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THE SITUATION ROOM
Republicans Close Ranks Around McCain; Shooting at Northern Illinois University; Shooting Down Spy Satellite in Space
Aired February 14, 2008 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where we're awaiting the announcement the winner of the New Mexico Democratic caucus.
Will it be Hillary Clinton? Will it be Barack Obama? We're about to find out. You'll see it live here unfold.
Also the breaking news we've been following, the former presidential candidate Mitt Romney now endorsing his one time bitter rival, John McCain. Republicans closing ranks about the man all but certain to be their nominee.
And the grueling race for the White House taking a toll on the candidates -- we're going to show you the serious health problems they may be facing.
Plus, details of a dramatic plan by the United States military right now to possibly shoot down a satellite loaded with toxic fuel and now hurtling out of control toward Earth.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
To breaking news in the race for the White House. The former Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, throwing his support behind the man who was his bitter rival just a few weeks ago, Senator John McCain. Romney made the announcement only moments ago. You saw it live here in THE SITUATION ROOM in Boston. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This isn't my first joint appearance with Senator McCain, but it promises to be one of the most pleasurable. I am honored to give my full support to Senator McCain's candidacy for the presidency of the United States. I'm officially endorsing his candidacy. And today I'm asking my delegates to vote for Senator McCain at the convention.
As all of you saw over the past year, things can get pretty rough in a political campaign. And in the thick of the fight, it's easy to lose sight of your opponent's finer qualities. But the truth of the matter is, in the case of Senator McCain, I could never quite do that. Even when the contest was close and our disagreements were debated, the caliber of the man was apparent. And this is a man capable of leading our country at a dangerous hour. Senator McCain understands the war we're in, the necessity of victory and the consequences of surrender. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM watching all of this.
He could have waited longer, but he decided to do it today. What's going on?
GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I talked with some of Romney's top advisers. They say, Wolf, that this was kind of a natural progression, that he intended to do this at some point. Obviously, Huckabee still being out there running against McCain really played into this, because he wants the party to unite.
Huckabee clearly wants to claim the Evangelical conservative mantle and take it all the way to the convention, if he can, and have more delegates than Romney. That's not the game Mitt Romney is playing. He's playing for the Republican Party.
BLITZER: Well, what about for the nearly 300 Romney delegates?
BLITZER: What happens to them? Because if you add those to McCain's total already, he's very, very close to that magic number.
BORGER: Well, you know, it's very funny. I asked that question in an e-mail to a top McCain adviser today. And his answer was, on background, this means that McCain is the nominee. Now, these people are not bound to go the way Mitt Romney tells them to go, but the fact that he's done it, Wolf, is very, very good for John McCain. And Mike Huckabee is out there kind of as the maverick. And he's going to portray these two fellows as the Republican establishment.
BLITZER: Gloria, thanks very much.
There's a campus shooting that we're just getting wind of right now.
Carol Costello has got some details -- Carol, what's going on?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We'll, it's a terrible situation, Wolf. This is at Northern Illinois University. It's west of Chicago. We understand 18 people have been shot on campus. No deaths reported as of yet. This is according to CLT, our local affiliate. CNN has not independently confirmed this.
As far as we know, the gunman is still on the loose. I'm looking at the University's Web site right now. Twenty-five thousand students at this university, by the way. The first alert for students went out a at 3:20 p.m. Eastern time. And it says there's been a report of a possible gunman on campus. At 3:50 p.m. Eastern time, this alert has been updated. And it has been confirmed there have been injuries on campus. As far as we know, police are still looking for the gunman. As soon as I get more information, of course I'll pass it along. We don't know what kind of gun was used, if it's one gunman or two. We just don't know. But 18 people -- a lot of people hurt. A lot of people shot on campus. So it has to be a pretty high-powered gun -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And it reminds us, to a certain degree -- let's hope it's not as horrible as it was at Virginia Tech, out in Blacksburg, Virginia, almost a year or so ago now. It seems hard to believe it was almost a year ago.
But this is a very disturbing development at this campus, Northern Illinois University, just outside Chicago. Did you see -- I'm just getting this statement that was posted by the school on the campus Web site. You've seen that?
COSTELLO: I have seen that. I'm looking at it right now. The first alert went out at 3:20. And it tells students to take precautions and to go into the buildings and to get to a safe place, which I presume means a locked room. That warning went out at 3:20 Eastern time.
At 3:40 p.m. Eastern time, they canceled all classes on the DeKalb campus. And at 3:50 Eastern time, campus authorities alerted students that there has been a shooting on campus, several people have been taken away on ambulances and again, all classes are canceled. And they're urging students to get to a safe place. Lock your doors. Get to a safe place. That warning still in place. If you're a student and you're listening, lock your doors, get to a safe place, because we're not sure if that gunman has been caught as of yet.
BLITZER: The statement that I see here -- "It's been confirmed" -- let me read this to you, Carol. "It has been confirmed that there has been a shooting on campus and several people have been taken away by ambulance." That according to the posting at the DeKalb campus Web site. "All classes are canceled on the DeKalb campus. People are urged not to come to campus."
The school clearly taking quick action in the aftermath of what some saw as some slow action at Virginia Tech in the immediate aftermath of that shooting there.
COSTELLO: Wolf, after Virginia Tech, pretty much every university across the country got together and said what can we do to better protect our students? Because, you know, the big problem with Virginia Tech was that they didn't inform students of what was happening on campus. So now most universities text message students. They give them a call in their dorm rooms automatically. They do it by e-mail and they post it online on their Web sites. And that apparently is what this university has done.
BLITZER: All right, we'll stay on top of this story. Carol, thanks very much.
Let's go to Albuquerque, New Mexico, though, right now, where they're announcing the results of the Democratic Party caucuses on Super Tuesday.
BRIAN COLON, NEW MEXICO DEMOCRATIC PARTY: At each and every opportunity, when there was a question involved in this process, we went back to our agreement. And, again, that touchstone of the agreement was inclusiveness, fairness and making sure that each and every person had an opportunity to cast a vote in this presidential preference caucus.
Mara Lee from Senator Clinton's campaign, Carlos Monje, the state director from Senator Obama's campaign, are to be commended. They have spent eight days locked up in there with me. That's not easy. Ask my wife. That is a challenge and they rose to the occasion because they believed that this was an important process. And they remained committed to counting each and every vote, regardless of how long it took, because they agreed with the state party of New Mexico that accuracy was more important than speed.
They were tremendous and superb representatives of not just their candidates' campaigns, but the candidates themselves -- those historic candidates that believed that inclusiveness was paramount in this presidential election cycle.
And, of course, now that I've heaped all the praise on them, they've joined us. And they missed it, but I apologize for that. This is our state directors, both, for Senator Clinton, Mara Lee, and Carlos Monje, the state director for Senator Barack Obama. If you can give them a hand, I'd appreciate it. Thank you both.
COLON: It is not an understatement that truly, regardless of the amount of stress that the staff and I were under, the Democratic Party of New Mexico worked tirelessly 12 to 14-hour days. But I can tell you, on each and every one of those days, when it got difficult for me, I looked at these two individuals and considered their level of commitment to the democratic process. They truly rose to the occasion and I'm proud to have stood with them not just in reaching an agreement on the process, but seeing the process through. And I again want to say thank you to both of you.
As chair of the Democratic Party, I'd also like to thank the scores of volunteers. Now, scores is more than 144 or something, right? Someone told me -- is that right? Can -- are these mics working? Are you with me? Can you hear me? More than 144, right?
Let me tell you, we had hundreds upon hundreds of volunteers walk through those doors to embrace the democratic process. And I'm pleased to tell you that there were more than 2,250 hours donated by more than 200 volunteers to ensure that these votes would be counted in this presidential preference caucus. And I want to say to them thank you, not just from me personally, but from the Democratic Party of New Mexico and the more than 150,000 people that participated in our process on February 5th.
Now the biggest surprise in the last eight days was when we evaluated the provisional ballots that were cast on February 5th. As many of you know, Tim, Heather, each of you have been crunching numbers with me all week long. You know that we had over 17,000 provisional votes cast on election day. The campaigns in the state party were committed to going through each and every one of those provisional votes that were cast to ensure that if we could tie a provisional vote and one of those ballots to valid elector that is a registered here in New Mexico, we counted those votes.
Now the interesting thing is, is that of those 17,000 votes, thousands upon thousands of individuals participated in the Democratic Party of New Mexico's caucus. Now unfortunately, those thousands of people were registered Republican, Independent, Green. And we even had a couple of people participating from the Bull Moose Party here in New Mexico. Now, I'd never heard of the Bull Moose Party, but evidently they believed in our candidates just as much as Democrats believed in them in every part of our state.
Clearly, those Republicans and Independents and Greens and even the folks from the Bull Moose Party, they were sending a message to us. They believed in our candidates. They believed that change is appropriate in this country. And we have a message for them. They sent a message to us about change in this country. And our message to them is we welcome you. We welcome you to participate on November 4th when we change the direction of this country with our presidential nominee.
With this caucus, New Mexicans had a chance to send a message. They sent a message about the historic event that is occurring all over America. That historic event is when you can have two individuals who are trailblazing all across America.
We have two individuals that are the frontrunners in this Democratic primary -- the first frontrunner in history to be a female; the first frontrunner in history to be an African-American. The Democratic Party in this country and Americans all over this country will send a strong message that regardless of your background, regardless of your socio-economic past, you, too, can grow up to be president of the United States.
With these two Democratic candidates, we had in New Mexico, the largest voter turnout in decades. Two presidential cycles ago, we had 30 percent fewer people send a message as to who they wanted to be president of the United States. Just four years ago, at our first caucus in the State of Mexico, we had 50 percent fewer people participate. This time, we broke those numbers and we broke them hard. We had over 158,000 people come out to send their message to the country as to who they want to be the next president of the United States.
As you know, I've taken responsibility for a lot of things the last nine days. The one thing I'm not interested in taking responsibility for is turnout. Every bit of that responsibility and credit belongs to Senator Clinton and Senator Obama for lighting this state on fire in just a mere two weeks. So congratulations to each of you for accomplishing that task and making history here in our Land of Enchantment.
With that record participation, we also enjoyed one of the slimmest margins of victory in our presidential history here in New Mexico. New Mexico Democrats have spoken and here's what they have to say.
Greg, are you ready?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm ready. Go for it.
COLON: I'm just making sure. Are you ready? All right. Ladies and gentlemen, the results of the 2008 Democratic Party of New Mexico presidential preference caucus. Total number of votes cast both -- that wasn't my effect, it was his.
Total votes cast, both in absentee, regular and qualified provisional ballots, were 149,779 votes. Senator Barack Obama -- and I will read these in the order in which they appeared on the ballot. Senator Barack Obama received 71,396 votes. Senator John Edwards received 2,157 votes. Christopher Dodd received 81 votes. Congressman Dennis Kucinich 574 votes.
Our governor, New Mexico's favorite son, even as he asked people to vote their conscience and for the candidate of their choice 1,305 New Mexicans still said -- even though he's not in the race -- he's their guy.
