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McCain Addresses Nuclear Proliferation; McCain's V.P. Search; Republicans Attack Obama's Historical Gaffe

Aired May 27, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, John McCain and nuclear confrontation. He goes after Barack Obama on national security policy, and he gets heckled along the way. We will show you what happened.

Plus: Obama and the Holocaust. We will tell you what he said about a concentration camp that's prompting Republicans to pounce.

And a surprising new twist in the race for the White House -- a campaign aide is targeted, accused of lobbying for tyrants and murderers -- all that and the best political team on television.

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

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world -- a new attempt today by John McCain to drive home his differences with Barack Obama on national security. But McCain was sidetracked by anti-war hecklers, eager to point out his support for the war in Iraq.

Mary Snow traveled with McCain to Colorado. She's watching this story for us.

He wanted to speak about national security, about nuclear proliferation. Certainly did, but as we say, he got heckled in the process.

What happened, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it really forced him to stray from the script. Protesters were demonstrating against the war in Iraq, and, therefore, John McCain at one point did address them and brought up Iraq, not a topic that he meant to discuss today. But while he did it, he's also making the differences known between him and Barack Obama, not just on this issue, but other foreign policy issues.


SNOW (voice-over): Senator John McCain says neither Democrats, nor Republicans have gotten it right for the past two decades when it comes to controlling the spread of nuclear weapons. For one, he wants to work more closely with Russia on nuclear disarmament.

And without naming Senator Barack Obama, he took an indirect swipe at his likely Democratic rival over North Korea and Iran.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Many believe all we need to do to end the nuclear programs of hostile governments is have our president talk with leaders in Pyongyang and Tehran, as if we haven't tried talking to these governments repeatedly over the past two decades.

SNOW: McCain has been repeatedly targeting Obama for his willingness to talk to enemies.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would initiate direct diplomacy with Iran. That is what I have said. And the reason is, I believe that the policy of not talking to our enemies has not worked.

SNOW: The Obama camp hit back, saying he had been a leader in nuclear nonproliferation, while McCain had not, saying -- quote -- "No speech by John McCain can change the fact that he has not led on nonproliferation issues when he had the chance in the Senate."

Not so, said McCain's campaign. He had been long involved in efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: End this war. End this war.

SNOW: The subject of Iraq was forced on the table as McCain was interrupted four times by protesters.

MCCAIN: And, by the way, I will never surrender in Iraq.

SNOW: McCain also took Obama to task over Iraq, saying -- quote -- "He really has no experience or knowledge or judgment about the issue of Iraq, and he has wanted to surrender for a long time."

McCain took direct aim at Obama for wanting to withdraw troops from Iraq, challenging him to a joint visit to the war zone. The Obama camp calls McCain's proposal to go to Iraq together nothing more than a political stunt.


SNOW: And, Wolf, the Obama camp added that Americans don't want any false promises of progress, but deserve real debate on the war in Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, thank you.

President Bush is preparing to raise campaign cash with John McCain this evening behind closed doors in Arizona. That gave Senator Obama a new opening to try to throw Mr. Bush's baggage at the Republican nominee in waiting.

Listen to what Obama said in Las Vegas just a little while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today, John McCain is having a different kind of meeting. He's holding a fund- raiser with George Bush behind closed doors in Arizona, no cameras, no reporters.

And we all know why. Senator McCain doesn't want to be seen, hat in hand, with the president whose failed policies he promises to continue for another four years.


BLITZER: Let's head out to Scottsdale.

Our White House correspondent, Ed Henry, is on the scene for us.

Ed, All right, what's going on here?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you hear Barack Obama right there trying to assert that John McCain is a carbon copy of the president. But the truth is not quite so black and white.


HENRY (voice-over): Two months ago, President Bush hinted at the delicate balancing act for John McCain to stand side by side with an unpopular commander in chief.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If my showing up and endorsing him separates him, or if I'm against him and it helps him, either way, I want him to win.

HENRY: While Democrats charge a McCain victory will be a third Bush term, the reality is not that simple.



HENRY: Speaking about nuclear disarmament on Tuesday, McCain suggested he would take a tougher line with North Korea than the president has.

MCCAIN: The dictator Kim Jong Il has tested a nuclear weapon, and almost certainly possesses several more nuclear warheads. And it has shared its nuclear and missile know-how with others, including Syria. It is a vital national interest for the North Korean nuclear program to be completely, verifiably and irreversibly ended.

