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THE SITUATION ROOM
Powerful Storms Continue Hitting the Midwest; Job Loss Shifts Focus of Election; Arianna Huffington Talks Election
Aired May 2, 2008 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, breaking news. A tornado on the ground near Memphis. We're going to have the latest. Stand by for that.
Thousands more Americans are losing their jobs -- the casualties of an ailing economy. But there's a surprise in the government's newest figures. We're going to show you what it is.
The hard times are a hot topic on the campaign trail, with all the candidates seizing on the newest developments and radically shifting the race for the White House. We're watching this story.
We're going to also talk about that and a lot more with the editor-in-chief of one of the most popular political blogs, Arianna Huffington. She's standing by live.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
All that coming up.
But let's get some breaking news right now. Very dangerous storms moving across the South right now.
Chad Myers is watching it from the CNN Severe Weather Center.
What do we know -- Chad?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: A big storm tornado on the ground confirmed by spotters. And this is just about 15 miles northwest of Memphis, in Arkansas. This storm went right over the town of Earle, with significant damage, according to the spotters in Earle. Then it went over and went right across the I-55 near Turrell. That now is that storm -- that same storm, with a tornado on the ground, is moving to the town of Joiner. As this storm is -- the spotters are saying this is a significant, large tornado, which probably means F3 or larger.
And so this storm, as it's been on the ground, this is a long live event. It's been on the ground for at least, now, 30 minutes and causing a lot of damage out there in parts of Eastern Arkansas.
BLITZER: This is very dangerous and very scary stuff.
MYERS: Yes. BLITZER: There were some deadly storms in Arkansas, as well?
MYERS: Yes, absolutely. Earlier today, Wolf, we had seven confirmed fatalities from storms that have moved over Northern Arkansas. And here are some of the pictures. I mean you can really see the damage. These were large tornadoes F2s, 3s and maybe 4s.
And we had some just north of Little Rock and then east of Little Rock. Carlisle was moving -- a tornado went right over that town. There were three separate tornado warnings for three separate storms that went right over Carlisle. The third storm did the damage. And then you're seeing the damage here earlier. You can just see these trees are gone.
And these are up in the towns of Birdtown and, also, Damascus, where five of seven people died today. And then there was one very sad story. We don't know whether it was a tornado or not, Wolf, but a tree fell into a home and landed right on a 15-year-old girl and killed her on the spot. Her 10-year-old brother survived in the same room, but she died on the way to the hospital.
BLITZER: Memphis is a major city. How concerned should people be in a big like that? We did see a tornado a few weeks ago where you are, in Atlanta, that caused a lot of damage. I suppose it would be pretty unusual, isn't it?
MYERS: You know what, it's just like the lottery. You know, the chances of me winning the lottery are not that great, but somebody has to win it. And just because there's a town there, doesn't mean there's any protection. This is a town that's just going to get in the way of a tornado and eventually a nice tornado, a big one, is not going to go around, it's not going to turn. It's going to go right over these big cities.
If you look at a map, though, Wolf, you see there's so much farmland out there. It's 99 percent farmland, so 99 percent of the tornadoes hit farmland. And the 1 percent will hit a town eventually.
BLITZER: All right, Chad.
We'll watch it with you. Stand by. Thank you.
MYERS: All right. You're welcome.
BLITZER: Other news, the bleeding has slowed, but the U.S. economy is still shedding jobs. New numbers just out from the Labor Department show 20,000 jobs lost in April. While the number is discouraging, it's better than the 75,000 jobs some analysts were predicting would be lost. You can see it's also a significant drop from recent months, with losses as high as 83,000.
But when it all adds up, we're looking at almost a quarter of a million jobs lost since the beginning of this year alone. President Bush is acknowledging the weak economy, saying current conditions are not good enough for America. But he predicts checks from his stimulus plan now going out to millions of taxpayers will "inject some life into the economy."
Listen to what he said during a visit to St. Louis earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Since I've been your president, I want to remind you, we have been through a recession, we have been through a terrorist attack, we have been at war, we have had corporate scandals, we have had major natural disasters. And yet this economy always recovers. We're a resilient economy because we've got good, capable, smart, hardworking people in America. And I know it's tough times. And I know you're having to pay more at the fuel pump than you want. But this economy is going to come on. I'm confident it will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Some Congressional Democrats strongly disagree. They're calling for further action, including extra unemployment benefits. They want a second round of stimulus assistance.
All of this is having a huge impact out on the race for the White House, especially the Democratic contest, with the next big showdown only four days away.
CNN's Dan Lothian is in Indiana, which holds its primary, along with North Carolina, on Tuesday -- Dan.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, fewer people may have lost their jobs last month, but the economy remains the top issue. Many people are still struggling. And the Democratic candidates, meeting with supporters here in Indiana and in North Carolina, say they're listening.
