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New Obama Pastor Problem; McCain Accused of Politicizing Iraq; What Happens if Musharraf Leaves?

Aired May 30, 2008 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, John McCain comes to Hillary Clinton's defense. This after what's being called a divisive, even hateful political tirade. It's from another pastor -- one aligned with Barack Obama -- and uses racial and gender rhetoric to mock Senator Clinton.

John McCain also admits a mistake about mixing the U.S. military and politics.

But does he admit any mistake over something he said about the troops in Iraq?

And drama unfolding in Pakistan right now -- the drama has the U.S. government very concerned. What happens to its president, possibly in days, could impact the hunt for the world's most wanted terrorist and Pakistan's handling of the some of the world's most dangerous weapons.

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

Imitation is not always the best form of flattery. Right now, Hillary Clinton is getting words of support from some unlikely sources, including John McCain and the Catholic Church. This after she was mocked by a Barack Obama supporter. The man is a long time Obama associate, a friend of Obama's former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. And he delivered a similarly fiery sermon of political denunciation in Wright's old pulpit.

Brian Todd is looking at this for us -- Brian, it's sparked new problems for Barack Obama, some swift reactions. Update our viewers.

What is going on right now?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Swift and very angry reactions, Wolf. This may be known as the season of the firebrand pastor, considering all of these controversies. Now, a popular Chicago priest caught caused more political migraines for Barack Obama with remarks about Senator Clinton delivered from the pulpit.


TODD (voice-over): In front of Barack Obama's congregation, a priest with longstanding ties to Obama openly mocks Hillary Clinton, referencing her public tears earlier in the campaign. REV. MICHAEL PFLEGER, ST. SABINE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH: When Hillary was crying and people said that was put on, I really don't believe it was put on. I really believe that she just always thought this is mine.


PFLEGER: I'm Bill's wife. I'm white. And this is mine. I've just got to get up and step into the plate. And then out of nowhere came, hey, I'm Barack Obama.

And she said oh, damn, where did you come from?


PFLEGER: I'm white; I'm entitled. There's a black man stealing my show.

TODD: This video of Father Michael Pfleger, posted on YouTube, was taken last Sunday at Obama's parish, Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Obama was not in the church and Father Pfleger is not the pastor there. The current pastor, the man who succeeded the controversial Jeremiah Wright, said thank God for the message and the messenger when Pfleger stepped off the podium.

Obama was quick to respond, issuing a statement saying: "I am deeply disappointed in Father Pfleger's divisive, backward looking rhetoric, which doesn't reflect the country I see or the desire of people across America to come together in common cause."

Father Pfleger would not wouldn't do an interview with us, but issued a statement himself, saying: "I regret the words I chose on Sunday. These words are inconsistent with Senator Obama's life and message and I am deeply sorry if they offended Senator Clinton or anyone else who saw them."

Obama's opponents are still outraged.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That kind of treatment of Senator Clinton is unwarranted, uncalled for and disgraceful.

TODD: As for the target of Pfleger's attack, the Clinton campaign says, "Divisive and hateful language like that has no place at the pulpit or in our politics."

Some Clinton supporters don't think Obama went far enough in his response. Lanny Davis, who believes Senator Clinton still has a shot at the nomination, says regardless of the outcome, Obama's response will make it tougher to heal the rifts between the two campaigns.

LANNY DAVIS, CLINTON SUPPORTER: He should have instantaneously expressed outrage, disassociated himself and talked about people in his congregation who were enjoying this hate and bigotry. So he's missing a beat. And he needs to make it easy for people to have good feelings about him. TODD: No response from the Obama campaign to that.

Pfleger is a priest at St. Sabina Catholic Church on the South Side of Chicago. He has not formally endorsed Obama, but an aide to Pfleger says he's known Obama for about 20 years and has donated small amounts to Obama's state and national campaigns.

As a state senator, Obama once directed a $100,000 grant to a community center affiliated with Pfleger's church. Pfleger also went to Iowa during the caucuses to take part in a religious forum at the behest of the Obama campaign.

One independent analyst says none of this is likely to hurt Obama politically and the remarks about Clinton may soon be forgotten. But...

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: The problem is it's brought up Reverend Wright again. That is where Obama is genuinely vulnerable, because Wright was his pastor for so long, they were so close, he listened to so many of these sermons that were somewhat like the ones we heard.


TODD: So with this latest episode on top of all the other pastor controversies, some analysts say it may be time for candidates to separate church from state and just get away from these people altogether -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What's the reaction from the diocese in Chicago?

