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THE SITUATION ROOM
Obama Closes Tough Week; Ron Paul Says the Race is 'Still On'; McCain on Oil & War; Barbara Walters Reveals All in New Book
Aired May 2, 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, Barack Obama tries to put a rough week behind him before his next primary showdown with Hillary Clinton. Will gas prices be a driving issue in Indiana and North Carolina?
Plus, new evidence Americans think the economy is going from bad to worse. Does that hurt John McCain's efforts to pull working-class voters away from the Democrats?
And what if John Edwards had stayed in the presidential race? The best political team on television considers how different the campaign might actually be right now.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Hillary Clinton says her next primary showdown with Barack Obama will be a "game-changer." At least that's what she's hoping. She heads into Tuesday's contest in Indiana and North Carolina hoping to knock some new wind out of Obama's sails after his very trying week.
Here's our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley -- Candy.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just three days left to woo votes and change hearts. Indiana and North Carolina, the primary day, next Tuesday, it could be a day that either changes the game or ends it.
CROWLEY (voice-over): A John Deere service center in North Carolina, an aging steel plant in Indiana. Campaigning from one working class backdrop to another, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton go down to the wire arguing over a bottom-line, working-class issue -- the price of gas. Specifically, lifting the federal gas tax for three months. Yes, even a little break is better than no break.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want the oil panes to pay the federal gas tax for the summer.
CROWLEY: No. It would save consumers a grand total of $30, and would likely drive prices up. SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is not a real solution. It's a political stunt.
CROWLEY: Economists largely agree with him. Political types think she's on to something with voter appeal.
Clinton and Obama go into this final weekend before the Indiana and North Carolina primaries from two different places. He's coming off a loss in Pennsylvania and Wright week, the worst several days of his presidential bid. Losing both states will send a massive shudder through his campaign, not to mention the Democratic Party.
He's up 10 in North Carolina, dead even in Indiana. I think we have a terrific chance, he says. But what of the Wright effect? He doesn't know. But there is a perceptible hedging of bets.
OBAMA: What I don't spend a lot of time doing is obsessing about what ifs and should-have-beens. What I will do is we will see what happens on Tuesday and then we're going to keep ongoing to the next -- next contest.
CROWLEY: She's coming off a nice win in Pennsylvania, but two losses for her is a doomsday scenario. Two wins and she still can't catch him in pledged delegates but, oh, what a superdelegate argument she would have.
CLINTON: You know, this primary election on Tuesday is a game changer. This is going to make a huge difference in what happens going forward. The entire country, and probably even a lot of the world, is looking to see what North Carolina decides.
CROWLEY: For all the policy, all the polls, all the pundits, politics is still an art of the unknown.
CROWLEY: And suppose it's a split decision. One takes North Carolina. The other takes Indiana. Well, then, it's on to the next pivotal primary day -- Wolf.
BLITZER: That would be West Virginia, a week from Tuesday.
All right, thanks very much, Candy.
The presidential candidates can't seem to tell voters enough that they understand the hardships they're going through enough right now. And there's new evidence that the sour economy will be issue number one for quite a while.
Let's go to our senior politics analyst, Bill Schneider. He has been looking at the latest numbers.
What do they say about the mood of the country, Bill, right now?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: They say the country is in a bad mood, a very bad mood. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Things are bad. Even the cheerleader in chief admits it.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have been through a recession, we have been through a terrorist attack, we have been at war, we have had corporate scandals, we have had major natural disasters, and yet this economy always recovers.
SCHNEIDER: Good to hear. But meanwhile, 70 percent of Americans say things are going badly in the country. That's a lot worse than two years ago, when 48 percent thought times were bad and the Republicans lost control of Congress. Want to see what good times look like? 2000, when Bill Clinton left office and only 19 percent thought times were bad.
How does this year compare with 1992, when the stupid economy got Clinton elected? In 1992, 65 percent said things were bad. Now they're worse.
How does this year compare with 1980, when Ronald Reagan got elected to save the country from malaise? In 1980, 68 percent said things were bad. Now they're worse.
In 1980, President Carter was running for reelection and lost. In 1992, the first President Bush was running for reelection. He lost too. That's the big difference.
This President Bush can't run for reelection, and his vice president is not running either. No matter. The Democrats are still running against the status quo.
OBAMA: In recent months we have seen the problems in our economy grow worse and worse.
CLINTON: We're not supposed to be losing jobs in America. We're supposed to be creating jobs in America.
SCHNEIDER: John McCain's response? Me too.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Americans are hurting today. The latest jobs report, although not maybe as bad as some had predicted, is still bad.
SCHNEIDER: Is anybody here the incumbent? Apparently not.
SCHNEIDER: Voters do believe either Clinton or Obama would handle the economy better than McCain would. In both cases, by 53 percent to 42 percent. That's not as big a margin as you might think, with the country in such a bad mood -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Look ahead to Tuesday, Bill. What are the numbers? What are we seeing right now in Indiana and North Carolina? SCHNEIDER: Well, there are three possible outcomes. If Barack Obama were to win both races, I think this contest would start to shut down. The superdelegates would move to him.
If Hillary Clinton were somehow to win both Indiana and North Carolina, we would have a real crisis, because then the superdelegates would tilt to her, and the pledged delegates would still be with Obama. And that would be a real crisis. If it's 1-1, she wins Indiana, he wins North Carolina, it's still up in the air, just like now.
BLITZER: And then we go on to West Virginia a week from Tuesday. Thanks, Bill, very much.
Jack Cafferty has got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: So, how would that be a game-changer?
BLITZER: If we go on to -- well, I guess she thinks if she wins both of these primaries, that's a game-changer.
CAFFERTY: Well, yes, OK. I'm sure she thinks that, but she would still be behind.
CAFFERTY: And all of the experts give her virtually no chance of catching him in the pledged delegates.
Over the course of the campaign, speaking of the candidates, Americans' views of the top three candidates have changed, according to a Gallup poll that was done in late April. Here are some of the qualities associated with each one.
John McCain, he's too old. He's a good man. He's likable. He would give the country more of the same, be another George Bush. And he has a good military background, and the number of people who view him favorably were about equal the number who don't like him.
When it comes to Hillary Clinton, the most common perceptions are that she is dishonest, not trustworthy, past scandals or baggage associated with her president -- her husband, rather, the former president, that she's qualified, capable and strong. But the number of people who have a negative view of her, 55 percent, almost twice the number that view her favorably, just 30 percent.
Barack Obama is viewed slightly more positively than negatively, 42 to 39 percent. People see Obama as young, inexperienced, but with new ideas. He's seen as lacking substance, all talk, no action. People disagree with his religious views. Thank you, Reverend Wright. And he's seen by some as an elitist or a snob, although those views are not widely held, according to the poll. He's also of course much better known now than he was when the campaign began.
So, here's the question for this hour: How has your perception of the three major presidential candidates changed during the course of the campaign?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile.com and you can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks, Jack, very much.
Party vs. country? One Republican explains his priority for the next election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Don't you want to see a Republican in the White House?
REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, that's secondary to wanting the Constitution defended and wanting the country to go in the right direction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Congressman Ron Paul is here with some surprising comments about why he's not supporting John McCain and about which Democrat he actually likes.
Also, blue-collar whites could help decide who becomes president. So, John McCain is doing something very interesting to court them. You are going to want to hear what's going on.
And in Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's very tight race, every single delegate counts. So, a place that offers just four of those delegates is getting a lot of attention right now. It's a contest that will be under way in two hours. We will tell you what's happening in Guam.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Once John McCain clinched the Republican nomination, his primary rivals fell by the wayside in the name of party unity. But one Republican who sees himself as something of a revolutionary did not.
BLITZER: And joining us now, Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas. He's the author of a brand-new book entitled "The Revolution: A Manifesto," already a major bestseller.
Congressman, congratulations on the new book. Thanks very much for coming in.
PAUL: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
BLITZER: Why haven't you officially dropped out of this race yet? PAUL: Well, I guess the race is still on. You know, I made a statement a few months ago that I would stay in the race as long as there's enthusiasm. Supporters are wanting to do things, and our numbers are growing, and there's money in the bank. And instead of us fading away with less and less, we seem to get more and more enthusiasm for what we have been doing.
BLITZER: The other Republican challengers have now endorsed John McCain, basically almost all of them. You're not ready to do that yesterday, are you?
PAUL: No, not quite, because I think our platform is a little bit different. And that would really confuse the supporters, because they know we have a precise program, and we have to defend that program.
BLITZER: But don't you want to see a Republican in the White House?
PAUL: Well, that's secondary to wanting the Constitution defended and wanting the country to go in the right direction, bringing peace around the world, having sound money and balanced budgets. All the things the Republicans, you know, traditionally have stood for. That's more important than just having a Republican. We have to know what we believe in.
BLITZER: What's your biggest problem with Senator McCain?
PAUL: I would say it was the issue that motivated me probably a year and a half ago to get involved. And that has to do with our foreign policy and the war in the Middle East, because I see it's so damaging to us around the world, as well as something we can't afford. And now we're facing a financial crisis.
And -- but I can't get that many allies in Washington. I mean, they are continuing to spend on war and welfare like there's no economic problem. I mean, any time a problem pops up, the Congress just appropriates more money and the Fed prints more money, and nobody seems to want to slow up.
BLITZER: It seems, Congressman -- excuse me for interrupting -- the two Democratic remaining presidential candidates, when it comes to the war in Iraq, are a lot closer to your stance than McCain.
PAUL: Yes, I would think so. But unless you look at the voting records, I mean, they really haven't voted that way. Even Obama has voted to support the war and the spending. And Hillary certainly has.
So I think their rhetoric is definitely better. And you have to give John McCain some credit. At least he's honest about it.
You know, he says, we're staying and we need to be there and we need to take on Iran if we have to, which is scary to me. But at least he's up front. The I think the Democrats are playing on some of the sympathies that I get that we ought to, you know, back away from some of these commitments. BLITZER: If you had to pick one of those three right now, who would it be?
PAUL: It would be a tough choice, because I see them as all about the same. But I would think the one who would most likely keep us from expanding the war is probably Obama. But that doesn't mean that's an endorsement, because he would spend the money somewhere else, and his voting record isn't all that great. But you asked me the question and I would say he would be slightly better on foreign policy.
BLITZER: So as long as McCain, I think I have heard you say in the past, supports continuing the war in Iraq, there's no way you could formally endorse him. Is that right?
PAUL: No, I think so. I think the war -- I want people to be talking about monetary policy and fiscal policy and all these things that are so important.
You know, I also believe in unity in the Republican Party. But unity is secondary to what we believe in. If we unify on something that's non-Republican, it doesn't have a whole lot of meaning. And that's what I'm afraid the Republicans are drifting into.
They're begging and pleading for unity, but we have got to know what we believe in. And I think that's where our problem is today.
BLITZER: All right. The book "The Revolution," it's a huge bestseller. It's already out, subtitled "A Manifesto."
I see the word manifesto and I'm sure a lot of our viewers see that word and it reminds them of another book that had the manifesto in the title, The Communist Manifesto.
Tell me what the point is of The Revolution: A Manifesto.
PAUL: Well, it's a declaration. But the manifesto has been used in other places less violently signed, and than the Communist Manifesto. It's just a statement of facts and beliefs. And it's an attention-getter.
So, this is the purpose, is to get the attention of the American people, what we need to do, what we need to believe in. And actually, it sounds revolutionary in the sense that it's brand new, but really what we're talking about is a peaceful revolution by just returning to the goodness of America, to our Constitution, and to free markets and personal liberties, and a noninterventionist foreign policy. Unfortunately, it is revolutionary to talk about obeying the Constitution, but that in essence is what's going on right now.
BLITZER: A lot of your main ideas are certainly very popular with your base. And you have got thousands, millions of people out there who love your ideas. But none of them really have been translated into policy yet in terms of the establishment, the Democrats and the Republicans.
What's the problem?
PAUL: Well, we're competing with people who believe we can still live off other people and off the government. Today, you know, we're processing a bill in Washington where George Bush is asking for $100 billion for the war. Well, the Democrats are going to vote for it as long as they get $50 billion of more spending on there. And there's too many special interests still in control of Washington.
I believe the people are really with me on these issues and want to see us cut back and have a balanced budget and have more common sense in what we do. But the special interests are still very much in charge in Washington.
BLITZER: Congressman Paul, thanks for coming on.
PAUL: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: One Republican calls them this year's soccer moms, a group that both Democrats and Republicans are desperately going after to win the White House. So, who are they and are you one of them?
And what if -- what if John Edwards were still in the race? The man who managed Edwards' campaign makes a stunning comment about where Democrats might be right now if it were still a three-person Democratic presidential contest.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: While the Democrats wait it out, Republican John McCain is not breaking much of a sweat. He's free to court a group the Democrats hope will be on their side.
Dana Bash is here in THE SITUATION ROOM watching this story for us.
He's also focusing in on a city that will be very important to the Democrats.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Very important to the Democrats. That city is Denver. That's where John McCain was today. That, of course, is the place where the Democrats are going to nominate their nominee, once they actually get that.
And as Democrats fight over who they're going to nominate, McCain is working, against all odds, to try to turn economic woes, especially a certain type of voter, to his advantage.
BASH (voice-over): At a Denver town hall, first things first.
MCCAIN: Americans are going through tough times now, my friends. And I don't think we can sugarcoat it.
BASH: News of April's 20,000 lost jobs was better than economists predicted and not as bad as the 81,000 lost in March. But John McCain knows that, as a Republican running in this stark economic climate, to look for a silver lining would risk looking out of touch.
MCCAIN: Americans are hurting today. The latest jobs report, although not maybe as bad as some had predicted, is still bad. Unemployment continues up. Americans are suddenly and recently losing their jobs.