LOTHIAN (voice-over): A tough economy has many people, like Indiana social worker, Colleen Scheu, tightening their budgets.
COLLEEN SCHEU, INDIANAPOLIS RESIDENT: We're trying to save money more. And we're trying to -- I know we've gone to some more used clothing stores for our kids.
LOTHIAN: Senator Barack Obama says real leadership is needed to make life a little easier for struggling Americans.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A big part of why so many folks are struggling is that Washington hasn't been looking out for them.
LOTHIAN: Obama says a gas tax holiday to ease some of the pain is nothing more than a gimmick. He attacks Senator Clinton's proposal in a new TV ad airing across Indiana.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OBAMA CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: It's an election year gimmick, saving Hoosiers just pennies a day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOTHIAN: Senator Clinton paints Obama as an elitist and says his opposition to the gas tax holiday shows he's out of touch with working class voters.
At a John Deer store in North Carolina, she was selling her plan.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think I've got the right policy. I want the Congress to have to stand up and vote -- are they for the oil companies or are they for you.
LOTHIAN: And despite the better than expected jobs report, both Clinton and Obama said the numbers are not encouraging.
CLINTON: We lost 20,000 jobs last month. And people are saying well, that's better than we thought. Well, I don't -- I don't accept that at all. We're not supposed to be losing jobs in America, we're supposed to be creating jobs in America.
OBAMA: This news is troubling, but it's not surprising, because in recent months we've seen the problems in our economy grow worse and worse.
LOTHIAN: Both of the Democratic candidates say part of the solution is cutting tax breaks that go to companies that send jobs overseas -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Dan Lothian, thank you.
It promises to be a fast and furious final stretch for both Clinton and Obama. Indiana and North Carolina coming up and we're just over a month from the final Democratic primaries. They will stake place on June 3. The next contest starts in less than three hours, when the U.S. Territory of Guam holds its Democratic caucuses. Four delegates up for grabs in Guam.
Much larger stakes only four days from now, with the Indiana primary offering 72 delegates, and the biggest prize, North Carolina, where 115 delegates are at stake.
Let's go back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: I saw the clip earlier.
Brian Todd used to work as a reporter on Guam?
BLITZER: Yes. He spent year-and-a-half there as a 23- or a 24- year-old young reporter working for Guam Cable.
CAFFERTY: That's pretty cool.
Is that where they have the dodo birds, too, Guam?
BLITZER: I don't know.
CAFFERTY: Is that...
BLITZER: That I don't know.
CAFFERTY: Yes, I don't know. I'm not sure. But one of those islands over there they have those little funny little birds that weren't very bright, ergo the name dodo birds.
Republicans are going to have a very tough time getting elected this fall, except maybe for John McCain. The latest "Wall Street Journal"/NBC News poll shows only 27 percent of voters have a positive view of the Republican Party. That's not very many -- the lowest level for either party in the almost 20-year history of this particular poll.
The last time the numbers were this low, voters threw George Bush's father out of office and elected Bill Clinton in 1992. And yet John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, continues to run about even in hypothetical match-ups against both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, which is interesting in light of the fact that an overwhelming number of us -- 73 percent -- think this country is headed in the wrong direction under President Bush.
John McCain, as you know, embraces many of the policies of President Bush, including the war in Iraq, which Americans have really had a belly full of. And President Bush has now achieved the highest disapproval rating of any president in American history. Now there's a legacy.
It's not just the war, either, that has American voters in a crummy mood. Our economy is struggling under the weight of high gas prices, the housing collapse, loss of jobs -- all things that have happened on the Republicans' watch.
A majority of voters say they want a Democrat in the White House next time around and that makes John McCain's position even more remarkable.
Here's the question then: Why does John McCain remain popular in light of sharply falling support for the Republican Party?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment on my blog. It really is a bit of a phenomenon -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It is, indeed. It's going to make for a fascinating race, wherever gets the Democratic nomination.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens.
She's not backing any one candidate, but she has very strong opinions on all of them. We're going to talk about this unprecedented race for the White House with Arianna Huffington of "The Huffington Post."
Also, deadly tornadoes and damaging storms strike at least four states. We're going to show you the latest video of the devastation.
Plus, Barbara Walters reveals an affair decades ago with a powerful politician.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: She's editor-in-chief of one of the most popular Web sites, thehuffingtonpost.com. And now she has a brand new book out called "Right is Wrong: How the Lunatic Fringe Hijacked America, Shredded the Constitution and Made Us All Less Safe".
Arianna Huffington is joining us now in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Arianna, congratulations on the new book. Thanks for coming in.
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, AUTHOR, "RIGHT IS WRONG": Thanks a lot, Wolf.
