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Threats against Democrats; Tim Geithner Interview; Reform whose Way?

Aired March 24, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks, Wolf. Another big day here in Washington, the United States and Russia on the verge of a big new nuclear arms control agreement and fresh signs today of a deepening crisis, some say, in U.S./Israeli relations.

But our "Lead", the health care hangover, the Democrats -- some evidence of a Democratic bounce, we'll search for clues in that, and the Republicans in a still very tense political environment are demanding more changes.

We'll go "One on One" with the country's money man, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. We'll ask him where are the jobs and we'll also discuss the China challenge.

In our "Pulse" today, a conservative revolt, rumbling on the right, conservatives are up in arms in Utah and Sarah Palin has a health care hit list.

And in "Play by Play" you won't want to miss this; we'll break down some almost viral videos. No you can't is a new Republican refrain to an old Obama tune.

And wait until you see the presidential push on Haiti's helping hand -- all that and much more in a packed hour ahead, but we begin as always with a few observations.

This is a show about policy and politics, not cops and robbers, which means something is wrong when you hear me speaking the words police are investigating. Maybe raw is a better word than wrong. It's a raw time in our politics with signs of tension and volatility just about everywhere you look. Some of it is frankly quite ugly.

Like racial slurs at a civil rights hero who now serves in the Congress or bricks thrown through the windows at congressional offices apparently because those lawmakers voted yes on health care reform. Police are investigating. There are those words, those and other incidents and there should be no rush to judgments, but there are better ways to make a point.

And Utah is a case in point. Some conservatives there aren't happy with their longtime Republican Senator Robert Bennett, so what did they do about it? No bricks and no slurs. They turned out last night and used our most cherished rights. The right to speak up and out and the right to have their voice and their votes counted. It's just one step in the process. And we won't know for some time if Senator Bennett will be the Republican candidate this fall, but we do know attendance to the caucus was way, way up and that the state Republican chairman says whatever the outcome, if it plays out respectfully, as last night did, he thinks the party will be stronger, not divided in the end. There's a lesson in that, a lesson for everyone.

Let's turn now as we always do to our reporters to share with you now stories certain to be in the morning newspapers. House Democrats called an emergency meeting with security officials today to discuss those threats against some of their members who voted yes on health care. After the meeting our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash caught up with the House majority leader, Steny Hoyer.


DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you feel that your members are really at risk in terms of their security?

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MAJORITY LEADER: Yes. I think we've had very serious incidences that have occurred over the last 48-72 hours. Any member who feels themselves at risk is getting attention from the proper authorities.


KING: Listen to this voice mail left for anti abortion Democrat, Bart Stupak.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And all of those thoughts projected on you will materialize into something that is not very good for you. We don't have to do anything but sit back and wish. Go to hell, you piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED).


KING: Strong words. Dana Bash joins us now with more -- Dana.

BASH: Well, John, I've talked to a number of House Democrats over the past couple of days who tell me they're getting calls to their offices and even at their homes threatening violence and in some cases even death. And there has been vandalism to at least two of the lawmakers' offices back in their home districts. The House Majority Whip, he received a fax with a noose on it.

Now Democratic leaders are accusing Republican leaders of fueling the fire on all this. They're trying to work on a joint statement with Republicans repudiating it, but so far no dice, though we did get a statement from the GOP House Leader John Boehner, saying explicitly quote, "violence and threats are unacceptable" -- John.

KING: We'll stay on top of that. Thanks, Dana. Not too along go there was talk of working at a bipartisan spirit on major financial reform, but it appears the bitter health care debate has changed things. CNN national political correspondent Jessica Yellin has the latest -- Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, it sure sounds like a reversal. Tonight Republicans are backing off assurances just given this morning that a deal on Wall Street reform is within reach. The new line from Republicans, Democrats are unwilling to make key compromises. Now this is the president's next big priority and my sources tell me that Democrats actually feel very encouraged they can seize the momentum after health care reform and push this through fast but they do need at least one Republican vote in the Senate.

And if Republicans don't play ball, Democrats they're going to hit them hard during the election accusing them of being in the pocket of Wall Street. And John, operatives on both sides they tell me they think this actually could be the most potent political issue during the election, possibly trumping health care reform because voters are just so angry at the banks -- John.

KING: Keep an eye on that one -- Jessica, thanks. And a quick look now behind the numbers. On Wall Street the Dow industrials closed down a little today, down more than 52 points as investors worried about the debt crisis in Europe and some weak housing data. February new home sales unexpectedly fell 2.2 percent raising questions about the strength of the recovery.

Next up, "One on One" with a man who prefers to speak only after the financial markets close because what he says can move them -- Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner "One on One" when we come back.


KING: Now that health care reform is the law of the land, jobs and financial reform move to the top of the administration's agenda, dicey politics especially for the treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, who didn't exactly have the smoothest rookie year on record. He's here to go "One on One" -- welcome.


KING: Let's start first, before we get to the specifics of financial reform and other issues, with the question Americans ask around the kitchen table every night -- essentially where are we. And the signals from the economy are a little better lately but still mixed. You see some up, then a little down.

Most people process it through the unemployment rate, so I want you to peek over your shoulder here and we can show you how this has played out over the past couple of years. The unemployment rate starting here, you see it going up in 2008, 10.2 percent, it peaked, now at 9.7 percent. When the 9.7 number came out last month, the economy lost 36,000 jobs. To get to seven percent, everyone says you'd have to create -- to get to seven percent you'd have to create 300,000 jobs a month to get there within a year. Are we anywhere close to that point in this recovery?

GEITHNER: We're close to the point when the economy is going to start creating jobs, but this recession caused a huge amount of damage. And we're going to be living with that damage for awhile to come. But there's a little more hope now.

KING: Another question we get when we ask people what are their thoughts on the economy is why has nothing been done on the issue of financial reform. Why today could it happen again? Could 2007 happen again? And a lot of people get pretty angry about that, wondering why the government hasn't taken steps. You were at the White House this morning for a meeting with the president and the two key chairmen, Senator Dodd and Chairman Frank in the House.

They have two separate proposals. The Senate bill is getting ready to be acted on. We had the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, here last night and as you know, Republicans don't like some stuff in that bill. What he suggested is let's not have health care all over again. Let's not do a big sweeping bill. But let's break out that one issue that he thinks should be dealt with. Let's listen to Senator McConnell.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Well on financial reform to the extent that we can target it at too big to fail, I think we could potentially get an agreement. I think nobody thinks once again we ought to have a situation where tax dollars are used to rescue a big failing company. We need to fix that and not do it again.


KING: Any merit to that argument? Just break that one issue out, deal with that and then come back to all the other more complicated issues or do you need to do it together?

GEITHNER: (INAUDIBLE) two key tests of reform -- are we giving consumers and investors basic protections against abuse and predation. You know our system did a terrible job of providing basic protections and the damage caused was hugely damaging just to the average investor, the average family, the average business, and they're still suffering from those basic mistakes.

The other key test is to prevent anything from happening again is to make sure we deal with too big to fail. We're constraining risk taking for the major institutions and if they mess up in the future, the choice for them is not to survive with government help at the expense of the taxpayer. The choice for them is to be wound down, broken up, sold off over time at less costs to the economy. You got to do those two things, though -- each -- one is not enough.

KING: There's a big piece in both of these legislations, the Senate and the House version to have a new Consumer Protection Agency. The House, Chairman Frank wants it to be independent. The Dodd proposal in the Senate puts it into the Fed. What does the president want?

GEITHNER: The key test is, is it independent? Does it have independent --

KING: Can it be independent within the Fed or do you think it needs to be broken up?


GEITHNER: I think it can be.

KING: Got any preference?

GEITHNER: No, I think our preference was -- the president's preference was a stand alone agency, but the key test and Chairman Frank said the same thing this morning, and I think if you listen carefully to the consumer advocates they say the same thing too. The key test is, is it strong enough to write and enforce rules that apply not just to banks but to payday lenders, to check cashers, (INAUDIBLE) to make sure you're capturing where the abuse was greatest.

KING: A pretty damning report came out from the inspector general overseeing the administration's foreclosure program. He says that you (INAUDIBLE) misguided at the beginning. That it hasn't been managed very well and that they see a potential for a wave of re- default if you will. Is that program a mistake or at least in the implementation of it a mistake? You need to go back to the beginning?

GEITHNER: No, there's much more stability now and that is hugely important to the basic economic security of all Americans. A million Americans now today are benefiting from lower monthly payments. On average it's $600 a month for families that got their mortgages modified under this program. That's one million Americans. And we're going to keep working at expanding that program so we can capture more people, help more people stay in their homes, but this program has been very effective. We're going to try to make sure we're improving it, making it better so we can reach more people and we've got some ways to go in that area.

KING: The American private sector and businesses all around the world have been trying to rush to get into China because it is one of the world's leading emerging growing economies and yet recently you've had this dust up with Google. Without getting into the weeds of that, what is your sense -- is that a chill in that? Are businesses -- American businesses and others around the world starting to pull back a little bit because of the interference from the Chinese government?

GEITHNER: They're a little bit more concerned about how hard it is to operate in China on a level playing field. And I think that's one reason why the president is going to be working so hard to make sure that we get better access for U.S. goods in China and we're seeing a fair rules of the game there.

KING: And how hard is that part? It's a very, very different culture.

GEITHNER: Well they get a lot of political pressure too in China. People don't realize that. You got a lot of people in China like (INAUDIBLE) here sometimes saying you know we want China for China, China for Chinese producers, but I think if you listen carefully to what the Chinese have been saying even just last week or so, they're very sensitive to the concerns of not playing fairly.

KING: Early this morning, Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, is on the floor and he was talking about health care and the student loan program. And he offered a pretty stinging rebuke of his view of how the Obama administration views government. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes, I think Mr. President that the model of the Obama administration is, if you can find it in the yellow pages, the government ought to be doing it. I mean this is really breathtaking. Why we're taking over cars, banks, insurance companies, why we're taking over more of health care, we'll just also take over the student loan program.


KING: Does he have a point?

GEITHNER: I don't think so. I obviously respect the senator very much. President Bush was the one who lent billions of dollars of the taxpayers' money to the automobile industry. It was the right thing to do. He was the one who put $230 billion into banks representing three quarters of our entire banking system.

When this president came in, we went -- moved very quickly to get that money back from the banks. We have got 170 billion of that back almost all from the major banks at a positive return to the taxpayer. So we've worked very, very quickly to clean up the mess we inherited and get the government out from the emergency actions that President Bush started to take to deal with this recession.

KING: As you know in politics, sometimes perception though can become reality and you guys are in charge now. You've never worked as a trader on Wall Street. You were involved with the New York Fed, but I visited all 50 states last year. When you bring up the economy a lot of people say things like these are Wall Street guys.

GEITHNER: They do.

KING: They're tucked in with the banks and they care more about Wall Street than they care about me. How do you shake that?

GEITHNER: You know it's hard. And I worked in public service all my life. I'm here working for this president because I believe deeply that the government has to do a better job of making things better for the average American and the president and people around him wake up everyday thinking about that one key objective.

KING: Let me close by asking you what you've learned about yourself and the politics of this town in a very rough 14 months for you. You came into office under some controversy. You go up to Capitol Hill, there are Republicans who have called for your resignation --

GEITHNER: Democrats too.

KING: Democrats too, OK, I'll be fair about that. We Goggled your name this morning just for kicks and you can look at the screen up there and you see your Wikipedia bio first and then the next line is "Geithner resign, Geithner AIG". That can't feel good?

GEITHNER: I learned this a long time ago. I learned that when you're in government, and I've been in public service all my life, John, you've got to worry about just one thing, which is make sure you're doing the right thing. It may be unpopular. It may be difficult. It may be controversial, but we're here and we're going to be held accountable for what we do to make things better.

KING: Can I read into that that those calling for your resignation are going to have to wait awhile?

GEITHNER: That's --

KING: You're not going anywhere -- are you going anywhere?


GEITHNER: That's a question for the president. But again, I wake up everyday just trying to figure out how we can fix what was broken, how we can get out of the mess we inherited, and we're making a lot of progress.

KING: Mr. Secretary, thanks for coming in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to see you.

KING: Tonight, there's a lot of rumbling on the political ride, including a new political hit list from Sarah Palin. We take "The Pulse" of America when we come back.


KING: Now it's time to take "The Pulse" of America, checking in on some rumblings on the right. In a minute CNN contributor Erik Erickson, the editor-in-chief of the conservative blog will join us. With me right here in studio is Amy Walter. She's editor-in-chief of "Hotline", the daily compilation of political news -- welcome.

AMY WALTER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE HOTLINE: Thank you. I'm glad to be here.

KING: Want to talk about several things moving on the right beginning with Sarah Palin -- I'll call it the health care hit list. The health care vote passes. It's signed into law by the president of the United States and she puts -- and if you look over your shoulder you can see it -- on her Facebook site, she puts a vote, a list of 20 House Democrats. They all voted for the health care reform bill and they're from districts that McCain and Palin carried. And this is what she says about them urging conservatives to get out and campaign against them. "We're going to reclaim the power of the people from those who disregard the will of the people. We're going to fire them and send them back to the private sector." Now, she wants to do this obviously for her own to curry favor on the right. But is she an influential voice when it comes to the district by district politics of the House this year?

WALTER: Well and this is what's going to be really interesting. Remember, if I came in here six months ago and said Sarah Palin is going after candidates, I would say well you have to be very careful if you are a Republican in one of those districts in taking her endorsement. A lot of those districts, yes, McCain carried or Bush carried, but they are -- they are also, many of them have a very significant population of independent leading voters.

Now two years ago, those folks were voting overwhelmingly with President Obama. Now of course they are leaning more toward Republican. But what we do know is Sarah Palin among independents still a very polarizing figure. So you know I still think in this day, at this point if she can raise the money, I'm sure those folks will all want to take it. But I don't know if they're going to have her in the district campaigning for them.

KING: I want to move on to something else which is a -- what I call a remarkable display of democracy given all the raw language and the threats we have seen in other places. This is how democracy is supposed to work. We can show our viewers some pictures in Weber County. It's out in -- near Ogden, Utah. And these are Republican caucuses. There's a long time Senator Bob Bennett, he's a Republican but a lot of conservatives aren't happy with his leadership.

And there's also a big national group playing in this, the Club for Growth. Some of you may have heard from them before, it's an anti-tax, anti-government organization. They put out some fliers out there Obama-care versus Bennett-care. Bob Bennett did have an alternative health care proposal. It says no matter who wins, you lose.

So the question is does this hurt the party or help the party to have these people coming out and challenging an incumbent Republican senator. It was very polite, it was very civil. I want you to listen to the state Republican chairman who says hey you know what Bob Bennett is a friend of mine, but if we keep it peaceful, it's a good thing.


DAVE HANSEN, UTAH GOP CHAIRMAN: They showed up and they were well prepared and they're going to have an impact on the party, to be honest with you. And -- and I don't think that that's bad at all. We become -- we become stronger by becoming bigger.


WALTER: And it was bigger. The numbers aren't in yet. It takes awhile to tally them all up, but it looks like turnout was somewhere between 75,000, maybe even 80,000. This is two, three times what it was in 2008 and you need it's much harder to get people out in an off year. Folks definitely fired up, I think in part because these caucuses were held the same day as the president is literally signing the health care bill. I'm sure that helped drive some people to those caucuses. Plus I hear that they actually give you food at some of these. You know there's some home made you know brownies and popcorn and things like that --

KING: That's why my crew was so happy to go.

WALTER: That's exactly right.

KING: Erik Erickson joins us now from Atlanta. Ericka, you have been among the conservatives saying it's time for Senator Bennett to be retired. Activists turned out in the caucus we just showed.


KING: Bob Bennett did not carry the day. We'll find out whether he wins the nomination down the road a little bit, but why -- why do you want this incumbent who has standing on his committees to be voted out?

ERICK ERICKSON, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, REDSTATE.COM: Well you know I think this goes by and large back to New York 23 where there were two lessons that came out of there when the Republicans Dede Scozzafava was drummed out of the race and Doug Hoffman, the conservative lost and the few lessons are that conservatives need the GOP and that the GOP needs conservatives.

And what Senate Republicans in particular, but the Republican establishment in D.C. as well has failed to realize is that they really do need conservatives. Bob Bennett has not been a very conservative senator. The life time rating from the American Conservative Union puts him in the top 10 most liberal Republicans. He's from the most conservative state, so for the past 30 days at Red State I've been pounding the drum beat highlighting his record over the years of why he really hasn't been very conservative and it looks like based on what I'm hearing on the ground from the different campaigns that he may be in big trouble.

KING: And to that point, you say the Republican Party needs conservatives. You were listening when I had the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell in here last night.


KING: And I showed him some poll numbers, the conservatives aren't happy with the Republican leadership in Congress. He said they're not relevant.

ERICKSON: You know that surprised me. Had my mike been on you have heard me yelling. You know he's right in that in November conservatives realize there are two parties, the Democrats and Republicans, and they're going to go with Republicans more than they are Democrats. The problem for McConnell and we're saying now for Bennett and others is the conservatives are going to fight them in the Republican primaries.

And right now they're winning. I credit New York 23 as a win for conservatives by beating Scozzafava. We're seeing it in Florida with Marco Rubio, in Utah with Bridgewater, Edgar (ph) and Lee (ph) and across the country. The Republican Party, if they don't take notice, McConnell in particular in the Senate, they're going to be in big trouble in the primaries and from my perspective that's a good thing.

KING: So how big of a deal is this in the sense that the Democrats are in charge, Democratic president, Democratic majorities in Congress, Amy, so it's their health care plan, it's their economy come November. This tension on the right, how significant is it?

WALTER: Well I think it's going to matter in a case by case basis. In the case of Utah, it really doesn't matter who comes out as the Republican nominee. There's not going to be a Democratic (INAUDIBLE). This is not New York 23 in the sense that there's not going to be the effort and the district that leans more you know competitive, so that's not as much of an issue.

Florida could be an issue just that we're seeing, it's really the fight that is taking a toll right now, both on Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist and it's only going to get uglier and that primary does not occur until late this summer. So the bruising that they're going to endure by going through about who is the most conservative and is Rubio really this person who he says he is. Crist is up on TV today starting with the attacks, that could be very significant in terms of you know what they look like come November.

KING: Fascinating to watch and we'll bring you both back to talk about it some more -- Amy and Erick thanks so much.

And over in the Senate right now, it's amendment mania. See how the Republicans want to as they put it improve the House fixes to health care. They're even talking Viagra. We go "Wall to Wall" next.


KING: Joining me now to go "Wall to Wall" national political correspondent Jessica Yellin and senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash. We're going to focus on the amendments right now in the Senate. Senate Republicans want to change the health care bill. They think the House bill fixes sent over aren't good enough.

Let's look at some of the specifics. One amendment that was just tabled, we'll explain that in a second, Senator John McCain, he wanted to remove all the sweetheart deals he says that are still in that bill, helping individual states. That one just taken off the board, tabled in a vote. Senator George LeMieux of Florida, he says if Congress wants to put its money where its mouth is instead of having the nice health care plan they have, they should all go on the Medicaid program with lower income Americans.

And this one is getting a lot of buzz. Tom Coburn is -- let's see if I can bring that back -- Tom Coburn is an Oklahoma conservative. He's also a doctor and he has an amendment that would bar sex offenders from receiving erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra. That ones making the rounds in conservative circles and Rush Limbaugh couldn't resist this one.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Coburn has an amendment to not pay for Viagra for sex offenders. What's great about that is that gets a Democrat on the record voting for Viagra to sex offenders. There are all kinds of amendments like that and the Senate Republicans are going to tie these guys in knots.

KING: You walk those halls. Dana, is that what they're doing, tying them in knots?

BASH: Giving away the not so secret strategy. They're really candid about it, even before Rush Limbaugh outed them in terms of what they're trying to do. Right now as we speak, they're voting, they're doing this vote-a-rama, they even, to begin with, have 23 amendments, they expect it to take eight hours. There is no expectation that any of these amendments will pass. Most of them are really geared at making these Democrats take very tough political votes, particularly the vulnerable Democrats who have to face voters.

YELLIN: It's a teachable moment.

KING: A teachable moment?

YELLIN: To borrow a phrase from the president.

BASH: Do we have some beer here?

YELLIN: When you hear the campaign ad, when the election rolls around and he even voted to give Viagra to rapists. It's a political trick. Everybody has to get their own information when you hear those ads and not take them out of context.

KING: We'll try to help with the information. Let's look at another one of these amendments. This is by Mike Crapo. This one's a bit more serious. He's talking about politics. His amendment would assure there's no tax increase for Americans earning less than $200,000 a year and families earning less than $250,000 a year as a result of this bill. So essentially this amendment says we're going to protect middle class families from tax increases and he's asking the Democrats to vote no.

BASH: It is a serious amendment but it is highly, highly political. I talked to several Republican senators in the hallway over the past couple of days who said they're going to put that up because that's a presidential promise from the campaign trail that they believe that he has broken. They want the Democrats, again, who have to face the voters to get on the record voting for or against the presidential promise. Again, all, you can see the edit rooms gearing up.

YELLIN: You have to keep reminding people, if the Democrats vote yes to any of these, they change the bill, they won't pass health care reform. If any of these succeed, they can't pass health care reform.

BASH: Or at least it will change enough that it will gum up the works.

KING: Is there any talk among the Republicans that at some point this becomes counterproductive?

BASH: We'll see, talk to me at 3:00 this morning. We'll see if they're still there. That's one of the questions we're going to be looking at. At a certain point, whether or not they stop. Look, at a certain point, the parliamentarian can say enough already.

KING: They can go on for weeks if they want and they're going to stop on Friday.

BASH: They filed, I believe, 23 amendments. Republicans have said that they're going to stop on Friday even though they know they're not going to keep members through the weekend.

YELLIN: I think all of this is sort of lost. People don't understand, they passed health care, now they have to pass it again. It makes the Senate and Congress look so bad. People don't understand, it's not rational. You must get it when you're trying to explain to people why it works this way.

KING: I try to explain why things work this way. I visited 50 states last year. Of the process comes up more than you think. Not the language of Washington, but essentially, I have to get along with my neighbors, my boss, my in laws, why can't these guys get along. I like my in laws by the way.

YELLIN: Are you listening, mom and dad.

KING: Thank you both. Tonight's most important person you don't know might have a big impact on your next trip through the airport. Find out who and how in just a minute.


KING: We all know it's important, even vital, but don't you just love going through airport security? Today's most important person you don't know wants to make it even tougher. His name is Robert Harding. He's a retired general New York City native who spent 33 years in the army much of it dealing with spies and intelligence gathering. Harding has just wrapped up two days of hearings to be the next head of Transportation Security Administration. If he's confirmed the TSA will have their hands on your baggage and their eyes on body scanners that can see through your clothes. It bears repeating Harding wants to make airport security even tougher.

MAJ. GEN. ROBERT HARDING (RET.), TSA ADMINISTRATOR NOMINEE: We should move even closer to an Israeli model where there's more engagement with passengers. I think that increases the layers and pushes the layers out.

KING: That's an interesting analogy, because the Israelis are tough, Dana. I went through Israel once and forgot I had a Pakistan stamp in my passport. I'm still hurt.

BASH: I was going to say if that's the case, you better get to the airport a lot earlier.

KING: Tell us what are we missing today?

BASH: What we're missing. We have a theme here. Let's start with Israeli U.S. relations. We know they're at a bad point right now. Historically, of course, the United States and Israel, they are about the closest allies on the planet. If you look through history, we've had lots and lots of photo ops. The president even met with Prime Minister Netanyahu back in may. President Bush met with Omar. And sometimes things weren't great with George H. Bush, be Netanyahu was here in Washington. He did go to the white house yesterday; we're not showing you a picture because it's missing. The white house did not allow the cameras in. I can tell you from talking to our senior white house correspondent, Ed Henry, he said the four visits that president Obama had with Netanyahu had, the white house is not opening up other meetings with allies, the Greek prime minister, the king of Spain, so they're trying to deal with precedent at the white house, but this particular issue with the Israelis, there's no question that this is because things are very bad between the two countries.

KING: There is another picture we're not missing but we're also not going to show it to your viewers. This is a white house released photo because this is an event they didn't want us to see.

BASH: No. What happened at the white house, the president signed the much talked about executive order essentially restating what he says and everybody believes is law, which is that there can be no taxpayer funding for abortion. This is what got house Democrats over the line by drawing anti abortion Democrats to vote for it. No photo, again, no media were allowed in. I talked to some of the Democrats who were actually going to the white house. I said do you mind? Do you feel they're doing this under the rug? They said that's what happens, that's what it's like to be an anti abortion Democrat like that in the party. So again, theme. Two misses, two things at the white house, two events that for one reason, because of tension and another reason because of politics, they didn't want us to see so we didn't see it.

KING: Thanks for bringing us the misses. Next in the class, the health care hangover. Some of the most reliable voters in the country are not happy. Stay with us.


KING: I haven't yet thanked Marv Albert for doing that. The clash tonight, healthcare hangover, going head to head Democrat strategist Cornell Belcher, president of Brilliant Corners Research and Strategies and Republican strategist, Kevin Madden who's executive vice president of the strategic communications firm Jim Dike and Associates. Welcome.

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Thanks for having us. KING: A bit of evidence. We'll look at the numbers, of a bit of a Democratic bounce in the early days just after passage and the president's signature on health care reform. USA Today Gallup poll is passing the health care bill a good thing, bad thing or no opinion. 49% say a good thing, 40% say a bad thing. Cornell, you know the environment coming into this is not good for the Democrats. What do you make of that? Is it evidence of a little bounce?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think this is evidence of Democrats taking back control of the messaging here. I think we saw Republicans get out and define what health care reform was going to be. We saw the president go out on the road and take back our messaging on health care, we saw the polls begin to move up. What you have right now is more Americans understanding actually what's in the health care reform bill and less of them thinking that death panels, for example, aren't a part of this. The numbers are moving up.

KING: Is this why you hear from Republicans not just repeal but repeal and replace? Are they seeing something out there that makes them nervous about the party of repeal?

MADDEN: I think repeal as a stand alone message becomes a litigation of some of the good things that may be unobjectionable in the bill. It also defines your message on health care as what you're against rather than what you're for. I believe health care is a cost driven debate but it's a value driven debate. Republicans, we have to spend the next year talking about not just repeal, but replace and reform. What does the Republican vision for lowering costs and ensuring greater access for Americans on health care?

KING: Let's look closer at these numbers. While some of them are encouraging for Democrats, here's one you must be worried about, Cornell. Of all the demographics, only one, voters over 65, the most reliable voters in the mid time election year, 54% of voters say this is a bad idea. We asked in our CNN polling, this is before the health care bill was passed, which party's candidate would you vote for Congress. Voters over 65 give Republicans a 10 point advantage. The white house obviously has similar numbers because when the president signed the bill, he had senior citizens on his mind.

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: I want seniors to know, despite what some have said these reforms will not cut your guaranteed benefits. In fact, under this law, Americans on Medicare will receive free preventive care without co-payments or deductibles.

KING: Now they're cutting $500 billion out of Medicare. If the Republicans still have a so 10 point gap among seniors, what happens?

BELCHER: It's an issue, because they are the most reliable turnout, look at what's been happening demographically in our country. Those portions of the older vote are shrinking. We're an electorate that is growing younger, blacker and browner. These aren't FDR seniors. We're struggling to win over seniors. Just as we turned over the numbers in other areas, when we define what's in health care and we spend time defining what's in health care, I think those numbers will move as well. KING: Kevin, one second. Next up, play by play, almost viral videos including John Boehner's musical video debut. Stay with us.


KING: All right. Tonight's play by play, some videos we think ought to go viral. Back with us, Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher and Republican strategist Kevin Madden. So you'll both remember but we'll show it to our viewers just to remind them, in the Obama campaign, there was this video by will I am. Yes we can

This is now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes we can prepare this world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hell no, you can't.



KING: Stop that. John Boehner.

MADDEN: My old boss. Now we know he can't sing. I always knew that. Now we know.

BELCHER: One of the things Americans don't like is sort of anger in politics. You got to be really careful about that. I know a guy named Howard Dean, that angry images will kill you dead.

KING: Someone had fun on the internet. That thing will spread around and people will have fun with it.

MADDEN: John probably never thought he was going to be a pop culture icon, but I think he might now.

KING: Let's do something a little bit serious. This is a Democratic ad, labor union asked me putting on the air in Ohio. Mary Jo Killroy is a vulnerable Democrat who voted yes. Let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $86 million was spent on misleading ads to kill reform all because they want to keep Jacking up premiums and denying us coverage, but the insurance companies didn't win, because Congresswoman Mary Jo Killroy voted no.

KING: Is that what we're going to hear between now and November, the democrats vote yes, no to insurance yes to standing up with us. Are you worried about that?

MADDEN: I think if I were advising Democrats I think that would be one way to frame it up. I think there's an unhappiness with the status quo. There's obviously an unhappiness with institutions like insurance companies or wall street. So what they're trying to do is align themselves with that sort of popular sentiment. I think the harder part for Mary Jo Killroy is to try to explain at a time where people are very anxious about spending in Washington why she voted for a $1 trillion bill at a time when we don't have that type of money. That is what I think Republicans are going to be able to frame. I think that's going to distill back to voters very easily.

BELCHER: I'm sure the Americans love the ideal of how we expand it now our political season. You get political ads all year-round now. One of the things is the deficit is a big issue for independents. We need to talk about the economic implications of this. We've got a bill here now that's going to help us shrink the deficit.

KING: Let's close with some fun. I covered George W. Bush white house. He was big when he shook hands in political rallies of always having the Purell around to rub his hands to clean him up after. Let's watch this play out a little bit.

Can we do that one more time? Is there any way to bring that back and show that one more time? If we could bring it back and show it.

He shakes hands, he obviously doesn't like the touch. There's President Clinton, thank you very much.

BELCHER: Republicans are still smearing Bill Clinton, to this day. You got nothing to say to that.

KING: You've got nothing to say to that?

MADDEN: It was like a pine tar moment almost.

KING: They're getting along nicely now. We'll see if that causes a rift.

MADDEN: He's going to send him the dry cleaning bill.

KING: That would be smart if he does. Good for him. Up next Pete on the street has a question, with health care reform battle almost over, what's Congress going to fight over now?


KING: Let's check in with Campbell Brown up in New York for a sense at what's coming up at the top of the hour. Campbell?

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there John. We will be watching the Senate tonight voting on dozens of amendments to the health care reconciliation bill. We have also John got a story that goes against the grain of politics these days. Ted Olson and David Boise who battled each other in the Supreme Court over the 2000 election on the same side. We're going to tell you about the controversial issue that has brought them together. That coming up, John.

KING: Looking forward to it. Thanks so much.

We have a lot of beat reporters in town. They cover the white house, the pentagon, the Congress. We consider Pete Dominick our off beat reporter. Pete's with us up in New York. How are you Pete? PETE DOMINICK, COMEDIAN: Thank you very much, John King.

KING: You are most welcome.

DOMINICK: So we decided the most obvious question is what's next. We asked the following to the people on the street.

What do you think the most important issue should be right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's so important people have jobs. It makes them feel like they're somebody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you don't have a job, you feel insecure, you feel like you're not doing -- like me basically.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess creating jobs would be the most important thing.

DOMINICK: You look like you have a job.


DOMINICK: Can you give me a job? Everybody today has been saying jobs. I think for you, probably hair care would be something I'm not concerned with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I would stick with the health care.

DOMINICK: You're very vague, sir, what are you protecting?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My political office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to do this economy more stronger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think what government needs to do is unleash the spirit and the energy of entrepreneurship.

DOMINICK: What's the next big issue, do you think, President Obama and Congress should tackle?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would have to say education.

DOMINICK: You think you have a good education?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, because I went to private school and everything like that.

DOMINICK: Oh, private school? Is that why you have two collars up?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have to prevent cap and trade.

DOMINICK: Prevent cap and trade?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they have to work on illegal immigration. DOMINICK: You look like a very classy couple. May I ask what the most classy event you've attended in the last week or so is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were at river dance last evening.

DOMINICK: I knew it. They went to river dance. Will you river dance with me? We're river dancing.

KING: Pete, after watching that, I thought financial reform would be the next big issue. I may ask the Congress to outlaw river dancing by you.

DOMINICK: That would be a real invasion of government right there. Everybody says jobs.

KING: Just about everybody said jobs, didn't they?

DOMINICK: Yeah, that's the big concern for everybody, for themselves and the people they care about, of course, yeah.

KING: So next to meeting some river dancers, what off beat things, when people didn't say jobs, I heard immigration.

DOMINICK: We heard energy, climate legislation. A couple people said foreign policy. Get the troops out or national security. One way or the other. It was overwhelmingly jobs and the economy.

KING: I heard you say, can you get me a job, you don't think this is a job?

DOMINICK: No. This is a great job. Last night my friend was watching with his 5-year-old son. He said when James Carville came on, he said is that Pete? There's some drawbacks.

KING: You and James go to the same hairdresser?

DOMINICK: We do. You'll never be there, John King.

KING: Pete Dominick. That was a great grimace. That's all for us.