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THE SITUATION ROOM
Pastor on McCain's Rejection; McCain's Medical Records Under the Microscope; Interview With Obama Supporter Governor Janet Napolitano
Aired May 23, 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, Pastor John Hagee says it's best that he and John McCain have parted ways. Hagee spoke out only moments ago about McCain's rejection and about his views on Hitler and the Holocaust. It's a new development in a story we broke here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Also, John McCain's medical records under the microscope. Is the 71-year-old cancer survivor up to the rigors of being president? Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta is on the case.
And Barack Obama courts another group of Florida voters he'll need in the fall. And some Hillary Clinton supporters push her to find an exit strategy.
I'll ask a leading Obama supporter, the Arizona governor, Janet Napolitano, about the hard road ahead.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Pastor John Hagee says he's looking for closure today, only about 24 hours after John McCain rejected his presidential endorsement. Hagee says he's been the target of "vicious lies."
Our own Brian Todd is watching this story for us. He was the first to report on McCain's break with Pastor Hagee yesterday.
Brian, Hagee is now coming out and defending himself. Update our viewers.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Pastor Hagee is clearly frustrated by what he believes have been distortions and attacks on him since he endorsed John McCain in February. Just moments ago, as you mentioned, Hagee said the past 24 hours have been disappointing and painful for him, and he said that had nothing to do with him and John McCain parting company.
Hagee said he and McCain going their separate ways is what's best for both of them, best for the country, but he did not back away from or apologize for that sermon that led John McCain to reject his endorsement. And Hagee again struck back at his critics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PASTOR JOHN HAGEE, JOHN HAGEE MINISTRIES: To hear people who know nothing about me or my life's work claim that I somehow excuse the Holocaust is simply untrue and heartbreaking. Let me be clear. To assert that I in any way condoned the Holocaust or that monster Adolf Hitler is the most vicious of lies.
I have always condemned the horrors of the Holocaust in the strongest terms. But even more importantly, my abhorrence of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism has never stopped with mere words.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Hagee had a popular San Antonio rabbi at his side and talked a lot about his support for Israel, how that's come at personal expense to him and his family. But again, he did not back away from that sermon in which he said that Adolf Hitler was sent by God to push the Jews out of Europe. He again said this has been part of his effort to try to explain why God would let the Holocaust happen. He said do not confuse the search for an explanation for evil with any excuse for evil -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Brian. Thanks very much.
Brian will be back with this story with more later.
Let's get to the long-awaited review now of Senator McCain's medical records. The 71-year-old Republican is hoping to convince voters that his age and his history of cancer won't be a problem if he's elected president. He'd be America's oldest first term president ever.
McCain's May 12 checkup shows he currently appears to be cancer free. He's had three bouts of melanoma -- that's the most dangerous form of skin cancer -- most recently in 2002. His doctor says McCain's heart is strong and he's in overall good health.
Let's go to chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's on the scene for us in Arizona. He was among a small group of reporters who had a chance to go through these hundreds of pages.
I take it, Sanjay, there was one recent bout of a new form of cancer that he's had to endure. Tell us what that's all about.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Back in February of this year, he had what's known as squamous cell carcinoma. Now, it's a less serious form of skin cancer. This one was on his leg.
The doctors described it as superficial, meaning it wasn't very deep and they were able to remove it. They think it's cured.
But that makes his total number of skin cancers actually five, Wolf. He's had four melanomas in the past. Two of them were very, very superficial.
The deepest one, the one that you and I have talked about quite a bit, was in 2000. That was on the left temple. And it's the reason that he has so many of these scars on his face. They removed 34 lymph nodes from his neck over here as part of that same operation. That we knew. But this new cancer was something we found out today.
BLITZER: If, God forbid, this melanoma were to recur -- and I take it there's a percentage out there that the experts have of it recurring -- how dangerous potentially could that be, or could that surgically be removed once again and he simply moves on?
GUPTA: Well, untreated melanoma can be a fatal cancer. I think people know that it's a malignant form of cancer. And it can be very problematic.
Senator McCain is getting skin checks every three to four months. His overall likelihood of recurrence from that 2000 melanoma, which was the most serious out of all five of these, was if you had to assign a number to it, 66 percent over 10 years. That was eight years ago.
So, the further you get out from it, the better your odds are. So chances are looking pretty good for him.
If it were to recur, you know, doctors would have to note it right away and remove it as quickly as possible. And if you do that, you prevent it from actually getting into the deepest layers of the skin and possibly spreading.
BLITZER: What about the rest of his health, other issues, cholesterol, heart, other issues for a 71-year-old?
GUPTA: You know, if I had to sort of summarize it, I'd say they were good but not great. His cholesterol is around 193. That's better than it was five years ago, when it was 226.
