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JOHN KING, USA
"Political and Mathematical Reality"
Aired July 1, 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: President Obama offered public praise for George W. Bush. Immigration reform was the topic at hand, and the compliment came as Mr. Obama acknowledged he isn't the first president to confront the raw politics of this highly emotional issue. Whatever your views, there's no arguing with this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Reform that brings accountability to our immigration system cannot pass without Republican votes. That is the political and mathematical reality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Border security, guest worker programs and a path to legal status or maybe even citizenship for illegal aliens. Many tough policy choices and tough political choices, and one fundamental question, is the president really prepared to go all out now or was today's big speech more about immigration politics? Here's why the question of how hard the president will push matters. I asked a senior Senate leadership aide today if the president's speech alone made it more likely Democrats would try to bring up immigration reform? No was the terse response.
No way was what a top House Democrat told me unless it did number of Republicans step forward first. Why, if everyone sees a problem, is it so hard to get the Congress to debate solutions, and will the president really try to make Congress act in the four months between now and the midterm elections? With me now, Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, the Republican from Florida and Democratic representative, Xavier Becerra of California who discussed the immigration with issue with the president on Tuesday.
I want to start with you, Congressman Becerra, and I want you to listen to this. We reached out today to Mario Solis Marich, who you know is an influential radio host and blogger in the Latino community. He wanted the president to keep his promise to deal with this issue in his first year in office. He listened to the speech today and doesn't sound too impressed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIO SOLIS MARICH, LIBERAL LATINO RADIO HOST: The problem is that a year ago, this would be an extremely effective speech. The situation as it is right now calls for more than just speech making. It calls for action, and this speech did not contain a call to action. Therefore, while it was a wonderfully written speech, beautifully delivered, and clearly an impassioned speech, the speech was not that effective.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Congressman Becerra, when you talk to the president and when you talk to your leadership and you're a member of the leadership, will you bring it to the floor this year or is the president just trying to say, well, I'm trying?
REP. XAVIER BECERRA, (D) CALIFORNIA: John, I think first, Mario is just reflecting the frustration that everyone feels whether it's someone like Mario who's more progressive or someone who's more conservative. And we saw what happened in Arizona where the conservatives passed what I think is a flawed law. But the reality is this, and I hope Mario would concur with me, if we could find a few courageous senators, Republican senators right now, we could pass immigration reform.
KING: Let me interrupt right there. I get the argument, and I get the math, and I get the dicey politics, but you have nearly 80- seat majority in the House. I know you want the Senate to go first on this issue because the House thinks the Senate leaves it hanging all the time, but if you have an 80-seat majority in the house, why not force the hand colleagues' hand. Why don't you say, if you Republicans really support, we're going to force you to vote for it because we're going to bring it to the floor?
BECERRA: I wish we had an 80-seat. We have about a 37-seat majority, but the reality is this, there are 350 bills that are sitting in the Senate that we have passed. We've done our work. Energy reform, you name it, we've done it. We're waiting for the Senate to act. When the Senate can't find one Republican who will say we'll help you get the 60 votes if the Senate Republicans are going to require a supermajority filibuster-proof vote, then it's impossible to get a bill to the president.
The president said it today. The mathematical and political reality here is we need to have Senate Republicans come forward. They were there before about three or four years ago, 11 of them. We just need to see a few of them.
KING: Congressman Diaz-Balart, he is right on that point. There were 11 Republicans including John McCain, including the leader, Mitch McConnell, who supported moving forward on this issue just a few years ago on essentially the same bill that you would adopt today. You might even get tougher border security measures in a bill now than you would have a few years ago. Why not?
REP. MARIO DIAZ-BALART, (R) FLORIDA: You now, it's intriguing that four months before the election, also the president remembers that he promises and he said that he was going to do this in the first 12 months of his administration. Speaker Pelosi promised it also, I believed, in the first year. That was what, three years ago? And here's the reality. Hey, look, it's much better to get bipartisan support for anything, but the reality is that if the president really wants it, if the speaker really wants it, it can become law, it can become law right away and your question is right on.
Why not bring it forward in the House? I guarantee you we can get bipartisan support in the House. You're seeing it right here. We can pass it out of the House and have a good bill and then let's continue to work the Senate. But the reality is this, by the way, I agree with the person I spoke a little while ago. It was a great speech, but rhetoric does not mean leadership. He gave a lot of credit to President Bush when President Bush tried to get it done. And it's a heavy lift. Otherwise, it would have been done long time ago.
BECERRA: And the Republicans in the Senate killed it then.
DIAZ-BALART: It's a heavy lift, but when he tried to get it done, he had two cabinet members lobbying the House and the Senate. And all we've gotten from President Obama is beautiful rhetoric but no action, no leadership. He got health care reform passed and got a stimulus packaged passed, by the way, with only Democratic votes. Here in the House, we could get bipartisan support. There is bipartisan support. It requires presidential leadership. We haven't seen it. In this issue, we haven't seen it and the Gulf, and we're seeing no (ph) results.
KING: Let me ask you a question on the substance (ph). I want you to listen to something the president said today because the president went beyond where I think some Democrats and even some Republicans are prepared to go if, if, if you could finally have a vote. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: You'll be required to register, pay their taxes, pay a fine, and learn English. They must get right with the law before they can get in line and earn their citizenship.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: I may be dreaming to think we could possibly have a vote on this this year even in a lame duck session, but the president said earn their citizenship. Is there support in the Congress even if you could put your election year politics aside for citizenship for those who entered the country illegally or is a path to legal status as far as you could go?
DIAZ-BALART: Who do you want to answer that?
BECERRA: John, I'll take that.
DIAZ-BALART: We can both take a stab at it.
BECERRA: I would say this. You have to be able to get legal status. (INAUDIBLE) is to give folks a path to come out of the shadows. If they become citizens, they still have a long way to go. They have to prove many other things to become citizens, along with the responsibility of paying taxes, stay right by the law, not becoming public charges. They're going to have to do a number of other things to be able to show that they can become citizens.
But the issue here is can we get them on a path where they come out of the shadows and that's where we need the bipartisan support. Mario, unless, you can show me the math, there's a new math in the Senate, democrats by themselves cannot get to 60 votes. So, unless, you're saying that Republicans will stop filibustering, we can't get there without a bipartisan.
KING: Let me ask you one more question in the substance (ph). I want you to listen to the president because Republicans always say border security first, Mr. President, then we'll talk about this other stuff. The president said today that's a false argument. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Contrary to some of the reports that you see, crime along the border is down, and statistics collected by customs and border protection reflect a significant reduction in the number of people trying to cross the border illegally. So, the bottom line is this, the southern border is more secure today than at any time in the past 20 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: And yet, a woman who has, in some ways, become the face of the Republican Party on this issue. The Arizona governor, Jan Brewer, is inciting (ph) a law. She begs to differ with the president. Let's listen to Governor Brewer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JAN BREWER, (R) ARIZONA: Washington says our border is as safe as it has ever been. Does this look safe to you? What is our country coming to? We will not surrender any part of Arizona. We need to stand up and demand action. Washington is broken, Mr. President. Do your job. Secure our borders. Arizona and the nation are waiting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Congressman Diaz-Balart, who's right?
DIAZ-BALART: Well, I think frankly, it's pretty evident that the whole system is broken, and obviously, the people in Arizona and the border states are frustrated because we do have a situation where there are many, many illegals coming across the borders. And I think there's probably a national consensus that the United States has the right, I would tell you the obligation to secure our borders. We also then need to deal with the underlying issue, and I think there is bipartisan support in the House to do that, to secure the borders, to have a real process of secure borders --
KING: And why not pass a bill and call the Senate's bluff? If all this support is there, then do it. But why not do it now? DIAZ-BALART: That's what we want to do and that's we keep asking the leadership of the House, why don't we do it in the House first. Let's pass a good, responsible bill that secures the borders, that deals with the situation, that helps our economy, that helps our national security, and then let's sit down in a real fashion with the senator try to obtain the votes. And again, lip service --
KING: Why not, Congressman Becerra?
BECERRA: John, that's what all the folks that wanted to see health care reform said. That's what everyone who wanted to see energy reform said. That's what everyone who wanted to see Wall Street reform said. And in every case, the House has moved, and what we find is that it always bogs down in the Senate because of the 60- vote supermajority filibuster proof requirement that Republicans in the Senate are requiring.
We haven't seen one Republican, John McCain, AWOL, Lindsey Graham, awol. Where are the Republicans it will take to make this happen? In the House, Mario is correct. We will have a bipartisan vote. In the senate, politics prevail.
KING: All right. Gentlemen, I need to call it a night there. I guess the question in this debate is who's on first or who goes first. Congressman Diaz-Balart, Congress Becerra, thank you very much.
DIAZ-BALART: We need to go first.
KING: We'll check back in as it will go forward. Thank you, gentlemen.
When we come back, more immigration politics and much, much more. A crackling day in Washington. Donna Brazile and Bill Bennett. Don't go anywhere.
KING: Let's continue to talk policy and politics with immigration and more with Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor, Donna Brazile and CNN political contributor and national talk radio host, Bill Bennett. Let's start on immigration because the question now is leadership. The president gave a pretty comprehensive speech today. You either agree with it or disagree with it, but the question is, will he get them to act this year? Will he get them to act this year? As we ponder that, I want you to listen to the candidate Barack Obama in 2008 promising Latinos this would be on top of the list.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: For eight long years, we've had a president who made all kinds of promises to Latinos on the campaign trail, but failed to live up to them in the White House. And we can't afford that anymore. We need a president who isn't going to walk away from something as important as comprehensive reform when it becomes politically unpopular. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That is this president's challenge today. One more quick flashback. I want you to listen just for a minute, the president with the culinary workers in Las Vegas in January 2008. Maybe we don't have that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Si se puede.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Yes we can, but look at this image we found today. No se puede. No se puede. It can't be done with the child looking sad right there. There's disappointment, Donna, in this community that voted overwhelmingly for the president that came out and helped the Democrats in both 2006 and 2008 to think why, why can't you get this done?
