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Palin's Global Crash Course; Bill Clinton Speaks Out

Aired September 22, 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: new progress toward finalizing the government's $700 billion bank bailout. But Wall Street traders remain anxious. They are eager to read the fine print.

John McCain and Barack Obama want more federal oversight of the massive rescue plan. This hour, a profile of the man holding the power and the purse strings, the treasury secretary, Henry Paulson.

And Sarah Palin's crash course on the global stage. Will a series of meetings with world leaders here in New York this week help prepare her for the vice presidential debate? The best political team on television is standing by.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're told congressional Democrats and the White House are inching, inching toward agreement on a massive financial rescue plan. There is a heightened sense of urgency right now, after stock prices plunged once again today and oil prices spiked.

But both presidential candidates are warning against rubber- stamping that $700 billion bailout. A lot of talk of oversight and accountability in those negotiations under way on Capitol Hill.

Let's go to the Hill. CNN's Kathleen Koch is standing by. What kind of progress, Kathleen, is being made right now?

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, some progress and some interesting talk. As a matter of fact, the markets slid today, a White House spokesman linked these two issues, saying that the markets are dealing with -- quote -- "serious challenges," and that's why fast congressional action on this bailout plan is critical.

But, at the same time, the administration was ready to make a deal.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KOCH (voice-over): After tough negotiations on the massive $700 billion rescue plan, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee Barney Frank says the administration is giving ground. Frank says it has agreed the government should get shares in the companies it helps rescue. The administration has also signed on to an emergency board to oversee the program, and to devise a systemic approach to prevent foreclosures on the bad mortgages it buys. No deal yet though on requiring those companies to limit their executives' bonuses and pay packages.

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D-MA), FINANCIAL SERVICES CHAIRMAN: The notion that while they're getting help from the government we can't tell them not to have golden parachutes, we can't tell them to pay millions of dollars to some of the very people who made the bad decisions as a retirement gift, is just unacceptable to us.

KOCH: Another sticking point, allowing judges to rewrite mortgages to lower the monthly payments of bankrupt homeowners. Despite the revamping, some fiscal conservatives are in all-out revolt, urging their colleagues to reject the plan.

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: We should not move in haste. Many of us conservatives are concerned that the cure of a massive transfer of money from the Treasury to Wall Street could ultimately be worse than the disease that we're facing in our financial markets.

REP. CLIFF STEARNS (R), FLORIDA: I stress to my colleagues today, this is not a case of partisan politics. Our constituents' 401s are at risk. The nationalization of private assets is inherently un-American.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOCH: Much of this debate will go public tomorrow morning, when Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke and others testify before the Senate Banking Committee here on Capitol Hill. And, Wolf, it should be very interesting.

BLITZER: We will be watching every step of the way.

Kathleen, thank you.

Seven hundred billion dollars obviously is a lot of money, even for the federal government.

By way of comparison, Congress has approved almost that much, $653 billion, for the war in Iraq since the 2003 invasion -- $700 billion is 10 times as much as the Bush administration has requested for the Department of Health and Human Services in fiscal year 2009, and about 100 times bigger than the budget request for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Meanwhile, we want to take a closer look right now at the man who wants Congress to sign off on this massive plan.

Our senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff, is here in New York with us.

You have been looking into the treasury secretary, his bio, and what are you coming up with? ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Hank Paulson had one of the most enviable jobs on Wall Street. He was chairman and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs, probably the most prestigious firm on the street, this before he went to Washington.

And the truth is, it wasn't a job he really didn't want to give up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHERNOFF (voice-over): Henry "Hank" Paulson was reluctant to become treasury secretary when the job was first offered two years ago, because he feared he wouldn't have enough influence.

Only after a lengthy meeting with President Bush was he convinced. Now Paulson appears likened to go down in history as one of the most powerful treasury secretaries ever.

HENRY PAULSON, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: I am convinced that this bold approach will cost American families far less than the alternative.

CHERNOFF: From his college days as an all-Ivy offensive tackle football star at Dartmouth, Paulson, then called "The Hammer," has been driven to win. After earning an MBA from Harvard, he began his career at the Pentagon, then moved to the Nixon White House as a staff assistant to the president.

Hank Paulson then started climbing the ladder at Goldman Sachs, impressing colleagues.

