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THE SITUATION ROOM

Obama, McCain Confront Energy Crisis; Clinton, Obama Strive For Unity

Aired June 23, 2008 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: A top McCain strategist backs off from a startling remark about the political advantage of a terror attack, but has damage already been done?

Plus: a place called Unity. The backdrop is set for Barack Obama to stand with Hillary Clinton and try to win over women voters.

And pumped up -- McCain and Obama go to new lengths to confront the energy crisis. We will compare their plans and charges of pandering -- all that coming up, plus the best political team on television.

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

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

John McCain's chief strategist now says it was -- quote -- "inappropriate" for him to talk about the political advantages of terror. Charlie Black was quoted in "Fortune" magazine as saying a new attack on U.S. soil would be a -- quote -- "big advantage for McCain." Black also was quoted as saying McCain's knowledge and ability to talk about the assassination of the former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto showed he's ready to be commander in chief, and, therefore, helped his campaign during a crucial period.

Let's bring in CNN's Dana Bash. She's covering the McCain campaign for us.

Dana, update our viewers. What's this all about? And tell us more about Charlie Black's apology.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right.

Well, this obviously is not what the McCain campaign expected their message to be at all today. And it wasn't very long before they put out a statement about Charlie Black.

And I will read it to you. And the campaign says was: "Charlie deeply regrets his comments. They were inappropriate. And he recognizes that the candidate we work for has devoted his entire adult life to putting -- putting to protecting his country and placing its security before every other consideration." Now, Black is apparently saying that he didn't remember actually making those specific comments, but he's also not denying it. And the point that the campaign says that he was trying to make in his discussion with "Fortune" magazine is that he believes that any time the political discussion is about terrorism or national security, it's a big advantage for John McCain. It's something that Charlie Black has said to me many times, as have other members of the McCain campaign team.

BLITZER: McCain himself was asked about it at a news conference, and he wasted no time at all repudiating these kind of comments.

BASH: He did. He definitely repudiated the kinds of comments.

Specifically, obviously, where they're most stung is Charlie Black's talking about what a potential future terror attack could do for McCain's campaign.

But I have got to tell you, when you talk about the other part of Black's comment, talking about how he benefited from Benazir Bhutto's assassination -- that was the end of December -- I was with John McCain, Wolf, that day that Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, in Iowa.

He was very, very strong coming off right the bat in the town hall saying that he has credentials in that area, he knew Bhutto, he had been to Pakistan, been to Waziristan.

And right after that town hall I asked McCain if he personally thought Bhutto's assassination would help him. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm the one with the experience, the knowledge and the judgment. So, perhaps it may serve to enhance those credentials.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: McCain at that time, the day Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, basically conceding that his credentials, he hoped -- at that time, obviously, he was running in a pretty wide-open field in the Republican primary -- would help him.

And what Black is saying in this comment is that, in the end, they think it did. Obviously, what has hurt him and what Democrats are already pouncing on is the suggestion that a future terrorist attack could help the McCain campaign. The Obama campaign is already calling that a disgrace.

BLITZER: Well, let's get to that, Dana, right now.

The Obama campaign has just weighed in with this statement.

And let me read it to our viewers: "Barack Obama welcomes a debate about terrorism with John McCain, who has fully supported the Bush policies that have taken our eye off of al Qaeda, failed to bring Osama bin Laden to justice and made us less safe. The fact that John McCain's top adviser says that a terrorist attack on American soil would be a big advantage for their political campaign is a complete disgrace and is exactly the kind of politics that needs to change."

The statement going on to say, "Barack Obama will turn the page on these failed policies and this cynical and divisive brand of politics, so that we can unite this nation around a common purpose, to finish the fight against al Qaeda" -- that statement coming in from Obama's spokesman Bill Burton.

We are going to be talking more about Charlie Black's comments later this hour with our political panel, the best political team on television. Stand by for that.

A quick note on John McCain's appearance today in California, by the way. We noticed, as did a lot of reporters, two bandages on his forehead just above the hairline. McCain was asked about it, and he told reporters he hit his head on the roof of the car he was riding in during his recent trip to Canada. It was not part of his usual motorcade.

Now to the Obama campaign and his eagerly anticipated appearance with Hillary Clinton later this week, the two Democrats set to visit a place called Unity.

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

Candy, tell us what's going on.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you know, in politics, symbolism means a lot. And when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama get together to campaign, it will be chockful of symbolism.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are at a defining moment.

CROWLEY (voice-over): Apparently, there's no time for subtlety. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will campaign together for the first time at a Unite for Change rally in Unity, New Hampshire, a town where each won 107 primary votes.

OBAMA: Is this all low-fat?

CROWLEY: The details of the joint appearance came on a female focus day for the presumed Democratic nominee. He toured a women- owned bakery in New Mexico and was introduced by a state official and former Clinton supporter now in camp Obama.

LT. GOV. DIANE DENISH (D), NEW MEXICO: We are angry. We haven't made any progress in the last eight years. And we might be angry, but we're really smart, too. CROWLEY: He spent over an hour outlining a litany of proposals aimed at home-and-hearth issues, including his $1,000 middle-class tax cut, up to a 50 percent tax credit for child care, double the funding for after-school programs, $10 billion more for early-childhood education programs, and a requirement that employers provide seven paid sick days a year.

OBAMA: What we spend a week in Iraq would fund all this stuff for a year, or two years, or three years, I mean, the magnitude, the scale of what we're spending at the federal government and what we're short-changing that would make a real difference in the lives of women on a day to day basis.

CROWLEY: Though women vote in greater percentages and numbers than men, poll suggests Obama is actually in good shape, significantly better than the campaign chatter suggests. A recent "USA Today"/Gallup poll found Obama with a healthy 55 percent of the female vote. That's more support for women than exit polls showed for Kerry and on a par with Al Gore and Bill Clinton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: In fact, what the polls now suggest is that Barack Obama's trouble spot may be seniors, voters over 65. He's now polling around 43 percent of seniors, which is significantly lower than his Democratic predecessors.

And just a little bit of history that our poller, Keating Holland, told me is that, since 1980, every candidate who has won the senior vote has also won the popular vote.

BLITZER: And there's a good reason for that, because seniors vote in disproportionally large numbers. They make the young people look really, really bad when it comes to voting.

All right, Candy, thanks very much.

John Cafferty is joining us once again for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: After a 16-month-long primary campaign, you would think voters already would have a pretty good idea who Barack Obama is, but not so fast.

Now that Obama has wrapped up the Democratic nomination, he's taking the time to re-introduce himself to the American people. He first -- his first general election television ad is already up and running in 18 states, many of them traditional Republican strongholds. The commercial focuses on his biography and his design to show that he shares the same values as all Americans.

Even some Republicans have praised this ad for its focus on values, tax cuts and welfare reform.

A close friend of Obama's told "The Washington Post," it's necessary to start a new campaign with a new introduction, saying, "You can't presume that everybody was paying attention during the primary season" -- unquote.

An Obama media adviser adds that the candidate still is not well known to voters in many parts of the country. Obama opted out of public financing for his campaign last week because it's estimated he can raise hundreds of millions of dollars more than public financing would provide him.

And if that proves to be the case, well, we will all get to know Barack Obama quite well, better than we probably want to, between now and November.

Here's the question. After a 16-month primary campaign, is it necessary for Barack Obama to reintroduce himself to voters? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you. Jack Cafferty with "The Cafferty File" will be back shortly.

Barack Obama also doggedly fighting false rumors, including that he's Muslim, but is fighting the Muslim rumor stirring up some problems in the Muslim community? And might it hurt Barack Obama politically?

Also, how do you feel about the idea of having the first African- American president? Many Americans answered that question in a new poll. You might be somewhat surprised by what some of them are saying. We are going to have details.

And some wonder if Barack Obama and John McCain are more concerned about saving you money on energy prices or more concerned about getting your vote. The best political team on television weighs in.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Barack Obama finds himself in a bit of a bind right now. He's hitting back at the persistent rumors that he's a Muslim, while trying not to offend U.S. Muslim voters in the process.

Let's go to Mary Snow. She's watching this story for us.

So, how is the senator handling this, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as one Arab-American group put it, Obama's faced with a delicate dance. And some say there needs to be more balance in reaching out to Muslims and Arab Americans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama has been fighting rumors for months, even creating a Web site to debunk them. OBAMA: If you get one of these e-mails that says I'm a Muslim, not true, that never been a Muslim. This is just stuff that is designed to make people suspicious.

