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Negotiating with the Taliban; Dream Ticket in 2012?; Opening Arguments; Why Hasn't President Obama Communicated More Effectively?; Are Obama's Policies Based on His Relationship with his Father?
Aired October 6, 2010 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATHLEEN PARKER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, I'm Kathleen Parker.
ELIOT SPITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Eliot Spitzer. Welcome to PARKER/SPITZER, our third show, and I finally figured out just who you are. Rational conservative from the south.
PARKER: And you're a New York liberal with a funny accent.
SPITZER: You're talking accents, you know, just proves, Kathleen, everything in life is a matter of where you stand and what your perspective is.
And, you know, this show we're going to get a lot of different folks on every day with different perspectives. And not only have good conversations but try to come up with some answers to tough questions.
PARKER: And we'll say what's on our minds as well, and we'll bring on a bunch of fascinating people.
Like tonight, Eliot, I think we may both get in a fight with Dinesh D'Souza, the guy who wrote that controversial book, "The Roots of Obama's Rage."
SPITZER: Oh my goodness.
PARKER: And -- but you're going to be civil, right?
SPITZER: Of course, we're always civil here. That's the nature of our conversation. But that was quite a book, I got to tell you. And we're going to figure out why you miss Bill Clinton, right?
PARKER: Yes. Well -- OK, OK. So I miss Bill Clinton. I --
SPITZER: You can fess up.
PARKER: I may miss him for different reasons than you do but any case --
SPITZER: All right. You can fess up. In any way, every day we get to the office with something big on our minds that we want to talk to the public about. You know what? Let me tell you. Right now in politics, it's game time. Time to cut to the chase. A couple of simple facts are driving our politics right now. One, unemployment is stuck at 9.6 percent, heading the wrong way. Two, income inequality worst than it's been in generations. Forty-four million folks in poverty, a lot of them were in the middle class until recently. And you know it as well as I do the rich are getting richer.
You know what? President Obama is trying to turn a battleship in a bathtub. It's hard, but he's trying to get our economy going, and he's done a lot of the right stuff. He stabilized the hemorrhaging of jobs. He saved the auto industry, for goodness sakes.
Let's give him some credit. We've all been critical of a couple of the things he's done. Me, too. He's way too close to Wall Street for my taste. But let's stay with this doctor a bit.
I mean, after all, you remember the last doctor? W.? He put us into the ER in the first place. Let's show one of our great American virtues -- patience. All things in life don't require instant gratification. Kathleen?
PARKER: Elliott, there is lots of buzz, true or not, that Hillary Clinton might be President Obama's running mate in 2012. The all- seeing, all-hearing Bob Woodward dropped this bomb on CNN's own John King.
Here's my two cents. Hillary Clinton as Obama's VP running mate would be the GOP's worst nightmare, which means it's better than a good idea.
Here are several reasons why. First, there's a lot of buyers remorse out there from Obama voters and getting Hillary on the ticket might help soothe some of the anxiety among the disillusioned.
Second, Hillary is a woman who offers other women an alternative to the mama grizzly.
The irony is, rich. Hillary Clinton created Sarah Palin. That is, when Palin was picked as John McCain's running mate, it was at least in part to offset the Hillary effect. And now Palin, who is currently the leading female on the political stage, is re-creating Hillary.
Women just might flock back to Obama if Hillary were at his side. No offense to Joe -- may I call you Joe? But stepping aside might be the best thing you could do for your party. No one would fault you for wanting to spend more time with your family.
SPITZER: You know, I got to tell you, it's clever. It's all nice inside the beltway politics. But let me tell you something very simple. Every remarkable great president in our history has had a rough patch at this point in his term. FDR had an enormous problem in 1934, Ronald Reagan in 1982, Bill Clinton in 1994.
And they all not only overcame these hurdles, they kept the same running mates because Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama is going to be elected on his record and he's the one we're going to be voting for or against, and it's not going to matter who the vice presidential candidate is.
PARKER: Wow. Did you just write that speech right here on the spot?
SPITZER: No, I'm --
PARKER: You're amazing. There's no subject on which you cannot give an instant stomp speech.
SPITZER: Instant analysis.
PARKER: All right. Just be quiet one second because I got something to say here.
PARKER: First of all, I don't know if it's going to happen, it's probably not going happen.
SPITZER: Right. Right.
PARKER: People don't generally drop their vice president in the middle of -- in the middle of the stream. However, there is this sense out there, and you even mentioned it yourself in our opening statements, that, you know, there's this nostalgia for the Clintons.
PARKER: And with Hillary it was always a twofer. I do think there's a lot of remorse out there. Even among Republicans. Republicans are saying wow, Hillary Clinton would be -- you know, would be happier with her on a number of scores.
Hillary Clinton now is very popular. She's established herself as a leading figure in American politics beyond which she was when she was running against Obama.
SPITZER: And let me be very clear.
PARKER: And I just think it'd be a very interesting thing to do.
SPITZER: I'm a big fan of Hillary Clinton. She's done a great job as secretary of state. Having said that, Joe Biden is also building a great record for himself. Interestingly he's the one who was probably closest to being right about Afghanistan.
When you look back -- and we are right in a bind, we're going to talk about it later today.
SPITZER: On this show. Afghanistan is a quagmire. Joe Biden is the one who said no, don't send 100,000 troops. Use a more focused counterterrorism approach. Joe Biden is getting a lot of points inside Washington for being smart and on the point so --
PARKER: Well, he has got a lot of credit for having been ahead of the curve on the Afghanistan situation.
PARKER: And he's well liked and it's not personal, Joe.
SPITZER: He'll be --
PARKER: And I didn't bring it up, by the way.
SPITZER: He'll be glad to hear that.
PARKER: I'm just talking. I'm just saying, Hillary Clinton as his -- as Obama's running mate, and it will depend on where we are.
SPITZER: But this goes back to what I was saying --
PARKER: It will all depend on the economy no matter what.
SPITZER: People are going to -- you're right. It goes back to what I said, the economy drives politics and we need a little bit more patience. We're living in an age right now, we expect everything to happen right away.
PARKER: I agree. I agree. I'm completely on your side when we talk about being more patient.
SPITZER: That's right.
PARKER: You know, I love Nietzsche. He's -- he has a sign over his death. He's a German philosopher.
SPITZER: Wow. This is getting pretty abstract even for me.
PARKER: No, but --
PARKER: It was one word. It's one word.
SPITZER: I tried reading that one time as an assignment in college. I couldn't figure it out. I put it aside. Professor, I didn't do my homework that week. And that's the honest truth. I couldn't figure it out.
SPITZER: But here --
PARKER: His philosophy was wait, wait, wait. Philosophy. Obama? SPITZER: Right.
PARKER: Didn't wait. You know? He should have -- he waited on getting to the economy. But he didn't wait on introducing this huge health care, Obamacare.
SPITZER: No, let's --
PARKER: At a time when he should have been focusing on the economy and on jobs. Come on, you can't --
SPITZER: Barack Obama has gone --
PARKER: And by the way, Dr. Bush put us in the ER?
SPITZER: Yes. Absolutely.
PARKER: Now you're one that's always made the case that we're on a 30-year -- this is a 30-year trend line.
SPITZER: Certainly the last --
PARKER: And now you're going to put it on the former --
SPITZER: The last doctor was W, and it was the eight years of President Bush's tenure that created the foundation, the collapse that created this cataclysm. That's why that middle class tax cut, which would help the middle class, is what we need to get folks out there buying again so that we can get jobs back in the economy.
PARKER: OK. Well, let's talk about some of these issues with our great guests coming up including Michael Gerson, former speechwriter for George W. Bush. I'm so glad he's here to help us set the record straight.
SPITZER: This is going to be fun. Can't wait. Let's get into "The Arena."
Joining us tonight, as promised, Michael Gerson, former speechwriter for President Bush, and Simon Schama, a Columbia University professor.
Welcome to both of you.
PARKER: Hi, Michael. We get to hug.
SPITZER: Good to see you.
MICHAEL GERSON, AUTHOR, "CITY OF MAN: RELIGION AND POLITICS IN A NEW ERA": Thank you.
SPITZER: Thank you.
SPITZER: No hugs for me?
PARKER: Hi, how are you? So nice to see you.
SIMON SCHAMA, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY HISTORY PROFESSOR: Hi. Good, good. You too.
SPITZER: All right. Thank you so much.
PARKER: All right. Well, we want to -- before we move straight to some of our favorite topics, Michael, would you like to respond to Eliot Spitzer's charge that President Bush put the economy in the emergency room?
SPITZER: It wasn't a formal charge. It was --
GERSON: After six years of unprecedented growth and, you know, a fairly healthy economy --
SPITZER: You're talking about the Clinton administration?
GERSON: No. But, no, I mean there were a lot of problems and a lot of shared responsibility for those problems with Democrats on the hill and I think some shortsighted government policies as well. So a lot of people to blame.
PARKER: Tell us what your thoughts are on Obama's communications skills. We thought he was the best ever when he was leading a stadium of people. But now what's happened?
GERSON: Well, I think it will be interesting for historians to look at this because many of the virtues that he had in the election, particularly during the financial crisis, is coolness under pressure. His rationality have not worn well in --
GERSON: In these debates particularly in a time that seems to demand a more populous approach. So you look at his "Rolling Stones" interview, for example. I thought it was a very self-revelatory in a certain way.
He has a lecture or a -- you know, suggestions for improvement for everybody, for the right, for the Republicans, for the progressives. He's constantly in a professorial mode.
GERSON: And that is -- that's tough in a time where populism is the -- you know, the agenda of the moment.
SCHAMA: Lots of kings disappear for the (INAUDIBLE). The difference between Obama and, say, Franklin Roosevelt, whom I really don't want to invoke, was that Roosevelt knew how to be somewhat philosophical on campaign, but while he knew when to put on the brass knuckles, actually in office.
Normally you would think, Michael, right, that you needed to be populous campaigning and you needed to be philosophical in government. Time is gold, as you know. You've got to know when actually you have to know who your enemies are.
People respects a president who's willing to have enough (INAUDIBLE), enough toughness that it tells you that there is something you're willing to fight for. Not to draw blood.
SPITZER: You know it is so true. The defining moment I think is when President Obama had the CEOs of Wall Street down to the White House and they all were happy together.
FDR in that context was saying you are the enemy. And Barack Obama --
SPITZER: That's right. Barack Obama said we are all in this together.
PARKER: Obama wants to be liked ultimately. I mean he is a pleaser and I think that's the problem. That gets in the way.
GERSON: He's a pleaser, but it's not just toughness, it's also empathy.
GERSON: You know, we have had two immediate presidents, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who could show public empathy very effectively. It's not a skill Obama has. You saw it after the Ft. Hood attacks, you saw it in other circumstances. You know I don't fault him for that. But it's not a political skill that he has.
PARKER: Can we talk about -- I'm sorry, go ahead. I won't interrupt you.
SPITZER: One more point out on this, because the thing that President Obama needs right now is patience. He needs to say to the public, give me some time. Because to a great extent -- look, I'm not saying this is a partisan issue obviously.
He inherited an economy that was bleeding 700,000 jobs a month. Now it's stabilized. He put a tourniquet on this thing. We haven't solved it but -- so he's saying to the folks, give me a few more months or a year or two to make my case.
How do you communicate that in an era where we don't give people --
SCHAMA: Just say, I know you're upset, but I'm --
SPITZER: More time. Give me a chance.
