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Hillary's Next Move; Bill Clinton Angrier Now?

Aired June 2, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, there's breaking news on Capitol Hill, a meeting of undeclared superdelegates, who could ultimately decide the Democratic presidential race. Are they getting ready to choose sides right now?

Plus, the Democrats' endgame. Will Hillary Clinton reach out to Barack Obama? Will he reach out to her, as this primary season wraps up tomorrow? We will tell you what we're learning about the prospects for Democratic Party unity.

And new questions about Bill Clinton's behavior and the state of his mind. We will talk about it with an author -- with the author of an explosive new article that suggests former Clinton aides talked about what they call an intervention -- all that and the best political team on television.

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But, up first this hour, the Democrats' campaign cliffhanger. On the eve of the final primaries, a lot of suspense right now about what Hillary Clinton will do and how it will affect Barack Obama's likely general election campaign.

Let's go to CNN's Suzanne Malveaux. She's watching this story for us.

Suzanne, I will walk over to you. I know you're talking to a lot of sources right now. What are you learning?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there are a couple of things that are happening here.

But clearly tomorrow what Senator Clinton is going to say to supporters, to voters, is that, for the sake of winning in November, for the sake of the party, she will do whatever is necessary, whatever she is asked to do.

Now, this is a clear signal that that also includes perhaps accepting a position as vice president, if that were offered. This is something that has been conveyed to the Obama camp. Several insiders say that they have seen this message, they have heard this message. There's quite a split within the Obama campaign, whether or not that that would happen at all. Another thing that is going to happen for the sake of party unity is we are going to see Jim Clyburn -- he is the highest-ranking African-American in Congress -- to go before and officially endorse Barack Obama.

He is going to make a speech himself, and he is going to essentially say that this is an historic occasion for both Senator Clinton, as well as Obama, that you have a party here that has a woman, as well as an African-American, who have been supported through the process.

What they're trying to do is make efforts to bring these two camps together. One of the things that the Obama insiders are saying is that they are they -- that they realize that, if they put Hillary Clinton on the ticket, that this would at least tamp down some sort of the animosity initially.

But there's another thinking out there as well, is that it's not a good idea, because they feel that the Clintons themselves, both Hillary and Bill Clinton, have not been fully vetted in the primary process, that, as one insider put it, that they really got a pass, that they didn't go through the finances, the social life of these -- of this couple, of these individuals, and, therefore, this would be really ripe, fertile ground for the GOP.

BLITZER: I want to play a little clip of what Senator Obama said and we will discuss it. Listen to this.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I emphasized to her what an extraordinary race that she's run, and said that there aren't too many people who understand exactly how hard she's been working.

I'm one of them, because, you know, she and I have been on this same journey together, and told her that, once the dust settled, I was looking forward to meeting with her at a time and place of her choosing. And, so, you know, we will -- we have still got two more contests to go, and I'm sure there will be further conversations after Tuesday.


BLITZER: All right. There's some intriguing words. What do you think?

MALVEAUX: Well, we know that they're going to be in the same place at the same time after this is all over. So, there's a lot of speculation as to whether or not they will actually come out and make some sort of joint appearance.

They're still kind of talking about that and working things out there. One of the things that's happening behind the scenes, Wolf, is there's quite a bit of concern that Hillary Clinton may have alienated the support in the black community and that something needs to be done from both sides.

And one thing that they are floating is the possibility of the Congressional Black Caucus, who you know has been split between these two candidates, of perhaps coming forward with a letter of support for Barack Obama, but also talking about the importance of Hillary Clinton's role in all of this.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Suzanne Malveaux, doing some good reporting, as usual.

Let's get to the other breaking news we're following up on Capitol Hill, a secret meeting revealed involving senators who are undeclared superdelegates. It's just wrapped up.

Let's go to Kate Bolduan. She's watching this up on the Hill for us.

All right, what are we learning, Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're learning a little bit more about the meeting and kind of what it actually means and why it was held, Wolf.

Producer Ted Barrett spoke to four senators as they were heading back into the Hill after the meeting wrapped up. And those senators, we confirmed, were at this meeting, as we have now talked about, were Senator Cardin of Maryland, Senator Salazar of Colorado, Senator Harkin of Iowa, and Senator Carper of Delaware.

Now, going into the meeting -- they did not characterize the meeting coming out very much, but going into the meeting they did tell us a little bit more about why they're possibly getting together.

I want to read you a couple things that we were told. Senator Harkin, when we asked him, why hold this meeting, he said the meeting is to discuss what if anything they, these senators, undeclared superdelegates, might do after the polls close tomorrow night together.

Now, of course, the operative word there is together. Either they will come out separately or together. That's a big question tonight, Wolf.

Also, when they were leaving, Senator Salazar told Ted Barrett that it, the meeting, was just a dialogue about moving to peace; how are we going to create unity in the Democratic Party?

Suzanne Malveaux noted that. And it really is unity that is highlighted here, and that's what it seems that this meeting was about, how to unify the party moving forward and bring this nomination race to a close. Now, they did tell that no decisions were made at this meeting. But as we mentioned earlier, Senator Harkin told us, Wolf, as many as 18 senators were invited to this closed-door meeting. Four of them we have now confirmed were able to make it.

BLITZER: Did they say if they would be meeting again? BOLDUAN: Actually, they did tell us that they are going -- another meeting is scheduled for Wednesday. Of course, that means that's a very special day, a very important day in the primary process. These primaries will be wrapped up by then.

So, we will have to wait around and see what comes of that meeting -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Kate Bolduan, on the Hill.

Jack Cafferty is here once again. He's got "The Cafferty File."

Lots of news happening today.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Busy for a Monday, huh?

Barack Obama apparently decided enough was enough. He announced over the weekend he's resigning his 20-year membership at Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ. Obama says he and his wife discussed leaving the church ever since last April, when his former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, made more controversial remarks in that appearance at the National Press Club in Washington.

Obama's association with the church had caused an explosion on cable news weeks earlier, when video surfaced, you will remember, of the fiery sermons, blaming the U.S. for 9/11, saying the federal government helped spread AIDS.

Obama initially said he disagreed with the comments, but couldn't disown the man. Later, he did just that. He said the comments were divisive, and destructive and he wanted nothing further to do with Wright.

More questions about Obama's ties to Trinity arose last week with a guest sermon delivered by a Catholic priest, the Reverend Michael Pfleger, who mocked Hillary Clinton as weeping over -- quote -- "a black man stealing my show," and said he wanted to expose -- quote -- "white entitlement and supremacy wherever it raises its head" -- unquote.

Father Pfleger was harshly criticized by Chicago's archbishop. He subsequently apologized. Obama says he's not denouncing the church. He points out that, because he's running for president, every time something's said in that church, it will be connected to him, even if it's something he's disagrees with.

The likely Democratic nominee says he has no idea how his decision will impact his campaign. He said it was a personal decision and that it was the right thing to do for his family.

So, here's our question to you. How will Barack Obama's resignation from his church in Chicago affect his chances in the general election?

Go to and post a comment on my blog. You know, if he would been a little more limber, he might have done this a few weeks ago and maybe there would have been more upside. I'm not sure it makes a whole lot of difference right now.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you.

Jack will be back with the best political team on television.

Major heart surgery can certainly change one's life, but is Bill Clinton a drastically changed man after his?


TODD PURDUM, "VANITY FAIR": Some people who work for him now say that he seems to be angry all the time, angry when he gets up in the morning and angry when he goes to bed at night.


BLITZER: The "Vanity Fair" writer Todd Purdum, he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM to report shocking claims others are making about the former president, including one so shocking, Bill Clinton's office is immediately shooting right back with a strong denial and a dismissal.

John McCain lays out a fresh and tough political attack against Barack Obama, and raises the specter of a nightmare scenario.

And Senator Ted Kennedy in the fight of his life right now. He undergoes major brain surgery today. Doctors have an update for you.

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


BLITZER: Bill Clinton has certainly campaigned fiercely for his wife. He's argued passionately that she should be the next president of the United States. But is he campaigning more aggressively than he has at any time before?

There's a new magazine article listing some rumors, shocking claims about President Clinton.

It's a piece that the former president's office is now summing up as -- quote -- "journalism of personal destruction at its worst."


BLITZER: And joining us now from our Washington bureau, the national editor of "Vanity Fair" magazine, the former "The New York Times" correspondent Todd Purdum.

Todd, thanks very much for coming in.

You have written quite an explosive piece in "Vanity Fair" about the former president of the United States entitled "The Comeback Id." Let me read one line that sort of jumped out. And then we will talk about it: "There are those friends who worry that Clinton has never been the same since his quadruple bypass surgery in 2004 and the unexpected follow-up operation six months later to remove accumulated scar tissue on his lung."

All right, so, what's the point? You're saying this president, this former president changed, his personality, his thoughts, his abilities, as a result of that surgery?

