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CNN ELECTION CENTER

McCain Denounces Former Supporter; Obama Courts Jewish Vote; Ellen Presses McCain on Same-Sex Marriage

Aired May 22, 2008 - 20:00   ET

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


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, everyone.
A huge flip-flop for John McCain today. He did a complete 180, pretty much purely for political gain. Whether it will work or backfire remains to be seen, but here's what happened.

This afternoon, McCain rejected the endorsement of influential, though controversial televangelist John Hagee. Now, remember, McCain had actively pursued Hagee for the endorsement in the first place. He stood at Hagee's side three months ago, a photo-op that was supposed to increase conservatives' comfort level with McCain.

But you have to wonder, had McCain really done his homework on this guy? Because, almost immediately, Hagee' long history of inflammatory remarks about Catholics and Jews started increasing McCain's discomfort level.

The political pressure was building, and it became intolerable after Hagee was heard on tape suggesting that Adolf Hitler had done God's will. Well, any minute now, McCain is scheduled to take reporters' questions at a campaign stop in Stockton, California. We're going to take you there as soon as the senator begins.

So, how is this going to play out for McCain.

I want to ask our Tom Foreman how McCain actually arrived at this point, where Hagee has become politically untouchable for him -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Campbell, John McCain has been struggling with people of faith, conservative Christians that form the base of the Republican Party, for some time.

And what he did today may have helped him fix one problem, but it may cause an even bigger divide with some evangelical voters. Today, McCain officially rejected the endorsement he received back in February from the controversial, but powerful and influential evangelical pastor John Hagee.

It's over comments Hagee made about the Holocaust. Here is the backstory. The fuse for this was lighted on the Internet, where a recording from Hagee from back in the '90s has been swirling around. Hagee reads from the Bible's Book of Jeremiah and he draws parallels to World War II history, suggesting God used Hitler to drive Jews back to the promised land, Israel.

Listen. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

PASTOR JOHN HAGEE, CORNERSTONE CHURCH: Behold, I will send for many fishers. And after will I send for many hunters. And they, the hunters, shall hunt them. That would be the Jews, from every mountain and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks. If that doesn't describe what Hitler did in the Holocaust, you can't see that."

(END AUDIO CLIP)

FOREMAN: This whole idea that the Holocaust was some how God's will was just too much for McCain's critics and now for McCain, too.

McCain gave this statement to CNN's reporter Brian Todd: "I find these remarks and others deeply defensive and indefensible. And I repudiate them," is what McCain said. "I did not know of them before Reverend Hagee's endorsement, and I feel I must reject his endorsement as well."

Hagee responded to McCain's rejection by making it clear he's willingly withdrawing his endorsement now and he holds no grudge. To the contrary, Hagee says his comments are being grossly distorted by McCain's opponents, saying -- quote -- "To assert that I in any way condone the Holocaust or that monster Adolf Hitler is the biggest and ugliest of lies. I have always condemned the horrors of the Holocaust in the strongest terms."

That seems to be true. Even though his interpretation of the biblical prophesies may shock some people, Hagee has helped raise millions of dollars in aid for Israel. Still, McCain is taking no chances now, even throwing a quick bunch at Barack Obama, lest anyone equate this with Obama's problems with controversial remarks from his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright.

He told our reporter, Brian Todd: "Let me also be clear," McCain said in his statement. "Reverend Hagee was not and is not my pastor or spiritual adviser. And I did not attend his church for 20 years" -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right, Tom Foreman for us -- Tom, thanks.

Like Tom said, the Hagee controversy does hit uncomfortably close to home for Senator Barack Obama. He is still recovering from the political headache caused by his former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

So, when Obama was asked about McCain and Hagee a short time ago, he sounded sympathetic, to a point.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You can comb through anybody's -- if you are in national politics, everybody, you can find one or two people who have said offensive things or done offensive things. You know, John McCain's having to deal with his -- Hagee, who said stuff that is mind-boggling. I don't attribute those statements to John McCain. Nobody thinks that McCain believes that stuff. And for McCain to then suggest that, you know, every single statement that was made by somebody is some how attributable to me is just wrong. It's -- it's just not accurate.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Now, John McCain does have a long and tortured history with the Christian right, rejecting them at times, then embracing when it suited his political ambitions.

Let's take a look. In the 2000 presidential campaign, McCain called Pat Robertson and the Reverend Jerry Falwell -- quote -- "agents of intolerance." But, as he geared up for a second try for the White House, McCain started mending his fences.

He gave the commencement speech at Falwell's Liberty University in May of 2006, and, along with it, a warm embrace for this former agent of intolerance. The courtship of the Christian right continued when McCain sought out Hagee's endorsement.

He stood by Hagee's side on February 27 this year, as we pointed out. And it's unclear whether he knew about Hagee's controversial statements. Those statements started showing up in the press and in the blogosphere. In one of the first widely reported quotes, Hagee labels the Catholic Church -- quote -- "the great whore" and calls it a false cult system.

McCain was asked repeatedly if he would repudiate Hagee's endorsement, given those statements. But all through March and April, he continued to stand by his man.

And here's what he told me just three weeks ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: You were endorsed by Reverend John Hagee, a prominent evangelical minister who has made a number of anti-Catholic comments.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes.

BROWN: And Hagee may not be your pastor but you saw it and you accepted his endorsement.

MCCAIN: No.

BROWN: So whether the relationship is a spiritual one, as in the case of Senator Obama and Reverend Wright, or a political one as apparently in this case, why should voters see a difference between the two?

MCCAIN: Well, I think the voters know that I attend North Phoenix Baptist Church. I have never attended Pastor Hagee's church. I have said that I accepted his endorsement. It does not mean that I endorse his views or his statements.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Then why not repudiate his endorsement?

MCCAIN: I'm grateful for his commitment to the support of the state of Israel, and I'm very grateful for many of his commitments around the world, including to the independence and freedom of the state of Israel. And I can only say again to you that I received his endorsement. I didn't endorse him or his views, and I strongly repudiated any comments that had to do with being anti-Catholic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Then, just yesterday, CNN began looking into another recently discovered comment, and it is the one that Tom Foreman just showed us.

Drawing from a biblical verse, Hagee implies that Adolf Hitler's actions during the Holocaust helped speed the creation of the state of Israel. The firestorm erupted when Hagee said that: "Then God sent a hunter. A hunter is someone with a gun. And he forces you. Hitler was a hunter."

When that quote then went viral, well, it was pretty much over. McCain weighed the political upside and the downside and decided this was all just a bit too much.

And I want to go now right to our panel of political experts, Ed Schultz, who is the host of "The Ed Schultz Show" on nationally syndicated radio. He's also a Barack Obama supporter, Tara Wall, who is the deputy editorial page editor at "The Washington Times" and former senior adviser to the Republican National Committee, and Dan Gilgoff, politics editor of the faith and spirituality Web site Beliefnet.com. He's also the author of "The Jesus Machine: A Study of Evangelical Politics."

Welcome to everybody.

Tara, I want to start with you.

Bottom-line this. I mean, John McCain welcomed Hagee's endorsement when he thought it could help him. Now he's dumping Hagee that it's become a drag. It's pretty much pure political expedience here, isn't it?

TARA WALL, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON TIMES": Well, and Hagee is dumping him, too, because Hagee has said that his comments have been taken out of context.

And I'm sure, since we have someone evangelical on the panel, they can address a lot of that and how evangelicals read and see those statements, because some of them have probably been taken a little bit out of context. But, yes, I mean, he is doing what he has to do at this point, in a sense, because he probably feels like, at this point, it's drawing too much attention away from what he really wants it to. But I think that, you know, look, this is -- he made some legitimate points about this not being his pastor, and how this is an apples and oranges situation, if you want to do the comparison between Reverend Wright and this being -- not being his minister and that kind of thing. And that is legitimate.

I do think that, you know, this is the way politics goes. He has flip-flopped a little bit on this. He may not have looked at the whole picture of who Reverend Hagee is, and the fact that he is very pro-Israel. He has a lot of Jewish support. He has a school in Israel that's been named after him and things of that nature.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Hold on, Tara. Why court him in the first place? Hagee does have a history beyond these Holocaust remarks. These anti- Catholic comments, they were circulating. They were out there.

WALL: Actually, he's spoken out. The anti-Catholic remarks were somewhat taken out of context as well.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: All right, Tara, hold on right there.

WALL: I know you don't want to get into that, but...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: No, what I will do is, I will read you some of his quotes, some of his quotes regarding Hurricane Katrina, where he said that the storm was a judgment of God against New Orleans.

I mean, how do you take that out of context?

WALL: I don't speak for Reverend Hagee.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: I'm not asking you to. But I'm saying, these comments were well known. Why would John McCain then court his endorsement?

WALL: Because, listen, John McCain understands that he needs evangelical conservative support.

And he has done a whole host of things that in some ways can be seen as pandering, yes, because, if he's not genuine about reaching out to conservatives and what conservative believe in -- and there are some questionable issues that he has voted in stark contrast to what his evangelical base would say they support -- then he is reaching out an olive branch, if you will, which is in stark contrast.

And I have criticized in my columns for this, because it's in stark contrast to what he has said previously about these evangelical leaders. But he's trying to make some inroads. He believed in the beginning, I think, that Reverend Hagee was among one of the top evangelical leaders in the nation. He still is, to a large degree, to many people.

And that's probably why he reached out. Now he's seeing that it's beginning to hurt him more than it is helping him.

BROWN: Right.

Dan, let me bring you into this. Hagee certainly does have millions of supporters in the evangelical community. They're not going to be that happy with John McCain now, are they?

DAN GILGOFF, POLITICS EDITOR, BELIEFNET.COM: Well, I don't think they are.

And I think that you raise a really good point, Campbell. And the reason why he has so doggedly sought Hagee's endorsement is because John McCain -- and this is really a testament to this -- doesn't really get religious voters, doesn't really get religious outreach.

And had he done his homework, or had he hired a religious outreach director, just like George Bush did in 2000, 2004, just like Senator Obama and Senator Clinton are doing this time around, they would have seen this controversy coming miles off.

Hagee has such a well-documented history of anti-Catholic rhetoric, that this whole controversy could have been averted.

BROWN: All right.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: No, no, hold on, guys. We have got to take a quick break.

And I do want to get to Ed.

Ed, I know you have got a lot to say on this. So, stay with me. We're going to take a quick break here.

It appears McCain's problem with one of the most important Republican constituency, as we were just mentioned, is getting a whole lot worse. We're going to have more on McCain's handicaps among the Christian right when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Pastor John Hagee and his broadcast ministry have a huge evangelical following numbering in the millions. And rest assured, many will hold John McCain's rejection of Hagee's endorsement against him. But how will this play with the overall Christian right, an important Republican constituency.

We want to bring back our panel of political experts now, Ed Schultz, Tara Wall and Dan Gilgoff.

And, Ed, let me go to you now. Everybody's got a pastor problem this year. And McCain's statement today made sure to remind us that he is not alone on this. He said, "Reverend Hagee was not and is not my pastor or spiritual adviser. And I did not attend his church for 20 years."

You have got to admit that John McCain...

ED SCHULTZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, you know...

BROWN: Hold on -- barely knows Hagee. Barack Obama did sit through 20 years of sermons from Jeremiah Wright. There's got to be a difference there, right?

SCHULTZ: Well, politically, there is a difference, because everybody who was with Reverend Wright is still going to vote for Barack Obama. I can guarantee you that.

But the fact is, is that homework is the key word here, is that, you know, Pastor Hagee is a scholar in eschatology. And John McCain should have known that. He should have researched that he has got a long history of saying outlandish things, if you want to compare it to mainstream Americans.

The tough thing here politically here, Campbell, is that these folks write checks. They are Republicans, and they culturally do not back down. That's the problem for McCain.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Doing your homework, couldn't you say the same thing about Obama with regard to Reverend Wright, that there was certainly a long history of controversial comments there as well.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHULTZ: That's true.

But you see, conservatives are going to peel away from John McCain. Those Reverend Wright followers are not going to peel away from Barack Obama. They are just thinking he got a bad rap.

The key is the money. The key is the cultural concern with Hagee and also John McCain didn't do his homework. Being a scholar, and I mean a revered scholar in eschatology brings us to the Tom DeLay crowd. They are devout Republicans. And they don't like their guy disavowing John McCain.

There's going to be a fallout.

Tara, let me go back to McCain here, because Hagee isn't McCain's only problem pastor. He's also been endorsed by Ohio Pastor Rod Parsley, who he has called a spiritual guide. And Parsley has denounced Islam as a false religion that, as he says, intends through violence to conquer the world. And McCain says he doesn't agree with that, but, again, why would he want the endorsement of someone who would say things like that?

WALL: Listen, you can do all the vetting in the world, and, quite frankly, you can't pick -- anyone can pick apart every little scintilla of word or quotes or whatever someone is going to say you're not going to agree with.

Even Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, they don't agree with everyone and everybody that support them, obviously. It is ironic, I will add, though -- I just looked at some numbers...

(CROSSTALK)

SCHULTZ: You can't use Hitler's name. You can't use Adolf Hitler's name.

(CROSSTALK)

WALL: Listen, folks have used his name to compare, you know, the fact that he's used Christianity as an excuse for what he's done and things of that nature. So, it depends on the context.

Let me just add, if I may, that, you know, looking at a poll from last week Rasmussen, it did indicate, and I think Ed is right about one thing, the impact of Reverend Wright has not been as stark as probably a lot of folks thought with Obama.

But if you look at the numbers, for evangelicals, between Obama and McCain, 69 percent of evangelicals support McCain over Obama in the polling from last week in Rasmussen. And 57 percent...

(CROSSTALK)

SCHULTZ: Oh, I don't think Barack Obama is counting on that crowd at all.

(CROSSTALK)

WALL: ... who attend regular churches also support McCain over Obama.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHULTZ: Barack Obama is not counting on the evangelical vote at all. This will hurt McCain.

(CROSSTALK)

WALL: He still has that support among evangelicals and conservatives. He does need to shore it up a little bit more. And this certainly does not help. But he still leads in that area.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Let me give Dan the very quick last word. Do you think it's going to have an impact?

GILGOFF: I think it will.

And I think the irony of the whole situation is that John McCain now is going to be more scared than ever of the Christian right, because of this Parsley and this Hagee fallout. And he's likely to alienate even more Christian right figures and rank and file evangelicals because of it.

BROWN: All right, guys, appreciate it.

Coming up, Barack Obama is trying to build support among Jewish voters. We're going to look at the issues that are holding him back and what he's got to do to win over this important voting bloc. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Senator Barack Obama was in South Florida this afternoon, courting Jewish voters.

And it appears he may have his work cut out for him. A recent Gallup poll shows 61 percent of Jewish voters nationwide would vote for Obama in a general election -- 32 percent said they would go with John McCain.

Now, that may sound like a big lead, but keep in mind, in the last general election, Democrat John Kerry got 74 percent of the Jewish vote against President Bush.

Joining me now, senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.

And, Candy, Obama clearly realizes he's got to shore up his support among Jews. And there are several reasons for his problems. One of them may be self-created, his statement that he would meet with the leaders of rogue nations like Iran. So, today, he goes out of his way to reaffirm his commitment to Israel.

Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: And, when I am in the White House, I will bring with me an unshakable commitment to maintaining that bond between the United States of America and an unshakable commitment to Israel's security.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: I will make sure that Israel can defend itself from any attack, whether it comes from as close as Gaza or as far as Tehran.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: So, Candy, how big of a problem does the Obama campaign think that this is, and how concerned do you think Jewish voters are about his commitment?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's clearly some concern.

This is sort of the answer to both those questions. There's some concern, obviously, because Barack Obama is out there reaching out to Jewish voters, who are a steadfast Democratic constituency.

And the Boca Raton appearance is not the only one he's had. He's met with Jewish leaders in Philadelphia. He has met with them elsewhere. So, this is a constant sort of reaching out. And you hit on what really has been the major problem.

And it started, really, at the YouTube debate last year in the summer, in 2007, when the question was, from a viewer, actually, would you be willing to sit down with the leaders of rogue nations, like a North Korea, like Iran, like Syria, without preconditions?

And Barack Obama said two words: "I would." And that's where the concern really started to bubble up. But, as you know, there are other concerns, his name. There's a lot of e-mails that go around saying that he's really a secret Muslim, that sort of thing. So, there's been an accumulation. But Iran is really the centerpiece.

BROWN: Let me ask you about that part of it, because he has, as you point out, been the victim of a pretty vicious online smear campaign, a lot of lies being spread about him being a Muslim, not being an American. And he did address it last month in front of another Jewish group. Let's listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: But, if people don't mind, I would like to be honest.

A lot of the concern has been generated as a consequence of scurrilous e-mails that have been sent. A lot of it has been generated based on speculation of the fact that my middle name is Hussein. A lot of it has been generated as a consequence of the fact that I'm African-American and that, at times, there have been tensions within the African-American leadership and the Jewish community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: So, how does he contain the damage, other than statements like that?

CROWLEY: Well, that's exactly what he does. That was in Philadelphia. Today, it was in Boca Raton.

There are a couple of states, including Nevada, including Pennsylvania, where -- and Florida -- where the Jewish vote can really matter, because those are swing states, and even though the Jewish vote is a small part of the population, in those three states, it can make a difference.

So, you will see some of his outreach the most in Nevada, in Pennsylvania, in Florida.

BROWN: All right, Candy for us tonight -- Candy Crowley, thanks

CROWLEY: Sure.

BROWN: America's Jewish voters will take a hard look at Obama's position on negotiating with Iran, and, naturally, since Iran's president has said that Israel should be wiped off the map. But what exactly is Obama's position? It's a little hard to figure out. And we will explain why when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: As Barack Obama courts Jewish voters in Florida and across the nation, his target audience will be wondering about his position on Iran, wondering because they may have trouble figuring out what his stance really is on negotiating with Tehran. First, he said one thing, and then, when there was fallout from that, his position sort of evolved over time.

It started last summer with this question at the CNN YouTube debate. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?

OBAMA: I would. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them -- which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration -- is ridiculous.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: So, he got a lot of heat for that. And in November, in an appearance on "Meet the Press," he was asked if he stood by that statement, and listen as he shifts a little bit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Obviously, there is a difference between preconditions and preparation.

Preconditions, which was what the question was in that debate, means that we won't meet with people unless they have already agreed to the very things that we expect to be meeting with them about.

Preparation means that we are sitting down ahead of time. Various lower-level diplomats and envoys are sorting out, what's the agenda going to be? (END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: And just two days ago, in an interview with Wolf Blitzer, he was asked about it again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE SITUATION ROOM")

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: There seems to be some confusion whether you would be willing, personally, as president, to sit down, without preconditions, with Ahmadinejad of Iran or other Iranian leaders.

Is your openness to a meeting with Iranian leaders inclusive of Ahmadinejad?

OBAMA: You know, I think this obsession with Ahmadinejad is an example of us losing track of what's important.

I would be willing to meet with Iranian leaders if we had done sufficient preparation for that meeting. Whether Ahmadinejad is -- is the right person to meet with right now, we don't even know what is going to -- how much power he's going to have a year from now. He is not the most powerful person in Iran.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: But on another occasion, Obama said that he would, in fact, meet with Ahmadinejad, specifically.

So, joining me once again, we've got radio talk show host Ed Schultz, Tara Wall of "The Washington Times," Dan Gilgoff of Beliefnet.com.

And, Ed, I'm going to start with you. Senator Obama can't seem to get the story straight on whether or not he would meet with the president of Iran. Do you think he realized that his initial statement was a mistake, and that it's hurting him politically, and now he's trying to dial it back?

SCHULTZ: You know, Campbell, in all three of those sound bites, I don't take any lack of support for Israel in any of those sound bites. To vilify diplomacy, if that's what the conservatives have got on Barack Obama, they will definitely lose this election.

What Barack Obama has clearly stated, he is a supporter of Israel. He has an A-plus rating with APAC (ph). He has repeatedly said that he will not allow the Iranians to threaten, or in any way go after the Israelis.

So, I think that Barack Obama has been very consistent. Saying that he's going to sit down with adversaries doesn't mean it's a lack of support for Israel. And that's just a straw man argument.

BROWN: Tara?

WALL: Yes. A dial back, I think that was a 180, actually. And quite frankly, you know, from what he said about this --

(CROSSTALK)

SCHULTZ: He never used the word Israel in anyone of those answers.

WALL: Well, you know, listen, ask Israelis what they think. I think the numbers are very telling. And that the argument -- the argument --

(CROSSTALK)

SCHULTZ: There is an undercurrent --

BROWN: Hold on, Ed. Let her make her point.

Hey, Ed, hold on.

WALL: Ed, I can't let you. I get your point across.

BROWN: Ed, let Tara make her point and then I'll let you respond.

WALL: I think that 61 percent is an all-time low for Democrats in decades among Jewish voters, so he does have a lot of work to do in that area. And I think, you know, and beyond that --

(CROSSTALK)

SCHULTZ: That does it. That's a communication issue.

WALL: And beyond that --

SCHULTZ: That's not a policy problem.

WALL: Beyond that, I think that, you know, as the argument goes, the argument that Hillary Clinton has made, Republicans have made overall is that he has no foreign policy experience, except to say that he opposed the war in Iraq and that he would sit down with Ahmadinejad, who said he would wipe Israel off the map.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHULTZ: You know, where do you come up with this?

WALL: And I think -- I think that --

SCHULTZ: He sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

WALL: Given some of those issues, he has a real problem with declaring what his positions are.

SCHULTZ: There are no issues. That is a straw man. He supports Israel.

BROWN: All right. Hold on. Hold on, guys. Hey, guys, hang on one second.

Ed, let me just ask you. I mean, in all fairness, there are a lot of Jewish voters who are concerned...

WALL: Absolutely.

BROWN: ... that he would sit down with the leader of Iran who has said some incredibly outrageous things. And he said, you know, whether he is willing to say it now or not, he has. We have a tape of it.

He said that he would meet with Ahmadinejad, so that is a cause for concern, I mean, whether you agree with his position or not. Don't you think that he is trying to parse those words a little bit given the political (INAUDIBLE)?

SCHULTZ: No, Campbell. No. I totally disagree with that. I do not think that this is a concern.

The Bush administration sat down with Kadhafi. The Bush administration is sitting down with North Korea. You can't parcel this situation. The fact is that Barack Obama has been a target of a campaign in this country and is a straw man argument.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: He does have a point, Tara, on Kadhafi.

WALL: To have no precondition --

Listen, listen, there was a -- there was a -- there was a very strategic goal --

SCHULTZ: He made it very clear today in Florida where he stands with the Jewish community.

BROWN: Guys -- wait. Not over each other.

WALL: I don't think Ed wants me to get a word in edgewise, because he thinks if he yells over me that's going to, you know --

BROWN: OK, Tara.

SCHULTZ: You did hog the first segment. You did hog the first segment.

BROWN: OK, Ed, let her make her final point.

WALL: I did not interrupt you with all due respect, Ed.

BROWN: Go ahead, Tara.

WALL: I did not interrupt you. I would just simply say that quite frankly, you know, while this may play well, and this has played well for Barack Obama for the more liberal side of the Democratic Party, he is going to find his challenges at a national level once he goes up against John McCain. It is going to become an issue.

SCHULTZ: No, he's not. Where do you come up with that? He has been in total support of Israel.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Guys -- unfortunately --

SCHULTZ: There's no doubt about that.

BROWN: All right, all right. Sorry, stop it. Cool it. We got to go to break.

You guys have got to divide it up a little better than that.

And Dan, I owe you one. I will have you back. I got you in not at all. Many, many apologies.

WALL: Sorry, Dan.

GILGOFF: Thank you.

BROWN: OK. Ed and Tara, appreciate it as always.

As pressures get bigger and bigger, it does feel like an epidemic, sometimes, of political flip flops. Well, Hillary Clinton is not immune, either. She's going to get her due.

Stay with us. We are looking at her evolving attitude about Florida and seating its delegates. We'll be back after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: A Florida superdelegate is now suing to try to force the Democratic Party to count the votes from last January's messed up Florida primary. Well, senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin is here to explain it all to us.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: We love it when it goes to court.

BROWN: You love it when it goes to court.

So is there anything to this, this lawsuit?

TOOBIN: Well, politically, there certainly is. Legally, I think it's unlikely to go anywhere. The courts have said since the famous case in 1972, also about the Democratic delegate selection process, that the courts defer to the political parties. They don't want to get involved, barring the most extreme kind of abuse, and I don't think that's present here. They let the party settle their business.

BROWN: So would this even be happening though if Hillary Clinton hadn't been hurting, hadn't have dived into Florida, grabbed it by her teeth, and held on with everything she had? TOOBIN: This is it. This is the whole Clinton campaign at this point, somehow getting Michigan and Florida back into the mix in a way where she gets a substantial majority of their delegates. That's her only hope for the nomination. So, this is one way, even though the plaintiffs in this case are not exclusively affiliated with the Clinton campaign.

BROWN: We should point that out. There is an Obama supporter who is part of the lawsuit.

TOOBIN: Right. And I think it's important to emphasize that there is some political appeal to what the Florida plaintiffs are saying. It's like wait a second. A million -- 1.7 million of us voted, and we get no representation? That can't be right.

The Democratic Party has a mess on its hands. They need to settle it, May 31 in their meeting, not in the courts.

BROWN: But why then -- I mean, why did they go ahead and file the lawsuit and not wait for that May 31 meeting?

TOOBIN: I think it gives them additional negotiating leverage. I think they say to the Democratic Party, look, settle this on terms that give Florida full representation.

BROWN: Otherwise --

TOOBIN: Otherwise, we're going to go to court. That will stretch this out. It will make it a big mess.

You know, a lot of Democrats are counting on this race being over in mid-June, after the June 3 end of the primaries.

BROWN: Right.

TOOBIN: But if somehow Florida and Michigan are kicking around the courts, that could take months. That's not something the Democrats want.

BROWN: Just political, of course.

TOOBIN: Just me, a legal analyst.

BROWN: Jeff Toobin, thank you, as always.

TOOBIN: All right.

BROWN: An event tomorrow could answer a lot of questions about John McCain's fitness to be president, literally. He's going to release his medical records under very tight restrictions. Dr. Sanjay Gupta weighs in when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Senator John McCain sat down with Ellen DeGeneres on today's "ELLEN" show, and inevitably DeGeneres asked him about his position against same-sex marriage, and of course she's about to marry her female partner. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELLEN DEGENERES, HOST, "THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW": Let's talk about the big elephant in the room.

(APPLAUSE)

So -- by the way, I was planning on having a ceremony anyway this summer, even though it wasn't legal. But I feel that at least I get to celebrate my love. And then it just so happened that I legally now can get married like everyone should.

(APPLAUSE)

And what are your thoughts?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, my thoughts are that I think that people should be able to enter into legal agreements, and I think that that is something that we should encourage, particularly in the case of insurance and other areas, decisions that have to be made. I just believe in the unique status of marriage between man and woman. And I know that we have a respectful disagreement on that issue.

DEGENERES: Yes, I mean -- I think that it's -- it is looked at, and some people are saying the same that blacks and women did not have the right to vote. I mean, women just got the right to vote in 1920. Blacks didn't have the right to vote until 1870, and it just feels like there is this old way of thinking that we are not all the same.

We are all the same people. All of us. You're no different than I am. Our love is the same.

(APPLAUSE)

To me -- to me, what it feels like, just, you know, I will speak for myself. It feels when someone says you can have a contract and you'll still have insurance and you'll get all of that, it sounds to me like saying, well, you can sit there, you just can't sit there. That's what it sounds like to me.

(APPLAUSE)

It feels like it doesn't feel inclusive. It feels -- it feels isolated. It feels like we are not, you know, we aren't owed the same things and the same wording, so --

MCCAIN: Well, I've heard you articulate that position in a very eloquent fashion. We just have a disagreement, and I, along with many, many others wish you every happiness.

DEGENERES: Thank you. So you'll walk me down the aisle? Is that what you're saying?

MCCAIN: Touche. DEGENERES: Well, my hope is someday it won't be called a contract. It will be called marriage.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: So they're ending on a laugh, anyway.

We turn now to the high political stakes of John McCain's health. To say the least, this is highly, well, unusual. After months of promises that the campaign would release his medical records, they finally settled on tomorrow, the Friday before Memorial Day, to release them, apparently hoping that it wouldn't get a lot news of coverage.

And second, they chose exactly who would see the records and under very strict restrictions. One of the few reporters who will review those records will be CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. And he is joining me now live from Fountain Hills, Arizona.

And Sanjay, walk us through what you expect to happen, because they are putting some pretty tight restrictions on you guys, aren't they?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's a surprising veil of secrecy around this, Campbell, no question. We're actually at the place where they're going to allow us to see these records. We're just trying to actually even look in the room where these records are going to be released. They wouldn't even let us look in the room for now.

We are going to go in there. There's no electronics of any sort allowed into the room. I'm not sure if they're going to frisk us or make us go through a metal detector of some sort or what. And then we get three hours essentially to go through all of these records.

And I can tell you -- I mean, this is like medical school and residency all over again because there's hundreds, maybe more than 1,000 pages of records that we're going to have to go through. And after that, give them back, and you walk out of the room.

You can't record anything. You can't photocopy anything. They can't call anybody. So, it's -- it is sort of surprising. A little bizarre, a little cloak and dagger, Campbell.

BROWN: But there is a teleconference, I think, right after you look at the records with a group of doctors, right? Explain that.

GUPTA: Yes, I think there's going to be three doctors. There is a primary care doctor. There's a dermatologist and there's an ENT doctor. I think the ENT doctor was most responsible for operating on some of these lesions on the face, the melanoma.

And they're going to give this teleconference. I'm not sure if they're going to take questions and how long they're going to take questions, but they are going to summarize, I think, overall, Senator McCain's medical care and his medical history over the past several years.

He did release his records in 1999. As we look back, it was sort of a similar sort of setup at that time, although this is probably a little bit more secretive this time. But they're going to release summaries of that time from 1999 until now.

BROWN: Right.

GUPTA: So about nine years' worth.

BROWN: So, Sanjay, when you were looking at those records, what are you going to be looking for? Anything specific?

GUPTA: Yes. You know, I sort of -- the way I sort of approach this over the last couple of days, Campbell, you and I talked about this, is to sort of create a checklist in my own mind, because we have such short time. And there are certain things I'm going to be looking for immediately.

Certainly, his melanoma history is of critical importance because he's had a malignant cancer. It's curious to know how deep it was, have there been any recurrences, just how significant was that.

But any 71-year-old person, a man or woman, you got to look at their heart history, you got to look at their cancer screenings. You got to look at a chance of diabetes. You got to look at if they've had any other significant medical problems.

So, I got a checklist in my mind. I've written a few things down, and I'm just going to sort of tick my way through these hundreds of pages and start to see what emerges as sort of an overall picture of his health and his fitness.

BROWN: Well, it's going to be fascinating, Sanjay. I can't wait to hear what you have to report on all of this. Dr. Sanjay Gupta for us tonight. Sanjay, thank you.

And tomorrow, we should mention on the ELECTION CENTER, we will have complete coverage of the release of Senator McCain's medical records.

And don't forget this weekend, Sanjay and the CNN Special Investigations Unit take an in-depth look at what it takes to keep a president in tiptop shape. And you can see "The First Patient, Health & the Presidency" Saturday and Sunday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time.

