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THE SITUATION ROOM

Cheney Treated for Blood Clot; War Vets Neglected; Interview With Mike Pence

Aired March 5, 2007 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, new word the vice president is being treated for a blood clot. We'll have the latest on the health of the man only a heart beat away from the presidency.
Also, firsthand accounts of wounded Iraq war veterans, neglected, let down by the country they served. Congress now investigating scandalous conditions at the top U.S. Army hospital. This hour, the heartbreak, the blame and the high level promises to fix this problem.

Also this hour, have conservatives found their presidential candidate?

One Republican basking in a surprise vote of confidence.

But is there still a void on the right?

I'll ask a leading conservative congressman, Mike Pence of Indiana.

And primary colors -- the Democratic presidential race after the showdown in Selma.

Did Bill Clinton's popularity among black voters rub off on his wife? And is slavery now an issue for Barack Obama's campaign?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

All that coming.

First here, though, Dick Cheney's office says the vice president is back at work after a blood clot was found in his left leg. But this new ailment likely to fuel fresh concerns about the vice president's health and whether he's up to the job, including his latest travel overseas.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux.

She has more on this developing story.

It's broken only in the past half hour or so.

Update our viewers, Suzanne, what we know about the vice president. SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what we know is right now the vice president is fine. He's OK. He's in the White House. He's gone back to work.

But there certainly was a scare earlier this afternoon. I want to be very precise, so I'm going to read this statement from his spokeswoman, Megan McGinn: "The vice president experienced mild calf discomfort today. In light of recent prolonged air travel, he visited his doctor's office at the George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates this afternoon. And ultrasound revealed a deep vein thrombosis, DVT or blood clot in his left lower leg.

His doctors will treat him with blood thinning medication for several months. The vice president has returned to the White House to resume his schedule."

Now, Wolf, as you and I both know the history, a 66-year-old -- the vice president here, four heart attacks, the first one when he was just 37 years old. He has had quadruple bypass surgery. He has a pacemaker. It was two years ago that we saw he had an aneurysm on a foot, a cane when he was walking, recovering from that.

A lot of different medical situations and problems associated with the vice president.

Now, what do we know about this condition, what might have brought this blood clot on?

She talked about the travel and, as you know, the vice president just returned from, really, almost a trip around the world. He was at Japan. He went from Japan to Australia, to Pakistan, to Afghanistan, several refueling stops.

And, Wolf, from what we can tell, he traveled aboard Air Force Two at least, at least 22,000 miles.

So there was a lot of time that he was actually on flight, on that plane. But, again, we are told that doctors will be treating him with this blood thinning medication and that they believe he's OK.

BLITZER: I know a lot of our viewers will remember, Suzanne, our friend and colleague, David Bloom, of NBC News, early in the war in Iraq. He suffered from DVT, deep vein thrombosis. He had a blood clot that killed him during the early coverage of the war in Iraq.

MALVEAUX: It certainly can be fatal without treatment, Wolf, as we know.

BLITZER: All right.

And fortunately the vice president is being treated at George Washington University Hospital.

For that, Suzanne, thanks very much.

I want to bring in Dr. Sean O'Donnell. He's the director of vascular surgery for the Washington Hospital Center here in the nation's capital.

Dr. O'Donnell, thanks very much.

Given what we know about the vice president's history of heart related problems, the fact that he now has a blood clot, how serious of a problem should this be for the vice president?

DR. SEAN O'DONNELL, DIRECTOR, VASCULAR SURGERY, WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER: Generally, from what I heard from the story, Wolf, a blood clot in the lower leg is different from the atherosclerotic problems that he has dealt with in the past.

These are usually on the other side of the circulation, the venous side, and they are usually well managed with a blood thinner.

BLITZER: So this may not necessarily be related to his history of heart problems? Is that what you're saying?

O'DONNELL: That's correct.

BLITZER: We do know, based on the information of deep vein thrombosis, that complications from DVT kill up to 200,000 people a year in the United States alone. So this is a very, very serious problem.

O'DONNELL: It can be a serious problem, especially untreated. Treated, it is very manageable and the risk of a major problem on the proper treatment is small.

BLITZER: I've heard -- I've heard, at least from personal experiences with friends of mine who've suffered from these kinds of DVT, deep vein thrombosis blood clots that they basically have to take certain medicine for the rest of their lives.

Is that right?

O'DONNELL: It depends on the cause and the underlying condition. Some people do have predisposing hereditary conditions that makes the blood thick, if you will. And people that have those types of conditions will require lifelong therapy.

