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THE SITUATION ROOM
Jesse Jackson Apologizes to Obama For 'Crude and Hurtful' Comments; Ted Kennedy Returns to Senate
Aired July 9, 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 happening now: Breaking news we're watching, a new apology from the Reverend Jesse Jackson for a very crude and hurtful remark he made about Senator Barack Obama.
You heard him say he's sorry first here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Only moments from now, he's about to speak out about the comments that were caught on an open microphone.
Plus, Senator Obama accused of flip-flopping on spying -- the vote that put him in strange company with President Bush and against Hillary Clinton.
And Edward Kennedy's dramatic return to the U.S. Senate today, even as he battles brain cancer. The reason he couldn't stay away -- all that coming up, plus the best political team on television.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're awaiting a news conference where Jesse Jackson will once again try to explain why he said something so obscene regarding Barack Obama. We can't even repeat it or report precisely his words here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
We're following the breaking news after Reverend Jackson was caught saying something about Barack Obama that Jackson himself now regretfully calls -- and I'm quoting now -- "crude and hurtful."
CNN's Don Lemon is at the CNN Center in Atlanta. He spoke first with Reverend Jackson about this incident.
It's causing a lot of angst out there. Update our viewers who might just be tuning in as to what we know, Don.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Causing a lot of angst, Wolf.
And I have to tell you -- and you have been speaking to the Reverend Jesse Jackson as well. This is something that he never wanted, probably his worst nightmare. And when you save something obscene -- it was during an interview this weekend. After he was finishing up an interview, a television interview, he didn't realize his mike was open, having a conversation about Barack Obama's -- what he's been saying about black people and the black church, his conversations about that. And, again, when you say obscene, apparently, on the microphone, he said something about Barack Obama, the best way to put it is, has been cutting his manhood with black people. And I think most people realize exactly what I'm saying, something that only a man would have, but cutting his manhood with black people because he is not speaking in broader context, a much more broader context about issues that are important to African-Americans.
Now, during THE SITUATION ROOM, we interviewed the reverend exclusively, the first interview after this controversy broke. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REVEREND JESSE JACKSON, FOUNDER, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: This is a sound bite within a broader conversation about urban policy and racial disparities.
And I feel very distressed because I'm so supportive of this campaign and what the senator has done and is doing. I was in a conversation with a fellow guest at FOX on Sunday. And he asked about Barack's speeches lately at the black churches.
I said he can come off as speaking down to black people. The moral message must be a much broader message. What we need really is racial justice and urban policy and jobs and health care. That's a range of issues on the menu.
And, frankly, I think that is his basic urban policy position. No one else put one together except him in this situation. And then I said something I thought regretfully crude. It was very private and very much a sound bite in a live mike.
And so, I feel -- I find no comfort in it. I find no joy in it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And as we wait for that press conference for Reverend Jackson's comments there at Rainbow/PUSH on the South Side of Chicago, I want to tell you that I spoke to him no more than five or 10 minutes ago, just before this show.
And, Wolf, even you picked up on this when you spoke to him. I have never heard the Reverend Jackson sound so contrite and really so concerned about any comment he has made in the media or otherwise.
But I think what Reverend Jackson realizes here is that this can take on legs and wings beyond anyone's control. And, again, the Obama campaign, of course, tonight is saying that they don't have a comment about this.
But I have to tell you, Wolf, a lot of black leaders, a lot of folks are calling me saying, you know what, it is regretful. And they want to have their say in exactly what's going on. But, again, the reverend says he thinks that there should be a much broader conversation that Barack Obama needs to have with African-Americans -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Because, Don, as you know, there's a -- and we can't precisely say what he was reporting, because -- what he was saying before that open mike because it's so crude.
But there is -- when you look at what he was suggesting in that crude remark, a whole racial history in our country precisely involving that.
LEMON: Yes, absolutely.
And here's the thing that people probably would not know, and just because of you knowing the reverend as well, and I came here from Chicago, is that this family, these two families, are particularly close families. And they live in the same neighborhood. Their children are friends. So, it's almost a family issue for them I would say coming to light here in a very, very bad, in a very public way.
And, of course, the Reverend Jesse Jackson is saying he hopes this does not blow up to the level of course of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. But again we heard it there in his voice as we broke it on the air and as I talked to him exclusively in the CNN NEWSROOM and then here in THE SITUATION ROOM that he sounds more contrite than you or I have ever heard.
BLITZER: Absolutely right.
All right, Don, we will stand by to hear from Reverend Jackson. Once he gets to that microphone, we will go there.
