relates to gun ownership.

TOOBIN: Well, it's -- I can't recite it from memory, but it speaks in its first part about a well-regulated militia and then it says the right to bear arms shall not be abridged.

So the question is how do they interact? In that clip, you saw Justice Souter, one of the more liberal justices, suggesting gun control was constitutional. But Justice Scalia saying just the opposite -- which I think is how their votes are likely to go. BORGER: Is there some kind of a reasonable compromise they can come up with, she asked, as a District resident.

TOOBIN: Well, that's a very hard question because if you feel there is a right to bear arms, how do you craft a law that says you can't have a surface to air missile in your backyard?

That's what I think the conservatives of the court are going to struggle with. Because I think they want to say that there is a right to bear arms, but is there no limit?

Can you have a tank? Can you have a machine gun? I think that's what they're going to struggle with in their opinion.

BLITZER: Jack, you want to button this up?

CAFFERTY: No. I just, you know, it's one of the most dearly held freedoms that the United States has. We're the most heavily-armed country in the world. And to quote the NRA supporters out there, I'll give up my right to bear arms when you pry it out of my cold, dead fingers.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, stand by. We've got The Cafferty File coming up.

Jeff, Gloria, thanks to you.

We're all paying more and more for gas and groceries. In what other ways are painful economic conditions affecting your daily lives? Jack is back with your e-mail.

And they are scenes China reportedly does not want you to see -- pictures of death and protests in Tibet. They're coming in. Our Internet team has found some really startling images.

That and a lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: On our political ticker today, John McCain's Middle East tour. The probable Republican presidential nominee sat down with Jordan's King Abdullah today in Amman and sent a tough message to Iran. But McCain's comments also raised some eyebrows because of a misstatement he quickly corrected after some prodding from his Senate colleague, Joe Lieberman.

Listen to this.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We continue to be concerned about Iranian -- taking the Al Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back. We continue to be concerned about Iranian influence and assistance to Hezbollah, as well as Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons.

I'm sorry. The Iranians are training extremists, not al Qaeda. Not al Qaeda. I'm sorry.


BLITZER: Thousands of pages of Hillary Clinton's schedules as the first lady are set to be released tomorrow, after Barack Obama and others suggested the Clintons have been slow to disclose the records. The National Archives said today it will release more than 11,000 pages of Clinton's daily schedules.

And an early and outspoken critic of the war in Iraq made his pick for the presidential race. The Pennsylvania congressman, John Murtha, announced he's backing Hillary Clinton, calling her -- and I'm quoting now -- "the candidate that will forge a consensus on healthcare, education, the economy and the war in Iraq."

Let's go to Lou Dobbs to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour.

What are you working on -- Lou.


Quite an endorsement from Jack Murtha.

Coming up at 7:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN, we'll have much more on Senator Obama's speech on race in America and his refusal to disown his controversial former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Will that speech enhance or diminish Obama's standing among voters and his campaign for the presidency?

Also, the Supreme Court considering what many say is Washington's unconstitutional ban on handguns. Two advocates in the Supreme Court today on opposite sides of the argument join us.

And will the Feds' latest interest rate cut today help working men and women and their families? We'll have that story.

And three of my favorite radio talk show hosts join me here.

Please be with us at the top of the hour for all of that, all the day's news and more -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks, Lou. We'll be watching.

Let's go back to Jack right now. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: How is the growing bad news about the economy affecting your daily life?

Katherine writes: "Groceries are killing us. We started a garden this year to help keep expenses down. We have to watch where we go, the cost of gas. And we are doing better than some people I know. I fear more for what may come next and if it gets worse."

Josh in Florida writes: "I bought a house in 2007, a hundred percent financing at a fixed rate. I remodeled it and now almost overnight, my house is worth 25 percent less than when I bought it. How exactly does that happen? It's a home, not a stock. Things are seriously broken."

Don writes: "Two weeks ago, a dozen plain donuts at Wal-Mart cost me $2.50. Yesterday I went to Wal-Mart, the same dozen cost me $3.33.

Kevin in New York writes: "My boss sweating bullets over the economy. The weak dollar and high costs are putting a huge strain on us. We manufacture car racing equipment and the cost of some materials has doubled in the last year -- up 23 percent just this past week. He's talking about making cuts, but he doesn't know who or where. My main worry is that we've only got six employees and I'm the new guy. I'm getting ulcers already."