SNOW: But debunking some rumors comes with difficulties. Obama had to apologize to two women in head scarves at a Michigan rally last week. Volunteers asked the women to move, so they wouldn't be photographed directly with Obama. The campaign called it offensive and noted volunteers were behind it, not the staff.

One Arab-American group says, though, it's touched a nerve.

TONY KUTAYLI, AMERICAN ARAB ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE: He needs to come out and not just simply say, I'm not a Muslim, but, again, if I were a Muslim, so what? What difference would it make? This shouldn't be part of the discussion or the dialogue. Let's stick to the issues.

SNOW: The campaign has said the rumors are not just that Obama is a Muslim, but a radical Muslim. Obama in recent months has addressed that.

OBAMA: These e-mails are misinforming people. They're also feeding on anti-Muslim sentiment. And that's also wrong, because we don't have a religious test in this country.

SNOW: But James Zogby, the founder of the Arab-American Institute, who's a superdelegate supporting Obama, says the debate has shed light on another issue.

JAMES ZOGBY, PRESIDENT, ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE: My concern as an Arab-American is that I want to see more outreach to Arab- Americans.

SNOW: Particularly, he says, when it comes to the Middle East. Obama has reached out to Jewish groups, underlining his support of Israel, and Zogby says it's prompted reaction in Arab Americans.

ZOGBY: It goes from the, "What are we, chopped liver?" to people being outraged. And, so, yes, they don't want to feel like chopped liver, but they haven't given up on the guy either.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now, an aide to the Obama campaign says there has been outreach to both Muslims and Arab-Americans and there are plans on extending it.

And Arab-Americans say their vote can be a deciding factor, since their population is concentrated in swing states like Michigan, Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow, thank you for that.

Scores of white and African-American voters rally around Barack Obama, helping him make history, being the first African-American to lead a major political party in a race for the White House. But translating that into the ultimate political prize could depend on several factors.

There's a new poll that is gauging right now racial prejudice out there.

Let's turn to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's watching this story for us.

Bill, what does this new poll reveal about the impact of race on the election?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, according to the report from ABC News, which did the poll in collaboration with "The Washington Post" -- quote -- "Obama's race shows little if any net effect on vote choices overall."

Now, I would say that's good news.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): First, the bad news. About three in 10 Americans, 30 percent of whites and 34 percent of African-Americans, acknowledge having at least some feelings of racial prejudice.

Now the good news. Those feelings don't seem to affect the vote, according to The Washington Post, which co-sponsored the poll with ABC News. Post columnist Colby King puts it this way...

COLBY KING, "WASHINGTON POST" COLUMNIST: I think it's a very race-conscious country. That doesn't necessarily mean it's a prejudiced country. It's just conscious. And that's what we are as a country.

SCHNEIDER: Nearly a quarter of Americans say the race of the candidates will be an important factor in their vote for president. Forty percent, almost twice as many, say the age of the candidates will be important.

Thirty-nine percent of whites who say race is not important are voting for Obama. But Obama gets the same support from whites who say race is important, which suggests that the white votes Obama is losing because he's black are counterbalanced by white votes he is gaining because he's black.

KING: I think that people recognize the historic nature of this election and would like to be able to support a candidate who represents, I think, where America's going.

SCHNEIDER: On the other hand, the age factor seems to be hurting John McCain.

MCCAIN: My friends, I'm not the youngest candidate, but I am -- but I am the most experienced.

SCHNEIDER: Voters who say the age of the candidate is important give McCain much less support.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Now, you have to worry that people will not express their true feelings about race to a poll interviewer or even to themselves. They may not feel the same inhibitions about age. They may see age as less of a prejudice and more of a legitimate concern.

But the legitimate concern should not be age, but the health and physical capabilities of the candidates -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Bill, thank you -- Bill Schneider reporting.

Here's a question: Where is Bill Clinton? He's not missing, but his endorsement of Barack Obama still is. Why might the former president be mum on endorsing his wife's former rival?

A priest who created a stir in the presidential race is making a comeback. Does he regret mocking Hillary Clinton?

And did a group of female high school students in Massachusetts make a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together? The mayor of the town in question comes out, reveals what she knows.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: Even John McCain seems surprised that his top adviser, Charlie Black, would talk bluntly about the political advantages of a new terror attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: If he said that -- and I do not know the context -- I strenuously disagree.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: But will this flap hurt Senator McCain even after Charlie Black said his remarks were inappropriate? The best political team on television is standing by.

Also ahead: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton now set to stand together in a place called Unity, New Hampshire, on Friday. How much will it help him win over her supporters?

And an eyebrow-raising addition to the Obama campaign has now vanished, vanished. We will tell you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now: the McCain campaign terror trip-up, a top adviser expressing regret for saying that a terror attack would be -- quote -- "a big advantage, a big advantage for McCain," a remark the Obama campaign calls -- and I'm quoting now -- "a complete disgrace." We will talk about that and more with the best political team on television. Stand by.

Also, now you see it, but after considerable criticism, now you don't. You're going to find out what's up with Barack Obama's very presidential-looking seal.

And when it comes to endorsing Barack Obama, one prominent Democrat still missing in action. What's former President Bill Clinton waiting for, and why?

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

When's the next time we will see an image like this one from last year, a picture of Democratic harmony that includes Bill Clinton? Many Democrats wonder when a new snapshot will emerge showing Bill Clinton openly embracing his party's presumptive nominee.

CNN's Jim Acosta is in New York -- Jim.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Barack Obama's endorsement checklist is almost complete, minus one certain former president.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Bill Richardson -- check, check, check, check. Bill Clinton, not so much.

QUESTION: President Clinton, will you be endorsing Barack Obama?

ACOSTA: Not only did he steer clear of that question, at a mayors' conference Sunday, Mr. Clinton barely mentioned Obama my name, briefly praising the presumptive nominee's environmental plans.

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I favor that Senator Obama's position, which is to go to 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gases, over Senator McCain's position, which is to go to 70. But the point is, that's light years ahead of where the Republicans have been.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I endorse him and throw my full support behind him.

ACOSTA: It's also light years from Hillary Clinton's rousing endorsement two weeks ago. And while she and Obama will campaign together later this week, so far there appear to be no such plans for the other Clinton.

W. CLINTON (voice-over): I was born in a little town called Hope, Arkansas, three months after my father died. ACOSTA: A pairing of Mr. Clinton and Obama on the campaign trail would unite the man from Hope with the man who wrote "The Audacity of Hope." They have similar biographies. Obama was abandoned by his father. Mr. Clinton's father died before he was born. Both skyrocketed to political stardom.

W. CLINTON: This is what you live for. But this hurts the people of South Carolina.

ACOSTA: Then there's the other Bill Clinton.

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: When Bill Clinton is on message, there's nobody better. When Bill Clinton is off message, he is very, very bad.

ACOSTA: Some political analysts see Mr. Clinton simply jockeying to get his wife on the ticket.

SABATO: You don't give something for nothing. You know, ideally, Hillary would love to get the vice presidential spot. But if she can't have that, she wants some other things. Bill knows it, and he's reacting accordingly.

ACOSTA (on camera): The other possibility is that the former president would rather wait, and give Senators Obama and Clinton their moment in the sun together this Friday in, of all places, Unity, New Hampshire, where, by the way, each candidate got 107 votes each -- Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thank you.

Meanwhile, the chief McCain strategist Charlie Black is quoted in the new issue of "Fortune" magazine as saying a new attack on America would be -- and let me quote him specifically -- a big advantage to John McCain. The Obama camp now responding, calling that remark a complete disgrace.

Let's discuss this and more with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. She's here in Washington. Also joining us in New York, our own Jack Cafferty; and our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin. They're part of the best political team on television.

Jack, the specific quote from Charlie Black in "Fortune" magazine referring to when Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in Pakistan back in December, before the New Hampshire primary, which McCain desperately needed to win. Black is quoted as saying, "But his knowledge and ability to talk about it re-emphasized that this is the guy who's ready to be commander-in-chief and it helped us. Certainly, it would be a big advantage to him."

Is this a big deal or a little deal?

CAFFERTY: Well, that's talking about the Benazir Bhutto thing. The quote that's the big deal is about another terrorist attack on America.

Do you have that handy?

BLITZER: Right. He said it would be a big advantage.

