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Clinton Comments on Former Obama Pastor; Questioning John McCain's Party Loyalty; Who Has the Edge in Pennsylvania?

Aired March 25, 2008 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Hillary Clinton leaps into the debate over Barack Obama's former pastor a week later. Is she trying to change the subject after admitting she misspoke about the dangers she faced in Bosnia?

Also this hour, we take you inside Barack Obama's just released tax returns. We're going to tell you what they reveal about him and about his efforts to turn up the heat on Hillary Clinton.

And John McCain's flirtation with Democrats. Will new claims about his party loyalty rub some fellow Republicans the wrong way?

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.

When the controversy over Barack Obama's former pastor was at full boil, Hillary Clinton seemed determined to try to stay out of it and let her rival stew. Today, though, she seemed just as determined to finally speak out directly about the matter, even as she dealt with a dust-up of her own.

Let's go to CNN's Dan Lothian. He is joining us in Philadelphia. He is with the CNN Election Express.

Dan, quite a day. Update our viewers what happened.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF: It really was quite a day. Senator Clinton really tried to focus on the economy here in Pennsylvania, but she also ended up in the middle of two different controversies.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN (voice-over): Senator Hillary Clinton jumped into the controversy over Barack Obama's former pastor with both feet.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think, given all we have heard and seen, he would not have been my pastor. LOTHIAN: Their comes a week after Obama gave his race speech, in which he condemned the words of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, but not the man. Clinton, seemingly trying to deflect attention from her recent missteps, was critical of Obama's choice when asked what she would have done.

CLINTON: We don't have a choice when it comes to our relatives. We have a choice when it comes to our pastors and the churches we attend.

LOTHIAN: The Obama campaign was quick to fire back. Spokesman Bill Burton saying, "It's disappointing to see Hillary Clinton's campaign sink to this low."

All this happened on the day Clinton was trying to backtrack on this remark about a 1996 trip to Bosnia.

CLINTON: I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but, instead, we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.

LOTHIAN: But video shot that day seemingly contradicts her version of events. No one seems to be running or ducking, and there does appear to be a ceremony. Clinton says she was sleep-deprived and misspoke.

The question is, how will this impact her credibility?

JENNY BACKUS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think it could hurt her credibility, but what I think it hurts most is her claim that she is the candidate of more experience and that she has got more foreign policy experience and commander in chief experience than Barack Obama.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN: One other problem, when Clinton or any of the other candidates have to focus or spend time on these missteps, it takes them off message -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan, thank you.

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

Barack Obama is adding his own fuel to the campaign fire today. He released his tax records and challenged Hillary Clinton to do the same thing. Now people are asking if Obama's move is about taxes or transparency.

Here's CNN's Suzanne Malveaux -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's a bit of both. Until Clinton releases her taxes, Obama can say that he is the transparent one. And then, when she does release them, well, they will be studied with a fine-tooth comb.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Being a bestselling author has its benefits. The tax returns for Barack and Michelle Obama in 2005 and 2006 show $1.7 million in earnings from his books. The campaign posted six years worth of their personal tax records on the Internet and said they are highlighting a contrast Senator Obama has been trying to make with his rival, Hillary Clinton.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She doesn't believe in transparency and hasn't even released her earmarks, because -- just like she hasn't released her income tax returns.

MALVEAUX: Obama posted all his requests for earmark spending online. Clinton has not. Clinton now says she will release six years worth of tax returns for her and her husband, perhaps within the next week.

CLINTON: Now he should release his records from being in the state senate and any other information that the public and press need to know from his prior experience.

MALVEAUX: But a top Obama aide dismissed that call, and said Clinton's release should come sooner.

ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: All she has to do is send someone to Kinko's to photocopy tax returns and post them immediately on their Web site.

MALVEAUX: Obama has taken some flak of his own about how up forthcoming he was with his relationship with fund-raiser Tony Rezko, now on trial in Chicago.

But his aides have kept up a drumbeat of criminal on Hillary Clinton's disclosures, from her schedule as first lady, to her disclosure of earmark requests, to her tax returns, to the Clinton Library donors list.

JEANNE CUMMINGS, LOBBYING AND MONEY CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO.COM: I think that Barack Obama is both trying to lay some subtle hints back to the scandals of the Clintons' past. And then it's a more offensive tool as well, because he's hoping for some immediate information that he can use against her in the primary.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Aides to Obama made a list of 10 questions they would like to know the answers to regarding the Clintons' finances. Meanwhile, the Obamas' tax returns show that, in the two more recent years, they list $137,000 in contributions to charity -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Suzanne, thank you.

He's been in the spotlight on Iraq and foreign policy. Now the White House hopeful John McCain is taking on the struggling U.S. economy and the housing crisis.

CNN's Dana Bash is out in Santa Ana in California watching the story for us.

All right, Dana, explain what's going on.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's going on, Wolf, is that the McCain campaign is already planning a major economic plan and to unveil one next month. But they realize waiting that long would be a big mistake, considering how huge this issue is, particularly the housing crisis. And that's why John McCain talked about that today, talked about his analysis of the problem, didn't give very much in terms of specific solutions, but did provide, his aides hope, a conservative contrast to Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): John McCain pointedly blamed the housing crisis on both irresponsible lenders and Americans who borrowed more than they can afford, and said it's not Uncle Sam's job to save either.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have always been committed to the principle that it's not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly, whether they're big banks or small borrowers.

BASH: McCain's carefully-crafted speech, delivered with the help of a teleprompter, were the most extensive remarks to date from the GOP candidate who admits he knows far more about national security than economics.

MCCAIN: And this crisis, as in all I may face in the future, I will not allow dogma to override common sense.

BASH: But his address was more of a framework for what he would not do to remedy the housing crisis than what he would do.

MCCAIN: No assistance should be given to speculators. Any assistance for borrows should be focused solely on homeowners, not people who bought houses for speculative purposes.

BASH: McCain spoke in California's historically Republican Orange County, where one local estimate projects 21,000 home foreclosures in the next five years.

Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean issued a statement chastising McCain, saying, "Instead of offering a concrete plan to address the crisis at all levels, McCain promised to take the same hands-off approach that President Bush used to lead us into this crisis."

McCain did offer little in terms of proposals for immediate assistance, his short-term ideas, a meeting of accounting experts and a pledge to help from mortgage lenders.

MCCAIN: They have been asking the government to help them out. I'm now calling upon them to help their customers and their nation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: When we asked why McCain didn't have very much by way of proposals, his aides said that he is simply espousing the conservative principle of not letting government get too involved in things like this, even when it comes to a crisis.

Well, Hillary Clinton responded today, Wolf. She called McCain Herbert Hoover, who, of course, was president as the country fell into the Great Depression back in 1929. And, certainly, if nothing else, what today did, Wolf, is show that there is a very, very stark philosophical divide between John McCain and the Democrats -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Dana, for that.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, there's a small, but growing chorus of voices telling the Chinese government to knock it off.

Latest reports are Chinese police opened fire on monks and nuns, hundreds of them, in an effort to quell demonstrations by Tibetans in parts of China. Witnesses say one monk and a farmer were killed and about a dozen people wounded in that incident. The government in exile of the Dalai Lama in India says the overall death toll has risen to 140. The Chinese government insists it's lower.

Of course, there's no way to verify the numbers because there's no such thing as a free press in China. And foreign journalists, of course, are barred from any areas where there has been unrest. Don't want those embarrassing pictures slipping out into the free world, you know.

The president of the European parliament has said that European countries should not rule out threatening China with an Olympic boycott if the violence continues in Tibet. Shooting monks and nuns is not a good way to make friends in the global community.

So far, the only response from President Bush has been that he plans to attend the opening ceremonies in Beijing, saying the Olympics are about the athletes and not about politics.

When it comes to the United States, here are the politics. We're in debt to China up to our eyeballs, money borrowed to finance President Bush's war in Iraq and the stimulus package, among other things. And it might be hard to keep borrowing billions from the Chinese if the U.S. calls them out for being nothing more than barbaric savages in their treatment of one of the most peaceful people on Earth, the Tibetans.

Here's the question: How bad does China's crackdown on Tibet have to get for the world to boycott the Olympics?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, see you in a few moments with the best political team on television. Thank you.

The big question about Hillary Clinton's comments on Barack Obama's pastor -- why now; why today? The Obama campaign is responding here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Coming up, I will speak live with a top adviser to Barack Obama, Greg Craig. He's standing by.

Plus, the best political team on television is getting ready to weigh in as well on Hillary Clinton now saying she misspoke about dodging sniper fire in Bosnia more than a decade ago. How often do candidates overstate things?

And John McCain touts his conservative credentials, but some Republicans may be questioning his party allegiance. We will explain.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: As a top trial lawyer, he's defended some very high- profile clients. The highest would have been President Clinton, who appointed him as special counsel to quarterback the White House defense against impeachment. That was then.

These days, he's a very high-profile supporter of Senator Barack Obama. Joining us now, the senior adviser to the Obama campaign, Greg Craig.

Greg, thanks for coming in.

GREG CRAIG, SENIOR OBAMA CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Hi, Wolf.

BLITZER: You heard Hillary Clinton utter some strong words. You can't pick your relatives, but you can pick your pastor. She said she wouldn't have sat through 20 years of what he heard from the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Your response?

CRAIG: Well, it's unfortunate she brings back this subject. She had a rough news day, and I think she wanted to take the attention off of the Bosnia story and put it back on the Reverend Wright story.

The truth is, at the core of these conversations and allegations about Reverend Wright, it's an allegation of guilt by association. We're not talking about words that came out of Barack Obama's mouth. We're not talking about actions or inactions that he took. We're talking about someone else's actions and someone else's speech.

And I think Senator Obama did a fantastic job of addressing the broader question of the difficulty of stereotypes in this country and how we have to wrestle with...

BLITZER: Well, what about her complaint that, you know what, he couldn't pick his grandmother, but he certainly could pick his paster? CRAIG: Well (AUDIO GAP) years. And there's no evidence -- and I don't think Senator Obama has acknowledged, and I don't think he did sit through the excerpts that we have heard that are offensive and appalling to all of us. I cannot believe that that would have occurred.

BLITZER: Just take that microphone. I think we lost your other mike. You can just -- yes, you can just use that one.

CRAIG: You just closed me down.

BLITZER: No, it fell off. Go ahead.

CRAIG: But I think that it's a subject that got vetted, got discussed. He addressed it, and we should move on.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Here's what Kiki McLean, who works for Hillary Clinton's campaign, told me earlier here in THE SITUATION ROOM when I asked her about this whole decision to revive, if you will, the whole Jeremiah Wright controversy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIKI MCLEAN, SENIOR CLINTON CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Today, it was very simple. She was asked a question about what she herself would do. And she answered the question about what she herself would do. She didn't give analysis. She didn't try to speculate what Senator Obama would have, should have, or could have done. She answered a question about herself. It's that simple.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, you want to respond?

CRAIG: Well --

BLITZER: Because she was asked by the Pittsburgh paper what she thought about it. She gave her answer. She was later asked at a news conference. She gave the same answer. She was just answering a question.

CRAIG: Well, it's more than that. She was picking a topic that she was willing to address and discuss. Just because someone asks -- you know better than almost anybody else, because you have questions all the time that don't get answered.

She is an experienced political leader. She's been involved in campaigns and dealing with the press for many, many years. She knows how to address issues that she wants to address and she knows how not to address issues that she doesn't want.

She chose to address this issue and criticized Senator Obama for his association with Reverend Wright. That's fine. We understand that. But she's changing the subject and trying to go back to guilt by association.

BLITZER: What about the criticism that we saw in the papers yesterday and a little bit today of Barack Obama, that he's embellished his own record from time to time, taking credit for legislation that he was either marginally involved with or not at all, for example, the immigration -- comprehensive immigration reform, or some banking legislation that Chris Dodd was working on with Barney Frank?

What do you say about all candidates who sort of embellish their own records?

CRAIG: Well, first of all, this, too, is in response to essentially what a number of people have been talking about in terms of Senator Clinton's allegations and claims with respect to her foreign policy record.

And she made claims of experience and achievements that don't hold up to scrutiny. And so now I think that she's going on the offense against Senator Obama. It's that simple.

BLITZER: And saying that he took credit for comprehensive immigration reform, when he didn't have much to do with it, if at all, and on this other banking legislation -- you saw those stories in the paper.

CRAIG: Well, taking credit for legislation, you know, he supported comprehensive immigration reform.

BLITZER: But he wasn't involved in formulating the final deal.

CRAIG: I don't know the answer to that. I think he was include in early-morning sessions and came to those early-morning sessions on a regular basis. So, I think hey he's got more of a standing to claim that he was part of the decision-making process putting that important compromise together.

BLITZER: One quick question, because you're a lawyer -- Hillary Clinton suggesting to a Philadelphia paper that the pledged delegates, not the superdelegates, the pledged delegates, you know what, they're actually free to vote for whomever they want. They don't necessarily have to go with the candidate that their state or their district supported.

CRAIG: I understand that. And that's troublesome, too, because it seems to me that the rules are clear, that each delegate in good conscience will support a candidate...

BLITZER: But, legally, they don't have to do it; is that right?

