Return to Transcripts main page


Gun Battles in Beirut: Violence in Lebanon; Staggering Situation in Myanmar With Thousands Dead; Mitt Romney Defends McCain and Bashes Obama; Vitter Won't Face Ethnics Probe

Aired May 8, 2008 - 17:00   ET


Happening now, Clinton's letter to Obama. She needs every vote she can get and she's calling on the frontrunner to make sure the votes from Florida and Michigan are counted. She writes to him today.

Gun battles in the heart of Beirut -- Hezbollah's accusing the Lebanese government of declaring war but issues some chilling threats of his own. Are they headed toward a new civil war in Lebanon?

We'll go there.

And Obama and McCain are already slugging it out. Now McCain ally Mitt Romney is jumping in. The former Republican presidential candidate standing by to join us live to answer Obama's latest salvo.

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

All that coming up.

But first, a breaking story we're just getting into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Let's go to the Pentagon. Our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, is watching.

Word that a top al Qaeda leader may have been captured -- Jamie, what do we know?


The "Associated Press" quoting an Iraqi defense ministry spokesman saying Abu Ayyub al-Masri, who is believed to be the head of al Qaeda in Iraq, has been arrested in the northern city of Mosul, according to that Iraq defense ministry spokesman quoted by the "A.P."

Now, we've checked with the U.S. military both here in the Pentagon and also in Baghdad. So far, they have no confirmation of that report. And I probably should mention that in the past, there have been false reports of his arrest or his capture or his killing. But at this point, we're checking the reports out.

Al-Masri is believed to be the person who replaced Abu Musab al- Zarqawi, who was killed by the U.S. back in 2006. And as we've seen, the killing of the top person of al Qaeda in Iraq doesn't necessarily stop the activities there.

But, again, we're checking this report that perhaps the number one leader has been taken into custody -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll watch it. If you get more information, Jamie, you'll let us know.

Staying in that part of the world, gunfire and rocket propelled grenades right now in the streets of Beirut. As rival factions battle it out, the militant group Hezbollah is accusing the Lebanese government of declaring what they call open war.

CNN's Cal Perry has been right in the middle of things. He's watching this story for us.

All right. For our viewers who haven't been following this closely, what happened today -- Cal?

Because it looked at a few moments today very, very ominous and you were right in the middle of it.

CAL PERRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. Ominous, indeed.

Heavy gun battles throughout the city. In fact, gunfire still erupting behind me. We've heard a series of very large explosions. We believe them to be by rocket-propelled grenades, but it's unclear at this point.

Now, as you mentioned, all of this over the telecommunications that Hezbollah has been using. Now, Hezbollah say s it's necessary to protect the state of Lebanon. The government here says it's an issue of state security and that it threatens the state of Lebanon.

All of this culminated today by a speech from Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, who said the government has basically declared war on his group. At times, he actually mocked the government, saying we don't want a coup d'etat.

If we did want a coup d'etat, you would know it. You would wake up in the sea or in prison.

So harsh words today from the leader of Hezbollah. And as we've been reporting all day, Wolf, heavy gun battles throughout the city, mostly in the areas where Sunnis and Shia live together. The Christian neighborhoods have stayed quiet for the most part. We're still waiting for casualty numbers. So far, security forces have only confirmed two deaths. But here, of course, the fear is fresh in everybody's mind from the 15-year bloody civil war that this could turn into that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: At one point you were trapped, Cal.

What was it like?

PERRY: Wolf, went out to do a piece to camera, a simple sort of stand up for the viewers. And we got to a neighborhood in Beirut -- a central neighbor with a Shia neighborhood to our left, a Sunni neighborhood to our right. All of a sudden, intense gunfire, deafening gunfire from 360 degrees around us.

We turned and we noticed the Lebanese Army had taken cover behind a building. They waved for us to come. They were worried about snipers. We took cover with them behind, actually, a Dunkin' Donuts -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, be careful over there.

Cal Perry in Beirut along the Mediterranean.

We'll watch this story closely.

Some shipments today are finally trickling into Myanmar, almost a week after a powerful cyclone struck a devastating blow. The secretive military government there says more than 22,000 people died. But a top U.S. diplomat warns the final toll could be far, far higher.

For survivors, the situation is increasingly desperate.

CNN's Dan Rivers is the only Western reporter to make it into the hardest hit area of southern Myanmar.


DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're in the heart of the Irrawaddy Delta. We've arrived here by boat because the roads are so difficult coming down through here. And we're getting terrible stories in the village behind me. This is sort of where many of the refugees from the destroyed villages have pitched up.

There is absolutely no help here at all. We are the only outsiders they've seen. And no government soldiers and no aid agencies.

We were just talking to one 79-year-old man who's lost his granddaughter, his grandson, daughter-in-law and his sister. So a terrible tragedy. There's talk of entire villages having been wiped out. There's numerous bodies still floating in the water. So it's a pretty grim scene down here -- very, very inaccessible and the damage farther down the river is -- sounds horrific from what the villagers are saying here.

They have got food in this village, but certainly not much. And it's very, very basic conditions. We're not quite sure how long the refugees who've arrived here can last before they'll need help from the outside world.

Dan Rivers, CNN, Southern Myanmar.


BLITZER: The United States has the ability to deliver aid to remote areas and the world community has been mobilizing for a dramatic relief effort. But precious time is being lost and the situation in Myanmar could grow far, far worse.

Brian Todd is looking into this part of story -- Brian what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're learning of an increasingly desperate situation, Wolf. And aid groups and others are frustrated in their efforts to get in there.

First, we're going to show you kind of the scale of what we're talking about here and how remote these areas are. We're going to use Google Earth animation to go into peninsula. This is the area in the south hardest hit. This is an image of what that area looked like in 2004. Now, you go into the black and white areas, this is what it looks like now.

You've got areas in here that have just been devastated by flooding. Those brown gray areas there are floods.

We're going to zoom in a little bit closer here with the DigitalGlobe technology that we've got here, go in over that peninsula. Again, this blue and the clear areas show what it was like in 2004. You see villages there and other areas that are cultivated. Now look at it. When you switch to the black and white images, to the gray and brown, look at this. This is all devastation right now. These were images taken just of this past week of this Delta area. Whole villages here just wiped out.

The frustration -- the logistical frustration for many outside officials is you can't even get to these areas if you can't get in the country.


TODD (voice-over): A natural cataclysm unfolding in maybe the worst possible place -- endless flooding, people eating on floors, shell-shocked evacuees clinging to each other. Officials say the death toll in Myanmar could exceed 100,000, with more than a million in desperate need of help. The biggest danger now -- water-borne disease.

TIM COSTELLO, WORLDVISION INTERNATIONAL: Without water and sanitation systems in place, the outbreak of cholera -- those epidemics can kill more than even a cyclone. So it is this race against time.

TODD: That's from one aide official actually on the ground in Myanmar. But his group is inside only because it's been there for 30 years. The suspicious isolated military government won't open its borders. It refuses to allow visas to foreigners wanting to help. Outside government leaders and aid agencies are sending planes and ships full of food, medicine and rescue workers toward Myanmar, with no guarantee they'll get in. From the U.N. to the Pentagon, they can barely contain their frustration.

BAN KI-MOON, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: We are deeply concerned again by the inflexible positions of Myanmar's government. ROBERT GATES, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: There is an opportunity here to save a lot of lives. And we are fully prepared to help and to help right away. And it would be a tragedy if -- if these assets -- if people didn't take advantage of them.

TODD: Other U.S. officials are so exasperated, they're checking whether air drops without the Myanmar government's position would be legal. In describing the sense is of frustration, one Western official tells us his government's trying to coax Myanmar's leaders to open up and is careful not to criticize them. This administration says the Bush administration's up front criticism of past abuses isn't helping now. Analysts say this disaster is made so much worse because Myanmar's leaders believe they're all that stands between chaos and security in their country and won't budge from that.

DEREK MITCHELL, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: What's demonstrated here over the last several days is that they can -- they care more about their control of their society than they do about the lives of their citizens and that they're quite paranoid.


TODD: Maybe not paranoid of everyone. So far, the Myanmar government says it's let in shipments from six nations -- Bangladesh, China, India, Singapore, Italy and Thailand. But one U.N. official says the trickle is so slow and so many people are desperate, that there's a real risk of food riots and people attacking aid convoys -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a heartbreaking story.

All right, Brian, stay on top of this for us.

Assessments of the Democratic presidential race may have changed in the wake of Tuesday's primaries, but you'd never know it from the game on the ground. It appears unchanged, with the candidates now focusing in on the next primary battles, despite growing consensus the war has already been won.

Let's go to CNN's Jessica Yellin. She's watching all of this for you.

Are we seeing, Jessica, any change in Hillary Clinton today?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, she's certainly defying the pundits who say the race is over. Today, for instance, she's campaigning in three states with upcoming primaries.

But it does seem that she has toned down her anti-Obama rhetoric.


YELLIN (voice-over): Don't tell her it's over. Clinton in West Virginia today. SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, this is a little bit like deja vu all over again. Some in Washington wanted us to end our campaign and then I won New Hampshire.

YELLIN: She says of Tuesday's primary.

H. CLINTON: It's a test for me and it's a test for Senator Obama, because for too long we have let places like West Virginia slip out of the Democratic column.

YELLIN: But it was her only mention of her opponent -- no more direct attacks.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama made what appeared to be a victory lap around the Capitol, adoring fans and all.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's why I'm running for president, sweetie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you'll win it, too.

YELLIN: He conceded the next primaries to Clinton.

OBAMA: She is very likely to win West Virginia and Kentucky. I mean those are two states, where she's got insurmountable leads.

YELLIN: But he never pressured her to get out of the race.

Clinton's strongest supporter insists she can beat the odds.

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She can still win this thing if you vote for her big enough. They're going to have to resolve Michigan and Florida. And when they do, she can win the popular vote.

YELLIN: And her campaign sent Obama this letter, calling on him to work with Michigan and Florida and honor their votes, which Clinton won. But with talk of heavy campaign debt and diminishing odds, there's a sense among Clinton's top supporters that it's just a matter of time and about doing this right -- making history for women.

H. CLINTON: I believe that I would be the best president and that I'm the stronger candidate against John McCain.

Do you know how difficult it is for women to stand up and say we are the best at anything?


YELLIN: Now, Wolf, there are all sorts of scenarios flying around among Clinton supporters. One thought is she could get out after a big win in West Virginia so she'd could, in a sense, go out on top. Others say she wants to wait and see what happens with Michigan and Florida, to see if those votes could count. In that scenario, she'd stay in until June 3. Then others say it's really all about her mind set and her money. And she is talking -- Senator Clinton, that is -- is talking to very few people these days. Very few people know exactly what she's thinking -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Fair point, Jessica.

Thank you.

This note -- coming up Barack Obama here in THE SITUATION ROOM for a wide ranging interview. We discuss everything from tax cuts to the war in Iraq, how he feels now about Hillary Clinton as a possible vice presidential running mate. The whole interview will air in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The headline is "And the Winner is Barack Obama."

Take a look at the cover of the latest issue of "Time" magazine. It says he's the winner. Then down at the bottom it says, "seriously, we're pretty sure this time."

There seems to be a collective sigh of relief that this thing between Obama and Hillary Clinton is all but over. Many believe it's just a question now of how Hillary Clinton will choose to make her exit.

Will it be graceful or will it be something else?

Well, this might give us an idea. Beneath the surface, there are things lurking that could taint the sense of celebration and eventual unification of the Democratic Party. Not only is Hillary refusing to go quietly, she's refusing to go at all. And despite her repeated assurances that she will be a team player in the fall, Clinton is still out there making some very incendiary remarks about race.

Clinton told "USA Today" today, she will be the stronger nominee because she appeals to a wider coalition of voters. She said -- quoting here -- "Obama's support among working -- hardworking Americans -- white Americans -- is weakening again. And whites in both states" -- meaning Indiana and North Carolina -- "who had not completed college were supporting me."

Clinton says this shows an emerging pattern -- that whites are voting for her.

The Obama camp calls these statements untrue and disappointing.

Then there was Clinton's supporter Paul Begala, right here in CNN Tuesday night during the election returns. He said Democrats could not win in November with just "eggheads and African-Americans".

This all seems to make it appear that there is, indeed, long way to go before the Democratic Party can make any claims about being united.

Here's the question for this hour: Are there wounds in the Democratic Party that just will not heal?

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

BLITZER: We'll ask that question to the Democratic Party -- excuse me, to the Clinton campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe. He's standing by live.

We're also standing by live to speak with Mitt Romney from the John McCain camp.

Barack Obama takes John McCain to task.


OBAMA: This is offensive, and I think it's disappointing, because John McCain always says well, I'm not going to run that kind of politics. And then to engage in that kind of, you know, smear.


BLITZER: You're going to find out what else Barack Obama has to say. He's in THE SITUATION ROOM for his first interview since Tuesday's primaries.

And former Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, getting ready to respond to Senator Obama's interview. Governor Romney standing by live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also, Russia takes severe action against military personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. We're going to show you what's happening.

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


BLITZER: Barack Obama and John McCain are already beginning to slug it out. In my one-on-one interview, the Democrat lashed back at the latest jabs from McCain and one of McCain's most important allies. That would be the former Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.

The former governor of Massachusetts is joining us.

Governor, thanks for coming in.


Good to be with you.

BLITZER: He -- I asked him to respond to your criticism of him that he really hasn't accomplished much legislatively or in the world of business. The presidency, you said, of the United States is not an internship.

Here's how he responded. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The contest didn't work out so well for Mitt Romney. I think he was making those same arguments against John McCain, suggesting that John McCain, as a senator, hadn't done what Mitt Romney had done. And yet here we are and there Mitt Romney is.

Look, when it comes to national security, I think that what people are looking for is good judgment.


BLITZER: And he says he had good judgment in not supporting the war from the beginning.

All right, you want to respond?

ROMNEY: Well, his response, of course, was not to -- to discuss the merits of the issue. The truth of the matter is, just as I said, that he doesn't have a record of accomplishment in the private sector or in the governmental sector. He hasn't led any kind of entity. He hasn't pushed a major piece of legislation.

He seems like a charming guy who is very well spoken. But in terms of actually having led, actually having accomplished something, actually having been the kind of leader that America needs at a critical time, with our economy fragile, with us facing real challenges around the world, he's untested and unproven.

BLITZER: But what about...

ROMNEY: And, frankly, Senator McCain is someone who's very tested and very proven.

BLITZER: But what about his argument that you used to make the same criticisms of McCain when you were running against McCain?

ROMNEY: No, he's not quite right on that. I always recognized Senator McCain's long service in our United States Senate, as well as his tested and proven status as a leader and as a member of our military. There's no question about John -- where John McCain has earned his stripes and how many years he's taken to do that. He is somebody well-known for his legislative accomplishments, for bringing Republicans and Democrats together. He's a person of experience and capability -- which, by the way, is something the American people recognized, I think, when they selected him in the primary process.

BLITZER: Here's what he said, Senator Obama, in my interview, when I asked him to react to Senator McCain's criticisms of him on the issue of Hamas and Israel, McCain suggesting that Senator Obama is really the Hamas candidate of choice.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: This is offensive. And I think it's disappointing, because John McCain always says well, I'm not going to run that kind of politics. And then to engage in that kind of, you know, smear, I think, is unfortunate, particularly since my policy toward Hamas has been no different than his.


BLITZER: All right, you want to handle that one?

ROMNEY: Yes. Sure. Again he's trying to deflect from the substance. The United States leader of Hamas has said that he is endorsing Barack Obama. That's a very embarrassing thing. And the reason for that is pretty straightforward. And that is Barack Obama has said if he's elected president, in his first year, he will sit down with Ahmadinejad. And Ahmadinejad and his government are the major financial support -- state-sponsored support that stands behind Hamas, as well as Hezbollah and other terrorist groups.

And think of Ahmadinejad. Today he said that Israel is a stinking corpse on its way to annihilation. And yet Barack Obama says he's going to sit down with him in his first year as being the president. It is one more clear example of a person that's out of his depth when it comes to being the leader of the free world.

BLITZER: He says that he welcomes a debate with John McCain on the issue of the economy, taxes, spending policy, because John McCain would simply be more George W. Bush.

Here's how he put it.


OBAMA: Absolutely. Because think about what I'm going to be running against -- the failed policies of the Bush administration, which John McCain wants to continue.


BLITZER: Does John McCain want to continue what Obama calls "the failed policies of the Bush administration?"

ROMNEY: Well, I think you're going to hear that time and again, Wolf, throughout the campaign season. And I just don't think it's going to stick. I think people around the country recognize that John McCain's nickname as the maverick in Washington is something which they remember and they understand why.

He has not stood behind President Bush in every single decision of President Bush. As a matter of fact, he came out very early on and said that Donald Rumsfeld was the worst secretary of defense in the history of our nation. He vehemently opposed the way the war was being conducted. He's been an independent thinker and he's been right.

He also said we've got to put a surge in place to provide the support necessary to get Iraq on track -- and that has worked. He's somebody who has demonstrated time and again he's an independent thinker and he's been right time and again.

So, you know, Barack's going to try and paint him into George Bush, but that's just a paint that's not going to stick.

BLITZER: All right, Governor Romney, thanks for coming in.

ROMNEY: Thank you.

Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And coming up, you're going to see the entire interview I had with Senator Barack Obama. That interview will air here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Lawmakers take action on the foreclosure crisis -- you're also going to find out what a new bill could mean for troubled homeowners and why it may never see the light of day.

Also, we're going to show you what's behind a tense battle between the House Speaker and a Hollywood mogul. We'll have details of what's described as an explosive conversation.

All that and more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


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

Carol, what's going on?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, was among those terrifying today at a Senate hearing on cancer treatment. Edwards herself is battling recurrent breast cancer and says she's speaking for all cancer victims, and one in particular.


ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS: This woman, despite all of the hurdles she had in front of her, believed that if she just whispered in the right person's ear, something could change. I have taken, since March of 2007, and hearing that woman's whisper in my ear, I've been trying. And this is -- I want to thank you so much for giving me the opportunity now to whisper for her in the right persons' ears.


COSTELLO: Edwards also said there are racial inequalities in breast cancer treatment, with white women living two years longer than they did 20 years ago, while survival rates for black women have not changed.

A suspected pedophile is in custody after an international appeal yielded hundreds of tip. Fifty-eight-year-old Wayne Nelson Corliss was arrested at his home in Union City, New Jersey. He's accused of sexually abusing young boys in Asia and posting pictures online. Corliss faces up to 20 years in prison. A bail hearing is scheduled for Monday.

And Russia is expelling two American military attaches assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. No reason is being given and the State Department calls the action unjustified. The U.S. has expelled five Russian diplomats since last year. But a State Department spokesman says the actions are not connected. Russia's foreign ministry is not commenting -- back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: It sounds like diplomatic tit for tat.


BLITZER: But we'll watch it, together with you.

Thanks very much, Carol.

Senator Hillary Clinton fighting on for what a growing number of observers insist could be a lost cause. I'll speak about that and more with her campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe. He's standing by live. I'll ask him what he really thinks about this current state of the race.

Also, you're going to find out how John McCain is using his sense of humor to help his campaign and why it may -- may be working.

Plus, new developments involving secret graves at Charles Manson's hideout. We'll take you there.

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


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

Happening now, Israeli police looking into whether Prime Minister Ehud Olmert accepted illegal campaign contributions earlier in his political career. Olmert denies taking illegal money and he says he'll resign if he's indicted.

A congressional report says the U.S. doesn't have a plan to counter radical Islam on the Internet. It calls for a coordinated effort to combat a growing number of web sites encouraging terrorism.

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

A new sign today that the bitter campaign has left deep wounds among Democrats. It involves an angry phone call from a Hollywood heavyweight to the speaker of the house and a warning to congressional Democrats. Pick up the tab for redoing disputed primaries, or else.

CNN's Ed Henry has our exclusive report -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's rare for such a raw display of hardball politics to spill out into the open and it shows that at least one big ally of Senator Hillary Clinton is not going quietly into the night.


HENRY (voice-over): CNN has learned Speaker Nancy Pelosi had an explosive phone call with movie mogul Harvey Weinstein late last month according to three officials briefed on it. Weinstein, a key backer of Senator Hillary Clinton, threatened to cut off campaign money to congressional Democrats unless Pelosi embraces his new plan to finance a revote in Florida and Michigan. The three officials told CNN, Weinstein appeared determined to buy Clinton more time by pushing for the revote which may be her last chance of catching Barack Obama.

One official said Pelosi refused to give in, telling Weinstein, "Don't ever threaten me again." Though she would not discuss the matter after CNN broke the story.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: No. I think enough has been said about that phone conversation.

HENRY: Weinstein vehemently denied any threats to cut off campaign funds telling CNN, "I told her people felt there would be a disenfranchisement of voters unless leaders came up with a remedy for Florida and Michigan."

Another person familiar with the call said Weinstein also warned that powerful Democrats may turn to Republican John McCain if the problem is not fixed. Pelosi, however, insists the long primary battle is not dividing the party.

PELOSI: Me, I like combat, you know. I think the best training for campaigning is campaigning. So I think that as they have campaigned, the support in our country has grown for a Democratic message. This is all very healthy.


HENRY: But the heated phone call between Pelosi and Weinstein is raising concerns among some Democrats that regardless of who secures the nomination, it's going to be hard for the party to heal its wounds this summer -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry, thank you.

Hillary Clinton is vowing her campaign will go on despite what many see as insurmountable odds. Let's discuss this and more with her national campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Terry, thanks for coming in.


BLITZER: You want to react to this story that Ed Henry broke about Harvey Weinstein and Nancy Pelosi?

MCAULIFFE: The first I've heard it. No one should be threatening anybody. We all agreed Michigan and Florida can't be disenfranchised and people go about arguing in different ways. It's the first I heard about it.

BLITZER: She wrote a letter today to Senator Obama saying you've got to count these votes. It doesn't seem to be a whole lot of appetite right now to do that.

MCAULIFFE: Well, I think there is. The Rules and Bylaws Committee of the Democratic National Committee will meet May 31. This is what they will address so I think it'll get resolved May 31.

BLITZER: Is that going to be too late?

MCAULIFFE: No. June 3 is Montana, South Dakota. We've got to get these voters into the process. We can't disenfranchise two key electoral college states for us in the general election.