HENRY: But on Iraq, McCain is largely in lockstep with the president, though he tries to distance himself by lashing out at mistakes made by former Bush officials like Donald Rumsfeld.

MCCAIN: I too have been made heartsick by the many mistakes made by civilian and military commanders, and the terrible, terrible price we have paid for them. HENRY: On the economy, McCain is largely in concert with the president. After voting against the Bush tax cuts in 2001, the senator is now trying to woo conservatives by promising to make those very same tax cuts permanent.

MCCAIN: As president, I will keep the current low taxes rate, and I will leave that trillion dollars and more with the millions of Americans who have earned it.

HENRY: But on the environment, McCain has broken dramatically with the president, calling for caps on carbon emissions and suggesting Mr. Bush has not shown leadership on global warming.

MCCAIN: I will not shirk the mantle of leadership that the United States bears. I will not permit eight long years to pass without serious action on serious challenges.


HENRY: White House spokeswoman Dana Perino today tried to sidestep any controversy by saying, while the president will do anything he can to help the Republican candidate, John McCain has to stand on his own two feet.

And that's what the McCain camp is banking on, while he's been in concert with the president on some issues, that McCain's been enough of a maverick on other issues, that he's developed his own brand and can win independent voters -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry in Scottsdale, getting ready for that fund- raiser out there.

Thanks, Ed, very much.

Barack Obama is facing criticism from Republicans for a remark he made about a relative's service in World War II. Listen to what he said.


OBAMA: I had an uncle who was one of the -- who was part of the first American troops to go into Auschwitz and to liberate the concentration camps. And the story in our family was is that, when he came home, he just went up into the attic, and he didn't leave the house for six months.


BLITZER: Let's go straight to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

What's the Obama campaign saying about this, because Republicans are pouncing, as you know, Candy?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Republicans are pouncing because Auschwitz was liberated by the Soviets, it being in Poland.

What the Barack Obama campaign is saying, he made a mistake here, that it was his great uncle and that, in fact, he was there for the liberation of camp Ohrdruf, which was a subcamp of Buchenwald. So, he mistook Auschwitz, confused it for Buchenwald. But the gist of the story, the overall story is true. That's been confirmed by Charles Payne, who is the great uncle in question, his brother, both of them still living, said -- confirmed in part and in whole Barack Obama's story about how Charles Payne did not want to talk about what he saw at Ohrdruf.

So, in fact, they said, listen, the gist of the story is true. But you're right. It wasn't Auschwitz, which was liberated by the Soviets. It was Buchenwald, which of course was liberated by the Americans -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy, thanks very much.

Let's get some more on this.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is standing by. She has more information on Barack Obama's great uncle online there.

We're learning a lot more about this. So, what are we seeing, Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this is Barack Obama's great uncle, his grandmother's brother. And this is video here from Ohrdruf. This of part of the Buchenwald system, video from April 1945 shortly after the 89th Infantry Division, of which Charles Payne was a member and served, shortly after the liberation of the camp.

CNN spoke, as Candy mentioned there, to another one of Barack Obama's great uncles today, who told CNN Charles Payne returned from World War II with photos of the concentration camp, but that he didn't like to talk about it and that he is 83 years old living in Chicago -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Abbi. Thanks very much.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: I visited Dachau on a trip I made to Germany with my wife a few years ago, of course, long after World War II was over. But those places are surreal. And this was years after anybody was there, except for tourists. I can't imagine what it must have been like for the liberating forces, whether they were from Russia or the United States, marching into those places when they were active. It was one of the more profound things that I have gone through, and it stuck with me for probably 15 years since I was there.

Iran is withholding critical information needed to prove whether it's trying to make nuclear weapons. This is according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The U.N.'s nuclear monitor is out with a harsh report suggesting Iran has stonewalled them. The report says Iran has ventured into explosives, uranium processing and a missile warhead design, all activities that could go hand in hand with building nuclear weapons.

Iran continues to insist its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, namely for energy. It dismissed the documents that were put out by the U.N., saying they were forged, although it refused to provide any paperwork to back up its claims.

One Iranian official says the country will continue to cooperate with the IAEA. But the report suggests there hasn't been all that much cooperation going on. One senior official close to the IAEA told "The New York Times" there are some parts of Iran's nuclear program where the military seems to have played a role.

