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Obama-Clinton War of Words Escalates; Hillary Clinton Takes Direct Aim at Mortgage Mess

Aired March 24, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: big names and big insults, including a slap right out of the Bible. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama supporters taking their fight to a nasty new level. James Carville, for one, isn't -- isn't backing down. He tells me the mission behind his Judas remark was accomplished.

Senator Clinton takes on the mortgage crisis. Does she have solutions, or will her plan help keep her party's house divided?

And with all the infighting among the Democrats, is John McCain making the most of it? Some of the Republicans' own supporters aren't necessarily all that sure.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, along with the best political team on television. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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

Allies of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are exchanging some of their sharpest fighting words yet, and there's no sign that the ugliness is easing up at all, dueling Democrats invoking a biblical betrayal, a witch-hunt for communists, and Bill Clinton's impeachment scandal. CNN's Jim Acosta is following all of this.

It's been another day of attack after attack by the supporters of these two campaigns.

Jim, what's the latest?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, from comparison Judas, to references to Monica Lewinsky's blue dress, the political rhetoric over Easter weekend seemed almost unholy.


ACOSTA (voice-over): On their daily conference calls, the Obama campaign...

DAVID PLOUFFE, OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I think questioning patriotism is something that we don't think has a place in this campaign.

ACOSTA: And the Clinton campaign came out swinging.

PHIL SINGER, CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Gutter tactics that their campaign is now employing.

ACOSTA: It's a smackdown that intensified three days ago with Bill Clinton in North Carolina.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country.

ACOSTA: Obama surrogate retired Air Force General Tony McPeak immediately went nuclear. Off camera, McPeak accused the former president of Cold War McCarthyism.

GEN. TONY MCPEAK (RET.), OBAMA SUPPORTER: I'm saddened to see a president employ these kind of tactics.

ACOSTA: The Clinton campaign cried foul, drawing this response from former Iowa Democratic Party chairman and Obama supporter Gordon Fischer, who said in his blog, "This is a stain on the former president's legacy, much worse, much deeper than the one on Monica Lewinsky's blue dress."

But that's not all. Take Hillary Clinton supporter James Carville's attack on former Bill Clinton Cabinet member Bill Richardson's endorsement of Obama. The New Mexico's endorsement, said Carville, "came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver."

Richardson fired back.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: Well, I'm not going to get in the gutter like that. And that's typical of many of the people around Senator Clinton. They think they have a sense of entitlement to the presidency.

ACOSTA: The battle royal has some analysts wondering whether the two campaigns are starting to inflict permanent damage on the party.

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: Many of these insults will be used again against the eventual nominee. This is isn't the last we have heard of these exchanges. And they will have added credibility, because the Republicans will say, we didn't say this. Fellow Democrats said this about your nominee.


ACOSTA: As for Gordon Fischer's riff on Monica Lewinsky, the former Iowa Democratic Party leader says he has removed the remark from his blog and apologized, calling his comments tasteless -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim, thank you.

Clinton supporter James Carville is standing by his Judas remark and the message it sent about Bill Richardson.


JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the quote had the desired intent.

BLITZER: What was that?

CARVILLE: That people saw Richardson and saw somebody who was disloyal.

BLITZER: So, you're not backing away at all from calling him a Judas?

CARVILLE: No, no, of course. It's a seasonal metaphor I was using. When people see it, that was that -- what I said -- and it was quoted accurately, and it had its desired intent.


BLITZER: And you can hear much more of this interview with James Carville. That is coming up in a few moments right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, focusing in on the number-one issue facing voters today, the U.S. economy. As she tries to seize the high ground in the big state battleground of Pennsylvania, she's taking direct aim at the mortgage mess. But can she take the credit for her cleanup plan?

Let's go to CNN's Dan Lothian. He's in Philadelphia watching this story with us. Right behind him is the CNN Election Express.

Dan, what exactly is the senator proposing?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well, she laid out quite a complicated, rather quite big plan today as she was talking to voters here in the state and also talking to voters all across the country. What she wants them to know is that when it comes to repairing the economy and also coming up with solutions to fix the mortgage mess, she's the one to get the job done.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our economic crisis is at its core a housing crisis.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): Senator Hillary Clinton tackling the economy on the campaign trail in Philadelphia, unveiling a four-point economic plan she says will help restore confidence in a battered economy and a housing market drowning in foreclosures.

CLINTON: Our housing crisis is at heart an American dream crisis. Your home isn't just your greatest asset, your greatest source of wealth. It's your great source of security. LOTHIAN: Senator Clinton wants President Bush appoint an emergency working group with top financial experts like Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin, and Paul Volcker, finding new ways to deal with the housing crisis.