If this was a situational problem due to his long haul travel, which flights over six to seven hours, we know, are a risk of developing these, and that is his only risk factor and his workup for these other hereditary problems is negative, then he may not require lifelong blood thinners.

BLITZER: Normally -- correct me if I'm wrong, doctor -- this kind of problem for travelers, for air travelers, develops if you're on flights for long periods of time, flying internationally, but if you're flying in a cramped position in coach, for example. And on Air Force Two, he's not in coach. He has better than first class seats available there. O'DONNELL: Well, there's a little bit of conflicting information on the -- it used to be called economy class syndrome. But this certainly isn't just limited to the economy class. It probably has to do with the long period of travel and the immobilization.

BLITZER: And is it OK for him to be back at work?

O'DONNELL: Under the proper treatment, yes.

BLITZER: Dr. Sean O'Donnell from the Washington Hospital Center here in the nation's capital.

Thank you, doctor, very much for that update.

O'DONNELL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And we're going to continue to watch this story for our viewers.

Let's get some more information now on the unfolding scandal over one of the nation's top Army hospital. Wounded U.S. troops expected to find care and comfort inside the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Instead, some say they lived a nightmare of unsanitary and unfit conditions, bureaucracy that often left them in limbo, and flat out neglect.

A House panel has been hearing horror stories all day today about failures at Walter Reed.

The wife of a wounded Iraq War veteran told lawmakers: "Soldiers who put their lives on the line are given nothing."

Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNETTE MCLEOD, WIFE OF WOUNDED SOLDIER: My life was ripped apart the day that my husband was injured. But then having him live through the mess that we lived through at Walter Reed has been worse than anything I've ever sacrificed in my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJOR GENERAL GEORGE WEIGHTMAN, FORMER COMMANDER, WALTER REED: It is clear mistakes were made and I was in charge. We can't fail one of these soldiers or their families, not one, and we did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: One lawmaker says the scandalous conditions at Walter Reed are just the tip of the iceberg in an Army medical system he says is broken. The Bush administration is promising what it calls an exhaustive look at what went wrong at Walter Reed. And the fired commander of the medical center is taking much of the blame, which you just heard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There will be no excuses, only action. And the federal bureaucracy will not slow that action down. We're going to fix the problems at Walter Reed period.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The vice president speaking earlier.

Let's turn to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.

He's joining us now live.

The fired commander at Walter Reed, he's weighing in. Some are suggesting, though, he's being made a scapegoat.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there was -- there was a lot of questions along that lines -- why was General Weightman relieved of commander when actually things began to improve under his short six month tenure, even though he admits he failed and personally apologized to some of the people there -- but -- to the patients and soldiers there.

But a lot of people were questioning why his -- whether or not a lot of these problems developed under his predecessor, Major General Farmer, and whether higher-ups should have known a lot more about what was going on and should have taken corrective action a lot sooner -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What about General Kiley?

There are some suggesting he may not necessarily be up to this job.

MCINTYRE: Well, he was a little defensive about some "Washington Post" articles that suggested since he had been the commander back in 2004, when some of these things were a problem, that maybe he was partly to blame.

And, in a private conversation, admitted that he called that yellow journalism.

That's not the kind of response that Secretary Gates was looking for. In fact, sources indicate that the decision to put General Kiley in temporary charge of Walter Reed may have led to Secretary Harvey's -- the request for his resignation.

But a lot of people are waiting to see whether he may be also held accountable. He spent a lot of the day today answering some tough questions.

BLITZER: And so the bottom line right now is you have a defense secretary who's very, very frustrated, very angry how this situation could have developed.

MCINTYRE: Well, you know, it's a very complicated situation, because the building problems are easy to fix, but that bureaucracy is very tough to solve. And asked point blank today how can anyone be assured that things are really going to change, the Army chief of staff, General Peter Schumacher, whose younger brother is now in charge over there, said simply because we're going to change it.

BLITZER: Jamie, we're going to stay on top of this story together with you.

Thank you.

Meanwhile, there's been a new burst of momentum in the Republican presidential race. One candidate suddenly riding a little bit higher after some surprising new surveys of conservatives and party activists.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is joining us now with more on what some are calling the man of the moment, at least for this moment -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, who's the insider favorite for the Republican nomination?

The answer may come as a surprise.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Who's the top pick of party insiders?

The "Los Angeles Times" interviewed Republican National Committee members to find out.

Their preference?

Mitt Romney, former governor of the bluest state in the country.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Coming from Massachusetts, I saw firsthand the liberal future, and it doesn't work.

SCHNEIDER: But will conservatives support Romney, a man some among them call another flip-flopper from Massachusetts?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He evolved very clearly from a very socially moderate Northeast Republican to a very conservative socially conservative Republican who would do well in the red states.

SCHNEIDER: Maybe conservatives do believe in evolution. Conservative activists met in Washington last week and took their own straw poll.

The winner?

Mitt Romney. John McCain turned down an invitation to address the conservative conference. Participants paid him back by putting him in fifth place. McCain came in third behind Romney and Rudy Giuliani among Republican National Committee members.

Isn't McCain supposed to have the inside track?

Maybe not. More than 80 percent of RNC members have a favorable opinion of Romney and Giuliani compared to 56 percent favorable for McCain. Thirty-eight percent of party insiders don't like McCain, maybe because he's picked fights with them in the past and sponsored legislation they don't like, such as campaign finance reform.

ROMNEY: If I'm elected president, I will fight to repeal McCain- Feingold.

SCHNEIDER: McCain has made up with President Bush and supports the president's troop build-up in Iraq. But that may not help him. Most national committee members want the next Republican nominee to move the country in a new direction, rather than continue President Bush's policies, which may be why two Washington outsiders, Romney and Giuliani, are the insiders' top choices.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

SCHNEIDER: RNC members picked Giuliani as the candidate with the best chance of beating the Democrats. But on issues like abortion, Giuliani has not evolved as far as Romney has. Giuliani told conservatives: "We don't always see eye to eye on everything."

Romney told them: "I stood at the center of the battlefield on every major social issue."

Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

Bill Schneider reporting for us.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty.

He's back with The Cafferty File -- Jack, welcome back.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Wolf.

Another Hurricane Katrina -- that's how the "New York Times'" Paul Krugman describes the scandal surrounding the Walter Reed Medical Center and he is absolutely right.

Another glaring example of the Bush administration's lack of ability to deal with the consequences of its actions. Four years after invading Iraq, we're finding out that many of our returning wounded soldiers are being treated like garbage. And the government is quick to sing the chorus of, well, we didn't know.

The former commander of Walter Reed Medical Center, this Lieutenant General Kevin Kiley -- he's now the surgeon general of the United States -- he lived across the street from Building 18 at Walter Reed -- across the street.

Why hasn't he resigned or why hasn't he been fired?

The politicians, well, they want commissions. That's the answer to everything. New York Senator Charles Schumer, he wants an independent commission. President Bush wants a bipartisan commission. In four years, no one bothered to see if our veterans were getting the treatment they're entitled to.

Walter Reed Army Medical Center is in Washington, D.C. We're not talking some medical tent at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. It is a national disgrace, just exactly like Katrina was.

Congress appropriates more than $200 million like -- for things like Ted Stevens' Bridge To Nowhere in Alaska, but our wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are ignored. It might be worth remembering when the next election rolls around.

What do you think?

Here's the question -- who is ultimately responsible for the conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center?

You can e-mail us at caffertyfile@cnn.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: As I said, good to have you back, Jack.

Thanks very much.

CAFFERTY: Thanks.

BLITZER: Jack is here. And his e-mail will be coming up later this hour.

Also coming up, are conservatives feeling any better about the 2008 presidential field or are they still in search of a candidate they can feel good about?

I'll ask a leading House conservative, Republican Congressman Mike Pence.

He's standing by live.

Also ahead, Bill and Hillary Clinton versus Barack Obama.

Did the former president help her score points against her primary competitor?

And later, a controversial conservative pundit says some outrageous things about former Senator John Edwards.

Will that actually help his presidential campaign?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is basking in some new forms of support from conservatives.

But are members of the party's right-wing actually warming up to the former Mayor Giuliani or are they still uneasy with the entire field?

Joining us now, Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana.

He describes himself as a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order, is that right?

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: That's right, Wolf.

BLITZER: OK, thanks, congressman, very much.

I don't know -- you spoke at the CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, over the weekend. They had a straw poll, nearly 2,000 participants. Romney came in first with 21 percent; Giuliani with 17; Brownback -- Senator Sam Brownback -- 15; Gingrich, who is not running yet, 14 percent; McCain down at 12 percent.

Are you happy with this field, from your perspective?

PENCE: You know, I increasingly am. And I think -- I think the showcase of all of our candidates, from the leading candidates that attended -- Mayor Giuliani and Mitt Romney on down to quality people like Duncan Hunter and Sam Brownback, all acquitted themselves very well.

This was the largest turnout in recent history for a conservative political action conference in Washington, D.C.

I think it -- it demonstrates the level of enthusiasm there is for this presidential race and -- and for this field of Republicans.

BLITZER: Is there someone that stands out in your mind that you like the most?

PENCE: Well, not yet. I'm -- I'm still shopping, I think, and that's probably true for most conservative Republicans, who are still, as I said in front of the CPAC conference on Friday night, we're all looking for that -- that Reagan candidate who believes in a strong defense, limited government and traditional moral values.

I think that candidate is out there. I think we can hear that from any number of these candidates. But no choice for me yet.

BLITZER: Romney won that straw poll, which, of course, is non- binding, non-scientific, at the Conservative Political Action Conference. The "L.A. Times" had a poll out among RNC members. He came in with 20 percent, Giuliani 14, McCain 10, Gingrich eight. Everybody else sort of weighed down. Mitt Romney -- some have said he's flip-flopped on a lot of these issues, social issues that are so important to you, like abortion rights for women.

Do you accept his explanation why he's changed his views since he ran for governor of Massachusetts?

PENCE: Well, let me say I'm -- you were kind enough to mention that a -- I'd like people to know I am a Christian, which means I believe in grace. I believe in conversion. I think one of the...

BLITZER: You believe him?

PENCE: I -- you know, I do. I take -- I've had a chance to sit down with Governor Romney personally and I think -- I think his decision on embracing the sanctity of human life was a deeply personal decision. And however recent, I think I'm a -- I'm a part of a pro- life movement that welcomes people coming to the moral rationale to (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BLITZER: So you think his change is sincere?

PENCE: I really do. And, obviously, you know, this is an area where there's going to be a wide range of opinions. John McCain's great advantage on this particular issue is while he's alienated conservatives on a few things, like campaign finance reform and other issues, this is an issue -- on the right to life -- where John McCain has always been, with a very few exceptions, rock solid.

BLITZER: Why is his campaign not generating the excitement among conservatives that, clearly, it's not, given these -- these most recent numbers?

PENCE: Well, look, I have great respect for Senator McCain. But you know better than almost anybody in the media that John McCain is a maverick. And he has, whether it be his opposition to President Bush's tax cuts early in this administration or his advancement of the McCain-Feingold legislation...

BLITZER: The campaign finance reform. A lot of conservatives hated that...

PENCE: Well, I...

BLITZER: And you were one of them.

PENCE: I was the House plaintiff in the lawsuit that, with Senator McConnell, went all the way to the United States Supreme Court challenging that on first amendment grounds. And, recently, his partnership with Senator Kennedy on immigration -- I had some problems with that.

BLITZER: What about Rudy Giuliani?

Because on major social issues like abortion, gay rights, gun control, his stance is very, very different than yours, historically speaking?

PENCE: Well, that's right. And...

BLITZER: Could you vote for him if he were the Republican nominee?

PENCE: Well, let me say, you know, what I'm waiting to hear from Mayor Giuliani as a -- as a pro-life conservative is, sure, I know that on a personal basis, he endorses abortion on demand. But what I'm hearing -- I'm waiting to hear from him, who has a very conservative record as a prosecutor, a very conservative record as a mayor in virtually every other respect, is what will be his criteria for appointments to the federal bench.

Now, he's indicated that he's looking for judges like Justice Scalia and Justice Alito. If that's the case, then that's going to be intriguing to myself and, I think, to millions of pro-life conservatives around the country.

BLITZER: So you're leaving the door open...

PENCE: But it's a challenge.

BLITZER: You're leaving the door open to supporting him?

PENCE: Well, I am, because, to that extent that a candidate for president holds pro-choice views but is willing to appoint strict constructionists to the court, I think pro-life Americans could see in that the possibility of ultimately achieving the end of dismantling "Roe v. Wade."

BLITZER: Any chance you're going to run?

PENCE: I don't believe so. And...

BLITZER: That doesn't sound like a hard and fast no.

PENCE: Well, you know, my wife and I have a saying about our faith in the good lord, that it's any time, anywhere. But, look, running for president is a major enterprise and I think we've got a tremendous field of individuals that can bring a broad range of alternatives to Republicans. And, in the end, I think this election will be decided on those same Reagan values that minted our majority in 1980 and in 1994.

BLITZER: Congressman Pence, thanks for coming in.

PENCE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Still ahead, a question about what's humanly possible. A new legal give and take as jurors deliberate the fate of former Cheney aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby. We're going to tell you about this new twist in the deliberations.

And he's hoping to be America's first African-American president.

Does it matter that one of his ancestors owned slaves?

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now, President Bush preparing for a Latin American trip. Today he says he's concerned with that region's poverty.

But is he also concerned with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his control of Venezuelan oil?

Also, for good or for ill, Iran insists its space program is peaceful. Some fear its true goal is to produce long-range ballistic missiles that could reach Europe, perhaps even the United States.

And more terror suspects detained at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba file appeals with the U.S. Supreme Court. They're demanding the right to challenge their imprisonment in the U.S. federal courts. The Supreme Court could decide this month whether or not to review these new appeals.

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

There's renewed speculation today about the role Bill Clinton would play in a Hillary Clinton administration if she becomes president. That's a huge if. Yesterday, the former president offered a glimpse of his skills as a first spouse and as a campaign helpmate.

Let's turn to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

She's watching all of this unfold -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, if ever there was a place where Bill Clinton can count on getting rousing support, it is in the African-American community.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean if you can look at me right now and see who I'm holding here. I must say that god is good.

CROWLEY (voice-over): But if Bill Clinton went to Selma, Alabama with his presidential candidate wife because he wanted some of his popularity to rub off, it was a subtle performance.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All the good speaking has been done by Hillary and Senator Obama today. I'm just sort of bringing up the rear.

CROWLEY: He gave just one public speech in Selma, as hit induction into the Voting Rights Hall of Fame. It didn't come close to her speech, which can't be a coincidence. And when an audience member suggested he run again, the former president passed the baton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, you can run again. B. CLINTON: Now, wait a minute. Well, I can't. You need to think about something else.

CROWLEY: Something else acknowledged his presence in Selma, if not at the church where she gave her big speech.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: And my husband, who sends greetings to all of you today...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right!

CROWLEY: Bill, in the back seat, little seen and barely heard, just like a political spouse.

This double Clinton thing is a high wire act. Well before she announced, pundits were figuring the equation.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Bill Clinton -- there's no question that people will say that this is the third coming of Bill Clinton.

CROWLEY: Given he had a 60 percent favorable rating as of last September, that's not a bad thing if you're Hillary Clinton. On the other hand, he hasn't been out there campaigning for her yet. Still, she can hardly run a campaign as though he doesn't exist.

H. CLINTON: I know that my eight years with my husband in the White House gave me a perspective about -- deal with some of the tough challenges facing us.

CROWLEY: And he can hardly as act as though he has no vested interest in her future. And he doesn't.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was glad when Hillary decided to throw her hat in the ring, because, for 35 years, long before she ever even thought about running for office, she was trying to figure out how to solve problems.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: For better and worse, voters see them as a pair.

More than a decade ago, as a candidate, Bill Clinton said, it's like two for the price of one. The question is whether voters will take that deal again or whether they are in the market for something new.

I will tell you also, Wolf, today, in an interview, Hillary Clinton said her double appearances with her husband along the campaign trail will be a rarity.

BLITZER: A rarity. So, we're not going to see him that much, or -- or, at least, we're not going to see them together that much?

CROWLEY: Not together that much. I think you can expect him to be out and helping her wherever he can. But, if helping her wherever he can means that he's not out that much, he will do that, too.

BLITZER: All right. We will watch it together with you, Candy. Thanks very much.

Carol Costello is monitoring the wires. She's keeping an eye on all the video feeds coming into THE SITUATION ROOM from around the world.

Carol, what's the latest?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.

Hello to all of you.

Blood-stained book pages rain down like leaflets dropped from a plane, and pieces of human flesh litter the ground. It's the largest attack in Baghdad in three days, after a suicide bomber targeted the capital's historic booksellers district. As papers and book pages burned, an eyewitness even said the blast flipped over burning cars with charred bodies inside. At least 28 people died in this attack.

In Colorado, it's a redistricting plan many Democrats love, but some Republicans hate. Today, the Supreme Court upheld it. The court rejected a challenge to the map that was drawn up by the Democratic state judge. The Supreme Court said the people bringing the lawsuit did not have the legal standing to sue.

And, in Alabama, laying tornado victims to rest -- funerals are being held today for victims of last week's tornado in Enterprise that killed eight people, all of them students at the city's high school. The city's school superintendent says he's trying to restart high school classes as soon as possible. But, this week, schools do remain closed -- a look at the headlines right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Carol, thanks very much.

Still ahead: a sensitive issue for Senator Barack Obama. That would be slavery -- his new acknowledgment adding a new dimension to the racial politics in this presidential campaign.

And did the Clintons trump Obama in Alabama this weekend? Donna Brazile, Terry Jeffrey, they are going to declare the winners, the losers, much more -- all that coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Now to the other political star and presidential contender who also went to Selma, Alabama, this weekend.

Senator Barack Obama used that historic site in the civil rights movement to discuss a dark chapter in his own family's history. The Democrat now acknowledges that one of his ancestors actually was a slave owner.

Let's bring in our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield -- Jeff. JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Well, Wolf, you know, race has been an American dilemma since the first kidnapped Africans landed on American soil back in 1619.

The issue almost derailed the founding of the country, the writing of the Constitution. And, with the Civil War, it literally tore apart the nation. Then, we spend another century trying to end state-enforced segregation.

Even today, race shadows issues from equal justice to crime. So, is it really conceivable that, with all the real questions raised by race, we are actually talking about slavery? Why, yes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GREENFIELD (voice-over): A few days ago, we learned that ancestors of Reverend Al Sharpton, a once and possibly future presidential candidate, were owned by ancestors of former Senator Strom Thurmond, who ran for president in 1948 as a segregationist.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

GREENFIELD: Then, just a few days ago, we learned that Senator Barack Obama, a significant presidential contender, had a great-great- great-great-grandfather, George Washington Overall, who owned two slaves. Those same records show that one of Obama's great-great- great-great-great-grandmothers, Mary Duvall, also owned two slaves.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Her great- great-great-great grandfather had actually owned a slave, as if that was a surprise. That's no surprise in America.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: That's part of our tortured, tangled history.

GREENFIELD: And, in what might be charitably be dubbed a classic case of not much better late than never, the Virginia legislature in late February apologized for condoning slavery for a couple hundred years.

Considering that, 17 years ago, Virginia elected Doug Wilder, the first black governor of any state since Reconstruction, that would seem top count for a little bit more than an apology 144 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

Now, it is one thing to face head the lingering legacy of slavery, that African-Americans were the one group brought here involuntarily, that bad schools, chronic joblessness, and underemployment, and crime...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get on the ground!

GREENFIELD: ... blacks are disproportionately victims and perpetrators -- are clearly issues today.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GREENFIELD: But do we seriously think that it matters if a state says it's sorry, as opposed, say, to try to figure out how to make a school aid formula more equitable? Will a single semi-rational voter decide on Senator Obama's presidential fate based on what a family member did seven generations ago?

Wolf, this whole story sounds like a very convenient way to avoid facing what's always been an American dilemma, and all too often an American tragedy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It wasn't this -- just this issue. Barack Obama, yesterday, addressed several very sensitive issues directly in that speech in Selma, Alabama. He didn't dodge any of those tough issues.

GREENFIELD: He was very, very blunt about the idea, for instance, that, among some young black men, the idea of achievement in school is thinking white. And he used exactly that term.

He talked about the need for parental involvement. He did much the same talk that President Clinton did in 1993 to those ministers in Memphis.

That's my point. Those are real critical issues about the future of race in America. But the idea that we are obsessed with slavery, that is -- I can't count how many greats there were. Great-great- great-great-great grandmother owned two slaves.

To me, this is -- this is a -- this is a dodge. This is -- because, I think, for a lot of people, of all colors, talking about race is one of the hardest things to do in this country.

BLITZER: Jeff, thanks very much.

Jeff Greenfield, Candy Crowley, they -- they're part of the best political team on television.

And, remember, for the latest political news at any time, check out our Political Ticker at CNN.com/ticker.

Coming up: a development of note in the CIA leak trial. Brian Todd is over at the federal courthouse here in Washington. He will give us the latest.

And in Iraq: rooting out rogue elements of the militia stronghold. Our Jennifer Eccleston went on patrol with Iraqi and U.S. forces.

Stick around. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There are new developments happening right now in the CIA leak trial here in Washington.

The jury has just passed the judge a new note. Let's turn to Brian Todd. He's watching all of this unfold outside the courthouse here in Washington -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just moments ago, this hearing began on this latest note from the jurors.

We're told that the note contained more than one question. The contents of that note, we do not know at the moment. But the hearing literally just began. My colleague Kevin Bohn is in the courtroom. We hope to hear from him shortly on what questions that note contains.

This was a day in which the judge addressed another note with another couple of questions on it from the jurors. That note was handed to him on Friday. Today, he asked them to clarify their question from Friday about the term "guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."

So, it's clear that the jury is at least addressing that issue right now. On Friday, that note from the jurors asked whether prosecutors have to prove that it's -- quote -- "not humanly possible for someone to forget an event in order to be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."

Libby has -- Scooter Libby has claimed that he forgot key conversations with reporters about the CIA identity of Valerie Plame Wilson, who is the wife of an administration critic -- the jury now considering whether he is guilty of obstruction of justice and perjury.

Now, the judge, in response to that question about whether it's humanly -- whether the prosecution has to prove it's humanly possible for someone to forget an event, suggested that the jurors reread his original instructions to them, which read -- quote -- "If, after careful, honest and impartial consideration of all the evidence, you cannot say that you are firmly convinced of the defendant's guilt, then, you have a reasonable doubt."

Legal experts tell us that this could mean that some jurors are trying to convince others, one way or another, if there is reasonable doubt in this case.

We just got a note, as I said, at the top from the jurors to the judge. We're trying to find out what questions the jurors now have for the judge, Wolf. We hope to have that for you as soon as we get it.

BLITZER: And maybe we will get some clue where they stand by the nature of those questions.

Brian, thanks for that.

And, in the absence of a verdict in the Scooter Libby trial, bloggers are poring over every snippet of information coming out of the courtroom.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She has more on what's going on -- Abbi. ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, these are blogs that have been following this story for years.

And, now, in the final days, they are going through and reading the tea leaves, trying to work out what the jury is thinking. They are dissecting every note that comes out, from the jury to the judge. Those are all posted online from Friday. We have put those at CNN.com.

And, for the bloggers who are actually credentialed to cover this trial, they're there at the court, like liberal Firedoglake, live blogging everything that was happening this morning, noting that Judge Walton's confusion over what the notes from Friday meant. And they are also noting what each side is doing, Libby and his attorneys.

They are even, in the absence of a verdict, looking at what the other journalists are doing, as everybody waits. And it's not just the bloggers looking for information -- the blog readers asking questions like, what -- what are the jury wearing today? Are they in jeans or in their jury best?

Everyone just trying to find some hint of when they might be ready with this verdict -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you. We will continue to watch those Internet blogs as well.

Up next: like father, like son? Perhaps not. Presidential contender Rudy Giuliani dealing with a family problem. The possible fallout, that is coming up in our "Strategy Session."

And in our next hour: fresh insight into Vice President Dick Cheney's health, now that he's being treated for a blood clot. We're following this developing story right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In today's "Strategy Session": Democrat Senators Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama honoring the civil rights movement and seeking support from African-Americans.

Joining us now, our CNN political analyst and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, and Terry Jeffrey, the editor at large of "Human Events."

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

Let me run a little clip of Senator Clinton yesterday in Selma.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

H. CLINTON: I think it is so exciting that we have a candidate for president like Barack Obama...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

H. CLINTON: ... who embodies all that was done right here 42 years ago!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

H. CLINTON: The Democratic Party is the party of America!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, so, give us your assessment. You watched the speeches yesterday, both Senator Clinton, Senator Barack Obama. What did you think?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I thought both candidates did very well.

But, look, Barack Obama is still introducing himself to America. He's introducing himself to African-Americans. I thought he -- he did himself a world of good by showing up at that church.

Look, he had to speak after John Lewis, Joe Lowery. And I thought that was a little intimidating. But he came across as authentic. He tied his family history to the civil rights movement.

So, I think advantage Barack Obama, in terms of his -- his appeal to African-American voters.

But Hillary also reminded the audience of her own deep ties to the struggle for civil rights. And she brought it up to the modern era, and reminded voters about the the -- future.

BLITZER: Here's a clip, Terry, from Senator Barack Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: So, don't tell me I don't have a claim on Selma, Alabama.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Don't tell me I'm not coming home when I come to Selma, Alabama. I am here because somebody marched for our freedom.

I am here because you all sacrificed for me. I stand on the shoulders of giants.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. What did you think?

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR, "HUMAN EVENTS": Well, I think Barack Obama has the momentum in this campaign, Wolf.

What we see is Hillary Clinton following him. She's ahead in the national polls, but he's driving the campaign. But let me say this. I think yesterday was a winning day for the Democrats in general and a losing day for my Republican Party. I think it's a sad thing that, 40 years after the climactic moments of the civil rights movement, the party of Abraham Lincoln really isn't competing for the black vote in this country. And, basically, we have an intramural fight among Democrats here between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for the black vote.

I would really like to see my party get in there and start pitching.

BLITZER: What happened? What went wrong?

JEFFREY: Well, I think my party took the wrong position.

The -- the Republican Party was the party of civil rights through the '50s. And -- and, really, the -- the ultimate moment came in the 1960 campaign, when Martin Luther King was arrested for literally driving while black in Georgia. And the Kennedy family tried to help him, and Nixon didn't.

And Martin Luther King's father said he was going to go get a suitcase of votes through Jack Kennedy. That quote was put on fliers that were delivered all over Chicago and I think helped make the margin of difference in Illinois.

BLITZER: You know, Donna, Republicans did try to reach out in recent elections to the African-American community, and met with some success.

BRAZILE: Well, there's no question that Hurricane Katrina halted all of that progress.

And, look, the Republican Party faced several demons. And the -- the big demon right now is the Iraq war. African-Americans do not support the Iraq war. Also, African-Americans tend to believe in social justice and civil rights and equal opportunity for all.

And they believe that the Republicans, under the leadership of President Bush and many other Republican presidents, really do not carry the mantle -- mantle of -- of Abraham Lincoln.

JEFFREY: But, Wolf -- but, Wolf, at -- at the CPAC conference that we have talked a little bit about over the last few days...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: That's the Conservative Political Action Conference that occurred this weekend...

JEFFREY: Right...

BLITZER: ... in Washington.

JEFFREY: ... the Conservative Political Action Conference. I was there Thursday night, when Dick Cheney spoke at the dinner. The emcee that night was Michael Steele, who, of course, was the candidate from Maryland, a very good, conservative African-American.

Also on the dais with him was Ken Blackwell, the former secretary of state of Ohio, who ran for governor in Ohio. They talked about Lynn Swann. Roy Innis, the head of the Council on Racial Equality (sic), received the Courage Award.

There's no doubt there's the incipient movement in the Republican Party to reach out to the black community with a conservative message. You saw that happening at CPAC this weekend.

BLITZER: And -- and I -- I assume it's going to continue.

Very quickly, both of you, Rudy Giuliani has got a little problem, with his son speaking out, saying he's really not speaking that much with his dad.

How much of a political problem does this have for Giuliani, who wants to be president?

BRAZILE: Look, there's no question that, if you can't heal the rift in your family and bring your family together, how can you bring the country together and how can you bring other people? So, I think this is a very personal, a very tragic situation. But, hopefully, the two of them will learn how to talk again.

BLITZER: Is this a serious problem for Giuliani?

JEFFREY: You know, I think it is. You know, conservatives like myself made a big deal about when David Geffen said, Bill Clinton isn't a different person than he was six years ago.

Mayor Giuliani experienced a very flamboyant divorce while he was mayor of New York very recently. If he's elected president, is this going to be a different person in the White House than we saw as mayor of New York?

BLITZER: We have got to leave it there, but it's a good question to leave it on. We will continue to pursue the story.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Donna and Terry.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He's in New York with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Is this the same fat, obnoxious little kid that disrupted Mayor Giuliani's inauguration the first time he was...

BLITZER: He was a very precocious -- he was a precocious little boy. CAFFERTY: He was a fat, obnoxious little kid who should have been smacked upside the head back then. Maybe that's how come he's so outspoken today.

The question is: Who is ultimately responsible for the conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center?

Brian in San Diego writes: "The commander in chief, George W. Bush -- as such, Bush is naming a bipartisan commission to assess the problems at Walter Reed. He will ignore that commission, just as he has the Iraq commission and the 9/11 Commission. Incidentally, Bush is also directly responsible for the soldiers having to go to Army Reed -- Walter Reed Medical Center in the first place."

Craig writes: "Jack, the same people who are responsible for continuing to insert American forces into an Iraqi civil war, the same people who refuse to stand up to an out-of-control president, the same people who don't have an ounce of courage, only concern for their own political hide? Hide? Oh, yes, that's what they do best."

Rory in Minnesota: "Jack, it's not the Army, though they are not blameless. It goes much deeper than that. It's the American public's apathy about our government. Over the years, we have ceded control of our government, giving it to the corporate/lobbyist interests. Why would we think that they would have any interest in something like treatment of our veterans? Where's the profit in that?"

Bob in Beulah, Michigan: "Easy answer. The decider decided to send them into harm's way. Now he needs to decide whether or not to take care of them. It's easy to start a war. Appropriately dealing with the consequences is the measure of a real leader."

And C.T. in Bartlett, Illinois: "Jack, thank God you're back. I have such a small, pathetic little life, that I actually look forward to seeing you every day. Sad, isn't it? As for the question who is responsible, we all are, every person who sits quietly and lets this administration get away with everything we have let them get away with" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: There are a lot of people like C.T. in Bartlett, Illinois, who are glad you are back as well, Jack. Thanks very much. We will see you in a few moments.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: Still to come: the anti-gay slur. Was it an anti-gay slur that was hurled at the presidential candidate John Edwards? And can he turn pundit Ann Coulter's attack into an asset?

And our senior medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is on call. He will be here in THE SITUATION ROOM to tell us more about the vice president, Dick Cheney's blood clot.

Stick around. We will be right back.

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