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THIS WEEK IN POLITICS

Can Hillary Catch Barack?; Campaign Headaches

Aired April 25, 2008 - 20:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Step right up and see the amazing twist and turns of campaign magic.

Watch as Hillary Clinton cheats political oblivion once again, snatching victory from the wild of Pennsylvania, but can she make Barack Obama's lead disappear? Can she bring Florida and Michigan back to life? Or will this whole balancing act finally crash to the ground?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: We have got nothing up our sleeves except THIS WEEK IN POLITICS.

(NEWS BREAK)

FOREMAN: And welcome to THIS WEEK IN POLITICS.

Old Vaudeville magicians used to talk about the secret to life, but this week, some modern Democratic politicians seemed to find the secret to an endless campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over): Senator Clinton mesmerized last-minute voters, mystically fended off an enormous ad blitz by Obama and pulled a victory in Pennsylvania out of her hat.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I might stumble and I might get knocked down, but as long as you will stand with me, I will always get right back up.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

FOREMAN: Clinton pushed economic issues, experience and her down-home roots to keep her base of blue-collar voters, rural whites, and older folks spellbound, magically changing Barack Obama from a populist to an elitist. And, for her next trick, behold, Indiana.

H. CLINTON: This campaign for me, here in Indiana, is about jobs, jobs, jobs, and jobs.

FOREMAN: The Hoosier State is a lot like Pennsylvania and that could bode well for her, but it's also next door to Illinois, Obama's home state. And he's dubbed Indiana a potential tiebreaker. So, he's brewing up a counterspell with new endorsements and lots of ad money.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The way we're going to close the deal is by winning. And, right now, we're winning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CLINTON CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR: It's the toughest job in the world. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: He's getting help. To take Pennsylvania, Clinton rolled out ads that brought a chorus of complaint that is she is going too negative, one raised by even "The New York Times," which endorsed her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OBAMA CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR: Eleventh-hour smears paid for by lobbyist money. Isn't is that exactly what we need to change?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: On the other hand, he is walking a tightrope himself with headlines saying he needs to be tough to win, but not so tough that he stops being the candidate of change.

Still, she has got some momentum now and keeping it will depend on her next tricks, one, cutting down Obama's lead in the popular vote, the delegate count and the number of states won by hitting Indiana and North Carolina hard when they vote, two, hypnotizing the uncommitted superdelegates to keep them from proclaiming him the winner before the last votes are counted, and, three, keeping up her magic chant.

H. CLINTON: To fight, to fight for everyone.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Here to help us fight our way through a very confusing week in a rare Washington appearance, CNN congressional correspondent Jessica Yellin, finally off the campaign trail.

You been there so much, you are going to have to pay taxes in Pennsylvania.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Shh.

(LAUGHTER)

FOREMAN: And, in New York, Rick Stengel, manager editor of "TIME" magazine. "TIME"'s cover this week seems to say it all. "There Can Only Be One."

Jessica, let me turn to you. We have now a few days to mull it over, what happened in Pennsylvania. Clinton says she pulled off an amazing magic trick, a big comeback. Is that true or is that smoke and mirrors?

YELLIN: It's true she did a remarkable thing. She won by a lot there. But you know what, Tom? The bottom line is, he is right. He is still winning. He has more delegates. Despite what Clinton says, he has the popular vote. Senator Clinton really will have to pull more than just magic, some sort of slight of hand, something remarkable, to actually get the nomination.

FOREMAN: I want to listen to a little bit of sound from Obama and Clinton about this race, because they addressed the very thing you just mentioned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We think that if, at the end, we end up having won twice as many states and having the most votes, then we should end up being the nominee.

H. CLINTON: I'm very proud that as of today, I have received more votes by the people who have voted than anybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Rick, this ha got to be confusing to an awful lot of voters out here. Here's Hillary Clinton saying, look, I received more votes. But that is because she is counting Michigan and Florida. Does that wash?

(LAUGHTER)

RICHARD STENGEL, MANAGING EDITOR, "TIME": Well, Tom, to use your magic conceit, it is kind of like a three-card monte game. She's moving the cards around and not telling you exactly what she is saying.

What she is saying is, she is counting the votes in Michigan and Florida, which the Democratic Party says don't count. So, voters don't necessarily know that. But part of her argument is to basically say, look, she's not going to get more pledged delegates. That's pretty much impossible. But if she begins to approach him in the popular vote, she can say, look, the voters really want me.

FOREMAN: One of the things that came out of Pennsylvania is a lot of people were not happy with the rancor of this whole argument.