And she revisited last week's proposal of a second stimulus package, at least $30 billion to help hard-hit states and communities fight foreclosures.

But to Senator Barack Obama, Clinton's plan sounds like a loud echo.

Here's what his campaign manager told reporters on a conference call.

PLOUFFE: Most of them are repackaged ideas. We have talked about many of the same solutions.

LOTHIAN: And the Obama campaign says Clinton's emergency working group sounds like what they proposed a year ago in this letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

Putting out a strong message on the economy and the mortgage crisis is critical, not only for Obama and Clinton, but for Senator John McCain, because, for voters, both Republicans and Democrats, it's issue number one.

In opinion pieces in "The Washington Post," advisers for all three campaigns made their case for turning things around. But is what they're offering enough to tackle this monumental problem long term?

Bill Rosenberg is a political science professor at Drexel University.

BILL ROSENBERG, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, DREXEL UNIVERSITY: The candidates are doing somewhat a good job at addressing this, but not a completely great job. We need to change the way business is being done, that we really can't have a mortgage industry that is left unbridled.


LOTHIAN: Now, Rosenberg says one of the things that none of the candidates is talking about is education. And he believes that education is a key component of any long-term economic strategy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan, thanks very much -- Dan Lothian joining us from Philadelphia.

By the way, the CNN Election Express and the best political team will be in Pennsylvania all through April, as we lead up to the April 22 primary in Pennsylvania.

Let's go back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" in New York -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Only days after marking the fifth anniversary of the United States-led invasion of Iraq, the United States reached a tragic but inevitable milestone. It's been coming for five years, the death toll of 4,000 U.S. troops.

Four American soldiers were killed in roadside bombings yesterday, a day when the Green Zone was hit repeatedly by rocket and mortar fire. The ability of insurgents to attack a supposedly protected area shows just how fragile the security situation remains in Iraq.

The military insists that no casualty is more or less significant than another, that each loss is equally precious, equally tragic. The White House calls it a somber moment, adding that President Bush spends time every day thinking about those who have lost their lives in the war.

The president also insisted last week that he has no regrets about starting this war. It's not clear how this latest news will affect the American public or impact the presidential campaign. Both Democratic candidates have called for a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal. John McCain says it's important to finish the fight and even suggested we could have troops in Iraq for 100 years.

One expert told Reuters that the 4,000-troop death toll could trigger another wave of heated debate here at home, but other people think it won't have as much of an impact as the 3,000 mark, which came an at a time when the overall situation in Iraq was seen as going badly.

Meanwhile, as the war enters its sixth year, estimates of the Iraqi death toll range between 80,000 and hundreds of thousands. An estimated two million people have been forced to leave Iraq. Another 2.5 million people are displaced within their own country.

So, here's the question. How should the milestone of 4,000 U.S. troops, the deaths of them in Iraq, affect the American public?

Go to, where you can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you. See you in a few moments.

He compared the latest big endorsement of Barack Obama to a Judas-like sellout of Hillary Clinton.


CARVILLE: My only personal view was is that this deserved a response. And I'm very satisfied with the response I gave.


BLITZER: Has the bickering reached a new low? I will ask Clinton supporter James Carville about the political inferno he's touched off. The interview with James Carville coming up next.

Also, is the bitter tone of the Democratic campaign working to the advantage of John McCain? The best political team on television standing by to take up that question.

And dozens were rescued, but the search is on for a crew member missing from a fishing vessel which went down in the frigid waters off Alaska.

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



BLITZER: James Carville has rarely, if ever, been accused of biting his tongue, but some say his criticism of Governor Bill Richardson was out there, even for James Carville. We know this much -- Carville's suggestion that Richardson's endorsement of Barack Obama amounted to a Judas-like betrayal of Hillary Clinton got lots of Easter weekend attention.

Joining us now, the Clinton supporter, the CNN contributor, James Carville.

James, thanks for coming in.


BLITZER: Here's what The New York Times quoted you Friday -- excuse me -- Saturday as saying. Mr. Richardson's endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver, so I think the timing is appropriate, if ironic.

Is that an accurate quote?

CARVILLE: Yes. A fellow by the name of Mr. Healy called me and told me about it.

BLITZER: He's the reporter?

CARVILLE: For The New York Times.

And I have to say that he quoted me accurately and in context. It was -- yes, that's exactly what I said. And by the way, I think the quote had the desired intent.

BLITZER: What was that?

CARVILLE: That people saw Richardson and saw somebody who was disloyal.

BLITZER: So you're not backing away at all from calling him a Judas?

