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THE SITUATION ROOM

Courting the Hispanic Vote; Ad War Heats Up; Interview With Mitt Romney; Obama Family on "Access Hollywood"; The debate on who "flip-flops" more

Aired July 8, 2008 - 16:00   ET

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


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, an urgent appeal to Latino voters. Barack Obama and John McCain make dueling pitches on immigration, the economy and other core issues.
We are standing by to hear Obama's remarks live.

Also this hour, Obama hits McCain over energy. Republicans call it the first attack ad of the fall campaign. But who actually fired first?

I'll ask Republican Mitt Romney about tough tactics and pocketbook issues.

And the Obamas' young daughters, well, they're going Hollywood. Why the usually sheltered children were featured on a show known for dishing dirt on celebrities.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We are standing by for Barack Obama's remarks to a top Latino organization just hours after John McCain appeared before the same group. Now, both candidates are zeroing in on issues that hit Hispanic voters close to home, including the economy. Obama's expected to press a theme that he's been making over and over on the campaign trail, that McCain would be another George Bush.

Listen to what the Democrat said in Georgia earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A McCain administration would mean a fiscal Groundhog Day in Washington. You remember that movie "Groundhog Day?" He kept on waking up and the same thing happened over and over and over again.

We don't want the same old thing. We want something new. That's why I'm running for president of the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: McCain also took a familiar line of attack against Obama when he appeared before the League of United Latin American Citizens today. He said that Obama would raise their taxes while he would give them a break.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you believe you should pay more taxes, I'm the wrong candidate for you. Jobs are the most important thing our economy creates. When you raise taxes in a bad economy, you eliminate jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.

Bill, why is there such a hot contest here for the Latino vote? Obviously very important.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: It is. Well, both McCain and Obama have problems with Latino voters, and so both sense an opportunity.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice over): First, NALEO. Now, LULAC. Next, La Raza.

Those are prominent Latino political organizations. Both John McCain and Barack Obama are speaking to all three. That's clout.

How did Latino voters get so much clout? Latinos are 15 percent of the population, but they were only eight percent of the voters in 2004. Nearly half the nation's Latinos live in California or Texas, but neither is a battleground state.

Four battleground states do have large Latino communities: Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. But in exit polls going back to 1972, Latino voters have never voted Republican for president. Republican candidates have averaged only about a third of the Latino vote.

So, why are Latino voters so hotly contested this time? Because both candidates have problems with Latinos.

In the Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton beat Obama nearly 2- 1. In the general election right now, Obama is beating McCain by 2-1. So, both candidates sense an opportunity with Latino voters.

Both candidates support comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants in the United States. But when that issue drew an outraged response from many voters, McCain decided to emphasize border security first.

When he was running for his party's nomination, Obama charges, "... he abandoned his courageous stance and said that he wouldn't even support his own legislation." McCain continues to emphasize border security to placate his critics.

MCCAIN: We must prove to them that we can and will secure our borders first.

SCHNEIDER: But now he is renewing his commitment to comprehensive reform.

MCCAIN: We must not make the mistake of thinking that our responsibility to meet this challenge will end with that accomplishment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Both candidates are using their own personal stories to make a pitch to Latino voters. Obama talks about his father's origins in Africa and declares, "America has nothing to fear from our newcomers." McCain recounted the story of a fellow prisoner of war who was of Mexican descent, and noted that many Latinos now serve in Iraq and Afghanistan who are not yet citizens -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Bill.

And I want you to check out the Latino vote by the numbers.

In the last three presidential elections, Bill Clinton got 72 percent of the Hispanic vote in 1996. A bigger piece of Latino support than any Democrat over the past 20 years.

Now, in 2000, Al Gore didn't do quite as well with Latinos, getting 62 percent support. George W. Bush made some inroads for Republicans, pulling in 35 percent of the Hispanic vote. Mr. Bush upped that percentage to 44 percent in 2004, leaving John Kerry with 53 percent of the Latino vote.

And the Obama versus McCain ad war is certainly heating up today. The Democrat is out with a new 30-second spot, and it blasts McCain's energy policy, tries once again to saddle the Republican with President Bush's baggage.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: On gas prices, John McCain's part of the problem. McCain and Bush support a drilling plan that won't produce a drop of oil for seven years. McCain will give more tax breaks to big oil. He's voted with Bush 95 percent of the time.

Barack Obama will make energy independence an urgent priority.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: The Obama commercial is a direct response to a $3 million Republican Party ad buy attacking Obama on energy. Now, the dueling energy ads are running in the same four battleground states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Let's bring in our own CNN Jessica Yellin.

The McCain camp saw an opportunity obviously when they saw this ad.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Suzanne. They are claiming that Barack Obama is the first to go negative, to have the first negative ad up. And they say that shows that Barack Obama is not your average -- not a new kind of politician, he's just your same old typical politician.

But that ignores the fact that the RNC came out with its own ad first. And the Obama ad is a direct response to the RNC ad, which is not exactly a love letter to Obama. It really attacks him on his energy policy.

Now, the McCain campaign insists that they didn't release that RNC ad, they can't be blamed for it. But the Obama campaign says, well, that's a distinction without a difference -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And Jessica, I know that they're trying to link this ad, obviously, the Obama camp, with McCain and with Bush. Has the McCain campaign, have they been consistent in trying to label Obama? Have they been as successful?

YELLIN: You know, Suzanne, we hear from the McCain campaign regularly that Barack Obama, sometimes they say he's a flip-flopper, sometimes they say he's naive. Other times they argue that he's not your typical politician, as they are today -- or that he is, excuse me, your typical politician.

The attacks on him keep changing, whereas Obama sticks with one message, and that message is John McCain is a third Bush term. So, basically, Obama has hit on a message that they seem to think works. The McCain camp is still struggling to find one.

MALVEAUX: So is there any kind of risk then that if he puts out this ad, he's put out this ad, they're saying that this is a negative ad, that he kind of undermines this whole idea that he's Mr. Positive?

YELLIN: Right. Well, that's, A, if you ignore the fact that the RNC went first with its own negative ad. And B, it is on the issue. It's not Barack Obama hitting John McCain as a human being, it's him criticizing his energy policy. And the distinctions there probably don't really -- all this debate of who went first doesn't really matter to the voters.

MALVEAUX: OK. Jessica, thank you so much.

Jack Cafferty is off today.

Happening now in THE SITUATION ROOM, we're standing by for Barack Obama's remarks to a top Latino group. And we're getting up close and personal with Obama's daughters. We'll have a clip from a surprising interview with one of the girls on a show that's -- well, it's usually fixated on Hollywood.

Plus, the leading industrial nations reach an agreement on global warming. But there is a catch, and it's a big one.

And next, Obama versus McCain on taxes. Possible McCain running mate Mitt Romney joins us and pounces on the Democrat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Barack Obama is a charming, well-spoken person, but he's never actually run anything. He's never had the experience of leadership. So let's take the proven.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: New sparring today between John McCain and Barack Obama over taxes. McCain charging Obama will make Americans pay more; Obama charging that McCain would give breaks to big oil and be another George Bush.

McCain allies are rushing to his defense.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Governor Mitt Romney, thank you so much for joining us here on THE SITUATION ROOM today.

ROMNEY: Thank you, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: As you know, issue #1 for the voters is the economy. You have these dueling economic packages from the candidates here.

I want you to listen to Senator Barack Obama, what he said earlier today regarding John McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The only plan that he has is to not only continue the Bush tax cuts to wealthy corporations, he wants to increase them. His plan's essentially the Bush plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Governor Romney, give us a sense, what makes John McCain's plan any different than President Bush?

ROMNEY: Well, what he wants to do is to make sure that he can help middle income families at a time when this economy is really putting a pinch on them. So the first thing he's doing is making sure that we get ourselves long term off our dependence on foreign oil and getting the cost of energy down. And he's doing it in a way Barack Obama can't touch.

He's going to make sure we do more drilling. We're going to have more nuclear power. We're not going to put a new tax as Barack Obama wants on coal and natural gas.

So, he's going to make sure we become energy independent. And Americans recognize that's critical for our economy long term. Short term, he's going to make sure that we help middle income folks by reducing taxes for middle income families. And he's doing that by getting rid of the AMT, which costs the average middle income family $2,700 a year. That's big help. And then he's going to double the personal exemption for each dependent from $3,500 to $7,000 a year.

MALVEAUX: Well, let's talk about...

ROMNEY: So, big tax savings for middle income families. So those are ways he's going to make some pretty bold changes from what we're doing now, and pretty dramatic differences from Barack Obama.

MALVEAUX: Well, let's talk about the similarities here, because obviously he's going to be extending the Bush tax cuts. And the Congressional Budget Office says that extending those tax cuts essentially would add an additional $700 billion over the next five years to the deficit.

How does he balance the budget and also extend those tax cuts?

ROMNEY: Well, first of all, the tax cuts should be permanent. We shouldn't be raising taxes now and then.

What Barack Obama wants to do instead of extending the current tax rate is to raise the tax rate. So John McCain is lowering those taxes, Barack Obama wants to raise them.

And the answer is that the right way to balance our budget is not by taking more money from the American people, but by reducing unnecessary spending and growing our economy. When you grow the economy and you create more jobs and have higher wages, people are paying more taxes, companies are thriving, paying more taxes, and we balance our budget. It's happened before, it will happen again. But it will only happen by getting taxes down and by getting spending down and by seeing a stronger economy to (ph) growth.

MALVEAUX: But one of the problems that John McCain makes is essentially he says that every cent that you save in Iraq would go towards obviously the budget deficit here. But there really is -- there's no proof here that they're going to be raising or sustaining any kind of costs when it comes to Iraq. That is a presumption we just don't know.

ROMNEY: Well, I think John McCain's made it very clear that it's his objective that by the end of his first term that our mission in Iraq will be virtually complete. And I think you -- I think you also recognize, if you look at the success in Iraq to date, that we're on a real track to get that done.

The surge that John McCain fought for, authored, in many respects, has worked. You're not hearing much about Iraq right now from the Democrats because, you know, after they said the surge would not work, it has worked and you're seeing greater stability there..

MALVEAUX: So when do you actually -- I'm sorry, Governor. But when do you actually bring the troops home to create the kind of savings that McCain is talking about?

ROMNEY: Oh, sure, you're not going to keep 140,000 soldiers in Iraq indefinitely. You will see troop withdrawals continue. That's part of the current plan. You're going to see that continue during the McCain years.

And you will probably have a force there for some time that's there to maintain stability, much like we do in South Korea and other parts of the world, Bosnia and so forth. But we're not going to have troops in major conflict settings as they are today.

MALVEAUX: One of the assumptions, though, is obviously if he saves costs from Iraq, that somehow Afghanistan, how do we know that that's not going to be even more expensive, that it's not going to offset an increase there? Clearly, President Bush says more troops are necessary there and things are not necessarily going well.

ROMNEY: Well, our presence in Afghanistan, of course, is very small, relative to that in Iraq. And we do have the support, as well as the armed support of the NATO allies in Afghanistan. This should not be a burden which the United States alone carries.

But, of course, you recognize in John McCain you have an individual who understands what it takes to keep America safe. And our first responsibility is to keep America safe and to make sure that we are not only safe, but that we're free and prosperous. And John McCain has the skill and the experience to do those things.

You know, Barack Obama's a charming, well-spoken person, but he's never actually run anything. He's never had the experience of leadership.

MALVEAUX: Governor -- excuse me.

ROMNEY: So, let's take the proven.

MALVEAUX: Let's move on to another subject, if I may here. Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the policy of those in the military, in recruitment, not being asked if they're gay, serving. That is something that today, 52 retired generals and admirals sending a letter to Congress, essentially saying it is time to repeal this policy, that it does not work, it does not serve our country well.

Is it time for John McCain to call for repealing the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy?

ROMNEY: You know, I don't think so. I think particularly at a time of conflict, as we're experiencing in Iraq and Afghanistan, this is not the time to be putting in place a major change in policy and trying to accommodate all of the adjustments that that would require.

That's something which clearly we'll learn from the military and the people who are responsible for managing our troops down the road. But certainly now is not the time to make a change of that nature.

MALVEAUX: The Republican National Convention obviously coming up. A lot of people looking for that. The White House has said that President Bush will speak on the first day. We know Senator John McCain, of course, will speak on the last day.

Do you think that these two should appear together in passing on the torch?

ROMNEY: You know, I'm not much of a choreographer, I have to be honest with you. I don't know how convention choreography is going to work.

Of course we want to hear from our president and hear his perspectives. I had the chance to listen to him in our home several weeks ago, and he...

MALVEAUX: But certainly it would be a powerful -- it would be a powerful picture, a powerful statement to see them together.

ROMNEY: You know, that's something for the political powers that be to decide what makes the best choreography. But this is clearly John McCain's convention.

This is his chance to lay out his vision for our party and for America. And he, of course, is going to be the keynoter. He's going to be the highlight of the convention, and I'm looking forward to it.

MALVEAUX: All right. Governor Mitt Romney, thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ROMNEY: Good to be with you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And we're standing by for Barack Obama.

And in the next hour, I'll speak with Barack Obama supporter, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano.

Also, they may be made in the USA, but they're enjoyed in Iran. U.S. exports to Iran went through the roof during the Bush administration. Wait until you hear what items Iranians love and if your state is among those exporting the most.

And what if you could get a lot more oil from a place with a lot more oil than Saudi Arabia?

(NEWSBREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now in Iraq, it protects thousands of U.S. troops from explosive attacks, so why are so many of these blast-resistant vehicles not working, waiting for repairs?

You have fears about eating tomatoes, or possibly a terror attack on the nation's food supply. Is the agency that's supposed to protect you failing? I'll ask the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, Dr. Julie Gerberding.

And near Atlanta, police say a father killed his daughter in what's commonly called an honor killing. Equally disturbing is the reason why the father allegedly killed her.

Wolf Blitzer's off. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're expecting to hear from Barack Obama as soon as he speaks to a leading Latino group meeting here in Washington. But right now, let's hear from his family. Now, they appeared together, of all places, on the program "Access Hollywood." And even 10-year-old Malia spoke up in an interview that touched on pop culture, fashion, and, of course, her dad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MALIA OBAMA, BARACK OBAMA'S DAUGHTER: I read "People" magazine and everything, and they always have those sections with, you know, how much people (INAUDIBLE). And so I saw that magazine and I was like, "Oh, mommy! You're in this!" Because I've never seen mommy in that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it cool?

MALIA OBAMA: Pretty cool, because I usually see people like Angelina Jolie.

MICHELLE OBAMA, BARACK OBAMA'S WIFE: The real important people.

MALIA OBAMA: Real important people.

No offense.

MICHELLE OBAMA: I've always loved clothes. He knows that. I think it's funnily that he's involved in this fashion icon stuff, because these pants he's had for probably about 10 years.

MALIA OBAMA: And that belt. That belt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The belt is a little worn, too, actually, now that I think at it.

MICHELLE OBAMA: And don't pan down to the shoes, because we've talked about getting new shoes for him. So I think...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator, I don't know. I think they got you here. I mean, I don't want to jump on the bandwagon or anything.

B. OBAMA: Listen...

MICHELLE OBAMA: Just don't look too closely.

B. OBAMA: ... I'm baffled by this whole thing myself, because I hate to shout (ph).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: OK.

More now on the surprising Obama family interview. We're going to bring in Carol Costello.

The Obama girls are usually sheltered from the media, but I recently spoke with Michelle and she made a little -- she ribbed Obama a little bit about his clothes. I noticed the daughters are in on all of this, too. This is really kind of unusual, though, for the kids.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: It is unusual for the daughters to speaking out on television on a show like "Access Hollywood." But Obama's supporters can actually thank the Jonas Brothers for Obama kids' debut.

The girls love the Jonas Brothers. They're on "Access Hollywood," and they asked mom and dad to be on the show with them. And mom and dad said yes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over): It was billed on "The Today Show" as an Access Hollywood" exclusive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEREDITH VIEIRA, CO-HOST "The Today Show": The first interview with the entire Obama family.

Good morning to you, Maria. Congratulations.

MARIA MENOUNOS, "Access Hollywood:" Thank you, Meredith.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: It is unusual. There's a reason you rarely see the Obama kids' faces. The senator's campaign has asked news organizations not to take pictures of his kids, and they rarely do.

Example, this soccer game. News organizations shot dad, but not daughter Malia dribbling the ball. But on "Access Hollywood," a show that touts actor Matthew McConaughey's new baby and Christie Brinkley's lurid divorce, Obama's daughters took center stage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MALIA OBAMA: Oh, mommy, you're in this, because I have never seen mommy in there.

MENOUNOS: Is it cool?

MALIA OBAMA: It's pretty cool, because I usually see people like Angelina Jolie. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MENOUNOS: Well, they didn't choose me necessarily. They chose "Access Hollywood." My producer, Steve Forrest (ph), worked really hard to get the interview with Michelle and the senator.

COSTELLO: Menounos, who also reports for "The Today Show" and "NBC Nightly News" -- and, yes, she's a spokesperson for Pantene shampoo, too.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

MENOUNOS: It made my colored hair more brilliant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Says she was surprised when the Obamas allowed her access to their kids.

MENOUNOS: No one really expected them to open up so much. I know the campaign and their family were all huddled around, kind of surprised that the girls took over this whole interview, as was I.

COSTELLO: She says her interview was meant only to show the Obama family dynamics, not to ask tough questions. And that's exactly why political observers say Obama chose this show to introduce his daughters.

DREW WESTEN, AUTHOR, "THE POLITICAL BRAIN": This is going to be a referendum on whether or not he's American enough to be president.

And I think, you know, and whether he's too different to be president. And I think what he really needs to show people is that he's a guy with a family. I mean, talk about family values. You sure saw them when you watched that clip.

COSTELLO: Westen says Obama should allow the media more access to his kids. Children can be powerful campaigners, but that's a decision difficult for any parent to make, even when dad is running for president.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: On the power of children, some say Chelsea Clinton was an effective campaigner. That's how she helped her mom on the trail. But it was really her presence beside Hillary Clinton that most helped the candidate. It showed Senator Clinton to be a warm and caring mom.

MALVEAUX: So, it will be interesting to see if he gets into the White House if they will have the access and how they will handle all that. I know covering Bush and Clinton that kids are pretty much -- they are off-limits there and there's always a little bit of that push/pull back and forth with the media.

COSTELLO: I suspect if Obama makes it into the White House, there will be no access to the kids. That's just my guess. MALVEAUX: I suspect you're right.

(LAUGHTER)

COSTELLO: Yes.

MALVEAUX: OK, thanks, Carol.

Today, in the G8 Summit in Japan, leaders achieved a breakthrough. It's designed to save a planet that is in peril because of a climate crisis. But some environmentalists are not happy about it.

CNN White House correspondent Elaine Quijano has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, even as G8 leaders tout this climate change agreement, critics say it's not enough.

(voice-over): The leaders of the world's eight largest economies agreed to back a long-term goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by the year 2050. But there's a big caveat. The G8 said in order to move forward, all major economies must sign onto that goal, reflecting President Bush's well- known view.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That if China and India don't share that same aspiration then we're not going to solve the problem.

QUIJANO: Environmentalists say they're disappointed. They argue a long-term target won't do enough to head off the worst effects of climate change.

KIM CARSTENSEN, WORLD WILDLIFE FUND: Setting a goal for 2050 is somehow too far off. But, what we are really missing is a goal that also binds us much closer to home. That binds us already for the period up until 2020. And that mid-term goal I think, is crucially important.

QUIJANO: G8 leaders did agree to quote, implement ambitious economy-wide middle-term goals.

CARSTENSEN: But what does that mean? Have you ever heard a government leader come out and say, I have got a plan that's not ambitious? No. Everybody would say what they come up with is ambitious.

QUIJANO (on camera): The Bush administration maintains its approach is realistic, because, now, two of the world's leading emitters, India and China, must buy into the goal. The leaders of those countries will sit down for talks with the G8 on Wednesday. And on the sidelines of the summit, President Bush will meet separately with those leaders as well -- Suzanne.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Elaine.

There's a new push to give Congress more clout in making a life- and-death decision. And when should the U.S. go to war? A longtime friend of the Bush family is behind the move.

Plus, Hillary Clinton's profile at the Democratic Convention, how big should it be? Clinton ally Paul Begala is standing by for our "Strategy Session."

And an insult to Italy's leader by the Bush administration -- the background book that had a little too much detail -- ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Well, it's something you dread paying for, but you can't do without. And that, of course, is energy, specifically oil and gas.

One billionaire oilman talks to CNN about something many people say will save you money.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

T. BOONE PICKENS, FOUNDER & CHAIRMAN, BP CAPITAL: If I can get the wind replace the natural gas, then the natural gas will -- I can put it in transportation fuel. And there are eight million vehicles in the world today that are on natural gas.

And you could put it right in the transportation fuel and reduce our imports by 38 percent. And that would reduce the $700 billion by $300 billion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: T. Boone Pickens talked to CNN senior business correspondent Ali Velshi -- Ali joining us now.

Very interesting ideas that he seems to be laying out here.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Boone is an interesting guy.

People have probably heard his name because it's such an unusual name. But T. Boone Pickens is 80 years old. He's been in the oil business for 50 years. He's a billionaire. He's apparently the 117th richest man in America.

And, Suzanne, he's proposing -- he's building the world's biggest wind farm in West Texas. He's proposing that we take all that electricity that is created by natural gas, use wind to create that, save that natural gas, use it for transportation, and then use less oil.

It's very innovative. He said that his plan, as you just heard, can reduce the imported oil to the United States by about a third. Now, that's interesting, because a third of the imported oil is also the amount of oil we can get from Canada, because of a very unique system that they use to get oil in a certain part of northern Canada.

So, we went on an energy hunt. I went up to northern Alberta in Canada to find the oil sands. There's more oil there, Suzanne, than there is in all of Saudi Arabia. Look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VELSHI (voice-over): One-third of the world's known oil deposits are right here, in the dirt. So, that's where we headed on our energy hunt from New York to Fort McMurray, Alberta.

(on camera): All right, this is it. We are literally walking on black gold. This is what we came here to see.

This is oil sand. It's sand that's encased in water and oil. In fact, this is about 10 percent crude oil.

(voice-over): Large quantities of oil embedded in sand only occur in two places in the world, Venezuela and Canada. Giant shovels scoop up 100 tons of oil-laden dirt at a time. Hundreds of trucks move across the landscape all day and night, every single day.

(on camera): You need a lot of earth to make oil. It takes about two tons of oil sands to make one big barrel of oil.

Now, this big hauler holds 400 tons of oil sands, so once that's all filled up and made into oil, you'll have about 200 barrels of oil.

(voice-over): That's right, two tons of oil sand makes one barrel of oil. But at today's oil prices it's wildly profitable. That's why major players like ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron and others squeeze 1. 5 million barrels of oil out of this land every day, and they send most of it to the U. S.

It's costlier than getting it from a simple land well because the tar-like oil has to be separated from the sand. And that uses lots of natural gas and warm water. The result is a heavy molasses-like oil which has to be upgraded into a lighter, high quality form of crude that can then be easily refined into gasoline, home heating oil, and other petroleum products.

Canada produces much more oil than it needs. So the excess oil is sold and sent by pipeline to its best customer, the United States. Notice, there's no pipeline to Canada's west coast. There is one proposed, and it's backed by China.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VELSHI: So, Suzanne, while most of the oil now comes to the United States, if that pipeline to the West Coast gets built, well, that means China has access to that oil, something that the United States has taken for granted for a long time, that a friendly country with a lot of oil supplies it. Do you know how much oil we can get from there, Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: No.

VELSHI: There are conservative estimates right now that over the next 10 years, that 1.5 million barrels we get every day can increase to four or five million barrels.

MALVEAUX: Wow.

VELSHI: That's just from the oil sands. There's traditional oil wells in Canada as well.

So, it's an interesting story. I'm going to be, for the next couple of days, covering some of the disadvantage of this. Obviously, it has got some environmental impact, but a lot of oil up there, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: It's a fascinating story. Thank you. Thank you, Ali.

VELSHI: OK.

MALVEAUX: In the "Strategy Session": Obama asserts that he is no flip-flopper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: This whole notion that I am, you know, shifting to the center or that I'm flip-flopping or this, that or the other, the people who say this apparently haven't been listening to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Well, has the McCain camp tagged Obama with a label that actually might stick? And as the Democrats huddle to plan their convention, what role should Hillary Clinton play? Paul Begala and Kevin Madden are standing by here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Barack Obama says that calling him a name doesn't make him -- that name necessarily true. Obama's answering critics who suggest that he is a flip-flopper.

Here for today's "Strategy Session," senior political contributor and Democratic strategist Paul Begala and Republican strategist Kevin Madden, a former spokesman for Mitt Romney and senior vice president of the Glover Park Group.

I want to start off, first, you know, he was asked about this. He was confronted about this whole flip-flopping thing. Let's hear what he said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: This whole notion that I am, you know, shifting to the center or that I'm flip-flopping or this, that, or the other, you know, the people who say this apparently haven't been listening to me.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: And I have to say, some of it are my friends on the left, and the -- and some of the media. I am somebody who is no doubt progressive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: OK, so, Kevin, he calls himself progressive here. He's not a flip-flopper.

Obviously, it worked for President Bush in assigning Kerry this label. It worked very well. Are they going to come up with anything else, or is this a strategy they are sticking with: We think this label is going to work?

KEVIN MADDEN, FORMER ROMNEY CAMPAIGN NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY: Well, look, I think it works because it fits. And they have an evidentiary trail of changes on positions, on core positions, where he's shown he doesn't have the principle, but instead moving to the center or attacking in a very political way because he finds it politically expedient.

And I think they are going to continue to do that. And with the new message discipline of the McCain campaign, they're going to do this every single day. If he thinks it's bad now, well, wait until they get until the end of the week, wait until they get to the end of the month, wait until they get to the end of the campaign. It is going to stick.

MALVEAUX: And, Paul, obviously, the Obama campaign says perhaps some of these positions are more nuanced. This is something Bill Clinton did, that he moved towards the center.

Is Obama -- is he in a problem now? Is he facing a potential box?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: As a strategist watching that tape, if I were advising Senator Obama -- and I'm not. I am going to vote for him. I gave him money, but I don't work for him.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: It would be this. Sir, don't restate the charge and then deny it.

MADDEN: Absolutely.

BEGALA: In the world of flip-flopping, he wouldn't even make the Olympic trials, OK?

I mean, this guy has been actually pretty consistent all through. What you do, Senator, is you counterattack. You never defend. You always counterattack. Oh, is the charge flip-flopping? Let's look at senator McCain. Stop me when I hit an issue he has not flip-flopped on, taxes, abortion, gay rights, the role of the religious right, immigration, offshore oil drilling, even torture.

Now, so, if flip-flopping were an Olympic sport, John McCain would be the first 72-year-old to win a gold medal.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: That's how Barack needs to answer this. Counterattack.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: Look, the reason I think that Barack Obama is much more susceptible to this line of attack is the fact that he really has only up to this point had an act one with voters.

Act two is going to be showing that he is, in fact, somebody who has changed positions time and time again. But John McCain has had -- has a concrete reputation as never -- as never, you know, doing the politically expedient thing.

MALVEAUX: I'm going to get back to you guys, but I want to go live here to Barack Obama in Washington before the League of United Latin American Citizens. He's speaking right now.

Let's take a listen.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

OBAMA: When Latinos lose their jobs faster than almost anybody else, or work jobs that pay less and come with fewer benefits than almost anybody else, if they're working two or three jobs and still don't have health insurance and still don't have retirement benefits, that isn't a Hispanic-American problem.

That's an American problem. And we have to solve that problem. When there are 12 million people in hiding in this country, hundreds of thousands of people crossing our borders illegally each year because they can't make it, they can't support their families, when companies hire undocumented workers to avoid paying overtime or avoid a union, and when we have a government that just engages in symbolic raids, but isn't willing to solve this problem comprehensively, and a nursing mother is torn away from her baby during a raid, that is a problem that all of us, black, white, brown, must solve together as one nation.

And that's one of the reasons that I'm running for president of the United States of America.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: A government -- a government that doesn't work for some Americans, but a government that works for all Americans, that's the kind of government that I'm talking about, a government that doesn't just represent some, but represents all, including the least of these, a government that reflects our strength as a nation.

And that is the strength of our diversity. You know, sometimes, people think that somehow there is a conflict between excellence and diversity. And I have to explain to people, no, those things are complementary.

The reason you want diversity is because all of us have blind spots. All of us miss certain understandings. And when you have somebody who's worked in a barrio at a grassroots level working at the highest levels of government, they add to the performance of government. They make government better. That's the kind of government we need.

That's the kind of government I have been fighting to build throughout my 20 years of public service. That's why I reached across the aisle in the Senate to fight for comprehensive immigration reform. That's why I brought Democrats and Republicans together in Illinois, to put $100 million in tax cuts into the pockets of hardworking families and expanded health care to 150 children and parents who didn't have health care and to help end the outrage of Latinas making 57 cent for every dollar that many of their male co-workers make.

That's why I worked with LULAC and MALDEF before I was in public office as a civil rights lawyer, to register Latino voters and ensure that Hispanics had an equal voice in city hall. And that's why I first moved to Chicago after college.

As some of you know, I turned down more lucrative jobs. And I went to work for a group of churches on the south side and southeast sides of Chicago, so I could help turn around neighborhoods that have been devastated when the local steel plants closed.

I knew that change in those communities would not come easy. But I also knew that it wouldn't come at all if we didn't bring people together. So, I reached out to community leaders, black, brown, white, and built a coalition on issues from failing schools to illegal dumping to un-immunized children.

And, together, we gave job training to the jobless. We helped prevent students from dropping out of school. We taught people to stand up to their government when it wasn't standing up for them. It was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life, because it showed me that what holds this country together is that fundamental belief that we all have a stake in each other, that I am my brother's keeper, that I am my sister's keeper.

And, in this country, we rise and fall together. It's an idea that's familiar to all of you because it's summed up by LULAC's founding creed 75 years ago, all for one and one for all. It's what led a group of immigrants who were tired of being sent to separate schools and arrested for crimes they didn't commit and thrown in jails by juries they couldn't serve on to come together, and from this league, nearly -- and formed this league nearly 80 years ago.

It's what led you to take up the cause of a fallen soldier from south Texas, who had returned from fighting fascism in a casket, but was denied burial beside the men he had fought with and bled with because of the color of his skin.

LULAC, you have helped ensure that no one who's worn the proud uniform of the United States of America is denied the rights and respect they deserve.

MALVEAUX: We will get reaction from Paul and Kevin.

Plus, he was known as Dr. Death for helping people commit suicide. Now Jack Kevorkian is running for political office, and he has the support to do it.

Plus, it's the best protection for American troops in Iraq, but hundreds of these vehicles are breaking down. So, are troops now in danger? An exclusive report from the Pentagon ahead.

And for most of the country, the video is shocking, a woman ignored as she lay dying on an emergency room floor. To her family, it is heartbreaking. Their story and the next step up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Checking our Political Ticker: Barack Obama is taking issue with President Bush's decision to attend the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. The Democrat told reporters yesterday that, if he were president, he would go to Beijing only if Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, reported progress in China -- with China.

Obama has called on Mr. Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies because of China's handling of unrest in Tibet and its human rights record.

I want to go back to the "Strategy Session," Paul Begala and Kevin Madden.

We had just saw Barack Obama. He was speaking before a very powerful Latino group. Obviously, the last go-around, President Bush was able to take away some Latino vote away from John Kerry. What does Barack Obama, what do John McCain, what do they need to do here? They have both approached the group and they have their own strategy and outline for winning their support.

MADDEN: Well, I think you go back to look at how President Bush did it. He didn't look it as just a one-issue sector of the electorate. But instead he talked to them on broader issues.

Latino voters care a great deal about economic conditions in their candidacy. They care about health care. They also care about national security. They are also very strong values voters. So, John McCain has a great opportunity there with an economic message coupled with a very strong social conservative message to get these voters and draw very distinct contrasts between him and Barack Obama.

BEGALA: Yes. Barack Obama did really poorly among Latinos in the primaries. I think that's because Hillary Clinton was strong, not because Barack was weak. And I think he made a lot of progress today. That little bite we saw, note Kevin's point. Barack spoke to values there. It wasn't a programmatic list. It wasn't a laundry list of wonky ideas. It was values. He quoted from the New Testament, the least of these. He quoted from the Old Testament. Am I my brother's keeper?

That's really going to resonate with all Americans and particularly Latinos. I thought that bite we saw was a great speech.

MADDEN: And in those states where they are going to be going, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, that's where they're going to be -- the big battleground out West.

MALVEAUX: And how important is immigration reform? Because, obviously, President Bush tried to push forward this comprehensive immigration, ultimately didn't work.

Are Republicans vulnerable in that sense?

MADDEN: Well...

MALVEAUX: I mean, McCain has put it forward and he supports it.

MADDEN: Right.

MALVEAUX: But, at the same time, people are looking at that administration, the Bush administration, and saying perhaps not as sensitive as they could have been.

MADDEN: Republicans? Possibly. John McCain, who has consistently polled above the Republican brand on an issue like this with Latino voters, he's in a better position than an ordinary, generic Republican would be who was against a lot of these immigration reforms.

He has put forth a comprehensive solution. This is something that a lot of Latino voters have been very warm with. And he's had a very good relationship with that sector of the electorate.

BEGALA: This is a problem. McCain now opposes the McCain bill on immigration. We began this discussion before Barack's speech talking about flip-flops. McCain opposes the McCain immigration bill. That's as big a flip-flop as you can get.

I mean, come on.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: He consistently said that he's for a comprehensive solution, once you secure the borders.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: That is what he says now. What he said then was, he was for the McCain/Kennedy bill. Now he says he would vote against the McCain/Kennedy bill. It's his own doggone bill. That's a flip-flop. (CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: Sorry. We are going to have to leave it there.

Thank you, Paul Begala, Kevin Madden.

MADDEN: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Thanks again.

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