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McCain's Health Examined; Clinton Apologizes For RFK Remark; Obama's Fight for Florida

Aired May 23, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, the breaking news we're following, Hillary Clinton's new regret. She says a remark about Robert Kennedy's assassination was not meant to offend. Was there a message in there about Barack Obama's campaign? We have Clinton's reaction on videotape. It's just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also this hour, John McCain's revealing day. He made his medical records public, and his wife suddenly released some of her tax returns to boot. We have been poring over these documents for you.

And Pastor John Hagee says it's for the best that he and McCain have now parted ways. Hagee is speaking out today about McCain and strongly defending his own views about Hitler and the Holocaust -- all of that coming up and the best political team on television.

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

But, first, the breaking news this hour.

Hillary Clinton is trying to put out a new fire within her campaign. At issue right now, a reference she made today to the assassination of Robert Kennedy while discussing her ongoing challenge to Barack Obama.

Our Brian Todd is following all of these late-breaking developments in this story. Lots of questions now being asked.

Brian, update our viewers on what is going on.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Senator Clinton's team is trying to downplay this, but a stir has been created, nonetheless.

Mrs. Clinton, speaking to a newspaper editorial board in South Dakota earlier today, talked about the idea of people wanting her to end her campaign and tried to make the case that other campaigns have extended well into June. Here's what she said.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June. QUESTION: June.

CLINTON: Right? We all remember, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California.


TODD: Now, it's that reference to Senator Robert Kennedy's assassination in June of 1968 that has brought criticism of Mrs. Clinton. The Obama campaign was very quick to do that.

Senator Clinton's statement, they says, before the "Argus Leader" editorial board -- that's the newspaper -- they say that was unfortunate and has no place in this campaign.

Now, a short time ago, Mrs. Clinton came out and said she regrets any misunderstandings here.


CLINTON: ... and in the course of that discussion, mentioned the campaigns that both my husband and Senator Kennedy waged in California in June in 1992 and 1968.

And I was referencing those to make the point that we have had nomination primary contests that go into June. That's a historic fact.

The Kennedys have been much on my mind the last days because of Senator Kennedy. And, i, you know, regret that if my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation and particularly for the Kennedy family was in any way offensive. I certainly had no intention of that whatsoever.

My view is that we have to look to the past and to our leaders who have inspired us and give 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 have the highest regard for the entire Kennedy family.



TODD: Her campaign, though, is somewhat more combative.

They said in a statement: "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."

Wolf, but clearly into a mirror into what it's like to campaign these days. Anything you say really can be used against you at almost any time. And this happened today.

BLITZER: Yes, that's one of the prices of this business. All right, thanks very much, Brian.

And coming up, we're going be speaking with Maggie Williams, Hillary Clinton's campaign manager. We're going to get her explanation on what's going on. That's coming up shortly here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're also following another major development today.

For the first time in almost a decade, John McCain has briefly opened up his medical records. The Republican candidate is 71 years old. He's had several bouts of skin cancer, including the most serious kind of skin cancer. But McCain's doctor says there's no medical reason why he shouldn't be president of the United States.

Let's go to our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He was among those select group of reporters who had a chance personally to review all of these medical records.

Sanjay, what did you learn?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it was a very detailed, almost voyeuristic look into his health history -- 1,200 pages we had to go through in about three hours.

There was a lot in there, Wolf. There was stuff about his cancer history, things about his heart history, even details about his colonoscopy.


GUPTA (voice-over): We have seen Senator John McCain crisscrossing the country on the campaign trail, but the question is, is he ready for the rigors of the presidency?

Now we have gotten some more information.

(on camera): It's sort of a little bit of a different experience than I'm used to as a medical doctor. We're going to be sort of ensconced in this room for a period of time.

No electronic devices are allowed in. I have my notes sort of prepared, the things that I'm looking for. And we're going to see what we find.

(voice-over): We're learning how extensive McCain's operation for melanoma was in 2000. Doctors removed 34 lymph nodes in his neck. Doctors say the high number was due to an abundance of caution. He still has swelling that is obvious.

McCain has had melanoma removed four times, the most recent in 2002. There's a 66 percent chance of it recurring within 10 years. Eight years have already passed.