TODD: They've come down pretty hard on Father Pfleger. The archbishop of Chicago has issued a statement saying, "Pfleger's remarks are both partisan and amount to a personal attack. I deeply regret that," he says. The archbishop says Pfleger has promised him he won't enter into campaigning and won't publicly mention any candidate by name anymore.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much.

This is not the first time Father Pfleger sparked controversy. Back in 1990, police arrested Pfleger for allegedly defacing some liquor and tobacco billboards. He was protesting those ads in African- American communities. Pfleger was later acquitted. Last year, police arrested Father Pfleger, along with Reverend Jesse Jackson, during a protest outside a suburban Chicago gun shop. Officials eventually dropped criminal trespass charges. And Pfleger has hosted the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan at his own church, calling him -- and I'm quoting now -- "a gift from God to a sick, sick world."

Let's go now to the firestorm between the Barack Obama and John McCain campaigns when it comes to the issue of the war in Iraq. Leading the charge for Obama, Senator John Kerry right now, clearly willing to get into it with a fellow Vietnam War veteran. In response, McCain is standing firm on one front, but backing down on another.

Let's go to Mary Snow. She's following this story.

The back and forth on what's going on, it's getting sort of intense right now between these two campaigns on this day -- Mary.

What's the latest?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, you know, Wolf, it's getting more intense by the day. The latest clash is over the level of troops in Iraq. The Obama camp is turning up the heat on McCain for a statement he made yesterday. And it's also taking aim at him for using General Petraeus in a campaign mailing.


SNOW (voice-over): Senator John McCain admits his campaign went too far with his fundraising appeal showing General David Petraeus. Fellow Vietnam veteran, Senator John Kerry, who supports Democrat Obama, criticized McCain, pointing out that Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen asked that men and women in uniform be left out of politics, saying "It's deeply disappointing that Senator McCain is using a picture of General Petraeus in uniform to raise money and launch negative attacks."

QUESTION: Do you think it's appropriate for you to use a picture of yourself and General Petraeus in fundraising material?

MCCAIN: No. It won't happen again.

SNOW: But McCain says he did not make a mistake when he said this about troop numbers at a town hall meeting Thursday in Greendale, Wisconsin.

MCCAIN: I can look you in the eye and tell you it's succeeding. We have drawn down to pre-surge levels.

SNOW: The Obama camp was quick to point out there are more troops in Iraq than before the surge began, saying McCain should know better.

It comes as McCain has been trying to paint Obama as inexperienced, making the case he doesn't know enough about how the surge is working because he hasn't been there since 2006.

According to the Pentagon, there were 132,000 troops in January of 2007 and 155,000 now. Five brigades were sent into Iraq as part of the surge. Three have left. Two are in the process of leaving.

Did McCain misspeak?

MCCAIN: Of course not. We've withdrawn three of the five brigades. We've drawn down the Marines. The rest of them will be home the end of July. That's just the facts. And that's -- those are facts as I stated them.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SNOW: McCain advisers say the problem was not with numbers, but verb tenses, and called the discrepancy nitpicking. But as CNN's Pentagon unit has reported, once the surge ends, there will be as many as 10,000 more troops in Iraq than before the surge began, since many of the combat troops are still needed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Mary, for that.

Mary Snow with this story.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: How is it nitpicking if he says that we've drawn down to pre-surge levels and two of the five combat brigades that were sent in there for the surge are still there?

BLITZER: Well, it's not nitpicking to those two of the five combat brigades. They're still there.

CAFFERTY: You know, it's like the difference between Shia and Sunni. You know, these are things you've got to work out before you get in front of a microphone.

Here we go again. Every time oil and/or gasoline prices get high enough, somebody in the government announces an investigation. The idea to try to convince the poor soul who's forking over four bucks a gallon for gas that somebody in the government gives a damn about him.

This time it's the Commodities Futures Trading Commission. We've been here before. Investigators this time say they're looking at potential abuses in the way crude oil is bought, shipped, stored and traded nationwide. Usually, they don't publicize this kind of stuff but say they're doing it now so "because of today's unprecedented market conditions."

That and senators and Congressmen catching hell from constituents, who want an explanation of why oil prices are up 42 percent since last December. And heading into the peak summer travel season, gasoline prices are up an average of 76 cents a gallon over where they were a year ago.

When you read the fine print, you discover experts say this investigation, like all the others that have gone before, will likely have a limited impact on oil prices, which have been going up for many reasons, including growing demand in places like China and India, the declining value of our dollar, international tensions, low interest rates, yada, yada, yada.