BASH: That kind of talk is aimed at McCain's political reality. Seven in 10 Americans now say things in this country, under a Republican president, are going badly. But it's also targeted at the sector of voters McCain is now homing in on, blue-collar whites, what Republican pollsters call this year's soccer moms.
WHIT AYRES, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: We have been doing a lot of focus groups with blue-collar whites in swing states. They're open to voting for Hillary Clinton, but there's no way on God's green earth they're going to vote for Barack Obama. They will vote for John McCain instead. So, reaching out to those people we used to call Reagan Democrats is a very smart strategy for John McCain.
MCCAIN: It's on the poorest Americans. They drive the furthest, and they drive the older automobiles, which are the highest gas- guzzlers.
BASH: All week long, as Barack Obama voiced his opposition to a gas tax holiday, McCain tried to use his support as a way to connect.
MCCAIN: And I want to give the American consumer a little bit of relief just for the summer. Maybe they will be able to buy an additional textbook for their children when they go back to school this fall.
MCCAIN: And McCain advisers hope, by telling voters he understands that even a few dollars would go a long way for struggling families, he can at least establish himself as someone who is on their side. And, Wolf, as you know, it's a tough task for a Republican, especially right now.
BLITZER: And right at the end of that event earlier, Dana, he said something about war and oil. It's raising eyebrows. I'm going to play the clip. And then we will discuss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Senator Obama and Senator Clinton want to set a date for withdrawal. That's what they want to do, is get everybody out.
I believe that that would lead to catastrophe and chaos and that we would have the whole region, including the country, in such turmoil, that we would be required to come back to the region. And I just want to promise you this.
My friends, I will have an energy policy that we will be talking about which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East, that will that will then...
MCCAIN: ... prevent us -- that will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. You can interpret that as the U.S. went to war in Iraq, perhaps, for oil, which is not exactly what the administration and John McCain had said originally. What are they saying?
And as soon as I heard this, I thought, because it was so much in the context of the discussion of the current war in Iraq, because you heard him talking about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, as soon as I heard that, I e-mailed one of his top advisers and said, does that -- did he just say we want to war because of oil?
They got on the plane from Denver and immediately they started realizing that what Senator McCain said was -- left a lot of question marks. So, Senator McCain himself came back to talk to reporters on his plane, Wolf. And what he said is, first of all, he said that he was talking about the first Gulf War, the war, as you remember, to liberate Kuwait.
And the other thing he said is that he said 1,000 times we went to war because of weapons of mass destruction. McCain said it's clear in the congressional record. And he said, for me to change that would be -- would not make a lot of sense right now. So, that's the way he's explaining it.
BLITZER: So, he's suggesting the first Gulf War in 1991 was done for oil; is that what he's now saying?
BASH: Apparently, apparently, but, to be honest with you, it's still a little bit unclear what he was saying, because it was so much there, as we just heard it, in the context of the current war.
But he has said, as you just pointed out, many times that he believed at the time and he believes now that the United States went to war for weapons of mass destruction. But that was quite a confusing comment that he made there, to say the least.
BLITZER: All right. Let's see what the fallout from that is.
Dana, thanks very much.
A remote island is getting its day in the campaign sun. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: Normally no one, even the fourth tier in the campaigns, would play the slightest attention to what was going on, on Guam. There hasn't been this much attention since World War II.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So what does it say about the Democratic presidential contest when tiny Guam becomes a player?
Also coming up, new encouragement for Indiana Democrats to choose Hillary Clinton. The best political team on television is taking a look at that and more.
And John Edwards, the scenario, at least -- if he had stayed in the race longer, what might the Democratic race have looked like right now?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, thousands of miles from the U.S. mainland, residents of a small island are about to have unprecedented input in this Democratic presidential contest. You're going to find out why for the next few hours, Guam is at the center of the political universe.
Also, Hillary Clinton picks up an endorsement in one of her next big battleground states. What impact will it have on her contest with Barack Obama?
And what if, what if John Edwards had actually stayed in the presidential race? You are going to find out who says, given the current stalemate, Edwards would be a potential nominee -- all of this, plus the best political team on television.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
In four days, North Carolina and Indiana will hold Democratic presidential primaries. But there's another contest in the race for the White House. And it's happening in less than two hours. It's in Guam, a U.S. territory with more than 170,000 people that's more than a 20-hour plane ride from Washington. Guam is 6,000 mimes away from the U.S. mainland, but very close in terms of the political contest being fought there -- at stake for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, four coveted delegates.
To earn them, both have been on airwaves talking about issues important to Guam, like getting more power in Congress and getting extra money for thousands of additional U.S. service military members who will be moving there in the next few years. Brian Todd is joining us now to talk a little bit more about the stakes in Guam -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Guam has -- Guam has long been a strategic hub for the U.S., a huge military presence there, with big Naval and Air Force bases. And as you just mentioned, the Marines will be there soon. Still, the island has been way off the political path -- until now.
