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JOHN KING, USA

Strange Bedfellows; The Delaware Two-Step; Interview With Michelle Rhee

Aired October 15, 2010 - 19:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf. And good evening, everyone.

A rare joint appearance on the campaign trail today by President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Their focus was the Delaware Senate race where Chris Coons is ahead by nearly 20 points over Republican Christine O'Donnell.

So you might wonder why waste your firepower there? But remember, it is Biden's old Senate seat. This one is personal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT: But folks, I mean what I say and I'm telling you, Wilmington's coming back, Delaware's coming back, the United States of America is coming back.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Sarah Palin was in California last night and has campaigned coast to coast this midterm election year. But we have a new glimpse of the former Alaska governor's new reality TV show, where she makes the case there's no place like home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: I'd rather be doing this than in some stuffy old political office. I'd rather be out here being free.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Also tonight, a political drama in the California governor's race that requires a little flashback to fully understand. Running for president back in 1992, Bill Clinton had nothing but scorn for Jerry Brown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: But you ought to be ashamed of yourself for jumping on my wife. You're not worth being on the same platform.

JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'll tell you something --

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And just last month, Brown made clear the bad blood still lingers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: I mean, Clinton's a nice guy, but who ever said he always told the truth?

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Yet tonight, Clinton and Brown are campaigning side by side. They say politics makes strange bedfellows. All the more so when you're in a tough race and it's 18 days out.

A busy day and a busy week in politics. Let's begin with the Clinton-Brown de taunt and our contributors Roland Martin and Erick Erickson, Paul Begala here in Washington, along with our senior political analyst Gloria Borger.

And Paul, I want to start with you on this one because I was covering that race back in 1992. The young cub --

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: California --

KING: Young cub reporter, you were working for that guy, Bill Clinton, the governor of Arkansas in those days. And we played a little snippet of this. I want to go back to this 1992 debate.

Jerry Brown was essentially the last Democrat standing against Bill Clinton and it was personal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: He is flinging money to his wife's law firm for state business. That's number one. Number two, his wife's law firm is representing clients before the state of Arkansas agencies. His appointees.

CLINTON: I feel sorry for Jerry Brown. I served with him as governor in the late '70s. He asked me to support him for president once.

BROWN: Did you?

CLINTON: Of course not. But you ought to be ashamed of yourself for jumping on my wife. You're not worth to being on the same platform as my wife.

BROWN: I tell you something --

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That was in the public scene. That was in the debates. You know --

BEGALA: In the primary.

KING: When you talk to the governor about this off camera, I remember those days, he was scathing and yet tonight, Kumbaya for Jerry Brown?

BEGALA: Yes, I mean who would have thought? That one was bitter. It was. Because Brown falsely attacked Hillary. And it drove Governor Clinton bananas, really it infuriated him.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Couldn't tell.

BEGALA: Yes. That was real. And -- but good for Bill Clinton because as you showed in the earlier clip, Governor Brown was again attacking President Clinton just even a few weeks ago. But, you know, in politics, there are larger things here than just personal disputes.

I don't think those two guys like each other very much, but there is something more important here.

KING: But they --

BEGALA: Bill Clinton believes he's right on the issues.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: That he will be good for California.

KING: That's an important point because they still don't like each other very much.

BEGALA: I don't think so.

KING: These are two guys -- no, these are two guys with good memories who hold grudges and you made the point. Let's listen a little bit more. This is Governor Brown, now Attorney General Brown, just last month.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: I mean, Clinton's a nice guy, but who ever said he always told the truth? You remember, right? There's that whole story there about did he or did he? OK, I did not have taxes with this state. So let's be clear about that. Thank you very much.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Roland Martin, you can criticize somebody but that one there, "I did not have taxes with this state." Jerry Brown getting a bit personal there.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely getting personal. But you know what, John, I remember a Senator John McCain giving a nice little bear hug to then Governor George W. Bush, and we recall how ugly it was in South Carolina, the allegations that McCain had a black love child, and all kind of other drama.

As Paul said, in politics, people will set their stuff aside, they won't -- they might forgive for a moment, they won't forget, but again politics can wipe a whole lot of stuff aside.

BORGER: You know there is a greater good here that's really important. I mean, not only does he want Jerry Brown to win, but he wants Barbara Boxer to win.

BEGALA: All right.

BORGER: And I think he wants -- and Barbara Boxer, he is very close to. And I think that it's about bringing out those Democratic voters. Bill Clinton could probably care less about any personal relationship that he has or doesn't have with Jerry Brown. He's pragmatic.