Also new, McCain had skin cancer taken off his leg in February of this year, squamous cell carcinoma. His campaign insists it's under control. Blood pressure 134 over 84, fine. Cholesterol 192, that's down from 226 just five years ago. It looks like the medications are helping here.

He's also had an operation to reduce the size of his prostate. He smoked two packs a day for 25 years, up to 1980, and had polyps removed from his colon, but no signs of cancer from any of those.

He was beaten and tortured while a POW. His shoulders were both broken. To this day, he can't lift them over his head. And doctors say he may need both shoulders replaced. He does dizzy from time to time, especially when tipping his head back. Diagnosis? Vertigo, a problem with his inner ear.

As far as fitness goes, medical records had him at both 5'6'' and 5'9''. We will go with 5'9''. Weight, 163. That puts his VMI at 24, pretty good, pushing the normal limit. His heart and circulatory system were all within normal limits for a man his age.

There was hardly any mention of his mental health. And while he trots out his 96-year-old mother on the campaign trail, it is worth noting his father died at age 70 of a stroke.


GUPTA: And there's also no question that he's getting very comprehensive care, Wolf.

There's about eight doctors that I could -- from my tally, were actually involved in his care this year, and they released extreme details about his medical records. In fact, they even had pictures, for example, of his colonoscopy, something that, as a -- sort of releasing it to the country is a pretty remarkable amount of detail, Wolf.

BLITZER: Bottom line, he's in pretty good shape right now, given the history he's had of a POW, the history of cancer. He seems to be in decent shape right now. Is that right, Doctor?

GUPTA: Yes. I think if you had to sort of give a summary statement, all the doctors said, look, he's fit to lead. That was sort of their bottom line. And they based that on his cardiac history, his skin history, and everything that's sort of going on.

And we were looking for specific details about his mental health as well. We didn't see a lot of that, interestingly enough. But again I think your summation is correct, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Sanjay Gupta, thanks very much for that. Thanks for all the work today. He's put in a very, very long day for all of us.

Let's go back to Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File."

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wait until McCain gets the bill. Neurosurgeons don't work cheap, very high hourly rate.



BLITZER: He could do worse. I will tell you, Sanjay's a great neurosurgeon.

CAFFERTY: Oh, absolutely. Yes. No, he is a good one.

Hillary Clinton is reminding voters about that 11-year-old Kentucky boy who sold his bicycle, remember, and his video games so he could donate more than $400 to her campaign. And his parents let him do it, and she took the money.

After her winning Kentucky this week, Clinton once again thanks Dalton Hatfield, saying that he helped her carry the day in his home state.

"The New York Times" caught up with the fifth-grader, who says he decided to donate to Clinton's campaign about two months ago, when he was that she was running low on money -- quote -- "I just saw so much that I didn't need, such as like my video games. And I thought, what can I do with them?" -- unquote.

So, he sold his bike and his video games and he collected some other donations as well. He says, "Clinton has very good views" -- quoting here -- "on specific issues that are important to this election, including the war, the economy, and health care."

All things that matter deeply to the average 11-year-old, I'm sure.

Hatfield has since met with both former Mr. Bill Clinton and Hillary. He says he was nervous about meeting Senator Clinton, but she told him that she will -- quote -- "always have two friends," her and Bill.

The elementary school student says he would have to think about raising money for Obama should he become the nominee. And he says as of right now, probably not.

The story of a little kid selling his toys in order to donate money to a politician is the perfect way for "The Cafferty File" to end the week.

Here's the question: Would you let your children to sell their toys in order to donate to a politician? Go to You can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: See you in a few moments, Jack. Thanks very much.

Coming up, Maggie Williams, she's Hillary Clinton's campaign manager. We're going to speak to her -- Senator Clinton now voicing regret over comments she made. She's taking heat for mentioning Robert Kennedy's assassination during a discussion of political campaigns. I will be speaking with Maggie Williams. That's next.

And the $6 million woman. John McCain's wife had vowed to keep her tax returns private forever. But all of a sudden, suddenly, today, she's going public. What's going on?

Plus, Barack Obama's tough sell. Can he persuade anti-Castro Cuban Americans, who tend to vote Republican, to back a Democrat who's willing to talk with America's foes?

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


BLITZER: John McCain's wealthy wife has steadfastly refused to make her tax returns public. The other day she said she would never do so, to protect the privacy of her children. But today, suddenly, she changed her mind.

Let's go straight to CNN's Mary Snow.

Mary, what is going on? Why the sudden turnaround?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, not 100 percent clear.

Cindy McCain, though, has released a summary of her 2006 tax returns. Those summaries show that, in the year 2006, he total income was more than $6 million and she paid about $1.7 million in taxes.

This is according to the campaign, because she didn't want to be a distraction. As you mentioned, she had aid she would never release her tax returns, because she said in her 28 years being married to John McCain, they had separate assets, filed separate tax returns.

She is an heiress of her family's beer distribution company, and some reports have her wealth estimated to be about $100 million. This reversal came although late this afternoon, and, of course, the timing was not lost on anyone, that it came late on a Friday afternoon, right before Memorial Day weekend, and just hours after Senator McCain's medical records had been released.

Now, there was a very quick and sharp criticism coming from the Democratic National Committee to this news, saying that still the McCain camp lacks transparency, calling it laughable for so little information to be released, only because these summaries had been released.

The McCain camp says, look, take a look at 2004. Teresa Heinz Kerry initially refused to release her tax returns, but eventually did in the same manner. The McCain camp says now it has disclosed as much information and plans to do the same for Cindy McCain's 2007 tax returns -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And there's been some estimates she could be worth, as you say, maybe even $100 million, that entire business that her father left her and her family.

The McCain campaign giving any explanation , the details of how they came to change their mind about releasing this kind of information? SNOW: You know, when I asked a campaign spokesperson, they said -- the only answer that they gave is that she had decided in recent days that she wanted to make this information available because she didn't want it to be a distraction.

But, as you pointed out, this is a pretty limited picture of her overall wealth. She had cited privacy reasons as not wanting to release all these documents. So, it's really unclear exactly what prompted this move at this time.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Mary. I know you're working this story for us.

Mary Snow is out in Arizona.

Let's get back to the breaking news right now we have been following, Hillary Clinton now expressing regret for a controversial reference to the assassination of Robert Kennedy back in 1968.

Joining us on the phone is the Clinton campaign manager Maggie Williams.

Maggie, thanks very much for spending a few moments with us.

Walk us through the thinking. What was going on?

MAGGIE WILLIAMS, CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, I think that Senator Clinton has been very clear about what was going on.

I think she was discussing the Democratic primary history, as she said in a statement. And in the course of that discussion, she spoke about the campaigns that former President Clinton and Senator Clinton waged all the way through June, for President Clinton in June 1992, and, of course, for Senator Kennedy 1968.

And she was she was speaking about those to make a point that we have had in the Democratic Party nomination primary contests that go through June. That's what was going on.

BLITZER: But you understand the sensitivity? Whenever you bring up a presidential candidate, an assassination, and then you make the seeming comparison to what's going on, you understand why some people see this as very controversial, a major gaffe, one that could cause Senator Clinton some embarrassment?

WILLIAMS: Well, I think that the senator was very clear.

And anyone who saw her on television as she made the statement, it was clear to anybody watching her this afternoon that she was deeply regretful that people did not understand the context in which she made this reference.

And, so, I think that she immediately, as soon as she could, spoke out to express her regret for -- for perhaps the way that she had spoken, or that people had misinterpreted what she meant. I think, too, she was in front of a group of journalists talking to an editorial board. And it seemed, from watching the clip, to me and from anyone else who watched that clip that those who were there, who were journalists, understood the context in which she was making these remarks, once again, discussing the Democratic primary history, and, once again, referencing nominations that had gone -- contests that had gone into June.

BLITZER: Wasn't the first time she did it. In an interview back in March, in early March, in "TIME" magazine, she made a similar statement to "TIME," saying -- she was asked why she's staying in, basically.

"I think people have short memories" She said: "Primary contests used to last a lot longer. We all remember the great tragedy of Bobby Kennedy being assassinated in L.A. My husband didn't wrap up the nomination in 1992 until June. Having a primary contest go through June is nothing particularly unusual."

So, this would be the second time she's made a reference to Bobby Kennedy.

Does that -- what does that say about this story?

WILLIAMS: Well, I just want to say that, in both cases -- I just want to underscore this once again -- that this was a response to the question, essentially, you know, why are people asking me to leave this campaign early?

And I think that she was saying, quite clearly -- or trying to say quite clearly -- that the urgency to end the primary process early was, you know, was -- you know, was unprecedented. And, so, these remarks grew directly from her trying to make that point.

BLITZER: Maggie Williams, Senator Clinton's campaign manager, thanks very much for joining us.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

BLITZER: All three presidential candidates talk about their ability to reach across party lines. But what would happen if the actual nominees chose vice presidential running mates from the opposite party? We're exploring that question. That's coming up.

And the pastor who parted ways with John McCain. John Hagee is today speaking out once again on the candidate and on his own views about the Holocaust and Hitler.

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


BLITZER: Barack Obama set out to sway Cuban Americans in Miami today. As a Democrat who says he's sit down with America's foes, he had his work cut out for him, meeting with a group that historically votes Republican and is bitterly opposed to the communist regime in Havana.

CNN's John Zarrella has the story.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Cuban Americans listened politely and applauded Barack Obama, but the question is, will they vote for him? The Illinois senator came to Miami to sell his vision for Cuba.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Together, we will stand up for freedom in Cuba.

ZARRELLA: Obama spoke at a Cuban American National Foundation luncheon. The organization has for decades driven U.S. policy towards Cuba.

For Cuban Americans, Democrats have historically been a tough sell. Obama may be even tougher. The senator has said he would be willing to meet with Raul Castro. That does not play well here. Friday, he stood by his words, saying it's time to pursue direct diplomacy without preconditions.

OBAMA: As president, I would be willing to lead that diplomacy at a time and place of my choosing, but only when we have an opportunity to advance the interests of the United States, but, even more importantly, to advance the cause of the freedom for the Cuban people.

ZARRELLA: For many in his audience, any notion of talking with Cuba's current leaders makes them uneasy.

RAMON SAUL-SANCHEZ, DEMOCRACY MOVEMENT: Make sure that that dialogue happens for the best interest of the Cuban people and not to maintain the status quo, or to just do business with the Cuban regime.

ZARRELLA: Obama promised two things most Cuban Americans want. He would immediately end current restrictions by allowing Cuban Americans to visit relatives on the island and to send money to families in Cuba.

Will that be enough to break the Republican stranglehold here? Bill Clinton got more votes in the Cuban exile community than any Democrat ever, and he only polled 35 percent.

John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.


BLITZER: The pastor whose endorsement was rejected by John McCain now says he's the target of vicious lies. Just ahead, John Hagee is speaking out about the last 24 hours, 24 hours he calls painful.

Plus, Hillary Clinton's eyebrow-raising remark about Robert Kennedy's assassination, has she explained herself adequately? The best political team on television is standing by.

And could a bipartisan ticket be the way to win the White House? We will consider if there's any chance of that actually happening. Bill Schneider on this story for us.

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


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

Happening now, Hillary Clinton taking heat and expressing regret for mentioning Robert Kennedy's assassination in a discussion of her contest with Barack Obama. Will it be enough, though, to put out the fire, what she's doing right now? We will tell you.

Also, his controversial remarks dogged John McCain's campaign. Now they have parted ways, and now the Pastor John Hagee is speaking out, saying he's the victim.

Plus, Barack Obama courting one of Florida's most important voting blocs, Cuban Americans -- all of that coming up, plus the best political team on television.

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

Pastor John Hagee says he's looking for closure today on this, the day after John McCain rejected his presidential endorsement. Hagee says he's been the target of vicious lies. ] Once again, let's go to Brian Todd. He's looking at this story for us.

Brian, you broke this story for us yesterday here in THE SITUATION ROOM on Pastor Hagee and John McCain severing ties. What is Hagee saying today in the aftermath of this uproar?

TODD: Well, Wolf, Pastor Hagee says the past couple of days have been disappointing and painful for him, and he says that has nothing to do with him and John McCain parting company.


TODD (voice-over): Frustrated by perceived distortions in the media, an embattled church leader uses his own airwaves to strike back at critics.

PASTOR JOHN HAGEE, CORNERSTONE CHURCH: 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.

TODD: But Pastor John Hagee does not apologize or back away from the controversial remarks that led John McCain to reject his endorsement -- a sermon in the 1990s in which Hagee said Adolph Hitler was sent by God to push the Jews out of Europe.

HAGEE: Why did it happen?

Because God said my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel.

TODD: Following inquiries from CNN about Hagee's sermon, McCain rejected his endorsement, which the pastor then withdrew. Hagee's defense is combative.

HAGEE: To assert that I in any way condoned the Holocaust or that monster, Adolph Hitler, is the most vicious of lies.

TODD: Hagee said his sermon was an effort to merely explain how God could let the Holocaust take place. And a popular San Antonio rabbi, who is also a close friend, supported him.

When we asked a representative for Hagee if there was any resentment toward McCain, she said she wouldn't go that far.

But she said don't expect Hagee to get back into the political game anytime soon. And observers say the fallout may affect other Republicans seeking the support of Evangelicals.

TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: And I think this is going to send a pretty strong message to a lot of Evangelical leaders who they need the support of. And I think they would be hesitant to make an endorsement, thinking that everything they've taught on, everything they've said would be scrutinized.


TODD: And that feeling may be mutual. One political analyst told us, this is the year when candidates may decide that endorsements and surrogates of any kind are simply not worth it, that they can lose you more votes than they can get for you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brian.

Brian Todd reporting for us.

The controversial pastor, John Hagee, as we just saw, speaking out about his parting of ways with John McCain, saying he's been the target of vicious lies.

Let's talk about this and more with Republican consultant Alex Castellanos. He was an adviser to the Romney presidential campaign. He's a partner at a media firm that has corporate clients such as the U.S. chain of Chamber of Commerce that specializes in Republican political ads.

Also joining us, our own Jack Cafferty, and Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez. She's the former -- a former adviser to President Bush. She's now on the board of a nonprofit -- the nonprofit Providence Health Foundation, also heads a market research firm specializing in Hispanic outreach for its corporate clients. They are all part of the best political team on television.

Guys, thanks very much for joining us.

Let's start off with Hagee.

And, Leslie, let me start with you. Is this the end of it? What's going on?

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I don't believe it's the end of it, but it's the beginning of a -- probably an interesting conversation.

If you think of this as the year of the Independents, a lot of people are really sensitive to where people are going to fall one side or the other. I think there is a lot of hypersensitivity right now to the issues of faith and basically are these candidates going to stand by these endorsements?

I don't think it's the last time we're going to hear this.

And it is an important point -- are these endorsements going to make an impact?

I tend to think that they're not.

BLITZER: What do you think, Alex?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think these endorsements are turning into noise and not endorsements. You know, the way it works in politics is that when somebody endorsed a candidate, it's exactly that. That means that they support the candidate, not that the candidate supports them.

I think the difference with Reverend Wright and Barack Obama is that Senator Obama sat in those church pews for 20 years and tells us that he got the good message. He got the audacity of hope from Reverend Wright and he wants us to accept, however, that he didn't get the other part of the message, the -- some of it that seems anti- American. And, of course, you know, that may be exactly right. But it's a fair debate to have.

BLITZER: What do you think, Jack?

CAFFERTY: Well, I think it's very much an open question whether or not John McCain needs the support of some of the Evangelical Christians. They make up a big part of the Republican base. And without them, his chances of being elected are diminished, I would think. And the point that was made right at the end of Brian Todd's piece, some of these Evangelicals may get cold feet about wading into the political waters now, figuring that people are going to go back and research every sermon they ever gave, looking for some sort of little offensive comment that can be turned into an issue. I think, politically, that could be harmful for John McCain. He needs the Evangelicals.

BLITZER: All right, Leslie, how big of a deal is this gaffe -- if it is a gaffe -- that Hillary Clinton made speaking about the 1968 assassination of Bobby Kennedy and referencing it going into June? We all heard the story by now.

SANCHEZ: It could have impact. I'll tell you why. It's not the first time -- I think there's an undercurrent there that a lot of people are concerned about having a woman on a ticket, you know, as the Democratic nominee, as an African-American. You know, it's just an unusual time.

And I think it hit -- it could have hit a nerve, especially among a lot of women. I think she is correct in trying to explain her comment, apologize for her comment. But there's an emotional trigger to that that may affect some voters. I think her rapid response is critical right now.

BLITZER: Jack, what do you think?

CAFFERTY: Well, I think if Mike Huckabee hadn't made that stupid joke in his NRA speech last week about somebody pointing a gun at Barack Obama and him diving under a chair, the impact of this might be less. I think it remains to be seen how big an impact it has. It will be interesting to watch uncommitted superdelegates and how they react to this. It will also be interesting to see if she gets a thank you note from John McCain for taking him off the front page tomorrow, with his medical records and Cindy McCain's tax returns, because I think she might have done that.

BLITZER: What did you think, Alex?

CASTELLANOS: Well, I think any of us who have ever tried to say something and it came out in a way we did not intend is feeling for Hillary Clinton today. I mean, certainly, I don't think she meant it to be understood the way it came out. She was trying to make a point that this primary process runs a long time.

You know, the same thing happened to me last week. The last time I was on the roundtable, I was trying to make a point about Senator Clinton's toughness and strength, which I respect, and I chose the wrong words and the way to say it. And, you know, I'm sorry I said it that way. It was the wrong thing.

But I think Senator Clinton, I think, is the -- in an unfortunate position that when folks are looking for any way to say that maybe this race should be brought to a conclusion, she may have given them a reason today.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by, because we're going to have more to talk about coming up.

They usually lean Republican, but can Barack Obama persuade Florida's Cuban-American voters to support him over John McCain?

Plus, could a presidential candidate pick a running mate from the other party?

We're going to show you how it could help -- or could it hurt?

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


BLITZER: Barack Obama today busy courting Florida's critical Cuban-American voters.

Let's continue our discussion with the best political team on television.

Alex, does he have a shot at convincing some of the younger Cuban-Americans down in Florida that he's their man?

CASTELLANOS: You know, he did himself, I think, some good today in that he said, look, I'm going to talk directly to Raul Castro and Fidel Castro, but I'm going to take you, the Cuban exile community, with me and I'm going to give you a chance to slap them around a little bit. And I thought that was, you know, that was pretty good spin on his message that he would go meet with them directly.

However, I think a lot of the folks in the exile community today, of all generations, are thinking, you know, what's that day going to look like when the president of the United States -- possibly a Barack Obama -- goes down to Cuba and meets with Fidel and Raul Castro?

What kind of legitimacy would that give them -- or when he allows them, say, to come to the White House?

And, you know, these are people that the Cuban exile community believes -- and rightly so -- have killed people and still have people and reporters in prison. So I think they're very worried about what that might -- the legitimacy it might give the two tyrants.

BLITZER: But the strategy of the last 40 years, Leslie, hasn't exactly been much of a success in removing the communist regime in Cuba.

SANCHEZ: I think many in the exile community, Wolf, would disagree with that. I think there's a couple of different issues...

BLITZER: But Castro still -- one of the Castros is still in power.

SANCHEZ: Look, if you want to look at it, let's look at it politically. I talked to Al Cardenas a little while back. And he was the chairman of the Republican Party down there. And he said Barack Obama would have some challenges. One, because he does not have the same name I.D. as, perhaps, a Hillary Clinton. He'd have to build his relationship down there. In his 2004 questionnaire, he said he wanted to end the embargo with Cuba. He talked about just in July of last year that he would meet with rogue leaders, you know, without preconditions. And now he's making kind of these different statements, trying to soften that, saying he would take the exile community with him to meet with these leaders.

I think it's going to come down to a question of do you believe what he said then or do you believe what he says now. BLITZER: What's wrong...

SANCHEZ: He's going to have those problems.

BLITZER: Jack, what, if anything, is wrong with Obama's strategy, which he says they may have the same goals -- freedom and democracy in Cuba -- but he wants to try to do it different?

CAFFERTY: Well, you know, this whole idea of diplomacy is a word that hasn't been spoken much in this country in the last eight years. The Bush administration doesn't believe in it, in most cases. And, you know, Barack Obama suggests that if meeting with Raul Castro can serve the interests of the United States and perhaps create more opportunities for freedom for the Cuban people, then that might not be a bad thing.

Hey, it might not be a bad thing.

That said, the Cuban exiles in Little Havana vote Republican and always have. And I don't think any Democrat has ever gotten 40 percent of that vote. So he's got a long row to hoe, as we used to say on the farm.


SANCHEZ: There's an interesting...

CASTELLANOS: Wolf, you raised the interesting...

SANCHEZ: There is...

CASTELLANOS: ...question here, Barack Obama's new strategy. And I think that's right. Look what's happened in the past week. One candidate for president has said he's going to cut taxes for working class people. He's urging parents to turn off their kids' TVs and video games.

He said he was going to -- it's time to stand up to the Saudi oil sheikhs. You know, it sounds like that could be Pat Buchanan or Mike Huckabee, and instead it's Barack Obama. He's moving hard to the right.

And look what he did today -- let's slap Raul Castro and Fidel Castro.

BLITZER: But the argument, Leslie...

SANCHEZ: Exactly.

BLITZER: The argument is that Ronald Reagan, you know, as much as the Soviets were threatened at the height of the cold war with nuclear missiles pointed at the United States, a repressive regime in the Soviet Union, he had direct talks with the leadership there. And, in the end, we saw that dialogue resulted, eventually, in the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the cold war. That's the argument behind talking to adversaries right now. What's wrong with that?

SANCHEZ: You know, I think the are -- there's more time than we have right now. But I think it goes back to this issue of preconditions. And I do think Alex is right in talking about a kind of consistency. One of the problems in bringing back Barack Obama is that people wonder if he is too naive, is he politically experienced to handle these types of leaders, does he have the mettle to sit and meet with them and negotiate the best interests of the U.S. I think a lot of people are questioning that now.

And when you see inconsistencies in something that he's saying and these types of flip-flops, it's a reminder of John Kerry. It's a reminder that he's...

BLITZER: All right...

SANCHEZ: It's politics as usual.

BLITZER: All right, button this up, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Well, I just think that the American people have expressed it very clearly. Eighty-two percent of them think the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Who's been running the country for the last eight years?

The Republicans. They want change. That's why a guy like Barack Obama is getting the resonance that he is. The public will figure out what they want to do in November. But my bet is that they're not going to vote for the status quo.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, stand by, because you've got "The Cafferty File" coming up.

Let me thank Alex Castellanos very much and Leslie.

Have a great weekend. All of you have an enjoyable Memorial Day weekend.

CASTELLANOS: Appreciate it.

BLITZER: So would you let your children sell their toy in order to donate to a politician?

That's our question this hour. Jack will be back with your e- mail.

Plus, they're called the purple states and they're very important to Barack Obama. We're going to show you why, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Next week, Barack Obama heads out West to three so- called purple states, where President Bush beat John Kerry back in 2004 by very close margins. Obama will visit the Las Cruces area of New Mexico, Las Vegas and the Denver area on Wednesday.

Obama won the Colorado caucuses 67 percent to Hillary Clinton's 32 percent. In 2004, President Bush won Colorado by almost 5 percentage points over Kerry. Obama lost the Nevada caucuses to Clinton by a 6 percent margin. In 2004, President Bush won by just under 3 percent. Obama lost this year's New Mexico primary to Clinton by only 1 percent. Back in 2004, President Bush beat Kerry there by almost 1 percent.

On our Political Ticker today, Democratic presidential candidate Obama and Republican presidential candidate 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. Their processes have just started.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is standing by.

He's joining us with a little closer look at this story -- Bill, could it be possible that these presidential nominees if, in fact, they're both the nominees, could go across the aisle to pick their running mates?


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've got to reach out to Republicans. We've 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've 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 and 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. And 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: Leave it to Bill Schneider for those historic footnotes.

Thanks very much, Bill, for that.

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

CAFFERTY: All right. In the -- following up on that story of the young man who sold his bicycle and some video games and donated the money to Hillary Clinton -- it's been in the news for a week or two.

The question this hour is: Would you let your children sell their toys in order to donate money to a politician?

Judie writes: "Jack, children are not old enough to vote and they're sure not old enough to sell the toys that their parents work hard to buy for them to give the money to some multi-millionaire politician. I think the parents of the boy who did this were just looking for their 15 seconds of fame. And isn't it beyond belief, the woman who's worth millions of dollars took the money and then talked about it while campaigning?"

Cynthia writes: "More important than would you let your child, who would take it from a child?"

Len in Wisconsin writes: "I would understand certain conditions. I would expect that it would be based on some level of understanding of what was going on and I --."

I'm not going to read that. It's silly.

Mike in California: "Are you kidding? After what the politicians have done to our kids' futures?"

Jasmine in Germany writes: "No, Jack. My children are taught to pass their toys on to other children who really need and deserve them, including orphanages. The only time I've approved of the selling of toys in our family is if it has been for a charity event, such as a fundraiser for a pediatric hospital or a school."

Tom in Avon, Maine says: "If the politician was down to her last $100 million and had fewer than six homes, I might."

And C.T. in Bartlett, Illinois: "Probably not. My son, Jack -- if I tell you he's named after you, will up put this on television -- loves his toys. I would, however, let him sell them to give money to the Cafferty for President campaign."

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

I'm going to take a three day weekend, Mr. Blitzer. I'll see you Tuesday.

BLITZER: Enjoy yourself.

CAFFERTY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Jack, by the way, it's a lovely name and a very popular name, indeed.

CAFFERTY: And he's good-looking guy, too, don't you think?

BLITZER: Very handsome.


BLITZER: All right, Jack. Enjoy Memorial Day weekend.

CAFFERTY: You too, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Supporters of Barack Obama... (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED SUPPORTERS: Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!


BLITZER: You're going to have to see this -- parroting his words, literally. Jeanne Moos -- only Jeanne Moos can take a look at some Moost Unusual supporters of the candidate. You're going to see this coming up next.


BLITZER: The presidential candidates do a lot of flying. But you might be surprised to learn that some of their supporters have wings -- and they just don't fly, they talk.

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos with a Moost Unusual look.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You know, when Barack Obama says...

OBAMA: Yes, we can!

MOOS: ...and the crowd parrots it?

UNIDENTIFIED SUPPORTERS: Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

MOOS: Well, now...

SMOKY, PARROT: Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

MOOS: Even the parrots are parroting it. Oh, yes, Smoky (ph) can.

SMOKY: Obama. Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

MOOS: Can you believe it?

Take it from Smoky's owner, who produces commercials in California.

DOUG DILG, OBAMA SUPPORTER: It's funny because Obama will come on and be speaking and he'll hear Obama and he'll go, he'll go -- "Obama. Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

MOOS: Ah, for the good old days when parrots said things like...


MOOS: Or the old standby...

UNIDENTIFIED PARROT: Polly want a cracker.


MOOS: Now it's Polly want a president?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to vote for Barack Obama?


MOOS: Beebee (ph) is another Obama supporter.

But Hillary has hers, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want Hillary to win?

MOOS: Who's parroting who with all the nodding?

But Smoky has the most extensive political vocabulary.

SMOKY: Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

MOOS: He's flying around the Web attracting comments like "limit that bird's CNN viewing."

(on camera): Doug, how do we know that's really the parrot speaking?

DILG: Well, you can see that it's him, can't you?

MOOS: Well, it sorted of looks -- I don't read beaks well.

(voice-over): Smoky doesn't just talk politics.

DILG: He says, "Oh my God" a lot. But for some reason, it sounds like, "Oh my cow" on this recording.

SMOKY: Oh my cow!

MOOS: Oh my cow is right.

Listen closely, you'll hear barking.

(on camera): Was that the dog or is that the parrot?

DILG: That's Smoky.

MOOS: Barking?

DILG: Yes, that's Smoky barking.


MOOS (voice-over): The parrot parrots the family dog.

MOOS: Smoky began squawking Obama slogans around the time the video started making the rounds.

UNIDENTIFIED SUPPORTERS: Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! SMOKY: Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

MOOS: But for the bird that says no, I can't, how about this as a slogan for the parrot who doesn't care about any of the candidates?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whatever, whatever, whatever.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: And remember, for the latest political news anytime, go to That's also where you can get our new political screensaver and read my daily blog post, as well.

This Sunday on "LATE EDITION," Congressman David Dreier and Congresswoman Jane Harmon -- they're just back from Iraq. "LATE EDITION" starts 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

Until then, I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.


Kitty Pilgrim in for Lou -- Kitty.