TODD (voice-over): Score one for the little guy. For a few hours, Guam becomes the epicenter of the Democratic race.
SABATO: Normally, no one -- even the fourth tier of the campaigns -- would pay the slightest attention to what was going on on Guam. There hasn't been this much attention to Guam since World War II.
TODD: That was when the U.S. lost the island, then won it back from the Japanese. Now, this remote American territory, nearly 4,000 miles southwest of Honolulu, population 175,000, is drawing unprecedented attention from the Democratic hopefuls for its caucuses, which are more like a primary.
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama took out radio and print ads. Obama has had three staffers on the ground for weeks. Neither candidate has state foot on the island during this campaign. But Senator Clinton did stop there as first lady, a connection she cited in a recent videoconference for a rally on Guam.
CLINTON: I so fondly remember my visit to your beautiful island in 1995.
When I got home, I told my husband that if he went, he wouldn't want to come back.
TODD: Clinton and Obama are expending this energy for a total of eight pledged delegates from Guam, who only have half a vote each. In addition, five superdelegates each get a full vote. So Guam sends 13 delegates to the convention, but carries nine total votes.
With the Democratic race so tight, a former governor of Guam who supports Obama says those votes matter.
CARL GUTIERREZ (D), FORMER GOVERNOR OF GUAM: Now is the time for Guam and the other territories to be able to select. And maybe their votes may be the ones that would put one of these two candidates over the top.
TODD: But the actual vote for president is another matter. For the general election, Guam does not have any votes in the Electoral College. So its votes for president essentially don't matter. These caucuses are where the territory has real political juice. And, Wolf, it's got more juice now than ever before.
BLITZER: Getting ready for the election in Guam.
All right, Brian, thanks very much.
Let's get some political analysis from our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. She's here in Washington. And our own Jack Cafferty. He's in New York. And David Gergen. He's in Boston. They're all part of the best political team on television.
I want to play, once again, guys, that little clip of John McCain suggesting that the U.S. would never again go to war in the Middle East because of oil. And we'll discuss it.
Listen to the full context.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Senator Obama and Senator Clinton want to set a date for withdrawal. That's what they want to do is get everybody out. I believe that that would lead to catastrophe and chaos and that we would have the whole region, including the country, in such turmoil that we would be required to come back to the region.
And I just want to promise you this. My friends, I will have an energy policy that we will be talking about which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East, that will
MCCAIN: ...that will then prevent us...
MCCAIN: ...that will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I guess the operative word is again, Jack.
What do you think?
CAFFERTY: Well, I don't know. If you read between the lines, you could certainly infer from the senator's comments that at least part of the reason we have any concern at all about the Middle East has to do with oil. Otherwise, why would he say that he was going to have a policy that would reduce our dependence on it and tie it to our military presence there?
That being said, one of the other reasons some pie in the sky idea of bringing democracy to the entire Middle East, weapons of mass destruction, Al Qaeda in Iraq none -- I mean none of that stuff washes. So why are we there Senator McCain?
BLITZER: He came back on the plane later to try to clarify what he meant, as we heard from Dana, Gloria. And he said, you know, he was referring to the first Gulf War back in 1991, suggesting that was a war that was done for -- to protect oil supplies, I guess, in the Middle East. Although at the time, it was supposedly to liberate Kuwait.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you would remember that, Wolf, that, in fact, the first Bush administration said that it was for the liberation of Kuwait and not over oil. And so I think they would probably take a little bit of issue with that.
Look, I think he clearly made a mistake here. He misspoke. He didn't -- the word again, as you point out, is the operative word, because what does again refer to?
What war are we talking about?
He has always said that went to war in Iraq because of WMD. So I take him at his word on that. But I do think he misspoke here.
BLITZER: What do you think, David?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ADVISER: Well, I think that -- I think he did misspeak, as Gloria said. You always have to ask yourself does, down deep, he really believes this is also the war -- the current war in Iraq was also about oil in terms of the current Bush administration.
But there's another thing here, Wolf, that's curious, because John McCain is the candidate who's taken the most bellicose attitude toward Iran. You know, he has said that the only thing worse than going to war with Iran is Iran having a nuclear weapon. And he's made it very clear that if he's president and faced with that choice, he's the one who would take it out.
Now, you know, so I don't think we should read too much into the notion that John McCain is going to be the president who's never going to take us into the war in the Middle East. I just don't think -- I think he's -- very clearly on Iran -- is the president who is very -- is the most forward leaning on that question.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about what's happen being next Tuesday in Indiana and North Carolina. "The Indianapolis Star" critical of Hillary Clinton, but still went on, Jack, to endorse her and writing this, among other things: "The challenges, including those posed by a sagging economy, rising energy and food costs, the gap in health care, wars in two countries, the threats from Iran are complex. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is the better choice based on her experience and grasp of major issues, to confront those challenges."
I don't know how influential "The Indianapolis Star" is in Indiana. I assume it's the major newspaper in that state, though. CAFFERTY: Well, and it was a bit of a qualified endorsement. They also said she was a member of Bill Clinton's political machine, which has a reputation of "flattening people". And it accused her of pandering to the voters.
But it, nevertheless, if you're running in Indiana in a close race, you'd probably rather have that endorsement than not.
That said, these elections are as likely, I think -- and maybe I'm wrong -- to turn on the quality of leadership -- whether you can inspire people to follow you as you take the country where you have a vision of it going. Lord knows, we haven't had a lot of that for the last eight years and that's the intangible, if you will, that when people get in the voting booth, I think, will matter quite a bit this time.
BLITZER: Everyone agrees that Indiana almost certainly, Gloria, is going to be a lot closer than North Carolina, although the polls have been tightening a little bit.
What do you think?
BORGER: Well, I think it's going to be close. I wouldn't be surprised, actually, Wolf, if both of these races are close. We see the polls tightening in both of these places.
And one thing that that newspaper did -- and I should point out that this paper endorsed George W. Bush in 2004, so it's not predisposed, I don't think, to like Hillary Clinton, even though they did endorse her in this -- you know, in this Democratic primary. But they, you know, they pointed out -- they talked about this whole argument over the gas tax holiday and said that she had made an unfortunate choice on that, that it was pandering.
And that's the argument that Barack Obama is taking to the voters and trying to attack her as not being truthful, not being straight, not being a leader but, in fact, telling you what you want to hear. And that argument is going to be the core of what he goes at her for the rest of this campaign.
So it will be interesting to see if he can win with that argument -- I'm telling you the truth and she's not.
BLITZER: We're going to take a break. But go ahead, David, and weigh in.
GERGEN: A couple of things. On Indiana, I actually think that it's starting to break in her favor and she's been moving -- she moved the race. It was slightly in his favor before Jeremiah Wright and she's opened up a 5 or 6 point lead in most of the polls out there. I think that Jeremiah Wright is driving this, not this newspaper.
And, secondly, as much as I believe that the gas tax holiday is a bad idea in terms of public policy, as much as I believe it's also pandering, my sense is that it may be helping her politically. Now, for people who make less than $50,000 a year, the rising cost of living is their number one economic concern.
BLITZER: I think that's a fair point. And I think they also like the fact she says I'm going to take that money that would have gone to those taxes to rebuild roads and bridges from Exxon Mobil and the big oil companies, who don't have a lot of constituents among that group you're talking about.
All right guys, stand by. We're going to continue this conversation.
What if John Edwards was still in this Democratic presidential race for the White House? One insider says he would end up being the nominee, maybe. You're going to find out why.
Plus, Barbara Walters comes clean about her affair with a U.S. senator decades ago.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: So what if John Edwards had not dropped out of the Democratic presidential race?
We're back with the best political team on television.
Gloria, his campaign manager, Joe Trippi, is quoted as saying this: "He had entered it to push causes like ending poverty, championing health care for every American and fighting for working people and it just wasn't in him to turn into a selfish quest. He could have kept his agenda in the forefront by staying in the race and forcing Obama and Clinton to focus on those issues because he, John Edwards, would hold the key to the convention deadlock. And maybe, just maybe, a brokered convention would have stunned the political world and led to an Edwards nomination."
What do you think?
BORGER: I think there are a lot of us who were thinking about that before he dropped out, that, in fact, he could have could have brokered a convention and come away with the nomination -- or at least been the kingmaker at the convention.
You know, Joe Trippi, I think, is having some real second thoughts here, because he didn't speak up, as he said in the piece. He didn't speak up and tell Edwards, you know, maybe you ought to think about staying in and ride this out. And as the economy has become issue number one, Edwards' issues really seem to have more traction out there.
GERGEN: Well, I respectfully disagree. And Joe Edwards -- Joe Trippi is clearly, you know, one of the most respected people in Democratic politics, especially with what he did with Howard Dean in integrating and bringing the Internet into play in the way he did. But on this issue, listen, John Edwards, as we remember, finished second in Iowa, he finished third in New Hampshire. What, he got in Nevada, 4 percent.
I think there would have been a -- I think he would have been embarrassed in South Carolina. And there then would have been enormous pressure on John Edwards, not from his campaign, but from others, to say would you please get out of the way so that these two can fight it out.
