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JOHN KING, USA

U.S. Economy Adds 162,000 Jobs; Iranian Weapons For the Taliban; Extremist Demand Govs. Resign

Aired April 2, 2010 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Wolf. You know they say numbers don't lie. And by that test, this is a night we can all feel a little better. The economy added 162,000 jobs last month, the best month in more than three years. The president believes he deserves credit. Republicans beg to differ. After all they say the unemployment rate stayed put at a discouraging 9.7 percent.

The politics of the jobs debate is important. And will take up a good deal of our time tonight. But the human toll is far, far more important. And if we forget that those of White House have jobs don't deserve them. I met Don Wit a year ago. And checked back in because the president was visiting his home State, North Carolina.

Don came out of retirement because his portfolio took a pounding in the Wall Street meltdown. He's a career counselor now at a community college. Helping the unemployed with job helping skills and in the process trying to rebuild his nest egg. Don is teaching a second class this year and there are dozens of unemployed professionals on waiting list for the class. Better evidence than any government statistic. It is far from time to celebrate.

Michigan another frequent stop of the past couple of years. It leads the nation in unemployment, which means it's busy at job centers, like this one in Detroit. The other day there we met Deborah Hall Turner, a nurse for 35 years. Laid off just this week. She's one of nine siblings, nine siblings, get this, all nine have lost their jobs now at one point of this recession.

As of many Deborah's friends and her neighbors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEBORAH HALL-TUNER, UNEMPLOYED NURSE: Not been able to find a job, not their fault, OK? Working and looking every day for a job. So we're all working together, we help each other out, we feed each other and you know those kinds of things. But you know these are the hardest times we've ever seen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So as we dig deeper tonight into the numbers and the politics, let's not forget who this debate is about.

New jobs report leads our effort to get you ahead of the morning newspapers. 162,000 jobs added last month included 50,000 temporary census jobs. And because more Americans were looking for work, the unemployment rate held steady at 9.7 percent, despite the new hiring. And then, there's underemployment. If you add up those out of work, plus those who want to work full time but can only find part-time jobs, underemployment rate is a staggering 16.9 percent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT UNITED STATES: So we have to be mindful that today's job numbers while welcomed leaves us with more work to do. It will take time to achieve the strong and sustained job growth that we need.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The president there speaking earlier today in North Carolina. New challenges for the president tonight from overseas. One, from Afghanistan. From President Hamid Karzai. Remember the president made a secret trip there last weekend to nudge the Afghan leader to take bolder steps to fight corruption.

Instead despite billions in U.S. aid and military assistance, President Karzai responded with a slap. Speaking of the recent Afghan elections, voting the United Nations was rich with fraud of Karzai supporters, the Afghan president said yesterday, no doubt there was huge fraud. There was vast fraud. The fraud is not by the Afghans. This fraud has been done by the foreigners. Suffice to say the White House is far from happy, foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty is here to explain the diplomatic fallout. Jill.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well John, our sources tell us that President Karzai called Secretary Clinton just after the American ambassador showed up to ask Karzai to clarify his remarks.

They, Clinton and Karzai, talked for 25 minutes, and we're told Karzai expressed surprise that his statements caused a stir. We're happy with the call, the source says. We reached a good understanding, but the administration obviously was stung by Karzai's remarks. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs called them troubling and a cause for genuine and real concern. And he said that any suggestion that the international community was responsible for cheating in the recent election is preposterous, John.

KING: One tough one for the administration. Thank you Jill.

And here's another one tension between the United States and Iran could be heading even higher. We've talked in recent days about White House efforts to get new international sanctions against Tehran's nuclear program. Now sources tells CNN about alarming new intelligence suggesting dangerous Iranian meddling in Afghanistan. We are coming on correspondent Barbara Starr is here with more. Hi, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, the senior Pentagon official tells me tonight there is an Iranian source who is talking and talking big time, speaking about new intelligence from Iran that is indicating Iran is planning additional weapons smuggling into Afghanistan in the coming days and weeks, possibly smuggling weapons into the southern city of Kandahar, where U.S. troops are getting ready for the next round of combat.

We're talking about Iranian mortars, rockets, talking about high explosives, manufactured inside Iran, the very same types of explosives that the U.S. saw in roadside bombs that were so deadly in Iraq several months ago. The intelligence, John, is showing weapons from Iran with recent serial numbers and dates of manufacture. There is now no question that the smuggling is taking place. It's ongoing. And is frequent. John.

KING: Very, very troubling. Thank you Barbara we'll see you a bit later.

KING: In a program, the markets are closed today because of Good Friday. But let's head over to the magic wall. Let me show you what's still to come in the program. Tonight when we come back, we'll take the pulse and we'll be focused on that new jobs report. We want to look at the big gap in the jobs numbers between the have notes and the have even mores you might say. You might say also a big racial disparity in the jobs front.

We will also go one-on-one with Ted Strickland, he's the governor of Ohio. One of those governors who have been threatened in recent days by an extremist group. They say those governors must step down. We'll ask him about that. He's also a Democrat on the ballot in a tough election year in New Bellwether State.

In our "Clash" tonight, this will be a fascinating thing. Here the president versus Rush Limbaugh, a he said/he said about the toxic tone of American politics right now. And in "Play By Play," let's just say "March Madness" has spilled over into April. You'll see a presidential air ball on the White House basketball court and one senator who is trying to get re-elected, we'll look at his outside game. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: In tonight's "Pulse," how today's news that the economy is finally creating jobs is playing outside Washington. Especially in communities that desperately need those jobs. Joining us from New York Baratunde Thurston he's a comedian and co-founder of the political blog, "Jack And Jill." One of the top ten black web logs.

He's also the web editor of the satirical publication, "The Onion." Baratunde thanks for joining us. I want to get straight to numbers, including this. If you look at unemployment rate today it held steady at 9.7 percent, some encouraging news, creating some jobs out there. But if you look at rate among African-Americans, 16.5 percent, that's actually up a bit from last month. Among Hispanics, 12.6 percent, up a little bit from last month. Your blogs are dedicated to conversations between middle class African-Americans. What is the sense, do they feel, as the president says that we're turning a corner or is it deep despair? BRATUNDE THURDSTON, EDITOR, "THE ONION": There is certainly an improvement in the mood. I mean there are people who, you know, have had -- have lacked employment for a very long time. And especially on "Jack and Jill" politics, well, people have been focusing on recently is actually some changes in the labor department. You had Secretary Sill (ph) at the lease staffing the appropriate people in that department. Not just sort of filling it with lobbyist. And you have a big push. We have a partnership with "Green For All," a big push to get green jobs going in the inner city, in the neighborhoods that need it most. We spend investment, time, tax breaks, helping companies get overseas. It would be great to redirect that the jobs that can't be outsourced in the hood so to speak.

KING: I want you to listen to a story. We met a remarkable woman, this week out in Detroit, 35 years a nurse, now laid off for the first time. Most siblings work in the auto industry. And you know the history of middle class African-Americans. They came up from poverty in the south, essentially followed the river up when the big three building the auto manufacturing plants in Michigan and Ohio and that part of the country. And she talked about that legacy because that is her legacy, what brought her family up from the South into Detroit and how hard it is now after the fight her parents fought for Deborah Hall Turner to be unemployed. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TURNER: Thank God for the Ford Motor company who had jobs for black men, this is real, who then opened up an opportunity for us as African-Americans to better our lives and our families. My mother and father never collected any unemployment, you understand what I'm saying? And so that work ethic, you get up, you go get a job, and you work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You meet a woman like this she's not just looking for a job, she's living in a community that is watching their way of life in many ways, disappear. Generations have worked in the plants, grandfathers, fathers and sons. Yes, some slivers of hope in the auto economy but not much. How does that feel for somebody like that.

THURDSTON: Well, this is where, I think, whenever we use the term, economy especially in the media, which is someone should put it in quotation marks because we don't really have the classic economy we often seem to be proud of. We don't really make that many things anymore. And her testimony is a testament to that. We make essentially make YouTube cat videos in so many sense of the word.

And so you look at depletion of urban jobs, of infrastructure employment, of manufacturing jobs that really did lift a lot of African-Americans and others out of poverty into the middle class and that's where the economy has been hit the hardest. So that's why the numbers are so much higher. It's really puts a human face on and of and contentious base that lack of humanity in need.

KING: A stunning contrast this week if you consider her story, the story of her siblings and the devastation we have seen across Detroit especially among African-Americans and minorities with headlines, I'm holding them up, I know you can't see them but you've seen them during the week. Hiring rebounds on Wall Street is the headline here in the money section of "USA Today."

And I'm going to bring up one from "The New York Times," the business space from the "The New York Times," hedge fund pay roars back and talks about billions being paid $3.3 billion George Soros, making $1.3 billion, Carl Icahn and on and on it goes.

When you hear the pain of middle class Americans, African- American, Whites, Latinos, and otherwise, and you live in a town where you're seeing headlines explain the dichotomy in our economy.

THURDSTON: I'm really glad you're asking that. Because we've had a fierce debate on one hand about bailouts at the low end. People frustrated about extending unemployment, about the provisions in the health care bill, extending student loans. But it's far cheaper to extend a student loan and educate someone than to incarcerate them. It is far cheaper to keep someone in their homes than to rebuild an entirely devastated neighborhood.

And then you look at other end of the spectrum, and you see this guaranteed billionaire bailout that happened and it sends the wrong message. That's where the moral hazard exists that we're not talking so much about. The international monetary fund had a study which found that financial reforms that lobbied heavily extend you know more risky financial behavior and have lower returns. Because they are basically given a green light by the government which says they can privatize wealth instead of socialize risk. And that's kind of what's happens. It's very frustrating to see that happen.

KING: Baratunde Thurston we appreciate your time tonight, we'll talk to you down the road, as we watch this economic debate play out, appreciate it.

THURSTON: Well thank you so much now, take care and good evening.

KING: Thank you and take care.

And up next, inside the new unemployment report. Wall-to-wall look where the jobs are and where the economy is still struggling.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The economy added jobs last month at the fastest pace in more than three years. But the 162,000 new jobs were not enough to put a dent in the 9.7 percent national unemployment rate.

Still, the president sees proof we're turning the corner. Let's take a closer look. Let's pop out, first, a look how the unemployment rate has played out. We are going to go back to February of 2008. That, of course, in the Bush administration. You watch the rate as it starts to play up, this is when the recession is taking hold. See the rate going up past 8 percent, past 9 percent, we're in 2009 now and the Obama administration and here's where we are, come through to February 2010, and now March, 9.7 percent the unemployment rate. You see how high those numbers are.

Let's shrink this down a little bit and move it over. And we'll bring up something else for context. How many jobs lost in the economy? Let's move this out of the way. Let's go back again. This is late 2007. The Bush administration, or the job losses in red. You see us coming down 100,000 jobs, 400,000 jobs, 700,000 jobs a month there.

The blue is when we transition into the Obama administration. Still job losses and job losses and job losses. Only finally notice last couple of months do you see the lines above zero. That's job gain, job gain. This is 162,000 today. So let's get these out of the way. And we'll see where are these jobs are coming from. This is very important. Let me throw these out of the way so they don't confuse you.

Fifteen thousand jobs added last month of construction, the first net increase since June of 2007 in construction. That is good news for the economy. We'll see if it continues. Another positive sign, 17,000 manufacturing jobs added. Twenty-five hundred of those auto related. The industry that has been struggling, we'll watch and see if that continues. This is very important for the psychology of the economy. Retailers added 15,000 more jobs that means consumers like you are starting to feel comfortable spending money.

And here's one more worth noting, the leisure and hospitality industry, suffering because people haven't been spending on vacations, adding 22,000 jobs, another positive sign we need to keep track of. While the president had reason to cheer he was careful to point out the recovery's just beginning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We've come a long way we still got a ways to go. We shouldn't underestimate the difficulties we face as a country or the hardships that confront millions of our fellow citizens, some of your friends, some of your neighbors, some of your relatives. You know are still going through a tough time. Eight million people have lost jobs over the past two years. That's a staggering sum.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It is a staggering sum. While any job growth is encourage, the economy's sending some mixed signals. Let's take a closer look at some of those. If you look at - there we go, if you look here, Wall Street had a record first quarter in 2010.

It started to head up again. That is good especially for 401(k)s. Consumer spending as we noted, that is up. That contributes to confidence in the economy. But home - the home sector's is still troubling, home sales down, housing prices stagnant, and personal bankruptcies last month were at a record increase. That's another sobering signal. And so, as you watch this play out, more jobs is encouraging but still some mixed signals that have people a bit worried. One of the places they're worried out in Ohio. When we come back, the economy's driving our politics in every State. I'll go one-on-one with governor Ted Strickland. He's facing high unemployment and a tough re-election campaign.

We'll also ask him about new demands from an extremist group for his immediate resignation. Stay right there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Ohio is a Bellwether State, its voters have picked the winner in 11 straight presidential elections. Right now the State's unemployment rate is 10.9 percent, clearly not the best political environment for the Democratic governor, Ted Strickland. He's up for re-election and he joins me now to go one-on-one. Governor good to see you. I want to spend most of the time on the economy and jobs picture but I want to start with this threat you have received and many other governors have received from a sovereign citizens group. And I have a homeland security intelligence analysis here that I am reading.

And essentially they are saying you have to step down immediately, these other governors, 30 other governors should step down immediately or else you will be removed. I want to get a sense, take us to the degree you can, inside the security briefing, about how serious this is.

TED STRICKLAND, GOVENOR, (D) OHIO: Well, I think it's being taken seriously, but quite frankly, I feel very - very well protected. The Ohio State Highway Patrol is wonderful organization. They provide me with continuous security. And so I don't feel personally threatened but I do think it's sad that in our nation today that we would have these kinds of threats. You know, you never know when some wrong thinking person or some hate-filled group will carry out actions that could be harmful to individuals. And I hope it done happen anywhere across our nation but I can tell you that I feel very secure here in Ohio.

KING: Let's a little more time on this you say you feel very secure with your State protection. Is that what you're receiving now? Is the federal government, I know the FBI is involved in the investigation. Have they supplemented the security at all or they just did an information exchange with your people right now?

STRICKLAND: I think it's just an information exchange. But I can tell you that my security has been beefed up over the last couple of days. It's -- as I say, the Ohio State Highway Patrol provides me with protection. They're a wonderful organization, highly trained individuals. And I feel very safe and secure. But I repeat, I think it's sad that in America today we would have organizations and individuals who would feel so angry and have so much animosity toward those who have been elected to serve the people that they would undertake these extreme measures and, quite frankly, no one knows for sure what the outcome would be or could be and that's unfortunate. KING: Can you describe how this threat reached you. Is it one notification, several notifications, letters?

STRICKLAND: Well, a few days ago, a manifesto measuring, I think, 80-some pages was mailed to me and I think many other, if not all, governors across the country received them. I think they were mailed from Virginia. And they basically said, by the 31st of March we should vacate our offices or they would take steps to remove us from office. And that's the extent that I know of that I tried to let those who are responsible for managing my security deal with these matters. And I try to go ahead and do the job that I was elected to do.

KING: Well, let's move on to the economy. Your State is at 10.9 percent unemployment, the national rate at 9.7. You heard the president today saying, look, there's a long way to go because so many people have been slammed by the recession, 8 million people lost their jobs. But do you see, as the president sees, evidence that we have turns the corner in your State and it's a manufacturing State, it has been historically, do you see in those places where you want most to see the jobs, are they coming back yet?

STICKLAND: John, I believe they are. Just recently in Ohio there have been major investments made and investments announced, VNN Star $650 million in a new steel mill in Youngstown, Ohio. GM announcing 1,200 new jobs at their Lordstown GM plant. And other investments have been announced just within the last three and now weeks. And I can tell you that these kinds of activities were not taking place six months ago. So I do believe we have bottomed out. We have not recovered.

But I think we are at a point where we can begin the hard work of moving toward economic recovery. And I'm very hopeful that things are going to get better. I'm very grateful, by the way, John, for our friends in the Congress and the president for sending us the recovery dollars. Construction is under way here in Ohio. We are going to have the largest infrastructure construction season in Ohio's history by about a third. So jobs are going to be created in the construction field. I'm from a working class family. I've got nieces who finish concrete and are electricians and pipe fitters, and I know how the construction industry has suffered greatly during this recession.

But I'm hopeful that my family and others in the construction field will be able to get back to work this spring and work throughout the summer. And I believe we're on the way to recovery. I also believe, John, it's going take us some time. We didn't get to where we are rapidly I done think the recovery will be a rapid recovery but I hope it's steady and consistent going forward.

KING: Well help me, you know from your experience as a minister and you know from your experience in politics that there's a psychology to these kind of things. And when people feel down -

STRICKLAND: Yes.

KING: They take it out in their elections. You were on the ballot in 1994 -

STRICKLAND: Yes.

KING: You lost your house seat in 1994.

STRICKLAND: I did.

KING: So you know what it's like when there's a wave election. You have firsthand experience. There are many who think that we're in the middle of another wave election and Democrat like Ted Strickland are going to get taken out no matter what. Does it feel like 1994 to you?

STRICKLAND: Well I can tell you I lived through '94, and I know what '94 felt like. I'm feeling confident. I'm not -- I'm not assured of re-election, certainly, but I'm feeling very confident. And I believe that what happened in 1994 with the passage of the crime bill and all that that caused in terms of -- hurt feelings and angry feelings --

KING: Guns. It was a gun issue.

STRICKLAND: You know, it was a gun issue. And that happened right before the election, or just a short time before the election. I think what's happened this election cycle has happens early enough, and I'm talking specifically about the passage of the health care bill, that there is sufficient time for the electorate to come to understand that that was a good vote on the part of the Democrats and that the health care bill will be beneficial to them. And so, you know, this is going to be a tough election. I understand that. But I am much more hopeful than I was just simply three or four months ago; I think we are turning the corner.

And in terms of my own effort to get re-elected I am looking forward to the campaign, I'm willing and able and anxious to take my opponent on and to discuss Ohio values versus Wall Street values.

You know, you talked about Wall Street at the beginning of the program. And Wall Street was to blame for what's happened to us, but I believe the hard working people of Ohio and the hard working people across America are going to do what they've done during past recessions, they're going to work hard, we're going to get out of this, and I think the future's going to be brighter, as we move forward.

KING: Well, Governor, we thank you for your time tonight. It is one of our most fascinating states, politically. And you didn't mention his name, but former Congressman Kasich is the Wall Street guy you're talking about. He worked for Lehman Brothers (INAUDIBLE), but he also has the experience in Congress that he says is helpful to him. And so, as this goes on, as we get closer to the election, we'll have you both in, maybe even together sometime, and we'll have a conversation about. We really appreciate it, it's a fascinating race.

STRICKLAND: John, I would love for you to have us in together. That would be a joy. Thank you so much. KING: That's one half accepted. We'll see if we can get a double invitation there. Thanks again, Governor. You take care.

STRICKLAND: Thank you.

KING: And one of our goals here is to get your perspective to find out what you're thinking about the big issues. Next, a viewer tells us one thing she'd say if she got to talk to her congressman.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: This is the part of the program where we introduce you to the most important person you don't know. Well, it's Friday, which means today that's you. You'll see a lot of important people here in the studio, but we're determined also to bring you into the conversation. So, we read your FaceBook postings and Tweets and e- mails and anything sent to our blog. Plus every Monday we ask a question and give you the week to post your answers on our Web site. On Friday, you get to make your case.

This week's question: Member of Congress are back home on recess, back in the home district. So, if you could say one thing to your elected official, what would it be?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MILISSA FAZLI, YORBA LINDA, CA: Hi, John King. My name is Melissa Fazli, I am a registers independent from Yoruba Linda, California. My question to my congressperson would be this, which lobbying group influenced you the most when it came to your vote on health care reform? Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Well, Representative Gary Miller is her congressman. We tried to get a direct response from the congressman. We want to say it's Friday, before Easter weekend. So, we don't fault the congressman for not getting back to us right away. When he gives us a response, we will e-mail it out, obviously, and we also put it on our blog. We'll make sure Melissa gets it. We should say that Gary Miller, from the 42nd district of California voted no on health care reform. He said the system needs reform, but he didn't think the Democratic plan was the way to it.

And he said this in one of his statements in House debate, said, "Because 80 percent of my constituents oppose the government-run health care system I voted against this piece of legislation. Those that followed Speaker Pelosi by voting for this bill," he said, "will have to face their constituents and I don't think it's going to be a happy November for them." That was from Gary Miller.

Now, Melissa's question was what about lobbying. So we just took a look, we looked at the public records, we went to opensecrets.org to see if he had taken any money from lobbying groups or a lot of money with people with high stakes in the health care debate. And we can show you, I believe, his top five contributors, and as you can see, only the American Dental Association among them and those were all relatively modest contributions. Only the dental association would have any involvement in the health care debate and I would say from a dental association, tangential, so nothing dramatic in that, but we'll continue to track this. And Melissa, when the congressman responds, we'll make sure you get the answer.

And make sure you join us Monday for another question. And you can check out this week's answers and make your case on CNN.com/JohnKing.

With me, here in the studio, is our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

And before we move on to other business, what if you had made your case this week, what would you ask your congressman?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's a good one. I think a lot of people probably are just still asking the question about health care. With the economy so bad, with jobs so bad, as a tax paying American citizen, I still want to know how all of this is affordable. That's my question.

KING: Let the record reflect, Barbara pays her taxes. We've been spending a lot of time in the program talking about the new unemployment numbers and some job growth in the economy, still a rough sledding for a lot of people. You had some firsthand recent experience exploring one segment of our population, a population you cover and care so deeply about that's having a tough time.

STARR: Tom, these are the young war veterans, the 18 to 24-year- old veterans back from their second, third, fourth tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. The unemployment numbers for these young people are absolutely staggering. Take a look at this. We found out today, for Afghan and Iraq veterans, in March, just last month, the rate 14.7 percent. What was it all of last year? Unbelievable, 21.1 percent for 18 to 24-year-olds returning from the warzone and that, of course, that 21 percent compares to 9.3 for the overall population.

We went on the road this week to talk to some of the young veterans. I'll bring you some of their stories the first of next week, but I have to tell you tonight, we met a young Marine back from multiple tours in Iraq. He just hocked his laptop computer because he needs money to buy food.

KING: And there's -- the sad part is the expectation, especially as some troops start to come home from Iraq, I know we're going up in Afghanistan, but more coming home from Iraq and the prospects are pretty bleak.

STARR: The expectation, these numbers will grow more dire over the coming months as more troops come home from Iraq. Why is this happening? Why are these numbers so bad for young war veterans? A couple of reasons.

Certainly some do come home and find jobs. Many, however, do suffer from combat stress, tens of thousands, and they are just not ready, we are told, by the experts, for a structured work environment. But look at it this way, many of them, five, six years in the warzone. These are young people who joined the military, right out of high school, they spent these years in the warzone, manning a 50-caliber machine gun turret, doesn't give you a lot of job skills in small towns across America when they go back home when they're looking for work. Some extraordinarily disciplines, very loyal, good workers, but was need job skills to find the few jobs that are out there for them.

KING: We'll check in on the personal stories next week. And if you're watching out there, remember, these are your neighbors. So if there's anything you can do, a church group, a base group, somebody trying to help them out, maybe you can help out a little bit.

Next, in "The Clash," President Obama and Rush Limbaugh going at it about the vitriol on talk radio and elsewhere in our politics. Don't go anywhere.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: President Obama and Rush Limbaugh were talking vitriol, today. So, who has the most when it comes to talking about the other party. Here for "The Clash," Democratic strategist, pollster, Anna Greenberg, senior vice president of Greenburg, Quinlan, Rosner along with Republican strategist and former Republican National Committee online communications director Liz Mair, vice president of Hyde Strategies.

Welcome to both of you. I'll get to Rush versus the president in a minute, but I want to show a remarkable moment and get your thoughts. The president on the road in North Carolina, it was an economic speech, but it was a town hall style setting. And so he decided to take questions. So, perhaps no surprise, one of the questions was about health care and while North Carolina voted for Obama last time, it's a relatively conservative state, here's the question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My question is, though, in the economy times that we have now, is it a wise decision to add more taxes to us with the health care, because it -- we are overtaxed as it is.

BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Well, let's talk about that. You know, because this is an area where there's been just a whole lot of misinformation. And I'm going to have work hard over the next several months to clean up a lot of the misapprehension.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: All right, can we stop the tape? Can we stop the tape, there? The reason I stopped the tape, is I'd have to serve you breakfast if we kept going on. Here's the president's answer if you look at the paper, the White House transcript. The president's answer starts there, it goes through this page, it goes through this page, goes through this page, and this page and this page -- 17 minutes and 18 seconds to answer that woman's questions. Anna, little sensitivity among the Democrats on this issue?

ANNA GREENBERG, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Well, certainly I wouldn't advise that Democrats answer with 17 minutes. I think we need a short answer that helps us to clarify the truth about this bill. But, I'm struck by the fact that if this had been a George Bush town hall, you would not have gotten a question that was negative about this health care bill. So, it's a change in times, here.

KING: Obviously Republicans have succeeded in at least raising questions. Is this right approach for the president to be out there taking them one-on-one from people?

LIZ MAIR, VP HYDE STRATEGIES: You know, honestly, I think anytime that you're giving a 17-minute answer to something, I mean, what's the old saying, if you're explaining, you're losing. I mean, I think in this situation, he's already in a jam when it comes to the health care bill. People are really angry about it. and it's not sort of 20 percent of the population, it's a pretty good chunk of people. You know, it's a large percentage. And you know, he's out there having to explain something over and over and over again when it should probably be presented as fait accompli on his part. You know, I think that 17 minutes on something, I mean, that's more like what you should be getting with Joe Biden than Barack Obama.

KING: Ouch. Ouch.

MAIR: That's not a good thing for the president.

KING: Time-out on this point, because there was an interesting back and forth today between the president and Rush Limbaugh. The president was on the CBS "Early Show "this morning and he was asked about the tough climate and the tough rhetoric in our politics. And here's part of the president's answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: When you listen to Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's beyond that.

OBAMA: It's pretty apparent. And it's troublesome. But you know, keep in mind that there have been periods in American history where this kind of -- this kind of vitriol comes out. It happens often when you've got an economy that is making people more anxious.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Should be no surprise, it only took a matter of hours before Rush responded. Let's listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, TALK SHOW HOST: And for Barack Obama to run around and say that this is Joe and Beck and all of talk radio is filled with vitriol. Barack Obama sat in Jeremiah Wright's church for 20 years and never once complained about the tone of Jeremiah Wright's bigoted, anti-American racist rants. One my theory's about President Obama is that he has been filled with anger from day one, that he has a chip on his shoulder about something.

KING: Is there anything, Anna, for the president to be gained? Even if you accept his point, as some people would, to be, you know, rush is going to respond. You know Glenn beck is going to respond. Does it help? Are we at point in this election year where it's all about everyone trying to chin up their base?

GREENBERG: I don't think he should over think it. I don't think that he was thinking when he answered that question strategically what it would mean, and how Rush would react. I think it's actually pretty funny that Rush would call him angry because he's the calmest, one of the calmest people, particularly in the face of what's happening if you look at Tea Party and protests around health care and what's been happening to members of Congress, he's actually incredibly calm. So, I actually think it's kind of ironic that he calls him angry.

But, I don't think the president's speaking strategically about it. I think he's making a factual point about the way the far right has been ginned up by Beck and Limbaugh and Hannity and O'Reilly. And in fact, I would say inciting violence, and certainly violence that we have seen happening to members of Congress. I don't think he's doing anything but pointing out sort of fact.

KING: I'm sure there are some who would -- I'm sure those you just mentioned would say they're not inciting violence. I don't spend a lot of time...

GREENBERG: Well, Glenn Beck had a baseball bat on his set and whirling it around and says, you know, somebody's going to get killed. Also said the day after they passed health care was like 9/11, so I mean, there is actually discussion of violence on these shows.

KING: All right, we're going to take a quick timeout here. Next in "Play-by-Play," presidential hoops. It's not all sport. We'll see if somebody's on his game or maybe getting a little rusty.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here comes the "Play-by-Play."

KING: A little "Play-by-Play." It is after all, final four weekend. With us, Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg and Republican strategist Liz Mair.

Substance before sports. I want to play this ad. Michael Bennet is a Democratic senator. He has a primary challenge, and whoever wins the primary will have a tough year this year in Colorado. Everybody knows that people are mad at Washington. Here's a guy who actually spent some time here, went to St. Albans, grew up a little bit in Washington, but he's been out in Colorado in the school district. Now, watch the tone of this ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN MICHAEL BENNET (D), COLORADO: In this Washington, they spend money they don't have. In this Washington, families are looking for ways to get by. Here the special interests have too much power. Here people are looking for someone...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: All right, let's stop that there. I think we get the idea. Now, you're a Republican. You want Michael Bennet to lose, but as somebody if you were on his side, if you're on his side, is this smart given this climate to try to tell people hey look, I may work there, but I don't think like them?

MAIR: I think clearly there is a sense of anti-incumbent, right now. Even more than that, though, I think there's a sentiment that's anti-Washington and I think that's true whether you're looking at Democratic voters or you're looking at Republican voters. Sure, you know, I'd absolutely be running against Washington if I were up for election this year.

KING: And Colorado is one of those states that we're not quite sure about, it's kind of a swing back and forth.

MAIR: Purple.

KING: Purple, yeah.

GREENBERG: I think you're going to see a lot of Democratic incumbents run against Washington.

KING: A lot of guys who work in Washington are going to be like oops. All right, so the president -- I want to show you another clip -- the president often talks about and laments that we live in this cycle of deferment and campaign. One election is over and we start the next one. And yet he seemed to be thinking ahead this morning. This is a little bit of a slip when he was talking to Harry Smith of CBS over at the White House. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: This sort of plan proposed by current Republican nominee Mitt Romney, yeah.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We just stop that right there. He's talking about health care and how Romney's plan in Massachusetts had a mandate and the current plan has a mandate, but Republican nominee Mitt Romney. I mean...

GREENBERG: He's revealing the potential strategy in 2012 about how we're going to talk about health care because, of course, Romney's health care program in Massachusetts is actually quite similar to what was passed in Congress, but it's actually quite funny that he's make -- anointing him the nominee.

KING: He seems to think he's the nominee already. There are a lot of other Republicans. We going to have some primaries first?

MAIR: Yeah, I think a lot of Republican voters would probably beg to differ with the assertion that this is already a done deal, and that this is already settled. Certainly, I know many that would. But, you know, I don't think it's surprising that the president is going to look to be, you know, narrowing distinctions and sort of weakening contrasts between himself and potential opponents. I mean, that's politics.

KING: I can't take sides, but I certainly love a good contested primary. It's a lot of fun to report. All right, the president plays basketball. And part of the CBS deal this morning was to go out on the court. Watch the president here. He's loosening up and...

That we call an air ball from three-point land. But, but, there is redemption. In politics and in sports, look at that. All right. What do we make of this, the president out having fun. What is he trying to show here from an image point. Clark Kellogg of CBS sports is there to shoot, as well. They had the final four, so part of it is about that. But, if you're the president and we're in tough times, pretty smart? Go out and be human?

GREENBERG: I mean, he's -- some people would say he's a little bit aloof, a little bit cold, not very emotional. He doesn't emote the way, say Bill Clinton did. And I think when he does these sorts of things he looks more human and we, as human, obviously, and more normal.

MAIR: Yeah, I think it enables him to show a personal side. And I think frankly, a lot of politicians would probably be advised to do a bit more of it, you know, especially the ones in this town. I think sometimes they can come off as being a bit stodgy.

KING; No!

MAIR: I know, shocker, shocker, right? But you know, they can come off as being really stiff and not animated and not somebody that you can relate to and that's certainly not going to endear voters in a tough election cycle.

GREENBERG" And basketball is better than golf.

KING: I was going to say, if that's all they show 50 percent from behind the three-point line, that's a pretty good thing.

All right, Liz and Anna, thanks for coming in, really appreciate it. now, Main Street has a few choice things to say to Wall Street, today. Our own Pete on the street, Pete Dominick, has his microphone ready. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Let's check in to see what's ahead at the top of the hour. Jessica Yellin filling in for Campbell Brown, tonight.

Hi Jess. JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Hey John, good to see you from a distance, tonight. Up ahead we've got the latest on those extremist groups targeting the nation's governors. We're learning more about the letters that group sent demanding the governors step down, and why the FBI fears their anti-government rage could spark a wave of violence by militant sympathizers.

And we've also got a preview of the gizmo everyone is going crazy for, the new Apple iPad. We'll show you why some say it's the must- have gadget of the year, and why others think it's way overhyped. That and more up ahead at the top of the hour, but first back to you -- John.

KING: We'll see you in a few minutes. Thanks, Jess.

So, a new unemployment report came out today. Everyone wants to know is it creating jobs on Main Street, and does Wall Street like it or not like it? We have just the guy to answer the question. Our offbeat reporter, Pete Dominick standing by not terribly far from Wall Street.

Hi, Pete.

PETE DOMINICK, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I try to stay as far away as I can, John. For this piece I had to spend a little time down there, because 162,000 jobs created, that's good, but still 10 percent unemployment. But on Wall Street, they're still raking in million bonus, and I'm one of those Americans trying to figure out why.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

How many of you guys said what's going on Wall Street is a good thing, a bad thing?

Who deserves the bonus, you or the investment banker?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Me.

DOMINICK: You drove a Porsche here, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I took the subway, bro.

DOMINICK Really? You?

Who should legislate Wall Street? Wall Street or the government or both?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's leave it up to the people. I mean, the government work with the people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the end of the day, I mean, it's this street that really helps capitalize growth in this country. I think it's really what makes us great.

DOMINICK: You can't talk if you're in a suit? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.

DOMINICK: Don't you think the necktie has gone the way of the powdered wig, though, or nothing on that either?

(CRICKETS)

DOMINICK: Coming from a guy who has a solid gold shirt, can I have like 50 bucks?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fifty bucks?

DOMINICK: Just 50 bucks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are working with CNN.

DOMINICK: It's not for me. It's not for me. I'm going to go give to it them. I'm going to go invest it in there.

Who do you think should be investigating these banks, the government or the banks themselves?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it should be me, myself. I deal well with money.

DOMINICK: Who is Tim Geithner?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no idea.

DOMINICK: And a hedge fund.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does that have something to do with real estate?

DOMINICK: What about a hedge fund, can you explain that to me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, a hedge fund is just a bunch of guys...

DOMINICK: All right. What is the biggest bonus you've ever received at work?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (LAUGHTER) There's free pretzels and soda in the kitchen.

DOMINICK: Really?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, every day!

DOMINICK: What do you think of Wall Street? Wall Street and investment bankers?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're all crooks.

DOMINICK: If I'm a Wall Street banker, what do you do me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do I do to you? DOMINICK: Go ahead. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take your wallet.

DOMINICK: All right. All right.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Well, there you have it, John King. I didn't figure out what they're doing for a living, but they sure make a lot of money.

KING: Well, Pete, I promise you this, for all that time on Wall Street, I'm going to put you in for a bonus.

DOMINICK: Awesome! Does it include drinks and food?

KING: I'll tell you next week. Pete, have a great weekend. That's all for us tonight. Jessica Yellin standing by in New York, take it away.