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The Situation Room

Danger to Democrats: Sour Grapes After the Convention; Alphonso Jackson's Fall

Aired March 31, 2008 - 17:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf Blitzer is off today.
I'm John King.


Democrats may be caught up in a dog eat dog battle for the nomination, but the theme of the day, to hear them tell it, is no big deal. Bill Clinton is telling fellow Democrats to chill out. And it sounds like Barack Obama is also shrugging off the possible impact of a bitter campaign.

Listen to what he said on the campaign trail in Pennsylvania today.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's great that Senator Clinton's supporters are as passionate about her as my supporters are passionate about me, because what that's done is everybody's gotten passionate, everybody's registering to vote. We have seen huge voter increases all across the country.


OBAMA: And I am convinced that Democrats are going to be unified as soon as we settle on the nominee. So don't worry about that.


KING: Former Vice President Al Gore hasn't endorsed either Democratic candidate. And the 2000 presidential nominee is also resisting the idea that he could use his stature in the party to help hammer out a compromise between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Gore was interviewed last night on the CBS program, "60 Minutes. "


LESLEY STAHL: Let me ask you, who are you supporting?


STAHL: That's what you said to him?

GORE: Yes.


GORE: I'm trying to stay out of it.

STAHL: Are they calling you every minute?

GORE: Not every minute.

STAHL: No. A lot of pressure, though, I'll bet.

GORE: We unplugged the phones for this interview...


GORE: So I can't say with authority but...


GORE: No. Every one -- they both call. And I appreciate that fact.

STAHL: And what about the idea of the honest broker who goes to the two candidates and helps push one or the other of them?

GORE: Yes, kind of a modern...

STAHL: Back to this...

GORE: ...Boss Tweed.

STAHL: Except his name would be Al Gore.

GORE: Well, I'm not applying for the job of a broker.


KING: Now, while the Democrats are vowing they will unite behind the winner of the nomination battle, right now they're divided and increasingly bitter.

Let's turn to CNN's senior political analyst, Bill Schneider -- Bill, is this a real danger to the Democrats if this race drags on?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, John, there is a danger to Democrats, but it's not the race dragging on.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The danger for Democrats is not that the race will go on too long. The voters seem to love it. The danger is that the loser will claim that he or she was cheated. When Barack Obama supporters urged Hillary Clinton to quit, she said unfair. They're trying to bully me out of the race.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are some people who are saying, you know, we really ought to end this primary. We just ought to shut it down.

SCHNEIDER: Obama supporters warned that the superdelegates may try to reverse the will of the people -- something House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is uncommitted, worries about, too.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: If the votes of the superdelegates overturn the -- what happened in the elections, it would be harmful to the Democratic Party.


SCHNEIDER: Then why do we have superdelegates, Clinton's supporters ask?

KIKI MCLEAN, SENIOR ADVISER, CLINTON CAMPAIGN: And the concept of the superdelegates is also that they will, in fact, use their best judgment about who they believe best represents the party and will best represent the country.

SCHNEIDER: Then why do we even bother to hold primaries, Obama supporters ask?

OBAMA: We've won twice as many states as Senator Clinton and a larger share of the popular vote, more pledged delegates.

SCHNEIDER: Then there's the little matter of Michigan and Florida. Clinton supporters argue that it would be unfair to refuse to seat the Michigan and Florida delegates.

GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: 1.7 million people cast their votes, so I think it's unfair to disenfranchise them.

SCHNEIDER: Obama argues it would be unfair to seat the Michigan and Florida delegates elected in January.

OBAMA: I didn't campaign there. My name wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan. Senator Clinton had that same view until it turned out she might need Michigan and Florida.


SCHNEIDER: The last time the losing candidate claimed to have been defeated unfairly was in 1968, when the Democrats nominated Hubert Humphrey, who had not even run in the primaries. Eugene McCarthy's supporters took to the streets of Chicago and Richard Nixon won that election.

Of course, the differences between Democrats over that war were much greater than the differences this time over this war. But this time, a lot of Democrats are emotionally invested in a race between the first woman and the first African-American nominee -- John.

KING: Still a long way to go.

Bill Schneider.

Bill, thanks very much.

There are probably unsold homes, even some facing foreclosure, on your street. But the roots of the problem may be on Wall Street. The Bush administration has announced plans for massive changes in the way the nation regulates the financial system.

Let's go live to Mary Snow -- Mary, this is a proposal from President Bush.

But might this be a problem that falls on the lap of the next president?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, John, it will. And for now, it's putting the presidential candidates to the test on where they stand when it comes to regulation of the markets.


SNOW (voice-over): The mortgage meltdown forced presidential candidates to come up with fixes for the housing crisis. Now they are confronted with the question of how to police Wall Street.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson cautioned his 218-page overhaul of the financial regulation system is not a quick fix.