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, John, simply we don't have the votes. I think that as you heard from those two esteemed he gentlemen on the House side, they could pass it in the House. But in the Senate, we lost some support of the many of the Republicans. Just early this year, Lindsey Graham had signed up to help craft the immigration bill. He worked with Senator Schumer, so we don't have the calls.
KING: If the issue is so important, though, why not take the risk of losing and call them out? And if they vote against it, say you voted for this thing two years ago, what's the problem? Why not have the open, transparent, wisely debate?
BRAZILE: John, you're asking me why not? I think we should. I think it's important that the Democrats as well as the Republicans -- this is not a Democratic issue. This is an American issue. George W. Bush, we talked about President Bush in the last pout (ph), but President Bush tried to get lawmakers to come out and support comprehensive immigration reform. We need a bipartisan approach to dealing with this issue.
KING: To that point, maybe Democrats are timid because there are some conservative Democrats that's beyond who don't want to take this vote this year, but the president is absolutely right, Bill, when he says there are 11 Republican senators, McCain, Graham among them, the minority leader, Mitch McConnell among them, who were willing to vote to move forward for George W. Bush on legislation that again would be very similar to this, and actually the Republicans might get better border security language now than it could have gotten then.
WILLIAM BENNETT, NATIONAL TALK RADIO HOST: Let's see what they come up in the House. I heard the two House members, they want to get it through the house. Fine. Let's see what happens. Let me just say a word of praise for President Obama who acknowledged George Bush did something right today when he tried to put forward comprehensive immigration reform. See, you can do it, Mr. President. Good for you. Look, it's a very, very important issue. The president, I think has made a very big mistake on this. You mentioned John McCain. When you take on the state of Arizona the way he has taken on, and you can disagree with Arizona without saying the things he has said.
You have alienated those two very important senators in Arizona, Kyl and McCain. And it's a 70 percent issue with the American people. They tend to agree that the state laws in Arizona, state officials should be able to do what federal officials do now. I had Susanna Martinez on the radio today for almost an hour. She's the candidate for governor in New Mexico. She said the same thing. The president by insulting people who are trying to uphold the rule of law isn't getting anywhere.
But, put that aside, put forward a good bill. Absolutely guarantee that the first order of business is securing the border, and then, maybe, you can get some people to come around your way.
BRAZILE: You know, we talk about, you know, the president insulting the people of Arizona. There are a lot of Americans who are afraid to go to Arizona because they're afraid that someone will insult them and their rights, too, simply because of the color of their skin.
BENNETT: It's ridiculous. It's just ridiculous.
BRAZILE: That is also insulting, Bill, and that's unfair and un- American.
BENNETT: It's ridiculous. It gives law enforcement officials in the state of Arizona less power than federal officials to do exactly the same thing.
KING: You are both students of history as well as students of politics. When the president was at American University today, he made note of the fact he had been there back in the last campaign. I want you to listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Some may recall that the last time I was here I was joined by a dear friend and a giant of American politics, Senator Edward Kennedy. And -- (APPLAUSE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, if you don't recall, that was one of the most spectacular and meaningful and important days if you love politics of the 2008 campaign. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY, MASSACHUSETTS: It's time again for a new generation of leadership. It is time now for Barack Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: We, of course, have lost Senator Kennedy since then. Just as a student of politics, when the president said that today, it reminded me of that day. It also reminded me, Donna, of how much things have changed both in the energy and not to criticize him -- I've watched many presidents have this and I get it myself. He looks a lot older today, too.
BRAZILE: Yes, there's no question that the last year and a half has been very tough. He has enormous challenges. We all do as Americans, but I was in your home state today of Massachusetts. And let me just tell you, people still miss him, and I was speaking to the American federation of state and county and municipal employees, and all I had to do was mentioned Ted Kennedy's name and said, you know, he reminded us, he said his last name is not Kennedy, it's L-A-B-O-R. Everyone misses Ted Kennedy.
KING: Does he miss him now with the hard stuff?
BENNETT: Yes, sure. You know, Ted Kennedy was the lion of the Senate. I mean, he was a superman. He got stuff done. He was the guy you went to when you have tough issue like this. And you know, I wasn't a fan of a lot of his politics and a lot of our exchanges weren't the most pleasant, but he was a real leader. He was a strong, tough leader. Right now, it looks as if it is strategy by speech making. I don't mean to diminish that. Speeches are important. But I happened to be in Wisconsin yesterday, so my flight was delayed because of the president. I've been a lot of places where the president is giving a speech.
Speeches are only part of the job. You got to get down there and do this legislative work. Now, they can also take the strategy they took on health care. They got that without any Republican support at all. They can do that on immigration, too.
BRAZILE: One of the reasons why you give a great speech is to educate the American people. This is a very emotional issue, and we need to -- and George Bush often gave speeches to educate people, but we also need to acknowledge one other person, Robert Byrd. We'll miss him as well.
