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THIS WEEK IN POLITICS

The Week's Political Events Discussed

Aired April 19, 2008 - 18:00   ET

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


TOM FOREMAN, HOST: ...Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton face off in Pennsylvania. The candidates, the issues, the voters, the primary that could end it all.
It's THIS WEEK IN POLITICS in overdrive right after a look at what's in the news right now.

(NEWSBREAK)

FOREMAN: 'Elitist; was the buzzword in THIS WEEK IN POLITICS. And the candidates were going to extraordinary lengths to appear -- well, ordinary.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, HOST (voice-over): It was like an episode of "Dukes of Hazzard" with everyone trying to be seen as a good ol' boy. Barack Obama was fighting back from his remarks last week, characterizing voters as bitter and clinging to religion and guns, even showed up on the Country Music Awards cozying up to Hannah Montana.

BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's Barack Obama.

MILEY CYRUS, SINGER: Let me guess, you want tickets?

OBAMA: Yes, I need tickets to the CMT Music Awards.

CYRUS: Sorry, but I don't...

OBAMA: Four words, Treasury Secretary Hannah Montana.

FOREMAN: But so did everyone else.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She had her heart set on it.

FOREMAN: Hillary Clinton was out to prove her blue-collar roots, how her father taught her to shoot back in Scranton.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that people don't cling to religion. They value their faith. You don't cling to guns, you enjoy hunting or collecting, or sport shooting.

FOREMAN: Obama was just as folksy when he set out to shoot her down.

OBAMA: She's talking like she's Annie Oakley. Hillary Clinton's out there, you know, like she's out in a duck blind every Sunday. She's packing a six-shooter. FOREMAN: With the polls tightening in Pennsylvania, the Democrats, both multimillionaires, competed to show how tough they had it.

CLINTON: My grandfather came as an immigrant when he was two-years old in the early 1880s. And he went to work in the lace mills as a factory worker when he was 11.

OBAMA: My mother had to use food stamps at one point.

FOREMAN: Even Republican John McCain joined in the elitist smackdown.

JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I noticed also that Senator Obama continues to not apologize for his remarks concerning smalltown America.

FOREMAN: And he made sure that his economic plan spoke right to the concerns of smalltown America.

MCCAIN: Americans need some relief. All of them are looking every day literally at an increase in the cost at the gas pump. Why don't we give Americans a break?

FOREMAN: A break would be nice. But neither lower gas prices nor a cooling off in all this political rhetoric looks likely in what's shaping up to be a long, hot political summer. CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley joins us now from Philadelphia to talk about it all. And with me in Washington, Mike Madden, Washington correspondent for salon.com.

Candy, there seem to be a lot of frustration among voters up there this week over the notion that with all this back and forth, a lot of the issues really aren't being talked about enough.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, there really is. We've heard more than one voter say, you know, what does this have to do with anything? We'll see if most voters feel that way I guess on Tuesday.

The problem is becoming that in their effort to reach out to a culture, to the middle class culture, talking about guns and guns, they tend to look like a caricature of a politician. And I think that's what's really grating on people's nerves at this point.

FOREMAN: So Mike, if they're looking for someone to give them real issues, what issues are people looking for? Because the candidates, I'm sure, would say, we've talked about the issues a good deal?

MIKE MADDEN, SALON.COM: Yes, well, the voters that I've talked to in Pennsylvania are very concerned about the economy. They're concerned about housing, they're concerned about gas prices.

But I think some of these efforts to play like a regular guy may go over better with the voters than they do with us here looking at them here. I mean, I was at the bowling alley in Altoona when Obama went there for his, sort of, disastrous bowling game. And you know, the people there said oh, he's not a very good bowler, but we appreciate that he came by. And he sort of - he seems to understand what our concerns are. So I think, you know, maybe they don't seem quite as out of touch in person as they do when you're replaying the tape over and over again later.

FOREMAN: Well, Candy, when we look at the issues, certainly the economy is just heating up more and more and more. Everybody's looking at the gas prices. Everybody's looking at the home sales in their neighborhood. Is that still just the dominant issue on the minds of Pennsylvanians?

CROWLEY: Oh, absolutely. I mean, you know, we have not heard too much different as we've gone from Ohio and Texas to Pennsylvania. We have heard people who are really concerned about the economy. And even those who will tell you they haven't been hard hit are fearful of where the economy goes. So that's really a problem.

And again, because Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the Democratic side have very similar views about the war, I think Democratic voters have sort of said, OK, they're both going to get us out. Now let's take a look at the economy. So that's certainly been the dominant factor, although the war still comes up.

FOREMAN: Mike, I want you to listen to something that Hillary Clinton said about what perhaps is the overall strength the Democrats want to play with here -- the notion that they can somehow change that course.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: When the campaigns conclude and the banners are torn down and the speeches are finally finished, all that's left is the choice we have made. We have seen the power of the presidency placed in hands unready or unwilling to address the tasks that lie ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: This seems like a little bit of a dicey area, Mike, because the more people get afraid of the economy, in some ways, it helps the Democrats because they can say, that's the old world. But in some ways, it could help McCain because he can say if you're afraid, you need the most experience, the most tried and true.

MADDEN: Well, that's true, although the Democrats would say that, you know, they're more in touch with what people's concerns are on the economy than McCain. And you've seen the McCain campaign over the last week trying to focus more on the economy with his speeches over the week and...

FOREMAN: Let me stop you on that for a moment. Do you see a real shift in that with McCain? Because it seems like on some major points, he is moving from where he was.

MADDEN: Yes, I think he's maybe focusing more on the economy than he had before. And in the course of doing that, he's sort of come to realize that some different positions maybe would be more appropriate for the mood of the country. You know, the gas tax holiday does seem to be sort of a break with his overall economic message of austerity, but this isn't really the year for austerity if you're trying to win over voters.

FOREMAN: So Candy, when you travel around Pennsylvania now, I mean, we've been talking about it for weeks. The simple truth is is anything really moving there? Or are people just digging into the choices they've already made? Or are they genuinely looking for differences on the issues and just not finding them or not hearing them?

CROWLEY: I think when you look at the polling, you do see that in the middle there's sometimes double-digit numbers of people - percentages of people who say, I haven't made up my mind yet.

But even those voters are swayed one way or the other. I think there are people who come up on election day and walk into that voting both and go hmm.

But in general, I think people have picked a candidate. And I have to tell you that this is different from, say, pre-Ohio, Texas. We are seeing increasingly that Obama supporters are really adamant about not having Hillary Clinton. Before, we had a lot of, oh, I love both these candidates. Certainly, whichever one wins, I'll be happy with.

You don't see that anymore because things have gotten so hardened in both these camps among the voters, that despite the candidates' attempts every once in a while to say, oh, I'll support whoever wins, you hear voters more and more saying, I'm never going to vote for her.

A long time between now and then. And I think they'll change their minds. But there is a definite hardening both in the polls and in the talk, one camp to another.

FOREMAN: So Mike, you're nodding your head about that. Does that mean that really we're fighting over in Pennsylvania is a tiny, tiny fraction of people?

MADDEN: Yeah, I think so. I think most people at this point have already decided that they support one or the other. And you know, it's this very small swing block that they're fighting over. And whoever can get, you know, the slightly larger share of a relatively small universe of voters...

FOREMAN: Well, last word here, very briefly. When it comes to Tuesday, what do you think? It's going to be - will Hillary Clinton be able to beat expectations or fall below expectations?

MADDEN: Well, it depends on who's doing the expecting. I mean, as of a couple weeks ago, you would have expected her to win by, you know, 15 points. Now...

FOREMAN: And she needs a big show, though?

MADDEN: I think she probably does in order to change the overall dynamic of the race. I mean, I think she'll probably win on Tuesday. Seems unlikely that she'll win by, you know, some knockout margin, but you never know.

FOREMAN: We'll have to -- we don't know in this one for sure. Thanks, Mike. Thanks, Candy, appreciate your being here.

Don't forget, Candy and the best political team on television will stay up all night, if it takes it, to bring you the results of the Pennsylvania primary like no one else can. Stock up on the popcorn and the soda. That's Tuesday night, beginning at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.

And we've got a lot more coming up on THIS WEEK IN POLITICS. The fight over guns, what the candidates say they will do about the growing housing crisis, and the very different look at the pope's visit to Washington.

But first, as always, let's hear from you, the voters. In this case, in a small town in Pennsylvania, in a place where politics is distinctly personal...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like York. It's a small town, a small community. I've been here all my life. It's a good fit. I still live on the same road I was born on. It's just a great place to live. I am the owner and the nail tech here at the Nail Retreat. I'm a professional nurse, mother of two.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: hat's how we started out, what do you think about the election? And they pretty much, you know, run the gamut.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Between religion and politics, I think those are the two areas in conversation that you try to steer away from...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you really know the person? I'm getting Democratic to death between all the advertisements for the Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's crazy, you know. I just think it's overwhelming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's nonstop.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, the radio.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Radio, the TV, newspapers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I get some Democratic, some Republican. I usually don't tell people what I am, but you know, I let them go. Democratics are more the pastel colors and the Republicans go with the brights.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because you would certainly want to see Hillary Clinton in one of the bright colors. She would be more of the pastel colors. And John McCain doesn't get his nails painted, so... (END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: During Ronald Reagan's campaign for president, there was a bumper sticker that read, "God, guns and guts made America great, let's keep all three." For decades, that simplistic slogan has defined the battle over gun control.

CHARLTON HESTON: From my cold, dead hands...

(CHEERING)

FOREMAN: When the late Charlton Heston took over the leadership of the National Rifle Association, he laid out their position as only he could. Virtually any restriction on any type of firearm was to be at least questioned, likely opposed, and likely defeated. When a deranged gunman sprayed bullets at President Reagan outside a Washington, D.C. hotel, his press secretary Jim Brady was struck in the head. He became the leading figure in the fight for handgun control.

Nearly 30 years later, Pennsylvania is a battlefield on this issue. With almost a million licensed hunters, the NRA has more members here than in any other state. But in Philadelphia last year, almost 400 people were killed by guns, a rate ten times the national average.

Interestingly, this presidential campaign will not be clear-cut on this gun issue. Yes, the NRA has given both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton a grade of "F" for their stands. But Republican John McCain only gets a "C." So at last we have the A team here to talk about it.

Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter, the former spokesman for that legendary duck hunter John Kerry, and Republican strategist Rich Galen, who served on the unsuccessful campaign of former Senator Fred Thompson, who as it turned out, didn't even have a hunting license.

Let me ask you both, this is such a desperate issue for so many people, on the left and the right, who just feel so strongly about it. And yet, with these three candidates, you sense that maybe there can actually be a discussion about some kind of movement. Rich, what do you think?

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, in - at this stage in a political campaign, I think the only thing that matters to political professionals isn't the quality of an issue, but does the issue move votes.

And I think that on the gun issue, especially in Pennsylvania coming up next Tuesday, I don't think any vote is going to change based upon what these people have said or haven't said about guns.

I mean, a Republican mayor may not go out and vote for McCain. Doesn't matter, he's the nominee. And on the other side, Obama and Clinton are so close, that there's nothing much to choose from.

FOREMAN: But beyond Pennsylvania, Stephanie, when we look at the bigger election...

STEPHANIE CUTTER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes.

FOREMAN: ...the bigger question of what the next person in office does, it seems like we've got people here who might be willing to say, this is a tough discussion, but we can have a discussion.

CUTTER: Well, this is largely for election purposes. This is a general election discussion. And it's a discussion that normally has - it takes place along the margins because a very small segment of voters vote on this issue. The General Electric swing voters are all for commonsense gun safety legislation, which is where ironically, all three of these candidates are.

John McCain has a history of voting for and fighting for closing the gun show loophole for increasing background checks. Same for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

So I don't expect this to be a big general election issue. But when the next president takes the oath of office, there could be some progress on keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and children, but none of them want to infringe on Second Amendment rights.

GALEN: On the age business, on CNN's website, it lists one of Mrs. Clinton's positions as wanting to raise the age of handgun ownership from 18 to 21, which would take handguns out of the hands of many -- a huge proportion of our soldiers serving in Iraq. And by the way, there was - you're too young to remember this, but at the time back in the Vietnam era, that's how the voting age got dropped to 18. The argument was how can we ask these people to go to war for us and not have a...

FOREMAN: Sure. Well, let's look for a moment at their actual stances on this. If you look at Hillary Clinton, what she said is she's voted for the extension of the assault weapons ban, voted for background checks at gun shows, supports licensing and registration of handguns, mandatory trigger locks, holding adults responsible for their chlidren's use of guns, raising the youth handgun ban from 18 to 21, and limiting gun sales to one per month. We're doing these in alphabetical order.

Here's John McCain. Sponsored legislation requiring background checks at gun shows, opposed extension of the assault weapons ban. He opposed trigger locks for handguns and opposed the 1994 crime bill, which contained the assault weapons ban.

And finally, Barack Obama, he supports extending the assault weapons ban, supports national laws against carrying concealed weapons with exceptions for retired police and military personnel, and supports limiting gun sales to one per month.

Rich, when you talk about this notion that some people, as Stephanie are talking about, are closer to the middle on this, where would the discussion begin? How do you start to have this discussion when you have people on the left and on the right who are so fired up about this? GALEN: Yes, well, what you do is in the general election, you look for the -- let's take Virginia as a perfect example, right next door to where we're sitting right now. That is a concealed carry state. You can take a class and carry a weapon. Right? I do have a nine millimeter Baretta. I don't have a carry permit for it, because I just don't think I need it, but I do have a weapon at home. And I do go the range and I fire it.

By the way, I carried one in Iraq for six months, which I don't think you did so stop laughing.

The - but in a state like Virginia, that's the kind of thing if Obama's the nominee, where he is opposed to carry laws nationally where the NRA members, the folks especially when you get out of northern Virginia, this is the kind of thing that does actually energize them and build up turnout f. And if it's going to be a close election in a state like Virginia, it could make a difference, but you never know this far out.

FOREMAN: Can you get off the fringes on this, though? When you talk about these people being near the middle, is it possible that this is the kind of issue that even in the general election, can light up the middle if you start saying, now we're talking about that big body of people in the middle...

CUTTER: Right.

FOREMAN: ...who aren't on the hard left or hard right on this?

CUTTER: If there's a perception that one of these candidates is for -- not for common sense gun safety legislation, like the assault weapons ban is a perfect example -- and you know, whether or not Democrats use this against John McCain is an open question.

But the assault weapons band is hugely popular with the middle of America because nobody can understand why you need an assault weapon to go shoot ducks.

And you know, it's all about whether or not Democrats and Republicans are prepared to use this against each other. It's one of those "wedge issues." There are so many overarching, big issues confronting voters in this election -- Iraq and the economy and the credit crunch -- that it's hard to think that this is going to be become an overarching issue. It will impact the fringes, small sections...

FOREMAN: And it could impact the real policy once somebody gets into office.

CUTTER: One footnote, one footnote to that is that if one side tries to paint a bigger picture of the other, like this guy is too liberal to sit in the Oval Office, or this guy's too conservative, it's going to be one of a litany of issues.

FOREMAN: So Rich, should voters be pressing these candidates more? Because if you're talking about a real policy change that could happen once they get in office, even if the candidates don't want it to be a general election issue, should those middle voters be pressing the candidates and say, I need to know what you're going to do?

GALEN: Only if there's some personal reason to care about it. If you lived around Virginia Tech as an example, or the student...

FOREMAN: Yes.

GALEN: That would be something that we just went through the first anniversary here this past week.

Then that's -- it bubbles up to the surface a little bit. But let me say something about -- Stephanie was exactly right. If one of the candidates tries to pretend to something that they're really uncomfortable with, that's when it becomes an issue. Not a gun issue, but a personality issue.

Barack suggesting that Hillary Clinton was standing on a duck blind, which you don't do, you stand in a duck blind, with a six-shooter.

FOREMAN: (INAUDIBLE) ducks.

GALEN: Well, but neither will you shoot using a revolver.

FOREMAN: Stephanie and Rich, thanks for both being here.

GALEN: Thank you.

FOREMAN: Later, we'll tell you how a lack of Osmonds and a desire for the Nobel Prize forced one presidential candidate to drop out. In the meantime, our weekly politic side show.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN, HOST (voice-over): Stage, race, politics, back on the launching pad. The BBC is reporting Russia wants to send monkeys to Mars. Scientists say it's a good choice because they can best simulate how humans would behave. Others, of course, are outraged.

CHARLTON HESTON: Take your stinking paws off me, you damn, dirty ape.

FOREMAN: In politics, there is always someone watching, waiting to pounce on the slightest slip. Take Cindy McCain's passion fruit mousse. Bloggers triumphantly announced that this recipe and others were lifted from the Food Network's website. The campaign says it was the work of an intern. Luckily, the news media has more important things to worry about. When we Googled the story, we found just under 4,000 articles on the ripped-off recipes so far.

A report in "The New York Times" looked at how Democrats and Republicans differ in matters of taste. We have our doubts. "The Times" says that Democrats prefer beer liquids like vodka and wine. That looks like a shot and a beer back for Senator Clinton and a brewski for Obama. Not a white wine in sight.

The study also says that McDonalds and Starbucks are filled with Clinton supporters. That could be a challenge for folks looking for those Big Mac moderates. We'll hit the drive-through and be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: If previous Democratic debates had been congenial affairs, Wednesday night's was not. It was an all-out slamfest with both candidates and questioners hammering at weak points and looking for a knockout.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some people in this state find that patronizing and think that you said actually what you meant.

CLINTON: I can see why people would be taken aback and offended.

OBAMA: She made a statement about how -- what do you expect, should I be at home making cookies?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOLUS: Do you think Reverend Wright loves America as much as you do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All our servicemen, policemen and EMS wear the flag. I want to know why you don't?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you essentially saying, I know better than the military commanders here?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: So who won or did everyone lose?

Let's go to someone who had a ringside seat. Chris Cillizza writes "The Fix", the political column for Washingtonpost.com.

Chris, everybody always says at the end, who won? Nobody won here, did they?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, THE WASHINGTON POST: No, you know, I think it was easier, Tom, to figure out who lost. You know, certainly Barack Obama had to run a very difficult gauntlet for the first 45 minutes. About 40 of those 45 minutes were devoted to Charlie Gibson, George Stephanopoulos and Hillary Clinton joining in, questioning everything from his patriotism, to his connections to Reverend Wright, to his attitudes about small-town America. I mean, if Barack Obama didn't know what a general election campaign would feels like, he certainly knows what it feels like now.

FOREMAN: There are many complaints that it took forever to get around to the issues. But when they did get around to the issues, what issue rises to you as the one that had the most substantial conversation?

CILLIZZA: Well, you know, they talked a lot about the economy and tax policy. There are differences between the two of them. Let me say, Tom, as sort of an overall statement, the reality of this is while many Democratic voters want this debate to be about issues and want the overall debate to be about issues, the truth of the matter is there really isn't all that much difference between these two candidates on issues. They agree on about 95 - you could probably bump that number up to 96, 97, 98 percent of tings.

Where they differ is on the margins. Senator Obama making proposals to reform Social Security to make it solvent. Senator Clinton saying I don't want to propose anything specific until I get in there. I want a commission to look at it.

They went back and forth on that. They went back and forth on capital gains taxes. They went back and forth on those sorts of things. But again, those are the big issues, I think, pocketbook issues, issues even on Iraq. They largely agree in the direction in which they want to move, if they're president. They may disagree on a subtlety here or there. But there are not big issue differences between these two candidates.

FOREMAN: Let's listen to a little example of what you're talking about. On the Iraq issue, listen to what Barack Obama had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you pledge that by January 2013, the end of your first term, more than five years from now, there will be no U.S. troops in Iraq?

OBAMA: I think it's hard to project four years from now. And I think it would be irresponsible. We don't know what contingency will be out there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will Senator Obama, your campaign manager David Pluffe (ph) said when he is, this is talking about you, when he is elected president, we will be out of Iraq in 16 months at the most. There should be no confusion about that. So you'd give the same rock- hard pledge that no matter what the military commander said, you would give the order, bring them home?

OBAMA: Now I will always listen to our commanders on the ground with respect to tactics. Once I've given them a new mission that we are going to proceed deliberately in an orderly fashion out of Iraq, and we're going to have our combat troops out, we will not have permanent bases there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Now he wasn't the only one hit on this. Hillary Clinton back in 2003 was asked on a Sunday morning circuit of shows what she thought about this. And she said, "Whether you agreed or not that we should be in Iraq, failure is not an option."

And here's what she said on Wednesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: One thing I am sure of is that our staying in Iraq, our continuing to lose our men and women in uniform, having many injured, the Iraqi casualties that we are seeing as well, is there - is no way for us to maintain a strong position in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Chris, even if they're very close to each other, there have been subtle changes happening for months in their campaigns and what they have to say about these issues.

CILLIZZA: Absolutely, there's no question about that. Look, in some ways, I think many people would look at those clips and say, well, they're changing positions, they're flip-flopping.

I mean, the - I guess, Tom, I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt here. Conditions on the ground do change. And I think a politician has the right to say, I viewed it one way then, I view it differently now.

The other thing, though, that is, of course, sort of undergirding all of this is that the politics of this issue on the Democratic side are very clear-cut. A vast majority of Democrats do not believe the war is worth fighting. That same majority want the troops to come home immediately. So it is not a winning issue to hedge your bets on what we should do in Iraq.

As we get down to the end here in the Democratic primary, I think that's what you're seeing. You're seeing both of these candidates solidify viewpoints based on, I believe, their own personal belief system, but also what's good politics.

FOREMAN: And certainly with something that's moving as quickly as the economy is right now, it would be almost be wrong I guess if any candidate didn't change their positions.

CILLIZZA: Well, you know, a year ago, and I can attest to this from filling up my tank, you know, gas prices were not what they are today. Obviously, you know, you look back at the conversations in these debates a year ago. And we've been having these debates for, you know, 12 months, maybe a little bit more. It was much more focused on the war in Iraq. The economy wasn't as big an issue. But the economy, as you point out, has become a big issue with rising gas prices, with concerns about energy and our dependence on foreign...

FOREMAN: And our...

CILLIZZA: ...countries for it.

FOREMAN: And I'm afraid our tank on time is running out here. Thanks so much for being here, Chris.

CILLIZZA: Thank you, Tom.

FOREMAN: When we come back, the candidates' positions on the housing crisis, the issue that strikes all of us right where we live. And the question housing brings us, some of the other news in THIS WEEK IN POLITICS.

Classy new building ready for immediate occupancy, several hundred bedrooms, a steal at only $736 million of your tax dollars. Yes, this week, we were given the keys to the world's biggest and newest embassy sure to be the number one destination in Baghdad.

Talk about a head-snapping U-turn. President Bush announced a new goal, halting the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2025. It's a worthy effort, but suspicious minds wondered if it was an attempt to set limits before a new and possibly tougher president takes office.

And new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was taking no chances during his stateside visits. He pulled a diplomatic hat trick, meeting all three presidential candidates in a single day. And we thought that only happened to superdelegates.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

FOREMAN: Over on Capitol Hill, just a few hundred yards from here this week, politicians debated what they could do about homeowners caught in this big mortgage meltdown we're all worried about. The candidates have all come out with their positions, but should the government get involved at all? That's a big question.

CNN's senior business correspondent Ali Velshi, co-host of "ISSUE NUMBER ONE," a great show, joins from New York. And here in the studio, political Washington reporter Eamon Javers.

Let me start with you, Ali. They're all saying what they might do about this. Can they really do anything, even if they want to?

ALI VELSHI, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: They've evolved into a situation, where the candidates - the major political candidates, the presidential candidates, have put forth a vision of what they will do when they're president. But in most cases, they've also called for things for the present administration to do right now.

Hillary Clinton's been in front of that. She's been the first one to do that. She started a few months ago. Obviously, John McCain is bringing up the rear as he's been doing. But they all understand that January is too late to do anything about this. Things that have to be done have to be done now.

FOREMAN: Well, let's look at some of the plans that they're putting forward. And I want your reaction to this, Amman. If we look in reverse alphabetical order, Barack Obama wants $30 million aid to the housing sector, 10 percent universal mortgage credit, and to mandate accurate loan disclosure information.

If we look now at John McCain, what he says is he wants to trade in burdensome mortgages, replace them with federally guaranteed loans, create mortgage abuse task force.

And Hillary Clinton says that she would like $30 million aid to prevent foreclosures, five-year freeze on adjustable rates, federal registration for mortgage brokers, obviously, this is complex stuff. You ought to go to their websites and read details of what they're all talking about.

But Eamon, I guess the real question is even if you like these ideas, can any of these actually become law in this country?

EAMON JAVERS: Well, that's a key question. And of course, the other question is would they work, even if you did it, if you create a $30 billion fund to bail out home owners of some kind of another.

The question is the devil's in the details here. Who are you going to bail out, at what level? Barack Obama, for example, likes to talk about people who have been victimized by predatory lending. But how do you actually define that when you get into the fine print? Are you going to bail out people who simply made a bad choice and bought more house than they could afford? Or are you really going to find people who are victims here?

That's the key question. And so, a lot of these things in campaign season when they're so ferociously going after each other, you see they get reduced to sort of a bumper sticker. And this is a tricky one to reduce to a bumper sticker. And as they go into it, you're going to see that actually defining the details of this plan is far more important than some of these things that are said on the campaign trail.

FOREMAN: Ali, it does seem like this is going to be very tough to figure out who is a victim in this.

VELSHI: Yes.

FOREMAN: Because many people would say the person who just tried to get a home, and was sort of led into believing they could pay for it, OK, maybe that's...

VELSHI: Not...

FOREMAN: The person who is investing are reaching out there, too. (INAUDIBLE) it was their fault.

VELSHI: Tom, not worth, as Eamon suggested, it's not even worth the time or the money to try and figure that out. The bottom line is this is like a forest fire. You've got to contain it. And you know why it's a problem? Because that forest fire is singing people who have not had anything to do with a bad mortgage. Because those empty properties are bringing other property values down. There are too many houses on the market. The property tax base is going down. There are neighborhoods that are turning into crime-ridden neighborhoods because there are vacancies. It's affecting all of us.

FOREMAN: Well, Ali, you make a good point. You've got to contain it. How do you contain it, though, Ali?

VELSHI: You don't spend time figuring out who is a victim and who wasn't. The fact is you've got to do some things that people who are going to lose their homes, stop losing their homes. We stop with the foreclosures. And we get this market going back again. The problem is when you spend time, as some of these candidates do, saying well if you made a bad decision and you were a speculator, you don't get bailed out, it's going to take us another year and a lot of money to figure all that out. By that time, this party's going to be over. We need to get this going now.

JAVERS: The trick here, of course, is the law of unintended consequences. As much as you have a rush to go ahead and do something right now, you've got to watch out for what the long-term effects are.

I'll give you one example. Senator Hillary Clinton's got a proposal where she would freeze foreclosures and also freeze interest rate increases going forward...

FOREMAN: Meaning if I have a loan at a certain interest rate, and it would stay that way, it would not adjust for the next five years.

JAVERS: Right, exactly. Now that's an intriguing proposal if you're a politician. But if you're in the mortgage business, that's a problem because you've got contracts -- your whole future revenue is predicated on the fact that you've got this revenue coming in. Now how do the Wall Street folks who are trying to buy and sell these mortgages valuate mortgages that they don't have any idea what they're worth anymore? That could really cause problems some economists say in the mortgage market on Wall Street.

FOREMAN: I mean, what could you do right now? If you were out there saying, look, here's what seems to be an idea that's possible, what's being kicked around that seems possible right now? Anything?

JAVERS: Well, that's a really good question. I mean, you know, there's a real difference between campaign trail rhetoric and what's actually possible to do to solve the problem.

You know, I'd be hard-pressed to come up with solutions right now.

FOREMAN: Ali, what about you?

VELSHI: Yes...

FOREMAN: (INAUDIBLE) like an actual, workable real plan that will contain this conflagration as you...

VELSHI: This business about containing interest rates is like saying we're going to not let the Dow go below 12,000. It's a market. You can't touch the interest rates.

But the bottom line is, yes, what is possible is authorizing the federal government and the Federal Housing Administration to back loans for people. They've been sitting on legislation to do this for a very long. Authorize them to take the loans that are held by risky people. That does mean the taxpayer takes on the burden for that. But the bottom line is people who are about to lose their homes now get themselves into a fixed rate loan. And they go on and they keep their homes, if they can afford it. There are some people who will still lose their homes because they can't afford to be in those homes. That's what it is. But we've got to sort of stop this ongoing rate of foreclosure. Some of all of their plans could work. They need to just get down, figure it out. And this administration, not the next president, this administration needs to do it.

FOREMAN: Because it's going to take some time. Thanks, Ali, we really appreciate it. Eamon as well. Good to have you here.

Still to come on THIS WEEK IN POLITICS, a very different view of the pope's visit. Our weekly viral videos, too, the best in late night laughs. That's straight ahead, fast track, the political equivalent of a ten-second quarter mile.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: In the Middle Ages, Christians on pilgrimage to holy shrines bought relics of the saints and pieces of the true cross to take home. In fact, so many bits of the cross were sold that the former John Calvin claimed they would fill a large ship. So what went on this week in Washington is only part of a long-established tradition. Ed Henry reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It puts new meaning into the term mass marketing, souvenirs for Pope Benedict's first official visit to America.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mom, come on now, you didn't come all the way from Kentucky not to get a picture with the pope.

HENRY: All kind of trinkets sold at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, where the pope met with America's Catholic bishops during his U.S. tour. Rosaries, coffee mugs, bumper stickers, and then what the gift shop manager calls his quirkiest item, a tour T-shirt.

DENNIS ZEIGLER, NATIONAL SHRINE SHOPS MANAGER: It gives the different events that the pope is attending. It's similar to like a rock star's concert T-shirt.

HENRY: Though any comparison of the pope to a rock star rubbed some Catholics the wrong way.

RICK FOREST, TOURIST: That doesn't show reverence to his office.

HENRY: Other Catholics got upset about unofficial...

(AUDIO GAP)

...pope soap on a rope, to pope cologne. And the inevitable bobblehead of the pope.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remember, get off of the train before you try to get on.

HENRY: The metro in Washington used the bobblehead to try and encourage people to take public transportation to the pope's mass at Nationals park. Some Catholics were outraged, saying it was sacrilegious to show the pope wearing the red cap of a cardinal, when he only wears a white one. So metro pulled the ad.

(on camera): Sales were so brisk here at Nationals Park that almost an hour after the pope celebrated mass, the souvenir stands were still mobbed with all kinds of shoppers. And all throughout the city all week, businesses were going all they could to prepare for the big visit.

(voice-over): At the Ritz-Carlton in downtown D.C., the turndown service had a papal twist. Fun facts about the pontiff. Down in the kitchen, the pastry chef labored over a special cake celebrating the pope's 81st birthday.

So there were plenty of decorations. But putting a bobblehead on this cape is one line the chef would not cross.

Ed Henry, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Pope came to America and all I got was a plastic rosary. Still, nice that he came.

Enough of the sacred. It's time to turn to the profane, I'm afraid, the very profane. This week's best viral videos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: The gang over at 236.com decided to take a mediocre Aerosmith song and make it, well, a mediocre political parody. Hey, weren't these guys for Obama last week?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that America is the land of opportunity?

TED KENNEDY: Yes.

FOREMAN: Just when you thought there was no other way to rip off the Rocky movies comes this offering.

OBAMA: Part of what the people are looking for right now is somebody who's going to solve problems and not resort to the same typical politics that we've seen in Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This lucky club fighter does not have the skill to last five minutes in the ring.

FOREMAN: And finally, barely political takes a shot at political sex scandals and all the people who love them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So many scandals to keep me amused. I used to watch porn, now I watch the news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: That's CNN's election express on the move in Pennsylvania. Trust me, you don't want to see the gas bill there. But for fast track, you do want to see CNN's political editor Mark Preston, who joins us now with all the latest.

Look, the Democrats are dominating the news up there. John McCain, though, has his own travel itinerary these days. What's that all about?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Tom. He's telling us that he is going to places where no presidential candidate will step foot. He's going to Alabama. He's going to Ohio, he's going to Louisiana, he's going to Kentucky. But he is going to economically depressed areas. He is going to show them how his vision for America can make it better for them.

FOREMAN: Well, on the Democratic track, is it all over after Tuesday? We've said it so many times. And if not, what's next?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. It's just another bump in the road as we head, you know, towards a conclusion in this Democratic race. We're going off to Indiana. We're going off to North Carolina. And we're going to seven more contests before it's over.

FOREMAN: The leader of the party, Howard Dean, says the super delegates need to commit now. If they do commit by June, and they get this done as he wants, who is going to tell the loser, you need to get out, whoever the loser is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, how difficult that will be, but of course, we're talking about Hillary Clinton, Tom. It's got to be her close friends and family that are going to have to say to her, look, there's another time. If it doesn't work out this time, and if it's not working out this time, let's look ahead. You can still be Senate Majority leader. Heck, you could run for president again. You might want to bow out gracefully.

FOREMAN: She still has a chance, but a very thin one at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

FOREMAN: And the boss, Bruce Springsteen goes and endorses Barack Obama. Does it make a difference?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, but I'll tell you what. It certainly came at a very good time, at a time when Barack Obama was getting hammered for being elitist. You have Bruce Springsteen who sings about the perils that blue collar Americans have going through. He comes out, endorses them right in the middle. It didn't hurt. It's not going to help.

FOREMAN: The kind of thing they like to hear. Well, you know, on the Republican side, Mitt Romney lost his heart but he kept his hair and his sense of humor. More on that in just a minute. But first, our late night laughs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, THE TONIGHT SHOW: I was at Starbucks today. I had the new Barack Obama roast. Have you had this? Tasted kind of bitter.

JON STEWART: Not only do I want an elite president, I want someone who's embarrassingly superior to me.

LENO: Now Hillary Clinton attacked Barack Obama, called him elitist and said he was out of touch with poor people. And later, Bill Clinton gave a speech on the subject and charged a million bucks for it. So it worked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why would you want to be first lady? You'd never get any sleep because I understand the phone keeps ringing at 3 a.m.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: Well, as we political reporters, pundits, and politicians gathered in an annual orgy of self congratulation at the annual Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner. The highlight was former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's reasons for dropping out of the race. And out of his top 10, here are our top 5.

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There weren't as many Osmonds as I had thought.

I got tired of the cork screw landings under sniper fire. Word leaked out that nobody had bothered a search in my passport files. I'd rather get fat, grow a beard, and try for the Nobel Prize.

I wanted to finally take off the dark suit and tie and kick back. A light colored suit and tie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Well, Mitt, we hardly knew you. That's it for THIS WEEK IN POLITICS. I'm Tom Foreman. Thanks for watching. Straight ahead, Lou Dobbs this week.

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