Rick, do you think that that really is beginning to tell on her, even as she did well there?

STENGEL: It is funny, Tom, because the polls suggested that people blamed her more for changing the tenor of the campaign.

I think over 60 percent thought that. Yet, a lot of those people also voted for her. I think, at the same time, voters can hold complex ideas in their head. They might think, you know what? Bad on her for doing this, but I still want her to be president. FOREMAN: I want to take a look at a graphic here. Barack Obama is still rated favorably. But look at Hillary Clinton. Her unfavorable rating is 54 percent.

There have also been polls that indicate that a lot of Democrats don't trust her, Jessica. What do you hear in the field? How is it that people want to elect somebody that they don't trust?

YELLIN: Well, there are two things going on.

First, we should point these favorable/unfavorables were taken before the Pennsylvania primary. Could change. Americans love a winner. But beyond that, there are a lot of people who are Democrats who say the Republicans are so fierce and so tough, we need somebody who can be just basically as fierce and tough, just play dirty just like they do, and they think Clinton is more likely to do that than Obama.

FOREMAN: That has been the rap on Obama, Rick, the notion that he just cannot close the deal here, although the Obama people say, look, we have closed the deal. We have the numbers.

STENGEL: Well, and right. I mean, that is taking Hillary Clinton's language about closing the deal. They do maintain that we're closing the deal all along.

The worrisome thing I think for him in a way is that does his message reach the people now that he needs to reach? That message of harmony, of going across the aisle with working-class voters, with older voters, I mean, that doesn't have so much resonance.

From your clip, you heard her saying message in Indiana is jobs, jobs, jobs. That is not about reconciliation. That is not about fixing Washington. That's how I am going to help you. And he has to do a little bit more of that.

FOREMAN: Jessica, is he guilty of playing safety ball now, just saying, look, I have got a lead; I think it will last through whatever is going to happen; therefore, I don't have to campaign as hard?

YELLIN: No. I think what he has to do is -- he's gotten knocked off message. He has to get back on message. And he has stumbled a bit recently. I don't know if it's safety ball. It is a bit of a campaign struggle.

I think one of his challenges right now, as we're all talking the theme of the week, he didn't get those white low-income voters, some of the folks that Rick was talking about.

FOREMAN: Yes, but you pointed out that really this is a problem for the whole party. This is not unique to him.

YELLIN: Exactly. And as the media keep focusing on this issue and Clinton does, too, these white low-income folks are people that the Democrats have had challenges with in election after election. Kerry didn't get them. Gore didn't get them. So, it is not uniquely an Obama problem. It's a Democratic problem. And they will both face that challenge in November, whichever one of them wins.

FOREMAN: Rick, when you back over all the voting so far, not just Pennsylvania, it seems like he has done fairly well with that group from time to time, just as she has.

STENGEL: Right. He did well with them in some of the early primaries, in Iowa and other places, and he's made inroads with them. He did a little bit better in Pennsylvania with those voters than he did in Ohio, but he still has to do a lot better.

Jessica is right. Remember, we used to call those voters Reagan Democrats, because they basically leaned over and voted Republican and started voting Republican 20 years ago. The Democrats need to get them back. And the issue for the Democrats now is, who do we risk sacrificing, black voters and high-income and high-educated voters if Obama doesn't get the nomination, or white voters and older voters if Hillary gets the nomination?

FOREMAN: Jessica, to what degree are there Democrats out there just shaking their heads and saying, how is this possible? Six months ago, they thought they had the White House sewn up.

YELLIN: Yes. And you heard people say six months ago, I like them both and now you're hearing people say I don't like the other one. But bottom line, I do still hear people saying, no matter what, I am going to vote for the Democrat in November. We have got to get the Republicans out of the White House.

FOREMAN: And, Rick, the hard deal comes to you quick and last here. How soon will we have a nominee?

STENGEL: You know, you have to go back to your magic analogy. You would have to pull a rabbit out of the hat to know.

I do think that we will have a nominee before the conventions. It will not go to the conventions. It may go all the way through June 3. If he doesn't win Indiana next week, it will just continue.

FOREMAN: For now, it's the secret of perpetual motion.

Jessica, Rick, thanks for being here.

There's a lot more coming up on THIS WEEK IN POLITICS.

Former President Bill Clinton fires off another race comment. Can Hillary ever shut him up?

Speaking of bills, how will you deal with skyrocketing food prices? And can your government help, or should it?

