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The Situation Room

The Pope and U.S. Politics; Guns and Democrats

Aired April 14, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: Barack Obama, he's being hit from both sides over those so-called bitter remarks. He's trying to turn the tables on his rivals by questioning their concern for working-class voters. We're following up on this story.

Also, the White House rolling out the red carpet for the pope. We look at the big plans for the pontiff's visit and at the power of -- and at the power of faith in the presidential race.

And guns and Democrats -- an old mine field resurfaces on the road to the White House. Is it as explosive as it used to be?

I'm Wolf Blitzer, along with the best political team on television. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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

Barack Obama is going to new lengths today to try to prevent the so-called elitist label from sticking to him. But Hillary Clinton and John McCain, they are both intent on keeping that label firmly pinned to Obama, after his controversial remarks about so-called bitter Pennsylvanians.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is in Philadelphia -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Barack Obama opened up a session with the Associated Press, saying he knew he had kept reporters busy all weekend. And he joked he hoped they weren't bitter about it.

But, all kidding aside, the Obama camp knows this is serious business.


CROWLEY (voice over): He is accused of elitism as he faces a primary which hinges on working-class votes. So Barack Obama is looking to turn the criticism on its head.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If John McCain wants to turn this election into a contest about which party is out of touch with the struggles and hopes of working America, that's a debate I'm happy to have.

CROWLEY: Obama's more immediate problem is Pennsylvania, and the as yet unknown effect of his suggestion that small-town America is bitter toward Washington and clings to God and guns because of economic distress.

Hillary Clinton got scattered jeers and boos when she brought the subject up before an audience of steel industry workers, but she is pounding him.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think he really gets it, that people are looking for a president who stands up for you and not looks down on you.

CROWLEY: In word and picture, Clinton has been relentless as she goes after Obama while courting the superdelegates who could decide the nominee.

CLINTON: Democrats have reached out to me to say that we, you know, can't afford for people to believe that the Democratic Party is elitist and out of touch.

CROWLEY: Over the weekend she sported her own working-class credentials with tales of when she learned to shoot and a photo-op where she sipped beer and took a shot of whiskey.

On defense for three days now, Obama is on offense. Before the same steel industry audience, he questioned Clinton's commitment to reforming U.S. trade policy.

OBAMA: You can't spend the better part of two decades campaigning for NAFTA and PNTR for China, and then come here to Pennsylvania and tell the workers that you have been with them all along.

CROWLEY: And he warned against Washington insiders bearing promises.

OBAMA: they will even come around with TV crews in tow and throw back a shot and a beer. But if those same candidates are taking millions of dollars in contributions from the PACs and the lobbyists, ask yourself, who are their going to be toasting once the election's over?


CROWLEY: Immediately after Obama's remarks, the Clinton campaign put out a press release noting that Obama had also gone into a Pennsylvania sports bar and had a beer.

Despite the trivial nature of those press releases, this is the fiercest back and forth between these two campaigns in some time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy Crowley is in Philadelphia. Thank you. Republican John McCain, meanwhile, is trying to add fuel to the fire over Obama's bitter remarks as they're being called, days after the Democrat first said them.

Let's go to Dana Bash. She's in Pittsburgh on the other side of the state.

Dana, how is Senator McCain trying to use Obama's remarks to his own advantage?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, McCain's campaign manager sent an e-mail to supporters asking them to donate to his campaign to get much-needed cash, and used those remarks to do that.

And on his way here to Pittsburgh just a short while ago, Wolf, Senator McCain really went after Obama. He said that it is defining, those remarks, because it shows a fundamental attitude about the heartland of America.


BASH (voice over): Off the trail all weekend as Barack Obama's so-called bitter comments brewed, John McCain for the first time launched the attack on his Democratic rival that campaign aides spent three days doing for him.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think those comments are elitist.

BASH: Repudiating Obama for disparaging who he called hard- working people who cherish the Second Amendment and their faith. MCCAIN: These are the people that have fundamental cultural, spiritual and other values that in my view have very little to do with their economic condition.

BASH: It's a political no-brainer for a Republican to jump on a Democrat for suggesting bitter Americans are clinging to faith and firearms. But while McCain is occasionally asked about the subjects...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator McCain, I was wondering what your views are on gun control, like a gun registration?

MCCAIN: I do believe in protecting the constitutional rights ensured by the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

BASH: The reality is McCain is a GOP candidate who rarely talks unprompted about either God or guns on the stump. So the McCain campaign strategy is to cloak his hit on Obama in a theme where McCain has more credibility -- patriotism.

MCCAIN: My other profession in the war I served in, the country relied overwhelmingly on Americans from these same communities to defend us. BASH: Suggesting in prepared remarks and Q&A at an Associated Press forum that Obama is impugning the culture he knows, one that produces American soldiers.

MCCAIN: These are the people that today, their sons and daughters are in harm's way defending this nation.

BASH: But this is a fine line for McCain, who swears he will run an above-the-fray campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If those remarks were elitist, which you say they are, does that make him an elitist?

MCCAIN: I don't know because I don't know him very well.


BASH: Doesn't know him very well, but, Wolf, John McCain really pounded Obama on his way here on that plane ride here to Pittsburgh. He said that he's truly out of touch, noted that Obama didn't explicitly apologize for his remarks.

What McCain campaign advisers say is that they -- if they do actually run against Obama in the fall, they intend to use this issue as the prism through which they will run against him pretty much on every level. Of course, it's very -- very unclear at this point whether or not that will be the case.

But I can tell you -- and you know very well just in listening to Candy's piece and listening to the Democrats for the past week or so -- Democrats are saying John McCain wants to say that we're out of touch; well, he's out of touch even more.

BLITZER: Candy Crowley did make a good point, but I want you to follow up, Dana, on this.

You talk to the McCain people all the time. Who do you think they think would be easier to beat in November, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?

BASH: You know, you talk to them each day. They will tell you that they have a different answer, and they're pretty much confused about that.

They can make arguments and they do make serious tactical and strategic arguments for wanting to or not wanting to run against both of them. There was a report on a Web site, on a blog today, suggesting that McCain made a call to a supporter saying that he actually was quite worried about running against Hillary Clinton.

McCain, on his plane ride here -- again, I told you he talked pretty extensively to reporters -- he said that that was fundamentally not true. He insists he has no idea who he wants to or doesn't want to run against -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You have got to be careful what you wish for in any case in politics.

All right, thanks very much for that, Dana Bash.

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


Before we get to the question, a clarification. Last week, during a discussion of the controversy surrounding China's hosting of the Olympic Games, I said that the Chinese are basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they have been for the last 50 years. I was referring to the Chinese government, and not to Chinese people or to Chinese-Americans.

The growing cost of the Iraq war, one of the main reasons that our economy is struggling. Congressman John Yarmuth of Kentucky said in the Democrats' weekly radio address the Iraq in war, now in its sixth year, has cost this country more than a half-a-trillion dollars. There are people that would give you bigger numbers than that. Yarmuth says the conflict is -- quote -- "not only linked to our economic skid, but it is the leading cause of it" -- unquote.

He highlighted crumbling infrastructure here at home, while taxpayers fund an Iraqi government -- quote -- "riddled with waste, fraud and corruption" -- unquote. A recent poll found 71 percent of Americans think our spending on the war is a reason for our economic problems.

Meanwhile, a piece in today's "New York Times" looks at where else the U.S. could spend the estimated $1 trillion to $3 trillion that the war in Iraq could end up costing this country.

At the low end of the estimate -- use $120 billion a year -- here's what they came up with. The money would pay for the projected cost of Hillary Clinton's a universal health care plan, or it would pay for Barack Obama's health care plan and his proposed bailout of homeowners submerged in the mortgage crisis. Or it could pay for developing new and renewable energy sources to get us off of Middle East oil and a national public works program. Or it could go toward a long-term fix for Social Security, or the unpaid part of Medicare, and on and on and on.

And, instead, the money's being used to finance a war that is going absolutely nowhere.

Here's the question. How much do you think the Iraq war is to blame for the current state of the U.S. economy?

Go to and post a comment on my blog.

Half-a-trillion dollars, Wolf, that's big bucks.

BLITZER: Yes. as they used to say, a billion here, a billion there, but now we're into trillions. All right, Jack, thanks very much.

Is Hillary Clinton's biggest supporter also her biggest political threat?


COKIE ROBERTS, ABC NEWS: Every time she seems to get some traction, Bill Clinton comes along and says something that throws her off.


BLITZER: After campaigning so hard for his wife, might Bill Clinton help sink her chances? I will speak about that with the veteran journalist Cokie Roberts. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Jimmy Carter wants to do something he believes will be good for the United States, but the U.S. government is firmly against it.

And the New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, accomplishes two feats: brokering a groundbreaking agreement and bringing all three presidential candidates together. It involves an issue all of us should really care about. We will tell you what's going on -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: A well-known journalist who has covered all the hot political stories over many years turns to history, even as a woman running for president makes history.


BLITZER: And joining us know, Cokie Roberts. She's the author of a brand-new book entitled "Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation."

Cokie, thanks for coming in.

ROBERTS: Always good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Congratulations on the new book.

ROBERTS: Thank you.

BLITZER: We will talk about it in a moment.

But why has it taken so long for a woman to be a viable presidential candidate in this country?

ROBERTS: Why, indeed. It's ridiculous. But it's true that we didn't get the vote until 1920.

But, if you read, these women, who were early, early 19th century, right at the beginning of the country, they were so political, so involved right at the beginning.

BLITZER: Well, what happened here?

ROBERTS: Well, I mean...

BLITZER: Because we have seen it in Europe, in the Middle East. Elsewhere, it's happened. Why not here?

ROBERTS: Well, I think mainly because we have a presidential system, instead of a parliamentary system, and so that a woman in those places becomes the head of her party and then the party gets elected. It's a much less individual election than it is for president of the United States.

But it has it has been a very long time. And it doesn't make any sense. And it really doesn't make any sense when you see women in positions of power in every other sphere of our lives.

BLITZER: Whether in South America or anyplace else.

You know, I have heard a lot of women this time around, they're so excited that there is finally a woman who might be president of the United States, but they're tormented, because they also like Barack Obama, and they don't know what to do. I'm sure you have run into a lot of women like that as well.

ROBERTS: I'm sure. Of course.

BLITZER: So, what do you say to them, especially feminists, who have been waiting for a long time for a woman to become president of the United States?

ROBERTS: Well, those people, the people who feel strongly that they have been waiting a long time for a woman, tend to be for Hillary.

And, certainly, you see in the polling that her advantage is almost entirely among women. Right now, in the Pennsylvania polls, Obama is running ahead among men. And she is running at quite a distance ahead among women.

But I think, among younger women, there is some real tear. And part of that has to do with the fact of course that they have grown up in a world where they have seen women in positions of prominence, and they aren't quite aware, which is a good thing, that they don't have to be aware, of what it took to get there.

BLITZER: Is she going to let this thing slip through her fingers right now? How does it look?

ROBERTS: You know, you know as well as I do, the math is tough for her. And every time she seems to get some traction, Bill Clinton comes along and says something that throws her off again.

BLITZER: So, how do you explain that?

ROBERTS: It's just unexplainable, unless there's some deep- seated problem there that he's subconsciously doing. But I can't get over it. He's politically so smart. And, yet, he keeps managing to get in the way, instead of being helpful. BLITZER: It's -- there's a lot of people who are looking into that, and they're wondering what was he thinking, because he is out there all the time campaigning for her. He's very busy.

ROBERTS: And I'm sure he's doing a lot of help in places where he's just in a room with people, wowing them.

But when he gets into a position where he throws her off stride, which has happened several times now, it's a problem.

BLITZER: Talk about these women who shaped our nation. What common trait, what single quality did they all share that made them so important in shaping the United States?

ROBERTS: Well, I think that they shared real patriotism, that they were deeply devoted to the country, and they had a tremendous amount of spirit.

And, you know, times were tough. These were not easy times to live in, particularly for a woman. Pregnancy was dangerous, childbirth very dangerous, diseases coming along, travel, all of it dangerous. And, yet, they soldiered on with remarkable good humor, and they were deeply, deeply, deeply political. Their letters are full of politics and political views. It's fascinating.

BLITZER: And for those of us who love American history, this book is fascinating.

Thanks, Cokie, for writing it.

ROBERTS: Well, I loved writing it. It's really bringing these women to life over the centuries. Just about every letter in it, every quotation in it, is by a woman or about a woman or to a woman, which isn't usually the case in a history book. So, you're hearing their voices over the centuries. And that's exciting for me.

BLITZER: Getting ready for Mother's Day. I think it might be an appropriate Mother's Day book.

ROBERTS: There you go.

BLITZER: "Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation," the author, Cokie Roberts.

Cokie Roberts, thanks for coming in.

ROBERTS: Good to be with you, Wolf.


BLITZER: Ahead: an issue all three presidential candidates find some common ground on. It involves guns, politics, and something the presidential candidates agree on.

And who will care for the children, those 416 children taken from that polygamist sect out in Texas? There's an update to this raging custody battle. That's coming in right now.

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



BLITZER: The Democratic presidential candidates are looking to a higher power.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe God wants you to be president?


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I could be glib and say, we will find out.


BLITZER: The Democrats are trying to change the way religious voters connect with them and their party. How did they do at last night's forum on faith? The best political team on television is standing by.

Plus, President Bush is going to great lengths to welcome the pope tomorrow. What role will politics play in the pontiff's visit, if any?

And wait until you hear the question Barack Obama got about Osama bin Laden and how Obama responded.

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


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

Happening now: faith and politics. Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama share their views on religion at CNN's Compassion Forum. She says she has felt God with her. He says his faith has been a source of strength, source of support for him.

The spiritual leader of the world's Roman Catholics begins his visit to the United States tomorrow. Pope Benedict XVI plans to steer clear of the presidential race. He will meet with President Bush at the White House on Wednesday.

And the gun control debate heats up. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others have bought an ad that promotes closing a popular gun buyer's loophole, and a major retailer moves to make it tougher to buy over the counter.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. There are many voters to convince, but only so many days to do so. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton need those voters to rack up delegates. Right now, he leads in pledged delegates, with 1,414 to her 1,243. But Clinton has a slight edge among the critical superdelegates, with 28 more than Obama.

Meanwhile, they only have a few more contests to fight over. On May 6, Indiana offers 72 delegates, North Carolina, the same day, 115. But Pennsylvania's primary is in eight days, and it offers the biggest delegate treasure in the remaining contest, 158 delegates.

Both Clinton and Obama are visiting Pennsylvania today. And, as they campaign these days, it appears both of them are more open to talking about faith.

CNN's Jessica Yellin is joining us with more.

Jessica, they got really personal in our faith forum last night.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They did, Wolf. During the Compassion Forum last night, these Democrats made it clear they are courting faith-based voters this year.


YELLIN (voice-over): She's not shy about discussing her personal relationship with God.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I have had the experiences on many, many occasions where I felt like the Holy Spirit was there with me as I made a journey.

YELLIN: He says his faith has been a source of support.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Religion is a bulwark, a foundation when other things aren't going well. That's true in my own life, through trials and tribulations.

YELLIN: A stark change from the days when Democrats talked about religion rarely and with reluctance.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: And we are a country that's made up of people who are Christians and Jews and Muslims and Confucians and -- and Hindu and so forth, and agnostics, and even atheists.

YELLIN: Faith voters flocked to the Republicans. In 2004, Bush won 78 percent of white evangelical voters and 61 percent of all voters who attended church weekly.

This time, both Democratic candidates are making a play for the religious vote. Clinton and Obama both have directors of faith outreach. The Obama campaign coordinated more than 100 forums on faith in primary states. And in North Carolina, Clinton has just launched this ad heavy on religious themes.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I prayed with her when she didn't know I was praying. But the spirit was there.


YELLIN: The challenge for Democrats is to address faith without alienating secular voters. Religious leaders say one way is by defining issues like the environment and poverty as religious issues.

Faith leaders insist there are plenty of potential Democratic votes in their congregations.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: There are a number of people of faith who have been turned off by the religious right, who have said they don't speak for me. Democrats cannot appear to be agnostic or appear to be atheist and ignore a huge amount of people.


YELLIN: Both Obama and Clinton have spoken out about the need for Democrats to court values voters. But it looks like they have their work cut out for them.

A CNN poll taken in mid-March shows white evangelical voters prefer John McCain to either Democrat by more than 45 points. And McCain rarely talks about religion -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jessica, thanks.

As Democrats go public with their personal feelings about faith, let's turn to senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; our own Jack Cafferty; and our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin. They are part of the best political team on television.

Can the Democrats score some points among voters of faith this coming election -- Jack?

CAFFERTY: I think they can. I happen to have found that program last evening interesting. And I think Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama deserve a lot of credit for showing up and discussing what can be a very divisive and potentially difficult dimension of their lives. I mean bring up religion at a family reunion some time and see what happens. And, you know, it's something that has to be done very carefully. But they -- they walked out there and did it in front of a national television audience. And to the degree that I'm able to judge what I'm looking at, they seemed to be open and honest and I found some of their insights and some of their thoughts on it all fascinating. And I think John McCain should have been there.

And why wasn't he?

BLITZER: Well, we'll get to that in a moment.


BLITZER: But, Gloria, they both seemed, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, pretty comfortable talking about these issues.

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I think they were. I think it was a very sophisticated discussion. I think it was a revealing discussion. And what, perhaps, was most revealing to me was the kind of questions that the Evangelical voters, if you will, were asking these Democratic candidates. And from the questions, you can have a sense of why some of them might vote Democratic.

They were asking about torture. They were asking about things like the environment. They were talking about poverty, AIDS in Africa.

That entire issue set is really something the Democrats are talking about an awful lot.

BLITZER: What do you think, Jeff?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I'm reading just by coincidence now a memoir by Ted Sorenson that's about to come out about -- he is a former close aide to John F. Kennedy. And the transformation of Democratic politics since the Kennedy days is so extraordinary. They were paranoid that anyone would think that John F. Kennedy was religious at all, so he gave that famous speech in Houston and he said separation of church and state is absolute.

And now we have Democratic candidates just embracing religion and talking about God. I think they've right to do it politically. But I'm just shocked by how much the Democratic Party has changed.

CAFFERTY: Is it worth...

BORGER: Well, because they're learning...

CAFFERTY: Is it worth pointing out that some of those issues that Gloria just ticked off are actually issues, maybe, as much about morality and compassion...


CAFFERTY: they are about religion in the strict sense of the scriptures and the church?

BORGER: Yes, I think they are. But they're issues that the Democrats have been talking about, right?


BORGER: I mean the environment and AIDS in Africa -- although, by the way, what was really interesting about this discussion last night was that both of these Democratic candidates gave George W. Bush a lot of credit for his AIDS policy.

BLITZER: Jeff, did McCain make a mistake in not coming to this forum last night?

TOOBIN: You know, I doubt it, frankly. I think he is uncomfortable talking about this subject. He has enormous support. The Republican Party has been essentially equal to the Evangelical movement in this country. I mean they are completely aligned. I think he could only alienate Independent voters, because he's just not comfortable on the subject. And he's winning.

BORGER: Right. You know, I talked to some Republicans, Wolf, who said he should have been there before they saw the forum. After the forum, they said, you know, we're glad he really wasn't there, because these candidates are very comfortable with these issues.

CAFFERTY: Well, but that's -- I think that's one of the reasons that he should have been there. I think the public is entitled to see the debate and see the discussion. And it ought to include all of the people who want to be president of the United States, not just two- thirds of them.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. We have a lot more to discuss, including a brand new ad that Hillary Clinton is just releasing right now. We'll discuss that and more, including the pope, Pope Benedict XVI. He begins his first visit to the United States tomorrow. The best political team on television is standing by. We'll take a closer look at what American Catholics should expect from their spiritual leader.

And it happened at a luncheon right in front of Barack Obama -- a speaker mixing up the names of the Democratic candidate and the Al Qaeda leader. You're going to see it, you'll hear it and you'll get Barack Obama's reaction and a lot more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.



CLINTON: I'm Hillary Clinton and I approved this message.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barack Obama said that people in small towns cling to guns or religion as a way to explain their frustrations.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was very insulted by Barack Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just shows how out of touch Barack Obama is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not clinging to my faith out of frustration and bitterness. I find my faith is very uplifting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The good people have...


BLITZER: All right. This is part of a brand new TV commercial just put out by the Clinton campaign.

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

I'll start with Jeff. What do you think of her now actually doing an ad going after Barack Obama on these controversial comments?

TOOBIN: You know, I keep thinking about the Hillary Clinton we used to see in debates, where she's talking about health care and she's passionate and she's intelligent and she cares about the issues. And now, this is an absolute disgrace that she is running these ads. I think it is a fake issue. I think she is completely distorting what Obama said. And I think it's just shocking, frankly, even when -- you know, you should never be shocked by anything in politics. But I think this ad is a disgrace.

BLITZER: Gloria, what do you think?

BORGER: Well, I think you've got to expect it. She's in a race for her life right now -- her political life. And she's throwing everything she can at Barack Obama. This is the latest in a series of things. And she wants to see if it sticks. And I guarantee you the Obama campaign will respond to this ad pretty quickly.

And Obama himself came out today, and yesterday, starting to take on Hillary Clinton saying, who does she think she is, Annie Oakley etc. etc.

But, you know, this is going to be an argument they're going to continue to have. And the problem is, of course, is that John McCain can sit back and watch this and give him his talking points for the general election.

BLITZER: Jack, in the last hour, we heard our own Lou Dobbs really going after Barack Obama, saying that these words he uttered in San Francisco eight days ago at that fundraiser an abomination. He thought it was awful what Barack Obama was suggesting.

CAFFERTY: Well, we did a question in the first hour of THE SITUATION ROOM today about how much this comment that Barack Obama made about what people being bitter would hurt his campaign. I got 3,000 e-mails in a little over an hour. The vast majority of the ones I read were from people that understand exactly what Barack Obama meant, which was that people in the middle and lower middle classes in this country feel betrayed by the government in Washington, D.C. , they get lied to every time there's an election, that none of the promises are ever kept. The jobs get shipped overseas while we give tax cuts to the rich and use what's left of our money that we can borrow from China to fight this stupid war in Iraq.

People know exactly what he's talking about and that's the reason he's beating Hillary Clinton, because his message has resonated with the very people that Hillary Clinton is trying to suggest somehow are offended by what he's saying. I didn't find that the case at all.

BORGER: By the way, these are two pretty elite candidates. You know, one is Harvard, one is Yale. Hillary Clinton has spent a lot of her life in government at very high levels. Barack Obama, a constitutional scholar. And he kind of ruminates sometimes. And I guess you can't do that in a campaign anymore. BLITZER: Well, since...

BORGER: You're not allowed to.

BLITZER: Since Jeff Toobin went to Harvard Law School, he's an elitist, too, obviously.


TOOBIN: Absolutely.

BLITZER: And so you can...

BORGER: No, he's elite.

BLITZER: That's why you can relate to Barack Obama, is that right?


TOOBIN: I guess that's it. I guess that's it. It's a terrible thing to have a good education. No one with a good education should be allowed to be president.

CAFFERTY: That's right. We should elect more morons, which is what we've done the last 50 years.

TOOBIN: That's right.


BLITZER: All right, Jack, let's talk about the pope. He arrives in the United States tomorrow, 4:00 p.m. Eastern, right when we get on the air in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're going to have extensive live coverage tomorrow.

It comes in the middle of this race for the White House.

Do you think it's going to have any fallout politically?

CAFFERTY: Oh, that's hard to say. I think, you know, we have 70 million Catholics in this country, so -- and they have positions on issues like birth control and celibacy and stem cell research and gay marriage and several of the things that are part of the bedrock of the dictum of the Catholic Church.

So, in a way, he's got to come here. There's 70 million of us.

But this is a country where everybody speaks their mind. The Catholic community is divided on a lot of these issues. This is a Catholic community that just paid $2 billion in damages for the sex abuse scandal. He's following in the footsteps of John Paul II, who was an absolute rock star. I covered him in New York City in 1979 working as a reporter for WNBC Television. He went to Madison Square Garden. They bussed in teenagers from the five boroughs. And for about an hour, he sat there and had them right in the palm of his hand. And they didn't speak his language and they he didn't speak there theirs. He was magical.

Benedict XVI is not as well known to American Catholics, so it's going to be interesting to see how he's received here.

BLITZER: Well, we do know, Jeff, his English is better than Pope John Paul II.

But what do you think?

TOOBIN: Well, I'm afraid he may be something of an elitist, because he's extremely well-educated, he's written books...


TOOBIN: He has all those terrible things that Barack Obama has also done. And it is true that he is not as charismatic not as popular and certainly not as well-known.

I don't think it will have a great deal of political impact. I think Benedict himself, and the church, would like to stay out of the fray of the immediate political fight that's going on. But he also does feel strongly on those issues like celibacy, like abortion, and is likely to speak out.

But, you know, Catholics have heard that from the church for decades now and their views are basically like not all that different from other non-Catholics on those issues. So I don't think there's going to be a lot of political influence here.

BORGER: Well, there's going to be some good pictures, though, because it's sort of unprecedented that the president is going to go to meet the pope when he flies into Washington. And then, of course, don't forget that this pope has been anti-war and he's also against the death penalty. And so those are two positions he will differ with this president on. So it will be interesting to see what they talk about.

BLITZER: And we're going to have extensive live coverage every step of the way tomorrow Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. He goes to New York Sunday. He'll be at Yankee Stadium. There is going to be an historic visit and we'll cover it every step of the way.

All right, guys, thanks very much.

Jack, don't leave. We've got The Cafferty File coming up.

Also, protracted war and tough economic times -- that's the question this hour for Jack and his Cafferty File.

How much is the Iraq War to blame for the state of the U.S. economy?

Jack has been taking your e-mail.

The Democratic Party calls for an investigation of John McCain. We're going to tell you about their legal challenge and more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show, that begins at the top of the hour.

We're going to get a little preview right now -- hi, Lou.


Coming up at 7:00 Eastern, more on the presidential campaign, of course -- the very latest on Senator Obama's refusal to apologize for what many say are his insulting and condescending remarks about small town America -- what he calls bitter voters. Three of the best political analysts and strategists in the country will be joining me to assess the impact of his remarks.

Also, the mayor of Phoenix is displaying his true political agenda. He's calling for an investigation of Sheriff Joe Arapaho's crackdown on illegal immigration. The mayor pandering to political correctness and ethno-centric special interests.

We'll have that special report and all of the day's news.

Join us at the top of the hour right here on CNN for all of that, all the day's news and a lot more -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Lou.

See you in a few moments.

Thank you.

Let's check our Political Ticker on this Monday.

Barack Obama is used to having his name mangled and his ties to the Muslim world questioned. But today it was literally in his face. At an Associated Press luncheon right here in Washington, Obama was asked a question about Osama bin Laden.

Listen closely to how the questioner mispronounced the fugitive al Qaeda leader's name.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you imagine sifting a substantial number of Afghanistan -- a substantial number to Afghanistan, where the Taliban has been gaining strength and Obama bin Laden is still at large?

OBAMA: I think that was Osama bin Laden.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I did that, I'm so sorry. OBAMA: No, no, no. The -- this is part of -- part of the -- part of the exercise that I've been going through over the last 15 months, which is why it's pretty impressive I'm still standing here.


BLITZER: Democratic Party officials are asking a judge to order the Federal Election Commission to investigate John McCain. At issue -- whether McCain violated election laws by withdrawing from the system for public financing of his campaign. The lawsuit filed today in U.S. district court says the FCC has two weeks to move ahead with an investigation on its own. Republican Party officials call the lawsuit -- and I'm quoting now -- "frivolous and without merit."

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and dozens of his colleagues get the presidential candidates to agree on something. All three candidates appear in an ad by the mayors against illegal guns and all three speak out in favor of closing the so-called gun show loophole, which lets private dealers sell guns without buyers having to go throughout a background check.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today is honoring the woman who broke the glass ceiling over at the State Department. Rice presided over the unveiling of the official portrait of America's first female secretary of state, Madeleine Albright. Rice praised Albright's unyielding commitment to improving our world.

Remember, for the latest in political news anytime, check out The Ticker is the number one political news blog out there on the Web. It's also where you can read my latest blog post. I posted one just before the show.

Let's go back to Jack.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: And what, pray tell, was the subject du jour?

BLITZER: I wrote about those -- those Obama supporters who say they would vote for McCain if Hillary Clinton gets the nomination and the Hillary Clinton supporters who say they would vote for McCain if Barack Obama gets the nomination. There's a fascinating new poll out in "Time" magazine. And we're getting a ton of reaction to this.

CAFFERTY: Yes, I'll bet. I personally don't believe that any of them would do that. But we'll see. I mean, you know, the fever is running high and everything's very intense right now. But when this Democratic thing is over with, my guess is the Democrats will vote for -- how are you going to -- how can they vote for -- never mind.

The question is how much is the Iraq War to blame for the state of the U.S. economy?

From Pennsylvania we get this from Brian: "When I stop to think what we could have done with the hundreds of billions of dollars the U.S. has spent in Iraq, it makes me sick. Had we forgone our follies there, that money could have been spent to truly destroy Al Qaeda, improve our foreign relations and standing in the world, develop alternative fuels to reduce or eliminate our dependence on Middle East regimes, provide health care to all Americans, update our straining infrastructures and pay down a chunk of the national debt and still have some money left over."

Mike writes: "The downturn in the economy, if there is one, has nothing to do with Iraq, everything to do with the subprime lending issue. The mortgage meltdown has its roots in the Carter administration's Community Reinvestment Act, that was strengthened by Clinton. It forced lenders to make risky loans to poor credit risks or be prosecuted by the government for discrimination. This worked fine as long as prices kept rising. Once the bubble burst, though, people defaulted on loans they should not have ever been given in the first place."

Karen in Idaho says: "The Iraq War certainly slipped up money that could have been better spent on things here at home. The decline of our economy, however, is the result of the great sellout to China, India Mexico and all of the other places that absorbed American companies. Our jobs are gone. Our factories are gone. Our ability to achieve the American dream is gone."

John in Montana: "Let me think. We lower taxes and increase spending. Our national infrastructure is in shambles, along with our middle class. The Soviet Union went bankrupt in Afghanistan. We're about to do the same thing in Iraq."

And David writes: "The war has not helped, but the primary cause of the economic problems is an epidemic of indulgence in America. We have ourselves to blame. We're a buy now, pay later society. The Iraq War did not force any of us to tap out our home equity and then go on a buying spree."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at and look for your e-mail there, along with hundreds of others -- Wolf.

BLITZER: See you tomorrow, Jack.

Thank you.

You've heard of the playing the blame game.

How about the shame game?

CNN's Jeanne Moos thinks it's enough to drive one Democrat to drink and another one to swallow a bitter pill.

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Whiskey, guns and bitter pills -- the Democrats' new efforts to show they're in touch makes for a Moost Unusual race.

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shots and shooting.

OBAMA: She's packing a six shooter.

MOOS: It's the latest tune the candidates are dancing to on the road to the White House. Remember weeks ago, when Hillary said to Barack...

CLINTON: Shame on you Barack Obama.

MOOS: Well, now...

OBAMA: She knows better. Shame on her.

MOOS: Will the bigger elitist please stand up?

Is it the candidate who declared income of $109 million since she and Bill left the White House?

Or the one who said small town Americans cling to guns and religion because they're bitter?

Those comments...

CLINTON: They seemed kind of elitist and out of touch.

OBAMA: Who do you think is out of touch?


MOOS: Obama suggests it's Hillary who's been clinging to guns lately.

OBAMA: She's talking like she's Annie Oakley.

MOOS: Remember Annie Oakley, as in "Annie Get Your Gun."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And a man never trifles with gals who carry rifles. Oh, you can't get a man with a gun.


OBAMA: Hillary Clinton is out there, you know, like she's out in a duck blind every Sunday.

MOOS: Talking about how her dad...

CLINTON: And taught me how to shoot when I was a little girl.

OBAMA: She knows better.

CLINTON: So I shot and I shot a banded duck.

MOOS: Obama mocked her for playing Annie Oakley and mocked her for trying to knock back a few like the average Joe.

OBAMA: They'll even come around with TV crews in tow and throw back a shot and a beer.

MOOS: Not that Senator Obama would ever stoop to such a thing. In a restaurant in Indiana, the locals played got you with Hillary...


MOOS: When the bartender asked Hillary if she wanted a shot with her beer...



MOOS: The peer pressure was on.


MOOS: That would be a Crown Royal whiskey Hillary is about to clink and drink. Photos of the shot heard round the world resulted in a call for captions on Michelle Malkin's conservative blog -- captions like "Hillary Clinton Encounters More Shots Than She Did in Bosnia."

As for Obama's alleged elitism...

(on camera): What critics consider to be Senator Obama's nose in the air attitude has already been immortalized on merchandise.

(voice-over): They took a pro-Obama image that says "hope" and turned it into one that says "snob".

In the meantime, Obama has developed a dismissive laugh he's been using when he talks about Hillary.


MOOS: Having a good time yet, candidates?

A funky good time.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: That's all the time we have.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.