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JOHN KING, USA

President Slams GOP "Snake Oil"; Verdict in Subway Shooting Case

Aired July 8, 2010 - 19:00   ET

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


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf. I'm Jessica Yellin. John King is off today.

An important story is just about to break in California. A jury has reached a verdict in the case of a white former police officer accused of killing an unarmed black man in Oakland. We are standing by for the verdict to be read. Our Casey Wian will have all the details when that happens.

But also today, there is big political news. The 2010 election site got a lot more interesting and a whole lot hotter this afternoon. Out in Missouri a few hours ago, President Obama rolled up his sleeves, took off the gloves, and hit the Republicans with everything he has.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: They are trying to sell you the same stuff that they've been peddling -- I'm just saying. They are peddling that same snake oil that they've been peddling now for years. They say no to everything. Don't they, though?

Everything and I go and I talk to them and say, come on, we get something going here. No. We don't want to. So we know how this movie ends, right? We don't want to see it again. We've seen this one. They're trying to run an okey-doke on you. Trying to bamboozle you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: He sure sounded pumped up. And if there's ever a date we need, Democratic strategist James Carville and Republican strategist Mary Matalin, this is it. So first to you, Mary, does the president have a point?

MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: What's an (okaydoke)?

YELLIN: I had to Google it.

MATALIN: It's just -- he keeps using -- this has pretty become a classic tactic of his now, the strong man fallacy to just characterize the opposition as something that's not happy.

That's not what the Republicans are offering. The Republicans are offering a pushback on things that the majority of the country opposed of these policies that the president's put in place.

That's what they're offering. It's a clear contrast. So that's good for the base that he's doing, but it's not doing anything for independents.

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I thought it was pretty good. He was kind of -- he was kind of good on the attack. He didn't look mean, you know, of course, it wasn't him that said that the banking crisis was act.

It wasn't him that defended BP after that $20 billion and there's a lot of Democrats out there that are saying, hey, you know we got -- we've got to make the case, and I certainly rather see the president doing that than lecturing Michigan graduates about civility or some such thing. Let's be shocked. We've got an election coming up.

YELLIN: We'll get to the story line in a minute. I want to play one thing for you because the president tried to draw a clear contrast between Democrats and Republicans. So listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We're going to face a choice in November and I want everybody to be very clear about what that choice is. This is a choice between the policies that got us into this mess in the first place and the policies that are getting us out of this mess.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: So, James, he's been president for 18 months. At this point, is it his economy? Should he be taking a little bit more responsibility right now?

CARVILLE: Let me point out the fact that it's very likely in the year 2010, Obama will produce as many private sector jobs as the previous administration produced in eight years. So I think he's entitled to say that he didn't inherit an ant, he inherited the worst recession since the Great Depression.

That's certainly his case. Voters are going to hold him accountable. I think he'll be able to talk about these things. But he has every right to go out and people are like shocked the president is out campaigning. My God, what are we going to do?

The democracy will fall apart. No, he's out making a case. He should and a lot of Democrats are grateful for that and he can point out in contrast his 2010 compared with the eight years of the previous administration.

MATALIN: Not making a case and the evidence continues to compile against him. He said his stimulus policies, which have blown a hole in the deficits. Our worst year of deficits is one quarter of his first-year deficit.

He's quadrupled the structural debt and that's before the expiration of Bush tax cuts, et cetera. He promised with this non- productive stimulus package to lower unemployment. It's gone up. We have fewer jobs, and we have greater debt. That's what this election's going to be about.

YELLIN: Well, he's not just taking shots at the Republicans. He's also taking shots at you guys. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Sometimes these pundits, they can't figure me out. They say, well, why is he doing that? You know, that doesn't poll well. Well, I've got my own pollsters. I know it doesn't poll well, but it's the right thing to do for America and so we go ahead and do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: He didn't call you out by name, but he calls out the pundits. Is that a winning strategy? He does it all the time.

MATALIN: No. Do you think any person out there unemployed or employed who is worried about the future feels that this president has violated the intergenerational promise? Cares what we think or any pundit thinks and wants to see their president doing battle with pundits? It's so disconnected from where people's heads are.

YELLIN: James, he also goes after the cable (inaudible). Do you think it works?

CARVILLE: He doesn't like us. But that's OK too. I think it's all -- but I think he does try to get the Joe Kline vote or something like that. That's always a good thing to do.

YELLIN: You know, one of the things that struck me is how similar some of the things the president said today sounded to what I heard him say when he was on the campaign trail in 2008. First listen to this today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: These folks drove the economy into a ditch and they want the keys back. And you've got to say the same thing to them that you say to your teenager. You can't have the keys back because you don't know how to drive yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: And I thought, ding, ding, ding, I heard him say something similar when I was in Missouri covering him in October of 2008. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Eight years of trickle down, Wall Street first, Main Street last policies that have driven our economy into a ditch.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: He's riding the same message, James.

CARVILLE: Well, so what. That's great. I thought we were supposed to have -- I thought it was an admirable thing to say the same thing as president as you said in the campaign. Now we're attacking somebody for saying the same thing he said in the campaign.

It used that we'd attack somebody for saying something different when they were president than they'd say in the campaign. I couldn't agree with him more. He's making a point. He's doing what a president and a politician should do in an election year. But this consistency and that's a good thing.

MATALIN: OK. There might be consistency, but there's no delivery. What the voters want is delivery. He's a good talker. We know he's a good talker, but he's a Chinese dinner, you know. Two hours later, you're hungry again and you don't even remember what you ate.

CARVILLE: What he's saying has the added benefit of being factual, which is good. That's a good thing that he's not only consistent, but he's being factual. That's a fact that the Republicans drove the economy in a ditch. The recession started in December of '07.

YELLIN: Didn't he promise to come to Washington and find a way to work with Republicans and change the ways of Washington? And he has not been able to do that. So if he's saying that they drove it into a ditch, nothing's changed since he became president.

CARVILLE: He said that during the campaign, he's being consistent. That's what --

YELLIN: Shouldn't he be sharing the keys now?

MATALIN: No.

CARVILLE: Again, his point is that he tried to work with them. But what he's saying is we're accusing him of saying the same thing when you're president you said in the campaign. Generally that's thought to be a good thing.

MATALIN: Not all of this is so irrelevant to voters out there. What they care about is the size of the debt, which is unsustainable, the unemployment that is not shrinking. They don't care if he's a great campaigner and he did promise. And it was one of his aspiration of promises that people particularly independents were drawn to was that he was going to work across the aisle.

He has more splits within his own party -- he's not even working with his own moderate and conservative Democrats and within the first weeks of being in Washington, both he and leader Reid and Pelosi, we won, we don't have to work with them. And it started out in that direction and never improved.

YELLIN: OK, I think we've got to take a break right now. When we come back, we are going to have more with Mary Matalin and James Carville and we're monitoring the developments in that trial with the verdict . We'll bring you the verdict as soon as it happens.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: We need to stop now for some breaking news out of California. There is a verdict in the case of a white former police officer accused of killing an unarmed black man in Oakland, California.

The officer has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. The shooting on New Year's Day 2009 was captured on a bystander's cell phone video camera and it was widely circulated on the internet. The case is considered so incendiary the trial was moved south to Los Angeles.

And authorities in Oakland have warned they will not tolerate destruction or violence tonight in response to this verdict. CNN's Casey Wian joins us now from Oakland, California on the phone with details.

Casey, can you describe the scene for us there?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Yes, it's pretty quiet so far here on the streets of Oakland. As we were driving in a little while ago, we saw shop owners boarding up their shops in anticipation of the verdict. There was lots of fear and worry here that folks who were supporters of Oscar Grant's family might cause some sort of disturbances on the streets of Oakland as happened last year after the shooting so far, no evidence of that.

Police officers in the area are prepared and have been warning folks that they're fully deployed, they've been on a tactical alert, a modified tactical alert all week. The only reaction we've heard is when the word of the verdict started to spread that it was involuntary manslaughter, which, of course is the least of the three charges that Officer Mehserle could have been convicted of.

There was a groan that went through a couple dozen or so Grant supporters who have gathered here at a park in downtown Oakland. Other than that, it's very quiet, and very peaceful. A lot of folks have left town. There are billboards all around town with Oscar Grant's face on them.

Others billboards saying that Officer Mehserle was out of control, let's us not get out of control to paraphrase what those billboards have been saying. The community leaders have an appealing for calm for weeks. But we're going to have to wait and see whether the community listens to them - Jessica.

YELLIN: All right, Casey, will stay there for us and continue to monitor the situation and of course, bring us developments as they happen. Again, thank you.

In the case of Johannes Mehserle, he has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for the shooting of an unarmed African- American man on the BART. He was approaching the BART in Oakland, California last year. Our Casey Wian is on the ground in Oakland monitoring the situation where authorities have warned people who have been very concerned and worried, frustrated about this case not to demonstrate and that they do not want any acts of violence tonight. Again, we will continue to monitor this throughout our show.

But for now, we are going to return to our top story, the political scene here in Washington with President Obama out on the campaign trail today. He was campaigning in Missouri for Robin Carnahan and we're joined by Mary Matalin and James Carville.

The president made a number of - we wouldn't call incendiary, but very provocative remarks today about the economy and what Republicans he believes have done to them.

I want to play one piece sound about John Boehner. The minority leader in the House who said last week or a week and a half ago that Wall Street reform bill is like attacking an ant with a nuclear weapon. Here's what the president had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The leader of the Republican Party in the House of Representatives, John Boehner, he says, well, we don't need all this. This is like using a nuclear weapon to kill an ant. The worst crisis since the Great Depression, he calls an ant. You've got to make a movie "The Ant that Ate the Economy."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Again, it is a good line, the ant that ate the economy and here's the DNC attack ad built around this message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meet Joe Barton, he apologized to BP after they were forced to set aside $20 billion for the Gulf. Meet John Boehner, he's against reforming Wall Street comparing the financial crisis to an ant. An ant? Eight million jobs lost and Boehner still sides with Wall Street. Barton and Boehner, fighting for Wall Street and big oil that's how Republicans would govern.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIS: Mary, is this message hurting your party?

MATALIN: No, because it's absurd and nakedly political. Obviously what Boehner was saying that what's in the regulatory reform did not come anywhere close to being real reform. It didn't cover Fannie and Freddie and everybody knows it's not even real reform although it's going to have a lot of -- it imposes a lot of impositions that will lead to no reform whatsoever.

It doesn't scratch the itch, in other words, and Barton couldn't have apologized enough. The party is in lock step, actually, with the president here in what we're extracting from BP. It's still not getting done on the ground. It's fair criticism. We live there, we know it.

But this kind of politics is baseline and that the president needs to do this and what the party announced they're doing this week, which is digging deeper for dirt on Republicans is evidence that they don't have much to sell. They're just going to demonize Republicans.

YELLIN: James, their message, though, is clearly the Republicans are for big corporate interests, we're for the little guy. Can it work?

CARVILLE: Yes, I don't know. But it strikes me as two things. Of course, it's factual, 100 percent, and it seems to me utterly fair. It's not trying to morph them into Osama Bin Laden or something like that.

This is something on a pertinent issue on the Gulf oil spill and the banking crisis probably two of the biggest issues that we have in the United States today. And it was -- congratulations DNC. What else can I say? It's a very fair, very factual ad, very much in the bounds and tradition of American politics.

YELLIN: Mary, moving on. Your party's chairman has been in some hot water recently for some comments he has made.

MATALIN: How about consistently?

YELLIN: All right, well, his latest was about his comments on the war in Afghanistan saying it was a war of the president's choosing. But today he had this to say to his critics. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: Every time something happens, people say step down. Well, the reality of it is, that's not happening. So stop the noise on that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: All right, so should everyone really stop the noise on him?

MATALIN: He doesn't need to step down. He's not going to step down. There'll be another election in January. What he needs to do is to clam up and just do what the party does, work on turnout efforts. He's fairly successful at that.

I don't know how the Democrats could make much hay of this and the chairman of the Republican Party is siding with the progressives who are against Obama and the war in Afghanistan.

YELLIN: Well, let me ask the meaningful question on this. Are there Republicans who will lose because Steele is the chairman?

MATALIN: That is the only meaningful question. There is not one voter on either side who is going to change their vote because of what Michael Steele says. There's 500 of us who know him and know that and are paying attention. It's not going to change a single vote. Most important question.

YELLIN: Mary, James, thank you as always for being with us. We're glad to have you back.

And we will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: A lot of breaking news this hour, we are also watching, waiting for some news about those 10 Russian spies who soon will be out of here. In exchange, four people jailed by the Russians will be set free.

One of them is already out. That swap is a result of a deal between the U.S. and Russian governments. Here to talk about all of it is our Foreign Affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty. And Ira Winkler, he is the author of the book "Spies Among Us."

But first, I want to go to Jill to get the very latest. Jill, what can you tell us now?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jessica, just a few minutes ago, we had a background briefing with two senior administration officials who gave us some information, really some fascinating details.

They say that the U.S. drove the details, the terms of this agreement. And what they mean by that, they say that having these Russians in hand, the 10 of them, they figured they weren't going to get much more value out of it. So it was time to do a deal. What was the deal?

They wanted to get four people out of Russia. Four people, at least three of whom have been accused of spying, and one that the United States even though the Russians would say he is a spy, the U.S. maintains that he isn't. And just a few minutes ago, Jessica, I got a -- their names actually coming from the Russian President's press office.