BLITZER: You've really created an enormous success with HuffingtonPost.com, in part because everyone there seems to be blunt, honest. They don't hedge.
So I'm going to ask you your thoughts right now on these candidates.
What do you -- and I don't think you've endorsed anyone yet, have you?
HUFFINGTON: I haven't endorsed. The site has not endorsed. But in my writing, I have definitely been more critical of Hillary Clinton.
BLITZER: All right, let's talk about Hillary Clinton.
What's wrong with her?
HUFFINGTON: Well, she has really taken a page out of Karl Rove's play book, when it comes to her advertising especially. The ad -- the 3:00 a.m. Ad basically was straight out of the old fall campaign against John Kerry. The assumption was that if people elected Obama they would not be as safe as they would be if they elected her -- their children would not be as safe. And then, on the eve of the Pennsylvania primary, we had the Osama ad appear, which is again straight out of the old fall Karl Rove playbook. BLITZER: That was the Osama ad, as you say, where they showed a brief little picture of him when she was talking about dangers facing the United States?
HUFFINGTON: Right. But, you know, Wolf, it can be a brief little picture, but it's a very powerful symbol, as you know, in America. And no matter how bad the economy gets, I really believe that, in the end, every election after 9/11 is going to be a national security election. And manipulating the electorate's fears has been key to the reelection of George Bush.
BLITZER: All right.
What do you think about Barack Obama?
HUFFINGTON: I think Barack Obama had a really bad week thanks to Reverend Wright. And he's put it behind him. And it seems like the media have also put it behind him.
So Indiana is going to be key for him. But in the end, the math is still with him and the superdelegates are still going his way.
BLITZER: Why is John McCain doing as well in these polls as he seems to be doing, given the right track/wrong track numbers?
For example, when people are asked, is the country moving in the right direction or the wrong direction, 70 percent now think the country is moving in a bad direction.
HUFFINGTON: This is one of the big questions, Wolf. And that will determine what happens in '08. I have a whole chapter in my book called John McCain: Hijacked By the Right," because on every major issue, he has basically surrendered -- on tax cuts, on immigration, even on torture. He has embraced George Bush's position.
On immigration he has gone against George Bush, but he has embraced the right's position. So, basically, here is the man who wants to prolong the war in Iraq, who whatever happens, somehow he explains it as a positive thing in Iraq. Right now, he's told us that the latest bout of violence in Iraq is a spike that was to be expected as things are improving. It's a little bit like arguing with Marxists. You know, whatever happens for him, as for George Bush, being in Iraq is a matter of faith, not a matter of facts.
BLITZER: It sounds to me...
HUFFINGTON: And so everything can be justified.
BLITZER: It sounds to me, Arianna -- and correct me if I'm wrong. If you had to vote right now -- and you don't, obviously, but if you did, it looks like Barack Obama would be your candidate.
HUFFINGTON: Yes. Oh, definitely. I mean I think that -- I definitely believe that the key thing right now is for the Democrats to rally, preferably around Barack Obama, but definitely rally around their nominee and unmask John McCain because this country cannot afford a third Bush term.
BLITZER: I read "Huffington Post." I read your blog on HuffingtonPost all the time. One of the things you rail against is that we have moved -- when I say we, the mainstream media, if you will, we've moved away from covering the war in Iraq and you're angry about that. Explain what's going on, from your perspective.
HUFFINGTON: Well, the war in Iraq, Wolf, really affects everything. It hurts our safety. I don't like the way that the war in Iraq is covered in isolation. And we are in Iraq, which means we don't have sufficient forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in terms of protecting ourselves from the reconstituted Al Qaeda in Pakistan.
So here we are. We have the commanders on the ground in Afghanistan saying that we need to widen the war there because in Pakistan, Al Qaeda is actually working on credible threats against the West right now. And yet the White House -- no matter what they say about listening to their commanders on the ground -- are not listening to them.
Iraq is an obsession for the White House. I wish it would be an obsession for the media, because that's the only way to let the American people know the truth.
Look at the Pentagon military analysts continuing to pass misinformation to the American people through the American media.
BLITZER: Your book is subtitled, "How the Lunatic Fringe Hijacked America."
Who's the lunatic fringe?
HUFFINGTON: The lunatic is the right -- the extreme right of the Republican Party -- not at all the entire Republican Party. There are many disaffected Republicans, as you know, Wolf. It's basically the people who believe in torture and don't believe in evolution.
BLITZER: Like who?
Like who do you mean specifically?
HUFFINGTON: Well, obviously, all the obvious people of the Rush Limbaughs, the Sean Hannitys, the Ann Coulters. But, also, the Dick Cheneys, the Wolfowitzs, the Richard Perles, all the neo-cons, including Bill Crystal, who basically promises that the war was going to be cheap and easy and have never been accountable when the war became a $3 trillion disaster that has affected the American people and is really breaking the American military.
BLITZER: And you're suggesting in your subtitle of the book that they also shredded the Constitution and made us all less safe.
Are these the same people?
HUFFINGTON: They're all the same people. And, unfortunately, as the center has expanded -- and a lot of people now, the majority of the American people are accepting positions that used to be seen as left-wing -- you know, bringing the troops home, universal health care, doing something about global warming. The right is marginalized, but yet continues to dominate the debate and set the agenda.
BLITZER: The book is entitled "Right is Wrong: How the Lunatic Fringe Hijacked America, Shredded the Constitution and Made Us All Less Safe" and the in parentheses, "And What You Need to Know to End the Madness."
Arianna Huffington, thanks for coming in.
HUFFINGTON: Thank you so much.
BLITZER: The housing crisis impacting people from all walks of life, including the rich and famous. You're going to find out which star athlete is facing foreclosure and is joining millions of other Americans who are losing their homes.
Plus, allegations of a noose found at a Secret Service training facility. We're going to show you what's going on.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Carol, what's going on?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, severe weather moving across the South right now. We have reports of a tornado on the ground right now near Memphis. CNN meteorologist, Chad Myers, will be along in a moment with an update. One report has a tornado on the ground for at least half an hour. Damage is reported to be extensive.
Earlier today, powerful storms killed at least seven people elsewhere in Arkansas. Homes and businesses were damaged in the Kansas City, Missouri area. Tornadoes also reported in Oklahoma and in Texas.
Federal regulators move to make the biggest clamp down on the credit cart industry in decades. They have initiated steps to end what they call unfair and deceptive practices. Among other things, the new proposed rules would prohibit unfair time constraints on payments, raising rates on pre-existing balances retroactively and making deceptive offers of credit. The Federal Reserve Board approved the recommendations today. They could be finalized by the end of the year.
Jose Canseco's home falls into foreclosure. The former American League MVP told syndicated television's "Inside Edition" that he simply walked away from his $2.5 million home in suburban Los Angeles. He said his situation is different from most people who lose their homes and have nowhere else to go. The ex-slugger, who made millions, said he decided just to let the 7,000 square foot house go -- Wolf. BLITZER: What a story.
Thanks very much, Carol, for that.
So what if the battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama just keeps ongoing and going and going?
It's a nightmare scenario for some Democrats and the superdelegates who are still waiting on the sidelines.
Also, militants in Iraq may be adopting a horrifying new tactic. We're going to have details of what we're learning about the latest deadly attacks.
Plus, Barbara Walter's stunning confession. You're going to find out more about the affair she had with a U.S. senator decades ago.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: There's breaking news. Tornadoes on the ground right now. We've been following this story.
Chad Myers is over at the CNN Severe Weather Center -- Chad, update our viewers.
What we know Memphis, Tennessee -- what, in the crosshairs?
MYERS: Yes, really. Just to the west of there, into Arkansas and now north of there, near Dyersburg. A tornado on the ground southwest of Dyersburg, probably going to get more toward Finlay (ph) and Evansville, which is to the west there of Dyersburg.
But if this turns right -- and many tornadic storms turn right -- this could be right in downtown Dyersburg in about 15 or 20 minutes.
Also, more storms near Parkers Crossroads. That's in central Tennessee. And this storm is going to continue. This entire line of cells continuing to move to the east. Many of these cells are rotating. You may not have even have any warning with these at all.
If you see a storm headed your way, just assume there's a warning on it. Get inside your house. Don't be an I-Reporter until it's gone. Get inside. Stay away from the glass. Opening the windows is a big myth.
If the tornado is going to take your window, you don't want to be by it. So get inside. Get into a small closet, if you can, without windows. If the storm approaches you into Kentucky and Tennessee, Mississippi, now Louisiana and even Southeastern Texas -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Scary stuff, indeed.
All right, we'll stay in touch with you.
MYERS: You're welcome.
BLITZER: Polls show Hillary Clinton gaining ground on Barack Obama nationally. But with each passing week, the delegate math is becoming tougher and tougher for her.
Joining us now is our special correspondent, Frank Sesno, for his weekly "What If?" segment.
Frank, and neither of these candidates seems to be able -- at least not yet -- to knock the other out.
FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: No, but they're trying to get the crowd going and keep the crowd going. That's a really important thing.
This week, the action has been -- so much of it, anyway -- behind-the-scenes and dealing with the choreography of the superdelegates.
Look at the -- let's walk through the week. If we pull out the calendar and take a look what's happened. Day after day, the candidates have been laying claim to, getting announcements of superdelegates, adding a few to their column.
