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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; World Awaits Obama; Possible Policy Change: Will U.S. Officials Talk to Iran About Nuclear Program?
Aired July 17, 2008 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Nancy Pelosi has a very serious message for you and a blistering message for President Bush. It involves lowering gas prices. And the speaker of the House calling the president -- and I'm quoting her now -- "a total failure."
The world awaits Barack Obama. He's set for his trip abroad. But, here at home, Republicans are accusing him of being wrong about something and pretending to have always been right.
And one of our CNN reporters investigators the government, then winds up on a watch list. Now the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, is on the hot seat -- all of this plus the best political team on television.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The House speaker delivering major news today that could affect you and major criticism of President Bush.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
In an exclusive interview right here, Nancy Pelosi says the issue of offshore oil drilling is now off the table and will not come up for a vote in the House of Representatives. Many Republicans want that drilling, saying it could help lower gas prices and help break the nation's dependence on foreign oil.
Today, Nancy Pelosi explained to me her opposition.
BLITZER: There are a lot of people out there, including plenty of Democrats, who say one of the most important things to do right now is to resume offshore drilling off the coast of California, Florida, elsewhere around the United States. Take a look at this poll that CNN/Opinion Research Corporation recently did.
Do you favor offshore drilling? Seventy-three percent said yes. Do you oppose offshore drilling? Only 27 percent.
You're among the 27 percent. What's wrong with letting the oil companies go ahead and develop those offshore oil drilling opportunities?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, there are 33 million acres offshore that all of these companies have the opportunity. These are for lease, and many of them with the environmental approvals to go forward.
That's why in the House on Thursday, today, we have the drill bill. Drill responsibly in leased lands. This does not mean go into protected, environmentally-protected areas and drill.
The impression that the White House would give you is that if you could drill in these protected areas, the price of gasoline will come down. Even the president, in his press conference the other day, acknowledged that that was not the case.
BLITZER: There's a huge potential for domestic oil production that would reduce our dependence on foreign imports.
PELOSI: Absolutely. Yes. There are 68 million acres in the lower 48, that's why we're saying the drill bill.
All of these people are saying drill in the protected areas. We're saying you have 68 million acres right here in the lower 48, as we say, and many more millions of acres in the -- in Alaska.
BLITZER: But the oil companies say the opportunities offshore are much better, much more robust, the potential is greater there than it is in the lower 48.
PELOSI: Thirty-three million acres offshore are allowed for leasing. And we're saying to them, use it or lose it. You have the opportunity to drill there.
When you have exhausted those remedies, then you can talk about something else. But let's be clear about this. It will take at least 10 years from any of that oil to get to the pump. And at that point it will save about 2 cents on the gallon.
What we're saying is, Mr. President, free our oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. There are over 700 million barrels of oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
BLITZER: That's supposed to be used for dire emergencies.
PELOSI: Yes, and we are in one.
BLITZER: And that's not all the speaker of the House has to say about the president and oil. She also has some rather blistering criticism of him. You're going to hear it. That's coming up here later here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Barack Obama is set for his trip to the Middle East and Europe. Some people say he will be greeted with wildly enthusiastic receptions. But there are some real political challenges for him as well. Some say the expectations are overly exaggerated as he meets with world leaders.
Let's go to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's working the story for us.
There are some significant potential accomplishments, Candy, for him, but there are some pitfalls.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right on both counts, Wolf. There are some risks to this trip. And one of them is those great expectations.
CROWLEY (voice-over): Barack Obama's European trip will be the campaign trail via satellite. From Jordan to Israel, to Germany, France and England, it will be a postcard journey, images for the hesitant to show that this 46-year-old politician, a virtual unknown overseas, can play a lead role on the international stage.
He will not be there to push policy or promise it. This will be about impressions, the ones he leaves, the ones he sends home. Does he seem as though he's tough enough to stand up for America's interests, graceful enough to improve America's image? A potent issue on the Democratic campaign trail.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People are ashamed. They love this country and they want their cherished values and ideals restored.
CROWLEY: His campaign will be over the moon if Obama returns from his European trip with this kind of buzz.
ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL EDITOR: I was talking to a former British foreign secretary this week and he said it's like JFK and Camelot. He said it may not be justified, it may not be sensible, but that feeling is there.
CROWLEY: It is not a trip without political risk. It comes amidst mortgage meltdowns and a gas price explosion back home. Obama could look out of touch. And the Europe card has to be played for a U.S. audience very carefully. He could look too cozy. And Obama could fuel, rather than douse, the commander in chief questions. He could make a mistake -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Lots of risks, as you point out, but potential significant benefits as well. We are going to watch this trip every step of the way.
Candy, thank you.
Meanwhile, John McCain is criticizing Senator Obama for the trip, even before it's started, even before it's complete. McCain campaigned in Missouri today and he chided Senator Obama for having formed opinions about the Middle East before his visit. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have been on a lot of trips around the world, usually at your expense. But I usually issue my policy statements when I get back.
So, the point is -- so the point is...
MCCAIN: ... that he's going to Iraq.
MCCAIN: I hope he will sit down with General Petraeus and General Odierno, what is taking General Petraeus' place very soon, and that he will understand what's at stake here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Meanwhile, McCain's campaign is releasing a new video. It's calling it a -- quote -- "documentary." It accuses Obama of pretending being right about something. You are going to see it. And the best political team on television will weigh in. That's coming up later.
Suddenly, after decades of open hostility, the United States is ready to talk directly to Iran about its nuclear program. And there are hints the Bush administration is even ready to set up shop there, diplomatically speaking, in the Iranian capital.
Let's go to Brian Todd. He's working the story for us.
Looks like a significant change in policy, Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It does, Wolf.
Now, some believe this is an effort by the White House to carve a more positive legacy on Iran before the president leaves office. The administration is denying that. But this does seem to be a sea change from the way this White House dealt with Iran for a long time.
TODD (voice-over): For years, the United States and Iran haven't been on speaking terms, unless you count speaking like this.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil.
TODD: Now what could be a dramatic reversal. The White House isn't denying a report in the British newspaper "The Guardian" that it plans to establish a diplomatic post in Tehran for the first time since the 1979 hostage crisis.
SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We're not going to discuss internal deliberations of the U.S. government. But it is quite apparent from our efforts over the past several years that we have a real interest in reaching out to the Iranian people.
TODD: Is this a flip-flop? For years, the Bush White House said all options are on the table with Iran. But, for a long time, the military option seemed more likely. Now, with about six months in the office, administration officials deny they're watching the clock, scrambling to leave a positive legacy on Iran.
Analysts are skeptical.
SUZANNE MALONEY, SABAN CENTER FOR MIDDLE EAST POLICY: If they are to leave office without having moved the ball forward in a significant way, I think it will be considered as a major problem in terms of the historical legacy.
TODD: But the White House also does know how receptive the Iranians are toward stories. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said recently he's in favor of a U.S. diplomatic post there. An Iranian official at the U.N. told me the same thing. And the Iranians might have an eye on legacy here. President Ahmadinejad is up for reelection in less than one year -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, we will watch, significant development, Brain. Thank you.
Let's go back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: It plays right into Barack Obama's hands, doesn't it?
BLITZER: He's been calling for a direct dialogue for months now.
CAFFERTY: And McCain has pooh-poohed, saying, oh, that's a waste of time. You can't talk to those kind of people, blah, blah, blah. Interesting timing, regardless of whether it's a search for a legacy for President Bush or a legitimate effort to try to resolve some of the problems. Good stuff. We will have to watch it.
This country's energy crisis is -- quote -- "more important and threatening to America's future than terrorism" -- unquote. This is Republican Congressman John Peterson, one of the lawmakers heading up a bipartisan energy working group in the House which is trying to bring back stalled energy legislation.
Peterson says the energy legislation should be the top priority for Congress, even though there's no sense at all of urgency in Washington about gasoline prices, none. He says that leaders will have a hard time refusing to address this issue, adding -- quote -- "It's the issue of the year. This is the issue," he says, "of the decade."
The Pennsylvania congressman says the energy crisis is destroying the middle class that made this country strong and he even calls for a war on energy, much like I guess our war on terror or our war on drugs. Those have worked out real well. He says expanding offshore drilling is the most important thing Congress can do to boost domestic energy supply, something a lot of Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, are opposed to.
But Peterson calls for conservation, tax breaks, tax credits for people to get rid of their old cars, and more funding for renewable energy sources. There's also a bipartisan group working in the Senate on an energy bill. It's believed eventual compromises would include new domestic drilling to satisfy the Republicans, while promoting conservation and alternative energy sources to satisfy the Democrats.
Here's the question: Is the energy crisis a bigger threat to the United States than terrorism?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.
A CNN reporter winds up on the federal no-fly watch list, after he did a story about the TSA. And now a member of Congress is turning up the heat on the homeland security secretary, demanding an explanation.
Also, Bill Clinton says he will do whatever he's asked to do. After a nasty primary campaign, the former president is back and he's ready to help Barack Obama.
And our I-Reporters demanding answers from the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, about the war in Iraq -- her answers and what she says about President Bush.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: God bless him, bless his heart, the president of the United States, a total failure, losing all credibility with the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You just heard a bit of my exclusive interview with the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi. During this interview, you will also hear viewers like you question her. They sent in questions via our I- Reports.
Nancy Pelosi says the issue of offshore drilling will not come up for a vote on the House of Representatives. Advocates of that drilling say it could help.
Meanwhile, we also talked about how you feel when it comes to lawmakers doing their job.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: Let's talk about Congress right now. The latest Gallup tracking poll numbers when asked, Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job? Fourteen percent. And that's a record low in these Gallup numbers going back almost 30 years. Fourteen percent approve of the job Congress is doing, 75 percent disapprove.
That's even worse than the numbers for President Bush right now.
PELOSI: Well, let me say this: I think that is largely because we have not ended the war. Everything I see says this is about ending the war.
I disapprove of Congress' performance in terms of ending the war. We in the House, of course, have over and over, five or six times, sent to the Senate legislation for a time certain to reduce our deployment in Iraq and bring our troops home safely, honorably and soon. We haven't been able to get it past the Senate or the president of the United States.
So on the basis of that, count me among the 70-some percent.
BLITZER: Here's what President Bush said on Tuesday about your leadership, not just you personally, but the Democrats' leadership in Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: There are just 26 legislative days left before the end of the fiscal year. This means that to get their fundamental job done, Congress would have to pass a spending bill nearly every other day. This is not a record to be proud of. And I think the American people deserve better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do you want to respond to the president?
PELOSI: Well, you know, God bless him, bless his heart, the president of the United States, a total failure, losing all credibility with the American people on the economy, on the war, on energy, you name the subject. And for him to be challenging Congress when we are trying to sweep up after his mess over and over and over again, at the end of the day, Congress will have passed -- honored its responsibility to pass legislation starting with our Department of Defense bill.
The president knows it. He needs something to talk about because he has no ideas.
BLITZER: Madam Speaker, we invited viewers to send in their questions for you via our CNN I-Reports.
Jordan Klein of Los Angeles is a 16-year-old high school student, and has this question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JORDAN KLEIN, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: Dear Madam Speaker, if you're wondering why Congress' approval ratings are at a record low, look no further than your counterpart, Harry Reid, in the Senate Democrats. While you and the House Democrats have worked endlessly to challenge the Republicans, the Senate has repeatedly caved in to them on the countless issues like the war and FISA. Reid claims that he needs 60 votes to get anything done, but that excuse isn't going to fly.
My question to you is, how disappointed are you in Reid and the Senate, and what can we expect from them in the future?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: That's quite a question from a 16-year-old.
BLITZER: He's a smart kid.
PELOSI: He is indeed that.
Well, the 60 vote is -- I agree with him in that frustration with the 60 vote. The public doesn't want to hear about our process and why we can't get something done.
But it is a fact. And those 60 votes are hard to achieve, because the Republicans in the United States Senate are guarding the gate of the president of the United States.
Senator Reid is a staunch, committed Democrat working for working families in America. He has to deal with the 60 vote.
BLITZER: Kris Craig of Olympia, Washington sent this question in which -- we got a lot of questions very similar to this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KRIS CRAIG, OLYMPIA, WASHINGTON: I'm Kris Craig from Olympia, Washington. Leader Pelosi, in 2006 you asked us to put your party into power so that you could hold this administration accountable. And yet, just a few moments after we did just that, you said that, oh, by the way, impeachment is off the table. You asked us to give you a leap of faith when we made this decision (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I'm sure you've been asked this question all the time.
BLITZER: Why did you immediately rule out impeachment? I guess that's the thrust of this question.
PELOSI: I ruled out impeachment before the election. I ruled out impeachment before the election in terms of priority for the new Congress. Impeachment is always on the table, depending on the behavior of the President of the United States. But in terms of where we plan to go, I said before the election that impeachment was off the table. And for the following reasons.
Our country has serious, serious problems, some of it springing from this president's backward-looking policies.
BLITZER: And she goes on, the speaker, to say she thought the country had significantly higher priorities right now for Congress to address, including the minimum wage, the cost of college, and benefits for veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
She added this. "Pursuing impeachment," she said, "would have further divided the country" -- not a good idea, she says, right now.
Are our politicians in need of a crash course in European history? A presidential candidate got plenty of attention for saying Czechoslovakia when the country no longer exists. Now a possible vice presidential pick has done the exact same thing.
And tomatoes back on the menu -- the FDA drops its warning about eating them after a nationwide salmonella scare.
We will have the latest from the government on that outbreak.
And a woman doing a load of laundry gets more than she bargained for -- why her washing machine was making a hissing sound.
BLITZER: If you're wondering if you will soon see Bill Clinton out campaigning for Barack Obama, we now have the answer. The former president says if and when he will do that. Stand by.
And Republicans want you to know something about Barack Obama. They have a new video claiming he's simply pretending to have always been right about something.
And our own CNN reporter investigates the government, and winds up -- get this -- on a government wash list. And now a top Bush administration official is on the hot seat.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Bill Clinton saying he's now ready to campaign for Barack Obama. But, after a bitter primary battle, can he go back to the way things were? Also, it's billed as an Obama/Iraq documentary, but the McCain campaign is behind it. We are going to go inside the latest ad.
All of this coming up, plus the best political team on television.
And Barack Obama gets something off his chest about the news media and his wife which he says is really bugging him.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
He was a lightning rod for criticism, dished out plenty of it on his own in a nasty Democratic primary campaign. But after disappearing for a while, Bill Clinton is now prepared to start helping Barack Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And he said he wanted me to campaign with him. And I said I was eager to do so.
And, you know, he's busier than I am on politics, anyway. So, I just told him that, whenever he wanted to do it, I was ready.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's turn to CNN's Dan Lothian. He's working the story for us.
All right, we heard from the president, the former president, on several issues today. What's he up to?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF: That's right.
He's really now focusing on his foundation. He's back in the role as senior statesman. This time, he's tackling malaria.
LOTHIAN (voice-over): Stumping for his wife, Bill Clinton said he was fighting to save the country. Now he's fighting to save the world, his foundation working to make a life-saving malaria drug more affordable and available.
CLINTON: Our foundation, working with the government of Tanzania...
LOTHIAN: It's a return to his old days after a bruising primary season, where at times some say he appeared unpresidential.
DAVID MARK, SENIOR EDITOR, POLITICO.COM: He seemed to have lost some of his political sharpness and edge. He made some real misjudgments and errors.
LOTHIAN: In case you forgot, let's rewind a bit. In New Hampshire, Clinton criticized Barack Obama's early opposition to the war in Iraq this way.
CLINTON: Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen.
LOTHIAN: In South Carolina, some thought Clinton was unfairly bringing up the issue of race when he said this.
CLINTON: Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice, in '84 and '88, and he ran a good campaign. And Senator Obama has run a good campaign here.
LOTHIAN: The former president later said he was misinterpreted. It wasn't just Obama that he went after -- the press was also in his crosshairs -- an angry side the public had rarely seen.
CLINTON: Shame on you. It's sleazy. He's a really dishonest reporter. But he's a real slimy guy.
LOTHIAN: Even when the dust had settled and Obama was the clear winner, Bill Clinton seemed to take his time extending a warm embrace. He finally did endorse Obama.
Some political observers say Clinton is now trying to polish his image.
MARK: I think slowly but surely, he's trying to rebuild his own brand. But it's going to take time.
LOTHIAN: Clinton supporters downplay the image problem. They say he has a lot of political capital from his successful years as president and his foundation work only builds on that.
DOUG HATTAWAY, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: It's from doing substantive good work. I think that's what will really come to the forefront as passions from the primary continue to die down.
LOTHIAN: Now that Clinton is saying that he will campaign for Obama, it's one more step forward and away from a tough primary season -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Dan Lothian working the story, as he always does.
Let's discuss this and more with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; our own Jack Cafferty; and Stephen Hayes. He's a senior writer for "The Weekly Standard" here in Washington.
He was very complimentary. He said you know what, I'll do whatever Senator Obama asks me to do. I'm standing by. The ball is in his court.
What do you think?
CAFFERTY: I think it's time to show me the money.
And while we're talking about Bill, where's Hillary?
Hillary and Barack did that thing in Unity, New Hampshire. I haven't seen hide nor hair of her on his behalf since then. You know, I suppose, at some point, they'll get this thing all glued together. But so far, it's a lot of -- you know, a lot of hand signals and flash and trash, not a lot of substance. I haven't seen that major speech saying here are the reasons you've got to elect this man the next president.
BLITZER: We haven't heard that from Bill Clinton yet, although Hillary Clinton, Steve, did do several fundraisers together with Barack Obama, not only on his behalf, but she's trying to raise some money for her campaign. She's...
CAFFERTY: I understand. But she -- he also came out, Wolf, a couple of days ago and said -- apparently she's sending e-mails to her fundraisers saying I'd really like to keep all your donations and apply them to my 2012 Senate run.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: They'll work it out.
CAFFERTY: You know, if she wants to do all that, then why does he have to raise money to retire her campaign debts?
I mean come on.
STEPHEN HAYES, SENIOR WRITER AT "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": It is important...
BORGER: They're going to work it out and it's up to Barack Obama to figure out where Bill Clinton would be the most useful. For example, I would not send him to South Carolina in the general election. They'll probably send him to battleground states. And they'll -- they'll work it out and they'll figure it out. Look, they have a common enemy. That's John McCain. They want to win in the fall. And the Clintons cannot afford to look like they're not helping Barack Obama because it's not good for them.
BLITZER: All right...
HAYES: Yes, but, Wolf, here's the -- here, to me, is the fundamental question -- how much does Barack Obama want Bill Clinton around?
I mean the heart of Barack Obama's candidacy is a new kind of politics. And he is a different kind of politician. I think having Bill Clinton around, particularly for the much coveted Independents, moderate Democrats, even liberal Republicans, that's not going to be a plus or if it's going to be a plus, it's not going to be much of one.
BORGER: I think Bill Clinton can remind those Independent voters of what the economy was doing when he was president. And I think that is a plus.
BLITZER: All right, let me change subjects for a second, Jack.
You heard, in our interview with Nancy Pelosi, she said, you know what, she's the speaker of the House. She determines what comes up for a vote and she's not going to let offshore oil drilling, as requested by the White House and the president, to even come up for a vote in the House of Representatives.
CAFFERTY: Well, that's the question I wanted to ask you. Remember back in 2006, when the Democrats were saying vote us into Congress and we'll get the troops home, we'll cut off the funding for the war, there will be no more blank checks for the Bush White House to conduct this illegal war?
Nancy Pelosi has always had the power, as speaker of the House, to keep any piece of legislation from coming up for a vote. And that includes all those war funding bills that she insisted during 2006 they were going to cut off and not provide to the White House anymore. And every time I bring it up, I get some, you know, a bunch of e-mails about oh, that's not the way the system works and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
The fact is, she could have stopped the war two years ago, the same way she's stopping lifting the ban on offshore drilling.
BLITZER: She says, Steve, you know what, it's not my problem. We pass all this stuff in the House, but they can't get the 60 votes in the Senate they need to break a Republican filibuster.
HAYES: Yes, well, I think she's talking out of both sides of her mouth on that and on other things. You know, the problem, I think, that Democrats face in Congress right now is that Congress is at record low approval ratings. In some polls, President Bush is three times as popular as Congress.
BORGER: Oh, that's great.
HAYES: That's extraordinary. I mean that's unbelievable. President Bush has been up near 30.
BORGER: Twenty-eight percent.
HAYES: I mean it's a do nothing Congress. And, you know, the Rasmussen Poll has their approval rating in single digits. So I think Nancy Pelosi has to be careful, particularly as you pointed out in your interview, because offshore drilling is something that I think most people want to see happen. They want to see something being done.
BORGER: You know, Wolf...
HAYES: And Nancy Pelosi blocking that is a problem for Democrats.
BORGER: Wolf, I was talking to a Republican pollster today, who's really, really nervous about what Steve is saying, because he understands that while the Congressional approval rating for Democrats is really low, guess what, they're not getting blamed for any of this. And the reason they're not getting blamed for any of this is because you have a Republican in the White House.
So he's saying, look, you can complain about these Democrats all you want, but people are blaming the president and the Republicans.
BLITZER: And she does point out, Steve, that in the generic question, do you support a Democrat or do you support a Republican, the Democrats do better than the Republicans.
HAYES: Yes, no question. The Republican brand is in tatters right now. The problem, I think, that they face -- and one of the things I think the McCain campaign can do -- and you can count on this -- is they are going to begin to try to tie Barack Obama to the Democrats in Congress by talking about the things that haven't happened, number one; and, number two, the things that the Democratic Congress is blocking, like offshore drilling.
BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by because we're going to continue this conversation, including the news media. An extravaganza building as Barack Obama heads abroad.
How far can John McCain compete? Can he?
He's got a new ad that may be part of his new strategy.
Plus, CNN's own Drew Griffin on the government's airline terror watch list. That's right. Mistakenly, of course, along with thousands of others -- hundreds of thousands of others, maybe a million names on that list right now. Now his special investigation prompts one U.S. lawmaker to call for an investigation.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The McCain campaign has a new eight minute ad out taking a serious swipe at Barack Obama when it comes to Iraq.
Let's get back to the best political team on television.
I'm going to play a little clip, just the beginning part, so you'll get a sense of this new McCain ad slamming Senator Obama.
Here's the video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP MCCAIN CAMPAIGN AD)
OBAMA: I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse. And I said at the time, when I opposed the surge, that given how wonderfully our troops perform, if we place 30,000 more troops in there, then we would see an improvement in the security situation and we would see a reduction in the violence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. You get the gist, Gloria. And, of course, this comes on the eve of his big trip to the Middle East, as well as to Europe.
BORGER: Well, I was talking to someone in the McCain campaign today who said this was calculated specifically because of Obama's trip to the Middle East and to Europe. And they want to make the case that Obama is a calculating politician, he says, who's calculated -- this is a quote from him -- "every utterance he's ever made on Iraq."
Now, this is a very effective little mini documentary. It's about eight minutes long. It just takes Obama in his own words.
Now, the Obama people will say it's out of context. But it's clear they want to get some attention on this, because they know Obama is going to get an awful lot of attention next week.
HAYES: This is, I think, absolutely devastating. But because it's eight minutes long, there's not a lot that -- you know, not a lot of people who aren't political junkies or people who work in the news media are going to see that whole thing.
BLITZER: Steve, I'm going to have you take your microphone and lift it up on our tie a little bit.
But let me bring Jack in while you fix that.
Go ahead, Jack.
CAFFERTY: I just think that, you know, the people in this country have probably made up their minds on Iraq. And I think they have a pretty clear choice when it comes to these two candidates.
McCain says he wants to win in Iraq. I'm still unclear exactly what it is we win. It's cost a trillion dollars, 4,000 plus kids dead and at some point, I guess we'll pack up and go home. And I'm not sure what we win for that. McCain says he's willing to stay there for a hundred years.
Obama says let's get out of Iraq, redeploy to Afghanistan, knock the Taliban back down -- who's making a big come back there -- and go after and catch or kill the rest of the Al Qaeda leadership that's been living large while we've been in Iraq, along the border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
So I think, you know, people have a choice. You like McCain or you like Obama on the war. I don't know that these eight minute things are going to make a lot of difference.
BLITZER: Fair enough. There's a real difference between the two candidates, Steve, when it comes to the war in Iraq.
HAYES: Yes. I think as unpopular as the war is -- I mean and it is, at this point -- what might be more unpopular is somebody who looks like they're playing politics with the war. And I think the McCain ad, if they can make this a 30 second ad, it is a devastatingly effective way of saying to voters, look, Barack Obama has been on every side of this issue. And it could be -- I think it could be quite effective.
BORGER: You know, this campaign -- and I think we keep talking about this a lot -- is that it's about character for the McCain people. And if they can say that McCain is the man who stands up for what he believes, no matter what the political consequences, as he did on the surge, when everyone was against the surge; as he did on immigration reform, which almost cost him the nomination; and that Barack Obama is just another calculating politician who wants to win above all else, that -- that's their key point in this campaign. And this -- this ad drives that home.
BLITZER: All right, guys. We've got to leave it right there. But we'll continue tomorrow, of course.
Jack, don't go away. We've The got "Cafferty File" still to come.
It grew out of the 9/11 attacks and the American Civil Liberties Union says it keeps on growing. It's the TSA's terror watch list -- part of a massive database that airlines must scrutinize. If your name happens to be on that database, mistakenly or otherwise, you're in for a very, very bumpy ride.
Drew Griffin, of CNN's Special Investigations Unit, takes a closer look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATION UNIT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Washington Attorney Jim Robinson is a former assistant attorney general. He's a former U.S. attorney from Michigan. He holds a high level government security clearance and he's a former law school dean, a husband, a granddad and American. And he gets delayed, if not stopped, every time he gets on a plane.
Because Robinson is also one of the estimated one million names now on the terror watch list.
JIM ROBINSON, FORMER ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: So it seems, for years now, despite my best efforts to get off.
BLITZER: All right. Well, our own Drew Griffin now finds himself something very, very extraordinary. It's happening to him, as well. And that came up during a Congressional hearing today.
Here's Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee grilling the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE.: We understand that a new member is on the watch list, Drew Griffin of CNN. And my question is, why would Drew Griffin's name come on the watch list post his investigation of TSA?
What a curious and interesting and troubling phenomenon.
What is the basis of this sudden recognition that Drew Griffin is a terrorist?
Are we targeting people because of their critique or criticism?
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: As far as the watch list is concerned, we do have circumstances where we have name mismatches.
LEE: The individual in question, this particularly -- and I know that Mr. Lewis has -- Mr. Griffin has sent materials to document the fact that he believes that he is not a terrorist.
JACKSON LEE: He documents that he's not a terrorist. And I use him as an example because what I'm concerned about is the precipitousness of him getting on the watch list, May of 2008, around the time that he was investigating one of our agencies in DHS.
And so I'm going to ask officially for an investigation of that.
CHERTOFF: Yes. I'll ask...
JACKSON LEE: I don't know if the chairman -- I wasn't here -- whether the chairman asked for John Lewis, but I'm asking for an official investigation.
CHERTOFF: The database you're talking about is really maintained by the Department of Justice. It is not my understanding that the reporter was put on. He may share the name with someone who was put on. And if he has a complaint about it, he ought to be refer it over to the I.G.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Let's go to Drew Griffin right now. He's joining us. Wow! What a story.
What do you think, Drew? Do you think this was retribution for your tough investigations that have been going on or you simply share a name with a suspected terrorist? GRIFFIN: Well, I'd like to know who that terrorist is whose name is Drew Griffin. But I think it was probably a mistake, Wolf. There are, according to the FBI, 400,000 real people on the list, but there are a million names because some of those "terrorists" have a lot of aliases. And perhaps there is a terrorist named Drew Griffin out there, or somebody using that alias of Drew Griffin.
But it's happening to a lot of people. Jim Robinson, myself. We got an e-mail that an 8-year-old is on that list. According to the ACLU, there's just thousands of people finding themselves mistakenly on the list and it creates huge hassles when you go to the airport.
BLITZER: I assume you can just clarify this with a simple letter or something and get your name off that list and it's a done deal, right?
GRIFFIN: Well, there is a redress procedure. I filled that out back in May, sent it in with my passport, my driver's license, an explanation of who I am and what I do. Nothing. I didn't even get a response from Homeland Security yet. And Jim Robinson, the man in our piece, he filled out his forms back in May of 2005 and has yet to hear from the TSA.
BLITZER: And -- wow!
GRIFFIN: So it's very hard to get off this list.
BLITZER: A former U.S. attorney himself.
All right, Drew, stay on top of this story for us because it's fascinating; very worrisome, as well.
Let's check in with Lou to see what's coming up on his show right at the top of the hour. I know he's working on several important stories.
Give us a preview -- Lou.
LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Absolutely. And I notice that DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff wasn't too excited when Congresswoman Jackson suggested there be an investigation, which there definitely ought to be in my opinion.
Tonight we're going to be reporting on troubling now evidence that financial institutions in this country responsible for the mortgage crisis have been unregulated, have been preying on victims and simply without any accountability. We'll see whether or not that's changing.
And a victory for the federal government's efforts to enforce immigration laws.
How about that?
A McDonald's franchise -- two of its top executives pleading guilty to giving phony I.D.s to illegal aliens. And race and politics on the presidential campaign trail -- can either of these candidates overcome the racial divide and the need to pander in this country?
We'll be reporting on group and identity politics with three of the country's leading authorities on race relations.
And I'll have a few words for Al Gore and his refusal to help our working men and women and their families. He says no to offshore oil drilling as a matter of orthodoxy.
Please join us at 7:00 Eastern for all of that and more, with an Independent perspective -- Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: See you in a few moments, Lou. Thank you.
The man who helped overturn D.C.'s handgun ban hits a snag when it comes to registering his own weapon.
Plus, two babies that doctors say are one in a million.
BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Carol, what's going on?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Washington, D.C. began registering handguns this morning, the first day for registration since the Supreme Court overruled D.C.'s gun ban. The plaintiff in the court challenge was one of the first in line, but D.C. denied Dick Heller registration of his gun because he didn't bring it along with him and that is a requirement under the new law.
Some IndyMac bank customers managed to get their deposits out of the failed bank, but now they're having trouble depositing the checks into other banks. Apparently, other banks are placing long holds on checks issued by IndyMac. Federal regulators took over IndyMac on Friday.
It only happens once in a million birth. These babies, born in Germany, are twin boys, yet they have different skin colors. One is white and the other black. The twins were born to a German father and a Ghanaian mother.
And they're cute as buttons -- Back to you -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, adorable.
Thanks very much.
Let's go right to Jack.
He's also adorable. He's got "The Cafferty File."
CAFFERTY: Don't do that.
CAFFERTY: Just don't do that.
The question: Is the energy crisis a bigger threat to the country than terrorism is?
B. Writes from Truckee, California, just up the road from my hometown of Reno: "The war on terror has always been a sham. Bush and the oil thugs hijacked 9/11 and went after the oil. They bungled the war. The real enemy is still loose in Afghanistan and the energy situation is worse than ever -- for the taxpayer, not the oil folks."
Dan in Maryland: "Jack, you know better. The two are related. If we didn't need the oil, we wouldn't have such a strong presence in the Middle East, which would mean people wouldn't be upset that we're in their backyard all the time and then resort to terrorism. It's a cycle, Jack. Everything is connected."
Jose writes: "Obviously, it's energy. Just ask the millions of middle class families in a struggle to survive how much they're being affected these days by terrorism."
Tom in Tennessee: "The energy crisis is a self-created, self- imposed form of terrorism that is far greater, potentially much more damaging, than any threat caused by Islamic extremists. If America doesn't get a handle on its energy needs, the harm will be greater than anything done by any radical group, including bin Laden."
A. Writes from Florida: "Energy crisis definitely. It's a subtle form of terrorism. Big business corporate interests are killing us. Remember this when you vote and vote all the incumbents out. Our do nothing Congress and pathetic president have run this country into the ground."
And Oskaloosa, Kansas: "I believe the terrorist threat is extremely important in the long run, but right now I'm staring at a gas pump, credit card in hand, wondering how the hell I'm going to pay for it at the end of the month."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and look for yours among hundreds of others.
Back now to the charismatic Wolf Blitzer.
BLITZER: Thank you very much for that.
BLITZER: Very charismatic. See you tomorrow.
It's something that infuriates Senator Barack Obama more than anything else out there on the campaign trail. We're going to tell you what he says it is. That and more in our Political Ticker. That's coming up.
Plus, John McCain's secret to keeping cool, among today's Hot Shots.
BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the Hot Shots.
In Seattle, Michelle Obama has a big smile as she reaches out to a crowd after a fundraiser.
In Kansas City, Republican candidate John McCain drinks a milk shake aboard his campaign bus.
In Chicago, a group of people look on as Barack Obama gets his hair cut.
And in Missouri, a child holds a copy of McCain's book, hoping to get a signature.
Some of this hour's Hot Shots -- pictures often worth a thousand words.
On our Political Ticker, Barack Obama says it really bugs him when the conservative media criticizes his wife. Obama tells "Glamour" magazine the conservatives attack her as if she's the candidate, not him. The magazine's October's editions will include interviews with both Barack Obama and John McCain.
And Barack Obama has other issues on his agenda right now, as well. Might people part of both presidential campaigns need to brush up on their histories. You remember John McCain talked about Czechoslovakia in some recent comments. But now the former Democratic senator, Sam Nunn, has done the exact same thing. Nunn is often mentioned as a possible running mate for Barack Obama.
Czechoslovakia, as you know, has not existed since 1993. It's now split up between the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
And tonight here in Washington, Democrats and Republicans do battle on the baseball field. It's an annual game for Congressional teams. Democrats have never won the series since President Bush took office.
That's it for us.
Remember CNNPolitics.com -- that's the place to get the latest political news.
In the meantime, let's go to Lou in New York -- Lou.