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JOHN KING, USA
Countdown to Election Day; No Charges Against Alberto Gonzales
Aired July 23, 2010 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks, Wolf.
And good evening, everyone.
New evidence of your economic anxiety and your government's deficit spending are driving our politics tonight.
Just the mention of a document called the "Midsession Budget Review" might get you reaching for the remote. But give us a minute. This matters. In it, the White House projects a $1.47 trillion deficit this year and another $1.42 trillion deficit red ink next year.
The administration also projects the unemployment rate will drop next year, but only to 9 percent. And the White House estimate is an 8.1 percent jobless rate in the 2012 presidential election year. It's no wonder that most of you remain gloomy when it comes to the economy.
In our new CNN poll nearly eight in 10 Americans rate current economic conditions as poor and nearly six in 10 Americans disapprove of how President Obama is handling the economy -- a new low for the president on the issue that is, by far, the number one concern this mid term election season.
They say timing is everything in politics. So, it's worth noting this weekend marks 100 days to Election Day. And with control of Congress and three dozen governorships at stake, liberals and conservatives are meeting separately in Las Vegas to compare notes and plot election strategy.
Among them: CNN contributor Erick Erickson. He's the editor-in- chief of the conservative RedState.com. And James Rucker, the executive director of ColorofChange.org which he helped found in an effort to boost the political power of black America.
James, I want to begin with you. In the conversations out there when you talk about the election, the intensity, trying to get the base to turn out -- how much is the mood soured by these constant discouraging economic numbers?
JAMES RUCKER, CO-FOUNDER, COLOROFCHANGE.ORG: You know, I think people are really focused on how we can help get this country back on track, how we can support our government and really address the needs of every day people. Sure, the economic outlook is difficult for so many Americans and it's actually what I think provides fertile ground for what we saw this week with Andrew Breitbart, what we've seen actually with Jim Webb to some degree.
I think the real tragedy here, though, is that we have a media that has allowed the works of folks like Breitbart to be legitimized. You know, he went from telling one lie to another and getting lots of air time, really unchallenged. I mean, it was a kind of mystery as to what happened with just journalistic principles of research, making sure that this kind of hack job didn't turn into what seemed like a real story of racism.
KING: Well, I would say he was challenged on this network and we did bring in Shirley Sherrod. We brought in the spooners (ph). We checked out her story.
But, Erick Erickson, to the broader point James makes that in this time of economic anxiety, that resentment politics and politics of fear play. Do you see that happening?
ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, absolutely. It does happen on both sides. The issue is that it's cheaper these days for politicians to go to the base and focus on the base and whip it into a fury which is one reason I think the NAACP did pass its Tea Party resolution, is trying to drive up African-American turnout in November which polls are suggesting isn't as strong. It happens on both sides of the aisle.
But, you know, part of the problem I think is that we're finding less and less common ground these days. We're fighting at the margins, trying to get people into politics, into the polls, and there are actually real differences that we're beginning to fight over.
KING: Well, here's the question. You're both out -- go ahead, James. Jump in.
KING: Come on. Jump in.
RUCKER: I was going to say, it's great to have -- to have differences and to actually challenge each other, but there should be a baseline of truth and I think the role of the media is to make sure that what happens is it doesn't get taken over by voices that put forward basically falsehoods.
You said that you challenged Breitbart, but what I would say is you have a tape where it shows no audience applauding yet Breitbart is able to say repeatedly -- and not just on your network -- repeatedly that there's applause and in many points, that didn't get challenged. That tape should have never been news in the first place and that I think is a fundamental issue.
You're right. There is fear among people about change, and race- baiting is a perfect way to actually play into that and play off of that. We had the Southern Strategy with Nixon and we're seeing it again.
KING: Let me continue the conversation because you're meeting, James, with the progressive movement. Erick, you're out there with conservatives. One of the key questions is intensity.
And, obviously, this Shirley Sherrod firing -- and I would say to you, James, that we didn't fire Shirley Sherrod, that we didn't take this story to the next level.
But I want to get your sense of the intensity in the room, and I want to do so in the context of this poll. We have a new CNN poll tonight that essentially asking people: how enthusiastic are you about voting for Congress? And 42 percent of Republicans say they are extremely or very enthusiastic; 27 percent of Democrats. Both of those are actually down a bit. Republicans still have a huge intensity gap there if you see it, but the Republican number is down quite a bit, down from 54 percent in May, the Democratic number down just a bit (ph).
James, when you talk about these issues, whether the economic issue, whether this media issue you're talking about right now, and what you believe is unfairness -- in the room you're in out there meeting with people, we know some are unhappy with the president and the party on some issues like the public option and other issues. But are they going to be motivated to vote this November or is there a sense they may sit on their hands?