The report also alleges Iran is learning to make more powerful centrifuges. The nuclear watchdog agency says that in April it was denied access to sites where Iranians are making centrifuge components and researching uranium enrichment.

U.S. intelligence says Iran stopped working on nuclear weapons in 2003. But not everybody thinks that's the case.

Here's the question: What should be done about Iran's nuclear program?

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

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack. Thanks very much.

Now that John McCain's rejected the support of a controversial televangelist, is there a conservative backlash?


DAVID BRODY, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK: It was badly handled by McCain, and it showed that he needs to tap-dance with evangelicals all the way through.


BLITZER: David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I will ask if he thinks evangelicals will be furious with McCain if he picks one popular governor as his running mate.

A new ad hits McCain hard. It says one of the his top adviser's lobbying firms helped enrich some of the world's worst tyrants.

And although her campaign is awash in debt, Hillary Clinton says she knows how to manage money. You are going to want to hear how.

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


BLITZER: John McCain says it was just a social gathering, but his weekend visit with several possible vice presidential contenders is raising eyebrows.

There's word that social conservatives have some specific concerns.

I spoke about it just a short while ago with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network.


BLITZER: David, thanks for coming in.

BRODY: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Charlie Crist, the governor of Florida, very popular governor of Florida, Florida a critical state in the Electoral College, as all of us know.

Yet, some on the right, the religious right, are worried about Charlie Crist -- why?

BRODY: Well, a couple different reasons. The choice issue, the life issue, so to speak, of abortion is a big concern among social conservatives when it comes to Charlie Crist.

There is a questionnaire out there from 1998 where Charlie Crist said he was in pro-choice. Now in 2006, he's talking -- or the last time he was really talking about it said he was pro-life. So, there are some issues there. The Terri Schiavo case, he pretty much stood on the sidelines, according many social conservatives, and did not come to their defense in that case.

So, those are two things. There are some other issues as well, but this has been going on for a while, Wolf, within the social conservative ranks, that Charlie Crist is not a good pick for John McCain.

BLITZER: Who do they like?

BRODY: Well, there's quite a few. Mark Sanford has come up. Mike Huckabee, they really do enjoy him to a certain degree as well. And then, of course, Mitt Romney's name is also being mentioned, Bobby Jindal as well.

BLITZER: Because Mitt Romney has changed his position on a lot of these social issues over the years as well.

BRODY: Well, he has, though there's a feeling, though, that, if Romney ever did get on the ticket, that the talk radio chatter might stop on John McCain, based on the fact that the Laura Ingrahams of the world and others do like Mitt Romney and that that would help John McCain in the fall.

BLITZER: How worried are they about this Libertarian Party ticket? Bob Barr, the former congressman, he's now going to be on the battle in, I guess, almost all of the states. Do they think this will drain votes away in some of the states along the lines of what Ralph Nader did to Al Gore back in 2000?

BRODY: To a certain degree. It's not the chatter.

The chatter right now is the fact that, will John McCain pretty much buck social conservatives when it comes to this V.P. pick and really go and say, listen, you know what, I'm focusing in on independents, that this is what it's going to be about?

And think about it, Wolf, for a second. If he goes with Crist, as you mentioned, with Florida, he can lock down Florida, essentially. And as one Republican activist told me, a very prominent one said, listen, if he locks down Florida, then John McCain is running for governor of Ohio, in essence, for president, because Ohio becomes the key swing state at that point.

BLITZER: How much has he been hurt or helped by his decision last week to separate himself completely from Pastor John Hagee?

BRODY: I think it's going to go away.

You know, it seemed, at least within the McCain camp, and, quite frankly, within the social conservative movement, that it was badly handled by McCain, and it showed that he needs to tap-dance with evangelicals all the way through.

Clearly, John McCain is having trouble with the evangelical movement when it comes to knowing how they operate. In terms of John Hagee, big on Israel, but there were some other statements that he made in the past that they didn't vet very well.

BLITZER: Because the argument that Karl Rove and other Republican strategists have always made is, you really need these social conservatives, not only to support you, but to get out the vote, to come out in big numbers, to rally the base. Does McCain have that right now?

BRODY: No, he does not. And that is a major talker within the conservative movement, the social conservative movement, because right now, what they're saying is, you know what? McCain may get my vote -- and when I'm saying "my vote," we're talking about the national religious leaders and all of those -- but the actual base, the list that they have, the millions, the hundreds of thousands that they have on their lists, you know, the McCain camp is not getting that type of list in their hands, which they need to mobilize the base like it was done in 2004.

