Return to Transcripts main page


Former Clinton Cabinet Member Backs Obama; Hillary on the Attack; Carter Slammed Over Hamas; Pope Benedict XVI's Historic Synagogue Visit

Aired April 18, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Hillary Clinton says Barack Obama simply can't stand the heat. She's seizing on his complaints about their latest debate. The Obama camp calls her line of attack -- and I'm quoting now -- "blatant hypocrisy."

Also this hour, another member of Bill Clinton's Cabinet refusing to support his wife's campaign. I will ask the former Labor Secretary Robert Reich why he is now formally endorsing Barack Obama and whether he is bracing for a backlash.

And John McCain goes public with his tax returns, but they don't tell the full story about his family's weather.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, along with the best political team on television.


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

Up first this hour, the Democrats' complaints. Hillary Clinton now suggests Barack Obama isn't tough enough to be president based on his reaction to some difficult debate questions. But the Obama camp says Clinton has done her share of griping about media coverage.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is in Pennsylvania with the CNN Election Express latest -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Clinton campaign believes it may have gotten a bit of boost in the polls following Wednesday night's debate here in Pennsylvania, and on the campaign trail, they have found a new topic of conversation.


CROWLEY (voice-over): Debating the debate, day two.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some of my opponent supporters and my opponent are kind of complaining about the hard questions. Well, having been in the White House for eight years and seeing what happens in terms of the pressures and the stresses on a president, that was nothing.

CROWLEY: Her "blatant hypocrisy here is stunning," said an Obama spokesman, reminding supporters of this.

H. CLINTON: If anybody saw "Saturday Night Live" maybe we should ask Barack if he's comfortable and needs another pillow. I find it kind of curious I keep getting the first question on all of these issues. But I'm happy to answer it.

CROWLEY: This is more than the ridiculous discussion it seems. It's superdelegate strategy.

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a contact sport. If you don't want to play, keep your uniform off.

CROWLEY: The idea is to convince lawmakers and party officials likely to settle this race that she is a battle hardened pro and he is an unknown, untested rookie who can't withstand a Republican assault. Certainly there's been the taste of fall. In Erie today, Obama as he often does campaigned past Clinton to engage the presumptive Republican nominee.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just yesterday, John McCain went on television, I want to get this right, went on television and said there has been, great progress economically over the last seven and a half years.

CROWLEY: Furious the McCain campaign accused Obama of being recklessly dishonest, noting McCain also said any economic progress is no comfort to those suffering now. As Obama campaigned through another middle-class venue, he countered Clinton's rookie strategy with a continuing slow roll of endorsements.

Today a trio of Washington insiders with hefty resumes. Former Georgia senator and foreign policy heavyweight Sam Nunn. Former Oklahoma Senator David Boren and former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich. Superdelegate message: The train is moving.


CROWLEY: In the end, of course, both these campaigns understand that the best superdelegate strategy is to win the most pledged delegates and the majority of the popular vote in the 10 contests ahead -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy Crowley, reporting from Philadelphia, thank you.

And, coming up, by the way, I will ask Robert Reich why he decided to endorse a Democrat in the primary when he said earlier he wouldn't. The labor secretary will be our guest. That's coming up.

Republican John McCain is giving voters a new glimpse into his personal finances. He released his 2006 and 2007 income tax returns today.

Let's get some specifics from our Dana Bash. She's covering the McCain campaign for us.

The new numbers don't reflect the entire family's wealth, though, do they, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, you are exactly right, Wolf. Out of the 535 members of Congress, last year, "Roll Call" newspaper ranked John McCain the ninth richest. That's because his wife is an heiress, but her tax returns are being kept under wraps.


BASH (voice-over): John McCain is considered one of the wealthiest members of Congress, but you wouldn't know it by looking at the tax returns released by his presidential campaign.

In 2007, McCain's total income was $405,409, his taxable income, $258,800. He paid $188,660 in taxes. The campaign did not release tax returns for McCain's wife, Cindy, heiress to a fortune from father's beer distribution empire, Hensley and Company, which she now serves as chairman.


BASH: According to last year's Senate financial disclosure form, the McCains have assets of at least $36.5 million. Some estimates put her worth at $100 million.

Before marrying 27 years ago, the McCains signed a prenuptial agreement to keep their finances separate and file their taxes separately. McCain's campaign said Cindy is not releasing her returns -- quote -- "in the interests of protecting the privacy of her children."

Michelle Obama, who also has young children, did release her tax record, filed jointly with her husband.

MCCAIN: My life has not been one of privilege and luxury. I had the great honor of serving in this country.

BASH: As for McCain, he received more than $58,000 from the Navy for his pension. The 71-year-old presumptive GOP nominee also got some $23,000 last year in Social Security, and paid nearly $18,000 in alimony to his ex-wife.

He earned nearly $177,000 in book royalties, which he and his wife donated to charity. And McCain gave an additional $17,000. All told, McCain donated about 26 percent of his income to charity. By comparison, the Clintons gave 15 percent. The Obamas gave six percent.

Almost all of McCain's donations went to the John and Cindy McCain Family Foundation, which gave most to helping children with cleft palates, which their adopted daughter suffered from, and clearing land mines.


BASH: Democratic Chairman Howard Dean issued a statement this afternoon, calling McCain's lack of transparency -- quote -- "troubling" and said not releasing Cindy McCain's taxes -- quote -- "raises questions about what he's hiding."

Ironically, McCain campaign advisers defended not releasing his wife's tax returns by comparing it to Democrat John Kerry's campaign four years ago, when his multimillionaire wife refused to disclose all of her tax returns. That, Wolf, you will remember, is something Republicans complained bitterly about back then.

BLITZER: I remember that very well. All right, thanks very much, Dana, for that report.

Let's see how McCain's total income of about $405,000 compares to other big-name political types. Remember, McCain filed separately from his heiress wife, Cindy, as Dana just reported.

George and Laura Bush reported a combined income of more than $900,000 last year. Dick and Lynne Cheney had a total income last year of more than $3 million. Barack and Michelle Obama earned a total of more than $4 million. And Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton outearned all of them last year with a total income of more than $20 million.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, John McCain has been known to say he is older than dirt and has more scars than Frankenstein.

If he wins, McCain will be 72 and the oldest president to ever serve a first term. McCain says his age is no big deal. But for the purposes of giving "The Cafferty File" something light to end the week on, it is.

A Democratic operative has started a Web site called Younger Than John McCain. Steven Rosenthal presents a short video that shows things younger than the Republican candidate for the White House, including FM radio, the Golden Gate Bridge, Coke in a can, Velcro, Pakistan, McDonald's, and Burger King, to name a few.

Rosenthal tells "The Washington Post," "McCain comes from another time, an old warhorse stuck in the past with an old war view of things." He says the videos are meant to show in a funny way how out of touch and clueless McCain is. That's a quote -- his.

The McCain camp had no comment on the video, which comes just after Congressman John Murtha, a Clinton supporter, said McCain is too old to be president.

Well, with no disrespect to John McCain intended and knowing that the candidate himself has a pretty fair sense of humor, we ask the following question: What would you include on a list of things that are younger than John McCain? Go to and post a comment on my blog.

End of the week. It is getting close to the bottom of the barrel, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, your questions on Fridays are very special, Jack.


CAFFERTY: Yes. Well, I'm 65. I'm qualified to ask about old people.

BLITZER: They're excellent questions, all of them. Thanks very much.


BLITZER: He worked for Bill Clinton, has known both Clintons literally for decades. Yet, he says this.


ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: I have to live with my conscience, Wolf. And I'm a private citizen. I can say what I want. I can endorse whoever I want.


BLITZER: The former labor secretary for Bill Clinton Robert Reich, he is passing over the candidate -- that would be Hillary Clinton -- he's known so long, and he is backing Barack Obama. Why wouldn't his conscience allow him to go with Clinton? I will ask him.

Also, at their Wednesday debate, Barack Obama was asked about possible ties to a radical group, but might the Clintons also be linked to them? We will tell you what is going on.

Plus, we are just a few days into the crucial Pennsylvania primary. Our own John King is -- he is going to show us what the voter demographics look like in Pennsylvania. He will be at the magic wall.

And you will be here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: More snubs to Hillary Clinton. A few more Democrats who previously had relationships with Bill Clinton decide not to back his wife.

Today, the former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn said Obama is the best choice. Nunn served 25 years in the Senate. For many years, he was chairman of the Armed Services Committee. The former Oklahoma Senator David Boren is also endorsing Barack Obama. He was the longest serving chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Bill Clinton once considered him to be secretary of defense. Boren is praising Obama's judgment.

But perhaps most surprising of all these endorsements is a man who has known the Clintons literally for decades.


BLITZER: And joining us now, the former Clinton Laborer Secretary Robert Reich.

Professor, thanks very much for coming in.

REICH: Well, thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: You surprised me earlier today, your decision to go ahead and formally endorse Barack Obama. We had spoken only a couple of weeks or so ago, and you said you were staying neutral, in terms of formal endorsements. What changed your mind?

REICH: Well, I surprised myself, Wolf. I had long felt that Barack Obama's policies on Social Security and health care, on dealing with foreign affairs, dealing with many of the problems of this country were better than Hillary Clinton's, although I respect her policies. I think they are very good. I was not going to come out in favor of one or the other, in terms of endorsing, because I have known Mrs. Clinton and the Clintons for many years.

It just seemed inappropriate to me. But, I will tell you, I just kind of reached a tipping point last week with regard to a lot of the negative advertising coming out of the Clinton campaign.


BLITZER: What specifically tipped the balance for you?

REICH: Well, those advertisements that kind of plucked the word bitter, and started talking about religion and God again in Pennsylvania.

Look, the nation faces such huge problems, in terms of the economy right now. Millions of Americans are in danger of losing their homes and their jobs. We have a terrible war abroad. And to go into the kind standard old negative politics about what somebody said or what they might have said that was a bad choice of words, or -- or whether they have a certain pastor who has certain -- has said certain things that offend certain people, I mean, it is so -- it is so old politics, Wolf. I just think we just have to have new politics in this country.


BLITZER: But why should that surprise you? Because you have been around the Clintons for a long time. You served as the labor secretary. You worked closely with Bill and Hillary Clinton.

At this level of politics, isn't that standard operating procedure, the attack ads on both sides? They role up their sleeves and they go at it.

REICH: Well, I think we have to get beyond it, Wolf. I was hoping we were. I think the campaign -- both campaigns for many months had avoided that kind of attack stuff.

It is so out of keeping with what the nation needs right now. And I tell you, it is also -- I don't want to just blame the Clinton campaign. I think the Obama campaign has tried to stay above the fray. In that debate last -- Wednesday night, the Obama campaign -- or Obama himself tried to be dignified, didn't hit back. Some people even criticized him -- so -- him for that.

I think the media is also playing a terrible role. You guys -- and I don't want to denigrate you specifically. I think you are doing fine, to the extent that you are trying to stick to the issues. But you all -- you guys are enablers with regard to these attack ads.

If the scale of the problems the country faces were not so huge, I would say, sure, let's do politics as usual. But this is not a usual time. And that's why we have got to get behind somebody who has the right answers. And I just had to do it.

BLITZER: Yes. I remember when Bill Richardson, who was the energy secretary, the U.N. ambassador during the Clinton administration, when he endorsed Barack Obama. Some of Clinton's supporters, including James Carville, you remember, they came down with him with a ton of bricks.

Do you feel you are going to be criticized now as a result of your decision, which some will see as sort of a betrayal of the Clintons?

REICH: Oh, I'm sure that I will be criticized. And It didn't come easily. I was not going to endorse, as you know. And, look it, I have to live with my conscience, Wolf. And I'm a private citizen. I can say what I want. I can endorse whoever I want.

But it seemed to me that, given what has happened in the campaigns, given the scale of the problems facing this country, I had no choice. And I had to do it.

BLITZER: And on the policy differences, you say you looked and you liked the policies of Barack Obama on Social Security, on the war in Iraq, you mentioned on health care, because a lot of us have looked at those policy differences. And there are nuances, There are some differences. But, basically, on most of these major issues, they are on the same page.

REICH: They're on the same page. I think that the policy differences are not huge, but I think on balance, Barack Obama's policies are better. I also, frankly, am very impressed with what he's doing with young people. I have never seen over the last 40 years young people, many of whom I teach, so engaged in politics because of he -- what he's doing.

He's bringing them in. Many people across the country who I run in to say to me, I have never -- I have just been cynical about politics. I have given up on politics, but Barack Obama is giving me new hope. I'm involved for the first time.

Look, Wolf, you and I have been around politics for years. You know, I think, I certainly believe the only way we will get democracy back from the special interests, from the lobbyists, the only way that anything good will ever happen in Washington is if people get mobilized, they get energized. And Barack Obama is actually having that effect.

BLITZER: He certainly is. And we hear those -- that explanation from a lot of his supporters, what we just heard from you.

Professor, thanks very much for coming in.

REICH: Well, thanks, Wolf.


BLITZER: T-minus four days and counting. We are nearing the crucial Pennsylvania primary next Tuesday. Will Hillary Clinton hang on to her lead? The best political team on hand standing by to assess.

And Barack Obama is facing questions about a radical 1960s group. We are going to dig into his possible link to some of those who were involved in those groups -- that group known as the Weather Underground. What really is going on?

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


BLITZER: At the Democratic presidential debate earlier in the week, Senator Barack Obama was pressed on questions about his relationship to a former member of the 1960s radical group known as the Weather Underground. He explained himself and tried to move on, but not before showing the Clintons also had some ties to this group.

That prompted CNN's Randi Kaye to do some digging.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The candidates came to talk issues, but suddenly the conversation took a radical left turn. Senator Barack Obama was asked about his relationship with this man, once a member of the 1960s anti-government anti-Vietnam group Weather Underground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The point was to draw screaming attention to the fact that our government was murdering 2,000 people a day.

KAYE: William Ayers and the others claimed responsibility for about a dozen bombings and Chicago's Days of Rage anti-war protests. He and his future wife, also part of the group, were indicted. Charges were later dropped after misconduct by prosecutors. So, just how cozy is Obama's relationship with the man critics call a terrorist?

OBAMA: The notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values doesn't make much sense.

KAYE (on-camera): "Keeping Them Honest," that's not the whole story. In 1995, Obama held a campaign event at Ayers' home. Later, the two served together for three years on a charities board. And, in 2001, Ayres donated $200 to Obama's state Senate reelection campaign. It does not appear he has donated since.

CASS SUNSTEIN, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO LAW SCHOOL: The relationship between Obama and Ayres is so distance and weak that to turn this into an electoral issue is a theater of the absurd.

KAYE (voice-over): Cass Sunstein advises the Obama campaign and knows Ayers.

SUNSTEIN: Obama is as firmly opposed to terrorism as anyone in American politics.

KAYE: Seeing an opening, Hillary Clinton cited something Ayres told "The New York Times": "I don't regret setting bombs, and I feel we didn't do enough."

Keeping her honest, the Clintons has their own connections to Weather Underground.

OBAMA: President Clinton pardoned or commuted the sentences of two members of the Weather Underground, which I think is a slightly more significant act...



OBAMA: ... than me serving on a board with somebody for actions that he did 40 years ago.

KAYE: In 2001, then President Bill Clinton commuted sentences for two members jailed on weapons and terror-related charges.

Political expert Larry Sabato doesn't expect any of this will have much traction with primary voters, but he bets the McCain campaign is already preparing an ad against Obama.

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: The ad will simply say, while John McCain was rotting away under terrible conditions in the Hanoi Hilton, serving his country, demonstrating his patriotism, Barack Obama's friend William Ayres was planting bombs and preaching radicalism. Is that the kind of president you want?

KAYE: Sabato suggests Obama takes his hits and move on and hope voters will do the same.


COOPER: That was Randi Kaye reporting for us.

Barack Obama likens the latest Democratic debate to a game of gotcha. Hillary Clinton is not necessarily buying it.


H. CLINTON: Well, having been in the White House for eight years and seeing what happens in terms of the pressures and the stresses on a president, that was nothing.


BLITZER: Can Senator Clinton convince voters that Obama isn't tough enough to be president? The best political team on television is standing by.

We will also take a closer look at the pockets of Pennsylvania that could help Obama deliver potentially a surprise in Tuesday's primary. John King is standing by.

And, later, the story behind the pope's visit to a synagogue in New York City. It's also steeped in emotion in a very dark chapter in history.

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


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

Happening now, it's the contest that could change everything in the race for the White House, the Pennsylvania primary, now just four days away. We're going to take you inside this next critical matchup between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Also, the Clinton campaign seizes on Obama's complaints about this latest debate, with both the candidate and her husband now questioning whether he's tough enough to stand a bruising White House battle.

Plus, the president who first brokered Middle East peace now under fire himself for his latest mission to the region. Jimmy Carter's meeting with Hamas, it's sparking the outrage, all of this coming up, plus the best political team on television.

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

And there are so many voters to convince, but only so many days to do it. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton need those voters to rack up delegates. Right now, he leads in pledged delegates, with 1,418, to her 1,250. But Clinton has a slight edge among the critical superdelegates, 22 more than Obama. Meanwhile, they only have a few more contests to fight over. On May 6, Indiana offers 72 delegates, and North Carolina 115. But Pennsylvania's primary in four days offers the biggest delegate treasure, 158.

Polls have consistently showed Hillary Clinton ahead in Pennsylvania, but the big question is this. By how much? Many analysts say she needs to win by a large margin to build momentum and to make her case to all those superdelegates.

Our chief national correspondent, John King, takes a closer look.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Senator Clinton has had a consistent lead in the polls in Pennsylvania. But that lead is shrinking in recent polls, as the vote gets closer and closer. But it is a state in which she has some significant structural advantages.

Pennsylvania has the second largest elderly population in the United States -- second only to Florida. And those are voters who have been traditionally supporting Senator Clinton in the past primaries.

Also, a large white, blue collar population. About 30 percent of the population comes from union households. That has been a constituency that Senator Clinton, for the most part, has also been winning in past Democratic primaries.

So if Senator Obama is to overcome Senator Clinton's lead, he'd have to do it mostly right down here, in the southeast corner. We'll draw a line right out here. These are the suburbs around Philadelphia. But for Senator Obama, it starts in the city itself. Philadelphia is about 12 percent of the state's population, a large African-American population. That has been his base. It is critical to him in any close contest.

The mayor is for Senator Clinton. Senator Obama has been working the streets hard, organizing inside Philadelphia. He must get a big Democratic turnout and a big African-American turnout if he has any hope of overcoming Senator Clinton.

The next test for Senator Obama is in this area here, which works more to his advantage. You have in Montgomery County, Bucks County here, Montgomery County here, Delaware County down here and Chester County a little further out. These suburbs around Philadelphia -- they are growing, they are turning more Democratic and there are more affluent, upscale Democrats, who we have seen backing Senator Obama in the past in places like Maryland, just to the south.

Of if there is to be an Obama come back, it will be generated right here in the southeast corner of Pennsylvania.

BLITZER: All right, John.

John King at the so-called Magic Wall. You'll be seeing a lot more of him, all of us, Tuesday night, when we cover the outcome of the Pennsylvania primary. Let's discuss what's going on with our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's in Philadelphia right now. Jack Cafferty is in New York. And our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, she's here in Washington. They are all part of the best political team on television.

In the latest average of the polls in Pennsylvania, updated today, we see this -- Clinton, 48 percent; Obama, 43 percent; 9 percent still unsure -- Jack, a 5 percent split there. This is the so- called Poll of Polls. This is exciting. It still could go either way, I think, given what's been going on over these past few weeks.

CAFFERTY: Well, and the importance of Pennsylvania lies in the margin of victory, according to all the political experts that are looking at this thing. For Hillary Clinton to be able to make the argument to the superdelegates that she is the one who ought to be president, she's got to win Pennsylvania by more than 10 points.

She has had much more than a 10 point lead. Last November, she was ahead by 30 points in that state. Now it's down to five. The conventional wisdom is if she wins by less than 10 or if he wins, we're probably looking at the beginning of the end. He's running in front in Indiana. He has a big lead in North Carolina. She's got to win by 10 or more Tuesday or I think it's time to cue the fat lady. She's going to start warming up.

BLITZER: What do you think, Gloria?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that if she wins, but by less than 10 points, you can depend on her campaign to make the argument that he has been outspending her two or three to one, and that the fact that they could still beat him, given that differential in money, means that he cannot win in these really, really important states to Democrats in the fall.

So do not expect the Clinton campaign to give up if they win but by a smaller margin. They're not going to do that.

BLITZER: And, Candy, what happens if she were to win, let's say, by more than 10 points. Remember, in Ohio, she won by 10 points, 54 percent to 44 percent. Ohio right next door to Pennsylvania. Demographically, those two states are very similar.

What if she does in Pennsylvania what she did in Ohio?

CROWLEY: Well, then they continue their argument that he cannot win the core of the Democratic Party; he cannot win those white, working class votes, those union households, which have propelled Democrats to victory in the past.

It also gives them room to move right into Indiana, where it is very close. She needs to win one of those -- Indiana or North Carolina. There's one school of thought she needs to win both. North Carolina is looking a little out of her reach at this point. But it's very close in Indiana. So this gives her that kind of, you know, momentum as she moves in. She needs a win here. I mean, not to borrow a word from John McCain, but a loss here for Hillary Clinton would be a calamity. I mean she really needs to win it.

And I will tell you that they are already saying in the Clinton campaign, if he doesn't win, it's a disaster for him, because he spent so much money here.

BLITZER: You know, I'm getting dizzy listening to all the spinning coming from all of these campaigns.


BLITZER: You hear everything.

Well, speaking of that, let's listen to Bill Clinton today, Jack, talking about whether or not Barack Obama is tough enough to handle a general election against John McCain and a Republican.


W. CLINTON: If you don't want to play, keep your uniform off.


W. CLINTON: Now, look...


W. CLINTON: But the truth is this has been a basically positive campaign on the issues and on the records and on the experience. And the real differences should be on the issues.


BLITZER: Well, the real difference should be on the issues, but we've heard both of the campaigns whining about the media and whining about the questions are too tough and are unfair.

What do you make of all of this, Jack?

CAFFERTY: I mean what does this -- what does that mean, is he tough enough? I mean you make it sound like running this country is like cage fighting. It's not -- I mean, of course, he's tough enough. He also is leading in all the polls.

The question that Barack Obama should be asking is how do you elect a woman to the White House who is not trusted by 58 percent of Americans, according to the latest "Washington Post"/ABC News. Fifty- eight percent of the people in that poll say they don't trust Hillary Clinton.

Now, do you think she's going to be president? I don't.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, they -- but it's fair to say, as tough and as bitter as this campaign between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama might be, you know it's going to be a lot meaner, nastier in a general election, irrespective of who is the Democratic nominee. BORGER: Yes. And that's kind of Obama's response. He says, look, you know, I wasn't that tough on Hillary Clinton. I didn't throw everything at her I could have thrown at her in the last debate. But you can be sure that I'm going to be tougher when it comes to Republicans. His point being I don't want to give Republicans their talking points to use in the fall campaign. And maybe his point is that Hillary Clinton could be doing that.

But, you know, Hillary Clinton was complaining, why do I get asked every question first, you folks in the media, you are so easy on Barack Obama and you're so tough on me. And maybe those folks were tougher on Barack Obama because he is the frontrunner.

BLITZER: Candy, whenever they start complaining about the media, you know that there's a problem out there.

CROWLEY: Yes, absolutely. And I mean, listen, when you look at this sort of aftermath, with Hillary Clinton saying, well, you know, I can take the heat, I've been in the kitchen, that's a superdelegate strategy. That's saying, listen, this guy is too untested, he is too unknown, these things are going to keep coming up, he can't fight the Republican machine.

I'm tested. I've been on this battlefield for more than a decade, so I can do this.

So that's what this complaining about the complaining has to do with, which is just a signal to superdelegates, saying, listen, I'm tougher than he is, I can win and, you know, we've got some doubts about him because we really don't know that much about him.

BLITZER: And it's...

CROWLEY: That's the gist of this argument.

BLITZER: And yet it's all who's better able to win in November. That's what the superdelegates presumably have to decide.

All right, guys, stand by. We're going to continue this conversation.

And coming up, is it a peace mission or is Jimmy Carter embracing terrorists?

We're going to take a closer look at the uproar over his talks with Hamas and the political fallout, potentially, here.

Plus, separated by faith but united by the horrors of war -- we're going to show you the surprising story behind an historic papal visit.

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


BLITZER: Former President Jimmy Carter is under fire at home and abroad for meeting with leaders of the militant group Hamas, which both the U.S. and Israeli governments consider to be a terrorist organization.

We're back with the best political team on television.

Let's talk about the potential political fallout.

Gloria, what do you think -- will there be a political fallout from Carter's meetings with Hamas?

BORGER: You know, I think at this point, people are not taking his meetings particularly seriously. And I have a sort of a rule of thumb for former presidents. I don't think it's a good idea to start freelancing foreign policy. You should probably go on some foreign policy trips when the president of the United States or the secretary of state asks you to represent this country, but not a good idea to freelance, because people start dismissing you.

BLITZER: The McCain campaign, Candy, wasted no time. They bitterly condemned Jimmy Carter's decision, raising questions, for example, of whether Barack Obama was forceful enough in personally condemning it, as well.

CROWLEY: Right. In fact, they're fundraising off of it, even as we speak, in the McCain camp, you know, suggesting that Barack Obama and for that matter, Hillary Clinton, should have come out immediately and condemned Jimmy Carter. Look, they both said I wouldn't go, I consider it a terrorist group. But, you know, the fact of the matter is he's a private citizen. I really don't expect two Democratic candidates to condemn a former Democratic president. So I think they've sort of done what they could.

But it's a good issue for John McCain because, obviously, he's running on national security and he thinks he can raise money off of it. And I'm sure he probably can.

BLITZER: It was your question during one of our hours today, Jack, what former presidents of the United States should and should not be doing.

What do you think?

CAFFERTY: Well, I mean, you know, I think it's politics to jump on Jimmy Carter. And for John McCain, his Republican Party has not exactly brought peace to the Middle East in the last eight years now, have they?

The other part of it is, as Candy mentioned, is the man is a private citizen. He's going over there. You can say what you want about Jimmy Carter, he's one of the most well-intentioned human beings I have ever encountered. He's a good man who wants only the right thing.

Is it visit with Hamas going to change the relationship between Hamas and Israel or Hamas and the United States? No.

Is it going to harm U.S. foreign policy in the area? Probably not.

Is it a great idea for him to be doing it? Probably not. But, hey, you know, it's not that big of a deal, I don't think.

BLITZER: Gloria, you wanted to add something?

BORGER: Well, I, you know, I want to get back to this idea of -- Jimmy Carter really tried to get peace in the Middle East. It didn't work. Every president...

CAFFERTY: He came closer than anybody did, Gloria.

BORGER: He did.

CAFFERTY: Well, he did...

BORGER: He did. Exactly.

CAFFERTY: ...the Israeli deal.

BORGER: He did. But it's over for him. He's not the president of the United States anymore. I give him...

CAFFERTY: Well, he's not over there as the president.

BORGER: I give him full credit for still caring very deeply about this issue, but there are probably more constructive ways that he could go about it without handing, as Candy points out, without handing the Republicans a talking point, weak as it is, without handing McCain a talking point.

BLITZER: All right, Candy, I'll let you wrap it up. What do you think?

CROWLEY: Well, you know, look, the problem, as the U.S. administration sees it, the Bush administration sees it, is, yes he's a private citizen, but he's a former president. It's looked at prestigiously over there. It elevates Hamas, which is something, obviously, the Bush administration doesn't want to do.

But I think in the end, a month from now, do I think anything is going to change between the Bush administration and Hamas?

No, I don't.

BLITZER: Candy, thanks very much.

Gloria, thanks to you, as well.

Jack, don't leave. "The Cafferty File" is coming up.

Also, right now, Lou Dobbs is coming up. He's going to give us a preview of what's coming up at the top of the hour.

Hi, Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": How you doing, Wolf?

And right you are. Coming up at the top of the hour, more on the pope's visit to this country. Pope Benedict XVI can't stop criticizing, however, the United States. What in the world is he thinking?

We'll be examining that with -- about the pope, the Catholic Church, politics in this country with a panel of political analysts.

And new charges that prosecutors betrayed two former patrol officers given harsh prison sentences for wounding an illegal drug smuggler. Incredibly, that smuggler could receive a much shorter sentence than the agents. One of the agent's leading supporters is Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. He's among out guests here.

And the Pennsylvania primary just four days away. The Clinton and Obama campaigns focusing today not on the issues, but on who's more electable, who's tougher. Who cares?

We'll be talking about that, as well.

Please join us for all of that, all the day's news and much more at the top of the hour right here on CNN -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: See you in a few moments, Lou.

DOBBS: You bet.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Jack Cafferty will be back with your e-mail. Coming up, his question this hour, by the way, what would you include on a list of things that are "younger" than John McCain?

Remember, it's Friday.

Plus, former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards on what his endorsement is worth.

Much more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: On our political ticker, funny man Stephen Colbert let Hillary Clinton deliver a big punch line during a broadcast from Pennsylvania. Colbert jokingly complained that no one was around to fix a giant monitor behind him. Then suddenly, Senator Clinton strolled in and declared she could fix the mess, just in time for Barack Obama to appear on the program via satellite.

Listen to this.


H. CLINTON: How are you feeding this, through the router or the ox bus on the switcher? STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": It's an ox.

H. CLINTON: Try toggling the input.


Holy cow!

Senator Obama, won't Senator Clinton be happy that she fixed our screen?

OBAMA: I'm sure she will, Steven. I'm sure she will.


BLITZER: The former presidential candidate, John Edwards, also appeared on Colbert's show, joking about the big plays for his endorsement.


JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, Stephen, you're right about the white males playing an important role in this election. Their votes are being courted as a demographic tie breaker between these two tough candidates. And no white male's vote is being courted more vigorously than this one.


BLITZER: And remember, for the latest political news any time, check out The ticker is the number one political news blog on the Web site.

That's also where you can read my latest blog post -- Jack Cafferty, those guys are pretty funny and they get big guests on those comedy shows, don't they?

CAFFERTY: Yes. But last night they had McCain and Obama on.

BLITZER: Was McCain on last night, too?

CAFFERTY: I mean -- no...

BLITZER: Clinton, yes.


I'm tired and this is the last question this week from "The Cafferty File" and it is as follows: What would you include on a list of things that are younger than John McCain?

Charles writes: "The Space Shuttle fleet is younger than McCain -- and it's going into retirement soon. Neil Armstrong's footprint on the moon is also younger than McCain -- and by some accounts, so is the moon."

Joel: "The Iraq War, but not if McCain gets his way."

Dick in Indiana: "I'm quite offended by this clearly age-related question. Obviously, one thing that's younger than John McCain is the lack of decency at CNN and the immaturity of the whipper snappers who write these offensive questions."

That would be me.

Garrick in Florida writes: "Hi, Jack. The first on the list is you, followed by jets, the Space Shuttle, women's rights, civil rights, color TV, computers, the voting booth and his wife."

Karl in California: "Pampers, Depends, Tony the Tiger, the Edsel, Alaska and Hawaii, and a good bottle of scotch."

James writes: "I think Beethoven is younger than John McCain. I believe he's still decomposing."

That's awful.

Mike in St. Petersburg Beach, Florida: "Give the guy a break. He was born the same year as Burt Reynolds and Alan Alda who, for whatever reason, don't seem that old."

Joshua in North Carolina: "He's older than the Wizard of Oz, Disney, the People's Republic of China, the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, MTV and the Internet."

Steve in Barstow, California: "All of the women in Bill Clinton's sex scandals."

And Elena: "Jack Cafferty, you're like a 100 million years old. How dare you be ageist to a fellow old person?"

If you didn't see your e-mail here -- and we got a lot of funny stuff. This is when you should go back the blog. Go to There are hundreds of them posted there, including, perhaps, yours -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, have a great weekend.

CAFFERTY: You, too.

BLITZER: We'll see you back here on Monday.

Thanks very much.


BLITZER: The pope again makes history on his United States visit. He delivers a very special message for a rabbi whose life was very different from the pope's when they were boys during World War II.

We'll have this special report, right after this.


BLITZER: Pope Benedict XVI is now in New York City on this, the final leg of his first visit to the United States as pope. He flew in from Washington earlier this morning, proceeded to the United Nations, where he delivered a major address before the General Assembly. He praised the U.N. for its work and implored delegates to fight for human rights.

Later in the day, the pope made history once again, with a visit to a synagogue in New York City. But there's much more to this part of the story than meets the eye.

Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She's covering this part of the papal visit.

What's the hidden story here -- Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the hidden story, Wolf, is there are ties to World War II. The pope grew up in Germany. The rabbi fled the Nazis in Austria. This was the backdrop against the first ever visit by a pope to an American synagogue.


RABBI ARTHUR SCHNEIER, PARK EAST SYNAGOGUE: It's a first. It's a first in the history on American soil.

SNOW (voice-over): For Rabbi Arthur Schneier, inviting Pope Benedict to the Park East Synagogue is more than making American history -- it carries a deep personal meaning rooted in the Holocaust. Rabbi Schneier escaped the Nazis. The pope, as a teen in Germany, was forced to join the Hitler Youth. Both, as young men, devoted themselves to religious life. For Rabbi Schneier, that devotion stemmed from a promise he made to his grandfather -- a rabbi who was captured by the Nazis, never to return.

SCHNEIER: He was always worried who was going to succeed him in his work. So I made a promise, which I have kept, to be ordained and devote my life to Rabbinic service.

SNOW: Rabbi Schneier fled the Nazis with his mother and came to the U.S. in 1947. He's been the senior rabbi at Park East Synagogue for more than 40 years. He's devoted his life to fighting for religious freedom and was awarded the presidential Citizens Medal in 2001. And he's met with leaders of all different religions, including Pope Benedict and the late John Paul II, calling it a message of good will.

SCHNEIER: The relations between the Jews and the Catholics historically has been not an ideal one.

SNOW: Pope Benedict has made strides reaching out to Jewish leaders. And as theological adviser to John Paul, he's credited with playing a key role in Pope John Paul's apology to Jews for the role Catholics played in the Holocaust. But Benedict has also angered Jews by reviving a controversial Latin prayer on Good Friday calling for the conversion of Jews.

I asked Rabbi Schneier about how he felt about that.

SCHNEIER: Would I wish that this fray would not exist? Of course.

SNOW: But the rabbi says he does not want to be paralyzed by the past and feels it's his calling to do what he can to heal.

SCHNEIER: The pope's visit here basically says to me, you know, you embarked on the right road and go forward. Don't stop. Continue.


SNOW: And, Wolf, today's visit was seen as a significant symbol and gesture, as the pope visited the synagogue. And to try to show that there is warming relations between Jews and Catholics, the people gave the rabbi a present. It was a manuscript. The rabbi gave the pope a Seder plate, this on the eve of Passover -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It was a nice event and I think everybody was moved by that event at the Park East Synagogue. And this especially on the eve of Passover, as you note, Mary. Passover is starting tomorrow night.

Thanks. Mary Snow.

Mary Snow reporting for us from New York.

And to all of our Jewish viewers out there, have a Happy Passover.

Among my guests this Sunday on "LATE EDITION," Governor Jon Corzine, a Clinton supporter, and Bill Bradley, an Obama supporter. "LATE EDITION" airs 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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