RUCKER: No. I think there's motivation especially when people realize what's at stake. There's so much at stake. So many people are suffering hardships. People are wanting government to actually work for us. And that actually may be some point of common ground.
What I think what people are very motivated by as well is this intense lack of truth coming from folks like Breitbart, like FOX News. And again, I think I just think it's so important debate should be celebrated but we have to have some ground rules and we need a media that actually helps to enforce those.
KING: In the context of this, you mentioned race has been front and center in our politics and in our discourse this week. And often, that can get divisive and it can get ugly. You mentioned at the top of the program, a Democratic senator from Virginia adding his voice to this debate today, Jim Webb, with this op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal" about affirmative action.
He says, "Forty years ago, as the United States experienced the civil rights movement, the supposed monolith of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant dominance served as the whipping post for almost every debate about power and status in America. After a full generation of such debate WASP elites have fallen by the wayside and a plethora of government-enforced diversity policies have marginalized many white workers."
Erick, to you first. Are you surprised to hear a Democrat in the state of Virginia which, of course, was the capital of the Confederacy but Barack Obama also carried it in 2008, with a strong -- such a strong condemnation of affirmative action?
ERICKSON: You know, not only am I surprised to hear this coming from a Democrat at this particular point in time, but I'm really surprised to hear it come from a guy who beat his Republican opponent by the Macaca moment, George Allen's famous line during the -- I guess it was 2006 election where Democrats royally beat him on his foot-and- mouth instance making it a racial issue and here comes Jim Webb with this issue.
You know, is it going to matter though? You know, it's -- November is going to come around and it's not going to be about James' or my version of the truth or Andrew Breitbart or whether we believe FOX News or anyone else is telling the truth. It's going to be about what the Democrats are doing and James Webb adding fuel to the fire today doesn't seem like smart politics for the Democrats headed into November with polls already turning against them.
KING: James Rucker is the founder of an organization designed to increase the power, the voice of black Americans in politics. I'm wondering what you felt when you read this op-ed and how it was discussed out there.
RUCKER: Yes. No, it was really, to me, unfortunate. I mean, I think what's definitely clear is we have Americans of all colors, all races who are suffering. The reality is black unemployment is much higher than the average, much higher than white unemployment. If you look at the foreclosure crisis, you know, it's hit blacks and Latinos the worst -- which isn't to say it's not hitting all Americans very hard.
I think it's actually a little bit careless and misguided to come to this conclusion that somehow now, white America is oppressed and it plays again right into that frame of Breitbart, which again has now been shown to have no substance but it plays into that -- and plays into real fears on the part of, you know, a certain section of white America. And it's not productive.
KING: Great assessment from both -- James Rucker and Erick Erickson, gentlemen, we thank you -- where we stand, 100 days to Election Day. Some crackling tension there.
A lot more to go on the program tonight. And we will continue to explore these issues.
An interesting day in politics. When we come back, we will go "Wall-to-Wall." Democrats are on defense 100 days to go. We're going to map out where the Democrats think they need to spend their money to build a fire wall to keep the House of Representatives.
Also, a fascinating conversation tonight with Michelle Rhee. She runs the D.C. school system. Today, she told more than 200 teachers, "You're fired." She says she's doing it for the students. Don't call her warm and fuzzy.
And one-on-one tonight -- this is an exclusive. Remember Alberto Gonzales, the former Bush administration attorney general under fire for firing the U.S. attorneys? The Justice Department decided just this week not to prosecute him. He says he feels vindicated but also angry. And in the "Play-by-Play" tonight a flashback. Back in the 2008 campaign, Joe Biden got in hot water when he used the words "clean and articulate." Remember that? Well, a little payback today. We'll show you that.
And some candidates like to call reporters to big events and then walk away. No questions. We'll show you who they are.
KING: In "Wall-to-Wall" today, a reminder: this weekend marks 100 days to the crucial midterm elections. Control of Congress is at stake.
Let's walk you through some of the stakes so far. First, let's look at the United States Senate. This is the current balance of power: 59 Democrats, 41 Republicans. Essentially, Republicans need plus 10, a pick up 10 seats to get control of the Senate. A possibility viewed as unlikely but a possibility.
The bigger fight this year at the moment is control of the House of Representatives. It's a steeper climb in terms of the number of seats. Republicans need a gain of 39 seats to take control of the House -- 256 Democrats currently, 179 Republicans. But this is viewed as a slight possibility if everything goes well.
So, what happened just this week? The Democrats decided to build their fire wall, if you will, coming up with $28 million, spending much of that targeting 40 races. If those 40 races, more than half, actually almost 2/3 of the lawmakers were elected in 2006 and 2008 when Democrats had that big year. Democrats are on defense in this election year, trying to defend the majority in the House of Representatives. That is something we will watch.
Again, we're marking 100 days to Election Day comes this weekend. Every night right here, from now to Election Day, we'll give you the race of the day and we'll break down where all the money is going and all the big issues and big targets.
Up next though: What newsmaker says she is not warm and fuzzy? Find out next and here's a hint. She fired more than 200 people today.
KING: Today, the chancellor of the D.C. public school system, Michelle Rhee, fired 226 teachers for poor performance. The firings were based on a new review system that, for the first time, takes into account how their students score on standardized tests. The D.C. teachers union vows to contest the firings. And this is all part of an emotional national debate over whether school districts need more power to fire sub-par teachers or whether the Obama White House and its allies are putting too much emphasis on test scores as the measure of success.
Chancellor Rhee joins us to talk about this big decision today. Your teachers union which vows to contest this says you're moving too fast, too inflexible, and too worried -- in their view -- or too dependent on test scores.
MICHELLE RHEE, D.C. SCHOOL CHANCELLOR: Right. I've heard a lot of talk from the teachers union saying that we should have given the ineffective teachers more time to improve. But the question that I asked of them is: whose children are we going to put in the classroom of ineffective teachers next year?
My two kids go to DCPS. I'm not willing to put my kids in those classrooms and I don't think any parent anywhere in the city should be forced to make that decision.
KING: Now, you were doing this under the power you have in a new contract. And this is part of a big national debate. Prior, most teachers' union contracts across the country with seniority. If you're going to fire teacher, the more senior ones get to stay and the more junior ones get the hook. You have a new system.
Explain it and why you think it is important as this debate goes all across the country.
RHEE: Well, right now, there is a time of contracting budgets all across the nation and the part of the problem is that when you have to cut budgets -- if you have to do layoffs, normally, those layoffs are done by seniority. So, it's last in, first out -- which means, oftentimes, school districts are in a position where they're having to fire, sometimes very talented new teachers. And, furthermore, because new teachers make the least amount of money you have to fire more of them and lose more jobs in order to make up that differential. And we believe that quality is the thing that matters most.
KING: There is a debate about -- no debate about quality matters most, but a debate about how you measure quality and about the testing. I want to read you something from a report. This is the research arm of the Michigan Education Association, which to be clear is the teachers union.
But they say, "U.S. states with high academic standards fare no better or worse than those identified as having low standards. Research support for standards-driven, test-based accountability systems is similarly weak. And nations with centralized standards generally tend to perform no better or worse on international tests than those without."
Essentially, they're challenging this idea that the White House is for, that you are for, that we need to go to this test-based system.
RHEE: And we don't just look at test scores. We look at test scores as part of the entire picture. So, 50 percent of the teacher's evaluation is based on how much their students grow, not an absolute mark, but how much they grow over the course of the year. Forty percent is based on observations of their classroom practice. And we observe them five times in the year. And two of those observations are completed by external evaluators.
We look at how much contribution the teacher makes to the overall school community. We look at the entire school's progress.
So, we look through multiple lenses, and I think what you're hearing from the teachers union is we don't want to be measured based on student achievement levels. But this is what we hire these people to do, is to move student achievement levels, to make sure that kids are progressing academically. If they're not willing to take responsibility for that, and what's the purpose?
KING: As you know, this is a heated national debate and some of the teachers unions are mad because they thought in a Democratic president, they would have an ally. And the administration has supported efforts like yours to the point where it has this Race to the Top program where there's more than $3 billion, about $3.5 billion essentially dangled out there to states, saying accept our way of doing things.
There are some who say that's almost -- bribery is a strong word -- but they're saying, you know, if you follow our way, you get money. If you disagree with us, you don't.
RHEE: Why shouldn't it be that way to be quite frank? I mean, first of all, let me just say that the president and Secretary Duncan I think have really broken the mold here.
In the past, the assumption was that the Democratic Party was completely tied to the teachers union and they would never do anything around teacher equality that was particularly aggressive because of those ties. And the president has been very clear that we need to help develop teachers to become effective, but if they can't become effective, then we need to find them new professions. And I quite frankly never thought I'd see a Democratic president say that, but I think that really has been a game changer.
KING: Your tactics have won you a lot of fans and also a lot of critics. It won you a spot on the cover of "Time" magazine recently for your efforts. In trying to sell your plan, recently, a friend was at a talk you gave in which you said, "If you want warm and fuzzy, I'm not your girl."
What do you mean by that?
RHEE: That's exactly right. I think that in my opinion, for far too long, we have been willing to turn a blind eye to the injustices that are happening to children in schools across America in the name of harmony amongst adults, right? We want to get along with the union. We want to get along with, you know, this person or that person, and we don't want to fire anyone because that makes us feel bad as adults.
But in the meantime, children have been done a disservice every single day. We have graduated a generation of Washingtonians who do not have the skills and knowledge that they need to be productive members of society because our schools have failed them.
