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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Senators Durbin, Cornyn; Interview With Martin Luther King III

Aired April 6, 2008 - 11:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: This is LATE EDITION, the last word in Sunday talk.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN BERNANKE, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: Recession is possible.

BLITZER (voice-over): Is the government doing enough to rescue the U.S. economy? Senate Democratic whip Dick Durbin and Republican Senator John Cornyn weigh in.

Then, perspective on the number one issue for U.S. voters, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and McCain campaign senior economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, D-ILL.: I'm feeling kind of fired up.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: I feel like I'm ready to go.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, D-N.Y.: I'm in it to win it, and I intend to do just that.

BLITZER: As Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama slug it out for the Democratic nomination, we'll assess the race with Clinton supporter Congressman John Murtha and Obama supporter Senator Chris Dodd.

Plus, insight and analysis from three of the best political team on television.

Forty years after the death of Martin Luther King Jr., a look at his legacy and what is left to be done with Martin Luther King III.

As Pope Benedict XVI prepares for his first papal journey to the United States, we'll preview his visit with the Catholic University President Father David O'Connell.

LATE EDITION's first hour begins right now. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN in Washington, this is LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER.

BLITZER: It's 11:00 a.m. here in Washington, 8:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, and 6:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for LATE EDITION.

The United States right now is reeling from a housing crisis and the highest unemployment rate in three years with 80,000 jobs lost in March alone. And in this election year here in the United States, the troubled economy has both the White House and the Congress on the hot seat right now.

Joining us now, two guests, the Senate's second ranking Democratic Dick Durbin of Illinois. He is joining us from Pittsburgh today. He is a strong supporter of Barack Obama. And in his home state of Texas, Republican Senator John Cornyn. He is joining us as a supporter, of course, for John McCain as well.

Thanks to both of you for joining us. Let me play for you, Senator Durbin, what Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman said this week about the state of the U.S. economy right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERNANKE: It now appears likely that real gross domestic product will not grow much, if at all over the first half of 2008 and could even contract slightly. Recession is possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. So what do you, as a leader in the Senate, going to do about this possibility? He says that there could be a recession although a lot of people already -- a lot of economists already believe there is a recession? What specifically do you have on tap right now?

DURBIN: Well, we have the rebate checks which are going to America in the next several weeks. I don't know what impact that is going to have. I hope it increases consumer confidence and consumer spending. We're now working on a bipartisan housing stimulus bill which I think is good, but I think could be much broader and much more forceful in attacking this problem.

But I don't think that's the end of the story. I think we need to do more to stimulate this economy. The policies of this administration, tax cuts for wealthy people, for example, really aren't going to sustain us, aren't going to bring us out of this recession.

We have to really focus on so many working families across America who are struggling to survive. High gasoline prices, high cost of daycare and health care and college education. These things are taking their toll. BLITZER: So Senator Durbin, I take it you want a second economic stimulus package in addition to these rebate checks that are going to go out to millions of American families starting in mid-May. You want a second economic stimulus package right now?

DURBIN: I certainly do. The obvious thing is to extent unemployment benefits. The Republicans have resisted that. But historically it's the best way to put money into the economy to families that desperately need it. And we also have to take into consideration, we need to be creating going-paying jobs for Americans right here at home. And we can create an economic stimulus package that will do that. But we need the cooperation of the White House to get it done.

BLITZER: And, Senator Cornyn, Chuck Schumer, another Democrat in the Senate, is saying he's not getting that cooperation from the Bush administration. Listen to what he said. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHARLES E. SCHUMER, D-N.Y.: We get no help on crafting a stimulus package that can get the economy going -- a second stimulus package dealing with infrastructure and unemployment and the kind of direct spending that is needed to augment the tax relief that we have passed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: How important is a second economic stimulus package, Senator Cornyn?

CORNYN: Well, I think we need to be careful here. We need to do what we can. And of course, contrary to what Senator Schumer has said, we just passed a stimulus package on a bipartisan basis.

What concerns me is that it resulted in $150 billion added to the national deficit. And we need to be careful and make sure what we do is targeted in a way that will actually help people who need it the most.

I'm glad to hear Senator Durbin talk about the cost of gasoline and the cost of health care. We have frankly done nothing in Congress recently to deal with either of those issues which, even in places where the economy is doing relatively well, like here in Texas, those are areas where people are really feeling the pinch. And I think we would do well to target some of our efforts on bringing down the price of gasoline and making health care more affordable.

BLITZER: What about extended unemployment benefits, Senator Cornyn?

CORNYN: Well, you know, unemployment in Texas is about 4.1 percent. It's almost a full employment economy, it's 5.1 percent nationally. We need to help I think people with job training and help them get back into the economy if they're having a hard time. But I don't think spending a lot of extra money and adding to the debt -- I mean, everything I hear coming from my friends on the other side of the aisle is let's have the federal government spend more money. And that money comes from your pocket and mine. And I think we ought to be careful.

BLITZER: All right. What about that, Senator Durbin?

DURBIN: I can just tell you that if we really want to put an end to this recession or at least stop its progress, we have to do something decisive. I understand what Senator Cornyn is saying about the deficit. But when it came to tax breaks for wealthy people, we never heard that argument.

When we suggested we wanted pay-as-you-go, so that we would either increase some taxes or cut spending to offset these tax cuts, the Republicans said, no, we just want to add it to the deficit.

When it comes to this war, it is being added to the deficit $12 billion to $15 billion a month without being paid for. But when we suggest putting money in this economy to help struggling families, unemployed families and those who are trying to get by, the Republicans quickly say, oh, this is a big deficit problem.

I just don't understand their priorities. We ought to be focusing on good-paying jobs right here in America, good jobs that are going to invigorate this economy and get us beyond these recessionary concerns.

BLITZER: All right. Let me let Senator Cornyn respond to that, go ahead.

CORNYN: Well, Wolf, if we raise taxes in order to pay for all of these bailouts that Senator Durbin is talking about, it's going to come from somewhere. And what -- it's going to depress the economy in a way that I think none of us want.

So I just think we need to be very careful on how we approach this and make sure we're not making things worse but actually making things better. If we do that, I think we can do it on a bipartisan basis.

BLITZER: Senator Cornyn, here are some startling numbers that were included in this latest CBS News/New York Times poll. The question was, are things going better today, worse today or about the same as they were five years ago? Only 4 percent thought that things were better today, 78 percent thought things were worse today. Only 17 percent thought things were about the same today.

If you translate those numbers into politics right now, usually the party in power in the White House gets the most of the blame if things are going in the wrong direction as opposed to the right direction. How worried are you politically, not only in terms of the presidential race but in races for the Senate and the House that the Republicans could suffer big time? CORNYN: Well, of course, Wolf, in 2006, Republicans took a drubbing and put Democrats in power, people like my friend Dick Durbin and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. And it's really up to them, I think, to show the leadership that is necessary to work with us on a bipartisan basis and try to address some of these issues.

BLITZER: What about the president?

CORNYN: Well, the president certainly has a responsibility. But he can't pass any legislation without the cooperation of our Democratic majority-holders in the Senate and in the House. So it's going to take the kind of bipartisan cooperation we saw in the initial stimulus package. But I think it's also going to have to take a bit of care and not to make sure we make things worse by growing the size of government, increasing taxes and depressing the economy further.

BLITZER: How much of a hit are you going to take, Senator Durbin, the Democrats, as a result of this mood out there that the country is simply moving in the wrong direction right now, now that Democrats for more than a year have been the majority in the Congress?

DURBIN: Yes, but I think those who have watched closely understand the Republicans have initiated 62 filibusters last year, a record-breaking number. It was an attempt by the Republicans in the Senate to stop any effort for change, any effort for progress.

And whether we're talking about changing the policy in the war in Iraq or moving this economy forward, it's the Republicans in the Senate that have stopped us with their filibusters. That's the argument we're making for electing more Democratic senators.

I just have to say the bottom line is this: 81 percent of Americans say our country is moving in the wrong direction. And they specified that it's the war in Iraq as well as the economy.

Now Senator John McCain is running on the Bush economic policies and the Bush Iraq policy. I think that is a portent of bad things to come for the party unless he changes his position.

BLITZER: The Senate and the House, Senator Cornyn, this week, will be hearing temperature from General David Petraeus, the U.S. military commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, the ambassador in Baghdad.

On the eve of their testimony, this coming week, General Barry McCaffrey, retired U.S. Army four-star general -- he offered this bleak assessment of what the government of Nouri al-Maliki, in Iraq, is up to right now. I'll play a little clip for you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY (USA, RET.): The Maliki government, in a general stance, is completely dysfunctional. There isn't a province in Iraq, from the ones that are in Kurdish north that are economically and politically doing OK...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, that's a pretty bleak assessment from a respected military analyst, a four-star general.

How worried are you about the current situation in Iraq unraveling?

CORNYN: Well, I'm very concerned. And that's why I think we need to continue to make sure that we leave Iraq in a condition that it can govern and defend itself.

I was last there in January, and very encouraged by the progress on the military front. The Iraqis are stepping up, taking more responsibility, paying more of the bills. And about two-thirds of the benchmarks, on the political side, that Congress set in 2007 have now been met.

And finally, I would say the initiative that the prime minister -- that President Maliki took in Basra, recently, without American support, except in follow-up, the initiative he took against the Shiite militias, criminals and gangs, I thought was encouraging.

