Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Colin Powell Talks to Presidential Candidates; Obama Reaches Out to Religious Voters; Louisiana Governor Under Fire Over Government Pay Raises; Hospital Ignores Dying Woman

Aired July 1, 2008 - 18:00   ET

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


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Barack Obama finds a new way to show religious voters he can speak their language. But he may be raising concerns on the left.
And Colin Powell's talks with the presidential candidates revealed. Now we're asking, what does the former secretary of state want?

And the other White House hopefuls trying to grab votes from Obama and John McCain -- a new snapshot of the third-party poll on the presidential race.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm John Roberts. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A terror attack on his ship killed 17 Americans. Now, nearly eight years after the bombing of the USS Cole, the ship's former commander breaks his silence about the long effort to bring charges against al Qaeda's alleged mastermind.

He spoke in an exclusive interview with CNN senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CMDR. KIRK LIPPOLD (RET.), FORMER USS COLE COMMANDER: When the current administration came into office, they looked at it as, hey, that bombing occurred under the Clinton administration, not our problem. We want to be forward looking, instead of backward acting.

And, so, consequently, USS Cole got put on the back burner and was not a priority, in my opinion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: (AUDIO GAP) heard from Commander Kirk Lippold in nearly eight years. Why has he chosen this point to speak out?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, in the wake of the announcement from the Pentagon that they were preferring charges against the alleged mastermind of the Cole attack, Commander Lippold felt that it was time for him to step forward and just say that he felt it was really important that the United States continue to show that it's dedicated to going after terrorists, no matter how long it takes. Obviously, he feel a little frustrated that it has been almost eight years before charges are actually being brought against any of the bombers and frustrated by the fact that many of them are still at large.

ROBERTS: And what about the other suspects in the case? What is their status?

MCINTYRE: Well, there's one that is in U.S. custody. And he is facing charges under the September 11 attacks. That will be coming up soon. He is in Guantanamo.

But there's a handful of suspects who were taken into custody by the Yemeni government. And then they either escaped prison or were released by the government of Yemen.

And I have to say that Commander Lippold was very upset about that. He had strong words to say about Yemen, saying he really did not believe that Yemen was a partner with the U.S. in the war on terror.

ROBERTS: Understandably upset.

Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon with that -- Jamie, thanks.

In health-related news, a nationwide scare over tomatoes believed to be tainted with salmonella, and now months into it, we're learning that tomatoes may not be the problem after all.

CNN's Brian Todd join us live.

Brian, what is the latest on the investigation?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we just learned a short time ago from the CDC and the FDA that they're now going to expand their investigation to include other produce items that may be associated with tomatoes.

They have just announced that as I said this afternoon. Now, tomatoes are not off the hook. We have got to be clear on this. Tomatoes are not off the hook. They are still considered -- quote -- "the lead suspect" in this investigation. But now they're looking at other things that could be associated with tomatoes, meaning lettuce, possibly cilantro, jalapeno peppers.

These are ingredients that are often served with tomatoes of course in salads, but also in ingredients in foods that are eaten in Mexican restaurants. This is because they have found clusters of victims that ate things with tomatoes. And so they're not quite certain that tomatoes are the source of it. Again, they are focusing mostly on tomatoes, and they have traced the possible source to either Florida or Mexico.

ROBERTS: So, Brian, if tomatoes are not the only vegetable involved here, does it mean that the FDA and the CDC dropped the ball on this? TODD: Not necessarily. From the FDA to experts that we talk to outside, they are all telling us that these sources are exceedingly difficult to find. Tomatoes often don't have labels to tell you where they came from. Tomatoes from Florida and Mexico go to other places for processing and distribution. Very hard to find these.

Also, it is important to point out the FDA, for many years now, has operated on a shoestring budget. They are massively understaffed, underfunded. They are doing the best they can to try to get to some of these areas, but it is very difficult.

ROBERTS: Well, the mystery deepens. Brian Todd for us with the latest on that. Brian, thanks.

Barack Obama finding a new way to show voters his centrist side by borrowing from President Bush's playbook. The all but certain Democratic nominee said today he wants to expand White House efforts to get religious charities more involved in government anti-poverty efforts.

He spoke today in Ohio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not saying that faith-based groups are an alternative to government or secular nonprofits. And I'm not saying that they're somehow better at lifting people up.

What I am saying is that we all have to work together, Christian and Jew, Hindu and Muslim, believer and nonbeliever alike, to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Let's bring in CNN's Jessica Yellin now.

And, Jessica, you and I were both working the White House beat when President Bush was proposing his faith-based initiatives. It was very controversial at that time. Who is Senator Obama trying to reach with this?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, broadly, first, Barack Obama is trying to reach religious voters.

Now, I speak to his director of religious affairs quite frequently and he tells me that he generally feels in the campaign that Democrats have ceded the religious vote to Republicans in the past.

They feel that there are plenty of voters out there who are political moderates, but also religious, and they really haven't had a home. So, the Obama campaign is letting these folks know they're welcome. In particular, they may have a chance with moderate Catholics who went for Hillary Clinton in the primary and some evangelicals who might be disillusioned with Bush's policies and could come to Obama in November -- John.

ROBERTS: Jessica, some religious voters might be open to Obama's message of hope, but opposed to his policies specifically say on abortion. Is he actually likely to make inroads there?

YELLIN: You hit the nail on the head. It is a real challenge for Senator Obama.

But they're especially looking to attract young folks, young evangelicals, young Catholics in particular, who could potential accept a principled difference on reproductive rights, as you say, but respond to his message about hope and unity, about the environment, issues that are resonating with young people in general.

And let me tell you, John, I have just learned that a new independent group that's run in part by Hillary Clinton's former religious director has launched radio ads targeting Christian listeners, letting them know about Barack Obama's deep faith. So, this is a very wide-reaching effort -- John.

ROBERTS: Going after what is termed now the Christian left.

Jessica Yellin for us -- Jessica, thanks.

John McCain is offering a new warning about Barack Obama and how he might shape the U.S. Supreme Court. McCain charging today that Obama's high court nominees would produce more decisions like the child rapist ruling that both candidates criticized. John McCain spoke to the National Sheriffs Association about the 5-4 ruling reserving capital punishment for deadly crimes, not the rape of a child.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Why is it that the majority includes the same justices he usually holds out as the models for future nominations? My opponent may not care for this particular decision, but it was exactly the kind of opinion we could expect from an Obama court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: From that appearance in Indiana, Senator McCain flew on to Colombia.

Stand by for a full report on his travels and the message that he is sending to voters here at home.

You might not believe what Colin Powell did recently, but his surprising move has now fueled talk about a possible presidential endorsement.

Wesley Clark's criticism of John McCain got him in political hot water. Now he is here to explain exactly what he meant.

And John McCain will travel abroad to talk about the benefit of free trade at home. But that may put him directly at odds with blue- collar workers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: General Wesley Clark is not backing down. Right now, the retired Army general is restating something that has ignited a political firestorm. It all started with this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FACE THE NATION")

BOB SCHIEFFER, HOST: I would have to say, Barack Obama has not had any of those experience either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down. I mean...

WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: That was just part of Clark's interview with "Face the Nation" anchor Bob Schieffer. But might Clark's true answer be a matter of context.

Earlier, I spoke with him about that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLARK: I think if you had seen the whole question and the whole interview in context, I think there's no issue with this. But I think it does show the -- what can happen when an excerpt is taken, and I noticed on some of the major news channels -- and I don't want to point any fingers here -- but they only showed my answer as though I made that up.

This is like someone says, "Is the sun out?" You could say, "Yes, the sun is out." Or you could say, "Yes." Or you could say, "Well, the sky is blue."

ROBERTS: Right.

CLARK: But I just happened to answer it exactly the way it was asked. And my point is, that when we're about to select a president of the United States, at a time of war and the national security's going to be a big issue in this campaign, the American people should look at the real qualifications. That includes John McCain's character and courage.

I have never said anything dissing that. I would never diss the service of anyone who served in the United States armed forces. I did it for 38 years.

I was a captain in Vietnam. I have commanded infantry. Came home on a stretcher in a hospital. Four bullet wounds in me. So, you know, I'm very sympathetic to John McCain. He's one of my heroes.

But I have been at the strategic level. I led America's armed forces in NATO during the fight in Kosovo. I know what kinds of decisions get made, what the tradeoffs are.

I was simply pointing out, John McCain, in his military service, honorable and wonderful though it was, he wasn't at that level. So, his claim is a different kind of a claim.

And it goes under the category or question of this, John: Do those experiences give him the judgment to have better judgment with regard to national security than, let's say, Barack Obama? And I think the record is that he hasn't shown better judgment. He's shown some -- some worse judgment on several occasions.

ROBERTS: I mean, it's well known, General Clark, that you rose to the absolute upper echelons of the military in this country, and supreme allied commander for NATO. But when it comes to that same type of qualification, you were very robustly behind John Kerry's military experience...

CLARK: Absolutely.

ROBERTS: ... in your speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, where you talked about his experience of being there under mortar fire.

CLARK: Right.

ROBERTS: And let's listen to the way that you summed that up.

CLARK: Right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLARK: John Kerry's combination of physical courage and moral values is my definition of what we need as Americans in our commander in chief.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: So, you said it's what we need in a commander in chief. And I'm wondering how different was John McCain's experience from John Kerry's?

CLARK: Well, a lot, because John McCain basically served honorably and well in uniform. He did everything the country could have asked.

What John Kerry did is John Kerry got out of the uniform. He took a judgment, a judgment I didn't agree with at the time, but he had the moral courage to stand up for himself and oppose the conflict in Vietnam.

ROBERTS: But where was the executive experience that you talked about?

CLARK: The executive experience wasn't the issue there, because John Kerry wasn't claiming that he had some special executive experience on national security against George Bush. ROBERTS: Right, but he was running on his war record and using that to buttress his credentials on national security.

CLARK: Sure. Only in the sense of having been there and proved himself under fire.

John McCain is welcome to do that. He's always done that. But in this case it's about judgment.

Eight years or seven years into a war, where we're actually having more difficulties in Afghanistan than we did three or four years ago, so you could say it's going the wrong way there, in which we're going to have to make some bold, strategic moves in Iraq or risk the real erosion of the United States armed forces.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Retired General Wesley Clark earlier on THE SITUATION ROOM.

John McCain is due to land soon in Colombia. It's his latest international detour from the campaign trail. Later, he moves on to Mexico, the Republican's trip designed to drive home one of his big differences with Barack Obama.

Our Dana Bash is covering the McCain campaign.

Dana, why another trip abroad? He went to Canada the week before last, and that trip didn't go so well.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, it really was quite an awkward trip to Canada he took. It was a campaign trip that he insisted wasn't political, even as his campaign was sending out statements slamming Barack Obama.

Still, John, Senator McCain and his advisers say he will be pushing the same message on this trip he is about to embark on abroad, one that's not very popular in battleground states, that free trade is good.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): A tough-on-crime speech in Indiana, a reliably Republican state that Barack Obama hopes to make competitive, a political no-brainer. But you won't find John McCain's next stop on any electoral map, Colombia, in South America. It has some political veterans scratching their heads.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He should be spending his time here, laying out much more emphatically and clearly his economic plans.

MCCAIN: I am strongly in favor of the free trade agreement and the nation of Colombia.

BASH: McCain says he's going to Colombia to spotlight his support for free trade, which he calls crucial to jump-starting the U.S. economy -- a sharp difference with Barack Obama.

MCCAIN: He doesn't support the Colombia free trade agreement. I think it would be -- have very serious consequences if we rebuked our closest ally.

BASH: The Colombia free trade agreement is now stuck in Congress, held up by Democrats, including Obama.

OBAMA: ... is that we have not been very good negotiators in our trade agreements, in terms of making sure that the interests of American workers and not just corporate profits are cared for.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN AD)

MCCAIN: We must encourage more trade agreements to create more jobs on both sides of the border.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: McCain's new Web ad promising trade equals jobs is proof he hopes his trip abroad will help back home.

His problem? There's new evidence most voters don't agree with McCain that free trade will help fix their economic woes. A new CNN/Opinion Research poll shows 51 percent call free trade a threat to the economy; 41 percent call it an economic opportunity. It's especially risky for McCain in hard-hit must-win states like Ohio, where voters confront him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any way that the trade can become more fair, instead of just free? I come from a closed plant -- excuse me -- in New Jersey.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, McCain acknowledges the anxiety express by that worker and others like him are very real. But he is adamant, despite the political risks, that more free trade is a net gain for the American worker in the long run.

Now, John, as you can imagine, we can expect to hear a lot more about that from Senator McCain in Colombia, where he is going to touch down in about an hour, and then his next stop in Mexico -- John.

ROBERTS: And going to be a very big issue in this election campaign.

Dana Bash for us -- Dana, thanks so much.

He is being mentioned as a possible running mate for John McCain, but something is happening in Louisiana that just may tarnish Governor Bobby Jindal's image.

A woman goes to a hospital for help and winds up dying on the hospital floor while witnesses stood, as employees as well, and did nothing. Now many are wondering what happened. And, coffee drinkers, beware. It may soon be far more difficult to find your grande latte or any other drink at a neighborhood Starbucks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

ROBERTS: Colin Powell's endorsement is coveted by both presidential candidates. We are going to tell you what we're learning about the former secretary of state's private talks with both John McCain and Barack Obama.

Obama could face a backlash with his efforts to move to the center and court voters who usually side with Republicans.

And spoiler alert: We're measuring the possible impact of third- party candidates on the Obama-McCain race.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And happening now, new details emerging of meetings between Colin Powell and both presidential candidates. We will look at a possible endorsement and its impact.

Also, Barack Obama reaching to the center, vowing to continue President Bush's controversial faith-based initiative, but with a twist.

Plus, the impact of third-party candidates, their votes, but at whose cost? Do any of them have the potential to be a spoiler?

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm John Roberts. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Brand-new developments on the political front tonight.

He was America's top military officer, then America's top diplomat. Could Colin Powell now become a political king maker?

CNN's Brian Todd joins us.

Brian, he is close to both camps. Now there are new developments. What are we learning tonight?

TODD: Well, John, CNN has confirmed that former Secretary Powell has met with both presidential candidates. An Obama campaign source confirms the meeting with him. And an associate of Powell's confirms both meetings to CNN.

The Powell associate calls them pleasant private conversations. This was first reported by "The National Journal." The Obama campaign has no further comment on his meetings with Powell, but Powell has also said he is a friend of John McCain's, and he has not endorsed either candidate for president.

Here's what the former secretary said a couple of weeks ago at a news conference in Canada.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I have gotten to know Senator Obama and I have known Senator McCain for 25 years. Both of them are dedicated Americans. I think both of them have certainly the qualifications to be president of the United States. But of them both cannot be.

And so in the course of the next few months, I will listen carefully to what they have to say and measure their positions against what I think are the best interests of the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Now, Powell went on to say he will vote for the candidate he thinks is best regardless of party. In February on CNN, he said Obama has been an exciting person on the political stage. He added that the senator from Illinois has some positions that he would not support, but that is the case with every candidate out there.

And, of course, again, he has also praised John McCain as well. They are longtime friends -- John.

ROBERTS: Boy, that would be a big endorsement, whoever gets that one.

Brian Todd for us -- Brian, thanks.

Barack Obama says he wants to take President Bush's controversial faith-based initiative reform and expand it.

Joining us to talk more about this is Katrina Vanden Heuvel. She is a self-described liberal and editor of "The Nation." Also CNN senior analyst Jeffrey Toobin and CNN's Dana Bash, who is covering the McCain campaign for us.

Let's start first of all, with Colin Powell. As we said, this is a big endorsement. It looks like it might be up for grabs.

Katrina, do you think that Barack Obama can peel him away from the Republican Party?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR, "THE NATION": I do. I think that Colin Powell has been someone who considers the Republican Party too extremist, too caught up with the neoconservative disasters. And he might well see in Barack Obama someone who I think and "The Nation" argues in an article this week Barack Obama's foreign policy may well restore the bipartisan consensus which characterized Bush I, and not this radical, reckless Bush II, neoconservative regime.

ROBERTS: Dana, we all know how disillusioned Colin Powell was in the Bush administration. I mean, it started when -- when he got his knuckles rapped on North Korea. He wanted to hang around for at least a little while in the second term, and he sort of got shuffled out.

But John McCain is a very different person, at least his record in terms of being a maverick and independent to George Bush. Is there any hope by the McCain campaign that they might hang on to Powell's endorsement?

BASH: There's a lot of hope, absolutely, by the McCain campaign that they would get a Powell endorsement. And even more importantly, a lot of fear that there would be a potential endorsement of Barack Obama for a lot of reasons.

And I think the biggest reason is because the central theme of the McCain campaign. You talk to advisers and you really see it as pretty obvious, is that they're trying to say Barack Obama isn't really the kind of person who reached across the aisle. If he got a Colin Powell endorsement, it would be very, very difficult for the McCain campaign to make that -- to make that claim still.

The other thing, I think, not to be the skunk at the garden party, but obviously, Colin Powell is somebody who had trouble with the Bush administration. But he still, on his legacy, in his legacy, is what happened at the United Nations and how he was very central in making the case for war in Iraq.

ROBERTS: Somebody has to be the skunk at the garden party.

Speaking of a garden party, Jeff Toobin's here. Was Powell looking for something in particular, do you think?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: I remember Powell's interview with Wolf Blitzer a few months ago, which was really extraordinary to me in the lavish praise he heaped on Obama.

And I think that appearance at the U.N. has left a very bitter taste in Powell's mouth, that he knows that his -- he is so tainted by that speech. And he looks to be, at least then, as someone who was looking for a new direction to go.

And frankly, at this point, I'd be surprised to see him endorse McCain. That was the voice of someone who's leaning towards Obama.

ROBERTS: I mentioned earlier that I was at a dinner with Colin Powell. And with Bill Gates. And Colin Powell was saying he hopes the next president of the United States can resist the temptation to get caught up in the latest crisis of the day and take a long hard look at America's position in the world and focus on wealth creation, globally, not just for the United States but work on developing countries, as well, trying to reaffirm America's position in the world. He really seems to think that our status in the world slipped under this administration.

VANDEN HEUVEL: John, don't you think? I mean, America has lost its moral standing in the world.

ROBERTS: I'm -- I'm an impartial observer over here. VANDEN HEUVEL: I mean, under the Bush administration. And the war, as Jeff and Dana talked about, has been the great stain. And I think Barack Obama can reengage with the world on new terms.

And he does care about dignity promotion. It's a term he uses, which is about global poverty. It's about the staggering inequality, and it's an understanding that military tools are not the first resort. And it's talking to enemies, even though you may not agree.

And I think Colin Powell, as we all talked about, through his closest right-hand man, Lawrence Wilkerson, has been very clear. He has been his voice.

ROBERTS: He does believe...

VANDEN HEUVEL: ... administration.

ROBERTS: ... in engagement but he also believes coming at engagement from a position of strength, as we know. Let me move on, if I can, to...

VANDEN HEUVEL: North Korea we wouldn't be in the position we were today if they had listened to Colin Powell.

ROBERTS: Let me move on to the faith-based initiative that Barack Obama was talking about. And Dana, you know from covering the Bush White House, that the faith-based initiative, the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives at the White House, was very controversial, particularly among Democrats. But they don't seem to mind too much now that Barack Obama is -- is presenting that.

BASH: Well, you know, certainly not. And obviously, what the Obama campaign is clearly trying to do here -- we heard Jessica Yellin's report earlier -- is that he is trying to -- look, we know what happened. We know that the split, for the most part, during the Democratic primary. And we know what happened, particularly with people who consider themselves people of faith. And they heard Barack Obama say in that private fundraiser that people who were bitter about the economy go off and find their God and their guns.

So he's clearly trying to, you know -- it's the play book. He's trying to reach and trying to go back -- go back to the middle and reach some of those people who Democrats for a long time pretty much have ignored, people of faith.

I will tell you very briefly that he really is filling a void that John McCain is leaving. It's ironic. John McCain does not talk about faith on the side.

TOOBIN: I'm not a kid like you. I remember way back when Barack Obama was a Democrat. And he was talking about thing like the middle class, tax cuts. Now it's all about wealth -- it's all about faith- based initiatives, supporting the Second Amendment, against the Supreme Court on the death penalty for child rapists. He is moving to the center so fast that I think he has to be careful about questioning. VANDEN HEUVEL: I'm the self-described liberal here. "The Nation" -- "The Nation" magazine was founded in 1865 by abolitionists committed to the end of slavery. That was a moral position. They had faith. When did faith become a left-right issue?

The faith-based initiative under President Bush became a slush fund for the right wing. Barack Obama said very clearly in a speech that, as a constitutional lawyer, he believes in separation of church and state. He's against discrimination in hiring in faith-based programs and proselytizing. He believes in bottom-up politics, and he entered public service through community-based, faith-based organizations. It's in his biography.

TOOBIN: It's OK with "The Nation" to give money to churches to -- for soup kitchens?

VANDEN HEUVEL: You're giving money to faith-based groups like Gamaliel Foundation, which he works for. But you do not impose a religious test, a litmus test and you separate out the money, the government money that is not used for religious purposes.

ROBERTS: We have to take a quick break. There's lots more to discuss. We'll come right back with more from our panel.

They're the wild cards in the race for the White House. The impact of third-party candidates. Who stands to lose the most?

And unbelievable surveillance video. A woman lies dying on the floor of a hospital, and no one does anything. We'll tell you more about that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Ralph Nader, Bob Barr and other so-called third-party candidates, can they pull enough votes away from Barack Obama and John McCain to cost one of them the election? We're back with our panel, Katrina Vanden Heuvel. She is the editor of "The Nation." CNN senior analyst Jeffrey Toobin. And Robert George of "The New York Post," joining us after having a wonderful experience with the New York City rapid transit system.

ROBERT GEORGE, "THE NEW YORK POST": I don't know where the word "rapid" came in. But thank you.

ROBERTS: Mass transit system, it's mass confusion. Robert, you heard some of the discussion. You heard Katrina, what she was saying about the faith-based initiative. What do you say?

GEORGE: This is the audacity of co-option, if anything. Keep in mind, the faith-based initiative came -- came from the conservatives, because they were trying to create this compassionate conservative adjective or persona for George W. Bush. And they thought it was an interesting way of trying to attract African-American votes.

And so Barack Obama, I mean, I think rather smartly has decided to kind of take that and -- and try and expand it. So I do think that the real problem that you're going to face is, and we've seen this actually happening up here -- up here in New York.

If faith -- if faith-based entities do start taking federal money, at least we saw with some of the Catholic organizations, where the government steps in and says, "OK, you have to provide, say, abortion benefits if you're an employee, even if that's against their -- their moral mantra."

So I would be -- I'm very wary when -- I mean, Katrina, I probably agree with Katrina in the sense that it is problematic when the government is starting to dole out money and with that money, inevitably come strings.

But as a political strategy, I think it's -- I think it's rather marvelous. You know, Nixon was able to go to China, and Barack Obama is able to go to God.

ROBERTS: Let's move on to third-party candidates, because we have some new polling here, which is kind of surprising. New CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll found that Ralph Nader and Bob Barr together are attracting 9 percent of the vote.

Look at this. Ralph Nader has got 6 percent. Bob Barr has got 3. There's the numbers for Barack Obama and John McCain, 46 percent and 43 percent. Do they have enough yet to play spoiler here?

TOOBIN: You know what? I think this is a good example of why we should never look at a poll in June. Ralph Nader is no more going to get 6 percent in this election than I am going to get 6 percent in this election. I mean, he is simply not a factor. That is a quirk.

ROBERTS: Could you get six percent?

TOOBIN: Well, I haven't declared yet. But you know, like John McCain, I may come on at the end -- but no, I just think this is silly. I don't think there is any chance they're going to get that.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Yes. I agree. I agree with Jeff. I mean, Ralph -- Ralph Nader has very good issues and a terrible vehicle. He is citizen No. 1. He should not be running for president.

ROBERTS: He is. And let's not forget what happened in Florida in the year 2000.

VANDEN HEUVEL: This is not 2000.

ROBERTS: Two percent of the vote.

VANDEN HEUVEL: This is not 2004. People have learned that there is an extraordinary difference, a stark difference between the Democrat and the Republican. There should be more differences.

But -- but you have so much at stake. This country has been damaged, looted and plundered. You have a Supreme Court on the cusp of a lifetime generational shift. Ralph Nader should be taking his issues as citizen No. 1, as the great consumer crusader he was. Bob Barr, I bet, however, has more traction. ROBERTS: Could Bob Barr be the spoiler here for John McCain?

GEORGE: Bob Barr could conceivably be a spoiler. As you started to say, you don't need 6 percent or even 3 percent to actually be a spoiler if you can just get in close places.

If you have like -- if Barack Obama, for example, maximizes the black vote if in Georgia...

ROBERTS: And Bob Barr takes 3 percent.

GEORGE: ... and takes -- he could possibly. But I think both of the campaigns are going to be emphasizing how much this election really matters, and I think it's going to squeeze out -- squeeze out the extremes. I would be surprised if either of them get 1 or 2 percent.

ROBERTS: Lots to think about. I know it's early, Jeff. We'll keep watching this closely.

GEORGE: Toobin in '08.

ROBERTS: Thanks very much, folks. Good to see you here.

He is the young governor linked to John McCain and often mentioned as a possible running-mate, but now Louisiana's Bobby Jindal has some serious political problems at home, including a recall campaign.

CNN's Sean Callebs joins us now live. Sean, what's the controversy here?

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, really, it comes down to a pay raise for state lawmakers. It's really amazing if you think about the way Bobby Jindal has burst onto the national stage, really becoming the GOP golden boy, and perhaps now some of that luster is coming off. Right now he is feeling heat for a decision he made, both from state voters as well as Louisiana lawmakers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CALLEBS (voice-over): As a GOP rising star, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has shared the spotlight with the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, shaking hands in New Orleans' decimated lower Ninth Ward and with Senator McCain at a Memorial Day retreat in Arizona, said to be a testing ground for a possible vice-presidential nod.

Now Jindal has learned the glare of the spotlight can be punishing, as well. While much of Louisiana suffers from the economic downturn, and New Orleans still has a hangover from Katrina, Jindal allowed state lawmakers to double their salary. After voter outrage, Jindal vetoed the measure.

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: I made a mistake in telling them that I would stay out of this. SILAS LEE, POLITICAL ANALYST: This shows how fast political factions (ph) can change.

CALLEBS: New Orleans-based political analyst Silas Lee says a grassroots recall petition caused Jindal to wimp out. Clearly, voters are upset.

RYAN FOURNIER, RECALL PROMOTER: Obviously, this is a result of everybody's uproar. I mean, I was a small part of it.

CALLEBS: And now so are state lawmakers. Lee says the governor has himself in an unenviable position.

LEE: Hopefully, this has not established a pattern whereby, when the heat really begins to intensify, the governor will say, "Well, let me step back and change my position."

CALLEBS: Jindal is only 37 years old, a tick of the clock in terms of his potential political lifespan.

JINDAL: The whole distraction of the side show over massive legislative pay raises has already taken up far too much time.

CALLEBS: The governor's staff again reiterated a statement Jindal has said time and time again, that he has the job he wants and has no interest in being VP. Lee says perhaps that's a good thing.

LEE: I think it would cause some people to re-evaluate him. I don't know about ending it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CALLEBS: We've reached out to the McCain campaign this afternoon, John, and their answer, just no comment on this. They don't want to weigh in right now -- John.

ROBERTS: All right. Sean Callebs for us from New Orleans. Sean, thanks.

She collapsed in the waiting room of a hospital, and no one did a thing. Now she's dead. How could it have happened?

Also, the new agreement between Iraqi and U.S. officials that has huge implications for private contractors in Iraq.

Plus, the courthouse fashion that has critics buzzing and fashion gurus sharpening their claws.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Time to check back in with our Carol Costello. She's monitoring stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Hi, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. You know, private contractors will no longer get immunity from prosecution in Iraq. It's part of a new agreement between Iraqi and U.S. officials. The immunity issue has been an obstacle that talks over a long-term security agreement. An Iraqi official says he breaks with parliament on the decision, but no one from the U.S. State Department could be reached for comment.

The head of the French army stepped down today after a soldier fired real bullets instead of blanks into the crowd at a military show, injuring 17 people. The weekend show was a demonstration of freeing hostages, but a prosecutor says the soldier made a mistake while loading his gun.

Nelson Mandela can now travel to the United States a bit easier these days. President Bush signed a bill allowing Mandela's arrival without officials having to certify that he's not a terrorist. Mandela had been on the immigration watch list because of -- because of his connection with the ANC, the African National Congress.

It was President Bush's birthday gift to Nelson Mandela.

ROBERTS: A good one it was. Carol, thanks.

COSTELLO: Sure.

ROBERTS: Shocking surveillance video shows a woman collapsing on a hospital floor where she lay for an hour, ignored, before dying. CNN's Mary Snow has got the video. She's been following this story.

Mary, officials are outraged by what happened. Walk us through the event.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's such a tragic story, John. A woman was brought to the city hospital about two weeks ago, had to wait about 24 hours for a bed. And now an investigation is underway into the tragic circumstances surrounding her death.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): Had it not been for a surveillance camera inside the psychiatric emergency room at Brooklyn's King's County Hospital, we may have never known what happened to 49-year-old Esmin Green in the moments before she died.

As she struggles on the floor, several people walk by, but no one does anything to help her. And it takes nearly an hour before a medical team arrives to treat her.

The New York Civil Liberties Union released this videotape showing Green falling to the floor in the emergency room around 5:30 on the morning of June 19. About 20 minutes later, a security guard comes into view.

BETH HAROULES, NYCLU STAFF ATTORNEY: He walks in. He stands there. We actually think there's television up at the top. We think he's looking at the TV, but he clearly has the patient in view, and he walks away.

SNOW: Green was in the ER waiting for a bed to become available. At one point, the woman can be seen struggling to free herself from the chairs. And at another point, she appears to make an effort to get up.

A copy of her medical records contradicts the tape, listing her at the same time as being awake, up and about, even going to the bathroom. At about 6:10 a.m., lawyers say, a second security guard enters the room.

HAROULES: Here he comes, into the room, checks around. He can't even get himself off his chair. He sits there, and then you'll see him wheel himself away.

SNOW: Finally around 6:30 a.m., medical personnel arrive. Green is later pronounced dead.

The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation released a statement saying, "We are shocked and distressed by the situation," adding that after it learned of the incident, the agency's president "directed the suspension and termination of those involved."

The city's mayor says the city will do everything it can to cooperate with the investigation.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: I was -- horrified is much too nice a word. Disgusted I think is a better word.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: And, John, this hospital psychiatric unit was cited in a federal lawsuit in 2007 where it was cited that there were horrendous conditions here. Now, a spokesman for the city's health and hospitals corporation says improvements have been made over the past year, and new reforms are now going into place -- John.

ROBERTS: I guess a lot of people would hope that new reforms are going into place. Mary Snow for us in that terribly tragic story.

Mary, thanks.

On our Political Ticker, nearly six in ten now say the economy is issue No. 1 in the presidential election. That from our new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll. The economy pushing further ahead of Iraq is a big influence on presidential votes. Those issues were nearly tied back in January.

And take a look at gas prices. Moving up to the No. 3 spot. Forty-eight percent of voters say fuel costs are extremely important to their presidential pick.

On our vice-presidential watch, Virginia Senator Jim Webb is getting some ribbing for being frequently mentioned as a possible Obama running mate. "Roll Call" reports that Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill was overheard calling Webb "Mr. Vice President" on the Senate floor.

McCaskill also is considered a possible VP choice.

No fireworks for John McCain's Fourth of July. He told reporters pyrotechnics are not allowed any more because of drought in his home state. Senator McCain says the family is going to try and generate sparks another way. They plan to hold a wiffleball tournament. It would have to be a pretty intense one to match the fireworks display.

And, remember, for the latest political news anytime, check out CNNPolitics.com.

Upswept hair, long dresses and pastel colors, it's the latest fundamentalist fashion. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a look at the prairie look and finds it Moost Unusual.

And no words needed here. You don't want to miss today's political "Hot Shots."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Here's a look at some of this hour's "Hot Shots."

In Texas, Congressman Chet Edwards remains tight-lipped when questioned about being a possible running mate for presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama.

In Pennsylvania, John McCain waves from the doorway of his spanking new campaign jet.

In Ohio, Barack Obama shakes hands with a woman while touring a community ministry.

And in Arkansas, 12-year-old Robbie Powell gives President Bush a bracelet in memory of a friend.

That's this hour's "Hot Shots."

Upswept hair, long dresses and pastel colors. It's the latest fundamentalist fashion. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a look at the prairie look and finds it Moost Unusual.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You know you've seen one too many news stories on that polygamist sect when you stop counting wives and start counting prairie dresses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We hang our dresses.

MOOS: Pastel prairie dresses, generally seen flouncing up the courthouse steps.

TIM GUNN, FASHION EXPERT: Who's talking about their crimes against fashion? MOOS: Their latest fashion crime, the FLDS Dress Web site. Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, where you can buy a baby dress with bloomers or a girl's nightgown, all hand made.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is our sewing room. We sew all of our clothing.

MOOS: The polygamist women hope sewing kids' clothes on their own Web site will bring in some money. They make everything from overalls to underwear, long underwear, worn in all seasons for religious reasons.

(on camera) These women are all about modesty. All buttoned up, no flashy colors. On their Web site, they quote scripture from the book of Mormon. And they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely, though comely is in the eye of the beholder.

(voice-over) The teen princess dress will set you back about 60 bucks. As one FLDS member told "The Salt Lake Tribune," "This is not about Wal-Mart quality."

But on the Internet, the prairie look is the butt of jokes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even Quaker women think that those ladies dress so 1890s. I think these women are reading the Queen Victoria secret catalog.

MOOS: Which brings us to comedian Mo Rocca.

MO ROCCA, COMEDIAN: You almost want her to take off the glasses and let her hair down and become Daryl Hannah.

MOOS: Mo got together with fashion guru Tim Gunn from "Project Runway" to critique polygamist style.

GUNN: Silhouette, horrible. Proportion, hideous. Think they all do their own hair?

ROCCA: I think that there is one hair dresser in the compound, and he is fabulous.

GUNN: He's the one who doesn't have 14 women.

MOOS: Actually, their hair, done up in buns and braids, is kept very long because they believe the wives will use that hair to wash Christ's feet, or their husband's feet in heaven.

It was a feat for Tim Gunn to redefine the prairie look.

GUNN: Take the sleeves off all together so it would be sleeveless. I'd open up the top, four buttons. I'd shorten it by a good 12 inches.

MOOS: But beware of making too much fun.

GUNN: Next year, it's on Marc Jacobs' runway. MOOS: In this age of overexposure, it's a shock when underexposure comes out of the closet.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: And check out our new SITUATION ROOM screen saver and stay up to date on the latest political news. You can download it at CNN.com/SituationRoom.

I'm John Roberts, for Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you again tomorrow.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT." Kitty Pilgrim in tonight for Lou -- Kitty.

Home  |  World  |  U.S.  |  Politics  |  Crime  |  Entertainment  |  Health  |  Tech  |  Travel  |  Living  |  Money  |  Sports  |  Time.com
© 2014 Cable News Network. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved.