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THE SITUATION ROOM

Obama's SEIU Support is a New Setback for Clinton; Bush 41 to Back McCain; Charles Barkley on Supporting Obama

Aired February 15, 2008 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, powerful new endorsements for Barack Obama and John McCain. We're going to tell you who's lining up behind them and how it may impact the presidential race.
Also, it's an all-star lineup of NBA-legends-turned-campaign- surrogates. I'll speak with Obama supporter Charles Barkley and Clinton supporter Magic Johnson.

And inside the life and death of a campus killer and the victims he gunned down. We'll bring you new details this hour on the shooting at Northern Illinois University.

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

Right now the spotlight is back on this city. New Orleans hosting the NBA All-Star Game this weekend. It's a new and important boost to recovery efforts under way here, two and a half years after Hurricane Katrina.

Just ahead we'll take a closer look and get a first-hand look at how New Orleans is doing right now, what problems may be needed to be still addressed by the next president of the United States. That's coming up.

Also in the mix, two pro-basketball legends now throwing their support behind White House hopefuls. My interviews with Charles Barkley and Magic Johnson, that's coming up.

But first, Barack Obama reeling in the endorsement of one of the nation's largest and most influential labor unions. And that's not the only blow to Hillary Clinton today. One of her powerful African- American supporters is now said to be second-guessing the choice he made.

CNN's Jessica Yellin is in Ohio covering the Democratic race for us.

Clinton has her work cut out for her, Jessica, in Ohio, as Obama's momentum seems to keep on building.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She sure does, Wolf. Right now, Senator Clinton is in Ohio fighting to hold on to her base and keep her supporters from getting cold feet.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) YELLIN (voice over): Campaigning in Ohio, Hillary Clinton seems more determined than ever.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm asking you to hire me for the hardest job in the world.

YELLIN: She's offering new solutions to crack down on predatory lending and credit card abuses, and generally protect working Americans.

CLINTON: I am a candidate of, from, and for the middle class of America.

YELLIN: Now she's launched a new ad in Wisconsin, one of the next states to vote, attacking Barack Obama.

ANNOUNCER: ... why he voted to pass billions in Bush giveaways to the oil companies, but Hillary didn't.

YELLIN: Her back is against the wall. Obama just won a sought- after endorsement from the Service Employees International Union, whose leaders say they have 150,000 members in upcoming primary states and plan to get out the vote aggressively.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: Two distinguished members of the United States Senate here.

YELLIN: And now there are questions whether Congressman John Lewis, a superdelegate and civil rights giant who endorsed Hillary Clinton, might be toying with the idea of jumping on the Obama bandwagon, too. Last year, even before choosing a candidate, he made it clear he was torn even then.

LEWIS: Well, it's a difficult position to be in. But it's a good position to be in. We have choices.

YELLIN: And the Obama campaign is hitting back on Clinton's' attacks in e-mails to reporters and on the stump.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I understand that, you know, Senator Clinton periodically, when she's feeling down, launches attacks and -- as of way of, you know, trying to boost her -- boost her appeal.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: And Senator Clinton is due to arrive here outside of Cleveland shortly. We have heard her unveil a new policy initiative every day. Today's is fighting back against predatory lending -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica Yellin in Ohio for us. Thanks, Jessica.

Let's get over to the Republican race right now. Another Bush falling in line behind the likely nominee, John McCain. Not the president of the United States, but his dad. GOP officials say George Herbert Walker Bush is set to endorse McCain in Texas next week. This comes days after the former Florida governor, Jeb Bush, backed McCain. Let's go to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's joining us right now.

So, why is the former president weighing in right now, Candy?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a critical time for John McCain, because before he can get to that general election -- everyone thinks he will be the nominee -- in fact, are certain that he will be the nominee -- he's got one last hurdle to leap over. And that, of course, is Mike Huckabee.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice over): In the latest sign the Republican establishment wants to wrap it up, party officials say former president George H. W. Bush will endorse John McCain in Houston Monday.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I hope so, because former President Bush is one of the more -- most respected people in our party.

CROWLEY: The nod is also designed to bolster McCain in Texas, where a strong block of politically active social conservatives could embarrass him in the state's March 4th primary. It is also designed to send yet another signal to Mike Huckabee to get with the program.

The former Arkansas governor was busy courting voters in Wisconsin when news of the Bush endorsement surfaced, but it's not likely it will move him to abandon his mission impossible. As of last night, he was having none of it.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I think it would be a great disservice to the country and to my own party to just give up and quit because it looks like, you know, the numbers are trending toward John McCain at this particular stage.

CROWLEY: Nor is the former president's endorsement likely to impress the Republican conservatives fueling Huckabee. The so-called values voters always suspected Mr. Bush, the elder, was not wholly committed to the anti-abortion cause. And the former president's tenure in office gave rise to phrases that have become part of conservative vocabulary. "No more suitors" refers to a Bush Supreme Court pick, a relative unknown who has proven to be a high court liberal."

And there was this at the 1988 Republican National Convention...

GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Read my lips: no new taxes.

CROWLEY: ... as President George Bush did raise taxes in a compromise with Democrats on a deficit-reducing package.

PAT BUCHANAN, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's go quail hunting today!

CROWLEY: Four years later, conservative Pat Buchanan took a run and Bush in the Republican primary season and beat the president over the head with the "no new taxes" promise.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Still, even in politics, Wolf, time does heal wounds. The president, the former president, is the party's senior statesman. And just his presence carries some weight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Candy. Thanks very much.

Officials in Illinois and across the nation are grappling right now with that deadly shooting on a college campus. Police say there were no red flags to suggest a former student would open fire at Northern Illinois University yesterday. The gunman has been identified as a former student, Steven Kazmierczak. He shot 21 people, killing five of them before turning the gun on himself.

President Bush spoke about this tragedy this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This morning I spoke to the president of Northern Illinois University. I told the president that a lot of folks today will be praying for the families of the victims and for the Northern Illinois University community.

It's obviously a tragic situation on that campus. And I ask our fellow citizens to offer their blessings -- blessings of comfort and blessings of strength.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more ahead on the gunman, his state of mind, and the victims whose lives he cut short. That's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now. He's got "The Cafferty File." He's joining us from New York -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, if John McCain and Barack Obama wind up facing each other in November, it would be an historic election that represents a true generational battle. The match-up would pit the 71-year-old McCain, who if he's elected would become the oldest president ever, against the 46-year-old Obama, who would be one of the youngest.

We're starting to get a glimpse of what this race might be all about, too. By seizing on the mantle of change, Obama has drawn record numbers of young voters to the polls who see him as something of a rock star. And after their respective victories in the Potomac primaries on Tuesday, both these men now seem to set their sights on each other. McCain called hope a powerful thing, saying that he's seen men's hopes tested in hard and cruel ways. He then went on to contrast his POW experiences with Obama's speeches, adding -- a quote here -- "To encourage a country with only rhetoric, rather than sound and proven ideas that trust in the strength and courage of free people is not a promise of hope. It's a platitude."

Those would be classified as fighting words where I come from. McCain says he's fired up and ready to go.

The age difference isn't lost on Obama either. He points out McCain's half-century of service to his country. In his speech the other night, Obama tied McCain to President Bush's failed policies of the past, adding -- quoting here -- "George Bush won't be on the ballot this November, but his war and his tax cuts for the wealthy will be."

What a race that would be if it happens.

Here's the question: In a hypothetical match-up between John McCain and Barack Obama, who wins the generational battle?

Go to cnn.com/caffertyfile, where you can post a comment on my blog.

And I also understand, Wolf -- and I've got to sneak this in -- that as of today, there's a link on that blog where you can hook up and get a copy of that book I wrote, "It's Getting Ugly Out There."

BLITZER: That's very important. That's the place to go.

Remember, CNNpolitics.com, Jack, that's also where viewers and everybody else can read my daily blog. I just wrote something, just posted it minutes ago on what's happening in New Orleans right now, where I am. And we're going to have a lot more on this city coming up over the next three hours.

CAFFERTY: Is there a link there to my book?

BLITZER: Not yet, but we can make that happen. We can do a lot here, Jack.

We want to do whatever we can to help Jack. All right, Jack. Stand by.

The NBA legend Charles Barkley, he's also here in New Orleans for the NBA All-Star Game. He's trying to score some points for Barack Obama. He's also going after the Republican right.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES BARKLEY, FMR. BASKETBALL PLAYER: Every time I hear the word "conservative," it makes me sick to my stomach.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Up next, my interview with Charles Barkley and his thoughts on a possible Obama/Clinton dream team and a lot more. You're going to want to hear this.

Plus, growing fears of a war at the Democratic Convention. We'll have some advice for the superdelegates who are deciding whether to vote their conscience or with their constituents.

And is big brother watching you? We're going to tell you what's keeping Congress from passing legislation on domestic wiretapping.

We're live here in New Orleans, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Barack Obama has scored an impressive number of big- name celebrity supporters, and that includes the long-time NBA superstar Charles Barkley. Barkley is here in New Orleans for the All-Star Game this weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now, the TNT analyst, Charles Barkley, the basketball great.

Charles, thanks very much for coming in.

Don't really want to talk basketball with you. I want to talk politics. I know you support Obama. Tell us why you decided to go with him, as opposed to, let's say, Hillary Clinton.

BARKLEY: Well, I think, first and foremost, I consider him a friend of mine. And when I look at him, he represents everything that's good in the black community. He's intelligent. He's articulate. He's -- we need that. You know, most of our role models are athletes and entertainers. We've got to get more black kids to be educated, carry themselves with great class and dignity.

And he's perfect for what we need because we've got so much black-on-black crime in this country right now. We've got a lot of kids who are not getting their education. That's why I'm supporting him.

BLITZER: A few years ago you were a Republican. I know you're a Democrat now, but when you were a Republican, you were asked why you were a Republican, and you said something along the lines that, "The Democrats want to raise my taxes. The Republicans don't." Obama wants to raise your taxes.

BARKLEY: Well, you know what? It won't affect me at all. But what I really said was, I'm rich like a Republican. I never voted for a Republican. I'm actually an Independent. But I'm supporting Barack because I have to look at the big picture.

This country is divided by economics between the rich and the poor. And I'm going to support him all the way to the wall. I really like our chances right now.

BLITZER: If he doesn't get the nomination, if Hillary Clinton does get it, how would you feel about that? How would you feel about supporting her?

BARKLEY: I've got no problem with that. Last time I supported John Edwards. I'm going to vote Democratic. I hope it's my guy, Barack. But I'm going to vote Democratic either way, because I don't like what the Republicans have done to our country.

BLITZER: I spoke with Magic Johnson, who was a member of the so- called dream team in the old days. And he said that his dream team right now is Clinton and Obama. How would you feel about the two of them on the same ticket?

BARKLEY: Well, my dream team would be Obama/Clinton. Not Clinton/Obama. My dream team -- you know, I don't care. I want Barack to be president. If he's vice president, that's good. But I just think we need a new face.We need a new leader, because the way things are going, it's not going well. But I want him to be the president, not the vice president.

BLITZER: How do you think he would shape up against John McCain, who is the likely Republican presidential nominee, on this specific issue of national security?

BARKLEY: Well, I think, you know, people keep saying, well, he doesn't have enough experience on national security and things like that. First of all, whoever the president is, he's going to have tons of advisers. It ain't like the president gets to make every decision on his own. You have great advisers around you.

Hey, I live in Arizona. I have got great respect for Senator McCain. Great respect. But I don't like the way the Republicans are taking this country. Every time I hear the word "conservative," it makes me sick to my stomach, because they're really just fake Christians, as I call them. That's all they are. But I just -- I'm going to vote Democratic no matter what.

BLITZER: What about you in politics? At one point you were thinking of running back in Alabama. What do you think?

BARKLEY: Well, I just bought a house in 2007. And in 2014, I promise you I'm going to run for governor of Alabama.

BLITZER: And when will you run for governor of Alabama?

BARKLEY: 2014. You have to have residency for seven years. And I bought my house at the end of last year. And I will be eligible in 2014.

BLITZER: All right. One quick point before I let you go. You used the phrase "fake Christians" for conservatives. Explain what you're talking about.

BARKLEY: Well, I think they -- they want to be judge and jury. Like, I'm for gay marriage. It's none of my business if gay people want to get married. I'm pro-choice. And I think these Christians -- first of all, they're supposed to be -- they're not supposed to judge other people. But they're the most hypocritical judge of people we have in this country. And it bugs the hell out of me. They act like their Christians. And they're not forgiving at all.

BLITZER: So you're going to get a lot of feedback on this one, Charles.

BARKLEY: They can't do anything to me. I don't work for them.

BLITZER: You feel comfortable saying all that?

BARKLEY: I feel very comfortable saying I'm pro-choice, and I'm for gay marriage. Very comfortable.

BLITZER: But you can't lump all these conservatives as being fake. A lot of them obviously -- most of them are very, very sincere in their religious beliefs.

BARKLEY: Well, they should read the part about they're not supposed to judge other people. They forget that one when it doesn't fit what they want it to say.

BLITZER: All right. We've got to leave it there, Charles.

Thanks very much for joining us.

BARKLEY: Thank you for having me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Another NBA great, Magic Johnson, is playing against Barkley these days by supporting Hillary Clinton. Johnson also is here in New Orleans for the all-star weekend.

Coming up, I'll ask Magic Johnson if he thinks Senator Clinton's campaign can rebound.

You can also watch, by the way, the NBA All-Star Game Sunday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, on our sister network, TNT. That's coming up Sunday night.

A wild weekend. An excellent weekend here in New Orleans. A lot of good basketball.

Right now they're mourning, and there are many questions that are still unanswered after a gunman's rampage at Northern Illinois University. Police are learning more, including just how the gunman concealed a shotgun on campus, and some surprising details about his background.

We're going to have the latest.

And the clock is ticking on something the president says the government needs to do to help protect Americans from terrorists. But should phone companies helping the government be given legal protection?

All that and a lot more coming up right here on THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Many people are asking this -- why did a gunman go on a rampage in Illinois, killing five and injuring many more? We're going to have the latest on the investigation, including details on his background from people who knew him.

And in presidential politics, they're the Democratic insiders, the leaders who could sway the outcome. Superdelegates, as they're called. They're feeling some pressure to do the right thing, but what exactly is the right thing?

That and a lot more in our "Strategy Session."

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, hope and promise. Frustration and promises unfulfilled. Two and a half years after Katrina stormed the Gulf Coast, how close is New Orleans to being the grand city it once was?

I'm here. You're going to see the progress and the enduring pains.

Also, which presidential candidate is getting the most donations from members of the U.S. military? The one with the honored military record? The two against the Iraq war? Or someone else?

The answer might surprise you.

And some are calling it Obamamania, wildly enthusiastic crowds for Barack Obama.

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

In Illinois and across the country, many are in mourning right now and in shock after a former student at Northern Illinois University secretly carried guns into a lecture hall, fired on a room of students, reloaded, then shot himself. The motive for his rampage unknown. Five others are dead.

Police say the gunman was 27-year-old former student Steven Kazmierczak, and that he had no history of arrests. Today his father made a tearful appeal to reporters outside his home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROBERT KAZMIERCAZK, NIU SHOOTER'S FATHER: Please, leave me alone. I have no statement to make and no comment. OK? I appreciate that.

It's a very hard time. I'm a diabetic. And I don't want to fall into a remission (ph).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Four people remain in critical condition.

CNN's Susan Roesgen is outside one DeKalb hospital.

Susan, what are you hearing about their injuries?

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as you mentioned, there are four students still in critical condition. Seven students all together at various hospitals. And just one student at the hospital behind me.

This is the hospital closest to the university where the wounded were taken last night. The one student who is here is expected to be OK. She should be coming out of surgery shortly, surgery for a gunshot wound to one of her arms.

Also, Governor Rob Blagojevich, the Illinois governor, is expected here any minute. He's expect to possibly talk to the student and to the staff who did really a heroic job yesterday.

In fact, they say that those shotgun blasts were the worst for the students. This gunman, with a shotgun and four handguns, shooting at terrified students, often in the back as they were running away.

Here's more from the chief medical director.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ROGER MAILLEFER, CHIEF OF STAFF, KISHWAUKEE HOSPITAL: Typical gunshot wounds that most of us are trained for in general surgery and trauma surgery is inner city. It's typically not what we saw yesterday.

Usually, these are handguns or rifles. Yesterday, as you can imagine, in a classroom full of students that were trying to leave as buckshot was being fired at them, there were a variety of injuries from the front and from the back. These are little pellets. They look like little BBs. And although on the surface they look very small and insignificant, you cannot rely on that. They can travel to places where they're not supposed to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROESGEN: Once again, Governor Rod Blagojevich should be here any moment speaking to the staff. Again, this is a new hospital, Wolf, a hospital at which they has been practicing for a major event like this, never thinking that they would have one like this last night -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a horrendous tragedy. Thank you, Susan. Thanks very much.

Let's go to our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton. She's been searching online for details about this gunman.

Abbi, what can you tell us about him?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, what we have been finding doesn't make this any less baffling. Stephen Kazmierczak, at one point a graduate student who was winning awards for his work at Northern Illinois University, Winning the Dean's award for his work in sociology in 2006. In online articles that he co-authored, you can find his areas of study which are described in a short bio at the end, Corrections and peace and social justice.

Also in that bio, it notes that he was an officer at the student chapter of the American Correctional Association. We found two years worth of minutes, of photos of social activities from that student chapter, which seemed to indicate that Kazmierczak was an active member of that group, all of this taking us through about 2006.

Last year, he was enrolled at the University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign, 175 miles away from campus. There's a lot less that we have been finding online more recently. Certainly, no online clue has emerged at this stage as to motive -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Abbi.

Let's get to another major story we're following right now -- the clock ticking on a terror surveillance law that is set to run out hours from now. A temporary eavesdropping law will expire.

Today, President Bush said the failure by the House of Representatives to renew that bill leaves the country in danger.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: American citizens must understand, clearly understand, that there's still a threat on the homeland, there's still an enemy which would like to do us harm, and that we have got to give our professionals the tools they need to be able to figure out what the enemy is up to, so that we can stop it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Meanwhile, some Democrats are accusing the White House of fear-mongering.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MAJORITY LEADER: Let me say we have repeatedly urged the White House and Republicans in Congress to work with us on this matter. Unfortunately, though, the president and the Republican leaders seem intent on manufacturing a political issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: One key issue holding up the bill's passage, if phone companies helping the government eavesdrop on terrorist communications should be given legal protection. Let's go to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena. She's watching the story for us.

You have been looking into it. What are you finding, Kelli?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, that is the main issue. It's holding up the entire passage of that surveillance bill. And it has to do with immunity for those telecommunication companies. The argument is basically over whether they should get legal protection for their part in helping the government after September 11th.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARENA (voice-over): According to this man, after 9/11, Big Brother was watching over keystrokes, text messages, numbers dialed, as U.S. intelligence agencies hunted for terrorists without court approval.

MARK KLEIN, FORMER AT&T TECHNICIAN: AT&T provided the government spy agency, the National Security Agency, with everything, everything that ordinary Americans communicated over the Internet.

ARENA: Mark Klein is a former AT&T technician. He says he stumbled on a secret room at the company's offices in San Francisco set up specifically to allow the government to surveil customer communications.

That's the most detail we have ever heard about any company's alleged involvement in the government's secret domestic surveillance program in the wake of 9/11. So, what do the companies say? Nothing. Verizon, Sprint, AT&T won't even talk about it. Why the silence over a program so huge? Well, it's partly because the surveillance program remains classified, but also because the companies are facing dozens of customer privacy lawsuits. Those lawsuits may hold the answers if they're allowed to go forward.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: We will never, ever, ever know whether or not these actions were legal or not, whether or not the privacy of millions and millions of Americans were invaded.

ARENA: But most Republicans argue, if the suits do go forward, companies will stop cooperating.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: They voluntarily patriotically cooperated, so that we could protect our country from terrorists.

ARENA: Intelligence officials say they're already suffering the ramifications.

MIKE MCCONNELL, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Where we find ourselves now, even with the court order, some are saying we will take it to court to verify.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ARENA: Now, the U.S. Senate has voted to grant immunity to the companies, but the House has refused. And, so far, Wolf, neither side shows any signs of blinking.

BLITZER: So, the expiration date is Saturday. What happens if something goes forward on Sunday? Does the federal government, the National Security Agency, the intelligence community, do they lose something on Sunday that they couldn't do on Saturday?

ARENA: Well, their tool chest is definitely lighter, Wolf. They do have to go to court for certain things that they didn't have to go to court for before. That takes time. And, sometimes, when you're fighting the war on terrorism, time is everything.

BLITZER: Kelli Arena watching this story for us -- Kelli, thank you.

Right now, President Bush is on his way to Africa, part of a long-planned visit. It's to play up some of his policies for that continent. And some of the administration's goals are ambitious, to help increase access to quality education by 2010. The U.S. will have trained almost one million teachers and distributed more than 15 million textbooks in Africa.

To help fight poverty and hunger, emergency food aid reached about 23 million people in 30 countries. And the president's emergency plan for AIDS relief has provided life-saving antiviral treatment for more than 1.3 million people in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Democrats are trying to figure out what to do about Michigan and Florida. Up next, the pros and cons of letting Democratic voters in those states and their convention delegates have a say after all.

Plus, former President Bush -- former President Bush, that is -- is set to endorse John McCain. But will that make a difference in the Republican race? We're standing by for that and a lot more in our "Strategy Session."

And the U.S. Navy says it wants to save the whales. Will it have to shut off its sonar to do it?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Top Democrats are grappling with their Michigan and Florida problem. And there's no consensus yet as to whether the party's decision to strip those states of their delegates should stand. Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's watching the story for us.

Bill, could a fight over seating the Michigan and Florida delegates be damaging for either candidate? WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it could be damaging for both candidates and for the Democratic Party.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Each candidate's interests are clear. Hillary Clinton wants the Michigan and Florida delegations seated at the Democratic Convention because most of them will vote for her. She won both contests.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that the people of Michigan and Florida spoke in a very convincing way.

SCHNEIDER: Barack Obama doesn't want them seated because their votes could cost him the nomination.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Those decisions would be made after the nomination, not before.

SCHNEIDER: But the clash of interests is turning into a clash of principles. Principle number one, rules are rules, no delegates, no campaign.

OBAMA: None of us have campaigned there. So, people have no idea what their -- their respective candidates stand for.

SCHNEIDER: Principle number two: Nearly 2.3 million people voted. Their votes should count.

CLINTON: The people of Michigan and Florida apparently didn't abide by the rules because they came out and voted. They wanted their votes and their voices to be heard. And I think they should count.

SCHNEIDER: The Democratic National Committee has floated the idea of organizing caucuses to select delegates.

OBAMA: If there's a way of organizing something in those states where all -- where both Senator Clinton and I can compete, and, you know, we have enough time to make our case before the voters there, I think that would be fine with me.

SCHNEIDER: Unfair, say Clinton supporters.

SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: You can't undo an election where 1.7 million Florida Democrats have gone to vote in a secret ballot and replace it with a caucus that maybe 50,000 people would show up.

SCHNEIDER: Another clash of principles and interests. You see, Obama has won 12 out of 13 caucuses. He would be very happy to see Michigan and Florida organize caucuses to choose their delegates.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Interests can be compromised. Principles cannot. And that's why the fight over seating the Michigan and Florida delegates is getting very tough -- Wolf.

BLITZER: This is a serious problem for the Democrats. All right, Bill, thanks very much.

As all of our viewers know, Bill is part of the Emmy Award- winning best political team on television.

And, remember, for the latest political news any time, check out CNNPolitics.com. The political ticker there is the number-one political news blog on the Web right now. That's also where you can read my latest blog post. I just wrote about the situation here in New Orleans. And what a situation it is.

In our "Strategy Session," what role should the superdelegates wind up playing? Barack Obama has made his mind up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I think, increasingly, the superdelegates that I talk to are uncomfortable with the notion that they would override decisions made by voters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So, will those party leaders and activists follow Obama's cue?

And the paternal leader of the Bush family chooses McCain over Huckabee. Will conservatives in Texas now follow his lead?

All that and a lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Today in our "Strategy Session," the Democratic insiders who could decide who becomes the nominee, they're feeling pressure to do the right thing. But what exactly is the right thing for these superdelegates to do?

Joining us now in our "Strategy Session," the Democratic start Stephanie Cutter and the Republican strategist Rich Galen.

What is the right thing, Stephanie Cutter, for these so-called superdelegates to do, vote with their conscience, vote for the constituents in their respective states, go with the majority nationwide? A lot of questions.

STEPHANIE CUTTER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: A lot of questions, but a couple of things, Wolf. First of all, the race isn't over yet. We have got several contests to go. Coming out of these contests, we're likely to have a candidate with more pledged delegates than not. These superdelegates were never meant to represent their congressional district or their state.

They're really kind of delegates at large, which means they're voting on behalf of the party and the country. So, it really does come down to their conscience and where they believe the will of the people are -- is.

BLITZER: So, it's certainly true, Rich, that there's no legal obligation for them to vote one way or another. But what's the political obligation on them, if not the moral obligation?

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I'm not sure about a moral obligation. I mean, I don't know -- Ted Kennedy is a superdelegate. It's -- nobody thinks that he's going to suddenly vote for Barack Obama, nor should he. This is...

BLITZER: No, no, no, for Hillary Clinton.

(CROSSTALK)

GALEN: For Hillary Clinton, exactly right. The White House -- or the Clintons, I mean, trotted out Lanny Davis, a friend of all of ours, I think, the other day to start the drumbeat for the fact that superdelegates are, by culture and history in the Democratic Party, free to vote for whomever they want.

He -- he mentioned Franklin Roosevelt and Adlai Stevenson and John Kennedy as the fact that the Democratic Party insiders have, more often than not, chosen the right person. So, they're laying down the groundwork for the superdelegates to move this convention to Hillary's column.

CUTTER: But that -- that -- Wolf, let me just interject on one thing. We are likely to have someone with the number of pledged delegates going into the convention. I don't think that Democrats...

GALEN: You mean a majority?

CUTTER: A majority -- or a plurality...

GALEN: Oh, plurality. Yes, OK.

CUTTER: ... going into the convention. And I think that it would be very hard to party insiders to turn over that will of the people, particularly an election year where Democrats are favored, where we need an energized Democratic base, where we're bringing new people into the party. If we let insiders decide this, we're going to be in big trouble.

GALEN: Yes, this couldn't be better news for the Republican Party if we invented it.

BLITZER: Why?

(LAUGHTER)

GALEN: Well, because it's going to divide the Democratic Party. One of the things that you never want to have happen -- on our side, we had five serious candidates, and that they dropped off. Everybody kind of chose a new person. But when you have two candidates -- this happened to us in '76 -- it happened to us when Pat Buchanan challenged Bush I -- that when you have two candidates that stay in all the way down the line, the sides harden, and it's very difficult to get them back together in any kind of organized and enthusiastic manner.

BLITZER: How worried, Stephanie, should Hillary Clinton's camp be that prominent African-American superdelegates who had been in her -- on her side are now thinking about switching and moving Obama?

CUTTER: Well, I think that they should be worried, but I think they should focus on winning some contests. They have got Ohio and Texas coming up. They have got -- Hillary has got to win those states. And she's got to win it by a good margin to get the number of delegates that she needs. I mean, that's where their focus needs to be.

The superdelegates are looking at who has got the momentum in this. And John Lewis is doing what a superdelegate should do. You know, he's been a civil rights leader for a generation. And he took note on Tuesday night, just like a lot of us did, that the African- American vote, by a huge margin, 80 to 90 percent, went for Barack Obama. That's something that we have to pay attention to.

BLITZER: And let's not forget this coming Tuesday a contest in both Wisconsin and Hawaii.

CUTTER: Right.

BLITZER: Rich, what -- let's talk a little bit about this endorsement from the former President George Herbert Walker Bush for John McCain. It's going to be formally made next week.

It comes in advance of Texas, where Huckabee was thought to have a good opportunity, if not to win, to at least embarrass McCain once again, as he did in Louisiana and in other parts of the South. What do you think?

GALEN: Well, I think that's exactly right. They didn't wait for -- they didn't do the kind of surprise, the pseudo-surprise endorsement that we have all gotten used to on -- you know, in these kinds of things, this Kabuki dance that we all did. They rolled it out a full week ahead of time.

That's designed to let the -- there's a huge base of votes in southeastern Texas, in Harris County, around Houston, that the president will help generate. And it also slides up into Dallas and a lot of those places where John McCain should and will run very strongly. We will see what happens down in the valley.

BLITZER: What is happening, Stephanie, and as Rich pointed out -- and he's probably right -- that should be of some concern to the Democrats in the long run, not necessarily in the short run, the Republicans are unifying around John McCain.

CUTTER: Right.

BLITZER: And they're getting ready for a fight against the Democrats, while the Democrats are continuing their infighting.

CUTTER: Right. Well, it is a concern of Democrats. And you just have to look at John McCain's speech on Tuesday night and realize that that's the same speech he's going to be giving Tuesday night until this contest is over.

I think, at the end of the day, Democrats want most to win back the White House. So, after Ohio and Texas, I think will see our own party consolidate around who we believe to -- the strongest candidate is and bring this race to a close.

(CROSSTALK)

GALEN: Here is the graveyard, is Stephanie, whistling past it. That would be a fond dream, but that is not going to happen. This is going to the convention floor.

(LAUGHTER)

GALEN: Every campaign's worst nightmare.

BLITZER: Well, we will see. We will see what happens in Wisconsin and Hawaii on Tuesday, and then in Texas and Ohio, and maybe in Pennsylvania and other places down the road.

CUTTER: Right.

BLITZER: It could go. Who knows. Puerto Rico, I think, is at the very, very end.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: We will watch all of this unfold.

Rich Galen, Stephanie Cutter, guys, thanks for coming in.

CUTTER: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Words of regret at the congressional hearing with baseball's Roger Clemens. A House committee chairman said that someone isn't telling the truth. Now Henry Waxman says he regrets the hearing even happened. We will tell you why.

The U.S. military facing some backlash about its plan to shoot down a dying satellite that is hurtling toward Earth. Now some nations say it's really a test of U.S. firepower.

Plus, American troops and political contributions. Guess who has the most support from members of the U.S. military? It's not who you might think.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check our political ticker right now. Congressman John Shadegg of Arizona is said to be reconsidering his decision not to seek reelection this year. More than 100 fellow House Republicans reportedly sent Shadegg a letter urging him not to retire. And that prompted a Republican state senator who was set to declare his candidacy for Shadegg's seat to postpone any announcement.

The House Oversight Committee chairman, Henry Waxman, says he now regrets holding a dramatic hearing on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball -- Waxman telling "The New York Times" the Wednesday hearing unnecessarily embarrassed pitching great Roger Clemens.

Waxman says, Clemens' lawyers has said the baseball start wanted a public forum to deny allegations of using steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs. Remember, for the latest political news any time, check out CNNPolitics.com.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" in New York -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: I will tell you who got embarrassed in those hearings. Those Congress people that held the hearings embarrassed themselves in my book. There are more pressing matters facing the members of Congress than whether Roger steroid used -- or Roger...

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: ... Roger Clemens used steroids 10 years ago. They looked pretty silly doing an all-day hearing on it.

Question this hour: In a hypothetical matchup between John McCain and Barack Obama, who wins the generational battle?

Jon writes: "Barack, in a heartbeat. I can't imagine this country electing another tired old man to be president. You can clearly hear the age in McCain's voice when he speaks. He deserves respect and admiration for his service, but not the presidency. Let's do what JFK once said about passing the torch to a new generation."

Joan in New York City writes: "I'm a 76-year-old white woman, but Barack really turns me on. I don't want an old war-monger for president. I don't want a George Bush clone for president. I want a young, fresh, energetic, progressive person for president. Above all, I want a president who will, at last, transcend the racial divide in this country and restore our good image throughout the world."

Jonathan says: "Even though I'm a younger voter, I'd have to go with McCain in this election. I'm pretty sure Obama would win, because people generally seem to think that, if you vote for another party, suddenly, we'll have people, instead of politicians, in office. I like Obama. I would take him over most of the other candidates any day. But I think he's quite short-sighted, and I believe McCain has a better perspective on things."

Jason in Colorado: "The non-baby boomers of this country are sick and tired of seeing old white men run this country into the ground. Obama will definitely win with the younger crowd, as he's inspired throughout the primaries. He connects with us in ways that grandpa can't. It's time to move forward in this country, instead of backwards."

And Perry in Baltimore says: "I am a 70-year-old retiree and I think John McCain is well past it. My generation has had its chance, and we screwed it up. We elected Bush. Obama represents and embodies the future. Give him the reins of government and let the old coots like me head out to pasture, where we belong."

CAFFERTY: Wolf, I may go along with them.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: You're not that old, Jack.

CAFFERTY: OK.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

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

Happening now, John McCain is talking of U.S. troops in Iraq for potentially decades to come. But many members of the military are throwing their financial support behind one of the most outspoken anti-war candidates.

Also, the Obama phenomenon has gone too far for some. You're going to find out who is calling the intense enthusiasm surrounding his campaign -- and I'm quoting now -- "cultlike."

And we will take you to the front line of a fight pitting environmentalists against the Pentagon to show you what the Navy is doing to try to bring about a truce.

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