A lot of doctors would say we'd like to see that a little bit lower still. There's good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. The doctors probably would say we'd like that good cholesterol a little higher and bad cholesterol a little lower.
But he's had a couple of important tests as well, Wolf. One test, a stress test of the heart. He actually had two of them. One in 2000, again in 2008.
Interestingly -- I really compared those numbers carefully -- there's hardly any change. His heart is almost as good as it was in 2000. Today it is almost as good as it was in 2000. And, you know, all the numbers that we sort of measure, the performance of the heart, how good it works, seem to be pretty good -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And the blood pressure and everything else seems to be pretty good for a 71-year-old, even for someone who may be younger?
GUPTA: Yes. You know, that's exactly how his doctors described it as well. They say that his ability to perform on that treadmill test seemed to be correlating with someone five to seven years younger. So it did seem pretty good. Also, he had a colonoscopy as well, Wolf, where he had some benign polyps removed, but those were all benign. And he doesn't have colon cancer either.
BLITZER: All right. So he's in pretty good shape, all things considered. That's your bottom line. Is that right, Sanjay?
GUPTA: Yes. You know, I think the doctors -- every doctor that we spoke to about this today say, let me summarize by saying this -- he's fit to lead. He has to be watched carefully in terms of his heart, in terms of his skin.
He's had a prostate operation in the past. The colonoscopy, as I mentioned. He's on six different medications, but he's fit to lead. That was sort of the bottom-line summary from the three doctors I spoke to today.
BLITZER: The prostate was not cancer, was it?
GUPTA: No, Wolf, it was not. They did a biopsy and they did an operation to actually reduce the size of the prostate at the same time.
But they also check an important laboratory value known as PSA. People may know what that is, prostate-specific antigen. And his numbers have always been low, which indicates he doesn't seem like he has cancer from that.
BLITZER: Sanjay, thanks very much.
Sanjay Gupta going through all these records. He'll be back later with more.
Also this hour, Barack Obama's continuing his full court press against John McCain in the state of Florida. He's in Sunrise, Florida, right now.
Earlier in Miami, Obama reached out to Cuban-American voters, a very powerful force in state and national politics. Cuban-Americans traditionally have voted Republican, swayed by the party's no compromise stance against Cuba's communist regime. But Obama says he'd offer a different approach. He repeated his willingness to meet with the new Cuban leader, Raul Castro, an idea McCain has harshly criticized.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will never, ever compromise the cause of liberty. And unlike John McCain, I would never, ever rule out a course of action that could advance the cause of liberty.
We've heard enough empty promises from politicians. I intend to turn the page. It's time for more than tough talk that never yields result. It's time for a new strategy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We're going to have much more on Obama's pitch and whether Cuban-Americans in South Florida could be open to it right now.
That's coming up.
Coming up right now though is Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, Americans are being hit with a more expensive Memorial Day holiday weekend than in years past, with soaring costs for everything from gasoline to hamburger buns. Gas prices, at a national average of $3.88 a gallon, have now risen for 17 consecutive days, according to AAA. The motorist group says that for the first time since 2002, Americans plan to drive less this Memorial Day Weekend than they did the year before.
It says people are traveling closer to home, taking fewer trips, and that poll was taken during the last week of April, the good old days, when gas was only $3.50 a gallon. At least seven states now average over $4 a gallon, and the rest of us will get there soon enough.
Another survey conducted this month found 23 percent of Americans have changed their travel plans for this weekend due to the high gas prices. Twelve percent are canceling their planned vacations altogether.
Meanwhile, for those who are planning to stay home, fire up the barbecue, well, get ready for some sticker shock there too. Food inflation running at its highest rate in 17 years. The cost of an average barbecue up about 6 percent for a family over last year.
Prices are up for everything -- hotdogs to soda, to potato chips, hamburger buns. Beef prices have been high, chicken and pork prices expected to rise because of increased feed and fuel costs. For a lot of people that means cutting corners, doing things like shopping at the big discount stores, buying store brands instead of name brands. Others say they find themselves questioning literally every food purchase they make, wondering at the time if they really need that item.
So here's the question: How will soaring gas and food prices affect your plans for Memorial Day Weekend?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment on my blog.
I'm told we're all invited to your place for a barbecue, Wolf. Is that right?
BLITZER: Come on down, Jack. You're certainly always invited.
Now that Barack Obama is quietly starting to look for a running mate, is he considering women other than one name, Clinton? I'll ask the Arizona governor, Janet Napolitano. She might be in the running.
Also, some Hillary Clinton supporters are privately pushing for her to find a graceful way out of the race. Suzanne Malveaux is digging into that.
And back on the vice presidential search, could a bipartisan ticket be the way to win the White House? We'll consider if there's any chance of that happening.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're just getting this story in from "The Associated Press." Cindy McCain, the wife of John McCain, has now released her 2006 tax returns. And according to the "A.P.," it shows $6 million in total income. She paid taxes of $1.7 million.
That's what the "A.P." is reporting right now. We're working this story.
This does represent a change on the part of Cindy McCain. She earlier said she would never, never release her personal income tax returns. She files separately from her husband. His income tax returns were filed, but now The Associated Press says her income tax returns show $6 million in total income, $1.7 million taxable -- taxes paid back in 2006.
These are the 2006 returns, not the 2007 returns. We're working the story with the McCain campaign. We'll get more information as it comes in.
And as it becomes increasingly likely that it will be Barack Obama to square off against John McCain in the fall presidential election, the two men and their surrogates have been busy trading verbal jabs all this week.
BLITZER: And joining us now, the Democratic governor of Arizona, Janet Napolitano. She's a major supporter of Senator Barack Obama.
Governor, thanks very much for coming in.
GOV. JANET NAPOLITANO (D), ARIZONA: Well, thank you.
BLITZER: Here's the latest exchange, an angry exchange, between Senator Obama and Senator McCain on the issue of a new G.I. bill to help some of the troops coming home to get a college education. Here's what Obama said, reacting to McCain's decision to vote against the war funding bill which would include this new G.I. bill as well.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I respect Senator John McCain's service to our country. He is one of those heroes of which I speak. But I can't understand why he would line up behind the president in his opposition to this G.I. bill. I can't believe why he believes it is too generous to our veterans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. It didn't take very long for Senator McCain to respond. He said, "I will not accept from Senator Obama, who did not feel it was his responsibility to serve our country in uniform, any lectures on my regard for those who did."
Is that a fair reaction from Senator McCain, pointing out that Obama never served in the military?
NAPOLITANO: No. I think because it doesn't answer the question. The question is, why didn't Senator McCain support our returning GIs?
Now, I've been with our servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan. And a lot of them are young. A lot of them joined the military to have a chance to get that higher education they're going to need so badly in the 21st century to compete economically. And historically in this country since World War II we have provided that as part of our obligation to our military men and women, these young men and women who are serving us.
And I think whether or not Senator Obama served is not the question. The real question is, why isn't Senator McCain supporting our GIs?
BLITZER: Well, his argument is the same as President Bush, that right now the country is in debt and it's simply too expensive. We can't afford it right now. And as a result, you've got to look for ways to cut the budget.
NAPOLITANO: Well, I just think that's -- I would just say -- my technical answer is psshaw.
I mean, we are in debt because of spending decisions President Bush, with Senator McCain's acquiescence, have agreed to over the past seven years. And it is to me simply wrong to say we're going to use that debt, and here's how we're going to pay it of -- we're going to send our young men and women to Iraq, let them serve, and then not help them get the higher education they need. And that's how we're going to pay off the tax cuts for the higher income individuals that we've approved, that's how we're going to pay off all the other things that we have done and take advantage of those young people.
That's just wrong.
BLITZER: All right. The other line of attack that continues against Senator Obama, your candidate, came yesterday from Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina. A major McCain supporter.
He was reacting to the statements that Senator Obama made before a Jewish group in Florida yesterday. Let me play for you what Senator Graham said here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA : You want to talk about Israel? Here's one good signal to send to Israel if you're going to be the president of the United States -- I'll never sit down with anybody that had a conference in 2006 that denied the Holocaust ever existed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He was reacting to a statement from Senator Obama suggesting he might be willing to sit down with Ahmadinejad in a first year of his presidency in order to try to break through in this U.S./Iranian relationship.
What do you say to Senator Graham?
NAPOLITANO: Well, this is classic kind of old-style politics, where you set up a straw man and then you beat it down. This goes to McCain's argument that Obama somehow is supporting unconditionally sitting down with countries with whom we do not have a good relationship.
That has not been Senator Obama's position. His position is that, with proper preparation, and if it will further American interest, he will pursue diplomacy. And to me that makes sense, because if we just keep doing what we've been doing the past seven years, we're going to only end up either at the same place or even worse.
And so what Senator Obama is saying is, look, we've got to deal with the world as it is, but we're always going to prepare. It's not going to be unconditional.
Indeed, the only person I think is being unconditional is Senator McCain, who's unconditionally saying he'll never meet with some of these people. Well, then all you do is perpetuate the same old/same old. So, Senator Obama is saying, look, proper preparation, proper conditions, and if it will further American interests, yes, indeed, we will pursue diplomacy.
BLITZER: Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Democrat of California, a Clinton supporter, is now saying if she doesn't get the nomination and Obama does, Obama should pick Hillary Clinton as his running mate.