KING: Erick Erickson, there was a time when Bill Clinton, for every liberal he might energize, there was at least one and sometimes two conservatives he also energized. Is it the same?

I mean you see Republicans saying all these nice things about Bill Clinton now? Does he still fire up the Republican base?

ERICK ERICKSON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, REDSTATE.COM: Lord the Republicans these days think fondly of the Clinton years compared to the Obama years. I don't know that it's going to help Jerry Brown out in California.

But, you know, this is partly why so many people get cynical in politics. You see these guys, Republicans and Democrats alike, stand on stage and point fingers at each other and bash each other and then sing Kumbaya together. It makes for great comedy.

KING: Well, some Kumbaya happened today in the state of Delaware. The president of the United States, the vice president of the United States out. Joe Bide of course held that Senate seat. It's up for grabs this year. And as he began his remarks, the president of the United States talked about what he believes his best move.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The single best decision that I have made was selecting Joe Biden as my running mate. Single best decision I've made. I mean that.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We even get a little bit of a hug there.

BORGER: Well, you had to say, it's true, didn't he?

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Well, remember this -- but remember there's been this talk in recent weeks, re-energized by Bob Woodward here on this show, saying, you know, it's on the table that maybe they replace Biden with Hillary. Not only did you get that from the president there, but Joe Biden gave an interview to the "New York Times" the other day, where he said, I'll tell you what, there's real trust. That's why he's asked me to run again.

He said the president came over to him and said we're going to run together. You're going to run? Of course. You want me to run with you. I'm happy to run with you.

So in the middle of this campaign, Paul, they decided they needed to clean up any uncertainty about the next campaign.

BEGALA: Right. It was always a nonsensical thing. President Obama is right. It's one of the best things he's ever done in life. It's the first presidential decision he made and he went there to -- I love that he went to Delaware. I know the Democrats are likely to win. It is a very strong Democrat state, the Democrat is way ahead.

But sometimes you do things because -- as you said at the opening, it's personal, it's a sentimental thing. I bet you Bush would go to Transylvania or Slithering or wherever Dick Cheney came from.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Slithering? Isn't that -- I'm not big of a --

BORGER: Oh my god.

BEGALA: -- "Harry Potter". Where did --

BORGER: It's called Cheyenne.

BEGALA: Where did Voldemort came from?

KING: Go ahead, Roland.

BORGER: It's called Cheyenne, Wyoming. Yes.

MARTIN: Yes. But John, it's also important that they go to Delaware because, again, they recognize that the Senate -- the Democrats could potentially hold on to the Senate. But also, it would be embarrassing for the sitting president and the sitting vice president to lose the Senate seats, both of them hailed.

That's why you see Biden, you see Michelle Obama, you've seen President Obama go into Illinois for Alexi Giannoulias. They understand how bad could it be on November 2nd to lose the seats those two held.

KING: But, Erick Erickson, a seat is a seat. And if you're adding up, whether it's to get a majority in the House or majority in the Senate, every former Democratic seat is plus one.

But is it more, just as the Democrats, it's personal to them, the president, the vice president, is it personal for conservatives and Republicans, those particular seats?

ERICKSON: Illinois in particular is becoming personal for Republicans. Not so much Delaware. Illinois definitely, though. They think they've got a good shot at it.

KING: All right. I think --

BORGER: Yes --

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: I think they do have a shot.

MARTIN: And he's right, John.

BORGER: They do have a shot. I mean, look, you know, the Republicans think it's the trifecta, right? If they could possibly have done Harry Reid's seat, Barack Obama's seat and Joe Biden's seat. And it seems clear they're not going to get --

KING: After last year, getting Ted Kennedy's seat.

BORGER: After -- exactly.

BEGALA: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Exactly.

BEGALA: You know they won't get Hillary Clinton's old seat. They will not.

KING: Right.

BORGER: Right.

BEGALA: Kirsten Gillibrand was appointed that. It was a controversial appointment. She is way ahead and running a good campaign up there.

KING: All right. A quick timeout here.

Every campaign year it seems has a villain. This year? She has the title of madam speaker.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: This close to Election Day, national polling can only tell you so much. You need to going to state by state and race by race to fully understand the midterm landscape. But no matter where you live in America, odds are you've turned on the TV and heard something like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Dan McVeigh does vote, he votes with Nancy Pelosi 96 percent of the time. San Francisco already has one vote in Congress. It doesn't need ours.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now we've known for some time Speaker Pelosi is a star in a lot of ads this year. But our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash is adding it all up and the big picture, Dana, is stunning.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: $42 million. That is a staggering number. $42 million is how much Republicans are spending across the country on these TV ads. And that is just so far.

