Return to Transcripts main page


Presidential Candidates Honor Martin Luther King Jr.'s Legacy; New Unemployment Numbers Send Shockwaves Through Economy; Clintons Release Tax Returns

Aired April 4, 2008 - 16:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: A nation clamoring for change remembers a day that changed America. Forty years after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., presidential candidates honor his legacy. But how would they move it forward?
Also this hour, your job in jeopardy -- new unemployment numbers send more shockwaves through the economy. We will tell you who's getting hit the hardest.

And gloom over the White House -- new evidence that Americans have a bad feeling about the future and about the current president. How might that sway voters when they choose the next commander in chief?

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Just seconds ago, we got word Hillary Clinton now is releasing her long-awaited tax return records. We're going through them at this moment. We will have a report in just a minute.

But, first, a grim chapter in America's history is casting a long shadow over a historic election. Today marks 40 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. All the White House hopefuls are offering the expected tribute, but this day may have special meaning for many Democrats, now faced with an unprecedented presidential choice.

We begin with our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

And, Candy, I understand Barack Obama, that is where he spoke about this very historic day.


And, you know, pretty much this day is exactly what you would expect when a campaign coincides with something that is such a mark on American history. There was a lot of tribute and a whole lot of politics.


CROWLEY (voice-over): Forty years ago, Hillary Clinton was a 20- year-old student at Yale. The death of Martin Luther King is part of her history.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wore a black armband. I worked to convince my college to recruit more students and faculty of color. But it felt like it wasn't enough.

CROWLEY: Barack Obama was 6 when it happened, too young for the assassination to be part of his history, but it is a part of his today.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And the great need of this hour is much the same as it was when Dr. King delivered his sermon in Memphis. We have to recognize that, while we each have a different past, we all share the same hopes for the future.

CROWLEY: Obama did not go to Memphis to mark the King death, telling reporters on route to Fort Wayne it's a decision he's comfortable with.

OBAMA: I spoke at Dr. King's church on his birthday, was with the King family then. I obviously gave a fairly fulsome speech on the state of race relations just two weeks ago. And I think it's important to spread the message that Dr. King's work is unfinished in places like Indiana and North Dakota.

CROWLEY: Indiana has a primary next month. North Dakota re- caucuses this weekend.

Clinton spent the day more traditionally, in Memphis, speaking at the church where King delivered his last sermon. But the campaign trail is never further away than the podium, as Clinton announced plans to appoint a poverty czar if elected president.

CLINTON: A person whom I would see being asked by the president every single day, what have you done to end poverty in America? No more excuses, no more whining, but, instead, a concerted effort.



CROWLEY: While we're on the subject of politics, Suzanne, it was also revealed today that Mark Penn, a top strategist for -- strategist for Hillary Clinton, met recently with Colombian officials to push a free trade deal with Colombia that Hillary Clinton opposes.

Penn today said that that was an error in judgment, that he was acting on behalf of the lobbying firm where he's a top executive, but that it won't happen again -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Candy, I find it interesting now we're just getting word that Clinton's releasing her tax returns, that this happens on Martin Luther King's anniversary here late into Friday. What do you make of that? What do you read into that?

(LAUGHTER) CROWLEY: Well, it's what we always read into something when it's dumped late on a Friday afternoon. As we all know, Saturday is kind of a non-news day, not many papers out there. The newscasts are not as regular as they are on weekdays.

So -- and when you dump them out this late, it's hard to really sift through them and figure out what they're all about in time for prime-time news.

So, this is a very tried-and-true tactic, as you know, to kind of shove something under the door and hope, by Monday, it's gone. Now, we don't know what's in it. They may be perfectly innocent tax returns. Nonetheless, a Friday release in the afternoon generally means you would rather not have it make a lot of news.

MALVEAUX: All right, Candy, well, we certainly will be following those -- the news of the tax returns as soon as we receive them. We will be sifting through them. We will bring them to you as soon as we can, those tax returns from Hillary.

Still ahead: John McCain pays tribute to King and addresses a mistake from the presidential candidate's past.

The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. triggered rioting here in Washington, D.C., and in other cities across the United States. But Indianapolis was spared, in large part because of the calming words of Robert F. Kennedy.

As Barack Obama noted in Indiana today, Kennedy was in that state back in 1968. He was campaigning for president when King was shot. Kennedy insisted on breaking the news to a stunned crowd.

Listen to some of his powerful remarks.


ROBERT F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.

But we have to make an effort in the United States. We have to make an effort to understand.


MALVEAUX: And Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated two months later.

In other news, amid the battered U.S. economy, experts knew that last month's job losses would be bad, but apparently they had no idea just how bad it would be. There were thousands more losses than expected, swelling overall totals for the year so far, and giving job- holders and the jobless reason for much concern.

CNN senior business correspondent Ali Velshi joining me.

Ali, this all looks very disturbing. We do not have any good numbers that are coming out today.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, these numbers actually were worst than the worst pessimistic estimates of what they might be, and it doesn't show any signs of slowing down. Take a look.


VELSHI (voice-over): It's the biggest single monthly job loss in five years, first, 76,000 in January, then another 76,000 in February, and now 80,000 in March, almost a quarter-of-a-million jobs lost this year alone.

And that's not counting job cuts announced in the last week at Dell, Motorola, and now bankrupt ATA Airlines. These numbers could affect you, even if your job's not on the line.

LAKSHMAN ACHUTHAN, ECONOMIST: Even if you don't lose your job, this starts to impact you, your psychology. You pull back a little bit, and because you're a little wary. You're just not as carefree as you were because you now know somebody who lost their job.

VELSHI: The unemployment rate increased, too, to 5.1 percent, the highest it's been in three years. For people looking for work, hearing numbers like this isn't very promising.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The pressures were heavy. And when you're out and seeing other people suffer, it's tough. And people have to band together and encourage people.

VELSHI: Jobs were lost in all of the usual areas. Construction fell by 51,000 jobs, manufacturing 48,000, the biggest loss in five years.

PETER MORICI, ECONOMIST: We're losing them in construction and manufacturing, which is traditionally where your front-line workers go to accomplish middle-class status. It's a terrible situation.

VELSHI: Manufacturing jobs across the U.S. have been in a long- term decline. In fact, in 2007, only six states actually created manufacturing jobs, none of them in the Rust Belt.

One recruiting expert says we shouldn't bet on a large-scale return of manufacturing jobs. So, what do you do if you lose your factory job? He says, reinvent yourself.

BRAD KARSH, JOB RECRUITING EXPERT: Instead of working in the actual production of the product, now talk about the repair of the product. If you were working on creating those for so many years, now you can help repair it.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VELSHI: And, Suzanne, that same expert, Brad Karsh, says that that thinking should apply to people who fear losing their jobs in construction or any other field because more job cuts are likely on the way. So, it's best not to wait for them, but to try and get actively ahead of it -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Ali.

And there were some job increases that we understand, not all of them good. But we understand there were at least some.

Time now for "The Cafferty File," Jack Cafferty joining us from New York -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Another day closer, Suzanne, to the slow, painful but inevitable end that now seems more and more to be staring Hillary Clinton square in the face.

Barack Obama has drawn almost even with Clinton among the superdelegates. Three months ago, Clinton led Obama by more than 100 superdelegates. Today, her lead is 28. Since March 4, 17 superdelegates have publicly announced for Obama, while Senator Clinton has actually lost one.

These include New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, Wyoming Governor David Freudenthal, who had been appointed the state's U.S. attorney by Bill Clinton.

President -- former President Jimmy Carter, you saw yesterday on this program he won't disclose who he's backing, but very strongly hints it's Barack Obama. Some Clinton supporters, her own people, are now suggesting she must top Obama in the popular vote in order to have any chance of winning the nomination.

New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine says he may cast his superdelegate vote for Obama if Clinton doesn't win the popular vote. Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha says Clinton must win Pennsylvania and the popular vote. Polls in Pennsylvania now show that Obama has narrowed Clinton's one-time lead of more than 30 points to an average of just 11.

Another Clinton superdelegate, Missouri Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, says that he would be -- quote -- "stunned" if Obama is not the next president of the United States. One Democratic pollster told "The Los Angeles Times" Obama is running over the superdelegates because -- quote -- "His arguments are more persuasive" -- unquote.

Clinton has a whole team of aides who stay in constant touch with the superdelegates, in an effort to keep them from deserting. But it doesn't seem to be working. Meanwhile, DNC chairman Howard Dean is putting the pressure on. He wants the remaining undecided superdelegates to make up their minds shortly after the voting ends in June.