So, for me, you know, I'm not here to be well liked. I don't care about being popular. Mayor Fenty brought me here to fix the school system. And in order to do that, you've got to make some incredibly hard decisions that sometimes rankle, you know, people -- and for me, that's OK as long as I feel like I'm serving the children well.
KING: Michelle Rhee, thanks for your time.
KING: Remember the former Bush administration Attorney General Alberto Gonzales? He was run out of Washington, forced to resign over the controversial firings of U.S. attorneys. Today, he joins us exclusively. He says he feels vindicated, but he is angry.
ANNOUNCER: It's time to go "One-on-One."
KING: If you follow politics, you'll most likely remember the dust-up over the Bush administration's decision to fire nine U.S. attorneys. Those firings led to an investigation. And then, an important decision that didn't get that all much attention this week, the Justice Department announced that no charges would be filed against the former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales or other Bush administrations involved in the episode.
The former attorney general is with us exclusively to go "One-on- One."
Judge Gonzales, good to see you.
I want to read to you a bit from "The Wall Street Journal" editorial this morning about this case.
It said, quote, "After their dismissal in 2006, Democrats pounced on the Bush administration for politicizing justice, and Mr. Gonzales became their favorite pinata. Democrats alleged that Karl Rove, then the deputy White House chief of staff, meddled in those decisions. He was also exonerated this week."
This is the first interview you've given about this. Just first and foremost, how do you feel?
ALBERTO GONZALES, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: I feel good, John. I feel angry that I had to go through this, that my family had to suffer through this. And what for? It was for nothing.
I'm glad the investigation is over. And I'm glad the American people are reassured that nothing wrong happened during my tenure as attorney general in connection with the removals of these U.S. attorneys. KING: You say you feel angry. I get that. And the letter though, I do want to hold it up, it says they found insufficient evidence. It doesn't say clearly that nothing happened. It does say that they believe that you were overly political in these firings and it does say --
KING: -- that the inspector general found you gave inaccurate and misleading statements but they said there was insufficient evidence there was any criminal activity. It does say that they believe, in this letter, that you were too political and not up to the standards of the DOJ. Do you dispute that?
GONZALES: Well, let me clarify for your audience here, what exactly she said. First of all, her statements about whether or not there was undue politics involved in the decision to remove a U.S. attorney, only related to David Iglesias. If you look carefully at that letter, her review was limited to the removal of David Iglesias.
KING: That's correct.
GONZALES: That's where the most serious questions existed. So, I think it is very, very important for people to understand that.
KING: I want to read you one sentence from it because I want to hear your direct response to it. Here is the -- in the final letter to Congress, "While the actions of DOJ leadership" -- which is you, sir -- "were contrary to DOJ principles, they were not intended and did not influence or in any way impede voter fraud prosecutions or a particular public corruption case." That is particularly in the case of Mr. Iglesias.
I just want you to refer and respond to the idea that the actions of DOJ leadership were contrary to DOJ principles. In other words, they think you were too political.
GONZALES: Well, again, this is an opinion by a career prosecutor about the removal of one single individual, not nine, not seven, but one. And I would just say this: the job of a prosecutor is to determine whether or not a crime has been committed. That is the job of the prosecutor.
And her judgment in this case and I respect her work, her judgment as to the political correctness of a decision by the attorney general or by the president of the United States, quite frankly, is inappropriate and unwarranted in this particular case. What is really important that you cited to in the letter is that there is no evidence that the removal of Iglesias or the removal of the other U.S. attorneys that any case was improperly influenced.
KING: An issue you dealt with at the White House and at the Justice Department was illegal immigration, border enforcement, whether we should have a guest worker program, a path to citizenship or some legal status for those in the country illegally. First, just your observations -- the Arizona law, do you think it is necessary and do you support it?
GONZALES: That's a very difficult question. I'm, you know, having begun my public service in state government. I very much respect the authority of states to make the decisions to provide for its citizen -- the safety and welfare of its citizens. And having served in the federal government, I also understand and appreciate that the federal government has failed miserably in enforcing immigration policy, quite frankly -- a dismal failure.
As to whether or not the Arizona law makes sense, courts are going to decide whether or not Congress has preempted this area of the law. I think you need to see how it's going to be implemented. I think it could -- in certain cases, you could find cases of racial profiling. But in those cases, then you throw out the arrest or you throw out the conviction.
It's the same thing that happens with respect to the use of law enforcement tools in other areas. If a search is unlawful in some way, you don't throw out the authority of the police to engage in searches. You throw out the arrest. You throw out the conviction.
But as to whether or not it's racial profiling, we'll just have to wait and see. I'm dead set against racial profiling. It is wrong and should not be supported.
But whether or not this law constitutes racial profiling, I still -- I think it's too early to tell.