Meanwhile, a new Gallup Poll asks Americans what should be done to reduce gas prices. A majority of those surveyed -- 53 percent -- favor price controls. Fifty-eight percent support draining oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Fifty-seven percent call for drilling in U.S. coastal and wilderness areas that are now off limits. But a majority of people say it's a bad idea to ration gasoline, bring back the 55 mile an hour speed limit or -- are you listening, John McCain -- suspend the federal tax on gasoline for the summer months. If it makes you feel any better, the highest gas prices in Europe are in Norway, where motorists pay more than $9 a gallon.

So here's the question: Do you think a government investigation of oil prices will lead to cheaper gasoline, he said tongue in cheekily. Go to and post a comment on my blog.

I'm old enough to remember, Wolf, every time these energy prices spike, we have an investigation. That's just the way it works.

BLITZER: That's Washington.

CAFFERTY: You've got it.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack. Thanks very much.


BLITZER: Should you be worried about what's happening in Pakistan right now?

A crisis looming over President Pervez Musharraf. And hanging in the balance, efforts to catch Osama bin Laden and efforts to make sure Pakistan's nuclear weapons arsenal remains secure. The implications are enormous.

A zone of death and destruction in New York City -- a crane collapses. Now there are fears some people could be buried alive under mountains of debris. We'll go there live.

And absolutely isolated -- deep in Brazil, there's a group of people who have possibly never seen anyone outside their tribe. Now they've been revealed. We'll have the latest.

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


BLITZER: Right now events in Pakistan raising two disturbing questions -- might Pakistan's nuclear weapons fall into the wrong hands and what might happen to the hunt for Osama bin Laden?

This amid speculation that Pakistan's president could soon be the ex-president. Some of Pervez Musharraf's critics are weighing the options. At best, they want to strip him of power; at worst, out him -- oust him, that is, from office.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is following the story involving this very important U.S. ally -- Barbara, the opponents seem to be out there circling.

What's going on, because as I've been saying, the stakes for the United States right now are enormous?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: And the problem for the U.S., Wolf, is they are not sure what's going to happen in Pakistan next.


STARR (voice-over): At the White House, the Pentagon and throughout the intelligence community, top officials are watching as a possible new crisis unfolds in Pakistan. Several U.S. officials tell CNN they believe it may be a matter of days before Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf steps down from office. The officials emphasize nothing is certain. But they believe Musharraf eventually will have to give in to mounting pressure from his political opponents.

Musharraf says it's all a big lie.

PRES. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PAKISTAN: The rumor mongering that is going on, unfortunately, that there are differences between me and the army, me and the chief, it's an unfortunate part of our -- almost becoming a part of our unfortunate culture that rumor mongering and spreading of unnecessary fabricated stories.

STARR: But it was urgent enough that President Bush telephoned his official support.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: And you might not have heard this. The president this morning spoke to President Musharraf.

STARR: What would it mean to lose Musharraf?

It's been a rocky relationship. The U.S. military feels Pakistan could do much more to find Osama bin Laden and hunt militants in the tribal region.

GEN. DAN MCNEILL, NATO COMMANDER, AFGHANISTAN: I don't believe there is sufficient pressure on the terrorists and the insurgents in the sanctuaries that they have just out of reach of the ISAF forces. I think that, perhaps, is the most significant factor.

STARR: But experts say Pakistan's coalition government has its own security priorities.

AMB. TERESITA SCHAFFER, CSIS, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: For the government in Washington, the top priority is management of the border with Afghanistan. For the Pakistani government, the top priority is shutting down suicide bombings in Pakistan.


STARR: Now, Wolf, what about those nuclear weapons?

Well, U.S. military officials say they look very closely at that question on an almost continuous basis. And they still feel at this point, that even if there is a new government in Pakistan, if Musharraf goes, the nuclear weapons will be secure -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara.

Thank you. Let's talk about these really important developments in Pakistan with our CNN world affairs analyst, William Cohen. He's a former defense secretary during the Clinton administration, the head of The Cohen Group here in Washington, an international consulting firm that represents defense contractors and others, as well.


BLITZER: Thanks very much for coming in.

You've studied this closely. That nuclear arsenal in Pakistan, how secure is it?

COHEN: Well, we're not exactly sure how secure it is. But we have relied upon the Pakistani military to make sure that it is secure. I think that we will continue to rely upon the military, even assuming if President Musharraf is not longer in office. Nonetheless, the military will continue to provide stability for that country and I think that they will insist that every security measure that can be taken will be taken. And we have to rely upon that, but we still watch it, because we're not absolutely sure.

BLITZER: Because the nightmare scenario, of course, is this is an Islamic country.

COHEN: Right.

BLITZER: If that -- those nukes were loose, as they say, loose nukes...

COHEN: Right.

BLITZER: ...and taken over by bad guys, really bad guys, that could be a disaster, not only for that part of the world, but for the world.

COHEN: That's one of the reasons why I think you're seeing such an effort undertaken by former Secretaries Schultz, Kissinger, Sam Nunn -- Senator Nunn, Colin Powell and others, myself included, to be in that group, that we have to do everything we can to start reducing the amount of nuclear weaponry in the world. Because now, as this starts to be proliferated, with other countries trying to get their hands on nuclear weapons, other groups, then the world is in danger. So this is very important.

BLITZER: If he's exiled, President Musharraf and gone, does that help or hurt the hunt for bin Laden?

COHEN: Well, it's been, what, five years?

We've been hunting for bin Laden as such and we haven't found him yet. I think that it's almost independent of President Musharraf. I think that the question is we will continue to look for him. But making him the central focus of whether we're successful or not I think is a mistake. We should try to get him and do everything we can. But it's more than just a man at this point. It's much more of a movement and has been. And so the focus has to be on how do we reduce al Qaeda's influence in Pakistan, on the border and other parts of that region.

And so that will be the measure of success -- not so much whether we catch him or fail to catch him, but whether we can enlist the support of the Pakistani people to help in this effort.

BLITZER: The stakes, as I say, are really enormous.

COHEN: Indeed.

BLITZER: We'll watch it together with you.

Thanks, Secretary, for coming in.

COHEN: A pleasure to be here.

BLITZER: Bill Clinton has often blasted the news media with memorable finger-pointings like these.


WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What you care about is this. And the Obama people know that. So they just spin you up on this.


BLITZER: But in Puerto Rico, the former president is also over the media -- all for one important reason.

Also, a zone of destruction after a crane smashed into a building then slammed to the ground.

Might there be more people buried alive? Two people are already confirmed dead.

And there's a stunning new development regarding the more than 400 children seized from that polygamist Texas ranch. We'll update you on what's happening today in the aftermath of that Texas Supreme Court decision.

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


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

Carol, what's going on?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Texas authorities and a polygamous sect have reached a tentative agreement to begin returning children taken by the state starting on Monday. A draft agreement released in court by Texas Child Protective Services Attorney Gary Banks says the parents can get their children after showing identification and pledging to take parenting classes. And, of course, those parents must remain in Texas.

A disastrous plane crash in Honduras today. Two people have died. Officials say the passenger plane overshot the runway on landing and slammed into a busy highway in the Honduran capital. The person known killed was identified as a Central American bank president. The flight left San Salvador this morning carrying 124 passengers.

In other news around the world, take a look at these amazing pictures from above the deeper reaches of Brazil's Amazon Forest region. They're photographs of a tribe still untouched by modern civilization. They were taken from a small airplane. The pictures show men outside their thatched huts looking up and pointing their bows in the air. Survival International says more than 100 so-called uncontacted tribes still exist worldwide. It says about half live in the Amazon rain forest in Peru and in Brazil. And the crux of this story, Wolf, is that they've just lived in complete isolation -- no TV, no Survival International. They have no concept of the way that most of us live.

BLITZER: And some might say they're better off.

COSTELLO: You've got that right.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Carol. I know you've got a good story. We're going to be joining you in another moment or so.

Barack Obama losing support from one key group of voters. That would be white women.

Coming up, Carol's going to take a closer look at why these voters may be turning away from Obama. She's got new information.

Plus, he's out of the White House circle, but Scott McClellan is still part of the P.R. machine at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

What's going on? How could this be?

And it's Democratic decision time. Might there still be a chance for Hillary Clinton to work the numbers in her favor?

Paul Begala -- he's standing by. That's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


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

Happening now, Barack Obama on the ropes with a powerful voting bloc. A new poll shows the Democratic presidential candidate losing ground among white women. Why it's happening and what he needs to do to fix this problem.

From political rock star to campaign curmudgeon, former President Bill Clinton is still on the trail for his wife's campaign. But some wonder if he's actually lost his touch.

And another deadly crane collapse in New York City -- the second in as many months. We're going to have the latest on the aftermath of this urban disaster.

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

It's decision time for the Democratic National Committee. This weekend, the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee will hold a hearing to figure out what to do or not to do with convention delegates from Florida and Michigan.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is joining us now.

She's been watching this story -- all right, Candy, how do these two candidates, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, stand to benefit or lose, based on what this panel decides to do over the next few hours?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's really interesting is that Hillary Clinton is likely to pick up some pledged delegates.