But at the end of the week, what do we get?
They both have the same amount. They're still locked. It's kind of a metaphor for the whole campaign. The deadlock is getting deadly, politically at least. One superdelegate today, who asked not to be identified in order to speak candidly, told me it's causing major damage inside the party, adding, "We're going reduced to little small parts."
And the two big primaries next week may not do much to clear things up.
SESNO (voice-over): What if Indiana and North Carolina don't break decisively one way or the other?
Say she wins Indiana -- but not by much.
CLINTON: Hello, South Bend.
SESNO: He wins North Carolina, but not by much.
OBAMA: Thank you, (INAUDIBLE).
SESNO: It's the expectations game muddled.
What if recent primary patterns continue. She gets most white and older voters again, he gets most black and younger voters, there'll be more fears of a divided party. What if they keep making speeches and spending millions on ads that sow doubt about experience and electability. It's why he worries so much.
HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN: There's no point in going -- having a nasty divided convention.
SESNO: And why he's urging superdelegates to decide.
DEAN: The unpledged delegates, the remainder of them ought to say who they're for by the end of June.
SESNO: But what if superdelegates can't or won't decide by then? Convention tension will grow. And Dean and the Dems will appear to be hostage to their own party politics. For now she's running and reassuring.
CLINTON: But there's isn't anything we can't do if we start acting like Americans again.
SESNO: And so is he.
OBAMA: And this party will be unified in November.
SESNO: But in the year when the incumbent party's president has a 28 percent approval rating, when the economy is in the dumps and the nation at war, when it should be all about issues, stupid, when the focus should have been like a laser, some Democrats worry divide and conquer applies to not what they'll do to Republicans, but what they'll do to themselves.
SESNO: Divide and conquer is not what they want to do to themselves of course, but Wolf, we've been hearing throughout these last several weeks a lot of concerns. Most particularly when former DNC head Joe Andrew wrote that letter.
If you look at some of the phrasing he used, "this is a process, a vote that assists John McCain." "We've got to heal the rifts in our party." "The tone and temperature is now hurting us." "We risk letting this moment slip through our fingers." It shows just how desperate, and he's not alone. The Clinton campaign wants to talk that down but a lot of people are feeling the same think. There is a lot of ill will growing.
BLITZER: All right. We'll see what happens. Thanks, Frank, very much.
Even Hillary Clinton herself talked about how high the stakes are right now. Listen to what she said earlier today in North Carolina.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: This primary election on Tuesday is a game changer. This is going to make a huge difference in what happens going forward. The entire country, probably even a lot of the world, is looking to see what North Carolina decides.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We're joined now by Republican strategist Kevin Madden, Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons and he's an Obama supporter and Democratic strategist Lisa Caputo, she is a Clinton supporter.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
Let me ask the Democrats first, Lisa, how worried should the party be that all this bickers between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama could wind up simply helping McCain in the fall?
LISA CAPUTO, CLINTON SUPPORTER: I don't think it's going to help McCain at all in the fall, Wolf. What you have to do is step back for a minute and look at the enormous voter turn out for Democrats in the caucuses and the primaries and look at the huge up tick in Democratic voter registration. That's good for the party. And a discussion of the issues, I think we would all agree on the Democratic side Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are very close on all of these issues.
And it's a dialogue about the issues whereas Senator McCain is very closely identified with a president whose popularity is going and spiraling downward.
BLITZER: What do you think, Jamal?
JAMAL SIMMONS, OBAMA SUPPORTER: I'm probably a little more worried than Lisa is. We're on treacherous ground. If this vitriol between the two candidates continues we'll run risk of endangering the unity of the party. I think the campaign should keep going, we should keep talking about issues, we should get back to issues. But we need to elevate the tone of the campaign between the two candidates.
BLITZER: As an outsider, as a Republican, Kevin, how do you see it?
KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I feel like a referee here. But I think that -- I think the proof is in the numbers. If you look at the numbers, Obama supporters saying they're not going to vote for Hillary Clinton should he win the nomination, Hillary Clinton supporters say they're not going to vote for Barack Obama.
BLITZER: A certain percentage. Yes.
MADDEN: A certain percentage. A worrisome percentage. But that also presents an opportunity to John McCain. John McCain can now go after a lot of these disheartened Democrats, these conservative Democrats and independents that are going to be vital to winning a lot of these battleground states in a general election. So it has hurt the party and the proof is in the numbers.
BLITZER: Anecdotally, whatever that word is, Lisa, I'm sure you've spoken to a lot of your fellow Clinton supporters, I know I've spoken to plenty of Clinton supporters that say to me, I love Hillary Clinton but could never vote for Barack Obama and if he gets the nomination I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm sure you've heard that from some Clinton supporters.
CAPUTO: Well, I think this, Wolf. I talk to a lot of Democrats. As I know Jamal does as well. I do think Democrats will unite behind the nominee whomever it is. If you look at the recent polls out this week certainly you see Senator Clinton beating Senator McCain. She beats in a head to head match-up nationally and also so does Senator Obama. Additionally if you look in the swing states Hillary Clinton beats John McCain in the swing states. She also beats John McCain head to head on independent voters and she's seen as the one strongest on the economy.
So again, I think Democrats will absolutely unite. And I think that Senator McCain has got some fighting to do.
BLITZER: Are you that confident, Jamal? Because I'm sure you know plenty of Barack Obama supporters who really don't like Hillary Clinton and they may simply stay home as well. What do you think?
SIMMONS: I think it depends on how it ends. It depends on the tone of the rest of the campaign. It depends on whether or not people feel as if this nomination has been robbed from the person who's leading in the fight, leading among delegates or whatever it is. So there is some danger here.
But, on the other hand, I do think that John McCain is getting let off the hook a little bit. Last week in Pennsylvania 27 percent of Republicans voted for someone else other than John McCain in Pennsylvania. So the question is what happens to those people when John McCain -- when we get back to the fall? Do they not show up even though John McCain clear is the nominee?
BLITZER: What about that, Kevin?
MADDEN: Well, nothing is going to unite Republicans better than a head to head match-up with one of these Democrats. It doesn't matter which one. Because both of them have distinctly liberal world views, both of them have distinctly bigger government philosophies when it comes to taxes and regulations that are going to hurt our economy. And they both have distinctly different views when it comes to national security. We relish the opportunity to go and offer Americans a choice between John McCain and either one of these Democrats on the big issues people are going to make up their minds on.
SIMMONS: Kevin, our position is we actually want to go after the people who attacked us on September 11, not continue fighting a war in Iraq against people who haven't done anything to the United States.
BLITZER: Lisa, listen to this clip from a new Barack Obama ad on the sensitive issue of gas taxes, gas prices right now.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Another negative ad from Hillary Clinton. Here's what she's not saying. "USA Today" calls her three month gas tax holiday "political pandering. It's an election year gimmick saving Hoosiers just pennies a day."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He's also pointing out this is a Clinton/McCain gas tax holiday. He's lumping her in with him. How effective do you think this kind of strategy is going to be?
CAPUTO: Well, look, I think no one likes the negative campaigning. That's abundantly clear. The fact of the matter is, Senator Clinton has introduced legislation. Senator Menendez is cosponsoring it. And this gas tax legislation takes the tax off the consumer and puts it on oil companies. And the reality of it, Wolf, is it puts money into the hands of the consumers -- about $70 into every American's hands.
So if you -- if you really look at it and you look at this as part of Senator Clinton's overall energy independence plan, I would say that she is the one who has the most comprehensive energy efficiency plan investing in the research. I don't see that coming from Senator McCain.
In fact, let's remember, we have job losses numbers, Wolf, that are up at 20,000 for last month. If I recall correctly, earlier this year when job loss numbers were released, Senator McCain didn't think the economy was in trouble.
BLITZER: That's another story. Let me let Jamal respond to this new ad. Hillary Clinton's tax holiday, she says they would impose a new tax on ExxonMobil and other big oil companies who are reaping in huge profits right now to pay for highway reconstruction, bridge reconstruction. That this federal tax on gas goes for. What's wrong with that idea?
SIMMONS: The issue here I think as Senator Obama pointed out, he says actually this will probably save, if you get rid of the gas tax, save Indianans 30 cents a day in gas. It's a little bit of a wool covering -- wool over people's eyes. Because Senator Clinton, while she wants to have this gas tax holiday, it's not going to do exactly what it is that she's promising people to do. I think this goes back to a historical pattern that the Obama campaign laid out from whether it's the story about Bosnia in Tuzla or whatever else it is that Senator Clinton's playing a little bit more politics with what she has to say than she is actually solving the problems.
BLITZER: We have to leave it there, guys. Unfortunately we're out of time. I know all of you want to weigh in a little more. You know what? You'll have your chance in the days and weeks to come.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
A shocking symbol of racial hatred at a U.S. Secret Service training facility. Some are saying top officials took way too long to deal with the incident. We have details coming in. Also former republican presidential candidate Ron Paul says getting out of Iraq is the most important issue at hand. So which of the remaining three presidential contenders would he choose? You might be surprised by his answer. My interview with Ron Paul coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: In a soon to be released memoir the veteran journalist Barbara Walters goes public with a secret she kept for more than three decades. She says back in the 1970s she risked her career for love. Carol Costello is watching the story for us.
Carol, give us the details.