SCHAMA: I'm going to get there. Nobody wants to hear that.
SPITZER: How -- so what do you do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's going to say that after the midterms.
SCHAMA: He needs to say, listen, I've had enough of these sort of lies and claptrap and half truths. Let me tell you who got us into this mess.
SPITZER: Push it back.
SCHAMA: And 700,000 jobs are being lost every month.
SCHAMA: We are gaining jobs in the -- in the private sector now.
SPITZER: I just tried to do that for him.
SCHAMA: He needs to say over and over --
SPITZER: I tried to blame W. and Kathleen here --
SCHAMA: -- and over again. That he can do -- he can do patience and calm after the election is over.
SCHAMA: He may have to.
GERSON: But he's not very good at it.
SCHAMA: He's not very good. Michael's quite right. He's never going to be turned into the guy sitting on the Dunkin' Donut stool. But he's been very badly advised actually I think by the departing Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod and others.
He needs to find a kind of diction. All the great presidents -- Lincoln, you know, who we think of as supremely philosophical, could do the off-color jokes. He had an instinct actually about how to talk to the average Joe. He has to find a way to be able to do that.
PARKER: What do our friends across the pond think of all this over here? The Tea Party.
SCHAMA: They think -- they look at it as a kind of inexplicable moment of evangelical self-righteousness of the kind which has happened in the great awakening, the kind that happens in the 18th century. You know, and they tend to be actually excessively condescending about American religion. And I understand how without the abolition of slavery would never have happened. That was a chapter of my book --
SCHAMA: -- is trying to say, don't snicker and snare at all this.
SCHAMA: It's been a great creative force, but they also do see that it makes for a kind of orgiastic communal hysteria.
GERSON: This is my biggest concern about the Tea Party is, in fact, the ideological. This idea of constitutionalism that they talk about is really an extreme form of libertarianism.
GERSON: It would essentially get rid of huge swathes of the federal government. That's not an agenda most Americans are going to accept -- getting rid of unemployment, insurance and other things. And some of the candidates have gotten in trouble on these things and had to retreat from some of them.
SPITZER: And they get into trouble when they actually articulate what they mean.
SCHAMA: Well, they're frightened. They're frightened. The Republicans are frightened. The Democrats are even more frightened. There's a kind of epidemic of what trouser (ph) is going around. It just terrifies them that something insufficiently libertarian enough.
And the constitutionalists ought to read the bloody Constitution.
GERSON: The problem with the Tea Party is that the Tea Party momentum is helping with the Republican Party. Tea Party victories are not helping the Republican Party.
PARKER: Right. Right. Right. Right.
GERSON: Which is, you know, in Nevada.
PARKER: Good point.
GERSON: Or Delaware and other places. So that's a fine line for Republicans who want that enthusiasm. Who would have thought two years ago that the biggest grassroots movement in American politics would be a conservative movement, OK?
You know, the whole movement was dispirited two years ago. But it creates its own challenges and problems.
SPITZER: It is not -- and this is going to sound a little contrary to the general theory out there. It's not necessarily a conservative movement, is it a movement of anxiety, anger and frustration?
It's populous at its core. I think this comes back, Simon, to your point, those in the White House who have been guiding the president's communications effort, got it fundamentally wrong. He spoke to the elites, he didn't speak to the middle class.
So since you said this, what would you have him say? Give us your articulation.
SCHAMA: I would say, you know, the government is not your enemy, the government is a great thing.
PARKER: It's you.
GERSON: It's you.
GERSON: Exactly. That's right. We live in America.
SPITZER: That's Christine O'Donnell's point.
PARKER: I know.
GERSON: The government is by the people. And people can be removed from elections. They are there at your pleasure. That's what -- the founding fathers about whom you're misleading. Orators' rants are a magical union of Jefferson who's deeply suspicious about government and Hamilton who was idealistic about the good that central government could do.
That is -- you know, that's probably what federalist papers do. We are so lucky to live in a country where we are wary of government.
PARKER: Well, thank you all so much for a fascinating conversation. I hope you'll come back and join us at our table again.
SPITZER: We have to take a quick break. Up next, we'll talk to a guy I think I have some strong disagreements with, Dinesh D'Souza. He wrote that amazingly controversial book, "The Roots of Obama's Rage."
PHILLIPS: And the wonderful Fareed Zakaria who knows more about Afghanistan than just about anyone. We'll talk to him about those talks with the Taliban going on today.
PHILLIPS: Don't go away, we're back in 60 seconds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DINESH D'SOUZA, AUTHOR, "THE ROOTS OF OBAMA'S RAGE": Well, my theory is that Obama gets his anti-colonial dream, his anti-colonial ideology from his father, and I have a very important source for this, it's -- his name is Barack Obama.
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN "GPS": People underestimate America's staying power. We are still on the banks of the Rhine? We are still in Okinawa. We are still in South Korea. So could there be 25,000 troops, American troops in Afghanistan, 10, 15 years from now? Sure.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
PARKER: Our next guest has been called Anne Coulter in pants, and he's been regularly going after President Obama with a right-wing sledgehammer.
SPITZER: To hear him tell it, Obama has a secret agenda that Obama is not really a capitalist, that he wants to make America poorer in relation to the rest of the world.
Welcome, Dinesh D'Souza.
PARKER: Boy, that's quite an introduction.
D'SOUZA: Well, I mean I can tell you, you've done your homework.
SPITZER: Well, you know, look, it's -- it's not hard to do. You've been all over "Forbes," your new book is coming out. According to you, Barack Obama is really the enemy of the United States.
And look, a lot of us have read your "Forbes" article. Turned the pages in your book. I won't pretend I've read every page.
Where do you get this stuff? Because I find it completely based upon supposition, venom and counter factual. So where do you possibly come up with this notion?
D'SOUZA: Well, my theory is that Obama gets his anti-colonial dream, his anti-colonial ideology from his father. And I have a very important source for this. It's -- his name is Barack Obama.
If you pick up Obama's autobiography, it's called "Dreams from My Father." And that dreams not my father. He's not writing about his father's dreams. He's writing about the dreams he got from his dad. And the book is about how he was obsessed with his father, even though his father wasn't around. And that --
SPITZER: He was not raised with his father.
D'SOUZA: No, but his mother cultivated in him a mystical image of the absent father, the great man of Africa, and Obama was obsessed with it. And ultimately in his book, he describes, he goes to Africa, he goes to his father's grave, he weeps, he says, I put my hand on the ground and threw Africa's red soil. I tried to commune with my father.
And of course, his father is not there.
PARKER: Well, that makes sense to me. My mother died when I was little.
D'SOUZA: Of course.
PARKER: And I went her grave, and I tried to commune with her. But --
D'SOUZA: It's not the first time --
PARKER: I don't know.
D'SOUZA: A child has shaped their identity in the image of an absent father.
SPITZER: But that doesn't make him anti-American.
SPITZER: Let me just ask you as a purely factual matter.
SPITZER: In your "Forbes" article, which was the sort of the cliff notes version of your book, if I can say it to you.
D'SOUZA: Well, the preview.
SPITZER: Right. The preview. Your first factual assertion relates to a guarantee that was made by the U.S. export in Fort Bank to permit some U.S. companies to sell machinery to a foreign oil company.
And you used that as the fulcrum for your whole debate. That approval was done by Bush appointees.
D'SOUZA: Well --
SPITZER: All done before Barack Obama was president.
D'SOUZA: That's absolutely not true.
SPITZER: It is.
D'SOUZA: We're talking about -- we're talking --
SPITZER: They were appointed by President Bush.
D'SOUZA: No, look, I worked in the White House. You know how the government works. Federal agencies often have leftover appointees. The petro brass decision that was made by the export-import bank was in April or May of 2009. Obama was the president.
SPITZER: By Bush appointees. D'SOUZA: No, the Bush appointees can propose it. But every federal agency is under the federal government.
SPITZER: Did the Bush appointees approve that?
D'SOUZA: They might have.
PARKER: The point seems to be that Obama is not really one of us. So talk to us about who are we exactly?
D'SOUZA: I think, Kathleen, that's the point -- here's the point. The point is that anti-colonialism, and I understand it well. I grew up in India, in post-colonial independent India.
Anti-colonialism is the idea that there are rich and poor countries in the world. And the rich countries got rich by invading, occupying and looting the poor countries. That within the rich countries there are powerful corporate interests -- banks, pharmaceutical companies, drug companies, energy companies -- and these are the greedy profiteers who take advantage of the ordinary guys in America and in the rest of the world.
Now I ask you, here's Barack Obama and he's doing as far as I can see two things. He is greatly expanding federal power domestically and he's contracting American power in the world. Here's pulling us out of Iraq.
SPITZER: He didn't do it.
D'SOUZA: Out of Afghanistan. So on the one had, the federal government grows at home and on the other hand America --
SPITZER: OK. This is what understand. So you're suggesting that Barack Obama is hostile to the forces of the U.S. banks that we just bailed out to the tune of several trillion dollars?
D'SOUZA: I'm saying, first of all it was -- again, this is where you have it wrong. It was Bush who bailed out the banks.
SPITZER: No, no. No, no. The bank -- the bailout has continued --
D'SOUZA: Of course it has.
SPITZER: -- through the power of the Treasury Department with Tim Geithner primarily through the interest rate policies of the Feds and the Treasury Department. That is real bailout. Not TARP.
D'SOUZA: Right. So I'm saying what Obama is doing is he's -- for Obama, the issue isn't bailout. It's federal control. There are banks that want to pay their bailout back and the Obama administration won't let them.
SPITZER: No. That was not --
D'SOUZA: Why not?
SPITZER: No, no. Only -- no. Again facts matter here.
D'SOUZA: Facts do matter.
SPITZER: They were able to pay back once they passed the stress test because the stress test was the critical demarcation point of solvency.
D'SOUZA: Yes, right. But money lenders don't normally say, listen, I've got to give you a stress test to figure out if you can pay me back.
SPITZER: No, the deal --
D'SOUZA: The stress test should be given before you make the loan.
SPITZER: No, but this was a unique circumstance. So again, you're factually wrong.
D'SOUZA: I don't think I am.
SPITZER: Yes, you are.
D'SOUZA: I think you can't deny --
PARKER: You did say, Dinesh -- do you really believe that Barack Obama wants Iran to have a nuclear bomb?
D'SOUZA: I don't believe it. I don't say that. Here's what I do say. I say from the anti-colonial point of view, from Obama's point of view, as I understand it, if you look at the Middle East, how many Muslim bombs are there? Zero. How many Jewish bombs. Quite a few. And how many western bombs? A lot. Ours.
So if you look at the world, who has the big nuclear arsenal? We do. Who's used the bomb? We have. America.
So I think from Obama's point of view, we are the rogue elephant that is --
SPITZER: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait --
D'SOUZA: -- starve feeding around the world. Let me finish.
SPITZER: But there's Pakistan.
D'SOUZA: Hold on. Pakistan in not in the Middle East. Obama's goal -- is it?
SPITZER: You know, you're talking about regional powers.
D'SOUZA: You got to know geography --
SPITZER: You're talking regional powers and nuclear bombs, it sounds as if they only work regionally.
D'SOUZA: No, no, no. Iran is --
SPITZER: And so what is this distinction?
D'SOUZA: If Iran got the bomb they would be --
SPITZER: The U.S. and Mideast power?
D'SOUZA: The United States is very involved in the Middle East.
SPITZER: Right. So Pakistan, U.S., and so again.
D'SOUZA: Well, but here -- all right. So here's my point. Obama held a nuclear summit and announced deep cuts in America's nuclear arsenal. He has been more successful in reducing our arsenal than he has been in blocking Iran from going from zero to one.
SPITZER: That -- those cuts -- the START treaty was supported by every major Republican foreign policy analyst.
PARKER: Unfortunately, we are running out of time. One last question. What is it you want people to take from your book?
D'SOUZA: I think I'd like people to realize that Obama is the most unknown guy to come into the White House. A set of very unique circumstances put him there. Two years later, we still don't have a good compass, a good handle on Obama, what motivates him, what drives him.
The conventional theory is he's a Muslim, he's not an American, he's a socialist, I don't think really work. So I'm putting a new card on the table. And look, I'm a college president. I'm not trying to bash Obama in a crude way.
I'm trying to give an explanatory framework. And I think the anti- colonial framework explains his domestic policy, explains his foreign policy, and explains a lot of little stuff he's doing that no other theory can explain.
PARKER: Well, it's certainly provocative, Dinesh. Thank you so much for joining us.
D'SOUZA: It's a pleasure.
SPITZER: Welcome to New York.
D'SOUZA: Thank you.
SPITZER: Kathleen, looking at this White House and some of these midterm races, it all kind of makes me miss the good old days.
PHILLIPS: I knew you'd miss Reagan eventually. SPITZER: No, no, no. That's not who I mean. I'm talking about Mr. Bill Clinton.
SPITZER: And welcome back. It is time for what we call "Fun with Politics".
PARKER: Isn't that a contradictory term, Eliot?
SPITZER: I don't know -- I had a great time in politics. Kind of most of the time.
PARKER: Most of the time?
SPITZER: Some of the time. A little bit of time.
PARKER: Well, you know somebody who did have fun was Bill Clinton.
SPITZER: You bet.
PARKER: And in fact the latest polls showed that 55 percent of Americans agree that William Jefferson Clinton is the most popular politician in America today.
SPITZER: Of course he is. Look --
PARKER: How strange is that.
SPITZER: Well, first, we love nostalgia. But he was good. And you know what? When you're in a business -- I don't care if it's sports or politics or journalism, you know who is good at what you're doing. Bill Clinton was the one everybody looked to and said, we want to be like him the way he talks, communicates, empathizes --
PARKER: He was --
SPITZER: He does everything.
PARKER: He was a master communicator as a matter of fact. I was not in Washington when the Clintons were in the White House because I didn't cover that administration. But I did meet the president once and actually I was in an audience and he was giving a speech to this large group of editors.
PARKER: And I counted the number of times we made eye contact. It was 23 times.
SPITZER: That's shocking. I'm not going there. OK.
PARKER: Yes, I'm just a little OCD --
SPITZER: You were sitting on the front row.
PARKER: I'm a little OCD so I count -- I count everything.
PARKER: I count the bus stops from the highway. But anyway, so after this -- after the speech we all went down to road blind to say hello.
PARKER: Without looking at my name tag, he said Kathleen, nice to meet you. I know that this is probably something all you politicians do. You've learned how to read the name tags.
PARKER: Without actually glancing it.
SPITZER: It actually is an important skill.
PARKER: But he was a pro. I mean he's a pro at --
SPITZER: He was born knowing how to do --
PARKER: -- making you feel like you're the most important person in the room.
SPITZER: And he is. When he talked to you, he talked to you. And that was the amazing -- not every politician -- you know, a lot can look over your shoulder, who's next.
PARKER: I've noticed that.
SPITZER: When Bill Clinton spoke to an audience -- you know, you're hurting me now. You're hurting me now.
SPITZER: But, you know, the amazing thing, we do want him back and if we could repeal -- there's something called the 22nd Amendment. If we could repeal the 22nd Amendment, and let Bill Clinton run for president, it would go through every state legislature in a heartbeat.
PARKER: Well, I don't know about that, but you know the second best thing might be to have Hillary Clinton as the running mate for Barack Obama in 2012.
SPITZER: Well, you've been pushing that idea. Now is this your idea or are you just talking?
PARKER: Well, it's a twofer situation. It's always been a twofer with the Clintons.
SPITZER: Right. Well, I'm not betting on that yet.
PARKER: He advertised that way when he was running for president. SPITZER: That's right. One vote, you get two of us. I'm not betting on that yet but it could happen. Bill Clinton could be back in the White House. Different job, but he'll be back in the White House.
PARKER: I have always thought that the picture in Bill Clinton's mind that he most covets is the cover of "Vanity Fair" magazine wearing an apron baking cookies.
SPITZER: I'm not going to that one either.
PARKER: We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Whenever we leave Afghanistan, it's going to look messy, so if we left today it would look messy. It's going to look messy three years from now.
Yes, if the idea -- if the idea was some kind of massive military victory, like World War II, that's not going to happen.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
KATHLEEN PARKER, HOST: Tomorrow marks the ninth anniversary of the war in Afghanistan. A war that started with American troops removing the Taliban from power that may now end by bringing them back into the government.
ELIOT SPITZER, HOST: New reports say the Afghans are in the beginning stages of negotiating with the Taliban to end the conflict. Joining us to talk about all this is CNN's Fareed Zakaria, host of GPS.
PARKER: Fareed, this whole idea of bringing the Taliban into the government, is this just a way for us to get out. Is this the best exit strategy for us?
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": I don't think we should think of it that way and it isn't really. You know, there's a couple of very good studies of civil wars. Most civil wars end through negotiations. It's very rare to have the North triumphing over the South quite as it did in the American civil war. Most of the time you have some messy political outcome with the negotiation and particularly with the Taliban. You know, this is a little different from people's imagination. These are not Arabs who sort of entered the country. The Taliban represents the conservative part of the Pashtun community in Afghanistan. The Pashtuns are 50 percent of Afghanistan. In other words, these guys are here to stay.
SPITZER: Here's what I don't quite get. The timing of this seems to me to be such that we are negotiating from complete weakness. We have not shown any military success. We have announced a departure date and the Taliban knows that politically, domestically, the American public has lost all confidence in this war. So we are not negotiating in a position where we can bring anything to the table to demand that they give under significant issues.
ZAKARIA: I'm not sure we're as weak as it seems. Obviously, later, it would be better if we had somehow broken the Taliban's momentum the way the president had talked about, the way Petraeus had talked about. It's proving difficult to do. It's proven difficult to do because Afghanistan is this vast mountainous country. The troops are spread thing. But we are -- I think we have some real threats, which is we can stay there for a long time. We can't stay there in these numbers, but we can play whack-a-mole for a long time.
SPITZER: Enormously expensive for us. The American public has no patience for it, and it is certainly not the sort of military success that we were anticipating in terms of the nation building or creating or re-creating a civil society there.
ZAKARIA: Yes, and I think we have to give up on some of those hopes. We've almost forgotten why we're there.
SPITZER: Why we're there.
ZAKARIA: Right. We went into Afghanistan to topple the Taliban because they were sheltering Al Qaeda. Mission accomplished. Now we are stuck there.
SPITZER: But we're stuck. You really believe mission accomplished?
ZAKARIA: Well, in the sense that we toppled the Taliban which was shielding Al Qaeda and we've been chasing Al Qaeda all around the world.
Now, the second mission became now we're going to turn Afghanistan into such a stable developed country that none of this could ever happen again and we can just walk away forever. I don't think that's an achievable outcome. We will probably have to be there with an over the horizon presence. We will probably have to be watching it the way we are watching other parts of the world. But it's important to understand this is one battlefield in a much broader war on terror. We can't get obsessed with the geography of Afghanistan.
PARKER: Fareed, when you talk about negotiating with the Taliban, the Taliban is there are a lot of pieces of it. How do you negotiate with an organization where there's no clear hierarchy?
ZAKARIA: That's proved to be one of the difficulties and it's proved to be difficult to find the kind of node of control. My guess is actually the nodes of control are all in Pakistan and that's one of the problems we're finding.
SPITZER: We went in, as you said, because we're concerned about Al Qaeda. Part of what's happened is Al Qaeda has left and gone to Pakistan or Somali and Yemen. So A, we have to chase them there and B, what is to prevent Al Qaeda from going back into Afghanistan the moment we're gone? How long does this last? ZAKARIA: But this went on leaving further. That's what I mean when I say the president had said that he's not going to keep 100,000 troops in combat forever.
ZAKARIA: That's actually 150,000 when you count NATO. That doesn't mean we won't be there.
People underestimate America's staying power. We are still on the banks of the Rime. We are still in Okinawa. We are still in South Korea. SO could there be 25,000 troops, American troops in Afghanistan 10, 15 years from now? Sure. And you can play whack-a- mole pretty effectively at that point.
PARKER: Is this a tacit admission by the Obama administration that we can't win militarily?
ZAKARIA: Whenever we leave Afghanistan, it's going to look messy. So if we left today, it will look messy. It's going to look messy three years from now.
Yes, if the idea was some kind of massive military victory, like World War II, that's not going to happen.
SPITZER: I want to pick up on your metaphor, playing whack-a-mole. Does that suggest that Joe Biden's military strategy would have been better? You know, he basically said let's play that game and do it with drones, do it with black co-ops, do with counterterrorism, not what the military wanted 100,000 troops. Was he right?
ZAKARIA: In my view, Biden was basically right. Biden's strategy which was a counterterrorism option, coupled with what I've been arguing for two or three years, which is talk to the Taliban, would have gotten you to a place where the United States could have investments in Afghanistan that are commensurate with the threat. There are only 100 members of Al Qaeda left in Afghanistan.
SPITZER: It's an amazing thing.
ZAKARIA: Yes. The idea that we have 150,000 western troops in there chasing 100 terrorists, there's something out of whack there.
ZAKARIA: So Biden's option was I think the right one. But look, the political reality, which you appreciate, Eliot, is the military boxed the president in. He created, I think a reasonable compromise which is to say, OK, guys, you get your troops, but you get them for 18 months.
SPITZER: And we have had enormous conflict just getting our oil and resources into our troops in Afghanistan because Pakistan is blocking access. Where are they in this mix right now.
ZAKARIA: This is the central question because at this point Al Qaeda is headquartered not in Afghanistan but in Pakistan. There are many more Al Qaeda troops or people in Pakistan, and it remains clear that the Pakistani military in some way is making it possible for them to operate out of there. The Pakistani military has still not launched a single military offensive against the Taliban in northern Waziristan, which is the place where they direct these operations from. So at the end of the day, the question is what can you do in a country that you can't invade, that is a very large country? This is a serious place, and --
SPITZER: That has 100 nukes.
ZAKARIA: That has 100 nukes. I think keeping up the pressure on them the way the Obama administration, now, you know, the number of drone attacks has gone up dramatically. The president has ordered more drone attacks in his two years of presidency than Bush did in his eight years. But at the same time reaching out to them and saying we want to try and help you build a civil society. We want to try and help you educationally. It's probably the best idea --
SPITZER: So we're back to nation-building.
ZAKARIA: Well, but nation-building through foreign aid.
ZAKARIA: Not nation-building through troops on the ground.
ZAKARIA: I admit, Pakistan is a very messed up place and this is not a perfect solution.
ZAKARIA: But, Eliot, sometimes there are some problems that don't have solutions and this is probably the best we can do when managing Pakistan, about as well as we can, given that this is a very, very screwed up country to use a technical term.
PARKER: Fareed, thank you so much. We'll be right back.
PARKER: OK, Eliot, it's time for your favorite segment. We call it "Number of the Day." This is where we take a number that is out in circulation and try to make sense of it. Today, the number is 0.46
SPITZER: Everybody's favorite number, 0.46. You know what, Kathleen, they say the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. And you know what, that is actually what's been happening in the United States and there's a way to measure it and we call it the Gini coefficient. And the Gini coefficient goes from zero to one. At zero, there is perfect income equality. Everybody gets the same amount of money. At one, perfect inequality, one person gets all the income. Think Bill Gates, Warren Buffett. Right? So the Gini coefficient is a way to measure what's happening with income and how it's distributed. Let me go to the wall and show you what that means and compare the United States to some other nations. Here's the interesting thing.
Down here closer to zero, you see some nations like Sweden and Germany where income is distributed a lot more equally than it is in the United States. Then you come up here to the United States. We're closer to Jamaica and (INAUDIBLE). A lot of people are saying wait a minute. Do we want to be close to those nations in terms of income distribution or not? Closer to maybe the U.K. and France would be better.
But let's take a look at what's being going on over history. Look at this next chart.
Over time in the past 30 years, income in the United States is getting less and less equitably distributed. That number, that Gini coefficient going up to where it is right now at 0.46. So Kathleen when they say the richer get richer and the poorer are getting poorer, that is actually what's going on in the United States.
PARKER: Well, OK, Eliot, I don't want to live in a banana republic, but I also don't want to live in a socialist country. So how do you -- what's a happy medium here?
SPITZER: Well, there is a happy medium where obviously, look, as we have said over and over, I'm a capitalist. You're a capitalist. I believe in markets and competition. The question is, is all the money just going to a few people and the middle class is being killed because of competition from China? Something we'll talk about a lot in the course of this show. But you think about this, that number, 0.46, and the fact that income is being distributed less equally, that is what's driving our politics right now.
PARKER: Exactly. Well, interesting. I'm so glad that to know about the Gini coefficient. I know you want to bring that up at your next cocktail party. We'll be right back.
SPITZER: And welcome to "Our Political Party," an offbeat conversation with people who have strong opinions on a whole range of topics. A great guest list tonight. Let's go around the table.
PARKER: First we have Matt Miller who's the host of "Left, Right and Center," an old friend who conceived his first child in Bora Bora.
MATT MILLER, WASHINGTONPOST.COM: Oh, this is good. Bora and Bora. First and only.
PARKER: And Nancy Giles who's a commentator on CBS Sunday Morning.
SPITZER: And then we got Sam Seder who's a comedian filmmaker and was a host of "Air America" on America Radio. And Steve Kornacki is an editor at Salon.com. And Steve is very proud of the fact that his B.U. football team has not lost in 13 years. STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: But hasn't lost a football game in 13 years. It might be because they discontinued the program 13 years ago.
SPITZER: That's right. But before that, before that, they were a powerhouse.
KORNACKI: One or two years.
SPITZER: One or two years, that's like the school I went to. All right. We'll leave it at that.
PARKER: OK, our first question. We've all heard Bob Woodward drop the bomb yesterday that Hillary Clinton might be up for to be running mate for Barack Obama 2012. OK. So whether or not that's ever going to happen, what's your dream ticket for 2012? It doesn't have to be a Democrat or Republican, just who's the best that you can think of.
KORNACKI: Can it be anybody?
PARKER: Yes, anybody.
SPITZER: No limits. No limits.
KORNACKI: I would say --
SPITZER: Exclude people at the table.
KORNACKI: Well, I would say --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even dead people.
KORNACKI: -- to start with, anybody who will just not talk to Bob Woodward won't have to deal with these stories.
No, no, you'll have to be anybody who would talk to Bob Woodward.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. Right.
NANCY GILES, CBS SUNDAY MORNING: I think if I was going to do a dream team, I have two ideas. One was Obama-Obama, because I think Michelle is fantastic.
PARKER: And she would be president and he would be vice president?
GILES: Yes. Yes.
MILLER: I would go for Mike Bloomberg and a billionaire to be named later because I think we need a kind of third force in this country. And I think once we get past November, the polarization and the sense of finger pointing and unproductiveness and sort of partisan pickiness is going to --
(CROSSTALK) SPITZER: But the motion is the plutocrats (ph) have not been represented -- the threshold in that 100 million is clearly the billion dollar threshold.
MILLER: It would be nice if that wasn't the case but in the system we have today, because of the lock the two parties have on ballot access and being able to actually get traction in the system, it would take somebody with a lot of money to try and get --
SAM SEDER, COMEDIAN: But what is a theory that somehow a third party president is going to be able to do more than any other president? I mean, what makes you think that the right is going to accept Bloomberg any more than they would accept Barack Obama?
MILLER: And I don't know if they're going to accept them yet. But right now, there's such a vacuum in the debate because I think most of the country is not in the sort of 20 percent on each sides that both parties are locked into. And there's such a wide open terrain for somebody who's a common sense person who's going to synthesize the best of liberal and conservative ideas. That finds no expression in public --
SPITZER: I think that's the point as a matter of political analysis is right. There is a desperate need for somebody in the middle who can disregard either fringe that traditional politics would suggest. Sometimes --
SEDER: That's not Barack Obama?
SPITZER: Look, I think that's the debate. I think many of us think Barack Obama was trying to do that. But why would a third party candidate be able to get anything through Congress at all? That's the real question.
MILLER: I think the first question is what would the campaign and the debate sound like? Because I think that would change the country. Perot in '92 fundamentally changed the direction of the country because he showed there was a 20 percent constituency. And Bloomberg, look, I'm not counting for Bloomberg, but the idea of a candidate like that --
SPITZER: And Bloomberg who is a very popular mayor here in New York City, I think the problem he has is on many of the issues he is to much of the country way left, and frankly to much of the country his views about Wall Street are far right. So I'm not sure if he actually brings that constituency the way you're articulating it. But I think somebody --
PARKER: Predictions are hard to make, but some have been worse than others. What's the worst political prediction in history?
KORNACKI: In history?
(CROSSTALK) Do we win?
KORNACKI: In this year, I would say, you know, I had to say was when Bill Clinton said, and I think it was this year, it might have actually been last year. But when he said, you know what? As soon as Barack Obama signs health care reform, his approval rating is going to shoot up 10 percent.
PARKER: Oh, yes.
KORNACKI: And now as that has held up with whole debate, there would be this pay off for the Democrats once you get the signature on it and, no.
PARKER: Right. OK, that's a good one.
KORNACKI: But you really believe that, right? Bill Clinton?
MILLER: Clinton absolutely did.
KORNACKI: You know, What would Clinton know? You know, never got it to his desk so, you know, he probably thought the same thing would happen to him.
MILLER: I think the worst prediction is there had to be, this just broke recently was, that whoever whispered to Meg Whitman a while ago, don't worry, we can muscle through this illegal nanny thing whenever it explodes because they clearly knew this was coming.
MILLER: The question was when and they just didn't look they had their act together. And it's a bit audacious even to be trying to figure out in advance.
PARKER: We need somebody to control -- we need somebody to control nanny eruptions.
We need to figure out nanny eruptions. Right?
GILES: It was so bad on so many different levels. Not only that she had her employed, but that when the story came out, she was willing to cut her loose like that and just say it's part of the family.
SPITZER: What's your prediction?
GILES: I think the worst prediction was the ones we just talked about Hillary Clinton and --
GILES: Yes, yes. SPITZER: I don't think it will happen.
GILES: No, God, no. Not a chance.
SPITZER: Why not? You're really scoffing at that one.
GILES: No, it's crazy.
SPITZER: Is it Bob Woodward after all?
GILES: I know. And I asked him when he said, he was just spinning. It was him. It was just him sort of like laying on thick some idea that he had.
PARKER: Actually it wasn't a prediction.
PARKER: He was just reporting that someone within Hillary's ranks --
GILES: It didn't even look that he was reporting that.
MILLER: The tables are really, really big.
SEDER: My prediction, the worst one I think was either Martha Coakley wins, no problem.
SEDER: Or Tea Party is going to be good for Republicans in the off year.
SPITZER: Let me ask you another one, Martha Coakley. What is the Senate race out there right now, which on November 3rd we're going to say wow, this is the Martha Coakley race of this year?
SEDER: That's a good question. I mean --
SPITZER: Does Reid go down?
SEDER: Well, but no one --
SPITZER: Blumenthal in Connecticut?
SEDER: Everybody is going in with their eyes open, you know, in terms of those races. Everybody knows Reid is in a tough fight. Everybody knows that Russ Feingold as crazy as it seems, is in a tough fight in Wisconsin. So I don't think there's going to be any massive surprises. I think there's going to be --
SPITZER: Right. Right.
KORNACKI: I think there is one, West Virginia, where the governor has an approval rating approaching 70 percent is now losing. He is now losing by five points to a Republican who has lost three times before and never won a race.
SPITZER: I think in West Virginia, they want to keep him as governor. Manchin is popular, a good guy. I got to know him when I was serving. Really, a very decent, good person.
KORNACKI: But he'll be term limited out in 2010 anyway.
PARKER: OK, gang, I hate to be the one to break up the conversation. I seem to be the designated party pooper, but we're going to have a party every night here on "PARKER SPITZER" and one of these nights we'll invite the conservatives. Thank you all for being with us. We'll be right back.
SPITZER: We'll be right back.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Anderson Cooper. "PARKER SPITZER" continues in a moment. First, the latest.
A mile of destruction, that's how a sheriff describes the damage from one of at least two tornadoes that struck near Flagstaff, Arizona. The twisters injured seven people, derailed a train, damaged more than 100 homes.
The White House commission appointed to study the BP oil spill disaster blasted the Obama administration in a report issued today, slamming government officials for vastly underestimating the amount of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico. The report also said the White House Office of Management and Budget squelched higher estimates once government officials accept them.
Chris Armstrong, the college student who's seeking a protection order against a Michigan assistant attorney general, speaks out tonight on "360." Armstrong is the first openly gay president of the University of Michigan's student assembly. We'll hear what it's been like for him to be the target of an attack blog operated by Andrew Shirvell, the assistant attorney general.
That's the latest. We'll see you at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on "360." Now back to "PARKER SPITZER."
SPITZER: Before we say goodnight, our postscript. We've talked a lot about a sense of anxiety out there in the public. Everybody is uneasy. There's a sense of, you know, fear about what's going on in our society. But you know what, Kathleen? It used to used to be worse, didn't it?
PARKER: Things have been worse at different times. Today exactly almost 50 years ago, President Kennedy went on television and actually told Americans to build a bomb shelter. That was a scary time.
SPITZER: That's right.
PARKER: And I remember when I was growing up in Florida, we did have a bomb shelter. On weekends, my family -- the drills. We filled water bottles.
SPITZER: When you're at school, you had to actually dive under your desks.
PARKER: We had to dive under the desk.
SPITZER: That's right.
PARKER: That was helpful.
SPITZER: You know, but people did it. And that's when the U.S. and the Soviet Union about to go to nuclear war. You know, the Cuban missile crisis but they blinked and so things got better.
PARKER: That's right. The anxiety though was real, the fear was real.
SPITZER: That's right.
PARKER: And what we learned from that is that even when things are bad, things can get better.
SPITZER: And they will.
Thanks so much for being with us. Be sure to join us tomorrow night. Good night from New York.
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