CARVILLE: No, of course not. Well, I mean, it's a seasonal metaphor I was using. But when people see it, that was -- that was -- it had -- it was -- it was what I said and it was quoted accurately, and it had its desired intent.

BLITZER: What were the 30 pieces of silver he got in exchange?

CARVILLE: Well, again, that was a biblical thing. History will -- we will see.

BLITZER: Are you suggesting there was a deal or something?

CARVILLE: I was using a biblical metaphor and it had -- it had the desired intent. People called me left and right and said, Whenever I see that guy, I will can't help but think of that quote.

And I'm saying that I thought -- you know, I never said a word to Senator Kennedy. He's a friend of mine. I was on this very set with Senator Daschle a few days ago, who he and his wife Linda are dear friends of mine. I think the world of him.

I will be so for Senator Obama if he's the party's nominee, I will -- Corporal Cue Ball will sew on his chevrons and be in General Axelrod's Marine Corps from day one. I was -- I thought this was an egregious act, and I thought it deserved a comment.

BLITZER: Why? I mean, he ran against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

CARVILLE: Because, again...

BLITZER: What was -- what was so much of a betrayal?

CARVILLE: In my view -- first of all, twice served the administration, and I felt -- my own personal view was, is that this deserved a response. And I'm very satisfied with the response I gave.

BLITZER: But why was it such a betrayal? Because he makes the point, look, I ran against Hillary Clinton.

CARVILLE: Again, I think the world of Senator Kennedy, have never said one thing, or Senator Kerry, or --


BLITZER: So why is Richardson different?

CARVILLE: Because I think that there was -- that he served in the cabinet in two different positions. I think that he invited President Clinton to come to his Super Bowl party.

I think that things, to me, to James Carville -- see, I'm not -- if there's something that I think is outrageous, I will comment on it. I will completely be for Senator Obama. I think the world of his supporters. All of them -- many of them are dear, dear friends of mine, have been, as far as I'm concerned will continue to be.

I -- just, maybe I have a different sort of code than people in Washington. I don't know, maybe I do. This just seemed to -- it seemed to strike me the wrong way, and I was quoted very accurately and very much in context by this fellow, Mr. Patrick Healy.

BLITZER: Here's what Governor Richardson said yesterday. He said" "I'm not going to get in the gutter like that. And you know, that's typical of many of the people around Senator Clinton. They think they have a sense of entitlement to the presidency."

CARVILLE: I have no idea what he's talking about. And by the way, I never talked to Senator Clinton about this. Her people said we should be talking about health care.

So I don't know -- I have no idea of what he's talking about. I don't have any sense of entitlement of anything. I never served in the administration, I never lobbied anybody, I never made -- I never did any of that. But again, I gave the quote, I knew what I was doing, I knew what its effect would be when I gave it, and it's effect has been predictable.

BLITZER: And so your bottom line is, you think that Bill Richardson, having served as Bill Clinton's energy secretary, the U.N. ambassador, he owed...

CARVILLE: Right, and other -- right.

BLITZER: He owed Bill Clinton.

CARVILLE: What he did is certainly could have stayed neutral, in my opinion. And I wanted to use a very strong metaphor to make my point.

And that's -- and again, I would be very, very -- many, many of Senator -- David Axelrod is a dear friend of mine. And they will be friends of mine. And if he wins the nomination, I will be a thousand percent supportive. I doubt if Governor Richardson and I will be particularly close in the future.

BLITZER: I doubt it too. With what you have just said here, it's going to be tough to see a reconciliation on that one. Although stranger things have happened here.

CARVILLE: Stranger things -- stranger things have happened. I have had my say.

BLITZER: All right.

Judas, his betrayal led to the downfall obviously of Jesus. Is Bill Richardson that important?

CARVILLE: I don't think -- no, I don't think he's that important. It was a metaphor I was using. I mean, you do these things, and people come up and say, you're comparing and everything else. I wanted -- I got one in the wheelhouse and I tagged it.

BLITZER: All right. Hillary Clinton is behind in the pledged delegates, and it doesn't look likely she's going to get ahead in the pledged delegates when all the contests are resolved. She's behind in the popular vote right now. It doesn't look like she's going to be ahead now that Florida and Michigan are no longer apparently in the ball game.

Do you see any way right now she can still emerge as the -- walk me through the process how she can be the Democratic nominee.

CARVILLE: First, let's start, Wolf, because you and I are both sports fans, and we love basketball and this tournament. There's somewhere between 8 and 9 percent of Democrats live in Florida and Michigan. So, would you stop a game, a 40-minute game, with three- and-a-half minutes left to go? Of course you would not.

