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The Situation Room

Obama, McCain Trade Fire Over Iran Policy; McCain's Humor Strategy

Aired May 19, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: fall fireworks in may. Barack Obama and John McCain trade very sharp words about the threat from Iran and whose foreign policy would be more dangerous.

Also this hour, Hillary Clinton fights to stay in the picture on this primary eve. Are the other White House hopefuls ignoring her?

And standing by his woman, Obama tells Republican critics to lay off his wife -- all that coming up, plus the best political team on television.

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

Barack Obama and John McCain are giving us a strong new taste of what their likely general election fight will be all about.

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

Today, McCain is accusing Obama of having -- quote -- "reckless judgment on Iran." Obama says he understands the Iran threat, and it's McCain and President Bush who simply don't get it.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is in Kentucky. She's watching this story for us.

Suzanne, lots of back and forth between these two candidates. You wouldn't necessarily know there's a primary where you are in Kentucky tomorrow.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And that's exactly the idea. The Obama campaign really wants to perceive and -- project this message, if you will, that this is all about a new kind of race, a new competition, that they have moved beyond the primary and now they're focusing on the general election.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): The fight is on.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So John McCain, he said, oh, Obama doesn't understand the threat of Iran. I understand the threat of Iran. MALVEAUX: Barack Obama versus John McCain over who's better equipped to take on Iran.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama has declared and repeatedly reaffirmed his intention to meet the president of Iran without any preconditions, likening it to meetings between former American presidents and the leaders of the Soviet Union. Such a statement portrays the depth of Senator Obama's inexperience and reckless judgment.

B. OBAMA: When the world was on the brink of nuclear holocaust, Kennedy talked to Khrushchev and he got those missiles out of Cuba. Why shouldn't we have the same courage and the confidence to talk to our enemies? That's what strong countries do, that's what strong presidents do, that's what I will do when I'm president of the United States of America.


MALVEAUX: The fierce debate over national security between the two reflects the growing sense from both camps. This race is now between them. Obama now only mentions his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in passing.

B. OBAMA: Whatever differences exist between myself and Senator Clinton, we are unified in the idea that whatever else happens in November, the name George W. Bush isn't going to be on the ballot.


MALVEAUX: Perhaps too early for a victory lap, but Obama is certainly acting like a winner.

B. OBAMA: Let's face it, nobody thought a 46-year-old black guy named Barack Obama was going to be the Democratic nominee.

MALVEAUX: Wrapping up campaigning in primary states Kentucky and Oregon, Obama has moved on. He's in Montana today, which along with South Dakota, hold the final primaries two weeks away. While Obama says he won't declare victory Tuesday night, his campaign has already put out a statement predicting Obama will reach a so-called major milestone by securing the majority of delegates elected by the voters.


MALVEAUX: So, Wolf, even if he gets the majority of those pledged delegates tomorrow, that does not make him the winner. He still needs more of those superdelegates to put him over the top, as the Clinton campaign has been emphasizing throughout the day -- Obama trying to project the sense of inevitability and invincibility, if you will.

He's also going to be in Iowa for his victory rally to remind voters that that's where it all began, where he was the front-runner of the Democratic Party, and that that will continue, that he ultimately believes he will get the nomination -- Wolf. BLITZER: All right, Suzanne, thanks very much.

Let's see what the Clinton campaign is up to.

Candy Crowley is following that part of story.

So, what is the latest from the Clinton camp, Candy?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, she is blanketing Kentucky, as is her husband. This is where they would really like a big win.

As Suzanne just mentioned, the Obama campaign tomorrow night expects to be able to say that they have won the majority of pledged delegates. But, in the Clinton campaign, they're saying, listen, wait just a minute. There are other ways to add this up. He is not the nominee yet.


CROWLEY (voice-over): The last day of any campaign is about getting out the vote.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me ask you, are you going to vote tomorrow?

CROWLEY: Hillary Clinton will win here in Kentucky. What she wants to do is run up the score.

CLINTON: Well, if Kentucky votes big tomorrow, we are going to keep going and we're going to keep fighting and we're going to keep making our case.

CROWLEY: Her case, and it is made now to superdelegates, is about geography and numbers.

CLINTON: Anybody who's really analyzing this and saying, OK, we did not go through this long campaign to lose in the fall, we cannot afford to have four more years of a Republican president...

CROWLEY: She talks electoral votes, suggesting he can't win in November because she wins in states Democrats need, and his primary victories are in places Republicans will win.

CLINTON: My opponent has 217 electoral votes including places like Alaska and Idaho and Utah and Kansas and Nebraska. And many of his votes and his delegates come from caucus states which have a relatively low turnout.

