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JOHN KING, USA
War Secrets Leaked; Disabilities Act
Aired July 26, 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, Suzanne and good evening everyone.
Driving our politics today a security breach that has some crying treason and others saying I told you so about the war in Afghanistan, at issue are some 91,000 documents obtained and then released by Wikileaks that bills itself as a whistleblower site dedicated to challenging government and corporate secrecy.
The documents are classified, so one weighty question is who leaked them and what if anything can be done about a major national security breach? They also paint a messy and mostly bleak picture of the nearly 10-year-old war and war opponents are seizing on their release as proof it is time to bring the troops home and prove to them that Pakistan is an untrustworthy ally often in cahoots with the Taliban and other anti American forces in the region. The Obama White House isn't happy, it says Wikileaks is entitled to its anti war views, but in publishing classified materials cross the line by making secrets available to the enemy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think there are ways in which one can disagree with policy without breaking the law and putting in potential danger those who are there to keep us safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: In a moment the political fallout and how this could shape the war funding debate on Capitol Hill, but first how big of a national security breach is this and are comparisons to the Pentagon papers fair or reckless? Joining me now is the Pentagon chief spokesman Geoff Morrell and our CNN senior political analyst David Gergen. Geoff, to the point Robert Gibbs hinted at, the fear that something in these documents could put at risk troops currently in the field in Afghanistan, how serious is that question.
GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Well John, we just don't know. I mean this was dumped on us like it was dumped on everybody else last night. And we have a team going through it around the clock to try to ascertain whether there's anything in these documents which could potentially put our forces in danger, those of our coalition partners or our civilian partners.
But we just don't know and one of the great tragedies from my perspective on this from a journalistic perspective is if you had gotten a hold of those documents, John, you would have called me up and said, Geoff, we've got something that we think is worth publishing, but we need to have a conversation with you about whether it might in the process endanger the lives of American forces or our nation's security.
We were not afforded that conversation by this group. They published, and now we're dealing with the consequences afterwards.
KING: Well let's come right in on that point, because the head of this group Julian Assange, says number one that they have more documents and they're redacting them and looking at them that they're trying to be careful. But number two, he says his job isn't to be a journalist. That's why he gave them to "The New York Times", "The Guardian", newspaper (INAUDIBLE) in Germany. He says his intent is number one he believes there's some evidence of possible war crimes in these documents and number two he says he wants to paint a fair picture of history. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JULIAN ASSANGE, WIKILEAKS FOUNDER: It's important to understand this material doesn't just reveal abuses. This material describes the past six years of war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: He paints himself as essentially contributing to history.
MORRELL: Well listen to the first point that these guys are somehow reviewing these documents to see if there's material that could endanger our forces, I don't know his expertise to be able to make such judgments. We're the United States military. We're the ones who would best know whether or not the information contained in these could jeopardize our forces, our partners, our civilians who are in the field, our sources and methods, the people who are cooperating with us, giving us information, which we then use to go after the Taliban and al Qaeda and so forth.
I don't have any faith that they have the ability to make those judgments. With regards to them being a news outlet or not a news outlet, I'm glad he said it and I didn't have to. There is clearly no editorial judgments being made by this organization as to what is fit to print or not to print. Their view is just put it all up and let the chips fall where they may. Well the chips in this case could end up endangering American lives, those of our coalition partners and the civilians in the field as well.
KING: David, come in with some perspective. If you look at the military blogs, some of the other blogs online, the conversations that are happening around the world, not just around the United States, some people are saying, (INAUDIBLE) so Pakistan is not always a trustworthy ally, no news there. And others are saying this is on par with the Pentagon papers.
DAVID GERGEN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well first of all, John, I think Geoff Morrell has been exactly right in his arguments about this. These are -- this is a very -- these are very damaging disclosures. It's less about the content than the fact that 92,000 documents were illegally put into the public arena. And we don't know -- you know it's a very selective portrait of the war.
We don't know what he left out. We spent a whole week last week talking about somebody who maliciously put out an edited version of what a woman said. It strikes me that there's some similarities with that here, too, with an organization that's clearly very anti-war did this. Now in terms of a comparison, the Pentagon papers, the size of the document dump is bigger, I think.
But there is a very, very big difference in that the Pentagon papers fundamentally showed that there was a great credibility gap between what the then administration was saying about Vietnam versus what it actually thought. There was not just a gap. There was a canyon. And it showed that the top administration people were basically lying to the country about it.
There's no such hint here. This is all -- you know we have -- this goes back into the previous administration, and there's no gap about what the government has been telling us about this. And I think it's going to have much less impact, but it is still destructive. And let's not forget, the real culprits in this are the people who leaked it. These are people who took an oath to defend American security, violated that oath willfully, and should be severely punished if we can find them.
KING: I want to get to some of the substance in the documents, but on that very point, it is your job now I assume, the job of your building to investigate somebody who wears the uniform or is in a very high civilian position to have all these classified documents in front of them, assuming it's one person leaked them to this organization. How do you find out who and what do you do?
MORRELL: Yes. Clearly as much as I don't like the way this was handled by this organization, Wikileaks, we obviously -- the main culprit here is whoever leaked classified information to this organization. We all take an oath, but we either put on the uniform or go to work for the department that we're going to you know defend the Constitution and defend the country, and when we are entrusted with classified information it is our duty and our legal obligation to safeguard it. This trust has been violated --
KING: Do you have any idea how many people have access --
KING: Do you have any idea how many people --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- has access to classified information --
MORRELL: Look, there's a slew of people who have access. It will be, as all these investigations are, very difficult, but we are determined to find out who is responsible for this and to make sure they pay or are held accountable for it. This is a very big breach for which there must be consequences.
KING: As you know, it has become rightly or wrongly, it has become fodder for the political debate about the war and whether the strategy is on the right track, whether Pakistan can be trusted and some of this is being led by people who have been against the war from day one, but some of the conversation is being driven by people who have been supportive of the administration's policy, this administration, and even to a degree the prior administration.
I want you to read -- this is John Kerry who is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He says, "However illegally these documents came to light, they raise serious questions about the reality of America's policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan. Those policies are at a critical stage, and these documents may very well underscore the stakes and make the calibrations needed to get the policy right more urgent."
Very clear in that is that the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee even before this was released think you need some calibrations to the policy. And Geoff Morrell what many people are saying is if you through these, yes, some go back to 2004, but some are late 2009 where there are troops in the field say that they believe the IEDs or that the Pakistani intelligence services essentially are helping the insurgents.
MORRELL: Well let me pick up on David's point. This is most certainly not the Pentagon papers, because the Pentagon papers did reveal that the government was lying to the people about what was going on in Vietnam. These documents reinforce what we have been telling the American people for some time.
That there are very real issues we are grappling with in Afghanistan and Pakistan but that we are in our estimation making real progress, particularly on the Pakistan front. The most recent of these documents is as late as December of 2009, so that's six, seven months ago. Our relationship with Pakistan has been trending in the right direction for the last couple of years.
And I say anything that goes back to late '09 is outdated by now. We continue to move forward with that relationship, making progress. Is it perfect? No, it's not. We still have challenges ahead of us, and you spoke of Senator Kerry -- I happen to be in the green room when he was on the phone with the Pakistani ambassador.
We both recognize there are challenges, but we also both recognize that we are moving fundamentally in the right direction. And that's the truth on the other issues that were raised here too, John, whether it be the resourcing of this conflict, which clearly was under resourced for years by necessity given what was going on in Iraq.
The president has tripled the number of forces we have there, civilian casualties, another huge issue, trending downwards ever since General McChrystal instituted the new (INAUDIBLE) directive. Meanwhile, the Talibans are trending upward, so we recognize the problems and we're confronting them.
KING: So David, then will this be a conversation forgotten in 48 hours, or will the release of these documents lead to another look at the strategy, I assume particularly the idea of the cooperation, the degree and the depth of trust with Pakistan?
GERGEN: Well, I think, first of all, I hope Geoff is right about Pakistan. I hope they're not playing a double game. I think there is evidence that Karzai has been playing a double game over time in Afghanistan. But to the larger political point, John, it does -- it's very clear that this document dump is going to further fuel the rising discontent with the administration's approach to Afghanistan.
I've been very taken aback almost by talking to some senior people from past administrations who have been supportive of this war, who -- who's -- who are beginning to rethink what we ought to be doing there and how we ought to be doing it. My sense is that this debate is going to grow and intensify in the next few months leading to big decisions by the president this December.
KING: Geoff Morrell, David Gergen, appreciate your thoughts. And when we return we'll pick up on the point David just left off, how will this impact the debate about the strategy, about the war funding and questions for the White House, two key members of Congress. We'll be back in just a minute.
KING: The White House is condemning the leak of thousands of classified documents about the war in Afghanistan saying it's illegal and could cause harm to U.S. troops, but could it also change the politics of the war, which is one of the few topics that Republicans and most Democrats have agreed on during the Obama administration.
Joining us now Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, a leading voice to end the war in Afghanistan, and Mike Rogers of Michigan is a Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman Kucinich to you first and the congressman is joining us on the telephone. What impact -- you have long said we should end this war and get an exit strategy. What impact will these documents have on that debate?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO (via phone): I think they'll have a great impact because the specificity of the documents indicate that our troops are in real danger, that there's countless innocent civilians being killed, that the Afghan government is hopelessly corrupt that Pakistan intelligence is collaborating with the enemy against the U.S., the Pentagon is underestimating the fire power of the insurgence and they've got a top Pakistani general who's visiting a suicide bombing school monthly. We've got a mess in Afghanistan and we have one that's burgeoning in Pakistan. We have to start taking care of things here at home and get out of that region.
KING: Congressman Rogers, I want you to come in and follow-up on -- I suspect you don't agree with Congressman Kucinich, but as I do, he mentioned the former intelligence chief in Pakistan visiting a madrasa. I want to read you a bit from one of these leaked documents because you serve on the Intelligence Committee and I'd love your perspective.
"CIA's Counter-Terrorism Center comment, 95 percent of the suicide attackers are trained in the Madrasa of Hashimiye, which is located in the Peshawer district of Pakistan. Monthly the former chief of the Pakistan Intelligence Service, General Hamid Gul, is visiting this madrasa. Do you have confidence, sir, in the U.S./Pakistan part of this relationship?
REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), MICHIGAN: Listen, this has always been an off again/on again friend/maybe not friend relationship since the very start of it. There's information long before this going back where certain elements of the ISI, their intelligence services were cooperating with certain elements of the Taliban, and there's been all kinds of problems and mainly centered around the tribal areas. And so you have to understand that they are getting pulled in both directions, and we need to use Pakistan to our advantage when it comes to al Qaeda and senior Taliban and other groups just like they gained advantage from having us do that --
KING: But is it still going on? Was Congressman Kucinich right in saying look, too many billions, too many lost men and women; it's time to come home.
ROGERS: Well, I mean obviously, you want to continue that relationship. You cannot afford to abandon safe haven areas where we know that these networks can grow and finance and recruit and train and do exist. So you walk away from that, and I'll guarantee you they'll be back because they understand it well and they know how to use those particular regions of the world to launch attacks against the United States.
They've done it once. So we have to be careful about just saying these documents say this, and we ought to just pull the plug. Intelligence is always a messy matter, if you will, and it is really the raw truth about how we have to analyze who our friends are and who are not and how you work with those people to the best of your ability to serve the best interests of the United States national security.
And to that end they've done it. It is a tricky thing. Listen, I've been a vocal critic of Pakistan as any in the last few years when I think they have not gotten a handle on their cooperation efforts. But I will say this, John, real quick. This culture of disclosure is dangerous and some notion that these are only secret documents and provide no value to the enemy is just simply wrong.
It shows what we know, what we don't know, how we operate, how we don't operate. That's valuable information to people who are trying to kill U.S. soldiers, and we ought to treat this -- that seriously. This is a life and death disclosure, and having third parties who don't understand the impact of this information saying well we determined it wasn't is just wrong and it is dangerous to our troops in the field.
KING: Well Congressman Kucinich, on that point these documents being released, do you believe helps your political argument about trying to end the war. But do you agree with Congressman Rogers that it is reckless and criminal and that if they can find out who did it they deserve to spend some time behind bars?
KUCINICH: Well I honor Congressman Rogers' service on the Intelligence Committee. It's an important committee. But now we -- it's a fact. There's 92,000 documents that have -- that cite chapter and verse the danger of the United States going deeper and deeper into our war experience in Afghanistan.
The American taxpayers are being asked this week to spend another $33 billion on a war that is costing hundreds of billions. We really owe it to the taxpayers to go forward based on the truth, nothing but the truth. We're told the truth shall set us free. We'll see if Congress votes to continue our expedition into Pakistan, and if we continue our expedition in Afghanistan, it's going to be in the face of a mountain now of evidence which now tends to cast serious doubt as to the mission and as to the rationale for our staying.
KING: Congressman Kucinich, Congressman Rogers, appreciate both of your time -- it is a fascinating topic. We will stay on top of it. We appreciate your coming in and helping us tonight.
When we come back, a lot more to cover on the program tonight including we are unveiling this week what we call "THE CNN 100". We're inside 100 days to Election Day right now, and we're going to look closely from now to Election Day at 100 key House races -- tonight going to give you a peek at New Hampshire's second district, one of the key battlegrounds in the northeast this year.
Today's most important person you don't know, well in the House of Representatives today he made history. He made that history today as this country celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In the "Play-by-Play" tonight, you won't want to miss this, the political direction of the president. We'll fill you in when we break down the tape and how about your attitudes about immigration. That's something we'll track tonight.
And on the "Radar" tonight, any bounce the president was out to campaign for this Senate candidate in the heartland, help or hurt? And which candidate is talking about betting on suffering. You won't want to miss that (INAUDIBLE). Don't go anywhere.
KING: In "Wall-to-Wall" tonight politics and an important countdown; 99 days to the election now. These midterm elections are huge when it comes to the battle for control of Congress. Let's take a look just at the House of Representatives; at the moment 256 Democrats, 179 Republicans.
You can do the math at home. Republicans need 39 seats assuming they don't lose any. They need to pick up 39 seats to gain control of the House of Representatives. That is where the biggest battle grounds this November. CNN has the new device -- we're calling it "THE CNN 100". Looking at the 100 most contested House races in the country.
Every night on this program we'll look at a key race, sometimes a House race, sometimes a Senate race. Tonight we wanted to take a look at one of the CNN 100. It happens to be District 2, the second district in the state of New Hampshire. The votes in the east come in first, so we'll be watching on election night.
Are they swinging some seats over? This district right now is held by a Democrat, but the incumbent is running for the Senate, so who will win? The primary has yet to come up, but Katrina Swett, she is the wife of a former congressman. She's the Democratic favorite, another Democrat running here, Ann McLane Custer. That primary on September 14th, Swett currently favored to be the Democratic nominee, but we'll see how this primary plays out in New Hampshire, too.
And on the Republican side, another familiar face here. If you follow this, Charlie Bass is the former congressman. He once represented this district. He wants that seat back. He has two opponents as well in the Republican primary again on September 14th. Why is this seat important? Number one, it's held by a Democrat, so the Republicans are targeted for a pickup.
Number two, on election night you'll want to watch the results in the east first. The northeast is the president's strongest area, the Democrats' strongest area. If Republicans are picking up seats like the Second Congressional District for New Hampshire, that will be an early sign on election night that perhaps good things are in store for them.
So this the first race of "THE CNN 100" we will introduce to you. We're going to do it every night from now to election night. Stay right here. You'll know a lot more by the time November rolls around and to all the new key primaries yet to happen.
When we come back though, a representative made history today in the House. He's here to go "One-on-One" with us. Don't go away. You won't want to miss his story.
KING: Today's most important person you don't know made important history today on Capitol Hill. Rhode Island Congressman Jim Langevin became the first person in a wheelchair to preside over the House of Representatives. You could say it's about time. He was elected back in 2000. A series of lists and platforms allowed him to preside during today's debate on a resolution honoring the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
That law prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and requires reasonable accommodations like the ramps we now see everywhere on sidewalks and building entrances. Langevin used a wheelchair since a shooting accident at a police station when he was a teenager. An officer was cleaning a weapon he thought was empty. It wasn't. The bullet severed Langevin's spinal cord, but it hasn't stopped him from making his mark. Just a little bit ago Congressman Langevin was praised by both Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the minority leader, John Boehner, and received a standing ovation from his colleagues. He provided us the House approved the ADA resolution. He joins us now to talk about this special moment.
Congressman, let me just start right there. You've been there now all these years waiting for them to finally let you up there. What was it like?
REP. JIM LANGEVIN (D), RHODE ISLAND: It was one of the most thrilling, exciting, and humbling experiences of my life and just a real honor, and I'm grateful to Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, who really all made -- made it all happen. It was one of the last major things in the House chamber that needed to be made accessible for the chamber really to be fully accessible and inclusive. And I was just thrilled to be the first and to be a part of it.
KING: Let me ask you a little bit about the mechanics of that and the renovations that became necessary because we've all watched in this town, especially older buildings like the Capitol, it takes a little longer. It's a little harder to do the work, but exactly what had to go into this to allow this to happen today, and have you been frustrated over the course of your career that some of these things don't happen quicker?
LANGEVIN: Well, John, as you pointed out, these are old buildings here in the Capitol complex and doing the renovations that need to be completed to make things more accessible do take time. There have been several changes to the House chamber and to the different office buildings and committee rooms that have done -- been done already over the years, but the last thing that needed to be done to make the House chamber fully accessible is making the Speaker's rostra accessible.
So what they did is they put in a couple of series of two lifts. Looking at the rostra, you wouldn't even know they're there because they're under the floor and they raise or lower according to where I need to go, and they lift me up to the speaker's rostra. And it was just a thrill to take the gavel today and serve as speaker pro tem presiding over the United States House of Representatives. It's been a long time in coming, but it was worth the wait and I'm excited about it.
KING: I was here in this town when the ADA passed 20 years ago and it was one of those remarkable things. We don't hear that much about it anymore. It was (INAUDIBLE) called bipartisan legislation. A lot of people watching at home probably wouldn't know what bipartisan legislation is given what's gone on in this town in recent years. But you were paralyzed before this legislation was passed. What difference has it made in your life?
LANGEVIN: That's right. As you mentioned, John, I was paralyzed in 1980 and so it was almost 30 years ago, so I do remember what the world was like before the ADA became law and there were countless examples I could give you of how I was denied access to things. I can remember the college that I wanted to go to -- Providence College -- at the time. I got accepted but it just wasn't possible for me to attend.
The world has changed since the ADA, of course, and now that that's passed only in Providence College fully accessible but so much other public accommodations, public buildings and public transportation accessible.
And it really has changed the world and it's much more inclusive. So many barriers have been brought down. So many opportunities have been provided.
And I am so grateful to Steny Hoyer, the majority leader of the House of Representatives, who introduced in and saw that the ADA was passed, enacted into law. President Bush -- George Herbert Walker Bush signed it into law and I was proud to join in the effort just a couple of years ago when we passed the ADA Amendments Act to clarify some of the Supreme Court decisions that had weakened the ADA over the years.
And I was proud to be at President Bush's side in the oval office when he signed that into law.
It's really about inclusion and providing opportunities. You know I believe that if we can create a culture of inclusion and empowerment and we allow people with disabilities to contribute their talents, then a stronger and brighter America is yet to come.
I think Americans with disabilities are in many ways one of the greatest untapped resources in this country. And the ADA, we realized its full promise, is going to bring down a lot of barriers and allow people to contribute their talents and we should do that.
JOHN KING, HOST: Congressman James Langevin, we appreciate your coming in today. We congratulate you on your big day. And I hope you've made clear to the speaker that once isn't enough.
LANGEVIN: Thank you, John. Well, you know what's nice about that, too, is that just even for a brief time we brought a spirit of bipartisanship to the floor of the House of Representatives and that was nice to see tonight.
KING: Shocking. Shocking that that could happen in this town.
Congressman, we'll check in more with you as the campaign year goes on. We appreciate your time tonight.
And still ahead, another candidate backs away from his own word. We'll tell you who and why next.
KING: Welcome back. Let's check in with Brianna Keilar for the news you need to know right now. Hi, Brianna.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, John. Tonight around 2:00 a.m. Eastern Time we expect big news from BP executives in England. Right now it appears CEO Tony Hayward is on his way out.
And we also expect BP to announce something like a $4 billion quarterly profit. Meantime crews are back at the crippled well in the Gulf of Mexico and barring any more weather delays the next big attempt to seal the well could begin early next week.
And the Congressional Black Caucus just now put out a statement on embattled New York Congressman Charles Rangel slamming both Republicans and Democrats who, quote, "presume guilt," end quote, before an Ethics Committee hearing this week on Thursday -- John.
KING: Thanks, Brianna.
Now let's run through some stories off my political radar. Here to help tonight, Republican strategist Robert Traynham, Democrats Cornell Belcher, and our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.
Here's the first one here. This town is about to have a new fight on its hand. Whether to let George W. Bush's tax cuts expire as scheduled at end of the year.
Republicans like Senator Orrin Hatch want to frame this debate as Democrats allowing a giant tax increase. In a "USA Today" op-ed piece today Hatch writes, "These massive tax hikes would be an anti- stimulus, putting our economy at greater risk. Washington doesn't have a revenue problem." Senator Hatch writes. "It's got a spending problem."
Democrats, though, including the Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner say there's nothing wrong with letting what they call tax cuts for the rich go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIMOTHY GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY: We also think it's responsible to let the tax cuts expire that just go to 2 to 3 percent of Americans. The highest earning Americans. We think that's the responsible thing to do because we need to make sure we can show the world that we're willing as a country now to start to make some progress bringing down our -- our long-term deficits.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
KING: So, Robert Traynham, to the Republican first. Can Republicans on the one hand say the big deficits the Obama administration has run up are huge problem? On the other hand say, we have to extend those tax cuts which would cost the Treasury about $2 trillion?
ROBERT TRAYNHAM, BUSH-CHENEY '04 CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, John, I think we need to put this in context. Those wealthy individuals that some of the other side o fit say -- those are farmers, those are small business owners. So on paper they very well may be wealthy, but in terms of job creation, in terms of job growth -- which is the last conversation we had about this that is the most important thing in this economy, that's very, very important.
So if you let these, quote-unquote, "Bush tax cuts," expire it does in the process may hinder job growth and job creation.
CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, if just cutting taxes brought prosperity, we'd have prosperity right now out of our ears. There's nothing wrong with and it's quite frankly really responsible for us to go back to -- remember, you know, the Clinton years where we had peace and prosperity?
Well, there's nothing wrong with going back to those policies, going back to the tax rate then, allowing everyone to pay their fair share. Right now this country is in trouble. We -- the wealthiest Americans can step up and pay their fair share. There's nothing wrong with that.
KING: How does this cut and this -- because this is litigated. If you go back to the 2008 campaign, this is no surprise. Some people have said the president has done this or that.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
KING: And the Congress, it's been a surprise, it's not what they ran on. He ran on this.
BORGER: Right. He did. And what the Democrats are trying to do is turn the deficit issue on its head right now. And obviously the deficit is a huge problem for them. They say if we let these tax cuts for the wealthy expire, you're going to save $700 billion, OK?
And how can Republicans talk about extending these tax cuts when it would cost $2 trillion to do it and how are you going to pay for it? But Republicans I talk to say come on into the wheelhouse, guys, we're really happy to have Democrats talk about the tax issue, particularly when we want to cut it.
KING: Ninety-nine days, 99 days we can go on this. Hold on. We've got to get this.
A Republican National Committee spokesman confirms to CNN tonight that Andrew Breitbart will headline an August fundraiser in Beverly Hills hosted by the party chairman Michael Steele.
Breitbart, of course, started last week's political firestorm by posting an out-of-context misleading remarks about race by now former Agriculture Department employee Shirley Sherrod.
TRAYNHAM: I knew you were going to me. KING: Yes, Mister -- yes, you know, it's a Republican event. We'll get to -- I'll get to the Democrat next time. I promise you next time. But is this a smart move by the RNC chairman?
TRAYNHAM: No, I don't think it is at all. I think this does nothing but play right into the other side's point, that not only is Mr. Breitbart a, quote-unquote, "biased journalist," but it also just feeds into the stereotype that the RNC and perhaps maybe Mr. Breitbart were in cahoots together to blow it up to perhaps blow this whole firestorm up into something that we obviously were talking about last week.
I think it's a bad move. I think the reason why they're doing this -- I haven't spoken to the folks over the RNC -- is incite the base, to really ignite them, but they're already ignited.
KING: In Beverly Hills?
TRAYNHAM: Well --
TRAYNHAM: My point, my point is that they'll do a -- obviously, it will probably go viral to a certain degree.
KING: Got it.
TRAYNHAM: But my point is, I don't understand why they're doing this because they don't need to excite the base right now. The base is very, very happy with how things are going within the party.
KING: That's where you do all your focus group in the Republican base, right, in the Beverly Hills.
BELCHER: Well, he -- and I'm not actually going to try to score any political points on this because I agree with my friend here. To me it's a little bit outrageous, but it does speak to who they're trying to talk to, who are they trying to energize by getting this race baiter to headline a fundraiser for them.
To me it speaks ill of Michael Steele and the Republican Party.
BORGER: If you were advising Michael Steele, though, who was probably trying to lower his profile a bit, would you say, why don't you share a stage with Andrew Breitbart right now? Unless Michael Steele doesn't intend to remain chairman of the Republican National Committee, which could very well be the case.
BELCHER: What do we got?
BELCHER: There you go.
KING: All right. The headline on "New York Times" columnist Maureen Dowd's latest op-ed says you'll never believe what this White House is missing. Her answer? The Obama White House is too white.
The first black president should expand beyond his campaign security blanket. The smug cordon of overprotective white guys surrounding him. Otherwise this administration will keep tripping over race rather than inspiring on race.
To the Democrat, first on this one.
BELCHER: Are you sure you want to come me?
KING: I need to -- is the first African-American president, is his White House too white?
BELCHER: You know, once again onto the breach and for Americans is race, this issue of race. Look, there has been some push back on the Dowd piece with the argument that, you know what? Patrick Gaspar, who's a friend of mine, Valerie Jarrett, who's a friend of mine, you know, who's to say they're not black enough?
So it's this question of blackness. You know, they are -- believe me, Patrick and Valerie are very black. But the other part about this is, you know, this should be a larger conversation because I think we both agree that both our parties should do a better job with adversity and particularly not just with black and brown people, but women.
There's not enough women in high-ranking positions in any of our party. There's not enough black or brown people with budgetary decision-making power in any of our Democratic congressional committees whatsoever.
So, yes, I'm all for more diversity in the party. But it's not just the White House. By the way, the White House would say they're pretty diverse. People in the Clinton administration will push back and say we were more diverse. But they would say they were pretty diverse right now.
BORGER: You know this isn't a White House known for reaching out even to Democrats in Congress, and I think when you -- you know, what Maureen wrote about was a tight inner circle, which there clearly is at this White House. And lots of folks are complaining about that, too.
TRAYNHAM: But, you know, very quickly, John. This is a largest point about the diversity of thought which does in the process goes into the diversity of people being brown or perhaps a different gender. I don't understand what is being too white or being too black. This is a country that prides itself on being a melting pot. I understand we have to recognize ethnic differences and so forth.
What I don't understand is why we're still having this conversation or whether or not Barack Obama is too black or not. I don't understand what that means.
KING: Here's another interesting conversation. I'm not sure what this one means. But Republican Zach Wamp who's running for governor of Tennessee, today he's running away from something he said on Friday.
Wamp suggested federal mandates like health care reform will force states to consider, quote, "separation from this government."
Over the weekend he told the Associated Press, "Of course we will not secede from the union but we will also not a governor who will cave in to Barack Obama."
On second thought is the file there, I think, where we put that one.
BORGER: OK, you want us to secede from the union? Then, OK, you don't pay taxes, you don't want to get your Social Security, you don't want to get your Medicare. I mean, thoughts on candidates --
TRAYNHAM: Your border may be protected.
BORGER: Well, right. Right.
BORGER: The thoughts of candidates of either party, this is just silly and stupid.
BELCHER: The interesting part about this, you know, I don't know this, but I bet you Kentucky is one of those states where, in fact, they're getting more back from the federal government than they're giving to the federal government.
You know it's this sort extremist politics that I think we're seeing way too often in mainstream and the idea that they're going to leave the union because they don't like Barack Obama is extremism and it's not helpful.
TRAYNHAM: It is extreme and it's not helpful. But it's an insight to how people are very thinking out there, John. And that is, people are very frustrated -- mainly Republicans -- but arguably, quote-unquote, "the angry white male," out there is extremely frustrated with the direction of this government.
And the question becomes is whether or not the president and his advisers around him are -- get that message.
BORGER: Well, this was about mandates on health care reform. And the people shouldn't be required to --
KING: State's right.
BORGER: Be a part of it. Exactly.
BELCHER: He's right. What are they specifically angry about?
TRAYNHAM: The debt. They're concerned about immigration.
KING: On that point, here's something -- here's something they're angry about. Here's something they are angry about. Unless a judge stops it Arizona's law cracking down on illegal immigration goes into effect this week.
Nationwide three-quarters of Americans have negative attitudes about illegal immigrants. Our new CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll shows 23 percent say they're angry about the number of illegal immigrants, another 51 percent say it makes them feel dissatisfied.
BELCHER: And here's where I will jump in. So I think this is overdone and I think we're all guilty of it. Angry. So you saw most voters aren't angry. And I think to a certain degree we put too much sort of emphasis on anger.
When I talk to middle American, particularly middle American women, both white and black, you know what they? They're a little afraid and anxious about the future more than they're -- more than they are angry.
I think we give a lot of tone, a lot time to this idea of anger when middle America especially middle America women where the majority of the vote is --
KING: Is there a better word?
BORGER: It's angry white men, though.
TRAYNHAM: That's right.
BORGER: That's who is really angry and particularly in a bad economy they're worried about people taking their jobs.
BELCHER: But I don't want to define an entire electorate by white men.
TRAYNHAM: But, John, here's the point. They're angry because they're -- they're angry because they're playing by the rules and they see illegal immigrants coming to this country that are not playing by the rules. They're angry because we're living paycheck to paycheck, and you have illegal immigrants coming in that are on welfare. That's the point. And that's where the anger is.
KING: All right. Well, let's give them a chance to weigh in.
Cornell and Robert are going to stay with us. Gloria, we're going to say goodnight.
But on your point are you angry, are you dissatisfied? What is it? Because we're determined to bring you one of the conversations. So each week we ask you to make your case on an important topic.
This week's question, should states be allowed to create their own immigration laws? Record your opinion and your mood and post it at CNN.com/Johnkingusa. We'll play the best on Friday.
Stumping for candidates might surprise you. Up or down do they go? We'll break it down in the "Play by Play" next.
ANNOUNCER: Here comes the "Play-by-Play."
KING: Ninety-nine days until the election. Politics dominates the "Play-by-Play." Here to help tonight still with us, Robert Traynham, Republican strategist, Democratic pollster, Cornell Belcher.
One of the big bellwether Senate races is out in Missouri. The president of the United States went out to help Robin Carnahan just a couple of weeks ago. We want to see if it's having any effect. Does the president -- is he welcome? Does he help?
First let's listen to the message.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think most Missourians want to see something done. So does Robin Carnahan. That's why you need to send her to the Senate instead of the other guy because she gets it.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
KING: So the president makes a personal appearance in the state. He comes back to Washington, but guess what? In a way he's still out there campaigning. It's just in the other guy's ads.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Barack Obama is raising money for Robin Carnahan. Why?
OBAMA: I need another vote. It would be helpful.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He knows Robin Carnahan will rubber stamp the Pelosi-Reid-Obama liberal agenda.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
KING: So let's take a look at the impact. If you look at the polling -- Mason-Dixon polling -- about 10 days after the president was there, Roy Blunt, the Republican, leading. Robin Carnahan, the Democrat, 48 percent to 42 percent. And again, the same poll, Obama job performance. Only 34 percent approve, 57 percent disapprove.
Now the president did not carry Missouri and it's clear -- clear from this polling that's still a tough state for him.
BELCHER: But here's the thing. We didn't carry it. We lost it by, what, 3900 votes? And it's a solidly Republican state. So we were awfully competitive there. And the president does have some strength there.
Look, that race is going to stay -- you know that's a red state. It's going to stay fluid. Those poll numbers are going to continue to change. But the idea that a president shouldn't go to places where he's not popular, we would have presidents just going to half the state whether you -- half the country whether you're a Democrat or a Republican.
The other part of this that's important is that you're going to see this more and more, where the president getting outside of Washington, outside the bubble, and taking his message directly to the people and arguing about what he's been doing, what Democrats have been doing.
Then the other part about this really quickly is that you can see they're also trying to nationalize this election. It's really interesting. And, you know, the last time we saw them trying to nationalize an election with the special races in Pennsylvania, where they guaranteed a victory and our guy came out on top.
TRAYNHAM: John, what we saw a couple of months ago in Massachusetts, the president coming in trying to save a Democratic candidate really did not help. These presidential coattails are not that deep, you're right.
John McCain won the state by about a percentage point but it's still very competitive. But what's even more interesting about this race, and we'll see this all across the country, notice what the announcer said. Reid-Pelosi agenda. It's not even an Obama agenda.
So it sends two messages. One, Reid and Pelosi, according to that ad, is running the country. And B, and thus in the process, if you send this person to Washington, D.C., it's going to be more of the same.
More nationalized health care, more increasing debt, more chaos in the White House. And that's exactly what you don't want.
KING: The great about the midterms is every state can be a little bit different. Maybe the president is an issue in Missouri, maybe it's something else. I think Colorado, a great Senate race. Still (INAUDIBLE) the primary.
Ken Buck is a Republican candidate. He's running in the primary. He was in an ad we played you last week talking about, I don't have high heels. We're not going to revisit the high heels debate tonight. But he's on his way into a tea party even and little does he know that somebody is recording him when he says this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEN BUCK (R), COLORADO STATE CANDIDATE: Will you tell those dumb (EXPLETIVE DELETED) at the Tea Party to stop asking questions about birth certificates while I'm on the camera?
BUCK: What am I supposed to do?
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
KING: He's trying to make light there about, you know, questions come up from the birthers. Is the president -- you know, was he really born in the United States? It's a debate that's asked and answered, settled and done.
But it does still come up sometime. He's supposed to be the Tea Party darling, and he called them dumb bleepers, I think, is how it ended up on cable television.
TRAYNHAM: Well, clearly he's frustrated. He's frustrated because people want to talk about the economy. They want to talk about their future as it relates to health care and so forth.
So he's frustrated. Now I don't obviously condone those remarks, and clearly the birthers are out there with Elvis and UFOs, but the point really is, is whether or not this is a candidate that is worthy to be sent to Washington, D.C. to represent the best interest of Coloradoans. We'll see.
BELCHER: Man, you are spinning your head off. That's really good.
BELCHER: That was good.
KING: All right, here's' -- you didn't even want to bother -- OK.
BELCHER: I don't want to -- I think it speaks for itself.
KING: It speaks for itself.
Florida, another great Senate race. Kendrick Meek was the Democratic Party favorite, then Jeff Green, this big wealth real estate guy, (INAUDIBLE) going to run. Kendrick Meek has got a bit of a problem because he's not really known statewide.
He's got a lot money being dumped on this. So he launched an ad today saying meet the real Jeff Green.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is Jeff Greene? Ran for Congress as a California Republican. Moved to Florida two years ago. Became a billionaire on Wall Street betting middle class families would lose their hopes.
JEFF GREENE, FLORIDA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: They'll attack me for my friends and my tax when I was single. Some of it's true, but none of it matters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Betting on suffering does matter.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
BELCHER: That's a power of ad. And you know what, that campaign needs to break through with powerful ads because they're being outspent hand -- you know, hand over fist. You know, they're being outspent -- basically on a guy who's trying to buy name recognition and buy his way into the race.
And they need a tough ad like that to break through. I think it's a tough and effective ad.
TRAYNHAM: It speaks to the civil war that the Democratic Party is currently experiencing in the primaries down there because they have to have one because --
KING: They have to have one because the Republicans were having one.
TRAYNHAM: Well, let me tell you --
TRAYNHAM: Absolutely. Absolutely. It's a civil war and the reason why it's a civil war is because here you have the Congressional Black Caucus -- you know this better than I do -- is complaining that the president is not campaigning enough with Kendrick Meek.
KING: All right.
TRAYNHAM: We also know that if, in fact, Charlie Crist wins the nominee or wins the governorship -- or the Senatorialship, they'll endorse him. So that's the unfortunate truth of all of this.
BELCHER: For the Republican Party to talk about a civil war when you guys got Gettysburg going on there --
KING: General King is calling a timeout. We're not going to have a civil war in my control room here. We'll be right back. "Pete on the Street" is waiting. Have you ever done anything a little crooked? Pete will tell you what he's talking about on the other side.
KING: Just a few minutes away from the top of the hour. Let's check in with Rick Sanchez to see what's coming up on "RICK'S LIST" primetime.
What have you got?
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Some of the latest polls are saying that something like 62 percent of Americans aren't happy with the way things are going in Afghanistan. But are they unhappy enough to want to hear the bitter truth about what's going on in Afghanistan if it comes from secret documents, if it comes from classified information?
That's part of the national conversation tonight, John. And we're going to be all over it on "RICK'S LIST."
KING: Rick, we're talking about the leak of those classified documents. You know have you done anything embarrassing? Anything maybe a little bit out of the ordinary in your life?
Pete Dominick, our man on the street, checking things out. Pete?
PETE DOMINIC, JOHN KING, USA'S OFFBEAT REPORTER: John King, Pete Dominick, of course, I've never been embarrassed my whole entire life, of course. But I went to ask people if like the military and perhaps the Obama and Bush administrations, some kind of leak or embarrassing moment they'd like to share with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I accidentally pulled down her pants. She normally wore something underneath and this day she didn't.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been retired for 25 years so I've never been embarrassed.
DOMINICK: And you've asked everybody in your family to dress the same? Is that intentionally embarrassing, sir? Or do you guys always do this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We like to be together as a family.
DOMINICK: Whose idea was the t-shirt?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You get sent to the board after you've been looking at the most prettiest girl across the room.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, being born.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a kindergarten teacher. I've heard lots of thins about noises.
DOMINICK: Mommy and daddy were loving each other.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sure. I've heard that.
DOMINICK: And you're wearing green flip flops. So you're embarrassed with her taking pictures while you have your shower shoes on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So here I was, this chef trying to show them what a good cook I can be and I was young and I served them raw chicken.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I actually in kindergarten had to prove that I had no underwear on. So I told the girls that mommy had to expose herself in the kindergarten class.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh yes, I was delivering something out to Staples, and it was a bubble wrap. And it disappeared.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My sister did gymnastics and she forgot to wear underwear and everybody she did like a back walkover, and everyone saw her butt.
DOMINICK: There's your moment, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's really embarrassing.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Pete Dominick, slightly embarrassing to us right there, that picture. Wow, what a site. Thanks, Pete. That's all for us tonight. Rick Sanchez in "RICK'S LIST" taking away right now.