CAFFERTY: Well, I mean it's just a breathtakingly stupid thing to say. However, it's probably true. And in the twisted logic of politics, John McCain is perceived as the guy who is more capable of handling the war on terror. So it's probably true. But you just don't say stuff like that in polite company -- not that we're polite company, but we're company and you don't talk that way to us.

BLITZER: Yes. I think Jack makes an excellent point, Gloria.

I want you to listen to John McCain, when he was in told about this quote in "Fortune" magazine, how he responded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I cannot imagine why he would say it. It's not true. It's -- I've worked tirelessly since 9/11 to prevent another attack on the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, Gloria?

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, can you tell he's just a little irritated...

BLITZER: Yes.

BORGER: ...by even having to answer a question about this?

Look, Charlie Black made a mistake. He apologized for it. The Obama campaign will volley back and forth, no doubt, with him about it. But I think Jack is right. I think when you get to the bottom line here, everything in the McCain campaign is going to be seen through the prism of natural security, including the economy, including oil, including energy, because that's their strength and we know it.

But should Charlie Black have said that?

No. And he knows he shouldn't have said it and he apologized.

BLITZER: And, Jeff, the McCain campaign put out a statement just a little while ago saying, "Charlie deeply regrets his comments. They were inappropriate and he recognizes that the candidate we work for has devoted his entire adult life to putting -- protecting this country and placing its security before every other consideration."

That statement from the McCain campaign.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST, "NEW YORKER" MAGAZINE COLUMNIST: You know, I don't think this is a big deal. This is probably a one day story that will go away. But I'd just like to disagree with both Jack and Gloria about this in the grotesque calculus of who benefits. I don't think this would help McCain if something terrible like this would happen. 9/11 was a one time deal.

If our defenses fail again, I think that would only be -- re- emphasize the message of change that Obama is bringing.

So I certainly hope we never find out.

BORGER: Well, I wasn't thinking...

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: But I don't think the...

CAFFERTY: They attacked...

BORGER: I wasn't speaking to what...

CAFFERTY: They attacked the World Trade Center in 1993. It wasn't a one time deal.

BORGER: And I wasn't saying that it would necessarily benefit McCain, because I really don't know the answer. And we shouldn't even be talking about it. So, you know, I mean what I'm saying is that his campaign wants to talk about national security, wants to talk about the question of terrorism because in all the polls, the public trusts McCain more than Obama on these issues.

BLITZER: And on that point, Jeff, the new quote "USA Today"/Gallup Poll asked who would do a better job on the issue of terrorism. Obama wins on almost every other major issue.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: But on terrorism, Obama gets 33 percent, McCain gets 52 percent.

TOOBIN: That's now.

But if there is a problem in the future, who knows if that will be the same the same -- the same calculus?

I agree with Gloria. I think this is really kind of a grisly, unpleasant discussion and we shouldn't discuss it. But since Charlie Black brought up the subject, I think in addition to being distasteful, he really might be wrong, as well.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by, because we've got more to talk about.

Barack Obama and John McCain and their dueling plans to help lower the skyrocketing cost of gas. We'll take you inside oil price politics.

And Barack Obama unsealed -- you'll find out why his very presidential looking emblem is now nowhere to be seen. Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A Catholic priest who mocked Hillary Clinton is now back. We'll tell you what he's saying. That's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Soaring oil prices and presidential politics -- let's continue our discussion with the best political team on television.

Jeff, let me start with you and read to you what Tom Friedman wrote in "The New York Times" yesterday. He wrote this, "Two years ago, President Bush declared that America was addicted to oil and by gosh, he was going to do something about it. Well, now he has. Now we have the new Bush energy plan -- get more addicted to oil."

All right, what's going on here between these two presidential candidates?

TOOBIN: Well, what the Bush administration is trying to do is to increase the supply of oil at all costs -- basically begging the Saudis to increase production in the hope that that will reduce the price. Now the point that Tom Friedman is making is while that might affect a few cents a gallon in the immediate future, the fact is we are more dependent than ever on Saudi oil and the greenhouse gases that are emitted by all these carbon byproducts are destroying the atmosphere and the Bush administration is simply not doing anything about it.

BLITZER: How is it playing out, this addiction, if you will, Gloria, out on the campaign trail?

BORGER: Well, I think you have two candidates competing for the best solutions for the energy problem which I think is a good idea. They disagree. I mean, for example, you have John McCain, who wants offshore drilling, has changed his mind on that. And you have Barack Obama saying no, that that's just a solution that's not going to benefit us for another decade down the road, saying that we need to focus on alternate solutions for energy supplies.

And so I think what you're seeing in this campaign is a serious debate between these two candidates about the best way to fix the problem.

BLITZER: Is that how you see it, Jack?

CAFFERTY: Well, it's a serious debate, but it's a meaningless debate. This conversation started in 1973 with the Arab oil embargo and we've been having it for 35 years. It just happens gasoline reached a tipping point during the middle of a presidential campaign. The key to whether or not this conversation goes anywhere is how much it's being talked about after the election. And I'm not going to hold my breath. Until it gets a lot worse than it is now, we're going nowhere.

BORGER: Well, and also...

TOOBIN: I don't really agree. I mean in the '70s, there was real presidential leadership from President Carter on gas efficiency in cars. And the...

CAFFERTY: I'm not talking about. I understand but...

TOOBIN: ...cars got more efficient and we did save a good deal of oil. That's -- there's been none of that in the subsequent 30 years.

CAFFERTY: No. I know...

TOOBIN: With some presidential leadership, maybe something would happen.

CAFFERTY: I...

BORGER: Well, can I also point out that a lot of this is out of our control, to a certain degree. I mean the high demands of the Chinese, for example -- supply issues. You know, I mean, I think that there are -- there are things that we cannot control in regard to energy sometimes. The value of the dollar. You know, all of these things contribute to this problem. It's a global problem.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Jack.

CAFFERTY: I just was going to say, yes, we had a momentary scare in the '70s from the Arab oil embargo. And for a while, we had 55-mile an hour speed limits and there were no Hummers on the road and you couldn't sell a Camaro with a beefed up engine and a big muscle package. But that all went away. And now there are 75-mile speed limits and there are Hummers and other SUVs every place, more V-8 engines than we've ever seen in our life. Gas mileage is back down. No meaningful CAFE standards for the automobile industry. And the -- you know, the business community has gone back to imposing its will on government. And we're right back in a semi-crisis mode because of that.

TOOBIN: But that's why we're having an election, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Oh, is that what it is?

(LAUGHTER)

BORGER: You know, there's also one thing...

TOOBIN: That's one reason.

BORGER: And there's also one thing that we've never been asked to do by this administration, which is to sacrifice. And I know we all talked about that during the start of the Iraq War, for example.

BLITZER: All right...

BORGER: But, you know, there are things that we could do in our own lives, change our own lives, that would help this energy crisis that we ought to be talking about.

BLITZER: Good point.

Guys, thanks very much.

Jack, we've got The Cafferty File in a couple of minutes. Stand by.

A controversial sermon forced him from his pulpit and led Barack Obama to quit his church of some 20 years. Now the punishment is over and the priest is back. You're going to find out what he's saying.

Plus, a critical snapshot of the war in Iraq. We're going to show you the brand new numbers the Pentagon is reporting to Congress and what they tell us about the U.S. mission.

Stick around.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol, what do you have?

COSTELLO: Well, Wolf, the Pentagon says all major indicators of violence in Iraq have dropped.

Oh, I'm sorry I just lost my place. Let me get it here.

The Pentagon says all major indicators of violence have dropped significantly since the start of the troop surge. A new report to Congress says the decrease in violence ranges from 40 percent to 80 percent. I wanted to get those percentages right for you. Civilian deaths have dropped from nearly 4,000 a month at their peak to about 500 last month. But the Pentagon concedes that the gains made in Iraq remain fragile, reversible and uneven.

A battle pitting environmentalists against the U.S. Navy is now going to the Supreme Court. The Justices have agreed to take up a case centering on the Navy's use of sonar off the Southern California coast. Some feel it's harmful to whales and dolphins. But a federal appeals court ruled national security interests override interest for marine mammals.

And remember these images that made headlines just a few weeks ago purporting to show an undiscovered tribe in the Amazon?

Well, not so much. The man who took these pictures now admits this tribe was first documented almost a century ago. But he says he left out that tidbit of information hoping to increase opposition to logging that's threatening Amazon tribes.

That's a look at the headlines right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Carol, thank you.

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": Well, Wolf, coming up at 7:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN, we're reporting on a troubling new example of corporate elites' determination to replace American workers with labor imported from overseas on temporary work visas that are anything but temporary. We'll have complete coverage for you on a stunning defeat for the pro-amnesty lobby and its allies in the environmental movement, including the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee in Congress.

The Supreme Court today standing up for the American people and permitting the construction of that border fence. We'll have that special report. And among my guests tonight, author David K. Johnson, author of the provocative book, "Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Are Enriching Themselves at Government Expense."

Please join us for that and a great deal more at 7:00 Eastern right here on CNN. All the day's news and much more with an Independent perspective -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Lou.

Thank you.

Let's check in with Jack once again for the Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is, after a 16-month long primary campaign, is it necessary for Barack Obama to re-introduce himself to the voters, which he has started doing?

Karen in Branson, Missouri: "Now that Obama is the Democratic nominee, he needs to introduce himself to the public again. Hillary supporters were busy following her news. Republicans were busy watching their own nomination process. So there are probably many voters who really do need to get to know Barack Obama."

Gord in Boston: "I'm sure Barack Obama will spend hundreds of millions of dollars to have the spin doctors and ad execs reintroduce a crafted image of him that would put a prescription drug ad to shame. Take a dose of Barack Obama and when you wake up in the morning, everything in your life will be great. How much reintroducing and money will it take to make the American public believe the manure that he's feeding them is actually maple syrup?" Sunyare in Detroit: "No, he shouldn't. What's wrong with the way he's introduced himself the first time? If the initial introduction got him this far, why fix it if it isn't broke? But the fact that questions like this have to be asked with respect to Obama and not with respect to McCain shows Obama will undoubtedly have to work hard to appease the fears of those who are still not comfortable with his race."

Blake in Florida writes: "There's so many lies out there spreading by e-mail, the Internet, word of mouth that he really needs to correct them. So, yes, reintroducing himself could be a good move. The problem comes from the fact most of the people spreading these lies at this point are the same people that wouldn't believe Obama even if he denied it. It might be a useless gesture, he's right to say, in the end."

And Carol in California writes: "unless you've had your head in the sand for the last 16 months, not only does everybody know who Barack Obama is, but his campaign slogan yes, we can is seared permanently into our brains. He now needs to introduce the rest of his campaign slogan to voters -- how we can. And he only has four months to do it."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and look for yours there, among the many that are posted -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

Jack Cafferty.

We'll see you back here tomorrow.

A Chicago priest has returned from a suspension imposed after he mocked Hillary Clinton from the pulpit of Barack Obama's former church.

CNN's Susan Roesgen is following this story in Chicago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUSAN ROESGEN, GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Father Michael Pfleger returned to the pulpit of the St. Sabina Catholic Church on Sunday after a two week suspension. He promised the Chicago archdiocese that he will not mention any political candidate's name in public between now and November. But he did not promise to stay quiet.

REV. MICHAEL PFLEGER, ST. SABINA CHURCH: I will not let my faults or my imperfections cause me to run, nor will I allow them to cause me to hide. Nor will I allow them to cause me to play it safe, nor will I allow them to cause me to be silent.

ROESGEN: Father Pfleger has said that he's sorry for what he said in May about Senator Hillary Clinton before she dropped out of the race.

PFLEGER: I'm Bill's wife.

ROESGEN: He also told me today that when he watches this video now, it makes him say ouch to see himself mocking Senator Clinton.

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

ROESGEN: Father Pfleger calls his remarks that day overly dramatic and he says this was just a couple of minutes taken from an hour-long speech on race. But the Catholic Church condemned the sermon and so did Senator Barack Obama.

OBAMA: Father Pfleger, who is somebody who I've known, who I consider a friend, who has done tremendous work in Chicago, but made offensive statements that have no place in our politics and in the pulpit.

ROESGEN: Still, Father Pfleger's parishioners are overjoyed to have him back. He says he will continue to speak out on political issues like race, poverty and the war in Iraq.

PFLEGER: Committed to the gospel of justice.

ROESGEN: But he won't be endorsing a candidate.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: Susan Roesgen reporting for us from Chicago.

Barack Obama's latest public relations move didn't exactly get a seal of approval. It looked official, but that's just the problem.

CNN's Jeanne Moos finds it Moost Unusual.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In our Political Ticker, we're checking in on Barack Obama and John McCain's searches for running mates. A half dozen Democrats and Republicans were pressed by weekend talk show hosts about their interest in the V.P. slot and whether they'd been approached by Obama or McCain.

Here's a sample of their responses.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "LATE EDITION"

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY (R), MINNESOTA: I'm very happy with being governor of the State of Minnesota.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "MEET THE PRESS," COURTESY NBC)

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Unlike most other people, I'm being straight with you. If asked, I will do it. I've made it clear I do not want to be asked.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "FACE THE NATION," COURTESY CBS)

CARLY FIORINA, MCCAIN ADVISER: Anyone would be Honored to serve John McCain. And I would, as well. But he will have a long list of highly qualified people to chose from.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "FOX NEWS SUNDAY," COURTESY FOX NEWS)

TOM DASCHLE (D), FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I'm not seeking the vice presidency. I've not talked to Barack about it. I don't expect to be asked and I have no interest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "FOX NEWS SUNDAY, COURTESY FOX NEWS)

TOM RIDGE, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: If he asks me, we'll have a private conversation, then we'll decide whether or not we ought to tell you what we said.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS")

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: Eight years is long enough. I don't need another job in government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Here's something you might be interested in knowing. You can be in THE SITUATION ROOM as early as tomorrow. That's when I'll be interviewing the governor of Texas, Rick Perry. He agrees with Senator McCain that offshore drilling for oil will help lower gas prices.

So here's what you can do. You can ask him a question if you want. Go to iReport.com and submit your video questions for our interview tomorrow. That's coming up. We'll see what happens.

So what's the deal with Barack Obama's seal?

The Democratic candidate's latest public relations move hasn't exactly been getting the seal of approval.

CNN's Jeanne Moos finds it all Moost Unusual.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): No, Senator Obama, don't sit. Don't sit there.

OBAMA: Well, good morning, everybody. MOOS: Uh-oh, his fate is sealed.

Does this remind you of anything?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The presidential seal.

MOOS: The same layout, same eagle holding arrows and an olive branch.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's very presumptuous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, he's assuming he's already president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He isn't president yet. He isn't nowhere near it.

MOOS: Maybe not. But just like the presidential seal, Obama's has a Latin inscription -- vero possumus. Loosely translated, yes, we can, the campaign slogan.

The Obama seal is already being sold on t-shirts and mugs. But the opposition is up in arms. "The audacity of him," "ego gone wild." One person commented by posting that old Carly Simon song...

(VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So whoever said a presidential candidate is humble?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's nothing wrong with him being optimistic.

MOOS: But some right-wing blogs questioned the legality of Obama's seal. "It's illegal to display a likeness of the seal. It conveys a false impression of government approval."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's smart marketing. That's all it is.

MOOS: But the critics weren't just the usual opponents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a tinge of presumptuousness and I am a Barack Obama supporter.

MOOS: On the on the other hand...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I myself am an arch-conservative. And I think that's marvelous. I think it's funny. It's out of out of "Mad" magazine.

MOOS: It reminds us of the flap about John McCain's lime green background, which the campaign dumped after much ridicule and a challenge by Stephen Colbert for viewers to come up with more exciting backgrounds, ranging from "The Three Stooges" to the Hindenburg.

MCCAIN: Entitlement progress approaching bankruptcy.

MOOS: But when it comes to Obama's seal...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't think there's a touch of hubris here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the brother's confident.

MOOS: As for the yes, we can Latin slogan, "The Baltimore Sun's" political blog suggested: "They may want to rethink the Latin inscription vero possumus. It made me think of opossum I don't think the campaign wants people thinking of opossum when they look at Obama."

But it was the seal that ended up as road kill. The Obama campaign says it was a onetime thing for a onetime event. So hold that criticism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another mistake.

MOOS (on camera): Wait, wait, wait. I wanted to show you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get lost.

MOOS (voice-over): Letting the seal get lost is what the Obama campaign is doing.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And you can check out our new SITUATION ROOM screensaver and stay up to date on the latest political news.

Here's what you do. You can download it at CNN.com/situation room and have a great screen saver with you all the time.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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