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President Bush on Obama: 'Foolish Delusion'; McCain Joins Obama Criticism; Interview With Senator John Kerry

Aired May 15, 2008 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, President Bush slams Barack Obama from Israel. He suggests if elected, Obama would appease terrorists the same way European leaders appeased Hitler. Obama says President Bush knows he doesn't want to negotiate with terrorists and he's launching a false political attack. But other Democrats use far more colorful words.
And John McCain joins the Obama criticism while also peering into a sort of political crystal ball. You're going to hear his surprising plans if elected for U.S. troops in Iraq and other issues you care about.

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

President Bush uses a solemn occasion in Israel to launch harsh criticism of Barack Obama. And his tough words are meeting tough reaction. The president is in Israel for its 60th anniversary, speaking to its parliament.

Listen to what the president said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We've heard this foolish delusion before.

As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared, "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided." We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement which has been repeatedly discredited by history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And those words sparked an immediate and very angry reaction from Barack Obama. Even profanity from another Democratic leader.

Suzanne Malveaux is watching this part of the story. Dana Bash is getting reaction from the McCain camp.

But let's go to Jerusalem. Our White House correspondent, Ed Henry, was there watching all of this unfold.

And the big question right now, was this intentional on the part of the president to try to discredit Barack Obama?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you heard the president not name any names. And the spokeswoman, Dana Perino, is insisting the president was not taking direct aim at Barack Obama. But I can tell you, there are other administration officials here on the ground who are saying the president was talking about various Democrats, including Obama, for suggesting he would sit down for direct talks with the leader of Iran. Also taking aim at Jimmy Carter for saying there should be negotiations with the terror group Hamas.

Let's put it this way. For the president to lay out his definition of what an appeaser is, and for that definition to fit into the narrative that Republican operatives are putting out there about the Democratic front-runner, it's a pretty amazing coincidence -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And it also comes -- the timing of this is pretty unusual, because the president has repeatedly said he doesn't want to interject himself in the middle of this presidential campaign.

What's going on as far as the timing, Ed, is concerned?

HENRY: That is remarkable. He said that over and over, he doesn't want to jump into '08. Then he does today in a remarkable way with this explosive allegation.

I think another thing to pay attention to is where he delivered it -- at the Israeli Knesset, in a speech where he touted his own close ties to Israel. This could raise concerns among Jewish voters about Barack Obama, a critical voting bloc, of course. And you'll remember those concerns were first stoked by John McCain recently when he claimed that Barack Obama was Hamas's favorite candidate.

You'll remember, of course, what Obama told you in THE SITUATION ROOM. He said it was a smear.

I suspect this was only the second round of a lot more back and forth we're going to see between now and November. This is something the Republicans are going to play -- the national security, the terrorism card -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Raising questions about his qualifications to be commander in chief.

Ed Henry in Jerusalem.

Stand by. We're going to be getting back to you.

Obama's campaign says what the president did has not been done before.

Let's go to Suzanne Malveaux. She's watching this part of the story for us. She's in Chicago.

They're wasting no time in reacting very angrily to not only the substance, but the timing and the way the president did this. Give us the reaction, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this really not only strikes really a chord for Barack Obama, but also for the Democratic Party, because what they're looking at is the issue of national security. It is going to be an issue that is critical come the general election.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice over): Camp Obama fired back, calling President Bush's remarks the same old head in the sand cowboy diplomacy.

ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Obviously this is an unprecedented political attack on foreign soil. It's quite frankly sad and astonishing that the president of the United States would politicize the 60th anniversary of Israel with a false political attack.

MALVEAUX: In a statement released by his campaign, Obama said, "George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists."

Obama's allies were a bit more blunt.

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: This is (EXPLETIVE DELETED). This is malarkey. This is outrageous.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: It's beneath the dignity of the office of president.

MALVEAUX: Behind all the heated rhetoric is a red-hot political debate over which candidate's approach to national security would make Americans safer.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them, which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration, is ridiculous.

MALVEAUX: Obama has said unlike Mr. Bush, Hillary Clinton or John McCain, he'd be willing to sit down and talk to the leaders of Iran, Syria and North Korea without preconditions to help ease hostilities with those nations. Some Jewish-Americans are concerned Obama would also meet with the terrorist group Hamas, which Obama has flatly denied.