BLITZER: Speaking for the Clinton in the campaign, she's in it.

MCAULIFFE: We're 100 percent in it. She's in three states. I just talked to her. She's -- there are thousands of people in South Dakota right now meeting her. She's on to Oregon tonight. She's been in West Virginia twice. The polls show her way up in West Virginia, way up in Kentucky. We're in. We've got six contests to go.

BLITZER: So this cover story in the new issue of "Time" magazine is?

MCAULIFFE: Tonight's picture. I mean, but you know, I hate to say it, it's not up to the TV pundits, it's up to the voters. We have 7 million voters, eligible voters in the upcoming six contests. Let's let everybody vote. It is very close between the two in the popular vote, very close in the delegates. We need to go forward. West Virginia, Kentucky --

BLITZER: The math is tough, you have to admit.

MCAULIFFE: Sure, the math is tough. But you know what? Is it impossible? Absolutely not. That's why she's fighting. We had 1,500 here yesterday, 1,500 women for a sell out event. Our online is kicking up. They like Hillary's fight. She's talking about the economic issues. And Wolf, remember, she's winning states we have to win in the general election.

BLITZER: I spoke with Senator Obama in THE SITUATION ROOM and we spoke about the notion that's out there. It seems to be gaining some ground. That he should at least consider seriously Hillary Clinton as his running mate. Here's how he responded.


OBAMA: Senator Clinton has shown herself to be an extraordinary candidate. She's tireless, she's smart, she's capable. And so obviously she'd be on anybody's short list to be a potential vice presidential candidate.


BLITZER: That's something she might be interested in?

MCAULIFFE: I think what she's interested in is being the nominee of the party.

BLITZER: If she doesn't become the nominee of the party?

MCAULIFFE: We're fighting hard for it. I mean this woman has been working tirelessly through this campaign. We've been in this thing for 17 months. I tell everybody we have about three-and-a-half weeks to go. Let's let everybody go out and vote. Everybody who is not involved in the process ought to quiet down and let the two candidates who've been out there for 17 months. Let them go on.

Hillary has earned the right to do whatever she wants to do. She's gotten 16.6 million people to vote for her. Right now Senator Obama has 16.7. Think of that. Out of 30 million votes cast --

BLITZER: You're including Michigan and Florida.

MCAULIFFE: I am clearly, Wolf, they always voted. The issue for DNC is delegates.

BLITZER: The DNC ruled that because of they moved up their primaries to January their delegates aren't going to be counted.

MCAULIFFE: The delegates.


MCAULIFFE: I'm talking popular vote. They were certified at the county level.

BLITZER: Isn't it the delegates who make the decision who gets that magic number of 2,025?

MCAULIFFE: Delegates will get you the number. That's an important point. Nobody's gotten to that point yet. Until you get to the magic number, you're not the nominee of the Democratic Party.

BLITZER: Are you still thinking about this possibly going to the end of august at the Denver convention?

MCAULIFFE: I don't think so. I've always said I've been pretty consistent on this, I think after June 3 assuming we get Florida and Michigan into the mix I think the superdelegates are going to move in June. I think they want to be part of the nominating process and I think they will move quickly.

We want to be unified. This hasn't been overly tough contrary to what a lot of people say. Go back to what President Clinton went through in 1992. We'll be together, record vote turnout all over the country. It's exciting. But right now we have candidates that are basically tied. We have six contests to go, 7 million people yet to vote. Let's let them vote. Let the voters decide.

I will also argue, having these contests in Oregon, West Virginia, and Kentucky, these are important for the general election. Bill Clinton carries West Virginia and Kentucky twice. We've lost it both times, 2000 and 2004. We need to win it --

BLITZER: Does she have enough money?

MCAULIFFE: We will. We had a great day yesterday online. A million dollar event last night with 1,500 women. Only six contests to go. Luckily not too expensive media markets. We'll have the money to go on. Let's keep it going.

BLITZER: Thanks for coming on.

MCAULIFFE: Thank you. Great to see you.

BLITZER: We're just getting this into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. The Senate Ethics Committee will not investigate allegations Senator David Vitter of Louisiana solicited a prostitute. The committee informed Louisiana Republican of that earlier today in a letter. The committee said it was dismissing a complaint because Vitter was never charged with a crime.

The alleged actions happened before he was a U.S. senator and didn't involve his official duties. An ethics watchdog group filed the complaint last year after Vitter's phone number surfaced in the investigation of the D.C. madam. Deborah Jeanne Palfrey recently convicted of running a prostitution ring, committed suicide last week.

Barack Obama only minutes a way right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the full interview. I'll ask him some of the tough questions about the economy, the Supreme Court, his take on the Clinton/Obama ticket and more.

And John McCain knows how to tell a good joke, even when he pushes it a bit too far. We're going to take a look at the lighter side of the Republican presidential candidate. That and more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Take a look at this. Republican presidential candidate John McCain delivering pizzas to New York City firefighters. McCain is also known for being able to deliver a pretty good punch line and a sense of humor may be helping his campaign right now.

Carol Costello has been looking at this. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

How important is humor for a presidential candidate?

COSTELLO: You know, it can be really important. I talked with a psychiatrist today, Dr. Gail Salts. And she said there is a reason the number one trait women like in men is if they have a good sense of humor. It's a lot more -- it's a lot more than just being funny. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: In the world of politics humor is a rare gift. On The Daily Show, John McCain showed us once again he has it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're watching the Democrats beat each other over the head. Are you -- are you on a --

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's terrible. I hate to watch it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It must be very difficult.

BRIAN KIRWIN, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Comedy has been a pretty traditional way to reach out to voters that may not follow the traditional news media. And I think John McCain, if I had to put it I'd give him an 8.5 so far.

COSTELLO: Kirwin says McCain has successfully ripped a page from the Ronald Reagan handbook.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm so desperate for attention I almost considered holding a news conference.

COSTELLO: He was a master at using humor to deflect criticism. In a 1984 debate, Reagan turned Walter Mondale's concern about his age into a joke.

REAGAN: I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How does it make you feel knowing that voters may reject you because of they feel you're too old to be president?


COSTELLO: Psychiatrists say those who use humor are considered intelligent, rebellious, risk takers, unafraid to push the boundaries of good taste.

MCCAIN: I think maybe shopping in Baghdad. I had something really picked out for you too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you really?

MCCAIN: It's a nice little IED to put on to your desk.

COSTELLO: Psychiatrists also say humor like this is risky. It could easily alienate some voters and provide fodder for detractors.

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Imagine a presidential candidate making a joke about IEDs when these kids are blown apart. It's outrageous.

MCCAIN: All I can say to Murtha and others is lighten up and get a life. COSTELLO: While some strategists say McCain does cross the line, there's no doubt the ability to tell a good joke is a great skill to have.


COSTELLO: Oh, it is. And McCain's camp does value his sense of humor. Despite the fact he steps over the line sometimes. It makes him seem much more accessible to voter. You know, everybody likes a guy with a good sense of humor.

BLITZER: You know I'm a very funny guy. People don't realize it. If they knew that, the stand up I can do. Right?

COSTELLO: You have me rolling on the floor every day.

BLITZER: All right. Thank you very much.

Coming up in only a few more moments, you'll see all of my interview today with Senator Barack Obama. He weighs in a possible Obama/Clinton ticket. Plus there's a very emotional moment you won't want to miss. The whole interview. That's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And it was a crime spree that terrified America. Now four decades later word there could be more bodies buried at the hideout at Charles Manson's cult family. We're going to go live to the property. That's coming up next.

Jack Cafferty is asking: Are there wounds in the Democratic Party that just won't heal?

He has your e-mail and more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Law enforcement officials will announce tomorrow whether they intend to search for possible secret graves at the ranch where Charles Manson and his followers hid out almost 40 years ago. It's located in remote eastern California in what's now Death Valley National Park. CNN's Ted Rowlands is on the scene for us.

What's going on over there, Ted?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, nothing rite now. They're going to make this decision tomorrow. There's a local police detective, Wolf, here and his dog. Both of them believe that there are bodies behind this ranch, victims of Charles Manson and his family.


ROWLANDS: The Manson murder spree ended in this remote Death Valley California cabin called Barker Ranch. It was here that Charles Manson and members of his cult family were hiding out after the so- called helter-skelter murders that claimed at least seven lives and terrified the country in 1969.

SGT. PAUL DOSTIE, INVESTIGATOR: Charlie was hiding in the cabinet right here.

ROWLANDS: Now almost 40 years later, local detective Paul Dostie says he and his dog, Buster, may have found more Manson victims buried right behind the Barker Ranch. Dostie says Buster, who's trained to find human remains found five possible graves. A group of scientists also found evidence of possible remains at three of the same spots.

DOSTIE: It seems very viable. I would say we have tremendous amount of probable cause to look.


ROWLANDS: Wolf, the Barker Cabin is located in a very rural area. In fact, we believe this is the first television broadcast in history from the Barker Cabin. Inside we'll show you really quickly, it really is about the same as it was 40 years ago when Manson and his 30-some followers spent time here after the helter-skelter murders. Manson was arrested in this bathroom.

He was hiding in a little tiny cabinet. He's 5 feet tall. He was able to smash himself in there. He was one of the last people to be picked up. An officer was using the toilet, turned around, saw Manson's hair and arrested him. People come from time to time. It is public property. But like we say it's so far off the beaten path it's virtually the same as it was 40 years ago.

BLITZER: Very eerie stuff. All right, Ted. Thanks very much.

Ted Rowlands reporting.

You can see more of Ted's reporting on the Manson property later tonight on "ANDERSON COOPER 360," 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Let's check back with Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: Are there wounds in the Democratic Party that simply wound not heal?

Kathy writes: "The longer this goes on, the harder it will be for the Democrats to come together in November to beat John McCain. Senator Clinton knows she can't win the nomination, so she is intent on destroying Senator Obama, the Democratic Party, and she is hurting herself in the process. She is like a bad actor who won't leave the stage. It's time for the hook already. If her last name was something other than Clinton, she would have been forced out of this race a long time ago."

Eileen writes from California: "Not yet. But a few more appeals to the so-called white vote or a move by superdelegates to overthrow the will of the people and it'll be a party dead on arrival in November. If Clinton steals the nomination, this is one elderly white woman who will not vote for her. I'll be the bitter one clinging to my principles."

Michael writes: "As long as McCain is attached to the hip of Bush, not even Democrats can screw this up bad enough to lose. This is the first time a Republican has had to follow the most unpopular president in American history. It's over for the Republicans. The fat lady has already left the building."

Cindy in Iowa: "All this talk about whites and working class voters. I live in Iowa. We elected Obama as the nominee. You cannot get more working class or white than Iowa." Cindy's right. I used to live there.

Rick writes: "I think there are some deep wounds in the Democratic Party. Harsh words have been said on both sides of the campaign. The only way to unite the party would be for Clinton to take the VP spot. That would mean she would have to go back on a lot of criticism she's made, take a subordinate role in someone she feels is an interior candidate. Could her ego take that hit?"

Finally, Sandra in Texas says: "There are no wounds inside the Democratic Party that will not be forgotten or at least forgiven once everybody takes a good, long look at John McSame."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at and look for yours there among hundreds of others -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jack. Thank you.

So would Barack Obama ask Hillary Clinton to be his running mate? I'll ask him about vice presidential possibilities in a whole lot more in my one on one interview. The full interview will air.

And as Israel celebrates its 60th anniversary, how far would the candidates go to back Israel against Iran? We're taking a close look.


BLITZER: Israelis are celebrating their 60th anniversary of independence today. How is Israel playing out on the campaign trail right here in the United States?

Mary Snow is looking at the presidential candidates and their attitudes towards Israel.

What are you seeing, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, when it comes U.S./Israeli relations there are a lot of similarities but there are some differences when it comes to other issues.


SNOW: As Israel celebrates its 60th anniversary, all three U.S. presidential candidates reiterate strong support for Israel. Republican John McCain and Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton voice similar views. But observers say when it comes to issues related to Israel --

SAMUEL ROSNER, CHIEF U.S. CORRESP.: The issue that is the most significant and on which you can see the most significant differences is the issue of how to handle Iran.

SNOW: Democrat Hillary Clinton has been sharpening her stance even saying she would obliterate Iran if it attacked Israel with nuclear weapons.

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

SNOW: Obama criticized her take, advocating a different take.

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

SNOW: McCain says he'll do everything possible to protect Israel from a nuclear Iran. He criticizes Obama's stance.

MCCAIN: Senator Obama wants to sit down with the Iranian leader who is dedicated to wiping Israel off the map. Those are his words. I don't think we ought to give him that kind of prestige.

SNOW: Jennifer Siegel, a correspondent for the Jewish newspaper, The Forward, says some in the Jewish community are concerned about Obama's emphasis on diplomacy.

JENNIFER SIEGEL, THE FORWARD: Some of his rhetoric, even though it doesn't clearly spell out any extreme policy differences with the other candidates, makes people nervous.

SNOW: A Jewish group that examines only Democratic candidates says it expects Republicans to attack over security issues, but rates Obama and Clinton with outstanding records on Israel.

IRA FORMAN, NATL. JEWISH DEMOCRATIC COUNCIL: When it comes down to the basic positions and voting records on the key issues, they don't have an argument to make against Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.


SNOW: And to underscore the significance of relations with Israel, Senator Obama is attending this hour an event in Washington, marking Israel's 60th anniversary -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He's over at the Israeli embassy for that.

All right. Thanks very much, Mary.