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Chris Christie for President?; Interview with Governor John Hickenlooper; Risky Loans

Aired September 27, 2011 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Good evening everyone.

Tonight President Obama turns testy when asked if he should be doing more to help African-Americans hurt by the bad economy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why not target the African-American community? Why not say then this is for you. This is for African- Americans. If there was a banking crisis and you target money for the banks, if there was a national disaster you target -- you'd target your money for the national --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- disaster relief.

OBAMA: That's not how -- that's not how America works.


KING: Plus word the president was warned directly by two top advisers about the risk of lending money to a now bankrupt energy company. The administration fast tracked that loan despite those warnings and taxpayers now must foot the half billion dollar bill.

But up first tonight, the political story that is by far generating the most buzz today. Talk New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is considering a late entry to the Republican race for president.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The title for Governor Christie's speech tonight at the Reagan Library, real American exceptionalism. Lester, that's the kind of speech title that a presidential candidate might give.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Christie was in Missouri yesterday. He travels to Louisiana later this week. He still insists he is not running.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would be wiser just to sit back. He's got some time. But, look, it is chaotic in there. There are a lot of people. It is tempting. You know you could be president. That's big.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That definitely sounds like someone is dabbling, that's for sure.


KING: There is a big speech at the Reagan Presidential Library tonight. Republican fund-raisers across the country this week and word from friend and the former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean that Christie is now seriously considering a late entry into the GOP race. But here is tonight's truth. He isn't running.

And while he's listening closely, very closely, to friends and fund-raisers begging him to reconsider, the best bet is that Governor Christie stays on the sidelines. Why? Well, for starters, the governor's greatest strength as a politician is that he's viewed as a straight shooter, a guy who calls it like he sees it. And this is how he sees himself.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't feel like I'm ready to be president. I don't want to run for president. I don't have the fire in the belly to run for president.


KING: So I say take the governor at his word, especially when he adds this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, short of suicide, I don't really know what I would have to do to convince you people that I'm not running. I'm not running.


KING: Still not convinced? Remember Governor Christie is a former prosecutor, a guy who knows how to make a strong case. Imagine what a good ad man -- that's a prosecutor in politics -- imagine what a good ad man could do at this snippet from what you just heard, especially given the huge issues facing the country right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't feel ready in my heart to be president.


KING: And there is more. Any good lawyer studies the precedent and Texas governor Rick Perry is exhibit A for Governor Christie.


GOV. RICK PERRY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mitt Romney that was on the side of -- against the Second Amendment, before he was for the Second Amendment, was it -- was before he was before the social programs from the standpoint of he was far standing up for Roe v. Wade.


KING: A little confused there maybe? The reason successful candidates start running so early is so they make those mistakes in small New Hampshire living rooms or at a barn in Iowa. And the lessons learned well before the glare of nationally televised debates. Plus the mythical candidacy is almost always more fun than the actual candidacy.

Just ask Fred Thompson or Rudy Giuliani, even Governor Perry. Yes, Perry still leads the GOP pack in national polls, but his views on immigration, including in-state tuition breaks for children of illegal immigrants are giving some conservatives pause. So then how do you think hard-line conservatives would process this?

"The New York Times" quotes Governor Christie as saying this back in 2008. "Being in this country without proper documentation is not a crime." And then there is this, from just last year.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the president and the Congress have to step up to the plate, they have to secure our borders, and they have to put forward a common sense path to citizenship for people.


KING: A common sense path to citizenship. Citizenship for illegal immigrants is about as popular with Tea Party voters as President Obama or deficit spending. Christie like Perry would have some explaining to do. So again, I say, take him at his word.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you want me to say? Like I'll jump off a building if they nominate me? So I mean this -- I can't say this any other way. I am not a candidate for president.


KING: So why then all this buzz? Well, Rich Galen and Gloria Borger have a few thoughts about that. Rich, I want to start with you because I bumped into you a few times back with Fred Thompson in 2008, a lot of people say why do we say this is late? This isn't late. Iowa doesn't vote for 130 more days, there is plenty of time to get in, but it is hard.

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, it really is and the early days of March, April, May traveling around the living rooms and the barns as you put it, that's like spring training for a professional baseball team. That's when you learn how to cover first on a bunt. That's how you learn all the kind of fundamentals.

And when you get into the actual race, the little mistakes are not little mistakes because it is the championship season. There is a very famous saying. In most NFL stadiums the most popular guy in the stadium is the backup quarterback. He's never fumbled the ball. He's never you know thrown an interception. And Perry was that guy. He strapped on this chin strap, ran -- took us behind center and fumbled the ball.

KING: And so he's not running. I think we all agree at the table he's not running --


KING: -- except, except his office releases some excerpts of this speech tonight, he's going to give it at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. That's a pretty big stage for a Republican and remember he's a governor. This is among the things he says in this speech tonight. "Today the biggest challenge we must meet is the one we present to ourselves. To not become a nation that places entitlement ahead of accomplishment, to not become a country that places comfortable lies ahead of difficult truths, to not become a people that thinks so little of ourselves that we demand no sacrifice from each other. We are a better people than that and we must demand a better nation than that."

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The shining city upon a hill, sounds like Ronald Reagan, right?

KING: That sounds like a guy running for president --

BORGER: It does --

KING: -- even though he's not running for president.

BORGER: Right. He's not running for president. Just consider the forum he's at. Just consider where he's at. Nancy Reagan asked him to speak there so this has to be a speech that is a large speech, and particularly given all the attention that he's getting. But I agree with you. Look, he's not going to run. Republicans are searching for Ronald Reagan. Guess what? They're not going to find Ronald Reagan in this particular field. And Ronald Reagan is -- Chris Christie is not Ronald Reagan either.

KING: But it's pretty flattering when you have all these people saying --


KING: -- the field has a hole. We need you. You're the guy who can beat Obama --


KING: We can raise a boat load of money for you.


GALEN: A ton of money for your re-election campaign --

KING: Right.

GALEN: -- for governor of New Jersey. Let me make this point quickly. That four years ago like today the polling had Hillary Clinton at 47 percent, Barack Obama at 26. On our side, the Republican side, Giuliani 28, Thompson 23, McCain, so if you took McCain and Obama and the points, you did very well.

KING: You took McCain and Obama and the points, I missed that bet. We play -- in the intro there I played some of his views on immigration because I think what Governor Perry has learned is you look great, and you get in the race and people start to scrub your record and they look. And yes Republicans talk about electability, but primaries are about ideology. So we heard what he said about immigration. That would be a tough sell to conservative voters. How about this? On gun control he said this in an interview with Sean Hannity in October 2009.

"What I support are common sense laws that will allow people to protect themselves. But I'm also very concerned about the safety of our police officers on the streets, very concerned. And I want to make sure that we don't have an abundance of guns out there", so trying to find a middle ground on gun control.


BORGER: Right. But that's not going to make lots of Republicans happy, conservative Republicans happy. Just like Perry disappointed them on the immigration issue --

KING: And no border fence.

BORGER: Exactly and the -- and the HPV vaccine. So there is no perfect candidate. And into that vacuum jumps, I would argue, Romney, because Romney, by being sort of the slow -- the steady guy, may be the person lots of Republicans are now thinking who can beat Barack Obama because Romney can actually make the race about Barack Obama by not being exciting or controversial.

KING: One more -- one more on the issues, climate change, which to conservatives, again, is a tough one. And here is Chris Christie sounding, forgive me Governor, like Al Gore. "Climate change is real. Human activity plays a role in these changes. When you have over 90 percent of the world scientists who have studied this stating that climate change is occurring and that humans play a contributing role, it is time to defer to the experts." That would be another tough sell, correct?

GALEN: Yes, when I run for president, here is how I'm going to describe climate change. Let's all agree that it is better to put less junk in the air than more junk. Can we all agree on that? Now let's take the next step, but they don't even get to that point (ph).

KING: And yet, and yet Barack Obama remember was not going to run in 2008. He gave the big speech in 2004, he was not going to run in 2008, then his team looked at it and said 2008 is going to be the Democratic year. You can say you're not ready. He did say he wasn't ready and then he ran because they said here's the year we can win. Can you make that case to Governor Christie, despite everything you said about not being ready --

GALEN: Yes, but that was six months earlier.

KING: -- not wanting to run -- can you make that case?

GALEN: That was -- that was a long way before that. And to your point, and to your point, he spent a lot of time in Iowa, especially in Iowa, working the crowds, learning the issues. And he was a sitting United States senator. So he had a little broader pallet to paint on than a state governor, so I just think --

BORGER: And the one lesson, as you were pointing out earlier that I think he learned from Governor Perry is that there is no off Broadway anymore. You start out center stage Broadway. And there are mistakes you're going to make and your record is going to be scrubbed just the way you're scrubbing his record here tonight. And that's a problem for any candidate getting in particularly when he himself said he's not ready to be president.

KING: So is -- Rich, is the message to Republicans then this is your field? Get used to it? Deal with it?

GALEN: oh I think that's right, yes, absolutely and you know nobody -- I was trying to think of a campaign, not an incumbent, but a challenger open seat campaign for president that ever led wire to wire. I don't think that happens. I mean Bush didn't in 2000, got creamed in New Hampshire as you remember. So I mean these things happen. They go up and down and up and down. Just when you get into the Twitter world now, when you know everybody, all of us read everything we talk about to each other in real time, these things become gigantic issues --

BORGER: It is going to be -- it is going to come down to electability because Republicans are united on one thing that they want to defeat Barack Obama. And if Romney can close that deal, saying I'm the most electable and I can shine the light on Barack Obama, in this campaign, and make it about him, and his record on the economy, then I think Republicans are going to fall in line. I don't know. Am I wrong?


GALEN: No and the poll we talked about last week, between Tea Party Republicans and non-Tea Party Republicans, 80 percent said when it comes down to it, they want to beat Barack Obama --


KING: This is -- this is why we go Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and beyond --

BORGER: Right.

KING: Different pieces of the puzzle have a different view of it. Last I'll tell you this on Governor Christie. I did speak to one adviser tonight who said he's incredibly flattered by all of this, still a no. But we'll watch the speech. We'll watch what happens in the days ahead. Good luck tonight, Governor. Gloria, Rich, thanks for coming in.

Still ahead here a controversial bake sale at a California campus draws a long line of protesters and stokes the debate over affirmative action and next, the president visits Colorado, one of those red states he turned blue back in 2008. Might the map be changing colors again come 2012?


KING: This simple truth today from President Obama's top political strategist.


DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: We had the wind at our back in 2008, but we don't have the wind at our backs in this election. We have the wind in our face because the American people have the wind in their faces.


KING: A wind in your face and presidential politics means a much more difficult map. And if you track the president's travels in recent days, you get a pretty good telling picture about his early campaign targeting. Let's take a look right here.

This is where the president was today in Denver, Colorado. Watch this. This is where he has been in the last couple of weeks since giving his jobs speech on September 9th, Raleigh, North Carolina, Richmond, Virginia, New York, two stops in Ohio, Colorado, California, and Seattle. Why does that matter? Look at the map.

Watch this closely. This is 2008. Four of the states the president have visited, red state, red state, red state and red state. These were states George W. Bush won. Take a peek again. Nine red states in 2004, see them, were blue states for Obama in 2008. That's what makes this map so fascinating.

At the Colorado stop, the president promoted his ideas for job creation and he tried on a new more populous line to counter Republican criticism that his plan to raise taxes on affluent Americans amounts to class warfare.


OBAMA: You know what? If asking a millionaire to pay the same tax rate as a plumber makes me a class warrior, a warrior for the working class, I will accept that. I will wear that charge as a badge of honor.


OBAMA: The only warfare I've seen is the battle that has been waged against middle class families in this country for a decade now.


KING: Colorado's nine Electoral College votes were a big help to the Obama campaign back in 2008, but can he count on them in 2012? Colorado's Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper is with us tonight. Governor, if the election were today, would President Obama carry Colorado?

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), COLORADO: It would be very close. I think it would be a -- it is hard to say if it was an election today. I think it would depend on who his opponent was.

KING: Who would be the strongest Republican? Who would you worry about the most?

HICKENLOOPER: Oh I think, you know, Colorado is a very pragmatic state and after elections, people really focus on getting stuff done. We're not terribly partisan. There are almost as many Independents so somebody more pragmatic, someone, probably Mitt Romney I think would be a tough opponent in Colorado.

KING: Your predecessor, the Republican, former Republican Governor Bill Ritter says a repeat of 2008 is very unlikely. I'd say he's looking at a high wire act here. You say it would be close. Do you basically agree with the former Republican governor?

HICKENLOOPER: I'm not sure it would be a high wire act. You know I think part of what he's trying to do now is lay out a real, you know, kind of a nonpartisan approach of taking measures that have been promoted by Republicans and Democrats, you know cutting payroll taxes, investing in infrastructure, and just trying to get people to work together and I think that sells in Colorado. People, you know, we have almost as many as -- almost as many Independents as we do Republicans and, you know, almost as many Democrats as Republicans, it's almost one-third, one-third.

KING: But if you look at public opinion poll --


KING: -- among Independents, the president's handling of the economy among Independents has dropped dramatically. It has dropped among everybody, but especially among Independents. Do you see that out in your state, people who backed Obama last time saying Governor, this isn't what I bought?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, there is certainly a lot of discouragement with the economy and some of that rubs off on the president. But I think a lot of those numbers were based on some weeks ago. We'll have to see. What people want, really want is some solutions, right? Some effort and they want less red tape. They want, you know, to free up some money in small businesses. They want a more entrepreneurial approach to the economy. That's all the stuff that President Obama was talking about today.

KING: I want you to listen to part of what he was saying today. He was talking about the specifics of his policy. He was also making a political appeal, trying to get people in your state, and anyone listening across the country to help out, essentially trying to gin up the grassroots machine. Let's listen to a bit.


OBAMA: I'm asking all of you, I need you to lift up your voices. Not just here in Denver, but anybody watching, anybody listening, anybody following online. I need you to call, e-mail, tweet, fax, visit, tell your Congress person, unless it is the Congress person that is here, because they're already on board, tell them you're tired of gridlock, you're tired of the games. Tell them the time for action is now.


KING: I spent a lot of time in your state. You were the mayor back in 2008, the mayor of Denver. And the Obama campaign had a very impressive grassroots organization there, students, Latinos, traditional Democrats, Independents involved. How much has it frayed, if at all, in your view, since 2008? Can he flip a switch and turn it on?

HICKENLOOPER: I don't think he can pull a switch. But, again, I think that that grassroots constituency responds to ideas and appeals like he made today. I think that sense of gridlock, right, Colorado is a place where we -- you know once the election is over, everybody works together. We passed our budget. We have a Republican House and a Democratic Senate, but we passed our budget which was a tough budget with 80 votes out of 100, right, 80 percent of the -- of both parties came together to pass a budget.

They're -- people are frustrated by the gridlock and I think that, you know if Congress can't find some compromises and move forward they're actually doing -- they're doing a service to the president. The president -- it makes the president look like he's doing everything he can to try and get, you know, get things going and that Congress is just digging their heels in for partisan politics.

KING: Well you mentioned your situation in Colorado; here in Washington we also have a Republican House and a Democratic Senate and a Democratic president. Two weeks after he sent his jobs bill up to Capitol Hill saying in your state the time for action is now. As a Democratic governor, how would you explain to fellow Democrats why the Democratic Senate led by the Democratic Leader Harry Reid has not brought the president's jobs bill to the floor and essentially dared the Republicans to have that debate?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, you know, that's the part of politics that is over my head. You know I spent too many years running restaurants. So I'm probably the wrong person to ask there. My guess is that they're trying to frame the discussion of, you know, why can't we find a compromise in Congress and, you know, I think the Democrats are trying to, you know, really kind of push the Republicans, so much of what is in the jobs bill was earlier supported by various Republicans that they -- I think they're trying to bring that out and say, hey, if you want -- you wanted to cut payroll taxes before, we want to cut it now, let's get it done.

KING: Your state is one of the great laboratories heading into 2012. Because in 2008, again it had been a red state, Obama turns it blue. Then in 2010, two Democratic House seats go Republican in your state as part of the big Republican wave and we're all asking when we look at these swing states, what is going to happen in 2012. What is your sense among the electorate? Are they happy with the choice they made in 2010? And does that make it tougher for 2012 or is the pendulum going to swing again?

HICKENLOOPER: Well again like I said, you know, it is about equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans and Independents. I think they're unhappy with the economy. And, again, some of that always rubs off on the president, right? The president is the leader. But I think most people in Colorado don't care as much about Republican or Democrat as they do about our country.

And what they really care about, you know, the whole thing with the debt ceiling where people lost faith in our government, not just in -- not just here in the United States, but all around the world and suddenly you know the stock market goes into a tail spin, people in Colorado hate that, right? I mean there are certain common factors all across the country, right? We hate waste. We want people to work together. This -- the gridlock that we see in Washington is, I think, frustrating for everyone.

KING: Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado, sir, appreciate your time tonight. We'll keep checking in as the campaign plays out.


KING: Still ahead, the president's terse response when a reporter suggests there are mounting complaints in the African- American community. Plus, the death of Michael Jackson, his former doctor is on trial and new details of the pop star's final moments emerge during an emotional first day in court. That's next.


KING: Welcome back. Here is the latest news you need to know right now. A Los Angeles jury heard opening statements today in the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson's doctor. The prosecutor said Murray's incompetence caused Jackson's death. The defense attorney told jurors Jackson administered drugs to himself while no one else was around and quote "died so instantly he didn't even have time to close his eyes".

Israel today announced plans to expand settlements in east Jerusalem. A move Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called quote, "counterproductive to U.S. efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks".

Apple is expected to unveil its new iPhone 5 one week from today, although it's only confirming there will be a big press event on October 4th.

A new study shows the cost of family health insurance jumped nine percent last year to about $15,000 annually. Guess what, the study also shows employers picked up most of that increase. Revised figures from the Census Bureau show just over a half a million U.S. households now headed by same sex couples. That's an increase, but still less than one percent of all U.S. households.

Following up on a story we told you about Monday, protesters wearing black and lying on the ground far outnumbered buyers at today's pay-by-race bake sale at the University of California at Berkeley. That bake sale was sponsored by college Republicans to draw attention to plans for using (ph) affirmative action in university admission's policies.

Today's "Los Angeles Times" report two of the president's top advisers, National Economics Council Director Larry Summers and the treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, warned him there were financial and political risks in fast tracking loan guarantees to new energy companies. One of those companies, Solyndra, went bankrupt this month as we've reported previously leaving taxpayers holding the bag on a half billion dollar loan.

Now Solyndra made solar panels. It was a star of the president's push for clean energy and green jobs. He visited the plant back in May 2010. One of Solyndra's main investors was a big contributor to the president's 2008 campaign.

Joining us now one of the authors of that fabulous piece in today's "L.A. Times" Matea Gold from the paper's Washington bureau -- I want to be clear because a lot of politics involved in the discussion of this story. Larry Summers and Tim Geithner go to warn the president about these loans in general, not specifically Solyndra, correct?

MATEA GOLD, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Correct -- correct.

KING: What are they -- what are they worried about?

GOLD: So Atlanta Burr (ph) of this past year, Larry Summers, Timothy Geithner, several other of the president's advisers briefed him on the problems involving broadly this energy loan guarantee program. The advisers were really split about whether this program was actually effective or even meeting the president's goals. And on one side you had Summers and Geithner, who really had concerns whether the program was vigorous enough. Foreshadowing really questions raised now about Solyndra's application. And on the other side Energy Secretary Steven Chu was under pressure from members of Congress to fast track and speed up some of these loans and wanted less review and less oversight.

KING: And so you have -- and you quote a source familiar with this internal debate, quote, "It was completely predictable that there would be a colossal failure among the bets." Is that in the sense that the program wasn't ready for primetime or was it if we're going to invest in 10 new companies, a couple of them are going to fail?

GOLD: Sure. I mean this was the philosophical debate that started early on in the administration. Does it make sense to invest in specific companies versus market incentives? Specific companies you're always going to take a bet on them. You're not sure if they're going to work and this was something that the president's advisers were really concerned about early on.

KING: And so, one of the debates in Washington now is: was it politics? Because one of these investors gave money, was it picking a company and saying, help that one because they gave us money? Has anyone in your reporting -- I talked to others -- been able to connect the dots or is that just a Republican question?

GOLD: That's something that investigators are looking at right now. That's not something that I think anyone is really definitively shown yet. But there were, I think, fascinatingly enough, questions about whether this overall program was a good idea and that's something that really, I think, presaged the whole Solyndra controversy.

KING: And take us inside that -- what you call a philosophical debate, essentially what is the role of government, period, in stimulating the economy? And then if there is a role, how specific? Are we picking general industries or specific companies within?

GOLD: Yes, what's so interesting is I think this episode is so emblematic of the question that has faced Obama since he's taken office, which is -- what should the role of government be in stimulating the marketplace. And you had advisors on either side of this issue and it's fascinating to see this exploding in the way it has.

But early on, the question was: should we try to just stimulate the market overall or should we really be specifically trying to pick our bets and pick companies? And supporters of the program argue that if he'd do that, of course, there's going to be some that fail and Solyndra just happened to be one in this case.

KING: And when, to circle back, when the treasury secretary and the president's top economic advisor, Larry Summers, say, Mr. President, this is risky, what does he say?

GOLD: Well, what's interesting is that what appears is there's really a draw that comes out of this meeting. There wasn't a lot of action taken. The administration acknowledging they made some modest changes to the program, but there wasn't really any extreme option that had been proposed, identified.

And so, the program went forward and it's unclear whether that would have affected Solyndra's, you know, prospects if they had actually raised more questions.

KING: Congressional investigation continues. Fascinating reporting.

Matea Gold, thank you very much.

GOLD: Thanks for having me.

KING: Thank you.

And next, President Obama's testy answer when he was asked about doing more to help specific groups, such as African-Americans.


KING: Should the country's first African-American president be doing more to specifically help African-Americans deal with these tough economic times? It's a question some African-American political leaders have raised in recent months and it's a question the president himself doesn't like. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why not target the African-American community? Why not say, then, this is for you? This is for African- Americans.

If there was a banking crisis and you target money for the banks. If there was a national disaster, you target your money for the national for the disaster relief.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, no, no, no. That's not how -- that's not how America works.


KING: The president goes on to describe what I will call the rising tide lifts all boat theory. Well, is that the right approach from both the policy and political standpoint?

Joining us, CNN political contributor Roland Martin and conservative blogger Tara Wall.

Roland, the president gets his back up when he's asked this question. I've been around him before when it comes up. You see in that interview in there. He said, no, that's not my job. My job is not just to help the African-American community. My job is to help America.

Right answer?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Wrong answer, in the sense why he gets his back up.

Look, Latinos talk about the DREAM Act, we know exactly what they're talking about. Gays and lesbians talk about "don't ask, don't tell," we know that they're talking about. The president in his speech to the black caucus talked about the funding for HBCU, historically black colleges and universities. So, there is a way to answer that question.

So, there is no need to go defensive. Part of the reason is the White House is very sensitive to white criticism of who are you helping?

Tea Party study that was done showed that 25 percent of them felt he was doing more for African-Americans than any others. But the reality is, black voters are his constituents. And so, therefore you can target programs, so don't be afraid to answer the question.

TARA WALL, CONSERVATIVE BLOGGER: I think the president certainly is correct. He does represent all the people. I mean, it's the same argument President Bush made when he was asked the same question among minority constituents.

I think the issue for President Obama, however, is that this is something that he set himself up for. This is a promise, so to speak, that he made to the black community and targeted specifically the black community.

So, I think he has a responsibility in that essence, in that vein, if you will. But, overall, absolutely, yes, the president represents all of the people. And he has to address problems that are for all Americans.

With that, though, there is opportunity there to talk about what specifically he is doing in the black community and some of the issues that are causing disparities between black and white Americans.

KING: And that's a policy issue there. And there's a political overlay now because we're heading into the re-election cycle. And the president knows it's going to be a tough election. He needs turnout and intensity.

So, listen to the president -- this was an interview with BET. Listen to the president who objects when the reporter is suggesting there is widespread dissatisfaction among African-American political leaders. Listen to the answer.


OBAMA: The other thing that I want to make sure you don't just kind of slip in there is this notion that African-American leaders of late have been critical. There have been a handful of African- American leaders who have been critical. They were critical when I was running for president.

There is always going to be somebody who is critical of the president of the United States. That's my job, in part, is particularly when the economy is going as badly as it is now, people are going to have concerns and they should.


KING: So, the president trying to suggest it is limited. And to be fair to the president, I believe he's right. It is relatively limited but it has been loud at times.

Listen to the California Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who is part of the Congressional Black Caucus jobs tour across America and she said the black caucus needed to this, to go into inner city areas mostly and try to help people find jobs in her view because the president wasn't doing enough.


REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: We want to give him every opportunity. But our people are hurting. Unemployment is unconscionable.

We don't know what the strategy is. We don't know why on this trip he's in the United States now, he's not in any black communities. We don't know that.


KING: African-American unemployment during the Obama presidency. It was 12.7 percent when he took office. It is 16.7 percent now. Now, it was higher than the national average when he came in, so it has gone up nationally, it has gone up there.

When it comes to the politics and turnout, his approval rating is still off the charts among African-Americans, 90 percent or more. The question is intensity, turnout, will they work the campaign?

WALL: Sure. Look, I think actually his approval ratings have dropped among black Americans. It's in the 60 percent range at this point. I don't think that, obviously, the majority of black Americans are still going to vote for President Obama.

But I think there are a couple of missed opportunities. First of all, the reporter there asked some very great questions, some tough questions. The setup to the question in which he answered by talking about the folks that were lambasting him was not about people that were speaking out against him. It was an opportunity.

Actually, the question was about the young unemployment rate, the youth, the 50 percent in some cities where there is black unemployment at 50 percent. And it was a great opportunity for the president to be able to take that and say, listen, this is what my jobs plan will do for young black Americans. Not an opportunity to say, well, you know, I've got criticism out there, dismiss it away. Whether it's from one CBC member or five or 20, the fact is, it's legitimate and it should be addressed.

MARTIN: But here's the truth, though. John, you said he's right, it is limited. It is not necessarily true.

The difference is Congresswoman Maxine Waters has been vocal. You had other folks who have been vocal. I talked to many mayors, state reps, state senators, across this country, and they will privately voice dissatisfaction. But for African-Americans, they don't want to go public with it because they fear exactly what you just did, play the sound bite. So, therefore, it becomes a conversation.

But a lot -- but there are people who are not particularly happy. And so, the White House understands this right now. You see this effort talking to African-American radio show hosts, bloggers, newspapers, because they understand if they don't have those numbers and those critical states come next year, he can't get re-elected.

WALL: Well, I think there's opportunity too. If they lose -- if they lose a significant chunk of the black vote, he still has an opportunity to be in trouble here and Republicans have an opportunity to --

KING: If intensity is down, there goes Ohio, there goes North C, there goes Virginia.

MARTIN: That's the key. That's key.

KING: Tara, Roland, appreciate it. We'll keep on top of this. It's an interesting dynamic.

Still ahead here, there is a new leading lady in American politics tonight. There is. We'll tell you why.

Plus, Chris Christie is New Jersey's governor and a man who says, "no, no, no," when asked if he's running for president. Yet, his speech at the Reagan Library tonight sounds -- well, presidential. That's next.


KING: "ANDERSON COOPER 360" at the top of the hour. Anderson is here with a preview.

Hi there.


You know, we're keeping them honest tonight on "360". At 8:00 p.m. tonight, a shocking revelation from the family of 14-year-old Jamie Rodemeyer who took his life just nine days ago. According to his sister, the bullying didn't stop even when he was dead.

Here is what his sister Alyssa told me today happened at a school dance, a dance she attended hours after she left Jamie's wake.


ALYSSA RODEMEYER, SISTER OF JAMEY RODEMEYER: A little group of, like, three of his prior bullies, as we were chanting, they started yelling stuff back at us. They were saying that they were glad he was dead and just basically that, and like some obscenities and things and --

COOPER: So, they were actually saying that? They were --


COOPER: You knew the kids saying this, they were saying they were glad your brother was dead?



COOPER: We'll have more of my interview with Alyssa ahead tonight.

Also in the program, crime and punishment, opening arguments in the trial of Michael Jackson's personal physician, Conrad Murray. Jurors heard a shocking audio of a drugged and rumbling Michael Jackson.


MICHAEL JACKSON, KING OF POP: When people leave my show, I want them to say, "I've never seen nothing like this in my life."


COOPER: More was played in court today. We'll play it for you tonight.

In raw politics, our Republican panel weighing in on whether the eventual GOP nominee for president has even entered the race yet.

Those stories and tonight's "Ridiculist," John, at the top of the hour.

KING: Anderson, we'll see you in just a few minutes.

And let me pick up where Anderson left off. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is out in California tonight, to speak at the Reagan Presidential Library. He has said over and over and over again he's not running for president.

However, in his speech tonight, he will lay out a lot of national themes, even touch on foreign policy. And he will say this: "For American exceptionalism to truly deliver hope and a sterling example to the rest of the world, it must be demonstrated, no the just asserted. If it is demonstrated, it will be seen and appreciated and ultimately emulated by others. They will then be more likely to follow our example and our lead."

That is the governor of New Jersey, sounding, shall we say, presidential.

So, might he actually reconsider?

Let's check in with CNN contributor, "Newsweek" and "Daily Beast" senior political columnist, John Avlon, Republican strategist and former Michele Bachmann campaign manager, Ed Rollins, Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher who worked for the Obama campaign back in 2008.

Ed, as the Republican in the group, I want to go to you first. All indications are: no, no, no, no, no, no, no. But?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Who knows? You know, at the end of the day, he has another three or four days to make his decision. There say lot of pressure on him to run.

But I can tell you this: Romney is not going to get out of the race. He's been running for six years. Perry has been running for five, six weeks. He's not going to get out of the race.

You know, Christie, obviously, is a very strong leader and done very well in New Jersey. But there's a lot of things about him that the conservatives don't know about yet. Things like immigration, guns, stuff like that, that obviously will get picked apart if he gets in the race.

And I can only tell you, having managed Christie Whitman's race when she was elected, she ran around the country for a years, going to be the vice president and had a difficult time get league elected and very difficult time governing. So, you got to put all that in the portfolio when you look at it hard.

KING: So, John where does this all come from? Some Republicans don't like the field. And so, they're running at Christie, we can raise money for you, we can help you, you're great, we love you.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. It's a very explicit -- I mean, the courtship of Chris Christie is a fascinating story in its own right, the number of big donors who have come out and basically begged him to run. But that itself is just a proxy for the fact that some of the most seasoned leaders of this party recognize that it is a weak field, and especially on the center right. That there are no strong figures on the center right to carry that mantle forward and that's what some folks thing you need to win.

He's got a great record as governor. Strong fiscal conservative, taking on the unions without apologizing, and he's become a national figure in his own right.

But this whole idea that it's somehow news that Chris Christie isn't running, he's said this over and over and over again, he's not running.

And I understand the desire for him to run, but he's simply, I think, taking the mantle of a national figure and maybe looking a bit down the road.

KING: Well, if he's going to look down the road, Cornell, I just want to go over here first, he's going to look down the road a little bit. He wants to think about running, he's going to have to make up his mind. Because let's just pick a few states:

Iowa, it's a caucus state, you don't have to file, somebody shows up and says my guy is running. He's OK there.

But if he wants to run in New Hampshire, he's got to file by November 18 to get on the New Hampshire primary ballot.

South Carolina is even sooner. That's a big state in the Republican process, November 4th.

And guess what? Florida, October 31st. That's just a few of the places.

So, if he wants to run, you can't just show up and run, you got to file paperwork in all that.

CORNELL BELCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, John, I even go farther than that and say Iowa is a problem, and probably with him because frankly, you can't just show up at Iowa because it's a caucus. It's even harder than a regular primary because you got to have organization and you got to have people organizing as a whole movement. So, he's running even farther behind.

But, look, I don't think Chris Christie is going to run. If I'm advising Chris Christie, you're a young guy, sit back -- sit back and wait this out. What's the rush?

However, he's an opportunist. He's taken advantage of this opportunity given to him by what is a ridiculously weak Republican field of candidates right now.

KING: And is it a ridiculously weak field of candidates as our Democrat friend here says?

ROLLINS: Every field looks weak two years out, Democrat or Republican. At the end of the day, I think whoever emerges is going to be a very strong candidate to have an excellent opportunity of winning this presidency. But, you know, we've got a year to go. We've got five or six months before voters get to actually cast ballots.

And it's a tough organization, having just tried to put a campaign together in a very short period of time. It is tough to put the money, put the people, do all the kinds of things. And to do it this late, Fred Thompson was the perfect example four years ago. Fred Thompson walked into the race. He was at 31 percent on day one and basically faltered every step after that.

KING: Just about every step. I think that's a fair assessment.

You guys hold tight. We're going to take a break.

Next, the leading lady of U.S. politics -- she doesn't live in the White House and she isn't from Alaska.


KING: So, who's the leading lady of American politics? Take a peek. There she is, is secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. Her standing in the public's eyes now is even stronger than First Lady Michelle Obama.

Check this out from our latest CNN/ORC poll. Sixty-nine percent of Americans view the secretary of state favorably, just 26 percent have an unfavorable view. That's a bit higher than the first lady who's favorably rating stands at 65 percent.

Let's continue the conversation with Ed Rollins, John Avlon, Cornell Belcher.

Mr. Belcher, is it safe to say, that, A, people view her as the secretary of state and she's doing a good job, and B, she's not involved in all this politics stuff that has everybody else sick to their stomach?

BELCHER: That's exactly right, because if you go back -- you go back two years ago and look at one of the cases that a lot of folks made about Hillary Clinton was that she was so divisive and her negatives were so high in certain areas right now. Something that hardly ever happens in politics is when you have a negative view of a candidate, that negative view gets flipped around. And that's happened with Hillary Clinton because she's done such a spectacular job as secretary of state.

KING: So, Ed Rollins, was Dick Cheney just having fun? I mean, he said that he thinks she'd be the strongest Democratic candidate. Bill Clinton objected. He was just causing mischief.

Listen to the former vice president. I tried to -- I don't know if I was trying to press him or have a little fun with him on this issue. Listen here.


DICK CHENEY, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: He didn't turn down the opportunity to accept my suggestion that Hillary ought to run.

KING: He made it pretty clear she's not going to.

CHENEY: I said it tongue in cheek. I think he could tell that. But I just think the Democrats ought to have as much fun on their side as we are on ours.


KING: He's having fun there, Ed. But to Cornell's point, she was the polarizing one in 2008 everybody said.

ROLLINS: It's all about contrast, as anybody who knows polls. And in her case, she's been the star of this administration. She's gone about her business. She hasn't got entangled in the White House intrigues. She's been consistent in conducting foreign affairs.

And I think both she and her husband -- Bill Clinton is the most popular ex-president right now and I think to a certain extent, the combination of them, a lot of people miss them.

KING: John Avlon, here's a lot of people that miss them. That's high praise indeed.

John Avlon, here's the context in which she's viewed so favorably. She's off on the sidelines. She's not involved in all these debates over shutting down the government or cutting this or spending money on that.

Look at these new polls -- Republican congressional policies, the congressional Republicans, are they moving the country in the right direction? Only 40 percent of Americans say yes, 56 percent say no. Well, then the Democrats must be held in great esteem, right?

Are congressional Democrats moving the country in the right direction or would they? Forty-three percent yes, 53 percent no.

People look at both parties, it's a pox on both, you're better by three points. Mr. Belcher can count, 43 percent is better than 40 percent.

But the American people are looking at this town and they're saying go away.

AVLON: Yes, they're angry at the dysfunction of this divided government. There's a market fail in our politics. I mean, nearly 40 percent of Americans are now independent voters, that has a proactive rejection of both parties. And I think, you know, the re-emergence of Hillary Clinton is because she's somewhat outside partisan politics as secretary of state. She had a negative disapproval rating of 52 percent when she's running for president. But now she's seen as a steady figure.

But I got to laugh at the kind of the new Clinton love on the part of all these conservatives who thought they were the devil, you know, 12 years ago. But I do think, you know, Washington's got a real problem, and they need to appreciate that. Both parties are deeply disapproved of because they seem so dysfunctional and divided and polarized.

ROLLINS: We may not have loved them, but we always respected them.

BELCHER: Not always (ph).


KING: They respected them when they impeached them is what Ed's trying to say.

Hey, Ed, you worked with Ross Perot once. This is the perfect environment if you look at the polls for somebody like that. Why can't it happen?

ROLLINS: I would argue that the mood is right for an independent candidate. The advantages that Perot had is he was independent, he made deficits very significant, he had independent wealth that you could fund a campaign like that. You would want, I think, a candidate for sane and who understood the political process a little bit better.

But, you know, obviously, an independent candidate could be a very significant factor.

KING: Is there somebody a little more sane candidate out there, Cornell? Is this what we got?

BELCHER: Yes. His name is Barack Obama.


KING: But this won't happen.

BELCHER: No. Here's why: seriously not partisan because you have to be almost a billionaire to do it. And there's very few guys who can do it. I mean, put up the organization and structure and state cross state and raise (INAUDIBLE) application, no regular guy could do it. You got to be not just a millionaire, you got to be close to a billionaire to do it.

KING: When Avlon hits the power ball, he's going to run.


ROLLINS: His wife could get elected. He can't.

KING: All right. I'm going to call it a truce right there. We're going to end on that bipartisan note. Mr. Avila's wife can run for president.

John, Cornell, Ed, thanks for coming in.

That's all for us. "ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.