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U.S. Supreme Court Rules on Rights of Terror Detainees; McCain Campaign Again Targets Obama V.P. Search Team; Budweiser Battle

Aired June 12, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And happening now, the U.S. Supreme Court threatening to break a lynchpin of the Bush administration's war on terror. Will a new ruling create more pressure to close the prison camps at Guantanamo Bay? The presidential candidates, they are weighing in right now.
Plus, Barack Obama confronts rumors online. But his Web site could be a politically risky venture. We're watching this story.

And John McCain targets another member of Obama's vice presidential search team. The resignation of one of Obama's vetters apparently wasn't enough -- all that and the best political team on television.

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

The U.S. Supreme Court is striking its third powerful blow to the president's anti-terror policies.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. The court ruled today that detainees held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have the right to challenge their detention in federal civilian courts, not military tribunals, federal civilian courts. The decision by a divided court is driving home some big differences between the presidential candidates on the treatment of terrorist suspects and more.

Let's go to our CNN senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre. He's watching this story for us. It's got a lot of ramifications on the war on terror, also in the political campaign.

What's going on, Jamie?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, one of the things it's doing is increasing the calls for closing Guantanamo, a decision that is going to fall to the next president, like so many others.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): Senator John McCain, who says he favors closing Guantanamo, decried the high court's decision.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It obviously concerns me. These are unlawful combatants. They're not American citizens.

MCINTYRE: While Senator Barack Obama, who also says he will close Guantanamo, hailed the ruling, called it -- quote -- "a rejection of the Bush administration's attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo."

In its 5-4 decision, the high court removed the basic U.S. rationale for holding enemy combatants in Cuba, instead on American soil, namely to prevent them from using the federal courts to challenge their detention.

A former attorney for Osama bin Laden's alleged bodyguard and driver told CNN, "It means in legal terms Guantanamo Bay is no different than Kansas."

Among those who favor shuttering Gitmo, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who says -- quote -- "There is a taint about it" because of past abuses. But Gates has no answer as to what to do with the so- called worst of the worst, hard-core terrorists who he says can't be let free.

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We have a serious "not in my backyard" problem. I haven't found anybody who wants these terrorists to be placed in a prison in their home state.

MCINTYRE: Even Senator Lindsey Graham, who helped fashion the law the Supreme Court just struck down, believes the days are numbered for the island prison Amnesty International once called the gulag of our time.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: As to Guantanamo Bay, I believe it would be responsible to close it up, move the prisoners somewhere on a military installation in the United States.


MCINTYRE: President Bush said firstly today that he will abide by the Supreme Court's decision, even if he doesn't like it. But he also hinted he may try to get around it by pushing a new law through Congress, a law that could prolong the legal limbo of the detainees and provoke another round of legal challenges -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Jamie.

We're going to be discussing this later with our own Jeff Toobin, our senior legal analyst, as well.

Let's get to a new twist right now in Barack Obama's presidential bid. His campaign is up with a new Web site designed to quash rumors about the Democratic presidential candidate, rumors that spread online like wildfire.

Suzanne Malveaux's been working this story for us.

Suzanne, you have been checking this Web site. What are you seeing? SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There's a lot of excitement about the Web site. There's really a lot of buzz here because Barack Obama had been burned in the past.

During the primary season, rumors continued to dog him, questioning his patriotism, his faith, his sincerity. Well, now he's trying to reintroduce himself to voters across the country in the general election, so he's not letting these false claims spread all over the Internet go unanswered.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): Barack Obama has had enough. While he's been dogged by rumors over the Internet for months, it was the claim that his wife Michelle was on videotape in church referring to someone as "whitey" that propelled his campaign to fight back.

His new Web site, www. fightthesmears. com, takes on that rumor first. It cites conservative Republican blogs and talk show host Rush Limbaugh as the sources behind the smear.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: They're waiting to use it in October of Michelle going nuts in the church, too, talking about whitey this and whitey that.

MALVEAUX: The Web site counters, The truth is, no such tape exists. The rumor hit Obama directly last week when a newspaper reporter confronted him with it.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEE: There is dirt and lies that are circulated in e-mail. And they pump them out long enough until finally you, a mainstream reporter, asks me about them. And then that gives legs to the story.

MALVEAUX: Another story Obama confronted is the claim he attended a radical Muslim school.

OBAMA: This is the same kind of nonsense that we started with the madrassas, in which CNN had to fly to Jakarta to disprove it.

MALVEAUX: Obama's Web site actually has a link to CNN's report, which debunks the false rumor.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The deputy headmaster tells me he's unaware that his school has been labeled an Islamic madrassa by some in the United States and bristles at the thought.

MALVEAUX: Obama's Web site States he is not a Muslim, but a Christian. A photo shows he was sworn into the U.S. Senate with his hand on family bible, not the Koran. And there is video showing him leading the Pledge of Allegiance, debunking the rumor he refuses to do so.

The persistent false claims have been frustrating.

OBAMA: Simply because something appears in e-mail, that should lend it no more credence than if you heard it on the corner.

MALVEAUX: Conventional wisdom have been for candidates to ignore the buzz and hope that the vitriol goes away.

ALEX WELLEN, CNNPOLITICS.COM: At the lightning speed at which rumors are being spread, it's wise for a lot of these campaigns when they're learning this to respond in a way that kind of debunks the information quickly.


MALVEAUX: Obama's campaign aides tell me that the best antidote to a smear campaign is the truth. And it's the campaign's responsibility to make sure the most accurate information about Obama is out there. The Web site also encourages supporters to fight false claims by sending mass e-mails discrediting the Internet buzz -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Suzanne, for that story.

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul announcing today he's suspending his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. The Texas congressman says he will focus his time now on building an organization to help recruit and elect limited-government Republicans. Those are his words.

Paul is speaking about his plans tonight at the Texas State Republican Convention. He's the only Republican candidate who did not abandon his White House bid after John McCain locked up the nomination in March.

And Ron Paul will be among our guests here in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow. If you want to send us a question for him, you can do so through video. Go to our I-Report Web site at Send us a question for Ron Paul, if you have one.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, there was a story around that he had planned to go to the Republican Convention and hold some kind of a demonstration there or something. Is he still planning to do that?


BLITZER: Yes. He's going to have thousands and thousands of his supporters in St. Paul in early September and they're going to be making it clear they want change, from a more Libertarian point of view, his perspective.

CAFFERTY: He was the other guy who figured out how to tap that Internet pretty good. Remember all the money he raised?


BLITZER: He raised, what, millions in one day.

CAFFERTY: Oh, yes. It was incredible.

All right, speaking of money, guess who's paying for that $170 billion economic stimulus package? Our children. Those rebate checks meant to stimulate the economy helped pushed the federal budget deficit to $166 billion last month, a record high for the month of may.

The Treasury Department says the May deficit was more than double what it was a year ago. During last month, $48 billion in stimulus checks went out as part of an effort to review the economy. The stimulus package was actually something that prompted Democrats and Republicans to work together, for a change, on something. What they came up with eventually, $600 checks for individuals who earn less than $75,000, $1,200 for married taxpayers who earn less than $150,000.

The Bush administration estimated earlier this year the deficit would be about $410 billion. Some private economists think it will be higher, maybe topping the all-time high, $413 billion. That was set in 2004, also on Bush's watch.

And, remember, the deficit numbers that are reported by the government don't include the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, estimated between $150 billion and $200 billion a year. The largest increase in retail sales in six months in May is an indication people are spending those rebate checks. That was the idea, goose the economy a little bit.

The increase in retail sales doubled what economists were expecting, but it's only temporary. Once the money runs out, so does the stimulus. The point is, it's all borrowed money. It's being used for the rebate checks, money that will someday presumably have to be repaid, probably by our kids, or their kids.

And that's the question: Is it fair for the government to make our children pay for the economic stimulus package? Go

to You can post a comment on my blog.

Just more of this debt that we're pushing ahead to generations yet to get here, Wolf.

BLITZER: This debt, the national debt, it's incredible, what's going on. All right, we will discuss a little bit more later. Thanks, Jack, very much.

Some people are keeping secrets here in Washington. Democrats say they want them outed and want a presidential candidate's help.


SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: If Senator McCain wants to show the American people he's serious about this problem, he ought to join us in this legislation.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Senator Claire McCaskill, a major supporter of Barack Obama, says McCain has a choice to make over something involving foreign governments and your tax dollars. She will be here to explain.

And who would earn your vote, the person you like the most or the person you agree with the most? There are some surprising answers in our brand-new CNN poll.

And soon, when you grab a Budweiser or a Bud Light, you may raise your glass to a Belgian company. Anheuser-Busch now facing a takeover bid. Some are outraged, saying it will cost American jobs and American pride. We're working the story.

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


BLITZER: On Capitol Hill today, two top Senate Democrats are offering up a bill aimed at closing some of those loopholes used by lobbyists for foreign clients. Those loopholes sometimes allow the lobbyists to keep their activities secret. This is a sensitive issue for John McCain, because several former lobbyists working for his campaign had past dealings abroad. Some have resigned in recent weeks.


BLITZER: Joining us now from Capitol Hill is one of the sponsors of this legislation, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri. She has been for a long time a major supporter of Barack Obama.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

MCCASKILL: Great to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Some will say, you know, you and Senator Schumer are doing this now to embarrass the McCain campaign, that there's really politics behind this, as opposed to a strict desire to tighten up some of those loopholes. What do you say to that criticism that's already being leveled?

MCCASKILL: Well, this bill came about because we learned that the Iraqi government had hired lobbyists. And some of us were very offended at the idea that our tax dollars were being used to hire lobbyists to lobby us. And so we wanted to look in to find out what the source of these funds were.

That's when we discovered that there was this glaring loophole in our law that allowed foreign entities to lobby our government without full disclosure. So that's where this came from.

And we're hoping that Senator McCain will cosponsor the legislation. It shouldn't be controversial. These foreign entities ought to be operating in the light of day if they're trying to influence the United States. BLITZER: These foreign agents, as they're called, who register with the Justice Department, as opposed to those who register as lobbyists with Congress, they can go make representations to American officials abroad, but they're not supposed to do it on U.S. soil.

Is that one of the things you want to change?

MCCASKILL: We want to do two things. One, we want to make sure that every foreign company, dictator, government has to disclose their lobbying contacts in Washington. And we want to make sure that if those lobbyists that are hired in Washington go work on foreign soil, that they are also disclosed. So the important thing is that we know when Americans are being lobbied, the American government is being lobbied by foreign entities, the American people need to know all about it.

BLITZER: So you could say that your decision and Senator Schumer's decision to introduce this legislation has nothing to do with the lobbyists who are working for the McCain campaign? It's not designed to embarrass that campaign?

MCCASKILL: It is designed to make sure, especially right now -- under this economy, our dollar is so weak. Foreign companies are rushing into the United States to try to catch bargains. They're trying to buy businesses, buy land, influence our government. We need to know all about that right now.

The fact that Senator McCain has a lot of lobbyists working for him and that they may have some of these clients, that is ancillary to our focus. Frankly, if Senator McCain wants to show the American people he's serious about this problem, he ought to join us in this legislation.

BLITZER: All right. Well, we'll ask him about that.

Senator Obama has made a point of saying he's not going to accept lobbying or PAC money for his campaign now that he's the effective leader of the Democratic Party. He says he's not going to let the DNC, the Democratic National Committee, accept this kind of money.

But yesterday, Senator Dick Durbin, the majority whip, the number two Democrat in the Senate, I asked him whether that same rule should apply to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee which raises money for Senate candidates, Democrats, incumbents and challengers. And he says, no, he doesn't want to do that because it would undermine their effort, he wants to take that money.

Do you agree with Senator Durbin on this sensitive point?

MCCASKILL: Well, I think that what Barack Obama is doing is the right thing. And he is using his authority as the head of our party right now to tell the national committee that they, too, must abide by his strict rules.

BLITZER: What about the DSCC? . MCCASKILL: I think it would be great if the DSCC would do it too. Barack Obama is not in charge of the DSCC. And obviously one of the problems of the DSCC is that we are fighting head to head with the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.

What would be great is if everyone would stop taking federal lobbyists' money and federal PAC money. I think that would be great.

BLITZER: The McCain campaign went after Jim Johnson, who was one of the vetters for the search for a vice presidential nominee. He has now gone ahead and removed himself from this process. Now they're going after Eric Holder, a former deputy attorney general, pointing out that he was among those who cleared Marc Rich for a pardon in the final days of the Clinton administration.

Is that fair game to go after these -- these vetters, as they're called?

MCCASKILL: Well, I think some of this is political gamesmanship. I know what Eric Holder has -- his reputation for is being a very tough prosecutor.

He was a great U.S. attorney who did great work in the courtroom as a prosecutor. And I think that's one of the reasons he's on this committee, because prosecutors can be very good vetters. They're used to looking at bad guys and figuring things out.

So I think that there is a little bit tit-for-tat going on here. And we go down this road and it does get a little ridiculous. But, you know, anybody who steps into the limelight knows that they're going to be scrutinized. And it's part of it. I think what everyone needs to stay focused on is Barack Obama, what he's going to do for our country, and John McCain, what is he going to do for our country, and make their decision on that basis.

BLITZER: We're out of time, but one quick question to you. I read in your paper in St. Louis, "The St. Louis Post-Dispatch," this quote from Barack Obama. Let me read it to you.

"There are very few people who are closer to me who I have relied on more for counselor advice. Should I be successful in this campaign, she will be somebody who has the utmost access to the Obama administration."

Senator Obama referring to you, Senator. I wonder if -- I mean, as soon as I read that, I said to myself, well, maybe she would be someone on the short list for a vice presidential spot on the ticket.

What do you think?

MCCASKILL: Well, you know, it's an honor to be mentioned. I have complete trust in Senator Obama's judgment in this regard. And I can't wait to help President Obama swing some really strong punches for change as a senator from Missouri in the United States Senate. BLITZER: A major swing state, for that matter, as well. Missouri up for grabs big time right now. Senator McCaskill, thanks for coming in.

MCCASKILL: Thank you.


BLITZER: Some wonder if John McCain and Barack Obama just can't help themselves. They're doing something that both of them say they wish wouldn't happen -- Dana Bash standing by to explain.

And it's a word that make people and politicians cringe, the L- word. But even though lobbyists are a target for Obama and campaign, many of you -- many of you can't do without them. Brian Todd will explain right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: John McCain and Barack Obama both say you deserve a positive campaign, one focusing in on the issues. Yet, the political attacks and the sideswipes from their supporters can hardly be described as kind.

Let's go to CNN's Dana Bash. She's in New York with the latest on the barbs that are being traded.

What's going on, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you know, John McCain and Barack Obama are debating issues, deep divides over everything from tax cuts to the war in Iraq. But the general election campaign is barely a week old, and a dominant theme on both sides is what you might call a game of guilt by association.


BASH (voice-over): Not even 24 hours after the head of Barack Obama's vice presidential search team quit over questionable business practices, John McCain -- not so -- subtly launched at a new target, Eric Holder, another Obama V.P. vetter, a former Justice Department official who gave the green light for a Bill Clinton controversy in the final hours of his presidency: pardoning fugitive financier Marc Rich.

MCCAIN: Mr. Holder recommended the pardoning of Mr. Rich. And all of those things will be taken into consideration by the media and the American people.

BASH: The Obama campaign shot back that A.B. Culvahouse, who is helping McCain pick his running mate, is -- quote -- "a prominent D.C. lobbyist who served as the Reagan administration's point man on the Iran-Contra scandal."

It's the latest in an escalating to and fro, both candidates trying to prove the other isn't a real reformer because of the company he keeps. Camp Obama has been pounding away way at McCain's team for months, especially two former top lobbyists who help run his campaign. But this war on each other's advisers is at odds with how both candidates promised the races would be run.

MCCAIN: I have pledged to conduct a respectful campaign.

OBAMA: I said that I was looking forward to a civil, substantive debate on the issues.

BASH: Ironically, in the very same press conference that he raised questions about Eric Holder, Obama's adviser, McCain decried the back and fourth, sound bites taken out of context, and renewed his call for a debate on the issues with joint town hall meetings.

MCCAIN: This is why we need town hall meetings. This is why we need to go to the American people and stand before them and have them ask the questions and us give the answers.


BASH: McCain went on the to hold his own town hall meeting this afternoon in his favorite stomping gram -- stomping ground, rather, of New Hampshire, where he did talk about a host of issues, from gas tax and the holiday that he wants to have for what he says is low-income Americans, really all Americans. But he says it will help low-income Americans the most.

Now, Wolf, he had hoped tonight here in New York would be the first of several joint appearances with Obama. But, so far, McCain advisers say they still have absolutely no word back on their proposal from the Obama campaign.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Dana, for that. We will watch the story.

There's a group here in the nation's capital that tends to get a very bad rap. But listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's lobbyists for your pets. There's lobbyists for your health care. There's lobbyists for your home. There's lobbyists for your car. There's lobbyists for your job.


BLITZER: Yes, many lobbyists are in fact working for you under the Capitol dome. So, why are the presidential candidates so worried about keeping their distance?

Also coming up: McCain vs. Obama on the issues and the personal qualities. There's a surprise in our brand-new snapshot of what voters are thinking right now. The best political team on television is standing by.

And growing concerns that foreign firms are buying up America. Your favorite beer could be a target right now.


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

Happening now, a landmark Supreme Court ruling extending your rights to terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay. We will talk about that and more with the best political team on television.

Also, lobbyists under fire from all sides. It seems everyone loves to hate them, but why?

We're going to show you why John McCain and Barack Obama are scrambling right now to distance themselves.

And one of the most popular beers in the United States now the target of foreign investors, along with historic buildings and key parts of the U.S. infrastructure. You're going to find out why they're trying to buy parts of America.

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

They're ingrained in our political system, but now lobbyists are coming under new attack from both Democrats and Republicans.

Let's turn to CNN's Brian Todd. He's joining us with this story.

Why the renewed interest over lobbyists who have been around forever -- Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They have, Wolf. But every time there's a political flap over lobbyists who work for the campaigns, like on these search teams for vice presidential picks this week, that's when you get candidates, pundits railing on lobbyists. They are the easiest of targets, but maybe they shouldn't be.


OBAMA: America...

MCCAIN: ...their mortgage, their groceries.

TODD (voice-over): Want to get a rise out of presidential hopeful?

Drop the "L word" on him.

MCCAIN: We need to close the door firmly on corporate lobbyists.

OBAMA: We will not take a dime from Washington lobbyists.

TODD: How easy is this target?

A Gallup Poll late last year asked respondents to rate the professions in terms of honesty and ethics. Lobbyists finished dead last, behind car salesmen, lawyers and politicians. Ouch. But before you jump on the bandwagon, listen to those who watch the industry. They'll tell you not every lobbyist is a back room hack trying to rip you off.

BRODY MULLINS, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": There's lobbyists for your pets. There's lobbyists for your health care. There's lobbyists for your home. There's lobbyists for your car. There's lobbyists for your job.

TODD: If you're a teacher, a cop -- even if you're old, you've got an advocate working the halls of Congress for your cause. Tirelessly and in almost complete obscurity, they toil to clean up the environment, get better benefits for soldiers. And even as the two presidential candidates talk of changing the lobbyist culture in Washington and rooting out lobbyists from their campaigns, they also need these kinds of people.

STUART ROTHENBERG, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: Look, to run for president, you have to associate yourself with people who've been in and around Washington, people who know presidential politics, know campaigns, know people who are wealthy so that you can raise money from them.

TODD: Watchdog groups say lobbying gets a bad rap because success in the profession is often heavily influenced by wealth and who wields it.

MULLINS: Companies can hire up dozens and hundreds of lobbyists and spend millions of dollars to change regulations to favor them and consumers often can't do that. That's really where the problem comes in.


TODD: And in Washington, you can't always tell right off the bat if someone's a lobbyist for a particular corporation. They rarely put the word "lobbyist" on their business card and they'll say they work for organizations that have broad sounding names like the National Beer Wholesalers Association, the Fashion Model Fairness Project, the American Gaming Association -- they represent the casino industry -- and the Center for Elephant Conservation, of all things, Wolf.

So they sometimes, you know, are perceived to hide behind those broad names. But they're hardworking people. They do a lot of good, too.

BLITZER: All right.

And it's part of petitioning the government, which is every American citizen's right to do. Thanks very much for that, Brian.

Let's get to more now on our top story, the major decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, ruling 5-4 that Guantanamo terror suspects do, in fact, have the right to challenge their detention in federal civilian courts.

Let's discuss this and more with our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin; our own Jack Cafferty; and our own, Dana Bash, as well. They are all part of the best political team on investigation. And, Jeff, let me start with you, because you were recently there at Guantanamo Bay. You know a lot about the Supreme Court.

Were you surprised by this 5-4 decision today, a third slap at the Bush administration's stance on these detainees?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST, "NEW YORKER" MAGAZINE COLUMNIST: Not really, because at the oral argument of this case, Anthony Kennedy, who was the swing vote in this and so many cases, tipped his hand and really showed that he was not impressed with the Bush administration's position. And he wrote the opinion. So I don't think it was a big surprise.

BLITZER: What about you, Jack, because the dissenters in this case -- the four who decided -- who didn't win the majority, they say this is going to be horrible. The Chief Justice, John Roberts, saying we could be endangered. Antonin Scalia saying the same thing. And we heard an angry reaction from President Bush, as well.

CAFFERTY: Well, this is the third time the Bush administration has been told that what they're doing to these people is against the law. It doesn't mean anything to the Bush administration, because the previous two times, they just went back and changed the law.

Nobody's advocating that they're going to turn these people loose on Broadway and 47th Street in New York City. They're saying they ought to have some access to legal remedy in this country. Some of them have been held for six years. We don't know whether they're all guilty of anything or not.

And it would seem to me that if we're a nation that professes to have a constitution that means something, then we ought to take these court rulings a little more seriously and make some effort to adjudicate this stuff in line with what our history and tradition says we're all about.

BLITZER: Dana, there's political fallout, obviously, from this decision. McCain is, at least in his past statements, no great fan of Gitmo, as it's called, Guantanamo Bay.

What's the reaction to this decision?

BASH: He's no great fan of Guantanamo Bay. He wants it closed. But despite all that, he actually was somebody who worked on the legislation and agrees with President Bush on this issue. So he was not very happy about this decision, just like pretty much every Republican.

It was quite interesting, Wolf, that this really fell on party lines. You had most -- most of the Republicans saying that this is outrageous, that, from their perspective, that these people do actually have legal recourse, it's just through the military courts, not necessarily through the civil courts. They say that that's exactly where they should be. And the Democrats saying oh, no, no, no. Finally they're going to get their civil rights that are due to them. What is going to be interesting, particularly from the perspective of John McCain, since he actually was involved in crafting this, is what he's going to propose doing now, given the fact that he wants to be the guy at the White House, just like Barack Obama does. And this is something that as Jeff and Jack both point out, leaves a big question mark as to what happens with these people.

BLITZER: And, Jeff, this 5-4 decision today does once again underscore the enormous ability of the next president of the United States to have a say in these legislative -- in these legal decisions, not only for four or eight years, but for 20 or 30 years down the road.

TOOBIN: And it's not just detainee affairs. It's abortion rights. It's affirmative action. It's voting rights. All these cases are 5-4 at the moment. And that's really what's on the ballot in November, along with the war in Iraq and the economy.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by, because we're going to continue this conversation. And we have more to talk about, including issues versus leadership. You're going to find out how voters rate John McCain and Barack Obama when it comes to foreign policy, the economy -- which one they think is most important.

And town hall mania -- find out how the candidates compare when it comes to these informal meetings.

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


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

Jack, let me start with you.

Take a look at our new poll numbers, our new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll. This is surprising -- at least to me it was.

Which candidate would do a better job handling foreign policy?

McCain, 54 percent; Obama, 43 percent.

Which candidate would do a better job handling the economy?

Fifty percent for Obama; 44 percent for McCain.

The second numbers didn't surprise me. But given the unpopularity of the war and the fact that Obama was opposed to it from the start, that number that -- the majority thinks that McCain would handle foreign policy better than Obama -- was somewhat surprising.

CAFFERTY: Well, you know, it is a little surprising. And where it comes from, I don't know. My guess is it has something to do with John McCain's longevity, his time in Washington, the committees that he serves on there, being a member for the Senate as long as he has, being a fighter pilot and being a prisoner of war. I think he's probably perceived by the public has having have had a little more up close and personal experiences with foreign governments and conflicts and the like.

Barack Obama is probably viewed as being a little newer to the scene and maybe a little, you know, inexperienced when it comes to foreign policy. On the other hand, Obama's said a lot of the right things when it comes to the economy and he gets higher numbers there. But I'm sure where all that comes from.

BLITZER: Yes. I was a little surprised that his margin wasn't even higher on the economy.

Jeff, what do you think?

TOOBIN: Well, I think it reflects the general Democratic strength on the economy and Republican strength on foreign policy. And experience has a lot to do with it. Barack Obama's been in the Senate for four years. John McCain's been a public official for more than two decades -- been an elected official for more than two decades. So, you know, I think it's somewhat significant. But I think those numbers are likely to change as both candidates get exposed to the public for all these months until November.

BLITZER: We'll have five months to go -- Dana, look at this poll. We asked, which is more important to your vote, leadership skills and vision -- 47 percent said that; stands on issues, 46 percent said that.

That's pretty surprising. That's almost equally divided between those two, leadership versus issues.

BASH: It is. Look, obviously, the issues are what matter a lot to voters. And there are very big differences between these two candidates on issues.

But, you know, in a way, it doesn't surprise me, just given the fact that, you know, every time I go to a town hall or a speech for John McCain or during the primaries covering mostly Republicans, you talk to people and they will give you an answer of why they like or don't like a candidate, sometimes on issues, but sometimes not.

For example, just yesterday I was at an event with a former Hillary Clinton supporter who was there for John McCain, not because of necessarily the issues, but because he just didn't think that Barack Obama was going to reach across the aisle like he thought John McCain would.

So it is definitely kind of a gut sense that people have about the qualities that these leaders have. And remember, you know, these presidents -- or a president is always going to be in somebody's living room. So there is that connection factor, which is so important to any candidate. And that is something that all these campaigns are acutely aware of.

BLITZER: And if people think the scrutiny...

CAFFERTY: They're not going to be in my living room.

BLITZER: If people think the scrutiny has been intense so far, get ready, because over the next few months, we're going to know much more about both of these candidates.


BLITZER: Why -- you're so happy about that, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Well, I, you know -- yes, we are.

Five more months is all we have until the election?

BLITZER: That's it. That's all.


CAFFERTY: I mean the rest of my hair will be gone before we vote.


BLITZER: Five -- this is the longest political process, I think, (INAUDIBLE).

CAFFERTY: Lou Dobbs will be governor of New Jersey before this election ends.


BLITZER: What do you think, Jeff?

TOOBIN: I'm hoping to be attorney general of New Jersey in the Dobbs administration.


TOOBIN: That's what I'm...

CAFFERTY: There you go. It will work for you.

TOOBIN: That's what I'm angling for.

BASH: And...

TOOBIN: You know, I was looking at that poll and I was asking myself, I wonder how I would answer that question.


TOOBIN: And I don't even really know.

You know, in the 2000 campaign, the big issue was the Social Security lock box. Now, I haven't heard about that in about eight years. And one thing that was never talked about in the 2000 campaign was Islamic terrorism. Now, what turned out to be more important?

So issues, I think, are very important. But it's very hard to predict what issues are going to be the big ones in a presidency.

BLITZER: Good point.

TOOBIN: And leadership always matters.

BLITZER: Jeff Toobin, very smart guy, I've got to say.

Hey, guys...

BASH: Bring back the lock box.

CAFFERTY: He really is, isn't he?

BLITZER: He is very intelligent.


BLITZER: All right guys...

CAFFERTY: I'm intimidated.

BLITZER: See you back here later.

TOOBIN: Well, you know, put in a good word with Lou for me.


BLITZER: It's an informal face-off.

So how did John McCain and Barack Obama do when it comes to those town hall meetings?

Get ready to see.

And find out which foreign investors want to buy one of America's best known beers -- America on sale right now.

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

Bargain prices, coming up.


BLITZER: Let's check in with Lou to see what's coming up at the top of the hour.

What are you working on -- Lou?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, tonight we're reporting on a new example of the federal government's bungling and sheer incompetence, this time on the issue of port security. This administration can't say when it will meet a Congressional mandate to inspect all cargo entering the United States.

And a setback for the Bush administration's policies to deal with radical Islamist terrorism. The Supreme Court today ruling that suspected terrorists in Guantanamo have the constitutional right to challenge their detention in our federal courts. We'll examine the legal and military impact and assess whether this makes any sense at all.

And courage and survival after a tornado slams into a Boy Scout camp in Iowa. Four teenagers were killed. Survivors literally saving lives before rescuers arrived there. We'll have complete coverage.

And the Obama campaign launching a Web site to respond to attacks, smears and rumors.

Don't the presidential candidates have anything else to do?

We'll be examining what the McCain and Obama campaigns call smears and attacks, and what they're doing about it.

All of that from an Independent perspective at the top of the hour right here on CNN. Please join us -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: We'll see you then, Lou. Thank you.

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

CAFFERTY: The question this hour: Is it fair for the government to make our children pay for the cost of those economic stimulus checks?

That's who's going to get the bill for those.

We get this from Jesse in Seattle: "Jack, what's new about this? This generation has no intention of paying for its lifestyle or its problems. It's the story of the last hundred years. The children pay for the crimes of their parents. If the government really wanted to put their policies to the test of the future, then they ought to drop the voting age to 16. I'll bet you a hundred dollars that if the withering politicians of today had to be responsible to the children of today, we would have a very different government."

James writes: "No, it's not fair, Jack. Which is why the only responsible think I could think of, I added the stimulus money to my granddaughter's college fund. As long as her generation is going to have to pay for it, she ought to be able to at least benefit from it."

Jerry writes: "Of course, it's not fair to pass" -- "Of course, it's fair," he says. "It is fair to pass this debt along to these kids. Have you seen the children of today? Everything is handed to them. They're spoiled, pampered, fat, lazy, rude and addicted to video games and their iPods. Maybe this little rude awakening is just what these kids need."

That's harsh. Laura in New Jersey: "Fair? No. But I'd rather have them pay for the misguided stimulus plan than a misguided war. The real question is how Republicans get away with calling themselves fiscally responsible when we all know who was in charge the last time the deficit was under control."

Greg writes: "Massive borrowing against the future, living beyond our means, spending like there's no tomorrow, leaving the bill for our children -- is it fair? Well, no, probably not. But it is the American way."

K. in the Bronx: "Our children are already in line to inherit trillions of dollars in debt. What's another few billion? Besides, mom needs a spa treatment, dad needs some new golf clubs."

And Larry says: "Kids? What kids? I'm not going to have kids for just this reason."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog. It's at

It's a great place. You can look for your e-mail there. There are hundreds of them posted. A fascinating spot.

BLITZER: Our viewers love it.

See you tomorrow.

CAFFERTY: They do...

BLITZER: They do. I tell the truth.

A bitter fight is shaping up as a European company is making an unsolicited takeover bid for one of America's best known corporate brands. Mary Snow joining us from New York with details.

Mary, what's this one all about?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Anheuser Busch touts itself as American's leading brewer. It's been in business for nearly 150 years. But a Belgian company could change that and it's striking a nerve.


SNOW (voice-over): Beer is at the heart of a brewing international battle that is stirring patriotic passions. Belgian brewer InBev is in a hostile take-over bid to buy Anheuser-Busch, the maker of Budweiser.

Missouri's governor calls the deal deeply troubling and a save Anheuser-Busch movement has sprouted, equating Budweiser with being as American as apple pie and baseball.

ED MARTIN, SAVE A.B.: In this case, we have a sort of American original -- a company that is so American in its origin, how it grew and what it became and what it stands for.

SNOW: And it's not the only one. A New York icon, the Chrysler Building, is being eyed by an Abu Dhabi investment fund looking to buy a major stake. A London-based hedge fund's move to take control of CSX, one of the largest railroads in the U.S., has prompted a heated battle. Several lawmakers stepped to block the move, citing national security concerns.

Columbia University's Jack Coffee says consolidation is inevitable.

JOHN COFFEE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: I think we have to recognize that we're in a global world. And in a global world, national boundaries don't count as much as they used to.

SNOW: And the U.S. dollar doesn't count as much as it used to, either.

PETER MORICI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: Right now, U.S. companies are a bargain because the dollar has fallen so much against the euro and the stock market is weak. This is a particularly good time to scarf up U.S. companies.

SNOW: One economist says because the U.S. is in so much debt, with swelling trade deficits, foreign ownership of U.S. companies will only continue.

MORICI: The United States is in a position where it will have to sell-off its most valuable assets -- its real estate, its intellectual property, its brands, its technology. And our children will merely become workers for foreign owners. We'll become tenants in our own society.


SNOW: Now, along with that dire warning, Peter Morici says American companies will remain at a disadvantage as long as the U.S. remains dependent on foreign oil and products. And he blames the U.S. for not managing its currency and debt -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Mary.

Mary Snow reporting.

So how do John McCain and Barack Obama choose the questioners at their town hall mete meetings?

Jeanne Moos uncovers their Moost Unusual methods. That's coming up right after this.


BLITZER: It remains to be scene whether the campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain will follow through on discussions to hold joint town hall meetings. But all the talk got Jeanne Moos thinking about the format, the candidates and their styles. Here's her Moost Unusual look.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Phil Donahue may be the gold standard when it comes to roaming around with a mike. With the current town hall mania, the presidential candidates...

MCCAIN: We'll do it the right way.

MOOS: ...are getting pretty good at it, with the occasional exception.

(on camera): The award for best way not to use a microphone goes to John McCain.

(voice-over): A few weeks ago he talked into the wrong end, but made a great recovery. Lately, McCain has taken to resting his chin on the mike.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The expectations are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I am certainly committed...

MOOS: Neither candidate seems able to make a point without finger pointing.

OBAMA: And we're going to pay for it...

MCCAIN: Learn the lessons of it.

OBAMA: The scandal...

MCCAIN: No mention.

MOOS: When it comes to picking the questions, Obama tends to pick by outfit.

OBAMA: The yellow blouse over there.

Is that yellow?

I think it is.

Is it pink?

I'm sort of color blind. And that is pink, I can tell.

MCCAIN: Talk about picking by the outfit.

MOOS (on camera): The award for fearlessly choosing hostile questions on purpose goes to Senator McCain.

(voice-over): He once took a question from a 14-year-old wearing a t-shirt saying, "John McCain doesn't care about our future."

MCCAIN: I don't know who printed your shirt, but here's the microphone and you can explain.

MOOS: She asked about equal pay for women. The award for toughest question goes to this one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does life mean to you?

MOOS: After humming a bit...

OBAMA: You know, when I was your age, I think life was all about me.

MOOS: Senator Obama said that now life revolves around the kind of world he leaves for his daughters.

Wittiest prepared joke goes to Senator McCain.

MCCAIN: And if you took all the economists in the world and put them end to end, you wouldn't reach a conclusion.

MOOS: And best ad-libbed quip goes to McCain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're the same age, sir.

MCCAIN: You're looking good.

MOOS: Let's drink to that.

(on camera): The award for most sips per town hall meeting, well, it depends on whether you count almost sips.

(voice-over): Senator McCain had a couple of near sips.

He also had the longest run-up to a question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe as a Christian voice in general, for this nation...

MCCAIN: Can I -- can I have a question?


MOOS: So long that McCain and the audience repeatedly tried to cut him off.

As for the line that got the biggest laugh, it didn't come from a candidate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to request that George W. Bush be appointed U.S. ambassador to Iraq.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Thank you, Jeanne.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, you can always go to That's where you can get our new political screensaver. Remember, You can read my daily blog post there, as well. I posted one just before the show.

Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

See you back here tomorrow.

Let's go to "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.