And I think he left in a much more dignified way. And a way which -- and I think his agenda -- his agenda about poverty actually has been picked up. Listen to Elizabeth Edwards talk about this. And she's, you know, she's pretty proud. I mean Hillary Clinton has what, they've promised a poverty member of the cabinet -- a poverty czar.
BLITZER: They're both going after it.
What do you think, Jack, would there have been more of a focus, though, on these issues had he stayed in?
CAFFERTY: Well, a couple of quick things. I'm very glad there are no more of these candidates than we currently have running around the country doing all this stuff...
CAFFERTY: ...because it's like watching rats in a maze and I'm -- and we've got enough to keep an eye on.
CAFFERTY: I think David Gergen is absolutely right. Remember, back when this happened, Hillary Clinton was the consensus -- not nominee -- president. Everybody figured that she was on a downhill roll to the White House and that nobody, nothing was going to get in her way. And certainly, as David mentioned, John Edwards wasn't getting in her way. He was doing worse and worse and worse and heading for a loss in his home state. That would have dried up the money. The other campaigns would have been all over his neck.
I just think, you know, sometimes hindsight is colored by the passage of time and we become wistful. But I don't think that was a reasonable expectation at all.
BLITZER: All right guys...
BORGER: Well, let's give Joe Trippi his wistfulness.
GERGEN: Twenty hundred hindsight.
BLITZER: A fascinating discussion, though, whether it's wistful or not.
Guys, thanks for coming in.
Jack, don't go away. We've got "The Cafferty File."
A secret affair with a high profile politician. Now Barbara Walters is telling all. We're going to have the details.
Plus, they called him the miracle Marine. You're going to find out how he inspired his fellow warriors.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: In a soon to be released book, the veteran journalist, Barbara Walters, goes public with a secret she had kept for more than three decades. She says in the 1970s, she risked her career for love.
CNN's Carol Costello is here watching this story.
All right, give us the details -- Carol.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some pretty juicy details, Wolf.
You know, she was in her 40s. That's how she looked in her 40s. And he was a decade older and he was a senator. Well, today the two are not close. But back then, he watched her on the "Today Show," you know, for NBC. He invited her to lunch in the Senate dining room and a love affair was born.
COSTELLO (voice-over): On Barbara Walters' show, "The View," a hint of what's to come.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW: Barbara's book "Audition," is coming out.
BARBARA WALTERS, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": Part of the book is not my lovers, but some of the men in my life.
COSTELLO: Her book, "Audition: A Memoir," is due to hit stands next week. In it, details of a long and rocky affair with America's first popularly elected African-American, Senator Edward Brooke.
Walters writes: "He had a big wicked smile, more of a grin. Part of the attraction was that Brooke wanted to be in control. I wasn't used to that. And at first, it was pleasing to me."
Walters says it was exciting and dangerous. Walters was divorced and approaching the height of her brilliant career in the '70s. Senator Brooke was also extraordinarily successful, but married. To complicate matters further, this was an interracial affair -- and that was scandalous in the '70s. Keep in mind, interracial marriage was only legalized in 1967.
Walters writes: "I remember thinking that Brooke, who was light- skinned, didn't truly consider himself black. If he had felt discrimination -- and he must have -- he never mentioned it."
Walters says she did think of what marriage to Brooke would be like. But the affair ended and Walters went on to have a fabulous career -- one that even netted her a star on Hollywood Boulevard.
With that in mind, why let such a racy secret out now?
On the jacket of her book it says Walters wanted to reveal the forces that shaped her extraordinary life. As for what Walters' one- time lover has to say, Senator Brooke divorced the woman he was married to at the time of the Walters affair. He has a new wife and an old policy: "I have had a lifetime policy and practice of not discussing my personal and private life," he says, "or the personal and private lives of, others. With the notable exception of what I wrote in my recently published autobiography, "Bridging the Divide: My Life."
And in that book, there is no mention of Barbara Walters.
COSTELLO: No mention at all.
In fact, according to Senator Brooke's publisher, his 2006 autobiography was written with dignity and integrity. And as you see, it sold 6,000 copies over the course of two years.
Barbara Walters' book?
Well, her publisher is expecting bigger things. It will release 550,000 copies. And those copies will go on sale next week.
BLITZER: It will be a huge, huge number one best-seller, I'm predicting right now.
COSTELLO: I'm sure it will. In part, because of stuff like this. Maybe Senator Brooke should have mentioned her name.
BLITZER: Yes. Well, that would have been a huge best-seller if he had done that, too.
BLITZER: Carol, thanks very much.
Let's go back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: It's ironic, isn't it, that the one who showed little class by not kissing and telling -- Brooke -- couldn't give his book away and she drags his name into the public spotlight and she's going to get even richer than she already is?
What's wrong with that picture?
Here's the question: How has your perception of the three major presidential candidates changed during the course of the campaign?
Kel writes from Alabama: "I went from a slight dislike of Hillary to utter disdain. I can't stand her because of her dirty politics. I'm ready to see her leave. In my eyes, she's not worthy of the nomination. She's only even a candidate because her husband was president -- not because she worked to get there and actually inspired people from the ground up like Obama."
Judy in Dodge City: "What's changed is my perception of the Republican Party. I was raised by staunch Republicans, never voted any other way until this year. I'm through. Finished. The situation is untenable. Forgive me if I sound harsh, but there isn't a snowball's chance in hell I'd vote for John McCain. Hillary gets on my last nerve. Barack Obama represents hope for the future. I could very easily listen to him talk for the next eight years."
Patricia writes: "The day before the California primary, I was ready to vote for Hillary. Then I listened to Obama give a speech for the first time. It literally gave me chills."
Sounds like Chris Matthews.
"I jumped on the Obama train and I'm still riding strong. In the beginning, the thought of an Obama/Clinton ticket was something I thought of fondly. Not anymore. She's changed my heart by her negative, destructive do anything to win ugly campaign."
Lisa writes in Alabama: "I was very excited about the Democratic primary at first. But now it just reminds me of bickering children. I'm voting for John McCain in November no matter which is snot-nosed Democratic gets nominated.
I'm confident, at least, even if he doesn't finish his first term, he'll try to do it respectfully."
And Mary writes: "Yes, it has changed. As an Independent, I was ready to support, work and vote for any of the Democrats who were put on the ballot in '08. I've had enough of Bush/Cheney. Then the kitchen sink appeared. Then the rules of the DNC are questioned. Then I hear obliterate Iran. If Clinton is the Dems' choice, I'll vote for myself. I can't vote for McCain and I'll never vote for the Clinton machine again in my lifetime."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile, where you can look for yours among hundreds of others. Hundreds. I know you'll be reading them all when you get home -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I always do, Jack.
CAFFERTY: Yes. Have a great weekend. Thank you.
CAFFERTY: See you later.
BLITZER: He was known by some as the miracle man. The very inspiring story of a severely wounded U.S. Marine. That's coming up next right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's go back to Chad Myers. He's gotten word of another tornado.
What's going on -- Chad?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Wolf, tornado on the ground behind me. A dangerous looking hook echo. That's New Albany, Mississippi. If you live anywhere near New Albany, Mississippi, take cover now. A significant tornado on the ground reported by the sheriff's office. It's going to be a while. This is going to be a long night -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll watch it with you, Chad.
BLITZER: CNN's Barbara Starr is now joining us with one U.S. Marine's very inspiring story -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, the faces and names of the fallen go by us so quickly every day. We are going to pause and remember a remarkable young marine.
STARR (voice-over): Marine Corps Sergeant Merlin German was in a convoy in Iraq in February, 2005, when his Humvee hit an IED. He was burned over 95 percent of his body. Not even his doctors thought he would live -- but he did -- for three more years, becoming an inspiration to other wounded and the people who care for them.
LT. COL. EVAN RENZ, U.S. ARMY DOCTOR: We all knew that this was a devastating injury and his overall chance of survival was very, very low.
STARR: Hundreds recently remembered the miracle Marine, who died suddenly a few weeks ago after undergoing the latest in more than 100 surgeries and procedures. He spent 500 days in the hospital.
RICHARD YAROUSH, WOUNDED U.S. ARMY VETERAN: He has had the biggest influence on myself to strive to push myself farther every day.
STARR: German dreamed of establishing a foundation to help burned children. He did what Marines do -- fighting back, beating the odds, always with grace and humor.
Dr. Evan Renz, director of the Burn Center at Brooke Army Medical Center, treated German from the moment he arrived.
RENZ: This young man was clearly showing us signs that he was going to fight through this from the very first minute.
STARR: Lieutenant Gen. James Amos visited German often. It would be a year before German was well enough to talk. Amos promoted him to sergeant.
LT. GEN. JAMES AMOS, U.S. MARINE CORPS: I'll never forget his spirit, what he proved to me and a whole host of other folks is don't you ever, ever, ever give up. Of all the Marines I've known that have gone to war in the last five years, I've never met one more courageous sir, or one that's tougher than Merlin German was.
STARR: Marine Sergeant Merlin German was 22-years-old when he died -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Our condolences to his family.
Thanks for brings us that story, Barbara.
Among my guests this Sunday on "LATE EDITION," Governor Mike Easley of North Carolina. He's a Hillary Clinton supporter. And Governor Bill Richardson, an Obama supporter. "LATE EDITION" airs Sunday morning, 11:00 a.m. Eastern.
Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT".
Kitty Pilgrim sitting in for Lou -- Kitty.