BLITZER: President Bush is still pretty popular with religious conservatives, right?


BLITZER: So, what should the McCain strategy be in being seen with the president, not being seen with the president, distancing himself? What do you think?

BRODY: Well, there are a couple of things. First of all, the chatter among social conservatives right now is that John McCain -- one of the reasons John McCain is not as popular with evangelicals is because he has not been getting on his soapbox, talking about a life issue and embryonic stem cell and some of these other issues.

So, in answer to your question, it he can go ahead and not just give a policy speech, not just talk about judges, checklists, and that's off the table, actually engage social conservatives, like George Bush did a little bit, that would be helpful.

Real quick, Wolf, some social conservatives are not happy about John McCain's statement on the California guy marriage ruling, because, in essence, it came out as just kind of what they call a Milquetoast, some sort of just generic statement, rather than really taking that issue as one about judges and one about marriage, and taking control and being more forceful in that area.

BLITZER: Because, on that issue, he doesn't really disagree all that much with Clinton or Obama. He opposes a constitutional amount on the issue of marriage; is that right?

BRODY: That's right. And, so, therefore, he's going to -- they're going to just want that to slide by.

The problem is, as you know, in November, that issue is probably going to come up on the ballot in California. It's not going away. Also, on embryonic stem cell research, there was a discussion about six months or so ago about adult stem cell research and this idea that, you know, there was progress in that area and that embryonic stem cell research may not have to be needed as much anymore.

And, so, therefore, there was a situation by social conservatives that they wanted McCain to speak out more forcefully against embryonic stem cell research. And he didn't do it.

BLITZER: He's got a delicate tightrope he's got to walk on these issues.

Thanks very much, David, for coming in.

BRODY: Thanks, Wolf.


BLITZER: One of John McCain's Senate colleagues says McCain's military experience has -- quote -- "trapped him in a dangerous position." What exactly does Senator Tom Harkin mean by that?

And this plane tries for a smooth landing, but something went very wrong. You will see what happened right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


(NEWSBREAK) BLITZER: A new ad goes after a new top John McCain adviser, accusing him of lobbying for a, "mass murderer." We will look at the startling new tactic against Senator McCain, the group behind it, and the response.

Also, a Senate Democrat accuses McCain of being dangerous, trapped in his view of the world. Did Senator Tom Harkin go too far?

And Hillary Clinton's 11th-hour ad campaign, will it get her anywhere with just a week left in the primary season? The best political team on television is standing by.

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


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

Happening now, Senator Barack Obama's historic gaffe. He claims a relative helped liberate Auschwitz, when it was the Soviets who really did that. Now Republicans are pouncing on Senator Obama. Will it blow over, or can this come back to haunt him? We're watching this story.

Also, is John McCain trapped in a military mind-set? Find out why a fellow senator says he is, and that it can be dangerous to all of us -- all this coming up, plus the best political team on television.

Plus, months of planning, millions of dollars spent, but one critical thing derails an attempt at a world record. We will show you what went wrong.

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

It's vs. John McCain, with a twist. The liberal group is out with a new ad slamming a key figure in the Republican's campaign.

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's looking at this story for us.

What's this all about, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this ad has been out for a few days now and has appeared on CNN's air. says it's about John McCain's judgment, but the ad goes right after one of his top advisers.


TODD (voice-over): As attack ads go, this is unusual, going after not a candidate, but a campaign aide. Charlie Black, one of John McCain's top campaign advisers and a man who's done extensive lobbying, is the target of a new ad from the group

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MOVEON.ORG AD) NARRATOR: But the firm of his chief political adviser, Charlie Black, made millions lobbying for the world's worst tyrants, Ferdinand Marcos, who executed thousands of his own citizens in the Philippines. Zaire's Mobutu, who publicly hanged his opponents and looted his country's vast mineral wealth. And rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, a mass murderer.


TODD: In the ad, which has appeared on CNN's air, viewers are then asked to call the McCain campaign and tell them to fire Charlie Black.

Black would not comment directly on the ad, but referred us to the campaign. The McCain campaign referred us to the Republican National Committee, which issued a statement saying: " made a ridiculous ad that is backward looking and belittles the seriousness of this election. It's clear does not want this election to be about who has the experience and judgment necessary to lead us into the future."

The RNC also pointed out has endorsed Barack Obama. Obama's campaign says it's not involved with this ad. It would be illegal if they were. is a liberal activist group formed during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Federal election law says groups like are not allowed to coordinate ads with campaigns.

CNN checked the records of Black's firm and found it did do work for those leaders. But as Howard Kurtz of "The Washington Post" and CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" points out, that's not the whole story.

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN'S "RELIABLE SOURCES": This MoveOn ad about Charlie Black is accurate based on news reports and federal disclosures. But, of course, it's one-sided. For example, Ferdinand Marcos, who is denounced in the commercial, was, for most of his tenure in the Philippines, a close ally of the United States. That does not get mentioned.


TODD: Advocacy ads are, by their nature, one-sided.

We also need to point out, Charlie Black was a senior partner in his lobbying firm until March, when he retired -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, so does McCain have any vulnerability as far as this issue is concerned?

TODD: He has some, Wolf. He's long been a crusader against special interests in Washington and very recently, other top aides resigned from his campaign after it was reported that they had lobbied for Myanmar's military government and for Saudi Arabia.

But to be fair now, McCain has instituted a conflict of interest policy in his campaign, prohibiting anyone there from being a registered lobbyist or a foreign agent. And, of course, we've done reporting on the lobbyist issue in the past several months. Just about all the top campaigns have lobbyists working for them.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brian, for that.

Let's discuss this and more. We're joined by our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. She's here in Washington.

Also joining us from New York, our own Jack Cafferty and our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin. They're all part of the best political team on television.

What do you think about this Charlie Black ad for, Jack?

CAFFERTY: Well, you know, John McCain was one of the first ones to raise the issue of judgment -- does the opposition have the judgment to be commander-in-chief?

And as Jay Leno asked Hugh Grant on "The Tonight Show" after he was caught with Foxy Brown, what the hell were you thinking?

This isn't a lobbyist for the shoe industry or for Detroit's automobile. This guy represented some of the lowest forms of life on this planet, who are guilty of some of the most heinous crimes you can imagine.

And I love how when Brian Todd asked for a comment, Black wouldn't say anything. He said talk to the campaign. The campaign says we're not going to say anything, talk to the Republican National Committee. Charlie Black works for John McCain. He's a close adviser of John McCain's. This is the worst kind of judgment that you'd ever want to see in a president. And I'll bet he hasn't seen the last of this ad, either.

BLITZER: Yes, Gloria, Marcos -- Ferdinand Marcos may have been, at one point, an ally of the U.S., but I don't think you could see that about Mobutu or Savimbi.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No. And I think you're going to find lots of these kinds of conflicts with lobbying firms, which is why McCain has this policy.

But I'd like to say something about these ads made by and these so-called 527 groups, these independent groups. This is the kind of discourse that I think that both Obama and McCain have pledged not to have in this campaign, because there are lots of important issues that need to be discussed, including the war in Iraq, including the economy. And we can all list all of them. And what these groups tend to do is bring up these other issues as a way to smear candidates.

And, honestly, I think the American people are kind of saying, you know what, really, this has got to be about John McCain, it's got to be about Barack Obama or it's got to be about Hillary Clinton. But it's got to be about the candidates and what they believe. And these 527s tend to take us off in different directions that I think most of us would rather not go off in.

BLITZER: Jeffrey?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I don't think I really agree with that.

CAFFERTY: I don't either.

TOOBIN: I think this is a legitimate issue. And, you know, John McCain has been a fighter for campaign finance reform. His name is most famously associated with the McCain-Feingold bill.

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: And that ad is accurate. And his campaign is completely run by lobbyists and very recently, ex-lobbyists, like Charlie Black.


TOOBIN: I have a key -- I have a piece in the current issue of "The New Yorker" about Roger Stone, who used to be a partner in Black, Manafort and Stone. And these are people who have gone back and forth between campaigns and lobbying for decades. And if you want to bring change to Washington, I think that's a legitimate question, asking who the candidates are associated with.

BLITZER: You know, he speaks about his military record, John McCain. He was a POW, as all of us know, during the Vietnam War. Senator Tom Harkin, his Democratic colleague from Iowa, says you know what, be careful of all these military guys. He's quoted as saying this: "I think he's trapped in that. Everything is looked at from his life experiences, from always having been in the military. And I think that can be pretty dangerous."

What do you think, Jack?

CAFFERTY: Well, he hasn't always been in the military. But I think the point Senator Harkin was trying to make was that in an ideal world, some military experience in the president of the United States is good. Too much of anything is probably not so good.

The thing that concerns me more that Tom Harkin said about John McCain he said in April. He said John McCain's temper is scary. And he asked, you know, how flying off the handle might influence John McCain's judgment if he was to become president of the United States. I mean nobody can help what their background is.

Our backgrounds are what our backgrounds are. But I think the questions about his temperament might be more relevant.

BLITZER: Is this going to be an issue, the fact that McCain served in the military -- Obama, Hillary Clinton, for that matter, didn't serve in the military, Gloria?

BORGER: Well, I think it it's an issue, clearly, that McCain is going to try to use to his advantage, to say that he has a lot more experience and a lot more understanding of how the military works. But I don't think that serving in the military necessarily turns you into a hawk. I mean Dick Cheney never served in the military and one would argue that he's as much of a hawk as we can get in this country so.

BLITZER: But we did hear, Jeff, we did hear McCain say the other day he doesn't want to be lectured about veterans benefits from Barack Obama, who never served in the military.

TOOBIN: Well, and you can argue that Barack Obama is more supportive of veterans that John McCain has been. Certainly, that is the argument Obama was trying to make.

You know, military experience is a mixed blessing as it turns out. And perhaps the biggest war hero to run for president in recent years was George McGovern -- not that you'd know it from how he was covered. Bob Dole was a war hero. John Kerry was a war hero. Dwight Eisenhower was a war hero. Only one of them actually got to be president.

I think what Senator Harkin was saying was kind of unfair to McCain. But the larger point is that military heroes sometimes win and they sometimes don't.

BLITZER: Guys stand by. We're going to continue this discussion.

Barack Obama causes a little bit of an uproar, at least, with an inaccurate historic claim. We'll look at the potential fallout for the Democratic candidate, if any.

Plus, Hillary Clinton says we're borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Saudis. We're going to show you her new ad.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



OBAMA: I had a uncle who was one of the -- who was part of the first American troops to go into Auschwitz and liberate the concentration camps. And the story in our family was, is that when he came home, he just went up into the attic and he didn't leave the house for six months.


BLITZER: Barack Obama's campaign, though, forced to clarify that claim of a relative that helped liberate Auschwitz.

We're back with the best political team on television.

Jeff, they issued a statement, the Obama campaign, among other things, saying: "Senator Obama's family is proud of the service of his grandfather and uncles in World War II, especially the fact that his great uncle was part of liberating one of the concentration camps at Buchenwald. Yesterday, he mistakenly referred to Auschwitz instead of Buchenwald in telling of his personal experience of a soldier in his family who has served heroically."

The Republicans are pouncing on this. What do you think?

TOOBIN: You know, the Nazis, unfortunately, were very industrious and there were lots of concentration camps. There was Treblinka. There was Bergen-Belsen. There was Dachau, which Jack just mentioned earlier. You know, mixing them up unfortunately happens. And I think it is of utterly no significance.

BLITZER: Gloria?

BORGER: Yes, I agree. It was his great uncle and he confused the camps. But this just really gives you a sense, Wolf, of what we're dealing with in this campaign. Every word will be parsed, whether you remember it's your uncle or you call him your great uncle or whatever it is, we have already seen this in this campaign and we expect to see much more of it in the future.

CAFFERTY: Look, I think there's a difference between this, which is tantamount to dialing a wrong number on your telephone and you hang up and dial again, and creating something like sniper fire on a tarmac...

BORGER: Right. Exactly.

CAFFERTY: ...that never happened.

BORGER: Exactly.

CAFFERTY: The point that Obama was trying to make -- and it's absolutely valid -- is that soldiers who experience horrible things during war time come home with psychological scars...

BORGER: Right.

CAFFERTY: ...that require sometimes that they get help in order to get over them. And we have hundreds of thousands of them returning from two and three and four tours of duty in Iraq who aren't getting the help that they probably need. And that's an absolutely valid observation. And that was the point he was trying to make.

BORGER: Right.

CAFFERTY: And the Republicans are going to have to do a little better if they want to trip him up on something that matters. This doesn't.

BORGER: Right. This, you know, this wasn't making up a story out of whole cloth to aggrandize himself. This was something else totally.

