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Dems Fight on Eve of Primaries; U.S. Government Offers to Help Myanmar; Gas Tax Holiday: Checking the Facts

Aired May 5, 2008 - 17:00   ET


It's now down to a matter of hours before voters start lining up in Indiana and North Carolina. Those twin primaries are vitally important to the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. The Democrat, Barack Obama, holds the lead in pledged delegates -- 1,493 to 1,336 for Senator Hillary Clinton. The gap narrows a bit when the superdelegates, at least those who have announced, are counted.

Seventy-two pledged delegates are at stake in Indiana, 115 are up for grabs in North Carolina. The latest CNN survey of recent polls now shows Clinton with a slim advantage in Indiana. Obama is holding on in North Carolina, where his lead, though, has dropped to single digits.

In the time remaining before these crucial primaries, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are in a mad scramble to cover as much ground as possible.

Let's go to CNN's Jessica Yellin. She's watching this story for us.

It's push coming to shove right now in this campaign. What's the latest?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It really is, Wolf. Push is coming to shove and each candidate is hoping the other one will collapse.

Today, Senators Clinton and Obama have been hop scotching between North Carolina and Indiana, both making a hard sell to working class voters and insisting that the other one is out of touch.


YELLIN (voice-over): One day to go and they're making promises.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I've said is let's put in place the second part of a tax stimulus package.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And we're going to start creating new jobs -- millions of new jobs.

YELLIN: Vowing to do more to help the little guy.

OBAMA: The American people are interested in who's going to be fighting for them.

CLINTON: Somebody who understands what you're going through, cares about it, gets it and will stand up there every day and fight for you.

YELLIN: The keyword is fight -- and they're in a fierce one. In this brand new ad, Clinton slams Obama for opposing a gas tax holiday.


NARRATOR: He's attacking Hillary's plan to give you a break on gas prices because he doesn't have one.


YELLIN: The Obama campaign responded with a list of Clinton supporters who are against that gas tax holiday. One called it election year theatrics.

Though voters are focused on pocketbook issues, the candidates are also sparring over foreign policy.

CLINTON: When the question was asked, what would the United States do were Iran to launch a nuclear attack on Israel, I said very clearly there would be massive retaliation.

YELLIN: He accuses her of Bush-style saber rattling and calls for more diplomacy.

OBAMA: We should be keeping our nuclear arsenal out of the hands of Iran, which is why I've called consistently for a mix of sanctions, but also carrots and direct talks to get Iran to stand down.


YELLIN: And, Wolf, I can't emphasize enough, this talk about Iran and foreign policy really does seem designed to appeal to the superdelegates -- those uncommitted superdelegates who are still trying to decide whether Obama or Clinton would be more electable up against John McCain. Because the voters we've talked to here in Indiana are not talking about foreign policy. All we hear from them is of the economy, jobs, health care and gas prices -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jessica.

Thanks very much.

We're going to have a lot more on this story coming up this hour, including the latest assessments from James Carville, who supports Hillary Clinton, and Jesse Jackson who supports Barack Obama. They're standing by live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But other important news we're following right now, a massive storm and a tremendous loss of life in Burma, which is now called Myanmar. A cyclone -- that's their word for a hurricane -- slammed into the country over the weekend. And the government now says it killed more than 10,000 people. That number could go up.

Winds between 120 and 150 miles an hour pummeled the former capital of Yangon for hours and the storm dropped as much as 20 inches of rain on some areas. This is the deadliest storm to strike the country in at least -- at least 80 years.

Offers of help for Myanmar are coming in from around the world, including the United States, with a First Lady Laura Bush in front of the effort.

Let's bring in our State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee. She's been watching this story for us.

What is the U.S. offering Myanmar right now -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the U.S. says that it's willing to be out in front in helping the government of Myanmar, but it's not clear if Myanmar will refuse the U.S. government's offer.


VERJEE (voice-over): Thousands of cyclone survivors desperate for food, water and shelter. In a rare press conference, First Lady Laura Bush blasted the government of Myanmar for failing to warn its citizens a deadly cyclone was looming.

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: The response to the cyclone is just the most recent example of the junta's failure to meet its people's basic needs.

VERJEE: She says the U.S. is ready to give Myanmar the help it needs -- so far, $250,000 to help relief efforts. The U.S. Agency for International Development has a disaster team standing by to go there and see what more can be done.

BUSH: And I urge the government to accept aid from the United States and from the entire international community right now, while the needs of their people are so critical.

VERJEE: The repressive military government hasn't given the U.S. permission to enter the country. The U.S. will also have to go around its own sanctions against Myanmar to help out.

