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The Situation Room

Democrats Fight for Florida; Israel and Syria Negotiate Through Turkey; McCain Spokesman Denies Runningmate Selection Process; Cindy McCain's 'Vogue' Spread

Aired May 21, 2008 - 17:00   ET


Happening now, Senator Ted Kennedy goes home from the hospital with an upbeat wave to well-wishers. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta will show us what Kennedy is up against right now.

Also, the Democrats drop in on Florida. But Barack Obama is looking ahead to a likely battle with John McCain, while Hillary Clinton is looking for ways to seat Florida's banned convention delegates and keep her campaign alive.

And President Bush says it's OK for Americans to send cell phones to Cuba, while his would be successors send signals about how they'd deal with the regime in Havana.

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The Democratic candidates dropped in on Florida today. Barack Obama envisioning a future battle there with John McCain, Hillary Clinton haunted by ghosts of past votes, the primary and delegates that don't count. Clinton needs every delegate she can get because after last night's split in the Kentucky and Oregon primaries, Barack Obama is only 64 delegates away from the magic number needed for the nomination. He got 1,962 delegates. Clinton has 1,777.

Let's begin this hour with the Democrats in Florida. Jessica Yellin is watching this story for us.

Jessica, this is the first time both Clinton and Obama have actively campaigned in Florida since that disputed primary.


Barack Obama has not been here since November, Clinton since January. And now they're both trying to make up for lost time.


YELLIN (voice-over): It's Florida fever -- Clinton and Obama in the same state with very different goals. Obama in Central Florida, campaigning for the general election.


YELLIN: After staying away for months, Obama is trying to built support in a state that put Bush in the White House twice.

OBAMA: It is good to be back in Florida. It's good to be back. I know you guys have been holding down the fort.

YELLIN: The Obama campaign has trained hundreds of Florida volunteers to register new voters. They're counting on them to win in the fall -- the focus especially on African-Americans, women, young Republicans and students.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Here in Florida, more than 1.7 million people cast their vote.

YELLIN: Senator Clinton in Miami is here fighting for her legacy with this message.

CLINTON: I believe the Democratic Party must count these votes exactly as they were cast.

YELLIN: Clinton seems to have an advantage in the state. The latest Quinnipiac Poll shows she would beat McCain here 49 to 41. But Obama is in a statistical tie with McCain. Still, after years of Republican control, Democrats are feeling optimistic.

MARK BUBRISKI, FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY SPOKESMAN: Republicans have been in charge of Florida for some time now. People are fed up. We're seeing just a mass migration to the Democratic Party.

YELLIN: There are 400,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans here and Democrats picked up nine house seats in 2006. The Democratic Party in Florida says they plan to give McCain a run for his money.

BUBRISKI: A Republican cannot be elected president without winning Florida. So Democrats are going to challenge here very, very hard.


YELLIN: (AUDIO GAP)... in Florida, and that's money. Barack Obama is holding three major fundraisers in the state today and tomorrow. To host one of them, guests are asked to raise $46,000 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jessica. Thanks very much.

John McCain is not formally campaigning today, but he did issue a statement hammering Barack Obama on the issue of talking with Iran and his stance on the war in Iraq. McCain says he doesn't fear negotiating but says he has "the knowledge and experience to understand the risks" of what he calls Obama's "naive approach" to presidential summits.

Meantime, the former Republican presidential candidate, Rudy Giuliani, is now in McCain's corner. And he strongly came to his defense today on Iraq.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I also want to pay homage today to not only the members of the Congress who are behind me, but also to Senator Ted Kennedy, who has worked for over a decade to get this piece of legislation to a president's desk. All of us are so pleased that Senator Kennedy has gone home and our thoughts and prayers are with him.


BLITZER: All right, that was President Bush speaking about President -- about Senator Kennedy, clearly, not Rudy Giuliani. We'll see if we can get that sound bite from Rudy Giuliani cued up later in the program.

Senator Ted Kennedy is back home on Cape Cod awaiting more test results and treatment options for his malignant brain tumor. Kennedy was surrounded by family as he left the Massachusetts General Hospital. And you can take a look at this. You can see the bandage on the back of his head covering the area where doctors performed a biopsy on him. President Bush paid tribute, as we just heard, as he signed a bill that Kennedy cosponsored banning discrimination based on genetic testing.

Let's go to Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's our chief medical correspondent, himself a neurosurgeon. He's here. And we're watching all of this very, very closely. As a brain specialist yourself -- and you obviously don't -- you're not access -- you don't have -- you're not privy to his specific test results.


BLITZER: But what do we know based on what the doctors already are saying?

GUPTA: Well, you know, a couple of things. It's interesting, that video you just showed, Wolf, about him walking out of the hospital told us a lot, actually. As we've talked about so much with these scans, this tumor, as they've told us, as we make our way and reconstruct the brain -- and, again, with the eyes and the nose sort of painting (ph) forward. And over here, you see the image, again, the eyeballs. This is where that tumor was. We talked so much yesterday, Wolf, about that motor area being close to this tumor. If it was actually pushing on it, he wouldn't have been able to move his right arm.

BLITZER: Because we saw him waving his hand.

GUPTA: Right. Waving his hand, waving his arm. That was very important and a very good sign. He's also talking and able to understand speech -- again, very important things because these sorts of things over here are the speech areas. So you see those images again with him waving. You hear him talking, you hear him receiving speech, all very good. BLITZER: And we also saw that little bandage on the back of his head. Tell us what that means.

GUPTA: You know, what happens -- sometime between Saturday and yesterday, he had the brain biopsy. And I can show you -- this is actually a great image to be able to show you this sort of thing...

BLITZER: So, do they actually drill a little hole in there?

GUPTA: Yes. It's amazing. So right in this area, probably around here, that skull, Wolf, there's probably a little gap in now Senator Kennedy's head right about here. And they actually take a little probe and they put it straight down into the brain and take out a few small pieces. Those small pieces then are taken to a microscope and they're looked at. And that's how they made this diagnosis of malignant glioma.

But, yes, I mean you can see just how small it was. Just a small little Band-Aid covers up a small little incision. That's all that's necessary to really get that -- that biopsy done.

BLITZER: With this scan, they detected the tumor, obviously.

Are there any other ways to detect a tumor?

GUPTA: Well, you know, it's interesting, when you look at the tumor overall, it sort of -- when it starts to grow in size, for example, it may cause some pressure to the point where people get headaches. He may have had a little bit of right arm numbness or may have lost a word at some point.

But, you know, those things are easy to dismiss, Wolf. You know, it's one of those things where it happens. You may say I don't know what that was all about. And you don't think it's anything serious. Those could have been some warning signs ahead of time.

The seizure -- that was sort of a stern warning that something needs to be done. The brain was at a break point. And that's what prompted the scan. This is not his scan, again. This is the G.E. Advantage Workstation, which is not FDA approved. But this is...

BLITZER: So there's no tumor in this scan?

GUPTA: There's no tumor in this scan.

BLITZER: This is a healthy brain.

GUPTA: Right. Exactly.

BLITZER: And I guess, you know, people are wondering, you know, you have a headache, you know, my arm is a little numb right now.

What do you do if you have a situation like that, because people are going to be educated about this and there's going to be a lot of people saying, oh, I think that could be me? GUPTA: Right. And we don't want to frighten people, certainly. I think, you know, headaches are obviously a pretty common thing. But when it comes to arm numbness or arm weakness or something like that, if it's persistent, then it may be time to go do something else. Again the G.E. Workstation here, though, sort of showing us the images of these brains -- a rare look inside the brain that we hardly ever get to see -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sanjay, thanks very, very much.

Fascinating material, Jack. And, you know, Sanjay's got this technology we really see that.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Let me tell you, this is -- this is fascinating stuff. I mean he can explain it. He understands it. But for the rest of us...

BLITZER: I mean he is a brain surgeon.

CAFFERTY: I understand.


CAFFERTY: And he's the only one here, by the way.


CAFFERTY: John McCain's chief media consultant is leaving his campaign because he says he doesn't want to work against Barack Obama. Mark McKinnon says he's going to stay true to a vow that he made months ago not to campaign against Obama. At the time of the vow, McKinnon said the election of Obama would "send a great message to the country and the world". And although McKinnon says he disagrees with Obama on issues like Iraq -- he thinks McCain would still be a better president -- he doesn't want to work against the likely Democratic nominee.

McKinnon says that he'll remain a friend and fan of McCain's campaign. He says he's just moving from middle linebacker to cheerleader for McCain.

McKinnon's resignation could symbolize some of the challenges that John McCain might face this fall running against an historic candidate like Barack Obama. In a lot of ways, McCain is entering uncharted territory -- running against the first black presidential candidate from a major political party.

Meanwhile, McKinnon becomes the sixth adviser to leave the campaign in recent days and John McCain is now taking some heat from a fellow Republican, Senator Chuck Hagel, his friend. "The Huffington Post" reports Hagel says he's very upset with some of the things his long time friend McCain has been saying. Hagel is especially disappointed with some of McCain's comments about Iran, as he attacks Obama on foreign policy. And Chuck Hagel says he thinks McCain is "smarter than some of the things he's saying" and hopes there'll be a higher level discourse come the general election. This coming from his friend.

So here's the question: What's the significance of a top McCain adviser resigning because he doesn't want to campaign or work against the historic candidacy of Barack Obama?

Go to and you can post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: You know, they really were pretty good friends. They're both Vietnam War veterans. They've worked together on a lot of legislation. It's pretty surprising to hear Chuck Hagel's blunt talk.

CAFFERTY: Hagel is a terrific guy, but he's very blunt and honest and to the point and he kind of calls them like he sees them, which I'm sure John McCain can appreciate. He's kind of the same way.

BLITZER: All right. Good.

Jack, thank you.

It could be a major breakthrough, then again, maybe not. The Middle East peace process -- there are new details emerging right now about a surprise announcement involving two long time enemies. You're going to want to see and learn what's going on.

Also, a small but significant shift in U.S. policy toward Cuba. You're going to find out how the White House is now daring president Raul Castro to reform.

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


BLITZER: And we're just getting this story in from "The New York Times". Their top political reporter, Adam Nagourney, reporting in the story that's just been posted on their Web site that Senator John McCain is about to start meeting with prospective vice presidential candidates for his ticket, including Charlie Crist, the governor of Florida, and Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana. Mitt Romney is expected to meet with, as well. These meetings could begin, according to Adam Nagourney's report in "The New York Times," in the as early as this weekend in Arizona.

Let's discuss with Gloria Borger, our senior political analyst. Adam is a really excellent reporter.


BLITZER: We know him very well. I'm sure he's got this pretty hard.

What do you make that the actual interview process could begin within the coming days?

BORGER: Well, I think the McCain campaign has had a lot of time, while the Democrats have been battling, to try and get together their vice presidential running mate list. And it's interesting that these two names have leaked, Wolf, because very often when you leak these kind of interviews, you're doing them because you want to help these folks. You know, it's always good back home to say, gee, John McCain was thinking of me for vice president. Bobby Jindal, as you know, is so young...

BLITZER: Thirty-six-years-old.

BORGER: Thirty-six-years-old, for example...

BLITZER: A former congressman, recently elected governor of Louisiana.

BORGER: That's right. That's right. Charlie Crist is very, very...

BLITZER: Fifty-one-years-old.

BORGER: ...very helpful to McCain in the State of Florida. And so it's good for these folks to be seen with McCain. And McCain is clearly thinking of some governors that could help him win some important states, like Florida.

BLITZER: And as Adam is writing in "The New York Times," he's scheduled to meet on Friday with these two Republican governors and that Mitt Romney might come in over the weekend, as well. Another name that's often been mentioned, the Republican governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, has got a wedding, apparently, this weekend. But he might be on that short list as a possible contender.

BORGER: You know, a lot of times, Wolf, we don't know about these meetings, that campaigns go out of their way to kind of do them in the darkness of night, so we don't know about them. It's interesting to me that the McCain campaign is essentially letting these things out so that we know who's on -- who's on their list. I'm wondering if it's sort of a different approach to choosing a vice president.

BLITZER: Steve Schmidt, a top adviser to John McCain, is quoted in the article as saying we don't talk about V.P. selection processes. It's unclear who's leaking what...

BORGER: Yes...

BLITZER: ...where it's all coming from.

BORGER: It could be the folks.

BLITZER: It could be the actual candidates themselves leaking information.

BORGER: Exactly.

BLITZER: All right.

Thanks very much, Gloria. Don't go far away, because you're coming back. There's another important story we're follow righting right now in the Middle East. Only months ago, Israel attacked an alleged nuclear site in Syria. Now the two long time foes have made a stunning announcement. That announcement coming just a little while ago. They are indirectly negotiating a possible peace deal, using Turkey as a go-between.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Elaine Quijano. She's following this story.

What are you picking up? What are administration officials saying about Turkey trying to mediate some sort of deal between Israel and Syria?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this news might have been surprising to some, but apparently it is no surprise to President Bush, who, of course, is just back from visiting the Middle East last week. President Bush, according to officials, has apparently had discussions with Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, about these indirect peace talks. The U.S. has essentially been in the loop on this process from the very beginning, including staff level discussions, as well.

But the Bush administration says that these peace talks are really very much in keeping with the broader goal of the United States here. And that is a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, a chance to perhaps drain away any support for sources of instability in the region.


DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What we hope is that this is a forum to address various concerns that we all share about Syria -- the United States, Israelis and many others -- in regards to Syria's support for Hamas and Hezbollah, the training and funding of terrorists that belong to those two organizations.


QUIJANO: Now, also factoring into the equation, of course, the possibility of peeling away Syria from Iran. The U.S. believes that perhaps if there is progress in these talks, while they know it will be very difficult, that perhaps that progress could further isolate Iran and put more pressure on that country, Wolf, to come clean about its nuclear ambitions -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Elaine, thanks very much.

Elaine's at the White House following this story for us -- potentially very, very significant -- the first time in eight years we've learned of direct talks involving the Israelis and the Syrians.

Congress demanding answers right now from oil company executives about the record high gas prices that we're all facing. You're going to find out what they say could help bring down those prices.

Plus, we'll show you why you may want to travel extra light the next time you fly or be willing to pay the price.

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


BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Carol, what's going on?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, oil company executives summoned by the Senate Judiciary Committee to explain record high gas prices. The corporate chiefs said they, too, are concerned about the impact to the country's economy, but it's a matter of supply and demand and there is little they can do. But they said more drilling in this country could help.


PETER ROBERTSON, VICE CHAIRMAN, CHEVRON: Congress has recently made some hard policy choices on renewables and energy efficiency. We hope you can also make the equally hard choices to open up more federal lands and allow us to responsibly produce more American oil and natural gas.


COSTELLO: The hearing came as crude oil hit a new record high price, topping $133 a barrel.

Higher unemployment and high inflation -- it's not a pretty picture -- but that's the one the Federal Reserve officials are painting in a new economic forecast projecting growth as low as three tenths of a percent this year. They're also indicating they're done with interest rate cuts for now. Wall Street was not pleased. The Dow plunged more than 200 points.

The utility that provides power to almost nine million Americans may be vulnerable to a cyber attack. That's the conclusion of a new government report, which says the Tennessee Valley Authority hasn't done enough to protect its systems from an online assault. The TVA runs 52 power facilities, including nuclear and hydroelectric plants.

It pays to travel light especially, if you're flying American Airlines. It says it's going to charge 15 bucks for your first checked bag starting on June 15. The airline says it's being forced to raise baggage and other fees in the face of billions of dollars of unexpected fuel costs. American says it will also cut flights and lay off thousands of workers.

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

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Carol. We'll come back to you shortly.

Campaign cash -- we have new information about how much the presidential hopefuls are raising and how they plan to use it. We're going to show you who has what.

Plus, Cindy McCain like you've probably never seen her before. You're going to find out what's behind her magazine photo spread.

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


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

Happening now, the House Ethics Committee announcing an initial probe into Republican Congressman's Vito Fossella's drunken driving arrest. The aftermath revealed an affair and an out of wedlock child. Fossella now says he won't seek re-election.

President Bush has vetoed a $300 billion farm bill, saying it wastes taxpayer dollars and threatens international trade. But the bill passed Congress with enough votes to override the veto -- a move that could come soon.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is accusing the U.S. of spying on his country. He cited the U.S. Navy anti-drug surveillance plane that flew into Venezuelan air space last week. Chavez says the next time he'll respond with fighter jets.

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

The campaign funds keep on flowing in, especially to Barack Obama's presidential effort. And once they decide on a nominee, the Democrats will likely have deep pockets for the battle against John McCain.

Let's go to Brian Todd. He's watching this story for us.

Brian, the Democrats aren't necessarily always used to being in this position.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're not used to it, Wolf. And political analysts say this election cycle has tilted the balance from decades of Republican dominance in fundraising and it reflects how excited Democratic voters are about their chances this fall.


TODD (voice-over): He's got campaign momentum and cash in hand. But Barack Obama's still hitting the fundraising circuit in Florida and threatening to turn the Republicans' traditional money advantage on its ear.

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: I think the big story is not just what Obama has raised, it is what McCain hasn't raised. This is really unusual for a Republican candidate for president.

TODD: Obama has now raised more than $272 million in this campaign -- nearly three times more than John McCain has. Hillary Clinton trails Obama in fundraising and is nearly $20 million in debt, but she's still raised more than twice McCain's total. So whoever the Democratic nominee is will start out with a big money advantage.

That's a turnaround from past presidential races, when the GOP has consistently out raised and outspent the Democrats. The one thing that could level the playing field?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I repeat my commitment to public financing if he will.

TODD: If McCain or Obama accept taxpayer financing, they'd each be limited to spending $85 million between their conventions and election day. Obama has been accused by Republicans of hedging on a promise to take public financing. But his campaign says he only pledged to pursue an agreement with McCain to do that if he is the nominee. Analysts say if Obama secures the nomination and doesn't take taxpayer money, he could outspend McCain by huge margins, no matter which course McCain takes.

Would it make a difference?

JEANNE CUMMINGS, POLITICO: And that could make a difference because he can expand the battlefield. He can compete in states where McCain will have to pick and choose where he can compete because of his financial limitations.


TODD: But another way McCain can close the gap is to ask the Republican National Committee to chip in separate from McCain's own fundraising or taxpayer financing. The RNC can buy ads and do other things to help McCain. And, as of now, the RNC has raised 10 times more money than the Democratic National Committee in this cycle -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian. Thanks very much.

Let's bring in our chief national correspondent John King. He is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"The New York Times" has this story, John, that John McCain's getting ready in the coming days to start formally interviewing potential vice presidential candidates.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not true his campaign says, Wolf.

But, and it's an important but, three prospects, three men mentioned as frequently as prospects will be out at McCain property in Arizona this week.

I just got off the phone with Charlie Black who is a senior McCain adviser and he says, yes, Governor Charlie Crist of Florida, Governor Bobbie Jindal of Louisiana and former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts are invited out to the McCain ranch this weekend. He also says there are nine couples total out there. It's a social weekend, not a political weekend, and that Senator McCain values their advice, values their friendship but he's not going to be interviewing vice presidential candidates.

So then I said wait a minute Charlie, could this be to get a comfort level, spend time at a barbecue playing horseshoes, whatever it is they do out there just to see his comfort level? He insists not the case.

He also does acknowledge they're moving along with the process. They won't name the names publicly. These three gentlemen have all been mentioned as prominent potential candidates. They insist though Wolf that's not this is about that Senator McCain is not at that point where he'd be interviewing someone or looking over their record with them directly, questioning them back and forth. It certainly will raise fresh speculation about a very important decision he has to make.

BLITZER: There has to be a comfort level between a presidential candidate and his or her running mate. Maybe he just wants to get to know -- get to know them a little bit better.

KING: Maybe he'll send the three governors out to have a game or something or duel to see who wins.

This is a very difficult process for Senator McCain. Both he and his advisers, Charlie Black for example goes back to the Reagan and Bush campaigns. They remember the process that brought George H.W. Bush. They remember the process that was less structured, if you will, that brought Dan Quayle into the national stage. So they are trying to keep this as quiet as possible and not discuss it as possible. At the same time, they do acknowledge these men are coming and say the senator is moving along with his decision process.

Again, this is one of the interesting games we play in our business when a candidate is at this juncture. They say Charlie Black and his wife will be there, Meg Whitman, the businesswoman, will be there with her husband, and Fred Smith, the former of FedEx, Federal Express will be out there with his wife and they insist, again, this is a political and a social weekend, not an interview weekend. There's no question the two current governors and the one former governor are among those being considered. We'll ask our questions and they say no interviews just yet.

BLITZER: A lot of people just simply assume he's going to pick a governor and is going to pick someone way younger.

KING: One assumes that youth would be part of it that somebody who meets the test of presidency. There are so many theories within the McCain campaign and also within the Republican Party about what he should do.

Governor Crist would put a huge state, Florida, help him on the map there.

Governor Romney proved during the campaign he can talk good and eloquently about the economy. They didn't always get along during the campaign but they get high marks in the McCain campaign and from the senator himself with the fundraising and the ability and willingness and volunteering of Mitt Romney to go out and speak.

Bobbie Jindal, a young man, 36-years-old, that would be more of a risk, new upcoming Republican governor. Conservatives love him. He's a rising star in the Republican Party. Some say maybe a bit early for him. This is interesting to watch and they say it's not officially part of the process but I think this barbecue out at the ranch or social weekend out at the ranch will be viewed at a minimum as a curtain raiser.

BLITZER: Right. And Tim Polenti of Minnesota can't attend it according to the "Times" this week because he's got another commitment but he's on everyone's short list as well.

KING: He'll get an invite soon. I bet on that.

BLITZER: All right. John, thanks very much.

She rarely takes the spotlight but John McCain's wife Cindy is taking center stage for once with what some say is a very specific goal. CNN's Carol Costello once again joining us.

Carol, what is Cindy McCain doing now?

COSTELLO: Well you know Wolf, most of us don't know much about Cindy McCain except she's really, really rich. If you take a peek at "Vogue" Magazine, you may get a more rounded view.


COSTELLO: Cindy McCain in "Vogue" magazine looks spectacular lounging at her seaside condo sans John McCain, feet bare, wearing size zero jeans. She projects an image quite unlike the Cindy McCain we see on the campaign trail.

SUSAN MACMANUS, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA: So far Cindy McCain has been low key. She's been sort of taking the traditional role of standing by her husband's side at events and clapping and smiling and being supportive of her husband.

COSTELLO: A role critics say makes Mrs. McCain look like, well, Glenn Close in the movie the Stepford wives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that's all marvelous.

GLORIA ROEMER, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: You know, there's that saying going on for years. Don't hate me because I'm beautiful. That may apply here. She is very attractive. She can't help it.

COSTELLO: Roemer says Mrs. McCain's exterior belies who she really is. Mrs. McCain isn't perfect. She suffered a stroke four years ago and worked hard to overcome its effects. She donates tons of time and money to charitable causes. What voters do know about her, she's enormously wealthy and says she won't release her tax returns ever, which says to voters, you're not one of us. Hence "Vogue" and the jeans. MACMANUS: Jeans are as all American as apple pie. And in the fashion world, no matter what they look like, they're in fashion. And so it's no surprise that Cindy McCain would choose that spread with jeans and a nice shirt.

COSTELLO: Interestingly, while Cindy McCain chose jeans for her "Vogue" spread, her likely competitor Michelle Obama chose a traditional black dress with pearl earrings for her "Vogue" spread. As "The Washington Post" described it, it was as if Michelle Obama was saying I'm not some scary other. I'm Camelot with a tan. Whether these images will sway voters one way or another remains to be seen. We're still in the getting to know you stage.


COSTELLO: Yes, we are. In short, expect both would be first ladies to be much more visible in the future so you can get to know them, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that. Great photos in "Vogue" magazine.

Carol Costello reporting.

Something we take for granted is heading to Cuba. We have new details of a small but significant shift in U.S. policy and why the White House is daring President Raul Castro to reform.

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


BLITZER: It's a battleground state that George Bush won by only 10,000 votes in the last presidential election. Iowa may play a crucial role this time around as well. Barack Obama is already looking ahead.

Let's go to CNN's Suzanne Malveaux. She is on the scene for us.

Suzanne, Obama is making Iowa already a key part of the strategy.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He absolutely is, Wolf. This is only one other state besides New Mexico and New Hampshire that has recently flipped in the general election. It went to Gore in 2000, to Bush in 2004. What people are thinking here really makes a difference.


OBAMA: Iowa, change is coming to America.

MALVEAUX: Iowa, the state that put Barack Obama on the map, six months ago, once was the center of the universe. Remember these guys? They'd do just about anything for a vote. It was cold back then. Ten degrees below zero. Now it's green and warm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Iowa's much calmer now. For those of us who live here life is much saner than it was back then.

MALVEAUX: Soon the insanity returns as will the two general election candidates who'll fight over voters in the fall. Many Iowans are reflecting on their role in the primary, how the Democrats catapulted Obama into the lead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think one of the significant things is Barack Obama comes out of Iowa as a winner in a fairly Caucasian state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think basically I like his demeanor. This is a very caring human being. I think he comes across that way.

MALVEAUX: Some are baffled over the controversy over his patriotism and pastor.

DAVID YEPSEN, DES MOINES REGISTER: I think the Barack Obama that Iowans got to see is somewhat different than a lot of Americans get to see. Iowa was looking at him for a year and a half, two years prior to the caucuses. They got to meet him up close. They got to visit with him personally.

MALVEAUX: Others belief Hillary Clinton never recovered from her third place finish here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know if it has to do with the fact that we're -- you know, we're in the Midwest, a lot of very traditional values. And whether you want to factor in Bill Clinton's screw ups or however you want to refer to it, it's carried over on Hillary, I think, a little bit.

MALVEAUX: But being the first voters to cast their ballots does make Iowans special.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We kind of like that attention. It's fun.

MALVEAUX: But then everybody left.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody left, but they'll be back. They'll be back.

MALVEAUX: Do you miss them?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. No. I don't think so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's nice to see you and you folks. That's nice. But not every day.


MALVEAUX: Wolf, on the Republican side political analysts say that John McCain, this state is going to be kind of tough for him. He placed fourth to Mike Huckabee and he still has a lot of work to do when it comes to wins over the social conservatives.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Suzanne Malveaux, in Iowa. President Bush says Americans can start sending cell phones to Cuba while his would be successors are sending political signals about how they'll deal with Havana.

Our State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee, has the story.


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: It was showy at the White House. Only a slight shift in U.S. policy toward Cuba.

BUSH: We're going to change our regulations to allow Americans to send mobile phones to family members in Cuba.

VERJEE: That's the latest U.S. dare to Raul Castro to reform.

BUSH: Raul's serious about his so-called reforms, he'll allow these phones to reach the Cuban people.

VERJEE: The hope is that more dialing and texting will increase Cubans' freedom of expression and links to the outside world. Cuba experts say the old strategy of trying to isolate Cuba using trade and travel embargoes has been a failure. Castro remained in power, then passed the mantle to his brother Raul. Some say change is happening under Raul Castro. For the first time he has allowing Cubans to buy cell phones and computers.

SARAH STEPHENS, CTR. FOR DEMOCRACY IN THE AMERICAS: These things are important to Cubans whether or not they can afford them. The fact that the government is hearing them and understands that these are their desires and their wishes and is acting on that is very important.

VERJEE: Cuba is galloping on to center stage on the campaign trail with candidates targeting the key Cuban American vote in Florida.

OBAMA: Over time I would be willing to meet and talk very directly about what we expect from the Cuban regime.

MCCAIN: Unconditional meeting with Raul Castro. These steps would send the worst possible signal to Cuba's dictators.

CLINTON: I believe that we should have full diplomatic engagement where appropriate.

VERJEE: Experts say the majority of Cuban Americans want travel and other restrictions eased so tough talk may not guarantee votes.

STEPHENS: The political parties are still, you know, still believe in this myth that they have to sort of tow the hard line and that -- and that that's what the Cuban American mustn't wants to hear. I think they're wrong.


BLITZER: There's a lot still to be worked out. Especially if and where cell phones sent from the U.S. to Cuba will even work.

Zain Verjee, CNN, at the State Department.

Video that shocked the nation led to new rules meant to keep diseased beef out of food supply. Is it enough to keep your food safe?

He was a target of Republican attacks, successful attacks. Now he's got advice for this year's likely Democratic standard bearer. I'll speak with the former Democratic presidential nominee, Michael Dukakis right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Some political observers drawing comparisons between Barack Obama and John F. Kennedy including a behind the scenes player who has intimate knowledge of both men.

Mary Snow is watching the story for us.

Who is this man?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He is Ted Sorenson, Wolf, famous for the speeches he wrote for President Kennedy. He's also the man who helped JFK avoid a nuclear confrontation by talking to the enemy. Ted Sorenson is sympathetic to Barack Obama in his approach to reach out to adversaries.


SNOW: Ted Sorenson, a top adviser to President Kennedy sees a number of parallels with his former boss and Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic he's endorsed. He sat down to talk with us about the present and the past and his new book, "Counselor, a Life at the Edge of the History."

TED SORENSON, FORMER JOHN F. KENNEDY ADVISER: Kennedy had very little experience as a chief executive when he became president.

SNOW: Sorenson says he believes experience isn't as important as good judgment.

SORENSON: Kennedy's approach at foreign policy, negotiation, communication, diplomacy, international organizations and alliances is the opposite of the approach taken by the George W. Bush administration.

SNOW: Sorenson believes Kennedy's diplomatic approach was put to the test when he evaded disaster during the Cuban missile crisis. In 1962 a crucial moment; attempts at reaching a deal between Russia and the U.S. failed. Then Kruschef sent two letters. Kennedy took a gamble. He ignored the second letter and had Sorenson draft a response to his first more conciliatory note.

(on-camera): How much pressure was that for you? SORENSON: I was 34-years-old. I was not an expert on foreign policy or the Soviet Union. But I did know how to write letters and I did know what President John F. Kennedy wanted as an outcome, which was peace, not war.

SNOW (voice-over): Besides diplomacy he says there's another parallel between the 1960 presidential election and 2008. JFK and Lyndon Johnson were political rivals just as senator Clinton and Obama are today.

Despite the tension it created, Kennedy picked LBJ for vice president and Sorenson reveals for the first time the animosity lasted through JFK's administration. He includes paragraphs Jacqueline Kennedy asked him to cut out of his book in 1965.

SORENSON: Particularly striking were those about LBJ. She wanted me to take out some of the favorable references to LBJ which she thought were exaggerated. She said later in the White House her husband had become very disillusioned with LBJ.

SNOW: While he wants to set the history books straight, Sorenson also treasures the personal history of his 11 years working with JFK. Like this book Jackie gave him a month after the president was assassinated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For Ted. Jack was going to give this to you for Christmas. Please accept it now from me.

SORENSON: I just melt. She was a great lady, a wonderful lady. I was in awe of her all those years.


SNOW: Ted Sorenson had asked me to read that excerpt because a stroke eight years ago left him nearly blind. That's one of the reasons it took him about six years to write the book.

BLITZER: Amazing. All right, thanks very much.

Mary Snow, reporting for us.

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

CAFFERTY: Thirty-four-years-old when he wrote that letter. Wow.

The question this hour: What's the significance of a top McCain adviser resigning because he doesn't want to work against what he sees as a historic Obama candidacy?

Michael writes from Florida: "My hat is off. He said months ago he was going to do this and he kept his word. I will take it at face value. Just maybe more campaign experts will pay attention and get us all away from the nasty, negative personal politics which has become the norm. Politics was never clean, but we're sinking to new lows and it's killing democracy."

Matthew in Alabama: "It means even those from McCain camp know what's coming and some of them don't want to have to be blamed for attempting to stop it. Obama will win states in the fall a Democratic never dreamed of winning again. Some in the Republican Party don't want to be associated what they know will be utter failure."

Dee writes: "It seems there are men of character in the Republican Party. McKinnon and Chuck Hagel, Republican senator, making it clear they won't stand for the campaign to turn into a free for all. It's a pity for the Republicans. The example doesn't come from the nominee himself."

Scott in North Carolina: "Change is coming, Jack. He knows it. I think he's just getting out of the way so it doesn't get steam rolled along with the rest of the Republicans."

And Dominic from Hattiesburg, Mississippi: "It says all the nonsense about opinion polls and Hillary's attempts to divide the Democratic Party in April and May will be long gone once Obama's historic general election campaign begins. Most of the so-called problems in Obama's campaign are media manufactured to keep the public from falling asleep while Hillary pouts in the sand box."

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

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

Horrifying video prompting new rules to help keep your food safe. You're going to find out why some say it's simply not enough.

Bill Clinton calls it a cold-blooded and revolting strategy. He says he was really hurt by it. You're going to find out what he's so upset about.

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


BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends at the associated press. Pictures from the campaign trail in Florida.

In Miami, Senator John McCain sips a cup of espresso at a cafe in Little Havana.

In Tampa, young Democrats wait patiently for a campaign rally to begin.

Behind the scenes, Senator Barack Obama also waits before speaking before the crowd.

In Boca Raton, Senator Hillary Clinton autographs a sign for a supporter. The Democratic Party stripped the state of its convention delegates after it moved up its primary.

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

Video that shocked country has resulted in new rules designed to keep diseased beef out of the food supply. That alone may not be enough to keep your food safe. CNN's Jeanne Meserve is working the story for the CNN special investigations unit.

We warn you, her report contains some disturbing images -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, cows too sick to stand shocked with electric prods. The Humane Society video was met with horror and jolted the Agriculture Department into announcing this week it'll ban downer cattle from going to slaughter. Concerns about the safety of our food supply are not going away.


MESERVE: On the Teague ranch in Colorado, cattle are being fattened up for your summer barbecue.

GARY TEAGUE, FEED LOT OPERATOR: I know there's over 800,000 beef producers like myself across the country working hard every day to ensure the product we do put out there is safe and wholesome.

MESERVE: The graphic humane society videos raised questions about that.

WAYNE PACELLE, HUMANE SOCIETY: If we turned it up at this random investigation such horrid abuses, we must think that some of these abuses, at least, are going on at plants elsewhere.

MESERVE: By regulation, the downed cattle in the video should have been examined by a U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinarian before slaughter to make sure no animal with mad cow disease entered the food supply. It did not happen. In the furor that followed the meat industry and USDA did an about face. They now say no downed cattle should under any circumstances end up on our plate.

That has not ended the debate over whether our meat is safe. Stan Painter has been a USDA inspector for 22 years and now heads his union. He says there are not enough inspectors. Vacancy rates are as high as 20 percent in some parts of the country. He also says USDA is not allowing inspectors who are on the job to enforce existing food safety regulations.

(on-camera): So are they telling you not to do your job?

STAN PAINTER, FOOD INSPECTION UNION: They're telling us to, quote, let the system work.

MESERVE: Which means?

PAINTER: Which means if you see a problem, stand back and watch and see what the plant's going to do with it. MESERVE (voice-over): But there is sharp disagreement from Jay Truitt, until recently, a top official of the national cattleman's beef association. He says the military layered food inspection system works well.

JAY TRUITT, NATL. CATTLEMEN'S BEEF ASSN.: It's a great system and we've done a great job. We literally are looked around the world as having the safest product on the planet.


MESERVE: Painter is sometimes plants fix problems pointed out by inspectors. Sometimes they do not. Leading him to conclude our meat is not as safe as it could or should be -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeanne Meserve, thank you.