Ann in New Jersey writes: "I'm 70 years of age, unable to live on Social Security and still have to work to keep my head above water. With gasoline over $3 a gallon, food and heating rising, having to pay supplement health and prescription insurance, higher taxes, the water is now rising past my lips. I hope I don't drown soon."

And Jeff writes from Boston: "I was laid off on Friday of last week. My brother just called to let me know he was laid off today. Does that answer your question?" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: See you tomorrow, Jack. Thanks very much.

Tensions remain high in Tibet after four days of deadly clashes between anti-Chinese protesters and police. It's being widely reported that the Chinese deposited is blocking access to YouTube.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton -- Abbi, what's being posted online?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this is the kind of video that Chinese authorities don't want people to see -- foreign news reports, this one of Chinese forces in Tibet. Mobile phone video -- or what appears to be -- of protesters taken from within those protests in Tibet a few days ago. These uploaded to YouTube, accessible to us here, but not in China.

Multiple reports coming out of that country that has been blocked since the weekend. Now, that development is new, but Chinese control of the Web is not. According to the watchdog group Reporters Without Borders, the Chinese Internet, with more than 200 million users, is one of the most controlled in the world. A spokesperson for says they're working to ensure that service is restored as soon as possible -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you.

Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, is threatening to step down from his position as the head of state of Tibet's government in exile if the violence continues to escalate. The government in exile is based in a city in Northern India and advocates for Tibetan refugees and exile communities, but has no authority in Tibet. It says exiles number around 120,000 and that Tibet has been illegally occupied by China for six decades.

First, the Eliot Spitzer scandal. Now this...


D. PATERSON: I betrayed a commitment to my wife several years ago. And I do not feel I betrayed my commitment to the...


BLITZER: New York's new governor has a sex scandal of his own. Our Jeanne Moos stands by with a Moost Unusual look.

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: One day after being sworn in as the governor of New York, David Paterson found himself answering very public questions about his private sex life.

Jeanne Moos takes a Moost Unusual look at the latest sex scandal in Albany.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One day they're adoringly chanting your name.

CROWD: David! David!

MOOS: The next day, your name's being dragged through the mud.

D. PATERSON: Both of us committed acts of infidelity.

MOOS: New York's new governor, David Paterson, and his wife, both admitted to extramarital affairs during a period when their marriage was rocky.

D. PATERSON: I was angry. I was jealous.

MOOS: This just days after the former governor stood with his wife atoning for using prostitutes. All the infidelity led "The L.A. Times" to blog, "What is this, some kind of weird job requirement to be the governor of New York?"

D. PATERSON: And I wanted to come forward because I didn't want it hanging over my ahead.

MOOS: David Paterson may be New York's first legally blind governor, but he had the foresight to get ahead of this story when infidelity rumors started to circulate involving trysts at this Manhattan hotel.

At his swearing-in the day before...

D. PATERSON: My wife and life-long friend, Michelle Paige Paterson.

MOOS: He had to urge his wife twice...

D. PATERSON: Michelle.


MOOS: share the limelight.

Comparisons to the Spitzer scandal have surfaced on t-shirts -- "at least Paterson didn't have to pay for it." Actually, the naturally funny Paterson scored his biggest one liner when was asked last week if he had ever patronized a prostitute.

D. PATERSON: Only the lobbyists.


MOOS: Paterson is extremely well liked. His swearing-in resembled a hug-in and his colleagues seemed to distinguish between the prostitution scandal and mutual infidelity during the time when the Patersons almost divorced. They stuck it out and went to counseling.

What would she tell the kids?

MICHELLE PATERSON, WIFE OF DAVID PATERSON: That in marriage, you're going to have peaks and valleys, but you want to show them how you get through them.

MOOS: Meanwhile, her husband has been showing how to get through legally blind. He's been zipping around the state capital, warning members of the press to watch their step. And though the blind governor didn't run into anything...


MOOS: ...our sighted cameraman did. The governor doesn't use a cane, though occasionally an aide guides him with a light touch and advanced warning.

The new governor doesn't seem to be making excuses after coming clean about his marital history.

D. PATERSON: We were very much in love with each other when we got married. We're very much in love with each other now.

MOOS: Their love may no longer be blind, but it still seems to bind them.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: You've helped make our politics podcast one of the most popular on iTunes. To get the best political team to go, this is what you have to do. You can subscribe at or you can go to iTunes.

Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Please join me later tonight. I'll be filling in for Larry King, 9:00 p.m. Eastern. We're going to have a lot more on the Obama speech, as well as the economy. That's coming up later tonight.

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