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The Situation Room

Interview With Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura; U.S. Commander in Iraq Prepares to Brief Congress; Olympic Torch Turmoil; The Latest Developments in the Race for President

Aired April 07, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: the future of many American jobs, part of a major showdown -- President Bush demanding action on something the Democratic presidential candidates oppose.
And this fight regarding jobs has forced the top Hillary Clinton adviser to step aside from his senior post.

Iraq also looming large in the presidential race -- all three candidates will soon question, perhaps even grill America's top military and diplomatic leaders in Iraq.

And the pro-wrestle-turned governor says he thinks this about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and John McCain. He wishes he could vote for none of the above. Jesse Ventura says he's flirting with another run for office himself for the Senate race in Minnesota -- all of that coming up, plus, the best political team on television.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Jobs for Americans, that issue at the center of a confrontation right now between the president and the Congress. It involves a controversial free trade deal with Colombia. President Bush demanding lawmakers vote on it within 90 days. He suggests, among other things, that U.S. workers would benefit.

But Democrats say, not so fast, claiming it would not necessarily protect workers. This issue is playing out in the presidential race as well. One man has lost his senior position in Hillary Clinton's campaign for supporting it.

Let's get the details from our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's watching this story for us.

It put him directly at odds with Senator Clinton, this senior adviser.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It did, senior adviser Mark Penn, who met with Colombian officials last week, the Colombian ambassador to the U.S., to begin to help promote this Colombian trade deal, even as she was in Pennsylvania saying that she was against it. This certainly prompted a real problem within the Clinton campaign, because trade deals have become a very major issue on the campaign trail.



CROWLEY (voice-over): President Bush can bank on two loud nos when the Colombian free trade deal hits Capitol Hill. If you're campaigning for the working-class vote in Pennsylvania and speaking before the AFL-CIO, to boot, no is the only answer.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because the violence against unions in Colombia would make a mockery of the very labor protections that we have insisted be included in these kinds of agreements.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have got to have new trade policies before we have new trade deals. And that includes no trade deal with Colombia while violence against trade unionists continue in that country.


CROWLEY: Many Americans blame job losses on free trade agreements. The argument is that, without tariffs, other countries, with lower wages and less stringent environmental laws, undersell U.S. manufacturers, eventually putting them out of business.

Over the weekend, the issue pushed a top Clinton official out of a job. Senior campaign strategist Mark Penn, also a top executive in a P.R. firm, stepped down after it was revealed he met with Colombian officials to talk about promoting the Colombian trade deal Hillary Clinton opposes.

Penn said he was representing the P.R. firm and apologized, but Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a strong Clinton supporter, suggested Penn should be fired, as did several union leaders. By Sunday, Penn was out of a job.

QUESTION: Any comment about Mark Penn?

CROWLEY: The candidate has been all smiles and no talk about Penn's departure, but a source claims she was furious with him about the meeting.

In truth, this was an exit waiting to happen. Penn has been the source of friction inside the campaign, where some blame him for a strategy that has left the once front-running Clinton struggling to stay in the race.


CROWLEY: But there is a key word here, Wolf, and that is demotion. Mark Penn remains on the campaign. He was on the morning meeting. He's still an adviser, although not the central adviser, and there are some people tonight wondering whether that's really enough at this point.

So, this may be a story that continues, or perhaps they have been able to kind of beat this one back.

BLITZER: All right, we will see what happens. Candy, thanks very much. If you get more, let us know.

In the past nine years, the United States exported fewer goods to Colombia than it imported from that country. President Bush urges that a U.S./Colombian free trade agreement would level the playing field for American businesses and workers. Right now, most Colombian imports enter the United States duty free. And U.S. industrial and consumer exports to that country face high tariffs, some up to 35 percent.

For U.S. agricultural products, that tariff can be even higher. If the deal the president is urging passes, it would eliminate tariffs on many of those U.S. exports to Colombia immediately. We will stay on top of this story.

One day before the top U.S. military commander in Iraq and the U.S. ambassador to Iraq testify before Congress on the war situation, John McCain is blasting Democrats over Iraq. McCain says Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are promising a troop withdrawal if they're elected, regardless of what that might mean for Iraqis.

Our Mary Snow is in Kansas City, Missouri.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Senator McCain had some harsh criticism for his Democratic challengers. It came as he addressed fellow veterans here at this World War I museum, and he said the nation's interests must come before political ambitions.


SNOW (voice-over): Senator John McCain warned his Democratic rivals that a quit exit from Iraq is reckless.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To promise a withdrawal of our forces from Iraq, regardless of the calamitous consequences to the Iraqi people, our most vital interests, and the future of the Middle East, is the height of irresponsibility. It is a failure of leadership.

SNOW: Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have said that McCain wants to continue the failed policies of the Bush administration. McCain isn't setting a timetable for U.S. troops to withdraw, but he says the goal of Iraq standing on its own may be sooner than many imagined. And he says, from June of last year, until his trip to Iraq last month, violence has decreased, thanks to the surge.

MCCAIN: We are no longer staring into the abyss of defeat. And we can now look ahead to the genuine prospect of success.

SNOW: McCain's call to keep troops in Iraq comes as two-thirds of Americans polled say they oppose the war.

McCain came under fire from liberal talk show host Ed Schultz, who last week called McCain a war-monger, and is refusing to apologize.

ED SCHULTZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: His policies fit the description. War-monger is a label. It is not a personal shot at John McCain.

SNOW: In response, McCain said people are free to say what they want. But, as he makes his case for keeping troops in Iraq, he has tapped his own personal feelings about his military service.

MCCAIN: I hold my position on Iraq not because I am indifferent to the suffering caused by this war, but because I detest war.

SNOW: And it's the war, say political observers, that is key to McCain's campaign.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: John McCain and Iraq are like Siamese twins in this campaign. They are totally tied together. The fate of one could very definitely affect the fate of the other.


SNOW: Not only is McCain calling to keep troops in Iraq; he's calling for more aid for reconstruction, saying that a strong economy in Iraq is key to the country's success -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow reporting from Kansas city -- thanks, Mary, very much.

Let's go back to Jack. He has got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the war in Iraq comes to Washington this week. General David Petraeus, Ambassador Ryan Crocker set to give two days of testimony to Congress on the progress of the war starting tomorrow.

President Bush is then going to address the nation about the war on Thursday, talk about the future of Iraq, as well as the administration's decision to reduce combat tours of duty from 15 months to 12. The highlight of the two days of testimony will no doubt be the questioning of Petraeus and Crocker by the three presidential candidates, all senators.

Out on the campaign trail, you have John McCain, who has said the U.S. could be in Iraq for 100 years, vs. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, who insist the war has not made the U.S. safer and want to get our troops out of there.

As the war grinds on, our military forces continue to be stretched thinner and thinner. Consider this. One out of every eight new soldiers that's taken into the Army now requires a waiver to join, either because of a criminal record or other past misconduct. That's a number that has more than doubled just since 2004. One top military official told "USA Today," it's because of the difficulties the Army faces attracting young people to join up during a time of war.

Officials insist the military has granted waivers without hurting the quality of its recruits. Here's another depressing sign of the state of our military. The percentage of high school graduates among Army recruits is down from 91 percent in 2001 to just 79 percent last year.

So, here's the question: What's the future of the U.S. military if one in every eight new Army recruits requires a conduct waiver?

You can go to Post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

See you in a few moments. He doesn't like Democrats or Republicans.


JESSE VENTURA, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MINNESOTA: Send somebody to Washington. Have the courage to break the stranglehold of the two- party dictatorship.


BLITZER: Could that someone be Minnesota's former governor himself? I will ask Jesse Ventura if he's thinking about a return to politics. Will he run for the Senate?

Also, where does their money go? The Clintons deducted millions for charitable contributions. We're going to tell you what they have been doing with all that money.

And more than 400 children have been taken into custody, but the search of the polygamist compound in Texas isn't even over yet.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Jesse Ventura says the two-party system is doing harm to America. But does he think one of the candidates running for the White House is the answer?


BLITZER: And joining us now, the former Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura. He is out with a brand-new book entitled "Don't Start the Revolution Without Me."

Governor, how could they start a revolution without you? That simply isn't going to happen.

VENTURA: Well, I look at it this way, Wolf. I'm hoping that they do. You know, that's one of the questions I raise. Do I have to come back here and start it?

BLITZER: When you say come back here -- we're going to get to this -- you have been spending a lot of time in Mexico lately. Hold on for a moment on that.

Let's talk presidential politics right now. Correct me if I'm wrong. You don't like Hillary Clinton. You don't like Barack Obama. You don't like John McCain. So, who are you going to vote for?

VENTURA: Well, you know what I wish they had in the United States, Wolf? I wish they had on all the ballots, be it local, state or federal, "none of the above."

And everyone chuckles at that. But what that truly would mean is that: I'm here. I'm participating in the system. I'm voting, but it's also a vote of no confidence in your government.

And I believe strongly that, if they did that at local, state, and national, you would see none of the above occasionally win.

BLITZER: So -- so, what's wrong with these three presidential candidates?

VENTURA: Well, they're all part of the system. Look what the Democrats and Republicans have done right now.

You know, in the private sector, you work your whole life to save money and to leave your children something, whatever it might be. Well, in our public sector, what we're going to leave our children is a $9 trillion debt. That's where it's at right now, courtesy of the Democrats and Republicans, who have created it. And...

BLITZER: So, is there -- is there an independent candidate out there you would vote for?

VENTURA: Not right now, I don't think, because it's so difficult to get on the ballot. Look what they did to Ralph Nader. Whenever he would get ballot access, then they would sue him. They would tie it up in court, and they would hold it, until he couldn't get the ballot access. And that's, of course, what they call democracy, the two- party system.

BLITZER: So, you're not going to vote; is that right?

VENTURA: I don't know if I will vote or not. If I do vote, I will pick out somebody, the Libertarian, the Green Party. I know that I will vote for anything but a Democrat or Republican.

BLITZER: What would you like to hear General David Petraeus say tomorrow when he testifies before Congress?

VENTURA: I would like him to say we're on the verge of pulling out of Iraq, a war we should have never gone into in the first place.

You know, when you live outside the country, like I do, Wolf, you see the country from the outside looking in. That's a whole different perspective sometimes than the inside looking out. We're not very liked. In fact, the most popular T-shirt I see down in Mexico, it has a picture of George Bush, and it says "Weapon of mass destruction" on it.

BLITZER: You agree with that?

VENTURA: Well, I agree with the fact we should have never gone in there. I mean, look at the Vietnam War. They lied to us about that. The Gulf of Tonkin incident, now McNamara has come out and said, never happened.

Iraq, there were no weapons of mass destruction. There were no ties to al Qaeda. Again, it's a war based on fraudulence intelligence, manipulation of that intelligence. And, from south Minneapolis, we call that lying.

BLITZER: What are you doing in -- living in Mexico now?

VENTURA: I'm learning how to surf, because I -- my new goal in life, I want to ride one wave with Laird Hamilton. It might kill me, but it will be something I would like to try.

BLITZER: Now, you were once a Navy SEAL, weren't you?

VENTURA: Yes, absolutely.

BLITZER: So, you know how to swim?

VENTURA: I know how to swim very well. I was a frogman. I have no fear of the water. But the only problem for me now is age. I'm 56.

BLITZER: Fifty-six. Well, you're still a relatively young guy. You have got a lot ahead of you.

Let's talk about Minnesota, your home state. You were the governor of Minnesota. There's a very important Senate contest that's going to happen this year, Al Franken, the comedian, now a serious Democratic politician, vs. the incumbent, Norm Coleman. Who do you support?

VENTURA: Well, neither. You have got Norm Coleman, who is a chicken hawk. He wouldn't serve in Vietnam. He protested against it. Now he's rubber-stamped George Bush every vote he wanted for the war in Iraq.

Then you have got Al Franken, a carpetbagger. He hasn't lived in Minnesota for 30 years. I would be surprised if he even had a Minnesota driver's license. And, if he does, he just recently got it. Well, Wolf, look at it this way. What would happen to this race if I jumped in?

BLITZER: Well...

VENTURA: Because, you know -- you know, I have until July to file, don't I?

BLITZER: What are you going to do?

VENTURA: Oh, I don't know yet. I have got until July to decide.

BLITZER: You want to be a United States senator?

VENTURA: I don't know. I might look into it a little bit. I would sure cause a lot of hate and discontent in Washington if they sent me there.

BLITZER: Well, let me ask you this. What would be the big issue that you would challenge these two -- these two politicians over?

VENTURA: Over just that: Send somebody to Washington. Have the courage to break the stranglehold of the two-party dictatorship and send a true independent to Washington who's not controlled by special interests or their money, who could vote his conscience, and could truly represent the state of Minnesota, rather than the Democratic Party or the Republican Party.

BLITZER: It's interesting you say all this, because you came almost out of nowhere and got elected in a three-man race for -- for governor of Minnesota. So, what you're hinting at right now, you're thinking about doing the same thing in the Senate contest?

VENTURA: I don't know. I'm -- I'm thinking about it. I don't know how serious yet. But, let's remember, I already beat Norm Coleman once.

BLITZER: When he was running for governor, and you beat him.

VENTURA: That's right.

BLITZER: So, you have got a little history there.

And you -- do you also not like these two guys personally? Is that part of it?

VENTURA: No, it has nothing to do with personality. It's got to do with their positions and what they stand for. Again, Mr. Coleman wouldn't serve in Vietnam. And, yet, today, he votes for everything to send our kids to war.

And, you know, sending someone to war, in my opinion, is really a simple decision, Wolf. You know what it comes down to? A war is justified if you're willing to send your son. If you're not willing to send your son, how do you send someone else's?

BLITZER: Jesse Ventura's book is entitled "Don't Start the Revolution Without Me."

Governor, thanks for coming in. VENTURA: Wolf, always a pleasure. I look forward to it again, when you invite me back, if you will.

BLITZER: Certainly will. Appreciate it.

VENTURA: Thank you.


BLITZER: Bill and Hillary Clinton have made tens of millions of dollars since they left the White House. Now we're finding out more about where some of that money is going. We're going to take a closer look at the money trail that leads to a charitable foundation -- Brian Todd standing by.

And the deadline for filing your income taxes is coming up fast. But find out if you could be putting yourself at the mercy of hackers if you file online. What's going on?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: During the last decade, Bill and Hillary Clinton made more money than most Americans will ever see in their lifetimes, more than $100 million, to be exact. So, just where is that money going?

Let's come back to Brian Todd. He's been looking into this money for us.

What are you finding out, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the money is going to some places you might expect, the Clintons' various alma maters, Yale University, Georgetown University, the University of Arkansas. They also gave to their church in Little Rock, but the timing of some other donations and their recipients have raised questions.


TODD (voice-over): A lot of money came into the Clinton household since the White House years, and a lot went out. The Clintons' tax returns show they took write-offs for more than $10 million in charitable contributions over the past eight years. Much of that money, nearly $6 million between 2001 and 2006, went to the Clintons' own family foundation.

MARK HALPERIN, "TIME": Most Americans don't have their own family charity. The Clintons have given a lot there. As long as that money eventually goes out the door to charitable organizations, I don't think people will look at it as anything unorthodox or unusual.

TODD: The returns show that between 2001 and 2006, less than half that money was given away, only about $2.5 million. Still, tax and charity watchdog groups say the Clinton Foundation was not obligated to give even that much away. DANIEL BOROCHOFF, AMERICAN INST. OF PHILANTHROPY: According to IRS laws, they're only required to spend 5 percent a year. They're able to get the tax benefits immediately, and then they can give it out later.

TODD: A Clinton campaign spokesman says in 2007, the family stopped the trend of holding the money in the foundation and moved about $3 million to other charities, including at least one donation that may have at least created the appearance of helping Hillary Clinton politically.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the Clinton Family Foundation, a check for $100,000.

TODD: That was for a South Carolina library named after one of Hillary Clinton's mentors. The donation was made in July 2007, one day after Senator Clinton took part in a presidential debate in South Carolina.


TODD: A campaign spokesman says that donation had been designated months before that and was not politically motivated. And the Clintons do get credit from the head of at least one charity watchdog group. The gentleman, from the American Institute of Philanthropy, says the 9 percent of their income they have given to charity over the past eight years is very high compared to what most Americans give as a percentage -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brian, for watching this story.

Just ahead, flare-ups and flameout -- angry protesters putting out the Olympic flame as they protest China's Olympics. You're going to see some of the disturbing demonstrations.

It will be a rare moment with all three presidential candidates back on Capitol Hill, but will sparks fly when they question the top U.S. military commander in Iraq and the U.S. ambassador there, as far as the war is concerned?

Also coming up, the Democrats hope to keep it out of the gutter at the bowling alley. Are Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton also trying to outdo each other on the lanes? You have seen him bowling. Now wait until you see her game.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: growing protests, as the Olympic torch travels around the world, and growing calls for President Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies in Beijing, with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton now joining those demanding action. Also, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq about to update lawmakers on the war. Can he rally support for staying the course? And all three leading presidential candidates will be there, putting Petraeus in the middle of the race for the White House. We're going to show you what will factor in -- all that coming up, plus the best political team on television.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The Olympic torch snuffed out for a time in a desperate bid to escape protesters. They're targeting China's human rights record all along the relay route.

Here's our State Department correspondent Zain Verjee.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, at every stop, the Olympic torch is running an uphill battle , drawing more anger than spirit.


VERJEE (voice-over): The Olympic torch didn't make the finish line in Paris, almost half of its planned run canceled, as protesters blocked its way. Amid arrests and scuffles, the flame was put out at least twice by officials rushing it onto a bus for safety.

At the Eiffel Tower, protesters angry over China's human rights record and its crackdown in Tibet unfold a flag showing the Olympic rings as handcuffs. Thousands of French security forces deployed to prevent similar scenes that gripped London the day before.

Torch-bearers caught up in it were torn.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, it's the perfect opportunity to be able to be able to speak out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I think this is the wrong way.

VERJEE: The flame's next stop, San Francisco.

GAVIN NEWSOM (D), MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO: We look forward to the Olympic torch coming through our city peacefully.

VERJEE: Already, protesters are in action, scaling the suspension cables on the Golden Gate Bridge with anti-China banners and a Tibet flag.

Many more Americans are angered by China's support for Sudan, whose government is accused of killing its own citizens in Darfur. The State Department's diplomatic security is helping the city brace for mass protests.

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: I think everybody, it goes without saying, wants to have this be an event that is secure.

VERJEE: But the route has been scaled down to a six mile run around the waterfront. The Golden Gate Bridge out. A planned Torch journey on a cable car cut. A proposed stop in Chinatown canceled.

Senator Hillary Clinton is calling President Bush to partially boycott the Games: "I believe President Bush should not plan on attending the opening ceremonies in Beijing absent major changes by the Chinese government," she says.

President Bush has said the Olympics should be about athletes and not politics. The White House says the U.S. position has not changed -- meaning the president is still going to the opening ceremonies.

TONY FRATTO, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The Olympics will take place and we expect the Olympic -- American qualifying Olympic athletes to participate in those Games.


VERJEE: Senator Clinton criticized the Bush administration, saying it's been wrong to downplay human rights in its policy toward China, citing violent clashes in Tibet and the failure of the Chinese government to stop the genocide in Darfur. A White House spokesmen responded today, saying that, "There is a great deal of concern about human rights in China and we've never been afraid to express those views directly by the president or by his senior advisers." -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Zain.

Thank you.

Let's get some more now on the growing protests and calls for a U.S. boycott of the opening ceremonies.

For that, we're joined by our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin. He's joining us from Dallas today.

Our own Jack Cafferty is in New York.

Here in Washington, our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.

They're all part of the best political team on television.

Gloria, let me start with you.

What do you think about Hillary Clinton's proposal?

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, actually, from a political point of view, as you head into a Democratic primary in the State of Pennsylvania, I think it's very smart. Because, on the one hand, you talk to sort of the liberal Democratic elite and say I'm with you on human rights issues -- which is, of course, part of all of this. And, on the other hand, you say to working class voters in the State of Pennsylvania, I understand why you're concerned about trade with China. That's a huge issue for us. And that also plays into this.

So from a political point of view -- and while Barack Obama, by the way, is sort of sitting on the fence about what he would do on this -- I think it works for her. BLITZER: Jack, what do you think?

CAFFERTY: I think it's difficult for anybody in a leadership position in this country -- whether it's President Bush or Senator Clinton -- to be too critical of anything the Chinese are doing with regards to Tibet, when you think about some of the things that we've had going on in this country in the last five years -- GITMO and Abu Ghraib and rendition prisons and waterboarding and abdicating the Geneva Conventions, the invasion of the sovereign nation of Iraq without provocation, the trampling of our own civil rights in this country. It's pretty hypocritical for us to suddenly stand up and start condemning the Chinese.

The mistake was giving that country these Olympics to begin with. And there's nothing do be done about that except to live with all the protests and stuff.

But it's pretty hypocritical, given the things I just mentioned, for us to stand and -- plus, we owe them hundreds -- hundreds of billions of dollars, the Chinese.

BLITZER: You've just come back from Guantanamo Bay, Jeff. And later in the week, we'll talk about it.

But what do you think of what Jack just said?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think, you know, the real original sin was giving China the Games in the first place. Human rights activists eight years ago -- when these Games were awarded -- said, look, this is sanctioning China. And countries use the Olympics to burnish their image, going back to the Nazis in 1936.

So I think the Americans are well within their rights in saying, look, this is a communist repressive dictatorship without freedom of speech, without freedom of religion. And I think the athletes and the politicians should say, look, we know what China really is and speak out on it.

BLITZER: And so by not attending the opening ceremonies, but participating in the Games, is that what you're saying, Jeff?


TOOBIN: Absolutely. I don't think we should penalize the athletes and not go, but no one should be in any misimpression about how repressive this country is and every opportunity to point to that should be used.

BLITZER: Tomorrow morning...


BLITZER: Tomorrow morning, Gloria, we're going to hear General David Petraeus testify before the Senate. And Hillary Clinton and John McCain will be grilling him tomorrow in the morning. In the afternoon, it will be Barack Obama's turn. What do you think?

Set the stage for us -- the political fallout from Petraeus' testimony over two days in Washington.

BORGER: Well, I think that there aren't going to be any surprises from John McCain. Obviously, we know where he is on this war. I think it's going to be interesting to see whether Hillary Clinton can really get involved in a one-on-one with Petraeus -- challenging him on some of his assumptions, talking about the fact that there hasn't been any political progress that she would like to see in Iraq. I mean, you know, the goal for her is to really go with him one-on-one. You know, she's the one who says she's ready to answer that phone at 3:00 in the morning.

The burden on Barack Obama, I think, is to -- is to really look presidential, to feel comfortable with the substance, maybe to talk about diplomacy with Crocker a little bit more, but just to give voters the sense that he's comfortable with the subject matter and that he could be commander-in-chief.

BLITZER: What are you going to be looking for, Jack?

CAFFERTY: I'm going to see if Barack Obama gets on before Wednesday...


CAFFERTY: ...because he's the lowest ranking -- it's all done, according to seniority.


CAFFERTY: And he's the lowest ranking Senator on Biden's committee. Biden has never said a word out loud that he didn't fall deeply in love with himself, so he'll go on for hours.


CAFFERTY: And by the time poor Barack Obama gets to talk, we'll all be in bed asleep tomorrow night.


BLITZER: It could go on...

BORGER: Well, certainly the evening news will be over.

BLITZER: ...that hearing...

BORGER: The evening news might be.

BLITZER: That hearing could go on and on and on. It's going to be fascinating. I don't care what anybody says, I'm going to be glued.

What do you think, Jeff? TOOBIN: Oh, total high drama because, you know, here you have a conflict where the war itself is very unpopular, but Petraeus is a widely admired and a very good speaker and someone who I think will be very difficult to confront by Clinton and Obama. So they have a very difficult line to walk in attacking the policy, but treating the representative of the policy respectfully, if not agreeing with it.

BORGER: But they're...

BLITZER: And remember the last time he came, early -- last year -- remember that full-page ad, Gloria...


BLITZER: That set the stage, "General Betray Us."

BORGER: And that backfired.

BLITZER: And I wonder if that's going to happen -- something along those lines -- this time.

BORGER: Well, I think not from either of the Democratic candidates because a lot of people would agree that that General Betray Us ad backfired.

But I do think that what Hillary Clinton is going to do is ask about Basra and what has occurred in Basra. And John McCain may play Hillary Clinton's words back at her, where she said that it required a willing suspension of disbelief to believe that things were going better in Iraq. So it's going to be interesting to see that kind of interplay. And I want to know who John McCain is going to take on more -- Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

BLITZER: All right, we'll see.

Stand by, guys, because we've got a lot more to talk about.

We just heard, as you just saw, from the former Minnesota governor, Jesse Ventura. He says we need more options in this presidential race. We'll talk about that and more with the best political team on television.

And we're also going to show you who's behind a new effort for a so-called unity ticket for the Democrats.

Stay with us.




JESSE VENTURA, FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR: You know what I wish they had in the United States, Wolf?

I wish they had on all the ballots -- be it local, state or federal -- "none of the above."


BLITZER: Jesse Ventura, the former governor of Minnesota, speaking with me earlier.

Let's discuss with the best political team on television.

Jack, what do you think about that idea -- have Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama -- which ever one gets the Democratic nominee -- John McCain, but also have a line that says none of the above?

CAFFERTY: You know what they do have in the United States is barbershops.

What's up with that hair?




CAFFERTY: And he's living in Mexico now and stuff but, you know just...

BLITZER: He's a former pro-wrestler.

CAFFERTY: Well, OK. That -- that explains a certain amount.

He's actually right about the Democrats and Republicans. They've pretty much destroyed this country. And because of the way the mechanism is set up that nobody can get on the ballot and nobody can get the kind of electoral support they need to be elected to the highest office in the land, the only alternative is to vote all the incumbents out in November, which I've been saying for five years now. If they've been there more than one-term, throw them out and get somebody else in there.

How much worse could it be?

BLITZER: That line could resonate with some voters out there, Gloria. You know, and he's toying with the idea, he says, of running for the Senate from Minnesota against the incumbent, Norm Coleman, and Al Franken -- excuse me. Al Franken is the Democratic candidate out there. You know, in a three man race, he could shake things up a little bit.

BORGER: Yes, he could. He could be a spoiler or maybe he couldn't even, you know, surprise people and win.

But on the presidential level, I know I'm taking my life into my own hands to disagree with the governor, but I think this is going to be a pretty good year, where there's going to be a lot of difference at the very top between these two candidates -- between John McCain and either of the two Democratic candidates. I think it's going to be a substantive debate. I think it's going to be one the country deserves and one the country wants.


I think Gloria is right, Jeff.

TOOBIN: Yes. And I think that, you know, none of the above stuff is a bunch of cheap and lazy populism that is really ridiculous. You know, that won't accomplish absolutely anything. And, you know, Jesse Ventura got elected governor, got quickly bored and left.

You know, so what does he stand to -- why should we pay attention to anything he has to say about the functioning of government?

I just think, you know, it's a stunt, like his entire political career and, you know, wouldn't put food on anybody's table, give anybody health care or stop a war. I mean I just think he's a pretty useless character at this point.

BLITZER: All right. Those are pretty strong words.


BLITZER: I hope you don't run into him in the Green Room.

TOOBIN: That's right.


CAFFERTY: He's waiting down at the garage by your car.


BORGER: I'm safe.


BORGER: I'm totally safe.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, should Congress approve this free trade agreement that the president wants with Colombia?

CAFFERTY: Well, you know, I don't -- I'm not privy to the negotiations. But it seems like the playing field is a little unlevel, that we have to pay tariffs on everything we send down there and they can send all their stuff up here for virtually nothing.

Now, that being said, the big argument about some of these trade deals is whether or not there are protections built into them for American workers in terms of protecting Americans' salaries and whether there are safety precautions put into them to safeguard the quality of some of the stuff we import into this country.

I don't know if those two things are issues when it comes to Colombia or not, but they've been issues in almost all of these other free trade agreements. I assume they're probably part of the equation in the Colombia one, as well. BLITZER: This is a big issue, especially in Pennsylvania, coming up two weeks from tomorrow, Gloria.

BORGER: Yes. It's a very big issue, as you've been talking about for the show. You know, Hillary Clinton has had some problems with one of her key advisers on that, who's now been demoted because his firm represented the Colombian government.

But what was interesting about what President Bush is doing -- and, by the way, it's no coincidence that he's proposing this trade deal now, while the Democrats are talking about it -- is he's trying to make it a matter of national security, saying the enemy of my enemy, Venezuela, is my friend. And the Democrats are saying no, it's not a matter of national security, it's a matter of human rights. And that's going to be what they're talking about.

BLITZER: I guess we've got to leave it there, Jeff.

So hold your thought. We'll have another opportunity later in the week.

TOOBIN: But I have to talk about the Colombian -- no.

BLITZER: Yes, you'll talk about that.


BLITZER: We'll continue this conversation...

TOOBIN: The world does not need my thoughts on Colombia trade.

BLITZER: and me, during the break.

All right, stand by, guys.

Let's check in with Lou Dobbs.

He's coming up at the top of the hour.

What are you working on -- Lou?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": I'm working on trying to find some time for Jeff Toobin to come on my show and then we'll figure out something.


BLITZER: He's ready. He's standing by.

DOBBS: Wolf, thank you.

Coming up at the top of the hour here on CNN, we'll have much more on this whacky presidential campaign.

Awe-inspiring, isn't it? We'll be reporting on the efforts of Senator McCain and the other candidates to sell themselves as populist candidates. It's a new development -- one we're proud of and we're watching with keen interest.

And a victory for corporate elites in their battle to import more cheap foreign labor into this country and to replace those well-paid American workers. We'll have that special report. And, by the way, Democrats and Republicans alike complicit.

Heavily-armed drug traffickers now from Mexico have launched an all-out invasion of Southeastern Arizona because they know they're unlikely to face prosecution. I'll be joined by Congressman John Culberson. He's simply furious about this issue. He's our guest.

And seething anger, as well, over an Absolut vodka ad in Mexico showing the entire Southwestern United States and a good part of the Northwestern United States, as well, under the control of good old Mexico -- just the latest illustration of what say is Mexico's utter contempt for our borders, our sovereignty. And it's a little overwrought. It's, after all, just one vodka company wanting to change our borders. We'll have that report.

Join us for all of that at the top of the hour, all the day's news and much more. We're looking forward to seeing you -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: I take it you might stop drinking Absolut vodka, is that what I'm seeing, Lou?

DOBBS: Partner, that was never my drink. Never my drink.

BLITZER: All right. Good.

DOBBS: Besides that, they need to put an E on the thing. It looks weird.

BLITZER: See you in a few moments, Lou.

DOBBS: You've got it.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

So what's the future of the United States military if one in every eight new Army recruits requires a conduct waiver?

That's our question this hour. Jack Cafferty with your e-mail.

Plus, the raid on a Texas polygamists' compound grows. Hundreds of children now taken away. We have new details for you on what's is going on right now.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Today on our Political Ticker, with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama locked in a battle for the Democratic nomination, there is a push online for a unity ticket featuring both candidates.

Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

She's watching this story for us.

So what's this Web site calling for -- Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, a Clinton/Obama ticket -- and preferably in that order, says the founder of, Adam Parkhomenko, until recently, a Clinton campaign staffer, now trying to turn talk of a joint ticket into a national movement. Parkhomenko has some experience with this kind of thing. He founded the unofficial draft site VoteHillary in 2002. Now he's registering both with the Federal Election Commission to allow fundraising for this effort he says is not connected to the Clinton campaign.

Talk of a joint ticket swirled last month. Former Mr. Bill Clinton suggested Clinton/Obama would be unstoppable. Senator Obama shot that down. A Gallup/"USA Today" poll tested enthusiasm for the concept, finding more Democrats would want to see Obama in the top spot -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Abbi.

Let's go back to Carol Costello.

She's monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on -- Carol?

COSTELLO: Well, Wolf, El Dorado, Texas, 401 children are now in custody and a search of a polygamist religious compound is not over yet. Texas authorities removed the children and dozens of women from the sprawling compound in a raid spanning four days. The search was prompted by a call from a 16-year-old girl who alleged that she'd been forced to marry a 50-year-old man and have his child at the age of 15.

The April 15th deadline is looming and independent auditors warn taxpayers beware. They say the Internal Revenue Service has fallen short in safeguarding some of its computer systems, leaving sensitive data vulnerable to the unscrupulous or disgruntled. The IRS says it's already addressed the concerns raised in the report, so it says no need to worry.

Bob Dylan isn't a name you'd necessarily connect with a Pulitzer Prize -- Grammys, maybe. But Pulitzers usually go to reporters, newspapers or literary figures. Still, Dylan today received a special Pulitzer citation noting his "profound impact on popular music and American culture."

Back to you -- Wolf. BLITZER: All right, well deserved.

Thanks for much for that, Carol.

Let's go back to Jack.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is what's the future of the U.S. military if one in eight new recruits to the Army requires a conduct waiver in order to get in?

Patricia writes from Idaho: "It means we're not sending our best and our brightest. We all know without a draft, we cannot get enough people willing to go and die to liberate Iraq from itself. We're happy with warm bodies so our military can claim that they're not having trouble keeping the surge alive."

David in Mississippi: "It's not a bad thing, Jack. This is an opportunity for these people to turn their lives around. I was one who got this opportunity a long time ago and it made a big difference in my life."

Ted in Oregon: "Not a problem at all. They just get referred to Blackwater, where they can put their bad conduct to full use protecting Americans from those pesky, unarmed Iraqis. Whatever happened to that investigation, anyway?"

You'd have to ask Condoleezza Rice and the FBI.

Edward writes: "As an officer in the U.S. military, I can tell you, the young men and women I lead into combat are some of the finest young people this country has. I know some of them have a past that has to be accounted for before they can join and serve their country. The military offers them a chance to put that past behind them and do something great -- serve their country and better themselves."

Keith writes: "I will have served five years in the military in August. New recruits are taking a rough turn. More and more 18-year- old new soldiers come in with medical conditions that make them undeployable and training is getting easier and easier just trying to push them through. It seems as long as you can walk in the graduation ceremony, you pass. And it forces the units to have to instill the discipline in these soldiers."

And, finally, Tim writes: "A better question is this -- what does the future hold for our country if one in eight Army recruits requires some sort of waiver? These young Americans represent the future of us all -- no matter what profession they choose."

Oh, yes, and I forgot this, almost. If you didn't see your e-mail here -- this is a new thing they told me to read -- you can go to to my blog and you might be able to find your e- mail there, because we've got hundreds of them posted there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good work. See you tomorrow, Jack.

Thanks very much.

Barack Obama showed off his form in the bowling lanes.

Can Hillary Clinton do any better?

Jeanne Moos standing by to find out.


BLITZER: Senator Barack Obama shared his questionable bowling form and got a lot of grief for it. Now Senator Hillary Clinton has gotten her shot.

CNN's Jeanne Moos has a Moost Unusual look.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Another pin drops in Bowling '08.




MOOS: And this time it's Hillary who's not exactly on a roll. Remember all the grief Obama got for bowling a 37 -- from a mock attack ad on "Jimmy Kimmel Live"...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Barack Obama can't control a 16-pound bowling ball, how can he control our nation?


MOOS: To out and out taunts that a 3-year-old could do better.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow! You hit a strike.


MOOS (on camera): Yes, well, maybe that 3-year-old bowls better than Hillary, too.

(voice-over): Back on April Fool's Day, Hillary challenged Senator Obama...


CLINTON: To a bowl-off. I'll even spot him two frames.


MOOS: But when it came time to put her bowling ball where her mouth was on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," Hillary started lowering expectations.


ELLEN DEGENERES, HOST: You're probably really good, though, because there was a bowling alley in the White House, right?

CLINTON: I know but I'm -- I have not bowled since I left the White House.


MOOS: Ellen went first. But after Hillary had admonished Obama...

CLINTON: To get out of the gutter.

MOOS: Look where she ended up.




MOOS: Hillary's next and last toss wasn't much better, but at least she didn't end up like the elder George Bush did -- assuming this YouTube video really is George W. Bush, Sr.


MOOS: Maybe Barack and Hillary should have the kind of bowl-off that blows off some steam.





(INAUDIBLE) president.


MOOS: And speaking of moves, bowling or otherwise, while Obama dared to dance... (VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW," COURTESY WARNER BROTHERS/TELEPICTURES)

MOOS: ...not once, but twice, with Ellen...


MOOS: ...Hillary did not bust a move. We fear we may have stumbled on Bowling Gate.

Did someone tamper with the videotape of Hillary's bowling?

Note in a promo, she knocks down two pins.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But only Ellen takes her bowling.


MOOS: While during the show, she got one. Remember that when you hear Obama insulted.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barack Obama -- he bowls like a woman.


MOOS: Yes, this woman.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: It's not that easy, bowling. It's pretty hard.

That's it for us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.