OBAMA: We should not meet with them until they recognize Israel, until they cease terrorist activities, until they support previous agreements that have been made between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

MALVEAUX: But today the Republican Jewish Coalition issued a statement saying, "Barack Obama's shaky grasp of Middle East policy and repeated vows to meet with state sponsors of terrorism are alarming. He surrounded himself with advisers like Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who choose to blame America's Jewish community for the problems in the Middle East. It's no wonder Hamas has endorsed Barack Obama."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And Wolf, this also really goes to the heart of Barack Obama's challenge. And that is really to define himself, not to let his opponents do that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne, thank you.

Suzanne Malveaux reporting.

John McCain is not letting this opportunity to blast Barack Obama pass by. He heard what the president said and added his own criticism to this issue.

Let's go to Dana Bash. She's in Columbus, Ohio, watching this part of the story.

And I think it's fair to say it's part of a broader strategy to raise questions about Barack Obama. What was the reaction from Senator McCain?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's no question, Wolf, it's part of a strategy that's been in the works and been employed inside the McCain campaign against Barack Obama for some time. You know, I and a few other reporters were on John McCain's bus here in Columbus, and as soon as what President Bush said was described to John McCain, he got a little bit of a twinkle in his eye and jumped right in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is a serious error on the part of Senator Obama. It shows naivete and inexperience and lack of judgment to say that he wants to sit down across the table from an individual who leads a country that says -- and says Israel is a stinking corpse, that is dedicated to the extinction of the state of Israel. My question is, what does he want to talk about?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: So a central part of John McCain's strategy against Barack Obama, Wolf, is going to be that John McCain is somebody who has a long lifetime of history in national security and experience, whereas Barack Obama, as you just heard from John McCain, is somebody who simply isn't ready for prime time, especially on the world stage. But, you know, it's really interesting, Wolf.

John McCain spent a considerable amount of time separating himself from some of the political tactics of President Bush over the past eight years today. But on this they are absolutely in sync -- Wolf. .

BLITZER: All right, Dana. Stand by, because you're coming back in a few moments.

Dana will be back with more on what Senator McCain is doing today. And this time it involves his vision for the United States should he become president. You're going to want to hear some of his surprising plans for U.S. troops in Iraq, for Osama bin Laden, and something that probably won't make conservatives happy with him either.

That report from Dana coming up in a few moments.

Let's go back to Jack Cafferty though in the meantime. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: John Edwards has joined the growing chorus of voices who think that the Democratic nomination battle is at long last all over. In his endorsement of Barack Obama yesterday, Edwards emphasized it's time for the party to come together behind Obama.

The timing of Edwards' endorsement absolutely perfect. At a rally of more than 12,000 Obama supporters, it was a master stroke that literally wiped Clinton's big West Virginia headlines right out of the news.

And there's already some payoff for Obama today. He's now picked up eight of Edwards' 19 delegates. This puts him 180 delegates ahead of Hillary Clinton and just 127 short now of clinching the nomination.

Edwards' endorsement goes a long way toward quieting those voices that say that Obama cannot win working class blue collar voters. This is Edwards' wheel House, his constituency. Edwards has particular credibility on issues of poverty and the plight of working people.

Actually, Obama may not need as much help in those areas as we thought. Today the United Steel Workers Union, all 600,000 of them, endorsed Barack Obama.

Let's see. Last I heard those were middle class blue collar workers. Another big loss for Senator Clinton, as she had been aggressively seeking the steel workers' endorsement herself.

And finally, Obama picked up three more superdelegates today, two of them influential members of Congress -- Henry Waxman, heading up the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, one of the few people in Congress to raise serious questions about the many abominations and transgressions of the Bush administration over the last eight years. And the other one is Howard Berman, who chairs the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

So here's the question: How does John Edwards' endorsement of Barack Obama affect the Democratic primary race?

You can go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much. We're just getting in reaction also from Hillary Clinton to President Bush's appeasement statement in Jerusalem. We'll share that with you in a moment or so.

