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THE SITUATION ROOM

President Bush Slams Democrats; California Supreme Court Overrules Ban on Same-Sex Marriage; Interview with Senator Joe Biden

Aired May 15, 2008 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, President Bush slams Barack Obama from Israel, suggesting Obama would appease terrorists the same way some people appeased Hitler. And that sparked a chorus of Democratic jeers, including a senator who used profanity today. That would be Senator Joe Biden. He's here. He's standing by live.

And when do you want most U.S. troops out of Iraq? And when would you like to see Osama bin Laden caught or killed? John McCain has a new vision for those questions. But are Americans on board? I will ask the best political team on television.

And should same-sex couples be allowed to marry? The nation's largest state sees a historic ruling. What does it mean for the rest of the country?

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

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

Today, President Bush said something that deeply angered Barack Obama. It has the Obama rival, Hillary Clinton, also has her coming to his defense, and it's even prompted one Democrat to use a curse word.

The president used a solemn occasion in Jerusalem to launch harsh criticism of Obama. Now his tough words are meeting some tough reaction.

Our Suzanne Malveaux is standing by to report on the Democratic response.

But let's begin with our White House correspondent, Ed Henry, in Jerusalem.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, without naming any names, President Bush suggested that there are some who want to appease the terrorists, just the way the Nazis were appeased in the run-up to World War II.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino insisted after the speech that the president was not taking direct aim at Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential front-runner. But I can tell you other officials here on the ground are saying that the president was talking about various Democrats, including Obama, for suggesting that he would sit down for direct talks with the Iranian president, also taking aim at former President Jimmy Carter for saying that he wants U.S. negotiations with the terror group Hamas.

Here is what the president said that has sparked so much controversy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided." We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: Also significant is that this was delivered before the Israeli Knesset in a speech where the president touted his own close ties to Israel on its 60th anniversary.

This could raise concerns among some Jewish Americans about Barack Obama, of course, those concerns first stoked recently by Senator John McCain when he charged that Barack Obama is the favorite candidate of Hamas. You will remember what Barack Obama told you in THE SITUATION ROOM. He called that a smear -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry in Jerusalem for us, thank you.

Obama's campaign says what the president did today in Israel has not been done before.

Let's go to Suzanne Malveaux. She's covering the story for us in Chicago.

The Democrats wasting no time, absolutely no time responding to what the president said.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you're absolutely right.

This really strikes a chord for Barack Obama, but also the Democratic Party, because it goes to the heart of this debate over national security, which is going to be a very important issue in the general election.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Camp Obama fired back, calling President Bush's remarks the same old head in the sand cowboy diplomacy. ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Obviously this is an unprecedented political attack on foreign soil. It's quite frankly sad and astonishing that the president of the United States would politicize the 60th anniversary of Israel with a false political attack.

MALVEAUX: In a statement released by his campaign, Obama said, "George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists."

Obama's allies were a bit more blunt.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: This is bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED). This is malarkey. This is outrageous.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: It's beneath the dignity of the office of president.

MALVEAUX: Behind all the heated rhetoric is a red-hot political debate over which candidate's approach to national security would make Americans safer.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them, which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration, is ridiculous.

MALVEAUX: Obama has said unlike Mr. Bush, Hillary Clinton or John McCain, he'd be willing to sit down and talk to the leaders of Iran, Syria and North Korea without preconditions to help ease hostilities with those nations. Some Jewish-Americans are concerned Obama would also meet with the terrorist group Hamas, which Obama has flatly denied.

OBAMA: We should not meet with them until they recognize Israel, until they cease terrorist activities, until they support previous agreements that have been made between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

MALVEAUX: But today the Republican Jewish Coalition issued a statement saying: "Barack Obama's shaky grasp of Middle East policy and repeated vows to meet with state sponsors of terrorism are alarming. He surrounded himself with advisers like Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who choose to blame America's Jewish community for the problems in the Middle East. It's no wonder Hamas has endorsed Barack Obama."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, what is telling is that Obama's rival, Hillary Clinton, did not go after Obama, but rather sided with him on this issue. She said earlier today -- I will read that -- "Bush's comparison to any Democrat as Nazi appeasers is both offensive and outrageous, in light of his failures in foreign policy. This is the kind of statement that has no place in any presidential address. And certainly to use an important moment like the 60th anniversary celebration of Israel to make a political point seems terribly misplaced" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thank you, Suzanne.

Suzanne Malveaux in Chicago.

John McCain says he will use this in the general election against Barack Obama, should they face off. Today, Senator McCain heard what the president said and then added some criticisms of his own.

Our own Dana Bash was among the reporters traveling on McCain's bus today when he talked about Obama's favoring direct diplomacy with Iran without preconditions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's a serious error on the part of Senator Obama. It shows naivete and inexperience and lack of judgment to say that he wants to sit down across the table from an individual who leads a country that says -- and says that Israel is a stinking corpse, that is dedicated to the extinction of the state of Israel. My question is, what does he want to talk about?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Gasoline prices rose to a record today for the eighth day in a road. AAA says the national average for a gallon regular unleaded now $3.78, a 12 percent increase in just the last month. Four bucks a gallon clearly in sight now, and, if some experts are right, it's going to go a lot higher.

Surveys show drivers have been changing their habits in order to try to save fuel. They're doing things like shopping for cheaper gas or putting less in the tank instead of filling up.

But what about the idea of slowing down? Cars are most fuel- efficient when driven between 30 and 60 miles an hour. Above 65, mileage drops sharply. It's not rocket science. If drivers are forced to slow down, well, we would all use less gasoline. And if demand went down, then prices might just follow. One expert says reducing highway speeds from 70 to 60 miles an hour would reduce consumption between 2 and 3 percent. That would translate into a price reduction of about 38 cents a gallon at today's price.

This is what happened in 1974 during the Middle East oil embargo. President Nixon and Congress imposed a national speed limit, 55 miles an hour. Congress repealed that law in 1995. Today, there are 32 states with speed limits of 70 miles an hour or higher. And in Texas, you can drive 80 on some of those open roads. But there doesn't appear to be much interest in Congress for a new national speed limit. John McCain and Hillary Clinton would rather pander to voters with the idea of a three-month vacation from the 18 cent a gallon federal gas tax, which will never happen, by the way, and if it did would save all of us a whopping $70.

Here's the question: Should the highway speed limit be lowered to 55 miles an hour in order to conserve gasoline?

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

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

You have heard some of the reaction to the president's comments today. Democrats on Capitol Hill are furious.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BIDEN: This is bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED). This is malarkey. This is outrageous.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BLITZER: Senator Joe Biden reacting. He's going to be joining us live here in THE SITUATION ROOM next.

And an unusual speech for a presidential candidate -- John McCain takes us into his future, his vision of what could lie ahead. That's coming up.

And some Americans are missing hundreds of dollars from their tax rebate checks. You're going to find out why -- that and a lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're standing by to speak live with the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joe Biden. He is reacting to President Bush's words in Jerusalem today. That's coming up shortly.

But, meantime, the Iraq war won, Osama bin Laden captured or killed, they're part of Republican presidential candidate John McCain's view of the future in a speech that he delivered in Ohio today.

Dana Bash is joining us now. She's been watching this story all day. Dana, tell us about this extraordinary speech, the vision he sees for himself in the year 2013.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this was a way to get attention really by giving a very, very different kind of speech on the benchmarks that he's setting for himself for what he hopes will be his presidency.

And on the issue that McCain himself says defines him, it was a very different idea, a very different approach from McCain. And that issue is Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): It's 2013. John McCain is finishing his first term in the White House. It's an imaginary time warp the Republican candidate used to lay out sweeping goals, for the first time suggesting a date that troops in Iraq should come home.

MCCAIN: By January 2013, America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom. The Iraq War has been won. Iraq is a functioning democracy.

BASH: That clearly intended as a political antidote to this sound bite already in a Democratic ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... our staying in Iraq for 50 years.

MCCAIN: Maybe 100.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN: We have been in South Korea -- we have been in Japan for 60 years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: But a timeline for withdrawal is a stunning departure for McCain. Pressed about it on his bus, McCain repeatedly insisted he is not setting a date.

MCCAIN: It could be next year. Could be three years from now. Could be, but I'm confident we will be victory.

BASH: That kind of positive, yet politically risky prediction was not limited to Iraq.

MCCAIN: There has still -- still has not been a major terrorist attack in the United States since September 11, 2001.

BASH: By 2013, McCain also said he envisions Osama bin Laden captured or killed, Iran and North Korea's nuclear programs abandoned, a new League of Democracies stopping genocide in Sudan after the U.N. fails.

In what is likely to reignite skepticism among conservatives, McCain called once again for a guest-worker program that illegal immigrants. Aides say that dovetails with what McCain calls his core campaign promise, the end of hyper-partisanship.

MCCAIN: I'm not interested in partisanship that serves no other purpose than to gain a temporary advantage over our opponents. This mindless, paralyzing rancor must come to an end.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And McCain offered some specifics.

He promised to have Democrats in his administration, said that he would go before Congress for some British-style questions and criticism from members of the House and Senate.

What McCain is trying to do, Wolf, is say Barack Obama may talk about change, but he is the first one to offer details on how to achieve it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And he promised weekly news conferences with the press corps as well.

All right, Dana, thank you.

Let's get some more now on John McCain's vision of the future.

For that we're, joined by our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin, Jack Cafferty in New York, as well as Gloria Borger. They're all part of the best political team on television.

If you listened to his speech, if you read his speech, Jack, he paints a very beautiful picture of the year 2013.

CAFFERTY: All we have to do is follow the yellow brick road, right, and we will get to some place -- I hope he can do it. That would be great. I would love to see Osama bin Laden dead and democracy in Iraq and all the troops home and the rest of the things he talked about.

The devil of course is in the details. And he didn't spell out exactly how we're going to do that. An earlier piece on this show said there's been no actionable intelligence on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden since the battle at Tora Bora, which was a number of years ago.

But I wish him well. The one thing I would take issue on this -- and I would bet him a lot of money on this -- that he would agree to weekly news conferences with the Washington press corps for exactly two weeks.

(LAUGHTER) CAFFERTY: And then that would be an end to that deal, because who would want to put up with those people on a weekly basis?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, come on, Jack. We're very nice.

CAFFERTY: Oh, I'm sorry, Gloria. I forgot you were there.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Gloria, is there any downside to delivering a speech like this?

BORGER: Yes, I was just thinking about it before. But politically it's kind of dangerous, kind of risky, because if he doesn't accomplish these things and he were to become president, then the question is, should he have a second term?

Maybe this is a sign that he's going to be a one-term president if he were to win. But I think that he is laying out these benchmarks and saying, these are things I'm going to have accomplished. And it's very easy for people to come back and say, well, guess you didn't do it. These are your own standards and you didn't meet them.

BLITZER: What did you think, Jeff, when you read the speech or listened to it?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's a very honorable way to run for office and say, this is what I expect to do. And judge me by the results.

I think that is a good way for politicians to be straight with the voters about what they plan to do. I think the Iraq stuff is very difficult, because, if you listen to what he said, it sounded almost exactly what George Bush said two years ago, three years ago, five years ago. And we appear to be no closer to that goal.

So, it will remind people of how the promises about Iraq have not been fulfilled. But I think McCain does deserve credit for putting himself out on the line.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: And it wasn't just on foreign policy issues. It was on domestic, economic issues. Health care will be dramatically improved. The tax code will be dramatically restructured. Things are really going to fall into the place, Jack and Gloria.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: Let me let Gloria respond first.

BORGER: First of all, we don't even know what kind of a Congress he's going to have. If he ends up with large Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate, a lot of the domestic policy things that he wants to accomplish are obviously not going to happen. But on the Iraq thing, what was interesting to me was that 2013 day kind of rang a bell with me. And I went back to one of the debates, the presidential debates in September among the Democrats, and both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton said essentially the same thing. Barack Obama said, I believe we should have all our troops out by 2013, but I don't want to make any promises. Now, McCain is predicting victory, but they're not that far apart.

BLITZER: His more recent stance is -- and I will just say that, within 16 months, he wants all combat brigades out of Iraq, which is a more ambitious achievement.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Last September, they were.

BLITZER: Jack, go ahead.

CAFFERTY: No, I'm just -- I'm listening.

Political promises are a dime a dozen. We get them from every politician who runs for office, from the guy running for the city council to the guy running for president of the United States. The public is up to their eyebrows in broken promises.

This garbage about Iraq is the same bill of goods that we have been sold by the Bush administration since we invaded that country. We will be greeted as liberators. We will set up a functioning democracy. All good will come to the Middle East. They will pay for the war with their oil.

It's garbage. It hasn't happened. It ain't going to happen. The tribal animosities that fuel the violence in that part of the world date back centuries. They are not going to adopt a Western- style democracy next year or in 2013 or 100 years from now. So, it's just more political crap.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. All three of you are coming back in a few moments.

We have got a lot more to discuss, some other issues as well.

Senate Democrats at what President Bush said today in Jerusalem, including the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joe Biden. He used language today we can't necessarily use here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's standing by to join us live. That's coming up.

Plus, airfares are climbing, but it's not all because of fuel costs. You're going to find out the other reason passengers are paying more.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK) BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story right now.

President Bush sets off a political firestorm by hinting that Barack Obama and other Democrats would appease terrorists the way European leaders sought to appease Adolf Hitler before World War II.

Democrats are furious, especially the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joe Biden. He was very quick to react. He used the word -- a bad word that we can't repeat here on television. Senator Biden is joining us now live.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

BIDEN: I shouldn't have used that word. I came off the elevator, and I was confronted with what had happened. And I responded. I should have just said malarkey. But the essence of what I was saying is absolutely accurate. This is outrageous.

BLITZER: Why is it outrageous?

(CROSSTALK)

BIDEN: Two reasons. One, it's a disturbing pattern. Here you have the presumptive nominee last week saying that Danny Ortega and Hamas likes the Democratic nominee; draw your own conclusions.

Then, President Bush goes to a foreign country, addressing the Knesset, and makes a veiled and totally inaccurate assumption and comment that Barack Obama, not using his name, is ready to engage in appeasement, when, in fact, it's absolutely outrageous.

Here is the president of the United States criticizing and calling appeasement the willingness to sit down and talk with Iran about what our mutual interests are and what their -- problem they're creating for us. And it's the same president who apparently doesn't know his secretary of defense, Secretary Gates, says we should sit down with Iran. The secretary of state says we should sit down with Iran. They have been explicit about it.

And, if I had time, I would read their quotes to you. Is he going to fire them when they come home? And the disingenuous part here, Wolf, is, if that's appeasement, then he's the biggest appeaser we have had in modern history. What did he do? He said down with Gadhafi, that is, the administration did, and they cut a deal with Gadhafi, a known terrorist, a guy who, in fact, killed Syracuse University alumni like me -- the school I went to -- shooting down and taking down a plane -- not shooting down -- blowing up a plane.

And what did he do? He made a deal with him. It was the right thing to do, but he made a deal. And what else did he do? We have a very talented State Department guy negotiating right now head to head with the North Koreans. Kim Jong Il has been part of making sure the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction around the world. Yet, we're making a deal.

BLITZER: All right. BIDEN: How do you square those two things?

BLITZER: Here is the comment that Barack Obama made at one of our CNN debates in February that seems to have got him in trouble, certainly with President Bush and John McCain, and even some Democrats. I will play the clip for you.

BIDEN: Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I would meet without preconditions, although Senator Clinton is right that there has to be preparation. It is very important for us to make sure that there was an agenda, and on that agenda was human rights, releasing of political prisoners, opening up the press. And that preparation might take some time.

But I do think that it's important for the United States not just to talk to its friends, but also to talk to its enemies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, he said that, what, Ahmadinejad, just the other day, referred to Israel on its 60th anniversary as a -- quote -- "stinking corpse." And he said, what would meeting with Ahmadinejad for a president of the United States possibly achieve?

BIDEN: What would a meeting with Kim Jong Il achieve?

Kim Jong Il has said equally outrageous things. Kim Jong Il has nuclear weapons. Kim Jong Il has proliferated those weapons to Israel's enemies. And yet the Republican administration sat down and cut a deal with him. There's only one reason to do it. And that's to stop the behavior.

Since when does this administration think, if you sit down, you have to eliminate the word "no" from your vocabulary? And the other thing is, what are we doing? This administration has made Israel less safe. It has emboldened Iraq -- Iran. They're closer to a nuclear weapon than they were before this president became president. Their policy has been an abject failure.

And so what are we going to do? Anybody who suggests changing that policy is somehow appeasing, when, in fact, the policy this administration has pursued, by the admission of our own intelligence community, has created more terrorists than we have dissuaded or defeated, when it has made us more vulnerable than we were before he became president? This is outrageous.

BLITZER: How worried are you, Senator Biden, that these kinds of assertions by the president, by John McCain -- and you know the Republicans are going to be raising a lot of questions about Barack Obama, assuming he's the Democratic presidential nominee, and his capability of being commander in chief -- how worried are you that the questions that they throw out, the assertions they make, will resonate with large number of Americans?

BIDEN: I'm not worried about that.

You know what I'm worried about?

I'm worried about President Bush's standing in the world continues to plummet. The rest of the world looks at that kind of statement and says my God, what is he talking about?

They listen to my friend John McCain make the statements he makes, what happens?

The price of oil will probably go up now.

Why?

Because the rest of the world thinks oh, my God, these guys may actually take us to war. If there's no room for discussion, no room for negotiation, no room for a peaceful settlement, what does that mean?

It means war. It means war. And the rest of the world, including our own Defense Department, including our State Department, knows that would be folly. So what it does in the meantime, before we get Barack or Hillary as our president, we have nine months of further declining respect for the United States of America and its policies. That's what I'm worried about. And I sincerely mean that, Wolf.

What has happened is -- how do you think this fell on the ears of the leaders of our allies in Europe?

How do you think this fell on the ears of the leaders of those we need who we're trying to rally against Iran around the world?

This is totally counterproductive.

BLITZER: Are you absolutely convinced that Barack Obama is committed to a secure Israel?

BIDEN: Absolutely, positively, unequivocally. A secure Israel is not only the morally imperative -- and I have -- you know my record, Wolf -- 35 years of commitment to Israel. I've got the scars on my back to show it, as they say.

But beyond the moral commitment, there is a strategic necessity for our commitment to Israel. And I am absolutely, thoroughly convinced that Barack Obama feels that strongly. He serves on my Foreign Relations Committee. I know his views on this.

And the irony of all ironies is that President Bush has made Israel more vulnerable.

Prior to his going into Iraq the way he did and the way he's conducted the war, what was the situation?

You had Iran boxed in -- boxed in by Sunnis who hated them, headed by a bad guy who we took down. And you had an Afghanistan enemy on their east and their west. We went in and did them a great favor. We took both of those people out. Now they're stronger. Israel is in more jeopardy. Hezbollah is more stronger, all because of this president's policies.

And so the irony is if Israel's security is important to us, you'd better well change and elect Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton president, because they understand that.

BLITZER: We're out of time, Senator.

Are you ready to endorse one of these Democratic candidates?

BIDEN: No, I'm not. I made a commitment to them, Wolf, as I told you, when I got out, when they asked me to join their campaigns, that I would not endorse either one.

BLITZER: All right...

BIDEN: ...whoever became the nominee, I'd work like the devil for them.

BLITZER: Senator Biden, thanks for joining us.

BIDEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: As if things weren't going bad enough for Congressional Republicans, it turns out their new slogan is already being used by the makers of antidepressant. We're going to have that story coming up.

And could President Bush's comments actually be an effort to help Hillary Clinton?

Our panel of analysts will be back. The best political team on television standing by to talk about this and more.

And something he said to a female TV reporter now has Barack Obama apologizing. Coming up, what the candidate calls his bad habit.

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

(COMMERCIAL)

BLITZER: Fallout from President Bush's verbal bombshell today, suggesting Barack Obama and Democrats want to appease terrorists.

Who will be helped in November and why?

Let's get back to the best political team on television.

Gloria, you know how these White House speeches go, especially an historic speech before the Knesset on Israel's 60th anniversary. They carefully consider every word.

BORGER: Oh, yes. BLITZER: What was the president thinking today?

BORGER: Well, I think the president was clearly criticizing the Democrats. Barack Obama is, at this point, the frontrunner, certainly, for the Democratic nomination. And so it's clear that by implication -- if not directly -- he was taking on the Democrats on this issue. They knew what they were doing. I know that the White House press secretary says they were not talking about Barack Obama, but of course they were.

BLITZER: What do you think, Jeff?

TOOBIN: I think this is straight out of the usual Republican playbook, which is Democrats are weak on defense. You're going to hear it from President Bush. I thought what was interesting about today is it shows that even an unpopular president has the opportunity to command the spotlight, to control the agenda, to a certain extent.

I also thought the chances of an Obama/Biden ticket went up today, when you saw the way Joe Biden jumped to Obama's defense there.

BLITZER: Is this going to scare Americans about Barack Obama, what the president said, Jack?

CAFFERTY: No. This is like "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." One, George Bush is an embarrassment. I mean the other day, he opens his mouth and says his act of solidarity with the families of the kids that he had killed in Iraq -- his war -- was to give up playing golf. I mean every time he opens his mouth, you want to get under the desk.

The good news is he's irrelevant. In five months or six months, we close the door on this long national nightmare and he goes away.

But his -- his idea is to invade a sovereign country in the Middle East, Iraq, which posed no threat to us, on phony intelligence, sell it to the American public as a lie, in effect. Four thousand troops plus, hundreds of billions of dollars and his buddy, John McCain, goes around singing "Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran".

There has been no diplomacy. There is no foreign policy, except to roll some tanks up to the border and fly some airplanes over.

Is it going to scare anybody?

No. Eighty percent of this country is fed up with George Bush's policies. Read the polls. Seventy percent have given him the highest disapproval rating of any president in modern American history. He is beyond irrelevant and he's not going to scare anybody. He just babbles away like Eliot Spitzer talking about matrimonial fidelity. It's a joke.

(LAUGHTER)

BORGER: You know, Wolf...

TOOBIN: You know... BORGER: ...I know you had Senator Kyl on earlier, who defended the president. But I was thinking back to former Secretary of State Jim Baker, secretary of state under Bush the elder, who, in the 911 report, suggested that the United States ought to start engaging Iran in diplomacy. And, you know, this is somebody who was in charge of the recount for George Bush, if you'll recall.

And so, you know, I wonder what Jim Baker thinks about being essentially called an appeaser.

BLITZER: There is, Jeffrey, a real debate that's going to unfold, assuming Obama is the nominee and McCain is the Republican nominee. They strongly disagree on not only the war in Iraq, but on how to deal with tyrants like Ahmadinejad.

TOOBIN: You know, I remember the debate that Hillary and Barack had. We were sitting right there, right where you were in THE SITUATION ROOM. It was the first CNN/YouTube debate where Hillary and Barack went at each other over the issue of whether you should talk to Iran, whether you should talk to your enemies.

And I think this is really going to be one of the good issues to follow in the fall because there is a fundamental disagreement here.

I think McCain is suffering from the fact that his position on this issue is identical to George W. Bush's.

BORGER: Well...

TOOBIN: And I think any time their position is the same, it's going to hurt McCain.

BLITZER: Jack, let me get you to weigh in on a totally other unrelated subject. Republicans, they're facing a lot of problems right now...

CAFFERTY: (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: ...in terms of...

CAFFERTY: Really?

I hadn't noticed.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: In terms of their, especially in Congress, in the House. They've got a slogan that they're ready to unveil and they're advertising, "the change you deserve". It turns out that happens to be a slogan trademarked by antidepressant drug company.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: What do you -- what do you...

(LAUGHTER) BLITZER: But they still want to go ahead with that slogan.

CAFFERTY: Well, I -- which is worse, picking a slogan that coincidentally is something used by a drug company or when you find that out saying well, that's OK, we'll go ahead and use it anyway?

One Republican Congressman said this today -- and I used it earlier in one of "The Cafferty File" segments. He said that the political atmosphere is the worst since Watergate. He said the Republican brand is in the trash can. If we were dog food, they would take us off the shelf.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: I mean, there's nothing more to say. That's a Republican Congressman.

BORGER: You know, this party is really traumatized right now because they've lost these three special elections in a row. And, you know, there was -- somebody wrote today that maybe these members need these antidepressants right now.

But what they really need, seriously, is an agenda on Capitol Hill. And there are lots of Republican leaders now who are hearing complaints from their troops saying what are we talking about?

You know, John McCain is at least a brand, OK? John McCain can stand on his own.

But what can these Republicans run on in the fall? That's their problem.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. We have to leave it right there. But Jack is coming back with "The Cafferty File."

The California Supreme Court OKs gay marriage, thrusting the controversy right into the middle of the race for the White House. We're going to show you the politics of gay marriage.

And should the highway speed limit be lowered to 55 to conserve gasoline?

That's Jack's question. He'll be back with your e-mail.

Lots more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check in with Lou Dobbs to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, thank you.

Coming up at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, we'll be reporting on the outrage of Congress over the Bush's administration refusal to protect American consumers from dangerous food and drug imports. Also tonight, disturbing new evidence that violence from Mexico's drug wars and illegal alien smugglers is now moving into American suburbs. We'll have that report.

And we'll be introducing you to a remarkable new mayor, John Tyler Hammons. He's just been elected. He is also a freshman at the University of Oklahoma. He's among our guests here tonight.

I'll also be talking with Jason Riley. He is the conservative author of a provocative new book on illegal immigration and our illegal immigration crisis. The title says it all -- "Let Them In." We will be talking with him and quite a few others over the course of the next hour.

Join us at the top of the hour for all of that, all the day's news and much more -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks, Lou. See you in a few moments.

We want to go back to Jack Cafferty now for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: Should the highway speed limit be lowered to 55 miles an hour in order to conserve gasoline?

It was 55 for 20 years in this country and they repealed it back in 1995.

Tina writes from Fort Worth, Texas: It wouldn't make much difference here in the Lone Start State. If you do 55, you're bound to be run over. If you do 75, there's always one -- someone behind you to knock you over into the slow lanes. Until they make all cars the same and they're only powered by two squirrels running on a belt, then it will be fruitless."

Tom in Fort Lauderdale, Florida: "Anyone who would propose a decrease in the speed limit to save energy has overlooked the obvious cost of slowing down the entire country. The faster freight and people move across America has a finite, bottom line number. Slowing down America as a solution to OPEC has all the logic of shooting ourselves in the feet with a bazooka."

Steve in Idaho: "About time we Americans quit whining and start facing the reality that our lifestyle is going to have to change. We pride ourselves on those 3.2 cars in the garage, feel its our right to drive the big eight cylinder SUVs, lowering the speed limit to 55 times millions of cars will save gas, reduce waste and may even bring the price of gas down a little.

Katherine writes: "People never paid attention to the speed limit before when it was 55 miles an hour. I don't see how changing it is going to help."

John in Washington: "No, the current market-based increases in gas prices will eventually lead rational drivers making their own decision to drive slower in order to conserve fuel. The increased prices will also help folks make the rational decision to trade in their wasteful behemoths for fuel-efficient vehicles, as seen in the rest of the nations on this planet."

David says: "I have watched many people speed by me only to meet them at the next light or the toll booth, so it sounds good to me."

And Ken in Virginia says: "No way, Jack. They should have no limits. That way I might be able to overtake you one of these days on the New Jersey Turnpike."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and look for yours there among hundreds of others -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

As California goes, so goes the nation. So what impact will legalizing gay marriage in the Golden State have on your state?

We're going to show you.

Plus, Barack Obama taking flak for something he said to a female reporter. You're going to find out what he called her.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: On our Political Ticker, California's Supreme Court today struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage. The 4-3 ruling declared that a ban approved by the voters eight years ago is unconstitutional. That now clears the way for California to become the second state to legalize gay marriage.

Gay rights groups there are praising the court's strong language and are calling it a huge victory.

During a tour of a Detroit auto plant, a Michigan TV reporter got the brush-off from Barack Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Senator, how are you going to help the American autoworkers...

OBAMA: Hold one second, sweetie. We're going to do it. We'll do a press event.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Obama later apologized for calling the reporter "sweetie." In a message on her voice mail, he called it "a bad habit" and said he meant no disrespect.

Michelle Obama is taking some heat in a new Web video from the Tennessee Republican Party. The ad highlights a controversial comment she made this year when she said she was proud of America for the first time in her adult life. The ad says Tennessee Republicans have always been proud of America. The Obama campaign calls the ad "shameful."

Remember, for the latest political news any time, check out CNNPolitics.com. The Ticker, by the way, is the number one political news blog on the Web. That's also where you can read my daily blog posts.

Maybe the Clinton campaign slogan should be put up your dukes. The gloves are on everywhere you look. When we come back, CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a Moost Unusual look at the latest in the campaign gear.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

In China, a soldier carries a child from a boat. Many roads in the region are still inaccessible after Monday's earthquake.

In Nigeria, firemen try to put out flames after a fuel pipeline ruptured, killing 100 people. The fire swept through homes and a nearby school.

In Texas, one airplane ended up on top of another. One plane was trying to take off and the other was landing. No one was seriously hurt.

And in Kansas, check it out -- Clucker the Hen keeps an eye on kittens in the chicken coop.

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

So what do bowling pins and boxing gloves have to do with politics?

Everything if you're a candidate looking for something to jazz up your presidential campaign.

CNN's Jeanne Moos has a Moost Unusual look at the latest in political props.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While the pundits parse Hillary's every word...

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our vision for America...

MOOS: We have something punchier to ponder.

CLINTON: We've had the best time. MOOS: Props that may not bowl you over, but at least you notice that bowling pin, those boxing gloves.

But haven't we seen them somewhere before?

CLINTON: The tide is turning.

MOOS: They showed up in West Virginia, Indiana, Pennsylvania.

CLINTON: Some people counted me out and said to drop out. But the American people...

MOOS: They became a mystery discussed on blogs.

"What's up with the black guy with boxing gloves?"

"Must be a paid plant."

(on camera): They think you're a Clinton plant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely not. Absolutely not.

MOOS (voice-over): And how about the bowling pin?

CLINTON: I believe I am the strongest candidate.

MOOS: The Web site Politico dubbed the pin "prop of the night" and one e-mailer responded, "Spare me."

But now we know who the boxing guy is, a New Yorker by the name of Dee Batista, who pays his own way, traveling to Hillary rallies all over the place.

(on camera): Do you just love her?

DEE BATISTA, CLINTON SUPPORTER: I do love her. She inspires me.

MOOS (voice-over): The first time he managed to position himself right behind Hillary was luck. Now the campaign knows him and lets him in to the good seats.

(on camera): Now, has she signed your gloves?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. She signed this one right here and then Bill signed this one.

MOOS (voice-over): Dee says the gloves just signify that Hillary is a fighter.

(on-camera): Who was the guy with the bowling pin?

BATISTA: The bowling pin? He's actually a friend of mine.

MOOS (voice-over): A film student who apparently met Hillary for the first time at a bowling alley. And here we figured the bowling pin was to dis Barack Obama for his lousy bowling game. CLINTON: HillaryClinton.com.

MOOS: Bowling pins...

CLINTON: HillaryClinton.com.

MOOS: Boxing gloves.

(on-camera): So what's next, some guy waving a stick behind Barack Obama?

(voice-over): To signify that Obama knows how to shoot pool, even if he can't bowl.

(on-camera): Or maybe somebody should stand behind Hillary tossing back shots.

(voice-over): You know, to symbolize she's one with the hardworking, hard drinking folks. And as for those gloves, don't expect to see them on eBay any time soon. Dee plans to...

BATISTA: I will cherish them forever.

MOOS: Punch drunk over Hillary.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you, Jeanne Moos.

No one does it like Jeanne Moos. She's the best in the business.

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

See you back here tomorrow.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.

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