And a look inside the twisted mind behind the ink-stained fingers of one of America's favorite political cartoonists.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE LUCKOVICH, EDITORIAL CARTOONIST: I will be little bit disappointed when the president is actually chosen, though, because I like having the three. If one's not -- if one's not saying something stupid, the other one is. So, it works out well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

FOREMAN: The Fortunes singing, you have got your troubles, I have got mine. It's a suitable theme song for this week, as every campaign was struggling with some persistent problem, for Hillary Clinton, a famous husband who just can't stay out of trouble.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that they played the race card on me. And we now know, from memos from the campaign and everything, that they planned to do it all along.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

FOREMAN (voice-over): He did it again, former President Bill Clinton on radio in Pennsylvania just hours before the vote accusing Barack Obama of race tactics earlier in the campaign. And then, off mic, as he hangs up the phone.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

W. CLINTON: I don't think I should take any (EXPLETIVE DELETED) from anybody on that. Do you?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

FOREMAN: And, once again, the next day, he bristled when questioned about it.

W. CLINTON: And I'm not going to play your games today.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: He brings in a lot of money, lots of attention, but he keeps shooting his mouth about.

Let's talk about it with Democratic strategist and superdelegate and CNN contributor Donna Brazile, and Republican strategist and former White House legal eagle Benjamin Ginsberg.

Ben, what do you make of this?

BEN GINSBERG, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I am so glad this is happening in the Democratic Party.

I do think it's got to be one of the toughest jobs in the world and unprecedented to be a former president and have your wife run it. I just think that the cross-pressures must be tremendous.

The truth of the matter is, he gave her an awful lot in this campaign. I think he has probably overall been an asset. But, man, he is saying some things that are just -- just make Republicans' eyes light up.

FOREMAN: Donna, what do the Democrats make of this? This is a very smart man, a very talented man, and, yet, he keeps saying things that seem very ill-considered.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: President Clinton has been a tremendous asset to Senator Clinton. And he's been able to stump pretty much all over the country for his wife. He's also been able to raise money, as Ben mentioned.

But he's also been a distraction at critical times in the campaign. At a moment when Senator Clinton is trying to close the deal in Pennsylvania, she is trying to reach out to everyone, here it is, former President Bill Clinton on radio once again bringing up a subject that really touched off a firestorm inside the Democratic Party.

I hope going forward President Clinton will learn from this lesson. As Senator Clinton has told him before, shut up.

(LAUGHTER)

FOREMAN: Let's turn to the presumptive Republican nominee, one who has a good share of a problem that we all have, money.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over): While the Dems squabble, John McCain is unopposed and taking full advantage of it. This week, he's on a tour places Republicans never go, like this front porch in Appalachia, where Lyndon Johnson declared the war on poverty.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the reality is, and I don't have to tell you here, that American families are hurting.

FOREMAN: But families aren't the only ones with money problems.

McCain's fund-raising is trailing way behind the Dems. Look at this. Obama has raised close to a quarter-billion dollars, Clinton about $195 million, and going up fast, and McCain, only about $80 million, and climbing very slowly.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Donna, it would be easy for the Democrats to look at that and say McCain is in trouble. But, look, he is out there poking around in Democrats' backyards, saying, I'm on the offensive.

What do you think Democrats should take away from this?

BRAZILE: Look, there's no question that, at a time the Democrats are still dueling, John McCain is out there with a message to reach out to people, to say that he's a different kind of Republicans, campaigning in my hometown of New Orleans, speaking to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Democrats would much rather focus their attention right now on John McCain and not on each other.

FOREMAN: Can he get the crossover votes from the Democrats?

BRAZILE: It all depends.

Look, John McCain has an independent streak. People know him. People like some of his positions. But at a time the country is in real economic turmoil, should they turn to someone who represents more of the same? Or do they really want change?

BRAZILE: Ben, why aren't the Republicans giving him more money? Why aren't the big donors there for him?

GINSBERG: Well, I think the big donors are there for him. I think John McCain's not asking for the money in the traditional Republican way.

He's signaled in many ways, money being one of them, that he is going to run a different type of operation that's been in the past. He is a maverick. He does have great appeal to independents. He's said consistently throughout his career that money in politics is a problem. He's going to raise enough to do what he needs to do, but he is going to run a campaign that's intellectually consistent with his beliefs.

FOREMAN: Let's turn to problem number three now. If you thought Hillary Clinton went negative on Barack Obama, you ain't seen nothing yet.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over): In North Carolina, the local Republican Party is planning to go with ads like this to skewer local Democrats. Taking a shot at Barack Obama is just a bonus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

REVEREND JEREMIAH WRIGHT, BARACK OBAMA'S FORMER PASTOR: Not God bless America. God (EXPLETIVE DELETED) America. That's in the Bible.