KING: You're speaking to me from Texas today. The president's nephew, George P. Bush, is on the airwaves in Texas. Listen to a snippet of his efforts to try to get Latinos to listen to the Republican side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are here to help.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because if we are the future, we need to get ready for public office today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking foreign language)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: What's the challenge in your view?
GONZALES: Well, we have to convince Hispanics, younger Hispanics, that they are welcome in the party, quite frankly, and that their voices will be heard. And that they can make a difference and that they will be promoted, they will be supported by the party.
Listen, I think it's fairly obvious to everyone that the Republican Party will not regain power, control in the Congress, will not retain or gain control of the White House unless we do a better job of outreach to the Hispanic community. And one of the ways you do that is you show the Hispanic community, you know what, we want to promote people from within your community. Show us who the rising stars are and let us work with them, let us train them. Let us support them, and that's how you grow the Republican Party.
KING: Your friend, the former president, is working on his memoir and we're all waiting for it this coming fall. Have you helped him on the book at all? When was the last time you talked to President Bush?
GONZALES: I actually spoke to him just a few days ago. He called me the afternoon that the report regarding the ending the situations came out and he called to congratulate me. We talked about the fact that he was playing more golf and that he was thankful that he wasn't in Washington having to deal with all of these kinds of issues. I think he is doing well. You know, I think like all of us we look back with great pride in our service to our country. We're also delighted to be back home and to living life a little more normally.
KING: The former attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, sir, appreciate your time today.
GONZALES: Thank you, John.
KING: Next, your chance to make your case. Do you think a Republican controlled Congress would help or hurt President Obama?
KING: Welcome back. Let's check in with Kate Bolduan for the news you need to know right now.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, John.
Well, after passing over south Florida, the remnants of Tropical Storm Bonnie, now tropical depression, are moving into the Gulf of Mexico and are expected along the northern gulf coast late Saturday.
And Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, he says he's turned over 1,200 pages of e-mails to justice Department investigators looking into fellow Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada.
A government report today condemned 17 big financial firms for giving executives $1.6 billion in what the report calls "ill-advised payments" during the 2008 and 2009 financial crisis.
And saying good-bye to a CNN original, journalist Daniel Schorr who worked for CBS, CNN, and NPR died today at 93.
And just now, at the retirement ceremony for General Stanley McChrystal, Defense Secretary Robert Gates noted it's a good-bye tinged with pride and sadness. Listen here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECY: We bid farewell to Stan McChrystal today with pride and sadness. Pride for his unique record as a man and a soldier, sadness that our comrade and his prodigious talents are leaving us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: John, I doubt anyone was expecting to be involved in a retirement ceremony for Stan McChrystal at this point in this part of the war.
KING: It is a couple years sooner than anybody could have expected. Kate, one interesting add. In that last part you just played there, the defense secretary, Gates', speech we just heard the prepared text released this afternoon read this way, "Sadness that our comrade and his prodigious talents are leaving us before he could see his last mission through". As you just heard that very last part "before he could see his last mission through" the secretary decided, Kate, to drop that.
Now let's rumble through some stories on my radar tonight, and joining me to help, the veteran Democratic strategist Peter Fenn and the veteran Republican combatant, I'll call him, Rich Galen.
I said veteran. Doesn't mean old. Doesn't have to mean old. Did the veteran Democratic vice president let his mouth get the better of him, again? This is what Joe Biden said at a North Carolina fundraiser yesterday while touting the administration's accomplishments.
"Now that the heavy lifting is over, we can go out and make our case."
RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know, I am so disappointed in Joe Biden. I write a column three days a week and I thought he was going to be constant fodder for me and he has behaved himself pretty well. Every so often he does something that I applaud by going back to the old Joe Biden, but I think for the most part he has done a good job and frankly when it comes to foreign policy, he's done a great job. He's been a great ally.
KING: But as a Democrat, Peter, when you have nine approaching, 10 percent unemployment, when you have new deficit numbers, do you need to be a little more careful in your language, the heavy lifting goes?
PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: We have some fairly serious heavy lifting to do in this country, no question, I think Joe Biden would acknowledge that. But I think look, he's obviously pleased with the health care bill, he's obviously pleased that we finally got the Wall Street thing straightened out so, you know, I cut him a little slack.
GALEN: That's right, the only thing that was missing was the "mission accomplished."
FENN: And the big signs.
KING: All right. I guess it's a history lesson, I'm not quite sure. The man who penned the now infamous mock letter to Abraham Lincoln, from NAACP, Ben Jealous, has decided to split ranks with the Tea Party Express. Mark Williams said he was parting ways to free the Tea Party from any more distraction. This is what Williams had to say about the incident exactly one week ago here on this program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK WILLIAMS, TEA PARTY EXPRESS SPOKESMAN: What I did was successful, and I'm glad it was successful. I'm sorry I had to go to those lengths to slap some sense into a lot of people who are so afraid of politically incorrect language that we can't get a conversation started.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GALEN: Well, let's talk about oh, Tom Vilsack. You want to do that?
FENN: You'd prefer that.
GALEN: Yeah. I think that's a better topic.
FENN: Oh no, I think this is someone, probably, who rose to his level of incompetence rather quickly and that letter to President Lincoln about the Emancipation Proclamation, how we want to have our wide screen TVs, it was insulting.
GALEN: And inexcusable. I mean the guy is a radio talk show host, radio talk show hosts, for the main, aim for the edges because that's where the listeners are and he wasn't smart enough, frankly, to be able to cut the -- make the difference between being a radio talk show host and being what he wanted to be which was a spokesman for a wider audience...
KING: An interesting twist involving one of the more intriguing new political faces this mid-term election year. Billionaire Florida Democratic Senate candidate Jeff Greene could be facing almost $2 million in unpaid fines because his yacht apparently tore up part of the internationally renowned coral reef off the coast of Belize. Now, Greene was not on the 145-foot yacht, 145-foot yacht yes, that's right. He says it never happened.
FENN: I tell you, first of all his crew said it happened and everybody who was there said it happened and for him, that kind of a fine, John, that would be chump change, he could pay it.
This is a guy who thinks he's going to buy a Senate seat in Florida. Let's all hope, and he's a Democrat, I hope to heck he doesn't.
GALEN: And there have been other examples on both coasts where people thought they could buy their way into the Senate, and for the most part it doesn't work.
FENN: Then how did he make his money? He made his money by betting that the housing market was going to crash and he made huge amounts of money off of people suffering. Thank you, bye-bye.
KING: That's good, the Democrats are beating up the Democrats. You don't need to say anything.
GALEN: Thank you for coming.
KING: Ahoy, another one from the high seas, speaking of yachts. Senator John Kerry is making waves, yeah, that's a little bit of a pun or a cliche or whatever, but it matters, here. He's making waves in his state and my home state of Massachusetts. Kerry has decided to dock his new yacht in next door Rhode Island that allows him to avoid paying $500,000 in Massachusetts taxes. Massachusetts is facing a $1 billion deficit this year, so maybe they want that money. A spokesman for the senator says the decision was based on, "long-term maintenance needs."
GALEN: Not only does he jilt the state out of Texas, but then he insults the boating industry by saying they don't have the capacity to maintain his boat. Well done, senator.
FENN: My guess is, I don't have all the facts on this thing, but my guess is he is over there, it's getting fixed up, but my guess is you'll see him paying taxes in Massachusetts real soon on that boat. That would be my guess.
GALEN: The right thing to do would have been to put it in his wife's name and forget about the whole thing.
FENN: It's her yacht, is my guess.
GALEN: That's what it's going to come down to.
KING: All right. Peter and Rich, stay right here. Next in the "Play-by-Play," who's calling Joe Biden "clean and articulate?" It's a bit of a comeback, there.
And as part of our commitment to bring you into the conversation we ask a question every Monday and give you all week to make your case by posting a video at our Web site, CNN.com/JohnKingUSA. This week's question? Do you think a Republican controlled Congress would help or hurt President Obama? Here's a sampling of what you told us:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOYCE MONAHAN, DUBUQUE, IA: I think it would hurt President Obama because it would get in the way of the compromises that he is willing to make.
ROBERT HOFFMAN, WALDORF, MD: There's no way Obama's agenda will get through with Republicans sweeping into power in November.
EGBERTO WILLIES, VIEWER: These are serious times. There's no one in the forefront of the Republican Party that can be taken seriously to provide solutions for the real problems that are currently affecting Americans.
DAN CURREN, WASHINGTON, D.C.: I think a Republican controlled Congress will probably it would make things a little more difficult, but I think would also force some compromise because I think something we're lacking, right now.
CHARLOTTE ASTURIAS, NEWARK, NJ: It's not going to help. It's not going to change anything. Everything is going to stay the same. Either, the rich are going to get richer and the poor are going to get poorer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: It's the "Play-by-Play."
KING: A lot of good tape to break down in the Ferriday edition of "Play-by-Play" and with me to help, two pros, Peter Fenn, Democratic strategist, Rich Galen, our Republican.
We just showed a little snippet, General McChrystal's retirement ceremony, it's obviously a very sad time for him, he was forced to give up his command because of that article. You would think he would be down in the dumps and yet Stan McChrystal tonight showing that maybe he's not feeling too great, but he's got a sense of humor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN STANLY MCCHRYSTAL (RET), FMR CMDR U.S. FORCES: For those here tonight who feel a need to contradict my memories with the truth, remember I was there too. I have stories on all of you, photos on many, and I know a "Rolling Stone" reporter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That's classy.
FENN: That's good, very smart.
KING: You know, I don't know General McChrystal but I know a lot of people who do know him and they hold him in unbelievably high regard. I think McChrystal is to Petraeus as Patton was to Eisenhower. He was a warrior asked to be a diplomat and it was just the wrong role for a really good man. FENN: I think that's really an important point that he has the loyalty of his troops, they liked him, but in terms of the role he needed to play there he didn't play it very well.
GALEN: No. I think that...
KING: He clearly screwed up and I think a little humor is the best way to start to move on and transition, right?
All right, here's a guy who occasionally brings us humor. He's the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, but remember back in the 2008 campaign when he was a candidate? He was a senator from Delaware. He was running for the Democratic nomination. One of his opponents was this guy Barack Obama, the senator. A lot of questions how would we deal with this African-American candidate for president? Joe Biden got in trouble for this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), US VICE PRESIDENT: I mean, you got the first sort of mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice looking guy, I mean, that's a storybook, man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, we don't flashback to be gratuitous, we flashback because today Joe Biden's in South Carolina, Jim Clyburn is the No. 3 Democrat in the House, he also happens to be the leading African- American politician in the Democratic leadership in Congress and he was having a little fun.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP JOE CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: So, ladies and gentlemen, it's a pleasure for me to present to you a mainstream American, who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GALEN: That's pretty good.
FENN: That is good. You can see the smile on Biden's face. He said, oh, boy. You got me here. Now what am I going to say?
KING: What goes around comes around?
GALEN: Yeah. No, but I think that's a good thing. In this week that has been just rife with really -- bordering on ugly racial tensions I think the ability of Congressman Clyburn to sort of breakthrough that that way, I thought that was a pretty classy thing to do.
FENN: Light moments are very important. I think we need more of them. And this show provides it.
KING: I'm not sure you'll consider this a light moment. We'll see. Michele Bachmann is a conservative Republican congresswoman; she helped found the House Tea Party Caucus, this past week. She is a favorite of the Tea Party movement across America. She's got a tough reelection campaign in her own right, but she's talking in this interview we're about to play about what should be the priority if Republicans can take control of the House of Representatives, what should they do?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Well, I think that's all we should do. I think all we should do is issue subpoenas and have one hearing after another and expose all the nonsense that has gone on. And it's very important when we come back that we have constitutional conservative leadership because the American people's patience is about this big, so we have to make sure that we do what the people want us to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FENN: Well, speaking of light moments. I have to just say, that you know, I find this rather scary, because that's exactly what the American people don't want. I mean, we were talking in the green room, they want things done, they want folks to get serious about the problems, they don't want more investigations, more craziness, more silliness. And the trouble with Michele Bachmann is that she get's airtime because of statements like that and because she thinks that we ought to investigate members of Congress who she thinks may be pro- American, anti-American. I mean...
GALEN: Well, I don't know about that, but all I know is that under Democrats, they finally after two years, got around to effectively indicting Charlie Rangel yesterday. It took them two years to get there, so maybe they do need to speed up some of these...
FENN: Well, I'm not going to disagree with you on Charlie Rangel. But, I thin that kind of approach, if that's what the Republican Party's going to stand for, then we're in trouble.
GALEN: I'll go back and look again, but I don't believe Michele Bachmann's in the leadership or likely...
FENN: You're right.
GALEN: ...but, she is speaking for a segment of the Republican Party that they want some of the stuff looked into. I don't agree with it, but I think it's legitimate.
KING: Perfect segue. You say she's speaking for the Republican Party. You disagree with the Michele Bachman, she is willing to stand up and make her views known. Some candidates, it gets a little more interesting. Sharron Angle, another Tea Party favorite, running for Senate in Nevada against the Democratic leader, Harry Reid. She calls a press conference, right? That's where you show up and take questions from reporters, right?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Sharon, will you answer some questions really quickly?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She has to go, I'm sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: She had to go. She did call a press conference and she gave a statement and then that happened. Now, she's not alone, we don't want to pick on Sharron Angle. We're going to go back in time a little but, this is March, I believe, Meg Whitman, former eBay CEO, calls a press conference and...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: No questions?
MEG WHITMAN, EBAY CEO: Guys, guys.
QUESTION: Why are you not going to take questions?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much, guys. Thank you very much, guys.
QUESTION: Meg, you criticized Jerry Brown. He was mayor of this town...
WHITMAN: Can we get going?
QUESTION: Is there anything you want to say on what he did to build up economically or not?
WHITMAN: We're trying to get this out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much, guys. Thank you. Thank you, guys.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GALEN: Yeah, so Harry Reid is going to be really embarrassed if he loses to that woman. That's all I'm saying. Laugh now, but I'm telling you, there's going to be a lot of -- a lot of red faces if the majority leader loses to her.
FENN: Yeah. I mean, there's a lot of thank you there. I'm not sure what they were thanking the press for. Thank you, get out of our hair. But, you know, I think, there's a lot of criticism that President Obama should have more press conferences. You know, I just love the question period in Britain. I think we ought to have that.
KING: One-hundred days to the election, we're going to get on the road, we're ask some tough questions, including this guy, right here, I'll get out of the studio a little bit in the next hundred days. Gentlemen, thanks for coming in on a Friday night.
Up next, "Pete on the Street." Wow, what a copout. He beats the heat, comes right in here to the studio, turns the tables on me. Stay right there.
KING: Rick Sanchez, standing by for the top of the hour in RICK'S LIST, let's get a preview.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Ann Coulter's going to be joining me, John, in just a little bit, and you're not going to believe what she is suggesting, tonight. She seems to be suggesting that in fact it's not Andrew Breitbart's fault, what happened with Shirley Sherrod, no, it's the mystery person who sent him the tape. Ann Coulter's point of view. I will take issue with it and you'll see it here on RICK'S LIST, primetime. Back to you, John.
KING: Normally, you see our Pete Dominick, off-beat Pete, out on the street, but "Pete on the Street" begged to get out of the heat. Here he is, right here in studio.
PETE DOMINICK, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi.
KING: Welcome into the air conditioning.
DOMINICK: Thank you so much, it's unbearable out there. I wanted to ask you a few questions tonight, and I wanted John King to give "Pete on the Street" a teachable moment. So first, is this a new phrase, "teachable moment?" Is this an Obama administration thing? I just started drinking politics a couple of years ago.
KING: You just started drinking politics a couple of years ago?
DOMINICK: Yeah. Did the Bush administration have teachable moments?
KING: Every administration has teachable moments, but the phrase is pretty peculiar in particular to this president and this administration. They like to say, the president himself has used it, Robert Gibbs has used it at the podium a lot, well this is a "teachable moment." In the context of this week, I think the president is as much the student, learning the lesson of this week, not the teacher.
DOMINICK: What is journalism? Andrew Breitbart said this, "I am public enemy No. 1 or No. 2 to the Democratic Party. The progressive movement and the Obama administration based upon the successes, my journalism had." Is Andrew breitbart a journalist? What is journalism? You're one of the best, I think.
KING: I'm not sure my answer is Andrew Breitbart's answer. Might not be your answer, might not be somebody out there listening answer. And this is one of the challenges for our business, which is changing so much. In part because of technology, in part because of cutbacks in local newspapers, there are mothers who go to school committee meetings and they are citizen journalists and they do the lord's work sometimes.
There are advocacy journalists, like Andrew Breitbart. Let's be clear, he's a conservative, he's an activist, he has an agenda. He considers what he does journalism. I leave that decision up to the consumers. He doesn't play by the same rules I do, but that doesn't make him wrong and me right. It means we're different. And you have to trust the people at home to say, OK, if I read something written by Andrew Breitbart, I should know, this is a conservative person with an agenda.
If you're at CNN or any other news organization and you see something he writes or some video he links, it might be interesting, it might be worth following, but we have to, especially at here on CNN, and we did this, this week, we are proud here, this week, we saw the snippet online, we didn't just run with it, we found Shirley Sherrod, we reached out to Andrew Breitbart, we found the white farmers involved. So, we did journalism the old fashioned way. But the definition of journalism is changing, like everything else in our society.
DOMINICK: What about Shirley Sherrod? She has appeared on every single show. I think "Dancing with the Stars" has asked her to appear. Has she taken this moment and given her own teachable moment? Or what's happening here? We're covering her a lot, everybody is.
KING: There's no question that she has decided once afforded this stage to take full advantage of it, and many will question her motives. She says she just wants to tell her story and rebut the criticism against her, but there's no question, she has enjoyed this moment.
DOMINICK: This story drowned out unemployment insurance extension. Democrats overcame a GOP filibuster, but on John Boehner, the majority leader, he tried to explain his party still had empathy, talking about his brothers. Some of them don't have jobs, maybe he's got 10 sibling, you've got six. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOEHNER, MAJORITY LEADER: I've got real empathy for those who are unemployed. As a matter of fact, as most of you know, I've got 11 brothers and sisters. I know three of my brothers have lost their jobs. I'm not sure whether they've found jobs, yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOMINICK: John King, you've got six sibling, do they all have jobs?
KING: Yes, they all have jobs. If they didn't have jobs, Pete, they'd call me up and borrow a little money. That's how I would know that. No, look, that one is inexplicable to me. I don't keep in daily minute to minute contact with my brothers and sister, but if one didn't have a job, I would know that.
DOMINICK: Thank you for giving me some teachable moments. John King.
KING: You come here any time. You teach me more than I can teach you. Pete Dominick, thanks so much.
And thank you for spending some time with us, tonight, as throughout the week. We'll see you on Monday. RICK'S LIST starts right now.