Meanwhile, Barack Obama is getting slammed on both sides right now after the U.S. Senate approved an overhaul of the rules involving government eavesdropping.
Obama voted yes, putting him at odds with Hillary Clinton and the left. They voted no. Adding to the political drama, John McCain is using the vote to press his charge that Senator Obama is simply a flip-flopper.
Tom Foreman is here in THE SITUATION ROOM for us.
This must have been a very tough vote for Senator Obama.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It very well could be.
And you said the McCain people are pressing the charge. They indeed are. I got a phone call just a short while ago from the McCain people saying this is evidence of what they say; Obama is making things up on political expediency, not on real principles. That's what they want to say, not what Obama wants to hear on this issue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three-fifths of the senators duly chosen and sworn having voted in the affirmative, the motion is agreed to.
FOREMAN (voice over): The vote put Barack Obama in the spotlight. The senator from Illinois -- you may also know him as the presumptive Democratic nominee for president --- voted in favor of the bill, which, among other things, likely protects from lawsuits the telecommunications companies that help the government snoop on Americans without court approval.
Last year, Obama vowed to fight such a provision. And he did so today, trying to strip it from the bill. But he did vote in favor of the overall legislation.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I made a judgment that at this point it was important for us to go ahead and get that program in place. That doesn't represent a huge shift in position, it represents an assessment of a compromise that was the best that could be done right now, and whether it was more important for us to have that program in place.
FOREMAN: But his rival for the White House, John McCain, says Obama's flip-flopping.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He was opposed to FISA in the past, and opposed to that, and now he is supporting it. Not the first change in position.
FOREMAN: An awful lot of you out there may or may not have been following the FISA measure very closely. But the liberal bloggers sure have been. they have been furious with Obama for some time now over the idea that he was going to vote for this. And there is no question, Wolf, we will be hearing a lot more from them now that he has.
BLITZER: Especially angry, as you know and have reported, that the retroactive community for the telecommunications companies would in fact be granted.
FOREMAN: Absolutely. Absolutely.
BLITZER: Tom Foreman watching the story.
Meanwhile, an emotionally stirring appearance for a nail-biting occasion up on Capitol Hill. Senator Ted Kennedy walked back into the U.S. Senate, making his first appearance there since being diagnosed with brain cancer almost two months ago.
It was an important vote on a Medicare bill. And CNN exclusively caught up with senator Kennedy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... be back, sir.
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Glad to be back. Glad to be back in the Senate. Love it here.
KENNEDY: It's enormously important (INAUDIBLE) whole issue for our seniors to be able to be protected is a key defining issue for this Congress and for this country. And I didn't want to miss the opportunity to be able to express my voice and my vote.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And how are you feeling, sir?
KENNEDY: I'm feeling fine.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Coming back soon full time? Coming back full-time soon?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: There you saw Senator Kennedy with his wife, Vicki, back up on Capitol Hill.
Kate Bolduan is on Capitol Hill as well.
And there was a rousing reception, Kate, he received once he walked in and voted in favor of that Medicare legislation.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It sure was. It was a rare moment we don't often see on Capitol Hill. Senator Ted Kennedy arrived in such a dramatic fashion, receiving a standing ovation, as you mentioned, from his fellow senators as he arrived to vote in support of some Medicare legislation.
This is legislation -- this is a bill that stops a 10.6 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors. And as we know, Ted Kennedy has been a longtime champion much health care and health issues.
Now, Democrats, when Senator Kennedy, before, when he wasn't here, they were one vote shy of the 60 votes they needed. Today, the final tally was 69-30. So, you can see Senator Kennedy, of course, voting in favor of the legislation as well as a handful of other people.
But we should mention, Wolf, that the White House has threatened to veto this bill. It's still unclear if all of these votes will stand up to a necessary veto override vote. But, of course, today a very dramatic day on Capitol Hill.
BLITZER: All right, we will continue to watch this story together with you, Kate, very much.
Let's go back to Chicago right now, the Reverend Jesse Jackson apologizing profusely for very crude remarks, ugly remarks he made before an open microphone involving Senator Barack Obama.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
JACKSON: Let me express my thanks to you for your presence today.
Let me say at the outset I have supported Barack's campaign with passion from the very beginning. I thought the idea made sense. I thought it was part of a great historical continuity no one could project or predict would be as successful as it has been. We have been there all the way, because I think this campaign is a redemptive moment for America and a great opportunity for us to redefine the course of our country and is, in fact, the healing moment.
It's the end of a 54-year journey. I have traveled much of that journey. In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled apartheid to be illegal. And for 10 years of test cases, the Montgomery bus boycott, the Little Rock Nine, the sit-ins, we finally got July 2, '64, a new law, a public accommodation bill.
In '64, we had the sit-ins in the Democratic Convention by Fannie Lou Hamer challenging the makeup of the racial composition of the party in Mississippi. We won that battle.
In '65, the right to vote. And this unfolded from the right to vote, such a big deal for us now. And it was so bloody and so full of terror when we first got it. In Selma, Alabama, white women couldn't serve on juries. Farmers who didn't pay (INAUDIBLE) taxes couldn't vote. Blacks couldn't vote.
In '75, we -- teenagers got the right to vote -- 18-year-olds could vote. In '74, right of residential students on campus could vote where they went to school. So, University of Iowa, for example, you didn't have to vote absentee. You can vote where you go to school. That was a big deal in this year's caucuses.
In the '84, '88 campaign, we fought to reduce the threshold and to have proportionality and not just winner take all. And, so, 54 years of marches and martyrdom and murder and trial and error, and here we are today with the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party, Barack Obama.
I'm glad to be part of the journey and support his campaign unequivocally.
Let me hasten to say, as we move toward August the 28th, it was August 28, 1955 when Emmett Till was lynched for the low moment. August 28, '63, Dr. King dreaming from Washington rising higher.
In August 28, he will be the nominee in Denver, Colorado. So, we ride the crest. We cherish this history. And I want to say, I have great passion for this campaign and travel across the country the length and breadth of our nation on radio and TV in churches and schools arguing the case for the campaign. And I want to part of the supportive element of it. And if in this thing I have said in a hot mike statement that's interpreted as distractions, I offer an apology for that, because I don't want harm or hurt to come to this campaign. It represents too much of a dreams of so many who have paid such great prices. And I'm very sensitive to what that means.
And, so, I want to make that very clear. I sent a message to Barack's campaign a while ago of our continued support for the campaign.
I do have a passion for urban and rural policy. Are we rising politically? And we see where Hillary and Barack were the conduits for a new and better America politically. The economy is going the opposite direction of our politics. In urban America, where there is such -- such disparities and such gross unemployment, such structural inequalities, such high unemployment, in urban America, my passion is, as he speaks to black churches and challenges people there to use their best and to have a better commitment to their families, I'm all with that, because it's the right message, a message I repeat over and over again.
Black America and urban America often needs a structure and needs beyond a faith-based policy, which is important, a government-based policy, and an economic private sector-based policy. If the churches are able to do day care for the children...
BLITZER: All right, so the Reverend Jesse Jackson, you heard him once again apologizing to Senator Barack Obama for rather crude remarks he made before an open mike over the weekend, remarks only now being disseminated.
And I want to go back to Don Lemon, who has been working this story for us.
As precise as we can be, tell our viewers what exactly he said. We can't be exact here in THE SITUATION ROOM. But the remarks he made, disparaging Senator Obama were, as he himself acknowledges now, rather crude.
LEMON: Well, it's to the effect that Barack Obama was cutting off his manhood with black people, or genitals, or something.
BLITZER: Male private parts. The suggestion really was castration, if you will.
LEMON: Right, and that he's doing it with African-Americans because he is not speaking as concisely and as pointedly as he should about issues that affect African-Americans.
And if you sort of listen to the undertone here, I think he's saying that maybe Barack Obama is playing to a larger audience, as we call it, or a larger voting bloc, by not identifying with those issues that as the reverend feels that he should be. But I can tell you this. When he talked about -- I think he said our economy is going in the opposite way of our politics and he brought up the struggles that he made during the civil rights movement, he has told me this. And when we did the 40th anniversary of Dr. King's death at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, he said this to me personally.
He says, listen, Don, you guys have been talking about these issues. You have been saying, it's bloggers, that it's the Internet, that it's some sort of wave or phenomenon. He goes, this is 40 years of civil rights struggles and battles that African-Americans, black people in this country, have fought for. And you're not talking about this. You're talking about new activists, new leaders, people who have just come up through the ranks.
And he says, this whole thing is a culmination of the fight and the struggle that black people fought for 40 years in this country since the death -- or longer -- since the death of Martin Luther King Jr.
BLITZER: What a story this is going to be. We are going to continue to watch it, Don. Thanks very much.
Let's go back to Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File."
Jack, lots of news today.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, a busy day.
The Iraqi government finally making its voice heard, and it's not the message the White House wanted to hear. Baghdad is now saying there will be no long-term security deal with the U.S. unless -- unless it includes a timetable for withdrawing our troops from their country.
