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Massive Turnout for Barack Obama in Berlin; Obama's Afghan Victory Call: What the Critics are Saying; New Fight Over the War: McCain vs. Obama

Aired July 24, 2008 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, a massive turnout for Barack Obama in Berlin. Calling himself a fellow citizen of the world, the candidate calls for an end to the war in Iraq, but also calls on America's allies to step up the effort in the war in Afghanistan.
New signs the race is tightening. John McCain may be closing the gap some places, not necessarily everywhere. We're going to show you how the CNN electoral college map has been changing.

And would oil prices come down if there were more oil available? CNN's Ali Velshi is in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where there is more oil, but it may carry a steep price of its own.

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

Barack Obama stood before hundreds of thousands of people today, not far from where the Berlin Wall once stood. In an appeal for international unity, the candidate's dramatic speech echoed those made in Berlin by other U.S. presidents.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes, natives and immigrants, Christians and Muslims and Jews, cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.


BLITZER: The Democratic presidential candidate called himself a fellow citizen of the world. He spoke of America and its tarnished image in that part of the world.


OBAMA: I know my country has not perfected itself. At times we've struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We've made our share of mistakes. And there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.

But I also know how much I love America. I know that for more than two centuries we have strived at great cost and great sacrifice to form a more perfect union, to seek with other nations a more hopeful world.


BLITZER: Let's go to Berlin right now. Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is there. She's been watching what's going on.

Quite a turnout today for the Democratic candidate, Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It absolutely was, and let's not forget where the other turnout is, and that's back home to viewers.

I thought both those sound bites that you played, Wolf, really encapsulated what Obama was trying to do with this speech. You know, saying, listen, I know America has made mistakes, but also standing up for America, because he knows this is a dual message here and he has to walk carefully.

He can't be over in Europe seen as catering to the Europeans, he has to be seen as a commander in chief that will reach out and foster cooperation, but, nonetheless, be tough when America's security interests are involved. So I think you saw that in that last bite.

This was every bit as much for the home audience, probably more, than it was for the 200,000 or so, according to the police here, that showed up to see Obama. It is kind of designed to give a picture to some of his rhetoric along the campaign trail in the U.S., where he talks about restoring America's moral leadership in the world.

So this was sort of a picture to say, you see, Americans can be warmly welcomed in places. We just need to reach out to them. So this was the picture to match those words.

And I have to tell you, the idea of America's place in the world was a very potent issue along the campaign trail. And clearly, he is playing to that, as well as trying to kind of brush up and burnish those credentials for commander in chief. As you know, he lags behind John McCain in both how people see him as experienced enough in world affairs and in those commander in chief credentials -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And he also made a point of trying to convince the European allies that this is their moment, they need to step up and increase the number of NATO troops in Afghanistan.

CROWLEY: Right. And there again, that's a dual message. It is, yes, we want cooperation. We want to help. But you, too, have to step up to the plate.


OBAMA: America can't do this alone. The Afghan people need our troops and your troops, our support and your support, to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda, to develop their economy, and to help them rebuild their nation. We have too much at stake to turn back now.


CROWLEY: He said virtually the same thing about Iraq, saying, listen, I know you haven't agreed with us on policy, but you have just as much interest in seeing Iraq rebuild as we do.

So both those issues pushing Europe to do more -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy Crowley is in Berlin for us. She's going to be speaking tomorrow with Senator Obama. That interview will air here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Candy, we'll be checking back with you. Thank you very much.

Obama originally hoped to give his speech at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, the site of historic speeches by Presidents Reagan and Clinton. But the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, quashed the idea, saying that venue shouldn't be used for American political campaign speeches.

Another landmark know as the Victory Column was chosen instead. It commemorates the German military victories over France, Denmark and Austria back in the 1800s. The Nazis may have inadvertently saved the column from allied bombs during World War II, when they moved it from in front of the German parliament so Hitler could hold rallies there. French plans to dismantle it after the war were blocked by other members of the allied forces.

A little history of the venue today.

It didn't take long for the criticism of Senator Obama's speech to start coming in. Let's bring in our Chief National Correspondent John King. He's watching this story for us.

So what is the McCain campaign saying? Because most of the speech was sort of boilerplate, but I guess they found some areas that they didn't like.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They did find some areas. And let's just start with the images Candy was just talking about, you were talking about.

Look, the Republican Party, the McCain campaign, they get this. These are powerful images. They show Barack Obama being adored by a huge crowd overseas. They know they can't match the images, and, in fact, behind the scenes they're quite envious of this crowd.

So what are they trying to do? They're trying to get to the particulars. And Wolf, you'll hear this from now until November, that the guy speaks with lofty rhetoric, but it doesn't match his record.

The Republicans will say that over and over and over again. And here's one of the things they've put out: "Ich bin ein hypocrite."

They're saying that Barack Obama went to Germany -- you just heard him say we need more American troops, we need more German troops, we need more NATO troops in Afghanistan. Well, what the Republicans in the McCain campaign are saying, well, then why as chairman of this subcommittee -- and some people have heard this before in the Foreign Relations Committee -- why has he never held a hearing on Afghanistan? Why hasn't he brought in the generals, brought in the diplomats, brought in people from around the world and addressed the problem and what needs to be done about it with his standing in the United States Congress?

So again, they're going to say, lofty rhetoric, but it doesn't match his record. This is one we've heard before, and it gets to judgment and the commander in chief debate that the McCain campaign hopes it can win.

BLITZER: And he defends that decision not to have the Subcommittee on European Affairs hold those hearings on NATO. He says the full committee, the full Senate Foreign Relations Committee, holds -- generally holds hearings on NATO. That's his defense of that argument.

What is the McCain camp though saying about Obama's call for victory in Afghanistan?

KING: Well, they heard that part of the speech. And of course they say they want victory in Afghanistan. And this is one where Senator McCain has in the past said, yes, he wants victory in Afghanistan, but there might not be enough troops available because McCain has made the position, you need those troops in Iraq.

But to the broader issue of Obama's standing, they're talking about walls coming down, more cooperation in Afghanistan, more cooperation in race relations, and getting countries around the world to get along. You're already hearing from the McCain campaign, and more so from economic conservatives outside of the McCain campaign, that's nice. Again, they say, that sounds nice, tearing down walls, but in a global economy, tearing down walls means free trade to most conservatives.

So why, then, Barack Obama, have you said you might renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement? Why won't you come to Washington and push the Democrats to pass the Colombian Free Trade Agreement that President Bush wants? And why, then, if you're for tearing down walls, some Republicans are saying, did you vote for that fence along the U.S./Mexico border?

So again, they're finding things in the record so that they can say Barack Obama's lofty rhetoric doesn't match up with his record. But at the same time, Wolf, they're making this substantive argument, they will make this argument from here until November, but like everybody else, they're looking at those pictures and they're saying, wow.

BLITZER: It's pretty impressive to see tens of thousands, a couple hundred thousand, at least, show up for a speech like this in Berlin.

John King, thanks very much. Back home, John McCain seems to be taking a rather dim view of Senator Obama's high-profile trip to Europe right now.

Let's go to Mary Snow. She's working this part of the story.

Mary, the presidential campaign taking on sort of a pretty sharp edge.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, Wolf, the McCain camp is taking a swipe at Barack Obama's speech, calling it a "premature victory lap in Berlin," saying while Obama claimed him a citizen of the world, McCain was making his case to the American people.


SNOW (voice-over): With his Democratic opponent stealing the spotlight in Berlin, Republican presidential hopeful Senator John McCain stuck to a German theme, but at a German restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. Was he trying to make a point?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would love to give a speech in Germany to -- a political speech, or a speech that maybe the German people would be interested in, but I much prefer to do it as president of the United States rather than as a candidate for the office of presidency.

SNOW: While there, McCain sat down with small business owners to talk about the economy, health care and gas prices. While keeping one eye on domestic issues, his other remains watchful of Obama's stand on Iraq, criticizing him for not supporting the surge.

Now Obama is firing back at his Republican challenger for saying this...

MCCAIN: It seems to me that Senator Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.


SNOW: Obama told NBC News he was disappointed by McCain's language.

OBAMA: For him to suggest that I don't, for him to suggest that somehow I'm less concerned about the safety of my wife and daughter than he is, I think was unfortunate.

SNOW: McCain is standing firm.

MCCAIN: All of us care about our children. I'm sure that every American does.

The point is that Senator Obama doesn't have an understanding of what was at stake with the surge, what is at stake in the future for the security of this nation. I stand by my comments. And I think the record authenticates it. SNOW: But one political observer says McCain's suggestion that Obama is more interested in winning the election than the war could cause a backlash.

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: It's red meat for the Republican base. But this election, as all presidential elections, will be decided by the swing Independent moderates. And they tend not to like language like that.


SNOW: Now, Wolf, some political strategists say, you know, all in all, McCain had a good week, but Obama had a great week. And it's hard to break through the kind of coverage that Obama's getting.

But to compete for some of the spotlight, McCain has some high- profile names on his schedule tonight. He's teaming up with Lance Armstrong for a town hall meeting on fighting cancer. Tomorrow, McCain is going to be meeting with the Dalai Lama in Colorado -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow, thanks very much. You're right, hard to compete with Obama in Europe.

By the way, I'll be speaking with Senator McCain about all of his criticisms of Senator Obama involving Iraq, other foreign policy issues. We'll get to some substantive questions on the domestic economy as well, issues you care about.

Senator McCain will be here in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow. And you can take part in that interview. Send us your questions via CNN's iReport. You can submit your questions at

And as I noted earlier, we'll also be bringing you Candy Crowley's interview with Senator Obama. She's going to be sitting down with the Democratic presidential candidate in Europe tomorrow.

Both of those interviews tomorrow, here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Jack Cafferty has the day off today.

Ali Velshi is in Alaska right now, in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And there's plenty of oil there. Would drilling for it help lower your price at the pump, and at what cost?

Democrats say they have a way to provide quick relief for the oil crisis. Republicans, though, are pouring some cold water on their idea. Does either side really want a solution?

Plus John McCain may be closing the gap in some battleground states. Amid new signs that the race is actually tightening, we're going to show you how the CNN electoral college map is now changing.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: A federal investigation into alleged manipulation of energy markets is yielding its first results. Just a short time ago, regulators announced charges against an oil trading firm. The complaint says traders tried to "bully and hammer the markets."

They're accused of using large positions to quickly drive prices up before selling. Most experts agree that supply and demand forces, not speculators, are behind larger energy market trends.

One hot political topic right now is whether more oil exploration in the United States could bring prices down.

CNN Senior Business Correspondent Ali Velshi is in Alaska, looking for an answer to that question.


ALI VELSHI, CNN SR. BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I'm in Kaktovik, Alaska. It's a town of about 300 people. It's the only human settlement in ANWR, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Now, some people say this poor place could do well economically if they bring oil drilling to ANWR. But opinion in this town is split down the middle.

(voice-over): Kaktovik is a busy place for the Arctic, but most folks here still lead a traditional life. They hunt caribou and other game, and the village is allowed to catch three whales a year. Some of the locals worry that if the oil drills and pipelines come, the wildlife could go.

But long time resident Myrtle Soplu thinks oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR, for short, will bring jobs to this part of Alaska.

MYRTLE SOPLU, RESIDENT: Me, I've got three jobs right now to take care of myself. So, if I think if ANWR opens, we can stick to one job for a long time.

VELSHI: She's seen those jobs. They have been drilling for oil in other parts of Alaska for 30 years. Nearby, but never actually in ANWR itself.

(on-camera): This is all part of the North Slope oilfield where 700,000 barrels a day are pumped out of here, shipped by pipeline to Valdez, Alaska, where it is then sent to the rest of the United States.

(voice-over): But production here has been declining for 20 years. There is more oil in ANWR, no one knows exactly how much, and it's off limits. And these days talk of drilling in ANWR is growing, along with worldwide demand for oil.

Supporters of the idea point out the Arctic tundra is flat, treeless land. Not the forest and wilderness that many may picture. No one is advocating opening up all of ANWR. The potential drilling area is about the size of the state of Delaware. The amount left untouched? About the size of South Carolina.

But drilling opponents say that's not the point. ANWR was set aside as a refuge for animals in 1960, and they say it should stay that way.

So the question is, how much oil is there in ANWR and what impact would it have on prices? The Department of Energy says the U.S. imports more than 60 percent of the oil it uses.

MICHAEL SCHAAL, ENERGY DEPARTMENT: An increase of production from ANWR would reduce that somewhat, perhaps by two percent, out to 2030. And that really is not enough to significantly alter world oil prices.

VELSHI: While residents' opinion is split, the Kaktovik local government is officially in favor of drilling. Resident Mike Gallagher figures the animals will be OK, but he's not sure that opening ANWR to drilling will give him much of a break at the pump.

MIKE GALLAGHER, RESIDENT: You can open today and you're not going to feel nothing for five to 10 years down the road. How is that going to change that?

VELSHI (on camera): So there are a couple of questions. What effect will drilling for oil in ANWR have on the wildlife, on the culture up here, and ultimately on the price of a barrel of oil or the price of gasoline? Even the Department of Energy's best-case estimates right now suggest that it may not bring prices down all that much.

Ali Velshi, CNN, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.


BLITZER: And both Senators McCain and Obama, both of them oppose drilling in ANWR up in Alaska.

While Republicans want more oil exploration, Democrats say we already have a way to provide quick relief. They're advocating releasing oil from the country's strategic reserve. The stalemate has some saying that lawmakers would rather argue than find a real solution.

Let's go to CNN's Kate Bolduan. She's covering this story for us.

The bottom-line question, Kate, a lot of people are asking, is anything substantive likely to get done anytime soon by Congress?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that's a question many are asking right now. They're running out of time, as Congress is about to leave for their recess. And the partisan wrangling, the political fighting just seems to be getting more and more intense. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN (voice-over): Even before the votes were counted on the latest energy proposal, the partisan standoff was clear.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: We're saying, Mr. President, free our oil. It's our oil. It belongs to American taxpayers.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: This bill's a joke. Come on. This is not an energy bill. This is not going to produce any more American-made energy.

BOLDUAN: That bill, a Democratic plan to release oil from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve. It failed. One more example of the deadlock over sky-high gas prices.

While there's no shortage of proposals, the main battle comes down to whether to allow new domestic drilling. Republicans say yes, Democratic leaders say no. The dispute has turned into competing press conferences, dueling poster boards and partisan jabs.

SEN. PETE DOMENICI (R), NEW MEXICO: Does it seem to you like it does to me that Harry Reid is either scared, chicken to have a vote, or he's decided that he's going to dictate to the United States Senate?

PELOSI: This call for drilling in areas that are protected is a hoax. It's an absolute hoax on the part of the Republicans.

BOLDUAN: There's about a week left before Congress leaves for the summer, but both sides see little political incentives to strike a deal. Why? Democrats and Republicans point to separate polls as proof they have the winning argument.

Republicans cite polls showing a majority of Americans are in favor of more drilling, Democrats cite polls indicating Americans blame the Bush administration and oil companies, not Congress, for high fuel prices.

STU ROTHENBERG, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": It's just a thematic argument over who's for or who's against energy, who's for lower prices, who's for higher prices. And both parties think they have an advantage on that argument.


BOLDUAN: And Wolf, it's an argument that both Democrats and Republicans say they are happy to take all the way to the fall elections.

BLITZER: Well, it looks like they will be taking those arguments to the elections.

Kate, thank you. Thousands of people driven out of their homes. Hundreds of thousands left without power. We're tracking Hurricane Dolly's aftermath in south Texas.

Also, from natural disaster to manmade mess, yet another blow to New Orleans' efforts to try to get back on its feet. Our Brian Todd is there in New Orleans to bring you this very sad story.

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



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

Happening now, housing market tragedy. A new report shows home prices falling faster than expected, but the crisis isn't just in the numbers. Deb Feyerick has the heartbreaking story of how woman took her own life in an effort to try to save her family from foreclosure.

Also, his daughter killed by a drunk driver. We're going to take you on a father's journey from rage to forgiveness and tell you about how he's now actually trying to work with the man who killed his daughter.

And fit for office. Is he? Carol Costello finds out why Richard Simmons thinks he can help shape up Washington.

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

In Berlin today, Barack Obama acknowledged that America's image has become tarnished there and in other parts of the world. The candidates have very different ideas about how to go about changing all of that.

Let's discuss with two key members of the U.S. Senate joining us, Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California, and Kansas Republican Senator Sam Brownback.

Thank, Senators, to both of you coming in.

Senator Brownback, let me play a little clip of what Senator Obama told tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of people who gathered in Berlin to hear him today.


OBAMA: In Europe, the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world, rather than a force to help us make it right, has become all too common.


BLITZER: All right. That sounds like, unfortunately, some criticism of the past seven-plus years of the Bush administration, the so-called go-it-alone strategy.

I wonder if you want to respond.

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: Well, I caught a portion of the speech that Barack Obama gave, and it was beautiful rhetoric overall.

And I was pleased to see him speaking to a large crowd in Germany, and speaking on behalf of the United States. I think he spoke a little bit too much like a president in a campaign rally than a presidential candidate.

But I think the point here is that we have had a very difficult period of time with a difficult topic, and that's the war on terrorism, Wolf. And you know this, and you have covered it very well with a lot of different people. This has been a tough time.

But, at the end of the day, I think you have got to look at results. And the results on the ground in Iraq say that we're moving that issue and that policy forward because of people like John McCain and a tough policy that a lot of Europe didn't like, even though Barack Obama represented a policy against the surge that would have probably failed.

So, I think you have got to look at the success vs. the failure here.

BLITZER: All right.

And you agree with Senator Obama on that strategy in Iraq, the so-called surge, Senator Boxer?

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, let me just say in response to what my friend Senator Brownback said, the reality is that Barack Obama spoke to tens of thousands of people today, and he told them the truth. Whether they're Europeans, he's also talking to the American audience.

And he's basically said a fact, that America just has really lost the leadership mantle in these last several years. Part of it is the fact that, after we were attacked on 9/11, instead of focusing our attention on uniting the world -- and that was the real part of Barack's speech I thought was great -- uniting the world against terror, they turned and went into Iraq.

Now, I have the very quote that John McCain said on your show. He said, "I believe we can win an overwhelming victory in a very short period of time."

Barack Obama had the judgment to see it very differently. He said, who knows how long this will take, how much time.

Now, the surge, as far as being a tactic, everyone says that our men and women in uniform, of course, carried out that mission beautifully. But we lost a quarter of the troops that we have lost in Iraq since the surge. It's cost us $15 billion. And Barack Obama had a different plan. BLITZER: But, if -- so, Senator, Senator Boxer, if you had to do -- if you knew then at the beginning of the surge what you know now, would you have supported that new strategy?

BOXER: I think I agree totally with Barack Obama. He said there were other alternatives. The surge could have been done by the 500,000 Iraqi troops that we spent taxpayer money on to train. So, we didn't have to lose, you know, almost...

BLITZER: All right.

BOXER: ... 1,000 soldiers and spend $13 billion, when the Iraqis should have stepped up to the plate.

BLITZER: All right, I will take that as a no.

But let me pose the other question that's asked of you, Senator Brownback. If you knew before the war in Iraq what you now know, $700 billion spent, more than 4,000 U.S. troops dead, would you still -- and no weapons of mass destruction, no connection between Saddam and al Qaeda -- would you still have voted for this war?

BROWNBACK: And no hit in the United States since that period of time either, Wolf.

BLITZER: So, the answer is?


BLITZER: The answer is?

BROWNBACK: The answer is, I would have voted the same.

I would point out on the surge, as you may recall, I was questioning the surge at the time. I thought it would further divide U.S. opinion. I was wrong. The surge has worked. Barack Obama was wrong on the surge. The surge is working. Thank goodness for John McCain and his tenacity on this.

BOXER: Oh, John McCain got it all wrong.

BROWNBACK: That's the reason he and...

BOXER: John got it wrong.

BLITZER: Hold on one second.

I want to throw this number at you, Senator Boxer. The new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll asked registered voters, who is the riskier choice for president? Thirty-five percent said McCain, but 55 percent said Obama.

He's got his work cut out for him in reassuring a lot of Americans that he's ready to be commander in chief.

BOXER: I think that's what a political campaign for president is all about.

You would have had the same thing when it was Richard Nixon vs. John Kennedy. The more you get to know Barack Obama, the more you get his leadership, the more you understand, you know, his compassion for the people, in terms of their economic plight, his understanding that we have to bring the world together, with us, against the terrorists, against the threat of global warming, against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

This is what he's going to do. He knows what he's doing. He's very smart. He's wise. I think we have seen in this trip that he has that leadership ability.

BLITZER: All right.

BOXER: And I think it's going to help him in the end. And, yes, right now, McCain has been in office for a super long time. People know him better. They will get to know Barack better as the campaign goes on.

BLITZER: Senator Brownback...


BLITZER: Senator Brownback, he got a lot of applause from those tens of thousands who gathered in Berlin when he uttered these words. Let me play this clip for you.


OBAMA: despite past differences, this is the moment when the world should support the millions of Iraqis who seek to rebuild their lives, even as we pass responsibility to the Iraqi government and finally bring this war to a close.



BLITZER: All right. What's wrong with that? Why not let the Iraqis now take charge? They have got a huge army. They have got a huge police force. They seem to be doing much better politically. Isn't it time to start bringing those troops home?

BROWNBACK: Absolutely. And that's taking place now.

As you know, Wolf, the surge troops are moving out from there, and we're moving a number of them, we need to move a number of them into Afghanistan.

But I think the point here is, Wolf, would we be at this place without the surge? And, clearly, we would not. And you have got a real-life example here between John McCain and Barack Obama. And Barack Obama's strategy would have led to probably a big failure in Iraq. The McCain strategy has given us to this point to be able to hand this off to a maturing Iraqi government and an Iraqi military. That's a big world real-life experience. Clearly, the riskier choice for president is Barack Obama.

BOXER: Wolf, I would argue with that.

This is a matter of judgment. John McCain said on the "LARRY KING" show -- he said on the "LARRY KING" show, I believe that success in Iraq will be fairly easy. He told me personally, as I was worried about the war early, it's a piece of cake.

That was wrong. He was wrong on Iraq. We took our eye off Afghanistan. We haven't gotten Osama bin Laden, and now you see our candidate for president, the Democratic candidate for president, Barack Obama, is really leading right now. The Bush administration is starting to talk to Iran. The Bush administration is saying, yes, let's start to bring the troops home from Iraq. The Bush administration is let's send more troops...

BLITZER: All right.

BOXER: ... is saying, send more troops to Afghanistan. Barack is already leading, and he's not president yet.

BLITZER: All right.


BLITZER: Let's continue -- let's continue, guys, this discussion down the road.


BLITZER: A good start from both of you.

Senator Boxer, thanks for coming in.

Senator Brownback, thanks to you as well.

BROWNBACK: Thank you.

BOXER: Thanks.

BLITZER: CNN's Electoral College map is now changing, and the presidential race seems to be tightening.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, takes a closer look at what's behind the shift. We're about to share the new look for you.

Also, we have some new poll numbers on the Latino vote. In our "Strategy Session," we will discuss who has the upper hand with this key voting bloc and why.

And what's it like to be locked up at the Guantanamo Bay detention center? Jamie McIntyre is there. And he will offer us a rare look inside Camp Delta, where detainees are dubbed the worst of the worst are held.

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


BLITZER: We're ready now to unveil some new changes to CNN's Electoral College map.

Two states are being into the tossup column. Minnesota, which had been leaning Democratic, New Mexico, is now seen as up for grabs. And New Mexico, which had been leaning Republican, is also now considered a tossup.

Overall, this means Barack Obama loses some 10 potential Electoral College votes from his projected total. John McCain loses five.

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

Bill, as far as we can tell, what's behind the shift?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there are some indications here this race may be tightening up.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Where does the presidential race stand? Quinnipiac University has just come out with four new polls of battleground states. They all show some movement toward McCain since last month.

Wisconsin, Obama's lead has shrunk slightly, from 13 points to 11. The Badger State continues to lean Democratic.

Michigan is still close, Obama up by six in June, four in July, still a tossup.

Colorado, a five-point Obama lead has shifted to a near tie, also a tossup.

The biggest shift? Minnesota. Last month, Obama led McCain by 17 points. Now the race is virtually tied. Minnesota shifts from leaning Democratic to tossup.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Minnesota's a very unpredictable state. They elected Jesse Ventura to be their governor. You know, we have a very competitive Senate race right now. We have the Republican Party pouring a lot of money and a lot of resources in there.

SCHNEIDER: The Pew national survey of Latinos shows Obama leading McCain by nearly 3-1. PRESTON: New Mexico is heavily Hispanic. And, really, Hispanics traditionally have voted for the Democratic nominee. So, now that we have the Democratic primary over, we don't have a split in that vote.

SCHNEIDER: New Mexico moves from leaning Republican to tossup.

With those two changes, the electoral vote count gets a little closer, Obama 221, McCain 189, with 128 electoral votes in tossup states, both candidates well shy of the 270 electoral votes needed to win.


SCHNEIDER: Most of the interviews for these polls were done before Senator Obama's trip abroad. Now, is that trip reassuring voters who seem to be worried that he's too risky? Well, sure, he seems risky. He's the candidate of change. And change always involves risk. We will see in the next round of polling whether his trip is reassuring voters -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We will see the impact. Good point.

Bill Schneider, thank you.

In our "Strategy Session": John McCain knows their importance. Barack Obama says their vote could prove pivotal.


OBAMA: This election could well be decided by Latino voters.



BLITZER: We have a fresh batch of polls that indicate who they may support in November.

And it's a key Senate race, the incumbent Senator Norm Coleman vs. the challenger, the comedian Al Franken. Now Coleman is calling Franken's humor into question. Donna Brazile and Leslie Sanchez, they're standing by for our "Strategy Session" -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Some analysts had predicted Barack Obama would have a tough time getting Latino voters to come to his side. But a new poll shows Obama with a sizable lead over John McCain with this key group of voters.

Let's discuss in our "Strategy Session." Joining us, two CNN contributors, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, and Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez.

The Pew Hispanic Center poll shows, right now, among Hispanic voters' choice for president, Obama with 66 percent, McCain 23 percent.

He had not done as well as Hillary Clinton among Hispanic voters in the Democratic primaries, but he's doing very well against John McCain right now.


I think a couple of things. I spoke to Pew. They had some great information to share. One is, they were surprised at how strong that support is. Two, there's almost a seamless transition of Latino voters from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama.

And, three, that a lot of folks are believing the Democrats are going to do better for Hispanics. Now, all of that said, I think there's some positives in here. John McCain had higher favorables than George Bush. And it's also a national survey. This is not in the battleground, competitive states. So, you have to really take that into consideration.

BLITZER: Those are both excellent points.

There's no doubt, though, that he is liked by a lot of Hispanics, a lot of Latinos, because of his stance on comprehensive immigration reform, that he was willing to work with Ted Kennedy to try to get it passed.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: But, Wolf, I think what -- what John McCain should worry about is that Hispanic voters, like most Americans, are worried about jobs. They're worried about health care.

Over 15 million Hispanics are without health insurance. That's one-third of the Hispanic population, compared to 10 percent of the white population, 20 percent of the black population. Hispanic Americans would like the same thing that all Americans -- they want jobs. They want a president who will break away from the Bush economic policies.

SANCHEZ: You know, I think the bottom line, let's keep it in perspective. Thirty percent of Hispanics consider themselves Republican. We know that's been consistent for the last seven presidential elections. So, you may see 23 percent in there, but you're going to know, the 10 million Latino voters that vote, about 30 percent were starting out as Republicans.

John McCain can do incredibly well in the battleground states, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Florida. He has relationships in the Southwest. He gets 70 percent in Arizona. And, remember, Hispanics vote for candidates, not parties. So, there's a lot of more opportunity and aspiration in his...


BRAZILE: But after the 2006 midterm elections, where Hispanics felt alienated from the Republicans, many of those Hispanics rejected the Republican Party. And they will reject the Republicans again.


SANCHEZ: ... Hispanics don't vote in midterm elections. Hispanics vote presidential.

BLITZER: Well, let's hold that off for a second, because I want to talk about this real battleground, this battle that's going on in Minnesota right now between the incumbent Senator Norm Coleman and the challenge from Al Franken. They have both got a bunch of ads out right now, going after each other. I am going to play little clips from both.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: The guys and I have been talking. We have read all this stuff about Al Franken, you know, not paying taxes, going without insurance for his employees, foul-mouthed attacks on anyone he disagrees with, tasteless sexist jokes, and writing all that juicy porn.



UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You want to know about Norm Coleman?

NARRATOR: He voted to give billions of dollars in tax breaks to oil companies. Now they're raking in record profits. And we're paying four bucks a gallon for gas.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: He brought hockey back.

NARRATOR: He voted for the largest cut in student aid in history. And now our kids are going to graduate with a crushing burden of debt.


BLITZER: This is a real contest there in Minnesota. And I assume it's going to get even nastier.

BRAZILE: Well, Norm Coleman has one of the lowest approval ratings of any United States senator. So, I believe that he's running this ad to try to define Al Franken, who has really come from nowhere.

I mean, we know him as a comedian. We know him as a serious intellect, but -- and, of course, an award-winning author. He's running an incredible campaign in Minnesota.

SANCHEZ: No, I would agree. I think that they're humanizing him. they're talking about what's hanging out there. If you asked focus group folks, I think there are a lot of people agree with that. And defining him in that way, I think, is a very fair choice.

I think Norm's going to have to do a very strategic job of refuting a lot of those attacks, because if he doesn't, they will stay in the atmosphere. BLITZER: Those ads are both pretty good, though. They're nice. And we're going to see more of them.

BRAZILE: We will see who will get the last laugh.


BLITZER: That's right. Good point.


BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

BLITZER: Award-winning director Spike Lee often makes films from an African-American point of view. You're going to find out why he says it's hard to make movies showing positive images of African- American men. Stand by for Soledad O'Brien's report.

Also, the International Olympic Committee bans -- yes, bans -- Iraq's team from competing in this year's Games in Beijing. Why? What's going on?

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


BLITZER: On our "Political Ticker" today: The Republican National Committee chairman, Mike Duncan, is launching what the GOP calls a victory 2008 tour, targeting key battleground states for the presidential and Senate races. He will meet with local GOP leaders to discuss strategy and ways to boost the party registration.

They're called dialogue officers. And it's their job to help quell any disruptions at this summer's Republican National Convention. The members of the Minneapolis and Saint Paul Police Departments have been asked to open lines of communications with activist leaders by exchanging cell phone numbers. The GOP Convention begins September 1 at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul.

Remember, for the latest political news anytime, check out That's also where you can download our new political screen saver as well.

Soledad O'Brien's "Black in America" series is on tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, here on CNN, this time focusing in on the experiences of African-American men.

She spoke with one of America's best-known African-American filmmakers about the challenges he faces -- Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there are so many negative images of black men in the media. Even a renowned filmmaker like Spike Lee says he feels it. He says it's tough for him to get support for films that portray African-Americans in a positive light.

Take a look.


O'BRIEN (voice-over): Spike Lee is an award-winning director and producer of more than 35 films.

SPIKE LEE, FILM DIRECTOR: I get tired of watching the news, local news, and seeing just negative images of young African-American men.

O'BRIEN (on camera): There are people who say, but, look at the numbers of African-American men in prison. Look at the black-on-black crime.

LEE: But let's show some balance. And there are people out here who are doing the right thing, who aren't having babies out of wedlock, who are taking care of their children.

O'BRIEN: Why is there reluctance to put them on TV?

LEE: Why? That's not what they want to see.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Spike developed his sense of what Americans want to see the hard way, by making many movies that never became blockbuster hits. Artistic successes like "Malcolm X"...


DENZEL WASHINGTON, ACTOR: You've been hoodwinked, bamboozled.


O'BRIEN: ... And "Do the Right Thing" pushed way beyond the stereotypes.

LEE: You have success stories and you have tragic stories. And I think that you have to tell them all.

O'BRIEN: He's one of the best-known directors around, but Spike still struggles to get financial backing from Hollywood studios for the kind of movies he wants to make.

LEE: I'm not saying it's impossible to get a black film made. I'm talking about a specific type of black film. If I want to do comedy, have black folks shucking and jiving with coonery and buffoonery, I would get $100 million for that in a second.


WASHINGTON: I'm trying to get you what you want.


O'BRIEN: He finally had a box office hit in 2006 with "Inside Man," a bank heist thriller which made nearly twice the U.S. take of "Malcolm X."

(on camera): Three hundred million dollars worldwide.

LEE: You include DVD sales.

O'BRIEN: That's a ton of money.

LEE: A ton of money.

O'BRIEN: That's success, clearly, that you're still going hat in hand.

LEE: It was an eye-opener, because I have always been told, well, Spike, you never had a film that made over $100 million. But, you know, what we care about is box office.

O'BRIEN: Is it because you're black?

LEE: I think a lot of that has to do with it.

JOSEPH PHILLIPS, ACTOR AND COLUMNIST: There's another truth that spike doesn't talk about.

O'BRIEN: Columnist Joseph Phillips has been an actor in Hollywood for more than 20 years since starring in The Cosby Show.

PHILLIPS: He's forgetting that this is a business. And unless he can justify why he should get that much money, he's not going to get it. And that has nothing to do with race.


O'BRIEN: Lots of people would disagree with that. They would say you cannot factor out race, whether you are talking about folks behind the camera or in front of the camera.

One thing, though, Wolf, is changing. It's the number of young black filmmakers who are getting their stories out, in part because of the Internet and because technology today is cheaper and easier to use than it ever has been. And, so, in the future, they tell me they're feeling like they're not going to have to rely on those old methods of getting funding to get the stories that they want to tell out -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Soledad, thank you.

And thanks for this terrific documentary, "Black in America: The Black Man." Part two airs tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern. You must see this.