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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Are Republicans a House Divided?
Aired May 18, 2006 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, have President Bush and his party become a house divided? Republicans from across the political spectrum speak out on why conservatives in the GOP-controlled Congress have turned against President Bush on some key issues and what he can do about it.
It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
An important show tonight, lots of panelists in the first half hour, and then more -- different panelists in the second half hour; let's meet the first half hour guests.
They are Congressman Chris Shays, Republican of Connecticut, in his tenth term. He's chairman of the Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security. He's in Washington.
Also in Washington, Ed Gillespie, GOP strategist, and former chairman of the Republican National Committee.
In Washington is Representative Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, she's in her second term, an assistant majority whip in the House leadership.
Georgette Mosbacher is here with us here in New York, president and CEO of Borgasi (ph) Cosmetics. She's a legendary Republican fundraiser and former Republican National Committeewoman from New York. She also served as co-chair of the RNC's Finance Committee.
And, in Washington our expert John Roberts, CNN's Senior National Correspondent.
We'll start with Chris Shays. Simply put what's wrong?
REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: Well, we're a party that had to find a new majority leader. We're a party that's dealing with a president that's wrestling right now with some leadership issues. We have the war in Iraq. We have obviously energy issues and so on. And, in spite of that, we got a great economy that no one seems to be paying any attention to.
KING: So, Ed Gillespie, if all that is true, why a dip to 30 percent in the polls?
ED GILLESPIE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think that has something to do with gas prices that have gone over $3 per gallon but Republicans have the policies to correct that. The fact is it's Republicans who put forward ides to increase our domestic production so we reduce our reliance on foreign source of oil.
The president has put forward a very vigorous program for alternative fuel sources, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, which can be done while protecting the environment but increasing our domestic capacity, so that's one factor.
I think as we get closer to the election, Larry, you're going to see these choices of policies between Democrats and Republicans turn those numbers around and you'll see the Republicans close that gap pretty quickly.
KING: But, Congresswoman Blackburn, you do admit there is a problem?
REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: You know, Larry, I think that what we had to admit is that there has been a problem with perceived leadership. And what the American people are wanting to see right now is strong, decisive leadership.
The American people I think and the people in my district they agree with President Bush when it comes to the war on terror. They agree with President Bush on what he has done on the economy and on taxes and on jobs growth.
They disagree with him on immigration. They disagree with him when it comes to government spending and what they want to do is see him take that strong, decisive leadership role back. That is how they like him best when he is being true to his roots and when he is showing that decisive leadership.
KING: Georgette, what's wrong?
KING: What they're saying so far it's sort of wrong.
GEORGETTE MOSBACHER, REPUBLICAN FUNDRAISER: Well, it's a little more than sort of wrong I think, if we're going to be really frank and honest here and I think it shows in the fact that we're bickering among each other.
We can't get along with one another and the instability that we've seen in Congress has -- is really -- we're feeling that among ourselves. We can't seem to agree on the important issues. But after is said and done this is really about the war in Iraq and that seems to be the 300-pound gorilla at the table.
KING: That's bringing -- hurting the president the most?
KING: More than gas prices?
MOSBACHER: Yes, I think more than anything, including it's not only hurting the president but that permeates throughout the party. KING: John Roberts, you've been a White House correspondent. You're CNN's Senior National Correspondent. What's your overview of this?
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think in the last week, Larry, things have gotten a little bit better. I mean there's no question that there was discord within Republicans in Congress and discord between Republicans in Congress and the White House.
I mean just very recently Dennis Hastert had quite a heated discussion with Dick Cheney up on the Hill over the issue of Porter Goss leaving the CIA. I mean it got to the point where the president invited Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House, down to the White House to kind of smooth things over.
So, there's still some ranker between the Hill and the White House and certainly this idea of the immigration bill and the split between the Senate and the House remains a contentious issue. But some Republicans that I talked to just today about this whole issue said for them just the absence of bad has been good in the last couple of weeks.
They got something on the scoreboard with the tax bill. The House has passed the budget. And, according to one Republican, Dick Cheney hasn't shot anybody lately, so things are looking pretty good.
KING: Former House speaker, Chris Shays, Newt Gingrich says the Republican majority is in grave danger, do you agree?
SHAYS: Oh, absolutely. We're in grave danger for a variety of reasons but one of them is there's an ethics issue here and I think that our side of the aisle doesn't get it. I honestly think we came to change Washington. I think Washington has changed too many in Washington. So, we're not the reformers that we set out to be and we need to regain that.
The thing that bound moderates and conservatives together was we believed in personal responsibility. Welfare reform helped us tie together. We wanted to slow the growth of spending. But we also cared strongly about ethics. That was a huge issue.
Let me just say that I think the thing that has hurt the president most is not Iraq. It's Katrina. People saw an arrogant but confident administration but when they saw Katrina they saw arrogance and frankly incompetence and that was very unsettling.
KING: Ed Gillespie, do you think Katrina sticks around until the November elections?
GILLESPIE: I don't think it sticks around to the November election. I agree with Chris that it hurt the president's standing and hurt the Republican Party standing in the polls.
But I think that, again, as we get to November, Larry, voters are going to focus on the choice between the Democrats and the Republicans running for the House and the Senate and whether or not you're for higher taxes or lower taxes, economic growth or stagnation, whether or not you're going to be for winning the war in Iraq and making sure that we have a free and stable Iraq in the heart of the Middle East, which is not only in the interest of the Iraqi people but in the interest of the American people.
Are you for bringing more refineries online and domestic production and the things that the president has put forward that would help bring down the cost of energy? Or, are you opposed to those things? These are going to be debates in every congressional district and every Senate state that's in play in the election. And, I think that a majority of Americans are going to realize that they side with the Republicans in those issues.
KING: Congresswoman Blackburn, Georgette says Iraq's the big story and, if you look at the numbers, more Americans are against our being there than are in favor and, if you don't turn that around, where do you go with that?
BLACKBURN: Larry, I'm going to tell you I think that most people agree that we cannot -- we cannot give up in the war on terror. It is vital that we win in this war on terror.
And when I'm in my district talking with my constituents what they tell me is that they would much rather us be fighting this there than fighting it on the streets in Memphis or Nashville or over here. And we have a choice to make. For 20 years this nation responded to the war on terror, to terrorist attacks of civil disobedience, and after 9/11 that changed.
And in my district when I'm talking with my military families, whether they're National Guard families or some of the men and women from Fort Campbell that are deployed, what they do is to tell me they understand the mission. They know that we have to build a democratic ally in the Middle East.
KING: But, Georgette, the public doesn't agree with what Congresswoman Blackburn just said and the polls say they don't.
MOSBACHER: The polls say they don't but, of course, the polls also say that they don't agree with anything that the Democrats are saying either. I think the real issue here is I agree with everything that Ed said. The question is how do we get that message out to the American public so that we can change, turn these polls around.
The economy is doing great. It's fantastic. We have basically no unemployment in this country. We have low interest rates. Even with the hike we have low interest rates. We have very little inflation. But it doesn't -- we don't seem to have a voice. The party seems to have lost its voice.
KING: Has the right wing taken over that voice?
MOSBACHER: Oh, even the moral high ground, we seem to have lost that voice to articulate these things to the American people so they understand what we stand for anymore. KING: We'll take a break and come back with more.
And, as we go to break, Suzanne Malveaux of CNN was with the president today in Arizona. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You came into the second term with a lot of confidence and political capital. Clearly it is your lowest approval ratings at this point and the congressional Republicans are going in their own direction. What do you do to become -- at least not risk becoming irrelevant?
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hey, look, yesterday I signed a bill extending capital gains and dividends. We're making -- we've got a very strong legislative record. I will continue to sign good law because I'm working with members of the House and the Senate. You know, we're going to win the war on terror. I'm doing my job what the American people want me to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: As we come back that's President Bush returning after his trip to Arizona and a look at the border, returning to the White House this evening.
Our panel will reassume in a moment but first let's check with Governor Haley Barbour, the Republican of Mississippi, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, so we have two former chairmen with us tonight. We're going to spend some moments with Haley. What issue, Haley, and obviously there's a problem, what concerns you the most?
GOV. HALEY BARBOUR (R), MISSISSIPPI: Well, I think the American people are concerned most about Iraq. Americans don't like long wars. That's not news, Larry. I mean ask Lyndon Johnson or Harry Truman.
And, the news media apparently thinks its job is to every day to show on television here are the worst things we know of that happened in Iraq in the last 24 hours. So, the American people just get inundated with the bad side of the news.
The other thing politically for Republicans we just have to be honest about in the second midterm election of two-term Republican presidents, and that's this election in 2006, Republicans usually fare poorly.
Again, that's not news. We've known that the whole time and that's why I think a lot of our members are particularly careful and particularly skittish. They want to avoid what happened in 1986 or 1974 or 1958.
KING: Is the president a liability? BARBOUR: No, the president is not a liability but you're not going to run a campaign this year where you want to make the campaign about anything except the candidate himself.
Marsha Blackburn is going to run for reelection on why the people of Tennessee love Marsha Blackburn and that's going to be the issue and that's what Republicans want the issue to be. The Democrats are going to try to say Marsha Blackburn's really George Bush and you're mad at George Bush and that dog won't hunt.
If Marsha Blackburn, as she will, does a job, good job of reminding people why they elected her, the job that she's doing and then to remind people that life is a series of choices.
As Ed Gillespie said earlier, the choice is going to be between the Democrat opponent and the Republican incumbent. That's a whole lot different than saying "Do I think things could be better politically?"
KING: Do you fear the possibility that the Democrats will take control of the House?
BARBOUR: I think Republicans have to take it very seriously. We don't have very many competitive seats like we used to. The gerrymandering of the last 25 years has affected that. There's many fewer competitive seats than say in 1994 when Republicans took control of the House.
The Republicans must take that seriously. As I said, look back since World War II and the second midterm election of a two-term Republican presidency, I think it's unlikely the Republicans will lose the House but we better take it seriously.
KING: You were a major booster during Katrina, which ravaged your state, of President Bush. You boosted him throughout that tragic occurrence, yet he is getting hit left and right over the handling of that. Do you still share your enthusiasm over the federal government's handling of Katrina?
BARBOUR: Let me just say, Larry, the federal government made mistakes just like we made mistakes but the federal government did a whole lot more right than wrong. What I don't understand is when people look at Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, all of whom were ravaged by hurricanes in the last year and a half, we all got the same federal government.
But, in Mississippi and Texas and Alabama and Florida, we just hitched up our britches and went to work. Our people are not into victim hood. Our government never collapsed. We had unity of government every day.
Could the federal government have helped us more particularly early? Yes, sir, but look we have to learn to take care of ourselves. We did. Other states did, so I don't blame the federal government for everything that went wrong everywhere.
KING: And, governor, why so much bickering inside the party?
BARBOUR: Well, look, we've had the majority for a long time. As I said, we're in the second midterm election of a two-term Republican presidency and people understand that those are tough election years that our guys are going to be swimming upstream in some cases and they want to stay in the majority. They want to get reelected.
So, while maybe everybody could agree to vote for stuff going into '04, it's a lot easier for everybody to agree on everything. But don't ever forget Republicans agree on a whole lot more than we disagree on.
And that's just -- we lose sight of that when the focus is on a particularly difficult issue like immigration or the fact that we conservatives don't like the fact the government spends so much money. But we do have to admit because of Katrina and the war you can't spend as little money as we were trying to do back when I was chairman.
KING: Thanks, governor, always good seeing you, Haley.
BARBOUR: Thank you, Larry.
KING: We go back a long way, Governor Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi.
John Roberts, do you see Bush going into many congressional districts this fall and campaigning?
ROBERTS: It all depends I think, Larry, on what happens with his numbers over the summer. There are some Republicans who believe that he may be able to get back up over 40 percent approval rating sometime after Labor Day and, if he does, then I think you'll see him out there campaigning for people.
But, pollsters can't figure out how he's going to do that. He's at 36 percent right now in our latest CNN poll. As to how much higher he can go or whether he slides back down again it's anybody's guess. His bump seems to be from the immigration speech that he gave on Monday.
But, if the GOP has anything going for it this year it's that the numbers in the Senate don't quite add up yet for Democrats to take control and it's getting a little fuzzier in the House but the numbers still aren't quite there yet.
And, what may save them come November is the BIMBY principle. You've heard of NIMBY, not in my back yard, BIMBY is better in my back yard. A couple of weeks ago, some CNN polling showed that roughly 60 percent of Americans thought that the representatives who were currently in the House of Congress didn't deserve to get reelected, no offense (INAUDIBLE).
But also about the same number of people said that they felt that their representative deserved to get reelected, so here you have people saying "No, throw the bums out. They don't deserve to be reelected but my Congressman or Congresswoman does because I wasn't stupid enough to vote for somebody who deserves to be thrown out." So it's that better in my backyard principle.
KING: We'll take a break. When we come back we'll find out the thoughts of our panel on immigration and why that has divided the party so much.
Then a different panel, Chris Shays will remain, will join us at the bottom of the hour. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tonight, a new ABC News poll finds American satisfaction with their president is at a 25-year low.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Six years into his presidency, George Bush is swimming upstream, weighed down by low poll ratings.
TIM RUSSERT: Republicans, as you just cited, in the Congress and their supporters are saying, "Mr. President, we may have to go our own way."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now according to the new poll people trust Democrats more than Republicans on every issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: A beautiful shot of the Capitol on a spring night in Washington. We're in New York. We'll be in Washington next week.
Congressman Shays went to vote. He'll be back with us at the bottom of the hour.
Ed Gillespie, there was major division over the immigration speech, right wing didn't like this, left wing didn't like that. Is there any resolving of that?
GILLESPIE: Yes, Larry, we will resolve it. Look, the fact is Republicans are agreed we need to secure our border. We have to stop this flow of illegal immigrants into our country. After that there is some divisions as to whether or not...
KING: Sure is.
GILLESPIE: ...there should be a path to citizenship for those who are here now, whether a temporary worker program is the right answer or helps. You know, I'm one who believes that we ought to do a temporary worker program along with securing our border. I'm not sure about the path to citizenship but we'll work these out.
But the fact is we have to work it out. I'll give $100 if you can tell me what Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi think about immigration reform, about how they would fix the problem. Democrats aren't going to provide a solution. That's not their interest right now. So, Republicans are going to have to solve this problem for the American people and we will and we'll do it in a way that is respectful of one another's differences and we will not fracture as a party. At the end, once we resolved it, we have a policy solution that we're all agreed to and the president signs, we'll come together as a party again.
KING: Congresswoman, did you agree with the president's speech?
BLACKBURN: Larry, I did not agree with the things that the president had to say. In my district and with my constituents and I believe most of the American people have a consensus on this issue and it is "Show me a secured border."
And once you've shown me a secured border, then we're going to turn around and talk about what we do about workplace enforcement, what we do about law enforcement issues and talk about the other issues that are a part of this general debate. But first and foremost secure that border and until we do that I think that everything else is off the table for discussion.
KING: Georgette, you're a Texan aren't you?
KING: Originally, well you lived in Texas.
MOSBACHER: Yes, I sure did for a long time.
KING: A border state.
KING: How did you read that speech?
MOSBACHER: Well, I think it was one of these -- this is one of those issues where you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't. And I think that the president showed real leadership on this issue and that we will come together because he has shown real leadership on this issue. I happen to agree with the president's position. But the fact of the matter is, is he is out there. He's on the front line of this issue and we will come together on it.
KING: You're positive of that?
MOSBACHER: I am.
KING: What's been the aftermath of that speech, John Roberts, on the Hill?
ROBERTS: You know, Larry, I think it's prompted discussion and prompted some motion but, you know, motion is not actions. We have to see what's going to happen. I mean right now the Senate is mulling over a proposal that would not allow the lowest skilled workers that path to citizenship. So you tell me how many illegal immigrants are left in that pool who would be able to be on that path to citizenship? It's a poison pill amendment in the bill and it would kill the whole thing.
But, if the Senate does manage to pass something, I'd like to be a fly on the wall in the Conference Committee because that is going to be a really, really tough negotiation.
So, there are Republicans who really want to get this done. They think it's important. They think it would be good for the president. They think it would be good for Congress.
But, as the Congresswoman said, there was a block in the House that says secure the border first. Once you get that done, then we'll talk about everything else. But how can you do that if you want to get a comprehensive immigration bill out in the next few weeks?
KING: Congressman Shays is back from voting on the Hill. What did you think of the immigration speech?
SHAYS: Well, I mean I think the president was showing leadership. The bottom line is Marsha and I are closer to moderate and conservative than I think most people believe. All my constituents want us to do our primary job, which is to enforce the law and defend our borders.
So, I mean we have I think real unanimity on that issue. The real issue is what do you do with the folks that are here and do you loosen up legal immigration? And I would say most people in my district want greater immigration. The folks that are here I'm not sure they should be on a path to citizenship but they should be allowed to work here with a Social Security card that actually is foolproof.
KING: Because, Ed Gillespie, you can't return 14 million people can you?
GILLESPIE: Well, I don't know that it's 14, maybe 10, 12.
KING: Or 12?
GILLESPIE: But enforcing our laws I think is important, Larry. Look, I think folks who -- my father is an immigrant. He came here legally. He came through Ellis Island at the age of nine from Ireland with nothing but the clothes on his back.
He worked as a janitor. He sold salt for Procter & Gamble and eventually lived every Irishman's dream and bought his own bar. He's a great American. He won a Silver Star in World War II. But he came here legally and that citizenship is something he cherishes to this day.
I do think that we need to enforce our laws but we do need to continue to welcome people into this country who come here honestly to make a better living for themselves and for their family. They contribute to our economy. They contribute to our society. They need to assimilate.
My father's mother wouldn't let him speak with a brogue or his brothers and sisters. People need to speak English and learn English here and I think then we'll have a system that will be both pro freedom and pro rule of law and pro economic growth and Republicans are going to end up with a policy that does that.
KING: Thank you all very much. Congressman Shays will remain. We thank Ed Gillespie, Representative Marsha Blackburn, Georgette Mosbacher, and John Roberts for being with us.
A new panel will assemble right after the break. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whose America? The battle lines in the border war, tonight the president takes on the critics of his new national...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republicans say constituents are flooding their offices with phone calls, e-mails, and letters on this issue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The conservative base believes a guest worker plan will make the problem worse.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president's headline, 6,000 National Guard troops will now help man the border with Mexico.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But conservatives remained adamantly opposed to the idea calling it amnesty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're discussing discourse in the Republican Party. And before we get back and meet the new panel, a couple program reminders. Next Wednesday night we'll spend a full hour with Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. John McCain next Wednesday. Next Thursday night, one week from tonight, a full hour with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Representative Chris Shays, a Republican of Connecticut, remains with us. Now joined by Representative Peter King, a Republican from New York in his seventh term, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.
David Gergen joins us from Boston. He served as an adviser to many presidents. He's professor at Harvard's JFK school, an editor- at-large at "U.S. News." In Shreveport is pastor Rick Scarborough, founder of Vision America. Vision America aims at mobilizing pastors and their congregations to restore Judeo-Christian values and to speak out on moral issues of the day.
And in Washington, old friend Jonah Goldberg, editor-at-large "National Review Online," syndicated columnist for the "L.A. Times." Now let's start with David Gergen. I assume you've heard the first half hour, David. What's your read on this split because they were seeming to temper that it ain't so bad?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well you know, Larry, when Ronald Reagan was president, he used to quip that sometimes in his White House, the right hand did not know what the far right hand was doing.
I think now you have a split in the Republican Party. Sometimes the right hand of the Republican Party does not agree with the far right hand. This is a very conservative party. There are splits. They do threaten this presidency in terms of what he wants to do.
But I think fundamentally the party is pretty conservative by comparison to the rest of the country. That's how they've won. It leaves some people -- you know, the moderates are the ones who are pretty unhappy or felt marginalized. But now it's the conservatives as the president has gotten in some political trouble. The conservatives find themselves in the House of Representatives, in some of their districts, which are very conservative, they now feel threatened, feel they may lose the House of Representatives.
KING: Congressman King, is he right?
PETER KING (R-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOMELAND SECURITY CMTE: I don't know how David exactly defines right and far right. For instance, my district is certainly not overly conservative. Bill Clinton carried it twice. Al Gore carried it, George Bush barely carried it the last time.
But I would say the overwhelming majority of my district, for instance, is opposed to the president on the immigration policy. They want us to address border security first and do nothing at all at this time about any path to citizenship or doing anything that legalizes illegals.
And this is not anti-immigration. I am 100 percent pro- immigration, but I have never such a reaction in my district. I would say 95, 98 percent of the phones, calls and e-mails to my office are against any legalization of illegals or amnesty, if you want to call it that.
KING: Pastor Scarborough, do you view this divide as a moral issue?
PASTOR RICK SCARBOROUGH, FOUNDER, VISION AMERICA: I view it very much as a moral divide, Larry. As I sat and listened and watched the first segment of the program, I wondered what planet some of those folks were on.
It seemed that we've got a political class right now that's trying to jockey to make this thing look better than it is. I live out in the country of east Texas. In fact, I live on a small ranch in a farming community and I can very clearly say to you that the issues that some think don't exist are very clear-driving issues for the discontent among especially religious conservatives. KING: Jonah Goldberg, as a conservative and a foremost writer, how do you view this divide?
JONAH GOLDBERG, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: I think there are a lot of different things going on. I think it's a fairly poisonous environment. I think obviously the base is turning on Bush, to some extent. We've been told for the last five years that this is a 50/50 country, that it's dead locked, that it's tied between red and blues.
And when you're in the mid thirties in a 50/50 country, clearly you've lost some of your side. And I think part of the problem for Bush is that he's just been dealt a series of really -- some by his own making, some not -- series of issues that are determined to split conservatives.
Immigration is going to split the Republican coalition. The Dubai ports deal is going to split the Republican coalition. Trying to appoint Miers to the Supreme Court split the Republican issue. You can go across a whole bunch of issues where Republicans are fighting amongst themselves. And the real challenge for Bush if he's going to get the party in order for the 2006 elections is to get everybody back on the same page and that's very hard to see how he does that right now.
KING: Congressman Shays, the latest "Washington Post"/ABC News poll shows that Bush's disapproval rating among Republicans has nearly doubled in one month, up from 16 percent to 30 percent. What do you make of that?
SHAYS: Well I make out that he's not all that popular right now. But when I'm listening to this debate, we're mixing two things up. There's an issue of disagreement within the Republican Congress and an issue of disagreement with the president.
My constituents are saying, "Maybe you need Democrats to oversee a Republicans to oversee a Democratic president." I think one of our big failings is we haven't been doing the proper oversight. Our job is not to put our arms around the president, pat him on the back all the time.
Our job, as a separate branch, is to fight for the things that we feel strongly about. So if we disagree with him on immigration, I don't think that's a bad thing at all. The problem is, what do we do within our conference? And there we have some problems. What gets Marsha elected in her district is not what's going to get me elected. And the problem I want to make is that the conservatives don't have the tough congressional races.
KING: David Gergen, is there a chance the party will lose one or both houses?
GERGEN: I think there's a definite chance the Republican Party could lose the House of Representatives. I think there's less of a chance -- I think they've got a better shot of keeping the Senate at the moment, Larry. But you know, this tide could turn. I mean, if an election were held today, I think the Republicans would be very fearful of losing the House. But we've got some months to go and things can change a lot before then.
KING: Would the president -- you want him to campaign for you, Congressman King?
KING: I would certainly accept the president campaigning for me. You know, let's make it clear. We have to focus on the president's war against terrorism. He's done a phenomenal job. Coming from New York where I lost so many constituents on September 11th, I've seen firsthand the job the president has done as far as the war against terrorism.
As far as the economy, the economy is very strong. That's because of President Bush's leadership. Yes, there's issues like Dubai ports and immigrations where I've disagreed with the president on. But as we get closer to November and this distinction is drawn between us and the Democrats, who really are the far left wing of this country, I think the American people are going to go to us if we state our case accurately and articulately.
KING: Let me get a break. When we come back, we'll ask our panel about Iraq's effect on all of this. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The United States of America believes people desire to be free. And by free people, we are laying the foundation of peace for generations to come. The decision maker ought to make decisions based upon deep-seeded beliefs. You don't need a president chasing polls and focus groups in order to make tough decisions. What I'm telling you is ours is a party that has got a vision and a plan to make sure the United States of America is the leader in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back. Pastor Scarborough, taking a turn now to look at Iraq, do you view that in the moral area?
SCARBOROUGH: Well, there's certainly a moral component to that, and I must say that most religious conservatives that I know are quite proud of the effort that our president has put forth in that arena. The tragedy is the thing that drove most religious conservatives to the polls was the social issues, and there's been a deafening silence from this White House now for more than two years on such things as the federal marriage amendment, a lot of other issues like abortion and things of that sort that he's been a real champion for. But even though we signed the partial birth abortion bill into law, it has still not been enacted because of activist federal judges that time and time again strike down the good advances that are made.
There are many of us now sitting out here wondering why the president has seemingly been so disengaged even on that front since the appointment and confirmation of Alito and Roberts, which we believe were great milestones in the effort to return this country to moral sanity.
KING: Back to Iraq. Jonah Goldberg, what part will it play? First in the division of the Republicans, and then in November?
GOLDBERG: I think Iraq is a big problem for Bush. I think it's a big problem for the Republicans. But I don't think it's necessarily a big problem that people -- it's not a big problem for conservatives. It's not a big problem for the base.
I mean, a big chunk of -- the split on the right is basically between people who want Bush to fight the Iraq war harder and those who want him to fight it even harder than that. And I think if Bush were to give an inch on Iraq in any way, that would be disastrous for him, because the one thing I think all Republicans and conservatives admire the guy for is for how courageous he's been on Iraq and how willing he's been to sort of buck the criticism from all sides on it. I think it's the thing that would keep him afloat right now, and if he took it away, you'd just see the Republican Party cave in.
KING: But David Gergen, what does Iraq do to the other part of the country that doesn't agree with the part Jonah just mentioned?
GERGEN: Well, I think the Iraq war -- there's no question that the Iraq war is the biggest single burden on this presidency right now. Maybe it will turn around. Chris Shays had been over there a lot. He is very close to this issue. Perhaps they can put together a government. But there's absolutely no doubt that the American public went with the president into Iraq, they supported him, but they've been gradually turned off by what they see is the incompetence and the mistakes made in the execution of the war. And I think they're going to still stick with him. They don't want to pull out, but they would like to see the kind of government come together that Chris Shays has been working on, and see some evidence -- I think it's going to be very important for the Republicans before November that this thing starts to brighten. It has not brightened in the way that the Republicans hoped by now, very clearly.
KING: But, Chris, where do the Democrats go with it? Very few Democrats are calling for a pullout from Iraq. So what do they do with the issue?
SHAYS: Well, they just keep hoping, from a political standpoint, that it doesn't go well for the president and doesn't go well for the country. I mean, that's kind of the conundrum they're in. If the war goes better, obviously it helps.
But when it comes to the war, the president just has to do the right thing. He made early mistakes in the beginning, disbanding the army, the police and the border patrol, but I mean, Iraqis are pulling themselves out. And my big fear with the war in Iraq is not that we're going to lose it in Iraq, but we're going to lose it here at home.
But the thing that bothers me the most in this whole dialogue that we've been having, Larry, is talking about these social issues, you know what, intelligent design, Terri Schiavo, all those things derailed us. And people said, what about the big issues? You're eating grapes while Rome is burning. What about immigration? What about energy? What about these issues? And the president needs to focus on these as if politics does not matter.
KING: Congressman King, what's Iraq's affect on your district?
KING: Let me, first of all, say I agree fully with Chris Shays. I've been to Iraq a number of times myself. Every war is difficult. Mistakes are always made. But the bottom line is, the president did the right thing, and he has tremendous political courage in sticking this out.
Harry Truman received a lot of flak for what he did in Korea. His numbers went down to 21 percent. History has proven him to be a great president.
In my district, people supported the president going in. Obviously, no one wants to see the deaths we see on television at night. On the other hand, they don't want us to pull out either.
So this is tough for us politically, it's obviously tougher for the families who lose family members over there. But the bottom line is, this is when presidents are tested.
The president's passing his test. We have to stick it out, or it will be a disaster if we pull out. And the Democrats have no alternative.
KING: We'll be back with more of our panel. Let's check in now with Anderson Cooper, who is, once again, down -- you're on the beach, Anderson. What's up?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're actually where the rubber hits the road, where the fence meets the water here in San Diego County on the border with Mexico.
Tonight, breaking news, the battle on the border turned deadly. Federal agents shot and killed the driver of an SUV at the San Ysidro border crossing not far from where I am. The driver, a suspected smuggler, had been under surveillance. We'll have the latest on that story, and we'll give you an exclusive look at the Border Patrol's secret vault. See what illegal immigrants are trying to smuggle into America, drugs like you have never seen before. All that and more at the top of the hour, Larry.
KING: Again, another fascinating report coming from our man, Anderson Cooper, the host of "AC 360" at 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fifty-nine percent call the war in Iraq a mistake. It took several more years back in the 1970s...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Since Mr. Bush's mission accomplished moment, close to 2,400 Americans have lost their lives in Iraq, and more than 30,000 Iraqis.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yet weekend violence also underscored the immense challenges facing a future unity government, with more U.S. troops killed and more deadly attacks against Iraqi civilians.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: This past weekend, I accepted Andy's resignation.
With me today is Joshua Bolten, who will be the new White House chief of staff.
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm here to announce that I will be resigning as White House press secretary.
BUSH: I've asked Tony Snow to serve as my new press secretary.
Director Porter Goss offered his resignation as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Today I'm pleased to nominate General Mike Hayden as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: David Gergen, what does all that mean?
GERGEN: You mean all those -- the shuffling around?
GERGEN: Well, the president is trying, I think vainly right now, to try to put some new people in place to run these things. So far, he's not brought in any heavyweight from the outside. He has brought in very good people, Josh Bolten is going to be a very good chief of staff, he's first-rate, but they haven't brought any fresh blood, nor have they really changed practices.
One of the issues, Larry, that as you know, has disturbed conservatives in the House has been the way that Porter Goss, one of them, who gave up a good seat in Congress to go into the agency -- there are many conservatives who believe he was shabbily treated in his dismissal, and it's one of the reasons for the anger on the -- or at least some of the resistance to the president in the House.
KING: Jonah Goldberg, what part in all this will gas prices pay?
GOLDBERG: I think gas prices are mostly a psychological thing. If you actually look at the economic surveys, most people plan on doing more driving this summer despite the high gas prices. So I think it's a big of a red herring. I would like to make one very quick point though. There is this -- David Gergen was talking earlier about how it's a right versus a far right party. There's a notion out there that I think a lot of the people in media want to perpetuate the Republican Party's problems are its gone too far to the right when that just statistically and analytically doesn't make sense to me.
If George Bush wants to get in the forties or low fifties to win back his base, he doesn't need to run to the center. His problems on immigration are because he's been tip toeing to Ted Kennedy. No Child Left Behind, a massive Medicare expansion, huge chunks of the Bush domestic agenda could be objectively described as moderate to liberal in terms of government spending and the expansion of the government. That is what soured a lot of the base. If the goal here is to get him back up to 50 percent, fixing some of that image would go a long way.
KING: Let's take a call -- I'm sorry David, go ahead.
GERGEN: Briefly, Jonah, when the president was working with Democrats, when he was bringing his base along, he was not in the thirties, he was not in the forties. He was in the sixties and seventies.
GOLDBERG: That was a long time ago, it was before Iraq. Those people are lost to him. If he wants his base back, he needs to show that he's actually a conservative.
GERGEN: He is not just president of the conservatives, he is president of all the people.
GOLDBERG: I was making the analytical point about what he's trying to do to get his numbers back.
KING: Let me get a call in Las Vegas, hello.
CALLER: Hi, I'm a middle-class Republican. With gas prices on the rise, immigrants keeping wages down, Congress giving tax cuts to the wealthy, I'm wondering if my party is forgetting the middle class.
KING: Congressman King?
KING: The Republican Party is the party of the middle class. And the middle class does very well under President Bush's tax cut plan. The fact is there are so many new jobs, the fact that we have the strongest economy in the industrialized world is attributed to the leadership of President Bush. So I strongly support his tax cut proposals. That's the best thing that can happen to the middle class.
KING: Rick Scarborough says that the president has let him down on social issues. Do you agree, Congressman Shays?
SHAYS: This conversation scares the hell out of me. A president has to lead from the center. He's got to reach out to everyone. You know, if he's going to be more conservative and focus on social issues, he's just basically telling my district he doesn't care about them. Forty-two percent of the American people were purple. They weren't red, they weren't blue. The reds and blues are down in the thirties. What good do I see if he increases his popularity by gaining conservatives when he's not uniting the country?
KING: Rick Scarborough, do you want to respond?
SCARBOROUGH: It was conservatives that put him in office. Yes, I certainly do. We're seeing a clear illustration of why the president's polling numbers are going down. The folks that mobilize, the people I'm closest to were mobilized because of speeches that said I'm going to stop judicial tyranny and I'm going to work to make sure that marriage is protected. Congressmen like Congressman Shays and others who are dragging this president back to the center are literally destroying his presidency. His numbers will jump to 40 percent or 50 percent tomorrow if he engages on the social issues that he ran for the presidency on. I happen to love the president.
KING: We'll take a break and come back with more moments and we'll be back with more moments with this panel on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
KING: Get another call, Santa Cruz, California, hello.
CALLER: Hi. My question is, if the economy is so good, why are there 40 million Americans without insurance?
KING: OK, Congressman King, do you want to take that about health insurance?
KING: Well the fact is that more Americans have jobs than ever before, more Americans own their homes than ever before. Health insurance is an issue that the president has actually made great strides to address. The Medicare prescription drug benefit is the greatest expansion of health care for Americans in 40 years. As Jonah Goldberg said, it's perhaps a moderate to liberal issue. But the fact is, the president is there and people cannot criticize him on that. He's done more for health care than any Democratic president in the last 40 years.
KING: Jonah, Newt Gingrich suggested that Democrats adopt a campaign, "had enough."
GOLDBERG: I think that's probably smart. And it was interesting when we heard Haley Barbour and Ed Gillespie on here before. They kept trying to change the issue from a referendum on Republicans and incumbents to a choice. Because it's a referendum, Republicans lose, incumbents lose. If it's a choice between Republicans and Democrats, I think Republicans have a pretty good shot of winning.
KING: David Gergen, what do you think is going to happen, or is it too early to look at November?
GERGEN: I think it's way too early, Larry. I think what really transcends the question of who's going to win or lose seats in November, as important as that is, is whether the president is going to be able to lead and the Congress will be able to work with him so we don't drift through the next three years.
I think that will be extraordinarily dangerous for the country. We have all these problems that are building up, that are coming at us very hard. And the longer we delay, the harder they're going to hit us. We got hit hard by Katrina. We ought to learn a lesson from that if you don't deal with problems that are building up right off the horizon.
KING: Pastor Scarborough, do you think he'll change to suit you or to suit what you're for?
SCARBOROUGH: Well, I can only hope. I know this, right as the marriage amendment debate begins, the president's own wife marched out of the public arena and said it should not be politicized, that gay marriage shouldn't be a political event. But judges are the ones who made this a political event. And we are now looking for moral leadership. That will energize the religious, conservative base like no other issue.
KING: Congressman Shays, you have 30 seconds. Are you optimistic about your party?
SHAYS: The jury's still out. I mean, we have to demonstrate that we've earned the right to continue to lead. And it will depend on whether we deal with ethics and whether we deal with other issues that are confronting us and deal with them not as a political issue, but just do what's right.
KING: Thank you all very much. Congressman Chris Shays, Congressman Peter King, David Gergen, Pastor Rick Scarborough and Jonah Goldberg, as well as our panelists earlier.
I don't often toot my own horn here, but I've got a new book out that I hope you look at. It's called "My Dad & Me." It's a heartwarming collection of stories about fathers from a host of friends of mine, including Helen Gurley Brown and President George H.W. Bush and Bill Gates and Marlo Thomas and Donald Trump. As we approach Father's Day, it might be an interesting idea to take a look at this. A fascinating look at what people think and remember about their fathers. By the way, the proceeds go to the Larry King Cardiac Foundation.
Tomorrow night, Paula Abdul of "American Idol" fame will be aboard. Paula Abdul tomorrow with your phone calls. And don't forget next Wednesday, Senator John McCain; next Thursday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, both on for the full hour. Tim Russert will join us on Tuesday.
Right now let's turn our attention, and there he is, out by the sea, with lots of big stories tonight, including an amazing story about a killing at the border. Here is Anderson Cooper, the host of "A.C. 360." Anderson?
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