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THE SITUATION ROOM

Obama Appeals to Jewish Voters; McCain Rejects Supporter; Ripple Effort from Rising Oil Prices

Aired May 22, 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, breaking news. John McCain decides a controversial supporter has simply gone too far. He's now rejecting the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee because of remarks about Hitler and the Holocaust.

Also this hour, Barack Obama tries to reassure Jewish voters in Florida. Did he tell them what they needed to hear to ease their concerns about him?

And Obama begins his search for a running mate, even before clinching the nomination. The best political team on television considers his timing and his options.

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

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world -- our breaking news first.

John McCain cuts himself loose from a supporter who's influential in some quarters and seen as offensive in others. That would be the Pastor and televangelist John Hagee.

Our Brian Todd first reported this story. He broke it here in THE SITUATION ROOM just a little while ago.

Give us more on this back and forth, because it could have significant political fallout.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It could, Wolf.

Now, for months, Pastor John Hagee, a key endorser of John McCain's, has been under fire for past remarks he made about the Catholic Church, comments that he has since apologized for.

McCain did not repudiate Pastor Hagee's endorsement during that period. But within the last couple of hours, McCain has made a dramatic turnaround after our questions about Hagee's past sermons about the Holocaust.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): John McCain now rejects an endorsement that was once seen as critical to his conservative credentials. PASTOR JOHN HAGEE, CORNERSTONE CHURCH: John McCain will be a strong, courageous, and effective leader from the first day he steps into the Oval Office.

TODD: Pastor John Hagee, a popular televangelist from San Antonio with a 19,000-member church and a TV ministry seen around the world.

McCain's campaign tells us, when Hagee endorsed McCain in February, McCain was not aware of remarks Hagee had made in a sermon years earlier. Hagee cited biblical passages, spoke of what he believed was God's plan to bring the Jews back to Israel.

HAGEE: God says in Jeremiah 16, behold, I will bring them, the Jewish people again unto the land that I gave unto their fathers. 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.

TODD: Hagee then says those Jews who didn't follow Zionism's founder back to Israel went through the Holocaust.

HAGEE: Then God sent a hunter. A hunter is someone who comes with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter.

TODD: These passages were recently posted by blogger Bruce Wilson, an admitted critic of Hagee and the religious right. Wilson told us he voted for Hillary Clinton, but was not steered toward this by any Democratic operatives.

Pastor Hagee would not do an interview with us, but issued a statement saying he had been intentionally mischaracterized and, "To assert that I in any way condone the Holocaust or that monster Adolf Hitler is the biggest and ugliest of lies."

A representative for Pastor Hagee says he was trying to explain to his parish how God could let something so terrible happen. Hagee's been a strong supporter of Israel for years. A leader of one prominent Jewish group does not believe the pastor is anti-Semitic, but says:

RABBI DAVID SAPERSTEIN, RELIGIOUS ACTION CENTER OF REFORM JUDAISM: The notion that the Holocaust was part of God's plan as a way of punishing the Jews is a deeply, deeply troubling assertion that should be repudiated by all people of conscience.

TODD: John McCain not only repudiates Hagee's remarks, but now says in a statement to CNN, "I feel I must reject his endorsement as well."

McCain says Hagee's never been his pastor, and the campaign says the candidate never had the kind of relationship with Hagee that Barack Obama had with Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

Hagee reacted by saying he's tired of baseless attacks, that they have become a distraction, and -- quote -- "I have therefore decided to withdraw my endorsement of Senator McCain for president."

But McCain's got another pastor problem.

PASTOR ROD PARSLEY, TELEVANGELIST: Islam is an anti-Christ religion that intends, through violence, to conquer the world.

TODD: Pastor Rod Parsley, another popular televangelist who also endorsed McCain in February.

IBRAHIM HOOPER, NATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, COUNCIL ON AMERICAN-ISLAMIC RELATIONS: Well, it was shocking to hear that Senator McCain would associate himself with someone who holds such bigoted views against Muslims and Islam.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: The Council on American-Islamic relations is calling on McCain to repudiate Parsley's endorsement. A McCain spokesman says the senator rejects the remarks, says it's entirely inconsistent with what McCain believes, but they are not rejecting the endorsement at the moment. McCain's aide says this was purely a political endorsement and they don't know each other well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So, Parsley's obviously he has something he's got to clear up, I assume.

TODD: He does. A short time ago, his spokesman told us that his statements were in response to militant Islam and its threats to kill Americans. He says that Pastor Parsley believes that Christians should support peaceful and moderate Muslims.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brian Todd, excellent reporting today. Thanks for breaking that story for us.

Now to Florida and an important new part of Barack Obama's effort to court Jewish voters. He appeared just a short while ago at a synagogue in Boca Raton and offered strong new reassurances about his support for Israel.

Florida has the third largest Jewish population of any state in the country. Exit polls show 5 percent of Florida's voters in the 2004 general election were Jewish. And they overwhelmingly voted Democratic.

Let's go to CNN's Jessica Yellin. She's in Boca Raton. She's joining us now.

Jessica, did Obama tell the people there what they wanted to hear?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The folks here certainly seem pleased with what he said, Wolf. I talked to a number of people after Obama finished speaking just moments ago. They say he answered all their questions just the way they wanted him to.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) YELLIN (voice-over): At this Florida synagogue, partly a chilly reception for Barack Obama. In the clearest terms yet, Obama fully embraced Israel and its so-called special relationship with the U.S.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will always support Israel's security and renounce terrorism and recognize Israel's right to exist.

YELLIN: He insisted he would not go soft on Hamas.

OBAMA: We should only sit down with Hamas if they renounce terror, recognize Israel's right to exist, and abide by past agreements.

YELLIN: And he attempted to put to rest any concerns that he might leave Israel vulnerable to attacks, especially from Iran.

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.

YELLIN: His comments were received with almost universal approval.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: All right.

YELLIN: As Obama's hold on the nomination has strengthened, he's increasingly been courting Jewish voters, who tend to be reliable Democrats. But a significant minority of them are wary of an Obama presidency.

John Kerry won 80 percent of the Jewish vote in 2004, but a recent Gallup poll shows only 61 percent say they would vote for Obama in November. Jewish concerns include Obama's past association with Reverend Wright, false rumors that he's Muslim, praise he received from a Hamas leader, and, most significantly, Obama's offer to hold talks with the leader of Iran, a sworn enemy of Israel.

After addressing most of these concerns, Senator Obama turned to the personal.

OBAMA: And I know that I might not be standing here were it not for the historical bond between the Jewish community and the African- American community. I want to make sure that I am one of the vehicles by which we can rebuild those bonds.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: And, Wolf, Barack Obama stood and took questions for about 40 minutes after his remarks. Almost every question was from a friendly member of the audience, even one Republican who says she's becoming a Democrat for him. The one negative question was shouted down with boos. This was a very friendly audience -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much. Jessica's in Boca Raton for us.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, so far, the government's big solution to fixing our sluggish economy has been to poor $150 billion into tax rebate checks going out to about 130 million Americans -- the idea, bolster the confidence of U.S. consumers, get them to spend that money, jump-start the economy.

But it turns out the checks in the amount of $600 per individual, $1,200 per couple, may not be doing the trick. Wow. What a surprise. A new Gallup poll shows people who have already gotten the tax rebates feel they're just as uneasy about the state of the economy as those who haven't gotten the checks yet -- 43 percent of those who got the rebates say the economy is poor -- 18 percent say it's excellent or good, nearly identical to the 43 percent who haven't gotten the rebate say the economy's poor, and 16 percent of those who say it's excellent or good -- 87 percent of those who have gotten the rebate say the economy's getting worse, not better.

That's about the same as the 86 percent who haven't gotten a check say the economy's getting worse, not better. Also, the tax rebates seem to have done very little in the way of relieving Americans' anxiety and worry about their own financial situations. Almost the same percentages of people say they worried about money yesterday, regardless of whether or not they have received a rebate check.

So, here's the question: Do the government's rebate checks make you more confident in the U.S. economy?

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

Oh, and I guess we should point out, Wolf, the $150 billion, we borrow all that from China.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: You can point that out. You just did. Jack, stand by. We have got the best political team on television, including you. That's coming up.

Also, he doesn't want to talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I'm not commenting on vice presidential issues because I'm still running for the nomination. No criteria right now. I'm going back down to Florida. I still have to win a nomination.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: But Senator Obama is quietly starting his search for a running mate. The best political team on television will have details. Also, for the first time in nine years, John McCain will offer a close look at his medical records. What do they have to tell us about his health? CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta will bring us up to his expertise.

Plus, the massive black cloud nearly says it all. A killer tornado rips through Colorado. We are going to have details.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We heard today from Senator Ted Kennedy, his first public comments since the stunning news two days ago that he has a cancerous brain tumor.

Kennedy and his wife, Vicki, appeared outside their Cape Cod home.

Let's listen in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Who ever is tomorrow gets to come out and sail with us.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

KENNEDY: That's us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sure you have your layers on, like we do.

KENNEDY: We have the layers on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're very layered today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator, are you going to...

(CROSSTALK)

KENNEDY: I don't know. I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One day at a time.

KENNEDY: One day at a time.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you feeling?

KENNEDY: Very well, thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You had a good day today?

KENNEDY: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

KENNEDY: A perfect place. Yes, a little blustery today, but it's marvelous. It's great to be home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Getting some good rest?

KENNEDY: Yes, a lot of nice thoughts, a lot of nice -- enormously grateful to everybody at Mass General Hospital. They were just -- they're spectacular, all the nurses and doctors.

We've received an incredible amount of wonderful notes and letters from friends and colleagues in the Senate, and as well as from people here in Massachusetts. It's all been very touching.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been a wonderful outpouring of support.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And we wish, of course, Senator Kennedy only, only the best. Good to see him out and about.

It's been almost a decade since John McCain opened up his medical records. Now the presumptive Republican nominee will open up those health records briefly.

And our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, will be there getting an inside look.

Dr. Gupta is joining us now from Phoenix.

Sanjay, what can you tell us about this process? What's going on?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is quite a process here. I'm at the Copperwynd resort in Phoenix, Arizona.

A few reporters are going to get a few hours with hundreds of pages of documents tomorrow. It's a lot to sort through. It's about eight or nine years worth of medical records. We have been sort of thinking about this and how we're going to approach it. Here's what we came up with.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA (voice-over): The last time reporters were allowed to see the medical records was in 1999. John McCain was challenging George Bush for the Republican nomination.

Running again eight years later, Senator McCain is the presumptive Republican nominee. And he's given reporters another look at his medical records, from 2000 to the present. But there are ground rules. Here's how it's going to work. Representatives of the wire services, U.S. television networks, "New York Times," "Washington Post," and "Arizona Republic" will be allowed into a room at a resort outside Phoenix, Arizona. That's McCain's home state. No copies can be made of McCain's record. There's no Internet or cell phone use allowed in the room. And anyone who leaves the room for anything but a bathroom break will not be allowed back in.

What's more, we will have only three hours to review hundreds of pages of medical records, a daunting task, even for a doctor.

The McCain campaign says the ground rules allow for thorough and substantiative review of McCain's medical history. Neither Senator Obama, nor Senator Clinton have released their medical records. But John McCain's age, 71, makes his health particularly relevant.

He would be 72 on Inauguration Day, the oldest first-term U.S. president ever. Here's what I will be looking for: melanoma. McCain had a malignant melanoma removed in 2000. What's the latest from his dermatologist?

Heart health. His campaign says he's taking baby aspirin to prevent heart attacks, something common for a man his age, and Vytorin to lower his cholesterol. I want to know the senator's blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Diabetes -- age is a risk factor. Has he undergone tests looking at his blood sugar?

Colon and prostate screenings -- the cancer risk rises with age. How recently has he had a colonoscopy or other cancer tests?

Mental health -- any depression, difficulty sleeping? What sort of neurological tests have been performed?

Even with the restrictions, the review should provide a clearer picture of McCain's health.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: As you know, Wolf -- you may know this, that there is no requirement for a candidate, or even a president, for that matter, to actually release their medical records.

But the McCain campaign has told us they believe it's the right thing to do, given all the interest, especially given his age -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And the biggest difference between 1999 and now is the melanoma, which he went through that major procedure on his face in the year 2000. When did he do that, 2000, 2001, something like that, right? And that's probably -- I could be wrong -- the biggest potential threat, melanoma being the most serious form of skin cancer.

GUPTA: That's right. And there have been some details that have been told to us specifically about that melanoma. For example, you sort of grade these melanomas on a grade from one to four, one being the best, four being the worst. His was a 2-A. So, we figured out survival statistics. We want to make all that we have been told actually matches.

Wolf, it's going to kind of be like going to medical school again, looking at these hundreds of pages of documents in a few hours. We're pretty confident we're going to be sift through all that and have something for you to report.

BLITZER: Are you going to be able to go through these hundreds of documents in three hours?

GUPTA: I'm pretty confident, Wolf. We have made our checklists. We have got a lot of specific things we're going to be doing.

It's going to be interesting. It's a process. You go through a metal detector, and you can't take any metal in there with you. You can't record anything. You can take notes. That's about it. So, it really is kind of like medical school again. But will have -- we will be able to get through all of it. I'm confident of it.

BLITZER: All right, good. And we will have you back here in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow with your report.

Sanjay, good luck over there. Thanks very much for doing this.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: One of Hillary Clinton's supporters says it's time to back down. New York's governor is a superdelegate and says Senator Clinton is getting desperate. You're going to hear his exact comments.

Plus, Congress wants to know whether Karl Rove overstepped his boundaries. Another court order, but will it work this time?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Attention, top Democrats: Barack Obama is starting to look for a running mate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Are you kidding? Being speaker of the House is the best job in the world. Why would I want to be number two?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Nancy Pelosi says she doesn't want the job. But who is a contender to be Obama's number two? And is it presumptuous to start looking before he's actually clinched the nomination?

Plus, John McCain tries to resolve the pastor problem -- will his rejection of Pastor John Hagee put the controversy to rest? The best political team on television on television standing by.

And oil prices hit another new high, and so does the pressure on oil industry executives. Find out what they have to say for themselves.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, John McCain and John Hagee parting ways, the candidate rejecting the endorsement and the pastor withdrawing it after new revelations of his inflammatory preaching. It's a story our Brian Todd broke right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also, Barack Obama quietly beginning to search for a running mate. We will talk about those stories and much more with the best political team on television.

And outraged lawmakers demanding answers from an oil company -- several oil company bosses. Why is the price of gasoline soaring to record levels?

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

On Capitol Hill today, oil industry executives faced a second day of tough questioning, as outrage grows and grows over soaring fuel prices. Oil prices briefly hit a new high of more than $135 a barrel, before settling around $131 a barrel, nearly $70 higher than only a year ago.

And now, for the 15th day in a row, gas prices are at a new all- time high. The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded now stands at $3.83 a gallon. That's more than 60 cents higher than only a year ago. There were some heated exchanges during today's testimony.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: That's a nice, general statement. But the fact of the matter is, we know you're not broke. We know that the compensation of the executives is very high.

We know that you get your bonuses. We know that you spend a lot on promotion. So, we don't we don't like to hear that you are broke and that you have spent more money than you're earning. It just doesn't sit well with us.

J. STEPHEN SIMON, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, EXXONMOBIL: Yes, and I wasn't trying...

WATERS: It certainly doesn't sit well with me.

SIMON: Yes, I wasn't trying to imply that we're broke, Congresswoman.

But if you looked at last year and looked at -- I said we invested about $21 billion. Now let me explain what that is. That's investing in projects to bring on oil and gas supplies around the world, to expand our refineries, to expand our chemical plants and meet our chemical customers' requirements.

(CROSSTALK)

WATERS: But there's profits. After all of that was done in 2007, you earned $40.6 billion, after all of that was done, $40.6 billion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Ali Velshi has more now on the ripple effect from these rising prices -- Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the rising cost of oil is no surprise to anyone, but it's beginning to have a real, substantial effect on how we live our lives.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VELSHI (voice-over): The great American love affair with the automobile may be diminishing in size. The reason? Oil prices.

And, as every driver knows, the huge run-up in the price of crude has meant big jumps at the gas pump. Ford Motor announced today that it is cutting production of SUVs and pickups this year to focus on smaller sized passenger cars. Those gas guzzling SUVs used to be the cash cow of Ford's production line. But on a conference call with investors, Ford says those days are over.

ALAN MULALLY, CEO, FORD MOTOR: We saw a real change in the industry demand for pickup trucks and SUVs in the first two weeks of May. It seemed to us that we had reached a tipping point where it seemed like it started to really move when we moved through around $3.50 gas.

VELSHI: And it's not just on the road. Consumers will be paying more to fly, as well. American Airlines said Wednesday it will charge passengers $15 for the first checked bag and it's cutting domestic flights, as it tries to cope with increased jet fuel prices.

The cost of crude is showing up on supermarket shelves -- vegetables, bread, anything that requires transportation -- which is to say, just about everything you can buy.

RICARDO ZINGONE, GROCERY STORE OWNER: Not only did the fuel charge run up, every price that has built on this has gone up, at least 10 percent, 15 percent, 20 percent an item.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VELSHI: Wolf, don't expect us to get any better any time soon.

If Ford is right and this is the tipping point, it may well spread across the economy, meaning that we're going to have to get used to paying more for just about everything. And don't expect crude prices to drop anytime soon. Some analysts are predicting that oil could hit $150 within the next couple of months -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ali Velshi, thank you.

Barack Obama has been trying today to win over Jewish voters, some of who are wary of him and his support for his Israel.

Let's talk about that and more with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. Also joining us, Jack Cafferty, and our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin. They're all part of the best political team on television.

Jack, I'm going to play a little clip -- one point Barack Obama made at that synagogue today in Boca Raton, Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: John McCain is 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 somehow attributable to me is just wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. He was referring, obviously, to the latest uproar involving Pastor John Hagee -- words, as you heard from Brian Todd at the top of the hour, words about Hitler and the Holocaust and Israel now coming back to haunt him. And McCain today formally repudiated Hagee's endorsement. And Hagee then went over and formally repudiated himself -- his own endorsement of McCain.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: But what do you think about all of this, Jack?

CAFFERTY: What do they call it, silly season?

I mean this is -- these aren't silly subjects, but some of it gets a little out there.

My question is, Hagee is the guy who called the Catholic Church "the great whore," what took John McCain so long to say, you know what, I don't need that kind of garbage as part of my effort to run the nation's highest office? Now the guy comes out, it turns out, years ago, and suggests that Adolph Hitler was doing God's work. I mean this stuff is repugnant and repulsive and should never become, I don't think, a part of the political dialogue to begin with. I mean these aren't -- these aren't people we need to be hearing from at all about any of this stuff.

BLITZER: Here, Gloria, is the statement, among other things, that McCain issued today: "I have said I do not believe Senator Obama shares Reverend Wright's extreme views. But let me also be clear. Reverend Hagee was not and is not my pastor or spiritual adviser and I did not attend his church for 20 years. I have denounced statements he made immediately upon learning of them, as I do again today."

And then he went on to say he's now denouncing the endorsement, as well.

What do you think?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's clear that John McCain is trying to make the distinction here between Reverend Wright -- whom, by the way, Obama twisted himself in a pretzel not to mention Reverend Wright's name when he spoke.

But he's saying, look, there's a difference. I didn't go to Hagee's church, nor was he my spiritual adviser. I should also point out, however, that Barack Obama has repeatedly said that Reverend Wright was not his spiritual adviser, that he was the pastor of his church.

So we haven't seen the end of this, Wolf. It's going to continue.

BLITZER: Jeff, what do you think?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think this illustrates McCain's difficulty with the Evangelical community, with the religious right. These aren't his people. He's not comfortable. He doesn't know the players. And even though I don't think any of Reverend Hagee's supporters are going to wind up voting for Barack Obama, this is one reason why McCain has not raised as much money as either Obama or Clinton has, because this core of the Republican Party simply isn't motivated to support him. And this whole embarrassing dance isn't going to help, either.

BLITZER: Jack, you heard his speech at that synagogue in Florida. He really made a powerful statement in terms of his own personal commitment and support for Israel.

CAFFERTY: Well, you know, the on Barack Obama is that if he has a chance to come and spend a little time talking to you, he's got a way of making you think he's not a bad guy. Now you've got to remember, he didn't campaign in Florida. He didn't spend any time down there at all because of the moving up of the date of the primary. They disallowed the whole thing. So he and Hillary Clinton didn't go down there and campaign.

Today was probably the first one-on-one experience he had with the voters there. I listened to the speech. I thought it was pretty strong stuff. The audience seemed to like it, although Jessica Yellin pointed out that the audience was very friendly, whether that's, you know, something that was preplanned or because they were just sold on what Barack Obama had to say, I don't know.

But the speech was good. And given time to campaign, at least he has a chance to make his case. Whether he'll win them over or not, remains to be seen.

BLITZER: Gloria?

BORGER: You know, it's interesting. I think Obama does have to continue to make his case to the Jewish community, where he has not very well-known. And from looking at the exit polls, as we've done throughout these primaries, it's also clear that Obama has to try and make inroads to the Catholic community, that he has had some problems with Catholic voters, particularly in those battleground states.

So, you know, this is going to be a real challenge for him.

BLITZER: And Jeff?

TOOBIN: See, my reaction to this Florida problem that he has is not that it's a Jewish problem, it's a problem with older voters.

BORGER: Um-hmm.

CAFFERTY: (INAUDIBLE).

TOOBIN: He doesn't do well with older voters so far.

BORGER: Yes.

TOOBIN: That's why Hillary Clinton's been winning in states like West Virginia and Kentucky, with a larger percentage of older voters.

These Jewish voters traditionally come home to the Democrats. I don't doubt that they will come November. But he's going to have to work on it, because they are, like old people all around the world, somewhat set in their ways, unfamiliar with new people like Barack Obama.

So I think the problem here is not Jewish voters, it's older voters.

(CROSSTALK)

CAFFERTY: You know, Jewish voters -- the younger Jewish voters have supported Barack Obama. Just following up on what Jeff's saying. His point is very well taken. Barack Obama has gotten 45 percent of the younger Jewish voters in all of these elections that he's entered.

BORGER: Right.

CAFFERTY: So it is -- there's a generational thing here. BORGER: And can I also say, they're not just single issue voters. I mean one of the issues Obama then turned to was talking about the economy, talking about -- he's going to end up talking about prescription drugs a lot to these voters in Florida. There's a lot of other issues that they're interested in, too, aside from Israel.

BLITZER: Stand by guys. We have more to discuss.

Barack Obama quietly beginning right now a search for a vice presidential running mate. We're going to look at some of his options.

Plus, John McCain and Ellen DeGeneres debate same-sex marriage. They did it today. You're going to see it right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Let's discuss Obama and potential vice presidential running mates.

Gloria, Jim Johnson has been tasked once again. He's a long time Washington guy. I knew him when he worked for Walter Mondale many, many years ago. He's going to sort of be an informal chairman to vet potential running mates.

What's going on?

BORGER: Yes. You know, a lot of people I talked to today say that Jim Johnson is kind of a natural for this because, of course, he's vetted some of those potential running mates for John Kerry, when John Kerry ran last time around -- people like Bill Richardson and Edwards. And he was very discreet about it.

But it's not only Johnson. Also, Eric Holder, a former high- ranking official in the Justice Department, is also going to be involved in the vetting process. I think there's going to be a team. And they decided, rightly so, that this is not a thing you can leave until the last minute. Clearly, they didn't want the word out now, because Obama's still involved in fighting some primaries.

BLITZER: I find it curious though, Jeff, that yesterday we learned that McCain is inviting all these potential running mates out to his home in Arizona for a little Memorial Day weekend barbecue. And today we learned that Barack Obama has asked Jim Johnson to go ahead and start looking for potential running mate choices.

TOOBIN: Well, Obama has to do two things. He has to give the impression that he's the inevitable nominee. But he also has to look like he's not being presumptuous and preempting the choice of the last few voters who still have to go to the polls. I don't think it really matters much whether it starts this week or a month from now. We have lots and lots of time to talk about these vice presidential choices. And my guess is we're going to discuss them a lot.

CAFFERTY: Oh, yes. Until the point where your teeth hurt.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: The other thing that's interesting to me is the Barack Obama development concerning a vice presidential -- a possible vice presidential nominee does not coincide with the releasing of his medical records right before a three day holiday weekend...

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: ...which is what's going to happen on the McCain side tomorrow afternoon.

Does that reek or what?

BLITZER: Well, how difficult would it be for Barack Obama to call in Hillary Clinton and say I want to interview you as a possible running mate?

BORGER: Whoo. Very.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: I guess that...

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: ...that could be a little awkward.

TOOBIN: I'd like to be the fly on the wall for that interview.

BORGER: Well, first of all...

TOOBIN: Yes, that would be great.

BORGER: ...I don't think Obama would be doing that. I think what you would see -- and I'm not kidding around here -- is kind of a phone call, an informal chat saying, look, do you want to be considered, do you not want to be considered?

And if she doesn't want to be considered, then you don't have to go through all of the rest of the vetting, which I assume would take quite some time.

BLITZER: Jack?

CAFFERTY: "Time" magazine is reporting -- and I had this in The Cafferty File earlier -- that there are some people inside the Clinton campaign...

BORGER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: ...including former Vice President Bill Clinton, who are trying very hard to insert Hillary Clinton onto the ticket in the number two spot, that that behind-the-scenes lobbying is already well underway. BORGER: Shocked.

TOOBIN: My recollection is that Clinton was the president.

(LAUGHTER)

TOOBIN: Wasn't he president?

CAFFERTY: Yes, he was.

TOOBIN: I'm sorry to -- it's the end of a long week.

CAFFERTY: That's correct.

TOOBIN: I'm sorry.

CAFFERTY: What did I say?

Did I say (INAUDIBLE)...

TOOBIN: You said vice president.

BORGER: You called him vice president.

CAFFERTY: Oh, well, it has been a long week. And I'm old and so get off my back.

BORGER: But there are some people -- there are some people in the Clinton campaign who privately say gee, wouldn't she be terrific. She really shouldn't go back to the Senate even if she could become Senate majority leader. She's become so much larger than that, she can add things to the ticket.

But inside the Obama campaign there -- shall I say, there is not as much enthusiasm.

CAFFERTY: It's not going to happen.

BLITZER: Jim Johnson is a good guy. He knows how to do this. And he always has to ask that one tough question -- is there anything in your background at all that if came to light right now could embarrass the next president of the United States?

We'll leave that subject for another day.

Guys, thanks very much.

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

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

Tonight, we're reporting on the Bush administration's outright refusal to stand up for working men and women in this country -- certainly not their Labor Department. The administration making it easier for corporate America to hire foreign workers to replace American workers. We'll be telling you all about that.

And new developments, important developments, in the fight to win justice for imprisoned Border Patrol Agents Ramos and Compean (ph). And there's an ethics complaint, as well, against the prosecutor responsible for that case. We'll have the latest.

And the battle over Florida's disenfranchised voter goings going to federal court. Florida's Senate Democratic leader, Steven Geller, filing a lawsuit to force the Democratic National Committee and its chairman, Howard Dean, to recognize the state's primary to do the right thing.

And one of the leaders of a left-wing advocacy group that's attacking me and a few other folks on the issue of illegal immigration will join me here. We'll have a full and frank discussion, I'm sure.

Join us for all of that and a great deal more at the top of the hour, 7:00 Eastern 4:00, Pacific -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Lou, see you in a few moments.

Thank you.

He's a superdelegate and a Hillary Clinton supporter. But New York's governor says there's one thing that Clinton should stop doing because it suggests desperation.

And John McCain talks to Ellen DeGeneres about gay marriage, then gets a stunning proposition. Wait until you hear what she asks him.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour, Wolf, is do the government's rebate checks make you more confident in the U.S. economy?

David in New Hampshire writes: "Not at all, Jack. I cashed mine and put it in my wallet. If enough people do this, President Bush might be dumb enough to issue a second set of checks."

Harry in Kentucky says: "I have every confidence in the world the price of gas will be below $3.50 by election day and that incumbents of every stripe will point to their support of the rebates as saving the American economy."

Robert in Roswell, Georgia: "We're a married couple and only got $600. Apparently, we didn't make enough money, so the government decided we only deserved half. Had we filed separate returns, we'd have received $600 each. This Republican administration can't even bribe us correctly. Bobo the Clown and his sidekick, Fufu, can be the Democratic candidates as far as I'm concerned. You can bet I am not voting Republican ever." Bonita writes: "No way. It makes me more leery of our economy. The money for the rebate checks is borrowed money. How can anybody feel comfortable knowing that? If my son had to borrow money for my birthday gift, I'd rather he not give me the gift. I always thought the Republicans were against spending. They've got us deeper into debt than any previous administration. We'll be paying for this past our dying day."

Joyce writes: "I think you should know that many people, like myself, only received $300 in rebate checks. Since I'm living on a fixed income, I had to use mine to pay my car insurance. I'm not sure how I'll afford to keep -- to buy gas to drive if the price of gasoline keeps rising."

And on a related note, I got this from Dick: "I'm using my rebate to buy 150 gallons of gasoline. In a short time, I can resell it for double. Then I'll use that money to buy euros, and in a short time, I can sell them for double the dollars they cost. So by this time next year, I expect my rebate to net me $2,400. I will then go to the store and buy a pound of potatoes."

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: 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.

Pretty funny stuff.

BLITZER: Very funny.

See you tomorrow, Jack.

Thank you.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: On our Political Ticker, former White House adviser Karl Rove the target today of a new subpoena by the Judiciary Committee. It orders Rove to appear by July 10th to testify about allegations the Justice Department has become politicized. They want to ask him about the 2006 firing of those federal prosecutors, among other things. Rove has refused to cooperate, citing executive privilege.

A top Hillary Clinton supporter and superdelegate says he hopes she'll stop her effort to try to get the disputed primary votes in Florida and Michigan counted. In a radio interview, the New York governor, David Paterson, says he's starting to see a little desperation in Clinton's efforts to save her campaign.

No comment on that from the Clinton camp.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, check out CNNPolitics.com. The Ticker is now the number one political news blog on the Web. That's also where you can read my latest blog post. I posted one just before the show.

Ellen DeGeneres says she's planning on marrying her lesbian partner and she's asking John McCain to walk her down the aisle. You're going to want to see what he said in response.

And why do videos get booted off YouTube?

And where do they go after that?

We're going to show you that and a lot more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: John McCain faced some tough questions today on gay rights. Appearing on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," the host referenced the recent California court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(APPLAUSE)

DEGENERES: 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 happens that I legally now can get married, like everyone should.

(APPLAUSE)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I saw where...

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: Now I saw where someone even registered you.

DEGENERES: Someone -- yes, yes, illegally registered me. But, yes. I -- so I'm obviously excited.

MCCAIN: Yes.

DEGENERES: And to me, this is only fair and only natural.

MCCAIN: Yes.

DEGENERES: And what are your thoughts?

MCCAIN: 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: Um-hmm. 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)

DEGENERES: So to me...

(APPLAUSE)

DEGENERES: ...to me what it feels like, just -- 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 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. 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?

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: Touche.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: A good exchange.

All right, ever wonder which videos have been removed from YouTube and why?

A new Web site called YouTomb serves as an online graveyard for videos taken down from YouTube.

Let's go back to Abbi -- Abbi, how does this site work?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, if you're looking on YouTube for, say, Senator John McCain's recent skit on "Saturday Night Live," you'll come across this message -- "Removed. Taken down by YouTube after a copyright complaint from NBC."

Now, a record of that video and hundreds of others is finding a resting place on YouTomb, a site set up by a group of MIT students to track what's disappearing. There are videos removed by users or by media companies who request them taken down. Others contain graphic content. And we found 16 that mention Scientology.

YouTube's rules state that they remove videos because of copyright complaints or for terms of use violations. YouTomb's creators say we're not saying this is right or wrong, we just want to track it and make the data available -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you.

For the latest political news any time, remember, go to CNNPolitics.com. That's also where you can get our new political screen saver. You might want to see that.

Thanks very much for joining us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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

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