ROY SMITH, NYU STERN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS: I knew him to be an extremely hardworking, very dedicated, determined guy, who, you know, would set his mind on something, and he would stay at it until he achieved it.

CHERNOFF: Paulson climbed all the way to the top of the prestigious firm, winning a power struggle with former CEO Jon Corzine, who is now governor of New Jersey.

SMITH: Nobody can be CEO of Goldman Sachs without being a pretty strong leader, who is not only capable in all respects of himself, but also is able to persuade and lead others who are as capable.

CHERNOFF: Paulson is now the administration's financial crisis leader. "Newsweek" has dubbed him "King Henry." To some Democrats and Republicans in Congress, Paulson seems to be operating too much like an all-powerful CEO.

REP. PETER DEFAZIO (D), OREGON: Secretary Paulson gets the key to the treasury, going to start off by borrowing $700 billion in the name of the American people, maybe more later. And it waves all laws, all laws, no oversight, no one looking over his shoulder.

REP. CLIFF STEARNS (R), FLORIDA: Well, I'm worried about this weekend's comprehensive bailout plan that gives the secretary of treasury unprecedented authority and virtually no oversight.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHERNOFF: But those familiar with Paulson say the country is actually very lucky to have someone with his skills at the helm of Treasury right now, somebody who is intimately familiar with the financial markets, and also has leadership skills to get quick action to address the problem -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Remember when they brought Robert Rubin in from Goldman Sachs to be Bill Clinton's treasury secretary, he, by almost all accounts, did a pretty good job. I guess that's a pretty good track, although right now, Goldman Sachs is moving in a whole different direction. It's not the same Goldman Sachs as it was a few days ago.

CHERNOFF: And, indeed, when he was head of Goldman Sachs, Hank Paulson said, we do absolutely -- we do not want to join up with a commercial bank. We have no need to do that. That would actually reduce our competitiveness, our profitability.

And here you see Goldman Sachs turning to move in that direction.

BLITZER: Moving in that other direction, a dramatic story. Allan, thanks very much.

The former President Bill Clinton took to a very popular women's TV program, "The View," to give his view of the financial crisis. Clinton was asked about McCain and Obama's readiness to tackle these huge economic issues on day one. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To demand that whoever the leader is next gets a good handle on this and changes it, too.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Absolutely. Look, the -- it's always a mistake to bet against America, folks. Anybody who has done it for the last 200 years wound up losing money.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

CLINTON: Don't -- but we basically made too much money out of money. We can go through it this whole thing, if you want. But, essentially...

JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST: It's only an hour show.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

CLINTON: And wild, crazy risk-taking, unaccountability, has led us to this. I do support, by the way, I want to -- what Secretary Paulson and Mr. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve head, are trying to do now, but it's not enough. That is, go back to what Whoopi said. This whole thing started in a mortgage crisis. Most of these people who are being foreclosed on are good, honest people who could make a mortgage payment.

That's why I think Hillary is right. She said, look, it's not enough just to bail out these big banks. You need to set up a deal like we had in the Depression and renegotiate all these people's mortgages...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right.

CLINTON: ... and give them a mortgage they can pay. And we might actually wind up making money.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Let's go to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Just 43 days now until the presidential election, and I suppose this is additional evidence that we have entered the silly season, politically speaking.

A new piece on "Newsweek"'s Web site points out the number of cars each presidential candidate owns. John McCain has 13 cars. Barack Obama has one car. This is according to the vehicle registration records.

Two of McCain's cars are a Honda sedan and a Volkswagen convertible. They're foreign-made, even though he said before he only buys American. This is weighty stuff. The Democratic National Committee pounced all over this car issue.

They organized a conference call with the United Auto Worker union president Ron Gettelfinger. The UAW has endorsed Obama. Gettelfinger said on the call that the revelation about McCain's vehicles shows that he's not being truthful. And he went on to say that owning those two foreign cars undermines American autoworkers.

Come on. The car McCain uses for personal business, by the way, is a 2004 Cadillac CTS, which is made by General Motors right here in America. Barack Obama's only car is a 2008 Ford Hybrid Escape.

And why anyone cares about any of this is beyond me. But I have got to do three of these a day, and this is what was left on the table this morning.

Here's the question: Is the number of cars John McCain owns an important issue to you? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf. BLITZER: I don't think it's where the cars necessarily are made, as 13 cars and what, nine, or eight, seven homes, I guess that's what the Democrats are all abuzz about, that he's out of touch with average American folks.