CRAIG: The language, Wolf, is "in good conscience." Now, the question is whether the Clinton campaign can go after delegates that have been elected for Barack Obama and claim that they are not violating the rules because they're not trying to persuade those delegates to break their obligation in good conscience to support the delegates by which the voters -- support the candidate the voters wanted them to support.

BLITZER: But they both can go after John Edwards' delegates.

CRAIG: Oh, I think that's clear, because John Edwards is no longer a candidate. And that happened in Iowa. And more John Edwards' delegates came to Barack Obama than went to Senator Clinton.

But I think elected delegates, she is trying to change the rules in the middle of the game. The rules are clear that, when you participate in caucuses and in primaries and you select delegates, then the number of delegates then makes the decision as to who the nominee is. And it is contemplated that most delegates, all delegates in good conscience should support the candidate that they were elected to support.

MATTHEWS: But, when all is said and done, the rules also say the superdelegates can be the decisive factor and not necessarily just the pledged delegates.

CRAIG: No, and the superdelegates can decide what criteria they are going to use to make that decision. And it seems to me that the criteria that most superdelegate will end up with is, who has won the most elected delegates, who has won the popular vote, who has won more states?

BLITZER: Greg Craig, thanks for coming in.

CRAIG: Nice to be here, Wolf.

BLITZER: With all the attention on Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, we haven't heard a lot, at least not that much, about John Edwards in quite a while. He's out of the presidential race, as all of us know, but he's now back in the spotlight. You're going to find out what he's pitching. That's coming up.

Also, the bullet that missed everybody -- new pictures shed new light on that shooting incident aboard an airliner.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton is taking a belated swing at Barack Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I think, given all we have heard and seen, he would not have been my pastor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is Senator Clinton making a statement or trying to change the subject? The best political team on television ready to read between the lines.

Plus, Senator Clinton says she misspoke about that trip to Bosnia a dozen years ago. Did she intentionally exaggerate, as the Obama camp claims? We will talk about the candidates' overblown claims.

And does it matter if John McCain flirted with leaving his own party? Could be new fuel for some conservatives, though.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, Hillary Clinton stirring up some new controversy, reigniting the furor over remarks by Barack Obama's pastor, even as she's forced to backtrack on some of her own remarks about a trip to Bosnia.

John McCain's conservative credentials under scrutiny once again. You're going to find out why there's talk about his past relations with Democrats, even as he gets Nancy Reagan's endorsement.

Plus, what do the pardon of Richard Nixon and the war in Iraq have in common? Vice President Dick Cheney makes what some see as a tenuous connection -- all of this coming up, plus the best political team on television.

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

Pennsylvania's much-anticipated Democratic primary now only four weeks away, and Democrats have set an all-time record for enrollment. Could the flood of new voters result in an upset victory for Barack Obama?

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is in Philadelphia. He's on the CNN Election Express, which is in Pennsylvania all the way through to the primary -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, Hillary Clinton is expected to do well here in Pennsylvania. But there's one big unknown.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Hillary Clinton is expected to win big in Pennsylvania next month. It's got her kinds of voters.

JOHN BAER, "THE PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS": Two million residents over the age of 65, a very heavily unionized state, a lot of Catholics in the state. Women in Pennsylvania vote at a higher rate than men in Pennsylvania.

SCHNEIDER: And she has family roots in Pennsylvania. Barack Obama is campaigning for change. But Pennsylvania is a state where more than three-quarters of the people who live there were born there. BAER: It speaks to a state where change isn't an important element in day-to-day life.

SCHNEIDER: Pennsylvania is a diverse state, part Midwest, part Northeast.

TERRY MADONNA, POLLSTER: The eastern part of Pennsylvania is more like New Jersey and the western part is more like Ohio. And she won both of them.

SCHNEIDER: Does Obama have a chance here?

BAER: The only way that Senator Obama can do better than losing the state by five to eight percent is if he's able to capture the imagination of new voters.

SCHNEIDER: You have to be a registered Democrat to vote in the Democratic primary here. Registration closed Monday.

So what happened? Since January 1, upwards of 120,000 new Democrats joined the rolls. More than 86,000 voters switched their party to vote in the Democratic primary.

The director of the Philadelphia Republican Party says the Democratic primary has hit his city like a hurricane.

ALAN SCHMIDT, DIRECTOR, REPUBLICAN PARTY OF PHILADELPHIA: There appear to be tens of thousands of new registered Democrats in Philadelphia County. We're not sure exactly, you know, where they came from or why they haven't shown up on the radar before.

SCHNEIDER: Clinton's strongest argument for her nomination is that she can win states like Pennsylvania.

CLINTON: I have won the big states. I've won the states that a Democrat has to win.

SCHNEIDER: That argument disappears if she loses Pennsylvania.

MADONNA: I think that effectively would end her campaign.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Pennsylvania experts say Barack Obama could win Pennsylvania the same way Governor Ed Rendell beat Bob Casey in the 2002 Democratic primary for governor -- by sweeping Philadelphia and its suburbs. There's only one problem. Governor Rendell has endorsed Hillary Clinton and is working hard to deliver his state for her -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks, Bill, very much.

It was a major controversy, as we all know, last week -- fiery remarks about race by Barack Obama's pastor. Hillary Clinton vowed to stay out of it then. So why is she discussing the issue today? Let's discuss this and more with our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin, our own Jack Cafferty, also, CNN senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. They're all part of the best political team on television.

I'm going to play a little clip first, Jack, and let's discuss after we hear Hillary Clinton today on the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: We don't have a choice when it comes to our relatives. We have a choice when it comes to our pastors and the churches we attend. Everyone will have to decide these matters for themselves. They are obviously very personal matters. But I was asked what I would do if he were my pastor and I said I think the choice would be clear for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Jack, does she have a point?

CAFFERTY: Well, yes, I suppose. We have a choice about spouses, too, which, you know, that occurred to me listening to that. She didn't have to "answer a question" just because it was asked. That's what politicians do -- they make their living ducking questions, not talking about stuff they don't want to talk about and steering the conversation to things they do want to talk about, which is what Hillary did today.

What she didn't want to talk about is lying about the facts surrounding her trip to Bosnia in 1996, which we provided photographic evidence of yesterday in The Cafferty File. She didn't want to talk about that and exaggerating her foreign policy resume, so she brought up the Barack Obama Pastor Wright thing.

It's pretty transparent and typical, I think, for a candidate who's losing and who's desperate. And it's starting to show.

BLITZER: Gloria?

BORGER: Well, look, her Gallup poll numbers have started to go down. She clearly doesn't want to talk about the Bosnia story anymore. And just when the -- you know, the flame started dying down on the Reverend Wright story, she threw a couple of logs on the fire.

And this is a political campaign. And it's very clear that she was asked direct questions about the Reverend Wright last week and she refused to answer them. And this week, for some reason, today, she decided, gee, maybe she would.

BLITZER: Is it smart politics for her to that, Jeff?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think in a small way it probably is, because, you know, after all, Barack Obama gave a big speech about why he was a member of this church. And I think Hillary Clinton's entitled to respond about whether she would be a member of a church with a pastor who spoke that way. That's what politics is about. And that's a difference between them. And I think the voters are entitled to know that difference.

BLITZER: What do you think, Jack, about the embellishment -- all politicians embellish their credentials, make it sound as if they were there doing incredible things their whole lives. Barack Obama has been embellishing some of his involvement.

And there was a long story in "The Washington Post" on two specific issues -- taking credit for some banking legislation that Chris Dodd and Barney Frank were really working on and also on the comprehensive immigration reform that John McCain and Ted Kennedy were working on. What do you make of that?

CAFFERTY: Well, I think he was involved in the -- you know, in the immigration reform legislation. What he hasn't been doing is going around the country suggesting that because he was married to somebody who was president for eight years, he was instrumental in setting American foreign policy and solving world crises in Northern Ireland and Bosnia and here and there. There's quite a difference.

It's almost like comparing the pardoning of Richard Nixon by Gerald Ford to the justification of going to war in Iraq -- which I understand we'll talk about in a minute. They're not the same thing.

BLITZER: What do you think, Gloria?

BORGER: Well, you know, if I were running for president, I'd be saying this about the future, not about the past and this is about what I'm going to do for you in the future. However, you have to make decisions about presidential candidates based on their resumes.

And let's -- you know, let's be frank. Hillary Clinton has a much longer resume than Barack Obama. There is no doubt about that. Whether you believe it qualifies her to become commander-in-chief, to take that phone call at 3:00 in the morning, you know, that's another question. But they're each doing what politicians do, which is to say, you know, this is why I'm so terrific.

BLITZER: Jeff?

TOOBIN: Well, you know, this whole controversy reminds me of my first day at CNN, because Fox News had set up a machine gun nest on Eighth Avenue and I had to duck through the fire to get to the office.

(LAUGHTER)

TOOBIN: And, you know, that's how I remember it, at least.

(LAUGHTER)

TOOBIN: And so I think --

CAFFERTY: Yes. I was there that morning.

TOOBIN: Jack -- well, see, maybe Jack's memory is different. But I mean, you know, when you have an experience that searing, it sticks in your mind.

BLITZER: The --

BORGER: Look, we --

CAFFERTY: You were probably sleep-deprived.

BLITZER: Actually, he had a driver who dropped him off on 58th Street...

TOOBIN: Hey.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: ...and he walked into the Time Warner Center.

(LAUGHTER)

BORGER: Can we just say we have our own -- everyone has their own version of their own reality at some point in life?

BLITZER: Right.

CAFFERTY: Well, you know, the thing that's troubling about this is there is videotape and there's a whole series of Associated Press still photographs of her embracing an eight-year-old girl on the tarmac when she landed in Bosnia. So, as somebody wrote in one of the e-mails when we did this story yesterday in "The Cafferty File,: the first rule of resume -- if you're going to stretch the truth about your resume, don't do it where there are witnesses involved.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: I mean there were people that saw there was no sniper fire...

BLITZER: Well, she says --

CAFFERTY: ...nobody ran for the vehicles, nobody was in any danger. And she -- you know, she makes up this story. It's just silly.

BLITZER: And she said today she made a mistake and she's human. People make mistakes.

All right, Jack, let's leave it there.

CAFFERTY: Yes, fine.

BLITZER: We're going to continue this conversation, as Jack just mentioned.

Vice President Dick Cheney -- he's drawing a connection between Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon and the war in Iraq. You're going to find out what he says the similarities are.

And John McCain as John Kerry's running mate -- did he flirt with becoming a Democrat back in 2001?

We have details. There are new questions about the presumptive Republican nominee's ties to the Democrats. We'll discuss right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Vice President Cheney drawing a connection between the pardon of Richard Nixon and the war in Iraq.

Let's discuss with the best political team on television.

And, Gloria, I'm going to start with you this time, because Jack was complaining yesterday that I always start with him.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Gloria, here's what the vice president said: "Thirty years later, nearly everybody would say it is exactly the right thing to do, that if he paid attention at the time to the polls, he never would have done that. But he demonstrated, I think, great courage and great foresight and the country was better off for what are Gerry Ford did that day. And 30 years later, everybody recognized it."

And Cheney going on to say: "Thirty years from now, everyone will recognize that President Bush has been doing the right thing in Iraq."

BORGER: Not so much. I mean I've actually covered Dick Cheney and I know him. And, of course, you know, he was Gerald Ford's chief of staff. So he really recalls that, you know, very vividly.

But a war is not a presidential pardon. A war is about your children's lives and people dying -- 4,000 deaths, as we had this week. And I think that to make that comparison is trying to say George W. Bush is a statesman and he will be remembered for his statesmanship. But a war is very different from a pardon.

BLITZER: What do you think, Jeff?

TOOBIN: Well, you know, no one ever called Dick Cheney the great communicator. And I think that's evident in this comment. His point is pretty clear -- sometimes things that look bad in the short-term look good in the long term. The irony here is he picked something -- the Ford pardon of Nixon -- which a lot of people even today think is a terrible idea. So the idea that everybody agrees the Ford pardon was a terrific idea is controversial, to say the least.

And I agree with Gloria that, you know, sort of throwing off a war, where people are dying every day -- that say, hey, it will look good in 30 years, come on -- I think you've got to do a little better than that.

BLITZER: What do you think, Jack?

CAFFERTY: I think when they finally close the door on that bunch down there, you'll be able to hold a going away party for all of them in a phone booth. I mean that's just ludicrous to make that comparison. Richard Nixon probably belonged in prison for the stuff that he did.

The fact that he wasn't put in prison is politics as usual in this country, just like all the pardons that were handed out by the last president before he left office and all the pardons that will probably be handed out by this president before he leaves.

Pardoning Richard Nixon didn't cost this country $700 billion and 4,000 American lives plus a hundred plus thousand Iraqi lives. It didn't drive this economy into recession. He is -- he's just -- it's just so over. I don't ever want to hear from him again.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: What did you think, Gloria, of "The New York Times" story yesterday documenting John McCain's flirtations with Democrats back in 2001 and 2004?

There was apparently some discussion -- it's unclear who originated it...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: ...about him leaving the Republican Party, becoming an Independent, maybe becoming even a Democrat.

BORGER: You know, it's funny, I tried to kind of close that loop today and made some phone calls to people who were in the campaign at the time, who were involved in the vice presidential search. And funny how no one can quite recall who called whom first, who approached whom first.

They -- you know, it was clearly -- John Kerry was very, very interested in John McCain. But nobody can sort of remember whether it was the McCain aide who approached John Kerry first or whether it was Kerry's idea.

Look the bottom line here is that John McCain was and remains very attractive to lots of Democrats. And that is something that the Democratic Party needs to think about as their candidates continue to battle it out right now.

TOOBIN: But it is also true that he is -- that McCain is paying a price for his attraction to Democrats on campaign finance, on the environment...

BORGER: Immigration.

TOOBIN: ...on immigration. And the big way he's paying a price is campaign money. He is not raising money at the pace he needs...

BLITZER: All right...

TOOBIN: ...to be competitive with either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. And that's because the base doesn't like him very much.

BLITZER: He did get Nancy Reagan's endorsement today, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Well, it would be news if he didn't now, wouldn't it?

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Right. It certainly would. She's a good Republican and she's endorsed the Republican nominee.

CAFFERTY: I mean, you know, Gloria made the point that he's popular with some Democrats. Who he's not popular with are the people that Republicans must have -- must have to win these elections -- and that's the right-wing of the party.

And this kind of stuff -- I mean they didn't have -- remember how he blew up at the reporter on the airplane, who had the temerity to inquire about whether or not he was soliciting the job of being vice president for a Democrat, John Kerry?

I mean he got apoplectic on the airplane because she dared to bring it up.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: She was the one who wrote the story yesterday in "The New York Times".

BORGER: Can I say that wasn't...

BLITZER: Elisabeth Bumiller.

BORGER: ...that wasn't apoplectic if you know John McCain.

BLITZER: All right guys.

CAFFERTY: It was enough --

BORGER: That was not.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: -- It was enough to indicate that he's capable of not being a very nice man.

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

Gloria and Jeff, we'll see you back here later.

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

Lou, give us a preview. What are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Well, one of the things I guess we're going to have to work on after hearing all of that is Senator McCain -- I think he was showing great patience with that foolish pressing question that has been -- you know, has been put to rest for years, for crying out loud.

Wolf, coming up at the top of the hour here on CNN, we'll have the latest from the presidential campaign trail -- all of the absurdity, all of the nonsense.

And Senator McCain taking on the economy, while Senators Obama and Clinton -- well, take on each other, as usual.

Detroit's mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, promising not to quit, arraigned today on felony charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. What's next for the embattled mayor and the careers of the two police officers whose careers were destroyed in the scandal?

The prosecutor who filed those charges joins me tonight.

And a landmark ruling on death row rights. The Supreme Court ruling against the Bush administration in a Texas case involving a criminal illegal alien convicted of rape and murder. Congressman Ted Poe and Michael McCaul, both Republicans from Texas, breaking with their president, join me here.

And a growing number of states rebelling against a national standard for drivers licenses, even though it's the law. Some state officials call the plan too costly, too complicated, an invasion of privacy, inconvenient. We'll have that story and their views on national security.

Join us for all of that at 7:00 Eastern, all the day's news and much more coming right up -- Wolf, back to you.

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

Lou coming up at the top of the hour.

So how bad does China's crackdown on Tibet have to get for the world to boycott the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing? Jack Cafferty will be back with your e-mail on this hour's question.

And this -- John Edwards may be out of the presidential race, but he's still raising funds. You're going to find out who he's doing it for.

Lots more coming up right here on THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Checking our political ticker, the Justice Department now saying it's assisting in the investigation into the improper snooping into the presidential candidates' passport files. The attorney general previously indicated the Justice Department would let the State Department handle the investigation.

State Department officials confirmed last week that the passport files of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain have all been breached.

Former White House hopeful John Edwards still hasn't taken sides in the presidential race, but he is taking new steps to help Democrats this fall. The former senator featured in a new pitch for donations to the Democratic Senatorial Committee under the headline "51 Seats Are Not Enough." The group is working to elect Democrats to the Senate and bolster the party's majority next year.

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

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: How bad does China's crackdown on Tibet have to get in order for the world to boycott the upcoming Olympic Games?

Tonya writes from Atlanta: "China is not Iraq. We can't make up a lie and then bomb them. They'd probably bomb us back. So, they can pretty much do what they want. We only chastise countries that don't have the same bully power that we do. Bush will go over there and smile and then Cheney will come out and say "so" whenever the casualty numbers are announced across the world."

Will in San Jose, California: "There needs to be video of the crackdowns. Iraqi prisoner mistreatment wasn't a pressing issue until the photos at Abu Ghraib showed up. L.A. police brutality wasn't front and center until the video of the Rodney King beating. A missing girl isn't a story unless there are lots of photos and video of her smiling face. The sad reality of today's news is that if there aren't images, it didn't happen."

Cookie in South Dakota: "Instead of boycotting the Games, boycott all Chinese-made products. Don't buy anything made in China. Spend a few dollars more or go without and let the money talk and then learn to live on USA made products."

Jake writes: "Sports and politics don't mix. Bush has it right this time. It isn't about the host country, it's about the great tradition that is the Olympics."

Thom in New Jersey says: "How much are the lives of the Tibetans worth? The situations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur and elsewhere have shown that the lives in developing parts of the world are worth surprisingly little. As long as the developed world is indebted to China and trying to overcome its trade deficit with the growing communist power, the sad truth is that short of mass murder, the global community will continue to pay lip service to the Chinese regime."

And Thom writes: "It's clear to me, Jack, that it's already gone too far. We should not only boycott China for the Olympics, but also boycott Chinese imports. We can all do without tainted food and medication for a while." -- Wolf.

BLITZER: See you tomorrow, Jack. Thank you.

You may remember her YouTube music video from this fall. Now, the so-called "Obama girl" is back. Her latest hit and others like it -- Jeanne Moos standing by with a closer look -- a Moost Unusual look, in fact, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: They're part of the reason why this presidential campaign season is clearly unlike anything we've ever seen before -- those Moost Unusual music videos hosted on sites like YouTube.

Jeanne Moos takes a closer look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Every so often...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The beat of my heart...

MOOS: It is simply irresistible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barack Obama disco!

MOOS: We can't help presenting the latest campaign hit parade.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The (INAUDIBLE) is rising. Obama's getting (INAUDIBLE).

MOOS: Who could forget...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's raining men...

MOOS: Well, now there's the McCain version.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's raining McCain, hallelujah. It's raining McCain, amen.

MOOS: Whoever imagined splashing a little John McCain...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John McCain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John McCain.

MOOS: ...on their face?

(on-camera): The funny thing about these political YouTube videos is that sometimes it's hard to tell whether they're actually for a candidate or making fun of a candidate.

(voice-over): Unless, of course, it's the latest "Obama Girl" video.

AMBER LEE ETTINGER, OBAMA GIRL: I know Obama's going to win it, but you're sort of kind to stay in it (ph).

MOOS: OK, so model Amber Lee Ettinger never quite made it to vote for her guy in the primary. But she still manages to lip sync convincingly. LEE ETTINGER: But he's got the superpowers to change the world and he's ready at 3:00 a.m. steady.

MOOS: In case Hillary is feeling left out, a band called The Clintons recorded this for Senator Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Hill, if you ever dump Bill, come date me.

MOOS: But the Hillary hit that towers above all others...

LA PEQUENA, PERFORMANCE ARTIST: To the beat of my heart, thinking about letting it out. I want to give in...

MOOS: She's said to be a performance artist from Chile.

LA PEQUENA: Yo soy la pequena Hillary Clinton.

MOOS: Translation...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I'm the small Hillary Clinton.

MOOS: Having a big impact on the Web.

LA PEQUENA: (SPEAKING SPANISH)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I finally found...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I already gave my husband.

MOOS: Forgive, but you may never forget this.

LA PEQUENA: You teared us apart, the beat of my heart.

MOOS: Lapp is already famous in certain circles for her Amy Winehouse performance.

LA PEQUENA: They tried to make me go to rehab. I said no, no, no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my goodness.

LA PEQUENA: I dream about the time...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She seems like a he.

MOOS: Some quibbled about the outfit. Lapp gets a few points off for not wearing a pants suit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, I'm going to have this in my dreams now.

MOOS (on-camera): I know you are.

(voice-over): As one person posted: "Some things once seen cannot be unseen."

LA PEQUENA: (INAUDIBLE).

MOOS: If this is politics, maybe it needs to go to rehab.

LA PEQUENA: No, no, no.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Clearly a Moost Unusual report -- Jeanne Moos.

You have helped make our politics podcast one of the most popular on iTunes. To get the best political team to go, you can subscribe at CNNPolitics.com or iTunes.

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

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

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