CROWLEY: And she talks popular vote.

CLINTON: More people have voted for me than have voted for my opponent. More people...


CLINTON: ... have voted for me than for anybody ever running for president before.

CROWLEY: She's ahead in the popular vote only if you count results from party rule breakers Florida, where no one campaigned, and Michigan, where Obama wasn't on the ballot, and if you discount all the caucuses, the majority of which were won by Obama.

What keeps her going stop after stop, state after state? Aides say it's the energy she gets from the faithful and the bedrock belief she's the better candidate and would be a better president.


CROWLEY: What they really would like here would be a huge win in Kentucky, like the one they had in West Virginia, a 40-point victory. However, there is some limits to all of the numbers. And that is that, just today, West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd endorsed Barack Obama -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Candy, thanks very much -- Candy Crowley reporting for us.

Let's talk a little bit more about Hillary Clinton's arguments to the superdelegates and whether she's using realistic math to make the case against Barack Obama.

Our chief national correspondent, John King, is watching all of this at the CNN Election Center.

So, give us a little bit of a reality check, John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, even many Democratic strategists who are partial to Obama concede that at this moment Senator Clinton's case that she, at least based on the polls and based on the demographics, is a stronger general election candidate now, some of them concede that makes some sense.

Let's look at what she's looking at. Here is what she's saying, that Barack Obama has won a lot of his delegates out here, states that vote Republican in November, usually, and down here in the South, states that vote Republican in November, usually.

And here's Senator Clinton's math and her argument to the superdelegates. Let's look at this map right here. I'm going to bring up a Clinton/McCain hypothetical race. This is what George W. Bush got last time and what John Kerry got last time. We would start from that premise.

What Senator Clinton says is, look at the primaries. I get white working-class votes. Therefore, I will hold on to Pennsylvania, 21 electoral votes there. Senator Clinton says, I will hold it. Barack Obama might lose it. Senator Clinton says, look at Ohio. Republicans can't win the White House without Ohio -- 20 electoral votes, I can change that state blue, based on my support, white working-class voters. West Virginia is a smaller state, five electoral votes, but she thinks she could change that back. If you look at the polls in Florida right now, guess what? Senator Clinton leads John McCain, 27 huge electoral votes. And she argues she could switch that back. She would also make the case, I was the first lady of Arkansas. They like me in Arkansas. It's a Southern state. It would be a great get to take off the red Republican map. I can get that. And Senator Clinton says, I also think because of the economy, white working-class voters, I could put Missouri in play.

Now, would she win all 320 of these votes? Of course not. It would be competitive. But what she says is that she puts more states in play.

Let's look at the flip side, bring up an Obama/McCain race, start at the beginning. Barack Obama's campaign says he will make up these states. He promises to dedicate his effort there. But they say he can win there even without them, even if you accept most of Senator Clinton's argument.

Barack Obama says look at Virginia, 13 electoral votes, African- American turnout up. I can switch that one. He says perhaps down here in Georgia, I can at least make it competitive, make the Republicans fight down here. New voters out here in Colorado. He's registered quite a few out in the Mountain West. That would be a big takeaway from the Republicans if he could get those nine electoral votes. Nevada would be another big Obama target, five electoral votes out there.

And, look, he changes this map. He puts about 294, close to 300 electoral votes into play. Senator Clinton says she puts more than 300 electoral votes into play. So, Wolf, today, yes, she can make a case that she is a stronger candidate in the general election, based on the primary results in the big states, in the swing states, and based on the polling in some of these general election battlegrounds.

But her problem in making that case is nominees are picked by the candidate who gets the most delegates and the most superdelegates. And in that race, the race that is today, tomorrow and over the next couple of weeks, not down the road in November, Barack Obama is winning.

BLITZER: John, thanks very much. See you at the CNN Election Center tomorrow.

This programming note: We're going to bring you coverage of the Oregon and Kentucky primaries tomorrow. Our coverage will begin right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, 4:00 p.m. Eastern. It will run late into the night.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Hillary Clinton says she's running for president to -- quote -- "break the highest, hardest glass ceiling in the United States" -- unquote.

But every day now, it looks less and less likely she's going to succeed. "The New York Times" reports today about what Clinton's all- but-certain defeat will mean for women. Clinton set records for a campaign by a woman. She raised more than $170 million, often getting better debate reviews than her male competitors, rallying older women and getting white men to vote for her.

There are even those who think Clinton was able to use sexism on the campaign trail to her advantage, by bringing in more votes and donations after instances where many believed that she was being unfairly picked on because she's a woman. There's no question that she has done exceedingly well, only to finish second behind Barack Obama.

Nevertheless, many of her supporters insist that the race was unfair, focusing on things like her clothing, her voice, calls to exit the race.

Some, including supporter and former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, even think Barack Obama was sexist. But despite the new markers for what women can achieve in a presidential campaign, there is still work to be done. Clinton had difficulties with some of the classic hurdles that face women everywhere, especially in politics, things like trying to show toughness and warmth at the same time.

Also, many women say they wish Clinton had inspired some sort of deep national dialogue about gender issues between the sexes, like what Obama did on the topic of race.

So, here's the question. How much of a role did sexism play in the likely defeat of Senator Hillary Clinton?

Go to You can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack. See you and the best political team shortly.

Barack Obama says the threat from Iran is not like that of a former superpower. And John McCain pounces on that.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Such a statement betrays the depth of Senator Obama's inexperience and reckless judgment. These are very serious deficiencies for an American president to possess.


BLITZER: So, why is John McCain carrying the fight over Iran to Obama's backyard on this day?

Also, after a GOP attack video aimed at Michelle Obama, the candidate himself tells critics -- and I'm quoting now -- "Lay off my wife." And the oracle of Omaha. He's the best in the business when it comes to investment decisions, but what does Warren Buffett say about the presidential race?

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


BLITZER: John McCain and Barack Obama are slamming each other over Iran. McCain today pounced on comments by Obama that Iran and other foes are supposedly tiny compared to the threat once posed by the Soviet Union.

Joining us now to discuss this and more, Obama's senior foreign policy adviser, the former Assistant Secretary of State, National Security Council official Dr. Susan Rice.

Thanks for coming in, Susan.


BLITZER: All right. I will play you a little clip of what McCain said today. And then we will discuss. Listen to this.


MCCAIN: Senator Obama has declared and repeatedly reaffirmed his intention to meet the president of Iran without any preconditions, likening it to meetings between former American presidents and the leaders of the Soviet Union. Such a statement betrays the depth of Senator Obama's inexperience and reckless judgment.


BLITZER: All right.

I want you to respond, but remember, when -- when Senator Obama made that suggestion at one of the debates, even Hillary Clinton said it was naive, not a good idea. Joe Biden disagreed. John Edwards did.

How does Senator Obama defend that decision to meet without preconditions with a leader like Ahmadinejad?

RICE: Well, first of all, he said he would meet with the appropriate Iranian leaders. He hasn't named who that leader will be. It may in fact be that, by the middle next of year, Ahmadinejad is long gone. There will be elections in Iran.

BLITZER: So, let's say there is a new leader.


RICE: But he said Iranian leaders.

BLITZER: But the words "without preconditions..."

RICE: Yes. Let's talk about that.

The Bush administration and John McCain have for eight years taken the view that we should not deal directly with the Iranians unless and until they meet all of our conditions, meaning suspending their nuclear program. So, in effect, we want them to do everything that we would aim to achieve in negotiations...

BLITZER: But the precondition they put was for the direct dialogue over nuclear issues, they have to stop enriching uranium.

RICE: Right.

BLITZER: That's the condition they put.

RICE: Before we will talk to them about their nuclear problem, they have to suspend their nuclear problem. That counterproductive precondition...

BLITZER: And, so, what would you do differently?

RICE: Is to talk to the Iranians.

BLITZER: At the highest level, president to president?

RICE: Can I...

BLITZER: Please.

RICE: Please. Thank you.

What Barack Obama has said is, with due preparation, after appropriate diplomatic contacts at lower levels, when it is appropriate time that serves our interests, he is willing to meet with Iranian leaders. He is not prepared to put preconditions on those meetings, like the Bush administration has, demanding that the Iranians do exactly what we seek to compel them to do before we even sit down.

That is naive. John McCain has backed a policy, Wolf, by the Bush administration that has made us less safe. It is Iran that is stronger today as a result of our invasion of Iraq and our failure to...


BLITZER: Because I believe the question at that debate is, would you be willing to meet during your first year of your presidency without preconditions with leaders in Iran, or North Korea, or Venezuela, Syria, something along those lines.

RICE: He said he would be willing. It doesn't mean that he will meet all of those leaders. It doesn't mean he will meet them all in the first year. What he will do, Wolf, is end the foolish and dangerous Bush policy of assuming that by dealing with our adversaries, we're giving them some gift. Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon all understood, with respect to the Soviet Union and communist China, that we can advance our interests through principled strong negotiations. It's only in the Bush administration that...

BLITZER: So, let's be precise, because what they criticize Barack Obama, not only John McCain, but others, for suggesting that he would meet without preconditions with Ahmadinejad, who only last week on Israel's 60th anniversary called Israel a stinking corpse. The question that they ask is, what is Barack Obama going to talk with him about?


RICE: Well, first of all, as I said, it will be the appropriate Iranian leadership at the appropriate time, not necessarily Ahmadinejad.

Secondly, we will talk to them about the issues that we're most concerned about, their nuclear program, their support for terrorism, the threat they pose to Israel, their nefarious actions in the region, including in Iraq.

The point is to use a combination of serious pressure and sanctions and engagement to see if we can move them to a better place. The Bush administration's approach is to refuse to negotiate. And what has that left us with, Wolf? An Iran whose nuclear program is steaming full speed ahead, Iran who is supporting Hamas and Hezbollah, who are stronger in the region, Iran who is more influential in Iraq than it's ever been.


BLITZER: Here's the other criticism that they level at -- this kind of summit meeting between a president of the United States and a leader of Iran would only add to the prestige of a tyrant like this and making it easier for him to go and do his dirty deeds.

RICE: Well, first of all, you don't go straight to a high-level presidential meeting. You do the preparation that's necessary.

It's not about prestige, Wolf. It's about, what does the United States need to advance our national security interests and that of our ally Israel? The policy of the Bush administration backed by John McCain was to invade Iraq. That has left us less safe. It's made Israel more vulnerable. It's made Hamas and Hezbollah more powerful. It's made Iran more powerful while it pursues its nuclear program.

That is a very dangerous, failed policy. The alternative is to withdraw responsibly from Iraq and deal with Iran from a position of strength. The alternative is they continue full steam ahead on their nuclear program. And that doesn't serve our interest.

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: And just to clear up, there's no hard and fast commitment he would in fact if he were president meet in that first year with any of these leaders?

RICE: He said he's willing to meet with these leaders, obviously, after preparation and at the appropriate time and when and as it serves our interests.

These are distortions, Wolf, that John McCain has found convenient because he knows that, if the American people are allowed to focus on his failed policies and that of George Bush, they won't have a chance in this election. It's all politics. And they continue to distort Barack Obama's words and his intentions.

BLITZER: Secretary Rice, thanks for coming in.

RICE: Good to see you.

BLITZER: The word Secretary Rice. I believe there's another Secretary Rice as well.

RICE: There is indeed.

BLITZER: Maybe down the road, there will be another one. You never know.

Thanks for coming in.

RICE: Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Humor strategy -- John McCain makes the rounds on late- night TV and pokes some fun at himself and his age. We're going to tell you why the jokes just may head off attacks that he's too old for the White House.

And a new update this hour on Senator Ted Kennedy. We are going to tell you what his doctors are now saying.

That's coming up next.

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



BLITZER: It's one of Michelle Obama's most famous lines. And some Republicans are now using it against her husband.


MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country, and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change.


BLITZER: Barack Obama is telling GOP critics to -- quote -- "lay off" his wife. But will Mrs. Obama be fair game this fall?

Plus, a trailblazer for women in politics accusing Barack Obama of being -- quote -- "terribly sexist" during the campaign. Does Clinton supporter Geraldine Ferraro have an axe to grind? The best political team on television is ready to weigh in.

And the votes are in the mail. We will explain the twist in tomorrow's Oregon primary.

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


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

Happening now, Barack Obama's warning to Republicans, "Lay off my wife," will it stick?

Also, she quit the Clinton campaign after making a controversial remark about Barack Obama. Now the former Democratic vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro is suggesting she may not vote for Obama after all.

And John McCain using humor to try to address serious questions about his age -- all of this, plus the best political team on television.

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

Barack Obama coming to his wife's defense and warning his opponents to think long and hard before going after a candidate's spouse.

Let's go back to Carol Costello. She's watching this story for us.

Carol, Michelle Obama, Cindy McCain, are they fair game in this political environment?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You could argue that, you know, you're running for office and not she, but that just doesn't fly these days. But this morning, Barack Obama tried to set some boundaries.


COSTELLO (voice-over): Chivalry is not dead. As Michelle Obama talked issues on ABC's "Good Morning America," her husband rushed to her defense.


MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF BARACK OBAMA: The American voters are ready to talk about the issues and not talking about the things that have nothing to do with making people's lives better.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But I also think these folks should lay off my wife, all right?


B. OBAMA: Just in case they're watching.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am proud of this country each and every day

COSTELLO: Barack Obama is defending his wife against a YouTube attack ad created by the Tennessee Republican Party. It makes good use of an often criticized remark of hers.


M. OBAMA: For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country.

BOB HOPE: Hi, I'm Bob Hope and I'm proud to be an American because mainly of the First Amendment -- the right to worship God anywhere I choose to.



B. OBAMA: Whoever is in charge of the Tennessee GOP needs to think long and hard about the kind of campaign that they want to run. And I think that's true for everybody, Democrat or Republican.


COSTELLO: One political analyst said Obama's choice of words is no accident.

RUTH B. MANDEL, DIRECTOR, EAGLETON INSTITUTE OF POLITICS: Your family is exposed and vulnerable. And how you handle that is a big part of who you are as a candidate.

COSTELLO: Mandel says Obama has the right edge, but it will be his wife's future performance that will be his best defense of her. One analyst believes it doesn't matter what Obama says -- his political enemies will continue to attack his wife.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, "WASHINGTON POST": If you're going to put Michelle Obama or Cindy McCain out to raise money for your campaign, to make voter appeals for your campaign, then you also have to be willing that what they say can and probably will be used against them.

COSTELLO: Even if, as the Obamas have explained, Mrs. Obama's remark was misconstrued.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM FEBRUARY 18) M. OBAMA: For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country.


COSTELLO: Mrs. Obama says she meant she was proud of the record turnout in this year's democratic process. But she can rest assured that remark will continue to be a line of attack, even as her husband rushes to her defense.

B. OBAMA: Michelle is the most honest, the best person I know. She is one of the most caring people I know. She loves this country. For them to try to distort or to play snippets of her remarks in ways that are unflattering to her, I think, is just low class. And I think most of the American people would think that, as well.


COSTELLO: And some analysts told me Senator Obama came out strong in defense of his wife and that's a good thing. Voters like that.

Remember Michael Dukakis?

When CNN's Bernard Shaw asked him, if his wife were raped and murdered, if he'd favor the death penalty for her killer, Dukakis replied coolly, "No, I don't and I think you know I've opposed the death penalty during all of my life."

It didn't well with voters -- that didn't go over well with voters at all -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right.

Thanks very much, Carol.

Carol Costello reporting.

Let's talk about this and more with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; also, Jack Cafferty, and our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin. They're all part of the best political team on television.

A lot of us remember Hillary Clinton was criticized when she was a spouse in '92 during the campaign. She said, what do you think I'm just going to stay home and bake cookies?

Theresa Heinz Kerry was criticized four years ago for various aspects of things she said.

Is it fair game, Jack, for the politicians right now to go after the spouse of a candidate?

CAFFERTY: You know, it's an unfortunate dimension of how we run presidential campaigns, I guess, in this country. Those clowns in Tennessee -- the Republicans down there -- I mean they're good at this kind of gutter stuff. Ask Carol Ford about the crap they pulled on him back in -- was it 2004? The thing is, if Michelle Obama is going to be an issue in the campaign, then at some point, Cindy McCain will become an issue in the campaign, as well. And there are more skeletons in Cindy McCain's closet than there probably are in Michelle Obama's.

They tried this stuff in Louisiana, they tried it in Mississippi, they tried it in North Carolina. It didn't work in any of those places. We've got a lot of problems in this country. You know, something Michelle Obama said about being proud because of a lot of people came out and participated in the election, I'm not sure that, you know, that ought to take up a lot of time in the national debate.

But, hey, what do I know?

BLITZER: Carol Ford lost that Senate seat in 2006. Cindy McCain, she's refusing, Gloria, to release her income tax returns, her financial statement.

Is that fair game?

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. I think, these days, anything is fair game, Wolf. But, you know, one thing, when you look at Barack Obama. First of all, I think it's always great when a husband defends his wife. I like it when my husband defends me. But I also think that voters make judgments about couples during campaigns. And when you look at Barack Obama sitting next to his wife and he's defending his wife, I think people make judgments about the relationships that couples have. And I think that that's a good judgment people are going to make about their relationship as a couple, because I think it seems -- it seems real to people and people like that.

BLITZER: What do you think, Jeff?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think, you know, think back to 1998, when every person in America was required to have an opinion about the state of Bill and Hillary Clinton's marriage. I think that...

BORGER: And still do.

TOOBIN: That was an extreme version of what's going on now.

We are electing a first family. The spouses go out and campaign, they are public figures. And I think they are fair game. I think the most important part about whether they're is how the candidate's spouse reacts. And I think Obama's response today was appropriate.

But, you know, this is not going to go away and he can expect more of the same. And if it's not the Tennessee Republican Party, it will be some other part of the Republican Party trying to exploit what they see as a weakness in Obama's candidacy.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. We have much more to discuss, including Geraldine Ferraro. She's now saying she may not vote for Barack Obama, even if he gets the Democratic nomination. You're going to find out what the former Democratic vice presidential nominee is accusing him of doing and why it's influencing her vote.

Plus, the war of words between Obama and McCain over Iran escalating. We're going to take you inside their very public battle.

Stick around.



BLITZER: Let's get back to the best political team on television.

Here's what I like, Jeff, about this debate between John McCain and Barack Obama over Iran. It involves a very important national security issue -- how do you deal with a country like Iran -- and there are major differences on a substantive policy issue between these two candidates.

TOOBIN: It's a beautiful thing. This is why we should have campaigns. And why it's especially good to be talking about this is that it's important in its own terms. But it's also symbolic of a larger approach that's different between the two campaigns.

Barack Obama is someone who is going to say diplomacy first. Diplomacy has been neglected.

John McCain is saying this is dangerous naivete. This is real substantive difference and voters can decide which -- which side is right.

BORGER: Not to raise politics here, though. Can I also say that it's a bit diversionary...

TOOBIN: Well, that didn't take long.


BORGER: Well, it is a bit diversionary, right, because we have the news today that John McCain has had to lose five staffers because of their lobbying practices. And he has said that he doesn't want lobbyists working in his campaign. And so we're talking about foreign policy as opposed to that story, which the McCain campaign believes works to its advantage. So there is some politics here, too.

BLITZER: There's always politics. But on the substance, it's good to see they're discussing an important issue, Jack, like this, don't you think?

CAFFERTY: Oh, yes. Iran is going to have some votes in the future of the Middle East. Thanks to George Bush and John McCain's rush into war with Iraq, they probably have more votes now than they had before that war started. But they're going to have some votes. Their nuclear program is proceeding apace. We have had virtually no foreign policy that consisted of diplomacy in that part of the world in a good long while. And so, I suppose in November, the voters will decide whether it's better to see if we can make a deal or just sit back and wait until they have nuclear weapons, and then -- what?

TOOBIN: You know, I think it's interesting that McCain chose to pick a fight over the issue of even speaking. It's not arms sales, it's not an invasion. He's saying Obama is wrong even to speak to the Iranians. And I think that's a tougher position to defend.

BORGER: Well, he's saying it's wrong if there are no preconditions. You know, I mean he is making -- he is making that distinction. He's saying with preconditions, perhaps you could eventually get around to talking.

TOOBIN: And it was interesting. Susan...

BORGER: But he's saying without preconditions, forget it.

TOOBIN: Susan Rice just said to Wolf -- and I thought it was a very interesting interview -- she said, well, there won't be preconditions, but there will be preparations.

BORGER: Right.

CAFFERTY: Well, of course.

TOOBIN: Now, I'm not sure what I understand what the difference is there.

CAFFERTY: I mean what do they think, that he's going to jump on Air Force One, fly over to Tehran, get in a cab and go to Ahmadinejad's house, knock on the door and say hey, you got a minute?

Come on. I mean this is nonsense. It's politics.

BORGER: That sounds like a good ad.

BLITZER: All right, let me...

CAFFERTY: It's politics.

BLITZER: Let me talk a real political story -- Geraldine Ferraro.

And, Gloria, I want you to weigh first -- weigh in first. We all know the history of some of the controversial remarks she made about Barack Obama. She had to leave formally a position she had in the Clinton campaign. And then she said this, she says if Obama gets the nomination, she might not vote for him, even though she's a Democrat and was the vice presidential nominee. "I think Obama," she said, "was terribly sexist."

What do you think of this?

BORGER: Well, I think the Clinton campaign was quick to come out and say that they don't agree with Gerri Ferraro's remarks. Look, I have a great deal of respect for Gerri Ferraro. I covered her vice presidential campaign when she ran -- not to age myself too much. But I think that...


CAFFERTY: You look better than she does.

BORGER: Well, thank you, Jack. I may be the first person who's gotten a compliment on the air from Jack Cafferty.

Can we put that on the record?

Now I forgot what I was going to say I'm just so stunned.


BLITZER: You were saying...

BORGER: I think that she's clearly angry. I think that she's clearly angry at the Obama campaign and that has come out in her statement.

BLITZER: All right, what do you think, Jeff?

TOOBIN: Well, I think she looks bad. I think she looks kind of embarrassing and petty and small, when you consider the stakes of this election. The question that we all need to ask -- and I don't know the answer -- is how many thousand million hundred voters feel like she does?

How much is the bitterness of this Obama/Clinton campaign going to carry over?

The Obama campaign says not at all.

BORGER: To women. To women.

TOOBIN: Among women or men. And I think if Geraldine Ferraro is a leading indicator, it's a bad sign for Obama.

BLITZER: Very quickly, Jack, button it up.

CAFFERTY: OK. Her candidate lost and the candidate she doesn't like won and she's steamed and nobody cares.


CAFFERTY: Is that quick enough for you?


BLITZER: That's a nice button up from Jack Cafferty. He's got The Cafferty File coming...

BORGER: And I got a compliment.

BLITZER: And you got a compliment. Very nice.

BORGER: I'm so excited.

Thanks, Jack.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. We're going to continue this with Jack shortly.

But let's go to Lou right now to see what's coming up at the top of the hour.

What are you working on -- Lou?


Tonight, we're reporting on a major escalation in the drug war raging along our border with Mexico. Four people, at least one of them an American citizen, murdered in cold blood. We'll have that live report from the border.

By the way, former -- well, current governor, Bill Richardson of New Mexico, has just been asking folks to lift that travel warning for Americans in Mexico. It turns out that was a really bright idea.

And rising outrage over Democrats' efforts to defy the will of the people again. They're trying to sneak amnesty legislation for illegal aliens through the Senate. One of the Senate's leading opponents of all of that is Senator Jeff Sessions. He's among our guests here tonight.

And the federal government is talking tough about dangerous imports from communist China. It even wants to send inspectors to China.

What are they doing?

Is this a P.R. stunt from this administration?

We'll find out. And we'll find out who's guilty of hypocrisy on the presidential campaign trail in the nasty fight over which candidate is best qualified to fight radical Islamist terrorism.

Join us for all of that and a great deal more at 7:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right. Lou.

Thanks very much.

It's a one-of-a-kind primary, using rules we haven't seen before this election season. We're going to show you what's different about Oregon.

Plus, the billionaire investor Warren Buffett -- he weighs in on the race for the White House. You're going to find out what he has to say about all the candidates.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Oregon, which holds its primary tomorrow, is 100 percent vote by mail -- the only state that votes exclusively by mail.

Washington State is a mostly mail-in vote, but not completely. Ballots are due about 8:00 p.m. Pacific time tomorrow. Voters can mail them or deliver them to designated drop sites. And the numbers so far -- as of Thursday, the latest figures available, 582,998 ballots have been returned. That's about 29 percent of the total.

The billionaire investor Warren Buffett says he's told both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton he'll support whichever one of them becomes the Democratic nominee. Speaking in Germany today, Buffett said both Democrats have what it takes to be president. Buffett says John McCain is "a first class human being," but he doesn't agree with him as much as he agrees with the Democrats.

John McCain is trying once again to get the last laugh on critics who say he's simply too old to be president. Appearing on "Saturday Night Live" this weekend, McCain jokingly turned the younger is better argument on its head.

Listen to this.


MCCAIN: I ask you, what should we be looking for in our next president?

Certainly, someone who is very, very, very old.



BLITZER: Let's go back to Jack Cafferty for the Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is, how much of a role did sexism play in the likely defeat of Hillary Clinton?

Tom in Florida writes: "Absolutely none. She lost because she ran an extremely poor campaign. Nobody was buying the inevitability of her presidency except her and her closest advisers. If anything, being a woman kept her in the running longer than she should have been."

Jason in Brooklyn says: "It wasn't sexism, Jack. We want change in Washington. After years of scandals, impeachment, war and a furthering divide between rich and poor Americans, the American people are not willing to elect four consecutive presidents from only two families."

Differ in Maryland writes: "Sexism played a major role in this process. Let's not kid ourselves about this. As a man, I believe if were at peace, then it might have been a woman's time. But we're at war. Men protect their women in this country. If that's sexism, then so be it. It's a mindset. It will take a strong man -- and not a fanatic -- to get us out of this mess."

Martha in Los Angeles: "I am a woman of Hillary's age, raised with the same feminist sensibilities as her. And there's no doubt to me that racism has played a far larger role than sexism in this race, due, in part, to Hillary herself. Her mistake was in thinking that a woman has to behave like a crass, lowest denominator man in order to be elected. That has nothing to do with sexism and everything to do with the way Hillary approached her campaign -- and, for that matter, is still approaching it. Frankly, as a woman leader myself, she's embarrassed me."

And Kristi writes in Indiana: "It hadn't -- it hasn't had the negative effect that Hillary would have you believe. In fact, as a woman who idolized her as first lady, I've been increasingly discouraged by her actions, beginning with her vote for the war in 2002. She joined the good old boys club at that moment and she's never looked back."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at Look for yours there. There are hundreds of them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: See you tomorrow, Jack.

Thanks very much.

A top high tech executive is the target of an egg attack. And it's all over the Internet.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton -- Abbi, what happened?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, Microsoft's CEO, Steve Ballmer, was in Hungary to announce an I.T. training program with the Hungarian government. But at this Budapest university, one man wasn't impressed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The nations to take...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, you, Microsoft has stolen (INAUDIBLE) to the Hungarian people. Give that money back right now.


TATTON: The unidentified man's t-shirt reads "Microsoft equals corruption." Hurling eggs, he accuses Microsoft of costing Hungarians millions of dollars. He misses, though. Ballmer emerges from under a desk unscathed and egg free. A Microsoft spokesman told CNN the man was asked to leave immediately by the university dean and Steve continued his speech in good humor. The spokesman defended their new program as building a stronger Hungarian I.T. economy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Abbi.

Predicting the next president of the White House -- here's the question, can astrologers do better than all the pundits?

Jeanne Moos, getting ready for a Moost Unusual look at the stars.


BLITZER: I think we have some Hot Shots, pictures coming in from the Associated Press -- pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow.

In Washington, Senator John McCain boards his charter plane at Reagan National Airport. He's headed to Chicago and then on to Georgia.

In Kentucky, a fan presents Senator Hillary Clinton with a kitchen tool to autograph.

In Montana, Senator Barack Obama greets supporters in a town hall meeting. Obama supporters filled the high school gym there to its 3,000 seat capacity. It was the first of three stops Obama made in Montana, which holds its primary on the 3rd.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots -- pictures often worth a thousand words.

It's all in the stars -- that's what some astrologers are saying about who will be the next occupant of the White House.

CNN's Jeanne Moss has this Moost Unusual look.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Look to the stars.

CLINTON: Celestial choirs will be singing.

MOOS: I see a new president in our future.

And who needs an election when there's an astrologers' convention to tell us the winner?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hillary being a Scorpio, you can never count her out.


MOOS: Fifteen hundred astrologers gathered for the United Astrology Conference in Denver -- the perfect spot to pick up vibes from the upcoming Democratic convention Denver will be hosting. While the political world fixates on John McCain's age, the astrologers were more interested in the exact time of McCain's birth, which his mom helpfully supplied in this Mother's Day video. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM JOHN MCCAIN FOR PRESIDENT CAMPAIGN AD)

ROBERTA MCCAIN, JOHN MCCAIN'S MOTHER: Well, anyway, this baby came out, I think, about 11:00.


MOOS: Astrologists need birth times to chart the future. Forget John King's magic wall -- astrologists have their own charts, though this guy predicted Hillary would win Super Tuesday, when Barack Obama and Hillary actually split.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So (INAUDIBLE) is coming and saying, Hillary, hey, here I am to protect you.


MOOS: Protect us from John McCain's chart, which sounds vaguely obscene.

JON STEVENS, ASTROLOGER: He has transiting Uranus directly on top of his natal Saturn.

MOOS: The prediction, please.

STEVENS: The person holding the highest office in the land will be referred to as Madam President.

MOOS: That prediction was made about two months ago. This one came about two years ago.




MOOS: A self-proclaimed prophet called the ancient one.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our current president will be running again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're kidding me?


MOOS: Or maybe you prefer Tarot cards.



(END VIDEO CLIP) MOOS: Obama's card suggested charity. Hillary's card, with three swords plunged into a heart...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Emotional pain.


MOOS: And McCain's card indicated an aggressive, take charge attitude, suggesting he might win.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: King of swords.


MOOS: The most accurate reading so far came from psychic Sylvia Browne almost six months ago, predicting the Democratic frontrunner.


SYLVIA BROWNE, PSYCHIC: I think Obama. I think she's going to look like she's going to run away with everything and then all of a sudden she flattens out.


MOOS: A Gallup poll showed that 25 percent of Americans believe in astrology. But, hey, if candidates can predict the future -- say, the year 2013.

MCCAIN: ...which led to the capture or death of Osama bin Laden.

MOOS: ...why not astrologists -- or even kids?

(on camera): Is John McCain going to be the next president?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is John McCain going to be the next president?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is Hillary Clinton going to be the next president?



MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO TAPE) BLITZER: Let's go right to Lou.

He's got "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.