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JOHN KING, USA

President Obama Pushes Jobs Bill; Steve Jobs Remembered; Protests on Wall Street Continue

Aired October 6, 2011 - 18:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: The president forcefully defends a controversial loan program to a green energy that went belly up, leaving taxpayers holding a $535 million bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There were going to be some companies that did not work out; Solyndra was one of them. But the process by which the decision was made was on the merits, it was straightforward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: No politics, straightforward? We will put that to the "Truth" test tonight.

Plus, Steve Jobs is remembered around the world. His impact on technology and culture is everywhere and his legacy also includes a powerful lesson from his fight with cancer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE JOBS, CO-FOUNDER, APPLE: You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And as Sarah Palin exits the Republican presidential stage, which candidate left behind can claim a giant advantage over President Obama on the number one issue facing the country today? That and much more ahead.

But first our top of the hour look at what you need to know right now. First that breaking news I just mentioned. CNN confirms tonight that Jonathan Silver the head of the Energy Department's controversial loan guarantee program is resigning tonight.

Our White House correspondent Dan Lothian is tracking that story.

Dan, what do we know about the particular official and why is he leaving? DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that official who headed up that controversial program which committed some $38 billion to 40 clean energy projects across the country, he is leaving, CNN has learned, in order to become a fellow over at the think tank Third Way. But the timing of all of this certainly raising some questions, no doubt.

In an effort to blunt some of those questions, Secretary Chu put out a statement saying Silver came to him in early July, pointed out he wanted to transition back to the private sector after September 30 and so the secretary explaining that that's what is behind this move, John.

KING: And, Dan, the move comes hours after the president defended the program generally and specifically one or two of the loans that have come under quite controversy. Let's listen to a bit of what the president had to say in his news conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The overall portfolio has been successful. It has allowed us to help companies, for example, start advanced battery manufacturing here in the United States. It's helped to create jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And so, Dan, the president says it's successful. Then within hours the official who runs it resigns. It's going to lead a lot of fresh questions in Washington, isn't it?

LOTHIAN: Well, certainly. I mean some people would certainly point to this as an example that everything did not go as this administration has been trying to make it seem, that this was a program that was very strong, that this was vetted in the right way, that there are risks when you get into these kinds of investments -- 20/20 hindsight, we have heard the president say, but still standing very strongly behind this program despite the fact that we saw those red flags that were raised not only inside but outside the administration, all of that coming out in the congressional investigation.

But the president again pointing out that it's important for the U.S. to back this kind of technology because not only will it lead to jobs, but it's the only way for the U.S. to compete with countries like China that heavily subsidize this kind of sector -- John.

Dan Lothian live for us at the White House tonight on the breaking news. Dan, thank you. We will have much, much more on this breaking news story just ahead in tonight's "Truth."

The president called that news conference today. He wanted to talk about jobs and the economy. He was defiant, promising he will keep demanding that Congress pass his jobs bill even though at the moment, well, safe to say the prospects look bleak.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: We will just keep on going at it and hammering away until something gets done. And I would love nothing more than to see Congress act so aggressively that I can't campaign against them as a do-nothing Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The president said he was -- quote -- "comfortable" with Senate Democrats' plan to pay for their version of the jobs bill with the so-called millionaire's surtax instead of the way the president wants to do it mostly with spending cuts. Throughout that hour-plus news conference the president took swings at specific Republicans, including the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, who opposes any tax hikes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: But I'm also dealing with a Republican majority leader who said that his number one goal was to beat me; not put Americans back to work, not grow the economy, not help small businesses expand, but to defeat me. And he's been saying that now for a couple of years.

So, yes, I have got to go out and listen to the American people to see if maybe he'll listen to them if he's not listening to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: No direct response on that point from Senator McConnell, but we did ask his staff about this. They referred us to this speech on the Senate floor. It was about 90 minutes before the president's news conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: So, the real goal here for the Democrats, as far as I can tell, is entirely political. By arguing for a permanent tax hike to pay for a temporary stimulus, they are essentially admitting they're not particularly interested in creating jobs, because proposing a partisan tax hike 13 months before an election won't create one single job, not one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: CNN congressional correspondent Kate Bolduan has been working her sources on this story all day today.

Kate, you have got the president has a plan, the Senate Democrats have a plan, the Republicans are pushing back on taxes. Does all this help or hurt prospects of a deal?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Another great question this evening, John.

Let me put it this way. Aides to Senate Democratic leaders say that Senate Democratic leaders are happy with the president's endorsement, although some would say not the most forceful of endorsements of the so-called millionaire surtax and they are scheduled to move forward with the first test vote possibly on this bill with the surtax early next week.

But it really does seem that while the president continues to hammer away on Congress should really move on this bill and move on it now and really is targeting Republicans, in addition now to this surtax, it may help unify a majority of Democrats possibly in clarifying their message going forward, but it sure seems that it is doing nothing to increase support on the other side of the aisle and doing nothing to increase the chances that this bill is going to really move anywhere in the Congress.

As we always say, John, Republicans again they remain steadfastly against tax increases and Republicans as you heard Mitch McConnell today and I have heard it from other Republicans are really now accusing Democrats and the president of doing nothing but playing politics here with this jobs fight, John.

KING: And as both sides accuse the other of playing politics, is there any effort, I will call it grownup effort behind the scenes to say, you know what, there are millions of Americans who are unemployed or underemployed who would like some help? Will they keep just banging it out or will they find a backroom to maybe try to find some sort of a consensus?

BOLDUAN: I will put it this way. There has been some talk of possibly pulling apart measures that could be more agreeable and gain more support and try to move parts of possibly the president's jobs plan or just simply find jobs initiatives that Democrats and Republicans can agree on to move forward with.

But I will tell you right now both sides seem laser-focused on fighting this one out. And we have heard that it's not only Republicans that are showing some -- that Republicans showing opposition to this. Even some centrist Democrats like Senator Ben Nelson and independent Joe Lieberman have come out to say that they also will oppose a millionaire's surtax included in this bill. So there are some big problems for this bill moving forward, but everyone seems dead set on fighting this one out right now, John.

KING: Kate Bolduan live on Capitol Hill, Kate, thank you.

Another testy topic at the news conference today, a program called Operation Fast and Furious. The president defending his attorney general who's under fire for that program. Some Republicans in Congress think the attorney general lied about when he became aware of a program that ended up giving guns, putting guns into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. The program was designed to help the government keep track of weapon smuggling, but some of those guns ended up being used to murder people on both sides of the border, including a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

The operation was run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which is part of Attorney General Eric Holder's Justice Department. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I have complete confidence in Attorney General Holder in how he handles his office. He's indicated that he was not aware of what was happening in Fast and Furious. Certainly, I was not. And I think both he and I would have been very unhappy if somebody had suggested that guns were allowed to pass through that could have been prevented by the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Around the world today, an outpouring of grief over the death of the Apple computer co-founder Steve Jobs.

Amid it, two images caught our attention and sum up the changes he helped bring about. First look at this, a simple note on a piece of paper, "iThank you," taped outside an Apple store, that in New York City. On the other side of the world, the image of a small candle on an iPhone. Look at that, during a vigil outside Hong Kong's Apple store.

CNN's Sandra Endo outside Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California.

Sandra, just set the stage for us. Obviously a very sad day and yet Apple officials have said they want to pay tribute to Steve Jobs' life. What's the scene today?

SANDRA ENDO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John, a very somber day for employees here at Apple headquarters.

On campus here, many heavy hearts. And you can take a look behind me through those trees right and you can see the crowd gathering. So many people have been coming by, laying flowers down, cards, and real apples themselves, all in tribute to the late tech icon who many people here say have changed the way the world functions forever. So clearly a very sad day and a day of remembrance for Steve Jobs -- John.

KING: Is it a workday or did the word come down essentially to use it as a day of reflection and remembrance?

ENDO: That's a good question, because we did see a lot of hustle and bustle. This is a very sprawling campus.

An Apple spokesman says it is business as usual. Everyone here is here working, but clearly a sense of sadness throughout this entire area. And, as you mentioned, Apple will be holding an internal private memorial for its employees and as CEO Tim Cook put it, it will be a celebration, a celebration of his life -- John.

KING: Sandra Endo for us at the Apple headquarters. Sandra, thank you so much.

Another Occupy Wall Street protest gathering steam right now in New York City. This is the 20th day of demonstrations there, although tonight's is expected to be smaller than yesterday's, which attracted thousands. Last night's demonstration ended with scuffles between New York police and some of those protesters. In the end, 28 people arrested last night.

CNN's Susan Candiotti out in the crowd tonight.

Susan, we have seen these protests now for weeks. What will it take to satisfy them?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's hard to say and I think they're trying to work that out themselves now, because we're still trying to hear some goals, and that's what they're trying to formulate.

As we speak now, we can tell you if yesterday was meant to be a tipping point in terms of attracting more people, well, we haven't seen additional numbers today. They're back to the normal number of people that show up at this park, which is very busy at this hour. And they have a daily walk over to Wall Street. It was uneventful today.