COSTELLO: It's pretty juicy details. I mean, take a look, there's Barbara Walters in her 40s and there's the senator she had the affair with a decade older. He used to watch her on the "Today Show." He invited her to lunch in the Senate dining room. And a love affair was born.
COSTELLO (voice-over): On Barbara Walters' show "The View" a hint at what's to come.
WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": Barbara's book "Audition" is coming out.
BARBARA WALTERS, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": Part of the book is about my lovers, about some of the men in my life.
COSTELLO: Her book, "Audition," a memoir, is due to hit the stands next week. In it details of a long and rocky affair with America's first popularly elected African America senator, Edward Brook. Walters writes, "He had a big, wicked smile, more of a grin. Part of the attraction was brook wanted to be in control. I wasn't used to that. And at first it was pleasing to me."
Walters says it was exciting and dangerous. Walters was divorced and approaching the height of her brilliant career in the '70s. Senator Brooke was also extraordinary successful but married. To complicate matters further this was an interracial affair and that was scandalous in the '70s. Keep in mind interracial marriage was only legalized in 1967.
Walters writes, "I remember thinking that brook who was light skinned didn't truly consider himself black. If he had felt discrimination, and he must have, he never mentioned it."
Walters said she did wonder what marriage to Brooke would be like but the affair ended and Walters went on to have a fabulous career, one that even netted her a star on Hollywood boulevard.
With that in mind, why let such a racy secret out now? On the jacket of her book it says Walters wanted to "reveal the forces that shaped her extraordinary life." As for what Walters' one-time lover has to say? Senator Brooke divorced the woman he was married to at the time of the Walters affair. He has a new wife and an old policy.
"I have had a lifetime policy and practice of not discussing my personal and private life," he said. "Or the personal and private lives of others. With a notable exception of what I wrote in my recently published autobiography, "Bridging the Divide, My Life."
And in that book, there's no mention of Barbara Walters.
COSTELLO: No mention at all. According to Senator Brooke's publisher the 2006 autobiography was written with dignity and integrity. As you can see it sold 6,000 copies over the two years it's been released.
Barbara Walters, her publisher is expecting very big things. It will release 550,000 copies of the book which will be available for purchase next week.
BLITZER: Do we know if she told him that she was going to be releasing details of this intimate affair at this time? Did she give him a heads up? Did he authorize it? Did he have any of those ...
COSTELLO: It doesn't sound like it from his statement and in the chapter written about him it doesn't mention in there that she ever talked to him recently. I guess the answer is I really don't know but I can pretty much -- pretty much gather from what I've read that she hadn't talked to him.
BLITZER: Because she probably would have said I spoke with him and told him I'm going to be doing this. He's an elderly man right now obviously.
COSTELLO: He's 78.
BLITZER: I think he's in his 80s. Well into his 80s. At least that's what I read in the papers.
All right. Carol Costello. Thanks very much.
The U.S. Secret Service is drawing criticism for a tattling of an incident in a training facility last month that critics say may have been racially motivated.
Our Homeland Security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, has been looking into this story.
Jeanne, what are you finding?
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, for African-Americans the noose is the symbol of hate and danger. But was it a noose or not that was found at the Secret Service training facility? The agency is still investigating.
MESERVE (voice-over): In Beltsville, Maryland, members of the Secret Service learn and hone their contact skills. But on April 16 the Secret Service says an African-American instructor there found in a training building a rope tied in a loop which was interpreted as a noose. A white agent admits tying it but the Secret Service says there has been no indication of racial intent. According to congressional sources on April 24 more than a week after the rope was found, a high-level investigation was initiated. The white agent put on administrative leave until it's done.
The same day the director of the Secret Service was informed and Congress was notified. The Secret Service says at that point it had already done a preliminary investigation and that it "made all required notifications in a timely manner."
But one veteran African-American agent says the process should have moved much more quickly.
REGINALD MOORE, SECRET SERVICE AGENT: If a noose were found at a synagogue in downtown D.C., the local P.D. would respond and then the FBI would respond shortly thereafter. It wouldn't take a week for the proper authorities to come in and handle the situation.
MESERVE: Reginald Moore is one of 10 former and current African- American agents suing the Secret Service for discrimination. The suit is unrelated to the rope incident. It's been sanctioned by the court three times for not handing over documents and the suit has dragged on for over eight years. The homeland security secretary who oversees the Secret Service will not comment on the case but insists discrimination and acts of racial hatred will not be tolerated.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: If there are people doing something inappropriate, they ought to be sanctioned. And they ought to be sanctioned with as much of a tough hand as we possibly can bring to the issue.
MESERVE: Though he continues to press his discrimination suit, Agent Reginald Moore says the Secret Service has more black agents than it used to and more in senior positions. Was he surprised by the possibility of a noose incident within its ranks? Not at all -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jeanne, for that.
Just ahead, Elizabeth Taylor makes her choice. She's just endorsed a Democrat for president. Coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM, we'll tell you who she picked.
BLITZER: Around the world, we're getting troubling new details about yesterday's twin suicide bombings that killed 35 people in Iraq. Investigators say that for the fourth time in 11 days, one of the bombers was a woman. In this twist, she was pretending to be pregnant. U.S. officials say it's part of a trend of deception among. Among the tactics involved, the use of teenage bombers and bombers claiming to be sick.
Let's go back to Jack with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: John McCain, why does he stay popular? The support for the Republican Party continues to fall, but he's holing up very well.
Kevin in Albany: "If he's so popular why doesn't he have thousands of excited voters showing up like the Democrats? McCain supporters aren't half as energized as the Democrats. The right is facing the same problem the left had four years ago. I mean, was anyone actually excited about John Kerry?"
Paul in South Carolina: "If there was ever a debate where they could only answer yes or not, the only one I'd believe is John McCain. His courage and integrity are intact. Nothing wrong with his moral compass, either."
Greg in Ontario: "He's not popular. He just happens to be the sacrificial lamb picked by the Republicans because they know they're going to go down in flames in November. Politicians think an election ahead. He'll get smoked, Mitt Romney will come back and see, I told you, and he'll be elected next."
Marie in Canada: "This is easy. The same people who elected one of the biggest buffoons in recent history to a second term are quite capable of a threepete. If there are enough people stupid enough to believe in the trickle down economics where competition will force insurance and oil companies to lower their prices for the consumers' benefit, McCain is a shoo-in. These same people won't even feel the draft when it comes."
Giselle in Atlanta: "He's a war hero. In the past he's been more forthright on issues such as the war, torture, tax breaks for the wealthy. Voters embraced that John McCain but a different picture of McCain has emerged recently as he's shifted position on the war and taxes while demonstrating he's out of touch with respect to the economy. His temporary gas tax relief carrot is the politically expedient way of saying let them eat cake crumbs."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, too bad -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack. Thank you.
In just the last few minutes the actress Elizabeth Taylor has just endorsed a Democrat for president. We'll tell you who she's supporting.
And Lyndon Johnson in his own words. Newly released tapes tell what he was thinking days before an extraordinary announcement.
BLITZER: Just in our political ticker, the actress Elizabeth Taylor endorsed Senator Clinton today calling her a brilliant teacher and a powerful leader. In a statement just released Taylor encouraged Democrats in North Carolina and Indiana to choose Senator Clinton.
Newly released tapes from the presidency of Lyndon Johnson record a leader in a dilemma over his political future in the context of that war. Let's go back to Brian Todd, he is watching the story.
Brian, what do these tapes reveal about LBJ?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they reveal an extraordinary and fast paced series of events, a president plotting his reelection campaign just days before a shocking announcement.
LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I shall not seek and I will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your president.
TODD (voice-over): An extraordinary and unexpected announcement by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968. A president who decides not to run again. Newly released phone recordings he secretly made show that just eight days earlier he was asking former aid Lawrence O'Brien to manage his reelection campaign.
JOHNSON: If you want to do it from the White House lawn, if you want to do it from the president's bedroom, if you want to do it from the top of the Capitol, I don't know. You can explore all of those things. Any way you want to do it but I want you to do it.
MAX HOLLAND, HISTORIAN: It shows you that just a few days before he announced his withdrawal, he was hell-bent on staying in. He talks with O'Brien about political strategies, what he can win, the path to the nomination.
TODD: But Johnson is facing an uphill fight on several fronts. Senator Eugene McCarthy almost beats him in the New Hampshire primary and then Bobby Kennedy jumps into the race. And on Vietnam Johnson is between a rock and a hard place between the hawks, including his top commander who want to fight to win, and the doves at home who oppose any escalation.
JOHNSON: That's where I would like to come out, if we could, so, A, I don't have a position of deserting my commander in a time of war and, B,I don't have a position of deserting my home folks.
TODD: That conversation was with then-defense secretary Robert McNamara, a key architect of the war policy. After dropping out, he sounds relieved that his decisions on Vietnam will no longer be viewed through a political lens.
JOHNSON: I've got nine months now to do nothing except -- I won't spend one moment doing anything except trying to find peace. And I -- I thought that I -- it was a -- I just thought I had to do it.
TODD: Tom Johnson, a former LBJ aide who many years later became president of CNN, tells us that fewer than 10 people knew Lyndon Johnson was considering retirement before he announced it. He said Johnson decided that if he campaigned for another term, he would have less freedom to act on Vietnam -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Fascinating history, Brian.
Thanks very much for that.
Brian Todd reporting.