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CNN ELECTION CENTER

Revamping the U.S. Financial System; Interview With Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo

Aired March 31, 2008 - 20:00   ET

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


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: From the Bush administration, a bold move on the economy today, a plan being touted as the biggest overhaul of our financial system since the Depression.
John McCain calls it long overdue. The Democratic candidates call it rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Well, the best political team on television has late reaction from all three campaigns coming up.

And a new strategy today from John McCain. He's emphasizing honor, duty, courage, and his remarkable life story, but not a whole lot on the issues.

For the Democrats, the issue seems to be avoiding self- destruction, and an elder statesman of the Democratic Party has a new plan to save the so-called dream ticket from itself.

But we want to start tonight with the economy and that big financial overhaul proposed by the Bush administration, which would basically give the Federal Reserve a lot more oversight and a lot more power with a few goals, stabilizing the financial markets, monitoring the soundness of financial institutions, and protecting consumers and investors. Here was Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY PAULSON, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Those who want to quickly label the blueprint as advocating more or less regulation are oversimplifying this critical and inevitable debate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: The Democratic presidential candidates jumped all over the plan, calling it too little, too late. It was one of the many issues on the campaign trail today.

We have got two members of the best political team on television here to talk about the day's Democratic news.

Senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is joining us from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and senior analyst Jeff Toobin is here with me in the ELECTION CENTER.

Welcome to both you.

And, Candy, let me start with you. I guess for Democrats talking about the economy is exactly what they want to be doing right now, isn't it?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And they have been doing that throughout Pennsylvania. We have seen it from Ohio, all of these states that are in economic distress. So, it's been the economy, the economy, the economy.

And what the Bush plan did was provide new fodder for both these candidates to go after aspects of the economy, in particular all of these bankruptcies and these foreclosures that we're seeing. And, to put it sort of mildly, neither one of these campaigns, neither one of these candidates like the Bush plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They have announced a plan that comes late and falls short. No amount of rearranging the deck chairs can hide the fact that our housing and credit markets are in crisis.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What you see is a handful of intelligent proposals for streamlining some of our regulatory systems, but a completely inadequate proposal to deal with the crisis that's going on right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: As you know, Campbell, both these candidates have plans to provide immediate help to those who are about to lose their homes. That's the kind of thing they were pushing today, saying, this is what George Bush ought to be looking at -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right, Jeff, let me bring you into this. I actually want you to ask you to do a little more politics and talk about the superdelegate news, which was two big endorsements for Barack Obama, two senators, over the last few days.

I think we have got a graphic that has the delegate count, superdelegate count. It looks like Barack Obama since Super Tuesday has a net gain of about 55 over Hillary Clinton. Is he starting to ride a bit of a wave here?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: This is really an extraordinary development because over these last months or so Hillary Clinton's done pretty well with the voters. She won the voting part of the Texas primary. She won Ohio.

But the superdelegates have been moving quickly to Obama. And superdelegates are the ones who are going to decide this, because it's clear that neither candidate is going to get enough votes from the primaries and caucuses to get pledged delegates. So, the fact that the superdelegates have moved with such speed and in such numbers to Obama is very significant.

BROWN: OK. But in the context of that, what did you make of Bill Clinton's comments over the weekend, that everybody just needs to chill out -- his exact words -- and let this play itself out? TOOBIN: Well, that's because the way the things are going now, she's not going to get the nomination. So, the Clinton forces, starting with the former president, want the voters to be the people who really decide in Pennsylvania, in Kentucky, in West Virginia, perhaps in Indiana, where her forces are looking -- where her chances are looking good.

But the superdelegates, the politicians, don't look her chances, and they're going with the other guy.

BROWN: All right, Jeff Toobin, thanks.

Candy, let me ask you one more question at you, since Jeff brought up the states, and talk about Pennsylvania, because there were some images that I thought were striking over the weekend, Barack Obama bowling, milking cows. Is this part of his strategy to reach out to those working-class rural voters that he's trying to get in Pennsylvania?

CROWLEY: Absolutely, having a beer in a sports bar or two, lots of images like that.

Look, you know, in politics, that axiom is true, that a picture is worth 1,000 words. Obviously, here in Pennsylvania, working-class voters are going to be where the action is. Hillary Clinton was in a diner today talking about home and hearth issues. He, in addition to doing these photo-ops, has also been in these town-hall meetings talking about mortgages, talking about their plans for education, that kind of thing.

So, these are all directly aimed at the working-class voters, roughly defined as people making $50,000 or less. Campbell, this has, in fact, been a strength of Hillary Clinton's. That is the voting demographic that she's counting on to give her a double-digit win here in Pennsylvania on the 22nd. Of course, it's the demographic he's trying to cut into to try to deny her that win -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right, Candy Crowley for us tonight -- Candy, as always, thanks.

Time now for our panel to weigh in on all of this.

We have got Katrina Vanden Heuvel, who is the editor of "The Nation" magazine. Ryan Lizza is Washington correspondent

for "The New Yorker." And with us from Washington is Steve Hayes, senior writer for "The Weekly Standard."

Welcome to everybody.

So, Steve, we're going to start with the economy and the announcement coming from Paulson today that we mentioned earlier. And just from your perspective, what does it say that Republicans are proposing all this new regulation?

STEPHEN HAYES, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, it's troublesome, I think, to some Republicans. Any time you heard him say that people who are trying to oversimplify the issue by saying too much regulation or too little regulation are not doing anyone any favors.

But I think there are a lot of conservatives who are worried about this being a big step in -- taken by the government to regulating the market. And conservatives are not necessarily happy about it.

BROWN: Is it panic, is it political panic, Ryan, to you, that Republicans are taking this step because it's clearly the message they're getting from everybody, is that the economy is the number-one issue, and people are freaked out?

RYAN LIZZA, "THE NEW YORKER": I think there are two sets of Republicans on this. There are one set of Republicans who are actually governing and are actually watching international -- watching the world be on the cusp of an international financial crisis and have sort of thrown out the sort of pure, free market values that they may have entered the administration, and then there are people on the outside, conservative think-tankers, who are hammering away at the administration, saying, no, no, no, this isn't what you do. But they're not actually having to deal with the crisis.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: And the people on the inside are like, reality check, people.

LIZZA: Right. They say, yes, something's going on here. Let's forget about the ideology for a second.

BROWN: Right.

LIZZA: And that's why I think McCain's response to this is very, very interesting, and will tell us about the kind of campaign he's going to be running here.

BROWN: Well, it's kind of been a non-response.

(CROSSTALK)

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR, "THE NATION": A non-response.

He makes Herbert Hoover look like a compassionate activist president. Campbell, what we are looking at is an epic historic divide. We have two ideological viewpoints. We have had deregulation to the hilt in this country, which have hurt, as we now, millions of people losing their homes.

We need a new regulatory structure. Bill Clinton, by the way -- as Barack Obama in a very smart speech the other day pointed out, Bill Clinton began some of this deregulation by repealing the Glass-Stiegel Act, which was the New Deal act which protected consumer, ordinary citizens.

So, I do think today was a very murky speech. They pretended to put in some regulatory infrastructure, but it's still protecting Wall Street, not helping Main Street.

BROWN: Steve, what did you think of McCain's response? And do you see a real philosophical divide? Is this a dangerous, dangerous territory, I think generally, for the Republican Party?

HAYES: Yes, I think Ryan gets it just about right.

On the one hand, Senator McCain didn't say much, and I think that's in part because we're waiting to see how the details of this will really shake out. A lot of what we're going to learn about the plan, we are going to read in the newspapers tomorrow and see over the next several days. And people will begin to take a step back and see what exactly this will do to the economy.

But I do think that there are a lot of conservatives -- and it goes beyond just the think tank set -- who are concerned that any time you hear consumer protection or people like Katrina saying, protect the consumers, we should be worried about setting up these regulations, we all grab for our wallets and we're a little bit worried.

(CROSSTALK)

VANDEN HEUVEL: If you have a wallet, Steve.

BROWN: All right. We're going to be talking a lot more about the economy a little bit -- a little later in the show.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: But, while I have got you, I want to get you on politics.

And, Katrina, I want you to give me the buzz of sort of what's going on in Democratic circles about the endorsements, additional endorsements, superdelegate endorsements for Barack Obama. Are we seeing the start of something much bigger?

VANDEN HEUVEL: Well, I think what's really important -- unconventional view, not horse race -- is what's important is that voters are going to participate.

There was a woman in Muncie, Indiana, the other day who said for the first time in 40 years Indiana will have a primary. So, superdelegates, great. They should follow the pledged delegates, the popular vote, and the states, and let's not have this epic, historic Democratic race end in an anti-democratic way.

I think it's a sign of the times that you do these superdelegates who are set up as a firewall against -- to protect the establishment, moving toward Obama.

(CROSSTALK)

LIZZA: And it's not just that the superdelegates have endorsed him in greater numbers in the last month. It's who they are. These are senators and senators in sort of conservative -- in sort of purple to red states.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Yes.

LIZZA: And it's been one after another.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Senators who were surprising generally that...

(CROSSTALK)

LIZZA: So, one, it's the red state senators, and, two, it's people in the Senate. These are people that know Obama and Hillary best. So, it's an extra blow to Hillary when one of her colleagues comes out against her.

VANDEN HEUVEL: And many of them, which I find so striking, are women. Women, who have been supported by the largest women's rights PAC, EMILY's List. I can tell you that the people at EMILY's List, when Klobuchar, when Sebelius, and when...

LIZZA: McCaskill.

VANDEN HEUVEL: ... McCaskill supported Barack, were going ballistic.

BROWN: All right. On that note, we have got to end, but you guys are sticking around.

We will have a lot more from the panel a little bit later up -- a little later on.

But, up next, one of the nation's top Democrats says Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton better stop fighting and team up by the convention or the party is headed for disaster -- that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Tonight, there are new calls for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to stop the fighting for the nomination and start bringing the Democratic Party together. Well, the message is getting through, but so far is being ignored.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I know some people feel like, oh, it's gone on so long. You know what's good about it? First of all, I think it's great that Senator Clinton's supporters are as passionate about her as my supporters are passionate about me, because what that's done is, everybody's gotten passionate. Everybody's registering to vote.

H. CLINTON: There are some folks saying, well, we ought to stop these elections.

CROWD: No!

H. CLINTON: I didn't think we believed that in America.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Chill out. We're going to win this election if we just chill out and let everybody have their say.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo says the Democrats are headed for disaster unless Clinton and Obama team up on a joint ticket.

In a "Boston Globe" op-ed piece, he argues it's the Democrats' only path to victory in November, and I spoke with him about it earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: A joint Hillary and Obama ticket? My question to you would be, have you not been watching the campaign for the last few weeks? Are you nuts? Is this something that you honestly think is even possible?

MARIO CUOMO (D), FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: Oh, yes. I think it's highly desirable, too.

The best thing that could happen now is that these two people, both of whom claim to be capable of negotiating with world leaders like Ahmadinejad, even without preconditions...

BROWN: Right.

CUOMO: ... ought to be able to negotiate with themselves and figure out how to come up with a ticket that has both of them.

Let's assume they can't do that. My alternative, I think, is easier to do, and the alternative is this. Proposition one, you are losing votes against McCain every day that you fight, not because you will be irreconcilable in your anger. You won't be. You're two pros. You will come together.

BROWN: Right.

CUOMO: But your constituencies won't. All the polls show that people who support Obama, probably, many of them, many of them, will not support Hillary if she wins. And people who support Hillary will not support Obama if he wins.

BROWN: So?

CUOMO: That means you're giving away votes. To mollify the constituency of the runner-up, not to call her or him a loser, you should do the following. Agree to slug it out. I wish you wouldn't because every day that you fight you're losing...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: But they have made it clear they're going to slug it out. So?

CUOMO: Well, OK. If you're going to agree to that, also agree that the winner will of course become the presidential nominee, but the loser will automatically become the vice presidential nominee.

BROWN: So, how do you define winner and loser, though?

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Well, the convention will do that. Eventually, if you slug it out, the convention will say, this is the winner. This is the person who didn't win.

But if you allow the person who didn't win to become the vice president, you will secure some of those votes of her constituents. That's what I'm after. This is all positive. This is not to choose a winner. It's agreed to make sure you get all the votes you should from both constituencies. You can't afford to lose people who voted for Hillary if you're Obama. You can't afford to lose people who voted for Obama if you're Hillary.

BROWN: So this is a way to try and ensure that the Democratic Party stays united?

CUOMO: Absolutely. Yes.

BROWN: Now, a lot of people have been pitching Al Gore to sort of broker this deal. He said on "60 Minutes" this weekend he ain't going to do it. So, are you pitching yourself as a kind of broker for this?

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: No, no, no, I'm not a broker. I pitched the idea. I think it's a very good idea. I haven't heard a better one. And I haven't heard Hillary say no, nor have I heard Obama say no, which means a lot.

This idea got a lot of discussion over the weekend, but neither of them said no to it. Neither of them said yes to it.

BROWN: Well, you're asking both these two ambitious people to sacrifice their ambition.

CUOMO: Right. Nothing. They're not sacrificing anything. Let's get it clear. I'm not saying that they should give up anything. I'm saying, if you want to go and fight, and I wish you wouldn't, but if you insist on it, at least do this.

Agree right now that you're going to have the fight. You're going to throw punches with both hands. And if you win, you win, and you're the candidate for presidency. But the loser becomes a candidate for vice presidency, so she or he has at least that. And that will mollify the runner-ups, the loser's, if you will, constituency. I want those people wanting for whoever wins. This is one way to assure votes that. BROWN: All right, Governor Mario Cuomo on how to make nice and save the Democratic Party, we appreciate your time.

CUOMO: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: While the Democrats fight each other, John McCain is trying something new today. We're going to check in on his campaign next and see why he's pulling out his old pictures.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: The primaries behind him, John McCain is kicking off the general election campaign with a new ad. And the goal here is to remind voters of his extraordinary accomplishments. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is your rank?

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER JOHN MCCAIN, U.S. NAVY: Lieutenant commander in the Navy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And your officer number.

MCCAIN: Six-two-four-seven-eight-seven.

NARRATOR: John McCain, the American president Americans have been waiting for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: John McCain, the war hero, that was the message today in Mississippi. This is day one of what the campaign is essentially calling a weeklong get-to-know-John-McCain tour.

And our own Dana Bash is in Mississippi. She has been traveling with McCain and we should say probably since the beginning of the campaign.

So, there's probably not much you don't know about John McCain, Dana. But today let's listen to a tiny bit of his speech today, because it sort of encapsulates this message that he's now trying to send to people.

Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm the son and grandson of admirals. My grandfather was an aviator, my father a submariner. They were my first heroes. And their respect for me has been one of the most lasting ambitions of my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BROWN: So, maybe I'm wrong, but I think that, when people think John McCain, that most people do think war hero. Why do they feel the need now to tell this story?

BASH: His campaign aides say that they don't think people necessarily know that it's not just his service, but that he has a history of service in his family, his father, his grandfather. In fact, he talked today about the fact that he can trace his ancestors who served in the military back to somebody who served with George Washington.

So what they're trying to do at this point in time is to get people to understand that he is somebody who has patriotism running through his blood.

BROWN: There was an op-ed in "The New York Times" today, Bill Kristol, a very conservative writer, and he wrote essentially that biography hasn't necessarily worked for other candidates in the past. You look at Bob Dole. He had a great story. Didn't work for him. John Kerry certainly had a better resume than George W. Bush. Didn't work for him.

So, his argument was, why isn't McCain running on issues that people are caring about right now, and talking about the economy, instead of a resume?

BASH: When we put that question to McCain aides, Campbell, what they say is, they are going to get to those issues. They are going to get to the economy. They insist they're going to unveil an economic plan. They're going to be talking constantly about those issues, those issues, those policy issues that Americans care so much about.

But what they also say is that this is a point in time where they feel that they really need to introduce John McCain to the voters the way they want to introduce him, instead of the way Democrats are going to want to try to define him. Right now, Democrats aren't spending a whole lot of time defining John McCain because they're still fighting among themselves.

The McCain campaign sees this as a prime opportunity for them to do this without Democrats intruding too much on their narrative, at least right now.

It is definitely a big question, though, Campbell, whether or not this going back in time on his experience also reminds voters that he is not a young man, a 71-year-old man. And it is going to be hard to make the argument that he is going to be an agent for change.

BROWN: May be a risky strategy. We will see how it plays out.

Dana Bash for us traveling with John McCain down in Mississippi -- Dana, thanks.

BROWN: And coming up, we will talk more about McCain with the panel. He's focusing on his past at a time when voters want to talk about the future. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: John McCain is asking voters to focus on his patriotism and his past military achievements. Could it be a risky strategy, though, if voters think he should be paying more attention to issues like the economy?

We want to bring back our political panel, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor of "The Nation" magazine, "The New Yorker"'s Ryan Lizza, and Steve Hayes of "The Weekly Standard."

And, Steve, I'm going to start with you again. But what do you think about this, running on your bio right now instead of the issues? And I guess, for me, given the fact that John McCain has run for president before, I feel like a lot of people already know his bio.

HAYES: Yes. I think people have a vague sense that he was a war hero, but I don't think they know the details of what he has done.

And I was at a very interesting event. Actually, Dana Bash was there, in Waco, Texas, not an area that's necessarily going to be very favorable to John McCain, extraordinarily conservative part of Texas. And they played this 12-minute version of the ad that you just showed, and people were paying attention. Nobody said a word. You could hear a pin drop, all of the cliches that we want to use, because it was such a compelling video.

And I think, in a sense, what we're seeing them do now is set up his biography, so that, when they revisit this come the convention time, people will be more familiar with John McCain and be more familiar with the kinds of things that he's done in his life.

BROWN: But, historically, this doesn't work, right?

LIZZA: No. Look at the last four competitive elections. You had Kerry. You had Gore. You had the first George W. Bush. You had Bob Dole in '96. These are all war heroes who lost. So, being a war hero on its own does not guarantee that you will be the president if your opponent isn't a war hero.

I think it's a strategy born of a couple things. One, McCain does have a compelling biography. Biography is important. Character is important in presidential politics, no doubt about it. But, at the same time, I don't think they have figured out where he's going to be ideologically. And to the extent they have figured it out, he's -- look, he's out of step with where the public is on the war and on the economy.

He gave two speeches recently.

BROWN: So, they have no choice is what you're saying except to run on his biography?

(CROSSTALK)

LIZZA: At least for now. I don't think they have figured out the policy piece.

BROWN: And aren't all three of these candidates, in a sense, doing that, running on their biography?

VANDEN HEUVEL: I think the elections are about the present and the future, especially at a time when the country desperately seeks a new direction. Two-thirds of the country feels the country is heading in the wrong direction.

What strikes me about John McCain is that for a man who speaks so forthrightly about being the son and grandson of admirals, he is out of step with so many in the military today who believe that if we continue with these current deployments, if we continue to be in Iraq for 10, 20 years, a military stretched thin is going to be destroyed.

And if you love the military and you're patriotic about the military, John McCain's policy is not one that you would support.

HAYES: Sure, but, Campbell, if I could just jump in.

BROWN: Yes. Go ahead.

HAYES: I think there's one very obvious advantage to John McCain running this way that we have not mentioned, and it's that he's keeping a low profile while Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama scratch and claw at one another.

And there's the old political aphorism, if your opponent is self- destructing, get out of the way. I think, to a certain extent, he's doing that, while at the same time laying the groundwork for the general election campaign to come.

LIZZA: Well, it works both ways. I mean, look, arguably, Obama and Hillary -- I don't think they've really gone nuclear. I think it's that bad. I don't think they're always hand wringing, I disagree with.

But look, it is boxing out coverage of McCain. So to make this big push now while everyone is focusing on this really fascinating Democratic race, I mean, it may not be the best time for the McCain people to be doing it.

BROWN: Let me bring it back to the Democrats, because we had the interview a moment ago with Mario Cuomo, who's pushing this dream ticket idea that they should just cut a deal now. Whoever loses is automatically the vice president.

VANDEN HEUVEL: I respect Governor Cuomo, but I worry about this idea...

BROWN: Why?

VANDEN HEUVEL: ... why you may not end up with the ticket the Democratic Party needs at this particular time.

BROWN: He says it's the only way to keep everybody on board. VANDEN HEUVEL: But I also -- I also think these polls showing that supporters of Hillary Clinton will not support Barack Obama or vice versa. The heat of the moment, what? Supporters of Hillary Clinton are going to support John McCain? Choice supporters, supporters who want to end the war? I just think that has been overstated, and I don't think what Governor Cuomo is proposing is that democratic either. I mean, I think the -- I think --

(CROSSTALK)

LIZZA: The back room deal, some people may see that.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Back room, the smoke room, it's like, you know --

LIZZA: We have a test case here. We have a very divisive Republican primary. And if you look at the polls, conservatives are actually flocking to McCain, and it's only been a few weeks since he's wrapped up the nomination. So, sure, in polls now, people say, oh, yes, I'll never support Obama if Hillary is the nominee, but that changes when you have a polarized electorate.

BROWN: A lot can happen. A lot can happen.

OK. Steve Hayes, I owe you one. I'm sorry we're out of time. Next time, OK. Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Steve Hayes down in Washington and Ryan Lizza here with me in New York, thanks, guys. Appreciate it as always.

Up next in the ELECTION CENTER, universal health care might be a centerpiece for the Clinton camp, but they have fallen behind on their premiums. We'll explain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: A check of some other political news happening today. The Clinton camp is trying to douse headlines on politico.com that the senator owes nearly $300,000 in unpaid healthcare insurance premiums for her staff. A campaign spokesman says it just paid all of its outstanding bills, and the payments will be reflected later this month.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson is resigning amid allegations of political impropriety and a criminal investigation, but he says the reason he's resigning is to focus on personal and family matters.

And Chelsea Clinton was stumping for her mother in North Carolina today. She was asked, if her mother won the presidency, would Chelsea move back to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHELSEA CLINTON, FORMER FIRST DAUGHTER: I hope that my mother is my president, but as I've already confessed I'm 28. I bet that seems really old to you. It certainly seems old to me. And I would be pretty distraught if I had to move back in with my parents at this point in my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Well, it looks like a second Clinton White House would have to get along with one less Clinton in the mix. We have a lot more coming up. I'm going to ask my panel on the economy that what's with Republicans calling for all this reform on Wall Street. We'll get on to that debate coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: We're back to our lead story tonight. It is issue number one, the economy. And we have talked about some of the economic implications of Secretary Paulson's new plan. So how will it play out in the election?

Politico.com's Eamon Javers is with us from Washington. "Time" magazine's Mark Halperin here in New York along with CNN business reporter Jennifer Westhoven.

Jennifer, let me start with you. And just give us the briefest, simplest, because I don't -- I can talk politics of this day and night, but the actual nitty gritty of the plan?

JENNIFER WESTHOVEN, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: There are between five and seven different regulatory agencies right now.

BROWN: Yes.

WESTHOVEN: In many ways, it guts that old antiquated system.

BROWN: Right.

WESTHOVEN: It gives the Fed a lot more power, but really only in times when it thinks that there's some kind of emergency that could happen.

BROWN: OK. So the politics of this are -- and I said this before, Mark, is, oh, my gosh, Republicans want more government regulation in an election year. What does it say to you?

MARK HALPERIN, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, "TIME": Well, they want some more government regulation. Part of this is the Bush administration doing the right thing. There's a problem, they see we need to do is have a solution. I think most of it, though, is the president's agenda on other topics would be nowhere if he wasn't addressing this.

If he doesn't put forward a plan on this, no one is going to listen to anything else. This is what's in the news. This is what's concerning voters. They themselves say most of this shouldn't be passed this year. The chances that their plan will have any meaningful relationship to what passes with the next president, I think, is pretty low. They had to put forward a plan.

Some of the short-term things, I think, will pass, because something has to pass this year. But most of it, the vast reorganization, the shifting around of responsibilities and regulatory agencies, I don't think has a chance to pass.

BROWN: OK. So, Eamon, why are we talking about this? I mean, if it's dead in the water, and maybe they're pieces of it that can be salvaged --

EAMON JAVERS, FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO,.COM: All right. Forget it. Let's go home.

BROWN: Come on, give me the reason.

JAVERS: Well, look, I mean, this is broad sweeping historic change in the U.S. financial markets and the way the government oversees them. But it's a proposal and it's only broad, sweeping and historic if it actually passes. And I think that question is exactly what's applicable here.

This is the last couple of months of the Bush administration. Do they have enough time to do this in Washington? And anyone who's watched Washington for any length of time knows that you can't get something this big done this quickly. So nobody around here really expects this is going to happen, but it does tee up a conversation for 2009 and for the next administration, whether that's a Clinton or an Obama or a McCain administration, is going to have to deal with some of this.

BROWN: OK. So guys, if this is the issue that is consuming us, that's consuming voters from now until November, who would you rather be? A Democrat or Republican running for president?

HALPERIN: Oh, you'd rather be a Democrat, for sure. Because look, the president is now to the left of John McCain, who is still saying I'll consider ideas but I'm not really looking to overregulate the economy. The Democrats can say this all happened on the president's watch, even though, of course, it goes back farther. These are systems that haven't been updated in some cases since the depression reforms.

BROWN: Right.

HALPERIN: And the Democrats can say we have a plan, a detailed plan. McCain has the trickiest argument any Republican has to make. Less government, less regulation, let the market work. Even the most talented Republican talking about the economy has trouble doing that. This is not John McCain's strength.

BROWN: OK. Is that going to work for anybody? Let the market work. We're going to stay out of this.

WESTHOVEN: Well, I mean, also -- I mean, in some cases this is called a regulatory plan. Some people are calling it deregulation. So if you're a Democrat right now, you could really say, how do you have deregulation after you just had Bear Stearns almost collapsing? How do you take away the SEC after Enron? Do we really want to take away a body like that that we give all these powers in the wake of Enron?

BROWN: Go ahead, Eamon.

JAVERS: Yes. Well, here's the problem for the administration is that the proposal that they announced today has almost nothing to do with the current financial crisis. This is all about preventing possibly the next financial crisis. This has almost nothing to do with doing something about the subprime mortgage market mess that we're in right now.

This plan had been in the works since June. It's something they've been working on for a long time, and they announced it today in the thick of all this news about the mortgage market meltdown, but it has nothing to do with it. So it's sort of apples and oranges, and it's confusing a lot of people who are just casual observers.

BROWN: That's my point. I mean, bottom line is, if you are, you know -- if you are the average person and you're watching this, and you think, well, there you go. That's the Bush administration trying to give us a solution to the problem, and, in fact, there's nothing in it here for somebody who's suffering right now. Is there?

HALPERIN: The White House press secretary traveling overseas with the president today said we're letting Henry Paulson take the lead on this. Henry Paulson is a creature of Wall Street.

BROWN: Right.

HALPERIN: What Henry Paulson wants is rational, reasonable ideas, not too much, not too little Goldilocks regulation. Right? When is the worst time to try to get a rational reasonable plan through Congress?

BROWN: An election year maybe?

(CROSSTALK)

HALPERIN: During a crisis and when Congress is controlled by the opposite party of the president, this is, as I said, a placeholder to say they're doing something.

BROWN: Yes.

HALPERIN: And Henry Paulson would like to leave a little bit of a legacy, as would the president, to say if this thing goes really bad and the economy suffers because of a lack of regulation...

BROWN: Right.

HALPERIN: ... the president would like to be able to say we put something forward. We really were trying to do something on this.

BROWN: All right. Guys, got to end it there. But Mark, as always, and Jennifer, good to have you here, and Eamon in Washington, thanks everybody.

JAVERS: Thank you. BROWN: Imagery (ph), the ultimate political odd couple. After the break, how Al Gore brought together Pat Robertson and Al Sharpton. Oh, yes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: There's been a lot of talk about asking former Vice president Al Gore to rescue the Democratic Party and decide which of these candidates should get the party's nomination. Well, last night on "60 Minutes," he gave his answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CBS "60 MINUTES")

LESLEY STAHL, HOST, "60 MINUTES": And what about the idea of the honest broker who goes to the two candidates and helps push one or the other of them off to the side?

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Kind of a modern Boss Tweed?

STAHL: Except his name would be Al Gore.

GORE: Well, I'm not -- I'm not applying for the job of broker.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Yes. Gore would rather talk about his new $300 million ad campaign to fight global warming. It's being billed as one of the most ambitious and costly public advocacy campaigns in U.S. history. Some of the ads feature unlikely pairs such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Speaker Newt Gingrich, or the Dixie Chicks and Toby Keith. Remember their divisions over the Iraq war?

But the oddest of the odd couples, the two men who join me now, Reverend Pat Robertson and Reverend Al Sharpton. There they are. Guys, welcome to you both. Appreciate your time tonight.

REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: Thank you.

PAT ROBERTSON, FOUNDER, CHRISTIAN COALITION: That's nice, Campbell. It's good to be with you.

BROWN: Well, let me -- before we get into our discussion, let me just show people a little bit of what has brought you together. This is the new ad that's running from Al Gore's new campaign. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT ROBERTSON, FOUNDER, CHRISTIAN COALITION: And we strongly disagree.

REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: Except on one issue. Tell them what it is, Reverend Pat.

ROBERTSON: That would be taking care of our planet. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: OK. So at least you agree on that. Let me try to get to the bottom of how this happened. Reverend Sharpton, why don't you lead us off. What brought you together?

SHARPTON: Well, I got a call from Al Gore, and I've known Al Gore since he was in the White House as vice president. I have a lot of respect for him. And he said that he was doing this huge campaign ad bringing together unlikely people for a message that meant something to everybody. And if people are sincere, they can say we can vehemently disagree on issues, but we all have got to live on this planet.

And he asked would I come and do an ad with Reverend Robertson. At first I thought he was kidding. When I found that he was not kidding, I said sure, and I flew down to do the shoot. And I thought it was an important statement because I think that, if unlikely people coming together can get people talking about the environment, then we would be less than who we say we are in our respective careers if we didn't try to push that conversation.

BROWN: So Reverend Robertson -- so wait.

ROBERTSON: Yes.

BROWN: Reverend Sharpton, you flew to Virginia, right, to shoot the ad with Reverend Robertson?

SHARPTON: Yes.

BROWN: OK. So not to be too sort of kumbaya about all of this, but did you guys have kind of a bonding moment when you were shooting this thing? Did you learn something about each other, Reverend Robertson?

ROBERTSON: Well, I didn't know that Al was a boy preacher with the Church of God in Christ, but he was. That's where he got some of his skills. And he's a terrific guy. I enjoyed it immensely.

Because we -- we're supposed to be fighting each other, so I couldn't be but so nice, but it was a fun moment. We had a superb director and good equipment. But the biggest thing is what he said is we care about the planet. We all live here, and we don't want to pollute our air and pollute our water and kill the fish and the wildlife. We want to conserve this place where we're all living.

BROWN: But let me ask you --

ROBERTSON: And it transcends parties and anything like that.

BROWN: But Reverend Robertson, there are a lot of people in your party. There are a lot of conservatives, conservative Christians, who don't believe that global warming should be a focus, should be where your attention is going right now. ROBERTSON: Well, I think, if it becomes a political statement like we want more government regulation and we want to restrict people from freedom and that kind of thing, I'm not in favor of that. What I do believe --

BROWN: But that's what Al Gore is talking about, a lot more government regulation. That's what you're essentially endorsing here.

ROBERTSON: Well, I didn't endorse that. If you'll see the spots that Reverend Sharpton and I did, we talked about let's get together despite party affiliation and let's move together to do something to save the planet. You can see smoke stacks, belching fumes. You can see acid rain killing fish. You can see polluted rivers.

I was over in Prague, and Shirley Temple Black, our ambassador, said breathing the air in Prague is the equivalent of smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. Well, that's killing people, you know, lung disease and things like that.

BROWN: Well, Reverend Sharpton, you know this issue is not getting a lot of attention in the campaign right now. It's not something that people are talking about a lot frankly. Do you think that's going to change? Is that the hope of this campaign to try to make it an issue?

SHARPTON: I think it will. I think it will with the amount that vice president, former Vice president Gore put in. It will make it a discussion. I think, by getting unlikely people together will make a discussion.

And let me say Mr. Gore made it clear he was not asking either of us to endorse things that we don't believe. The fact that we can have the debate on how to save the planet is what he wants, so the focus is that we should be talking about it. So he didn't mention global warming or any of that in the ads.

If we can make the debate become how we can best save the planet, then I think all of us have done our job, and that's all Al Gore asked us to do. And I think we'd have been less than public servants to not try and do that.

BROWN: All right. Well, very curious to see this ad campaign. We look forward to it. Reverend Sharpton and Reverend Pat Robertson, appreciate your time tonight.

ROBERTSON: You'll love these ads, Campbell. Believe me, they're good.

BROWN: OK. We'll looking forward to it. All right. Thanks, guys.

SHARPTON: Thank you.

ROBERTSON: Thank you.

BROWN: The candidates have collected millions of dollars in campaign contributions. Next, what all that cash has to do with commercials on Oprah. We'll explain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: The presidential candidates are raking in record amounts of cash, millions and millions of dollars. And if you ever wondered where it goes or at least a big chunk of it, our Tom Foreman knows the answer. So, Tom, where are they spending their money?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Campbell, it's coming down to three words in presidential advertising right now -- "Wheel of Fortune." No kidding. This is the big game show. It's been around since, I think, the 1950s, something like that.

And on this show right now, look at the money the campaigns have spent on local ad buys. Obama has spent well over $1 million so far. Clinton has spent more than $800,000. McCain more than $167,000. All to place bets on the wheel bringing them voters, Campbell.

BROWN: OK. So why, though, are they spending on "Wheel of Fortune"?

FOREMAN: Interesting issue to ask that. Because it's a hugely popular show, has been for a long time. And as our media consultant Evan Tracey says, because it brings them the right audience, and that makes it a hot target right now. Listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EVAN TRACEY, TNS MEDIA INTELLIGENCE/CNA: Right now, "Wheel of Fortune" is your typical American household. It's again, it's seniors that are waiting for the primetime television to start. It's working families that have just come home from work wanting to basically sit in front of the television and vege out. They don't want to think too much so they're going to want to watch the wheel spin around, see what Vanna is wearing, and try and see if they can solve happy birthday before the contestants.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: OK.

FOREMAN: So Vanna is still in there. Still hanging out, Campbell.

BROWN: But there are a lot of shows like that, I guess. I mean, is there something in the demo that makes "Wheel of Fortune" so special?

FOREMAN: Well, it is a very successful show, but you're absolutely right. There are a lot of shows like this. "Jeopardy" is another show that they like to buy ads on. "Oprah," a huge show they like to buy ads on.

What they really want to buy ads on is local news because local newscasts draw an educated audience, an audience that's ready to watch the issues and talk about the issues. BROWN: Yes.

FOREMAN: And these shows, the game shows, the talk shows, tend to run next to the local news. So if you can't buy all the local news spots, because they get bought up in the popular states, then you go to the next best thing, and that is to buy one of these talk shows like "Oprah" or "Jeopardy" or even the "Today" show, shows like that.

BROWN: That gets you to that audience. I get it. Very strategic.

OK, though, why not just buy ads in primetime, though, where you have these gigantic audiences? Doesn't that make sense?

FOREMAN: That does make a lot of sense, but it also costs a lot of money. Yes, these campaigns have raised a fortune, as you said. But the simple truth is if you want to buy in primetime nationwide, you're spending an awful lot of cash even if you do the local buys in local TV markets. That's a lot of money.

So it's no wonder really that Barack Obama, with the most money right now...

BROWN: Yes.

FOREMAN: ... is outspending Hillary Clinton in that arena by well more than two to one -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right. Interesting stuff. Tom Foreman, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

And next, Barack Obama shows off his sweet tooth in a Pennsylvania chocolate factory. We'll show you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: One last check of even more political news. Doing his best impression of Willy Wonka, Barack Obama visited Wilbur's chocolate factory in Lititz, Pennsylvania, today, indulging in some chocolate covered marshmallows and even bought some chocolate-coated pretzels for the press corps.

While Obama likes candy, Hillary Clinton likes the Rolling Stones. Clinton says she's looking forward to screening the upcoming Martin Scorsese directed IMAX concert film about the Stones called "Shine a Light." She also said she's impressed with the work ethnic of the band, 64-year-old frontman Mick Jagger.

That's it. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next.

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