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Obama's Tough Talk; President Bush Lifts Offshore Drilling Ban; Obama's Iraq Plan Could Hurt or Help

Aired July 14, 2008 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Barack Obama's campaign promises a tough speech about personal responsibility in front of a large African-American audience, but some are wondering if blacks will feel they're being talked down to, as the Reverend Jesse Jackson claimed.
John McCain talks to a different minority group, Latinos. And he's warning that Obama's position on illegal immigration should not sit well with the nation's Hispanics.

And the flap over a magazine cover. It draws on virtually every negative mischaracterization about Barack and Michelle Obama. How does The New Yorker's editor explain it?

I'll speak with him live. That's coming up.

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

Hours from now, Barack Obama is expected to deliver a tough message before a large African-American audience, that political and business leaders should help people, but that individuals should also look in the mirror and help themselves. That's part of what Obama is setting to tell the NAACP's annual convention.

CNN's Jessica Yellin is joining us from that convention in Cincinnati. She's joining us now live right now.

There's some question about what he's going to say, how it's going to be received. What are you hearing, Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I hear that Barack Obama is going to talk about what they're calling the "responsibility deficit." And essentially, that's pairing the self- help message we've heard so much from him in the recent weeks with a message he used to talk a lot about, which are the larger problems in society and the way corporate and government -- corporate America and the government can help people in need.


YELLIN (voice over): Reverend Jesse Jackson says Barack Obama has been talking down to the black community. But when a reporter asked Obama if he's been lecturing African-Americans, the candidate said...

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. YELLIN: Obama insists he agrees with Jackson that racism and poverty make it difficult for many Americans to improve their lives.

OBAMA: I absolutely believe that we have structural inequalities in this country that have to be dealt with.

YELLIN: But he thinks tough love is in order, too. And expect both government and personal responsibility to be themes of his speech before the NAACP tonight. The speech is getting heightened attention, coming as it does after Jackson complained that Obama focuses too much on messages like this...

OBAMA: Any fool can have a child. That doesn't make you a father. It's the courage to raise the child that makes you a father.

YELLIN: Jackson would prefer Obama talk more about the forces that make it difficult for black men to improve their lives. In truth, Obama has addressed these issues in the past.

This was Obama at last year's NAACP convention.

OBAMA: We have more work to do when more young black men languish in prison than attend colleges and universities across America. That's not just an African-American problem, that is an American problem that we have to solve.

YELLIN: African-American leaders say Obama's job tonight is to clearly combine that message with the self-help theme he's been delivering lately.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think the NAACP would like to hear Senator Obama talk about personal responsibility, but also as president how he would put some of their issues on the national agenda as well.


BLITZER: Jessica Yellin reporting for us from Cincinnati. We'll check back with her shortly.

In another major story we're following right now, with gas prices skyrocketing, many of you want someone, anyone, to do something to help bring down prices. President Bush took what the White House describes as a major step today. He says Congress should follow suit. But Democrats say while Americans are struggling to buy gas, that the president simply won't help, and that instead he looks more like an oil company CEO.

Let's go to the White House. Our correspondent, Elaine Quijano, is standing by live.

The president talking about offshore drilling today.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Wolf. You know, the White House continues to insist that there are no quick fixes to the problem of high gas prices. But that didn't stop President Bush today from blaming Congress for inaction.


QUIJANO (voice over): Even the White House concedes it won't lower today's prices at the pump, but President Bush insists the U.S. should lift the bans on offshore oil drilling anyway. The president announced he's doing his part and lifted the executive branch's prohibition signed by his father in 1990, while blaming Congress for not lifting the congressional ban.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As the Democratically-controlled Congress has sat idle, gas prices have continued to increase.

QUIJANO: With less than seven months left in his term, and just weeks before for Congress leaves for summer recess, the president wants to ratchet up the pressure on lawmakers.

BUSH: The time for action is now.

QUIJANO: But Democrats, including presumptive presidential Democratic nominee, Senator Barack Obama, aren't budging.

OBAMA: If we start drilling today, the first drop of oil wouldn't come for another seven years. And even then it wouldn't have a lot of impact on prices.

QUIJANO: His opponent, presumptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, disagrees.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we can show that we have significant oil reserves off our coast, that will clearly affect the futures market and affect the price of oil.

QUIJANO: Yet, even those who support more drilling say even if the companies get the green light, bringing oil to the market could take a while.

ROBBIE DIAMOND, SECURING AMERICA'S FUTURE ENERGY: I mean, you're talking about five to 10 years in most parts of the Outer Continental Shelf. And the reason for that is, they have not done an inventory in the Outer Continental Shelf for the United States in over 30 years.


QUIJANO: Now, last year a government report found that opening the Outer Continental Shelf would mean oil production would start no sooner than the year 2017, and there would not be a significant impact on oil prices, according to this report, until at least 2030 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's a long time. It seems like way, way too long to try to get those prices down for a lot of people out there.

Elaine, thank you.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: "The New Yorker" magazine says it's satire. A lot of people think it's just disgusting.

This week's cover -- we'll show it to you here in a moment -- there it is. This week's cover portrays the Obamas, Barack and Michelle, as terrorists.

Barack Obama's in the Oval Office dressed in traditional Muslim attire: sandals, robe and a turban. His wife Michelle appears with an afro, dressed in camouflage, combat boots and carrying an assault rifle. They couple is doing a fist bump while an American flag is burning in the fireplace and a picture of Osama bin Laden hangs on the wall.

Obama's campaign calls the cover illustration which is titled "The Politics of Fear" "tasteless and offensive." John McCain's campaign agrees with that characterization.

The magazine says it's satire, saying the cover "... combines a number of fantastical images about the Obamas and shows them for the obvious distortions they are." They add that satire is part of what they do at "New Yorker," and the cover is meant to bring things out into the open.

Some agree with the magazine, saying it just pokes fun at all the ignorance out there and generates discussion. The Huffington Post suggests this is the perfect image for anyone who has ever tried to paint Barack Obama as a Muslim and his wife Michelle as an angry revolutionary, or question their patriotism.

So here's the question: What do you think of the cover of "The New Yorker" that shows Barack Obama in traditional Muslim attire and his wife Michelle with an afro and assault rifle?

Go to file. You can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's a shocking, shocking cover. And we're going to speak about it with the editor, David Remnick. That's coming up later this hour.

Jack, thank you.

Barack Obama wants you to clearly understand his plans for Iraq, should he be elected president. But those plans could hurt him politically no matter what he says. We're watching the story.

And compare and contrast. When it comes to tough issues like immigration reform, John McCain says he walks toward them, but that Barack Obama mostly talks about them. And he's telling Latino voters -- McCain, that is -- they should be concerned about Barack Obama.

And Cindy McCain has a need for speed. John McCain didn't always know about it.


CINDY MCCAIN, JOHN MCCAIN'S WIFE: I didn't tell my husband, though. I went and got my license and then told him and took him for a flight. So it was a lot of fun.



BLITZER: Amid recent criticisms that Barack Obama may have been reviving -- or revising, that is, his position on Iraq, the candidate is trying to make it clear where he stands. However, his plans could hurt him politically, whichever policy he winds up supporting.

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

What's happening to this whole issue of Iraq, Bill?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it is heating up again on the campaign trail.


SCHNEIDER (voice over): John McCain believes he has Barack Obama boxed in on Iraq. Obama says he has a plan.

OBAMA: I'm going to call in the Joint Chiefs of Staff and give them a new mission. And that is to bring the war in Iraq to a close. We are going to get out.

SCHNEIDER: If Obama returns from his upcoming trip to Iraq and says his position is unchanged, McCain will claim he didn't listen. But if he talks to the generals and shifts his position in any way, then McCain will call him a flip-flopper.

MCCAIN: I will look forward to seeing his position when he comes back, when he, for the first time, sits down and gets a briefing from General Petraeus.

SCHNEIDER: In his op-ed article, Obama acknowledges that, "Our troops have performed heroically in bringing down the level of violence." But, he adds, "The same factors that led me to oppose the surge still hold true."

MCCAIN: His proposals would jeopardize the fragility of the success we've achieved, and his refusal to acknowledge that success is remarkable.

SCHNEIDER: Obama argues that debating the surge is not relevant anymore because the big strategic picture has changed. He points to two changes, one inside Iraq...

OBAMA: We had the prime minister of Iraq, Maliki, say that we should have a timetable for withdrawal. They want to end the occupation. SCHNEIDER: ... the other, outside Iraq.

OBAMA: We can refocus our attention on Afghanistan, where the situation has gotten worse and worse.

SCHNEIDER: The situation has changed, and that, Obama says, strengthens his case for ending the war.


SCHNEIDER: In his op-ed article, Obama writes, "Ending the war is essential to meeting our broader strategic goals, starting in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Taliban is resurgent and al Qaeda has a safe haven." -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider, thank you.

I want to go out to San Diego. Senator John McCain is speaking before the National Council of La Raza, a Latino group. Let's listen in.


MCCAIN: And we cannot forget the humanity God commands of us as we seek a remedy to this problem.

I recently spoke at two major Hispanic Latino conferences, as did Senator Obama. I didn't use those occasions to criticize Senator Obama. I would prefer not to do so today. But he suggested in his speeches there, and here, that I turn my back on comprehensive reform out of political necessity.

I feel I must, as they say, correct the record.

At a moment of great difficulty in my campaign, when my critics said it would be political suicide for me to do so, I helped author with Senator Kennedy comprehensive immigration reform and fought for its package not once, but twice.


I cast a lot of hard votes, as did the other Republicans and Democrats who enjoy -- who joined our bipartisan effort. So did Senator Kennedy. I took my lumps for it, without complaint. My campaign was written off as a lost cause.

I did so not just because I believed it was the right thing to do for Hispanic-Americans, it was the right thing to do for all Americans. That's why I did it.


Senator Obama declined to cast some of those tough votes. He voted for and even sponsored amendments that were intended to kill the legislation, amendments that Senator Kennedy and I voted against. I never asked for any special privileges from anyone just for having done the right thing. Doing my duty to my country is its own reward. But I do ask for your trust that when I say I remain committed to fair, practical and comprehensive immigration reform, I mean it. I mean it.


BLITZER: John McCain making the case that he supports comprehensive immigration reform, speaking before a major Hispanic group out in San Diego.

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

So why is Senator McCain doing this, saying this right now, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this is the third Hispanic conference, Wolf, that both candidates have addressed in the last few weeks. And at all three, Barack Obama slammed McCain for abandoning his push on immigration reform, as you just heard John McCain talk about that.

And the reason why Obama has done that is Republican primary voters were so opposed to it. Obama knows that, and knows that's pretty much why McCain backed off of it.

So what McCain tried to do today is turn that into one of his central themes and points of contrast against Obama. McCain argued that he walks the walk when it comes to reaching across the aisle and tackling tough issues, but all Obama does is talk the talk on immigration.

And McCain just said, wait a minute, I was the one who took the tough votes that were politically suicidal, and Obama was voting for several measures that everybody, including his friend Ted Kennedy, knew would kill that delicate immigration compromise. So he's essentially using immigration to say that Obama might talk about a new kind of politics, but he really has some history of putting the politics of the moment ahead of doing what it takes to get things done.

BLITZER: But there's no doubt, Dana, that since the collapse of McCain/Kennedy, the comprehensive immigration reform legislation, including a pathway towards citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants, Senator McCain's tone has shifted on this very sensitive issue.

BASH: Absolutely, Wolf. It is just a fact that John McCain came back from the political dead last year, in large part because he went to New Hampshire and said over and over again that he learned his lesson. He said, Americans simply are not ready for comprehensive immigration reform, that he's going to secure the border first.

And the reality is, as we just heard, since McCain locked up the Republican nomination, he's really softened his tone. He's used the term "comprehensive immigration reform" a lot more often. In fact, McCain recently called comprehensive immigration reform his top priority, and hopes that that will help him with the very Latino voters that he's addressing right now. And many of those voters, he's really going to need to win critical battleground states this fall, but it is absolutely not something that you heard from McCain when he was fighting for Republic votes during the Republican primaries.

BLITZER: Dana, we'll watch this story for us.

Dana Bash covering the McCain campaign for us.

A simple magazine cover causing lots of commotion. The magazine says it's supposed to be satire, but the Obama campaign isn't laughing at all. The editor of "The New Yorker" magazine, David Remnick, he's standing by to join us live. He'll explain, what was he thinking?

And billionaire and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he's also standing by live. We'll talk about a lot with him, including poverty and the economic crisis in the country right now, what's going on with your money.

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



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

Happening now, bank run. Jittery customers lining up to pull their money out of the IndyMac Bank after one of the largest bank failures in U.S. history.

So here's the question: How safe is your money? We're going to be taking a much closer look.

Also, access for sale. A newspaper catches a lobbyist allegedly offering access to Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and other top Bush administration officials for a steep price. We're going to show you the stunning video.

And a near miss in the sky. A terrifying look behind the scenes after a collision is narrowly avoided at JFK airport. Now the FAA is stepping in.

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

"The New Yorker" magazine has long been known for its very creative covers, but many supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama say the magazine has simply gone way too far with its latest issue.

