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The Latest Developments in the Race for President/Seized Documents Reveal New Details About al Qaeda's Tactics

Aired February 18, 2008 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, the heated race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is getting even hotter with two potentially significant contests hours away. We're going to look at the battle for the delegates and the nomination.

Also, some secret documents for the JFK assassination revealed, now being seen by the American public for the first time including an alleged -- an alleged transcript of a conversation between the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, and his killer, Jack Ruby.

And the largest beef recall in U.S. history -- millions of pounds of meat, some of it in schools across the United States -- the latest chapter in a horrifying case of alleged animal abuse all caught on tape.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


In an extremely tight race where every vote counts more than ever, the Democrats have all eyes on Wisconsin and Hawaii right now. The islands hold their Democratic caucuses tomorrow. Wisconsin holds primaries for both parties. Washington State is also holding a primary tomorrow. But for Democrats, it's a beauty contest only. They awarded all their delegates in the Washington State caucuses February 9th. But there are 19 Republican delegates at stake in Washington.

On the Democratic side, Barack Obama was looking ahead, campaigning in Ohio, which holds its primary March 4th. Hillary Clinton was in Wisconsin.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As many victories as we've, we haven't won the nomination yet and we haven't won the general election yet, and, most importantly, we haven't made a difference of the lives of workers here in Ohio yet. And that's the ultimate victory, is actually delivering on good jobs and good wages and benefits. That's a long -- a long journey ahead of us.



SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a lot of work to do to take back our country because our economy is not working the way it needs to. It's working for some. It's working for the wealthy and the well-connected. It's worked quite well for them for the last seven years. But when you think about what we really need here in Wisconsin and across America, it's an economy that's producing good jobs with rising wages for everybody willing to work hard. And I've been focused on the economy throughout this campaign.


BLITZER: On the Republican side, John McCain picked up an endorsement from the former president, George Herbert Walker Bush.


GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH: Most importantly, he has the right values and experience to guide our nation forward at this historic moment. And so I'm very proud to endorse John McCain for the presidency of the United States of America.


BLITZER: But despite that endorsement, some conservatives remain skeptical about John McCain, especially when it comes to the very sensitive issue of taxes.

Let's to go Brian Todd.

He's working this part of the story for us -- Brian, where does McCain stand right now on this issue of taxes?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the man, who once voted against President Bush's tax cuts is now not only embracing them, but wants to make them permanent and is taking an old page out of the Bush political playbook.


TODD (voice-over): On taxes, John McCain now sounds like his latest big name endorser.


BUSH: Read my lips. No new taxes.



GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: Are you a read -- read my lips candidate -- no new taxes no matter what?



TODD: McCain wants to cut taxes for individuals, businesses and make President Bush's tax cuts permanent -- even though he once voted against them, believing they didn't curb spending enough. He says raising taxes would choke the nation's economic growth.


MCCAIN: I could see an argument, if our economy continues to deteriorate, for lower interest rates, lower tax rates and certainly decreasing corporate tax rates.


TODD: But what about America's growing budget deficits -- projected to be crushing in the decades ahead, shattering all records. McCain's aides say his plans for keeping taxes low and attacking big government spending are the way to keep deficits in check. We asked an economist with a non-partisan budget think tank.

ROBERT GREENSTEIN, CENTER ON BUDGET, POLICY PRIORITIES: The problems in the future are so large that it's pretty unthinkable we could close those deficits either by just cutting programs or just raising taxes. We're going to have to do both sooner or later.

TODD: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama favor cutting taxes for the middle class. But unlike McCain, they want to end President Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans -- those making $250,000 a year or more. On cutting the deficit, Clinton and Obama want to draw down the costs of the Iraq War and some entitlements, have the government account for the money it spends on new programs.

Would that be enough?

GREENSTEIN: I don't think anything that any candidate is suggesting will be enough to deal with long-term deficits. We are going to really need shared sacrifice.


TODD: Now, when we asked the major campaigns, including McCain's, if they would make a hard pledge to never raise taxes, none of them would be pinned down. And Robert Greenstein says they shouldn't say never. He says the deficits projected for the coming decades may be so bad that even middle class tax increases may have to be on the table in the years ahead -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd.

Thank you very much.

Residents of Hawaii are getting very wrapped up in the race for the White House. With the Democratic contest so tight, their primary tomorrow could play a significant role in picking the nominee for the first time in recent memory.

Let's go out to Honolulu and our Suzanne Malveaux.

She's got that assignment -- Suzanne, what are people there in Hawaii saying about this contest tomorrow?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's really quite amazing. It is getting quite competitive. And it really is a surprise to many people. I spoke with the executive director of the Democratic Party of Hawaii just within the last hour or so. They're expecting as many as 40 percent more of the Democrats to come out and potentially vote tomorrow. And they also say that there has been this surge over the last couple of days for Senator Clinton.

Now neither side is taking this for granted. You know Senator Barack Obama, he was born in Honolulu. There are 20 delegates that are up for grabs. And what we've seen just over the last couple of days -- well, Chelsea Clinton doing the hula dance with people out here. We've seen Barack Obama's sister passing out sugared doughnuts that she calls Obamasata (ph). There is clearly a competitive fight over these voters.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): Aloha. Think Hawaii, you normally envision moonlit luaus, sun-kissed bodies, monster surf. Yes, there is that. But think again. In the frantic race for the Democratic nomination, where every delegate counts, Hawaii matters. This is Senator Barack Obama's home turf. He was born in Honolulu and spent much of his childhood here. His secret weapon on the campaign trail -- his younger sister, Maya Soetero-Ng.

MAYA SOETERO-NG, OBAMA'S SISTER: Hey people, how's it going?


SOETERO-NG: I'm an Obama mama.

MALVEAUX: Maya lives in Honolulu, where politicking nearly 5,000 miles away from Washington has a different feel -- rallying supporters with a potluck in the park.

SOETERO-NG: I'd like people to understand that he is, without a doubt, precisely what he says he is. He really has the power to do this.

MALVEAUX: But lest you think Hillary Clinton is giving up on Obama's backyard, think again.



MALVEAUX: Daughter Chelsea was dispatched for three days to campaign across the island. While she refuses to talk to reporters, she spends hours greeting and answering supporters' questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's going to do for us women what nobody could.

MALVEAUX: For many Hawaiian voters, this election is giving them a real role in the politics of the mainland.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know that Barack Obama is for homeboy and Hillary -- but I'm for Hillary. I believe she has the experience and all the things that are needed to be a president. I just am so inspired by all of this. It's overwhelming for me. It's hard for me to even talk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he's -- he represents kind of like an image of my family because he -- I see my kids' future in his eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hawaii is a very special place and we have something here called the aloha spirit. And I really think that Obama embodies the aloha spirit.

MALVEAUX (on camera): Do you think that Senator Clinton has that same aloha spirit?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely not. No. I don't see that at all.


MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, it's something that voters talk about a lot about here, is this aloha spirit -- the sense of community, of getting along. And they say that's what they believe makes them unique from voters on the mainland. They also say that's what makes Barack Obama unique. I've had a chance in the last couple of days to talk to people who grew up with Senator Obama -- his homeroom teacher, as well as his sister and classmates and others, and we'll be presenting that to you, as well, just to get a better sense of what his background is and how it's formed his political opinions -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Suzanne.

Thanks very much.

Suzanne clearly getting into the Hawaii spirit herself.

Let's go back to Jack Cafferty.

He's got The Cafferty File -- could you imagine going back and talking to your homeroom teacher right now?

CAFFERTY: No. I would -- no.


CAFFERTY: No. I would be very embarrassed. I hope nobody knows who my homeroom teacher is.


CAFFERTY: John McCain has got a tough decision, a bit of a tightrope that he's got to walk when it comes to how much he should or shouldn't use President Bush in his campaign. "The Times" did a pretty good piece this morning saying McCain's advisers are going to ask the White House to send the president out to raise money, but they don't want him too often by McCain's side.

This has, of course, a lot to do with President Bush's awful approval ratings, which are hovering around 30.

The position is difficult for McCain. He needs to figure out how much he wants President Bush out there to try to get more support from the conservatives, while at the same time not alienating the Independents and moderate Democrats. And that probably means the president will make solo appearances before Evangelicals, campaign where there are important House and Senate races and attend big Republican fundraising dinners.

In response to "The Times" story, McCain said he'd be honored to have the president's support and "to be anywhere with him under any circumstances."