PURDUM: Some people at least raised that question with me. These are people who worked for him for a long time, who knew him before the surgery, and have dealt with him since.

It's somewhat speculative, obviously. No one can be sure. One of the things that is known, though, is heart bypass surgery has a whole range of side effects that can sometimes be subtle, difficult to diagnose, that can affect your mood, can cause you to be depressed or irritable, can produce dehydration, other kinds of symptoms. And some people wonder if some of that is in play with President Clinton.

BLITZER: In their rebuttal, the Bill Clinton office -- they issued a lengthy rebuttal today, which you have seen -- among other things, they say this: "Purdum, who is not an M.D., quotes one doctor who has never examined President Clinton, and who provides a hypothetical analysis -- from at least several hundred miles away -- to support this claim. This theory is false and is flatly rejected by President Clinton's doctors, who say he is in excellent shape and point to his vigorous schedule as evidence of his exceptional recovery."

You want to respond to that?

PURDUM: He certainly keeps a vigorous schedule. And I don't say that he doesn't.

I do say that his aides say that he tires more easily than he used to and he doesn't have the same kind of stamina. And I made it clear that the doctor I quoted, who is a very prominent cardiologist at Johns Hopkins, has been involved in President Clinton's care. And I quote a range of other medical literature in sort of general terms about this phenomenon.

I don't suggest that anyone can say, except perhaps his own doctors, over time, with certainty that this has affected President Clinton. But, again, this article involves reporting with a whole bunch of people who have worked for Bill Clinton over many years. And this is one of the things they raised with me. I didn't go raising this.

BLITZER: Well -- well, let me ask you, because you have been a longtime Clinton observer...


BLITZER: ... yourself, like me. You go back to '92, when we both covered the White House, after he was elected. You were working for "The New York Times" at the time.

Do you see a different personality, a different Bill Clinton post-surgery, as opposed to pre-surgery?

PURDUM: I think there are definitely some things that are different about his personality at this time and in this race than when he was running on his own account.

I think there's a good deal of evidence that he's quite a bit angrier than he used to be. You and I know that he used to have what aides called summer thunderstorms. He would have a big burst of anger, but he would quickly go back to normal.

Some people who work for him now say that he seems to be angry all the time, angry when he gets up in the morning and angry when he goes to bed at night. He's clearly very angry at the media and he's very angry at the way he sees Senator Clinton's campaign has been treated.

So, I think, in some ways, it's probably a lot harder when you're out there campaigning for someone you love than when you're campaigning on your own account. And it's maybe a lot harder to watch someone you care about take a punch than to take a punch yourself.

BLITZER: In the article, you point out you're married to Dee Dee Myers, the former White House press secretary, who worked for Bill Clinton, worked for him during the campaign back in '92 as well.

In their rebuttal today, this is what they say, the Clinton office: "This piece was written by Todd Purdum, who is married to Dee Dee Myers, former White House press secretary. Purdum's disclosure of this in the piece does not, as 'Vanity Fair' apparently concluded, remove the obvious conflict of interest."

If you had still been working at "The New York Times," would "The New York Times" have allowed you to write this kind of article about Bill Clinton?

PURDUM: I think it's very well known that I continued to cover the Clinton White House after Dee Dee and were engaged to be married. We started dating long after she had left the White House.

She went to work for Bill Clinton 17 years ago this fall. And she stopped working for him almost 14 years ago. So, I think everyone in Washington knows that we have that connection. And she speaks for herself, and she does it beautifully, here on CNN and other places. And she played no role in my reporting for this article. And I just don't really think it's a conflict.

BLITZER: Probably the most explosive part of the article includes this notion of some sort of intervention, which was necessitated by the suggestion you make that he's still philandering, or whatever.

Here's what you write: "Four former Clinton aides told me that, about 18 months ago, one of the president's former assistants, who still advises him on political matters, had heard so many complaints about such reports from Clinton supporters around the country that he felt compelled to try to conduct what one of these aides called an intervention, because, the aide believed, Clinton was apparently seeing a lot of women on the road."

You quote these anonymous sources. And it sounds like rumor, basically.

But go ahead and explain what the point is.

PURDUM: Well, I'm very careful to say that there is no clear-cut evidence that President Clinton has done anything improper. What I am careful to say and what is the truth is that this former senior aide was concerned enough that prominent Democrats around the country were complaining about hearing reports of this in their own backyard that he felt President Clinton should be made aware of it and should know that it was out there in the slipstream, in the water, so to speak, and that it could have an effect in the campaign season.

That's all I say. I don't say anything more.

BLITZER: But does that rise up to the threshold required to make to make -- to make what obviously is a very serious insinuation, that he's still cheating on Hillary Clinton?

PURDUM: Wolf, I don't make that insinuation. I don't make that insinuation in any place in the story. And I'm quite careful to say that I'm not.

What I'm saying is that some of his own aides are concerned about these reports. That's all I say. And I think the point here is, I'm not quoting Ken Starr's operatives. I'm not quoting opposition researchers for Barack Obama. I'm not quoting Republican lawyers or private eyes.

I'm quoting people who work and used to work and still work for Bill Clinton. And these are their concerns. They're not my concerns. They're not anyone else's concerns. These are their concerns.

BLITZER: And are you comfortable just quoting anonymous sources to make this insinuation?

PURDUM: First of all, I reject the notion that I'm making an insinuation.

But I'm very comfortable quoting the people I quote, because I know who they are, and I know that they're very senior people who have known President Clinton for a very long time and worked for him at very high levels. Yes, I feel very confident about that.

BLITZER: I guess one of the biggest complaints that the Clinton people are making is that you sort of ignore all the good deeds, all the good work he's done through his foundation, through his -- through his through his library to help millions of people around the world. The philanthropy, you sort of gloss over that, and you focus in on all the negative things that you come up with. And I want to give you a chance to respond to that.

PURDUM: Well, I do acknowledge that he has done undisputed good work all over the world. And many of my colleagues at other magazines have written extensively about that topic.

But that's -- that's not this story. Asking why I don't focus on that is a little bit asking like why the musical "South Pacific" doesn't have a song about the Normandy invasion. It's just a different topic.

But there's no doubt -- And I say in the piece very straightforwardly there's absolutely no doubt that President Clinton has done fabulous work since leaving the White House.

But, as we saw in the White House, some of that fabulous work is all tangled up with some parts that are less fabulous. And that's always been true about Bill Clinton, as it's true for every -- every person. It's just that it seems usually to be a little bit larger than life than him, as so many other aspects of his personality are.


BLITZER: Right now, Democrats are determined to try to put months of division behind them. There are new developments unfolding right now, including some secret meetings and public pronouncements. Are the -- that's only part of the activity that's going on right now, a new effort to try to unify the party. But what exactly will it take?

Barack Obama makes a surprising prediction -- the best political team on television standing by to weigh in.

And a legendary voice silenced. Rock 'n' roll pioneer Bo Diddley dies, leaving behind a unique imprint on the music industry.

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



BLITZER: There's a lot of reading between the lines of what Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are now saying about one another.


OBAMA: She is an outstanding public servant, and she and I will be working together in November.


BLITZER: How far will Obama and Clinton go in the name of party unity? Is there reason for Democrats to believe that a joint ticket is possible? Also ahead, undeclared superdelegates prepare to get off the fence. Could we see a sudden rash of endorsements as soon as tomorrow?

And Dick Cheney weighs in on Scott McClellan's tell-all book about the Bush White House -- a lot coming for the best political team on television.

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


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

Happening now: The primary season draws to a close with the last contests in Montana and South Dakota tomorrow. When all is said and done, what will it take to bring the Democratic Party together?

Senator Clinton in South Dakota, fighting to the finish, while her team gathers here in New York waiting for her next move.

And Iran's president unleashes another warning to Israel, declaring once again that the Jewish state will be wiped off the map, and soon. His fiery comments could bring the Middle East squarely back into this presidential debate in the United States -- all this coming up, plus the best political team on television.

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

On the eve of the final Democratic primary -- and there are only two left -- Hillary Clinton says she's taking the presidential race one day at a time. That means a final push in South Dakota, one of those two states holding contests tomorrow.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is in Sioux Falls right now. She's watching this story for us.

Is she tipping her hand at all, Candy, about what her next steps will be?


She continues to talk about what she always has, about how she's winning in the popular vote, that people should look at who will be the strongest candidate up against John McCain.

As you know, there are rumors and reports out there, things like aides that have been told to put in their expense accounts by the end of the week, that kind of thing.

But I have to tell you that, inside the Clinton camp, they're dismissing this not as untrue, but as not necessarily meaning anything. But, right now, about the only one not talking about Hillary Clinton folding her tent is Hillary Clinton.


CROWLEY (voice-over): On the eve of the end, Hillary Clinton was working Tally's Restaurant in Rapid City, South Dakota, trademark tough.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What South Dakota decides tomorrow will have a big influence on what people think going forward. Because our main job, at the end of this historic, closely contested primary season, is to nominate the next president.

CROWLEY: The primary season ends so differently than it started. The frontrunner is now the longest of shots. And yet so much of her is the same -- smart, intrepid, unknowable. She runs out of states tomorrow. But if she thinks it's over, there is no hint of that. This weekend, she won Puerto Rico.

CLINTON: Let's keep fighting for our dreams. Let's keep fighting for what we believe. Let's keep fighting for one another. Let's keep fighting for America.

CROWLEY: Only a handful of people at the inner core of the campaign knows what she's thinking about doing when Tuesday's dust settles. One of them is Bill Clinton -- a fierce bulldog defender with a habit of going off message, as surely he did today.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This may be the last day I'm ever involved in a campaign of this kind. I thought I was out of politics until Hillary decided to run. But it has been one of the greatest honors of my life to be able to go around and campaign for her for president.

CROWLEY: Around her Plan Bs are being put into place. Staffers talk of vacations. Others have been in touch with the workplace they left behind. Those who have been with her since the beginning say she will not push this into the convention. As one close supporter put it, "She's acutely aware of her place in the party. She will not ruin it."

Friendly fire -- albeit gentle -- has begun. Former Iowa governor and Clinton supporter Tom Vilsack told the Associated Press, "After Tuesday's contests, she needs to acknowledge that he's going to be the nominee and quickly get behind him."

But that is up to Hillary Clinton -- and she's still working Plan A.


COSTELLO: The one thing we do know, Wolf, is that Hillary Clinton has always said that she was in this race until one of them secured enough delegates to win the nomination. According to the Obama campaign, that will happen this week. But just a few minutes ago, Hillary Clinton, talking to a crowd here in South Dakota, said tomorrow the campaign enters a new phase -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly does. All right, we'll see what happens. Candy, thanks very much.

Lots of buzz going on right now. And once this primary season is officially over -- it will be over tomorrow night -- what will it take to unify the Democratic Party?

Let's discuss this and more with Jack Cafferty, our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; and Rick Stengel, the managing editor of our sister publication. That would be "Time" magazine. Guys, thanks very much. They are all part of the best political tame on television.

What do you think, Jack?

What will it take to unify this party after tomorrow night?

CAFFERTY: Well, one thing -- I just read this on -- in the office not five minutes before I walked up here. There are a lot of rumors going around -- what does she want, what's he offering, is she going to be on the ticket, blah, blah, blah. This particular piece suggested that the discussions will come down to paying off her campaign debt -- that $11 million or $12 million that she owes -- and offering her a cabinet position, where, presumably, she could work on something like health care reform.

BLITZER: What do you think?

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think you're hearing a lot of these rumors right now. I have no doubt that Hillary Clinton will do, as Candy point out in her piece and the staffer was saying, that she will, in due time, when she feels it's the right moment -- she's getting a lot of pressure right now, obviously. She will embrace Barack Obama no matter what -- no matter what she's offered. Because not only is this about the future of the Democratic Party, but it's also about her own political future. And she understands that she can't tear down the village. And she's -- she's just not going to do that.

BLITZER: What are you hearing, Rick?

RICHARD STENGEL, "TIME" MAGAZINE: You know, I don't want to pour cold water on all of this, but having been through several presidential campaigns and worked in one, you can never overestimate how little the candidate himself or herself actually knows and how much is getting through to that person. Everybody now is talking to reporters, hovering around on the death watch and saying well, she's thinking this and she's doing that. Nobody is necessarily talking to her and she's not necessarily watching CNN and hearing what we have to say all the time.

BORGER: No. But, we don't -- and we don't know what she's thinking and she will -- you know, there's a handful of close aides. And in that handful is Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton. And those are the people she's going to sit and talk to. But, you know, she's a smart woman. She knows what's going on.

STENGEL: No. Look, she doesn't want to burn the village in order to save it, as you said.

BORGER: Right. Right.

STENGEL: I mean, and she knows she wants to have a future. But I just think we can't -- we've been so wrong so many times about what's going to happen each cycle, that, you know, we could be surprised again.

BLITZER: She's on here way back here to New York. She'll be here tomorrow night. She's going to be here on Wednesday. And Barack Obama is going to be here on Wednesday, as well. And the Democratic Party has a big unity event coming up.

Will we see the two of them together with their hands up declaring, you know what, it's over now, time to move on?

CAFFERTY: There is reason to believe that he's going to have enough delegates by Wednesday afternoon, if he picks up a few in South Dakota and a few in Montana. There was a meeting this afternoon among, what, 18 or so uncommitted super-delegates -- senators in Washington?

BORGER: A handful of them.

CAFFERTY: And if they come out either late tomorrow night or Wednesday morning and break for him, he's going to go get that 40 or 50 he needs. Once that happens, Candy Crowley says the woman's made it very clear -- once one of them gets to the number, the other one is out.

BLITZER: And Jim Clyburn, the number three Democrat in the House...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: ...the Democratic majority whip, he's now endorsed -- he's now endorsed Barack Obama after sitting on the fence for a long time.

BORGER: Right. Right. And so you've got these uncommitted Democratic Senate super-delegates. I don't know if they're going to come out -- the Obama people really wanted them to come out now, sooner, before Montana and South Dakota. These being senators, they're not going to do that. But you're going to see sort of a steady stream of these -- of these senators. And most of the 17 or 18 are going to go for him. And Harry Reid, of course, will hold off until it's all over, because he's the leader.

BLITZER: And the irony is that she crushed him in Puerto Rico yesterday. The polls show she's doing really well in these two remaining states of Montana and South Dakota, where he was way ahead only a few weeks ago.


BLITZER: It's -- it looks like it could be a case too little, too late. BORGER: Yes.

STENGEL: Well, and the -- as the -- you know, the metaphor of choice seems to be that he's wheezing over the finish line. And, in fact, he's not finishing strong. And it's like in baseball, you want to have a winning streak when you go into the World Series. And he has been weakened and that has fostered all the talk that we've been hearing for weeks about whether there should be a joint ticket, whether the party can come together.

In fact, in answer to that question, I think we've all overestimated how difficult it will be for the party to come together. The party will come together.


STENGEL: People in the Democratic Party want to win the election in the fall. And we've been so mired in the day to day, that I think within a few weeks, there will be Kumbaya all over again...


BORGER: Right. Right.

BLITZER: All right, let's...

CAFFERTY: The best thing they have going for them is they're running against eight years of the Republican administration, which the public has had an absolute bellyful of. So they've got some wiggle room. They don't have to be quite as good as they might have to have been in another year.

BLITZER: All right. We're getting some indications things are happening. So, stand by. We're going to continue this conversation.

Also, the vice president, Dick Cheney, is taking stock of his job.


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I asked Lynne the other day if -- how she felt about me being called Darth Vader, and she said well, it humanizes you.



BLITZER: The vice president also weighed in today on his former -- on the former White House press secretary, Scott McClellan's, new book. We'll tell you what he said. That's coming up, as well.

And John McCain using the discussion on Iran as ammunition against Barack Obama. You're going to hear what he had to say on that front. His remarks opening a big door for presidential debate.

Stay with us.




CHENEY: I haven't read Scott McClellan's book. I don't plan to read Scott McClellan's book anytime soon.


BLITZER: And he went on to say he agrees with Bob Dole, who called Scott McClellan "a miserable creature."

Say what you will about Dick Cheney, whether you agree with him or disagree with him, he's been a very influential, powerful vice president. Maybe -- I daresay, Rick, you've studied history -- the most influential vice president?

Al Gore was pretty influential, as well.

STENGEL: Well, I'll tell you, I have studied the history and almost every vice president has been declared the most powerful vice president in history.


STENGEL: Walter Mondale was declared the most powerful vice president in history.

BORGER: I was going to say Mondale.

STENGEL: Al Gore then eclipsed him.

CAFFERTY: What about Dan Quayle?


STENGEL: He was the most inert vice president in history.


STENGEL: But, you know, the thing is, again, we don't really know what his influence over Bush has been. We know they had lunch every week privately. We know he felt very strongly about the most important issues, whether it was Iraq, whether it was the Defense Department. And presumably he had his way.

But they had -- it's like a compact between Mafia don't dons...

BORGER: Right.

STENGEL: ...if you don't know what's influencing who, you don't know who's influencing who. BORGER: You know, I once did a lot of reporting trying to figure out what I called the partnership between the two of them, to try and get the sense of when they were really angry at each other and when they weren't angry at each other. And they're saving it, you know, they're saving it for their books, because they really, they go into these meetings and when they come out, they don't talk to anybody about it.

BLITZER: I raised the question because there's a lot of discussion right now about the next vice president of the United States, whether it's McCain's vice president or Barack Obama, presumably, if he's the nominee, his vice president. And Dick Cheney, for good or for bad, has served for eight years now. And in my assessment, he's been very influential.