And you saw on this set with Senator Daschle and I, they clearly did everything they could do to block these Florida and Michigan Democrats from voting. So, there's no real authority to claim a popular vote mandate when you still have 36 minutes and 30 seconds left to go to be played. you have got three minutes left in this contest. I think the party would have been much better or would be better if we came and had a party-run primary in these states, allowed these Democrats to vote.

BLITZER: But that's not happening.

CARVILLE: Well, again, it's not happening because Senator Obama doesn't want it to happen.


BLITZER: And later tonight, by the way, we will get a very different perspective. The New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson, he is going to be a guest on "LARRY KING LIVE."

"LARRY KING LIVE" airs at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

So, what should the role of the Democratic superdelegates be? Will these Democratic insiders be kingmakers at the convention? The best political team on television standing by to tackle that question.

And Detroit's mayor facing felony charges for allegedly lying in court about a romantic affair. We are going to have his reaction and a lot more coming up -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: The Democrats' presidential fight, it is taking on sort of a biblical proportion. After the Judas uproar, will Clinton and Obama supporters tone it down? And, if they don't, will voters be turned off?

Plus, the superdelegates' dilemma. No matter who they choose, are they bound to be second-guessed and possibly be accused of betrayal?

And John McCain takes a new swipe at the Democrats over the war in Iraq, but there's something conspicuously missing from his argument -- the best political team on ready to weigh in on that and a lot more.

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


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

Happening now: Bill Richardson's endorsement of Barack Obama, was it a betrayal of biblical proportions? James Carville, you just heard him, comparing Richardson to Judas, not backing away at all, launching a new campaign controversy.

Also, what's the Democrats' long, bloody battle meaning for the Republican rival, John McCain? Could it help propel him into the Oval Office?

Plus, the Democrats' superdelegate dilemma. We're going to show you how they could wind up causing the kinds of problems they were created to try to solve -- all of this coming up, plus the best political team on television.

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

Republican John McCain playing to California voters today and playing to national security issues he sees are his strong suit. But, while his Democratic rivals still are duking it out, there are now questions about whether McCain is making the most of his time right now.

Let's go to Dana Bash. She's over with McCain in California right now.

What was his basic message today, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, this was John McCain's first campaign event after returning from his week-long overseas trip, including Iraq.

So, he was trying to make the case that there was progress he says he saw on the ground there and didn't mention a sad milestone, until asked.


BASH (voice-over): Just back from his eighth trip to Iraq, John McCain returned to the campaign trail with last week's words from Osama bin Laden in hand.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He urged Palestinians and people of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia to -- quote -- "help in support of the mujahedeen brothers in Iraq, which is the greatest opportunity and the biggest task."

BASH: Proof, he argued, that Democrats are -- quote -- "dead wrong" about the war.

MCCAIN: My Democrat opponents, who want to pull out of Iraq, refuse to understand what's being said.

BASH: Absent from McCain's remarks to California veterans was any mention of the new grim death toll, 4,000 U.S. troops in the war zone he just visited. When asked afterwards why, he said:

MCCAIN: I wear a bracelet on my hand up, because -- not only as a symbol of the sacrifice that a brave young man named Matthew Stanley made, but that of nearly -- of 4,000 other brave young Americans who have served and sacrificed.

BASH: McCain is stepping up his challenge to Democrats to admit that the military strategy in Iraq is working. Still, privately, some McCain supporters tell CNN they worry the campaign is not using this time wisely in other ways, slow to develop a clear message. McCain advisers insist they're on track.

MCCAIN: We all know that America is hurting now.

BASH: With plans to unveil new policy ideas this week on the economy -- one of McCain's weak spots -- and a speech on what aides call his strength, national security.


BASH: And from here, John McCain headed to a fundraiser here in California. In fact, that's where he's going as we speak, Wolf. McCain goes to fundraisers nearly every day these days. And he's been doing that pretty much since he effectively wrapped up the Republican nomination about six weeks ago.

Nevertheless, last month Hillary Clinton raised three times as much as McCain and Barack Obama raised five times as much. On the one hand, McCain advisers say well, money doesn't necessarily matter this campaign year. On the other hand, they insist he will do better this month -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana, thanks very much.

You just heard it, just a few moments ago here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Clinton supporter and CNN contributor, James Carville, completely standing by his controversial remarks comparing the New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson, to Judas for endorsing Barack Obama.

Let's discuss this and more with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Also, Jack Cafferty is in New York.

And our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin.

They're all part of the best political team on television.

Carville did not mince any words. He never does, I have to say. But he said he had a game plan, he had a mission. He made this comparison to Judas and he said mission accomplished.

CAFFERTY: Well, you know, fine -- mission accomplished.