What do you think?
NAPOLITANO: Well, I think that's for Senator Obama to decide. I think it's pretty clear he's going to get the nomination. The only question is the actual timing of it.
But he has won more states, he's won more delegates, he's won more superdelegates. So it is well in hand. And it is up to him -- he will be the nominee -- who he wishes to have as his running mate.
BLITZER: What about you?
NAPOLITANO: Well, I don't know. There'll be a long list of possibilities. The Democratic Party has a deep bench. But again, it's up to him, just as it's up to Senator McCain, to decide who he wants as his running mate.
BLITZER: Governor, as usual, thanks very much for coming in.
NAPOLITANO: Thank you.
BLITZER: Race and the presidential campaign. I'll be joined by a prominent interracial couple, the former defense secretary, William Cohen, and his wife Janet. We'll get their reaction to this sensitive topic. That's coming up.
But first, a Texas appeals court says more than 400 children should not have been seized from a polygamous sect. Now there's a new development that puts their fate in the hands of the state Supreme Court.
We'll get the latest on the legal wrangling.
All that and a lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Hillary Clinton apparently isn't ready to talk about it, but some of her supporters are. What would be the most graceful way for her to quit the presidential race? Suzanne Malveaux will be along to tell us what she's hearing right now.
And for better and worse, the Democratic contest has highlighted the issue of race. William and Janet Cohen will be along with their unique perspective of politics in black and white.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, a new perspective on police shootings. The pistol camera sees everything. We're going to show you this new tool that could help fight crime and police misconduct.
Also, oil terrorism. Are spiking fuel prices part of a strategy to harm America? How much terrorism is costing you at the pump.
I'll be joined by the former homeland security adviser to the president. She's now a CNN national security contributor, Fran Townsend. She'll be here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And almost eight years after the disputed presidential ballot in Florida, people still want to know what really happened there. There's a new HBO film, "Recount," that takes an in-depth look. We'll have a preview and I'll be joined by one of the stars of the film, Kevin Spacey.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Hillary Clinton today is denying her campaign has had any talks with the Obama camp about her possibility of the -- about the possibility of her becoming his running mate. In an interview with a newspaper in South Dakota, Clinton calls such reports, and I'm quoting now, "Flatly, completely untrue." She adds, "There has been no discussions at all. It is not anything I'm entertaining. It is nothing I've planned. It is nothing I've prepared to engage in."
But some Clinton supporters apparently are more open to the idea.
And Joining us now, our own Suzanne Malveaux.
You've been doing some digging. You're coming up with some, what, informal contacts between these campaigns, back channel discussions? What are you learning?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, both of the campaigns -- I talked to Bill Burton, the national spokesman, as well as, you know, David Axelrod, a chief strategist on the Obama side, and the Clinton folks as well.
They say, look, the campaigns officially, unofficially, they are not involved in these discussions. The people who are, are the supporters, the friends of the Clintons, who are pushing forward, trying to create this kind of graceful exit strategy, if you will, if she doesn't become the nominee.
And the one thing that they're focusing on pushing for is for at least Senator Clinton to get an offer for the number-two job, the V.P. job. They feel that that would be a way to express the respect that they have for her and that would really be kind of the olive branch that they need.
They feel that they need to have her hear those words, even if she says, "I don't want it, I do want it," for them to move forward and to be fully on board with campaigning, with fund-raising. You hear this across the board for those who are actually involved in these conversations.
BLITZER: Because, if he offers her the number-two slot, there's a good chance she would accept.
MALVEAUX: Well, here's the -- here's the tricky part of all of this, is that, if that actually were to happen, obviously, folks on the Obama side, they want to know, what is the answer going to be?
And what we're hearing from the Clinton supporters and the Obama supporters is that there's not a lot of trust between these two. So, they don't know if something like that could actually be worked out, where you would have an offer that would be publicly announced and have her say, no thank you. I mean, they're still kind of weighing this and trying to feel each other out over what's acceptable. But the bottom line is, the people who are talking, they say they're trying to work out something in the next couple of weeks for them to sit down face to face, come up with something that is acceptable for both sides, so that these two teams can come together. And they say it's going to be difficult.
BLITZER: I assume it's going to be very difficult -- in the meantime, three more contests left to go. I know you're on your way to Puerto Rico. We will be talking from there.
Suzanne Malveaux, thanks very much.
MALVEAUX: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: And joining us now, William and Janet Cohen. He was the defense secretary in the Clinton administration, a former Republican senator from Maine. He now heads the international consulting firm The Cohen Group, based here in Washington. She's a former television journalist. And they're both co-authors of a good book entitled "Love in Black and White: A Memoir of Race, Religion and Romance" -- also good friends.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
Secretary Cohen, let me get your reaction to what we just heard from Suzanne Malveaux. Is there a graceful exit strategy for Hillary Clinton right now?
WILLIAM COHEN, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, assuming that she intends to -- to leave the race, there is one. And, of course, she would have to take the initiative.
She has to satisfy herself that she's run a very vigorous and good campaign and now sees the mathematical problem and challenge and what seems to be an impossible task right now to override that. So, she could take the initiative and say she's run and fought a very hard campaign, but now wants to unify the Democratic Party and is going to support Barack Obama. I think that's the only graceful exit. And it's got to be her initiative, if she intends to do that. She's already indicated she may go all the way to the convention. So, we will have to see.
BLITZER: You were a longtime Republican, member of Congress, member of the Senate. You searched in the Clinton administration. You were best man at John McCain's wedding.
W. COHEN: That's right.
BLITZER: So, you have got a rich history. That's one -- I read in "The Politico" this sentence about potential vice presidential running mates for Barack Obama.
And it said this: "Former Senator Sam Nunn and David Boren, and ex-Senator and Defense Secretary William Cohen, each of these three, who are now in their 60s, after leaving politics in the 1990s, have similar appeal as an independent-minded foreign policy military elder statesman."
BLITZER: The Obama/Cohen ticket, what do you think?
W. COHEN: Well, it's the audacity of hope, to be sure.
W. COHEN: And they have got the elder statesman part of it right. But I think it's rather improbable, but flattered by the notion.
BLITZER: But you would be open to it?
JANET LANGHART COHEN, CO-AUTHOR, "LOVE IN BLACK AND WHITE": Sounds good to me.
BLITZER: Would you be open to it?
W. COHEN: Well, any time a president calls upon you to serve, then you have to give it serious consideration. But I don't think that's a likelihood.
BLITZER: He wouldn't be president yet. He would just be the presidential nominee.
W. COHEN: Well, OK.
BLITZER: Have you endorsed anybody yet?
W. COHEN: No.
BLITZER: But you -- even though you were McCain's best -- you were best man at his wedding, you're not ready to endorse him?
W. COHEN: I'm still -- I'm still good friends with John. I admire him a great deal. And I like many of the things he's doing, in terms of speaking out on issues that are important. But I'm trying to maintain a balance here, because I appear on CNN as a world affairs analyst.
And if I start to take positions, then I think other people are going to question my objectivity when it comes time for you to ask me questions about what I think is taking place in the world.
BLITZER: Fair enough.
What do you think, though, about the possibility of your husband being mentioned as a possible running mate for Barack Obama?
J. COHEN: I think it's great. I think that the Obama and Cohen pair would be great for America.
BLITZER: You like Barack Obama?
J. COHEN: I like all of the candidates, but I'm supporting Barack Obama.
BLITZER: OK. Good.
Let's talk a little bit about race, how it's come up in this campaign, because I know both of you are deeply concerned how it's reared its occasionally very ugly head.
What do you think, Janet?
J. COHEN: Well, I think it's unfortunate, I think, given the state that this country is in. We're in two wars. The economy is bad. The gas prices are bad. Our view -- people's view of our country is at an all-time low. We're in a tough way for us to be talking about race.
BLITZER: Is someone to blame more than anyone else because of how this has emerged?
J. COHEN: I think our history is to blame. The stain of slavery, the stain of racism still lives with us.
And I think the media -- being a journalist myself, I think the media could do a better job. Rather than focusing on the name calling, bring it out into the open and let's have everybody have a dialogue. When Bill was working for President Clinton, I sent a note in 1996 to President Clinton to have a dialogue on race.
He had had a successful dialogue on the economy. Let's talk about that dirty little secret, that's not so secret anymore, after what everybody saw with Katrina.
BLITZER: I know you're really concerned about what has happened. Explain your thoughts, Secretary.
W. COHEN: Well, it's about hate. It's something about just discrimination. It's about anti-Semitism. It's about racism.
When I first started running for Congress, I was told I didn't have a chance in Maine, that they would never vote for someone named Cohen. And I said, let me prove that I can be a good congressman and a good senator. And the people of Maine responded overwhelmingly.
We have got to get by the name-calling. What happened in this country, we're dividing ourselves up into liberal, conservative, red state, blue state, black and white. And, as Janet has pointed out, when the enemy came for us on 9/11, they didn't distinguish between white or black, red or blue.
J. COHEN: That's right. W. COHEN: They saw one enemy, one target, one opportunity to kill us all.
So, we -- here we are divided. The enemy sees us as one. And what we have got to do is e pluribus unum, from the many, become one again. And that's what we want to talk about in our upcoming dialogue in July.
J. COHEN: Wolf, why do you feel we won't talk about race...
BLITZER: Why do I feel what?
