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THIS WEEK IN POLITICS

News From the Various Campaigns

Aired March 15, 2008 - 16:00   ET

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


TOM FOREMAN, CNN, HOST: It was a week suited for the supermarket tabloids. Sex scandal. Bitter accusations. All front page news.
A front page flash. Big foot spotted in Mississippi. Barack Obama stomps all over Hillary Clinton's hopes in the mud cat state primary. His delegate lead bigger than ever. She had been floating a trial balloon about a joint ticket. But even before the gulf state win, he had pulled out a pin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know how somebody who is in second place is offering the vice presidency to the person who is in first place.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Is it the end of all hope for what some call a democratic dream team? Sounds like it now.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's premature to talk about whoever might be on whose ticket. But I believe I am ready to serve on day one.

FOREMAN: But look out. Political visitors from a parallel universe. Clinton campaigner Geraldine Ferraro suggests Obama is getting undue attention because he is black. The Obama team calls it ridiculous. Ferraro does not back down, even as her official role with Clinton comes to an end.

CLINTON: I rejected what she said. I certainly do repudiate it and regret deeply that it was said.

FOREMAN: Then an old sermon from Obama's pastor pops up on youtube.

REV. JEREMIAH A. WRIGHT, TRINITY UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: Barack knows what it means to be a black man living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people. Hillary can never know that. Hillary isn't never been called a [ bleep ].

FOREMAN: And what's now almost a ritual, the Obama campaign says the senator profoundly disagrees. Not the Florida-Michigan fight. The battle over how, when, and if their delegates will be seated is back from the dread.

HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN: That is going to be not easy to do. This is going to require some delicacy, some diplomacy.

FOREMAN: And a democratic governor's career goes down in flames.

GOV. ELIOT SPITZER (D), NEW YORK: The remorse I feel will always be with me.

FOREMAN: While pics of the young woman "The New York Times" says is the one allegedly seen and probably obscene steamed up myspace, not the headlines democrats were hoping for at the end of a very hot week in politics.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: We'll have more on Spitzer's personal battle in just a bit. First let's get serious and turn to the issue that could rip holes in the democratic party. Race. In Chicago radio talk show host and CNN contributor Roland Martin. And covering the Clinton campaign in Pittsburgh, CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. Roland, why, how, how can it be that the democrats are getting into such a mess over racial accusations?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN, CONTRIBTOR: Well, actually I think it has to be expanded. It's really a matter of race and gender. Senator Clinton's, her strong support has been frankly among the white women while Senator Obama has been among African-Americans. Two core constituents of the democratic party and every single primary thus far, women have been at least 55%. And do what you're facing is facing two historical firsts. You have folks on both sides who say look we want our person in the White House. And it's definitely gotten rough and is going to get rougher unless both candidates say enough is enough, forget the focus on race and gender, let's stay focused on issues.

FOREMAN: Let's ask about Clinton, Suzanne. Time and again, people connected to her campaign have raised issues where they've said something about him being black. They said something about racism and then said we don't mean it. Why doesn't she come out and say definitively nobody connected to my campaign say anything about this?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think she did come out definitively and repudiate those remarks in Ferraro. There's one thing that's happening here however that African- Americans are looking at. And they believe it could be perhaps a double standard. They say that Barack Obama, when there was this endorsement and link to the Islam leader Louis Farrakhan that there was a lot of pressure for him to immediately denounce, repudiate, that she put pressure on him to do so. So, they were turning to Hillary Clinton and asking the question here, why did it take the time that it did or why wasn't she as forceful as she could have been in distancing herself from Ferraro's remarks. And so you get a sense here from a lot of the black voters that I spoke with that they felt that there was a double standard, they didn't appreciate that. And they also felt as well that perhaps it's not Hillary Clinton's words itself, but her supporters that are getting her into trouble. They want to give her the benefit of the doubt, but they're feeling a sense of unease with the campaign.

FOREMAN: But even though she repudiated what Ferraro said, why, Suzanne, doesn't she come out and say in one of her statements, listen, I want no one connected to this campaign to say anything about this? Because I think one of the suspicions from the Obama people, whether it's founded or not, is that the surrogates are stepping out and saying it because they want to make it an issue, and then deny it later.

MALVEAUX: Certainly. We hear Senator Clinton say that she is not supporting this. We hear Senator Obama even said as well he didn't think there was some sort of directive that was coming from her campaign. But we have seen these incidents where race has been brought up as an issue. We saw it with the former President Bill Clinton. So, there is a sense here at least from folks inside that perhaps this is an issue that puts Obama in a box. Senator Clinton came out over the week before black journalists, black publishers and said essentially, was doing kind of a mea culpa, apologizing for various things. I think what she's trying to do is push this out here, that there has been these situations in the past and that she's trying to move forward to make sure that perhaps this doesn't happen again.

FOREMAN: And let's look real quick, Roland, if we can, at the numbers of these things. This is the Mississippi black voters. Down there Obama absolutely cleaned up 92%, Clinton 8%. With all of this going on, do you think that Hillary Clinton can overcome this loss of black voters?

MARTIN: Well, again, it's a matter of strategy. If you look at what Clinton is doing, she has a big state strategy. And that is she wants to focus on the large states, Ohio, Pennsylvania, California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts. That is her strategy whereas Obama has been talking about more of I've won more states, smaller states if you threw in Maryland, Virginia and Missouri. And so it speaks to both of them. The bottom line for her is her strong support is simply among white women. She's also -- she did very well among white men in Mississippi. The question is how will she do in Pennsylvania and in North Carolina? And so I think although her campaign is saying we want to compete for the black vote, what they recognize is our goal is to get anywhere from 10 to 15% knowing full well Obama is likely going to get 80%. She has to grow her numbers among white men and even increase her numbers among white women.

FOREMAN: And at the same time, Roland, Obama must be very concerned, at a time like this to have this minister come out saying these inflammatory things about race. With friends like these, you don't need friends.

MARTIN: Well, but you know, here is the deal, though. All the candidates, firstly, including Obama, absolutely they are very concerned about some of the past sermons of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, but also if you look at John McCain. John McCain now has to now answer questions in terms of Pastor John Hague out of San Antonio, Rod Parsley out of Ohio, same thing. And so when you have people who are your supporters, all of the sudden now there's an expectation of the candidate to explain it away or to denounce them. And I think, you know, at some point people are going to have to ask the question, OK, what am I more concerned with? Am I more concerned with Clinton and Obama and McCain on issues? Or am I concerned about those people who are around them and what they say on every single point? Because we can't have an apology, a denouncing, a repudiation every single week, because we could.

FOREMAN: I bet we could. Roland, thank you very much, Suzanne as well. A lot to talk about. We'll have to get back to it on a future date. Coming up on this week in politics, the governor, the call girl, and the dirty game of destruction by gossip.

Plus the steamy details of suburban swapping. It has all three contenders looking for back doors and it's all ahead on "This Week in Politics".

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over):Well who do you like right now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I like McCain. I didn't like him as much at first. I was actually hoping Fred Thompson would make a better go than he did. It's very disappointing but I've come around to McCain more and more.

FOREMAN: Fred Thompson took a nap or something.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He did. Exactly.

FOREMAN: Are you more republican or more democratic?

UNIDENTIFIED: I would say republican.

FOREMAN: Oh, four young republicans on the prowl in D.C. You're the ones we read about. Yes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN, ANCHOR: More of "This Week in Politics" in a moment but first I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta. I want to update you on some pretty severe weather sweeping across the southeastern part of the United States. This is after last night, a deadly and very damaging tornado touched down in Atlanta and surrounding areas. Now, take a look at these pictures right here that we are getting from our affiliate here in Atlanta, WSV television from a tower cam shot -- that's not it right there but we're trying to get that shot for you.

A tower cam shot at the Hartsfield Atlanta Airport where we hope to show you some pretty ominous clouds. That looked like the picture that you were seeing earlier, some damage of some of the buildings in downtown Atlanta. Meantime let's check in with Jacqui Jeras in the weather center. You have been predicting all afternoon that there might be one, maybe even two systems to sweep through the south one more time. And now this one is approaching.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: Yes. And we've got a tornado warning on it. And this includes the downtown Atlanta area. The greatest rotation that we're seeing on our radar is down here to the south near East Point, down towards Forest Park. This is down near the airport. Here you can see downtown Atlanta right in this area. This is kind of skirting, maybe the Turner Field area on southward where the greatest threat of this storm is right now.

Now, there are a lot of buildings that are already compromised. We just saw that picture of the windows that are blown out. It's not going to take much of a strong wind to cause additional damage even if we don't get a tornado on the ground with this storm. So everybody who is in downtown Atlanta needs to be seeking shelter. You need to be in a stable building, a sturdy structure on the lowest level of that building away from doors and windows. Get inside a bathroom. Cover yourself up. This is a very serious situation.

The tornado warning in effect includes Douglas and Fulton counties. And it looks like we're going to be adding on some more counties over here. I believe that's Dekalb county under tornado warnings as well. Now, we have two more storms at least lined up out to the west. There are severe thunderstorm warnings on them. So, they could produce damaging winds, 50, 60 miles per hour. And as these storms move to the east and intensify, they do have the potential of becoming a rotator.

So it's something we'll be watching very closely here over the next couple of hours. There you can see this is our velocity mode as we call it or our wind mode where we look for opposing winds. So where winds go in different directions. This is the area in here that I'd be concerned about. I believe this is the 285 corridor over here on the east side of Atlanta. There you can see East Point, College Park. That would be an area of concern right now along i-20 as it pulls of the east. You can see (Conyer). They got hit very hard with severe weather last night as well.

So, tornado warnings for Fulton counties. Seek shelter right now. This is in effect for another 15 to 30 minutes. And then be aware that once this storm passes, more storms are going to be moving in from the west. A tornado watch in effect across much of central Georgia. This extends into the Carolinas as well, including Columbia, South Carolina. Watch in effect until 7:00 tonight. We've had a number of touchdowns with damage and even a fatality up into Polk County which is up in northern Georgia. So, this storm system as a whole has a history of producing damage and has been a killer storm. This will be ongoing throughout the afternoon as we get more information. If we get anymore damage in the downtown Atlanta area, if we need to, we will bring in and bring that along to you. Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Jackie, thanks so much. It's great advice on folks who are in their homes in the path of this system. You need to go to that low level room. And don't forget to wear shoes. So many times when I cover many of these tornadoes people forget to wear shoes. And the of course, when there's debris, you can't walk around without getting hurt. So, keep all that stuff in mind. We're going to continue to watch the development of these storm systems throughout the southeastern part of this country throughout the evening here on CNN. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta. More on "This week in Politics" right now. JAY CARNEY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: They can be registered in either party or they can be independent. And instead of the six or seven or eight percent swing vote that it was down to or we're perceived to be down to I think were back up to 10, 15, 20%.

FOREMAN: So, you look at it from the republican side, if you were advising John McCain right now, how does he keep the suburblicans and not suburbcrats.

SCOTT REED, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: He talks about this leadership qualities, his character. And he shows he's a conservative, but he's also a maverick. I mean, if you look at the polls this week, he is winning when it's a head to head against Obama or Clinton or tied. But when you look it if it's a generic question about a republican or a democrat he's losing or the republicans are losing about 12 or 13 points in the "Wall Street Journal" poll. The point is McCain is the right type of candidate for republicans this cycle. He will hold the base. And he has the ability to reach out and get the suburban voters that are always the swing, that are going to care about national security issues, care about economic growth, the two issues that McCain will be running on.

FOREMAN: it seems like he's going to get hit very hard, though, by Obama because when you talk about that middle, the fact is the numbers are very close. And Obama certainly is reaching to that same crowd saying be united, democrats, republicans, independents.

CARNEY: It's true. In New Hampshire this was very striking, and then the week before the New Hampshire primary. I can't tell you how many voters I encountered and I know other people did who said they were deciding between McCain and Obama. They were deciding whether or not to vote in the democratic party for Obama or McCain in the republican party by saying, wait, they're so different. I mean their policy agendas couldn't be more different. But they both appeal to people who like authenticity in their politicians who seem -- they don't seem like products of the party machine.

FOREMAN: And how do you explain the business of Hillary Clinton right now? Because I'm surprised -- in some ways you can say she is so, as I said, welded to the base of her party, you wouldn't think she'd be in play with the suburblicans. But she does, seemed to be for some of them.

CARNEY: Well, she does I think . I think her gender has a big factor, plays a big factor in that. There's a big female vote in the suburbs that matters a lot and tends to swing even more than the male vote. Also she's strong on defense. She's perceived to be strong on defense as a democrat.

FOREMAN: How much do these people scare both parties though? Because the one thing I'm struck by with these people is by and large they're saying we think the party system is outdated and should be pushed aside. This should not be about parties, it should be about the best candidate.

REED: It should be about the person. It should be about the person who says what they believe and believes what they say. That's why Hillary is going to have a problem if she's the nominee. Because the truth is, if you're suburban now, you're not undecided about Hillary. You either like her or you don't. That's why, as their fight goes on and continues and they keep questioning Obama's ability to be commander in chief, like they did this week quite impressively, that's going to ultimately help the republicans and make this a winnable race for McCain.

FOREMAN: Back to the question here though. Both parties in many ways, the party faithful hate this kind of talk. These are people who are saying the parties shouldn't matter anymore because jointly the parties created the problems we have.

REED: But at every phase of the campaign at this time everybody says that about the parties. And as the parties become rebranded by the nominee, which is what both candidates will go through this summer and into the fall, that will all change.

FOREMAN: Do you think these people are going to decide this election? The suburblican and the suburbcrats?

CARNEY: I think they are. I think they often do. I think in this case especially with the candidate like John McCain as the republican nominee who has the potential to make really inroads into areas that have been trending democratic, not just in 2006 but when they went to Clinton in '92 and '96. So, I think that they will decide. It will depend on McCain's ability to maintain his reputation as a maverick.

FOREMAN: We have to keep moving on. Jay and Scott, thanks for being here. In politics, there have always been plenty of sorted news stories to shake up the suburbs. In 1884, there were rumors that presidential candidate Grover Cleveland had an illegitimate child. His opponent turned it into a song that went, "mamma, where's pa? Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha."

Today, it's different. The smears don't have a good beat and you can't dance with them but we'll still run them down in our top hits next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: This campaign already has more smears than a commuter applying mascara in rush hour. Smears. These are stories that you may think are true but simply are not. Yet they stay around and stay around. For example, Barack Obama is a Muslim. False. He took the oath of office on a Koran, false. He isn't patriotic, false. You could say though that Obama is just the latest comer to this very, very rough game. Hillary Clinton pulled off a crooked land deal. Remember white water? False. She was held responsible for the murder of White House lawyer Vince Foster. False. And the Clintons ran drugs out of Arkansas, killing dozens of people in the process. Really, really false.

And in the 2000 primary in South Carolina, John McCain was accused of going crazy during his time in a north Vietnamese prison. False. Of being a homosexual. False. And of fathering a black love child. A nasty rumor that was wrapped around his daughter Bridget who was adopted from an orphanage in Bangladesh. So, how can a campaign or a candidate combat these anonymous and terribly destructive rumors. To talk about all of that Sheri Parks from the University of Maryland and Eric Dezenhall is the CEO of Dezenhall Resources, specializing in fighting back against negative attacks and whisper campaigns. And he's also the author of "Damage Control, how to get the upper hand when your business is under attack." Let me start with you, Eric. Is there any way really for campaigns to stop this?

ERIC DEZENHALL, AUTHOR, "DAMAGE CONTROL": In short, no. I mean, the fact is, is people don't think in facts. We think in narratives. And narratives are all about what do we want to believe. And in order to conduct a successful smear against someone, it doesn't have to be true. It just has to be plausible and it has to be resonant. And when you have somebody like Barack Hussein Obama, you have people key in on Hussein. They key in on this very controversial minister who makes some incredible remarks. And there is the whole Chicago race scene. So it doesn't have to be true that he's a Muslim. But if you are inclined to believe certain types of things, as Abraham Lincoln said, "for people who like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing they will like."

And so how does a campaign fight it? You attack the source. You attack the tactic. Of course, you deny it when possible. But there's really no way to totally make it evaporate from the internet.

FOREMAN: Sheri, it seems like one of the problems in attacking the source is that a lot of the source is in us, our tendency to share rumors and think we know something special when we don't.

SHERI PARKS, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: And one of the reasons these stick is because they fit the script that we already know. Because they don't have time in 30 seconds or 60 seconds to create a whole new story line, what you're calling a narrative. And so what's happening is that knowledgeable people are just touching the script that we already know and it takes on a life of its own.

FOREMAN: Do you see this as being a calculated thing? Particularly, I have to say in the case of Barack Obama. He has an unusual name, and he's a black guy running for president. We haven't had that before at this level. Do you think it's particularly pronounced to him because it plays to very deep seated prejudice?

PARKS: These scripts are so well known, that it's hard to believe that somebody unknowingly gets that close to them.

FOREMAN: You mean these sort of stories?

PARKS: These stories. These stories about a Muslim name linking to terrorism. We all know these scripts. All Americans know these scripts. And so anybody who has been working with the media for any length of time knows all you have to do is just say it and it takes on a life of its own.

FOREMAN: And Eric, we debated about even doing this segment. You may notice in our graphic up there, we didn't have any pictures of them with these charges over them. Because we know in the day of the internet, somebody will freeze the frame, put it on the internet and say here is proof. It seems like one of the problems here is even if you repeat one of these to say it's wrong, somebody is going to say ah, but you were wrong. That's really true.

DEZENHALL: You know, I think that the thing that's so tricky is everybody denies believing gossip, believing rumor. Everybody says, including reporters, by the way, I don't believe what's on the internet. The harsh reality is the top reporters in this country read the blogs and they get story ideas from the blogs. Yet, when you talk to people, it's like during the Lewinsky crisis, I'm sick and tired of hearing about the president's sex life. Well, the minute that subject was changed, ratings plummeted. People were very interested in the president's sex life.

And people do believe smears. They do believe gossip. And that is what's so difficult, because the very same people who do believe it will say in a social situation that they don't. Sort of like if you did a survey on race, well, I'm certainly not a racist, but what my friend, Fred? Oh, yes, I think he might be a racist.

FOREMAN: Well, Sheri, you try to teach young people about this whole thing. You talk to them all the time about how to find the truth. What should voters do? While the campaigns are trying to do this, we know full well the voters have doubts about us whether or not we tell the truth. How did they get to the truth of one of these things? You get the e-mail from the friend who says she's a thief, he's a cheater, he's whatever. How does the voter solve it?

PARKS: Well, that's what's so difficult about this. It's that the ordinary person doesn't have the tools to get around to the truth. The media are in the way. The bloggers are in the way. It's very, very difficult to go to the library and go through the records of whatever. And what's happened is that gossip about celebrities, gossip about political candidates has replaced ordinary gossip about our neighbors. It actually serves that function. We don't know our neighbors anymore. And humans in every culture gossip about somebody. So, it's so intractable because it's -

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta, another dangerous storm system is sweeping through the southeastern portion of the United States, Georgia and Alabama, being threatening. This after last night, a deadly tornado touched down in Atlanta and surrounding areas. One death being reported north of Atlanta in Polk County. A lot of damage that you've been seeing from pictures all day in downtown Atlanta to businesses as well as residences.

Here is a look at some of the damage right here at the CNN building, a lot of windows blown out and a lot of roof damage. And then at nearby buildings such as the Georgia Dome and also the Philips Arena where events were going on last night at the height of the storm, there was significant damage.

And then just down the street, maybe about two miles from there there's a historic neighborhood called Cabbagetown in downtown Atlanta, about 20 homes were damaged because of falling very huge, hundred-foot oak trees. Power lines down as well. Fortunately no reports of serious injuries in Atlanta, just that one death, as I mentioned, in Polk County.

We continue to monitor the developments from the help of our affiliates, WXIA as well as WSV television stations here in Atlanta. Jacqui Jeras is in the weather center.

Jacqui, give us the update on the second system now that is pretty ominous and pretty frightening.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, very ominous, very frightening right now. For Atlanta, DeKalb County, the east side of Atlanta, we just got a public report of a tornado touching down on Jimmy Carter Boulevard and 85. There's a tornado warning in effect there. There you can see it for DeKalb County. So this storm has a history of producing a tornado.

We don't know anything about any damage or injuries with this. It's pulling off to the east right now. I will take a closer look in. By the way, we're being affected here, too at CNN Center. You saw those pictures of the windows that are being blown out. So if you are looking at your television screen and you see kind of a different look, that's because we've gone down one floor so that we're safe in the downtown Atlanta area.

It wouldn't take much of wind or hail threat to cause additional damage when our building has been compromised. And that is the case across a lot of the downtown area. So this is of grave concern, even though that warning has pulled on off to the east.

Now we have also have some warnings that pulled on up to the north, and includes Gwinnett County. There you can see the town of Lawrenceville where our radar was just showing a little bit of rotation there. So a tornado warning in effect also for Barrow and Gwinnett counties with possible tornado near Berkeley Lake.

There we're taking a look at a picture here from WSB TV. And, yes, that looks like -- extremely ominous, having a hard time making it out here on our -- yes, why don't we dip in and listen. Because my monitor is a bit little fuzzy there. But it looks like that could have been a wedge tornado on the ground right now. Let's dip in and hear what they have to say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... part of Fulton County toward Ben Hill at 4:35, toward College Park at 4:39. It will be at the Hartsfield- Jackson International Airport at 4:40. So moments from now. And then toward Hapeville at 4:43. The BTI index, though, is below...

(AUDIO GAP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... two inches in diameter with an 80 percent likelihood that you'll see hail that is large. There's no indication of a tornado or anything forming on that particular thunderstorm cell.

And as we look out to the west...

JERAS: OK. I believe the video that we were looking at was not of that one in Atlanta. It was in a different location. We're going to try another affiliate now, WXIA in Atlanta and see what they're saying at this time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me look at this and then I'm going to toss to Chris Holcomb (ph) to talk more about that. But if you look at the line that's in there right now, we have some new tornado warnings out there that are affecting parts of Lawrenceville and, Chris, I know you live up there, and back into Hall County. So why don't you take it away and tell folks about your neighborhood there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I just called my wife and she said, is it over yet? And I was like, no, not quite yet. They were in the basement. And we're watching these storms as they move through -- as they are crossing through Lawrenceville right now. We have these warnings that are in effect now for central Gwinnett County and southern Hall. And it's because of two individual clusters of storms. Let me take you over to Gwinnett County first into Lawrenceville.

And you can see what we're watching right here. This is the storm, Paul, that we zoomed into a little bit earlier as it was crossing over 120 and 316 around the Lawrenceville area. Now the heaviest weather in association with this is from Saddlewood over into Dacula, and this is continuing to move on over to the east as well...

JERAS: All right. Some good information from Chris Holcomb there with WXIA TV, showing you that tornado warning that we are talking about from this cell up here into Gwinnett County. It looked like the rotation was just east of the Lawrenceville area. And that storm is also pushing off to the east.

And there you can see, we've got two different cells that we're talking about, one right here that is heading towards Winder. And then you can see the one to the north and the east of the Buford area. And that is the cell that is showing the very strong rotation at this time.

It looks like we've got another one developing up here to the north. So these storms are out there all by themselves. They're what we call those supercell type of thunderstorm. You're looking at some pictures here from WSB TV from the Atlanta area. I'm not sure -- is that the Georgia Dome? Can somebody in control tell me? I think we're looking at the Georgia Dome on the side. We're not sure if that is.

But kind of looks like that might be the Georgia Dome on the right-hand side of your screen. You can see the dark cloud. You can also see that reaching down near the ground. So again, kind of a fuzzy picture. I can't confirm whether or not that is a tornado. But we do have that warning and some sightings on the east side of Atlanta in DeKalb County. That was about 10, 15 minutes ago already near I-85 and Jimmy Carter Boulevard.

A watch is in effect across much of central Georgia. And that means the conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop and continue to go on throughout the afternoon. Now we did have a warning about 15, 20 minutes ago that included Fulton County and Douglas County, and now we have a new storm which is moving in from the west, and there's also one beyond that from the west.

So we do have several hours to go with severe weather in the downtown Atlanta area, and with a lot of damage already in place from last night's storms we're very concerned about many compromised buildings, including us right here at CNN Center.

We're going to go back to our affiliate, WXIA TV, and hear the latest from the report there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... sometimes we'll get it just with one cell moving through. These are multiple cells that have the potential of producing tornados, like that one in southern Hall is totally different from the one over in Gwinnett County. And then we have these other ones down to the west of the city, too, that are producing severe thunderstorms, not the tornado warnings.

But as we've noticed, those severe thunderstorms can change over into tornado warnings very quickly -- Paul (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I -- Chris, and you've been here quite many years. And I've been here for about 20 years. I can't remember this kind of outbreak. And I think we're only halfway through it. I think there are still more storms to come, and I think we're going to see more tornado warnings out there.

I think the good news is, and I've said this before, and I'll be probably proved a fibber here is that at least we're seeing them reduced to a severe thunderstorm warning. When I usually say that, that usually means there's going to be a buzzer that goes off and they're going to turn into tornado warnings. But right now from these cells that are moving through, this one is...

JERAS: All right. That's WXIA, one of our affiliates. I know you heard Paul Osmond (ph) talking about those severe thunderstorm warnings. But there is the potential with those cells to the south and west of Atlanta near the Carrolton area for them to continue to strengthen and possibly become a rotator.

Now you're taking a look at a picture here. This is a live shot from WSB TV in Atlanta. And that is Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. And you can see the very dark clouds, some of the airplanes there that are still on the tarmac. There is a ground stop in effect at Atlanta because of this storm right now. So nobody is coming in and out of that airport.

We've already had one storm move through the Atlanta airport area and also towards East Point and College Park. And now there's another storm pushing through and the potential for more in the upcoming hours. So if you had flight plans today, for example, coming in or out of Atlanta, it doesn't matter if you're in Seattle or if you're in Atlanta or maybe if you're in New York City, this certainly could be impacting you as this is a major hub and affecting many, many airlines.

So you certainly want to call ahead for flights later. So, again, tornado warnings are still ongoing for Gwinnett County, which is north of Atlanta, and then also DeKalb County. I believe that one should have expired just a couple of minutes ago. As we get more information -- you can see some rain drops and maybe some lightning in the background there as well. Make sure you stay inside. And we heard good advice earlier from WXIA's Chris Holcomb about staying indoors, getting to the lowest level of your home, away from doors and windows.

And if you do happen to live in one of those buildings or apartments in the downtown area that has damage with it, that's not the place that you want to be. Get out of there and get a sturdy structure. But if you're already caught and you're in that place and the sirens go off, then you just want to get to the sturdiest part of the building that you can. And a lot of times that can be the bathroom. That can be the stairwell or maybe even an interior closet, is also a very good place to go. So breaking news in the downtown Atlanta area, the threat of tornadoes continues to go -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And, Jacqui, what's really remarkable here as we continue to look at this live picture out of Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, just in the last, what, 10 minutes that we've been talking here, this is evidence of just how fast moving of a system it is. Earlier we couldn't even identify that this was indeed like the tarmac we were seeing because it was so dark. In fact, it was black. And now it's lightening up. But you can see on the lens there a lot of the water, the rainfall, the fog moving in. What is fueling this very fast-moving system?

JERAS: Well, we have very favorable atmospheric conditions right now. We have got a strong southerly wind that has been pushed in the area. That's bringing in warmth and moisture. And then we have some cooler, drier air coming in from the west. Then you also have to have winds coming in from different directions or at different speeds, at different levels of the atmosphere. We talk about that wind shear element. And that's what it is.

You're looking at flight tracker here right now. Meteorologist Chad Myers is working with me behind the scenes as we've had to come down to our CNN International studio. So I'm kind of working with one hand behind my back here as we don't have all the technology down here that we do up there. At least not for domestically.

There you can see Atlanta and there you can see all the planes away from those thunderstorms. And those red lines that you can see, those are the circle paths that they're making. So these planes aren't being allowed to land because of the severe weather that's in the area. So you can see that they're running those patterns, not being able to fly at this time.

WHITFIELD: Wow. A lot of frustrated flyers, you know, especially those who are circling. But for all of those who may be at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, for example, we're encouraging people to send in their i-Reports, perhaps you're stuck, you can give us an idea of exactly what you're experiencing, what you're seeing there at the airport as you kind of watch these ominous clouds.

And, Jacqui, I want to ask you, too, about one of the maps that you had up earlier, it showed kind of that purple area in the Gainesville, Georgia, area. I imagine that a lot of the folks in Gainesville are a little nervous because they've been through this before, less than 10 years ago they dealt with a deadly tornado that touched down there. I remember covering that.

And so you talked earlier about how some people don't take the warning seriously. I imagine there they will.

JERAS: Yes. And they should be right now, because we're looking at some very strong rotation. There you can see the area. Commerce, by the way, which is under the warning once again, had a touchdown with damage in that area. Here you can see Gainesville, so that storm is just to the south of there.

Here is Pendergrass. And there you can kind of see that hook shape on the radar there. That's an indication that there's likely a tornado with that storm. And again, it's pushing off to the east. Then just to the south of here, there's Lawrenceville. And we were looking at wind mode earlier. We change it back over to what we call reflectivity where you just kind of see the rain shower of it.

And it was showing some very strong rotation. So there you can see it where you see the greens and the reds coming together. That means the winds are moving in different directions. And the only way you can get that is if you have some spin in the atmosphere.

Here is another picture as we're taking a look here at the airport. Is that still the airport they are seeing? OK. And there you can see the rain that is coming down. The ground stop which is in effect. And a tornado warning in effect, that includes the airport at this time.

So, Fred, you were talking about people heeding that warning and taking this very seriously. You know, we had the damage last night. So I think that helped to put people on high alert for today, that that threat is still ongoing. The watch until 7:00 local time tonight.

And you know, we've been focusing a lot on Atlanta, but Atlanta is not alone in this. We're seeing this across central Georgia. The watch was in effect in the eastern parts of Alabama. And it also stretches now into South Carolina, including the Columbia area. And there you can see, as we loop this into motion, here is our cell moving through the airport area right now.

And look at this, one, two, go ahead and see, wait until it stops, three, and then more development back there. So most of them, however, look like they're kind of -- while they're all moving eastward, you can see how the development kind of pushes a little farther to the south.

So hopefully most of these will start to skirt more into the southern part, not the areas that have already had that damage. So we'll continue to watch this line very closely. And something else that we start to worry about when we see these storms lined up like this, we start worrying about flash flooding.

Because these storms have potential of putting down a good inch an hour. And you know, when you're in a downtown area, everything is pavement. There's not a whole heck of a lot of grass. So everything is going to run off. You certainly don't want to be traveling in this situation anyway. But be aware of your surroundings, even if you don't have the warning in effect, because we may see some of that urban flooding in the upcoming hours also.

WHITFIELD: Right. So flash flooding a big concern, as are all these huge trees that come down, because the ground is so soggy, the root systems just get compromised from all that water. And that, too, can present another huge problem. So a lot to look out for. Jacqui, thanks so much.

And we here at CNN are going to continue to watch the storm system in the Southeast. As you heard Jacqui say, these warnings and watches in effect until the 7:00 hour. So you want to stay tuned for that.

Meantime, at the top of the hour, the "BALLOT BOWL" is next. The candidates unfiltered. Meantime right now we want to go back to THIS WEEK IN POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, 42ND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did not having sexual relations with that woman.

SEN. DAVID VITTER (R), LOUISIANA: I am completely responsible, I'm so very, very sorry.

SEN. LARRY CRAIG (R), IDAHO: I am not gay. I never have been gay.

GOV. ELIOT SPITZER (D), NEW YORK: I'm deeply sorry that I did not live up to what was expected of me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They just want what they want when they want it, much like ordering a pizza.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Well, time for one classy moment before we descend into the tawdry depths of the Eliot Spitzer story. The ancient Greeks said that all tragedy was based on hubris, an excessive pride or arrogant overconfidence that leads to downfall. Is that what we're dealing with in this week's fall of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and frankly all of the others, the big names who have tumbled over sexual scandals? Time to listen to the word on the street.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you're in that position, you know, you can't just do what you're feeling at the time. You've got to do what's right. You know people are behind you and supporting you and voting for you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're normal humans, but they're our leaders. Is that who we want for our leaders? I don't think so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How they run, I think if they came out and said, you know, I like to cheat on my wife, and...

FOREMAN: It would be hard to get elected that way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it would be. But at least he's honest, right? Or she, maybe.

FOREMAN: When politicians are caught in these matters, should they quit?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

FOREMAN: And why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They break the trust with the public and their family. And if you can't trust somebody, they shouldn't be in office.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think they should quit their positions, no. I think we should forgive and forget and let them do their job and not get in their personal affairs.

FOREMAN: Because this is purely a personal thing to you unless it's interfering with the public...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, sex is a personal thing.

FOREMAN: Is the bigger issue that these people do improper things or that they break the law while doing it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I suspect breaking the law is the real problem, right? Because ultimately...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's a lawmaker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, ultimately he's a lawmaker and he's breaking the law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think a lot of politicians in positions of great office, they think they can get away with things because of their position.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are greater issues that need to be taken into account. And it's unfortunate these people that are elected don't address those greater issues when they're elected and serve the public and not be self-serving.

FOREMAN: By getting involved in these affairs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By getting involved, doing things -- stuff, whatever it is that -- hey, I think that's America today.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Quick quiz. Who said, "I can't even type?" The answer in our top five old school sex scandals in just a moment. And call me, hot tips from our Hotline. "Fast Track" coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: It's not a thousand dollars an hour, but when we need something to get us through a tough week in politics, we turn to the "Fast Track" for everything we need to know. And joining us is John Mercurio. He is the executive editor of Hotline.

This week, it was all about race for the Democrats. What's the next big thing coming down the pike for them?

JOHN MERCURIO, EXEC. EDITOR, THE HOTLINE: I think we've got a little bit left to deal with on the issue of race. We saw Obama's pastor come out with some controversial comments he has made. But I think over the next couple of weeks, as we head towards tax day, you're going to see the Obama campaign hitting her on taxes, hitting her on secrecy and issues like that.

FOREMAN: John McCain is fighting to hold any ground on the front page because the Democrats are dominating everything. What can he do to get back in the news?

MERCURIO: Well, the problem is that he wants to emphasize his foreign policy credentials. He's heading to Europe and to the Middle East to sort of emphasize I think the fact that he could be commander- in-chief on day one.

The problem for him there is that, as we're seeing just over the past few days, the economy is number one. President Bush speaking on it. That's where voters are focused, not on Europe and the Middle East.

FOREMAN: We're still not finished with debating in this big game of ours. Who can be the big loser in the upcoming debates and why?

MERCURIO: Well, Obama and Clinton have both agreed to Philadelphia. They're both going to debate in Pennsylvania for ABC. CBS, Katie Couric, I think still waiting to see whether or not she's going to get her debate. We could hear from the Clinton campaign today or tomorrow as to whether or not they are going to do it.

But will Katie Couric on CBS actually get the chance to sit in the moderator's chair? That's the big question.

FOREMAN: What will be next week's favorite political party game?

MERCURIO: That's a good question. We're going to have to wait and see who the other clients are on Eliot's -- on the Emperors Club VIP list of clients. Of course, Eliot Spitzer the famous "Client #9." Who are clients number one through eight?

FOREMAN: Yes, we are going to find out about that. And one last question. One-word answer. Can anything be worked out about Michigan and Florida that will make everyone happy?

MERCURIO: I'm going to give you a three-word answer, how about that? No, no and no. It's impossible to make everybody happy.

(LAUGHTER)

FOREMAN: That's a great way to hop off the "Fast Track." John Mercurio, thanks for being here.

MERCURIO: Good to be here.

FOREMAN: And stick around, because in a moment we will have the sexcapades of the century coming up. But first, our late night laughs.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": New York Governor Eliot Spitzer admitted publicly he was involved in a prostitution ring, which means Hillary Clinton now only the second angriest wife in the state of New York.

(LAUGHTER)

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!": Now they're saying he may have spent $80,000 on prostitutes over the last 10 years. Is that a lot?

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW": He was -- went through this call girl thing where you get the call girls, and he was known -- a regular customer, he was known as client nine. Client nine. And it looks now like client nine will soon be looking for wife number two.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: Scandal is hardly a modern phenomenon. As long as there have been politicians, there have been politicians behaving badly. So here it is, our top five historic hysterics over sex.

Shortly after he became president, Thomas Jefferson was accused of having children with a slave, Sally Hemmings. Historians have argued over this for decades. But recent DNA evidence appears to back it up.

James Buchanan was the only bachelor president and, according to rumors at the time, the only gay president, which has nothing to do with the fact that many historians also think he was America's worst president.

One paramour had so many love letters from Warren G. Harding -- he looks like a loving guy, that he holds the dubious record of being the only president to be successfully blackmailed. She was sent on a trip around the world. But Harding apparently went right on having affairs anyway.

The career of the most powerful man in Congress in the early 1970s, Wilbur Mills, unraveled after the police stopped his car late one night and his companion, an exotic dancer known as "The Argentine Firecracker," took a swan dive into the Tidal Basin.

And a couple of years later, another congressional strong man, the legendary Wayne Hays, denied that his secretary, Elizabeth Ray, had been hired to be his mistress. But she said, I can't type, I can't file, I can't even answer the phone. Oops.

And yes, we could have easily added some of the more modern sexcapades to our list, but it's a family show and we only have an hour. And that's it for THIS WEEK IN POLITICS. I'm Tom Foreman, thanks much for watching. Straight ahead, CNN's "BALLOT BOWL."

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