HENRY PAULSON, TREASURY SECRETARY: These long-term ideas require thoughtful discussion and will not be resolved this month or even this year.

SNOW: Meaning whoever wins the White House will inherit the most expansive proposal for overhauling regulation since the Great Depression.

Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Clinton says more immediate action is needed.

H. CLINTON: Well, after years of a wait and don't see approach to the regulatory failures that led to the housing and the credit crisis, they have announced a plan that comes late and falls short.

SNOW: A similar tone from Barack Obama, though he welcomes some of the administration's ideas.

OBAMA: He's not preventing the predatory lending that is responsible for a lot of these problems.

SNOW: Presumptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, says regulatory reform is long overdue, there was insufficient oversight and homeowners got hurt. But last week he warned...

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly, whether they're big banks or small borrowers. SNOW: Anne Mathias studies government and policy. She says the candidates' reactions reflect the real schism between the two parties. For Republicans, a call for less government.

ANNE MATHIAS, STANFORD GROUP: More focusing a little bit on sort of the Adam Smith invisible hand, that if everybody just works in their own self-interest, everything will work out. The Democrats, on the other hand, are more focused on making sure that there's fairness, making sure that people aren't taken advantage of.

PROF. PETER MORICI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: This is very important to voters because we all need mortgages. And this is about regulating the process of creating mortgages and about the process of banks getting the money to make the mortgages.

(END VIDEO TAPE) SNOW: John, economists argue too much regulation can make markets less efficient and less competitive. But they also say because of the housing crisis, too little intervention can be seen as inaction -- which could hurt candidates on the campaign trail -- John.

KING: And we will hear them talk and it and talk about it and talk about it.

Mary Snow for us today.

Mary, thank you very much.

And for the latest political news any time, check out the Political Ticker at

Jack Cafferty is in New York with The Cafferty File -- hi, Jack.

CAFFERTY: In case you hadn't noticed, John, Iraq is back in the headlines -- making its way back into the discussion on the campaign trail, as well.

A recent surge in violence in Baghdad and Basra, the city in the south, has revived the political debate over this ill-conceived mess we're in in Iraq.

According to Iraqi officials, at least 200 people were killed, another 500 wounded, just in Basra fighting since Tuesday. More than 100 reported killed in Baghdad as of Sunday. This was the result of a U.S.-supported Iraqi effort to rid Shiite militias from the southern city of Basra. The radical Shiite live report, Muqtada al-Sadr, called a truce yesterday between his Mahdi Army and Iraqi security forces. He wants concessions from the Iraqi government in return and the curfew that was imposed by the government of Iraq last Thursday has now been lifted for the time being.

But the fighting could resume at any moment. And the overriding question remains -- is the surge in Iraq working?

John McCain, who has staked his political fortunes on his support for the troop surge in Iraq, insists it is. He argues the recent up tick in violence is proof of the dangers of an early withdrawal of troops. Senator Obama says the surge has decreased violence levels, but not resolved the underlying tensions that exist in Iraq. And Hillary Clinton says keeping U.S. troops in Iraq is a clear admission that the surge has failed.

So who's right?

Here's the question -- how will the recent violence in Iraq affect the campaigns of the three presidential candidates?

Go to You can post a comment on my blog -- John?

KING: I suspect that question is going to light up the e-mail server.

CAFFERTY: It probably will.

KING: See you in a little bit, Jack.

Thank you.


KING: For the candidates, the "Price Is Right". They're putting their campaign ad dollars into TV game shows and local newscasts. We'll show you where the money goes.

Also, the check is in the mail -- Hillary Clinton's campaign answers complaints it is late paying some bills.

And we'll tell you what airport security screeners hope to accomplish with shooting lights and mood music.


KING: It's a big TV world. But it turns out the presidential candidates are buying the bulk of their ad time on just a handful of shows -- game shows.

CNN's Carol Costello was following the money trail and watching some game shows -- what are you finding out?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I was watching a lot of game shows today. You know, you might think political candidates would spend their advertising dollars on really brainy TV shows.

Oh, is there a brainy TV show?

I don't know.

Anyway you'd be wrong.


COSTELLO (voice-over): So if you're running for the White House and you want to place a bet on TV, where do you put your money?

Answer -- in the early evening game shows like "Jeopardy". Category -- political ads for $800. This politician has spent over a million ad dollars on "Wheel of Fortune".

Who is Barack Obama?

Clinton has spent $815,000 and McCain, $168,000. Between them, they spent more on "Wheel of Fortune" than on any other program. That's because the show attracts a consistent audience that is older -- both male and female, lunch pail Americans, you know, the blue collar kind -- the kind of voters all candidates covet in Pennsylvania.

So move over NASCAR dads and soccer moms, Election 2008 is all about game show watchers and connecting with them.

OBAMA: Oh, this -- right here. Right here. This person has been waiting.


OBAMA: You're OK.

Can I just make this point, though?

This is not like "Price Is Right". You're not going to get a big prize. You're not getting the Aruba vacation. I'm not asking you to come on down.


COSTELLO: Game shows are also bits of Americana nearly everyone relates to. And they're comparatively cheap to advertise on. That's why Obama, Clinton and McCain have spent millions of dollars on ad time.

EVAN TRACEY, TNS MEDIA INTELLIGENCE: It's the poor man's prime time. I mean just everybody would love to be able to afford "American Idol" and "CSI" and those television programs. But the higher the audience, the higher the cost.

COSTELLO: Another example?

John McCain's campaign has spent $175,000 to buy time on "Jeopardy". But, of course, that's chicken feed compared to, well, back to the board.

Category -- political ads for $1,000. This politician has spent $17 million for face time on local TV ads.

Who is Hillary Clinton?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Eyewitness News.

COSTELLO: Local newscasts are like a magnet for political dollars. The three remaining candidates have spent a combined $36.7 million to buy time on local news since the start of the campaign.


COSTELLO: I know you want more. Other shows the candidates are buying time on, "Oprah" is actually second to "Wheel," and it's popular with all three candidates, despite the fact that Oprah endorsed Obama. Women vote more than men and lots of women watch "Oprah."

KING: The Oprah vote. Maybe there's the Vanna vote.


COSTELLO: Oprah Vanna?

KING: And you don't consider us a brainy TV show?

COSTELLO: I do. I was joking.

KING: Wolf might be watching.

COSTELLO: I was joking.

KING: Carol Costello.


KING: Carol, thank you very much.

President Bush's Housing and Urban Development secretary is resigning under investigation and under fire from Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike.

CNN White House correspondent Ed Henry with the latest.


ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Amid the foreclosure crisis and credit crunch, President Bush's housing secretary had his own meltdown.

ALPHONSO JACKSON, HUD SECRETARY: There come a time when one must attend diligently to personal and family matters. Now is such a time for me.

HENRY: A dramatic fall for Alphonso Jackson, who privately likes to tell friends he's so close to the president, he was one of the few people in a Texas kitchen with Mr. Bush when he decided to launch his bid for the White House.

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can tell you from personal experience that Alphonso is a man of great integrity and compassion.

HENRY: But the FBI is investigating allegations Jackson steered to a golfing buddy a $400,000 federal contract to help rebuild New Orleans after Katrina. And now, a federal lawsuit alleges the secretary punished housing officials in Philadelphia for blocking a land deal with another friend, musician Kenny Gamble.

QUESTION: I'm wondering if you might be able to give us a quick comment about the lawsuit in Philadelphia.

JACKSON: I can't comment on that.

HENRY: The "no comment" held off Democrats for a while. But Jackson's fate seemed to turn after Republican Senator Arlen Specter angrily suggested the secretary was ducking statements.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I noticed your statement, Mr. Secretary, that you will only take written questions. Well, that's not satisfactory.

HENRY: Jackson has denied any wrongdoing. But pressed on whether he was asked to personally intervene in the Philadelphia land, deal he was initially speechless.

JACKSON: If they did, I mean I -- I can't remember. I really can't.

HENRY: Democrats contend the president's signature housing plan, Hope Now, has not helped enough consumers, in part because Jackson has been distracted.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: HUD has been almost constantly distracted by the ethical questions that have been facing its secretary, Alphonso Jackson.

HENRY: And now that the secretary has stepped down, the White House may have a confirmation battle with Senate Democrats over Jackson's replacement. Every minute they spend on that fight is a minute they're not zeroing in on the ongoing housing crisis.

Ed Henry, CNN, the White House.


KING: Bill Clinton's message to Democrats -- find out why he says the battle between his wife and Barack Obama not only isn't hurting the party, but is actually making Democrats stronger.

Plus, we'll show you how Senator John McCain is taking advantage of the Democratic fight to reintroduce himself to Americans. Stay right here.



KING: Our Carol Costello is monitoring stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol, what do you have?

COSTELLO: Well, John, a big noisy protest outside the Pennsylvania statehouse by truckers furious over skyrocketing fuel prices. More than 100 of them rallied on the capitol steps, while others drove around honking their horns. They want lawmakers to cut the state tax they pay on fuel for their rigs anywhere between 32 and 38 cents a gallon.

United Airlines says it found faulty wiring in the landing gear of three airplanes, two of which were involved in nonfatal runway accidents. The airline says the wiring on the left main landing gear brake system was cross-connected and may have caused an Airbus A320 to skid off the runway in Jackson Hole, Wyoming back in February, which was, of course, only last month. There was a similar incident in Chicago last October. Again, no one hurt.

Just over an hour ago, the American Heart Association announced new CPR guidelines. It says hands-only CPR works just fine. So you can skip the mouth to mouth. You only have to do two things -- call 911 and press hard and fast on the middle of the patient's chest about 100 times a minute. Experts hope that will prompt more people to help if someone collapses.

And a jury in the Bahamas has ruled on the official cause of death of Anna Nicole Smith's son Daniel -- an accidental drug overdose. The 20-year-old died visiting his mother in the hospital just after she gave birth to her daughter in September of 2006. Smith herself died just five months later, also from an accidental overdose.

That's a look at the headlines right now -- John.

KING: Carol Costello.

Carol, thank you.

Is the Clinton/Obama battle a civil war or a healthy debate?

A former president weighs in.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are strengthening the Democratic Party. Chill out. We're going to win the election if we just chill out and let everybody have their say.


KING: But chill out is only part of his message to anxious Democrats. Find out what else he's saying.

Also, one of the newest Democratic faces in the Senate makes her endorsement and she's here to explain her decision.

Plus, the power of rock stars -- the political candidates face the music.

Stay with us.



Happening now, America's top three enemies -- Iran, Iraq and China. A new poll of Americans find The People's Republic has replaced North Korea in the list of the three countries perceived as posing the biggest threat to the United States.

Also, President Bush has just arrived in Ukraine, beginning a trip that will also include visits to Romania, Croatia and Russia, where he'll meet with President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Bush is hoping to bolster support for the war in Afghanistan.

And the coroner leading the inquest into the death of Princess Diana has told jurors they can decide her death was either an accident or the result of paparazzi negligence -- but not a murder orchestrated by the royal family, as Dodi Fayed's father contends.

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

I'm John King.


To Democrats who worry about the impact of a bitter and extended nomination battle, former President Bill Clinton has some advice -- chill out.

Listen to this.


B. CLINTON: There is somehow the suggestion that because we're having a vigorous debate about who would be the best president, we're going to weaken this party in the fall.

Let me remind you of something. On June the second 1992, when I won the Democratic primaries in Ohio, New Jersey and California...


B. CLINTON: I had been so beat up, worked over and chewed out, that I was running third in the national public opinion polls behind Ross Perot and President Bush. That'll tell you how much you can attribute to these polls. Ross Perot was running first.

Six weeks later, when the Democratic convention opened, thanks to you and many people like you, Al Gore and I were in first place and we never lost it...


B. CLINTON: ...because and the fact that we had a vigorous debate in the Democratic primary -- that the Republicans were actively involved in, I might add -- actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Don't you let anybody tell you that somehow we are weakening the Democratic Party by telling the people in Pennsylvania and North Carolina and Indiana and Kentucky and West Virginia and Montana and South Dakota an Oregon and Puerto Rico that they count to. We're strengthening the Democratic Party. Chill out. We're going to win this election if we chill out and let everybody have their say.


KING: We're going to spend a little bit more time talking about the Democratic contest. We'll be joined by one of Hillary Clinton's prominent backers in just a minute.

But first, an Obama supporter, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, who announced her endorsement just today.

Senator, thanks for joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let me ask you simply -- because today is endorsement day -- why Senator Obama and why now?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA, OBAMA SUPPORTER: Well, John, it's great to be on. I was interested in hearing the president talk about chilling out because we're in the middle of a blizzard in Minnesota. And so it's a better day than any to pick for an endorsement.

I support Barack Obama, first of all, because of how well he did in my state. He won by 66 percent an impressive record. It's important in a state like mine, with a strong grassroots tradition.

Second, in my own independent judgment of his abilities, how he has been able to really unleash an energy in this country that I think is simply impossible to contain. And I've also worked with him on a number of issues that are important to me -- ethics reform, my number one priority when I got to Washington, and then some of the toxic toy issues, since he was one of the first senators to introduce a ban on toxic toys and lead in recent years and that helped me to get that through the bill.

KING: I was talking to Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico just about a week ago, when he came into the Obama camp and he was describing what he called a very difficult conversation on the phone with Senator Clinton.

Tell us about your conversations with Senator Clinton. I assume she lobbied you very hard to join her camp and I assume that you gave her a heads-up.

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I think it's a little different when you work with the people. And I just have enormous respect for President Clinton. I actually was rather concerned when I heard about these people saying she could get out of the race. I don't agree at all. I think we've got to let this go, this spirited debate, through the end of the primaries. I hope we can resolve this in June. And when I talked to her, she's been very gracious. I think she understands the situation I was in my state.

But in the end, I think what's important is that we will unify. These are two tremendous candidates. They have such big hearts and they care about this country so much. And I just have a feeling that by June this will be done and we will have our candidate. And I just have faith in these people that that's going to happen.

KING: I'm not sure if you've seen it, but we spoke earlier in the program to Governor Mario Cuomo, the former governor of New York, who wrote on op-ed essay today saying you know what, he's worried this could be a disaster for the Democrats. He is worried either women will stay home or African-Americans will stay home if they're disappointed in the results. And he says the way to avoid this is for right now, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to agree that whoever wins, the other will be the vice presidential nominee.

A, do you think that's a good idea?

And, B do you see the damage that Governor Cuomo sees?

KLOBUCHAR: You know, I don't see that yet. I think part of this is in your great 24/7 news coverage that you guys do, certain things that happen -- slights, comments, they get over and over repeated over and over again. And I think they get almost larger than life.

When you look at the respect that the candidates have for each other and you look at the tremendous outpouring of support -- our caucuses three times the amount of people there. I think this is still bringing people into the party. I believe there could be a time where this could get out of hand. I don't think we're there yet. And the key thing for me is that we have to bring people together.

I think I'd like to see some reform in the future -- less superdelegates, not divorcing the elected officials from the party process, but less superdelegates and certainly a more orderly primary process to stop this primary arms race. We have a bill, Lamar Alexander and Joe Lieberman and I, to put these into regional primaries and I think we've got to fix this as soon as it's over.

KING: Help me answer this question. You're one of the new faces of the Democratic Party nationally -- a female face of the Democratic Party in the United States Senate. Senator Clinton, one of her arguments is this. This is what she told "The Washington Post" just this past Sunday: "I'm saying I have a better chance. You cannot, as a Democrat, win the White House without a very big women's vote. What I believe is that women will turn out for me."

Why did this woman, a United States Senator, decide, in the end, to turn out and endorse her opponent?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, first of all, it wasn't an easy decision for me. But in the end, I decided I couldn't stay on the sidelines and not tell the people of my state where I was. As my 12-year-old daughter said, it was awkward, mom, awkward. And I think whoever the candidate is, whether it is Barack or Hillary, that support, because of the faith I have in them -- and I know there's going to be a lot of weight on their shoulders -- that they will be able to bring those people in.

I believe that Barack Obama is the person I'm supporting because of what he's done in my state and also because of the leadership that he's shone throughout the country and just the energy that he's unleashed, that I think is really important. And I think it's going to help to dissolve that very cynical edge that we've seen with the Bush administration and really bring us, with all the challenges that we face, with health care and energy and ending this war in Iraq. I think in one of his books, Barack said that the challenges are so big, but our politics, at times, can be too small.

I think it's time to elevate these politics. I think with these two candidates, we've seen some good spirited debates. And that's what's turning people out. Maybe I'm just more optimistic than Mario Cuomo. Maybe it's, you know, Minnesota versus New York. But I think that we'll be able to get this done. And If I'm wrong you can play this tape and ask me about it in July.

KING: We will keep the tape in the library, Senator Klobuchar. Thanks for joining us today in the "Situation Room". Take care, senator.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.

KING: And now, as promised, a Clinton supporter, Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio. Congresswoman, let me ask you first, I assume you at least agree with Senator Klobuchar that unlike some other prominent Obama supporter, she says she agrees with President Clinton, chill out, let the fight go on. What does Senator Clinton have to do to change the growing perception among senior democrats that it's almost impossible, if not impossible, for her to win this nomination.

REP. STEPHANIE TUBBS JONES (D), OHIO: To get Obama supporters like the senator that was just on, Senator Obama himself who said that Senator Clinton she should stay in the race. He's excited that she's in there. She's doing a good job. And more people, of my persuasion, who say to the democratic electorate, we're going to get through this. We've got ten more states. Ten states who ought to have their voice heard in this election. We're democrats. We always have a conversation, getting engaged in issues. But in the end, we're all going to come together and that is what Senator Clinton and Senator Obama both need to say to all of their supporters. We're going to get through this process. Someone's going to win. And they we're all going to come together and beat the republicans in the fall.

KING: Let me ask you a question. It's a personal question in some ways. But you have a foot, if you will, in both of the camps here in the sense that you can talk to women's organizations and women activists in the democratic party who say they're for Hillary Clinton because it's our turn. We've waited and waited and waited. And finally, a female candidate who can track the ultimate glass ceiling, as Senator Clinton likes to put it. And then you speak to African- Americans who is say, wow, here's our chance. Here's this candidate who has some rock star appeal and we think this might be our only chance at least for a generation to elect an African-American president. You have feet in both communities if you will. You know there are some tensions at times between the two groups because of the hotly contested contest. What is it like?

TUBBS JONES: What I will say to you is the beauty of the United States of America and where we stand in 2008 is as an African-American woman I can decide if I want to support Hillary Clinton or can I decide if I want to support Barack Obama. I've chosen to support Hillary Clinton. And that is the point that we need to get across to all of America. You can choose who you want to choose. But in that choosing you need to stay on top of the issues and let everybody else understand that we're all democrats, this is an election, we don't want to count anybody out, including Florida and Michigan. And we want to move forward in the process.

But also, I just to say just so it's clear, I have great support among white men as well. And the thing is that sometimes we want to say that I'm an African-American woman and I can only talk to African- Americans or woman. I can talk to everybody. I represent a district that's 55% African-American but I used to represent an area that was only 24% African-American and a lot of white men like me. So I want to say that we have to get past that who it is I can talk to and look at background and experience. Say any of us can be the best to be in this job. I think it's Hillary Clinton that's best to be president.

KING: You think that now. Help me with a hypothetical if we go out a little bit. If we get to the end of the primary process and Barack Obama is ahead among pledged delegates, as you know, many will say let's not let the superdelegates decide this. Let's say the person who won the most pledged delegates the old fashioned way, by winning the most primaries and the most delegates should be the nominee. Would you change your mind at that point and say it should go to Senator Obama or should the superdelegates decide this at the convention?

TUBBS JONES: I'm not operating under any hypothetical right now. That was in law school. Right now, the way the rules operate is the superdelegates have the discretion to decide who they're going to support. I'm a pledged superdelegate for Hillary Clinton. And right now, there's nothing that's in front of me that would cause me to change my rule unless my candidate said to me, Congresswoman Tubbs Jones, I'm out of this race, you're free to do what you want to do. But let me say this, I think that before we get to the point where superdelegates have to decide this race, the democrats will have decided it already. We're going to work through the process. All kinds of hypotheticals can come forward. And all I have to say is, we're great democrats out here fighting on behalf of two of the best candidates we've had in a long time. I happen to believe that Hillary Clinton is the best qualified.

KING: Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones making the case for Senator Clinton, Senator Klobuchar earlier for Senator Obama. We thank you both for joining us. And we'll have you back again, Congresswoman. Thank you so much.

TUBBS JONES: Please, I'd love to come back.

KING: Take care. Thank you very much.

And while Hillary Clinton is still very much alive in the fight for the nomination, other candidates have vowed to stay in the race only to recognize the handwriting on the wall a short time later. On January 6th, it was John Edwards who said he had no "intention of quitting before the democratic convention." On January 30th he did just that. On January 24th, Rudy Giuliani said he'd stay in the republican race but he dropped out less than a week later. On February 5th, Mitt Romney pledge to fight until the republican convention. Two days later, he suspended his campaign. And on February 13th, Mike Huckabee vowed to stay in the GOP race. He bowed out March 4th. Stay tuned for Pennsylvania. If Senator Clinton wins that, don't expect her to bow out.

Battle of the bands, pop singers and rock stars turn out for their favorite candidates. We'll tell you who's making music for which campaign.

And setting the mood with soothing lights and mellow music. Would you believe that's the plan for your airport security check in? Why the TSA wants you and its screeners to relax. Stay with us. You're in the "Situation Room."


KING: In your CNN security watch, big plans are being made that could change everything you know about airport security screening. CNN Homeland Security correspondent Jeanne Meserve joins us live. Jeanne, what's in the works and why?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, hostile screeners and uncooperative passengers are all too often part of the airport experience. The Transportation Security Administration is trying to change that dynamic by changing the security check point. We got a preview.


MESERVE (voice-over): Mellow music, cool spectrum lighting, snappy graphics all aimed at making check points calmer.

ELLEN HOWE, TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMIN.: A quieter check point improves security because it reduces the stress level and it allows us to see someone who may intend to do harm stand out more.

MESERVE: You will still need to take off your shoes, strip off your belt and take out your laptop. But now there's a counter you can get organized. Plastic bags for liquids provided. More sophisticated bag screening machines will automatically recycle empty bins and divert bags that need a closer look instead of tying up the line. Some travelers will be asked to step into a body scanning machine.

And how do you pick the people who goes through?

HOWE: Well, we don't tell you that part.

MESERVE: If you're uncomfortable with the intimate image the machine provides you can opt for a pat down. Posters will introduce you to the screeners who are getting new training on how to deal with travelers, even uncooperative and abusive ones.

RAY GILMORE, TRANSPORTATION SECURITY OFFICER: Sometimes we do get a raw deal. Sometimes. But it's a two-way street. We have to be polite in order to get polite back as well.

MESERVE: The former head of security at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport says the TSA is right to try to get the public on its side.

RAFFI RON, NEW AGE SECURITY SOLUTIONS: Our work is easier because then they cooperate, they do what we ask them to do, and they actually help us to do what we are there to achieve.


MESERVE: But we did talk to some members of the traveling public today who thought this was a lot of window dressing. They said what would really improve the process is more screeners and more screening lines. The first of these to roll out at Baltimore Washington International Airport this spring, John.

KING: Let's see it soon. I hope I like the music. Jeanne Meserve, thank you very much.

While the democrats battle it out. John McCain is launching an ambitious undertaking. But will it help him win over voters? We'll show you what he's doing.

Plus, rock, pop, rap and more. Artists from every musical genre are lending star power to the race for the White House. Find out who's backing whom. Stay with us, you're in the "Situation Room."


KING: Maybe it's the political battle of the bands. The question is will the winner get to perform at the inauguration? Pop singers, rock stars hit the trail for their favorite candidates. CNN's Josh Levs has the story.


JOSH LEVS, CNN, CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's been an icon for decades. His classic, "I'm still Standing," could be Hillary Clinton's theme song. And he'll likely sing it at his concert for her at Radio City Music Hall. Add him to the list of Clinton supporting music stars like Madonna, Elvis Costello, and Barbara Streisand. She supports Clinton. So does her virtual doppelganger Timbaaland, the hip hop producer who threw a fund raiser for Clinton a year ago. She then faced criticism from people who consider some of his lyrics offensive. "Rolling Stone" magazine Will Dana told CNN Clinton may have the biggest names but...

WILL DANA, "ROLLING STONE" MAGAZINE: But Obama has a longer and a much cooler list, I think.

LEVS: Will I am is in Obama's corner, along with John Legend. The grateful dead recently played their first show in four years for Obama. Some Indy rock groups are behind him like Arcade Fire. They played at rallies for him in Ohio. Front man Will Butler had used his blog to slam Clinton after her New Hampshire victory.

We look for John McCain's friends among the major music stars. So did "Rolling Stone."

DANA: We could only find one rocker who has endorsed McCain. And that was Dee Snyder.

LEVS: But McCain has something the two democrats don't. The McCain girl.

MCCAIN GIRLS: Hallelujah, it's raining McCain. Amen.

LEVS: Real people attracting tons of viewers as they croon for their candidates. Now, that's change.


KING: And that was CNN's Josh Levs reporting. Time now to check in with Jack Cafferty. Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN, HOST: How do you follow that?

KING: I have no idea. One of my favorite possessions is the "Deadheads for Dukakis" button.

CAFFERTY: There you go. You can put that on ebay and probably pay for your upcoming honeymoon.

KING: Part of that collection, buddy.

CAFFERTY: By the way, after you're married, when Dana Bash does a report will you go yes, dear, instead of thank you, Dana, when she's finished?

KING: That goes in with the "where's wolf" file, you'll be advised on a need to know basis.

CAFFERTY: A quick update on a story we brought you last hour. We reported that Barack Obama was expected to get the backing of North Carolina's seven democratic house members. That was a report in today's "Wall Street Journal" that apparently was incorrect. Obama's campaign got a hold of us, told CNN, and I'm quoting here, "they are pleased to have the support of Congressman G.K. Butterfield and are working there on the endorsement of his colleagues in the North Carolina congressional delegation."

The campaign says none of them has told the campaign that they are ready to endorse Obama. Congressman Butterfield likewise says he's the only member of the North Carolina delegation to have endorse Senator Obama so far. That he'd love to have any of the others join him in his endorsement but that nothing is scheduled at this time. So my apologies. We got that out of the "Wall Street Journal."

All right, this hour's question is, how will the recent violence in Iraq affect the campaigns of the presidential candidates. Paulette writes from Pennsylvania, "the surge temporarily quiets the violence. Then it starts all over again. The U.S. is some place it is not welcome during a time the country wants to engage in a civil war. They don't want political negotiations. They want to have at each other. They will do this if the U.S. pulls out right now or if we wait 100 years. So let them get it over with and bring our military back home to their families."

Art in Florida writes, "if the current increase in violence continues to escalate in Iraq, John McCain might as well go home to Arizona and take up golf. He might, however, still have a slight chance of beating either Mr. Can't-Do-Anything-Wrong or Mrs. Evil if he starts giving the public some real straight talk about Iraq instead of just echoing the Bush administration's talking points. Iraq is not, never was, the central front in the Islamic war on terror. It's a civil war precipitated by the current administration's zeal to rush to war. Unfortunately it's going to continue until one faction wins regardless of what we do or how long we stay there."

Allen in Maine writes, "it will probably have little or no effect. No one running seems to understand the results will be the same if we're in Iraq for another year or another 50 years. There'll be a blood bath in either event. Bush set things in motion which he and most of his advisers had no understanding of. The ones who did were dismissed or ignored. The war was a mistake. It is a mistake and it will continue to be a mistake, no matter what we do."

And Kab writes, "bad news from Iraq means bad news for John McCain. No matter how much he tries to distance himself from the Iraq war he actually doesn't try to distance himself at all. Democrats are going to play his now unpopular 100 year war in Iraq again and again and again. John.

KING: And again.

CAFFERTY: And again.

KING: I knew that one would get some fiery responses. Thank you, Jack.

The Olympic flame has been welcomed to its host city of Beijing a week after its ceremonial lighting in Greece was met by anti-Chinese protests. Chinese authorities though made sure the world would see a very different image today.

At an invitation only event in Beijing there were only smiling faces. Not a protester in sight. But that won't be the case as the torch is taken on an around the world relay. Our internet report Abbi Tatton, has more on those demonstrations. And Abby, where is the torch headed?

ABBI TATTON, CNN, INTERNET REPORTER: And John, this is the website that Chinese officials hope that people are going to be clicking on to follow the route. Right now, let's watch where it's going to go. Away from Beijing. And then across Europe, St. Petersburg, then traveling all the way there to San Francisco. April 9th, the only North American stop. That's where protesters are organizing right now to meet it there. Protesters, activists who want to free Tibet, to save Darfur, to highlight the Falun Gong.

All organizing on-line, on Craig's list, on Facebook and other sites to get their demonstrations under way. This group alone promising 2,000 people at a candle light vigil when it arrives there. The organizers are having the torch travel across Europe stops in London, in Paris. Organizers of protests are planning demonstrations there as well. John.

KING: We'll keep an eye on it. Abbi Tatton. Abbi, thank you very much.

A major overhaul in the way financial companies do business. The White House plan could be the biggest change since the Great Depression. We'll talk to Lou Dobbs about that next.

Plus Chelsea Clinton answering another tough question from the audience. Hear what she says this time. Stay with us. You're in the "Situation Room."


KING: Checking now with our Lou Dobbs for a preview of what's coming up on "Lou Dobbs Tonight." And also, Lou, we'd like you thoughts on this sweeping proposal put forward by Secretary Paulson and the Bush administration today on what they call a necessary and the most dramatic overhaul of financial regulation since the Great Depression.

LOU DOBBS, CNN, HOST: Well, you know, it's wonderful rhetoric. But unfortunately, the rhetoric measures up to neither the plan they put forward nor the level of incompetence that this administration has brought to economic policy. I mean, it's breathtaking, John, that these people would actually have the temerity to put forward this program and say they wouldn't begin to think about putting it into implementation until after our current economic crisis is over.

I mean, John, it is hard to take these people seriously. It's hard to take the Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson seriously. And it seems to me, if I may suggest this, that these officials are not taking seriously the crisis before them. They must respond. And so far have refused to step in. They bailed out the fifth largest investment bank, these free traders, these free enterprise faith-based politicians. But not the American working men and women facing foreclosure. It's unconscionable.

KING: And so their point is at a time when the market is uncertain, when the market is struggling that you can't go in and change the rules and regulations because you make things worse. You say poppycock.

DOBBS: Balderdash. A whole host of words that would go with poppycock and balderdash and a few that probably wouldn't be suitable for dinner-time programming. This is -- at least bring intellectual honesty to your jobs, folks there in the Bush administration. It's about time. You've run - you continued to run trade deficits and support free trade. You talk about free enterprise democracy and the first thing you do is intervene in Wall Street but not -- not provide support to the men and women who make this country work, our middle class.

And I say to you right now, get used to this. This is the legacy of George W. Bush. He has put to bed all of the myths about this nonsense that they call faith-based economics. It's ridiculous.

KING: And do you see anything from the candidates, democrat or republican that make you more optimistic when we get a new president in January or is it more of the same?

DOBBS: Look, why should any of us expect that republicans and democrats have brought us to the crisis that we face? That it would -- the answer would reside within democrats and republicans? It is a repetition of the same nonsense recycled. It's time for people in this country to start thinking for themselves, looking clearly and honestly at the facts before us. And those facts do not favor us right now. The reality is our government is not regulating and policing these markets as it should be and has for three-quarters of a century previously. We must return to regulation. The protection of the consumer. The investor. The saver. And put the citizen first, not Wall Street institutions.

KING: The citizen first, a novel thought. Lou Dobbs, thanks for your thoughts. We'll be back here with you in a little bit in the hour ahead. And we'll see Lou in just a little more than an hour, right here. "Lou Dobbs" coming up. Happening now, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama fight to win. But might democrats lose this fall because of it? One prominent democrat fears political disaster. But he's come up with an interesting idea to avoid the worst.

The Bush administration proposes the most sweeping changes to the nation's financial systems since the Great Depression. How might this ambitious plan help Wall Street and Main Street?

One of the Clintons biggest political enemies of the 1990s considered then part of the so-called vast right wing conspiracy as he's rethinking Hillary Clinton. And just wait till you hear what he's saying now. All that and more from the best political team on television. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm John King. You're in the "Situation Room."

We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama know they're the top issues.