Here's our question. Should the DNC ask the superdelegates to make up their minds early? Go to You can post a comment on my blog -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Jack.

We're going over Hillary Clinton's just-released tax returns right now. So far, we have learned that, over the last 10 years, the Clintons reported some $33 million in taxes -- more details ahead.

Plus, John McCain tries to atone for something he wishes he had not done.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can be slow as well to give greatness its due -- a mistake I myself made long ago.


MALVEAUX: Some people hearing that were in no mood for an apology. They booed the presidential candidate -- coming up, the tough moments during McCain's tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.

Also, how many of you believe that the country is on the wrong track? Were there surprising results in a new poll?

And what will President Bush see this time when he looks into the eyes of Vladimir Putin? The two leaders prepare to meet face to face, amid tension over key disagreements.


MALVEAUX: Senator John McCain went to Memphis today to pay tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. at the very hotel where the civil rights leader was shot. But the Republican presidential nominee in waiting also had some explaining to do.

CNN's Sean Callebs joining us from Memphis. And McCain met with some skepticism. We saw the reaction, a mixed reaction, from this crowd. Tell us why.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed, a mixed reaction, at best.

Senator McCain began by saying he was both honored and humbled to be invited to speak here today. And, at the same time, he said he was also going to use this occasion to try and chip away at what for years has been a very powerful, strong, Democratic stronghold.


CALLEBS (voice-over): John McCain, from the balcony at the Lorraine Motel, the site where Martin Luther King lost his life. McCain says he plans on reaching out to African-American voters and campaigning in areas that, in recent years, have been shunned by the GOP, and that he made a mistake opposing a vote 25 years ago to create a national holiday in King's name. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can be slow as well to give greatness its due, a mistake I myself made long ago when I voted against a federal holiday in memory of Dr. King.


MCCAIN: I was wrong.


MCCAIN: I was wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all make mistakes. We all make mistakes.

CALLEBS: The presumptive Republican nominee's remarks were met with a smattering of boos and skepticism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The crowd booed him. And they really lost touch with him after that, because they wasn't feeling -- that he wasn't supporting Martin Luther King.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's a war man, and we want to look for peace. And that's what Martin Luther King stood for.

CALLEBS: McCain laid a wreath commemorating Martin Luther King. Many people are marking the anniversary by remembering where they were when King was assassinated. Much of the nation knows where McCain was, a prisoner of war in Hanoi.

MCCAIN: The enemy had correctly calculated that the news from Memphis would deeply wound morale. Yet, how differently it turned out. And, if they had been the more reflective kind, our enemies would have understood that the cause of Dr. King was bigger than any one man and could not be stopped by force of violence.


CALLEBS: It was interesting to watch McCain's face. There were polite applause, of course, but, really, the boos are what resonated over the crowd that was here some hours ago.

Also, I had a chance to speak with the Reverend Jesse Jackson, and said that McCain had indicated he was going to reach out to African-American voters. Reverend Jackson said, good, but he needs more than lip service. He needs some kind of agenda that can clearly spell out how he plans to help African-Americans -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Sean, we listened to McCain's speech. We heard some boos. We heard some applause. But you were there. You actually got a chance to really get a sense of the tone and the mood of the crowd. We heard one person say, "Everybody makes mistakes."

What is your takeaway, your feeling from -- from the audience there in McCain presenting this apology?

CALLEBS: Well, I think that a lot of people, in talking to the people who are here, are skeptical, quite frankly. This is something that happened 25 years ago and had a great deal, a groundswell of support, a very popular measure back then. And, Arizona, of course, was one of the last states to actually adopt this as a measure.

So, certainly, there was some concern here. Also, I want to tell you about the -- the whole atmosphere. It was pouring. It was very cold. McCain came on about a half-an-hour before he was supposed to. And he was going to hold a news conference a couple of hours later, but he canceled that. He said it was due to a scheduling conflict -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Sean, thank you so much.

We're now going to return to breaking news that we have been reporting; Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, their tax returns just being released moments ago.

Our own -- excuse me -- Brian Todd here to join us on this.

Tell us what we know. What are the numbers?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's almost enough to make you fall off your riser.


TODD: We did downstairs a little bit when we got this.