KING: All right. I need to call a time out on this. Donna, Bill, appreciate your coming today.
Mentioned the emotions of the issue, Donna and Bill just mentioned the emotions of this issue. It's also a complicated issue. When we come back, we will go wall-to-wall. Number one, we look at state he's budget crunch. A lot of states right now feeling the heat because there's no money here in Washington. You want to bet? I'll explain that one in just a minute.
And when we go one-on-one, we'll return to the immigration issue with the melting pot (ph) mayor, Michael Bloomberg. He has very provocative thoughts on immigration reform and a tough message for the people here in Washington.
On my radar tonight, a lot of fun stories including Lindsey Graham saying the tea party is running out of gas. Why is he saying that? Let's call him Governor Flashback. He used to have a different name. Don't forget that one out when we get there.
And in "Play-by-Play" tonight, who is whining right here in Washington, who? And does the House Republican leader do too much bar hopping? He answers the question.
KING: For "Wall to Wall," a closer look at an issue we're sure you're talking about in your community. States are facing a budget crunch because of the recession. And many states, look at these states here, all these states in yellow, they are counting on more money from the federal government in their state budgets next year. The question is will they get that money? So, let's look at this way. Look at now the states we've lit up in orange. These are states that do have a contingency plan, some plan to raise taxes, cut services, do something if they don't get the federal money, but boy, we're talking about a lot of money, 900 million down here in Texas, 1.5 billion out in (ph) California, more than a billion up in New York, 848 million in Pennsylvania.
Huge chunks of money the states are counting on from Washington, but will they get it? There's a big debate in Washington about it. If you're going to send states more money, you better cut the deficit first and that's an issue that's held up. Excuse me as I pass through. Here's what people think about this. The Pew Research data here, fixing the budget crisis, what should we do? Only 26 percent of Americans say let's have more federal funding. 58 percent of Americans, roughly consistently with a few years ago, say it's a state responsibility. The states, if you have a budget problem, they should figure out how to deal with it.
So, one of the questions that is how do you deal with this? Americans, again, follow the green line, do you want smaller government and fewer services? Fifty percent of Americans say let's have smaller government and fewer services if that's what we need to do -- to deal with the budget crunch. But, then, you get to the big issue. If you're going to have a smaller government and fewer services, you have to pick and choose. What do you cut? And here, we have a problem. Watch as we turn this on here. Cut highway funding? 50 percent say we don't want to do that. Raise taxes? Fifty-eight percent say no way. Don't do that. 65 percent say don't cut health services. Seventy-one percent say don't cut public safety. Seventy- three percent say please don't cut school funding.
So, when you look all through this, people say states should cut, they should do something. Unfortunately, this is what makes it so hard for mayors and state legislators and governors, people say cut back and trim services, just don't cut any of those. Guess what? That's where the money is. So, it's a huge problem as a debate continues here in Washington about whether to send more money to the states, whether to fix the deficit issue here, major problems as we go ahead.
When we come back, one-on-one with the provocative mayor. He's the mayor of the Big Apple. What should the president do about immigration reform? How's he doing leading the country right now? And do you want to know the answer to this one, where should Lebron go?
KING: New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, was in the audience in American University today when President Obama spoke about the need for immigration reform. The mayor is a long-time critic of Washington's failure to deal with this issue. And he joins me now to go one-on-one.
Mr. Mayor, the president gave a speech today. He touched on many of the goals that you have spoken of in the past. The question I guess is, is he prepared to do more than give a big speech? Is he prepared to lean on the Congress to do something this year?
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, (I) NEW YORK: I think he is, whether he can get it done this year or not, it's time to start this dialogue. This country is really getting more and more in trouble every single day. We are keeping the people out of this country that we need to have a future. Other countries are soliciting these people to come and live in their countries and build businesses and invent new things, and we're educating them and not letting them stay in this country. And this is something that both sides of the aisle in Congress and both ends of Pennsylvania avenue, the president and the Congress together have to work on.
We have immigration reform back in 1986. Today, we have, I don't know, nine, ten million more undocumented here. It was a failure, that law. We cannot do that again. We got to solve this problem and get the kind of people that we need in this country to create businesses and to have a future.
KING: We talked in the very early days of the administration, and you said the honeymoon would be short and that he needed to use his capital and use it smartly and use it quickly. Did he wait too long on this issue given the emotions?
BLOOMBERG: There's a lot of issues for the president to focus on, and he got to make a decision as to -- in to which order and what he thinks he can get done. The problem that the president has, every president has, is because of midterm elections. The president, basically, has a two-year cycle. I know he has a four-year cycle on his re-election, but in terms of pleasing the public, it's two years. And so, you have to do things even quicker if you're the president for earlier in your term than if you're a governor with a four-year term or a mayor with a four-year term. He has focused on health care. He has focused on financial reform.
In all fairness to the president he came in with a terrible economy and a very fractured partisan Congress. But, you know, that's why they pay him the big bucks. He's supposed to deal with it, and I think you've got to give the president high marks for attempting some of these issues.
And we'll see in retrospect whether he got it really done the right way or not. But you've got to give him an A for trying.
KING: You mentioned the midterm elections. This issue and in fact this specific conversation between you and me has a bit of a deja vu since. I came to see you four years ago in a midterm election year. We rode the subway in Queens to talk about the immigration issue and you said this when it comes to the question of, does the Congress have the backbone to do this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLOOMBERG: People say in Congress that -- they're scratching their heads wondering what on earth you're talking about, because they're playing to a constituency back home of how it would sell and has nothing to do with what would make good long-term policy.
Election year is not a good time to do this. The fact that it's a big issue now tells you however how big a problem it has become.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: A big issue then. Four years later you have said it's a bigger issue and a bigger problem. But we're in an election year again. What does the president -- specifically the president as a CEO and as a mayor and a CEO of a city now, what does the president have to do to break this logjam and get them to do it?
BLOOMBERG: Well, I think he has to explain to the public how government is really going to solve the problem so that we can -- five or 10 years from now -- find ourselves in exactly the same situation.
And it's not a partisan thing of one side of the aisle or the other. It's both sides. You have Democrats that don't want immigration and you have Republicans who don't want immigration.
I met with Lindsey Graham this morning. He is pro-immigration. He understands this country. If we're going to have a future, if our economy is going to be good, we have to have a good immigration policy.
He just needs to get some other people with him and they've got to come to a compromise so that everybody gets the part of those four things I talked about that they care about done.
Whether it's controlling the borders, whether it's giving the technology to companies so that they can only hire people who legally they can hire, whether it's dealing with the 11 or 12 million undocumented that are here, or getting the visas that we need so that people don't invent elsewheres.
KING: But you mentioned he needs other people. In the case of Senator Graham, he was very strong in a statement today saying only if you do border security, first, Mr. President.
And Mayor -- Mr. Mayor, one of the other people he would need is John McCain. When we had that conversation four years ago you said you were in touch with Senator Kennedy, who is now no longer with us, and with Senator McCain on this issue.
Senator McCain back then was with President Bush. He was with Senator Kennedy. What happened to Senator McCain?
BLOOMBERG: Well, you have to talk to the senator himself. John McCain understands the problems of this country. He has a constituency in Arizona that he's got to work with, and I'm sympathetic to that.
I think when push comes to shove John McCain will work with other senators and with the president to better this country.
KING: When I came up in 2006 and we rode the subway through Queens and we walked through the streets and you showed me the diversity of all the small businesses there, it was a wonderful visit. But I think my favorite moment came right near the beginning.
I want you to listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLOOMBERG: You know, one time somebody screamed at me. I was getting off the train, and as the doors closed this big talking guy was inside, looked out at me and he glared at me, and he said fix the Knicks.
BLOOMBERG: I said I can do a lot of things. That ain't one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Fix the Knicks was the criticism --
BLOOMBERG: Come on, Lebron.
KING: That's what I want -- what can the mayor do to get Lebron to New York?
BLOOMBERG: Well, I don't know that I could do a lot. He's not called me and asked me. I can't tell him how to fix his jump shot. What I can tell him is New York's a great place to live and to work.
David Stern, the commissioner of basketball, lives here. Although he'd say that all the teams are equal, we have not only the Knicks, we have the New Jersey Nets becoming the Brooklyn Nets. So I've got two teams, and I hope one of them winds up with Lebron.
I said yesterday or the day before, you know, the great thing about is New York is Lebron will be able to walk the streets and not be bothered by people, but he'll also have the power of being a star when he wants to do it.
You can have both things in New York, and there are plenty of other cities that he can be successful in and enjoy. I just think that New York's better. Keep in mind, that's what I'm paid to do. KING: We'll watch how this one turns out. Mr. Mayor, thanks for your time.
BLOOMBERG: All the best.
KING: Up next today's "Most Important Person You Don't Know." A one-time outside agitator who's become one of the highest ranking Latino members of the Obama administration.
KING: After President Obama's immigration speech, today's "Most Important You Don't Know" went to work. Cecilia Munoz, the administration's director of intergovernmental affairs, was part of a discussion streamed live on the White House Web site.
There's a bit of irony here. Who knows she used to be an outside agitator, challenging Washington to support comprehensive immigration reform? Now, well, you might call her an inside agitator helping the White House reach out the state, local and tribal leaders challenging the rest of the country to support comprehensive immigration reform.
Her parents emigrated from Bolivia. She was born in Detroit. After college at the University of Michigan in Berkeley, Munoz helped Chicago's archdiocese legalize undocumented immigrants.
For 20 years, Munoz worked for the National Council of La Raza and eventually became a senior vice president. Now she's one of the highest ranking Latinos in the administration.
Let's discuss her and the issue of immigration with Democrat Maria Cardona, Republican Adolfo Franco, and our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash.
Maria, if she was such a good outside agitator, can she convince the president to convince his Democratic leadership in Congress not to talk about immigration reform or to actually bring a bill up for a vote?
MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think that if anybody can do it Cecilia can. And she also actually received the Genius Award, so she is very well qualified for doing what she's doing.
But the fact of the matter is, what she's doing inside the administration, what she's doing with outside groups is exactly what the president did today which is lay the groundwork, have the facts, make sure that the American people understand that the president is ready for this, the Democrats are ready for this.
We need Republican support and there have been zero Republican senators coming forward to lead on this issue. We need help leading. Zero leadership. The American people and Latinos need to hold them accountable.
KING: It's also a fact we have zero Republican senators coming forward on this issue but it's also a fact the president promised to do this his first year.
ADOLFO FRANCO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Correct.
KING: And then a lot of Latinos are mad at him.
FRANCO: Well, not only that, it took a long time for him to come out of the tall grass so to speak on immigration. You had a clip earlier in the program saying, in 2008 he's going to make it a priority.
President Bush spoke on the issue from the Oval Office. It took this president nearly two years from the election to even address it in a morning speech at a university. I don't know who actually listened to it.
But the fact is President Bush was out there. Other speakers today -- other guests in the program spoke eloquently about his efforts, efforts of Senator McCain, the Republican leadership, to move this forward. It was a priority.
Four months before the election, John, I don't think this is credible. The problem is actually within the Democratic Party. They don't want it because of their union.
And one thing, you had a good guest here a while ago. You had Governor Brewer here three weeks ago. I think she said on your program it was a cry for help. It's ironic that Governor Brewer put this on the agenda. If not, I don't think we'd be talking about immigration at all.
KING: All right. We're not going to settle down with this. Let's move on to some other stories "On My Radar" tonight.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, a rarity in today's partisan environment. A Republican who's often willing to work with Democrat. Now he's becoming more of an oddity. A Republican criticizing the Tea Party movement.
Quote, "The problem with the Tea Party, I think it's just unsustainable because they can never come up with a coherent mission for governing the country. It will die out."
He's saying that in an interview with the "New York Times" magazine.
Risky business for the senator from South Carolina.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is risky business in general for Republicans but if you know Lindsey Graham and know the situation he's already in in South Carolina, he's got nothing to lose.
They already despise him there. He's already got people who are running on every level in South Carolina for the Tea Party who don't like him. And he's got nothing to lose. So they've already tried to censure him there.
The question is whether or not there's anybody out there across the country who's willing to say, you know what? Maybe he's got a point. But, you know, John McCain was a maverick. Maybe, as this magazine article said, Lindsey Graham has been taking on his mantle. John McCain fights from the right.
CARDONA: I think he's absolutely right because it's the Tea Party movement is what's wrong with the Republican Party and what's going to make them -- make it very difficult for any Republican who is out there trying to get support of the Tea Party activists to win any election.
And I also think it's ironic that Lindsey Graham -- I think one of the reasons why he backed off of immigration reform and why we have zero Republican senators --
CARDONA: -- helping us is because of the Tea Party.
FRANCO: I have to clarify that. I think Senator Graham made it very clear in January, he backed off from immigration reform when Senator Reid politicized the issue in Nevada in a campaign rally. And that he said I'm not going to be part of a political --
FRANCO: But, no, that wasn't real. But there's a problem here, John. It's not a Tea Party. It's a tea movement. I think he's wrong. It's a movement. But he better be careful because 51 percent of the people identified in this movement are either independents or people that are willing to vote either way. They're not Republicans. So it is a movement.
CARDONA: Very conservative ideology, though. Very conservative ideology.
FRANCO: It's a conservative movement. It is a movement. And -- it's a movement. And I think it has legs as a movement. It's not a party.
KING: Here's one that hits the outrage meter pretty far to the total. I saw this in the "New York Times" this morning, and now Congress is demanding answers about how those infamous FEMA trailers from Hurricane Katrina have ended up being used for workers cleaning up the Gulf oil spill.
The "Times" broke the story this morning that disaster contracting firms like Alpha 1 are selling the trailers which have toxic levels of formaldehyde to clean up workers who needs cheap, quick housing.
FRANCO: I'll tell you, my reaction to this is as much as it's a role for government -- we see this over and over again about the abuse. We saw it in Katrina. We've seen it in Iraq, we've seen it in Afghanistan.
That's why government isn't the solution to everything. That's why we need to be very careful when we throw billions and billions of dollars into any effort. We need to do what we need to do. But it isn't the effort. This isn't just money that's going to resolve the problem.
BASH: This just like feeds into the narrative already out there right now, which is government doesn't get it. They can't get things right.
KING: They should --
BASH: This is just, what are they thinking?
KING: They should just have shredded them and used them in the junk shot.
BASH: Why do they even exist, you know?
CARDONA: They need to fix it.
KING: Yes. Yes. All right. Here's a fun one. I think it's a fun one. House Republican leader John Boehner was asked today about a former colleague, Joe Scarborough. You know him. He's on TV somewhere else.
Joe Scarborough made the assertion that Boehner is always out of the office by 5:00 and in the bars.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: I've always believed you only tease the ones you love.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is there any truth to the matter that you're at bars at 5:00 or 6:00 during the day?
BOEHNER: You can go back over the last 16 years and look at my schedule, and you would be hard-pressed to find a night when I wasn't doing events for my colleagues and my candidates.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Can I crack that code?
KING: Yes. Crack the code. Crack the code.
BASH: The answer is yes. He is out at bars and restaurants at 5:00 and 6:00 at night. Many other members of Congress are as well because that's when they go and they meet with their donors and they make money for themselves or for -- especially if they're leaders, for the rank and file.
And as somebody close to him said to me today about this, he's known as somebody who is convivial. And so --
BASH: You know, and not -- I mean he's not afraid to say. He's a big smoker and he's a drinker.
CARDONA: There are tons of events that happen at bars all over Washington, and you know bars can be inspirational. It's probably where he got the nuke to the ant line.
FRANCO: He and everybody else. This is exactly right. This is exactly the way things are done in Washington. These are events. I think he, like most members, actually dread them. They actually have to show up.
CARDONA: I don't think he dread them.
KING: I don't know about that.
KING: I apologize for keeping you all out of the bar. Hang tight with me one second.
Did a prominent Republican really call the president a whiner? Find out next.
KING: If you're just joining us, here's what you need to know right now. A little bit ago a federal judge in New York denied bail for two of the alleged Russian spies but did set bail for a third defendant at $250,000.
It's going to be a long night for members of Congress. The House is debating a bill to spend $37 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some Democrats want to attach extra domestic spending to that legislation. Republicans are against that.
ANNOUNCER: Here comes the "Play-by-Play."
KING: Breaking down the tape with us tonight, Adolfo Franco, Republican, still with us. Maria Cardona, a Democrat.
Let's get to a man we just talked about a few minutes ago, John Boehner. He's the House Republican leader. He's been in a bit of a war of words with the president in recent days. The president went out to Racine, Wisconsin yesterday, was seizing on a comment where John Boehner seemed to compare the fiscal crisis to an ant and said the financial reform bill was like dropping a nuke on an ant.
Now Mr. Boehner said that's not exactly what he meant. He meant it was disproportionate. But Mr. Boehner today wanted to respond to the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: President Obama traveled to Racine, Wisconsin, a city with 14 percent unemployment, and used his time there to attack me. Why isn't the president focused on creating jobs that the American people are asking for?
And, Mr. President, what about the country?
For someone who asked to be held to a higher standard, President Obama spends an awful lot of time making excuses and whining about others.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Take that, Mr. President, from Mr. Boehner. What do you think?
CARDONA: I -- I would say to Mr. Boehner that this president has been focused on the unemployed and on the economy from the first day that he came into office. Incidentally, a month we were losing 800,000 jobs. And we're now in the fifth month of job creation.
It's not enough, the president has said this. We're going to continue to do more. But, you know, I think it's ridiculous that John Boehner is talking about that from the leader of a party who refuses to extend unemployment insurance to millions of Americans.
FRANCO: You know, I think -- I think the president wants to change the subject and he actually wants to talk about the Republican leader. And I think the Republican leader is right. He should be talking about what the country is facing.
Under Barack Obama, unemployment has increased 25 percent in this country. It's nearly 10 percent. In Racine, Wisconsin, it's 14 percent. So under the last year and a half, unemployment has skyrocketed in this administration.
Barack Obama is great about blaming everybody but himself. He's great at giving a speech. Give a good speech on immigration. Hollow. No blueprint. First time he's talked about it ever. As an example. This is another example with talk about Mr. Boehner is more important than talking about your current record.
KING: I think there's an election in four months. That's the sense I'm getting here.
CARDONA: Not at all.
KING: Let me bring into the same debate. Mr. Boehner says the president is whining. The president was getting back at Mr. Boehner for his comment about dropping a nuke on an ant or something to that effect. The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just couldn't resist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: It is a situation that some have called an ant. An ant. A-N-T. Ant. And would you call an ant the loss of 8.5 million jobs, the loss of $17 trillion of household wealth for the American people and a very major recession for our economy?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: A very important point of reference. Speaker Pelosi gets at it with Mr. Boehner in part because Speaker Pelosi has the gavel. And if the Democrats lose a lot this November, Mr. Boehner gets the gavel.
FRANCO: But, but -- you know that's the point. It is an ant. And this is what he meant by it. This is about regulation. He's referring to the bill. This bill which is a big tax bill, they're trying to fix -- the Democrats were trying to put in a $19 billion tax on bank fees in the Senate. It's going to be taken care of, it seems, because of Republican opposition.
But it's an ant in terms of we think government regulation is going to solve the economic problems in America. And that's what I think Mr. Boehner was trying to convey.
Again, it's more about big Washington, big regulation, and tax increases.
CARDONA: And if we think the Republicans are going to solve the economic problems in America --
KING: By creating jobs.
CARDONA: -- let's go back and look at the eight years of the failed Republican policies --
FRANCO: I agree with that.
CARDONA: -- that put us in this place to begin with.
FRANCO: Unemployment total --
CARDONA: Losing 800,000 jobs a month.
(CROSSTALK) KING: Let me quickly get to this. As you talk going back. Out in California, there's a lot of talk about going back. They used to call him Governor Moonbeam. He liked the label once, he doesn't like it now.
Jerry Brown is the attorney general. He's running for governor again. He's the Democratic nominee and he's responding in this interview to criticism that, you know, he is like kind of old.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA GOV. CANDIDATE: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, I have been around a long time. I know stuff. And it's better than -- knowing is better not knowing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Knowing is better than not knowing. And he's talking in part about his old campaign ads. He's showing up in these ads. And you know what Jerry Brown says? I look pretty good in those ads.
CARDONA: And he's right. And you know what? He's also right about knowing is better than not knowing. Ask Sarah Palin. I think she would know.
FRANCO: Well, you know what? The thing is to go back to his idea, of the bloated California. If we think California is a problem of $25 billion in debt, in deficit under the policies -- Mr. Brown's policies. California hasn't seen anything yet.
KING: I covered --
KING: I covered Jerry Brown way back when he had hair.
CARDONA: People love him.
KING: We'll see how this one goes.
Adolfo, Maria, thanks very much.
You know we spent a lot of time tonight on immigration. But what about emigration? What country would you move to if you could?
"Pete on the Street," he is investigating.
KING: Just a couple of minutes away from the top of the hour. Let's head up to New York and Campbell Brown for a preview.
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there, John.
Tonight we a report from the deck of the world's largest oil skimmer. It's 10 stories high and it is in the Gulf right now. But is it big enough to do this job?
Also tonight, a stunning new movie that is a soldier's eye view of the war in Afghanistan. We're going to talk with the filmmaker tonight.
And then later, new developments in the Russian spy case. An alleged secret agent has confessed. We'll tell you what happened when he was in court today -- John.
KING: Well, the big debate in Washington -- should we change immigration laws to make it easier for people to come in, make it easier for the illegals already here to stay. What about where would you go if you left the United States?
Pete Dominick, intrepid on-the-street reporter, on the case.
PETE DOMINICK, JOHN KING, USA'S OFFBEAT REPORTER: That's right, John King. I headed down to the Statue of Liberty today and asked people who were visiting why they don't move to America. And Americans if they had to go somewhere, in my silly hypothetical, what country would they move to?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOMINICK: If you had to live in another country other than America, what country would you move to?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'd go to Canada for work a lot. Everyone says nice of it (ph).
DOMINICK: With that accent how can you get angry? Oh, you're a real son of a gun.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amsterdam?
DOMINICK: That is a --
DOMINICK: You just like the --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. The scenery. Yes.
DOMINICK: Da Vinci. Da Vinci.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Freedom.
DOMINICK: Go with your boyfriend in the Netherlands.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I'm not going there. DOMINICK: All right. Sorry. You guys just broke up with my hypothetical.
How you doing? Pete Dominick. How about to England?
What is better about Switzerland than America?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The streets are clean.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Food is better.
DOMINICK: (INAUDIBLE) the food is better? How dare you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. The food is really much better in Switzerland.
DOMINICK: All of a sudden she speaks English.
Is America better than Russia?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In some ways, yes, but no.
DOMINICK: Are you spying on us?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
DOMINICK: Is that what you're doing here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
DOMINICK: Oh, yes? What's this? Vodka?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like Germany. And --
DOMINICK: Why? Give me some specific reasons.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why? It's clean.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Friendly.
DOMINICK: It's not the beer?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can't you tell?
DOMINICK: I don't.
DOMINICK: I wasn't judging. You're saying it's beer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
DOMINICK: I'm moving to Jamaica, man.
We found a British guy. Fourth of July, a couple of days away. Too soon? Does it hurt?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it's OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I live in Boston.
DOMINICK: That is a nice country. But, you know, they're horrible people, Red Sox fans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know.
DOMINICK: Sir, if you had to live in another country, what country would you live in?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John King, USA.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOMINICK: There you go. He'd move to JOHN KING, USA. So John, where do you go if you had to live in another country? You've been all over the globe.
KING: I like the kid who said Boston. You know, Dorchester, Massachusetts, my little part of Boston. It's this own little country. It's sort of a state of mind, Pete.
DOMINICK: So -- OK. So Boston is its own country. But if you had to leave the United States, still? Nothing?
KING: It's a tough one. Spain or Italy because the food, the wine, the friendly people.
KING: Australia or New Zealand because I like the rugged outdoors. It would be a coin toss.
DOMINICK: Don't forget that European afternoon nap.
KING: Ah. La siesta.
DOMINICK: You got it. That's where I'm going wherever they have that.
KING: All right. You look good out there with Lady Liberty. Pete, I hope you enjoyed the nice day.
That's all for us tonight. But thanks for being with us. Coming tomorrow, a very important day tomorrow. Big economic numbers. Unemployment numbers for June. Big important to your pocketbook, important to the debate here in Washington.
Campbell Brown starts right now.
ANNOUNCER: CNN Primetime begins right now.