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Earthquake Strikes California; Official Apology For Slavery?

Aired July 29, 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 we're following two stories unfolding right now.
And we want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

The breaking news out of Los Angeles, that 5.4 magnitude earthquake that gave a serious jolt to Southern California today.

Also, Barack Obama, he's on Capitol Hill right now making a rare return visit to meet with House Democrats. We're standing by to hear directly from Senator Obama.

But let's begin with the earthquake in Southern California.

CNN's Ted Rowlands is on the scene for us, joining us from the epicenter in Chino Hills. You're in an Ace Hardware store, where a lot of stuff simply fell off the shelves over there, Ted.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, including paint. You can see they're still cleaning up here at the old Ace Hardware store, and the same situation at grocery stores around here, liquor stores, et cetera, where a lot of things fell off the shelves and a lot of nerves were rattled as well around the entire Los Angeles area.

This is the epicenter area in Chino Hills, which is just outside of Los Angeles, but in Los Angeles, the high-rises, people came flying out of those buildings. A lot of people were very nervous. Turned out to be a relatively minor earthquake, or a medium-sized earthquake, but, boy, it felt like it was heavier to a lot of people. And it felt like that to not only citizens here, but to government officials.

Right now, I just got off the phone or just got actually done talking to a person from Caltrans. That's the organization that's responsible for the highways and the bridges. They are actively inspecting highways and bridges in a 50-mile radius from the epicenter here in Chino. So far, they have not found any significant damage.

The rail systems are all on low speeds still until for another couple of hours. They're ramping those up very slowly. This is the period after an earthquake of assessment. So far no significant damage. A lot of stuff like this, a lot of cleanup going on in different retail atmospheres. A lot of people assessing their homes, making sure that they're all right.

But keep your fingers crossed, no significant injuries. We have had some reports of some minor injuries, a broken leg here or there because of people falling. But at this point, although it rattled a lot of nerves, like I said, it did not cause significant damage in Southern California.

BLITZER: And, as you say, there's been about 20 or 30 or so minor aftershocks, which is normal after a 5.4 magnitude earthquake.

Ted, stand by.

The California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, he just spoke out about a little while ago the earthquake and how his state escaped any serious damage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: ... emergency services director and also Frank McCarton from OES for being here today and briefing all of you about the recent earthquake.

As you know, at 11:42 a.m., an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.4 struck Los Angeles area this morning and took a large part of Southern California. I thank God there have been not been any reports of serious injuries or damage to properties. There have also been reports of a dozen aftershocks since then. And people understandably are very nervous. I have received...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, Governor Schwarzenegger speaking out just a little while ago.

He says that, when the quake hit, he did what a lot of Californians obviously did almost automatically. He called his own family to make sure they were OK. His wife, Marie, and the kids were just fine, although they felt it as well.

Imagine being at Disneyland during a quake and swaying and feeling off balance when you're there with your kids and your about to get on one of those rides.

Ed Lavandera was there at Disneyland with his family on vacation. He's joining us on the phone.

Pick up the story, Ed. What happened when you began to feel that earthquake?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, my 4-year-old son was just moments away from getting on a little ride called the Astro Orbiter. It's just on the entrance to the Tomorrowland section of Disneyland.

And the ride before him was just wrapping up. And the little rocket ships that go in a circle were coming down and all of a sudden I heard the ride start to rattle back and forth. And I thought it was just part of the ride. That was just kind of one of the things it did, maybe shake and vibrate there at the end. That's kind of a good nice grand finale or something. And then I realized -- I looked back up at the ride and I realized the ride's not moving. We're the ones swaying back and forth. So, it was a bizarre and kind of eerie five -- it didn't last more than five seconds, Wolf. So, by the time you realized what had happened, it was already over. And then a kind of few anxious moments of anxiety kind of kicked in after that. I figured, this is the first earthquake I had ever been through. So, I thought are we supposed to feel aftershocks after this? I didn't know what to expect.

And just moments after that, they started kind of wrapping down all the rides. They told everybody to get out of line and get out of the lines and start making their way towards the exits. They started checking all of the rides. And in the last hour or so, everything was reopened and everything is back to normal here at Disneyland.

BLITZER: All right, that's good to know, Ed Lavandera. Go back on your vacation with your kids. Thanks very much.

We will stay on top of the aftereffects from this earthquake and bring you more later.

But there's other important news happening right now here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Barack Obama right now on Capitol Hill. He's meeting with House Democrats. We expect to be hearing from him very, very soon. When that happens, we will go live to Capitol Hill.

But, right now, I want to go live to our Suzanne Malveaux. She's watching this story for us.

Among other things, on top of everything else, Suzanne, he's also looking for a vice presidential running mate.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely.

Really this is fascinating to watch and see. And much of it is a guessing game. But this is the second day in a row that he has met with his vice presidential selection team here in Washington. For a couple of hours he met with them this afternoon. There's been a lot of buzz that has been generated about this.

Obviously the last official word that we heard from the campaign in terms of when he's making an announcement is mid-August. But with all of this activity that is happening, Wolf, it could come a bit sooner.

BLITZER: Let me ask you this, Suzanne. We know that the guessing game is quite intense out there. It's one of the most popular games here in Washington and I assume around the country. What do we know about his so-called short list?

MALVEAUX: Well, one of the names that is being considered, Virginia's Governor Tim Kaine. Obviously, there's quite a bit of buzz around his name. He was asked that today. He said that he's not going to talk about his private conversations with the Obama campaign, but of course what is very strong about him, he could deliver the state of Virginia, conservative state, to a Democrat in the White House.

That would be the first time that has happened in four decades. The other names that are being talked about, Senator Evan Bayh. He's a former big Hillary Clinton supporter. So, the hope is, perhaps, he could deliver some of the female voters who supported Hillary Clinton.

We're hearing the name of Joe Biden, Senator Biden. He is the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, could help bolster Obama's own foreign policy record. One name that has diminished in the spotlight, that is Hillary Clinton. But, as you know, Wolf, part of this is really just all a guessing game right now. They could surprise us -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And very often we have been surprised when these nominees, Democrats and Republicans, eventually make their selections. We will see what happens. Suzanne, thanks very much.

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

Maybe we will all be surprised. You never know.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: I hope so.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Who is leading the selection committee? Because, remember, there's history eight years ago that the guy who was vetting everyone all of a sudden became the vice president.

CAFFERTY: Yes, I know. It's like putting the bank guard in charge of the vault and finding out the next day all the money's gone.

It's a mystery to many. Why isn't Barack Obama farther ahead in the polls? CNN's poll of polls show Obama leading by five. He's up 45 to 40 over John McCain. In most polls, he rarely breaks 50 percent. A new "USA Today"/Gallup poll actually shows McCain leading Obama 49-45 percent. That's among likely voters.

It seems like that Obama should be miles ahead of McCain when you consider the political climate. Americans can no longer stand President Bush or the Republican Party or the war in Iraq. And, of course, there's the deteriorating economy. And Obama has run a pretty flawless campaign, highlighted by that hugely successful trip overseas last week.

John McCain on the other hand spent last week making one mistake after another. One Democratic pollster tells "The New York Times" Obama still faces a lot of obstacles. He's young, African-American, relatively inexperienced, and has a background that not very many Americans can relate to.

Also, his rival, McCain, has a history of appealing to independent voters, which is part of the reason why his supporters argued during the primaries that he was probably the strongest general election candidate. A pure Republican likely would not have done as well.

Robert Novak wrote his in his column that Obama's difficulty reaching the 50 percent mark is due to a -- quote -- "overwhelmingly white undecided vote of 10 percent to 15 percent." It's left some Republicans speculating whether John McCain might be able to actually back into the presidency, much like he did his party's nomination.

This is despite the fact that even Novak, even Novak, a Republican booster, describes McCain as wooden and acknowledges -- quoting here -- "Not even Bob Dole's dismal candidacy in 1996 generated less enthusiasm in GOP ranks than McCain's current effort" -- unquote.

Here's the question, then: Why isn't Barack Obama doing better in the polls?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog.

To be called more wooden than Bob Dole is to be called really wooden -- Wolf.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: All right, Jack. Stand by. We're going to discuss this and more later.

Also, the earthquake. There's shock, aftershocks near Los Angeles. Up next, how far were those tremors actually felt? We have what some scientists call a shake movie. We will explain.

Plus, major political news. The man who's been a United States senator longer than any other Republican now accused of lying about receiving gifts. Ted Stevens' federal indictment could further damage the Republican brand.

And we're also awaiting an appearance from Senator Barack Obama. He's on Capitol Hill meeting with House Democrats right now. Once he emerges from that meeting, goes to the microphones, you will see it. You will hear it live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This was LAX just a little while ago after that earthquake that rocked the Los Angeles area, 5.4 magnitude earthquake. You see the water coming out of the ceiling, some damage at LAX. There was a brief stoppage of the ground radar, but no interruption of flights at LAX. We're watching this story closely.

Here's how some folks reacted to what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of a sudden, it started shaking. I saw the walls moving. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of a sudden I was about to sip on my coffee and the whole thing started to shake up. And because I work right in the front, I think that I felt it even before the whole like shook up, you know, happened. Yes, it was pretty interesting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was looking under the record racks, right? I thought someone was pushing and shaking it. I realized afterwards that if something were to happen, if that thing were to fall, it would have crushed my head.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it scary?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I'm still kind of shaken up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Totally understandable.

It's about three-and-a-half-hours or so since the earthquake occurred.

Chad, walk -- Chad Myers, walk us through what we know about this 5.4 magnitude earthquake.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: What we know, Wolf, is that originally it was -- it came off the computer as a 5.8. And that's a pretty significant shake.

Now, this is a 5.4 after they looked at it and they got the moments going, they got the real movement of the ground. And so they reduced it to a 5.4, significantly lower than a 5.8. But there are 800 earthquakes between 5.0 and 5.9. There are 800 of those a year. So, this is not really a rare event, just rare because it happened where people live.

This is a shaking map. This is literally what the old scale with the needle would look like. This is obviously just a digital interpretation. Right about 11:42, this blue line was nice and flat, hard to see because there's so much other shaking from the aftershocks. But, at this point in time, it's almost off the scale. The shaking literally went all the way up to the top of our machine, then all the way down to the bottom.

Then it slides back over here. And then every time you see this shaking, there are different colors because this thing changes color every 15 minutes. Otherwise, it would be unreadable. So, a shake there, and then shake another minute later, then a really pretty big aftershock right there. That was a 3.8. And you could feel that. Not these little ones here, 1.2, 1.8, you can't feel those at all.

But the ground is still shaking under L.A., so far so good with a lack of damage, though, there, Wolf.

BLITZER: Could have been a whole lot worse, as we have been saying, Chad. Thank you. There's other important news we're following here in Washington, something that does not occur very often. A very powerful United States senator -- in this case, Republican Ted Stevens of Alaska -- he now stands indicted.

He's vowing to fight the charges that he lied about tens of thousands of dollars of corporate gifts and services.

Let's go to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena. She's watching the story for us.

He's had a very long and influential career. He's done enormous work in bringing all sorts of stuff from Washington to Alaska. But now he's in very deep trouble.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, he's the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, but he has been under a cloud of suspicion for more than a year now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARENA (voice-over): A new first floor, a garage, a wraparound deck, all for his vacation home in Alaska, more than $250,000 worth of gifts for an influential senator that were allegedly never disclosed. Senator Ted Stevens was indicted by a federal grand jury for not reporting those gifts, as is required by law.

MATTHEW FRIEDRICH, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: These items were not disclosed on Senator Stevens' financial disclosure forms, which he filed under penalties of perjury.

ARENA: Prosecutors say the undisclosed gifts were given to Stevens over a seven-year period by an oil services company, VECO, and its CEO, Bill Allen, who pleaded guilty last year to bribery.

The indictment says, when the senator was receiving those gifts, VECO employees were soliciting him for -- quote -- "multiple official actions," including funding for projects in Pakistan and Russia. But the government stopped short of charging Stevens with taking bribes.

FRIEDRICH: The indictment does not allege a quid pro quo.

ARENA: Stevens has been under investigation for more than a year as part of a larger probe into public corruption in Alaska in which seven people have already been convicted. His home was searched last summer by the FBI and the IRS. In a radio interview at the time, he insisted he paid for his home's elaborate renovation himself.

SEN. TED STEVENS (R), ALASKA: Every bill that was presented to us has been paid personally with our own money.

ARENA: Stevens, one of the most powerful men in the Senate, is expected to turn himself in.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: It's a sad day for him, us. SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: I hope that this will turn out fairly and consistent with law and good decision.

ARENA: The fact that Stevens is 84 years old could play a role in any plea agreement or possible sentencing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ARENA: Senator Stevens did release a written statement. He says he's never knowingly submitted a false disclosure form. He says he's innocent and that he intends to prove it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. We will stay on top of this story -- Kelli Arena reporting.

Barack Obama, he's on Capitol Hill right now meeting behind closed doors with Democratic lawmakers. We're waiting for him to emerge from that session. Once he does, we will go there live, hear what he has to say.

Also, history in the making -- lawmakers poised to formally apologize to African-Americans for slavery. Does it recommend compensating blacks in the forms of reparations?

And hold on to your venti skim lattes. Starbucks is cutting 1,000 jobs. We will tell you why.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: We're standing by to hear from Senator Barack Obama after he meets with House Democrats on Capitol Hill. They're meeting right now behind closed doors. Once they emerge, we will go there live, hear what Senator Obama has to say.

Also, an apology that's hundreds of years in the making. The U.S. may formally offer its regrets for slavery. We will tell you what's happening today.

And our reporters are on the scene in the L.A. area right now, people still shaken by that earthquake earlier in the day. We will bring you the new developments as they happen -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, unnerving moments in Southern California. A 5.4 magnitude earthquake jolts the area, causing some scattered damage. Experts say this was a relatively small sample of a major earthquake that could put that state at danger. We will update you on what we know on this breaking news.

Also, an important meeting on Capitol Hill happening right now, Senator Barack Obama meeting with Democratic House members. They're discussing the economy, among other subjects. We're waiting to hear from Senator Obama. He should be emerging from that meeting shortly. Once he does, we will go live -- all of this, plus the best political team on television.

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

Also on Capitol Hill right now, the House of Representatives has taken up an historic measure that would offer regrets on the record for slavery.

Let's go to Brianna Keilar. She's up on the Hill. She's working this story for us.

There's been a resolution now that's been introduced, Brianna. What's going on?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Wolf, this resolution, the House is going to be voting on it tonight. It's expected to pass, and all of this happening, of course, in the Capitol Building, one of the most famous American buildings constructed almost entirely by slaves.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): One hundred forty-three years after the end of slavery, Congress' first apology, a House resolution that acknowledges the injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow segregation laws.

REP. JOHN CONYERS (D-MI), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: This measure will take us another step forward toward the national healment (ph), atonement, and continued progress that must be made along these lines.

REP. STEPHEN COHEN (D), TENNESSEE: This government has not apologized to its own citizens, African-Americans.

KEILAR: Congressman Steve Cohen, a white lawmaker from Memphis, Tennessee, is spearheading the measure.

COHEN: It's appropriate, I think, that a Caucasian member, particularly from the South be the sponsoring party for an apology, for slavery was a Southern institution, a peculiar institution that the South utilized for its economic advantage, as America did.

KEILAR: Cohen's district has a black majority, and he's catching flak from a fellow Democrat who is trying to unseat him in a primary election next week. In a contest where race has become a major issue, Nikki Tinker says the timing of this apology for slavery is clearly politically motivated.

But Cohen insists, that's not true, that it's the realization of a decade-long push, and not an election-year calculation. The nonbinding resolution does not recommend reparations, but the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People hopes it's a step toward compensating the ancestors of slaves. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any process of repairing damage has to be done by first acknowledging wrong doing. And an apology begins with an acknowledgment of wrong doing and then moves to address that problem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has proposed legislation that would look into whether reparations are appropriate. Now he has proposed similar legislation many times over the years, Wolf, and it's never come up for a vote.

BLITZER: Brianna Keilar on the Hill watching the story for us.

Also on the Hill, it's not very often that Senator Barack Obama spends two straight days here in Washington. But that's what's happening right now. As we just mentioned, he's in a meeting with House Democrats on Capitol Hill right now. They're discussing all sorts of issues. We're standing by to hear from Senator Obama. Once he emerges from that meeting we'll go there live.

But let's talk a little bit about what's going on in this race for the White House. Joining us Tara Wall of the "Washington Times," our own Jack Cafferty and our senior analyst Jeff Toobin. They are all part of the best political team on television.

You know, Jack, as you look at the polls and you discussed this earlier, in our average among registered voters, right now Obama's at 45, McCain at 40, 15 percent, that's a large number of voters out there still unsure. And the question can be asked why isn't Barack Obama doing better given all the problems that the Republicans have?

CAFFERTY: Well, you know, I don't know the answer to that. My name's not Gallup, there's several theories being offered. A lot of the undecided voters are white. There's a racial component in this race. There are things yet to be decided about the viability of a John McCain candidacy. It's very early in the game. We're not even to the conventions yet. And most people don't get their head in the game as my esteemed colleague Jeff Toobin points out until sometime after Labor Day.

I'll tell you one thing, if I was Barack Obama, I wouldn't be spending a lot of time in Washington hanging out with congressional Democrats. They've got a nine percent approval rating. You want to wreck your reputation, be seen on the street corner with that bunch.

BLITZER: We're about to see him emerge from the meeting.

They're walking out right now, these House Democrats, Tara after their meeting with Senator Barack Obama. And once he emerges, we're hoping he'll make a statement and answer some reporter's questions. But what's your assessment, Tara? Why isn't he doing better?

TARA WALL, "WASHINGTON TIMES": Well, I predicted early on, as well, as many did that he would probably be doing a lot better, would be further ahead. The question is why should he be doing better? This is a political race here. I think Americans are making distinctions between the candidates, the one who are decided voters at this point.

Yes, there is a large swath undecided. If you look at some of the other polling numbers, Rasmussen, for example, shows even the support among Barack Obama, the Democrats in relation to the number of supporters that John McCain has with the Republicans, there's a gap there, 86 percent of republicans support McCain while 78 percent of Democrats support Barack Obama.

So he's still having a problem closing that gap. I think part of it might be McCain keeps hitting this message of inexperience, he's unknown. There are still some unknowns out there and so, we still have a lot of time to unfold who he really is.

But this is one of the reasons he may be struggling. Other obvious fact is, listen, it's a political race, there are distinct ideas, two distinct candidates, and voters are supporting who they believe is the best person to do the job at this point.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, in some of these battleground states, much more important than the national polls in Florida or Pennsylvania, or Ohio, or Michigan. Some of these other states it's neck and neck right now.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: That's true, Wolf.

You remember back in the '80s? We were talking about whether Republicans had an electoral lock. Whether Democrats would ever win the presidency again. Here we're talking about why isn't Barack Obama more ahead? He's ahead. He's a one-term senator. Hardly anyone in the entire United States had heard of this guy a year ago. He is -- the one thing I think we know for sure is that most people would rather be in Barack Obama's position now than in John McCain's. He's not ahead by that much, but he is ahead and I think that's the important thing to focus on.

BLITZER: But, Jack, as you take a look at these numbers, how nervous should his supporters be? I think Jeffrey makes an excellent point.

CAFFERTY: Well, the gap in the support of Democrats for Obama versus the support of Republicans for McCain, I wonder if that isn't some of those Hillary Clinton supporters who have yet to come to terms with the fact that she's not going to be the nominee. Here comes Barack Obama out of that meeting. I suppose we'll jump away from this when it's time for him to talk, but I mean I keep getting e-mails from people saying Hillary should be on the ticket, Hillary should have been the nominee. Maybe there's some residual bitterness left over from the primaries. It was a pretty ugly contest.

WALL: And there are a huge number of ...

BLITZER: Hold on, Tara, hold on a second. There you see Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi. I'm guessing he's going to make a statement and we will follow. Let's listen in to hear what happened. They've been spending some time. The Democratic presidential candidate with the House leadership. Here's Nancy Pelosi, the speaker.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) HOUSE SPEAKER: ... Rahm Emanuel from Illinois. This evening, our House Democratic Caucus welcomed the nominee of the Democratic Party for president, Barack Obama. It was a meeting distinguished by enthusiasm for our candidate, unity among the Democrats, and excitement about the ideas that Senator Obama is putting forth.

Suffice to say we had a wonderful discussion about energy, infrastructure, healthcare, America's leadership role in the world. We congratulated Senator Obama for his trip for presenting that face of America to the world, and for his ideas to take us into the future. We pledged our support, our unity, and our commitment to work with him when he becomes the next president of the United States.

We told him we would be there to work for him and in electing him the president of the United States to take our country in a new direction. We know that we can win because you heard the voices of our members saying, yes, we can. Yes, we can.

And now we stand Senator Obama on his way to the campaign trail with the hopes and aspirations of the American people riding on him and the support and enthusiasm of the House Democratic members with him all the way.

Thank you, Senator Obama. Yes, we can.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Thank you.

I've got -- all I want to do is to thank Speaker Pelosi and the House leadership and the House Caucus. We are in a historic time. And I think that every member of Congress here recognizes what an extraordinary challenge but also what an extraordinary opportunity this election presents. The American people are hurting. They're hurting because of gas prices, hurting because of jobs that are being lost, they're hurting because healthcare's unaffordable, and they can't figure out how to finance a college education.

And if the Democrats can make clear our vision, which is not for larger government, but is for a responsive and efficient and honest government that is listening to the voices of the American people. If the American people can feel confident that the institutions here in Washington are working for them and not on behalf of special interests, then I think this can be an incredible election.

Not only to elect a Democratic president, but also to expand our majority in the House and expand our majority in the Senate. And so, I am looking forward to collaborating with everyone here. To win the election, but more importantly to collaborate with everybody here and also some right-minded Republicans. To actually govern and deliver on behalf of the American people.

One of the things I said to the caucus is this is one of those crossroads moments when each of us has to remind ourselves why we got into politics in the first place. Because when you're here for a long time, sometimes you get a little worn down, folks get cynical, there's a sense that the status quo is what it is and it's hard to change.

Because the American people are having such a difficult time, because they're anxious about the future, this is one of those moments where big change can happen. But only if we seize that moment. And I'm excited about our prospects, but we've got a lot of work to do.

I'm looking forward to hitting the campaign trail hard. I'm going to be looking forward to campaigning next to Congress members of the House Democratic Caucus all across the country. And if we do what I know is possible, then I think we can shake up Washington and actually deliver for the American people and that's an exciting prospect.

All right? Thank you, guys. Thank you.

BLITZER: All right. Doesn't look like he's going to be answering any reporters' questions. There he is with the House Democratic leadership Senator Barack Obama.

You know, Tara, there's some suggestion that the Republicans might want to run on this notion that divided government is a good thing. That if the Democrats have an expanded majority in the House and Senate which Senator Obama was just talking about, maybe it would be a good check to have Republicans in control of the executive branch of the government.

Is that an argument you expect Republicans to be making?

WALL: Well, absolutely. It does make a good argument. It kind of makes sense. And I think it appeals to many Americans who want to see what they would consider some balance and so I do think that's legitimate. I do want to pick up on one of the points that Senator Obama made. He is focusing on domestic issues. And he met with Henry Paulson earlier today, as well.

I think it's important, he talked about meeting with Republicans and getting with Republicans. I think there's going to have to be common ground. And the only common ground will be cuts in spending and tax cuts and transparency and government and issues like that.

Those are the things Republicans are going to want to be able to talk about if you want to talk about bipartisan report. He's got to bring some of that to the table, as well.

BLITZER: What did you think, Jack, about his statement right now emerging with House Democrats?

CAFFERTY: I think it was an obligatory photo opportunity he had to go through. And the least time he spends with the worst Congress in history, the better off he'll be. Those people in that room along with their Republican counterparts have a nine percent approval rating in this country and they've earned it.

BLITZER: Give us a final thought, Jeff.

TOOBIN: Well, remember what we used to call those members of Congress back in the spring? We called them superdelegates, they were the people who really all flocked to Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton. As the primaries wore down, and they think they have a winner in Barack Obama. They really want him campaigning all over the country in their districts. They know a lot about politics, maybe they're right, maybe they're wrong. But they think this is the guy who is going to bring them back.

BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much.

Jack, don't go away. Got "The Cafferty File" still to come.

Also, is John McCain suddenly turning into a geek? The Republican candidate says he's still no quote "tech freak," but there's a reason he's forcing himself to use the computer more.

And the film director who brought us all "JFK" and "Nixon" now turns his attention to George W. Bush. Jeanne Moos can't wait.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. Right now let's go back to Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Firefighters have slightly more of a handle on a massive wildfire on the doorstep of Yosemite National Park. Flames several miles from the park's west entrance, which for the moment is still open. Twenty five homes in the Mariposa area have burned, 4,000 more in danger.

A protest by thousands of Kurds in Iraq today. They're upset about a draft law that could impact oil ownership in the region and give them less power. The law proposes a way to share power in oil rich Kirkuk. But Kurdish objections have blocked this passage so far.

The HIV epidemic in America's black population is as bad as it is in Africa. The Black AIDS Institutes says the government is neglecting an AIDS crisis in the black community and sending critical funding overseas instead. The CDC says about half of the more than 1 million Americans living with HIV or AIDS are black and AIDS remains the leading cause of death among young black women.

That's a look at the headlines right now.

BLITZER: Very depressing numbers, indeed.

Carol, thank you. We'll watch that story.

Let's go back to Jack for "The Cafferty File."

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: Why isn't Barack Obama doing better in the polls?

Robert writes: "Because the press jumps on every possible negative thing they can about Obama but ignores many of McCain's numerous gaffes and flip-flops. Don't take my word for it, read the study documented by the 'L.A. Times,' 72 percent of the news statements about Obama are negative compared to 57 percent negative for McCain. When you level the playing field, Obama will pull ahead."

Lyndsey in Indiana writes: "I'd like to see a poll of first-time voters and see how far ahead in the polls he would be then. These polls don't reach young and or first-time voters like me who from what I've seen are heavily in favor of Obama."

Gary in Alaska writes: "The country's not ready for a black president, jack, guess this isn't politically correct to say, but I think it's true. Just wait until the Obama supporters get under that private concealed voting booth."

Will in Maryland writes: "Come on, Jack, this is a country that reelected Bush. Think about it."

Bill writes: "Polls are computing by who answers the phone. Most Americans who will try to vote for Obama are working a second job or they're screening their calls trying to duck the bank that wants to foreclose on their house or collect on the credit cards they've maxed out to pay for the gas they need to get the job whose wages don't pay the bills anymore. Or they've had the phone turned off."

Leo in Florida says: "Because it's the summer and nobody's paying attention."

And Rufus in Twentynine Palms, California writes: "Very simple, in fact. Contrary to General Patton's assertion that Americans like a winner, confirms that Americans actually like underdogs. Barack Obama's a winner, he's young, vivacious, he can shoot the basketball from downtown, a true dream teamer. John McCain on the other hand is a loser, old, stodgy, 99 percent scar tissue. Johnny Mac is the 1962 Mets. Just wait, now that John McCain has a new Band-Aid, expect to see his poll numbers go through the roof."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and read more of this wisdom there. You can spend the rest of the night just knock yourself crazy.

BLITZER: See you tomorrow, Jack. Thank you.

Check in with Lou to see what's coming up at the top of the hour.

Lou, what are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Thanks, Wolf, for reporting tonight on the Bush administration's refusal to defend American workers as they struggle to save the administration's free trade agenda. Administration officials apparently willing to give Indian companies the right to import even more cheap labor. Also, new protests over the refusal of a federal appellate court to throw out the most serious charges against former Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean. Those agents shot and wounded an illegal alien smuggler who was given immunity by the Justice Department to testify against them. Three lawmakers who want the president to commute their sentences join us tonight.

And the Democratically-led Congress still hasn't passed legislation to protect Americans from predatory lending. Lobbyists succeeding in stopping Congress from ending those abuses. And you thought this was a different Congress. Well, join us for all of that and a great deal more at the top of the hour. We'll have that, the day's news, all with an independent perspective.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: We'll see you in a few moments.

Lou, thank you.

On our Hillary Clinton is planning a retirement dinner. She's sending a letter to supporters urging them to donate money to help retire her campaign debt. For their money they can get a chance to join Senator Clinton for dinner this summer along with a friend.

Clinton says she has more time on her hands right now to break bread with supporters now that she's not running for president of the United States.

John McCain says he's forcing himself to use the computer more and more every day. The Republican has acknowledged his Internet skills are lacking. But he tells the "San Francisco Chronicle" he isn't entirely out of the loop when it comes to high tech communications. In addition to surfing the Web almost every day, he says, he says he now reads e-mail as well.

Remember for the latest political news anytime, you can check out CNNPolitics.com. The ticker by the way is the number one political news blog out there on the web. We just received here at the CNN a new I-Report from the California quake. We're going to share it with you when we come back. Also, his presidency stirred strong feelings and now a movie version of his life probably will do the same thing. We're going to get an early look at the new film "W."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Treasury Secretary Paulson worked with Chairman Bernanke, so that the companies and the government regulators -- put the companies and government regulators on a plan to strengthen the enterprises.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There was a 5.4 magnitude earthquake in Southern California. I want to go right to Carol Costello. We're getting I- Reports in from people who felt it, saw it and have some pictures as well.

COSTELLO: They were pretty nervous about it too, Wolf. This is from Tina Sanborn in Yorba Linda, California, born and raised in California. Yorba Linda is close to the epicenter. She'll take us through her home and show us the damage. Here it goes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TINA SANBORN, NEAR EPICENTER: We live in the Placentia-Yorba Linda area. From what I understand, the epicenter was right here. It felt like a large jolt. You could see here that it just knocked the TV out of our armoire. It kind of felt like someone just kind of pushed the house. I'll take you to the kitchen. In the kitchen you can see there is, like, I started sweeping already, but there is glass on the floor, some wine glasses. And wine bottle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: She lost the TV, the wine and the wine bottle. That's bad news but she's OK.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Carol, thanks very much. Dramatic pictures. We're probably going to be getting a lot more of those in.

Let's look at the Hot Shots, pictures often worth a thousand words.

In New York, an iron worker gets a good view of the city as he works as a freedom tower construction site. Also, in Belgrade, demonstrators protest the Serbian government's plan to extradite the former leader Radovan Karadzic to the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal.

In Beijing, volunteers walk in the rain next to the Olympic stadium. The rain has helped clear away some of the heavy pollution shrouding the city. But by no means not all.

In India, a student holds a sign reading peace in a tribute honoring those killed in bombings last weekend.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots. As I said pictures often worth a thousand words.

The "W" in Oliver Stone's new film about President George W. Bush may stand for wild. A preview is available online. While some don't find this presidency funny, others do.

Jeanne Moos has our "Moost Unusual" look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The reviews are coming in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I would love it.

MOOS: Not for a movie, just for a trailer. Leap to the Internet. What a wonderful world.

Maybe not so wonderful for W's image.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He didn't like the sporting goods job. Working in the investment firm wasn't for you either.

MOOS: Oliver Stone's latest film. He's already done "JFK" and "Nixon".

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't worry. I'll use the old Nixon charm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who could resist that?

MOOS: But who can resist this? "W" supposedly being lectured by his dad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you cut out for? Partying, chasing tail, driving drunk?

MOOS: Josh Brolin plays w.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy looked like him too.

MOOS: Does he?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

JOSH BROLIN, ACTOR: I'm incredibly excited about it. It is an unbiased biography of Bush.

MOOS: Unbiased, huh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is Oliver Stone making a George W. Bush movie for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know it's going to be a hatchet job.

MOOS: W. and his dad itching for a fight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want a whipping.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Try it old man.

MOOS: The White House press secretary dissed the film saying, "Oliver Stone is an accurate historian like Gilligan was an accurate navigator."

We navigated our way with a monitor out on the street to give folks a sneak preview of the sneak preview. Come on. And after she viewed the trailer, headphones under the hat ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't want to look at his face. I've seen enough of him the past couple of years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's probably approaching it from a cartoon angle. It is an exaggeration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Didn't factually finish up with flying colors in the Air National Guard, Junior.

MOOS: A British actor plays Karl Rove. A British actress plays Condi Rice. Ellyn Burston plays Barbara Bush and James Cromwell as W's dad has the best lines in the trailer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think you are, a Kennedy? You're a Bush. Act like one.

MOOS: During filming, Josh Brolin and six others involved in the movie including the guy playing Colin Powell got arrested after a barroom confrontation with police. The film is due out less than three weeks before Election Day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is for the Republican haters who don't insist on reality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks sort of like a comedy, so I like comedies a lot.

MOOS: Technically it may not be a comedy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who do you think you are, a Kennedy?

MOOS: But it had folks chuckling like it was one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a Bush. Act like one.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you, Jeanne.

Remember to check out our new SITUATION ROOM screen saver and stay up to date on the latest political news. You can download it at CNN.com/situationroom.

I'm Wolf Blitzer here in Washington.

Up next, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT -- Lou.