But if you look at all the hoopla that is around this -- we're expecting a lot of Clinton protesters to come with the "let every vote count" chant -- when you look at what's going to be the bottom line at the end of the day, there may be less here than meets the eye.


CROWLEY: The 2000 election was a remember the Alamo moment in politics, enshrining let every vote count into the Democrats' lexicon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Count our vote! Count our vote!

CROWLEY: A potent battle cry Hillary Clinton now uses to stir up supporters as she makes her case to count the results of the unsanctioned Michigan and Florida primaries.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe the Democratic Party must count these votes. They should count them exactly as they were cast. Democracy demands no less.

CROWLEY: It is her best case scenario but as Democratic Party officials prepare to meet Saturday, there is every indication their meeting will fall short of the hype. Even if the committee gives Clinton everything she wants, all delegates seated reflecting her victories in both states, the bottom line at the end of Saturday will be that Obama still leads in pledged delegates. Even the ever optimistic Clinton campaign accepts the equation.

HOWARD WOLFSON, CLINTON COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: We understand that the road ahead of us and we understand that Senator Obama has a lead in delegates.

CROWLEY: Still, legitimizing the results in Michigan and Florida, however it is done, will give Clinton more numbers to add to her popular vote total, a key figure she says superdelegates should consider when making up their minds.


CROWLEY: The Obama campaign no longer insists it wants a 50/50 split of Michigan and Florida. They will agree to a compromise where she'll get more of their delegates. They can afford to be generous.

This is coming to an end. He's less than 50 delegates away from the nomination. He holds the cards and they both know that. She has promised to take this all the way to the last state in the primary season. Wednesday there will be no place left to go.

CLINTON: I feel really good about going through the weekend to see what the Rules and Bylaws Committee does with Michigan and Florida. We'll see what happens in Puerto Rico, Montana, South Dakota, then we'll see where we are.


CROWLEY: So far, Wolf, what I'm hearing from some of the members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee is that Florida is proving a little easier to settle than they think Michigan will be. Michigan a problem, of course, because Barack Obama was not on the ballot. In Florida, he and Clinton were both on the ballot. That seems a little more solvable than the Michigan problem -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Candy, I know you'll be watching this with us very thoroughly.

CNN will be providing extensive coverage of the Democrats' Day of Decision. That's what we're calling it tomorrow morning. Stick with CNN for our live coverage of the Rules Committee hearing. We have cameras inside the hearing. Our coverage begins at 9:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN and at I'll be anchoring our coverage together with the best political team on television.

A recent poll may have uncovered an Achilles heel in Senator Barack Obama's presidential bid. Obama's favorability among powerful - of a powerful voting block appears to be slipping right now while intervention from the clergy again may be making matters only worse.

Carol Costello, once again, looking into this story for us, part of our look at uncovering America.

All right, Carol. Is Senator Obama losing ground with a significant voting block out there?

COSTELLO: You bet. He's losing ground with white women. And in a tight race that could be a very, very bad thing. So what to do?

What he's doing right now ain't working.


COSTELLO: Barack Obama has a woman problem. And the latest controversy over remarks by a priest with ties to Obama didn't help.

REV. MICHAEL PFLEGER, ST. SABINA ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH: I'm white! I'm entitled! There's a black man stealing my show!

COSTELLO: The Reverend Michael Pfleger was referring to the tears Hillary Clinton appeared to shed before the New Hampshire primary. In the eyes of some women, Pfleger's comments have intensified their deep resentment for the way they feel Obama's supporters and Obama himself have treated Hillary Clinton.

ALIDA BLACK, WOMENCOUNTPAC.COM: They're very disturbed by not only the dismissive treatment that Senator Clinton has received, but also the gratuitous way now that the Obama campaign is trying to make amends.

COSTELLO: Black, a Clinton supporter whose political action committee bought full page ads that read, not so fast, Hillary's voice is our voice, says Obama has a lot of work to do to mend fences with women. And, she says, comments like this ain't working.

OBAMA: She has broken through barriers and will open up opportunity for a lot of people, including my two young daughters.

COSTELLO: Black calls this condescending.

It is clear something is not working for Obama. A Pew Research poll released this week shows only 43 percent of white women have a positive opinion of Obama. That's down 13 points from February. And despite comments like this --

OBAMA: Senator Clinton has run a magnificent campaign and has been a worthy opponent. But what I also know, what I also know is that whatever differences we may have, they pale in comparison to the differences we've got with John McCain.

COSTELLO: The Pew poll also shows white women prefer John McCain over Barack Obama by eight points. Last month Obama led McCain by three points.

What can Obama do? Political analysts say number one, Obama ought to stop his supporters from demonizing Clinton. Kicking someone when they're down isn't unifying.

Two, Obama should skip paying homage to Clinton's historic candidacy and treat her like an equal. And, number three --

BLACK: Put Hillary on the ticket.

COSTELLO: Black says that would show women Obama sees Clinton as a peer with a strong voice.


COSTELLO: Senator Obama has said it's premature to name a running mate since the primary isn't over yet. His campaign told me today Senator Obama understands the anger some women feel. If he wins the primary, he plans to reach out immediately to women to tell them he respects their support of Hillary Clinton. He'll ask for their help and he says he will work to earn their support -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Carol, thanks. Good report.

Secrets from inside the White House about a CIA officer, Karl Rove, a lot more. What Scott McClellan now says was the final straw.


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, FMR. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: For the more than three years we had been out there decrying the selective leaking of classified information and here it was the president himself had done that very thing.


BLITZER: What the former press secretary now says President Bush told him behind closed doors. My one on one interview, the full interview with Scott McClellan coming up later here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And a loud boom, panicked people and at least two deaths. A scene of chaos in Manhattan today. We'll show you what happened. That's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: A crane accident in New York's Upper East Side killed two construction workers and left another seriously injured. The crane collapsed this morning and smashed into an apartment building unleashing an avalanche of debris. The crane's operator is one of the dead. It's the second deadly crane accident in Manhattan since March. The mayor Michael Bloomberg says the latest collapse is unacceptable and the city will investigate.

On the eve on a key hearing on what should happen with those Democratic delegates from Michigan and Florida, we decided to go beyond party rule makers.

Let's go to our national correspondent Susan Candiotti. She set out to learn what voters in Florida actually think should happen.

What did they tell you, Susan?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, surprisingly, perhaps, some people didn't even know that the meeting is taking place tomorrow in Washington with the Democratic National Committee Rules Committee. However, everyone we spoke with did know about the controversy.


CANDIOTTI: Should Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama get Florida's primary votes? If so, how many? Few we talked with even knew Saturday is D day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't know that.

CANDIOTTI: The Democratic National Committee, they're having a big meeting tomorrow in Washington. Do you know what it's about?


CANDIOTTI: Yet many folks strongly Florida's Democratic primary votes should be included even if the state broke the rules by holding the contest early.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a registered voter, I voted and I think my vote should count. I think it's totally ridiculous that Florida and Michigan's votes are not being counted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope it counts. Because I voted for Obama. I want him to win.

CANDIOTTI: Assuming at least some votes are accepted, how to divide them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They should leave it up to --

CANDIOTTI: Some said Clinton should get more than Obama since she got 50 percent of the votes to his 33 in Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Hillary has her portion then she's getting whatever she deserves. Whatever Hillary has for herself, then she should get whatever people give her.

CANDIOTTI: Yet a group of black religious leaders in Miami disagree. They'd like to see a 50/50 slit.

GARY JOHNSON, FAITH BASED OUTREACH: Should it be the majority decide on how the votes are could want counted, or the moral conscious?

CANDIOTTI: Surprisingly, a number of voters said if Florida botched it, get over it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They should not be counted. Yes, I feel that way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They knew in the beginning that they were doing wrong. And I don't see how that can be changed. And I'm a Democrat.


CANDIOTTI: How do you like that? Yet not one of the Democrats that we spoke with said they were so turned off by what happened that they didn't plan on voting in November. All of them said they were going to vote.

BLITZER: Susan, thanks for that. Susan Candiotti reporting. Let's discuss all of this with Paul Begala. He's our CNN contributor, a Democratic strategist and Hillary Clinton supporter.

Paul, I guess what people are wondering is what would it take to satisfy Hillary Clinton that the Rules Committee does so that they don't appeal it, the Clinton campaign to the Credentials Committee at the end of the month and then move on potentially to the convention at the end of August in Denver.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: What Hillary's position has been that --

BLITZER: I know what her position is. She wants all those votes counted.

BEGALA: Or she has supported a revote which I think is a much better --

BLITZER: That's too late for that.

BEGALA: I don't know. I never give up hope. I don't think it's necessarily too late. I think they could have a fire house primary in Michigan and Florida. I've been saying this for months and months.

BLITZER: The DNC Rules Committee, they're going to make a decision. The question is, will it be acceptable? Will she say, all right, it's acceptable? And presumably she could drop out Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday if it doesn't meet what she wants.

BEGALA: Again, I don't work for her. I am not an insider on her campaign by any stretch of the imagination. I gave her money. I voted for her in the Virginia primary where I live now but my guess is nobody's getting out of this race until somebody has the majority of all the delegates. Right now that magic number is 2,025. It's certain to change tomorrow. The Rules Committee will pick a favorite number.

BLITZER: If they gave her half of the delegates let's say from Florida and Michigan.

BEGALA: The rules actually say that if you move your primary you only get half of your delegates. Then they changed the rules. That's OK. That's their right. They're the Rules Committee. They changed the rules many months ago and said you get zero. A lot of people think they'll put back the status quo and give have.

The hard thing and I heard Candy's report earlier in this hour, it's exactly right. It's easier in Florida where they were both on the ballot even though they didn't campaign. In Michigan, Senator Obama chose to take his name off the ballot. The rules didn't require that. He did it to appeal to Iowa's Democrats and it worked. It helped him win Iowa. Maybe helped Clinton lose Iowa. But so how do you then give him any delegates when he said, I don't want any of the delegates out of Michigan.

BLITZER: The question is, will Hillary Clinton accept whatever the DNC Rules Committee decides to do tomorrow right here in Washington?

BEGALA: I don't think you can say anybody would accept it no matter what, whatever they do. Let's see what they do. I don't think tomorrow will be outcome determinative. I really don't. It's going to be important thing. It'll be an interesting things to watch. I much prefer when the Democratic Party is behaving democratically out there having primaries.

BLITZER: Tuesday is the last two contests in Montana and South Dakota is on Tuesday. Then it's over with.

BEGALA: I know. If I had my druthers we'd have another lap around. We'd have another 50 primaries in every state because I like them. But Alexis Herman, Jim Roosevelt, the two co-chairs of this committee are really good Democrats. They're really committed to progressive values so I do have a lot of confidence in them tomorrow that they'll lead this committee to some kind of just solution.

BLITZER: And that's something that she would accept?

BEGALA: I -- I think so. Let's wait and see.

BLITZER: You know, some of her -- Harold Ickes is one of her top strategists, he's a member of that Rules Committee. He's going to be right inside that room.

BEGALA: No shrinking violet, Harold.

BLITZER: No and he's presumably got a game plan in mind and what I was hoping is you would share that with us.

BEGALA: I haven't talked to Harold. I don't know what his strategy is and again, what I used to do in campaigns is try to go out and get votes from real people. I've never been enamored with or very talented at the back room dealing. But now tomorrow is the day of back room dealing. And at least I'll give the Democratic Party a ton of credit for this. They've opened it up to cameras. CNN will be there.

BLITZER: We'll have a lot of cameras inside that room.

BEGALA: This won't be a closed back room deal at all. This will open for everybody to see. In that sense, the party is being very Democratic.

BLITZER: The only back room deals could be tonight when they're having a little closed door dinner.

BEGALA: Maybe a little cocktail.

BLITZER: We'll see what they decide tonight and how it unfolds tomorrow.

Paul, thanks very much.

CNN is going to bring you total coverage tomorrow of the Democrats' Decision Day. That's what we're calling it. It's live beginning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN and

Bill Clinton claims his wife is not getting what she deserves.


W. CLINTON: I've never seen anything like it. I've never seen a candidate treated so disrespectfully just for running.


BLITZER: But Hillary Clinton is seeing a lot of respect in Puerto Rico. Why is it so important to her presidential hopes? We'll explain.

And John McCain wants you to know he's sorry. He admits a mistake about mixing the U.S. military and politics. But does he admit any mistake over something he said about troops in Iraq?

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


BLITZER: Visitors logging on to the White House Web site might be surprised to find out who's giving the tour of the White House briefing room. Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton has been looking into this.

Who's the tour guide, Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, his book may be number one on trashing the White House but on the official White House Web site you'll be interested to find Scott McClellan still the poster boy for the press briefing room. Take a listen.


MCCLELLAN: Of course the White House Press Corps is here to keep the American people informed about the important decisions that the president of the United States and his administration are making here in Washington, D.C.


TATTON: That's Scott McClellan, the tour guide, leading a lengthy online visit around the press briefing room during his tenure as press secretary a couple of years ago. But it is still up there online. There are a couple of other former members of the White House who are up there as well; Karl Rove, Andrew Kard as well but they didn't write a tell-all. When asked if the video would be taken down, a White House spokesperson said we aren't that petty. We do not expect it to be removed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thanks very much.

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

What do you think? We're going to clock to see how long before that Web site loses the Scott McClellan press room tour.

CAFFERTY: It's just -- it's just another glaring example of how totally inefficient Washington, D.C., is. How long ago did he live there?

BLITZER: He left a long time ago, a year and a half.

CAFFERTY: Yes. If I leave CNN today, they've got my poster down before the sun comes up in the morning. Why are you laughing? You know something I don't.

The question this hour: do you think the government investigation of oil prices is going to lead to cheaper gasoline?

David in Virginia says: "Gee, Jack, it can't hurt. The announcement of the investigation was enough to send prices down $4 a barrel yesterday. Maybe some of the opportunistic traders are going to ground and the hounds of the FCC will go after them. This worked for Enron, didn't it? Seems to me we spend too much time vilifying the oil companies, not enough thinking about the futures traders who can pretty much do whatever they want."

Mike writes: "Got the high gasoline price blues? Buy oil stock. That'll take the sting out of those high gas prices."

I don't know what that has to do with the investigation.

James in San Diego: "I bet oil will fall just before the election as big oil desperately tries to keep its minions in power."

M.: "Interesting that we would investigation this now. The more interesting issue is if you do the math, the price per barrel of oil risen over 100 percent since January 2007 yet our gasoline price per gallon has not doubled. We still pay more per gallon -- they rather still pay more per gallon in every European country than here in the United States. Let's all thank our lucky stars we're not paying $6 a gallon like we ought to be. $9 a gallon in Norway."

Jay in New Jersey: "Since we are funding this war in Iraq, how about we recoup some of it with a little oil. Aren't they, the Iraqis, keeping all the profits from their oil for themselves?" Yes, jay, they are, tens and tens and billions of dollars in Swiss banks.

Adrian in Louisiana says: "This investigation clearly a political move which will have no real impact on pump prices. Our political process uses corporate money as its fuel. Our spineless legislators are unlikely to upset such generous benefactors."

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

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

Bob Dole is now calling him a, quote, miserable creature. But the former White House press secretary Scott McClellan is sticking to his story. What changed his mind about the Bush administration?

And what he -- what would he have to say to President Bush right now? We'll be speaking with Scott McClellan coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: He's not running, but he's getting star treatment right now in Puerto Rico.

CNN's Jessica Yellin was traveling with Bill Clinton.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He's still got it. Walking through old San Juan this week, Bill Clinton was treated like a rock star, living up to his reputation as a political master.

W. CLINTON: You will never have a chance like this again. To send a message to the mainland about what the people of Puerto Rico care about. You will never have a chance to vote for someone who cares more, who has done more, and who will do more as president.

YELLIN: That's the Bill Clinton who was supposed to hit the trail and deliver the nomination for his wife; charming, passionate, tireless, the world's best campaigner. But instead the country saw this.

W. CLINTON: What they care about, it's not going to be in the news coverage tonight because you don't care about it. What you care about is this. And the Obama people know that. So they just spin you up on this and you happily go along.

YELLIN: An often angry campaign partner, sometimes painfully off message.

W. CLINTON: Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice in '84 and '88. And he ran a good campaign. And Senator Obama's run a good campaign here.

YELLIN: This side of Bill Clinton surprised many but not those who covered him during his White House years.

JOHN HARRIS, POLITICO: When he has grievances or resentments he doesn't hold that in very well. If you listen long enough you'll hear his real thoughts kind of come spewing out almost like a volcano.

YELLIN: Bill Clinton's also not used to losing presidential elections and he seems to be taking the possible loss of this once seemingly inevitable nomination particularly hard.

W. CLINTON: I've never seen anything like it. I've never seen a candidate treated so disrespectfully just for running.

YELLIN: But could he be feeling disrespected as well? He's fighting the perception that he lost his political Midas touch. HARRIS: But the idea that he is the most successful Democrat, that he is the person that somehow cracked the code and knows how to make Democrats electable, I think we recognize now that that's a myth.

YELLIN: And maybe that's why Bill Clinton, more than anyone else, doesn't want to let this one go. Insisting Hillary still has a shot if she wins the popular vote.

W. CLINTON: It will prove that she's the popular choice of the Democrats. That's what it will prove.

YELLIN: And to this day, campaigning for hours at events like these in small towns across America, promoting the Clintons both of them.

So is this Bill Clinton's last campaign?

Well, there's always the possibility Hillary could run again in 2012, or the former president suggested his daughter Chelsea seems to be awfully good at it. Who knows what the future might hold.

Jessica Yellin, CNN, San Juan, Puerto Rico.