We can go through those if you want. But essentially the three of them are people who were in more conventional terms considered people who could have been spying or working for other governments. The other one was Igor Sutagin and for a couple of days, we've been mentioning him.

He's the person who worked for the think tanks and the U.S. says he is not a spy. Just a couple of other really interesting details. What will happen to the children? Because you know some of the Russians here did have children. These U.S. officials say that the children can leave at any time as long as they have their parents' permission.

And they also say that these -- with the people in Russia were forced to sign that they were guilty. It was the only way that they could get out if they wanted to - Jessica.

YELLIN: Fascinating stuff, Jill. Please stay there as we have this conversation so we can ask you to update us if there's some information you have because I want to ask you. You know something about this spy world. My curiosity is do these things happen all the time and we just don't hear about it? How common are swaps of this nature?

IRA WINKLER, AUTHOR, "SPIES AMONG US": Well, swaps of this nature, the last time we had something on this scale, I believe, was 1984 or 1985 where they had something like around 10 people going one way, five people going the other.

That doesn't happen very often. We don't capture spies on a regular basis. We have minor cases where we capture a single spy involved in espionage and maybe a few other conspirators. But typically it's one spy master who is given diplomatic immunity and sent out of the country and somebody in the United States who is convicted.

YELLIN: OK. I know this is going into the realm of the hypothetical, but I want to ask it anyway. Is it conceivable that we nabbed all these people because whoever in over in Russia was so important, we wanted to create a reason to do a swap and get them back?

WINKLER: No, that would've happened a long, long time ago. The most recent case, I believe, was in 2004. So we're talking about somebody who has been for lack of a better term riding in Siberia for six years.

YELLIN: Right.

WINKLER: This was a case where it's like they tried to somehow frame the woman like this Anna Chapman woman and it kind of went awry. Because the first thing she did was realize that the contact was so screwed up that the first thing she did was call her Russian handler and say, what do I do?

And basically they said, report this and get the hell out of the country. And that's what happened. That's why they had to vacuum them up because they were all interconnected.

YELLIN: And this woman was about to flee so they had to get them all. My question is, for lack of a better term, these seem like social spies. They're getting not such high priority important information. It sounds like, how threatening were they, really, to our security?

WINKLER: Well, frankly, it sounds like these people were kind of the keystone cops of spies the way it worked out. But that's not necessarily the way it could have worked out because these people were in the United States to try to recruit people to get into sensitive positions.

So, for example, you had the woman pursuing her MBA Columbia University, what happens if she would have recruited a classmate to go work for a government agency and get a clearance and have that person feed them information for a long time? That's what a real spy is. A real spy is a puppet master, not a James Bond character.

YELLIN: It's not like in the movies.

WINKLER: It's very much not like in the movies.

YELLIN: Ira, thank you so much for joining us and clearing up some of that. Fascinating story. Ira Winkler, the author of the book "Spies Among Us."

And next, I go one-on-one with California Senator Barbara Boxer. Her quest for a fourth term is turning into one of this year's hottest Senate races.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: One of this year's hottest U.S. Senate races is out in California. It's a seat the Democrats are desperate to keep, but a brand new poll shows it's neck and neck.

A field poll released this morning shows 47 percent of California voters support incumbent Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, 44 percent support her Republican opponent, Karlie Fiorina. The three-point difference between the two is within the poll's sampling error.

Senator Boxer joins me now to go one-on-one. Senator, thank you so much for being with us.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you for having me on the show.

YELLIN: This same Field poll shows your unfavorability ratings have jumped to 52 percent. Why do you think more than half of California voters just don't like you?

BOXER: Well, it's not about liking. They're not happy with the economy and they shouldn't be. They want to know who's on their side.

And Jessica, I think it's important to note that in March, the Field Poll had me up by one. So we're going in the right direction.

And I also would have to say that for a year I had the three Republican candidates beating up on me every single day, plus I had the two gubernatorial Republican candidates also running ads against me because they felt it would help them in their primaries.

So I had five people for a year and I haven't even gone on television yet. So we're happy that in this poll we're winning among independents, we're winning among women, we're moving forward. We're ahead of where we were in March.

YELLIN: Well, you point out it's been an aggressive race already.

BOXER: Yes.

YELLIN: And I want to play you some sound from Carly Fiorina. I interviewed her recently when I was out in California. Listen to what she said about the mood of the California voter.

BOXER: Sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARLY FIORINA (R), CALIFORNIA SENATE CANDIDATE: It appears that there's a lot of anti-incumbent sentiment, and I think it's because people are tired of professional politicians. They have figured out that people like Barbara Boxer are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Your reaction to that?

BOXER: My reaction is this is one of the clearest choices in the nation. And I'm excited about it because I've got my record, I've got 1,000 box of provisions that are now law. A lot of work on jobs.

I just got off a fabulous nine-city tour and met the workers who were actually being put to work. We've got lots more to do.

And Carly Fiorina -- she was fired as the CEO as Hewlett-Packard, laid off 30,000 workers, shipped jobs to China, and enriched herself during that time. So I think that when voters get to know who she is and they are reminded about my record, I think it's going to be good for me because it'll be good for California.

I think the voters are going to choose someone who's on their side who's going to fight for them, who has a heart because that's what this race is about.

YELLIN: Well, you talk about jobs. Since February of 2009, California has lost more than 400,000 jobs. So do you believe the president's economic policies are really working for Californians?

BOXER: This is a very, very deep recession. And as you know, our state under the leadership of Governor Schwarzenegger, has had constant terrible problems with layoffs and budget deficits, and the two sides can't get together. And they don't meet in the middle. So this is a tough time for our state.

And I have to tell you, what's important is that we are focused every single day on jobs. And I have supported every jobs bill. And in this swing that I just made around the state, I've met the workers.

I've met the workers who were saying thank you because if Carly Fiorina was in the Senate, she would've voted no on all of the jobs bills. Even she wants to repeal health care. So it's a very, very clear choice, Jessica.

YELLIN: And another major issue in your race is going to be immigration. A majority of your state supports Arizona's tough immigration law. You oppose it. Are you prepared to lose votes over this issue?

BOXER: Well, actually, more than 70 percent of the voters in California support a solution to our problem. And that is comprehensive --

YELLIN: But if I may interrupt you -- they do support the Arizona law --

BOXER: You can interrupt me but -- let me get to it, OK? They much prefer comprehensive immigration reform. And they understand that if every state decides to do their own laws, we'll be in cast.

So what they want is, they understand the frustration. And since I got to the Senate, we have four times the number of Border Patrol agents on the border. We're in control of far more of the border, but we have a lot more to do.

And here's -- here's where I'm coming from. I don't like to say we should be divided and fighting and hurtful in our policies. What I like to say is let's come together and meet in the center.

The people who were saying border control, I'm one of them, and the people who were saying let's get a reasonable pathway to legalization where people pay the fines, learn English. If they're good, hard workers, they can stay here, get to the back of the line before they're a citizen.

Let's both sides meet in the center. That's what the people of California want. They don't want division. We've had that enough in our state.

YELLIN: Before we go, Senator, I want to play something that brought you and your race a lot of probably unwanted attention. Here's something your opponent Carly Fiorina was caught saying about you on an open mike.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FIORINA: Laura saw Barbara Boxer briefly on television this morning and said what everyone says, god, what is that hair?

(LAUGHTER)

FIORINA: So yesterday. You didn't --

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: So, Senator, what did you think when you heard that?

BOXER: To tell you the truth, I was taken aback. And you know I'm not a loss for words very often. I called my campaign manager Rose. And I said, Rose, I'm going to be asked about this. What do you think we ought to say? I really didn't know what to say. And to watch it, I think, is important. And she said, we're just going to say let Carly Fiorina talk about hair, we're going to talk about jobs. And that's kind of the way I've handled it and tried to have a sense of humor about it, frankly. Because we've all had our bad hair days. That's for sure.

YELLIN: Were you mad?

(LAUGHTER)

BOXER: No. I was perplexed. I was stunned at it. It just seemed so silly considering the incredible issues that are at stake. Jobs and the environment. She wants to drill, baby, drill. She wants to go backwards on a woman's right to choose and repeal "Roe Versus Wade." So I was just perplexed frankly.

YELLIN: All right. One last question because we've been talking about this as the year of the woman. There are many women running in your state. And here we are talking about hair. So I'm curious, is it any different to run against a woman?

BOXER: Well, I'm not talking about hair. You brought it up.

(LAUGHTER)

YELLIN: I did.

BOXER: And Carly Fiorina brought it up. No, not at all, because we're equal. You know women are equal to men. This is what I've been fighting for my whole life. I'm glad the Republicans have finally given women a chance. It's terrific.

But I've got an opponent who is a woman and I'm a woman, and that is the same. But everything else is different. She's to the far right of the political spectrum, and I think she's out of the mainstream of California thinking.

YELLIN: All right. Senator Boxer, thank you so much for your time.

BOXER: Thanks.

YELLIN: And next. Today's "Most Important You Don't Know. She likes to run marathons and got some help fund raising today from a guy who occasionally plays basketball.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: Today's "Most Important Person You Don't Know" is so important -- at least for Democrats -- that the president of the United States went to Missouri this afternoon to help her raise money.

She's Robin Carnahan, Missouri's secretary of state. But she would like to be Missouri's next U.S. senator.

Politics runs in her family. Her brother Russ is a congressman, her father Mel was governor. Her mother Jean was Missouri's first female U.S. senator. Although it is a sad story.

Jean was appointed after Mel Carnahan died in a plane crash. But he won the 2000 Senate election anyway. Now Robin Carnahan, the daughter, was elected secretary of state in 2004.

She also manages the family's farm, runs marathons, and a few months ago raised eyebrows by skipping a presidential visit related to health care reform. She is more than happy to be seen with President Obama now.

Let's bring in today's guests, Republican strategist Ron Bonjean and Democratic strategist Paul Begala, two of my favorite men in Washington.

Glad to be here with you. So, President Obama has been to Missouri more than any state other than Louisiana since the Gulf spill. Do you think he's a little bitter that he lost it in the general?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No, not bitter. But, you know, of course every politician wants to win all 50 states. It's a critical race. Democrats have a real chance, with the retirement of Kit Bond, the longtime incumbent Republican senator, to pick this up. Even in a bad year.

And Robin Carnahan, as you say, is from, you know, Missouri royalty. She's a really strong candidate, Democrats have a very good chance. And in that state in her hometown of Rolla, Missouri, southeastern Missouri, Democrats have an outstanding congressional candidate, Tommy Sowers, who's an army ranger.

No, a great guy, exactly the kind of guy that Democrat candidate Democrats are trying to recruit. Army ranger from that district. And so they think -- a lot of Democrats think you could pick up not only that Senate seat but also a House seat in her hometown.

YELLIN: Ron (INAUDIBLE) seat could go to a Democrat?

RON BONJEAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I'm not sure about that. You know the real key here is jobs, unemployment. Unemployment rate is at 14 percent. President Obama went to the state two years ago and said the same thing a year that he's saying today which is, I'm going to bring jobs to the state. It hasn't happened yet.

And I think that's the real key here, is who can bring the jobs, who can bring -- you know, who can bring the unemployment rate down? And, you know, if that can't be done, they might be looking for an alternative. And the key here for Missouri is independent voters. And --

YELLIN: As with the nation.

BONJEAN: As with the nation. Absolutely.

YELLIN: We will continue this discussion. I want to move to some of the fun stories "On My Radar" tonight. OK, first of all, tonight's radar is all about damage control. One person who is a master of damage control, our vice president. He has been known to go a little bit off message. And he told Politico, quote, "I joke and I say, look, the reason I can be so brutally frank sometimes is that I'm the only one the president can't fire. It's a constitutional office."

It's more than my just being a devil's advocate, I don't advocate things. I question things. I don't have a position on and I'm not sure of, and I will really be a pain in the neck."

OK, that was Vice President Biden. This reminded me of a certain scene on the "West Wing"? And what a difference. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE WEST WING")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to raise the level of public debate in this country. And let that be our legacy. Do I sound all right to you, Josh?

BRADLEY WHITFORD, ACTOR, "JOSH LYMAN": I serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes?

ALLISON JANNEY, ACTRESS, "CLAUDIA JEAN CREGG": I serve at the pleasure of the president.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: What a difference Hollywood makes. Biden says he can say anything once because he can't be fired. In Hollywood, they're always worried about pleasing the president.

BEGALA: But those were staff people. You know this vice president, unlike the prior one, has actually read the Constitution and he actually follows it. And he knows he has a no-cut contract from the American people. You know, he can't be fired.

And God bless Barack Obama for picking Joe Biden. Seriously. He brings that kind of middle-class sensibility that Democrats have to have, but also that unvarnished advice that comes from long experience and having lived such, I think, a classic American dream lifestyle.

I love Biden, I think he's one of the best thing my party has.

YELLIN: I've heard some Republicans say they're disappointed that they're not getting more gaffes out of Biden. They thought he'd more gaffe-prone.

BONJEAN: Well, you know, he's my favorite Democratic politician who does make the gaffes. And I believe about 10 days ago he was in my home state in Wisconsin and Milwaukee, and was at my favorite ice cream place, Kopp's Family Custard --

YELLIN: Yes. BONJEAN: -- where he said to the -- when a manager said, will you lower my taxes? The man -- Biden said, come on, don't be a smart alec, quote/unquote, I'm (INAUDIBLE), but can't you say something nice?

I think, you know, it's nothing wrong to say, can you lower my taxes? But he took it the wrong way. And I love that. I love that he's natural and he's in his own element, he's in his own world, and he loves to say what he thinks and let's keep him saying it.

YELLIN: Everyone loves Biden. OK. On a more serious note, our defense secretary Robert Gates has been under two presidents and the CIA director under another. He's been defense secretary under two presidents, CIA director under another.

And being that kind of political survivor means that he really does know the value of discipline and also damage control. And today his tactic was candor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Over the last two years, I have lost a first rate central command commander and an outstanding commander of ISAF in Afghanistan due to their own missteps in dealing with the media.

I've had to recall a combatant commander to Washington for a verbal reprimand for speaking inappropriately on a sensitive foreign policy issue.

I've had two very different presidents each on several occasions express concern to me about senior defense officials, both civilian and military, speaking out inappropriately on foreign policy issues.

These instances together with my own frustration with premature disclosures of personnel, budget, and other options under consideration led me to conclude several weeks ago that we need greater coordination and discipline.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Before we go to break, quick reactions. That seems like pretty full disclosure.

BEGALA: That's right. And he's right. God bless our military. You know they have really performed heroically. And God bless Secretary Gates, leading them under, first, a Republican, now a Democrat president.

They do need to button up their media operations there to advise in private and then to salute and carry out in public. And I think Secretary Gates is exactly right.

YELLIN: You applaud the candor too?

BONJEAN: I completely agree. I thought it was the right tone, the right manner, and frankly they're there to win wars. They're -- you know, if they need to talk to the media, and that's important, that has the right place and time but, you know, they shouldn't be leaking out of the Pentagon and saying whatever they think on the ground.

They're supposed to be concentrating on the mission at hand. And I thought it was a really smart move by Secretary Gates.

YELLIN: All right. Some effective damage control today.

Stay right there because we'll be back with both of -- with both of you.

And coming up, we'll take a look at the stories that you'll see in tomorrow's papers. It's "Tomorrow's News Tonight."

And Sarah Palin seeing pink elephants? We'll explain after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: If you're just joining us, here is what you need to know right now.

A white transit police officer is guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of an unarmed black man last year in Oakland. So far everything is quiet in Oakland after that verdict came out tonight.

We're also watching the airports in New York where the U.S. is set to deport 10 Russian spies. In return, the Russians are releasing four people accused of espionage there.

And the Obama administration's ban on deepwater drilling just lost again. This time, in a federal appeals court.

ANNOUNCER: Here comes the "Play-By-Play."

YELLIN: Now it's the time in our show for the "Play-By-Play." We replay the day's best tape and our panelists break down the moves. With me again two of the best analysts, Ron Bonjean and Paul Begala.

OK, we're starting with something good. Remember that show "Wild Kingdom", gentlemen? Well, Sarah Palin seems to. Her political action committee has a new video out called "Mama Grizzly" and Palin says you just don't want to get mad with those mama grizzlies. But that's not all.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: We're going to turn this thing around. We're going to get our country back on the right track no matter what it takes. To respect the will of the people.

Look out, Washington, because there is a whole stampede of pink elephants crossing the line and the ETA, stampeding through, is November 2nd, 2010.

A lot of women coming together.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Ron, pink elephants?

BONJEAN: I'll tell you it's creative. I think it's a good idea. It connects with people. And they take a second to think about it. And there are a lot of female candidates for the Senate this year. And why not?

YELLIN: Is the mama grizzly the hockey mom of the next election?

BEGALA: I don't know.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: And for viewers who don't have HD, I am not a woman. And so this ad is not targeted for me. It mentions the word woman like 50 times in 30 seconds. You know -- and so I was -- try to have my own fair reference.

It's my mother-in-law, Jean Friday. OK, Jean Friday doesn't care about pink elephants. She cares about red ink in the budget and how are you going to reduce it. She cares about green jobs and how you're going to create them. She cares about black tar balls washing up in Galveston, Texas, how are going to clean them up.

Not an issue at all is ever mentioned in that ad. Not a conservative one, not a liberal one. Nothing. It was classic -- it was classic Sarah Palin. Total fluff.

YELLIN: Disagreement on that one. How about this one? In Nevada, Rory Reid, he is the Democratic candidate for the governor of the state of Nevada. He's also the son of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

But you might not know that from the younger Reid's campaign ads where he sometimes just goes by Rory. Republicans are making sure that voters don't forget that the son is a Reid and he is connected to the approval challenged Harry Reid.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's wrong with Rory this time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, he's locked himself in his office again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This time he doesn't like the new TV ad because it has his last name in it. He's going to have to get used to that.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Paul, humor is pretty effective?

BEGALA: It is. But again it's disconnected to the issue. All this, it's like this great country singers. They start out and they write songs about mama and love and beer and all the important things in life. By the third album, they write about how hard it is to be a millionaire country star.

OK? This is all self preferential. Politicians talking about politicians. They need to talk about jobs. In both parties. This is not a partisan thing. They need to talk about jobs, by goodness, and the deficit. Not whether Rory Reid has his last name in the ads or by pink elephants are stampeding.

It's really weird to me that you have such a hot political environment and so many of these ads are disconnected from the issues that are driving the environment.

YELLIN: Is he running from the last name?

BONJEAN: I'll tell you what, I think it's hilarious. And these are really funny ad. We were laughing while we are watching it. It connects with voters. They're going to remember that. And you know what? He's trying to run from his dad's name.

And it's going to be on the ballot. I don't know why he would try to run from it if it's going to be on -- on that ballot. And yes, he needs to talk about jobs. I totally agree. And everybody does in that state. A huge unemployment.

YELLIN: I am sure we will continue to talk about jobs, Nevada and all of this. Thanks to both of you, Paul Begala, Ron Bonjean. We appreciate your time tonight.

And sure, he's called King James, but are people more interested in where basketball superstar Lebron James winds up than, say, the Gulf Coast oil spill?

"Pete on the Street" finds out next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: Campbell Brown begins at the top of the hour.

Hey there, Campbell. What do you have in your show tonight?

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Jessica, we've got the very latest on the breaking news out of Oakland, California tonight. The guilty verdict in the trial of a white former police officer charged with shooting an unarmed black man.

We've got reaction from Oakland coming up.

Also the White House gives BP an ultimatum, 24 hours, to lay out the next steps in the effort to stop that gushing well. And then later the man everybody on the planet is talking about tonight, Lebron James, where will he go? We have got the latest on his big decision as well. Jessica?

YELLIN: We sure are talking about Lebron James. The NBA all- star is going primetime tonight to announce where he will play next year.

Is this worth all this hoopla? Are people more likely to watch this than a presidential address?

Our intrepid reporter Pete Dominick goes one-on-one on the streets of New York to get the nitty-gritty on Lebron -- Pete.

PETE DOMINICK, JOHN KING, USA'S OFFBEAT REPORTER: Hey, Jessica, yes, that's right. So Lebron James is giving this kind of bizarre -- in my opinion, kind of obnoxious press conference -- that I'd be lying if I said I wasn't going to be watching -- about what city he's going to play basketball in.

I want to find out where people's priorities are. Do they care more about that than say the president giving a speech in the Oval Office? Let's find out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOMINICK: Are you really going to watch?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I mean, the economy sucks either way. Obama ain't helping it. So Lebron may be though.

DOMINICK: So the whole world cares about what team Lebron James picks?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think so.

DOMINICK: What do you care more about, Lebron James' choice or Wall Street reform?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wall Street reform?

DOMINICK: You're going to watch Lebron James' press conference? No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is Lebron James?

DOMINICK: What do you care more about, Lebron James' choice or health care reform?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Health care reform.

DOMINICK: All right, what's in the bag? I'm security so --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're security? DOMINICK: Yes, what's in there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lebron's money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll watch it though. I'll dislike myself for watching it.

DOMINICK: Are you guys watching Lebron James' press conference tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

DOMINICK: You're not, sire?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't care.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where is Lebron going? Where is Lebron going?

DOMINICK: I don't care.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where is Lebron going?

DOMINICK: I don't care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No?

DOMINICK: Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because it doesn't matter. He's a basketball player.

DOMINICK: Exactly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He didn't cure cancer.

DOMINICK: Yes. Who is Lebron James?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no idea.

DOMINICK: Who is Barack Obama?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president.

DOMINICK: (Speaking in foreign language) basketball.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a Cleveland, we've been through this before.

DOMINICK: It's OK. You will be all right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My concern is Jessica Yellin being a free agent.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOMINICK: So, Jessica, I predict it's going to be the New York Yankees.

YELLIN: I almost could fall for that, Pete. I know you'll be watching. Thanks, Pete.

DOMINICK: I will.

YELLIN: All right. That's all from us tonight. And the "CAMPBELL BROWN" show starts right now.