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The Situation Room
Dems & the Vote for War; Turkish Ambassador to U.S. Yanked; Middle Class Devastated
Aired October 11, 2007 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Barack Obama sharpening his criticism of Hillary Clinton and what he calls her flawed judgment. This hour, the Democratic presidential candidate talks to me about Senator Clinton, the war, and the next phase of his campaign.
Also, why white men won't jump. Do they keep voting Republicans because they've been neglected by Democrats?
And tough choices for Christian conservatives. Do they go with Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, or none of the above? New attacks and counterattacks today in the fight for voters of faith.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Democrat Barack Obama admits he needs to do a better job explaining how he would be a different president than Hillary Clinton. So he's reminding voters of what happened exactly five years ago today. That's when Clinton and 76 other U.S. senators voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq.
Listen to this exchange from my one-on-one interview with Obama today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think her judgment was flawed on this issue. And I know that, you know, she was not the only one who voted for this authorization. John Edwards, for example, has acknowledged that it was a mistake.
I do think that Senator Clinton has tried to massage the past a little bit, suggesting that it was a vote for inspectors. I think everybody at the time, including you and the media and the American people, understood this was a vote for war. You know, you can't give this president a blank check and then be surprised when he cashes it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Senator Obama suggests Senator Clinton is making a mistake again by supporting a resolution that could give President Bush what Obama calls a new blank check for military action against Iran.
We're going to have the interview with Senator Obama. That's coming up later this hour. Obama may be eager to talk about the Senate vote authorizing war. After all, he wasn't in the U.S. Senate then. And he says he opposed the invasion of Iraq from the start. He did. Days before this vote five years ago, he announced his opposition to the war.
But what about the other Democrats?
Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's watching this story for us.
How are they remembering this five-year anniversary, Bill?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, it's an anniversary many Democrats would like to forget, and not just Democratic candidates.
SCHNEIDER (voice over): October 11, 2002, the Senate voted on going to war in Iraq, one year after 9/11. Democratic senators faced an agonizing decision.
Back in January 1991, most Democratic senators strongly opposed the first Gulf War. In 2002, a narrow majority of Senate Democrats voted in favor of the bill that authorized President Bush to use force, including all four Democratic senators at the time who are now running for president.
John Edwards said then, "I believe that the risks of inaction are far greater than the risks of action."
John Edwards says now...
JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I had the information I needed. I just voted the wrong way.
SCHNEIDER: Hillary Clinton said then...
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will take the president at his word, that he will try hard to pass a U.N. resolution and will seek to avoid war if at all possibility.
SCHNEIDER: Hillary Clinton says now...
CLINTON: Obviously I would not vote that way again if we knew then what we now know.
SCHNEIDER: Barack Obama was not in the U.S. Senate in 2002, but days before the Senate vote, he said in a speech in Chicago...
OBAMA: I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined costs, with undetermined consequences.
SCHNEIDER: Obama argues his early opposition demonstrates his good judgment. OBAMA: I think that it does bear on the judgment of myself and Senator Clinton, and it speaks to how we will make decisions moving forward.
SCHNEIDER: Fair enough, but you also have to take into account the judgment of Democratic voters.
In October 2002, Democrats were divided, 49 percent favored invading Iraq. Now only 10 percent of Democrats favor the war.
SCHNEIDER: Will Democratic voters forgive candidates who changed their position on the war? Well, many Democratic voters did precisely the same thing -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider watching this.
Thanks very much for that report.
Remember, Barack Obama here in THE SITUATION ROOM. My interview with him, that's coming up.
But let's go to a new source of global tension right now.
Turkey recalling its ambassador to the United States. The announcement coming after a House panel approved a bill describing mass killings of Armenians during World War I as genocide.
Our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is on the Hill. She's watching this story for us.
Dana, the Bush administration is warning of some major consequences, ramifications, if the full House moves forward with this legislation.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They sure are, Wolf. But you know, a small but very vocal Armenian-American community, they have been lobbying Congress for decades to call the mass killings actually genocide.
In the past, congressional leaders simply have not voted for it because of that kind of pressure from the Turks and from presidents, Democrats and Republicans, and the intense lobbying from high-powered lobbyists that the Turks hired in order to do that. But that pressure is not swaying the Democratic leaders now running Congress.
BASH (voice over): Mass killings of Armenians by the Turks took place nearly a century ago. So why is the house moving to label it genocide now?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Because now -- there's never a good time. And all of us in the Democratic leadership have supported -- are reiterating Americans' acknowledgement of a genocide. BASH: Defiant Democratic leaders say they view this as part of their mandate, restoring America's moral authority around the world.
REP. TOM LANTOS (D), FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHAIRMAN: When the Turkish government says there was no genocide of Armenians, we have to set them straight.
BASH: For Foreign Affairs chairman Tom Lantos, fighting for human rights is personal.
(on camera): You escaped two labor camps in Hungary?
BASH: And you were how old?
LANTOS: Well, by that time I was 16.
BASH (voice over): He is the only Holocaust survivor in Congress.
LANTOS: I feel that I have a tremendous opportunity as a survivor of the Holocaust to bring a moral dimension to our foreign policy.
BASH: Lantos pushed the symbolic resolution calling Armenian killings genocide despite intense pressure against it from the Bush administration. He dismisses Turkish warnings this could jeopardize U.S. relations with Turkey, a critical Mideast ally that insists the Armenian deaths were not genocide.
(on camera): What if it says you're not going to be able to use our air space anymore, or you're not going to be able to use our country to get critical supplies to the men and women who are fighting in Iraq?
LANTOS: Well, with all due respect to the Turkish government, the Turkish-American relationship is infinitely more valuable to Turkey than it is to the United States. The Turkish government will not act against the United States, because that would be against their own interests. I'm convinced of this.
BASH: But the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee disagrees, and that Democratic chairman, Ike Skelton, Wolf, wrote this letter to the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, which CNN has obtained. And in it he warns that the Armenian resolution could actually hinder the Democrats' chief goal in this Congress, and that is bringing troops home from Iraq. He says that is because Turkey, of course, is a key transport point for getting troops home from Iraq.
BLITZER: Dana Bash on the Hill for us.
Thanks, Dana, very much.
Let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He's in New York with "The Cafferty File".
I don't remember, Jack -- and we're doing some research -- when, if ever, a NATO ally has withdrawn its ambassador to the United States from Washington to express some protest. But we're checking that out.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we have the speaker of the House of Representatives, who has so far refused to stand up in any sort of meaningful way to the Bush administration against the war in Iraq, which was one of the reasons the Democrats got elected in the midterm election, but she's gone out of her way now to pass a resolution that has angered one of our key allies in the current military conflict in that part of the world over in an event that happened, what, almost 100 years ago?
I don't understand Washington, D.C. Would you give me some private lessons some time?
BLITZER: We'll have dinner one night.
An update now on a story we brought you last week in "The Cafferty File".
A federal judge -- here's another one that makes a lot of sense -- a federal judge in San Francisco has now ordered an indefinite delay on a Bush administration measure to crack down on employers who hire illegal aliens. That's against the law.
The government's new rule would have forced employers to fire workers if their Social Security numbers couldn't be verified within three months. But this judge, Charles Breyer warned that the crackdown could have potentially staggering impact on law-abiding workers and companies that could lead to the firing of thousands of legal employees. He didn't explain, or at least I didn't read exactly how he got to that conclusion, that legal employees would get fired under this thing.
But the halt of the rule until the court now reaches a final decision could take months, which means that the government cannot go forward with its enforcement. And the federal judge's decision has justifiably caused outrage on the part of some lawmakers.
Republican Congressman Brian Bilbray, the chair of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, said, "What part of 'illegal' does Judge Breyer not understand? Using a Social Security number that doesn't belong to you is a felony. Judge Breyer is compromising the rule of law principles that he took an oath to uphold."
The lawsuit was brought by a rather unlikely coalition of folks, AFL-CIO, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The question is this: Is it the place of a federal judge to stop the government from enforcing the laws against hiring illegal aliens?
E-mail your thoughts to email@example.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile.
It's like the "Twilight Zone" out there -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, stand by. We'll get back to you very soon.
Barack Obama isn't the frontrunner, but he says he's confident. Supporters want him to come out swinging. He says he has a plan. You're going to find out what it is during my one-on-one interview. That's coming up.
Also, President Bush is touting what he calls some good news about the economy, but the picture isn't necessarily rosy for the whole country. You'll see the numbers for yourself.
