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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Supreme Court Rules for YFZ Moms; Does Tell-All Tell the Truth?
Aired May 29, 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, breaking news late today -- ultimate victory for the polygamy moms. The Supreme Court of Texas rules 400 plus children taken by the state must be returned to their parents.
Are the justices acting in the kids' best interests?
The court of public opinion may not be too sure.
Plus, the fallout continues. The firestorm rages over Scott McClellan's harsh White House tell-all, forcing the once loyal adviser to President Bush to be on the defensive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The White House would prefer that I not talk openly about my experiences.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Is he a turncoat, truth-teller or something in between?
It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We begin with the big story out of Texas tonight, that the ruling of the Texas Supreme Court not overruling the Texas lower court, in essence, freeing all those kids to go home.
With us in San Angelo, David Mattingly, our CNN national correspondent, who's been with this story from the get go.
Willie Jessop, a spokesman for the YFZ Ranch families.
And in San Angelo, as well, Rod Parker, attorney for FLDS.
All right, David, in essence, what did they say?
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This court essentially slammed the door on Child Protective Services here in Texas. The state authorities here had argued that they needed to take all of these children away from the ranch because of practices they saw going on there.
What the court ruling says is you can't do that. You have to come up with specific evidence for each individual child to show that they are in imminent danger. And then, and only then, can you take them into custody. So now, the state has to let these kids go -- another problem in itself, because the state is saying we don't know who all of these kids belong to. We haven't gotten the DNA results back yet to determine who the biological parents are.
What this ruling does not do, however, is close this investigation. The CPS can still work individual cases and still look for evidence of abuse. But in order to take kids into custody, they have to produce evidence for those individual kids.
Now, when these kids go back home, the state can still impose some type of restrictions on them. They can indicate conditions where they can only go to a certain geographic area of the state so they can keep tabs on them. If the state comes up with evidence of possible abuse, then the alleged abuser can be taken out of the house and the child then can be allowed to stay.
KING: It's all case by case and they acted unilaterally.
Rod Parker, as an attorney, it is not likely, is it, that the United States Supreme Court will hear this?
ROD PARKER, ATTORNEY, FLDS FAMILIES: No. This was decided on issues of state law and state statute. And I think it would be extremely unlikely for the Supreme Court to take this case.
KING: What do you think will happen? Do you think they'll all start going back?
PARKER: We're hoping to see children start coming home as early as tomorrow. I think that we haven't heard the last of this case. I think that there may be some efforts on the part of the state to look at individual situations.
But as David just said, they have to look at it on an individual by individual basis. They can't simply say well, no child can return to the ranch or no child can be with a father or anything like that. They have to look at each child and say as to this child, what is the evidence and can this child be legitimately said to be at any immediate risk, and then move forward on that basis.
And we'll just have to leave it to the state to see if they want to move forward on that basis.
KING: Willie, what about the DNA factor?
How are they going to match all the children -- the right children with the right parents?
WILLIE JESSOP, SPOKESMAN, YFZ RANCH FAMILIES: You know, Larry, that's one thing about it. If the state would just be honorable enough to take those children back where they got them, they know who their parents are. We know who the parents are. That is a very -- that is a problem we'd love -- we'd love to figure that out all to ourselves. We don't need the state to be telling us who our parents are. We're pretty intelligent. We can figure it out on our own. KING: Were you surprised by...
JESSOP: But they'll just take them right back and...
KING: Were you surprised by the supreme court's ruling today -- or no ruling?
JESSOP: Larry, you know, no. At some point, somebody had to take a look at this. You cannot wipe out an entire community in an entire town over an allegation that's so blanketed. I mean it's like let's take out every Catholic because we don't like their practice or there may be some wrongdoing. But you can't take out a whole community.
At some point, everyone has to look at each other -- each case individually. We hoped that that would not happen and we're very grateful that here in America, it didn't happen, after months and weeks of this tragedy and...
KING: The Texas Child Protective Services have issued -- they've issued a statement on today's decision. It says, in part -- and we'll put it on the screen -- "We are disappointed, but we understand and respect the court's decision and will take immediate steps to comply. We will continue to prepare for the prompt and orderly reunification of these children with these families. We will also work with the district court to ensure the safety of the children and that all of our actions conform with the decision of the Texas Supreme Court."
David, that seems to be saying that's it, we surrender.
MATTINGLY: Not so much surrender, but they do still have options. They realize they can't continue to follow this blanket approach that they've been doing, a one size fits all investigation. They now have to go individually with these children -- 400 plus children. It now -- it's always been a monumental task. It's now gotten even bigger and probably even harder to investigate for the state when they have to look at each of these cases individually now.
So they're not giving up, but they certainly do not have a very easy road ahead of them.
KING: Do you expect, Rod Parker, that when returned, they will stay where they were, at the YFZ Ranch?
PARKER: Well, I think that remains to be seen as to some. And we have to see what the court orders in that regard. My impression is that the parents would like to stay at the ranch. They would like to raise their children at the ranch. There are some people who are at the ranch visiting who actually don't live at the ranch. There were some people visiting from Canada, for example. I would expect they would want to take their children back to Canada as soon as the court releases them to do that.
KING: Willie, when do you start -- when do you expect to see the beginning of the return?
JESSOP: You know, we'd -- you know, if we had our way, it would be tonight. You know, we'd love to just go to the shelters and go to wherever they're at and pick these children up and get them home, get them in the arms of their father and mother. And we'd love to have that happen tonight.
But, you know, we'll follow whatever the court does tomorrow. But we're looking forward to a miracle and this is a great step toward it.
KING: Thank you, all three of you, very much.
The court of public opinion weighs in when LARRY KING LIVE returns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am just here to say that I am happy they're sending all the children back to their mothers and they're home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Joining us now in Austin, Texas, Susan Hayes, attorney ad litum for a 2-year-old girl removed from the YFZ Ranch by Texas authorities.
In New York, Lisa Bloom, host of "Open Court" on truTV, an attorney herself.
And in Charlotte, North Carolina, Kathy Jo Nicholson, who left the FLDS when she was 18. She was one of 13 children born into a polygamist marriage with three wives.
She, by the way, has a Web site outofpolygamy.com.
Susan, you kind of forecast this, didn't you? It's not a surprise to you.
SUSAN HAYS, REPRESENTS FLDS CHILD: Well, I wasn't sure what they were going to do. But I am very pleased to see the opinion. I think it's the fastest and the fairest I've seen this court move in a long time.
KING: Did it surprise you?
That's a conservative court.
HAYS: It didn't because a good judicial conservative follows the statute. And the Texas statute, as written, requires that there be more of an evidentiary showing and it requires that reasonable efforts be made to avoid removal, such as having the alleged perpetrators leave the premises.
You know, there were nine votes here to return the boys and the younger girls and six votes to return the teenage girls. And that's a pretty strong vote count. KING: Lisa Bloom, what's your read?
LISA BLOOM, ATTORNEY, "OPEN COURT," TRUTV: Well, I agree with Justice Harriet O'Neill, the sole female member of the Texas Supreme Court, who was joined by two of her colleagues, who says look, what about the pubescent girls?
They are in serious danger of sexual abuse. There are at least five girls that were taken into custody who were underage and pregnant or already mothers, 16 or younger.
It's very clear what's going on in that community. There was testimony that spiritual marriage could take place at any age. At first menstruation, girls were eligible for pregnancy. Warren Jeffs is already a convicted felon, convicted of accomplice to rape Elissa Wall. The young girl -- now a woman -- who prosecuted him was 14 when she was forced to have sex with this underage marriage.
BLOOM: We know what's going on in the cult. They have to protect the children. I applaud the State of Texas for trying to do something.
KING: But, Lisa, all those children -- what about all the other children that have parents and weren't beaten?
There were no individual charges, as the courts say. This is a case by case basis in every district and jurisdiction in the country.
What about them?
BLOOM: We're not talking about beatings. We're talking about a culture that compels underage girls over and over again to have sexual relations they don't want to have. You know, this is America. We don't tolerate extremist sects that say this is what we're going to do to young girls. They have rights as American citizens not to have sexual relations...
KING: All right...
BLOOM: ...not to be forced to marriage. And this is an entire cult that promulgates this attitude.
KING: Let me get the reaction of Kathy Jo Nicholson, herself a former member.
Kathy Jo, what do you make of the decision?
KATHY JO NICHOLSON, MAY HAVE FAMILY AT YFZ RANCH: You know, I agree with Lisa 100 percent. I know the culture from being inside. I went to outside academy. And for people to look from the outside to the inside and assume that these people are living in single family homes and that each home and each family should be looked at differently as far as the abuse, that's just not the case.