CAFFERTY: Well, he doesn't know how many homes he owns. I guess somebody counted them for him now. But he has 13 cars and an unknown number of homes. He is certainly out of touch with me.

BLITZER: Jack, stand by. We will get back to you shortly.

Never again. That's what Barack Obama says about this historic financial crisis. And he's questioning John McCain's ideas on how to keep it from happening.

We will get more from the former President Bill Clinton. During his appearance on "The View" earlier today, he said the upcoming presidential debates could be a game-changer. And we will stand by and hear what he meant.

And Governor Sarah Palin hopes to beef up her foreign policy credentials over the span of just a few hours. You're going to find out how -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The proposed $700 billion bailout of Wall Street is issue number one for the presidential candidates right now. Republican John McCain is pushing for greater oversight of the federal rescue plan. He says it's not enough for the treasury secretary to simply say, trust me.

Let's go to CNN's Dana Bash. She's covering the McCain/Palin campaign in Pennsylvania right now. They're just wrapping up a rally in Media, outside of Philadelphia. We're hearing more of this populist tone coming from Senator McCain, aren't we, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

You know, it was a week ago that John McCain said the fundamentals of the economy are strong. Well, today in Pennsylvania, first this morning in Scranton and now here -- you hear John McCain wrapping up his speech here in the suburbs of Philadelphia -- he said that he believes the country is in a financial crisis.

What we're seeing today, and we have over the past several days, really, is a bit of a political course correction in McCain's rhetoric on the issue his advisers know really dominates now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): With twin goals of burnishing his reformer credentials and distancing himself from the unpopular president, John McCain announced great concern about giving Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson control of a $700 billion bailout. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This arrangement makes me deep uncomfortable. And when we're talking about trillion dollars of taxpayer money, trust me just isn't good enough.

BASH: Instead, McCain is proposing a bipartisan oversight board to supervise the rescue, suggesting three people for it: his former Republican rival and former businessman, Mitt Romney; Obama supporter and Wall Street heavyweight, Warren Buffett; and Independent New York City mayor and billionaire businessman, Michael Bloomberg.

MCCAIN: We won't solved a problem poor oversight with a plan that has no oversight.

BASH: And the senator who spent much of his two decades in Congress pushing deregulation continued his election year migration towards more government control.

MCCAIN: We can't have taxpayers footing the bill for bloated golden parachutes.

BASH: Siding with Democrats in demanding a cap in compensation for CEOs the government rescues. No more than $400,000, what the president makes.

MCCAIN: The senior executives of any firm that's bailed out by the Treasury should not be making more money than the highest paid government official.

BASH: And McCain's cry for accountability comes with an increasingly populist pitch. MCCAIN: We need to put our country first and focus what's best for Main Street. It's the excess and greed of Washington and Wall Street that got us in this situation to start with.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, as McCain has been out here on the campaign trail talking about some of the principles that he hopes are a part of this deal in Washington, they have been obviously working behind closed doors and we have been reporting on that of course earlier in the show, Wolf, particularly this idea that there is a tentative agreement on the kind of thing that McCain is pushing for, oversight board to really make sure that there is not just that one person, Henry Paulson, in charge of this bailout.

They're not saying anything. McCain didn't here and his advisers are keeping their powder dry. They're going to wait until they see what really comes out of Congress to decide whether or not it's something that McCain can actually vote for -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana is in -- outside of Philadelphia, in Media, Pennsylvania. It's a battleground state.

Thank you, Dana.

Barack Obama, meanwhile, is questioning Senator McCain's push for economic change and accountability. He told voters in Wisconsin that the Republican is trying to make up for 26 years in Washington in 26 hours.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is covering the Obama campaign. Candy, how is Senator Obama addressing this whole rescue plan?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The overall aim of camp Obama at this point is to tie John McCain as tightly to this floundering economy as he possibly can.

But what he's doing is also has some sort of agreement with McCain that that $700 billion is an awful lot of money to put under the control of one man. So, Obama wants some oversight. But, by and large, what he's been trying to focus on today is what to do about making sure that this never happens again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we want to grow this economy and prevent a crisis like this from ever happening again, then the ways of Washington must change.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: We must reform our lobbyist-driven politics. We must reform the waste and abuse in our government. We must reform the rules of the road that let Wall Street run wild and is sticking Main Street with the bill. We have to change Washington now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: There are a number of proposals he's put out there, most of which we have heard before. But among them are stopping that revolving-door policy, that is, people who work in industry and then come into the government. He would make it so that people who move from industry to the government could not do anything that dealt with their former industry for two years, and that if someone leaves an Obama administration, they would not be able to lobby the Obama administration at all.

He's also calling for more transparent government. And, by that, what Obama means is maybe taking some of those lawmaking meetings that happen on Capitol Hill and putting them on C-SPAN, making them available.

He also says that, before he signs any law, he will put the entire bill up on the Internet for people to read for a five-day period before he signs it.

And, finally, he wants to reform government contracts. And, by that, he says he wants to look at waste and fraud and abuse and cut down on the number of government contracts that there are now by about $40 billion over the course of an Obama administration.

So, again, Wolf, what he's trying to do right now is sort of watch what's going on, on Capitol Hill, try not to interfere too much, while kind of staking out some principles, but go straight for what are we going to do to make sure this never happens again. But, as you said at the beginning, the overarching theme here of the Obama campaign is, this is John McCain's economy.

BLITZER: Candy Crowley working the story for us -- thank you, Candy.

Bill Clinton speaking out. The former president lists the reasons why he thinks Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States. The best political team on television is standing by.

A crash course for Sarah Palin. She will meet with the Afghan president and other key figures at the United Nations here in New York this week. Can she show that she's up to speed when it comes to world affairs?

And the crime writer Dominick Dunne is rushed from the O.J. Simpson trial to a hospital. We're just getting this in. We will tell you why -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: Even as Congress and the White House work to finalize the financial rescue plan, there is a lot of uncertainty about the details and deep concerns about accountability. The best political team on television is standing by. We will look at the bailout's bottom line.

Plus, Bill Clinton on what drives people to vote the way they do -- his views on "The View."

And he looks a bit like Barack Obama, but his name is John McCain. We're serious. Imagine what our own Jeanne Moos will do with that.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now: Washington works on a deal to pull Wall Street out of its spiraling crisis, hundreds of billions of dollars in your taxpayer money on the line. Should the government be in the business of bailouts?

Former President Bill Clinton predicts the winner in November -- who he thinks is heading to the White House and why.

Plus, foreign policy 101 -- 30 hours of immersion over at the United Nations before she goes one-on-one with her Democratic opponent. The Republican vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, gets a crash course in international affairs. All of this coming up, plus the best political team on television.

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

The timing of the United Nations General Assembly meeting here in New York is working to Sarah Palin's advantage. It's giving the Republican vice presidential nominee an opportunity to go face to face with a variety of world leaders a little over a week before she debates Joe Biden.

CNN's Ed Henry is working this story for us.

All right, Ed, give us the background. What is going on this week here in New York?

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's interesting. The McCain camp is trying to cram a lot in here in New York over the next couple of days for Sarah Palin. And they feel that, given her poise, she's going to pass this test with flying colors.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY (voice-over): It's like speed dating with world leaders. In the span of just 30 hours in New York, Sarah Palin will meet with nine major international players during the U.N.'s General Assembly meetings, from the presidents of Iraq and Afghanistan, to Henry Kissinger, and the rock star Bono -- all aimed at beefing up Palin's thin foreign policy chops.

JAMES HOGE, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: And I think they want to show, just as Obama did when he went to Germany and gave a speech in Berlin and so on, that she is comfortable on the international scene, that she can hold her own in conversations with foreign leaders.

HENRY: But Democrats warn that carefully scripted photo- operations -- some of which will include John McCain -- may backfire by bringing more attention to the holes in Palin's resume.

HILLARY ROSEN, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: I think the big risk they run with this strategy of having her meet with these leaders individually is that they end up with three days of stories about how she doesn't have foreign policy experience.

HENRY: But Republicans say Palin is just following in the footsteps of national candidates like Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton -- one time governors who needed to bone up on international policy.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: The first thing you do is burnish their foreign policy credentials. You buy them a Rand McNally. They meet with generals. You get a lot of flags on the stage and you give a big speech on foreign policy to display you have some command of the world.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: But Sarah Palin is not going so far just yet to give a major foreign policy address. Instead, these will just be quick photo- ops. She won't taking any questions from the media. So all in all, this is pretty low risk -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Ed. Thanks very much.

Stocks tumble, along with the dollar, and oil prices are seeing their biggest day spike ever in history -- all resulting from the government's proposed $700 billion Wall Street bailout.

Let's discuss this and more with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; Stephen Hayes, the senior writer for the "Weekly Standard;" and our CNN political contributor, Dana Milbank, who covers politics for the "Washington Post".

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

Gloria, I was surprised by this number in our CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll -- "Should the federal government step in and address this financial crisis?"

Sixty-two percent said yes; 37 percent said no. I would have thought it would have been a much bigger number saying yes, given the enormity of what's going on.

Did you react like that or did you see this number basically the way you thought it would be?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think what you're seeing in that number, Wolf, is what we've been hearing when we interview people on the street about a bailout for Wall Street. There's a lot of reaction against bailing out Wall Street without taking care of the little guys. People are feeling the pinch in their pocketbook. They know these are tough times.

And so what you're seeing is yes, we support a bailout because we understand that if we don't do something, it's going to trickle down to our 401K plans. But we also want some relief ourselves because we've had mortgage problems. And we don't want those rich folks on Wall Street to keep getting millions of dollars before they leave their companies.

BLITZER: I think it also suggests, Steve, -- and correct me if you disagree -- that the administration, Henry Paulson, the president, they really haven't done an adequate job, at least not yet, describing what they see as the dire consequences of failure for the federal government to take steps immediately.

STEPHEN HAYES, SENIOR WRITER AT "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes. I'm not sure if it's that they haven't explained it or that people have grown so accustomed to tuning out the nonsense from Washington that people just aren't paying attention.

I guess I had a little different take than Gloria on what that 37 percent might be. I think she's right about some of it. But I also wonder if it's not some conservatives, some free market voters who think jeez, we've got, you know, the federal government taking over these banks, bailing them out.

You know, we're essentially taking over huge, huge chunks of our economy, is this a good idea?

BLITZER: Dana, how did you see those numbers?

DANA MILBANK, "WASHINGTON POST" STAFF WRITER AND AUTHOR: Well, I think Steve's onto something there. I was up on Capitol Hill today and the opponents of this legislation got together. And it was sort of a merger of the far right and the far left opposed to it for completely different reasons.

Now, it needs to be said that there we were a grand total of 10 House members there, which indicates that this thing is just rolling forward here. Never a whole lot of problem getting agreement when the government is about to spend a huge quantity of money here. And I think the poll numbers would be higher once the Congress makes clear that they are, in fact, going to limit the pay of executives who accept this bailout money, as I expect will be announced in the coming days.

BLITZER: Gloria, this next...

BORGER: But, you know, the...

BLITZER: ...this next number -- I'm going to put it up on the screen -- "Who would do a better job dealing with this economic crisis? Who would display better judgment?" Forty-nine percent say Obama; 44 percent say McCain.

You know, some would suggest that that may be a worrying number for Obama, because usually in an economic crisis, the Democrats seem to do better, especially when they're not in power in the White House.

BORGER: You know, he -- Obama is generally running behind the brand, if you will, the Democratic brand. And I think that that does make some folks in the campaign wonder whether he's getting his message across forcefully enough.

But, you know, I want to get back to Dana's point for a second, because I think there's going to be an interesting political fight going on on Capitol Hill, because you are going to have those conservative Republicans who don't want to bail out Wall Street -- who think it's too much government -- balking at this. And you're going to have the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, saying wait a minute, I'm not going to give you all these Democratic votes for a proposal unless I get a majority of Republicans to come along with me on a Bush administration proposal to bail out Wall Street. She's not going to do it...

BLITZER: Well, let me ask you...

BORGER: ...unless she has a majority of Republicans (INAUDIBLE). BLITZER: Let me ask Steve and Dana very quickly, can a majority of the Republicans in the House go ahead and support what President Bush and the Treasury secretary are recommending?

Steve, first to you.

HAYES: Well, I think they probably will, ultimately, for two reasons. One, I think the Bush administration is really going to get in the business of twisting some arms here. Two, they need to be able to go back to their own constituents and say, look, I've been working on this. Now, the bailout might not be perfect and they can poke holes and say I didn't like this about it, I didn't like this about it, but it was either doing something or doing nothing, and I'm on the side of doing something.

BLITZER: Dana?

MILBANK: Well, the White House has a real problem in terms of their ability to sway people. In fact, Barney Frank, the Democratic chairman of the Banking Committee, was saying please keep President Bush out of this right now...

BORGER: Right.

MILBANK: ...from public view. But certainly they're going to be doing some arm twisting in private. And I think ultimately, when push comes to shove, nobody wants to be on the hook for saying they blocked something that could -- its failure could lead to some sort of a depression.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, that's the fear that's going on right now. All right, guys, stand by.

When we come back, more candid talk from Bill Clinton. The former president explaining why he expects Barack Obama to win and why John McCain is the only Republican who possibly -- possibly could beat him. Bill Clinton speaking out on "The View" today.

And is the number of cars John McCain owns an important issue to you?

That's Jack's question. He's coming back with your e-mail.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I think Obama will win for the following reasons. Two thirds of the American people are having trouble paying their bills. These are difficult times. That makes them more likely to change. The financial crisis and meltdown only makes that more likely, number one.

Number two, America is growing more diverse -- racially, religiously, culturally. Demographically, the country is moving toward Democratic voters in general.

Number three, registration is up for the Democrats and flat for the Republicans in 20 of the most important states.

I think that's -- you know, now, I think both of them have done -- I know you all fight all of the ad wars and all that. But essentially the debates could change the outcome. But McCain -- Barbara was telling me at the break, she reminded me that a long time ago I told her...

BARBARA WALTERS, CO-HOST: Oh, dear. That break (INAUDIBLE) yes, you did.

CLINTON: I told her that McCain would be the Republican nominee.

WALTERS: Yes.

CLINTON: And she said why? And I said because he's the only one that can win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The former president of the United States speaking out on "The View" earlier today.

Dana Milbank, what do you think of the president's assessment?

MILBANK: Well, you know, you can fault Bill Clinton for his temper and his personal peccadilloes, but he is spot on as a political analyst. I think he has outlined everything there. McCain certainly outperforming all the other Republicans, arguably better than anybody else could be doing. He laid out, as he needs to, a case about why Obama can and should win, but left a little bit of the wiggle room there, delicately getting at the race question. That is the huge unknown for all of us as we try to assess what's going to happen on election day.

Are people telling pollsters the truth?

BLITZER: Steve, what did you think of his assessment?

HAYES: Well, you know what's interesting, Wolf, is -- and I didn't see the entire "View" episode, so he may have issued a, you know, sort of a heartfelt endorsement and warm embrace of Barack Obama elsewhere in the program. But we saw this when he met with Barack Obama last week. We've seen it again today with this appearance on "The View."

He seems much more comfortable making analytical points than he does, you know, making an argument in favor of Barack Obama.

And I called a McCain adviser today and said hey, what do you think when you see Bill Clinton out there day after day making news?

And they said this is helpful to us. We love him. Put him out there more. So they like it.

BLITZER: It's interesting, also, Gloria, that John McCain will be speaking at President Clinton's global initiative here this week -- here in New York this week.

BORGER: Yes. I think we know that Hillary Clinton has a good relationship with John McCain, as does Bill Clinton. But, you know, I agree with Steve. It wasn't -- it wasn't really an emotional endorsement. It was just a purely analytical endorsement. And he can't seem to cross that line with Barack Obama and say, you know, this guy is a brilliant man. He's right for the country at this time. In that answer to that question, I think it's safer turf for him just to stick with the analysis.

BLITZER: In the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll that we just released, among registered voters right now, in this poll, 51 percent for Obama, 46 percent for McCain. It was 48/48 earlier in September. But when we asked this question: "Who has better experience to be president?" in the new poll, 57 percent said McCain; 36 percent said Obama. So what does that say to you, if anything, Dana?

MILBANK: Well, ultimately, the more important number, of course, is how people are actually going to vote. And I think you're seeing a bit of the equilibrium coming back here after the Palin effect has worn off, after McCain has been knocked off stride by the economic troubles here. And we're sort of back to this natural state in the race, where all these circumstances on the ground -- the miserable economy, the war -- is just sort of naturally going to benefit the Democrats. And they seem to be back here.

But the second number does point out that Obama has, of course, not been able to put it away, as many of the Democrats in these generic sort of House races have been.

BLITZER: You know, as important as that number is, though, that national number, it's, as we keep saying, the numbers in the battleground states, Steve, are so much more important. And if you take a look at almost all of those remaining battleground states, where the battle is going to be taking place, it's neck in neck -- virtually a statistical tie.

HAYES: Yes, it's truly remarkable that here we are -- you know, tomorrow will be six weeks until election day. And you have, as you say, you know, really, most of the battleground states that we thought we were going to be battleground states two years ago, some have swung out of play, some have come back into play. But they are now all still battleground states and they are all effectively tied, you know, with a certain circumstances changing those things.

But it's really an amazing race with six weeks to go.

BORGER: You know, and, Wolf, I wouldn't be surprised if we see it crystallize a little bit after the presidential debate we have coming up on Friday night, because there's just a lot of junk floating around out there now about the economy. And people are sort of -- have to focus on these two men.

And I think in these head to heads, when they will do that in the debate on Friday night, which is on foreign policy, then coming up on the economy, I think that's when we're going to see people -- those undecided voters really, really starting to figure out who to vote for.

BLITZER: Three presidential debates, one vice presidential debate. And by almost all accounts, they will be very decisive in helping those remaining nine or 10 percent undecideds decide who to vote for and that will be key. All right, guys, thanks very much.

Let's check in with Lou to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour -- Lou, what are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you.

Tonight, a showdown in Washington over the biggest bailout in history. The Bush administration and members of Congress are now locked in a power struggle, while middle class families are fighting to survive. Tonight, American taxpayer dollars could finance a multi- hundred billion dollar bailout for foreign banks, as well.

And tonight, the liberal media at it again with an offensive personal attack against Governor Sarah Palin's family. And among my guests tonight, Bill Gross, who manages the world's largest bond fund; David Cay Johnston, author of "Free Lunch;" Robert Kuttner, author of "The Squandering of America." We'll be analyzing what is happening to this economy and this nation.

We'll have complete coverage of what these presidential candidates have to say. Three of the brightest political minds join me here.

Please be with us at 7:00 Eastern, right here on CNN, at the top of the hour, for news with an Independent perspective and some opinion, too -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: A car, that is, plows a group of Israeli soldiers. There are new details on a developing story in Jerusalem. Stand by.

Plus, your e-mail on this hour's question -- is the number of cars John McCain owns an important issue to you?

Jack Cafferty and your e-mail when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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: Wolf, four babies dead and tens of thousands sickened. Governments around the world are taking no chances with Chinese milk. At least 10 countries, from Japan to as far as Tanzania, have now banned Chinese powdered milk and other dairy products out of concern they could contain the dangerous chemical, melamine.

The scene tonight in Jerusalem, Israeli officials say at least 15 people we were injured when a man drove this car into a group of Israeli soldiers at a busy intersection. The driver was shot and killed at the scene, an area between the Jewish and Arab sections of Jerusalem. Authorities say he was a Palestinian.

The mayor of Galveston is asking the government for more than $2 billion to fix her city. The mayor is heading to Washington to meet with lawmakers about the money, which she says is needed to repair buildings, Galveston's hospital and ports damaged by Hurricane Ike.

That's a look at the headlines right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Carol. Thanks very much.

Let's check back with Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour -- is the number of cars John McCain owns an important issue to you?

He's got 13 cars. Obama has one.

Josh writes: "Absolutely. In some ways, insight like this is more important of a window into what these candidates really believe in. It's easy to talk American and get a rally of Harley owners to rev their engines for you, but apparently it's not so easy to actually own an American car. Plus, nothing says that one of us like owning 13 cars. I don't have that many dress shirts."

Tom writes: "No, I really don't care how many cars he has or whether they're American or foreign made. I do care if this guy and his mayor of 9,000 running mate can run the country and keep us safe from all kinds of exterior threats. But he can't and God forbid something were to happen to him, she certainly can't. God save us from the savings and loan guy -- remember that -- and the "Bridge To Nowhere" for me but could I just have the money girl? Yuck."

Christopher writes: "Absolutely. I think if you can own seven homes, 13 cars and be married to a wife that's a beer heiress, you don't know what anyone in the middle class is going through."

John writes: "Cars, schmars. We're having this fierce debate over which one of the village idiots will save us from the dragon. Meanwhile, the money changers are burning down the house."

Fred writes from New York: "You're absolutely right. Why should anyone care? McCain has every right to go down the highway with his 13 turn signals blinking just like any other senior citizen."

And Lamont says: "The nerve. An Ivy League educated black man with one house and one car. How elitist can you get?"

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile.

Some pretty funny stuff came in tonight. You might enjoy reading through it.

BLITZER: Yes. It's always a good read.

CAFFERTY: Yes. BLITZER: Thanks, Jack. See you tomorrow.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: So, what's in a name?

Jeanne Moos asked an African-American rock drummer named John McCain. It's Moost Unusual. You're going to want to see this.

And the magician, David Blaine, planes -- plans, that is -- to hang upside down for 60 hours. That's just '08 of today's Hot Shots.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press -- pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.

In Afghanistan, a woman give vaccinations to children during a polio campaign.

In Bulgaria, soldiers attend a ceremony celebrating 100 years of independence from the Ottoman Empire.

In Hungary, participants in a bike ride lift rickshaws and bicycles into the air prior to cycling.

And in New York, the magician David Blaine tests his body once again, as he hangs upside down above Central Park. He plans to hang there for 60 hours.

Some of this hour's "Hot Shots" -- pictures worth a thousand words.

He resembles one presidential candidate and shares the name of the other. Of course, our Jeanne Moos finds all of this Moost Unusual.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Meet John McCain. NO, not that one.

(on camera): Jeanne Moos.

JOHNATHAN B. MCCAIN, VOTING FOR BARACK OBAMA: Johnathan McCain.

How are you?

MOOS: What did you say your name is?

JOHNATHAN B. MCCAIN: Because my name is John McCain.

MOOS: You're John McCain?

JOHNATHAN B. MCCAIN: Yes. MOOS: And who are you voting for?

JOHNATHAN B. MCCAIN: Barack Obama.

MOOS (voice-over): John McCain even looks a teeny bit like Barack Obama. McCain is a New York City musician best known for having been the drummer in a band called The Toasters.

MOOS: Now what's being drummed into our heads is the name McCain.

JOHNATHAN B. MCCAIN: That John McCain.

MOOS: Hey, could be worse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CINDY MICHAELS, WVII ANCHOR: I'm not Sarah Palin. They know I'm not Sarah Palin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: But that doesn't stop a few viewers from leaving mean voice mails from anchorwoman Cindy Michaels at the Fox station in Bangor, Maine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We hope you don't keep that hairdo. You don't want to be tarred with that same brush.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Yes, well, the news anchor was brushing her hair in an updo long before Sarah Palin got picked.

And when Michaels didn't wear her glasses on air...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is this Kmart version of Sarah Palin?

What did you do, lose your little cheapo glasses?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Michaels, by the way, considers it a compliment that folks think she looks pretty like Palin.

But for Palin's most famous impersonator, Tina Fey...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TINA FEY, COMEDIAN/ACTRESS: ...that anyone can be president. Anyone.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MOOS: The comparisons are wearing thin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FEY: I want to be done playing this lady November 5th. So if anyone can help me be done playing this lady November 5th, that would be good for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: We thought this would be good for the guy named John McCain.

(on camera): I brought something for you.

JOHNATHAN B. MCCAIN: All right.

I'm not putting that on.

MOOS: Yes you are.

JOHNATHAN B. MCCAIN: No, I'm not putting this on.

MOOS: Yes, you are.

JOHNATHAN B. MCCAIN: I'm not putting this on.

MOOS: Come on.

(voice-over): OK. I will.

JOHNATHAN B. MCCAIN: That doesn't do anything for you.

MOOS: Which brings us to the Halloween presidential index, dreamed up by Spirit, maker of these masks.

(on camera): Every year they do a who is selling more masks contest and the winner always wins the election.

(voice-over): Obama masks lead by more than two to one -- a bad sign for that McCain. But not this one.

JOHNATHAN B. MCCAIN: I'm voting for Barack Obama. My name is John McCain and I approved this message.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Leave it to Jeanne Moos.

She finds these stories everyday for us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Thanks, Jeanne. We want you to check out our political pod cast to get the best team to go. This is what you need to do. You can subscribe at CNN.com/situationroom and you can check out our pod cast every day.

Remember, Friday night is debate night here in America. Obama and McCain, they face-off on the issues in their first presidential debate.

Who will come out on top?

Join the best political team on television for your front row seat Friday night here on CNN.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou?