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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Inside the Secret World of Polygamy; Presidential Candidates Grill Army General on Iraq

Aired April 8, 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, LARRY KING LIVE: Tonight, prime time exclusive -- escape from polygamy -- a sect's secrets out in the open. Under aged girls forced into marriage and motherhood. Shocking truths revealed by those who got away. We go inside the raid on the compound in Texas.
Plus, three would-be presidents on the war one will inherit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To the genuine prospect of success.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I fundamentally I disagree.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was a massive strategic blunder.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Election politics, Iraq policy.

All next on LARRY KING LIVE.

By the way, Senator John Kerry will be joining us later to discuss the testimony this morning.

Four hundred and sixteen one children have been taken into custody and 133 women have left the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas. The raid took place on a compound founded by the jailed polygamist leader, Warren Jeffs.

Joining us in San Angelo, Texas is Debra Brown executive director of the Children's Advocacy Center in Tom Green County. And with her is Helen Pfluger, a church volunteer who helped set up a temporary shelter for women and children removed from the compound.

Helen, what is the situation regarding the children and the women now?

HELEN PFLUGER, HELPED SET UP SHELTER FOR COMPOUND RESIDENTS: They've been moved to Fort Concho, a historic fort in San Angelo, where they have better facilities to house the people.

KING: What was their reaction to all of this? PFLUGER: When I first saw them on Friday evening, they were very scared, very quiet. They huddled at the back of a room and did not want to communicate with us.

KING: Debra, what's the role of the Children's Advocacy Center?

DEBRA BROWN, PROVIDING HELP FOR KIDS FROM COMPOUND: We just got appointed as guardian ad litem for 330 of the children after that first petition was filed yesterday afternoon. So we'll be responsible for making sure that all of their educational, medical, emotional needs are being met. KING: How on Earth can you...

BROWN: And (INAUDIBLE)...

KING: How can you do it for that many?

BROWN: Well, we have a large volume of programs across the State of Texas that are going come in and help us. We're also receiving a lot of volunteer support from our community and the surrounding communities and are going to be doing some training for the next two weeks.

KING: Helen, what can you tell us about the children? There have been reports that they don't even know what crayons are.

PFLUGER: That's correct. They appeared very normal, even though they were not aware of a lot of things that our children are aware of. When they had the opportunity to play, they were eager to play with toys and to go out to the playground. And they were beautiful children, very well behaved.

KING: Did they have any idea why they were moved?

PFLUGER: To my knowledge, they don't. I'm not sure whether that's correct or not. But I didn't speak to any of the women. I don't know.

KING: You didn't talk to any of the women?

PFLUGER: Oh, I spoke with the women, but we did not have conversations. They would have a need and they would come and talk with me and I would try to supply whatever need they had. But we didn't -- they did not encourage us to carry on conversations with them.

KING: Debra, a hearing is scheduled for April 17 next week. What will happen?

BROWN: Well, evidence will be presented to the judge from Child Protective Services attorneys, as well as the families' attorneys and a causal report (ph) will be submitted. And then the judge will take all of that evidence into consideration and make some decisions as to what the future holds for those children.

KING: Helen, have the women indicated at all aware that they were forced into marriage? PFLUGER: They have not indicated that. Just from observing them and the way they act, their lifestyle seems normal to them, I think.

KING: What, if anything, Debra, is different about the children?

BROWN: I think that there are many differences. First, off the way they dress. The -- their ability to understand the outside world, their upbringing. They're home schooled. They're in a very secluded area, a small community in -- they're in the country. And I think that all of those things are going to make it very difficult to get to know them very quickly.

KING: How well, Helen, do they bond with each other?

PFLUGER: They are -- I think they have bonded well. The children seemed to love each other. The women -- I use that word loosely -- cared for their children beautifully. And they seem like a very tight knit group.

KING: When you say use loosely, are you meaning that they were very young ladies?

PFLUGER: I don't think we had anyone over 18. I'm not sure how the -- you know, the youngest went down to three months. We had three pregnant girls who were in their early teens.

KING: What's the situation with the men? Do you know, Debra?

BROWN: It's my understanding the men that were at the compound are still at the compound and will remain there. I'm not sure if they are free to leave if they wanted to or not.

KING: How far, Helen, is Eldorado from where you are?

PFLUGER: It's a 45-mile drive, 45 miles.

KING: We'll be right back with more on this incredible story on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

Don't go away. Polygamy -- what in the world is going on?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then you grow up also going to bed every night and laying awake for hours waiting to hear the footsteps coming down the hall.

QUESTION: And what does that mean?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That usually meant your dad was coming to your bed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MARLEIGH MEISNER, CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES: At this time, I do not know how many other children may be at the ranch. We do believe that there probably are other children. And, if so, then those children will also be removed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Debra Brown and Helen Pfluger remain with us.

We're joined in Salt Lake City by Carolyn Jessop, who grew up in a polygamist family in the FLDS Church in Colorado City, Arizona. She's been a guest on this show before. At age 18, she was forced into a polygamist marriage with a 50-year-old man, finally fled with her eight children. She tells that dramatic story in a very good book called, "Escape."

And in San Angelo, Texas is Mike Watkiss. Mike is at the barracks where those removed are being held. He's a reporter for KTVK. He has reported extensively on polygamy, on Warren Jeffs, on the FLDS Church. He produced "Colorado City and the Underground Railroad," a great documentary.

Mike, what do you make of this whole story?

MIKE WATKISS, REPORTER, KTVK-TV, PHOENIX: You know, Larry, I wish I could say that I was surprised. More than anything else, really, from the bottom of my heart, I wish I could say I was surprised, because that would mean I have not heard this story before and I could react sort of from a visceral level like everybody else and be shocked about this.

But, you know, the sad truth is we've been telling this exact story -- the story of this 16-year-old girl is a blueprint for exactly the kinds of stories that we have been exposing for nearly a decade, hoping that officials would take action and do something.

Thank goodness for Texas doing what they have done now. The system is a big blunt object and I think it seems cruel that they're getting those kids out of there the way they are, but I think they had no choice. They got that desperate call from that 16-year-old. They had to act.

KING: Aren't you surprised by the size of it?

WATKISS: The size of it, the scope of it -- I mean I've had a lot of people down in El Dorado keeping me apprised. And nobody had any idea how many people were on that compound. A longtime observer, a woman named Penny Peterson (ph), who got out of the community, she made an interesting observation to me today. She said look at the flyovers of that community. You've got all these kids there. You don't see a single swing set, not a sand box.

What have these kids been doing?

They are being indoctrinated by Warren Jeffs. These are all of his most faithful followers. I bet -- when they sort everything out, Larry, I bet many of the people who they have taken out of that compound turn out to be Warren Jeffs' immediate family. And when I say that, I'm talking about his dozens of wives, his dozens and dozens of children. These are only Warren Jeffs' selected people.

He's abandoned the people in Colorado City and Hildale. They continue to send down their dollars and their daughters, but the bottom line, this is only Warren Jeffs' selected people. This is basically his little monument to himself. Thank goodness he's in jail in Kingman. But he was building this so he could escape the law and basically repopulate his flock, I think, with his own seed.

KING: Carolyn Jessop, are you surprised that, as reported by others and by Debra and Helen, as well, that the people seem happy?

CAROLYN JESSOP, ESCAPED FROM POLYGAMY: Oh, they're not happy, Larry. I don't believe that for even a minute. I think that they are doing what they're supposed to do under a cult identity, which is to maintain a smile at all times. If you have a smile, that means you are in possession of the spirit of God. And it was a very strict thing for us, to keep sweet and to be smiling. And a cult identity is a facade. It's not the true authentic self and it's not how you're feeling in reality.

KING: Are you surprised at the size of this?

JESSOP: No, I'm not. I was aware for quite some time that there was quite a few people there. Being on the board with the UEP, the United Effort Plan Trust, which is a charitable trust and it contains most of the real estate in Utah in Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, we've had families vanishing in the night. We've had several homes turn up completely empty. And based on the number of people and the vacant homes, I was aware that there was a substantial amount of people leaving this community and going into compounds.

There's other compounds beyond Texas. This is only one of them. But we have a lot of missing people and their families, they do not know where they are.

KING: Helen Pfluger, have you had experience with polygamists before?

PFLUGER: No, not personally, only through reading.

KING: What surprised you, if anything, about what you met the last two days?

PFLUGER: I think just that these people seemed like they came out of "Little House on the Prairie" at times. They seemed like they belonged back in the 1870s.

KING: Debra, have you had experience in a polygamist concept?

BROWN: No, sir. I haven't.

KING: What surprised you? BROWN: I think the sheer number of children that we are talking about. Several things have surprised me. And we've had quite a bit of input from people that actually have worked with different groups. And it's been quite interesting for us.

KING: Has there been any --

BROWN: I think we still have an awful lot...

KING: Go ahead. I'm sorry.

BROWN: I'm sorry. I think we still have an awful lot to learn before we're going to be very successful in visiting with these children.

KING: Have you seen anything on the plus side?

BROWN: Well, I think the children are acting like children. They're playing with each other. They don't seem to be having problems sleeping and those kinds of things, as reported to us. I think that some of the activities that they're doing and the women that are with them are helping them kind of get through this.

KING: They don't feel angered at being taken away from where they grew up?

BROWN: I'm sure that they are angry. I'm sure that they're scared. But I really have not observed that.

KING: Carolyn, are they angry?

JESSOP: No, I don't believe they're angry. I think they're quite confused right now, honestly. And I really don't think that they understand what's occurring. Several of these children have been on this compound for up to four years and they have been totally isolated away from mainstream society.

And impacting mainstream society is very, very confusing. Even as an adult at 35, when I left this cult -- this religion and hit mainstream society, it was like landing on another planet. And I was very confused. And I wanted to be where I was.

But, you know, there is trauma. There is trauma in moving from that society to something that you don't understand.

KING: Yes.

Helen, thank you very much for being with us.

Debra, we're going to hold you for another segment.

Mike Watkiss will come back and so will Carolyn Jessop, when we return with this intriguing saga.

Don't go away.

They are raised from the cradle to obey, submit and fear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He hit me twice. Once it was in front of my whole -- all of my children. And he hit me over and over and over again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Mike Watkiss, have you talked to the semi-adults, if we can call them that, at the compound where you're at?

WATKISS: The only times I've been out at the compound is probably a half dozen. We get young men who come up to the gate and watch us on their ATVs with their binoculars. None of the people on the compound, to my knowledge, have really communicated with any reporters who have checked it out.

KING: OK.

WATKISS: I've been around the entire perimeter of that place a couple of times.

KING: How about at the barracks where you're at?

WATKISS: No. They're keeping them isolated, as I think they should. They need to protect these children. I mean the children are the victims and they have always been the victims. And I think Texas officials understand the daunting task that they have before them, trying to break down extraordinary barriers. Somebody likened them to a foreign -- a refugee population from another planet and trying to breach the void that separates them from the outside world.

Texas officials need to set -- people are going to be analyzing the psychological impact on these children for decades to come. You know, we're going to -- this isn't just a story that's beginning -- watching these children, what happens to them now that they've been wrenched from the only life they know.

And this plays into what the paranoia has been in that community forever. They're always taught the big bad government is going to come in and rip our families apart and take our children away from them. You know, there has been some experience. But you know what, the reason the government has done that is because a handful of men will not lay off the young girls.

They won't stop the incest. They bleed their followers dry. They live lavishly while their followers are impoverished. They want their dollars and their daughters. And the followers follow them because they believe that a guy like Warren Jeffs is their only path to heaven.

KING: All right. Let's take a look at a bit of a documentary, "Banking on Heaven," that exposes the struggles of life in a polygamist sect. And here are some survivors talking about their fears.

Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I spent 17 years being beat by my mother because I wouldn't be obedient to my father and he wanted me in his bed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then you grow up also going to bed every night and laying awake for hours waiting to hear the footsteps coming down the hall.

QUESTION: And what does that mean?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That usually meant your dad was coming to your bed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was raped when I was 7-years-old by my cousin on Thanksgiving Day. I never said anything until years and years and years after I was married. And then I found out other members of my family were also raped.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Carolyn, is that typical?

JESSOP: In my experience, you know, the sexual abuse in this community is typical. And it's created because of the way men are taught to see women. They see us as property. We're possessions. We're something they own. We are accountable to our priest at head (ph), being our husband or our father. And we're not seeing as human beings with feelings and that we have rights.

I didn't even understand that I had rights when I went to court for custody of my kids. In that courtroom, I didn't understand that that judge saw me as a human being. And it took me a long time to learn that I had rights as a human being.

But a lot of it is the mind control and the way that they view women. And they don't see -- when they hurt a woman sexually, they don't see that they're hurting a human being. They see her like a toy. They see her like an object. They don't really even understand what they're doing. And for...

KING: Debra, you -- as executive director of the Children's Advocacy Center, I imagine you have dealt with children who have been the victims of sex. But this will be the first time to the victims of polygamy.

Do you think it will be different?

BROWN: I think it will be different in some ways. But sexually abused children -- most of the sexually abused children that we see are abused by someone in their close family. I do think there are going to be some similarities. But then again, religion does not usually play into the sexual abuse that we see. And I think that will be an added element, as well as the exclusiveness -- the secluded atmosphere that they've been raised in.

KING: Mike, what's the typical charges in court for something like this?

WATKISS: What are the charges the men may face?

Well, sexual conduct with minors, statutory rape, incest. These are charges that their leader, Warren Jeffs, has been prosecuted in Utah and now awaiting prosecution in Arizona. There's a myriad of charges, Larry.

And with now Texas officials say they have 416 victims. They're going to be tied up in court prosecuting these guys. And we have no idea how many men are out on that compound, but those guys are in a lot of trouble if, in fact, what Texas officials are saying, that they now have 416 victims.

KING: Is it your thinking, Mike, that these are basically guys looking for easy sex?

WATKISS: You know what, I think many of the men are victims themselves. They're raised in this culture. You've done stories on the lost boys. A lot of the young men are basically used as slave laborers until they're teenagers. They start running heavy equipment when they're about eight. You know, they're building stuff all the time. All the money they make -- or should make -- goes right to the prophet.

So I think many of the men are victims. It's the handful of -- it's the guys like Warren Jeffs. It's the hand -- this Merril Jessop, Carolyn's former husband, who's running the place. Those guys live lavishly. You know, this is one of those cockamamie theologies that was put together by men, benefits men and continues to benefit men.

And the bottom line is that the victims are their own people. And because of this sort of heavy onus that's laid on them that the only way you're going to get into heaven is to do what Warren says -- Uncle Warren says, you know, that's a big whammy on their psyches...

KING: Yes.

WATKISS: ...and they do a lot of crazy things.

KING: Carolyn, what advice do you give to those people -- the women who have gotten out?

JESSOP: To the women who have gotten out, that there is a wonderful free world out here and that you have the right -- you have rights. And many of the things that are occurring in your lives that seem normal because it's the only life you've ever known, in reality is not right. It's wrong for you to be treated that way. And I would advise them to come forward with the crimes that have been committed against them, because it's going to be difficult to protect them unless they do.

And, Larry, the other thing I'd like to put out there that I think the public needs to be aware of is, you know, it took my children, after I left this particular community -- not the compound, but the FLDS religion -- it took them three years before they were willing to talk about abuses. And this was after a lot of counseling. And they had to have a lot of education about what abuse was.

KING: We're going to be doing a lot more on this. Thank you all very much.

We have one more segment coming, and this may surprise you.

Is there a good side to polygamy? Our next guest says maybe -- says yes, maybe. Valerie X. We'll have her take and we'll get Mike's response to it when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Joining us now in Salt Lake is Valerie. We're not using her last name to protect her privacy. She believes in plural marriage.

How many people in your marriage, Valerie?

VALERIE X: We have 26 people in our household.

KING: That means 25 other wives?

VALERIE X: No. two other wives besides myself.

KING: Who are the others?

VALERIE X: My husband and our children.

KING: So collectively there are 26?

VALERIE X: Collectively.

KING: What do you make of this raid?

VALERIE X: I'm very concerned about it. It's hard for me to think that it was the best possible way to go about things, because I have felt for a long time that if our lifestyle were decriminalized that changes could be made in a more positive manner and not have to go to this extreme.

KING: How does your marriage work?

VALERIE X: It works really well. We all really work well together. We have a little bit of an organized, you know, where we all --

KING: You have a routine. VALERIE X: Yes, routine, and we lean on one another. We care for each other's children. It works out really well for us. It's what I've chosen and I'm really pleased with my lifestyle.

KING: How old were you when you got into it?

VALERIE X: I was 18.

KING: You went in willingly?

VALERIE X: I went in willingly. At 18, you're a legal adult in this country. So therefore, I think that was OK. I wouldn't encourage my children to do that in today's society. I would advise them to wait longer.

KING: Were your parents encouraging of you to do it?

VALERIE X: They lived this way themselves, but they were completely OK with whatever any of their children decided to choose.

KING: Do you consider yourself Mormon?

VALERIE X: Yes.

KING: Are you part of Warren Jeffs' church, FLDS?

VALERIE X: No, I'm not affiliated with them. There are so many different societies. I'm not actually affiliated with any group, but there is such diversity in all of the groups and what I consider myself to be, which is independent of any so-called organized group.

KING: You would not move criminally against these people in Texas, is that it? I don't want to put words in your mouth. Is that true?

VALERIE X: Not to this extent. If there's abuse -- if there's abuse anywhere, I would like to see it handled correctly.

KING: But if there were not abuse -- if this were just men and women choosing to live together in plural relationships without abuse --

VALERIE X: If it were consenting adults, yes.

KING: You think you will ever see that in this country?

VALERIE X: I certainly don't know. I mean, I hope that somehow, with enough people speaking out, we can be able to have what I consider to be our constitutional rights.

KING: All your kids go to public school?

VALERIE X: Yes.

KING: Does Salt Lake move against you at all? The city? VALERIE X: I don't know. That's a good question because sometimes I feel just in the society of people around me that there are definite prejudices. As far as being prosecuted or anything like that, I haven't experienced that myself.

KING: Thank you, Valerie. I want to get the comments. He's very late. We only have a couple moments left. Sam Brower, private investigator. He's been to Eldorado.

Sam, we'll have to have you back another night when we have more time. What do you make of what our young lady just said?

SAM BROWER, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: I didn't hear too much of what she said.

KING: Basically, she said she's in a polygamist relationship. There's nothing wrong with it. They have many children. There are two other wives. The children go to public schools. The children relate with each other happily. She doesn't see anything wrong with it.

BROWER: Well, you know, in my end of this thing, I try not to take religious issues. It's hard to avoid because, as far as Warren Jeffs goes, it is a religion -- excuse me -- religion. But as far as other people go, that's up to them. What I'm concerned with is the child abuse parts of this.

Child abuse is child abuse, and whatever your religion, it doesn't give you a license to abuse children.

KING: So you're not concerned with what the legalities of this; if you abuse children it's wrong.

VALERIE X: If you abuse children, it's wrong. That's the bottom line. They went into Texas. They found a lot of little girls that were pregnant. At the end of the day, that's it. That's what's going on is child abuse.

KING: Sam, sorry about getting you so late. We'll have you back. I appreciate you coming by. We'll come back. The man who is running the Iraq war was grilled on Capitol Hill today. Senator John Kerry was among those applying the heat. He's here right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back. Big story today was on Capitol Hill, where General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker testified before the Armed Services Committee. A trio of U.S. senators all running for president all questioned him. A former candidate for the presidency, Senator John Kerry, was also a questioner.

Senator, what's your nutshell reaction to today?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: My nutshell reaction was that a lot of tough questions were asked and most of them were not answered.

KING: Let's give an example. John McCain on the Senate Armed Services committee. Let's take a look at some of what the presumed GOP presidential nominee had to say at today's hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Today it is possible to talk with real hope and optimism about the future of Iraq and the outcome of our efforts there. While a job of bringing security to Iraq is not finished, as a recent fighting in Basra and elsewhere vividly demonstrated, we're no longer staring into the abyss of defeat and we can now look ahead to the general which is prospect of success.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Senator Kerry, what do you make of that?

KERRY: I think it's a misstatement of the reality on the ground that was described today by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. Let me just say that all of us have just enormous respect, Larry, for the job that they're doing. And in a sense, these hearings are kind of a mismatch, because the hearings are between two people who are professional implementors of a policy that they don't make.

And we're involved in looking at the larger components of that policy, today asking a lot of questions about the bigger policy that they really can't answer. There's a certain mismatch in it.

Also, General Petraeus has done an incredible job of taking a bad hand and making the best out of it, but I think that the larger issue, which Senator McCain just missed, is what does he mean by success? And what in fact are we staring at? The truth is that in the answers we heard today, we don't know.

We've got very difficult road ahead. We don't know when we can actually draw down troops. We're in a pause. A lot of it depends on Moqtada al Sadr holding a truce, and a lot depends on what happens with the Sunni awakening; do they keep on doing what they're doing.

And most importantly, the fundamental differences between the Shia and the Sunni, the sectarian differences, even General Petraeus said we're disappointed in the level of the political progress.

KING: Here's a Hillary Clinton question on the subject of McCain saying that pulling out would be a total failure.

Here's Hillary -- watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: Some of the statements and suggestions that have been made leading up to this hearing and even during it that it is irresponsible or demonstrates a lack of leadership to withdraw troops from Iraq in a responsible and carefully planned withdrawal. I fundamentally disagree. Rather, I think it could be fair to say that it might well be irresponsible to continue the policy that has not produced the results that have been promised time and time again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Do you think your fellow senators were effective today?

KERRY: I think they made important points. I think Hillary just made an important point there, which is at the center of this debate. Is it more effective to continue to do what we've been doing, which has failed, which the general, by his own admission, says has not produced the political reconciliation that we need; do you just continue to do that or do you try to change the attitude and the dynamic in the politics of Iraq? Many of us believe that the endless presence of the troops without any sense of a withdrawal simply leaves the Iraqis in a position of being able to avoid real decisions as long that's know we're there.

Our security blanket, in fact, prolongs our presence. And General Odom, General McCaffrey, General Scales testified last week in front of the Foreign Relations Committee that we can't sustain our troops over a long period of time. So we're trapped.

You can't sustain the troops, but you can't completely withdraw. We're attracting Iran into Iraq, and we create instability with more jihadists coming in because we're there, but we can't leave because the Jihadists are coming in.

It's circular, Larry. What Senator Clinton is saying is you have to break that circle and think differently about how you get a political solution.

KING: It sounds like rock and a hard place. Barack Obama, your pick, and a fellow Foreign Relations Committee member, had his chance today. Here's an excerpt from Senator Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I continue to believe that the original decision to go into Iraq was a massive strategic plunder. The two problems that you have pointed out, al Qaeda in Iraq and increased Iranian influence in the region, are a direct result of that original decision. That's not a decision you gentlemen made. I won't lay it at your feet.

Your cleaning up the mess afterwards, but I think it's important as we debate this forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is that a correct statement?

KERRY: Absolutely correct. In fact, Senator Obama has pointed out that the choices of this administration, Larry, have actually made our country less safe, and that's not a political statement. You can measure what all of our chiefs of the various intelligence agencies have said that the next attack against the United States is likely to come from Pakistan, Afghanistan, planned by al Qaeda there, which is now reconstituted and in some 60 countries and stronger than it's ever been.

Hamas is stronger than it's before; Hezbollah is stronger than its been. Iran is flexing it's muscles and stronger, and, in fact, is delighted by our being bogged down in Iraq.

KING: Senator, thank you. We'll be calling on you frequently.

KERRY: I'm glad to be with you. Pleasure to be here.

KING: Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts.

Our political panel is ready to brawl when LARRY KING LIVE returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Before we meet our political panel and go at it, let's go to New York. Campbell Brown, she'll host "A.C. 360" again tonight.

What's up tonight, Campbell?

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, coming it up at the top of the hour on 360, we're keeping them honest on Capitol Hill. The top general in Iraq testifying today about the state of play on the ground and how long he expects American troops to be there. You may be surprised by what he said today. We'll also look at the politics, pretty shocking politics behind the testimony.

All the presidential candidates were there and we'll take a hard look at what or if what they said jives with their previous positions.

Plus, new information coming out of the polygamist compound in Texas. Authorities releasing the details of what a 15-year-old girl said happened to her that led to the raid. It's pretty unbelievable. All that and a lot more at the top of the hour.

KING: Thanks. That's Campbell Brown, "A.C. 360," 10: 00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific.

Let's meet our political panel. In North Dakota, Ed Schultz, syndicated talk radio host and a supporter of Barack Obama, in Washington is Kiki Mclean, Democratic strategist, senior adviser of Senator Clinton. Here in Los Angeles, Michael Reagan, talk radio host, son of Ronald Reagan, and a supporter of John McCain. And in New York, Kellyanne Conway, a Republican strategist and pollster as well.

Ed, what did you make of today's historic hearings. We never had a situation like this.

ED SCHULTZ, SYNDICATED TALK SHOW HOST: No, we haven't. The candidates really showed themselves to the American people. John McCain once again was the biggest cheerleader that was up there and we saw a clear cut difference between the Republican candidate and the two options on the Democratic side. If you want change, the Democrat is going to be your choice.

I think the tough thing here for the American people to decide is are we going to be comfortable with 100 billion dollars in oil revenue going to the Iraqis and we're still paying the bill. This is what they will have to wrestle with next.

KING: Michael, how did you read today?

MICHAEL REAGAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It's interesting, John McCain is the only person there who has actually been at war, who has actually been a prisoner of war and really understands it, was asking good questions.

KING: Bush hasn't been to war, and neither has Cheney.

REAGAN: John McCain is the one running for president of the United States. He's been on the ground --

KING: The two people who started the war were never at war.

REAGAN: I realize it.

KING: You bring it up.

REAGAN: I bring it up with John McCain, showing the questions he was asking, the fact that he's been there more than Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton combined, been on the ground. Understands what happens if we pull away and just walk away from Iraq. We can't walk away from Iraq and leave a big hole there, waiting for Iran to show. Petraeus showed that today. Truly, the big person in the building is Iran.

KING: Petraeus also said there's still problems.

REAGAN: There's always problems. In war, there's always problems. It's a fluid situation. All he's doing is testifying about the fluid situation. What did he say, take the champagne and move it to the back of the room. There's still a lot of work to do. We have come a long way. If we listened to the political left and listened to the Democrats, there wouldn't have been a surge. Maliki would not have been sending people after the Shias in Basra and doing what he was doing a couple weeks ago.

KING: Kiki Mclean, your response?

KIKI MCLEAN, CLINTON CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Tonight, Ed and I agree on a lot of things. That is that you heard Senator McCain say he's going keep it up. There's no way out. Senator Clinton spoke very specifically to legislation she's introduced which is about accountability.

What kind of plan is George Bush going to negotiate with the Iraqis and are the American people going to get a glimpse of this and get to have a say in it? We were told no tonight. We're expected to continue to pay for this.

To Michael's point, they all talk about the cost of leaving and no one is talking about the cost of staying and it's not working. That surge -- maybe if that surge hadn't happened, we would be home and have more of our men and women home. This is really just gone into a series of endless loops where there is no path out. Petraeus and Crocker and the Bush/Cheney and now McCain administration don't show a path out.

And Senator Clinton has a plan. Senator Obama has thoughts on that. I happen to believe Senator Clinton's plan is better. Ed is right that with the two Democratic choices we have a chance to get our folks home.

KING: Kellyanne, do you agree with Michael?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, in large part I do. Today was a real gut check. Over the last six to eight weeks, we've all been talking about the economy having catapulted to the top of the issues matrix for most Americans, and this reminds us how important homeland security and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to be, including on the minds of voters. It's the number two or three issue, even in the Pennsylvania primary coming up in two weeks.

What I thought was very disappointing and telling was that in the question and answer session, Barack Obama took the opportunity to restate his grievances, his position on the war. Last I checked, anything with an exclamation point and a period and comma isn't a question, and then he left early and went to two fundraisers.

I think that's very telling. He started the day out attacking John McCain again on "The Today Show," basically restating his position that John McCain thinks we should be in Iraq for 100 years, which has been roundly discredited by non-partisan fact checkers as well.

What John McCain said and what people like Ed know is that he's not --

SCHULTZ: I don't know that.

CONWAY: He's someone who said we should have --

KING: Kelly, I got to get a break.

CONWAY: We have an occupation the way we do in Japan and Korea but not that we're going to have people dying for 100 years.

KING: The Beijing Olympics has become a political hot potato. Should the president attend the opening ceremonies? Some answers after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Should the president go to the Olympics? MCLEAN: No. Senator Clinton has said he shouldn't. She's taken a very strong position. I know that Senator Obama said he's of two minds. I think we believe that when you're president, you don't get to have two minds. You need to make a decision. This is a very important symbol at the opening ceremony.

The president should not attend. Senator Clinton believes strongly that it's an important message to send to the Chinese government about what's going on, given the violence in Tibet, the fact that the Chinese government has used no leverage to try to stop the genocide going on in Darfur, a place where they have a lot of influence.

If the Chinese would make significant headway and demonstration of the real opportunity they have to engage in appropriate human rights, then perhaps we should be there. But right now, the answer is no.

KING: Michael?

REAGAN: The president not going to opening ceremonies is not going stop what's going on in Tibet. Hillary Clinton knows that in fact China cannot stop doing what they're doing in Tibet. If they show weakness in Tibet, they have to worry about other areas of the world that they're involved in. It's interesting that Hillary never brought up Tibet in her lifetime, but it's an election year so let's make this now an issue of election year.

KING: We never show a symbol? We never do anything symbolic?

REAGAN: What happens is you do it, they do it. Remember the Olympics -- we decided to boycott Russian Olympics. They boycotted our Olympics.

MCLEAN: We're not talking about a boycott. We're talking about the president's presence, not a boycott.

REAGAN: It's not going change anything. They will still have the Olympics. It's better off that he go there, be at the opening ceremonies and make a statement while he's there. But not going, he's going to be made to look like the bad guy. It's interesting, Hillary wants him to talk to Ahmadinejad, but stay away from China.

KING: Ed, should he go to the Olympics and make a public statement about their treatment of Tibet?

SCHULTZ: I would like to see the United States Congress weigh in on this, because if we boycott it and we cause problems for the Chinese, you know, we are economically connected to them. On the other hand, there is some political cover, because the German prime minister has already said she's not going to attend opening ceremonies. I would like to see Congress weigh in on this. Either we'll be in this thing or we're not. Either we care about human rights or we don't.

I don't think the president will boycott it. We're economically to connected to the Chinese in the middle of a recession.

KING: Kellyanne?

CONWAY: We've been connected to them even through the first President Clinton. Let's be frank. Nobody is talking about the athletes. I don't think showing a symbol or making a statement by not showing up and maybe boycotting and punishing our athletes -- there's so little that binds us together as a nation anymore.

The Olympics is one thing that does. I think this president should continue his stand against religious persecution globally, and if he goes there, perhaps to use that as a platform to continue to rail against this.

Hillary Clinton as first lady went to Beijing over a decade ago for a woman's conference and talked very little if at all about Tibet. This is not a new issue. It's new to some of these political folks.

MCLEAN: Let's be very clear here. We're not talking about a boycott. We're talking about the president's presence at the opening ceremonies that already is generating a conversation.

REAGAN: Things aren't going to change in Tibet.

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN: You're playing politics with this whole thing. As Kelly said, she said nothing about this in all of these years. This has been going on in Tibet since before I've been alive.

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN: Let me speak. I let you speak.

Now she says something in an election year. The president of the United States is not going to change what's going on in Tibet by not showing up for the beginning of the Olympics games. You know it. I know it, and the world knows it; so do the Chinese know it.

KING: So you don't make a statement of protest ever?

REAGAN: You go there, go represent the United States of America at the opening ceremonies with our athletes and then say something.

KING: Thank you all very much. We will have this group back. I guarantee it, just based on this scant 20 minutes.

Check out our Web site, CNN.com/larryking. You can download our podcast or e-mail upcoming guests. We've even got presidential candidates. You can vote at CNN.com/larryking.

Tomorrow night, the latest on the fight for Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton has got the lead. Barack Obama is closing the gap. The primary is two weeks away.

Speaking of leaders, here's our own Campbell Brown with "A.C. 360" -- Campbell.

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