I'm going to be discussing all of this in just a moment or so with "The New Yorker" editor, David Remnick. He's standing by live.

But first, let's turn to CNN's Carol Costello, who is covering -- she's covering this controversy for us.

Update our viewers. Give us the background, Carol, what this is all about.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what this is all about is what some call satire and some call a crass attempt at political satire. All the talk is over the cover of "The New Yorker" magazine, a publication known for its provocative covers.


COSTELLO (voice over): Offensive or clever? Take a look at "The New Yorker" cover. There are the Obamas in the Oval Office. He's in a turban. She's in full black militant mode: AK-47, ammo, afro.

An American flag is burning behind them right below Osama bin Laden's portrait. Oh, and the Obamas are doing the dap.

"The New Yorker" says it's a satire not about the Obamas, but about all the outrageous rumors swirling around them. The politics of fear. But Obama, and even his opponent, are not amused.

MCCAIN: Frankly, I understand if Senator Obama and his supporters would find it offensive.

COSTELLO: Some of Obama's supporters are even calling for a boycott of "The New Yorker."

BERNARD PARKS, SR., LOS ANGELES CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: Millions of people will see this in an atmosphere of the airport, on newsstands. They will never read the article. And this is what is so harmful about having this in this depiction.

COSTELLO: And maybe he's right. When we showed people "The New Yorker" cover, they just didn't get it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He reminds me of Islam and she reminds me of a terrorist, killer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, it's not a scary issue. But, you know, backgrounds are what they are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it ain't funny, because I see a flag burning in the fireplace and a picture of -- on the wall. I'm not sure who that is.

COSTELLO: But there is another side to this. "The New Yorker" is meant to appeal to a more sophisticated audience, the kind that watches Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert. And it's not like "The New Yorker" has never satirized before. Last year, Iran's president was drawn sitting on the loo, his foot touching a foot next door, a la Senator Larry Craig.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that people who already share the paranoia about the Obamas will see it and understand it as some kind of brilliant, concise summary of all their fears and concerns. But I think the majority of people will see it for what it is. I certainly hope so.

COSTELLO: Maybe. What it's sure to do is sell magazines.


COSTELLO: But, oddly enough, Wolf, most people we spoke to were more upset at the depiction of the American flag burning in the fireplace than they were about Obama or his wife depicted in a less- than-flattering way -- back to you.

BLITZER: Carol Costello watching this story.

Let's get to the editor of "The New Yorker" magazine, David Remnick. He's joining us now live from New York.

David, if you had to do it all over again, would you do this again, knowing the uproar this has caused?

DAVID REMNICK, EDITOR, "THE NEW YORKER": Yes. And I would like to explain, quite concisely, what our intention was.

The idea is to attack lies and misconceptions and distortions about the Obamas, and their background and their politics. We have heard all of this nonsense about how they're supposedly insufficiently patriotic or soft on terrorism, that, somehow, the fist bump is something that it's not.

And we tried to put all of these images in one cover, and to satirize and shine a really harsh light on something that's incredibly damaging.

BLITZER: David, this sort of feeds into the worst of the worst of the stereotypes of Barack Obama.

REMNICK: No, I don't think so.


BLITZER: Let me just ask the question -- because there are going to be a lot of people who are not sophisticated "New Yorker" magazine readers who don't necessarily appreciate the satire who will simply look at this and say, you know what, this couple, they're a bunch of terrorists.

REMNICK: I don't think so at all.

I think you underestimate the intelligence of the American people, to be quite honest. I think, yes, there will be some people who will misunderstand it or not get it at first. But here we are on television, discussing the -- something that's been a kind of subterranean theme in American politics, which is disgusting, these lies about Barack Obama, about Michelle Obama.

And so in fact we're not even satirizing the Obamas. We're satirizing these rumors, these lies that have fed into what is called the politics of fear. And this is the image that Barry Blitt has put on the cover and that I have responsibility for putting there.

We have had many, many images in the past poking fun at many political situations. The Bush administration has been the butt of I don't know how many covers that we have published in the last seven years. I think I do understand why some people are upset. Some people are upset, because the last seven years has been such a political disaster, and they have placed so much hope, hope that's embodied in Barack Obama, that they are very fearful that something will upset that apple cart.

BLITZER: You know...

REMNICK: But, remember, satire is -- bites hard sometimes, as well as tries to be funny.

BLITZER: Because I can't tell you how many people have said to me, David, you know, if they wouldn't have known this was on the cover of "The New Yorker" magazine, they would have just seen this cartoon, and they would have been asked, which magazine has this on the cover, almost everyone would have said some neo-Nazi magazine, the Ku Klux Klan magazine.

REMNICK: Oh, come on, Wolf, come on. Look, come on.


REMNICK: Wait a minute.

The fact of the matter is that it is on "The New Yorker." And context means a lot. People know what "The New Yorker" is. They know what it stands for. They know that it's a liberal-minded magazine. They know that it's published many, many...

BLITZER: I was about to say, "The New Yorker' would have been the last magazine I would have thought would have had this kind of cartoon on the cover.


REMNICK: You know, Wolf, if there's no possibility for satire, if you always have to look for the joke that every -- absolutely everyone will get, you won't have Jon Stewart, you won't have Stephen Colbert.

Stephen Colbert goes on and mocks right-wing commentary by pretending to be a right-wing commentator. In a way, this is Colbert in print.

BLITZER: But when does satire become bad taste?

REMNICK: Well, that's for everybody to decide and for everybody to discuss.

I mean, I read it one way. You read it another. Other people will read it another. I mean, this is what being provocative is all about. It's not being loved by everybody. But I do want to state very, very clearly, the intention of this cover, in no uncertain terms, is to talk about the politics of fear and the lies that have been told about Barack Obama and Michelle Obama as well.

BLITZER: And I have to point out that I have read almost every article about Barack Obama in "The New Yorker," including the current issue, and almost all of these articles, they have been very favorable. That's the irony people that a lot of people see in this cover.

REMNICK: Well, that's why I say context means a great deal.

BLITZER: David Remnick, you're going to have a lot of explaining to do, so get ready. This is probably only just the beginning.

Thanks very much for joining us.

REMNICK: Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: John McCain's wife is very private, but Cindy McCain is opening up to CNN. She talks about her family, and reveals one fun fact she once kept secret even from her husband.

And Bill Clinton criticized -- one well-known African-American talks about Clinton being called the first black president, then says Clinton tried to stop that from actually coming true.

And funerals for the fallen. There's a debate raging here in Washington over showing the services for troops killed in war.

Our Jamie McIntyre is speaking to the families to see what they want.

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


BLITZER: Virtually all eyes watch her as the wife of a presidential candidate, yet she's among the most private of the political wives. Cindy McCain still is opening up right now to CNN. She talks about her marriage, did something she rarely does regarding her children, even talked about her need for speed at thousands of feet in the air.

Our Brianna Keilar caught up with her yesterday at the Indy car race out in Lebanon, Tennessee. That's near Nashville.

I know you were out there. Tell us what's going on, because you had a pretty revealing, Brianna, interview with her.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, pretty revealing interview, and in a setting that's not a typical campaign stop for a candidate's wife, as the McCain campaign shows voters a really different woman than the impeccably dressed, super-wealthy wife that you see at John McCain's side on the campaign trail. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: You have -- having lived in Arizona while Senator McCain is in Washington, you have been able to avoid a whole lot of the spotlight.

Obviously, as we can see today, that's not the case. You're very much in it. And there's this prospect of moving to Washington, living in the White House, the ultimate spotlight in a city that you haven't necessarily always felt very, very welcome in.

What do you think about that?

CINDY MCCAIN, WIFE OF SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Well, obviously if my husband were elected, I would be proud to move with him to Washington and to the White House.

You know, we made the choice years ago to stay in Arizona, or for me to stay out West with our kids and raise our children in the most normal fashion we could. And we didn't feel like Washington, D.C. was a healthy environment for young kids, particularly doing what we were doing. So, we made the right choice. And it wasn't because I didn't like Washington so much, but I cared more about my children and wanted the best for them.

KEILAR: You're very complex, multifaceted.

You're a private pilot. Why did you start doing this?

C. MCCAIN: Oh, gosh, my husband was running for the Senate in Arizona. And, in Arizona, the only way to get around the state is by small private plane.

And I was scared to death to fly. And, so, I decided I would take ground school and learn a little bit about it, so that I could then maybe not be so frightened.

And I wound up loving it and buying a plane, and doing -- it was something that just caught my interest and any passion. And I didn't tell my husband, though. I went and got my license and then told him and took him for a flight. So, it was a lot of fun.

KEILAR: You mentioned your sons a few times today -- a few times today. And, on Friday, you did something you normally don't do. You mentioned your son coming home.

Why talk now about that?

C. MCCAIN: Oh, it was just a moment for me.

You know, I'm happy to have him home, obviously. I'm a mother. When I look at a group of women and know so many of them have their children, they either are serving or about to go overseas to serve, I know how it feels. And it was a group of women.

And we were -- a lot of them I talked to coming in, I kind of knew how they felt. And it was more about just, I guess, relating to a group of women more so than anything, a group of mothers, a group of mothers more than anything.


KEILAR: A group of mothers...


KEILAR: ... like yourself. You're a very proactive mother.


KEILAR: I also asked Mrs. McCain about a recent report in "The L.A. Times" that many other media outlets have run with. It lays out court dates and documents that suggest, contrary to what John McCain says in his autobiography, that the senator began dating Cindy, who is his second wife, months before he was separated or divorced from his first wife.


KEILAR: I want to know, what do you think about those reports, and what can you tell us about your husband's character?

C. MCCAIN: My husband and I have been married for 28 years. And we have a loving, caring relationship. And those are personal things that I'm not willing to speak about.


KEILAR: Now, we will see Cindy McCain next month at another racing event, this time a NASCAR race. Candidates, of course, woo so- called NASCAR dads at these events. But racing also has a large female fan base. And we have seen Cindy McCain really helping her husband lately trying to court those women voters -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brianna, tough questions for Cindy McCain. But it was a nice side of her that we certainly did see, a little different side. Thanks for doing the interview -- Brianna Keilar reporting.

In our "Strategy Session": A key McCain supporter caught off guard.


GOV. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I'm drawing a blank. And I hate it when I do that, particularly on television.


BLITZER: So, what was the question that stumped Governor Sanford? You might be surprised.

And harsh words for President Bill Clinton from one of the nation's leading voices on civil rights. Will the primary wounds ever heal among Democrats? Paul Begala and John Feehery, they're standing by -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Joining us now for our "Strategy Session": Democratic strategist Paul Begala and Republican strategist John Feehery.

I am going to ask both of them to stand by for a minute.

I'm going to ask you about a story that came out of an interview I did with the South Carolina governor, Mark Sanford, on "LATE EDITION" yesterday. It's generating lots of reaction out on the Internet.


BLITZER: Abbi Tatton is following what's going on.

Give us the background and the details, Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, online, this is being called excruciating, Governor Mark Sanford's answer yesterday, his stumble on "LATE EDITION," seen around the world and then quickly passed along to YouTube.


BLITZER: Are there any significant economic differences between what the Bush administration has put forward, over these many years, as opposed to, now, what John McCain supports?

SANFORD: Yes. I mean, for instance, take, you know -- take, for instance, the issue of -- I'm drawing a blank, and I hate it when I do that, particularly on television.


TATTON: He eventually answered NAFTA, which you, Wolf, then challenged as not being a significant difference.

Online, this is being passed around on conservative and on liberal blogs as well. Scratch Mark Sanford from the McCain veepstakes. And that's from a conservative blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Abbi, thanks very much.

Let's go to Paul Begala and John Feehery.

They're thinking about this.

Very quickly, what do you -- I mean, I felt bad for the guy. And I was doing the interview. But does this mean he's no longer on that so-called short list?

FEEHERY: The answer is spending, by the way. That's the difference between McCain and Bush. I feel bad for Mark Sanford, a great guy, a very smart guy, good family. You know, we have all had our moments on TV where we don't -- aren't as articulate as we want to be. This was especially inarticulate.

I don't know if it scratches him from the V.P. stakes, but he really would be a good candidate, because he really would help McCain with the South.

BLITZER: What do you think?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think that's the end of it for Mark Sanford, when you have made an ad for the Democratic National Committee, essentially, and for Barack Obama.

Now, let's wait and see how the Obama campaign and the Democrats jump on this. This should be the heart of their attack on Senator McCain, is that he is the same as Bush, especially on the economy, also on Social Security, health care. On every important issue, he would be a third term for Bush.

Democrats need to just keep pounding this. And they couldn't have had a greater assist than the one that Governor Sanford gave you yesterday.


BLITZER: And I had played an ad for Governor Sanford, an Obama ad in which he made the point that, if you like Bush's economic policies, vote for McCain. So, they're really going -- they're hitting that issue as hard as they can.

BEGALA: Right, because it's true. The Republicans have a philosophy. There's nothing dishonorable about sticking to your philosophy. They have a philosophy. They embodied it for eight years under George W. Bush. They're going to continue it with John McCain.

BLITZER: It's going to cost him some votes, I'm sure.

FEEHERY: Well, you know, the economy is not doing that great. And the president's going to get some blame for that. And that will -- some will leak over to McCain. There's no doubt about it. But the fact of the matter is that, on spending, John McCain is solid.

And, on taxes, George Bush is right. So, on spending, John McCain wants less spending, less pork barrel spending, less wasteful Washington spending. On tax cuts, no one wants their taxes increased. And I think that that's actually a winning message.

BLITZER: The chairman of the NAACP board of directors, Julian Bond, the great civil rights leader, he said this on Sunday.

He said: "We fared much better under the man who liked to be called the first black president. But then we watched him try to bring down the man who would be the real -- who would be the real first black president" -- a strong indictment of your former boss, Bill Clinton.

BEGALA: Yes, and I saw a statement that president, former president's office, released.

BLITZER: I will read it to you.


BLITZER: And he said: "President Clinton has counted Julian Bond as a friend for a long time. And he looks forward to working with him to elect Senator Obama."

That's from President Clinton's communications director.

BEGALA: Right. So, President Clinton taking the high road.

I think that this is the last thing that Senator Obama needs. The Obama brand is two things: change and unity. Now, he's got to unify this Democratic Party. Bill Clinton doing his part today, turning the other cheek to a really unfair attack.

Julian Bond has done great things in his life. And he's a real hero of the civil rights movement, but what he said today was completely unfair. It was uncalled for. It was divisive. And, tonight, Senator Obama will be speaking to the NAACP. And it will be interesting to watch to see if he stands up and defends Bill Clinton, which would do an enormous amount of good to try to unify the party and advance the Obama brand of unity.

BLITZER: It would unify the party if he were to make a statement like that.

FEEHERY: It would. But I don't think it's going to be completely unified.

This will show us how difficult it's going to be to put Hillary Clinton on as vice president. Bill Clinton still attracts a lot of notice, a lot of heartache with the African-American community. And he's very controversial, even though Paul, you know, worked with him so well.

The fact of the matter is that Bill Clinton will add too much controversy, and that's why Hillary Clinton will not get the vice presidential nomination.

BLITZER: But he did say that apparently to one of his -- one of Hillary Clinton's supporters, Barack Obama, that, yes, Hillary Clinton is on the short list, but the Bill Clinton factor complicates matters.

BEGALA: Sure. Why would you want somebody who is related to the most popular man on Earth? The most beloved man on the planet is Bill Clinton.


(CROSSTALK) BEGALA: One of the most beloved men in America.


BEGALA: President Bush -- no, I mean, who? Maybe Mandela. Maybe. Maybe the pope. Maybe.

But Bill Clinton's the most beloved man on Earth. And he is revered among Democrats, and pretty well respected. He has a 52 percent approval rating among Americans today, even after being attacked by the press during his wife's campaign. President Bush, by contrast, McCain's running mate, effectively, President Bush, about 26 percent approval rating.

So, Clinton's beating Bush two to one. I would much rather run with Bill Clinton than George Bush.

BLITZER: Why are you laughing?

FEEHERY: Well, obviously, Julian Bond has a problem with Bill Clinton, as do a lot in the African-American community. And, actually, independents don't like him that much. They like him some. Some like him.

The fact of the matter is, Bill Clinton is not the most beloved man on Earth.

BEGALA: Who's more popular?

FEEHERY: We could come up with a list of people. The pope is a good one. Wolf Blitzer.


BLITZER: No, I'm not. I'm not.



BLITZER: But he did say Nelson Mandela and the pope. Those are both tough acts to...

BEGALA: Perhaps.

FEEHERY: To beat.

BEGALA: Ranked up there with him. I promise you, if you were to survey world opinion, he would be up there with those two great world leaders.


BLITZER: We will watch.

(LAUGHTER) BLITZER: Paul and John, thanks very much.

FEEHERY: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: A loss in the world of politics. We're going to take a closer look back at the unique career of our old friend and colleague Tony Snow. That's coming up.

Plus, two passenger planes come within seconds of colliding. Now the FAA is changing the rules at 20 -- 20 -- of the nation's busiest airports.

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


BLITZER: On our Political Ticker today: Those who loved him and even those who clashed with him are roundly saying that he was an incredibly smart, warm and decent man.

Right now, many people are remembering Tony Snow. The former White House press secretary died Saturday of cancer. He was 53 years old.


BLITZER (voice-over): This is a story about love.

TONY SNOW, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm unbelievably lucky and unbelievably blessed.

BLITZER: Tony Snow loved his family, loved his work, and loved his country. And because of the kind of man he was, he was respected and, yes, loved by those he worked with.

We go back a long way. After starting out writing newspaper editorials, he was a speechwriter for the first President Bush when I covered the Bush administration.

SNOW: This administration's always suffered from a humor deficit.

BLITZER: He got his start on television, yes, right here at "LATE EDITION."

SNOW: And the stimulating insights of the panel, so don't risk missing it. Stay right here.

BLITZER: Then he became a competitor, anchoring FOX's Sunday program and joking about the battle for the big guests.

SNOW: It's kind of fun, because you go through this tango. You deal with a coterie of aids. You deal with the schedulers. You deal with all your competition. And you beg and grovel. And they finally say, well, OK, we will come on. We won't say anything, but we will come on. BLITZER: We were both convention podium reporters. I remember him always working, writing editorial columns in his free time.

SNOW: Calm down. I know you're excited. Your voice is rising. Your pace is increasing.

BLITZER: When he returned to the White House, he clearly relished standing up to reporters and anchors.

(on camera): Can you say categorically that the United States government had nothing to do with the timing of this verdict?

SNOW: Yes. I mean, the idea is preposterous. This is one of these tinfoil hat sort of things, where people...

BLITZER (voice-over): For a long time, even cancer didn't defeat him. He left the job he called a source of joy and great pride, and eventually came back to CNN as tough and funny as ever.

CAFFERTY: They're tired of Washington politics.


CAFFERTY: That's why Barack Obama has the appeal he does.

SNOW: Jack, I hate to tell you, they're even tireder of journalists, who fare even worse.

CAFFERTY: Well, I have no doubt about that.

BLITZER: Sadly, his time with us was all too short.

Tony Snow leaves a loving wife, three great children, and a legacy of honesty and humor that will live on as an example of the way politics and journalism should be done.

SNOW: Thank you. Finally, thank you all.




BLITZER: Services for Tony Snow will be held here in Washington on Thursday. The president and the first lady will attend, along with a host of others.

Our deepest, deepest condolences to his loving family.

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

You know, he was a terrific guy. No matter what political views he had, he was always smiling, as you well know, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Well, and he was a pro. And he was a pro's pro. This is -- as was evidenced in an earlier clip from your Sunday program yesterday, this is a business that can extract a pretty high toll if you're not on your game, as witnessed by the guy from South Carolina that couldn't answer your question yesterday.

Tony Snow knew his stuff, never caught up short, always had an answer that made some sense. You might not have agreed with it. It might not have been the right answer, but it was an answer that was rooted in logic and awareness of current events that most of us -- most of us -- don't bring to the table each and every day. He was a class act, top to bottom -- 53, way too young. He's got young kids. Horrible, horrible stuff.

What do you think of the cover of "The New Yorker" magazine that shows Barack Obama in traditional Muslim attire and his wife, Michelle, with an afro and an assault rifle dressed like a terrorists?

Circy writes New Mexico: "What year is this, 1964, when civil rights workers were murdered in Mississippi? The people at 'New Yorker' magazine need to look up the definition of satire. This cover is nothing but pure hatred."

Brenda in Dallas, Texas: "The educated loyal reader of 'The New Yorker' understands the satirical imagery of the Obama cover. Sadly, the uneducated and elderly that read, forward and believe the smear e- mails will take the cartoon as an illustration of truth and evidence to support their vote for McCain. 'The New Yorker' will benefit from the publicity. They will sell more magazines. 'The New Yorker' readers will enjoy a quick lowbrow chuckle. And then John McCain will be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States."

Mertis in Atlanta writes: "This is awful, not funny at all. When can we expect the cover of John McCain in a wheelchair with Cindy pushing it? I mean, fair is fair."

Brandie writes: "Good old-fashioned satire, through and through. How do I know this? Because people are fighting about it. The best satire inflames and enrages the viewer. And then, after they've blown a fuse they laugh in their sheer silliness. Seriously, everybody needs to get off their political high horse, have a beer, relax and laugh."

Ben writes: "It was a bad choice on their part. A lot of this country isn't very open-minded or even well-read when it comes to politics and the media. So, they see this picture and they take it for face value. I'm an Obama supporter, but I'm also for fair play, and this is not fair. They did it for shock appeal, and they knew exactly what they were doing."

Paul in Virginia: "Move over, FOX News. You have just been outfoxed by 'The New Yorker.'"

Mel writes: "Someone at 'The New Yorker' will either get fired or a raise."

And Brock writes: "The people who might believe these myths don't read 'The New Yorker,' so not to worry. They're not interested in reading or New York."

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

BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you.

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