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JOHN KING, USA

GM Stock; Game-Changer; Shaming a Congressman; Terrorists in Civilian Courts; James Carville Controversy; Health Care; Third Political Party Portugal NATO Summit, Afghanistan Withdrawal, Airport Groping

Aired November 18, 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 HOST: Thanks, Wolf, and good evening everyone. Wow, what a busy day in politics. Tonight, a complicated legal challenge for the Obama White House that has some in Washington asking a simple but provocative question -- does the president need a new attorney general?

Also, mixed signals from an embolden Republican Party. You might frame this one this way. Is the right hand not talking to the further right hand? And a 9-1 vote by the House Ethics Committee recommending censure for Congressman Charlie Rangel, once among Washington's most powerful lawmakers, now shamed by ethics violations. And yes, even more big political news and this one might make you cringe when you hear it.

Our contributor, James Carville enrages the Obama White House by suggesting and I'm being very, very, very careful here with my language, that the secretary of state is, shall we say, more of a man than the president. But we begin tonight with your money, a potential glimmer of hope for the made in American level and a very important fact check. This is how the day began on Wall Street.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SOUNDS)

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KING: That revving engine is General Motors, once the icon of American manufacturing, of global manufacturing for that matter. More recently though, GM has been known for shuttered plants and a bankruptcy filing, but its stock is for sale again and it closed up on day one. Good for any of you who decided to buy at the opening price and maybe good for all of you anyway, because as taxpayers, you are part owners of General Motors.

Remember, the federal government pumped $50 billion into GM and at the time, it was more than a little controversial. Back as the loan to GM was kicking in six in 10 Americans opposed the plan. And in the political arena most Republicans mocked as socialism the help for what they then labeled government motors. Here is a sampling.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At least at this stage, the companies are not doing what needs to be done to save the companies. So that puts us on a long-term policy of the government simply propping up this industry endlessly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do disagree with the government just coming in and taking over a company like this. I think that was heavy- handed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this is a bridge loan to nowhere. This is a down payment on many billions to come.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Were all those Republicans wrong? Well, the president thinks so.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There were plenty of doubters and naysayers who said it couldn't be done who were prepared to throw in the towel and read the American auto industry last rites and that wasn't an acceptable option, to throw up our hands and to quit. That's not what we do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So let's help you decide by scrubbing the numbers to get a better sense of whether GM cannot only survive but thrive and whether you will get all of your money back. Ali Velshi is our chief business correspondent and Angus McKinsey (ph) is the editor-in-chief of "Motor Trend" magazine.

Ali, let's begin with you. Walk us through the numbers here.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Let me show you the numbers. You already said $50 billion is what the U.S. government popped into GM, so I am going to show it to you on the wall here. We gave GM $50 billion. They have made some money and they've actually been able to pay back some of that.

As a result of this initial public offering -- I guess that's not showing up -- as a result of the initial public offering today, the amount that General Motors has been able to repay the taxpayers has been $23 billion of the $50 billion. Now that means that there is another $27 billion to go. And in order to do that, two things have to happen.

Angus is going to tell you about one of them. GM has actually got to be a good, valid, going concern. And that is something they still have to prove. The other thing is the stock price has got to go up. It opened up higher than it was expected to. It closed at about $35, but for America to get its money back, the treasury has to sell the remaining 25 percent of GM stock that it still holds at about $55 a share. So a $20 improvement in that stock price. And as you know as well as I do, John that could be a long time. I will just show it to you here. Taxpayers gave General Motors $50 billion initially. General Motors, as a result of what happened today and some other paybacks have given back $27 billion. And basically this is what we are waiting for, the other $23 billion.

Can't tell you, John, whether that's going to be six months down the road or six years down the road. But if Angus can tell us that they are building cars that Americans want to buy, including that Chevy Volt, we may get that money back sooner than we think.

KING: Ali, stay right there and let's put the question to Angus. Angus, you guys just gave GM the "Motor Trend" "Car of the Year" for the Volt and as you know, some people were questioning that decision. The car has been criticized, but here is what you wrote.

"The Volt started life as an old GM project and then arrived fully formed as a symbol of the new GM, carrying all the emotional and political baggage of that profound and painful transition. As a result, a lot of the sound and furry that has surrounded the Volt's launch has tended to obscure a simple truth. This automobile is a game-changer."

Why so? And do you believe -- do you believe that this company closed up today? Is it going to keep going up?

ANGUS MACKENZIE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "MOTOR TREND" MAGAZINE: Well the Volt is a game-changer. And it is a game-changer because of the power train technology in it. The investment in the power-train technology is really an investment in the future of automobile manufacturing in America, because what it does is it puts an American company right in the game of the electrification of the automobile power train, which will become increasingly important as oil prices rise as they will as China motorizes, as the U.S. dollar falls, and oil is priced in a basket of currencies.

So for once, America is thinking forward. It is right in the game. It is doing the sort of forward thinking that made the Japanese such titans of the auto industry. I guess the issue now is can GM carry the momentum of the do-over it was given with the bailout and the bankruptcy? The company is now much leaner. Prior to the bankruptcy, it was inching its way towards restructuring, but it was still a company that was sized to 1970's market expectations instead of 21st century market realities.

We are now starting to see what a leaner GM can do. It can be profitable. It is starting to roll out some very good products. There is a lot more to come. This is an industry that has very long lead times. And you know that's very difficult in an environment where, you know, you have got to do quarterly stock earnings reports if every 90 days you have a report card marked for products that take three to five years to get to market.

KING: And so Ali, as we wait for more products, Angus lays down a pretty optimistic predicate for GM. But if GM does everything right, part of the road to profitability depends on Americans being in a position, our economy, coming back to the point where Americans feel comfortable --

VELSHI: Exactly right.

KING: -- putting down the money for cars, right?

VELSHI: That's exactly right. And you'll recall that while GM wasn't doing the right thing a few years ago, neither was Chrysler. The fact is it was Americans inability to get credit to buy cars and a recession that was costing them jobs that actually was the nail in the coffin. So we have to depend on GM doing the right thing, which by the way they haven't proved that they could do in the past, GM making cars people want to buy -- Angus is on to something there -- and Americans being able to have the confidence to buy new cars and invest in this terrific technology.

I'll tell you this much, John. I just drove a Nissan Leaf (ph) a couple of hours ago, the competitor to the Volt and all electric cars as opposed to the Hybrid electric that the Volt is, but this new breed of car is going to be very interesting for Americans. If we can get the money and the jobs and the credit to buy these cars, I think there might be something there. But GM is far from out of the woods right now.

KING: And so Ali Velshi, to you on this question, for the American taxpayer out there watching right now, who opposed this bailout, who thought the president was sending money essentially down a failed enterprise to begin with, is the bailout a success or is that still an open question?

VELSHI: Oh I think it is a success. The part that's being left out of the conversation is that it is estimated that a million jobs were saved as a result of not letting GM fail but going into a structured bankruptcy instead. So that's a very, very big deal. In an economy where jobs are stuck, the fact that we didn't lose another million jobs is actually an important part.

So I think on that front, it did succeed. But we're not going to be able to say it succeeded in five years if that 23 billion is still outstanding. This company is going to have to get its act together and going to have to get that share price up.

KING: And Angus (INAUDIBLE) this is probably more of a political question than an economic or industry question, but the American dream was built when the industrial revolution came through the United States and the auto industry was at the center of that, good-paying jobs with good benefits in a long-term outlook that made communities, that made middle class communities all around America -- I traveled through the Midwest quite a bit and you see the rusted, old GM communities. Is this the beginning of a turnaround or is it too early to answer that question?

MACKENZIE: I think it is the beginning of a turnaround, but what we've got to understand is that the American market is now globalized and normalized and the market share that the Detroit three enjoyed during the 1950's and '60s is frankly unsustainable. The whole issue with General Motors and with Chrysler was that companies were too big. They had too many dealers, had too many workers, had too many factories.

Well now in a single moment they've been able to chop through that and get this do-over and start again. And I think it is important that manufacturing remains a part of the U.S. economy. And the level the six out of 10 of every Americans who couldn't care whether GM or Chrysler lived or died showed how low manufacturing was valued in this country I think is a strategically important skill that America has going forward.

I don't think we are ever going to get back to the 1950s and '60s. The auto industry has changed. The game has changed. The U.S. market has changed. But, we can have a viable and vibrant domestically owned manufacturing, auto manufacturing business. No question.

KING: Well I hope you are right on that point. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican or Independent out there watching, we should all hope Angus is dead right on that point that we can have a revival of American manufacturing. Angus MacKenzie, Ali Velshi, thanks for walking us through the numbers tonight on a very important story. We appreciate it and we'll keep on top of this, want to see if all of your money comes back to the taxpayers.

When we come back you know James Carville, he's a veteran Democratic strategist. He's a veteran CNN contributor. Sometimes he says very controversial things. Well this morning at breakfast he said something, a comparison between the male president and the female secretary of state that has the White House enraged. We will tell you what in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The United States Capitol there this evening. In that dome, under that dome tonight, shame, shame for one of the most powerful men on Capitol Hill once. By a 9-1 vote, the House Ethics Committee recommends the full House censure Congressman Charles Rangel of New York. The announcement came just about an hour ago after a dramatic and even tearful day. Let's go live to CNN congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar. Brianna, give us the latest of what has been a difficult and a shameful day for Charlie Rangel.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, this is serious. A censure is one step below expulsion. And this is the recommendation of the Ethics Committee. Still, there will be a vote scheduled by the full House. The full House will have to decide, but I think the thought is that they will probably move on this recommendation. And if they agree, this process is in essence public humiliation.

Charlie Rangel would have to go on the floor of the House and he would receive a verbal rebuke from the speaker of the House herself. This coming today just a few days after an Ethics Subcommittee found that Rangel was guilty on 11 of 12 counts of violating House rules for four different things. A couple of them, failing to pay taxes on income from a rental villa that he owns in the Dominican Republic even though at the time he was the chairman of the powerful Tax-Writing Committee and also soliciting donations for a college center bearing his name, doing that with companies that had business before his committee and also doing that using official congressional letterhead as well as staff time, official congressional staff. This is a very big deal, this recommendation of a censure -- John.

KING: And Brianna, will they act -- the full House act on this quickly?

KEILAR: I think the expectation is that they will act quickly. It is still to be scheduled, but hopefully we will know that very soon.

KING: Brianna Keilar for us on Capitol Hill and this huge story and she is dead right, censure is a very stiff penalty although you will hear calls that he should be expelled. We'll keep on top of that story.

But now we turn to the White House where there is a huge legal controversy. The administration's first attempt to try a Guantanamo terror detainee in civil court resulted in one guilty verdict and acquittals on all 284, 284 other counts against the accused terrorist Ahmed Galani (ph). The verdict has some prominent Republicans demanding that all future trials for alleged terrorists be held before military commissions, not in civilian courts. But in the taping for CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE" a short time ago, Vice President Joe Biden says it is not that easy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you go to so-called article three courts that is tried (ph) in federal courts, all the stuff was you can't try them in federal courts. You have got to worry about terrorists attacking the court. You can't try them in federal courts. They are not going to get sentenced. He's getting a longer sentence. He'll be in jail longer than if any other method were tried. The same thing George Bush did with the shoe bomber, same thing he did with the 24th hijacker.

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: So you are saying in the future with others, you would go civilian court?

BIDEN: Yes, there is no reason not to go civilian court based on this case, at least.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And as conservatives publicly criticize the White House decision to take that case to civilian trial, there are also some private conversations that this is a repudiation to the Attorney General Eric Holder who has adopted this strategy. So does the president need a new attorney general? Let's go to our senior White House correspondent Ed Henry -- Ed. ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well good evening, John. You know I can tell you senior people hear say Eric Holder still has the president's confidence. They have a warm, personal friendship. But let's not forget that the last time there was a top official here who sort of you know ended up kind of messing something up on the war on terror, it was Greg Craig (ph), the White House counsel, who was the person, chief person who advised the president in week one of this administration to sign an executive order promising they could close Guantanamo within one year.

That deadline has long passed. We are coming up now on two years since the president's been in office, Guantanamo nowhere close to being closed. This case despite what the vice president just said is obviously raising questions about whether they can move forward in civilian courts. As the attorney general has suggested in other big terror cases, senior officials here are acknowledging it is going to make it tougher in some of those cases.

But they still are planning to go ahead, at least in some cases in civilian courts, although they still won't say what they'll do with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other major, major terror suspects. But what I think the bottom line here is, is it's showing that it would seem very black and white back in the 2008 campaign that they were going to do things differently in terms of executing the war on terror. It turns out it is a lot more gray once you are in office -- John.

KING: Very well put. Our senior White House correspondent Ed Henry -- Ed, we'll stay on top of this one, too. Thanks so much.

Next the delicate matter of James Carville's latest comparison between Hillary Clinton and President Obama. James Carville is on the phone with us from New Orleans tonight. James, I appreciate your joining us because you've caused quite a stir in town by comments you made this morning at a breakfast meeting.

And I am going to read a reporter who was there, Mike Mamoley (ph) of "The Tribune News Service" tweeted this. And if you are listening at home, I'm going to read this as it was said and some of you may not like the language, but I'm going to read it right here.

James Carville to reporters this a.m., quote, "If Hillary gave up one of her balls and gave it to Obama, he'd have two." James, there are a lot of your friends in the senior Democratic Party and in the Obama White House who are outraged tonight.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR (via phone): Well (INAUDIBLE) outraged in the campaign. I said it and it was reported in "Newsweek" and (INAUDIBLE) put it in the column of "The New York Times". (INAUDIBLE) the outrage it's a joke. In fact, it was an old joke and I was making a point as I said in the campaign. So the people in the White House should be more current.

KING: But he is the president of the United States. If you said it during the campaign, is there any different standard now than he is in fact the president of the United States that maybe should caution you not to repeat an off-color, ill -- off-language -- I'm not quite sure what to call it -- joke.

CARVILLE: Well I may have (INAUDIBLE) all of the things that people say about the president and I actually support (INAUDIBLE) all the things the president does, I think (INAUDIBLE) and I repeated a joke I made in the campaign and if -- you know if they are offended, I'm not -- let them be offended.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: What was the context in which you repeated it?

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: We were talking about, I think it was (INAUDIBLE) I have to go back and remember get the transcript, but that he needed to stand up more to these things, and that they let him off too easy. And I believe that was the context but I don't remember. And I said you know during the campaign I said, boom. And if I offended anybody, I'm not sorry and I don't apologize.

KING: All right --

CARVILLE: (INAUDIBLE) repeating of a joke and it actually, you know apparently people laughed at it.

KING: So if you are not apologizing that means you meant it.

CARVILLE: Well I didn't mean it. I meant it as a joke. I mean it's just kind of -- yes, it was something I had said before and I repeated the joke and it just didn't strike me as something being, you know particularly egregious or anything. I can understand why, why they don't like it, but it was just repeating a joke and that just happens sometimes in politics. This thing can't all be like serious, you know long-face stuff. Every now and then, you've got, you know you've got to enjoy yourself a little bit and it was just a joke. Don't take it too much more than that but that's what it was and I'm not sorry I told it.

KING: All right that's an explanation from our James Carville. James, we appreciate it. James stepped out of a very important event with his daughter to talk to us tonight, so we appreciate him joining us on the telephone and we will talk to him in person in the very near future. James thank you.

And joining us more to talk about this and what's in and what's out when it comes to talking about the president from Atlanta CNN contributor Erick Erickson, he's the editor-in-chief of the conservative blog RedState.com, has said a few things that have gotten him in trouble from time to time, in New York CNN contributor John Avlon, senior political columnist with the DailyBeast.com and here in Washington, political contributor Roland Martin.

The language of this one is hard. It is something James did say. It is a comparison he made during the campaign when both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, then Senator Clinton and Senator Obama were candidates for president. Does it make a difference, John Avlon to you first -- Roland, you go first on this one. You are right here with me.

Does it make a difference? He is the president of the United States now and she is the secretary of state. To say if Hillary Clinton gave up one of her -- I'm not going to say it again -- gave up one of her and gave it to Obama, he would have two.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: There is a difference and I believe you have to have respect for the office of president. I understand what James said. He explained us the context and so what he did was he mixed a present-day discussion as relates to what the president should do with a joke that he told during the campaign. And so, frankly, it is not like he was repeating -- it is not like he was telling a story from 2008 and was really linking the two. So yes it is disrespectful to the president of the United States to make that kind of comment, absolutely.

KING: John, you just heard James' explanation where he said if I offended anybody, I don't apologize.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes and if a Republican had made the same crack and then refused to apologize, I think there would be a lot more offended people tonight than already there are. Roland makes the right point. I appreciate that James was joking, and we do need a good sense of humor in politics. But this is about the president at the end of the day and it's different than in a campaign context.

And the reality of our political dialogue is today is "A" you are never off stage. "B", you know if you throw the long bomb, if you throw -- if you start you know throwing around comparisons like this, it is going to get picked up widely and the context you meant it in isn't going to matter. And James knows that. So I think this was off color, off base and not a wise move.

KING: Erick Erickson, you have apologized for a few controversial things you have said in the past and you've stood by some others saying no, I meant it and that's why I said it. What do you make of this one?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know who cares? James Carville is a private citizen. He said this before in the past. When I was -- got a phone call earlier and said he said it, it was like is this current, he said this before? Who cares? Yes, Barack Obama is the president of the United States. For eight years I sat in front of the TV and listened to Democrats call George Bush the stupidest man to be president and idiot and what have you and everybody knows what James meant. Everybody knows James' personality who watches TV, big deal.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Actually, Erick, well that speaks exactly to what the problem is and that is I do believe you have to have respect for the office. I remember that on election night, Bill Bennett made a comment to Paul Begala saying well you know Clinton was your president and (INAUDIBLE) of this is your president. I said, no, President Obama is also your president. There are people who said the exact same thing of President George W. Bush. I also said he is also your president. Look I take offense to people calling him Barack Obama. He is President Barack Obama. And so you should respect the office regardless of Democrat or Republican.

(CROSSTALK)

ERICKSON: He's also a politician.

(CROSSTALK)

ERICKSON: He may be president of the United States but he is also a politician. And if he can't handle James Carville saying something like this, trust me I have got plenty of friends who have said a lot worse than --

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: I understand that --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I am going to call a time-out right here. I'm going to call a time-out. We will continue the conversation. These guys aren't going anywhere. We will continue this conversation. We have got more to talk to them about when we come back and also a lot more ahead in the program, including a conversation with the number three man in the Democratic leadership, James Clyburn of South Carolina.

We'll ask him the question -- did Democrats get the message? What comes next after the election drumming (ph)? And there is a big summit coming up, the NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal, a key player there, General David Petraeus. He's the commanding general of your troops in Afghanistan and our Barbara Starr interviewed him. She's just back. She'll join us with a progress report.

And Pete Dominick. No, he is not joining the TSA, but he is going to give us some reporting, personal reporting on pat-downs.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We have a lot of big interesting stories in politics today. Let's talk (INAUDIBLE) bit of a lightning ground with our group here, John Avlon, Erick Erickson, and Roland Martin is still with us. I want to start with what I will call maybe here a potential case of mixed message from the new emboldened Republican Party.

On the one hand you have Newt Gingrich, the former speaker and the likely future presidential candidate out at the Republican governors meeting in San Diego. And he says, health care, repeal, huge issue. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: And finally, every Republican presidential candidate is going to run based on repeal. The Republicans are going to gain 12 to 14 Senate seats, 40 House seats and by no later than April of 2013, it is going to be repealed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: A prediction there from Newt Gingrich -- my question to you guys is does that emphasis on health care, repeal, repeal, repeal, contradict in some ways what the new Republican leadership in Washington is trying to do. Here's a tweet from John Boehner today who will be the speaker of the House come January, new Republican leadership team will focus on creating jobs, cutting spending and reforming Congress, other statements (INAUDIBLE) jobs, jobs, and jobs. Maybe this is inevitable. You have one group taking control in Congress and another group running for president. Erick Erickson, who is going to control the message?

ERICKSON: Oh they are going to vote on repealing health care and they are going to keep voting on repealing health care. Amazingly, politicians on both sides of the aisle know how to multitask. They can do both.

KING: But when Obama did that, John Avlon, when he tried to multitask, a lot of people say that was the beginning of the end. When he said sure we have got to worry about jobs, but that takes time, so let's also pass this health care bill.

AVLON: Yes and that is when numbers started to decline. Look it is the difference between trying to take responsibility for governing and being engaged in the permanent opposition campaign and being stuck in an Obama mode (ph). I'll tell you the person who is most caught in the middle on this conflict is Mitt Romney. He has got a big problem. If Newt Gingrich is right, and it is all about repealing health care, he has got a lot of explaining to do.

MARTIN: Well based upon Newt's predictions I -- can he give me some lotto numbers please since he's predicting all these different things. Look bottom line is if you're Republican and you focus on health care and you don't focus on jobs, first, second and third, you are going to have trouble come 2012.

KING: I think that's an interesting test to watch because they want to do health care. The question is will the voters punish them for it? We will keep an eye on that one. Remember last night, we talked about Michael Bloomberg saying how hard it would be, almost impossible he said for somebody to run as an Independent, a third- party candidate for president. Well out at that very same meeting Newt Gingrich was at Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi and the head of the Republican Governors Association said amen. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR (R), MISSISSIPPI: I'm not going to argue with Mayor Bloomberg, I think he's exactly right. But I think if a strong, third-party candidate got into the race, the big beneficiary is Barack Obama.

Now, if you get a third party to come in and split the vote of conservatives, split the vote of people who don't like Obama's policies, that's the best thing could happen to Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: John Avlon, Haley Barbour, if he's good at one thing, it's math.

AVLON: Well, I mean look, I mean, the numbers get more difficult for at least one of the two established parties if a major third party candidate comes in. You know, and I think the only scenario where that could actually happen is if Sarah Palin were somehow the nominee and then there would be a huge opening up in the middle of the electorate. But, we've seen this in scenario before in 1912 when Woodrow Wilson was elected after generations of Republican rule of the White House, so Haley Barbour's got some history in mind, but I don't think it looks likely that that's going to happen.

MARTIN: Haley Barbour has recent history, 1992. I'm sure Ross Perot is still ringing in his head because again, you got a popular president, even though with the economy, after the Gulf War, a year later, he was packing. He is saying, you run as a fiscal conservative, the GOP nominee is doomed.

ERICKSON: Yeah, you know, Teddy Roosevelt, best known third-party president candidate ever, he lost, a democrat got elected. Ross Perot, best-funded third-party candidate ever, he lost, Bill Clinton got elected. Third-party candidates for president, typically elect Democrats.

KING: All right, one of the big questions since the Democrats lost the election: Would he have the guts to stand up on some issues after they're whacking in the election. Well, today we learned that they will at least try on tax cuts. The House current majority -- I'm having a hard time speaking -- call them the majority in January, they won't be, but the Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer putting out a statement saying the House will vote on an extension of middle class tax cuts before they expire. Democrats firmly committed to continuing tax cuts for middle class families' income up to $250,000. And he goes on to say, and this is the important part, they will fight on this one. "We cannot afford to add $700 million to the deficit to benefit the wealthiest Americans." Smart move, John?

AVLON: Well, the line in the sand has been draw. I think politically, Democrats are trying to say, we defend the middle class and we'll leave the Republicans to try to push through tax cuts for the rich. I think the whole tax argument's changed, though, since Democrats began this debate, but it's a very smart tactically strong move. We have a line in the sand, we know how this debate's going to go down going forward, now.

ERICKSON: Yeah, you know, the Democrats -- a lot of people said the Republicans are going to vote against the stimulus and get clobbered, they're going to vote against health care, they're going to get clobbered. These are the same people now saying if Republicans try to repeal health care they're going to get clobbered. If they try to do full tax cuts, keeping tax cuts, they're going to get clobbered. No, they're not. You know, most people understand that if the Democrats do this, at some point, they can come for the other people's tax cuts, as well.

MARTIN: Bottom line is the reason you do this because you say, how can you guys sit here and want tax cuts for the rich, when you sat there and blocked unemployment benefits, extending them? That's how you actually frame the conversation. If the Democrats were smart, they will stay on this point. And the reason Hoyer came up with that comment, that was an ode to the president, you better stand with us on this one as opposed trying to meeting the other side in the middle.

KING: All right, we're just about --

ERICKSON: Just appoint at Nancy Pelosi, so we got to question their smarts.

MARTIN: Well, but she's a tough leader who got a lot of things through where others were scared to.

KING: We're out of time, here, so I need you guys to cooperate with me. Haley Barbour had a closed door, little hand check with the Republican governor saying raise your hand if you think we got to get a new chairman other than Michael Steele. I'm going to ask you guys the question this way: Haley Barbour's answer was," most governor want a new chairman." Anybody here, raise your hand if you think Michael Steele will be elected to a new term as Republican National Committee chairman.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: The real question is, will he run?

KING: Going once, going twice, we have no hands up in this room. Gentlemen, thanks for coming in. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, headlines, today's other top news and Jim Clyburn. We'll ask him including, we'll ask him if he has anything to say about the ethics reputation of Charlie Rangel.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. Let's check in with Joe Johns for the latest news you need to know, right now.

Hey there

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, Saudi Arabia's Prince Khalid al-Faisal today acknowledged his country, alerted the U.S. and European authorities to the parcel bomb shipped form Yemen.

New satellite imagery indicates North Korea may be further pursuing its nuclear program. Two recent sets satellite photos show what experts believe is tunneling work.

And a Malaysian man has just been charged with hacking into the computer network of a U.S. federal reserve bank in Cleveland, Ohio and stealing more than 400,000 credit card and debit card numbers. Boy that -- one thing I got to say about that, beats working.

KING: Yeah, hope it is not mine. Here's a little known factoid. The Secret Service protects the president of the United States. Guess what? They're the lead people investigating things like that, that's their case.

JOHNS: Well, no wonder he got caught.

KING: Smart guys. There you go. Go wonder. All right, Joe, thanks.

When we come back, Jim Clyburn is the No. 3 in the House Democratic leadership. We'll ask him about the ethics reputation of Charlie Rangel today and the criticism of the Congressional Black Caucus by new African-American Republicans. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: When Democrats give up control of the House next year, South Carolina's James Clyburn, currently the majority whip, will remain number three in the party's leadership. In a break with precedent, he will hold a newly created position, assistant Democratic leader. Congressman Clyburn joins us from Capitol Hill.

Sir, it's good to see you. I want to start with a story that's developing today and that is the proposed ethics punishment against your friend and long-time colleague, Charlie Rangel. He has been found guilty on 11 of 12 ethics violations. And the recommendation from the committee to the full House is that he should be censured. Is that an appropriate penalty or should he resign?

REP JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I have not talked to Charlie about that. I just read those comments -- those reports coming across the wires. And quite frankly, I am really trying to internalize this and I would rather not make any public comments about it at this moment.

KING: He has complained that he has been treated unfairly by the committee. Do you see any evidence of that?

CLYBURN: Well, I don't know about that. I saw his comments a couple days ago. I think it had to do with the process on the day he showed up without counsel as to whether or not they should go forward. I don't know about that. This has gone on for a couple of years, now. And I do believe that it would serve no useful purpose for me to pass any judgment on that.

KING: All right, let's move on to your new challenge in your new position. There have been a number of people in the party, we had Congressman, Peter DeFazio, a long-time colleague and a friend of yours, on the program, last night, who had said, you know what, we just suffered a pretty historic drubing, here. The Republicans won 61 net seats in the House and yet, we are putting forward the exact same leadership team led by Nancy Pelosi. You're a member of that team, sir, so maybe it is foolish for me to even ask the question. But, do you understand the critics who say how can we suffer such a drubing and then say, let's stay with the same team.

CLYBURN: Well, I certainly understand that. And a lot of criticism may be ordered and it should be received by all of us. I don't mind being critiqued, but I do believe that we should be honest with ourselves when we talk about what really contributed to all of this. I've never seen it anywhere when the experts did not say that when you are the incumbent and you are facing 10 percent unemployment, those headwinds created from that are pretty significant and very hard to overcome. And so, I don't care who may be at the helm. If you've got that kind of unemployment, it's a problem and you are going to become a poster child. And so, I can understand that, but let's look at the leadership team that got us through four years into the majority, the four years ago, after being out in the wilderness for 12 years. That was this team. And so, I would say, if we did it before, we can do it again.

KING: Well, let me ask you first a question looking back at the campaign and then a question looking forward to your new responsibility. Looking back a little bit, many of your colleagues have said, you know, for all the people saying it is Nancy Pelosi's fault, maybe they should look down the road, look up Pennsylvania many Democrats complaining that in some of his policy choices before the election and then in the way the White House acted during the campaign that the president put his own interests ahead of the party's interests. Do you buy that?

CLYBURN: No, I don't buy that at all. The president was dealt a pretty tough hand. And people say it is time for us to accept responsibility and stop blaming the past. Well, the fact of the matter is, we did stop the hemorrhage of 1,000 jobs a month. We did start creating jobs, at one point 1.2 million jobs created in the last 10 months. What we need to do is create four or five million jobs a year and everybody would be happy. The fact of the matter is, we have a gradual improvement recovery taking place. It is just not fast enough for me, so it is certainly not fast enough for many of my constituents but we are moving in the right direction and hopefully, we will see things coming out of the White House and out of this Congress that will speed that up.

I would hope that the new majority in the House of Representatives will work with this president and help us get this country moving again and stop all this foolishness about saying that your first order of business is to make sure that this man does not get reelected. That's not going to do anybody any good. What we need to do is think what's best for the country and forget about the politics until next election season.

KING: One of the big changes in the next Congress when the Republicans take the majority is that they will have in their caucus in their conference for the first time in seven years African-American memberships on the house side. Two members, African-Americans elected.

One of them was with us the other night on a program. And in a conversation about whether he would join the professional Tim Scott, whether he would join the Professional Black Caucus, he was quite critical of the priorities of the Congressional Black Caucus. To, Scott, he says he is undecided. He also was quite critical of the priorities of the Congressional Black Caucus. I want you to listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know that the inner cities of America s are not receiving the type of assistance it needs because it cannot come from the government. If we are going to see an opportunity, we need to promote entrepreneurship. That is a private sector response to challenges in the economy. If we want to see the inner cities and communities where I grew up prospering, then we're going to have to focus attention allowing for private and public schools to compete in communities. I don't hear that being addressed in the CBC.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Does Mr. Scott have a point?

CLYBURN: I don't think so. I did not see my service as representing the inner city.

KING: Forgive me. I don't think he just meant you. I His point was that the Congressional Black Caucus is a group, in his view ,was too urban focused, too government spending focused, not enough community empowered focused.

CLYBURN: Well, that's exactly what I thought when I went into the caucus and that's why I'm not going to the caucus. I'm not going to stand outside and criticize. I go in there, I sit around that table and I make the case for the communities that I represent. And I would say to Tim Scott, a very fine young man. I know him very well. He and my daughter are great friends. I would say, please, come into the caucus. Help make the case for rural South Carolina. I would love to have some company there to help so that they would know that it comes in a bipartisan way.

So I would expect the hand of friendship to him and I hope he would join the caucus. I don't agree with everybody in the caucus all the times. We have very spirited discussions in the Congressional Black Caucus. So this notion that all of us think the same way is just not true. We are not monolithic by any means. We have rural communities and interests being discussed in that caucus as well as urban. And so I would say to him, come join us, help us move the country in a way it should go. I think he will find the service there very stimulating and very helpful.

KING: Congressman Clyburn, thanks for your time.

CLYBURN: Thank you so much for having me.

KING: When we come back, the president is about to head to a big NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal. The issue to discuss, the strategy in Afghanistan. Well our Barbara Starr is just back with an exclusive interview with commanding general, David Petraeus. We'll have that conversation in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: As Obama is about to head to Portugal for a NATO summit, the big goal there, put the final touches on a plan that calls for ending the war effort in Afghanistan by the year 2014. Our Barbara Starr is just back from Afghanistan and had an exclusive conversation with the commanding general, David Petraeus. So, let's talk about the deadline.

First, I want you to listen, Joe Biden, the vice president is on LARRY KING LIVE, tonight, and he was having a conversation about why, why do we need deadlines. Listen to this about Hamid Karzai.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: You've got to step up, man. Let me tell you, we're going to start -- daddy's going to start to take the training wheels off in October. I mean, in next July, so you better practice riding.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Interesting language there, but a nudge at President Karzai and a reflection of the lack of trust or at least the doubts about him. You put the same question to General Petraeus in asking about his relationship with the Afghan president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. COMMANDER IN AFGHANISTAN: I believe that I have a very good relationship with him. We meet several times a week, we do at least two one-on-ones a week. We have done trips together out to various provinces Afghanistan. And the fact is that we do indeed come at issues from different perspectives at time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I mean, when he's done with that uniform? He should be secretary of state. He's very diplomatic.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Diplomatic words from a man who chooses his words very carefully, John. Five weeks in Afghanistan, I can tell you: politics, politics, politics, what a surprise, is what's going on right now. Hamid Karzai under pressure at home to show he can be independent. President Obama going to the Lisbon summit this weekend trying to make sure that Hamid Karzai does not back him into a corner, that they can have an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan. As the months go on

KING: Interesting you say politics because there is a perception here, especially among the president's critics, from skeptics, anyway, that his essentially marching orders to the general have been "get me out" not so much "do nation building," you know, "get the Afghanistan forces out," but "do the minimum possible to get us out." You put that question to the general and it seemed to get under his skin a little bit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: Many people now believe that that is actually the focus of the U.S. effort: Do what you can, work on security, economic development, governance, but it is now all aimed at getting out of Afghanistan.

PETRAEUS: Well, I must not have gotten that memo, because my marching orders are to, indeed, do everything humanly possible to help achieve our very important objectives here in Afghanistan. Let's remember that the reason we're here is of enormous importance to our country and, indeed, to Afghanistan and the entire world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: But for the soldier on the ground, this is General Petraeus speaking at the 40,000 foot level. We spoke to a lot of individual soldiers for them, make no mistake, it's all about what it's always all about, when we can go home? And that's really what they are looking forward to.

KING: And to the point that the goal now, the president said start coming out in the summer of 2011. The Lisbon summit will start to say out in 2014.

STARR: But there is out and there is out.

KING: There's out and there's out.

STARR: Yeah, because still it's just like a wreck. There's going to be U.S. troops there doing training, doing support, a huge diplomatic mission. The U.S. will be in Afghanistan for decades to come.

KING: All right Barbara, we'll keep in touch as the summit plays out. Festinating conversation with the general. Welcome home. And when we come back, you have heard about the new TSA security measures. Some people complain it's an invasion of privacy. Are they? We sent, who better, than Pete Dominick to an airport to get a -- whatever. He'll join us on the other side. I'm not quite sure what that is. .

PETE DOMINICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ooh, I like that. That's nice. Ooh, very good. Thank you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Big debate in TV, in the halls of Congress, about these new aggressive screening procedures at the airport, so who better to check all this out than pat-down Pete Dominick -- Pete.

DOMINICK: That's right, John King. I flew from LaGuardia to Atlanta where I am this morning just to figure out exactly what was going on, John King, and. I have to admit I'm not one of those people that is opposed to being touched. As a matter of fact, I did everything, John King, to get touched. I tried to trip all the flags. I bought cash - one-way with cash, I wore baggy clothes, I was twitchy, I was sweaty, I looked nervous. John, they didn't pay attention to me whatsoever. They wouldn't touch me. No one came anywhere near the junk, as they say. I just wanted to be touched. And kind of intimacy, nothing, John. And then the 80- year-old lady behind me, she got taken out back for a full cavity search, so I don't know what it's going to take.

KING: You're disappointed, aren't you?

DOMINICK: I am. I just wanted, you know, I liked it, when you travel at 5:00 in the morning, you want a little conversation, maybe light petting.

KING: Maybe you got the celebrity treatment because, you know, they're fans of JOHN KING USA or WHAT THE WEEK.

DOMINICK: That's true, that's true. On the way out of Atlanta, every time the TSA guys were always very friendly. They go, "Hey, you're the bald CNN guy," and I know that already, sir. But, thank you very much.

KING: I know a few. I'm going to send your photo. That's all for us tonight.

DOMINICK: They say, "Hey, James Carville -- "

KING: "PARKER SPITZER" start right now.