CAFFERTY: Well, part of that is the perception of both Vice President Cheney and the perception of George W. Bush. George Bush, like it or not, is not perceived as the sharpest knife in the drawer. Dick Cheney is -- he comes across as a pretty bright guy. He's also kind of funny when he's talking about his wife said, you know, what about when they call you Darth Vader and she said well, it humanizes you.

But he -- the perception between the two of them is that he's the power behind the throne. I don't think we'll ever know any of this stuff. We still don't know what happened in the Enron meetings eight years ago. And, presumably, some of the stuff that went on might not be copasetic. So I doubt we're ever going to get any big tell-all books.

BLITZER: So I guess the question is, is he a model for the next vice president?

STENGEL: Well, that's a good question because, you know, the vice presidency has been famously depicted as a bucket of warm spit.

BORGER: Right.

STENGEL: The job is you hang around basically waiting to see if the guy ahead of you or the woman ahead of you dies or not. There's no constitutional reason why a vice president couldn't also be secretary of state, secretary of defense, secretary of the treasury.

Why not give the vice president a real job while he or she is waiting around in case the president dies?

BORGER: I think, in many ways, the president has to do that now, given the enormity of the job. And I believe Mondale was the transformational vice president, and that ever since Mondale, presidents have said you know what -- I mean maybe Dan Quayle excepted -- but that I do need to use this person in a very, very important way. I do need to have somebody I can confide in. I do need to depend on somebody in a different way.

I mean Clinton and Gore did it that way until they had their parting of the ways. But certainly Gore was a very important vice president.

BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much.

Jack, we've got The Cafferty File coming up.

And Jack is asking this question -- how will Barack Obama's resignation from his church affect his chances in the general election?

He's got your e-mail.

And John McCain and Barack Obama battling over the Israel issue, Iraq, Jewish voters.

Who's got the edge when it comes to the Middle East?

That and more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Lou is getting ready for his show that begins right at the top of the hour -- Lou, what are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Well, thank you, Wolf.

We're working on the war in Iraq. It could be at a turning point, but you wouldn't know it by reading national newspapers or listening to national media or watching, say, national media. We'll be telling you about what voters -- Democrat, Republican and Independent -- should know about the conduct of the war in Iraq and, yes, the progress of the war in Iraq.

Also tonight, presidential candidates talking tough about the threat to Americans from dangerous imports.

Is it, however, anything more than talk?

Will any of these candidates take any action to protect American consumers if elected president?

We'll have that report for you.

And the National Guard is withdrawing -- what's left of it -- from our Southern border with Mexico. Gaping holes in border security -- a border already gaping with plenty of holes. All of this as the war with violent drug cartels in Mexico is escalating and spilling across our border.

We'll also have the very latest for you from the campaign trail. All of the news and a lot more.

Join us, 7:00 Eastern, for all of that and a great deal more at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right.

Lou, thanks very much.

Let's get back to Jack Cafferty.

He's got The Cafferty File.

CAFFERTY: It took him awhile to get around to it, but he resigned from the church over the weekend. The question is, how will Barack Obama's resignation from that church in Chicago affect his chances in the general election?

Steve writes from Idaho: "In the real world, what somebody's preacher said should have no real relevance to the candidate. That is, unless that candidate speaks from the same tongue. Unfortunately, in a campaign where you're tagged by association, this is a good decision for Barack Obama. McCain separated himself from his whacky preachers and now Obama's doing the same."

Bruce in Minnesota writes: "it will take the church off the table as an issue. The GOP will still try to use the Reverend Wright clips, but it won't be nearly as effective. Maybe he'll be able to focus on things like health care, Iraq, the economy, tax giveaways, etc. Come to think of it, John McCain has some questionable characters in his past, as well. They're named Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld. I'll save Keating for another time."

S. Writes: "Well, Jack, it does say something about his judgment. It took him 20 years to realize it wasn't a great church to be attending. Oprah did it in two."

Randy in New York writes: "He's done everything he can do to distance himself from the church short of burning it down. Probably some Republicans will suggest he should have done that."

Wendy in Illinois: "It doesn't matter one way or the other. He should have left years ago, but he chose not to. He's just as radical and extreme as his pastors are. There's no other reason why he'd stay in that church for 20 years, unless he believed the same stupid crap that they do. Even if he only joining for political reasons, as some are saying, a sane person would have seen the writing on the wall after a few years and left."

And Ray in Florida writes this: "I don't think it will make much difference. The Republicans will try to use the former church against him in the general election, but my hope is they'll overplay it. If he's smart, he'll go join John McCain's church."

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

BLITZER: Jack, thank you for that.

On our Political Ticker today, John McCain is looking for more political mileage against Barack Obama. He chastised the Democrat once again for his willingness to meet with leaders of Iran. And he did it in front of an audience especially attuned to concerns about the Middle East.

Here's CNN's Jim Acosta -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, John McCain repeated his message that he thinks Barack Obama is naive when it comes to the Middle East. What made today's message stand out is that he delivered it to Jewish-American voters.


MCCAIN: And America's progress in Iraq is a direct result of the new strategy that Senator Obama vehemently opposed.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Call it a taste of things to come -- presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain, taking foreign policy jabs at Barack Obama.

MCCAIN: It was the strategy he predicted would fail when he voted to cut off funds for our forces in Iraq. He now says he intended to withdraw combat troops from Iraq. He will do so regardless of the conditions in Iraq, regardless of the consequences for our national security, regardless of Israel's security and in disregard of the best advice of our commanders on the ground. This course would surely result in a catastrophe.

ACOSTA: And he once again blasted Obama for considering face-to- face talks with the leader of Iran.

McCain's comments came in front of APAC -- the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee -- an influential pro-Israel lobbying group. Jewish voters have been reliable supporters of the Democrats for years, but McCain hopes to make inroads. Obama speaks to the same group Wednesday, but didn't wait until then to respond.

OBAMA: George Bush and John McCain have been so focused on pursuing a flawed and costly war in Iraq, that they've lost sight of the problems that have been mounting here in Michigan and here at home.


ACOSTA: In talking to voters in Michigan today, we saw Barack Obama telegraph what he plans to say to voters throughout this general election campaign -- that when it comes to Iran or the war in Iraq, he says John McCain is simply too linked to the failed policies of an unpopular president -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim.

Thank you.

Jim Acosta reporting for us.

As the Democratic race reaches its endgame, CNN's Jeanne Moos finds some fun and games on the campaign trail. It's Moost Unusual and it's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Democratic race for its nominee reaching a cliffhanger right now. But there are some lighter moments out on the campaign trail, as well.

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


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The worse it has looked for Hillary, the better she has looked -- until she lost her voice Monday.

H. CLINTON: Just to come back and talk a minute.

What should I talk about?

MOOS: Slogging through town after interchangeable town...

OBAMA: Even after we left Mitchell -- even after we left Greenwood. We're in Mitchell now.

MOOS: The younger man has seemed weary, while the 60-year-old has bounced back. Sort of like Hillary in the Box, discovered by the folks at the Wonkette Web site. Twelve hundred of these pro-Hillary keepsakes were manufactured. Its creator says half have been sold. And though Hillary has seemed almost liberated lately, for once, even opposite ends of the blogosphere agree -- the end, it's over. The fight that has divided even kiddies in one family...







MOOS: The fight seems to be winding down.



MOOS: Those kids are real. These kids are actors...

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Young Hillary Clinton.

MOOS: ...featured in a parody of Hillary's tenacity.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: One, two, three, four -- connect four. UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Actually, not all the spaces have been counted yet. So I'm not going to officially declare you the winner.








MOOS: But the writing is on the wall, forecast on foreheads, though Obama critics have come up with an unforgettable video of their own...


MOOS: Unelectable or not, the nomination is within Obama's grasp.

(on camera): And as the sun seems to set on the Hillary campaign, it figures someone would bring up "Sunset Boulevard."

(voice-over): You know, the film about the delusional, once famous actress?




MOOS: Well, now there's a Hillary version.


MOOS: Down the staircase comes Norma Desmond, likewise, the Hillary impersonator.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another picture and another picture.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After I serve this term, I'll serve another and another.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And those wonderful people out there in the dark.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Out in the dark who voted for me.

MOOS: But the funny thing about that famous line... UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm ready for my presidency.

MOOS: The thing about that line is that Hillary Clinton actually seemed readier for her close-up at the end than at the beginning.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: And please stay with CNN for complete coverage of the Democrats' primary finale. I'll be here at the CNN Election Center, along with the best political team on television.

We're going to bring you the results from South Dakota and Montana.

You've also helped make our politics pod cast one of the most popular on iTunes. To get the best political team to go, you can subscribe. This is what you can do. Go to or go to iTunes. And remember, you can always read my daily blog post. I posted one just before the show on the so-called dream ticket, what's going on. That's the place to go.

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.