Also, should same-sex couples be allowed to marry? The nation's largest state rules on that. Now one side is cheering and the other is angry.

So what are the political implications of this ruling?

Barack Obama favors direct diplomacy with Iran without preconditions. Should that happen given all that Iran's president has said about Israel?

We'll talk about it with Senator John Kerry. He's a major supporter of Barack Obama. He's standing by live.

And wait until you hear what John McCain hopes to do about U.S. troops in Iraq if he becomes president. Will you approve of his plans?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're just getting reaction now for the first time today from Senator Hillary Clinton to what President Bush said in Jerusalem at the Knesset earlier today, making the comparison between those who want to talk with what he called terrorists today to the appeasement of the Nazis before World War II. Senator Clinton just saying a few moments ago -- I'll read it to you -- "President Bush's comparison of any Democrat to Nazi appeasers is both offensive and outrageous. In light of his failures in foreign policy, this is the kind of statement that has no place in any presidential address, and certainly to use an important moment like the 60th anniversary of Israel to make a political point seems terribly misplaced."

That statement from Senator Clinton just moments ago.

Let's get some more reaction now. Joining us is Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, himself the Democratic presidential nominee four years ago.

You seem to be chuckling. This is obviously, Senator, very serious business. The president of the United States makes a statement like that in Jerusalem. It has enormous potential ramifications.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, I'm chuckling, Wolf, because it's almost sad. It's a repeat of their tactics of 2004, and frankly their tactics for the last 25, 30 years, which is raise the flag and wave fear. And what they're trying to do is just brand people and scare people.

I think it's insulting for the president of the United States to be at the 60th birthday anniversary of the birth of Israel and to take that moment which all of us share. We all care enormously about Israel. We are closely tied to Israel. Everybody understands that.

And to use that platform rather than to try to advance peace and to make peace and to make Israel more secure, to play politics back here at home, is literally outrageous and insulting. And the fact is...

BLITZER: Well...

KERRY: Let me just finish one thought.

BLITZER: Yes.

KERRY: It is particularly insulting when measured against the record, because this president is responsible for, in fact, making the Middle East less stable, making Iran stronger, making Iraq chaotic, making al Qaeda stronger and reconstituted, and he has certainly presided over the strengthening of Hamas and Hezbollah. So his words reign completely hollow and contrary to the statements of his own secretary of state and secretary of defense.

BLITZER: All right.

Here's what John McCain said, because he was referring in his reaction to the president's speech in Jerusalem to Barack Obama's own assertions over these past few months that he would be willing himself to sit down with the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a first year of an Obama administration.

I want you to listen to Senator McCain's reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: What does he want to talk about with -- with Ahmadinejad, who said that Israel is a stinking corpse, who said that he wants to wipe Israel off the map, who's sending the most explosive devices into Iraq killing Americans? What does he want to talk about with him?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. You want to react to your old friend, John McCain?

KERRY: Well, John McCain is obviously running to represent the third term of George Bush, and he's following the same playing card and he's following the same policy in Iraq and elsewhere.

The fact is that Barack Obama has said that he's willing to sit down with leaders of countries with whom we disagree to advance the initiative, just as Richard Nixon sat down through his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, with Mao Zedong. Just as President Reagan, who called the Soviet Union the evil empire and thought it was such, sat down with Gorbachev and, in fact, advanced the cause of nuclear -- of restraining nuclear proliferation.

You know, the great tradition of American foreign policy is to engage with countries even when you disagree with them. Nothing prevents an American president from staring at that leader and saying, you're dead wrong and no, we won't do x, y or z.

BLITZER: Well, let me...

KERRY: But to not engage is wrong. Secondly...

BLITZER: Hold on one second. I just want to -- before you get to secondly, let me read exactly what Ahmadinejad said last week on the 60th anniversary of Israel.

KERRY: Yes. But Wolf...

BLITZER: He said, "Those who think they can revive the stinking corpse of the usurping and fake Israeli regime by throwing a birthday party are seriously mistaken."

So I guess the question is, what do you think Barack Obama could do to convince Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to come around and accept Israel's right to exist?

KERRY: Ahmadinejad does not, in fact, make all of the decisions or run Iran. And people who know something about Iran know that the real power lies with the supreme Ayatollah. There is power in other quarters in Iran. There are all kinds of ways to approach Iran.

