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Who Knows What Will Happen in the Election?; Political Hot Topics

Aired February 29, 2008 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, political hot topics. Our star-studded panel takes them on and talks them out. Bradley Whitford, Ben Stein, Sean Astin and Fran Drescher, to name a few. No opinions off limits. No telling who'll say what. It's an hour that just may be too hot to handle.
Tune in and watch out, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening.

We're going to be informative and have some fun tonight, too, with some outstanding panelists.

In the first half hour, Ben Stein, the actor, economist, TV personality and best-selling author.

Amy Holmes. Who served as a speechwriter for Senator Bill Frist, CNN political analyst.

Sean Astin -- Sean is the actor and probably best known for his role in "The Lord of the Rings" movie trilogy. He, by the way, has endorsed Hillary Clinton.

Penn Jillette, the magician and comic, the talkative half of Penn & Teller, the host of "Penn Says" on Next month, he'll be competing, by the way, on "Dancing With The Stars." And he -- he is a libertarian. He's going to be the new Marie Osmond.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The new Marie Osmond!

KING: And in Columbus, Ohio, Kal Penn, actor on the TV series "House," co-stars in the movie "Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay" and he's adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

The three guests of -- Sean Astin, Penn Jillette and Kal Penn will be replaced in the second half hour by Stephanie Miller, Bradley Whitfield and Fran Drescher.


KING: Ben, thanks for coming and good night.

Ben and Amy will be with us throughout the hour. Gentleman and lady, first things first. This was an incredible day today. Hillary Clinton released a television commercial today. And Barack Obama counted countered so fast that his is going to run tomorrow. They're going to look similar. In fact, they are similar. In fact, watch them back to back.

We start with Hillary's.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's 3:00 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. But there's a phone in the White House and it's ringing. Something's happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call, whether it's someone who already knows the world's leaders, knows the military, someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world. It's 3:00 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep.

Who do you want answering the phone?

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Hillary Clinton and I approved this message.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's 3:00 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. But there's a phone ringing in the White House. Something's happening in the world. When that call gets answered, shouldn't the president be the one -- the only one -- who had judgment and courage to oppose the Iraq War from the start?

Who understood the real threat to America was Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, not Iraq?

Who led the effort to the secure loose nuclear weapons around the globe?

In a dangerous world it's judgment that matters.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Barack Obama and I approved this message.


KING: The Obama ad will start tomorrow -- probably the fastest response to an ad ever.

OK, Ben Stein, it probably sums up the whole race.

What do you make of this?

BEN STEIN, SUPPORTS MCCAIN: One doesn't know whether to laugh or cry. But it's -- it's just hysterical. It's as if this were being done on "Saturday Night Live". It's just hysterical.

But what I keep thinking about when Hillary Clinton says she's prepared, if you had said is Mamie Eisenhower the best prepared in 1960, would anyone have said yes?


STEIN: I mean I don't think the fact of her being first lady makes her best prepared, although she's clearly an intelligent woman. And we were in law school together. She's clearly intelligent. But this -- these ads are a joke.

KING: Sean, what you make of this, back to back?

SEAN ASTIN, SUPPORTS CLINTON: Well, I hate political commercials, as a -- as a rule. But I think the issue is sort of the most important issue in the campaign. And it goes to, you know, who's ready to be the commander-in-chief of our armed forces. And I -- you know, I take Ben's point as, you know -- but experience has got to be the answer.

KING: Amy, how about the Obama camp's ability to respond so fast?

AMY HOLMES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, it's incredible. It's so nimble. You know, Hillary Clinton came out with the number, that she had raised $35 million. And they're saying it could be as high as $50 million. I think Barack Obama...


HOLMES: really incredible. And when Barack Obama talks about experience, the way that he has run this campaign should give Democrats a lot of hope for the way he might become president. I mean it's just really incredible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's incredible. Yes, it's incredible.

KING: Penn, what's your read?

PENN JILLETTE, LIBERTARIAN: Well, I don't know. It's just -- I think that Hillary had the better voice-over talent.


JILLETTE: Wasn't it -- wasn't that more of a...


JILLETTE: ...I think that was a little bit stronger.

KING: Well, they had more time to plan it.

JILLETTE: They had more time to plan it. They probably went through four or five different guys (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Do you think it will have an effect on the race in Ohio or Texas? JILLETTE: I don't -- I think that Obama is our next president, isn't he?

I mean I just...


JILLETTE: really seems like it's all going in that direction. I mean it's just -- you don't think so at all?

HOLMES: Well...


STEIN: Mr. McCain has rallied amazingly in recent polls.

JILLETTE: He certainly has.

STEIN: It depends on who he picks. It depends on how bad the economy gets. It -- I think it depends on who's going to have a plan to counter the faltering economy. If it's just going to be more of the same and trust me, it's not going to work. If somebody has a real plan, it will make a big difference.

KING: Kal Penn, what's your read, first on those commercials?

KAL PENN, SUPPORTS OBAMA: Well, I'm at a bit of a disadvantage since we don't have a monitor here. But I would say they sounded -- while they did sound similar, I think the issue for a lot of voters who...


PENN: ...who we've spoken to has to do with the Iraq War. And Senator Obama is the only one who opposed it from the beginning. He didn't vote to authorize it -- especially reaching out to a lot of college kids who have friends over in Iraq. They want answers. They want to know how come their friends are over there. They want to know how we can best bring them home.

And I think it's clear that Senator Obama is the only candidate who had the judgment way back then, when the war was incredibly popular, to know why it was the wrong decision for the country.

KING: Amy, it's...


ASTIN: It was also, there was an overwhelming majority in the, you know, Congress and support for the president. And within, you know -- public opinion polls to go in there and do something, I mean, we can all agree why that was being misrepresented and what was wrong. But she was at a moment where she had to make a decision where she wanted to use -- whether she wanted to use her vote to sort of act -- I mean just imagine if you turn it the other way around. Imagine if -- God forbid -- the Centox or the -- sorry. The V.X. gas that Hans Blix said was available in Iraq and could be used. He said this at the United Nations. Imagine if -- God forbid -- that gas had been used and someone had -- what would happen to the people who had voted against the war at that moment?

KING: Well, but they didn't...


ASTIN: They would have been seen to be completely out of it. They had -- you know, and she's being -- she's being blamed for faulty intelligence. She was -- she made the best decision she could with the information she had in her hands. And that was bad information.

KING: All right, Amy, is...


KING: Hold on a second, Ken -- Kal, hold on.

PENN: Sure.

KING: Amy, is all of this folderol -- for want of a better term -- beneficial to McCain?

HOLMES: Oh, it certainly is. With Democrats still going at each other -- we just saw just now, fighting Hillary Clinton's vote versus Barack Obama's opposition to the war. This, you know, them shooting at each other means that they're not shooting at Republicans. And John McCain has time to coalesce the party around him and be able to aim back at Democrats.

KING: Do you agree, Kal?

PENN: I do agree, actually. And I know that the -- that Senator Obama does respect Senators McCain and Clinton. But I think the key point here was that there was a lot riding on it. You know, when the war was starting up, Senator Obama was running for reelection in the Illinois state senate. The war was wildly popular among Democrats and Republicans.

But he did speak out against it -- against the advice of his own aides, who said you'll never get re-elected if you speak out against the war. And he said something to the effect of, you know, if lying about how I feel about foreign policy is the only way to get re- elected, then I don't want to the get re-elected. And he did go to an anti-war rally. And, of course, the infamous quote since then is I'm not opposed to all wars, I'm just opposed to a dumb war -- quite a succinct way, obviously, of summing it up now but...

KING: Penn, is -- we're going to discuss experience in a minute.

You said you think it's all favoring Obama.

Can anything turn?

JILLETTE: Oh, I think, you know, it can all change all the time. But the real surprising thing about Obama for me -- and I disagree with him on many, many things. But the fact that we have someone running that's not in any way cynical -- for so long, all the politics seemed to be of hate. I mean for Kerry and Gore it was all we're not voting for them, we're voting against Bush. And there was this sense that if you disagreed with someone it's not that they're wrong, it's that they're evil or bad.

What I love about Obama is just there's a little bit of happiness and respect. Everybody that's running is smarter than me and a better person. And you start with that as a given and then say that we disagree on issues. and although I disagree with Obama, it's wonderful to see someone who's full of happiness.

HOLMES: I think that's a really important point. And with Barack Obama, Democrats have, for the first time in three cycles, the opportunity to nominate someone who's likable...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the Republicans like him.

HOLMES: ...after Gore, Kerry. Absolutely.

STEIN: Yes, I think if it were Obama versus McCain, it would be the most civil campaign in a long time.

KING: Yes. They both say that.

STEIN: I mean, a campaign on the issues.


ASTIN: I like Hillary.

STEIN: On the issues.


STEIN: Campaigning on the issues.

KING: All right, let me get a break and come back and we'll talk about experience versus not experience, versus little experience. It's the whole -- practically the whole issue of the new "Time" magazine.

What do you call it, literally?

The whole issue of the new "Time" magazine is devoted to it. Some surprising things in there, too.

We'll be right back.


OBAMA: Yes, we want to move in a direction of change. Yes, we can. We are ready to stand up and turn the page and write a new chapter in American history.


KING: We're back with this outstanding panel.

Sean Astin, the new issue of "Time" magazine -- the front cover deals with experience versus little experience and it seems to come to the conclusion little experience is better. And it gives a lot of historical...

ASTIN: "Time" magazine is wrong.

KING: It gives a lot of historical facts, quotes a lot of statistics and points out the president of the United States historically with the least experience was Abraham Lincoln.

STEIN: Well, he was an extraordinary genius, Larry. I mean I don't...

KING: And he had one-term in the state legislature.

STEIN: I don't think there's ever been a genius on his level as president.

KING: One term in the state legislature.

STEIN: But an extraordinary and unimaginable genius.


JILLETTE: There had never been a Civil War.


KING: Well, there had been no precedent.


STEIN: Well, Jefferson -- I don't think Jefferson had a huge amount of experience. He had been vice president but...

KING: Secretary of state.

STEIN: Oh, secretary of state. Good point. Good point.

HOLMES: Well, but, Sean, you know, President Clinton got the wrap of inexperience back in 1992. And you would...

STEIN: But he had been governor.

HOLMES: I think you would say that he was a successful president.


JILLETTE: But I mean how much more...

ASTIN: He was an executive. He had made executive... STEIN: How much more experience does Mrs. Clinton have than Mr. Obama?

I mean she's been a senator a short while longer than he has. She doesn't have any real executive experience. The first lady is not executive.

KING: All right, what do you...

ASTIN: It's first lady.

KING: Sean, what do you think it means, experience, because she's counting on it?

ASTIN: I think it's the -- I think it's the biggest issue of the campaign. I think just for her to have spent, you know, eight years with a front row seat to all of the fast breaking, immediate emergency decisions that get made, the informal role she played in issues all over the globe, including the Irish peace process that was negotiated. The Irish leaders have said that they thought she was instrumental in helping to set the table for that.

I think, you know, she's on the Senate Armed Services Committee. I'm pretty sure -- by the way, I love the tone that be Senator Barack Obama has helped to set and helped to bring. It's not...

JILLETTE: Isn't that great?

ASTIN: And that's not my favorite thing. I love tons of stuff about him.

JILLETTE: And I'm not a supporter.



ASTIN: I am...

JILLETTE: I mean the Obama guys -- the Obama guys are (INAUDIBLE).

ASTIN: No, I know. But you made a...


ASTIN: You made a point that's critical. You made a very important point. His ability, his strategy and tactic comes from his heart and it's to reach out and embrace his fellow man.


ASTIN: But her, she is equally as good at reaching across the aisle and working with people.

KING: Ben laughs. STEIN: She is?


KING: Kal...

STEIN: I believe she's the one who said there was a vast right- wing conspiracy when they nailed her husband.

ASTIN: She was right.

How much money did Ken Starr and his folks pay on that investigation versus how much money has been spent to the investigate oversight...

STEIN: They found...

ASTIN: ...on the Bush...

STEIN: They found out it was true. They found out it was true. He had been lying.

KING: Kal, frankly, are you surprised by the ability of the candidate you support?

PENN: You know, I think that we have to look at the issue of experience. And let's not forget that Senator Obama has actually been in elected office longer than his Democratic rival. And during that time -- this is really important -- what are the accomplishments?

You know, a lot of folks are talking about health care. But he's already given 150,000 kids and their parents health care in the Illinois state Senate.

There was a huge controversy over the death penalty...

ASTIN: Six million.

PENN: With...

ASTIN: Children.

PENN: What's that?

ASTIN: Health care insurance.

PENN: I'm sorry?

ASTIN: Six million children with health care insurance because of Hillary Clinton's work in the United States Congress. This guy's been on the national stage. He's brilliant. He's going to be a brilliant president. I hope he's there for eight years. Just not first.

KING: OK. Let me...

(LAUGHTER) KING: I've got to...


KING: I've got to get a break.

PENN: Can I just (INAUDIBLE)...

KING: OK, quickly, Kal. Yes.

PENN: Sure. OK. So I mean if you want to move into the U.S. Congress, let's not forget the work that Barack Obama did with Dick Lugar, in terms of tracking down and finding these nuclear weapons that were missing after the Soviet Union was dissolved. This is a huge issue that also translated into the energy deal with India. You know, Senator Obama made sure that there were efficient checks and balances so that spent nuclear fuel was accounted for.

This is something that he takes very seriously.

KING: All right, I want to just get into John McCain in a minute, but first, how the press treats Hillary and how it treats Barack has been a campaign bone of contention and an inspiration for satire.

Let's take a look.


CLINTON: In the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time. And I don't mind. You know, I'll be happy to field them. But I do find it curious. And if anybody saw "Saturday Night Live," you know, maybe we should have you Barack if he's comfortable and needs another pillow.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is one of our nation's truly visionary leaders. And soon -- knock on wood -- the first black president of the United States, Senator Barack Obama.



KING: That was pretty funny. We have not discussed John McCain and we will, right after these messages.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You're going to get sick and tired of me because I'm going to be back and back and back. And I'm going to win the Ohio and win the presidency of the United States of America, with your help and your effort. And I thank you and I'm grateful. (END VIDEO CLIP)



BILL CUNNINGHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: At some point, the media will quit taking sides in this thing and maybe start covering Barack Hussein Obama.


MCCAIN: I have repeatedly stated my respect for Senator Obama and Senator Clinton, that I will treat them with respect. I will call them senator. We will respectful debate, as I have said on hundreds of occasions. I regret any comments that may be made about these two individuals who are honorable Americans.



RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I'm sorry. It's uncalled for. It's uncalled for in American politics. And he says it's not going to happen. I take full responsibility, although he did it. And I didn't even know he was going to be here.


KING: It's whacko time in America.


KING: What do you make of this whole dispute, Ben?

STEIN: Well, I was very surprised about it, because I saw Mr. -- Senator Obama on Tavis Smiley a few days ago and it had been recorded a couple of months ago. And he was saying I want the rest of the world to know me as Barack Hussein Obama because I want them to know that's a different person from George W. Bush.

As Penn said, it would be odd if he had the Ben's as George W. Bush. But he was...

JILLETTE: Well, he change his name on his stationery.

STEIN: But he was bragging about his middle name being Hussein, so I'm not sure why there's all the uproar about it.

KING: Amy, how do you think McCain handled it?

HOLMES: I think he handled it beautifully, actually, and very reasonably about it. But there's something interesting about John McCain saying that he's going to call his opponents senator. The RNC has done research into that, and that it's better to call Hillary Senator Clinton. If you call her Hillary, then she gets to play the victim card and you're able to attack her and undermine her if you call her Senator Clinton over Hillary.

KING: Are you surprised, Ben, that Senator McCain told me he doesn't want Secret Service protection?

He doesn't have it yet, but I think he's going to have to have it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the coolest thing in the world.


KING: But he said he doesn't want it.

JILLETTE: I believe Ron Reagan, Jr. told me that you can -- you are able to refuse it.

KING: You can refuse it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That happened with Nixon after he left office.

KING: After he left office.


JILLETTE: How tough do you need to be to say I don't need Secret Service?

That's the bossest thing in the world.

HOLMES: But I think we would like to see him do some like advanced security at his events.

I mean any kook, any nut...

JILLETTE: Oh, yes. That's what you'd...

HOLMES: ...could be like (INAUDIBLE)...

JILLETTE: That's what you'd like to see. But it's up to him, I think.

ASTIN: There's no question on God's green Earth the man needs Secret Service protection.

KING: Yes.


ASTIN: But he looks like John Wayne when he says he doesn't want it.

JILLETTE: That doesn't mean he has to want it.

KING: Kal, is he, if your man, Obama, is the nominee, will McCain be a tough opponent?

PENN: I think he will certainly be a very formidable opponent. But we've seen the last "New York Times" poll that just came out that has Senator Obama beating Senator McCain by 12 percentage points. So hopefully that's an indication of things to come.

JILLETTE: Yes, but he won't have Secret Service.

KING: Was he your candidate as a Republican, Ben?

STEIN: It originally was Giuliani, but I like Senator McCain just fine. And these polls come and go. And there are some polls -- there was just a poll in "The L. A. Times" a couple of days ago showing Senator McCain considerably ahead. So polls come and go. And -- but I think McCain is a formidable campaigner for a lot of reasons.

KING: Amy, does the turnout surprise you so far in the primaries on the Democratic side?

HOLMES: Oh, certainly. It's been extraordinary. And I think that I read that early voting in Texas went up from 150,000 to 800,000. So it's really been extraordinary.

But what I've been saying over and over is, you know, Democrats be careful. In 1988, Democratic primary voter turnout was twice that of Republicans and we didn't vote for President Dukakis.

ASTIN: You know, with the absolutely record low levels of popularity of the current administration and of Congress, it shouldn't be a surprise that lots of people are rising to counter that. And I think that Senator Obama deserves a lot of credit in helping to fuel that, but not all of it. That groundswell was happening.

And can I say one other sort of boldly partisan thing before I...

KING: You may.

ASTIN: ...I'm replaced by one of my heroes, Stephanie Miller?

JILLETTE: Is this going to be different than the other stuff you said?

ASTIN: Definitely. It is. It is.


ASTIN: Well, you know -- you know...

HOLMES: That's pretty bold (INAUDIBLE).

ASTIN: I have watched the repartee on this show for years and I love it. But I just was in Texas and dealing with real people. And somehow it changes your mind when you're actually talking to voters.

But, anyway -- it changes your outlook. Here's what I wanted to say. I was raised -- Patty Duke. Patty Duke is my mother -- by a very powerful and strong woman. I've been married for 16 years to a powerful and strong woman. We are raising three very powerful and strong young ladies. And I think this country would be in exceedingly good hands with one of the strongest, most powerful women in America at its helm.

JILLETTE: I thought for sure you were going to say and I've had enough of it.



JILLETTE: Didn't you think that's where it was going?


PENN: Can I interject...


KING: Yes, Kal.

Kal, go ahead.


PENN: Something that I've seen -- as an Independent, something that I've seen on the ground which is really inspiring, actually, is seeing that we've got folks at all these campaign offices all over the country, volunteers who are Independents and Republicans who have come out in huge numbers to support Senator Obama. The simple reason being folks don't have access to health care, they're worried about their friends that are fighting over in Iraq, you know, the economy is in bad shape. And they're coming together to support somebody that kind of transcends the party debate.

And as an Independent, I find that really inspiring. And I think other folks do, too.

KING: Amy, would a part of you -- if Hillary were elected -- feel good?


KING: Not, as -- you're a Republican. But as a woman.

HOLMES: Oh, as a woman?

KING: Yes.

HOLMES: No, not particularly. But I think that...

KING: No? HOLMES: No. But I think if Obama were to become the Democratic nominee, it would take Republicans like a good month to really convince themselves that Hillary was over, like sort of like Stockholm victims that...


HOLMES: They couldn't -- KING: That's very funny.

HOLMES: They won't believe that she's really gone.

KING: Ben, is it going to be a good campaign in that, as Senator McCain promises, clean?

STEIN: I think it will be an amazingly good campaign. And I think we've got -- if it were McCain versus Obama, we'd have the two best candidates we've had in a very long time. I think we are really lucky -- even for all -- the three that are in it now, it's historic -- the first black American, the first woman, a guy who was in a prison camp for six years.

This is an astonishing campaign and it's something we should all be very proud of.

KING: You agree with that, Penn?

JILLETTE: Oh, it's great. And I really like seeing things getting -- just getting happier and less filled with hate, although I still think you shouldn't vote until you get someone that you really agree with on everything. And the two things that are most important are the war and how you finance government. And I wish there was one candidate that was against the war and also for smaller government. I think...

KING: You want it both ways.

HOLMES: Ron Paul.

JILLETTE: That's what I'm waiting for. Yes, Ron Paul.

KING: Ron Paul.

JILLETTE: Except maybe -- except there's the immigration stuff and there's also some of the stuff from the past with the racist stuff that kind of freaked me a little bit. But he's the closest to what I'd agree with, yes.

KING: Do you think Hillary can pull it off?

ASTIN: Yes, of course, she can pull it off. I...

KING: And will the people in Texas...

ASTIN: Of course she can pull it off. There's no question in my mind.

Will she? You know, I don't know. But Texas...

JILLETTE: You mean she might be able to, but she won't?


ASTIN: I'm saying that...


ASTIN: I'm saying that if...


ASTIN: I'm saying that if Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton wins in Texas and Ohio, that the national news media is going to have to choke on the way that it's been telling this story for the last six months.

KING: They will do that.

Thank you very -- thanks Sean and Penn and Kal -- Kal Penn and Penn Jillette.

PENN: Thank you

KING: And Sean Astin for being with us.

Ben Stein and Amy Holmes will remain.

And when we come back, we'll be joined by Bradley Whitford, Fran Drescher and Stephanie Miller, when LARRY KING LIVE comes back.

Don't go away.


CLINTON: The real question for us is not whether change will happen, it's whether progress will happen, whether we'll see the kind of progress here in Ohio and Texas in America that the people of our country deserve.



KING: We're back.

We have three new members of the panel. Let's reintroduce the two who remain.

Ben Stein, the actor, economist, TV personality and coauthor of the new book, "Yes, You Can Supercharge Your Portfolio." That book, there you see its cover. Amy Holmes, the CNN political analyst, remains with us. Joining us as well is Stephanie Miller, nationally syndicated talk radio host. She proudly says she's a liberal. Her father was not. He was William Miller, who was Barry Goldwater's running mate in 1964.

Bradley Whitford is the Emmy winning actor, probably best known for "The West Wing," a Democrat backing Hillary Clinton. He has also donated to Barack Obama. And in Miami, our old friend Fran Drescher, the Emmy nominated actress, "New York Times" best selling author, founder of the Cancer Shmanser movement. The United States State Department has named her special envoy for women's gynecological health issues. She is a Democrat.

From what you've heard so far from those competing commercials, Stephanie, what's your read on Texas and Ohio?

STEPHANIE MILLER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I think we can agree that 3:00 a.m. is when everything bad happens. It's when you drunk dial people. It's when the wolves that John Kerry wanted to tell the Dingos to eat your babies. They're going to attack your children. You know, I think people are not going for this fear mongering any more. I think that's what the polls are showing. We're in a dead heat now in Ohio. Obama has pulled ahead in Texas. People are tired of the fear mongering and dividing.

KING: You think it's a Hillary mistake?


KING: What do you think as a Hillary supporter, Bradley?

BRADLEY WHITFORD, ACTOR: You know, I think that these pot shots that they're taking at each other feel sort of archaic, because it feels like old time politics, this kind of fear mongering. I think the excitement in the Democratic party is we have two candidates that have been fantastic candidates.

Politics is a zero sum game. If you have 51 percent, you're a genius. If you have 49 percent, you're an idiot.

HOLMES: Hillary?

WHITFORD: No, I think she's been a fantastic candidate.

HOLMES: Brad Whitford says --

WHITFORD: I absolutely do not say that. I think she's been an incredible candidate. And I think that in Barack Obama you have a post-Baby Boom, almost post-racial phenomenon that was very hard to anticipate. But I don't think she's run a particularly bad campaign at all.

KING: Fran Drescher in Miami, what's your read?

FRAN DRESCHER, ACTRESS: Well, I think that basically we're looking at almost the same person running. They agree on almost everything. And there's very, very little difference in the positions that they take. And their voting record since he's become a United States senator is exactly the same. So, I really think what does it come down to? He's got a great personality. He's a powerful speaker. She's been planning this, thinking about this, and strategizing this for her entire career. And it's really a matter of who seems to be the most ready.

I think that when we talk about who's got experience, I think that her experience is what it's like dealing with really cut throat opposition, and being knocked down and getting back up and fighting the good fight, because, you know, she just keeps on going. And that's really I think to her credit. And in a situation like this and an administration that anybody is going to be coming into, they're going to have to be very tenacious.

MILLER: You know, Fran, I agree. I think that's what people love about the Clintons and about Hillary. Absolutely, they're fighters. I think that the Obama thing is about maybe people are tired of fighting. Maybe people are tired of fighting.

DRESCHER: You know, excuse me. You can say that you're tired all you want, but let me tell you something, whoever comes into this office is going to have a major battle on their hands, because there is so much going on with global opposition to the United States. So you know --

KING: We have an email question from Carla in Williamstown, New Jersey; what's the most important quality you look for when deciding to support a presidential candidate. Ben?

STEIN: I look for a guy who's smart, knows the ropes, has a good ideological base, and, above all, loves this country and is proud of this country, and wants to keep it. That's one of the reasons I love McCain, because he has sacrificed so much for this country. Frankly, I think Mr. Obama loves this country, too, and Mrs. Clinton loves it, too. But I want somebody who's really thoroughly in love with this country.

KING: Amy.

HOLMES: I want someone who wants to cut taxes and kill terrorists. Those are my two bottom lines. I supported Giuliani, like Ben, and I was disappointed that his campaign was such a debacle. So here we are.

KING: What do you want, Brad.

WHITFORD: I want somebody who's intelligent. I want somebody who is compassionate, who is looking to build a country where, hopefully, our schools are as shiny as our missiles.

KING: Stephanie?

MILLER: Just a president that can pronounce nuclear. That's all I want, Larry. It's a low bar. Nuclear, it's not that hard. I respond to Barack Obama also because I think he speaks to our better angels. Literally, I feel like John McCain's campaign so far is, no, we can't. No, we can't. Hope is a drunk throwing up in the ally. Literally, we're being told not to hope. HOLMES: John McCain is saying yes, we can, when it comes to Iraq. The surge has been successful. And yes, we can win in Iraq. Barack Obama is saying no, we can't.

MILLER: If it's so successful, why can't we get out.

STEIN: (r)MD+IN¯(r)MDNM¯When has he ever said he's against hope? His whole life has been about the hope of freedom. His whole life has been based on hope and perseverance and courage. No one --

MILLER: Barack Obama is playing to our better angels. If it comes down to a choice between hope and fear, I'm going to choose hope.

DRESCHER: I think that we should not forget that one of the choices here is for this century being about women. And I think that globally, women's rights are eroding. If we women don't take this opportunity to hire this chubby middle aged women with heavy calves, who is willing to fight for us and fight for women's rights and -- you know, she's had a child. She's raised a fine young daughter.

MILLER: You're one of those women that are posting on Oprah's website that she needs to turn in her Va-JJ for not supporting Hillary. Aren't you?

DRESCHER: No, I don't put anybody down for supporting any of the candidates. I'm just saying that this is our opportunity. Women's rights --

KING: -- to have a woman. What's wrong with that?

DRESCHER: It's really our time to -- for a woman to be the leader of the most powerful nation on the planet is going to, in the long run, speak volumes to the world, to our daughters, to our daughter's daughters.

KING: I got to get a break and we'll get Brad's thoughts. We'll go to our website. By the way, you can go to our website, Our latest podcast is Elton John, available to download right now. More with political issues and opinions. We'll pick up with Brad when LARRY KING LIVE returns.


JAY LENO, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": No, Obama and Hillary argued last night over which candidate the Republicans are most afraid of. I don't want to take sides here, but I think it's pretty obvious which candidate Republicans are most afraid of; John McCain.

DAVE LETTERMAN, "THE LATE SHOW": Hillary's down there campaigning in Texas. She's a little nervous. Doing everything she can, pulling out all the stops in Texas. Today, she was campaigning in a rawhide pants suit. Really, that's the truth.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Special live edition of LARRY KING LIVE tomorrow night. Normally we're on tape on the weekend. We'll be live tomorrow night with a major political show.

Brad, is Iraq the big issue or the economy?

WHITFORD: I was actually in the car driving here today, and I heard that a Nobel Prize winning economist came out and the war that George Bush told us is going to cost two billion is going to cost three trillion. And if you add in medical and psychiatric expenses over the long-term, it's something like seven trillion.

I think this is a problem for John McCain. I think this was a -- going into the war, however effective the surge has been, if you had gone to the Americans -- American people and been straightforward with them, I think people are very upset and are going to be upset with McCain for toeing the line on a president who invaded a country not because of imminent danger, but because of an imminent election, and then bungled what our military service members had done so perfectly well.

STEIN: Hindsight is 20/20. At the time what Mr. Bush was being told, just as your friend Mrs. Clinton was being told, was it was an imminent danger. We knew he was a mass murderer. We knew he was a psychopath. We were told he was getting nuclear weapons. We knew he already had had gas weapons. It looked like a sensible thing to do. I couldn't agree more in retrospect. Your pal voted for it. In retrospect, it looks like a disaster. I couldn't agree more.

WHITFORD: My pal voted on a resolution that said if the U.N. was not protecting us, and we were in imminent danger that the president should have the judgment, should have the power to protect us if we were not being protected. That is a very different thing. It's the president's responsibility.

KING: Amy and then Fran.

MILLER: Are we trying to pretend that this is intelligence was not cherry picked and twisted and manipulated? And Senator Clinton and others were not shown?

KING: One at a time. Amy?

HOLMES: Getting back to your question about the economy; what I think is sort of an irony of this is that the economy is the number one issue for Democratic voters in this Democratic primary, and they're giving that advantage to Barack Obama. So while Iraq is not the top issue, which could hurt Hillary, for some reason, she's not getting traction on the economy. Also on Health care, number two issue, and she's still not getting enough traction to be leading Obama, at least in Texas.

MILLER: Could I say that Brad is really right about this new book. It's called the "Three Trillion Dollar War." If you don't think a three trillion dollar war is affecting the economy and everything else in this country, then you're crazy. It's affecting gas prices. You've got a president that wasn't aware that we're almost at four dollar a gallon gasoline.

STEIN: It's not clear it's affecting it negatively. Generally speaking, that kind of spending has helped to sustain and uplift the economy. That doesn't mean it's a good thing. Obviously, the war was a mistake. To say it's a negative effect on the economy --

WHITFORD: I want you, Ben Stein, and I want John McCain to look me in the eye and tell me that when we were putting soldiers in danger, and they do not have the equipment they need to do their job, that I, a schmuck on a television show, who is being very lucky, that's the time to give me a tax cut? It is an obscenity.

STEIN: I couldn't agree more. I totally agree.

KING: Fran.

DRESCHER: Why are we going through this? This is old news. We should really be focusing on the issues at hand, and those are the three relevant candidates here. And I think that, you know, for a number of reasons, people took the positions that they did, and, obviously, there was a lot of misinformation at the time that was being passed around. And so, you know, here we are with this disastrous war that has cost the country trillions of dollars.

And you know, I mean, looking back, when you talk about hindsight, Ben, how come nobody actually talked to Bush 41? That would have seemed likes the logical thing for me to do.

STEIN: I couldn't agree more. You're totally right.


STEIN: You're totally right.

WHITFORD: Fran, I know you're involved in cancer work. The American Cancer Society, which is absolutely non-political and protects its non-partisan position, estimates that 18,000 people die in this country every year because we do not have universal health care. And I think part of the excitement that the Democrats are feeling -- I mean, this is six times the number of people -- because they're not getting screened early for cancer.

KING: Let me get a break. Hold it, Fran. I'll get right back to you. "AC 360" comes up at the top of the hour. Soledad is one of the few people in media, you don't have to say her last name. Soledad will take over.


KING: Soledad will do it at the top of the hour. What's up?

O'BRIEN: Larry, I got a story that's unfolding right now, as we speak. Britain's Prince Harry, his secret combat mission to Afghanistan is no longer secret. So he's heading home tonight. We've just gotten our very first pictures of him as he is making his way back. We're going to give you a minute by minute report on that, dig deeper too into his combat experience. We'll look closer, as well, at whether it was a good idea to send a VIP into combat in the first place, and hear from those who wonder if it was sort of a publicity stunt.

That and a mysterious poisoning in Las Vegas. Special report on illegal immigrants leaving the United States by the thousands, all on 360 tonight, coming up at the top of the hour. Larry, back to you. Also, just one name, I might add, Larry.

KING: Soledad. That's "AC 360" at the top of the hour. It will be on at 10:00 Eastern. We'll be right back with more of this outstanding panel. Don't go away.


KING: We're back. Stephanie Miller, there's never been anything like this, this race, right.

MILLER: There has not. I, first of all, want to go on record as saying, Bradley Whitford is not that big a schmuck. He does not deserve a tax cut. But really, don't say that about yourself. No, but I think your point.

KING: The whole race, as Ben said.

MILLER: By the way, please refer to me as Stephanie Hussein Miller from now on. My listeners are all taking the name Hussein. One of them just named her kids Hussein. I think we should all name our kids Hussein and just completely ameliorate the issue.

KING: Mrs. Goldberg will not do it. Yes, Fran?


KING: What are you doing?

DRESCHER: I'm speaking to the Latino community.


MILLER: Say it with me.

KING: Welcome back to Telemundo. That's kind of weird. Getting back to -- we'll figure that one out later.

DRESCHER: That's only because you're not bilingual.

KING: I think she cursed.

STEIN: I think she cursed at Stephanie.

KING: It became a Felini film. Amy -- hold on, Fran.

HOLMES: English?

KING: This race, not only has there been nothing like it, there will be nothing like it, wherever it goes.

HOLMES: It's the first wide open race on both sides, what, in 50 years. A year ago, I would have told you it was going to be Hillary versus Giuliani. Who would have guessed it would be Barack Obama versus John McCain. His campaign was dead in the water last summer.


STEIN: I talked to the absolutely number one Republican political strategist.

KING: Hold on, Fran. They're guessing it.

STEIN: I talked to the absolutely top big name Republican strategist in the country, and name these people would spit at, about six months ago. He said McCain was gone. McCain was gone, history. And it's just amazing.

HOLMES: The RNC was basing their whole strategy on the idea that Hillary Clinton was going to win. Now, it's a tossup.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments right after this message. Don't go away.


KING: It's Friday night. Let's have a little fun. Watch.



SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks for the question, you little jerk.

CLINTON: His pant suit is asbestos tonight.

I don't feel no ways tired. I come too far.

MCCAIN: Memories, like the corners of my mind, misty water- colored memory memories of the way we were.

Do I know how to sing? About as well as she knows how to govern America.


KING: That sums it up, doesn't it, Stephanie.

MILLER: You know what it is, Larry, why there's so much excitement in this race? We cannot wait to get rid of this guy, Mr. What, gas is four dollars a gallon. Boy, it sucks to be without a motorcade these days, doesn't it.

STEIN: It has nothing to do with the price of gas. I don't pretend he's incredibly well informed, but it does -- but he -- it's not his fault at four dollars a gallon. It has nothing to do with him or the oil companies. It's just world markets.

KING: Did you realize thought that was a little put down what you just said.

STEIN: I understand that. Eisenhower wasn't particularly well informed. He was a great president. These guys are not scholars. They're politicians. I don't think he's been a great president, but he's a very nice guy.

MILLER: That's enough for us.

KING: Yes, Fran.

DRESCHER: I just want to say that I really think that Barack and Hillary, in one combination or another, better be on the same ticket, because to me, that's a slam-dunk.

STEIN: Good luck.

KING: Oh, wow. If Barack gets the nomination, do you think he would ask Hillary to be his VP, and do you think she would accept.

DRESCHER: Yes, I absolutely do. Wait, he's asking me. I think that the job of vice president, that's the job that nobody wants and nobody turns down. There's no way that Hillary would -- is going to turn down being the first woman vice president. If that's what's in the cards, whatever it is, she's going to get her foot into that door, if she can, because she's very tenacious. You need somebody like that. If it's the other way around, so be it.

KING: The other way around.

HOLMES: If Barack wins the nomination, he doesn't need Hillary. He's just proven that he beat the big gorilla in the room, the inevitable candidate, the personal with all the Democratic apparatus behind her.

DRESCHER: You know, he's not leading.

KING: Hold on, Fran.

HOLMES: He will prove that he transcends all that. However, if Hillary wins the top of the ticket, the pressure to put Barack Obama as VP will be enormous.

KING: Brad?

DRESCHER: I think together there's like everybody saw that in the debate that they looked fantastic together.

KING: Hold on, Fran.

DRESCHER: I'm sorry.

KING: She's at a disadvantage. She's in Miami. WHITFORD: You know, I think what you're hearing when Democrats sort of calm down about the irrational defense of one candidate or the other is they want a hybrid. They want this experience, and they want this freshness together. I would be very excited about that ticket. I would also be excited I think, I think -- god, I think Senator Webb from Virginia would be a fantastic for either candidate vice presidential.

KING: Vietnam War hero.


MILLER: I think at this point, Larry, Hillary has no choice. She must pick Fran Drescher.

DRESCHER: I accept.

MILLER: There's no --

KING: What do you think, Ben.

STEIN: Hillary is a pure negative for Senator Obama. Pure negative, polarizing, negative figure. I think your idea of Senator Webb, which I'm sure is widely publicized, is a great, super idea. I wish we had someone like him on the Republican side.

KING: Who would you like on the McCain ticket?

STEIN: I like Governor Pawlenty of Minnesota. He's a moderate, very well liked guy. He brings that moderate quality to the ticket. He is also popular with the evangelicals and I think he will consolidate the party.

KING: Who do you like, Amy?

HOLMES: At this point, I don't have an opinion on this. I'm still, I have to say, not exactly in John McCain's camp. I'm getting there, like a lot of conservatives, actually.

KING: Are you evangelical?

HOLMES: No, I'm not evangelical. I'm actually a registered independent. But I want to see John McCain really make the sale that he is a true conservative, that he has those economic principles in his blood. He's got some good people behind him, Ted Olson. You're friends with Ted. You know him.

KING: Thank you all very much. For more on our shows and guests, go to You can download our latest podcast, Elton John. I want to remind you about the LARRY KING LIVE weekend extravaganza. We have a special show for you tomorrow night, a preview of all the important up coming primaries. You can see it again repeated on Sunday.

And we're always happy to see Soledad O'Brien. Tonight, she hosts "AC 360." What's ahead, Soledad? TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT