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Politics of Faith: Interview With Pastor Rick Warren; McCain Hammers Obama Over Iraq

Aired July 25, 2008 - 20:00   ET


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, everybody -- 102 days to go until we elect a new president, but Barack Obama was acting awfully presidential today in Paris, so much so that at a news conference with French President Sarkozy, Obama found it necessary to state the obvious.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, let me, first of all, just remind everybody that I'm not -- I'm not the president.


OBAMA: I am a United States senator. I am a candidate for president.


BROWN: But John McCain is not giving an inch in the argument over who is more qualified to be a wartime president.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama and I also face the decision, which amounted to a real-time test for a future commander in chief. I believe my judgment passed that test. And I believe that Senator Obama's failed.


BROWN: Both candidates sat down with CNN today to answer some tough questions. And we're going to bring you their answers, no bias, no bull, very shortly.

And, in just a few minutes, my interview with Pastor Rick Warren. As many of you know, he's the author of the blockbuster book "The Purpose Driven Life." And he's convinced Obama and McCain to make their first joint campaign appearance at his Saddleback church next month. And I will ask him, does he think the all-important evangelical voters are going to warm up to either of these candidates?

We will have that tonight in the ELECTION CENTER.

But we tonight begin with Barack Obama. He's now in London after a brief visit to Paris and a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. His international trip has put him squarely at center stage and raised lots of questions about, well, appearing presidential when, as he felt compelled to point out, he's not the president.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is in London tonight and went over much of that and a whole lot more with Obama in a one-on-one interview today.

And, Candy, I know you're out in front of Number 10 Downing Street, another country, another head of state.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And really, it's the backdrops that have done this. And certainly they have planned it. He's going to be here, Barack Obama, here tomorrow to meet with Prime Minister Gordon Brown. He will have this as a backdrop, 10 Downing Street.

He was at the Elysee Palace today with Sarkozy, I mean, and looked very much like they had just come out of a meeting like heads of state and the translators. And, of course, he was in Berlin giving that great speech.

And it's one of the things that I wanted to talk to him about, because people that were there thought it was terrific. And other people looked at it and said, why was he doing this? And one of the reasons he said was, listen, we need to bring people together, and he said this in his speech, Americans, Europeans, Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

So, I asked him about something that we have heard a little bit about the Muslim community. And that is, why doesn't he do something symbolic to show his support of all these varying faiths?


CROWLEY: I know that the subject of Muslim has been a tough one for you to kind of balance because of the Internet and people believing that you're a Muslim. And you've always said -- but, listen, this has nothing to do with the Muslim community.

There are those who also wonder -- well, why not go to a mosque at this point? You gave a speech yesterday that said, listen, Christian, Jews...

OBAMA: Right.

CROWLEY: ... Muslims.

OBAMA: Right.

CROWLEY: So, is, again, where symbolism is so important, why don't you go to a mosque?


OBAMA: Well, look, you know, I can't do everything, Candy. You know, we're -- we have jammed about as much as we could have in a week. But in terms of our Muslim outreach back in America, in terms of my consistent message, it's always been that I have the deepest respect for the Muslim community and I think that one of the things I want to do in my first year in office is convene a summit of Muslim countries, so that some of the suspicions and mistrusts that's developed between the United States and the Muslim world can be broken down.

We're going to need the help of all people of goodwill, especially Muslims of goodwill, if we're going to solve some of these problems.

CROWLEY: You talked yesterday in your speech, saying, "Look, I recognize that there are people in the world who think that the U.S. has been part of what has gone wrong in the world."

Do you think that there's anything that's happened in the past seven and a half years that the U.S. needs to apologize for in terms of foreign policy?

OBAMA: No, I don't believe in the U.S. apologizing.

We've made some mistakes. As I said, I think the war in Iraq was a mistake. We didn't keep our eye on the ball in Afghanistan.

But, you know, hindsight is 20/20, and I'm much more interested in looking forward rather than looking backwards.

And so the point of my speech yesterday was, you know, for Europe to recognize that whatever mistakes we do make, we have been overwhelmingly a force of good in the world; that Europe and the European Union would not exist as we understand it, had it not been for the enormous sacrifice of U.S. troops and taxpayers.

CROWLEY: You had two lines to walk really, sort of showing yourself on the international scene as someone who can go toe-to-toe with world leaders and sending that image back without seeming like you already think that you're president. And you also had this just not seem too presumptuous as they say.

OBAMA: Right.

CROWLEY: John McCain has said that this really looked like a premature victory lap.


CROWLEY: Did you cross the line? Where there times when you're really aware of that? You know that sort of over wow, he looks likes he already has got it.

OBAMA: Well, you know what, I will leave it up to the pundits to theorize on that. I would point out that John McCain, after he won the nomination, met with all the leaders that I am meeting with, that he's made speeches in Colombia and Canada and Mexico.

So it would be I would be hard pressed to find a big difference between what I have done over the last week and what John McCain has been doing since he won the nomination.

CROWLEY: Except you got more attention.

OBAMA: I did.



BROWN: He did get a lot of attention, Candy. And watching those images of his trip, from here, it appeared that many of these European leaders were fawning over him.

But they had their own motivation for doing that, didn't they?

CROWLEY: Absolutely.

Listen, this guy in the countries that he has been to has been very popular. And they know that. And if you have got a politician that's struggling, it's like a politician in the U.S. You kind of stand beside somebody who's very popular.

Sarkozy today I thought was just amazing, one of the more entertaining press conferences that I have been to. He all but endorsed Obama, said, well, we really would like him to get elected, but, whoever gets elected, we will work with America. It was one of those kinds of things.

So, they really like being next to somebody that brings real energy to their country, because they -- politicians like to be in those pictures. I think likewise here with the prime minister, who's having a lot of trouble here at home, that big sweep of the room where he's talking to a highly popular man in Europe, Barack Obama, can't hurt.

BROWN: Yes, it's all about the stagecraft. Candy Crowley for us tonight -- Candy, thanks.

Coming up, John McCain blasted Barack Obama today again, saying he doesn't have the judgment to be commander in chief. But he has reason to think this time his attacks might get a little traction.

We have also got Rick Warren with us coming up in just a moment. Warren, of course, is the author of "The Purpose Driven Life." And we will talk about what evangelical voters are looking for in a presidential candidate.


BROWN: There is John McCain. He's with the Dalai Lama today in Aspen, Colorado, a pretty good photo-op, after Barack Obama's week of photo-ops with world leaders.

And it followed John McCain's hard-hitting speech to an audience of military veterans in Denver. He hammered away at Obama's stand on Iraq, and unequivocally called him unqualified to be commander in chief.

CNN's Dana Bash has more.


DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It took five days, but at last John McCain had found a big stage and powerful imagery, so that perhaps his message about Barack Obama and Iraq might finally break through. Though today's criticism is hardly new, perhaps it wasn't upstaged by Obama's overseas trip. This is what McCain said to a large group of military veterans.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama said just this week that, even knowing what he knows today, that he would still, still would have opposed the surge. In retrospect, given the opportunity to choose between failure and success, he chose failure.

BASH: Some of his sharpest attacks yet.

MCCAIN: If Senator Obama had prevailed, American forces would have had to retreat under fire. The Iraqi army would have collapsed.

BASH: With those sound bites, McCain is trying to make up for what he lacked all week in imagery. From this golf cart, to this grocery store, McCain struggled to find the right backdrop to counter Obama's overseas images.

Minutes after his rival's speech in Berlin before a sea of people, McCain was in front of a German fudge house in Ohio. Finally, the McCain campaign got something they could use, an Obama stumble. Obama abruptly canceled a visit to see U.S. troops stationed in Germany. Why?

Well, that's the stumble, a series of evolving explanations. First, an Obama spokesman said, "The senator decided out of respect for these service men and women that it would be inappropriate to make a stop to visit troops at a U.S. military facility as part of a trip funded by the campaign."

Later, another statement from retired Major General Scott Gration traveling with Obama, "We learned from the Pentagon Wednesday night that the visit would be viewed instead as a campaign event."

Senator Obama did not want to have a trip to see our wounded warriors perceived as a campaign event."

But Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell tells CNN the military had already arranged for Obama's campaign plane and staff to land at the air base and for the senator in his official capacity to visit troops.

Morrell said canceling the trip was -- quote -- "based on their own calculation and had nothing to do with any judgment by us about the nature of the trip."

McCain campaign aides eager to make this fight Obama v. Pentagon, not Obama v. McCain, were more short and to the point than usual, a spokesman saying: "Barack Obama is wrong. It is never inappropriate to meet with troops."

And, privately, McCain aides at last found some joy with one Obama moment captured in this photo in a German newspaper, Obama at the gym, not visiting with U.S. troops.

(on camera): A spokesman for Obama said the Democratic candidate felt like he was in a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation, and decided in the end it was best to avoid the perception of making wounded troops part of a campaign event.

Dana Bash, CNN, Washington.


BROWN: John McCain sat down for a one-on-one interview of his own with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. And he didn't back down from what has become his signature issue, his criticism of Barack Obama on Iraq. So, is it breaking through?

Well, no bias, no bull, you be the judge. Wolf Blitzer is live in Washington with all the details.

And, Wolf, this is quite an in-depth interview.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We did have an in-depth interview, went through a whole lot of foreign policy and domestic issues.

But, on this one issue, this question that you have been talking about, whether or not John McCain believes that Barack Obama is ready to be commander in chief, he minced no words at all. Listen to this exchange we had earlier today.


BLITZER: Now, you also made a very serious charge against Senator Obama. You have repeated it. You say you stand by it, that he would rather lose a war to win a political campaign, raising questions about his -- his motives.

Joe Klein, writing in "TIME" magazine, says: "This is the ninth presidential campaign I have covered. I can't remember a more scurrilous statement by a major-party candidate. It smacks of desperation."

Those are pretty strong words from Joe Klein, whom you obviously know.

But tell us, are you -- what are you charging? What are you accusing Obama of doing?

MCCAIN: I am accusing -- I am stating the facts.

And the facts are that I don't question Senator Obama's patriotism. I'm sure that he's a very patriotic American. I question his judgment, because he lacks experience and knowledge. And I question his judgment. I'm not prepared to see the sacrifice of so many brave young Americans lost because Senator Obama just views this war as another political issue, for which he can change positions.


BLITZER: And, Campbell, I have to tell you that the Obama campaign may be getting a whole lot of publicity and Senator Obama may be seen as the darling of the news media, and certainly of a lot of Europeans, but the McCain campaign is looking at the poll numbers right now, including in some of these key battleground states, and they're saying to themselves, you know what, despite all this publicity for Senator Obama, McCain is still very competitive in these states, and he's still very competitive nationally.

And they're encouraged by that. They think it's good for Senator McCain to be an underdog to a certain degree, but they're very encouraged by the numbers they're seeing.

BROWN: And an important point, Wolf. They're just a few points away in a number of those polls. And we will be watching Sunday to see the entire interview.

We should let all our viewers know you can see Wolf Blitzer's full interview with John McCain in a special "LATE EDITION." And that is this Sunday morning at 11:00 Eastern.

Wolf Blitzer for us tonight -- Wolf, as always, thanks.

So, was Barack Obama's world tour over the top? And should John McCain have tried harder to steal the spotlight? We have got some of the smartest people in politics on deck to talk about this big week for both campaigns.

Also ahead, my interview with "Purpose Driven Life" author Pastor Rick Warren. McCain and Obama will make a joint appearance at his Saddleback Church next month, and he's going to give us a preview of what he expects will happen.

And you have got to see this. Check it out, ball game brawl. Everybody is talking about it. What has gotten into these people? That's coming up.


BROWN: For the campaigns, it has been a dynamic week, starting with Obama's world tour, ending with McCain's meeting with the Dalai Lama, and some very tough words from McCain, too.

And we want to talk it over now with tonight's panel, Michael Reagan, national syndicated radio host and son of the late President Ronald Reagan, radio talk show host and CNN political analyst Roland Martin, and CNN senior analyst Jeffrey Toobin joining me here in New York.

Michael, let me start with you tonight. You just heard John McCain tell Wolf a moment ago that he doesn't question Obama's patriotism. But his message that he's been hitting time and time again is to point out that Obama, as he says it, would rather lose a war in order to win the election. Pretty tough comments.


BROWN: Go ahead.

MICHAEL REAGAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, yes, it's tough comments. But the comments weren't working -- Chuck Hagel today and the other Democrat operatives out there wouldn't be saying, let's stop talking about the surge whether it's working or not. So, it must be working.

Remember, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton during the primary system were talking about the inexperience of Barack Obama. That is what John McCain is talking about.

One thing John McCain knows is about war. He knew about the surge. He knew that the surge would work. It is working. And Barack Obama, on this world tour has what? He's yet to really say that the military, our military, is responsible for all the good that's happening in Iraq. And I think that John McCain, rightly so, is upset about it, and, rightly so, is telling the country and world about it, that, in fact, this man has not got the experience to in fact be a president during wartime.

BROWN: Are his arguments breaking through, do you think?


This has been obviously a critical week in the history of this campaign. We know that when the history of this campaign is written, that picture of Obama in front of 200,000 people in Berlin will be a big part of it.

But was that effect is, I don't think anyone knows, because there's never been a tour like this and there's never been an event like this. Certainly, though, I think Obama has to be pleased with how this trip came out. What the ultimate effect is, but it certainly went very much according to plan.

BROWN: Roland, let me get your take on that.

There are going to be people who say, on the one hand, that this trip was a home run for him, being seen in this light, the images that Jeff was mentioning, you know, him with President Sarkozy today. On the other hand, there are going to be a lot of people, his critics, who say, this is presumptuous. John McCain said it, a premature victory lap. What's the bottom line? How does this play out?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, bottom line is, we will know come November 4. Look, this whole notion about, this is presumptuous, we want our candidates to look presidential. Campbell, you know what's amazing? We went through a primary system -- and Jeffrey knows this -- after every debate -- and Michael knows this -- what do we always say? Who looked presidential? Who sounded presidential?

So, now we got two candidates and people are complaining about who looked more presidential. This is a childish debate. The bottom line is, John McCain needs the Iraq conversation. He needs it. Obama needed this week. Both are getting exactly what they want, simple as that.


BROWN: Hold on one second, Michael.

Let me just ask Jeff, do you buy the argument that it's inappropriate for him to be out meeting with foreign leaders right now?

TOOBIN: No. Our presidential candidates always meet with foreign leaders. That's been true in, not in such a high-profile way, but John McCain, as he has pointed out, has met with many of these same people. He went to Colombia. He went to Mexico. He went to Canada. Barack Obama went to somewhere else.

BROWN: Right.

TOOBIN: There is nothing inappropriate about meeting with foreign leaders.

BROWN: Michael, go ahead.

REAGAN: But I think the point here is -- you're right. There's nothing wrong with meeting with foreign leaders. I was just in Berlin myself for my Legacy Foundation to put a plaque of my father there in Berlin in remembrance of his speech he gave in 1987.


TOOBIN: Are you running, Michael?

REAGAN: The thing is that even though John McCain has been meeting all these world leaders, you would never know it from the lack of media coverage. It's not called a world tour when John McCain visits with the Dalai Lama, goes to Colombia, or meets with Sarkozy, but it's called a world tour...


MARTIN: If John McCain got 200,000 people, we would cover him, Michael. Come on.


REAGAN: When 200,000 people in Berlin like you, you're on the wrong path. That is a red, red city, and everybody knows it.

TOOBIN: Well, see, now, that, I think is a very...

MARTIN: Oh, now it's a red...


BROWN: Jeff, go ahead.

TOOBIN: See, I think that is a very big cleavage line here, because I do think that there are Republicans, there are some people who think the fact that you are liked abroad is a red mark against you.

And Barack Obama very explicitly said in his speech, and he said many times, no, this is a time for partnerships abroad.


TOOBIN: We will see what happens.

REAGAN: Most of Europe doesn't like Germany or Russia. They have a very long memory of two wars, the First and the Second World War. I was just there.


TOOBIN: ... that much European history.


MARTIN: Mike, can I remind you of something? Campbell, here's something we need. When we're trying to go after the Sudan, we lean on the Chinese. When we're trying to deal with Iran, we lean on the Russians. We need other countries involved to help us in our policy.

So, Michael, get a grip. We can't do it by ourselves. We need Europe.


REAGAN: Right now, the world is going conservative, not liberal.

BROWN: All right, guys, we have got to end it there, a lively discussion, as always.

Michael, Jeffrey.

Roland, we are going to see you a little later, I know.

But, to the other guys, thanks so much. Appreciate it, guys.

Up next, Pastor Rick Warren here. He preaches every week to 22,000 faithful at his church. And he plans to bring McCain and Obama there next month. We're going to look at his intentions and the evangelical vote. And, then, later the unpredictable Charles Barkley. Hear what he says about the groundbreaking CNN special "Black in America."


BROWN: Now to religion, politics and the presidential race.

We have seen Barack Obama talk about his Christian faith openly and publicly, in large part because he has had to. But that is not the case necessarily for John McCain, a Republican who has also had a very difficult relationship with evangelical leaders.

Now a top evangelical minister is bringing both candidates together next month for a rare joint appearance at his California mega-church. That would be Pastor Rick Warren.


BROWN: Joining me tonight from Buenos Aires, Argentina, is Pastor Rick Warren, who is the founding pastor of the Saddleback Church and the author of "The Purpose Driven Life."

Welcome to you, Pastor Warren.


BROWN: These two candidate, I know you know, don't do a whole lot of joint events. So, how did you get them to agree to this?

WARREN: Well, they're both friends.

John McCain and Barack Obama are both very unusual leaders. They have the same goal. They want America to be better. But they have very different visions, different values, different programs. And I thought I would like for America to really hear it from them, without the buzzers and the rebuttals and the sound bites, and maybe if I just sat down and invited them to Saddleback Church, I could put together a panel, and let them just ask the questions, and let everybody hear it, right before both of the conventions start.

And, so, when I -- when I contacted them both, they said, well, we will do it, but we want you to ask all the questions.


WARREN: So, I ended up in the hot seat. But I'm looking forward to it.

BROWN: What do you think specifically? What to you think that your church members want to hear from both of these candidates? What issues do they care about most?

WARREN: Well, what I want to do in this actual forum is a little bit different than the typical town hall, or debate, because about 95 percent of the debates typically tend to be about the hot button political issues, which are often short term. Like the border, the war, oil, health care, you know, this kind of things.

But in the long term scheme of American history, those are quite temporary issues compared to what a president does over the long haul. The president takes an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

And so I want to ask some questions about what do you believe about the Constitution? What do you believe about the nature of America's role in the world? Issues about competence, about character, issues about vision and values, and not just simply hot button. I think a lot of those issues get covered and will be covered ad nauseam.

BROWN: Right.

WARREN: So I want to ask them some questions that as a trainer of leaders and as a pastor, I think it will give a little bit of different context. I want people to know these two men the way that I know them. They're both good guys. They're both very different.

BROWN: I think when you ask the sort of unusual questions, you do often get even more revealing answers when you get away from some of those issues.

WARREN: Yes. I'm not going to give many softball questions. I mean, they're friends, but this isn't just, you know, a cake walk. I'll ask them tough questions. The difference is, I ask them in a nice way, I ask them in a polite way.

BROWN: Let me ask you a little bit about politics. You know, traditionally evangelicals have been a core part of the Republican base. And the latest polls show that although evangelicals do favor John McCain over Obama, they're not that enthusiastic about him, certainly not compared to how they felt about George Bush in 2004.

You know, James Dobson -- other evangelical leaders have been reluctant to endorse McCain. Why? Why is that? Why hasn't John McCain been able to mobilize them?

WARREN: I don't know, but I'll ask John about that. I do know that evangelicals are many different stripes, many different backgrounds, and many different political persuasions. I have a church full of Republicans, full of Democrats, full of independents and full of people who don't know what they want to do. It is a myth that they are a monolithic block. And I do think that a lot of people, not just evangelicals, have reserved judgment.

I think a lot of America hasn't made up its mind yet between these two candidates. And I am hoping that this forum will allow these guys to speak for themselves, and without an interpreter, or any spin on it.


BROWN: In a moment, more from Pastor Rick Warren. What he thinks about John McCain disavowing certain endorsements. Plus generally, what he thinks about the role of religion in this political campaign. We'll talk about that, coming up next.


BROWN: Back to our discussion now with Pastor Rick Warren, who's bringing John McCain and Barack Obama together next month at his church. It's an important event for the candidates who want to attract evangelical voters, though both have already had to backtrack at points during this campaign. Listen.


BROWN: John McCain also earlier this year had to disavow endorsements from Reverend John Hagee and Reverend Rod Parsley, or chose to disavow those endorsements. These are two evangelicals with great reach, with great prominence, because of controversial statements that they had made. Do you think that was the right thing for him to do?

WARREN: Well, I don't think it's right for pastors to endorse in the first place. I would never endorse a candidate. I would never campaign for a candidate.

I took a lot of heat in the early years -- earlier part of the primaries when people wanted me to bet on a particular horse. I think the wisdom of that has shown up, and now I'm going to get an opportunity to spend one hour asking questions of both of the final two guys. I think as a pastor, my role is to pastor all the flock regardless of their political persuasion. So I wouldn't have wanted endorsements anyway.

BROWN: You've known, as you said, Barack Obama, for some time, and you know him as a man of faith. Yet there is deep suspicion from evangelicals about his faith. Why do you think that is?

WARREN: Well, I think you have to distinguish between faith and world view. I think there are a lot of people who have faith in Jesus Christ with many different kinds of world views. There are liberal Christians, there are conservative Christians, there are evangelical Christians, there are mainline Christians. There are a lot of different kinds of Christians that just because somebody has faith in Christ doesn't mean they share the same political view.

BROWN: These two candidates, they're two men with very different approaches to talking about their own faith.


BROWN: Obama, faced a great deal of scrutiny for Reverend Wright's very controversial sermons.


BROWN: McCain, on the other hand, has been very close to the vest about his own faith. You know, unwilling to talk about it, uncomfortable talking about it. What role do you think faith is going to play in this election? Is it important that they do talk about it and share that with people?

WARREN: Well, yes, and I think what you're talking about there, Campbell, is a matter of personality. I have people in my church who feel very reticent to share their faith, but it's quite deep. And I have others who are very willing to share their faith and it's also equally quite deep.

I believe in the separation of church and state. But I do not believe in the separation of faith and politics because faith is simply just a world view. And everybody's got a world view.

A secularist has a world view. A humanist has a world view. A communist has a world view. A Buddhist has a world view. Christians have a world view. Everybody has some kind of world view. And the person who says, well, I'm going to put my faith or my world view on the shelf when I make decisions, is either, A, an idiot, or B, lying, because you can't do it.

We make our decisions based on our values, based on our world views. So I think it's entirely appropriate for America to say, not just what is your faith, whether it's in Christ or someone else, but what is your world view, because that's going to influence how we live in the next four years.

BROWN: Pastor Rick Warren for us tonight. Pastor Warren, thank you.

WARREN: Thank you, Campbell.


BROWN: So now, here is your chance to sound off about the candidates, Obama's trip, McCain's strategies, anything political. Plus, how you think we're doing with our political stories. Are we really bringing them to you without bias, without bull?

Just e-mail your comments to us at And we do read them all. We might read what you have to say right here in the ELECTION CENTER.

Believe it or not, there was a congressional hearing today about impeaching the president. It was all stagecraft, though. Next you won't believe what lawmakers weren't allowed to say.

And now, watch for the guy who is about to run in from the right of your screen. Yes, him. The story behind this basebrawl coming up.

Later, as part of CNN's special presentation "Black in America," NBA legend Charles Barkley gives me his take on the state of black America. What he says, quite powerful. You're not going to want to miss it.


BROWN: You might have thought there was big news on Capitol Hill today. Democrats were talking about impeaching the president. But actually, it was all just stagecraft. And Erica Hill is here.

Tell us about this piece of Kabuki theater, Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, and, Campbell, theater it was. Today's House Judiciary Committee hearing was officially billed as an examination of executive power and its constitutional limitations.

From the beginning it was pretty clear this was all just stagecraft, for what one Republican lawmaker deemed impeachment light. The Democratic leadership made it clear impeachment is not on the table at this hearing today for two reasons.

Not only is there not enough time left in President Bush's term, but also they know any real impeachment hearings at this point could cause a major backlash against the party come November. So if you can't impeach, why not vent. And that is exactly what they did. Take a listen.


REP. JOHN CONYERS (D), JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN: To the regret of many, this is not an impeachment hearing.

REP. MAURICE HINCHEY (D), NEW YORK: Based upon all of the things that this administration has done, it is probably the most impeachable administration in the history of America because of the ways in which it has clearly violated the law.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D), CALIFORNIA: President Bush is the worst president our country has ever suffered.


HILL: Seeing words here but I have to point out, Campbell, they were very carefully chosen. And this is probably my favorite part of the stagecraft. Apparently all Democrats on hand had a copy of the House rules in front of them. Just to remind them what they could not say because this was not about impeachment.

Among those rules, there would be no personal abuse, innuendo, or ridicule of the president. Also, no calling the president a liar. You can't accuse him of lying. Get this, can't accuse him of raping the truth, or my personal favorite, right down here, you can't call the president a little bugger.

BROWN: That's a good one. Who knew?

All right. So this is really just stagecraft not to mention a real waste of taxpayer money and Congress' time.

HILL: A waste of our money?

BROWN: Yes. Did any Republicans even bother to show up for it?

HILL: Actually, a few did. Most Republican lawmakers boycotted the hearing but a few were there. And those who did attend, as you can imagine, were downright disgusted.


REP. LAMAR SMITH (R), TEXAS: This week it seems that we are hosting an anger management class. Nothing is going to come out of this hearing with regard to impeachment of the president.

REP. TRENT FRANKS (R), ARIZONA: Instead it conducts a do-over hearing that amuses our terrorists' friends greatly. And that would make "Alice in Wonderland" roll her eyes.


HILL: Well, turns out Representative Lamar Smith was right. There was no impeachment measure that came out of it.

As for the president today, clearly, not too worried about this hearing. He was in Peoria, Illinois. As you can see here, kissing babies, smiling, taking pictures. Now, Kiran, check out that guy with his little shades on.

BROWN: Cute baby.

HILL: Very cute. I can't get my kids to wear those.

BROWN: And there's the president. Good stuff tonight. Erica Hill, as always, thanks.

And if you think things were hot and heavy on Capitol Hill today, hold on to your caps. A minor league baseball game in Dayton, Ohio, got out of hand big-time yesterday. Take a look at this.

First, the managers are arguing with the umpires. Then there's that push. Then, an angry player comes in then somebody jumps on him. And from there, the brawl goes on for 10 minutes.

But take another look at what started it all. Number 32 isn't throwing a punch, he's throwing a baseball. Hard as he can into the stands, he hit a spectator who had to go to the hospital but is all right. The pitcher, however, is in jail.

You're going to get the full story tonight on "AC 360," including a movement to get the pitcher thrown out of the country. That is tonight at 10:00 Eastern time.

If you are looking for a game with a lot less pushing and shoving, here's one you can play all weekend. Go to and click on the "veepstakes" link.

We've set up a game that works a lot like the stock market. You can predict a winner and check the political fortunes of every possible running mate.

For the Republicans, our current leader right now, Mitt Romney, followed by Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. For the Democrats, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson are top choices at this hour. Change there.

Again, to make your own picks in our veepstakes game, log onto

There has been an amazing response to this week's "CNN Presents: Black in America." And up next, a very provocative take on the problems and responsibilities confronting black men. NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley weighs in. He's got quite a lot to say.


BROWN: We are getting an enormous response to our ground- breaking documentary series "CNN Presents: Black in America," which examines the successes and struggles of black men, women and families. And we're going to re-air the special this weekend at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on Saturday and Sunday.

And I want you to hear what one very successful African-American is saying. Charles Barkley played in the NBA for 16 seasons, became a superstar of the court and made it into the basketball Hall of Fame. Well, he's now an NBA analyst for our sister network TNT.


CHARLES BARKLEY, TNT NBA ANALYST: I just feel sadness. I feel sadness because black on black crime is going through the roof. We have more black men in prison than we do in college. And at some point, hey, racism exists, is always going to exist, unfortunately, but at some point you got to draw a line in the sand. We have not drawn that line in the sand.

When I made my role model commercial back in the '80s, you know, it was really poignant and significant because schools are still segregated. And when I would go speak at white schools, I would say how many of you all want to play in the NBA? And only like five percent would raise their hands.

BROWN: Right.

BARKLEY: I say, what do you want to do? I want to be a teacher. I want to be fireman, a policeman, doctor, lawyer, engineer. But when I go and speak at black schools, 95 percent of them would raise their hand. And that's why I made the role model commercial. I want young black kids to think about being doctors, lawyers, teachers, firemen and policemen and things like that.

BROWN: You've taken this very tough love, if you will, kind of approach. And what you said and how you've spoken out about this. But you've also said here that the biggest cancer of your lifetime is racism. So how much of an effect is that having on people and holding people back?

BARKLEY: Well, racism is at the crux of this entire situation. But it's always going be there because a certain amount of white people and a certain amount of black people are always going to be racist. But like -- you know, slavery did happen. It had a very huge detriment to black people. But like realistic though, older black people are the ones who did all the "heavy lifting." These young black kids who are killing each other, who are not getting an education, they're making it worse.

Like older black people, you know, they should have a chip on their shoulder. I understand that. I accept that, but the problem we got in the black community now is the younger black people. That's our problem. They're killing each other at an unbelievable rate, and that brings great sadness to me. And they're not getting an education.

BROWN: But I know you got a daughter.


BROWN: How hopeful are you for her? If this is, as you say, a generational thing?

BARKLEY: Well, because of my mother and grandmother, I got great hopes. I got two younger brothers. I got four nieces. I just tell them, you got to make sure that they get their education. And, you know, black people, my people, used to have great pride, dignity and self-esteem. That's missing right now, period.

BROWN: Right.


BROWN: Coming up, our "Black in America" series has stirred up a lot of emotion. We're going to talk with our panel next about what is going to keep this dialogue going. We'll be back right after this.


BROWN: As we mentioned, Americans talking a lot about our "CNN Presents: Black in America" series online, on the radio and right here in the ELECTION CENTER.

Joining me once again, CNN analyst Roland Martin, along with Judith Browne-Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, a policy, communications and legal action group committed to racial justice, and Shelley Winter, host of the U.S. Talk's "The Right Side with Shelley Winter."

And guys, I want to read you just a couple of the responses we've gotten very briefly about "Black in America." One person wrote in, "I'm overwhelmed at the documentary. My husband insisted that our family watch it together. We've (ph) got two teenaged girls, a 7- year-old son, who didn't pay much attention. Both segments were enlightening as well as stirring. The rap music segment was heaven sent for me because I had been trying to show my girls the kind of influence and message that music was sending. They had dialogue with my husband about an hour after the documentary was gone off and I stood back to watch a miracle take place." But another viewer writes this. "Last night was totally horrible! It did not truthfully depict black life! We are more than inner city and the 'hood'. I didn't even grow up in that type of environment and I'm sure a lot of other black people didn't either. For someone who isn't black it would lead them to think that we are all from the hood. Black men make babies and leave. Our children have to get paid in order to have the interest in school and to learn in school."

Obviously a lot of emotions stirred up by these shows. Judith, in your view, do you think this special adequately addressed the most crucial issues?

JUDITH BROWNE-DIANIS, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: Well, I think that the one thing that was missing, I mean -- first, I'd like to say it was a great show, both days. But I think the thing that was missing was a discussion about institutional racism and how we have come a long way, and we've had a lot of opportunities that have grown over time for African-Americans. But the opportunities have never been equal. And we have a lot more to do.

And when we look at institutions, that's what we have to change and we have to come together around those issues. And I think the one thing that that person actually commented on is that if you were predisposed to taking a particular negative message away from that show, you would have taken it. And so, what we need to do now is come together around the positive things and moving forward with the African-American community.

BROWN: Roland and Shelley, let me have you both address this. Shelley, you go first. This has been the subject, I know, of a lot of talk among your listeners. How did they, what you're hearing compared to what we just heard in terms of what they're saying?

SHELLEY WINTER, "THE RIGHT SIDE WITH SHELLEY WINTER": Most of my listeners quite frankly felt the same way as the second letter. And I myself, you know, for the last 48 hours, I've been completely depressed because as a black man in America, if I don't have HIV and die, if I don't get a stroke, diabetes or heart attack and die, if I don't get stroke, diabetes or a heart attack and die, if the cops don't rasp me out and kill me, if another black man doesn't shoot me, then I live through all of that, only to find out that the women that I'm -- the beautiful African-American women that I'm looking for can't find me because apparently I don't exist.

And I just think that was my issue with the whole thing. You know, Miss Diamond (ph) talks about institutional racism. Like Charles Barkley said, that's going to be there. We talk about it every day, we see it every day.

Fact of the matter is tomorrow morning at 7:00, 8:00 in the morning, all across this country, millions of African-American men are going to be teeing off on golf courses. Millions of African-American women are going to be taking little beautiful black girls to soccer practice. I mean, this is -- that's black in America for most of us. You know, there was one stat in this, especially yesterday, that said one in three black men are in the prison industrial system.

BROWN: Right.

WINTER: Well, that means that two or three are not.


BROWNE-DIANIS: But how can -- you know, but how can --

WINTER: That means, but the fact is --

MARTIN: Campbell -- Campbell --

BROWN: All right. Hold, Roland. Go ahead.

And talk to me also, Roland, about -- what do we do to keep this dialogue going?

MARTIN: First of all, I don't want to have a dialogue. I want to have action. I want to have accountability. I want to make sure that Charles Barkley is talking to NBA players by saying, don't you go out there and get five, six women pregnant. That's what I want to hear.

The most consistent thing that we saw in Wednesday and Thursday night was that education is the most fundamental issue, in fact, every single category.

BROWNE-DIANIS: We have a long way to go.

MARTIN: We need people who need to step up and not sit here just complaining all day. I don't care if it was missing. But I do care about what's next.


WINTER: May I say something?

BROWNE-DIANIS: We have a long way to go because if you look at the numbers of 50 percent of African-Americans who are dropping out of school, we have a long way to go.


MARTIN: No, we don't.

BROWNE-DIANIS: And we should not think for one minute that if Barack Obama wins the election, that it's going to go away.

BROWN: OK, guys. To Roland --

WINTER: We do not have a long way to go. We do not have a long way to go. Stop telling people we have a long way to go. The fact of the matter is --


BROWN: All right. Shelley, a debate that will continue certainly. We've seen it here tonight.

Roland, Judith and Shelley, appreciate your views. Thanks so much for joining us. We'll be right back.


BROWN: That's it for us. Have a great weekend, everybody.

"LARRY KING LIVE" right now.