What's happening right now is that they're making some speeches. And because they don't use microphones, you need a permit for that, someone stands way off in the distance, says a few words and then people take turns shouting it out to people back here on the sidelines -- John.

KING: An old-fashioned way of spreading the word, I guess. Where do they plan to go next?

CANDIOTTI: Well, that's the question. We have seen, of course, the same amount of interest here in New York. We are seeing additional protests in other U.S. cities today, for example, in San Francisco, in Los Angeles, in Portland, Oregon, as well as a couple cities in Texas, Dallas and Houston.

So probably you will see more rallies like that. Also they are trying to figure out whether they're going to establish some political goals, which we haven't seen yet. They keep insisting they're not going to align themselves with any political party. If that does happen, they say it might be some splinter groups.

KING: Susan Candiotti in the middle of it all braving a form of democracy herself. Susan, thanks for your courage and your coverage. We will keep in touch.

Hundreds of anti-war protesters marched in Washington this afternoon marking the 10th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan. The protesters say they also blame Wall Street for economic inequality, so some also gathered outside the Chamber of Commerce building.

On the campaign trail today, more evidence the presidential candidates are among those watching the Occupy Wall Street protesters. In Texas, Republican Herman Cain doubled down on his criticism of those protesters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you are envious of somebody that happens to be rich that you call a fat cat, go and get rich instead of expecting them to walk outside of their office and write you a check. That's not the way America works. Work for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Mitt Romney was in South Carolina today. His focus, the military. We will try to fix that and bring it to you later.

In the House today, Democratic Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. tried to get a vote on a resolution condemning Governor Rick Perry of Texas for his association with a hunting camp that had a racist name.

And be warned, the congressman says it, says that controversial name on the House floor during this part of his speech.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JESSE JACKSON JR. (D), ILLINOIS: It calls upon Governor Rick Perry to condemn the use of this word as being totally offensive and inappropriate at any time and at any place in United States history. And lastly it calls upon Governor Rick Perry to list the names of all lawmakers, friends and financial supporters he took with him on his hunting trips to Niggerhead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Jackson's resolution was deemed out of order, but was entered into the House record.

KING: The 2012 primary season keeps creeping closer to 2011. Nevada is the latest state to move up, with Republicans scheduling their presidential caucuses for January 14 to stay ahead of South Carolina and Florida. That doesn't leave much room on the calendar for Iowa and New Hampshire, which worries, among others, Newt Gingrich.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It will be a problem if we have to start the elections prior to January 2 or January 3. But I think as long as we can figure out some pattern that enables us to start in the first week of January, the candidates will adjust to the states. The states don't need to adjust to the candidates.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Arizona Congressman Gabrielle Giffords came to Washington today to attend a ceremony marking the retirement from the Navy of her former -- husband, the astronaut Mark Kelly. Giffords, who was shot through the head last January, had a brace on her right hand today. During a short speech, Kelly said -- quote -- "Gabby, you remind me every day to deny the acceptance of failure."

Amazing pictures there. It's good to see them.

Still to come here, the Palin factor. How does her no-go impact the Republican race and was it shaped by the fact she had no chance of winning?

And from the iPod and iPad and iTunes and more, Steve Jobs didn't just change our technology. He changed global culture. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Steve Jobs changed the world and today people around the globe said thanks. Jobs died of complications of pancreatic cancer at the age of 56.

Here's just a small part of his legacy, the iTunes store, the world's largest music retailer. It sold 15 billion songs -- 14 billion apps have been downloaded for Apple's iPhones and iPads. There are 54 million Mac users worldwide. Over the years Jobs has introduced some of the world's most iconic tech innovations. Take a look at how they and he changed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE JOBS, CO-FOUNDER, APPLE: God, look at that. Look, I'm on television.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey.

JOBS: Hey.

We think a lot of them will get into the home but we like to say they will get there through the garage door.

The coolest thing about iPod is that whole -- your entire music library fits in your pocket.

This is the new iPod Nano.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

JOBS: An iPod, a phone, and an Internet communicator. Is there room for a third category of device in the middle?

We're not perfect. We know that. You know that. And phones aren't perfect.

I would also like to thank everyone's families, because they support us and let us do what we love to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Let's discuss the man and his legacy.

With us now, Robert Cringely, a technology journalist who covers Silicon Valley, and Daniel Kottke, who was Apple's 12th employee.

Mr. Kottke, let me begin with you, one of the Apple originals.

At the beginning, at the beginning, and we saw some of the pictures of Steve Jobs back in the day, did any of you, including Steve, have any idea that Apple would become such a transformational force not only in technology, but in how we listen to music, how we communicate?

DANIEL KOTTKE, APPLE EMPLOYEE NUMBER 12: Oh, I don't think so. I don't think anybody could have predicted.

I'm getting an echo.

Anyway, you know, I was the first employee as well as the 12th employee.

There's an echo.

You know, the Apple I was a hobby kit and it was hard to predict what use it would be. The Apple II was clearly going to be a much more accessible product. And, in my memory, it was the day I first saw the rainbow logo that I thought Apple could really be going somewhere. It's funny to just associate that with the logo. But there were so many competitors in those days, it was really hard to say.

KING: Mr. Cringely, let me bring you in.

And hopefully we can help you work on your echo, Mr. Kottke, with the technology.

Mr. Cringely, on a day like this, when you try to assess the impact and the legacy of the man and all the innovations, is there a way to sum it up in a sentence or two or is it too diverse?

ROBERT CRINGELY, AUTHOR, "ACCIDENTAL EMPIRES": No, I think there are ways to sum it up in a sentence or two.

Here's a guy who came from humble beginnings and went on to revolutionize four industries, information technology, mobile phones, the music industry and the movie industry.

And I'm hard put to name any businessperson or technologist in the history of America who did it four times.

KING: That's an awesome way to put it.

Mr. Kottke, let's go back and see if we have figured out this connection with you. You knew the man out of work as well as in work, taking hikes with him in India and the like. It's a question I have. As somebody who carries all my technology with me almost all the time, emphasis on almost, when you're hiking in India, does Steve Jobs bring along technology, or is that his escape zone?

KOTTKE: Oh, no, it was very much an escape zone.

I actually regret that I didn't even bring an Instamatic camera on that trip. There are no photos. We were making our expedition into the wilderness, so to speak. We had some good adventures. It did not -- did not find the holy man stories that we were wondering if we would find, but it was a very interesting trip.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: We're showing a picture of you and Steve Jobs. We're showing this picture of you and Steve Jobs back in the day. It's a little different back in those days, how folks wore their hair and the like. But what was the goal then? What were you thinking from the very first day?

(CROSSTALK)

CRINGELY: That photo was at the personal computing festival in Atlanta in 1976, and I was just trying hard to look like I had a clue about how these computers worked, because I really didn't. I was helping staff the booth.

KING: And, Bob, when you think about the transformations, we always all think about how these things happen through our own lives. I used to be a P.C. person. Now I'm mostly a Mac person. My kids are Mac kids. In our offices, most of the creative editing is done on Macs.

I have right here with me in my hand this. I went to France recently. And my French isn't very good. So I downloaded an app so I could learn to speak French maybe a little bit better.

I was covering a hurricane just a few weeks back, Hurricane Irene. And on the way up from Washington to the beaches off New York City, I brought this, my iPhone. Had no satellite truck, had no electricity, but, look, we were able to show people at that time on live television. It's not perfect, but you're in the middle of the beginning of a hurricane and you're showing live pictures on Streambox, a program you download, one of the apps you can download and you see it playing out.

In terms of how Steve Jobs changed lives, you can learn the piano on an iPad. Our children now don't know what a record album is or an eight track is. How transformational is this one man?

CRINGELY: Oh, well, completely. If you look at the -- and he didn't invent the personal computer, he didn't invent most of these devices, but they were perfected.

And his dedication to good design, to the user experience and to the evolutionary growth of getting closer and closer to the silicon, to the point where you can have a TV studio in your hand on the beach, that was a 30-plus-year process that someone had to see from a long distance off. And in this case, Steve is our visionary.

KING: Bob Cringely, Daniel Kottke, appreciate your time today to look at the man and the legacy, something, of course, we will keep watching as this all plays out.

Steve Jobs dead at the age of 56.

Gentlemen, thank you very much.

When we come back, a top Energy Department official resigns tonight. That breaking news, we will give you the latest on that.

Plus, what we're learning. The president today defended a loan to a company called Solyndra. He said it was done by the books. Does that hold up to the "Truth" test? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Important breaking news tonight.

The Energy Department official in charge of a now controversial green energy loan program has resigned tonight, just hours after President Obama forcefully defended the program and one particular loan to a company that is now bankrupt and under FBI and congressional scrutiny.

The man's name is Jonathan Silver. A statement from Energy secretary, Steven Chu, thanks Silver for what Chu calls his -- quote -- "outstanding work" and notes the secretary has -- quote -- "absolute confidence in Mr. Silver."

It says he's returning to the private sector because funding for that loan program ended in September. The loan getting the most scrutiny went to a California company called Solyndra. As the White House pushed to speed the loan forward, some in the administration raised a series of warnings.

So did a major Obama fund-raiser who warned the White House the company was on shaky financial ground and that that loan could come back to embarrass the president. Solyndra is now bankrupt, taxpayers -- that means you -- liable for the $535 million cost.

A House committee is investigating why the warnings were ignored and whether political favoritism was behind the White House push.

Today, the president was adamant it was the right call.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: There were going to be some companies that did not work out; Solyndra was one of them. But the process by which the decision was made was on the merits, it was straightforward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Here's tonight's "Truth."

The process, despite what you just heard from the president, was anything but straightforward. And was the decision on the merits? The president may have no doubt, but some in his administration did. And as the congressional inquiry goes forward, that is, at a minimum, a debatable question. In administration e-mails obtained as part of the Republican-led investigation into why the administration awarded Solyndra the guarantee, look here. A White House budget analyst wrote about his concerns -- it's March 10, 2009 -- saying, quote, "This deal is not ready for primetime."

In another e-mail an official from the Office of Management and Budget worried the second guaranty request was imminent, the second loan guaranty request and said, quote, "Possible to close and default on one before closing on a second? Could be a record."

And "The Los Angeles Times" reports President Obama knew of the problems with the loan program in late October 2010. Administration officials took their opposing views directly to Obama. The memo laid out their different concerns and options to fix a, quote, "broken process" for getting loans approved.

With us now is "New York Times" correspondent Eric Lipton, who has done much of the ground-breaking reporting on this important story. Eric, I want to start with what the president said: done on the merits, straightforward. Straightforward. This process had a lot of what I'll call herky-jerk movements in it. So I think that's -- that's a tough one for the president to do, without a doubt. Have we answered the question on the merits?

ERIC LIPTON, CORRESPONDENT, "NEW YORK TIMES": What's clear is from almost inauguration day in 2009 there was a political imperative to get money out the door through this program. There are e-mails that we've seen that show they were saying within 60 days we've got to get a deal done.

So, you know, they were working quite diligently to evaluate the merits, but there also -- there was an urgency. And -- and that is what you saw with the dispute between some divisions within the White House was that they felt this intense pressure to just get the money out the door.

And so, you know, in fact some of the auditors have already seen that they didn't complete all of the due diligence. They didn't check, you know, necessarily was there a good market, was the price right. They hadn't completed all that work before they made the conditional approval in March of 2009. And they met the 60-day deadline, but you know, did they really do all of the work that they needed to be sure that it was on the merits, and that's an open question.

KING: That's an open question. It also sounds like you can't say the process was straightforward if they didn't follow all the guidelines.

LIPTON: That's right. I mean, the Government Accountability Office has already asserted they didn't follow the rules and complete all of these required reviews before they made the conditional commitment.

And the reason that they were, you know, so determined to get it done by March was that the White House had said, "We want money out the door within 60 days. This is change you can believe in." That was the slogan of the administration. "We want some money out the door. We're going to show you that we can do things in the Obama administration." So they were determined to make that commitment quickly.

And in this case they did. It was the first deal done, and now there are questions about it.

KING: And those pictures we were showing on the other side of your screen, that's the president at the Solyndra factory.

Eric, Washington is often not fair. Somebody resigns, they may or may not, in certain cases, have perfectly legitimate reasons and may have been planned forever, but of course, the president making this emphatic defense of the program today. We know about the congressional investigation. We know about the FBI inquiry into Solyndra, and then Mr. Silver resigns. Resigned under pressure or resigned just to return to the private sector?

LIPTON: Well, I mean, very clearly in the statement that the department -- Department of Energy put out today, they said that this was a decision that really was started back in July of this year. You know, making -- trying to assert that this was something that has nothing to do with the investigation, which really didn't heat up until much more recently.

But I mean, there's still more shoes to drop in this investigation. Even within the next coming days, I think there's going to be some more information out there that may be embarrassing to the administration on this. And so, you know, to have this guy leave, it's convenient that he's got another position, but you have to wonder whether or not this was, you know, done with some pushing to try to have someone that they could point to that's taken a fall.

KING: Eric Lipton of the "New York Times," helping us with tonight's truth. A lot of questions still to come for the administration. Eric, thanks again for your help.

LIPTON: Thank you.

KING: Sarah Palin heads for the sidelines, and Republicans debate whether she can still hold sway over the GOP. Our debate includes a top McCain adviser who admits there was talk of somehow dumping Palin from the ticket if John McCain won the 2008 election.

And there are millions, billions of ways to count Steve Jobs' impact on the economy and our culture. Tonight's number reflects a very sound investment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. Here's the latest news you need to know right now.

Today FBI director Robert Mueller warned Congress that U.S. foreign terrorist Anwar al Awlaki is still a threat, even though a U.S. drone killed him in Yemen last Friday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: He was behind the recruiting of personnel who could undertake attacks in the United States. His death has certainly put a dent in that capability, but they still have -- AQAD still has the ability to undertake and develop IEDs. It would be somewhat more difficult for them to find persons to put them on planes or bring into the United States, but there is still that threat out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So the warning there.

And here's a first, the interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has fallen to 3.94 percent. That's a modern all-time low and the first time it's ever dropped below 4 percent. However, the Mortgage Bankers Association reports those low rates have done little to boost home buying.

Which brings us to tonight's "Number." We want it to put the impact of Steve Jobs in our economy and culture into context. Wow, there are so many options. Fifty-four million, for example. That's the number of Mac users worldwide. Or 15 billion. That's the number of songs downloaded from the iTunes store. Maybe one more. We could have more.

But in the end we settled on 6,000. What's that? That's the growth rate of Apple stock. Six thousand percent since Jobs returned as CEO in the mid-1990s.

Let's put it this way. If you bought $10,000 worth of Apple stock when Steve Jobs started, you would have $640,753 today. Look at that. That's a healthy, sound investment.

Maybe Erin Burnett bought some of that stock back in the day. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" coming up at the top of the hour. Erin, you'll be interviewing Amanda Knox's father?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, yes. I was not so lucky there on the stock. Yes, we're going to be talking to Curt Knox about Amanda Knox. As you know, John, it hasn't even been 48 hours since she's been back in the U.S. But what has she been doing? We're going to be talking with her father, which we're very much looking forward to.

And also, we're going to talk about the Hispanic vote and also what to do to fix Washington. I guess we all wish there was an answer to that. But we're going to be talking to the mayor of San Antonio, Julian Castro, who will be coming up on our hour. I know someone you know well, as well. John, back to you.

KING: Good luck with that fixing Washington thing. If you figure it out, let me know.

Also I don't want to let you go just yet. Christy Turlington, why is she making news?

BURNETT: Well, Christy Turlington has been -- has been really fighting for maternal health around the world. A supermodel who has used her beauty, her brawn and her brains to do a whole lot of good. So we're also going to be talking to her tonight and also taking you inside a women's jail in Pakistan, which by the way, John, that was a pretty amazing place to see and I'm excited to share it with everyone.

KING: Looking forward to the program. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" coming up in just a few minutes.

BURNETT: Thanks.

KING: Thanks, Erin, we'll see you in a few.

When we come back, Sarah Palin this time last night was bowing out of the 2012 presidential race. What will the Palin factor be now that she's not a candidate? Can she still sway the GOP? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: It was this time last night word broke that Sarah Palin will not seek the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. The former Alaska governor made her announcement on a conservative talk radio program and later explained it to her employer, FOX News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: I would go back and forth about whether now is the time, and if I say no to the opportunity that's in front of me, via running for office now, will -- politically speaking will I die; will I be ineffective?

But no, after making the decision today and making the announcement, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, after great confirmation today, too, Greta, personally speaking, I know that it's the right decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Truth be told, Governor Palin's political standing is in decline even among Republicans. But she does maintain a strong base of support among conservatives at the grassroots level. And to them, she offered this.

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PALIN: I apologize to those whom [SIC] are disappointed in this decision. I've been hearing from them in the last couple of hours. But I believe that they, when they take a step back, will understand why the decision was made and understand that, really, you don't need a title to make a difference in this country. I think that I'm proof of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: One of those supporters is the Iowa conservative activist, Becky Beach, who joins us tonight from Des Moines. And with me here in Los Angeles tonight, actor and activist Esai Morales, and former John McCain and George W. Bush adviser, Nicolle Wallace. A central character in her second novel "It's Classified" is a vice president whom Governor Palin is, shall we say, perhaps a significant inspiration for that character.

Let's begin the conversation. Becky, I want to go to you first. You traveled to Alaska recently. You have been asking Governor Palin -- you were with her when she came to Iowa a few weeks back. You wanted her to run. She explained to you directly why, and for a Palin supporter like yourself, now what?

BECKY BEACH, CONSERVATIVE ACTIVIST: Well, first, we were in Alaska to visit family, but I've had the wonderful opportunity of getting to know both Governor Palin and Todd. And I did hear from them yesterday before they made the announcement.

I applaud them and am pleased for them to make the right decision that they did for their family and for themselves. And I don't have any question in my mind that she'll still be a very strong force for conservative values. Her love of the country. And I don't think that she'll -- I don't think that her role will be diminished. It's just she's not going to run for president and, as she said, take the -- don't worry about taking a title.

KING: What's the impact on the state of Iowa? Is there one candidate who benefits? Do you now have Bachmann, Santorum, Cain and others running around, trying to scoop up the Palin vote? Governor Perry, as well?

BEACH: Well, I think they do. And yes, I think they will try to scoop up the movement here. And I think it is just that. I don't think in Iowa any -- any of the folks that have been working for Governor Palin will, as a group, move to any of them. Iowans are used to meeting all of the candidates individually.

But I think that the movement that she represents -- as I said, you know, the main thing that all of our candidates want to do is beat President Obama. And, you know, her -- her hard work and the grassroot effort that her people -- her volunteer force here have put together will definitely still have an impact, I think, on the 2012 election.

I think also -- yes, I mean some of the lower tier candidates, I think, will soon drop out. And definitely, people will be courting her current supporters here.

KING: And so, Nicolle, you hear from an ardent Palin supporter there, talking about influence. You're not a fan. You worked with her for the McCain campaign, came to have a relationship that I will describe as somewhat testy. I think you're both probably not in each other's fan club.

You recently told this to "TIME" magazine: "There certainly were discussions, not for long, because of the arc the campaign took, but certainly there were discussions about whether, if they were to win," meaning McCain/Palin, "it would be appropriate for her to be sworn in."

You came to the conclusion and others, as well, if you're having these conversations late in the 2008 campaign, that she was unfit.

NICOLLE WALLACE, FORMER MCCAIN ADVISOR: Let me just say three quick things. One, the power of Sarah Palin has always lay in the fierce devotion and loyalty of people like Becky, and that I think that in this decision that she recognizes that her ability to have people who would give up their lives, put their lives on hold, there are all sorts of people in Iowa who don't live there, are not from there, were there working on her behalf. So her power has always been in that connection.

I am a fan of her ability to connect. It's extraordinary.

KING: But you don't think she's fit to serve.

WALLACE: What I talked about...

KING: You had conversations in which people were saying, even if we win the election, how do we get rid of somebody who's just won an election as vice president?

WALLACE: Well, what I said to "TIME" magazine was based on advice that I got when I left politics and became a novelist, and that's to never really betray that relationship with your readers. When you're asked about the creative inspiration. I explained that, as a staffer, I had an experience of being deeply concerned about the candidate for whom I worked and that the impact of the extraordinary scrutiny of being launched as a national celebrity almost overnight had on her and her family. And there was concern and there were discussions that were as I described in that interview.

KING: She was a candidate and a celebrity all at once. I'm going to guess that you're not in sync with Sarah Palin's politics. What is it about her? What is the Palin star power?

ESAI MORALES, ACTOR & ACTIVIST: I think the Palin star power is simple. People believe that she's one of them, that you know, she's a soccer mom. She's a person who represents their interests.

And I do believe that she does have amazing power. And while I don't -- you know, I was just saying I believe that we are the most entertained and least informed society in this world because of our media, because of so much distraction. And I believe that she was used to distract. And many people who don't want Obama there, if you listen to conspiracy theorists, she was to make sure Obama won, because people didn't want that -- you know, the notion of her there. But she -- I think it's sincere. Unfortunately, I think she's, you know, misinformed about certain things like we all are.

KING: Do you think, Nicolle, that she can have the impact she wants to have or now that she is -- she'll be a media commentator. I assume she can go around the country and show up on the Tea Party rallies as she has in the past. Can she have as much influence on the sidelines as she might have had as a candidate?

WALLACE: I think she will have the exact kind of influence she wants and thrives in having. I think that, again, as I said, her power lays in the devotion of her supporters. So as long as there are people who are devoted to her and who believe in her, she will have power and influence.

KING: Want to thank Becky in Iowa. Becky is going to leave us. We move to Washington issues for the next block. You guys stay with me right here.

When we come back, the president threatens to campaign against a do-nothing Congress if it doesn't pass his jobs bill now. But is he too weak to rally public opinion? And which Republicans do Americans trust more than the president -- way more -- to handle the economy? That's next.

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KING: At his White House press conference today, the president's exasperation was front and center.

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OBAMA: This is not a game. This is not the time for the usual political gridlock.

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KING: He's right. This isn't a game. There are nearly 23 million Americans who are unemployed or underemployed, and it would be nice if Washington could find a way to help them. But is President Obama too weak politically to win this argument?

A new Quinnipiac poll out tonight shows a record low job approval rating for the president. Just 41 percent approve; 55 percent disapprove of how he's handling his job.

In that same poll, Texas Governor Rick Perry narrowly edges President Obama when Americans are asked who they trust more to handle the economy. And look at this: another leading Republican hopeful, former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, has a 10-point advantage over the president on the economy.

Let's pick up there with Esai Morales, Nicolle Wallace and joining us, David Gergen, who has advised four presidents.

David, I want to go to you first. At this moment, the president is trying to get to Congress, and he has problems -- let's be honest -- with Democrats and Republicans to pass the jobs plan. Is his political standing too weak to rally the public to his side?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: A good question. So far he's -- I think he president has scored political points, especially about taxing millionaires. But we have not seen the kind of public response that we saw earlier, as a reporter pointed out to the president, and the debt ceiling fight when he asked Americans to call the Congress, the phone lines were jammed, and messages came pouring in.

This time, there's very little response. John, I've been around the country this week. I was in New Orleans earlier in the week and Columbus, Ohio, last couple days and now in Greensburg, North Carolina. Not one person has asked me about the jobs bill. Not one person has said, "Do you think we can get that passed?"

I don't find there's a lot of public interest in it. That Quinnipiac poll you cited, especially that 10-point Romney lead, that was really eye opening.

KING: And so what does that tell you? Esai, I want to start with you. Well, you have on the left, people discouraged in the president, and they see lately the fight many have been looking for. And when you see at this point a lot can change, a lot can change, but four in 10 Americans approve of his job as president, and one of the leading Republicans beats him by 10 points on the No. 1 issue.

MORALES: I think that's about illusion, the impression that a businessman can save all of our problems. I think business folk got us into this mess to begin with. Wall Street, these incredible giveaways to an industry that did not lend back to the economy, to the people that it took the money from.

I think unfortunately the -- you know, the fan base is a little -- a little jaded. I think we recognize this as pre-election posturing, and we don't know if it's too little too late.

WALLACE: Let me just say, I mean, it's disillusionment also. And I think that, while it was Republican Eric Cantor who called the jobs bill dead on arrival, it was the Democratic-led Senate that killed it.

And the fact that he announced this jobs bill with no legwork done with his Democratic-controlled Senate leadership and supposed allies, it died on the vine in all that period between his big speech to the country, his big announcement that help was on the way, and the Democratic-controlled Senate letting it die.

KING: Democratic-controlled Senate let that die. Listen here to the president. He's asked the other Senate Democrats completely changed -- changing the financing of the president's jobs plan. They want the millionaire's surtax. The president was asked if he was OK with that. Listen.

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OBAMA: There's going to be more work to do with respect to making our tax system fair and just and promoting growth in terms of the immediate action of getting this jobs bill passed, I'm fine with the approach that they're taking.

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KING: David, if you read the body language, he's less than fine -- he's less than fine with it.

GERGEN: You know, it's -- I think you're right, John. But the fact is the White House thinks it's scoring political points by reframing the argument and pointing blame in other directions beyond the White House.

They're trying to say now they're casting for and saying it's millionaires and billionaires that are really screwing this up. If they just did the right thing, we'd be fine. They are trying to reframe the argument for the election. They don't want to run an election on the accomplishments of the past. They want to run an election based on what might -- what the choices are for the future.

KING: I want to jump in -- I want to jump in -- I want to jump in, David. I just want to come back to run an election, David Gergen says. There are 13 months to the election. So unemployed, underemployed American out there, wait till the next election?

MORALES: I don't think so. You can't. Something has to change fundamentally. The system is broken. So you can keep -- you can go from Republican to Democrat all day long, but certain things are not going to change.

KING: You've advised presidents. You're Republican. What should he do differently if he wants to get this done?

WALLACE: Well, I think all this pontificating in public and distancing himself from Washington that he so publicly controls and tried and failed to dominate just exposes his weaknesses and doesn't seem to be helping him politically.

KING: Amazing moment we are at in the country. Early in the campaign but in full form. Nicolle, Esai, David, thanks very much.

That's all for us tonight. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" ready to start right now. So Erin, Christy Turlington tonight.