Return to Transcripts main page


The President's Challenge; Stopping Iran's Quest for Nukes; Ken Salazar Interview

Aired March 31, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Thank you, Wolf. There was a photographer visiting today and I asked him the last time he used film and then as some music played here in the studio we got to talking about the last time we played vinyl. Remember turntables and albums? Maybe eight tracks? Change is constant and everywhere and we can all agree it isn't always easy.

Take energy, initially we'll spend a good deal of time on it tonight. There's hopeful talk of a new green economy and a new way of life, electric cars, wind and solar power, alternative fuels from plants, maybe the ocean, but change takes time. There are technological and scientific hurdles and there are politics -- feisty politics.

What makes the energy debate so interesting is the divide is often more about geography than ideological. Visit coal communities as I did last year a few times, for example, and you'll find plenty of people, Republicans and Democrats, who see some proposed change as a threat to their way of life. A couple of months back I visited Hawaii, to see a mix of wind and solar and ocean water projects that altogether are fueling, all pun intended, an energy evolution, if not revolution.

But as exciting as it is to see glimpses of tomorrow, we still live in the today and the president says that today requires new investments in nuclear energy and his newest proposal, more drilling off our coastal areas. Those who like Sarah Palin's refrain of drill, baby, drill, say the president's plan is too timid. But there is an alternative refrain, kill, baby, kill, from those who say more offshore drilling will kill both Marine life and jobs in coastal communities. It is a fascinating and an important debate and worth some time tonight and beyond.

The president made his offshore drilling announcement after months of administration study with key members on hand of his energy team, the president said even as the United States tries to move toward greener, cleaner energy sources, it still needs oil and gas for the foreseeable future and must reduce its dependence on foreign oil.


BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The bottom line is this, given our energy needs, in order to sustain economic growth and produce jobs and keep our businesses competitive, we are going to need to harness traditional sources of fuel, even as we ramp up production of new sources of renewable, homegrown energy.


KING: That energy announcement only adds to the list of big challenges for the Obama White House. Tomorrow, the president will be on the road to sell the new health care changes. Yes, those changes are already the law of the land. But the policy and political debate rages on.

Our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, is here now to take us inside the president's plan to try to turn what Republicans see as a big Democratic liability into a political plus -- hi, Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello and it does seem that the president is putting as much energy into pushing this law as he did into pushing the bill. The president heads to Portland, Maine where he will be focusing on small businesses. A White House aide telling me that the president who will be joined by his Small Business Administrator, Karen Mills, will be focusing on some of the benefits and in particular pushing back on doubts by focusing on immediate benefits, how these small businesses will be able to see a decrease in their insurance costs to their employees and how they, in turn, can use that money to hire additional workers. Another administration official telling me that this is the kind of push that you'll see from the president over the coming months and that he'll be using his administration officials and other cabinet members on an ongoing basis to continue this sales pitch -- John.

KING: Dan Lothian at the White House -- Dan, thanks.

Also word tonight of progress in the president's push for quick action on new sanctions against Iran for refusing to halt its nuclear program. Russia and China have been reluctant to be as aggressive as the United States, France and others would like, but our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, joins us with word of a possible diplomatic opening -- Jill.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: John, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice tells CNN that China so far a hold-out on sanctions on Iran, has agreed to discuss a possible package of U.N. sanctions. Beijing, she says, has agreed to sit down and begin serious negotiations in New York. Now, a senior U.S. official tells CNN this does not mean that China is agreeing to any specific actions, at least at this point. They're agreeing to talk about possible sanctions, and that's good news for the U.S. and its allies who want to get tough on Iran, and it also helps to explain why President Obama seems so confident that the U.S. can get a sanctions resolution within weeks -- John.

KING: Worth watching, Jill Dougherty, thanks for that breaking news tonight. Appreciate it.

Time flies. We just reached the end of the first quarter of 2010. Can you believe that? Even though the Dow industrials closed down a bit today, the average is up 4.1 percent for the year and the market has been up for 23 of the last 25 days, another significant number, especially today, the price of oil closing at a 17-month high. Light crude is approaching $84 a barrel.

Let's take a walk over to the magic wall and show you what we still have to come tonight on JOHN KING, USA. When we come back, we'll go "Wall-to-Wall" and we'll map out the president's new plan for offshore drilling. We'll show you what's in and what's out.

We'll also go "One-on-One" with the president's point man, the energy secretary -- Interior Secretary -- excuse me -- Ken Salazar, we'll talk about the tough politics of offshore drilling and we'll also ask him how might this affect your bottom line.

The most important person you don't know tonight, we'll introduce you to a grandfather sent off to war and as you meet him, you can join us in wishing him a big happy birthday.

And you won't want to miss "Play-by-Play". Here's the test: Does who you root for in sports give away how you might vote come election day? We'll put James Carville and Mary Matalin to the "Play- by-Play" test -- all of that still to come.


KING: In "Wall-to-Wall" tonight, let's map out the president's new proposal to significantly expand offshore oil and gas exploration off America's coastline. Let's take a peek. Now first I'm going to show you where there's currently drilling allowed, those are the green areas. You see a little bit off the coast here of Maryland and Virginia, and a lot down here in the Gulf Coast. There's also a little bit up in Alaska -- we'll get to that in just a second.

But this is what is currently allowed, drilling right there. Here's the president's new proposal for drilling, a large swath you see here along the Atlantic Coast from New Jersey all the way down to Florida. More exploration out here in the Gulf Coast as well and again we'll get to Alaska in just a second. But you see this right here. Here is an area that is now off-limits, the white spots.

All along the Pacific Coast out here and some spots up here in the northeast and some areas down here around Florida and near the Gulf Coast. The administration says the resource potential here is so low they will not allow drilling there right now. And here's one other thing we want to show you, newly protected areas and to do that, we'll swing you over here up to Alaska. And you see the pink here -- that is Bristol Bay.

The administration says no, to drilling in here, and many up in Alaska and elsewhere don't like that. You see the green area, that's where there's currently allowed drilling up in Alaska, and up here is proposed for new drilling in the administration plan today. So this yellow area propose to allow new drilling, this red area, the administration says no, and the white area, again, a low-resource area, the administration says at least for now, no drilling.

This announcement today represents an evolution of sort in the president's thinking on this controversial issue. At one point, in the 2008 presidential campaign, candidate Obama was scornful of rival John McCain's call for more offshore drilling.


BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I'm president, I intend to keep in place the moratorium here in Florida and around the country that prevents oil companies from drilling off Florida's coasts. That's how we can protect our coastline and still make the investments that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and bring down gas prices for good.


KING: By the final presidential debate of 2008, though, candidate Obama was more open to offshore exploration, though careful to predict it wouldn't help much in the short term.


OBAMA: I think that we should look at offshore drilling and implement it in a way that allows us to get some additional oil. But, understand, we only had three to four percent of the world's oil reserves, and we use 25 percent of the world's oil, which means that we can't drill our way out of the problem.


KING: Today, in his new policy announcement, the president seemed well aware there would be complaints it was too little, and there were, and complaints it was way too much.


OBAMA: Ultimately we need to move beyond the tired debates of the left and the right, between business leaders and environmentalists, between those who would claim drilling is a cure- all and those who would claim it has no place because this issue is just too important to allow our progress to languish while we fight the same old battles over and over again.


KING: So, a closer look still at what the administration believes will come of benefit from this. Let's look at some of the numbers. The administration says it believes in the areas where it would now allow drilling; there are 39 million to 63 million barrels of oil to be recovered, if that's right, that number that would meet our current demand for oil for about five to eight years.

The administration says that is worth doing and here's some other potential impact. Fuel production, it takes four to 12 years because of environmental studies and to build the rigs takes a while to get it the fuel production up and running. Would it affect gasoline prices? Negligible, the administration concedes at this point.

It could have a big impact though in job creation, a lot of good- paying jobs on these offshore oil rigs. What about the royalties? Ultimately the administration could take in a lot of money from those offshore leases, but most of that money because of the time it takes to implement this would be after the current recession.

When we come back, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is here to go "One-on-One". We visited an offshore oil rig in Louisiana last year as the administration began its study on this issue. Next, I'll ask him about the tough politics of selling more drilling, and when it might make a different in your energy bills.


KING: Here to go "One-on-One", the president's point man in this new offshore drilling proposal, the Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar -- welcome.


KING: I want to get to the specifics, but first -- and the politics, which are pretty interesting. But, first, for a family out there right now sitting around the kitchen table who has seen the price of gas go up a little bit, maybe they're just coming out of the winter and the home heating oil season and they understand what energy can do to the family budget, what does this mean to them? And is the answer in the short term, almost nothing, because it takes a while to implement this, if you get Congress to go along.

SALAZAR: That's correct. The energy prices -- the price at the pump really is a matter of the world markets, and so this will not -- this decision will not have an impact in terms of the price at the pump.

KING: But yet you think this is critical, why?

SALAZAR: Critical, as the president said, for the energy security of the nation, and as part of the comprehensive energy plan, we need to move forward to have a real energy-independent America, and that has failed presidents for 40 years. It's not going to fail with him.

KING: I think we have a map we can show of the administration's plan. It would be over your right shoulder, sir. As we do so, some of the areas that are in, some of the areas that are out in this proposal. The politics of this are quite fascinating. As you see the plan, you've taken the Pacific Coast is out of play. You say there's low resources, it's not worth the controversy or the effort out there.

Along the Atlantic Ocean, a number of lawmakers, mostly Democrats the politics of (INAUDIBLE) coming out today saying you know kill, baby, kill, Frank Lautenberg, the senator from New Jersey said -- he says you're going to destroy jobs in coastal communities and perhaps destroy Marine life as well. Ben Cardin, a Democratic senator from Maryland, both former colleagues of yours in the United States Senate say they worry about spills in the Chesapeake Bay. Address the environmental concerns that this is too risky for such pristine areas of our country. SALAZAR: We're going to protect the environment and you know my great friends Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez and others, the reality of it is we will move forward and do what we call a look and see on the Atlantic. That means (INAUDIBLE) it is out there, it still has to go through all the environmental analysis, but at the end of the day, this administration stands ready and strong with the foot in conservation, and we're not going to do anything that's going to degrade the environment or the coastlines.

KING: The flip side of the argument has come from some Republicans who say this is too timid, that you should not have taken Bristol Bay out of play up in Alaska, for example. You should not have taken out of play the Pacific Coast. Why those decisions?

SALAZAR: Well, those decisions are based on the fact that there are some natural ecological wildlife values up there that are just absolutely the greatest. Bristol Bay provides about 40 percent of the fish for the United States. It is a place where presidents from the past, Republicans and Democrats, wanted to protect that place. The same thing is true with the Pacific, and the National Wildlife Refuges of the Marine areas there are absolutely at the very top of the line.

So, we're going to protect those environments because they are very special places. On the other hand, if you summed this up, John, I would say this, you know, in the Gulf of Mexico we say let's go for it, and we're going to do it surgically to protect the Florida coast. In the Atlantic, it's a look-and-see. In the Pacific and in some places in Alaska like Bristol Bay, they're too special to drill, so we're going to conserve, and so this is a balanced plan. It represents a new direction for us and this administration based on what had happened in the past; we're not just thoughtlessly going and rushing to lease everywhere in America.

KING: The sharpest criticism of the Democratic administration has come from Democratic senators. I want to take you back in time a bit. There was a moment back in 2008 when George W. Bush wanted to lift the moratorium, and Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, went to the floor and he was trying to get unanimous consent in the Senate to implement this proposal, and a then Senator Ken Salazar came to the floor and said, oh, no, you don't. Let's listen.


SALAZAR: Reserving the right to object for the same reasons that we stated earlier, this, again, is creating a phantom solution to the reality of the energy prices and the energy challenge that we face as a nation, and, therefore, I object.


KING: Phantom solution, then?

SALAZAR: Well, the reality is that we do not have a panacea here with respect to oil and gas drilling in the offshore or the onshore. We cannot drill our way to energy independence. So, President Obama recognizes that now, he's always recognized that. What we need to have is a comprehensive energy program and that includes our most massive investment ever in the history of the country in renewable energy and solar and geothermal, biofuels and also in technologies. It's a very great thing that the administration is doing. We will be saving billions of barrels of oil, simply through the transportation efficiencies that will be implemented tomorrow. So, it's part of a comprehensive plan to get us out of the energy dependency that we have been in for generations.

KING: Again, the politics are fascinating. Some Republicans said you know this isn't everything I would like, but parts of it are OK and for a Democrat they say it's a step in the right direction, but some of them also say they view this as a trap, that the president has agreed to help finance nuclear power plants. That helps him in some areas and that's something, again, that a Democratic president is getting a little bit of criticism for from the environmental community.

Now he comes out with something like this. What the Republicans say is that is bald politics, you are looking for two votes here, four votes there, maybe a couple of more over here so that you can sell this as part of a big comprehensive climate change policy that they believe inevitably will lead to higher taxes, especially higher carbon taxes, for American businesses and American families. Do they have a point?

SALAZAR: John, they are simply wrong. The fact of the matter is, new plans that will take us seven years forward with respect to the outer continental shelf are based on what is the best science for the --

KING: What about -- what about this is a piece of the bigger climate change debate?

SALAZAR: Well, on the energy and climate change legislation that is being negotiated and people are talking about it, there is a bipartisan effort. In fact, a tri-partisan because you have Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Joe Lieberman and Senator John Kerry who are trying to put those pieces together and so we are very --

KING: Lindsey Graham is pretty lonely on the Republican side right now.

SALAZAR: But Lindsey Graham has stood out and said that one of the things that we need to do is we need to create jobs here in America. We need to move towards energy independence --

KING: You know the Senate. Can you do it in a midterm election year? John McCain used to be with Senator Lindsey Graham at least on the big picture of it. The specifics people get split on the specifics -- excuse me -- but there are more Republicans if you went back to when Bush was president in a midterm election year, where a lot of them, including Senator McCain, are worrying about primary challenges, do you really think you can get that done this year?

SALAZAR: Yes, I think it's possible. It's not that it's going to be easy, but then nothing is easy. No one thought that some of the achievements that we've had in the last year that we would be able to achieve. My own view is that this is an issue that transcends party lines. You know, Democrats and Republicans alike believe strongly in national security. They believe in jobs here in America. And this is a place where the president is leading to try to bring people together in this country. This is an American issue about to unite many people behind this initiative.

KING: Let me ask you more a generational question. Let's throw the politics out for a minute. We live in this remarkable time. Technology is changing overnight. We went out on that oil rig to see the new technology they were using. I was in Hawaii recently seeing ocean water being used, the solar, the wind and all these other things. But your concession that you need to do more of this, your belief you need to do more of this is proof that we are dependent on oil and gas for the foreseeable future. When is that day -- when is that day when we throw the switch, turn off the pump and we have a different energy paradigm?

SALAZAR: You know, John, it's going to happen gradually over time. We're not going to wave a magic wand and make it happen within a year or two years but what we can do --

KING: Is it 10 or 20 though or do we know?

SALAZAR: I would say 10 or 20. But we need to move forward with a kind of framework that really embraces the alternative energies in a major way and no one has done that until this president and our investments in renewable energy and new technologies, the kinds of announcements that he made today in terms of hybrid vehicles for the federal government, there's a whole bunch of things that are going on that finally are moving us in the direction to be an energy independent country.

KING: It's both fascinating and a bit contentious as you well know, Mr. Secretary, we appreciate your coming in and helping us understand it. We'll keep in touch in the months ahead.

SALAZAR: Thank you, John. And best of luck in the show.

KING: Oh thank you very much. We appreciate that.

And we take "The Pulse" of America when we some back. When it comes to new health care reform law, one Republican has a less drastic approach than total repeal. Might it catch on? Stay right there.

KING: Thank you.

SALAZAR: Thank you very much.


KING: Time to take "The Pulse" of America -- with us today from Atlanta CNN contributor Erick Erickson. He's the editor-in-chief of the conservative blog Erick, let me start with you where I just left off with Secretary Salazar. He believes is it time for the Congress to consider not only this new offshore drilling proposal which he says is the right approach, the middle ground approach, but also to move on to the bigger debate about climate change.

Some conservatives have complained today that this is a bit of a trap that maybe you like parts of this offshore drilling plan but they are trying to get you involved in a bigger debate about climate change. That could involve -- it's not called cap and trade anymore, but some pretty big transformations.

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I'm sure Lindsey Graham will fall for it hook, line, and sinker, the senator from South Carolina. You know it's great that Ken Salazar has changed his mind from when he was in the Senate a few years ago, but frankly I think the president is trying to couch himself as King Solomon, when in fact he's the woman who was happy to have the baby split. He's trying to do what George Bush did but not.

I mean the reason we're here today is because George Bush had put a lot of this in place when he was leaving office and this administration said, no, no, no, let's wait and now they're saying, OK, let's review it but not until 2012. And just ignore the fact that a judge two weeks ago said you can give these leases away through the Bureau of Land Management but we have to assess them for climate change.

KING: So you don't buy it. All right let me move on --

ERICKSON: I don't buy it.

KING: Let me move on to another issue. We talked the other night about the controversy over Michael Steele (INAUDIBLE) the Republican National Committee and a staffer went to a risque nightclub --


KING: -- and somebody else paid for it and they were reimbursed and so there have been a lot of questions and social conservatives especially don't like this because of the image they say it sends. And I want to say -- read you a quote from Tony Perkins the president of the Conservative Family Research Council, tonight.

He says "I've hinted at this before but now I am saying it, don't give money to the Republican National Committee. If you want to put money into the political process, and I encourage you to do so, give directly to candidates you know who reflect your values."

Is that sound advice? And while you can give money directly to candidates the party can do some different things with money to help those candidates in elections. Might this principled stand by Tony Perkins actually potentially undermine conservative candidates?

ERICKSON: Well I don't think it's going to undermine conservative candidates any more than what the RNC is already doing. It's kind of ridiculous. I would love to be out there fighting the Democrats and countering the Democrats, but I have to keep answering these questions about the dumb things the RNC is doing. And at some point I think people at the RNC are going to have to assess is Michael Steele becoming too much of a liability.

Is he spending too many RNC resources having to defend himself from Republicans, not from Democrats. And you know the next thing to blow up is going to be that Jim Greer, his transition team chairman and his rules committee captain is now looking to be indicted potentially in Florida for his management of the Florida Republican Party. This is just more stuff that's coming out.

It's very clear that the current here is not Democrat versus Republican. It's Republican versus Republican and when does Michael Steele become too much of a liability?

KING: OK, as we continue to follow that one, I want to get your thoughts lastly on this. You said right after the health care bill passed that repeal should be the message of Republicans. I'm holding up "The Weekly Standard", the conservative magazine. This week they have repealed on the cover, the overthrow of Obama-care, they say. That has been a consistent message from some conservatives, but a man who was the hero of the conservative movement when he won the Massachusetts Senate race, has a slightly different opinion.

He writes this in "The Boston Globe," Senator Scott Brown. "For starters, we can work in a bipartisan manner to repeal the worst parts of this bill. But he goes on to say, I'm working on legislation that would allow states to opt out of this federal health care bill because states need flexibility, not a federal government takeover of health care." Scott Brown essentially saying repeal parts of it, tinker with other parts of it. Is that the approach where you see the party moving in now, not a total repeal?

ERICKSON: Well, you know, John Cornyn and Bob Corker are saying the same thing and Mitch McConnell, whenever anyone says repeal, it is adamant to throw in and replace it with something. You know Massachusetts Republicans tend to be about as reliable as mercenaries. He'll be reliable on something, but on this one --

KING: Well they have to win moderate votes --


KING: Might it be a reasonable position to win votes in the sense that he can't be re-elected but just among conservatives there aren't enough of them in Massachusetts.

ERICKSON: And he has to win re-election in six years, the Republicans have to win, though, in November and independents, by 56 percent or 53 percent, I forget what the CNN poll said, somewhere up there, want this thing fully repealed and replaced and trying to split the baby isn't going to help anybody.

KING: All right, Erick Erickson as always appreciate your thoughts.

2012, Scott Brown has to win a new race in 2012, he only has two years to wait, we'll keep an eye on that one. All right. Erick, thank you very much.

When it comes to U.S. troops in Iraq, today's most person you don't know breaks the mold. We'll introduce you to a grandpa who went to war, next.


KING: Today's most important person you don't know is celebrating his 52nd birthday right here in the USA after just putting in another year defending your freedom overseas. Army staff sergeant Randy Powell tells us he's one of three grandfathers, he knows of, who have been serving in Iraq. I met Randy last year, and it was a treat. We were down in Georgia where he's a corporal on the Savannah police force, and he was getting ready then to ship out, again. Again, because 20 years ago he was a radar specialist during "operations desert shield and desert storm." He left the army back in 1992 but stayed on active reserve status. He didn't hear from the military for 14-plus years after leaving, but then last year he was summoned for another tour, this time in Iraq. At the time Randy said he felt fully capable of being a soldier, even as a fifty-something.

RANDY POWELL, SAVANNAH POLICE: Once a soldier, always a soldier. I find that it's an honor to serve within the military. I enjoyed the military while I was in. Kind of looking forward to getting back into the groove. You never forget where your roots are.

KING: And those roots run deep. Randy is thinking of re- enlisting for a six-year hitch as a warrant officer.

I want to bring in our CNN national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin into the conversation.


KING: No matter what you think of the war, I know the war has become very political. But this guy is amazing.

YELLIN: What a remarkable story. At 55, doesn't he have the right to opt out?

KING: They had a little bit of a duty status still left and they had the right to bring him back. We've seen it with a lot of guys in the reserves or the National Guard, they have the ready reserve status and because the eight years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, they needed him so they brought him back. Some people grumble about it, but he never did.

YELLIN: What at great spirit.

KING: He e-mailed me a couple times over there saying he was having fun being the old guy.

YELLIN: He can tell others what to do.

KING: So let's talk a little bit about the politics of the moment. The new offshore drilling plan, and Lindsey Graham are working with them, but most other Republicans have kind of run away because of the politics of this. Let's look at the poll numbers before we have the conversation. The question is which should be the bigger priority, the environment or the economy? If you look back in time a little bit, 2006, the environment actually beat the economy, but, remember, the economy was doing pretty well back then. If you look now, 51 percent say the economy, 45 percent, the environment. So, jobs trump the environment in a recession.

YELLIN: Yes. But, you know, this will become a political issue again if gas prices spike right around the election, and with the president proposing this is, you know, foreshadowing major energy legislation that's going to be introduced at the end of April and the president can enter the election year saying, I tried, I'm working on bringing down your gas price. So whether it succeeds or not, at least he's cutting forward on an issue that will matter to Americans when our tank costs too much to fill up.

KING: But President Bush couldn't figure this one out.


KING: Do you think Obama can?

YELLIN: It's thorny.

KING: It's difficult.

YELLIN: Well think about how remarkable it is you have a Democratic president one that so many accused of being so far left that he's a socialist who has embraced two positions that only Republican presidents have embraced lately, nuclear power plants, building nuclear power plants and offshore drilling. I know when you covered the white house, people would call this triangulation. Do you think it is? I'm not convinced it is.

KING: I don't know that I would call it triangulation, but I think it's cherry-picking, it's can I get a couple of votes from the guys who support me on nuclear power, hopefully a couple of those are Republicans, do I get a couple more from say maybe an Alaska senator who wanted the drilling up there. Do you get enough to say, all right, he's giving me something. But that's the big question in Washington right now. It used to be giving people something was enough to get a compromise. As we saw in the health care debate, maybe he wasn't willing to give enough. But the polarization seems just as profound now as it was at any point during the Bush and Clinton years.

YELLIN: That's the grumbling from the left, the flip side, the president is making these conceptions too early. It's not a negotiating ploy, it's before you even begin negotiations, and so he's already giving the Republicans drilling and nuclear power plants. What if they don't sign on then, how much more will he give? And then he's in danger of losing senators who are very liberal, it is, as you say, a thorny issue.

KING: A thorny issue, we'll leave it there. That's a nice summary. Jess, thanks so much.

Next on "the clash" how to raise money off anything, even a big mess-up? James Carville and Mary Matalin are here to look at the joy of political fund-raising.


KING: Just about anything that happens can turn into a good excuse for political fund-raiser. Here for "the clash," Democratic strategist, James Carville, and Republican strategist, Mary Matalin, both CNN political contributors. Fundraising in a moment but first I want to talk, James, you with a briefing with a new poll that you've done with the democracy core, and Stan Greenberg, your partner, he was of course Bill Clinton's Democratic pollster. At the breakfast he said if the election were now, we would have a change election. We would have a 1994. Now, he also said that he thought Scott Brown may have been the 1994, may have been the big boom and that there's time, seven months between now and election day. But is that your worry right now, that if things don't change, 1994 could happen again?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: We would not have a good election if the election were health now. But fortunately the election's not going to be held now, it's going to be held in November, I know I think and Stan does, he later on went on to say that things will turn more favorable for Democrats. I think they will. I think they are starting to turn a little bit more favorable, and we're certainly going to lose seats, the question is how many. I don't think it will be a 1994-type loss, but if it were held today, it would be. He gave an honest assessment.

KING: 1994 was 52 seats for the Republicans. Do you see any possibility of getting there?

MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, it was a different landscape. The actions of this administration have certainly put more seats into competitive play, but it's a completely different landscape. They are predicating their rosy scenario on this health care passing ginning up their base. It did somewhat, but it also ginned up the opposition to it, it increased the intensity. They are also banking on improving economy. As we all know from working in or covering the white house, you get blamed for a bad economy. You don't get credit when it starts turning around, even if it could turn around fast enough, which it likely can't.

KING: We met years ago when you were working for George H.W. Bush and a guy named Lee Atwater, the great late Lee Atwater, who went onto become chairman of the Republican National Committee, I say great, because he was a great political organizing. He knew how to organize people to turn out the vote. There are others who wouldn't use those adjectives but I say that as a person who watched politics. There is a controversy now about this chairman of the committee. Lee did that job. You worked with Rich Bond who did that job. Tony Perkins said earlier, don't give the RNC money because the controversy about the staffer spending money at a risque nightclub and Rick Santorum, former conservative senator who might be running for president in Iowa, he said this, Chairman Steele might have had personal knowledge about this sort of activity, but if that's the case, there's absence of leadership at the RNC. Is Michael still a liability?

MATALIN: I wish he was as good a chairman as he is a person. Michael Steele is a good person. If they were the first incident, it would be redeemable, but it's one after the other. It's --

KING: So, does he have to go, in your mind?

MATALIN: I -- the rules are not such and the structure's not such that that will make another big story trying to do that. As you well know, the next chairmanship race will be the -- geared toward the presidential race. But the good news about all of this is money is not disappearing. It's just being redirected. The Congressional committee and the Senate committee, arguably the better place to put your money if you're a major donor in the midterm, is reaping the rewards of the unpleasantness at the Republican national committee. When I was a young staffer at the RNC, I didn't know what bondage was --

CARVILLE: Look, this is where the young eagles like to go. This guy was doing donor maintenance. This is where these young Republican fund-raisers hang out.

MATALIN: Really? How do you know this?

CARVILLE: It was all over the press. What they called the eagles. The eagles like to fly at a low level, a little bondage. This guy was nothing but donor maintenance and now they want to get mad at him/

KING: Let's talk about fund-raising of a different sort. And first a moment you all remember at the health care signing where Joe Biden was passing off to President Obama and he said a certain something. Let's look at that moment.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT: This is a [ bleep ] big deal.


KING: Watch the president's eyes as he walks away here. He starts to look off. He is not happy. At that moment you can tell the president of the United States is not happy, and yet organizing for America, which is the Obama political organization, is now offering donors saying "health reform is a BFD." That's essentially short handing what the vice president said, give us money and you get one of these cool t-shirts. Is there anything, James, that within seconds doesn't end up fund raising?

CARVILLE: Not too much. Not too much. But, no. And, you know, I -- this is kind of harmless. It's not a -- you know, obviously the vice president said, you're right, the president was like, ooh. I think the president's a lot more of a -- of a tight --

KING: Language is more genteel.

CARVILLE: Genteel. Yeah. Yeah.

KING: All right. Let's call a time-out here because we've got a lot to cover in "play by play." When we come back, we'll test the theory who you root for in sports can predict who you'll vote for in politics. We'll put James and Mary to the test. Come on back.


KING: All right, we're back with the "play by play." James Carville and Mary Matalin with us, Democrat and Republican respectively. I'm going to go over here to the wall, because I want to show you some tweets in the energy debate, okay? We start with this morning, the president is announcing his new policy with offshore drilling. And John McCain said it's a good idea, drill, baby, drill, good move. And where are Reid and Pelosi on this? So John McCain trying to put a little pressure on the Democratic leaders in Congress here. Where are they on this plan? The initial reaction from Republicans pretty good. And then we get a Sarah Palin tweet, his former running mate. 1:02 p.m., drill, baby, drill, Governor Palin thinks it's a good idea. But now watch this. I'll clear the screen and come back over with the follow-up tweet, six minutes later, Palin saying, Representative Boehner, the Republican leader is spot on, the Obama goal is to get what she calls a job-killing, energy-depleting, burdensome, cap-and-trade scene. So what happened? How did it go from being a good idea to horrible idea so quickly?

CARVILLE: What starts at noon eastern time? "The Rush Limbaugh Show." That's it. That's the big guy.

KING: We got a headshake from --

CARVILLE: I bet that will happen.

MATALIN: He has tried this tactic. The Democrats have tried to make Rush the -- all you do is increase his stature.

CARVILLE: I'm just saying, his stature is deserved.

MATALIN: They are not mutually exclusive. That Obama is trying to win some Republicans and conservative Democrats for climate change by doing the smart thing, the right thing, and developing our own resources here, which is a security issue, but this is right. And drill, baby, drill is right.

KING: Can you believe this? This is where he announced it? Did you ever think you would have an announcement at a military base with an air force jet? Why do you think the president did that?

CARVILLE: I think the argument is that this probably some kind of energy security makes us safer.

KING: And these guys are working on technology. Both the marines and the air force working on technology where they are using biofuels in their planes, so he wanted to pay a little tribute to the military and get a pretty cool photo-op. I want you to come on over. Let me step in front. My apologies for stepping in front. I'll clear the screen a little bit. We'll play a game. OK. This is a new test. The idea being, national media put this up. It's a Republican firm. I will go first. I will put us in the circle here. I will go first. You pick the sports teams you like and allegedly it tells you who you are politically. My daughter loves the WNBA. So we watch that. I also love the NBA. That's over here. Am I this far left of center? Not really. I like the NFL, I like major league baseball. My son plays high school football. So I do that as well. PGA Golf, I like that. You can work for me there. College football, I like that. Every now and then I check out a little NASCAR. That puts me, I think we would say, all over the map. Mary Matalin, come up and take the test.

MATALIN: Oh, no. I like this.

KING: You like pro wrestling. That's good. How about monster trucks? Are you a monster truck girl?

MATALIN: I like them in concept. Yes. I like football.

KING: A Saints fan.

MATALIN: And I like drag racing. I can't say I watch all this. I don't like any of this golf stuff.

KING: High school sports. That puts you, you have a little bit of left in you. A Democratic skew but then you redeem yourself with your Republican audience.

CARVILLE: I won't test well.

KING: Come on test Mr. Carville.

CARVILLE: College football, NFL, major league baseball for sure and NBA.

KING: So no pro bull riding?

CARVILLE: I like the rodeo. I'll tell you the truth, I like other things. I like calf roping and saddle riding the best.

KING: I promise you, I'll put that on the chart for next time. This says James is right of center. Is he hiding something from us?

MATALIN: He's bipolar, how about that?

CARVILLE: I never like -- I like sports. That's what I do.

MATALIN: There is nothing on there you don't like.

CARVILLE: I don't dislike it.

KING: Maybe not monster truck.

CARVILLE: I like to watch the NASCAR stuff. KING: We'll play this out from time to time. Sometimes on TV, sometimes off and we'll see if it is a fair indicator of how people vote. You are an interesting mix right there as always. Thank you, James and Mary.

Buried in the health care bill is the tanning bed tax. Next, our offbeat and pasty reporter Pete on the street hits the streets to find out if the price of beauty is worth it.


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

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, John. We have new developments we'll tell you about tonight in the case of the Hutaree militia. We're learning more about the undercover federal agent who infiltrated the group whose testimony is now critical to the government's case. And we've got another story of law enforcement under fire. This time in California. Where somebody has been setting booby traps targeting police. We'll talk about all of that coming up at the top of the hour.

KING: Fascinating story. We'll see you in a few minutes. Thanks Campbell.

Now we'll head up to our offbeat reporter Pete Dominick who is standing by for us in New York. Hey Pete.

PETE DOMINICK, COMEDIAN: Hey, John. I don't know if you knew this, I know you're a big indoor tanning guy, of course. Look at you. There is a 10 percent premium tax that hits July 10th on indoor tanning. We went out in the street to find out how people felt about their fake glow being taxed.

Do you go tanning a lot?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Boehner and I hang out together.

DOMINICK: He is a spray-on guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is a spray on.

DOMINICK: If you cannot tan without a tax, what can you do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. Then all that's left is like the sun.

DOMINICK: Should we tax the sun?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't have any problem putting labels on cigarette when's we thought they were causing cancer. Why would we not do the same with tanning salons?

DOMINICK: They say women's high left field bad for your back. What is they tax that? That's unhealthy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would definitely object to that.

DOMINICK: You would protest.

You don't ever tan?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No need. I have a beautiful complexion.

DOMINICK: You do have a great complexion. What do you think about taxing tanning salons to help pay for health care legislation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That makes no sense.

DOMINICK: Will you tan with me someday?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you put a wig on.

DOMINICK: You had like purple knit hat and they put a tax on that because it was a bold choice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I just got back from Florida.

DOMINICK: That's a real tan. This is real hair too. Do you think you could fit me in for a quick hair cut? I want to take a little off the top. As long as they don't tax the hair salons, I should be fine. This is a really great job. Thank you John King USA. As long as John stays out of my foot care, I'm content. Thank you. Very nice. I've never actually gone tanning. But I'm ready. Let's do this. Into the booth! This is America. John, I'm not going to lie. I'm on the side of the tanners. I would hate to have to pay an extra tax for this wonderful activity. I'm in heaven.

Well, John, I want to apologize to you, the viewers, Campbell's viewers that you had to see that. But yeah, that tax is going to be in the health care legislation.

KING: I've got your expense accounts here, Pete. I'm going through them. How much did that cost us?

DOMINICK: I don't know. That's going to come up on your bill, John. And I thought maybe you and I, two kind of pale, pasty guys, we could tan together.

KING: Pale pasty guy. Come on!

DOMINICK: At least you have hair. Look at me.

KING: I've never been in one of those tanning booths. What is it like?

DOMINICK: Neither have I. To me it was like torture. I felt like someone was interrogating me. It is not fun. I don't know how you do that. I really don't understand.

KING: We had you freezing out there last week. It looks like spring may have finally arrived. How does it feel out there? DOMINICK: It is a little shaky. It is not spring in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, it's flooding. It's pretty nice in New York so I'm happy to be outside again.

KING: What have you got for us tomorrow?

DOMINICK: Tomorrow it will be unemployment we're doing. That will be an important one. And I'm looking forward to that. Talking to people about how to get a job how many to interview. A lot of people are having that problem so we'll be talking to them.

KING: One last question, that first guy you interviewed in that piece know was that your body double?

DOMINICK: Yes. I always have a body double in everyone have these pieces. You finally figured it out, John.

KING: It takes me a little while. I'm a little slow on the uptake. All right. Pete Dominick for us in New York. Pete we'll see you tomorrow. Take care.

That's all for us tonight. Thanks for spending time with us. As Pete mentioned, unemployment coming up. Also a big census date. Tomorrow is April 1 and it is not an April fools joke to say it is census day in the United States. We'll spend a bit of time looking at that. That's all for us. Thanks for being with us. Campbell Brown starts right now.