A bombshell ruling today in the Texas polygamy case, and you're going to hear all about it on "LARRY KING LIVE" at the top of the hour. Larry King joins me now.

Larry, tell us what's going on tonight?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": That's right, Campbell. We've got an exclusive on that stunning court ruling out of Texas.

Parents inside the polygamist ranch will react to the news that the state took their children unlawfully, and mothers can join us here in the studio with their side of the story. It's all on "LARRY KING LIVE" at the top of the hour.

BROWN: All right. Thanks, Larry, appreciate it. We'll be watching.

Much more when we return. A Colorado tornado that one eyewitness called a big white monster. We've got that video, and an excruciating screw-up for Democrats trying to take on the White House. That's still ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Still ahead tonight, how does Congress send a bill to the White House and somehow forget 34 pages? Did the copy machine break down?

Well, not so much. Stick around. We've got that in stagecraft. But first, Erica Hill is joining us with "The Briefing" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Campbell.

We begin with a deadly tornado, 50 miles north of Denver. At least one person was killed today. There's extensive damage in several towns.

The governor has declared a state of disaster. One eyewitness said the twister passed right over us like a big white monster.

A wildfire raging in Northern California's Santa Cruz Mountains has forced hundreds of people from their homes and already burned thousands of acres. A dry spring and wind gusts of up to 40 miles an hour are really making it tough for firefighters to get this one under control.

The U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, telling senators today, he expects more U.S. troops could leave Iraq earlier this year, though final assessment isn't expected before the fall. Petraeus also said it is unlikely Iraqi forces will be able to secure the country on their own before next year.

And a Texas court has ruled state officials had no right to take more than 460 children from a polygamist compound because they had no evidence any child at the YFZ Ranch was being abused. There is no word on when the children will be released from foster care -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right, Erica Hill for us. Erica, thanks.

Tonight we've got a piece of political stagecraft, where Congress was trying to do something right. They messed it all up. Pretty typical.

Tom Foreman is going to show us how. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BROWN: Time now for stagecraft. The first law of political stagecraft is to make yourself look good. And if you can make your opponents look bad at the same time, well, that is even better.

So Democrats in Congress just had a primo chance for a twofer, to look good and make the White House look bad. And, well, they blew it. In fact, it was a total mess.

Tom Foreman is back now with the script -- Tom.

FOREMAN: Campbell, you wonder why Americans have no faith in Congress. Well, maybe it's because you get better performance out of Kinko's.

Congressional Democrats are embarrassed right now over effectively cheating themselves out of a major victory dance on the White House lawn. The issue, the almost $300 billion, 1,700-page farm bill.

Yes, a document this big, which was supposed to be one of their biggest triumphs over President Bush. He said it was full of wasteful spending. They called it a critical program for Americans in need. The problem, stagecraft.

They were so busy taking bows, nobody bothered to read the script. Like the old schoolhouse rock videos, this is what was supposed to happen.

After many weeks of wrangling over the spending on this bill, the Dems wanted to pass it, send it to the White House where they knew the president would veto it, then override his veto and declare victory. Simple enough.

BROWN: Well, Tom, they had the votes for the override and that's usually the big challenge. So, what went wrong?

FOREMAN: Well, the problem was, in the House clerk's office, one floor below the main chamber, where we are always looking, in these rather arcane rules, you can't just run bills off on a regular copier paper. No, you have to print them on parchment paper. And in the process of doing that, about 30 pages were accidentally left out. A full section.

And there are only 15 sections in this monster, but no one here in Congress noticed. And at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, at the White House, no one noticed either. Because, we're told, they read a regular paper version, but they put the veto on the parchment version.

So, what the president vetoed and what Congress overrode was simply not the complete bill. The big Democratic victory show was abruptly delayed, and the Republicans howled.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: I take responsibility for what happened here. The movement (ph) of the bill was not done accurately.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: I'm hurting my back trying to lift this thing. But nobody knows. Nobody's read it. Nobody's had a chance to read it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: But I understand, Tom, that Democrats have salvaged their efforts. Is that true?

FOREMAN: Yes, it is. They have enough votes in the end with the help of a lot of Republicans who have backed this from the beginning, but it's sloppy and it's messy. And I'm telling you, Campbell, nobody is going to be taking any curtain calls for this bit of stagecraft.

BROWN: No kidding. Tom Foreman for us tonight. As always, Tom, thanks.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Tomorrow night, we're going to have extensive coverage of Senator John McCain's medical records. They are being released. So, tune in tomorrow night.

That is it for me in the ELECTION CENTER. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.