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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
State of the Union Analysis
Aired February 2, 2005 - 22:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, the president has laid out his agenda for the next four years in the first State of the Union address of the second term. We're going to get reactions from both sides of the aisle in Washington, D.C. We're also going to be with you until midnight Eastern time, until 9:00 Pacific.
Let's go right to Statuary Hall in Capitol Hill for an exclusive interview with Senator Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader. He traveled to Iraq and to the tsunami.
What did you make of the -- I don't think you're going to criticize it. What's your overall view of the speech?
U.S. SENATOR BILL FRIST (R), TENNESSEE: Well, Larry, very positive. I think you mentioned Iraq. The key moment for me was that moment where Safia, the woman from Iraq whose dad had been assassinated, hugged Sergeant Norwood's mom, and when that little dog tag or whatever it was became entangled. You could see around me people's eyes tearing up just a little bit.
In addition, Social Security a lot more detailed than I had expected and most people, and then this whole culture of life. He really put his stamp on the culture of life, and said "constitutional amendment, I'm out there 100 percent for it."
KING: Senator, on the front page of today's "New York Times," it says the fate of President Bush's domestic agenda rests in many ways with Bill Frist. And Social Security was a big part of that agenda tonight. Are you going to get that passed?
FRIST: Yes, Larry, you know, as I was sitting there listening to the list of things that the president wants to do and is going to lead on -- and it's a bold list. It's a courageous list. Taking on Social Security, politicians just don't like taking it on because of the past. When you touch it, you could get burned with it.
But when you look at that and health care, and you look at energy policy, and tort reform, and class action, and asbestos, in the back of my mind, as majority leader, the list gets long. And it's going to be tough.
I do need 60 votes. I'm going to continue to reach out across the aisle to work with my Democratic colleagues to accomplish this agenda. It's in the best interests of all of us, and I'm going to really work hard to make this a bipartisan move, to move America forward. KING: How will you respond to the risk of having young people invest in stocks with regard to their future when that's so fluctuating?
FRIST: Yes, Larry, I think it was very interesting tonight. The president, in essence, said, anybody born before 1950, nothing's going to change for you. What I -- who I'm speaking to, said the president, are people after the birth date of 1950. That is, young people, people who, for the most part, believe two to one in UFOs more than Social Security. And they are accustomed to this ownership society.
And the president made it clear that's the audience that we have to engage. And I think that they believe, just like the president said, United States senators, every member in the House, has a thrift savings account, which is very similar to what the president is offering. That will click with the American people. And I think it will be a much easier sell.
I know the Democrats and the Democratic leader says we're not going to let it happen. We're going to engage the American people like the president did tonight, like he will the next two days, and with that, I think America will listen.
It's a problem. You can call it a crisis. You can call it a challenge. It doesn't matter. We know we're going to have to act. Having no plan is not the answer.
KING: A couple other things, Senator. On those judicial nominations, do you think they'll move swiftly?
FRIST: Well, he hit pretty hard on that tonight, as well. The president made it very clear that what the Senate needs to do -- our obligation, not his, not the House of Representatives' -- but our obligation is to give advice and consent. And the only way we can do that is to give an up-or-down vote, yes or no.
Again, it's been a little disappointing to me to have the Democrats draw a line in the sand, and in the last couple of days say, "Well, we're not going to give you that vote."
I'm going to continue to work, as the president will, to give every nominee who's made it through committee an up-or-down vote. And you can vote against them or you can vote for them, just give them an up-or-down vote. So, yes, I think we will accomplish that this year.
KING: Historically, though, hasn't it been always that way? Wasn't Clinton's held up?
FRIST: Well, you know, yes and no. Never on the floor of the United States Senate, never in 200 years of history has a presidential nominee who has majority support been not given an up-or-down vote on the floor of the Senate. We've had cloture votes, and a little mini- filibuster for a day or two days, but every nominee with majority support has gotten an up-or-down vote. They haven't all made it through, but that's all we ask for. But you're right, there are other ways to block, in committee, coming through committee, and every senator will use all of those procedural tools. But once you make it through that committee process, you deserve a vote on the floor of the United States Senate, if we're going to do our constitutional duty as senators to give advice and consent. If your hands are locked up and you can't vote, you can't give advice and consent.
KING: Two other things. In the Democratic response, Congresswoman Pelosi said that he offered no end game in Iraq. How do you respond to that?
FRIST: Well, you know, they have to pre-tape that before they listen to the president. So, you know, it's always this disconnect there. It's always uncomfortable.
But I was surprised that she spent so much time after these free elections that we had -- and those purple-stained fingers put up in the air, and we saw it on TV last week -- to spend so much time on the end game, because the American people at this point know that there is an end game as much as there can be. And that is to have enough security in Iraq so that they can govern themselves.
We didn't have an exit strategy and a date that we were going to leave in World War I, or World War II, or the Korean War, or Vietnam. So why would we now in these uncertain times? When there is security there so that Iraqi people can self-govern, so that power of that vote in that finger that we saw the other day up in the air, can be realized, then we will be able to leave.
KING: And one other thing, Senator. Logically, if you were to decide to make a run for the presidency, wouldn't you have to give up the majority leadership? Can you do both things?
FRIST: No, listen, I'm here -- you know, I think because I'm majority leader, everybody throws your name in the hat, and it gets circulating out there. And I know that. I'm smart enough to know that.
You heard that long list the president put out there today. That's doable. The American people want us to govern with meaningful solutions. Forget the partisanship. They want results, not rhetoric. They want action and not just talk. And that's what this president will give.
As you pointed out earlier, that's going to be our responsibility in the Senate. The House can lead with majority vote. So that's where these two years are going to be. And then after two years, I'm going back to Tennessee. That's my home. I said I was going to serve two terms in the United States Senate. That's exactly what I'm going to do.
KING: So you're done in the Senate after two more years?
FRIST: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. And it's been a great ten years. But these next two years are the reason that -- I hope all Americans will commit some time to public service, to see that we have this opportunity to move America forward in a way that is really unprecedented in, at least, my lifetime.
KING: Always good to spend time with you. Thanks so much, Senator.
FRIST: Thank you, Larry. Great to be with you.
KING: Senator Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader. We'll come back, meet our panel. Senator John McCain will be joining us with this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will not set an artificial timetable for leaving Iraq because that would embolden the terrorists and make them believe they can wait us out. We are in Iraq to achieve a result: A country that is democratic, representative of all its people, at peace with its neighbors, and able to defend itself. And when that result is achieved, our men and women serving in Iraq will return home with the honor they have earned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Our panel that will be with us through the rest of the program consists of Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking minority member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Representative Chris Cox, chairman of the Select Committee on Homeland Security, Representative Ellen Tauscher, member of the House Armed Services Committee, the famed presidential historian, best-selling author, and ABC News consultant, Michael Beschloss. And we'll be joined momentarily by Senator John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
Let's get a moment or two on Capitol Hill at Statuary Hall with Senator John McCain, a member of Armed Services, the decorated Vietnam veteran.
What did you make of the speech?
U.S. SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, I thought it was his best performance to date, stylistically and confidence-wise. There's very little doubt that he's a different personality almost than he was in his first year.
I think it was a strong message, particularly to our friends in the Middle East, including the Saudis, and the Egyptians, and the Syrians, that we're -- democracy is on the march. And finally, the scene with the mother and father and the woman, Iraqi woman, was indeed as touching as anything as I've ever observed.
KING: What surprised you, Senator? MCCAIN: Probably what surprised me, Larry, was his very candid remarks, particularly regarding Egypt and Saudi Arabia. And as far as Iran is concerned, look, the message is to the young people in Iran, "We're with you."
And just as -- it reminded me a little bit of Ronald Reagan, when he said, "Take down this wall." I mean, we're on the side of democracy and freedom, and it's on the march.
KING: Is he going to get that Social Security idea passed?
MCCAIN: I think he can. I think he described it very well. I think he put to rest fears in anyone over age 55 -- I guess that's you and me. We're OK -- to rest. And I think this is the opening salvo in his campaign. He's going to be out around the country. I'm not sure he can win, but I think right now, if I had to lay odds, I think he can.
KING: Thank you, Senator. Always good seeing you.
MCCAIN: Thank you.
KING: It's been a long night. Senator John McCain.
Senator Feinstein, what did you think of the speech?
U.S. SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I agree with John in this sense. I think he's got a great deal more confidence as a speaker. I think there are parts of it that were soaring, that were overarching, that were very impressive.
I had a real problem with what he said on Social Security. To be very candid with you, I learned something yesterday in our centrist coalition meeting, and that is that 50 percent of the workers in America are not covered by retirement plans. So anything that would dismantle Social Security, I think, should not be supported.
And I think where you heard some remonstrance in the audience was when he mentioned that Social Security would be "bankrupt" in 2042. That's simply not true. And we have the time to do what we need to do to adjust it.
I think, on our side of the aisle in the Senate, we do not want to be part of the dismantling of Social Security. We want to fix it, and I believe we can.
The next part that was troubling to me was making all the tax cuts permanent, with a deficit that's a half a trillion dollars and expanding. And the cost of making the tax cuts permanent is about $2 trillion. Long-term, that fixes Social Security.
KING: All right. I'm going to cut you -- hold on one second. I'm going to come back to you, Dianne. I've got to take a break and come back.
And our panel's going to be with us throughout the next full hour, all of them assembled. We'll be right back. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: As we fix Social Security, we also have the responsibility to make the system a better deal for younger workers. And the best way to reach that goal is through voluntary personal retirement accounts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Again, on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE, we're going to be with you for another full hour, up till midnight Eastern, 9:00 Pacific. We're going to spend -- and then get to the full panel, will be with us in that hour.
We're going to spend a couple of moments now with Senator Barbara Boxer, member of the Committee on Foreign Relations, Democratic chief deputy whip.
What surprised you tonight, Barbara?
U.S. SENATOR BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Oh, my goodness. I think there were so many topics that the president hit upon tonight. But I think I'd have to say the real open commitment in Iraq.
I mean, President Bush laid out four new thresholds that have to be met. It has to be democratic. It has to be representative of all the people there. It has to be able to defend itself and at peace with all its neighbors.
And that brings with it just this open commitment, and open check book, at the same time he says he's going to cut deeply into domestic discretionary programs. And that means for America less funding for education, less funding for transportation, for the environment. And, as Senator Feinstein, I thought, so clearly put it, it's the opening salvo of a huge debate over Social Security.
And he just laid it down that he's going that direction. You know, in 1978, George Bush, candidate for Congress, said that Social Security would be broke by 1988. He was wrong then, and he's wrong now.
KING: Will that mean then there's going to be a bitter fight on the Hill?
BOXER: I would hope not. I would hope that the people of this country will weigh in. You know, when the president says to the people 55 and over, "Don't worry about it, you're safe." That seems to me to be causing kind of a war among the people based on their ages. But people who are 55 have children, and they're concerned about them. So why should someone at 55 get it and 54 not get it?
KING: And on judicial nominations, will that change? Will they be voted on? Will they come to the floor? BOXER: Well, you know, the best person to talk to is my senior senator, Senator Feinstein. Let me tell you, we have agreed to over 200 of George Bush's nominees. We have stopped 10 of the most extreme.
And it isn't easy to say we want to stop these from coming to a final vote, but there is an advise-and-consent role of the United States Senate. And when a president, be he or she, Republican or Democratic, goes to the extremes, we have to weigh in.
And I was very disappointed that the president kind of took on the Senate in that way because, really, our founders said we're supposed to be a check-and-balance on the executive branch.
KING: Thank you, Senator. Senator Barbara Boxer, Democratic chief deputy whip, Democrat of California.
Our panel is, again, going to be with us for a full hour. We'll also check in with Governor Richardson, and then the rest of the way with the panel.
Senator Warner, what surprised you in the speech?
U.S. SENATOR JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: Larry, I welcomed the tremendous reverberations in that hall each time the people of Iraq were mentioned, and the men and women of the Armed Forces were mentioned, and their families.
No one watching tonight could help but come away with the feeling that it was a tough decision to go in. It now appears to be the right decision that we made. And that historic vote would not have taken place unless there had been sacrifices by our men and women of the Armed Forces and their family. And it struck a freedom ring throughout the world.
And the president has now put together Afghanistan. He's working on the Palestinian freedom. Hopefully, we will succeed, in a reasonable period of time, our goals in Iraq, and there will be three nations standing as an example of the resolve of the American people to allow other nations to achieve their goals as we have had ours these 200-plus years.
KING: Historian Michael Beschloss, are State of the Union speeches ever memorable? Is there a great one in American history?
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, HISTORIAN: Yes. One of them was one that actually George Bush referred to tonight, although not by name. And that was at the beginning of World War II, when Franklin Roosevelt talked about the four freedoms.
And one of the freedoms that he advocated was freedom from fear. And that was exactly the phrase that George Bush used tonight.
And you know, Larry, if anyone had any doubt before tonight about the sweep of George Bush's ambition to be remembered as a great president, just listen to the speech that we have just heard, not only hearkening back to Franklin Roosevelt, but, at the very end of the speech, you know, he talks about this time being parallel to the time when we abolished slavery or were able to resist fascism or ended communism. He sees his presidency in very grand terms.
KING: We're going to take a break. When we come back, I'll introduce the entire panel, and they will be with us for a full hour.
We'll hear from Congressman Cox, and Congresswoman Tauscher, and of course Senators Feinstein, Warner, and historian Michael Beschloss. We'll spend a few moments with Governor Bill Richardson, the chairman of the Democratic Governors' Association.
And, of course, we're also going to include your phone calls. We're with you for another full hour, and we'll be back with all of that following these words. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The victory of freedom in Iraq will strengthen a new ally in the war on terror, inspire democratic reformers from Damascus to Tehran, bring more hope and progress to a troubled region, and thereby lift a terrible threat from the lives of our children and grandchildren. We will succeed, because the Iraqi people value their own liberty, as they showed the world last Sunday.
KING: This was two hours ago, when the president entered the House chamber for the traditional State of the Union speech. A little later this year, in February. Normally it's in January, but they wanted to wait until after the Iraqi elections. It turned out a pretty smart move.
Here's our complete panel. We're going to be with you for another full hour on this special 90-minute edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
All our guests are in Washington today. Senator John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, the military veteran, former secretary of the Navy, Republican of Virginia.
Senator Dianne Feinstein is the ranking minority member Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security, member of the Select Committee on Intelligence. She was in Iraq in December. Democrat of California.
Congressman Christopher Cox, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, chairman of the House Policy Committee, Republican of California.
Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, member of the House Armed Services Committee, national vice chair of the Democratic Leadership Council. Was a participant in the training forum for Iraqi women candidates in Amman, Jordan, prior to the January 30 election. Democrat of California. And Michael Beschloss, the famed presidential historian, best- selling author, and also a consultant for ABC News.
We're going to spend a couple of moments going to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Governor Bill Richardson, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, former ambassador to the U.N., former secretary of Energy, Democrat of New Mexico.
What surprised you tonight?
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: Well, Larry, there seemed to be a disconnect. We're governors out here in the states. Folks out in America care about health care, the fact that 44 million are uninsured. They want better schools. They want better funding for schools.
So there's a disconnect. The president seemed to be talking about issues, tort reform, judicial nominations, that out in the states are not issues. Social Security is not an issue. I think the problem is one that is serious, but it is not a crisis.
On the other hand, the president was positive, he was confident. I was pleased as formerly in foreign policy that he talked about diplomacy, he didn't make hawkish statements. But what I wanted, Larry, was I wanted to say, "Hey, Democrats, join me in this effort. Hey, states, I want to help you with Medicaid and aid to the disabled and children's health insurance and education and No Child Left Behind."
I didn't hear that. But at the same time, the president deserved -- he looked good. He deserved I think the accolades he got. But I felt a disconnect out here in the states.
The proudest moment was obviously the National Guard issue here in New Mexico. We -- we just passed today -- I saw a law today, a $250,000 life insurance policies for National Guards. We've been waiting for Washington to act. I'm glad Senator Warner's taken a leadership role.
But that young man, Marine Norwood and his family, that deserve all these accolades only get a $12,000 death benefit. We must do better.
KING: He urged -- he discussed the energy bill. And you're a former secretary of energy. What did you think of that bill?
RICHARDSON: Well, I think he needs a bill that combines the need for more production, oil, natural gas, fossil fuels, but also energy efficiency, renewable energy. He said that, but in reality I'd like to see the president more engaged in recognizing that in the West, in the country, there are areas that need protection, need environmental safeguards, need wildlife protections. And somehow the effort is too oriented towards domestic production, as opposed to conservation and energy efficiency.
But we do need an energy bill. And I hope there is a balanced one that is passed.
KING: On February 12, the DNC will vote on a successor to Terry McAuliffe as chairman. Will it be Howard Dean?
RICHARDSON: Most likely, Larry. I believe it's almost a foregone conclusion. And we the governors look forward to working with Governor Dean.
I think what has happened in this election for DNC is that the grassroots have decided. The decision shouldn't be made in Washington, shouldn't be made in state houses by political leaders. It should be our grassroots.
Governor Dean has won fair and square. I believe it's almost inevitable. And I believe he's going to reach out to Democrats that are moderate, conservative. He needs to do that because he has a little bit of a liberal image, that in the South and in the West there needs to be more inclusionary efforts to bring in Democrats from those part of the regions.
KING: Thank you. Governor Bill Richardson, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, governor of New Mexico.
Let's bring our Congress people in.
Congressman Cox, what -- anything surprise you tonight?
REP. CHRISTOPHER COX (R), CALIFORNIA: I thought the president did a masterful job of picking up where he left off in his inaugural address, which you'll recall was centered on the theme of freedom. He made it very explicit both in domestically policy and in foreign policy tonight.
On Social Security, he took the opportunity to lay out his principals so that people could understand them. There's been a great effort made to poison the well, to frighten people, and so on. He made it very clear that this is a problem that's not going away.
We can say there is no crisis, but he alluded to President Clinton, who took up this issue. In fact, in 1995, President Bill Clinton appointed a bipartisan commission on entitlement reform. It was 2-1 Democratic members, commissioners.
They voted 30-1 that the current system is not sustainable. And they said that we will short change our children's future and our nation's future unless we act now. What will our nation think of us 10 years, 15, 20 years from now if we do nothing?
Well, we're 10 years further down the road. The Social Security trustees are telling us the same thing now that they told us then. The demographics are real. The baby boomers really are retiring. We really are trying to sustain this...
KING: All right.
COX: ... pay as you go system with fewer workers and more retirees. I know. I was one of those commissioners that President Clinton appointed. And all of the people who served on that commission that are still in Congress right now know better.
KING: All right.
Congresswoman Tauscher, if there is a problem, is his solution correct?
REP. ELLEN TAUSCHER (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, Larry, you know, I was disappointed that the president began to talk about the fact that this money could be moved and it was your money. And that -- that is completely fallacious.
It's not anybody that is working right now's money. It's my mom's money, somebody who is getting Social Security and retired. And so the whole question of how do you move money and segregate it into an account that would be in my name or one of my constituent's names that doesn't go to my mom, where do you get the money that's meant to go to my mom?
So a lot of these things that the president talked about, I think the president was strong. I think he was certainly confident. I think he felt very comfortable being there. But at the same time, he left out some big facts that are deeply disturbing.
I was amused when the president said he wanted to work in a bipartisan way, but effectively said, I'm not doing this, this and this. And I want to do that. And I'm happy to come and talk to you.
But he's pretty much made his mind up. And that doesn't leave very many -- much room for up.
KING: Michael Beschloss, historically would you call this a very tough speech?
BESCHLOSS: It was a tough speech, and I think that was for a reason. You know, not only the depth of George Bush's ambition to do things that are politically risky, but also this... in a way he's powerful.
You know, this is the first Republican in a hundred years since Theodore Roosevelt to come into a second term dominating both houses of Congress. But at the same time, George Bush knows that a second- term president basically has about nine or 10 months.
Even in 1965, when LBJ was elected by the biggest landslide in presidential history, enormous majorities in both houses, did things like voting rights and other programs, Medicare, that we remember him for, basically those were done by September. And by September of that first year his own party began to rebel.
So a lot of the vibrato we heard tonight I think is said with the effort to delay that moment as much as possible.
KING: Senator Feinstein, is there going to be a war over this Social Security thing? FEINSTEIN: Oh, I can only say that in the Senate, on the Democratic side of the aisle, we feel very strongly that Social Security should not be dismantled. We have major concerns about any privatization.
Where it has been tried, Great Britain, Chile, many other countries, it has not worked all that well. And the fact of the matter is that, you know, half of the people depend on it. Twenty percent of the people have no other source of income that are receiving it.
And the bottom line is that we've got the time to make the fixes that are necessary. And we should begin those.
And I must give the president credit for this. He laid out a number of options on the table. He said one thing is to increase overtime -- I'm sure he meant the retirement age.
Another thing you can do that produces consequential funds is increase the amount of wage that's subject to the Social Security levy from $90,000. I mean, if you go up to $143,000, it's something like $1.7 trillion over the 75-year life of what we're trying to accomplish.
I mentioned to you before giving the Social Security trustees the ability to make the fixes that are necessary by independently evaluating the system from an actuarial point of view ever five years or so. And then making a proposal to Congress which we can vote up or down. I like that because it takes the politics out of it.
KING: All right. Let me get a -- let me get a break and get Senator Warner to comment, because I noticed he -- he looked kind of askance at some of the things you were saying.
We'll be right back. We're going to include your phone calls. Our panel is now with us the rest of the hour.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: If you've got children in their 20s, as some of us do, the idea of Social Security collapsing before they retire does not seem like a small matter. And it should not be a small matter to the United States Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: America will stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements in the Middle East and beyond, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We will get to foreign affairs and the like. But staying with Social Security, I'm sure Senator Warner has some thoughts -- John.
WARNER: Thank you, Larry. I'd like to do just a little wrap-up on it.
It's always a pleasure to be with Michael Beschloss. He's a man of history, and he reminded me of the most famous line of Roosevelt. "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
Too much fear is being injected in this debate so early on. This is my 27th year, privileged to be a member of the Senate representing Virginia, and I've seen a lot of debates.
This is going to be a great debate, a good debate, one the nation needs. And if it's one prediction I make tonight, it is that Congress will do no wrong to this gigantic foundation which has supported so many people these years. We're going to do what's right.
It will be bipartisan. We can't do it with 51 votes. We've got to draw from across the aisle.
So that means in the course of the debate we will consider those things that the president has put on the table. He will consider the things that we will put on the table. And I'm confident we will reach the right result in the course of time.
So I close by saying, don't let fear be injected into the American people now. Let them follow this debate and have confidence that working with our president will do the right thing to strengthen the system at this time.
KING: Chris Cox, what's going to be the toughest hurdle for him?
COX: Well, obviously the Social Security discussion that we're having indicates that it's going to be a heavy lift because this is a problem that has been staring us in the face for an awfully long time. But I give the president...
KING: What else?
COX: ... extraordinary high marks for taking it on. I think the president's call tonight, his renewed call for making the tax cuts permanent, by which he means staving off what is currently scheduled to be the largest tax increase in American history, which would wreck the recovery, is going to be also a difficult legislative challenge, but one that I think that he has the capital to carry across the finish line in the Congress.
Overseas, I heard him issue an extraordinary challenge to Saudi Arabia and to Egypt. His atta boys for the Palestinian efforts at democracy obviously are hopeful. And there's a lot to be done there as well.
So the president took on big challenges across the board.
KING: Congresswoman Tauscher, didn't the events of Sunday, the election in Iraq give you some encouragement about that whole region?
TAUSCHER: You know, Sunday was a wonderful day, but it was one day. And I think we have to string a couple of those days together before I think we really begin to believe that we can think of a path of extricating ourselves.
It is a beginning for the Iraqis to self-govern. And I think that that is fundamentally important for us to begin to stand up an Iraqi military that we can eventually exchange for ourselves one for one. But that is a long time in coming.
Even the training of our own military takes a year, 18 months, sometimes two years. There's very little officer core left, not only because they were mostly Ba'athists, but because they have basically missing in action for almost two years now.
So there's a lot of the challenge in Iraq yet to be seen. And I think that we still need to really understand, are we going to continue borrowing $80 billion every four, five months? Are we going to increase the debt to fund this? Where are we going to find the troops that are going to go into Iraq in the next rotation of Operation Iraqi Freedom seven?
Are we still going to have 40 to 45 percent of the troops in Iraq be Guard and Reserve? Are we going to make sure that everybody has an up-armored vehicle?
All of these things are increased challenges. And they are a long-term challenge for us. And we really, I think, are desperately in trouble when it comes to breaking our military.
Many of us believe we have to have a voluntary military, but we have decreasing numbers in recruiting retention in the Guard and Reserve. I think we're going to have problems going forward. So I think that these are issues that the president is going to have to look at.
KING: Michael Beschloss, you mentioned that second terms usually fade after a year. Why?
BESCHLOSS: Well, what happens is that even when a president comes in with a pretty impressive reelection, he uses that first year to ask especially members of his own party to do things that may give them a lot of trouble, may make it hard for them to get reelected. And for the first number of the months -- months of that first year of the second term they're willing to do it. But by the fall, oftentimes what they say is, we're exhausted, you've asked us to do so many things that have put us into political jeopardy that if we do many more than we may not come back to Congress next year, in the case of the House.
KING: So, in other words, we have to come back, you don't?
BESCHLOSS: Yes, that's exactly right. And Lyndon Johnson, as I was mentioning earlier, was the best example of that because he had been in the House and the Senate for so many years.
He basically said I have to get everything done by the fall. That's why he drove the House and Senate so hard. So we maybe see George Bush following tonight in the footsteps of that other Texan.
KING: We're going to take a break, come back and begin to include your phone calls on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE following the State of the Union address.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: One of Iraq's leading democracy and human rights advocates is Safia Taleb al-Suhal (ph). She says of her country, "We were occupied for 35 years by Saddam Hussein. That was the real occupation. Thank you to the American people who paid the cost, but most of all to the soldiers."
Eleven years ago, Safia's (ph) father was assassinated by Saddam's intelligence service. Three days ago in Baghdad, Safia (ph) was finally able to vote for the leaders of her country, and we are honored that she is with us tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Today, Iran remains the world's primary state sponsor of terror. Pursuing nuclear weapons while depriving its people of the freedom they seek and deserve. We are working with European allies to make clear to the Iranian regime that it must give up its uranium enrichment program and any plutonium reprocessing and end its support for terror. And to the Iranian people, I say tonight, as you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Let's begin to include some calls for our distinguished panel. We go to Jackson, Mississippi.
KING: Hi. CALLER: Yes, my question is, I'm a citizen in my mid 40s. I have children in the 20-year-old range. How do I know who to believe, the Democrats or the Republicans, regarding Social Security?
KING: Senator Feinstein, both sound right.
FEINSTEIN: Well, of course I think you should believe the Democrats on Social Security. I sincerely believe and have spent a lot of time -- and there are two sources of figures, the Social Security people, and the Congressional Budget Office, which is controlled by Republicans. They indicate that even in 2042 Social Security can pay a minimum 70 percent of what is owned to people. So it is not going to go bankrupt in that sense.
Is -- are there demographic changes which move the system out of balance? Yes. And the sooner we address those changes by making the system actuarially balanced, the better the system will be.
The problem is it's very hard in a political body to make those changes. And that's why -- and I hand it to the president tonight -- he did put on the table many of the options. What we specifically object to is a plan that sets up private accounts, that takes money from the payroll tax to pay for that investment of the private accounts.
FEINSTEIN: Because that means other beneficiaries are going to have their benefits reduced.
KING: Senator Warner, you said that you will do no wrong. I don't think any Social Security check has ever been missed. Is that correct?
WARNER: That's the best of my knowledge.
KING: In the history of Social Security, I don't think it's even been late.
KING: I think everybody has always gotten it.
WARNER: And if anything ever happened, the full faith and credit of the United States is behind the financial program.
I'd like to answer the woman's question about who to believe. Believe yourself. Americans simply can't sit in their reclining chairs in this debate. You've got to get in. You've got to study and make your own thought processes work.
I've written the General Accounting Office, which has been renamed. It's sort of that function in Washington to give us the unbiased, varnished facts. So if you're not in agreement with the president, we're going to present some facts out there that's sort of middle ground. If the AARP is way out here on one side, the president on the other, there's going to be a lot of facts to consider. So you're going to have an active role. And I hope that you communicate with your member of Congress and tell him or her exactly what you believe.
KING: Well said.
Cornville, Arizona, hello.
CALLER: How are you?
KING: Hi. Fine.
CALLER: My question is, who's going to pay for all this health care, education and the deficit?
KING: Congressman Cox.
COX: Well, obviously taxpayers are going to pay for it if we don't reform these entitlement programs. That's what the president's bipartisan commission on entitlement and tax reform addressed 10 years ago.
It was President Clinton's commission. I served on it. And the findings of that commission, which were then bipartisan, applied just as much today.
What that commission found is that in 2030 Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and only the federal retirement programs, just those four alone, would consume all federal tax revenues unless changes were made in these programs. And yet, we've gone 10 years now further down the road and done absolutely nothing.
The only thing that we can do if we're going to leave Social Security exactly the way it is, as a pay-as-you-go system, is to raise taxes or cut benefits. Both of those things are unnecessary. We can be smarter than that.
And the problem is for somebody who is 40 years old, like the last caller, or 20 years old, like her children, the Social Security benefits that we can look forward to are what they call in Silicon Valley vaperware. They're not going to be there. And that's why most young people don't believe in Social Security in their future any more than they believe in UFOs, according to a recent poll.
We can do better than this. And we've got to do better than this by investing the money and letting it grow over time. And then over an entire lifetime there'll be something there.
The most important thing the president said tonight is that if you invest your taxes -- they're your earnings, remember. This money is getting taken away from your earnings. If you invest it and put it in an account, albeit for savings in a government-run Social Security system, that money is yours. You own it, and nobody can every take it away. If we don't do that, on the other hand, we'll have a vacant promise by a government that everyone acknowledges is going to run out of money.
KING: We'll be right back with more and more phone calls. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Because marriage is a sacred institution and the foundation of society, it should not be redefined by activist judges. For the good of families, children and society, I support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage.
KING: Victorville, California. Hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry.
CALLER: My question is to Dianne Feinstein, and it's regarding privatizing Social Security. My birthday is -- falls between the year of 1950 and 1955. I current -- I am currently retired through early retirement. I've worked for over 30 years. And I'd like to know how would privatizing Social Security affect me, when I'm currently not putting anything into it?
FEINSTEIN: Well, of course, we don't know what the details of the plan are at this time, so it's really very hard to tell. It depends on exactly what the nature of the program is and whether everybody's eligible for it or -- and the president said it would be voluntary. So we've got to wait and see. But I think one of the things I can say that the president said, your Social Security isn't going to be touched. I think you can feel assured...
KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on that.
FEINSTEIN: ... that it's going to be there. In other words, count on it.
KING: Michael Beschloss, I believe, historically, there was some fight over Social Security. Conservatives were very opposed to it when Roosevelt proposed it, weren't they?
BESCHLOSS: From the very beginning, 1935. They thought that it would...
BESCHLOSS: ... end the work ethic and allow everyone to lean on their shovels and make everyone lazy. Most of the people who were against it soon came around when they saw how popular it was among their own constituents.
But one thing, if I could say, Larry, I just hope that the debate over this this year stays as high level as the one that we've heard tonight among the members of this panel.
BESCHLOSS: I'm not quite confident that it will.
KING: Wasn't the first major defeat of the Reagan administration when he proposed some change in Social Security, and he got beat, like, 97 to 2 in the Senate?
BESCHLOSS: And that was one of the times when this...
BESCHLOSS: ... used. You know, it's a third rail, you touch it and you die. And during the first debate between Ronald Reagan, or the only debate between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter in 1980, one of the accusations that Carter made was, Don't vote for Reagan because he will take away your Social Security.
KING: Isn't it true, Senator Warner -- I believe that -- I believe Governor Reagan or President Reagan said that to me in an interview, that he misread that?
WARNER: Yes, my recollection, we all voted one way and then within a very short period of time, we ran down the Hill and canceled the vote. So we went up the Hill and ran down the Hill, is my recollection on that. So (UNINTELLIGIBLE) come back again, Congress. May make a mistake, but it'll right itself. But this time, I think we're going to get it right.
KING: Nashville, Tennessee. Hello.
WARNER: Remember, we're not going to get this thing without Democrat support. It's simple as that.
KING: Nashville. Hello.
CALLER: My question is to Senator Warner.
KING: Go ahead.
CALLER: I would like to ask a question. How is it that a war will bring freedom? As I recall, the weapons of mass destruction for the American Indian was the Winchester. How can you compare that this war for the Iraqis will bring freedom to them because the American Indians, they didn't have freedom and still are in -- on reservations today. And they're really...
KING: Is your...
CALLER: ... in poverty.
KING: I guess her contention is that war doesn't bring freedom.
WARNER: Well, with all due respect to this caller, I don't find many parallels. They are -- history is checkered with some incidents where I think we were unfair to our native Americans, and we've done quite a few things to right that. But I'll point to this election over this weekend as one of the most dramatic chapters of any civilization in the march towards the goals of freedom.
You know, we were briefed in the Armed Services Committee this afternoon, and I was heartened by the fact that in the last 48 hours, several thousand Iraqi young men have volunteered to go into this security program, be it policemen or the army, the national guard. This event this weekend gave a tremendous sense of confidence not only to the Iraqi people but to their military to get out there and begin to face the dangers on an equal basis with our coalition forces. And it's through those achievements of strengthening their military, training and equipping it, that we will eventually reach our goals of giving them their nation and letting them fight the battles. And hopefully, we will begin to bring our people home.
KING: Congresswoman Tauscher, how would you respond to that?
TAUSCHER: Well, I think that Senator Warner is right. I mean, it's vitally important that the Iraqi people have self-government. But what is really the key is what is going to happen when these election results are put out there. Are we going to have a Shia majority that's a gracious winner? Are they going to create opportunities for the Sunnis to come in? Is there going to be legitimacy in not only the short term but the long term for this government?
Without that, it's going to be virtually impossible for us to stand up and Iraqi military that is going to have the credibility to fight for that government and protect the borders and protect the government and begin to have peace and security for the Iraqis to have reconstruction. So I'm hopeful that it will take hold and that it will go forward, but look, we've made some fundamental mistakes a very long time in the making. Two years we've been in there, and you know, it's disappointing to me that we never really had a plan for what to do after the government fell. We were slow to react to the insurgency. We were -- we still insist that we have a "coalition of the willing," and I think we do, although many of our colleagues are leaving. I wish we had a coalition of not only the willing but the capable.
So I think that there's still a lot of work to do, and we still have 150,000 American troops, and we're going to go borrow $80 billion in a couple weeks, and that is going to continue until we are able to have a government that stands with credibility and a security force that can protect that country.
KING: Kansas City, Kansas. Hello.
CALLER: Hello? KING: Hi.
CALLER: Hi. Larry?
CALLER: This question is to whoever can answer this...
KING: Sure, go ahead.
CALLER: ... on the panel. My thing is, what about America? We're talking about all these billions and millions of dollars going over here to Iraq. What about -- and America is in a shambles. You know, when I sit home and my kid doesn't have school books to bring home for homework, and you know, I hear the president always talk about the No Child Left Behind, when there's so many children in my community that is left behind. I mean, what about America? We keep talking about what these great things we're going to do for Iraq. What about America?
COX: The president made it very pointed tonight that fighting the terrorists abroad helps us not have to fight them here at home. And one of the things that I'm most pleased about, as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, is that thus far, we have not had another terrorist attack on our soil. The first job of the federal government is to make sure that we here in America are safe. And from that premise then proceeds all the rest of our freedoms.
COX: This president, as you know, has increased federal education spending more than any other administration in history. Likewise, we are spending more each year on health care, on the environment, on all of our domestic needs, transportation, energy, and so on. We need to make sure at the same time that we get rid of government programs that don't work so that we don't have this guns- and-butter problem that has visited itself upon America in the past.
COX: And I was very pleased to hear the president tonight say that he's going to be very tough on spending programs that don't work, and he's going to eliminate them.
KING: Congressman Cox, what do you say to those who say, What is Iraq or was Iraq's threat to the security of the United States?
COX: Well, as you know, Zarqawi, who made it into the State of the Union tonight, didn't start out in Iraq. Zarqawi first met American forces in Afghanistan. He's a Jordanian. He was operating under the protection of the Taliban, working on an incipient chem-bio weapons program there. He was chased out of Afghanistan by American force when we dislodged the Taliban. He was given protection by Saddam Hussein and set up his work there in Iraq before the United States took out Saddam Hussein. He is operating right now under the express aegis and direction of none other than Osama bin Laden. I don't think it's very difficult to see the connection.
KING: Does that mean, then, Senator Feinstein, if there's a Taliban member in Syria, we should invade Syria?
FEINSTEIN: No. Obviously...
KING: I mean, I'm going on the premise...
FEINSTEIN: Let me...
KING: ... that if bad people are in places, why -- then why not go everywhere?
FEINSTEIN: Yes. I don't believe that Iraq was a threat to the United States. I very sincerely believe that those of us, the 78 of us that cast our vote, cast our vote on the basis of intelligence which indicated that there were certain threats. It turned out that the intelligence was bad. It was flawed. Senator Warner and I serve on the Intelligence Committee. We've both read those reports, both the unclassified version and the classified version. And they were very compelling, and so you vote to protect your people. And I can go into particulars, now that some of this has been made public.
Well, nobody can find any chemical weapons, any biological processes, any nuclear processes. So one comes to believe that the mission was regime change. Well, Saddam was a bad man. Saddam killed hundreds of thousands of people. Saddam did use gas -- chemicals against his own people.
I think we have to right now look out of the front window, rather than the rear-view mirror. The situation in Iraq today is filled with hope. We ought to cherish that hope. I think the election that took place -- Ellen is right. It's one step. There is much more to do. But it's so important that that one step happened. Celebrate it a little.
KING: Based on what he said -- based on what he said tonight, Senator Warner, is Iran next?
WARNER: Very clearly, the president -- I was taken in contrast how he dealt with Syria really firmly, looked them straight in the eye and said, You better begin to behave, or. Iran, he said, The world is looking at you, and we're going to hold out the means by which you can negotiate rejoining the world, which I think many of the Iranian people wish to do and avoid any conflict. After all, they suffered terribly under the hands of Saddam Hussein. It was an eight-year war, which drained their people and resources.
So I think there's greater hope there and a strong message to Syria. But I must say, I disagree with one thing that my good friend over here said about -- the intelligence was not all bad. Some of it was faulty. But let us remain of a mind that he did not have the stockpiles, apparently, but he did have the capacity to begin once again to make those stockpiles, had he so elected. And he had ignored 18 resolutions, just thumbed his nose at the United Nations and the coalition of nations worldwide that were trying to make him to adhere to the rule of law. And he said no.
KING: We'll take a break, and we'll be right...
WARNER: And we answered with force.
KING: We'll be right back...
WARNER: Beg pardon?
KING: ... with more. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: Good new jobs, world- class education, affordable health care -- these things matter. Unfortunately, much of what the president offered weren't real answers. You know, today is Groundhog Day, and what we saw and heard tonight was a little like the movie "Groundhog Day," the same old ideology that we've heard before over and over and over again. We can do better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Michael Beschloss, before I get back to (UNINTELLIGIBLE), I know you're a famed historian. I think maybe -- maybe Carter did this once. Did any president ever come to a State of the Union and say, Things ain't too good?
BESCHLOSS: Yes. Gerald Ford did in his first State of the Union, which was 1975, said the state of the union is not that good because there was a recession. They usually only say it, of course, when they are newly in office. In 1961, John Kennedy had a State of the Union about 10 days in, and said, you know, the world is basically collapsing. He said, We're at the hour of maximum danger. The Soviet Union is about to take us over. He was trying to scare people, but of course, he was saying, It wasn't my fault, it was Dwight Eisenhower, who left office 10 days ago.
KING: Back to the calls, and we go to Clinton, Oklahoma. Hello.
CALLER: Hello. Thank you, Larry, for taking my call.
CALLER: I'd like to place this question to Senator Warner.
KING: Go ahead.
CALLER: I'd like to ask him, since he was making mention not -- for the public not to fear the issues that were brought forth tonight with the president's address, how is it that he's expecting the public not to fear when President Bush is putting fear into the people about issues that he was stating in the address tonight?
WARNER: Well, he did say -- I'm sure you listened -- I've put all these options on the table with regard to Social Security. And he said, I'm going to think about them. You think about them, my options, think about the options of others. He talked about President Carter, Pat Moynihan, a very respected late United States senator, and he enumerated several others. So what I say about fear is, there's too much fright being injected in this debate. We've hardly got started. We've only, you know, signed up and started our paychecks here about two weeks ago. Give us a chance to get wound up and really get into a good debate. And you and I, Dianne, on the Senate side, have seen some great debates in the Senate, and this will be a good one...
WARNER: ... and your voice...
KING: When it is coming?
WARNER: ... will be heard.
KING: When is it coming, Senator, this debate?
WARNER: I think as soon as the leadership decide to schedule it. But we've got to give the various committees an opportunity to look at the president's program and evaluate others and have a mark-up document that'll eventually work its way to the floor. But I guarantee you, it's not going to pass unless we get, I think, a significant amount of Democratic support.
KING: Salt Lake...
WARNER: ... have such a landmark piece of legislation be without bipartisan support. It won't happen.
KING: Salt Lake City. Hello.
CALLER: Hey, can you hear me?
CALLER: OK. This goes for anyone that can answer this question. We backed Afghanistan way back in the day and we backed Saddam in Iraq. What's to stop the Iraqi people five years from now saying or sticking it right back to us, becoming an anti-American, you know, government or something like that, when we backed Middle Eastern countries before like that that have turned around and shove it right back in our face?
KING: What's the guarantee, Congressman Cox?
COX: Of course...
KING: Well, there is no guarantee, is there?
COX: ... with freedom, there is no guarantee. That's exactly right. And the president was, I think, very, very clear on this tonight, not just to America but to the rest of the world. We have no intention of making this an American colony. We are interested in having self-government, governments that respect the wishes of their own citizens, that reflect their own cultures. Those were his words. And so there is no guarantee. We're not setting up a satellite, as the Soviet empire used to do or as imperialists have done in the past. But what the president also said is that democracies, governments that do respect the wishes of their own people, the opposite of Saddam Hussein, who killed over a million Iraqis -- that those governments, history shows, do not pose a threat to their neighbors and to the world peace.
KING: She did have a point, though, Congressman Tauscher -- or he did. We were Once Saddam's friend, weren't we?
TAUSCHER: Yes, we have made some bad choices in our past, and this is clearly a trepidous (ph) situation because we cannot predict exactly what the Iraqi people will choose to do when they have majority rule and self-government in the future. But I think the best thing for us to do is to understand that that is their absolute right and that they have to make those choices in an informed way. And that is why the next few months are vitally important for the opportunity of Iraq.
Is the Shia majority, as soon as they win a majority of the 275 seats in the national assembly -- are they going to be gracious winners? Are they going to open the opportunity for the Sunnis who, because of intimidation or because of boycotting, didn't participate in the election, don't have the opportunity to have direct elected people in this assembly -- are they going to find a way for them to come in and help write the constitution? That is a path for not only success, but it's a path for us to be able to extricate ourselves sooner and safer.
KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments of this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: It is time for an immigration policy that permits temporary guest workers to fill jobs Americans will not take, that rejects amnesty, that tells us who is entering and leaving our country and that closes the border to drug dealers and terrorists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Orlando, Florida. Hello.
CALLER: Hello. To me, an "ownership society" means that if things go wrong, you're on your own, the government will not help you. So my question for Senator Feinstein is, if this privatization plan is approved and if it's a financial disaster, could that jeopardize our entire Social Security program?
FEINSTEIN: Well, of course. It can cut back on the benefits going to people in the non -- in the regular part of Social Security. It's a real gamble. In Great Britain, it's reduced premiums, as I understand, 20 to 30 percent for people on Social Security because the fees and transaction costs of putting the system together were so great. Now, the president proposed something that needs to be fleshed out because I don't know the details of what he's talking about. He's talking about a system which is only invested conservatively, I guess which takes about 4 percent of the employer-employee payroll tax. The point is, who replaces that 4 percent? That's where the cost comes in. Now, he didn't make that clear tonight. I hope he will so we can really look at a program that's filled in with details. And in all of this, the devil's in the details. It may sound good, but it may not work out.
KING: Washington Island, Wisconsin. Hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry.
CALLER: I'd like to hear a response from one of the Democrats and one of the Republicans. My question is, is, is it true that part of the problem with Social Security is that for years, money has been withdrawn from the Social Security fund and used for other departments, such as parks, et cetera?
KING: Was that true, Congresswoman Tauscher?
TAUSCHER: Well, for a long time, the budget -- the Social Security fund was part of the general budget and effectively wasn't walled off at all. And any time somebody wanted to put their hand in the cookie jar with Social Security's name on it, they took it out. Lots of things have been done to kind of try to lock it down, and that was a proposal under the Clinton administration in the late '90s.
But let's understand, Social Security is the only guaranteed benefit that many Americans have. Fifty percent of Americans don't have access either to 401Ks or any kind of corporate pension plan. This really debate I think needs to really be amplified away from Social Security, which is the only part that is defined and guaranteed and the smallest part of someone's retirement benefits to really talk about the fact that we need to have more Americans save. And how do we actually have the government help them do that? And that is really the crisis that we have. The problem is Social Security has some problems going on in the future with demographics, but we don't have a saving society in America, and we need to help create a saving society.
KING: I'm running out of time. Michael Beschloss, will this be a memorable speech? BESCHLOSS: I think it will, if it works. And you know, George Bush is an historical gambler. He gambled on the war on terrorism. Other presidents might not have even responded to the 9/11 attacks the way that he did. He sure did in Iraq. And he's also doing it on domestic things, like Social Security. That's not something he had to take on this year. Other presidents might have avoided that. And gambles can go two ways. You know, they can fail. He might find himself frustrated both in the world and on issues like Social Security, or they might succeed. And I think if they do succeed, he'll be following in the footsteps of the president that I think almost every minute he's modeling himself on, and that is Ronald Reagan.
KING: Thank you all very much, Senators John Warner and Dianne Feinstein, Congressmen Christopher Cox and Ellen Tauscher and historian Michael Beschloss.
Back tomorrow night at our regular time, 9:00 Eastern, 6:00 Pacific. Dr. Phil will be with us, plus a major official. It'll be announced tomorrow morning. You'll see it on CNN announced early in the morning tomorrow, the other guest that'll be on tomorrow night.
Stay tuned now for a repeat of all the events of tonight. Thanks for joining us, and good night.
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