We have three weeks to go doing this, attacking Democrats and linking them to Nancy Pelosi.

Evan Tracy, who tracks TV ads at the Campaign Media Analysis Group, calculated that for us. And he also says that so far there have been 356 campaign commercials to vilify Democrats in this way and they've run over 112,000 times.

And guess what, that's just the ads where the narrator actually says Pelosi's name. That doesn't even include the ads where you just see her picture in an unflattering or grainy pose.

Now that's of course a lot of money to put behind this message, but they believe on the Republican side, whether it's the party outside groups, GOP candidates, that it's money well spent since her approval rating is low, and that this is a way to personify what is wrong from their perspective with Washington.

I can tell you, Pelosi's office, when I gave these numbers to them, they said, well, it just proves that Republicans don't have a message and they say that it does prove that maybe Pelosi is effective -- John?

KING: Dana Bash for us. We'll see how effective at what in the campaign.

Erick Erickson, this one's to you first as the conservative, she has become the enemy number one if you will, more so than President Obama, more so even than any specifics in the policy agenda. Why?

ERICKSON: Look, Republicans for years have tried this. They've tried it with Teddy Kennedy. It didn't work. They're finally trying it with Nancy Pelosi. And it's working.

Jim Marshall, my congressman in Georgia's 8th, is out there saying he's not going to vote for her for speaker and doesn't like her. You've got Bill Owens in New York doing the same, one of the guys in Ohio.

Look, the senior citizens who are going to be turning out to vote now 25 years ago remember Jean Kirkpatrick, San Francisco Democrat speech, and it's kind of resonated for a while, this San Francisco Democrat. And you'll have -- see a lot of seniors vote, a lot of them will remember '84, they'll remember San Francisco Democrats and it's working.

KING: Roland, you're shaking your head.

MARTIN: Yes, because it's nonsense. Look, at the end of the day, they're using her as the example because she is the speaker of the House. The House has passed more legislation than the Senate has passed. And they're saying she is the reason why we're in this predicament.

Keep in mind, in 2006 Republicans also held her up by saying don't let her become speaker of the House. And so how many people out there saying, going let's remember a speech from 25 years ago. They're saying she is the liberal leader of the president's agenda so therefore let's make her target number one. That's at the end of the day.

BORGER: You know, she -- when you talk to Republican pollsters, she's off the charts when they poll on her in a negative way. And so it works better for them, they say, to vilify her than to vilify Barack Obama because Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are so closely tied to health care reform, for example, and Barack Obama is more popular when they look at Republican voters. So why not use her, right?

KING: The Texan guy has got his jaw clenched here.

BEGALA: Huge mistake. It's a huge mistake.

KING: Huge mistake, why?

BEGALA: No -- well, because --

BORGER: You wouldn't --

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: No, because the hay is in the barn. In other words, the right wing white guys who hate her, they're already voting Republican. They were -- they're a go. They were there the day President Obama was sworn in.

ERICKSON: No, but Paul --

BEGALA: The independent voters --

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Just a second, Erick. The independent voters who are left are more female than male, much more female than male. I think this -- you know, Sarah Palin has a 10-point higher negative than Speaker Pelosi. Nobody is running ads attacking her.

MARTIN: Paul, I got to disagree. Paul, I have to disagree with you on that one. Because again, they're not attacking her, and I get your point, just like with Hillary Clinton when she was the first lady.

They're not attacking her because she is a woman. What is happening here is, even those independent women are looking at policies. And so the Democrats are not responding by saying it's a gender attack, Republicans are saying it's a policy attack.

And so if you're a Republican, it's a smart strategy. I don't see anything showing in any of the data where women are saying, I disagree with this. I just don't see it.

KING: Well, let me --

(CROSSTALK)

ERICKSON: They're tacking her as a liberal and it's working.

KING: OK. Let me --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Let me change subjects. We mentioned the Biden seat -- we mentioned the Biden seat, we mentioned the Obama seat. Next to those two, the one that comes up most if you talk to Republican as we want this one, it's Harry Reid's seat out in Nevada.

He is the Democratic majority leader, a national figure, of course. And they had a debate last night, Harry Reid versus Sharron Angle and a lot of it was pretty tough. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: Don't frighten people about Social Security. The deal that was made by President Reagan and Tip O'Neill is holding strong.

SHARRON ANGLE (R), NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE: Man up, Harry Reid. You need to understand that we have a problem with Social Security. That problem was created because of government taking that money out of the Social Security trust fund.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: "Man up, Harry Reid." Huh?

BORGER: Man up. You know it's -- it's so interesting, in watching these two women debate, Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell, they have been the aggressors in their debates against the men. And the men, quite honestly, have not known how to behave.

Harry Reid missed a lot of opportunities in his debate. And Chris Coons had --

KING: I got a lot -- I got a lot of e-mails last night, Paul, from Democrats cringing that Harry Reid was not taking advantage of some openings in that debate.

BORGER: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: One hour on public television is just not exactly driving that race. OK? I think that Senator Reid is an old school guy. He's a courtly guy. I would have crushed her like a bug. But that's me. He did not want to turn to her. But the thing is, don't forget Sharron Angle --

BORGER: Woman or no woman. Man up, Paul.

BEGALA: Sharron Angle believes that Social Security violates the bible.

KING: Roland is --

BEGALA: She wants to abolish Social Security entirely.

KING: Roland is trying to man up.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: John, I will bring up gender in this case. And we saw it with -- with Joe Biden, Senator Biden against Governor Sarah Palin. And that is, there is a reluctance among male candidates, especially Democratic candidates, to really go aggressively at the female candidate.

A woman can say to a man, man up. But if Reid made any kind of reference to gender --

BORGER: No, right.

MARTIN: -- he would have been dead in the water and criticized the next day.

BORGER: Absolutely. Get over it, guys. Get over it.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I got to man up and call a time-out. That's all we have, everybody. Thanks for coming in. A lot more to come in the program, though.

When we come back, D.C. school's chancellor Michelle Rhee, she's leaving now. She's become a national spokeswoman for education reform. And one day she fired 241 teachers. But I'll ask her, what's your biggest regret.

And also President Obama, you remember, he promises as candidate Gitmo would be closed within one year. It's been 20 months. Why is it still open? Why do some liberals think when it comes to terror prosecutions, Obama equals Bush?

And one of this year's most provocative ad men is Republican Fred Davis. In California the demon sheep ad, if you haven't it, we'll show it to you. And he was also the man responsible for the ad in which Christine O'Donnell begins looking straight at the camera and saying, I'm not a witch.

What works and what doesn't in this midterm election year? A lot still to come.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back. I'm Joe Johns and here's the latest political news you need to know right now.

It's official, the United States ran a $1,294,000,000 deficit in fiscal year 2010, slightly less than last year's all-time high.

The Treasury Department is putting off a decision on labeling China a currency manipulator until after next month's G-20 Economic Summit.

In Chile, 31 of the 33 rescued miners have been released from the hospital.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited President Obama at the White House this afternoon.

A new promo for Sarah Palin's reality TV show which starts in mid November concentrates on scenery and family instead of politics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: We are somewhere that people dream about. Family comes first. This has got to be that way. No, boys. Go upstairs.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: John will be right back with a school reformer who says it's time to step aside.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Michelle Rhee has been on the front lines of education reform. But sometimes being on the front lines means you become a casualty.

As the head of Washington, D.C.'s public schools she fired teachers, closed schools, and stepped on toes. Her tactics became an issue in the D.C. mayor's race and the mayor lost.

This week, Michelle Rhee announced she's resigning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE RHEE, FORMER DC SCHOOLS CHANCELLOR: In short, we have agreed together that the best way to keep the reforms going is for this reformer to step aside.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP) KING: Michelle Rhee joins us now.

As soon as you made this decision, there is Michellerhee.org. And we can show our viewers the Web site. You go up. I've been covered politics a long time. That almost looks like you're running for something.

What is next for Michelle Rhee? The governor of New Jersey has said he'd be interested in talking to you. The Obama administration said maybe they would talk to you. Some philanthropies and foundations had said they might be interested. What's next?

RHEE: Well, I'm going to take a little time to figure that out. And one of the reasons we put the Web site up is because I am a junkie for e-mails. I read and respond to all of my own e-mails and a lot of people were saying to me, we need to be able to keep in touch with you and how are we going to contact you?

And I think we -- I've had lots of good discussions with people from all across the country, via e-mail, about, you know, how to fix public education in the nation and so I just wanted to keep the dialogue going. But I'm not running for anything.

KING: Not running for anything. All right. I'm glad we have that on the record. You that all that interest and all that communication because you became a national spokeswoman for education reform, sometimes favorably, sometimes in controversial -- controversial ways.

You're in this new movie "Waiting for Superman." You're one of the starring characters. I want to play a little snippet and then we'll talk on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you think that mostly kids in D.C. are getting a crappy education right now?

RHEE: Oh, I don't think they are. I know they are.

There's a complete and utter lack of accountability for the job that we're supposed to be doing which is producing results for kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Within a few months, she's cut over 100 jobs in the D.C. central office, closed 23 schools, and fired a quarter of all principals. Including the principal of her own children's school.

RHEE: Now I see why things are the way they are. It all becomes about the adults.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, you say -- in that also you go on to say in that, you realized it becomes all about the adults, meaning the adults fighting over what should happen in the schools and the kids suffer.

RHEE: Right.

KING: Because of that. There are some parents now say how could you leave in the middle of a school year? Are you abandoning the children that you claimed are at the center of it all?

RHEE: So absolutely not. And the reason why I can feel good about stepping aside, even though it's an early sad moment for me personally, is that it is all about the children. And to the extent that I'm a distraction for people, that's not OK for the school district.

My -- I have had my deputies step into my role as the interim. I've talked my entire management team into staying on board and they are the -- they're the brains and the talent behind everything that we've done for the last three years, not me. I just blocked and tackled for them.

So they can literally can continue the reforms on the same pace that we've done for the last three years without a hitch as long as the political will and desire is there.

KING: I want to read you something from someone who I think you would say I share -- we share the same goals but who has been a critic of you and an opponent of some of your plans, and this is Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation for Teachers.

She told the "Atlantic" this. The issue in education that the so-called reformers don't understand is it's about relationships, students and teachers, teachers and principals. Relationships are very critical. When you have disdain for relationships and want to bust them up, you're actually busting up the one thing that binds a student to success."

Do you have disdain for relationships?

RHEE: I have disdain for dysfunctional relationships. I think that -- our problem in public education is that we have done a disservice to children and so we've set up a dynamic with children where we're not doing right by them. So that is not a good relationship to have with kids.

The kids that we're serving, that they can't count on us to make the decisions that are in their best interests because we're so concerned with making decisions that are going to placate each other as the adults.

And so I -- am I willing to forgo and forsake some adult relationships so that we can have a more trustworthy relationship with our children? Absolutely.

KING: Can you have a more -- can you have that more trustworthy and productive relationship with the children, though, if you're in constant tension with the union?

RHEE: Well, here's the thing, I mean, we have tried the let's all get along and collaborate and see what that produces. And over the last 30 years the educational outcomes in this country have absolutely been dismal. And they were getting worse by the day. And I think part of the problem in public education today is that people have a sort of a desire to avoid conflict. They don't want to have arguments, they don't want to get into debates, they all want to focus on what do we all agree on. But there are some fundamental differences in what we believe about how best to education our kids. And so every time we get into a debate or argument, we can't shy away from that. We have to be willing to have the hard conversations. And I think all of us as adults, as long as we're respectful, we have got to willing to do the hard work to get to the other side instead of sweeping everything under the rug al the time.

KING: We all make mistakes in what we do. What was your biggest?

RHEE: Oh, my gosh, I made so many mistakes. If I had to put a bucket around a lot of the mistakes we made, it was definitely around communication. We didn't have good enough outreach and sort of proactive communication with -- whether it was parents or teachers. I think we sort of were under the impression that if we put our heads down and work hard and do the right thing, we produce results, then that's are going to speak for themselves. And I think that we were wrong on that front. We were, you know, we should have been much more proactive and aggressive about making sure that our message was getting out there about why the changes were so critical.

KING: Will the November elections have any impact on what you do next, meaning is there a candidate for governor out there who if he or she wins, maybe Michelle Rhee could go work for?

RHEE: I've been having lots of good conversations with current governors and some potential, you know, governors or governor candidates, so we'll see.

KING: We'll see. All right. Check back when you know.

RHEE: Absolutely.

KING: Michelle Rhee, thank you.

RHEE: Thank you.

KING: Candidate Barack Obama promised to close the Guantanamo Bay prison. Many liberals are furious President Obama failed to follow through. Why they ask does his approach look more like President Bush's?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: A terrorist suspect and one time Guantanamo detainee is on trial in New York now in connection with the 1998 embassy bombings and prosecutors aren't having an easy time. The judge ruled a key witness's testimony can't be used because essentially it was obtained by torture. The reliability of detainee's testimony is also at the heart of a different case. Last March, a judge ordered a terror suspect released. Both cases show why it is hard to close Guantanamo or try these detainees in civilian courts. Dafna Linzer a senior reporter for ProPublica has written about the March case. She joins us now along with our CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. You have the current trial under way in New York City, you have the case you wrote about, the judge is saying, number one, can't bring some of the evidence, some of the testimony into court because of torture, so for someone out there who says why isn't Guantanamo closed or the cases all been disposed of, are we getting closer or is the legal world more confused?

DAFNA LINZER, SENIOR REPORTER, PROPUBLICA.ORG: We were talking about an issue that this was the president's sort of first promise to the country to close Guantanamo. And here we are, you know, more than a year and a half later, there is one person on trial in New York. There is one person on trial in a military commission in Guantanamo. And then you have this habeas process going on in courtrooms in Washington that has been very problematic. We're actually not a lot closer in terms of seeing people leaving Guantanamo in order to face prosecution anywhere.

KING: And so, Jeff, if you're the attorney general, Eric Holder, and you're watching what I will call midlevel cases, I'm not calling them unimportant, but they're not the key alleged masterminds of 9/11, if you're watching these cases knowing both from a legal standpoint and political standpoint the pressure on you to decide when, where and how to bring Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to trial, are you getting clarity or more confused?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think you're getting more confused. I think what is perfectly illustrates this problem is several months ago, the attorney general announced with great fanfare that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was going to be tried here in New York City. The reaction was so overwhelmingly negative that not only was that trial essentially eliminated, I mean, that -- they have abandoned that plan, they are so embarrassed politically, they have done nothing. They have basically retreated into a political and legal shell on the issue of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed until after the midterm elections. It is not at all clear what is going to happen to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, except he's going to stay in custody, but the fact that the legal situation is worse now than it was when Barack Obama was inaugurated a year and a half ago.

KING: And Dafna, you write about the interesting, I will call it, controversial you might call it, where the judge issued a decision, posted it online and within 24 hours or so it was gone and a completely different decision came up. In the classified cases, you'll see things redacted, you can't figure out what information was left out. But they wrote a different opinion and missing from the second opinion a description of certain intelligence documents, government findings, the witness is unstable, the date, location and circumstances when he was taken into custody, a description of the government seeking to alter evidence, is this a unique case, a rare case or is this part of the muddled legal situation they find themselves in?

LINZER: What is unique is there were two opinions, one vanished and a new one came in its place. What is not unique is the fact that Americans, the public who read the decisions who have access to these decisions have a very difficult time assessing who is at Guantanamo and the dangerousness posed by the detainees. This was central to the question of how Obama was going to resolve Guantanamo. Was he going to release people? Was he going to hold people indefinitely? Was he going to prosecute them? In this case, the detainee is someone the Obama administration we know from our reporting wanted to hold indefinitely. Now we have a situation where a judge is telling them the person you wanted to hold indefinitely we believe is being wrongly held. So you have a dilemma here. And when we were doing the reporting, one of the things that was interesting was the justice department wouldn't say necessarily what they would do if they lost this case on appeal. Would they end up releasing a detainee they think is to dangerous?

KING: This is one of complaints we get from the civil libertarian community, from liberals in the Democratic party saying, Mr. President, we thought you were going to be different, we thought you would close Gitmo within a year, we thought you would bring the cases to resolution and we thought if a judge said let them go, unlike the Bush administration, you would let them go. I want our viewers to hear a speech. This is way back in May 2009 when the president was trying to explain how he would handle the cases.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: Examples of that threat include people who have received extensive explosives training at al Qaeda training camps or commanded Taliban troops in battle or expressed their allegiance to Osama Bin Laden or otherwise made it clear that they want to kill Americans. These are people who in effect remain at war with the United States. Let me repeat, I am not going to release individuals who endanger the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's May 2009. Jeff, as we talked in October 2010, is there a distinct unique Obama approach to this is or are they essentially following the Bush model?

TOOBIN: I think more or less they're following the Bush model, which is sort of muddling through. You have some, very few, prosecuted in criminal courts, like the fellow on trial here in New York now. You have a handful of military tribunal cases. And you have the rest of them where they're trying to figure out the right thing to do. What makes this so difficult, particularly in the -- about someone like Ufman who Dafna wrote about in her really excellent article, he has been incarcerated for eight years in Guantanamo. If he wasn't crazy and he didn't hate the government of the United States when he was arrested, you can bet he does now given that circumstance, which makes this problem even more complicated and difficult.

KING: And more complicated and more difficult, again, to the question, the bigger question that you hear, the howling from the left and you hear it in the election season where they say, Mr. President, don't yell at us to participate, you haven't kept your promise. When you see the difficulty of all these cases, can you see a possibility in the next six months, the next year of closing Guantanamo or is there still too much in the pipeline and too much uncertainty?

LINZER: They came in not fully comprehending the pushback from the Republicans and I think you're right, I think the left is disappointed with him because they did expect a much swifter move on this topic. I don't think it will be closed in six months. I don't think it will be closed in a year.

TOOBIN: When a president who sits there with the responsibility of the safety of the country has a choice to make, national security versus civil liberties, it looks different from when you're a candidate and they almost always pick national security and that's what Obama by and large has done so far.

KING: Excellent point there. We'll end it there. Thank you for your time.

LINZER: Thank you.

TOOBIN: Thank you.

KING: Next, we switch subjects. Who would do an ad featuring a demon sheep with glowing red eyes? Well, you're about to meet him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back. I'm Joe Johns. Here is the latest political news you need to know right now.

In Alaska, a new commercial for Senator Lisa Murkowski's write-in campaign includes and endorsement from former Senator Ted Stevens. It was recorded less than two weeks before his fatal plane crash.

Murkowski's opponent, Joe Miller, goes for humor in his commercials spoofing the old spice guy ads.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, voters. Look at your ballot, now look at him. This is Joe Miller, now back to your ballot. You see his name. Now look at her, now back to your ballot. Sadly she is not on your ballot. Why? Because she lost.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: You got to love political ad season. Now back to John King.

KING: This year's most memorable political ads, Carly Fiorina's demon sheep, Christine O'Donnell's I'm not a witch and Ben Quayle calling Barack Obama the worst president in history have one big thing in common, my next guest, Republican ad man Fred Davis. Fred, let me start with a big question, which is what makes this year different from any other year, then we'll get into the specifics of these ads.

FRED DAVIS, REPUBLICAN AD MAKER: I don't think there is anything, you know, in the world of advertising that is different this year. Obviously a good year to be a Republican, which we kind of guessed when Barack got elected, the signs showed this would be a good year to be a Republican. But advertising wise, as you know, John, I think it is important first and foremost to stand out and I think that's important whether it is political advertising or corporate or cars or banks or whatever.

KING: Your political work has stood out this year. Let's start with the ad that generated probably the most national attention because it came after Christine O'Donnell's huge primary upset in Delaware. Everyone wondered how she would perform and what she would say when she aired her first TV ad of the general election and she raised allot of eyebrows what when she did this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm not a witch. I'm nothing you've heard. I'm you. None of us are perfect, but none of us can be happy with what we see all around us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Let's start about the debate about whether to be up front and deal with the dabbling in witchcraft and saying I'm not a witch. That had to be a debating point about whether you wanted to just ignore that or take it head on.

DAVIS: It was to an extent, John, but maybe less than you would think. Think of it in context. A few days earlier she had been not a joke on Saturday Night Live, but the lead -- the lead skit, introducing the whole show was on Christine O'Donnell. She was the butt of every joke, every late night comedian, and, you know, of course, Bill Maher had a cottage industry out of people watching on Friday night to see what he would drum up out of her past this week. And so with that in place, she's down 20 points in the polls, roughly, at that time, I don't see that you have a choice. You have to address it. Why ignore it completely?

KING: So when she reads that script, what does she say to Fred Davis next time she sees him. Did she say, are you sure, what's the point, or, oh, boy, this one is going to cause a stir.

DAVIS: We had that conversation when I gave her the script. She said I'm so sick of the witch thing, I would like to put it behind me. I said this is the way to put it behind you. You have to draw a line in the sand. Say that's the past, now we're going to talk about things that are important to the people of Delaware and how I compare to Chris Coons.

KING: Christine O'Donnell and the ads, straight to camera, looking the voters in the eye. You used the same approach with a candidate in Arizona who has a famous last name, people knew his last name, Ben Quayle. This was one of the more provocative ads of the primary season. Let's listen and talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE BEN QUAYLE, R-ARIZ.: Barack Obama is the worst president in history. In my generation, we'll inherit a weakened country. Drug cartels in Mexico, tax cartels in D.C., what's happened to America?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Take me behind the scenes of that one.

DAVIS: Okay, it is a good one to talk about. Number one, Ben Quayle wrote every word of that. I have a lot of people that say, Fred, you know, those are great ad words. No, they're not. We were sitting at Marylin's breakfast table, in their home in Scottsdale, and Ben said that. And I had a legal pad in front of me and I wrote it down. It wasn't word for word, but he started with Barack Obama is the worst president in history and add the drug cartels and tax cartels, that came from Ben Quayle. The reason we were talking on that subject was he had been hopelessly wrong and I don't -- I'm not prepared to get into debating what was true and what was false, but his opponent in the primary had charged him of writing some salacious things in a news letter that didn't even exist. I mean, there was a current kind of negative newsletter, but when Ben was minor league involved in it, it was not what these people were saying. People were out saying horrible things about Ben, we needed to change the subject.

KING: Before we saw Ben Quayle's straight to camera and Christine O'Donnell's straight to camera, the Fred Davis ad getting most attention this year, was not any politician straight to camera, it was the demon sheep. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tom Campbell, is he what he tells us? Or is he what he's become over the years? A FCINO, fiscal conservative in name only, a wolf in sheep's clothing, a man who literally helped put the state of California on the path to bankruptcy and higher taxes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We'll stop that, whether Tom Campbell of course was running against your candidate, Carly Fiorina in the Senate primary out there, where did that come from?

DAVIS: History. Wasn't conservative. And we wanted a small little piece to put on the web that would get people wondering or checking for themselves whether Tom Campbell was really a conservative or not. Needless to say, I had no idea it would blow up into what it did.

KING: But when you're debating something like that, the use of animals, the glaring eyes and all that, you know on the one hand you might get a lot of attention, you know on the other hand people are going to say is this a bit of a freak show, isn't it? How do you go through that?

DAVIS: I always start with the former. I always start with what is going to get attention and what is going to get talked about. You, in your job, look at a lot of political ads every day. And you probably remember them because that's your business. But the average guy on the street, the average voter, they don't care about that. They remember whatever ad really struck them at the end of the day. It might for a politician, but it might be for a Ford or a Chevy or a bank. Who knows what it would be for. It is my job, I think, first and foremost, to make you remember my client's ads at the end of the day. These are people that spend a lot of their time on miserable phone calls raising money and it is really hard to raise money particularly for a Senate race because of the spending limits. And I think if they're spending $20,000 to air one ad on one television show, they have a right and they're hiring me so people will remember it and talk about it. So that's why we start, always start with attention first, message second.

KING: You said at the top this year from an advertising standpoint you don't see it as any different. Not at all, even though you have this anti-establishment sentiment in the Republican Party that the rise of the tea party, anti-Washington sentiment, in terms of what you're doing, it is no different? You just adapt to the voters' mood?

DAVIS: I think so. Think of two years ago. There was all that same furor but it was on the other side. It was on the pro-Obama side. Politics as you well know is a big pendulum. It swings back and forth. And this particular swing, you know, it came back, the Obama swing came back much more quickly than people were expecting, I think.

KING: If the Democrats burst into that studio now and kidnapped Fred Davis and say you have to help us, write us the perfect ad to get us out of the mess with three weeks left, what would it say?

DAVIS: I probably could come up with something but I'm not going to tell you. I do think about that every now and then.

KING: Fred Davis, we appreciate your time.

DAVIS: Thank you, John.

KING: You to watch them on TV. Would you put a political ad on your front lawn? Pete on the street next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Here's a question, when it comes to political advertising, is simpler better? Our off beat reporter Pete Dominick finds out.

PETE DOMINICK, OFFBEAT REPORTER: Hey John. That's right. What's the most annoying type of political ad? Is it the lawn side, the radio ad, the TV ad. What do people like, what don't they like, what influences them and gives them information on who to vote for? I'm going to go find out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DOMINICK: Would you ever put a sign for a candidate in your lawn?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never.

DOMINICK: Never.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just don't like the nastiness and the TV ads, it is uncalled for.

DOMINICK: Would you put a bumper sticker for a candidate on your car?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would, but it would say something I can't say on TV.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes they lie a little too much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn't make a statement like that on my lawn. I would rather not have people know who I'm supporting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't even know who is on what side.

DOMINICK: Would you put a sign in your lawn for candidate? You have?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Once, because it was for a good friend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It can ruin the neighborhood. The outlook on the neighborhood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. It just seems like they're trying to shove something in your face without telling you why.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're always in my face and I can't escape them. Kind of like you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As far as the environment is concerned, no one picks them up, they're all over the street after it is done with.

DOMINICK: Excuse me, squirrel, squirrel, squirrel. I don't like the sign, just the sign with just anybody's name. If it doesn't say, right, if it says your name, then I don't know anything about you, right? You got to fit more information on there, man.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOMINICK: I think it is fair to say that today we learned nobody likes campaign advertisements, no matter what form they come in but I guess they're a necessary evil. Back to you John.

KING: That's all from us tonight. Have a great weekend. Hope to see you Monday. "PARKER SPITZER" starts right now.