NARRATOR: Now Beth Perdue and Richard Moore endorse Barack Obama. They should know better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: John McCain doesn't like it. The national Republican Party says they don't like it either.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Ben, can this hurt the Republicans more than it helps them if they go ahead with this?

GINSBERG: Well, I think, on a national scale, the national party and Senator McCain has been very clear in asking the local group not to go ahead and do it.

The truth of the matter is, is that Senator Obama, even in a head-to-head debate, is going do have difficulties talking about his lack of experience and his elitism. And this falls, in a sense, to the issues that are going to be raised about whether he's set to be president.

FOREMAN: Donna, you are listening to what Ben just said right here. It looks like this campaign is just going to get dirtier and dirtier.

BRAZILE: I can't wait to have a conversation about experience. Are we looking at the same kind of experience that has put this country at a standstill when it comes to our foreign policy, put the country in a real terrible economic shape, gas prices about to hit $4 a gallon?

Democrats welcome a debate about experience and what kind of experience will it take to lead America in the 21st century. In terms of this ad, it is really a terrible idea to run this ad. John McCain should disassociate himself even further. Don't do a wink and a nod. Just disassociate him from this completely.

FOREMAN: Thanks so very much.

And, Donna, by the way, who are you throwing your delegate vote to?

BRAZILE: You.

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: I understand that you're thinking about jumping into the Democratic primary.

FOREMAN: I thought I would get you by that much. You might just blurt it out.

(CROSSTALK)

FOREMAN: Thanks for being here.

Yes, you guys would make a great ticket together.

(LAUGHTER)

FOREMAN: Well, there you go. In just a moment, real people and the hard choices they're facing at the supermarket. You know who you are.

And straight ahead, a lesson in poking fun at politicians from a master at the game.

But, first, political silliness brings us inevitably to this week's "Viral Videos."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In 1960, when Northern Democrats voted...

FOREMAN (voice-over): We start with a report from Russian TV. Now, these guys really do not understand how democracy works.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why not vote? Wouldn't you think it's going to be fair to have two Democratic nominees running against John McCain?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that would just complicate things.

FOREMAN: On the other hand, she is not the only one confused this year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get ready for the wildest campaign videos.

FOREMAN: As soon as Hillary Clinton took that shot of whiskey, you had to know that Barely Political wasn't going to pass this one up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order now by credit card and receive "John McCain Heat" volumes one completely free. And don't forget "Barack Obama: Bitter Confessions." Call now.

FOREMAN: And finally:

(MUSIC)

FOREMAN: The song, well, that's Earl Pickens channeling Johnny Cash, the video courtesy of the Obama campaign. The result, a Pennsylvania campaign memory Barack Obama would probably rather forget.

(MUSIC)

FOREMAN: Now, we are going elsewhere, but we will be right back.

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: Polls indicate that most of us are getting pretty tired of this campaign. It's like a quadruple overtime in sports. At some point, you just want someone to win.

But political cartoonists are having a field day with it. So, we thought this would be a nice time to check in with one of our favorites, Mike Luckovich at "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE LUCKOVICH, EDITORIAL CARTOONIST, "THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION": I have strong feelings, and I put those every day into my cartoons. And I think that's what makes an effective editorial cartoon. I think if you can be humorous, but still be hard-hitting and have a point, I think that that makes people want to see what, you know, what I have been doing.

I will be little bit disappointed when the president is actually chosen, though, because I like having the three. If one's not -- if one's not saying something stupid, the other one is. So, it works out well.

Hillary, she's got a bit of an overbite and kind of small eyes. And she also has -- she's got some pretty defined -- or some pretty big cheeks. So, when I'm drawing her, it's especially her mouth, though, the way her mouth goes.

Barack Obama is -- you know, he's got a long face. He's a good- looking guy, but when smiles, he has got that huge smile that's very easy to draw. Plus, he has large ears.

McCain is -- you know, his face is -- it's not symmetrical. And I'm not really sure what going on with that. But -- and also his hair is so white that it really blends into his scalp. It's almost when we draw hair on him, it almost doesn't look like it belongs.

My favorite cartoon that I have always is the cartoon that I have just drawn, because I have been focusing on it all day. And then I -- and I'm just so invested in it. And I'm trying to do the best cartoon I can. And then, you know, the next day, I come in and I have forgotten about the cartoon that I was just so concerned about, and I'm now focusing on the next one.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Straight ahead: The tough economy is front and center at your local supermarket.

And later on THIS WEEK IN POLITICS, we will give you the inside story on the super-secret wedding of Beyonce and Jay-Z. That's tabloid news, sure, but, as you will see in this week's political sideshow, those darn newspapers can really tie politicians up in knots.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over): The big news from a newspaper in Moscow is that former President and shirtless sex symbol Vladimir Putin is head over heels in love with a 24-year-old gymnast. Putin vehemently denies the story and yet he says he loves his wife and in fact all Russian women, the most talented and beautiful in the world, he says. Oh, and as for that newspaper, it's been suspended due to, uh, financial problems.

One person who doesn't have campaign finance problems is Senator Barack Obama, and that may be due in part to some rather stiff support. "The Los Angeles Times" reports that actor Roy Scheider, best known for his role in "Jaws," gave $50 to Obama's campaign one month after he passed away. Turns out it was an old credit card donation coming through to help keep Obama's campaign afloat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JAWS")

ROY SCHEIDER, ACTOR: You're going to need a bigger boat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: And, finally, be careful what you wish for, presidential candidates.

This is what eight years in office did to Bill Clinton and to George W. Bush. Now popphoto.com has used special software to simulate what time and trouble could do to these White House hopefuls. Take a good look. One of these faces could be all over your TV screen in 2012, and it ain't pretty.

We will be right back.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JENNIFER WESTHOVEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, Happy Friday. I'm Jennifer Westhoven. "THIS WEEK IN POLITICS" continues in a moment. But first, here's what's now in the news.

Tax rebates are coming early. Starting Monday, some five million Americans will get direct deposit as part of the government's plan to stimulate the economy. Paper checks will start being mailed May 9th.

A fatal shark attack north of San Diego. A 66-year-old man died early this morning at Solana Beach after being bitten by what authorities suspect was a great white. Dave Martin was a member of a group training for a triathlon.

Buses today took away the last of the children removed from a Texas polygamist sect early this month. They were transferred from a temporary shelter to foster homes, mostly ranches for boys and girls.

A pregnant bank teller shot during a robbery in Indianapolis has lost the twins she was carrying. 30-year-old Katherine Sheffield (ph) was five months pregnant when a mass gunman shot her in the abdomen Tuesday morning. She remains in critical but stable condition. Police continue searching for the gunman.

I'm Jennifer Westhoven. Now, back to "THIS WEEK IN POLITICS." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's obvious everything has gone up and it affects me. It affects the choices that I make as far as the kind of foods I eat and how often I shop. Today I was going to buy some boneless chicken breast and they're on sale for $3.29. That's about -- it used to be on sale for $1.99.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I bought the fish, the steak. Me being a senior citizen and on a fixed income, it's very difficult to decide what I want to buy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you doing today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you doing, doll?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's much deeper than the election. I think -- I don't know if it's recession, depression, whatever you may want to call it but it's difficult right now. I don't see any solution because I'm going day-to-day.

I haven't really been able to think. How can I save a few more dollars down the road? If you got a family of three, four, five, it's difficult, you know. I'm probably spending just lightly in a week, $100 a week, and that's not anything substantial. Just stuff to keep us moving.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Voters grappling with the issue that we're all grappling with right now. Soaring food prices. What's the solution?

I'm joined by a man who thinks he might see some solution to all of this. Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, and author of "Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization." And up in New York, a man who knows all the answers are or so, he tells me, CNN's senior business correspondent Ali Velshi. Thanks for being here.

Lester, let me start with you. Why have our food prices gone up so much?

LESTER BROWN, EARTH POLICY INSTITUTE: There are a number of trends that are operating here at the same time. One is 17 million people a year. And you don't have to be an agronomist to know you get in trouble if you do that indefinitely. Second is incomes are going up. People around the world, maybe four billion people want to move up the food chain.

FOREMAN: So they're buying more than moving up in the chain. What else?

BROWN: And third, and the big one in the last couple of years, has been the enormous shift of the U.S. grain harvest in the production of ethanol. The world demand for grain was growing about 20 million tons a year. Food, feed, and so forth. And then suddenly, the last couple of years, it's jumped to about 50 million tons a year. Thirty million tons is grain going into ethanol.

FOREMAN: That's corn being used for something other than food but to replace energy. Ali, do you buy those explanations, or is there something else at work?

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Oh, unless he's being -- he's very learned about this. He's being extremely polite. It is a ridiculous policy to take a food that we were actually eating and turn it into a fuel for our cars when we have uncontrolled demand for gasoline.

The fact of the matter is it's a good concept. Reducing your reliance on crude oil to make gasoline by using other things. Other things like waste products or maybe something that nobody ever eats. I don't know. Maybe we can make oil out of Brussels sprouts or something.

But to take corn which is a staple crop -- what it's done is it's resulted in causing the prices of other staple crops like wheat and rice, to also go up because there is no interchangeability amongst them. These are very important things. We've had record prices in wheat, in corn, in soybeans, in rice, and a lot of it is due to biofuels being done the wrong way.

FOREMAN: Well, Ali, I know you've already made enemies in the ethanol community and in the Brussels sprout community, but we'll get back to that in a minute. Let's look at some of these increases that we're talking about here. If you haven't seen them in your own stores, you can easily.

Look, eggs have gone up 34 percent, almost 35 percent in the past 12 months. White bread up more than 16 percent in the same period of time. Milk up 13.3 percent in that period of time. These are really the kind of prices that hit home on main items here, Lester.

Is there any solution to this? Let's say you wiped out the ethanol subsidy and you said we're not going to do that anymore. Well, that contributes to the energy problem and transporting all this food, producing it takes energy. How do we get out of this?

BROWN: Well, first of all, energy -- ethanol is not the solution to our automotive fuel problem. If we converted the entire grain harvest into fuel for cars, it would satisfy maybe 16 percent of demand. That's not the answer. I think the answer and it's going to be still a couple of years away is plugging hybrids, running almost entirely on electricity.

FOREMAN: That will solve the energy issue, but what do we do about the food issue now? Because I think a lot of people out there are really worried that they're going to seriously be looking at their grocery bill and saying I can't buy things.

BROWN: Right. If we reduce the amount of grain going into ethanol substantially and quickly, it will begin to restore some stability in the world food economy including here in the U.S. I mean, right now, we are subsidizing the conversion of grain into fuel and being rewarded for that subsidy with soaring food prices.

FOREMAN: But, Ali, is this really supply and demand right now, or is this a little bit a shade of the housing market?

VELSHI: Think back --

FOREMAN: Does it have to do people investing and looking for returns?

VELSHI: Right (ph).

FOREMAN: Are we short on food, or are we just short on affordable food?

VELSHI: Well, in parts of the world, we really are short on food. We don't have a food shortage in the United States. But, you know, two years ago when the government decided it's going to subsidize or is going to encourage the production of ethanol for fuel, well, it would have been a smart thing to do to invest in corn and that's exactly what people did.

There are people who invest in corn, wheat, soybean, food futures because there are a better investment than the stock market and the real estate market right now, because we know that there's no end in sight to the demand.

Tom, I've got a "National Geographic" recently -- "Growing Fuel." It's got a picture of corn on the front. I've got "Barron's," which is read by everybody. Commodities boom.

This is a big trading thing. People are making money. They buy futures. They've got nothing to do with the corn, the wheat, the soybeans. They just make sure they're out of that trade before they actually have to take delivery and make the money.

FOREMAN: So Ali, let me get back to the basic question there. The basic question is do we have a shortage of food in this country, or are we headed to a shortage in food, or do we just have a shortage of cheap food?

VELSHI: There is not a shortage of food in America. There's a shortage of cheap food. As you get down the scale to people who have lower incomes or frankly who live in poorer countries, it's a real shortage because you can't afford to pay up. If I need rice today in America, I can get as much rice as I want regardless of some limits that some stores are putting on, but I will pay up for anything I buy that is grown.

FOREMAN: Lester, assuming politicians aren't going to shut down the ethanol subsidy right now because there's no sign they're going to that or some kind of immediate stock up measure, and certainly the ethanol people have good arguments as to why they think they should not. Assuming that doesn't happen, what else could political leaders do now?

BROWN: Well, we're dealing with longer term trends, population growth, 70 million people a year. We're dealing with spreading water shortages that are making it more difficult for countries like China and India to expand their own grain production. There are host of longer term trends here. They're coming together now, a scarcity of water and scarcity of new crop land, and a diminishing backlog of technology.

The rise in land productivity, which a few decades ago was over two percent a year, is now roughly one percent a year because there are not a lot of new technologies that farmers can use.

FOREMAN: That's more of the problems. What is the solution? What else could politicians be doing now? What should we be really asking them about?

BROWN: We need to address the population issue for one thing. If we don't address that, there won't be any humane solution to this problem. We can't keep adding 70 million people a year when our land and water resources are already being stressed.

FOREMAN: The worldwide population or the United States population, or both?

BROWN: Of which the U.S. is part. We're the only industrial country that has not stabilized its population.

FOREMAN: And with that, I think we have to move on. Lester, thanks for being here. Ali, as well. I think we'll be talking about this more as time goes on. We'll keep eating, I'm sure of that.

Just ahead, life on Mars. The big threat the candidates will not talk about. But first, life or something like it, and the other stories in THIS WEEK IN POLITICS.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are not in a recession.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: A whole lot of American families might not agree, but President Bush this week said that the economy is only in a slow down. And he made the statement during a pro-NAFTA summit. Talk about great timing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I am absolutely confident he is the best man for the job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Proof that no good deed goes unpunished. General David Petraeus was named as the next CENTCOM commander. What that means is you'll get to worry about Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Middle East and Iraq now. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you work hard and do a good job, you should be rewarded.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm hoping that this chamber will stand up for fundamental fairness for women in the workplace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Both Democratic presidential candidates made a rare appearance on Capitol Hill this week. The issue, a bill that would have made it easier to sue over pay discrimination. President Bush threatened the veto. The bill stalled. The candidates returned to the campaigns.

And we will return in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: Imagine the pride, exultation and triumph the first time a human sets foot on Mars. Now, imagine that brave explorer planting the flag of China.

Maybe you missed it in all of the earthly squabbles over the White House this week, but China has its eyes on the red planet. The moon and a lot more ramping up its space program with potentially serious consequences.

Of course, the candidates are busy with the economy, the war and slapping each other silly, so they're not talking about it. But many scientists and security experts say they better start.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over): The United States managed 16 space launches last year. Russia, 22. And China blasted off 10. China is the third nation to independently put humans into space. They are pushing toward the moon and talking about Mars. Does it matter? Scientists and military analysts both say, you bet.

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think it's very serious.

ROBERT ZUBRIN, THE MARS SOCIETY: I think that at the way things are going right now, by around 2012, the Chinese space program will be pulling equal with ours.

FOREMAN: China's exploding economy is paying for the education of hundreds of thousands of engineers each year. They are acquiring less space technology from other nations and developing more on their own. And they appear committed to dominating the heavens. Their space program is still behind says one of America's strongest proponents for Mars travel, Robert Zubrin, but it is rocketing up. ZUBRIN: If we continue to stand still by the middle of the next decade, their space program is going to be superior to ours and they'll be moving on to the moon and Mars while we're looking back on our former greatness.

FOREMAN: Just last November, a Chinese robotics spacecraft circled the moon capturing 3D images. Chinese scientists talk about mining the lunar surface for possible nuclear energy resources that are plentiful there, but rare on earth. Mars is a real target for future travel.

And remember when the Chinese shot down that weather satellite? Military experts do. After all, American troop movements, bomb targeting, intelligence, banking and communication systems now rely on eyes in the sky.

GRANGE: Make it a point. Absolutely. They were one demonstrating a capability not only to themselves but to the rest of the world that they're a power of reckoning in the use and the dominance of space.

FOREMAN: China says it does not want to militarize space, but the Chinese space program has always been secretive. The closest many westerners have ever seen a Chinese launch facility is this. An image captured by a GOI satellite. Representative Tom Feeney of Florida, however, has visited such sites, and he's worried.

REP. TOM FEENEY (R), FLORIDA: I believe America will be remiss if it sits on the sidelines for four or five years and lets other countries not just catch up but develop capabilities that will set us back and take us a long time to catch up to.

FOREMAN: Four years ago, President Bush announced plans to put Americans back on the moon by 2020.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will then be ready to take the next steps of space exploration. Human missions to Mars and to worlds beyond.

FOREMAN: But now, the shuttle is set to retire. Rumors of future cuts in NASA's budget and staff are swirling. A replacement for the shuttle appears like it will lag so much many scientists fear the U.S. will be unable to put a human into space without help for years. So what do the candidates say?

John McCain speaks favorably of continuing the current course for space exploration, but he also wants to control spending and that could further disrupt funding. Hillary Clinton has ambitious plans, including "robust human space flight." But her emphasis appears to be on astronauts looking back, studying our own planet to combat global warming. And Barack Obama has suggested that while work in space is important and should continue, it's no longer inspirational, and NASA needs to reconsider its goals.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe that this nation should commit itself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Unlike President John Kennedy who launched the moon missions, not one of them is saying much about returning to the moon and they rarely mention Mars.

ZUBRIN: If we had a president who is willing to exercise the kind of brave and visionary leadership that Kennedy showed in '61, we could have people on Mars before the next president's second term. So really, the problem here is not -- it's not about money, it's about leadership.

FOREMAN: In Florida, where the shuttle still flies, Tom Feeney has plenty of constituents who remember when the Russians shocked America with the world's first satellite Sputnik.

FEENEY: If the next American president does not get serious about space exploration, I'm afraid that one day Americans will wake up and have another Sputnik-type moment.

FOREMAN: He should know. We caught up with him at an international space development conference just this week in China.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: In a moment, we'll get back to solid ground. All the news of next week this week. It's got to be "Fast Track." That's coming up in a moment, or maybe not. It all depends on who controls the planet and where you get your time.

A conference of Muslim scholars has called for the imposition of Mecca time. In other words, the prime meridian would run through the holy city of Mecca and be the basis for all world time zones. Right now, it runs through Greenwich, England. Thus, Greenwich mean time (ph). This is not a new idea, however.

Right after the American revolution, the U.S. didn't want anything to do with Britain, so an American prime meridian was proposed in the middle of Washington, D.C. And it didn't catch on either. So we'll be back in no time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: Time now for "Fast Track." Everything you need to get through the next week in politics, and we turn to the much revered Bill Schneider, CNN political analyst, senior political analyst, to talk about the most Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama's friend. He's talking all over the place these days. What's that about?

BILL SCHNEIDER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's about taking Barack Obama off message. Because everywhere Barack Obama goes he has to address this issue, which he thought he put behind him with that dramatic speech he gave a few weeks ago on race. The issue doesn't go away, and Jeremiah Wright is trying to keep it in the spotlight. It's hard to see why. FOREMAN: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is also speaking up in a rare interview. What did he say?

SCHNEIDER: He said that he is a social conservative, but that doesn't influence the way he decides cases. That would be a big surprise to a lot of people. He said the court -- the constitution neither permits nor prohibits abortion. That should be part of the political process.

And he made an interesting comment. He said he expects the next nominee of the Supreme Court could be a female protestant Hispanic. Female Hispanic -- that makes some sense. Protestant? You know that there are five Roman Catholics now on the Supreme Court?

FOREMAN: Wow, a big change. Any more ideas about John McCain's running mate?

SCHNEIDER: Well, the name that keeps coming up these days is Bobby Jindal. Interesting idea. Republican, young, attractive, conservative, and he's of Indian descent, Asian-Indian descent. That would be a breakthrough.

FOREMAN: The new governor of Louisiana might become the old governor fast. And one more idea people are kicking around these days, Chelsea Clinton for Congress. Any traction on that?

SCHNEIDER: Well, dynasty seems to surface all the time. Clintons, Bushes forever. We could as long as they keep having children, we could be seeing them running for president for decades.

FOREMAN: Oh, it would be a thrill, I suppose. Thanks so much, Bill Schneider.

All the top headlines from Tinseltown, no kidding, coming up in just a moment. But right now, let's take a look at our "Late Night Laughs."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NBC "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": What do you know, she won yesterday. You know, Hillary Clinton's campaign now $10 million in debt. 10 million in debt. Yes. And ironically, her big issue, I can handle the economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COMEDY CENTRAL "THE COLBERT REPORT")

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Now, the other big winner, of course, was Hillary Clinton, who beat Obama by 10 points. Suck it, hope!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NBC "LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN") CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN": No one talks about John McCain anymore because he won his side of the thing pretty much and now he's just wandering around.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COMEDY CENTRAL, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": Do you have a concern that you could win the nomination at the convention and defeat John McCain in the general and, you know, go to your inauguration and Hillary would still be running? Do you feel --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: I know most of you were glued to CNN's coverage of the Pennsylvania primary this week so as a public service, here's our top five critically important news items you may have missed.

Miley Cyrus got a seven-figure deal to write a memoir. If you're doing the math, that's about $70,000 for each of her 15 exciting years, and considerably more money, by the way, than several of the failed presidential contenders raised.

Tom Cruise spent $100,000 for his daughter's birthday party. No, it wasn't the soaring cost of milk that drove the tab up for the 2- year-old. So maybe, it was the dinner that was catered by Wolfgang Puck.

Harrison Ford revealed to "Us" magazine that he got his ear pierced after a well-lubricated lunch with singer Jimmy Buffett and CBS newsman Ed Bradley.

Beyonce and Jay-Z took out a marriage license, or they filed for it or something. It's like the world of lobbyists. Kind of murky right now.

And Grammy-winning megastar Shakira was on Capitol Hill testifying for global education where our Zain Verjee pressed her on her political choice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you think one of them is stronger on education than the others?

SHAKIRA, SINGER: You're evil.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Evil? Well, maybe but never bitter. That's it for THIS WEEK IN POLITICS. I'm Tom Foreman. Thanks so much for watching. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.

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