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The Politics of the War in Iraq

Aired October 24, 2006 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight, more than 90 U.S. troops killed this month alone in Iraq. It's already the deadliest month this year. Now, a U.S. soldier is missing in Baghdad feared kidnapped. What will all this mean when America votes in two weeks?

We'll ask Senators Joe Biden and Kay Bailey Hutchison, Iraq veterans running for Congress, one Democrat, one Republican; and, some of America's most outspoken talk radio hosts.

It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: Good evening, lots on the table tonight.

And we begin in Baghdad with Michael Ware, our CNN Correspondent, Michael's on the left; and, John Roberts, CNN Senior National Correspondent on the right and we thank them both. It's quite early in the morning there getting up to do this.

Michael, the latest U.S. death toll in Iraq, October is the deadliest month of the year. Last year, October was also the deadliest. What can we read into that?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, one of the key things, Larry, is the holy month of Ramadan, which has fallen at this end of the year. That is traditionally the time of the insurgents' offensive, the Ramadan offensive. We've seen four of them now since the war began, so that's always a period of increased attacks and, of course, unfortunately increased casualties -- Larry.

KING: John, you've been embedded with troops searching for that U.S. soldier who went missing Monday, anything new?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There doesn't appear to be anything new, Larry. They don't really have an idea of where he is. They do have evidence that he was in a neighborhood called Korada (ph) in the central part of Baghdad.

Yesterday, I went in with elements of the 172nd Striker Brigade looking for this fellow. Eventually, after searching from house to house for a time, the whole sort of deteriorated into a diplomatic pushing match between both sides as they tried to get into a local television station that's owned by the largest Shiite political block in the Iraqi government.

It was a dispute over weapons and searches and the search for this soldier just sort of got sidelined by that whole thing but they were back today apparently. They circulated pictures of this fellow in the neighborhood.

But nothing more on the circumstances surrounding his disappearance, which according to family members was an abduction as he had left the international zone to go out and visit family, which you're not supposed to do. That counts as being away without leave and nothing more on where these emanations of intelligence on where this person might be are.

KING: We have an e-mail question from John in Wintersville, Ohio. The question is, "I thought the policy was that U.S. soldiers are supposed to travel together in twos or more to protect them from this kind of situation. Why was this soldier alone?" Michael, do you know?

WARE: Well, Larry, that's the great mystery here. I mean it's not that they don't travel in twos or threes. Larry, they don't travel at all. No soldier steps outside the wire, the perimeter of the base.

And, here in Baghdad, we're talking about a soldier who is a translator attached to a provincial reconstruction theme here in the capital who was within the international zone or the Green Zone that houses the U.S. Embassy.

Why anyone would just walk out those gates into the Red Zone is a mystery, although this U.S. soldier is of Iraqi descent. Even still, there was no permission according to the 4th Infantry Division for him to go outside the wire -- Larry.

KING: John, you've been there quite a bit. What's the mood? What's the morale like as it gets lesser and lesser in the United States?

ROBERTS: It depends on whether you talk to somebody on the record or off the record, Larry. If you talk to them off the record, the morale is still pretty high. They still believe in the job that they're doing but they do see that the plan for securing Baghdad and the rest of Iraq for that matter has got problems.

You talk to them on the record they always say "We believe that the mission is working." They don't want to get in trouble with their superior officers. But there is a real sort of, you know, sense, Larry, that they've got a public thought about this and they've got a private thought about it and the private thoughts very often are not as optimistic as the public thoughts are.

There really seems to be a sense among some of these troops that I've talked to that the way that things are operating now, while they're trying as hard as they can, it's just not working. They need to rethink the plan. And there are people here who believe that there need to be many more U.S. forces on the ground able to be able to secure Baghdad because, you know, they'll sort of give you a wink and a nod when an Iraqi patrol drives by to say, you know, not quite ready for prime- time, Larry, so definitely a gap here between where security is now and where they want it to be.

KING: Michael, we had a news conference today, U.S. ambassador in Iraq, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, what was the headline?

WARE: Well, essentially what we saw was the American Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and the U.S. commander here General George Casey outline what is America's direction forward.

While coming out and saying that strategy needs to be constantly assessed and needs to adapt, the fundamental message for the ambassador was that the mission in Iraq is more than salvageable. It can still succeed.

He then outlined a series of specific expectations that the U.S. administration is waiting to see the Iraqi government, in the ambassador's words, step up and meet. However, we have heard all of these things before. We've heard the same kind of timetables, the same kind of list of expectations.

These things have been set out and they haven't been met over and over and over. There was nothing to indicate today, Larry, why now will be any different from what we're already experiencing.

KING: John, do you sense any kind of change? We know stay the course is no longer viable. Do you sense any kind of change in a date certain?

ROBERTS: There seems to be sort of something in the wind here, Larry. Too many top officials have been talking about the need to review the plan, perhaps change it. I don't think anything is going to happen significantly before the November 7th election. But, keep in mind, that after November 7th, all of the attention begins to turn toward the 2008 presidential contest.

John McCain, the Republican frontrunner, has made no secret of his desire to see tens of thousands more troops here in Iraq to try to bring peace to this nation. It could be, I mean if you want to paint sort of a political scenario for this, Larry, it could be that the Republicans would really love to get this Iraq issue off the table before the 2008 election.

They don't want John McCain to own this in the way that President Bush has been forced to own it over these last few years. So, if they were to infuse a number of more U.S. troops into this area, try to get it secure, try to transition authority over to the Iraqis in a way that they could declare victory and then get out, that might be a scenario that could be plausible.

The problem is, and Michael and I were talking about this downstairs, where do you get those extra American forces? Even if you delayed some of the rotations out, you're still not going to have enough to bring it up to the level that John McCain wants.

KING: Thank you both very much. Thank you for staying up or getting up to do this. We look forward to lots more reports and look forward to seeing you back home soon, John. And, Michael, you stay well.

WARE: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Michael Ware and John Roberts.

Later on LARRY KING LIVE, four famous talk radio hosts sound off about the upcoming election.

And, up next, whose party will win November's big senatorial smack downs Kay Bailey Hutchison's or Joe Biden's? They're just ahead. Don't go away.



KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE in Dallas, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Chairman of the Military Construction and Veterans Committee, Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee, Vice Chairman of Senate Republican Conference, Republican of Texas. She is running for reelection for a third term.

In Wilmington, Delaware is Senator Joe Biden, Ranking Member of Foreign Relations, co-author of an op-ed in today's "Wall Street Journal" titled "Bipartisan Redeployment," he, of course, the Democrat of Delaware.

Senator Hutchison, we know Tip O'Neill said that all politics is local but, in fact, isn't Iraq the overriding issue in all of this election?

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: I think Iraq is certainly one of the two major issues of this election, Larry. I think the economy is the other one and we're seeing huge successes in the economy, higher stock market, low unemployment, home ownership is up, so I think that's very important to people and that's sort of localized. But there's no question when we have troops in harm's way that is going to override everything.

KING: Senator Biden, would you say something went wrong?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Something went wrong right from the beginning, Larry. It's been wrong from the beginning. There's been no apparent willingness on the part of the civilians in this administration to change it.

Kay may disagree with me but I believe that they have not listened to the military. I've been there seven times in Iraq. Everything I hear on the ground I come home and it's very different than what you hear back home. But the thing is broken, Larry. They need a political solution in Iraq and we need a bipartisan solution at home.

KING: Senator Hutchison, General Casey asserted today that it will take another 12 to 18 months for Iraq security forces to take over. Is that realistic to you?

HUTCHISON: Well, I certainly defer to General Casey. He is on the ground and I can't second guess him. That does not seem realistic to me but certainly I think we need to readjust, just as the president is doing.

I do have to say I disagree with my colleague that everything has been bad from the beginning. I think there have been some great successes here but it's not where we want to be and nobody denies that, including the president and he is adjusting.

KING: What do you make, Senator Biden, of the leaving behind the concept of stay the course?

BIDEN: Well, I think it's an adjustment to reality. I hope it's real. I hope it's not just to get by the next 13 days and give candidates who are in trouble over the war some reason to be able to say, "Look, we're going to change." I really hope it's real. If it's real, we have a shot.

Larry, I don't know anybody, including Kay and Dick Lugar and a lot of Republicans I respect, who don't acknowledge that you have to realize that in order to get the Sunnis to buy into this operation of a unified government you have to give them a piece of the oil.

In order to be able to keep Iraq together you got to give them a little bit of breathing room. I've been arguing for the better part of ten months now that you should, in fact allow the federal system to come in existence.

Let them have control over their local security, control over their local laws with a central government that controls the borders and oil distribution and has an army.

That's what their constitution calls for. I don't know why we're not pushing it. I think Maliki, the present leader, is unwilling to take on the delicate coalition among the Shia and as a consequence of that I don't think we're going to make much progress.

KING: Senator Hutchison, your fellow Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said this week that we're on the verge of chaos in Iraq and that the current plan isn't working. And, Senator Warner recently warned that the war is drifting sideways. Do you differ with your colleagues?

HUTCHISON: Well, I think the president has said we are going to adjust that we do that in wars. We do that when things are not going as we expected. And, I think everyone admits that things are not going as we expected.

And, I do think that after looking at the constitution that in looking at the way the Kurds have solidified their area and they have a growing economy and a stability that we ought to be looking at a way to have some semi-autonomous regions but a federalism so that the oil revenue can be shared. I think that's one of the options that really should be on the table among others.

KING: Senator Biden, can the Democrats take control of the Senate?

BIDEN: Well, they can, Larry. I don't know whether they will but I think the Democrats will make gains in the Senate and I think that will allow a number of our colleagues on the Republican side as well as the Democratic side to maybe form a bipartisan coalition.

I'm not in any way referring to Senator Hutchison when I say this but I think it's difficult. She's very popular in her home state. I think it's very difficult for some Republicans at this time to be put in a position where they look like they're criticizing the president by taking issue with him and be willing to join me and others and even to join Senator Hutchison's notion that is very different than the president's.

But I think that will all change after this election. Now, on the other hand if the Republicans keep the advantage they have, we don't make any gains, then I think we're going to have two more years of the same.

KING: What will happen in two weeks, Senator Hutchison?

HUTCHISON: Well, I don't think it will be two more years of the same. I think the president is now saying we are going to readjust, so I think there is a different air and I think there have been several options put on the table.

I think that Jimmy Baker and Congressman Hamilton are looking at some very good options in a bipartisan way, as Senator Biden has mentioned. So, I think that everyone is saying "Let's adjust" including the president.

KING: Will your party retain control of the Senate?

HUTCHISON: I do believe they will. I do.

KING: Thank you both very much, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware.

BIDEN: Thank you.

KING: Coming up a pair of Iraq vets square off. They fought together against the enemy in Iraq. Now they're on opposite sides as they fight for seats in Congress. You won't want to miss this. We'll be right back.



KING: We now welcome two extraordinary guests to LARRY KING LIVE.

In Washington is Tom O'Donoghue, a Republican congressional candidate for Virginia's 8th District. He's trying to unseat the veteran incumbent Democrat Jim Moran. He's a West Point graduate, a veteran of both Afghanistan and Iraq. He was awarded the Combat Action Badge and the Bronze Star.

And, in Chicago, is Tammy Duckworth, Democratic congressional candidate for Illinois' 6th District, an open seat. Her opponent is Republican Pete Roskam. She is an Iraq war veteran who lost both legs when a grenade hit the Black Hawk helicopter she was piloting outside Baghdad. "Glamour" magazine has named her one of its women of the year.

Tom, is Iraq a central issue in your race?

TOM O'DONOGHUE, (R) VIRGINIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Yes, certainly it's an issue that you can't avoid. The voters are concerned where we're going in Iraq, what's the plan to get ahead? They recognize it's important and they also want to hear solutions of, you know, how do we stabilize the region and how do we get our troops home? So, it's clearly an issue.

KING: Do you have strong differences with your opponent in that area?

O'DONOGHUE: Yes, yes. Actually, my opponent is, you know, wants to bring the troops home. He's very -- very quick to criticize what's gone wrong with the war, a lot of the problems, which is easy to do but he doesn't offer up solutions. He just wants to bring the troops home and hope that, you know, all goes well and I guess the Middle East suddenly stabilizes and the terrorists all go home, so obviously very different than my approach.

KING: Tammy, is Iraq central in your race?

TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D), ILLINOIS CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Absolutely, Larry. You know, my campaign has been one focused on many issues but Iraq is definitely one of the top three. This is where I am actually someone who does bring a unique voice in it and so does Tom on this because we've served on the ground and we can ask those tough questions.

And, I've been putting forward concrete plans, concrete answers for how we get ourselves out of Iraq, resolve that situation and re- focus on the mission of destroying Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.

KING: Tom, CNN polling 64 percent of Americans are opposed to the war does that give you pause?

O'DONOGHUE: Well, I wouldn't say necessarily pause but certainly it's a concern and I think when you say, you know, everyone is opposed to the war at some level. I mean nobody wants a war. But I think when you talk to the people on the ground they recognize that, a) we're there and we need to, you know, stabilize that region and that region is critical to the future of the country. It's critical to the world and they recognize that we can't just walk away and hope for the best. So, they're looking actually for solutions. That seems to be what I hear from most of the voters is they want solutions.

KING: Do you have a solution, Tammy?

DUCKWORTH: I sure do, Larry. I want on January of 2007, Secretary Rumsfeld to be sitting in front of Congress and I want him to tell us exactly how many Iraqi security forces, that's national guard and police, can do their jobs independently.

And then I want a report from him on a quarterly basis with monthly progress reports sent to Congress reporting on how he has succeeded in the train-up of the Iraqi security forces.

The train-up of those forces should be our number one priority. It hasn't been. Paul Bremer this year actually said that it was about number four on his list of priorities when he was the administrator. I think it should be number one. And I think we need to start drawing down U.S. troops tied to the train-up of the Iraqi security forces.

So, when Secretary Rumsfeld in January of 2007, if he tells me that there are two Iraqi policemen manning a traffic checkpoint in Al Kut, then I want to start bringing two Americans home. But we need to set measurable goals that we can hold people accountable for.

KING: Tom Friedman of "The New York Times," the esteemed Pulitzer winner, recently wrote that "We may be seeing the Iraqi equivalent of the Tet Offensive of 1968 in Vietnam aimed at pushing the United States out of Iraq." What are your thoughts, Tom?

O'DONOGHUE: Yes, sure, I mean there are very few people that want the U.S. out of Iraq. I mean I can name a few, obviously. You know, Iran might be interested in it at some level and some of the insurgents. And, everyone knows the elections are going on. This is a critical issue. So, it's not surprising that a combination of U.S. elections plus Ramadan leads to an up tick in violence, so that is not surprising.

But ultimately, if you look at the region, everybody has an interest in, you know, averting a civil war, a full blown civil war in Iraq, so that is what we are working for. We need to work with our allies, even work with some of our enemies that don't necessarily have an interest in a full blown civil war that is certain to spill over.

I mean in modern times there's not a single civil war that has been contained within the country and hasn't adversely affected all of its neighbors, so those are the critical issues.

KING: Did your war service spearhead your interest in politics?

O'DONOGHUE: No, actually. I mean I've been -- I've been involved in public service and involved in politics, you know, going back 15 years or so, you know, since I left active duty in the military. So, I've always been interested. But, you know, when I came home from Iraq I recognized that a lot of the big issues weren't really being addressed. A lot of the politics had devolved to a tit-for-tat, next election this will give us an advantage that will give us an advantage.

But, there are some big issues. I mean not just the war on terrorism, the global situation in general. I mean not since the 1930s has the global situation looked like this.

Domestically we've got issues of, you know, illegal immigration, border security. We've got issues related to terrorism. All these issues need to be addressed in a bold and comprehensive way not a short term tit-for-tat kind of way that is very much endemic in Washington, D.C.

KING: Tammy, did your military service lead you to where you are now?

DUCKWORTH: Yes, it did, Larry. I, you know, was in non-profits before this and I would have gone back to that. But I spent four months laying in a hospital bed unable to move and watching a lot of C-Span.

I got very, very upset that my government was making decisions in my name that really were not reflective of where I am on the issues. And, frankly, you know, my buddies pulled me out of that field in Iraq and I feel responsibility to stand up and ask those tough questions that we need to ask about Iraq.

We need more accountability and we need a Congress that will start doing its job and that means we need to demand reports from the secretary of defense and we need monthly reports. We need to know exactly are we making any progress or are we not because frankly we can't be there forever.

And, Larry, you know, earlier you said that the whole stay the course policy is changing. Well it isn't changing. Here in Illinois the Illinois Republican Party, I know you probably can't see this, Larry, but I'm holding this up, today we got a piece of mail that actually accused the Democrats of cutting and running. And, on the inside, it says "We need to stay until the mission is accomplished."

Well, I was shot down 18 months after that "Mission Accomplished" banner. I'm not someone who has cut and run but I think we need real strategy, a real plan for how we resolve the conflict in Iraq so that we can get back to the business of fighting terror in Afghanistan.

KING: We'll be focusing on both your races two weeks from tonight and good luck, Tom O'Donoghue and Tammy Duckworth. Tom is running in Virginia, Tammy in Illinois.

Just ahead, two of the radio talkers who were invited to the White House today and two whose names were not on the guest list, they do their jobs with frequency and they're doing it here when LARRY KING LIVE comes back.



KING: Radio Day at the White House. What happened and why? Let's meet our panel.

In Washington, Mark Larson, host of the California based radio show "Larson Live." The conservative commentator who blogs on the Internet at He broadcasts live from the White House today, part of Radio Day.

In Atlanta, Neal Boortz, the nationally syndicated host of the "Neal Boortz Show." Describes himself as a confirmed libertarian, also broadcast live from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue earlier today.

And now two people who were not invited. Stephanie Miller here in Los Angeles, the nationally syndicated host of the "Stephanie Miller Show," former co-host of CNBC's "Equal Time." And by the way interestingly, her father was William Miller, who was Barry Goldwater's running mate in 1964.

And in Grand Forks, North Dakota, Ed Schultz, host of the "Ed Schultz Show," nationally syndicated on the Jones Radio Network. He's billed as America's No. 1 progressive talker.

Mark Larson, since it was only conservatives, the purpose of this was what today?

MARK LARSON, TALK RADIO HOST: To get us into a room, wire us, Larry, and make us drink the Kool-Aid. You know that.

KING: In other words, this was spread the message, preach to the choir?

LARSON: Well, not so much that. You know, if the White House through we were going to go in there and just assume that everything they say is gospel, then they assumed the wrong thing. I mean, there were tough questions in that room all day long. It helps get people on message, absolutely. But at the same time, they're open, very discerning, took on Rumsfeld today with lot of questions he didn't necessarily like.

I think that's good access.

KING: Neal, what did you feel was the point?

NEAL BOORTZ, TALK RADIO HOST: Well, the premise here is wrong already. You introduced me as a libertarian and then you say it was only conservatives. I remember seeing Victoria Jones there, she's a liberal. NPR was there, I don't think they are going to be described as conservatives.

So it wasn't a conservative only gathering. I looked at it as a great opportunity to get some access to administration officials. And no marching orders, no limitations on the questions. Just have at them. KING: They used to do this a lot, didn't they, Clinton did it and others, they'd have radio days like every six months?

BOORTZ: They did.

KING: Didn't they, Neal?

BOORTZ: Yes, sir.

KING: So this is commonplace. Stephanie, do you feel left out?

STEPHANIE MILLER, TALK RADIO HOST: Oh, I'm sure it's a coincidence that Ed and my invitations were lost in the mail, Larry.

I just want to say Mr. President, I'm an excellent biker, call me. Love to chat. You know Larry, they're in trouble. When they've got to firm up their support with right-wing talk show hosts, they are in a lot of trouble.

KING: We already pointed out NPR was there.

MILLER: Oh, please. When Sean Hannity is getting off the talking points, you're in trouble. When you've got to spend 90 minutes with Sean Hannity, that's trouble.

KING: So you weren't sad that you weren't invited?

MILLER: I was not sad. I saw the pictures. They looked like those bobble-head dogs you see in your car. Yes, Mr. President, yes, sir, oh yes.

KING: Ed Schultz, how did you feel, for America's heartland, the only one on this show from the heartland who was not invited. Why weren't you invited, Ed?

ED SCHULTZ, TALK RADIO HOST: I don't know, Larry. Maybe Pony Express doesn't get out this far with the immigration. What I wanted to do, I wanted to ask Dick Cheney if he wanted to go hunting pheasant in western North Dakota. I don't know how he could turn it down.

BOORTZ: Oh, man.

SCHULTZ: But I think it's -- there's propaganda here, no question about it. A lot of these people are not going to challenge them the way some progressive hosts might challenge them. It's all about mastering the message and getting free advertising. We know what this is about. And it's unchallenged. And it's unfiltered and it's talking directly to the people, the spoken word is definitely got a real impact.

LARSON: Ed, please.

KING: Mark Larson, Mark...

LARSON: Yes, Larry?

KING: How much trouble is the Republican Party in?

LARSON: I think that there's -- I kept looking today for that bleak moment, you know those off the mike, out of the glare of the spotlights kind of spots where you would see Rumsfeld and Rove and Condoleezza Rice all feeling just horribly deep, dark, dank, about what's going to happen in two weeks.

I didn't see that. I saw the same kind of optimism that Rove talks about and Mehlman and others have talked about on and off the record. And I think that -- there's a confidence there that, I think, really takes away from what we're hearing in some of the mainstream media.

KING: Does that shock you, Stephanie?

MILLER: Which part?

LARSON: She's shocked by it all, come, Stephanie?

MILLER: That you're confident? I think that's good. You go with that. You know, I mean, how long, Larry, did the president spend with these former secretaries of states for these photo op that was supposed to be advice about Iraq? He gave them all like five minutes. You know what I mean? And these right-wing talk show hosts get an hour and a half with the president.

KING: Do you think the confidence as expressed by Mark is misplaced?

MILLER: Yes, but I want him to stick with that.

KING: What do you think, Neal? Do you think the Republicans are in trouble?

BOORTZ: Well, yes. As a matter of fact, let's debunk some of this big cheerleading rah-rah section being invited to the White House today. I've been saying on the air for weeks now that I'm rather looking forward to seeing the Republicans get spanked a little bit on Election Day for their betrayal of the voters.

I mean, smaller government, didn't see that. Lower spending, didn't see that. So if it was just a bunch of yes men there at the White House today, why in the world was I invited? My stance on this upcoming election is rather clear. It was clear to the White House before I showed up there today.

So it seems to me with my buddy Ed and we're syndicated by the same people, by the way, Ed, and there was only one room, one Jones guy there today, OK? But my buddy Ed, if he's there, he's doing in- depth interviews. If we're there, we're just getting our marching orders. Now, come on, Ed. You can't have it both ways.


SCHULTZ: Neal, you're telling me that I'm going to ask the same questions that you're going to ask? I doubt it. Stop disguising yourself as some libertarian.

LARSON: More conspiracy.

SCHULTZ: You're a conservative and you're a mouthpiece today for the administration.


SCHULTZ: There's no doubt about it.

BOORTZ: Ed, did you hear my show today?

SCHULTZ: I don't have to hear your show. I heard it before.

BOORTZ: OK then. You know all about it, but you didn't hear it. OK, OK, I've got you.

KING: All right, hold on, guys.

SCHULTZ: Well Neal, how come I wasn't invited? Tell me why wasn't I invited?

KING: I'm going to get a break, hold on a second guys.

BOORTZ: Split screen, Ed, Neal. Do the split screen. Why wasn't Ed invited? Come on, folks.

SCHULTZ: Because I think different from you, Neal. I might ask a tough question. That's not what has happened on this radio row and you know it.

KING: I've got to get a break, guys. We'll take a break. I was in that business for a long time. I know where they come.

LARSON: You got into it, Larry, good luck.

KING: Tomorrow night, the Dixie Chicks will be with us. I bet they love that.

LARSON: Bring them on now. We're ready.

KING: If you have e-mail questions for them, you can send them into And also for John Walsh on Thursday night. There's the way to get us. And we'll be right back with more, don't go away.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am determined to stay the course.

BUSH: And we will stay the course.

BUSH: And my message today to those in Iraq is we'll stay the course.

BUSH: We will stay the course.

BUSH: Stay the course means keep doing what you're doing. My attitude is don't do what you're doing if it's not working.


KING: All right. Mark Larson at the White House today, was the mood, don't stay the course?

LARSON: The mood was, as Neal pointed out, was kind of all over the road. Again, you don't have to have people working off the teleprompters, off the telling points. What I find interesting about the left, with all due respect to Ed and Stephanie, who I think are very funny, especially Stephanie, sometimes Ed's unintentionally funny.

What I appreciated is that it used to be that conservatives were thought of as being the ones who imagined conspiracies on the left. Now it seems to be the other way around. If you listen to progressive radio, Air America, and so forth, you hear the most outlandish theories and somehow that this idea that conservatives or even the nonconservatives, anybody invited into the White House is suddenly in the loop and mind-numb robots. That's very reminiscent to the "Washington Post" line years ago about conservative Christians being just off the turnip truck and easily led. I find it offensive and I also find it kind of humorous.


SCHULTZ: Mark, was it fair to have the majority of talkers, conservative, at the White House today on the taxpayer dollars?

LARSON: I wasn't...

SCHULTZ: You can't tell me that that's fair and you can't tell me that -- number one, I'm not Air America, and secondly I'm not going to ask the same questions you're going to ask.


MILLER: Boy, Ed.

Ed that is a crazy left wing conspiracy theory, isn't it, that right wing talkers tend to parrot the Republican talking points? That's crazy.

SCHULTZ: Let me just say this, that I felt good about myself when I was not invited the Clinton radio rows. I got over it. It's fine.

KING: Neal Boortz, the question was, is stay the course history or were they still pounding it today?

BOORTZ: Larry, good question. I've got to ask, Ed, what's this taxpayer dollar nonsense?

KING: You said good question, then you don't answer it.

LARSON: Don't say the stay the course thing, either, because we're too animated.

BOORTZ: Well, I'm sorry, I can't let Ed just hit and run on that. Nobody paid.

SCHULTZ: Did you pay the light bill today, Neal? Did you pay for the broadcast?

BOORTZ: We paid for our engineering.


SCHULTZ: You bet you did.

BOORTZ: Ed, do I get to answer? Tell me when I can answer, Ed.

SCHULTZ: Well, you've interrupted the program three times. You might as well take it over.

BOORTZ: Only to answer your cheap shots. We paid for our broadcast lines, we paid for our airfare, we paid for our hotels, I paid for everything -- we paid for everything.

SCHULTZ: And all the material, I bet you got that free, too, didn't you?

BOORTZ: Ed, you're hopeless. Why don't you address an issue once in a while?

SCHULTZ: I'll address this issue, stay the course. The fact is the American people are not buying this 12 to 18 months garbage that's coming from General Casey. We've heard this jargon before. It's interesting how they hold the press conference in Iraq, throw out some positive comments about the Iraqis taking over and then turn it over to you right wing talkers to make sure the American people hold it.

KING: One at a time. Stephanie, are you surprised that the -- are you surprised the tide has turned enough that today a poll, 57 percent favor cut and run?

MILLER: A lot of cut and run defeat defeatocrats, aren't there? First of all, boys, don't fight, you're all pretty.

KING: They favor leaving now, 57 percent.

MILLER: Yes. I mean, this is the thing, Larry. Its, you know, when the vast majority of the American people feel the same way, when we have Lindsey Graham and John Warner saying the same thing, how many names can you call people? How many times can you call somebody a -- you know, your guest Tammy Duckworth, her opponent called her a cut and runner. She lost both her legs in Iraq. I mean, how low are they going to go in this debate? I mean, it really has gotten beyond... SCHULTZ: I think Lindsey Graham said the word chaos, didn't he? Didn't he say chaos?

KING: Yes, he said chaos.

SCHULTZ: Didn't he say chaos? Didn't he say the plan wasn't working? That's Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina.

LARSON: But you know what's disingenuous here is this idea that somehow there's no plan. And I talk to people in Iraq and Afghanistan every week, I've been over there with General Abizaid last fall. I was in Afghanistan in March, something a lot of talk show hosts haven't done.

It's frustrating to hear this portrayal that somehow we're sitting around with no plan. That you change the slogan, and somehow it means, now we have a plan. There's been a plan, it's constantly shifting with an enemy that has been unlike any we've seen.

SCHULTZ: OK. It's shifting.

MILLER: By the way, Larry, can we get -- since Ed and I were not invited, can we get the memo, because I know we're here to mourn the death of a catch phrase tonight. Stay the course is officially dead. But are we still making progress? And is it hard work? And is freedom on the march?

Because we want the talking points, too. Which ones are still operative.

BOORTZ: Well, I know that you're taking great glee in the change of the president's catch phrase "Stay the course". And...

MILLER: Not only did he not...


BOORTZ: OK. I'm sorry.


BOORTZ: I want to beg Stephanie her forgiveness for daring to talk while she was trying to interrupt.

SCHULTZ: I'm not feeling the love here, Neal.

KING: Hold on. Let me go to someone normal.

MILLER: Good luck.

KING: John King is standing by. He will host "AC 360" tonight at the top of the hour.

John, what's up?

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Larry. You got a good feisty group there. Keep it going.

Ahead on "360", as Democrats lead in several close races, tonight we tackle the question that's on many people's minds, what would actually happen if the Democrats take control of Congress? Do they have a plan? And is it what Americans really want?

Plus, dirty politics. Thousands of Latino immigrants being told that if they vote, they could be thrown in jail or deported. We'll investigate.

Also, Rush Limbaugh takes on Michael J. Fox, accusing him of overacting his Parkinson's Disease. Did he go too far this time?

And the witness to Warren Jeff's polygamist rule on the stand and on tape. His testimony right here, ahead on "360" -- Larry.

KING: We'll ask you about that Limbaugh thing on Fox, and also get an e-mail question from Croatia, believe it or not when we come back.


KING: Before we get to the Fox/Limbaugh thing, we have an e-mail question from Sergio in Zagreb, Croatia.

"Why do so many U.S. politicians seem afraid to call the current situation in Iraq a civil war?"


LARSON: Because it's not. It's certainly not yet. Hopefully it doesn't go there. I'm really sick and tired of hearing people cheering, almost like they think, well, let's call it that so that we can go get Bush again. I think that's what it's all about.

There are certainly heightened issues going on there. There are bigger battles. The bad guys are all collected in one place. But I think there's far too many people cheering for the demise.

KING: You think it's a civil war, Stephanie?

MILLER: Larry, I got to tell you, because I monitor right wing pundits every night. Last night, someone specifically said not just Democrats, not just the media, but CNN is happy that we're losing the War in Iraq.

KING: What do they base that on?

MILLER: Nothing. What do they ever base anything on in the right?


MILLER: Nothing. They pulled it out of their butt, Larry. They don't base it on anything.

KING: The question was, do you think it's a civil war?

MILLER: Yes, clearly it is.

KING: Do you think it is, Neal?

BOORTZ: A civil war is when two factions are fighting for control of the same government. These factions are fighting to establish their own governments, therefore, by definition, it is not a civil war.

KING: Well then the -- but didn't Jefferson Davis want to take control of a government?

BOORTZ: No. He wanted to establish it. Come on Larry, you know that. He wanted to establish a separate government of the confederate states. That wasn't a civil war, either.

KING: But he was calling that, Neal.

BOORTZ: It was the war between the states. Who cares about accuracy? It's definitions.

LARSON: Jefferson Davis is dead, by the way.

KING: Ed, do you think it's a civil war?

SCHULTZ: Well, I think that you've got some senators saying that it's a civil war. And many that have been over there. Jack Reed was on my program today. He said it's a civil war. So the people who are in charge are calling it a civil war, so I'll take their word for it.

KING: Neal, did...

BOORTZ: Casey's not, Abizaid's not.

KING: ... Rush Limbaugh go too far in saying that Michael J. Fox with a severe case of Parkinson's was acting?

BOORTZ: Larry, I didn't hear the comments. I was on a plane. One thing about talk show hosts, we're not like columnists. We're not like writers. When we say it, it's out there. I've said many things on the air I would like to take back. I said something nice about Ed Schultz once.

But on this issue...

SCHULTZ: ... Your ratings went up when you said it, too.

BOORTZ: I am totally on Michael J. Fox's side on this one. We need to crank up the stem cell research on all fronts.

LARSON: Larry, let me say this, because I follow Rush Limbaugh in our station, NewsRadio 600, KOGO in San Diego. I heard him say it and I winced when he said it. Rush is a 900-pound gorilla. He has every right to say it the way he says it. I think if I were saying it for him, if I was on the show, I would have said I find it curious that Michael J. Fox is a terrific actor. I could disagree with him on certain issues, but when he's been on "Boston Legal," he has managed to do his craft and to mask some of the Parkinson's issues. My grandfather -- wait, wait, wait.

SCHULTZ: Say it Mark, it's below the belt. Once again, once again, the conservative talker is...

LARSON: Larry, I can finish?

SCHULTZ: ... It's below the belt.

KING: Mark, I'll tell you from first-hand knowledge, having worked on "Boston Legal," when Michael Fox works there, it takes an enormous amount of editing. They do lots of scenes over and over. He has -- trust me, Mark, he has a very bad case of Parkinson's.

SCHULTZ: He wasn't thinking.

LARSON: You're not hearing me. I'm not saying that's the case. I'm saying that the contrast of the spot that's running in Missouri is different. I can see why Rush reacted that way. I wouldn't have said it the same way. My grandfather had Parkinson's. It's a serious disease. It's just interesting that it's more pronounced in that particular setting. That's all.

KING: "Boston Legal" was also a year ago. Neal, what's your reaction to it?

BOORTZ: Again, I'm on Michael J. Fox's side.

KING: I forgot, we asked you already, getting confused who I asked.

BOORTZ: Let's get on with the research.

KING: I didn't ask Stephanie. What do you think?

MILLER: I -- you know, we do a segment called "Right Wing World" every day when we play sound bites. And by the way Neal, a couple of the things you said, you've been in there a few times, buddy, keep going.

But I've got to say, this was the morning -- this was like the springtime for Hitler face. This, I could not -- first of all, maybe he shouldn't talk about other people's drug problem. But secondly, it just is beyond awful. I don't even know how you -- I can't believe we're having this discussion on whether it's appropriate to accuse Michael J. Fox of faking his Parkinson's symptoms because you don't agree with him.


LARSON: The talk about was Rush over the top in saying it. Rush has every right to say what he was going to say, just like some of the outlandish things you guys say on left of center radio.

BOORTZ: Now Larry, let the record...

MILLER: ... Well you know what? If that's what it takes to be as successful as Rush, then I'll be happy continually to be marginally successful. That will be fine.

BOORTZ: Larry, before we disappear into the ether here, I would like the record to show that we did not get through the program tonight without one of the liberals making their required Hitler comment when talking about the right wing.

LARSON: Marching in lock step.

SCHULTZ: You know, Larry, I would like to say...

KING: ... We'll be right back. We'll be back with our remaining moments from the right staff right after this, don't go away.


KING: Before we get some predictions from our guests, let's take one quick call. Santa Clarita, California, hello.

CALLER: Good evening, Larry.


CALLER: My oldest daughter died from a Parkinson-like neurological disorder and Rush Limbaugh attacking Michael J. Fox today sickens me. That's not my question. I can't even talk about that.

My question is about voting irregularities. Karl Rove relaxed and smiling two weeks before this election really makes me nervous. And in the last election...

KING: What's your question?

CALLER: ... Exit polls in the last election did not match the posted vote results. I was wondering how will this panel feel if this happens again?

KING: Ed Schultz, do you think they're going to steal it from you?

SCHULTZ: Well I'd like to think it's not going to happen, Larry. But I think there's going to be some voting irregularities somewhere in America. They're going to have to be monitored. But I still think 25 seats are going to go to the Democrats in the House and seven seats in the Senate. Chew on that, Neal.

KING: I was just going to ask predictions. What's yours, Mark? Now, be a reporter.

LARSON: I think based on what I'm saying and despite all the conspiracy theories on the left here, because they always like to say George Bush is the dumbest guy to come down the pike.

KING: What is your prediction?

LARSON: I'm predicting that the Republicans hold both, and I think that the House by a hair and then they challenge it a la Al Gore in 2000 and talk about all these irregularities. I think it's going to be hung up in the courts.

KING: Neal?

BOORTZ: I predict the Republicans hold narrow margin and the Democrats start screaming voter fraud within four hours.

LARSON: Exactly.

SCHULTZ: Well Neal, answer the question. Do you think that the machines are perfect?

BOORTZ: No, I don't like the machines.

SCHULTZ: OK, all right. And I'm going to sell McCaskill tomorrow on the program that you're supporting her since you don't agree with Rush Limbaugh, right?

BOORTZ: Oh, that's brilliant, Ed. That goes along with the rest of your logic.

SCHULTZ: The fact is, Neal, it's about stem cell research, that's what it's about. And it's a character assassination on the part of Limbaugh. It's more below the belt talk by the righty talkers because you can't win on the issues with the American people.

BOORTZ: I'll tell you what, Ed. I'll talk about the stem cell research. You can talk about Rush Limbaugh.


MILLER: By the way, Neal, someone just hacked into a Diebold machine again, while a Diebold spokesman was saying oh, it's impossible, it's encrypted, it would take years of experts and they're like, I just did it, while you were talking. I just did it. So it is a concern.

KING: Stephanie, what is going to happen?

BOORTZ: I knew you had a talent somewhere, Stephanie.

MILLER: We are still going to take back the Senate and the House and I'm going to prank call Neal Boortz when we win.

KING: OK guys, there you have it. Mark Larson, Neal Boortz, predicting that the Republicans will keep control of the House and the Senate by small margins and that there will be court challenges. Stephanie Miller predicting a democratic victory and Ed Schultz saying the Democrats take both the House and the Senate.

Thank you all very much. Mark Larson, Neal Boortz, Stephanie Miller and Ed Schultz. Mark and Neal were at the White House today. Stephanie and Ed were not. I don't even know why that's funny.

Tomorrow night, country music's most controversial act, the Dixie Chicks. Their concert comments put them in the dog house with the White House and now they're taking their opinions to a movie house near you. The Dixie Chicks, tomorrow night.

And on Thursday, John Walsh to talk about the new front in his war on crimes against children. And we'll take your e-mail questions to John and the Chicks. To submit one, just go to our Web site,

John King will ably fill in for Anderson Cooper tonight on "A.C. 360" and that's coming up right now -- John?


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