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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Democrats Continue Battling Each Other; When Can Obama Get Past Pastor Wright; Social Security and Medicare Face Looming Crisis

Aired March 27, 2008 - 21:00   ET

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


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, fighting for their political lives. Bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My family's not big on quitting. You probably noticed that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Hillary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to be united. And I have no doubt about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And Chelsea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHELSEA CLINTON, BILL & HILLARY'S DAUGHTER: I do not think that's any of your business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The whole Clinton family closes ranks against the critics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Politics is -- can be a tough business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Punch and counterpunch. Glancing blows or knockouts? Can't the Democrats just get along? And if they don't, will it cost them the White House?

It's all next, on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening. We begin with two distinguished governors. In Philadelphia is Governor Ed Rendell, Democrat of Pennsylvania. He is a supporter of Hillary Clinton. And in Topeka, Kansas is Governor Kathleen Sebelius. She is a Democrat as well, and a supporter of Barack Obama.

Is this getting a bit much, Governor Rendell? I mean, how much more can we take?

GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, you know, I think that that's an interesting question. But I think we've got to balance whatever is going on, and I think the staffs of both candidates and some of the supporters are at fault here, with the right of people to have their voices heard.

I know the people of Pennsylvania, they hear this talk about, well, let's call it off, let's everyone get together, and we say, hey, we never thought we'd be relevant in this process. We are now. We want to vote. And the people of Pennsylvania, in my judgment, are going to vote for Hillary Clinton in a fairly resounding way. So they don't want to call it off. Nobody that I know of, ordinary people don't want to call this off.

KING: Governor Sebelius, what is your read on this campaign?

GOV. KATHLEEN SEBELIUS (D), KANSAS: Well, I think we have two talented candidates. You know, my candidate, Barack Obama has now won 30 states, and has won the pledged delegates, has won the popular vote.

I agree with Ed that people's voices should be heard, and I hope they're listening closely. He's won north and south, and east and west, he's won old and young. And I'm excited about having a great candidate.

What I want to do is spend a lot of our energy and focus on talking about the great differences between the Democratic candidates and John McCain, because there are huge chasms. And both of our candidates are talking about issues that people care about, about the economy and about health care, educating their kids, about how to end this war in Iraq, as opposed to a third Bush presidential term. So, that's where I think our focus should be.

KING: All right. Ed, Governor Rendell, how big an issue, really, is Reverend Wright?

RENDELL: Well, again, I think that was an issue that was a minor issue that actually, Larry, the media blew into a major issue. I don't think people want to base their votes on that. I think Kathleen's right. People know there are serious challenges facing this nation. And they are really serious about this election, and they want to hear what the candidates propose on all of the different issues that Kathleen ran down.

So, I think the media blew Reverend Wright into an issue, and it's obviously an issue that has some legs. I understand -- I've been out all day, but I understand there was a new revelation today about Italians and stuff. But I don't think that's what people, at least not Pennsylvanians, are focusing on mostly. There is a bad economy. People who either don't have health care or they are underserved with their health care plan. Those are the things that people are concentrating on.

SEBELIUS: And Larry, I think...

KING: Should Obama be hurt -- Governor, Governor, should Obama be hurt by the revelations, more today, about Reverend Wright?

RENDELL: It's a very...

KING: No, for Governor Sebelius, what do you think?

RENDELL: Oh, OK.

KING: Your candidate.

SEBELIUS: Well, Larry, again, I would agree with Ed. I think there's no question -- Senator Obama has denounced these statements in the strongest possible terms.

This isn't coming out of Senator Obama's mouth. It is somebody who has been his pastor, his former pastor.

I think that what we need to do is focus on the challenges and issues that are facing the American people. They really want candidates to address their lives, their children, what's happening.

I know in Pennsylvania and in Kansas, they are worried about losing their homes, and their health care, and their jobs. That's why I'm so excited about a candidacy like Senator Barack Obama. Americans believe he can bring the country together. That's what the "Wall Street Journal" and new NBC poll shows, that 60 percent of Americans think he's the leader who can bring us together. And there's never been a time in this country that we needed to be brought together like today.

KING: Governor Rendell, how damaging is the sniper story?

RENDELL: Again, I don't think anybody in Pennsylvania gives a hoot about that, Larry.

KING: Really?

RENDELL: Absolutely. The media blows these things way out of proportion.

You know, people care about what the health care plans of the candidates are. And I agree with Kathleen. Our candidates are addressing these issues. You guys -- and I don't mean you, Larry, but the media -- doesn't want to give those issues the type of play they should be getting. Instead, we talk about Bosnia, or we talk about Reverend Wright. We talk about things that aren't essential to the daily lives and challenges that Americans are facing. Our candidates are addressing those things, and as Kathleen said, all we hear from Senator McCain is, well, we're going to have -- keep the Bush tax cuts. We're going to keep the troops in Iraq for 50 to 100 years.

People want change. There is no question about it. I think Hillary Clinton has the best solutions and the best answers, and I think people are coming around to that point of view.

KING: Governor Sebelius, do you see this fight going right into Denver?

SEBELIUS: No, I think we will have a candidate by early this summer, and I think we will unite as a party behind that candidate, because there are such huge differences between where both Democratic candidates are looking, and -- to the future -- and the past that really is part of John McCain's resume.

You know, Larry, we talked about challenges here, and my good friend Ed Rendell and his candidate have strong ties to Pennsylvania. Senator Clinton spent some of her early years in Pennsylvania. I'm a Kansan, and Barack Obama's mother comes from Kansas, and his grandparents came from Kansas. So, our teams are facing off in a little challenge tomorrow night in Detroit, in the Sweet 16. Villanova plays Kansas. And I think that should be a forecast of what's about to happen in the presidential race.

KING: All right. One other thing, Ed. There is talk of a hung convention and that possibly Al Gore emerges. Do you see any chance of that?

RENDELL: No, I don't. I think before that would happen, I think both candidates would get together and come together as a unified ticket, regardless of who it is.

But the one thing I wanted to stress, and Kathleen makes a good point, Larry. I don't think we can go to the convention and have a fair convention without letting the people of Michigan and the people of Florida vote. That's two of the most important states, two of the largest states in the country, and the Obama forces stopped the Michigan revote. As you know, Larry, Governor Corzine and I gathered pledges to pay for the Michigan primary. The Republicans -- even the Republicans are ready to go. Governor Granholm wanted it. And the Obama forces stepped in and prevented the people from Michigan and Florida from voting.

And, listen, Kathleen says they are ahead in the popular vote. But if Pennsylvania goes the way I think it goes, and if Michigan and Florida went the way at least their first round went, then Senator Clinton would be ahead in the popular vote.

KING: We're out of time, but I'll give Kathleen a chance to respond when you next are on, which probably could be tomorrow.

RENDELL: OK.

KING: Governor Ed Rendell, Democrat of Pennsylvania, and Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Democrat of Kansas.

Our political panel will chew on all the election news, and then Glenn Beck enters the fray. It's straight ahead on LARRY KING LIVE.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: When all is said and done, losses will be in many hundreds of billions. But what's bad for Main Street turned out to be bad for Wall Street. Pain trickled up.

H. CLINTON: I think we've had enough of a president who didn't know enough about economics and didn't do enough for the American middle class.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Meet our top panel.

In Washington, James Carville, CNN political contributor, Democratic strategist, supporter of Hillary Clinton. In Carrollton, Georgia, Michael Eric Dyson, university professor at Georgetown, who has a new book coming in a couple of weeks, "Martin Luther King Jr.'s Death and How It Changed America." It's just been released, by the way -- and a supporter of Barack Obama.

In Washington is Kiki McLean. She's a Democratic strategist, senior adviser to the Clinton campaign. And in New York is Laura Flanders, author of "Blue Grit: Making Impossible, Improbable and Inspirational Political Change in America," now out in paperback. She hosts "Radio Nation" on Air America Radio and is a supporter of Barack Obama.

I want to clear up something. James, do you have anything to add on the Bill Richardson story?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I just -- my phone has been ringing off the hook with people, major, like, donors in the Democratic Party, telling me that he made representations to them that were not true. I'm obviously not at liberty to say their names, but their initials are Elizabeth Bagley, Haim Saban, Alan Patricof. People like that, who are very, very senior people, who Governor Richardson was not candid with.

There are many other people that tell me the same thing. And I will allow their initials out at some future date.

I think what the governor needs to do is say that he hadn't handled this very well and was not candid and frank with people, and I think this whole thing will go away. But I think he owes a lot of people in this party an apology.

KING: Help me a second, quickly. What did he do?

CARVILLE: He made misrepresentations. He told people that he was going to endorse Senator Clinton, that he couldn't endorse someone else, and then at the same time apparently he was -- he was doing something else, and people are justifiably and understandably furious about this.

And by the way, I have never attacked any other supporter of Senator Obama. Many of them are dear friends of mine. Some of them are some of my best friends. I thought that this was an exceptional case that merited special consideration.

KING: So, OK, just summing up -- you're saying that he told people that he was going to support Hillary Clinton.

CARVILLE: He certainly did.

KING: OK.

CARVILLE: And the people whose names I just gave you.

KING: Right.

Political headlines warn that Democrats are ripping their party apart. Hillary addressed that issue earlier today. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

H. CLINTON: There are, in my view, significant differences between Senator Obama and myself, but those differences pale in comparison to the differences between us and Senator McCain. And I intend -- I intend to do everything I can to make sure that we have a unified Democratic Party. When this contest is over and we have a nominee, we're going to close ranks. We're going to be united. And I have no doubt about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Michael, is she getting back on track now?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, AUTHOR: One hopes so. I think it's been very divisive, subversive of the unity of the Democratic Party, and I think it does no good for her to continue to fan the flames of disunity, even as she ostensibly claims allegiance to this public unity.

For instance, when she said about Reverend Wright -- she said, look, you can choose -- you can't choose your grandmother, but you can choose your pastor. He wouldn't have been my pastor. And one might have logically and reasonably said, yes, Mrs. Clinton, you're right. You can't choose your grandmother and you can choose your pastor, and you can choose your husband.

You stayed with your husband through thick and thin. You showed a tenacity of fidelity that was exemplary. So Barack Obama stayed with the man who took him to the cross. Your husband took you to the altar. Meet under the cross, do it in grace, and forgive each other and move forward. I think this divisiveness only hurts us, bloodies us with each other, and therefore makes us more vulnerable in the general nomination.

KING: Kiki McLean, is this going to go away?

KIKI MCLEAN, SR. STRATEGIST, CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Look, when you look at what Hillary Clinton has spent the last two weeks talking about and what she did going into super Tuesday, where she won big states across the country, what she did when she won Texas and Ohio just a couple of weeks ago -- and I'm a Texan, I'm very proud of that win -- and what she's doing now. Last week, talked about Iraq, the future, the policy she thinks we ought to have, five days in a row.

This week, it's been the economy. How do we solve the credit crisis? Retirement security. This is why the people in Pennsylvania that Ed Rendell talks about support her. This is why she continues to gain support, because she's talking about the issues that matter to people.

Now, the reality is, she answered one question in an editorial board meeting about something she would do. And I think she's right today when she says Democrats will come together because their differences are important.

But here's the bottom line, Larry, this is not a race for seventh grade class president. This matters; it's worth fighting for. It's worth talking about these issues and the differences and the things they have in common.

KING: Laura -- do you think they will come together, Laura?

LAURA FLANDERS, AUTHOR: Well, there's absolutely no question.

You've got John McCain out there confusing Shiites with Sunnis and apparently one war with Iraq is not enough. You've got George Bush today trying to make the American people believe that a complete meltdown in Iraq is something good. I mean, there is no question that in contrast to either of these crazy men, either of the Democrats will be a relief.

But there is another way of looking at this. The media have us stoked up on this slug fest. Another way to look it is, more people are participating longer. The big news, it seems, to me is the soaring rates of registration on the Democratic side -- 4 million for the first time, of any party in Pennsylvania this week.

Massive turnover, new technology, new organizers. This is an exciting race and we keep being told, well it would be better really if the pundits just picked and keep the people out.

KING: We'll take a break and come right back with more. Our panel will be with us for most of the rest of the show. We'll return right after the break.

We're also going to hear from that student who asked Chelsea Clinton about Monica Lewinsky. Oh, boy, did he create a controversy. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We'll return with our panel in a moment.

But let's check in with Evan Strange. He's the Butler University student. He's in Indianapolis. And on Wednesday, he referred to the Monica Lewinsky scandal when asking Chelsea Clinton about whether her mother had the leadership strength to be president. We don't have Evan's question on tape, but let's listen to Chelsea's answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

C. CLINTON: Wow, you're the first person actually that's ever asked me that question in the, I don't know, maybe 70 college campuses that I've now been to. And I do not think that's any of your business.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Evan, what did you make of her answer?

EVAN STRANGE, BUTLER UNIVERSITY STUDENT: Well, the reason why I asked the question in the first place is because it's an important issue on voter's minds, and I expected an answer that would show Hillary's strength. Because in my opinion, how Hillary handled the whole scandal is a clear indication that she is strong enough to lead this country and that she has the power to unite and come past difficult issues.

And that's what this country needs right now. And if no American is invisible like she says, then maybe she'll answer my question when she's in Indianapolis this weekend.

KING: Are you backing her?

STRANGE: Absolutely.

KING: So, the Chelsea answer, which was very dismissive of you, has not turned you off her mother?

STRANGE: No, it just shows that people are human and they don't always have the best answer, but that's no reason to throw Hillary under the train just because of a poor answer.

KING: Why Monica Lewinsky? There's so many questions to ask about leadership?

STRANGE: Well, specifically among voters my age and my friends and other people, every time we talk about Hillary, this question always comes up about her strength and is she able to lead. And the scandal is always referred to.

KING: Do they pre-screen any questions? Did they know what you were going to ask?

STRANGE: No, they had no idea.

KING: Were you -- how did you feel about her answer?

STRANGE: I mean, like I said, I expected an answer that would actually showcase Hillary's strength. But -- I wasn't expect her just to shut down and say it was none of my business, but she gets asked that question so much, or at least the name Lewinsky is said so much that I can kind of see why she would react that way.

KING: So you would ask it of Hillary or Bill?

STRANGE: Yes, absolutely.

KING: Thanks, Evan.

Evan Strange, Butler University student -- in Indianapolis.

And by the way, Hillary is heading to Indianapolis.

James Carville, one follow up to the Richardson thing. When did he make those promises. Were they months ago or recent that he would support Hillary?

CARVILLE: Some were recent. Some were, I don't know, about a month ago. But some were pretty recent. And there are other people that have called me, also, but it was -- it wasn't that -- there are many people coming forward and that are going to continue to come forward and we'll discuss it more in the future days. I just think that Governor Richardson just should acknowledge that this thing has been terribly mishandled on his part.

KING: Kiki, do you think it makes the governor duplicitous?

MCLEAN: I would have expected Governor Richardson to support Senator Clinton. I'm disappointed in him, no doubt especially with all the years that he's worked together. But more importantly, take a look at the statement he gave about where superdelegates where a couple of months ago.

After he got out of the race, he talked about the fact that superdelegates should reflect the will of the people and Hillary Clinton won New Mexico. So you don't even have to look to what my personal opinion is, just look at what his own statement was.

KING: Michael, what is your reaction to this news?

DYSON: I think we're making too much out of this. I think that -- look, I can understand the disappointment that has come as a result -- in the aftermath of Governor Richardson's decision.

But to single him out with such vehemence, and with such lack of balance, on both sides. This is a bitterly contested war, so to speak, and each of them are trying to go after everybody they can. Barack Obama has lost some and Barack Obama has won some, in terms of endorsements.

So I think to single this out as the extraordinary act of a Judas, misses the point that we're here, talking about the best future for American. And what it should suggest to those who are looking on is that, here was a man who was deeply and profoundly committed to the Clintons, but there was something about Barack Obama that caused him to change his mind, and to cast his fate, so to speak, with Barack Obama. That should create pause for those who consider Clinton in terms of the presidency.

KING: James, you accept that?

CARVILLE: I have never criticized a supporter of Senator Obama. I was with Senator Durbin -- Senator Kennedy, all dear, dear friends of mine. I thought that this was an act that deserved to be singled out and I'm glad that singled it out.

I was quoted accurately. And what I said I mean. And from the phone calls I've been getting, people are saying, you're right. And I think that what he ought to do is say that he did misrepresent what he was going to do to people and apologize to them and then I'll be fine with that.

MCLEAN: Larry, let me raise just one thing and that is, with -- in terms of taking a look at what it was that motivated Governor Richardson, and what he saw in Barack Obama, I would just suggest that maybe Governor Richardson ought to look at the people of New Mexico and what motivated them to support Hillary Clinton.

FLANDERS: One thing that's being missed here is the -- disdain layered on Richardson for changing his mind as a signal of some lack of loyalty. It misses the point that the Clintons have thrown plenty of people off the bus who didn't agree with them during their administration.

Talk to Lani Guinier. Again, it speaks to the arrogance that I think is turning people off the Clinton campaign and the media are just as bad. A year ago, they had this campaign sown up by the Clinton camp, and they seemed to be in shock and Clinton seems to be in shock that people are actually listening to her opponent, considering their choices and making a different choice than the one they thought they were going to make years ago.

CARVILLE: Larry can I say something?

KING: James?

CARVILLE: Yes, I would like to point out this is not the Clinton campaign, she doesn't have anything to do with this, this is James Carville who has no affiliation with the campaign and so nobody needs to say it's the Clinton campaign. If you want to say something bad, say it about me because I did it with foresight. I thought about and I did it intentionally and I meant it.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: One at a time.

FLANDERS: The reason it resonates is because it articulates something that seems to resonate with the campaign as a whole.

CARVILLE: The Clinton campaign had absolutely nothing to do with this. This was James Carville speaking as an American citizen.

DYSON: But you know what? It doesn't remove the fact that it is true, now that the so-called issue is on the table that the Clintons have, not only Lani Guinier, Jesse Jackson being distanced, there was Sister Souljah, as well as Jocelyn Elders being fired. So when you look at the history of the Clintons, especially in regard to the so- called minority constituencies, it is interesting and intriguing that they now feel so put upon by the failure of Governor Richardson to support them when indeed they have not done --

(CROSSTALK)

MCLEAN: I just have to tell you -- this is about, I think, for a lot of people, an issue of when people make public statements where they go. I have a lot of respect for Obama supporters. My husband is one. I happen to respect him a great deal.

We happen to disagree about who is better to lead this nation. So, this really isn't about arrogance of what people owe us. I have a lot of respect for people that support Barack Obama. This is about what those of us, who said we were going to do, did.

KING: I've got to take a break, and then we'll come back and our thanks to James Carville. The rest of the panel will return -- a portion of the rest of the panel.

But first, Glenn Beck's got something to say about issue No. 1, the economy. He doesn't pull punches. Takes his best shot, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Joining us now in New York is Glenn Beck, the host of "GLENN BECK" on Headline News, best-selling author, run-away best seller, "An Inconvenient Book." He has a commentary posted on CNN.com. It's got a lot of hits, by the way. He's hear to discuss it with us.

It's his asteroid theory. What's -- in a nutshell, what is the theory.

GLENN BECK, CNN, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: Larry, I guess the theory would be: if there was a giant asteroid that was coming out of space and it was going to hit us in 2019, and just decimate everything in the country -- if our politicians were saying, you know what, in the next administration, we're going to handle that, we would all -- we would run for the pitch forks and the torches and we would herd all those politicians up.

Instead, we don't have an asteroid; we have a economic asteroid of 54 trillion dollars headed our way, and the politicians just keep passing it on to the next person. And it's going to hit us by 2019. It's Social Security and Medicare. And when those things hit us, it is the going to be the economic impact of an asteroid hitting us.

KING: Well said, but what can the politicians out of office or desiring higher office do?

BECK: I personally would vote for just tell us the truth, just be honest. But unfortunately, that's -- unfortunately, because we have been lied to for so long, and nobody really understands that it's 54 trillion dollars -- and to put that into context, a million seconds is 12 days. A billion seconds is 32 years. A trillion seconds is 32,000 years. We have 54 trillion dollars that we're in debt now.

And what has to happen is, all of the things. You have to cut benefits. You have to raise the age on Social Security and Medicaid. And you also have to raise taxes. All three of those things have to be done and they have to be done right now to avoid economic disaster.

KING: And though you are a Republican, you are saying this administration is reading it wrong?

BECK: Yes. Yes. I've spent a lot of time with David Walker. He's the -- he was the chief bean counter. He was our comptroller for the United States for a long time. We keep three separate books and he did it. And for a long time, he never spoke to the media. He just said, you know, I'm not political, et cetera. This isn't a political issue.

And he finally broke this year, and said, OK, enough. He quit his job so he could take a full-time job just sending this message, that we're in real trouble, and nobody will address it.

KING: You said there's been a run on the bank, meaning the Fed. Most Americans aren't really aware of that. Would you explain that?

BECK: I think, Larry, that we're in -- we're being -- we're being misinformed, and I think people are doing it for -- you know, hey, it's the best thing, because you don't want to cause panic. But it's working to our disadvantage if you are the average person.

The last thing we want is for people to panic and go for a run on the bank. So, that's what they tried to do. The Fed tried to do that a few weeks ago when they bailed out Bear Stearns. They didn't want people to panic and start pulling their money out of the stock market, et cetera. So, the Fed, which is the bankers' bank, decided, you know what we're going to do, we're going to open up the discount window. We're going to let everybody come on into the discount window.

Now, what the discount window means is -- it's like your bank teller, except you only go to that window in the line. It's the line that says, if you're in really big trouble and need to borrow money now, come into this. So, people don't really know that and it's only just for banks.

Well, they opened it up for everybody. They ran to it. Tonight, the new research out shows that they're borrowing 32 billion dollars every night from this discount window. They've got their money, and they're hording their cash.

KING: How, Glenn, do you stop the asteroid, or divert it?

BECK: Well, the latest recommendation from the GAO was, you would have to raise taxes. Think about this, there's not enough rich people to do it to. You'd have to raise taxes on Social Security by 26 percent right now. You would have to raise Medicare taxes, your payroll taxes, by 127 percent right now, just to be able to make it solvent by 2019.

The longer we let -- the longer we wait, the worse this problem gets. The interest rate is going through the roof. Our expenses are going through the roof. And here is the really bad thing, Larry: I just saw a study just a few minutes ago; The net worth of those Americans now hitting 65 is 80 percent higher than it was 20 years ago. We've cut the poverty level in half, which is all good news. But people are living 19 years past 65.

It's called Social Security insurance, insurance. You would go out of business if you were, you know, an auto insurance salesman, and 99 percent of your people were guaranteed to get into a car accident. You couldn't make that work as a business. This is no longer insurance.

KING: I gather you're pessimistic.

BECK: No.

KING: No?

BECK: I am absolutely optimistic. However, I have -- and I don't think I'm alone in this, Larry, I really don't. I am -- I have great faith in our country, because I believe in the people of America. Unfortunately, for the first time in my life, I don't believe in any of the politicians. I don't believe in the Republicans. I don't believe in the Democrats.

I just want somebody to tell me the truth. I just want somebody to say, look, you know what? Then don't elect me. But I don't -- I don't need the job that badly. I want to tell you the truth. And if you can't handle the truth, that's fine. I just want people to tell us the truth.

I, for one, am an American -- I'm willing to pay more. I say this with some trepidation, because I'm afraid these weasel politicians will hear me say this. I'm willing to pay more for Social Security and Medicare. if they would promise that it wouldn't be touched for anything else but that, and they would solve the problem. But I'm not going to have a raise on taxes and then they go blow it on another Bacon Museum.

KING: Glenn Beck, we're going to have you back soon on this. It ain't going away. Glenn Beck, the host of "GLENN BECK" on Headline News, and the best-selling author of "An Inconvenient Book."

BECK: Thank you, sir.

KING: When we come back, two of our panelists return. Two new ones join us and we swing back into the political campaign. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: We're back with our panel, Kiki Mclean in Washington and Laura Flanders in New York. They remain with us. We're joined now by Kevin Madden, former spokesperson for the Romney campaign, a Republican strategist, and here in Los Angeles, Amy Holmes, CNN political analyst and Republican strategist.

The Reverend Wright story seems never to go away. In an article published in "Trumpet Magazine," run by his daughters, in which he says a white supremacy is clearly in charge in American.

He also slurs Italians as garlic noses, and describes the crucifixion as a public lynching Italian style. Obama continues to speak out about the Reverend Wright. He'll be talking about it tomorrow on ABC's "The View." Here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Had the reverend not retired, and had he not acknowledged that what he had said had deeply offended people, and were inappropriate and mischaracterized what I believe is the greatness of this country, for all its flaws, then I wouldn't have felt comfortable staying there at the church.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Kevin Madden, is this a fair campaign issue?

KEVIN MADDEN, FMR. ROMNEY CAMPAIGN SPOKESPERSON: Well, look, I think that the reason this has become a campaign issue is because it sets up an argument between Republicans and Democrats about the different world views that many of them have. George Will probably most accurately described this as -- I'm sorry, Reverend Jeremiah Wright's comments -- he most accurately described them as the acoustics of 1960s radicalism. That's the debate that you're seeing now taking place across the country.

This becomes a big challenge for Barack Obama, because it does -- these comments do have a tendency to drive away a lot of those independent voters, and they are a growing sector of the electorate. And that becomes his main focus right now, is how does he get past this as a controversy, and get back to appealing to those voters, who were critical to his rise.

KING: Amy Holmes, fair or not fair?

AMY HOLMES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I do think it's fair. I think that Senator Obama has talked about how important Pastor Wright has been to him in shaping his thinking, being close to him. He said so in his speech last week. he said he could no more disown him than he could his own grandmother.

Looking at some of the polling data today, that seems to suggest that Barack Obama has gotten past this, buried in those numbers are some very disturbing statistics for Barack Obama. A third of the people asked by that NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll said that they're not paying attention. But among those who are, 55 percent said they found these comments very disturbing; 41 percent of those polled said it left uncertainties for them about Barack Obama, his beliefs, his views, his values.

This creates a real problem for Barack Obama among those people, and also, it makes him the race candidate. Before this controversy, he was the post-racial candidate. Now he has to answer the questions about Wright, and that's a tough position for him to be in.

KING: How about McCain asking support of that reverend who also appears racist?

HOLMES: Well, certainly -- And John McCain said that he absolutely disavowed all of those comments and I think a lot of people have noted the difference here. John McCain is not sitting in the pews of that particular reverend every Sunday. And, you know, unfortunately for Obama, he's being tied to this guy who said these things.

KING: Laura, you're an Obama supporter, is it fair?

FLANDERS: Well, I think it is interesting that people say can Obama that get back to other issues? He has gotten back to other issues and we give it less attention. I wish we would have given as much attention to his address on the economy yesterday, or continued the interesting and important conversation he raised about race.

I mean, let's face it; decades of GOP candidates have grovelled at the wing, and at the ring, of Republican radical right wing pastors, people that John McCain used to call agents of intolerance, and really nobody batted an eye. If we want to play gotcha with pastor's quotes taken out of context, I think that's one game that everybody can play.

HOLMES: But Laura, wouldn't you agree that that's exactly what Democrats and liberals did with Republican candidates. If they had the most tangential or glancing relationship with one of these pastors, they were blown up as being people that could not be trusted with power. Now we have Wright, with these slurs --

FLANDERS: We have a -- when people launch their campaigns at, you know, intolerant universities, Bob Jones and so on, it's a footnote. In this case, it's become the media extravaganza. I don't think it's working against Barack Obama. What we're seeing in the polls is most who he is losing are Republicans and conservatives, who seem to be the only people who aren't responding positively.

KING: Hold it, Laura. Let me get a break. When we come back, we'll ask the thoughts of Kiki Mclean.

Right now, Anderson Cooper, who is right here -- just yards away here in Los Angeles.

He's going to host "AC 360" at the top of the hour. What's up, Anderson?

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "AC 360": Larry, we're going to be talking about Barack Obama, talking again tonight his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Obama says he has spoken to Reverend Wright since the controversy erupted and seems to indicate Reverend Wright admits his comments were inappropriate. You can hear the comments yourself, make up your own mind.

We'll also take a look at some other comments attributed to Reverend Wright. We'll have all that with our panel tonight.

And is all this in-fighting among the Democrats, the candidates and their supporters pushing people away from voting? We'll have some new numbers on that tonight. And we'll look at the economic policies of Senators Obama and Clinton and Wright (sic). You can make up your own minds which ones you support. 360 at the top of the hour, Larry?

KING: Thanks Anderson. It's good to have you on the left coast. Anderson Cooper, the host of "AC 360," 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific. We'll be back with our panel, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back. Checking in with Kiki Mclean, the Democratic strategist, senior adviser to the Clinton campaign. What's your read on this whole Obama thing?

MCLEAN: Well, you know, there's something Laura and I agree on tonight. That's what I talked about earlier, a lot of issue work going on that's really important. I would like to see the press, all the pundits, all the folks involved in this national dialogue really focused on the issues.

Senator Clinton kicked off a tour on the economy. She's been in North Carolina today, headed to Indiana, going into Pennsylvania on an economic tour. And these are important issues, and I would like to see the conversation come back there.

When it comes to the specific topics that are being covered around Senator Obama and the campaign, that's his dialogue to have, and he gave a major speech on it. It was disappointing after he called for a high-minded, real conversation about race in this country to find out that his staff later was pedaling a photograph of Bill Clinton shaking Reverend Wright's hand at a breakfast with several hundred people a couple of days later.

But you know, that's the way of some politics. I think we want to get to issues. That's what Senator Clinton's been talking about.

KING: Kevin Madden, how does McCain, assuming this goes into the fall, how does he deal with it? Does he speak about Reverend Wright?

MADDEN: Look, I don't think he has to. I think this is a story that's largely being driven by the fact that Obama's campaign hasn't handled it very well. It's essentially a one-way dialogue with Obama and the public. John McCain -- this actually offers him an opportunity.

While the Democrats continue to talk about the identity politics of race and gender, and all of issues that aren't really important to the voters, John McCain is allowed to very ploddingly go about staking out positions, and demonstrating his attributes on important issues, like the economy, like national security. So, it does. It presents him a great opportunity to look like a president.

FLANDERS: He's staking out completely confused ideas of international policy. And it's very misleading to say that Barack Obama is not handling this well. Barack Obama --

MADDEN: The very fact that he's still talking about it, one week after a speech that was supposed to define it --

FLANDERS: It didn't grow. He's not losing because of this. He's been gaining, and that's what the conversation --

MCLEAN: I have to take a little issue with what Kevin said about Senator McCain. I'm not sure it's great for Senator McCain to reiterate out there on his Iraq policy. He's going for another 100 years in Iraq. These are great moments. The more he establishes the fact that he wants to be the third four-year term of President Bush, I think that works for Democrats in the fall no matter what.

KING: Amy, does Iraq help him?

HOLMES: Does Iraq help him? Well, it helps him so long as the surge is successful. It helps him. McCain, of course, was, you know, a fierce critic of George Bush and his military strategy, and a loud advocate for adding more troops to the ground to try to bring more security to Iraq. As long as that strategy works --

FLANDERS: Reality --

HOLMES: Hold on, Laura. However, if, you know, it looks like it's descending again into, you know, just a pit of violence, and a quagmire for our military, that will hurt John McCain.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: The public -- you see pulling data showing is being persuaded that the surge is working.

KING: They're still against Iraq.

HOLMES: John McCain's success with the public on this issue does depend on General Petraeus success on the ground.

FLANDERS: Reality to Amy Holmes, it is a total meltdown today in Iraq. And the surge, which was really less of any kind of influence in Iraq than the paying off of people not to kill us, and the cease fire declared by Muqtada al Sadr, is being revealed as we speak for the myth that it's been.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: -- but the question I was being asked was how does the surge influence John McCain's appeal to the American public. And, in fact, I think we probably agree.

KING: Let's discuss about something interesting. Kiki, what is your candidate's weakness?

MCLEAN: Well, it may be --

KING: Honest, up front.

MCLEAN: Honest and up front, it may be that she is willing to say it like it is. And that's sometimes will stir the pot and stir feathers and get people a little bit up in arms. She answered a question this week and everybody decided to apply something else to her.

KING: What's Obama's weakness, Laura?

FLANDERS: Well, I have to say I think it's our weakness as a society. He faces a real question whether this country is yet ready to elect a black president. He's going to be talking about that from here to November.

MADDEN: It has nothing to do with the fact he has no experience.

HOLMES: And actually, there's something interesting in this NBC polling data. The category that is the most problematic is actually age. When voters were asked what is -- is America ready for a black president, 72 percent said yes. Are you ready for a woman, again, a great majority says yes. Are you ready for a 72-year-old, that number went down.

KING: What's his biggest weakness?

HOLMES: What is John McCain's biggest weakness? Well, he's actually identified --

KING: Age?

HOLMES: Age is a big one, and also his grasp of the economy. He's trying to beat that back.

KING: We'll take a break. We'll be right back with our remaining moments. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I almost didn't get here on time? I was pinned down in the parking lot by snipers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's good to be here and I'm glad that they didn't ask me to dance like they did on "Ellen," because I'm not one to get down or to get funky.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Funny stuff. Kiki, who is going to be Clinton's vice presidential candidate?

MCLEAN: Oh, gosh. We -- you know what, we got such a great roster of talent in the Democratic party the choices will be many for our Democratic nominee and for Senator Clinton. I feel good about that.

KING: Laura?

FLANDERS: I feel good about a lot of things in this campaign. This is an exciting moment, and I would urge us, and in the media, not just to focus on the candidates and the individuals running around that horse track of this election race, but the people in the stands, the campaigns, the blue grit folks I write about. That's where the juices, that's where the excitement is. And I think that's where the pressure for change is coming from.

KING: Kevin, your old friend Governor Romney?

MADDEN: Well, I think he would make a great vice president. And at a time when the economy is emerging as a very, very important issue in this campaign, he's somebody with the economic record and the economic prowess to really help showcase a Republican ticket. That is a question up to John McCain.

KING: Yes. Who do you favor, Amy? If you had your gut choice?

HOLMES: If I had my gut choice, I would love to see Joe Lieberman. I think that would be just such an exciting duo. I'm a conservative, but --

(CROSS TALK)

MADDEN: No, no.

HOLMES: I take Iraq seriously.

MCLEAN: Amy, you pull at my heart, as Joe Lieberman's former spokesperson. You pull at my heart.

MADDEN: Amy, it's called base politics, base politics.

HOLMES: Yes, I know.

FLANDERS: Good luck.

KING: If he loses, he would be the first man to lose on both parties.

HOLMES: That's true.

KING: Thank you all very much, Kiki Mclean, Laura Flanders, Kevin Madden and Amy Holmes, right here in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

By the way, you can go to our Web site, get anything you want, total information. We've got so much stuff going on. Just check it out, CNN.com/larryking.

It'll keep you up all night, lots. See you again tomorrow.

Right now the mantle goes right across the hallway, in our new studios, by the way -- here's Anderson Cooper and "AC 360" -- Anderson?

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