BLITZER: All right. Here's a new ad that Hillary Clinton is running right now to suggest she has a better idea on how to spend all of our money.

Listen to this.



SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We borrow money from the Chinese to buy oil from the Saudis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary Clinton will stop spending money America doesn't have. She'll end $55 billion in giveaways to corporate...


BLITZER: All right, Gloria, what do you think about this new ad?

BORGER: Oh, you know, I think it's an ad for South Dakota, where being a fiscal conservative is really what you want to be. I think it's a very predictable ad. She's not attacking Barack Obama. She's just portraying herself as a fiscal conservative.


TOOBIN: I think it's a fair ad. It's about the issues.

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: It's not about this -- I mean, I have to say -- I haven't had a chance to say this. I think she suffered the most unfair pummeling this weekend over this comment about assassination. I think she was egregiously unfairly treated. And I think it is good to see her talking about issues and that's what the campaign should be about.

BLITZER: Yes, Jack?

CAFFERTY: You know what she has to do?

She's got to come up with an idea to get some more delegates.

BORGER: It may be a little late.

CAFFERTY: That's not going to happen.

TOOBIN: I think it's all a little late.

BORGER: It's a little late.

TOOBIN: I think that's right.


BLITZER: Well, we'll see.

CAFFERTY: Well, I mean, her plan for fiscal responsibility is fine, but she doesn't have enough delegates to be in a position to implement that plan so.

BORGER: That's a problem. TOOBIN: We'll see if she is.

BLITZER: We'll see if they move the goalposts on Saturday, when the DNC Rules Committee meets.

BORGER: It's not going to happen.

BLITZER: We'll watch that closely.

All right, guys, thanks very much.

Jack, stand by for "The Cafferty File."

I want to check in with Lou to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour.

Lou, what's going on?


Tonight, we're reporting on a blistering new report about gaping holes in our port security -- something we've been reporting on this broadcast for years. Congressional investigators blasting the federal government, the Department of Homeland Security, for allowing, among other things, private companies to police themselves.

Also, left-wing groups and open borders advocates don't want you to know about plans for that NAFTA super highway from Mexico to Canada and the establishment illiterati. They deny that it exists. We'll have a special report for you on the plan that could threaten our national sovereignty, our national security.

And new evidence tonight of the out of control drug war raging in Mexico and the Mexican government's failure to stop the violence.

Can anyone do anything to prevent this drug war from spreading to the United States?

And I'll be talking with Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico. He says border drug violence is actually declining. He's among my guests here tonight.

I'll also be joined by three of my favorite radio talk show hosts. And, among other things, we'll be talking about, well, Senator Barack Obama's suggestion that -- well, we'll tell you all about it. I don't much like what the senator had to say. He probably won't like what I've got to say either, Wolf.

That's coming up at the top of the hour -- back to you.

BLITZER: It won't be the first time and I'm sure it won't be the last, Lou.

Thanks very much.

He hoped to break a world record until something went very wrong. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, what just happened?

Oh, my God. Oh, what a disaster.


BLITZER: We're going to show you the blunder that dashed his hopes, along with months of planning and millions of dollars.

Plus, a top adviser to Barack Obama makes a bold prediction. We'll have details.

All that and a lot more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: In today's Political Ticker, Barack Obama's campaign says he will win the Democratic race very soon. In a New York "Daily News" interview, the campaign adviser, David Axelrod, says Obama should have the number needed to win the nomination after June 3. South Dakota and Montana hold their primaries that day, one week from today. Neither Obama nor Clinton is likely to win this with only the pledged delegates. But his campaign says more superdelegates will throw their support behind Obama soon after June 3.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, check out The Ticker is the number one political news blog on the Web. That's also where you can read my latest blog post.

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

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: What should be done about Iran's nuclear program?

The International Atomic Energy Agency is out with a tough report saying that the Iranians are not telling us the whole truth about what they're doing over there.

Lori in Michigan says: "We ought to do nothing at this point. God forbid if Bush tries to act against Iran before his term expires. His administration blew it in Iraq by not having an exit strategy. If Obama is elected in November, maybe he can find a peaceful solution. If McCain is elected, he'll go to war and it will last 200 years."

Cosmin in East Providence, Rhode Island: "I think that Iran should be allowed to build a U.N. supervised nuclear power plant completely controlled by the United Nations. That way Iran gets the nuclear energy that it's allegedly looking for, while the U.S. can be happy that the Iranian nuclear program is safely positioned under its watchful eye."

Stanley writes: "It's simple. Israel should agree to dismantle its nuclear arsenal and then we should insist Iran stop its pursuit of nuclear weapons." Jacob in Michigan says: "We should do as McCain says -- bomb, bomb, bomb Iran."

Jane writes: "The U.S. and the U.N. should take seriously Iran's claim that the documents they are worried about were forged. We should all remember -- and, Jack, you should remind people -- that there were forged documents in the run-up to the Iraq invasion. Everyone ought to slow down, remember that we were lied into the disastrous invasion of Iraq and we're probably being lied into another disastrous invasion."

And Doug in Knoxville, Arkansas: "How about we let Europe or China or some other country take care of the problems in their corner of the world? As a taxpayer, I'm tired of my taxes being spent in every corner of the world when it needs to be spent here."

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

BLITZER: A very popular blog, indeed, Jack.


BLITZER: Thanks. See you tomorrow. Appreciate it.

It was years in the making -- a world record attempt from an astonishing height. But a breathtaking balloon adventure goes bust.

Jeanne Moos finds it Moost Unusual. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the Hot Shots coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press -- pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.

In Wyoming, an Army National Guardsman says goodbye to his son before leaving on a 400-day deployment in Afghanistan.

In South Korea, elementary school students duck underneath desks during an earthquake drill.

In Myanmar, cyclone survivors drink clean water at a monastery.

And in China, rescue workers dressed in protective suits wait, as authorities prepare to blow up a building damaged by the powerful earthquake that shook China this month.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots -- pictures often worth a thousand words.

It was years in the making -- a world breaking attempt -- a world record attempt from an astonishing height. But a breathtaking balloon adventure goes bust.

CNN's Jeanne Moos finds it Moost Unusual. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the early morning darkness, it looked like a beating heart -- beating and expanding as the skies lightened. This was the balloon that was supposed to carry the French skydiver to the edge of space so he could jump. Talk about the fifth dimension.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP (singing): Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon?

MOOS: But the beautiful balloon wasn't yet attached to the capsule that Michel Fournier was already waiting in, suspended from a crane.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP (singing): Up, up and away...

MOOS: The chase helicopter went up and away. A CTV reporter chased the story over his shoulder. Watch as the balloon becomes untethered.

MURRAY OLIVER, CTV REPORTER: Oh, what just happened?

MOOS: What happened is the balloon took off without its intended passenger.

OLIVER: Oh, my God.

MOOS: There it was like some sort of airborne amoeba.

OLIVER: Like a child, you know, at the circus. And the balloon gets away from them.

MOOS: Only this balloon cost several hundred thousand dollars. If only it could have been like the famed red balloon that faithfully followed its young owner around Paris -- at least until its head was turned by a blue balloon. The red balloon obeyed and came when the boy said come. But this balloon wasn't coming. It was being whipped around and torn to pieces as the helium inside escaped.

OLIVER: Oh, what a tragedy.

MOOS: A tragedy for skydiver Michel Fournier, who came out of the capsule and hugged his wife. At one point, he waved away the cameras.

This is what his skydive might have looked like. This was the record Fournier was trying to beat.

Joseph Kittinger jumped from nearly 20 miles up as an Air Force experiment on how the body reacts to high altitudes. It took him almost 14 minutes to get back to Earth. He arrived intact.

From Air Force experiment to YouTube thrill seeker, watch this student skydiver smack into a blimp and live -- not just to tell about it, but to celebrate it. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you think of the jump, man?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought it was excellent.


MOOS: No such jump for Michel Fournier.

(on camera): Which brings us to the question, has the French skydiver's dream been permanently popped?

(voice-over): Unlike Dorothy, stranded on Oz by a balloon that got away...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please come back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't come back. I don't know how it works.

MOOS: ...Michel Fournier seems to be stranded on Earth.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: And late word from a news conference in Canada that's still underway. Fournier and his team say an explosive bolt meant to release the balloon detonated prematurely. They suspect static electricity may have been the cause. Fournier says he's not about to give up. The next attempt could come as soon as August. We wish him good luck.

For the latest political news any time, go to You can get our new political screen saver at And you can be in THE SITUATION ROOM. Go to

Let's go to Lou. He's in New York -- Lou.