Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Syria Nuclear Stunner; McCain Criticizes Bush Administration; Democrats Eye Indiana & North Carolina

Aired April 24, 2008 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, the White House says North Korea was helping Syria build a potentially dangerous nuclear reactor. And it says it has the evidence to prove it. It's releasing the evidence. The Syrian ambassador is responding to this accusation in very strong words. We're following the breaking news.

Top leaders of the Democratic Party tell superdelegates, hurry up and choose. They may urge a deadline for ending Hillary Clinton's and Barack Obama's rivalry.

And John McCain distances himself from the Bush White House. He says never again, never again will the government repeat one of its worst failures in recent memory -- all that coming up, plus the best political team on television.

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

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

We begin with the breaking news -- the White House calling it a dangerous manifestation of North Korea's nuclear ambition, an alleged nuclear reactor which Pyongyang helped to build in Syria, a reactor U.S. officials insist -- and I'm quoting now -- "was not intended for peaceful purposes."

U.S. officials are offering proof, and they just made it public.

Our White House correspondent Ed Henry is joining us right now with more on this very dramatic story with enormous ramifications for all of us.

All right, Ed, what is going on?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I just came out of a briefing with two senior U.S. intelligence officials and one senior Bush administration official who were laying out this evidence. They did it in the form of a DVD, essentially a video that just has still images of various satellite images, as well handheld photos by...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: We're showing the images, Ed, right now.

Go ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: We're just showing that -- images.

HENRY: And those images are basically giving you an idea, both satellite images and then handheld photos that either a person or people were able to get extremely close to this reactor in Syria, which of course was obliterated last September[ by an Israeli airstrike.

What I thought was most interesting from this long briefing was one senior U.S. intelligence official saying he was highly confident that, in fact, the purpose was to have a nuclear weapons program and that this reactor was going to be operational within months or even weeks. This official saying -- quote -- "This thing was good to go. So, we had to assume they were ready to throw the switch," that being Syria, of course.

This official said he told the president of the United States that very thing, that the purpose was for Syria to try and get nuclear weapons. Now, also, very interesting, I mentioned Israel. We had all heard this from various intelligence officials, but now for the first time the government confirming it, that, in fact, Syria back -- that Israel back in September, in fact, launched this airstrike to wipe out the reactor, but also talking for the first time in detail about how Israel consulted with the United States about what to do, that the U.S. considered various options possible, U.S. military action to deal with this Syrian reactor.

But one senior U.S. official in this briefing stressed and claimed that the U.S. did not give Israel what he called a green light to move ahead. And they also laid out a lot of information that they say pinpoints a Syrian-North Korean connection in this nuclear reactor as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The accusation will be, you know, before the war in Iraq, they released information. Colin Powell was the secretary of state at the United Nations Security Council with pictures and all sorts of so-called evidence, some of which turned out to be bogus.

I'm sure they're very defensive about releasing this now. How are they maintaining that this evidence is conclusive proof that North Korea was helping Syria build a nuclear reactor?

HENRY: One of the intelligence officials insisted that they have what he called dozens of photos that he believes will back up the claim that this was, A, a nuclear reactor, and, B, that North Korea was involved as well.

And, obviously, you're right. There is clearly a credibility problem for the administration because of the flawed intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war. That's why they're trying to lay out these specific images. And when we asked, why now, why for months has the Bush administration refused to talk about this, what was very interesting is that these U.S. officials are claiming that they were extremely concerned about a war breaking out in the Middle East, that the ramifications were enormous, and if this information came out several months ago, Syria would have felt the need to retaliate against Israel, and it would have led to a wider war in the Mideast.

That's their claim anyway. And these officials were saying in the briefing that they now feel that, since months have passed, it's cooled down enough that they can put -- present this information to the international community to try and put pressure on Syria. They also want to put pressure on North Korea, frankly.

What they're saying is that because these six-party talks are going on with North Korea, where the U.S. is trying to get North Korea to verify its nuclear weapons program, they think that by presenting this evidence now of a connection between North Korea and this Syrian nuclear reactor, that this will strengthen the hand of U.S. negotiators and it will force the North Koreans to come clean.

Now, finally, I asked one U.S. official, what are the North Koreans telling you privately? Are they admitting this? Are they denying it? This official wouldn't say, but just said we're hoping now that North Korea will come forward, admit what they did in Syria and then we can try to move forward in the six-party talks. A long way to go, though, Wolf. This is a very sensational story, obviously -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Some of the images that we see are photos of buildings. But others look almost like U.S. government animations of what was there. Is that right? Is that what we're seeing?

HENRY: This was a U.S.-produced video, absolutely. It's narrated. There is some audio that is narrated by a U.S. official trying to lay out a lot of points that I was just talking about.