This puts the Bush administration in a delicate position. The U.N. mandate allowing American troops to be in Iraq expires at the end of the year. President Bush has long opposed a timetable for withdrawal, but he also wants the Iraqi government to stand on its own.
President Bush himself has said in the past that he would go along with the Iraqi government's wishes when it came to the presence of our troops. U.S. officials now say that Iraq has the right to determine its future, but once again insists that a timeline would be a bad idea.
Resistance from the Iraqi government will probably make it difficult to finish these negotiations by the end of this month, which is what the administration wanted. It might instead mean that a long- term deal will not be worked out until the next president comes into office.
Some believe the two countries might wind up working out a short- term deal to cover the space in between. But it shouldn't come as a big surprise that Iraq is standing its ground here. A poll conducted this spring showed that 72 percent of Iraqis oppose the presence of U.S. forces.
And Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki simply cannot ignore that fact.
Here's the question: Should the United States agree to Iraqi demands for a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you.
And coming up, we are going to play for you as much as we -- can we can't play it all -- precisely what the Reverend Jackson, Jesse Jackson, said about Barack Obama, a rather crude, disgusting remark for which he is now apologizing profusely. You are going to hear it. That's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Also, the White House now says it is proof that Iran is dangerous to America, a major show of military muscle, Iran launching nine missiles. But it's the weapon they're building now that experts are most worried about.
And it's America's latest military muscle, the power of an F-16 flown from 7,000 miles away. We are inside the control room with exclusive access to these remotely controlled killers.
And more than 10 years after JonBenet Ramsey's killing, there is now new DNA testing results. And prosecutors are apologizing.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Barack Obama says he now regrets exposing his two little girls to the news media spotlight. His explanation for letting his family go Hollywood and why he now says he won't do it again.
A photo-op for Obama's upcoming trip to Germany is making the chancellor of Germany somewhat uneasy.
And remote control killers. Our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, is standing by.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM, we will take you someplace where, up to now, cameras have not been permitted, behind this steel door to a secure control room.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: Jesse Jackson apologizing to Senator Barack Obama for a remark Jackson made that we can't even repeat on television. Jackson just finished a live news conference. So, here is the question. Will there be fallout? We will talk about that and more with the best political team on television.
Also, Senator Obama expressing his regrets over a TV interview with his two kids. You are going to find out why he says he simply got carried away.
And it's the next generation of an unmanned killer. CNN now has an exclusive look at the U.S. Air Force's new Reaper drone.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Jesse Jackson unknowingly caught on an open microphone, making remarks that he himself calls crude and hurtful about Senator Barack Obama, remarks for which Reverend Jackson is now apologizing profusely.
Let's discuss this and more with our senior political analyst Gloria Borger, CNN's own Jack Cafferty, and David Brody, senior correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network. They're all part of the best political team on television.
Jack, I will play a little clip of what Reverend Jackson is now saying in his formal apology to Senator Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACKSON: And if in this thing I have said in a hot mike statement that's interpreted as distractions, I offer an apology for that, because I don't want harm or hurt to come to this campaign. It represents too much of a dreams of so many who have paid such great prices. And I'm very sensitive to what that means.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Jack, what do you think about this? Because, as I said, the remarks which we really haven't even heard in total yet, but they were so crude, we simply can't report them even.
CAFFERTY: Well, and they were racial in tone, too, which is not what Barack Obama's campaign has been about.
If Jesse Jackson is a reverend, why was he using language like that? And if Jesse Jackson supports Barack Obama and is a friend of Barack Obama, why would he be bad-mouthing him to a reporter behind his back? That's not what friends do.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I think that is not what friends do. Look, I don't think in the end, Wolf, that this is going to hurt Barack Obama in any way. He gets in a fight with Jesse Jackson. He takes the high road. And, honestly, it's almost a generational thing, I think.
And I think that Barack Obama appeals to younger voters, for whom Jesse Jackson is not...
BORGER: ... a guiding light or relevant even anymore.
And so I think that this is, you know, this is not a huge issue.
BLITZER: The up side -- the up side, David, of what Jackson was suggesting was that Barack Obama -- and I'm putting the best possible interpretation of what he's saying -- is that Barack Obama was undermining the African-American community.
DAVID BRODY, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK, WRITER OF POLITICAL BLOG, "THE BRODY LIFE": Well, Wolf, listen, at the end of the day, Barack Obama doesn't need to worry about winning the African-American vote.
So I mean -- look, I agree with, Gloria. I think this differentiates Barack Obama from Jesse Jackson, from the politics of the past, if you will...