Senator Joe Biden received 122 votes. Senator Hillary Clinton received 73,105 votes. So today, Senator Hillary Clinton is announced as the winner of the general -- of the presidential pre-primary caucus and was the top vote getter, with 73,105 votes.
BLITZER: All right, there you have it. Hillary Clinton squeaks out a win in New Mexico. It's come eight or nine days after the fact. It was that close -- 73,105 for Hillary Clinton, 71,396 for Barack Obama.
Still, Candy Crowley, a win is a win and they need a win. And they got a win right now, the Clinton campaign.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I mean, when you watch Barack Obama take eight wins in a row, this is a nice headline to have. We don't know what the breakdown is going to be of the delegates. It sounds like it's going to be very close. So I don't expect a big margin to change in one way or the other. Nonetheless, this is sort of a nice little respite in an oasis from what has been a very good Obama several days.
BLITZER: And I assume that she did well. We don't know the results of any exit polling, if they were any in New Mexico among the Latino community in New Mexico. But, clearly, Hillary Clinton -- nine days late -- winning the Democratic caucuses in New Mexico.
Candy, thanks very much for that.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack? Oh, he's putting his thing -- his little thing in his earpiece. Jack, can you hear me?
CAFFERTY: Yes, I can, Wolf. I'm sorry. They had to come get me. I had slipped into a coma listening to that guy from New Mexico.
CAFFERTY: That was -- that was painful.
BLITZER: Yes. Well, we wanted to get the results. And, you know, we're committed to bringing you the results of all the caucuses, all the primaries, to our viewers. They know...
CAFFERTY: Oh, yes.
BLITZER: They know the results when we know them.
CAFFERTY: Yes. We're the best political team on television.
BLITZER: We certainly are.
CAFFERTY: But we -- but that guy in New Mexico, please. It was awful. OK, you want to hear an oxymoron? Senate Ethics Committee. After months of investigating disgraced Senator Larry Craig, who was arrested cruising the men's bathroom in the Minneapolis airport, trying to have sex with an undercover cop, the Senate Ethics Committee is out with the results of their investigation.
They wrote Senator Craig a letter. The committee said the Idaho senator acted improperly, brought discredit on the Senate. They also said Craig's effort to withdraw his guilty plea after his arrest was an effort to duck the legal consequences of his actions.
The Senate Ethics Committee told Craig they believed he committed the crime to which he pled guilty and that he entered his guilty plea knowingly. Senator Craig -- I wasn't aware of this -- Senator Craig also apparently used $213,000 of campaign money for his legal expenses and public relations in connection with his public toilet twirling arrest.
Campaign money. These are donations that are made by people so he can run for public office. The Senate Ethics Committee didn't say there was anything wrong with that, but that Craig should have asked permission before he spent that money.
Did they censure him? No. Did they ask him to resign? No. Are they going to expel him from the Senate? No. As for Craig, well, he says he'll continue to serve the people of Idaho. Which means Larry Craig plans to remain in the United States Senate until his term expires in January.
Of course, when his disgusting behavior, arrest and guilty plea became public, Craig had first said he'd quit at the end of September -- which, of course, would have been the honorable thing to do. But then this worm changed his mind. This is our government at work.
Here's the question: Did the Senate Ethics Committee go far enough with Larry Craig by simply sending him a letter saying he acted improperly?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog. I cannot wait to hear from you.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you very much.
I want to get back to the breaking news story we're following in Illinois at a university there, Northern Illinois University, there there's been a serious shooting incident. Carol Costello is getting some additional information.
What are we learning -- Carol?
COSTELLO: And you're looking at the DeKalb County campus. And you see at all the ambulances there. According to CLT, our affiliate, 18 people were hurt in this incident. But we understand the situation is now over.
According to the "Chicago Sun-Times," the gunman -- a white male who was armed with a pistol and a shotgun -- is dead. We don't know if he committed suicide or was shot by police. We just don't know. But we do know, according to the "Sun-Times," that person is dead.
Apparently this happened in a lecture hall, Wolf, called Cole Hall, which was quite big. And students were told to avoid the King Commons area and all the buildings surrounding the King Commons area.
According to the Web site, the immediate danger has passed and the gunman is no longer threat. That's according to Northern Illinois University's Web site. But the campus will be closed tomorrow and there will be counseling available for the students -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Carol. Thank you very much.
We have on the phone one of the public affairs specialists at Northern Illinois University. Mark McGowan is joining us right now.
Mark, first of all, our deepest sympathy. It sounds like a horrible incident. What can you tell us?
MARK MCGOWAN, NORTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY: Well, actually, I can't tell you much more than Carol just reported. But, yes, the immediate danger has passed. Police have secured the scene. The gunman is no longer a threat. Several students have been taken away by ambulance. I don't have that number.
The campus is closed for the rest of the day and will be closed, as well, tomorrow. Students who are in need of counseling, we have counseling to the residence halls and there are several hot lines that have been set up for students and parents. Those numbers are on our Web site, www.niu.edu. And that's really all I can tell you at this point.
BLITZER: And we do know that the gunman is dead, though. Do we know if he killed himself or if he was shot?
MCGOWAN: That I don't know. All I can confirm is that the gunman is no longer a threat.
BLITZER: And do we know the condition of those students who were shot and taken to hospitals?
MCGOWAN: At this point, no, I'm sorry. I don't know that.
BLITZER: So you're just watching all of this unfold. But as far, as you know, as of right now, no fatalities?
MCGOWAN: Again, I can't confirm that. I don't know.