The bottom line, there' some detail on her after-tax earnings. This is information about the Clintons' dual tax returns, joint tax returns, from 2006 to -- excuse me -- from 2000 to 2006. Their after- tax earnings were a little over $57 million, charitable contributions a little over $10 million in that time, and taxes paid a little over $33 million in that time, really dwarfing Barack Obama and Michelle Obama's income, charitable gifts -- charitable gifts for the same time period.

So, we're just getting some detail on these numbers. We're going through all of it. We are going to try to bring it to you in some detail and some context a little later. But, clearly, you know, again, as you and Candy were talking about a little earlier, Suzanne, the fact that this comes out at a little after 4:00 on a Friday afternoon, you know, may not be an accident here. They may be trying to bury it in the news cycle.

But some of the -- again, some of the key numbers here, the after-tax earnings for the Clintons, $57,157,297, a pretty big number. She's considered one of the top 10 wealthiest senators in the Senate...


TODD: ... just on net worth. At least, you know, when you see some of the net income here, you can see why.

MALVEAUX: It certainly proves true. TODD: Right.

MALVEAUX: We want to bring in our own Bill Schneider out of Los Angeles.

Bill, if you would weigh in, it's interestingly here -- interesting enough here that it's Hillary Clinton who really has quite a bit of appeal to that low-income -- we have been talking about -- blue--collar workers in various states, Ohio, and Pennsylvania coming up in that critical primary.

And, yet, you -- you roll out these numbers, you see the income here with the tax returns, it looks like they really have -- they have quite a bit of a nest egg that they're working with here. What do you think the impact is going to be when some of those voters, low-income voters, working voters, take a look at these numbers?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, certainly, Senator Clinton's critics will try to say, how can she understand what we're going through, what life is like for people like us? She's making in the millions every year. You know, she's one of them, not one of us, her critics will say.

And, you know, that sometimes has traction. She wasn't always this high-income, this wealthy. Certainly, her husband came from very humble origins. And it is usually less damaging for a Democrat than a Republican. There have been a lot of wealthy Democratic presidents, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy. But they're Democrats. So, people say, well, they may have a lot of wealth, but they're on the side of ordinary working Americans.

It's been more of a problem for Republicans who don't come from humble origins, because Republicans are historically -- the stereotype of Republicans is that they're the party of the rich who have trouble relating to ordinary Americans. But, certainly, this is going to enable her critics to say she may be out of touch with ordinary Americans.

MALVEAUX: Well, Bill, it was interesting, too, because John Edwards, who used to be in the race, he used to get a lot of criticism as well that he had a lot of money. He had a big house. How was it that he was really able to relate to the so-called little person, when he was the one who talked about this anti-poverty campaign?

Some people looked at him, and they questioned whether or not he was sincere. Ultimately, he did make that the platform of -- of his campaign. It will be interesting to see how people look at Hillary Clinton and whether or not she can really relate to those kind of lunch bucket people that they have been talking about, that they have been wooing in Pennsylvania.

Brian, I know that you have some additional details, just looking at the documents here.

TODD: Just a little bit of just some interest here on the book income. That's interesting. Barack Obama, as you recall, last week released some of the -- his tax information.


TODD: He had made $1.7 million off his book "The Audacity of Hope." Mrs. Clinton's book income for the last six years -- and this includes the books "Living History" and "It Takes a Village" -- $10,457,000, again, dwarfing his book income.

And, again, it's from two different books, so it could compared to that. But it's just interesting, the book income. A lot is made of both of their books. She clearly dwarfed his income there on two books to his own.

MALVEAUX: All right, Brian, thanks. I know you will be digging a little more into those numbers. We will bring you a lot more as we go on.

But new information about Iraq's military and the recent rash of violence -- coming up, what really happened in Basra last week when hundreds of troops refused to fight.

And they're proof of Martin Luther King's work. Former Defense Secretary William Cohen and his wife talk about King's legacy and where America goes from here.




Happening now, breaking news: Senator Hillary Clinton has just released her tax returns. We're going through them now. And we will bring you more details very shortly.

Plus, questions about Barack Obama's full intentions for Iraq. He says he would pull out all combat troops within 16 months, if elected, but a key adviser is reportedly urging something else behind closed doors.

Meanwhile, something a Hillary Clinton adviser did is leaving the campaign red-faced. The adviser helped push something that the candidate herself is strongly against. Now that adviser is forced to admit an error in judgment.

And is China ready to show the world its Olympic spirit? What if some harsh realities crash its well-laid plans?

