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THE SITUATION ROOM

Closing Arguments in Libby Trial, Obama Looks to Hollywood for Campaign Bankroll, Deval Patrick Interview

Aired February 20, 2007 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, epic presidential battles for the left and the right -- is Barack Obama stealing Hollywood dollars from Hillary Clinton? And can Rudy Giuliani compete with John McCain for conservative voters?
There are new developments this hour in the race for the White House.

Also, uncovering America -- are voters in this country becoming colorblind?

I'll ask the new governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick.

And an embattled airline makes new promises to angry stranded passengers.

Will a Customer Bill of Rights help JetBlue bounce back? And will Congress force other airlines to follow suit?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

All that coming up.

But let's begin this hour with a legal battle that has some of Washington's most powerful and media figures on edge.

Closing arguments continuing at this moment in the trial of the former vice presidential aide, Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Soon it will be up to the jury to decide if he lied and obstructed justice in the CIA leak investigation.

Let's go to our Brian Todd.

He's over at the courthouse with the latest.

A dramatic finish in this trial today -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf, very dramatic.

And just moments ago, the lead defense attorney for "Scooter" Libby, Ted Wells, concluded his arguments by asking the jury to put aside whatever feelings they have about the Iraq War and give his client a fair shake. Just a few minutes before that, Wells also rebutted a key argument by the prosecution today, saying: "There are no smoking guns in this case that show that "Scooter" Libby intentionally lied to investigators."

Now, that was key because earlier the prosecutor -- one of the prosecutors -- Peter Ziedenberg told jurors that Libby is here because of his own choices and his own decisions and that "he decided to lie to the FBI and the grand jury."

Now, the prosecution's contention is, of course, that Libby lied to investigators about conversations with reporters and others about the covert CIA identity of the wife of administration critic Joe Wilson.

The prosecution today tried to discredit Libby's claim of a bad memory. They also tried to essentially portray Mr. Libby as part of this White House mechanism to try to discredit Joe Wilson.

The defense, on its part, came up with some very dramatic arguments. Mr. Wells really providing the dramatic moments of the day, discrediting the memory and the credibility of some of the key prosecution witnesses, most notably Tim Russert of NBC News. And the defense coming back to that, arguing that Libby essentially was scapegoated by the Bush White House to protect Karl Rove. The prosecution saying there was no evidence of that. A lot of back and forth in the courtroom today.

The prosecution has the last word. They're going down. Patrick Fitzgerald, the lead prosecutor, is ending these closing arguments. The jury will have this case tomorrow -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And you say that the prosecutor clearly trying to make the case that Lewis "Scooter" Libby absolutely lied. But the defense saying so much of this case depends on the memory of Tim Russert of NBC News, they really hammered and hammered away Tim Russert today, trying to raise all sorts of questions about his credibility.

But what motive did they say he had to lie, in effect, if, in fact, that's what happened?

TODD: Well, it was really -- and you're right, they really hammered at him. Ted Wells spent about an hour trying to erode Tim Russert's credibility. It does lead you to believe that they're probably concerned more than they let on about Russert's testimony.

But as far as -- they don't necessarily say that Russert lied. They are really trying to impugn his memory about a conversation that he had with Libby, a key conversation. Libby claiming in that conversation that Russert told him about the CIA operative. Russert saying that never happened.

They are really trying to erode Tim Russert's credibility and specifically his memory. But they did also try to portray Russert as having a bias against Libby and the vice president.

You know, again, the prosecution claiming that none of this is true.

So, it's going to be a lot hinging on the credibility of Tim Russert in this case -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Twelve men and women here in the District of Columbia will make their decision starting tomorrow. The his is a trial will be watched very closely.

Thanks, Brian, for that.

And only hours from now, Hollywood takes a break from its pre- Oscar hoopla to help Senator Barack Obama take on the role of a lifetime. The big guns behind DreamWorks Studios are holding a fundraiser for Obama's presidential campaign.

The new political star is hoping to give Senator Hillary Clinton a run for her money from the entertainment industry.

Let's turn to our Bill Schneider.

He's out in California.

He's watching this story very closely.

They call it the Hollywood primary, Bill -- tell our viewers what's going on.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, here in Hollywood, you need a high concept to make a movie.

How's this?

A political star is born.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Here in Hollywood, you need a high concept before you make a movie.

How's this?

A political star is born.

MARTIN KAPLAN, POLITICAL/ENTERTAINMENT ANALYST: And Obama has something that Hollywood is uniquely qualified to recognize, and that's star power.

SCHNEIDER: Barack Obama is supposed to be the outsider, a scrappy kid who appeals to young people and political newcomers. But he's drawing the ultimate A list Hollywood crowd to his fundraiser here, which is sponsored by three of the most powerful figures in the movie industry.

LAWRENCE BENDER, HOLLYWOOD PRODUCER: The amount of money they're raising is -- is equivalent to what a president comes into town and raises, not a someone who's just announced. SCHNEIDER: Think of it as Oscar week for politicos. There's a huge amount of money for politics here. Congress is in recess. Washington is frozen over. The primary schedule is earlier than ever and an important deadline looms.

KAPLAN: The more dough you can show in the first quarterly filing on April 15th, the more credible a candidate you are. And the more you can attract the big glitzy names, who used to go with, say, Hillary Clinton, the more formidable a contender you seem to be.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

SCHNEIDER: So, is Hollywood saying it's over, Hillary, you're box office poison?

Not at all. They're spreading the money around. They're giving to lots of candidates. After all, if you mix in a new face with some old stars you could end up with a better picture -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And there are some Hollywood types who are actually giving money to Republican candidates as well, isn't that right?

SCHNEIDER: There is correct. Rudy Giuliani was here and he was raising money from some executives and from some movie stars. So they're not exclusively giving to Democrats. There are a lot of candidates this year and there's a lot of money here.

BLITZER: And there is a Republican governor in California, I seem to recall, as well, who used to be in the entertainment industry himself.

SCHNEIDER: Exactly.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Bill Schneider on the scene for us in Hollywood.

Senator John McCain is in South Carolina this hour. Earlier today, he made the rounds in Georgia with a brand new supporter. There would be former U.S. Senator Phil Gramm.

Our Brianna Keilar is following McCain's moves on the trail.

She's joining us now live with more -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Wolf.

Both Georgia and South Carolina are Southern states where conservative voters have a big say in the Republican primaries. But John McCain defends his outreach and says he's not pandering to win the GOP nomination.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I do not support "Roe v. Wade." It should be overturned. KEILAR (voice-over): John McCain on the campaign trail in South Carolina, where Christian conservatives are a major force and meeting with religious broadcasters at their convention in Florida.

MCCAIN: I respect the work of the religious broadcasters and I was glad to have the opportunity to meet with them.

KEILAR: The senator from Arizona seems to be saying the right things to make some social conservatives happy. Today, McCain won the endorsement of a past star on the right, former Texas Senator Bill Gramm. This follows former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating's endorsement over the weekend.

But many on the right are suspicious of McCain, who had no kind words for the Reverends Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson during his 2000 presidential run. He's trying to extend the olive branch this time around. But when it comes to courting conservatives, McCain's work is far from over.

PATRICK MAHONEY, CHRISTIAN DEFENSE COALITION: I think Senator McCain has a long way to go in rebuilding a bridge to the faith community.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Senator McCain is walking a tightrope as he tries to appeal to social conservatives who vote in the Republican primaries. At the same time, he's trying to maintain his image as an independent thinker not beholden to any political party. But perhaps what might be his biggest obstacle in this presidential race is Senator McCain's unabashed support for the Iraq War.

KEILAR: That's the issue that could damage his White House run. McCain's a strong supporter of the president's recent build-up of troops, necessary, he says, because the war was so poorly managed.

MCCAIN: I think that Donald Rumsfeld will go down in history as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history and I...

(END VIDEO TAPE)

KEILAR: Asked this morning, if his criticism extended to President Bush for keeping Rumsfeld around until late last year, McCain said there's plenty of blame to go around. And McCain said he was being critical of everyone who is responsible for the mistakes made in Iraq, including himself -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brianna, thanks very much.

Brianna standing by.

She's going to be joining us shortly.

McCain's tough talk on Donald Rumsfeld, by the way, came up today over at the White House press briefing.

Here's what the press secretary, Tony Snow, had to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We think Donald Rumsfeld was an enormously consequential and effective secretary of defense and somebody who led to the transformation of the Department of Defense. Senator McCain holds a different point of view. The thing that's important to us right now is that Senator McCain is a strong supporter of the president's position on the way forward in Iraq and somebody who has been an eloquent voice and a reliable leader on the issue, and we appreciate it.

QUESTION: Do you chalk this up to election politics?

SNOW: I'm not going to -- I left the chalk at home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On our Political Radar today, the first major ad buy of the 2008 presidential race. Republican Mitt Romney rolls out the 60- second spot tomorrow. The former governor uses the ad to introduce himself and his core issues to voters.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM ROMNEY PRESIDENTIAL CAPITAL AD)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe the American people are over taxed and the government is over fed. I believe we're spending too much money and that's got to stop. I believe our laws ought to be written by the people and not by unelected judges. Look, these are critical times we face. We face attack from Jihadists. We face tougher competition than we've ever known before coming from Asia. We're spending too much money here. We're using too much oil here. Our schools are failing too many of our kids.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The Romney ad is scheduled to air in select markets in five key battlegrounds. That would be Florida, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

In this election cycle, the ad wars getting underway about four months earlier than it did back in 2004.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EVAN TRACEY, CAMPAIGN MEDIA ANALYSIS GROUP: This is the pace of this campaign. Everything seems to be accelerated. The advantage Romney gains here is that he's able to get his message out first. He can introduce himself to voters right now. He's got a biographical challenge he has to overcome.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Another presidential candidate, Duncan Hunter, actually beat Romney to the punch. The California Republican's political action committee began running ads in Iowa and San Diego back in December.

The first spot paid for by Hunter's presidential campaign went up in San Diego last week.

Here's a clip of that one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM HUNTER PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN AD)

DUNCAN HUNTER, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now I'm running for the presidency and lots of folks have asked how they can help.

Please join our campaign and help us spread this message of a strong national defense, border control and protecting American jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: At this rate, CNN ad consultant Evan Tracey says TV advertising likely will top -- get this -- $800 million when all is said and done in this 2008 presidential race, about $60 million more than back in 2004.

Tracey also says ad spending might even approach a billion dollars in this presidential cycle.

Remember, for the latest political news at any time, check out our Political Ticker at cnn.com/ticker.

With Congress on a break this week, the presidential hopefuls are making the most of their free time to try to connect with voters out on the campaign trail.

Hillary Clinton is in Florida today. The Sunshine State is thinking of moving up its primary to the first Tuesday in February. Yesterday, Senator Clinton was campaigning in South Carolina, another crucial early primary state.

Two members of the House, Democrat Dennis Kucinich and Republican Duncan Hunter, are stumping separately today in New Hampshire. The Granite State, of course, holds the first in the nation primary.

Democratic Senator Chris Dodd is in Iowa. The caucus there kicks off the presidential contest calendar next January.

Another Democrat, Senator Joe Biden, is in Nevada today, a state which is becoming a player in presidential politics. The Silver State will hold its Democratic caucus right after Iowa and just before New Hampshire.

Also out West today, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson at a fundraiser in California and Republican Senator Barbara Boxer started out the day out on the campaign trail in Mississippi, before heading out West to Arizona.

Jack Cafferty is off today.

Coming up, blues for JetBlue -- after stranding its passengers for hours on end and canceling flights for days, will Congress get involved right now and demand a Passenger Bill of Rights?

Also, will politics lead the way toward a colorblind society?

I'll speak about that with the only African-American governor in the country, Deval Patrick of Massachusetts. He's standing by live.

And later, is Rudy Giuliani making a sincere move to the right on crucial social issues?

I'll ask Paul Begala and Michael Steele in today's Strategy Session.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: JetBlue Airways is making a promise to its passengers that the meltdown the airline experienced over the past week or so won't happen again. The airline says it's flying a full schedule today after storm-related cancellations that cost the company about $30 million.

But JetBlue may have lost customers. The airline is hoping to win them back by introducing what they're calling a Customer Bill of Rights. It promises vouchers to passengers who suffer through delays.

On CNN'S "AMERICAN MORNING," JetBlue's CEO described how the program will work.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN MORNING")

DAVID NEELEMAN, CEO, JETBLUE: If you're on an airplane and, you know, you arrive in a city and you can't get off that airplane within 30 minutes, you get compensation, starting at 30 minutes. And if you get to two hours, you get the full credit on your trip back.

If you're departing, there's obviously a little bit of a different situation. And if we're in line with a bunch of airplanes, you start getting compensation at, you know, three hours and then, you know, four hours, you get a free ticket and full credit and then we have to take you off that airplane within five hours.

So, you know, there are things that are built in because, you know, a lot -- what's interesting about departing flights is that people want to go. They want to get there. They don't want to be canceled. They don't want to be taken off the flight. When you arrive, it's a completely different situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, some lawmakers have been watching all of this very closely. They're vowing to take action of their own.

Let's turn to our Congressional correspondent, Andrea Koppel -- Andrea. ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, among those lawmakers, Democrat Barbara Boxer of California. A spokeswoman for Senator Boxer told CNN that the California lawmaker is "pleased JetBlue was so apologetic and trying to do better for their customers," but that Boxer still believes that five hours is just too long to wait to departure.

Under the terms of Senator Boxer's Passenger Bill of Rights, introduced in the Senate over the weekend, if passengers are stuck on planes which, for one reason or another, are unable to take off, then each air carrier would be required to provide passengers with adequate food and potable water, as well as with adequate restroom facilities.

Now, if those planes are still unable to take off more than three hours after passengers first boarded, then the air carrier will also be required to provide passengers the option to departure safely. This option must repeated at least once every three hours thereafter.

And the is a similar bill sponsored by California Congressman Mike Thompson. And that will likely be introduced in the House next week. As you know, Wolf, previous efforts to pass a Passenger Bill of Rights back in 1999 after a Northwest Airlines flight was stuck on the runway for more than eight hours were unable to take off in Congress.

The airline industry has previously argued against imposing a Passenger Bill of Rights, saying to do so could actually end up inconveniencing more customers than it helped -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Andrea, thanks very much.

That industry has got strong lobbying capabilities here in Washington.

A JetBlue reality check, by the way. For all of the airline's recent woes, a government review of 20 airlines shows JetBlue ranked number one at the end of 2006 for fewest flights canceled.

In that same report, JetBlue ranked second in the fewest number of mishandled baggage and it ranked number three for the fewest passenger complaints.

But on delays, JetBlue had a problem even before what they call the St. Valentine's Day meltdown. Look at this. The Air Travel Consumer Report says JetBlue ranks near the bottom of the pack, 16th out of 20, for on-time arrivals.

Even before the JetBlue controversy, the push for a Passenger Bill of Rights has been brewing online for months.

Our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner, has been looking into this situation.

She's joining us now live -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, that's right. They call themselves online The Coalition for an Airline Passengers Bill of Rights. And the JetBlue incident helped bolster their claims.

You can see here where they posted "Happened Again At JFK."

They had an online petition which, before the JetBlue incident, only had about 2,500 signatures. But after the incident, within the course of the past week, it's now at 12,000. One of the founders of the group is in Washington today to lobby Congress for their version of the Passengers Bill of Rights. And she said that without legislation, JetBlue is not guaranteed to keep its promises -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jacki, thank you.

Still ahead, he's the only African-American governor now in office.

So what advice does Deval Patrick have for other black candidates, such as presidential hopeful Barack Obama?

I'll be speaking with Governor Patrick. That's coming up.

Also, Rudy Giuliani parses his words with an eye toward wooing conservative Republicans.

Will that help him or possibly hurt him?

Michael Steele and Paul Begala -- they'll square off right here in our Strategy Session.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our Brianna Keilar is monitoring the wires. She's keeping an eye on all the video feeds coming in from around the world. Check them out. We're getting tapes coming in from all over the place.

Brianna is joining us once again with a closer look at some other important stories making news -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Hi there, Wolf.

The boss-in-chief praises one of his top employees. President Bush says his new spy chief understands the threats the nation faces and is respected by the intelligence community. Those were his words at the ceremonial swearing in of Mike McConnell as the next director of National Intelligence. McConnell was officially sworn in last week, following his Senate confirmation.

And a federal appeals court has ruled that civilian courts do not have the authority to decide if the U.S. military is illegally holding terror detainees at Guantanamo Bay. That means those detainees do not have the option of challenging their detention in U.S. courts. This decision widely seen as a victory for President Bush's anti-terrorism policies.

And a Supreme Court ruling, this one potentially saving a major tobacco company millions of dollars. Today, the high court tossed out a nearly $80 million verdict against Philip Morris. The ruling says punitive damages should attempt to match actual damages, and the high court sent the case back to Oregon's Supreme Court for reconsideration. The $79.5 million in punitive damages had been awarded to a smoker's widow.

And fuzzy numbers -- the Justice Department and the FBI have relied on faulty terror statistics in describing how the government has won battles in the war on terror. That's what the Justice Department's inspector-general says in a new report. It says the collection and reporting of the stats are decentralized and haphazard. But the report says the terror stats do not appear to have been intentionally exaggerated -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, thank you for that.

we're going to have more on that story coming up in the next hour, as well.

Still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM, could Senator Barack Obama's presidential bid prove voters are, in fact, colorblind?

A provocative question in our special series of reports, Uncovering America. That's coming up.

Plus, Mitt Romney is getting an early start in the presidential ad war.

But will it cost him in the end?

Our Strategy Session with Paul Begala and Michael Steele. That's coming up, as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now, is politics in the United States truly colorblind?

I'll be speaking to the only governor, the only African-American governor in the United States right now, Deval Patrick of Massachusetts. That's coming up this hour. And we'll talk about race and politics.

Also, while Baghdad is a cauldron of chaos, one Iraqi says Baquba is a terror den. And while Iraq's capital is seeing a massive security plan, some say the government has no solution for Baquba.

Our Arwa Damon is risking her life to take a look at that. Right now, her reporting coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And a controversy regarding care for American troops, some of whom were hurt in Iraq and Afghanistan. It concerns truly appalling conditions right here in the nation's capital at some outpatient facilities at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. This is a shocking story.

Our Jamie McIntyre spoke exclusively with the Army secretary, who says the terrible conditions are due to a leadership failure.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: uncovering America. It's our series of reports on issues often ignored.

Today, we want to talk about the potential for campaigns and candidates, such as that of Senator Barack Obama, and help promote a colorblind society here in the United States.

Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She is joining us from New York with more -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, two prominent black politicians seem to transcend the racial divide in America. Is it just the start of big changes?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): Can politics lead the way in erasing the racial divide in America? Some say yes.

DOUGLAS WILDER (D), FORMER VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: This is the new level where the fight is to be fought for the advancement of mankind. And, in this process, people of color can come to the front and be measured, as any other Americans.

SNOW: Douglas Wilder became the nation's first elected black governor in 1989. It took almost two decades before a second black governor was elected in Massachusetts. Deval Patrick was sworn in this January.

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I am descended from people once forbidden their basic and fundamental freedoms, a people desperate for a reason to hope, and willing to fight for it.

SNOW: Patrick won in a predominantly white state. His campaign style is compared to that of his friend, Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We borrow ideas from each other. I think he's trying to do a similar thing in Massachusetts that I want to bring to the whole country.

SNOW: Can Obama win over America and its white voters the way Patrick did in Massachusetts?

RONALD WALTERS, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: They're post civil rights generation. That civil rights generation was somewhat threatening to whites. SNOW: Compare a Gallup poll in 1958, when 54 percent of people questioned said they would not vote for a black president, to this year, when just 5 percent hold that view.

Some political observers are skeptical of those polls, and think the popularity of Obama and Patrick taps into something specific.

WALTERS: I think it has to do with the moment, and the fact that they seem to have captured the spirit of the American people for change.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now, when it comes to politics being colorblind, former Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder, now the mayor of Richmond, says Americans should be blinded to color as a factor in voting, but should cherish their cultural identity -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, good advice from Doug Wilder, the former governor of Virginia.

Thank you very much for that, Mary.

My next guest, right now, is the only African-American governor currently serving in the United States, and only -- get this -- the second African-American governor since Reconstruction. He previously -- previously served in the Clinton administration as an assistant attorney general for civil rights.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is joining us now from Boston.

Governor, first of all, congratulations.

PATRICK: Thank you, Wolf.

(CROSSTALK)

PATRICK: It's great to be with you.

BLITZER: It's -- it's pretty shocking to think that there's -- you're the only second African-American governor in our country since Reconstruction. I know you have thought about that.

Why is it?

PATRICK: Well, I think there are probably lots of reasons. Some of them have nothing to do with race. I mean, the whole idea of throwing your lot in and -- to a political race, especially a statewide one, that are frequently bitter -- ours was unusually nasty, I think -- and exposing yourself and your family to all that much of a nonsense is something, I think, gives a lot of people pause.

But I think, here in Massachusetts, people saw my race. And I'm proud that they saw my race. But I'm also proud that they saw more to me than -- than the fact that I'm a black man. They saw a range of experience, including government service, and -- and business leadership, and nonprofits, and so forth. And they also saw a vision they shared that was a common vision for how to move our state forward.

BLITZER: When you were running for governor, did -- was there any incident, a racial incident, that occurred that was surprising to you? Or -- or was it really a colorblind race in Massachusetts?

PATRICK: Well, it's not right to call it a colorblind race, Wolf, for the reasons I said a minute ago. People saw who and what I was. It's just, they saw beyond that.

I think there were occasions where, you know, I would meet someone and they would say: I expected something different from you.

I can remember one person saying that they expected Al Sharpton and they found Colin Powell. And I -- you know, I guess I was intend -- that was intended as a compliment. I know it was intended as a compliment.

But the point is that there are all kinds of ways in which people were processing some of their own predilections and -- and preconceptions about what an African-American political candidate ought to be and ought to care about.

BLITZER: Let me get back to the first question. There are a lot of African-American mayors of major urban centers across the United States. And that's been pretty obvious the past 30, 40 years.

Why is it, if -- if African-Americans really can get elected in all sorts of major cities, they're still not getting elected governor?

PATRICK: Well, there are not a lot of them who have run for governor. So, I think, probably, if you took the -- the numbers who have run for governor vs. those who have -- who have won, that ratio would be pretty -- pretty good.

I hope there will be more candidates of color for all kinds of offices. In fact, I want more people who are, like me, new to -- to electoral office, to step forward, because we have got to take our rightful place in -- in -- in helping to shape the kind of society we want to live in. And being active in political campaigns and as candidates is a part of that.

BLITZER: Ken Blackwell ran for governor of Ohio, a Republican African-American. Lynn Swann, as you know, ran for governor of Pennsylvania, another Republican. Michael Steele, the former lieutenant governor of Maryland, ran for the Senate, another Republican -- African-Americans, all.

Did they lose because they were Republicans or was there a racial element involved as well?

PATRICK: Well, you know, to tell you the truth, Wolf, I haven't followed their -- and didn't follow their races all that carefully. But I will say that my sense, certainly here in Massachusetts, and all across the country, is that people are hungry for change and they're hungry for a reason to hope.

They have had enough of this politics of fear and division and personal destruction. And they want a vision that a candidate is willing to lose the race over, that you're willing to -- you care about enough, you're willing to put everything on the line.

That's the kind of race we ran here. It was about inviting people who had checked out to check back in, to see their stake again in their own dreams, in their own struggles, and in their neighbors as well. And that was a winning strategy here. We won in a landslide. I think it's a winning strategy for candidates all over the country.

BLITZER: We heard Barack Obama say he's your friend.

PATRICK: He is, indeed.

BLITZER: I -- I'm sure he's -- you're his friend as well.

But are you supporting him?

PATRICK: I -- listen, I think he is a fabulous candidate. And I have relationships with other candidates, including Senator Clinton.

I do expect to get involved in the race, including in the primary, but, for the time being -- I have been in office less than two months -- I have got to concentrate on my knitting right here.

BLITZER: Who has a better chance of becoming a -- a president in this country right now, an African-American, like Barack Obama, or a woman, like Hillary Clinton? And you worked in the Clinton administration, so I know you're close to her as well.

PATRICK: Yes. I think -- I think the world of her.

I think the one who will win this presidential election in the general election is the one who has the clearest and most hopeful vision, a willingness to go directly to people, where they live and where they work, all around the country, and ask them to see their stake in that vision, and who conveys a willingness that they believe in something enough they're willing to lose over it.

I think that's what -- the kind of leadership that people all over the country are hungry for right now.

BLITZER: You have succeeded in Massachusetts. Mitt Romney, he's now running for the Republican presidential nomination. What do you think about Mitt Romney? Did he do a good job in Massachusetts?

PATRICK: Well, look, he and I have very different approaches to government. We have -- we have -- you know, I happen to believe that government has a role to play in helping people help themselves, that there is a place alongside personal responsibility for shared responsibility. I think there is much more that we have left to do here in Massachusetts to -- to build our economy, to ensure consistent excellence in the public schools, a lot of that work left undone.

I will say that -- that the governor deserves -- that Governor Romney deserves some credit for helping be a part of the coalition that brought us a health reform legislation, a very big and broad step forward. And I'm proud of that. It falls to us, now, to implement that -- that. And we are working on that very hard.

BLITZER: Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, thanks very much for coming in.

PATRICK: Great to be with you, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: I hope you will be a frequent visitor here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

PATRICK: Ask me again. Thank you.

BLITZER: All right. Thank you.

This note to our viewers: Earlier, here in THE SITUATION ROOM, when promoting our interview with the Massachusetts governor, we mistakenly showed video from another story, which might have confused some of our viewers. We're sorry for the error.

Coming up: Senator Tim Johnson passes a new milestone in his recovery from brain surgery. We're going to have a progress report.

And insurgents in Iraq unveil a frightening and deadly new tactic. We will have the latest from Baghdad. That's coming at the top of the next hour.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check back with Brianna Keilar for another look at some other important stories -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Hi there, Wolf.

Some new developments in the recovery of Senator Tim Johnson -- he was released Friday from the hospital. And the South Dakota Democrat has entered a private rehabilitation facility. That's according to a statement from his office. Johnson, as you may recall, is recovering from a brain hemorrhage and surgery that he underwent in December.

And the legal battle over a dead body continues. At a hearing in Florida today, Howard K. Stern, Anna Nicole Smith's companion, says, Smith considered the Bahamas her home, and she wanted to be buried there next to her son. The hearing is to determine just where Smith will be laid to rest. Smith's mother wants the body buried in Texas, which is Smith's childhood home. And it's a very "Sirius" matter, pun intended. Executives from Sirius and XM Satellite Radio hope to convince Wall Street that a merger will pass muster with the government. Some investors fear the deal will not be approved. Sirius and XM are the nation's only satellite radio providers. And investors aren't sure if the FCC will allow just one company to hold the only two satellite radio licenses.

And a CEO punished for DUI -- the head of U.S. Airways is sentenced to one day in prison. Doug Parker's punishment is for driving under the influence in Phoenix. In a statement, U.S. Airways says their CEO is accepting full responsibility for the DUI charge. In addition to spending those 24 hours in jail, Parker was fined over $1,600 and ordered to undergo alcohol screening -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brianna, thank you for that.

Still to come in our "Strategy Session": On his march to the White House, the former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has a speaking engagement now set at Pat Robertson's Regent University. How will Giuliani's outlook on social issues play down South?

And the battle for the airwaves now under way, as former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney releases his first campaign spot. Can he solidify his image with the base? All that coming up -- Paul Begala, Michael Steele, they are standing by.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In today's "Strategy Session": the crowded field of Republican presidential contenders and what they may have to do to prove to potential supporters. Some of the candidates are having to bone up on their conservative credentials.

Joining us now, our CNN analyst and Democratic strategist Paul Begala, and Michael Steele, the former Republican lieutenant governor of Maryland.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, he's going to be delivering an address in April at Pat Robertson's Regent University. It's going to be a tough crowd for him, given some of his views.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is.

I -- I have actually spoken there, so I'm not going to attack Rudy for speaking there. They were remarkably gracious to me at Regent University. And I don't agree with them on many issues. But I wasn't asking them for their votes.

Rudy is going to go there as a pro-abortion-rights, pro-gay- rights, pro-gun-control liberal on social issues. And let's see. Maybe he will flip-flop, like weather vane McCain and multiple choice Mitt. (CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: But maybe he won't. And that will be the time. We will know when he goes to Regent University.

BLITZER: He's already emphasizing certain things, for example, on the sensitive issue...

MICHAEL STEELE, GOPAC CHAIRMAN: Right.

BLITZER: ... of abortion rights. He was on "LARRY KING LIVE" the other day.

I want you to see how he phrased his stance. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")

RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I am pro-choice, yes.

But -- but I -- I'm also, as you know, always have been, against abortion, hate abortion, don't like it, wouldn't personally advise anyone to have an abortion. And -- but I believe a woman has a right to choose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is that -- is that going to -- that finessing of his stance, is that going to appeal to conservatives, to social conservatives out there?

STEELE: Well, I think it -- I think it does, to a certain extent, to -- that the Republican Party is coming to a new frontier, where they are looking at presidential candidates who do not necessarily fit within the mold of Reagan.

And they are -- they are very different in their perspective on a number of issues. And I think Rudy, given the fact that he has had some significant Republicans, conservatives come onto his campaign, has begun to find a way to -- to emphasize less the -- the social concerns, and more the strategic and the international and national safety concerns that we have with al Qaeda and the war and all of that.

So, when he goes to this university, he's going to lay out his position and his views. And what people will take away with it, his honesty and directness, and looking in the eye and telling what he believed, but then pointing out that, while you may think that is important, there is a graver importance that you need to be concerned about. And that is the war on terror.

BLITZER: Here is how he -- he expresses his position now on gay marriage. He was on "LARRY KING LIVE," and he said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE") GIULIANI: I believe that marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman, and that the way to handle this and the way to handle respect and -- and everything else is to have something like domestic partnership, which I support.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, what do you think of that, the way he is phrasing his stance now on that issue?

BEGALA: The exact same thing that John Kerry said in 2004. And Republican National Committee went out and hammered Kerry and said, in fact, if Kerry is elected, you will have gay marriage.

So, I -- it will be interesting to see if that same party that has been killing Democrats, calling my party baby killers, saying that we want to do away with marriage, saying we want to take away people's shotguns for hunting, all fabrications, all falsehoods -- if they can embrace a guy who now has those positions, it will be earth- shattering.

But I -- I talked to a Democratic strategist today. I said, what are you going to do, though, if he emerges? And he has these progressive views on these social issues. How are you going to run against him?

And it was very interesting. He said: We're not worried about Rudy, in terms of the social issues compromising the Democratic turf. We are going to attack him for Rudy Inc. -- that is, his business dealings. They say he is more vulnerable because of his relationship with Bernie Kerik, the disgraced former New York police commissioner, than he is his relationships with women or on social issues. It's pretty interesting.

BLITZER: What do you think?

STEELE: Well, it's -- it's going to be -- I mean, everything he said about the Democrats -- we said about the Democrats in 2004 is true. So, that -- nothing has changed there.

(LAUGHTER)

STEELE: But, you know...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: ... true about Rudy, too, then.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Rudy is a baby killer, right?

STEELE: So, going -- so, going forward -- I mean, this is the dynamic of politics today.

And I -- I -- I'm here to say right now that, when we get into the crux of the 2008 election, these social issues that everyone is clamoring about right now will pale in comparison to the concern this country has about the next president of United States dealing with the fundamental issue that confronts us. And that is the war on terror, dealing with the issues in Iraq, and extricating ourselves from what many believe is a very difficult proposition right now.

So, we can do the dance on social issues. And they are important. They are important to our base, respectively. They're important to the country as a whole down the road. But, right now, we're at the doorstep of terror. And we need to deal with that.

BLITZER: But you heard former Congressman Tom DeLay say here, in THE SITUATION ROOM, only a few days ago that he could never vote for Rudy Giuliani, under any circumstances, given his support for abortion rights for women.

STEELE: And Tom DeLay is one man within the Republican Party, which is a rainbow of opinion and -- and of ideas. And there are many conservatives, as I said at the beginning, who are beginning to line up with Rudy and support him.

But, you know, this is a dance that's going to be delivered over the next few months. And I think we will have to wait and see, ultimately, where the party lines up.

BLITZER: You know, they are already buying commercials, some of these presidential candidates...

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: ... television commercials, ads to promote themselves.

Duncan Hunter has started a very small buy. Mitt Romney, now, starting tomorrow, he is going out in several states buying TV commercials. This is months earlier than ever before.

You have been involved in presidential politics for a long time, Paul. What is going on?

BEGALA: Well, at this stage of the cycle in which Bill Clinton became our president, he didn't even announce until October.

STEELE: Yes.

BEGALA: So, we're eight months away from even Clinton's announcement day, and Mitt Romney already is running ads. This is, you know, proof of the saying what they say about a fool and his money. They soon waste it on television commercials early in a political campaign.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: It's wasted money, unless -- giving free advice here, Governor -- unless you can stay on the air all the way through to Election Day, don't waste your money right now.

He should be going town to town, door to door, hand to hand, and meeting people one on one, not running TV commercials.

BLITZER: When you were running for -- for senator from Maryland, you did a lot of TV commercials, very creative, very -- a lot of remember. They were very funny...

STEELE: Yes.

BLITZER: ... and very effective, even though you -- you wound up losing.

STEELE: Yes.

And -- and -- but I think Paul is dead on. The -- the timing is very, very important. You don't want to do it so soon that, by the time when it really matters, people don't care, because they -- you spent so much time talking to them. They are like: Yes, I know that. I have heard that.

I think what -- what Mitt and so many others, like Rudy and -- and McCain, should be doing is getting out there and touching the grassroots voters, and letting them know...

BLITZER: But he doesn't have the name recognition of a -- of a John McCain...

STEELE: Well...

BLITZER: ... or a Rudy Giuliani. He has got to introduce himself to a lot of potential Republicans out there.

STEELE: He does. He does. And he's doing it in strategic states right now.

But, again, I -- nothing takes the place of pressing the flesh. And he needs to do that.

BLITZER: All right, guys, we will leave it alone. Good advice from both of you. Thanks very much.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Guy, maybe you want to open up a little political consulting firm.

(LAUGHTER)

STEELE: Begala-Steele...

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: I don't know who would hire us...

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Thanks very much, guys, for coming in.

Still to come: a GOP donor under a cloud of suspicion. Did he help fund terrorism in Afghanistan? Jacki Schechner standing by with a report.

And coming up in our next hour: Is Vice President Dick Cheney's influence on the wane in the West Wing? I will speak with Washington insider, former presidential adviser to multiple presidents David Gergen -- all that coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

In Pakistan, a worker sprays chemicals at a cage of birds in a zoo, after a deadly strain of bird flu was found in four peacocks and two geese.

In England, children race down a street during an annual pancake race heralding the beginning of Lent.

In Romania, officers in charge of protecting officials demonstrate their skills during an exercise.

And, in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, a drummer performs during a carnival parade -- some of this hour's "Hot Shots," pictures often worth 1,000 words.

Did a man the U.S. government accuses of financing terrorism in Afghanistan also donate thousands of dollars to the Republican Party?

Our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner, has been investigating this very complicated story -- Jacki.

SCHECHNER: Wolf, this is the indictment that was unsealed in a U.S. district court of New York on Friday.

And it accuses a man named Abdul Alishtari of five counts of financing terrorism, of money-laundering, and of wire fraud. It alleges, among many things, that he sent more than $150,000 to Pakistan and Afghanistan to finance a training camp in Afghanistan.

Well, what's also interesting, in addition to the money he may have sent abroad, is the money it appears he has donated here at home. According to two Web campaign finance sites, PoliticalMoneyLine and Open Secrets, the donor, Mr. Alishtari, allegedly gave more than $15,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee over the course of three years, 2002, 2003, and 2004.

There's also a document posted online that appears to be the resume of Mr. Alishtari. And, in it, he claims that he was the New York State businessman of the year for the NRCC for 2002 and 2003, and, also, that he is a lifetime member of the U.S. National Republican Senate Inner Circle.

Now, the NRCC just issued a statement moments ago. I want to read that statement to you.

It says -- quote -- "We are extremely concerned and disturbed by these charges, but we need to be careful not to rush to judgment as the judicial process moves forward. If the individual in question is actually found guilty of a crime, it is our intent to donate the money to charity" -- Wolf, so, this statement just issued by the NRCC.

BLITZER: Jacki, thanks for that.

And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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