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McCain Sets Date For Energy Independence; Obama Speaks Out on Hot Topics

Aired June 25, 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: Happening now, Barack Obama talks at length on some hot campaign topics, from his relationship with the Clintons, both of them, to a divisive court ruling on race.
John McCain makes a pledge and takes a gamble. He is setting a date for making America energy-independent.

And national security secrets -- the presidential candidates may not be getting the same life-and-death information -- all that coming up, plus the best political team on television.

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

Just a short while ago, Barack Obama on camera in Chicago in the kind of rapid-fire news conference that is now becoming routine for whoever becomes commander in chief.

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

As Senator Obama prepares to launch his own big unity tour with Hillary Clinton, you can bet reporters asked about his relationship with his former rival and her husband. In fact, listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Al Gore and John Edwards endorsed you in big arenas with big crowds. Former President Clinton issues a somewhat tepid statement through an aide.

Are you worried about -- do you need to hear more from the former president? Are you worried about the party truly uniting, if you don't get a more full-throated endorsement from the former president?

OBAMA: No, because I'm going to be appearing with Senator Hillary Clinton, the former president's wife, who was involved in an epic, historic primary with me. And then I'm going to be campaigning with her on Friday.

So, it's understandable that the former president wouldn't want to upstage what is going to be, I think, a terrific unity event over the next day-and-a-half. Now, if the question is, do I want Bill Clinton campaigning for us, for the ticket, leading into November, the answer is absolutely yes. I want him involved.

He's a brilliant politician. He was an outstanding president. And, so, I want his help, not only in campaigning, but also in governing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

What do you make, Candy, of this relationship between Barack Obama and both of these Clintons?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I make of it this, that there are two different tracks here. One is personal and one is political.

Personal, we're never going to know. But it isn't easy to go through a campaign like this and come away without personal feelings against the guy you ran against, particularly one as rough as this, when the Clintons were accused of racism, where she ran that 3:00 a.m. ad suggesting that he can't be president because he doesn't have the wherewithal to do it. So, there's the personal level.

We are never going to know that. There's a political level. And politically Barack Obama knows that he has to get over whatever personal feelings he has, because he needs her. And she knows that, for a future in the party, for what they're looking for, which is not just a Democratic president, but huge gains in the House and the Senate, politically, she has to be there for these unity things.

And Bill Clinton understands that, too. He will come around. He will do something. So, the political decision has been made. They're doing a heck of a job of it, having this unity with fund-raisers in Unity, up in Unity, New Hampshire. So, we will never see this. There may be stories about privately what they're saying, but personally is one thing.

Politically, by the way, they're doing far better than George Bush and John McCain did in 2000. It took a while.

BLITZER: It took a long time.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Yes. As you recall, when George Bush got into the White House, it was still a very rocky relationship. So, on the surface, they are doing well. Personally, we will never hear about it.

BLITZER: Let's talk about this major Supreme Court decision today, a 5-4 decision saying someone who's convicted of raping a little girl could not get the death penalty.

And Barack Obama at that news conference, he was asked whether or not he agreed or disagreed with this 5-4 decision. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I disagree with the decision. I have said repeatedly that I think that the death penalty should be applied in very narrow circumstances for the most egregious of crimes.

I think that the rape of a small child, 6 or 8 years old, is a heinous crime. And if a state makes a decision that, under narrow, limited, well-defined circumstances, the death penalty is at least potentially applicable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On this particular case, he agreed with the conservative justices, including Scalia, for example, and disagreed with the majority, the five in the majority, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

CROWLEY: I don't think this was a tough call.

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: I think, politically, you look out there, and most voters are with the conservatives at this point on the Supreme Court.

It would be very tough for him to come out and say, you know, really, I don't think that that's that heinous of a crime and it shouldn't get the death penalty.

Most people, most voters I think would look at that and say, gosh darn, you're right. Raping a 6-year-old, why shouldn't that be the death penalty? So, I think this was an easy political decision.

BLITZER: Candy, stand by. We are going to get back to you.

John McCain is declaring a new independence day. The Republican today set a deadline for America to kick its addiction to foreign oil, the year, 2025. He set that lofty goal in Las Vegas and laid out a plan to build 45 new nuclear reactors over the next two decades.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: America's dependence on foreign oil was a troubling situation 35 years ago. It was an alarming situation 20 years ago. It's a dangerous situation today.

And starting in the term of the next president, we must take control over our own energy future and become once again the master of our fate. Let it begin today with this commitment. In a world of hostile and unstable suppliers of oil, this nation will achieve strategic independence by the year 2025.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, let's bring in Dana Bash. She's covering the McCain campaign for us.

Certainly, it's a major issue, energy reform. Why did the McCain campaign bill this speech today as a major speech on his part? DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, what I hear every day from John McCain's advisers is that they are convinced voters are just desperate for leadership on this issue of their high gas prices, that the voters' biggest frustration is inaction here in Washington, and they want to hear someone stand up and say, no more.

So, today, it was a bit risky for John McCain, because one of his proposals, nuclear energy, is very controversial in Nevada, where McCain was speaking. Congress of course wants to store nuclear waste in that state. But McCain's energy speech, Wolf, really was as much about its lofty tone, saying I will lead, as it was about its substance.

BLITZER: Also, it's sort of a challenge for McCain, railing against Washington, but he's been here, what, for 30 years.

BASH: He sure has. And not only that -- John McCain has been in Washington, as you said, for almost three decades. He has voted against a lot of legislation through his career that would have promoted exactly the kind of fuel-efficiency standards and alternative fuels that he's pushing now.

No surprise, Wolf, the Obama campaign is oh-so-helpfully reminding reporters about those votes with lots and lots of e-mails. But what McCain aides tell me that they're banking on is that if there's anyone who is a creature of Washington who can actually run against someone trashing Washington, it's John McCain, because as you know, he has a long history of doing just that.

BLITZER: Good point.

Dana, thank you.

One other thing that we're talking about, these nuclear reactors, McCain making a major push today for more nuclear power sites. There are about 65 active nuclear power sites across the United States right now, housing 104 reactors. They produce almost 20 percent of the nation's energy. There hasn't been any new construction of reactors launched since back in the 1970s, in large part because of safety concerns and high costs, and what to do with the spent fuel as well.

We're following some major developments on efforts to denuclearize North Korea. Key steps are expected tomorrow, followed by the highly symbolic exploding of a cooling tower at an important North Korean nuclear facility.

Our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, is covering this story. She is joining us from Beijing -- Christiane.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, North Korea is about to make an important step to come in from the cold.

On Thursday, in Beijing, North Korea will hand over its nuclear declaration to China, which chairs the six-party talks, along with the United States and other regional powers here, on denuclearizing North Korea.

After that, President Bush will remove North Korea from the U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism, and also ask Congress to remove some of the sanctions on North Korea. This is all due to take place on Thursday.

And then, on Friday, as a gesture of intent and, many analysts say, goodwill, North Korea is going to implode, collapse, that distinctive cooling tower at the Yongbyon nuclear facility.

Analysts, including American scientists who have visited North Korea and Yongbyon several times over the last few years, say what's happening these next two days is very important. It basically means, they say, no more bombs will be made, no better bombs will be made, and it will severely restrict North Korea's ability to export its material or nuclear expertise.

As for the actual bombs it's already been able to make with the plutonium it's extracted -- and it has test-fired one -- that is not due to be handed over until the next phase of these negotiations. So, that is what is expected to be handed over later, as well as complete dismantlement of the Yongbyon facility -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Christiane Amanpour will be in North Korea for us, and we will get a full report on the destruction of that piece of that nuclear reactor.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: My file piece has slightly less gravitas than Christian's did. But we plunge ahead, nevertheless.

The good news is that our life expectancy keeps going up. We are all living longer, healthier lives than we ever have before. The bad news is that with those extra years comes extra wrinkles, sag, cellulite, and a general deterioration of our otherwise stunning good looks.

Enter the cosmetic surgeon. In fact, enter an army of cosmetic surgeons. Americans are nothing if not vain. In the face of $4 gasoline, a possible lengthy and painful recession, and economic hardship that threatens to touch everybody's life, millions of us still manage to come up with the bucks to get over to the plastic surgeon's office.

Last year, Americans spent $13 billion for 12 million procedures, up from 8.5 million in 2001. Surgeons say there's been a little bit of a slowdown recently because of the deteriorating economy, but they say many, many more of us will go under the knife in the coming years. We may all be broke, but, hey, we will look great in the unemployment line.

A new study by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons predicts, by 2017 -- that's only seven years away -- the current number of procedures will quadruple to more than 55 million. They are estimating 17 percent of all Americans will be getting work done. That's almost one in five.

However, the head of the organization says that they're concerned that with the predicted growth in plastic surgery, people not take shortcuts, and go only to board-certified plastic surgeons. I wonder who Joan Rivers went to?

Here's the question: What does it say about our society if almost one in five Americans will be getting cosmetic surgery within seven years?

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

You got any plans for a little nip or tuck there, Wolf?

BLITZER: Not yet. Who knows? Years from now -- I'm feeling all right.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: What you see is what you get. That's it.

CAFFERTY: And it's fun. It's just fun.

BLITZER: Yes. Thank you.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: The Pentagon keeping John McCain and Barack Obama abreast of military issues -- one question, if they're getting equal treatment.

And Ralph Nader is wondering if Barack Obama is trying to -- quote -- "talk white."

And a Republican senator running for reelection does not tie himself for John McCain, but instead talks up Barack Obama.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader is coming under fire for a rather controversial remark he made about Senator Barack Obama, questioning whether the Democratic candidate -- quote -- "wants to talk white."

And now Obama is pushing back. He talked about it just a short while ago.

Mary Snow is working the story for us.

Update our viewers, Mary. What's the latest?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Senator Barack Obama called Nader's remarks inflammatory. Ralph Nader says he doesn't see it that way and told us that people in politics should stop censoring themselves.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): Ralph Nader takes aim at presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama. He tells "The Rocky Mountain News" Obama is, in his words, trying to talk white and not doing enough to tackle poverty.

RALPH NADER, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I haven't heard him have a strong crackdown on economic exploitation in the ghettos, payday loans, predatory lending, asbestos, lead. What's keeping him from doing that? Is it because he wants to talk white?

SNOW: We asked Nader what he meant by talking white.

NADER: I see him basically being very careful about not challenging the white oligarchic structure, the white-dominated corporate structure, and doing almost everything he can to avoid being seen or associated with some of the earlier African-American civil rights leaders, like Jesse Jackson.

SNOW: We also asked Nader what he meant by saying Obama is trying to appeal to white guilt.

NADER: I think a lot of liberals have wanted an African-American to be the nominee, but a lot of these liberals are not demanding much of Barack Obama. And he's reciprocating.

SNOW: Obama says Nader is just trying to get attention for his bid as an independent presidential candidate.

OBAMA: I think it's a shame, because, if you look at his legacy in terms of consumer protections, it's an extraordinary one. But, at this point, he's somebody who's trying to get attention and whose campaign hasn't gotten any traction. There's a better way to get some traction than to make an inflammatory statement like the one that he made.

SNOW: Obama says he has addressed the issues Nader is talking about.

CNN political analyst Roland Martin calls Nader's comments ridiculous.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Who is Ralph Nader to define what is deemed a black issue? I think, when you talk about No Child Left Behind and black kids not reading, that's a black issue. When you talk about unemployment, that's a black issue.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now, the issue that Nader did inject into the campaign is the issue of race, with some saying Nader is holding Obama to a different standard.

Now, we asked Nader about that. He says he is holding Obama to a higher standard when it comes to issues involving blacks and Latinos -- Wolf. BLITZER: Is Nader likely to have any real impact this time? We know he had an impact back in 2000 in Florida. He got about 90,000 votes there in a state where Barack -- where -- excuse me -- where Al Gore lost by just more 500 votes. What do we expect this time?

SNOW: You know, I talked to a couple of Democratic strategists about that. And they say this isn't 2000. They say he doesn't have the same kind of pull. And a number of the strategists we spoke with say they suspect, after these remarks that he just made about Obama, they don't think that that will do much to win over many Democratic voters.

BLITZER: I write about Ralph Nader and Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate, at CNNPolitics.com on my blog today.

All right, Mary.

Mary Snow is watching this story.

Lots of buzz today about the presidential candidates getting military briefings.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is standing by live.

Barbara, what's fueling all the talk?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what has come up is that Senator Obama is now asking the Pentagon for what they call ops intel briefings, the latest information about what is going on with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And these briefings are being scheduled prior of course to his expected trip to the front lines.

So, the question that has come up is, is Senator Obama getting a level playing field, getting the same information from the Pentagon that Senator McCain is getting.

What is the answer to that question? Well, sort of, yes, maybe he is.

Here's a bit of what the Pentagon spokesman had to say about all of that today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON SPOKESPERSON: There's no different treatment between Senator Obama and Senator McCain, other than the fact that Senator McCain, in his position as ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, deals with a lot of military issues. That's the nature of the job, and, therefore, probably comes across and has access to more of the information that we provide the committee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: So, not quite a level playing field. What we are told is that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is adamant that both candidates will get the same information if they ask the Pentagon for briefings. But Senator McCain, as a member of the Armed Services Committee, certainly has access, we're told, to more classified information about military operations on a routine basis than Senator Obama would -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I suspect that will change pretty soon. They will both get the same information at some point, probably after the conventions.

All right, thanks very much, Barbara.

It's a radical campaign strategy. A Republican senator is pointing to Barack Obama to get himself reelected.

And one environmentalist calls it a mockery of justice, a U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding one of the worst environmental disasters in American history. The Exxon Valdez spill.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: An extraordinary move by a Republican senator. He's trying to get reelected on Barack Obama's coattails. What's going on?

Some head-turning new remarks by President Bush just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. He's going after Democrats. You might be interested in what he has to say, the specifics.

And a presidential -- a presidential -- a former presidential candidate, that is, wonders if the current White House hopefuls can deliver on change -- the best political team on television standing by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, a surprise Republican strategy, highlighting ties to Barack Obama. One senator is trying to cash in on the candidate's popularity. Stand by for details.

Obama answers charges of hypocrisy when it comes to campaign finance -- all of this coming up, plus the best political team on television.

And John McCain's technology gap. When it comes to computers, he says he's illiterate.

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

One Republican senator is now trying to cash in on Barack Obama's popularity in his state. That would be Gordon Smith of Oregon. He's running an ad highlighting his cooperation with the Democratic presidential candidate.

CNN's Brian Todd is working this story for us.

Rather unusual, Brian. What's going on?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Wolf. And this is about a moderate Republican in a Democratic state in what's projected to be a very tight race. Still, analysts admit, this is a bit unusual.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): A Republican senator riding Barack Obama's coattails?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SMITH CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR: Who says Gordon Smith helped lead the fight for better gas mileage and a cleaner environment? Barack Obama. He joined with Gordon and broke through a 20-year deadlock to pass new laws which increase gas mileage for automobiles.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Gordon Smith, a moderate Republican from Oregon, made headlines by bucking the Bush administration when he turned against the Iraq War after voting for it and when he supported stem cell research. Smith's in a tight reelection race against Democrat Jeff Merkley and his ad forced the Obama campaign to issue a statement saying it appreciates the respect for Obama's bipartisanship but, "In this race, Oregonians should know that Barack Obama supports Jeff Merkley for Senate."

Political analysts say this ad is both unusual and brilliant.

MORT ZUCKERMAN, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": Senator Smith is from Oregon, a very liberal state, one that will probably be heavily carried by Obama. And it makes a lot of sense for him to say look, don't -- you don't have to send a Democrat to the Senate, I can work with the man whom you think will be the next president.

TODD: Contrast Smith's ad with this one from Mississippi. Republicans eager to link Democratic Senate candidate Travis Childers with Obama, painting him as ultra-liberal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM CAMPAIGN AD)

GREG DAVIS, REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE, MISSISSIPPI: He took Obama's endorsement over our conservative values.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: That was in a heavily Republican state and the ad didn't work. Childers ran as a conservative Democrat and won the special election. Analysts say Smith's ad in Oregon may be more effective in preempting the Democratic message.

But do Republicans feel betrayed?

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It's consistent with who he is. Now, there's a very thin line there in the sense that any Republican who wants to run like a light Democrat is in danger. That tends not to work.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: But GOP strategists and independent analysts say they don't expect heavy brush back here against Smith from the Republican Party. They say there's understanding inside the party leadership that Smith is in a liberal state doing what he needs to do to win. In fact, we tried all day to get reaction to Smith's ad from the National Republican Senatorial Committee. They didn't get back to us -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What about from the McCain campaign? Is Smith getting some brush back from there?

TODD: Not really. One McCain aide told us they understand why Smith produced this ad. The campaign says this ad highlights Smith's independence, not Barack Obama's. They point out McCain has worked with Gordon Smith on bipartisan laws on the environment and stem cell research. It's worth noting here, Smith and McCain are said to have a close relationship, so there could be a bit of an understanding here.

BLITZER: Thanks, Brian.

Let's discuss this and more with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, our own Jack Cafferty and Jeff Toobin, our senior analyst. They're all part of the best political team on television.

It's sort of unusual, Jack. I've been around a long time. I don't remember a time when a Republican senator seeking re-election has touted the Democratic presidential candidate as sort of a character reference.

CAFFERTY: No. But in the broader, more generic sense, a politician would throw his mother under the bus if he thought he could, you know, win election to office. One of the Republican Congressman said not too long ago the Republican brand is so badly damaged that if we were dog food, they'd take us off the shelf.

So this guy is a Republican in a heavily Democratic state. He done a little mathematics and he thinks if he hitches his wagon to Barack Obama, he's probably got a better chance than running as a Republican. I mean they're all pragmatic out there.

BLITZER: Those are politicians, by definition -- Gloria?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, very pragmatic. I mean you've got a country in which 85 percent of the voters think it's headed in the wrong direction. In the State of Oregon -- I was just at a briefing today, Wolf, with Barack Obama's campaign manager, who said Oregon is one of those states that they consider leaning Obama in the general election. They haven't put ads up there yet, but they're well aware that they beat Hillary Clinton there by 20 points in the primary, that John Kerry won there in 2004.

So you can be sure that it's going to be one of the states they are -- they're depending on to get them that Electoral College victory. And, of course, Senator Smith knows that. So he'd rather be with the winner than the loser in that state.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, but the latest polls in Oregon show Obama ahead by a very small margin.

BORGER: Right. Leaning.

TOOBIN: This isn't New York or California. But this just shows that Smith thinks McCain is going to tank...

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: ...all over. I mean, and so I think that's the real message here is that the more McCain campaigns, the less well he's going to do, at least in Oregon. And I think that's got to be a chilling message for Republicans everywhere.

BORGER: Well, that's why they put it in the leaning column as opposed to likely column. But they -- but they beat Hillary Clinton there by such an overwhelming margin that they know they're going to do pretty well.

BLITZER: They probably will.

Jack, listen to this clip from Barack Obama at that news conference just a little while ago responding to charges that he flip- flopped on the issue of public funding for the general election campaign. He opted out of it.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I think that the characterization of flip-flop was wrong, because if you looked at my statement, what I said was, is that we would try to work with the Republican nominee to preserve the option of public financing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Does his explanation, you know, hold?

BORGER: No.

CAFFERTY: Well, you know, at the risk of hijacking this segment, that's an issue that the voters don't care about. But he said something at that news conference today that I think the voters will care about. He was asked about the Supreme Court decision that said you can't execute people who rape children. And he disagreed with the Supreme Court. If you remember Mike Dukakis being asked by CNN's Bernie Shaw way back a long time ago whether he'd support the death penalty for somebody who raped and murdered his wife, Dukakis went off on some cockamamie generic explanation of law and theory and whatever. And that was the end of the beginning of his run for the White House.

Today, Barack Obama said the court is wrong. If you rape a 6- year-old or 8-year-old child, within narrowly defined terms -- and Jeff would know much more about this than I would -- you ought to be able to put these people to death.

I think he did himself a lot of good with voters. I don't think voters give a damn about campaign finance law.

TOOBIN: And I think Cafferty is running for office because he is not answering the question, the way politicians don't answer the question...

CAFFERTY: I'm just trying to keep it interesting.

(LAUGHTER)

TOOBIN: Well, what...

BORGER: I'll answer it.

TOOBIN: That is a total flip-flop by Obama.

BORGER: A total flip-flop.

TOOBIN: It's a total flip-flop.

And you know what?

He made a calculation. He wants the money more than he wants the -- more than he worries about the consistency.

BORGER: And here's -- here's the danger, not only that it's a flip-flop and he gives some cockamamie excuse here saying, you know, I'm doing this because of my small donors. He did it because he wants to raise the money. But this is going to become a character issue for Barack Obama, because John -- it gives John McCain...

CAFFERTY: No, it's not.

BORGER: It gives John McCain an opening to say this is not the man you think you know.

CAFFERTY: Yes. I don't -- The voters don't care. Besides, this is three days old, this story.

BLITZER: All right. It's -- I think it's more than three days.

TOOBIN: Three days?

BLITZER: It's about a week old. All right, stand by, guys.

President Bush talks of change and slams a popular campaign slogan of Barack Obama's.

Also, John McCain's technology gap -- why he has to rely on his wife to use a computer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President Bush gets in on the message of change and slams Barack Obama. That's coming up with the best political team on television.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Gloria, listen to President Bush just a little while ago at a Republican fund-raiser out in Michigan railing against the Democrats, Barack Obama.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This isn't the kind of change the American people want. Americans want change that makes their lives better and their country safer. And that requires changing the party in control of the Congress. And that requires having a commander-in-chief who will support our military and will fight and win the war against those who would do us harm. And that commander-in-chief will be John McCain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. He's out on the campaign trail, obviously.

What do you think?

BORGER: A third Bush term is what -- I think he's asking for a third Bush term for John McCain. He's saying, oh -- and he's using the McCain campaign slogan. This isn't the kind of change you want, I can provide the change you need, and that the kind of change Barack Obama provides is fake.

I mean this is George Bush right now campaigning for his legacy.

BLITZER: He raises money -- a lot of money for Republican candidates. He certainly could help John McCain raise some money.

But, Jack, does he do, really, much good for John McCain when he's out there saying these words?

CAFFERTY: What has he got, a 28 percent approval rating?

Nobody cares at this point.

If Barack Obama is smart, he'll send him a thank you note and say please, do this every day on behalf of John McCain...

BORGER: Keep doing it.

CAFFERTY: ...between now and November...

TOOBIN: I...

CAFFERTY: ...and I'll give you a cabinet post in your retirement.

BORGER: He's going to tell him what states to go to.

TOOBIN: No, I think Bush is onto something. The real change would be bringing Alberto Gonzales back as attorney general...

CAFFERTY: There you go.

TOOBIN: ...Donald Rumsfeld back as secretary of defense and McCain's vice president, Larry Craig.

CAFFERTY: Perfect.

TOOBIN: I'm telling you, it's -- Bush has got it all figured out here.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: But, Gloria, within the conservative base of the Republican Party, he's still a -- he's got some popularity out there.

BORGER: He still has some popularity. His popularity has decreased with the base of the Republican Party, I might add. But, yes, I think stalwart conservative Republicans -- some of them like George Bush a lot more than they like John McCain. But John McCain is the guy they're voting for. And, by the way, he's the guy who has been distancing himself -- in case none of us have noticed. He's the guy who's been distancing himself from George W. Bush throughout this campaign.

BLITZER: Jack?

CAFFERTY: It's about as interesting as campaign finance reform.

(LAUGHTER)

BORGER: I like campaign finance reform.

BLITZER: Let's talk about McCain-Feingold, some other campaign finance reform subjects. Jack, I know you're hot on this subject.

CAFFERTY: Yes. It's electrifying.

BLITZER: All right, guys. We'll discuss tomorrow some more. Thanks for coming in.

Jack's got "The Cafferty File" still coming up.

Eleven hikers missing in California's rugged Sierra Nevada. Now, a major new development.

And Barack Obama accused by one leading Evangelical of "editing God's word."

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show that begins right at the top of the hour.

Lou, what are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, tonight we'll have an exclusive report on a stunning new example of Mexico's refusal to help the United States fight the war against those drug cartels. The Mexican government has released the suspected killer of one of our Border Patrol Agents after five months in custody.

The outrage after pro-amnesty members of Congress try to cut back a federal program designed to help state and local governments fight illegal immigration. We'll be telling you about that.

And a community trying to stop corporate elitists from firing middle class Americans and replacing them with cheap foreign workers. We'll have that story and the battle to reform our dysfunctional federal government.

And my challenge to two presidential candidates -- we'll have that and a great deal more, including all of the day's news with an Independent perspective.

Join us at 7:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN, at the top of the hour, if you please -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: We'll see you then, Lou. Thank you.

Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Carol, what's going on?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, let's see what a happy ending. Relief for the families of nine teenagers and two adults missing in the California wilderness since this weekend. An official from the Outward Bound Wilderness Program running the trip says all of the hikers have turned up safe. They reportedly hiked to a nearby store and then called the group's offices. That happened just a short time ago.

Global warming could make things worse in countries already struggling with poverty and other social ills. A U.S. report says climate change could destabilize struggling and poor countries around the world, but that wealthier countries would fare better. The chairman of the National Intelligence Council even tells Congress global warming could cause people in those poor countries to flee and even to turn to terrorism.

Check this out. The North Carolina DMV randomly issued almost 10,000 license plates with the letters WTF. Now, if you don't know what that combination of letters commonly stands for, ask your kids or grandkids. You know, what the -- anyway, it's offensive. And it gets worse. This picture -- this picture of a sample plate bearing WTF is from the state's own Web site. After complaints, North Carolina now is offering to replace the tags for free. OMG. And you know what that stands for, Wolf, right?

BLITZER: I do. But some of our viewers probably don't. Tell them.

COSTELLO: Oh, my God.

BLITZER: That's correct. That is the correct answer.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: And we won't talk about WTF.

COSTELLO: OK.

BLITZER: All right.

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

CAFFERTY: Oh. Have you done the McCain is illiterate about computers yet?

BLITZER: No. We will. We're standing by for that.

CAFFERTY: Because I'm illiterate about computers, but apparently he's even worse than I am.

LOL is, what, laugh out loud?

BLITZER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: And I know what that North Carolina thing means.

BLITZER: I know you did.

CAFFERTY: Do you want me to tell you?

BLITZER: No.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: What does it say about our society if almost one in five Americans will be getting cosmetic surgery within seven years?

One in five of us.

John in Texas writes: "It's another indicator of how vain our society is becoming. So many TV shows like "Dr. 90210," "Girls Next Door," "Nip Tuck" and many others force feeding us with this idea that cosmetic surgery is necessary and glamorous. HDTV hasn't helped, either. Every minor imperfection shines through with interesting detail. Do they have a survey for which country is the most vain? I'm sure we're at the top of the list."

David writes from Virginia and says: "Twenty percent of the people are interested in looking their best and they can't -- the best they can and feeling better about themselves. Generally, they pay for it themselves. Good for them."

Gigi in Alabama: "I think it's about the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Our economy is going down the toilet. Vain people are thinking about lifting their butts, tucking their tummies and looking like dear in the headlights because of brow lifts. Whatever happened to growing old gracefully?"

Dave in Brooklyn writes: "It means that Jack's one of the other four. But it's what's on the inside that counts."

Thanks, Dave.

Jenna in Roseville, California says that: "Americans are doing anything to look young so they can keep their jobs. Age discrimination is alive and well. Don't believe those who deny it. I've been trying to get a job for two years. I've got 20 years experience, can't even get an interview."

David in Maryland writes: "It just goes to prove what you've been saying, Jack, it's getting ugly out there."

Jim writes: "So what are you and Wolf planning to have done?"

And Dick says: "It means three questions a day is taxing the ability of the CNN producers of 'The Cafferty File.'"

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

Actually, that last question was my idea. Sarah Leider (ph) is my producer and she's got much higher standards than I do.

BLITZER: I know. And we can't wait for Friday...

CAFFERTY: What do you mean I know?

BLITZER: Usually this is a question you like to ask on Fridays, right?

CAFFERTY: Well, it... BLITZER: End of week.

CAFFERTY: This is all I could find today.

BLITZER: It's good. It's not bad.

See you tomorrow, Jack.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: On our Political Ticker, some New Yorkers are feeling a little bit snubbed by John McCain. "The New York Sun" reports McCain's campaign is opening up its New York office in New Jersey. The McCain camp may have a better shot at winning New Jersey, which leans Democratic in our CNN electoral map compared to New York, which is considered safe for the Democrats.

We have a follow-up now from Barack Obama on an Evangelical leader's charge that he distorted the bible in a speech two years ago. Obama telling reporters last night that James Dobson is "making stuff up."

Dobson's camp is firing back, saying there's no need to make stuff up because -- quoting now -- "Obama is editing God's word to fit his liberal world view."

Obama apparently is all about diversity when it comes to songs on his iPod. He tells "Rolling Stone" magazine he listens to an eclectic group of artists, including Bob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, Yo-Yo Ma Jay-Z.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, go to CNNPolitics.com. It's the No. 1 -- the number one political news blog out on the Web. That's also where you can read my latest blog posts. I posted one today on Ralph Nader and Bob Barr, third party candidates.

Will they have any impact? Could they be spoilers?

Go to CNNPolitics.com and you can read it and comment.

Al Gore was laughed at for supposedly saying he created the Internet. He didn't exactly say that, but he was accused of saying that. Now, John McCain is being targeted by critics and comedians for a comment he made about his computer skills -- or lack thereof.

And Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi holding hands. The picture coming up in Hot Shots.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at the Hot Shots coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press.

In Washington, President Bush walks past flowers in the White House Rose Garden as he leaves the Oval Office for a day trip to Michigan.

On Capitol Hill, Senator Hillary Clinton and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi walk hand in hand after a meeting.

In Utah, Jason Chaffetz, the GOP challenger in Utah's 3rd District, celebrates after receiving a call from the incumbent representative, Chris Cannon, conceding the primary race.

And in Las Vegas, a protester holds a sign outside of an event where presidential candidate John McCain was getting ready to speak.

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

Tomorrow, by the way, our special guest here in THE SITUATION ROOM will be speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. And you can be part of the interview. Go to iReport.com/situationroom to submit your own video questions. We'll try to get some of your questions to the speaker tomorrow.

In an era when nearly everyone uses computers and the Internet, John McCain's approach is Moost Unusual.

CNN's Jeanne Moos has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We don't expect the president to be the Liberace of the keyboard, but still...

(on camera): Shouldn't the next president of the United States know how to work a computer?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I mean, yes. I guess so. It would be helpful.

Why not?

MOOS (voice-over): Ask John McCain.

Here's how he describes his computer skills.

MCCAIN: I am an illiterate that has to rely on my wife for all of the assistance that I can get.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, that's absolutely ridiculous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's 21st century and he should know how to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has people to do that. He's got to be thinking of more important things.

MOOS: While Cindy McCain has been spotted scrolling her BlackBerry, John McCain has to be handed a BlackBerry to talk on. Barack Obama, on the other hand, is one of those guys so intent on reading his BlackBerry that he could run into something. He is a BlackBerry fiend, says his spokesperson, has a laptop on the road and sometimes uses it to talk to his daughters and surfs the Web when he's in need of important information, such as sports scores.

A far cry from this guy...

BUSH: I hear there's rumors on the Internets.

And one of the things I've used on the Google.

MOOS: Just the other day, President Bush did it again.

BUSH: They can go on their computers and dial up the volunteer.org.

MOOS: At least John McCain has instilled dialing up and he knows to leave off the "the."

MCCAIN: I guess you could do on Google.

MOOS: But his admission that he's computer illiterate was fodder for debate at something called the Personal Democracy Forum. The online expert who had worked for John Edwards got into it with the Internet expert from the McCain campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM PERSONAL DEMOCRACY FORUM)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes. But you don't necessarily have to know how to use the computer to understand how it shapes the country and I think he has a...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's -- that's the point, though. You do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: But when McCain's guy said this...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM PERSONAL DEMOCRACY FORUM)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John McCain is aware of the Internet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: John McCain is aware of the Internet became a joke on the Internet.

(on camera): But do we really want a president who sits around the Oval Office Googling all day?

This 74-year-old likes to Google.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean this is such an easy thing to learn. I taught myself how to use the computer.

MOOS (voice-over): At least John McCain...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Taking laptop computers with them. MOOS: ...knows the difference between a laptop and a lap dance even if jokesters made a mockup of McCain's real Web site with, "How does this thing work?," and "Should I double click here?"

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: That's it for me.

Let's go to Lou.

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now -- Lou.

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