Nevertheless, this is all not lost on the Democrats. They're getting a head start. They're already link McCain to President Bush, calling it a Bush/McCain ticket that would be like giving Bush a third term. One adviser suggests it would be a bad idea to keep Bush too far from McCain, since he's still popular with the Republican base, saying that that would be similar to what Al Gore did in 2000. There are Democrats who say part of the reason Gore lost in 2000 is because he distanced himself from President Clinton, who remained very popular among Democrats, even though he was knee deep in scandal and impeachment.

Here's the question -- how much should John McCain use President Bush on the campaign trail?

Go to You can post a comment on my blog.

We might be getting ahead of ourselves. You know, Huckabee is close in Texas. Huckabee is close in Wisconsin. Huckabee says he believes in miracles and Huckabee won't go away. McCain is not there yet.

BLITZER: He's not there yet, but he's getting closer and closer and closer.


BLITZER: All right, thanks.

We'll see if those miracles actually happen for Mike Huckabee.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty.

Al Qaeda executing former allies -- vicious tactics and a snapshot of destruction in Iraq.

Plus, Obama-mania in Tanzania -- President Bush caught up in the excitement himself during his trip to Africa.

And JFK -- an assassination bombshell -- is it?

There's a secret stash of documents and there are questions about what it reveals for the first time about Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Increasingly desperate or devious -- documents and video seized by U.S. troops in Iraq are giving the military some valuable new details about Al Qaeda's tactics.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, has our exclusive report, which we caution you contains pictures which some people might find disturbing.


BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): CNN obtained this graphic video from coalition military officials. We will not show the execution of these men, that coalition analysts believe to be opponents of Al Qaeda in Iraq. The video was recovered late last year in a raid on a compound near Samarra that the coalition says was used for murder and torture.

But it is these documents, some found in the same raid, that have gained the attention of intelligence analysts. Coalition analysts believe the documents, which they also made available to CNN, show that Al Qaeda in Iraq has embarked on a campaign of murder against many of their one-time allies -- Iraqi Sunni extremist groups, which also oppose the U.S. presence here. Coalition officials say it confirms deep splintering among the groups they are fighting.

REAR ADM. GREGORY SMITH, COALITION SPOKESMAN: Al Qaeda in Iraq, which is foreign-led and foreign-dominated here inside of Iraq, is killing off other Iraqi Sunni groups that have -- that are certainly not supportive of the government of Iraq currently, or of the foreign occupation, but are not sharing the same ideology as Al Qaeda has.

STARR: In one document, there are details of the gruesome murder of a woman believed to be helping Iraqi police. Another details the death of 12 men not deemed loyal enough to Al Qaeda in Iraq. The documents are detailed -- showing Al Qaeda's continued emphasis on writing down everything about their actions.

In another, Al Qaeda criticizes other Jihadist groups they say are following "a false path."

But this document, analysts say, is the manifesto of the Sunni splinter groups being targeted by al Qaeda in Iraq. It is signed by half a dozen groups -- a document opposing the U.S. presence, but pledging not to attack Iraqi civilians.

Military officials say the U.S. has already spent $148 million paying Sunnis and some Shia to stop such attacks in what's called the Awakening movement (ph). The question now is whether these latest documents may show an opening for the coalition to expand that effort.

(on camera): Coalition officials say while all of this reflects the vicious nature of Al Qaeda in Iraq, they hope it may signal a new era of Sunni reconciliation.

Barbara Starr, CNN, Balad, Iraq.


BLITZER: In news around the world, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is throwing U.S. weight behind an effort to end the political violence that has engulfed Kenya in the wake of disputed presidential elections. She meets with leaders there today saying -- and I'm quoting now -- "This is a crisis that needs to end soon."

Our State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee, has just returned from her native Kenya -- Zain, what did the secretary see when she was there?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, she really saw a stalemate between the two sides and tried to push them forward to some kind of compromise agreement. Now, officials in the Kenyan government have told me that Kenya is capable of solving its own problems, that most Kenyans really are looking for the United States to help -- especially two Kenyans that have been the victims of some really brutal violence.


VERJEE (voice-over): Kenyans like Isaac (ph) carry the scars of a bitterly disputed election. He's one of hundreds of victims of ethnic warfare. He showed me his wounds -- an eye swollen shut, a hand cut off. He says he will never return home. To his attacker, he says, "You will answer to God for spilling my blood."

Una (ph) says her neighbors, members of another tribe, attacked her and took everything she owned. They burned down her home, in her family for generations. "The devil got into them," she says. She saw a man killed in front of her -- cut into pieces. Millions of Kenyans fear their country, once a stable example to the rest of Africa, could implode along tribal lines.

The U.S. is also concerned. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a lightning trip to Kenya, to push President Mwai Kibaki to compromise with the opposition, which says it won December's vote.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: It can't be that there is simply the illusion of power sharing. It has to be real. By the way, sharing in the responsibility also means putting aside forever -- for good -- all means of violence.

VERJEE: For the next generation of Kenyans, much is at stake.

Will their country find stability again or will their inherit a nation divided by fierce tribe hatred?


VERJEE: There's been a lull in the fighting over the past few weeks, Wolf. But the fear now is that if a compromise deal ultimately were to collapse, there could be another bloodbath -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, what's the main problem preventing them from working out this deal?

VERJEE: Wolf, neither side really trusts each other. That's the real problem, because there is so much bad blood. The other thing, too, Wolf, is that there are hard-liners on both sides who don't really want to compromise, so they're doing everything they can to derail things. So many people are saying that it's going to take outside pressure to really force Kenyan leaders to work out a deal -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Zain, thank you.

Zain Verjee reporting.

Coming up, he's used to making his own headlines, but President Bush had to make room for Obama-mania, at least in part, in Africa. We're going to show you what happened.

Plus, details of an explosion that shook homes miles away and closed an interstate.

Stick around.



BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol, what's going on?


A dangerously close call at Washington's Reagan National Airport. Officials confirmed two US Airways planes clipped each others' wings while on the runway yesterday. An Airbus and a regional jet were involved. The passengers were all taken off of those planes. One had to be taken to the hospital. US Airways says the smaller jet was taxiing on the runway when it clipped the wing of the larger aircraft and actually became stuck.

Hundreds of people packing a suburban Chicago church remember Catalina Garcia. She was one of five young people gunned down by a student at Northern Illinois University. Garcia is the first of Steven Kazmierczak's victims to be buried. She was studying to be a teacher. Kazmierczak's girlfriend, in the meantime, has revealed he called her early on Valentine's Day, telling her not to forget about him.

E-mail may help improve doctor/patient communication. In fact, it may be even better than a face-to-face chat. This according to a published in the "Archives of Surgery". The study found that providing patients with e-mail access to their surgeon prior to elective surgery appears to improve communication without affecting patient satisfaction.

And authorities are trying to determine what caused an explosion at a Texas oil refinery that injured four people. The blast at the Alon USA plant in the town of Big Spring was so powerful, it shook homes miles away and shut down part of Interstate 20. The mayor says it's a miracle no one was killed.

Back to you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Carol.

Thank you.

Battling it out on the campaign trail -- it's coming down to the wire for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. You're going to find out who has the edge in tomorrow's primary, where the candidates are making a big push to pick up more delegates.

Also, details of a massive beef recall and new developments in the shocking undercover video that prompted the investigation.

Stay with us.



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

Happening now, sources tell CNN the U.S. Navy is likely to make a first attempt to shoot down a failed spy satellite on Thursday. That's the day after the Space Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to land. The satellite malfunctioned just after a launch in late 2006. It's hurtling toward Earth with a full tank of toxic fuel, which could prove deadly if it were to hit land.

Another deadly blast in Afghanistan. Thirty-five civilians are killed after a suicide bomber drove into a Canadian military convoy. The attack happened in a crowded marketplace near the Pakistan border.

And Serbia recalls its ambassador to Washington. This after the U.S. is among the first to recognize the newly independent Kosovo, angering Serbia and its ally, Russia. Britain and France have also come out in support of the world's newest nation.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Even in Africa right now, you can't escape the overwhelming interest in the race for the White House. And President Bush is finding that out firsthand. He's in Tanzania.

So is our White House correspondent, Ed Henry.

He's traveling with him on his African tour.


ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even people here, at the fish market in Tanzania -- 7,000 miles from the White House -- are swept up by Obama-mania.





HENRY: Senator Barack Obama, whose father hailed from neighboring Kenya.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know that man. He's black like me. I want Obama to be the president of America.

HENRY: Of course, African citizens can't vote in the U.S. election, but they're still rooting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like Obama so much man.

HENRY: That was a common refrain among the locals, as the day's catch was auctioned off.

(on camera): This is a fish market in Dar es Salaam, where people are very poor. They only recently raised the minimum wage to $119 per month. And people say they're attracted to Obama because they think if someone with African roots gets elected president of the United States, he might go to bat for them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a lot of problem here, malaria, AIDS, poverty. I think Obama know if he were to be president of the United States, he'll help us.

HENRY: There were even Obama '08 signs along the road of Monday as President Bush went to a hospital to tout U.S. efforts to battle malaria here. And on Sunday after a greeting from the locals for President Bush, he joked when a reporter asked the Tanzanian president to react to buzz that Obama may become the first African-American president.

BUSH: It seemed like there was a lot of excitement for me. Wait a minute. Maybe you missed it. HENRY: One thing that's not missed at the market is the excitement about the possibility that this time next year Barack Obama may be the biggest fish back in the states.

Ed Henry, CNN, Tanzania.


BLITZER: New polls show Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton virtually tied in Wisconsin right now. It's holding its primary tomorrow along with Hawaii's caucuses.

So what do either of them - actually both of them need to do to win? Let's talk about that with Democratic strategist James Carville. He's a Clinton backer. And in Boston, Jamal Simmons; he's for Barack Obama.

All right. James, in the latest polls in Wisconsin, which holds primaries tomorrow, among the ARG group, Clinton 49, Obama 43, the research in 2,047 for Obama, 42 for Clinton. They both have sampling errors of four or five points. What do you think? How close is this going to be tomorrow?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, we have to wait for tomorrow. What it shows is there's disparity here. We're going to have to count them up. That's been the case in these primaries all along. There's always surprises. I suspect there will be a few more surprises.

By the way, Wolf, I want to congratulate you for your post about New Orleans and the most successful NBA all-star game in history and the fact that the presidential debate commission looks ridiculous not having a debate there. And I think that I was so delight that had my network CNN did broadcast the situation from New Orleans on Friday. So thank you very much.

BLITZER: Yes. It was really amazing. They did a great job; everyone in New Orleans receiving thousands and thousands of fans, NBA executives, team owners, they moved them around actually a lot better than a year earlier in Las Vegas, where there were monumental traffic problems. New Orleans did a really good job. It's a pity that the presidential debate commission didn't think New Orleans was ready for prime time for the debates following the convention. That's a subject for another date. We could talk about it down the road.


BLITZER: Jamal, let me bring you into the conversation and get your thoughts on the latest controversy about Barack Obama plagiarizing, at least according to the Clinton campaign, what Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts was saying that words do matter. What do you think about this?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: First, let's talk about Wisconsin for a second. You know Senator Clinton over and over again, every time Barack Obama wins one of these states has said well small states don't matter. African-American states don't matter. Caucus states don't matter.

In Wisconsin, we have a primary state. Not a large African- American population. It's a large blue-collar state. She ought to do well there. So I think that if she does win this, I think that will be fine.

You know, the one thing that's like James said, the one thing we can expect in this contest is the unexpected. What happens if Senator Clinton wins Wisconsin but then Barack Obama wins Texas? We don't know what happens to the math then.

BLITZER: That's the beauty of covering this race. We really don't know what's going to happen.

Let's talk a little bit about this plagiarizing issue. Here's what Obama said today in defending why he used words very similar to what Deval Patrick said when he was running for governor of Massachusetts in 2006.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've written two books, wrote most of my speeches. I think putting aside the question that you just raised in terms of whether my words are my own, I think that would be carrying it too far. Deval and I do trade ideas all the time.


BLITZER: How big of a deal is this, do you think is, as someone who supports Barack Obama, Jamal?

SIMMONS: This is just a side show. Politicians do this all the time. John Edwards ran in 2003 saying two Americas. I worked for Bob Graham. Bob Graham talked about one America. When John Edwards came back out in 2007, he ran on one America. Nobody said he was taking notes for Bob Graham. Hillary Clinton herself has used fired up and ready to go in some of her statements in Davenport, Iowa, earlier this year. Politicians take things from each other. They hear things. They say them over again. It's a presidential contest.

BLITZER: What do you think, James?

CARVILLE: Well I think that first of all, it was a whole paragraph aboard that was lifted. I think it's troubling right now. I think Senator Obama probably needs to address it a little bit more. But what you have to be careful about is other examples don't come. If there's a pattern of this, it's going to be more than troubling. We have to wait and see if this all that there is this paragraph or so, it's something he has to answer. But I'm not prepared to say it will be devastating. But if a pattern does emerge, it could be a big issue in the nomination process.

BLITZER: The other issue Jamal ...

SIMMONS: The dangerous part about this, Wolf, is that we'll end up having to pass out speeches with footnotes in them for every sentence that a presidential candidate says. None of us want to end up there.

CARVILLE: I'm just saying, Jamal, it's troubling. If we find that there is a pattern, I don't know if -- I'm sure people are working on that. We'll see.

BLITZER: Do you think it's an issue that in advance of Wisconsin, Jamal, Hillary Clinton is now running this ad against Barack Obama saying he, in effect, was afraid to debate her in Wisconsin. I'll play a tiny little clip.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barack Obama still won't agree to debate in Wisconsin. Now he's hiding behind false attack ads. Maybe he doesn't want to explain why his health care plan leaves out 15 million people and Hillary's covers everyone or why he voted to pass billions ...


BLITZER: Here's the question. They were a lot of invitations for a debate in Wisconsin. Hillary Clinton really wanted to. What happened?

SIMMONS: Well, I think Barack Obama has said himself that there have already been 18 debates in this presidential contest. They've agreed to two more debates in the presidential contest. We've had more debates than in most recent presidential campaigns. You know, the Barack Obama campaign is a little nicer than I would have been. If I would have been advising the campaign, I would have said, tell you what. You release your income tax records, you release the donor list from the Clinton foundation, then we'll have some debates. But no, he agreed to have debates based on the questions that Senator Clinton asked. So this again is another one of these grasping at straws on behalf of the Clinton campaign.


CARVILLE: Well, if this was an ordinary time I would say that was a sufficient number of debates. But I think this is an extraordinary time in America. I think there are big problems in this country. I would think Senator Obama would be delighted to give people in Wisconsin a look at him and contrast his thing with Senator Clinton.

And by the way, if he wanted to ask Senator Clinton about the library donors or any such thing as that, he could feel free to do that. But I think there have been a lot of debates but I don't think this is an ordinary time in American history, American politics. I think the problem is extraordinary. They probably deserve more discussion than normal.

BLITZER: All right. James, we have to leave it there. Jamal, standby. We have to leave it there unfortunately because we're simply out of time. But you know what? You guys are coming back hopefully tomorrow and we'll talk a little bit more about this.

CARVILLE: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, the JFK assassination. There are some newly released documents, but are they the real deal? Are they frauds? You're going to find out what has conspiracy theorists buzzing.

And a case of animal cruelty leading to the largest beef recall in U.S. history. Here's the question. How is this massive recall affecting our nation's schools?

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


BLITZER: Some eerie, very weird memorabilia, intriguing documents stemming from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. They've been locked up in a safe and all but forgotten for decades until now. Dallas officials have opened it. They are sharing the contents with the world.

Let's go to CNN's Susan Roesgen. She's watching this story for us. So what's inside this safe, Susan?

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the kind of thing I think that Oliver Stone would want to know about, Wolf. Let's call Oliver Stone because most of the historians in the area believe this is movie-style fiction.

In any case, the district attorney there did open this long undiscovered safe and what he found there will probably make the conspiracy theorists go wild.


ROESGEN: When Jack Ruby shot and killed JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, Ruby said he did it to avenge the president's assassination. But conspiracy theorists who believe Oswald and Ruby were part of a larger plot claim Ruby shot Oswald to keep him from talking. Now a transcript hidden in a secret safe and released for the first time in more than 40 years is the conspiracy theorists holy grail, an alleged conversation between Ruby and Oswald just weeks before JFK was shot. In the transcript, Oswald says to Ruby that the boys in Chicago want to get rid of the attorney general, meaning the mafia wanted to get rid of Robert Kennedy. Ruby replies that it can't be done. It would get the Feds into everything. But Oswald says there is a way to get rid of him without killing him. I can shoot his brother. Today, a clearly skeptical Dallas county district attorney Craig Watkins calls the transcript an alleged conversation.

CRAIG WATKINS, DALLAS COUNY DISTRICT ATTY.: Now, we don't know if this is an actual conversation or not. But what we do know is that as a result of this find it will open up the debate as to whether or not there was a conspiracy.

ROESGEN: Why is the D.A. so skeptical? Well also in that safe was a contract for a movie deal, signed by the D.A. who prosecuted the Ruby case back in the 1960s. Did that D.A. invent the conversation between Ruby and Oswald to make a Hollywood script? Inquiring minds still want to know.


ROESGEN: And according to Dallas historian, Gary Mack, a JFK historian there, runs the museum there on the JFK assassination, the FBI actually considered this alleged conversation, Wolf, back in the '60s and decided there was no proof to it, couldn't confirm it and as you know, the Warren Commission decided there was no controversy, no conspiracy rather.

BLITZER: All right, Susan. Thanks very much. Susan Roesgen reporting for us.

Coming up, animal cruelty is behind the largest meat recall in U.S. history. Millions of pounds of meat from a California slaughter house has been declared unfit to eat by the Department of Agriculture. Judy Echavez has more on the shocking recall. Judy?

JUDY ECHAVEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, on Sunday the Department of Agriculture recalled 143 million pounds of beef from a California slaughter house. This after undercover video surfaced showing what the humane society calls the inhumane treatment of cows. Today, I met with the humane society's undercover investigator who shot the troubling video that has lead to the largest beef recall in U.S. history, and we warn you, you may find this video upsetting.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think back on that day and I think about standing there and watching, and, you know, hearing the screams of the cow and just the, you know, the crunch of the forklift ramming into them.

ECHAVEZ: It's almost like reliving a nightmare, say this is undercover humane society investigator. He asked us to protect his identity and alter his voice to continue working undercover. He says he shot the graphic images last October while posing as a slaughter house employee at the Westland Hallmark Meat Packing Company in Chino, California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just the mental preparedness of every day having to go and do this job, and seeing these things every day, and it was a physically grueling job.

ECHAVEZ: The investigator says he worked side by side for six weeks with workers for Westland Hallmark, while some of them abused what are called downer cattle, cattle too sick to walk or stand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one was nervous or shy about, you know, shocking animals in front of you or getting the fork lift and, you know, ramming an animal that couldn't stand up.

ECHAVEZ: The video shot by the investigator with a hidden camera shows some meat workers poking and prodding the helpless cattle. Friday, California prosecutors announced animal cruelty charges against two former employees of the plant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no guilt about seeing someone who did horrible things face punishment for that.


ECHAVEZ: And the investigator with the humane society I talked with says the federal inspection process needs to be improved the so abuses like these do not go undetected.

We made repeated attempts to contact Westland Hallmark for comment. On the company website, a statement issued on February 3rd from the president says the company is cooperating with the USDA and has taken action to address concerns brought to their attention by the humane society. The human society has an investigative unit that looks into the cases, but the investigator we talked with said this was just a random sting operation, Wolf, and that he was surprised to see abuses like this on the very first day of working at that company.

BLITZER: Judy, how did they find out? How did the humane society find out about this plant?

ECHAVEZ: Well, as I mentioned, these abuses may have led to neighbors in the area talking about it, but what the investigator did tell me is that he just happened to pick this slaughter house to do an investigation on, and that's how he stumbled upon it.

BLITZER: All right, Judy. Thanks very much and by the way, welcome to CNN. Good to have you aboard this team.

So how much should John McCain use President Bush on the campaign trail? That's our question this hour. Jack Cafferty is standing by with your e-mail.

Plus, Bill Clinton's history of hecklers. We're going to show you one who went way too far.

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


BLITZER: Let's go back to Jack Cafferty. He's got the Cafferty File with me in New York. Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Nice to have you hear in the big apple. Get you out of that little tiny town you live in down there on the Potomac.

The question this hour, John McCain has got a problem. How much should he use President Bush on the campaign trail?

Patricia writes, "I think he should tie Bush to his side and take him everywhere. With an approval rating like Bush has, this will certainly give the Democrats the edge to win the election." Nana in Virginia, "McCain would do well to remember that seven years ago, President Bush was handed a healthy economy. Next year, he'll hand the president-elect a pawn ticket written in Chinese."

John writes, "I'm a lifelong Democrat but I feel if he avoids using President Bush, there will be a story ever day talking about it. He should use him to remind Republicans that he is one."

Nancy writes, "No, he shouldn't appear with him. If McCain goes too far to the right, he'll lose the moderates and independents who will be the voting block that will make the difference in this election."

Gabriel in Alabama writes, "If McCain is smart, he will only use President Bush in the shadows to raise money for his campaign. Any appearances side-by-side would only tie McCain to Bush's unpopular policies and ideas."

Dustin writes, "He could spearhead McCain's efforts to garner support in Africa, as the president appears to be popular there."

And Joe in Virginia writes, "John McCain would be better off getting an endorsement from Drew Peterson. Why would he want to associate himself with the worst president this nation has ever seen? McCain doesn't have much of a chance anyway. In a year from now, you'll see him making commercial for 'The Clapper." That's rough.

BLITZER: Tough crowd out there.

CAFFERTY: Yes, it is.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you very much.

The first votes are now coming in for the elections out in Pakistan. Unofficial returns show that opposition groups are doing well.

CNN's Jennifer Eccleston is in Karachi for us.

JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is the largest city in the country, Pakistan's commercial capitol, the engine of this country's economic growth. It's ethnically diverse and often plagued by violence. 16 million people live here. The majority of them poor. They want lower food prices, electricity sanitations, and job. For the upper classes, Wolf, it's not so different. It's also about economic stability, but also about political accountability.

Many on both sides of this economic divide feel betrayed by the government and betrayed by President Pervez Musharraf, so they are voting for change. Karachi also is the capitol of Sindh Province. This is very much Benazir Bhutto country and her PPP party. There's a deep sense of grief here, and there is also considerable concern that if the vote isn't seen as credible, and for some if their PPP party doesn't win, that grief will turn to anger and even more turmoil and instability. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Jennifer, thank you. Jennifer Eccleston in Karachi watching this election for us.

Lou Dobbs is standing by. He'll be joining us live in just a moment here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're also getting details of the controversy over the Obama speech that sounds very familiar to another speech. We're going to show you how he's defending himself against charges by the Clinton camp of plagiarism.

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


BLITZER: Let's check in with Lou Dobbs. His show starts in an hour but I want to pick his brain on what's going on in the world of politics right now.

Lou, what do you make of John McCain's pledge? We heard it yesterday, saying, you know what, if he's president, "No New Taxes."

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, that's terrific. That's wonderful. We could go through all the promises made by each of these candidates, Democrats and Republicans, and we could find one to underline and say let's watch this unravel. It's wonderful. But it's just a promise that a president could not keep should the economic circumstances dictate otherwise. It is really not the stuff of which great confidence is built on the part of the electorate.

BLITZER: McCain says if he's president he will try to get the Bush tax cuts that were passed in 2001, passed in 2003, tax cuts which he originally opposed, he'll try to make sure they don't lapse, that they get extended, that they continue when they expire in 2010.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the other hand say if they had their way, they would see the tax cuts for the wealthiest more than making $250,000 or so a year, that they would go back to the tax rates that existed during the Clinton administration. There's a clear difference on tax cuts between the Democrats on the one hand and McCain on the other.

DOBBS: Sure there is. They're all being naughty, though, if I may put it that way. Because they all understand that the economic circumstances will dictate public policy. They're also fibbing just a bit, I think. One is McCain understands that if circumstances warrant, the taxes will have to be raised. Second ...

BILL SCHNEIDER: Lost audio guys.

DOBBS: There Bill, Bill Schneider was joining us just for a second.

But Obama and Clinton both understand that you can't possibly cover the budget deficit by just taxing those making more than a quarter of a million a year and the fact is they all should be talking about more important issues for our middle class and to the American dream, things like for example greater equity of distribution of income in this country, how about corporate policies and practices that off shore American jobs are detrimental to the middle class, how about reinvigorating our public educational system, how about doing it with some great urgency, how about dealing with the fact we have runaway debt in this country, our national debt, our trade debt. And in point of fact, personal debt, that we're going to have to contend with. We're going to have to have a different kind of outlook and perspective in this society from our leaders. And these folks, blessed though they may be as candidates, really need to be a lot more honest and a lot deeper in their thinking.

BLITZER: We'll see you in one hour, Lou. Thanks very much.

DOBBS: You got it.