And conservative commentator Ann Coulter stirring up a new hornet's nest after some extremely controversial comments about Jews and America.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: President Bush could have it his way. Right now there is some positive news on the U.S. economy. The problem is that millions of Americans simply don't feel that way, and the White House is willing to admit that.
Let's go right to our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux. She's watching this story.
A mixed bag of economic numbers. What's going on?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, unemployment is down, the trade deficit is down. This is really good news, but the Bush administration is having a tough time getting traction on this. That's because a lot of Americans don't really feel the good news right now, and that's particularly among the middle class.
MALVEAUX (voice over): If you listen to President Bush on the economy, it's all good.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As a result of the hard work of the American people, this economy is growing.
MALVEAUX: There was good news today. The trade deficit dropped nearly 2.5 percent between July and August. The U.S. selling more goods than it's buying, exporting more American wheat, chemicals and steel, importing fewer cars and furniture.
Even the U.S. trade deficit with China closed a little, by five percent.
BUSH: We've had 49 consecutive months of uninterrupted job growth, which is a record.
MALVEAUX: But that record growth isn't good for everyone. Economists say while it benefits the highest-paid workers in white- collar jobs and the lowest wage earners in the service industry, it's been devastating to the middle class.
BRIAN BETHUNE, GLOBAL INSIGHT: These are assembly line workers that have worked in the domestic automotive industry, or perhaps in a supplier to that industry. They're construction workers, so they would be definitely middle income, middle to upper income-type families that have been affected.
MALVEAUX: The housing bust, the shrinking American dollar, and sluggish retail sales are making some American workers downright anxious about their economic future.
The latest AP-Ipsos poll shows a six percent increase since July, up to 15 percent of those who identify the economy, not the Iraq war, as the country's biggest challenge. Those numbers jumped to more than 20 percent among minorities and those without a college degree. The administration concedes that not everyone is benefiting from this economy.
DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has encouraged new types of job training programs, trade adjustment so that people who lose jobs that have gone overseas can actually get new training for jobs that they can get here.
MALVEAUX: But Wolf, as you know, that training does take time. In the meantime, there are families that are struggling to put their kids through college, to save their homes, and Democrats point out that it's some three million manufacturing jobs that have been lost since President Bush first took office -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux, thanks very much.
If there's any place in the country where voters are likely to focus on the negative economic news, it would be Michigan. It's a key battleground state where many are hurting far more than in other parts of the country.
Let's go right to our chief national correspondent, John King.
You're just back from Michigan, John. How bad is it out there?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's pretty bad, Wolf. Republicans were out there having their big debate. And much of the country, as you travel, Iraq is the big issue. But as you noted, travel to Michigan, there's a lot of hurt and there's one big issue, and it is jobs.
KING (voice over): The blight makes this battleground unique. SAUL ANUZIS, MICHIGAN GOP CHAIRMAN: Listen, it's all about jobs here in Michigan. You know, we're the only state in the country that has lost jobs six years in a row.
KING: The brief strike against Chrysler was yet another reminder of the American auto industry's struggles and of the economic anxiety of workers like Albert Matras, who see a way of life disappearing.
ALBERT MATRAS, UNION AUTO WORKER: We're working for the middle class. Where is it anymore? You've got people that are rich, you've got people that are poor. We're in the middle.
KING: It was here in the Detroit suburbs the term "Reagan Democrats" was coined, and here, perhaps more than any other state, where the economy will shape the presidential race.
Michigan's unemployment rate is 7.4 percent, compared to just 4.7 percent nationally. In the past six years, although the national economy has added 5.7 million jobs, Michigan has lost more than 332,000 -- 100,000 of those in the past year alone.
SARPOLUS: It impacts the political environment. Luckily for Democrats here in Michigan, they continue to blame the president.
KING: Yet Republicans see possibilities. Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm just pushed through a sales tax increase. And the Democratic presidential candidates won't campaign here for now because Michigan broke national party rules by moving its primary up to mid- January.
ANUZIS: So if the Republican candidates have a chance to campaign in Michigan, to make their points in Michigan, I think this will be a very competitive state.
KING: Most Michigan Republicans see native son Mitt Romney as their best hope. The former Massachusetts governor is the son of former Michigan governor George Romney, who made his name at the heyday of the U.S. auto industry.
Republicans though haven't carried Michigan for president in 20 years, and pollster Ed Sarpolus says the odds favor the Democrats this cycle, too. But he says overconfidence would be a big mistake, especially given the turbulent economy.