The secretary of state of George Bush, Condoleezza Rice, has said we ought to negotiate with Iran on the subject of their nuclear weapons. Secretary of Defense Gates just yesterday said we ought to engage Iran and we need to show the leverage that we have in order to be able to do it.

I guarantee you that Barack Obama as president is not going to just sit down and have tea with Ahmadinejad. He's going to find a way to repiece together the leverage that the United States has lost under George Bush, and he's going to do through diplomacy, through his secretary of state, through ambassadors, through other channels, he will engage in a way that when you sit down you know what you're able to talk about.

BLITZER: All right.

KERRY: But the fact is, to simply deny the ability to be able to have that conversation with a country that's important in the region, that's been there for thousands of years, and that now plays a significant role, a stronger role because of the policy of George Bush, Wolf, that would be absurd.

And what George Bush said over there, and what John McCain is now saying, is frankly -- it's -- it's almost sophomoric. It's dumb. It really is.

BLITZER: All right.

KERRY: And it's insulting to people back here in the United States. We can do a better job of strengthening America and playing a better role in the world.

BLITZER: Senator Kerry, thanks for coming in.

KERRY: Thank you.

BLITZER: We'll have much more on this story coming up. It's a huge development today in this campaign, in this race for the White House.

Also coming up, farm subsidies and a big boost in food stamps, it's all part of a farm bill bound from Capitol Hill to the White House. President Bush has vowed that that's as far as it will go.

And a startling remark by President Bush brings a key constituency into this election year spotlight.

Still ahead, our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, considers the impact of the American-Jewish vote.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: South Dakota holds its Democratic primary June 3. Senator Hillary Clinton is making it clear she's still very much in this race. She campaigned in South Dakota today, pitching a connection between environmental responsibility and jobs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've got to move toward clean renewable energy, higher gas mileage cars, if we're going to have a secure America, if we're going to be able to begin to reverse some of the damage to the environment. And I believe that we can create at least five million new jobs doing this.

This is a great win/win. But we're not acting like it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. We're going to have more on this story coming up as well.

Imagine, if you will, the Iraq war over, Osama bin Laden under lock and key. Still to come, we'll have more of Republican presidential candidate John McCain's vision of the future.

And Obama and the Jewish voting bloc, some say it's more than just one religious constituency.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, California now on its way to becoming the second state to legalize same-sex marriage. The state Supreme Court today by a 4-3 vote struck down the state ban on gay marriage. We're going to examine how this ruling might impact the rest of the country.

He endorsed John McCain months ago. The televangelist John Hagee now expressing his regret to the Catholic Church for less-than- flattering remarks. CNN's Mary Snow is looking at the political fallout his latest words might cause.

And they've been dubbed two arms in the "access of evil." Now the U.S. is making some fresh overtures to Iran and North Korea. CNN's Zain Verjee delves into what the effort hopes to accomplish.

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

The Iraq war won and Osama bin Laden captured or killed, they're part of Republican presidential candidate John McCain's view of the future in a speech that he delivered in Ohio today.

Let's go back to Dana Bash. She's on McCain's bus. She also listened carefully to this speech.

Tell us about the speech, because it was sort of extraordinary, the speech that John McCain gave, looking at what might happen if he were president and at the end of his first term.

BASH: That's right, Wolf.

You know, one reporter on his bus said it was like a magic carpet ride. Senator McCain didn't like that description very much. But it certainly was a very different kind of approach than I have heard, and probably what you have heard, Wolf, in terms of how a presidential candidate defines benchmarks for their presidency.

And when it comes to John McCain, in this speech, he gave a very different approach on the issue he says he know will define him: Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): It's 2013. John McCain is finishing his first term in the White House. It's an imaginary time warp the Republican candidate used to lay out sweeping goals, for the first time suggesting a date that troops in Iraq should come home.

MCCAIN: By January 2013, America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom. The Iraq War has been won. Iraq is a functioning democracy.

BASH: That clearly intended as a political antidote to this sound bite already in a Democratic ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... our staying in Iraq for 50 years.