My question is what exactly was the mission?

Does the fact that Bill Richardson worked for Bill Clinton back a number of years ago mean that he owes an undying loyalty to Hillary Clinton, who he never worked for, because of his past association with Bill Clinton and that Bill Richardson isn't allowed, as a high-ranking member of the Democratic Party, to make his own decisions based on the fact that what he thinks is a better horse is in the race now?

I mean I like Jimmy Carville a lot. He's slick, he's funny, he's smart, he's articulate. This was not the smartest thing he ever said, I don't think.

BLITZER: Gloria, what do you think?

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, this was a hotly contested endorsement. And while the Clinton said afterwards that, gee, it may not matter that much, I think it does matter, particularly to those super-delegates.

And in talking to some of the Clinton people, I think what really upset them about Bill Richardson -- in addition to the endorsement -- is also what he said after he gave the endorsement, was essentially a not so subtle hint to Hillary Clinton that you ought to know when it's time for this campaign to end. It was sort of a hint that maybe she ought to step aside, which is, of course, something the Clinton people have absolutely no intention of doing. And it upset them.

BLITZER: You know, Jeff, they were also upset because, to a certain degree, they say he led them along. He let, you know, he invited Bill Clinton to watch the Super Bowl with him. They thought well, maybe he wasn't going to endorse anybody, but they say they were completely taken aback by his endorsement of Barack Obama.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, if he was going to do it, he did it at a good time for Hillary Clinton, in that he waited until after the Texas primary, because, after all, he's the governor of New Mexico, the most prominent Hispanic Democrat, probably, in the whole party. It could have had a big impact on the neighboring state with a big Hispanic population. So he didn't -- he waited on his endorsement there.

But, you know, I think James' remarks are not very significant. And I think the endorsement from a guy who had the opportunity to see Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama up close through all those debates and through a long campaign, I think it's an important endorsement.

BLITZER: What about the super-delegates, Jack? Because the rules of the game are -- one part of the rules is that Michigan and Florida, they're not going to count. That's a huge blow to Hillary Clinton, as all of us appreciate. But another rule of the game is those 800 or so super-delegates. They count. And they could be decisive because neither Obama nor Hillary Clinton -- neither one of them is going to have enough pledged delegates to get the nomination.

CAFFERTY: Well, understood. And the super-delegates are there for a reason.

That being said -- and we've had this conversation before -- if one candidate or the other gets to the end of the primaries with the most pledged delegates, having won the most states and having gotten the most popular votes -- remember, we have two historic candidates -- the first woman ever to get this close to the Oval Office, the first African-American ever to get this close to it. If anybody thinks those super-delegates who, for the most part, are elected officials themselves, are going to go to, for example, Barack Obama and say, you know, you ran a hell of a race here for 14 months, but we're going to take it all away and give it to Hillary Clinton it, it's not going to happen.

BORGER: You know...

CAFFERTY: And if it did, the repercussions from that -- you don't want to be in this country.

BORGER: You know, what's interesting to me, Wolf, as you watch all of this play out -- and as you pointed out all day long, it's getting really nasty -- is the kind of changing metrics of this.

Is it the super-delegates?

OK. Maybe it is.

Is it who's going to be ahead in the popular vote?

Well, maybe it is. And then over the weekend, Clinton supporter Evan Bayh suggested gee, maybe we ought to make the case that it's about the Electoral College and which of our candidates will have the chance to win in the Electoral College.

So you keep changing according to how you're doing. And I don't quite know how this is going to end up, except that what the Clinton people are waiting for, clearly, is for Barack Obama to make a huge mistake or for his poll numbers against John McCain's to start tanking. Because if that happens, they can then go to those super- delegates and whomever else they need to go to and say we are more electable and you want to win above all else.

TOOBIN: I think there's actually another variable in place that the Clinton people are counting on, and that's momentum.

What if Hillary Clinton wins Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Indiana, North Carolina, Oregon... BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: ...but doesn't catch up in the overall popular vote, overall pledged delegate race?

What do the super-delegates do then?

I think it becomes a harder question, although I think Jack is still probably right, they'll go with Obama. But that's -- that makes it awfully difficult.

BLITZER: That's one of the...

BORGER: And...

BLITZER: One of the interesting things and exciting things about covering this is you know these questions, we don't know the answers to them.

Gloria, go ahead.

Make your final point.

BORGER: I was just going to say, another thing super-delegates care about -- don't forget, these are elected officials. They care about the candidate at the top of the ticket because it affects their own reelection.

BLITZER: I was going to say that may be the most important thing that members of Congress and senators are saying...


BLITZER: ...who's going to help them most in their own reelection campaigns.

BORGER: Don't forget that.

BLITZER: All right, guys, hold that thought...

TOOBIN: Self-interests.

BLITZER: Yes. Hold that...

TOOBIN: Self-interests...


TOOBIN: That's what they care about.

BLITZER: ...for a moment.

Democrats clearly divided. You're going to find out why some are now saying the battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama could lead to a "second unlikely resurrection for John McCain." Plus, new video just coming in of Barack Obama on vacation. We're going to show you the pictures. We have them exclusively right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The fierce, drawn out battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama -- what does it mean for their Republican rival, John McCain?

Let's get back to the best political team on television.

We'll start one again with Jack.

I'm going to read to you from...

CAFFERTY: Why do I always have to go first?

BLITZER: Because you're Jack Cafferty.


BLITZER: Don't complain.

CAFFERTY: Isn't that what Hillary said, why do I always have to go first?

BLITZER: We're going to make you go last tomorrow.

All right, stand by.

Here's what Frank Rich wrote in yesterday's "New York Times," near the end of a very long column: "Unless Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton find a way to come together for the good of their country, as well as their party, no speech by either of them may prevent Mr. McCain from making his second unlikely resurrection in a single political year."

That is the nightmare. A lot of Democrats are saying McCain appeals to a lot of the Independents out there. They're worried what's going on. And all this bickering between the Democrats could wind up hurting them come November.

What do you think, Jack?

CAFFERTY: I think he's wrong for two reasons. Look at the money and look at the turnouts for Democrats versus Republicans in these primaries back when John McCain still had opposition, you know, when what's his face from Arkansas was still in it and some of the others. The Democratic turnout has been by factors of two and three and four and five greater than Republican turnout. McCain's going to have to run on the war, which he supports, and he's going to have to run on the economy, which smells to high heaven right now.

He supports the Bush tax cuts, which fourth graders understand are only contributing to the deficit and not providing the kind of relief we need from our economic woes. So I think if you look at those two things, the Democrats are probably going to be able to, at some point, to put this aside and say, look, do we want Hillary or do we want Barack or do we want another version of George Bush?

And I think the answer to that is obvious, even to Frank Rich.

BLITZER: What do you think, Gloria?

BORGER: Well, you know, I think the key to John McCain's success throughout these primaries has not so much -- surprisingly to me -- been tied to his support for the war or his so-called conservatism. It's because people believe he's a maverick, that he tells the truth and they like that in politics.

And if McCain continues to run as that kind of politician -- and we see this in the polls. I mean he's doing a lot better in these match-ups than he has any right to do given the fact that this is such an unpopular president and an unpopular war. If he continues to run as that kind of candidate, he just might start attracting those Independent voters, who might be turned off by the bickering in the Democratic Party. And I know folks in the McCain campaign are taking a look at this and saying, you know, we've got to figure out a way to take advantage of it -- and they will.

BLITZER: And, you know, Jeff, there are a lot of frustrated, angry Democrats right now in both Michigan and Florida -- two key states come the general election in November.

TOOBIN: That's true, although do I think, you know, those of us who are following this day by day need to remember that, you know, traditionally, it wasn't until June and the California primary -- when that's when it used to be -- that the nomination was locked up. And, frankly, I think this time the Democratic nomination is going to be locked up in June. And June is a long way from November to most normal people.

So I think there is plenty of time for Democrats to get their act together.

CAFFERTY: What are you suggesting, Jeff?

TOOBIN: Well, I don't think we're normal. I mean, you know, Jack...

CAFFERTY: I don't think we are, either.


TOOBIN: I'm speaking for myself, as well.

CAFFERTY: No, no...

TOOBIN: And I just think that's a long time -- that's a long time for Democrats to come together. BLITZER: Here's what some say and they say despite all the bitterness, the nastiness, the ugliness out there, Jack, the best way to unite the Democratic Party, irrespective of who gets the nomination, is to bring back that dream ticket one way or another.

Is that at all doable given all the ill will that's gone on over these past few weeks?

CAFFERTY: No. If Obama is the nominee, he doesn't need Hillary.

And if Hillary is the nominee, why would Obama want to work for her and Bill Clinton for four years?

I mean you talk about a nightmare -- that would be one. I don't think -- I don't think it's going to happen.

BORGER: I don't either. I think it's like mommy and daddy staying together for the sake of the kids, you know, that's never...

CAFFERTY: Yes, right. Very good.

BORGER: ...that's like never really a good idea.


BORGER: And I don't think it's going to happen this time.

TOOBIN: Well, I actually would like...

CAFFERTY: The kids would rather you get a divorce.

TOOBIN: I would actually think it's more of a possibility than that. I think that still may be a resolution in either permutation. So I don't think that story is over yet. That may be the answer the Democrats...

BLITZER: I don't...

TOOBIN: ...even though they don't like each other very much at this moment.

BLITZER: Yes. There's a lot of mommies and daddies who stay together for the sake of the kids...


BLITZER: we all...

TOOBIN: Wow! This is Dr. Phil tonight.


BLITZER: I tend to agree.

CAFFERTY: I'm proud to say I didn't do that.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much.

Jack, don't go away. We've got The Cafferty File coming up.

Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show that begins right at the top of the hour.

He's going to give us a little preview.

What are you working on -- Lou?


Detroit's mayor is charged with perjury, misconduct in office and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying about an affair with an aide and the firing of two police office officers in Detroit. The Detroit reporters who broke the story wide open will be our guests tonight.

And American homeowners continue to struggle to stay out of foreclosure.

Is anyone coming to the aid of our middle class?

We'll have extensive coverage of the crisis tonight.

And trying to fix our nation's failing schools -- one of the nation's largest school systems wants to pay teachers for performance.

How about that?

We'll be joined by the superintendent of Prince Georges County, Maryland and the head of its teachers union tonight.

Join us for all of that, all the day's news and, of course, all of the latest nonsense in the presidential campaign.

That at the top of the hour here on CNN -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, a strong show coming up at the top of the hour.

Lou, thank you.

Barack Obama takes a break from the campaign trail. You're going to find out how he's spending his vacation time and where. We have the exclusive video.

Plus, out of prison and into Congress -- the man known as Dr. Death announcing plans for a new career.

Stay with us.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: As we've mentioned, Barack Obama is taking a little time off, vacationing with his family in the U.S. Virgin Islands. In these exclusive pictures taken by CNN, you can see the senator lounging and talking on his cell phone. He returns to the campaign trail on Wednesday with an appearance in North Carolina. Enjoy your time off, if you're watching right now, Senator.

Mark your calendars -- Puerto Rico has officially scheduled its Democratic primary for June 1st. The territory was originally scheduled to hold caucuses on June 7th, but officials say that date was listed mistakenly and they've decided to change the contest to a primary to reflect how competitive the Democratic contest is, even this late in the game. Puerto Rico, by the way, has a total of 55 delegates, making it one of the bigger prizes remaining this primary season.

He was paroled from prison just last year after serving time for second degree murder. Today, the assisted suicide advocate, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, announced he's running for the United States Congress in Michigan as an Independent. Kevorkian, whose nickname is Dr. Death, says he'll promote the Ninth Amendment, which protects rights not spelled out elsewhere in the Constitution. Kevorkian claims to have helped at least 130 people die during the 1990s.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, you can check out The Ticker there is the number one political news blog on the Web. That's also in that Political Ticker where you can read my latest blog post.

Let's go back to Jack.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: How long was Kevorkian in the joint, do you know?

BLITZER: I think he was in jail -- I want to say several years. I don't remember exactly.

CAFFERTY: I saw an earlier piece where they had a couple of close-up shots of him. And it doesn't look like prison wore well on him at all.


CAFFERTY: He doesn't look good.

BLITZER: No. He doesn't look good. And I don't -- I'll go out on a limb. He probably doesn't have much of a shot at winning that seat.


BLITZER: But you know what?

This is politics. Let him do his best.

CAFFERTY: Absolutely. Shoot your stick. Anything is better than the joint.

The question this...

BLITZER: I'm told he was in prison for eight years.

CAFFERTY: Eight years?


CAFFERTY: All right. Well, so it was longer than I thought. That would account for him looking considerably older.

The question this hour is -- how should the milestone -- and we passed it today -- of 4,000 U.S. troop deaths in Iraq affect the American people?

Jerry writes: "You can bet if the great decider, Bush, and one shot Cheney had children in Iraq, this worthless war would have been stopped long ago. Now old "bomb-bomb McCain" wants to stay there for another 100 years. He shouldn't be elected dog catcher, much less president. It's hard for me to think about anymore American soldiers being killed in that worthless part of the world."

Linda writes: "It's time for Americans to decide whether or not this is a war they really want to fight. If it is, then the draft should be reinstituted so that all American families feel connected to the war and feel the worry and pain which only a few families now feel. If this is not a war which we think is worth fighting, then it's time to leave Iraq."

Beverly in Texas writes -- the town of Tom Bean, Texas -- "The American people should be sad at the loss of so many of our young people. However, as we grieve for them, let us remember that it was their choice to join the service, that they were willing to give their lives so that we could continue our lives. When you see a person in uniform, stop them and thank them for their service."

That's something my dad told me I should do when I was just a kid and I never forgot it. It's a nice thing to do.

Ed in Woodbridge, Virginia writes: "Jack, the war in Iraq has affected all Americans one way or another. But I'd be interested how a walk by President Bush among the headstones in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, where American soldiers killed in Iraq rest in honored glory, would affect him. Bush and all the big shots on Capitol Hill who voted to give the president authority to invade Iraq will have to live with the fact this was a major blunder from the get go -- and they will have to live with it for the rest of their lives."

Gary writes: "Last year, President Bush told us to go shopping. This year we can't afford the gas to go shopping. I was in Vietnam. My son was in Iraq in 2003. We both survived. Unfortunately, 4,000 did not survive this misadventure -- sad, sad, sad."

And Albert in Los Angeles writes: "Four thousand troop deaths ought to make this election the most important in recent history. And people should flock to the polls for change. We can support our troops and just like they fight for our well-being, we should fight for theirs by bringing them home. Vote smart this November." -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And I wrote about this on my blog post today.

CAFFERTY: Oh, did you?

BLITZER: Three years ago exactly I was in Baghdad with General Abizaid, who was the commander of the Central Command. And I remember on Easter Sunday watching hundreds of American soldiers and Marines and airmen and sailors. They were praying -- literally praying on that Easter Sunday mass -- simply to get out of there alive in one piece. You know, watching them pray that day took on a whole new meaning for the word prayer, at least for me. And, you know, no matter what you think about this war, Jack, we've got to salute these young men and women.

CAFFERTY: Yes. I wonder how many of those kids you saw that day are still with us.

BLITZER: A lot of them are back here. But, you know, some of them are now back in Iraq for second and third tours.

All right, Jack, we'll continue this down the road.


BLITZER: Thank you very much.

The war may be -- the war of words may be spreading from the political candidates to the media. Jeanne Moos is standing by. She's watching and listening. She finds it all Moost Unusual.


BLITZER: A very nasty war of words.

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the wake of the race-laced pastor story, scenes between TV co-hosts have become anything but pastoral.



JOE SCARBOROUGH: Yes, but that's not what he said. He said she's a typical...

BRZEZINSKI: Yes, he...

SCARBOROUGH: Mika, we can show the clip.


MOOS: Senator Obama's typical white person remark seems to have rattled typical co-hosts.


BRZEZINSKI: And now with this comment...

SCARBOROUGH: Mika, I want you to stop and answer my question before I seriously get bothered with you.


MOOS: One network's political guru gave his own people grief.


CHRIS WALLACE: I love you guys, but I want to take you to task, if I may...


MOOS: Fox News' Chris Wallace came on "Fox and Friends" and gave them some not so friendly analysis.


WALLACE: It seems to me that two hours of Obama bashing on this typical white person remark is somewhat excessive. And, frankly, I think you're somewhat distorting.


MOOS: Things have been tricky for the media. First, grappling with accusations of being anti-Hillary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The media. They're all back here. You guys have been so unfair to this lady, I can't believe you.


MOOS: Hillary lapped that up.

Now the race issue has complicated co-host relations.


BRZEZINSKI: There's truth in what he had to say.



MOOS: These two had to be playfully separated. They then fought during the commercial break.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess that...

SCARBOROUGH: I wish it would have been on air.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm glad it wasn't.


MOOS: And earlier, on the same Fox show Chris Wallace criticized, one of co-hosts walked off the set after a bit of arguing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You bet. I proved my point. There you go.

He's got to lay off the Sanka.


MOOS: But they say they were just fooling around.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The argument was real, the walk-off was fun.


MOOS: Still, everyone's so touch these days.

CAFFERTY: And we've been talking about Michigan and Florida on this program in this segment for two weeks and I'm tired of it.


CHRIS MATTHEWS: And you accused Bill Richardson of getting something out of this.

BRZEZINSKI: I'm not accusing him of anything.

MATTHEWS: Well, I know. I'm saying...


MATTHEWS: Mika, please.


MOOS: I got accused by a blogger on The Huffington Post over a piece we did on anti-war protesters.

(on camera): They said we trivialized Iraq, that we hit a new low, that our approach was vapid.

(voice-over): For the record, we weren't trivializing the war, just showing protester tactics and antics. (VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: And we weren't alone.


JON STEWART, HOST: There was folk singing, a sit-in, there was Barbie's first anti-war bedroom set.


MOOS: Amid all this arguing, go ahead, call us vapid. But at least we're not rabid.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: That's it for us.

Let's go to Lou.

He's standing by -- Lou.