The Bush administration has criticized the country's military of brutal rule and human rights abuses, like last year's massive crackdown on Buddhist monks leading protests against the government. Mrs. Bush has been championing democracy and human rights and calling for the freedom of pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest since her party won a 1990 election.

BUSH: Well, it started with an interest in her. And then just the more I've seen, the more critical I see the need is for the people in Burma to be -- for the world to pay attention to the people of Burma and for the world to put pressure on the military regime.


VERJEE: The first lady says there is one silver lining. She says she hopes that something good can come out of such massive destruction -- and that's the realization from the military government that the people of Myanmar need more help than they've been able to give them -- and, Wolf, it's an opportunity, too, for the U.S. to build bridges. Remember in Pakistan, where the U.S. helped after the earthquake, it really I could -- it improved relations and increased the popularity.

BLITZER: There was U.S. help after an earthquake in Iran, as well, as you probably remember.

VERJEE: Right.

BLITZER: What about Americans in Burma right now? What do we know?

VERJEE: Well, we're hearing from the State Department that all embassy staff and all Americans are accounted for. But they've said that all non-essential staff, non-essential diplomats can leave until things return to normal.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Zain, for that.

I want to go to our White House correspondent, Elaine Quijano, who's watching this.

Elaine, this seemed like an unusual step for the first lady, to be taking such a high profile role at this White House news conference. What are they saying there?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, certainly Mrs. Bush has spoken out before when it comes to Myanmar. But You're right. Absolutely. She's never done it quite like this. We have certainly seen Mrs. Bush issue written statements in the past. But this is a much different scenario. The first lady on camera in the briefing room, even taking questions from reporters.

In her opening statement, she decried, as she has done before in written form, the ruling military junta of Myanmar. At the same time, taking those questions on everything from U.S. assistance to Myanmar, to also Aung San Suu Kyi, confirming that President Bush tomorrow will be signing legislation awarding Aung San Suu Kyi the Congressional Gold Medal.

So she spent about 10 minutes in the briefing room on camera -- the first time that we have ever seen her do this in that fashion. And then she took a few questions at the end, Wolf, on a much lighter topic, of course, Saturday's upcoming wedding of her daughter Jenna Bush -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Elaine, for that.

And if you want to know what you can do to help survivors of this disaster, you can go to You can find out how you can impact your world. We have a list of groups that need your help as they try to help Myanmar right now --

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Hillary Clinton sounds too much like President Bush -- that's Barack Obama's take on Clinton's threat totally obliterate Iran if it attacks Israel.

Clinton initially made these comments a couple of weeks back, saying, "I want the Iranians to know that if I am the president, we will attack Iran in the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel. We would be able totally obliterate them."

Obama says that's not the language we need right now. He says it's similar to the kinds of things President Bush says -- what Obama calls bluster and saber-rattling. Obama says Clinton is changing the rules right before an election. He said that she scolded him about Iran before, saying, "We shouldn't speculate about Iran. We've got to be cautious when we're running for president".

Clinton's not backing away from her comments. She says she wants to make it abundantly clear to Iran that if they attacked our ally, Israel, they would face tremendous costs.

However, Clinton adds that nobody wants to go to war with Iran. She refuses to say whether she would order a nuclear response.

Here's the question then: Is Hillary Clinton's comment that the U.S. could obliterate Iran if it attacked Israel with nuclear weapons appropriate?

Go to You can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

Talk on the campaign trail is focused one thing right now -- the gas tax holiday -- at least a lot of the talk. Is it a good idea? Will it work? The candidates don't agree, but what do the experts say?

We're fact checking it all for you.

Also, on this, the eve of the North Carolina and Indiana primaries, we're going to show you exactly where the Democratic candidates are strongest and where they're most vulnerable.

You're also going to find out why some Republican political ads are now using Barack Obama. Is this a new tactic and is it working?

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


BLITZER: The price of gas goes from about $1 a gallon to close to $4 a gallon in the span of a decade. Take a look at this trend line over here -- almost a straight path higher and higher. Now the candidates are wrangling over a proposal to give you a gas tax holiday.

Let's turn to CNN's Mary Snow. She's watching this story for us.

All right, Mary, the pros and cons.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, analysts say the cons outweigh the pros. And as one analyst I spoke with put it, on the pro side, yes, a price reduction is always welcome. But on the down side, will anyone notice this one?


SNOW (voice-over): As the average price of gas climbs toward $4 a gallon, Hillary Clinton's plan to suspend the federal gas tax this summer is taking on added urgency on the eve of primaries in North Carolina and Indiana.

CLINTON: So here's what I believe, is let's give you a break this summer. For the average person, it would be about $70.

SNOW: Barack Obama disputes her math.

OBAMA: But a gas tax holiday, this is an idea that will save you, altogether, 30 cents a day for three months, or $28.

SNOW: We turned to an expert at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

LEN BURMAN, TAX POLICY CENTER: And the best case scenario is they save an average of $28 or $29 over the course of the summer. But, in fact, they would save a tiny fraction of that, because that assumes that the full amount of gas tax is passed on to consumers in lower prices.

SNOW: Some economists say the Clinton camp is counting on the price of gas to lower, but they say that suspending the 18 cents gas tax could actually have the opposite effect and spark higher prices.

JAN STUART, UBS GLOBAL OIL ECONOMIST: By lowering the price is you're increasing the math. Why would you want to do that?

So, from a macroeconomic perspective, it makes no sense.

SNOW: Presumptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, was the first presidential candidate to endorse a gas tax holiday. Senator Clinton followed. But unlike McCain, she wants oil companies to pay for the estimated $8 billion to $10 billion in taxes that consumers won't be shelling out. But, experts say, that comes with a catch.

BURMAN: If you tax oil producers, they have less of an incentive to explore or look for new sources of oil.


SNOW: And that would be a long-term effect. The Clinton team has reiterated its gas tax holiday is a short-term plan. Now, one other thing we should point out, everyone we spoke with says while the gas tax holiday for the summer months is getting a lot of attention, the chances of this ever been enacted in time for this summer is highly unlikely -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A good academic exercise for the politicians.

Thanks, Mary.

The proposed tax holiday would eliminate the 18 cents per gallon federal tax on gasoline, 23 cents for diesel fuel for a period of three-and-a-half months. That would be from Memorial Day to Labor Day. That would add up to a total of $8 billion to $10 billion in taxes, as Mary just reported -- taxes that Hillary Clinton wants the oil companies to pay.

And just for some perspective, compare that sum -- $8 billion to $10 billion -- to the $10.9 billion that Exxon Mobil alone -- alone among the giant oil companies, made in profits this past quarter alone over those three months. January, February and March.

On the eve of the North Carolina and Indiana primaries, the Democratic candidates are looking at every vote as crucial. But they're also looking at specific areas in those states to boost their chances.

Let's go back to our chief national correspondent, John King. He's watching this story for us.

All right, John, you're studying these two states.

Where are the candidates strongest?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, let's look at the national map before we break down the two states that come up tomorrow, because it offers us clues as to what to look for tomorrow.

Indiana is over here. Now Illinois, of course, is the darker blue. That's Barack Obama. That's his home state. We won the Illinois primary. A lot of Chicago media coverage bleeds into Indiana, so it advantages Obama on that front.

But look here, Pennsylvania, Ohio -- white, working class voters, a big base for Senator Clinton. The odds are she has good support in those communities.

And before we pull out the states, quickly down here, Virginia and all across the South, Barack Obama.


These are the states with the higher African-American populations, where he does well.

So let's go first to Indiana. Let's pull it out. The green lines are two Congressional districts. This is a district, largely Catholic voters, white voters. That has been a Clinton strength throughout. Go back to the Pennsylvania results, Catholic voters. South Bend, the home, of course, for the University of Notre Dame. It is St. Joseph County. This is one place to watch very closely. For the Clinton vote in Indiana, it is critical.

Down here in Evansville, white, working class voters in the city of Evansville down here, Vanderburgh County, about 3 percent of the state population. Then all up this swath of the state, rural, smaller towns, white, working class and rural voters, where Hillary Clinton has done very well.

If you're Barack Obama and you want to pull off an upset in Indiana, it will begin right up here -- Gary, an overwhelmingly African-American city; Lake County, about 25 percent African-American. In the northwest corner of Indiana, guess what?

Chicago right here, the media market bleeds into Indiana. That is his big strength in the State of Indiana.

Another place to watch for Barack Obama, right down here in Indianapolis. Indiana is only about 8, 9 percent African-American, but they are concentrated up in Gary and again down here in the Indianapolis area. It's a Congressional District. The Democratic rules, if he can win this Congressional District, he comes out with delegates, with a good chunk, even if he loses the state.

So, if you look at Indiana, this also white, working class voters. But these two Congressional districts will tell us a lot. Here and here for Senator Clinton. Here and here for Senator Obama.

Then, Wolf, let's move across the map and bring North Carolina into play and pull it out, as well. Very much the same demographics. Over here, inside this green line, that's the 11th Congressional District. It is a white, working class district. Eighty percent of the population of this district is white -- a place where Senator Clinton needs to do very well, working class and rural voters.

This district down here, in the southern part of North Carolina, is about 60, 65 percent white -- again, where you would expect Senator Clinton to rack up support. Again, based on the Democratic Party rules, even if she's losing the state, she can come out with delegates by getting a decent percentage of the vote and winning Congressional districts.

The flip side for Barack Obama, remember, all across the South, he's done very well with the African-American vote. This Congressional District here is the 12th. It goes up like a snake through Greensboro, through Winston-Salem and then all the way down here. Let's pull the state up and shrink it back down, all the way down to Charlotte. An African-American population throughout in here, up in here, this part of the state. This district is a little more than 50 percent.

If you want to watch a swing district, it could be right up here in the state. It's about 50 percent African-American, 40 percent white. If there's a battle between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama, if the vote is breaking along racial lines, this will be a place to watch it, as we watch the returns come in on a big night tomorrow -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's going to be a busy night for all of us.

John, stand by.

We're going to have you back. We have much more to discuss.

Part of Senator Clinton's voting base is those white, blue collar workers. But now a huge union, a very powerful union, as we all know, is behind Barack Obama. There are questions that are being asked now, specifically by "The Wall Street Journal," about the Teamsters' endorsement for Barack Obama.

Was there some sort of back room deal? Our Brian Todd is looking into this story.

Plus, disaster strikes -- there's not enough medical care to go around, so who gets left out?

There's a disturbing new list of recommendations out there. We're going to show you who's on it.

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


BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Carol, what's going on?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Georgia's Board of Pardons and Paroles has just rejected an appeal from a convicted killer scheduled to be executed by lethal injection tomorrow night. William Earl Lynd would be the first person to be put to death that way since the Supreme Court affirmed lethal injection constitutional. Lynd was sentenced to die for the kidnap and murder of his girlfriend in 1988.

The so-called D.C. Madam killed herself to escape going to prison. Police have released Debra Palfrey's suicide note, in which she called her conviction a modern-day lynching. She wrote she was unable a sentence only to leave prison "broken, penniless and very much alone." Palfrey hanged herself last Thursday at her mother's home near Tampa, Florida.

Imagine a flu pandemic or other disaster that has U.S. hospitals overwhelmed.

There aren't enough resources, so who won't get treated?

A special task force has come up with a grim list of recommendations that includes people older than 85, those suffering severe trauma and people with severe dementia or severe chronic diseases.

And there's really no good place to have a heart attack, is there?

And the middle of Cincinnati's Flying Pig Marathon may seem like an exceptionally bad place. But it turned out to be the best place for 55-year old Bobby Edward. It turns out he was running directly in front of a team of firefighters and emergency medical technicians. They did CPR. Edwards is now recovering and is going to make a full recovery at that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Carol, very much.

Carol Costello reporting.

So what happens when the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination is over?


CLINTON: I know in my heart that when this primary season is over, we will come together behind our nominee. We will roll up our sleeves and we will work and obtain a great victory in November 2008.


BLITZER: But what if that doesn't happen?

You're going to find out the very critical role the loser may play heading into the general election.

Also, a GOP tactic in the Congressional races -- you're going to find out how some candidates are using Barack Obama and if their new tactic is working.

And we're going to talk about all of this and a lot more with the Reverend Jesse Jackson, James Carville and Leslie Sanchez.

They're standing by here live in THE SITUATION ROOM.


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

Happening now, Saddam Hussein's prison diary revealed. A leading Arab paper says it obtained excerpts from the U.S. military officials showing Saddam Hussein feared catching HIV from his American captors and he found it difficult to ask for things for the first time in his life, rather than demand them.

Deadly food riots in Somalia -- at least two people were killed as tens of thousands of people filled the streets of Mogadishu, protesting prices that have soared more than 40 percent since last year.

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

Barack Obama is now being slammed in a number of Republican campaign commercials. But they are not necessarily part of the campaign for the White House. We're watching this story closely.

Carol Costello has been looking into it and it's intriguing -- what is going on?

COSTELLO: I know. He hasn't even won the primary yet, if he's going to do that. But in the past few weeks, Barack Obama has made cameo appearances in eight to 10 Republican attack ads across the country -- and none of them mention John McCain.


OBAMA: Thank you so much.


OBAMA: Good to see you.

COSTELLO (voice-over): Barack Obama is an unwilling star in a series of political attack ads that have nothing to do with the race for president -- this one for a Republican Congressman who's running in Indiana -- a state Obama could lose in the Democratic primary.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One man had the courage to fight the Clintons and is ready to stand up to the newest liberal leader, Barack Obama -- our conservative Congressman, Dan Burton.


COSTELLO: Eight weeks ago, when Obama's popularity was soaring, ads like this didn't exist. Back then, no one could figure out how to attack a star African-American candidate.


COSTELLO: But that was before Reverend Wright and what some referred to as Obama's bitter American comment.

EVAN TRACEY, CNN TELEVISION AD CONSULTANT: What you're seeing now is those two have played on to this caricature to make him into a liberal bogeyman. If it works you'll see him in a lot more ads this fall that have nothing to do with the presidential race.

ANNOUNCER: When Obama's pastor cursed America blaming us for 9/11, Childers said nothing. When Obama ridiculed rural folk for clinging to guns and religion, Childers said nothing.

COSTELLO: The thing is it's unclear if this line of attack is working as effectively as it has in the past. Are Barack Obama's negatives strong enough to transfer to another candidate? Maybe. Maybe not.

TRACEY: The question is, is that negative caricature believable and defendable. That will be the test that these ads have to stand up to over the next few weeks.

COSTELLO: Republicans already have this example to keep in mind. This ad made by the National Republican Congressional Committee ran in Louisiana.

QUESTION: A vote for Don Cazayoux is a vote for Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi.

COSTELLO: But the Democrat won, winning a congressional seat Republicans had held for more than three decades.


COSTELLO (on camera): As for how Obama combats this, well, he may not have to since it's unclear if these ads will actually work. And if they're not working and his campaign comes out too strongly now, it'll probably backfire on them.

BLITZER: Carol, thanks very much. Carol Costello reporting.

We're going to talk a little more about this with our guests, our CNN political contributor James Carville. He's a supporter of Hillary Clinton. Also the Reverend Jesse Jackson. He's a former Democratic presidential candidate. He's backing Barack Obama right now. And CNN political contributor the republican strategist Leslie Sanchez. Guys, thanks very much for coming in. James, let me start with you, what do you think about this race in your home state of Louisiana where this Democrat, despite the attack ads, trying to link him to Barack Obama and Reverend Wright? He won a district that had been Republican for, what, 33 years?

JAMES CARVILLE, CLINTON SUPPORTER: That's correct. More importantly, he comes from New Roads, Louisiana which is the hometown of my mother. This is a fine young man. I knew his uncle. And it was a decisive win. He won by three points. And people down there are hurting with gas prices and health care and everything else. This kind of foolishness that the Republicans put up was for nil. They want issues about them and this is a great win for young Mr. Cazayoux here.

BLITZER: How worried, Reverend Jackson are you about these ads?

JESSE JACKSON, OBAMA SUPPORTER: Not at all. Barack has proven to be quite resilient. While they're attacking Barack the real people are focusing on the price of gas and home foreclosures and food riots. So matters of substance will ultimately determine the next president and so far Barack is doing amazingly well.

BLITZER: What do you think, Leslie.

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN: I think fundamentally you can point to the one thing Hillary Clinton has done in this race, raise Barack Obama's negatives. That in addition to his gas. If you look at the Louisiana race the reality was it was a ten point difference. Once they brought in the Barack Obama ad they closed that to about three points. He was a fundamentally flawed candidate. I'll say that much. The next interesting race is going to be Mississippi. There you have a candidate who received a Barack Obama endorsement, did receive support in fund raising and now he's running away way from that. The reality is Barack Obama's negatives and Pelosi's negatives are having impacts.

BLITZER: Why are you laughing, James?

CARVILLE: Because what about bush's negatives? He's the most negatively rated president in history. Do we conduct this debate in a vacuum? Every time you see Senator Obama and Senator Clinton in a republican ad you're going to see President Bush 50 more times in a Democratic ad.

BLITZER: Reverend Jackson, how important is the loser in this presidential contest looking ahead to November?

JACKSON: I would remind both Hillary and Barack in this tight contest they have, they must keep one hand on competition and one hand on reconciliation. Because that will be a winner and a loser. But this is the playoff game. The Super Bowl is in November. The irony is the loser of the primary will determine the winner in November. Because if the loser is brought in and inspired, that vote will determine the winner. That's why I would hope that it'll get over as quickly as possible but those who lose the primary have the maturity and strength to support the candidate who wins the primary.

BLITZER: Here's how Hillary Clinton summed up what would happen after the Democratic nominee is selected.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know in my heart that when this primary season is over, we will come together behind our nominee. We will "roll up our sleeves" and we will work and obtain a great victory in November 2008.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everybody's worried about us being divided. When the nominee is decided, the party is going to come together because we know, no matter what else, that we can't afford another term of George Bush economics and another term of George Bush foreign policy. We will be united.


BLITZER: All right. Easier said, though, than done, James. Given the history 1968 if you remember, you Eugene McCarthy didn't exactly unite the party after losing to Hubert Humphrey or Ted Kennedy didn't exactly unite the country after losing to Jimmy Carter.

CARVILLE: I think this is an entirely different circumstance. Democrats, we want to be united. We want these candidates to go through, have the primary, I've said it a thousand times, I'll 1,000 percent behind Obama if he's the nominee. I don't speak for reverend Jackson but I'm sure he feels the same way. We're going to compete and when it's decided we're going to join together and bring ... BLITZER: Reverend Jackson, if Hillary Clinton, for example, were to get the nomination, don't you think a lot of young people out of African Americans especially would be so disillusioned they might simply sit at home, not get out there and work for the Democratic ticket come November?

JACKSON: If the loser won, everybody would be disappointed. That's not the case. It's the popular vote and the delegate who determines the winner. While we use the example of Humphrey and Johnson (sic) couldn't reconcile and Nixon and Carter and Kennedy couldn't do it, in 1960 Johnson and Kennedy did close rank by Kennedy putting Johnson on his ticket in that combination.

BLITZER: What are you saying about that ticket?

JACKSON: I'm saying there was hard contest between Kennedy, the Boston guy, Johnson the Texas guy and they became one ticket. With that they won by 110,000 votes.

BLITZER: Are you saying there was be one - as Mario Cuomo says, the loser should be on the ticket.

JACKSON: Well, it cannot be off the table. Because that may be the only winning combination.

BLITZER: A lot of people believe, and I wrote about this on my blog today at, Leslie, that the best way, the best way for the Democrats to unite is to make sure that the winner asks the loser to be on the ticket.

SANCHEZ: There's something to be said about that. I mean, you're exactly right, Wolf. And I think the reverend is right too. There's a tremendous amount of intensity not discussed when it comes to the Democratic side in terms of money, support and a lot -- you're looking at sometimes a third of the vote or about 30 percent that would move over to a John McCain if their candidate wasn't selected. Those are very real concerns for them. Also if you talk about young voters, that's the voting group that doesn't traditionally turn out. They would lose momentum or maybe interest in voting and going back to a traditional voting pattern.

BLITZER: I'll take a break and we'll go back. But quickly, James, what do you think?

CARVILLE: I think it's very important that the winner show the loser respect and I think it's very important that the loser be gracious toward the winner. That's what we Democrats expect and I think that's what our candidates are going to give us. I know people like Reverend Jackson and I stand ready to do this regardless how it turns out.

BLITZER: Stand by. We have a lot more to discuss. Our conversation continues. Crunch time at the convention. What's more important, electability of the candidate or the popular vote or the pledged delegates, for that matter we're going to take a closer look at what goes through the mind of a superdelegate. And on the surface it sounds like Hillary Clinton's power based. Why did a largely white blue collar union endorse Barack Obama? Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Welcome back. We're back with our panel. Reverend Jackson, what's more important, the superdelegates, you remember, you were running for president back in '80s. What's more important, the pledged delegates, popular vote or who's most electable in the minds of the superdelegates come November. Who's most likely to carry big electoral states that'll make the difference between being in the White House or not.

JACKSON: We just got a new Democrat out of Louisiana. And Barack won Louisiana as well. In the end you must choose the candidate who has the most numbers in the box score. Momentum matters but if you're behind 20 points and closer to three you lost by three. At the end of the day momentum is support but the box score will determine and totals must determine the outcome.

BLITZER: What do you think, James? Because the rules are slightly different than Democratic Party rules.

CARVILLE: Well, first of all, I think we're going to get guidance tomorrow. We've got two very big primaries coming up in Indiana and North Carolina. Let's not forget about them. Let's see how these folks way in. Clearly if Senator Clinton doesn't win Indiana I think the box score would not be favorable to her. Let's see what happens and we'll go tomorrow. I think popular vote is important. Remember, we haven't heard from -- we've got Indiana and North Carolina coming in. We've got states like Oregon and Kentucky, West Virginia, Puerto Rico to come in. I think Reverend Jackson would agree with me that we need to finish the game before we look at the box score. We'll see where it is. Unfortunately, I would have preferred to have Florida and Michigan in the hunt because I like to give everybody a chance to vote.

JACKSON: That is a high risk. When you consider that you win and lose these big elections by margins. I hope even now that Senator Clinton and Barack will find some common ground on including those delegations in some way because you do not want disaffection to become defection by a small margin. You can lose a big campaign.

BLITZER: You know a lot of Democrats really feel disenfranchised and frustrated that they're effectively, Reverend Jackson going to have no say in picking the Democratic presidential nominee.

JACKSON: When you consider that Kennedy beat Nixon by 110,000 votes and Ford won (inaudible), these things get real tight. Bush won by 512 votes. Somehow, somewhere, I'm not despairing yet, somehow Florida and Michigan must be included. They must be mutually agreed upon and transparent rules to include them and not exclude them.

BLITZER: How do you see this unfolding, Leslie? SANCHEZ: With respect to a couple things, if Hillary Clinton does well in Indiana like we suspect and closes the gap in North Carolina she's going to show Pennsylvania was not an anomaly. She has momentum. It's going to increasingly look like just a few -- we need to get away from the idea superdelegates and call them what they are, party bosses, political hacks, and leaders in the old Democratic establishment who are going to make this decision and so much for democracy. I think that's what a lot of Democrats are really frustrated about.

BLITZER: I want to give Reverend Jackson the last word. Go ahead, Reverend Jackson.

JACKSON: We just watched the Kentucky Derby. If you start late, run fast at the finish barely, you lost. The winner is the one who gets across the finish line with the most popular votes and the most delegates.

CARVILLE: Let's be fair. Big Brown didn't run in the lead the whole way.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Thanks very much.

It's a big labor union. A huge one with a largely white blue collar membership that should play to Hillary Clinton's strengths. But it gave its backing to Barack Obama. Did he have to give something to get it? Brian Todd has been looking into this story. Another controversy out there. What are you picking up, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is all about a report that Barack Obama's position on the government's oversight of that union might have paved the way for the Teamsters Union endorsement of Mr. Obama in February. This is something that has made the campaign and the teamsters vehemently deny the report.


TODD (voice-over): An endorsement that gave an already hot campaign serious momentum.

JAMES HOFFA, TEAMSTERS PRESIDENT: We believe that Barack Obama has basically hit a chord with American workers.

TODD: James Hoffa throws the support of the million and a half strong Teamsters Union to Barack Obama in late February. Now a dust up on the campaign trail over whether there was some kind of back room understanding beforehand. The Obama campaign vigorously denying a report in the "Wall Street Journal" that the endorsement came after Obama privately told teamsters officials that he supported lifting the federal government's oversight of the teamsters. Union officials also say there was no quid pro quo.

BRET CALDWELL, TEAMSTERS SPOKESMAN: The teamsters union made an endorsement made on our decisions and the criteria we set forth from all the candidates and the polls of our members and the polling of our leadership. There's no negotiation, back room deal we need to endorsement.

TODD: The government set up an independent review board in 1992 to root out decades of mob corruption in the union which represents truckers and a wide variety of other workers.

ROBERT BRUNO, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS: Intimidation of employers. Sometimes there was the threat of force. Sometimes that force was used in the form of fire bombing, of facilities. A lot of it was extortion.

TODD: Experts say over the past 15 years the mob's influx on the teamsters has greatly declined and the review board doesn't bring many cases. Obama campaign officials say he's believed for at least four years that that board overseen by the Justice Department has run its course. The teamsters pointed us to audio recordings between the candidates and union officials last year in which Hillary Clinton seems to believe the same thing.

H. CLINTON: You can't go around dragging the ball and chain of the past. And so I would be very open to looking at that and to saying, you know, what is it we're trying to accomplish here any longer?


TODD (on camera): Clinton campaign officials stress she was merely saying she's open to looking at the question but hasn't taken a position on this issue. The Obama campaign says he simply believes the oversight has run its course and said today he has made no firm commitment on eliminating that oversight board.

BLITZER: Brian, I know you've been looking into this. What would Senator Clinton or Obama if as president do to remove oversight?

TODD: There's some debate on that. Teamsters and others say it's really not a political question. The president would have to work through the Justice Department, the Federal District Court in Manhattan. Those entities would make the call. Some say the president could hire an attorney general and others in the lower courts to work the system but that would take a long, long time.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much. Brian Todd reporting for us. An important story.

Hillary Clinton one on one in a CNN interview. Her thoughts about tomorrow's primary, the gas tax. And what happens next in this race?

And Jack Cafferty is asking, is Hillary Clinton's comment that the U.S. could obliterate Iran if it launched a nuclear attack on Israel appropriate? Stay with us.


BLITZER: First daughter Jenna Bush is getting married this Saturday at the family ranch in Crawford, Texas. The first lady spoke about it during a news conference just a little while ago.


LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: Neither one of us are nervous. I'm very, very excited. It's a very interesting passage of life when you get to that time in your life when your child, first child is getting married. And we're getting for us our first son.


BLITZER: The groom is Henry Hager, a former aide to Karl Rove. He worked on the Bush re-election campaign in 2004. Congratulations to the bride and groom and the family as well. Let's go back to Jack for the "Cafferty File." It's a big deal when a daughter gets married. You know that.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: I have two that are married and two that aren't and it's a huge deal. The question is Hillary Clinton's comment the U.S. could obliterate Iran if it attacked Israel with nuclear weapons appropriate?

Bob in North Carolina, "I'm so beyond caring whether anything comes out of that woman's mouth is appropriate, true, honest or worth my time to even listen to. She has and will say anything to steal this election. Appropriateness or truth have no meaning to her."

Robert in Fayetteville, Arkansas. "How many Americans will she put at risk by saying something so reckless?"

Anthony in Worcester, Mass. "Senator Clinton's comments absolutely appropriate. All the candidates have said an attack on Israel is tantamount to an attack on the United States. We need a president who will fight back, protect both Israel and the U.S., not one who thinks just talking with Ahmadinejad will make everything OK."

Ann in Seattle writes, "I am no fan of Hillary but I was shocked at the stupidity of her remarks. She seems to be adopting Bush's cowboy politics and that's scary. Bush's administration has hurt our international ties and status. I don't want another president who makes decisions before consulting with advisers at home or allies around the world. This irresponsible language so much more damaging than anything in the Reverend Wright debacle."

Phil in Virginia writes, "Inappropriate, unwanted. She could have said American will protect our friends and strongly react with all available options. Using words like that sounds like bullying."

Larry in Florida, "What's to think about? We need to stand with our allies. They nuke our friends, we retaliate. That's common sense. It seems talking to Iran is talking to the wall. No one hears it."

Annie in Atlanta writes, "She's using the fear card right down to the Republican playbook, taking pandering to new places. I expected more from her." If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at and look for you e-mail there. We post hundreds of them every day for each of the three questions. Check it out. You'll love it. Wolf?

BLITZER: We do love it. All right, Jack. Thanks very much.

Coming up, American troops doing their part to help the global food crisis.

Plus ...


CLINTON: I think we have to start clearly and unequivocally saying to the Iranian people there would be a very, very high price to pay.


BLITZER: Hillary Clinton's one on one interview with CNN. Stand by for that. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


CLINTON: I really do! And you know ...



BLITZER: Today Admiral Michael Mullen the chairman of the joint chiefs asked the staff to take a closer look at the global food crisis and its potential impact on American security. Meanwhile, U.S. troops are helping on their own. CNN's Barbara Starr went with them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on. Let's go.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Air Force Chaplain Jeremy Bastion leads U.S. troops into the hills of Honduras. After crossing the river, we hiked deep into the country side. These troops have donated $900 of their own money to buy food for the people here. They are backpacking to remote villages to distribute more than 200 bags of food to people who desperately need it. Before the morning is over, many of these troops, fresh from Iraq, say this journey to help others helps them heal from months of combat.

LT. GOL. GREGORY JICHA, U.S. ARMY: We've got a lot of guys that come straight from the war zone here. And it takes them a while to adjust.

STARR: Lieutenant Colonel Gregory Jicha, an Iraq veteran himself says it's great to see the children smile. JICHA: You can see the children. And you realize they're not that much different than us. They're not different from the kids back home.

STARR: The need for help is enormous. Crops have failed in this area just as the price of rice, flour and beans has skyrocketed. While shopping a day earlier, the chaplain had to make a grim decision. Beans were too expensive.

CAPT. JEREMY BASTION, U.S. AIR FORCE: You have to pass up on beans. And you have to buy something that's smaller so we can distribute to more of the people.

STARR: This is a pure volunteer effort. Not part of the official U.S. military mission in Central America. This is enthusiasm the Pentagon just can't order up. The children get stickers, toys and candy.

This Honduran mother says food prices now make it hard for her to feed her four children. For Major Mike Angell, another war veteran, this is part of his journey back from the frontlines.

MAJ. MIKE ANGELL, U.S. ARMY: Kind of a long way for everybody to kind of see what can be, I think, as far as relations go between countries.

After 12 month, 15 months, 18 months in Iraq, you really start feeling like no matter where you go, somebody is trying to do something to you personally.

STARR: Here, the American troops get to do something personal for the people in these hills.

Barbara Starr, CNN, Ummaya (ph), Honduras.