MCCAIN: Maybe 100.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN: We have been in South Korea -- we have been in Japan for 60 years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: But a timeline for withdrawal is a stunning departure for McCain. Pressed about it on his bus, McCain repeatedly insisted he is not setting a date.

MCCAIN: It could be next year. Could be three years from now. Could be, but I'm confident we will be victory.

BASH: That kind of positive, yet politically risky prediction was not limited to Iraq.

MCCAIN: There has still -- still has not been a major terrorist attack in the United States since September 11, 2001.

BASH: By 2013, McCain also said he envisions Osama bin Laden captured or killed, Iran and North Korea's nuclear programs abandoned, a new League of Democracies stopping genocide in Sudan after the U.N. fails.

In what is likely to reignite skepticism among conservatives, McCain called once again for a guest-worker program that illegal immigrants. Aides say that dovetails with what McCain calls his core campaign promise, the end of hyper-partisanship.

MCCAIN: I'm not interested in partisanship that serves no other purpose than to gain a temporary advantage over our opponents. This mindless, paralyzing rancor must come to an end.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And Senator McCain gave some specifics. He promised he would have Democrats in his administration. He offered to come before Congress and have British-style sessions to take questions and even criticism from members of Congress.

Wolf, what McCain is trying to do here, the message he's trying to send, is that Barack Obama says he's for change, but here in the speech, he was the first one, he says, to give some details -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, thanks very much -- Dana with a good, comprehensive report.

McCain and whoever he faces in the general election will both be courting a very important constituency out there, the American Jewish community, among many others. Let's go to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's looking into this part of the story for us.

This whole little back and forth we have been seeing today over what the president said in Jerusalem, the response from the Obama campaign, a lot of Democrats, is it all about -- or at least part of it about courting the American Jewish vote?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, maybe, but it may also be about other constituencies as well.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): President Bush made a sensational charge against Barack Obama and the Democrats. And he made it in Jerusalem before Israel's parliament, using an emotionally loaded term.

BUSH: We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement.

SCHNEIDER: In fact, Obama has been staunchly supportive of Israel.

OBAMA: I pledge to you that I will do whatever I can, in whatever capacity, to not only ensure Israel's security, but also to ensure that the people of Israel are able to thrive and prosper.

SCHNEIDER: But many Jewish voters don't feel they know him well.

JENNIFER SIEGEL, "THE JEWISH DAILY FORWARD": There's been considerable debate in the Jewish community about whether he can be trusted on foreign policy.

SCHNEIDER: The Jewish vote is small, but it can make a difference in swing states, like Florida, Pennsylvania, and Nevada.

Still, it's a tough constituency to go after Republican votes. Jewish voters have been very loyal to the Democratic Party. President Bush, a solid supporter of Israel, managed to carry only a quarter of the Jewish vote in 2004. It's unlikely that this president's words will sway many Jewish voters. But his remarks could be aimed at another pro-Israel constituency.

PASTOR JOHN HAGEE, CORNERSTONE CHURCH: Terrorists who are at the doorstep dedicated to Israel's destruction. This is not a time for Christians to be silent.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Evangelicals are a larger pro-Israel constituency, inclined to support Republicans, one that McCain has had some problems with, and one that President Bush still has considerable influence with -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider, thank you -- Bill Schneider reporting. One side right now delighted, the other side outraged, but they agree, it is an historic decision -- California delivering a major ruling on same-sex marriage. So, what does it mean for the country? And what are the political implications?

We know who President Bush wants to succeed him, and now he's weighing into this contest. We will have more on that coming up in our "Strategy Session."

And a staggering toll of death -- China says, more than 50,000 people could be counted dead after that massive earthquake. Our John Vause is on the scene. He will show us the rough conditions in the areas that are hardest-hit.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's an historic ruling, but one that's angered those who say marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

Let's go back to Carol. She's looking at this story.

A major ruling in California on same-sex marriage, Carol, and it could have far-reaching ramifications for the rest of the country.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

This -- this California Supreme Court ruling has nationwide ramifications. As they say, how California goes, so goes the country. The Supreme Court in California has ruled, a ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. So, if you're gay, and you want to get married, head west.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're so excited.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't believe it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're so excited.

COSTELLO (voice-over): The California Supreme Court's decision to overturn a ban on same-sex marriage is a monumental victory for the gay rights movement.

JOE SOLMONESE, PRESIDENT, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: It is a huge victory today in the state of California, because of the nature of the decision, and because of the strong language that the court used in the -- in ruling in favor of equality for all California families.

COSTELLO: But the court's decision is an outrage for conservative groups, who say, get ready for an all-out assault, not only on traditional marriage, but on our democracy.

TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: This is a judicial shotgun wedding, forcing the residents of California to adopt a scheme of same-sex marriage.

COSTELLO: Today's decision ruled unconstitutional a ban on same- sex marriages approved by voters in March of 2000. Sixty-one percent of California voters approved Proposition 22, which read, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

Though California's high court has a reputation for leaning liberal, six of the seven justices are Republican appointees. But the Family Research Counsel says, activist judges were wrong to decide the case now. Perkins says, they should have waited until November, when Californians will vote on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

The gay rights groups disagree. They say what's happened in California will soon sweep the country.

SOLMONESE: We now have marriage in California and Massachusetts. We have civil unions in a number of states. We have domestic partner registries. So, I do see it as a sign of things to come, and I think the American people do as well.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: The Republican governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, had this reaction, Wolf. He said: "I respect the court's decision and, as governor, I will uphold its ruling. Also, as I have said in the past, I will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Carol, thank you.

The three presidential candidates' positions on same-sex marriage aren't necessarily all that dissimilar. Here's where they stand in their public statements.

Republican John McCain and Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama all oppose same-sex marriage. Clinton and Obama support civil unions, and they also support giving full legal benefits to gay couples. McCain, while not using the term civil unions, also supports granting legal benefits to same-sex couples. And all three are against a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage outright. They're split over the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which banned federal recognition of gay marriage and domestic partnerships.

McCain supported it. Clinton wants to repeal its provision prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Obama advocates the measure's repeal in its entirety.

The Democratic delegate balance is getting weightier for Barack Obama. Eight of John Edwards' pledged delegates have now shifted their support to Obama, in the wake of Edwards' endorsement yesterday. In the past few hours, three superdelegates on Capitol Hill also have thrown their support in with the Obama campaign. And that gives Obama 1,899 delegates by our estimate. Hillary Clinton has 1,719. Eleven so far remain in Edwards' column -- 2,026 delegates are needed to clinch the party's presidential nomination, assuming Florida and Michigan won't be included.

Today's new numbers widen Obama's superdelegate margin over Clinton, by the way, to 17. And among the latest Obama supporters are two college students who are using YouTube to explain their endorsement.

Let's go to Abbi Tatton, our Internet reporter, to see what's going on.

Abbi, tell us -- tell us all about this.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, College Democrats Lauren Wolfe and Awais Khaleel asked for input online, and thousands of young voters, overwhelmingly Obama supporters, have been lobbying them by e-mail, on Facebook, and on YouTube, which is where the two announced their superdelegate support.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AWAIS KHALEEL, COLLEGE DEMOCRATS: Even though we heard responses in support of both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama, there was one candidate who started out ahead and never looked back.

LAUREN WOLFE, COLLEGE DEMOCRATS: As superdelegates who represent college students, we support Senator Barack Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TATTON: So, two more supporters for Obama. But, as things stand right now, only one of their superdelegate votes with count. Wolf, it's from Michigan. Under current rules, the delegation from Michigan, like that of Florida, will not be seated at the convention -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we will see if those rules change May 31 at their rules meeting at the DNC.

In our "Strategy Session": John McCain lays out his vision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: What I want to do today is to take a little time to describe what I would hope to have achieved at the end of my first term as president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Did Senator McCain commit the mistake of making commitments?

President Bush weighs into the presidential race on this day. Will the politics of appeasement become a dominant issue? All that and more coming up in our "Strategy Session" -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President Bush's harsh criticism today in Israel, implying appeasement, implying appeasement by Barack Obama, has generated very angry responses from a lot of Democrats and has raised questions about what Mr. Bush was trying to do.

Let's discuss this and more in our "Strategy Session."

Joining us, Jennifer Palmieri of the Center for American Progress, the former press secretary for the John Edwards campaign, and Republican strategist and former Mitt Romney spokesman Kevin Madden.

I will ask you, Kevin, what do you think? How do you explain why the president used the appeasement word in Jerusalem today?

KEVIN MADDEN, FORMER ROMNEY CAMPAIGN NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think it's because it's apropos.

I mean, if you look at the -- the world view that a lot of people have, that is at odds with where President Bush is, they do have a position where they want to encourage and they want to engage with a lot of our enemies and a lot of terrorists in rogue nations. And that is appeasement. We have seen...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But the implication was that he was going after Barack Obama.

MADDEN: Well, I think that's the way Democrats read it. And there's an old Shakespearian saying: Thou dost protest too much.

And I think the reaction from Democrats, the very angry reaction...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: When they asked White House officials, reporters, in Jerusalem traveling with the president, is this a reference to you know what, they said, you know, read whatever you want.

JENNIFER PALMIERI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, they did.

BLITZER: They didn't try to dissuade reporters from that.

MADDEN: That's true. That's true.

And -- but Barack Obama's name was never used. So, I think that the way the Democrats and the Obama campaign reacted, so angrily, says more about Barack Obama in this campaign and their worry that they do have this very weak world view when it comes to dealing with these terrorists.

BLITZER: All right.

Jennifer?

PALMIERI: So, what I found that was surprising -- I'm going to venture to guess that you may as well -- is that the president of the United States went over to Israel for the 60th anniversary of Israel, really important ally, in the last year of his presidency, and took a shot at the Democratic -- a -- the perhaps Democratic nominee.

I mean, normally, you know, in Clinton's last year, right, when you went overseas...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: And you worked in the Clinton White House.

PALMIERI: And I worked in the Clinton White House.

You know, we had the NATO 50th anniversary, and it was about America's standing in the world and the history of NATO. He had -- he had spent his time in the Mideast focused on -- at Camp David and trying to reach an agree with Arafat and Ehud Barack at that point.

And I think it's interesting. Does this mean that Bush is going to become McCain's attack dog, right? He goes over to Israel on the 60th anniversary in front of the Knesset and takes...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Whether it was deliberate or not deliberate, it did raise...

(CROSSTALK)

PALMIERI: I mean, is that what he is going to do?

BLITZER: It does raise questions about -- at least from the critics' point of view -- about Barack Obama's qualifications to be commander in chief.

MADDEN: It does. And it presents a world view, again, between how we look at the world and national security and how the Democrats do.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: You essentially have -- you have Jimmy Carter out there meeting with Hamas. And then you have -- you have President Bush going and talking to the Knesset, using very strong language, and getting applauded.

The contrast couldn't be more clear. And I think that a lot of voters are going to look at those very same contrasts in this election. PALMIERI: I don't think that voters -- I think that voters are not going to be convinced by what -- by Bush's political, like, explanations of what that -- he said. But I think that they will be...

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: I agree with you on that. But I think that sets up the debate.

(CROSSTALK)

PALMIERI: It's not just simply -- this was like -- this was geared towards -- and this is like also geared towards trying to scare the Jewish vote.

(CROSSTALK)

PALMIERI: It was very targeted.

MADDEN: You use the word "scare" the Jewish vote.

What's very important is that you're seeing that we're motivating a lot of Jewish Americans on issues. This is going to be a very important and robust debate during this campaign.

(CROSSTALK)

PALMIERI: That's what the president of the United States does when he goes over to Israel?

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Well, let me move on for -- quickly, because McCain also gave -- it's got -- almost got buried -- was -- you saw Dana Bash's report.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: He had a speech today envisaging what would happen in his first four years as president. It was all fascinating material. I want to play this little clip, because I think it raises an interesting element. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I will ask Congress to grant me the privilege of coming before both houses to take questions and address criticism, much the same as the prime minister of Great Britain appears regularly before the House of Commons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He also promised weekly news conferences.

This is pretty impressive stuff. What do -- from our perspective as journalists -- what do you think?

PALMIERI: Right. It's a full employment act for press secretaries.

(LAUGHTER)

PALMIERI: I mean, I think that -- I think it would be really entertaining if John McCain went in front of Congress every -- every week.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I don't know about every week. He didn't say weekly sessions with Congress. He said weekly news conferences, but he regularly -- he would like to have that Q&A session with Congress.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: You know, we would love to see Henry Waxman grilling the president of the United States on sensitive issues.

(CROSSTALK)

PALMIERI: John McCain can stack a lot of great qualities. He doesn't seem to be so great at answering questions, and perhaps not that deep on policy.

MADDEN: Oh, you're wrong. Look at all those town halls that he puts out there. He goes out there, unscreened. There's no screening of the people that come out there. He goes and engages with voters and he talks. It would absolutely be must-see TV.

(CROSSTALK)

PALMIERI: It would must-see TV.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: C-SPAN would have a lot to do.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: C-SPAN would go through the roof.

PALMIERI: Oh, it would be great.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: All right. It's just something to ponder as we go down the road. And we will have a lot of ponder.

Guys, thanks for coming in.

(LAUGHTER)

PALMIERI: Thank you. MADDEN: Thanks.

BLITZER: When it comes to politics, the more endorsements, the better. Yesterday, the former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards threw his support behind Barack Obama. A day later, Obama may be reaping a dividend with another big endorsement.

And central China after the quake. Our own John Vause is there. He will take us deep inside the ravaged region.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In our Political Ticker today: If you could vote for president today, who would you vote for? In our average of various national polls, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both beat John McCain, but narrowly. Obama is ahead by five points. Clinton is ahead by four points.

That's slightly more than both of them earned in our last poll of polls. And when you factor in the number of people who say they're simply unsure, those numbers could change.

Republican Senator Arlen Specter is reportedly weighing in on the scandal that erupted after the New England Patriots were caught spying on opponents. Specter thinks the team's tactics were more systemic and deliberate than what we knew -- that according to "The New York Times."

The Pennsylvania senator, a longtime fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, has often been at odds with the NFL. And his comments could raise questions about the Patriots' actual accomplishments. Specter wants to league to probe the matter.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, you can always check out CNNPolitics.com. That's where I write my daily blog post. Posted one just a few moments ago.

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

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: How does John Edwards' endorsement of Barack Obama affect the Democratic primary race?

Got a lot of mail on this.

Barbara writes from Fort Myers: "Huge, Jack. John Edwards represents all those white working-class Americans that Hillary said she owned. Already, those delegates are coming out for Senator Obama. Basically, the race is over. The only people who don't realize that are Hillary, Bill, Terry McAuliffe, and Howard Wolfson. It's gone way beyond being sad."

Bill in Tennessee: "Edwards' endorsement of Obama has made you as giddy as a 12-year-old at a Miley Cyrus concert. I was a John Edwards supporter, until he dropped out. Now I support Senator Clinton. His endorsement of Senator Obama did not change my mind about Obama. It won't change the minds of lots of other voters either. Just because Edwards is now supporting Obama doesn't mean working-class blue-collar voters are suddenly going to jump on the Obama bandwagon."

Bob in Richmond, Virginia: "Well, it did accomplish one thing. Nobody is talking about the West Virginia primary anymore."

Bud in Miami, Oklahoma: "It probably does not change anything, except the talking points. Edwards waited too long to endorse, which makes him appear to be making a politically expedient decision. But the endorsement may give political cover to other superdelegates who have yet to come out to publicly endorse."

And Craig in Hiram Rapids, Ohio, writes: "Jack, not one bit. Hillary expects the Mad Hatter and the Seven Dwarves to announce at any moment. Barack is losing ground with Disney characters, and Hillary is the only one who can carry this bloc in the general election. She's in it to win it."

If you didn't see you e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile, and look for yours there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack. Thanks very much.

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

Happening now, the political shot heard around the world. In Jerusalem today, President Bush slams Barack Obama and the Democrats, suggesting their stance on terrorism is like the appeasement of Hitler. Democrats are furious at the president's remarks. And Senator Joe Biden fires back with a word we can't say on television.

And John McCain's crystal ball -- in a remarkable speech, the Republican candidate imagines life in January 2013, at the end of his first term in the White House. Will he have made good on his vow to kill or capture Osama bin Laden?

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