Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LARRY KING LIVE
McClellan Book Bombshell; New FLDS Polygamist Photos Surface
Aired May 28, 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, Washington, D.C. in a state of shock. A former White House insider rips the president, calling him a propagandist, a political spinner and a man who plays loose with the truth.
Is George Bush a master manipulator finally exposed? Or is he the victim of a disgruntled employee trying to sell a book?
Plus, newly revealed photos of polygamy's self-proclaimed prophet on his wedding day. Thirty-one-year-old Warren Jeffs kisses his 12- year-old bride.
It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We begin with Ari Fleischer, an old friend, former White House press secretary to George Bush. He was succeeded, by the way, by Scott McClellan, who has written that explosive new book entitled "What Happened Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception".
I know he's a friend of yours, Ari.
ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes.
KING: Is he lying?
FLEISCHER: I can't say that, Larry. But I think there's no basis or justification to what he's writing. And that's why it's so hard to understand how Scott, of all people, somebody who said the very same things himself, could now say that these things are propaganda.
KING: So, if we presume -- if you presume he's not lying, or do you presume he -- what do you presume?
What do you make of it?
FLEISCHER: Well, with all due respect I don't think the issue is lie or not lie. I think the issue is on what grounds does Scott back up his statement that the president is manipulating the truth, that the president is propagandizing?
And what I find so troubling and hard to understand, is if Scott really thought all those things, particularly at the time he described them, 2002, why, as my deputy, didn't Scott ever come to me and tell me had he misgivings?
Why, when Scott was the press secretary and he took the podium, did he say what he said if his heart wasn't in it and he didn't believe it?
And even as recently as a year ago, Larry, Scott was still on TV supporting the war and supporting the president.
So I just don't understand how Scott could be so inconsistent with what he had previously said and believed.
KING: Here's a quote from the book. We'll put it up on the screen. "Over that summer of 2002, top Bush aides had outlined a strategy for carefully orchestrating the coming campaign to aggressively sell the war. In the permanent campaign era, it was all about manipulating sources of public opinion to the president's advantage.
How do you respond?
FLEISCHER: Well, yes, manipulating -- that's just so wrong. And, first of all, on the facts, it wasn't in the summer of 2002, but when the president went to the United Nations in the fall of 2002. Of course, it's the president's responsibility to lay out a case for why he might take the nation into preemptive war. It wasn't like Pearl Harbor, where we got hit and everybody understood we'd attack back. If you're going to begin a preemptive war, which the Iraq War was, it's the president's solemn obligation to explain it to the country. And that did require months of communication with the country.
Larry, I defend that to this day. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the president making his case if he's going to go to war. Just the opposite would be true. It would be terrible if he didn't make the case and then went to war.
KING: McClellan says that the war wasn't necessary. And I guess a majority of Americans agree with that.
KING: Where do you stand?
FLEISCHER: To me, this is an essential point about Scott's book. Nothing should change. Either the war was or was not necessary. Now that Scott can look back and say the war didn't go well, we've had casualties, we didn't find the WMD we thought we'd find, how now can he say it wasn't necessary?
Either it was or wasn't necessary in 2002 and 2003. And if Scott thought it wasn't necessary then, Scott never should have accepted the position as press secretary.
If it wasn't necessary and Scott believed that in his heart, then, on principle, he should have declined to take the position as spokesman for the president.
KING: Are you saying, Ari, no doubt about it, if you felt that way, you would not have taken the job?
FLEISCHER: Oh, absolutely not. You can't speak for somebody you don't believe in or speak on behalf of something that you think is wrong. And as press secretary, the press will catch right on. If your heart isn't in it, you should not take the podium. The press will catch you and you'll be run out of town.
And to me, this is where I still can't understand Scott's consistency. If he had come to me privately, Larry, and said this is troubling, I don't think we should be doing what we're going in Iraq, I think we're selling the wars through means that we shouldn't be promoting the war, then I would a lot of understanding for why Scott is saying what he's saying now. Others in the administration did that.
Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill (ph) repeatedly clashed with people at the White House, then wrote a book about his clash. Everybody knew it was coming and it was what Paul O'Neill felt.
What's so disappointing here is that Scott never expressed this to anybody and years later, now that he is writing a book, he says this.
KING: Well, the press secretary can't clash. He either goes along or he quits.
FLEISCHER: Well, you can clash. There were times I told the president I didn't think the president said the right thing or he should have done something differently. That's your job as a staffer. Your job is to stand up and say what you think. And in the Bush White House, particularly, it was easy to do with George Bush. Karen Hughes and Karl Rove repeatedly told the president different things and would have different opinions. That's how a healthy atmosphere should be. And staffers knew that they could do that in front of the president.
KING: Have you stayed in touch with Scott?
FLEISCHER: I have, Larry. Scott will always be a friend of mine on a personal level because we were shoulder to shoulder for so much, he will always stay close no matter what.
I talked to him yesterday. And I talked to Scott about this. I think he was feeling a little bit nervous. I think he -- he knew he was crossing the rubicon. And I feel terrible for Scott, because I think he's missed here. Because he's about to make a lot of temporary friends on the left of America, who will welcome what he's saying, find vindication in it and then discard Scott 24 hours later. And he's got a lot of people who used to believe in him who really now are scratching their heads saying how could Scott do this?
KING: We have another quote we'll put up from the book. McClellan writes: "A more self- confident executive would be willing to acknowledge failure, to trust people's abilities, to forgive those who seek redemption for mistakes and show a readiness to change."
FLEISCHER: Well, on Katrina, the president obviously did that. The president acknowledged that the administration was slow to react. He accepted personal responsibility.
On Iraq, the president continues -- and I credit him for this -- to believe he did the right thing in removing the threat of Saddam. And most Americans disagree with him on that. But history will now be the judge of that issue. So, I think Scott is onto something there with some issues with the president. But I think he's not giving the president full credit, also.
KING: All right. And Scott claims that he was misled about Valerie Plame and the CIA leak.
Let's listen to McClellan when he defended Rove and Libby on the issue at a White House press briefing, and then his response when I asked him about it on my show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM OCTOBER 10, 2003)
QUESTION: Earlier this week, you told us that neither Karl Rove, Elliot Abrams nor Lewis Libby disclosed any classified information with regard to the leak. I wonder if you could tell us more specifically whether any of them told any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA?
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Those individuals -- I talked -- I spoke with those individuals, as I pointed out. And those individuals assured me they were not involved in this. And that's where it stands.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, LARRY KING LIVE)
KING: Scott, were you lied to?
MCCLELLAN: Well, Larry, I said what I believed to be true at the time. It was also what the president believed to be true at the time, based on assurances that we were both given. And knowing what I know today, I would have never said that back then.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: A proper answer, Ari?
FLEISCHER: A proper answer by Scott. In this one instance, Larry, I think Scott is right. I think Scott was deceived. I think he was misled. And I think that led to a lot of justifiable anger.
But what I disagree about is if Scott had said that about the staffers, that would be one thing. Everybody knew that and it was kind of understood in Washington. But, instead, Scott seems to have taken it out on the president and made up other issues about the president and the war in Iraq. And this is where I draw the line and think that Scott's wrong. It's just too hard to understand.
KING: What will McClellan's book mean for the candidates, the campaigns and the next president?
Some answers, after the break. When we come back, Ari will be with us. Two others join. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, APRIL 19, 2006)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's going to be hard to replace Scott. And -- but, nevertheless, he's made the decision and I accept it. One of these days, he and I are going to be rocking on old chairs in Texas talking about the good old days as his time as the press secretary. And I can assure you, I will feel the same way then that I feel now that I can say to Scott, job well done.
MCCLELLAN: I have given it my all, sir. And I have given you my all. And I will continue to do so, as we transition to a new press secretary over the next two to three weeks. Thank you for the opportunity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You will not see that scene again.
Ari Fleischer remains with us.
We're joined now in Washington by Paul Begala, CNN political analyst and former adviser in the Clinton administration and a supporter of Hillary Clinton.
And Jamal Simmons, a Democratic strategist and a supporter of Barack Obama.
The same question for all three.
We'll start with Paul. What's the affect of this on the fall campaign?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, SUPPORTS CLINTON: I think it does a serious damage to John McCain. You know, his myth is the man of the Straight Talk Express. Well, Scott McClellan says that the president used propaganda to sell the war. Well, the chief propagandist on Capitol Hill to sell that war was John McCain. He helped create those talking points, he helped create those fibs and falsehoods and carry them to the American public.
So I think McCain's credibility takes an enormous hit here. And the question will be will he ever have the character to stand up and admit, as Scott McClellan did, that they lied to the country to get us into a war?
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST, SUPPORTS OBAMA: And not only did John McCain carry the president's water on Capitol Hill, but he still continues to. In a moment where John McCain could have chosen to say you know what, this war went badly, we misled people to get here, let's find a way to get out of it, he said no. We're going to stay. We're going to stick. I don't care if it's 50 or 100 more years, troops will be on the ground in Iraq.
And, you know, the American public has signed up for a lot of things, but I don't think another Bush term is what they are really looking for.
FLEISCHER: Larry, this is the first I've ever heard that there's a transitive property of political criticism. You know, this book is what Scott said about George Bush. But if Paul and Jamal want to talk about things that were said, Bill Clinton said that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction -- biological and chemical.
So is that going to hurt Barack Obama?
SIMMONS: Yes, but Bill Clinton didn't sent us into a war, either, you know?
BEGALA: And (INAUDIBLE) the point is they...
FLEISCHER: They call it propaganda except for when their own bosses said it.
BEGALA: OK. Let me get back to (INAUDIBLE)...
FLEISCHER: And that's (INAUDIBLE).
BEGALA: First off, after he said that, he bombed every known or suspected weapons site in Iraq. Many right-wingers criticized him for doing it, but he did it. Second, he did not then try to use that to justify a preemptive war. Third, the lie was not that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Many -- most people believed that.
The lie, Ari, was your words when you said there is an imminent threat from Saddam. Saddam posed no threat. Not a grave and gathering threat, as the president said. Not a unique threat, as the vice president said. And certainly not an imminent threat.
FLEISCHER: Paul, you can't have it both ways. You can't say that George Bush engaged in propaganda and George Bush misled the country when George Bush said Saddam had weapons of mass destruction...
BEGALA: He said he was a threat.
FLEISCHER: When your boss and intelligence agencies around the world said the same thing.
KING: One at a time.
FLEISCHER: And, George Bush said he was a threat. Saddam was a threat.
BEGALA: No, he wasn't.
KING: On the question of...
FLEISCHER: One last point.
BEGALA: He wasn't a threat to this country.
FLEISCHER: Barack Obama is for change everywhere around the world, except in Iraq, where his policies would have led to the status quo of Saddam Hussein and his son still being in charge.
KING: The question of our...
FLEISCHER: Change here, status quo there.
KING: Ari, the question was what's the affect on the campaign?
FLEISCHER: Well, Larry, in that question, I don't think anything, frankly. I think that the books come, books go, books make a bit splash a lot of the time when they land and then they quickly go away. By the time next Tuesday and there's a new primary winner, I think all of this is going to be history.
KING: But, Jamal, McCain is going to have to answer to it on the -- the next time he does any press conference or does a Q&A with reporters.
That's going to be the first question, isn't it?
SIMMONS: Of course it is. And this very week, where George Bush is out campaigning for John McCain, raising money for John McCain, they're attached at the hip right now on this fundraising deal and keeping reporters, apparently, out of some of these meetings. Now, George Bush and John McCain are going to have to talk about this for the rest of the week. This is the last thing John McCain needs is people reminding them about what they don't like about Washington, since he's been here for so long.
KING: What about Dick Cheney in all of this, Paul?
He gets really racked over in this book.
BEGALA: Yes. I understand they've -- they've actually invited Scott McClellan to go quail hunting with Dick Cheney.
BEGALA: It's kind of the reward for -- for writing the book.
It's hard for the vice president to drop lower in the public esteem. I mean the president is at 27 percent in the job approval ratings. People don't even ask about Dick Cheney anymore. He's probably just down to, you know, family and close friends. But I think he's less relevant.
I do think that the attacks about how the war was sold -- this is why it does matter for McCain, because Cheney was a big part of those lives, as well. And, again, it wasn't the mere presence of weapons. It was the allegation that all of a sudden, after years of sanctions and bombing and inspections, all under Bill Clinton and George Bush's father, that all of a sudden this guy who had been so weakened by the first President Bush and by President Clinton, all of a sudden now, he posed such a threat that we had to go to war.
That was the lie that the John McCain told the country. It was the lie that Scott McClellan repeated. And it's one that McCain is going to now have to defend...
KING: All right...
BEGALA: ...against the evidence from Scott McClellan.
KING: Ari, Cheney is portrayed as the driving force behind a lot of this, isn't he?
FLEISCHER: Well, Scott has some allegations in there that I don't know that Scott was able to back up. Scott launched those suspicions against the vice president. And a lot of people have dark views of the vice president.
Much of what Scott talked about that was after I was gone. But Paul is right on one thing, people have kind of stopped asking. And I don't think Vice President Cheney is going to be running for any higher office. So it's kind of a side issue, Larry.
KING: Ari, thanks for being with us.
Maybe we'll see you tomorrow night.
FLEISCHER: Thank you.
KING: Paul Begala and Jamal Simmons remain.
And we'll be joined by Reed Dickens and Michael Reagan, two more Republican voices, joining us.
My next guest, a man who worked shoulder to shoulder with Scott in the White House is Scott.
And you're watching LARRY KING LIVE and we'll be right back.
KING: Paul Begala and Jamal Simmons remain.
We're joined here in Los Angeles by Reed Dickens, former White House assistant press secretary for President Bush. He worked for Scott McClellan.
And Michael Reagan, host of "The Michael Reagan Show," a supporter of John McCain.
All right, Reed, you worked with him. Do you speak to him?
REED DICKENS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ASSISTANT PRESS SECRETARY: Not recently. But a few months ago, he told me there were going to be newsworthy items in his book. I think that was an understatement. KING: What do you make of it?
DICKENS: You know what, I think -- I like Scott. He was good to me. He's a great guy. The problem here is -- the reality is this. You know, communicators have to articulate and relay the positions of their boss. Nobody really wants to know what you would do if you were president. Your job is to articulate the positions of your boss.
And in 2002, there were a lot more -- a lot of people that were probably more qualified for the job than Scott McClellan. The reason why he was hired was because he was loyal. And I think that's the irony of the situation. And I think I've been pretty perplexed and a little hurt by it. There was a deep affection between the staff and the president and Scott. And I think that's why people are a little hurt.
KING: Did you hire on talent? I mean loyalty is important, but doesn't talent come first?
DICKENS: Well, I think the word you heard the most used associated with Scott was loyal. And he was on message. And I think he was anything but on message in this book.
KING: Mr. Reagan, your read?
MICHAEL REAGAN, TALK RADIO HOST, SUPPORTS MCCAIN: Well, I will tell you, I think what Reed says is right. He was hired because he was loyal, instead of hiring someone who might be qualified for the position. It was an appointment by the president of the United States of America.
You know, having been in the position that you have people coming after you to write books, they want you to write a book for a reason. They want dirt so they can pay you a lot of money. I was offered a lot of money for my first book, "On the Outside Looking In." And they're...
KING: But that doesn't mean it's a lie, because you got paid a lot of money.
REAGAN: It doesn't mean it's a lie. It means that you can make stories fit, a lot of times, with publishers, in fact, want to have them fit and you make a lot of money doing it.
KING: Would you say that if a Democrat had written a book about a Democratic president?
REAGAN: Oh, yes. And it happens because I've been there and done that. Having been actually in the White House, been a member of the first family, I know how you're attacked. I was offered up to $100,000 to, in fact, tell some of the rag magazines if my brother was gay or not. Now, you know Ron. Ron is not gay. But they wanted the story. They wanted to pay $100,000. And sometimes there are people who, in fact...
KING: But that would be to write a lie. REAGAN: ...will fall for it. That would have been a lie.
KING: Are you saying anything Scott wrote is a lie?
DICKENS: I'm not. I think Scott means everything he said. I think what the problem is, Larry, is that Scott didn't just work for the president for a little while. As Ari said earlier, Scott worked for the -- he was a spokesman. He stood on the shoulders of the president for about eight years and never voiced any concerns. Scott was known for sitting quietly in meetings while everyone else debated internally. So I think the troubling thing here is not anything particularly he said in the book, it was that -- but when he chose to say it.
KING: Paul Begala, didn't memory serve (INAUDIBLE), didn't Mr. Stephanopoulos write a book about the Clintons after he left?
BEGALA: Yes. And I was exactly in the position that Reed is in. George was one of my best friends. He wrote that book. It was published while the president was still in the office. I was working in the White House at the time. And, you know, I felt the same way.
To my knowledge, which was great, everything in George's book was true. And yet I didn't think he should have written it because the president was still in office.
I feel the same way about Scott. I know Scott. I'm from Texas. I've known his mother. I knew his grandfather. That's how old I am. And his grandfather taught me in law school.
And the interesting thing is nobody is disputing any of the facts in Scott's book. And the facts are so damning. If I were to advise him, if he would have asked me, I would have said hold it until the administration is done, until the president's written his book. In my case, I never have written one and never will.
But I do understand the pain that Reed and the people who still love this president feel.
But I wonder if Scott wasn't feeling a greater debt of loyalty to the truth. Or maybe he's worried that the president is going to lie us into another war, like in Iran. Maybe that overwhelmed his vast deep loyalty to President Bush.
REAGAN: A lot of it -- a lot of it, I think, Paul and Reed and everybody, is interpretation. You're sitting in a room. People are talking about issues, going back and forth. You walk out of the room and interview everybody in the room and everybody is going to give you a different opinion of what they heard in that room. And I think what you're hearing is Scott's interpretation of what he heard.
KING: But Ari admitted that the part about Valerie Plame was correct.
REAGAN: The White House going into a mode of trying to protect itself is not new to this administration. The Clinton administration did it. The Reagan administration did it. Every administration goes into that mode when something happens in the media.
KING: Jamal, should he not have written this?
SIMMONS: You know, you probably would argue that he maybe should have waited for a while. He did have his job because the president gave it to him. But here's what is interesting to me. Scott McClellan knows better than anybody else what it's like to be a man going up against this machine at the Bush White House.
And what was it that moved him so mightily that he felt as if he had to tell the story right now?
That's the real question that I want to get from Scott when he's on this show or I know he's going to be on Wolf's show on Friday.
You know, that's what I want to know, what really moved him?
Because, you know, he's not the first person to say this. I mean we've heard from Richard Clarke, who wrote a book. We heard from Paul O'Neill, who was the subject of a book. We heard from Matt Doud, who was the subject of a long magazine piece.
Each one of these folks, after they left the president's orbit, felt as if they had to come forward and tell the country what was really happening inside that White House. And, in fact, Paul O'Neill said that George Bush was like a blind man in a room full of deaf people in meetings because he was so disengaged.
You know, people need to know that this president -- what's happening inside this president's White House.
DICKENS: Yes. There's a -- Ari already said this earlier, that those people -- Paul O'Neill, George Tenet, they voiced their concerns while they were in the White House. Scott did not voice his.
Another point about Matthew Doud and Scott McClellan is that they did not have a political or professional identity that predated Bush. I mean their careers were made by working for this president. And the president was very good to Scott. So I think the timing and the substance is disappointing to those of us who love the president.
KING: What's the effect on the...
SIMMONS: Reed (INAUDIBLE) goes back to me. What was it that made -- whether it was Matt Doud or whether it was Scott McClellan -- what was it that made them turn away from everything they knew about the president and all their friends and all their family and decide to come forward and tell the truth?
DICKENS: Yes. I wouldn't attempt to speak on behalf of either one of them.
KING: What's the effect, Michael, on the election, do you think?
REAGAN: I don't think the effect on the election it's going to be anything. Remember, John McCain ran away from George Bush before anybody else ran away from George Bush, on the Republican side of ticket. He was for what was going on in Iraq as far as going forward with the surge before George Bush was for the surge.
KING: But they didn't have enough troops.
REAGAN: So I don't believe that this is going to have any effect at all on John McCain on the election.
KING: How do you think he'll respond when he's asked tomorrow about Scott McClellan's book?
What will McCain say?
REAGAN: I don't think he'll say much at all. There's nothing he can say.
OK. Our Quick Vote question: Do you agree with the superdelegate process?
Go to CNN.com/larryking right now and tell us.
The superdelegate debate next, when our panel returns.
KING: We're back.
Let's get into a little talk about what's coming up and get back to the book later and in the nights ahead, I am sure.
Paul Begala, what does Hillary do about superdelegates, because these remaining three primaries are hardly going to be conducive?
BEGALA: Right. Neither Hillary nor Senator Obama has enough support among the real delegates voted on by real Democrats to secure this thing, apparently. So they're each going to the House of Lords that my party has. I don't like the idea of having superdelegates. It makes the Democratic Party less democratic than it ought to be.
I think she's going to make the case to them -- and I think she has a good one, which is that -- two things. she's gotten more votes than anybody else running. And she's a stronger general election candidate, if you look state by state at the key swing states. That's the case she's going to make to those superdelegates.
I do wish, when this is over, my party will look at the rules. And I don't mean to brag on the Republicans, but they have a much more sensible system. They have winner take all by state, which is just how November works. The national election is winner take all by state. We ought to have a system like that in the Democratic party.
KING: Reed, if that party gave it over to Hillary after Obama had more, but she gets some sort of super delegate, wouldn't blacks kind of revolt?
DICKENS: I think you need to step back and consider one thing, and that is if you're a super delegate, you're supposed to be focused on who can win in November. Democrats love to fall in love with personality, like Howard Dean, Barack Obama. Barack Obama I'm not putting on the same level as Howard Dean, but these personalities. Barack Obama has a much more challenging electoral math in November than Hillary Clinton does. That's an objective fact.
KING: Do you agree or disagree, Jamal?
SIMMONS: I disagree. I think both of these Democrats are on very fertile ground when it comes to take after John McCain in another third term of George Bush. When you look at Barack Obama's math, I think he actually expands the math into places that Democrats really haven't done very well in recently. So you can talk about Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa. There are different polls that show people having strength in different places. They're different maps they run on, but both of them have a lot to argue for.
Senator Clinton likes to use the argument about having the most popular votes. Well, there's a big asterisk next to that. It's sort of like a baseball record. There's a big asterisk next that. And it only counts if for you don't give Barack Obama any votes out of Michigan. You assume he got zero votes out of Michigan, and you don't count any of the caucuses, because we don't know the number of people who voted in caucuses.
So if you count that, then you say she has the most votes, but doesn't look like that's really true.
KING: Michael, as a Republican, who would you rather run against?
REAGAN: I don't know. I'd rather run against either one of them at this point in time. I honestly believe, Hillary's probably the most conservative of the two. She is the most conservative voter of the two. All of those new people that Barack Obama's brought to the playing field are not going to show up for Hillary on election day.
They don't understand politics. They don't understand the blood sport it is. And if Hillary steals this from Barack Obama, and the Democrats put themselves in this position, they're not going to understand how the game is played. They'll sit home on election day, be mad, be angry. And, I'll tell you, it's not going to bode well for the Democratic party at all.
The reason they have super delegates because they couldn't act like adults in '68 and '72. KING: Once the issues come to a fore, and there's such disagreement between McCain and whoever is the standard bearer, don't you think they'll going to go out and vote?
REAGAN: No, he's been going after young people. By and large, young people don't vote. I'll tell you how I know that. We put the burden of everything we ever pass in Washington on young people. The reason we can put it on young people is they don't vote on election day. The reason you and I get the discount is because we vote on election day.
KING: Paul, he's saying you can't win.
BEGALA: I admire Michael and he's a successful, interesting guy. But I wouldn't bet -- I will bet you a steak dinner on that, Michael Reagan. Let's put it on either Hillary or Barack. I think Hillary would be stronger. Jamal thinks Barack will be stronger. I guarantee, as we would say back in Texas, either one of these guys is going to beat John McCain like a bad piece of meat, because we've got an ace in the hole, which is going to unite the party and bring all the Democrats out. His name is George W. Bush, who John McCain's real running mate. It's McSame old thing as Bush when John McCain runs and that's going to get the Democrats coming out.
KING: The fear the Republicans are very unpopular president. You know he's unpopular.
DICKENS: Every election is about the future. Paul knows that. We saw how brilliantly that strategy worked in '04, angry at Bush. It doesn't work. So I will take the steak dinner bet, by the way, Paul. If Barack Obama is the nominee, you're going to see a challenging mat with Michigan, New Jersey, Florida.
DICKENS: There's probably seven states. So, yes, Barack Obama may bring Colorado to the table, but you're talking about West Virginia, Florida, Michigan, there's a lot of challenging states he's going to have some major challenges in.
KING: Jamal, do you feel that -- Jamal, do you feel that the country still has a good deal of racism, and that that will affect his campaign?
SIMMONS: I would imagine that there still are a bunch of people who would let race influence their decision. But what's been most impressive about this campaign, Barack Obama has done extraordinarily well in places all over the country among voters of every racial background, every income, of every -- both genders, every gender. And it doesn't matter.
And Reed likes to talk about the 2004 election. Let's talk about the 2006 election, where a bunch of members of Congress, senators ran with George Bush and they got their clocks cleaned. So, you know, I feel very good about this election, because not only do we have the unpopularity of George Bush, we've got the unpopularity of the war in Iraq, four dollars gasoline, we've got home ownership crisis, we got an economy that's in the dumper. People are ready for something different, something new, and I think the Democrats are going to be taking this election.
KING: Guys, thanks to you all. We'll have you back again. In fact, we'll have you back a lot.
Still ahead, later in the show, shocking polygamy photos. Warren Jeffs kissing his 12-year-old bride. Look at that. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator McCain doesn't want to be seen hat in hand with the president whose failed policies he promises to continue for another four years. Now the question for the American people is, do we want to continue George Bush's policy? The answer is no.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama has been to Iraq once. A little over two years ago, he went, and he has never seized the opportunity except in a hearing to meet with General Petraeus. My friends, this is a about -- this is about leadership and learning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Whole new panel joins us. Democrats all to get their version of all these goings on. In Ft. Lauderdale, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a supporter of Hillary Clinton. In Los Angeles, with us here, is Tanya Acker, Democratic strategist and supporter of Obama. In Washington is Kiki Mclean, the senior adviser to Hillary Clinton. And back in L.A., Stephanie Miller, host of talk radio's "The Stephanie Miller Show" and a supporter of Obama.
We'll start with Congresswoman Schultz. What do you make of the McClellan book?
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Well, it's like a wag the dog movie all over again. I think that he confirmed the suspicions of Democratic leaders across the country. And the things that we've been trying to hold the Bush administration accountable for over the last several years, Scott summed it all up in one book. And so, I think it validates all of the concerns that we have had, and that Americans have had and why President Bush has numbers in the 30s.
KING: Tanya, will this be used by the Democrats in November?
TANYA ACKER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think it'll absolutely be used. The interesting thing here is that there's not a whole lot of new information here. What's surprising is that it's coming from such a Bush insider, such a loyalist. I don't want to repeat what's been said so much in the program today, but the fact that you've got somebody like Scott McClellan repeating the things that Democrats have been saying for years is pretty shocking.
KING: Kiki, what's your reaction?
KIKI MCLEAN, SENIOR CLINTON CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I've got to tell you, what we learned today was bad news and the fact he did it was bad news. I think Scott McClellan's probably a decent guy. I don't know what led him to that decision. I think as professionals, those of us who are fortunate to have the adventure and the terrific experience to serve our country by serving our political leaders, this is not how you serve them best. Our presidents, our candidates for high office should be able to trust their confidence is kept, so people in the room can give honest and straightforward advice.
I think it's a bad precedent. Other people have done it, both Republicans and Democrats. I think it's crummy both times it happens. I'm sure everybody has a different motivation. I had a long discussion, one of my work partners and a long time colleague Charlie Baker has raised this issue on numerous occasions. We both agree, this is a bad trend in American politics.
KING: Stephanie, is it good to expose things? Or is it betrayal?
STEPHANIE MILLER, OBAMA SUPPORTER: Oh, from my point of view, it's nothing but good, Larry. And I love his whole take that everyone knew I was a liar. I can't believe you guys believed my lies. What was the matter with you? Like he's actually beating up on the press. He's like, intelligence was --
KING: It's a bad vibe, isn't it? Doesn't Kiki have a point?
MILLER: About what?
KING: You turning on someone who didn't do anything wrong to you?
MILLER: Oh, you know what? There's no more room under the bus in the Bush administration. Everybody's trying to get out alive. You know what I'm saying? No one wants to take the blame for this disaster.
KING: Congresswoman Schultz, are you going to use it in November?
SCHULTZ: Oh, I think we would have used it anyway, because all of those issues were out there to start with. Now we just have independent validation and confirmation that all of the concerns were true. And it's yet another example of why we can't elect a third Bush presidential term. We've got to make sure we elect a Democratic president, because we cannot do this all over again.
KING: Moving now to politics. The Clinton campaign still suggests, Tanya, that your guy can't win.
ACKER: I think they're wrong. I think they're wrong for a number of reasons. One, with all due respect to Senator Clinton and the Clinton campaign, they have a very interesting way of deciding what states are important and which ones are not. And they have a very interesting way of counting Obama supporters in some states and ignoring his supporters in other states.
Barack Obama won Virginia, for instance, right? He won more white voters in Virginia than Hillary Clinton did. This campaign, Senator Obama has been very successful in bringing new people to the table and in building new electoral alliances. So to suggest that, you know, he can't win because white people don't like him, not true. He can't win because, you know, he doesn't drink his beer right. There have been all sorts of formulations. I think they're inaccurate.
KING: Kiki, isn't it bad news if Obama is the nominee to have slashed him so much in this campaign?
MCLEAN: Listen, a lot of the things Tanya has said are things other people say. What I would say to you is that we have two great candidates in this primary race. I'm a Democrat. Larry, we talked about it before. I only get to choose one. I happen to think Senator Clinton is the better candidate. Excuse me, she has a better probability to win in November against John McCain. She carries big states with a broad coalition, like Ohio, like Pennsylvania.
Going into a big race, I think either candidate is going to have to expand the map. I think she has a better chance to expand the map.
MILLER: Larry, I feel like Hillary's GPS has malfunctioned. You know how your GPS is recalculating route. The road to the White House goes through Pennsylvania, goes through Ohio, and now apparently it goes through Puerto Rico, recalculating route. It's like what Tanya is saying; for some reason, none of the states that Barack Obama has won matters for some reason. This is how we pick a nominee, Larry, is through the delegate count and Barack Obama has won.
KING: Quick programming note, CNN will have decision day coverage of that important DNC rules committee meeting this Saturday. Wolf Blitzer will anchor it. Campbell Brown and the best political team on television will participate.
Check out our Web site, CNN.com/larryking. You can download our new podcast, "American Idol," and view our newest feature about last night. We'll be right back.
KING: What's going to happen at the rules committee meeting Saturday?
SCHULTZ: Well, I think what almost for sure will happen is that the Democratic National Committee's rules and bylaws committee will vote to seat Florida's delegation, based on the votes that were cast on January 29th, because I think it's what become abundantly clear, fortunately, to everyone involved in this now is that the Democratic nominee has to be selected by voters in all 50 states, and it can't be a made up result.
You can't seat our delegation based on a formula picked out of the air. There were votes cast on the 29th. The voters in Florida turned out in record numbers and they didn't break the rules. They shouldn't be penalized.
The question is whether or not they'll seat our full delegation, which I strongly advocate, as do the vast majority of Floridians and Democratic leaders in Florida, or whether they'll give us half a vote, but seat our full delegation. I don't think it would be serving us well going into November if they do anything short of seating our full delegation.
KING: Tanya, what do you think?
ACKER: We have to put this process in context. Nobody wants votes not to count. The reason why Florida and Michigan are not being counted now is because they broke the rules. All of the candidates said they weren't going to campaign there and it was understood those votes were not going to be counted. Hillary Clinton said in November, or at least last fall, when she was asked why she kept her name on the Michigan ballot; she said, we all know that the results of this election they're having are not going to count for anything. She said that.
And when she was no longer the front runner, we started to reengage the conversation. I think we should allow -- it would be nice to be able to have all of these voices heard. We certainly want to have people participating in this process. It is against the rules to seat those delegations. They violated the rules. All of the candidates agreed to this.
KING: Kiki, what's your read?
MCLEAN: The candidates agreed not to campaign in Florida. That's what they signed on originally. Folks should also understand that for Democrats and Democratic voters in Florida, it was a Republican state legislature that set that calendar. The voters and the Democrats of voters did not break the rules. And while I understand some of the concerns Tanya has, Senator Clinton has been an absolute advocate for having these votes counted. It wouldn't be just nice. It's the right thing to do.
Democrats will not have a victory in November if we don't have Michigan and Florida at the table with us. And that's just critical. I think when it comes to Michigan and I think when it comes to having a state as large as Florida, these are important states and I think we've got to be the party that represents getting these voters into the process.
KING: We're running short on time. Stephanie?
MILLER: I agree with Tanya. Some of the audio, I hope they will play that, which I've played on my radio, is Hillary Clinton saying this will not count. I think we all know this will not count. You know, Larry, there's no way you can go back and -- I hope they will use the audio book of Terry McAuliffe's book, where he said rules are rules when he was the DNC chair and said we will have chaos if we count these delegates.
KING: I've run short on time. I thank you all very much. I promise to do a lot more on this. Of course we will. The latest polygamy shocker is next.
KING: Welcome back.
Some shocking photographs have surfaced showing polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs kissing and hugging two young girls. The state says one was 12 years old when the photos were taken. The photos were evidence in the recent fight in Texas over the 400 plus children seized from the sect's ranch.
Caroline Jessop, a former polygamist, joins us. She's always been a valuable guest to this program.
What do you make of these photos, Carolyn?
CAROLYN JESSOP, FORMER POLYGAMIST: I'm heart broken by those photos. I know those girls personally. To me it's tragic this is going on and that children are being injured like this.
KING: How old are these girls?
JESSOP: The with red hair in the photo, she's the step daughter. She's 12. The girl with dark hair, she is a grand daughter of Meryl's. And she would be 14 in that photo.
KING: Does this prove underage marriages? Is this a marriage?
JESSOP: Oh, absolutely. Anybody who understands the FLDS standards, there is no way a man could get away with hugging and kissing a girl that he was not married to. Just absolutely not. They are definitely married.
KING: Carolyn, this is only one case in 400 cases. And, of course, the court has already ruled that many can go back. And if they don't make another decision by the 17th, they will maybe all go back. So this is just the ruling in one case. Do you think it should affect others?
JESSOP: I -- you know, I'm heart broken over the decisions that the courts have made. I feel like these children are being abused. They need to be protected. And the tragedy with sending them back is that the FLDS do not have a good history of working with law enforcement. They may agree to a lot of things with CPS, and then the minute they have kids back, my concern is they'll disappear.
KING: You said you know both girls, what can you tell us about them?
JESSOP: Well, I've been away for five years. So my step daughter was very young when I left. And she's just a beautiful little girl. She's adorable. And then, the grand daughter, you know, I spent -- I was around her quite a bit with her growing up, gorgeous baby, incredibly gorgeous little girl. And she's just a little bit younger than my oldest daughter. And so -- it's just heart breaking to me because these girls deserve protection and deserve a chance at a decent life and they're not being allowed that.
KING: The Texas Agency of Child Protective Services is not making any comment on these photos. But obviously they're going to be a major part of the case, don't you think?
JESSOP: I would hope so. I mean, this is the man that this community worships as a god. He is their prophet and he's being allowed full access to children. If that doesn't put every child that he has -- you know, where the parents believe he's a prophet, if that doesn't put every one of them at risk, I'd like to know what does.
KING: How do their parents approve?
JESSOP: Well, when I was involved with this community, you know, anything the prophet orders a parent to do, you are to do it. It's seen as a privilege to obey the will of god in your life, even though your heart is coming apart with what you do. You do not question under any circumstances if the prophet of god is telling you to do it. It is a commandment of god. If you question him, you're questioning god.
KING: How many wives does Jeffs have?
JESSOP: The last count that I was aware of was 180. So that's the last that I was aware of.
KING: Carolyn is, by the way, an author of a new book called "Escape," which is what she did.
Do you think more will?
JESSOP: I hope so, Larry. I really hope so. I hope that as more light is shed on what's occurring and the crimes that are occurring, that more people will step up and be willing to help women leave this lifestyle. And hopefully as things come apart, women will be willing to leave this lifestyle and make an effort to take a stand for their children, like I did and protect them.
KING: No one in that community can look at that picture and be happy, can they?
JESSOP: I do not see how any mother with a daughter could see a picture like that and think that's OK. I mean, we all have emotions as a mother.
KING: Neither could I.
Thank you, Carolyn. Carolyn Jessop, six generation polygamist, grew up in the FLDS community in Arizona, and has a terrific new book out called "Escape." Thanks, Carolyn.
JESSOP: Thank you.
KING: We want to clarify the FDA's stance on cell phone safety from last night's program. According to the Food and Drug Administration Web site, the available scientific evidence does not show that any health problems are associated with using wireless phones. There is no proof, however, that wireless phones are absolutely safe. The FDA does not suggest replacing cell phones with regular phones.
But it does provide recommendations for consumers that do have concerns about cell phones. One, use your cell phone less often. Two, keep the cell phone away from your body or use a hands-free tip. For more information from the FDA on cell phone safety, visit FDA.gov. And our special thanks again to Dale Cochran and Dr. Keith Black for joining us on our program last night.
For more information about the Johnnie Cochran Brain Tumor Center, visit the Department of Neurosurgery Web site at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. That's CSMC.edu.
Tomorrow, more on the Scott McClellan fallout and firestorm. That's LARRY KING LIVE Thursday.
Time now -- Anderson Cooper and "A.C. 360" -- Anderson.