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McCain's Failure to Relaunch?; Interview With Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura; Country-Wide: Locating the Political Pulse on Importance of Presidential Election

Aired July 11, 2008 - 20:00   ET


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there, everybody.
Barack Obama hasn't even left the country and already his upcoming international adventure is creating an international incident. The chancellor of Germany says he has no business delivering a major speech in front of the historic Brandenburg Gate, as he reportedly wants to.

Sure, American presidents have spoken there before, but never mere candidates. Adding to the international intrigue, reports say the White House is conspiring with the chancellor to sabotage the event. And hanging over the whole episode, a big question: Just who does Barack Obama think he is? Are all these grandiose speeches good politics, or an example of some very presumptuous overreaching?

All the latest details tonight live in the ELECTION CENTER, the real story, no bias, no bull.

John McCain is wrapping up week one of a rocky campaign relaunch. And the big question tonight, does McCain's makeover need a makeover? We're going to tackle that one in our war room.

And they're getting ready to rumble in Minnesota, where former wrestler turned Governor Jesse Ventura could jump into the hot seat -- or, rather, the hot Senate race any day now, possibly the hot seat as well. We are going to take his temperature, Jesse Ventura right here in the ELECTION CENTER tonight.

We begin, though, at one of Europe's most famous monuments. Here it is. Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, a crossroads of the Cold War that could be backdrop for a major piece of campaign stagecraft, courtesy of Barack Obama.

Jessica Yellin is in Washington tonight to tell us a little bit about this story.

Jessica, what do you know?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Campbell, campaign folks tell me that Barack Obama still hasn't decided if he will even give this speech.

But it is creating an intense controversy. And the question is, is it worth it?


YELLIN (voice-over): Barack Obama vows that as president, he would repair America's relations with the rest of the world. But even before setting foot on foreign soil, he's triggered an international controversy, a diplomatic kerfuffle, if you will, that pits Obama against the chancellor of Germany, and maybe even the Bush administration, too.

The issue? Obama is considering giving a major speech in front of the historic Brandenburg Gate, hallowed ground for Germans and an international symbol of Cold War division. It's a place presidents visit.


YELLIN: JFK, and Ronald Reagan, who used the Brandenburg Gate as a backdrop to declare:

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.

YELLIN: The mayor of Berlin invited Obama to speak there on his trip, an event that would no doubt be an international spectacle.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There would be a throng of Germans cheering. And you would see that speech with adulation pouring out of the crowd. And every news channel would then play Ronald Reagan speaking in Berlin, and they would play Kennedy "Ich bin ein Berliner." And it would just make him look like a president.

YELLIN: But the idea ticked off German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who called the notion of an American politician holding a campaign event at the Brandenburg Gate just plain inappropriate.

But, wait, there's more. Merkel happens to be good buddies with President Bush. And a German paper reports, when the two were together at the recent G8 Summit, a U.S. official let it be known that an Obama Brandenburg speech might not be the best idea.

The White House says the U.S. delegation did not raise this issue. The flap poses a dilemma for Senator Obama. Why offend foreign head of state on a trip designed to showcase his ability to make nice with the rest of the world?

In Germany, the Brandenburg Gate is an almost sacred symbol, and there's a potential risk in using the site where great presidents have been before as a campaign prop.

SCHNEIDER: A lot of people in the United States, and not just his critics and opponents, would say, that is a bit arrogant, isn't it, for him to position himself like a president of the United States? You know, he's not president yet. What is he doing there?

YELLIN: But perhaps that's a risk worth taking for symbolism as powerful as this.


BROWN: And, Jessica, it's not just here that it's become an issue. The whole situation has turned into a pretty big controversy in Germany, hasn't it?

YELLIN: It has, Campbell.

There's an election coming up next year, and the person who is likely to run against the chancellor has spoken out saying, as we said, that he believes that Obama should be allowed to speak there. It has become headline news all over the country. Obama's wildly popular. A new poll shows 72 of Germans say they would vote for him if they had the chance. So, pushing back against him going to the Brandenburg Gate has not worked out well for Angela Merkel, not the best political move on her part.

BROWN: All right, Jessica, stay with us.

I do want to bring in the other experts on our panel tonight. Joe Madison, talk show host on XM satellite radio, is also in Washington. TV and radio talk show host Joe Pagliarulo joining us from Flint, Michigan, tonight.

How are you?

And Joe joining us from flint, Michigan tonight.

So, I have got the two Joes here.

Joe Pagliarulo, you go first.

Politicians campaign at symbolic landmarks all the time. What is wrong with Obama speaking at the Brandenburg Gate? Isn't he just following in Reagan's footsteps?

JOE PAGLIARULO, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, first of all, I have got to say that the Germans don't get to vote here, Campbell. Seventy percent of them can hold on to their votes. We will all be better off if they can't.

And, look, he's not Reagan. Trying to look like Reagan is a really bad thing for Barack Obama to do right now. He's not Kennedy. He's not anything really other than a politician right now who has spent a little time in the Senate, who hopes to become president. And if he becomes the president, he can be so complimentary as to beg and ask the German people to allow him to speak there.

Why would he go there right now? Is he trying to come off as arrogant? Is he trying to make people like me have more fodder to talk about him on the radio? It's crazy, I think, just crazy.

BROWN: Joe, Joe Madison, do you think it's arrogant for him to do this?

JOE MADISON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: First of all, he's not worried about people like Joe. Secondly...

PAGLIARULO: Oh, yes, he is. I'm an American. And I have a vote. Oh, yes, he is. Oh, yes, he is.

BROWN: Go ahead, Joe.

MADISON: I didn't interrupt you.

Secondly, he was invited by the mayor of Berlin. He didn't beg or ask to come. He was invited. Thirdly, I would agree with Joe that if the German people don't want him, the German government doesn't want him to speak there, he shouldn't.

But, you know, I think Barack Obama is far more clever than you even give him for, because had this controversy never arrived, I think he would have flown to Germany, gave a speech, maybe a one-day hit on the news. Now we're going to be talking about it before he goes, while he's there, and when he comes back.

And let me add one more thing. A German newspaper had a front- page photograph of the White House with Obama's name on it, and referred to it as "Uncle Tom's Cabin." That should be insulting to all of us. But I'm saying, if in fact he goes, then he should do what German officials allow him to do, because he will be a guest.

BROWN: Well, let me ask you about that, Joe, because -- Joe Madison, because this is from the German chancellor's spokesman who says -- quote -- "No German candidate for high office would think to use the National Mall or Red Square in Moscow for a rally, because it would be seen as inappropriate."

MADISON: Point well made.

BROWN: So, how would we react to having some foreign politician come give a campaign speech at the Lincoln Memorial?


MADISON: Point well made.

And, quite honestly, if I were advising Barack Obama, I would pass on it and wait until I'm elected president.

BROWN: Jessica, let me bring you in.

Is there any concern inside the Obama campaign that they could be rubbing people the wrong way, setting expectations too high, playing into some of that criticism that he is presumptuous?

YELLIN: Well, there are reasons they haven't announced where he's speaking if he is yet.

Look, there are plenty of risks here, Campbell. If he speaks at the gate, he risks offending Chancellor Merkel. If he doesn't, he could be accused of caving into her as their first impasse. You will remember he was ridiculed for that fake presidential- like seal he used at a campaign event. A speech at the Brandenburg Gate could invite criticism. He's not even president. Isn't this presumptuous?

But, really, the person who has the most to worry about right now is the German President Angela Merkel, German chancellor, because if Barack Obama does become president, she's already gotten off to a rocky start with him.

BROWN: Joe Pagliarulo, let me ask you this question, just to play it a little bit to the other side.


BROWN: Could it in a sense be a boost for Americans generally to -- given how Germans feel about Barack Obama, to see, you know, crowds cheering for an American, given the reaction that President Bush has frankly gotten on his last few European trips?

PAGLIARULO: I would love to see them clap and hoot and holler for the next president once he becomes elected president.

I think that we have to go back to the fact that Barack Obama, yes, invited -- and Joe said it very eloquently -- he should have turned it down. She have said, no, thank you very much. And should he cave in to Angela Merkel? Of course he should. She's the president of Germany. Of he should.


MADISON: You just misrepresented what I said.


PAGLIARULO: Hey, Joe, were you interrupting me? That was odd, huh?


BROWN: Joe Madison, go ahead.

MADISON: No, wait a minute now. It's not fair. I said I was responding...

PAGLIARULO: That's what you did.


BROWN: Joe Madison, you get the last word. Joe Madison, we're almost out of time. You get the last word.

MADISON: He was invited to speak in Germany. That's what he was -- by the mayor of Berlin.

Now, come on. (CROSSTALK)

MADISON: If you're going to represent me, well, then don't say what I said when I said it and I'm sitting here. That's arrogance.


BROWN: OK, guys, make nice during the commercial.


PAGLIARULO: We will. We will.

BROWN: Many thanks to Jessica. I want the two Joes to sit tight.

Barack Obama sparked some major outrage this week when he said that all American schoolkids could learn to speak Spanish -- or should learn to speak Spanish today. Well, today, Obama said he was attacked for saying the truth. Is it really all that simple?

And then later, we're going to tell you about a real-life shark scare on the very same island where they filmed "Jaws."


BROWN: Today, the Obama camp is getting a tongue-lashing over language.

It has been building ever since the Democrat told a crowd in Georgia on Tuesday that we need to make sure our kids can speak Spanish. Well, that was like waving a red flag in front of millions of English-only advocates. If Obama's critics thought he would back down, well, he's not. In fact, today, he came right back and said it again.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to mention, by the way, foreign languages. I said something the other day down in Georgia. And the Republicans jumped on this.

I said, you know, absolutely, immigrants need to learn English, but we also need to learn foreign languages.


OBAMA: You know, but this is an example of some of the problems we get into when somebody attacks you for saying the truth, which is, we should want our children with more knowledge. We should want our children to have more skills. There's nothing wrong with that.


BROWN: So, is there anything wrong with that?

Well, back with me now to talk about it, Joe Madison once again and Joe Pagliarulo.

Joe Pagliarulo, what is wrong with Obama's suggestion? We're in a global economy now. Doesn't it make sense to teach our children other languages?

PAGLIARULO: Hey, Campbell, he didn't say that, though.

What he said was, maybe we should learn Spanish. He didn't say foreign languages. He didn't say maybe we should get more education. He said maybe we should learn Spanish.

Now, I'm based in San Antonio, Texas, as you know. When he was in San Antonio, he was chanting, si, se puede, si, se puede." He's speaking Spanish and pandering to a very large minority voting bloc right now. He didn't say -- in Georgia the other day, he never said, you know what, maybe we should learn how to speak Italian, maybe we should learn how to speak Polish or Latvian.

He said maybe we all should learn how to speak Spanish. He's pandering in the worst kind of way here.

BROWN: Do you agree with that, Joe Madison?

MADISON: You know, I have been waiting to say this for a long time. What do you call somebody that speaks three languages? A trilinguist. What do you call someone that speaks two languages? A bilinguist. What do you call somebody who speaks one language? An American.

We have to learn to speak foreign languages. And, yes, he is pandering. But guess what? Political history is full of elected officials who will throw out words in foreign language. Every president has done it from time immemorial, especially in a society of immigrants. They all have done it.

So, you know, it seems like the key word this week has been bungling on the part of both candidates and pandering. Politicians do pander. And we are going to see more of it from now until November.

BROWN: Joe Pagliarulo, you could argue, who cares if he's pandering, given our need? After 9/11, our intelligence lagged behind because we were short on translators.

MADISON: Thank you.


BROWN: Isn't there a desperate need in this country for Americans who can speak all languages, Spanish and everything else?

PAGLIARULO: I think there's a desperate need in this country for us all to realize that we have an American culture. And the American culture starts with -- in my mind, it starts with baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and the English language.

(CROSSTALK) PAGLIARULO: I'm not really why -- now, Joe, you're interrupting me. And it's coming off as awfully arrogant to the viewers right now. You're laughing at me as I'm speaking. I didn't do that to you.


MADISON: Because you're funny. You're funny. In a global society, you are hilarious.


PAGLIARULO: I'm a clown on television here in America, where we're all speaking English, Joe.


PAGLIARULO: I will tell you what. Why don't you have this conversation with me in Spanish and then we could all laugh together? Si, se puede, Joe. Si, se puede.


BROWN: Joe Madison, let me ask you take it from this point of view.


MADISON: We live in a global society. We buy and sell products. Our business men and women travel all over the world.

BROWN: All that is true.

MADISON: And we have to learn to -- even our -- we even have commercials now where they make fun of people not speaking proper Japanese. That's the global economy.

BROWN: Let me ask you to address the politics of it, Joe Madison, because, you know, in his -- I guess does it undercut some of his recent efforts, Obama's recent efforts to show that he's a traditional patriotic American, which he's needed to do for political reasons, making this case right now?

MADISON: It's unpatriotic to speak a foreign language? I don't even understand the question.

BROWN: No, I'm saying, given the argument that Joe Pagliarulo is making, to get into this debate with many conservatives, which is essentially what he's doing, does it undercut the effort he's been making to reach out to the more independent-minded Americans who don't agree with that point of view?

MADISON: But didn't John McCain brag about the fact that he lives in a state that spoke Spanish before they spoke English? I mean, where are we going with this argument?

(CROSSTALK) MADISON: Now, look, come on, guys. With all due respect to all of us, American people are suffering, those who speak and don't speak a foreign language in this country, with economic issues that we better get our hands around.


BROWN: Go ahead.

MADISON: Please.

PAGLIARULO: This discussion is nothing about -- this is nothing about a global economy or speaking Spanish.

MADISON: It is about a global economy.


PAGLIARULO: It's about something very simple, Joe. And I promise I will finish it, and you can tell me what an idiot I am in a second, OK?

Here is what this is about. My grandfather came here in 1928 from Italy and had to learn the English language, so that he could be successful for his eight kids. When these immigrants come here -- there are a lot of immigrants in San Antonio and Houston, where I do radio shows every day.

You have to understand, when they come here, if they don't learn how to speak English properly, they cannot succeed in this society the way that they could. The American dream is not available to people who don't speak English. So, for Barack Obama to go and pander in front of people who speak Spanish and say we should all learn how to speak Spanish, it sounds good, feels good to people who have that background, but it's not going to get anybody the American dream that they seek here in this beautiful country. That's what it's about.

MADISON: The chances are, when I hear somebody that has an accent, the chances, Joe, are they speak two languages.

BROWN: All right, guys, we do have to end it there.

Joe Madison, Joe Pagliarulo, kiss and make up. It's Friday, everybody.


BROWN: We're going to come back to you guys a little bit later, but we're just minutes away now from our exclusive one-on-one interview with Barack Obama. He sat down with CNN's Fareed Zakaria today.

And, then, later, he's back. Could former Governor and wrestler Jesse Ventura make a political comeback?

Plus, one great white reason for some swimmers to stay out of the water. We're going to tell you where.


BROWN: We learned today that Barack Obama will travel to Iraq later this month with a congressional delegation, including Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, rumored to be on the list of potential Obama running mates.

The trip is likely to happen around the time of Obama's scheduled visit to France, Germany, Britain, Israel, and Jordan. The candidate sat down today for an exclusive one-on-one with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, and talked about why he's taking the trip now, in the middle of a presidential campaign.


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: You're going to Europe and the Middle East. You know that, in places like France, you have 85 percent approval ratings.


ZAKARIA: Isn't that going to make some Americans very suspicious. If all of Europe likes you, if France likes you, there must be something wrong.

OBAMA: Well, I tell you what. You know, it's interesting.

As I travel around the country here in the United States, I think people understand that there's been a price to the diminished regard with which the world holds the United States over the last several years.

And, you know, the American people's instincts are good. It's not just a matter of wanting to be liked. It's the fact that, you know, as a consequence of that diminished standing, we have less leverage on a whole host of critical issues that have to be dealt with.


BROWN: And Fareed with us now, live and in person.

You guys joked in this interview a little bit about his 85 percent approval rating in France. But as he sets off on this trip, he does have a serious task at hand, which is sort of proving his foreign policy credentials.

What does he have to show the American public with regard to this trip?

ZAKARIA: I think, more than anything else, he's going to try to show that he can go to each of these countries, absorb the things that he's trying to learn, and at the same time communicate the star power, which is very, very powerful. I mean, you were talking about it earlier. It's worth pointing out that, in every one of the countries he's going to, I think, he is vastly more popular than the leader of that country, whether it's Merkel, whether in Sarkozy, whether it's Olmert in Israel.

So, part of it is just the sheer star power that he brings. But you will see in the interview, he speaks now on foreign policy with a great deal of poise and comfort. I mean, the campaign has really honed his skills. He's always been interested in it, but he's gotten very good about talking about it.

BROWN: You have written that Barack Obama needs to do a better job of presenting his position on Iraq to the public. And there has been some controversy lately over whether he's shifting a little bit, changing his position.

What did he have to say to you about Iraq in the interview? And do you think he's trying to keep some flexibility, given this trip, so that, know, if his views do change based on what he sees on the ground, that he will be able to justify that in some way when he comes back?

ZAKARIA: I think there are two key areas where he has to move somewhat or be somewhat more flexible. The first is the speed of the withdrawal. The second is, will you keep a residual force?

And, the first one, he's done it a week ago. The second one, I think he says in the interview with me, look, I understand we're going to have to keep -- there will have to be some forces there. And he explains the circumstances under which it would be possible.

So, even on that second one, he's very well aware that you can't just leave.

BROWN: Right.

ZAKARIA: The way I posed it to him was, I said, if we leave, we're leaving the field to Iran.

And you have pointed out that that's one of the bad consequences of the Iraq war. So, if we just walk away, won't Iran have the field to itself?

And said, we're not going to just walk away. So, there's a very clear sense that he's now comfortable talking about a residual force.

BROWN: And we will hear more about that, I'm sure, when he comes back after this trip.

Fareed, it's fascinating. Thanks for being with us.

And we should mention, too, that you can see the entire interview with Senator Obama on "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" this Sunday, 1:00 p.m. Eastern time, right here on CNN.

Thanks. The John McCain makeover tour rolled into the heartland this week. But it was a rocky ride, leaving many Republicans wondering if the McCain makeover needs a makeover of its own. We are going to get some quick-fix tips for the senator from the political brainiacs in the war room. That's next.


BROWN: A tough week for John McCain. The Straight Talk Express was knocked off course by the loose lips of a couple of his advisers, like Phil Gramm calling Americans whiners. If that wasn't bad enough, the candidate himself has also made his own share of slip-ups.

And Dana Bash now has some of the lowlights from a week the McCain camp would probably rather forget.


DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In many ways, this town hall was with Wisconsin women was the kind of makeover moment the John McCain relaunch was supposed to be all about.



BASH: The candidate connecting with key swing voters, comfortable, loose.

MCCAIN: I have a proven record. I have a proven record of reaching across the aisle. Now, sometimes...


BASH: But maybe he was a bit too loose.

MCCAIN: I will do everything in my power to get those offshore reserves exploited -- explored, discovered and...


MCCAIN: Explored and exploited, and...

BASH: A Freudian slip of sorts from the self-described environmentalist now calling for drilling offshore, a misfire in a key week in which McCain was aiming to show voters that, in these tough economic times, he feels their pain. Then this happened.

PHIL GRAMM, MCCAIN ECONOMIC ADVISER: We've never had more natural advantages than we have today. We've sort of become a nation of whiners.

BASH: Phil Gramm, McCain's good friend and economic adviser, totally off message, declaring the country is in a mental recession. Democrats were gleeful. OBAMA: I want all of you to know that America already has one Dr. Phil. We don't need another one when it comes to the economy.

BASH: McCain scrambled to denounce Gramm's comments.

MCCAIN: Phil Gramm does not speak for me. I believe that the person here in Michigan that just lost his job isn't suffering from a mental recession.

BASH (on camera): The Gramm episode was clearly the week's most awkward, but others that got less national attention may be just as politically perilous.

(voice-over): Like going to the battleground of Michigan where many voters believe free trade sent their jobs overseas, and saying this.

MCCAIN: I believe that free trade is important.

BASH: Too much straight talk for these voters. One challenged McCain, made clear he disagrees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we need to do is control some of these trade issues that we've got going on. And we want fair trade. That's all we're asking for.

BASH: Some Republicans tell CNN they worry McCain's free trade message is alienating blue collar voters. Still, as McCain's bus rolled toward its final campaign stop of the week, and is what it is moment.

MCCAIN: We're doing fine. We're doing fine. Very happy. I'm very aware from time to time some words of mine will be taken either out of context or (INAUDIBLE). I'm not going to change the way that our campaign is, and I'm happy with it.

BASH: And with that, the Straight Talk pulled over at Altoona Family Restaurant for a photo-op of John McCain trying to connect.

Dana Bash, CNN, Washington.


BROWN: So the question now is, how does John McCain turn this around? And we want to get into the "War Room," where we get some answers from some of the smartest people in politics.

Joining me tonight, Republican strategist Cheri Jacobus. I hope I'm saying that right.



And Mark Halperin, "TIME" magazine editor-at-large and senior political analyst, joining us as well. Mark, you know, we were supposed to see this new and improved McCain campaign this week. It still looks a little rusty, I think. Let's say you are his new campaign guru, Steve Schmidt, what have you learned from the week and what's your first move to try to fix things?

MARK HALPERIN, "TIME" MAGAZINE: I think Senator McCain was having a pretty good week until Phil Gramm said what he said. You know, I have great respect for Dana Bash and some of these -- but I'd say that some of the examples in her piece I don't think were particularly bad.

John McCain is a free traders. We've had free traders as presidents who've been elected almost every election in modern times. So I don't think everything that the press is picking on is necessarily a gaffe or a problem.

Earlier in the week I thought they did a good job of taking advantage of Senator Obama's mistakes. The problem they have, the two problems they have that I think this week shows. One is, his advisers need to keep their mouths shut and not say bad things. What Senator Gramm said is going to hurt at least with the elites who are paying attention now and probably eventually with real voters.

The other problem they have is, what Dana talked about. His style is to talk a lot. Talk in town meetings, talk to reporters. And it is difficult to talk a lot and not occasionally go off message, whether he makes a slip up or not, because the press will seize on what the press wants to seize on. That is a problem that I don't think they've solved.

BROWN: Cheri, Mark mentioned Phil Gramm calling Americans whiners. That was the big gaffe this week. Not the only McCain surrogate to show him up a little bit. If you are John McCain, how do you keep everybody on the reservation?

JACOBUS: Well, I think John McCain is his own best staffer. And because he's a very well-known entity in this country, he doesn't have the same problem that Barack Obama has, where people have to take Obama at his word or others who will vouch for him. I think as long as we're talking about surrogates and high profile supporters this week who really deserve the spotlight is the Jesse Jackson incident. And we know how damaging that was.

The Phil Gramm incident not good, but this didn't come out in the mouth of John McCain. It came out of the mouth of Phil Gramm. So I don't think it's going to change any votes. It provides ammunition for the Democrats certainly, but I don't think it's something the American people care about.

The fact of the matter is, this was a very good week for John McCain. Fabulous fund-raising, the message in news that's coming out and the money that he is raising with $22 million in June. A new poll came out today by "Newsweek" showing that John McCain has increased his support by independents by five points, five points with Republicans. And Barack Obama is in a virtual freefall with independents losing 14 points in two weeks and has not increased his support among Democrats.

So this is very good news for John McCain. I would say it might even be the start of momentum. I don't want to be too optimistic, but I think it's looking good.

BROWN: But let me ask you both, because there were a couple of moments McCain himself were uncomfortable moments, we'll put it that way. Let me ask you both to comment on this.

You know, a big part of McCain's appeal has been how much time he spends with reporters. And we've certainly got to commend him for having an open campaign, but that access also does expose him to moments like this.


BROWN: Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess her statement was that it was unfair that health insurance companies cover Viagra but not birth control. Do you have an opinion on that?

MCCAIN: I don't know enough about it to give you a formed answer, because I don't recall the vote.


BROWN: What did you guys both make of that moment?

Now, Cheri, I'll start with you. He was, of course, referencing a statement that was made by Carly Fiorina, about whether insurance companies should also cover birth control pills in the same way that many cover Viagra.

JACOBUS: He did the right thing. You could see him sitting there, thinking for a moment, do I really want to comment on this now? If it's that important and I have to put out a statement later to clarify or if it's that important, I can do something about it.

But his instincts are right. He was being cautious. He didn't have a knee jerk reaction thinking he had to be glib or respond to something right there. And I think that's the John McCain that people like. Even if he occasionally misspeaks on a word, we always know where he's coming from. And I think that's why people -- that's why he's so popular how he won this primary.

BROWN: But this wasn't -- Mark, this wasn't a moment that he needed to be glib about. This was a legitimate question that the reporter wanted answered, don't you think?

HALPERIN: Campbell, I think the problem is that the press right now and the Democrats are trying to seize on every mistake. The Democrats are being very adept at creating the story of the day when John McCain misspeaks. I don't think that's what this election should be about. There were other examples during the week, something he said about Social Security, the Democrats are driving it hard. I do think Steve Schmidt will do better than the previous regime in fighting back.

But this isn't what the election should be about. They're real big issues. But for now, his problem is stopping the press and the Democrats from making this what the election is about.

BROWN: All right. Cheri and Mark, thanks for your time tonight guys. Appreciate it.

JACOBUS: Thank you.


BROWN: Still to come, everybody out of the water. That's what they're saying on the island that "Jaws" made famous. There is a real-life great white shark sighting. That story when we come back.


BROWN: Gary Tuchman joining me now with tonight's "Briefing" -- Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Campbell, the government has shut down IndyMac Bank of southern California, the biggest failure ever of the U.S. savings and loans. A run by depositors left the mortgage lender short on cash. The bank specialized in mortgages that didn't require borrowers to prove how much money they earned.

Authorities in northern California report the first wildfire death of this year. One person was killed when a wildfire swept through the rural town of Concow. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered another 2,000 National Guard troops to help the firefighters.

And a great white shark has been spotted off the Massachusetts island of Martha's Vineyard. The closest beach was closed for a short time and swimmers were kept out of the water in a nearby beach. In the 1970s, Steven Spielberg chose Martha's Vineyard to shoot one of his most famous films, you got it, "Jaws." 1975, Campbell, the scariest summer of my life.

BROWN: Mine too. All right, Gary, thanks.

Fasten your seatbelts everybody. We're going to take you on a pretty extraordinary journey through America, getting to the core of what this election is all about. And some of what we found will shock you. Stay with us.


BROWN: Political pulse. We sent CNN producer Chuck Hadad on a road trip across America to take the country's political pulse. And what he found is pretty extraordinary. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What would you like to eat?

CHUCK HADAD, CNN PRODUCER: I am not a political pundit. I'm a man with an ambitious mission to drive across the entire country asking as many people as possible one simple question, why is this election important to you?

Why do you think this election is so important? Why is this election so important? Can you tell me why --

Why is this presidential election important to you?

As if this challenge isn't steep enough, my boss insists I do it all alone and pull it off in only nine days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the way up!

HADAD: This is a story of discovery and how it went from Saturday to quite close to losing my mind.

I begin in a fishing village on the eastern tip of New York. Good morning.


HADAD: Bruce Beckwith has been fishing for far longer than I've been alive.

BRUCE BECKWITH, FISHERMAN: I've never seen a country in such bad shape myself. Pretty pitiful.

The price of fuel has been coming to the point where we're not going to be able to really operate.

HADAD: What do you think one candidate or the other can do about that?

BECKWITH: I'm not sure what one person can do for any of the issues. I'm sure he can have some effect. But we definitely do need some change in the country.

HADAD: On our day at sea, after the $250 spent on gas, he only earned $30.

And now, my journey west begins. My next stop is Hershey, P.A., to meet with evangelicals. The so-called religious right historically make up the base of the Republican Party. I've never been to an evangelical service before and it turns out it's, well, fun. And this church band totally rocks.

Why is this election so important?

JOHN WEBSTER, EVANGELICAL FREE CHURCH OF HERSHEY: We have lost direction in the country, and there's been no real leadership.

HADAD: Evangelicals are known as being this base of the Republican Party. Do you see yourself that way?

DAVID BROWN, EVANGELICAL FREE CHURCH OF HERSHEY: I would consider myself as part of the base for people who would represent conservative, traditional American values. If marriage can now be between male and male and female and female, then why can't it be between adult and young child? Why can't it be between a woman and an animal? But why should they be offended at my position if I'm expected to be tolerant of everyone else's?

HADAD: My next stop was Fort Knox, Kentucky. In a country at war, I want to hear what our troops think. Unfortunately, military policy will not allow these gentlemen to publicly take a stand on a candidate or on the war itself.

Why is this election so important to you? And my superior interviewing skills can't break through their training.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not a question. Get down and give me 10! Go, now. Up, down! Up, down.

HADAD: I think I'm starting to crack this drill sergeant. In a military town, everybody's affected by war. This maid in my hotel says most of her family and friends are in the military, many eternally in Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody is so tired of the war that they're just looking for someone to get them out. Whether you're Republican, Democrat, independent, whatever, I think everybody is tired of it.

HADAD: Most military people she knows are leaning towards Obama for his promises on Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If he brings them home, if he can bring them home, then get him in there. 110 percent. But if it's just something he's saying to get in there, it's going to crush a lot of people.

HADAD: Next stop, Nashville, to talk American politics with fans of America's pastime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cold beer on the house.

HADAD: The crowd is fun, politically engaged and about split between Obama, McCain and undecided. But I meet two people that rattle me a bit.

You've been a Democrat your entire voting life. And now, you're going to vote Republican. What is it that's making this huge switch for you after how many years of voting?

JANICE WOLFF, BASEBALL FAN: Well, I don't like the candidate. I think he's a Muslim.

HADAD: For the record, Obama is a Christian. She told me to talk to her friend, Tony, who was very into politics. TONY SLAYDEN, BASEBALL FAN: Honestly I'm an old southern boy. And I just don't know if I can see a black man making a change. The only black man I've ever seen with change is a handcuff in his hand.

HADAD: Whoa! Did he just say that?

SLAYDEN: The only black man I've ever seen with change is a handcuff in his hand.

HADAD: Well, it's a big country.


BROWN: Pretty shocking remarks there. And first, we should thank Chuck Hadad for sending in the first of his many reports. And in a minute, we're going to talk to our top radio host to see if they're hearing any sort of the same sentiment like the ones that we heard there from Chuck. We'll be back in just a moment.


BROWN: We were all pretty taken aback just a moment ago to hear those two people at the end of Chuck Hadad's journey "Across America" report. Here it is again.


HADAD: What is it that's making this huge switch for you after having many years of voting?

WOLFF: Well, I don't like the candidate. I think he's a Muslim.

HADAD: For the record, Obama is a Christian. She told me to talk to her friend, Tony, who was very into politics.

TONY SLAYDEN, BASEBALL FAN: Honestly I'm an old southern boy. And I just don't know if I can see a black man making a change. The only black man I've ever seen with change is a handcuff in his hand.


BROWN: That's where two people talking about Barack Obama from Chuck Hadad's report of his political pulse across America.

With me again, radio host Joe Madison and Joe Pagliarulo.

And Joe Madison, a lot of was were stunned when we first saw this tape. But do you think that's naive? Were you surprised?

MADISON: Being stunned or naive on his part?

BROWN: No, I think are we being naive when we were --

MADISON: Oh, no.

BROWN: Our reaction to it. MADISON: I mean -- look, no, I mean, I think anybody with any sense would have reacted the same way. Most people in this country are going to vote their pocketbooks. And you know, I'm -- I just don't even want to respond to that caller.

The bottom line is, maybe he needs to get out of Nashville and get out of his neighborhood because people like Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, they hold a lot more in their hands than a cuff. And Barack Obama may very well hold the entire free world in his hands.

BROWN: Joe Pagliarulo, what did you think of it?

PAGLIARULO: Campbell, there's stark reality there. I mean, there are some people who aren't going to vote for somebody because of the color of his skin or ethnicity in 2008 America. Makes me sick, makes me sad, but you know what? It's really out there.

And I'm glad that he went out and got that report. And, by the way, Barack Obama is not a Muslim. And you know, that comment about the change doesn't deserve a comment from me.

MADISON: Well, I love you for saying that, Joe.

BROWN: And on that note --

PAGLIARULO: Right back at you, Joe.

BROWN: A rare moment where we all agree.

PAGLIARULO: We love each other now, Campbell.

BROWN: Many, many thanks to the two Joes for joining us tonight. Guys, it's always good to have you. I really appreciate it.

PAGLIARULO: Thank you, Campbell.

BROWN: And "LARRY KING LIVE" is coming up in a few minutes. He's here with us now.

Larry, what have you got tonight?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Well, it's Friday, we'll change the mood a little, Campbell. We'll talk about UFOs.

In fact, an event took place, or supposedly took place in Stephenville, Texas, back in January, not too far from Crawford, by the way, where sightings were made of those things that fly over us and never land in Washington, Los Angeles or New York, but in places like Stephenville, Texas.

We'll have people who say they saw it, and a doubter. And we'll get into a whole major discussion of UFOs, all next on "LARRY KING LIVE," Campbell.

BROWN: Not to be missed, Larry. We will see you in just a few minutes. Coming up next, our Randi Kaye asks Jesse Ventura if he's going to run for the U.S. Senate. Stay with us.


BROWN: Ten years ago, pro wrestler Jesse Ventura ran for governor of Minnesota and won. Is the U.S. Senate next? Our Randi Kaye talked with Ventura one on one about his independent ambitions.


JESSE VENTURA, FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR: I don't do these jobs to gain titles. I do them to upset the system and try to take our country back.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Why are you considering a run for the Senate? I understand you've become a big surfer, you're enjoying a very nice lifestyle. Why shake it up now?

VENTURA: I get so angry at watching where the Democrats and Republicans and what they're doing to the country, Randi. I mean, they have us now over $9 trillion in debt. I don't even understand really what a trillion is, but I know it sounds pretty bad.

KAYE: What do you think you offer that the other two candidates Norm Coleman, the incumbent, Al Franken of "Saturday Night Live" fame, do not offer?

VENTURA: Independence, freedom from the two political parties. You're not a -- I won't be a puppet on a string.

KAYE: Governor, have you made up your mind and you're just not ready to tell us, or are you still really undecided about this? Tuesday is the deadline.

VENTURA: I'm still really undecided about it.

KAYE: You've said if you run and win, you would bring a revolution to Washington, D.C. playing off the title of your book, "Don't Start the Revolution Without Me." What can we expect to see from a Ventura revolution?

VENTURA: You can expect to see probably the most outspoken senator ever. You can expect to see the good old boys out there getting turned on their ear because I'm not going to play any of the games.

KAYE: If you run, what policies would you campaign on? What changes do you want to make?

VENTURA: If they're going to pass something new for a certain amount of money, that means they have to cut it somewhere else for the same amount of money. Because we've got to do something about this deficit that they're all ignoring.

KAYE: I also understand that this is very personal to me, you want term limits on reporters. And after covering you for years, I recall you made us, the reporters, wear the badges around the state capital that said jackal (ph). So it wasn't exactly a love fest for the media. Would you be able to take the heat again this time around?

VENTURA: Sure I can. And I took it the first time. I would like to ask people when they tell me that I'm thin-skinned, how come nobody ever criticizes my policies? How come nobody ever criticizes anything that I accomplished as governor?

All they ever do is attack me personally. Why is it that way, Randi? Why is it only personal attacks?

KAYE: Well, I'm sure it's happened. I can't name it all for you right now. But I will ask you this, the chairman --

VENTURA: Oh, no, it hasn't.

KAYE: The chairman of Minnesota's Republican Party says Minnesotans are so recovering from a hangover from your term as governor. What's your response to that?

VENTURA: I would say that Norm Coleman is recovering from a hangover of being defeated by me and so are the Republicans. And I would say they're scared to death right now that I'll get in the race. I beat him once. If I can debate him, I can beat him.

KAYE: Can an independent spirit like you who seems so fed up with politics really be effective in Washington?

VENTURA: I don't know, we'll have to find out. But I'll tell you what, you elect another Democrat or Republican, you're not going to get any effectiveness. You're just going to get go along to get along.


BROWN: And we'll be right back.


BROWN: That's it for me from the ELECTION CENTER. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.