So we need to see more of that, and need the Iraqis to stand up so we can stand down and bring our folks home.

BLITZER: You wanted, Senator Durbin, the government, the Iraqi military to stand up and defeat those various militias. They tried to do it in Basra. They're trying to do it in Sadr City and Baghdad, against the radical anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

I assume you applaud that.

DURBIN: Well, of course, we want to see the Iraqis stand up. But I have to agree with General McCaffrey. This government, the Maliki government, has been dysfunctional, in terms of the progress they've made.

Imagine, General Petraeus is coming to Washington this week to observe the first anniversary of a temporary surge with no end in sight. That tells the whole story.

If that surge had really worked on a strategic basis, American forces would be coming home. Instead, they're still in place, dying every day. That's the reality of the situation.

I can't understand why we don't step back and look at the reality. The Iraqis, sadly, are not reaching the point where they're going to stand up, in a war that lasted longer than world war ii.

BLITZER: All right. Senator Cornyn, give us the context of what senator McCain, the Republican presidential presumptive nominee, meant when he said U.S. troops could potentially stay in Iraq for as long as 100 years.

CORNYN: Well, of course, he didn't mean in the capacity in which they're currently there. And I would say to my friend Senator Durbin, after the surge is reversed, essentially, by next summer, we'll see a reduction of about 40,000 American troops.

And certainly, I hope we would all agree that that's a good trend. And we hope that it would continue.

But, of course, we have agreements with countries all around the world, in places where we have fought wars, mutual cooperation agreements, mutual security agreements.

And being the one remaining superpower in the world, I think that is something we would see as constructive, not destructive.

And so we're not talking about anything like the capacity in which we're serving now. Our goal, on a bipartisan basis, is to bring the troops home. And I would hope we would agree we would bring them home when Iraq is able to govern and defend itself.

BLITZER: We're almost out of time. But a quick question to you, Senator Durbin, as a strong supporter of Barack Obama.

The liberal radio talk show host Ed Shultz said on Friday these words at a fund-raiser for Obama. He said, "He voted for this war," referring to John McCain. "He's a perpetrator of the war. He's an advocate of the war. In my personal definition, that's a warmonger."

Now, the Obama campaign put out a statement saying that the senator, Senator Obama, does not believe that John McCain is a warmonger. But should he go further in dissociating himself from Ed Shultz, this liberal radio talk show host?

DURBIN: Well, let me tell you, Barack Obama was not there when the statement was made. He's put out a statement saying he does not agree with that, he disagrees with it.

And I can tell that you Barack Obama and Senator McCain have worked together on many issues in the United States Senate.

The bottom line that we have to understand, here, is that Senator McCain is suggesting a long-term commitment in Iraq. If you look at the front page of the New York Times today, we have pushed our military to the absolute limit.

General McCaffrey has said the Iraq war is breaking the U.S. Army. General Cody has said we cannot sustain this kind of military commitment. The president and Senator McCain should be very sensitive to this and understand we cannot keep our military in this position indefinitely.

They should support the Webb amendment. Senator Jim Webb wants to give more down-time so our troops, between deployments, can reunite with families and be retrained and re-equipped before they're reassigned. But unfortunately, the Republicans in the Senate have opposed it.

BLITZER: I'll give you the last word. Senator Cornyn. Go ahead.

CORNYN: Well, I expect the president will announce that reduction in the length of tours for our Army. I agree that the Army has gotten too small for our security interests around the world.

And, of course, Congress, on a bipartisan basis, has said we need to grow the end strength of the Army and Marine Corps. But I would hope that none of us would do anything which would risk another failed state like we saw in Afghanistan, which gave the rise to the Taliban and Al Qaida and, of course, with the terrible consequences of September 11.

We don't want that to happen in Afghanistan again. And we don't want that to happen in Iraq, either.

BLITZER: Senator Cornyn, thanks for coming in.

CORNYN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Senator Durbin, thanks to you as well.

A good discussion here on "Late Edition."

DURBIN: Thank you.

BLITZER: And just ahead, the economy and the presidential race. Are the candidates offering the right plans to try to ease the turmoil right now?

You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. In our next hour, we'll assess the Democratic race for the White House with Clinton supporter Congressman John Murtha and Obama supporter Senator Chris Dodd. That is coming up in our next hour.

But right now, we're going to get two very different perspectives on issue number one for U.S. voters. That would be the state of the U.S. economy.

Joining us from Berkeley, California, the former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich. He's not yet endorsed either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama.

And here in Washington is McCain campaign senior economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin.

Thanks to both of you for coming in.

Secretary Reich, let me start with you. And I want to put some very disturbing numbers on the screen, the number of jobs lost during the first three months of this year: 76,000 in January; 76,000 in February; 80,000 in mark; 232,000 American jobs lost in the first three months of this year.

BLITZER: I assume you believe the country is already in a recession.

REICH: Yes, Wolf. I think almost certainly, it is. We don't know technically whether it is, but for millions of Americans who are struggling right now, the technical definition doesn't matter.

We also know that incomes have been dropping over the last six months. Adjusted for inflation, the median wage is down. In fact, the median wage right now is below what it was in 1999.

So between job losses and wage losses, Americans really are hurting. BLITZER: The technical definition, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, as you well know, of a recession, two successive quarters -- in other words, six months of negative economic growth. That hasn't technically been met yet. But do you believe the country is in a recession?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: The picture that we're seeing is one of an economy that is contracting and falling, and I think Bob Reich has had it exactly right. This is a situation in which American families are hurting, and gas prices and food prices are high. It's time to sort of get the economy moving again.

BLITZER: All right. Here's what Hillary Clinton says about Senator McCain's economic strategy. And I'll play a little clip for you, Doug.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: Senator McCain recently gave a speech on the economy. And best I could determine, his plan was not to have a plan.

If he got the 3:00 a.m. call on the economy, he would just let the phone ring.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. She got a laugh. She got some applause. But what exactly would Senator McCain, if he were president right now, do about what clearly you believe and Bob Reich believes is a recession?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: I think you can look at the immediate problem. The problem is subprime mortgages, and what the senator has promised is not to play politics with this. Let's get some real solutions. How do you do that? You get bipartisan legislation through the Senate in this case. And we see progress on that. There will be a vote next week.

You look at the credit crunch....

BLITZER: Bipartisan legislation to do?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: To address the subprime mortgage problem. Let's get some help to people.

BLITZER: By doing what?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: Well, let's get some new mortgages to people who can't handle the payments they have. Let's get some mortgages to people whose housing values have fallen below the cost of their mortgage.

BLITZER: So what you're saying is, he would not simply avoid the phone call. He would get directly involved in helping millions of homeowners avoid foreclosure?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: He has said again and again, this is a very, very difficult time for American families. He's concerned about them. The focus should be on those families who want to be in a home, can afford to be in a home. They're in the wrong mortgage. We shouldn't be bailing out big banks. We shouldn't be bailing out speculators. We've got to take care of American families.

BLITZER: And Bob Reich, I'll play a clip of what Senator McCain says and get your response. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: This is a tough, tough time for Americans. And we need to help them. But massive bailouts and distorting the markets is not part of it, nor is it part of this package that is winding its way through the Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. What do you say?

REICH: Well, McCain -- Senator McCain has not come up with a lot of specifics. And the real issue here is how to keep people in their homes paying their mortgages, rather than having a lot of empty homes with no mortgages being paid.

I mean, everybody has an interest, Wolf, in making sure that people to the extent that they can stay in their homes. So what is needed is a kind of a large reorganization under bankruptcy, where the terms of some of these mortgages can be changed.

Now, how do you do that? Well, the Senate had a pretty good idea. And that was Chris Dodd and in company with Barney Frank over on the House side. That was to have effectively a kind of a reorganization plan, open the bankruptcy laws, allow people to use reorganization under bankruptcy, under court supervision if necessary, give borrowers a little bit more kind of bargaining leverage with the banks, and also some incentives for investment banks to turn over the securities.

But that was stripped out of the bill. So the Senate doesn't have the core of what actually ought to be done.

BLITZER: What do you think?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: Well, the key is to get effective short-term assistance. That is the Senate's goal. But to make sure that that assistance helps in the long term. In the long term, we have to restructure these debts. Everyone knows that. But putting it into a permanent change in bankruptcy raises the specter that you're going to charge higher interest rates on mortgages, make it harder for people to get into homes. We need people in homes to prop up housing values.

So that provision getting stripped out was over concerns of the long term not having a consistent vision with the short term.

BLITZER: It is time, do you believe, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, for a second economic stimulus package right now, in addition to the millions of people who will be getting these rebate checks starting in May going through July, to try to stimulate the economy, get them to spend that money? Is it time for a second economic stimulus package to wind its way through the House and Senate?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: The first stimulus package was remarkable in how quickly it happened and how focused it was. Tax relief for American families...

BLITZER: What about a second one?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: ... investments. If we can focus and look at the problems we've got -- we have mortgage problems; some progress there. We have got credit crunch problems; Fed's done an enormous amount. See how that works. We have high gas prices. We have really high food prices. A lot of this is being traced to a weak dollar. We need a stronger dollar. And one of the things that would help, quite frankly, with a stronger dollar is to stop scaring our allies on trade. I think the Democrats' talk on trade is not good. Not demagogue companies on whether they're patriotic or not. Not promise a bigger government, higher taxes. That's...

BLITZER: So you would support a second economic stimulus package -- and you're speaking obviously as someone who is advising John McCain -- if it were focused specifically, is that what you're saying?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: Oh, you have to focus on the problems people face. And everybody who fills up their car and goes to the supermarket knows the problem.

BLITZER: What do you think, Bob Reich?

REICH: What we need -- look, this is a serious economic problem. Wolf, we haven't seen anything like this in 40 or 50 years. We need to have, yes, a second stimulus package. We need to have extended unemployment benefits. We need reorganization under bankruptcy. And some sort of mechanism to increase incentives for investors to get rid of a lot of the, you know, these loans that have been racked up in obscure securities that nobody even knows who owns what.

We have got to also reform Wall Street. I mean, I think Hank Paulson's deregulatory -- it really was a deregulatory reform measure is not nearly up to what needs to be done. We have got to get Democrats and Republicans together to understand the breadth and the depth of this crisis. It really is a crisis, both for average people on Main Street and also on Wall Street.

HOLTZ-EAKIN: I think one thing that is important to recognize, you know, if you look at Senator Clinton's comments -- for over a year, Senator McCain, who has had a lot of experience, you know, 27 years as a leader of this country, been through economic tough times before -- over a year ago, he said, what is wrong with our work-to- training and unemployment insurance programs? Well, they're straight out of the 1950s. They ought to be fixed so that everybody who is displaced is eligible, not just trade displaced. Got to be more efficient in getting people back to work. No one pays any attention to that. Here we are now in what is clearly a tough time. Had we done that work then, workers today would be in better shape.

BLITZER: Former labor secretary, good idea?

REICH: Well, yes. You certainly have to fix all those old programs. But, look, this requires that we actually get serious about not only reorganization under bankruptcy for homeowners, but all sorts of other things that are being proposed. I'm afraid that John McCain is kind of taking a let-them-eat-cake approach to the severity of this crisis, and Hank Paulson at Treasury is also coming up with a lot of basically deregulatory ideas for Wall Street, when what we need is to make sure that all of these investment banks have capital requirements instead of having just a bailout for them and no bailout at all for the homeowners.

BLITZER: Let them eat cake, is that what he's trying to do?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: I think that is completely unfair. And, you know, he's expressed his complete sympathy for those people suffering tough times. A year ago, he is talking about making it easier for those people to get new jobs and have training and skills they need.

Right now, what does he say? We're not going to bail out Wall Street banks. We want them to have more capital. Everything he's pointed to is exactly what Bob Reich is suggesting.

BLITZER: We have got to leave it there, guys. A good discussion. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, thanks for coming in. Robert Reich, thanks to you as well. We'll continue this conversation. It's not going away by any means. Up next, we're going to go live to Baghdad. Our own Nic Robertson has just spoken exclusively to Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. We're going to get the latest from Nic right here on "Late Edition." We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Military offensive against Shiite militias in Basra is over, at least for now, but tensions remain very high between supporters of the powerful anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is in Baghdad. He is joining us now live. You spoke exclusively with the prime minister just a little while ago. What did he say, Nic?

ROBERTSON: Well, Wolf, it looks like those tensions with the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr are only going to climb and get bigger. The prime minister has laid down an ultimatum for the cleric to disband his militia.

We've watched the prime minister over the past two weeks take on those militias, come to a stalemate, get into a cease-fire, then threaten them again, then back off. But last night, according to the prime minister, he met with the presidential council, the leading politicians in the country, including representatives of Muqtada al- Sadr, and the prime minister has got those politicians to agree -- a very brave decision, he says -- for the first time ever to tell Muqtada al-Sadr to get rid of his militia, disband it, for the fighters to hand over their guns to the government, he said, because if they don't, Muqtada al-Sadr won't be able to take part in the all- important October local elections here in Iraq.

This is a massive challenge. It is an escalation of where the prime minister has been on the issue of Muqtada al-Sadr.

We were in Sadr City yesterday, where part of the fighting to beat the militias is going on. It is going to be big, Wolf. This is a big step by the prime minister. He sounded in this interview today very bold, Wolf.

BLITZER: The question, though, is, does he have the wherewithal, the military structure, the cohesion, the commanders, the fighting forces to beat back this popular Shiite cleric and his millions of followers in Iraq? What is the assessment? What are you hearing from outside analysts?

ROBERTSON: Well, you know, there is two ways of looking at this, Wolf. You have got Basra in the south of the country, where the prime minister admits he was surprised at the level of the militia's fighting back. But it's -- Basra is the province where the Iraqis went in alone. But he says, now I have the support of the Americans and the British. I can be stronger there.

In Sadr City, this Shia slum of 2 million Shias, many of them loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, this is going to be a different fight.

We were there yesterday with American and Iraqi forces. The Iraqis are being pushed up to the front. We were on the street corners fighting with those militias, watching the Iraqi army soldiers get injured in those firefights. And what is happening is, the U.S. soldiers are backing up the Iraqi army, pushing the Iraqi army further forward. I watched as a young captain encourages Iraqi army counterpart to get his soldiers, push them around the corner, take on those militias. It is going street by street, almost building by building there, Wolf.

BLITZER: And we're going to be hearing a lot more about this Tuesday. The U.S. military commander, General David Petraeus, will be testifying before Congress, as well as Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador in Iraq. Nic, thanks very much. Be careful over there.

And to our viewers, you can see Nic's interview with the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, here on CNN beginning at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

Up next, Martin Luther King III, 40 years after his father's assassination. We'll speak with him live about the progress that's been made in this country and the challenges that remain. "Late Edition" continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Friday marked the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. All three presidential candidates paid tribute to the slain civil rights leader. Joining us now from Atlanta is the late Dr. King's son, Martin Luther King III. He is the president and the CEO of the organization Realizing the Dream. Mr. King, thanks very much for coming in.

KING: Thank you.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about the legacy, 40 years after your father's assassination. There's been tremendous progress in this country on the issue of race relations, but there is also so much more that has to be done. What is the single most important area that you believe the country needs to focus in on?

KING: Well, I think there are two areas, clearly. My father talked about poverty, racism and militarism. You just stated race, we've made great strides. We have not resolved those issues, but we've come a long way. We still have a ways to go.

But particularly in relationship to poverty, that is very significant. And militarism. Poverty in America, we know 36 million people, 12 million children. There is something wrong with that in a nation with an inordinate amount of wealth.

My dad was focused on trying to get a guaranteed annual income for all people in 1968, shortly before he was killed. He did not get to realize that dream. And so 40 years later, in fact, on Thursday I called for the presidential candidates to appoint a cabinet-level position focused on addressing poverty once and for all. All three of them responded back and in an affirmative way. Two responded affirmatively for a cabinet-level position, and certainly Senator McCain says it is very, very important to him and will be to his administration.

BLITZER: Here's what Senator Clinton said specifically on that issue, and I'll play a little clip of what she said the other day. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I believe we should appoint a cabinet-level position that will be solely and fully devoted to ending poverty as we know it in America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What I hear you saying is that both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama answered yes, and Senator McCain said he's inclined to do the same thing? Is that what you're saying?

KING: Yes, well, Senator McCain did not commit to a cabinet- level position, but he said it is very important to his administration. The focus, again, being poverty. We have got to find a way to create opportunities for all people in our society. In the wealthiest nation in the world, even though we are at a very critical time from an economic standpoint at this point -- this is probably one of the most vulnerable times we know, and it's obviously going to get worse before it gets better -- but I know that when Americans roll up their sleeves -- we've done it when we had the tsunami, we saw in the world Americans rolled up sleeves. Americans rolled up their sleeves for Katrina.

And as it relates to poverty, I believe that when a president appoints a cabinet-level position that is designed specifically for once and for all to begin the process of reducing poverty, bringing all the experts together -- and, in fact, I might add I've been in discussion with some people. Ambassador Andrew Young, certainly. Our office has been in touch with the former vice presidential candidate and congressman and HUD Secretary Jack Kemp. So we are looking at all sides, as well as, of course, Senator John Edwards.

BLITZER: Here are some very disturbing numbers came out the other day. And I'm going to put them up on the screen. In terms of high school graduation rates in this country, nationally, 70 percent of kids in high school wind up graduating. That is not very encouraging. But in the 50 largest cities in the United States, only 52 percent of the high school students actually graduate from high school.

And the lowest rates were in Detroit, Indianapolis, Cleveland, and Baltimore. What is this saying about our country right now when just slightly more than half of the high school kids graduate in the 50 largest cities in the United States?

KING: What it says is, we have not captured the imagination of the minds of those young people who are dropping out of school and choosing not to finish, and that the system itself is flawed, which also means we've got to find a way to revamp our system of education.

We've been doing the same thing for the last 50 years. And so until we begin to change even the system of education, but a lot of it certainly is masked in poverty. And it certainly begins at home. It's how we raise our children. And that's a responsibility of parents.

But unfortunately, our society also has to help. That's why the old African proverb it takes an entire village to raise a child is so important.

BLITZER: Have you endorsed any of these presidential candidates yet?

KING: I'm going to endorse any candidate very soon, I believe, that is focused not just on this issue of poverty, but -- what I need to say actually is I've not publicly endorsed anyone. But I'm glad to hear these candidates talking about poverty. That's the most important issue, I believe, poverty and the war, of course, militarism. Because we're spending a trillion dollars -- we've spent a trillion dollars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And I might add that when we decide to focus on life and the preservation of life, helping to create opportunities and the kind of consciousness that our nation -- I know our nation, people are suffering and need not just assistance but it's going to take a think tank. It's going to take all of us rolling up our sleeves to make America the America that it must become. BLITZER: If your dad, your father, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., were alive today, who do you think he would endorse?

KING: Well, I don't know. I think he would be very pleased. He would be most pleased that for the first time a serious woman candidate and an African-American candidate are running for office.

I don't remember him endorsing many candidates. But, of course, he'll be very -- he'd be tickled at much of what has happened in relationship, particularly with Senator Obama and the fact that young people for the first time, so many young people across our nation are energized.

The goal, I believe is not just to get them to vote, which I believe they will in the November election and, of course, the rest of the primaries, but to use that energy for the future to continue to galvanize, to address poverty, to address the education issue, to address the health care crisis, and to create jobs and justice for all people in America.

BLITZER: Martin Luther King III, thanks very much for coming in.

KING: Thank you for the opportunity.

BLITZER: Appreciate it.

When we come back, Pope Benedict, he is coming to the United States to visit in the coming days. What will his message be for American Catholics? We're going to preview the pontiff's trip with the Catholic University president, Father David O'Connell. He is walking in right now. Stay with us, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. We're only 10 days away from the much- anticipated visit to the United States by Pope Benedict XVI. His itinerary includes presiding over Mass here in Washington at the new Nationals baseball stadium, another Mass at Yankee Stadium in New York, and a speech at the United Nations.

He is also expected to address Catholics' concerns about church doctrine and other issues. Joining us now is Father David O'Connell, he is the president of the Catholic University here in Washington.

You're going to be one of the hosts of Pope Benedict when he comes here. Give our viewers in the United States, Father O'Connell, a sense of this visit by the pope to the United States, his first as the papal leader. O'CONNELL: It's a very important visit, and actually, a time of great joy and celebration. The pope is coming to the United States really to celebrate the bicentennial of five archdioceses in the United States, really the establishment of the Catholic Church in the United States.

And so it's a time of great celebration for us. Also, in light of recent experience of the church and our country, a time of renewal and a time of hope.

BLITZER: Explain a little bit, what does that mean, a time of renewal and a time of hope?

O'CONNELL: Well, the church has had some hard times, as you know, in recent years with the horrific crisis that it has been through. The church has been wounded.

BLITZER: In terms of priest abusing parishioners?

O'CONNELL: That's right. Yes, in terms of the sexual abuse of children. And although that's not the focus of the visit, it's something that is very much in the minds and the hearts of Catholics and it weighs heavily upon us all.

BLITZER: Do you think the pontiff will raise that issue, will discuss that issue?

O'CONNELL: Well, it's hard to imagine that he wouldn't raise it in some context. But he's not going to make it the focus of the trip. The trip is going to be focused on the future, on hope, and on Jesus Christ, the person of Jesus Christ as the reason for our hope in the world.

BLITZER: So what will be his basic message, based on everything you know?

O'CONNELL: I think his basic message -- and it is important to know, because I've been reading in the papers, people saying he's going to say this and he's going to say that. The fact of the matter is, no one knows. No one has a text of his speeches at this time.

But I think what we can find in this is a pope who will speak in a way that is consistent with what he has taught and believed over many, many years, even before he has been pope.

BLITZER: Now you have known him for many years. You go way back with him. Tell us a little bit about this man, because a lot of our viewers in the United States and around the world really, they have read a little bit about him, they know a little bit about him. But tell us something we don't know about this man.

O'CONNELL: Well, I got to know him only because of Catholic University. That is a pontifical university. And when the president is appointed there, it has to be approved by the Vatican. He was one of the two cardinals who had to approve my appointment.

And I went over shortly after that to present myself to him and to have conversations with him.

BLITZER: Because Catholic University in Washington is really sort of a representative of the Vatican in the United States.

O'CONNELL: It's the national university of the church in the United States. And it is directly accountable to the Vatican. It is unique from other Catholic institutions in that respect. And so over the years I've had time to visit with him, to talk to him. I've actually invited him to the United States before he became pope. And maybe about six months before he became pope he wrote me a letter and asked me to stage a conference on the natural moral law. I'm glad I said yes. Six months later he was the pope. So it was a good move on my part.

BLITZER: Good career move for you.

O'CONNELL: Yes, it was. It was a good move. But he's a very shy man.

BLITZER: He speaks English well, though.

O'CONNELL: He speaks English very, very well. And he gets the nuance as well.

BLITZER: And he has been here many times.

O'CONNELL: He has been to the States many times. He has been to Washington. He was in Washington in 1990 to give an address. So he is familiar with the campus of Catholic University and this area of Washington, D.C. A gentle, soft-spoken man, brilliant, terrific intellect, sharp as a tack. And he does get the subtleties of what is going on.

BLITZER: He understands what's going on here. There's -- Time Magazine has a cover story in the new issue, "Why the Pope Loves America." That's the headline.

Among other things, it says this, "Benedict has a soft spot for Americans and finds considerable value in his U.S. church, the third largest Catholic congregation in the world. Most intriguing, he entertains a recurring vision of an America we sometimes lose sight of, an optimistic and diverse but essentially pious society."

Now tell us why this German priest is so in love with the United States.

O'CONNELL: Well, I think that citation from Time magazine says it very well. This is an optimistic man, an affirmative man. And I think we can expect that from the messages that he's going to deliver.

He'll be delivering 11 speeches and homilies while he's there, one of which will occur at Catholic University to Catholic educators and Catholic college presidents.

And I think what we can expect from him is a sense of what's at the core of the church, its mission, and its teaching. And he's going to lift that up in a very positive way for all of us as a source of encouragement and a source of hope.

BLITZER: He comes in the midst of, as you know, a very, very important presidential campaign in this country.

And he's going to have to walk, I assume -- tell me if I'm wrong -- a, sort of, delicate tightrope, not to get involved in domestic American politics, especially when you have two Democratic presidential candidates who support abortion rights for women and a Republican presidential candidate who is against abortion.

O'CONNELL: There are going to be many things about our own country and its current situation, the good and the bad, that are very well known to this pope. But I would be surprised -- and again, I don't know what's going to be in the text of his speeches -- I would very surprised if he touched on anything that could be -- could co-opt him, in the sense of him engaging...

BLITZER: But would he give some sort of message to American Catholics, for example, on this sensitive issue of abortion, go ahead and vote, in one way, against those who support abortion? O'CONNELL: Again, I think he'll be consistent with what he's taught and preached all along. But I don't think he will direct that, in any way shape or form, toward the political situation we find ourselves in right now.

BLITZER: So, when we watch on television -- and there will be extensive coverage of the mass at the Washington Nationals Stadium here. He's got a separate event at Catholic University; in New York, as we said, at the U.N. He's also going to be meeting with Jewish leaders.

Give us a little sense of what you hope will emerge from this visit.

O'CONNELL: I hope that people, first and foremost, will get to know him a little bit. Unlike his predecessor, who had rock star status, this man, because of his intellect and his scholarly reputation, he's a little bit more reserved. And there's a little bit more mystery.

In fact, I think it's intentional on his part. When he became pope, he indicated that he wanted the attention to be focused on Jesus Christ and not on the person of the pope. And he said that not as a criticism of his predecessor but as a point of difference.

What I hope the people here will get from his visit is really a sense of optimism and a sense of renewal, a new Pentecost, as it were, where they will feel that the church can look forward, conscious of what has happened in its past, but hopeful in its future.

BLITZER: We'll be covering it every step of the way. And we hope you'll be joining us throughout this visit, Father David O'Connell. Thanks for coming in.

O'CONNELL: Thank you, Wolf. BLITZER: And just to be up front with viewers, I just wanted everybody to know you were kind enough to give me an honorary degree from Catholic University. I gave the commencement address a few years ago. And I deeply value that, deeply appreciate it.

O'CONNELL: I forgot to call you Dr. Blitzer.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: You don't have to do that. Thanks very much.

O'CONNELL: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, is the prolonged primary fight between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton poisoning Democrats' chances for a White House victory?

We're going to hear from two top supporters of both candidates. Stay with "Late Edition." We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This is "Late Edition", the last word in Sunday talk.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLINTON: Are you ready to take back the White House and take back this country?

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: You and I together, we will change this country and we will change the world.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER (voice over): Will the Pennsylvania primary mark a turning point in the Democratic presidential race?

We'll talk with Clinton supporter Congressman John Murtha and Obama supporter Senator Chris Dodd.

MCCAIN: I think our party is largely unified, and I'm proud of that.

BLITZER: Is John McCain winning over the Republicans' conservative base?

Insight on this week in the race in the White House from three of the best political team on television.

"Late Edition's" second hour begins right now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN in Washington, this is "Late Edition" with Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Welcome back. The Pennsylvania Democratic primary now less than two weeks away, it's a contest that Hillary Clinton is counting on to try to help keep pace with the front-runner, Barack Obama, and bolster her argument that she should be the party's presidential nominee.

Joining us now with his take on the Democratic contest, Pennsylvania congressman and Clinton supporter John Murtha. Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

MURTHA: Nice to be here, Doctor.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Let's talk, a little bit, about Iraq, first and foremost. It's -- the economy may be issue number one on the minds of Americans, but Iraq is certainly not very far behind.

Here's how the president assessed the situation the other day.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Military achievements in Iraq have been accompanied by a political transformation. The surge is doing what it was designed to do. It's helping Iraqis reclaim security and restart political and economic life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, do you agree with him that the surge is doing what it was intended to do?

MURTHA: Well, as I said a long time ago, we base our values on the economy. We base it on electricity production, below pre-war level; oil below pre-war level, and all those things.

But let me tell you, Wolf. I was just out of the hospital.

BLITZER: Which hospital?

MURTHA: Bethesda.

BLITZER: Bethesda Naval Hospital, here...

MURTHA: Bethesda Naval Hospital, the one...

BLITZER: ... outside of Washington.

MURTHA: ... outside of Washington, Friday.

One young fellow had been comatose for two years. His aunt and sister had been with him for two years.

Another one lost both his legs, his wife sitting right beside me, his father and mother there, father a former Marine.

And, I mean, the pain -- she's going to have a baby within the next week and, so, here -- he's never regained consciousness since March 14th, both legs off, and the other one had 30 operations.

I mean, I see this and it breaks my heart to see this.

BLITZER: So what's the point, in terms of the surge, right now?

MURTHA: The point, according to the surge, we had 30,000 wounded and the Iraqis are getting no better. They talk about how well they were, at first, when they went into Basra, they said how well they were doing.

Wolf, Petraeus is going to come over here and say it's a complex problem, where, a week ago, he would have said the Iraqis are doing all right.

We have to go in and fill in all the time. We're spending money they should be spending.

When I'm home, you know what I hear? I hear, what about our roofs; what about our sewage and water; what about the things that need to be done in the United States?

BLITZER: Well, what happens if the U.S. were simply to pick up and leave?

MURTHA: Let me tell you, we have to do what's in the best interest of the United States, Wolf. And what's in the best interest to us...

BLITZER: Does the U.S. have a moral responsibility to the Iraqis, given what's happened over the past five years?

MURTHA: I know. I hear that over and over again. Ambassador Crocker said that. I said to Ambassador Crocker and I said to General Petraeus, when I was there, just during thanksgiving. And I said, look, at home you're going to find we cannot afford this. It's obscene, the money we're spending, $14 billion a month, in this war.

We can't afford it. We've got other things we have to do. You folks are bleeding us. The kids, the young soldiers are worn out. I said, we've got to turn this thing around. And now I see they're going to go to a 12-month deployment. Well, that's, at least, improvement, but there's still...

BLITZER: From 15 months to 12?

MURTHA: From 15 to 12.

BLITZER: Per soldier.

MURTHA: But still, they're only going to be home 12 months. So, you know, we've got a long...

BLITZER: So what are you going to -- I mean, you're going to hear his testimony this week, General David Petraeus. He's testifying Tuesday and Wednesday before the House and the Senate; Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador, as well. And they'll presumably say then what they've been saying over these past several months, that, slowly but surely, progress is being made.

MURTHA: Let me tell you something, Wolf, the progress is measured, the way I measure it, by the electricity production, by the oil production, by the unemployment, by -- the incidents are down...

BLITZER: What about political reconciliation?

MURTHA: It's not going anywhere. They talk about it. But it's not going anywhere.

BLITZER: Are you pleased that the prime minister, Nouri al- Maliki has ordered its forces to crack down on Shiite militias?

MURTHA: Well, I hope that that works. You know, they have to do it themselves. Anything they do themselves, I'm satisfied with. Anything -- Iraq has to take responsibility themselves.

We can't do this for them. Every time they don't do it, we have to step in. So I'm absolutely convinced that the Iraqis are going to have to solve this, as I've said, over and over again for the last couple years.

BLITZER: Here's what Major General Rick Lynch said the other day at a military briefing about the surge. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJ. GEN. RICK LYNCH, COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL DIVISION CENTER: The surge forces gave us the forces that we need to take the fight to the enemy. The attacks went from 25 a day to less than two a day in the months of January, February and in early March.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right?

MURTHA: Well, that's marvelous, but the Iraqis are not stepping up. The Iraqis -- we have been there five years, wolf, and they're still not stepping up. They have a $60 billion surplus in their budget and they're not spending their money. They're spending our money. Every time we turn around, they want to spend U.S. money.

BLITZER: If Hillary Clinton, whom you support for president, were president, how long do you believe it would take her to order a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq?

MURTHA: Well, it's a very complicated thing. Obviously, I've been working, trying to get the troops out of there for over 2 1/2 years. But I've also said "as soon as practicable."

As far as I'm concerned, she will, with her experience -- and the reason I endorsed her is because of her experience in the White House. Any other experience is beside the point -- her experience in the White House.

And I've seen seven presidents, Wolf. And they get older every time they're in there. They make a lot of mistakes when they first come. I would hope she has learned from this experience, and I...

BLITZER: Is there a ballpark estimate how long you think it might take? MURTHA: I think it would take about a year. I think to do it right would take about a year to get them out of there. They're going to take some brigades out because of the surge, but let me tell you something about the surge, too, Wolf.

We had 47,000 so-called allied troops in there. They're down to 10,000. So, if we put 30,000 more U.S. troops in there, they're still below the figure they were before.

BLITZER: When it comes to Iraq, is there a real difference between what Hillary Clinton says and Barack Obama says?

I know there's a difference between the Democrats and John McCain, but what about Hillary Clinton versus Barack Obama on the issue of Iraq?

MURTHA: I think both Democratic candidates realize how complicated this issue is. Both of them realize that they can say it -- you and I have heard debates for years. It's not what they say; it's what they're able to do. It's the experience they bring to the office. It's who they appoint to the various jobs.

And I'm convinced, with Senator Clinton's experience, she'll be able to point the right people to the jobs. And both of them are going to take at least a year to get out. It might take longer than that. The point is, get them to the periphery; do what's in the best interest of the United States.

BLITZER: If Barack Obama is the Democratic presidential nominee, would you have any problem supporting him, campaigning for him?

MURTHA: Well, I'll support whoever becomes the Democratic candidate. But I am convinced, with the experience that Hillary Clinton has -- now, what I hear at home -- you know, you hear all these stories up here, but different things here. What they say at home is, quit spending so much money in Iraq; bring the troops home and start spending the money for deficient bridges, sewage and water, things like that.

BLITZER: Here's what the latest average of the polls in Pennsylvania, our so-called CNN "Poll of Polls: show about Democratic primary voters: Hillary Clinton with 51 percent; Barack Obama with 40 percent; unsure, 9 percent.

You said this -- you were quoted in HuffingtonPost.com on Thursday as saying, "Clinton has to win Pennsylvania. She has to be ahead in the popular vote to have any chance at all of this getting this nomination."

It doesn't look, given the fact that Michigan and Florida are going to probably be out of play, as far as pledged delegates are concerned, it Doesn't look to me like she can beat him in pledge delegates, but can she beat them in terms of the popular vote?

MURTHA: Well, she has to. That's all there is to it. And I think they recognize that. You can't expect superdelegates to support the candidate -- even though she's ahead in the electoral vote, the so-called electoral vote...

BLITZER: In the states who have the most electoral votes?

(CROSSTALK)

MURTHA: ... most electoral votes. But, still, you have to have the popular vote. I mean, we've had presidents that didn't have the popular vote. But I'm convinced, if Michigan and Florida are going to be in play, I'm convinced...

BLITZER: How are they going to be in play?

MURTHA: I don't know how they're going to work it. But Bart Stupak's working in Michigan, and I know that Florida says they're going to work it out.

I am convinced that Howard Dean -- and the states have to do this themselves, but we have to have the popular vote if we're going to win this election.

BLITZER: Here's what Howard Dean said on Tuesday in "The Situation Room." Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DNC CHAIRMAN HOWARD DEAN: I do believe that the unpledged delegates need to make their preferences known long before the convention. If you go into a convention divided, you usually come out of the convention divided. There's no reason that we shouldn't know who our nominee is by the first of July.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. What do you think?

MURTHA: Well, I think that each one's got to make up their own mind. But I think, if you want to show leadership in your own district, it's important that they know where you stand.

But, you know, I don't argue with somebody that wants to wait. There are still things that haven't been talked about, real issues out in the field. And so I don't really argue one way or another in that regard.

BLITZER: I heard you say that you like Hillary Clinton because you say she has the experience needed to be commander in chief. Does Barack Obama not have that experience to be commander in chief?

MURTHA: Well, I think you'd have to say that there's no question about the experience of being in the White House for eight years.

BLITZER: But she was the first lady.

MURTHA: Well, I mean, the first lady has an awful lot of influence. And I can give indications of stories of about breast cancer, for instance, when the Defense Department was ready to cut it off, and she interceded and the money went forward.

I know she went all over the world talking to leaders. We can't solve this without international help, Wolf. They have to know the players. And so, I'm convinced her experience is invaluable to her being able to really -- they have to work with Congress. That's the other thing that has to happen.

Unfortunately this president decided Congress is not important to him. He says he is going to do something. He has to come to Congress to get it done and I think she is the one that can best work with Congress.

BLITZER: Congressman John Murtha, thanks for coming in.

MURTHA: Always good to see you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll be talking.

Coming up, he's the front-runner, so why hasn't Barack Obama managed to close the deal on the Democratic presidential nomination? We'll speak with Obama supporter Senator Chris Dodd. He's standing by live. We'll talk with him when LATE EDITION returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. As we just saw, Hillary Clinton maintains a lead in the polls in the Pennsylvania primary, going into the April 22nd contest in that state.

Joining us now from Scranton, Pennsylvania, we'll get a different perspective from Obama supporter Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut. He is also the chairman of the very important and quite relevant Senate Banking Committee that has got a lot of issues on its plate right now.

Senator, welcome back to LATE EDITION, thanks for joining us.

DODD: Thank you, Wolf, thank you. BLITZER: Let's talk about the economic issues, the recession that a lot of people feel is already under way. First of all, do you believe the country already is in recession?

DODD: No, no question about it, Wolf. I mean, I guess we'll have to wait until some formal declaration of it, but don't take my word for it, just talk to people here in Pennsylvania or elsewhere that are watching huge numbers of unemployment, inflation numbers are going up, the value of the dollar down.

Economic growth has stalled, 8,000 people every day or close to it are going into foreclosure in their homes, 240,000 people did in the month of February. And a larger wave of foreclosures, because of resets on mortgages, occurring this summer.

We've got some major economic difficulties and there is no question that a level of confidence and optimism has been a long time since it has been this low. So we've got a lot of work to do to get it back on track.

BLITZER: All right. So give us the one or two most important things you believe the Congress needs to do right now?

DODD: The most important thing we need to do is to have as much attention being paid to Main Street as Wall Street. And I'll be working this week, again, without a hearing on the Banking Committee on how we can have a write-down on some of these mortgages about to go into foreclosure, offer some insurance as a way of rewriting these mortgages so people can stay in their homes.

That not only benefits the 2.5 million people who may end up in foreclosure, but that next door neighbor, that person who lives on the same block where a foreclosure may occur, you're not going to watch if we don't -- or we will watch if we don't do this. These values of homes declined by as much 1 percent with one foreclosure in that neighborhood immediately, not to mention crime rates, loss of tax bases and so forth. So that's the one thing hopefully we are going to get done in the coming weeks.

BLITZER: How much do you estimate that will cost American taxpayers?

DODD: Well, actually, you could make money. The last time we did something like that, the American taxpayer, the Treasury made about $14 million of going back decades, but there is no reason why this couldn't be a program that virtually had no or limited cost to it at all.

If people are paying back in the insurance is the one thing we'd be doing for it through the Federal Housing Administration. It's an idea that is attracting support, Wolf, across the political spectrum, the American Enterprise Institute, the Federal Reserve, a bank has indicated they like the idea as well as some of the leading financial institutions, not to mention consumer groups.

It's a complicated proposal, but it's one that could make a huge difference in keeping people in their homes. The heart of this economic problem is the foreclosure problem. And until we get to the bottom of that and we know what the floor is, you're not going to watch capital flow. That's why this issue is so important.

BLITZER: Is the White House -- is President Bush on board?

DODD: Well, not yet, but I've been talking with Hank Paulson and they have sort of an ideological viewpoint here that any government intervention at all is a mistake. Well, they didn't have that view when it cams to the Bear Stearns-J.P. Morgan arrangement. Bear was fine to put $30 billion potentially of American taxpayer money at risk. But I don't believe that's necessarily going to happen, but that was part of the deal over that weekend of March 13th through the 16th.

If you can spend that much time over that weekend trying to make sure we didn't have a meltdown financially with these investment banks, you ought to be willing to spend at least as much time in trying to keep people in their homes.

That's what people in Pennsylvania care about. They want to have an administration that cares about those issues. Barack Obama cares about that. How about that for a transition?

BLITZER: All right. Hold on a second, Senator, I want to take a quick commercial break but we have a lot more to talk about, including the politics of what's going on in Pennsylvania, Barack Obama versus Hillary Clinton. Stand by, much more on the economy and the political race for the White House, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERNANKE: Given the exceptional pressures on the global economy and financial system, the damage caused by default by Bear Stearns could have been severe and extremely difficult to contain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, explaining why the federal government effectively bailed out the collapse of that investment house in New York, Bear Stearns.

Joining us, once again, Senator Chris Dodd. He is the chairman of the Banking Committee. He's a strong supporter of Barack Obama.

Was that the right move to bail out, in effect, Bear Stearns, Senator?

DODD: Well, it didn't actually bail out Bear Stearns. They're no longer going to exist now. They're going to be merged into JP Morgan. But part of that arrangement was to have a backstop of as much as $30 billion that the federal government is on the hook for, based on the value of these assets that Bear Stearns has.

Now, they don't have to be sold immediately. They will be sold over a number of years, and if they equal the value of that, then you won't have any loss at all. But if they're less than that, then, obviously, the American taxpayer will pay part of that price.

Now, the danger, and this is always the question you'll never be able to fully answer, what would have happened had they gone into bankruptcy that Sunday night? And there's legitimate concern that you would have had not just a loss of other investment banks in this country, but you may have even read this morning, Wolf, that this is now global, in effect. These problems spread.

A lot of those mortgage-backed securities are owned and held by people way outside of this country. So the implications went beyond the shores of the United States.

BLITZER: So basically the $30 billion...

DODD: The bottom line...

BLITZER: That $30 billion safety net was the right idea, is that what you're saying?

DODD: Well, it was the right idea. I think there might have been steps you could have taken to avoid this altogether had they opened up that discount window to all of these investment banks. With proper collateral and proper regulation, you might have been able to save Bear Stearns. Now, that's second-guessing all of this. And that I would have liked to have seen some -- some collateral coming back to the federal government. If we're going to put that much money on the line, what are we getting for it? And again, I am going to say this was probably the right thing to do, but I think other steps could have been taken to avoid this.

BLITZER: Is it important that a second economic stimulus package now be enacted by the Congress, signed into law by the president? The first one, the tax rebates going out to millions of American families, that will go out starting in mid-May or so. How important is a second economic stimulus package right now?

DODD: I think very important. I listened to Jack Murtha a minute ago mention a couple of things. I didn't get all of the interview, but I heard him start talking about infrastructure, the importance of investing in our transit systems, highway systems, bridges, mass transit, sewage, water treatment facilities. This is deteriorating at a rapid rate. The estimates are, Wolf, that it would take $1.6 trillion just to maintain or to fix up the collapsing infrastructure of our nation. That could be a major, major part of a stimulus package. There is as many as 44,000 jobs for every $1 billion we invest in infrastructure. Our economy will never grow in the 21st century unless we expand and repair the deteriorating infrastructural needs of our country.

Chuck Hagel and I, along with several others, having worked over the last two years, have developed a proposal in this area that is attracting pretty broad-based support. We're going to be introducing it at a hearing in the Banking Committee in the coming weeks. Something like that I think is necessary to really get this economy moving with great strength, if you will, in the coming days.

BLITZER: Let's talk politics. You support Barack Obama to be the next president of the United States, and Pennsylvania, that's the next contest coming up April 22nd. We have this poll of polls, showing she is ahead by 11 points -- Clinton 51 percent, 40 percent for Obama, 9 percent unsure.

Do you agree with your colleague, Patrick Leahy, another Obama supporter, that she should just drop out of the race?

DODD: Not at this point. She's not going to do that, and I understand that. You have got the contest here, as you point out. In the next 16 days, you've got a race in North Carolina, then one in Indiana, all between now and May 6th. I think the outcome of those races could have a lot to say about whether or not the race ought to go on. Depends on how the race is connected.

And, frankly, Wolf, what I'm concerned about here -- not that people are going to pull out because a few other people asked them to do so -- but at some point, there is an issue here larger than the fate of individual candidates. And I have been around long enough to watch this, that you end up with a brawl in Denver eight weeks before the national election, you will not win that national election. Count on it. I've been through this and I've watched it in the past.

So while I fully respect the right of people to stay in the race, the test and challenge, at some point here national leadership has to step up and say, enough is enough. And candidly, an awful lot of Democrats, even those who are supporting different -- Hillary Clinton in this case -- are beginning to get nervous about where this is taking us, putting at risk congressional races, Senate races, gubernatorial races and candidly, the presidential race itself in November.

BLITZER: What do you say to Congressman John Murtha? We just heard from him earlier. He says he's supporting Hillary Clinton because she has more experience as a potential commander in chief, more experience than Barack Obama.

DODD: Well, if experience were the deciding factor, Joe Biden and I ought to be leading the race right today, I suppose, in terms of years of experience.

Experience is important, but it shouldn't be viewed, Wolf, in isolation. There are other qualities and characteristics that I think we pay as much attention. The moral values, the character of an individual, where they come from, who they are as individuals.

I can go back in history -- I won't bore you with it -- with people who have been -- had a lot of experience, didn't end up being very good presidents. Those that arguably had limited experience, at least what we think of in terms of elective office, who turned out to be very good presidents.

I think one of the most important things to look at here, in terms of winning this election, has been the numbers of people who have been attracted to Barack Obama's campaign who are independents and Republicans. There are almost a million more people, if you add independents and Republicans, who have voted or supported Barack Obama in the 44 caucuses and primaries that we've had already over the last three months.

You're not going to win the election by just appealing to your own base. You're going to win it because you appeal to independents or like-minded people of the other party. Barack Obama has a huge advantage when it comes to that. There are literally people talking about themselves as Obama Republicans. The last time you and I heard words like that was when people talked about Reagan Democrats.

So, I believe his experience is important, but there are other qualities here besides experience, which ought to matter.

BLITZER: Chris Dodd is a Democrat of Connecticut, strong supporter of Barack Obama. Thanks, Senator, for coming in. DODD: Thank you, Wolf, very much.

BLITZER: And up next, we'll check in with our own Jim Acosta for an update on what the candidates are doing today on the campaign trail. And our political panel coming up, as well. Stay with "Late Edition." We'll be right back.

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We'll get back to our political panel in just a moment. But first, CNN's Jim Acosta is keeping track of what all three presidential candidates have on tap on this date out on the campaign trail. Jim is joining us from the CNN Election Express in Philadelphia.

So, what are they up to, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, with the Pennsylvania Primary 16 days away, all of the candidates, by the way, are out West. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama hitting the northwest. Hillary Clinton was in Oregon yesterday before wrapping up her day in Butte, Montana, along with Barack Obama.

They headlined the Mansfield-Metcalf State Democratic Party Dinner there, which, by the way, you could get tickets to for $40. But at that event, Hillary Clinton told that crowd that she is planning to take this contest all the way to Montana which, along with South Dakota, holds the last two contests on June the 3rd. Barack Obama told that crowd that he has done surprisingly well in some of these smaller contests and he is counting on doing that, once again, in Montana.

As for John McCain, he wrapped up his Service to America Tour in Arizona yesterday, ending that tour in Prescott, Arizona, which is, by the way, where Barry Goldwater launched his presidential bid. John McCain likes to talk about how there hasn't been an Arizonan in the White House and he would like to break that streak.

On our CNN Political Ticker we should note that Fred Thompson paid a visit to John McCain out in Arizona over the weekend, which is only going to fuel speculation that John McCain is considering Fred Thompson for the second part of that presidential ticket -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jim, thanks very much. Jim Acosta is going to be watching this story for us. Let's turn to our political panel right now for analysis on another very busy week in the race for the White House. Joining us, our senior political analyst Bill Schneider, he is joining us from Los Angeles. And here in Washington, our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley; and our White House correspondent Ed Henry.

Candy, let me start with you and put some numbers up on the screen. Are things headed in the right direction or in the wrong direction in our country right now? Fourteen percent say things are heading in the right direction, 81 percent say they're heading in the wrong direction. When you get numbers like that, what does that mean in a presidential election year?

CROWLEY: Well, to me, it means two things. Number one, if you're a Republican, you're in trouble. If you're an incumbent, you may be in trouble. And I also sort of look at it curiously because of the head-to-heads between John McCain and the Democrats where he leads.

So you know, there's something more than right track/wrong track people are seeing right now. But nonetheless, if you're the Democrat, you take heart from that, and if you're an incumbent, you get back to your district and get busy.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider, you have been studying these numbers for years and years and years. What does it mean to you?

SCHNEIDER: It means exactly what Candy said, that the incumbent party is in trouble, that would be the president's party always in trouble when you see numbers like that. There are polls that show McCain leading the Democrats, Obama and Clinton. There are polls that show the race very, very close.

But there was a puzzle in this. If these numbers are so bad, why is McCain even that competitive? Why...

BLITZER: Well, what's the answer to that? Because people think he should be way, way behind given the fact that he is a Republican, the Republicans have been in the White House for now almost eight years and the country, at least 81 percent believe, is heading in the wrong direction. Why is he so competitive with both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama?

SCHNEIDER: Because at the moment, a lot of people don't identify John McCain with the Bush administration. They remember that he was a rival to president -- to George W. Bush in 2000. That he has differed with and sometimes been critical of the Bush administration on certain policies, not in the last year on Iraq. And he wants to make the tax cuts permanent.

But on issues like stem cell research and some other things, he has differed with President Bush. So, it's -- you know, in 1992 the numbers were this bad, but you had the incumbent president running for re-election and he was sunk. If you had that or if you had the vice president running to succeed him, Dick Cheney, if he were running, he'd be sunk.

John McCain is not doing great, but he's not sunk. And that's because the Democrats have not yet made the arguments stick that a McCain victory would be a third term for George W. Bush.

BLITZER: What do you think, Ed?

HENRY: That's exactly the case the Democrats have to make, that it is the third term for the Bush administration, essentially. We're going to hear that this week when General Petraeus comes up to Capitol Hill and testifies, talks about Iraq. John McCain with lockstep with President Bush on Iraq, but also on the economy. Earlier in your show, you had John McCain's chief economic adviser suggesting, well, maybe they want to help out people who are under water right now in their mortgages. But then you played a clip from John McCain himself saying, we're not going to have any bailout of people with their individual mortgages.

So there seems to be a disconnect there on their economic message. You have an adviser saying maybe they are going to help individual homeowners. John McCain, in his speech, suggested that people made some bad decisions that are going to have to stick it out. So I think on the economy, as much as Iraq, John McCain has some issues.

BLITZER: Here is the latest estimate that we have, Candy, in our delegate count right now, remembering that 2,024 is the magic number needed to get the Democratic presidential nomination. Right now Barack Obama, pledged and superdelegates, 1,629 to Hillary Clinton's 1,486.

But listen to this intriguing sound bite from Hillary Clinton in Burbank, California, on Thursday. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: There is no such thing as a pledged delegate. That is a misnomer. There are delegates. There are delegates who are selected one way or another at some stage in the process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. What is she talking about?

CROWLEY: Technically, that's true. But the fact of the matter is, I think that she's sort of betting on what's coming up next, that if she can make a strong showing in these final 10 primaries and caucuses that she can begin to persuade not just the superdelegates, but some of the pledged delegates.

You know, it's sort of a way for them to say, this thing is still open. Forget the math that we're seeing. We have a long way to go and what they've been trying to do since everybody began to add things up, going she can't overtake him in the pledge delegates, is they have been trying to sort of create various scenarios in which she could win, and this is one of them.

HENRY: Well, she has to be careful, too, because if the Clinton -- if the Obama delegates are not completely pledged. If they're not written in stone, well, the Clinton ones are not either if you start making this argument. And the fact of the matter is, the momentum has certainly swung to Senator Obama. So if she starts going down this road, it may turn out that some of her delegates -- or who she thinks are her delegates right now, might start going to Obama. When you look at the superdelegates, for example, a lot of that momentum has gone towards Obama. In the last month or so, there have been far more superdelegates going with him, thinking they're betting on a winner, far fewer coming forward for Hillary Clinton.

BLITZER: Have you seen polls in some of those key swing states, Bill, like Ohio and Florida, for example, states that the Democrats and the Republicans would certainly need in a presidential election which show that Hillary Clinton would do a better job beating John McCain in those states, let's say Ohio and Florida, than Barack Obama?

SCHNEIDER: Generally, no. They don't do all that differently. Clinton and Obama do pretty much the same. There are some polls that show Obama doing better in the swing states. I've seen a couple along the line in the last few months that show Clinton doing a little bit better, but there are no vast differences between them.

It's very hard to make the argument that one of the Democrats is electable and the other Democrat is unelectable. And that's important because one of the big arguments you use to delegates and superdelegates is, well, you -- the people may have preferred Obama, but he can't be elected. There's just no evidence that that's true.

BLITZER: Because some Clinton folks have said to me, Candy, that they have seen their, I guess, internal polls, that show she can beat McCain in Ohio and Florida and Obama can't. I don't know if you speak to them all the time. Have you heard that argument...

CROWLEY: I have.

BLITZER: ... trying to sway superdelegates?

CROWLEY: Right. I have. But more than that, what I have heard as recently what the Clinton people have been doing, and this has been ever since that streak that Obama had was to say, hold your fire here.

You know, if you're not going to come out for her, just wait and see how this all plays out. So they've been more -- you know, this has been more of a stopgap. You guys be quiet for a second and let's let this play out a little more because, again, they're betting that she will do better in the popular vote and in pledged delegates as they move forward.

BLITZER: Yes, go ahead, Bill, you want to weigh in?

SCHNEIDER: Yes. The bottom line is the delegates, including the superdelegates, are going to be extremely reluctant to overrule the popular vote. That's why John Murtha told you earlier, she has got to catch up with and surpass Obama in popular votes.

If the superdelegates or any of the delegates want to defy the popular vote, they have to have a very powerful argument. Because the rules of the party say that they can vote their conscious, but they have got to make an argument. In good conscience, that's what I have got to do.

BLITZER: Without Florida and Michigan in the equation, what, she's down by about 700,000 in the popular vote right now?

SCHNEIDER: That's right.

BLITZER: Given the 10 contests or so that are remaining, can she realistically overcome Obama in the popular vote, forget about the pledged delegates, in the popular vote if you exclude the outcome in Florida and Michigan?

SCHNEIDER: I've actually gone through this calculation and you have to make an estimate of how many people are likely to vote in the remaining primaries and my estimate is about 6 million. She would have to get about 56 percent of those votes.

Well, she has done that only in a very states like New York and Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Arkansas. In most of the states, you know, the vast majority of them, she has not gotten 56 percent, so she would have to have a huge victory in some of these remaining states.

And even if Michigan and Florida were to vote, she would still have to get 53 percent. And most states she hasn't done that well, either.

BLITZER: Are we right, Ed, to simply assume that Michigan and Florida are no longer going to be part of this process, at least until June or so?

HENRY: Nobody knows for sure. But the fact is that there really has been no reasonable plan that looks like it could work. I mean, it certainly seems like it's not going anywhere.

I mean, I think, more broadly speaking, when you step back from the individual states, you heard Senator Dodd, who is an Obama supporter, just a moment ago, say that this dissension is really bad for the party.

I mean, another way to look at that, though, is the fact that you just saw Clinton and Obama in Montana. When was the last time we saw a major Democratic presidential candidate in Montana...

(LAUGHTER)

... in Butte, Montana, trying to go for votes?

The fact of the matter is there is a lot of excitement on the Democratic side, and they're competing in states -- I mean, they've got to wrap this up sooner or later, obviously, but they're competing in states where they normally don't show up.

BLITZER: And there's one school of thought -- we're going to take a break -- that says this is really great for the Democratic Party, to have this competition going on because it energizes so many more Democrats that normally would not necessarily be all that energized.

All right, stand by. We have to take a quick break, but we're going to continue our conversation; a lot more ground to cover with our panel.

Up next, also, the Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean. He's been weighing, in this morning on, the party's nomination fight and the delegate dilemma. We'll hear what he had to say, among other things, in our very popular "In Case You Missed It" segment.

Stay with us. "Late Edition" continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We'll have much more with our political panel coming up. But right now, in case you missed it, let's check some of the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States. On NBC, Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, a Clinton supporter, and Pennsylvania senator Bob Casey, an Obama supporter -- they both weighed in on the candidates' chances in that state's April 22nd Democratic primary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. EDWARD G. RENDELL, D-PA: This is a great state for Senator Clinton. She's well-known here, well-liked here. This is almost a partial hometown, in Bob Casey's part of the state, the Northeast. She's got some great advantages. I'm saying that we will win this state, but we'll win it somewhere between 5 and 9, 5 and 10 percentage points.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CASEY, D-PA.: I have never been more inspired by a candidate for president in my life. This is a candidate, in Barack Obama, who can bring about the change that we need in this country. He's someone who has inspired people of all ages. And I think the people of Pennsylvania are getting to know him now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On ABC, the Senate Armed Services Committee members Lindsey Graham and Jim Webb discussed what they want to hear from the Iraq military commander, General David Petraeus, when he testifies before Congress on Tuesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JIM WEBB, D-VA.: What I am interested in is trying to have an environment where we can discuss the region, writ large, and not simply Iraq.

The last time General Petraeus was here, it was almost as if Iraq were an island in the middle of the ocean and all the questions were limited only to Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: How do we get a handle on Iran's involvement in Iraq?

They're weaponizing the southern part of Iraq. They're providing a lot of military support to the militias. How do we confront Iraq -- excuse me -- Iran and Syria?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On Fox, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain invoked the legacy of previous Republican presidents and their ability to cross party lines to reach voters. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: I believe that the party of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, that that's a tradition of the Republican Party, that we need to go all over America.

California can no longer be written off, in my view. And that means going to all parts of that state and reaching out to Hispanic voters, independents, others. The independent voter will make an even larger difference, I think, in the 2008 election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On CBS, Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean said the close primary race has energized Democratic voters.

DNC CHAIRMAN HOWARD DEAN: Here we are having -- both our candidates, I think, this weekend, were in Montana. They've been in North Dakota. People haven't campaigned in states like that for the presidency in years.

And now we know everything there is to know about Pennsylvania. We know who all those 150,000 new voters are that are registered. So there's a lot of good things that are happening because of this. And people are really excited about it because they know it's going to change the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows, here on "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.

Up next, Hillary Clinton releases her taxes. John McCain courts conservatives. There's a lot more to discuss with our political panel when "Late Edition" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're back. We're talking politics this week with our White House correspondent Ed Henry, our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, and our senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

BLITZER: Bill, let me start with you. The Clinton tax summary going back to, what, 2001 -- $109 million. Both of them earned most of that. The former president, Bill Clinton, most of that money coming in the form of paid speeches. Senator Clinton's book income was $10.5 million. President Clinton's book income, $29.6 million. President Clinton's speech income, $51.9 million. Senator Clinton's Senate salary $1 million, and President Clinton's presidential pension plan, $1.2 million.

What they paid about $36 million, $37 million in taxes; they gave charity, what, about another $10 million or so.

SCHNEIDER: $10 million.

BLITZER: Is this a big political issue or is it not a big political issue?

SCHNEIDER: I don't think it's a huge political issue. An ex- president, a former president is often in a position to do very well. Bill Clinton is doing very well. I noticed that his last year as president, their total joint income was about $327,000. The first year of his ex-presidency, it jumped to $16 million, mostly because of their book and speaking income.

The problem here is he is an ex-president married to a presidential candidate, and that's something we've never seen before. It doesn't raise any immediate problems, but one issue is that there are several important financial patrons, who have had very close relationships with the Clintons, particularly Bill Clinton. They give him speaking fees. They make him an investment partner. They make contributions to his library and foundation. And that kind of a relationship would have to be very closely examined and perhaps revised if she were to become the Democratic nominee.

BLITZER: Let me ask Ed, because I think Bill makes a excellent point. Did we have that kind of scrutiny with the first President Bush, George Herbert Walker Bush, after he left the White House, became an ex-president, he gave a lot of very lucrative speaking engagements. A lot of money was raised for his library, and his son was running for president of the United States. Did we look closely at that, do you remember?

HENRY: Well, I remember that we didn't have as much details back then. Maybe people weren't looking at it. Maybe the dollar figures were not as high. Clearly, Bill Clinton is making a lot more money. But, look, George W. Bush said as soon as he leaves office, he wants to, as he put it, replenish the old coffers. Has noted that his father and Bill Clinton have made a lot of money. George W. Bush has been asked already at a press conference, would he disclose the donors to his presidential library? And he says he's not sure yet.

So I think Bill's right to make the distinction, though, that there is no indication that Laura Bush is going to run for president. And the fact that Hillary Clinton is running for president is going to make people demand more details about all of this, like who actually is funding the speeches. Ron Burkle is one name that keeps coming up, the California magnate, the supermarket magnate. What exactly are his ties with this family?

BLITZER: A lot of ex-presidents gave very lucrative speaking engagements. Ronald Reagan, who was well known, he got $2 million for a speaking engagement in Japan after he left office. That caused somewhat of a stir, but it wasn't much of an issue, was it?

CROWLEY: Well, no, but, again, none of them have a wife who is running for president.

I mean, obviously, if Bill Clinton got a huge chunk of money to build his library from representatives of a foreign government, that's germane. They haven't released those documents yet. Who did he give speeches to? Who gave him $1 million for speeches? You know, necessarily does that mean Hillary Clinton is swayed? No. But openness, transparency -- if you're going to talk about it, that's part of openness and transparency, and it's the sort of thing we don't yet know.

BLITZER: Here's the fund-raising numbers that we just received the other day, Bill Schneider.

In March of this year, Obama raised $40 million. Clinton raised $20 million. Now, money talks in politics, as we all know. But how significant is 2-1 advantage that Obama has over Clinton? How significant is it going into these final 10 or so contests?

SCHNEIDER: Well, look, both of those numbers are very eyebrow- raising. They're both huge numbers at this stage of the campaign, that they're raising them. It shows it is a very, very competitive contest. But Obama's number has obviously overshadowed Clinton's, and what is even more interesting is the way he raises it. He raises the money over the Internet. The contributions have averaged I think a little less than $100. People can -- you can go back to these people again and again, and they do.

These -- he's clearly a candidate who stirs passion and inspiration, and a lot of relatively low-income people are just giving this campaign money. This is not a campaign funded by special interests or fat cats, and it's a whole new model of presidential campaigns.

CROWLEY: It is, but let me tell you how the Clinton campaign is using this. It plays into the underdog theme. You hear all the time, well, I'm being outspent here in Pennsylvania. He's raising more money. But look how well I'm doing here in Pennsylvania, despite the fact I'm being outspent. So they're trying to turn this argument around to say, listen, there is a huge groundswell for me because he has done -- has everything a candidate can have at his fingertips, and he still can't close the deal. So that's how they're spinning these numbers.

HENRY: Another way to look at it, too, is 40 plus 20, which equal $60 million.

BLITZER: Compared to what McCain raised.

HENRY: John McCain is falling behind big time in the money chase. And it gets back to that Democratic momentum thing. But, also, to your point earlier, Wolf, despite financial disadvantage, John McCain is still toe to toe with whoever the Democratic, you know, whoever is the likely nominee at this point. We don't know who it is going to be, but when you look at the polls early on, McCain is still at least in this fight, despite having some huge disadvantages.

BLITZER: All right, guys, we'll leave it on that front. Thanks very much for coming in.

And up next, you're going to see what is on the cover of the major news magazines here in the United States, and if you'd like a recap of today's program, you can do that. You can get highlights on our "Late Edition" podcast. Simply go to cnn.com/podcast.

Coming up at the top of the hour, "This Week in Politics" with host Tom Foreman. Here is a preview.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf. We'll listen to the candidates and look at how the raucous Democratic race for president is causing sort of hand-wringing among the party faithful. And is John McCain making inroads with the Republican base?

Plus, the Olympic battle over the Olympics, and betting the race on the spin of a wheel. "This Week in Politics" right after "Late Edition."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's take a look and see what is on the cover of this week's major news magazines in the United States. Time takes a look at "Why the Pope Loves America." U.S. News and World Report has "The Pope in America and Catholicism," and Newsweek asks which presidential candidate is the greenest of them all when it comes to the environment.

That's it for us. Thanks very much for joining us. For our international viewers, world news is next. For those of you in North America, "This Week in Politics" starts right now.

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