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CNN ELECTION CENTER

Something's Happening Here: Over the Last 40 Years, How Has the Presidential Election Changed?

Aired June 6, 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, everyone. Thanks for joining us.
Tonight, a journey that in many ways we have taken before. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): Exactly 40 years ago, June 1968, it was a historical marker, two million people, two million lining the railroad tracks from New York to Washington. They came to watch the funeral train carrying the body of Senator Robert Kennedy, a Democratic presidential candidate who had been assassinated.

The enduring power of moment comes not just from the tragedy itself, but also from all of the anxieties, the fears, the frustrations and the dreams that always pave the way for profound change.

It was a generation grappling with an unpopular war and an unpopular president. The country was impatient. There were massive pressures for social change. Along the tracks, a spontaneous outpouring of grief, uniting Americans of all races and all ages, rich and poor alike. They came to wave, to cry, to salute, or just to stare.

They wanted to be part of it, to say goodbye.

Now fast-forward 40 years. It is June 2008, another unpopular president, another unpopular war, anxiety and impatience, a new generation energized, all around the sense that we have reached a turning point. It's an election that could change the world.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: "Something's Happening Here" tonight on this ELECTION CENTER special.

Forty years ago, an assassin shot Senator Robert Kennedy as he was leaving a victory rally after winning the California primary. Unlike the seemingly endless presidential companies of today, Kennedy had been running for only two-and-a-half months. There was so much wrapped into that moment.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Sixty-eight was the most tumultuous, chaotic political year. First of all, in March, you had the assassination of Martin Luther King. In June, the assassination of Bobby Kennedy.

You had in the midst of this a growing anti-war sentiment.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The Democratic Party was totally disrupted by 1968 by the experience of the convention, from the voting public, which was disgusted and angered of what they saw in Chicago and clearly perceived the Democratic Party was in no condition to govern.

RICHARD NIXON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This time, we are going to win.

SCHNEIDER: People voted narrowly for Richard Nixon because they thought maybe he could hold the country together.

CROWLEY: In 68, as well as in 2008, the war helped shape, first of all, the discussion, second of all, the dynamic of who was eventually going to win.

JOE KLEIN, COLUMNIST, "TIME": Another similarity between this year and 1968, the candidates who succeeded are people like John McCain, who has always been a fresh and independent voice. And Barack Obama, to a greater extent than any of the other Democrats, was really the same sort of thing. He took risks.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: So many echoes of 1968 in this year's presidential campaign.

And with me right now tonight to help draw the parallels, CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, who has served as an adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton, CNN senior analyst Jeff Toobin. Faye Wattleton is president of the Center for the Advancement of Women. And from 1978 to '92, she was the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. And presidential historian Douglas Brinkley is a history professor at Rice University. He's also author of "The Reagan Diaries," as well as books about Gerald Ford, John Kerry, and Rosa Parks.

And, Doug, it is striking how many similarities there are between 1968 and 2008. You had incredibly unpopular incumbent presidents, incredibly unpopular wars, and this desire for change.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, that's right. And in 1968, Robert Kennedy delivered it.

I think he was profoundly changed after his brother was assassinated. And when you study or read the biographies of Robert Kennedy, you see from 1963 to '68 him feeling for the poor people, the underclass of America. Here is a candidate of hope, Bobby Kennedy, in early '68 going to places like a Navajo reservation and breaking a peace pipe, having -- breaking the fast with Cesar Chavez and the grape pickers and the migrant workers out in California, going into the coal mines of West Virginia. The imagery, the photographic imagery we have of Robert Kennedy and the kind of excitement he brought with -- to African- Americans, the underclass and young people is very much like what Barack Obama's been able to accomplish, here in '68.

BROWN: Faye, is that what he is tapping into?

FAYE WATTLETON, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN: I would say so. There are many parallels. They are both about the same wage, only four years difference.

Mr. Obama has achieved sort of that rock star excitement. He has a way of inspiring people to think about a world that's better than the one that we are living in, his famous quotes about not accepting the way the world it is, but the way I think it ought to be. And I think that that is the promise in Mr. Obama's candidacy.

He has that kind of electricity about him. I think, also, there's perhaps a bit of a contrast, in that Mr. Obama and RFK came from very different backgrounds, very different. They came to their positions in a very different way. And Mr. Obama went out to Chicago, which is sort of the seat of black nationalism and community organizing and agitation in those years.

Mr. Kennedy went to, as we have said, to the neighborhoods and the reservations to learn more about the disadvantaged.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Go ahead.

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR IN CHIEF, CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE: Just remember, too, that the candidate who first challenged Lyndon Johnson in 1968 wasn't Robert Kennedy. It was Eugene McCarthy.

And the McCarthy people viewed RFK as a fraud, as an opportunist. And I think some of the Hillary Clinton supporters view Barack Obama in a similar way, that, you know, she did the hard work. She laid the groundwork. And he is coming in for the glory. I think there is -- there's a parallel there.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. There are parallels, but I think there's also some interesting contrasts within those parallels.

In both cases, '68 and today, there's a sense that the old order has failed. It is not working. There's a rebellion against what has existed in government especially. But in the late '60s, it was rebellion against a Democratic government. It was rebellion against liberal rule, if you would like.

And today, it's a rebellion much more against conservative rule. And you have a sense that, in each case, old order is ending and a new order is being born. But, in '68, we were moving right. After all, Richard Nixon was the one elected in '68. And today, the country appears to be moving left, which does help to favor and gives a favorable landscape to Barack Obama.

BROWN: One of the other similarities here -- a lot of people have been saying this here -- that the Democratic Party is in complete and total chaos. But look back to '68 at what happened at the Democratic Convention, as well.

And, Jeff, I know your mother was there.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: My mother, my mother, the great television journalist Marlene Sanders, who covered the convention for 1968, very proudly teargassed on behalf of ABC News.

(LAUGHTER)

TOOBIN: And I think it -- the differences there were so much greater than they are now.

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, one reason their campaign degenerated into a bit of hostility is because they agree on so much. Hubert Humphrey supporters and Robert Kennedy's and Gene McCarthy's supporters hated each other because they disagreed about the war, about something of deep, deep importance.

So, I think the chaos was much greater in '68. You only need look to see.

WATTLETON: Well, but I think that there was a lot of social activism that set the backdrop for the convention.

The people were really, really involved in the campaign. I think one of the other contrasts we might point out is that Mr. Kennedy's candidacy was really a nascent candidacy. He had just gotten started. The promise of what he might be was cut short by his assassination.

We have had a long time now, a relatively long time -- it seems like it's been forever, this primary season -- to look at Mr. Obama and to see -- to examine him with a greater degree of intensity than we were allowed with Mr. Kennedy.

GERGEN: In some ways, actually, it's John McCain who's playing the Bobby Kennedy role this year.

BROWN: How?

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: Because he is the insurgent. He is the maverick within his own party. He is the one taking on the sitting president. He's, you know, distancing himself from Bush. Bobby Kennedy...

BROWN: Trying to.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: Trying. Yes, I think trying.

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: But Bobby Kennedy was trying to take on Lyndon Johnson. He was rebelling against a sitting president.

(CROSSTALK)

WATTLETON: He had already broken with him.

GERGEN: He had broken with him, but he was a part of his rebellion.

In some ways, it's the -- in each case, it was someone within the established party who was trying to break from within that party. Barack Obama is someone on the outside. It's John McCain who's the one who is the insider who is trying to break with this president.

BRINKLEY: We should mention, also, in 1968, in March, Lyndon Johnson just saying no more. The war is too difficult. I'm not going to campaign.

That was a very brave and I think in retrospect an excellent decision Johnson made. It opened the door in my ways for Robert Kennedy. And, look, when Robert Kennedy is meeting Cesar Chavez or the Navajos and going to miners, he's following the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson. Johnson's the Medicaid, Medicare. Johnson created the Wilderness Acts. And Lyndon Johnson's domestic agenda the Great Society was the last progressive movement.

And Bobby Kennedy was trying to have LBJ's progressive movement, but Eugene McCarthy's anti-war movement.

WATTLETON: And I think that that's an interesting contrast, because Bobby Kennedy was really projecting sweeping changes, sweeping possibilities for the country. We were not all mired in policy wonkism, which is one of the longings that I think that this country is searching for and are finding some elements in the sweeping rhetoric of Mr. Obama.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: There's one other parallel I want you to address, David. And that's the youth movement.

Obviously, we know what happened in '68. But here, as much as this campaign has been about race and gender, there is also a generational excitement that exists that we -- I don't think we have seen since '68.

GERGEN: I think that's right. And it's the youth of today who are leading the rebellion against the established order, the youth of today who are saying they want change. They're insisting upon social change. And they see Barack Obama as their candidate, just as many youth back then saw Bobby.

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: Oh, well, I think...

TOOBIN: What is a little confusing to me, though, is what -- the people who are at those Barack Obama rallies, by the thousands, what is it they want exactly? What is it they -- what is their agenda?

GERGEN: They want a different America. They find America today is intolerable, that there's too much inequality, that Washington is stuck.

Now they have actually seen maybe politics can be a vehicle for change. Maybe Obama can do what we didn't think any other person could do.

(CROSSTALK)

WATTLETON: I think that my daughter's generation also really does believe that we can get to a post-racist society.

GERGEN: Right. Exactly.

WATTLETON: They would like to see that, because within their lifespan or within their circles, they are integrating with all sorts of cultures, all sorts of people. And those who hang onto those racial divisions are intolerable to them. That's the kind of divisions that I see.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Our panel is going to be with us throughout the hour.

The defining issue of 1968, we should also mention, was also an unpopular war. Many said Vietnam was unwinnable. And now, in 2008, we have been fighting in Iraq more than five years. There's little agreement about how or when to get out. And that raises an unavoidable question: Is Iraq another Vietnam?

When we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: More than 4,000 U.S. troops have died in Iraq. Vietnam was a much longer, much deadlier war -- 1968 alone saw some 16,000 American deaths.

At the beginning of the year, Robert Kennedy complained that a total military victory was neither in sight, nor around the corner. The war was tearing America apart.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: 1968, that was the big buildup year, 550,000 troops in Vietnam. And our leaders kept telling the American people light is at the end of the tunnel. We have turned the corner. We are about there. And, in fact, that wasn't the case.

SCHNEIDER: In 1968, Americans were being drafted in large numbers. And that really created turmoil and anger and real fury, rage on college campuses.

CROWLEY: Vietnam undid Lyndon Baines Johnson. Clearly, he would have liked to have run. He wanted to run. But the streets were just seething.

HAGEL: Today, we have all-voluntarily army. Very few people have any direct contact with the consequences of that war. That's why you don't see million man marches in Washington, like we did in Vietnam.

SCHNEIDER: You are not seeing quite the same thing now. You're seeing anti-war sentiment, but American college students are not threatened with a draft. If we had a draft right now, campuses would be aflame.

HAGEL: Well, I don't think there's any question that the popularity level of President Johnson and President Bush were and, in President Bush's case are, very much affected by an unpopular war.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: I want to begin our conversation, David, with talking about 1968. It began with an announcement in January that 300,000 more troops would be drafted.

Today, we have an all-volunteer army. I mean, can we underestimate the importance of the difference of those two things?

GERGEN: You cannot.

It was the draft, as well as the -- the fact we got into a quagmire in Vietnam, that brought thousands upon thousands of kids to the streets demonstrating against the war. We have no draft today. And I think that's the -- and it's a much smaller war in many ways. And that's the primary reason why I don't think we see demonstrations.

One of the big, big -- what happened in the '60s, early on, when John Kennedy came in, he tapped into the idealism of the younger generation. And people signed up for the Peace Corps. They wanted to go off and do things and help save the world. And, then, gradually as the '60s went on, and we got -- and we got deeper and deeper into the war, the younger generation soured. And there were literally hundreds of thousands of people in the streets. We don't see this today in this war.

BROWN: Do you agree with that?

TOOBIN: Oh, absolutely.

But what we don't know about the '60s is, how much of the reason people were in the streets was pure self-interest? They didn't want to fight in this war. BROWN: Right.

TOOBIN: And how much was the altruism of trying to save other lives, save Vietnamese lives? Obviously, that was a -- all those motives are mixed.

Here, though, I think, in 2008, it is a much more directly altruistic act to be involved in politics now on whatever side, because the self-interest is less direct.

(CROSSTALK)

WATTLETON: Well, it was an altruistic time...

(CROSSTALK)

WATTLETON: ... because the civil rights movement in the '60s, the civil rights movement was in full bloom. The kids were going south, risking their lives to -- so that blacks could vote. It was the women's rights movement, the second wave of the women's rights -- it was in a context in the country in which there was a convergence of concern about the way the world was and the injustices, including the war.

So we don't have that. We have made progress on some of those fronts. And so it leaves sort of a blank page for the war to be written on. And I think that's why Mr. Obama's candidacy is so compelling, because he is able to make a connection with these kids around some of these issues, and the war being really very important, even though they may not go themselves.

BROWN: But go to Iraq, because we do see this overwhelming sentiment against the war in the polls. But you certainly don't see anybody in the streets. I mean, very rarely are there anti-war protests in this country.

BRINKLEY: It's two different situations. I mean, you had 57,000 soldiers killed in Vietnam. We're dealing with 3,000 in Iraq. The draft issue was such a volatile one.

But, look, when Lyndon Johnson got the Wiseman (ph) report of Clark Clifford and Dean Acheson, Johnson said, uh-oh, we are going to have to get out of Vietnam.

Well, '68, for being all this radicalism and progressivism, it ended up having George Wallace with the segregationist party, and Richard Nixon playing the silent majority. And the war in Vietnam drug on all the way through Gerald Ford had to pull the plug in 1974. And what does -- we're living now in the age not of Vietnam, but of Ronald Reagan, from 1980 to present, this sense of, wear the flag lapel, patriotism, build up the armed forces. That's where we're at in the war in Iraq.

So, for Obama to -- and you see the struggles that John Kerry had trying to be against the war in Iraq after 9/11. So, Obama's walking into kind of unusual territory right now on being an anti-war voice, because it didn't work in '68. With all the clamor, Richard Nixon still won the presidency.

TOOBIN: There is a fabulous new book out called "Nixonland" by Rick Perlstein that talks about the difference...

BROWN: That's the second time you have mentioned it.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: You must be in love with this book.

TOOBIN: I love this book. No, it's true. And I'm not getting anything out of it.

But it talks about how -- everybody talks about idealism of the '60s. That was the losing side. The winning side was Richard Nixon...

GERGEN: Exactly.

TOOBIN: ... was the law and order people, the rebel -- the counter-rebellion to -- using many of the same language -- much of the same language you hear against Obama, elitism. It works.

BROWN: But, to that point -- let me ask David this one question, because, you know, in 1968, John McCain was a POW. He was not a part or aware in any sense of the turmoil that was happening in this country at the time.

How does that affect his view in this time in terms of the way he campaigns and also the point that Jeff just made?

GERGEN: Well, let me promote something else.

And Matt Bai, I thought, had a fascinating...

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: No, it's a fascinating piece in "The New York Times" magazine of the -- I think three weeks ago or so -- in which he argues that the other Vietnam veterans who are in the Congress, like Chuck Hagel, and John Kerry, and Jim Webb, have all turned against the war in Iraq, in part because, during Vietnam, they were -- they were fighting in Vietnam. They turned -- they saw how badly the war went. And they have soured on it.

And now they have soured on this war, whereas John McCain, in the Vietnam War, was actually imprisoned and missed out on all the demonstrations. He missed out on the souring. He came out of that experience thinking, we should have won Vietnam. We just didn't stick in there. We just didn't fight it right. We didn't have the right strategy.

And, therefore, in Iraq, it's a question of hanging in there, that we have got to persevere. And that's why he's broken with these other these other veterans of Vietnam, who actually were in the jungles. BRINKLEY: Well, the great historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. used to talk about the pendulum of history kind of swinging. And after the '60s, the Great Society, civil rights movement, then you had the Reagan right, and it was supposed to, the pendulum, then go back to the left.

The Clinton administration did triangulation. They ended up not having a progressive movement, but kind of playing the middle centrist ground. So, we haven't had a progressive movement in this country since 1968.

Barack Obama, if he becomes president, if he wins, he will have a Democratic Senate in Congress. They're going to come in with the first sweeping legislative agenda which will be Johnson-like or New Deal like. That will be a big moment in this country.

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: I agree with that.

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: Just as in the late '60s, we rebelled against the existing order and we swung right, in this rebellion, against an existing conservative order, we may well swing left. I think that's exactly right.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: And, on that note, we have got to take another quick break. But stay with us, a lot more. The panel will be back.

Robert Kennedy energized black voters in a way no political candidate had before. And, for 40 years, he had no equal. But now, of course, in 2008, the party of Kennedy has chosen an African- American as its presidential candidate. And black voters see a once impossible dream within their grasp. Race, then and now -- when "Something's Happening Here" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: 1968 was the first presidential election in which all African-American voters North and South were truly empowered. And after Martin Luther King's assassination, most saw Robert Kennedy as their only hope, a leader able to reach across America's racial divide, who cared about jobs, education and ending poverty.

No candidate has energized African-Americans like that since, until, of course, Barack Obama came along.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Race, of course, in 1968, race was a central issue of contention. You still had a large constituency of racists and segregationists in the United States who refused to buy integration or civil rights. Americans were shocked by the assassinations. ROSEY GRIER, BODYGUARD FOR ROBERT F. KENNEDY: Dr. Martin Luther King's death for the civil rights movement, it didn't stop it, but it came to a slow grind, because everyone was looking around for the next voice.

KATHLEEN KENNEDY TOWNSEND, FORMER MARYLAND LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: When Martin Luther King was killed, my father was running for president. He arrived in Indianapolis. He went into the inner city. He stood up and he said to the crowd, Martin Luther King was killed.

ROBERT KENNEDY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust...

GRIER: He said, "My brother was also shot by a white man," and that it doesn't serve any purpose to hate other people. I felt that the senator was going to make us the kind of nation that we should be. Forty years later, we see race plays a part in the election today.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: We want to believe that we, as a nation, have changed. But I think the fundamental issue is, we have to do today what they did in '68. And that is, challenge people on their racial views at their core. Race is in the DNA of America.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: In that speech to the crowd in Indianapolis the night of the King assassination, Kennedy told the crowd that the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together.

So, where are we 40 years later?

We want to go back to our panel right now.

And let me ask this question.

Faye, I will start with you. Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy both passionate advocates for civil rights, you know, the kind of racial equality that would have allowed Barack Obama to be where he is today. And yet, Obama is trying to position himself, or is, as the post-racial candidate. Is there a certain irony there, I guess?

WATTLETON: Well, I think that the irony perhaps is vested in the fact that he was not a child of the '60s and he did not come of age during a time when Mr. Kennedy and Martin Luther King felt the urgency to move the country forward. So his experiences are not informed by the experiences of those of us who do remember the very deep racial divides, and perhaps he offers the promise for where we need to go as opposed to whether we are there now.

And that's -- I don't think we should overlook the importance of the people who came before him. Jesse Jackson's candidacy was not irrelevant to this, to where we are today. All of this is necessary to condition us to think that it's possible to have someone other than a white man in the White House.

BROWN: Doug?

BRINKLEY: Well, I'm just mentally thinking about Indianapolis and there's Robert Kennedy. His brother had been shot in Dallas going there, and there's a fear of riots and he's talking as a white American with his sleeves rolled up in front of the sea of African- Americans and told them keep hope alive. Don't give up. Don't turn violent now. Dr. King's vision will continue.

So when people say that, you know, Obama is sort of, you know, not real, or Bobby Kennedy isn't, the passion of both of them when they speak to people is real because it comes from the heart and you can feel that. How Robert Kennedy acquired that gift is a longer story but by that time he ran for president in March and April of '68, he had it. He was on fire when he was killed.

WATTLETON: Let's also point out that there were riots going on in 60 cities at the same time that he was making that speech. Indianapolis was the only place where there was not rioting. And so I think that the power of the speech at that moment was pretty profound, but the reality of what was going on in race relations is really very -- very much aligned to what we see today which is calling for a different direction.

TOOBIN: Barack Obama is always very careful to acknowledge his personal debt to the John Lewises, the Fannie Lou Hamers, the pioneers of the civil rights movement. But he is a product of a different era and a different place.

Remember where he's from. He's from Hawaii, the most racially integrated, complicated state in the union, where he did not live in a racially embroiled society. So he's just from a different time and different place.

WATTLETON: He did not grow up in a slave descendant environment.

GERGEN: That's true, but there is something about this new generation. I think Jeff is right about this. It strikes me that Bobby Kennedy was a haunting figure and, Doug, you're right to remember the Indianapolis speech. It's probably one of the grand speeches of American history because it was spontaneous and he talks about Escalus, and he talks about tragedy and how one deals with that, and it's from the heart. It's a wonderful speech.

But he and Martin Luther King were martyrs who helped open the door to a new generation that's now coming. So you see, yes, Barack Obama, but there are others who are African-Americans who are in this so-called post-racial generation. Deval Patrick, who is elected governor of Massachusetts, African-American Cory Booker, who's mayor of Newark. Harold Ford, who ran and lost a very close race in Tennessee as a Senate candidate.

There are a group of these people who are actually friends. They talk to each other. They understand that their parents, you know, were in the Civil Rights Movement in effect, were out there part of the pioneers. But there are the new generation, and they speak a different language and they speak a language of inclusion.

They understand that to be accepted, to be embraced, they do have to build bridges to the white community. This is not a protest group. You know, Martin Luther King was protesting. These are people who work within the system.

WATTLETON: But there were people who were working within the system even then.

GERGEN: There were some, there were some.

(CROSSTALK)

WATTLETON: People in the end --

GERGEN: But it gave way to the Civil Rights Movement -- became a protest movement.

WATTLETON: But this is true as it should be.

GERGEN: Yes.

WATTLETON: Because you're protesting injustice but I think that that really points out the fact that a movement is not all one element.

GERGEN: True.

WATTLETON: It takes many elements to bring -- and it takes the more radical rhetoric of a movement to move the ball forward, and there were those who will work within the system.

GERGEN: Right.

WATTLETON: I don't think we should forget about it.

GERGEN: These people could not get elected where they radicals.

WATTLETON: Well, they didn't need to be elected because where they were working --

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: No, no, no. I mean the Cory Bookers and Deval Patricks and Barack Obamas, if they were seen as radicals they could not get elected. I think they represent a different voice and a different sense of inclusion and unity and it is -- I think they're -- they have given us a glimpse of a new politics and is supposed to excite --

(CROSSTALK)

WATTLETON: But the point I'm making is that there were those even during the radical, the so-called radical years, that could get in the board rooms.

BROWN: Right.

WATTLETON: There have always been people in the Civil Rights Movement who also --

GERGEN: But it took the people going to the streets to break --

BROWN: All right. Let's bring Doug in here. Sorry.

BRINKLEY: There's something that happened to Robert Kennedy, I believe, in 1966, when he went to South Africa. It profoundly changed him. He saw an apartheid system there, and he came back and he was very --

Some of his greatest speeches took place when he was in South Africa in talking about oppression. Barack Obama having that Kenyan background is kind of a global person, and Nelson Mandela I think has become the link figure from the '60s all the way to now. He's kept this kind of energy alive. One world almost a Bob Marley message or something that Obama's tapping into.

And so, he's not just about the American Civil Rights Movement, Obama. He's really upon about a global human rights and Robert Kennedy had associated himself with the global human rights movement.

BROWN: Guys, hold the thought again. We'll be back with more right after this.

Barack Obama's presidential candidacy, of course, would have been unthinkable in 1968. The same thing is true for Hillary Clinton's, a woman president? Not possible then.

But that year, in 1968, the tide did begin to turn. It was an awakening for the women's movement from the roots of that struggle to Hillary Clinton and her powerful campaign when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Erica Hill. The CNN special "Something's Happening Here" will continue after this check of what's now in the news.

Hillary Clinton's vice presidential hopes getting a boost from the latest CNN/Opinion Research poll. Fifty-four percent of registered Democrats say she should be Barack Obama's running mate. The senator is expected to deliver her concession speech tomorrow in Washington.

Wall Street in a free fall today as the Dow dropped nearly 400 points, its largest loss of the year. Analysts are blaming the biggest one-month surge in unemployment in over 20 years and oil prices that shot up more than $11 a barrel today.

And home run king Barry Bonds goes on trial next March. Prosecutors say Bonds lied when he told the grand jury he never knowingly took steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs. He entered a plea of not guilty. He's currently free on $500,000, and says he wants to play this year. No team, though, has made an offer.

Those are the headlines. "Something's Happening Here" continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: 1968 was the first year that Yale admitted women. The year also saw feminists, as they were called back then, picketing the Miss America pageant. Something new was stirring in the country. It was the beginning of women's liberation. Women's lib.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAT SCHROEDER (D), FMR. U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, in 1968, women kind of begin to find their voice and obviously the Robert Kennedys and the Senator McCarthys, and all of those were really saying new things, new day. And so, women were like, why not? And they were getting very involved.

CROWLEY: Among women there was, you know, there was the glass ceiling. There was the equal rights amendment. The feeling that women should have -- have it enshrined in the constitution that they were equals. So that was kind of a rallying point and that began to catch steam.

SCHROEDER: Because women all began to feel that they were more worthy and that they had higher ambitions, the Miss America pageant became a target as did many things. And 1968, the seeds of a lot of this started with the National Women's Liberation meetings that turned into NOW.

SCHNEIDER: Hillary Clinton could never have run for president without those enormous changes of the 1960s.

SCHROEDER: Hillary Clinton in 2008 has done a fabulous job of showing that women can get out there and compete.

I really think that each of those steps forwards and someone says, well, yes. Of course we can have a president. The White House isn't really a big tree house with the "No girls allowed" sign on it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And we're back once again with our panel. So guys, what do you think? Is the White House still a no girls allowed zone, David?

GERGEN: I think Hillary Clinton has shattered that -- that perception. And whatever else you think about her campaign, she deserves enormous credit for how far she's taken this. I think that between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, they have sent a clear signal to young American children of every background that you can get here, too. That the doors are now open for the first time. And, by the way, this has done wonders for us overseas to follow up on Doug's earlier point about universal rights. Countries all over the world are looking at us and saying what a wide open, robust election campaign you've had and these shows the best side of America. Whether they like Barack or whether they like Hillary or whether they like John McCain, they think more highly of America because of this campaign.

TOOBIN: The '60s were the great time of the Civil Rights Movement about race. The women's movement didn't really start making a lot of progress until the '70s.

BROWN: But there were some seeds planted.

TOOBIN: They were definitely the seeds planted. But Roe versus Wade was 1973, as I needn't tell Faye, and it was a time -- maybe women's rights movement is 10 years -- is 10 years behind.

WATTLETON: Well, it certainly if you look at what happened around abolition and the women's movement convergence of it, that women were left out. But the Civil Rights Movement really did, the women's rights movement, the second wave, really was a part of the '60s in large part because of the ascension of the birth control pill that allowed women to truly control their fertility, and to aspire to economic possibilities that the civil rights movement also sought to aspire.

So the '60s were indeed very important. By the way, birth control was made legal in 1965. And that really laid --

TOOBIN: Griswold versus Connecticut.

WATTLETON: Griswold versus Connecticut, exactly.

TOOBIN: Absolutely.

WATTLETON: So that really laid the groundwork for a whole series of legal decisions that really represented a judicial revolution for women at the time that the political revolution was under way.

BRINKLEY: Not just that, you had Rosa Parks, the mother of the movement. You had Betty Friedan's book coming out in the early '60s, "The Feminine Mystique." And even somebody like Rachel Carson who was working for U.S. Fish and Wildlife, was the one with "Silent Spring" in '63 that alerted everybody to pesticides, poisoning the waters. The modern environmental movement was kicked off by a woman.

So by '63, you're seeing women at not having the political power in elective office still having a profound influence.

WATTLETON: Well, one thing you saw people, women, at the height of the Vietnam protests. Women Strike for Peace was one of the most significant women's organizations against the Vietnam War, as well.

TOOBIN: There's a little parallel here, and I think it's gay rights. Gay rights is ascendant now in a way that women's rights was in the '60s.

The differences about gay rights and gay marriage are tremendously generational. Young people, they think it's obvious. Old people are still made very uncomfortable by it, and I think that is clearly a matter of time for that cause to be much more popular.

GERGEN: Yes. It isn't the one barrier that seems to be still out there, but do we all agree that Hillary Clinton did not lose this because she was a woman?

TOOBIN: I totally agree with that.

WATTLETON: I don't agree. I think that was a factor.

BROWN: Do you think, Faye, or everybody, that there are things you can and can't do as a female candidate because you are a woman?

WATTLETON: Well, there's no question that the treatment of Hillary Clinton by the press and all of the statements that were made, that people did not -- that would have been fired, they would have been fired if they had made them about Mr. Obama on a racist basis.

There is no question that there was a strong bias. The American people agree with that. It's pretty obvious so that her gender was absolutely a factor in --

GERGEN: A negative factor?

WATTLETON: A negative factor in terms of the way that it was used against her.

GERGEN: But there was -- it also was an extremely positive factor among a lot of people who have voted for her.

(CROSSTALK)

WATTLETON: There are people that are extremely --

GERGEN: So I'm wondering it was a net, net loss.

WATTLETON: It was in fact positive because there were a lot of women who are very proud of her ascendancy.

GERGEN: Of course, as they should be.

WATTLETON: Proud that she had really, you know, worked very hard and the road that she had traveled to get to where she is. There's no -- I agree with you. There's no denying that she deserves a lot of respect.

BROWN: OK. And we have to end it there. We could go on for hours, but my thanks to Doug Brinkley, Faye Wattleton, Jeff Toobin and David Gergen.

In 1968, people did have a very real fear, a fear that America was coming apart at the seams. So next, we're going to talk about the national mood both then and now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Protesters at the Democratic Convention shouted "The whole world is watching." It still is.

In 1968, Robert Kennedy looked at America and complained, "We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. Too often we honor swagger and bluster." So 40 years later, what's changed?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HAGEL: 1968 was one of the most defining years in the history of our country. Families had astounding clashes at their dinner tables.

SCHNEIDER: And it looked like the country was coming apart at the seams.

MARTIN: What happened that year caused people to truly believe that the innocence of America -- gone.

CROWLEY: You had a real sense in '68 that things were both dangerous and possible.

ANNOUNCER: The student rebellion reached its height at the Democratic Convention in Chicago in August.

PAT SCHROEDER (D), FMR. U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: And by the end, everybody felt like they were just in the ditch somewhere. And I certainly hope that 2008 isn't anything like that.

SCHNEIDER: The conflict over values which defines red and blue America, all of that came out of 1968. You have a new generation which has suddenly risen up and said, it's time to end this cultural war. That's the movement behind Barack Obama and to some extent behind John McCain, who is also a figure who bridges the partisan divide. We're seeing an uprising now against the division that started in 1968.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: At the beginning of this hour, we talked about Robert Kennedy's final journey. The funeral train from New York to Washington. The two million Americans who gathered on the tracks to say goodbye.

Well next, a photographer on that train and his remarkable images.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: On June 8th, 1968, Robert Kennedy's funeral train traveled from New York to Washington. It was a momentous, gut- wrenching journey. More than 226 miles, it took more than eight hours. Two million people came out to see that train.

But on the train was "Look" magazine photographer Paul Fusco. New photographs from his journey were found recently in the Library of Congress and are in a book due out this fall, "Paul Fusco: RFK," published by Aperture. With those pictures in hand, he sat down to relive the power of the moment.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL FUSCO, RFK FUNERAL TRAIN PHOTOGRAPHER: The first thing I saw was hundreds of people on train station platforms. I was absolutely stunned. I didn't anticipate it. I hadn't thought about it. I couldn't -- it was like an apparition.

I instinctively jumped up, grabbed one of the windows in this old train car, pulled the slip, pulled it down, stood in that window and saw the train go to Washington.

America came to mourn, and it was just stunning and overwhelming. All these people, young, old, black, white, yellow. Just all there together, driven by one concern. A love, hopefully, for a great man. A loss of their future.

Bobby Kennedy at that time made a lot of people believe that it wasn't only the rich who had a great time to be in America. America was for everybody. Everybody had a chance. It was incredibly an emotional train ride. It was unrelenting.

There's a black woman at the end of the line of maybe 30 or 40 people who was in absolute agony, arms flayed out. Her face was twisted with pain and anguish. A young family, mother and father, five children. Very carefully standing at attention by the side of the tracks.

And a woman by herself in this empty landscape. It was a very strong melancholy, and it makes you worry about her, wonder about her.

So many clumps of Americans, all mourning and saying goodbye, farewell, so long, Bobby. And they were all there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Robert Kennedy's journey came to an end 40 years ago. Forty years later, his country's journey continues.

Thank you for joining us. I'm Campbell Brown.

"LARRY KING LIVE" begins right now.

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