J. COHEN: Why do you feel we don't talk about race in...
BLITZER: We do talk about it. We do talk about it.
J. COHEN: But put it out there in the open and everybody come from their own perspective.
BLITZER: Well, we try -- at CNN, we have this out in the open policy. We want people to discuss these issues, because it's critically important, as both of you well know.
So, we will leave it on that note.
W. COHEN: OK.
J. COHEN: Thank you. Thank you.
BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
And don't call him Mr. Vice President yet.
J. COHEN: Not yet.
BLITZER: Call him Mr. Secretary. Thanks very much.
W. COHEN: Thanks, Wolf.
J. COHEN: Thanks.
BLITZER: If William Cohen isn't Barack Obama's running mate, might another Republican be up for the number-two job? We're taking a closer look at the prospects of a bipartisan ticket, maybe two.
And we heard John Hagee say it's best that he and McCain have cut their ties. But will McCain pay a political price anyway for Hagee's provocative words? And, later, a new movie captures the high drama of the 2000 Florida recount, at a time when the state is once again front and center in the presidential campaign. I will talk to one of the stars, the actor Kevin Spacey. He will be here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate John McCain have a few things in common. Both are senators who have built reputations of being willing to work with colleagues across the aisle.
And now they're both looking for a vice presidential running mate.
Let's go to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's looking at this story.
Could a presidential candidate pick a running mate, Bill, from the other party?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's an interesting idea, but is it practical? Probably not.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Both likely nominees promote their ability to reach across party lines.
OBAMA: It's not just going to be enough to have Democrats. We have got to reach out to Republicans. We have got to reach out to independents.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will ask Democrats to serve in my administration.
SCHNEIDER: Could either of them pick a running mate from the other party? Barack Obama would have to find an anti-war Republican, like Chuck Hagel, who is conveniently retiring from the Senate this year.
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: We're bogged down in a deep hole in Iraq. And we're going to have to get out of that hole.
SCHNEIDER: John McCain would have to find a pro-war Democrat. Joe Lieberman calls himself an independent Democrat.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: Thank you.
You have got to put the future of the country, I believe, over party interests. And that's why I'm supporting the candidate John McCain.
SCHNEIDER: A bipartisan ticket, neat idea, huh? We asked an expert on the presidency. STEPHEN HESS, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: It's one of those ideas that gets floated by people who either haven't thought it through or people who just have too much time on their hands.
SCHNEIDER: The candidates might agree on Iraq, but differ on other issues, like abortion. That could split the convention, which has to vote on the nominee. And think of all the trouble it could cause in the campaign.
HESS: They run as a team, and it turns out that there are dozens of dozens of other things that they disagree on, which the opposition shows that they disagree on.
SCHNEIDER: It's asking for trouble. And that's the one thing you don't need in a running mate.
SCHNEIDER: Since 1804, when presidents and vice presidents started getting elected as a ticket, has a major party presidential candidate ever named a running mate from the other party? Yes. Once. The ticket won, too, but it was not a good experience.
When Republican President Abraham Lincoln ran for reelection in 1864, he chose a pro-Union Southern Democrat, Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, as his running mate. Lincoln was murdered. Johnson became president, and he got impeached by the Republican Congress. Not a happy precedent -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Not a happy one, indeed.
All right, Bill, thanks very much. Good reporting.
So, what does Senator McCain need to look for in a vice president? The Minnesota governor, Tim Pawlenty, offers this suggestion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. TIM PAWLENTY (R), MINNESOTA: For somebody who's a governor, you would bring executive experience. You would bring domestic issues, like education and health care reform. And, in the case of many governors, they also have some, you know, international experience as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Jennifer Palmieri and Kevin Madden are standing by for our "Strategy Session." They're ready to break down the choices.
Also, first daughter Jenna Bush sits down with Jay Leno to talk about her recent wedding. You're going to want to hear the new nickname for her mother.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Hillary Clinton at an editorial board meeting in South Dakota not that long ago, and she made these remarks. I'm going to play the sound clip from what she told those editors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People have been trying to push me out of this ever since Iowa.
CLINTON: I don't know.
CLINTON: I don't know. I don't -- I find it curious, because it is -- it is unprecedented in history. I don't understand it.
And, you know, between my opponent and his camp and some in the media, there has been this urgency to end this. And, you know, historically, that makes no sense. So, I find it a bit of a mystery.
QUESTION: You don't buy the party unity argument?
CLINTON: I don't, because, again, I have been around long enough. My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June.
CLINTON: Right? We all remember, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. You know, I just -- I don't understand it. And there's lots of speculation about why it is, but...
QUESTION: What's your speculation?
CLINTON: I don't -- you know, I don't know. I find it curious. And I don't want to attribute...
CLINTON: ... motives or strategies to people, because I don't really know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Her comment about Bobby Kennedy being assassinated in June of 1968, when he was running for president, that has caused some concern, especially among Obama supporters. Bill Burton, an Obama campaign spokesman, said, "Senator Clinton's statement between the 'Argus Leader' editorial board was unfortunate and has no place in this campaign."
A spokesman for the Clinton campaign says: "She was simply referencing her husband in 1992 and Bobby Kennedy in 1968, of historical examples of the nominating process going well into the summer. Any reading into it beyond that is inaccurate and outrageous."
Let's discuss this briefly with our "Strategy Session."
We're going to be hearing more from Hillary Clinton just a moment from now -- 1968 was the assassination of Bobby Kennedy.
Joining us now is Jennifer Palmieri. She's a Democratic strategist. Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist, used to work for Mitt Romney. Jennifer Palmieri worked for John Edwards, before that, in the Clinton White House.
We're going to be hearing from Senator Clinton. She's going to explain what exactly she meant shortly. We will get that to our viewers.
BLITZER: But is this a source of any concern to you, or is this just a big misunderstanding?
JENNIFER PALMIERI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think this could be really -- I think this could be very big trouble for her.
I have talked to -- it only happened, I think, a short while ago. And I have already talked to a number -- heard from a number of reporters about it. And the question everybody says is, what was she thinking?
I mean, I think we saw, from the clip, that she sounds like she's exhausted. I don't think she woke up today saying, let me go ahead and draw a parallel between '68 and 2008. But to -- to evoke the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, I think it gives the people who have been looking for a reason to say, enough with her and to push her out of the race, it gives them a reason to do that.
BLITZER: What do you think, Kevin?
KEVIN MADDEN, FORMER ROMNEY CAMPAIGN NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY: Well, it's extremely tasteless comments. It may have been in the heat of exhaustion at the end of a campaign.
But it does call into question the core argument that a lot of people have against Hillary Clinton, which is that there's a sense of disunity for continuing this campaign. And the fact that she would cite an assassination from 1968 as a reason for staying in the race just causes so much more concern about her motives during this race.
BLITZER: And, only moments ago, she spoke out.
Our political producer, Peter Hamby, was on the scene. He's joining us on the phone.
We don't have a videotape yesterday.
But tell our viewers, Peter, what she said.
PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: Senator Clinton just came out of the grocery store here in South Dakota. And she actually apologized. She said she in no way meant to offend the Kennedy family whatsoever.
Her actual words were: "Earlier today, I was discussing the Democratic primary history, and, in the course of that discussion, mentioned the campaigns that both my husband and Senator Kennedy waged in California in 1992 and 1968. And I was referencing those to make the point that we have had nominations and primary contests that go into June. And that's historical fact."
Then she referenced Senator Ted Kennedy's recent brain tumor. And she said: "The Kennedys have been much on my mind in the last days because of Senator Kennedy. And I regret that, if my referencing of that moment of trauma for the entire nation" -- speaking about Robert F. Kennedy -- "was in any way offensive, and I certainly had no intention of that whatsoever. In my -- it is my view that we have to look to the past and to our leaders who have inspired and given us a lot to live up to. And I'm honored to hold Senator Kennedy's seat in the United States Senate from the state of New York. And I have the highest regard for the entire Kennedy family."
So, again, you see her there sort of apologizing if anyone misread her comments. That comes after one of her campaign spokesmen gave a statement sort of saying that any reading into this statement that she made earlier to the "Argus" newspaper would be outrageous -- so, sort of a quick change of tone from the Clinton campaign. And Clinton just came out and gave that statement.
BLITZER: All right, Peter, you got the sense, though, watching her -- and we will get that videotape shortly -- you got the sense that she deeply regrets the analogy, the reference to Bobby Kennedy.
HAMBY: Absolutely. It was sort of a hastily arranged press conference at the back of a campaign event here.
She came out. And, again, she said that the Kennedys have been much on her mind in the last days because of Senator Ted Kennedy, and: It would be my regret if referencing that moment of trauma for the entire nation was in any way offensive. She certainly has no intention of that whatsoever, is what she said.
BLITZER: All right. Peter, thanks very much. We will get that videotape and show it to our viewers shortly.
Jennifer, what do you think?
PALMIERI: I think that she's -- I think I -- I take her at her word. I imagine that probably is what happened.
I can see how the Kennedys would be on her mind and she would, unthinkingly, at the "Argus Leader" ed board, which she probably feels there's probably not a press attention to. But the problem for her is, people are waiting to jump on anything that she does as a reason to say she should leave.
I think Barack Obama may have taken care of his problem of having to put her on the ticket today. It could get...
BLITZER: That serious? You think this is...
PALMIERI: It could become that -- it could be -- if people are looking -- when people are looking for stuff, it could become that serious, although I do -- it's not necessarily fair, because I think that she -- I take her at her word about how -- why this happened. But...
BLITZER: I mean, she's moving quickly to try to fix this.
PALMIERI: That was very smart. I think she was good, right.
MADDEN: It is very smart. And Jennifer's right. I mean, this -- it could be a bigger problem, that -- the explanation that was offered is a recognition of just how big of a problem this could be...
MADDEN: ... if they don't deal with it immediately.
The bigger problem is that it once again becomes a distraction at a time where she's still trying to make an argument to superdelegates and voters.
BLITZER: Yes. This is a problem she certainly didn't need right now.
Very quickly, Kevin, let me start with you. John McCain is welcoming a lot of his pals into his ranch in Arizona this weekend, including your former boss Mitt Romney. Some speculation maybe he's seeking a vice presidential running pick.
What advice do you have? What should he be looking for?
MADDEN: Well, I think you also have to take the McCain campaign at their word, that this is a social visit. But I think that what the...
BLITZER: The characteristics that you're looking for.
MADDEN: Right. The threshold that -- that...
BLITZER: And we have put them up behind you, if you want to look.
MADDEN: Right. Right.
I think what the McCain campaign is going to have to look for is somebody who can raise money, first of all, because you're going to see a great disparity between the resources that the Democrats and the Republicans -- between the Democrats and Republicans. And, so, somebody's going to have to be able to go out there and raise money for the party, raise money for the campaign.
Secondly, you're going to need somebody -- if you consider the fact that John McCain had the knock on him is that he doesn't know that much about the economy, he's not as well-schooled on the issues, like health care, these kitchen-table issues, you're going to have to have a nominee who can go toe to toe with the Democrats on the economy and health care.
And, lastly, I think the threshold for John McCain to choose somebody who has to be ready to be president is much higher, because there are continuing questions about his age. So, that is another and that he's going to have to put together a ticket that's going to be -- that's going to balance his age with some youth.
BLITZER: Jennifer, I was going to have you look at some characteristics for the Democrats, but, unfortunately, we're out of time. We will save that for the next time.
BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much for coming up.
We're going to continue to watch and wait for the tape from Hillary Clinton speaking about those remarks she made in South Dakota involving Bobby Kennedy. We will get those remarks.
Also, much more coming up on Cindy McCain -- a major reversal in the McCain campaign. Now she's releasing her income tax returns from the year 2006 -- much more on that coming up.
Also, police shootings of a different kind -- officers can now use their guns to shoot video. We're going to tell you what's going on.
And hanging chad are back -- a new HBO film revisits the ballot controversy in Florida during the 2000 presidential election. I'll be joined by one of the stars of "Recount." Kevin Spacey will be here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Let's go back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Another nice quiet Friday before the long holiday weekend, huh, Wolf?
BLITZER: I know. It's never dull here, Jack. We have got a lot more surprises coming up as well. Just wait.
CAFFERTY: Got the John McCain medical records. We got Cindy McCain's tax returns, and the Hillary Clinton hoof-in-mouth disease from South Dakota, and it's not even 5:00 yet.
The question this hour -- on a totally different subject -- how will soaring gas and food prices affect your plans for the Memorial Day weekend?
Mark writes from Pennsylvania: "I spend $50 a week just to drive to work. This weekend, I stay home, no driving, no gas stations, no feeding the pockets of oil company executives or Arab sheiks. Mine will be spent as a truly American holiday with my loved ones."
T.D. writes: "Consumers are not going to let their economy spoil their holidays. It's been proven over and over again."
Steve says: "For me, Memorial Day weekend has always been stay at home to watch the Indy 500 and old war movies on TV. By the way, Indy car fuel economy, five miles per gallon of ethanol."
Mike in New Orleans writes: "We're staying home. We looked at our leisure budget for Memorial Day Weekend, figured out whiskey is cheaper than gas."
Kevin in Massachusetts: "It will be burgers and hotdogs this year, instead of steak and lobster this year. Motor home will be parked in the backyard, instead of the campground. We will all sit and watch the Travel Channel for that vacation experience."
Courtney in South Windsor, Connecticut: "It will affect mine a bit. It basically means the quality of my celebratory beverages will go down, but my consumption of them will go up. Drowning myself in Busch Light hasn't seemed this appealing since I was in college."
And Mark in Kalamazoo, Michigan: "No way it bothers me, Jack. Eighty miles per gallon on the motorcycle, what better way to get out and enjoy the weekend? Besides, fast-food prices usually stay under five bucks. Ought to be a killer weekend."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog, CNN.com/caffertyfile. Look for yours there, along with hundreds of others -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.