This is a community -- this is a -- they're fenced in. These children are in imminent danger. They -- my accolades go out to the social workers that have tried. I pray that they'll continue. I believe, though, that these children -- you know, there may be two, three, four year olds that go back.
But what about when they're 10, 11, 12?
We see the pictures of Warren on the Internet today...
KING: Kathy, do you think Warren Jeffs, that picture of him and that marriage, apparently married and kissing that young girl, would have an effect on this?
NICHOLSON: I would hope so. That does not go on unless they are spiritually married. So they've made a commitment to him. And I don't care if these children are smiling and seem happy -- of course, they've probably have been told that they'll have their eternal salvation with Warren.
They're children. They're in imminent danger.
KING: Susan, is the key the fact that the statute states that they're individual cases?
HAYS: That is the key. But I think the other thing everyone should understand here is this case is not over. The investigation continues. And, in truth, the way a child abuse investigation like this works is it's a chance for parental redemption. To the extent there are problems with the culture and with the practices, now is the time and the opportunity and the mandate to change them.
KING: Lisa, you agree?
BLOOM: Well, I agree. It would be nice to see that, but there's no indication of that. Warren Jeffs' picture is prominently displayed in practically every room in that cult. I mean we've seen that. He's a convicted felon and he is still revered by the cult.
You know, these girls, over and over again, Larry, are escaping from the cult at great fear at night, you know, with some family member helping them at the edge of town. We've got to take seriously what's going on here. We've got to take seriously this is sexual abuse of young girls, as the three members of the Texas court at least did today.
KING: Kathy Jo, do you fear for these people?
NICHOLSON: I do. I am sure that these parents are elated to believe that their children are coming back to them. I have -- I would hope that they -- you know, my feeling is that some of these women have been betrayed by the justice system at this point, because maybe in their own secret heart they felt that this was the opportunity without, you know, being able to save face inside the community, to go out and experience the outside.
And I really do feel like them -- the court system giving their children back and them being locked inside again is a betrayal. KING: We apparently maybe have not heard the last of this.
Thank you, ladies.
The Scott McClellan memoir is generating more heat today. We'll get into a sizzling discussion about it with two former White House press secretaries.
You're watching LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: Joining us now from Washington is Dee Dee Myers. She served as White House press secretary for President Clinton from January of '93 through December of '94. And she's author of "Why Women Should Rule the World."
And in Stanford, Connecticut, Ari Fleischer. He was the White House press secretary under George W. Bush, was succeeded in that post-by Scott McClellan. McClellan is the author of the bombshell new book -- number one on Amazon already, titled "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception".
Dee Dee, what's your thought on this?
DEE DEE MYERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY, PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, I think a lot of people, including me, were surprised by a lot of the things that Scott said in his book. I know Scott just a little bit. He's always been a gracious and kind person to me. I think he's a sincere guy.
But I was surprised by some of the things he said in the book. And I think he wrote the book -- he really thought of it in a broader context, which is all the things that we all know are wrong with Washington -- the partisanship, the way the system requires you to sort of win the battle as opposed to, you know, addressing bigger issues and trying to solve our problems.
But I think that he may have missed the fact that some of the allegations that he makes, some of the claims that he makes overwhelmed any other argument he was trying to put out there and the whole book is really being read as simply an attack on the Bush administration by a guy who was there and didn't say much at the time.
KING: Ari, one of the puzzling things is, how do you divide the line between OK, let's say it's a betrayal, but what if he's writing -- what if what he's writing is the truth?
Isn't it better that as a society, we learn the truth, even though it's a betrayal?
ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY, PRESIDENT G.W. BUSH: But, Larry, it's not the truth. It's...
KING: It's not the truth.
FLEISCHER: You know, I don't like to use worlds like that, Larry. But I just don't think it's an accurate representation of anybody who was in the White House at the time, including Scott, saw. The worst part about the book is the part that Scott was not in the meetings for, which is when he was deputy press secretary for domestic matters. And that was the lead-up to the war in Iraq, which now Scott charges was propagandized and he says that the president misled the country.
Well, he doesn't back up the charges. There's no substance behind anything in what he wrote there. He just launches the charge.
So it's wrong on its face, wrong in substance, but, also, it's the very thing that Scott himself is decrying. It's the use of innuendo and just attack your opponent. In this case, Scott has made his opponent the president who gave him the job he used to serve for.
He has the right to do that, but isn't Scott doing the same thing he accuses people of doing that shouldn't be happening?
KING: So it's not the same as, say, a whistleblower in the tobacco industry who reveals things about what the tobacco industry was doing, while he worked there?
FLEISCHER: Well, only if you think the president is a cigarette. And that's the problem with it. There are certain people on the left who are going to praise Scott for 24 hours and then ditch him, because they equate the president with being the equivalent of a cigarette company. But most people don't. And that's where, especially for those who knew Scott...
FLEISCHER: ...it's so puzzling.
MYERS: You know what's interesting, though. Ari, you -- I've heard you and many others take on some of the substance of the charges about Iraq and some of that, you know, may or may not be true. But there's very little criticism of him on the substance of other claims, for example, that the administration seriously mishandled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, that, you know, the administration seemed in denial for at least the first week and then botched the delivery of resources to...
FLEISCHER: But, Dee Dee, the president acknowledged...
MYERS: ...people that were suffering very much.
FLEISCHER: The president acknowledged the mistakes. He took personal responsibility for the mistakes the federal government made. But Scott then also wrote that the president doesn't like to acknowledge when he's wrong. So that's where I think Scott's just gone off field.
MYERS: I don't think the American people -- I don't think the American people have any sense that President Bush has acknowledged mistakes. You know, maybe one or two. But I don't think the depth of the mistakes that were made have been acknowledged by this administration and I think that the public feels...
FLEISCHER: But, Dee Dee you just raised -- you just raised Katrina...
MYERS: ...very strongly that President Bush doesn't acknowledge when he makes mistakes.
FLEISCHER: You just talked about Katrina...
MYERS: And that's a very strong sense of this person (ph).
FLEISCHER: ...and pivoted off it as soon as I rebutted it. Scott's point on Katrina was rebutted by the facts that took place at the time at the White House.
MYERS: You didn't -- I didn't pivot off it, but...
KING: OK, guys. One at a time.
Scott appeared today on "The Today Show."
And here's what he said about one of the defining moments he claims left him dismayed and disillusioned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCLELLAN: But the other defining moment was in early April 2006, when I learned that the president had secretly declassified the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq for the vice president and "Scooter" Libby to anonymously disclose to reporters. And we had been out there talking about how seriously the president took the selective leaking of classified information. And here we were learning that the president had authorized the very same thing we had criticized.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Dee Dee, isn't it important that we know that?
MYERS: Yes, I think that that's -- I think that's a factual revelation. That's something that happened to Scott that he witnessed. I don't think anybody can take that away from him. We all remember the president criticizing the selective leaking of intelligence for what he called political purposes at the time. So I think that's a good example of a piece of information.
But, you know, just in a broader context, I do think that it's difficult for people to write a book in the immediate months or even a couple of years when they come out of the White House. I think there's so much emotion wrapped up in things that happened, particularly to people like Scott, who were disappointed and felt betrayed by the people that were supposed to be on his team, people that clearly lied to him or presented information to him in a way that was meant to misinform him and misrepresent what had happened and then send him out to repeat that misinformation or those lies to the American people.
And I think that's one of the reasons that sometimes it's probably better to take a little time, to step back, to put it in some kind of a broader perspective. And then maybe take a little bit more time before you write those -- these kinds of books, because I think you open yourself up to a lot of attacks in a situation like this.
KING: Ari, I want to show you another clip and get you to comment. This is more of the controversial stuff in the book and his discussion on "The Today Show" this morning. This is about the war with Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCLELLAN: And you get caught up in trying to sell this war to the American people. Paul Wolfowitz went and said publicly that the rationale that we all agreed on that would be the best selling point for this war was the weapons of mass destruction, and, obviously, the connection to Iraq.
And much of that information was based in what could be substantiated. But at the same time, as we accelerated the buildup to the war, the information that we were talking about became a little more certain than it was. The caveats were dropped. Intelligent -- you know, contradictory intelligence was ignored.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FLEISCHER: I just couldn't disagree more on substance. The president in October 2002 in a speech in Cincinnati that there were numerous reasons that we might have to take military action -- the most dangerous one being the information we was given that Saddam Hussein had biological and chemical weapons.
Those were the facts. And the president consistently brought those facts to the public.
And my point on the biggest picture of all, Larry, is after September 11th, what president, being told that Saddam had biological and chemical weapons -- had America been subject to one sneak attack, would have said well, there's nothing we can do about Saddam, let him have them?
This is a president who took action. I think we're still safer and better for it. But I just don't understand how Scott can say there was substantiation for what the president said and then accuse the president of using propaganda.
KING: All right. Were you guys -- Dee Dee, were you always in the loop? MYERS: No, I wasn't always in the loop. I mean it depended on, at times, the issue; at times the configuration of other people who were in the room. You know, I think it's something that all press secretaries work hard to try to make sure that they're in the loop. And I think most press secretaries feel that it works better on some days for them than it does on others.
MYERS: And I, for one, was out of the loop on certain days.
KING: Ari, were you always in the loop?
FLEISCHER: Larry, I was not in the president's CIA briefings or at National Security Council meetings. I don't know that any press secretary ever has been or should be. I was always in the summit meetings with foreign leaders, either abroad or at home. That's where I would hear the president talk about foreign policy, Iraq, his intentions, etc. Not in the military planning meetings. Of course not.
KING: All right, we're going to take a break.
FLEISCHER: And Scott...
KING: We'll be right back.
And we'll pick up with more. They'll both be back with us.
Our quick vote question for you tonight, was it right for Scott McClellan to write his insider book?
Go to CNN.com/larryking and tell us.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCLELLAN: What the president made very clear was that it's important that we gather all the facts and it's important that we compare those facts with what we believed before the war. He's very committed -- he's very committed to making sure that we do that, that we look at all the facts and compare that with what we knew before the war. Intelligence is something that we take very seriously in this administration. But regardless, Saddam Hussein's regime was a grave and gathering threat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Dee Dee Myers and Ari Fleischer remain with us. We're joined in Washington by Jay Carney, Washington bureau chief of "Time Magazine." Jay was "Time's" White House correspondent during the run- up to the Iraq war. What do you make of the book?
JAY CARNEY, "TIME MAGAZINE": Two things, Larry. First, I am as surprised as anyone, as surprised even as Ari Fleischer and others from the White House, that this book was written by Scott McClellan. He always seemed to be the most loyal, the least likely to betray the president with a book like this. And in part I say this because even though he was always a very nice guy, Larry, a lot of people, from my side of this, from the media side, felt that Scott was put in to replace Ari largely as a sign of the kind of contempt the administration had for the press, because it was a signal to us that they didn't take the job that seriously, because he was such a loyalist. He was not going to serve the needs of the press.
My second comment is, especially after watching him this morning, is it is clear to me that he wrote this book. He wasn't pushed into it by the publisher. And there is nothing in it, save one allegation about a meeting potentially between Scooter Libby and Karl Rove, there is nothing in it that you can particularly discredit. They are largely observations and I think a lot of it is on the money.
KING: Jay, Scott McClellan says he once promised the White House press corps, and you were on of them that he would write a book when his days as Oval Office spokesman were over. Do you have any recollection of that?
CARNEY: I don't specifically remember it, but I'm sure if he did say it, we all thought, sure, that will be a great read, because it will be a good, I don't know, like some others that have been written that were revealed almost nothing.
I want to go something that Ari said, this whole idea that he's confecting the propagandistic nature of the selling of the war. In a statement by Andy Card that the White House never effectively refuted, where he told a reporter -- where he talked about selling the war as a kind of product roll out. There was never any formalized dispute of that statement by the chief of staff of the White House.
Also, it is a well-established fact that the White House and the administration wrestled with the decision over whether it should be sold as a democratization, the idea that bringing democracy to Iraq would be a good thing for America because it would spread democracy around the region, or should they sell it as the threat of WMD, which was scarier, more threatening. And a decision was made to push WMD as the primary reason for going to war. I think that's indisputable.
KING: Ari, you wan to respond?
FLEISCHER: Well, sure. Jay says there's nothing here that doesn't hold up. It all holds up, Jay says. Scott also said, and I think Jay just proven how wrong it is, that the press was easy on the Bush administration. I think when you listen to a reporter like Jay, you know how tough he can be on everybody. That's his job.
Scott said the press was easy on them. The point here is, it's one thing to use the term sell the war, promote what you're doing. To call it propaganda is a loaded word. It means you are really falsify things. And Scott said misleading the public, manipulating information. That's where I really draw the line. To accuse the president and the White House of manipulating information, when we accurately passed on what the CIA told us that Saddam had biological and chemical weapons, that's truth-telling. That is reporting it just as we were told it by the CIA. Not manipulative.
KING: Dee Dee?
MYERS: Well, I think that's patently untrue, Ari, because, among other things, the White House put into the president's State of the union Address information about yellow cake uranium which had already been discredited and called into question. And I think one of the points that Scott makes, too, that was interesting, and was something that I've certainly reflected on is that the administration seemed to package together highly credible information from the intelligence services with much less creditable information to try to make a more convincing package.
And the net result of that is people came away feeling like they had been deceived. I think the American people do feel in many ways that they're been deceived.
KING: Let's take a quick look at Scott McClellan talking about President Bush and the decision to go to war. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCLELLAN: He largely is a gut player. I think he will admit that, that he goes on gut instincts when he makes decisions. That's what happened in the decision to go into Iraq. I think very early on, just a couple of months after -- a few months after September 11, he made a decision that we're going to confront Saddam Hussein, and if Saddam Hussein doesn't come fully clean, then we're going to go to war. So there was really no flexibility in his approach.
And then it was put on the advisers, OK, how do we go about implementing this? How do we go about doing this?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Jay, that is McClellan's thoughts about how Bush operated. It isn't a fact, is it? It's his thoughts.
MCCLELLAN: Those are his thoughts. And these are observations. And they echo other observations. You have to take them with a grain of salt. It's one man's perspective, one man who was very close to the president. But I think that's true. And I think Ari would certainly confirm that the president is a gut player.
And I had that conversation with him when he was governor about how he makes decisions. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. And others have said that he's not particularly reflective and certainly doesn't look back after making a decision. Earlier in the discussion, we talked about whether the president admitted mistakes, and I think it's also certainly true that the president didn't like making mistakes, most presidents don't, but that this administration was particularly wary of ever saying the president was wrong, because they felt like the public reaction to that would be extremely damaging.
KING: Ari, true?
FLEISCHER: Well, take a look at that sentence. If Saddam doesn't come clean, then the president wanted to remove him, and the Scott says the president showed no flexibility. His own definition is flexibility. He says if Saddam didn't come clean. I don't think it's right to say that started months after September 11. The president explicitly ruled out thinking that Saddam had anything to do with 9/11, because he didn't, or that we were targeted by them.
This all came to be in the fall of 2002. So, Scott's timing is wrong on this. But also, his allegation that the president was hell bent to do this is just wrong.
KING: Quickly, guys.
CARNEY: Larry, quickly, "Time" magazine reported twice that in the spring of 2002, the president walked into Condi Rice's office, where there were several senators briefing her on a trip from a conference. They were talking about Saddam Hussein. He walked in and said, you talking about Saddam Hussein? Forget him, we're taking him out. I think this was where the president's mind was. I'm sure that the process played out for the rest of the year. I think he was focused on removing Saddam Hussein from power.
KING: Dee Dee, quickly, what do you think this book plays in the political race in November?
MYERS: Well, you know, the half life of memory in political campaigns is very short. I do think this contributes to the sense that we know the Bush administration, we want them gone. This is sort of the public sense. And I think in that regard it's bad news for John McCain. The more the president's credibility is eroded and the more that McCain is linked to Bush and his ideas and his policies, particularly on Iraq, the worse it is for him. I don't know that this will still be front and center in people's minds by November.
KING: Thanks again to all of you. Terrific stuff.
All right. A big political weekend ahead. Can Hillary Clinton pull a rabbit out of a hat? Next.
KING: Politics and other things, our panel is assembled. In Washington, Congressman Robert Wexler, Democrat of Florida, a supporter of Barack Obama. In Washington as well, Lanny Davis, he was special counsel to President Clinton and a supporter of Hillary Clinton. In New York, Kellyanne Conway, Republican strategist and pollster and a supporter of John McCain. And in Philadelphia is Michael Smerconish, talk radio host, columnist for the "Philadelphia Daily News" and the "Philadelphia Enquirer." He is a Republican.
Congressman Wexler, is it true you want Scott McClellan to testify before Congress?
REP. ROBERT WEXLER (D), FLORIDA: Oh, yes. I think it's very important, given the startling revelations that he's made, particularly with respect to the discussions between Scooter Libby and Karl Rove, with respect to the outing of the former CIA agent. These are matters that should be discussed in the context of the oversight hearings that the House Judiciary Committee is doing.
I think what is most remarkable is, given that he's said so much in his book, the administration should not be able to talk about any type of privilege. We on the Judiciary Committee, in my view, we need to be more aggressive in forcing this administration to before Congress. This administration has the worst record in the history of our nation in terms of avoiding coming to Congress.
KING: Kellyanne, shouldn't he appear? What's wrong with learning more?
KELLYANNE CONWAY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It would be great if they put him under oath, because nobody is under oath when they write a book, and their editors certainly aren't.
KING: So, you favor him testifying?
CONWAY: I do. I think that he probably would take the Fifth Amendment on some things, because --
KING: Why would you guess that?
CONWAY: Because it's very different when you launch an attack, and when you make a claim in a book and you don't substantiate it. When you go before members of Congress, like Mr. Wexler, you are going to have to substantiate that, because people will be asking you questions. When you write a book, nobody is asking you questions. You are able to say whatever you want. It goes into the book shelves.
He got his 30 pieces of silver. I think it would be much tougher for him to go before Congress.
KING: Lanny, anything about this book upset you?
LANNY DAVIS, FMR. SPECIAL COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT CLINTON: I think there are certain ground rules that, when I wrote my book about my White House experience, followed personally, which is that I never violated a private conversation or a scene in which the person that I was involved with in a particular occasion didn't know ahead of time that I might be writing or disclosing something. So to the extend that Scott did that, I think it's probably a wrong thing for him to do.
But I give him the benefit of the doubt. Something drove him to be this unhappy. I give President Bush the benefit of the doubt. I think he sincerely believed there were weapons of mass destruction and I think he sincerely believed that taking out Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do. I just happen to disagree with him. But I don't impugn bad motives, and I do feel that Scott McClellan was driven by a deep unhappiness to do this, because he was so close to George Bush. Something drove him to do this.
KING: Michael, isn't it important, whether it's betrayal or not, that we learn more than we knew?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It is, if there's a smoking gun. I think the only news in this case so far is the identity of the speaker. I don't that there have been any revelations so far. Larry, while everyone else is asking why, why did he write the book; me, I'm asking, why now? This guy is a political animal. Surely, he knew this would be a poor reflection on John McCain. And I have to say it, in my mind, it raises the issue of whether he wants to see Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton elected president of the United States.
KING: We'll be back with more of the panel.
By the way, stay with CNN Saturday for special coverage of the Democrats and their meeting. How many delegates from Florida and Michigan should they seat? Big question, big consequences, CNN this weekend. More on the Michigan and Florida delegate mess. That's ahead on LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: Congressman Wexler, what's going to happen Saturday when the rules committee meets?
WEXLER: Well, first and foremost, I know that Senator Obama supports the fact that Florida must be represented at the national convention. What I hope all Democrats would agree is that we must emerge from the Saturday meeting a more unified party, getting ready for the general election. We have to respect the rules that were in place. But we have to enter into a consensus agreement.
And Senator Obama has said he's willing to enter into a compromise, Larry. Mind you, that would most likely benefit Senator Clinton in terms of gaining delegates.
But there needs to be an effort to bring both the Florida and the Michigan issues to a close, so that Democrats can unite, and more than anything, as a Floridian, I want to make certain that, in fact, Floridians are represented at the convention.
KING: Kellyanne, do you expect your opponents, the Democrats, to come out of this united?
CONWAY: Not by Saturday. You have more primaries on Sunday and more primaries on Tuesday. It all sounds nice and pretty, but the fact is, let's not perfume the pig here, the Democrats have some seriously deep fissures that they are going to have to mend outside of any formal rules committee. And we all know that the Clinton supporters, some Clinton supporters, are going to be there protesting.
You have a lot of women there who are protesting. You see a steady erosion of white women going away from Barack Obama to John McCain right now, as it becomes more clear that perhaps Barack Obama will be the Democratic nominee.
But if you are Hillary Clinton, why should you get out of the race? I'm not one of these people who think that she should. This is the most important contest of her life, of what's going on in the nation this year, and whoever exits the contest before the final victor can actually claim victory?
KING: Lanny, what do you think is going to happen?
DAVIS: I think Bob Wexler is, as usual, right and fair and is looking for a solution that is going to bring our party together, and I think that solution is that 1.3 million people in Florida, a record turnout, when they were told their votes didn't count, voted. And those votes should count. They wanted and would have revoted. Senator Nelson proposed a revote. It didn't happen.
I'm sorry that Senator Obama didn't step up to the line right then and help that revote. But I think Bob Wexler's got it right. We're on different sides of the question, we used to be on the same side when he was defending President Clinton. I appreciate him greatly then. We're going to have a solution. And I think the party will come together. These two great candidates, agree on most issues. We're going to be unified.
KING: Michael, what do you think?
SMERCONISH: Well, I think there's a fundamental misunderstanding of the super delegate role that I hear. Super delegates exist for one purpose, to select a winner. Their existence is a direct reflection of what happened in the Democratic party in 1972 when they carried one state for McGovern. So you have to at least give Senator Clinton credibility in raising the issue can she win in November and he can't, and that's a basis, in and of itself, for the super delegates to look at her. I don't hear anybody saying that.
KING: We'll look at national security and the two candidates, and we'll show you a clip of how they're going at each other, when we come back. Don't go away.
KING: We're back. Barack Obama and John McCain trading jabs over Iraq and various national security issues. They go back and forth. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't like the idea of using a trip to Iraq as a political stunt. I think it's very important when I'm there to listen to the troops, listen to the commanders on the ground. And I suspect that before the fall election I will be taking another visit.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Most importantly, he doesn't understand the situation in Iraq. He doesn't get it. This is now the 872nd day since Senator Obama went to Iraq, once.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: What do you make of this going and coming, Michael? We start with you this time.
SMERCONISH: Well, Larry, I believe that the primary campaign season was a muzzled season. I thought it was tame. I think Barack Obama was scared to death of being called a sexist if he went after Senator Clinton. Senator Clinton concerned about being called a racist if she went after Obama. But in the general election, I believe the gloves are off. And Senator Obama has drawn a line in the sand, I think, to his credit, and said, you're not going to swift boat me. I'm willing to take you on national security. And by the way, where's bin Laden.
KING: Lanny Davis, good point?
DAVIS: Michael Smerconish always makes good points. And that's a great point. Where is bin Laden, and what was the point of the war in Iraq? And Senator McCain does have some positive things to be able to point to involving increase stability, less violence, and maybe even some progress that's going on politically on the ground there. What he hasn't been able to explain is, what is our objective. Are we nation building or securing our shores? I think the American people have decided it's not worth another life to help Baghdad solve its problems. They have to solve their own problems.
CONWAY: All Senator McCain did was ask Barack Obama to accompany him to Iraq. Barack Obama said this is some type of political stunt. Look, campaigning for the Democratic primary nomination in Guam does not qualify as a foreign excursion. Barack Obama has not been there in over two years. I think that's legitimate. If you want to be commander in chief, why aren't you going to visit the troops or talking to the generals who are there on the ground? I think Barack Obama is smart enough, and his advisers certainly are, to know that he may not be warmly received there, perhaps respectfully (ph) received.
But he's the man saying we have to pull out of Iraq immediately. And everybody here presumes that the troops there are all going to be in agreement with that. There's a new ad out with -- featuring a young woman that looks like she would otherwise be a Barack Obama supporter, saying she's been in Iraq for 16 months serving our nation so we all have the right to talk about. And he hasn't been there.
KING: Congressman Wexler -- quickly, though, will you -- shouldn't your candidate go with Senator McCain? Make a great photo- op.
WEXLER: Senator Obama says he intends on visiting Iraq before the fall campaign. The most important point is that Senator McCain is not in a position to lecture anyone with respect to his foreign policy decisions. He was dead wrong on Iraq. The only nation that has benefited from Senator McCain's and President Bush's Iraq policy is the country of Iran. Hamas, Hezbollah have gained in stature, gained in their ability to cause terror and problems, both in the United States and Israel.
Senator McCain was wrong to put all his eggs in Musharraf's basket in Pakistan. And Senator McCain is wrong for supporting 20 billion dollars worth of sales of the most sophisticated weapons to Saudi Arabia.
KING: Thanks guys. We're out of time. I appreciate this very lively discussion.
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It's time now for Anderson Cooper and "A.C. 360."