Dems & the Vote for War; Turkish Ambassador to U.S. Yanked; Middle Class
THE SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER
Aired October 11, 2007
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND
MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Barack Obama sharpening his
criticism of Hillary Clinton and what he calls her flawed judgment. This
hour, the Democratic presidential candidate talks to me about Senator
Clinton, the war, and the next phase of his campaign.
Also, why white men won’t jump. Do they keep voting Republicans because
they’ve been neglected by Democrats?
And tough choices for Christian conservatives. Do they go with Rudy
Giuliani, Mitt Romney, or none of the above? New attacks and
counterattacks today in the fight for voters of faith.
I’m Wolf Blitzer. You’re in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Democrat Barack Obama admits he needs to do a better job explaining how
he would be a different president than Hillary Clinton. So he’s
reminding voters of what happened exactly five years ago today. That’s
when Clinton and 76 other U.S. senators voted to authorize the use of
force in Iraq.
Listen to this exchange from my one-on-one interview with Obama today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think her judgment
was flawed on this issue. And I know that, you know, she was not the
only one who voted for this authorization. John Edwards, for example,
has acknowledged that it was a mistake.
I do think that Senator Clinton has tried to massage the past a little
bit, suggesting that it was a vote for inspectors. I think everybody at
the time, including you and the media and the American people,
understood this was a vote for war. You know, you can’t give this
president a blank check and then be surprised when he cashes it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Senator Obama suggests Senator Clinton is making a mistake
again by supporting a resolution that could give President Bush what
Obama calls a new blank check for military action against Iran.
We’re going to have the interview with Senator Obama. That’s coming up
later this hour. Obama may be eager to talk about the Senate vote
authorizing war. After all, he wasn’t in the U.S. Senate then. And he
says he opposed the invasion of Iraq from the start. He did. Days before
this vote five years ago, he announced his opposition to the war.
But what about the other Democrats?
Let’s bring in our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He’s
watching this story for us.
How are they remembering this five-year anniversary, Bill?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, it’s an anniversary
many Democrats would like to forget, and not just Democratic candidates.
SCHNEIDER (voice over): October 11, 2002, the Senate voted on going to
war in Iraq, one year after 9/11. Democratic senators faced an agonizing
Back in January 1991, most Democratic senators strongly opposed the
first Gulf War. In 2002, a narrow majority of Senate Democrats voted in
favor of the bill that authorized President Bush to use force, including
all four Democratic senators at the time who are now running for president.
John Edwards said then, "I believe that the risks of inaction are far
greater than the risks of action."
John Edwards says now…
JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I had the information I
needed. I just voted the wrong way.
SCHNEIDER: Hillary Clinton said then…
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will take
the president at his word, that he will try hard to pass a U.N.
resolution and will seek to avoid war if at all possibility.
SCHNEIDER: Hillary Clinton says now…
CLINTON: Obviously I would not vote that way again if we knew then what
we now know.
SCHNEIDER: Barack Obama was not in the U.S. Senate in 2002, but days
before the Senate vote, he said in a speech in Chicago…
OBAMA: I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a
U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined costs, with
SCHNEIDER: Obama argues his early opposition demonstrates his good
judgment. OBAMA: I think that it does bear on the judgment of myself and
Senator Clinton, and it speaks to how we will make decisions moving forward.
SCHNEIDER: Fair enough, but you also have to take into account the
judgment of Democratic voters.
In October 2002, Democrats were divided, 49 percent favored invading
Iraq. Now only 10 percent of Democrats favor the war.
SCHNEIDER: Will Democratic voters forgive candidates who changed their
position on the war? Well, many Democratic voters did precisely the same
thing — Wolf.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider watching this.
Thanks very much for that report.
Remember, Barack Obama here in THE SITUATION ROOM. My interview with
him, that’s coming up.
But let’s go to a new source of global tension right now.
Turkey recalling its ambassador to the United States. The announcement
coming after a House panel approved a bill describing mass killings of
Armenians during World War I as genocide.
Our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is on the Hill. She’s
watching this story for us.
Dana, the Bush administration is warning of some major consequences,
ramifications, if the full House moves forward with this legislation.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They sure are, Wolf. But you
know, a small but very vocal Armenian-American community, they have been
lobbying Congress for decades to call the mass killings actually genocide.
In the past, congressional leaders simply have not voted for it because
of that kind of pressure from the Turks and from presidents, Democrats
and Republicans, and the intense lobbying from high-powered lobbyists
that the Turks hired in order to do that. But that pressure is not
swaying the Democratic leaders now running Congress.
BASH (voice over): Mass killings of Armenians by the Turks took place
nearly a century ago. So why is the house moving to label it genocide now?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Because now — there’s never a
good time. And all of us in the Democratic leadership have supported —
are reiterating Americans’ acknowledgement of a genocide. BASH: Defiant
Democratic leaders say they view this as part of their mandate,
restoring America’s moral authority around the world.
REP. TOM LANTOS (D), FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHAIRMAN: When the Turkish
government says there was no genocide of Armenians, we have to set them
BASH: For Foreign Affairs chairman Tom Lantos, fighting for human rights
(on camera): You escaped two labor camps in Hungary?
BASH: And you were how old?
LANTOS: Well, by that time I was 16.
BASH (voice over): He is the only Holocaust survivor in Congress.
LANTOS: I feel that I have a tremendous opportunity as a survivor of the
Holocaust to bring a moral dimension to our foreign policy.
BASH: Lantos pushed the symbolic resolution calling Armenian killings
genocide despite intense pressure against it from the Bush
administration. He dismisses Turkish warnings this could jeopardize U.S.
relations with Turkey, a critical Mideast ally that insists the Armenian
deaths were not genocide.
(on camera): What if it says you’re not going to be able to use our air
space anymore, or you’re not going to be able to use our country to get
critical supplies to the men and women who are fighting in Iraq?
LANTOS: Well, with all due respect to the Turkish government, the
Turkish-American relationship is infinitely more valuable to Turkey than
it is to the United States. The Turkish government will not act against
the United States, because that would be against their own interests.
I’m convinced of this.
BASH: But the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee disagrees,
and that Democratic chairman, Ike Skelton, Wolf, wrote this letter to
the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, which CNN has obtained. And in it he warns
that the Armenian resolution could actually hinder the Democrats’ chief
goal in this Congress, and that is bringing troops home from Iraq. He
says that is because Turkey, of course, is a key transport point for
getting troops home from Iraq.
BLITZER: Dana Bash on the Hill for us.
Thanks, Dana, very much.
Let’s check in with Jack Cafferty. He’s in New York with "The Cafferty
I don’t remember, Jack — and we’re doing some research — when, if
ever, a NATO ally has withdrawn its ambassador to the United States from
Washington to express some protest. But we’re checking that out.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we have the speaker of the House of
Representatives, who has so far refused to stand up in any sort of
meaningful way to the Bush administration against the war in Iraq, which
was one of the reasons the Democrats got elected in the midterm
election, but she’s gone out of her way now to pass a resolution that
has angered one of our key allies in the current military conflict in
that part of the world over in an event that happened, what, almost 100
I don’t understand Washington, D.C. Would you give me some private
lessons some time?
BLITZER: We’ll have dinner one night.
An update now on a story we brought you last week in "The Cafferty File".
A federal judge — here’s another one that makes a lot of sense — a
federal judge in San Francisco has now ordered an indefinite delay on a
Bush administration measure to crack down on employers who hire illegal
aliens. That’s against the law.
The government’s new rule would have forced employers to fire workers if
their Social Security numbers couldn’t be verified within three months.
But this judge, Charles Breyer warned that the crackdown could have
potentially staggering impact on law-abiding workers and companies that
could lead to the firing of thousands of legal employees. He didn’t
explain, or at least I didn’t read exactly how he got to that
conclusion, that legal employees would get fired under this thing.
But the halt of the rule until the court now reaches a final decision
could take months, which means that the government cannot go forward
with its enforcement. And the federal judge’s decision has justifiably
caused outrage on the part of some lawmakers.
Republican Congressman Brian Bilbray, the chair of the House Immigration
Reform Caucus, said, "What part of ‘illegal’ does Judge Breyer not
understand? Using a Social Security number that doesn’t belong to you is
a felony. Judge Breyer is compromising the rule of law principles that
he took an oath to uphold."
The lawsuit was brought by a rather unlikely coalition of folks,
AFL-CIO, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the U.S. Chamber of
The question is this: Is it the place of a federal judge to stop the
government from enforcing the laws against hiring illegal aliens?
E-mail your thoughts to [email protected] or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile.
It’s like the "Twilight Zone" out there — Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, stand by. We’ll get back to you very soon.
Barack Obama isn’t the frontrunner, but he says he’s confident.
Supporters want him to come out swinging. He says he has a plan. You’re
going to find out what it is during my one-on-one interview. That’s
Also, President Bush is touting what he calls some good news about the
economy, but the picture isn’t necessarily rosy for the whole country.
You’ll see the numbers for yourself.
And conservative commentator Ann Coulter stirring up a new hornet’s nest
after some extremely controversial comments about Jews and America.
Stay with us. You’re in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: President Bush could have it his way. Right now there is some
positive news on the U.S. economy. The problem is that millions of
Americans simply don’t feel that way, and the White House is willing to
Let’s go right to our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux. She’s
watching this story.
A mixed bag of economic numbers. What’s going on?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf,
unemployment is down, the trade deficit is down. This is really good
news, but the Bush administration is having a tough time getting
traction on this. That’s because a lot of Americans don’t really feel
the good news right now, and that’s particularly among the middle class.
MALVEAUX (voice over): If you listen to President Bush on the economy,
it’s all good.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As a result of the hard
work of the American people, this economy is growing.
MALVEAUX: There was good news today. The trade deficit dropped nearly
2.5 percent between July and August. The U.S. selling more goods than
it’s buying, exporting more American wheat, chemicals and steel,
importing fewer cars and furniture.
Even the U.S. trade deficit with China closed a little, by five percent.
BUSH: We’ve had 49 consecutive months of uninterrupted job growth, which
is a record.
MALVEAUX: But that record growth isn’t good for everyone. Economists say
while it benefits the highest-paid workers in white- collar jobs and the
lowest wage earners in the service industry, it’s been devastating to
the middle class.
BRIAN BETHUNE, GLOBAL INSIGHT: These are assembly line workers that have
worked in the domestic automotive industry, or perhaps in a supplier to
that industry. They’re construction workers, so they would be definitely
middle income, middle to upper income-type families that have been affected.
MALVEAUX: The housing bust, the shrinking American dollar, and sluggish
retail sales are making some American workers downright anxious about
their economic future.
The latest AP-Ipsos poll shows a six percent increase since July, up to
15 percent of those who identify the economy, not the Iraq war, as the
country’s biggest challenge. Those numbers jumped to more than 20
percent among minorities and those without a college degree. The
administration concedes that not everyone is benefiting from this economy.
DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has encouraged
new types of job training programs, trade adjustment so that people who
lose jobs that have gone overseas can actually get new training for jobs
that they can get here.
MALVEAUX: But Wolf, as you know, that training does take time. In the
meantime, there are families that are struggling to put their kids
through college, to save their homes, and Democrats point out that it’s
some three million manufacturing jobs that have been lost since
President Bush first took office — Wolf.
BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux, thanks very much.
If there’s any place in the country where voters are likely to focus on
the negative economic news, it would be Michigan. It’s a key
battleground state where many are hurting far more than in other parts
of the country.
Let’s go right to our chief national correspondent, John King.
You’re just back from Michigan, John. How bad is it out there?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It’s pretty bad, Wolf.
Republicans were out there having their big debate. And much of the
country, as you travel, Iraq is the big issue. But as you noted, travel
to Michigan, there’s a lot of hurt and there’s one big issue, and it is
KING (voice over): The blight makes this battleground unique. SAUL
ANUZIS, MICHIGAN GOP CHAIRMAN: Listen, it’s all about jobs here in
Michigan. You know, we’re the only state in the country that has lost
jobs six years in a row.
KING: The brief strike against Chrysler was yet another reminder of the
American auto industry’s struggles and of the economic anxiety of
workers like Albert Matras, who see a way of life disappearing.
ALBERT MATRAS, UNION AUTO WORKER: We’re working for the middle class.
Where is it anymore? You’ve got people that are rich, you’ve got people
that are poor. We’re in the middle.
KING: It was here in the Detroit suburbs the term "Reagan Democrats" was
coined, and here, perhaps more than any other state, where the economy
will shape the presidential race.
Michigan’s unemployment rate is 7.4 percent, compared to just 4.7
percent nationally. In the past six years, although the national economy
has added 5.7 million jobs, Michigan has lost more than 332,000 —
100,000 of those in the past year alone.
SARPOLUS: It impacts the political environment. Luckily for Democrats
here in Michigan, they continue to blame the president.
KING: Yet Republicans see possibilities. Democratic governor Jennifer
Granholm just pushed through a sales tax increase. And the Democratic
presidential candidates won’t campaign here for now because Michigan
broke national party rules by moving its primary up to mid- January.
ANUZIS: So if the Republican candidates have a chance to campaign in
Michigan, to make their points in Michigan, I think this will be a very
KING: Most Michigan Republicans see native son Mitt Romney as their best
hope. The former Massachusetts governor is the son of former Michigan
governor George Romney, who made his name at the heyday of the U.S. auto
Republicans though haven’t carried Michigan for president in 20 years,
and pollster Ed Sarpolus says the odds favor the Democrats this cycle,
too. But he says overconfidence would be a big mistake, especially given
the turbulent economy.
SARPOLUS: We have a history in Michigan of voting for Republican
presidents, especially voting for Republican presidents when we have a
KING: And that history obviously a concern to the Democratic
frontrunner, Hillary Clinton. She alone among the leading Democrats has
not taken her name off the Michigan primary ballot. She says she won’t
campaign there because of the national rules, but, Wolf, she says taking
her name off the ballot would be like saying "good-bye, Michigan," and
turning away Democrats in the state. She says it is the state the
Democrats must, must win if they want to take back the White House next
BLITZER: A key battleground state.
Thanks very much for that, John King.
Barack Obama says he knows what he has to do before time runs out in his
race against Hillary Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I think that now is the time where we’re going to be laying out a
very clear contrast between myself and Senator Clinton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Just ahead, my one-on-one interview with Senator Obama. He
describes the next crucial phase of his campaign.
And have white men abandoned the Democratic Party, or is it the other
Stay with us. You’re in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Barack Obama says he has the right stuff, but wonders if
Hillary Clinton does.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I think I have a track record of anticipating some of the
problems that are out there that the next president is going to have to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And that’s mild, compared to what’s likely to come next from
the presidential candidate. He’s set to step up his attacks on Hillary
Obama will explain. My one-on-one interview, that’s coming up next.
And tough choices for some Republicans looking for a presidential
candidate they actually like. We’re going to tell you why some Christian
conservatives are not necessarily moved.
Stay with us. You’re in THE SITUATION ROOM. .
BLITZER: So long, Mr. Nice Guy. That’s what some people may soon be
saying about Senator Barack Obama. Hungry for the Democratic
presidential nomination, Obama is set to step up his attacks against his
rivals. And a prime target, of course, Hillary Clinton.
News of this comes amid an anniversary of a key event regarding the war
in Iraq, an event that helped change this nation’s history. It’s an
anniversary Obama believes shows what he calls Hillary Clinton’s flawed
BLITZER: And joining us now, the Democratic presidential candidate,
Senator Barack Obama. He’s joining us from his hometown in Chicago.
Senator, thanks for coming in.
OBAMA: Great to be with you.
BLITZER: Let’s talk a little bit about what happened five years ago
exactly today, October 11, 2002. The Senate voted 77-23 to authorize war
in Iraq against Saddam Hussein. You, a few days earlier, had opposed
going to war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
Hillary Clinton was among the 77 who voted in favor of that authorizing
resolution. Looking back, does that disqualify her to be president of
the United States?
OBAMA: Well, I don’t think it disqualifies her, but I think it speaks to
her judgment and it speaks to my judgment.
You know, this was the most important foreign policy decision since the
end of the Cold War. And when I stood up and opposed this war, I think I
laid out a very specific case for why we shouldn’t go in, that Saddam
Hussein didn’t pose an imminent threat, that we would be bogged down
without an exit strategy, that it would cost us billions of dollars and
thousands of lives and would distract us from the battle that had to be
waged against al Qaeda.
So, I think that it does bear on the judgment of myself and Senator
Clinton, and it speaks to how we will make decisions moving forward
because the next president is going to have a number of difficult
foreign policy decisions as well.
BLITZER: So, what I hear you saying is, it speaks to her judgment. And
you’re saying her judgment was simply bad.
OBAMA: I think her judgment was flawed on this issue. And I know that
she was not the only one who voted for this authorization. John Edwards,
for example, has acknowledged that it was a mistake.
I do think that Senator Clinton has tried to massage the past a little
bit, suggesting that it was a vote for inspectors. I think everybody at
the time, including you and the media and the American people,
understood this was a vote for war.
You can’t give this president a blank check and then be surprised when
he cashes it.
BLITZER: Explain to me this. And I’m going to put some numbers up on the
Among registered Democrats nationwide, she still is the front- runner —
47 percent in this latest Gallup poll, 26 percent for you, Senator
Obama, 11 percent for John Edwards.
And, specifically, in a "Washington Post"/ABC News poll — who did
Democratic voters trust to handle Iraq despite that vote, despite your
opposition to the war, going into the war, among registered Democrats in
this Washington Post poll, Clinton gets 52 percent, Obama gets 22
percent, Edwards, 17 percent.
Why are Democrats still, despite her vote — and a lot of them obviously
oppose the war — siding with her when they are asked these sensitive
OBAMA: Well, I think those polls just reflect the fact that Senator
Clinton remains the default candidate nationally. She is still better
known than I am. And I think those national polls aren’t going to change
too much until the early-state votes take place.
Look, if I was worried about polls, then I would be here celebrating the
fifth anniversary of me supporting the war, because, at the time, there
was overriding support for that war. The critical issue, I think, as
Democrats make a decision about who can lead them in this next difficult
phase of foreign policy and repairing the damage that George Bush has
done, is, who has the judgment to know when to use military force, when
not to use military force, who has the discernment to know how to use
diplomacy effectively in order to achieve some of our national security
And that’s something that I am confident I can do. And I think I have a
track record of anticipating some of the problems that are out there
that the next president is going to have to deal with.
BLITZER: Some of your supporters have been saying, increasingly
publicly, that they want you to become more aggressive, more forceful in
going after your Democratic presidential opposition.
Jesse Jackson saying this in ‘The New York Observer" the other day:
"It’s like boxing. You keep waiting for the big knockout punch. But,
while you have waited for the big knockout punch, you have lost so many
points. And that one big one might not be coming. My support has not
wavered for him, but my approach for getting the nation’s attention
would be different."
What do you say to the Reverend Jesse Jackson and others who really want
you to come out and start swinging away?
OBAMA: Well, look, the — we are three months away from the Iowa caucus,
the first caucus. This has been a presidential season that’s been
The American people, though, they have been going about their business,
getting their kids to school, working on the job, doing what they do
every day. They are now focusing in on making these difficult decisions.
And I think that now is the time where we’re going to be laying out a
very clear contrast between myself and Senator Clinton, not just on the
past, not just on Iraq, but moving forward. How would we approach Iran,
for example? Senator Clinton…
BLITZER: Let’s talk about that specifically right now.
The other day, the Senate voted 76 to 22 in favor of what’s called the
Lieberman-Kyl amendment, that said it is the sense of the Senate that
the United States should designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards
Corps as a foreign terrorist organization.
Senator Clinton voted in favor of that resolution. You were absent. You
didn’t show up for that vote. But you say you would have voted against it.
First of all, why didn’t you come to the Senate and make your — and
make your vote?
OBAMA: Well, I was in New Hampshire at the time. This is one of the
problems with running for president. You can’t always anticipate which
votes are which. But I put out a statement at the time stating that this
was a bad idea and that I would have voted against it.
And here’s why. We know in the past that the president has used some of
the flimsiest excuses to try to move his agenda, regardless of what
Congress says. We know that there was embodied in this legislation, or
this resolution, sense of the Senate, language that would say our Iraqi
troop structures should in part be determined by our desire to deal with
Now, if you know that in the past the president has taken a blank check
and cashed it, we don’t want to repeat that mistake. And I think that…
BLITZER: But wouldn’t that vote — Senator, this is what your critics
are hammering away at you — wouldn’t that vote be more important than
campaigning in New Hampshire, given the significance of what you’re
describing right now?
OBAMA: Well, we don’t always know what votes are scheduled and when.
And, if you’re in New Hampshire, then it’s hard to get back.
But this wasn’t a close vote. What it should have been, though, is a
vote that sends a message to the American people that we’re not going to
keep on giving George Bush a blank check — and that’s, unfortunately,
what we did.
BLITZER: But, on the substance, do you agree with the Bush
administration, General Petraeus, among others, that Iranian forces,
Quds Forces and others, are involved in killing Americans in Iraq?
OBAMA: What I agree with is that Iran has been the major beneficiary of
the war in Iraq. It has been a huge strategic error. Iran is an
adversary. Their pursuit of nuclear weapons poses a grave threat to us.
The fact that we have strengthened them as a consequence of the war in
Iraq, I think, is a huge problem that I as the next president am going
to have to deal with.
There is no doubt that they are providing support and funding to the
Mahdi Army and other militias in Iraq. But what we have to do is to have
the kinds of coherent policy inside Iraq that begins bringing our troops
out of Iraq, that initiates the kind of hard-headed diplomacy with Iran,
Syria, as well as our friends, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the
And that’s not what’s taking place right now. And the sense of the
Senate that was passed did not help in that effort.
BLITZER: Do I come away from this interview, Senator, correctly, and say
that in these last, let’s say 100, days before the voting actually
starts, we’re going to see a more aggressive, assertive Barack Obama
trying to pinpoint the differences, sharpen the focus between you and
your Democratic opposition, including Senator Clinton?
OBAMA: There’s no doubt that we’re moving into a different phase of the
campaign. The first part of a campaign is to offer some biography and
give people a sense of where I have been and what I’m about.
In this next phase, we want to make sure that voters understand that, on
big issues, like the decision to go into the war in Iraq, I had real
differences with the other candidates, and that reflects on my judgment.
On issues like health care, I have got a track record of bringing people
together that indicates I will be more successful in actually delivering
on universal health care than the other candidates in this race.
And I would not be running if I wasn’t absolutely confident that I have
a better chance of unifying the country, overcoming the special
interests, speaking the truth to the American people in a way that
actually brings about something new, as opposed to looking backwards and
simply duplicating some of the politics that we have become so
accustomed to, and that, frankly, the American people, I think, are sick of.
BLITZER: I will take that as a yes.
Let me end the interview with one final question, Senator. If you do get
the Democratic presidential nomination, would you consider Hillary
Clinton as your running mate?
OBAMA: Oh, you know, I think I’m not going to touch that one, Wolf.
Right now, I’m worried about getting the nomination. We will have plenty
of time to take a look at who would be a good vice presidential candidate.
BLITZER: But would she be on the short list?
OBAMA: The — I think that Senator Clinton is a very capable person.
Right now, my goal is to make sure that I am the nominee and that she is
still the senator from New York.
BLITZER: Senator Obama, thanks very much for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.
OBAMA: Great to talk to you, Wolf. Thank you.
BLITZER: Some Republicans wish they had more options. Can any of the
Republican presidential candidates please some loyal constituents? You
are going to find out why some Christian conservatives are not
necessarily all that moved.
And why would Ann Coulter suggest everyone should be Christian, and say
that she wants — quote — "Jews to be perfected." We are going to tell
you about some controversy, some outrage over her latest comments.
Stay with us. You’re in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: They’re one of the most influential and powerful voting blocs
within the Republican Party, but Christian conservatives haven’t fallen
in love with any of the GOP presidential front-runners yet.
Let’s go right to Mary Snow. She is watching this story for us.
Why haven’t they, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it’s not that candidates
haven’t been courting evangelicals. They certainly have. But Christian
conservatives have various lists of issues with the 2008 contenders. And
their vote is definitely up for grabs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALES AND FEMALES (singing): Come just as you are.
SNOW (voice-over): Evangelicals haven’t had this tough of a choice in
the Republican presidential primaries since George Bush first ran for
the White House. The front-runner in the early states is a devout
Mormon, which makes some evangelicals uneasy.
The leading Republican candidate nationally is twice divorced and holds
views on abortion that leave some social conservatives cold.
RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My view on abortion is
that it’s wrong, but that, ultimately, government should not be
enforcing that decision on a woman. SNOW: Tony Perkins, a prominent
conservative, warns, nominating Rudy Giuliani "would be very
problematic." The president of the Family Research Council also says the
former New York City mayor’s views on social issues are
indistinguishable from those of Senator Hillary Clinton.
Camp Giuliani disagrees. In a statement, Texas Congressman and Giuliani
supporter Pete Sessions says, "Conservative voters understand that the
differences between Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani are blatantly
obvious and critically important."
In our latest national poll, Giuliani leads among born-again Christians.
Mitt Romney is a distant fourth.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe, you could recognize
that the values that I have are the same values you will find in faiths
across this country.
SNOW: A prominent evangelical supporter of Mitt Romney’s echoed that
sentiment in a letter to religious leaders and urged them to back Romney
over Giuliani, saying, "I am more concerned that a candidate shares my
values than he shares my theology."
ALEX VOGEL, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think the real significance is,
this now signals a shift, where Mayor Giuliani and Governor Romney have
decided that it’s game on between the two of them, and they’re going to
slug it out until the end.
SNOW: Now, this latest salvo in the fight for values voters comes two
weeks after some top religious leaders threatened to back a third-party
candidate if Giuliani is the GOP’s nominee. Next week, all the
Republican presidential candidates will appear at an influential Values
Voter Summit — Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary, thank you — Mary Snow reporting.
She’s known for saying controversial things on television, but wait
until you hear what Ann Coulter is saying this time, her comments about
Jews and America. That’s coming up.
We will be right back.
BLITZER: Senator Barack Obama wonders about Senator Hillary Clinton’s
judgment and suggests you should as well. And to help you, Obama told me
just a little while ago — you saw the interview — he is soon going to
be stepping up his attacks.
Let’s go to our "Strategy Session," our CNN political analyst and
Democratic strategist James Carville, and conservative commentator Terry
Jeffrey. He’s editor in chief of Cybercast News Service.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in. JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL
ANALYST: You bet.
BLITZER: As a strategist — and I know you’re a big supporter of Hillary
Clinton, but is it smart for Barack Obama in these final 100 days or so
before the actual voting starts, to sharpen the knives and get tough,
tougher than he’s been, against specifically Hillary Clinton, the
CARVILLE: He — I think he’s got to do something. He’s losing contact
with — with her, I mean, if you just look at the way that the polls are
Plus, I mean, remember, you’re sitting there with Al Gore, probably
going to win a Nobel Prize Friday, who’s sitting on the sidelines. And,
if Edwards continuing to falter, and Obama continues to start — or go
down, they know there’s going to be — there may be an opening there. So…
BLITZER: Well, you really think Al Gore, especially if he wins the Nobel
Peace Prize, would — would reenter the presidential contest?
CARVILLE: In politics, anything is possible. But, I mean, clearly, if
Obama were doing better and Edwards were doing better — so, I mean, I
think what Obama is doing is, this is old ground that he’s going over.
But I feel — he and his people probably feel like he needs to do
something to shore his sort of — his supporters up and sure his fund-
BLITZER: So, it’s smart for him to start getting tougher?
CARVILLE: I don’t know if it’s smart, but he has to do something. It
would be really stupid to do the same thing he’s been doing.
BLITZER: Terry, what do you think?
TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR IN CHIEF, CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE: Ironically, if
he really does some damage to Hillary, he might help John Edwards more
than himself by increasing his negatives.
But I think he has got a fundamental problem, which has to do with the
Iraq war. I think the principal rationale for one of other major
candidates opposite Hillary is, they are to the left of her on the war,
and they can appeal to the anti-war Democratic base more than she does.
In that last Democratic debate, Barack Obama had an identical position
on moving forward with the — on the Iraq war with Hillary. That is not
going to cut it.
BLITZER: Well, he’s highlighting today the fifth anniversary of the
Senate authorization of the war, a war that he opposed and that Hillary
Clinton supported, at least in that authorization.
CARVILLE: If any Democrat doesn’t know that, then they have been asleep
as long as Fred Thompson.
CARVILLE: I mean, it’s not — hardly like — not new ground. She’s been
attacked on her war vote since the beginning of the campaign. So, he’s
not like interjecting anything new or something that Democrats didn’t
JEFFREY: That’s right. And John Edwards has positioned himself to the
left of both Obama and Hillary on the war.
BLITZER: We’re going to have a full report in the next hour on these
latest controversial comments from the conservative commentator Ann
Coulter. She was on NBC. It’s crossing our CNN Political Ticker right
now, but I just want to get you guys to react to this.
It’s a little clip of what she said on Donny Deutsch’s program.
Listen to this exchange they had.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE BIG IDEA")
DONNY DEUTSCH, HOST: So, we should be Christian? It would be better if
we were all Christian?
ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, "GODLESS: THE CHURCH OF LIBERALISM": Yes.
DEUTSCH: We should all be Christian?
COULTER: Yes. Would you like to come to church with me, Donny?
DEUTSCH: But you said I should not — we should just throw Judaism away
and we should all be Christians then or…
COULTER: Well, it’s a lot easier.
COULTER: It’s kind of a fast track. We want Jews to be perfected, as
DEUTSCH: Wow. You didn’t really say that, did you?
COULTER: Yes. No, that’s what Christianity is.
DEUTSCH: OK. All right.
COULTER: We believe the Old Testament, but ours is more like Federal
Express. You have to obey laws.
DEUTSCH: In my old — in my old days…
COULTER: We know we’re all sinners.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Well, let’s let James Carville go first.
What do you think?
CARVILLE: Well, I don’t think much of Ann Coulter. And I don’t think
much of the Republican Party. She headlines all the events. She is
always on the news. In fact, I think very little of her.
I’m not surprised by those comments. She’s made other hideous comments,
equally as hideous and equally as outrageous.
I know Donny Deutsch. He’s a good guy. I think he was probably shocked
and offended by it. But that this — no one should be — if you have Ann
Coulter on your show, you have to expect her to say things that are like
that. And that’s part — that’s what comes with it. And the Republicans
keep (INAUDIBLE) headline, I think they are going to pay for it.
BLITZER: What do you think, Terry?
JEFFREY: Well, first of all, Ann Coulter is a friend of mine. And I know
that she’s a good person. She’s certainly not anti- Semitic.
And I don’t think the Donny Deutsch place is a place to discuss profound
issues of theology. I had no idea if Ann — what Ann said or anything
even that she had said until a few moments before I came on this show.
And I can’t make any judgment, to tell you the truth, about what she
said from those video clips.
But I can guarantee you, she’s a good person. She’s not anti- Semitic.
And that’s what I can say, given from what you just showed.
BLITZER: Do you think there will be pressure, though, from Republican —
on Republican presidential candidates and other Republicans to
disassociate themselves from her now, given the nature not only of these
remarks, but a lot of other remarks she’s made?
JEFFREY: Well, you know, first, we have to get into a pretty serious —
first of all, we would have to discern what actually Ann Coulter said
and what actually Ann Coulter meant. And then are we really going to get
into a debate in presidential campaigns about people’s theology?
Everybody is trying to say that we don’t have a religious test for
office in this country? Are we going to go to each candidate and ask
them, OK, we want to know exactly what you think about the nature of
Jesus Christ, the nature of Christianity, the nature of Judaism?
No. I don’t think we want to get into that.
CARVILLE: Well, first of all, she’s a prominent Republican that does
many Republican events. And I have — how do I say this without sounding
CARVILLE: I have thousands of Jewish friends, OK?
And, obviously — and I have never one — heard a single one of them
come up and say that my…
CARVILLE: Can I finish?
CARVILLE: … that my faith is imperfect. And I think they would resent
the hell out of that.
And I don’t blame them. And I don’t think their faith is imperfect. In
fact, I’m sort of in awe of their tradition.
JEFFREY: Do you think that you absolutely know for certain that Ann
Coulter denigrated Judaism from what you saw in that clip there or what
you read in a few transcripts? Are you certain about that? You’re
morally certain about that, James?
CARVILLE: I don’t know a single Jew that doesn’t think that she said
that their religion was imperfect. I don’t know a single one. But, if
there is one, I will be glad to hear from them.
JEFFREY: So, you have gone around discussing this with Jewish
theologians or Christian theologians?
CARVILLE: I have had Jewish friends call me.
This may be a shock to you, but there actually are Jews that heard about
CARVILLE: … that picked up the phone and says, can you believe what
that woman said?
No, they do. It’s caused a little stir in the community, if you will.
BLITZER: And he did give her several opportunities, Donny Deutsch, who
told her he’s a practicing Jew, and he was offended by what she said.
But he did give her several opportunities to clarify, to amend, to
revise. And she basically stuck with that line that Jews have to be
JEFFREY: Look, I can tell you what I believe.
I am a Christian. My savior, Jesus Christ, was a Jew. I believe that
Judaism is a great religion. I — I’m not convinced, from what I have
seen, that Ann Coulter has said anything wrong or anything that someone
ought to attack her for. And let’s see.
BLITZER: Let’s leave it — let’s leave it right there. There will be
more, I’m sure, on this latest controversy involving Ann Coulter down
But, thanks, guys, both of you, for coming in, James and Terry.
CARVILLE: Thank you.
BLITZER: And should a federal judge be stepping into the immigration
wars? Jack Cafferty standing by with your e-mail.
Also ahead, former Mexican President Vicente Fox right here in THE
SITUATION ROOM. We will talk with him about the 2008 presidential race
and why he’s concerned some Americans are hateful.
Stick around, lots more coming up, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let’s check in with Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" — Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: Is it the place of a federal judge
to stop the government from enforcing the laws against hiring illegal
aliens? A judge out in San Francisco said they’re not allowed to enforce
these laws because — I don’t know — because — because of what —
Anthony in Cherry Hill, New Jersey: "Neither federal judges, the
Catholic Church, mayors providing sanctuary, bleeding-heart liberals,
nor the president kowtowing to big business have the right to protest
law-breakers. Are we, as citizens, the only ones obligated to obey the
law? There’s something wrong with this picture." Barrett in Arkansas:
"Sorry, Jack. The term federal judge really doesn’t exist anymore.
Ninety percent — 95 percent of the people in that position are so
liberal, they don’t even know what this country stands for anymore."
Lauren in Los Angeles: "The reason that legal employees could be fired
under the government plan is that the Social Security database is
riddled with errors. False mismatches happen all the time. Until that
database is corrected, the judge is absolutely right to block its use to
Devon writes: "The state of this country never fails to amaze me lately.
If a federal judge doesn’t uphold federal laws, who will? Our country
has lost all common sense about, well, frankly, everything."
Debra in Vista, California: "If I didn’t do the job for which I was
hired, I would be fired. It’s not his job to impede the efforts, too
late and too little though they may be, of the government to finally
enforce part of the immigration law."
And Ande in Arizona: "Are we living in a bizarro world now, or what? Up
is down. Down is up. Illegal is legal? I’m beyond confused. Good luck,
Jack, with understanding anything that goes on in Washington" — Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks, Jack, very much.