What the U.S. claims is significant about some of those images you're seeing of the buildings is that they resemble a nuclear reactor in North Korea, and that the technology that was used in Syria, the U.S. intelligence officials believe, clearly came from North Korea.

And they believe there are ties between Syrian officials and North Korean officials that helped put this reactor together before the Israelis launched that airstrike -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I know there were observers not from the government experts who were in this briefing with you, Ed, who had a chance to digest what they were seeing. Did they buy it? Were they convinced this evidence was foolproof?

HENRY: There were not any outside experts in this specific briefing. These were just U.S. government officials. And obviously we now need to present these satellite images, as well as the handheld photos, to outside nuclear experts.

There have been skeptics on the outside who have been saying, since there was no fuel at this site, they're skeptical that Syria was really that close to a nuclear weapons program. Obviously, the U.S. now in presenting this evidence, this is not the end, Wolf. It's just the beginning. They're starting to present the evidence. And you're right.

Because of all the credibility issues from the Iraq war, it's going to take a lot more work for the U.S. to prove that, in fact, this shows that Syria was close to a nuclear weapons program.

BLITZER: And the White House says it will be making the evidence directly available to the International Atomic Energy Agency, where there was skepticism in recent months, including from Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA director general. I interviewed him after the Israelis bombed that site. And he said that nobody gave him or the IAEA any evidence to back up that claim.

All right, thanks very much, Ed Henry.

Doing some good reporting for us, as he always does.

The Syrian ambassador to the United States, Imad Moustapha, was here in THE SITUATION ROOM during the last hour. And I asked him to respond to these very serious U.S. allegations. Here is what Ambassador Moustapha told me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IMAD MOUSTAPHA, SYRIAN AMBASSADOR TO UNITED STATES: I hope, I hope the truth will be revealed to everybody. This will be a major embarrassment to the U.S. administration for the second time. Prior to that, they lied about the Iraqi WMDs. And they think they can do it again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. We are going to have a lot more on this story coming up, breaking news here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the U.S. releasing images, pictures of what it says was a nuclear reactor that was on the verge of being useful, not for peaceful purposes, the allegation being North Korea helping Syria build that reactor. The Israelis bombed that site last year, destroying it. We will see what the fallout from all of this is -- much more on this story coming up.

Let's turn to presidential politics right now, and apparently a message from those superdelegates to other superdelegates: Make up your minds soon. Today, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, said he and the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and Democratic Party chairman, Howard Dean, would urge superdelegates to publicly choose between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama no later than July 1.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is here. She's watching the story for us.

They want this wrapped up pretty soon, because they're worried that the big winner from this Democratic fight is the Republican candidate, John McCain. CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. There's a lot of angst. And it only increases over time. And it's really not so much about the bitterness of the race and the times when there are these explosions over race or gender.

It's about those exit polls that they are continually seeing, which shows that over time the Obama supporters and the Clinton supporters have gotten entrenched enough that a good deal of them are now saying, I won't vote for the other guy.

This is not good news for a Democratic Party which has seen so many new voters coming in. They have seen high activity at the polls. They know people are enthused. But they really worry that even just a portion of those people not coming out to vote makes a difference. And they're also, obviously, watching McCain go up in the polls. So, there are danger signs. I wouldn't say they're completely freaked out at the moment. But there is a high anxiety level.

BLITZER: And we heard from the speaker, also, Nancy Pelosi. She sat down with our own Larry King today. In the past, she has suggested that she didn't think there would be that so-called dream ticket. Clinton-Obama, Obama-Clinton. She didn't think that would necessarily happen. But, today, she went one step further.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": If you had your power, would you want them to run together?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: No.

KING: No?

PELOSI: I don't think it's a good idea.

KING: Not a good idea?

PELOSI: No, I don't think so.

KING: Because?

PELOSI: I think that, first of all, the candidate, whoever he or she may be, should choose his or her own vice presidential candidate. I think that's appropriate. That's where you would see the comfort level, not only how to run, but how to govern the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What do you think about that?

CROWLEY: Well, I think that's what she's felt all along. And I hear that from other people.

Number one, they say, look, it just doesn't make sense in the general way that you would pick a vice presidential candidate. One's from Illinois. One's from New York. Neither one of them needs help to win those states, that you need to balance your ticket. This wouldn't be ticket balance.

Beyond that, it's a pretty darn progressive ticket with the first woman and the first African-American on it. And a lot of what has happened here, what has propelled this whole dream team thing is because they're so desperately in need of some answer that will satisfy people across the board, so they can bring all those Democrats back to vote for this ticket.

BLITZER: Larry King's exclusive interview with Nancy Pelosi will air in full 9:00 p.m. tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE."

Candy, thanks very much.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have many voters to convince, but little time to do it. Both are keeping up a breakneck pace to the finish line. Only nine contests remain from West Virginia to Oregon. They offer 408 pledged delegates. The Democratic primary season ends June 3.

But the biggest contests happen on May 6. That's in 12 days. Together, North Carolina and Indiana offer 187 delegates. The second biggest prize comes May 20 -- 103 delegates are at stake in Kentucky and Oregon.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush once called it the most technologically advanced border security initiative in American history. He was talking about that virtual fence, $20 million worth of high-tech detection equipment along the Arizona-Mexico border designed to keep illegal aliens from coming into this country.

The problem is, it doesn't work. Now the government is scrapping the prototype just two months and $20 million after Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff approved it. The system is failing to alert border security agents of illegal crossings. Agents began using this thing in December. It has been responsible for more than 3,000 apprehensions. That is nothing.

More than 3,000 illegal aliens enter the United States every single day. So, it's time for plan B. The government now will replace the virtual fence with a series of towers, with communication systems, cameras, and radar.

In case you're keeping track, 9/11 happened six-and-a-half years ago. And since then, in the name of national security, the Bush administration has spied on Americans without a warrant, approved torture of terror suspects, ignored the Geneva Conventions, made airline travel more complicated than going by covered wagon, invaded a sovereign country that had done nothing to us, and bankrupted the U.S. treasury.

But they haven't bothered to secure our nation's borders. In fact, illegal aliens with torches, hacksaws, ladders and bungee cords come right through the miles of existing border fence. They come through every day. Holes are big enough for the average size woman to come walk right through. And border guards in Texas, Arizona and California often spend every day repairing the same sections of that existing fence which are cut open every night.

Here is the question: Why in the years following 9/11 has the U.S. government refused to secure our nation's borders?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack, very much. See you in a few moments.

Despite a tough race, one Democrat says voters will eventually set aside their differences.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Frankly, you know, when you get past all the partisan stuff we have to do through the primary season, Americans are hungry to be unified.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Massachusetts Governor and Barack Obama supporter Deval Patrick is here with his take on the Democratic race. I will ask him if he thinks some white voters publicly say they will support Obama, but are privately biased against him.

And the biggest prize left in the Democratic race is North Carolina. Obama has a strong base of support there. But can he attract so-called NASCAR voters?

And former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has something to say about his days on the campaign trail.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama must convince Americans to support them. Perhaps more importantly, though, they need to convince those Democratic superdelegates to stand with them. But exactly how should anyone who is undecided finally decide?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now, the governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick. He's a strong supporter of Barack Obama.

Governor, thanks very much for coming in.

PATRICK: You bet, Wolf. Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: Your colleague in Ohio, Governor Ted Strickland, Democrat, strong supporter of Hillary Clinton, he emerged from the Hillary Clinton win in Pennsylvania with this quote. I will read it to you.

This is for me a no-brainer. If we're going to plan a win in November, we need to choose the candidate that has the greatest strength in the states that are necessary to get us the electoral votes we need. I hope the superdelegates are paying attention.

He was specifically referring to Pennsylvania and Ohio, states that Hillary Clinton won by about 10 points. If the Democrats aren't going to carry those two states in November, they're going to have a hard time beating John McCain.

What's your reaction to what Strickland says?

PATRICK: Well, I love Ted. I think he's a great guy. And I think Hillary Clinton is a very strong candidate. But all the states count. And, you know, look, we're talking about in the case of Senator Obama someone who has won more votes, who has won twice as many states as Senator Clinton, and who is leading in delegates.

BLITZER: But don't some states, Governor, count more in the electoral college? Pennsylvania and Ohio count a lot more than Wyoming and Montana.

PATRICK: Well, you know, Wolf, what has concerned me about Democrats for a long time is precisely, with due respect to you, this line of questioning, this line of argument that we ought to concentrate on a handful of states instead of valuing all of the voters and all of the American people. And Senator Obama is offering that kind of unifying, visionary, inclusive leadership, which is why I think his campaign has been so strong and why I think he's going to be the nominee.

BLITZER: But he lost Pennsylvania and Ohio by about 200,000 votes in each of those states. Wouldn't that give her an advantage come November in those two critical states?

PATRICK: No. I think it means that Democrats want to win in the end. And if Senator Obama is the nominee, as I believe he will be and should be, I think Democrats will rally around him. But, like I said, all states count.

And the more we talk about -- frankly, I don't think it has been helpful to have Senator Clinton -- and I congratulate her on her win in Pennsylvania in the same way I congratulate Senator Obama for closing that gap to as much as he was able to. But let's be clear. We have got to have a strategy as Democrats that doesn't, you know, aggrandize some states and some voters and trivialize other states and other voters. we have got to be about all of this being in this together. And frankly, not just Democrats, but Independents and the Republicans we can get as well.

BLITZER: Because there's a lot of concern that a candidate like John McCain could appeal to crossover voters, to Independents, to moderates. Those are exactly the votes that you need -- not necessarily you personally -- but either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama would need to beat John McCain.

PATRICK: Well, that's right. And Senator Obama I think has shone shown through the course of this whole campaign, this whole primary season, that he's the candidate able to attract that attention and attract those votes and that support. Because, frankly, you know, when you get past all the partisan stuff we have to do through the primary season, Americans are hungry to be unified, and to be unified around a common purpose.

BLITZER: Well, here's a number that jumped out at me. And I don't know if you paid attention to it, but it's startling.

In our Pennsylvania exit polls we asked the Democratic voters after they emerged from voting some questions. We asked Clinton supporters if they would support Obama if he's the nominee. If she loses and he gets the nomination.

Fifty-four percent said they would, 25 percent of those Clinton supporters said they would vote for John McCain, not Barack Obama. Seventeen percent said they would not vote.

If you add up those last two categories, 42 percent, Governor, said -- made it clear they didn't want to vote for Barack Obama. How worried are you about that?

PATRICK: Well, I'm not so sure I would put too much stock in those numbers. I mean, there are a whole bunch of people who are voting for Senator Clinton in the primary who said that they will not vote for her in the general.

You know, there's this whole Republican chat going on about how folks ought to support Senator Clinton in the -- in the Democratic primary so that she can be the nominee, because many Republicans believe she is easier to beat in the -- in the general.

I'm not worried about all that. And I don't think most of the American people are or should be.

We should be focusing on how we come out of this with the strongest possible unifying visionary leader. And I believe that's Senator Obama. And I think if we do, if he's the nominee, he will win in November and this will be a very, very powerful administration, a very forward-looking one, and a very exciting one for all of America and all of the world.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts.

Critics of Barack Obama say he can't attract white blue-collar voters in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. But can he counter them by winning the so-called NASCAR vote in North Carolina?

And is there a split in the first family over which candidate to back in the November presidential election? You might be surprised what one of the president's daughters is now saying when asked whom she supports.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: John McCain continues to tour regions that are typically Democratic strongholds -- today's stop, New Orleans' Ninth Ward, very hard-hit after Hurricane Katrina. Touring that region, McCain made a special pledge to voters and offered some unusual criticism of the Bush administration.

Let's go to Dana Bash. She's in New Orleans watching the story for us.

Pretty strong words from McCain today, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf.

John McCain was clearly trying to draw a stark contrast between himself and an unpopular Republican president here in New Orleans, emphatically criticizing what he called the -- quote -- "perfect storm of mismanagement."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): A walk for the cameras through New Orleans' devastated and still largely uninhabited Lower Ninth Ward.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Never again. Never again will a disaster of this nature be handled in the terrible and disgraceful way that it was handled, never again, never again.

(APPLAUSE)

BASH: John McCain used these vivid reminders of a stained Bush legacy to try to distance himself. President Bush famously flew over New Orleans in the days after Hurricane Katrina, a mistake McCain said he wouldn't have made.

MCCAIN: In all candor, if I had been president of the United States, I would have ordered the plane landed at the nearest Air Force base, and I would have been over here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SEPTEMBER 5, 2005)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And, Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: He listed other Bush failures.

MCCAIN: Unqualified people in charge. There was a total misreading of the dimensions of the disaster. There was a failure of communications. BASH: He also blamed Congress for misplaced priorities, earmarks for bridges to nowhere, instead of funding for levees. McCain vowed to restore Louisiana wetlands and build Category 5 hurricane resistant levees, estimated to cost tens of billions.

MCCAIN: One of the ways we can find the money is by reprioritizing the public works projects, which are now based too often on the power of an individual congressman or senator.

BASH: But his carefully scripted imagery was interrupted by a voter's question about Pastor John Hagee, who endorsed McCain and says things like this.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

PASTOR JOHN HAGEE, CORNERSTONE CHURCH: What happened in New Orleans looked like the curse of God.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MCCAIN: When someone endorses me, that does not mean that I embrace their views.

BASH: And, on his bus, a dig at Barack Obama.

MCCAIN: I didn't attend Pastor Hagee's church for 20 years. And there's a great deal of difference, in my view, between someone who endorses you and -- and other circumstances.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, that despite McCain's pledge to run an above-the-fray campaign.

And, meanwhile, Wolf, Democratic chairman Howard Dean issued a statement blasting McCain for -- quote -- "hiding" behind his votes against various pieces of Katrina legislation. McCain responded by saying all he voted against were pork-laden projects -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, thank you -- Dana Bash reporting.

Hurry up and choose between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, that's what some Democratic superdelegates apparently are ready to tell other superdelegates. Will that make a difference, though, in the Democrats' rivalry?

Also, some people say an Obama-Clinton pairing would be a dream ticket, but that's not what the speaker of the House dreams about.

And Obama is leading in polls in North Carolina, but can he win over a prized demographic, the so-called NASCAR voters?

All that coming up with the best political team on television.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, red state primaries. North Carolina and Indiana offer the two biggest delegate prizes left in the race for the Democratic nomination.

But do they really matter if the Democrats can't win in those states in November?

And perfect storm -- that's how John McCain is describing the mismanaged response to Hurricane Katrina. At the same time, the bitter Democratic primary race seems to be giving him the perfect opportunity to define himself. We'll discuss those stories with the best political team on television.

Plus, you might assume you know which presidential candidate the Bush family supports -- the Republican, right?

Not so fast. We're going to tell you about a possible split in the first family.

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

With North Carolina's primary only 12 days away, we're already seeing strong voter turnout there. About 75,000 people have cast their ballots in a new system that allows residents of the state to register and vote on the same day. Polling sites reportedly have been swamped since opening last week.

Jessica Yellin has been looking into the demographics of this important state. She's joining us now live.

What are we finding about the enthusiasm in North Carolina?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the enthusiasm is significant. And right now, Barack Obama is favored to win in North Carolina.

But what we're watching for is not just weather he wins, but who he wins. In particular, can he get significant support from white, low income voters?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice-over): It was in North Carolina that Obama brushed off Clinton's attacks.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, you've just got to kind of let it...

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: You know. You know.

YELLIN: And it could be just the place to brush aside her Pennsylvania victory. A "Los Angeles Times" poll taken before the Pennsylvania primary shows Obama ahead by 13 points, with 17 percent undecided. Not surprising, since the state's demographics favor him.

The Research Triangle is filled with affluent and well-educated liberals. And in the last presidential election, one in four voters were African-American. Obama wins handily with both groups.

The big unknown -- the 30 percent of voters here who are low income whites. It's a group Clinton suggests Obama can't win in a general election. And she's courting them aggressively here.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we don't begin to pay attention to the growing inequality in wealth and the loss of good jobs that supported families, we won't recognize our country.

YELLIN: So is he.

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fundamental problem is we don't enforce our trade laws.

YELLIN: So North Carolina will be an important test.

JENNIFER PALMIERI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It's an opportunity for each of them to break out of their mold. I mean if -- if Obama can, in fact, appeal to the white -- the undecided white males that are -- you know, that are largely going to be from rural and suburban areas, I think that would be a huge victory for him.

YELLIN: On the other hand, if Clinton wins affluent whites or African-Americans...

PALMIERI: I think that would show that his -- his -- his base was slipping, and that people may be becoming anxious about his candidacy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: Now, something I should point out, Wolf, low income whites -- this is a group that the Democratic Party has had trouble with recently, not just Barack Obama. But Senator Clinton says she plays better with them.

Now, the big issues both candidates are using to court Democratic voters in North Carolina -- the economy, trade and military issues. North Carolina is home to Fort Bragg and Clinton was campaigning right near there today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that report, Jessica.

Let's get to the best political team on television right now. Join us, our chief national correspondent, John King, our own Jack Cafferty and our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Do you know how long it's been, Jack, since a Democrat won a presidential contest in either North Carolina or Indiana, for that matter?

CAFFERTY: It's been a while. I couldn't tell you (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: Jimmy Carter...

CAFFERTY: 1976, right?

BLITZER: Jimmy Carter, in '76, won North Carolina. LBJ won Indiana back in 1964.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: It's been a long time since these two states have actually been in play for the Democrats.

You think that could change this year?

CAFFERTY: Well, I don't know. It might. I mean there is a groundswell of Democratic turnout in all of these states. They were just talking about how busy these polling places have already been in North Carolina. Barack Obama has won in some states where traditionally Republicans have been strong. And I think this primary in North Carolina -- John King would know more about this than I would.

But this was is open primary, as opposed to the one in Pennsylvania, which was Democrats only. So if he still has that ability to attract Independent or even Republican voters, we might see some evidence of that in North Carolina.

So I suppose they could put it in play.

BLITZER: Well, he punted it to you, John.

Go ahead.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The climate in North Carolina, by far, benefits Obama, in the sense that Independents can play and in the sense that you have 20 percent or more of the population is African-American.

But will it go Democratic in November? Highly unlikely. It is changing, Wolf. It is changing in a way similar to what is happening in Virginia, which is turning more and more Democratic. But it's not changing as fast. Most people believe North Carolina will stay reliably red in November or a bit longer.

You remember this, Bill Clinton twice, in 1992 and 1996, fought his campaign strategists, pouring money into North Carolina, saying I can win it, I can win it. He never did.

BLITZER: What do you think, Gloria?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that Indiana is going to be a really key test for Barack Obama because he has to start winning those lower income, blue collar voters that he hasn't -- delegate he didn't win in Pennsylvania, that he didn't win in Ohio that those superdelegates in the Democratic Party are going to sort of look at this and say let's see whether he can win those folks.

Obviously, the economy is going to be a huge issue there. Indiana lost 10,000 jobs last month. Big issue. Hillary Clinton already has an economic ad about jobs up on the air in Indiana. He's been advertising there since the end of March and he's got a lot more money to spend.

BLITZER: Jack, take a look at the cover of the new issue of our sister publication, "Time" magazine. And we're going to put it up on the screen for our viewers. There it is -- half Obama, half Clinton. There can only be one. You know, there are some Democrats -- not Nancy Pelosi, but some Democrats out there who still yearn for that so- called dream team.

CAFFERTY: You know, I wish you hadn't shown me that. I'll wake up at 3:00 in the morning screaming with that image in my mind.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: I think she said today she's backing off of that, isn't she, that idea of the dream team?

Look, the thing that I think we kind of lose sight of in this, trying to parse this Democratic primary, is when this is finally over -- and God forbid it will be soon, we hope -- there will be one Democrat running against John McCain. And the referendum then becomes do you want more of what you've had for the last eight years or do you want something else.

So I don't think that this discussion about can this one attract the blue collar this, the lower income thats. Those people are either going to vote for another Republican or whoever the Democrat is. And so I think a lot of this conversation is just stuff we use to fill time.

BLITZER: But the longer it goes on, John -- and you speak to these guys all the time -- the more the big shots of the party are concerned.

J. KING: I disagree with my friend Jack on this one, although it's good to know if we call him at 3:00 in the morning, he'll be there to take the phone call.

(LAUGHTER)

J. KING: I want Jack Cafferty answering that call at three in the morning.

(LAUGHTER)

J. KING: Look, Wolf, I disagree with him on this one because presidential politics, especially in last 16 years or so, is a game of very small margins. Bill Clinton won narrowly. He never cracked 50 percent. George Bush won narrowly twice. He just barely cracked 50 percent when he beat John Kerry. It is a game of very small margins.

And if a number of white, working class Democrats in Pennsylvania who are inclined to vote Democrat switch or stay home, or if a percentage of African-Americans feel burned at the end of this process, feel cheated at the end of this process and decide in the end to stay home, that can shift a state like Pennsylvania, a state like Ohio, another one or two states out there.

Remember how George W. Bush became president.

CAFFERTY: Yes, he stole it.

J. KING: Al Gore couldn't win his home state of Tennessee.

(LAUGHTER)

J. KING: He couldn't win his home state of Tennessee and he lost West Virginia, which had voted Democratic way back in the days of coal's boom.

So it doesn't take much to change the electoral map.

BORGER: It could work. You know, it could work. Arranged marriages generally don't work.

But if you wanted to put these two folks together, you know, you might be able -- you might be able to cobble together some kind of a winning coalition.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by, guys.

J. KING: Good luck with that.

BLITZER: Stand by. We'll discuss a lot more. But we're over arranged marriages -- at least that part of the discussion -- for now.

John McCain -- he's in Katrina country right now, blasting the Bush administration, calling its response to the disaster a perfect storm of inability and he vows never again.

Plus, Mike Huckabee has a story to tell. You're going to find out what the former Republican presidential candidate is doing right now.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: America will never forget. I will never forget. And never again will there be a mismanaged natural disaster -- manmade or natural -- again that will occur in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're back with the best political team on television.

Gloria, he looks like he's pretty smart right now, John McCain.

BORGER: Yes.

BLITZER: He's running around the country. He's maybe not getting a lot of exposure nationally, but in those markets where he's appearing, he's presumably scoring some points.

BORGER: He is. You know, he's not running to his right. He's running to get those Independent voters he knows he's going to need to win the general election. And going to -- you know, going to New Orleans, he's saying to these folks, I'm a different kind of manager than George W. Bush was. First of all, I will care more about you.

Secondly, I would have gone to New Orleans, as Dana showed in her piece. I would have been there. We will never have something so mismanaged again. I'll be able to take care of you because I care about you.

He also went to Selma, Alabama, don't forget. So this is -- he's got this open playing field right now and he's using it.

BLITZER: John, the John McCain tour continues.

J. KING: And, Wolf, there are a number of reasons for this. Number one, John McCain says even if these people don't vote for him, if he becomes president, he will be their president and he wants them to get to know him. That's his big reason for doing this.

But the smaller political reason is, look, he kicked President Bush pretty hard today down in New Orleans. He said he would have landed the plane. He said he wouldn't have put clowns in charge of federal agencies and there would have been competent people to run the disaster relief after Katrina.

So when the Democrats say it's a third Bush term, a voter out there would say wait a minute, this is the guy I heard kicking President Bush on this issue and kicking him on that issue.

He's doing it deliberately to insulate himself from the coming attacks. And, again, in a game of margins, the demographics of Louisiana have changed since Katrina. There are fewer African- Americans there now because of the people who had to leave. It is much more likely to be a Republican state in the fall.

But John McCain is also playing it safe, going into places where he's not likely to get a lot of votes, just saying maybe I'll get a few.

BLITZER: Just ask Bobby Jindal, the Republican governor of Louisiana.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: He can confirm that.

What do you think, Jack?

CAFFERTY: Well, I think this is a safe place for him to go. I think it's good he went there. I think Katrina was the defining moment in this country that we all realized what an absolutely incompetent, broken, corrupted, useless system that we had operating in Washington, D.C. , under the command of President Bush.

This is a safe place for him to go and kick President Bush around a little bit. And any blows he lands are richly deserved. It was one of the most grotesque bits of governmental response in the history of this nation. And it will be part of George Bush's legacy forever. It was disgraceful then. It's disgraceful now. Good for John McCain saying you blew it, Mr. President.

BORGER: And if he's going to win, he has to show he is a different kind of Republican, that he's not offering voters a third time.

BLITZER: Gloria, we've got to leave it there.

Thanks very much.

John, thanks to you.

Jack, we've got "The Cafferty File" coming up.

Lou Dobbs is coming up at the top of the hour.

He's standing by now live with a little preview of what's in store -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, it sounds like your panel thinks that this election is going to be won on the backs of somebody. We'll have to wait and see, won't we?

BLITZER: Yes.

DOBBS: Coming up at 7:00 Eastern, we'll be reporting a new outrage over the federal government's complete failure to protect us from dangerous drug imports.

But what, if anything, will the Congress and the Bush administration actually do about it? We'll have that story.

And President Bush says the North American Free Trade Agreement has increased prosperity along our border with Mexico. Oh, really? Oh, yes?

We'll set the record straight, Mr. President.

And chaos in our skies -- airline passengers in this country are suffering like never before, treated like cattle by the airlines. And there are now rising calls to re-regulate the industry. And one of the country's most respected airline executives, former American Airlines CEO, Robert Crandall, joins me. We'll have complete coverage of the long and possibly bitter fight ahead for Senators Clinton and Obama -- three of the best political analysts and strategists join me.

Please join us at 7:00 Eastern, the top of the hour, for all of that and much more -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou. We'll see you in a few moments.

The government is strapping a prototype for a high tech and high priced virtual border fence. Our Jack Cafferty wants to know why it's so hard to secure the border. Your e-mail and Jack coming up on "The Cafferty File."

And politics get messy -- a Pulitzer Prize winner in the line of fire. The latest.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: On our political ticker, Mike Huckabee has a story to tell you. The former presidential candidate is now writing a book about his failed presidential bid. Huckabee's publisher says the book will include revealing details and lessons learned. But it will also promote Huckabee's ideas for the conservative movement. The book is due to come out two weeks after the presidential election. No word on how much Huckabee is being paid.

Also on our political ticker, President and Mrs. Bush definitely want John McCain to become president. But one of their daughters isn't so sure.

Jenna Bush appeared with her mother on "LARRY KING LIVE" last night. Both were asked about the candidates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")

LARRY KING, HOST: Do you have a favorite between the two -- the two Democrats?

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: My favorite is the Republican.

L. KING: Yours too, I would imagine?

JENNA BUSH, DAUGHTER OF PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I don't know.

KING: Aha.

(LAUGHTER)

J. BUSH: But I mean, you know...

KING: Are you open to...

J. BUSH: Yes, of course. I mean who isn't open to learning about the candidates?

But -- I mean, and I'm sure everybody is like that. But I really -- I honestly have been too busy with books to really pay that much attention. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Jenna Bush and her mom are currently promoting their new children's book entitled, "Read All About It."

Remember, for all the latest political news at any time, you can check out CNNPolitics.com. The ticker is now the number one political news blog on the Web. And that's also where you can also read my latest blog post. I posted one, as I say, before the show.

Let's go back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Why in the years following 9/11 has our government refused to secure our nation's borders?

Lisa in Huntsville, Alabama: "The question shouldn't be why hasn't the government secured the borders. The question should be why we've allowed them to sit by and do nothing. They do, after all, work for us -- the citizens."

Ken in St. Paul, Minnesota: "Come on, Jack. The president is a politician. He knows full well a completely secure Southern border would alienate relations with Mexico and a completely open border would alienate everyone else. That means he has to play both sides, make it look like they're trying while winking to our neighbor to the south."

Patricia writes: "Jack, if on 9/11, the governor's of the border states had declared a state of emergency, deployed their National Guard along the borders of the states and orders to turn back all people trying to enter the country, we wouldn't have nearly the problem with illegal aliens that we have now. We closed our borders when Pearl Harbor happened. Why wouldn't we have believed that we were being invaded on September 11, 2001?"

C.J. Roanoke, Virginia: "We need the cheap labor to further our decline into Third World status. By destroying the prevailing wages and draining our social services. There's no way to take the so-called terrorist threat seriously when the borders are wide open. Also, the political climate of not wanting to offend anyone will prevent the border from being sealed up. The future for this country is bleak."

Steve in Idaho says: "The same reason that we ship our jobs to China and India, the same reason there was slavery in this country, the same reason we stopped shipping our jobs to Japan. The elite corporations embedded in Washington want immigrants to be able to cross the border. It's called cheap labor, Jack. Bush and McCain will talk tough on immigration, but like Republicans from the past, there's always amnesty on the horizon."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and look for yours there. We post hundreds of them every day and we thank you very much for taking the time to write into us -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I thank them, as well. Jack, thank you.

It's not every day when you -- that you win a Pulitzer Prize. And it's really not every day you get creamed with a green pie.

What prompted this Moost Unusual stunt.

What's going on?

Jeanne Moos with a Moost Unusual report, when we come back, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the Hot Shots coming from our friends over at the Associated Press -- pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.

In Baghdad, an Iraqi soldier points his rifle after a woman refused to throw away her purse. The woman was taken into custody for questioning.

In Afghanistan, a boy stops to smell a flower as U.S. soldiers stand guard during a patrol.

In Hungary, a race car flies through the air during the Central Europe Rally, resulting in a multiple roll-over. The driver suffered minor injuries.

And in Germany, a bully sheepdog (ph) jumps over a hurdle during a preview for a dog show.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.

This week, a three time Pulitzer Prize winner got creamed during a speech at Brown University. He wasn't the first to come under a whipped cream attack and he surely won't be the last.

CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a Moost Unusual look at this messy, messy time-honored tradition.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The good news for Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Thomas Friedman is that he took off his nice jacket. The bad news is he's about to get hit with a pie.

MOOS (on-camera): You know, it wasn't really a pie. It was more like a pie shell filled with whipped cream colored green in the honor of Earth Day.

(voice-over): Environmentalists calling themselves the Greenwash Guerillas carried out the pie toss at Brown University and posted it on the Internet. The female student got caught. The man did not. What Thomas Friedman got was a sympathetic round of applause. He also got a laugh for trying to make light of the incident, though you could tell he was really mad by the way he tossed that hankie.

This pie throwing hanky panky has been going on forever. Targets range from the then head of Procter & Gamble...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Procter & Gamble poisons animals. Shame on you!

MOOS: To the then secretary of agriculture.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn't a very balanced meal she threw.

MOOS: The truly classic pies in the face get thrown over and over on the Web -- be they directed at Bill Gates or Anita Bryant -- attacked by gays back when she used to campaign against them.

ANITA BRYANT, RECEIVED A PIE IN THE FACE: Every...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Woah.

BRYANT: Well, at least it's a fruit pie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's pray -- let's pray for him right now. Anita, let's pray.

BRYANT: Father, we want to thank you...

MOOS: First her husband prayed, then he went out and slathered one of the pie throwers with their own pie.

Protesters love to post their pie jobs on YouTube. They hid the face of the person throwing the pie at a Fox reporter covering anti- Iraq War demonstrations.

Reporter Jennifer Jolly was anything but.

JENNIFER JOLLY, REPORTER: Who's the coward who did that?

Why don't you come talk to me in my face?

MOOS: Usually it's the pie throwers, who tend to be left leaning, going after conservatives like Ann Coulter.

ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: You take away the terrorism and liberals would hate Clinton...

MOOS: Which is what made the attack on "New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman different. He tends to be a hard to label, hawkish liberal. Friedman did finish his speech, but he didn't do what Ralph Nader once did -- give his attackers a piece of his mind -- as well as a piece of their pie.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: You've helped make our politics podcast, by the way, one of the most popular on iTunes. To get the best political team to go, you can subscribe at CNNPolitics.com or at iTunes.

Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou?

Home  |  World  |  U.S.  |  Politics  |  Crime  |  Entertainment  |  Health  |  Tech  |  Travel  |  Living  |  Money  |  Sports  |  Time.com
© 2013 Cable News Network. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved.