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CNN ELECTION CENTER
Obama Battles Flip-Flop Label; Should More U.S. Troops Head to Afghanistan?; A Look at McCain's Short List of VPs; The Obama Kids' First TV Interview in Access Hollywood
Aired July 8, 2008 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, there, everybody.
We begin with John McCain uncensored. Well, he's been in trouble before for making off-the-cuff remarks meant to be jest. Could he be in trouble again?
Just a few minutes ago, he made another off-the-cuff remark that he says was just a bad joke. Well, we're going to tell you about it just ahead.
But, first, politics is personal. You're going to hear us talking a lot about that in the ELECTION CENTER.
And here's what I mean. Tonight, Barack Obama is taking it personally when people question him on his plan to end the war in Iraq. And he got pretty heated on the campaign trail today. That's straight ahead, so sit right there for that.
As for John McCain, he's desperately seeking a running mate. Is there a Mr. or Ms. Right who can help him make over his campaign? That's coming up.
Plus, the story everybody's talking about tonight, the Obama kids suddenly now, you can see there, in the spotlight. The campaign has gone from protecting their privacy to trotting them out for a celebrity interview. Double standard? No bias, no bull. We have got the facts tonight, so you can decide.
But, first, Barack Obama emphatic, on message, and crystal clear on Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am going to bring this war to an end. So, don't be confused. I will bring the Iraq war to a close when I'm president of the United States of America.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Now here's the backstory. Obama has been on the receiving end of a storm of controversy ever since last week, when he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: When I go to Iraq and I have a chance to talk to some of the commanders on the ground, I'm sure I will have more information, and we will continue to refine my policies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Well, guess what, Senator? When you're auditioning to be commander in chief, when you talk about refining your policies on Iraq, you shouldn't be surprised when people want to know exactly what you mean.
And here to talk about that, we have got two of our favorite talk radio hosts, Joe Madison of XM Satellite Radio and Lars Larson of Westwood One Radio. And then here with me in the studio is Bobby Ghosh, who is the world editor for "TIME" magazine and "TIME"'s former Baghdad bureau chief as well.
Welcome to you.
Joe, I'm going to start with you.
Doesn't Obama have a consistency problem on Iraq? And don't people have every right to ask any presidential candidate for clarification when he says he is planning to -- quote -- "refine his policy"?
JOE MADISON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Real quick answer, yes, yes, yes.
There's no question about it. He -- he does. I think what he has learned is that you have to say what you mean. You have to mean what you say. And he cannot have these missteps in the future.
So, I agree with you. And it is fair to put that. He's got a base where once that war ended, so, today, he says, make no mistake about it.
Here's what I don't understand, is why he's taking it personal. I heard you make that comment. Yes, politics is personal, but, at the same time, candidates have to expect these kinds of attacks, whether you're running for mayor or president.
BROWN: And, Lars, do you think he put the issue to rest today when he came out and said, here's where I am; there's no question here; we're not refining any position?
LARS LARSON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I really don't.
And I know you're used to me being critical of Barack Obama. But the problem is, Joe's absolutely right. He has to be used to be questioning especially when he's unclear. If he says I'm going to end the war during my time as president, well, that's four years. I'm going to end it in 16 months, but the 16 months begins when? January of next year. But then he acknowledged that he may have to slow down withdrawal of battalions.
So, even if he elected, he says it may take 16 months. It may take longer. It may take the full four years of his first term if he's elected. So, which one is it?
BROWN: I think, guys, the reason people are paying so close attention right now to what he's saying about this is because, Bobby, he is about to go to Iraq. Or we think he's going to go in the not so distant future.
Give us a reality check in terms of what's really going to happen on the ground, because these trips to Iraq, we have see it time and time again. When politicians go, there's so much stagecraft involved. Do they get any real sense of what's happening on the ground?
BOBBY GHOSH, WORLD EDITOR, "TIME": Well, these are very carefully scripted trips, Campbell.
When somebody like a senator or a group of congressmen go, they spend some time in the Green Zone. They spend some time in Camp Victory or a couple of military bases. There are photo-ops with soldiers. They get debriefed by the Ambassador Ryan Crocker.
Somebody of the stock quality of Barack Obama may get an audience with Prime Minister Maliki.
What they don't get is an opportunity to see life in the red zone, to interact with Iraqis who live outside of this protective bubble, to understand what their lives are like, because even the people they're going to meet, even Nouri al-Maliki, knows very little about what Iraqis live like outside the Green Zone. He's very rarely outside of the Green Zone himself.
BROWN: But here's my question to you, Joe.
If Obama hears the commander say to him if he -- on this trip to Iraq or after this trip to Iraq or even if he becomes president, if he hears his commander say to him, sir, if you implement your campaign promises, we're going to have bloodletting like you have never seen before, what's he going to do when he made a comment like he made today?
MADISON: He is in a very precarious situation.
The Republicans have really put him in a trick bag in this one, because you're 100...
MADISON: Well, they have. And it's a strategic one.
BROWN: He put himself in this. What Republican put in this position?
MADISON: Well, no, no.
LARSON: He made the promise.
MADISON: When McCain said, come to Iraq, and that's what brought him there. And he's going -- damned if you do, damned if you don't situation.
Now, some people believe that , if he does change his mind, like my audience says, it shows leadership. It shows judgment.
LARSON: Oh, Campbell, come on.
MADISON: But I agree. I agree he is not going to see what most people in Iraq really honestly see.
And that's why I think the media really plays an important role. Get beyond the Green Zone.
Guys, stay there, because we have a lot more to talk about with Joe, Lars, and Bobby, including the other war, the war in Afghanistan. It's only getting bigger and more deadly. Is that where more of our troops should be right now?
Also ahead, John McCain's latest off-the-cuff remark about Iran. They're not going to like it there.
And the Obama girls celebrity interview. That's right, the candidate's kid trotted out on the show on a show that usually covers Brad and Angelina. If you want to keep your kids out of the public eye, does this make a lot of sense?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: If we fail in Iraq, I am confident that will encourage our adversaries and enemies in Afghanistan. It's not an either/or situation. We need to succeed in Iraq, and I am confident that we can succeed in Afghanistan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: That was Senator John McCain just about a week ago.
While the war in Iraq may be going better, things aren't going so well in Afghanistan. U.S. and allied troop death there are at a seven-year high.
The suicide truck bombing in the capital city of Kabul yesterday killed just 40, wounded 139 more. So, what turned a success story in the war on terror back into a problem?
Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson has just returned from Afghanistan. He's joining us with the very latest details -- Nic.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Campbell, there's no doubt that Afghanistan is becoming more dangerous, one of the reasons the Taliban attacks are becoming more lethal, and the Taliban are changing their tactics as well, less the stand and fight that they used to do, and they're adopting more the sort of Iraq-style insurgency tactics.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Look closely at this spy plane video and check out those two figures on the right. They appear to be two tall women dressed in female burqas. They are walking with women and children, but they are men, Taliban fighters. For Marines here in south Afghanistan, that means one thing. They are being targeted by the Taliban.
CAPTAIN SEAN DYNAN, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Observing us. They are amongst the populace still, but they're not active right now. Really, they're just looking for weak spots, opportunities, lay IEDS, conduct possible ambushes in the area.
ROBERTSON: Recently, those opportunities have been coming often and with deadly consequences -- 28 U.S. troops killed here last month. That's a new record of U.S. dead, more than any other month since the invasion began in 2001.
Proportionally, it means more U.S. soldiers died in Afghanistan than in Iraq. According to commanders, this killing season comes not so much because of improved Taliban tactics, but because the U.S. is now hunting them where they live, and it's risky.
MAJOR GENERAL MARC LESSARD, COMMANDER, REGION COMMAND SOUTH: We are doing operations in areas that we never used to be before. In other words, we're bringing the fight to the enemy.
ROBERTSON: But the new strategy is no guarantee for success.
LESSARD: The enemy decides when he wants to fight or when he wants to flee.
ROBERTSON: And following the Taliban is even more dangerous, because they run for the increasingly lawless border of Pakistan.
That's where al Qaeda also hides. U.S. troops can't go over the border. And the fledgling Pakistani government is powerless.
So, when a suicide car bomb, a favored killing weapon recently imported to Afghanistan from al Qaeda in Iraq, went off in the capital, Kabul, Monday, killing 41 people, little surprise Afghan President Hamid Karzai's spokesman blamed a foreign intelligence agency, a veiled reference to Pakistan. Little surprise, too, NATO commanders can't wait to get more U.S. troops here.
LESSARD: But there's no doubt there be at least be some amount of more U.S. troops, and, definitely, they will be very welcomed.
ROBERTSON: But nobody id sure when those troops are going to arrive. And the best estimate is, they certainly won't be coming before they're freed up from Iraq. And that's been a problem, Afghan commanders in Afghanistan say, for some time, that Iraq gets all the resources, and they get the leftovers -- Campbell.
BROWN: So, Nic, what are the commanders on the ground telling you they need to get Afghanistan under control? What are they telling the politicians in Washington?
ROBERTSON: They're telling us that things look pretty good. They're telling us that they're doing a good job. They're telling us that they're beating the Taliban. They're telling us that this is just a temporary spike, that the Taliban fight more in the summer.
What they're telling us away from the camera and what I suspect they're telling Washington is that they need more troops. The Marines we were with down in the -- down in Helmand Province in the south of the country, they have done a great job, but they can only go so far.
They can't go and chase the Taliban further, because, if they do, they will leave the territory they have captured. The Taliban will move back in. It can only be done with more troops. And that's the message that is getting back to Washington and that we're getting privately, Campbell.
BROWN: Nic Robertson for us tonight live from London -- Nic, thank you.
We want to bring back our panel now, talk radio hosts Joe Madison and Lars Larson, along with "TIME" Magazine World Editor Bobby Ghosh.
And, Lars, Obama says that he wants to pull troops out of Iraq and send them to Afghanistan to fight what -- what he has called the war that we have to win.
With what we just heard from Nic, doesn't that make sense?
LARSON: We have to win in both places.
And taking troops and resources against -- away from one place, like Iraq, to supply them elsewhere, I don't think makes sense. If he wants to turn Iraq into a loss, instead of a win, as it appears to be heading in that direction, it doesn't make any sense to me.
BROWN: But we just heard him say that troop deaths in Afghanistan are going up, that they're even higher now than in Iraq.
LARSON: We have hit a record high in Afghanistan. And that's unfortunate, but there's no reason, then, to steal needed resources from Iraq, instead of supplying them from elsewhere. And we have an international coalition through -- through NATO in Afghanistan. There's no reason to do that.
BROWN: Bobby, you're shaking your head.
GHOSH: Well, I don't think NATO is going to commit a great deal more troops than they already have.
I think they're looking to the United States to provide more.
LARSON: But not from Baghdad?
GHOSH: And I absolutely agree it makes no sense to take battle-weary soldiers, some of whom are on their third and fourth rotation from Iraq, and send them to an even more hostile place. That would be a terrible idea.
But I'm not sure the U.S. military has spare troop capacity elsewhere that they can divert to...
BROWN: This is something that McCain does talk about, about -- about pushing NATO, pushing Pakistan to take on more responsibility.
GHOSH: He does.
BROWN: Why is that not a possibility, in your view?
GHOSH: Because they haven't in several years, and there's no reason to believe that they will. Pakistan does not have -- does not answer to American policy. The Pakistani government has its own agenda. NATO has its own concerns. This is a deeply unpopular war, even in Europe.
They're not looking to expand their presence. They're looking to the Americans to carry the heavy load.
BROWN: Go ahead, Joe.
MADISON: Well, no, I was just going to say, and there's very little I can disagree with, but I will tell you what keeps coming to my mind. And it's the D-word, the draft.
MADISON: And I know. You see, therein lies the problem.
So, where do you get the troops. If you can't bring them from Iraq because they're battle-weary, NATO's not going to step up to the plate, where do you get the bodies? And, remember, this is the same Taliban that chased the Soviet Union, the old Soviet Union, out of that country.
LARSON: Well-compensated American volunteers, Joe.
MADISON: Where are they?
(CROSSTALK) BROWN: But, Lars, come on, reality check here. I mean, everyone says that the -- the military says that they're on the verge of breaking.
LARSON: No, I don't think...
MADISON: Where are they? Where are they?
LARSON: I hear the left saying that America's military is broken. I haven't...
MADISON: Where are they?
BROWN: Lars, that's just not true. There are Republicans that are arguing that we need to expand the military.
LARSON: And that's fine, but expand it with volunteers.
MADISON: Where are they?
LARSON: ... the political strategy of Democrats.
MADISON: He won't answer that question. Where are they?
LARSON: Joe, if you look at the recruiting numbers from the military -- and I have had the head the recruiting command on my program to talk about that, because it is an issue. And they need to do what's necessary to...
MADISON: Why the shortage?
LARSON: Why the shortage?
Because -- well, and part of that is a problem that does defy description. We have got 1.4 million in the active military, another 700,000 in the Reserves. That's 2.1 million. And yet we're stretched by a commitment of a little over 150,000, which doesn't really make sense.
MADISON: Lars, you're just making my point.
LARSON: No, I understand. Then you need more volunteers.
But the idea's not to create a draft, Campbell, because a draft is a way for Democrats to make every war unpopular and fighting terrorism unpopular by saying, we're going to go to people who don't want to be in the military.
MADISON: Well, guess what? War should be unpopular.
BROWN: All right, guys, let me let Bobby have the last word.
We're talking about the political realities here. But give us the perspective of somebody who has been on the ground there. What's the solution?
GHOSH: Well, the soldiers in Iraq and in Afghanistan say they would like to see more being given to them, in terms of more bodies on the ground, more air coverage, better intelligence.
But they also recognize that there are not going to be that many more volunteers. This war -- both these wars are already unpopular. Not a lot of people are lining up to go fight them. Is there going to be a draft? I doubt it very much.
But, clearly, the next president will have to grapple with two very combustible battle fronts that are not going away any time soon.
BROWN: And the guys in Afghanistan probably with the appreciation and understanding that they may not get the backup they need until there is some letup in Iraq.
Well, much appreciation tonight to Bobby and to Joe and to Lars. As always, guys, thanks so much. Appreciate it. Appreciate it.
BROWN: Congress is back from a weeklong holiday. Most had gone back to their home districts. And for many it was anything but a homecoming.
Well, no surprise. From gas prices to the economy, the war, a lot of anger out there. So, now that Congress is safely back in Washington, what are the chances they're going to do something about anything? That's coming up next.
And then, later, John McCain takes another swipe at Iran, plus his search for a running mate.
We will talk about that in a moment.
BROWN: Members of Congress went home last week, and they found out politics is personal, if not painful. In fact, voters complained to them about pain at the pump, the markets, the economy, the war, and they want Congress to do something about all of it. Well, today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took aim at high gas prices, urging President Bush to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The White House says that wouldn't make gas any cheaper. But the dissatisfaction with Congress goes way beyond price at the pump, because, as CNN's Drew Griffin reports, politics is personal.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The weather in Cincinnati this past Fourth of July weekend matched the mood of voters, gloomy. This is Ohio's 1st Congressional District. A Republican holds the seat for the moment. The Democratic challenger here is hoping voters will decide he is the person who can change the forecast.
STEVE DRIEHAUS, (D), OHIO CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: They don't know, necessarily, that the Democratic Party is the party that's going to bring the change that they want to see, but they know they want to see something different.
GRIFFIN: Democrat Steve Driehaus is a four-term state representative who wants to be the next congressman from here. He hopes the Obama campaign will sweep him and others like him pushing the something of change into office. But his handshakes along the parade route brought tempered responses.
Voters in Ohio want change, but those we talked to said it doesn't seem to matter anymore if a Republican or a Democrat is elected; it isn't going to really change anything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't see that happening. No, I don't.
GRIFFIN: Kenton New says he has just one main issue and so far he sees no solution from a Democrat or a Republican.
KENTON NEW, OHIO VOTER: Fuel. I'm a small business owner with six vehicles and it's killing me. Not happy with it.
GRIFFIN: The Bailey (ph) family also seems to be puzzled over who to vote for.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just don't seem to feel like anybody has a good solid platform they're running on. They're all saying what the voters want to hear.
GRIFFIN: Michelle Bailey will vote for the first time this year, but for whom?
MICHELLE BAILEY, NEW VOTER: My friends and I, we have good conversations and talk about it. We just -- we're all kind of on the we don't really know where we should vote sort of thing.
GRIFFIN: Democratic challenger Driehaus say voters he talks to are mostly angry about the economy and gas prices and he admits, while he does tell us Obama is different and so is he, he's having a rough time convincing voters. DRIEHAUS: I was going door to door the other night, and there were four older folks sitting out on their front lawn, and he's saying, I just don't know how you can change what's going on out there in Washington. And I don't trust anybody, you know, involved in the process.
And that's disheartening.
GRIFFIN: Perhaps that's why the current congressman from this district didn't need to show up at the North Side July Fourth parade to understand his constituents are angry.
REP. STEVE CHABOT (R), OHIO: It's understandable, because I think both parties have failed miserably.
GRIFFIN: Congressman Steve Chabot is back in Washington today and frustrated himself. As a Republican, he would like to drill more oil, pass a housing bill, and cut spending. He could tell you why one side is right and the other is wrong, but he says voters no longer care.
CHABOT: They don't want people just trying to find the blame game, putting fingers at the other party. They want us to work together. Unfortunately, Congress doesn't do that very often.
GRIFFIN: The problem for Chabot, people want change. And this November, in Ohio's 1st Congressional District, if they vote for change, he's likely to be spending next Fourth of July watching the North Side parade on the curb.
Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.
BROWN: And still ahead in the ELECTION CENTER: the political word Barack Obama uses to describe himself now.
Plus, a rare close-up of Obama's family. It's pretty unusual to see his daughters talking on TV. This is stagecraft in action. We will show you.
BROWN: Later in the ELECTION CENTER, Barack Obama talks about charges of flip-flopping, and all the Obamas take center stage on television. So, naturally, we're going to review the stagecraft of the special appearance.
But, right now, Randi Kaye is here with tonight's briefing.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Campbell, good to see you.
The FDA imposed its most urgent warning on a common antibiotic today. Cipro now comes with a so-called black box label. Investigators say Cipro and similar drugs can cause tendons to rupture. That can be disabling. The FDA is telling patients to stop taking Cipro if their tendons get painful or swollen.
More danger for firefighters tonight in Northern California. A news crew from Sacramento got a close-up view as firefighters drove them into a burning forest. It got so hot, they had to back up the car and get out. The fire forced 1,000 people from their homes in nearby Paradise, California.
And a 19-year-old firefighter is back at work after a metal spike punctured his brain. Chris Clear of Colorado was helping a friend move a rototiller. Something snapped. He thought a rock hit him. But X-Rays showed a big pin from the tiller went up his nose and lodged in his brain. After a nine-hour operation and two months of recovery, Clear is better.
Now, here's what's strange, though. He lost some peripheral vision and he doesn't like sweets anymore. So, it's really changed him a bit.
KAYE: Kind of bizarre.
BROWN: How does the brain function. What did that nail hit?
KAYE: I don't know, I guess the sweet part of the brain.
BROWN: All right. Randi Kaye tonight -- Randi, as always, thanks.
Barack Obama again accused of being a flip-flopper, and again insisting he is not. And he has a message for anyone who says he is changing positions and heading for the political center. You're going to hear it next.
Then, later, why John McCain had some explaining to do for something he said about Iran.
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Now that Barack Obama has locked up the Democratic nomination, a lot of people say he is running from the left of this political spectrum back toward the middle. In suburban Atlanta this morning, Obama told the crowd, oh, no, I'm not. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This whole notion that I am, you know, shifting to the center or that I'm flip-flopping or this or that or the other. You know, the people who say this apparently haven't been listening to me. And I have to say, some of them are my friends on the left and the -- and some of the media.
I -- I am somebody who is no doubt progressive. One of the things that you find as you go through this campaign is everybody's become so cynical about politics. That the assumption is you must be doing everything for political reasons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So notice he calls himself a progressive not a liberal. We want to ask our experts what the voters may actually label him.
Tonight we've got down in Washington, our CNN's correspondent Jessica Yellin. Also from Washington, "Washington Times" deputy editorial page editor Tara Wall, who used to be a senior adviser to the Republican National Committee. And here with me in New York, "New York Observer" political columnist, Steve Kornacki.
Steve, I'm going to start with you. Steve, I just got to tell everybody, Steve like just got in his seat as I was reading the introduction to Steve. OK. You made it, though, that's all that counts. All right.
So Steve, why is Obama talking about flip-flopping today? Because he's hearing a lot of this argument. This is Bob Herbert in the "New York Times," a big Obama supporter we should add. He writes, Senator Obama not just tacking gently toward the center, he is lurching right when it suits him. He is zigging with the kind of reckless abandon that's guaranteed to cause disillusion, if not whiplash."
How concerned should the Obama camp be about this?
STEVE KORNACKI, "N.Y. OBSERVER" POLITICAL COLUMNIST: Well, I mean, there's two issues here. One is what he's actually doing and one is the perception of what he's doing. I would actually argue -- I mean, there are some very specific examples and I wouldn't argue for a second where he clearly is sort of flip-flopping, clearly is moving to the center.
If you want to say flip-flop on campaign financing when he opted out of the public system, I agree with that completely. If you want so say we're seeing a different Obama when he talks about the death penalty, for instance, the Supreme Court ruling, I agree with that completely.
I think the Iraq thing is bogus, but there's a problem here and the problem is the perception of flip-flopping. The McCain campaign has talked about this relentlessly. A lot of people in the media have bought into it. And as a result, he has forced to give the kind of, you know, speech -- the kind of statement that he gives today.
You know, in the end, I think the only thing he has to fall back on is, you know, when you get to October, when you get to November, how do people really make up their minds? If you look at the Democrats who have won the elections before in the last four years, really it comes down to Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Those are people who voters, at the end of the day, they trusted them, they liked them, and they believed in them.
So they made judgments. Those guys had been, you know, political in their calculations during the campaign, but they had something personal that sort of vouched for them with the voters at the end of the day. I think Obama still has that, so that's something powerful.
BROWN: Tara, this flip-flopper thing has worked in the past. Is this what Republicans are going to be latching on to?
TARA WALL, FMR. SR. ADVISER, REPUBLICAN NATL. CMTE: Wow, I can't believe Steve and I actually agree on something for a change. Yes, I mean, you know, we editorialize on this today about the fact that the flip-flop label is legitimate. I mean the fact that -- I mean, I don't know how Barack Obama can say with a straight face that he's not flip-flopping.
All candidates move to the center essentially during the national, you know, national campaign. They have to essentially because most Americans are moderate to right or senator right. So I think that -- in all fairness, he's got to move his positions over and not be as liberal or appear to be as liberal as he truly is.
But listen, we can give a long list of where he's flip-flopped, beginning with Reverend Wright and NAFTA and guns and all of those issues. The point of it being is, you know, folks are essentially going to start asking and liberals who are, you know, crying foul, are going to start asking, will the real Obama please stand up?
You know, I think -- you know, he runs the risk. The risk here is, you know, it delegitimizes him and what his true stance are. So he has -- look, it's a very thin line he has to walk here.
WALL: And be careful, it's a two-edged sword. Because quite frankly, he doesn't have a long record that's in his favor in the sense to go to.
WALL: So he can almost make this up as he goes. But it's also hard to pin him down as well.
BROWN: Jessica, is this something the campaign is hyperaware of in trying to address? Or at least that's how it seems watching it from the outside.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly, I mean, we're getting calls about it all the time when we report subtle changes in Obama's position. But the truth is, the fact check here is Obama has flipped on very few on a handful of issues, but not all those issues we just heard listed.
What he's really done is sort of softened his position. I would describe it as changing emphasis. So instead of emphasizing his opposition to his support of the gun ban, he changes how he views it. He says he understands where the Supreme Court stands, for example, but also supports gun limits, as well.
So what he's doing is trying to broaden his base and there's a little bit of flip-flopping going on on a few issues like campaign finance reform, but in the whole, he's really just shifting his emphasis.
BROWN: But let me ask you all quickly. I mean, isn't though -- again, when you're running for president, and people -- people want to know where you are on this. Are you here? Are you there? And when you see a change in emphasis, isn't that problematic for anybody who is trying to make a decision about who to vote for?
WALL: Absolutely. When you --
KORNACKI: I really connect with this. If you look at --
BROWN: Hang on. Go ahead.
KORNACKI: If you look at the people who won elections on the Democratic side and the Republican side for that matter, at the end of the day if you look at polls in November, going back 30, 40 years, voters concluded in every case, Reagan, Clinton, Carter, they concluded that they were political. They were guilty of changing emphasis during the course of the campaign.
KORNACKI: But there was something else there that propelled those candidates. Something personal. That's what the winners have.
BROWN: OK, guys. Hold on, hold on, hold on. We got to take a quick break. But up next, we're going to look at who may be on John McCain's short list these days for VP.
And then later, how the Obama campaign is trying to shield his children from the press except when they're being used to charm voters. We'll talk about that when we come back.
BROWN: We're back with our panel now. We've got Steve Kornacki, Tara Wall and Jessica Yellin with us, picking up where we left off. We've been telling you all night about John McCain's off the cuff joke today.
And it's the kind of thing that has gotten him in a little bit of trouble before. You may remember his sing-along to bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran. Well, listen to what he said this afternoon. And we put some subtitles in only because it's a little hard to hear. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've learned that the exports to Iran increased by tenfold during the Bush administration. The biggest export was cigarettes. Given that the, yes, that the supposedly --
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Maybe that's a way of killing them. I meant that as a joke. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: OK, he -- it's exactly the kind of off the cuff comment, Tara, that has gotten him into trouble before, even when he says I meant that as a joke. Do you think that's going to be a problem?
WALL: No, come on. I mean, you know, look, he said right then and there he meant it as a joke. I think that sometimes we read too much into some of these gaffes, if you will.
I've said it before, I'll say it again. Between Barack Obama and John McCain, there have been gaffes on the campaign trail. There will be more gaffes to come. This is not, you know, a do or die situation here.
KORNACKI: Yes. He meant it as a joke, but I think that reveals something very significant about this man's thinking when it comes to Iran and when it comes to the Middle East.
BROWN: What do you mean?
KORNACKI: Because this is the second time he's made a joke about killing Iranians. The first time as you mentioned is when he is singing along singing bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.
This is a guy who when he thinks of Iran, sees nothing but an enemy, sees nothing but something -- nothing but a country that we need to confront. We need to confront them militarily. We need to confront them aggressively.
That is the only thing John McCain sees when he sees Iran. That's the view of the Middle East that he subscribes to. And it's funny because you had a package at the start of the show we talked all about, you know, how strained the U.S. military is right now between Iraq and between Afghanistan. And this is a guy who seems to want to open up a third front on this war from day one.
WALL: Oh, that's a stretch. Come on. Iran is serious.
BROWN: Let me bring Jessica into this. Is Steve reading too much into this? Or is this reflective of how McCain feels?
YELLIN: This is the kind of thing that reinforces existing views of John McCain. People who already don't like him see this as an awful statement. People who love and think he's a maverick and he's a real guy who makes a joke off the cuff just like real people do.
And the rest of the American public just isn't paying attention and doesn't care about this sort of thing. The only red flag is if this indicates John McCain going off the ranch more and more, there could be trouble down the line. We're all waiting to see if something explodes. That's the kind of thing that could get him in trouble eventually. This kind of comment doesn't.
BROWN: OK, guys, I want to shift gears and talk about the other big issue. And Jessica, I know you've been doing some reporting for us on this. The presidential veepstakes and John McCain. What do you know?
YELLIN: Well, John McCain really has to make a decision when he looks at the vice presidential pick. Does he want somebody who sort of reinforces his strength? Or does he want to find a vice presidential candidate who helps correct his weaknesses?
YELLIN (voice-over): A number of governors seem to be in constant audition mode for the job. Just in time for the VP finals, Florida's Charlie Crist, a lifelong bachelor, announced he's engaged. It's been a while since we've had a single vice president, especially one from a key battleground state.
Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, the youngest governor in the nation, and South Carolina's Mark Sanford, all seen as the next generation of Republican leaders. Both are strong social conservatives filling in a gap in McCain's resume. Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty has all that, plus he's another swing state guy. Could be a two-fer.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He comes from outside Washington. He's a two- term governor. But he also has a relationship with the evangelical community.
YELLIN: On the other hand, McCain who has made no secret he's running on national security could pick a number two to provide some domestic policy balance, beefing up the ticket's economy cred. Someone like former rival and business superstar Mitt Romney, former Hewlett Packard's CEO Carly Fiorina, or former Congressman Rob Portman, who once manned the White House Office of Management and Budget. The candidate's guiding philosophy?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: MCCAIN: I don't think you have to be close friends as much as you have to share the principles, the values, the goals, et cetera, but also the priorities.
YELLIN: Hmm, doesn't really narrow it down much. Some wild card picks could be independents like Joe Lieberman, a foreign policy ally, or New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Either would prove McCain's bipartisan credentials, but could alienate conservatives.
The latest buzz, South Dakota Senator John Thune, who virtually screams of youth and vitality, qualities that could be a good match for the older McCain or highlight his age. A delicate balance.
BROWN: All right. Jessica Yellin for us. Jessica stay there though. Jessica, along with Tara and Steve, are going to talk to us about this issue.
When we come back, coming up, 12. Count them, 12 possible GOP vice presidents. I'll ask which one should get the nod. They've all got their picks.
Also ahead, the Obama kids and their Access Hollywood debut. Is politics suddenly more important than privacy? We'll talk about that.
BROWN: We're talking Republican veepstakes tonight. And up on the wall right now, right there are all the people who may be on John McCain's short list for vice president.
Let's bring back Jessica Yellin, Tara Wall and Steve Kornacki to get their picks tonight. All right, Tara, so take a look at that wall. A dozen Republican veepstakes contenders up there. Who should get the job and who do you think actually will get the job?
WALL: Well, you know, a lot of these folks are said to be cover for Tim Pawlenty. But I -- my favorite would be Bobby Jindal for a number of reasons. He's young, he's fresh, he's vibrant, he's conservative. He's a reformer. He believes in transparency, he's a go-getter.
I think that he is a rising star in the party. He has public experience, public service. He may be young, but he's been doing this for quite sometime. And I think he's able to shake things up. And really, from a second tier standpoint, obviously the things that the McCain campaign is looking for is someone who could step in right away, somebody who gets along with him, who gets -- you know, who he likes and that kind of thing. Those are all first-tier type of things.
The second tier would be more of the diversity, you know, that's needed that they're looking for -- the conservatism. Those things are important and I think for those reasons, he would make a good candidate. A very close second would probably be Carly Fiorina.
BROWN: All right. We should mention though the governor of Louisiana is taking some heat right now in his home state of Louisiana for flip- flopping on the issue of state legislators' pay increases. It's a big issue down there. We'll see if that hurts his chances or not.
Steve, what about you? Who do you like?
KORNACKI: Yes, I mean, I think the key issue for the McCain campaign is the mindset that they approach this with. Are they approaching this from the mindset that this is just a pick where they don't want to do any harm? Or they just don't want any negative headlines? And you know, they just want somebody who is confident and who is safe, and maybe who McCain likes and all that.
If they do that they come up with a guy like Tim Pawlenty or Mark Sanford, you know, somebody who is going to strike the average voter as just a generic, boring, average politician. No harm, no gain.
The problem is the McCain campaign is facing a real uphill fight this November. You don't get many chances to really reintroduce yourself. You don't get many chances to really sort of shake up the public's view of your campaign.
BROWN: They need a star. KORNACKI: So here it is. So you go outside the box and you take somebody who is going to stir some real excitement. Now, Jindal could --
BROWN: Who is that?
KORNACKI: Jindal could do it potentially. Fiorina could do it, potentially. But the pick I would go with would be Joe Lieberman because --
BROWN: Yes. He's Mr. Excitement, right?
KORNACKI: Well --
BROWN: No, I'm kidding. I'm kidding.
KORNACKI: You watch the excitement on the left. You know now, somebody like me, I would probably go out there and criticize the heck out of Joe Lieberman if he was on that ticket.
KORNACKI: But you know what? The left would go crazy if Joe Lieberman is on that ticket. The right would love it.
You would not have the problem with the right-wing base of the Republican Party that people anticipate because the left would be howling. So the right would love it. They pulled a fast one on the left.
I think Lieberman would very artfully move decisively to the right on a lot of these issues. And I think, you know, again, he's really only attached to McCain on foreign policy.
BROWN: We'll see.
KORNACKI: But I think a lot of people would see this a bipartisan ticket. It would really appeal to independents.
BROWN: All right. Jessica, real quick, I know this whole process is so tightly under wraps. Any sign when the McCain camp will make this decision, or make it public anyway?
YELLIN: You know, they've got a very narrow window, Campbell. They could do either do it in the next few weeks right before the Olympics, because voters are expected to sort of tune out then. But the problem if they announce somebody too soon is that, you know, we, in the media, have all this time then to vet them and dig and it could really backfire. So probably after the Olympics if they don't go right away.
BROWN: All right, Tara, Steve, Jessica, many thanks to all of you guys. Appreciate it.
Moving on, "LARRY KING LIVE" is still ahead. And Larry, hearing divorce and money on your agenda tonight. LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Oh, you bet. Day four of testimony in the sensational Christie Brinkley child custody case. Her attorney and the lawyer representing her estranged husband Peter Cook both will join me tonight and they'll argue their cases outside the courtroom on "LARRY KING LIVE."
And Suze Orman will be back with some sound financial advice. Boy, do we need that. She'll take your calls so get your questions ready. That's all, Campbell, on "LARRY KING LIVE" next.
BROWN: We'll be watching. See you then, Larry.
So you don't see the Obama daughters every day. This is news. TV cameras allowed to focus on the candidate's kids. Next in the ELECTION CENTER, the big interview and why you could call the whole thing stagecraft when we come back.
BROWN: Tonight's stagecraft looks at a story that is getting a lot of attention today. This is the latest Obama interview. Not with the candidate, not even with the wife, the candidate's wife who is no stranger to controversy. This time the Obama kids sat down for an interview with Access Hollywood.
That's right. Malia Obama age 10, Sasha Obama age 7, on TV, along with all the latest news on Brangelina and Madonna. Kind of a strange place to show up if you're trying to protect your kids' privacy, but here's a piece of that interview.
MALIA OBAMA, BARACK OBAMA'S DAUGHTER: I read the "People" magazines and everything and they always have those sections with, you know, how much people's dresses cost. And so, I saw that magazine. It's like, oh mommy, you're in this because I've never seen mommy in that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it cool?
M. OBAMA: It was pretty cool because I usually see people like Angelina Jolie.
MICHELLE OBAMA, BARACK OBAMA'S WIFE: The real important people.
M. OBAMA: The real important -- no offense.
MICHELLE OBAMA: I've always loved clothes, he knows that. I think it's funny that he's involved in this fashion icon stuff because these pants he's had for probably about 10 years.
M. OBAMA: And that belt.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The belt is a little worn actually now that I look at it.
MICHELLE OBAMA: And don't pan down to the shoes because we talked about getting new shoes for him. So I think --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator, I don't know, I think they've got you here. I mean, I don't want to jump on the bandwagon or anything.
MICHELLE OBAMA: Just don't look too close.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm baffled by this whole thing myself because I hate to shop.
BROWN: Now, that may be more than we heard from Chelsea Clinton during her father's eight years in the White House. So is there a double standard at work here? Are the Obama kids being used as campaign props?
We want to ask that question right now of "Chicago Sun-Times" entertainment columnist Stella Foster who knows the Obamas, and also, Matthew Felling, a contributor to the American journalism review.
Welcome guys. Stella, let me start with you. You know the Obamas have tried to create this zone of privacy around their two young daughters. So why would they suddenly bring them out for this sit-down interview?
STELLA FOSTER, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Well, first of all, it was Fourth of July. It was the baby Malia's birthday. They were just being a family, having some fun, my God, as the rest of us.
BROWN: Like every average family that talks to Access Hollywood?
FOSTER: Yes, I mean, I don't see anything wrong with this not like they have the kids on camera all the time. It was like they were just having a good time which they need. They deserve that. I mean, it's been a rough year for them. I mean, you're on camera all the time and you've got Botox (ph) in your face. The media --
BROWN: So the antidote to that is sitting down and putting a camera on your kids?
FOSTER: Hey, well, they don't do it all the time. You just said it yourself that was really the first time the kids have been interviewed. They're in and on the campaign trail, you know. And for the most part the kids just wave.
But I thought it was really -- it was funny. It was a very fluffy kind of interview. And I thought it just showed how much they are as a family and how they interact with each other. Those girls are just -- they're amazing children that they're raising. They're very nurturing parents.
BROWN: All right. Matthew, let me get your take on this.
MATT FELLING, AMERICAN JOURNALISM REVIEW: Yes, well, I mean, they don't do it all the time and there is a novelty effect. But the novelty is because the Obama campaign has put like this cone of silence around the kids. And it's understandably so because I get a little bit weirded out when it comes to a 10-year-old or a 7-year-old dealing with journalists, who are looking for like a sound bite here or there with the bloggers and what not.
But at the same time, they're trying to have it both ways by saying you know what, Access Hollywood, you're going to be friendly to us. So we'll let you come out to our July 4th thing.
What happens when the next news organization says you let them do it why can't we come to the door too?
BROWN: And I think that's the question, Stella, that a lot of people are struggling with is sort of this double standard of asking the media to, hey, stay away, give these girls a certain zone of privacy, which I think a lot of people would try to respect. And then, you sit down and do something like this.
FOSTER: Well, hey, they want you to see them with their children. They don't want it to be the event that you see every day. Those girls are babies.
They're 7 and 10 years old. They have their playmates, which you can almost include the secret service, you know.
BROWN: OK, right.
FELLING: Yes, exactly.
FOSTER: I'm just saying that they are human beings, you know.
BROWN: I've got to take a quick break. Stay with me. We'll have more when we come back.
BROWN: I got to say I'm sorry to our guests tonight. We ran out of time. But big thanks to Stella and Matt.
That's it for me in the ELECTION CENTER. "LARRY KING LIVE" starting right now.