BRODY: And this idea that he's talking about moral behavior, taking a page out of the Bill Cosby playbook, I think this resonates pretty well and in a place where he needs to do it, the Rust Belt, those Independent voters that we heard so much about in the primary fight. Hey, listen, I think it helps him.
BLITZER: You think it helps him, Jack?
CAFFERTY: Well, I don't think it hurts. I mean Barack Obama has managed to transcend the racial divide in this country to a greater degree than anybody that I can think of maybe going back to Martin Luther King. He has won the Democratic nomination for president.
And if the polls are right, he stands to be sworn in as the next president of the United States. And he's done it all without drawing attention to any sort of racial divide in this country. He's called on all of us -- black, white, Hispanic and otherwise -- to be more concerned with making some sort of common effort, community effort, to promote the general welfare and uplift all of our people. And he's done it without the racial overtones that people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have used as their stock in trade for their entire adult lives.
BLITZER: Well, you know, Gloria, we're waiting to give a statement. So far, the Obama campaign has not formally reacted to this. We just spoke to Donna Brazile, our Democratic strategist, earlier, and she thought that it would be wise for the Obama campaign to forgive and forget.
BLITZER: But what would be the politically wise move on the part of the Obama campaign reacting to this rather crude comment from Senator Jackson about Barack Obama?
BORGER: Well, you know what's going to happen, Wolf, of course. Jesse Jackson is going to have a conversation with Barack Obama. He's going to apologize to Barack Obama for what he said. Barack Obama is then going to make a statement, you know, on a piece of paper, saying that I take Reverend Jackson at his word that he didn't mean these comments. And I think, quite honestly, Wolf, Reverend Jackson right now is the one who's going to be asking himself the question and saying, you know, why did I do this?
Why would I ever want to undermine Senator Obama's campaign?
I mean he's the one with the real problems here. I think Obama doesn't have to pay a lot of attention.
BLITZER: Some will suggest, David, that there's always been an element, maybe even beneath the surface of jealousy, in that how well Barack Obama has done in his quest to become president of the United States and Reverend Jackson, who twice ran for president.
BRODY: Well, I think that's the undercurrent here. But I can tell you this, you're not going to hear that at all from Obama or Obama aides or anybody along those lines. But, you know, I talked to Barack Obama a little bit about this sort of speech, this moral behavior that he was talking about in the black churches. And, you know, he talked a lot about how government is not the solution, the be all, end all here. And that parents need to step up and take responsibility. You're going to hear a lot more of that from Barack Obama and that's the upshoot of all this, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by, because we're going to continue this. We have more to talk about, including domestic politics abroad. The presidential candidates taking their battle overseas. German officials now say they're concerned about Senator Obama's upcoming trip to Berlin. We'll tell you why.
Plus, Barack Obama says he regrets putting his kids on a nationally televised interview.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We'll get back to the best political team on television in a moment.
First, though, I want to bring on Carol Costello. From now on, Barack Obama will essentially be telling reporters don't expect to be asking his children questions -- Carol, there's serious some regret going on.
What's going on?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, some serious regret. The Obamas have always been protective of their children, asking the ever- present press corps not to take pictures of the kids. But on a rare day of family fun, Senator Obama gave in and allowed his kids to be interviewed. He now says that was a mistake.
COSTELLO (voice-over): Ten-year-old Malia Obama is now a bona fide star -- so articulate in advising her father how to greet children, bloggers wondered if this little girl was too grown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "ACCESS HOLLYWOOD," COURTESY NBC UNIVERSAL)
MALIA OBAMA, DAUGHTER OF SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: He was like hi and so he shook her hand. And I was like, you know, daddy, really, you don't shake kids' hands that much. You shake adults' hands. I'm like just wave and say hi. And he was like, then, what do you do? And I was like, you know, you just wave or you say hi.
COSTELLO: On the pro-Obama Web site, MichelleObamaWatch.com, bloggers called the girls terrific, full of self-confidence, real. But a day later, for dad, it was too real.
B. OBAMA: I think that we got carried away in the moment. We wouldn't do it again and we won't be doing it again.
COSTELLO: That, too, caused a stir. On "The Chicago Tribune's" blog site, "The Swamp," more than one blogger wrote, "He's even flip- flopping on this."
But psychiatrists say Obama made the right call by saying never again.
DR. GAIL SALTZ, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF PSYCHIATRY, THE NEW YORK PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL AT WEILL-CORNELL SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: It is a slippery slope. And I think that both parents ought to be concerned about protecting their children. They are young kids. I think that when you draw a line, if you make it a fuzzy line, people will step over that line.
COSTELLO: And that can mean your kids become fair game, as Malia certainly has become. Obama's campaign told CNN today the whole family got carried away in the fun of the day. They had been celebrating Malia's birthday when "Access Hollywood" showed up for an interview with the senator and his wife only, and things just happened.
Senator Obama told reporters later, his little girl said it was the best birthday ever. B. OBAMA: And I don't know whether she was just telling us what we wanted to hear. But I can tell you, from my perspective, it was one of the best times I've had in a long time.
COSTELLO: But from now on, Malia's birthday won't include an interview with any TV types.
COSTELLO: Yes. The campaign telling me today Obama is a dad first. He's protective of his girls and he doesn't want them to worry about TV cameras or politics. So, again, no more interviews -- Wolf.
BLITZER: That's a smart decision on his part.
Carol Costello, thanks very much.
Let's go back to the best political team on television.
Gloria, I've got to tell you, when I first heard that these two little girls were talking to "Access Hollywood," I said whoa, that sounds so -- stupid?
BORGER: Yes. Yes. A bad idea. You have to take them at their word, that it was her birthday. They were all there together. The girls wanted to sit down and be on TV.
I mean what little girl wouldn't want to sit down and be on TV?
BLITZER: I mean they were adorable.
BORGER: They were.
BLITZER: And they came across great. It was a loving, beautiful family.
BLITZER: But do you want your kids...
BLITZER: ...at this stage, to be exposed to "Access Hollywood" or anyone in the news media?
BORGER: No. I think you don't. And I think, you know, to be fair to the Obamas, they realized that it was -- they -- suddenly it was in this echo chamber. It was replayed everywhere. And as parents, I think they then made the decision and said look, we made a mistake. All parents do. I know I do. And we don't want to do it again and that's the end of it.
BLITZER: Because a lot of us remember, David, how the Clintons protected Chelsea Clinton.
BRODY: Right. BLITZER: She was a little girl back in 1992 and they -- they -- I was a reporter then covering the Clintons. And they told all of us, just stay off. And we did.
BRODY: Well, Wolf, I've got to tell you, politics -- let me inject politics here for a moment and say that, you know, Obama is in a tough spot here. Sure, he doesn't want his kids in front of the camera. And then we've outlined all of the reasons why. But let's also bring politics into this for a moment. Obama has somewhat of a patriotism problem out there. And, you know, they are a beautiful family, the all-American family.
I mean wouldn't it be nice to give them a couple of apple pies, give them a Chevrolet and drive off into the American sunset?
I mean in essence, this is what...
BORGER: How about a still picture?
BRODY: A still picture would be fine. Maybe no moving -- moving words.
BLITZER: Because they did come across very, very sympathetic...
BLITZER: ...and very attractive, Jack.
CAFFERTY: I've got four daughters. They're all adults now. The number of mistakes I made as a parent are many too numerous to mention on this program.
BORGER: Go ahead, Jack.
CAFFERTY: But that's what happens.
BORGER: Go ahead.
CAFFERTY: The point is this, based on the sounds bites that I saw in Carol's piece, Michelle and Barack Obama are doing a terrific job...
CAFFERTY: ...raising those two girls. And probably the last thing they need or are interested in is advice on how to do it from us or from shrinks or from anybody outside the family. It seems to me they're doing just fine.
BLITZER: All right... BORGER: I think the worst would be, Wolf, if those girls end up liking being on TV too much, right?
BLITZER: David, what do you make of Senator McCain joking -- and it was clearly, he was trying to be funny when he said, you know, the U.S. is exporting a lot of cigarettes to Iran. And he said maybe, you know, that's good, because they'll all die from the cigarettes. Then he quickly said, you know, I'm just joking.
BRODY: Yes. Yes, I mean, obviously, McCain's critics will say he's got an itchy trigger finger. So, clearly, you know, a comment like that isn't going to play well initially.
But let's take a step back here for a moment and go to pre- implosion McCain. Remember that, where he was the frontrunner and a lot of people said he was too guarded, that he was too close to the vest and he didn't really open up too much and he needed to get back to that Straight Talk Express.
Well, you know, some of those moments are really going to have to work for him for him to be successful. In other words, he may have a bomb like the one we're talking about today and the bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran one, as well. That may backfire.
But if he gets nine out of 10 right, it actually could actually help him a little bit.
BLITZER: But, you know, Jack, when you're running for president, you've got to have a filter.
CAFFERTY: Well, you know, the cigarettes are slower than "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran," as was just suggested. The essence of the story is that our sales of exports from this country to Iran are up more than tenfold during the seven-and-a-half years of the Bush administration. They've gone from $8 million a year to $150 million a year while President Bush stomps around talking tough about sanctions, we've got to crack the whip, we've got to isolate Iran. We're selling them cigarettes and brassieres and a whole bunch of other things, to the tune of about 150 million bucks a year. It's hypocrisy with a capital Hyp.
BLITZER: All right, button it up, Gloria.
BORGER: I say let McCain be McCain.
BORGER: This is who John McCain is. And you knew it was real because his wife started jabbing him in the back, telling him to be quiet. And this is -- this is John McCain. The public ought to get to know who he is.
BLITZER: Gloria, thank you.
David, thanks to you.
Jack, don't go. We've got "The Cafferty File" coming up.
Your e-mail on our question, by the way, of the hour: Should the U.S. agree to Iraqi demands for a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal?
And scaling the heights of journalism -- it's happened again.
And a remarkable twist in a notorious case -- what new DNA tests reveal about who killed JonBenet Ramsey.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's check in with Lou Dobbs to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour -- Lou, what are you working on?
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, coming up, more on the controversy over Reverend Jesse Jackson's remarks about Senator Obama.
Also, Senator Obama declaring American children should speak not better English, but Spanish. Obama providing new evidence that he can be a divisive figure, as he claims to be a unifier.
Also tonight, a stunning reversal by the Pentagon. Months of criticism from this broadcast, members of Congress and government auditors paying off. The Pentagon reopening the bidding for that new tanker aircraft. Outsourcing national security not such a good idea, it turns out.
And violent Mexican drug cartels terrorizing cities on both sides of the border. Law enforcement agencies in this country are simply outgunned and they're worried. We'll have a special report on the rising threat to Americans everywhere.
Join us for all of that at the top of the hour and more. All the day's news with an Independent perspective -- Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: Lou, thank you for that.
Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol, what's going on?
COSTELLO: Well, you know, Wolf, after 12 years, new DNA tests have cleared the family of child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey in her murder. Prosecutors in Boulder, Colorado say they're sorry for anything they did to raise suspicion about the Ramseys, as the case made headlines around the world. The girl's father, John Ramsey, says he's grateful for the acknowledgement. The mother, Patsy Ramsey, died of cancer two years ago.
It is now the worst food poisoning outbreak in years. More than 1,000 people are confirmed sick from the salmonella outbreak linked to tomatoes. And federal health officials say raw jalapenos and Serrano peppers, as well as fresh cilantro, are also being investigated. For the third time in less than five weeks, someone has climbed "The New York Times" headquarters building. According to police, David Malone made it all the way to the 11th floor, where he then spent hours making cell phone calls. They say Malone was inspired by earlier climbs to get publicity for his crusade against Al Qaeda.
We don't know who he was talking to on the cell phone, though.
BLITZER: All right. We'll watch and listen.
Thanks very much, Carol.
Let's go right back to Jack.
He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour is should the United States agree to Iraqi demands for a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal as a part of any long-term joint security agreement between the two countries?
Kerry writes from Gross Island, Michigan: "Iraq asking for a timetable from withdrawal is one thing. Demanding it, though, is another. As the old saying goes, color me gone. The down side is if Iran's nutsy rut of a leader makes good on any of his threats, we've lost a good strategical position for stopping him."
Karen in California writes: "Yes, but only if withdrawal includes a commitment to no permanent bases and a departure from the Green Zone as well. I won't believe any timetable which finesses the question of leaving residual troops behind nor will the Arab street."
Chris writes: "It's not a question of whether we need to eventually get out. That's a given. The idea of publishing a timetable is nothing more than political expediency. This is a military issue and setting a timetable for withdrawal is naive and dangerous."
Darlene in Pennsylvania: "Isn't it funny how what Obama said from the beginning regarding getting out of Iraq is now coming to fruition? This was a big slap in the face for Bush and McCain and makes the junior senator look positively brilliant."
Jill writes: "Yes. For better or for worse, we're supposedly in this war until Iraq is stable and can function without our help. If they no longer want or need our presence there, it's time for us to leave. Also, if we refuse these demands, keep our troops in a place where they're not wanted, it can only anger the Iraqis and result in more deaths."
And Chryssa writes from Boise, Idaho: "Yes, we should. They don't want us there, we don't want us there. This is not exactly a gray area."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and look for yours there -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.
And topping our Political Ticker right now, this is just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. A dramatic statement from Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. repudiating his father's crude remarks about Senator Barack Obama -- remarks caught on an open microphone. In his statement, Congressman Jesse Jackson says: "I'm deeply outraged and disappointed in Reverend Jackson's reckless statements about Senator Barack Obama, his divisive and demeaning comments about the presumptive Democratic nominee. And I believe the next president of the United States contradicts his inspiring and courageous career."
He then goes on to say this: "Reverend Jackson is my dad and I'll always love him. He should know how hard that I've worked for the last year-and-a-half as the national co-chair of Barack Obama's presidential campaign. So I thoroughly reject and repudiate his ugly rhetoric. He should keep hope alive and any personal attacks and insults to himself."
An extraordinary, an extraordinary statement coming in right now from Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.
And also just coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM, for the first time, we have a formal statement from the Obama campaign reacting to Reverend Jackson's comments. I'll read it to you: "As someone who grew up without a father in the home, Senator Obama has spoken and written for many years about the issue of parental responsibility, including the impatience of fathers participating in their children's lives. He also discusses our responsibility as a society to provide jobs, justice and opportunity for all. He will continue to speak out about our responsibilities to ourselves and each other and he, of course, accepts the Reverend Jackson's apology."
That statement coming in from the Obama campaign spokesman, Bill Burton.
Also watching these stories on our Political Ticker.
John Edwards now is leaving the door open to being Barack Obama's running mate. The 2004 vice presidential nominee says if Obama made the offer, he'd "seriously consider the job." In an interview with National Public Radio, Edwards says he doesn't expect Obama to tap him for the vice presidential slot.
Meantime, Obama made an unannounced stop today at a Washington office building where a member of his vice presidential search team works. He had two top campaign aides with him. Obama would not say why he was there.
Taking the battle to new heights now -- the U.S. Air Force's new weapons -- weapon packs a serious punch. CNN gets an exclusive look inside the control center.
And pictures worth a thousand words -- today's Hot Shots coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Here's a look at some of this hour's Hot Shots.
In Detroit, demolition crews plow through the old Tigers stadium.
In France, a technician tests a river for radiation after unenriched uranium leaked from a nuclear site.
Also in France, a couple looks below to see the Tour de France cruising by.
And in Pennsylvania, a 23-pound bear cub undergoes rehabilitation.
Some of this hour's Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.
It's part of America's latest military muscle, what's being called the Air Force's newest remote-controlled killer, flown from 7,000 miles away. We're inside the control room with some exclusive access.
CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, has details.
MCINTYRE: Wolf, pilots here at this remote desert are flying the Reaper -- the Air Force's premier hunter/killer drone. It's providing a glimpse into the future and CNN is getting an exclusive inside look.
MCINTYRE (voice-over): Flying low and slow over the Nevada desert is the U.S. Air Force's latest and most in demand attack aircraft, the unmanned Reaper. It can fly as high as 50,000 feet, stay aloft for 30 hours and carry 3,000 pounds of bombs and missiles -- as much as an F- 16 fighter jet. It's a quantum leap over its predecessor, the Predator.
COL. CHRIS CHAMBLISS, 432ND WING COMMAND: This really gives us the capability to bring large-sized weapons to the fight in an attack mode that we don't have with Predators. So the Reaper is really a Predator on steroids. This is the big brother.
MCINTYRE: The pilotless Reaper and Predator strike aircraft give the U.S. a one-two punch. With the air crew safely ensconced in air- conditioned trailers, safe from the scorching Nevada heat and 7,000 miles from the line of fire.
(on camera): This is the first time television news cameras have been allowed access to a real combat mission directed here from Creech Air Force Base. Inside this small cabin are two air crews, both looking for bad guys in Iraq. And while we're not allowed to show you the live feed from the scene, I can tell you, it's a pretty clear bird's eye view of people and places on the ground. And these two crew members are communicating directly with commanders in Iraq.
(voice-over): The Reaper and Predator are shipped to the front lines in containers dubbed "coffins," then flown by pilots back at Creech, who have a short commute from the Las Vegas suburbs. (on camera): So you're driving to work with all the other commuters, except you're going to war.
CAPT. MATT DEAN, PREDATOR PILOT: Right.
MCINTYRE: What's that like?
DEAN: It's -- it takes you a few months to get adjusted to it, seeing bad guys on the screen and watching them possibly get dispatched and then going down the street to Taco Bell for lunch. It's kind of a surreal effect.
MCINTYRE (voice-over): The Air Force would not declassify Reaper video of a live strike by A-10 ground attack planes witnessed by CNN, but did provide video of previous strikes to demonstrate the drone's deadly effectiveness.
MCINTYRE: The Air Force is so high on the Reaper, it stopped acquiring the old Predators and instead is buying as many of these remote-control killers as it can afford -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jamie, thanks.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Let's go to Lou.
He's got "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.