SARPOLUS: We have a history in Michigan of voting for Republican presidents, especially voting for Republican presidents when we have a Democratic governor.
KING: And that history obviously a concern to the Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton. She alone among the leading Democrats has not taken her name off the Michigan primary ballot. She says she won't campaign there because of the national rules, but, Wolf, she says taking her name off the ballot would be like saying "good-bye, Michigan," and turning away Democrats in the state. She says it is the state the Democrats must, must win if they want to take back the White House next year.
BLITZER: A key battleground state.
Thanks very much for that, John King.
Barack Obama says he knows what he has to do before time runs out in his race against Hillary Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I think that now is the time where we're going to be laying out a very clear contrast between myself and Senator Clinton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Just ahead, my one-on-one interview with Senator Obama. He describes the next crucial phase of his campaign.
And have white men abandoned the Democratic Party, or is it the other way around?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Barack Obama says he has the right stuff, but wonders if Hillary Clinton does.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I think I have a track record of anticipating some of the problems that are out there that the next president is going to have to deal with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And that's mild, compared to what's likely to come next from the presidential candidate. He's set to step up his attacks on Hillary Clinton.
Obama will explain. My one-on-one interview, that's coming up next.
And tough choices for some Republicans looking for a presidential candidate they actually like. We're going to tell you why some Christian conservatives are not necessarily moved.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. .
BLITZER: So long, Mr. Nice Guy. That's what some people may soon be saying about Senator Barack Obama. Hungry for the Democratic presidential nomination, Obama is set to step up his attacks against his rivals. And a prime target, of course, Hillary Clinton.
News of this comes amid an anniversary of a key event regarding the war in Iraq, an event that helped change this nation's history. It's an anniversary Obama believes shows what he calls Hillary Clinton's flawed judgment.
BLITZER: And joining us now, the Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama. He's joining us from his hometown in Chicago.
Senator, thanks for coming in.
OBAMA: Great to be with you.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about what happened five years ago exactly today, October 11, 2002. The Senate voted 77-23 to authorize war in Iraq against Saddam Hussein. You, a few days earlier, had opposed going to war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
Hillary Clinton was among the 77 who voted in favor of that authorizing resolution. Looking back, does that disqualify her to be president of the United States?
OBAMA: Well, I don't think it disqualifies her, but I think it speaks to her judgment and it speaks to my judgment.
You know, this was the most important foreign policy decision since the end of the Cold War. And when I stood up and opposed this war, I think I laid out a very specific case for why we shouldn't go in, that Saddam Hussein didn't pose an imminent threat, that we would be bogged down without an exit strategy, that it would cost us billions of dollars and thousands of lives and would distract us from the battle that had to be waged against al Qaeda.
So, I think that it does bear on the judgment of myself and Senator Clinton, and it speaks to how we will make decisions moving forward because the next president is going to have a number of difficult foreign policy decisions as well.
BLITZER: So, what I hear you saying is, it speaks to her judgment. And you're saying her judgment was simply bad.
OBAMA: I think her judgment was flawed on this issue. And I know that she was not the only one who voted for this authorization. John Edwards, for example, has acknowledged that it was a mistake.
I do think that Senator Clinton has tried to massage the past a little bit, suggesting that it was a vote for inspectors. I think everybody at the time, including you and the media and the American people, understood this was a vote for war.
You can't give this president a blank check and then be surprised when he cashes it.
BLITZER: Explain to me this. And I'm going to put some numbers up on the screen.
Among registered Democrats nationwide, she still is the front- runner -- 47 percent in this latest Gallup poll, 26 percent for you, Senator Obama, 11 percent for John Edwards.
And, specifically, in a "Washington Post"/ABC News poll -- who did Democratic voters trust to handle Iraq despite that vote, despite your opposition to the war, going into the war, among registered Democrats in this Washington Post poll, Clinton gets 52 percent, Obama gets 22 percent, Edwards, 17 percent.
Why are Democrats still, despite her vote -- and a lot of them obviously oppose the war -- siding with her when they are asked these sensitive questions?
OBAMA: Well, I think those polls just reflect the fact that Senator Clinton remains the default candidate nationally. She is still better known than I am. And I think those national polls aren't going to change too much until the early-state votes take place.
Look, if I was worried about polls, then I would be here celebrating the fifth anniversary of me supporting the war, because, at the time, there was overriding support for that war. The critical issue, I think, as Democrats make a decision about who can lead them in this next difficult phase of foreign policy and repairing the damage that George Bush has done, is, who has the judgment to know when to use military force, when not to use military force, who has the discernment to know how to use diplomacy effectively in order to achieve some of our national security goals?
And that's something that I am confident I can do. And I think I have a track record of anticipating some of the problems that are out there that the next president is going to have to deal with.
BLITZER: Some of your supporters have been saying, increasingly publicly, that they want you to become more aggressive, more forceful in going after your Democratic presidential opposition.
Jesse Jackson saying this in 'The New York Observer" the other day: "It's like boxing. You keep waiting for the big knockout punch. But, while you have waited for the big knockout punch, you have lost so many points. And that one big one might not be coming. My support has not wavered for him, but my approach for getting the nation's attention would be different."
What do you say to the Reverend Jesse Jackson and others who really want you to come out and start swinging away?
OBAMA: Well, look, the -- we are three months away from the Iowa caucus, the first caucus. This has been a presidential season that's been greatly accelerated.
The American people, though, they have been going about their business, getting their kids to school, working on the job, doing what they do every day. They are now focusing in on making these difficult decisions.
And I think that now is the time where we're going to be laying out a very clear contrast between myself and Senator Clinton, not just on the past, not just on Iraq, but moving forward. How would we approach Iran, for example? Senator Clinton...
BLITZER: Let's talk about that specifically right now.
The other day, the Senate voted 76 to 22 in favor of what's called the Lieberman-Kyl amendment, that said it is the sense of the Senate that the United States should designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization.
Senator Clinton voted in favor of that resolution. You were absent. You didn't show up for that vote. But you say you would have voted against it.
First of all, why didn't you come to the Senate and make your -- and make your vote?
OBAMA: Well, I was in New Hampshire at the time. This is one of the problems with running for president. You can't always anticipate which votes are which. But I put out a statement at the time stating that this was a bad idea and that I would have voted against it.
And here's why. We know in the past that the president has used some of the flimsiest excuses to try to move his agenda, regardless of what Congress says. We know that there was embodied in this legislation, or this resolution, sense of the Senate, language that would say our Iraqi troop structures should in part be determined by our desire to deal with Iran.
Now, if you know that in the past the president has taken a blank check and cashed it, we don't want to repeat that mistake. And I think that...
BLITZER: But wouldn't that vote -- Senator, this is what your critics are hammering away at you -- wouldn't that vote be more important than campaigning in New Hampshire, given the significance of what you're describing right now?
OBAMA: Well, we don't always know what votes are scheduled and when. And, if you're in New Hampshire, then it's hard to get back.
But this wasn't a close vote. What it should have been, though, is a vote that sends a message to the American people that we're not going to keep on giving George Bush a blank check -- and that's, unfortunately, what we did.
BLITZER: But, on the substance, do you agree with the Bush administration, General Petraeus, among others, that Iranian forces, Quds Forces and others, are involved in killing Americans in Iraq?
OBAMA: What I agree with is that Iran has been the major beneficiary of the war in Iraq. It has been a huge strategic error. Iran is an adversary. Their pursuit of nuclear weapons poses a grave threat to us. The fact that we have strengthened them as a consequence of the war in Iraq, I think, is a huge problem that I as the next president am going to have to deal with.
There is no doubt that they are providing support and funding to the Mahdi Army and other militias in Iraq. But what we have to do is to have the kinds of coherent policy inside Iraq that begins bringing our troops out of Iraq, that initiates the kind of hard-headed diplomacy with Iran, Syria, as well as our friends, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the regional powers.
And that's not what's taking place right now. And the sense of the Senate that was passed did not help in that effort.
BLITZER: Do I come away from this interview, Senator, correctly, and say that in these last, let's say 100, days before the voting actually starts, we're going to see a more aggressive, assertive Barack Obama trying to pinpoint the differences, sharpen the focus between you and your Democratic opposition, including Senator Clinton?
OBAMA: There's no doubt that we're moving into a different phase of the campaign. The first part of a campaign is to offer some biography and give people a sense of where I have been and what I'm about.
In this next phase, we want to make sure that voters understand that, on big issues, like the decision to go into the war in Iraq, I had real differences with the other candidates, and that reflects on my judgment. On issues like health care, I have got a track record of bringing people together that indicates I will be more successful in actually delivering on universal health care than the other candidates in this race.
And I would not be running if I wasn't absolutely confident that I have a better chance of unifying the country, overcoming the special interests, speaking the truth to the American people in a way that actually brings about something new, as opposed to looking backwards and simply duplicating some of the politics that we have become so accustomed to, and that, frankly, the American people, I think, are sick of.
BLITZER: I will take that as a yes.
Let me end the interview with one final question, Senator. If you do get the Democratic presidential nomination, would you consider Hillary Clinton as your running mate?
OBAMA: Oh, you know, I think I'm not going to touch that one, Wolf. Right now, I'm worried about getting the nomination. We will have plenty of time to take a look at who would be a good vice presidential candidate.
BLITZER: But would she be on the short list?
OBAMA: The -- I think that Senator Clinton is a very capable person. Right now, my goal is to make sure that I am the nominee and that she is still the senator from New York.
BLITZER: Senator Obama, thanks very much for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.
OBAMA: Great to talk to you, Wolf. Thank you.
BLITZER: Some Republicans wish they had more options. Can any of the Republican presidential candidates please some loyal constituents? You are going to find out why some Christian conservatives are not necessarily all that moved.
And why would Ann Coulter suggest everyone should be Christian, and say that she wants -- quote -- "Jews to be perfected." We are going to tell you about some controversy, some outrage over her latest comments.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: They're one of the most influential and powerful voting blocs within the Republican Party, but Christian conservatives haven't fallen in love with any of the GOP presidential front-runners yet.
Let's go right to Mary Snow. She is watching this story for us.
Why haven't they, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's not that candidates haven't been courting evangelicals. They certainly have. But Christian conservatives have various lists of issues with the 2008 contenders. And their vote is definitely up for grabs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALES AND FEMALES (singing): Come just as you are.
SNOW (voice-over): Evangelicals haven't had this tough of a choice in the Republican presidential primaries since George Bush first ran for the White House. The front-runner in the early states is a devout Mormon, which makes some evangelicals uneasy.
The leading Republican candidate nationally is twice divorced and holds views on abortion that leave some social conservatives cold.
RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My view on abortion is that it's wrong, but that, ultimately, government should not be enforcing that decision on a woman. SNOW: Tony Perkins, a prominent conservative, warns, nominating Rudy Giuliani "would be very problematic." The president of the Family Research Council also says the former New York City mayor's views on social issues are indistinguishable from those of Senator Hillary Clinton.
Camp Giuliani disagrees. In a statement, Texas Congressman and Giuliani supporter Pete Sessions says, "Conservative voters understand that the differences between Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani are blatantly obvious and critically important."
In our latest national poll, Giuliani leads among born-again Christians. Mitt Romney is a distant fourth.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe, you could recognize that the values that I have are the same values you will find in faiths across this country.
SNOW: A prominent evangelical supporter of Mitt Romney's echoed that sentiment in a letter to religious leaders and urged them to back Romney over Giuliani, saying, "I am more concerned that a candidate shares my values than he shares my theology."
ALEX VOGEL, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think the real significance is, this now signals a shift, where Mayor Giuliani and Governor Romney have decided that it's game on between the two of them, and they're going to slug it out until the end.
SNOW: Now, this latest salvo in the fight for values voters comes two weeks after some top religious leaders threatened to back a third-party candidate if Giuliani is the GOP's nominee. Next week, all the Republican presidential candidates will appear at an influential Values Voter Summit -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary, thank you -- Mary Snow reporting.
She's known for saying controversial things on television, but wait until you hear what Ann Coulter is saying this time, her comments about Jews and America. That's coming up.
We will be right back.
BLITZER: Senator Barack Obama wonders about Senator Hillary Clinton's judgment and suggests you should as well. And to help you, Obama told me just a little while ago -- you saw the interview -- he is soon going to be stepping up his attacks.
Let's go to our "Strategy Session," our CNN political analyst and Democratic strategist James Carville, and conservative commentator Terry Jeffrey. He's editor in chief of Cybercast News Service.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in. JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You bet.
BLITZER: As a strategist -- and I know you're a big supporter of Hillary Clinton, but is it smart for Barack Obama in these final 100 days or so before the actual voting starts, to sharpen the knives and get tough, tougher than he's been, against specifically Hillary Clinton, the front-runner?
CARVILLE: He -- I think he's got to do something. He's losing contact with -- with her, I mean, if you just look at the way that the polls are going.
Plus, I mean, remember, you're sitting there with Al Gore, probably going to win a Nobel Prize Friday, who's sitting on the sidelines. And, if Edwards continuing to falter, and Obama continues to start -- or go down, they know there's going to be -- there may be an opening there. So...
BLITZER: Well, you really think Al Gore, especially if he wins the Nobel Peace Prize, would -- would reenter the presidential contest?
CARVILLE: In politics, anything is possible. But, I mean, clearly, if Obama were doing better and Edwards were doing better -- so, I mean, I think what Obama is doing is, this is old ground that he's going over.
But I feel -- he and his people probably feel like he needs to do something to shore his sort of -- his supporters up and sure his fund- raisers up.
BLITZER: So, it's smart for him to start getting tougher?
CARVILLE: I don't know if it's smart, but he has to do something. It would be really stupid to do the same thing he's been doing.
BLITZER: Terry, what do you think?
TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR IN CHIEF, CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE: Ironically, if he really does some damage to Hillary, he might help John Edwards more than himself by increasing his negatives.
But I think he has got a fundamental problem, which has to do with the Iraq war. I think the principal rationale for one of other major candidates opposite Hillary is, they are to the left of her on the war, and they can appeal to the anti-war Democratic base more than she does.
In that last Democratic debate, Barack Obama had an identical position on moving forward with the -- on the Iraq war with Hillary. That is not going to cut it.
BLITZER: Well, he's highlighting today the fifth anniversary of the Senate authorization of the war, a war that he opposed and that Hillary Clinton supported, at least in that authorization.
CARVILLE: If any Democrat doesn't know that, then they have been asleep as long as Fred Thompson.
CARVILLE: I mean, it's not -- hardly like -- not new ground. She's been attacked on her war vote since the beginning of the campaign. So, he's not like interjecting anything new or something that Democrats didn't know before.
JEFFREY: That's right. And John Edwards has positioned himself to the left of both Obama and Hillary on the war.
BLITZER: We're going to have a full report in the next hour on these latest controversial comments from the conservative commentator Ann Coulter. She was on NBC. It's crossing our CNN Political Ticker right now, but I just want to get you guys to react to this.
It's a little clip of what she said on Donny Deutsch's program.
Listen to this exchange they had.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE BIG IDEA")
DONNY DEUTSCH, HOST: So, we should be Christian? It would be better if we were all Christian?
ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, "GODLESS: THE CHURCH OF LIBERALISM": Yes.
DEUTSCH: We should all be Christian?
COULTER: Yes. Would you like to come to church with me, Donny?
DEUTSCH: But you said I should not -- we should just throw Judaism away and we should all be Christians then or...
COULTER: Well, it's a lot easier.
COULTER: It's kind of a fast track. We want Jews to be perfected, as they say.
DEUTSCH: Wow. You didn't really say that, did you?
COULTER: Yes. No, that's what Christianity is.
DEUTSCH: OK. All right.
COULTER: We believe the Old Testament, but ours is more like Federal Express. You have to obey laws.
DEUTSCH: In my old -- in my old days...
COULTER: We know we're all sinners.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Well, let's let James Carville go first.
What do you think?
CARVILLE: Well, I don't think much of Ann Coulter. And I don't think much of the Republican Party. She headlines all the events. She is always on the news. In fact, I think very little of her.
I'm not surprised by those comments. She's made other hideous comments, equally as hideous and equally as outrageous.
I know Donny Deutsch. He's a good guy. I think he was probably shocked and offended by it. But that this -- no one should be -- if you have Ann Coulter on your show, you have to expect her to say things that are like that. And that's part -- that's what comes with it. And the Republicans keep (INAUDIBLE) headline, I think they are going to pay for it.
BLITZER: What do you think, Terry?
JEFFREY: Well, first of all, Ann Coulter is a friend of mine. And I know that she's a good person. She's certainly not anti- Semitic.
And I don't think the Donny Deutsch place is a place to discuss profound issues of theology. I had no idea if Ann -- what Ann said or anything even that she had said until a few moments before I came on this show. And I can't make any judgment, to tell you the truth, about what she said from those video clips.
But I can guarantee you, she's a good person. She's not anti- Semitic. And that's what I can say, given from what you just showed.
BLITZER: Do you think there will be pressure, though, from Republican -- on Republican presidential candidates and other Republicans to disassociate themselves from her now, given the nature not only of these remarks, but a lot of other remarks she's made?
JEFFREY: Well, you know, first, we have to get into a pretty serious -- first of all, we would have to discern what actually Ann Coulter said and what actually Ann Coulter meant. And then are we really going to get into a debate in presidential campaigns about people's theology? Everybody is trying to say that we don't have a religious test for office in this country? Are we going to go to each candidate and ask them, OK, we want to know exactly what you think about the nature of Jesus Christ, the nature of Christianity, the nature of Judaism?
No. I don't think we want to get into that.
CARVILLE: Well, first of all, she's a prominent Republican that does many Republican events. And I have -- how do I say this without sounding ridiculous?
CARVILLE: I have thousands of Jewish friends, OK?
And, obviously -- and I have never one -- heard a single one of them come up and say that my...
CARVILLE: Can I finish?
CARVILLE: ... that my faith is imperfect. And I think they would resent the hell out of that.
And I don't blame them. And I don't think their faith is imperfect. In fact, I'm sort of in awe of their tradition.
JEFFREY: Do you think that you absolutely know for certain that Ann Coulter denigrated Judaism from what you saw in that clip there or what you read in a few transcripts? Are you certain about that? You're morally certain about that, James?
CARVILLE: I don't know a single Jew that doesn't think that she said that their religion was imperfect. I don't know a single one. But, if there is one, I will be glad to hear from them.
JEFFREY: So, you have gone around discussing this with Jewish theologians or Christian theologians?
CARVILLE: I have had Jewish friends call me.
This may be a shock to you, but there actually are Jews that heard about this...
CARVILLE: ... that picked up the phone and says, can you believe what that woman said?
No, they do. It's caused a little stir in the community, if you will.
BLITZER: And he did give her several opportunities, Donny Deutsch, who told her he's a practicing Jew, and he was offended by what she said. But he did give her several opportunities to clarify, to amend, to revise. And she basically stuck with that line that Jews have to be perfected.
JEFFREY: Look, I can tell you what I believe.
I am a Christian. My savior, Jesus Christ, was a Jew. I believe that Judaism is a great religion. I -- I'm not convinced, from what I have seen, that Ann Coulter has said anything wrong or anything that someone ought to attack her for. And let's see.
BLITZER: Let's leave it -- let's leave it right there. There will be more, I'm sure, on this latest controversy involving Ann Coulter down the road.
But, thanks, guys, both of you, for coming in, James and Terry.
CARVILLE: Thank you.
BLITZER: And should a federal judge be stepping into the immigration wars? Jack Cafferty standing by with your e-mail.
Also ahead, former Mexican President Vicente Fox right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We will talk with him about the 2008 presidential race and why he's concerned some Americans are hateful.
Stick around, lots more coming up, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: Is it the place of a federal judge to stop the government from enforcing the laws against hiring illegal aliens? A judge out in San Francisco said they're not allowed to enforce these laws because -- I don't know -- because -- because of what -- because whatever.
Anthony in Cherry Hill, New Jersey: "Neither federal judges, the Catholic Church, mayors providing sanctuary, bleeding-heart liberals, nor the president kowtowing to big business have the right to protest law-breakers. Are we, as citizens, the only ones obligated to obey the law? There's something wrong with this picture." Barrett in Arkansas: "Sorry, Jack. The term federal judge really doesn't exist anymore. Ninety percent -- 95 percent of the people in that position are so liberal, they don't even know what this country stands for anymore."
Lauren in Los Angeles: "The reason that legal employees could be fired under the government plan is that the Social Security database is riddled with errors. False mismatches happen all the time. Until that database is corrected, the judge is absolutely right to block its use to fire employees."
Devon writes: "The state of this country never fails to amaze me lately. If a federal judge doesn't uphold federal laws, who will? Our country has lost all common sense about, well, frankly, everything."
Debra in Vista, California: "If I didn't do the job for which I was hired, I would be fired. It's not his job to impede the efforts, too late and too little though they may be, of the government to finally enforce part of the immigration law."
And Ande in Arizona: "Are we living in a bizarro world now, or what? Up is down. Down is up. Illegal is legal? I'm beyond confused. Good luck, Jack, with understanding anything that goes on in Washington" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks, Jack, very much.
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