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Hillary Clinton's Future; Evangelical Leader Criticizes Obama; Has Don Imus Done It Again?

Aired June 24, 2008 - 18:00   ET


Happening now: Barack Obama on Hillary Clinton's return to the Senate. He talks exclusively to CNN about his former rival and her husband and their role in his campaign. Stand by for that.

Plus, John McCain adds some star power. Arnold Schwarzenegger is at his side, but not necessarily on his side when it comes to America's energy crisis.

And a new slap at Obama from the religious right. Evangelical leader James Dobson accusing the Democrat of distorting the Bible -- all that coming up, plus the best political team on television.

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

Hillary Clinton is back at her day job in the U.S. Senate, but Democrats and Republicans alike are wondering if she will be satisfied with simply staying there.

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

Senator Clinton's return to Capitol Hill prompted cheers from colleagues and a lot of questions for her and for Barack Obama.

We just got in some exclusive comments from Senator Obama on Senator Clinton's future role. Listen to this.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Clinton has been a larger-than-life figure in Democratic politics and American politics even before she ran for president. Her candidacy only enhanced her stature. She ran an extraordinary campaign.

She garnered not just votes, but the passion and support of so many millions of people. She's going to be a force to be reckoned with, not only in the Senate, but, hopefully, if I'm successful, in the White House. She's going to be one of my key partners in making sure that we're moving forward on issues like health care, that she cares so deeply about.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Senator Clinton also speaking out about her political future. She spoke off camera, but on the record, with reporters for the first time since she suspended her campaign.


QUESTION: What is your role now?

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: My role is to be the very best senator I can be and to represent the greatest state in our country.

QUESTION: Last week, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus said that you're not interested in becoming vice president. Was that accurate?

CLINTON: I am not seeking any other position.

QUESTION: But are you not interested?

CLINTON: You know, it is not -- it is not something that I think about. This is totally Senator Obama's decision. And that's the way it should be.

QUESTION: Senator Clinton, tell me about your event in New Hampshire that's coming up. Senator McCain is making a concerted effort to go after some of your voters. What's your message to your supporters and the party generally?

CLINTON: Well, it is that anyone who voted for me has very little in common with the Republican Party. If you care about the issues I care about and the future that I outlined during my campaign, then you really have to stay with us in the Democratic Party and vote for Senator Obama to be our next president.

On Friday, I will be with Senator Obama in Unity, New Hampshire, which is well-named for the occasion. And it is particularly significant because it is an area where Senator Obama and I each got exactly the same number of votes. So, this is going to be a symbolic event that I hope will rally the Democratic Party behind our nominee.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

What do you make of what Senator Clinton is saying now about I guess her future role?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what she's saying is her immediate future role is helping get Barack Obama elected. That goes a long way towards some of the questions by some of her detractors on Capitol Hill, including some lawmakers, who really questioned over the course of some of the campaign whether or not, in fact, Hillary Clinton was hurting the party, in the sense that this was all about her nomination, that she went after Barack Obama too hard.

Now what we saw in this tape from Hillary Clinton was very much a party person, Wolf. This was someone who said, we need to get more senators elected. We need to get Barack Obama elected, and I need my voters to get on board.

She was very much a team player today.

BLITZER: That's Hillary Clinton.

Let's talk a little bit about Bill Clinton right now. He issued a statement, through his spokesman, saying he's committed to trying to get Barack Obama elected, will do whatever he's asked to make sure that that happens.

Our producer Chris Walsh (ph), our CNN producer, managed to get an exclusive question-and-answer session with Senator Obama, and asked about Bill Clinton.

I want you to listen, and I want our viewers to listen, to these exclusive comments.


OBAMA: We are going to be working closely together over the next couple of weeks to put together a plan. They're going to want to campaign actively on behalf of the Democratic ticket. I am going to need them.

Bill Clinton is one of the most intelligent, charismatic political leaders that we have seen in a generation. And he's got a lot of wisdom to impart. And so we're going to be working very closely with him and Senator Clinton to make sure that, not only do we win in November, but we actually govern in a way that delivers on the promise of universal health care, good jobs and good wages, clean energy, lower gas prices, the things that are really going to make an impact on people's lives.


BLITZER: All right, Candy, what are you hearing about the relationship between Bill Clinton and the Barack Obama campaign?

CROWLEY: We may be close to some sort of detente.

I remember, yesterday, we reported that a source told us that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had a phone call Sunday night where they talked about a variety of things, their upcoming appearance together in New Hampshire, the fund-raisers that are coming together on Thursday. And they talked as well, we are now told by a source, about Bill Clinton, and about Bill Clinton and Barack Obama either talking together on the phone or getting together.

So, detente appears to be near. This was not an easy relationship, as you know. Bill Clinton threw his heart, his soul, and a lot of other things into this campaign for his wife. So, this is probably harder for him than it is for Hillary Clinton. But, nonetheless, she brought up the subject about the two of them getting together, so I suspect we're fairly close to that, either by a phone call or a meeting.

BLITZER: This stuff takes time.

CROWLEY: It does.

BLITZER: Candy will be watching this story for us.

Let's get to John McCain right now. He's trying to put a bigger spotlight on his energy plan with help from California's larger-than- life governor. That would be Arnold Schwarzenegger.


GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: I have every confidence that, once Senator McCain is in the White House, America will get back to the game of having a sensible, consistent, and forward-looking energy policy.


BLITZER: But there were some bumps in the McCain/Schwarzenegger road show today, including protests and a biting response from Barack Obama.

Let's go straight to our own Dana Bash. She's covering the McCain campaign for us.

What's going on, Dana, in this relationship?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's going on is that John McCain obviously as you just heard there got a big boost from somebody who is incredibly important, perhaps the most important Republican for John McCain when it comes to the issue of the environment, which obviously is one of the big issues that he is trying to use to separate himself from President Bush and make himself out as a different kind of Republican.

The problem, as you alluded to there, and as Arnold Schwarzenegger did not talk about sitting next to John McCain today, is that they do differ on something that really has bubbled up and really exploded as a potential problem for McCain in that -- that road for him that he's trying to take as a different kind of Republican, and that problem is offshore drilling.

Clearly, Arnold Schwarzenegger does differ with McCain on that issue. They didn't talk about it today, but it was really interesting, Wolf. There was some open disagreement from one other member of the panel that McCain was sitting on in Santa Barbara today. Another member of the panel actually said to McCain, really challenged him, on not only offshore drilling, but nuclear policy, so it was kind of the kind of straight talk that McCain says that he likes. It didn't come from Arnold Schwarzenegger, and, as you mentioned, there were also some protests outside. So, the challenge that John McCain has not only for the environment, but also for the state of California politically really was on display today during his trip.

BLITZER: Dana, let's listen to some comments made today by both of these senators. They're dueling over energy policy. Listen to this.


OBAMA: John McCain's offering the same old gimmicks that will provide almost no short-term relief to folks who are struggling with high gas prices, gimmicks that will only increase our addiction for another four years.

MCCAIN: I have a long record of putting my country first, of putting my country not only before my party, but before myself. Senator Obama does not have that record. He talks the talk but has not walked the walk. And that's -- and I urge the examination of the record. And on this energy issue, yes, it's easy to say no to everything. That's what Senator Obama's doing.


BLITZER: All right, Dana, what's going on with these candidates when it comes to the all-important issue of energy right now?

BASH: What happened today, Wolf, is that Barack Obama issued a rapid-fire attack on just about every one of John McCain's proposals that he's issued over the past couple of days.

And what the McCain campaign is trying to do in response is put a new label on Barack Obama, and that is Dr. No. What they have been trying to do is make the case that Barack Obama is part of the inaction, part of the problem in Washington, because they see, in their data, inside the McCain campaign, that that is the thing that voters really are most concerned about. They're most fired up about the fact that Washington isn't doing anything to help them with their high gas prices.

So, there you heard John McCain not exactly saying Dr. No, but making it pretty clear that that is the theme that they are pushing, that Barack Obama is trying to stand in the way of some of McCain's proposals. Obviously, they differ a lot on the philosophy that they're pushing, but, in terms of the political strategy, that's what you got from McCain today.

BLITZER: All right, Dana. Dana's watching this story all over for us all on the energy issues.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Americans have religion, at least according to a new poll. The Pew surveyed 35,000 people, found that 92 percent of us believe in God or a universal spirit, and more than half of us pray at least once a day. It turns out we Americans are a tolerant bunch, too, at least when it comes to religion. Although a majority of those polls say religion is very important to them, nearly three-fourths believe that many faiths besides their own can lead to salvation.

And most think that there's more than one way to interpret the teachings of their religion. Experts say that seems to go against the theory that, the more religious people are, the more intolerant they are. They add that tolerance might come from the great diversity in this country.

The report also found that many across many faiths, those who pray more often tend to be more politically conservative. For many of these people, the fight against abortion and gay rights remain key issues. Findings show that the South is by far the most religious part of our country, the Northeast by far the most secular.

And it also found that almost 80 percent of us believe in miracles, 74 percent believe in heaven, and most believe in angels and demons, too. Only 59 percent believe in hell.

Here's the question: Do you believe in miracles?

Go to Post a comment on my blog. If we read it, that will be a miracle.


BLITZER: All right, Jack.

Jack will be back shortly with the best political team on television.

Barack Obama is a man of Christian faith, but it's coming under some criticism right now. Why is one prominent evangelical accusing Obama of distorting the Bible and of -- quote -- "dragging biblical understanding through the gutter"?

Fears of an assassination attempt on the president of France. Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife are fine. But an Israeli police officer shot himself disturbingly close to both of them.

And whoever wants to be vice president of the United States will have to face some tough and uncomfortable questions. How personal is too personal? The best political team on television weighs in.


BLITZER: A gunshot shatters the pomp and circumstance as two presidents and a prime minister take part in an airport departure ceremony. That was the alarming scene as the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and his wife were leaving Israel today.

Our State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee, shows us what happened -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was a dramatic farewell, but it wasn't one the French president was expecting.


VERJEE (voice-over): The French president didn't hear the gunshot over the band playing at an airport ceremony in Israel. Nicolas Sarkozy was about to board his plane when a dramatic incident happened at Ben-Gurion Airport. A policeman shot and killed himself several hundred yards from the ceremony.

The gunshot sparked fears of an assassination attempt. Security forces interrupted the handshakes and went into emergency mode, scrambling world leaders in different directions. They whisked Sarkozy up the plane as his wife, Carla Bruni, sprinted up the stairs ahead of him. President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert were rushed to their cars. It was all over in minutes.

After the all-clear, Israeli leaders went in their guests' plane to explain.


VERJEE: Sarkozy was wrapping up a three-day visit. He had meetings with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Zain, thanks. Fortunately, everything worked out well.

A top evangelical leaders is offering some sharp new criticism of Barack Obama -- James Dobson accusing Obama of distorting the Bible. And he goes on to suggest the Democrat has a -- quote -- "fruitcake" -- "fruitcake interpretation" of the United States Constitution.

Let's go to our senior political correspondent, Bill Schneider. He's watching this story for us.

Obama's trying to bring people together, but he's meeting with some resistance, especially from the right.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, he's finding out that, when it comes to values and religion, it may not be so easy to bring people together.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, is using his radio broadcast this week to respond to something Barack Obama said two years ago when he gave a speech about ways to bridge the divide between religious and secular Americans.

Obama called on secular Americans to show greater respect for religious values.

OBAMA: Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square.

SCHNEIDER: He also called on evangelical leaders to define their agenda in terms of common values.

OBAMA: Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific values.

SCHNEIDER: Dobson's response?


DR. JAMES DOBSON, FOUNDER & CHAIRMAN, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: What he's trying to say here is, unless everybody agrees, we have no right to fight for what we believe.

I thank God that that's not what the Constitution says.


SCHNEIDER: Take abortion. The public is sharply divided on the issue. Obama advised abortion opponents:

OBAMA: I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

SCHNEIDER: Dobson's response? That's nonsense.


DOBSON: What the senator is saying there, in essence, is that, I can't seek to pass legislation, for example, that bans partial-birth abortion because there are people in the culture who don't see that as a moral issue. And if I can't get everyone to agree with me, it is undemocratic to try to pass legislation that I find offensive to the Scripture.


Now, that is a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution.

SCHNEIDER: That's why we have elections, Dobson argues, to fight for our values. Obama believes elections should be more about finding common ground.


SCHNEIDER: Obama's campaign has responded with a statement that -- quote -- "Barack Obama is committed to reaching out to people of faith" -- unquote -- adding that a full reading of his 2006 speech shows that. This is a dispute over values. And values are much harder to compromise than interests -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dobson's no great fan of John McCain either, is he? SCHNEIDER: He is not. In February, he released a statement that he did not consider McCain a true conservative. And he said, if the choice is between McCain and either Clinton or Obama, I simply will not cast a ballot for president, he said, for the first time in my life -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider working the story for us.

Amid the political debate over whether or not to talk to Iran, is President Bush now about to follow Barack Obama's lead? Sources tell CNN the State Department now considering talking to Tehran in a way the United States has not in almost 30 years.

The highest-ranking woman in Congress says she's personally experienced sexism. So, what does Nancy Pelosi think about claims Hillary Clinton was victim to it?

And Iraq is negotiating oil deals with some U.S. and European companies, but some senators want the U.S. to step in and simply stop it. We will tell you why.

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



BLITZER: Barack Obama talking exclusively to CNN about Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton and their future roles in his campaign. The best political team on television is also standing by to listen to Senator Obama. They're going to weigh in what's next for Hillary Clinton.

Also, John McCain offering some choice words today about Hillary Clinton. Stand by to hear what he's saying.

And why the V.P. search is so secret. Why is it? We will discuss right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


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

Happening now: the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, speaking out about sexism, saying she's been a victim and Hillary Clinton was as well. And what she has to say about Hillary Clinton's future may surprise you. Stand by.

We will also take you inside John McCain's new ad and show you how he's using Barack Obama's own words against him. We will show you which speeches may now be coming back to haunt him.

Plus, the secret search for a running mate. Why are all of us being left in the dark? All this coming up, plus the best political team on television.

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

Now that Hillary Clinton is back at her day job in the U.S. Senate, some of her supporters blame one thing for putting her back there. That would be sexism. Now the highest-ranking woman in Congress tells what she thinks.

Let's go back to Carol. She's working this story for us.

So, what is Nancy Pelosi, Carol, saying?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, had Nancy Pelosi experienced sexism? She says, of course. In an interview with "Christian Science Monitor," the first female speaker of the House says sexism is a given, and, yes, Hillary Clinton suffered sexism during the primary, but Pelosi says, with every setback came progress.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Senator Clinton has advanced the cause of women in government. And her candidacy was -- has been a very, very positive tonic for the country and had a very wholesome effect on the political concept.

I really don't know. I haven't analyzed, and the rest. And I'm a victim of sexism myself all the time, but I just think it goes with the territory.


COSTELLO: Pelosi also says, don't count Hillary Clinton out just yet.


PELOSI: I think her candidacy was just a bright, bright moment for us. And she may run again.


COSTELLO: That's what she said, she may run again. Pelosi says she doesn't much worry about sexist comments. She considers being a woman an up side in the political world. You know, a lot of female politicians, Wolf, say women are better at compromise and drawing people together, so that is an up side to being a woman.

BLITZER: Carol, thanks very much.

Carol's working the story for us.

By the way, I'll be speaking with the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, about this and other issues on Thursday. She'll be here in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can be part of the interview, as well. This is what you have to do. You go to, submit your own video questions. We're going to try to get some of your questions to the speaker of the House on Thursday.

Hillary Clinton is back on the job in the Senate and she's talking about what's next for her.

Let's discuss this and more with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. She's here in Washington. Also joining us in New York, our own Jack Cafferty and our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin. They are all part of the best political team on television.

Guys, thanks very much for joining us.

But let me play this clip, because Barack Obama spoke about Hillary Clinton in an interview with one of our CNN producers exclusively, Chris Welch. And she had to -- and he had to say this about her.


OBAMA: She garnered not just votes, but the passion and support of so many millions of people. She's going to be a force to be reckoned with, not only in the Senate, but hopefully, if I'm successful, in the White House, she's going to be one of my key partners in making sure that we're moving forward on issues like health care that she cares so deeply about.


BLITZER: All right. Nice words from Barack Obama.

What do you think, Jack?

CAFFERTY: Well, I think he didn't say she's going to be my vice president. That's the part I noticed wasn't said.


CAFFERTY: She's going to be one of my -- I'm getting feedback in this thing and if we can't fix it, then I can't participate, because I'm hearing my own voice on a delay in this IFB.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by.

CAFFERTY: This is...

BLITZER: Stand by.

Let me bring in Gloria and then we'll get back to Jack when we fix that.

A key partner, but Jack makes the point, not necessarily a vice president.

BORGER: Right. He was sort of clear about that, I think. He didn't mention it. And maybe he's hiding something from us. But I think, look, Hillary Clinton is very important to him. She's very important to him in terms of winning over those older women voters in particular. She's somebody who won 18 million votes in these primaries. He can't just be dismissive of Hillary Clinton. And he's going out of his way to compliment her every chance he gets because he really needs her.


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think the good news for Democrats is that, at this point, Obama and Clinton's interests are precisely aligned. Hillary Clinton needs to look not like a spoiler, like someone who is supporting the Democratic ticket. Barack Obama needs those 18 million votes and then some. So the fact that they are going to campaign in unity, in Unity, New Hampshire and in unity around the country, I think, is just something that's going to help the Democrats and it's going to continue.

BLITZER: Gloria, the new poll -- our new poll of polls, our average of the major new polls, has just been released. I'm going to put it up on the screen. Right now, among registered voters nationwide, Barack Obama with 48 percent; John McCain 40 percent; unsure 12 percent. This is, in part, the result of a brand new "Los Angeles Times"/Bloomberg poll, which shows anywhere between a 12 and 15 point lead for Senator Obama...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: Depending on if you include Bob Barr and Ralph Nader in the questioning. It's sort of similar to that "Newsweek" poll that came out on Sunday, which showed 51 percent for Obama, 36 percent for McCain. It looks like that lead he's had in these national polls is widening.

BORGER: Yes. It may mean, Wolf, that he is starting to appeal -- and I haven't looked at all the numbers closely yet. But it may mean that he's starting to appeal to those Independent voters that he needs to win this election. He may be starting to appeal to some of those women -- those older women that Hillary Clinton had in her corner.

So it may mean that Obama, in moving to the middle in this campaign, which we have seen him do over the last week or two, is really having an impact out there with those Independents.

BLITZER: Jack, you OK technically over there?

Can you hear us now?

CAFFERTY: I can hear you now. I lost you all for a couple of moments.

One of the things I noticed in reading some of the poll information, in one of the major polls that we included in putting together the poll of poll averages, if you factor in Ralph Nader and Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate, his lead actually -- Obama's lead over McCain actually increases.


CAFFERTY: I don't know exactly what that means, but it was like a two or a three point jump if you added in these two third party candidates. BLITZER: Right.

CAFFERTY: Some interesting stuff.

BLITZER: That's in the "Los Angeles Times"/Bloomberg poll. The lead actually goes up 15 points if you include those two guys.


BLITZER: It's 12 points if you don't include them.

All right. Guys, stand by, because we have much more to talk about, including a dangerous outbreak that is spreading. We have new information about salmonella poisoning some tomatoes. And details the latest victims -- we'll tell you what state is effected.

Plus, diplomatic relations with Iran -- we're going to show you how the Bush administration may be borrowing a move from Barack Obama's playbook.

All that plus the best political team on television. We'll be right back.


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

Jeff, there was a fascinating article on Bloomberg suggesting open up this vice presidential vetting process. Let the American people in on what's going on instead of just keeping it all secret.

What do you think?

TOOBIN: Isn't going to happen. The reason...


TOOBIN: ...that it's secret.

Hi, Jack.

The reason it's secret is to avoid embarrassment to both sides. The would-be president doesn't want to look bad offering it to someone who turns it down. And the candidates for vice president don't want to look bad if they're not picked. So I think secrecy serves everyone's interests and I think it's just going to remain that way.

BLITZER: What do you think, Jack?

CAFFERTY: Well, I think, you know, the process of finding these vice presidents is horrible.

I mean why would anybody even want to be vice president?

They look at everything and they dig up anything they can find that's potentially embarrassing. And if they opened up the process to the public, nobody would be interested in the job. I mean it's tough enough to have all your warts looked at in private, but can you imagine if they invited, you know, a live audience into the doctor's office for your exam.

I mean, who wants that?

BORGER: Well, they also poll on you, focus group you, talk about you in every which way they can. I mean they're probably right now doing some polls of some governors in their states to see if they can win a state for either of these candidates, because that's a really good qualification to become vice president, if you can actually help your candidate win in a close election.

TOOBIN: I actually...

BORGER: So they're also doing that.

TOOBIN: I actually don't think it's such a terrible system. All they're doing is the kind of scrutiny that's done in public for the presidential candidate, except they do it privately. It's the same kind of thing that's looked at.

So why is that so bad?

BORGER: I think it's probably even closer, because if you were going to say consider Hillary Clinton, you would then be saying to Hillary Clinton right now, we're going to need to vet the former president of the United States. And we're going to need to know about who his donors are...

CAFFERTY: We know all that stuff.

BORGER: Well, but who are his donors to the library?

CAFFERTY: Oh, yes, to the foundation and stuff. Yes, exactly.

BORGER: To the foundation and stuff, which are things we don't know about at this point. But I bet if you're the Obama campaign, you'd like to know.

CAFFERTY: Hey, Gloria, did you read that comment that Obama made about Hillary, as saying she's got no chance of being his vice president?

BORGER: I -- I -- I thought it was very interesting that he made clear he was going to work with her in the Senate...



BORGER: ...on issues like health care.

TOOBIN: No, but then he's...


TOOBIN: But then he said in the White House. He was very careful. I thought it was...

BORGER: He is very careful. He is very careful.

TOOBIN: was studied ambiguity in that sense.

BORGER: As Obama would say, she's on the short list, right?

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks. We'll see you in a few moments.

Jack, stand by.

Jeff Toobin will be here in Washington tomorrow. We'll look forward to seeing him here.

Gloria, we always look forward to seeing you in Washington, as well.

BORGER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And Don Imus trying to explain another racially charged remark. Are his critics buying it?

You're going to find out what he said and what he's now saying.

Plus, a new move by Democrats to reach out to Latino voters. We'll show you what the party is doing right now.

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


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

Lou, what are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, tonight we're reporting on charges the nation's biggest immigration law firm improperly helped corporate America hire foreign workers instead of American workers. The Department of Labor has just launched an investigation.

What in the world took them so long?

We'll answer that question tonight.

And Mexican troops winning a rare victory in their war against the violent drug war cartels. The war is spreading across our border and drug cartels may have had a hit list of American citizens.

And you won't believe this -- Bush administration officials helping Communist China fight one of our state's efforts to ban dangerous imports and protect American consumers. We'll have a special report on that, as well.

And two Congressmen who've had a belly full of Communist China's trade policies and this administration's appeasement of Beijing are among my guests tonight.

Please join us for all of that, all the day's news and much more, with an Independent perspective at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: A big show coming up at the top of the hour.

Lou, thank you.

Let's check back with Carol Costello. She's monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on -- Carol?

COSTELLO: Well, Wolf, Iran is a key pillar of the president's axis of evil and he's even made veiled threats of military action. But now State Department officials say the Bush administration is weighing a proposal to open a diplomatic outpost in Tehran. Officials say it would let the United States keep up contacts with dissidents and students, while keeping direct communication with the Iranian government to a minimum.

Four new cases of salmonella poisoning linked to tainted tomatoes are being reported. They're all in New Jersey. And two of the people who got sick are kids -- a 2-year-old and a 7-year-old. Nationwide, more than 600 people in 34 states and the District of Columbia have been sickened in this outbreak. Government investigators are checking tomato farms in Florida and Mexico, as they search for the source.

A huge step forward in a massive plan to restore Florida's Everglades. The state has reached a deal to buy 187,000 acres of land from U.S. Sugar for $1.7 billion. It will help restore water flow to the Everglades, which has been shrinking for decades because of development and flood control projects. Florida Governor Charlie Crist calls the deal a critical missing link.

That's a look at the headlines right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll check back with you, Carol.

So here's the question -- has Don Imus done it again?

The radio shock jock is caught up in another controversy over something he said on the air -- this time about an African-American football player. And today he's explaining what he meant.

CNN's Jason Carroll has the story -- Jason?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the last time he made a racially insensitive remark, Don Imus said he was wrong, he should apologize and he did. This morning, Imus says an apology is not necessary, but a clarification is. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)


DON IMUS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: What did I mean by the "Pacman" Jones remark?


CARROLL (voice-over): Don Imus made the controversial comment on his show yesterday. He says he was trying to make a point about NFL player Adam "Pacman" Jones.


IMUS: Here's a guy suspended all of 2007 following the shooting in a Vegas nightclub.


IMUS: You're in a nightclub for God's sake.

WOLF: Yes.

IMUS: What do you think is going to happen in a nightclub?


IMUS: People are drinking. They're doing drugs.

WOLF: Yes.

IMUS: There are woman there and people have guns.

WOLF: Yes.

IMUS: So there -- go ahead.

WOLF: Well, he's also -- he's been arrested six times since being drafted by Tennessee in 2005.

IMUS: What color is he?

WOLF: He's African-American.

IMUS: Oh, well, there you go. Now we know.


CARROLL: Imus says he was actually defending Jones, saying he may have a victim of racial profiling.

Here's how he clarified.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) IMUS: Well, Warner and I were talking yesterday about "Pacman" Jones being arrested six times and which I think was just, you know, because obviously they're picking on him. So I asked Warner what color he was. Well, obviously I already knew what color he was. The point was in order to make a sarcastic point, I asked Warner what color he was. Warner told me. I said, well, there you go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Racism at work and right in front...

CARROLL: Imus' co-hosts and producer, who are black, defended him, saying he has fairly covered race on his show.

The Reverend Al Sharpton, who was considered key in getting Imus fired after he made insensitive remarks about the Rutgers women's basketball team, offered this advice.

REV. AL SHARPTON, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: Since you have acknowledged that you have said insensitive things in the past, you should be very clear -- go out of your way to make sure people cannot misunderstand what you're saying.

DICK GREGORY, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Now how you deal with it...

CARROLL: Comedian Dick Gregory, who appeared on Imus' show today, also says Imus should have been clearer, but accepts his explanation.

GREGORY: I think you do yourself a disservice and the show a disservice if you don't take one breath back. You know what you meant, but there's a whole lots of people out here that will not give you the benefit of the doubt. And they shouldn't.


CARROLL: And at this point, we're not seeing any large scale calls for Imus to be fired. The Reverend Sharpton says he'll talk to other members of his coalition to see if any action is wanted -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jason will stay on top of this story for us and update us if there's an update.

In the meantime, let's go back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question is: Do you believe in miracles?

Don writes from California -- Ocala, Florida. I'm sorry: "Jack, life is a miracle -- good, bad, rich, poor, the journey is a miracle. Happiness is a choice, but being able to make that choice, that's a miracle."

Jim writes: "A thousand years ago, miracles were frequent. Then the explanations came. A hundred years ago, miracles became less frequent. Those events that were described as miracles were eventually also explained. A miracle is simply an event that cannot be explained -- yet." Betty in Alabama: "Not yet. However, if the country makes it to January 20, 2009 without being committed to another war, I'll consider that a miracle."

Sam in Oroville, California: "I would if I ever heard Jack reading a comment from me on the air. Now, that would be a miracle."

Jeff in Los Angeles: "While I don't believe in miracles, I do believe there are events that are so extraordinary and beyond any current scientific explanation that they qualify as being miracles."

Isn't that the same thing?

"Example -- I still can't explain how Bush got elected twice."

Jack writes: "No such thing, just fate. When it's good, we call it a miracle. When it's bad, we call it a disaster. The only miracles are the ones we create for ourselves."

Brenda in Maine writes: "America is a miracle."

Ralph writes: "My son just passed the global history regents. That was a miracle."

And Mike says: "You're still on the air, aren't you, Jack? The defense rests."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at, and look for yours there. If you find it, that's a miracle, too -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, I'll see you here tomorrow.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: All right. Good work.

He seems to have the baby vote locked up.


OBAMA: After -- after kissing hundreds of babies, I'm going to kiss that one right there. That's a cute one there.


BLITZER: And for those who can't bring their little ones to an Obama rally, one Web site is offering a mail them in option.

Jeanne Moos finds it Moost Unusual.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the hour's Hot Shots.

In Washington, Senator Hillary Clinton is greeted by cheers from fellow lawmakers as she makes her way back to Capitol Hill.

In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger accompanies presidential candidate John McCain at a campaign event.

In Vegas, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama looks at solar panels during a tour of a cultural center.

And in Israel, Carla Bruni, the wife of the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, kisses Israel's president, Shimon Peres, at a departure ceremony.

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

In today's Political Ticker, John McCain's campaign claims Barack Obama is "breaking his word." That's the message in a new McCain ad. It involves Obama's decision to opt out of public financing for the general election.

Take a look at this.


OBAMA: Don't tell me words don't matter.



OBAMA: I strongly support public financing.



OBAMA: I will sit down with John McCain and make sure that we have a system that works for everybody.



OBAMA: I have promised that I will sit down with John McCain and talk about can we preserve a public system.



OBAMA: We've made the decision not to participate in the public financing system for the general election.


BLITZER: Part of the McCain Web ad. Meanwhile, a new move by Democrats to reach out to Latino voters. Spanish language coverage of the Democratic national convention will be streamlined to the convention's Web site, along with English language coverage. Convention planners predict that will make 35 million Spanish-speaking Americans feel more welcome to follow the Denver convention in late August.

Do you have something to ask Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House?

I'm interviewing the speaker on Thursday. We want to include your questions. You can go to to submit your video questions. Then you can watch to see if you made it into THE SITUATION ROOM.

Barack Obama would seem to have the baby vote locked up.

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hey, kid, don't you know that's the head of a potential president you're touching?

Don't pull his nose. Not that Barack Obama minds.

OBAMA: After kissing hundreds of babies...

MOOS: It's routine by now. Babies adorned with Obama stickers try to nap.

Parents hand over the baby.

The senator gives him or her a kiss and a smile. Occasionally, the parents brag about it on YouTube. But imagine what this madness feels like to the baby.

It's a wonder they don't all sob.

Well, it's true some of them do. This father of two is pretty adept at making faces. But for supporters who can't make it to an Obama event, we've got a Web site for you -- sendbarackyourbaby. Package and ship your baby in a well-padded box. Fill out the packing slip.

What would you like Senator Obama to do with your baby -- kiss, hug, give hope?

Here's hoping you're not taking this "send Barack your baby" stuff seriously. Frequently asked questions include, how will you return my baby?

Most babies are back home within 14 business days -- not quite as quick as an in-person kiss.

OBAMA: I'm going to kiss that one right there. That's a cute one there.

MOOS: A 22-year-old Web designer named Kareem Shiyat (ph) dreamed up this one note joke Web site. He's a lukewarm Obama supporter.

(on camera): We have no reports of anyone actually sending a real infant. But if you do, don't forget to bubble wrap your baby.

(voice-over): OK. So shipping a baby is out of the question. But people really do let their babies body surf to Obama.

OBAMA: There you go. Start passing the baby up.

MOOS: The kids go from hand to hand on the way up, then hand to hand on the way back. Right away, we're not giving John McCain equal time in the baby kissing department -- because we can't find examples. We did once interview a guy who had his baby posed with every candidate he could and he said McCain was a natural, even when Baby Dalia (ph) cried.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he made a joke that there goes another vote.

MOOS: And though the babies won't remember any of this, for the parents, it's a four exclamation point moment.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Leave it to Jeanne. Only Jeanne does those kinds of reports, always here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting.

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