BLITZER: All right, Mark McGowan. Thank you very much.
MCGOWAN: Thank you.
BLITZER: A very disturbing incident at Northern Illinois University. It's about 60 miles west of Chicago in Illinois. It's a big campus, about 25,000 students. But as we heard, someone just started to open fire inside one of the lecture rooms. That gunman has now been shot. We don't how he was shot -- whether he shot himself or whether he was shot by a local law enforcement official or someone else.
But we'll stay on top of this story and bring you for information. The good news -- if there can be good news in a situation like this -- is we just heard from a spokesman for the university the situation is over with and there's no more danger right now. Let's hope all of the students who were shot are going to be OK.
We have other news we're following, including one that's hurtling toward Earth out of control and coming here -- a U.S. satellite carrying half a ton of toxic fuel. We're going to have details of a dramatic Pentagon plan to shoot it down.
Also, Republican lawmakers storming out of the House of Representatives -- we'll show you what prompted this dramatic protest -- an issue the president says is so important, he may delay a major overseas trip.
Plus, the convention scenario some say could lead to a civil war within the Democratic Party.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Just a short time ago, U.S. military officials announced they're planning to shoot down a broken U.S. spy satellite before it reenters the Earth's orbit next month. Let's go to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.
He's following this very dramatic story -- Jamie, what exactly is going on?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, when China shot down one its own satellites last year, the Pentagon cried foul. But now the U.S. wants to shoot one of its satellites down and the Pentagon insists it's doing it for all the right reasons.
MCINTYRE (voice-over): Some time next week, a U.S. Navy standard missile fired from the Aegis cruiser USS Lake Erie in the Northern Pacific will, for the first time, attempt to hit a satellite the size of a bus that's tumbling toward Earth, laden with 1,000 pounds of toxic hydroxene. The U.S. spy satellite never used the fuel because it was failed almost as soon as it was launched 15 months ago.
GEN. JAMES CARTWRIGHT, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: That's what distinguishes this particular activity is we have no way to communicate -- to invoke the safety measures that already on board the bird.
MCINTYRE: With three quarters of the Earth water and with large parts of the land uninhabited, the chances are slim the satellite would kill anyone. But there is a danger. The problem is not so much the 5,000-pound satellite, but the 1,000 pound of unburned fuel -- which could cover 200 yards.
MICHAEL GRIFFIN, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: It's hard to find areas that have any significant population to them where you could put a toxic substance down across a couple of football fields and not have somebody at risk.
MCINTYRE: Some experts think the U.S. may have another motive -- keeping wreckage from one of its newest spy satellites out of enemy hands.
JOHN PIKE, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG: This is the first of a new generation of imaging radar intelligence satellites. It has advanced technology on it. They may just want to keep it off of eBay.
CARTWRIGHT: That is really not an issue. Once you go through the atmosphere and the heating and the burning -- that would not be an issue in this case.
MCINTYRE: And even if the missile misses, there's no real downside.
PIKE: So there is almost nothing we can do here that makes it worse. Almost everything we can do technically makes it better, which was a very strong factor weighting the decision.
MCINTYRE: Now, Wolf, when China shot down its old weather satellite, it was 500 miles up and it left 150,000 pieces of space junk that will be up in space for decades. The U.S. says it will shoot this satellite down just as it's slipping out of orbit -- only 150 miles up. That means half the space junk will fall to Earth right away. The other half will fall in the next couple of weeks. So it will not pose a danger to other satellites or spacecraft -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's still a dramatic story. Jamie, thanks very much for that.
And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, on Capitol Hill, two of the nation's top economic leaders telling senators they do not believe the U.S. economy is headed into recession. The chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, and the Treasury secretary, Hank Paulson, both acknowledging that economic problems exist, but predicting modest growth -- modest growth for the year.
Tens of thousands of people gathered in downtown Beirut today for anti-Syrian rally. The demonstration marked the third anniversary of the assassination of the Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri.
At the same time, supporters of Hezbollah gathered in another section of the city for the funeral of a terrorist leader, Imad Mughniyeh, killed by a car bomb under suspicious circumstances in Damascus on Tuesday. The chief of Hezbollah accusing Israel of the carrying out the attack. Israel denies that. Hezbollah promising to retaliate. Much more on this story coming up.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The Clinton campaign is pouring tremendous efforts into Ohio right now, a state that could make or break their candidate when it holds its primary, along with Texas, on March 4th. Let's go back to Carol Costello, she's from Ohio, she knows a lot about the state. Tell us what you're picking up.
The voters in Ohio, Carol, what are they coming up with?
COSTELLO: Well, Wolf, you know there's just one big issue in Ohio and believe me people in Ohio are down to earth. They're smart. They're practical. They want solutions not pretty words. It's what they'll be looking for on the Democratic side.
COSTELLO (voice-over): Ohio is basking in its political power. Look, there's Chelsea Clinton campaigning for mom.
CHELSEA CLINTON, DAUGHTER OF HILLARY CLINTON: She's the only person who has the true universal health care plan.
COSTELLO: Trying to wrangle the youth vote at Ohio State. And there's mom, pumping up the volume for Ohio and blasting Barack Obama at the same time.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's a big difference between us. Speeches versus solutions. Talk versus action. You know, some people may think words are change, but you and I know better. Words are cheap. I know it takes work.
COSTELLO: Clinton still has a big lead over Obama in Ohio, but it's a state where solutions are not obvious. Ohio is struggling economically. The unemployment rate here is six percent. Nationally it's five percent. The state has been bleeding manufacturing jobs for years. According to the "Dayton Business Journal" it's not recovered from the 2001 recession yet. Nearly one in three in car manufacturing has been lost since then. The sub prime mortgage crisis has hit hard here. Ohio ranks sixth in the nation in the number of foreclosures.
SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Ohioans that are struggling to stay in the middle class care about what these candidates are saying. What are they going to do with manufacturing, what are they going to do with trade and tax policy, alternative energy?
COSTELLO: It's why Hillary Clinton toured a GM plant, why Barack Obama is sounding more and more like a populist.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now we carry our message to farms and factories across this state, into the cities and small towns of Ohio. To the open plains deep in the heart of Texas and all the way to the democratic convention in Denver.
COSTELLO: But right now that remains a difficult task for Obama in Ohio. Clinton has wrapped up a number of important endorsements, from Ohio's governor to the much loved former senator, John Glenn.
COSTELLO: He is loved in Ohio. Barack Obama, by the way, off the trail today. He's in Chicago with his wife but he did release an economic plan. Both Democrats singing a similar song, but a song Ohio wants to hear -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We're going to be speaking with Senator Sherrod Brown in our next hour. Carol thanks very much for that report.
It's a nightmare scenario for many Democrats. The party's so- called superdelegates picking the presidential nominee at the convention in Denver at the end of the summer, trumping the popular primary and caucus votes. One strategist warning it could lead to a democratic civil war. CNN's Joe Johns shows us why.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what they don't want. The Democratic National Convention in Denver this year descending into in fighting and confusion, like the 1972 convention in Miami Beach. It took so long to finish the party's business that the nominee George McGovern didn't get to deliver his acceptance speech until 3:00 in the morning. Today the fear among Democrats is that in the contest between Obama and Clinton, the loser of the popular vote could end up winning the nomination when super delegates are counted.
JULIAN EPSTEIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: If there was a perception that one candidate won the popular vote and won the vote of delegates, and that that decision was then overturned by a smoke-filled room of superdelegates, I think it would lead to a civil war within the party.
JOHNS: Supporters of the system say it's no smoke-filled room at all. Superdelegates get one vote each. They're just party insiders. Lanny Davis is a friend of the Clintons and one of the guys who helped set up the superdelegate system back in 1982.
LANNY DAVIS, FORMER BILL CLINTON AIDE: It was a considered decision by a liberal activists such as myself on the Democratic National committee who believed we needed some more moderate counterpoint. To all of the liberal activists like myself who are dominating in the primaries.
JOHNS: So, have superdelegates really mattered in choosing a nominee? If you say Walter Mondale you probably think they were a good thing. In 1984 Gary Hart won 16 primaries and caucuses; Walter Mondale, 10. But Mondale had locked up a bunch of superdelegates early and came out the winner nice and smooth. The political version of kumbaya. On the other hand the last democratic nominee isn't so sure about the superdelegates thing. He supports Obama.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Ultimately it would be a mistake on either side. Whether it's Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama for super delegates suddenly to come in and say to hell with you, the people, you all voted across the country and we're going to change the outcome.
JOHNS: Joe Johns, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit more about this situation with Democratic strategist Paul Begala. He's a Clinton supporter, our CNN analyst as well as Democratic congressman Xavier Becerra of California, he's a supporter of Barack Obama. Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
Is this a nightmare scenario that potentially is unfolding, congressman?
REP. XAVIER BECERRA (D), CALIFORNIA: I don't think it will happen, Wolf. I don't think that the Democratic superdelegates are going to get in the way the popular vote in the democratic primary. We're Democrats. Big 'D' and small 'd' and so I think at the end of the day if there's a clear front-runner that person will be our nominee.
BLITZER: What do you think Paul?
PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST Yes, Xavier is right. There's a reason he's a congressman and I'm just a pundit. These superdelegates are super ratifiers. That's all they're going to be, that's all they should be by the way. Because I think they are an abomination against democracy. But they're going to, because most of them are either elected officials like Congressman Becerra or they're, you know, party leaders.
They ought to respect the will of the people because otherwise what do you do? Ted Kennedy is a superdelegate. He's one of the most brilliant minds in American politics. He decides he's for Barack Obama but his state votes for Hillary Clinton. What does he do? Does he follow -- BLITZER: That's a good question congressman, do you go with the will of your -- if you're a superdelegate, and I know you are, all democratic members of congress are superdelegates, the governors and some of the big city mayors. What do you do? Do you go with what the people in your state decided or do you go nationally with what the tally is among pledged delegates nationwide?
BECERRA: I would think we would go with the national tally because you might have a result in the state that's different from my congressional district. I think what you want to do is go with the will of the people, all of the people. We want to have a candidate that everyone at the end of the day says I can go with you based on the fact that I may have voted one way, the will of the democrats and the majority was to go a different way. So I think it's the final tally.
BLITZER: He says that, Paul, because in California they went with Hillary Clinton, and he's a Barack Obama supporter. So it's easy for him to say go with the will of the people nationwide. But what do you say, Paul?
BEGALA: I give him more credit than that. First off, I don't advise Hillary Clinton. I don't know if Xavier advises Barack Obama, but I know him. When I was in the White House and he was in the congress we worked on a lot of things together. These are people with real integrity. I think they actually believe in democracy whatever the outcome. I personally support Hillary, I wrote her a check like the day she got in the race. I love her.
I want my children to grow up in a country led by her. But I want my children to grow up in a democracy where my party is led by people who are ratified by the voters. What we need to do is do away with this whole superdelegate thing and let we the people decide. And I think as a predictive matter, not just a normative matter, I think this will be resolved. I think either Barack's momentum will swamp Hillary or Hillary's substance and solid performance in debates will drop Barack down. Somebody is going to win this I think legitimately without the taint of the super delegates having to decide.
BLITZER: How worried are you congressman that a time when this feud is going on within the Democratic party the Republicans seem to be unifying themselves? Romney today endorsing McCain. They're beginning to look ahead and you guys are still fighting. Is that a serious problem for the democrats?
BECERRA: Wolf I think the feud is more with the media. You all are making this into more of a feud than what it is. I think Paul said it correctly. We're going to get together because the enthusiasm that we've seen for the Democratic candidates, even from folks who aren't necessarily registered Democrats, is tremendous. We're not going to try to snuff that out. I think you're going to find that we're going to try to get behind the person that the public and the entire nation is saying go with that person as your candidate.
BLITZER: There's a lot of stories coming out right now, Barack Obama, "The Economist" has a new cover story that's just coming out. He's about to get a lot more press treatment, some of it not so favorable. How serious of a problem potentially is this? We know that Hillary Clinton over the years has gotten a lot of press treatment, but it's relatively new for Barack Obama, Paul.
BEGALA: We'll have to see how he performs. Until I guess today Hillary Clinton is now running a new ad criticizing Senator Obama on television, a commercial saying that he's not participating in a debate in Madison. That is, I believe, the first negative television commercial anybody has ever run against Barack Obama. He has led a charmed life politically.
But I want to make sure if he's my party's nominee, if my candidate loses, that he's toughened up by this process. So I want these candidates to trade a few fair blows, fair shots about their records and ideas to toughen each other up. You know, Senator Obama is a really remarkable leader, but he's going to have to answer a lot of these tough charges.
BLITZER: Congressman I just want you to wrap it up for us. You know Senator Obama quite well, you support him. Is he ready for potentially what's about to happen?
BECERRA: Wolf, he welcomes the attention because he has some great ideas. But more than that Paul, his charmed life, if you go through his records, you'll find that this is a man who has picked himself up from a youth. He had a difficult life to now where he is today, charmed, maybe perhaps over the last several months people are beginning to see the charm that he has. But more importantly the substance that he brings to the table as president of the United States.
BEGALA: Let me be clear, his personal life has been a remarkable American success story and one to admire. I just think politically, he's been very good, but he's also been very lucky and it's nice to be both. That's all I'm saying.
BECERRA: It takes a lot of hard work to be lucky.
BEGALA: Good point.
BLITZER: Paul Begala, thanks very much. Congressman, thanks to you as well. We'll have you back soon.
I want to get back to that story that we've been following outside of Chicago about 60 miles or so, Northern Illinois University. There's an eyewitness who saw what was happening. A shooting incident in a lecture hall. Rosie Moroni is joining us on the phone right now.
Rosie, I know it must have been awful, what did you see?
ROSIE MORONI, SHOOTING WITNESS: I was outside the building waiting to go into a classroom at 3:30, that exact classroom when it all happened.
BLITZER: Tell us what happened. You heard some shots. MORONI: I heard an initial shot and I heard a lot of people screaming and then I heard about five to seven shots and people just started running out of the building yelling run, run, run, he's got a gun, call 911. And we all just ran to -- everybody was on the phones trying to get somebody. It was complete chaos.
BLITZER: Did you actually see the gunman?
MORONI: No, he came in through the back door -- in front of the building
BLITZER: So obviously you don't know who it was. But we know that the incident is over with and several of the students, though, were rushed to hospitals in ambulances. We hope they're doing ok. How is the campus doing based on what you can see right now, Rosie?
MORONI: It took us a very long time to get away from campus. A lot of people did not know what was going at first. I was pretty much everyone's first insight as to what happened because I was right there as it happened. But after everyone found out -- it's very scary here right now.
BLITZER: I'm sure it is. Rosie Moroni, good luck to you and all your fellow students at Northern Illinois University. Appreciate it. Good luck.
MORONI: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: I think Abbi Tatton is getting some more information as well coming in over the Internet.
What are you picking up Abbi?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, we've been looking at the campus alerts that the university has been putting out. We've counted five or six of them being put up every few minutes on their Web site here. And we've also been looking at the web cam which is on the Web site, trained on the area of King Commons which was initially alerted to students as the area they should stay away from.
A few minutes ago this was a deserted area. People have started moving around right now. We see a police car in the area there. We're also going to show you a local hospital which has transformed its Web site to give updates. The most recent being given about 45 minutes ago saying three to four victims with head wounds have arrived at the Kishwaukee Community Hospital, and up to 15 more victims arriving -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, thanks very much for that, Abbi. We'll stay on top of the story. Not a good story but unfortunately it's over with right now, the incident at Northern Illinois University outside of Chicago. A shooting incident. The shooter himself killed.
White House hopefuls putting their health at risk with a grueling campaign schedule. We're going to show you the toll it's taking on some of them. An ominous warning ahead of Pakistani elections. We'll find out what could happen from one of Benazir Bhutto's closest associates and friends.
Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: There's another standoff between the White House and opponents in Congress. President Bush now invoking the specter of future terrorist attacks, demand that congress pass a new version of the federal electronic surveillance laws by Saturday. Let's go to our justice correspondent Kelli Arena, she's following the story with the latest details.
What is going on right now, Kelli?
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the president says that he's willing to postpone his trip to Africa to help push this bill through. As you know, temporary extensions that were passed last year are set to expire this weekend.
ARENA (voice-over): President Bush warned congress it would be a dangerous mistake not to pass a new terrorism surveillance law.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Failure to act would harm our ability to monitor new terrorist activities and could reopen dangerous gaps in our intelligence.
ARENA: The current law expires at midnight Saturday. If the bill is not passed, U.S. intelligence agencies will have to go to court for warrants to listen in on conversations between suspected terrorists overseas. Intelligence officials say that they would cause unnecessary and perhaps fatal delays.
MIKE MCCONNELL, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Remember, these are terrorists who operate in the context of suicide that have sworn to commit mass casualties inside the United States greater than 9/11. So these are very dangerous men that we're attempting to track.
ARENA: But hold on, it's not like the intelligence community will be cut off at the knees. If the government already has an OK to listen in on a suspect's calls, that order stays in place for a year from when it was issued. Plus in an emergency the government can start eavesdropping before getting a court warrant, as long as it applies for one within 72 hours.
REP. SILVESTRE REYES, (D) INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: Not only is the sky not falling, it's being well monitored by our intelligence capabilities.
ARENA: Now here's the clincher. As often is the case in Washington, the standoff is about an entirely different issue. It has to do with telecom companies and whether they should be protected from lawsuits for helping the government eavesdrop without warrants in the wake of 9/11. The senate bill provides the protection. But the house bill does not. (END OF VIDEOTAPE)
ARENA: Now the president is backing the senate bill and it's hoping to raise the political ante enough to force House democrats to go along. So far, Wolf, it's not working.
BLITZER: All right, eyeball to eyeball, we'll see what happens. Thanks, Kelli, for that.
The Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf is warning he won't tolerate demonstrations following this weekend's parliamentary elections. Polls show President Musharraf's ruling party lags behind the party of the slain opposition leader the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Opposition parties have threatened to protest if they believe the vote is rigged.
Let's get some insight into this very, very volatile, extremely dangerous situation unfolding right now in Pakistan. For that I'm joined by Mark Siegel. He's a long-time friend. He was a speech writer adviser to Benazir Bhutto. He collaborated in her new book entitled "Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West." Mark is here.
Give us, before we get to the book, Mark, a little sense of what you think is going to happen in these elections on Monday.
MARK SIEGEL, FORMER BENAZIR BHUTTO ADVISER: Well we have new data out, the International Republican Institute has polled just this Monday a very significant and large sample. It has the PPP, Pakistan's People Party with 50 percent of the vote and Arwa Sharif's Party with 22 percent of the vote and the PMLQ, which is Musharraf's party, with just 14 percent of the vote.
BLITZER: So if his party, Musharraf's party wins you'll smell a rat?
SIEGEL: I'll smell more than a rat. It looks like there will be a 2/3 sweep by the democratic secular parties and suddenly the PLMQ, Musharraf's party comes from 14 percent to plurality it would be obviously a very large rigging effort.
BLITZER: Who killed Benazir Bhutto, do you believe, your long time friend?
SIEGEL: I believe that the Taliban was involved certainly. That al Qaeda was involved. But it is unclear who trained these people, who paid for it, the reasons for it. I think only if we have an international U.N. sponsored investigation can we get to the heart of the matter. I know that a majority of the people of Pakistan believe that the government was involved in this and that is a very destabilizing factor in Pakistani politics.
BLITZER: Benazir Bhutto wrote this book as she was going back to Pakistan from years in exile.
SIEGEL: We started working on this book during the summer and we finished it December 20th, seven days before she died.
BLITZER: It's now being released. Here she writes in the book, "Reconciliation," she writes this. "Islam was sent a message of liberation. The challenge for modern day Muslims is to rescue this message from the fanatics, the bigots and the forces of dictatorship."
She tried to walk this line between Islam. She wore a scarf all the time. She was a Muslim. And the west. She studied at Harvard. She felt very comfortable in both communities. Talk a little bit about her.
SIEGEL: She was a bridge between the east and the west. But she was, as far as I'm concerned, the modern face of Islam, the true Islam. In the book she takes on the jihadists who she believes had perverted the religion. She uses the language of the Koran to demonstrate that Islam is a democratic religion, a pluralistic religion.
A religion that's gender neutral and one that is tolerant to other religions and societies. She thinks that the jihadists who she took on and was willing to take on as prime minister, was leading the country and the Muslim world into a confrontation with the west that was unnecessary and avoidable.
BLITZER: And the heir apparent is her young son who has gone back to school now at Oxford, is that right?
SIEGEL: Well he's the potential leader of the party, (INAUDIBLE) will be it --
BLITZER: Her husband?
SIEGEL: No, Biwal's(ph) her son.
BLITZER: But her husband is in charge effectively?
SIEGEL: Day-to-day, at least for the interim during this campaign. The campaign will be over on Monday and then we'll see the results.
BLITZER: How is the family doing?
SIEGEL: It's hard. It's very hard for the kids and (INAUDIBLE) is doing a fantastic job. He's taking this very, very hard, but he's really stepped up to the plate.
BLITZER: Mark Siegel, thanks very much for coming in. The book is entitled "Reconciliation: Islam Democracy and the West." Appreciate it.
SIEGEL: Thank you.
BLITZER: It's a race like no other. Demanding stamina only if you can muster. We're talking about the race for the White House. A contest so grueling it can take a serious toll on a candidate's health. Let's go to our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's joining us now.
Sanjay, in terms of health, what are the candidates actually facing?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I tell you it really is a test of stamina Wolf, there's no question. Think of this for example as the busiest business trip you've ever been on. Then imagine stretching that trip out over a year and a half, different time zones, long days, not much sleep. It's grueling.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How's it going, Boston?
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hello, New Mexico!
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will win here in the state of Alabama with your help.
GUPTA (voice-over): Running for president is a cross-country endurance race. A marathon.
HUCKABEE: Thank you Burlington for coming out this morning.
GUPTA: Beginning early each morning and ending late at night.
CLINTON: Hey, we're on the road again.
GUPTA: It's a schedule that can make candidates sick.
CLINTON: Can I get some lozenge or something?
GUPTA: And tired.
DR. RICK KELLERMAN, AMERICAN ACAD. OF FAMILY PHYSICIANS: Sleep deprivation is a very real problem for the candidates. It can lead to some foggy thinking. It can affect their memory. It can affect their concentration.
GUPTA: Fatigue appears to be one issue where the candidates agree.
OBAMA: You know what I got for Christmas? Eight hours sleep.
MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm finding out just how long I can go sleep deprived. Running for office is sort of like being waterboarded I think.
CLINTON: You try to sleep whenever possible, which is usually on planes or in the car. And some days there's not enough caffeine in the world to keep you going. You just have to plow through.
GUPTA: Wherever they go, candidates are tempted with food. Often fast food. Here's one thing you probably don't know about Hillary Clinton. She likes her food spicy.
CLINTON: I like hot food and I am convinced that there is an ingredient in hot peppers that has kept me healthy since 1992.
GUPTA: Tight schedules leave candidates little time for any real exercise. This may surprise you. For most of us, stress depresses immune function, making us more likely to get sick. Dr. Rick Kellerman at the American Academy of Family Physicians does not think stress is a big problem for the candidates.
KELLERMAN: These are people that have learned to cope with that stress. In fact, they may even thrive on stress.
GUPTA: And Kellerman says the rigors of the campaign trail may be a good test for what is being called the toughest job in the world.
GUPTA: And Dr. Kellemran also told us it's important for the candidates to insist to their aides to schedule time for exercise and to stick to their home routines as much as possible. Under the circumstances, much as possible. For example, if the candidate has a bowl of cold cereal before bed at night, then he or she should have a bowl of cold cereal before bed on the road. Wolf, as you know, it's not always easy. It's not easy for you I'm sure when you're covering a lot of these stories and for the candidates this is prolonged over a long period of time.
BLITZER: Exercise is the most important thing and a healthy diet. If you get enough sleep, that doesn't hurt either as you well know Sanjay. Thanks very much.
GUPTA: Thank you.
BLITZER: Sanjay knows a lot about this stuff. And please join him this weekend for "The First Patient." It's a fascinating look at health and the presidency. That's Saturday and Sunday nights at 8:00 and 11:00 p.m. Eastern. Dr. Sanjay Gupta's special, "The First Patient."
Let's go back to Jack Cafferty or before we go back to Jack Cafferty I want to check in one more time with Carol Costello on that breaking news story we're following out of Illinois.
Is that right Carol?
COSTELLO: Yes. I have some updated information about the injuries that took place at Northern Illinois University. We understand from the local hospital there 13 were shot, mostly with gunshot wounds to the head. As far as we know there have been no fatalities yet. All of the students being taken to the same local hospital.
According to Channel 2, a local channel in Chicago there, they're reporting that the shooter was a white skinny male wearing a tight black shirt. And again, according to the "Sun Times" he was armed with a shotgun and a pistol. This happened in class. Apparently according to Channel 2 this guy entered the class in the last five minutes and he just opened fire. Students were diving under desks. Some ran from the classroom trying to get out.
We don't know what the motive was for this. But we understand there were over 100 students in that classroom. You know, Wolf, it just must have been terrifying in there for those kids. But again, 13 people in the hospital right now mostly with gunshot wounds to the head.
BLITZER: All right, we'll stay on top of the story for our viewers. Thanks very much.
Thank god the incident is over with right now. Let's go to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack?
CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: Did the senate ethics committee go far enough with Senator Larry Craig, that senator from Idaho, the one who pled guilty to charges in connection with a sexual sting. He was trolling in some men's room in the Minneapolis airport and attempted to solicit sex from an undercover cop. He pled guilty to associated charges, I think it was disorderly conduct. Any way the senate ethics committee sent him a letter saying he acted improperly and our question was, was that enough?
Warren writes: "Well let's see, Congress spends countless time, energy, taxpayer dollars grilling a baseball player about his alleged use of steroids 10 years ago, yet slaps on of its own on the wrist for breaking the law and misusing campaign funds. It's Washington, nothing changes, we keep electing them."
Andrew in Costa Rica, San Ramon: "This is outrageous! Do our elected officials have no shame? This is a prime example of why Congress' approval rating is well, in the toilet! They should have booted out Craig by his shoelaces! I moved to Costa Rica three years ago and each day I'm provided with more reasons not to return to the United States."
James writes: "Craig belongs in jail and so do these idiots on the ethics committee who seem to think it's OK to spend the people's money in this manner." It came out during the investigation apparently that Craig spent more than $200,000 in campaign funds on his legal fees and public relations campaign.
Alan writes: "No they didn't go far enough, but that's what you get when the rooster watches the hen house. They're all afraid they'll be next."
Charles writes: "He should have been gone a long time ago."
R. writes: "Absolutely not, it's a prime example how the government continues to protect its own. Senator Craig should've been forced to resign due to his actions. Here's a public official elected by the people of Idaho to represent them. In turn, he makes a fool of himself by doing something illegal. It shows the lack of respect he has for the position that he held and therefore he's not deserving of that title any more."
And Joey writes from Shickshinny, Pennsylvania: "I think that they need to take a wider stance on this issue" -- Wolf
BLITZER: Jack, thank you very much.
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