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Meanwhile, just as we reported, the government says employers slashed 80,000 jobs in March. And, apparently, that is causing great concern to many of you.

CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider joining me. Bill, what are we seeing in these economic numbers? How do we read into this?

SCHNEIDER: Well, there are two sets of numbers just out, both bad. But there is something puzzling about them.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The numbers on the economy, bad, 80,000 jobs lost in March. New poll numbers on how Americans see the economy? Bad. Eighty-one percent of Americans say the country is on the wrong track, up 10 points just since December.

Nearly 80 percent say the economy is in bad shape. That's about the same number as felt that way in October 1992, just before the first President Bush was defeated. Numbers as bad as these should spell big trouble for the president. And they do. President Bush's job approval rating is just 28 percent.

If Bush were running for reelection, like his dad in 1992, he would be sunk. If his vice president were running to succeed him, he too would be sunk. John McCain is the prospective Republican nominee. Is McCain sunk?

He's not doing great, but he's still afloat. McCain is running five points behind Democrat Barack Obama. That's within the poll's margin of error. Same thing when McCain is tested against Hillary Clinton, five points down.

McCain is a Republican and a conservative, but he's not in the Bush administration. Many voters remember McCain as Bush's rival in 2000 and the president's critic on some policies.

So far, it appears that McCain is not paying the full price for Bush's failures. Among voters who say the country is on the wrong track, President Bush's approval rating is just 17 percent. But more than twice as many, 36 percent, say they'll vote for McCain over Obama.

Among voters who say the economy is in very bad shape, Bush's job approval is almost nonexistent, eight percent. More than three times as many of them say they'll vote for McCain.


SCHNEIDER: Democrats hope 2008 will be a replay of 1992. But there's a difference. The incumbent is not running for re-election this time. That's why Democrats are arguing that a McCain victory would amount to a third term for George W. Bush -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Bill, thank you.

Civil rights, justice and Martin Luther King, Jr. Coming up, the presidential candidates using the anniversary to share their ideas for the future. Hear their own words next.

And the Clinton campaign trying something new to get donations -- her online wish list. See how it works, ahead.


MALVEAUX: Forty years ago, gunshots rang out at a hotel in Memphis, and an assassin's bullet scienced the voice of a man known for peace and who dared an entire nation to dream about what could be. Right now there are flags and flowers, prayers and praise, to mark the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s death.

Just a short while ago, I spoke with former defense secretary William Cohen and his wife, Janet. They're the co-authors of the book "Love in Black and White: A Memoir of Race, Religion and Romance," about their interracial marriage.


MALVEAUX: Thank you, Secretary Bill Cohen, Janet Langhart Cohen, for being with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Glad to have you here this afternoon.

I want to start off, obviously, by talking about the anniversary, 40th anniversary, of Martin Luther King's assassination. Forty years after the fact, as an interracial couple, what is the one challenge that you are still dealing with today?

Janet, can I start with you?

JANET LANGHART COHEN, CO-AUTHOR, "LOVE IN BLACK AND WHITE": Well, there isn't a day that goes by, Suzanne, that I don't think about Dr. King. I knew him very well the last two years of his life. He was my mentor, my teacher and my friend.

And this 40th anniversary, it's hard to believe that he's been gone that long. It's hard to believe how much progress we've made. And it's hard to believe how much more progress there is to be made when you talk about this year's campaign. I think Dr. King would be very happy to see that we have a viable black candidate, and he'd be overjoyed to see that there is a viable woman candidate for president.

MALVEAUX: When you talk about the things that still need to be overcome, what is something as an interracial couple that you still deal with today that perhaps is a bit surprising that still exists that you dealt with, perhaps, 40 years ago?

WILLIAM COHEN, FMR. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, to me the big surprise is why we keep asking the question, is America ready for a black man? Or a woman.

I have to ask, why do we have a question about skin color or gender? It should be about competence and capability. And those are the only questions that should be involved.

And yet, 40 years have passed, and it's hard to believe that looking at 40 years ago, that there were dogs being unleashed against human beings and fire hoses, and all the things that we have seen being portrayed today in honor of Dr. King's assassination. Not in honor of, but to commemorate.

J. COHEN: To commemorate it.

W. COHEN: But 40 years has passed. We still have I think quite a ways to go in terms of recognizing that there are people who have been promised the great promise of this country, and yet have failed to be able to realize that. And so we have a long way to go.

I think it's very -- I think it's fair to say that we've come such a long way. If you look at Janet and me for -- as an example of being able to bridge a racial divide as such, a few years ago, not too many years ago, it would have been impossible for us to be married.

J. COHEN: Yes.

W. COHEN: So, great progress has been made, but we have a long way to go.

J. COHEN: It was in 1967, the year before Dr. King was assassinated in 1968, that the U.S. Supreme Court had a ruling, made a decision that blacks and whites could marry or you could marry anyone you wanted with Loving versus Virginia. 1967, that's within our lifetime.

And to think that a year later Dr. King was assassinated, and he gave that wonderful "I Have a Dream" speech where he talked about people like Bill and me holding hands, a little black boy and a little white girl, or vice versa. Well, Bill and I have joined more than hands. We've joined hearts in our lives.

And you think about Barack Obama. He is the product of a marriage, a love like ours. So we have come a long way, but we still have further to go.

MALVEAUX: We heard from all three candidates today. We heard John McCain apologizing for voting against making Martin Luther King's holiday back some years ago. We heard Hillary Clinton really talking about how she was going to have a czar against poverty if she becomes the president. Barack Obama talking about social justice.

Which one of these candidates do you believe really would be the best suited for racial reconciliation in this country.

W. COHEN: I think all three are going to be very positive for this country. I am very close to John McCain. I was the best man at his wedding. I served with him in the Senate. And I know that he regrets that vote, not to declare a holiday for Dr. King. But he is a person of character, and has openly admitted that he made a mistake, and has moved forward on it.

So, I think if you take a person like him, he could be a prisoner of war for five and a half years, and yet lead the effort to have -- reestablish relations with Vietnam, that tells you something about how he would approach racial justice, economic justice. And I think the same is true for Senator Clinton and also Senator Barack Obama. I think all three are certainly going to be very sensitive to the needs of this country.

MALVEAUX: And Janet?

J. COHEN: We need someone -- Suzanne, we need someone who's going to lead all of the people in this nation. And that person must also take care of the neediest of these.

Dr. King lost his life because of racism in this country, but because he was supporting the poor. He was down in Memphis supporting the poor people, the sanitation workers, the least of these.

So, a president will not only have to think of our image abroad, the status of our military and our economy, but the people -- we the people of this country. And Barack Obama, if he becomes president, and he takes care of the least of these, and the least of these just so happen to be historically, they are always black, he must not be castigated for that. He must be lifted up for that.

MALVEAUX: Thank you.

J. COHEN: And I agree with Bill that John McCain would make a great president. I worry. I love John. John's done great things for me and my charity as we've helped the wounded who've come back from Iraq, but I worry about the U.S. Supreme Court, the court.

The Supreme Court has made some awesome decisions, and as a person of color, that is of consideration to me.

MALVEAUX: OK. All right.

Thank you so much for joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM.

W. COHEN: Good to be with you.

J. COHEN: Thank you, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you.


MALVEAUX: And Hillary Clinton is giving up some control over the way her campaign cash is spent. She is letting her supporters decide.

Plus, a new red flag for Barack Obama. Is his support weakening? We'll look for a possible campaign shift in our "Strategy Session."

And the housing market takes another turn for the worse. Is there any end in sight? Personal finance editor Gerri Willis is standing by to help us get through the housing crisis.

It is all ahead right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: Hillary Clinton still has the lead in the Pennsylvania polls, but new numbers this week show that she is way behind in fund- raising. In a new attempt to raise money for the Pennsylvania primaries, the Clinton campaign is putting supporters in control of how their money is spent.

Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

Abbi, how does all of this work?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Suzanne, this is like Hillary Clinton's Pennsylvania wish list, now put online. She wants $50,000 for yard signs, money for transport, and the big one, $2.5 million for TV air time. That's an area where Hillary Clinton has been out spent so far in the state by the Barack Obama campaign three to one.

The new tool is "My Pennsylvania," allowing supporters to direct their money exactly where they want it to go in the state in the last two and a half weeks. It's a new tactic, but the appeal for cash is not new.

Out-raised and outspent is how Bill Clinton put it in this fund- raising e-mail that was sent out before the March fund-raising deadline, when Barack Obama doubled Hillary Clinton's fund-raising, leaving Hillary Clinton today in that fund-raising e-mail to put it very bluntly, "We're being outspent in the state as much as four to one. I need your help now."


MALVEAUX: Thank you very much, Abbi.

In the "Strategy Session," senator Obama sets his sights on a national campaign.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We now see John McCain suggesting that we should be standing on the sidelines and watching the mortgage crisis unfold. I have a very different view on these issues.


MALVEAUX: But one national poll shows his support might be softening. Can he keep up the momentum?

Plus, two families and two legacies. We'll examine how the Clintons and Obamas are being compared to the Kennedys and Martin Luther King.



MALVEAUX: Back to politics.

It is surely not what Barack Obama wants to hear. A poll from "The New York Times" and CBS News finds that his support has weakened nationally among Democrats.

Here for today's strategy session, Democratic strategist Peter Fenn and conservative commentator Terry Jeffrey, editor-in-chief of the Cybercast News Service.

Before we get to those poll numbers, let's start off with Hillary Clinton's tax returns here, her and her husband, Bill Clinton. The numbers, I don't know if they surprise you here, $109.2 million in income over a seven-year period. Paying taxes, $33.8 million in taxes, 2000-2007, $10.25 million in charitable contributions.

Does this help or hurt her when it comes to trying to appeal to the blue collar base?

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, first, it sure helped her when she needed to lend her campaign $5 million. It shows she had it.

You know, I think everybody made this same argument for other candidates. You had John Edwards, who was a multimillionaire. You've got John McCain, who -- the family's worth over $100 million, too.

So we don't have too many paupers running for president right now. So I'm not too worried about it.

MALVEAUX: Terry, does it matter?

TERRY JEFFREY, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: Well, I think there's a potential problem in there in this -- a lot of Bill Clinton's income we know from Senator Clinton's prior financial disclosure statements that are made in the statement has come from -- sometimes $250,000 for a single speech, given by foreign interests -- the People's Republic of China, in the Persian Gulf.

She's got to put out a new financial disclosure. She's not releasing her 2007 tax return. But in May, under Senate rule, she has to issue a financial disclosure. We're going to see where Bill Clinton was earning some of this money last year, who was paying for those speeches. And that can provide a lot of grist for this campaign.

MALVEAUX: And Peter, do you think that this basically evens the table here, when you talk about transparency? Because both of these candidates were obviously competing over who looks like they're the ones who are putting it all on the table, being honest and up front with the voters.

FENN: I think that's totally important here. I mean, you've got to put it all out on the table. You know, as Terry says, you're going to see stuff about speeches. But, you know, George Herbert Walker Bush made a lot of money, Ronald Reagan made a lot of money when they left the office.

JEFFREY: But they weren't trying to get back in the White House.

FENN: Well, nor were their wives, right. But, you know, I'm not too terribly worried about it. I think this is one of those things that if you didn't put it out, Suzanne, if you said, no, I'm not going to release tax returns, we're not going to file these financial statements the way they should be filed, you'd get yourself in all kinds of trouble.

JEFFREY: And Senator Obama had already done it.

FENN: And Obama did do it.

MALVEAUX: And the timing obviously important as well. They were talking about -- right up until -- right before the Pennsylvania primary, that might have created a big brouhaha before that vote.

FENN: Oh, I think it...

MALVEAUX: Now, I mean, with the Martin Luther King holiday, perhaps this is not something too many people are going to be...


FENN: I'm not going to be reading it over the weekend. Of course, you know, it's not as much as Terry made in speeches last year. But, you know...

JEFFREY: It does show you the Clinton PR people know exactly what they're -- they probably should have waited until after THE SITUATION ROOM.

FENN: That's right.


MALVEAUX: It's not accidental.

Let's go back to these poll numbers here.

A "New York Times"/CBS News poll showing Barack Obama, it seems like his support softening just a little bit. Late February, you had support here, 54 percent, the Democratic primary voters' choice for nominee. It's now about 46 percent.

And a number that might be a little bit more worrisome for him is among men, specifically who have been very strong in his corner. Late February, 76 percent. Now -- 67 percent rather. Now 47 percent.

Has he peaked too early?

FENN: Oh, I don't think so. I mean, I think this is not such bad news for him.

Look, he's been the focus of a lot of news reports, the Jeremiah Wright thing. I think folks thought that was going to hurt him a lot more than it actually did. You're in a real race here.

The other thing that's happened of course is that there's been a basic free ride for Senator McCain. I mean, it's extraordinary.

The Democrats, if I have any criticism of them, I mean, they should be going after John McCain, not after each other. And Terry and I were talking about this earlier.

If this were -- the Republicans are so much better. They would be creaming us if we had a nominee out there who had been talking about 100 years in Iraq, who had said he's going to support the Bush tax cuts, who said he didn't know what he was going to do about foreclosures.

MALVEAUX: So, Terry, jump in.

JEFFREY: If you step back, even though this poll and media attention is bad news for Obama, I think it actually says how lucky he is. Because what happened was the Jeremiah Wright story was the first serious hit he's taken in the campaign. Had it happened earlier, say just before the Iowa caucuses, Hillary Clinton might be the nominee of the Democratic Party.

Had this story dropped in October, it might have allowed John McCain to win the election. Having it happen now means it's likely to be old news in October, and he's glad it didn't happen in January.

MALVEAUX: Peter, could he get a bounce after this, or does it look like it's a flat line?

FENN: No, no. If he gets the nomination in June, he'll get an incredible bounce off of this.

The other thing that -- you know, I looked up this -- and Terry and I again were talking about this. You know, his speech on YouTube on race got 4.8 million hits in less than two weeks. I mean, people have focused. They're still trying to make up their minds, but I don't think the hits that Obama has taken have been that grave, to be honest with you.

MALVEAUX: OK. Got to leave it there.

Thank you so much. Thanks for joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM.

It's official, there's been a decision about the Michigan primary. Will they or won't they re-do the vote? Find out coming up next.

Plus, Congress and the Pentagon talk about the war, what's really happening on the ground in Iraq. Our Michael Ware joins us for some perspectives still ahead.



MALVEAUX: On our Political Ticker, our new Poll of Polls shows Hillary Clinton leading Barack Obama by 11 points in Pennsylvania. We averaged together three new surveys of likely April 22nd Democratic primary voters. Clinton has 51 percent support, Obama 40 percent.

Michigan Democrats made it official today. They are not going to hold a do-over presidential primary. The state party's executive committee says a re-do vote is not practical. Michigan Democrats say they hope the Clinton and Obama camps can agree on a way to split Michigan's delegates so they can be seated at the summer convention in Denver. The national party stripped Michigan and Florida of their delegates as punishment for moving up their primary dates.

And remember, for the latest political news any time, check out

Jack joins us again with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Suzanne, the question this hour is, should the DNC ask the superdelegates to make up their minds early?

Michael writes from Ohio, "Despite Senator Clinton's popularity with elements within the Democratic Party, it's becoming increasely evident her high negatives and willingness to be divisive are creating a terrible risk for the Democrats' chances in the autumn. Since the upcoming election is so significant for the future of this country, the superdelegates should do what is best for the party -- make their assessment known and conclude this race as soon as practical."

J. S. writes, "Superdelegates should have made up their minds after Clinton failed to significantly cut into Obama's pledged delegate lead when Ohio and Texas voted. For all the talk of this phantom popular vote metric, there is no way the superdelegates can ultimately overturn a 100-plus pledged delegate lead without destroying the party. It's true now, it will be true in Denver, and it was true back on March the 5th."

Laura writes from Washington, "The purpose of the superdelegates is to vote their conscience, vote for who they think will be the best qualified to be president. They have the same right as all Americans to vote for whom they want. The DNC should be focusing on getting Florida and Michigan voters included in this election."

C. in Lawrence, Kansas, "Right now Obama is flying high, Hillary is in vulture mode. If Obama falters, she'll pounce. Most of the remaining uncommitted delegates will allow that for another month or so until the primaries have ended. Then those politicians who want to be on the winning side will speak out and it'll be over, except for the formality of the convention."

Suraj in Michigan, "No, they ought to wait until all the states complete their primaries, otherwise it's like a judge or jury making their verdict known in the middle of the trial. Why is this so hard to understand?"

And Cynthia writes, "The majority of them already know who they're going to support, but they don't want to be subjected the Clinton/Carville wrath that Bill Richardson's going through. Tell them not to be scared, it will be OK." If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to, which is where my blog is. And your letter might be posted there, as there are hundreds of them for you to read through.

And we'll have a quiz on Monday about the content of the blog.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Jack.


Happening now, memorial in Memphis. Presidential candidates pay tribute to Martin Luther King. John McCain looks back, saying he was slow to give greatness its due.